500 Reasons to Hope (post-inaugural & non-political things)

In the midst of an angst-ridden world (the reasons for which I am not inclined to either debate or deconstruct ) I am filled with hope – genuine, deep, joyful, solid, reasonable, tangible, and vibrant hope.

It has nothing to do with marching or winning, protesting or legislating, yelling or cajoling, or anything else that currently floods the media waves.

It has to do with this only: that in the past three weeks I have been in the presence of 500 people who are changing the world.

Their impact ripples past rhetoric, policies, statements, and signs. Their influence extends beyond sound bites, screen shots, strategic branding, and social media. Their identity is rooted deeper than gender, race, economic reality, and Enneagram number.

They are youth workers from across the country – students pastors, Young Life leaders, youth workers, WyldLife leaders, small group leaders, Capernaum leaders, middle school ministers, and Young Lives leaders.*

They are men and women – some paid (but many not) who love Jesus, love adolescents and believe that life without the Saviour isn’t life as it was meant to be. They spend their days living out these truths, working creatively and tirelessly to collide their passion, calling, and faith in such a way that Jesus shines brightly while students are loved deeply.

In the past three weeks, I spent time with 300 new staff from across the Young Life mission and 200 youth workers from 17 churches in the Madison area, which is to say: in the past three weeks, I spent time with 500 people who are changing the world because they are pouring into the lives of those who are often ignored, bemoaned, overlooked, demeaned, stereotyped, disregarded, brushed off, feared, sold short, sidestepped, and otherwise treated as less than someone created in the image of God.

These 500 people love, care for, spend time with, are committed to, walk alongside, mentor, listen to, talk with, and pour into middle school and high school students – joyfully, enthusiastically, fully, sincerely, energetically, and prayerfully.

While the world is focused on large-scale events; while people debate what should and shouldn’t be; while groups tackle policy and those who generate it; while movements stake a claim for their particular vision of right and wrong; while some embrace and others reject someone or something; while some cry foul and others cry fair; while the world spins crazily on its axis (as it has done since just about forever), I invite you to stop for just a moment and rejoice because FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE (and so many, many more) who you will likely never see, meet, or know are quietly, confidently, boldly, and faithfully doing the work to which they’ve been called.

And because they are, this world is being changed, one beloved adolescent at a time.

Indeed, thatĀ is reason to rejoice. Over and over and over again.

[TheseĀ people are changing the world – and the world is sweeter because of it.]

* WyldLife (Young Life’s ministry to middle schoolers); Young Life Capernaum (Young Life’s ministry to teenagers with special needs); Young Lives (Young Life’s ministry to teen moms)




A sacred silent space

Sweet Silence Sweet Silence Sweet Silence ***

In case you haven’t noticed (how could you not?) the world is fast, full, loud, chaotic. The chances to sit alone in contemplative silence are few and far between – that is if they exist at all. A dialed-in life (something we are all so good at) easily becomes a tuned-out life (something we all claim to abhor).

I’m spending the week with 350 teens who for 7 days (that is 168 hours; 10,080 minutes; 604,800 seconds) have no phones, no iPods, no computers, no tablets.

They are entirely un-plugged with the hope they can find their way to being completely tuned-in.

It’s a brand new phenomenon for many, one that is difficult at first but is also perhaps the sweetest gift they will receive this week: the chance to be free from all the things that keep them not just connected but also bound to the world around them.

But even better and sweeter than being unplugged for a full week is being solitary and silent for just 15 minutes – a mere sliver of time, a momentary blink of life, a single breath of being.



(But not really alone – rather more with and within and beside and around than perhaps ever before.)

In such a sweetly sacred space it becomes possible to think freely, breathe deeply, and love fully while in the presence of the mighty and gentle Creator.

We all desperately need such sacred spaces and moments, regularly nestled amidst the bustle and frenzy of life as we know it. The question is not so much how and when those sacredly spacious moments might perhaps happen (for might is as good as won’t) but rather how we will repattern our lives in such a way that those sacredly spacious moments must and will happen.

Our very lives depend on it.

*** Fifteen minutes of sacred silence on the lawn at Castaway Club. At right are a Capernaum camper and her leader/buddy/friend – perhaps the most beautiful image of sacred silence a person could ever hope to witness.