Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bumper Cars and God

Today I watched two movies. One at the theatre and one at home. Honestly, they were both chick flicks. But that was ok because I was with a chick. And I ate at Q-dobe. Yum. The best chicken and cheese buritto north of Mexico City. Let's see. then I burned popcorn and the house still stinks. Few things smell worse and longer than burnt popcorn. I answered a bunch of emails and ignored my cell phone. I am so far over on my minutes this month that Sprint will probably give all of their employees raises. I went to my office and brought a bunch of stuff home. It's all still in the Explorer because I was tired of messing with it and decided that tomorrow would be a better time. And now I am trying to figure out where to go to church tomorrow. I have not had this problem often. I always know where I am going because, well, I work there. Correction, I "worked" there." These days I am trying to spend a lot of time collecting dust. I am trying to sleep a lot and spend much horizontal time. This is the main road back from adrenaline exhaustion. It is not a fun road so i am looking for all of the short cuts that I can find. Unfortunately, there are not many. Actually, there are none.

Today I got 18 emails from the same teenage girl. And I got 7 from another one. I tried to answer them all. And I got several phone calls from a wonderful young man who is having a difficult love life at the moment. I am not good at giving that kind of advice. But I tried.

I wonder what God is thinking about tonight. Yeah, I know. He's thinking about everybody and He's thinking about places where it is not night. But I wonder what He is thinking tonight when I come to His mind. Is He upset? Ticked-off? Bemused? Frustrated? Disappointed? Happy? Pleased? Ecstatic? I really do not know. The older that I get the more I realize that I usually only think that I know what God is thinking. I only THINK that I always have a handle on what His will is. That is discouraging. But it also means that I must trust more deeply in His soveriegnty. For if He is not soveriegn ... we are all screwed.

So I cast my vote for a Soveriegn God. He has His Hands on the wheel and they are at the 10 and 2 position. God does not have wrecks. Not the kind you see on the highway. Not the kind that are accidental. But I have noticed that He sometimes delights in playing "bumper cars." Remember those? As a kid I used to pay the man the correct amount of tickets and then get in my car (I always chose a blue one. It was a Cubs thing even back then.) When the power was turned on I would run into all of the people that I could. Sometimes when I would get a really good hit on somebody you could see them bounce backward or to the side. You could tell they felt the impact all of the way to their teeth. That was a sweet feeling. Bumper cars are all about causing as much destruction and havoc as you can within a controlled environment where nobody really gets hurt long term. God has been like that of late. Lot's of hits keep coming my way. None of them have killed me. None have sent me to the hospital. I am, however, taking very serious medication. And when your doctor "strongly recommends" that you quit your job by thanksgiving and it's already November ... well, my friend, you have just been "T-boned" by God. And it gets your attention. At least He's got MY attention. I will live through it or die trying. (Joke intended) I don't think God is going to run out of tickets for this ride and so I think I am going to go and look for another ride to get on. And obviously I want Him there with me. I'm just hoping that He is finished with His famous "bump and run."

And I sure hope He doesn't put my on His tilt-a-whirl.

Whispering Memories

Ok, I am going to try to write something here but I have no idea what to say. You are going to have to cut me some slack if I screw it all up. Maybe I need to start it off with some words written and sung by one of my favorite bands on the planet, The Lost Dogs. Yeah, it's a lame name but not as lame as some of their music. Still, when they nail a good one it just sings my heart. That's the case with "Whispering Memories."

"No, I don't wish that I never met you
Though the thought of you tears me apart
Now and then I may try to forget you
But your memory burns in my heart

The Angels were reluctantly against us
So they didn't do enough to interfere
Ah, but true love was never meant for us
No surprise it all ended in tears

Time waits for no one
And our day is done
The sun gave her light to the moon
So tonight I'll listen
To the voice in the wind
Whispering memories of you

We might have rode out to the desert
Or to some big city to hide
But it's obvious now we were dreaming
Just a fantasy destined to die

Time waits for no one..."

Those dogs. They know how to turn a phrase. I mean, that is obviously a love song. It's about romance and caring and love. And that's different from the love a youth pastor experiences for a youth group. But only a little bit. The romance part doesn't apply. And yet walking with Jesus IS the greatest romance in all of life. He is the Groom and we are the bride. And when you love a bunch of kids that are all a part of "the bride" with you ... well ... they somehow move in and take over your heart. And that is exactly what has happened to me.

I have been a youth pastor since I was a youth myself. I started as a volunteer at 19 years old. A brief 32 years ago. And 23 of those years involved kids in this church right here. And the latest group of kids in that church ... the ones I pastored until about 48 hours ago ... they are some of the best I have ever known. And I've Known some good ones.

When I told them that I was resigning it took me way too long to get to the point. I just did not know how to say it. And when I finally got it out they didn't get it at first. Then I heard a muffled cry. I locked eyes with a young lady in the back corner. I led her to Jesus this year and baptized her. She's like maybe 15 years old and yet she loves this old man and has let me be a part of her life. Then I heard more sobs and saw more tears. They put me in the middle of their circle. They lay their hands on me and prayed for me. I felt drops ... tear drops ... land in my hair and on my neck. They ran down beneath my shirt and across my back. And it hurt. It really, really hurt.

It was much easier telling the adults that I was leaving the church than it was the kids. Adults "get" stuff like this. They know life changes and moves on. Kids don't really understand that yet. And there is part of the problem. I'm 51 years old and I don't get it yet either. And worse yet, I don't want to get it. I just want to keep looking into those bright eyes and seeing joy. I am addicted to their smiles and their laughter. I do not see or hear much of that from people my age. And I do not want to let it go.

And so we are left with "whispering memories." I wake in the middle of the night and I think of them. The 'Fuge's. The JPL's. The Willow Creek retreats. I think of a hundred other places and times and events. I think about standing in a big tub of water with about 17 of them this year alone and baptizing them into the Family of God. I'll never get over that. Please God. Don't let me ever get over that.

If you are a kid and happened to read this I just want you to know that I quit because God told me to. And my life is about following Jesus no matter what the cost. That's what I've tried to teach you to do. Please ... please do. It hurts sometimes. But I have checked and their is nothing else in life worth living for. The angels were reluctantly against us ... and they didn't do enough to interfere. I don't suppose I really believe that. It makes for a good song. And it certainly feels true tonight. I'm sure I'll understand it better someday but from this vantage point ... it's hard.

Ok, I hate this blog. I will probably read it in the morning and either fix it or delete it. We'll see.