Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hither and thither...

Wow, what a crazy past few weeks. I have been all over the place, from Camp Shamineau in northern Minnesota, to San Diego California! Wanted to write a few things to help clear my head and to evaluate the YS convention this year.

First things first...great junior high retreat at Shamineau. What made it great had nothing to do with the weekend program, because frankly, it sucked (in terms of a worship/teaching standpoint). But what made it great was the small-group discussions that our junior high boys had (wasn't privy to much of what the girls said, but heard it was good as well). They're smart buggers, I'll give them that :) When there were questions about doctrine or theological correctness, the kids were right on with what they said...surprising, I know! It was great to see that they had a fairly strong foundation laid. Somebody is doing their job right. Most of the small group time was productive and challenging, and the leaders/myself pushed the guys to think a little outside the box on some issues, specifically regarding their own desire for material advancement, IE, give me an iPod or I'll scream!!! We got the kids to admit that they are part of the problem, though they wanted to point the finger and blame their parents for just "giving them" everything...ha ha. Jr-high is amusing.

The National Youth Workers Convention was fantastic this year. Being in San Diego was of course, amazing, though it was hard to be in the midst of a natural disaster and feel so powerless to do anything to help...2 of the youth ministry teams that were down for the conference from northern California had their churches burn down in a matter of minutes. I can't imagine having our pastor call and tell us that the church burned down while we were having a good time at a convention. Definitely puts a dampner on things. Though, I think sometimes that it would be good for our church to burn down so people would start being the church instead of sitting in a building playing church. That's another topic all-together, and I'm sure someone will misquote me on it, ha.

While the seminars and activities were good at YS, the continual theme of the weekend was, "what's the condition of your heart?" Saturday specifically was a day designed for this by was so evident that there is some pride in youth ministry circles and He desires loving, pure hearts.

All in all, a fantastic weekend of renewal and reflection. Oh, and a little fun too :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shamineau, part 1

This weekend, I was up at Camp Shamineau with our junior high kids for a retreat. It was the weirdest youth group retreat I have ever been on in my life, mostly because of the way that God worked in our group throughout the weekend. The kids did not connect with our chapel speaker, who shall remain nameless. I'm not going to get into the specifics, but I was proud of our kids not for their excellent theological saavy (though they are pretty sharp), but for their ability to process some of their feelings of discomfort and frustration openly in a small group setting. This was the medium that God picked to show up the most to our kids, at least in my opinion. Great conversation, authentic transparency, and kids "owning" their own thoughts/opinions/sin, etc. (IE, using "I" language vs. the ubiquitous, colloquial 2nd person plural that doesn't even exist in the English language). Good stuff. I may post more on it later; I'm still processing a lot of the weekend...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Upper Room experience...

Last night, I went with some friends to the Upper Room Community at Christ Presbyterian Church. It was a pretty amazing experience, and one that I shall not be quick to forget, I hope.

THE CHURCH: The church itself was a beautiful expression of worship, and it was nice to be with people primarily my age again (there is a severe shortage of young adults in the church I work for and it's killing me). As soon as I walked in, I felt moderately comfortable and welcomed, though the greeters seemed more inclined to welcome the people they knew vs. the people they didn't (which is natural, I guess). The unfortunate part was that the "congregants" were most homogenous, being caucasion, middle-upper class kids. There were some other minorities there, but I guess that it reflects the community of Edina. The worship time was simple, but powerful. As always, if the people show up to worship, God is worshipped and it's easy for the worship leaders to bring them into God's presence. Sometimes I feel like I'm dragging people into the presence of God when I lead, and that definitely wasn't the case last night. Many "artsy" expressions; lots of media, candles, and a prayer booth borrowed straight from the Catholics. Interesting stuff; I would definitely go back.

THE EXPERIENCE: What made the service so amazing was the opportunity to respond to the sermon speaker (I'm assuming he was one of the pastors) who shared his feelings of frustration with himself this summer on a short-term missions trip to Calcutta, India. As he was working with the lepers there, he felt somewhat revolted by physical contact with them, at times more concerned that he would catch the disease, instead of being concerned with touching, helping, and bringing healing to these ravashed people. The text of the night was Jonah, and the premise being Jonah's negative attitude towards the people of Nineveh because of their wickedness. While he sat in judgment of the people, desiring that God destroy them, the Lord revealed to Jonah that his heart was prideful and his attitude incorrect. Thus, the response of the night for the Upper Room Community, was to go to a place in the city that was our "Nineveh", a place where we could interact with people that made us uncomfortable, just as the Ninevites made Jonah feel uncomfortable.

Being new to the city, I didn't want to go anywhere and get seriously lost, as this just ruins my whole day. So I went with friends to Midtown, Minneapolis, a place specifically known by the police to be an area of prosititution activity. I have never met a prostitute, to be honest. So I was a little hesitant to go, not afraid of meeting a prostitute, but more afraid of talking to someone and getting it construed as solitication, then getting thrown in jail (which would of course just ruin the whole experience, ha). We got to Lake and Chicago street, which is right by the midtown transit center (see above picture). There really wasn't a whole lot going on down there on a Sunday night, but we got out, walked around, and then went through a guided prayer experience prepared by upper room staff.

This was a pretty amazing time for me, as I live in the suburbs and am very sheltered from city life, completely oblivious to some of the things that go on in the city. I didn't feel a specific revulsion for prostitutes, but I did feel uncomfortable being in the city at night, with it's many sounds and sights unfamiliar to me. However, it was an excellent reminder of the mission I have in following Christ, to follow Him to areas like this that are uncomfortable and maybe even revolting to me.

God in Heaven, remind me that I am to follow You, period. Also remind me that though I may carry my cross into "dens of the wicked", I will blend in just fine.