THANK YOU (a note to Young Life and WyldLife leaders everywhere)

I love The Church.

I love Young Life.

(Much less than I love Jesus – but true love for both, nonetheless.)

During the past 15 years, in my work as a youth ministry trainer and cheerleader, I’ve said THANK YOU to countless youth pastors – thank you for loving our kids; thank you for all the unseen hours of ministry in your day; thank you from every parent who’s forgotten to say it, or who doesn’t understand why you do what you do; thank you from every adult in your congregation who watches from a safe (and often disinterested) distance; thank you from every teenager who grows up under your love and guidance; thank you for ushering in the next generation of The Church with dedication, energy, creativity, and passion; thank you for leaning in to your sacred calling with joy and grace; thank you for sticking with your vocation for the long race; thank you a thousand times over.

My single thank you can’t begin to express the true depth of those sentiments – but I offer it with sincerity.

During the past 25 years, in my role as a Young Life spouse (and other YL things), I’ve said THANK YOU to countless leaders – thank you for loving our kids; thank you for all the unseen hours of ministry in your day; thank you from every parent who’s forgotten to say it, or who doesn’t understand who you are and what you do; thank you from every adult in your community who watches from a safe (and often disinterested) distance; thank you from every teenager who sees and experiences the love of Jesus through you; thank you for believing that pursuing the most disinterested kid is worth your time; thank you for introducing teenagers to the God who created and loves them; thank you for leaning in to your sacred calling with joy and grace; thank you for sticking with your vocation for the long race; thank you a thousand times over.

My single thank you can’t begin to express the true depth of those sentiments – but I offer it with sincerity.

I also offer this – a real note from a real teenager written to a real person who was doing real ministry borne out of real passion flowing from real grace abiding in Real Love.

This camper articulated what countless kids truly experience but few actually express.

It’s good to reminded why you do what you do (because there are kids who need to be seen, noticed, befriended, loved, and introduced to the Savior). It’s good to remember what this ministry is really about (Jesus and teenagers…not me or us). It’s good to close your eyes and humbly remember that thank yous – as sweet as they are – aren’t the goal or the prize (that’s Jesus – always and only Jesus).

Even so, thank yous matter: so thank you. All of you. Each of you. A thousand times over. And more.

young-life-leader-card

[Young Life camper-written notecard, c. 2010. The leader’s name has been removed – but I sent that leader a picture of this card because, oh gracious, what depth of precious and sweet grace is wrapped up in these simple 25 words?! See your name in that big white space and ask Jesus to steer you towards the kids who currently feel as this one did, because that is who we are and what we do.]

 

 

Thoughts About Remembering, on 9/11

There are only three hours left of 9/11 here in Indiana, and there in New York, and there at the Pentagon, and also there in Pennsylvania.

Except for those who were present, or whose loved ones were lost, I suspect that most of the remembering is over for today and this year.

Remembering is an exhausting task. In a world where we hear and know about a million lives beyond our own, how much remembering can a single person handle?

And yet remembering is vital to our survival – not primarily our bodily survival, but our inner soul survival.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a remembering God.

“Remember when I brought you out of Egypt. Remember when I comforted your sorrow. Remember when I called you my own. Remember when I calmed your distress. Remember when I met your needs. Remember these words of mine.” 

The incarnate Lord Jesus Christ is a remembering God.

“Eat this bread. Drink this cup. Do this in remembrance of me.”

He tells us to remember. Over and over and over again.

Just as importantly, He listens as we lament and ask Him to remember. Over and over and over again.

“Remember your compassion and unfailing love. Remember your covenant promises. Remember me, LORD.”

Remembering what happened on 9/11 is important and significant to each of us in different ways and degrees. We must not forget.

But it is infinitely more important that we remember God’s love (lavished on us), God’s majesty (visible in creation), God’s forgiveness (available because of the cross), God’s grace (shared with His children), and a thousand other things flowing from the heart of God.

Remembering is a discipline. Remembering takes practice. Remembering takes patience.

Regardless of the circumstances, like the Psalmist we can (and must) say:

I suffer. I ache. I cry. I weep. I break. 

But I remember….

And because we remember, we can live. Regardless. In the midst of the darkness. Today and tomorrow. The joy, hope, grace, and peace that come from remembering are there for all; we can drink their sweetness – today, tomorrow, forever – straight from the heart of the God who himself remembers.

Amen.

[15 years ago – before the blogging era – I was a newspaper columnist. My original thoughts, written while I watched the events of 9/11 unfold on my television, can be read here.]