A Deep Breath.

I am finally sitting at my desk, and I can breathe.
It’s not the first time I’ve done this this week, but if feels like it. I just finished boxing and moving all the lost & found stuff from camp, getting my desk organized and clean again, and generally checking things off my list. I’m a little tired, but that is the norm these days, as there is a new occupant in my house: my 3 week old son, Wesley. I’ve learned a few very valuable things that I think everyone can take from my experience, and I’ve decided to write them all down for you here, in no particular order.
  1. Do not have a baby that could be born any minute while you are directing a summer camp. It’s just not a good idea. And don’t cut it close either. When deciding, “When should we have our baby?” just steer clear of camp altogether. And don’t try to do the math 9 months (or is it 8? 10?) earlier. Just don’t. Make it like three or four months away. Like March. Or September maybe. But nowhere in the middle. See, planning and running a summer camp, and preparing for the un-scheduleable arrival of an infant, bring in two distinct types of stress into your life. There’s camp stress, which isn’t really too bad. Not if you do your job the right way. But it is a lot. It occupies the mind and keeps you in a constant state of mild tension. But there’s really not much to worry about. Just get your stuff done and delegate. Plan it right, and the execution will be easy. Plan with flexibility and allow for a margin of error where there may be. Prepare for unplanned variables. And then there’s baby stress. That’s a little different. You can plan this one all you want, but you can’t know exactly WHEN it will happen. You just wait. And then HOW it will happen… well you can have an idea, and a preference… but nature might have a different plan. And there’s dozens of things that can go wrong during labor, and any husband worth his salt will admit to a certain level of stress regarding the process. Now mix the two things together. A normal human mind (inparticular a MALE mind) is not designed to handle this level of overall stress. You take the high-volume and responsibility of camp stress, and then throw in a ton of uncertainty and phone-watching, and you get a headache. And I did. Frequently. So, when you find yourself 9 months before the summer camp that you are responsible for running and directing, and your wife says “Maybe we should have a baby!” just wait. Ok? Just wait. 2 months. Minimum.
  2. Do not ever use “God will take care of it” as an excuse for bad planning. When the guy who buried his money and didn’t invest it got confronted, he didn’t say “well I’ll just play it by ear”. No. He realized he did not do the work that he should have. Don’t get me wrong, a good ability to improvise and make something out of nothing is a HUGE power to have, and one that I use FREQUENTLY. But God just as much gives us a mind to plan, strategize, and execute as he does to think on the fly. I’ve been in a lot of situations out of necessity where I was left with no choice but to let go of the things I could not control. For example, planning and running a camp whilst working a full time at the Shipyard. I simply did not have the time or energy to cover everything, so leaving it up to faith was the natural choice. That’s not to say that I ever would NOT leave it up to faith… to the contrary, I leave it up to faith that God will give me the tools I need to plan what I need to plan.I think about that joke with the guy who’s in the middle of a flood, standing on a rooftop as the waters rise, telling all that God is going to rescue him. He refuses the offers of a boat and helicopter to carry him to safety, saying “I am praying to God to save me, and I have faith that he will!” He ends up drowning, and upon his arrival at the Pearly Gates, he questions the Almighty for not saving him. God just shakes his head at the man and replies, “I sent you a boat AND a helicopter. What else did you want me to do?”

    See, faith means trusting God in ALL things. Fastening a seatbelt or taking an ibuprofen does NOT mean you are taking power away from God. Another example I often see is in the context of playing on a worship team. You’ll sometimes here “We’re gonna just leave some room for the Spirit to move at the end of this song here,” as if we ever were NOT going to let the Spirit move. It’s basically saying “I’ll do SOME planning and practicing, and the rest is up to God.” This is WRONG. It’s ALL up to God! There’s no part of it that isn’t! Saying you want to leave room for God implies, perhaps accurately, that the other parts are just you, and God isn’t even involved. That’s the true crime. God gives us time and resources to accomplish our calling. If we fail at this stage, it is indeed our own fault. But often, God bails us out anyway, because His plan ALWAYS WORKS. We can’t mess it up. We have assured victory in Christ.

    “Should we then go on sinning so that grace may abound? NO!” I apply that here as well. I know that God has all things in the palm of His hand, and that my own spiritual well-being is directly related to my ability to TRUST FULLY in Him, but that does not mean I should do a bad job at the things He has given me. The miracle here is that He has made me a PART of his work. I have a responsibility to see it done.

  1. It’s a pleasant but awkward ride on the “NO” train. Choo-choo! But seriously. When I first prepared to accept my new job as a Youth Pastor, I was given many different perspectives on things to prepare for. So was Jessica. She had a very rational fear that as a Pastor’s Wife (Or a P-Dub, as I like to call them. Tina, Anna, you rock too) she’d be expected to meet a whole bunch of expectations and responsibilities for a job that frankly, she didn’t apply for. One thing that was a common warning was “Don’t be afraid to say NO!” This of course, in the context of being more or less on call 24/7, as a passionate member of a team of Shepherds tending a flock. But, as I told Jessica, this wasn’t a new thing. Even when we were volunteers over three years prior, we had always told our students that they could call any time, day or night, and we would be there. And we still are! And they have. And we love that we can have that role in people’s lives. But when it comes to time management, stress management, and family health, “no” is a powerful word. I was used to saying “yes” quite a lot. Any time someone made a need aware to me, I wanted to take care of it! I played on our worship team as often as I could. I organized work parties. I even got my leg hacked open by a chainsaw while volunteering with some clearing at the Red Barn. But that was a different era. When your wife has a “high risk” pregnancy and your 3 year-old is discovering his human nature, and on top of this you have a new job where you are carrying a dozen new, equally important responsibilities, you reevaluate how you commit yourself. But even if I were not in such a ‘high demand’ stage of life, I’d remain on this locomotive. On one hand, it’s to preserve my own strength and mental health. That’s important. I recognize that I am human and I come with risks. Yes, I trust God for my sustenance, and I’m willing and ready to be stretched in His service. But I also can look around and find dozens of cases where PASTORS (yes, those holy and able stalwarts of faith) fell. And that’s not an easy fall to come back from. On the other hand, it’s a simple quality over quantity scenario. I want to always, always put out a quality product, and never ever do something “just to get it done”. That goes against my M.O.


So I’m here now, back in the saddle, ready to wrangle some youth ministry shenanigans, help launch a church campus, and bring our media production capabilities to their maximum potential. Am I still a bit tired because uninterrupted sleep is once again a foreign concept to me? Yes. But is my mind clear and excited, ready for another year in ministry? You betcha. Also, I hope to update this blog more often. Peace.