Saturday, April 08, 2006

I got to thank somebody today and it was really cool. His name is Mark Yaconelli. He lives in San Diego and I had never met him before. However I had met his father, Mike Yaconelli. Mike was one of the co-founders of "Youth Specialties", an organization that is the best in existence at helping youth pastor's do their jobs. But that is not why I thanked him.

Mark headed up a little study called the "Youth Ministry Spirituality Project." It was co-sponsored by Youth Specialties and the San Francisco Theological Seminary. I got on board with what they were doing back in May, 2002. I had just completed a really lousy year, better known as 2001. That was a year I have considered crossing off of my own personal calendar. I have thought about declaring a "do-over." That would make me only 49 instead of my official 50. (I know all of my friends would whine and complain, calling "FOUL!" and so I haven't bothered trying.) If you know me you understand that 2001 was the year that I pretty much drove myself over the edge of the planet. It was like I had not gotten the message that the earth is round and so I just ... drove over the edge. In reality I drove myself into the ground. Somehow I had gotten the notion that it was my job to fix the world's problems. So I tried to heal my brother after he suffered a stroke while preaching one Sunday morning, I buried my father after cancer claimed him, sold my parents retirement home in Arkansas and moved my mother to my hometown and took care of her while she had no less than two life threatening surgeries and then became addicted to prescription pain medications and muscle relaxants. Not a bad year's work, huh? Once we got through all of that (and a heavy dose of church ministry concerns as well) I hit the wall. I looked over the edge of the planet and decided to leap. The rest of that year was spent trying to figure out which way was up, how to walk a straight line, and decide whether or not everything I do is still worth doing. I decided that it is.

Then in 2002 God placed a prompting in my heart. I had pretty much recovered from my bout of adrenaline exhaustion and was seeking the next step in my journey of faith. I noticed that the "Youth Ministry Spirituality Project" would be conducting "Youth Pastor's Sabbath's" around the country. Holy Spirit made it very clear that I should go and so I signed-up to attend in Frontenac, Mn. It was a five day experience that changed my life. I learned how to pray. I learned how to be still. I learned how to be quiet. I learned how to find God. Ok, forget that last one. I learned that God had already found me and that I needed to rearrange my life to allow Him to do what He wanted to do. The story is much longer than that but you get the point. I went back to "Youth Pastor's Sabbath" in 2003 and God worked me over again. This time I took a youth pastor friend with me. He's still trying to recover from being ambushed by God too.

So today I met Mark, the guy largely responsible for the event used by God to turn me from being a complete ADHD type personality ... into a semi-contemplative ADHD type personality. (No, I've never been diagnosed as ADHD but I have a signed certificate from my wife testifying to the fact. That's much more reliable that a doctor's note.) I told him that I only wanted sixty seconds of his time. I quickly thanked him and then I told him what I was thanking him for. He turned my sixty seconds into about five minutes by asking me questions. But I needed to tell him thank you. I am not certain I would still be a youth pastor if it were not for him. I think I just might be in vinyl repair or something.

And here is the really crazy thing. I got to know a woman named Beth who works for Youth Specialties at the first Youth Pastor's Sabbath that I attended. It is the only time we have met but we have stayed in touch by e-mail and the occasional phone call. She has been a never ending source of wisdom and direction for me. She is, by profession, a "spiritual director" dedicated to helping youth pastor's remain sane. She does her job well. Anyway, Beth was in my voice-mail about a month ago. She wanted to ask me if I would consider coming to the "National Youth Workers Convention" next November and leading a "small group spirituality session" titled "Being ADHD and Practicing the Contemplative Lifestyle." Hmmm. I am honored. I am insulted. I am also smart enough to realize that I qualify. I move much too quickly through life. My brain is always thinking three steps ahead and thus I miss the moment. Which means I seldom remember where I parked my car. Even at church I find myself asking the custiodians if they have any idea which side of the building I have parked on. They kindly take me by the hand and walk me to my vehicle. Sadly, I am only slightly exaggerating. I could tell you more stories about how my brain is usually somewhere else ... but if you know me you already have enough dirt on me. I'm not giving you anymore.

Two things felt good today. Ok, actually three. First, I got to spend the day with one of my youth pastor son's. I got to watch him sit and listen to teaching that has already changed my life. He doesn't know it yet but he will need that teaching someday. Second, Mark Yaconelli actually said OUT LOUD that good youth pastor's are not the type of people that get up early in the morning, have their quiet time, and are in the office by 8:00AM. (That is so totally me. I get ragged on constantly because I'm a solid 30 - 60 minutes behind the rest of the staff. But as you'll notice if you check the time stamp on this blog I'm still going at it at 11:30PM. That is what it takes to work with kids. They don't need you in the morning. They need you in the evening. So God was smart enough to wire youth pastor's like that.) I feel completely validated!

And finally ... the Cubs beat the Cardinal's for the second straight day. Tomorrow they could complete a sweep. That in itself makes for a great day.