God, Use Me… God, I Feel Used…

so often we huddle up in our churches and prayer corners and beg God to use us. and then a couple weeks later we cry back out to God… “God, I feel used.”*

what did we expect God to do?

i feel like we have this idea of christianity and ministry that makes us look like pansies.
listen, ministry is hard. there are tough days and discouraging moments. maybe we sell it wrong when we invite others into ministry, but my bible promises none of the things we often expect.

when God called us to serve him, he didn’t promise ease and prosperity. he simply called us to serve. to get our hands dirty and invest in the messy lives of people. some of whom will only take and use. we may never see a return on a lot of the investments we make.

but we do it anyways.
and we do it again.
and when discouragement comes, we dust ourselves off and press on to the next one in line.

if you’re looking to give up today because you feel used, remember that God probably answered a prayer that you prayed. and get back at it.

*i completely stole this line from carl lentz, lead pastor at Hillsong NYC.
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A Direct Relationship Between Your Productivity & Your Connection With God

i have noticed this too many times and too consistently to wonder if it’s a coincidence.

the days i start by connecting with God, praying, reading His Word, and nurturing my own soul tend to be way more productive than days that i don’t. on the flipside, the days that i just rush into my to do list without first pausing to connect with God are the ones that i find myself spinning my wheels, struggling to complete tasks and move the ball forward.

just curious, anybody else notice this same thing?

The Girl That Never Stopped Smiling

we were out doing some shopping a few weeks ago, and while shanna tried on a MILLION different things, i grabbed this picture of my daughter adelina with a new friend she just met.
the two of them got along so well with each other.
no fights.
no arguments.
no complaining.

something about this girl was remarkable.  she NEVER stopped smiling.  

even after hanging out together for about 45 minutes, and not once being offered adi’s balloon, the girl still showed signs of admiration and friendship.
without fail.

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some days i wish my relationships with others could be like this.
and then i think about it a little deeper.
i tell the teens this often: when God made us, he COULD have made us like this little girl. he could have crafted us with a plasic-never-changing-never-frowning smile.  no matter what he did to us, we would never be disappointed. or like my favorite movie, he could have made us with a pull-string that always repeats “you’re my favorite deputy” everytime it’s released. God could have programmed us to ONLY give him love and admiration, like robots with all the circuits lined up properly.

but he wanted something more authentic.

and with that pivotal want comes the potential for evil, and disease, and war, and hatred, and sickness, and STD’s, and car accidents, and cancer, and drunk driving, and murder, and poverty, and sex-trafficking, and pestilence, and thorns on rose bushes.

in God’s mind, this whole authentic thing must have been pretty important.

to have one of his created humans walk up to him, and out of the blue – volitionally – with no sense of obligation – and while being surrounded by so many other temptations and opportunities and things to chase – to be able to say “i love you” and mean it… to God… that was worth it all.
he doesn’t want our fake allegiance.  with all the other options available to us, there’s a God out there who’s craving your life’s greatest commitment.
i don’t know where you’re at… but i can tell you from my own experience: it’s worth it!

“I’m Here”

have you downloaded Marko‘s free e-book A Beautiful Mess yet? if not you can grab it over here, at least for now.  i just started reading it and fell in love with the story below. i love how as youth workers we often have no idea the impact we’re making and we’re so often in the dark, but underneath God is moving students’ hearts and answering big prayers.

A modern-day story, shared with me recently by a friend of mine, gifted veteran youth pastor Sam Halverson:Sam had a teenage guy in his group (we’ll call him Tim) who’d shown no spiritual interest whatsoever and was normally brooding and dark in his outlook. At a particular worship time, the students in Sam’s group were given some space to reflect on their spiritual lives. Tim sat by himself and was drawn into a very personal something. Sam couldn’t tell what was going on, whether Tim was having a profound spiritual moment, or was angry, or something else. He noticed Tim with his head down; as Sam moved around the room and neared Tim, he could tell Tim was in the midst of something intense. Sam said he had no idea what to do. Should he interrupt what was possibly a personal moment between Tim and God and ask Tim what was going on? Should he lay hands on Tim and pray for him? Should he leave Tim alone? Sam, feeling helpless and bumbling, lightly touched Tim on the shoulder and said, “I’m here.” Tim only nodded but said nothing. As he walked away, Sam felt he’d probably blown it, that there was likely something better he should have done (but he had no idea what that better thing would have been). A week later, Tim’s mom called Sam about another issue. At the end of the call, she said, “Oh, and I wanted to tell you thanks for what you did for Tim.” Sam was confused. Tim’s mom continued, “Tim told me that he was really struggling with whether or not God even exists. In that prayer time, Tim was begging God to reveal himself. He prayed, ‘If you’re real, God, then do something—right now—to say “I’m here!” ’ Tim told me that the second he prayed that, you put your hand on his shoulder and said, ‘I’m here.’ ”