Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Consolation Prize

I woke up this morning with the sun on my face. Looking out my window I could see the sky, a perfect Colorado blue, the type of sky that John Denver sings about in Rocky Mountain High. Just another perfect day in a seemingly perfect place.
Serenity should be the state of my heart, perfect peace as I look out my sliding door to see a few lonesome puffy white clouds floating across the perfect sky. However, the past few days have lead me to a numerous onslaught of thoughts.
Thinking, pondering, over thinking, analyzing, that's sort of how my life cycles. For an extrovert I tend to be a very introspective thinker. My freshman year of college I picked up a journal, and have written in a journal nearly every day since. I have an entire shelf filled with old journals, and on a rare occasion I like to read through what my hopes and dreams were just a few short years ago, and how much I have grown and changed. God has been abundantly faithful to me, and that is so clear in the pages written so clearly in my own hand.
Yet, for some reason I still tend not to trust him as much as I should. The other day I heard that someone I trusted was spreading rumors about me at church. Gossip gets under my skin, because I have seen it destroy churches completely, to the point where I've seen churches have to close their doors. Gossip is never constructive, it's always destructive. It is never helpful, it is always hurtful.
It felt as though I had stepped out of the world of the youth pastor, and into the life of one of my middle school students. How many times have I held them as they have told me of the cruel things people have said behind their back? How many times have they had to go back and look into the faces of their accusers?
Yet, here I was, frustrated, confused, hurt, and angry as someone hadn't approached me to clear up a misunderstanding, but made it worse by calling everyone about it.
I let my frustrating seep into me, grab a hold of my heart, and nearly suffocate it. For though my hurt was coming from a place deep within me, and I had every reason to feel hurt, I forgot a very important fact "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31. For a few moments I thought that it was when people said nice things about me that I am following God's will, yet it is the opposite. I forgot that the desire of my heart is to be more Christ like, and that in being like Christ I also must enter into his sufferings, sufferings that went far deeper than rumors and lies. I seemingly forgot that I am not trying to gain the approval of men, but of God. For it is God who holds me accountable in the end, not someone in my congregation.
"As a consolation prize we may sometimes remember the words of Jesus: 'Woe to you when all people speak well of you,' and take comfort that we have at least escaped that woe."
~J. Philip Wogaman
And at least for now, I have escaped that woe.

Monday, April 20, 2009


My students don't have school today. It's April 20th, 2009, exactly 10 years from the columbine shootings at columbine high school. I drove past the school today and saw the camera crews, the masses there paying respects. It is an honorable thing to do, and it is beautiful to see the love and respect, however, the reason I was driving by the school was because I had to teach at another school. A school that no one outside of Denver has every heard of, but a school where violence occurs almost regularly.
I mentioned to the person I was teaching with that I found it odd that a school so close to Columbine had school today, while all of my students in Littleton did not. That's when I learned a different side of the story, the perspective from those who don't live in suburban america and it was interesting. He told me that the days after columbine where very polarizing to the neighborhoods in Denver. Though they felt it was a horror, and they felt compassion for the people who had lost loved ones, they struggled to understand why this violence was broadcast so widely around the world, while the violence that plagued their halls everyday goes without notice.
I began to think about it. It is interesting that the violence of one school could change so many schools around the country, while others were virtually unaffected by it, not because they didn't care, but because they live with violence all the time.
My students don't really remember the shootings at Columbine, most were in pre-school, though I do have friends that are Columbine alum who were there when it happened. I know people who remember it vividly and describe in great detail the events of the day.
Though I remember and am saddened for the great loss, I am hanging out with a different crowd today. A crowd of students who feel like their only hope is in gang violence. A group of students who walk the halls afraid everyday. Students that I myself have watched be cruel to one another and wonder how far the cruelty would go. It is for these students who don't make the news because they are expected to be violent, a group of students at a school in an area that most people from Littleton won't even drive through.
It's not just a day for remembering a shooting in a suburban high school, it's a day for everyone everywhere who has believed the lie of redemptive violence. That has been suckered into the fantasy world that one more punch, one more put down, one more gun shot will solve our problems. If nothing else, this day reminds us that violence wherever it is wrought does not free us.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Dark chocolate is probably my favorite. Something about how it is not too sweet, it's sort of, well, bitter. Bittersweet seems to make the sweet aftertaste even better than just the sugary sweet of milk chocolate.
Bittersweet doesn't only describe the state of my favorite chocolate, it also describes my state of life as a youth pastor. Though most people get to see the fun parts, the lock-ins, the retreats, the tons of pizza consumed, and the teen drama day... I get to see all the parts. The parts that are far from fun.
The eyes I have been given see scars on the arms of kids who feel ugly and used, scars put there by themselves. I have seen them walk away from everything they have known to stick one more needle in their arm, one more razor blade to their thigh, one more pornographic picture in front of their face. I've watched girls as they've urinated into cups as they cry tears, hoping and praying to God that He will save them from the consequences of a choice they've made, only to go home and celebrate that everything came back negative with a night of senseless sex, to return again. The tears that have been cried at the altar, I've seen turned in anger towards myself for taking the side of a parent, for being the one who is trying to show them truth when the world is trying to sell them lies, just to have them walk away cursing my name directly into the arms of the lies that want to claim them.
There are moments of joy, immense joy, but there are also moments of such great pain and heartache, that I begin to wonder, if my small glimpse of pain is this bad, what it must be like for Christ every time they hurt themselves?
Sometimes the exhaustion sets in. The tired eyes, the weakened heart, and I wonder how people have done this for years. I wonder how they have woke up each day for 15 years to do it all over again.
Tonight I was reminded, that though I grow weary, God never does. Though my heart breaks, his breaks more. Though I love these kids, there is one who loves them more deeply than I ever could, and I know that He is capable of doing more than I could ever think or imagine. He is capable of putting back together broken lives, of healing open wounds, of being the only love that we will ever need.
It is in that, that I put my hope and trust. Hope and trust that God, who has always been faithful, will be faithful once more. Hope and trust that God will be strength when I have none less, and will give me the words when I don't know what to speak. Hope and trust that this too will be made right.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Subtle Seed of Hatred

To say that I am appalled by racism would be a vast understatement; especially when I am confronted with such forms of hatred in the church. They are more subtle than they used to be, a comment here, or there, but just as ugly and hate filled.
Ethnocentrism is a pet peeve of mine, because it seems so clear in scripture that such a lifestyle shouldn't even be in our mindset. Our minds should be focused on loving God and others, all of the commandments hang on these two commands.
In my idealism and naivety, I just assumed that the concept of love is a no brainer to Christians, and that racism (of all things) would be considered wrong.
Then a comment was made to me the other day that has bothered me ever since. I mentioned to a member of the church that I was teaching a few abstinence classes in a school nearby. I continued by mentioning that they were good kids, the comment returned to me was, "good?! That's not what I've heard. I had a friend who went there and she said she was the only white girl in the school!" Maybe this particular person didn't mean it the way it came out (I am going to give the benefit of the doubt on this one.) However, I was insanely hurt. I've spent 4 days with these amazing, smart, beautiful kids, and someone made the assumption that because there is diversity in the school, they aren't good kids!
When did we start thinking things like this? When did we think it was ok to say that kids that are privilidged enough to go to a better school, are automatically better kids?
It is stereotypes like these that keep things from getting better. Not to mention, I still think that if more Christians would stop living in fear and live by the great commission and great commandment, there wouldn't be any school with violence, hatred, etc. because we would have already conquered it with our love.
This was a reminder to me, to watch my words. To watch my labels. To watch writing people off before I give them a chance. Genocide is started with racism and hatred, redemption is started with love.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Life is beautiful despite the busy

I recently recieved my acceptance letter to Christian Peacemaker Teams' delegation to Tiquiso, Colombia in july. It is what I've prayed for, and i look forward to it every day. Time will go by faster than it seems, and before I know it, I will be bake from the life changing trip and sharing pictures and stories with everyone.
However, my restlessness is getting the best of me. Though I am insanely busy all the time. This week alone I am teaching 3 classes at a middle school, doing all my normal youth pastor stuff, and getting ready for another choir performance on Friday (followed by Easter).
When my brother was here last week visiting, he asked me what my plans were for easter. I told him I didn't have any. Honestly, that sounds wonderful right now. I still haven't done my taxes, and am feeling the crunch, and have a huge paper due for class next week. I am also officiating a wedding next weekend, and getting ready for Invisible Children's "The Rescue", as well as preparing 30 hour famine for my students.
Life doesn't ever seem to slow down. Things just seem to get busier and busier.
It's difficult to remember to take care of myself, to take a mental break, to enjoy the beautiful weather outside, when it seems like there is always something else going on.
God is moving, it is so clear that He is, and I am excited to be a part of the adventure, even if I am running on near empty right now... Christ is risen, and life truly is beautiful.