Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Seat at the Table

When I was 18, I randomly stumbled into a potential leaders meeting for a ministry called YoungLife. This happenstance changed my ministry life forever. I loved being a YoungLife leader. One of my favorite things about YoungLife was the annual summer camp trip. Wow! What an experience! I was able to load up some of my closest middle and high school friends and spend one of the best weeks of our life together. If you were to ask any of my guys what their favorite parts of camp was (aside from the spiritual aspect of it), I would bet that over 90% of them would not say it was the zip line or the bus ride or the awesome programs/games. My bet would be that they would say it was the meal times.

One of the intentional things about YoungLife camp are the meal times. The tables are designed to be round, as to mimick a family style seating. Many YL kiddos have rarely, if ever, sat around the table with their own families. The first thing you'll see before the meal begins is all the leaders entering the dining hall before their students so they could be there to welcome them as they come into the room. Leaders cheer and yell and wave their friends over to the table! It's chaotic and wild and beautiful. See, as the kids come into the dining room, they are desperately looking for their leader. I would bet that some of them, because of the hurts of their past, have some worry that there won't be a seat for them when they get to the table. But their leaders see them and welcome them to THEIR seat at the table and rejoice over them EVERY time! There was times when my group was bigger than 8 guys (which is what the tables hold), so guess what? We would crowd more chairs around the table because EVERYBODY had a seat at the table! To me, this part of camp spoke to the gospel just as much as the speaker did!

It is the same way with Christ. He welcomes us to the table EVERY time. There is the first time we sit at the table (when we first give our lives to Jesus) and this is the best! We realize that we have a forever seat at His table! However, as time goes on, there comes situations that want to threaten our place at the table. Situations we call sin. We screw up and a thought enters our mind, "I wonder if I can come back to the table? Will Jesus let me sit even though I screwed up this bad?" And the answer every single time is a resounding "YES!!! COME SIT!!!" This is my favorite part about my faith. I was a kid who didn't have a seat at the table. I was a kid who screwed up time and time again. I can still remember when I was invited by Christ to sit at the table for the very first time in 2002! My first thought was one of not being worthy, but I sat down and claimed my place at the table! And I can attest to you that every time I've screwed up and thought that my place at the table was compromised, He welcomed me back every time! I have a permanent seat at the table! I am now challenged to stop those things that make me temporarily leave my seat at the table.

Tony (name changed for privacy) was a kid who, by the world's standards, did not deserve a seat at any table. He was an overweight kid; didn't smell very pleasant; didn't have the best manners and was socially awkward. Tony came to camp with us in 2007 and whenever I talk to him, we speak fondly of our time together at camp. Without fail, meal times come up! Tony always tells me that there was always enough food (which to a big guy like Tony means a lot!) and we laughed so much around the table! He can't tell me the name of the speaker or what the theme of the week was or even remember the program lines. But he can tell you about sitting around the table; about how we celebrated his birthday around the table (which he says to this day, was one of his best birthdays! 9 years later!); and about how even a kid like him had a seat at the table.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Gospel, Kaepernick and Standing...

In the news recently has been the story of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who, in protest against police brutality, has refused to stand up for the national anthem at the beginning of his NFL games. While I fervently agree that what he is doing is disrespectful, I also understand that he is protected under his 1st amendment rights. But I didn't come here to talk about Kaepernick. His story just got me thinking of another instance where standing and sitting really struck me.

There is a family at my church who I have seen the last few weeks. This family brings their son (or at least I think he is their son) who is in a wheelchair. I've watched them come in the last few weeks and I love seeing their son as he gets excited for worship! But my favorite part about observing their family's heart for worship is when their son puts his hand into his dad's hand and his dad immediately helps his son up. The son is probably in his late 20's early 30's and is very tall so it is not easy to lift him up out of his chair, however, his dad does it every week! It's awesome to see a young man who's only response is to stand up during the worship of The Lord, even though it is difficult for him and he needs assistance! It's also awesome to see the love of his dad who, although it looks very difficult, understands that his son wants to stand in worship to The Lord and he makes every effort to ensure that his son can do so!

This story reminds me of two things.

The first thing it reminds me of is the love of God for us. God is very much like the father in the above story. He lifts and holds us up when we desperately need him to. In verses 25-26 of the 73rd Psalm, the Psalmist writes:

    "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on Earth I desire but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26 (ESV)

This young man at my church has had his flesh fail him; his legs do not function properly. His father becomes his strength for him. In our lives, our flesh will fail us time and time again and just when it looks like it will defeat us, God holds us up and becomes our strength when we can't go on any longer. I'm so thankful for that promise!

The other thing this reminds me of is the story of Stephen in the 7th chapter of the book of Acts. Stephen was accused of blasphemy before the Sanhedrin council and, when given time to defend himself, proceeded to preach the Gospel! Of course, this infuriated the council and they proceeded to stone Stephen to death. Right before Stephen died, he looked up to heaven and saw Jesus STANDING as if to welcome him into eternity! I'm convinced that Jesus will welcome the young man from the story above the same way he welcomed Stephen, by standing and welcoming him into eternity!

Back to Kaepernick. Honestly, I don't care all that much about his protest. All I know is while Kaepernick sits down, there is a child of God out there who will do whatever he can to stand!

I'm sure the following verse is true to the young man who cannot stand on his own:

"Ascribe to The Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship The Lord in the splendor of his holiness." 1 Chronicles 16:29 (NLT)

Until next time friends,

Ryan G
Child of God; Megan's Husband; Amia's Daddy

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fatherhood y'all.

Nothing I have done in my life prepared me for this incredible life change. Those of you who are fathers know exactly what I am talking about. I read all the books ("Be Prepared" was my fave!), blogs, articles and took all the advice my guy friends gave me. Then, an incredible thing happened, I heard her first cry, the doctor handed her to me and all of a sudden, everything I read and heard did not prepare me for the moment I held that little life for the first time. Here are some "things the books don't teach you."

1. They don't tell you what to do when the nurse notices your daughter isn't breathing right.

Amia's first night, she was struggling to breathe. She was doing something called  "Retractive breathing." Retractive breathing is when a newborn has to inhale with her ribs because she is having difficulty using her lungs. The nurse proceeded to tell me that sometimes babies who continue to breathe retractively will get tired and cannot continue to breathe without assistance. The nurse used the acronym that no parent ever wants to hear: NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I have never experienced a scare like that in my life. I stood outside the exam room bawling my eyes out because I was so absolutely helpless. Luckily, Amia's breathing began to regulate and the nurse said that I could put her in the crib to sleep. Then came my first fatherhood moment...I kindly thanked the nurse but I decided I was not going to let my daughter leave my arms if she was having breathing problems! I did not sleep the next two nights at all. I held Amia in my arms all night while she slept. I kept staring at her to make sure she was breathing. It was incredibly exhausting and I would do it a million times over if it meant my daughter would be as happy and healthy as she is today.

2. On the lighter side, the books don't tell you that you should probably wait a few minutes after you hear the first poop! Unfortunately, I heard my daughter poop and I immediately jumped to change her diaper...even though Megan asked, "Are you sure she's done?" The answer to her question was no, Amia wasn't done, but I had no idea. As I was changing her diaper...well, I'll let you figure out what happened next!

There have been many other "the books don't teach you that" moments, but these two definitely stand out to me. I'm reminded of when Jesus left the disciples after he appeared to them and ascended back into heaven. I can imagine the disciples were in the same realm of thinking as I was; the same kind of helplessness; thinking "but teacher, you didn't teach us this!" Jesus, while he may not have taught the disciples everything they needed, absolutely did not leave them alone! Jesus said that the Father would send a helper. John 14:16 says "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever", John 16:7 says "...if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. but if I go, I will send Him to you" Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit! He sent his Holy Spirit to help us in his physical absence. The disciples received the Holy Spirit just as Jesus promised and they were used to change the entire world!

As I continue on this journey called fatherhood, Jesus reminds me of the same thing he said to the disciples...that he has sent his Holy Spirit as my Helper to help me watch over and raise my daughter! Wow! What a promise. I may run into many more things that "the books have not taught me" but through the Holy Spirit, I have a wonderful counselor; and guess what? I take solace in the fact that through the Holy spirit, my God has given me a book that does indeed have all the answers!

Until next time friends,

Ryan G
Child of God; Megan's Husband; Amia's Daddy