Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day in the life of a youthworker

This is a snapshot of a normal day for me as a youth worker.

8:00am Meeting with accountability partner to make sure my life is together before I try to help kids.

8:30am Studying the concept of active pacifism and just war with a couple of guys

9:30am Spending some time reading my bible and writing in my journal.  God challenges me about trusting him instead of trusting my own understanding of things.  Challenging when it comes to the just war stuff.

10:00am Mentally and Spiritually preparing myself to meet with a young person who doesn't expereince a whole lot of life in their life




10:15am Sharing a coffee and a crossword puzzle with a young person while they educate me on what they are learning in school.

10:30am I asked a teen to describe something they were happy about right now.  After a five minute silence I changed the topic as they were getting visually upset.

11:15am Mail a reference form for a volunteer applying to join our staff team.

11:30am Walk with a teen in the rain as they question me about life and God and such. 


11:55am Look a young person in the eyes and tell them someone cares about them.  Wondering when the last time any adult has told them that much.

12:00pm Sit in my car and pray

12:15pm Go home for lunch and hug my kids.  The stuff I've listened to today reminds me how much my kids need to hear they are loved no matter what.

12:45pm I talk with a youth and the challenge I got in my bible study about trust are the exact things this kid needs to hear.  I thank God he is still teaching me.

1:00pm Set up the Wii that was just donated by a local church for my work with youth.

1:30pm Get an email on my Blackberry that my 3pm meeting is canceled.  I figure I can work on my next newsletter for my donors

1:31pm Get a text from a donor asking if I can meet with them at 3pm.

2:00pm Spend some time praying for a situation that is going on with one student that I know

3:00pm Sitting starbucks for the third time of the day listening to a story that brings tears to my eyes. I dislike injustice.

3:30pm With my one of my fundrasing partners catching up on life and thanking them for their support of my work.

4:00pm Texting four different youth at the same time about four different topics happening in their life.

5:00pm Heading home trying to figure out how to let go of the stresses of the day and the stories I've heard and the hurting people I have talked with to be home with my wife and kids when I step in the door.

5:10pm Sit in my car a moment and pray

5:15pm Home.

8:00pm Log into facebook and get notified from a teen that another young person I used to work with is in Jail. Never good news.

8:30pm Look through Facebook status lines at the youth I work with and try to map out what my day may look like tomorrow.  Pray for those that look like they are having a rough day.

9:00pm text to make some plans with youth tomorrow - have to break in that Wii after all.

10:00pm Go to bed...Lay awake praying

11:30pm see my message notification light on my phone flashing.  A young person has some questions about life.  Should I respond now or in the morning?

That was my day. In my prayers before I fell asleep I asked God if I had been successful in this day of work.  If I had made a difference.  He respond with: You were faithful.

Thanks for sharing my day with me.  Any idea how I can fit in my administrative stuff?





Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Teens Describe Their Idea of Perfect Parents

I was walking through the hallway of a local high school when I saw a bulletin board full of postings for parents.  This was obviously part of a class activity.  It interested me to see what the young people would put in a want ad for new parents.  

Some obviously came out of some desire to get attention or to be funny, but as I looked them all over I found some repeated themes.  Here is how I categorized them. 

Want of Money or Stuff
Freedom, Trust or Change of Rules
Time or Travel with Parents
Need of Love
Desired Attitude of Parents

I counted out the responses and put them in a chart.




Now realize that I don't know the context for how these were made I only saw them displayed.  Whatever the case though there were a few lines from the various posters that stuck with me.  I wanted to share them:

I need you to love me internally
I need you to say something to cheer me up
I need you to care for me
I need you to believe me forever
I want you to come to Canada to live with me
I want every Wednesday Night to be a games night
I want to be able to talk with you when I need to
I want a different type of dinner every night (With desserts)
I need you to give unconditional support
I need you to be happy
I need you to still have rules that keep me under control
I want you to let me do what I want (reasonable)
I want you to call me every other day
I want to eat dinner together at least 3 days a week

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ten Drinks Young People Should Not Consume

I was reading an article posted yesterday by TLC on "10 Drinks Your Kids Should Not Be Drinking"  Seeing as we have been talking so much about teenage alcohol consumption I thought I would check out what they said.  Here is there list.

10. Alcohol - Not only is it illegal, but even several sips can be bad for brain development.

Comment:  Click here or here for previous discussions on teenage alcohol indeed

9. Energy Drinks - Can effect sleep patterns and have negative effects on natural energy patterns

Comment: I have witnessed some youth down five or six of these in an hour.  What does that do to the system?

8.Coffee - Canadian health officials have determined kids should not consume more than 45mg of caffeine a day.  Higher levels can cause high blood pressure and heart rate.

Comment: Not all young people like coffee, but they crave a grande frap.  How many mg of caffeine does that frap have? 200?

7. Sweetened Tea - If it is sweetened tea watch the glucose levels go through the roof!

Comment: Who likes unsweetened tea?

6. Soft Drinks - Sugar is soda is liked to obesity and diabeaties

Comment:  Pop is more a staple to most kids than any other liquid

5. Juice - Thought it was a healthy alternative?  Think again.  Most Juices are soft drink in disguise

Comment:  The local schools have tried to become more healthy by only putting in diet pop and juice in the vending machines.  Is it really more healthy?

4. Raw or Soy Milk:  Growth can be negatively affected by soy milk, raw milk contain e-coli etc. 

Comment:  unless you are living on a farm who dirnks raw milk.  Soy on the other hand is perceived to be a better choice - guess not for those still growing.

3. Power Drinks.  Unless your young person is highly athletic the high level of carbs put their diet out of balance.

Comment:  Unless you are athletic the drinks taste disgusting. But after a game nothings tastes so good.  Weird.

2. Flavored Water: The added ingredients may cause added side affects such as kidney problems.

Comment: Again - flavored water tastes like garbage, but that is my own opinion.

1. Milkshakes: Sodium levels in milkshakes and sweatened fruit smoothies are not healthy for anyone.

Comment:  Make your fruit smoothies at home so you know what is in them. 

Canadian Youth Making a Difference in Africa through play

My organization is taking a team of young people to Rwanda this July. I wanted to share one of the projects they are working on. It looks awesome.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Five Steps to Decrease Teen Drinking Issues?

Dr. Tony Farrel is General Practitioner and the head of an Alcohol Action Group. This man is obviously smarter than I am, or at least more educated. In an article in the "Bay of Plenty Times"his is cited as listing five step action plan that believes will implementing these steps will "significantly decrease" the teenage drinking issue.

  1. Increase the drinking age 
  2. Reduce the availability of alcohol
  3. Increase the price of alcohol
  4. Stop advertising of alcohol
  5. Increase drinking-driving surveillance
Dr. Farrel states that, "Young people don't react to hard words, they need proper education about ways to keep safe around alcohol".  I can't help but think something is missing in this argument.  What do you think?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The best youth work resource...You!


I think that there is a general feeling among Christian youth workers that they spend a vast majority of their time doing things that they would rather not be doing.  There are administrative tasks, planning for programs and of course…politics.  You remember back to your interview and the dreams you had for a dynamic youth group.  Of course the dreams have gotten lost in the nightmare of paperwork, phone calls from disapproving members of the congregation and apathetic youth.  Now you can’t dream about changing the world with your young people, in fact, you may have even given up hope of changing your group. 

What would happen though if you spent less time doing your job and more time investing in your passions?  What you would have is a mess.  A wonderful, complex, mysterious, confusing mess.  Allow me to explain.  I used to run some pretty unique and exciting programs.  The kind of group that seemed to double in size every week.  I had worked hard at getting a mobile drop-in center for youth housed in an antique double-decker bus.  We were going into neighborhoods where there was little to do except get drunk behind the elementary school and break into people’s houses.  We were making a difference in the lives of the kids on the streets.  We had an abundance of money coming in and I had to turn away volunteers because I had too many.  Then in a series of terrible events it all fell apart and I was left with nothing.  I didn’t even have an office to go and sulk in. 

I felt terrible because I had nothing to offer the youth anymore.  I would see them around the neighborhood or at their school, but I didn’t know what to say to them.  I didn’t have anything thing for them to get involved with and nothing to invite them to.  I didn’t have video games systems.  I didn’t have a youth group with a cool band.  I didn’t have a bible study.  I had nothings.  I remember distinctly tagging along with some kids one day during their school lunch break. I just happened to be in the coffee shop that they stormed into and I invited myself to sit in on their conversation.  They were talking about their drunken adventures from the weekend.  I felt awkward and out of place.  I didn’t want to preach at them and turn them off of church forever.  So I started asking them questions and truly listening to their answers.  “What do you think about the laws on the drinking age?”  I asked.  They went on to explain to me in great detail about how the drinking age should actually be raised from the local 19 to 21.  They said that the adolescent brain can be permanently damaged from overuse of alcohol.  Then I really felt like I had nothing to offer.  Not even education of adolescent brain development.  College seemed useless.

Then they asked me a question about me.  I casually shared my life story with them.  All in all I though it was pretty boring and standard, but when I finished they sat there with their jaws on the floor and told me it was the most amazing story they had ever heard.  They even sent other kids in the school to me to ask me to share my story with them.  I knew my story was nothing special.  I knew that God was using my life to somehow reach theirs.  I started to spend 90% of my time with youth in coffee shops talking over all manner of things with kids.  They trusted me because I didn’t try to invite them to anything – I didn’t try to change them, I simply was there with them.  That’s when things got messy.  Kids started to pour out their lives to me.  Complex things came out: prostitution, sexual exploitation, gang violence, sexual orientation, family crisis, suicide, and self injury.  Things growing up in the church I felt pretty sheltered from.  They were hurting and I didn’t have answers to heal them.  So I didn’t try to give them answers  I just started to tell them stories I knew from the bible.  I just told them the stories and didn’t explain them.  Weird thing was it worked.  Their lives started changing.  Unchurched kids started asking to have prayer meetings and they would pray for hours.  We would try to stop it and they would keep going.  If I wasn’t there to witness it I probably wouldn’t believe it.  It is messy, but it is real; and it is worth it. So the best resource God needs is not powerpoint games, teaching curriculum, a tricked out mobile drop-in center.  The best resource God has is you. Get out of your office and spend 35 of your 40 hour work weeks out being a youth worker.  It is what you were meant to be.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The most essential youth worker tools

There are all sorts of products and resources out there that people are trying to sell youth workers to tell them what they need, but I have found few of these things actually make a difference.  This past week I was offered powerpoint games and a photo scavenger hunt list.  

I generally don't feel a need to fill my time pursuing games and scavenger hunts and if I do decided to do something like that, I would like something actually tailored to my group.  Plus these resources all have to do with making your program stronger, not to make you more skillful as youth worker.  We have some regular events that we host in our area, but we do no games, we have no ice breakers, we have no band.  The rest of the week we go to the places that the youth are at everyday and we hang out with them.

I trained a team that know how to do this type of work day in and day out, but I remember when I was a youth pastor in a small church not knowing what to do with kids when I would meet them on their way home from school or at the skatepark.  Now I prefer those settings.

I am a particularly odd example of a youth worker as I am introverted and being around people drains me as so I carry a bag of tools with me all the time.  Some people call it a European carry all, others a purse, and I prefer to call it a man bag.  The truth is if I were a businessman I would carry a brief case, but as a youth worker I carry a bag.


So go ahead and ridicule me for a few minutes.  I'm used to it.
Now that you are through laughing at me I would like to show you the contents of my bag and what I use these things for.  
 
  • First of all the youth worker identification.  We had jackets made as well as ID tags to help keep us clearly identified as professional adult youth workers.  This is good when we are meeting with youth and their parents pick them up.  
  • Business cards.  Always have a supply of contact info on hand for parents, teachers, coaches, social workers, police, etc.  We want to give them an opportunity to check out our claims.  That we indeed are who we say we are.
  • Volunteer Applications.  I never know when I might meet someone that has an interest in being involved in what we do.  This also has a list of policies and procedures for youth work that are good to keep on hand.
  • Fundraising presentations.  We have to raise our own support for everything that we do.  So I try to always be ready to give a presentation if the opportunity arrises
  • A book.  I always keep a book with me in case I the youth I hope to meet with forget to show up or are running late.  Or sometimes youth are simply not in their regular hang out places.  This keeps me from getting bored.
  • Food.  i work out on the road a lot and need to makes sure that I am eating while I go.  However, we also run into youth that don't eat due to financial or emotional reasons and we want to be able to supply them with somethings.
  • Ipod.  This has games and music on it that you can use to bridge a gap with.  
  • Magazines.  Our team puts together magazines on youth related topics that we like to give out to youth or even encourage them to write.  If nothing else the topics of the magazines can make for good discussions.
  • Free stuff.  Someitmes you find someone that just needs to know someine cares about them.  WE may give them some toy cars or a book.  I carry a few copies of the book "Soul Cravings" for kids that have a lot of questions about God stuff. We have free bibles if kids want those too
  • A cheap digital camera.  This is something which I can use to record fun moments but not worry about breaking.
  • A blank journal.  This is something that I can give away to youth when they need to learn how to vent in a healthy way.
  • Playing card.  I know quite a few games and magic tricks enough to fill a few hours of time with.
  • Cross word puzzle books.  great way to interact with youth while working on something together.
  • My own bible and journal.  Sometimes I need time to reflect and read myself.
  • Coloring book and crayons.  Another great activity to do with youth that you first meet.
  • Hacky Sack and a ball.  For those youth that want to do something more active
  • Remote control car.  Awesome way to meet youth, ram the car into them and then offer to let them try it.
  • Paper.  just a way to write a quick encouragement or reminder to our young friends
  • Notebook.  Way of remembering things.
  • A comic book.  Another cool thing to break the ice with and interact about.
  • My blackberry.  takes pictures, accesses facebook and twitter, I can blog and text.  of course I was using it to take this picture of my stuff.
It is not an exact science, and it has to be things that fit with your personality.  One of my favorite things is to carry memories.  Things like the five of diamonds is from the day I went to see a girl in the hospital after an accident.  The playing cards were all over the ground.  i took one to remember the day.  I always have.  These are simple things and in my find things that will last longer than any powerpoint game.  What would you add to my bag?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Top ten fears of Canadian Parents

Top 10 Parent Fears
1. Lack of confidence
2. Being bullied
3. Depression
4. Anger management
5. No interest in school
6. Drug use
7. Loneliness
8. Internet/video game addiction
9. Alcohol use
10. Gang/crime involvement

How to use your home as a drop-in center

Most youth workers run things on a fairly tight budget and don't have a lot of extras.  In our work we have to fund raise every penny that we need.  We are generally busy being with youth and we rarely have time to do as much fundraising as we need.

That has meant that we have had to be creative with things.  For instance we use coffee shops as our office and our houses as our drop-in centers.  It was that reason that we chose to buy a house in the neighborhood that we work in.  We wanted the issues of the community to be our issues as well.  We weren't just parachuting in but we were living along-side.Sharing our home has meant some sacrifices, but over all it has helped us reach a depth of trust and intimacy with the youth we work with that I had never seen in my prior 10 years of youth work.

However these are the things that I would recommend that you think about before opening up your home.

  • Make sure that your spouse or roomates share the vision.  (You wouldn't like it if your roomate decided to host a mud wrestling competition in your living room every week without talking to you first would you.)
  • Lay off on the rules.  When I have youth over I want them to feel like they are invited to be a part of our family.  Belonging doesn't come from a list of rules.  What I made clear to my young friends is that I will treat them like adults friends and in return I expect the same from them.  I also ask them to lay off the swearing so my young kids don't pick it up.
  • Know your boundaries.  There are some simple things such as - don't be alone with young people in your house.  There are too many things that could go wrong with that.  Also just letting people know when it's time for them to go home.  Protect your family time.  What you don't want is your home to be a workplace.  It is a place you want to invite people into not a place that you are required to be at.
  • Prepare to be surprised.  When you treat others like equals suddenly conversations can happen.  You don't need to fight to be heard, and neither to they.  You can simply be.  One day I found a scrap piece of paper on the coffee table of my house after every one had left that surprised me and inspired me to keep opening our doors to youth:
 "You know sometimes you walk into a person's house and feel a negative vibe.  For me, I can't always put my finger on it, I just feel anxious. Scared. Beaten.  I've never felt that walking in here.  I always feel so relieved, and the presence of love and Jesus is so obvious; you'd be blind not to see it, and numb not to feel it.  This house, and this family is living proof of what God does in a person's life, and the difference it makes.  Thank you Jesus for bringing these beautiful people into my life."
 

Friday, May 7, 2010

The myth of sucessful youth work

There are countless tips and tricks available out there to make one a "successful" youth worker. However, As I was saying to a young person today people are not lab rats that will run through the maze to get to the cheese. They may be hungry, but they may sit in protest that they are put through some sort of experiment.

I do come across youth workers that intentionally think this way about people. However they do get quite burdened when they see their efforts to reach out to young people end up in what they would label failure. So they will access all these sites with the tips and tricks in order to find the success. Concerts, events, rallies, all nighters, sport, games, celebrities, new teaching curriculum, social media, etc etc etc.

However great these ideas might be the truth is that a person can only do so much and the items that they add are doomed to failure as well - given enough time. People wont change through whatever programing we through in front of them anyway. There may be an illusion of change and that euphoric feeling that comes from those moments is what keeps many of these youth workers grasping at those straws.

The thing is that many youth workers, myself included, are so passionate about the young people we work with that we will sacrifice everything we are and have in order to see success come. Our identity ends up being absorbed by our job titles so that we stop being functioning humans in trade for being a successful youth worker. Think it's not true? Think again. In a recent survey done by www.whatshappeningcanada.com it was reported that only 21% of youth workers are happy with their relationships outside of work.  So while the relationship with the youth may be good, but home life and friendships suffer.

 That is probably why youth workers "burn out" and leave the field.  In the same survey it listed that 75% of former youth worker say that their personal relationships have improved since the left youth work.  In a job where we are suppose to be leading youth to holistic health.  How can we get by with such bad behavior ourselves?  We justify it as being for a "good cause".  We look to others problems as more important than our own.  We have a whole list of excuses.  At least I do.

That is why I think we should stop trying to be successful youth workers and instead try to be youth workers that thrive.  After all that we may sacrifice for young people and how we will let our personal lives unravel for the sake of the greater good, at the end of the day these teens choose their own paths that may be in direct contradiction to our own.  We have to be ok with not defining sucess by the outcomes.

The past few weeks I have been traveling a lot, battling some sicknesses and injuries, and have had a lot of good but time consuming meetings that I have had a bit of a break from the daily grind of youth work.  And you know what?  I have found myself more energetic than I have in years.  I actually felt like I had something to offer this week as I stepped back into the lives of the teens I get to hang out with. 

If you are a youth worker or a business man or anyone else that has become absorbed into only defining yourself by your job title, then follow this list.

Take a break - turn off your phone and your computer.  Anything that connects you with work.  Go to the gym.  Call up your friends and do something you enjoy with them.  Let go of the responsibility of other peoples choices and concentrate on just being with them no mater what they may choose to do.  Spend time thriving instead of succeeding and you will find you get to do the work you love a lot longer than the stats suggest.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This house is your life

I got a phone call from a young person asking me help them get their life back on track. They told me their desire to fix some mistakes. They told me they wanted to reconnect with God. We agreed to meet and my first thought was: "how in the world am I supposed to do that?"

As the time between the phone call and the meeting progressed I felt more and more inadequate for the task. I know from experience that I can't fix anyone. As good as my viewpoint may be there is no way that I can give anyone perfect advice. I don't believe there even is such a thing.

What I definitely cannot do if make people change. I can't force people to live their life using my choices instead of theirs. I've screwed up my own life as it is, I don't want to mess up others lives as well. I know that there is nothing good within me, but of people are asking me for advice they are seeing something in me that they want for themselves. If people believe me or not is up to them but I know the only good thing in me isn't me at all but it is Jesus.

I've been called crazy and ignorant for my beliefs. Ive been spit on and mocked for following, but for me it isn't belief. It is reality. I can't deny it any more than I can deny oxygen. but it was my choice to follow Jesus and anyone I talk to has their own choice about how to live their life.

Most times I just seek to serve others despite of what they choose to believe. I'm not so shallow to require people to agree with me to be my friends. However there are occasions when I am asked for my opinion such as I was here. So then I. Share no holds barred.

but how to share? That is a tricky question. so rather than give a sermon I drew a picture of a house and let this person tell me the condition of the place. I would draw it on. They told me it had a cracked foundation, broken windows, a hole in the roof, cut electrical lines, flooding from a burst pipe, it was filled with garbage. We ended up with a rather dismal picture. I then told them to picture jesus coming and knocking on the front door. What would they do what would they think?

They opened the door and let him in but tried to hide the mess but how can you hide things that are so evident. Jesus sits down with them And shares a meal. They then expect him to leave but he decides to clean things up. Not just a cursory clean but a home make over clean. Yet they had one room in which they put all their worst stuff then locked the door.

They wanted to reconnect with God but that can't be done if were not willing to let him in the darkest rooms. I left them with the picture of the house and the invitation to unlock the door.

Of course i help redecorate but I can't do the remodel. I'm not qualified for that. I have to contract it out.

It is their choice if they are going to go through with the project...

So what's your house look like?
Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited
604-968-1812
danny@youthunlimited.com

I love being married to April

bumper sticker encouragement

I'm not sure I would normally snap a picture of such a thing but this bumper sticker just caught my eye and reminded me of the discussion from the last few days.

One of my friends told me he drank in highschool out of boredom. He just wanted to have fun. Maybe the simple message of this sticker is something that should be said more often. Not in judgment but in encouragement.


Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited
604-968-1812
danny@youthunlimited.com

I love being married to April

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Underage Alcohol Consumption Part II


As a youth worker I have many opportunities to gain first hand information about youth culture.  For me it is not research it is real life.  When I bring up a topic such as underage drinking it is not about some philosophical debate it is about practical ideas. To be honest I rarely confront teens on their drinking because, even if they respect and admire me, they will drink anyway.  Then the next time I talk with them they’ll feel guilty and not want to share with me about anything.  At the same time I have seen friends and family members suffer the consequences of alcohol misuse.  Yesterday was May 3rd, the anniversary date of my brother-in-law’s death outside a bar.  As I worked diligently on recruiting comments on my blog post it wasn’t just because I wanted to try a social media blitzkrieg, but also because I really wanted a chance to share my deep feelings on this issue. 

When I hear that my young friends attend parties and get “hammered” I cringe inside.  I know the bad decisions that can be made in those types of mental states.  I am not angry with them, I just am so concerned for their well-being.  I really do love these kids and I would much rather attend their graduations than their funerals.  I would rather visit them in their work places than in a jail cell. 

I know that some of my young readers will think that I am being overly protective or concerned, Maybe I am, but it is hard to merely shut those feelings off.  

To be fair I should share a bit of my own life story. I grew up in a small town in the USA that had some very strict views about alcohol use and how it fit in with religious belief.  For example any alcoholic beverages were prohibited from being sold on Sundays within city limits.  I also had a close friend that had told me that if he ever found out that I had gotten drunk that he would peel the skin off of me and dip me in vinegar. Of course in high school I had friends that drank, but I was petrified at what my parents would do to me if I were to dip into the spirits.  I also had the thought that God was watching and waiting for me to screw up in this area.  I never touched a drop of alcohol, but I remember one night after facing a emotional break-up that my mind wandered first to a list of friends I knew could hook me up with some liquid courage.  I wanted to be drunk so bad, but for some reason I couldn’t force myself to pick up the phone. That night I cried until my eyeballs felt like they would explode.  It was overwhelming hurt and I didn’t think I would make it through.

 I remember that my mom heard me crying that night and without a word she came into my room and just held my hand.  She didn’t even know why I was crying.  Had I been out drinking who would have shown me that level of affection.  I wouldn’t have wanted to talk to my mom for weeks after that knowing she would be disappointed in me.  My mom and I were (and still are) close.  I could talk with her about almost anything.  I also tended to be a bit of a dare devil driver as most teens are and I would have probably done something stupid with booze running through my veins. (Ask my friends and they’ll tell you I did a lot of stupid things w/o booze).

A common theme throughout the comments on my last post had to do with why people drink.  Things such as, peer pressure, escape, emotional overload, lack of support, a way of forgetting.  I really liked how Jay summed it up when he said, “Some teens that abuse alcohol and drugs have other serious burdens to bear, i.e., family abuses of various kinds that need to be addressed.”  In my life I was surrounded by loving and supportive family and friends and that really was the key to me staying on the straight and narrow.  Yet the temptation was still there.  How much greater is the draw to drink when you feel isolated, lost and alone.

I ran across an interesting text in the bible as I was drifting off to sleep last night that said:

“It is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.  Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:4-7)

This passage really isn’t mentioned too often.  Many of those that claim to be religious don’t like to point out areas that are not black nor white.  But life is messy and God really understands that.  Life hurts and God understands when it is too much to bear why people are drawn to drink and forget – if only for a little while.  When Noah lost all his friends, well the whole world, in a flood. One of the first things he does is build a vineyard, make wine and gets wasted.  God doesn’t curse him in fact, the curse fall on Noah’s son who mocks his father’s drunkenness.  (Gen 9:20-24).  However, there is a calling on those who want to make a difference in the world, who want to stand on the side of justice, who want to be leaders to crave something deeper than drink.  You can’t lead if you are passed out.  You can speak for the voiceless if you are slurring your words, you can’t make decisions with a clouded mind. 

For me, I didn’t have my first drink until I was 23.  Now I will occasionally have a drink socially with friends.  I have made a distinct choice never to be drunk.  My motto has been to be self-controlled and alert.  I would hate for a young person to call me in need but be unable to help because I was too intoxicated.  It is not for leaders to crave beer.  I also want to allow God to have control over me - not to be controlled by a beverage. (Eph 5:18).  Please hear me, I don't think all drinking is bad, I just see the need for limits.  Everything may be permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial for me.

On the youth issue, it is confusing because I know they drink for many of the same reasons that adults do – the issues they face are so hard.  I don’t blame them for wanting a way out.  My hope is to spend more time loving and caring for these youth so they know they have someone to turn to when it is hard.  The answer to the issue is not rule, legislation or education.  Although I affirm the law as correct.  The real answer to this issue is love.  To my young friends I challenge you to make a stand alongside some friends that will support you.  Find something to fill yourself with so that you will not look to fill the empty spaces with booze.  I don’t have answers that will fix anything, but I don’t think you need to be fixed, I think you need to be loved. Don't let yourself be controlled by the desire to escape, open your lives up to the challenge to make a difference for those that are lost.I believe in you.  I welcome your comments.