Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Letter to Youth: Hopes for a New Year

Dear Back-to-School Youth,
Yes, it’s that time of year again. I can tell by the inactivity of my Facebook news feed between the hours of 9-3, with the exception of a sporadic post at lunch or via your smart phone held at your side or under your desk during math. Yes, it is time to stand at the bus stop and wait, to run through the halls because you are late, to fill out endless forms (your parents actually have more work this week than you do), to struggle with locker combinations, and to consume the dreaded mystery meat at lunch (I always preferred to pack). Yet, I also know that late August and into September are not always welcomed months and seasons. For some Billy Madison is more than comic relief by another hilarious Sandler character, “Back to school, back to school,to prove to dad that I’m not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight; I hope that I don’t get in a fight.” Instead, this is your reality. Pressures begin to creep from a variety of angles. The quest to live into a myth of achievement and keep pace in the race to somewhere may leave you exhausted and worn. Even worse, some feel the need to look over shoulders en route to class, wondering if or when a heavy shove or harsh word will be delivered. I wish “back-to-school" could always maintain the celebratory nature and sacred wonder that enveloped your very first day. Unfortunately, as we grow up we come face to face with the reality that all is not right, all is not good, and back-to-school may mean back to fear. But it does not have to be that way. We can live into a greater hope and claim an alternative reality. It can get betterSo as the 2011-2012 school year has already begun, I thought I would issue a youth pastor’s hopes for the year.
Claim one.
Live into a few.
Add your own…
Maybe then God’s dreams for the world, which includes your schools, will become our only known reality…
My Hopes for the 2011-2012 School Year
Education will be education versus competition. We are created to be learners so we can be contributors to the world God created good. My prayer is for education to serve and strengthen the next generation's ability to contribute to the whole of the world versus satisfy individual and institutional lusts to outdue, out-succeed, and outlast one's neighbor or rival district.
Students' identity will generate from the imago Dei versus numbers and statistics. You are not a 3.5 or 1350. You are not an A or a C. Do well. Work hard. Give thanks for the opportunities we have in this region to study and learn with excellence. But always know, your identity is wrapped up not in your success as determined by exams, averages, and scores, but by the very God who loves you and calls you by name.
We will study and tolerate violence and bullying NO MORE. I firmly believe that one of the most courageous means for adolescents to carry their cross and follow Jesus is by befriending a stranger and interceding for those isolated, marginalized, betrayed, and abused by another. Even more, for those who are bullied, you are worth more than that! You do not have to live in fear...find refuge and an advocate in a teacher, a peer, a counselor, a parent, or a pastor. See a related post...
A rhythm of rest will replace the chaos and confusion of hurry. I pray for students to find sabbath in weekends and youth ministries; in suffient sleep and time outside; through real conversations and shared meals over tables. I long for youth to be able to say no, not only to drugs and alcohol, but also to the most addictive "product" on the market- busy schedules.
Sporadic acts of kindness...even when they don't count for service hours. Youth are incredibly gifted and creative. Even more, youth have an imagination that has yet to be over come by "I can't" and "that's not possible." Still, our concern for others and our will for change often come with an attached document that is to be turned into the proper club authority. Love. Serve. Dream. Transform. But find a way to do so not for credit but because you believe and live into God's dreams for the whole world.
Begin each day as if it were on purpose. Yes, that is a borrowed line from a great flick, Hitch. But it is spot on. There are many ways that we begin the school day and rituals that form and shape our hearts, minds, and souls. Try one that sends you into your schools as the people of God. Write a prayer. Meditate on a Scripture. Claim the Lord's prayer as your own... or live into one like it...
I could type an endless list of hopes...these are just a few. Blessings in the year ahead and may the peace of God guard all of your hearts and minds in Jesus, this day and every day...
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