Tuesday, April 19, 2011


“If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!”
Deuteronomy 32:29

I have been wrestling lately with this idea of wisdom.  I’m not talking intelligence here because there is a vast difference between wisdom and intelligence. The dictionary definition of wisdom itself is: “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.” It’s not enough to merely possess knowledge but wisdom comes in the way that we apply what we've learned.

Why aren't we born with wisdom? Why can’t we have all of the knowledge and judgment necessary to navigate life early on instead of having to gain wisdom through experience? We go through life trying to figure things out and making observations. The wisest among us are those who have lived the longest although age does not necessarily guarantee wisdom. It’s what we learn along the way and what we take away from those experiences that point towards wisdom.  Do we learn from our mistakes or do we just repeat the same things over and over again failing to recognize where we might do things differently the next time?

As an adult, we all just want our children to “get it.” We watch as children make decisions that we know are going to cause pain or have far reaching consequences, yet when we offer instruction it’s disregarded or minimized as unimportant. It can be painful to watch as our kids repeat some of the same mistakes we’ve made, mistakes we are certain could have been avoided if “they would just have listened us” or “followed my advice.”

Growing older we begin to realize how all of the consequences of our decisions earlier in life shape and point the direction for the rest of our lives. Classes we’ve taken, grades we've received, reactions we've had to certain situations, decisions to go in one direction instead of another, how we chose to spend our time, who we chose to spend time with, etc. all have added up to who we became later in life. If we had skipped any of those learning moments, painful as some of them may be, we would have failed to become what we are today.

I listen to and counsel students on an ongoing basis and I desire for many of them to “just get it,” to avoid some of the mistakes that their parents or older siblings or friends have made and to choose a different path in order to avoid some of the heartache and disappointment that is sure to follow. I also have been at this youth ministry thing long enough to know that many do eventually get it and go on to do great things with their lives.

It’s about trust on my part that God knows exactly what He’s doing and that through experience He is shaping these young lives into exactly what He has intended all along.

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”
Proverbs 1:5

Friday, April 8, 2011

License Plates

We gave up our final set of Florida license plates today so I guess it’s official; we’re South Dakota residents. The Indian School year is winding down. We are just a few weeks away from prom (held at the local casino) and graduation scheduled for a few weeks after that. It is amazing to think that we have been here almost a full school year already.

Someone asked me the other day if there have been any surprises in my ministry that I didn’t quite expect. The kids are pretty much what I anticipated although I probably couldn’t have foreseen the depth of the problems that many face. These kids are incredible: creative, funny and wanting to be loved, looking for purpose and finding their way in the world just like normal teenagers.

Unlike most American teenagers, however, they have already experienced a lifetime of dysfunction and pain that most people never will. They know poverty, abandonment, rape and incest, drug dependency, alcoholism and death plus a whole lot more. They have experienced it all firsthand.

I told my wife Kristen that if I was a brand new Youth Pastor this position probably would have crushed me under the enormity of the need. Having fifteen years’ experience prepared me to know the issues, but this is Youth Ministry at warp speed. 

Six months in and I have just scraped the surface. There is so much potential for the ministry that can happen here. I am just beginning to find a place on campus; people think to call me before an event or incident instead of me finding out about things afterward. I feel incredibly blessed to have been placed here by God and to be continually discovering how I can make a difference in the lives of teenagers.