Nov 15, 2007

nywc: atlanta - day one, part 1

This morning I kissed my wife and boys goodbye, prayed for safety, and then headed out with a couple buddies (Mike and Jon) down to Atlanta for the National Youth Worker's Convention. We had plans to intersect with my buddy Scott once we got down there, since he drove from Michigan/Indiana and we came from Ohio.

First off, the ten hour drive went by fast. I love it when you travel with people and the conversation is easy... and, well, they're willing to do the obligatory stop at the first White Castle you see (official road trip rule #2). To top it off, there were some amazing colors of trees in deep valleys that went on and on that simply took our breath away.

Then we hit the city... and some interesting memories popped up. The last time I'd been to Atlanta it was just a month after I had my last full-time youth pastor role. I remember how awkward that trip was for me, not to mention I'd taken it with the guy who was replacing me at the time.

Now I'm here as a lead pastor doing what I can to create space for the emerging generation in the church at large... hopefully I can make a dent in the name of Jesus. I got to drive down with two great guys whom I serve with and meet ip with my buddy Scott, whom I've had the humble honor of serving with and being good friends with through thick and thin.

Wow. I mean, how undeserving am I to be here?

Which kind of relates to this.

We made it in time to enjoy the Steve Fee concert, but along the way of walking over from the luxurious suite room we have at the Super 8 I made a new friend named Rodney who happens to live on the streets. We talked a bit and it turned out he was hungry, so we took care of that and chatted in line while we waited for the one person behind the counter at Wendy's to take care of the 30 people standing in line.

But I digress.

Rodney was uncomfortable because he's normally not allowed into the food court by security. I looked at him and said, "I invited you, Rodney. You're with me." So to calm the air, we started swapping stories.

I learned Rodney's story, and shared some of mine. Within that, God's Story came up more than once or twice... and it turned out he knew that Story. In his words, "I know Jesus as my Savior, but not as my Lord. I keep doing things my own way and know that if I were to die tonight I wouldn't go to heaven."

Wow... this guy had some rather honest integrity about his spiritual journey. Needless to say, we talked quite a bit about that choice and how he could iron all that confusion out anytime he wanted to, including "now."

So after we grabbed the food, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to invite him to the Steve Fee concert. Rodney agreed, and so we walked into the convention center. "This is the first time I've ever been in this building," he said. "It's kind of embarassing for me to go into these places because I don't feel like a real person sometimes."

Wow... again. It was in that moment that I realized that I was metaphorically modeling how Christ walks with us into new territory - first the food court he wasn't normally welcome in and now the convention center - and "treats us" to all kinds of things we feel we don't deserve. Maybe we don't deserve those treats, but God keeps on offering nonetheless.

"I invited you... you're with Me."

So not only did Rodney come in and eat his Wendy's food to some worship tunes, but he looked at me on more than one occasion and smiled... the kind of smile that tells me he had more than one meal tonight.

I think I did, too.

"[Jesus] said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." (John 4:32)


bjk said...

so know to yield to that nudging....thanks for the real example....

co_heir said...

Beautiful! Thanks for that reminder to be aware of opportunities to minister grace to those who need it.

Anonymous said...

Tears in my eyes.

no really.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

was that a haiku? lol