Sunday, November 29, 2009

God drives a Zamboni.

This Sunday morning my wife awoke me from an amazing dream where I was discussing theology with a teacher I greatly respect and admire. i think if I had been able to stay in that dream moments longer I may have resolved the problem of evil or been able to perfectly define the trinity. I'm sure of it. Unfortunately I was awake. More unfortunate than that was I had to go to church. I've gone to church my whole life. I believe in the concept but honestly it is usually the last place I want to go when I actually want to encounter God. I knew he was calling me to spend some time alone with him. I wouldn't have gone to the church gathering at all but they serve free coffee and my wife didn't want to man both out kids on her own. After they were secured in their nursery and Sunday school classes i took off. Out church meets in a banquet hall that is part of an events center. that means there is lots of other aces to disappear to during the service. I sat and talked with God for awhile. I told him how meaningless I felt and through psalm 39 he reminded me about how meaningless everything actually is. I was sitting in the bleachers around the ice arena and at this point the zamboni started to drive onto the ice. God then whispered in my ear a lesson that I won't soon forget.

My life is like the worn out surface of that ice jagged and rough. However through the process of him driving all over me i can be made new. Refreshed for a new period of play. The driver missed a spot about 2 inches wide and maybe five feet long. I wondered of he would make a whole trip around for that one spot. I doubted it. But he did and God told me again that he cares about every detail of my life.

I was greatly encouraged. This time was better than any dream.
Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited
604-968-1812
danny@youthunlimited.com

I love being married to April

Monday, November 23, 2009

Transform and Roll Out



One of my favorite childhood television shows was transformers.  I loved the show, the toys, the story line of good vs. evil.  One of the signature lines of the leader named optimus prime was "transform and roll out."

Tonight I attended the Annual General Meeting for our organization.  I listened to the different area directors tell stories over the last year.  The success and the favor that they had in each area.  When it was my turn I walked up to the front.  I had in my mind stories of great and amazing things that have happened over the past year, but instead I took the opportunity to list what the reality is right now.

Many youth who we saw experience massive life change last year are now at extreme lows.  The same kids whom we saw have amazing encounters with God, are now denying his existence.  The same kids who wanted to change the world now want to curl up into a ball and die.  The kids who dared to dream big dreams are now plagued by nightmare.  The way I described it was that God pulled these kids out of the hole they were in - they saw the light and how big the world was around them.  Then they fell back in the hole and forgot all about the world above them.

What happened?  Life. And many days - it sucks.  My team and I are not scared off by this.  In fact we look to what is happening not as defeats but simply part of reality.  Change is hard. My team was there when they were first in the hole.  We were there when they got pulled out.  We were there when they fell back into it.  We will be there when they climb back out. We are there day in and day out.

We are there as they transform, but also when they roll out.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Growing Pains




What does it mean to grow up?

It takes a lot to move from being a boy into being a man.  The transition isn't always easy.  Not easy on the one going through it and almost equally as hard on the parents.  I often talk with youth over the differences they have with their parents. 

Almost more frequently I get phone calls from parents wondering what to do with their kids.  many of these call are not even from people that I know or about kids I know.  They find me through a friend of a friend and they want me to tell them how to get their child back.

i struggle with these calls as I really do want to help the the pain away from these situations, but at the same time.  I have never raised a teen.  My kids are still under two.

However today in talking with a young man I think I had a moment of clarity.  I moment when I could see both sides of the coin at the same time.  I think it was a problem of language more than anything else.  He said certain things and his parents interpreted it a different way, and vise versa.

This is where I can help - I cant solve problems but I can serve as an advocate between the two parties to make sure each hears each other in the correct way.  I just hope that my interpretation skills are up for the task.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

treading water


When people ask me how I am doing.  I try to give an honest answer.  I know the temptation is to say "fine" or "good".  But honestly it is easy to say those things without really thinking about them.  So I typically try to tell the truth.  However, I've found that people are uncomfortable with raw emotion.  For instance - if I say "not good" or "crappy" I've noticed the body language of the other person tends to tell me that they are looking for a quick exit.  So I try to communicate my emotions of the moment into a word picture.  This week when people have asked me how I'm doing I have responded with "I'm treading water".  When they ask me what that means I say "I'm trying to keep my head above water, but I'm not sure exactly when I'll sink."  It isn't that things are bad, they are just overwhelming.  I am swimming in the water of responsibility.

I supervise a team of four staff, three interns, and a handful of volunteers.  All of whom I try to maintain an intimate connection with.  They need to have a chance to be heard and to know that what they are doing make s a difference.  They need time to vent about situations or to get advice.  They need to be stretched and challenged in their own youth work, they need to know they have someone backing them up in work and in life.  Thats my job.

I am teaching a class on systematic theology at Pacific Life Bible College.  What is systematic theology?  It is an attempt to make sense of a God that is beyond understanding.  It takes biblical ideas, philosophy, history, anthropology, tradition and worldview into a various array of topics concerning the study of God and what difference such beliefs have on our day to day lives.  Leading 16 students through these things in time consuming as I have to research these topics well enough to present them to college students.  Grade their work, read their assignments, interact with their questions, on top of actually presenting the material.

I am a fundraiser.  Each year I have to raise $75,000 in order for Youth Unlimited to pay for my salary, expenses, insurance, employer and employee fees, benefits, pension, etc etc etc.  On top of this, as the area director for Langley I am also in charge of raising funds for the programs, projects, administration costs and events that happen in my area.  I am also the coach for my staff to fundraise for their own salaries and expenses.

I am a leader.  I dont just merely supervise my team.  I lead it.  I am the one that takes the vision God has given me for the area and turns it into practical steps and projects to be initiated.  Right now we have dinners, dessert nights, movie nights, fundraisers, social actions events, a magazine, a book club, bible studies, small groups, and I'm proably forgetting about something. 

I am a team member.  I lead my team, but we are part of a larger family.  Greater Vancouver Youth Unlimited has over 60 staff in the lowermainland.  There are various projects and meetings that I am responsible to attend and take part in throughout the year.  This involves reports, volunteers for various jobs and responsabilies beyond my normal routine.

I am a youth worker. I am available as a consistent presence in the lives of youth as a ear that can listen, a voice they can trust, a adult they can befriend, a spiritual mentor, a trusted advisory.  A friend.

And that is just the WORK side of my life.  I"m also suppose to be:

a husband
a father
a son
a brother
a friend
a community member
a voter
a guest speaker
a teacher
a church attender


Like I said - I'm treading water.  Pray for me please.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The walking dead


I met up with a young man yesterday. He ran some errands with me as we talked. This kid is normally a happy go lucky kinda guy but this day he confessed to feeling pushed down and oppressed. As he was sharing I couldn't help but realize how common this story is. I am often told similar things. Often it is related to the spiritual realm.

One other young guy shared a dream he had with me where he was severely injured by means of torture when Jesus took his place to be dragged off and killed and all his own wounds were healed. Yet his heart was still dead.

A teen also told me this week that they feel like God is slipping away and they don't feel life. Just a state of perpetual numbness. A living death.

Yet another shared with me about the complete and utter exhaustion she feels in every aspect of life. Physical tiredness is obvious and intellectual exhaustion makes sense in a heavy course load but it is way she described the emotional and spiritual exhaustion that made me realize the lack of a basic element to her existence: life.

How long must they wrestle with these thoughts and everyday have sorrow in their hearts? How long will they feel forgotten? How long must these sing a dirge instead of a celebration? How long oh lord?

maybe, just maybe, the feeling of death is good as they die to themselves, their old habits, their pasts, and their false hopes. when those things die away God can show them he doesn't want to restore their lives he wants to give them new ones. I just hope they can make it through.
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Day



8:30 am - April needed the car today so she dropped me off at starbucks.

8:40 am - Cup of coffee in hand I sat down and started to grade papers for the Systematic Theology class that I teach.  I was having a great time reading the students thoughts on their church's statements of faith.

9:00 am - I am interrupted by a youth unlimited supporter who sees me grading papers.  As we talk he shares with me how he would like to return to school for a masters degree.  I love the opportunity to share life with those who support our work as well as the youth.

9:30 am - I get a call from one of my staff.  She was out late last night with a youth and needs a good debrief session.  We arrange a time for her to meet with me at startbucks later today.  I also get a call from a teen who had to ride in an ambulance last night and didn't know what why their dad couldn't breathe. She was having a bad day.

10:00 am - My co-worker Carmen comes in and sits with me and we discuss some philosophy and theology.  She shares with me that she just found out that she needs a new place to live.  I am finding my job is becoming more and more focused on my team.  I love to sit and listen to them.  They need a good leader to support them and I feel that God has called me to that.

10:15 am - Derian, my other co-worker comes by.  We all meet Monday morning to pray together and to share our plans for the week.  Also there was a lot going on over the weekend.  Derian was sharing his frustrations about one youth in trouble with the law.  We often collaborate because there are no easy answers for the situations we face.

11:00 am - One of our interns walks in with a friend at the same time Shauna comes in to join us in our team time. This place really is our office.

11:30 am - One of the youth that graduated last year came by to hang out and chat. We split into two groups and I shared some concerns and tears with Shauna over a few things that are happening with some of the kids right now.  The other group works on my massive crossword puzzle.

12:00 pm - I walk across the parking lot to Subway to share lunch with Derian and our young friend. We are interrupted by a friendly face.  This guy often happens on where we are and offers prayers for us as we go throughout our day.

12:30 pm - I get a call from a pastor that is working on an article for me on the link between sexuality and spirituality.  Should make for a good read and discussion starter with youth.

1:00 pm - I continue working on my class work while Carmen and our teen friend work on the crossword puzzle.  There are many side conversations.

1:30 pm - Carmen leaves to go prepare for her Monday book club and I turn off the computer to talk about life with this teen.  While we are chatting the wife of the pastor I just talked to comes in and sits at the table next to us.  I introduce my young friend to her.

2:30 pm - Students from the school start coming by and I enter various conversations with them as they pass by.  Other people in Starbucks are drawn into some of them.  One lady helped us figure out the capital of Ontario, and an elderly man showed me a video of a dog on his computer.

3:00 - I am working on my computer grading more papers when several people from my church come in.  I am able to share with them some of the things I've talked about with youth today.  I hope it encourages them, because it encourages me to share them.

4:00 - One of my volunteers comes in for a meeting.  I love this guy - he is more of a friend than a volunteer.  I love it when our team binds together.  We talk about everything under the sun and God's calling on his life to possibly join our staff team.

5:00 - I have Brad (my friend/volunteer) give me a lift home.

5:30 - I'm waiting for April to come home and I check facebook.  I get two message right away.  One is from a teen that simply says: "I'm really scared." the other says "I don't feel human". 

9:00 pm - I st at my computer thinking about my day and realize that i crossed paths with a lot of people today (even more than I've mentioned).  I've been on the virge of tears, I've laughed, I've prayed, I've dreamed, I've hoped, I've spoken, I've listened, I've learned, and I've taught.  Not a bad day.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

multiple choice

I bought a graphic novel the other day and as I was reading this frame jumped out at me. I have been working with several youth lately that are being plagued by their past. This happens so much through nightmares and feelings of darkness triggered by random memories. One youth in particular had a series of things happen that are unbearably true. These things have propelled them into making decisions that are far from healthy. The dominos are falling fast and they never even had a chance to all get set up.

When i saw this particular teen they looked old. life has aged them much faster than the norm. I tried to get through and present options for the future, but all that can be seen are the options forced upon them by their pasts. In confronting them they know what they are doing is detrimental but they can hardly remember why.

It is sad to watch these kids grow up and see that some will never choose life but only the deranged imitation of it. I know it is why God sends me to these places and to these kids. He wants to present hope and a future. It is just hard to look in their eyes and realize the dominos all have dropped. Now it is no longer a game but its just a mess to clean up.
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Origins

i am fascinated by stories. i especially enjoy discovering the origin stories of famous fictional people. I'm thinking particularly of stories of comic book heroes. One of my favorite stories was the origin of Wolverine. How did this mean guy with claws get his start? What drives his pursuit of what is right? Why does he fight?

Sitting in Starbucks yesterday I was suddenly overwhelmed to pick up a pen and start to draw in my journal. I didn't even know what was being drawn as my hand was moving across the page. I recognized it as being a comic strip. As pictures started to form i recognized that it was my origin story. I have included it as the picture on this post

Over the past few months I've been hitting some fairly major obstacles and as a result I've been feeling quite alone. With this simple comic strip of my origins Jesus reminded me of how we met and how this whole crazy adventure started. The message here was reminding me of his promise that he would never leave me nor forsake me. Even if everything else falls apart. Even if I am rejected or ostracized for my actions and belief. Even if I feel lonely at church still he will be there and quite honestly that is enough. I just needed the reminder.

Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Monday, November 2, 2009

"I" - - - "They"

I have hope.
I see potential.
I wish for them.
I even dream for them to be.

But

They have to make a choice.
They have to believe.
They have to dare to dream.
They have to see

And So

I pray
I wait
I watch

But

They stumble
They hurt
They fall

Therfore

I reach
I help

But

They pull away
They close their ears

Therfore

I stop

And

They go

God goes with them.

I smile as I weep...

What will happen?

I'll have to wait and see.