Kyrie Eleison.

My life is busy. Ridiculously busy. Probaby unhealthily busy. If you know anything about youth ministry, then you know while someone might be part-time on paper, they are full-time in real life. So, I am a full-time youth pastor. I am a full-time grad student finishing my masters in youth ministry (praise God for a May graduation!). I am a full-time dog mom. I am a full-time daugher and sister. I am a full-time friend. And lets just take a look for a second at what I am passionate about. Race, poverty, diversity, photography, art, music, and food to name a few. <—-These also need some form of my attention.

This past Sunday, after a full eight days of travel, I was slated to lead worship. Our scripture text was

Matthew 5:38-48

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I’ve heard this passage dozens of times always in the context of dealing with ones neighbor. However, I thought a lot about the word love. Love is a hallmark of the youth ministry in which I currently serve. When I dream of youth ministry, I dream of love, creativity, imagination, safety; a place where all of these adjectives can be used to describe actions that can ultimately be lived out in community. I believe less in facets only designed for one demographic and more in a holistic approach to ministry that values the individual as a person in the community with the hallmark of that approach being love. It is through a teenager’s engagement with love that they infect others around them with love.

How often does my busyness get in the way of my ability to love someone well. Am I just “too busy” to listen? We all have the same 24 hours in our day. Are we using them well? For the anthem on Sunday I sang the song “Lord Have Mercy” by Michael W. Smith which can be found here. They lyrics were poignant when I thought about the words Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy) and Christe Eleison (Christ have mercy). It talks of forgetting the words of Jesus, missing his promises, and a longing to return back to the life that Christ has called us to.

Kyrie Eleison is derived from several New Testament passages. Check out Matthew 15:22, Mark 10:46, Matthew 20:30-31, or Luke 18:39 to name a few. The use of this cry to God deemed it appropriate to include in liturgical prayers within the church the years folllowing. It’s a prayer of petition and a prayer of thanksgiving. It acknowledges what God has done, is doing, and will do. 3 words.

So, for lent this year, I am working to unbusy myself. I am going to prioritize my twenty four hours in a way that allows for Kyrie Eleison and Christe Eleison. Will you join me?

 

-T

On Death and Dying

I haven’t posted in over a year. It has been a year full of emotion and change. What stopped my writing and has begun it again are deaths. Death is a quirky thing. I have absolutely no fear of dying but when people around me die, I tend to freak out. And by freak out I mean shut down. I hibernate. I really just don’t want anybody to know. It’s nobody elses business. Or maybe it is but its somebody’s business to ask for it to be their business.

Last summer my last living grandmother died. This is me, her, and my Uncle Joe.10153219_630247552175_7071927947157035260_n

You can’t tell from this picture but  I was in the process of teaching her about “selfies”. The other thing  you wouldn’t know about this picture is that she was mostly blind. She was beautiful even as she got older. She had hands that made cookies and sewed me dolls. She never chewed a piece of bubblegum. She loved to knit. She was a social butterfly. She died peacefully and went to go be with my grandfather which was exactly how she wanted it. This is the last photo I ever shared with her.

This past week a friend and colleague died. Paul. He was one of the best musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He was quiet but always ready with a joke. His hands made his bass guitar sing. He mentored me as a musician. He was a quiet leader. And most of all, he was a friend. Paul wasn’t necessarily famous, but he was famous in my book.

Both incredibly lovely people. Both followers of Christ. Both made whole again in their death. For this I am thankful

 

A Lord of the Rings Summer

My first adventure begins this weekend with my middle schoolers. I cannot begin to express how excited I am for this. It will be our first outing with just middle school! And we get to hang out with some awesome people who are letting us work with them to help better their community. This is just the beginning. I also have big adventures #2-7 and little adventures along the way as well. I love big adventures. This is mostly due to the sheer awesomeness that happens when you’re with a group on an adventure. Think Lord of the Rings. This is how youth ministry adventures happen to me. We get to adventure together as friends. There is ALWAYS first and second breakfast. There are unexpected encounters and there is risk and a task at hand.

This past week I found myself dreading the upcoming adventures. I knew when I created the summer calendar it was going to be tight. There wasn’t much room for more than a week of rest in between big adventures. The list of things to do, phone calls to make, purchase of swag, and having all the ducks in a row can be daunting. I had a piece I was missing for our upcoming trip and walked through the office frustrated that we are so close to the big adventure and there was still an unknown. My boss happened to be in the main office and our conversation went something like this

Me: I utterly regret the decisions i’ve made about the calendar for this summer (as I write this i’m two days away from being gone for my 6th weekend in a row)

K: Umm….really? *puzzled look

Me: Yep. Really.

K: Yeah, right.

Me: *puzzled look

K: I seriously doubt that. Be honest, you’re so excited to get out of here and do something with these kids. You’re going to love every minute of it.

Me: Touche

He’s telling the truth. I am excited. Summer youth ministry is probably my favorite time of year. Some of my fondest memories are from summer trips in youth ministry. It is also re-charge time for me. I know that sounds strange. How does a youth pastor recharge on a trip. For me, it’s the art of making memories. There are memories to be had, inside jokes to be told for years, and goofy pictures that forever live in the halls of the church. If you don’t believe me about the jokes thing, ask my youth pastor about the time we were in Roswell, New Mexico, and I had to go to the bathroom. Really, it’s a time for us to be family together. Families eat, work, and draw closer to God together. This summers theme is love. We’re going to be answering questions about love and God. What would it look like for our love for one another to pour out into the places where we serve? In the midst of our youth ministry as a whole? Amongst the members of our church? These are the things I look forward to with my students. And so, I eagerly await 8am on Friday morning for new adventure #1, For the opportunity to experience Christ together, to make new memories, and to reminisce about it later.

He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” – Frodo Baggins

Ideas are cheap, action is costly

“Ideas are cheap, action is costly.”

This statement was in a relevant magazine article I read the other day. I’m sure it was one of those “40 bajillion things I wish I knew in my 20’s” articles or something of that nature. This statement is oh so true. I’m sure in the article it referred to business but I would like to go ahead and apply this article to the church.

A few weeks ago, in youth, we talked about how we define ourselves, how others define us, and how God defines us. I allowed my kids to define me and this is what they said: respectful, loving, compassionate, blunt, truthful, caring. I’d like to think that I live up to all of these in some form or fashion. I grew up in a no fuss military family that didn’t have time for egos or B.S. The elephant in the room was addressed. We didn’t leave the elephant to be danced around. So, I’m that girl in the committee meeting. I’m the one who stands up, announces the elephant in all its grandeur, and watches as everyone gets squeamish in their awkwardness. Somebody had to do it, right? But it’s precisely the idea of acts being costly that cost so much. If you’ve ever served on a committee you know the guy I’m about to describe. He’s the dreamer. You appreciate his dreaminess. He dreams some really grand dreams. In every committee that I’ve sat on, this dreamer is rarely willing to act. To himself, the act of telling you his dreams is sacrifice enough. The problem is that he isn’t really doing anything that is of personal sacrifice to himself. Suggesting that we should start a new ministry is one thing. He’s the first to say no when it comes time to actually implement or head up the ministry.

This is all too real in youth ministry. Everybody has opinions about what the youth ministry should look like, act like, how many kids should be attending, etc. The same people who have strong opinions about these things are often the same who run for the hills when you ask them to volunteer. Church as a whole suffers because there are lots of people with lots of cheap ideas who are never willing to pay the price to act. I can tell you that my actions have been costly. I’ve missed weddings and birthday parties. I’ve had to say “no”. I have also never regretted acting. The cost may have been inconvenience, but it netted me memories. The cost may have been possessions, but it netted me a second family.

I’d like to challenge you to take your cheap ideas and take costly action on them. Our actions can speak louder than our words. Take action. Don’t just throw out empty words. They’re cheap.

My people

I have “people”. In sure you know the type. These are the people you claim. Dare I say, the people you would be willing to take a bullet for. My “people” come from all walks of life. Some are from the church world, and some are not. Some are from my school world and some are not. Some even hail from places other than Texas.

This weekend, I welcomed 6 new people into my “people”. They are the new 6th graders in our youth ministry. My kids, my “people” consistantly amaze me. They bring laughter and richness to my life. Like the times they come knock on my door to see if I want to “come out and play” in the snow. Or how about their sass. My “people” are full of sass. I like it that way. They love each other with a ferocity that only comes from spending copious amounts of time together. Like when we took our new “people” on a mystery trip this past weekend. We stopped at a rest stop because one of them “just had to go”. If you’ve never been on a youth trip then you should be forewarned that on pretty much every trip there’s always a funny story about a bathroom stop or lack thereof. Nonetheless, we stopped. I had given them 5 minutes. At the 5 minute mark I get back on the bus and I’m missing 3 of my “new people” and one of my “seasoned people”. My seasoned person is over halfway through high school. It was strange that he would be missing. So where do you go when you’re looking for boys at a rest stop? The vending machines, naturally. When I step into the room with the snacks, there they are loading their arms with all of the goodies they’ve purchased. Then comes the obligatory “you know you’re supposed to be on the bus right? What are you guys doing?” to which my 6th grade boys promplty grabbed their snacks and ran. My “seasoned” person simply looked at me and said, “I didn’t want to leave them alone. I wanted to make sure they were okay.”

In our youth group, we’ve talked a lot lately about how we spend out time. Are we advancing the kingdom of God or wasting our time watching TV and checking social media. We’ve talked about being a team. We’ve talked about how everybody brings gifts to the table, not just our friends. We’ve talked about belonging versus just being inclusive. And you know what? At that moment, with my “seasoned person”, he made sure the 6th graders were part of “his people”.

I am happy to say this isn’t necessarily a rare occurance. I love them with the ferocity that they love each other and me. I love them the best I know how. Sometimes that love is easy and sometimes it is hard, but it is there nonetheless. They are my “people” and I am part of their “people”. I’m glad we get to be each other’s “people” together.

-T

Dust and Failure

I want to be somebody, but I’m a failure. There, i’ve said it. I’ve failed at lots of things like the time my dad tried to teach me how to drive a stick shift when I was 17. If you’ve ever done this then you know the feeling. Dad willingly agrees and you both pile into the car thinking that this will be the day you conquer life and look cool to your friends. Our conversation went something like this:

T: Can you teach me how to drive the vw bug?

D: Sure, we can go this weekend.

(Saturday morning in the high school football stadium parking lot)

D: T, it’s easy, just east off the clutch and ease into the gas.

T: I don’t know why you think its this easy because its just NOT!

3285703475-039450-923485290485 tries later

D (through gritted teeth) switch me spots

T: (with tears in my eyes) Why?!?!

D: We’re done for the day. We’re going to get ice cream.

I had a professor in my music department who had favorites. Everybody knew the favorites. A few years after graduation, I had the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall with Eric Whitacre and Morten Lauridsen. I had gone back for a visit to see a dear friend and decided to stop in on a class. When I stepped into the class, this professor introduced me as someone who was working for a small church in a small town in Texas. It wasn’t so much the words as the way he said the word. He spit them out, like I hadn’t amounted to anything in my life. I was never a favorite. I was never the one they said would go sing at Carnegie Hall. In fact, I was the one they were concerned about finishing the program altogether.

I was in Dr. W’s music theory class. Music Theory is like math for music people. I was an anomaly of awesomeness at sight singing and ear-training and horrendous at music theory. Try as I might, I failed that class. Not only did I fail that class, I had to go back and repeat the pre-requisite. And Dr. W, oh don’t worry, he was the only one who taught that class and he was the hardest professor in the music department. I still remember the day he told me I would fail theory. We had been in a theory room working on problems for over an hour. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t understand the material. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t understand either. I remember the hot tears running down my face with the full weight of my failure on my shoulders. Failing this class meant that I might not graduate on time. I might not get into the ensembles I wanted. I might not get to be somebody, to be a musician. At my college graduation, as we were lining up to process into the auditorium, Dr. W came by. He shook my hand, smiled, leaned in, and said “T, i’m so proud of you. You did it!”

It was some years later that I remembered Dr. W’s words. I was faced again with what I thought was a failure. Only, it wasn’t a failure at all. I was made to feel awful at my job, but that wasn’t the case. I was actually fairly good at my job. I was also passionate about what I was doing and the people I was working with.

This week, I talked to my youth kids about Lent and Ash Wednesday. “ From dust you were born and to dust you will return”. This is the phrase commonly used when asked are being imparted. But this week was about not wasting what we have been given, even if we fail. Everybody fails. My stories are not unique. Ash Wednesday marks the yearly time of preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Preparation. I took a look back at my failures and accomplishments for this year. For worship ministry and youth ministry. For family and friends. And I began to prepare. God called me to be somebody. He called me to be His. He has placed people, places, and things in my care to do His work. His mercies are new every morning. And so, in the wake of my fear of failure, I get up every morning vowing to do the best that I can. To be a light in a dark world. To teach my youth through action and word. To be His.

The Power of Words

Words are powerful. Sometimes they are awesome and sometimes they are soooo not. I’ve had to exchange many words this week. Each exchange has the opportunity to be awesome and yet not all of mine were. I am human afterall. One of the most interesting exchanges came with one of my students. They told me they believed I was “just so perfect”. Oy. Wow. Ummm. On the one hand, I was flattered. On the other hand, I had to tarnish their perception of my perfection because its simply not true. As I said, I have exchanged many words with many people this week. Not all of my words have been pleasant or kind or peaceful or merciful. But the verses I keep coming back to are out of James 3.

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way…And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”

Yikes! James isn’t really one to sugarcoat. If you don’t believe me go ahead and read the rest of the book. I must caveat with the fact that none of myconversations created an irreversible fire. But I am thankful for the grace in the later verses.

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Wisdom is living a humble life characterized by the seven traits above that honor the Lord. There is wisdom is knowing that what we say is pure and peaceful, gentle to the hearer and willing to yield to others. Our words need to be full of continued mercy and show no favoritism. And there is no reason for our words to lack sincerity. And yet they do because we get angry, hurt, vengeful, boastful, and a whole host of other words to mean that we are selfish.

Thank you to those who act with grace when my words don’t always meet this criteria. You are exemplifying what James has already challenged us with and for that, I am grateful. I would challenge you this week to look at how you’re speaking to others. Really think about the things you are saying. Are they pure, peace loving, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, show no favoritism, and always sincere?