Sunday, September 30, 2007

Last Day

Well today marked my final day at West Community Friends Church. It really was an amazing day. The students put together a memory/scrapbook for me. The book was presented at both services in front of the congregation. The students came up and laid hands on me and prayed over me. The act of creating this book said so much about their love for me. It has touched my heart deeply and I look forward to reading all the comments. I know I will need Kleenex.

During second service I was given the opportunity to speak. I challenged the church to look at the high school students that were gathered with me in the sanctuary, over 45 high school students were there. For a church of just over 300 this is an impressive number (over 30 middle school students were at first service). This is the future of West Community Friends Church. If the church wants to be relevant to the current and future culture these students need to be embraced, challenged and utilized.

After church services the congregation put on a cake party in my honor. It was nice and the cake was fantastic. Sally always decorates the best cakes and bakes the best cookies; I am going to miss her treats. It was nice saying goodbye to all the families that came.

Finally we all ended up at Sami’s home for a party with over 50 students. What a great time to talk and hold one another. It was great. There were some tears but it was the memories that were being cherished. I am proud of these students and of their spiritual growth, I think we call this discipleship. They are ready to take on the world and the church. I am going to be their biggest cheerleader.

Katelyn, I know that you did a lot of the planning and organizing for this day. I am proud of you! Thank you for making my last day the best!

Tomorrow I will post the message from 1 Corinthians 15:58 that I gave to the group today.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Melancholy Day

I have been attempting to write daily on my blog. It is my hope that I can read more and write more. Today though I did not accomplish much reading or writing.

Last night was my last midweek night with my high school students. It was a great night. About 20 of us started with dinner at Miguel’s. For the past month I have really enjoyed our shared meals together. Nothing to me says more about community, and family and church than a shared meal. Our time together was nice and we had a great time of worship, thanks Jeff! But there was something about last night that we all felt. It was the sense that things were not going to be the same next week. The sadness in the youth room was felt by everyone. There were a lot of tears.

Today I have feeling melancholy. I received some great emails and potential job offers but last night’s sadness lingers.

Tonight I went to the Santiago High School football game to watch some of my girls perform with their color guard team at halftime. They did an amazing job and I am very proud of them. But that only builds on my sadness. I know I will be at fewer and fewer of their games, dramas and halftime shows.

Sunday approaches and I know that it will be filled mostly with more tears. I would love it to be a time where we celebrated the accomplishments. But I know it will only be filled with the realization that we will soon be separated and that change is coming.

My hope is that tomorrow I can write about those accomplishments that we achieved as a youth group. This group has been the best and I would love to share why I love them so much!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

See You At The Pole 2007

I have a real love—hate relationship with See You at the Pole. I love to see so many students take the opportunity to meet at their flag poles along with their friends to pray. I love to see their courage as they demonstrate their faith in front of their peers, many who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I love that it is student led. I love to see the creativeness of the students and the spontaneity.

But I hate that it is so early in the morning!

I have to get up around 5:30 to shower and get ready to be at the first flag pole by 7. The sun is not even up that early. I arrived at the first school (Corona High) ten minutes early. I saw three of my students hanging around the pole, but I decided to relax in my car, listen to the radio, drink my coffee and pray for a great day.

The day was great! At Corona High many of my high school students (around 15 students) came out to pray for their school along with about twenty other students. They gathered around and lifted up some incredible and powerful prayers to God, asking for safety, asking for revival, praying for the teachers, the staff and the administration. It was awesome.

I left Corona High and headed out to visit my first junior high (Corona Fundamental Intermediate School , CFIS). When I arrived there a large group of junior high students were already circled around their flag pole and singing Father Abraham. You have to love these students. They were so joyful about the day that they demonstrated it through the music they were singing. Every time a student joined the circle the students would clap and cheer and demand the students introduce themselves and tell what church they were from. They did an awesome job. There were about 6 or 7 students from my church at CFIS and about 40 other junior high students.

The last school I visited was Raney Middle School. Raney starts later in the morning than the other junior high and high schools in Corona: 8:55. This means that the students did not need to arrive to their flag pole until 8:15. I started my wait across the street at 7:45 with my coffee that was now cold. Nothing screams stalker more than a middle aged man parked in a car across the street from a middle school. I sat in my car for almost an hour.

Finally, at 8:45 a group of five girls from my church approached the flag pole. We had less than ten minutes to pray. It was short and sweet but it was still good that the students there were able to pray for their school.

I am praying for all schools, that Christian students will love others in the way that Jesus loved the world. That they would demonstrate through their love that we are all created in God’s image and that He wants to reconnect with everyone. Don’t stop praying for your school.

I would love to hear about other See You at the Pole stories.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

See You At The Pole

The Giving Kiosk

Recently I have heard of a new way to encourage giving by the church, The Giving Kiosk: and ATM type of machine, placed in or near the sanctuary, that accepts your giving. Now I am not going to get into the theology of giving and if Jesus ever commanded us to give or not, but I do recognize that most churches need the finances from the giving of the congregation to survive. Budgets are written and proposed each year that limits spending based on the previous year’s giving and the current trends of growth of the church. Most churches have a mortgage, utility payments, salaries, ministry needs and many other expenses that have to be addressed yearly. It is my hope that all churches use a portion of their received gifts in ways that help their community, the world, missions, and any other group that is making a difference for Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

MySpace Codes

We live in a culture where the economy dictates what we spend and how and where we spend our money. We live in a time where many homes are being repossessed by banks. Interest rates and creative financing have put people in a corner where their only way of keeping on top of the bills is walking away from their homes. Gas prices continue to climb and we are slaves to our cars. We work miles away from our homes and walking to work would be impossible. Mass transit is not even an option any of us want to consider. This past week we have heard on the news that the US dollar has dropped in value allowing others to come into the US for deals because their dollar buys more. I thought that was why many went to Mexico. Lastly, salaries are not rising to meet the cost of living.

Realizing that we are facing some difficult times giving to the church has dropped. Budgets are not being met and budget cuts become the necessary course of action. Churches become creative in ways of meeting their budgets. Fundraising, golf tournaments, concerts, guest speakers, workshops, car washes, bake sales are just a few ways that some churches raise money to offset expenses. It is funny though that the people targeted for these events are the same people sitting in the pews. Other methods of giving have been online giving: a secure way of giving from the safety and convenience of your home pc. And if you use your credit card you can earn frequent flyer miles!

For most of us giving is a part of our act of worship (2 Corinthians 9:7) as we cheerfully give back to God a portion of what He has blessed us with. We bring to this offering to God and to His storehouse (Malachi 3:7). I am afraid if we are looking for a reward or convenience for our offering we are missing the point of sacrificial giving (Luke 21:1-4).

One pastor who uses these giving kiosks was quoted as saying, “We're just trying to connect with the culture and that's how the culture does business. It's more than an ATM for Jesus. It's about erasing barriers.” It is funny that this would be his concern instead of reaching those in the culture and inviting them in.