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Who I amReside in St. Louis Missouri currently, Lived in California & Colorado.Husband.Father.Pastor.Football Enthusiast.Teacher.Learner.Dreamer.Reader.Friend. [thoughts & comments blogged here are my reflections living life trusting Jesus as God]

Monday, May 14, 2012

Long-Term Impact

I got an email from a former student that he wrote a paper about me.  Stuff like this allows me to recommit to Youth Ministry each year because 10 years from now I'll know I made a difference...i hope.
The original paper was a long read to post all of it, but I tried to capture what captured me to re-post;       

         Everyone, whether they know it or not, whether they care to know it or not, has a worldview.  And everyone’s worldview is constantly being developed based off experiences, intentional learning, and just the pure increasing of their knowledge on life and everything surrounding it.  As for me, I threw my worldview out the window.  Not literally, but just in the sense that I don’t like classifying my view on life to a definition.  People’s worldviews can’t be constrained to bullet points and rules.  Maybe when trying to define the views of a group of people, or a country, or a culture, but when it comes to a personal worldview I don’t feel it is accurate to say someone has a “this” or “that” worldview.  Especially, with our American postmodernism culture, it is extremely difficult to classify people’s worldview because we are constantly changing our beliefs from this to that based off whatever makes us feel good.  And yes, that is a worldview in itself.  A worldview is a never ending cycle.  A life long journey of how a person develops the way they see life.
            As for me, my “worldview” began forming, of course, when I was born.  Little did I know at the time but mommy and daddy were, and still are, huge contributing sources to how I see life.  I was extremely blessed to be born into a loving, Christian family.  I seriously thank God for my parents, and I don’t say that lightly.  My brother, James (younger by three years), and I were born to a married couple, but our earliest childhood memories are of life with a split family.  Our parents got divorced when we were pretty young.  I was around 5 and James around 2.  Thinking back to those early years I was so confused.  I remember crying myself to sleep because I knew we now lived with Mom, and Dad lived in an apartment by himself.  But I just didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand because at every soccer game (James and I have played for what feels like our entire lives) and every karate tournament (I did that for a while too) Mom and Dad seemed happy together.  At every birthday party, every school open house or carnival, at any public gathering my parents never argued or showed any resentment or dislike toward each other.  At least, not in front of my brother or me.  This is probably the first major event that forced me to actually think about life, to question things, to ask the “whys.”  And I am still continuing to learn from this today as I gain more knowledge about the past in regards to my parent’s divorce and how they chose to handle it by putting my brother and me first.  Again, I thank God for my parents.  When friends become aware that my parents are divorced, especially those whose parents are still together, I can tell that their next question is one of, “How did you handle that?  Was it hard?”  And every time I answer with this, “If I could rank the severity of divorces I would rank mine as perfect.  It is the best divorce a kid could dream of.”  (Not that a kid should or want to think of their parents divorcing, but speaking hypothetically).
            So if I’m giving credit where credit is due I dare not leave out the most influential person in my life, next to my Mom, Dad, and brother.  His name is Danny Bowers.  It’s crazy to say that I’ve known Danny for over half of my life.  He is like my big brother.  Actually, he is.  Not by blood, but in spirit.  Danny has seen me grow from a scrawny little eleven year old who wants to do nothing but play soccer all day, to a stronger (but still scrawny) twenty-three year old man.  Or at least I like to think I’m a man.  I do grow facial hair if that matters.  Regardless, in those twelve years of friendship Danny has had a beyond impactful role in my life.  When we first met I was fresh out of sixth grade and Danny was fresh out of college with his wife, Kim.  I was the first generation of youth growing up in the church I attended with my mom and brother, and Danny was about to be the new youth pastor.  Up to this point in my life I didn’t have a Christian influence outside my family, but that was definitely about to change.  As he joined the pastoral team he hit it off with some, and Danny being Danny, butted heads with others.  Danny has a raw, radical, barbaric like way of following Jesus and he does his best not limit Christ and put him in a feel good box.  This type of living and teaching certainly got to some of the more conservative Christians in the church.  As for me this certainly sparked my attention and caused my ears to perk like a dog who just heard a whistle.  At the beginning though it took me a while to come around.  Soccer was still number one on my priority list so after training close to every night and traveling every weekend for matches, church on Sundays and going to youth group was last on the “to-do” list.  And when I did go I wasn’t looking forward to Danny forcing me to take a deeper look at how I view God.  Eventually, the Holy Spirit began tugging at my heart through the words spoken by Danny.  I guess I actually liked the guy.  He cared about me and my faith.  He cared about my relationship with God.  I wasn’t just a number or a student.  I was his friend and he was mine.
            Throughout my junior high and high school years Danny helped me to develop, question, and challenge the way I saw God, how I saw life, and how I followed God.  There were countless times where we would meet up for lunch, dinner, or coffee and he would just pour into my life.  And trust me, I did my best to be a sponge and soak up every bit of knowledge I could, and then go home and question it myself.  If there is one thing I learned from him, it is to question.  That is how we grow our faith.  It is not a sign of weakness or distrust.  It is more a sign of the sincerity of our faith.  Danny and I are still extremely close and his influence in my life is still as great as ever.  In fact, he asked me to help lead a group of his high school students on a short term mission’s trip to Uganda this summer.  I am ecstatic for this trip.  I know the impact it will have on us all.  It will be another focal point in the continuous growth of my worldview (or shall I just say faith).  Just like when I went to Indonesia.
            I had the privilege of going to Indonesia in the summer of 2010 for a short term mission’s trip.  This really caused me to reassess my life and how I lived it.  Traveling to a third world country to live with locals, to sleep on the floor of a wooden hut with a family who lives off less than two US dollars a day, and who is trapped by the religion of Islam, was quite humbling to say the least.  I came back to America with so much enthusiasm to change my life and how I lived it, but unfortunately I was met with resistance.  It didn’t stop me, but it definitely slowed the process.
            Next came the most recent event in the shaping of my worldview.  In a sense it is a continuation of my parents’ divorce, but now they are both about to be remarried and the weddings are going to be less than four months apart.  So many questions were raised.  Is this biblical?  Hard to say, but God’s grace is more than sufficient.  Who are their soon to be new spouses?  Turns out they’re great people.  Who are their kids?  They’re great too.  But the real question that was haunting my brother and I was why did Mom and Dad ever split in the first place?  It was kind of an unspoken feeling and question between James and I our entire lives.  We never wanted to ask it.  Partly because we were afraid of the answer and how it had the potential to complicate all of our lives.  After all it was the perfect divorce, remember?  Well, with the both of them getting close to remarrying the question was brought to the surface.  I don’t feel comfortable or at liberty to share the answer since it is a personal family matter, but let’s just say that the answer didn’t shatter or break my heart.  Instead, it healed some more cracks and my respect for my parents and how they follow God transformed me.
            The way we see life is constantly shaping and shifting.  Growing from moment to moment.  Instance to instance.  It is hard for me to write this paper and tell you what my worldview is because honestly, as I sit here looking back on these past events to write this paper, my view and knowledge of God and life is growing at this very moment.  What I can tell you though is that I live life completely sold out for God.  The Christian God.  The God of the Bible.  Of Adam and Eve.  Of Abraham and Moses.  My God.  Your God.  Our God.  I guess that means I have a Christian worldview?        

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