Monday, March 14, 2011


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.