Monday, July 27, 2009

The Mission Trip Continues

Although we had a few students write what happened on the trip, obviously I could not get everyone on my laptop. For more stories visit our discussion board at to learn more and hear more stories from the students.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Toronto Days 6 & 7 (Friday & Saturday)

Sorry there was no blog last night, we didn't have Internet.

But it was a great day. We were up at 6:00 (ugh) and on the road by around 8:30 after cleaning up the work-site, saying good-bye, etc. Then it was off to Kincardine.

And what a great day. It rained off and on all the way there, then sunshine! We had a few good hours on the beach, people jumped off the pier, played watermelon football, and a few people got a nice little tan. Nice and relaxing. And I ran into people from town I hadn't seen in forever (we found one by Kayla & Kristen playing with their kids).

Then we went back to the churches, had dinner, and decompressed. It was nice to have a fun day and then finish it off talking about the trip after having a few hours to think about it.

Today we slept in (yes!) and were on the road around 11:30. We made it through the border faster than I could have ever expected! We didn't even get out of our vehicles!! He did it all at his kiosk, we all met at the Rest Area a 1/2 mile away, and we were on our way home. No problems, no anything. We even got home an hour early.

So thanks to everyone who came. I hope you all enjoyed reading about it. Hopefully the students will be telling more of their stories on the discussion board at so check it out there.

Until my next thought (it may be a while, the brain is a little fried).


Friday, July 24, 2009

Toronto Day 5 (Thursday)

Today was a little bitter sweet. It was the last day which means we have lots of fun, but it also means that we have to say good-bye. For our group, we had a massive water fight, and I don’t mean a little one. We were all soaked, extremely soaked. We did it because it was raining. So we were cold and wet, playing in water. But we had so much fun and had a good time with the kids. We’re really going to miss them.

I finally had a day off this afternoon, between showers and writing happy fun notes, I really haven’t spent a lot of time just hanging out. Today is why I do them early, so I can have time at the end of the week just hanging out. It was lots of fun.

For the evening activity, it was about to rain again, so we went out to the park behind us, took pictures, played football, played group rock, paper, scissors (ask about the group hug), lots of fun. After, Shawn and I beat people in Euchre.

Then we had our last group time which involves the foot-washing ceremony that is a tradition every year at Youthworks. And once again it was great. Our guys and gals, for some unknown reason, they just know how to pray, they know how to be still, they love each other and have no problem running up to each other and hugging and praying and crying with each other. At midnight the Youthworks leaders finally asked if we could go to sleep, not that they wanted us to stop praying, but they wanted to make sure everyone gets up at 6:30 tomorrow (Bah!).

So that is why there are no students blogging tonight and why there are no pictures and why this is so late. It’s almost 1:00, everyone’s finally in bed, and I have no problem with that. They have had a great week of serving, the staff here keep saying thank-you to them for all they’ve done, they’ve prayed with each other. Tomorrow we are off to have a day of relaxing and fun which they have more than deserved. Hope to get you some news about it then. See you in two days!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Toronto Day 4 (Wednesday)

A realization set in today, we are half-done our trip. Today was our third day out or four of working. For my group, it was almost like we’re getting in a groove. We managed to get to our site by ourselves (which somehow happened to include a trip to Tim Horton’s, shocker). We also managed to get back by ourselves and also shower, what a great day!

At the site things were flowing well. We’ve really gotten to know a lot of the kids and they have gotten to know us. I really didn’t need to do much (usually I hung out with the older kids, today they were actually doing the craft without nudging, I got to work on our “Happy Fun Notes” or encouragement notes). Our students did a great job with the kids, more people getting into leading the songs, Bobby and Helen having fun with the Memory Verse, our drama, Shawn leading, it just really went well. But at the same time, it’s become a little bitter-sweet.

Tomorrow’s the last day. The last time we get to be with them for just a few hours. It’s amazing how you manage to care for and love these strangers in so short a time.

This afternoon, we had some free time for the first time (or so it seems). I took some of my crew walking (I needed to go the bank) and managed to share some of our Canadian products with them. They really love mint Aero bars for some reason…

Tonight we went to Chinatown. A lot of people went out and bought trinkets, me and some of the boys went for some real Chinese food. Nice greasy duck and rice (with some chicken). It was fun. We almost didn’t have enough time to get back, and although it wasn’t a lot of the “experience” of Chinatown, I just love hanging with the guys, just talking with our students (and girls too, they just weren’t there at the time).

After we had a little bit of ice cream and someone had cake (Happy Birthday Rebecca) and we talked about power and how Jesus chose not to use the power He could have but instead chose to hang on a cross so we could have the chance to know Him. How He chose to submit His power and ask us to do the same (like Peter being asked not to use his sword to defend Him, those who live by the sword die by the sword), how we have hope because when Jesus laid down His power a greater power was able to be given through the resurrection, but it started with giving up some power first, as we should do. Afterwards we broke into group time where we basically just talked. Heard about who was where, stories of the day, and talked about what we hope to get out of our last day.

I think tomorrow will be hard being the last day, but instead of guessing about tomorrow, some of our students would like to tell you about their trip so far.

Nikki J. ~ I think that this week God has been working in mysterious ways with every single person on this trip. Group four went to St. Jude’s academy for the arts which was a school for adults who are mentally and physically disabled. Many of these people the past couple of days have been showing many of us how powerful God really can be. All of these people are so powerfully “all in” for God, that it just blows my mind. Tomorrow is our last day and I hope that I, as well as the rest of the people in my crew, can be helped as much by these people as I have been the past couple of days. I truly believe that they have taught me more than I have helped them this week. God bless the students at St. Jude’s.

Eric O. ~ Never blogged before bear with me, Ok well for the past few days I have been working at St. Francis Table, a restaurant for the poor where they pay a dollar and get a full meal. There are 3 guys that run this place, Brother John, a Franciscan Priest, and the two cooks Sam and Dominic. It has been up and running since 1987 and it just me today, they had told us before, but in the past 20 years they have served over 950,000 poor/homeless people meals in Toronto. The reality of that number hit me today when I realized that 950,000 equals the number of people living in Marion County.!!!!!!!!!!! Wow it just really amazed me. Looking forward to our last day tomorrow. God Bless

Jordan H. ~ I dunno if you read Eric’s post, but I am also new to the blog. So yeah, for the past 3 days I have been working with team 5 with the Nazarene Church program called Refresh. The whole goal of the program is to repaint houses in the low income section in order to give tenents a little better self-image. We have spent a lot of time cleaning up after other groups which has been a little discouraging just because we haven’t completely finished a house yet. Today, though, we actually had the chance to do it right. It was amazing to see, because everyone in our group was at the point where we would have given up showering in order to finish the house. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, but we did get it done. It really has been amazing to see God at work in these people. And Kendall is trying to trade me a Canadian 10 for two 5’s and can’t find his wallet… And Tim Hortons may well be the best thing ever, and there is an image of people playing hockey on the 5 dollar bill…. Last day tomorrow, and I hope we can all make it count. God bless.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Toronto Day 3 (Tuesday)

Today is my… most waited for day of the trip. I won’t say best, because it’s not all good. I’ll get there… (sorry there’s no pictures today, I didn’t have time, again that will be explained).

We started out going back to our Kids Club for the day. The picnic lunch was good, but more importantly it’s amazing how a day makes a difference. Knowing some of the kids’ names and spending time with them yesterday, they were more fun, they were more open, and there were more of them. I even recognized a few parents. It was great. They were into it and today for the first day the pastor’s wife had the chance to see what Youthworks and groups like us were doing with the kids in their church. Can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.

But the part I was waiting for was the city walk. It was different this time than the last time I was here but followed almost the same route. Basically we walked a tour of Toronto, the good, the bad and the ugly, all within about six blocks. The dynamics change that quickly. Eaton Center, a huge mall is one block from the local youth shelter where drug dealers hang out to catch teenagers as they get into Toronto. Ryerson University is across the street from a prostitution hangout affectionately known as “Hooker Harvey’s” (it’s a Harvey’s restaurant).

For me it’s always hard because I want to fix it (those that know my aren’t surprised by that part of my personality). It hurts to think there are people living with such problems and pain and they are literally less than a stone’s throw away from people spending thousands and thousands of dollars every hour, throwing away their uneaten food while across the street people are hungry. It just isn’t right. And it hurts me. And I know on some level it will never be fixed, Jesus even said we will always have the poor with us, but some of these people don’t even try to look to the church for help because those wonderful followers of Jesus have burned them so bad. I just keep feeling we should be so much better… I should be so much better…
After the walk we went straight into our time as a church, allowing us to talk and ask the questions and think, and you could tell for some, it really is hard. The easy answers are thrown out right away by the questions of others, which really gives me more hope because it makes me think the church has a chance to grow and think and do more than the easy answer that seemed good five seconds after the problem was looked at. Our guys and girls are really handling the things they see and processing them well.

Don’t take my word for it, here’s some more of them.

Zak B. ~ Well my crew was a little different from the rest, today was the first day at our site. A little background, this is my sixth trip, and this mission site is the coolest I have ever worked at. It’s called St. Frances’ Table, led by this cool Franciscan monk (I think) who really likes U2. This place is like a cross between a restaurant and a soup kitchen, the folks who come to eat pay a dollar to have us serve them some very good food, and it is just really cool. Not to mention the cook is almost as laid back as I am…. (“You work too hard, go take a break” are good words…)

Ginny H. ~ Today crew# 1 went to hope shelter. Mahoney, a man with a thick accent and kind eyes, set us cleaning up the shelter halls and windows very mildly. “it’s your vacation—don’t work too hard!”,he said. : ) Jeremy and Daniel cleaned windows, and Jacob, Liz, Kari, Kristina and I cleaned the halls and walls, and kitchen. The shelter was for men by the way, and it wasn’t as pretty as the women’s shelter. Did you know about that difference? The women’s shelter had flowers… the guys didn’t have a lot of pretty things. But they could hang out, play cards and watch tv. Being with people who treat you as people seems like the best thing… PS, God was majorly at both shelters… programs, and love .

Shawn M. ~ There really is way too much to discuss when talking about today. Of course I could talk about my kid’s club group Humber Blvd. Baptist Church and how we realy did have a blast solving puzzles, playing games, and following Troy’s lead jumping up and down and yelling songs (let me tell you he has got some mad crazy dance moves…). I could talk about the great interaction going on between all three churches here, the way that we’re truly congregating together become one whole with one focus, forgetting all past differences and fully embracing one another. I could talk about our long walk afterwards through the streets of Toronto, going from City Hall to the Eden Centre and finding, not more than one block away, crowds of people experiencing homelessness, churches with gates wrapped around them, and discarded syringes littering the sewers, being guided through this by a man who had been there for over a decade and knew first hand the pain and bitterness of a homeless man looking down the street and seeing those too wealthy to even know what to do with all they have. I could talk about the discussion our own FUMC youth group had afterwards, how everyone was waiting to jump in on the subject, on the possible “solution” to the hodgepodge of problems assaulting the city. Or…I could talk about how I sit here after the discussion disquieted, still unfulfilled. There’s so much we can do as Christians, especially us located in the wealthiest county in America, and yet there’s so much not being done. The pain is frustrating, it’s unbearable, to sit here and see the decadence of the life being led by thousands and know that, alone, I can do nothing. But still I have to have faith in it, I have to know that eventually it all will be solved, and I have to stay strong when I go out tomorrow and make sure that I do everything I can to act as Jesus would have me act, so I can prevent this terrible future from befalling those children that I will interact with tomorrow.
Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Toronto Day 2 (Monday)

Sorry yesterday was a little late, my internet has been spotty…

An early day (well, every day seems earlier). Breakfast was great for me, I got to eat Shreddies for the first time in years!

Today was a shock for me. We all went to our worksites today. Groups went to homeless shelters, Salvation Army, some worked with mentally handicapped people and of course Kids Clubs (summer long VBS). I got a little bit of a shock, I ended up (totally by accident) at the same church I was at 5 years ago when we were here last (Taylor, you remember Bob, the crazy old guy? He’s still here!). For us, it was great. Luke, our Youthworks leader, told us it was the best Monday he’d had all summer (Monday’s are hard, the kids test the new leaders). Other than getting a little lost looking for where we showered, today was great!

For our evening activity we went to Lake Ontario and hung out on the beach. We didn’t swim, Lake O’s a wee bit too dirty for that (although some people were, and I felt dirty just watching them). But it was fun, people played the largest game of Ultimate Frisbee they’ve managed to scrounge up this summer. And I think Jeremy won the rock skipping contest.

After that we made our way back to our home base, had milk (in bags) and cookies. That was followed by “Mad Props” and “Yay God’s” (praise for people doing good things and praise to God for doing good things), followed by some time together talking about outside influences on what we think of ourselves/how we act and how that relates to what Jesus said at the Sermon on the Mount regarding those who are blessed (The Beatitudes), plus some time with just our church group talking about the day’s events, how we felt, how we perceived people before we worked with them and after.

But that’s enough from me, what did other people think of today?

Andy P. ~ I worked at St. Jude’s Academy today working with mentally and physically challenged adults. And I saw an almost overwhelming amount of God in the adults that I worked with, because they had less worries and less on their minds, their minds seemed an example of purity and holiness. They were laughing and singing, and when Zak and James and I got up to lead worship on our guitars, the adults didn’t know the songs, yet they were laughing, and singing, and dancing as one would thing possible. I never thought Id see as much God in a place like this.

Natalie H. ~ Today I worked at the Moss Park Kid’s Club. My group worked with about 8 to 10 different kids, all from about 7 or 8 to 15 or older. When we arrived at the site, we weren’t sure how things were going to go, because no one had worked at that site before, so we didn’t have a report to have expectations from. We were a little bit separated from the other kids at the beginning, just because of their opinions of church-goers and Christians in general. But, as we played sports and games and just spent time with the kids and their leaders, we began to break the barriers between the two groups. By the end of the day, we were all acting like best friends. I felt like I had been with these kids for a long time, and I was having so much fun with them. It was a true blessing to hear at prayer time later, that the smallest girl there (who barely talked, even when she was confronted) spoke up to say that she was thankful for our group; that we were able to come and get to know them. We were so touched by this group of kids, and I saw God just opening their hearts and minds to why we were there.

Bobby H. ~ Alright, it’s kind of hard to start. Well, you were at the same YouthWorks Kids Club as me, Troy. As you may have noticed, it was a little bit of a slow start to actually get the kids involved. That was quickly remedied as we jumped into games and other activities, however. I believe that God was working His magic today in the fact that none of the kids were problematic in the least, in spite of rumors/facts spread about past occurrences (no fights, the first day was smooth for the first-time group leaders). All of the kids were engaged in the activities going on. If the kids did become disinterested, they quickly rebounded in finding other things to do. The fact that everything went so perfectly was His doing. I feel like I actually became friends with all of the kids I played with; it was as though they appreciated the fact that everyone there to spend time with them. The part of the day that touched me the most dealt with a little boy named Kaleb. He apparently was one of the children who had had problems with family and fighting in past occurrences. It made me so happy that he got along with all of the kids so well, as if he still retained all of the child-like qualities that could be lost in various sorts of strife. His brother dropped him off at Kid’s Club and ran off somewhere, even though he was at an ideal age to be involved with the whole Kid’s Club jazz. When Kaleb’s brother picked him up, Kaleb explained how much fun he had to his older brother. From this, the older brother informed me that he would be attending tomorrow as well! This was the most obvious workings of God for me for the day.
Taegan E. ~ I am working with a group of churches. They have started a program called Refresh they paint the interior of houses in a community of low income families that can’t afford the paint. Pastor Bill is the man in charge when we first got there after a very long car ride he gave us the background behind the program. Two years earlier there were three people having combined birthday parties. It was one of those parties where the music is blasting and attracts more people then was invited. There was an 11 year old boy who was at his cousin’s party. Two rival gangs showed up at the party there were shots fired the little boy was shot and killed. Pastor Bill went to open the church the next day and saw all the police and yellow tape he went over and asked what happen and that is the story he got. At the end of his sermon that day the congregation went out and prayed across the street the neighbor hood came a joined in. this was right in front of our sight. They started this program so that this wouldn’t happen again. We don’t just go in and paint the family is there to help us and they talk with us. It is a lot of fun and is a great program. We were cleaning up the mess that another group made. Like paint on the ceiling and on the light switches we ended up redoing the bathroom because it was done so poorly. But we were happy to be there our morning started off rough. We were being led to our site by a staff member and we got lost we were almost two hours late to our site. We finally got to the church and they told us that we had to go some place else. We got there no one was there after walking around and parking three times we found Pastor Bill. We got our supplies which included a jug of paint that weighed about 25 lbs. Matt and my other leader Randy passed off carrying it Jordan helped too. We went a few blocks until we got to the house we were going to paint. To make a long story short the mother wasn’t home and they didn’t want to let us in. We eventually got permission to enter the house and we started making the house look better. Unfortunately we didn’t finish but we did leave the house looking better than when we got there. But I think that crew #5( Matt S., Randy, Christian, Taegan E. , Kate T., Jordan H., Landon K. and Emily W.) all saw God in what we were doing after we heard Pastor Bills story. We all worked hard because we see God in the idea of the program.

Toronto Day 1 (Sunday)

Well, we made it. After leaving on time(!) we managed to get out of Fishers and all the way to Canada with no problems. Even at the border, we made it quick. The look on the immigration officers face was priceless when she had interviewed two people and realized she had 47 more to go. She literally yelled out, “Everyone hold out your papers” and went through everyone in 30 seconds, “Good, good, good, good…” all the way down the line. I hope going back to America is that easy!

Because of that we managed to be ahead of schedule, meaning we took a long lunch at White Oaks Mall in London (which meant I got to see my sister and her family, yay). It also meant I got to eat poutine for lunch (also yay).

Toronto was a little bit of a chore because our wonderful Rand McNally directions had us on Shore Road Boulevard for 1.6 miles, which was really more like 16 miles. The good part is everyone got to see a nice piece of Toronto, CNE, Skydome (Rogers Field), CN Tower, Air Canada Center, Ontario Place, etc. But then in a few short blocks the lovely painted condos turned into a more run-down area.

Everyone is settled and about to head to bed. We had Club earlier (our mini church service) where we talked about Freedom, and how we generally view freedom as our own personal ability to do what we want, not the idea in Galatians 5 where Paul talks about us being free not for ourselves but to use that freedom to help others.

We’re heading to bed, hearing about proper conduct and appropriate behavior before bed (there is no better bedtime story). Hope to be back filling you in with more tomorrow.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Do What God Made You To Do

Today I was reading the story of a couple that lived a few years ago (it was actually about the son, but let's focus on the parents for now). True story, the son wrote it as an introduction to his book.

Anyway, his parents met while they were studying at Yale. Obviously smart cookies. Were married and worked for the government in communication with the first lady quite often. Smart and in a power position. But things weren't quite what they thought they would be so they made a change.

They became farmers, and part-time drama teachers at an all girl's school near-by.

I love that! Not because of what they did necessarily, but because it is in direct contrast to what society would say is good. Can you imagine they conversation they would have had with their parents? "Thanks for sending us to Yale, but this incredibly hard, intelligent, and well-paying government job, it's just not for us. So we're going to be farmers. Come visit and you can have some beets on the house."

It just doesn't make sense in our society. We go after money, fame or power (or any combination of the three). But if you were created by God to be an artist, teaching biology will kill your soul no matter how much you're paid. I'm lucky enough that I love what I do (there are days, but all in all, it's great) and this week I get to go be with 50 people serving God in ways that will stretch them like never before. And I get to be a part of that! Thank you God for making me :)

And now to get ready for Toronto. I'm planning on blogging each day (but it really depends on Internet access...)


Monday, July 13, 2009

Can't Take It Back

I was reading Nicole's blog on the staff blogs of our church ( and she talked a little about how we can't get time back. How even when set-backs happen, we can choose to be angry about it or we can choose to make the best of it.

I don't know, this one is a tough one for me. She is 100% right, but man, I love to dwell on the past. She made me think about how I need to let things go and make the best of it. Even today, I was thinking about something I preached a long time ago (at least 6 months) and I was thinking of what I should have said. Really? Six months ago? A little past due there Richards.

So help me, but do it with me. Let things in the past go. It doesn't change anything to think about what should have/could have/would have happened. All we can do is move forward.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Does Your TV Say About You?

Growing up, my father loved to watch a certain television show. It was a great show, made by a great man. This guy was an inspiration to many, my dad and myself included. And what's funny is what this guy thought about his medium...

"Television is teaching you whether you want it or not." ~ Jim Henson

It's a good lesson. Television teaches us what is really important to us, what we really want. Kind of like how Oprah felt when she talked about how people told her they wanted programming with more substance to it, but at the same time Jerry Springer was beating her in the ratings.

The simple fact is what people say they want and what they really want are usually two different things. And television helps us see that. We say we don't want swearing, violence or sex on TV, but what sells best?

So what are you watching? And what does it say about how you really feel about what you want...?


Where Is The Church 2000 Years Later?

Today I was reading a parable Jesus told. Now, it's a little different than most. Jesus was nice enough to tell His disciples what a lot of the parables meant. But this one He kept the meaning to Himself.

Matthew 13:31-32 ~ Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

So, since it was not explained by Jesus, I read a few commentaries about the meaning (I know, I'm a fun guy on a Saturday night, Lorie was working...). They all talked about how the seed represents the Christian movement. It started small, a few guys following Jesus in an area in the middle of nowhere, then over time it has grown and become huge, a world-wide faith with billions of followers.

But then the commentaries started to differ. Some believe the section about the birds nesting in the branches are signs of a good healthy church. The birds come in, they can find shelter, they can find food, they can grow and raise their young. Like we want the church to be today. Other commentaries show the birds in a different light. In other parables birds were a sign of satan (like the parable of the seeds, the birds eating the seed represents satan stealing people away). Those commentaries said Jesus was saying what would start as a small movement would become huge, but so big and tangled that satan would find his way in and nest there and cause the church to lose focus.

Two very different ideas. No one knows the right answer. So I came up with one. I figured I would just look at our church today, the one that started as a seed but is now full-grown, 2000 years old, and by looking at it now I can tell which way Jesus meant for the parable to go. And you know what I came up with?

I really don't know.

I mean, on one hand, tomorrow there are going to millions of churches with people in them worshipping God. Because the church has grown we are able to reach so many people and educate them in God's love, give them opportunities to serve. But at the same time, what have we done with our responsibilities? How much time do we spend going out rather than focusing in? How much money do we spend on our million dollar children's wings, all the while if every church in America (just the US) chipped in a little under $50,000 (the bigger churches would give more, the smaller ones less, it could work out) there would be no world hunger, world thirst, etc. As we've gotten bigger has our priorities gotten out of whack, how we spend our time and money followed what we should be doing?

It saddens me, being a part of the church and not knowing the answer to that. But I know I want to do my best to make sure we are the church Christ wants us to be...


Friday, July 10, 2009

Hard Work

Today I was reading the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den. Popular story, heard it since I was five, yada yada yada.

Anyway, today I was reading it and noticed something at the beginning I don't remember from before. Daniel was about to be promoted and the other guys in line for the promotion wanted him dead. I knew that, but why dead? You can read it at the start of Daniel 6. Daniel was going to get the promotion not because he was the king's favorite, but because...

Daniel 6:3 ~ Daniel showed that he could do the work better than the other supervisors and governors, so the king planned to put Daniel in charge of the whole kingdom.

All Daniel did was work hard. And the guys that didn't work hard didn't get the promotion. But instead of working harder to try and get the promotion, they immediately go to "let's kill the guy."

I don't know what it is, but I've noticed that we've lost a lot of our work ethic. The old stories of America's history are full of people doing the hard things, building houses with their own two hands, working the ground, building cities, working to create something of value. And now, it seems to me that there are a lot of people who think they are entitled to their jobs. They don't work hard at it, they just kinda do it, but they feel they shouldn't be fired because they deserve that job. Since when do we deserve something we don't work hard at?

Don't be scared of hard work. Do your best. It's the way God intended it to be.

Proverbs 20:13 ~ If you love sleep, you will end in poverty. Stay awake, work hard, and there will be plenty to eat! (LB)

Proverbs 13:4 ~ Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper. (NLT)


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Are You Shutting People Out?

This morning I rad the story of the paralyzed man that was lowered through the roof. If you don't know the story (Mark 2), Jesus is staying at this house, people find out He's there and crowd in to hear His teaching (He can't even get a day off). Then this guy who is paralyzed is brought by his four friends to let Jesus heal him. They can't get in so they cut a hole in the roof and lower the guy down in front of Jesus. Jesus heals him, they leave happy, it's all good.

I've heard that story so many times growing up. It's always the same, the faith of the paralyzed man and the persistence of his friends is the story. But I think there's so much more to it than that. One thing I want to know, why did no one let the guy through?

All the people there, they were listening to Jesus' teachings. This is pretty much like a Home Bible Study gone big. Maybe even a church service. So why would these people not let in someone who obviously needs help (he's on a stretcher, that should have been a hint)?

I wonder if the church today has people who need help but we are shutting them out. We don't want to step out of routine, we are so focused on making ourselves holy or our teaching or our spiritual growth we aren't seeing others who need the same, I earned my spot at this church, you haven't earned yours (if you don't think that's true, sit in a different pew at church and see what happens...).

The last thing in the world anyone should feel is neglected or like they don't belong, like they are unwelcome, especially when surrounded by people who say they are full of love and follow the God who is love. Let's not be so focused on our needs, our wants, what we would like God to do for us that we can't step aside and help others discover who God is. Start parting the crowd.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Coins In A Fountain

This has so little to do with anything, but I sometimes see how people behave and go, "Why? Just... why?"

One for today that I was just reminded of, why is it wherever there's water people throw money? I know there are wishing wells, and with that if you see one you are supposed to get a coin, make a wish, and throw the coin in the fountain. Got it. But since when are all bodies of water wishing wells?

Think about it. The fountain at the mall. The ponds in the gardens at the zoo. Even the occasional river. Look in them, there's almost always money. Do we do so many things out of habit in our society that we simply are trained and brainwashed that if we see water we need to throw money in it?

I've been thinking about putting a pond in my front yard just to see how much money I'd get...


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Where's The "Sanctuary"?

Nicole and I were talking this morning (Nicole is in charge of the great 11:00 blended service in our sanctuary) and she said something that I was wondering about earlier in the day. She mentioned about NewSong (the modern service I'm in charge of, at the same time...) is not in the Sanctuary.

But for me, it is. A sanctuary is defined as a sacred or holy place. For many, that is the room we've named the "sanctuary" because we have planned holy events that happen there every Sunday and at other times throughout the year. For the people who take part in them, that space is holy. But here's something true for me that a lot of people won't like.

The room that is labeled "sanctuary" on our blueprints... it's not holy to me (gasp!)

It's true. If I had to pick a holy place at the church, it's not on my list. For most people in our church, the gym is just a room where we eat and play sports. Although that's true, it's where the bulk of ministry happens for me (along with the youth room). I have Sunday morning worship there. Our youth services are in there. We have events like the 30 Hour Famine where students physically do something to show love to people they haven't met. We transform the room into a prayer room where I have sat and watched teenagers pray for over an hour and a half (some of our adults couldn't do that). I have seen God more in that room than any other in one of God's houses we call Fishers United Methodist Church.

And when it comes to the room dubbed "the sanctuary", that room is not holy for me. I don't get to see the Sunday morning services. In fact, 98% of the time I'm in there, it's not holy at all. It's to fix a sound problem, a video problem, run something because someone didn't show up. Most of the time I'm in there the issue(s) I'm told to fix aren't real but we don't want to talk about the real problems. It's a room that involves frustration and sometimes half-truths for me (because whenever something doesn't work, I never hear someone say, "Oh, that was my fault" but I hear a lot of reasons why it wasn't their fault). In reality, that room is not holy to me. It is not my sanctuary, despite what the sign on the door says.

A good example of this; the holy place of Bethel. In Genesis 28 Jacob is running for his life. Then he rests and has a dream from God. Since he had an encounter with God there, that place was deemed holy (notice, the person who drew out the map of the land didn't say it was holy, then God showed up, it was the other way around). After Jacob met with God he pronounced that place his "sanctuary".

Genesis 28:18-19 ~ Jacob was up first thing in the morning. He took the stone he had used for his pillow and stood it up as a memorial pillar and poured oil over it. He christened the place Bethel (God’s House). The name of the town had been Luz until then. (MSG)

So if you're talking to someone about church, realize their sanctuary may not be your sanctuary, and that's okay. They aren't any less holy than you because you don't see the same rooms as "where God lives". Coach Bill with Campus Life was talking to me a little while ago about his church. An arsonist broke in and burned their sanctuary down. He said it was the best thing to happen to his church family. Suddenly they had to worship God somewhere different. All the stereo-types that went with worship that aren't necessary (we don't have any of those, of course) were broken down because they could not rely on past memories for moves of God, they had to look to God directly. And believe it or not, they met in a gym, had more holy experiences and even spent time with God there.

Open your mind a little. Visit someone else's holy place. Ask them why it's holy to them. You may be surprised at what you learn... (and so you know, Nicole thinks this way too, she wasn't bashing the gym. She had come down to spend time with God while worshipping during NewSong's practice).

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Lengths People Will Go Not To Believe In Jesus

It's something I've been thinking about today. I was reading this morning the story of the Resurrection, Jesus rising again. Wonderful story (I'm so glad it's there, the crucifixion always makes me sad). And in that story, you would think everyone would be excited. Even those that did not believe Jesus was the Son of God before. Here, He just rose from the dead like He said He would. We were there. We saw it. But instead of accepting that truth, let's pay the guards off to say the disciples stole their body.

Take a second to think about that. These people are living at the time of Christ, they have undeniable proof that He is alive, and they bribe the guards to say they were asleep on the job (a crime punishable by death). Why?! Because they will do anything, anything to say Jesus is not God. Because in admitting Jesus is God they have to also admit they are not following God as they should be, and that would mean changing their faith and lives. Which is easier, to change for the truth or maintain the lie?

This also hit me when I was reading about genetics yesterday. There are still many scientists that hold to the idea of Darwinian evolution. A theory (not proven) that has been falling apart steadily in the last 50 years with new discoveries, the Cambrian explosion, the human genome project, modern genetic research, etc. As scientist Stephen Meyer put it (director of the Discovery Institutes's Center for Science and Culture), "We've learned a lot about biology since the Civil War. Evolutionists are still trying to apply Darwin's nineteenth-century thinking to a twenty-first century reality, and it's not working. Explanations from the era of the steamboat are no longer adequate to explain the biological world of the information age." And yet people still chase after Darwinian evolution. Why? Well, what's the alternative? Which is easier, to change for the truth or maintain the lie?

I honestly believe that most people like the idea of Jesus. They like the idea of a loving God whose Son came to earth to offer forgiveness. What they don't like is the idea of then taking themselves out of the center of their universe and putting God there, changing how they live, even their purpose in life. It's a scary thing. It's kind of like I was reading yesterday about talking with volunteers. Most people you ask to volunteer have reasons they can't do it, like I don't have time. Realistically, they do have the time, and realistically, they want to volunteer, but they are worried about what it really means to minister to high school students. They don't say "there's no time" because there really isn't, they say it because the realization they do have time and they could help means changing some things in their lives and that scares them.

So where do we sit? Are we willing to change for truth or maintain the lie? And I know Christians that do this too. Yes, they believe in Jesus, but then they read sections like "take up your cross" or "be a servant of all" and that doesn't fit with their "it's all about me, Jesus saved me, the church meets my needs" mentality so instead of knowing more about Jesus, they resign themselves to know less and stay where they are comfortable. But since when do comfortable people grow...?