3 Things I Learned From All Those Old Notes

The other day I posted this…

Purging/Downsizing in preparation for move to new apartment. One thing I’ve learned going through old boxes: In Pacific Christian Fellowship we wrote A LOT of notes!

…on Facebook.

There truly were a lot of notes. Boxes and files and folders full. Sheets of paper, post cards, picture albums, even a paper plate: all filled with words of affirmation. I guess this is how we communicated love  pre-facebook.

In all honesty, I threw much of it away. Some of the notes were redundant, some had lost context over the years, some were just inside jokes. But there were many, many gems, and I saved those.

In ministry there are all sorts of channels for feedback. Very few of those channels are helpful.

You open yourself up to a lot of cuts in this line of work. Sometimes there are really big things: a big rejection, someone you thought was on your side who bails, someone who takes an offhanded statement and uses it against you. Sometimes there are really small things: comments, distancing, the reality that you ask most of the questions.

That’s the hard stuff. But then there are the beautiful words that good people speak and write to you and those words are gold.

There were a number of themes that stood out to me as a I read through all of those notes:, but these were the Big 3:

  1. You are funny
  2. You ask really good questions
  3. You should be a pastor

Why is it so important to be reminded of these themes”

  1. From time to time I’ll hear the message, directly or indirectly, that I am not fun. Fun and funny are two different things, but it was so, so good to be reminded that at one point in my life I was fun(ny) (a ringleader of fun, no less). I believe that’s still in me.
  2. Several notes revealed that not only were my questions “good”, they could also be “intimidating.” My current students will have a good chuckle about that. Still true. Sometimes we need to be reminded about our true selves and other times we need to see that what we do and love has been there all along.
  3. Welp. I’ve been told I should pastor ever since college. Even though pastoring pushes me out of what is comfortable based on my personality and preferences, there’s been an internal and external push, an undeniable call, to help people on their journey back to God.

The moral of the story, dear readers, is hold on to these words of affirmation that people give you: they are gold, they are sustenance, they are life-giving.


HPIM6762There are volumes of virtual articles and actual books that examine the current generation of 18-35 year olds. Some of that work is highly positive, a lot of it disconcerting, and there’s a bit of it that is downright paranoid.

There are certainly things to be concerned about. If I wasn’t concerned I wouldn’t do what I do.

But, I am also deeply encouraged.

I see signs of hope all the time. During conversations over a cup of coffee, in students who wake up early on Saturday mornings to tutor kids, in our leaders, and on trips like we took to Joplin.

For 8 days I saw students who have grown up in the most self-centered, narcissistic era of all time (according to some), give and serve and sacrifice, and do it all with a happy heart, a cheerful disposition, and absolutely no complaining.

Which was amazing, but here’s my favorite part:

At the end of each spring break trip I’ve been on I’ve led groups through a simple exercise called “the hot seat.” When you are on the hot seat you silently sit and let the rest of the group speak words of affirmation and life into you.

It’s deeply moving.

Students today get all kinds of accolades and positive feedback from the culture at large (especially if they buy the right things, wear the right things, and say the right things on Facebook).

But, in my experience, as these cultural accolades increase, there is less space for
an actual person,
who actually knows you,
who has actually seen you in your element,
to say real and honest words
to your face.

In these moments you see the power of words, the power of real human interactions, and the greatness that resides inside each of these individuals.

We are blessed right now with some amazing students who God is using to do amazing things.

I’m grateful to just be here and to witness it.