The Day My Worship Playlist Opened My Eyes.

Every morning I usually wake up and go to the kitchen and grab a bite to eat. Then I turn on music to get my blood pumping for the day. I don’t usually pick my music and just go with whatever comes on or was used last on my Spotify account. Sometimes it is Macklemore. Other times it is NEEDTOBREATHE. And other times its my running playlist. But this morning was different. For the past few days I have felt apathetic in my walk with Jesus. I have just felt like it has been a struggle to get in the word and I haven’t been focused during the times I have gotten into the Bible. This morning when I woke up, I chose to listen to my worship playlist. For some reason, after I feeling apathetic for the past few days I CHOSE to listen to this playlist. It was not something that I mindlessly did but rather purposely chose to do.

As I was getting in the shower this morning this song came on. As I am standing there I began to mindlessly sing the song that was playing. But then I began to actually listen to the words that were being said in the song. “Christ is enough for me” “Everything I need is in you”. I began to think over the past week has this been true for me? Has my life reflected this? And I honestly had to answer “No it hasn’t”. It was an eye opener for me. one of those things that just punch you in the face and wake you up.

And then I asked myself, “Why?” “Why have I not thought that Christ was enough for me?” These aren’t easy questions to ask yourself especially when you work in a church. And after a few moments of standing there I came to the conclusion that I had just become lazy and faded back into the way of the world. The world tells you that it should be about getting the newest and the best. The world says that it is okay to be selfish and give into the wants of your flesh. But Jesus came and preached a different way of doing things. He didn’t come preaching that it was all about him or what he could do. But rather he pointed to God and set an example for us to follow. But I am not perfect and don’t always follow the example that was laid before us so many years ago when Jesus walked this earth.

You may think that I have it all together and that my walk with Jesus is always sunshine and rainbows because I am a youth pastor. But I am human before I am a youth pastor and I have flaws just like you do. I struggle in my walk with the Lord just like most of you do sometimes. There are some days that i do not want to get up and chase after the cross. Sometimes it takes someone to show me that I am struggling because I am prideful and don’t want to see it. But other times God reveals it to me through my own choices and reflection. We just have to look sometimes for the stuff we don’t see on the surface.

Most people that are people of faith feel like they aren’t allowed to struggle in their faith. But it is okay to struggle. Jacob struggled and wrestled with God on the banks of the Jabbok River in Genesis 32. The dude wrestled with God. But out of Jacob became Israel. So I will say that it is okay to struggle with things as a follower of God. Now don’t go out of here saying well Thad said I could, because I am not an expert nor does my word hold weight against the Bible. But I will say that the Bible said it and I believe the Bible as true.

But I will challenge you to be honest with people who you trust about your struggles. To be honest when you have doubts. Be open with your questions. Because how are you going to grow if you don’t share these things with other people. Other people will help you grow.

Thad Ernst

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*Also I can’t take credit for the feature image.

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Nashville: Where I rediscovered intentionality

How hard is it to be real with people? How hard is it to look someone in the eye and say, “you know what I’m not okay because…of this or that? Its tough because so often we as society tell people that they have to be good or great. But when did conversations become such small talk? Society has become so entrenched with our phones that a conversation cannot be more than than small talk. People ask a few questions and then become lost in what Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and anything else that is on their phones. But sometimes people want so badly for the person that they are hanging out with to just put their phone down and just listen to them.

People are hurting all over the place. There is real pain in this world. But sometimes people are so engaged with what is happening on the 5-6 inch screen to realize  that people in front of them are in pain. They are so consumed with the phone to see that the people in front of them need them to be there to listen. Sometimes people don’t even see that the person in front of them could use a day that you put down the phone and just go with the flow.

I am very blessed that I was able to work at a place the past few summers that pushed us to be intentional with people that are in front of us. Kanakuk Kamps changed my mindset about being with people. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t have my phone all the time. Maybe it was the fact that I spent every waking hour with kids and college staff that was in the same spot as I was. Maybe it was the fact that once you put down your phone real life conversations can begin. Conversations that involve people talking to others and wanting to get to know that person genuinely. I can tell you that these were the best summers of my life. I have people all over the country that I could call at a moment’s notice and they would drop everything to talk because we forged those bonds without that thing society has been so attached to, a cell phone. But I can also go to their town and they would put the phone down and be ready to make memories immediately.

For awhile now, I have felt like I have been missing out on intentional conversations. So many people keep it so surface level and sometimes it is frustrating. For the past few months I have been frustrated. I have been frustrated by just the lack of depth that I have had in my conversations, mainly because people are so engaged with their phones. And this does not mean that I don’t do it. I am just as guilty about looking at my phone to avoid a deep conversation or an awkward conversation. The phone sometimes is my safety net. But why? Why do I look at my phone to avoid things? Why do I look at my phone to get out of having real conversations?

As most of you know I have traveled a lot in the past 5 weeks. I went to Chicago, KC, OKC, Chicago, and Nashville. I have traveled thousands of miles in 5 weeks. I have spent many weekends away from Memphis. I have gotten back to Memphis late Saturday nights and early Sunday mornings. I have found that so many people just want to talk and want me to listen or just talk back. But it wasn’t until last weekend that I made a day trip to Nashville. I made a day trip to Nashville that really has been such a blessing.

The trip to Nashville was to see a friend that (surprise, suprise) I met at Kamp. Catherine Simmons is a girl that goes to Lipscomb University that I met my first week on Kampout leadership last summer. Kampout is a traveling Kamp that is a day Kamp that partners with the local church to provide an experience for kids that would never get to go to Kamp. Now that I live in Memphis, I only live three hours from Nashville so it is an easy day trip. But back to the point of the blog post, Intentionality. I had been in a little bit of a funk by just the shallowness of conversations that I had been having. Last week I asked Catherine if she was free this weekend and then the ball got rolling for my Saturday trip. I was pumped to see her because she is a familiar face. We had an incredible day of running around Nashville. We were incredibly spontaneous, we ran around downtown, got hot dogs from a street vendor, randomly got free snow cones, explored buildings that neither of us had ever been into, thrifted and got some steals from Goodwill, ate crepes, and went to a Cowboy singing show. Yes a ton in 12 hours but it was an incredible day.

In the middle of Nashville Snow cone in hand

In the middle of Nashville Snow cone in hand

But what made the day one of my favorite days that I have been apart of was not all the random things we did. It was the time that was spent just being incredibly intentional. We asked real questions, some of them were deep and some of them were not so deep but rather fun questions. She asked hard questions that I didn’t want to answer but I was so thankful that she asked me them. But we put our phones down during meals and enjoyed each others company, and it was AWESOME! We had real conversations and they were a highlight that made my SportsCenter Top 10 list of the month. So thank you Catherine for showing me true intentionality at a time that I truly needed it.

So challenge for the blog today. When you are out with friends at dinner or something, put your phone down and enjoy the people that are there in front of you. People need it more than you need to scroll through Twitter or Facebook. They need it more than you want to see what everyone else is doing on snapchat.

Some food for thought

Some food for thought

Thad Ernst

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We’re on a mission..from God.

Tonight I was watching The Blues Brothers for the upteenth time. This is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s hilarious but it is also set in my favorite town, Chicago. I mean heck they give one of my favorite address ever as their address to cover up the tracks of criminal activity they have done, 1060 W. Addison. The address of my team, my Mecca, Wrigley Field. But as much as I love Chicago and Elwood and Jake, I got something from this movie that usually is taken as a joke because of the people who are saying it. The famous line from the movie “We’re on a mission from God.” But tonight it hit me. We are on a mission from God. This is a line that I have heard a ton of times.  As I said earlier I have seen this movie countless times but I never took this line seriously because it is just a line that the boys say in this classic film.

But we are on a mission from God. We the followers of Jesus are on a mission from God. That mission is to tell people about a Savior and be a part of the greatest ministry ever, the ministry of reconciliation. The ministry of reconciling the world back to Jesus. This is the greatest news and challenge that we as Christians can ever be a part of. Reconciling the world to Christ through our actions.

Last night I posed the question to my youth group, “If Jesus was at your school every day, who would he hang out with?” For some they answered quickly saying that Jesus would hang out with their group of friends. For others it took them a bit to come up with an answer to the question. One of my volunteers teaches special education preschool, she has students with Autism, in wheelchairs, and other disorders that make these sweet kids developmentally a little slower than others. Her response was very good but not out of selfish gain, “I think Jesus would hang out with my class, because my kids are the one pushed to the fringe because of their disorders.”

Me when I read to her class earlier in September

Me when I read to her class earlier in September

Why are these sweet kids pushed to the fringe of society? What has made society say that these kids aren’t just like every other kid? Why as Christians have we pushed them to the side? Because it makes us feel awkward to love on them? Because we aren’t disabled?

Another one of my kids answered, “I think that Jesus would hang out with the kids who are sitting alone at lunch” In that moment i was so grateful for that answer. Jesus did not go hang out with the “popular” people during his time on earth. In fact he was hated by most of the popular people for the things that he did. He went to people who were not considered great by society. So if we are following Jesus, why aren’t we doing the same? And this is not to say that I am doing it at all. This is a call out to myself. Why do we stop loving people well when it is awkward? If we are on a mission to reconcile the world to God why do we sometimes exclude people from that ministry?

We have been blessed with so much. Now it is time to give of our time, talents, and what we know to serve the Lord through this great endeavor that God has called us to do. So when you think you can’t go over to the person who always eats lunch alone or the person that no one wants to be around at the office, I want you to think of Elwood and Jake. I want you to think, I am on a mission from God. Maybe that ministry of reconciliation comes through just loving others with no holds barred. If so, let’s start loving everyone. Yes I said everyone. That means the outcast, the broken, the special needs person, the hard to work with person, and the hurting.

God did not give us the ministry of reconciliation so that we could choose who can or cannot. God gave it to us so that we who know Jesus and the good news would go share it and show the love. There was a thing when the US Supreme Court made gay marriage legal that was #LoveWins and now that I think of it, #LoveWon. It won long ago when a man named Jesus, who was from Nazereth a town that people made fun of because not many great people had come from there, died on the cross. Love won long ago. But we don’t show love because it is uncomfortable. So this is a challenge this week. Love those who are hard to love this week. Love those who could use some extra loving this week. Love the person that goes unnoticed. Love your neighbor. Love all those people and everyone who I didn’t mention because you’re on a mission from God.

Like the blog? Hate the blog? Let me know in the comments.

Thad Ernst