laziness is what I long for...

What a week, blog readers! This past week has been an emotional roller-coaster for me; from being on a youth ministry high I got from a youth ministry conference, to being do depressed you just don't want to move. This week has been nuts. You know what though, God has really fired me up today. I have been on the ball about things. There has just been something about me today that when I look in a mirror, I think to myself, "Nice." I think it's fair to say I got my swag back, and I found some of it in my swag bag from the NYWC (National Youth Workers Convention for the lay person).

Not that I have not embarrassed myself enough on this blog, for the whole world to see....(what have I gotten myself into), I am going to share a part of my life with you that has defined the past 4 years of my ministry. To give you a back story of my life to this particular point in the history of Mark Ashby, I have only ever committed to things I really found interest in. This may strike a chord with a few of the readers out there, but the other things I "tried" at, I just didn't give my full effort because I didn't care. It's like a baby, the baby is good at sleeping and cries when it needs food or a diaper change. The things I "tried" at were just my diaper changes.

So here I am, a huge man of about 90lbs and 12 years young and I am ready to take on the world. My older brothers set a lot of the tone and path for my life. They were both boy scouts and in fact one of them made it to Eagle. Pretty impressive...for his resume. Mine, not so much. My stint in scouts lasted about 2 days. My reasoning, I didn't want to cook my own food or set up my own tent and be embarrassed, so I quit 2 days in. Remember that little thought bubble that pops in my head when I look at the mirror, "Nice."

Well, that is quite embarrassing. You see, I have not committed fully to the power of the Holy Spirit. How many times in your life have you sat down, wanting to do something, and only give it a half effort because of one reason or another? Why do we always make excuses only to maintain our lives and not pursue the goal?

Fellow readers and bloggers alike, I have been put to shame. You see, at this youth ministry conference I saw a 16 year old boy who has helped change the world and has even written a book. HE IS ONLY 16! This is amazing and his ministry is incredible.

As Christians we need to step our game. We need to have a place and a time where we quit maintaining our lives and let God be the leader. Let God be the best guide for us as we step out of the laziness of our lives.

stopping by the woods on a snooo...

So there I am. Standing in front of 60 parents, all who are there to hear me dominate my other classmates. As I stood there I froze. I was a nervous wreck. I took a step back, cleared my throat, walked towards the mic and said, "Stopping by the Woods on a Snoooohh." I look down and to my dismay, I have peed my pants in front of 60 people and all my classmates. So much for winning the top prize, so much for all the hard work, all I needed now was a new pair of pants and probably a change of country would have been nice as well. I actually did it. I couldn't believe myself. So a new pair of sweat pants, button up shirt, and clip on tie later I sat back down on stage. At the end of it all, I won third prize, because I wet my pants.
Oh, and just so you know this is all back in first grade during my "Poetry Week". It's all true and it really happened. The prize I won was a kite, which my older brother surely destroyed as soon as I opened it.

Why am I telling this really embarrassing story? Well the reason I blog about it, to the whole world, is because right now, at 11:59 A.M. the day before thanksgiving, I am feeling vulnerable. I feel sick. The things I once knew are now not there anymore and it hurts my heart and spirit to see everything fall apart before my eyes.

My life has been changed because of my parents going through a divorce. However, as I cast everything onto Christ, I look at the strength of one of my parents. This parent has become more and more grounded each time I talk to them. It strengthens me to do this. I am only so blessed to be where I am today.

My other side of me is hurting for the other. I have pain for both, but my loyalties seemed to have shifted. A good friend told me that it is not about me. This is between them, yet I still feel like I am in the middle. I pray that no one knows this pain.

Through all of this vulnerability, I am able to stand firm on the one thing. Though the house may have been broken down for lack of care to it, my foundation in Christ is as solid as ever. Christ has shown me many things and has opened up great discussion with my students, my girlfriend, and many others. I have been able to find perspectives from all different avenues of life. God has really made me stronger, even though I feel vulnerable to it.

Christ said that I will do greater things than He. I firmly believe that Christ has blessed me and will continue to do so. Though my family is in disarray and everything seems to be falling harder and faster each time I get a phone call about something, I see that Christ has still done many great things.

Through our weakness, Christ can shows us a new way to lean on Him and try to grow and understand His plan for us more and more. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable.

Also, as thanksgiving approaches, know that I am praying for those who read this blog. It is a blessing to be able to somehow keep a small memoir of my thoughts on the internet for all to read. Christ has done many things and greater things are yet to come!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and may God bless the table you are at.

time after time...

I had an epiphany this morning around 5:39. I was falling asleep to my TV on, and you know when you are in the stage between a dream and reality you are pretty sure you can see or hear anything and you can sort-of react to it? Well that happened to me this morning. My epiphany is so incredible that I must share with with my readers, or just me because I may be the only person who reads my own blog.

So there I was, half dreaming and half awake and I sit up. The TV was on an 80's movie that probably speaks to the heart and life of every person who has ever seen it. You know what movie I am talking about....."Howard the Duck"! This is such a great movie! It has a live action duck, who is transported from his home planet, which is inhabited by what else than anthropomorphic ducks, to planet earth. It is here that Howard meets a struggling singer named Beverly. Howard and Beverly start a hilarious comedy team as they travel around with "Cherry Bomb", who else but Beverly's band, and they encounter the Dark Overlord, who is the bad guy and the only way Howard can go back to his home planet.
So what happens next? Well Beverly gets captured and Howard and some scientist, played by the great Tim Robbins, comes in and blow up the overlord. The only problem, Howard can no longer go back to his home planet. So what is an anthropomorphic duck to do? Only what any other anthropomorphic duck would do, become the band manager for "Cherry Bomb", Beverly;s band. He also PROMOTES the scientist, Phil, from being a scientist to an employee of the band! All is well in the world of Howard the Duck and the year of 1986.

Now what does all that have to do with anything? Being in the trance of half asleep and half awake, I slowly came to the realization, that I needed to change the channel. However, when I started to finally come back to reality, and realized that the movie I was watching was not some really crazy dream about a duck-man named Howard, that we as Christians tend to be half awake and half asleep when it comes to the things of the Gospel.

I am no great mind of the Christian world, and I surely can not write like the champions of the book world, but I do know one thing. My relationship with Christ is what matters the most and it is about time I WAKE UP. Look at Howard the Duck, the whole movie his mind was set elsewhere. Not on the things of this world, but on the things of another. His focus was to try to get home. Some of us, including myself, are so infused with our own lives, that we let our minds wander.

Howard the Duck can be considered a philosophical person, or duck-man, in my book. Right up there with the greats of Socrates, Sir Isaac Newton, and Elmo from Sesame Street. Our mind's need to be focused on the things of Christ, a Kingdom mindset, rather than the things of this world. We should be focusing on spreading the gospel to many around us. Howard's message was simple, (and I quote) Howard T. Duck: "That's it, no more Mr. Nice Duck". WOW! Words of wisdom from a fictional duck. But you know what readers, it is true. It is time that we not be so passive with our thoughts on things and time we stand up for what Christians believe in this world. It is time we wake up from our half slumber and open our eyes to the glory and grace that Christ has to offer all. It is time that we, Howard T. Duck: "No one laughs at a master of Quack Fu!"

Don't laugh at the Master anymore. He created us in His image to be creative in a way that we can all share the gospel to anyone. Here is an example from my good ole' memory bank. I was sitting on a bus at Auburn, and a guy came in and sat next to me. The bus was full that day. He sat down and I began to play with my phone because I didn't feel comfortable sitting next to people I don't know. He looked over and saw that him and I shared the same kind of phone. We talked about our phones, which was one of 300 I have owned in my life (ask me about it later if you see me), and that opened up a conversation about the church I was attending at the time. The next Sunday night, he came. Now I don't think he came much more than that, but the night he came it was an opportunity for him to hear the gospel from a much better speaker than myself.

God can open up anything and make it relevant, we must simply have a Kingdom mindset so that His knowledge and grace overflows into our cups so that we can pour into others.

Oh, and for those of you who were wondering what my epiphany was this morning, it was this: I need to make sure I turn on the heat somewhat in the winter because I woke up shivering from the cold and it is OK to spend a little more money for my comfort in my own home. Bet you didn't see that coming!

sack of potatoes...

Have you ever started to cross the street at a busy intersection? You are looking both ways, making sure no cars are coming and waiting in anticipation for the walk sign to turn to that little man that's not red, so we can cross "legally". After the light turns, you start to walk, and boom you faceplant on the ground in front of a lot of cars and the people walking beside you and now walking on you?

The reason for my visual of crossing the street and busting like a sack of potatoes is simple, in the ministry, we tend to be those people that walk all over the person who fell. However, this weekend, I was really inspired by a lot of great speakers at the National Youth Workers Convention presented by Youth Specialties. I got a chance to step outside of the box of my office, and step into a world where people were hurting just as I was, having troubles like me, and also going there to get a lot of free tshirts. My swag bag was so heavy this first day, I am pretty sure I lost 4lbs just by lugging it to the car.

At this conference, and at many conferences like this, a lot of people go into the conference with the mindset for the quick fix. A lot of people go in thinking that there has to be a new way, and a simpler way to do youth ministry. I went into the conference thinking that I was going to find THE ONE THING that will change my ministry around. During the whole experience I encountered three things that I will know for the rest of my life:
1. You have to have some sort of facial hair to be a youth pastor. I am pretty sure if you took all the facial hair from all the youth pastors at the convention, including some of the girls, then you could give the world a hairy belt.
2. Skinny jeans are apparently the new craze. I know one thing is for sure, if skinny jeans are the key to youth ministry, I will never live up to my potential.
3. The most important thing I learned was simply this, connect with the kids and be relational with them. It is that simple.

These are things I already knew, yet it meant a lot to hear it from the champions of youth ministry. Reggie Joyner spoke last night and stated that we need to check our systems for updating. If we come to the conference next year and nothing has changed, what did you do with what you learned?

This weekend, I was shown a light into my own ministry and my own life. I can not pour out into the lives of students, if God is not overflowing my cup. If I am to be the leader God needs me to be, I need to be more in Him and through that be more relational with my students. I need to meet my students where they are.

Jonathan Mckee put it best. He said that in order to understand the youth, I have to understand their culture. He gave the example that a family friend of his was going to move to China to be missionaries. They could not just move right away. Some things they did might be offensive, or just flat wrong. However, he said that this family studied the culture, language, and anything else they could for a year before they left. They wanted to have it down so that they could fit right in.

One of the things I gave to God this weekend was my own free time. I am going to do nothing but spend time in the world and Word of God as much as I can. However, with that I am going to dive my students down. I am going to raise up servant leaders that will change the world.

Get ready McDonough First United Methodist Church and c3 student ministries, there is a revolution of love, facial hair, and no skinny jeans coming. God has re-ignited my passion for youth ministry and I believe I now have a clear understanding of what and where God wants me to lead this group of students. Be prepared.

humbled...

Today I write my blog post with a different outcome on life. You see, being humble is very important in life and today I sit here...corrected and humbled. Let me give you the back story of this, then I will tie it all in with Christ. I hope that whoever reads this blog can really feel Christ pour out through my posts.
It was a nice Tuesday afternoon about lunch time. Some local pastors around the Griffin/McDonough area and I went out to lunch together. Now the two pastors that I ate lunch with are both HUGE UGA fans. One even stated, "Consider this a giant rolling, red G (for the UGA symbol)."
As many of you know, I am a very big Auburn fan. Well the Auburn vs. UGA game was in a couple weeks from this lunch and me being the inexperienced youth pastor and young person that I am, I talked a lot of smack. I even did it on facebook.
WELL, come Sunday morning, I woke up humbled. As you see, UGA beat Auburn for the 4th year in a row. This was a sad day for me. However, I know that all the smack talk I did has a price and I will have to live with this fact for the next 363 days. All the smack I talked, well as they say, "Insert Foot Here".

All that being said, as I read my Bible this morning, I came across the story of the man who wanted to follow Jesus. This man has said that he lived a good life, has done everything according to the laws and scriptures, and wants to know what to do to follow Christ. Christ said that he must sell all his possessions and follow Him. The man could not do it.

Why do we struggle so much with all the things that we "have"? I thought Auburn had a decent football team. Regardless of football, I have been humbled in the fact that, I really don't own anything. Christ has blessed me with a position in life that I am in love with, and I can't do anything but lay down on my face and thank Him for all He has done for me. Each day I wake up, I see that Christ has given me another day to follow Him.

I talked with my senior high youth last night about discernment in the things that they do. How they should look at their lives and see where Christ is and is not in their lives. As I sat there telling them this, I remembered and shared with them the grief I felt, just that morning, about Christ in my life.

As I was sitting in the pew for Sunday morning church, I hit the icon on my iPhone for my Bible, but instead I hit the facebook icon (which is right next to it). I was hit with something write then. How often do I spend on facebook? How many times a day do I sit there and read about everyone else's lives and what they are doing? Then I thought, how often do I sit and read about God and update my statuses with Him?

We spend so much time in the possessions of this world and the things of this world, that we forget about the only possession that matters. That is that the spirit of Christ possesses us to go out and speak about Him in love to all those who want to hear it. We must share our faith with those around us, even if they know God. God can speak in many ways.

My prayer today is that you will spend less time on facebook, less time text messaging, less time watching TV, and spend more time living for God, understanding His word, and speaking to God about everything (update statuses with God) and talk about Christ to anyone who will hear it.
Soli Deo Gloria (To God be the glory)
Amen.

tradition...

As I sit here in my office and I reflect on some things in my life. God has really put on my mind about tradition. Tradition plays a part in many peoples lives. We have church traditions, football traditions and much more. Jeff Francouer, a former Atlanta Braves player, grew a beard and worse his "lucky" underwear when he played for the Braves. This was to help him get out of his slump. It became a tradition for him to wear his "lucky" underwear to help him get better. We, in Atlanta, now expect the Braves to loose because it has been a tradition.

I was reading some facebook updates on Saturday, during a tradition of mine, and came across Geoffry Grubbs facebook post. It stated that he was going to a GEORGIA TECH game. Now for those of you who don't know Geoff, he is about 6'3 tall. He weighs a good 188. He is bald, old, and wrinkly. More important than all of that, he is a HUGE University of Georgia fan. He even has a UGA symbol on the back windshield of his truck. Now, I am not one to call out people, but this old man (who got the senior citizen discount) went to a GA Tech game. Don't believe me? Here is the proof...
A man who professes one thing and turns his back on tradition. I can say this, I am proud of him because UGA is terrible this year. But I can also say this, this picture was photo shopped. He did attend a game, however.

I want us to look at the traditions in our lives. We go to places that are full of traditions. We have things in our lives that become traditions after so many times of doing it. However, when tradition stops or changes, we get mad.

People get upset when you change tradition. Why is that? Why do we get mad when someone familiar changes? Isn't change supposed to be good?

I use Geoff as a humorous example of changing traditions, but the fact is that change can be a good thing. Every day I read my Bible, I learn more about Christ. My perspective changes. When I attend a new church, my traditions change.

We sometimes are so used to the norm, even in church, that the traditions become our Jesus. As I sat in my apartment this morning, I got on my knee's to pray and I opened my Bible. I thought for a second, that I do this almost every morning, but do I do it simply because I am used to doing it? Has tradition become my Jesus?

Today, I write my blog post about changing tradition. Get out of the norm. Christ is constantly evolving my mind and heart around Him. I am always learning new things about Christ, and finding Christ in new ways in my life. After I have these experiences, my views and traditions of Christ change.

Tradition is a good thing. It is good to be able to do some things the same way, but times change and so do the ways that we need to look at Christ. As I talked with one of my students last night, they asked me why we couldn't do things the way they used to be? This made me question my abilities as a youth minister. I felt as though I had done wrong and wondered what I can do to bring it back to retro.

Christ shows us that we must give everything to Him and die to ourselves daily. Christ has given us gifts to use for Him. We must show Him the love and the relationship He desires for us, in order to live for Him. So therefor we must die to ourselves. Sometimes dying to ourselves means that we must die to the old ways and start new. My life went from one extreme to the other when I became a believer. It is my prayer and my hope through this blog post, that you will examine your own lives, as I examine mine, and find the traditions that are meaningless. Find the traditions that will further your walk with Christ on a daily basis.

rebuilding...

Tomorrow will be 2 weeks to the day that I heard the worst news of my life. It has been a strange 2 weeks. I feel numb. I have been more sensitive to things, I see the importance of things and the unimportance of other things. I have taken a lot to heart in the past few weeks. Sunday was a very rough day. I had a lot of things that got to me and it was hard for me to function. There is a lot to this. Let me explain my thought process here.

2 weeks ago I heard the worst news in the world and I just didn't know what to do. I was leaning on those who may have dealt with this before or have helped people through it. This whole time, I was leaning on those with wisdom around me and trying to get others to tell me how to feel or react. However, the only thing I wasn't doing was leaning on God. I was praying, but it was almost an anger prayer to God. Nothing in my life really made sense. I then became numb. My feelings stopped, my heart became guarded, and I shut down spiritually. This is not the way to go.

SO, as we move ahead in this story, we come to yesterday. After a very emotional and strange Sunday I was determined to work through things. I came into the office. I came in wanting to be organized. I had a determined spirit about me. I asked God the night before, laying in bed, to take it all from me. Take everything. Let me live in Him. Even after this prayer, I still felt as though I had failed in my ministry somehow. Somehow, I let down the parents and the students, the church, and most important, I felt as though I let down God in the direction He desired this youth ministry to go. I was broken. I was broken and numb.

Now, I sit here in my office, and I have a determined spirit about me again today. I was here at the church for 12 hours yesterday, and I am feeling refreshed. I spent time with the one I love, I spent time with God this morning, and even yesterday I was writing and idea board up on the chalk board for different talk series ideas, ministry ideas, and outreach ideas. God, and some talking with an old friend Eric, really put a new fire in me. As I was reading my iPhone Bible app (yes, I am that guy) I came across the verses in 2nd Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 13:5-6
5Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

I have not failed God. Christ Jesus is in me. I have discovered that I have not failed the test. With Christ in me, I can do anything. Christ has told me I will do greater things than He. I have amazing things yet to do and it is all because of Christ that I am able to live and do these things in the first place. Wait and see readers, wait and see what God has for me.

People in my life may have failed me, but Christ never will. If He did, He would not be God. Keep your hearts, thoughts, and life on Christ for He is the only thing we can cling to in all area's of our life. He knows what goes on and what will go on. He desires to be with us and to love us and to know us. If you're Geoff Grubbs, He (and everyone else) knows how many hairs are on his head and if you have a lot of hair, He loved you even in your mothers womb. We must accept the grace and love the Christ has offered to us.

My numb feeling is coming and going. God is constant. He is the reason my heart beats. He is the reason I am breathing right now. I will fail those around me. I will fail God. In the end, I know that I am leaning on God.

organized...

There are many things that you learn as you grow in the ministry. I have been a youth minister for about 4 years now and I am still learning so much and how to run a successful ministry and have a sustainable ministry as well. One of the biggest things I need to learn is organization.

I lack the simplest organizational skills, but today I made a 6 week plan. I remember hearing from my mentor that I need to always be 6 weeks in advance in my planning. I thought I listened, but NOW I know for sure. God really burdened me last night. As I laid in bed, I prayed to God to give me some guidance and wisdom in the situation I was in.

If we are not organized, it is hard to run anything successfully. I have learned this the hard way, but I know now how to be. Today is day 1 of a new type of ministry for me. I am reculturing my youth group and I am excited to see what God is doing.

And just to show you all how awesome my youth group is, we went to a destination unknown last night. We went to Southern Belle Farm here in McDonough. Here is the group shot of us being....us.
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!

Geoff, my mentor, has let me in on a lot of the inside track of ministry. The one thing he has always stressed is organization. It is hard for a ministry to run when you don't have organization. It also opens up a way to tweak plans if something is not working right with your group.

Geoff is a great man and has been in ministry a LONG time. He is old and that is cool, but I thank God every day for putting him in my path. God really uses Geoff in my life. Now this is not a blog post solely on Geoff, though I am sure he would love that.

The purpose of this post is to say one thing. Being organized in your life opens up a lot of different ways to let God work through you. If you are organized in your prayer life, this can overflow into your study time with Christ. The study time can pour into your ministry as you grow to know and mature in Christ. Organization is key. Christ will work through you regardless, let us just be a vessel for Christ to use us and to help us be organized around Him.
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