Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Also if you have gained anything from any of my posts would you be willing to help me out by clicking on this facebook link and liking a video I made that features me and my team with the work we do with teens in Langley? If I get the most likes out of the other entries on the Youth Sepcialities facebook site by December 5, 2010 I could win an iPad. If you're interested in helping out - great! Here is the link
Langley Youth Unlimited Promo Video
If you have to choose though - I would rather have your feedback than to win a gadget. Together we can learn more about how to help the young people of the world.
Monday, November 29, 2010
When it comes time to crunch the numbers Youth Workers will often get the ax. I think this comes with the fact that not many people understand what it is that youth workers do and how they affect youth culture. This short story is calling UK citizens to stand up for keeping youth services running at maximum capacity.
Children and Young People Now - MP's called to back Youth Work
Teen Writes Self Help Book For His Peers:
A young man named, Alex Southmayd, who is still in high school has written and published a self-help book for his fellow teens. While some may balk at the idea of a teen writing about such important issues due to lack of perspective brought on by very little life experience. However I'm inclined to think that it is the teens themselves who can best communicate to their generation. Wouldn't it be amazing to see more young people take their passion to the publishers? I bet there would be a lot we could learn from them along the way. The book is call Brain Snacks for Teens and is available on Amazon.com.
Care2 - First Self-Help Book Written For Teens By A Teen
Traditional Youth Groups Could Be Detrimental To Their Purpose
Blogger Michael Krahn (www.michaelkrohn.com) posted a lively and controversial article on three ways in which youth groups may be "destroying children". While his language is harsh there I see some truth to his points. 1. Youth Groups Foster Peer Orientation. Separating adults from youth has been happening since the 60's cultural revolution, but is it the right thing to continue? 2. Youth Groups Undercut Wholistic Community. Without the varied input of different age groups some people can get stuck into a rut of interpretation. 3. Youth Groups Too Often Try To Attract. Do we really want to try and motivate people based on consumerism and entertainment or do we want to see real life change and commitment? Take a read and see what you you think. It may have some serious implications for your church so be careful.
michaelkrahn.com Youth Groups Destroy Children
How To Tell The Difference Between Teen Drama and Teen Depression
teendepression.org - Causes Of Teen Depression
The world that many young people live in is a perpetually dark place. They face things that are unthinkable by most. From where I sit I can see many teens passing me on their way to or from school. There are not many smiles and the darkness is extremely evident. I know some of the stories. Parents that have told these kids that they are unwanted and worthless. Families that have split up and these teens are constantly stuck in the middle. Relationships that they pour their lives into that turn out to be abusive and destructive. Things that break my heart.
There is humor in the midst of this, but it mirrors their dark world. I often am disturbed by the things that my young friends consider worthy of a laugh. However it is usually cheap humor that rips into another persons character or sexuality. These things may cause laughter but they do not restore the soul. I often try to explain this difference to them, but I'm afraid that they influence me more in this area than I do in them. I seem to have a knack for a sarcastic sense of humor.
There are a few kids though that are the shining light in the midst of these dark worlds. These kids are typically refereed to as the class clowns and while they are loved almost universally between all the cliques of a high school campus. The authorities in their lives tell them then need to "grow up". I hope that instead of discouraging their gift that we would help them to nurture it and make it better. For they have a gift of humor that can go farther into the depths of humanity and help those in the darkest places feel as though they are, even momentarily, being rescued.
Even though Leslie Nielsen was 84 years old when he died, from what he portrayed on the screen he was still young at heart. Isn't that something that we should desire to help young people experience in their own lives? Leslie Nielsen, I surely hope you rest in peace.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Something told me (I am sure it was God) to sit. I looked but it seemed every spot was taken. I ended up in an alley. At first the smell was putrid and I did not want to stay. There were so many people looking through the dumpsters, pushing around their carts, walking, and talking. I found a vacant spot and sat down. The city is a noisy place. This day was no exception. The hustle and bustle of traffic. The countless voices, horns, and construction leave a deafening wake. Yet in those few minutes I became painfully aware of the quietness around me. I was lonely. Just then a bus full of sightseers drove through the side road intersecting the alley. The people on board saw me but were quick to avoid eye contact. My loneliness increased all the more.
Here I was lonely, rejected, insecure, bored, and fighting a perma-headache. Suddenly the idea of a smoke did not seem that bad (and I hate smoking). At least it could help pass the time—and maybe help with the headache. It hit me then: If I could feel this way in under an hour how would I feel after a week or a year in
that place? Who would I become? As important as I like to think I am, in that moment I saw myself for who I really am: A wondering hobo. The term hobo came into wide use after the close of the U.S. Civil War. It was used to describe the vast amounts of soldiers who were “Homeward Bound”. Some of these men never made it home and gave into a life of aimless wondering. Maybe these hobo’s were not traveling toward home as much as they were traveling away from horrors of war. The people in the alley are also trying to escape from war filled lives. Wars that took place in their homes and now they are wandering on a journey not toward home but away from it.
I tried to imagine my home in that way. I thought of my hurts and pain I had faced in my past and tried to multiply them. The resulting feelings made me squeamish and uncomfortable. Remembering that I had tried to escape from those feelings before—not with drugs or running away, but by trying to step off a cliff. If it had not been for a friend who pulled me away from the edge, my life would have ended. The escape plan would have killed me just as the escape is killing the people in this alley. A light went on for me. Challenging poverty takes more than just the one time trip to feed, clothe, and hear stories. It is more than the social programs,
shelters, subsidized housing, and safe injection sites. Challenging poverty happens when you do not see a difference between “those” people and yourself and you reach out your hand and pull someone
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
-The Bible (Romans 12:16 NIV)
Not because they are your new renovation project, but because you love them enough to genuinely care
about their life. Without returns, without a sense of satisfaction, and without strings. Just like my friend had done for me. Escape seemed like the only plan but what I really needed was to see that God and the friends around me would help me deal with the war torn life.
I came to the street to challenge poverty and poverty ended up challenging me.
I jumped up and started walking again. Confidence and security were returning the closer I got to our rendezvous point. Yet I could not forget...I came to the street to learn about challenging poverty and poverty
ended up challenging me.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
I just finished reading the book “Total Forgiveness” by R.T. Kendall. Kendall offers an interesting perspective having grown up in the hills of Kentucky and serving the greater part of his life as the pastor of the Westminster Chapel in London, England. The vast array of cultural divides and experiences he faced obviously drove him to write a book on this topic.
We live in a world of turmoil and while forgiveness in mentioned I find myself often wondering if it is actually experienced. In working with young people I often am privy to information that tears at my confidence in humanity. Abuse, sexual exploitation, violent crimes, relationship abuse, lies, anger and hatred that move far beyond what may be typically referred to as teenage drama.
What surprises me most is the nonchalant attitude that most of these teen and young adults hold toward their despairing set of circumstances. Yet I think if I were to take a stab at what is really going on, my guess would be that they are scared more of confronting what has become of them and they find it easier to simply roll with it. If they try to find healing they will only be hurt more the next time.
The problem is that I know it isn’t sustainable. I know this because I will find myself struggling through the issues that they wont let go of. It is as though you have a conversation with someone that the rail road tracks are an unsafe place to play, but after the conversation they go straight back to it. This is one of the most difficult things to deal with in youth work. You care so much that you can almost begin to resent the fact these young people continue to put themselves in harm’s way and find the healing that you know is within their reach.
I found myself learning as I went through the pages of Total Forgiveness. Kendall’s words reflected this often pondered but rarely practiced Christian discipline of forgiveness. The names and faces of many individuals passed through my heart and mind as I wrestled with the concepts that Kendall was offering in his book. Realizing that I had been trying to teach a concept to young people that I was wrestling with myself was a good and humbling reminder to me. There is no way I can help young people to step into true forgiveness if I am unwilling to do so in my own life or even with them.
In good fashion R.T. creates a list of what his definition of “total” forgiveness is as well as what it is not:
- It is not approval of what they did
- It is not excusing what they did
- It is not justifying what they did
- It is not pardoning what they did
- It is not reconciliation
- It is not denying what they did
- It is not blindness to what happened
- It is not forgetting
- It is not refusing to take the wrong seriously
- It is not pretending we are not hurt
Many people young and old alike refuse to look at forgiveness as a viable option because they have a specific view of what forgiveness means. If the above list can be understood correctly maybe more of us would be able to move toward forgiveness more often. The question remains though – if it is not any of those things what is forgiveness?
- It is being aware of what someone has done and still forgiving them
- It is choosing to keep no record of wrongs
- It is refusing to punish
- It is not telling what they did
- It is being merciful
- It is being gracious
- It is an inner condition
- It is the absence of bitterness
- It is forgiving God
- It is forgiving ourselves
That is a difficult list. I won’t deny that there are things on there that seem next to impossible even it is not a big issue that we are talking about. Someone may have glared at me from across the room and I will want to make sure I give them an equally deserving one back. As the painful circumstance rise – it only gets harder. You may have adverse reactions to these lists, but I have not included the whole of Kendall’s explanation. You may want to pick up the book to see his justifications, exceptions and explanations for each item.
I liken this need for forgiveness in much the same way as planning an escape from prison. Every detail must be thought out or you will quickly end up worse than before. However nothing would taste as sweet as the freedom experienced after being wrongfully imprisoned. When I think about how many children, teens and young adults are sitting in the shackles of hurt and resentment I long to free them, but I realize that I can’t force them out of it. They have to want to be free. In the meantime I must not judge them for that but bless them where they are at and hope. What more can I do?
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
“My mom is a gambling addict.” Tim blurted out in the middle of our conversation. I have to admit I was taken aback by this moment of sheer brutal honesty. I could not even remember this young man’s name and he was already telling me his family’s secrets. I had seen Tim around before but this was the first time we had connected. Quite callously my response was, “Wow, that’s crazy! Can I interview you?”. In hindsight, I probably could have handled that situation better but Tim had hooked me and I really wanted to hear his story.
The story is one of tragedy and infinite sadness. You would never guess from looking at Tim that life has dealt him such cards. He is an honor student. He wears nice clothes. And he is always smiling. Now I recognize the smiles are forced. His mom grew up in country that was at war with itself. She later married, had two kids and immigrated to Canada. When Tim was eleven his parents separated; his mom, lonely and isolated in a foreign country, grew depressed and turned to gambling. Tim’s mom has grown such great that debt that she has to
steal from her own kids to feed her addiction. She disappears for days at a time. Sometimes there is food in the cupboards, sometimes there is not. Tim often skips lunch because there just is not enough food for three square meals.
Tim’s never told his mom how he feels about her addiction. In fact, he’s not sure she knows he is aware of her secret. They have never spoken of it. Tim says she is too proud to admit it and he is too afraid to say anything. When I asked him what he would say to her if he had the courage, He answered, “I would tell her everything’s going to be alright. I’ll fix it.”
When I asked Tim if he had the opportunity to escape from this mess (even if it meant leaving his younger sister and mom behind) would he take it. Tim’s eyes filled with tears, as he shook his head. At that very moment I realized Tim was desperately trying to save his family and he was sacrificing himself to do it.
For some people when the casino wins, it takes far more than their money. It takes their soul, their family and their future. I still wonder how Tim’s going to “fix it”. My greatest fear is that Tim is taking an even greater gamble than his Mom. He’s betting his entire life on the roulette table. I know even in life the house almost always wins but I truly hope and pray the ball hits double zero for Tim’s sake.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I watched as she walked down the steps of the pool into the cool waters. Today she was making a public statement that she was indeed committing her life to following after Jesus. I stood next to her mom as we listened to her story of life change and her newly formed beliefs. I could tell her mom was uncomfortable with this whole ordeal. The church scene was something foreign to this family yet she was here to support her daughter. As the young lady emerged from the water I leaned over to this mother and said, “You should be proud of your daughter”. She asked me “Why?”
It is a good question isn’t it? For those of us that have grown up in the church it seems obvious, so much so that maybe we forget to look past the ritual into the amazing symbolism of baptism. To many families the idea of their kids becoming “religious” is a terrifying thing. I knew one young person who was exploring different religions who was kicked out of the home for having a Bible and a copy of Blue Like Jazz. I have sympathy on these families because they are helpless watching their children purposefully moving in a belief structure that they either don’t understand or fundamentally disagree with. I would have difficulty in watching my own kids do the same thing. I would have a lot of questions for them and also for myself.
Ultimately, to me it comes down to a quote I heard in a movie trailer for “Sucker Punch” this weekend:
“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
This simple statement outlines much of what it is that I do in my work with teens. I do work for a Christian organization and I am thrilled when young people get to know Jesus as I have. My faith and friendship with God serve as my motive not my definition of success. I would rather see young person become friends with God rather than a convert to Christianity. I can present ideas but I can’t make people accept them.
To this mom I said that looking into a world of young people that are tossed around by drugs, sexual exploitation, abusive relationship, teen pregnancy and an ongoing list of terrible things that I’ve witnessed as a Youth Worker it is an indicator that these kids don’t have anything for which they will take a stand for. That day as her daughter was baptized she was saying that be it a popular choice or not she does stand for something. The mothers eyes filled with tears and she went straight to her daughter as she came out of the pool, looked her in the eyes and said, “I am so proud of you.”
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Every week young people gather in our home. We share a meal, life and spirituality. A few weeks ago we invested a whole night on the topic “Who is God”. There is so much that can be said theologically and philosophically, but I wanted to concentrate on the relational aspect of who God is. I’ve been hounded to share my notes on this night. So here they are:
- You can look to yourself. (What are your thoughts on God?)
You can ask others their opinions. (Text and ask someone right now)
You can look to other sources (I recommend that we look at the bible)
Many of you have tried opening the bible and reading from page one and expressed that it doesn’t help your understanding of God. It doesn’t seem to be about him but about creation VS evolution. I don’t think that is the point here. God didn’t actually give us a scientific text book, but in fact he gave us a poem. If it were written more scientifically it would probably sound like this:
It doesn’t really answer questions about how the creation happened, but rather gives us a reflection of the one creating it.
In the beginning. God.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
We recently had an group of young people over and we asked while we were having a meal if people would write down the one question they had about of for God. Here the some of them. Have any answers?
Why is everyting hard?
Where are you?
Why did you die for us?
Why do you love us?
How do you read? (God is nowhere)
Why does junk food taste so goo, and food that's good for you taste so bad?
Why did you choose to save me then?
If God is everywhere then why can it be so hard to find him in moments?
How are you like a carrot?
How can it be made easier to know you?
Where is the justice?
Is their a fatburger in heaven?
Monday, November 1, 2010
This article was written by a teenager that I know. They explained it to me as being a metaphor for their disconnected relationship with their parents. As a parent myself - I hope that I never miss this call.
You are still asleep… You had a really long and tiring day. You figured you had earned myself a sleep-in day, but it was mercilessly interrupted as the phone rings. Three times it rings , and then stops. You sigh in relief and go back to sleep. It didn’t take long. You are so sleepy…
Moments later, it starts ringing again. You groan and pull your pillow over your head to block out the noise.
You scream at the intrusion. It might have registered briefly in the back of your mind that you should pick up the phone but the notion is squandered by your repulsion to this rude awakening. You don’t want to get up! You think to yourself:
"If I run to answer the phone while in my sleepy daze, I’d end up dizzy and disoriented. And after all the effort, I probably wont get there in time anyway." It just isn't worth the head-rush.
You again miss the call.
When it rings for the third time, you are stubbornly determined to ignore it. It rings over and over and you barley notice; you are lost in a sleepy stupor. Whatever the issue is, you think "Its not my problem."
You sit up in my bed, abruptly remembering what you always thought to console yourself whenever you missed a call: "They’ll call back if it’s important..."
What you didn't realize was that it was me calling. You always have told me you wanted me to talk to you, but when I try it seems you couldn't be bothered to answer. If I'm calling on the phone or balling my eyes out in the next room - you never answer. You never hear. Wake up and smell the coffee! Someone could be looking to connect with you and you need to make an effort to listen.One day I'll be gone and will have given up on this at that point maybe you will be staring at the phone begging: “Please, ring again, Please! I want to help.” But I'm not sure I want to try that number again.