Thursday, October 15, 2015

It's Okay, Elvis - We Love You

Man. Last night’s loss to Toronto was a tough one for us die-hard Ranger fans. I was able to catch some of the game live – but had to lead my Pastor’s Bible Study so I missed the crucial parts of the game. I recorded the game and watched the fateful seventh inning when I finally arrived home after a long Wednesday at church.

Wow. A 53 minute inning. Filled with drama, to say the least. It had everything any baseball fan would want packed into 6 outs. Fans on their feet (and throwing stuff on the field – way to keep it classy, Toronto). Great pitching. Obscure rule. Great hitting. Historic home run.

And . . . errors.

In case you missed it, the Rangers made history with three errors on consecutive plays in one inning. Elvis Andrus was involved in all three but was only charged with two of them. It was epic. Awful for us – but epic, nonetheless.

I hate it for Elvis. I love Elvis (both of them!). He is one of my favorite players. He embodies all that is good in baseball. He crowds Adrian Beltre on routine fly balls in the infield. His smile is contagious. His joy on the field is unmistakable. He rubs Beltre on the head and drives him crazy.

And – Elvis can play some baseball. I have seen him just lay out on ground balls in hole and shortstop and make unbelievable throws to first base. He has barehanded more short-hop ground balls and thrown out runners than any shortstop I have ever seen. He hits well. He steals bases (including home!). He plays with abandon. I’m proud of him. I’m glad he is a Ranger!

Elvis and the rest of these Rangers have given us a great season. Most longtime Ranger fans know that our heart is often broken in April. This year – after an incredible stretch of baseball, our heart was broken in October! Wow!

And – all of our lives are full of errors. Ours just aren’t as public as Elvis’. We all make mistakes in our work, at home and in our families. We are mistake-prone people. The hope is that we learn from our mistakes and we improve for the future.

That is my hope for Elvis. Learn from it – but move on. There is a lot of baseball in his future. I’m glad I will get to see him live it out in a Ranger uniform.

But, my hope for us is that we will learn from our mistakes as well. We don’t have to be defined by our lowest moments. We can move on into a better and brighter future.

And – Go Rangers!

Monday, October 12, 2015

I Love Youth Ministers

That is right. I love Youth Ministers. They are engaged in so much "front-line" ministry today on behalf of the church.

Today, I had the privilege of preaching to about 400 or so Youth Ministers from across the state of Texas. These ministry leaders are in Arlington for the annual Texas Baptist Conclave meeting. It is a time for these folks to spend some time in worship together and in training. They are here -- networking, learning, exchanging ideas, worshiping and just getting refreshed for the tasks at hand in their significant ministry.

I was energized by the opportunity. I was also humbled as I prayed for these ministers. Youth Ministry is such a strategic part of any church's ministry offerings. Our kids are facing unprecedented challenges today. Our society has been free-wheeling for so long that millions of young people are suffering the effects. The moral fabric of our nation is tattered to say the least. Families are struggling to navigate the terrain of an American culture that often lacks basic, common sense.

I can remember when the big issues in my youth were smoking (cigarettes) and drinking. There were those who were into drugs and alternate lifestyles -- but they were on the periphery of normality. Today--our kids are dealing with such deeper issues. Questions about morality, confusion about gender, broken relationships with parents, violence, abuse, absence of role models---what else do I need to list?

What do our young people need in the midst of such a challenging climate? How can we help them?

In April of 2014, Seraphim Danckaert wrote an article for Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy entitled, "Losing our Religion: On 'Retaining' Young People in the Orthodox Church. (You can find it here at Losing Our Religion)

In this article, Danckaert references the research of the National Study of Youth and Religion. According to the research cited, there are three factors that contribute to youth maintaining their Christian faith into adulthood:

1. The young person's parents were authentic believers who demonstrated their faith in their normal, daily lives.
2. There was at least one significant adult mentor or friend who also practiced authentic Christian faith.
3. The young person had at least one significant spiritual experience prior to the age of 17.

Wow. I look at those factors -- and I can't help but think of Youth Ministers! They play such pivotal roles in the lives of our youth. They can be that adult presence. Or they can build teams of adults who can be mentors for our students. They also oversee all manner of spiritual activities that help promote opportunities for young people to have genuine spiritual experiences.

Youth Ministry has such a significant role to play in our churches. Our Youth Ministers make unique contributions to the overall life and health of our churches. So -- I will say it again -- I love Youth Ministers!