Learning to Sabbath Daily

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When my coworker, Mindie, came to our church last summer, she was one of the first people to really talk to me about slowing down and finding time to Sabbath. But–Sabbath is TOUGH in ministry. I rarely get full weekends to myself without ministry, or even a full day! I’ve had to get creative and add balance to my life, and I’ve really changed many things about my life around for the better. Read more here.

What are You Fishing For?

When Jesus first called his disciples, they were fishing. Jesus performed the miracle of filling their nets, proving that he was able to provide for their physical (and even financial) needs. Then Jesus said, “Follow me, and I’ll make you a fisher of men.”

These men followed Jesus on a three-year long journey. During this journey, Jesus performed many more miracles and even equipped the disciples to perform miracles of their own. They fed crowds, healed the sick, partied with the poor, and ate with sinners. Slowly, they discovered that Jesus was the Son of God, and Jesus equipped them to truly be “fishers of men.”

But when Jesus died, what happened?

In John chapter 21, Peter says to the disciples, “I’m going fishing.” And the rest of the disciples go with him. Even though Jesus has appeared to them twice thus far after his resurrection, they go back to life as if the last three years didn’t happen. They go fishing. For fish.

And so Jesus does his classic “Jesus thing,” paralleling that first time he calls them. 100 yards from shore, the fog-hidden Jesus tells them to cast their nets out on the other side. The disciples miraculously fill their nets and are unable to haul it to shore.

And Peter does his classic “Peter thing,” and jumps into the sea because he knows that Jesus is alive indeed. Jesus makes Peter go grab the net (because of course Peter left the disciples to do it), and there are 153 fish inside this net. A net that didn’t break.

Scholars say that at the time, there were only 153 species of fish known in the world.

Biblical scholars say that this net–the net that didn’t break–is representative of the Church. The 153 fish represent the different types of people in the world. When the disciples were trying to go back to just “fishing for fish,” Jesus had bigger plans to show them why they are to continue “fishing for men.”

The net is big enough for everybody. No longer is the net confined to one type of person. Everybody is allowed.

What does this mean for the Church today?

Who are the fish that we are excluding from the net, that perhaps need the safety and comfort of the net? Why are we creating an “insiders vs outsiders” mentality in the church, when all of us were made in the precious image of God? We all deserve the net equally, and the fisherman shouldn’t discriminate from who he allows to be a part of the Church.

What is the baggage that we think will exclude us from the net? You see, the net can hold it all without breaking. It can hold all of your doubts, insecurities, sins, shortcomings, failures, successes, and anything else. Being a certain type of fish doesn’t get you tossed back into the sea.

Why are we not united like the net? One net, 153 fish. This is the Kingdom of God. This is the one net that can hold it all and won’t break. This is the one net that can hold you, me, your crazy uncle, and the person in the office next to you, the rude lady who flipped you off in traffic, your ex-boothang, that person on Facebook who has political views that make you want to hurl, your neighbor whose family looks different from yours, your landlord, and Taco Bell employees at 3am.

I’m so thankful to be a part of a congregation that acknowledges that we are all so incredibly different, but it’s one Kingdom that holds us all.

What are you fishing for? Are you freely fishing for men, all men? Or are you acting as if the resurrection never happened, and you’re back to exclusively fishing for fish?

Mixing Jesus, Palms, and Politics

It’s Holy Week, the final week of Lent. The last 5 Sundays, we’ve taught our students about different places in life that a faith in Jesus takes us–places that are messy, unfamiliar, and scary. But we’ve also talked about how faith in Jesus means that He provides for us when we’re exhausted, intercedes in those scary places to restore peace in our lives, and provides redemption where it’s so desperately needed.

When I studied for my Palm Sunday lesson, I became really intrigued by the crowds. The crowds were really excited about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but why?  As I read Matthew, I realized that the crowd probably didn’t really know who Jesus was. But because a few amped the crowd up, the entire crowd joined in and laid down their coats and palm branches.

It’s kind of like March Madness–I could care less about basketball. But because everyone else is excited, I’m rubbing my winning bracket in everyone’s faces. I’m just counting down the days until baseball.

But those same crowds who were so for Jesus became so against him just a few days later. And why? Again, I think it was because a few energetically swayed the crowd.

It’s more than that, though–the Jewish believed that the savior of the world was to become a King and save the world through politics. The Messiah would end hatred, oppression, suffering, disease, and bring world peace. All the Jews would be gathered back in Israel, and all of humanity would be united as one with universal knowledge of God.

But Jesus wasn’t playing by those rules–he never became King, but told people it was their responsibility to bring the Kingdom of God. He didn’t bring world peace but told people to become the peacemakers. He didn’t bring universal knowledge of God, but brought the Holy Spirit so that they could have a more personal connection with God.

And because he didn’t fit the Jewish concept of Messiah, He was rejected. The Jews wanted to put the Messiah in a pretty political box, and Jesus wouldn’t fit.

Here’s the troubling part–Christians still do this today.

With many of our hot-button issues, including but not limited to Ferguson and Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” we put Jesus into a political box. We say that if Jesus was here today, he would say (fill in the blank). Both sides of the arguments use Scripture and rationalize how Jesus would defend their arguments. They simplify the issue into a definitive political stance from God. And I think that many tend to influence a crowd into believing the same–rallying against one another with God on their side.

And just like the Jews were split, causing to branch into what we call Christianity, we’re doing the same today.

I think that more than anything, the thing Jesus would take a stance on is using God’s name to oppress one another. Jesus had many words to say to the Pharisees for using God’s name to oppress the poor and brokenhearted.  Jesus lived in the trenches with people, helping them grasp a better understanding of God, rather than rallying against them or using God as a weapon. And as he died on the cross, he cried out to God, “Forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing…”

Now, I don’t think protesting or standing up against something is wrong. But I do think that saying, “If Jesus was here, he’d be a Republican/Democrat/LGBTQ Activist/Ferguson Rioter/Pro-Life/Anti-Guns/____” is a bold claim. Especially when there is so much going on in the world–where would Jesus actually be? And, does that mean that Jesus doesn’t care about the people who aren’t where he is?

I think it sets us up for disappointment later, when we realize that maybe Jesus doesn’t fit in that box like we hope. Jesus came to save the world in a way that was different than what generations and generations of Jews thought. What a dissapointment…so why do we assume that we have it right?

So I ask that we invite Jesus into these conversations not to defend our side of the argument, but to help us interact with one another in a way that reflects Him.

Because when I finally meet God, I know that he’s going to say to me, “Silly girl, you were so gung-ho about ____, but you were so wrong. But because you saught me above even that, you are so forgiven.”

The Jews killed Jesus because he didn’t fit into a political mold. Let’s not make the same mistake.

How to Transition Students Effectively

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I am SUPER excited about having the ability to write for Youth Specialties. I’m a huge fan of them, and here is my first article! The biggest part of my position is wrapped around transitioning students into and out of junior high. Read about some of the things we’ve learned!

Click here!

On Demon Pigs

I’m beginning to gain a reputation as the youth minister who tells her tweens really weird stories.

And I’m okay with that.

This week in our Lenton series we told the story of Jesus taking the disciples to Decapolis and curing men there of demons by casting them into pigs that go flailing off the cliff.

I made all of our 5th-7th graders pinky promise me that we wouldn’t get caught up on the “demons” portion of the story, but that instead we would focus on why Jesus would take the disciples to Decapolis (which is the purpose of this particular series–why does Jesus take us these places?). Decapolis was a place Jews weren’t supposed to go, as evidenced by the pigs there. But why would Jesus take them to that place?

Jesus took them to that place because he wanted to show the disciples that they could leave a potential anywhere. That place was unfamilar, a place unlike any place they’ve ever experienced before. But faith with God takes us to those places that were unfamiliar so that on one hand our hearts can be softened for that environment and learn from it…but also so that we can impact those places in the same way that we’ve been impacted.

As I processed this with my small group, I thought about places in my life that were unfamiliar, places that I was unaware of the possibility of potential. I usually jump to when I began college–I was this poor city kid in an affluent rural school, trying to figure out friends who went “mudding” for fun. I put up a wall between myself and others because I didn’t think that we would understand each other. But I learned a lot about community with people who came from all kinds of different backgrounds as me.

But I think I forgot about this. Or at least, didn’t associate it to what I’m experiencing now: Moving my life to Indianapolis has been extremely difficult. It’s been difficult to find community. I thought that was because I was in an environment where I no one could possibly understand me. There’s a lot of affluency in this culture, and I thought that they wouldn’t get me. I thought they wouldn’t understand my background. Or my humor. Or my pain. Or me.

But in a sense, it’s like when I went to college and explored a new culture. The thing that excited me when I moved to Indianapolis was the possibility of doing faith in a brand new way. But I didn’t realize that I was going to have to do community in a brand new way.

I think the biggest hurdle isn’t finding people who are like me. It’s finding people who want to do messy community with me. I’ve always been in places where people lay their junk out in the open. We weren’t the same, just people who wanted to live openly. People who knew that diversity didn’t hinder community, but was a symptom of it.

I feel like today is almost a turning point for me. I had my “AHA” moment and realized that I can build community anywhere with anyone, as long as they are willing to build it back. I can continue being my messy, open self as long as others can be messy and open. And that’s difficult to find. But that’s what the Church does.