Doing More?

“I feel stuck.”

These are the words one of my precious student leaders pulled me aside a little over a month ago, as she continued to tell me of her eagerness to grow in her faith.  I listened to her, encouraged her, and gave her a few tangible things to “do.”  But I struggled to explain to her the fuzzy line between “faith without works are dead” and the hard truth that doing anything more won’t mean anything more to you without faith.

I talked to my sister today, who explains to me that she doesn’t want to “eat spiritual steak,” because she’s still a “spiritual infant.” Certainly, I’d love to see growth in my sister.  But I find myself again explaining to her that doing more won’t magically grow you more.

The crazy thing is–I think I operate my own life with the belief that I’m never a good-enough Christian, that there is always more to do.  I think of a conversation with a good friend a few weeks ago, who told me that there was “always more ministry to do” as she justified adding more to her plate.

I’m 7 years older than my sister, who is 7 years older than my student leader. Between the three of us, we have the same notion that we must do more in order to grow more in our faith. I asked my sister what she thinks the “goal is” for faith, and she told me to live a life where everything glorifies God. I asked her if she though I was strong in my faith then. She stuttered (jerk).  Point proven.  If the three of us over the course of 14 years all have this same notion, my guess is that this is a feeling that will never go away.

It’s a sucky feeling, to not feel good enough. We get enough of that in our day-to-day life, that when you add not being “good enough” in faith, it all just feels so hard. Faith shouldn’t be this hard, right?  Faith shouldn’t be something that you’re “good” at.

This last month on three separate occasions over the course of one month I’ve heard lessons taught on the comparison between the Pharisees and “sinners”: a tax collector, an adulterous woman, and the woman who fell at Jesus’ feet. In all three occasions, it’s proven that there is no distinction between them in terms of sin: They’ve all messed up, no one is without sin.

And in all three stories, Jesus proves that the ones who are “good enough” are the ones who know they’re not.  None of them are saying “Hey Jesus, what more can I do?”  In fact, the ones who do end up hearing answers that turn them away from Jesus (sell all my possessions? who is my neighbor, really?).

At the end of the day, all I want is God.

In every other aspect of life, I have to do something in order to gain something. It’s just the way it is. But what makes Christianity unique is that it’s the only way that doesn’t require more.

I’m not denying the value from spiritual disciplines. But I am denying the belief that doing them or anything else will somehow bring me certain results.

I just want to touch Jesus’ cloak for healing, wipe his feet with my tears, and admit I don’t have it all together. This is far more difficult that doing more, because it’s vulnerable. But that’s where God is–we’re too busy covering ourselves with fig leaves and to-do lists to understand that.

Why Campference is the Best Weekend of My Year

I just got back from #Campference with two of my best volunteers. Campference is a half-camp, half-conference event that takes place only an hour and a half away from me for middle school youth workers–it’s basically a no-brainer to go to. This weekend had some fantastic moments. Here I want to highlight why Campference is not only the best conference around, but why it becomes one of the best weekends of the year.

A tribe is in it together.  Middle school students aren’t always held in the highest regard, but middle school youth workers are kind of obsessed with them (in a healthy way). Life proves time and time again that people bond over hard things, and middle school ministry creates a bond in youth workers that is lasting. I feel like when I come to Campference, people remember the details of my ministry–even some of the silly things about it. I love that! I feel truly known by people, and I feel like I have 100 people on my team supporting me.

The vibe is real life. The joke is that Campference is “Vegas,” and everything that is shared and experienced is honored and kept in a safe place. But more than being a safe place, it’s also  a fun place. We can make poop jokes, cuss a little, and know that this is how the “real world” is, and so we don’t have to pretend around one another. Also important– no one is on a pedestal. Speakers aren’t holy gurus (only once was I caught drooling), but normal people that sit down and have normal conversations with you over normal food. This is where real conversations happen.

The breakouts apply. All the time. Even when I went to a breakout that’s name didn’t totally convince me, I walked out smarter. Why? No one is imparting some great knowledge on “lesser” youth workers. Instead, we’re having conversations and growing together. We’re taking time to take names and stories and treat each other the way we would if it was our own youth ministry. This matters–most conferences have a style that is totally opposite of what we would do during youth group. And everything applies; even the games we play as groups can be taken back home and replicated in our church.

For me, this year Campference was healing. There were things that I was able to deal with in my own heart that I needed that space for. SO, shoutout to The Youth Cartel for putting on another great event. Go to their website and buy all their stuff.

Who am I?

I love the song “Friend of God.” Maybe it’s because I grew up in a church that made it really popping. Kirk Franklin’s version frequents my car rides in the morning to work (well, all of his works do, let’s be honest).

I always get choked up when I hear, “Who am I, that you are mindful of me?”

I tear because I think, “Yeah, Lord, who AM I? I’m a hot mess.”

But as I read Psalm 8 today, I realized that I have been reading this verse wrong my entire life.  This question isn’t a rhetorical one meant to convict, but a legitimate question meant to encourage you:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.

Who is humanity, that God would pay attention to us?  We are his prized creation, made in his image, in control and entrusted with the entire earth.

We are more than just his friends. We are just a little lower than God and crowned with glory.

This isn’t rhetorical. This is telling you EXACTLY who you are to God.

(and it convicts me even more–because rarely do I honor this God-given image)