The summer between my third and fourth years of college I was on a traveling youth ministry team: Crossfire from the Wesley Foundation at the University of Georgia. This experienced shaped me in ways that I am still discovering. There were 3 boys and 3 girls, and we spent the summer traveling between UMC youth groups in all parts of Georgia. We would drive hundreds of miles cooped up in the Wesley van which smelled like a college ministry van should. We know things about each other that none of us would like to admit. Even though I don't talk to them very often these days, I love those 5 people as much as I love my own family. There is just something special about joining someone in ministry that engraves them into your soul. And, if that ministry occurs through sweat (Effingham County in July), tears, flat tires, late nights and enduring the chaos of hormonal teenagers; then, you find a bond that can never be broken. These are some of the finest human beings I have ever known, and I would do anything for them.
That being said, these people are also some of the craziest and funniest people I have ever known. One night after an evening service with a teeny tiny youth group in rural Georgia; it may have been during a lock-in, we were discussing how things went and what we needed to pray over for the remaining time there. This was close to the end of the summer, so we were sleep deprived, and serious prayerful moments turned into silly joyful moments without much warning. Two of the boys began to debate who was "closer to God," jokingly. And then, they started taking turns standing up, stating that they were closer. Even as I type this now, I realize it is ridiculous. But, in the moment, it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. We were rolling.
I often replay that moment in my head because it epitomizes the fellowship that we shared and the tone of the group. We were zealous in our faith, committed to sharing the love of Christ with teenagers, but we didn't take ourselves too seriously. More abstractly, I think this humorously brings to light something less than beautiful in church culture. We compete with one another for depth of holiness. Have you ever observed a difference in reverence given to the peer that served in the middle east rather than going on a domestic mission trip. Or, have you ever looked at someone's tattered Bible and felt ashamed that you weren't reading the word as often as they must? Or, have you ever explained (or expected an explanation) from someone because of a church absence. How odd is that? As though we somehow can take credit for our righteousness. Even though we say we don't believe in a works based faith, how often do we live as though we do?
Be reminded that God is so close he is breathing on you. You can't get any closer, so you can stop competing for his attention.
Soundtrack - Breath of Heaven, Amy Grant; Closer, Charlie Hall.
All of the blog posts have a "soundtrack" listed. I firmly believe we feel things more deeply when we associate a thought or experience to a song. I pray the Spirit will use my words and these songs to draw you in deeper into the love and grace of the Triune God!
Some posts have a "backpack" item. Simply, these are books that I would suggest for further reading on a given topic.