Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Vern Dome

Just Me & the  Dog, Day 6-  Conner has officially given up on Will and Marilyn ever coming home.  He is no longer laying on Will's bed and looking out the window for them.  At least he is sleeping until 7 AM every day, which is spoiling me big time!  We shared some ice cream last night to cheer him up a bit...  Less than a week to go!

In 1996 the youth ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee immersed itself in strategic planning.  This is a process through which you develop a scenario of what your dream ministry would look like in 5 years, and then through a process of refinement and voting select two or three aspects of the scenario that you will work towards in the coming year.  One of the things that came out of our planning was the need for a "gymnatorium" at FUMC-K.  Our idea kicked off a whirlwind of discussion at the church.  The staff began planning how such a facility would benefit our school, our child care center and our congregation.  Church members were buzzing with anticipation.  Architects were brought in to draw up plans for the building, a new vestibule (gathering area) for the Sanctuary and a walkway that would connect it all.  There was a ton of excitement.  There was a need.  The big question, of course, was how would we pay for it...

Even before we were first discussing the idea during our strategic planning session, our dear friend and faithful bus driver Vern Watson had announced that when he won the lottery, he would buy us a gym.  His only demand was that we name it after him.  I wrote an article for The UMYF Enquirer in February of 1996 encouraging students and parents to come to the meeting at which we would introduce the scenario and vote on our final goals.  Accompanying that article was the picture you see on the left- an artist's (you will see Miss Take got the credit, but yeah, it was me!) rendering of what we had come to call The Vern Dome.  That little drawing and article stirred up huge discussion not only in the youth ministry but in the church as a whole.  I ran into a church member in Albertson's one afternoon.  This was a lady from a wealthy family; in fact, her family had just a few years earlier given over $600,000 to pay off the debt on the church's administration building (see Video the Bishop).  She told me that she would be VERY supportive of a gym facility with a raised walking track for business men to use at lunch and for senior citizens to use anytime.  I went back to work and told Rev. John Willis we needed to add a walking track!  It was an exciting time.

FUMC-K never got their gymnatorium.  A variety of circumstances (money, problems with the city and failure to include the raised walking track among them) prevented it from going forward, and it finally died for good after over 2 years of work with the pastoral change that brought in the Grinch.  The amazing facility plans that a wonderful staff (John Willis, Debbie Davis, Jill Augenblick, Andrew Lewis and more!)  had labored on went to waste.  But if the day ever comes when they do build a gym, I will be there with my picket sign, demanding it be named The Vern Dome.  I hope all of my faithful readers will join me on that day! 

Because of Jesus,

Friday, July 30, 2010

7 Things: Spanish Wells 1997

Front Row (L-R):  Erin Bay, Teresa Reep, Lisa Kraus, Sara Thacker
Second Row:  Jill Souther. Kristin Landry, Catie Cook, Caron Cook, Jay Lynes
Back Row:  Matthew Teoli, Ben Thompson, Jacob Lupfer, Jennifer Minnigan, Jerry Hanbery, Carl Jones, Jamie Parker

I have already told you about my first visit to Spanish Wells and what an amazing little island it is.  I mentioned briefly that there was a Mission Trip in 1995 that left just hours after Will was born, so I missed that one and have no stories to tell- except that Jerry Hanbery nearly went insane, and the team might still be there if Jill Painter had not been able to get enough cash to pay a fee ( one we didn't know about) they were charged when they left the Bahamas.  The 1997 Mission Trip (July 21-27) was special, and here are 7 things I remember about that amazing week...

1)  The previous summer another church had brought their youth group to S.W. to do VBS (Vacation Bible School) for all four churches on the island, just like we had done in 1995 and were going to again.  The church that came in-between our trips brought way too many youth, which put a serious strain on the hospitality of the locals.  Rev. Bill Higgs, pastor of Spanish Wells Methodist Church, asked me to limit our group to 15 or 16 people.  Since we had abut 50 kids who wanted to be part of a trip to the Bahamas, we made our students fill out applications and do interviews before we selected the team.  It made for some tough decisions, but we ended up with a mature, talented and dedicated group (that's us all dressed up at the top) that understood our mission was to serve.

2)  To leave as many spots as possible for our youth, the only adults who went that week were Jerry Hanbery and myself.  And we did absolutely nothing!  The youth were divided into teams working on various areas of VBS such as crafts, music, recreation and Bible study.  The preparation all had to be done before the trip, because we had to take everything we needed.  There is no Wal-Mart (or much of anything else) in Spanish Wells.  They did the preparation, they did the setting up, and they did the teaching.  Jerry and I simply set back and basked in the glory...

3)  In addition to the Craft Nazis (click here for that story!) I particularly remember the guys doing music.  Jacob Luper was on piano, Jamie Parker on ukulele and Jay Lynes and Ben Thompson were leading singing.  Having that sanctuary full of children every morning and watching them have so much fun praising Jesus was a blast.  Plus Jacob would break into Les Miz music during breaks!

4)  The hospitality of the people of Spanish Wells was overwhelming.  We stayed in their homes, where we were treated as visiting royalty.  I know we certainly ate like kings!  Fresh conch, fresh lobster, fresh mango...well, you get the picture.  They took us out on their boats and took us to hidden beaches for some fabulous swimming.  The folks that Jerry and I were staying with took us (and if memory serves, Teresa Reep and Jennifer Minnigan) by boat to Harbour Island, home of the famous "pink sand."  We ate lunch there and I had the most amazing grouper sandwich in history!   There were special events planned for us almost every afternoon after VBS, and we ate a great meal at one of the two restaurants on the island.  The only downside of the friendliness of the locals was that some of their guys were getting a little too attached to some of our girls...but we all survived!

5)  One of the families of the church had a little boy named Ferris (Full disclosure: I could not remember his name yesterday, and Lisa Kraus Spires rescued me!) who had a serious medical condition.  The entire church family showered love on Ferris, and we joined right in.  On every occasion that week when the church family was together (and that was often) the number one question coming from our group was, "Where's Ferris?"  We all fell in love with that little boy.

6)  It was quite warm in the Bahamas in July (surprise!) and special recognition should go to Catie Cook, Jill SoutherMatthew Teoli (all pictured at right) and everyone else who pitched in with the recreation area.  It was all outdoors, and was at times just a miserable place to be.

7)  Do you want to know how strong the connections were we made that week?  After we returned, we had one of our SHO-Time dinners at the local Cracker Barrel in Kissimmee.  Many of the folks who gathered that night had been on the trip.  At the time Cracker Barrel served drinks in replicas of old Mason jars.  When the waitress brought our beverages, Jill Souther and Erin Bay looked at their glasses, then suddenly sobbed, "Ohhhhh...Mason jars.  There was a boy named Mason in Spanish Wells..."   As is often the case in mission work, the people of Spanish Wells had a greater impact on us than we did on them.

I hope you enjoyed these memories, and if you happen to have been a part of that trip I would love to hear yours (and corrections to mine) as well.  Join us tomorrow when our weekly flashback to The UMYF Enquirer remembers the greatest building never built...

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CCM Thursdays: Concerts Through the Years

Just Me & the Dog, Day 4-  Rays beat the Tigers!  It was great to get comments from Connor (my friend, not the the dog). from Meagan and from Jill Gilbreth Bryant in High Point.  And Carter. I don't know who he is, but he sure said some nice things!  I was out on the bus line for part of the day, which is always exciting (NOT!).  Conner does not ride the bus, but as long as I feed him he doesn't seem to care.  Took myself out to dinner at Winner's, a local sports bar.  I am not a cheap date...  Be sure and check out the WHERE ARE THEY NOW?  page to see if you can help me discover some missing friends!

Concerts became a major part of my approach to youth ministry in the early 1900's while I was at Springfield Friends Meeting, and then really took hold once I reached FUMC-K in 1994.  We saw so many bands and artists over the years, and I wanted to look back at some of the shows we saw together through the years.  These are just the Christian bands; not featured here are my trips to see David Bowie, Billy Joel and Jimmy Buffett (being with Parrotheads can be a religious experience in many ways, but certainly not Christian) with some of the youth.  Although I have to tell you, there were some special moments of ministry at those events as well...

The first major Christian concerts I remember were going from SFM to Raleigh to see Amy Grant at an outdoor amphitheater.  I had been to see Amy and Michael W. Smith in Chapel Hill a couple of years earlier, but that had been an all adult trip.  Amy was wonderful again, but what I really remember were the protesters gathered out in front, wanting us to boycott Amy because she had a hit on MTV.  Totally ridiculous.  Later on we went to Charlotte to see M.W.S. and an opening act called dc Talk.  For the first (but not nearly the last) time, dc Talk simply blew us away.

During my years in Kissimmee there were two primary venues at which we saw great concerts.  The first was Walt Disney World, where each September they host a number of great bands at an event called Night of Joy.  The second was at Carpenter's Home Church, a 10,000 worship center in Lakeland.  Over the years we saw the biggest names in CCM do shows in that place and others- artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay, M.W.S., Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Geoff Moore and the Distance, Smalltown Poets, Big Tent Revival, Third Day, PFR and the O.C. Supertones.  The Supertones and Audio A shared billing at one concert in Lakeland, and the crowd got so rowdy some of the pews were ripped from the floor to make room for a mosh pit.  That was one wild night. We also saw what had quickly become the greatest show in CCM, dc Talk, twice in Lakeland and several more times at Night of Joy.  Each show was more amazing than the one before.  We saw both their Jesus Freak tour and the Supernatural tour, and each time they left all of the students who attended wanting more.

Later on, during my 2001-2005 stint in Tampa at Wesley Memorial UMC, we would see one of dc Talk's final live shows in Lakeland.  Actually, it was only two-thirds of the band; Kevin Max was unable to be there.  Shortly thereafter, the band broke up.  We continued to see other acts during those years, including Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band, Hawk Nelson, Toby Mac, Relient K and Switchfoot.  Some of those were at Night of Joy;  others were at Rock the Universe at Universal Studios Orlando.  We also hosted The Swift in our own worship center.  They all put on great shows with a great message.

During the almost 10 years that I took groups to see dc Talk, there was one song that I am fairly certain they played at every concert- Luv Is A Verb.  It was a new song in 1992 when I first encountered the band; it was a popular favorite at every other show we attended.  It is a great song with a wonderful message, and I have included a video below.  I hope you enjoy it, and more importantly I hope you get the message.  It's the same message almost every CCM act we ever saw had for the audience.  Simply stated, it's get out there and give God's love to somebody- TODAY!   So Rock On, or in the words of Lost And Found, "Stein Auf!"  That's German for "stone on top of..."

Youth Week 1999

Just Me & the Dog, Day 3-  I got a couple of phone calls from Jerry Hanbery because he was driving from West Palm to Orlando and had lots of time to kill. Got e-mails from Lisa Kraus Spires because she was bored.  Who you gonna' call (or e-mail)?  Boredom Busters!!!  Break up your boredom today- leave a comment on this blog!  OH- I made Cheesy Hashbrown Hamburger Helper for dinner last.  Conner and I both approved...

By July of 1999 it was clear to me that things were changing at FUMC-K.  A new pastor had arrived in June.  I am sure, with the passage of time and a mellowing of hearts, that there are people who have good things to say about the pastor who arrived in June, 1999.  I am not one of those people.  A month after his arrival I was already polishing up my resume.  So the second half of the summer of '99 was very important to me.  This Youth Week, and the Last Gasp Summer Blowout (featuring Spooky Tuesday) were of great significance to me.  And looking back, Youth Week '99 was an amazing event.  The original schedule is above so I won't go through every event, but here are some of the highlights:

  • I still can't believe that we had CPR, Mike Williams and Lost And Found all the same week.  Most youth pastors would be fortunate to get three acts like that in a career.  It is a testimony to the support of the church and the creativity of our Youth Ministry Team that it happened, and it made for an unbelievable week for our students.
  • The Putt-Putt Masters Golf Tournament was a annual event.  We never cared who won, but we sure had big crowds and lots of fun.  Tubing the Ichetucknee River was another annual event; you can see from the calendar above that I never learned how to spell the river's name during my entire time in Kissimmee!
  • I loved making Banana Splits in wallpaper trays- it was awesome and disgusting at the same time!  The use of individual bowls should be forbidden...
  • Some day very soon I am going to have breakfast again at The Cape May Cafe.  It is one of my favorite meals to eat anywhere.  I especially love that I can have coffee, orange juice and chocolate milk- all I can drink of all 3- and it doesn't change the cost.  WIN!
  • Doing Coffeehouse Live! at the food court of the Osceola Square Mall was my idea.  I thought it would help remind the community who we were and promote the idea that we were no ordinary youth ministry.  We wanted to take Jesus to the masses.  I think it probably would have worked, if indeed anyone has shopped at that mall!  We did not draw much of a crowd, but we still had fun.
  • Eleven years later, they still use the name Rec Around the Clock for their all-night event at FUMC-K.  I have joked with Dwight, the current youth pastor, that there will be a bill forthcoming for royalties...

Our theme for that summer was taken from an Audio Adrenaline song.  We were announcing to the world that we were "Coming at ya like a BLITZ!" in the name of Jesus.  We sure gave it our best shot.  There also some pretty cool "BLITZ" t-shirts that summer.  Anybody still have one?  I would love a picture...

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top 10 Memories: Movies

Just Me & the Dog, Day 2-  Got phone calls from Teresa Reep Tysinger and Jennifer (Bob) Minnigan Kuramochi.  Teresa's call was business related, but I was not much help; Jennifer called to invite me to lunch with she and her hubby Jun this Sunday, and to tell me she purchased me some Cheerwine.  She is now officially my favorite reader and one of the top 3 people of all time!  It seems I can be bought, and now we all know the price- Cheerwine.

One of the things I hope to do over this last month of my "year of blogging" is to look back across my years in youth ministry all at once and give you some lists from various categories of memories.  Today we begin that process with MOVIES.  This is not a list of my favorite movies.  These are the titles that came to mind the most quickly when I asked myself which movies I most closely associated with youth group memories.  Not listed here is Ghost Story- that horror story has already been told.  And here they are:

10)  Flash the Teenage Otter/Run, Appaloosa, Run!In the dark days before Blockbuster, if you needed movies for events the only place to get them was on reel-to-reel from your local library.  At Quaker Lake Camp, it seemed like for several years anytime we needed a movie it was one of these two live action Disney films.  Flash (1961) featured animals, while Appaloosa (1966) was about a girl and her horse.    I have tried to forget them, but that darned Appaloosa theme song is just so catchy...

 9)  Pirates of the Caribbean:  Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)-  A large group of us from Wesley Memorial UMC in Tampa went to a late showing not long after Pirates opened, and we loved it.  But my main memory was at the end, when Will Turner announced to everyone that he was a pirate.  Stephanie Greife was so confused, and said so very loudly.  The entire theater laughed, and a great memory was made!

 8)  Chariots of Fire/Gandhi-  For two consecutive years (1981-82) we went to see Oscar winning movies as a part of the youth group at New Garden Friends Meeting.  Both were epic films with deep spiritual messages, and were perfect for that group of students.  The discussions that followed were as good as the movies themselves.  I still love the Gandhi quote about Christianity:  "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."   Sometimes the truth hurts...

 7)  American Pie (1999)-  Before you panic: NO, I wasn't dumb enough to take my FUMC-K youth group to this film.  However...   Lisa Kraus, a college student at the time, and high school youth Amber Herrick asked me to take them , with the blessing of their parents.  I chose poorly...  To be honest I thought the movie was really funny, but I was too embarrassed to laugh too much.  It is a great memory.

6)  Wayne's World (1992)-  After youth one Sunday evening, a group from Springfield Friends Meeting grabbed some dinner and then went to see the movie (in a theater building that is now a church).  We were huge fans of all things SNL in those days, from the Church Lady to Hans & Franz to Toonses the Driving Cat.  We HAD to see Wayne's World together.  It is still a classic; my son Will is a huge fan. The scene where they spoof the opening credits to Laverne and Shirley had me on the floor laughing.  You know, the floor of a movie theater is never a good place to be...

 5)  The Cowboy Way (1998)-  One Sunday night after church we planned to go to a $1 movie at one of the local theaters near Kissimmee.  For reasons I don't remember, I was not there for the choosing of the film, and left it all in the capable hands of youth counselor Cathy Thacker and a few others.  In fairness, I thought they made a good choice too.  Until...   Let's just say terrible things happened in that film, and that I have never gotten over my fear of cows.

 4)  Aladdin (1992)-  I could have just as easily chosen The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.  My group from Springfield Friends Meeting saw them all together, and we were huge Disney fans.  I chose Aladdin because the music blew us away, and we quoted Robin William's Genie for weeks after we saw it.  You Ain't Never Had A Friend Like Me is still one of my favorite film songs ever!

 3)  Anchorman (2004)-  I took a group of guys from Wesley Memorial to a late night showing in the summer of 2004, and we laughed so hard I thought someone was going to get hurt!  We quoted the lines for months; in fact, Will and I still quote the lines.  I think I would watch the DVD right now if it wasn't in NC with him...  "I'm in a glass case of emotion!"

 2)  Raising Arizona/Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure- These classics, released in 1987 and 1989, were not films that we saw as a group in theaters.  These were films that we were exposed to by Hall of Fame member Heather Beggs.  She told us how good they were.  She brought me the soundtracks.  She quoted line after line after line from each of them.  By the time I actually saw them, lines like "Strange things are afoot at the Circle K" and "Mister, you got a pantie on your head" seemed like old friends.  And she was right; both movies are awesome, and pretty much every youth group since had to sit through them!  And the moral of Bill & Ted still rings true today:  "Be excellent to each other!"

 1)  Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)-  I saw it in theaters BEFORE it was released, having won tickets from a radio station.  I owned the video.  I own the special edition DVD.  If you were ever male and in one of my youth groups, chances are you watched it with me; if you are female you probably complained about how stupid it is.  OK, so that is stereotyping, but it is pretty close to the truth.  It went with us on every trip, was quoted most every week, and made us laugh a million times.  It is also now in NC with Will.  Good thing WIPEOUT! is on tonight...

So there you have it!  If you have other memories of movies I would love to hear them.  Join me tomorrow and we will take a look back at Youth Week 1999!

Because of Jesus,


Monday, July 26, 2010

Atlanta Oops

Report on Just Me & the Dog, Day 1-  Took a long nap, watched the Rays game, watched the Cubs game, made chocolate chip cookies.  This may work out after all!  :)

As I have mentioned here before, it seems like a ridiculous number of things have happened to me in Atlanta over the years.  You can flashback to previous posts and hear stories of gang fights, table dancing, roadside barfing, ticket "sculpting" and more.  Today I want to tell you two stories from the Kissimmee years that took place on two separate trips to Atlanta.  Both of them are OOPS Moments, and the first oops is all mine...

We left FUMC-K early one morning and drove to Atlanta, headed up for my annual trip to see the Braves play.  I didn't purchase tickets in advance, and planned on buying tickets at Turner Field.  We pulled up in front of the ballpark, and I began to wheel and deal with some of the locals selling tickets.  I don't remember what year it was, but I do remember that Karen Fry was with me, and she was worried something bad was going to happen to me dealing with such unsavory folks.  I assured her there was nothing to worry about.  I found a guy who had as many tickets as we needed together at a price I liked, and I purchased them.  It was a very simple transaction.  I got back in the van, feeling rather proud of myself.  I began to show the tickets to the kids when I realized something was terribly wrong.  The tickets were not for that night; they were for later that weekend.  I ran back out to find the guy, but he was long gone.  I eventually sold the tickets at a huge loss and we got cheaper seats for the game.  That was my last adventure with scalping tickets.  I also believe that this was the same trip when the van broke down on the way home and we spent several hours at a gas station in Gainesville.  The whole trip was one giant OOPS.

We were back in Atlanta in the summer of 1999.  Chad Deetz (far left) had replaced Jerry Hanbery as my Summer Intern, and was just starting to really feel comfortable in those rather large shoes.  We happened to be in town at the same time as Ozfest, a heavy metal festival headlined by Ozzy Osborne.  We came back to our motel after the game, had some worship time together, and then headed off for bed.  I remember I was rooming with the youngest guys, and Chad was with some of the other guys.  I know for sure he was with Josh Fry and Eric Jakobsen.  Sometimes after midnight I got a call telling me to come to their room, that there was trouble.  I walked to the other side of our floor and discovered that the police had come to their room.  It seems that my guys, led by my intern, had been out on the balcony having a water fight with the girls next door.  The officer had been doing a drive-thru of the motel parking lot and had seen the water war.  Thinking these young people might be in Atlanta for Ozfest, and therefore likely to be on drugs (his thinking, not mine), he came up to the room.  He demanded to see ID, but Josh was only 13 or 14 and had none.  The officer did not believe Josh was that young, since at that age he could already grow a full beard!  We got it all worked out, and I made the guys apologize to the front desk the next morning, which was really funny because the front desk had no idea anything had happened.  It was just a wild night.  Later that summer Chad spent a lot of time lost with the second van while driving around Nashville on our Mission Trip. It is safe to say he earned his stripes that summer, and went on to full time youth ministry as a vocation.  But that night he almost lost a job that didn't really pay anything to begin with...

I hope you can see how doing youth ministry for 28 years made for a very strong prayer life.  :)   Only one month left in my year of blogging, so stay with me.  There is really good stuff still to come!

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Just Me & the Dog

This was a great week.  I cut out a bunch of dead shrubs and limbs from the the front of the house, something that had needed doing for a while. I spent quality time with my beautiful wife.  My son took me to see Inception (I thought it was excellent, if a little long).  Justin Bundschuh, one of the old Spooky Tuesday gang, left a comment here that truly touched me, and his dad Rick e-mailed me an advance copy of his new book to read.  My best friend from middle school forward, Steve Semmler, called from Ohio.   I continued to hear from lots of old friends (Darek Newby, Jamie Robinson, Caitlin Esry) as they follow this blog.   Amy Grant is now following me on Twitter (that may be the coolest sentence I have ever written!).  I got to eat lunch at the Super Asian Buffet- trust me, it's a big deal.  I had some great prayer time.  It was just a killer week.

Life changes fast.  This morning at 5:07 AM Marilyn and Will took our car and headed off for two weeks vacation.  They will visit her family in NC, and then go with her 2 sisters, her niece (and her 3 kids) and her Mom to Myrtle Beach for 5 days.  It is a vacation they both need and deserve, and I am so glad they get to go.  It does, however, make for an interesting two weeks for me...and the dog (Just look at him.  Doesn't he looked depressed?).  You may remember our decision to get by with one car.  That means I am car-less for the next 12 days.  My mastery of the Tampa bus system aside (LOL), I will be spending a lot of time around the house.  I have purchased the groceries.  I have toilet paper.  There is plenty of dog food and lots of Beggin' Strips.  I am ready.  Conner the dog is not so sure...

There was a time, when life was very busy and full of people who needed things from me, when two weeks of just me & the dog would have seemed like paradise.  Now- well, not so much.  I will miss my family so much- just like I miss all of the students who used to be around our home on a regular basis.  But there are some "silver linings" to this dark cloud.  I get control of the remote from Will, and there will be much watching of my beloved Tampa Bay Rays.  I will stay up for Letterman, and sleep a little later than Marilyn's standard 5:45 AM wake-up alarm.  I can definitely see viewings of The Big Chill and Anchorman in my future (Scratch that- they took Anchorman!!!  Arggggg!).  I will cook more, pray more, clean more, walk more, read more and write more.  I will take more time to "be still and know..."  I may even break out the guitar more.  But I will still have lots and lots of free time, so if you have been hankerin' to come to Tampa, this is a really good time for a visit...    And if you want to help keep me entertained, it's a great couple of weeks for phone calls, comments and e-mails.

So today, I count my many blessings and pray for buses that run on schedule.  I pray for my family as they travel.  And I begin to plan how to spend my 12th month of writing this blog.  One month from tomorrow will mark one year (and that was my goal; every day for one year), and I want this last month to be special, including stories from all of my stops along the way.  This coming week will feature more stories of events from the Kissimmee years.  So get ready, and keep reading.  Have a blessed Sabbath, and let me hear from you!

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Those Wacky Youth Counselors

One of the true joys of working at the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee was spending time with the adults who served as our Youth Counselors. This group changed over the years as people got married, finished college, had babies and moved away, but we always had some sensational people serving our ministry. Today's UMYF Enquirer flashback takes us all the way back to the November, 1995 issue. I reprint for you here an article about our esteemed Youth Ministry Team called Barfing Is Such Sweet Sorrow! If anyone remembers why Becky is singled out for her barfing skills, I would love to know...

Our monthly Youth Counselor meeting will be held November 6th at 7:30 PM. All of our counselors- Mike Mangan, Michael McCleery, Pete Lynes, Karen Hall, Jill Painter, Darin Miller, Becky McCleery, Marilyn Jones and Cathy Thacker- are always ready to serve you. If you have questions about the meaning of life or the air-speed of a swallow, then these are the people to ask. If you need to borrow lots of cash, this is the wrong group. If you need a ride to UMYF or any other youth event, feel free to call on them. If you need insights on installing a new engine in a 1967 Mustang, then I would look elsewhere! And if you need any info on the proper way to barf, see Becky McCleery. She is living proof that you don't have to be experienced to be talented!

One of the great things about our team was that they understood that part of working with teenagers is being loud, silly and a little crazy. I will now reveal one of my all time favorite Youth Counselor moments that many of you will not have heard before. We were coming back from a Mid-High Adventure in Tennessee, and we stopped late one night just north of the Florida state line. It was so late that I just let the kids pick their rooms and go to bed. That left Pete Lynes, Mike Mangan (far right in the picture at top) and myself to share a room. After some debate, I (being the largest and also the boss!) got a bed to myself. As we settled in we talked for a minute, then it got very quiet. Suddenly, from the bed Mike and Pete were sharing, Mike yells out "THOSE AREN'T PILLOWS!!!" We laughed so hard we almost never got to sleep. If for some reason you don't understand why that is so funny, check out the video below.  Then go rent Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Our Youth Counselors, wacky as they were, made a huge difference in my life and in the lives of hundreds of students at FUMC-K back in the day.  They gave so much so that so many could know Jesus.  I thank God they were my co-workers and my friends.

Because of Jesus,

Friday, July 23, 2010

And the winner is...

Character Week wraps up today, and I just may have saved the most unique for last.  In 28 years of youth ministry there were a lot of interesting people who passed through the doors of the various churches I served, but perhaps none was a greater character than Colleen Martin.

Colleen first came to us at FUMC-K as a middle school student.  Her mom (soon-to-be youth counselor and dear friend Cindy Martin) was concerned that Colleen might be heading down the wrong path, and most of this concern was based on the music she listened to.  Cindy brought Colleen in a few times for me to "counsel" about her growing love for groups like KORN and other bands of that genre from the mid 1990's.  It didn't take me long to discover two things.  One, Colleen was a normal, fairly well-adjusted teenager just looking for her place in this world.  And two, Colleen's place was going to be different from everyone else's.  She thrived on individuality.

There are many stories that, in the deep dark corners of my mind, set Colleen apart.  I may not have all the facts quite right; it is possible these stories have "grown" over time.  She was definitely one of the Myrtle Beach Mooners.  I seem to remember very early on in our relationship that she had to write a paper for school, one of those "What do I want to be when I grow up?" papers that everyone hates.  Colleen, never one to take the easy way out, wrote hers on being a serial killer. She approached it seriously, and wrote about how she wanted to be good at her chosen career.   Needless to say, this was met with some consternation at her middle school.  Parents were called, and we got to have a nice chat about it as well.  Obviously, Colleen had no intention of hurting anyone.  It was simply another way of announcing to the world that she was going to think for herself.  In the picture you see here, Colleen is posing with an Australian Christian band called Beanbag.  Everyone else who was with us that day was trying to get autographs and pictures with Newsboys, the stars of the show.  Colleen posed with the band no one had ever heard of (before or since!), and was absolutely thrilled about it!  Another time we were discussing the future, and things like marriage and family.  Colleen stated, without hesitation, that she wanted to be married in a funeral home.  Not exactly the kind of "white wedding" dreams you get from your average teenage girl.  But that was no surprise by then- I knew almost nothing abut Colleen was average.  She was exceptional in every way!

Colleen was the kind of character that makes being in youth ministry a joy.  She was a fierce friend to so many of our students, always sticking with them in good times and bad.  She was a "seeker" in the truest sense of the word.  Her faith was important to her.  She asked difficult questions, and she sought out the answers as well.  Her "out-of-the-box" thinking often challenged the group to see things in a different light, but she never expected anyone else to think like her.  I saw her be "Jesus with skin" to so many people during those years.  That group, as full of personality as it was, would never have become the family it was without her.

A few years after I left Kissimmee, Colleen came to visit us in Tampa with a group of old friends.  Will was at the church for something, and Marilyn was practicing with the praise band.  Colleen walked over with me to pick up Will.  She, by this time, had numerous piercings and was dressed all in black.  As we walked across the back of the worship room, the other members of the praise band wanted to know who she was- and why was she with me.  I am sure, as she lives life on her own terms, that Colleen gets a lot of that.  I know that at times as an adult she felt rejected by churches because of her appearance.  But Marilyn's response that night says all you need to know abut Colleen Martin:  "She's a dear friend, a sweetheart, and one of the most special people you could ever know."  I could not agree more.  Today we recognize Colleen as character, but that is not all.  She also deserves an induction into my Youth Group Hall of Fame!  Welcome, Colleen.  I assume you will want to decorate your section yourself...

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

CCM Thursdays: B-A-L-O-G-N-A

Character Week continues...
Today the CCM in CCM Thursdays stands for Classic Commercial Music.  You will soon understand why!  Back in my days at Springfield Friends Meeting in the early 1990's, I made a startling discovery- cheerleaders are great spellers!  I used to kid Holly Harward about it all the time.  There are many cheers that require the spelling of words (such as V-I-C-T-O-R-Y), and so by necessity cheerleaders learn to spell.  Sometimes...

Kelly Jeck was only an 8th grade student when I left Kissimmee in March of 2000, which meant she had only been a part of our student ministry for less than 2 years (I want to give a shout out to Dwight Oakes, who followed me at FUMC-K and is still there today!  He has been a wonderful influence on a decade's worth of students.).  In the group picture on the left, she is the young lady in the crimson Florida State sweatshirt.  She has taken much abuse for that sweatshirt, as she turned out to be a University of Florida student when the time came.  My earliest memory of Kelly was that when she arrived in The Attic at FUMC-K, she came bouncing in.  When she left, she went bouncing out.  And the entire time she was there, she never quit bouncing!  I don't really remember if Kelly was actually a cheerleader or if she just aspired to be one, but I do remember that she often did cheers for us.  I do remember her as this incredible force of energy who always lit up the room.  If you came to our group hoping to just sit on the sidelines and not interact with anyone, and Kelly was there- then you were out of luck.  Kelly welcomed everyone.  She and her friends were loud, crazy and great fun to be around.  I hated leaving them behind.

But Kelly had a spelling problem.  One day, for reasons I have long since forgotten, she was singing the Oscar Mayer Bologna Song (see video at bottom if you don't know it).  In the song, a small boy spells out the word bologna, and Kelly did a great version of it.  The problem was, when Kelly sang it she spelled it "B-A-L-O-G-N-A."  When I corrected her spelling, I was told I was wrong.  I explained to her that I was pretty confident that I was right, and she again told me I was wrong.  She has firmly maintained that conviction for the past 11 years or so.  Just last week I was informed on her blog that it was still spelled with an "A."  After all of this time I suppose we just have to agree to disagree.  But she is right about one spelling item- you do have to be cool to understand why the word "youth" is often spelled UTH...

After my departure Kelly continued to be a leader in the student ministries of FUMC-K.  At one point several years ago we reconnected with some wonderful online conversations about faith, and she was working to organize a reunion of the old gang- but then I messed the whole thing up with my actions, and her work was wasted.  For that I am deeply sorry.  Kelly is getting married soon, is a successful business person in Kissimmee, and is once again active at FUMC-K.  I have no doubt she can still light up the room, because she is a "character" who brings out the best in everyone.  Just don't ask her to spell...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Are you on Twitter?  I am looking for a few good followers- use the button on the right!

Character Week continues...
I cannot remember when it happened.  I know we were in the van coming back from somewhere, and I seem to recall that it was late.  The van was fairly quiet (for a church van on a youth group trip) when a voice rang out like a shot in the wilderness-  FIGARO!!!!  FIGARO, FIGARO, FIGARO!!!!   I remember questioning who our opera singer was, only to get back one of the most stunning responses ever- Andrew Rogers (pictured at right with Jason Fry).

Andrew was a quiet guy with a great sense of humor.  In those days, he said very little, but almost everything he said was funny- if you could hear it.  He spoke in a very low voice, and I am sure there are people who knew him in middle school who were not certain if he ever spoke at all.  But for some reason, that one night, he decided to bless us with his operatic tenor.  OK- so Pavarotti he wasn't.  But it was still just so funny to hear that coming out of such a reserved, quiet young man.  And like with so many moments in our youth group at FUMC-K, that moment changed Andrew.  People began to request his singing on trips.  He saved it for special occasions, but you could tell he loved the fact that he had a "thing."  And every now and then, he would unleash his vocal prowess on our group.

As he grew older, Andrew became famous for something altogether different.  He could tell you where every 7-11 Store in the Orlando area was located, and what kind of SLURPEE machine (how many nozzles) they had.  He knew the flavors.  And he was always ready to go get one.  When we moved to Chicago he was unsure I would survive, as there were no Slurpees to be found in the area.  I still have this imagine in my mind (and it may be true; I don't really know!) of Andrew going from store to store on July 11th every year getting a free Slurpee at each stop.  If he hasn't done that, he should- and he knows a group of guys who would gladly join him!

Andrew Rogers was not the only "character" in his family.  His mother Debbie once had her hair done in wild fashion while on a New York trip and wore it to a Broadway show (The Scarlet Pimpernel). Debbie was always as outlandish as any of our youth.  The two of them combined on a very memorable moment for me.  When I was leaving FUMC-K and the youth department threw a party for us, Debbie gave me a special gift that no one else could see.  It seems that Andrew had taken some pictures on that New York trip, including one of some of the guys in their room at the Milford Plaza.  When Debbie got the pictures developed, she discovered this extremely inappropriate picture.  At our going away event, she presented it to me- a 5x7 in a plain brown envelope.  I still have it somewhere, waiting for the day I need it for blackmail.  :)   If you want to know more about the content of that picture, then you'll have to e-mail me!!!

Andrew Rogers (and his mom) are most deserving of recognition on Character Week, because they meet the primary condition- they gave us great memories!  Tomorrow, on CCM Thursday,  you'll meet another deserving victim and discover that CCM can also mean "Classic Commercial Music."  See you then.

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


CHARACTER WEEK continues today with a look back at James Fry (pictured; he's on the right, Tommy Weaver is on the left), one of the most memorable characters who was ever a part of any of my student ministries.  James and his entire family- parents Jim & Karen, and brothers Jason & Josh- were a huge part of what we accomplished in Kissimmee, and Marilyn and I love them all.  But James was the very definition of a character, and I would suspect everyone who was around in those days has stories to tell.  Today I will tell mine!

My first memory of James was on the Mid-High Mission Trip to Orlando my first summer at FUMC-K (1994).  James was a new 6th grader, and I wasn't quite sure what to make of him.  He seemed a little disinterested at first, and I was afraid he was going to be one of those students who never quite fit in.  It was a bit later on, playing a "name game" at a Wednesday Night Live, when he established himself as a force to be reckoned with in our youth group.  We were going around the circle and having everyone say their name before the game began, and when it was his turn to say his name, James said "Chico."  We all laughed, but he informed us that he wanted to be called Chico- so we did.  Forever.  From that point forward, Chico became a very important part of our ministry.  He was no longer just "there"- he was somebody.  And the memorable moments began to flow...

He used to do this sound effect thing, where he would press the fingertips of both hands together and then pull his hands apart like he was pulling a rubber band, and he would say "TWAAAAAAA!"  Before long he had us all doing it, though we really had no idea why!  We were playing the game TABOO one Wednesday night, and Chico was trying to get his team to guess "Julius Caesar."  His first clue was "the salad dressing dude!"  He had a thing for salad dressings.  On our way to a Kyoto's Night the folks in the van I was driving were discussing how much we loved the Ginger Dressing they put on salads there.  Chico suddenly announced, "I hate the French."  When asked why, he answered simply "because their salad dressing is nasty!"  While at Kyoto's one night, someone challenged him to eat a whole container of Wasabi, and he did.  He drank gallons of liquid trying to calm down the heat, but he turned bright red and I am certain there was smoke coming out of his ears!  Every place we went, every trip we took that he was a part of, Chico was the man when it came to entertainment.  And we all loved him.

James Fry passed away in a tragic accident in Kissimmee on January 23, 2009.  His post high school years had not always been easy, and I had not had much contact with him over those years.  I know he is missed by his family and friends, and I know that James Fry died too soon.  But I also know this- Chico will live forever in our hearts and our memories.  No collection of stories about those wonderful years would have been complete without remembering Chico.  And I suspect that up in heaven, Saint Peter is standing next to the Pearly Gates still trying to figure out why he is still pulling his hands apart every few minutes and saying "TWAAAAAAA!"  for no apparent reason.  I know why- because no one forgets Chico.

Because of Jesus,

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Famous Chrissy Weaver

Welcome to Character Week!

The USA Network has, for several years now, used the tag line CHARACTERS WELCOME on commercials for their original shows.  That could have been our slogan in the youth ministry of FUMC-K as well.  All this week here at I'd Laugh I am going to remember a few of those characters and the some of the moments that made them memorable.   And what better place to start than with our most famous celebrity...

Chrissy Weaver started her journey in our youth group when she and her large class of 6th graders joined us in June of 1994.  She was a tiny, quiet little thing who rarely spoke but smiled constantly.  She came from a family with some issues (don't we all!) and her mother was extremely protective of her children, including Chrissy's brother Tommy.  Like so many others who spent a great deal of time around our ministry, she got over the quiet part- but she never quit smiling!  You have read about her mooning people at Myrtle Beach; you have seen a picture of her trying to eat Ben Thompson's head.  And yet, even as she broke out of her shell, she remained a shy person at heart.  Today we want to take a look back at a day that put her patience with us to the test.

Pretty much every summer we had a Disney Day on our schedule, because we had so many people who had access to admission to Walt Disney World.  We always had a blast on those days, and it always seemed there was one story that would mark the day.  On this particular day (I have no idea what year it was) we were standing in line to ride Space Mountain.  Those of you who know Disney know that there is always a long line for the ride, and this day was no different.  Waiting in line can be fun when you have a group to kill the time with, and there were a bunch of us that day.  Chrissy Weaver was a rare young lady in this sense; she was beautiful, but had no idea that she was.  The older guys in the group used to joke at the time that they needed to become friends with Chrissy now, because when she got older she would be so far out of their league she would never give them the time of day.  On this day, surrounded by huge crowds as we moved through the Space Mountain line, we decided to give Chrissy a hard time.  I began the whispering, saying to the youth around me, "Isn't that Chrissy Weaver, the TV star?"  Others caught on, and we all began to whisper and point.  Chrissy was blushing and trying to ignore us, so we just kept getting louder.  Youth group members were asking for her autograph and talking about how amazing it was to see her there.  And slowly, but surely, the "strangers" in line with us began to look.  We could hear them talking, trying to figure out who she was.  Some began to say they recognized her from various shows.  It was hilarious.  I am sure a number of those folks returned home that day talking about the celebrity they saw at WDW.

We. of course, could not let it end there.  Every where we went that day we talked aloud of our friend "the famous Chrissy Weaver."  People kept looking, wondering what she was famous for!  And it's funny- from that day forward Chrissy didn't just feel like a part of our youth family, she felt like an IMPORTANT part of our youth family.  In our little world, she was indeed famous.  As a youth pastor you always want your students to feel like they matter; that episode just showed that you never quite know what will do the trick!  Chrissy was a true character and one of my favorite people, and I miss her.  I have no idea where she is today, but wherever she is, I still think of her as a celebrity.  Thank you, Chrissy, for providing us with some great character moments! 

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Parable of Forgiveness

I used to tell students that I only needed forgiveness for two things in my life- the things I do and the things I don't do!  With that in mind...

In case you missed this while reading your Bible, Jesus was big into forgiveness.  His mission statement- "I came to save the world, not to condemn it"- is all about offering us grace and forgiveness, because God knows we deserve to be condemned.  Jesus came and died on the cross so we wouldn't get what we deserve.  He told the following parable in Matthew 18:21-35 (The Message).

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"   Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.
"The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn't pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.   "The poor wretch threw himself at the king's feet and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.'  Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

"The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, 'Pay up. Now!'   "The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' But he wouldn't do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

"The king summoned the man and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn't you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?' The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy."

Over the past few years I have encountered both the king and the servant from this story.  The kings- of which there are many- have seen the sin and failure (the debt) in my life, and have forgiven me anyway.  Paul writes that sin will always be with us on this side of heaven.  My past sins serve as a reminder of how much I need Jesus, but the debt has been erased by the sacrifice of Jesus and these "kings" I have encountered along the road.  The servants- of which, thankfully, I have encountered but a few- have seen the sin and failure in my life, and they seem determined to make sure those things are never forgotten.  They feel hurt and betrayed by my actions (and I don't blame them) but they just can't let it go.  My sin seems to effect them more than their own.  And if I am not careful, their actions and attitudes can cause me to sin again- because they make me want to not forgive them.  But I must.  I cannot experience the abundant life that Jesus came to bring unless I can forgive myself and others.  People who are otherwise faithful Christians seem to carry around an unhealthy bitterness and resentment that one would think should be absent from the body of Christ.  And that is their prerogative- as long as they never need forgiveness themselves.  This parable is not the only scripture that makes this point very clear.  In the LORD's Prayer, we are told to pray for God to "forgive our trespasses (debts)  as we forgive those who trespass against us."  Jesus said "Judge not at all, or you will be judged."  He said "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."  In other words, Jesus makes it clear that we will all be held to the same standard that we hold others to.  If we forgive and offer grace and mercy to the people who wrong us, then that is what we shall receive from God.  If we don't- well, I'd prefer not to find out what refusing God's grace feels like. 

We all seek forgiveness in our lives, and those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers know that we can repent and ask for grace, and that it is a gift given freely by our God.  Far too many people, however, struggle when it comes to personal grace; we want forgiveness from God but are not willing to offer it to those around us.  I hope that this parable will inspire us all to be like the King- both the one in parable and the One we worship.  He understood the debt, he hated the debt- but he erased the debt.  Many of you have been "human erasers" in my life, and I thank God everyday for your mercy- and His.  Have a blessed Sabbath, everyone!

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ask Dr. Jill

Today we continue our recent Saturday tradition of looking back into old issues of The UMYF Enquirer, the official newsletter of my FUMC-K youth group between 1994-2000.  This particular post also follows up on the stories of the past week that highlighted the birth of my son, Will.  In both cases,  a key player in the story was Dr. Jill Painter (with Chip Lips, at right).

It became commonplace around the Jones' household in the days after Will was born to struggle with questions about dealing with a newborn.  Every first-time parent goes through the questions and the panic that sets in when you don't really know what you are doing.  Since our pediatrician also happened to be one of our best friends, the answer to almost every problem we had was "Let's ask Dr. Jill!"  At some point, I decided to turn that idea into a bogus Dear Abby type column in the Enquirer.  Jill had no input into the silliness, and all of the questions had to do with youth group inside jokes.  It was just for fun.  There were a number of installments;  I reprint a few of them for you today! 

Dear Dr. Jill,
I am planning a trip to Uganda this summer.  Is there any special information I should know before I go?  Are there any rare diseases I should be aware of?
   - Connor

Dear Connor,
While in Uganda be careful of everything you do.  You could poke your eye out, you know?

Dear Dr. Jill,
People say that I am not a very nice person and that I am angry and hard to get along with.  I am so moody I think that maybe I have a medical problem.  Can you help?  -  Mad May

Dear May,
Tell those idiots to get over it!  Who do they think they are- anyway?  And another thing, anger is...  Oh well, you get my point!  Get well soon!

Dear Dr. Jill,
I need help.  No one will talk to me since they found out I have seven toes on my left foot.  I hear through the grapevine that you do "under the counter" surgery on feet.  I am desperate!  Can you help?   -Slewfoot Bob

Dear Bob,
I can't help, but Brian will be more than happy to chew off any extra toes!  Or call the Hotline at 847-XLAX for more help- those people are crazy!!!

Dear Dr. Jill,
On a recent ski trip I was involved in a severe crash with a 107 year old woman, her mother, and their blind dog.  Do you think they will survive and ease my guilty conscience?  -The Pope

Dear Pope,
Their chances are better than someone who plays "Caveman" with you and Joe Montgomery!  And hey- at least you didn't hit any phone poles!

All kidding aside, Jill was a huge part of our ministry at FUMC-K, and her medical background was a great comfort to me on many a trip.  Even if I did have to bribe her with chocolate cobbler from The Cracker Barrel on occasion to insure her participation... 
The more I read these old editions of The UMYF Enquirer, the more I am convinced that back in the day we had more fun than anyone- and never failed to praise God in the process!  I know a few current youth ministries who have much to learn from our ancient ways....

Because of Jesus,

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Best Night Ever

As I told you on Wednesday, we had been at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando for two full days before Marilyn was ever moved to a birthing room.  Even that move did little to make us feel like we were any closer to having a baby.  Marilyn's contractions were still far apart and the baby had not dropped.  She struggled with the stress all afternoon and into the evening hours.   Dr. Carducci stopped by to check on us, and she was not happy with the way things were going.  She told us that Elmo was "still in Seminole County."  In other words, he was still way north of where he ought to be!  Hearts rates and blood pressures were not what she wanted them to be, and with an urgency that frightened me a bit she announced that we were going to surgery.  My wife, after three days of waiting, was going to have a C-section. Just like I had begged for that morning...

The excitement was just beginning.  We let everyone know what was going on while they prepped Marilyn for surgery.  Then it was time to get me ready.  They tried to find scrubs big enough to fit me, but that wasn't happening, so we had to improvise.  By the time we finished I was wearing two gowns (one forward, one backwards) and some sort of combined footies covering my giant feet.  We called our dear friend Dr. Jill Painter (she was going to be Elmo's pediatrician), who was home preparing to take my youth group to Spanish Wells on our mission trip.  She said she was on her way.  They escorted me into the operating room, where Marilyn was waiting.  They sat me at her head, with a screen between me and the rest of her, so I wouldn't pass out during the delivery.  I held her hand and they started cutting.  A few moments passed, and then Dr. Carducci (with her big time New York accent) suddenly said, "OH MY GOD!"  I can tell you, this is NOT what you want to hear when people are cutting your wife open.  That outburst was followed by "DAD!  You have to look at this!"  This seemed like a bad idea to me.  After all, they were the ones who put me behind a screen so I wouldn't pass out.  But despite my reservations, I stood up and peeked over the screen.  And there it was.  A head was sticking out of my wife's tummy.  It looked like a scene from Alien (now one of Will's all-time favorite movies, ironically).  This not-quite-born baby was holding his head up.  Everyone was astonished.  I sat back down and the staff finished their work.  At 10:50 PM William Joshua Jones arrived in this world, a true gift from God.  They told us it was a boy, and that was a good thing- if it had been a girl we might still be fighting over the name.   Then they told us he was big enough to start kindergarten!  Dr. Jill had arrived to do his check-up, and they kept measuring him because they all thought someone got it wrong.  He was 10 pounds, 2 ounces, and 23 inches long.  The length was, at the time, a hospital record.  Marilyn was doing great as well.  My Mom, on the other hand, was so furious that Marilyn had been through three days of waiting only to have the C-section they could have given her much earlier that she had left the building!  We had to hunt her down so she could meet her first (and only) grandson.  It was a strange night, scary and stressful.  It was also my best night ever!  I was a daddy.

Today marks the 15th anniversary of that night, and a lot of water has passed under many bridges since then.  I am still thrilled to be Will's father.  He makes his mom and I proud every day.  He is a wonderful son, a great student, a creative personality and a fine human being.  Anyone who wants to argue that God is vengeful and brings misery upon people for their sins would have to be able to explain to me how I, often the chief of sinners, wound up with a son who is so clearly a blessing from above.  Today I give thanks for my wife and my son (the Alien!) and for all of the people (family, friends, youth, teachers, pastors) who have helped us care for and nurture him over the years.  All of them are simple reminders that God is good all the time.   And please, keep praying for us!  We still have a long way to go...

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

CCM Thursdays: Since I Met You

"The truth it hit me like a sock in the eye, a revelation that I can't deny
Your love has overtaken every little part of me- You were what I needed!"

When dc Talk came out with Supernatural (their follow-up album to Jesus Freak and #36 on my Top 50 Countdown) back in 1998, Since I Met You immediately became my favorite track from the CD.  It seemed to me like the perfect song for a youth group video, because it could be used to address both sides of the student ministry coin.  The primary purpose of ministry with teenagers is to help them connect with Jesus.  Part of the way you do that is by helping them connect with each other.  Since I Met You could be talking about either of those things- or both.  Think about the lyrics:

"Was at the end of my rope, I had no where to go, was at the end of my rope I had nothing to show until the day that I turned to You..was at the end of my rope...
But since I met You , I feel alright, You turned all my darkness into Light
Since I met You, I feel OK, I feel alright"

For many of us involved in the youth ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee in those years between 1994-2000, it was our friends and Youth Counselors who helped us discover what it meant to walk with the Christ.  Today I seek to honor as many of those people as I can by finally giving you the "video" I wanted to make all those years ago.  Many of you may have seen these pictures on Marilyn's Facebook, but they take on a whole new meaning when set to this music.  I hope that those of you who are reading this will pass it along to other friends who may find themselves in these pictures.   We may have all been a little crazy, and goodness knows we did lots of silly stuff along the way.  All of those events and moments contributed greatly to my walk with Jesus, and I am guessing they did for many of yours as well.  None of us are perfect, and God is still working on us all.  I have seen the "end of my rope" more than once in these past few years, and I can tell you that Jesus is always there to pull us back up.  Many of you have given me a pull as well.  The bottom line is still this- "Since I met you (everyone of YOU, and Jesus!)  I've been alright, I've been OK..."   This video is dedicated to everyone who ever "called me crazy."  You did indeed make my day- every day!  I'll see you tomorrow for Will's birthday!