Sunday, February 20, 2011

"If the Phone Doesn't Ring, It's Me"

Part of the Wesley Memorial "family"
I often speak about how the student ministries I served became family over the years, and this is true in every sense of the word.  There are "kids" I have not seen in nearly 20 years who still call on me for prayer, support and advice.  There were people I had not connected with in 30 years, but because of this blog (which has become a place for my various youth groups to come together in one giant family reunion) I know they have fond memories and strong connections to the things we went through together.  When done well, youth groups become families in God's name, and I treasure all of those relationships.

But I need to acknowledge before God and my readers that like with any family, there are struggles.  I was never perfect; I didn't become a sinner because I sinned.  I sinned because, like everyone else, I am a sinner.  There are people out there- former youth and their parents- who because of my public sin would like to forget they were ever a part of my family.  Because of my failings, it has become painful for them to think about our time together.  Even reading this blog and reliving the wonderful times we shared would be difficult.  I understand this and apologize for it.  I hope they will forgive me at some point- partly selfishly, and partly because I hope I taught them that forgiveness is the business of Christians.  Their feelings do not negate the fact that we shared life together with Jesus and we were important to one another.  That is why I continue to share these stories.  But I know that some of their memories of our time together are tainted.  It's kind of like if I wear a blue shirt everyday, and your knowledge of me is that I am a blue shirt guy.  A good guy.  Suddenly, without warning, I show up in a red shirt- a sin stained shirt- and you're stunned and disappointed.  As time goes by, you might forget about all the good days in the blue shirts and focus on the red one. This has happened with some people I love dearly.  They can no longer picture me in a blue shirt.  It's like I wore red the whole time.  With God, because of grace, the red shirt is gone forever.  With people...hopefully time will heal the wounds that I inflicted.

As a result of those feelings that I know exist in my youth ministry family, there are people I have not tried to contact in a very long time.  There are people I miss terribly, but I am waiting on God to give them open hearts and myself the opportunity to reach out to them.  I certainly do not wish to cause them any more pain, so I will continue to wait on them to take the first step.  In the meantime, I miss them and love them.  I yearn to send them an e-mail or give them a call.  But I can't- not yet.  The great poet laureate of Florida, Jimmy Buffet, wrote a song years ago that expresses a great deal of my emotion.  The lyrics are below.  We can't live in the past, but hopefully we can live through it.  If the phone doesn't ring, it's me.  To everyone who was a part of my youth family over the many years- I love you all, and more importantly, so does Jesus.  A the old cliche says, "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future."  Jesus does.  And because of that, we will have a family reunion- some day.  Spread the word.

There are oceans of feelings between us
Currents that take us and sweep us away
That's why we seldom have seen us
In the light of the cold, hard day
Lots of new friends with the same old problems
Open your eyes you might see
If our lives were that simple we'd live in the past
If the phone doesn't ring, it's me

If the phone doesn't ring you'll know that it's me
I'll be out in the eye of the storm
If the phone doesn't ring you  know that I'll be
Where someone can make me feel warm
It's too bad we can't turn and live in the past
If the phone doesn't ring, it's me

I've had good days and bad days and goin' half mad days
I've tried to let go but you're still on my mind
I've lost all the old ways, been searching for new ways
and putting it all on the line
Lots of new friends with the same old answers
Open your eyes you might see
If our lives were that simple we'd live in the past
If the phone doesn't ring, it's me

If it takes all the future, we'll live through the past
If the phone doesn't ring, it's me...

Because of Jesus,


  1. What a nice song to wake up to this morning!Thank you for helping us become such a solid family, people that I can still turn to 15 years later! I love you no matter what color your shirt! ;)

  2. And what a nice comment to find so early in the day! Love you too, Lisa!

  3. Anonymous2/20/2011

    We all have days when we wear the red shirt. We all sin. So thankful for God's grace and your faithfulness even in the storm. -Jeff Elliot

  4. Anonymous2/21/2011

    I'm just glad I know I could call on you anytime, day or night, and you would be there for me. It doesn't matter how long it has beensince we've seen each other. You always have been, always will be. And that is what matters. -KJ

  5. Loved that you were a dad to so many who needed family, Carl. Thanks for your service.

  6. Anonymous2/24/2011

    it angers and makes me very sad that people can not see past the red shirts/sins of others but do
    do not see their sin in the same light. likewise they often hold
    memebers of the Church to a higher
    standard. i hope and pray that
    the others you long for will have Him touch their hearts soon.
    you will always be in blue to me :) from the "old" friend whom you recently confessed to and was forgiven by - as we all are by Jesus!!! love you

  7. Thank you, old friend- both for the supportive words and real life grace you showed to me. I love you too!

  8. Writing this with a prayer that you will be forgiven by those who were hurt by the red shirt; that they might see your heart. And I pray for the hurt in your heart to go away as well as you find your ultimate forgiveness in Christ.

  9. Thank you for your prayer, Shanda. My forgiveness in Christ is secure. I pray that the hurt in their hearts will be healed as well.


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!