Sunday, August 8, 2010

Unexpected Results

Many of my earliest experiences in youth ministry came as a direct result of my involvement with the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends.  In many of the older posts on this blog you can read how that group of Quakers shaped my life and influenced me in many ways.  In 1999, having been away for 5 years, I was asked to return to NC to speak at Young Friends Yearly Meeting, a statewide gathering of middle and high school aged Quakers.  It turned about to be an amazing weekend- but in ways that were totally unexpected!

I planned to take a group of students from FUMC-K with me to Guilford College for the 5-day event, but God had other plans.  The weekend before we were to leave on a Wednesday, I was bitten by a Brown Recluse spider, and my leg turned purple and blew up like zeppelin.  I was able to make the trip, but unable to drive, so I went by plane and had to leave the youth at home.  I was very disappointed, as I wanted them to share in this event with these people who had been so important in my life.  In truth, I should not have gone either.  My leg was a mess, I had very little energy, and just walking was difficult.  But I went anyway...

The first few days are just a blur in my memory.  I remember getting to play guitar with Martha Ratledge Farlow for the adult Yearly Meeting session honoring Quaker Lake.  I remember speaking and leading music for the Young Friends, and feeling terribly uninspired about my performance.  Nothing felt right or seemed right, and I felt like I was disappointing those who were counting on me.  On the final night of the event, I had been asked to speak at a gathering of Friends at a meetinghouse in western NC.  All of the youth and adults from the Yearly Meeting sessions had been bused in, plus there were numerous other adults joining us as well.  I had prayed and struggled over what to say to this gathering for weeks in advance, and now it was show time.

Quakers are a remarkable group, full of tremendous spiritual depth and historical significance.  They are also a fiercely independent group, and it is often difficult to get two Quakers to agree on anything.  Tradition is not only an important part of who Friends are, it is often the battlefield on which the strongest discussions take place.  I had decided to try and nudge this group into the 21st century.  I talked of being Roaring Lambs, of allowing our lives to speak to others in the name of Jesus at work, on the ballfields and in our communities.  I spoke of being willing to take risks and to quit being a denomination that insisted of protecting the past when it might be limiting the future.  I told the story of the confident Polish generals in World War II who sent their strongest battalions to the border to face down the invading Germans, fully expecting that they would win the day.  The Polish soldiers- on horseback- met their enemy head on.  The Germans- in tanks- rolled past them and conquered Poland.  I wanted these Friends to realize that regardless of history and tradition, Quakers could not ride into the next millenia on horses while the world attacked with tanks.  The message of Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever. How we communicate and deliver that message has to evolve, morph and change so that it reaches the ears of those who need to hear it.  Many Friends, young and old, stood to speak to the truth of what I had said, and the worship was quite deep and emotional that night. God was present, and the Holy Spirit was speaking to us all.

In the hours, weeks and months that followed I was told over and over again how God had used me that night.  The audio tape of my message became a popular item, and old friends I had not seen in years contacted me to let me know how much they appreciated the things I had said.  I spent so much time that week trying to figure out why God would allow that spider to bite me.  I wasted time feeling sorry for myself that things were not going as planned.  But in the end, God used the one thing I turned completely over to Him to His glory and helped me understand why I had been called back to NC in the first place.  We should never forget this basic truth- God is good all the time...

So the event that almost didn't happen became one of the signature events of my entire ministry.  Who knew?  Besides God, I mean!   Be sure and join me tomorrow as my son Will joins us as a guest blogger and takes a look back at movies from the summer of 2010!

Because of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8/08/2010

    Looking forward to seeing what Will has to say tomorrow!


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