Saturday, July 09, 2005

OGN IN ME

Last week I spent 7 days in Point Loma, Califonia on the coast enjoying the beauty of the ocean and developing new and old friendships. I was there for a student camp/conference called "Operation Good News (OGN)". I spent the morning going to classes with high school students about how to understand, defend, and share their faith in Jesus Christ as well as what other world views believe. We then spent the afternoons in guy/gal pairs going to the malls and beaches around San Diego County and engaging people in spiritual conversations. Here's my revelations from the week.

1. SKEPTICAL AM I- GOOD THING GOD IS NOT BOUND BY MY SKEPTICISM.
I was asked to take a group of students to go to the mall and share their faith with strangers on day 1. This seems like a chief way to make people hate Jesus. One step shy of cold calling them in their homes and interrupting dinner with a survey as if Jesus were something you sell lost souls when they've expressed no interest and have no relationship with you. At the mall people are trying to buy something and now we are going to mob them with teams of two teens who are going to ask them about Jesus when the mall would rather they not be there anyway. Needless to say... I was skeptical and as a "pastor" I didn't feel like I could sit in rebellion in my car just cuz I didn't feel like doing this. So, I prayed and went- not in, but around the mall.

I was there for all of 3 minutes when the first conversation I had was with a 19 year old guy on a bike. It was a really cool low rider bike he had obviously invested time and money in- it was all silver and made me want it. I said, "cool bike". Cool bike led to this; which led to that; which led to more of this; which led to me finding out he and his girlfriend (who was on her own less exciting bike) met in a homeless shelter when their families were in tough times a year or so ago. Tough times talks led to wanna have lunch with me? Lunch led to Rubios and the best $20 I've spent in a long time. That led to an hour and a half conversation with two really cool teens who rarely have adult influences in their lives which led to two phone number exchanges which may (I pray) lead to a friendship and joining us on the beach on Monday.

I guess God works in the mall too. I guess my comfort zone and skeptical mind has God in a box. I won't be picking up a bull horn or painting some verse about sin on the side of my truck anytime soon, but I will be opening my eyes more. I also vow to not let the billboard "Christian" guy who condemns people and screams at them to repent to keep me from sharing the truth in love. I think I miss a lot of spiritual needs because I reduce the mall to a place of material exchange and forget it only works cuz people with eternal souls go there daily. I need spiritual eyes. I wonder how many conversations I've missed with God in people's lives because I let buying groceries be about getting out of line fast and never even said, "Hi so and so.... "(whose name is always on their shirt.) I'm going to try and do better.


2. PEOPLE IN MASS = MASS CONFUSION.
On the 4th of July I spent the day with 750,000 people on the beaches of San Diego. What an experience. 1.7 million people come to SD over that holiday weekend and I for one, had never been in a more party going or people packed scene in all my life. There are countless reasons why people are there. Some are there to celebrate freedom and are freshly thinking of lost loved ones in wars (both current and distant) that define our country and culture. Some are there to capitalize on the crowds and make a big financial boost. (Parking is so limited I saw apartment owners selling their space for $100 a day. Ralphs in downtown Ocean Beach sells spaces for $25 an hour. Rentals sell for $3000 a week on the beach). Some are there to check out and maybe get lucky with the nearly naked populace. (You'll just have to trust me on this one) A couple hundred twenty somethings are there to attend an invitation only $21,000 party held in a recently sold 3.7 million dollar Condo on the beach front home I saw. Some are there to play Frisbee with their family and enjoy the sun. Some are there to get drunk. ( I spoke with one guy at 2pm who said he had 7 beers and two shots of tequila in him already. He was standing next to a shade tent that had an inflatable kiddy pool filled with ice and no less than 400 beers in it for a party on the beach). Some were there to see the fireworks. Some are there in teams to speak with people about Jesus and his hope for their lives. Some were there to celebrate their honeymoon. You name it, people were there for any of a million reasons people find purpose and pleasure in this life. Here's how Jesus viewed the crowed per the Message paraphrase of the Bible: "When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd." (Mat 9:36) I tried hard that day to see the crowd as Jesus does. Some lost and distant from God. Some found by God. All are loved by their creator.

I had some great conversations that day with Tony and Oliver- two guys I met at the beach who had gone quite simply to enjoy some beers and people watch (the chicks, the old friends, the cops arrest people who don't know they can't walk on the boardwalk with an open alcohol container and get a $340 ticket due to their ignorance, etc) Tony wants to retire by 30. Both Oliver and Tony have had their experience with the church and have subsequently left. I don't know whether God sees them as lost- for only he knows the condition of their souls, but they see themselves as pursuing God on their own terms. It was a sweet conversation.

It too reminded me that in the midst of the crowd of life, it's easy to get distracted by the worries of this world or cast judgement based on externals. I want to live for the things that matter. I want to see the crowd as Jesus does. I want to live a life that is not distracted by the junk.


3. I STILL NEED TO WORK ON THE SHUT UP PRINCIPLE.
I said some things this week I had to go back and apologize for or clarify. Mostly it's cuz I still have not mastered this principle in James 1. "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." So case and point, someone does or says something. It makes me annoyed or "angry". I mull it around in my head. Then given the opportunity- my big mouth spits out what was formerly trapped in my mind and my slow to speak is not so slow and I become quick to try and gather my words back. I would be better off to practice the principle of listen longer, speak less, give God my anger. Ahhh, the joy of being a work in progress. This piece of clay has a lot of shaping left to be done by the master.

1 comments:

peter 2:42 PM  

good job on talking to the guy with the bike. definatly a cool story.

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San Diego, CA
Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

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