Sunday, March 20, 2011

" it was thought..."

"Jesus was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph."
Luke 3:23

As I was reading this passage the other day, those four little words jumped off the page at me. “so it was thought.” How many times have I made assumptions about situations because of what I thought to be the truth? 

I think I know why people act a certain way or have the attitude that they have because of assumptions that I’ve made. They or may not be based in reality but in my mind it makes perfect sense. I have no real information that supports my position but I assume I know things based on what little I do know. 

As I work with students, I probably fall into this trap as well, thinking that I know what’s going on when I actually know nothing. I see students who don’t seem engaged in school or indifferent to relationships or angry for seemingly no reason. There are drug situations or drinking situations, even sex situations, and I think, “why can’t they just cut it out?”

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to justify behaviors. I know people can make choices to do something or not to do something. I also am becoming aware just how much actions are a desperate attempt to self-medicate and take away the pain that threatens to destroy. By not feeling anything, one can take away the pain even for just a little while.

What I eventually find out is that they have been abused as a child by a family member. Or perhaps a family member or friend committed suicide recently or died of a self-abusing behavior. There are incredible abandonment issues as adults around them move from one relationship to another ignoring the children who badly need them. They feel like no one cares and in many cases it’s true. There are disappointments beyond words when an adult has let them down yet again. They may even feel abandoned by God. “If God loves me why would He allow me to go through what I have gone through?”  

Another truth that struck me last week was that the “more I know the less I understand.” That is, even as I learn about situations, I have no experience that is even remotely similar to be able to relate. The most extreme situation I can imagine is further beyond anything that I could dream up. Pretty much all I can do is to listen and pray that God will comfort even as I have no understanding. I praise Him that He is a God of infinite knowledge even as I come to an understanding of my finite knowledge.

“Father, help me to remove what I think I know about a situation and let me be a source of comfort to those who are hurting. Remove judgment from my vocabulary and let me develop a spirit of compassion instead.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I love when students come to check out our programs for the first time. So far this year we've had Bon-Fires, Twister, Root Beer Float nights, lots of Game Nights, Limbo, Gingerbread House making and Bingo, just naming a few. There is a lot of activity and laughter; these are some of my favorite times of ministry. Being able to witness kids enjoying themselves and having fun is one of my greatest joys in ministry. But by far, the greatest fulfillment for me is in the moments that come afterward in the unplanned times. These aren't the moments that I've planned in advance for but the stage has been set for them to occur.

I'll be cleaning up after an event and there will be all kinds of things to clean up in order to get the room back to being "livable." One or two students are hanging around helping out and inevitably one will say something like "Hey have you ever thought about..." or "How will I know if..." and the conversation will go from there usually developing a life of its own as it goes. Last night it began as "I'm not really into religion but I'm always open to new ideas." It's a sort of testing of the waters to see what my reaction will be. We're building trust with one another before we get any deeper.

These aren't huge profound moments for the most part but they usually lead to further conversations down the road. Many times the continued conversation will begin with "Hey, do you have a minute to talk with me about something?" That question inevitably comes as I'm headed out the door late for something or already staring at a full schedule. These usually are the conversations where we begin to share things that maybe have never been shared with anyone else...ever. 

I pray that I'll never be too busy to hear the hearts of students and continue to recognize those moments as opportunities from God.