Saturday, March 22, 2014

Take In Some Teen Culture This Week...And Next Week, Too

One of the expected blockbusters of 2014 started in theaters this week - Divergent. Actress Shailene Woodley plays “Tris” who has to learn quickly that being “divergent” carries with it uncertainty and danger. To be remain safe from that danger, she must continually hide, even lie, about who and what she really is.

The heart of this book (and movie) revolves around a prominent narrative in teen culture right now: survival. Tris is constantly facing new discoveries and new battles that challenge both who she is and who she is going to be. If you read the book you will find yourself cheering for this young girl as she pushes through these obstacles. But you’ll also find yourself quickly relating to her struggle and finding parallels of them in your own life.

Stepping into the false reality of this book, and many others like it, can give you a very real sense of the teenage spirit and mindset. The world in which students live is much different than the one in which most adults live. In fact, I would guess that most parents would be surprised at the everyday goings on in the world their teenagers live in day after day…things that would utterly astonish them. 

A student asked me this past week why I was going with a group of students to see Divergent and not promoting the popular Christian movie release, Son of God. Well…it’s not an “either/or” issue for me. Divergent has my attention simply because it has THEIR attention. I would encourage you to step into their world, listen to their language, and understand their values. One of the best ways to do this is by engaging the media that they consume. 

Let me know if there is something I can pray about for your family.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sometimes Following God Is Painful

Many of you have heard me speak about bringing our work in the New Orleans area to a close this year. Although New Orleans holds a very, very special place in our hearts and is certainly a key part of our ministry to and with high school students, there have been some signs that it is time to move on. And those signs have been affirmed in our current trip to New Orleans.

But having been down here so long (8 years now) and on so many trips (right at 30 just for high school ministry), we are now faced with saying good-bye to good friends who have become…well - family. We love these people. We love this city. And we love the work we’ve been blessed to do here. It’s difficult to walk through the process of knowing we will be leaving something that means so much to us. And the pain of that separation has, as well, been affirmed with our current trip to New Orleans.

The interesting thing is that as we have shared with people in this area that we are shifting our focus to the many people up north who remain homeless or affected in other ways by Hurricane Sandy - no one understands that better than people here. Many of the people we serve in St. Bernard Parish lost everything in Katrina….and lost it all again in Isaac. They “get” that we need to move to the places where we can be most effective both for God’s Kingdom and for those who still need assistance with the most basic needs of life.

I hope you will join me in praying for peace and direction as we prepare to enter a new season of ministry with our high school students. There’s not much about this that will be easy, but it will most certainly be familiar. We watched God forge strong relationships in a crucible of pain and suffering in this area. We witnessed and participated in His name being lifted high among the chaos, and we were blessed to bring Him glory for everything He has done and continues to do through us in this place. I can say with the utmost integrity that HE has been the star of our work in New Orleans - not us. 

As sad as it makes me to leave a place that has monopolized the last 8 years of ministry for me - I’m invigorated about the possibilities that God has not yet even revealed that await us in New Jersey and New York. I’m excited about making Him famous there…and beyond. It is for His Name and His glory that we are privileged to serve. Please pray that He leads us to do nothing less.

- Michael