Archives For Worry

Christianity and Excuses

January 7, 2011 — 1 Comment

If you have been in youth ministry longer than a month then you have had the fortunate blessing of hearing a teenager come up with an excuse as to why the could not go to _____________________ (insert activity).  I imagine I have heard every sort of excuse as to why a teenager (sometimes even a parent) could not show up to an activity:

  • The ever-reliable homework: “Dude, I am like slammed at school and I have to do so much homework it’s ridiculous.”  Then I see them on Facebook right before an activity starts and wonder, “must not be too slammed.”
  • I am totally sick!  This one is used legitimately but often it is used as a cop-out because they just do not want to come to an activity.
  • I already made plans.  OK…did you make the plans 3 months ago when we passed out the schedules and e-mailed them to you?
  • I never signed up for that.  Yes you did…I have your handwriting right here.  “Why didn’t you remind me?”  I am not your parents!
  • I have too much going on…
  • I’m tired…
  • I forgot…

I know I can put more on the list but you get the idea.  Excuses are lies masqueraded in a tuxedo.  At their core excuses cover up what is really a heart issue and that is they do not want to go to the activity.  One time when I asked a teenager why they did not attend the activity they responded: “I just didn’t think I would have fun.”  Brutal?  You better believe it!  But they were honest and I appreciated that.  Not in a youth group?  Don’t think this applies to you?  Let me ask you a question:  Have you communed with God today?  Have you basked at his feet in prayer, in meditation in reading and in worship?  No?  Why not?  The responses that are going through your head right now are pre-fabricated responses your brain has set up to allow your conscience to feel better about not doing what was right or doing what was not right.  Call it an “explanation” or a “reason” but I call it an excuse.  Perhaps we need to shed the “excuse” label and remove one more layer and call it what it is: SIN!  Sounds ugly and a little hell-fire-and-brimstone(like) but I believe that is exactly what an excuse is.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.   Galatians 6:9-10

Steven Grayhm once said, “Excuses are the tools with which persons with no purpose in view build for themselves great monuments of nothing.”  I like that!  To be sure, I am speaking more towards those who should know better and were taught the ways of Jesus and have been entrusted with so much responsibility.  Excuses make me sick even when I make them.  I find myself consciously excusing little things away as to why I do not need to worry about them and it makes me sick to my stomach.  Excuses make things worse or, in the words of a French proverb, “justifying a fault doubles it.”

So why are you not doing good things?  Or, why are you doing bad things?  What’s the REAL reason?  I think the excuses we make hide us from the painful and scary reality of what lies deep within our heart.  No excuses.  Enjoy the poem below…

ALL MY GREAT EXCUSES by Kenn Nesbitt

I started on my homework
but my pen ran out of ink.
My hamster ate my homework.
My computer's on the blink.

I accidentally dropped it
in the soup my mom was cooking.
My brother flushed it down the toilet
when I wasn't looking.

My mother ran my homework
through the washer and the dryer.
An airplane crashed into our house.
My homework caught on fire.

Tornadoes blew my notes away.
Volcanoes struck our town.
My notes were taken hostage
by an evil killer clown.

Some aliens abducted me.
I had a shark attack.
A pirate swiped my homework
and refused to give it back.

I worked on these excuses
so darned long my teacher said,
"I think you'll find it's easier
to do the work instead."

 

No one said parenting was an easy task and today was one of those difficult days in Heather and I’s parenting career.  Our oldest son Kaleb attended pre-k at Krisle Elementary today and it was one of the most difficult things I have had to do as a parent.  Kaleb has been such a sweet child and has always been so respectful, kindhearted and compassionate and I will miss going home at lunch and seeing him.  When I woke him up this morning I told him, “It’s time to go to school,” and he was so excited and ready.  Heather fixed his breakfast (see picture above) and then we got him ready for school.  He got in the truck and I turned off the radio and gave him some last-minute instructions for class: be respectful, listen to Mrs. Jill, help others and be a good boy.  We pulled up close to Krisle and Kaleb shouted, “That’s my school!”  We got out and he started walking and was not paying attention and went smack into a side-view mirror with his head.  He started bawling and I got on my knees (like I always do) and held him close…and I laughed a little bit and thought how appropriate it is for my son to start school this way. 

We walked down the hall to his classroom and I walked in and saw (Mrs.) Jill and her presence comforted me knowing my son is with the best teacher in Robertson County.  I didn’t hug him (I wanted to) and I didn’t give him a kiss (had to resist) as I wanted him to do this on his own.  He is brave and a leader in his own right so I snapped this picture below of my last opportunity with Kaleb…

That is Kaleb going to his desk.  I turned around and walked out of his classroom, down the hall, and thanked God for His protection, for Heather’s amazing parenting, for Jill Reeves but mostly I thanked God for Kaleb.  This world is better with him in it…

And I cried. 

There is nothing in the human psyche that prepares you for letting go.  Whether it is tragedy in a sudden loss, dropping your kid off for elementary school, retiring or kissing your 18-year-old good-bye as he or she enters their dorm at college.  There is no way to prepare for what must be done and as I share these feelings I understand why my parents acted the way they did and said what they said.  It is in these moments where we must let go and let love enter our hearts.  We must love even more because there is nothing else we can do.  We must put our trust in the capable providence of God who knows our children better than we. 

The Goo Goo Dolls in their song, “Let Love In,” bring comfort to me:

There’s nothing we can do about
The things we have to do without
The only way to feel again
Is let love in

Protect Kaleb Lord and all of those who are hurting from letting go and being let go.  Pour out your love onto us and give us strength and courage to face the realities set before us.  In your divine providence things make sense but for we who are confused we struggle with it.  Time does heal some wounds but time is not what we have right now so I am letting your love in as I let Kaleb go.  Thank you Lord for Jesus.  Amen. 

Silencing the Haters

July 26, 2010 — 4 Comments

Last night the youth group and I had an excellent period of worship at our monthly teen devotional.  I directed our thoughts from Philippians 1:27-30 and it seemed to be a good grounding point for the challenging next few weeks for the teenagers.  The Philippian church was not without her faults as apparently there were some preachers who were selfish in their desire to proclaim the gospel (1:15-17).  This must have been frustrating for Paul to see men proclaim a gospel yet only do so for selfish interests and personal gain.  Then Paul addressed something in Philippians 1:27-30 that caught my attention:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have (NIV). 

“Whatever happens” is a bit of an understatement when you see the difficulties Paul himself faced (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:16-32).  He told them to act like citizens who are worthy of the death of Christ which is the gospel of Christ.  But he told them to not be alarmed by those who oppose you (ESV “opponents”).  We all have our “haters” don’t we?  Haters come in all shapes and sizes.  Haters are those who poke fun at the fact that you are a Christian and do things differently than they do.  Haters like to belittle your church participation and often are cynical at what you are trying to do.  Haters look at the church and are quick to point out her flaws, her inconsistencies and her hypocrisies.  Haters do not recognize the good that comes out of the church only the bad aspects.  Haters try to stifle, stymie, stall and cause the church to stalemate.  Haters, like the Devil, are equal opportunity destroyers lurking about seeking ways to bring the church down.  Haters are outside the church but often you will find some haters who are inside the church.     

What do we do about them?  Paul says to not be afraid of them and to keep on acting in a manner worthy of the gospel.  In the words of Nehemiah we need to say:

 “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (6:3). 

Paul said that these haters will eventually go away because doing the right thing as a Christian is a sign of their destruction.  So may I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing—yea—do what you are doing with even more zeal and let God and the gospel take care of the haters.


I will not post as much and I fear that a lot of what I love doing on a daily basis will not happen for the next few weeks.  I missed this past week’s Teen Scene and I thought about all of the people who probably waited for me to get on when I did not even show up.  I thought about coming in and spending an hour online but to be honest I just did not feel like doing it.  A lot has slipped through the cracks lately which happens in the summer season of youth ministry.  A lot of planning and preparation is underway and often projects are either placed on hold or on a temporary hiatus.  It’s not so bad though because I feel that it affords me the opportunity to focus on what’s most important: my faith, my family…my sanity.  Because of all of the planning I do not get to go over to hang out with the youth like I used to.  It’s so hard to plan efficiently and develope relationships while doing justice to your work.  So some things slip through the crack.  I am not looking for sympathy or an “I’m praying for ya” but simply awareness of what occurs in the life of most youth ministers.  Elders, parents and students think trips and service work magically appears and all of these trips just fall into place.  “What does a youth minister do all day?  Play solitaire?” is a question I was asked by someone who didn’t have a clue what youth ministers did on a regular basis.  I smiled, looked at him and said, “I just minister to the next generation of church leaders…nothing major!”  My sarcasm gets the point across. 

I guess it’s ok to let things slip through because I would like to think that the place that is beneath the cracks is called a valley.  I read in my Bible the other day a verse David wrote about seasons of ministry that fall into the cracks: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  For You are with me!  Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). 

“So God, I have let some things slip through the cracks…pick them up for me will You?  I put them in Your care.”


Last night was probably one of the weirdest experiences of my 5 year career at Main Street.  In the summer we have what is called the Summer Series (most congregations do).  There was a storm going on but we did not think much about it because everything seemed to be going well.  About 15 minutes into the lesson we heard the tornado sirens.  The speaker paused and said, “Do we need to go some where or do something?”  Everyone looked at me as if I needed to say something but I thought there was no need to panic and encouraged the speaker to keep speaking.  I knew that there would be men in the congregation who would get up and check it anyways so I thought we need to keep doing the same thing until we knew exactly what was occurring.  For some reason I like to look at people when things are going wrong.  I know it is weird and may seem demented but I believe a person’s real character comes out when something goes completely wrong.  I looked at people and they were fidgeting in their seats and they kept checking their cell phones to look at the radar and some of them got up and went downstairs immediately.  Some of them wanted to be close to their children and some of them just wanted to run away.  People kept talking to each other all the while the speaker is trying to break the bread of life to us.  My wife and I are very calm in situations like these.  We do not freak out but we do not under-exaggerate the problem either.  Whenever their is a tornado or a storm anywhere near Robertson County we get phone calls from people telling us to “TAKE SHELTER” because “THIS ONE IS REALLY BAD.”  Our thoughts are usually, “how is this one any different from the thousands we have seen before?”  But there is always the fear of the uncertain and so usually we will take cover some where.  Back to last night…about 3 minutes after some men left the auditorium they came back and one of the elders walked up to the podium and announced that the storm was really bad and we should take cover in our fellowship room which was mostly underground.  Most people were calm about it but there were quite a few who immediately got on the cell phones and called all over the place to see who was where and what was where.  People would relay, “The tornado was seen in……..” or, “there were reports of a tornado that touched down near……”  My thoughts are, “Who cares where there have been reports about the tornado all we need to be concerned about is that things are ok right here and right now.”  but I do see the logic in knowing where something is so that you can make necessary preparations.  Maybe I am too laid back when it comes to this stuff (I never used to be…marriage to my wife has rubbed off on me).  We got chairs set up in the fellowship room and everything turned out to be fine.  I doubt I will ever experience something like that again but it was a good life lesson to watch people’s reactions.  I flipped through and found Psalm 29 (by chance or on purpose?) and read it in the New Living Translation and thought it was so appropriate for last night. 

1 Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings;
      honor the Lord for his glory and strength.
 2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.
      Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

 3 The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.
      The God of glory thunders.
      The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
      the voice of the Lord is majestic.
 5 The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
      the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
 6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
      he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox.
 7 The voice of the Lord strikes
      with bolts of lightning.
 8 The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake;
      the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
 9 The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks
      and strips the forests bare.
   In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

 10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
      The Lord reigns as king forever.
 11 The Lord gives his people strength.
      The Lord blesses them with peace.

May you be blessed with peace.  God reigns over the hearts of men but he also reigns over the storms of the earth!

Nervousness

June 7, 2009 — Leave a comment

I was in10thgrade at Boyd-Buchanan School in Chattanooga, TN and I had to give a speech for English class and I remember that I gave it over the fact that I was tired of girls breaking up with me.  What I said was not what I remember most but it was the feeling I got when I had to speak.  The whole day I was nervous and some of the symptoms of that nervousness were sweating, headaches, nausea and other stuff I do not need to publically share ;).  I still get a little nervous speaking (having spoken hundreds of times) but it is much different now.  Tomorrow marks the first day of our Main Street Backyard Mission Trip and it has sent me into a state of nervousness.  According to the all-knowing Wikipedia it says that my nervousness (or anxiety) occurs when I have a triggering stimuli which affects my mood.  Paul Tillich would say that the concept of one contemplating his or her existence would be Existential Anxiety.  I am not sure that is the case with me but it may be a mix of Social (i.e. stranger?) Anxiety since we are going to be meeting people we do not know.  Either way I feel like a 10th grader all over again not sure what will come of this.  The mission trip has been kept low profile because I am not wanting to wave our good deeds in the public.  We are doing a lot of manual labor that nobody thinks to consider how it gets done.  We will clean some of the parks the Greenway, the highway all of which (minus the Adopt-a-highway sign) will not bear our name.  We are going to visit the nursing homes, the hospitals, the local congregations and all sorts of people in the community.  We may get a call for help we may not…we may get a Bible study…we may not.  One thing will be sure…it will change our teen’s lives and people will know we are in the community to work and make a difference.  I guess that is truly what Paul meant when he said, “For neither the one who plants or waters is anything, buto nly God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7).  It is hard not to be self-righteous as we pat our backs for doing good things in the community.  It is hard not bragging to people telling them all the people we reach and all the lives we changed.  It is hard.  That is why we need you, the readers, to pray for us each day that this is a success but the success is not in the results but in the seed that is planted.  We can do nothing with the seed but simply allow God to help it grow!  

I will try to give a daily update so you can read all that we are doing and maybe share some stories along the way!  Look for that.  I am taking a break from all of the reading and trying to pray and change my own life!  This will be a most challenging week and I am, well, nervous.  I will try to consider the sparrows and the lilies this week.  Psalm 46:1-3.