Thursday, December 29, 2011

End of one, beginning to another...












2011 will end. There is nothing we can all do to stop time, it is inevitable that they year ends as we track it on the calendar. It not only will end, it will end in a little under 45 hours. These 45 hours will be spent doing millions of things, working, spending time with family and friends, sleeping, in the bathroom, and blogging on the Internet.




I am presently sitting in the basement of my house with my wife and we are spending time together awaiting a trip to Bellefonte, PA to visit friends for New Years. We will spend the remaining hours together with them and their son watching the ball drop in New York, watching time pass and 2011 become 2012.

Now, as years pass their is a tradition in place, that people will set resolutions for themselves. Maybe it is to eat better. To be a better person or parent or child. Maybe it is to exercise or do something good for you. It may be to take up a new hobby. However we all seem to set them.

In 2012, there is a movement online called 365 Days. It is intended for people to do something each day. Sometimes it is photos, journal, or making something. The most recent I saw was 365 days of Blogging and it is intended for people to not just blog everyday, but on some topic. Now, I am not claiming to be able to be able to keep up with 365 posts or some of them will be the equivalent of "HI"! What I am proposing is that this blog be updated every week at least.

Now the question is, "what do you write about for a year"? Not just that, but "how do we make it interesting"?

Well here is what I propose....YOU ALL CHECK IN JANUARY 1, 2012 and see what topic is chosen and see what youth have to say and what is on their minds on the topic.

See you in the NEW YEAR!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So this is Christmas


I began as the youth director at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church in 2004. Before I joined UDLC, in the Middle East, a war had been underway for a little over a year. A friend of mine, Chris had joined 1,000's of other men and women who went over seas to fight for his country.

Over the past, 7.5 years, I have seen men and women leave and come back. I have talked to and met some of these returning vets and seen what fighting can do to a person.

In the last year, I saw one of the students, who traveled with our group to multiple summer projects, who I worked with in catechism classes. I watched him then stand up and in front of the congregation announce that in the face of all the conflict world wide and after a year in college he was joining the Army. Not just join the Army, but the infantry. Not to just join the fight, but to be on the ground fighting. He was willing to put his life in harms way for his country.

Sam is not alone. Now, I don't mean joining the Army, but in looking beyond himself to see how he could help the greater good, the world, and serve his fellow man. Many times our students see things bigger than themselves. They see how the world needs them and they answer.

Now, not everyone is joining the military, but they hear a call. A call to serve with Chosen 300 or to travel down to the Appalachian Communities and meet the families and learn from them, work and serve with them. They take up causes, walk to raise money for charity or just offer a listening ear or hug when needed.

So this Christmas and what have you done? Another day is over and new one is, well beginning. What will you do before the year is out and what will you do next year? What will you do to make this world better?

People often talk about all the bad, but often we stop before we can look to the good and what good we can bring. So as we all open gifts, serve food, enjoy time together and take time to enjoy what we have this year, maybe find a way to bring that to others who may or may not have it.

  • Open and hold a door for someone.
  • Smile and say hello to a stranger (in appropriate situations)
  • Carry bags to a car or the house for a neighbor or someone you can see who needs it.
  • Take the time to ask and then listen to how someone's day is going.
  • Use basic manners. Hello, thank you; You're Welcome will do more than you know to brighten people's spirits.

I opened this post with a video by John Lennon about War being over and now I leave you to ponder another song by Lennon and sung by someone it affected deeply.





Saturday, December 17, 2011

Time for a break?

No, we are not going to stop updating the blog, it is more time for a break from the hustle and bustle of the season and crowds. We all need to take time to stop and take a break and remember why we as Christians celebrate Christmas. Not the secular Santa, Reindeer, decorations, and the like, but the birth of Jesus.

I found an interesting post by someone else and rather than go on about this, I think this sums it up nicely.


God is Love

Christmas is all about love

Christmas is thus about God and Love

Love is the key to peace among all mankind

Love is the key to peace and happiness within all creation

Love needs to be practiced - love needs to flow - love needs to make happy

Love starts with your partner, children, and friends and expands to all world

God bless

all mankind

Monday, November 21, 2011

Curveball

Sometimes life throws you a curveball. You get up to the plate, fully expecting to knock one out of the park, and instead you strike out. While the sports metaphor needs to end there, the sentiment holds true. Life, as a sentient entity (say that one ten times fast....), can sometimes hit you with something that makes you re-evaluate several other things in your life. Maybe you meet a handsome, successful stranger at a bus stop who turns out to be everything you need in your life, but there's just one thing you know a lot of your friends won't be able to look past. Maybe your knee gives out on you unexpectedly and your potentially limited years of unassisted movement flash through your mind. Maybe that class you needed to schedule is unavailable and you spend days thinking about other paths to take in life. In any case, that one event happens when you aren't expecting it, and it causes you to consider multiple other aspects of your life and how that event may or may not effect them. Will I be happy if ____ ? The mark of a strong individual, in my mind at least, is the ability to adapt to these so-called "curveball" situations, rather than letting them defeat you. It doesn't matter if you need friends, family, God, or nothing besides your thoughts to overcome them, as long as you do. It is the "Will I" or "Can I" be happy if's that often dictate how you handle a situation. So the class is unavailable, maybe you delay your original plans, pick a different route, or give up (not advised). Maybe it took teary eyed calls to mom, discussions in the arms of a loved on, or simply the logical portion of your brain... whatever the case, you reached a decision to overcome the most recent curveball life threw your way, and can now move on with you life.
Use the resources you have at hand (community, knowledge, music, etc) to face these situations and anything can be overcome. But always be prepared for the next pitch.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Youth Band is practicing again....

For those of you who may not have heard them before...here are some examples....

Grenade Cover - Bruno Mars
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2r4JMlWV8c&feature=related

SWEET HOME UPPER DUBLIN
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2r4JMlWV8c&feature=related

We have some surprises coming this January and for Choosen 300 in March.

Want to be a part of the Youth Band, come on out. We presently meet on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the Month in the Sanctuary.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

UDLC's Coffee House

UDLC's Coffee House
Saturday, November 5 6:30 - 8:30 PM
FELLOWSHIP HALL

The Youth of UDLC will be hosting a Coffee House for the COMMUNITY. We are looking for performers from all age ranges and performance levels.

Are you an adult who likes to perform as a hobby, GREAT! Let us know.

Are you a teen who wants to perform with friends? GREAT! Let us know.



We have had people ask, Do you want adults, do you want poets, do you want, singers. The answer is YES.

We want this to be of interest to the largest cross section of the Ambler and surrounding communities. We hope to have an audience of ALL AGES coming out for this.



If you have a desire to play or perform, please contact Ray Hopkins or Cheryl Rozinski. We can only make this a sucess if we performers for the community to come see.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Where is your talent?

video

To follow up on how can I get involved at UDLC? Here is an example of how Upper Dublin Lutheran Church is already out in the world.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What do you do at Youth in UDLC or"INSERT CLEVER TITLE HERE"!

So people sometimes ask in one way or another, "what do you do at youth group"? or "when does the youth group meet"? Well I am never sure how to answer that and I will explain why.

About 9 years ago another youth worker introduced me to the concept that "YOUTH GROUP" could be seen by some as a cliques and some youth may feel odd about trying to come check it out. I found this interesting but thought, church kids don't really do that...BUT THEN I SAW THEY DO AND SO DO THE ADULTS IN YOUTH MINISTRY!

I started to see teens would be open to new people, but then would sit in groups and not always include new people. Not intentionally, but because the idea for some kids was "THESE ARE MY FRIENDS". So when I moved churches in 2004, I wanted to make sure as I worked to rebuild the youth program looking to make all feel welcome.

Now, many adults think that all youth groups are welcoming places and often people don't see it like a youth outsider when we are inside. From the outside people see smiling laughing teens and adults and they think. WHAT A GREAT YOUTH MINISTRY AT THIS CHURCH! Yet a teenager can see a place where everyone is already in a place and they are not sure where they would fit in and being the new kid is hard, like it can be for adults who are in the same place when the family joins.

In UDLC we have what we call SUNDAY NIGHT AT CHURCH. You come, hang out, play games, eat snacks. Sometimes it is 10 people sometimes it is 5. More often than not, there is a 1 to 1 youth to adult ratio. Yet, the laughter and smiles don't seem in anyway diminished. That is because it is SUPER CASUAL. I mean, when people show up we all figure out what to do. Sometimes it is Apples to Apples and others it is just listening to music and looking up odd youtube videos.

We also have Lock In's where friends are welcome and we encourage youth to bring friends who are of any faith. Why? Because what better way to be closer friends then to meet your church family, see what worship is like for your family, and just get to know people you may never have before. Last year we even invited the teens from our refugee family and they were a catalyst that got everyone involved in the TWISTER tournament. They broke down walls of other teens in ways adults can't. they wanted to know them and talk and from that point through our LION KING viewing, everyone laughed, talked, and just were together.

Our Mission trip each summer is usually always attended by one youth who is not a member. People will ask me why I would give this spot away and I often point to the fact that we have non member youth more involved then youth who's family are members. I don't try to defend who is going, I let people think about the group going and if someone feels called to go, why should we tell them no, if there is a spot open? Every year these groups come back even stronger and I now have college students looking to go this summer, who go with their college campus groups, and who look for other service while away at school.

I don't want to make it seem like what we do is right or wrong. It is what works best for our church. It is what keeps people coming and teens at church building relationships. I will also point out, that this was not overnight. I have been doing this 7 years and for some groups 7 years is still a newbie. Will this work for 7 more years? I don't know, but what I do know is that I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE!

Are you new to UDLC? Did you visit and want to know more about us? Shoot me a message on facebook or email me @ raymondhopkins@comcast.net and I would love to tell you more. I am sitting in diner in Oreland, PA waiting for a Synod Youth Ministry meeting and look forward to working with other youth workers who if I do the math correctly have approximately 80 years of experience between us and yet at times this never seems like enough. We just do what we think God is calling us to do and hope we stay humble enough.

What do you think of when you think of Youth Ministry?



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fall is coming....

Are you ready for the fall?

UDLC Youth is getting ready...

Fall Kick Off, Sunday School, Sunday Night at Church, Fall Lock In.

Check in later for the schedule in August.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ASP 2011

The 2011 ASP Mission Trip has come and gone, but that does not mean the benefits of ASP have also gone. The opposite is actually true. The benefits of the 2011 ASP trip have just started for UDLC. We are seeing a new spark in the youth and adults who went to be involved in other parts of the church and their community. We have seen new friendships blossom and youth looking forward to seeing their new friends each week at church.

Each year, the ASP group starts raising funds for the next trip each winter. We try to mix in some education of the project, experiences of those who went, and fun into these events. We hope that each year when we start our journey as a team that we will be able to keep the congregation involved and allow them to see all the good that comes from it.

The trip itself is what people think is the "Big Experience" and while yes for some that is true, for many others who went this year and who have and will go the real benefit of the trip is having an experience to help them discover things they may never have found out about themselves. Many times the first part of the week is a social experiment in seeing how the group responds and what groups will form, but this year, it seemed that everyone was together almost all week and the groups you least expected to see were those that formed first. The older youth were with all the younger youth and it seemed that it was one big happy family. This is when, as a youth director you just smile, offer up a little prayer of thanks, and in my case TAKE A TON OF PHOTOS!


I asked the youth to share about ASP and I asked them what did the trip mean to you?

"A good time with friends and a great way to help others, as well as experience another culture." - Andrew Grafton

"I was surprised by how everyone was so welcoming towards me; they made me feel really comfortable. Also, I realized that i take advantage of a lot of things that i have in my life that some people don't have at all." - Molly Anderson

"ASP is an experience that I look forward to every year. I always feel proud of the hard work our group accomplishes for a family who needs it." - Alec Fox

"My asp experience was overall one of the best things I have ever done. I made awesome relationships with my crew, the kids at the center and my family I would have never made if I did not go on ASP." - Gabby Jones


"I have gone on ASP for 5 years, and it always warms my heart to help people in need. My family this year was especially needy and I'm glad that we could give them a warmer, safer, and drier house to live in. - Vanessa Fry.


“ASP was a way I got to step out of my own life for a few days and see the world from an entirely different perspective. The bonds Ii made with families and fellow church members allowed me to get closer to God in ways I couldn't imagine. It reminds you that what you’re doing to help the less fortunate is not only transforming their lives, but your own too.” Kendall Couch



“ASP is anamzing thing that the church and its members allow us to do and it helps us just as much as we help make homes warmer safer dryer. The week was amazing and brought us all closer together and i cant wait for next year.” - Marissa Irizarry



“Going to Jonesville was amazing because I got to make connections with so many other people--the family, my fellow volunteers, and people that I didn't really know from UDLC. Being on a double crew really established that sense of community and everyone was always so willing to help out.” - Meghan Evers



There are many other stories and experiences and I invite the congregation to seek out those who went and ask about the project and work done. Our teams (present and past) love to talk about it and share it with everyone and do whenever we are able to. Again, none of this is possible without the help of you the church community and for that we cannot thank you enough.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Video Games

Don't you hate it when people make you think? Someone plants an idea in your head that you just can't get rid of, no matter what. This week, it was a friend with the theory that perhaps life is just a series of video games; each person is a character in the game of life, and there are only a certain number of characters and maps to interact with. It's part of the way he helps rationalize the "small world" feeling we've been seeming to encounter quite frequently the last few weeks. The part that got me thinking first was figuring out who is behind that controller. Now my friend thinks he's in control of his own character on some level of subconscious, able to press a reset button some time in the future to prevent bad things from happening in the present. As I thought about these concepts, like invisible walls at the edge of the map or loading screens that elongate your journey, I thought it was probably God behind my controller. He introduces me to the right characters when I need them most, provides me with an inventory of my own gifts, my friends and family, and their gifts, gives me some hints along the way, and even gives me options to pause, quit, or play as a new character. The one option I doubt I'll find, however, is the "go back", "undo", or "rewind" function. This particular realization reminded me not to leave things unsaid or undone and that the things we do and say cannot be taken back. Thinking about the invisible walls at the edges of older game maps just made me want to explore; I'm excited to go searching for the edges of the map I'm playing now.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Well due to web service issues last week, we were not able to update, but to make up for it, we will post some feedback this week.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 1...On the road

Well after a number of years away, I find myself here in Blacksburg Virginia @ Luther Memorial. It is the campus closest to Virginia Tech. After dinner over at Red Robin, we took a ride over to the VT Memorial or the 32 people killed and 27 injured in April 2007.

We ran into the person who works directly with the monument and the survivors and families of those killed. She filled us in on a lot of history. She is a survivor of that day as well. Now she was not shot or injured, but as she explained, everyone was a survivor of that event. It shook the school to the core. In a sign or rising from the depths, all 27 injured students returned to VT and graduated from VT. They never forgot and students built the monument to the victims and in 2009 built a bench for all the survivors.

Many times we enter these trips waiting for the work sites to bring us God moments, but today God gave our youth and group the opportunity to meet someone who can explain all the good that has come from something awful. She was able to tell us how it affected her first hand and was very giving of her time. Also turns out she grew up in West Chester, PA. A Lutheran and her mother a Lutheran Minister
.

I am also very lucky to have Pastor Dyan with me. A veteran even over my years of service, it is great to have her there to fill those gas I have in some of my work and sharing with the youth.

Well off to bed. Wake up time is 6:30 Am if I am going to have coffee prior to Church at 8:30. Got to get up dressed and packed.

Peace to you all.
Ray

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Keep your eyes peeled next week

HEY ALL.

We may be on the road to Jonesville, VA for our Mission Trip, but in order to help people feel connected we will be uploading photos, blogging, sending tweets, and we may even have a video of Bob Topper dancing.

Feel free to leave comments and we will try to answer if time allows.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Why do you do youth ministry?

At dinner the other night, a friend asked me, “Why do you do youth ministry”? I sat there and was thinking about it and the answer came fairly quickly.

I do youth work, because as a teenager my church and my youth pastor in high school made me feel relevant, important, and valued by my church family. I felt that I was not the future of the church, but important to the church and useful even as a younger member. I realize that my pastor, like our previous youth pastor (also my boss now) knew youth are not the future of the church, but the present and that we can not look to youth as just future leaders, but as leaders.

I thought about this more today as I sat the walk in closet in my wife and my bedroom. You see last week, the present closet racks we had decided to leap off the wall. Now I could have sat on the decision to take on a closet redesign and just put the racks we had back up on the wall with stronger drywall anchors. I say I could have, but my wife and I had this discussion earlier this spring about designing and having closet shelves installed with new racks.

Why do I tell you about my newest home improvement project? Because if I had never been trusted as a teen to go to the Mountains of Appalachia and learn home repair projects for the Appalachia Service Project and work with adults who trusted me, I may have never taken on this project. I would have probably been like many people and just hung them back on the wall and taken the easy way out, but I didn’t because I believed I could do it.

Last year one of my youth decided college was not for him. That instead he thought he would follow his desire to join the military. He wanted to follow his dream to join the infantry. He wanted to serve his country and while mom may have had some reservations, she trusted he knew what he wanted. He knew that people trusted him and that after his training people would trust them with his life. This was from years of being involved of the swim team and having adults in his life who helped him trust his decision.

Another case is a youth who has joined our council. She works to show the entire congregation that teens are not just future leaders. That the church trusted her to make decisions that affected everyone in the church.

We just had Youth Sunday on May 15, 2011. Not only did we have teens running every aspect of the 7:45 AM and 9 AM services, but this was the first year of our Youth Band. These 14 young people reworked and learned 3 songs for the service and impressed the congregation so much they have already invited the band to play “Sweet Home Upper Dublin” on Confirmation Sunday.

So, as I look around I see all the things youth are doing and proving that youth are the present part of the church and I believe the entire church is doing youth work without realizing it. I know that we will keep seeing all those youth who have been empowered will become youth workers by just being the adults that the church modeled for them as youth.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Technoliday...Do we all need one?

So last night my wife and I were getting ready for dinner. I mention I would like to see what is on TV so I sit down at the laptop she was working on in the kitchen, log in to Facebook and start reading. I then get up to do some things at the stove and she asks "so when did checking what is on TV equal logging into facebook?

I froze and thought, TV. I wanted to see what was on TV!!!! Why did I log into facebook. She then floated that we may need to put a stop to all the time we get sucked out of life with these types of things.

I immediately say, "oh it is not that bad." Then 10 minute later, was downstairs with my laptop open, my XBOX on (playing Black Ops online if it must be known), with my cell phone next to me, while she streamed a show on the desktop and I started thinking...SHE IS RIGHT.

Now, before you all send this to my wife and she prints it for use later in life, I should preface this by saying, my wife is at genius level intelligence. Literally, not like oh she is genius, but like super smart and has amazing art abilities. If this were Italy during the Renaissance, she would be hanging with DiVinci asking what is up with the dead body in the other room. So, for her to be right is not really an odd occurrence, but pretty much an everyday occurrence at our home.

Now, as I moved on from quietly mulling this over and on my 40th game of bejeweled on Facebook, I start thinking...What could I gave done in the last 40 minutes if I was not sitting with a computer in my lap. At very least, I could have sat with Deena and watched TV.

So now, about 13 hours later (8:15 AM EDT for those who need details), I sit thinking what would i be able to give up and what kind of sense of emotional, psychological, and physical pain would it cause me and do I really feel I can do it? I know, many people realize my ability to cut FB or email out of my life is almost impossible, but I think I could do it. The problem is, can I cut it out and then come back to a less frequent usage and not have a sense of loss for the time I have given it in my life.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not anti-Facebook or technology all of a sudden, I am just realizing how much communication I do only digital and how little in person I do and wondering how healthy that is?

As a youth director for UDLC, I am constantly saying "ok, cell phones away." or "Please stop texting" or "if I see that again I will hold it till we are done" and in the past this was just for texting, but now it is facebook updates, tweets, games, photos, video streaming, and music. I mean these young people have what Star Trek was only dreaming of in the 1960's. Yet, I know the technology is important and to them is the umbilical cord to their social lives, but I ask how healthy is it?

* How healthy is it when we read about people texting up to a housemate, spouse, or child on the upper level of a house or the same floor asking them to do something.

* How healthy is it that youth spend more time relating over facebook than carrying on real conversations?

* How healthy is it that youth and younger generations (and some older) now expect immediate satisfaction or information or answer because of Google or Bing or any Wikipedia?

* Why has it become so important to have to reach someone at anytime, anywhere, for anything? Why is leaving a message not good enough?


Now granted there are great things coming from online personalities. Reclusive people and introverts, may be able to express or share more in the written form and I mean who sends cards or notes anymore? People with communication challenges are able to be a part of an online community with everyone else, but is that also taking the burden from learning about their challenges easier for the masses?

I don't have answers, I just have more questions and follow ups. I just wonder if opening this dialogue and personal experiment may show how instead of only helped, how much technology and always being plugged in HINDERS us from each other and the world around us.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Living Life

Lately it seems I've run out of profound things to say. I've started countless blog posts that very quickly go nowhere. This lack of anything to say (besides, of course, GO PITT) is really starting to get to me, so here I am, trying again. In my life, I've seen relationships spanning the entire spectrum from great, to bad, to worse; I've seen friends come and go; I've seen illnesses last and fade; I've experienced my faith faltering with the negatives of all of those things. Why would such a loving God place those evils on me or the ones I care about? I know that's a struggle that a lot of people have, but it has really been hitting hard this week. Mom told me that He doesn't give us anything that we can't handle. So I suppose that stronger people with stronger communities are better equipped to deal with Life and all of it's bullshit than those without love and support and strength in their lives. (here I go talking about community again. typical.) The last two weeks, especially, have made me thankful for my community - especially Mom and Colin. I've been dealing with a lot of health issues, on top of the normal academic and social stresses of being a teenage girl, and those two have done everything they could to make me feel like everything will be okay. Even the little things, like Colin stopping at rite-aid for me, Mom calling to make appointments for me the one day I'll be home, and even Ray reposting one of my favorite pics of myself for a photo contest, have been making such a difference to me. I've heard from a few different people I don't normally talk to, and have been strengthening my relationships with those I do. No matter how negative I may have been about having these issues at first, I know that every person in my life is there for a reason, and they are all doing a great job of helping me get through life, one step at a time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Do you TRUST GOD?

How do you find God in time when bad things happen? How do you have faith when it seems we see more bad then good? These were recently asked of me by students and you know what my answer was? Silence and I was silent for a few moments and then I asked, “Do you trust God”?

Silence then was presented to me by this group of young people and I asked again, “Do you trust God” and “Do you think God does this to hurt us”?

The dialogue that followed was one many of us deal with alone or as teens or hey even as adults. The part that is hard is this…”Do we trust and can we trust God?

Trust may seem strong to ask. I mean this TRUST is something we build up with people over time. I TRUST few people completely, like my wife and my mom. I TRUST that people are mostly good and I TRUST GOD! I TRUST that God loves me and all people. I TRUST that God’s not sitting up in heaven just waiting to give people problems like a doctor prescribes medicine, “OH, DO I HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU”!

I presented the idea of faith as trust. We always try to answer the question “what is faith” with long papers and books and years of research and yet to me the clearest way to talk about it is…DO YOU TRUST GOD? I mean some of the greatest people in the Bible had trust in God. Oh sure they may have resisted, but who doesn’t when presented with a really hard job.

GOD: OK, so Noah, I am going to FLOOD THE EARTH and I want you to build this big ship.

Noah: Wait, I am sorry? You are going to what?

GOD: Flood the earth, but I need you to get a lot done, so let’s hold questions till the end.

Noah: The entire Earth, you are going to flood everywhere.

GOD: Noah, I just told you this. We need to work on your listening skills. So I have given you the dimensions and instructions on what to do once the ship is built.

NOAH: Ok, so I need to convince my family to help me build this because GOD says so.

GOD: YUP! Ok, good you understand because man when I give other people opportunity they just want to run away.

Ok, so maybe it was not like that exactly, but I used some inspiration from Evan Almighty. I mean I trust God used that movie to help us all and why mess with a well told modern adaptation?

So, I asked about trusting GOD and I got “well that is really hard” (which is what I wanted and secretly hoped for). We discussed the ideas of faith and how hard it always is and what we are able to experience if we allow ourselves to trust.

My mom and I had a talk last week about this. When I need some grounding in regard to what I am struggling with I call Martha. Because I trust her and with this she has much more experience and spent many years after my dad died dealing with this.

I talked to her about God not giving us more than we can handle vs. life giving us things we don’t think we can handle and GOD giving us the ability to handle them. She had a few great points that I want to do my best to paraphrase below.

I don’t think we can sit around and blame GOD for bad things, because we see them as bad, we don’t see the future. Would I have wanted your dad back over anything else? Of course! Yet, medically I knew if we got him back he would not have been the person he was before his heart stopped and brain was damaged. I would have loved him no less, but 11 years looking back I can see that. 6 months out I could not and 2 years out I struggled. It is hard to be single alone and scared after 30+ years of not, but I am in a good place now and happy again and GOD has also given me time to see I would be.

Now so you know, my mom had he knee replaced in December 2010. She calls this “her miracle” she was almost completely crippled and walking even up the stairs in her house was a challenge. Yet only 3 months since this surgery, she is planning a trip to St. Louis with my sisters and me and then coming back to go through all the pain and surgery and recovery again. She TRUSTS the surgery will do the same for the other knee. GOD has given her another chance to live at 67. I mean it is not a heart or near death experience, but it is the chance to go out and see the world again. It is the opportunity to appreciate what she lost for so long and to move without pain.

So, like so many of my youth looking to me for answers they want, I look to my elders for answers and I see them in a man crippled by a stroke who never complained and accepted this and the time GOD gave him with family and friends.

I see it in youth given the chance to love friends at church they may never have become friends with outside of church.

I see it in me and my chance to understand that I am just sometimes a little too much like Jonah and often not enough like David and you know what…I think that is a good thing. Why? Because it lets me look back and laugh and say…OH! So what you were teaching me was x. Wow, wouldn’t a quick burning bush been easier? Then again, maybe I need to watch what I ask for?

GOD IS THERE, in everything. TRUST ME.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Welcome home, Mr. Rozinski.

I wrote some of this last week, just hadn't gotten around to putting it up here. Today seems like both the best and worst time for it now.

When trouble strikes, living five hours from home can be especially stressful. If the trouble is with you, you must seek help and guidance from unfamiliar sources. If the trouble is at home, you feel entirely helpless; after all, what can a person do from so far away? When trouble strikes, it can really test you as an individual. You and those around you will discover things about you that may not have been known before. Priorities change, attitudes and beliefs can shift, and your brain scrambles to find any solution to whatever problem has occurred. You hear advice from people both at home and with you, most of which conflicts with what you know is the right thing to do. You start to plan your every move around the "what-ifs". For a moment you feel trapped, surrounded by the unknown. But you rise above it. Mostly because you are a strong, capable, individual, but even if you don't feel that way - what choice do you really have? You can let the what-ifs and the unknowns consume you, or you can choose to fight through them. You feel helpless, like you should do something. You feel guilty about the emotions you experience, regardless of what they are -- after all, it isn't really you that this trouble affects -- but most often you feel confused and conflicted as you attempt to figure out what to do with yourself.

And now that today is upon us, the confusion and conflicted feelings are gone; they no longer apply. The helplessness and the guilt linger on, as they likely will for weeks to come. Now, even worse, you feel selfish. Selfish for writing, selfish for studying, selfish for laughing; everything I do seems insignificant and wrong compared to the things those who are close to me deal with on a regular basis, and particularly in the past weeks. On top of that, there is anger. Directed primarily at those who blow the tiniest things completely out of proportion, it festers, as you try to rationalize their worries by rationalizing the differences in the experiences that everyone faces in their youth and adulthood. So perhaps the confusion and conflict haven't disappeared after all.

I know my best friend will be strong through this. In fact, I know she may even be too strong. Even in the face of death, the living must continue living.

The measure of a man...

As youth director, you often find yourself talking with students. Talking about parents, kids at school, life changes like college, new bf's or gf's, or just general life situations. However this year I have been blessed to be able to spend time with a family who faced the biggest thing a family can face, the death of a loved one and more specifically Dad.


Now a little back story may be needed, but not too much. My friend Dave was a great father, brother, husband, and friend. He had a smile when you needed one, a joke when he could, and a smile and laugh that would perk up any bad day. Dave was also maybe one of the most positive people I knew. He faced cancer treatments off and on for probably most of the last 3 years and even when he was sick he said "let me know what I can do" or "I will try to make it to help with Sunday school". Dave was just such a gift to our church and my life.


Yet, the impact and measure of Dave is not just in him, it is also in the children and family. His wife Linda is a committed woman. Even with all of the issues the family dealt with she made sure the kids made it to confirmation or church on Sunday. She made sure that the kids could stay positive and that life would keep going on as normal as possible and she stood as the rock Dave needed.


His son Thomas is at times deceptively quiet and while not like dad there, he jokes like dad. I say deceptively because if you knew him well enough, his comments and jokes come out and you had to be able to listen to hear it. Also like Dave Thomas will always stretch out further then you would expect to fill the role needed. He was part of the Youth Sunday Skit last year when his sister asked him to and he did a great job breaking down what normally would have been a barrier. One week in January during Confirmation we went around doing woes and WOWS. Thomas shared that his wow was “My dad played Ping Pong with us this week, even though he was really tired” and he said there are no woes, that was all he needed to share.

Then there is Cheryl. Cheryl is a wonder, she has the energy and joy that when first experienced can be almost overwhelming, but when surrounded by it, you realize it is just pure joy. Last year, in the depth of Dave's treatment Cheryl came to Pastor Lawlor and presented her with this Skit that was viral online, to the Song "Everything", it spoke to her of the love God has for us and that in all of our darkest times we may lose sight of God and Jesus, but he does not lose sight of us and constantly is there to cover us and pick us up when we need it. She wanted this done for her dad. She wanted him to see this message and in doing so, she showed me and the entire church and later our ASP center this message. It was exactly the message we needed.


Earlier today, Dave went home to the arms of our loving Lord. He went home to a place with no treatments, or hospitals, no tests, no pain, and to see the fulfillment of the promise we have all been given. Today many hurt. We hurt for ourselves and the friend we lost. We hurt for The Rozinski's and the wife, children and siblings who have lost Dave. Yet, we also hurt because we cannot make this pain better. There are no pills or treatments to make grief easier.


There is however hope. There is hope in the love God gives us everlasting life even after our time on Earth is through. There is hope in the things Dave's love and caring will bring forth through Cheryl and Thomas. The fact that they knew such a strong father who loved them so much he spent his last day’s home with them. There is hope that even though we hurt know, we know that we will begin to feel relief when in days to come we can celebrate in the life of Dave with smiles and laughter. We will know his life made an impact on all those youth he served and all those adults he worked with.


Dave loved as he believed his Savior loved. He cared as he believed his savior did. He smiled and joked, and inspired as he believed his savior did.


I hurt today for the loss of my friend David. I hurt for Linda and knowing as a son can of the loss a mother has when her husband dies so young. I hurt for the kids in a way that I know losing a father so young can impact and the many things you feel he will not be there for. Yet, in all that hurt, I have great joy in knowing I will see Dave for years in the lives of Thomas, Linda, and Cheryl. I take comfort that my friend who was so sick for so long and who fought so hard, went home to the one who loves us more than anyone else ever can.


Today, I know I will not see my friend anymore here on earth, and I know I will not see him until that day I see him again in my father's house. Yet, I take comfort in all the many ways I see him. In his final week I was told his face would light up when he spoke or people talked about Youth Ministry and Sunday school at UDLC. I humbly take small comfort that I know Dave knew he had a part in that and that his joy was in working with youth and that these young people will one day go on to do amazing things in their home congregations, like he did for all of us.


God Bless you Dave. Take care my friend until we once again are able to hug and laugh together in God's kingdom.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's been a while...

I sit down to write today, not from some planned entry I previously wrote, not because something extravagant has happened, and certainly not because I have any idea what is going on in the world at large. I sit down to write today just because it feels right. Plus, I've been exposed to several blogs via facebook, twitter, and stumbleupon, so I suppose you could say I'm inspired. I'll warn you now, though, this could get ramble-y.

Normally what I write for myself is poetic or lyrical, something that's been on my mind, something that caught my attention, or simply a way to vent. Here, however, I tend to try only to post when something seems legitimately important. Clearly I haven't figured out what that will be today, but I have a feeling I'll be taken there by the end.

Until then, I'll start off with some quick, vague updates... 1) One of my best friends from home is facing some things she has never faced before. Some of them are issues that most people her age will never face, others are more common than she thinks. In any case, I applaud her for being strong through it all, I thank her for confiding in me when things get tough, and I pray for her mental peace and for her community's overall well-being. 2) I have met one of the most amazing people. He takes care of me, he makes me feel safe and happy, and I am thrilled to be able to call him my boyfriend. 3) Two of my best friends, one being the one who has been with me through more than anyone else besides mom, are coming to spend the weekend in my dorm this weekend! I'm hoping to have an amazing girl's weekend with them, and am so happy I get to see them! Plus, being an unofficial tour guide for a soon-to-be student will be an adventure =] 4) After some minor issues during the fall semester, I have a new roommate for the spring. We get along really well (shock, I know.) and are even planning to live together again next year! (with my newest best friend)

No surprise here, the only thing I can ever seem to harp on is the value of community. But you already know what I have to say about that. Surrounding yourself with those who care about you is powerful; it lifts your spirits when they're down, it provides a sounding board whenever you need one, and the people in it will always be there. I am reminded of this at the most random times, whether it be a new facebook user, a card or letter in the mail, or simply spending time with my friends & hearing/seeing/feeling how much we mean to each other.

One last thing. If you've ever met me, you know that my mom is the single most important person to me on this earth. She has solid (albeit blunt) advice, is supportive when I need her to be, and is generally just an amazing person. Also at home with her I have pets. Our dog, Nicky, had to be put down shortly before Christmas. I knew this would be hard for mom, and really wanted to find a new friend, both for her and for our cat, Scooter. It just so happened that our visit to the SPCA yielded the perfect answer. Our new cat, Hershey, acts more like a puppy than I have ever witnessed in a cat's behavior. He sits in the same spots as Nicky did, plays with toys and with his family members, feline and human, and is a lovely addition to the Kehs household.

xoRJK