What I Do.

I just saw a video that will hopefully make you laugh, but also give you a glimpse into the life of a youth pastor. What a life.
I laughed all the way through this, because I kid you not, 95% of the things in this video have happened to me!

cough cough.

Here’s the deal. My sinus infection causes drainage (one of my newest least favorite words) into my throat. Therefore, my throat is irritated and I end up coughing a lot, trying in vain to expel whatever it is. But I’m now on day 2 of antibiotics. So, the infection should clear up soon, and the throat issue should follow. Here’s hoping.

As a result, I’ve been coughing a lot lately. I’m not trying to make something out of nothing, but if you really consider it, coughing is a pretty amazing thing. Its your body’s independent decision at an intentional attempt to fix a problem. And believe me, its quite involuntary. In fact, I’ve found myself trying NOT to cough, depending on my surroundings…but to no avail. When your body wants to cough, its gonna cough. I’m just sorry for those around me who have to listen to it.
Case in point: I went to the doctor yesterday. When I approached the front door, there was a table set up with a warning sign that clearly said that if you were experiencing any of the following symptoms (like aches, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, coughing, fever, etc.) you had to put on a mask before entering. Since I was in fact displaying a few of those symptoms, I followed orders and put on my mask.

I opened the door and walked in the doctor’s office waiting room only to find that I was the only one wearing a mask. Awkward. I suddenly felt like….I don’t know…..just think of something that makes you feel weird. The Elephant Man, maybe. That’s how I felt. I looked around the room at the eyes looking at me, wondering what they were thinking.

And as I was sitting there waiting, trying to occupy my mind with non-loatheful thoughts, I could feel that little tickle in my throat. Oh no. Not now. Not here. Not in front of these people who already have such disdain for my presence in their otherwise healthy air space. And out it came, a loud and boisterous cough. I covered my mouth, though now that I think about it, that was quite redundant, given my not-so-fashionable facewear.

Thankfully it wasn’t long before my name was called and I headed into the inner sanctum—where the magic happens. Halfway through my visit with the doctor, she told me that I could take my mask off; I indeed didn’t have the flu. While it wasn’t a surprise, it was a nice affirmation. She handed me my prescription and out I went, back toward the waiting room. But not before putting my mask back on. I’m not sure why I put it back on. I guess I’m just a nice guy who doesn’t want to make people think they’re breathing the same air as the Elephant Man.

Don’t think I don’t know.

Technology is an amazing thing. While I think it has irreparably damaged us as a people, it also has done so much good, if not interesting things. For example you’re reading this on a screen. For another example, it has brought people from my past back into reach. And for those who knew me then and see me now, I’d suspect that there’s quite a chasm between what might seem like 2 different people. Me then, and me now.

And for that reason, I want to assure you that I know precisely who and what I am.

From my perspective, I am a scoundrel attaining to holiness, driven by a love for Jesus.
From God’s perspective, I’m clothed in holiness; clothes which I soil by the mess of the mistakes I make each day. I am fully forgiven and that forgiveness does not give me license for more mistakes, but only drives me more toward a life that pleases God.

It sounds crazy, and maybe makes no sense. But I let go of things making sense a long time ago. But when you love and serve a God who would do such a nonsensical thing as allow His blameless Son to take your death for you….well, things making sense to us doesn’t rank too high on the scale of things that God is overly concerned with.

Yep, I know exactly who I am.
I humbly confess that I’m as screwed up as anyone else.
I boldly confess that left to my own devices, only completely selfish living would be the result.
And I fully take advantage of the offer God gives: forgiveness–full and free and eternal.
NOT because I deserve it, but because to Him,
somehow I’m worth it.

Don’t think I don’t know how crazy that sounds.
Don’t think I don’t know how crazy that is.

Todd Bienke

My favorite teacher growing up was
Mr. Deane (pronounced “dee-ah-nee”), bar none.

Oh, I had several wonderful and even inspirational teachers through the years, but for so many reasons, Mr. Deane stands head and shoulders above the rest. It was in his class that I learned so much about life, while having no clue as to the true power of what he was teaching. He was the warmest, kindest, sincerest teacher I ever had and while I was not a stellar student, he made me believe that my potential was uncontainable. I will always love Mr. Deane and he’ll always hold a very special place in my heart.

It was in Mr. Deane’s 6th grade class (6th grade was still elementary school in our district) that I began to really notice girls. Let me restate that: one girl. But alas, she never saw me. We went through the entire school year in the same room and I still don’t think she looked at me once.

6th grade was also the year that I ran for Vice President of Student Council. I don’t want to talk about that or how my campaign speech in front of the whole student body went when I almost fell off the stage. So drop it.

6th grade was also the year I learned what a cool walk was. Jason DeFalco showed everyone the walk all day everyday. I still haven’t mastered it.

6th grade was also the year that I played for the Lakers basketball team in the school league. We were the champions that season. Impressed? Don’t be. I never touched the ball once. But I wasn’t the only one inept at basketball. John Magill wore cleats to a game. Cleats. How did we end up as champions? Two words: Matt Magaffney. He was an NBA star trapped in a 6th grade kid’s body. He carried the rest of us, and our cleats.

And I’m pretty sure 6th grade was also the year I threw up during one of our concert band performances.

But there’s one lesson I learned that year that dims all those other stories. Mr. Deane had created a system of penalties and rewards where the “Deane Dollar” was the currency. If you missed your homework, you got a fine put up on the fine board, a bulletin board at the side of his classroom. If you wanted to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water, that’d cost you a Deane Dollar. If you got above a certain score on a test, you’d be rewarded with Deane Dollars. If you turned in your homework, more Deane Dollars. If your homework was done sloppily, that’d cost you Deane Dollars. You get the idea.

But the powerful life lesson that I learned within those 4 walls was one of redemption and forgiveness. I truly believe that it would ultimately help me see how beautiful the grace of God really is.

Enter Todd Bienke (pronounced “bin-kee”). Todd Bienke was a really good friend of mine in 6th grade. Maybe even my best friend that year, whether he knew it or not.

Being the mediocre student that I was, I often found myself with outstanding fines on the fine board in Mr. Deane’s class. And outstanding fines meant one thing: no recess at the end of the day. Yep, anyone with an unpaid fine when it came time to go outside and play was sentenced to time in Mrs. Rattwiler’s room. I’m not kidding. Her name was Rattwiler. A more horrid punishment you could not imagine. So, while the class was outside playing, those with unpaid fines would sit in Rattwiler’s room.

But Todd Bienke was my friend. Not only that, but Todd Bienke was a much better student than I was. And it seemed that Todd Bienke always had Deane Dollars to spare.

You can see it coming, can’t you?

So, when recess time came, I vividly recall more times than I can remember Todd Bienke walking over to that fine board, pulling the fine with my name on it off the board, placing his own Deane Dollars over it, and handing it to Mr. Deane. I almost get teary-eyed just thinking about it. I meant enough to Todd Bienke for him to spend his own Deane Dollars to pay for my recess.

You mean enough to God our Creator for Him to spend the blood of His one and only Son to pay for your freedom. On the cross, Jesus walked over to your fine board, took down all of your offenses, covered them with his blood, and handed them to the Father.

Now, enjoy recess!

A central verse for me.

Just this morning I logged onto my Facebook page and found that one of the high school students in my small group, Rachel was asking people to share a Scripture verse that was meaningful to them. Some have used the phrase “life verse” to describe that kind of Bible verse. One verse in particular sprang right to mind.

For many years now, you might say that I have had my own “life verse”; a verse that I hold dear as a centerpiece, a recentering verse, and an aspiration to reach for. That verse has been Philippians 1:21.

But a couple of months ago, I was reading in the book of Galatians and came across a verse that has since then replaced the Phillipians verse. It sums up the entirety of my life; all my goals, all my dreams, all my aspirations…it’s all I want to be and do. It’s found in Galatians 1:24.

“and they praised God because of me.”

Every day of my life is found in the two words “because of”. It doesn’t matter to me who “they” happen to be, I simply want every person who sees me or knows me to give praise to God “because of” something they see in me. I want my life to cause my wife to praise God. I want my life to cause my kids to praise God. I want my life to cause the teenagers I love and serve to praise God. I want my life to cause anyone who cares to notice to praise God.

And this not some ego-driven goal. This is so much not about me or my life. I only want every breath I breathe to be so drenched in God’s presence that any person who speaks to me or hears me or interacts with me at all knows that I have surrendered my life to God. And let me be quick to echo the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12 when he said, “Believe me, I know I haven’t arrived, nor have I become perfect; but one thing I do: I press on to what is ahead so that I can lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of me.”

The sinus saga continues…

I don’t mean to be overly dramatic. I really don’t.
And I don’t consider myself as someone who complains…and I’m not.
I’m a “roll with the punches” kind of guy.
I’m a “ya take the good, ya take the bad, ya take ’em both, and there you have…” kind of guy.

BUT…
I’m in day 10 (maybe 11) of a sinus situation that has honestly–don’t laugh–made me think more than once about Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”

Now before you think that I think that I’m some Apostle Paul, let me confess to you that I’m not. I can just relate to the idea of something bugging you to remind you of your humanness and complete reliance on God. And we’re never really told what the issue with Paul was. Some have suspected it was perhaps a case of the gout; a foot issue. Some have seemed to figure out that it was a problem with his eyes/sight. But no matter what it was, it was something that he sought the Lord’s help with. The next verse (8) tells us that Paul pleaded with the Lord 3 times (truth be told, I’ve only asked God to help with my sinuses once so far) to remove the “thorn” from him. God’s answer to Paul is a statement that has echoed through the ages, bringing strength, hope, and stability to the bleakest of situations–of which mine is not. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

DID YOU HEAR THAT?!?
DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS?!?
HAVE YOU ANY CLUE WHAT KIND OF RELIEF THIS BRINGS?!?

Losers, rejoice! All you “not-quite-good-enoughs” stand and shout praise! Any of you “ain’t-got-it-in-me”, bless the Lord! For the throngs of all you wimps getting sand kicked in your face–give glory to God!

GOD IS FOR THE WEAK!
GOD IS FOR THE SICK!
GOD IS FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T ENOUGH.
GOD IS FOR THOSE WHO KNOW THEY FALL WAY TOO SHORT.
GOD IS FOR LOSERS.
GOD IS FOR REJECTS.
GOD IS FOR ME!
GOD IS FOR YOU!!!


When we embrace our shortcomings, our weaknesses, and our failures, and we come to God plainly and boldly with our pile of insufficiencies, God in His grace and power says to us, “You’re never going to be enough….but I’m always more than enough.” He kisses you on the forehead and says, “I see your weakness….now see my strength!” His arms embrace you and He whispers, “Let me show you all I can do in light of all you can’t.”

But we must come honestly. We must come plainly. We must come transparently to Him with all we are and all we’re not. And we say to God, “Here’s my pathetic underqualification.” And in His might, triggered by our confession He says, “Watch me do what you could never hope to. Watch me work in ways you can’t imagine. Watch my power fill you so full that you find that the weaker you become, the stronger I become.”

So, I glory in all my weaknesses today. Because my bold confession of my shortfalls is my invitation to God to be great and mighty in my life. And in one fell swoop, I am relieved of being good enough, strong enough, smart enough, or anything enough. All because HE is more than enough.

And Paul wraps up this section in a celebration of sorts–a wonderful declaration:
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It might sound silly to you, but after 10 days of poor sleep, difficulty breathing, countless tissues, hundreds of pumps from the hand sanitizer, and a myriad of medications, I can rejoice in weakness. I can rejoice in less than 100%. I can say to God, “I can’t do it today.” And with loving eyes He says, “Good.”

Oh, something’s burning alright…

Just heard about a church in NC (my apologies to my home state and all the other not-so-whacked-out churches that pepper its beautiful landscape) that is planning on a good ‘ol fashioned book burning. Actually, the only people who might connect nostaligically with this are Hitler and any Nazis that are left.

Take a look at the pastor’s plan:

Yikes. Now, I know that I don’t know all there is to know–but I’m pretty sure burning all Bibles except the KJV is pretty radical. And when I say radical what I really mean is, well…insane. And wrong. And insane. And to throw in the flames books by Warren, MacArthur, and Graham?

My take on it? Publicity. Pure and simple.
And by golly, snap my overalls, he got his publicity!
Good job, pastor!

My plan is to give good ‘ol Pastor Matchlight a call when its all said and done to see if he got any visitors from the event—
—or did he burn them too?