Good Night

We had an event at the high school tonight.
The Patsy McRill Dodgeball Tournament (or something to that nature).
We promoted it through FOCUS (the on-campus YFC club) and Gateway Church did most of the planning. All I had to do was show up and hang with kids. One of my teens called me today and said everyone was talking about it at school today. She said they thought it was a school event. I walked in to the gym at 6:34pm to the sound and sight of 300+ screaming high schoolers. They were there, they were loud, they were ready for some Dodgeball.
It was awesome to be in the mix, hanging with kids who don't have a clue, not expecting them to be perfect or act perfect. There was something freeing being on their turf where they were themselves. Those fringe kids who only come to events had every mask off and allowed me to see who they really are, how they really act, how they really talk. That is freeing! I just want them to be real! How can I minister to kids who I don't really know? How can I relate to kids who won't let me see who they are?
It was so nice just to hang with teens.
I love them.
I still love teens.
When I get the chance to just hang with them, I love them.
When I get overwhelmed planning for them, demanding too much from them and expecting perfection from them, I start to feel done with this.

I need more low key, out of the spotlight, taking off the mask time with kids.
That is the simple stuf.
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Bicycle Blessing

I was totally blessed last week with a new bike!

Rob, one of the guys in my Sunday Night small group, just felt like he needed to give me one. He used to race bikes and had 3-4 of them still. I have been wanting a bike so badly lately. He took a frame and basically rebuilt the bike with his favorite seat, gears, gear shifter thingy-magig, pedals, handle bars, etc.

I have taken it out for a short ride almost every day (except the 2 it rained) since he gave it to me. Such an unexpected, out of the blue, thank you Lord blessing. What makes it better is that I know this was as much for Rob as it is for me. I know that it is the Lord working in both of our lives through this selfless action.
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???The Gift of Preaching???

I believe in Scripture.
I believe that all Scriptuer is God-breathed and authoritative.
I believe there are some things I don't understand in it though.

One of those things...
The Gift of Preaching:
I can recognize it in others. I have definitely recognized the lack of it in many senior pastors. I know that it says in Ephesians that "some are called to p
I know that Jesus preached.
I know that the disciples preached on the day of Pentecost.
I know that Paul preached in the synagouges.

I preached on Sunday again. It was such a stressful week. Pastor Mike was out sick and then on vacation. I had an overnight called BLAST with the teens on Friday night. I had a 20 pager and an 8 pager to do for class... I have written all of this on here before I believe... in short there was a lot going on. I tried to be diligent. I sat down earlier in the week and worked hard to get stuff done, so that I could focus in on the sermon before BLAST. I practically cleared my docket and mind of everything by Friday AM so that I had all day to work on it. I spent a ton of time reading Scripture. Trying to hear God's voice. Seeking some guidance and wisdom. I felt He told me which way to go early Friday and pursued it. When I got back to it on Saturday evening the Lord confirmed that direction and I had a fun time writing it. Then came the practice session with Kelly at 12:30 AM on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I actually had to wake her up to do this! At the end I was convinced I couldn't do this, that it was going to be horrible if God didn't take over... and it would have been.

After the sermon the Lord sent so many more confirmations that He has given me the gift of preaching. So many wise people, loving people, honest peopel, GODLY people have come up to me and confirmed this in the past few months. One of the most radical, spirit-filled, amazing guys in our church said to me on his way out the door, "My wife and I have been talking about your gift. Don't run away from your calling James."

I don't know what that means. I guess the Lord has convinced me that one of my gifts is preaching, but I don't know how to apply that. I think the church is supposed to be much more of a community than what we see on a Sunday Morning. I think that preaching is somewhat ineffective with most people, who forget any point of the sermon by the next week. I think that people learn more about God by sharing their lives with each other, praying for one another and sharing what the Lord is revealing to them, than through a service with a talking head up front and 300 nodding (or drooping) heads in the pews.

If the church is supposed to be smaller, more communal, more intimate, more shared... then how does the gift of preaching apply to that? It would feel pretty pious and wierd to preach for 25 minutes to the community of 6-8 who meet in my home.

I am trying to understand this, struggle through this, figure this out. The reason this question impacts me so much is because I feel the Lord has specifically sent an all out assault on me to convince me of this gift. I have really run from this thing. I have tried to hide from it. I have tried to deny it even. What I do know, is that it is truly not me. It has got to be a gift, because what happens in our living room the night before is radically different than what happens in either service on Sunday Morning. When I surrender the message to Christ, He takes over and says what He wants. There are times I am literally up there talking and at the same time praying "Lord, just don't let me get in the way. Speak to us. Speak to me."

I don't know what this means.
I don't know what plans He has for me.
It was a lot more comforting to think I would be a youth pastor my entire life.
Now I don't know what He has in store, but I know it has to be centered around Christian community and I know I have to use the gifts He has given me.

Lord, I am a little scared.
Lord, lead me.
Lord, guide me.
Lord, don't let me get in the way.

WARNING: I wrote this entire entry and then realized that the "gift of Preaching" is nowhere to be found (at least in the RSV). Not in Romans 12. Not in 1 Corinthians 12. Not in Ephesians 4. In fact... here they all are to confirm it for you:

1 Corinthians 12:28-31
28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Romans 12:6-8
6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Ephesians 4: 11-12
11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

So, I guess that means my "gift of preaching" is something else... teaching? pastoring? being an apostle? evangelizing? I have no clue. I think I am more confused now.
So what am I supposed to do with that?
I know my comments don't work, but click here and e-mail me if you can/could/would comment:
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Intense Times, Calm Times

I had an intense weekend that I will not dive into, but this week has gone well. Pastor Mike has pneumonia, which stinks for him, because he was already taking Wednesday-Sunday off to finish his basement. I feel bad for him... he was so excited.

That of course means that I am running the show this week... visiting, leading worship, preaching... not to mention youth group (which was on of the most demanding, "I need you James", "Can you sign this", "Can you help me with this", "Can we talk about something" nights I have had in a long long long time... but it was good in the end), an overnight youth trip (Fri.-Sat.), and a 6-8 page final for my history class due last week... the funny thing is that I actually feel peace through it all. I am enjoying a decent pace, going home to visit Kelly on busy days and enjoying times with our community.

We have experienced good meal times, good food, some great conversation and some fresh insights from Scripture. I feel good. I feel peace. I feel a calm... even though everything seems to be rushing around me and pushing against me. I don't get it. I will probably freak out and have a breakdown tomorrow.
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New Friends

Kelly and I joined Benji and Sarah (the little Ballmers) for dinner at the Williams' home tonight. I have seen Chris and his wife Christi around town for the past couple of years. Chrisit used to attend our MOPS program at the Naz. Chris kind of stands out in Findlay because of his long dread locks, which are completely rad. We have attended many of the same conferences, I have seen him walking around town, and run across him at different times, but never officially met him until about a month ago. I was in Salvation Army scavenging for some jeans and saw him there. I had just found out he is an Admissions Counselor at Winebrenner Seminary, where I am planning on attending as a visiting student this spring, summer and perhaps fall. I struck up a brief conversation and looked forward to talking to him more as I pursued my schooling.

A week or two later Benji went to Winebrenner to look into the possibility of him attending there with me. He met Chris, talked for a minute or two about school and an hour about everything else the Lord has been revealing to us this past year and a half through community. Chris shared many of the same sentiments and a new kindred was found.

They invited us over for spahetti, an awesome salad (spinach, strawberries, apples, cheese, carrots, ranch... for me) and some cheesey garlic bread. Their children... Hannah, Maegan and Isaiah were a joy. The conversation was one of hearing, understanding and relating. They are exploring, seeking and finding answers to many of the same questions we are asking. The time was over too soon, but I am sure there are many more to come.

The Lord's timing is so amazing. He continues to reveal new things to us, lead new friends to us and give new life to us. I have seen Chris a million times, but never got to know him until now... I don't think that is a conincidence... it seems more like a higher plan...a godly timing. It is an adventurous and exciting time in our lives. I can't wait to see the big picture He has in store... in his timing.
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Currently Reading--- Resident Aliens: life in the christian colony. Stanley Hauerwas & William H. Willimon.
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Great Conversations

I have not recorded my journey adequately on these pages. There are large gaps with many great conversations that are left off these pages. In one of my undergrad classes we had to write a time line of our lives. This timeline was to help us review where we had come from and where we were. It was to help us understand ourselves in the cumulative effort of our brief lives and thus understand others better, seeing them not in the moment, but in their lifespan or good and bad times, easy and hard times, happy and sad times. At least, that is why I think we did it.

It seems like I could use such a time line of the past two and a half years. This journey, this awakening in my life began over two and a half years ago! My accountability partner and I began to question some things we were both experiencing and thinking individually. This began to change the way we viewed things drastically, to the point that he resigned from church work about 4 months later and moved away. In November of that year I went to Nashville with 8 other youth pastors for a National Youth Workers Convention. One of my buddies and I decided to take a 8 hour Critical Concerns course on Postmodern Ministry... the emerging church stuff. It rocked us. We kept the other 6 guys up until all hours of that night discussing those things. Our heads were swimming. We knew our lives were about to change... and they have for both of us.

Since then it has been a gradual transformation of my life. At times it has moved swiftly, at times it has seemed slow, at times it has felt like it would kill me, at times I have never felt more free, at times I get so confused because I don't know what to do next. That is where I often am. I don't know where the Lord is taking me. I don't know where He is leading me. I know that He has led me though. I know that it is His hand that continually creates opportunities for growth in my life. I know that it is Him who has opened the door for so many great conversations.

I had a great conversation on Wednesday night with a good friend. The Lord gave me one of those rare opportunities for a raw conversation about where I am at, what I believe, where I think I am headed and what The Lord is teaching me... with someone who was interested, excited, inquisitive and supportive. It has been so cool how I haven't had to force my thoughts on anyone, but the Lord continues to give me opportunities when He feels the time is right to share, to hear and to grow together with one of my brothers in Christ. Wednesday night was such a great conversation. I really needed it. I needed to get some of that out, to be reminded of what the Lord has revealed to me, to be reminded not to give up and settle.

Thank you Lord for good friends, good times, great conversation. I am learning so much.
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