Thursday, September 24, 2009

Something of Beauty

I put this on my Myspace a while back, but I felt like posting it here, as well. This is a poem I wrote once while watching the sunset on Brighton Beach, the most beautiful spot in all of Brooklyn. Enjoy!

Something of Beauty

Joy and pain

Wrapped in the warmth

Of sunlit rain

In darkness falls

But skies all around

With heavenly light

Do resound

That at great cost

We pay this price

For hope does not come

Without sacrifice

And at what cost

But that we may treasure

The sacrifice

Of greatest measure

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bittersweet reflections (some thoughts from last Saturday)

I just got to see a bunch of the youth I used to work w/ some years ago. Truth be told, the term "youth" hardly applies any longer in the typical sense in which it's used. They were all so young, once, fresh in high school or still in middle school, but you blink, the time goes by, and before you know it, they're driving, graduating, moving on to college, and all those bittersweet etceteras you can think of. As I'm sure anyone can tell you a few years after having started in youth ministry, you look back and begin asking yourself, "Was it worth it? Did I make an impact on their lives? Did I really, really, really connect w/ them, or was it just fun while it lasted?"

So I arrived in Maryland, and I saw one of the girls who's now living in Israel and has been visiting for the summer, making sure to bring her a little going-away present (dark chocolate peanut M&M's, her favorite). She lights up and exclaims, "You didn't!" I shrug my shoulders and reply, "I did." We get to chat for a little while, and as I really listen to what she's saying, I know that God has had His hand on her life, and her heart is set towards him no matter what.

I look across the room, and there's one of the girls who joined the group some time after I started helping out. Barely out of high school, she's already showing some leadership initiative, spending time w/ the other youth and challenging them in their relationship w/ God. I'll never forget the time not long ago when she was sitting down w/ one of the older youth leaders, pouring her heart out about how much she really wanted to reach out to the needy in the local community. After talking for a little while, she put her hands down on the table and said, "Just...just let me! Just let me step out and do something! I understand that I'll probably make some mistakes, but God is bigger than that! I'm just so tired of waiting around for somebody to give me the thumbs up!"

I look up and see her brother approaching, who I also only got to spend so much (or so little) time w/, yet even his face lights up, surprised to see me. I see another one of the guys who I got to spend a lot of time w/ in the years past, and even though we didn't get to chat much during my visit, I know I've been seeing him grow spiritually as time's moved on. The same can be said for yet another guy who I didn't get to see b/c he no longer lives in the area, yet I logged on to my facebook and got a comment from him saying that he misses me.

"I thought you were a cool youth leader, Jimmy," one of the girls said as I was giving her a ride home. "You had some nice ideas, but I also remember how you were very sincere when you'd open up and speak to us from your heart. I really liked that." She, too, is moving on to do some incredible things w/ her life, admitting that the steps forward are downright scary at times, which is just teaching her to trust in God all the more.

It's easy to doubt oneself and get discouraged in life many times, and this can especially be the case in youth ministry. It's good to have a humble attitude about oneself, as well, constantly open to recognizing areas for growth. What good is it, though, if we confuse that w/ having a negative self-image. As one of the youth said, God is bigger than our mistakes. It was truly refreshing to have had this time last Saturday, to see how the youth have grown in so many ways, and what more can be said? It was such an awesome time getting to spend those years developing strong, lasting friendships w/ the other youth leaders, seeing how God is moving in their lives, as well. In times like these you look back on it all, and asking whether or not it was worth it, your heart gives out a resounding, "Yes!" I'm so thankful to God for the opportunity to have been a part of these (no longer) kids' lives.