This one is a strange one for me. In one sense, it’s not like I’m losing my family but in another sense it feels like I am because of one very big change. See, for as long as I can remember the idea of family has been synonymous with one thing. This house-

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This is my grandparent’s house. This is where we celebrated as a family- birthdays, holidays, Sundays. This was where our family gathered… sort of. See, there was always parts of the family that weren’t there because they didn’t live close enough. Now I become a member of that part of the family. Now I get Tastykakes in the mail from Aunt Beth.

I know I’ve always given off the impression that these family gatherings stress me out. And they do! But somehow I love all of you anyway. You’re loud, boisterous and seem to thrive on chaos. Organization and communication aren’t exactly our strongest areas as a family. But I’ve learned that all of that doesn’t really matter. Even when I’m stressed out, I somehow end up having fun.

The truth of the matter is, I love you all even if I’ve never done a great job of showing it. Even stranger to admit, I’ll miss those Sundays at Grandpop’s house. Maybe not right away but eventually I will. And if any of you are ever in Oregon, I expect a visit!

Oh, and for the record, it’s Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes and Butterscotch Krimpets. 🙂

Next Sunday morning, I’ll board a plane and fly into my future in Portland, Oregon. I’m tremendously excited for that future, for all it entails and who I’ll be spending it with. I’m leaving good for better. Even so, I wanted to take this final week to reflect on all that I’m leaving behind and  try to capture all that I’m feeling at this particular junction in life.

I’m not sure that this series could start with anything but AUC. In the 34 years I’ve been on this planet, only family has been a more constant part of my life than this church. With that said, I’m not sure where or how to begin saying goodbye to this place. I started following Jesus because I had Sunday School teachers at AUC who cared enough to show up week after week and explain the Gospel in a way I could understand as a small child. I spent 4th through 6th grades reading my bible every night because Shirley Cook cared enough to start a bible reading program in the Junior department. I spent middle school figuring out that faith was a participatory activity and that maybe someday I could be a youth leader, mostly because Ken Burton told me I would be. I spent 4 years in high school being mentored and learning what servant leadership looked like first hand and deciding that maybe I could be a youth pastor, mostly because Rich told me I should be. From the time I was a small child through my high school graduation I had countless people invest in my life and pray for me.

For me and countless other kids who grew up at AUC it will always be home. We will always remember just how refreshing a pretzel rod and water could be during VBS. Or how much fun we could have eating fried foods and playing capture the flag at RIOT. We’ll remember conversations in the cabins at Pinebrook, pudding wrestling in Wildwood and traveling all over the country (and world!) for retreats, Creation and missions trips. But maybe more than that we’ll remember adults who looked at us and said “Sure, you guys can absolutely lead worship!” and let us start SWAP. I know I’ll always remember the room full of people who took me seriously when I suggested spending a ton of money on a one day event so that kids might come and hear the gospel. I still can’t believe they thought my idea was good enough to get behind and I REALLY can’t believe they took me seriously and named it after me. (That one may have been a mistake…) I’ll remember leaders who wrote checks and made donations from their own pockets so that we could buy the gear we needed. I’ll remember leaders who gave up sleep for all nighters and retreats and lock-ins. I’ll remember SO MUCH pizza from Cocco’s. More than that, I’ll always remember that this was where my life changed forever when I got serious about following Jesus.

I don’t know that Easter will ever feel right without belting out Because He Lives with all of you. Christmas will be different without the joyous reunions that happen Christmas Eve in the candlelit sanctuary. I’ll never again smile with delight as I hear Dr. Jerry kick in the antiphonal speakers when he really gets into a song. I have one last Sunday to groan at Pastor Paul’s puns. So many of the things that have been a part of my life for so many years are gone or going away.

My life is about to radically change.

Church, so is yours.

I speak to you now as the outsider. One of the many who has left or is leaving. This is a season of change for AUC unlike any it has experienced before. It would be easy to think that it’s a season of change that might do you in, that this could be  the beginning of the end for AUC. My challenge to you is to be like Peter walking on the waves- keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and don’t worry about the waves. Don’t worry about where the next pastor will come from or what color his skin is, make sure he looks like Jesus. AUC is changing. Delaware County is changing. Jesus is not. Fix your eyes on him and allow him to be the author and perfecter of the faith story of AUC.

I’ve butted heads with many of you over the years over methodology and the way in which we live out our mission as the church in the world. My heart has always been beating for Christ’s bride, especially as manifest here in Aldan. My heart and my prayers will still be here with each of you who work tirelessly to love God and love others in this community. My prayer is that God’s leading would be abundantly evident through this season of change and that hearts would be open and receptive to that change, whatever it may end up looking like.

AUC, I have been your child, your youth leader, your worship leader, your brainstormer and your critic. I’ve spent countless hours in your halls, I have signed my name in your steeple and rattled your windows on more than one occasion. You’ve helped me grow as a believer, as a leader and as a thinker. Out of necessity I’ve refined and rethought my beliefs because of you. I’ve been your rebellious son and your biggest cheerleader. Through it all, you’ve been home to me and more importantly have pointed me towards Jesus every step of the way. I owe much of who I am today to you and the love shown by your people. Because of you I’ll always clap at baptisms and not know what to do with my hands when I’m not playing guitar during worship.

For now I say goodbye and cheer you on from afar. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

 

-Drew

It happened again today. I was trying to click on something on my screen and I clicked in the wrong place. As I wiggled my cursor around, I realized how sluggishly it was moving. I’d seen this before and knew exactly what it meant. It was time to pop the trackball out and do some cleaning.

See, as it turns out, fingers are dirty and my poor trackball has my big gross thumb on it quite frequently. And while I might not notice the little particles of dirt that get transferred, they start to collect on the inside of my mouse, hidden out of sight. The effects of this aren’t immediate but over the course of a few months that gunk starts to build up. Those dead skin cells and dirt particles weave themselves together and build little blankets over the rollers of my mouse and it stops functioning how it should. I never notice it happening but after awhile it’s hard to ignore how annoying it is.

I feel like this is exactly how sin works in my life too. It might start with little things that I barely notice – bad attitudes, a little bit of grumbling, those things I do in traffic when somebody cuts me off. Even if I’m aware of what a jerk I’m being, I often write it off as “little stuff” and don’t pay much attention. But that stuff builds up over time and left unchecked it starts to throw everything off. I’m cranky and irritable, I slack off on spiritual disciplines and I end up just being miserable.

So what’s the point? Maybe, I should check my mouse for dirt more often and clean it out before it gets gross. More importantly, maybe I should do the same for my life.

And you’ll realize that this person you’ve been missing because they’ve been gone is still very much a part of you. That you are, somehow, the culmination and completion of their life’s work. That everything they were is now somehow a part of you too. And you’ll celebrate that inheritance, flaws and all. You’ll look for those times when you can just soak it in. You’ll talk to them, knowing that their answers are already inside you. It will still suck, but at the same time it will not.

Sometimes I say stuff to other people and then realize I’m also saying it to myself.

I don’t really follow basketball. As such, I really had no idea who Monty Williams was when I saw this headline: Monty Williams Calls For Forgiveness In Powerful Speech At Wife’s Memorial Service. But it’s early, I’m bored and forgiveness isn’t a theme that usually gets much press on Deadspin, so I clicked over to read the article.

It turns out that Monty is a coach for the Thunder and his wife was killed in a horrific car accident last week when another driver hit her while driving 92 mph in a 45 zone. It’s the sort of shocking, sad loss that would push most of us to a place of bitterness and anger. That’s what makes the words Williams spoke during the eulogy even more amazing.

God will work this out. My wife is in heaven. God loves us. God is love. And when we walk away from this place today, let’s celebrate. Because my wife is where we all need to be. And I’m envious of that. But I got five crumb-snatchers I’ve got to deal with. I love you guys for taking time out of your day to celebrate my wife. We didn’t lose her. When you lose something you can’t find it. I know exactly where my wife is.

That right there is the real deal. What an incredible dose of perspective for all of us. He went on to talk about how his family had already forgiven the driver of the other car and asked everyone to pray for them too as they also grieved.

So often in youth ministry I feel like we’re trying to encourage students to have an eternal perspective about everything they do. Coach Williams models the exact perspective that I’m trying to cultivate in myself and the students I lead. May we all continue to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Because of the current controversy around Starbucks’ coffee cups, I thought it was time for some introspection. Before I can look at the speck in their eye, I decided to examine the plank in my own. So, just how Christian were my coffee cups?

I decided a thorough examination was in order so I pulled out every mug I own, photographed it and have ranked them thus:

(In descending order from MOST to LEAST Christian)

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This mug has prayer hands, says God bless you and commemorates a church service. It’s a big mug but I’m always afraid to put it in the microwave because of the quasi-metallic paint. No matter what, this is my most sanctified mug.

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This mug embodies so much of the ethos I want to claim as a believer. It’s all hand crafted and cool but not afraid to show it’s chips and imperfections in a super authentic way. It also holds lots of coffee, keeps it warm and makes me want to sing The Potters Hand every time I drink from it. Legit.

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I got this mug when I graduated from LBC. It used to say a lot more but it flaked off the first time I washed it. There’s some C.S. Lewis levels of allegory going on here…

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If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like to see Jesus next to the Statue of Liberty while Kate Smith sings God Bless America, Roadside America is your place. This mug recalls the good old day when men wore trousers, a woman’s work was in the home and everyone wanted a piping hot cup of Sanka.

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Wayne works here and he loves Jesus. My dad worked here and he’s with Jesus. This probably should have rated higher.

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My mom gave me this mug for Christmas one year when I was working at a super crappy job. Sarcasm is my family’s love language but probably not a spiritual gift…

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This mug is from a stupid joke on a podcast. It’s as close to neutral as I’ve got.

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I got a little bit tipsy the day I bought this mug, so it will always have a sinful association in my mind. Also, have you seen the tattoos the girl on this show has? What a hussy.

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Christians can’t take anti-depressants because Christians can’t be depressed! Just pray it away!

 

May we all find a way to give half as much grace as we’ve required.

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I love days like today. Gentle and persistent rain. Overcast and cloudy skies. These are the days that soak the earth, leaving everything soggy and fully saturated. Puddles forming in the grassy spots as if to say “Yes, that’s enough for now.”

I keep this old wok on my back porch as a sort of collaborative art project. I added the stones and my Chia Willie head, nature adds everything else. On days like today it fills up with with raindrops and gives everything a nice wet gloss. Sometimes we go days without rain and it runs dry. Sometimes full, sometimes empty.

I’m learning that life is a lot like that wok. Sometimes filled to overflowing, sometimes bone dry after weeks of not being filled. I am learning to appreciate the good times more and to allow them to thoroughly soak in so that I might more easily weather the dry spells. There is so much goodness in life if only we would stop and notice it.

This is not just a cup of coffee, this is a cup of coffee brewed from a special blend of beans that my friends Kirk and Tara created for me.

This is not just a job, it’s an opportunity to meet new people and be Christ to them and an opportunity to provide for myself financially.

This is not just another day, it’s an opportunity to find purpose and meaning in everything I do.

My encouragement to you is to find the things in life that you can be grateful for and allow them to soak into you.

 

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.

We keep a precious treasure in a fragile vessel, we find ourselves under constant pressure yet we do not break. Is that the point of this passage? That God will guard our hearts and let us keep the treasure of his grace stored up within them?

Or are we called to be constantly breaking vessels? Clay pots that crack and burst to leak grace and truth all around us? Are we meant to hold together or to show the truth of God’s power in our falling apart?

We carry around death so that life may be revealed.

So whether you’re holding firm or falling to pieces, may you find comfort in these words.

I needed this today. As someone who doesn’t always deal with uncertainty or change well, it’s good for me to have reminders that I follow someone who can move mountains if He so desires.

 

This song also brings back great memories of going to Creation as a high schooler. Rich and I totally geeked out on these guys back in the day.

One of my all time favorite wrestling promo gimmicks was The Rock’s “It doesn’t matter…” It was one of those things that was always funny and was used quite effectively to silence his adversaries. Here’s a great example of him using it against Chris Jericho-

See? Hilarious.

I want to borrow that for a minute and interrupt pretty much all of my Facebook and Twitter feeds from the past few days…

Christians… It doesn’t matter if SCOTUS has radically re-defined marriage in your eyes. Your first allegiance is to Christ and your laws are laid out in Scripture. (where it is made abundantly clear that you’re to live as strangers and aliens– don’t expect to fit in to the culture you live in!)

Church… It doesn’t matter if you believe the right thing about homosexuality but don’t deliver that message in a loving way. If we have everything right but don’t have love then we have nothing.

Believer… It doesn’t matter how evil homosexuality is… because you’re every bit as evil. Remember how Christ dealt with someone caught in sexual sin?  Be mindful of the plank in your own eye before starting your own optometry practice.

Allow me to be clear on what I’m not saying.

  • I’m not saying that homosexuality isn’t a sin.
  • I’m not saying that believers shouldn’t confront one another when sin is present.
  • I’m not saying that the church should universally accept the SCOTUS position and condone homosexuality.

But to further clarify, I should also point out that

  • If homosexuality is a sin then it joins lust, fornication and divorce. How many churches have you seen discipline a member for lusting?
  • Church discipline is for believers. Expecting non-believers to live according to God’s standards is pretty backwards view of how sanctification works.
  • The church would do a much better job being “salt, light and fragrance” to the world by doing good rather than pointing out evil.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.