Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Ten Best Moments of 2011

If you've watched or read the news in the last couple of days - you're bound to have seen some top ten lists. So, I decided to make a list of my own. This was a rough year, in some respects - but not without some great moments. Looking back - I'm just grateful. Here's to 2011 being over! And, here's also to start of a brand new year!! May this New Year - for all of us - be the best year yet! Woohoo!!! :-)

10. Young Life starting at a new school - This year we started a new Young Life club at a new school. First year Young Life clubs are difficult, to say the least. But - at least it’s started, it’s out there. We have a lot of work to do - but the hope that this will become a tradition at the new school for years and years to come. Some of the best specific moments so far? - Making video commercials, entertainment night, Caroling before Christmas, our very first club at a barn. Can’t wait for what’s to come.

9. New design and bedroom set - My place used to be a wreck. Not only was it a mess, it was hardly at all decorated. When my brother got married, he gave me his bedroom set. Now - where I live is more like a bed and breakfast place. I love it! It just adds a peaceful feeling that was seriously lacking before. Where there was chaos - now there is order. It’s amazing what that can do to a person’s mood when getting home. The miracle of the thing is that I’ve kept on it. This was definitely a good moment of 2011 - and even great for just plain life in general. Who would have thought that making a room nice would be so awesome?

8. Mac Book Pro - I’ve been a PC guy for a long time - since the days of Windows ’95. My most recent purchase of a PC was in 2006. But - then came the game changer. The iPhone. I got the second gen iPhone (after the razor) and my world completely changed. Comparing the iPhone to the Razor is like comparing a bicycle with training wheels to a Hummer. I’ve had the 3g, 3gs, 4, and now the 4s. In that short time, I’ve watched Mac go from a joke to the only game it town, really. This year, it was time to get a new computer (I couldn’t edit simple videos on my PC because it was way too slow). While still expensive - I went for the 13’ macbook pro - right at the time the Lion was introduced. I’ve loved it - and I’ll never go back to PC (well, in the near future at least - I thought I’d never get a mac ten years ago). I love the gestures, I love the ease of use, I love the compatibility with my iPhone. I love iPhoto - and a million other little things. This was definitely a great moment in 2011.

7. Lock In - I usually dread Lock-Ins - and to a certain degree - I still do. But, the great moment for this Lock-In was the perseverance of our Wyldlife team. I hadn’t done a Lock-In for over ten years. My team forced me to do it, and they were right. It was a great success. A Lock-In is basically an all night party for Jr. High kids. We designed the program a lot like the camps that we do for Young Life. Our Wyldlife club was a challenge last year. We started with 3 Jr. High kids, and 12 or so High School leaders. We stayed at the number through January, February, and March. Three kids. It never grew. Different kids too, not the same kids. No retention - nothing. It’s very odd have a Wyldlife club with three kids. But - we plugged on. We changed a few things. We kept believing - and - we started to grow. Our Lock-In was the culmination of a pretty difficult year - and we had 60 Jr. High kids attend it. Our weekly club attendance went to nearly 30 a week at the end of the year. That’s a huge growth - and an encouragement to keep going - to persevere. Not only that - our program team had a lot of fun prior to the Lock-In. We made videos (with that came the realization that I needed a new computer) and spent a lot of time putting everything together. It was a lot of fun. And very tiring. But it was a great set up for this year. Oh what a difference a year makes! Looking forward to what’s gonna happen this next year on the Jr. High campus.

6. Mountain Lodge - This was a great moment for multiple reasons. One - comb killer returned. That’s an old game I used to play in the 90’s that cracks me up. Everyone lies on the ground - heads together - in a circle. One person throws a comb (usually a brush actually) up in the air - and you’re not allowed to flinch as it falls back to the ground, usually on someone’s face. If the person flinches - they get slapped in the leg. Ha! great entertainment! Lots of good memories too - even of a broken arm of one of my friends (long story - but great memories). I also skied for the first time in 8 years - without getting injured. Board games - Catch Phrase - the tunnel - all of it was great!

5. Three Wyldlife Leader retreats - (Jan)Any time you mix the Mystery Spot, the Beach, learning about God, a gorgeous forest, Mr. Toots, and friends - it would be hard to not make it to a top ten list. I have some mixed feelings about this trip, but outside of that - one of the best trips of the year. Seeing High School students wrestle with the scriptures - and actually critically think, well - for me - there’s not much better. And to do it away from home in a beautiful location - even better. (Nov) Tahoe retreat - mountains, Catch Phrase, snow, and scriptures - another great time to be together. An offering of hope for the coming year - I can’t wait. (Dec) - I got to be a fly on the wall for our neighboring Wyldlife team’s leader retreat. It was amazing to witness some of my former football players with their bibles in their hands - really diving into the Great Story. I think about these three retreats and wonder if I could ever spend my time doing something more important. Well, maybe - but I guess we’ll see on the other side of eternity.

4. Started writing - I’ve always wanted to write - I just never have. I’ve found it’s a lot more difficult than my imagination would like it to be - as is anything worthwhile, I guess. I started writing on this blog - I think back in February (maybe Jan., I’d have to check) and it’s been fun. It’s kinda a diary - really. Hopefully it’s been helpful to the few who’ve read it. I have no idea. It’s been helpful to me though. I also started writing on a project that seems like an impossible mountain to climb. I started way back in March - and am only on the fourth or so chapter (with none of them being complete - though close on some) I’m basically diving into the deepest mysteries of the Christian Faith - and trying to explain them to High School friends. I think this might be impossible - but I’m giving it a try anyway. Subjects like atonement, trinity, sin, “in Christ”. Yeah - impossible. But - I read some of it the other day - and it’s turning out better than I could have hoped. I need to test it with my High School friends though - my eyes are different than theirs. Anyway - it’s been a joy to write - as frustrating as it is most of the time. I hope to continue writing to my dying day. We’ll see.

3. God stuff - This is all over the board and very broad - but I’ll go to two specifics. One - theology. My eyes have opened up this year in what I think are some good ways. I’ve realized how schizophrenic my faith used to be - and how difficult it was to defend contradictory ideas about God. It’s been fun this year disecting my ideas - and understanding what steps I took to lead me in certain directions that often led me to being more lost than found. God’s goodness was a definite theme this year, even though I don’t get it a lot of the time. But - that became an anchor point for me - a lens that I look through in all areas of theology. The second was God’s incredible timing. I have some amazing moments that are His and mine - that are near miraculous. I think of CS Lewis saying “When I stop praying, coincidences stop happening.” There were a lot of timely moments this past year where my soul needed help - and God showed up. I’m so grateful for God’s hand in things - even when it’s almost imperceptible. He doesn’t just love us with words - He never abandons us - and is always faithful - even in our everyday lives.

2. Brother getting married - This was a highlight for me this year. It was so fun to see my brother so happy. And to be part of another family - one that’s culturally so different from our own. I also got to see my first Asian Elvis - and it was AWESOME! The whole day was great - spending time with family was wonderful. This wedding was one of those precious moments that will be treasured forever, even when some move on to the next life. And the cool thing was that I realized it at the time - this was one of “those moments” where you look back and don't forget a moment of it. I remember my brother after his divorce - how difficult it was for him. It was nice to see a ray of hope - that things in life can be restored. It was a good reminder for me that the harsh rain from a dark storm allows life to thrive when the sun shines again. Now I'm hoping for kids...(for him - not me!)

And the Number ONE best moment of 2011:

1. Malibu - Canada. This, by far, looking back, was the best time of the past year. From the moment we left on 2 busses, to the moment we returned - there wasn’t a bad moment on the trip. The drive to Oregon and the ice cream shop - staying the night in a gym - then off to Vancouver Canada - and the coffee shop - spoons extravaganza. Arriving at Malibu - water-skiers with flags in hand. Having lost 55 pounds since the last time I had gone - it was sooooo much more fun. From the obstacle course to the ropes course - to all the activities - I could participate instead of just observing! And our cabin times were the best - all of us guys processing our lives together - and learning about the high value God puts into our lives that we are so often unaware of - so good! And on the way home - one of our leaders doing stand-up comedy - one of the funniest things ever! I laughed hard. I shed tears. I smiled a lot. I was amazed at God’s beauty. I was stunned by His presence. Surrounded by friends. This trip might be one of those ten best in a decade.

It's fun looking back. But - now onto the future! May God bless you richly this coming year! Cheers to a new start!

Have a great day!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quiet Time

I always have a little morning coffee run - pretty much every morning - before I start my day. It's meant to be a quiet time - and often it is - but I have to admit, sometimes I just read news stories on my iPhone, look at ifunny pics, or catch up on Facebook. It's still a quiet time, but it's not so "spiritual" as I make myself want to believe. Yes, I admit - everything is spiritual - but, let me say it this way - it's usually not as spiritually focused as I imagine it to be, if that makes sense.

Today - though - I thought about Jesus' baptism. I've been thinking trinitarian thoughts a lot, partly because I'm writing about it, and the baptism is one of the few glimpses of seeing all parts of the trinity at work at the same time.

But - that wasn't where my mind went today.

In the beginning of the bible - in Genesis - the Spirit hovers over the water. This is during that creation poem. Water was a big deal in the Bible. It represented the line between life and death. God above the water represented life.

Jesus - later on in his life - would walk on the water. He was above the water - much like the Spirit that hovered over the water. The symbolism is pretty obvious if you know what water represents. This is one of the many ways that the scriptures reveal that Jesus represents life - Christ is life.

But - in the baptism story - Jesus is submerged into the water. It's the one exception in the gospels where Jesus is submerged - life into death. I guess I never really thought about it before - from a symbolism standpoint - but this foreshadows His life's movement towards death. On top of that - after the submersion (baptism), the Spirit - like a dove (representing peace) - descends upon Him. And then the Father says, "This is my son, whom I love, in Him I am well pleased."

This little episode in Jesus' life, in a way, is a foreshadow of the entire gospel. Jesus dies on a cross - gives us peace with the Father - and the Father reveals His love to us kids.

It's amazing how often the whole gospel is revealed in the little moments of Jesus' life. The baptism is pre-miracle, pre-ministry, pre-cross - it's before everything. And yet - there it is. Jesus submerged into water (death), Spirit descending onto Jesus (atonement - peace), Father revealing His love.

It's amazing how consistent God's love truly is.

Anyway - some cool thoughts on the way home from AmPm - with my coffee in hand.

Have a great day!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Spring Cleaning before Christmas...

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17

There's something about cleaning my home that makes me just feel better about life. I wonder why it takes so long for me to actually do it though? If I cleaned a little bit at a time, the work load wouldn't be half as long - nor half as disgusting. I'm 90% done with the bathroom right now. 10% of nastiness to go - good times...

Bathrooms are awesome - until you have to clean them. And - wow - my gag reflex - not good. But - I find that I wait until it's seriously ridiculous. Yet - I'm always surprised when I look behind something I haven't set my eyes to in a long time and discover the definition of nastiness. Yep - I'm such a guy.

I tell myself - clean a little bit everyday. And - I'm all in at first. Then, I just forget about it. The next thing I know - months have passed - and back to nasty. The most trafficked areas get cleaned, but the less trafficked, not so much. And then it's Spring cleaning to do all over again.

I wonder why we do that with God too? As in - confessing our sins. God knows everything, and technically He doesn't need us to confess every little sin we do. He might not need it, but I think we do. Confession is more for us. God already forgave all our sins at the cross - ALL of them. Even future sins. So - that problem is over and done with. However - the scriptures do say that we should confess our sins - multiple times - even though God already took care of them two thousand years ago. I wonder why? Maybe because confession is like a spring cleaning of the soul.

I think it might be a lot like cleaning my bathroom. God has forgiven us. He purchased our soul with His life, death, and resurrection - but we get dirty - and more dirty - until maybe we're even nasty. While - positionally - we are completely a saint in Christ (God's grace covers ALL of us) - we get dirty with our lives - and we often need a cleaning. For many of us - we wait too long - and we need a deep cleaning.

Sometimes I take for granted that I'm forgiven - and I don't confess. And sometimes it's not that I don't think I need to - I don't confess more from avoidance. Kinda like cleaning my bathroom. And I think that might look like God peeking behind the less trafficked areas of my life - and saying "Wow - there's cleaning to be done" Sometimes He shakes things up in order that I might fall to my knees and say "clean me now." And, for some reason, I'm always surprised when it gets to that point.

So - for me anyway - I'm going to try to make that a daily part of my prayers. "Here's my nastiness God - clean me up." Because - I know I can't do it by myself.

The great thing is that after I've showered my soul with God's grace once again, I really do feel better about life. May the same be true for you too.

Have a great day!