Thursday, October 30, 2003

The loss of a friend

Just heard the news that Mike Yaconnelli died yesterday in a car crash. Many of you may not know the name but if you've ever used materials from Youth Specialties then you know Mike's work. He founded YS. Known affectionately to most of us as Yac he was a writer, a youth minister, a thinker, a lay minister to a small church in N. California, a father, a husband and more.

I met Yac only once at a Core workshop put on by YS near Pittsburgh. He had sold YS several years before but stayed on working with them. The workshop I attended was one of only a handful or so that he had planned on attending that year so I counted myself lucky. Yac's writing, on the YS home page plus in some youth journals, had always grabbed my attention. He had a knack for getting me to think even if I disagreed with him. His writing was always marked by honesty and a certain wit that appealed to me. I truly felt honored to meet the man that day at the Core.

Yac also worked to create a resource for youth ministry in YS that reached across denominational boundaries. It seemed to focus more on faith that form, more on power of relationships than on the piety of religion. I've never found a piece from YS that couldn't be modified quickly to be useful for my ministry.

I didn't know Yac, really at all, but I feel like I've lost a friend and a mentor. My prayers go out to his family and the folks at his church and YS. Somehow we will all have to carry on without him.


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

On Beauty

Bear with me folks because there's an element of thinking out loud in this one.
It begins with a thought about women. It applies equally to men but being a guy I prefer thinking about women. So translate in your head and work with me here.

The thought is this:

All women are beautiful. Some have allowed someone to convince them otherwise.

On the surface it would seem that this thought is silly. Our society sets very clear standards on beauty and there are a great many women who just don't meet it. They may be pretty or average looking, or just all right. And let's be honest there are some that are just (is there anyway to say this with a good heart?) butt ugly. Sounds like more of that "I'm Ok, You're Ok" mushy pop psychology stuff doesn't it? Isn't it time to be honest?

Sure it is. It's time to be honest enough to say that All Women Are Beautiful. That's the way God made them. He didn't make all fit whatever the current beauty fashion is. Right now that standard seems to be stripper meets call girl. If you're not a tall blonde with a body that has a body fat ratio approaching zero and an upper body that enters the room 30 seconds before the rest of you then you're probably not up to the current "standard". Buff it, tone it, tan it, get it lifted, enhanced, tucked, trimmed and botoxed.

Now let me clue you in on a little secret. You're not any more beautiful than when you started. Sorry. If you want to tone up because it's good for you and you'll live a longer and yes you'll look better in clothes (or out) then go for it. Eat right, get your exercise.

But none of it makes you more beautiful.

Beauty doesn't come from a surgeon's blade, a Pilates class or the latest bottle or tube of makeup. If you care about beauty forget them all. Beauty does come from caring for yourself. But you don't have to drop two clothing sizes to get it. Beauty comes from learning to love yourself. With your height and your weight and your hair. Beauty comes from letting other people love you as well.

In my life I've met beautiful women who are young and incredibly old. They've been physical beauties and wrecks. They have beautiful smiles even when they've had no teeth! Beauty shines from within. I've also met some physically gorgeous women who lack a single atom of beauty. Their anger or their emptiness robs them of their beauty. Too much time was being spent on their looks and not enough time on their beauty.

What I want to get through is the thought that you started beautiful. Beauty cannot be applied or supplied. It lies within. Find your beauty, get rid of anything or anyone who interferes with your beauty. No one has the right to try and take it away from you. You should never let them succeed.

Go on, go be beautiful.

Monday, October 06, 2003

A Little Heart

I thought I'd share this story. Some folks have heard me tell it before. It began with "one of those days". The kind of day when everything seems to go wrong. When it doesn't matter how hard you try it stills comes out wrong in the end. I had spent the day struggling with a couple of projects that simply did not want to cooperate. None of them were complicated all were things that I had done before but they just wouldn't play. With each passing minute I grew more and more frustrated. I knew I could do this stuff but somehow I kept dropping the ball. The final straw was a printing job that kept getting lost in my computer. I couldn't take it anymore! The computer was stupid. I was stupid. The world was stupid. I was incompetent. God was obviously ticked off at me and my Momma probably didn't love me anymore too. Suddenly my printer whirred into life. This was a little startling because I hadn't asked it to print anything! Great! Stupid piece of technological (dirty words, dirty words, dirty words) won't work when I need it and does when I don't! When I turned to look at the page it spat out it looked like it was blank. Looking again I realized it had printed a single symbol in the upper corner of the page.

A single heart.

I just sat there staring at it, almost afraid to touch it. It was like a direct answer to my thoughts at that moment. Of all the random symbols the printer might have kicked out it was that one. I had to laugh. I also had to say a little prayer of thanks.

Today that piece of paper still sits in my printer tray. If you dig down under all the pages that sit on the output tray you'll find it there. It's a reminder that God (and Mom) love me. Even on the days when I can't get the machines to work for me. Even on the days when I think I'm stupid and incompetent. Even on my worst days.

It's kinda nice to have the reminder sometimes.