Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Today I have enjoyed yet another snow day with my family. The actual temperature was -14 when I got the text this morning that school would be closed. So, I decided to sit down with my computer and get some serious school work done today. Three hours later.... I have listened to all of my favorite Rich Mullins' songs and even an entire concert of his and very little school work accomplished. Man I LOVE his music!!! And the idea that he was taken from this earth at such a young age, with no reason for the car accident that caused his death, and having a format to reach millions to share God's word, it really makes me go hmmmm???
There is a lot of things that I can think about that makes me scratch my head and ask why. And as I was thinking about all the cool and influential people that have been taken from the earth and it felt like it was the wrong time, it makes me want to question God and to ask Him what was He thinking. But then, that's me trying to elevate myself to God. I don't need to know. I need to trust.
So as I was thinking about all the really awesome people that have come and gone, I started to think about my youth minister. He was a person who was able to touch so many lives. When he passed away about 8 years ago, it was one of those moments when life pauses and you don't have any answer to the why. And as time has passed, I am no closer to understanding.
I remember when I first heard that Mark Angel, the new youth minister, was coming to our church. I was a freshman in high school and I distinctly remember opening up the weekly newsletter and reading the front of it, "An Angel is coming to Russell First Christian Church." As wise as the folks were at my church, I highly doubt that they truly understood the truth in that headline.
My friends that I shared life with in my youth group are still people that I am most interested in how life is going for them. A friend that I grew up with in my church recently talked with me about us hosting a youth group reunion. As I passed on the idea to another one of our youth group members he said, "Now, that's a reunion that I would travel home for to be part of." I grew up in eastern Kentucky and he lives in Iowa with his family, so that speaks volumes about how much of an impact our youth group played in his life; and that sentiment resounds over and over in many of us.
I love getting to share with people about my time with my youth group and Mark Angel. It was one of the greatest blessings in my life. If you had the privilege of knowing Mark, then that was something special. He had a way of sharing a true enthusiasm and love for Christ that made you want to go out in the world and do the same thing. It was during my time in youth group that I learned what it meant to give, love, be faithful, work hard, be a service for others, study God's Word and have an honest/transparent walk with Christ.
I remember one time when Mark gathered several of us and said, "Here's some money. I just met a homeless guy with a family. Go buy all the food you can with this and we will give it to him and his family after he speaks at youth group tonight. This is going to be so exciting!" Another time he announced that what was originally planned for youth group once again was thrown out the window and wasn't nearly as important as chopping wood in the freezing cold. Mark had found himself driving passed a house (more like a shack) and noticed that an elderly man was taking cut wood inside. So he stopped and told the man that he would be back with help to cut more wood for him and his wife and anything else that they needed help with. And when he told us, he was over the moon excited about taking us out there. I had gone passed that house more than a thousand times and never really noticed it. But he did. It was something that he did a lot. What I mean is, he taught us that when you see a need, take care of it if you are able to do it. Open your eyes, see what is around you....and love on people. He didn't believe in changing people's lives by simply listing off what God wants of us and telling them to do it. Instead, he taught us the importance of being the arms and feet of Christ and loving on others...and then sharing with them about Christ's love. THAT is some profound stuff. Not all that difficult....but it is intentional.
I love that song by Matthew West called "My Own Little Word". (Take a listen here if you've never heard it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9Yasgzjc0w) Basically it talks about how we are so involved in our own lives that we miss opportunities to make our world bigger by reaching out to others. Just like I had not ever noticed this little tiny house situated between two big oaks tress in the bend of the road I had traveled to my house for years, I'm sure there are people around you to invite into your own little world.
We need to stop making things about us. We all do it at some point. But we need to be intentional to recognize that people are hurting all around us, that people need to just be loved. And for no reason other than loving them as Christ loves us. So here's a challenge for us both....this Lent season, let's grow our world. Be the enthusiastic example of Christ's love. Be intentional. Be the hands and feet of Christ. I have found that enthusiasm, earnestness and love are all contagious. And once Easter is upon us, we just may find that our practice to grow our own world will become a permanent action for Christ! :)


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