Monday, July 29, 2013


Non-alcoholic drinks; I promise!
As promised, here's a follow-up to yesterday's sermon.

Start the mentoring relationship.   First, see if God’s pointing you toward a specific person, like he pointed Elijah to Elisha.  I call these “divine appointments.”  Sometimes you just sense a pull toward someone, and you’re not sure why.  Try it out; see if there’s a connection.  But, even if there is a connection, be prepared for some awkwardness at first.  When two people are feeling each other out, deciding if they can trust one another, there can be some awkwardness.  Give the relationship a chance to get through the awkward phase. 

Be willing to share who you really are.  Whether you’re the mentor or the mentee, this is critical.  Often, when God puts two people together, it’s because they have something in common.  It could be a sin they both struggle with.  It could be a similar childhood or life situation.  Determining that common ground is essential and will bind the relationship, but is only possible if you’re both willing to be honest and vulnerable.
Realize that every mentoring relationship is different.  Some Biggest Loser contestants prefer encouraging Bob while others prefer in-your-face Jillian.  Some mentoring relationships will be heavy on encouragement and listening and light on accountability.  Others will be largely rigid, assertive accountability, and light on encouragement.  Lean into whom you are; don’t try to be someone you’re not.  If you’re the mentor, then be a student of your mentee and work to guide them in ways that will work best for them.  

Extend grace.  The mentee will screw up.  He’ll fall back into a sin he thought he’d conquered.  He’ll get through the “honeymoon” phase of life with God and into the mundane or difficult days, and he’ll waver.  Extend grace and help them back up.  The mentor will also screw up.  She’ll forget to check in for a while.  She’ll not respond to a phone call.  Extend grace and get back on track.  

Remember it’s not about the mentor.  If you’re the mentor, then you’re pointing the mentee toward God, not toward you.  You cannot change someone’s life; only God can do that.  If you’re the mentee, then remember you’re ultimately trying to follow God, not another person.  People move, die, and let you down.  Just because a mentor leaves your life doesn’t mean God does.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mission Trip Reflections, continued

So what DID I do?

I’m still wrestling with this. 

Part of it is recognizing that I wasn’t needed on this trip.  That’s not a brand new idea, nor is it one that has me depressed and insecure.  Last year Erik led a Puerto Rico trip that I was not part of.  A couple years ago, Mandy James and Matt Towler led a Macedonia trip that I was not part of.  Our students have had some amazing mission experiences completely apart from my leadership or service.  I’m thrilled about that.

I think the wrestling on this part comes with a hunch that while I wasn’t needed on this trip, I was probably needed at home.  Now, my husband is more than capable of holding down the fort and parenting our kids.  My mom is more capable than I am of taking care of my kids as she did during the weekdays and overnight one evening I was away.

But, my presence at home would have been helpful, I think.  The world didn’t stop or crash while I was away, but I was missed.

The other part I’m wrestling with is how different the experience this year was from previous years.  This year every essential leadership and administrative task was handled well by someone else.  That should have been exhilarating and freeing to me.  But it made me feel extraneous.  And feeling extraneous made me feel selfish.  And feeling selfish made me feel guilty, on top of the guilt I was already feeling for being away from my family.

However, on the occasions when I got out of the hamster wheel in my head long enough to be present, I did do something.  I listened.  

I listened to adults from other churches who are fearful of where their churches will be ten or twenty years from now if they don’t figure out how to change.  I listened to their hearts for teenagers to make good decisions and to learn to follow Jesus now, at this pivotal life stage.  I listened to stories of feeling used by churches, all in the name of Jesus.

I listened to students from my church and students from other churches.  I listened to students’ wrestling with the schedules and living arrangements that come with divorce.  I listened to stories of cutting, depression, and the timeless yet difficult teenage quest to figure out who you are.  I listened to confessions about whether or not God was real, and I listened to the realization that God is real, that he can be seen, and that he was seen in the participants of the mission trip.  I listened to stories of apathy and boredom toward church.  I listened to a teenager who was in a terrible car crash two years ago.  Her little brother died instantly, her mom died two days later, and she awoke weeks later to find herself paralyzed.  Now she plays softball and goes on mission trips, doing manual labor to show God’s love to others.

So, I listened.  I’m not sure what that means about me, my role, or my leadership.  All I know is that I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear these stories and to be entrusted with them.

Mission Trip Reflections

On this year’s mission trip, and since, I’ve struggled with what exactly I did.  Because, I didn’t do much.  Don’t get me wrong, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the work Erik Edwards does in leading and planning our annual mission trip.  He does it with excellence, patience, grace, integrity, selflessness, and a persistent focus on reaching students and guiding them in their faith journeys.  He does it all for free.   He does it all much better than I ever did or could.  He’ll start working soon to identify next year’s trip.

Tanner Iglio led our nightly PCC time after the worship service for all 470 participants.  He did a great job writing nightly devotions, sharing brief words from his own spiritual journey, and coordinating a brief, yet effective, time of worship through music.

Aimee Krueger emerged as the pastor I’ve seen within her.  Because of her role in leading
Me and Aimee
our junior high students the past few years, she personally knew more of the PCC students than any of the other adults, including me.  They looked to her for answers.  She gave them with a smile, grace, and enthusiasm. 

She worked hard on a construction crew all day like the rest of us, and then she joined students for basketball or ultimate Frisbee while I napped.  To her core, Aimee loves and empathizes with students who might feel on the outskirts.  It was inspiring to watch her lead them, guide them, and encourage them to share their personalities with the crowd.  She put her foot down with students, and on behalf of students, when needed; she’s found her authoritative voice, but only uses it when necessary. 

She, like the other exemplary chaperones, gave up a week’s vacation and paid a significant sum of money to sleep on an air mattress on very old carpet for fewer than seven hours a night, to eat cafeteria food (although it was very good!), to lead students in manual labor from 7:00-3:00, to worship in a hot room of smelly teenage boys, to hug them and pray with them anyway, and to drive a van full of sleeping students home after a week of insufficient sleep.

I could not have been prouder of her.

But, with Erik being the administrative genius he is, and with Tanner writing and leading excellent devotions, and with Aimee pastoring the majority, what was I supposed to do?

Some years, I spend my time checking on, encouraging, and diffusing chaperones.  But this year, that wasn’t needed.  This year, the chaperones were responsible, committed, encouraging, gracious, self-starting, team players who were a true joy to serve alongside.  They made life-changing investments in students’ lives, and they made my job so easy, I wasn’t sure what my job was anymore.

To be continued…

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Cry Night

"Cry Night" is infamous.  It's the night of our annual mission trip when we have a different kind of worship service.  The band plays and sings out of sight, behind a curtain.  The screen displays names of God, Scripture, and words to songs.  There is no sermon.  There is no humor.  There are no videos.  There are some directions to pray, alone or in small groups.  

This worship experience evokes strong emotion, often inexplicably.  I wonder each year what it is that affects students.  Is it the stillness and quiet that differs so starkly from their loud, busy lives?  Is it the opportunity to focus on God and themselves in an environment with fewer distractions?  Is it the Holy Spirit?  Is it manipulation?  Is it a combination of the above?  

I don't know.  

This year I had a moving experience on Cry Night.  I didn't cry (...not until Tanner's honest, vulnerable, and emotional message during PCC devotion time).

The service opened with "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."  Simple words with a simple tune.  Simple words and a simple tune that have been truth over my life.  Simple words and a simple tune that a little girl sang when life was simple.  Simple words and a simple tune that lie dormant in a girl's life when life wasn't simple.  Simple words and a simple tune that stop the heart of a complex adult, that cut through years of faith experience:  I have decided to follow Jesus.

My own journey is more like...

I have decided to follow Jesus.

I have no idea how to follow Jesus.

I have forgotten to follow Jesus.

I have decided to follow my plan.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

I have decided not to follow Jesus.

No, really, I have decided to follow Jesus.

This song was the cry of my naive heart as a kid.  This song is the cry of my impure, adult pastor heart.

I have decided to follow Jesus.  Though none go with me, I still will follow.  No turning back.

As I assess where I am now, I sing with conviction that I have decided to follow Jesus.  I now know enough to know that I don't really know all that "following Jesus" means, but that it's risky.  

I sing that though none go with me, I still will follow.  But, I sing that naively still, because I don't know what that is like.  My husband, my twin sister, the 87 other people on this mission team go with me.  I am surrounded by people who go with me in following Jesus. 

What strikes me as I assess where I am now is "no turning back."  As I move into new areas of life (this is the first student mission trip when I've not been mistaken for a teenager; I guess adulthood is full-fledged now) and particularly new areas of ministry, I must confess "no turning back."  I don't get to give up following Jesus.  I don't get to turn back, even when I'm frustrated, annoyed, tired, anxious, and scared.  God has called me to follow him.  A church has ordained me to listen, to preach, to pray, to baptize, to marry, to teach, to offer bread and wine, and to show up as a representative of God's.  No turning back.      

I have decided to follow Jesus.  Though none go with me, I still will follow.  No turning back.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Watching and Remembering

I wrote this last week on the mission trip...

Tonight I watched our mission team worship God.  I watched them react and respond to God's presence.  It's the moment each year when I am overwhelmingly grateful for what I get to do with my life. 

As I watch students raise hands in the air for the very first time, lifting the cross, lifting it high, I am grateful.  I get to see that moment.  I get access to that intimate interaction between Father and child.  And it gets even better than that.  I get to watch a daughter raise her hands to her heavenly Father, and I get to watch her earthly father as he sees that moment, too.  I get to see mother and son, best friend and best friend, wrap one arm around each other while their other arms are lifted in surrender.  I get to watch young men and women pursue God while they pursue a relationship with one another.

As I transition to new roles in ministry, I am trying to figure out exactly what roles I fill.  One of the things I seem to be is a vault—a vault of youth games, youth events, and experiences like the one we had this evening.  Tonight as I watched our team, different stories emerged from the vault.
I watched the college guy playing percussion, leading us in our own PCC worship time.  I remembered his friend who invited him to my small group years ago.  I remembered his coming to my home, unchurched, but curious.  I remembered his mohawk phase.  I remembered how he used to feed my baby boy snacks during small group, and put his hair in a mohawk, too.  I remembered the hunger he developed for God and God's word.

I watched the male junior high small group leader get out of his seat to pray with a young man.  I remembered the little boy with a bowl cut in my junior high Sunday School class.  I remembered when he came to my small group.  I remembered how ecstatic I was when he signed up for his first mission trip, and how bittersweet it was to stay home with my newborn and miss that experience.

I remembered when the percussion player and the small group leader showed up on my doorstop one Sunday afternoon five years ago.  I was home on maternity leave.  They were on their way to be baptized.  I was missing it.  Two young men who I'd seen decide to follow Jesus were going to be dunked by someone else, because it was too hot outside and too long a baptism for a newborn.  But they stopped by to say "hi" and "thanks" on their way, and I cried and prayed when they left.

I watched our church's newest Worship Coordinator lead us in worship.  I remembered a young man who visited our church, not at all sure it was where he wanted to be.  I remembered a young man who longed for his previous church.  I remembered a young man who forged a place in our student ministry, in our church, and in its leadership.

I watched our summer intern preach a short, emotional message.  I remembered how much I enjoyed him as a worship leader, too, and I was grateful for the opportunity to experience that again.

I could go on and on listing different leaders on this trip and the journeys I’ve gotten to see them travel.  That perspective is such a gift, and I am grateful for it.  I see new stories emerging in new leaders, too.