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Who Are You Owin’? (6)

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BY OWEN HUGHES, Associate Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

Who Are You Owin’?

DISCLAIMER: My blog posts will be about gratitude. Gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation do not come naturally to me, but there are so many people that I owe so much to. People who invested in me, who spent time with me, who pursued me, and who shaped me. Some were intentional, others were unintentional, and others were just being themselves. So, my blog posts will be about people who have made me who I am today. People I am “owin’” for making me, well, Owen. Disclaimer: I am not a writer and I’m not an aspiring writer. So, if my writing is “offensive,” either because of structure or grammar or both, please forgive me.

Lynne Mills

     “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” - Paul

     If you have been around Conal Carr for any length of time you will know that Conal has a love and passion for youth ministry. He was the youth “pastor” (unpaid) at Oakwood for many, many years, and was previously involved with youth ministry in his former churches. His favorite verse to quote is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (see above) as he talks about his “philosophy” of youth ministry. The verse basically says that ministry to others is more than just words, it is actions, it is sharing life, it is genuine care for others.

     Earlier this month I went back to Florida to do a wedding. I got to see a lot of my old friends from my time there. One of these friends who had the biggest impact on me was Lynne Mills. Lynne is about 10 years older than Amber, my wife, and me, so when we first met her she was in the stage of life that we are now. She and George have four children who were involved in the community and in the church. Lynne has a heart for the lost and as her kids got older, her mission was to impact her children’s friends and their families with the Gospel. The way she did that was to become a coach for a local soccer club team, where she gained a reputation for loving her team and winning a lot of games. Her involvement with the community and her love for these girls lead to something more important for Lynne: friendships. Lynne’s mission was never to be one of the best club coaches in the state of Florida (which she was), it was to impact kids with the Gospel, for Jesus.

     Lynne started several youth outreach initiatives at the church where our family attended and where I later worked. She started a successful soccer camp, VBS, and youth retreat, but her real impact was the way she invested in kids, specifically girls, in a very intentional way. She was always discipling young women, challenging them to think about their choices, and what it looked like to live in the light of Jesus. What drove Lynne’s ministry was this motto, “Kids just want to be loved and cared about.”

     Lynne and I (along with Robin Ferguson, another lady in our church that was instrumental in the youth ministry…are you seeing a pattern?), worked together for about four years. We ran the youth group, the summer programs, and the discipleship program for the church and we had a blast. There were many tears, several arguments, and a ton of laughter. Lynne’s motto became ingrained in the ministry and the fruit is that many of those kids are now in their mid-twenties, and they love Jesus, the church, and look for ways to serve the community.

     “Kids just want to be loved and cared about.” Has always stuck with me as I consider my ministry, the way I interact with my neighbors, and how I try to parent my own children. There are many times I have been tempted (and have fallen into temptation) to talk and talk and talk about what others should do and what things “could be like,” and what the Bible tells us to do, but sadly I don’t DO anything. Not that words aren’t important, and certainly, we are to preach the word, speak the Gospel, and tell others of Jesus, and I take that very seriously, but Lynne taught me that for a kid to listen to me, they needed to know that I love them and care about them, first. Lynne showed me this by always having her home, wallet, time, and heart opened to those kids.

     I need to say though, that Lynne got burned many times. When you put yourself out there, when you are “desirous” for others, then you will get burned. Loving people is wildly inefficient, hurtful, and often does not yield a good return on your investment. When Lynne, Amber, and I met again this past month we talked about these things, and about how ministry can become an identity. When our identity is tied to anything other than Jesus, we will get burned and burned out. We spent time talking about how Jesus shows us that He loves us and cares about us. We also talked about how Jesus is desirous for us and doesn’t just say He loves us, but shows us His love by giving His life for us so we can live with Him forever.

     Even in that conversation I was once again reminded of Lynne’s passion to see others encouraged and grow in their faith in Christ. Lynne spent time encouraging us, because Lynne knows “Owen just wants to be loved and cared about.”

     I am definitely ownin’ Lynne Mills for teaching me through her kindness, generosity, and love what it looks like to be “desirous for others” to the point that you will share your life with them.

So, who are you ownin’?

Posted by Rev. Owen Hughes with

Disney World vs. Reality

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church   

     While at a pastors’ conference in Orlando, Florida many years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours at America’s best-known theme park. Disney World is truly a feast for the senses. My favorite section of the park is the World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot, where, as you walk around the body of water, you feel as though you are being instantly teleported from one world culture to another, in rapid succession. You begin in a Mexican marketplace, and then you are suddenly in a Norwegian village, then a Chinese temple, followed by quick visits to neighborhoods in Germany, Italy, Japan, and France, among others. It isn’t long before you feel pleasantly disoriented by the rapid-fire culture shock. It is like traveling around the world in 8 hours instead of 80 days, and it’s an exhilarating expedition.

     Two of the most foreign elements of Disney World, though, had nothing to do with world cultures. What made the entire experience feel a bit surreal to me were the scrubbed and pristine nature of the grounds and facilities and the extreme friendliness of the staff. I was continually amazed by the fact that there were staff people everywhere you turned, who not only smiled warmly at you and offered to serve you in any way, but who also worked hard to strike up a conversation with you if you stood still for any length of time. And in spite of the massive numbers of people in the park, there was no trash or dirt to be seen anywhere, and everything your eyes could see looked freshly painted and as-good-as-new. The funds, organization, and workforce needed to keep the parks in this sparkling condition boggle the mind. I kept thinking to myself, “This really is a fantasy land!”

     The stark contrast of real-life hit home for me quickly. I stopped at a fast food place for a quick snack on the way home, and was treated with typical fast-food etiquette by those who waited on me – you know, the look that greets you and says, “Why are you bothering me?”; the grunt that means, “What do I have to get for you?”; and the mumble that means, “Come and get your grub!” Suddenly paying double for my food at Disney World didn’t seem like such a bad deal!

     I’d like to think that Disney World is real and McDonald’s is fantasy, but, sadly, it’s the other way around. No matter how mankind wants to define and describe itself, the Word of God unmasks us and shows us to be the self-centered egotists that we really are. As the prophet Jeremiah said, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil”; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 13:23; 17:9). Until God changes our nature by His grace, our driving motivation for all that we do, even the things that appear to be loving and righteous, is the selfish exaltation of ourselves.

     Disney World is a self-consciously idealistic celebration of humanism. Appropriately, its central message is made explicit in its most temple-like structure, the huge silver sphere at Epcot called “Spaceship Earth.” There you are taken on a “journey through time,” so that you can marvel at man’s supposed development from monkey in prehistoric times to the master of endless possibilities in the future by the means of science and technology. Like any good tourist guide, Disney makes sure that you only see the good parts of town. The journey through time manages to avoid all the wars, murders, racism, poverty, and immorality that continue to characterize humanity to the same degree that it did in supposedly less enlightened times. Man’s basic problem is still sin and its effects on his relationship with God and others. Through his own efforts, man cannot fix that problem, no matter how many centuries he’s given to study it.

     Is man’s nature basically good or is it evil? Are we naturally innocent or depraved? Your answer to that question has huge implications for your views on parenting, education, civil government, economics, social issues, etc. We want to believe the Disney fantasy, but real life keeps on disillusioning us. We can’t intoxicate, medicate, or amuse ourselves forever in order to escape the harsh reality. It’s better to accept the hard news of Scripture – the condemnation of our thoughts, words, and deeds by God’s Law – so that we might be able to accept the good news of grace, forgiveness, and real change through Jesus Christ.

     One of the rides at Disney broke down while we were in the middle of being whisked through a dark and detailed recreation of another world. One moment our senses were fooled into perceiving a thrilling experience of an alternate reality. The next moment our car stopped, the lights came on, and all the props and machinery behind the illusion were on full display for all of us. It reminded me of the day when Jesus Christ will return to earth, and all the illusions and deceptions that we’ve created for ourselves will vanish in a moment, and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

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