Thursday, January 04, 2007

Passing the Mantle

He was just a kid. No, I mean really. Just a kid. When I first met him he was not much bigger than my beagle. And I think the beagle has more hair. But his parents started feeding him and he grew up.

And he kept growing.

And growing.

And growing.

Suddenly he was playing football at good old CMHS. He was feared by the enemy offense ... or was it defense? I forget. But he had gotten big enough that whover lined up across from him had to consider the ramifications that awaited him when the ball was hiked.

His first dad died of cancer when he was just a kid. His dad was a friend of mine. His mom still is. So is her new husband. He was a friend of mine before he became the kids dad. But before this new dad came along I got the honor of doing some of the dad stuff. Nothing too amazing. Just hanging out with him. Being his youth pastor. It goes with the territory. But it was more than the territory thing. He and his brother were, and are, very special to me. Second only to my own real life blood kids.

And then it was like I just turned around and he was in college. He spent 4 years at Missouri Baptist University. We talked a lot about what he was going to do with his life. He thought he was going to be an engineer. I thought ... nah. He had too much of a heart. He loved people too much. Besides, I had already been praying that God had other plans for him.

I was right. And yup, I'm rather proud of that. Somewhere there in the midst of his college career he realized that God was calling him into youth ministry. And while I was proud of being right I was also feeling a little bit guilty. Being a youth pastor has great rewards. It also has great heart ache. Both are associated with the calling. The reward is when you get to lead a kid to Jesus and see his or her life change. The heart ache is when you lose one. Maybe to alcohol. Maybe to drugs. Maybe to just worldly passions and stuff. Maybe ... God forbid ... but maybe to suicide. It's happened on my watch more than once. And I will never ... never forget the horror of it all. It is in the back of my heart every day of my life. What could I have maybe done to prevent it? You do not get over it.

Anyway he rearranged his educational career to meet his new goals. And he began serving at Centrifuge, our denominational youth camp that lasts alllllll summer. It's an honor to be assigned, chosen really, to work at 'fuge. And he did it 3 times. He met his wife there. It is a wonder he didn't become brain damaged. Too much Centrifuge can do that to a person. I've been 28 times and look at me. I'm living proof.

Then he let me marry him. Ok, quit the snickering. Like I've not heard that joke before. He let me perform the wedding ceremony between he and his lovely bride. She was from Conway, Arkansas. She didn't act like it though. I mean, she wears shoes and everything. He worked as a part time youth pastor for a while. It was at a small church in our area. He was good at it but he still had to go through what all youth pastor's eventually go through. We are the last guy on the totem pole and he found himself jobless one Sunday. He stayed away for a while and then he started coming to our church again. The church where he grew up.

It took me a while to figure it out but I suddenly realized that he needed to be actively involved in youth ministry. God was not and is not done with him yet. So I talked to him about jumping in to our youth ministry on a volunteer basis. I mean with both feet. We had a lot of kids and I was not feeling very well. I needed him. And he needed me. It was a great match and we servied together for months. I cannot tell you how cool it was to work side by side with one of the kids I helped raise. Helped mentor. We had a ball.

And I kept feeling worse. Life was beating me up. I was getting sick. And then sicker. I gave more and more responsibility to him. It occured to me more than once that he would be excellent at leading this youth ministry himself. We kept working together while my world was spinning, my vision was blurring, and every red flag in my body was waving, trying to get my attention.

And then God said it. I had been asking him for a long time. And he finally said it. When I came to my church 23.6666 years ago my wife and I told God that we would stay until He made it as clear that we should leave as He had made it that we should come. And one day He did. He said it through events, circumstances, health, and the leading of His Holy Spirit. I obeyed immediately. It was hard but it would have been harder to disobey. Nothing is worse than disobeying God. Nothing hurts worse than disappointing Him. So I simply resigned. I quit. I walked away. I had no plans, no direction, no clear leading in any direction other than to lay it all down and rest. And trust. And wait.

I also watched. I watched the kids that I Iove so much bless me with many wonderful gifts. They gave me a new bible that they all autographed. They gave me their love in cards, letters and emails. They gave me a gift certificate. They gave me hugs and assured me that they understood. But I felt as though I had simply walked away from them leaving them hanging. Because that is exactly what I did. With very little notice I was suddenly gone from their lives. That was the hard part of leaving. I wondered what the future held for those kids. Who would love them? Who would live like Jesus in their presence? Who would teach them?

He would. It took nearly two months for the church to figure it out and iron it out but tonight they voted in a very intelligent way. They called him to be their part time interim youth pastor. And he has accepted. My kids? They are in very good hands. Hands that I got to help raise. Hands that I got to help train. I got to mentor the guy who is now mentoring them.

Do you have any idea how cool that is? Very cool, indeed. And so tonight I pass the mantle. Tim. They are yours. Take good care of them. Shepherd them. Love them. Feed them for they are HIS sheep. Show them how a man of God lives. I love them. I miss them everyday. And I am so glad that you are taking over. I am out here if you ever need me. You do not stand alone. And I left you a small army of highly trained adults to help you do your job. I absolutely cannot wait to see what God does through you!

So here it is Tim. I do not have a real one. There is no ceremony planned. So this is the ceremony. It's an e-mony. A passing of the e-mantle. I have held on to it for nearly a quarter of a century. Who knows? Maybe God will let you do the same. In the meantime here is the only mantle I have to give you. I give it to you with great love, respect and admiration. Oh, and a great deal of pride. So ...

Fight the good fight, my friend. I love you.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

I told you I was going to write a really special cool worthwhile blog for New Years. It didn't happen. I tried. Really I did. My brain went blank. Zippo. Nada. My finger tips went numb. Couldn't type. Sorry about that. Not that I think you waited up, held your breath or bet the milk money on it.

Oh well. It's 2007. Not 2006. Does one digit really matter all that much as long as it is in the far right column? I think not.

Happy, happy.