Seeds On The Ark?

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks as a youth ministry leader. There was a Sunday school teacher meeting after church while my family was at home in their jammies recovering from influenza. It actually felt like my couch was calling my name.

Wednesday night was youth group during which teenage boys overdosed on sugar and caffeine and decided to throw Oreos at each other, teenage girls dissolved into tears over the strain of twenty first century adolescence and all of its cruelty, and a myriad of leaders, including myself, did their best to share the gospel with all who weren’t relentlessly poking each other and giggling or braiding each other’s hair.

The next Sunday I stood outside my first grade room, coffee in hand, when little Johnny breezed past me telling me, “I threw up last night, but I’m good now!” and during the twenty minutes of a somewhat focused lesson, little Jenny leaned close to ask if there were fruit snacks today and promptly sneezed in my eyeball.

Immediately following first service I grabbed my bag full of lesson plans, fruit snacks and stickers and headed to our large group space where I, who cannot hold a note to save my life or operate anything with an apple on it, would endeavor to figure out the world’s smallest Macbook and dredge up every last drop of the caffeine I just drank to lead the next service of kiddos in their worship time. Complete with singing and dancing. Me. Singing and dancing. Like a crazy person. For Jesus.

Next was a leader meeting for youth group after which my heart broke into hundreds of little pieces for our community’s middle school and high school students who are burdened with such big, adult, worldly, things and a couple of hours praying about those big things after my own house was quiet and before I went to bed.

I know, I know, what’s not to love about youth ministry, right?! I mean, it’s really a dream service opportunity.

It made me wonder….

If I knew a few years ago (when that sly youth ministry director told me I’d be great with sixth grade girls) what I know now, would I still have jumped in? A million times, yes. Because it turns out that my God has an incredible sense of humor.

Why? Because me, the serious, sarcastic, practical and efficient one that loves schedules, order, reading and writing and cups of tea with quiet time? The me that dislikes germs, bodily fluids, silliness, messes, wasted time, chaos, noise and… glitter?

That same me has also been given this incredible love for sharing Jesus with young sinners and saints. Incredible joy in walking alongside them as they learn to view the world and themselves through a gospel lens. I love the privilege of rejoicing with them over each of their victories and praying with and for them in their struggles. This me, that Jesus is growing, loves youth ministry. In spite of all of it’s beautiful messiness.

On these harder weeks, I also remember the seeds. Because even on the messiest youth ministry days, there are seeds, right? My Lord just needs to make them grow.

I have also been remembering, as a non believer, dropping Oldest Son off at a new preschool because he had separation issues. That preschool, Noah’s Ark, happened to have smaller class sizes, and was not in a large daycare, but in a quiet Lutheran church. At the time, the Christian curriculum neither drew me, nor repelled me. It just seemed a better fit.

I remember walking in the entrance at pick up time and hearing the piano playing and little voices singing. Some with the appropriate words at the appropriate time and others… not so much. I could relate to the “others”. I remember descending the stairs would always reveal a handful of children sitting on the rug, a helpful helper with at least one cuddly toddler on her lap, a table full of created treasures waiting to go home and be displayed on the refrigerator and sweet grandma-like Mrs. Klopp playing away on that piano. It never failed. There was always one rambunctious kiddo, too restless for the rug, too upset over hurt feelings, or too ready for nap time, pulled up close on that piano bench. And I’ll never, ever, forget hearing that wonderful saint lean down at the completion of a song and whisper close to the wiggling ear, “Jesus loves you, and I do too.”

I don’t know if there were seeds on Noah’s Ark, but I happen to know there were seeds on Bonnie Klopp’s Ark and I thank God that He so loved my children that He placed them on that beloved piano bench and let her plant the seeds their momma didn’t yet know to plant.

Though I often think I’d give anything to have known about the love of my Savior earlier I can’t help but feel so incredibly blessed with the privilege of planting seeds in other young hearts, so they might know Him earlier. And though I may not be anywhere close to our precious, piano playing, craft with glitter making, saint of a seed planter, Mrs. Klopp; I’m so very grateful for her faithfulness in the messiness of youth ministry.

I can almost imagine the harvest from the seeds on the Ark. Can you? Praying that God will help me be faithful in sowing. Even without glitter.

What Do You Have To Lose?

I just found out I lost another former classmate to suicide. Yes, I said it. Suicide. Because if we truly want to be there for them, we need to be willing to “go there” for them…to the uncomfortably dark places they’re in.

My heart has been breaking a bit today. Not just for the loved ones that are left behind (I’m so sorry) but also for the despair experienced by the one they lost. Because I’m acquainted with the kind of pain that makes you resent a sunrise, loathe your next breath, I can’t help but wonder if they knew the only One that can meet you in despair, and pull you through. Yes, this is where I’m going to talk about Jesus. The only topic more taboo, I think, than suicide.

Every grieving loved one left in the aftermath of suicide knows, you can’t be with them every moment.

I’ll say it again, because if you’re grieving their loss, you’ll be doubting and agonizing over that statement.

You couldn’t be there. You couldn’t have know exactly when that moment of hopelessness would come. We don’t have that kind of control, though we wish we did.

So for those currently in despair…this is your HOPE.

Jesus can save you here just as He does for eternity. I know, because in despair is where I experienced the LIVING God, as close as that next dreaded breath.

Just as any of your loved ones would tell you, you are absolutely welcome to call me, text me, reach out to me, and I will love you as best as I know how. But unlike some others, I’ll tell you honestly that I’m also very aware I’m not enough. At some point I know you will be alone when that despair crawls in and settles so heavy on you that you can’t breathe, a darkness so pervasive, you can’t see clearly the painful destruction you’ll leave behind. When all you can see and feel is agonizing pain.

So, I implore you. Set aside whether you recognize your need for a Savior. Set aside your belief of the existence of heaven and hell. Set aside any past hurts from religion or the church. You need not even share your weakness with anyone else!! But, please, give Him a try. In the privacy of your own home, PRAY. As if your life depends upon it. Because. It. Does. Ask, seek, knock. Storm the gates of heaven with your cries for help. Grab hold of His robe and DO NOT let go until He reveals His face to you. He will not disappoint. You will not regret it. What have you got to lose if I’m wrong?

And what have you to gain if I’m not? Relief? True joy? The assurance that you’re NEVER alone? Fully and truly loved?