The YS conference ended last evening for me. Walking away from the convention center there was a sense of fatigue and joy and too much good food and circles under my eyes from crying and great conversations with friends and giggling and hope and promise and one too many coffees and God time and late night pizza and talks with Paul and lots of just us time. And it was everything I didn’t know I needed and yet everything I wanted at the same time. It was invigorating. Here is just a little snippet (okay, a ridiculously too long one) of random treasures.
In Margeret Feinberg’s talk, I was challenged to listen to God’s voice and to pursue the passions He has written on my heart. My joy is my God and my family, without question. But my joy is also listening to stories and hearing God’s heart within them. I want to give credence to voices who have drenched their pillow with tears, but are waking up to restoration and beauty each new day. I want to serve a broken world with words of hope that communicate love winning in the end. I want to point to Jesus, I want to point to Jesus.
Andrew Marin, founder of the Marin Foundation, is a guy who has committed his life to loving Jesus and living right in the middle of the largest gay and lesbian community. His intention is not to change his neighbors with an end agenda in mind. Quoting Billy Graham, he stated that it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, it’s God’s role to judge, it’s his place to love. Clearly through his stories, it was more than his place, it was his honor to love those that the Christian community has despised for far too long, to our shame. (It’s always hate the sin, love the sinner, but geez… we sure can’t seem to extricate that hate from individuals whom God longs to pursue.)
Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love, took the stage Saturday night. And dude, he took the stage. He convicted and challenged and said just about every hard thing I didn’t really want to hear. If you haven’t seen this guy speak or read his book, please do. He is as authentic and true to the word of God as it gets. One of my favorite quotes was, “Teach in such a way so as not to cheapen the gospel.” Oh, and “When salt goes bad, it’s worthless. So worthless that it ruins manure.” Yep, manure. I don’t want to be the one to ruin manure. (Luke 14: 35)
Phyllis Tickle spoke at some point – at this point everything is a blur- and she was this wondrous genius, this spitfire of a sage. She gave a history lesson and covered the Great Reformation, the Great Schism, the Fall and Decline of Rome, Jesus’ arrival, etc…. Her premise was that every 500 years the church goes through some type of major deal. And it’s that time again. We’re at the precipice of another 500 years, so there are crazy implications to this cycle that we’ll see in our lifetime. God does have a funny thing for numbers in His word. Strange stuff, but great thing to be aware of.
Mark Yaconelli spoke about the soul and disco balls. I sorta wish he had dove deeper into the word, but I did love how he said that joy is always, irrevocably connected to suffering. Joy is an expression of healing. And he gave a great object lesson to boot. It’s why people found it easy to celebrate around Jesus, because he was connected to their pain. It’s also what I can stake the last 2 1/2 months on. I would’ve never understood this concept, had we not lived through it (to a minuscule degree.) Deep joy finds a reservoir in wells of suffering. Those tears were worth it for this joy now.
Beyond the general session speakers, I attended a few seminars, two of which I would highly recommend – Jim Burns’ seminar on Marriage and Youth Ministry and Andy Root’s seminar on Rethinking Relational Ministry.
One comment from Jim Burn’s seminar really stood out to me. In speaking to a teenage girl (whose dad was very effective in young life), the girl said, “I hope you do things differently than my dad. He saved other kids. He didn’t save me.” Ughhh… our families, first and foremost, need to know that we are for them. “For them” (for our kids at least) translates into lots of time playing, laughing, hanging out, listening, praying for, and inviting them to be a part of what matters most. I will leave this weekend with a million strategies in working with teenagers, but I will also find myself playing tag a whole lot more in the leaves with my kids (and being more intentional about date nights with Paul!) Playing tag is of infinite value.
Andy Root’s seminar on Relational Ministry had like no one in it, but it was really like this gem. Here’s this little soft spoken preppy guy who learned what he knows from working with gangs in LA (I think, I could be totally lying about the LA part.) What I got out of it was that students can sniff out agenda from a mile away. So if you’ve got this goal of getting an unchurched kid to sit quietly in a pew with a collared shirt on, he will never ever get anywhere near you. (Bad goal anyway) But if you meet him where he’s at, in his place of deepest need/vulnerability/weakness and communicate that you care about him – well, then that is the framework for a relationship. Yes, you can still speak the truth in love, but you listen more than you talk. And you let Jesus do the saving anyway.
Gosh, all of this plus Crowder and Matt Maher (fabulous worship leader), Shane and Shane, a Compassion graduate, Kendall Payne, and the Skit Guys. Oh yeah, Tony Jones was there too. I really didn’t get his whole beginning ditty and frankly didn’t find much value in it. It bothered me a lot, especially the prayer mocking of sorts. But what the guy had to say was great. He spoke on not cheapening the gospel, getting into the word of God, and letting the person of Jesus Christ (with dirt under his work worn hands) be our example. Can’t argue with much of that.
Well, it’s late and I need to get to bed. It was a long day of work today. I am thrilled about spending tomorrow with Selah and Adden. I missed them immeasurably while we were gone. (And huge thanks to Paul’s amazing parents for loving them the whole weekend and giving us this retreat!)
Can’t wait to play tag in the leaves….