Dorito Stains and Other Annoyances
There’s nothing natural about that orange color that they put in Doritos. And it does unnatural things to van upholstery that deserves a warning label. Neon upholstery isn’t the only evidence of another long summer of camping ministry. Our van is abused, filthy, and completely used up by the end of each summer. Garbage, sand, dirt, body odor blending with the smell of salt air, lonely socks, and miscellaneous electronic equipment are lodged like the casualties of war in every conceivable crevice.
Worried For Your Son?
I could tell from his posture he was about to say something. Ryan was sitting across the table strewn with the casualties of a successful battle with lunch and we'd been catching up on how the last week had gone. Ryan is one of those guys who is pretty open about his faults when he feels safe. But usually this openness takes the form of me warning him that I am about to use God's Word to rough him up a bit and after getting knocked gently but firmly around, shaking his head and acknowledging his peccadilloes. But what was about to pour forth freely from Ryan's mouth was unprovoked.
Well not completely unprovoked. The Holy Spirit has been doing quite a bit of provoking in Ryan's life recently and this gusher was just another example of what happens to young men when God takes his hammer and chisel to their hearts.
A letter I Received From A Young Man
I received this email from a 15 year old young man I have been discipling for the past year and a half. When I first met him at camp he seemed devoid of almost any ability to control his impulses. He was a constant drain on my energy. And yet, underneath that foolishness great potential seemed to loom. We started writing back and forth, I got to know his parents, and the results of lots of time and prayer can be seen in this email. It stands in such stark contrast to his former childishness that I called him after receiving this to make sure he actually wrote it. “Everything but the poem” was his response. I hope you are as encouraged by his words as I was!
God Used My Sin
I am thankful that my God is not stymied, thwarted or bewildered by our sin. He truly does work all things together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). I found that out personally this summer when I saw God flip my own sin on its head.
I love outdoor trips because they tend to provide an effective and special opportunity for relationship building and discipleship. In theory this means I am supposed to be likeable and set a good example for the young men on the trip. But like my family knows, if you spend any length of time with me you will find out just how truly human I am.
The white water canoe trip is the first camp I led this summer. As you might expect this trip can at times be a bit stressful. Swift moving water is dangerous and requires fast decisions and fast reaction. At the speed that the water was moving this particular day the force of the water was equivalent to 24 elephants bearing down on our boats.
You ever think things are fine and then ... KERBLAAM!!! Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a mess?
Matt thought everything was fine too. He was happily playing Foosball ignorant that a storm had been brewing around him until his youth pastor, Dan, called him aside and unexpectedly smacked Matt upside the head with a problem.
Dad's can be momma bears too and Dan believed that Matt had been ostracizing and isolating his son. This was not what Matt had expected at all. He thought that he was on great terms with Dan. Matt stood there dumbfounded with eyebrows raised in surprise feeling really defensive. The way the whole thing went down made it feel a bit like a blindside and the conversation was left as so many confrontations are ... awkward, no resolution, Matt feeling really defensive. Ripe for bitterness.
Ten Agonizing Minutes
Micah's body seemed to agitate with that kind of undisciplined nervous energy that wiggles through many 3rd grade boys bodies. You know, where it seems to be a physical impossibility for him to make eye contact and your 200 pound weight difference doesn't seem to help because he doesn't focus long enough to see just how painful it would be if you sat on him? It was story circle time at a Wednesday night Stockade meeting and the kid just would not sit still or stop talking. Micah was new so Ranger Steve informed Micah that every time Micah spoke, moved, or in any way distracted the other boys he was going to be held back from game time for 1 minute. He quickly racked up ten agonizing minutes that he would have to wait alone with Ranger Steve.
Sweaty Little Mirrors
A lot of people dislike mirrors. Who can blame us? Most of the time we are not great fans of truth and mirrors are mercilessly truth telling. It may seem like a mundane and unimportant observation over which to be thankful but one merciful feature of the glass mirrors with which we are most familiar is that they stand still. Can you imagine if they moved on their own? And with a malicious intent? Every corner representing a potential BOO! Unable to escape your laughable bed head? Yikes. But happily they generally pretty much stay where we put them and aside from the odd Disney movie they don’t move or talk on their own. That's a blessing.
Recently my son unwittingly made me aware that there are different kinds of mirrors. I may have learned about this fact previously, elementary school or something like that, but until a week ago I guess I'd just plain forgotten. More likely ignored it.
I Was Sure I'd Made an Enemy
I learned quickly that “intense” was not a big enough word to properly describe Carson. Nope, I discovered Carson’s intensity early and uncomfortably during the second game we played at our Southern California boys camp. Apparently the only tools you need to squeeze the character of a boy are a few well aimed balls and the promise of dodgeball glory that rests like a crown upon the head of the last boy standing.
Carson is one of those 12 year old guys that is so naturally athletic that it’s nauseating. His blond frame is not big, but he’s all muscle, and every one of those muscles seems to know exactly what it should be doing and where it should be at just the right time. Throwing ... check. Catching ... Check. Contorting one’s body like a character in the “Matrix” who has fallen right from the pages of fiction and into our dodgeball court ... Check.
The problem with Carson was not his ability to control his body ... it was his unwillingness to control his temper.
My Not So 'Right' of Passage
I was 16 when my mom realized that my brother Mike and I needed some sort of initiation into manhood. I love her to death and appreciate her desire to mark this important transition but to put it gently ... it made me feel about as manly as a killer whale in bloomers. Without getting into details, let’s just say it involved a cupcake. I think there was a candle in it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of cupcakes, but a cupcake, thrust at you unexpectedly as a symbol of your transition into manhood doesn’t scream dignity or masculinity. Other than the cupcake the only thing I really remember are her good intentions and the awkward feeling I had. The whole experience lacked a sense of genuineness. I did not feel like I had crossed over into anything except more adolescent awkwardness.
I still feel a pit of awkwardness in my stomach just thinking about it.
Some Thoughts On Shaving
Shaving is a big deal. It’s a big deal for dudes who have to shave daily, because it’s an annoying hassle and blades are a hugely expensive racket running a close second behind ink cartridges. But when you are a young man it’s a big deal in a totally different way. It represents a major threshold into manliness. It is easy for me standing so far past that threshold to forget how important this mark of masculinity was to me as a young man.
My own fatherlessness was not a daily part of my thinking, but I can still feel the palpable sense of embarrassment and frustration not really knowing how to even begin the process. I think I felt like the manly thing to do would be to figure it out on my own. The irony is that this is one of those rights of passage that really is supposed to be taught.
The Mormon and His Dr. Pepper
Curtis is a 17 year old convert to Mormonism who my pastor George met in the park next to our church. He's been in the foster system since he was five and has been bounced around between 30 homes over the past 12 years. He's understandably a mixed up young man. George has had conversations with Curtis about Christianity over the past few weeks but Curtis has been fairly combative.
This past Sunday George saw him sitting alone on a bench again and so we both walked over and engaged him in conversation. After a few minutes George had to excuse himself from the conversation but it continued chugging along at a pretty fast clip with Curtis zealously articulating Mormon doctrine.
All of a sudden he hit the conversational brakes and turned down a side street (there were no blinkers to warn me). It happened so fast I almost missed it.
The Hardest Part of Our Ministry: Dads with Pom Poms
Brad is one of those young men poised to do great things. In a couple of years gaggles of grey headed grandmothers will be dragging their bewildered grand daughters across crowded church fellowship halls in hopes of sparking a romance. He is a godly young man and I can hardly blame those well intentioned octogenarians. But I must ask those blue haired matchmakers to plug their ears for a moment because I am about to remove their proverbial rose colored glasses.
Brad is a sinner AND he's a young man. Combine these two volatile substances and the explosion invariably produced will be lust. Yup. Even the squeaky clean kid who compliments those old grandmas on their Easter hats and is the first to volunteer to help stack the chairs at church, if he's a young man and a sinner will also struggle with lust.
A Conversation Neither of Us Wanted To Have
Zac stood there in front of me asking what I thought of his hair. It's not that I hated his mohawk. It was pretty short and wasn't some obnoxious fluorescent color. But I knew what Bob Nass the camp director would think and I knew I'd agree with his general opinion even if I didn't share his level of passion over the subject.
We were at pre-camp counselor training and as with all our counselors Zac was being trained to be a defacto face representing the camp. As a camp our goal is to help parents who are entrusting their children to us to leave with confidence that their children would both be safe and would come home more mature in their Christian walk then when they arrived. Hair, for better or worse, communicates, and for that reason I was pretty sure Bob would demand that Zac's coiffe be summarily guillotined. The sad thing is that this young man had no clue what was coming.
I Was That Hyper Kid
I knew what we were doing was pretty unique, but as I sat there doing the mental math it suddenly dawned on me that I’d become a part of something that was truly one in a million. Five men were commissioning Jared as he stepped over the threshold into full manhood.
When I met Jared he was one of those hyperactive 12 year old boys whose energy level was of mythical proportion. You know, the kind that can fluster the most unflappable and seasoned Sunday school teacher and about whom we tend to cynically shake our heads and prophesy an inevitable familiarity with the U.S. judicial system.
Yet here we were, 6 years later, and five men who in faith had seen the great potential hidden under all of Jared’s hyperactive lunacy were now an audience to God’s faithfulness.
Ministry to men, young men, and boys means that there are plenty of great stories to tell. I have attempted to provide stories from our ministry that not only give you a flavor for what we do but also entertain, encourage, and hopefully help equip you as well!