Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections on 2009

Another year come and gone!  So with that let us reflect first of all on the passing year!

Best Movie of 2009: Star Trek 

Seriously, this was a major achievement that defined J. J. Abrams as a great director.  He has already proven himself with the television crowd with the show "LOST".  He is a storyteller that is compelling and intriguing.  He knows how to develop characters, and lead you on a plot that will take you on a journey that leads you on many twists and turns you did not see coming. 

Best Book of 2009:  The Hole in the Gospel

I am not completely done with it yet but this by far is an amazing book by Richard Sterns.  This book should be the wake up call to the church of today.  Sterns takes us on his own personal journey to discover how we are to be the hands and feet of Christ in a world that is suffering.  We are to advance the kingdom of God right now.  It is not a matter of just waiting around for the return of Christ, but BEING Christ right now.  He has an amazing story of his own to tell as well as compelling thoughts to wrestle with as the church heads into a new decade. 

Most Incredible Moment of 2009:  Children of Zion Village

There is no doubt in my mind that God has most definitely placed me in the church that I am currently serving in.  And throughout the years God has used me to develop a strong missions program within the youth ministry here.  I have also had the privilege of influencing the mission committee to get involved with the Children of Zion Village in Namibia, Africa.  This past Summer I was able to lead a team of teens on a mission trip to serve there for over 2 weeks.  This was one of the most profound and powerful experiences of my life.  To know that we are helping children and teens in Africa who have had their families and communities decimated by AIDS is simply amazing.  To know that we are a small part of helping to raise up a new Africa is just an awesome thing to ponder.  And to know them personally!  It is not a picture of a kid that I am just sending money to but actual teens that I deeply fell in love with and consider my "other" youth group now.  

Most Humbling Moment of 2009: The Tumor

When I came home from Africa I was confronted with the fact that one of my daughters had a very large tumor that developed rather quickly on her right shoulder blade.  When the reality of this set in with me, I sensed anger within me towards God.  After all, didn't He just see that I lead 3 mission trips this past Summer with almost 90 teens and adults.  I was bothered by how much I believed that I have done for Christ and this is how he rewards me?  If anything, give me the tumor, but not my daughter.  It was immature, I know.  God does not "reward" those who do his work with blessing and reigns down curses on those who ignore or oppose Him.  Life happens and sin has affected all areas of life from relationships, to disease, to all facets of this world.  I am not immune to suffering.  In fact this is one doctrine in the Bible people don't like to deal with, especially American Christianity. 

As we dealt with the issue of the tumor, we had it removed and were told that it was not malignant and she should be fine.  From that moment, I was hit with a wave of guilt for my negative feelings towards God.  I was personally ashamed at how quickly I responded negatively to God when this issue came about.  And I couldn't help but to think of those kids and families who have been affected by long-term cancer and disease.  As "great" as I may have thought my faith and deeds were for Christ and His church, I discovered very quickly that I still have a lot to learn and much growing up to do in the area of faith.  I know just by watching people I have had the privilege of ministering to that God gives just enough grace to make it through any and all situations.  Just because I "work" for His church does not mean that I am immune to personal suffering and pain.  And even though I look at other peoples' situations and think "How in the world will they make it through this terrible situation?" I know deep down that what seems impossible observing from the sidelines, is very possible in the actual situation.  Why? Because any awful situation is never experienced alone, but always is an opportunity for the church to be the church in a deeply profound and personal way.  Example: In sharing my concern with one of my youth leaders she just shrugged off what I was saying and just matter-of-factly said "You are going to do just fine through this, no matter what happens."  Her faith in me and what God would do through my family was much stronger than what I had for myself!  Again I was humbled. I watched one of my other youth leaders carry his wife through a bout of cancer treatments that lasted about a year.  I watched his faith grow throughout that situation and was humbled by his ability to serve his family under such tough circumstances.  I love being an "agent" for God's grace but I am not good at being a recipient of God's grace.  I know that there will be days ahead where God will teach me to be a better recipient of His grace through difficult situations.  I just hope my response will show trust, gratefulness and openness to Him and His church. And I would prefer whatever happens, happens to me and not my wife or kids.  But I know that that is my immaturity speaking again.

Most Difficult Moment of 2009: Divorce

Probably the most painful and difficult situation to watch unfold was the demise of my brother's marriage.  I am the first-born child of my family.  In many ways I have always viewed my life as the trailblazer willing to suffer for my mistakes with the hopes that my brother and sister learn from my errors and have a good life.  My cousins and I often made fun of my brother as the "golden boy" of the family. Never an awkward moment or difficult time in his life.  The hand of God always seemed to be upon him in a powerful way.  Any decision he made always seemed to follow blessings and praises from both God and people.  I over exaggerate just a little bit.  He moved to Arizona to help lead a church.  But the tragedy was that once he was out there, his marriage began to slowly dissolve.  It killed me as the big brother to see him deal with this pain.  This was never supposed to happen to him of all people.  I experienced a lot of negative feelings towards his wife.  After all, she has served with him in the church in amazing ways.  She has experienced for herself the grace and love of God and has seen God use her is awesome ways.  How can she turn her back on her husband, kids and her faith?  Regardless of whatever is going on in her mind, I had a little brother who was/is in deep pain and is somehow managing to serve at a church.    I wanted to fly into Scottsdale, Arizona and fix everything for him.  But I knew I couldn't do that.  I knew that this was the road that God was meeting him at and helping him through.  Just as very difficult situations in my life have helped to mature me as a person of faith (or expose my lack of faith!) I knew that God would/will somehow bring Jason out of this mess a better person.  He is still "in the valley" but I know that our family and his church continue to lift him and his family up in prayer and help to support him in many ways.   Divorce is just an ugly thing no matter how you look at it though.  Also, my youth group was gracious enough to pay for me to go out and spend some time with my brother back in March.  We had an amazing time together going to the Grand Canyon and to Vegas to forget about life for a while and create some new memories. 

So good bye 2009.  In many ways it was an epic year! I absolutely love the life that God has given to me.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

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