Archive for September, 2008

Letting Go and Giving Thanks

I spent the day cleaning out my closet and dressers yesterday.  I was amazed at the amount of clothes that I have amassed over the years that I don’t even wear.  Many of them are in brand new condition.  As I weeded out all that I had not worn in a very long time I spent time reflecting on how blessed I truly am.  I know that when clearing out and letting go of things that you have owned for a time it can be hard and some people will do so kicking and screaming. For me as I began to dig through the enormous pile of clothing that I had not worn for a long time I began to smile broader.  I found myself giving thanks.  Thankful that through the blessing that I have received I could be a blessing to others.

I’ve been spending a great deal of time reading and thinking on Colossians 3:17:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We each have the ability to do make small sacrifices each and every day in our lives- to hold loosely to the things that we have.  The key to doing these things or speaking the words that we share with others is to do so with a heart of thankfulness.  I think that ties in to the idea that “God loves a cheerful giver.”  Whether you give of your time, talents, or treasure – what is the heart behind why you give? 

With the cold weather heading our way here in NH I started looking at the heavy wool sweaters that would help to keep others warm.  Maybe a guy who is living under a bridge will end up wearing one of the sweaters that I gave up.  Maybe a new resident of Concord, a refugee from Africa, will be given one and the joy of being warm will give him a hope for his new future here in America.

I’ve learned over the past year about the true joy that comes from living with less.  Kim and I have been reducing our possessions.  It is freeing to know that you can live within your means.  I am grateful for the days that I have the ability to be generous with what I have.  I keep looking for other ways in which I can help others while living in a way that reduces my need for personal gain.

How can you let go of things that you have held tightly to?  How can you find joy in doing so?  Thoughts?

He Knows My Name, and we know yours…

I had lunch with a parent of one of the youth that attend Impact.  He shared a story with me that brought tears to my eyes.  I wanted to share it with you all:

We had previously gone to a church where our teen had been involved in the youth group.  Over time there were conflicts that arose and there was no chance at having the problems resolved – no matter how we tried to address them.  Last year our teen attended Impact for the first time.  My teen came home and was quiet but seemed as though it was an overall experience.  After a few weeks there was mention during your service about worship auditions for the youth teams.  My teen was excited and decided to audition for the teams.  Later that day I came upstairs from doing some work in the basement to find my teen crying as they were talking with my wife.  My first reaction was, “not again.”  My wife said she would talk to me later and sent me away.  I spoke later with my wife to find that my teen was in tears because when they went to the auditions they were greeted by name and welcomed in without having any feeling of not fitting in.  It was such a foreign feeling to my teen that they were moved to tears of joy.

He went on and shared a bit more about the situation but as he shared the story with me he thanked me for the welcoming culture that we have created at Impact – which is also part of the DNA of our entire church.  We sing the song by Tommy Walker, “He Knows My Name”.  With that same perspective in mind I want to make sure that youth know that we also know them by name.  I want them to know that there are adults in this place that are crazy about them.  I want teens to feel the love, forgiveness, and acceptance that we also know through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

To all the amazing leaders at Impact – Well Done!  You impacted one young person by simply knowing their name…

Good Shepherd?

This morning we took a look at Jesus from the perspective of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus made the claim that He was the Good Shepherd.  In that day and age everyone knew a shepherd or was a shepherd.  This reference was known and relevant to the people that He was speaking to.  Here in NH we have farms and animals but the reference is somewhat lost on me.

What does a good shepherd do?  How do you determine if a  shepherd is a good one or a bad one?  What are the characteristics that make a shepherd good?  Sheep are helpless animals.  They are stupid.  They lack the ability to take care of themselves.  A good shepherd is one who would care for the flock.  He would guide his flock into lush fields where they could eat.  A good shepherd would be vigilant in his watch over the flock.  If a wild animal came into sight a good shepherd would act to protect the sheep from the predator.  If one of the sheep went missing from the flock a good shepherd would go out into the wilderness to find the missing sheep and return it to the safety of the flock.

I read all of these qualities and I play the comparison game.  Am I a good shepherd?  As a pastor that is another job title that I could have.  Pastor and shepherd are synonymous.  I struggle with this.  I know that there is much work that the Lord still has need to do in my life.

I get frustrated by people who do the things that they know they should not and yet they still do them.  I find myself annoyed by those who ask for advice and then do the exact opposite of what I have offered up to them.  I struggle with patience in dealing with those who end up lost and in trouble.  In some cases when trouble comes I take on an attitude that “you made your bed, now lay in it.”

Just this past week in while traveling in New York I was with a large group of pastors from around the nation and we were given the treat of attending a New York Yankees game.  The real treat came in witnessing the Yankees lose but that is not the point I am making here.  After the game came to an end we shuffled back to the buses that brought our group of 150 or so pastors to the game.  As we all boarded the buses we found that one of the pastors had gotten disoriented on his way back to the bus and had gotten lost.  He wasn’t answering his cell phone and had no idea of how to get back to where we were all waiting for him.  After about an hour of waiting for him to find his way back to us I was ready to say, “Good luck!” and start the bus myself.  There were others who felt the same way.  Thankfully there were some who were leading our excursion to the Bronx that would “leave no one behind.”  I can remember Twittering the thought that if I was Jesus the missing sheep would have been dinner.  

I need help.  I understand that no one is further from perfection than myself and yet I still grow weary some days in dealing with other people problems.  I gain a feeling of satisfaction when I am able to help others and yet in the blink of an eye I can resist answering the phone for fear of having to deal with “another issue”.  I know that I am not alone in feeling this way and I know that it isn’t right that I feel this way.  I cling to the Good Shepherd in dealing with my own issues.  I desire to be molded by His example as I strive to be a good shepherd myself.  I am ever thankful that “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

As I am protected, cared for, guided, and found in my depravity; I pray that I can do the same for those I have been called to do the same for.  I know that the example that the Good Shepherd sets for me is one that I can learn from.  I know that the impact the Good Shepherd has had on my life personally is one that leads me to want to do the same for others.  I just pray that I can…

Catalyst Conference

I’ll be headed to Atlanta next month for the Catalyst Conference.  This by far is the best conference I have ever attended and I look forward to it every year.  While I am down there I would love to connect with others who read this blog.

So, who’s going?  I already have plans to connect with Stuart for coffee.  Anyone else?  Let me know…

Do What You Can Do

In my journaling yesterday I came across this simple, yet profound verse in Revelation 14.  It’s the end of verse 2.

The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.

There is nothing more beautiful than that which has been created for a specific purpose doing what is was created to do.  The tone of this text would have been completely different if the sound described was “like that of harpists playing on drums.”  Each and every person is created with a specific purpose.  Our job is to find out what that is and then do it.  Far too much energy is wasted in doing the things that we are not meant to do.  

I feel alive when I am serving in youth ministry.  I sound the way I was created to sound when I am ministering to young people.  When I step out and do the things that others are supposed to be doing the clanging of cymbals begins.  This is when I know that I need to step back and support those who are called and gifted to do those things.  Rather than expending energy in areas of my life that bear no fruit I need to remain focused and at the same time encourage others to do so also.  As we each do what we are created to do the sound of a symphony is raised to our Creator and He hears a beautiful sound.

Lord, help me to remain focused and steadfast in my personal calling while at the same time helping others to do the same.

What are the things that you should be doing that you are not?

now flip it

What are the things that you are not supposed to be doing that you are?

How can you change that?

Embarrassment

I tried my hand at potato farming this year.  I am a true embarrassment to my Irish heritage…

(that is an actual size #2 pencil)

Home Schoolers

I love home schoolers.  I love the way they approach life.  Sure, I’ve been the one heard saying things like, “homeschool = doesn’t play well with others”, or “home schoolers have no class”, or “my dad can beat up your principal (dad)”.  Part of the reason I make fun of home schoolers is because I am jealous.  Here’s the scenario:  sleep in till noon, roll out into the kitchen in your jammies, pop in a DVD about world history, have your mom give you a test while eating lunch, chat with other home schoolers in an “educational” chat room, then go outside and play soccer (that would be phys-ed).  Heck yeah, I’m jealous.  That wasn’t what school looked like for me.

For all that I say about home schoolers I truly love them.  From all of my experiences with the many home school students that we have at Impact they are some of the most creative, artistic, fun to be around kids.  Yesterday we had four home school students helping us out with a large mailing that we are getting ready to send out.  The job that they had was to place shipping labels onto 18″ mailing triangle tubes.  The problem that they faced was, “What do we do with 800 shipping tubes once the labels are placed on them?”  Well, they may not have had a teacher yesterday as they helped us but they still attended class.  In the short time that it took them to complete their task (home schoolers are also very hard workers) they had completed completed assignments in ART, CREATIVE WRITING, ARCHITECTURE, GEOMETRY, and PHYSICS.  The one class that they could still use some help in would be spelling…

Julia, Laura, Tyler & Abbie.  You truly do RAWK!  Thanks for all of your help yesterday.

Upset at Generosity

I blogged earlier this week about the shoes that were donated to Soles4Souls.org through the simple act of leaving our church barefoot.  The Concord Monitor got wind of this and did a small write-up in the paper.  What seemed like a great act of charity that would provide shoes for those who have none has whipped up quite a dust storm of controversy in the comments that people have left on the online version of the article.  Today I posted a response.  Here it is:

I guess I am not quite sure how to start this comment. As I have read through all of the other comments below I have gone through a cycle of emotions. Please hear my heart as I write the following statements.

Our desire to is to help others. From the very humble beginnings of Grace Capital Church meeting in a home until now we have desired to be a blessing to our community and the world. Every year we strive to give away more than we did the year before. In 2007 we gave away 31% of everything that came into the church. Those financial contributions went outside of the church to those in need. Whether helping the homeless here in the Capital Region or drilling clean water wells in Rwanda, Africa we desire to provide for those who have nothing.

It goes beyond financial giving though. Our desire is not to seek our own prosperity as some may think. We truly understand the Biblical principle that “to whom much is given, much is required.” We have an amazing congregation filled with giving people. People who go out into the neighborhoods and serve their communities. At the Pembroke/Allenstown Old Home Days we gave freely to rent 4 inflatable obstacle courses to be used throughout the day to give children and families a place to enjoy each other. We did not charge for that, we wanted to simply bless the community that we are a part of. That same day, people from GCC went to stores and purchased popsicles with their own money to hand out to people walking down to the event. Every Saturday morning you will find people from GCC as well as many other area churches at the Friendly Kitchen serving up fantastic meals to those who come to be fed. These same people have a van that is set up in the parking lot where they hand out water, socks, underwear, sleeping bags and tents to those who have no homes. We care and so we serve those in need.

Our desire as a church is not to be self-serving but to serve others. We buy our Starbucks coffee at wholesale prices and sell it at our Cafe for prices lower than what you would pay at Dunkin’ Donuts. Over the past 4 years we have given away all of the profits from the sales of that coffee – amounting to thousands of dollars. We host blood drives in our facility, community gatherings, and public school events. Our student ministry serves young people from Concord and surrounding towns a free meal on the last Wednesday of each month. Our facility has been made open to many local agencies including the Town of Pembroke when they needed a location to hold a town meeting.

If you were to attend one of our two services on a Sunday morning you would find Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and even Green Party members welcomed with open arms. We are not a political body and will never build walls of division because of political issues. We encourage each person of voting age to research the issues and stance of each politician and to vote with their conscience. Please don’t blame Bush on us, there was a whole country that had the opportunity to vote…

This past week we had a total of 997 pairs of shoes donated to Soles4Souls.org That is a fantastic thing and I celebrate that. I celebrate the generosity of each person who left their shoes on Sunday and walked out barefoot. I celebrate each person who went home and dug through their closets to bring in even more pairs of shoes to be donated. I ALSO celebrate those who are bone marrow donors, blood donors, give to help purchase school supplies for children that can’t afford them, buy Girl Scout Cookies, give to rebuild the Gulf Coast, provide humanitarian aid for victims of flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

I celebrate anyone who can look beyond their own needs and help meet the needs of those around them who can not. As I celebrate you, and the good things that you do, can you join us in celebrating this “good thing” that was done? Can you look beyond issues of faith as I try to do and see that this one simple act of leaving a pair of shoes at a persons church is not something to criticize but to celebrate. Can you look beyond whatever baggage you are carrying around from past hurts and celebrate with us?

I‘d like to think that we are all much better than what has been commented here below. You can choose to disagree with many things that we do, but an act of generosity? Please, at least don’t do it anonymously.

Kevin Twombly
Generations Pastor
Grace Capital Church

My prayer is that people would be slower to criticize a good thing simply because it was done by a church.

Prayer Jogging

I started jogging again a while back.  It’s not something that I love to do, or even something that I like to do.  But I know that just working out with weights is not enough for me.  I want to be able to run with my  grandchildren some day.  Running will help me be in the position physically to do that.  

Everything we do sets us up for the future we will live in.

A practice that I have begun is to run at the local High School and Middle School at night.  As I run through the parking lots (the track is dark but the lots are lit) I pray for the schools.  To be honest the schools don’t have the best of reputations right now academically or socially.  I pray as I run that there would be students that know God that would be bold enough to share their faith with their friends.  That the students in the school would begin to walk in the light of the Lord and that the negative forces that have taken hold of many of the students at the school would be overpowered by positive, affirming words from many caring, grace-filled students.

I pray for these schools not only because I am passionate about connecting teenagers with Jesus and helping them grow in their relationship with him but also because in a few short years my oldest daughter will attend the middle school.  I want that school to make a turnaround even before she walks through the hallways for her first day of school.  I want that school to be a place where my daughter will make lasting healthy friendships that will carry her through her jr. and sr. high school years.  I also want the school to be a place where many students are sent from to impact their world.  I pray for world changers to be produced by that school.  That many students would look beyond their own desires for success and find creative ways to help those around them to succeed in life.

Prayer is powerful.  The end of James 5:16 says that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  I love that.  Not that I would go so far as to call myself righteous – I’ll leave that for Bill & Ted to speak of me – but that my prayers are effective.  Lord, may that be so!  I am all to aware that I do not battle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12) and that there are spiritual forces at work in every school.  I know that there is a battle going on for this generation of students.  That is why I pray.  I know that the words that I utter through my strained breathing as I run laps in the parking lots are powerful and effective.  I honestly can’t wait to see the fruit of my prayers and the many others that have gone before me and are still currently praying.

Let me challenge you to do the same.  You can skip the running, but start praying.  Pray for the schools in your communities.  Maybe you live nearby a school.  Walk around the school.  Touch the bricks that the school is built with.  Pray that students, teachers, and faculty would be blessed in the school.  Pray that they would be encouraged.  Pray that they would meet God!  

As I said in the beginning of this post – Everything we do sets us up for the future we will live in!

Open Letter for Guys Retreat

I’m not quite sure why I’m posting this because this letter has been mailed to all of the families that have male students at Impact.  I guess my thought is that since this is a blog about youth ministry and there are those who read this blog for ideas and thoughts on youth ministry maybe this letter helps others learn to communicate with parents in a healthy way.  Anyway, here is the letter that I sent out to parents about our guys retreat.

Dear Parents,

I am writing to you today to inform you of a unique opportunity that is available for your teenage son.  We will be heading up to Southport Island in Boothbay Harbor, Maine September 26-28 to spend some focused time with the young men of Impact.  Our goal during this time is to take on the tough issues that many young men encounter.  During our time together we will look at what the Bible says about relationships, purity, and overcoming temptations. 

I am writing to you personally to tell you about this because I want you to know my heart behind putting this weekend on.  I in no way want you to feel like we are trying to take away the role that you have in talking with your son about issues of dating, pornography, or boundaries in relationships.  My desire is to partner with you to equip young men to overcome and avoid many struggles that they face daily.  If young men can find freedom in their lives now they will be set up for a lifetime of victory and not have to deal with the many regrets that poor choices can lead them into.

I have included in this letter a registration form for our weekend away.  The trip is limited to the first 20 paid registrants.  Please fill the form out completely and return to the office by Sunday, September 21.  The cost of this trip is $75 per person.  This will include their meals, lodging, transportation and kayak rentals for our group activity.  We will be leaving GCC at 4pm on Friday, September 26 and returning to GCC on Sunday, September 28 at 4pm.

If you have any questions about this trip please feel free to call me at 415-4000 or email me at revkev@gccnh.com.

Thank you for this opportunity to serve you,

Pastor Kevin Twombly

Generations Pastor

Grace Capital Church