Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Strong Beginning...

After returning from Work Tour 2000 in early April, it was time to be about the business of putting together a student ministry.  My excitement level was very high. I knew there was lots of work to be done, but that was exactly the way I wanted it to be.  I had been given a list of names of over 400 students from grades 6-12 who were already connected to the Union Church of Hinsdale.  About 35 of them were active in the youth ministry.  I began to pray hard for the other 365 and to plan for ways to reach them.

I began meeting with a group of adults who were to become the Youth Ministry Team(Elizabeth Jung and Kevin Baab are pictured above).  We began to formulate a mission statement and to imagine what our purpose driven ministry would look like.  The first order of business for me was to begin a program for middle school youth.  This very important group of students had been treated one of two ways before my arrival- they were often ignored, and just as often treated like small children.  They were staying away from church in record numbers, and we needed to address this immediately.  Students from church families who don't get involved by middle school almost never begin to attend in high school (in my experience).  I started a ministry I called TNT (after my award winning program at Springfield Friends Meeting) for 6th-8th grade students on Sunday afternoons just before Discovery (the high school program).  Immediately the kids started showing up.  It was wild, it was loud and it was fun.  In short, in was unlike anything they had experienced before.  There were pies.  There were squirt guns and water hoses.  And there was JesusWe were rockin' the house!

I also began to slowly make some changes to Discovery.  I began teaching them songs each week so we could create a more worshipful atmosphere.  I was teaching from scripture and still making it relevant to their lives- and they were eating it up.  I introduced them to Christian music.  And we played hard.  Crowds stayed small, but I was pleased with those first couple of months.  And the best part was it was already almost summer...

Throughout my many years of youth ministry I held the belief that no matter what issues we faced as a ministry, summer could fix them.  By the summer of 2000 I had become known for my massive summer schedules that involved big events, trips and lots and lots of smaller relationship building events.  I don't remember exactly, but I am certain I began working on the summer brochure the week after Work Tour.  It would be my chance to completely blow the minds of my new church and community.  Because of starting so late (I didn't arrive at UC until March) there would be no big trips.  But there would be so many chances to get to know new students and their families.  I couldn't wait.  Little did I know that my ministry at UC was already at a turning point.  More on that tomorrow.

Jesus- the only hope for is You...and you alone.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cyber Monday

Today is Cyber Monday, the day when consumers all over the world are encouraged to shop online and when companies offer up great deals and savings.  While my little blog is not normally a for-profit operation, I wanted to join the rest of the online community in this effort today.  So here it is, my first ever blog sale.  The items advertised are all collectors items and available only here.  To order, just leave a comment and let me know what you want.  And be sure to read the fine print at the bottom.  Let's get started!

*  Item #21560-  Autographed Commodores Album Cover-  Featuring the only white guys ever to sing with the fabulous soul quintet, this collector's item was presented to me by band members Charles Freedle and Mike Mercadante in 1994.  It is the only one of its kind.  The street value is around $5000- but you can get it today for only $2.17!  Also includes an interview with Charles- "My Life With Onell Rich."  Order now!

*  Item #22098-  Bubba the Mooning Man-  Presented to me after the Myrtle Beach trip in 1999 by some of the girls of Kissimmee, this special little guy will "moon" the person of your choice, and when he shows his butt you see the autographs of such famous youth alumni as Erica SoutherLindsey Lupfer, Rachel Autrey and Sarah Whitman.  Great for long trips and offending your Grandma.  Price- $17.50  $2.01

* Item #21666-  Bubba's Greatest Hits-  The early songs of Carl "Bubba" Jones (that's me!), including the classics that made him famous, like The Animal Song, Why? and Mama Was A Rock'N'Roll Singer & Daddy Used To Write All Her Songs.  Also includes the cassette tape of the classic Four Songs, Two Fools project, recorded live at Quaker Lake with Alan "Flash" Brown.  Act now and receive a DVD.  It's blank.  Isn't it amazing how much young Bubba looks like Justin Bieber?  Today only, this box set is priced to move at $20.00 $10.00 Make an offer!

* Item #27013-  Coconut Bra and Hula Skirt Combo-  This high fashion ensemble includes everything you need to throw your own Luau!  Worn by the fabulous Jerry Hanbery on many occasions in Kissimmee, this matching set also comes with a Jester hat and a can of Nair, in case you have a need to shave your head in the most painful way imaginable!  Only $250 for the whole set!  Also, for a limited time, you can order your own framed 8x10 copy of this picture, sure to brighten up any room of your home. 

* Item #20734- Pagan Eye For the Christian Guy CD-  The original recording of me presenting my seminar at the NYWC in Atlanta in 2004.  At the time, dozens of copies were made and at least 3 were sold- because I bought them!  Now you can own your very own at the very special price of $0.03 per copy.  Act now- at that price I will sell all 3 of my copies before...well, eventually!

*Item #1-  The Doggy Alarm Clock-  This cute little dog adds hours to your day by waking you with a yelping, howling alarm at 4 AM- no matter when you thought you wanted to get up!  Also serves as a garbage disposal for leftover food and has been known to tackle an occasional Christmas tree.  Answers to a variety of names and runs on turkey.  Price:  $14.22 or best offer!

Order Now!  Sale ends at Midnight tonight!

*Prices may vary in Alaska and Mississippi.  Offer void in Canada.  Some items do not actually exist.  Why do we park in the driveway and drive on the parkway?  R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen- no one will ever call you Shirley again.  Half a bee must also half not be.  Are thongs one size fits all?  Santa Claus is watching YOU...

Jesus- the only hope for me is You...and you alone!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Shout Outs!

Before I get to my Shout Outs for today, I need to make a confession.  Yesterday I told you all that I would be avoiding Black Friday, and that my family and I would be seeing a movie, eating lunch and putting up our Christmas tree.  All of that happened, and it was a great day.  BUT...   For reasons I don't yet understand, the cosmos conspired against me right after lunch, and I wound up at Citrus Park Mall with my wife and mother.  Will was spared.  After a 4-hour death march through the mall (OK, so it was only about an hour- but still...) we went to Big Lots looking for a new tree, which we did not buy.  If you know me at all you know I am a buyer, not a shopper, so all of this "browsing" was more than I could handle.  It was all I could do to muster enough energy to put up our old tree when we got home.  But it's up and decorated, and I am still alive and kicking.  So now on to some Shout Outs:
  • I had such a blessed Thanksgiving with my wife, mother and son.  God has given me so much when I deserve so little- but that is a definition of grace, isn't it?  We don't get what we deserve...
  • Marilyn and I had dinner with Lauren Carr Cacciatore (FUMC-K) and her husband Brad a couple of weeks ago here in Tampa and had a blast catching up.  We had not seen each other in 9 years or so, but it was just like old times.  I am happy to report that we even found food she enjoyed- a major task when you consider that I once drove all over Atlanta trying to find her some KFC!  It was great seeing her, and she would still be one of my favorites...if I had favorites...which I don't, of course...
  • I hope you all enjoyed the New York flashbacks as much as I did.  I'm still trying to get over Jamie Robinson's (Springfield Friends) comment that he didn't like Mama Leone's ans slept through Les Miz.  To quote Jamie from back in the day, "WHATEVER!"
  • The little Holy Books (song by James Ward) video I put together to help people learn the books of the Bible is about to pass 2000 views on YouTube.  I just think that is cool. 
  • Congrats to Sara Thacker Reiter, Darin Miller and all the rest of my friends who are Auburn Tiger fans.  The whole Auburn/Alabama rivalry doesn'tmean that much to me, but you beat Nick Saban.  I love it when good triumphs over evil...  WAR EAGLE! 
  • The Jones Family Tree, 2010
  • We did see Tangled 3D yesterday, and all agreed that it rocked in the classic Disney animated tradition.  I was especially fond of the horse.  Oh- and as usual, our tree features mostly Disney ornaments.  We are very predictable!
  • The Christmas movie season is upon us, and I have a problem.  All of my Christmas VHS movies (Scrooged, Home Alone 2, The Santa Claus and about 10 more) are missing.  We found the DVDs, but not the videos, which I have apparently put someplace special so they would be easy to find.  I really hate it when I do stuff like that!  If you have knowledge of the whereabouts of my movies, please contact me immediately.  If you would like to see my list of my favorite Christmas movies and shows click here!
  • I had lunch this past Wednesday with Lisa Kraus Spires.  It's always great to see Lisa, and as always I learned something new about her.  Did you know she once assembled a Christmas tree upside down?  Did you know that she once caught a dish of yams on fire in her oven?  See what you miss when live too far from Tampa for lunch with us?  :)
  • Susan Allen (NC Quakers), I would still love some pictures of Screech.  Especially if you have any of you guys in your homemade Screech t-shirts...
  • Thanks to all of my Twitter followers who have become blog readers over the past month or so.  Now I guess I will have to keep writing a while longer- and that's a good thing!
That's it for now.  Hope to see you back here soon, and keep those comments coming!  E-mail me anytime at Youthguy07@aol.com   Have a blessed Sabbath tomorrow!

Because of Jesus,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

We had an awesome Thanksgiving yesterday, and I trust you did too.  I have so much to be thankful for.  So much food, so many blessings- and ELF!  But now it's BLACK Friday.  For those of you who got up early this morning (or never went to bed last night) to shop for bargains, I salute you.  For those of you who may be working ridiculous hours today so that others can shop, I salute you.  For those of you who are waiting for the crowds to get tired and go home so you can find a great bargain on socks, I salute you.  I hope you all have a wonderful day.

But Marilyn, Will, my Mom and I are going to see a cheap early showing of Tangled, then out to lunch and back home to veg out and put up our Christmas tree. We expect to be having a RED and GREEN Friday while the masses shop on BLACK Friday.   We will pray for you all...    See you tomorrow for another edition of Saturday Shout Outs!

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Give thanks to the LORD, our God and King-
His love endures forever!

And be sure to turn your leftovers into a sandwich like this one from The Stage Deli in NYC, being enjoyed by Sandi Lynch!  I promised Anonymous this picture today, so here it is! Any other requests?  Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New York 1998

In November of 1998 a group of over 50 youth and adults made the journey long journey from Kissimmee, Florida to New York City.  I didn't know it at the time, but it would be the final NYC trip I ever took with my great FUMC-K group.  It was also the largest group from a single church I ever took to the Big Apple- partly because of the large number of adults who went, including at least 6 who had no students of their own on the trip.  Not sure how that happened...  I captured some of the highlights (and a whole lot of walking and standing around) on my ancient Magnavox VHS video camera.  Earlier this week I watched that tape again, and blogged along as I watched- what I call Live Retro Blogging!  Here's what I saw:
  • The video opens with the group standing around the baggage carousel in the airport waiting for our luggage to arrive.  Jerry Hanbery was hogging camera time and uttering his signature line for the week- "Get some monkey, work that dum-dum."  I still have no idea what that meant.  Other adults like Cindy Martin, Janet Cook, Andrew Lewis, Joyce Bay and Sharon Lynes were attempting to hide from the camera and not be indentified as being part of our group.  And Ben Thompson was rushing the camera for close-ups at every opportunity.
  • Jerry had the camera as we loaded our luggage and boarded our bus.  He interviewed a number of participants, including Kim Miller, Diana Esry and Cindy Franklin.  Cindy stated a fact that was true for so many Floridians who made the trip with me: "It's really cold and it feels really, really good!"  Jerry filmed through the bus windows as we rolled through Manhattan.  Pass the Dramamine, please...
  • A quick tour of my room in the Milford Plaza Hotel (The Lullaby of Broadway) showed my roommates- Andrew Rogers, Adam Hill and Jerry- and just how small those rooms were.  But staying 4 to a room in those tiny spaces kept our costs way down.
  • Seeing Nate Hill, Teresa Reep (complete with her bright yellow Banana Jacket) and Jacob Lupfer dancing in the lobby of the Milford Plaza reminds me that the hotel seemed really fancy when you first walk in.  Matt Lupfer and Ben Thompson were making short jokes about Cyndi Reep, and Jill Souther was on crutches as her mom Vanessa helped her out.  Our group was never shy about being the center of attention in public places...
  • I walked with the camera as we went to the Empire State Building.  Jill Souther was now in a wheelchair as Sandi Lynch pushed her.  We had such large numbers that we walked though mid-town like we owned it, singing and dancing along the way.  We saw Macy's all decorated for Christmas, and Jay Lynes buying a hot dog from a street vendor.  There were brief interviews with Colleen Martin and Amber Herrick at the top of the ESB, and then suddenly we were back on the ground again.
  • We walked through Times Square and all the way back over to Rockefeller Center.  The camera work along the way was awful, with lots of weird moving shots of feet and blurry bodies.  I did capture Wayne Cook (introduced on camera as Juan Valdez) striking a pose, Teresa Reep and Nate Hill hogging the camera on numerous occasions, and Jerry continuing to mutter "Get some monkey..."
  • At Rockefeller Plaza some of the group went ice skating, where we could see that Erin Bay was now wearing the Banana Jacket, and that Sarah Marland and Nate Hill were on the ice as well.  Others were hanging out watching and creating their own excitement, including Ben T. throwing Colleen over his shoulder and twirling her.  Everyone joked about how enormous (she weighed about 90 pounds soaking wet) Colleen's butt looked on camera.  Wayne, Debbie Rogers, Marilyn Jones and Catie Cook went on a horse & buggy ride.  Why Wayne's wife and Marilyn's hubby were left out is still a question in my mind...
  • The next footage came from our tour of the United Nations.  I filmed much of the tour itself, capturing interesting comments from Sarah Crudele, Kay Hill, Jay, Amber, Lori Shannonhouse and Ashley Arrington.  Also captured a lot of yawning...
  • The final segment was filmed inside the great Italian restaurant, Carmine's.  The sheer amount of food (I had ordered for everyone, and it was served family style) was incredible, and the quality was even more impressive!  As I filmed our various tables, I spotted Christine Cooper (and her parents Dennis & Ann), Abby Marland and Andrea Marland playing with the calamari.  Food was piled high on many plates, and Wayne and I discussed on camera how thankful we were that gluttony doesn't really count as a sin, even though it is one of the 7 Deadly Sins.  Welcome to Bad Theology!  And then, as the dessert platters (with the best chocolate cake in history) were served, they all sang Happy Birthday to me.  Again.  If you counted all the times the FUMC-K group celebrated my birthday I would now be 106.   Meanwhile Teresa R. and Sara Autrey were taunting me with dessert, trying to look sexy while eating and then doing the old "see food" trick.  When the dessert platter reached my end of the table, I signed off.
And that was it.  So many other things happened on that trip, but that was all I got on video.  I hate I missed Kay Hill and Debbie Rogers (see pic) and their great hair-styles for The Scarlet Pimpernel.  But mostly I am sorry that I didn't get a chance to sit down with every single person who was a part of that trip and record their thoughts and memories, because it was a trip for the ages.  And someday I would love to able to sit with some of you who enjoyed that trip (or any other) and share in the memories.  There were many things we did as a youth ministry that brought us closer to Jesus and closer to each other- but few things ever topped our NY trips for building bonds and making memories.  Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone, and if you watch any of the Macy's Parade, I hope you will REMEMBER our time together in NYC...

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New York State of Mind

Capturing the essence of the more than one dozen New York trips that I took with youth is pretty much an impossible task.  The people, the hotels, the restaurants, the sight-seeing stops, the plays and so many other things would take months to write about.  But pictures- pictures can capture the feeling much faster and with more clarity. Whether you went with me from New Garden Friends, Springfield Friends, FUMC-Kissimmee or Wesley Memorial UMC- you will see friends here.   So today, as we continue to celebrate those trips, I give you a story in pictures, with music by the fabulous Mr. William Joel- whom we once ran into on the streets of Manhattan.  As always, if this triggers memories for you, I'd love to hear them.  These were shared adventures by the family of God, and they belong to us all- in Jesus' name. 

 I'll finish my New York memories for this week tomorrow as I watch the video from NYC with the FUMC-K gang in 1998 and blog my thoughts.  Join me!

For everyone who ever went with me to New York, this is for you...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top 10 Memories: New York Trips

For many years the week before Thanksgiving meant one thing to me: New York City.  Beginning with my own high school United Nation Seminar experience on this week in 1976, I spent many of the next 20 years with groups of teenagers in NYC.  In the later years of my ministry the trip often took place during Spring Break for school purposes.  With help from a few readers and lots of old files, I would like to share with you today 10 of my favorite memories from those trips.  A few of these stories I have shared before here on the blog; links to those posts are included.  For even more stories, click here to see a post from this week last year and here to read the legendary stories of Mike Mercadante and Charles Freedle (pictured) in the Big Apple!  Here we go:
  1. On one of the earliest UN Seminars (1978 or '79) we were discussing the concept of bringing peace to the Middle East.  Due to a scheduling conflict, the representative for the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO was a radical Arab group) and the representative from Israel were, for a few moments, in the same room.  We almost got to see what war looked like up close and personal...
  2. On the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty in 1982 a group of us turned our Paul Newman look-alike leader Wallace Sills into an instant celebrity with Asian tourists.  That's also the same place where Alan Brown and I sat on Liberty Island watching mentally defective seagulls crash into the rocks off the island while diving for fish.  That inspired another Brown/Jones unreleased classic song, Watching the Seagulls Crash!
  3. Over the years we saw many of the greatest shows that Broadway had to offer, including Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music, Cats, A Chorus Line and Rent.  We also saw lesser known shows like Shenandoah, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Movin' Out!, Good Vibrations, The Scarlet Pimpernel, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Beauty and the Beast and Once Upon A Mattress.  And with the exception of Cats they were all wonderful...
  4. We also saw the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular a number of times.  Almost every person who sent me their memories of these trips mentioned the living nativity in that show, complete with live animals- including camels.  Very moving and truly spectacular!
  5. The food was always memorable, whether it was eating at pizza places, Chinatown, tiny deli/stores or from street corner carts like we did in the early years, or dining at Mama Leone's, Carmine's or Ollie's Noodles like we did later on.  We also often had meals at Planet Hollywood, The Hard Rock Cafe or The All-Star Cafe.  For my favorite food-related story, check out the Chinatown Chicken Head.
  6. My old friend and faithful reader Susan Allen reminded me how many romantic connections came from these (and other) youth trips.  I know several long-time married couples who actually met on NYC trips, and many others who dated for a while following the event.  Marilyn went with me in 1981, and we tried to be romantic and take a handsome cab ride through Central Park, but Frank Massey, the big boss on that trip, said no.  MASSSSSEYYYYY!!!!!  A number of year later we got to take that ride...
  7. On my last trip in 2005 the group from Wesley Memorial UMC was waiting at LaGuardia airport.  I convinced them we were waiting on a shuttle bus or van, when in fact I had pre-arranged limos.  When they pulled up and the kids saw my name on the signs (see picture) they went nuts! 
  8. When we first started going to NYC, Times Square was a terrible place full of hookers and drug dealers.  By 2005 it was one of the safest, most tourist friendly places in the city.  Walking to the Virgin Megastore (and sticking those "Virgin: $9.99" sale stickers on each other became a very late night tradition.  That and cheesecake at the Celebrity Deli located in our hotel.
  9. Speaking of hotels, from the late 1980's on we stayed at the Milford Plaza in the heart of the Theater District- 45th & 8th.  But before that I also had groups at the Hotel Tudor (42nd & 2nd) and the Madison Towers (38th & Madison).  The Towers had phones in the bathrooms (that's me on that very phone in 1982, pictured), which we thought was the ultimate in luxury...
  10. In the early years we used to go worship on Sunday morning at 15th Street Friends Meeting or Marble Collegiate Church.  At 15 Street the "silent worship" often turned in to a political debate.  One year at Marble Collegiate (despite the preaching of the legendary Norman Vincent Peale) we had a guy sitting near us who snored so loudly we couldn't help but laugh.  Shorty afterward, we started doing our own worship...
There is so much more, including mission projects handing out sandwiches to the poorest of the poor in the depths of Grand Central Station and working in the coldest place anyone has ever been with Habitat for Humanity- but that's it for today!  See you tomorrow with a slide show featuring New York pictures from over the years set to the music of Billy Joel.  Don't miss it!

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Legends of the NYWC

In honor of Tammy Doggett Foster and Lisa Ramos Moran- 2 friends from my youth group growing up at New Garden Friends Meeting who are still doing youth ministry and who are in Nashville this weekend.  I thank God for people like them who give so much to students in the name of Jesus.

Over the past couple of days I have mentioned a number of people who, through their work at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Conventions (NYWC), had a tremendous impact on my life and ministry.  Today I want to wrap up this series (even as they begin to wrap up the NYWC currently being held in Nashville) with a few shout outs to some of the other people who made my 18 conventions so special.  Some were speakers, some musicians, some artists and some just people I came to know and love.  I miss them all!
  • Tic Long, who never failed to greet me with a smile; who gave me my chance to lead a seminar; who waived my fee for the the 2005 Pittsburgh convention (since I had already paid for Sacramento); and who is now back at the helm of YS, right where he belongs.
  • Dennis Benson, who in 1982 opened my eyes to using culture to teach, not to promote fear.  "In it, not of it, wasn't that what I said?" 
  • James Ward, who for so many years was the guy who got the convention singing, and whom I got to hang out with a few times over the years.  "Ain't no rock gonna' shout in my place..."
  • Tony Campolo.  Everything I ever heard him say moved me in some way, and I still listen to his talks and read his books on a regular basis.
  • Dan Kimball, who in a Critical Concerns Course helped me understand what it means to move outside old models and deal with a post-modern world.
  • Noel and Kyle Becchetti, who through their ministry with the Center for Student Missions provided great mission experiences for my groups from 3 different churches to 3 different cities.
  • The great people at Interlinc, who provided me with great music, great videos, and most recently a chance to write Bible studies for youth pastors.  Plus their booth in the exhibit hall was always the most fun!
  • Todd Temple, whom I first met in the late 1980's when he was leading events for YS (Anyone remember Grow For It?) and who later was the founder of MediaShout.  He never failed to greet me warmly and sit and chat, even if I did like to remind him that he used to look like Fabio...
  • General Session speaker Stephen Glenn, who in Chicago in 1988 taught me the 7 questions to ask if I never wanted students to tell me anything meaningful:  "Did ya? Can ya?  Will ya?  Won't ya?  Don't ya?  Can't ya?  Aren't ya?"  The only answers they can give are a hrumph, a grunt, a shrug or a whatever.  I never forgot the lesson.
  • Tiger McLuen, who taught me so much about how to train the Youth Ministry Teams that I worked with...
  • Louie Giglio, whose I AM NOT general session message (Phoenix, 2003- I think?) not only became a theme in my teaching, but inspired me to write a song of the same name.
  • Rich Bundschuh, Jim Hancock, Rich Van Pelt, Jay Delph, Duffy Robbins, Efrem Smith, Jim Burns, Mark Ostreicher and so many others who always made me feel like family year after year.
  • Debbie Morris, whose general session talk on Forgiving the Dead Man Walking showed me a deeper grace than anything I had ever seen from another human.  When my own life crashed, thinking of her words so often gave me hope that people (I already knew God would) might be able to forgive me too.
  • Andy Stanley, Phil Vischer, Will Willimon, Brennan Manning, Steve Taylor, Philip Yancey, Chris Hill and Mike Yaconelli- general session speakers who were so good that I bought the CD (well, mostly tapes actually.  I'm old...).
  • Curt Cloninger, Lost And Found, The Skit Guys, Ted & Lee, CPR and Geoff Moore- NYWC performers who became my friends over the years.  With the exception of the The Skit Guys, I hosted all of them at my churches at least once.
  • Les Christie.  Despite the fact that he led the same 2 seminars- Incredibly Hot Games and Dealing With Obnoxious Students- at every NYWC I ever attended, I never once sat in on one of them.  It was comforting to know he was always there, and we had fun combining the 2 titles into How To Play Games With Incredibly Hot Obnoxious Students...
  • And finally- J. David Stone, without whom I might have never known that student ministry could be a life-long calling, and whose seminar on Creative Movement was the first one I ever attended.  "Do ya, do ya, do ya wanna dance..."  Thanks Dave!
It's been fun looking back to all of these NYWC stories, but now it's on to my true Thanksgiving week obsession- New York trips!  See you tomorrow!

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

7 Things: NYWC Seminars

A special thanks to Lauren Carr Cacciatore and her husband Brad for a great dinner last night.  Old friends are indeed the best friends.  And for those of you from the Kissimmee days, you will be pleased to know that Lauren ate mac & cheese and chicken.  :)  But the menu of what she will eat is ever expanding... And in another note about a faithful Kissimmee era reader, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Connor Lewis!

Before I begin remembering some of the great seminars and Critical Concerns Courses I attended at the NYWC over the years, I must first offer forth a confession.  For many of the last 5 or so conventions I attended, I didn't go to a single seminar.  I might drop by for a few minutes or attend to support a friend, but for the most part I used those times to catch up with colleagues, rest and read.  But in the early years many of those workshops were hugely important to my ministry.  I have previously mentioned a few, such as the Publicity and Promotion with Greg McKinnon in Atlanta, 1987Advanced Youth Ministry with Jim Burns in Dallas, 1982; and the Spiritual Growth Workshop with Fil Anderson and Mike Yaconelli that I mentioned yesterday.  Today I would like to remember 7 others...
  1. ImmaginuityCraig McNair Wilson, who for many years worked with the Disney Imagineers and did personal creative consulting for Michael Eisner, led this Critical Concerns Course in Anaheim in 1996.  His step-by-step approach to developing creativity in your ministry was something I never quit using. 
  2. Issues That Divide the ChurchTony Campolo led this very controversial seminar in Dallas, 1982.  Spread out over two seminar sessions, Tony tackled abortion, homosexuality, politics and war- the same things that still divide us 28 years later. 
  3. Strategic Planning for Youth Ministry-  One of my very favorite seminar presenters, Chap Clark, led us (Nashville, 1995) through the steps of real planning for a preferred future in youth ministry.  I used what I learned in this seminar to focus the ministries I worked with for the next 10 years.  The plans for the Verndome in Kissimmee were a direct result of this process.
  4. Dangerous Wonder-  Experiencing grace and expecting the miraculous.  No one but Yac could lead this one.  It was the same with Messy Spirituality and Starting Over After 25 Years in Youth Ministry.  There was only one Yac...
  5. Creative Meetings Your Students Will Love-  Chosen at random to represent the dozens of Duffy Robbins seminars I attended over the years.  Duffy could make a seminar on white bread interesting.  And he did have killer ideas for meetings and how to speak to youth!
  6. Leading Small GroupsLaurie Polich inspired me to start small groups in Kissimmee with this Philadelphia 1997 seminar.  I must have enjoyed it, because I took it again in 2003...
  7. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry-  In Denver (1998) I received my first exposure to PDYM.  It changed the entire way I looked at youth ministry for the rest of my career.  Doug Fields led the seminar and wrote the book.  I became more involved with the PDYM crew over the next couple of NYWC when I worked their table in the YS Bookstore.
These leaders and their wisdom were encouraging and inspiring to me for many years.  Tomorrow I will remember a few of the other folks who inspired me through their work at the NYWC. 

Because of Jesus,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Top 10 Memories: NYWC

I mentioned yesterday that I attended 18 of the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Conventions (NYWC) between 1982 and 2006.  The full list of conventions I attended is as follows:  Dallas (1982, 2001); Atlanta (1987, 2000, 2004);  Chicago (1988); Orlando (1989);  Nashville (1995, 2002);  Anaheim (1996); Philadelphia (1985, 1997); Denver (1998); Cincinnati (1999); Phoenix (2003); Sacramento (2005); Pittsburgh (2005); and Charlotte (2006).  As the NYWC convenes in Nashville again this weekend, I want to remember some of the people, speakers, seminars and events that made these conventions such life-changers for me.  Today I take a look back at 10 of the best moments.  Two of my very best memories- Mike Yaconelli's early morning bible study and the Exhibit Hall (featuring every youth ministry resource you can imagine, from finger blasters to bibles)- happened every year and are not included on this list. 
  1. Dallas, 1982Convention #1 has to go at the top of the list.  I was amazed at everything, but among my favorite memories are hearing Tony Campolo speak for the first time; meeting Mike Yaconelli for the first time; Jim Burns and his incredible Advanced Youth Ministry seminar; the Wittenburg Door Banquet with radical speaker Dick Gregory; and of course, my amazing souvenir belt buckle (pictured).
  2. Atlanta, 2004Tic Long offered me the opportunity to lead my very own NYWC Seminar, which was a dream of mine.  I had finally achieved the status I always desired- that of Minor Christian CelebrityVery minor.  My seminar was called Pagan Eye For the Christian Guy and focused on taking our ministries out of the church and into the community.  It was well attended and well received.  A true highlight of my professional career.
  3. Phoenix, 2003-  I signed up for a two day intensive seminar (called Critical Concerns Courses in those days) led by Yac and Fil Anderson, who had been my Young Life leader during my first couple of years of high school.  It was a spiritual growth workshop, where we spent 8 hours focused on the scripture found in John 12:1-8 where Mary pours perfume on Jesus' feet.  We literally soaked in the scripture, building our own clay jars and making our own perfume.  It was amazing.  The fact that Yac would be killed in a car wreck less than a month later made it all the more significant to me...
  4. Philadelphia, 1997-  All of us who had served 20 years or more in student ministry were called to the stage and presented with a framed copy of the great Geoff Moore & the Distance song, Only A Fool- while Geoff and the boys sang it to us.  The framed copy (pictured) still hangs on a wall in my home.
  5. Atlanta, 1987The Country Quakers (myself, Terry Venable and Ray Luther) sang Blue Pick-Up Truck at the Wittenburg Door Banquet and rocked the house!  Also that same year Wayne Rice did a great Sinatra impression while singing I Did It His Way...  Classic.
  6. 1982-2006-  The "group singing" in the general sessions was always just incredible.  Over the years I was fortunate enough to share in worship with Yohann Anderson, James Ward, Bob Stromberg, Chris Tomlin, 721, Starfield and of course, *David Crowder Band.  I can't even begin to explain how these amazing artists impacted my life and my ministry, or how many of their songs I took home to my groups.  I used to say that the Angels would have a hard time matching the sound of 1000 youth workers singing "Where justice rolls down like a mighty water" or "There is no one like you..."
  7. Dallas, 2001Late Night Live on the final night of the convention was always good, but in 2001 it was simply awesome!  Lost And Found came out to warm up the crowd, doing cover songs and claiming not to be themselves.  When asked who they were, they responded with crazy names like Czars of Clay, Second Day or abcTalk.  Comedian Brad Stine joined in with his "Put a helmet on!" bit, which killed.  Lost And Found then came out for real and played my request, Used To Be.  And finally CPR closed with their brilliant improv act.  Best. Night. Ever!  And I was on the front row...
  8. Philadelphia, 1997-  During general sessions YS used to have a set of bleachers on the main stage that they called The Peanut Gallery.  The seats were first come, first served, and in those days The Banana Splits were always first because we volunteered to do set-ups before the sessions.  We usually avoided the Peanut Gallery (preferring the front row) but for some reason we sat in the bleachers for a session featuring Third DayMac Powell (complete with blond hair!) came over and sat with us during one of the songs, as did Mark Lee. I may be wrong, but I think Campolo spoke at that session too.  A great memory!
  9. Anaheim, 1996-  We got on an elevator at the hotel with some weird looking British dudes we had never seen before.  A few hours later we were worshipping with them.  We had just encountered Delirious- and that is something you never forget.  I had never experienced worship quite like that.  I still get chills every time I hear Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?
  10. Nashville, 1995-  It should come as no surprise that music was the thing at my first Nashville NYWCMichael W. Smith showed up unannounced and played some songs from the then-unreleased I'll Lead You Home album.  PRF performed with help from members of Jars of ClayAudio Adrenaline played without lead singer Mark Stuart, who had laryngitis.  One of their roadies sang lead on Big House.  And I met Geoff Moore for the first time over dinner at the hotel.  It was all awesome!
  11. BONUS:  Chicago, 1988-  Can't leave this year off the list.  It was the year I roomed with Terry Venable and got the "You're dead meat!" call from his wife Leigh Anne at 5 AM because their sick child had kept her up all night.  It also featured the only speaker I ever walked out on in 18 conventions- Rev. Charles Stanley.  But that is a story for another day... 
I could go on, but I'll stop there for today.  Tomorrow I will remember some of the seminars and workshops from various NYWC that impacted my ministry in a big way.  See you then.

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Moment With Mullins

Who's that man?  He thinks he's a prophet
I wonder if he's got something up his sleeve...
Where's he from?  Who is his daddy?
There's rumors he even thinks himself a king...
Of a kingdom of paupers, simpletons and rogues
The whores all seem to love him and the drunks propose a toast
And they say surely God is with us...today.

This weekend in Nashville Youth Specialties will be holding another of its National Youth Workers Conventions (NYWC).  If you have followed this blog or know me at all then you know how important the NYWC was to me, both in my spiritual journey and in my professional life as a youth pastor.  It is among the things I miss tremendously since my sin cost me my ministry in 2007.  There will be more of my friends in Nashville this weekend than I can possibly mention, but I pray that they will have the same type of experiences I did every time I attended the NYWC.

I never encountered Rich Mullins at the NYWC, but his spirit was always alive and well at the event.  The YS staff through the years- people like Tic Long, Wayne Rice, Mark Oestricher and the late Mike Yaconelli (Yac)- were all people who helped expand Rich's teachings in my life on the radical nature of Jesus Christ.  They didn't see denominations or doctrine or divisions- they saw Jesus.  They didn't see failure, they saw grace.  The worship in the general sessions of the convention was always powerful.  If growing up Quaker taught me to appreciate silence, pacifism and prayer, the NYWC taught me to appreciate and love emotional worship.  I found that I could express my faith by worshipping in silence and by lifting my hands to a Chris Tomlin anthem.  I always left those worship times with the knowledge that "surely God was with us in that place."

I have said before that Yac and Rich were birds of a feather, just oozing grace and the love of Christ everywhere they went.  Yet they were very different.  Rich was soft spoken and very laid back.  Yac was a wild man, often loud and boisterous.  They both fit the descriptions of Jesus found in Rich's song Surely God Is With Us. You can hear it in the description of Jesus found in the lyrics at the top, and in these words:  "Who can move a mountain, who can love their enemy; who can rejoice in pain and turn the other cheek?"  Both of those men had that kind of faith.  They were imperfect sinners (as are we all) who fully grasped the unyielding grace of God and the radical nature of Christ.  To have spent time in their presence is a blessing I will never forget.  Both are with Jesus now, and I have no doubt He greeted them with open arms- and in Yac's case, a big WHOO-HOO!

Today is the last of my regular posts featuring Rich Mullins; I am certain he will make more appearances somewhere down the road.  As for Mike Yaconelli, Youth Specialties and the NYWC, I will spend the next few days sharing some of my favorite memories of my 18 conventions.  Come along for the ride!

This recording is from The Jesus Record demo's.  It is Rich and his guitar recorded with a hand-held tape recorder just weeks before his death in 1997. The song speaks of the radical nature of Christ and how hard it must have been for those around Him to understand his message.  Jesus was always an "outsider" to the established church of His day- and so were Rich and Yac.  The picture is of Tim Vestal, myself,  Yac, Jerry Hanbery and Ray Luther at the NYCW in Anaheim in 1996.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

April Fools Day, 2000

We began our trip back to the Union Church of Hinsdale from Dungannon on April 1, 2000.  I had spent the week hearing from Chris Kinsella and a few of the other guys about how the adults (especially David Knecht) had pulled a massive April Fools joke on the previous year's trip, and how badly they wanted to get even.  Being male teenagers, their thoughts of a response included lots of violence and perhaps a few nuclear weapons.  I decided to use all of my years of deviousness and pranking (thank you Quaker Lake!) to help them out.  This is the story of what happened...

We were travelling back to Illinois over a two day span, spending the first night at the same church we had stayed in on the trip out.  We decided this would be where our retaliation prank would take place.  All we needed was a time when most everyone was hanging out so there was a possibility for conflict.  We arrived at the church while it was still daylight and after settling in decided to play some wiffle ball in the church yard.  Things could not have worked out better.  Most all of the youth were playing, but I was the only adult in the game.  There were 4 guys- Chris, Mike, Nick and Jim- who were in on the gag.  After we had played for a while, Mike & Chris (who are brothers) began jawing at each other in the outfield, talking trash and starting to yell.  Then they started pushing each other, and the fight turned ugly.  I ran to them and pulled them apart just as they started swinging.  As everyone on the field turned to watch, Mike took a swing at Chris, missed, and hit me.  I went down like I had been shot.  Jim and Nick did their part to raise the panic level and sent someone to get the other adults.  They were screaming "Carl's down!" as they ran to the church.  Mike and Chris continued to tussle.  David and the other adults came sprinting out to where I was still laying on the ground, holding my jaw and writhing in (fake) pain.  They pulled the brothers apart and tended to me.  They were asking the other youth what had happened, and Nick and Jim once again jumped in and painted a grizzly portrait of violence gone wrong.  The other leaders were distraught.  What a terrible way to end a trip.  And then- just as the crowd was dispersing in a very somber mood, I looked up at David.  And as my fellow pranksters gathered around I said, "David- don't be too hard on them.  They were only getting even..."  And at that moment we all yelled "APRIL FOOLS!"  We had completely taken them in.  They were clueless, stunned and speechless.  It was a great moment.

Up until that moment I had felt like I was being seen by my new group as a sort of guest pastor.  They liked what I said, and some of them appreciated my willingness to step up and be a leader.  But I wasn't sure if they had really accepted me until after the fake fight.  Suddenly I was "cool."  I had earned my stripes.  When they designed the t-shirt from the trip the back of the shirt became a listing of things and sayings that had been important to the youth.  It is pictured at the top.  Line 3 says, "A right hook, a left jab, Carl's down- April Fools!"  I was included.  And more importantly, they chose to make the shirt a tribute to serving God.  Perhaps I could make a difference...

I arrived back to Marilyn and 4 year old Will with stories of horror and hope.  This ministry was going to be a challenge unlike anything we had encountered before.  In more ways than I knew.  We will leave stories of UC for a while now and remember some of my favorite moments at the NYWC and New York trips.  Thanksgiving season always makes me think of those two events.  I look forward to sharing those memories with you!

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Campfires & Candles

Alan Brown and I in 1979 @ QLC
There are few things in all the years I spent in student ministry that meant more to me than the many Friday nights I spent around the Campfire Circle at Quaker Lake Camp.  At the end of each week of camp all of the campers and staff would march deep into the woods and take seats around a massive campfire- no matter how hot it was in North Carolina that week.  We would sing a song or two, and Neal Thomas would explain to the campers what a sacred place they were in.  The camp pastor (which was my job at high school camp every summer from 1986-1993, and again in 2006) would offer a devotional thought. And then the group- whether it be a high school camp or a 7 & 8 year old camp- would settle into silence.  Piles of sticks would surround the fire, and anyone who wished to speak could stand up, say what was on their heart, throw a stick in the fire, and sit down.  Sometimes the statements were quick and fluffy- "I liked crafts."  Sometimes they were just to say thanks to the people who had make the week special for the camper who was speaking:  "I love Neal, Martha...OH, and God!"  And sometimes they could be deeply spiritual, revealing the heart of the speaker.  And always there was deep, meaningful silence.  I loved the setting, the silence and the bond of that place.  Just the memories can still make my eyes water...

So what do those memories have to do with Work Tour 2000, Union Church of Hinsdale or Dungannon, VA?  It turned out that the UC Work Tours had developed a tradition of their own over the years called Candle.  On the final night of the trip, the group would gather around a large candle and do many of the same things described above (there were no sticks involved...).  As the time approached for my first experience with this tradition, I heard students and adults talking about how meaningful it was and how every year it was the perfect closing service to their trips.  I was psyched.  We gathered late Friday night, and I tried to set the mood for the evening with a devotional.  Then David Knecht explained what would happen, and we settled into the silence.  For about 1 minute.  And then it seemed that for the next 4 hours (Yes, 4 hours!) someone was talking all the time.  Students stood as many as 10 times each, sharing everything that came into their minds about the trip.  Candle was not a worship service so much as it was a marathon!  That is not to say that the youth were not sharing from their hearts- they were.  It was just that for many of them there was a complete disconnect between their spiritual lives and what had happened that week in Dungannon.  For others it was like they had never considered their spiritual life.  I felt like I was reliving a 9 & 10 year old campfire, with kids running to the stick pile and yelling, "Swimming," throwing a stick in the fire and then returning to their seats- only to remember they had forgotten to thank their counselor and running to the sticks all over again.  Only a few showed any spiritual maturity, and as the night dragged on I found myself praying more and more for guidance, because I was once again realizing just how far this youth ministry had to go.  When it ended, I had everyone form a prayer circle and I prayed for the group and for the people we had served that week.  I just needed to turn it all over to Jesus before we left that Candle...

I'm back tomorrow with the story of an April Fool's joke on the trip home from Dungannon that cemented my place with the youth and left me feeling like there might be a future for me in Hinsdale after all!  See you then!

Because of Jesus,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Homecoming, 2010

My 15 year old son Will went to his first Homecoming Dance this past Saturday night.  He went with a beautiful young lady (I know her name, but I won't use it in this blog to protect her privacy from my thousands hundreds tens of readers.  She doesn't know me at all) and had a marvelous time.  But as I mentioned in my Saturday post (see Saturday Shout Outs!), when the day started things were a bit up in the air.  I thought today I would share a little of his adventure with you.

Will had been telling us all week that they were going out to eat before the dance.  He didn't know who they were going with, where they were going or how they would get there, but they were going. The dance was being held at a student center at the University of South Florida, which is nowhere near his school or our house. So plans needed to be made.  Friday night at the football game they didn't make any plans, so when he got up Saturday morning he began texting friends to see what was going on.  He soon discovered that his date could not go out to dinner- her parents would bring her directly to the dance. So that was that.  Marilyn would take Will to the dance, and it would not be complicated.

Then about 3 PM Will received a text from his date saying she had heard from his friend Chris that Will was going with some people to Kobe, a Japanese Steakhouse.  Will had no idea what she was talking about.  Chris has been known to over-promise and plan things that never happen, so Will called him to see what was actually going on.  Indeed, a group was going to Kobe, and Chris wanted Will to go.  For reasons we still don't really understand, suddenly Will's date was available for dinner.  So plans were finalized.  She would meet Will at Kobe.  They would eat, and then Marilyn (Super Mom!) would pick them up and take them to the dance.  I love it when a plan comes together. 

They went in to Kobe, where Chris and the rest of the group already had a table- with no room for anyone else.  Chris, who had started this entire fiasco, claimed he didn't know that Will and his date were coming.  Eventually it was all sorted out and they all got to sit together.  Marilyn picked them up, drove them to the dance, and then 4 hours later returned to pick them up.   Only Will's date was already gone- her parents had picked her up a few minutes earlier.  He said he had a blast and that they had danced all night (apparently not needing to fake a knee injury as I always did in such situations), along with many of their friends.  And that is the story of Will's first big date.

Why do I share all of this with you today, dear readers?  Simply to remind us all of something that I have never once forgotten, from the time I was a teenager through all of my years working with them.  A truth that never changes.  And here it is:  Being a teenager is HARD!  Even with 25 different ways (everything except actually talking to each other; that seems to be taboo!) to communicate, they can't.  Everything is life or death.  And you never know who you can count on. It may not seem like it is so tough now that we face serious adult issues, but when you are that age nothing seems more difficult.  Never forget that.  I'll see you tomorrow as we head back to Dungannon and Work Tour 2000.

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You Gotta' Have Faith

The following story was shared on Facebook yesterday by my dear friend and former Quaker Lake staff co-worker Susan McBane Tuggle.  I share it again now with her permission.  Susan was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and has been dealing with all of the fears and emotions that come with such news.  She is holding fast to her faith, and as always, God speaks if we are willing to stop and listen...

"Blessings can come unexpectedly. Randy (my husband) and I were just leaving McDonald's and passed the homeless man who almost always sits there, with the same sign as usual. But, this morning, those words caught my heart- Keep Faith. We went back to give him some money, and I told him why we stopped - that I had been diagnosed with cancer and his sign touched me. He asked my name, then took my hand, and prayed for me."

We so often look for God in the amazing and the powerful, when we should have learned long ago (like from the way Jesus came into the world) that God more often speaks through the mundane and the powerless.  I often write here of how Jesus said that the way we treat "the least of these" is how we treat Him.  What I don't mention often enough is that on many occasions we are "the least of these."  Thank you, Susan, for sharing that story and reminding us all to Keep Faith.  And thank you to your homeless friend, who reminds us that when we walk with Christ it is not about how we are doing "under the circumstances."  It is a matter of rising above our circumstances to share the love of Jesus.  To that I simply say AMEN.
Because of Jesus,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Shout Outs!

Welcome to another edition of Shout Outs!  Today is actually a bit of cross between Shout Outs and Random Ramblings, which means I will be shouting and rambling at the same time.  For those of you who are thinking "How is the different?," just be quiet!  Speaking of which, I even give a rare Just Shut Up Award in today's posting, so keep reading.  I am sure I can offend you somehow! 
  • Will Jones (my son) is headed to the Sickles High School homecoming dance tonight.  With a girl.  As of late last night they don't know when or where they are eating, or how they are going to get there and to the dance that follows.  Sounds about right to me...
  • Catie Cook (FUMC-K) announced from Afghanistan (via Facebook) last week that her camp was under mortar fire.  She said it in the same way I might mention that I brushed my teeth this morning.  So calm.  You remain very much in my prayers, Catie.
  • Some of you may remember my post about interviewing at a church in Kentucky only to find that the only youth ministry at the church that mattered was a puppet ministry.  Jennifer Minnigan Kuramochi (FUMC-K) found a t-shirt online that she felt went well with that blog- it's pictured at right.  Thanks, Bob!
  • Laurie Rees (Springfield) has been giving us love via Facebook lately.  We appreciate it, Laurie, and we are looking forward to following your Roller Derby career!  :)
  • Christie Grimminger (Wesley UMC) is asking for prayers as she deals with a family issue.  Even if you don't know Christie, lift her up today.
  • Tomorrow is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  To learn more, read my post from last year by clicking here.
  • Ben Thompson (FUMC-K), also in Afghanistan, wrote that he had been trying to initiate Afghans into the Honeybee Club.  I can't believe that in 445 consecutive days of blogging I had never mentioned the Honeybee Club.  I wonder how many of you are members...
  • Many of you know that I was not a big fan of President George W. Bush.  I lost a lot of respect for him this week when he repeated in a number of places that the worst day of his presidency was when Kanye West ( who I have NO respect for) called him a racist.  I understand that personal attacks hurt, but come on, W.  You were president during 9/11 and Katrina- and THAT was your worst day?  It may be time for you to Just Shut Up!
  • Thanks to Jocelyn Sessions Ward, Cindy Martin, Susan Allen and others who have sent me some of their New York memories for use in upcoming posts.  It's not too late to send yours- either in comments here or by e-mail to Youthguy07@aol.com  Let me know what you remember most about NYC trips!
  • And to all my faithful readers- THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!  We passed the 40,000 hit mark in just over a year, and, thanks to Twitter, are gaining new readers everyday.  I am just amazed at how God continues to bless me through this adventure.
I think I'll stop there for now.  Between now and Thanksgiving you can look for some flashbacks to some of my favorite National Youth Workers Convention moments, and some more New York trip memories- including a brand new slide show!  So keep stopping by- I'm here every day!

Because of Jesus,

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Sawshack Redemption

Greg and Chris were members of the Work Tour 2000 team, but they were not your typical Union Church of Hinsdale youth.  They did not come from great wealth like many of the students did.  Both of them actually seemed more at home in Dungannon, VA than they did in Hinsdale.  They both had a bit of redneck in them.  They were also two of the students who had surprised me so much with the smoking and the swearing on the trip east (see You Have Got To Be Kidding Me). So it came as no surprise to me when they volunteered to work on in the falling down utility shack that was out behind the mobile home we were working in.  They would be doing two major tasks out there- sawing lumber for other projects and cleaning out the shed itself.  The building itself quickly became known as The Sawshack  (Pictured:  not the actual Sawshack, but a smaller version that looks quite a bit like it!).  It would be the site of a lot of hard work- and more than a few adventures.

In the early part of the week much of the team became very frustrated with the Sawshack crew.  It seemed you could never find them when you needed them, and it was taking way too long to get sawing jobs done.  They seemed to be playing with the junk in the shack more than they were cleaning things out.  David had words with the two boys, but nothing seemed to motivate them.  Then one afternoon (I think Tuesday) while we were working on the "great wall" in the trailer, I heard a loud crashing noise, some screaming and some hysterical laughter.  I went running into the living room to find one of the windows smashed to pieces.  No one was hurt (praise God!) but there was glass everywhere.  I looked through the broken window into the back yard, and there stood the boys.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  They had found an old skeet launcher (as used in skeet shooting) in the shack.  And some skeet.  Curious to see if it still worked, they had dragged it out in the yard, loaded a skeet, and pulled.  It worked- and now a window was missing.  And they thought it was hilarious.

I was livid.  A family of 5 was living in that trailer, which now had air conditioning that it did not need.  While others started cleaning up the mess and preparing to go shopping for a window, I took the boys out to the shed where we had a "come to Jesus" meeting.  I explained to them that the money for the window would come out of their pockets.  I impressed upon them the fact that everyone else was trying so hard to be of service to this family, while they seemed intent on making things worse.  I let them know that from that point on I wanted them anchored to the saw; there would be no more smoking breaks (I was certain they had been sneaking off to light up- and I was right) and no more goofing off.  It was time for them to step up and be part of this team.  Most students who have ever been a part of any of my groups will tell you that I don't get angry often, but when I do, it is ugly.  This was one of those times.  They met Hulk Jones very early into our time together...and they didn't like me when I was angry!

For the rest of that trip, Chris & Greg were hard workers, great team members and model citizens.  The Sawshack became a place where work was done quickly and accurately.  Their work ethic and and attitudes changed so much that it became known as The Sawshack Redemption.  The grace that was shown them by the family and the rest of our team made a huge difference, not only on that trip but in their participation in youth activities after we returned to Hinsdale.  Over time, the indoor skeet shooting became legendary and something we could laugh about. Grace does that- it turns our worst actions into things we can live with, because we understand God loves us anyway.

Tomorrow, Saturday Shout Outs return. I hope you all have a blessed and grace-filled weekend!

Because of Jesus,