Monday, January 25, 2010

Thank You...

Ok, so I am at Winterfest, thirsty. I have two options: coke machine or stand in line at the concession. I am closer to the concession so I choose to stand in line.
I get behind a girl from another youth group. I ask how she likes it to which she tells me this is her third year to attend and she loves it.
“Great,” I say.
She responds with a question, “Do you have a dollar I can have?”
“Well, I only have a twenty. How about you order and I will just pay for yours
and mine at the cash register.”
“Thank you,” she says (I think).
We wait in line for about two more minutes not really talking before we reach the lady who asks what we would like. “Two pretzels,” she says. My eyebrows raise, my thoughts flashback to her only asking for ONE dollar.
I order orange juice. She receives her two pretzels. I get my OJ and my wallet to pay. Then lean over and say, “So, you really decided to take advantage or me offering to pay for your snack.”
“Well, one is for me and the other one is for my friend,” she says. But for some reason I don’t quite believe her. She takes her two pretzels and heads down the hall. I wait for Crysty at the exit of the concession. While I wait, I am just baffled that this girl would take such liberty in ordering more than she first requested. What was it that made her think she could now order two pretzels? Why didn’t she ask me if it would be OK? I know, I could have told her and stopped her order and said that I was only go to loan her a dollar. But I didn’t even make her spend her dollar. So she got the pretzel she wanted, an extra pretzel, and kept her dollar. I felt scammed by an eighth grader who is now going to enjoy two pretzels on me.
I looked around the hall as I waited on Crysty, and I see the girl. She just stopped walking to stand next to another girl and begins to had one pretzel over to her. Her friend is surprised. I can see the joy and confusion on her face. It seems she knew that her friend only had one dollar to begin with. She is happy to get her own pretzel, but wonders how her friend was able to get one for each of them. I cannot hear them, but I can see that she asks her friend how that happened. Then the girl in line points down the hall in my direction and says something. And her looks my way and says, “Thank you.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

As a minister, a youth minister that is (who apparently is in his office too much) I get the chance (or the shortest straw) to meet several people who come to the church looking for some kind of help. We call this the Back Door Ministry. The needs range from bus tickets for local transportation to sometimes the Greyhound. Food, prescriptions, clothes, boots, money, a night at the hotel, gas for their car, utility bills are all needs that have been presented to me. Most of them are easy, but we never give out cash and never fill prescriptions so, those people leave mad. Others become more complicated as their list of needs grow as they tell their story. We also get repeats; people who come twice a month, sometime more.

We had a guy call down curses on our worship minister. Crazy thing was that this guy could pray. He had a deep voice, strong and energetic, which just fed these amazing prayers. We saw Nathaniel for like 3 years here and there. He came in Dec. 2007 saying that he was moving to Denver and will not be back to ask for help in 2008. He failed to keep his promise.

Our campus minister has this on going pen pal from prison. Problem is that he serves his time and then makes personal visits. I have had a couple of visits with Raymond. We do what we can while he is out. But then we receive another letter from prison. He is one of five of our non-official prison ministry members.

In the summer of 2009 I was helping a young man named Isaac who served some time. He worked part time at La Madeleine. So he had a little income but not much. He stayed with his sister sometimes, until she felt like he was not doing his part around the house or to find a new job and she would kick him out for a few days. I tried hiring Isaac a few time around the church. He was an awful worker, slow, non-efficient, and never on time. I had lunch with him several times. We would talk about job hunting, prison, and his family. Crysty and I were prepared to help him with a monthly bus pass so he could be where he needed to be. We did for two months. Then he stopped showing up. I hope he found a full time job, but I just don’t know.
I have been conned a few times. One guy I met around 8:00 pm sometime in 2005. My wife and I were at Target, and I get this call from our office administrator who is at the church for a prayer meeting saying there is guy at the door who will not leave until he talks to someone and he is being a little aggressive. Crysty and I rush home. I listen to his story and decide to help. I helped with a hotel room, bought him boots for his job, played some ping-pong with him, and bought him some food from Wal-Mart. I helped him for about a week. Then nothing. I didn’t hear from him. About a year later, he shows back up at the church, but this time he is using a different name. Bummer. I bring up the past help and his other name, to which he replies, “I was on the run last year.” Bummer. I gave him a bus pass and sent him on his way.

We once had a lady who came every Tuesday for help. Her name was Elizabeth. We continued to push her toward Central Dallas Ministries, but she said her needs were not that great. She had small requests (except one time our campus minister bought her a diabetic blood test thing that cost him $65). Every once in while she would test the waters and ask for cash, “I need ten dollars in quarters for laundry.” We (I) denied her request. She would get mad and leave. But not without a bus pass, and she would be back next week. She tried going back to school (or at least that is what she told us). We probably saw her for about half a year then one Tuesday she didn’t show up. That Christmas I got a letter in the mail at the church. It was Elizabeth. She sent Crysty and I a Christmas card saying thank you for the help and that she moved to Kentucky. It made me smile.

I wished more of these stories ended this way. With just a letter that says thank you. A letter that contains a little closure. I don’t feel bad, when I can’t help someone out, I do feel great when I do help someone out, but I wonder when I send them on their way if their story is going to change because of the help I have given them.

Jesus one time saw this man who was born blind. He then spit in the mud placed it on his eyes and told the blind man to wash in a pool. So the blind man went and washed and came home seeing. The rest of John 9 is this man telling a new story, a grand story, a story of redemption. As a blind man he was a beggar, an outcast, a person with no story. Even Jesus’ disciples weren’t looking to redeem this man; they wanted reasons for his blindness. Jesus shows us purpose. “That the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Am I looking for purpose in outcast situations? Was I looking for the work of God to be displayed in Isaac’s life, Nathaniel’s life, or Elizabeth’s? I don’t really know.

Today, I helped a couple get to Austin, TX. They have been in Dallas for three days. They said they have visited at least 40 churches asking for the same thing. I could see the hunger in their faces and the tiredness in their posture when they showed up. I bought them bus tickets and some lunch at Whataburger (it’s the go to fast food place for moments like these). I took them to the bus station, purchased the tickets, and handed them over. Last night they stayed in the ER room of a hospital. Tonight they will stay with family.

I may not ever hear from John and Donna King again. I might not ever know why they were stuck in Dallas and not somewhere else, but I do know that the work of God was displayed in their life. And I know that they have a new story to share with their family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Preparing for a baby with John...

I am sure John will have a post later this week about our Winterfest Retreat with the youth group but I wanted to share a little paragraph with you that expressed so well what it is like preparing for our little boy with John.

Below I is a paragraph John wrote to his brother and sister updating them on how we're doing and what's going on. Please read with a sarcastic tone of voice.

"Crysty and I are hard at work trying to get a name for our child. It’s one of my new years resolutions. She is hard pressed to name him before May 11th and I tell her she is pushing the schedule up 7 months in advance (I have until Dec. 31). I threw out the name Diego, because I do think it’s cool, a little Hispanic sounding, and that was my name while I waited tables at Olive Garden, because the ladies loved it. My hope of naming our first Bruce and our second Wayne has been laid down to rest. We also have to find furniture for our kid, which already sounds like a pain. I mean we just visited the furniture stores for a TV console and end tables. Now I have to go back in these stores to find something for my child already. I was trying to get Crysty to go with, “If the child doesn’t ask for it we don’t need to get it” agreement saying it would save us some money, but she refused. So, now I have to go crib shopping, then look at changing tables, and maybe a dresser. The other thing to add to all this is the fact that we want at least 3 more kids. “We really need to get some thing nice and durable,” she says. So I had to throw away all my drawings of how to stack or move the furniture we already own. Let me tell you, seeing eight hours of drawings that include your couch facing the wall, or a pallet of blankets on your dinning room chairs all pushed together with their backs making a crib didn’t really settle well. I hope this is worth it. I am sure in hour ten I was going to revolutionize the baby furniture market. Babies are so demanding, and this kid has four more months in the womb. I have to take a class on just his arrival! "

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My First Blog, Please Go Easy...

Write, write, write. I keep wanting to write something for this blog but I really haven’t been finding anything to write about. Much less anything to think about and have others think about. I mean, if you are reading this right now you have to be thinking, “Lame.” Which is exactly what I am thinking. So to get started maybe a few random things from my life.

I am having a boy. Awesome. I love the fact that it is a boy, because that is what I wanted. I kept calling the baby a boy way before we ever new. Which spurred some youth members and parents to keep saying, “It’s going to be a girl.” Which then put them on the “NO HOLD” list. That’s right, a “No Hold” list. But back to me hoping for a boy. I prayed about it quite often, but I can’t say that I always knew for sure. And as much as I would like to say it was all me, I must be humble or I will be humbled. My mom on the other hand decided to make a blanket for ‘Bruce (gestational name, not real name)’ which was a blue blanket on the day we found out we were having a boy. She is good, real good. My next step is to toss out all her pink yarn so it will always be blue blankets. Well, maybe not. Having a girl wouldn’t be that bad now that we have the big brother. (I think we need to have a girl next time so that my niece Katie will be nice to me. I told her we were having a boy and she gave the phone back to her daddy.) This whole pregnancy thing hasn’t been that bad either. Well at least not for me. I really thought I would be going crazy with the whole, ‘Crysty’s pregnant and can’t do anything because she sick every morning.’ But she’s not. She hasn’t been sick once. Which is so cool, because it makes things just a little easier when the smell or sound of vomit is not the first item in the morning.

That was longer than what I was shooting for. I don’t think I can do that again, especially not with this one.

Our youth group is amazing. This past week we have had just some great fun with them and they have really been participating in a lot of activities. Our fist Sunday here we had 4 in class. This past Sunday we had 40 from the roll with two visitors. Amazing. I was humbled, in a good way. Then we went to worship and 38 students sat up front. We filled 4 pews and spilled over onto the fifth. This was great for the congregation to see, and it was great for me to see. Three of our students even went and invited three others to come sit with us. That night, we had went to one of our students JV hockey games as a surprise to him. 24 showed up plus 12 adults and siblings. So we yelled and cheered “J-Ho” every time he touched the puck (His name is Jonathan Holt (I might need to ask his parents if I could use his name on the internet (privacy concerns (it could hurt his future job hunt)))). We went to IHOP to eat after the game and two elderly persons complimented their behavior in the restaurant. This weekend we have Winterfest. Small retreat, but great time with students. Although the singing (or sound, actually) is weak, the teaching does allow us to reflect on what God has done for us and how we share that with others. I am ready to go and watch our students do and say amazing things.

Wow, I thought of others things to say, but since I am at a page I thought I might need to save those for later. I am not sure if you read this far, but if you did, Why? Post a comment and let me know. Lame, Room for Improvement, or Stop writing and let your wife tell the stories. She’s good.