Sunday, January 31, 2010

Carl Jones- Getaway Driver

Springfield Friends Meeting is located in a neighborhood very near some financially depressed areas of High Point.  I mentioned in yesterday's post that our secretary, Millie Simmons, often had to deal with with homeless and jobless people who would come to the church looking for financial help.  We had a fund from which we could pay electric bills and help with rent, and sometimes we had vouchers for local grocery stores.   And we would always recommend that they visit Our Father's Table, the feeding arm of High Point Urban Ministries, for a hot lunch.  Most of the folks who dropped by were grateful for whatever we could do.  We felt we were doing the work of Jesus, and we tried to help everyone.  If people were abusing us, that would be something they would have to answer to God for...

One day a young man had stopped by for assistance.  I chatted with him for a while as Millie secured a check to help him with his utility bill.  He asked to see the church, so I walked him around and showed him the entire building before taking him back up to the office. I told him about lunch at Our Father's Table, and he said he would like to go but that he needed a ride.  I told him I would take him, just to give me a few minutes.  He excused himself and went to the restroom, then returned to the office to get his check.  I met him there, and he gathered his bag and his boom-box and we drove downtown.  I commented as we got in the car that his boom-box looked a lot like the one we had in our Youth Room.  I dropped him off and went on with my day, feeling good about helping this nice young man.

Later that afternoon I went down to the Youth Room to get something, and of course (as you have no doubt guessed by now) discovered that his boom-box didn't just look like ours- it WAS ours!  He had stolen it right in front of me, and better yet, I had drive he getaway car!  You don't get many chances in life to feel that stupid. 

Jesus calls on us to help the poor and the under-resourced peoples of our communities.  He calls on us to love everyone, even our enemies.  How they respond to us, what they do with our love and support, is not our problem.  We have to leave that in the hands of God.  But driving the getaway car may be going beyond the call of duty!

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Boss (Ode to Millie)

When I arrived at Springfield Friends Meeting in October of 1986, the secretary was a woman named Pat Lindfors.  She worked half days, with most of her time spent on the weekly bulletin.  Pat was a sweet and wonderful lady- sometimes too sweet.  She was the kind of person who would ask permission to walk down the hall and use the restroom.  She also was not much of a self-starter.  If you wanted Pat to do something, you had to tell her exactly what you wanted.  Springfield was a fairly stressful place in those early days, and Pat could not deal with it very well- so she resigned.  I think this was the summer of 1988.  We were uncertain of who would replace her...

I left to go on a youth trip to Myrtle Beach, and when I came back Max Rees had hired Millie Simmons on a trial basis.  Millie and her husband George had two daughters, Amy and Jennifer (all pictured here along with Ashley Goad on the far left), who were active in our programs.  I admit to being a bit surprised that Millie was interested in the job.  She didn't seem like the church secretary type.  She was funny, outspoken and a ball of energy.  When we needed her to do things for us, she would not only do them, she would give us better ideas than we had to begin with.  It didn't take Millie long to establish that there was a new sheriff in town!  She took control of the office.  She took control of the church communications.  She took control of Max and I!  And the church loved her.  The old men would stop by to visit with her.  She became the point person for the church's famous Ham & Egg Supper; she became the person who dealt with the homeless and downtrodden who would come to the church looking for financial help.  She was a great supporter of our youth ministry.  And she was a great friend to both Marilyn and I.

Max and I used to joke with Millie about her being our boss.  The facts are we would never have accomplished the things we did without her help and leadership.  I was fortunate to work with a number of good secretaries in the years that followed, but never anyone quite like Millie.  She was the best!  And she outlasted both of us...

Because of Jesus,

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Night With Barney Fife

One of the interesting things about living across the street from Springfield Friends Meeting for 8 years had to do with the church's alarm system.  Each evening either Max Rees or myself would set the alarm using a key pad.  This system would sound a very loud siren if anyone opened a door, or if motion was detected in certain areas inside the facility.  More nights than I can recount, usually around 2 AM, the alarm would go off.  Over the years we determined it was often set off by mice in the building.  Regardless of the reason, anytime the siren sounded Max and I would respond.  We would turn off the alarm and wait for the police to respond.  They would check the building, find nothing, and we would reset the system and go home. 

One particular night I responded to an alarm by myself and awaited the High Point Police Department.  Two very young deputies arrived and were determined to search the building from top to bottom.  I went with them to show the way, since they seemed determined NOT to turn on any lights.  As we headed down the first hall towards the worship room, one of them thought he heard something- and pulled his gun.  I could almost hear him saying "this is bigger than big Andy- big ain't the word for it!"  They told me to stay in the hall and they proceeded to check out the noise- and "Deputy Fife" had his gun out the entire time.  They found nothing, and as they came out and continued to search I asked if the gun was really necessary. I explained it would be much easier to tell the congregation about a stolen VCR or a broken window than to explain a blood stain in a Quaker meetinghouse.  Despite my protest,the gun remained out.

We headed downstairs and into the Youth Room.  Shining a flashlight and holding a gun, "Deputy Fife" led us through the old kitchen and pushed open the swinging doors that led to our basement space.  Suddenly he screamed "FREEZE!" and was down on one knee, his pistol pointed towards the far wall.  He told me to hit the lights, so I did.  As the lights came up, we discovered our overzealous deputy had gotten the drop on a life-size cardboard stand-up of Christian musician Michael W. Smith.  Fortunately he didn't fire, and since MWS was unarmed, the episode ended peacefully.  The search was discontinued and the HPPD officers left without much conversation.  "Deputy Fife" never responded to one of our alarms again, at least not while I was at Springfield.  Perhaps, like the character on The Andy Griffith Show, they had to take away his bullet...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

CCM Countdown: 30-26

It's Thursday, and time for another installment of my countdown of the 50 Contemporary Christian Music albums that had the most impact on my life and ministry.  To see numbers 35-31 and get links to go further back, click here!

30)  KANSASJennifer Knapp-  1997
Jennifer Knapp was 23 years old when she was discovered by Toby McKeehan of dc Talk fame and signed to Gotee Records.  This, her debut album named after her home state, reflected her doubts and fears as well as her love for a God she found faithful.  The two big hits, Romans and Undo Me, are songs that never cease to move me.
Download this:  Undo Me
The first album I ever heard from PRF (I would go back and buy all the old ones and
everything else they ever did!) let me know immediately why they were considered to be "the Beatles" of CCM.  Their creative lyrics, soaring melodies and unique harmonies made an immediate fan of me.  This project featured an amazing assortment of tunes, including the title track, Wonder Why, Merry Go Round, The Grace of God and The Love I Know.  If you are not familiar with this Minnesota trio, check them out!
Download this:  Wonder Why
28)  REDEMPTION SONGS-  Jars of Clay-  2005
The first of three Jars projects on my list (the other 2 are top 10!) this collection of contemporary recordings of classic hymns and gospel songs is one of my favorite pieces of travelling music because it simply causes my soul to soar!  I Need Thee Every Hour, God Will Lift Up Your Head, Let Us Love and Sing Of Wonder (with Martin Smith of Delirious) and It Is Well With My Soul are among my favorites.
Download this:  God Will Lift Up Your Head
27)  HAPPY DISSONANCE-  Spooky Tuesday-  1997
Spooky Tuesday became a favorite of mine after Rick Bundschuh, the pastor at their home church in Hawaii (and father of bass player Justin) called to ask me if we could host them for a concert at FUMC-Kissimmee in 1997.  They would eventually play three concerts and lead one retreat for me before they broke up in 2002.  Their unique style and the fact that they
featured both a male and a female lead singer really appealed to our youth.  This album featured Personal Invitation, Selfish Love, Suicideand Salvation.  I will forever remember Jessica, Kevin, Andrew and Pepe (Justin) as the band who taught us Prince of Peace...
Download this:  Cry Me To Sleep
26)  THE BEAUTIFUL LETDOWNSwitchfoot-  2003
I was already a huge fan of this California band after their New Way To Be Human project, but even their biggest fans were unprepared for the massive popularity ofthis CD.  Meant To Live, Dare You To Move and More Than Fine were all crossover hits, getting play on rock stations and MTV.  Other great songs included the title track and Redemption.  This album made it very cool to be a Christian band.
Download this:  Gone

This week's song to enjoy-  Only A Fool-  Geoff Moore and the Distance- 1997

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jerks for Jesus

The following is long and sarcastic.  Continue at your own risk!
Matthew Hartsfield, our pastor at Van Dyke Church here in Tampa, is a wonderful preacher who always makes me think.  A couple of weeks ago he mentioned a group that he is seeing more and more of in our nation these days.  This group is called Jerks for Jesus.  I have done a bit of research and would like to share with you three ways that you can become a card-carrying member of this special club!  You don't have to do all three; any one of these will qualify you for membership.
  1. Remember that Christianity is all about YOU.  Your belief system, your spiritual practices, your interpretation of scripture and your value system are the only ones that count!  If someone disagrees with you on methods of baptism, simply acknowledge that they are wrong and move along.  If you are a warmonger and another "christian" is a pacifist, simply remind them that Jesus once cut off a guard's ear in the Garden.  They say that was Peter...and Jesus healed the guard's ear?  Not in your Bible!  Your faith demands that you never back down from the things you believe in, even if someone proves you wrong.  Otherwise you might as well be a (GASP) liberal...
  2. Even a perfect Christian like you needs to mingle on occasion with other believers like yourself (although there is no one quite like you!).  1 Corinthians 12 refers to this group as the "Body of Christ."  Different members of the body have different responsibilities.  As a Jerk for Jesus, you play a special part.  You are the Pointing Finger!  It is your job to point out the sins and failures of your fellow Christians. Let someone else be the hands and feet that serve others in Jesus' name.  Let others be the tongues who share the Good News with a devastated world.  It is up to you to remind society of it's moral decay- such as rap music, Reality TV and a willingness to vote for Democrats on occasion.  You are the one who points out who is to blame when things go wrong.  And remember, the Pointing Finger never points back at you, because only you understand what Jesus really wants this world to be like.   You are the keeper of truth- and you can use Twitter and Facebook to condemn those who disagree with you!
  3. Concentrate on God's law as found in the Old Testament.  Obey these and you are far less likely to need to understand concepts like Grace and Unconditional Love.  These are for the weak.  As a true Jerk for Jesus, you will know that Jesus didn't have to die for your sins, because you are doing just fine without Him.  Anyone who needs to be forgiven clearly is not a good American (and one of our Pointing Fingers will be more than happy to point out their shortcomings!).  If you need a good biblical role model, check out the Pharisees.  They followed the law, were important people, and didn't need Jesus to explain anything to them. Plus they had money and almost certainly voted a straight Republican ticket.   Indeed, the Pharisees are the patron saints of the Jerks for Jesus.
Some of you may wish to avoid being a Jerk for JesusLeonard Sweet, in his book SoulTsunami, points out the best way to steer clear of this group.  He calls it The Platinum Rule- an upgrade from The Golden Rule we all grew up with. The Golden Rule says "do to others as you would have them do to you."   Jesus knew The Golden Rule and quoted it in Matthew 7:12.  But He also said that "I come to give us a new covenant."  It would no longer be about treating others as we want to be treated.  It was now about Jesus saying "just as I have loved you, so should you love one another (John 13:35)."  Jesus loved us so much He died for us.  Talk about taking it to another level!  The Platinum Rule said it was no longer about what is good for me; it was now about being willing to sacrifice everything for those around you.  It was no longer about loving "your kind of people;" it was now all about loving everyone, even those you don't like.  It is about giving up things that are important to you for the good of the Kingdom of God.  It is about understanding that we all need grace and forgiveness, we all need love, and most importantly, we all need Jesus.  It is Jesus, crucified and resurrected, that we need to be sharing with our nation.  And we need to- no, we MUST- share Him in love, not with a condemning wag of our fingers.  As the song says, "They will know we are Christians by our love."  Everyone needs love- especially the jerks...

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That's A Wrap

At the conclusion of the Floridays 1990 experience- after the trip, the banquet and all of the work that followed- I took the slide of the group picture I had taken in the Great Hall underneath Cinderella's Castle and had it blown up into an 8x11 picture.  The picture was taken around midnight our last night, and the entire group is in it except for myself and Robin Thomas (he was also taking pictures.).  I had it framed and hung it on my office wall at Springfield.  I also hung it every office I had after that.  It is currently hanging over the bed in our guest room.  I was going to scan it and post it here, but I discovered after almost 20 years it is stuck to the glass of the frame, and to remove it would destroy it.  And I can't do that.  I did, however, take a picture of the picture so I could post it here.  You can't really see much of the group, but the symbolism is important.

Why has this picture always been so significant to me?  After all, this particular Florida trip is only the second best Disney trip I ever led (the 1993 WDW trip is my favorite trip ever!).  Overall, it would rank sixth or seventh on my all-time list of favorite trips.  So why is it a picture from this trip that has always been on display for people to see?  The picture has always reminded me of what can happen when we seek God's will and are faithful to God's vision.  It reminds of how the youth ministry of Springfield Friends Meeting changed in a three year period, going from 5 my first Sunday to 20 on the first Disney trip in 1987 to 60 on this trip.  I look at the picture and see so many lives that were touched by God through our TNT program and wound up in Florida as a result.  We invited Jesus to be a part of our student ministry, and He showed up in a very real way.  The trip also represented a changing of the guard in our ministry.  The youth who had taken us to a new level were aging out, and a whole new batch of incredible young people were assuming leadership .  The next four years would be amazing.  I cannot overstate the significance of this trip as a wrap-up to the  first four years and the beginning of whole new world. 

Tomorrow I am going to rant a little bit about why so much of USAmerica sees Christians not as Christ-followers, but as "Jerks for Jesus."  I hope you'll be here.

Because of Jesus,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Now the Truth Can Be Told!

Regular readers of this blog may recall that our Floridays 1990 adventure began with a trip from High Point, NC to Orlando that was nothing if not eventful!  Among the unusual occurrences was losing the Archdale Friends Meeting van driven by Jeff Byrd (for more info, click here).  Everyone who was on the trip remembers that part of the story.  Almost no one knows, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story!"

Jeff was a total wreck by the time he found the motel, and as the evening went along his condition did not get better.  Late that evening, after our group meeting and after everyone was heading to their rooms, two of Jeff's dear friends decided he needed to visit the motel bar.  I should state clearly at this point that North Carolina Quakers are, on the whole, quite opposed to the use of alcohol- so this trip had to be taken on the down-low.  The two friends told me of this plan, and I suppose I should have tried to stop them- although it would not have mattered.  You see, one of the friends was Tim Harding, our trip Pastor, who was looking out for our spiritual well-being during our stay in Orlando- and Jeff clearly needed some attention.  The other was my wife, Marilyn Jones, with whom it would have been pointless to argue, because I never win!  In any case they slipped off, had an adult beverage in Jeff's honor, and went on to have a wonderful week without anyone knowing.  The truth has been told (to the best of my memory!).

Years later I had two adult sponsors sneak off to drink beers at an Atlanta Braves game- and I caught them red-handed!  My point here is that I invited adults to work with my youth ministries because they had a heart for God and a heart for kids, not because I thought they were perfect.  Jeff, Tim and I were professional Christians, yet we still had our struggles.  Our walk with Jesus does not end because we have a late night drink or because the words we use when cut off in traffic might not be "church language."  It is only when we realize that God is with us at those times that we can be truly blown away by the grace of Jesus Christ.  As an example for youth, I'll take a struggling seeker over a "Jerk for Jesus" anytime!  I guess what I am trying to say is, to Jeff and Tim and Marilyn and all the other adults who over 28 years made my student ministry possible, thank you for being real with me and with the students we served.  It made a difference.

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Floridays '90 Awards

Some time after we returned from Orlando, we held a banquet for Springfield Friends Meeting at which we showed a slide show from our trip, and at which we presented awards for special moments from our adventure.  I still have the list of awards, and most of them honor moments I have previously blogged about here. Others stated the obvious, such as the award for Most Disgustingly Filthy Room (Ben Moran, Shon Hildreth, Ion Hildreth and Bryant Gillis) and Best Dick Tracy Souvenirs (given to Stacy Gilbreth, see picture) are very obvious.  But there are a few "awards" on the list that I no longer understand or remember.  I list them here in the hope that someone who reads them might shed some light on why they made my list.
  • Most Confused Morning Person- Judy Rees
  • Don't Know When They SleptJane Gless and Patsy Hill
  • Best Disappearing ActCathy Brown
  • Most Unusual Display of AffectionShelley Godwin
  • Most Likely To Blind You With Her Swim SuitAmy Simmons
  • Best Use of Motel BarJeff Byrd, Tim Harding and Marilyn Jones  (So we didn't actually give this one- but you can read more on this story tomorrow!)
If you have any information leading to the solving of these mysteries, please e-mail me at and share the info. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Random Ramblings on Entertainment

My son Will and I spend lots of time talking about the state of the world of entertainment, so today I thought I would share a few random thoughts with all of you!  Here we go!

*  Everyone seems to have an opinion on the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien battle over The Tonight Show, so I'll share mine.  Late night TV has some interesting personalities.  If you know me, you know how much I love David Letterman.  I have been in his studio audience twice, and record his show several times each week.  So I think Dave is brilliant. I also find Jon Stewart and Conan to be innovative and intelligent while still making me laugh.  Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert all have their moments.  And Jay Leno is not now, nor has he ever been, funny.  It's that simple.  Jay should have stepped up and stepped aside for Conan, but since he didn't, I look forward to seeing The Tonight Show go down in flames- sorry Johnny.

Avatar (or "Ah-bee-dah" as Arnold Schwarzenegger pronounces it) is a great movie, but 1 billion dollars great?  I don't get it.  If I had an Oscar vote for Best Picture, I would cast it for Invictus.  But that's just me...

Michelle Beadle (pictured at right with co-host Colin Cowherd, who is also great), co-host of ESPN's SportsNation (weekday afternoons at 4 PM, usually on ESPN2), just may be the sexiest woman on TV today.  She is attractive, witty, and REALLY knows her sports (which may be the sexiest part!).  Plus the show is great fun for a sports geek like me.  Give it a try!

*  My family's favorite shows right now are the sitcom The Big Bang Theory (Mondays, 9:30 PM on CBS) and the sci-fi drama Fringe (Thursdays, 9 PM on FOX).  In the name of full disclosure, I have to also admit we never miss American Idol either...

*  I know he's been a pain in the butt the past few off-seasons, but I really want to see Brett Favre in another Super Bowl.  Having said that, the Saints are a great story as well, and which ever one of them wins is who I will be pulling for in the Super Bowl

*  For those of you who know him, here is some serious entertainment news- Jerry Hanbery is now a daddy!!!  Congratulations Melissa (who did all the hard work!) and Jerry on the birth of Lorelei Brooke (pictured with Daddy!). She was born this week, and everyone is doing well.  With Jerry, my former Intern and current really good friend for a daddy her life will never be boring!   We love you all!

Have a wonderful rest of today and a blessed Sunday!

Friday, January 22, 2010

7 Things (Floridays 1990 Edition)

I have spent the best part of the last two weeks telling stories from our Floridays 1990 trip from Springfield Friends Meeting to Walt Disney World. I wish I had more pictures to share, but I took slides for our post-trip slide show, and those slides were lost in one of my moves. Still, here are 7 more things that stick out in my mind from that adventure:

1)  We had many great "performances" while at Disney.  There was Heather Beggs and Mike Mercadante dancing in front of the "Chinese Theater" that houses The Great Movie Ride.  There was J.J. Carter delivering his line to David Letterman- "Hey Dave, why don't you ever do anything educational?"- at Superstar TV.  But the performance of the week had to belong to Kelly Allen(pictured, on left) and her ongoing portrayal of Lucretia Soul Disney Murphy Johnson, who could never figure out "who da hat be wif" and who was constantly on the lookout for Tyrone Mouse- "cause he's a liar!"  Best supporting actor awards go to Wendy Mattocks and Jennifer Woods, also pictured.

2)  Russell Farlow ran out of money on about the second day and was constantly trying to borrow from his friends.  At the awards ceremony following the trip he was awarded the Brother, Can You Spare A Dime Award.

3)  Jon Moran (pictured, along with Bryan Dowling) celebrated a birthday while we were in Orlando, and we did a birthday meal at the Olive Garden.  I remember it was fun and that we had a great time, but I it seems like we were there forever.  There were 60 of us, and they just couldn't seem to get our food out, our drinks filled or our checks out so we could leave.  Jon may have aged a year while we partied...

4)  One night, after a very long day at the parks, we arrived back at the Gold Key Inn only to find that we had lost Dana Oxendine.  We were searching and getting a bit frantic when someone discovered her asleep in the back of the Suburban that Butch Moran was driving.  Given that Butch had been accused of falling asleep at the wheel on occasion, it was a miracle she could sleep that soundly!

5)  I have been on a lot of youth trips in my life, and on most of them there is one room that develops a smell that is, as my friend Alan Brown used to say, "taint"-  as in, "that jus' taint natural!"  The award for worst smelling room ever (mostly from very natural causes!) goes to Jamie Robinson, Danny McCorquodale, Ken Hill, Jeremy Godwin and (part-time) Todd Farlow.  They blamed it all on Jeremy's stuffed animal Stinky (who still takes trips with Jeremy on occasion!).  Danny took most of the credit for himself...

6)  On the afternoon we spent by the motel pool, Tim Harding (our trip pastor), Robin Thomas and I wandered across the street (Well, sprinted!  You don't wander across the Orange Blossom Trail and live to talk about it!) to an A&W Root Beer store.  Those were without question the best root beer floats in history!  They made them with Breyers vanilla ice cream and put them in frosted beer mugs.  We had more than one that week I can promise you!

7)  The New Mickey Mouse Club was popular in 1990, and the show had produced a spin-off band called The Party.  One of the guys was named Chase Hampton.  He was spotted at the Magic Kingdom one day by some of our girls- Jennifer Simmons, Emily Beggs, Elizabeth Tillman and others- and was then pursued until they caught him and got his autograph on their hats.  The restraining order took effect the next day...  (Thanks to Emily for reminding me of this story- I love hearing from all of you!).

That's it for now!  See you tomorrow for more Floridays 1990!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

CCM Countdown: 35-31

Welcome to another installment of my countdown of the 50 Contemporary Christian Music projects that had the most impact on my life and ministry.  To see numbers 40-36, click here

35)  WIDE-EYED AND MYSTIFIEDDownhere-  2006
This band of Canadian rockers (featuring a lead singer who has a voice comparable to the late Freddy Mercury of Queen) blew me away when I saw them live at the NYWC in 2006.  This CD featured their hits The More, A Better Way and Little Is Much.  It also featured one of my favorite songs ever, The Real Jesus.  You can check out a previous post on that song by clicking here.
 Download thisThe Real Jesus
34)   FOR HIM WHO HAS EARS TO HEARKeith Green-  1977
 Keith Green was one of the early pioneers of CCM, and for many this was his magnum 
 opus.  His career was brief (he was killed in a 1982 plane crash) but captivating.  This project included such classics a You Put This Love In My Heart, He'll Take Care ofthe Rest, and the immortal Easter Song ("Hear the bells ringing, they're singing that you can be born again!").  Though his music ministry was brief, his work was continued by his wife Melody through their Last Days Ministries.
Download thisHe'll Take Care of the Rest
33)   FALLING FORWARDMargaret Becker-  1998
The fabulous Maggie B. has a number of noteworthy projects that could have made my list, but only this one has Clay and Water, one of the best songs of faith ever written.  Also featured were I Don't Know How, Horses, and Deliver Me.
Download thisClay and Water
After the break-up of dc Talk, Toby McKeehan burst onto the solo scene with his hugely successful debut, MomentumDiverse City followed with huge hits like The Slam, Gone, Atmosphere and the title track.  It also featured TruDog: The Return, a song featuring Toby's son.  You couldn't help but love it!
Download thisCatchafire (Whoopsi-Daisy)
31)   THIRD DAYThird Day-  1997
These Atlanta rockers burst onto the scene in '97 and have been praising Jesus ever since!  One of two projects to make this countdown, their debut offered up such memorable songs as Forever, Thief, Love Song and the brilliant Consuming Fire.  Never miss an opportunity to see them live!
Download thisLove Song

This week's song to enjoy-  Testify To Love-  Avalon-  1998

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Great Maid Caper

The youth ministries of Springfield and Archdale Friends Meetings occupied 15 rooms at the Gold Key Inn in Orlando during our Floridays 1990 trip.  Most of the rooms had four occupants; we were able to cram five students into a couple of the rooms.  One of the rooms of girls housed Laurie Rees (at left, at Springfield on their senior night I believe), Cecily Livengood (center), Kristin Thomas (right) and Alysha Naples (not pictured).  Laurie and Cecily were veterans of the previous summer's Myrtle Beach trip, and were famous for having stated that they "would miss this Betsy B place- forever- because there is no Betsy B in Florida, and these are our childhood memories."  Kristin was Laurie's cousin (another of Max Rees' grandchildren) who lived in Raleigh, but she and her dad Robin had joined us on the trip.  Alysha was a friend of Laurie's from school who had become active in TNT.  These were four fun, intelligent and beautiful young women, who were about to experience a big OOPS!

We were leaving the motel fairly early one morning to make our way to Walt Disney World for the day.  If you have ever been part of a trip with teenagers, you know how difficult it is for a room full of girls to get ready on time.  There is never enough shower time, sink time, mirror time or hairdryer time to go around.  For our four heroes, this was one of those days.  Most of us were outside at our vehicles, waiting on the stragglers.  The following is what I remember from what I was later told.  As Laurie and her friends were leaving the room, a maid approached them and asked if they could come in and clean since the girls were leaving.  In a hurry, the girls said yes and left the door open for the maid.  Unfortunately, this maid was not a maid at all, but a professional thief who targeted tourists.  When we returned to the motel, the girls discovered they had been robbed.  They reported the theft to the front desk and learned that this scam was commonplace in the area.  I don't remember what all was taker; I do remember some cash was involved. Since Laurie's mother Judy and Kristin's dad Robin were both on the trip, I didn't get as involved as I otherwise would have.

It is adventures like this one that teach life lessons on youth trips.  I always had students be in charge of their own money so they could learn to take care of it.  I always tried to get them out of their comfort zones when it came to meals and events.  And I always sought to help them connect everything we did to their relationship with Jesus.  It didn't always work.  But I can look back at it all now and say "WOW!  What a ride!"

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sorcery In the Sky

One of the most exciting parts of Floridays 1990 for me was seeing the newly opened Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park for the first time.  And one of my favorite parts of the Studios was there late night fireworks spectacular, Sorcery In the Sky (see picture).  This new evening-ending show began the week before we arrived, and was done in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Disney classic Fantasia.   Thousands of patrons (including all of us!) gathered on the main street of the park to watch as fireworks danced through the sky, perfectly choreographed to music from some of the greatest movies of all time.  The narration was done by the late, great Vincent Price.  At the grand finale, a giant Mickey the Sorcerer inflatable rose up from behind the Great Movie Ride with fireworks coming out of his finger for a spectacular finish.  Of all the fireworks displays I have ever seen, Sorcery In the Sky is my favorite.   For all of us on the Floridays 1990 trip, it is a memory we will never forget.

Because of Jesus,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Four For the Championship

In honor of Brett Favre.  Wouldn't it be great if watching every NFL game was as much fun as he has playing them?

Imagine that if instead of playing this past weekend's NFL playoff games, all of the participating quarterbacks were waiting at an exclusive country club to see if they were being "seated" for championship weekend.  The announcements from the Head Waiter might sound something like this...

Mr. Warner?  You know how much we like you here, and your performances in big games have been nothing short of brilliant over the years.  However, a Mr. Brees is here carrying the hopes and dreams of the entire city of New Orleans.  If we don't seat them, they claim they will scream WHO DAT? for the rest of the evening.  So we must turn you away.  We shall be honored to host your retirement party next month.

I'm sorry Mr. Romo, but we do not have a table for you.  You and your current blond bombshell might try the local Hooters.  The table you see is reserved for AARP members only, so Mr. Favre and his hoard of Vikings will be sitting there.  Perhaps next year there will be a table for you.  Until then, I suggest you practice running for your life!  Maybe Mr. Favre will win it all, hang up his cleats and give you a chance next year...

Mr. Manning?  Mr. Manning?  If you could pull yourself away from shooting that commercial and eating your double stuff Oreos we are ready to seat you.  Don't worry about Mr. Flacco, he is already seated at the kiddie table.  Perhaps he come back to the big boy table next year.  And no, I'm sorry-  your brother is NOT invited. 

Come right in Mr. Rivers!  It is so nice to see you step into the realm of elite NFL quarterbacks.  Your table is...wait....not so fast Mr. Rivers!  It appears that Mr. Sanchez has been moved from the kiddie table into a seat of honor in only his first year.  No, you are too old for the kiddie table- I must ask you to leave.  I see you went to North Carolina State, so perhaps you could go out back and help milk the cows.   You might want to try a new coach before coming back next year.  And speaking of which, Mr. Sanchez could you please ask Coach Ryan to shut up?  I didn't think so...

So the tables are set, it's time to serve dinner.  Wait- who are you?  Tom Brady?  You are not on my list at all.  Behind the velvet rope, please- at least until "The Genius" gets you a defense!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hall of Fame: Ken, Amy & Todd

Among the unique things about the Floridays 1990 trip was it was the only one of our major trips- Myrtle Beach, Walt Disney World, Atlanta, Youthquake and New York- in which Ken Hill, Amy Simmons and Todd Farlow were all able to participate.  Todd had missed the first Disney trip and Ken the first Myrtle Beach excursion.  But Floridays 1990 brought these three (pictured above at Walt Disney World), in many ways the foundation of our early years at Springfield Friends Meeting, together for part of a big trip.  And now they are together again- in my youth group Hall of Fame!

You have read much about Ken already on this blog.  A senior when I arrived at Springfield, his dedication and leadership helped us start over with some new ideas and new excitement.  He was part of the original Disney trip, and by 1990 was one of our adult leaders.  Most of the adventures I shared with Ken came after his "official" youth group days, but he still is most deserving of a place in the Hall.  Most memorably, he asked Marilyn and I to be at the Appalachian State basketball game at which he (a cheerleader) proposed to Gilly (also a cheerleader!) and the celebration that followed.  I was also part of their wedding and the very entertaining golf tournament which preceded it.  His mom Patsy, and his Aunt Jane and Uncle Wayne were great friends to us and great supporters of our ministry.  We miss them all.

Amy was always there when I needed her.  If I needed someone to help with decorations, or to call people, or to help get things organized, Amy was who I called.  She was among the first to start bringing friends to TNT, eventually involving half of the Trinity HS baseball team.  She went on most every trip and was always a leader.  One of my favorite things was being
together with both Ken and Amy, because they often fought like siblings.  They never agreed on anything!  I always thought there was a little romantic tension under all of the bickering...NOT!  But that is why the picture that accompanies this post has always been among my favorites.  It says so much about th love we all had for each other- even on the roughest od days!  Amy is married with a lovely family now, still in the High Point area.  Her mom, Millie, was the church secretary most of the time I was at Springfield, and will get her own post here someday soon.

The first time I was ever at Todd Farlow's house I got in trouble.  His mom, Brenda, thought his room was too messy and wanted me to back her up.  I thought it looked pretty good and I said so.  Oops!  Over the years Brenda and Louis became very dear to us- and so did Todd.  Basketball dominated his life during his time at Ragsdale HS, so he missed many of our big trips.  For Floridays 1990, he was working at Quaker Lake for the summer, but I got special permission for him to take a couple of days off and join us in Orlando.  I took him to the airport so he could fly back.  As with Ken, our adventures continued well beyond his graduation, through several trips to visit us in Kissimmee and up to his marriage to Meleah, his lovely wife.  They have two children and also still live in the High Point area.

Floridays 1990 and the student ministry at Springfield Friends Meeting would have never been the same without the contributions of these three amazing people.  There is absolutely no question they belong in my Hall of Fame.  If only we could all just blot out the memory of the Ridgecrest Conference Center and the Go For It weekend of 1987....right guys?

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Prayers for Haiti

I wanted to take a moment away from my normal nonsense to lift up the people of Haiti as they deal with the aftermath of the horrible earthquake that rocked the small island country a few days ago.  I have never been to Haiti, but there are people and organizations for which I have great respect who were heavily invested in ministry with the people there.  My youth groups sponsored children through Compassion International for many years, and Compassion has a huge presence in Haiti.  Even as I write this blog Compassion is seeking to learn which children, teachers, doctors and ministers survived this tragedy.  My former youth and current youth pastor Ashely Goad Broadhurst has strong connections in Haiti and has been praying hard since the news first broke.  Tony Campolo and students from Eastern College built many schools and did much work there.  Tony often spoke of the people of Haiti being "the poorest of the poor."  I once heard someone ask him if they were evangelizing the population, and Tony responded "Not yet.  They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  It is once again time to show how much we care.  If you can give money, please do.  If you have other gifts you can share, please do.  But all of us can, and must, pray for these earthquake victims and their families in the name of Jesus.  The Christ called on us in Matthew 25 to take care of "the least of these brothers of mine."  Today- right now- we have an address for those very people. It's Haiti.  Take time to care.

Because of Jesus,

Friday, January 15, 2010

"This IS Barbara's room..."

One of the young ladies who joined us on our Floridays 1990 trip was Natalie Whitaker.  Natalie's mom Brenda had been one of the adults on our 1987 trip, and her sister Traci had been a participant.  Natalie and her younger brother Justin had joined us even though they were not yet of youth group age.  By 1990, Nat was a very active and very important part of our youth family. 

Natalie had one small problem- she got homesick.  Her mom was not going with us in 1990, and people doubted if Nat would survive the week.  As I began to explore the situation it became clear to me that Nat might not be the one having the problem.  When she was away from home her mom would call her and say things like "Do you miss us?" and "If you want to come home it's OK."  Brenda was missing Nat so much that it was triggering the homesickness. I told Brenda that we would take Natalie to Florida, but that for the first few days she was not allowed to talk to her.  Brenda's brother Butch Moran and his wife Barbara were going with us, so Nat would have family she could turn to if she needed them, and Brenda could call Barbara to get updates.  This plan worked wonderfully, and Natalie had a great time- and to the best of my knowledge was never homesick again.  But my plan did lead to one small mishap...

Butch and Barbara roomed with Marilyn and I at the Gold Key Inn.  They were our best friends at Springfield Friends Meeting, and it just worked out for us to share space.  Early one morning (I think the first morning, but I can't swear to it) the phone in our room rang very early- we were all in the process of getting up (Remember, this is before cell phones.).  I answered the phone and heard Brenda Whitaker say "Oh sorry Carl- I thought I was ringing Barbara's room."  I responded without hesitation "This IS Barbara's room."  At first there was silence on the other end, and then Brenda just started to stammer.  I was laughing so hard I couldn't talk.  Barbara took the phone and explained to her that we were all sharing a room, but Butch and I kept making jokes about it.  We were pretty sure she understood, but we still half expected to get calls asking what kind of hanky-panky we were up to on this trip!  We loved Brenda and her husband Denny too, and over the years we brought up this story as often as possible.  It is truly a great memory from a sensational trip.  Come back this weekend for still more from Floridays 1990...

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

CCM Countdown: 40-36

Welcome to the third installment of my countdown of the 50 Contemporary Christian Music albums that had the most impact on my life and ministry.  To see 45-41, click here.  Come back every Thursday to see more!  Here we go:

40)  SHARE THE WELL-  Caedmon's Call-  2004
One of two projects from Caedmon's Call to make the list, this collection of songs inspired by CC's work in India is just electric.  The title track, There's Only One (Holy One), Volcanoland and Daljit Hymn are among my favorites.  This is truly a concept CD that needs to be heard from beginning to end to be fully appreciated.
Download this:  Share the Well
39)  THE SWIFTThe Swift-  2002
This piano driven pop/rock quartet made a huge splash with this, their debut album.  The big hit was Under the Sun, but other classic include 'Til I Met You and More Than Gold.  These guys played live for us at Wesley UMC- Tampa in 2003.  They were a great live band, and they loved them some Chilli's!
 Download this:  Moshing Machine
If you read this blog at all you know how much I loved Rich Mullins.  Many critics consider this be his masterpiece, but it is the first of three of his projects to make my countdown.  Every cut is a spiritual challenge, and every song lifts the spirit.  Creed and Hold Me Jesus are both classics and among Rich's greatest hits.
Download this:  The Color Green
37)  CASTING CROWNSCasting Crowns-  2003
Lead singer and song-writer Mark Hall was still working as a youth pastor when this band was discovered by Steven Curtis Chapman.  They have made lots of great music since their debut CD, but this one will always be my favorite for one reason- If We Are the Body.  One of the great songs ever about what the church ought to be.  Voice of Truth is another classic.
Download this:  If We Are the Body
36)  SUPERNATURALdc Talk-  1998
No one knew if dc Talk had any chance of following their 1995 mega-hit Jesus Freak, but this album was another smash hit.  The first of three projects from the Gotees to make this countdown, Supernatural featured the title track, It's Killing Me, Consume Me and Into Jesus, as well as the MTV crossover hit My Friend (So Long).
Download this:  Since I Met You

This week's song to enjoy:  Asleep In the Light-  Keith Green-  1979

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Be sure to check out Jill's entry (#20) in the my Guestbook- and leave your own too!

Once we finally made it to the parks, our visit to Walt Disney World in 1990 was a true "festival of fun!"  There were a large number of people with us who had never been to WDW before, and so we set out to do everything!  We watched all the parades, rode all the rides and "ohhhhhhed" and "ahhhhhhed" at all the fireworks.  The Disney/MGM Studios had just recently opened, so that was new to all of us.  As we had on our first trip in 1987, we spent every moment we could at the parks, never leaving until they closed.  One of my favorite Disney memories came around midnight on one of those nights at the Magic Kingdom.

Jeremy Godwin (that's him on the left, with Ken Hill front and center and me on the right- waiting in line at WDW.  Aren't we cool?) and his twin sister Shelley had come to the Springfield youth through our TNT program.  Their family attended another church, but we loved to have them around, and they were both the Floridays 1990 trip.  Jeremy was a big, strong high school student who was a star lineman on the Trinity HS football team, and who a couple of years after this trip would win the state heavyweight wrestling championship (His final match is still the most exciting sporting event I have ever seen in person, but that is a story for another day).  I was 30 years old at the time, and I was taller, wider and not nearly as strong as Jeremy.  One night of the trip our group was to meet at midnight at Cinderella's Castle before heading back to the motel.  The 9 PM SpectroMagic Parade had ended, and the 11 PM fireworks were complete.  As we stood at the back of the castle waiting for our group to arrive, Jeremy and I noticed that there was no one riding Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  Mr. Toad was a kids ride, but we all loved it and ridden it during the course of the day.  Now, with no line and nothing better to do, Jeremy and I (and some others) decided to ride.  And we did.  Over and over again.  With Jeremy and I packed into the same car.  We could have each had our own car, but that would have been way too normal for us!  The Disney cast members who were working the ride were cracking up.  We rode until it was time to shut down the park and meet our group.  Jeremy and I had a blast, and everyone who watched us was entertained.

They closed Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in 1998 to make way for a Pooh Bear ride, and I was crushed.  I will always have my memories of two giant guys crammed into the car of a kiddie ride, going over and over again while laughing hysterically.  Thanks, Jeremy, for a great night.  We'll get to the story of Stinky a little later on!

My CCM countdown resumes tomorrow, but then it's back to WDW and a phone call that left a parent dazed and confused...

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Left Behind

The following stories are a continuation of yesterday's post Floridays 1990.

We were all really hungry and ready to hit the food court at The Florida Mall and end this first, very long day.  We prepared to cram back into our vehicles when we encountered a slight delay.  It seemed that someone (Robin Thomas got all the blame at the time!) had locked the keys in Judy Rees' Suburban.  The spare key was safe and secure- in North Carolina!  We wandered around the motel and unpacked our belongings while we waited for a locksmith, who eventually showed up and rescued the keys.  We were now more ready than ever to make the short drive to the mall, so we once again gathered the troops and loaded up the vehicles.  We had a standard operating procedure for making sure we had everyone.  Each person was to ride in the same vehicle everywhere we went that week.  Each vehicle would count their own passengers, and then I would go from van to van and total our numbers.  It was a very safe system- usually.

On this particular night, as I began to go from vehicle to vehicle to make the final count, Jill Gilbreth ( that's her in front, not at WDW, just being Jillybean!  Beth Brown and Holly Harward are also pictured.) left her vehicle AFTER I had already made sure everyone in it was accounted for.  When I finished my rounds, we had the right numbers.  Jill, however, was still in the motel getting her money for dinner.  Her driver (I don't remember who) didn't realize she was gone, and her friends somehow failed to mention this to anyone. I guess they were just that hungry!  So off we went.  We arrived at the food court and were sitting down eating, when suddenly Jillybean came running up to our table, looking rather panicked.  She told us the story of how she had been left behind at the motel.  She had gone inside, freaked out and crying, and told the motel employees that her group had left her.  She must have appeared to be totally panicked, because the motel gave her a ride to the mall AND gave her $5 for supper.  She forgave us- sometime around 1993!  And we never failed to remind her that the Gold Key Inn was so anxious to be rid of her that they paid her off!

Floridays 1990 began with us losing a van, keys, and Jill all on the first day.  The next day we would make it to Walt Disney World, and things would improve greatly.  See you tomorrow...

Because of Jesus,

Monday, January 11, 2010

Floridays 1990

Our second trip from Springfield Friends Meeting to Walt Disney World occurred June 9-15, 1990.  Over 60 youth and adults caravaned together in five vehicles.  Included in this adventure was our friend Jeff Byrd (that's Jeff in the glasses, with Rich Hughes at The Florida Mall ), the youth dude at Archdale Friends Meeting, and around 10 of his group.  The trip had tripled in size since our first WDW outing only three years before, and there was great excitement.  We were staying at the Gold Key Inn, once again out on Orange Blossom Trail (OBT) in Orlando.  We would have four days at the Disney parks, including the brand new Disney/MGM Studios.  We couldn't wait to get there.

Getting there turned out to be a bit of an issue, however.  One of the Suburbans we were using for transportation, owned by Judy Rees and driven for most of the trip by Robin Thomas, took the wrong exit at one point.  This was before the days of cell phones, but we did have some walkie-talkie type radios, and we were able to correct the mistake with minor damage to our trip time.  We discovered later those radios didn't have much range. 

We made it into the Orlando area and were cruising down I-4 looking for the OBT exit, all of our vehicles together in single file formation.  I was driving the lead vehicle and keeping us in the center lane of traffic when I came to the exit and realized a bit too late that we would be exiting to the left, not the right as one would suppose.  I signaled and pulled over, and Butch Moran and my wife Marilyn did the same, blocking the lane and allowing our other vehicles to move over as well.  We took the left exit and headed for the motel, thinking all was well.  We were wrong!  Somehow (and to this day I don't know how) the Archdale van driven by Jeff Byrd did not take the exit with us.  They had been in the middle of the caravan, but somehow had continued on down I-4!  We tried the radios, but could not reach them.  We continued on to the Gold Key Inn, confident that Jeff had the address of the motel and would find it.  We should have been more worried.  In the years that have followed I have lived in central Florida and spent much time in Orlando, and I have NEVER been able to figure out exactly where Jeff went after we lost him.  Apparently he exited on to a toll road (the Florida  Turnpike or the East-West?) and then could not get anyplace he wanted to go.  He travelled up and down the highway until finally figuring something out and making his way to the motel, a good hour after the rest of us had checked in.  It was a joyful reunion.

Once we were all checked in we were ready to head over to The Florida Mall and visit the food court for supper.  But on this day nothing would be that easy.  The excitement was only beginning...

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let It Snow!

We are currently freezing here in Tampa, so it seemed like a good time to take a look back at this retreat...

In January, 1992, the Springfield Friends Meeting youth went on a retreat to Cherry Grove, SC (located just north of North Myrtle Beach).  We rented a house and had a great weekend, but there are three things I really remember about that trip.  Here they are:

*  Our program for the weekend was talking about our spiritual journeys, and included things like each student doing a written spiritual history.  As part of this exploration, one morning I served Communion (which is not usually practiced among Quakers.  For more on this read Communion Confusion.) using orange juice and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  It was very cool and quite meaningful.  It really served to remind us all about the sacrifice of Christ.  It's also part of the reason I continue to believe that hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts are the modern version of manna from Heaven!

*  That particular group of kids (well, the girls anyway) were obsessed with the movie Grease.  We could all tolerate Grease, and at times even enjoy it.  But on that weekend someone brought Grease 2 and made us watch it. I wanted to gouge my eyes out.  Worst sequel ever!!!  Our greatest Grease moments would come in 1993 at The Beaches and Cream Soda Shoppe at WDW, but that is a story for another day!

*  I very rarely lose my temper, but it does aggravate me when people are rude to others.  Late one night while on that retreat suddenly my sleep was interrupted by lights coming on and people talking and yelling and youth running around the house.  I came out of my room screaming for them to get back to bed, issuing all kinds of threats and scaring them half to death.  When I finally got around to asking what was going on, Ashley Goad meekly told me "It's snowing, Carl."  It was snowing at Myrtle Beach!  Now I was the one running around, looking out the windows, checking the beach, beside myself with excitement.  I apologized to everyone and we all stayed up a while, watching it snow.  The pictures posted here are of the infamous Springfield blue van and the beach at Cherry Grove, both from the next morning.  It's still the only time I have ever seen it snow at the beach!

We had lots of great moments on trips from Springfield.  For the next few days I want to tell you about our second Walt Disney World trip, taken in 1990.  We lost Jeff Byrd, we lost Jill Gilbreth and we lost keys-  and all of that was before we ever made it to WDW!  Later we lost Dana Oxendine, had a room robbed and discovered the best Root Beer floats ever!  It was quite a trip.  Come back to hear those stories all this week!

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Oh the Places We'll Go, Part 2

One of the focal points of our Relationship Retreat was a Question Box.  This was a place where the youth could anonymously ask any question, with whatever words they needed to use, and we would try to answer it.  This worked really well.  For instance, one of the questions was about the reliability of birth control. My co-leader, Terry Venable, was able to point to himself, his wife Leigh Ann and his infant daughter Emily as an example of how birth control is NOT 100% effective!  It was a great teaching moment.  The Question Box was a highlight of the weekend- until the last morning...

On Sunday morning I had to return to Springfield for reasons I do not remember, and in my absence Terry pulled a question from the box.  He read it to himself and immediately panicked.  The question read "What is oral sex?"  Fifteen years later the question would change to "Is oral sex really sex?"  In that more innocent age, it was a subject that was still pretty taboo- at least at a youth retreat!  He read it to the gathered group, trying to decide how to approach this delicate subject.  He didn't want to be too graphic.  He couldn't just ignore it.  So he gave one of the great answers of all time- "Oral sex is when you talk about sex."  Everyone accepted it as a joke and he was able to move on without further damage.  I returned later that morning to hear the story and laugh at Terry's creativity, and that afternoon we all returned home.

For me, however, the fun was just starting.  On Monday, I received a call from a distressed Mom.  It seemed that the question had come from one of my younger middle school girls- and she still wanted an answer!  Her mother was not excited about trying to explain it, and her father flat out refused.  So Mom called me to tell that since I made the mess, I had to clean it up!  We talked awhile and decided that perhaps it was better that she hear it from her mother. Whether she did or not I never knew.  I do know I never told her. 

As I said when I started yesterday's posting, being a youth minister is never dull.  It is also a huge responsibility, especially if you are willing to deal with the whole life of the teenagers you serve- emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually- and face reality walking hand-in-hand with them and their parents.  It's how we teach them that Jesus is part of everyday life, and that God is not something you put in a box marked "Open on Sunday Only."  And it is the part of "the great adventure" that I miss every day...

Because of Jesus,

Friday, January 8, 2010

Oh the Places We'll Go, Part 1

I hope that faithful readers of this blog understand by now that youth ministry is many things, but dull is not one of them!  In my ministry we attacked the issues facing our students head-on as often as possible, often creating awkward moments and conversations.  But it was always worth it.  I used to tell adults in the church quite often that if every time the conversation takes a difficult turn we say "we don't talk about that here" then the church will become a place where they don't ever talk about anything important in their lives.  When you open yourself up to real issues, it can get controversial.  Today and tomorrow I will share two stories from the same weekend- one painful, one humorous- that demonstrate how complicated life as a youth pastor can be.

Sometime in the early 1990's we did a "relationships" retreat at Quaker Lake with youth from Springfield and High Point Friends Meetings.  We discussed relationships with parents, friends and with God.  We also dove into dating relationships, and the topic of sex.  We were serious about making this an open discussion, and parents had to sign waivers acknowledging that their children would be talking openly about sex.  We had a huge crowd- apparently the only thing that scared parents more than us talking to their youth about sex was the possibility that they might have to do it themselves!  The final night I led a session called Next Time I Fall In Love, which focused on commitment as the key to relationships.  The final point of the talk was no other aspect of your relationship should ever out-distance your level of commitment.  So if sex is ultimate in physical relationships, then you should reach the ultimate commitment relationship first.  And that, of course, is marriage.  I thought the whole things went really well until later that night.  One of the high school girls- a young lady to whom I was very close, who had talked to me numerous times about relationships and other difficult issues- handed me a letter.  In it, she described how she and her boyfriend of a year had just recently had sex for the first time.  She described how much they loved each other and how they were planning to get married someday.  She told me how after my talk she understood that I thought they had sinned, and that she guessed she couldn't count on me anymore since she was a failure in my eyes.  The letter ended with her writing "I guess I'm going to hell."

I was devastated.  I tried to talk to her but found she was too busy crying to hear what I had to say.  I had talked about grace and forgiveness and second chances, but she had missed that part after hearing me condemn her actions.  I prayed that I would get another chance to be her friend and her confidant so I could continue making a difference in her life for Jesus.  I did, but it took a long time.  She and her boyfriend broke up, but she felt like she couldn't come to me about it.  She started dating again, and the relationship became abusive.  Only after all of that was over did she show up at my house one afternoon and tell me everything so we could cry about it together. 

Reality is messy.  Teenagers are extremely messy!  This story always served to remind me that talks and programs and events are all important parts of ministry, but in the end it is all about people and their relationships with Jesus. I was merely trying to serve God, but in doing so my actions drove this girl away from Him.  Truth often brings pain.  I gave that talk another 20 times in my career, but with a much heavier emphasis on God's love and forgiveness and our ability to start over with Jesus from where we are in any situation.  I still have the letter she wrote me as a reminder of just how messy ministry can be.  We have long since lost touch, but I will never forget that night.

On that night, messy was painful.  The next morning, messy turned hilarious!  See you tomorrow!

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

CCM Countdown: 45-41

Today (and every Thursday) I continue my ongoing countdown of Contemporary Christian Music albums that had the most impact on my life and ministry.  I will also include a link to a song you can enjoy for free for an album that won't make the countdown.   To see numbers 50-45, click here.  Enjoy!

45)  THE WHOLE TRUTH-  Point of Grace-  1995
The second project from these four women from Oklahoma contains several classics, including one of the best musical descriptions of God's plan of salvation you will ever hear- The Great Divide.  That song and the fact that they dominated Christian radio in the mid to late 90's lands them on this countdown- plus Marilyn loves P.O.G.
Download this:  The Great Divide
44)  BIG TENT REVIVAL-  Big Tent Revival-  1995
This debut project blended rock, folk, blues and soul in a CD that I listened to over and over again.  The hits were Two Sets of Jones' and Something 'Bout Jesus, but I loved Faith Of A Little Seed so much that I had our "guitar choir" in Kissimmee perform it in worship one Sunday morning.  Thief In the Night is great too!  I still love this one.
Download thisTwo Sets of Jones'
43)  SEE THE MORNING-  Chris Tomlin-  2006
If you attend a church that uses any contemporary music in worship, you have almost certainly sung a Chris Tomlin song.  One of the most recent CD's to make my countdown, this project features How Can I Keep From Singing; Made To Worship; Let God Arise; and his incredible arrangement of Amazing Grace featuring the "my chains are gone, I've been set free..." chorus.  Listen to this and just try to keep yourself from praising God!  There is more Tomlin to come on the countdown!
Download this:  Made To Worship
42)  MICHAEL W. SMITH PROJECT-  Michael W. Smith-  1983
The first of three Smitty albums to make the list, Project introduced the world to the song Friends, co-written with his wife Debbie.  It's simple message- "Friends are  friends forever if the Lord's the lord of them"- made it an anthem at graduations and other events throughout the rest of the '80's.  Twenty-seven years later it is still mandatory at all M.W.S. concerts.  No hand holding or swaying, please!
Download this:  Great Is the Lord
41)  SMALLTOWN POETS-  Smalltown Poets-  1997
Another CD we absolutely wore out in The Attic at FUMC- Kissimmee.  Such classics Prophet, Priest and King, If You Let Me Love You, I'll Give, and Who You Are were all favorites.  Monkey's Paw was a cult classic.  And Everything I Hate would make any list of my favorite songs.  Just a great album.
Download this:  Everything I Hate

This week's song to enjoy:  Goldie's Last Day- PFR-  1993