Beyond Birthdays


My feet dragged on the floor as I found different items needed to go for a run. I was planning a pretty standard run, 4-5 miles. Slipping on socks and shoes before strapping up my arm band holding my phone. The majority of the time I’m not listening to music when I run. During races I do because I know that the upbeat music makes my body react in a way that I’m able to run faster, or at least I think I do. But for training runs, I’m listening to podcasts. I have a few favorites I’ve mentioned on this blog before and this time I was looking forward to listening to Bill Simmons. He’s a great sportswriter who used to work for ESPN and now kind of does his own thing with a website and a TV show on HBO. I clicked a few buttons, adjusted my hat, checked both lanes of traffic and pulled out of my driveway. Bill wasn’t interviewing a sports figure like he normally does and didn’t even really talk about sports but was discussing the work of an organization I’ve followed from the periphery, Charity Water. Founder Scott Harrison explained the origin story of how and why it all started in addition to their goal of ending the world’s water crises. I was blown away, motivated and inspired to do what I could in order to make the world a better place, not only my neighborhood or my city but the world. I truly believe small events in places I might never see in person ripple across the waters of the earth and bless the land we stand in.


Scott discussed starting with a party. He was a club promoter in NYC so he knew how to throw a good party. But he decided that everything about the party (his 31st birthday party) would be about celebrating others and ensuring, at least for a few people, the deadly issues of bacteria infested water was eliminated. At this point I stopped thinking about the sweat dripping down my forehead. I navigated the streets of Atlanta and wondered what could I do? There are plenty of things considered a world wide crisis. My thoughts clutched to the idea of giving up my birthday. I am about to turn 31, could my birthday mean something more than just celebrating me? First I would have to get over the fact that I would be telling people when my birthday is. You see, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I hate when my birthday is celebrated. I’ve never had a bad birthday experience and I love to celebrate other people on their birthday. I just feel uncomfortable when the spotlight is turned on me merely for being born. Yet, Scott had these stories of people who gave up their birthday and were able to raise thousands of dollars by asking people to buy the gift of life instead of a personal present. I was convicted.

I knew right then I had to do it. I would try and make this birthday, my 31st, the one Scott started with, the biggest deal I could. I would tell people in person, online, I could make a video to tell others. I couldn’t ignore the possibility my birthday could make certain others were able to live. When I was in college I had to do some fundraising for baseball. I played division 2 at a small school in New Jersey and for our swag/Florida spring break trip we had to raise a few thousand dollars. I never felt completely comfortable with this. It’s not exactly my passion to ask people for money to send me on a glorified vacation to play baseball. Asking others for money to ensure the sustainability, livelihood and being the difference between poverty and prosperity? That I can do. Without hesitation I knew exactly the organization I would ask people to support. You see, I love coffee, maybe more than a person should and realize that through this seemingly mundane agricultural product and beverage, love can be transformed into life.


So here I am, in the middle of a social media campaign to ask friends, family, even complete strangers to buy the gift of life. When you consider all the world’s charities, the issues they’re fighting, all of which have merit, along with the transparency that is needed to trust them. I couldn’t come up with a better cause then The Kula Project. They had no idea I was going to do it. I borrowed a camera from my church, asked my wife to film and went to Piedmont Park to advocate for the dignity and prosperity of famers I will probably never meet. After working on a script, writing a poem, filming and editing an imperfect/unworthy plea to donate to a worthy cause. I sent the video to Sarah hoping it would show her a small piece of the respect, love, and esteem I have for her and the work she tirelessly and thanklessly does.



Sarah in Rwanda

I met Sarah Buchannan, the executive director and Co-found of The Kula Project, a few years ago while I was working at a coffee shop. She had a vision and a passion for farmers. As she would tell you there is no reason for her to be involved in a subsistence farming. Yet it’s the means in which she has been called to disperse grace into places filled with the muck of a broken world. And when you are called, you are sent. I saw a love for more than just doing good in the world. I saw a love for families, for people, people that by all accounts should mean nothing to her. They aren’t family, they work in an industry that has nothing to do with her, they don’t even live on the same continent let alone in the same country. Yet she saw beyond genetic lines and saw them as passionate, radiant, beautiful people deserving of the same love we might dispense to folks who share our DNA.

The focus of their work is in a country that 22 years ago was on the brink of absolute destruction. A genocide of Nazi Germany proportions was taking place in Rwanda in 1994. The world stood by as it was imploding in on itself. The blood filled streets eventually dried and Paul Kagame with the Rwanda Patriotic Army liberated Rwanda. President Kagame was able to lead the tiny country out of the darkness into a marvelous light of a peaceful, prosperous and dignified country. One of the major exports is coffee. Not just any coffee, but delicious, bright, sweet, exquisite, speciality coffee. There isn’t a specialty coffee roaster in the US that doesn’t have or want to have a Rwandan coffee as a part of their rotation. The Kula Project has identified local leadership and entrepreneurship partners with accountability systems to invest wisely, sustainably, and transparently. This ensures generations of life change. Coffee might be something you don’t care much about. As long as it’s warm, dark, and has caffeine, that’s good enough. Yet coffee farmers all over the world are exploited because it’s seen as a cheap, commonplace product. The Kula Project seeks to change that. By investing locally providing the resources they need not what Western minds might think they need. The Kula Project is establishing long term solutions to root causes not merely slapping on a band aide fixing a symptom of the disease.

This enables projects like the washing station they are building. Coffee looks like a cherry when growing on a tree. In Rwanda they say you have 8 hours to pluck it from it’s growing branch to start the processing to effectively encapsulate the flavors coffee drinkers enjoy. The villages and communities they work with were miles away from a washing station. Basically making it impossible to meet the correct time frame. While the farmers were still able to sell their product, because it never reached the palate potential when roasted and tasted they were never able to fully realize their earning capability. This washing station solves that problem. These farmers are now able to earn extra income to buy additional food for their families, pay for health care, and pay for educational expenses of their children. Over 90% of the farmers they work with will use the income generated from farming to pay for school fees. We take education for granted in America. It’s become a basic assumption of middle class america that after high school you go to college, it’s just what you do. Not so in the areas in which The Kula Project spends the majority of their time.

Working in a church I often hear people have the desire to impact the world. We live in an interconnected world. Anything that can be dreamed up can be done. We simply get frozen by the first step. We don’t know where to start. If that’s you, if you aspire to have your actions dispense mercy, grace, and justice. If you’ve ever thought that there was something wrong in the world. When people merely born in a different geographic situation have to struggle to live. If you know that you vote for the world you want to live in with your wallet. If you have ever felt helpless in thinking your actions don’t make a bit of difference. I’m here to tell you, you matter, your actions matter, you have the ability to love beyond what you are capable of. If you recognize the coffee chain proceeding the barista getting ahold of the product is of great substance. If you know that everything that matters in this world can be affected by even the smallest of actions. I am here to tell you there is something you can do that can positively impact the world for thousands of years. Donate whatever you can to The Kula Project. What may seem as a small action with no distinction. Can smash the reality of a broken world transforming shattered glass into a grace filled loving creation.

It’s hard for me to ask for money for things that have no consequence. It’s easy for me to ask you to donate to people I know take those proceeds and change the world. Everyday there are people who do things that have no effect on the people around them. When I wash the dishes, clean my house, or make my bed it might only really mean something to my wife. When you invest and donate your money to The Kula Project your bank account transcends from something egocentric and narrow to altruistic, deep and as wide as the east is from the west. One night Sarah and the Kula Project board of directors invited me to share a poem I wrote about my love for Rwanda at a donor dinner. It was a poem I was able to perform for the President of Rwanda when he was in Atlanta. It was an elegant evening of a fantastic meal and great company. If all I knew about this organization was what I learned that night, it would be enough. If all I learned was the love for a people arbitrary lines on a map can’t contain, it would be enough. If all I observed were people like the ambitious restauranteur Ryan who lives his values of people over prophets, it would be enough. If all I did was sit in the back of the room and soak in the exuberance of love by board members like James, Joe, Miles, Tami, and Van it would be enough. If all I was able to perceive was the work ethic of Lindsay and Egide to love those they come in contact with, it would be enough.


The Fundraising Dinner

It would be enough for me to beg you to donate. I don’t have the gift of giving away thousands of dollars. I don’t have the gift of building wells in remote villages of Ethiopia or growing coffee trees in Rwanda. I don’t have the gift of making my birthday mean something beyond myself. But if you take this to heart. If because of this blog, this campaign, my video, or my words you made a donation to the Kula Project. I can rejoice knowing that I did everything I could to make this small moment in time vanquish despair and hopelessness. You hold the power to make my birthday celebrate something beyond my past present and future but the future of thousands of generations. So there it is. I don’t know if there is anything else I can write to implore you to donate. So here I am, as transparent as I can be begging you on my hands and knees if I have to. Click the link, open up your wallet. We buy so many things for birthdays, plenty of things that people don’t need. Music subscription services, gameboys and board games, things that bring temporary joy. I’m hoping that this appeal will help you give the gift of life. Invest in a farmer and you invest in the future. Give to The Kula Project and you’ll contribute to generations of change, love and joy. To everyone who might want to contribute to increased positivity and wholeness in a broken world. Here’s your chance.

Donate Here

Watch the Video Here

Coffee Culture Is…

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My schedule has what some might consider odd hours. Wednesday I’m working until 9pm most of the time, Sunday’s I basically spend all day at work, and most other days I end up at home when the work is done independent from a clock. My wife and I are like most millennials in that we love to watch Netflix. We haven’t paid for cable in over 3 years and don’t have any plans to. Lately she has been super into watching Anthony Bourdain in The Layover. It’s a fantastic show. He quickly goes around to a bunch of spots in a random city. I learned a lot about food in Atlanta and I’ve lived in the city for 4 years. I also loved getting confirmation that some of the spots I love to visit were on his must hit list. The part that got me thinking and ultimately got me to write this blog was when Anthony kind of went off on Coffee Culture. For Anthony, let’s just say he’s not a huge specialty coffee fan. To him as long as it’s warm, dark, and has caffeine, that’s more than good enough. While I don’t want to make this into a tirade against the man. I do want to explain some of the things that I have noticed about the reality of coffee culture in this country and what the best attributes about it are.

There is no culture around coffee. Coffee is a beverage, not a culture. A coffee culture would be the shop owners banning together to throw these deadbeats out in the street. – Anthony Bourdain

Coffee Creates Community. This was the theme I took into competition at the 2016 US Barista Championships and it is the reason why I know there is a coffee culture. While working in a cafe I noticed the world will come to a coffee shop. Every age, race, gender, religion, and political view is represented by customers who come in to enjoy a beverage. There are plenty of people out there who don’t like coffee or don’t care about the sourcing, production, roasting, and preparation of it. And that’s totally fine in my opinion, but there is an undeniable fact that people come together at the modern day watering hole. Maybe it’s just an excuse to get out of the house, maybe people think it’s better than hanging out at a bar, and honestly, it’s cheaper too. Whatever the reason when you go to a cafe and truly look around at the individuals hanging out in a third wave shop, you see an eclectic mix of the world. It’s one of the greatest joys of being a part of the industry.

Coffee Culture is searching for excellence. There are plenty of coffee nerds out there of which I would consider myself one. People who are looking for the best way to extract the precise amount of total dissolved solids or looking for the perfect espresso ratio. They use tools like scales, tamps, refractometers, and their tasting palate to deliver something delicious. This pursuit of excellence I believe is a divine calling. Something within me won’t settle for mediocrity when it comes to coffee. Sure, I’ll drink waffle house coffee and sometimes I just want my coffee to be more like a dessert, but you can’t fault a person for doing everything they possibly can to be the very best at what they do. I love that their best isn’t even for themselves but for others to enjoy. When you make 100 lattes in a given day I’m going to guess you didn’t consume all of them. There can be days when customers are being a bit out of line and you might not be able to take the inappropriateness of their comments. Those days you might pursue excellence for yourself alone but even when you only do your best for the sake of doing your best it is other people who enjoy the fleeting delicious drink you prepare.

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Coffee Culture is a feeling. It’s that feeling you get when you wake up in the morning knowing you want so desperately to fall back asleep but the prevailing thought that keeps you awake is: “but I get to make coffee.” It’s that feeling you get when it’s just cold enough outside that you wrap up in a sweater, take your cup on the porch and are able to see the steam rising into the atmosphere as if it’s shaking hands with the world. It’s that feeling you have of turning off your brain for a minute, not worrying if it tastes like strawberries or walnuts and just enjoy the fact it’s smooth and delicious. It’s that feeling of being accepted when people don’t care about your appearance as much as they care about your heart and desire to share in something common. It’s a feeling of explosion when your mind is blown by a beverage you never knew could taste like this, feel like this, be experienced like this. It’s a feeling completeness seeing farmers meticulously caring for each seed all the way to a dark liquid in a cup. It’s a feeling of stillness, a peace in the thin silence of the world that often alludes us.

Coffee culture exists to combat the norm of people being taken advantage of and exploited to make cheap coffee the rule and expensive coffee the exception. Coffee culture is taking back the norm and working towards an economy of love in which the supply chain is treated with respect while being paid a living wage. These are just a scratch of the surface of what I know to be coffee culture. I wish I could explain to you the community and loveliness of a cupping, or the intensity of a coffee competition, or how serving others is at the heart of coffee culture. So I invite you to experience it for yourself. To have an open mind and see community blossom revolving around this complex and infinitely interesting product. Maybe I’ll see you in the shop one day, your cortado is on me.


Embracing the Hard Conversations

Being in youth ministry something that we talk all the time about is relationships. How to be a good friend, how being a good christian means that we love one another and what that looks like. Something we don’t always talk about are romantic relationships. There is an unspoken tension that exists where some youth pastors think that it should be a conversation that parents ultimately have and parents hoping that youth pastors will take care of it. Students are left in the middle most likely learning from the internet, television, movies and their friends. Personally, growing up I can’t remember too many conversations about the birds and the bees but I remember learning from my parents how to treat woman and how to behave in a romantic relationship. I’ve been married for over 6 years now and I’ll never be the perfect husband but I do remember the first time I knew I was going to marry my wife. I was living in Monessen, PA at the time and my wife was then a junior at Georgia Tech. Sounds kind of crazy to say that not that we were so young but it just felt right at the time. I was living in a church and when I walked down to the kitchen area and was greeted by one of our favorite community members, Jim Williams. I started to talk to him about visiting my girlfriend over Christmas break and how excited I was to spend some time with her. He hit me with this question: “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to love your wife liked Christ loved the church?”

When I heard it I knew that I had no idea if I could ever do that, but I knew I wanted to try and I needed to try with this amazing girl. It’s that type of seemingly random question that doesn’t end up in conversations with youth a lot. Students are trying to live what they consider a good life. Their definition of good might vary from self satisfaction to living to love others but I truly believe no one sets out to be an evil person. They want to be a good person and have a good life. In these talks we often leave to others I wonder how I will talk with my children. I know that scripture says that we should train up a child in the way they should go and they will not stray from that path so I hope that I can set a precedent of having those awkward and tough conversations from the very beginning. This way, it’s not weird or awkward for them to ask me about sex, dating, God’s plan for romance, why bad things happen to good people ect…

As a youth pastor it is part of my job to have these tough conversations. To teach God’s plan for sexuality, to talk about the eschaton, and even the all powerfulness of God in a broken world. While living in an increasing world of information, internet deep dives, and an increased sense of never being shocked by a crazy story I see in the news. So as I randomly think about things I wonder about these conversations. In my head I can see myself with my future teenage son or daughter sitting on the edge of their bed giving them a look like, hey, you know what we have to talk about now. But does it need to be this way? I can imagine a time when these conversations aren’t difficult but come about naturally in everyday dinner conversation. I imagine not being shocked to hear shocking statements in a good way.

I have no idea how to be a parent, I’m not sure I should be giving advice but working with students I know that all the work that I try to do to bring them closer to Christ, to point them in the direction of the cross means that a lot of the time I need to embrace hard conversations. Jesus didn’t shy away from these, in fact he started many of them. From romantic relationships, to what it really means to love your neighbor as yourself. These hard things are to be embraced not avoided. Obviously this is easier said than done. There have been plenty of times that I have all the intention in the world to suck it up and talk about the hard things only to have last minute nervousness have me bail on the topic. What I’m hoping to bring out of this post is an embracing of the idea of the hard. To never offer simple answers when the questions are complex and to explore what it really means to love. When real love recognizes real love the only reaction can be to produce more of it. It can be difficult, awkward and weird. But so am I and these conversations can’t be avoided when the stake are this high. We know that as Paul says: The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

Presenting an Image

I typically don’t spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning. I’ve gotten to the point that I can get up, do a quick routine of brushing my teeth, letting my dogs out, getting dressed, whatever else I need to do, and I can get out of the door in about 20 minutes. Typically I just throw on a hat, think about the fact that I’ve worn the same t-shirt way too many times and then head off to work where I’ll make some coffee and continue my routine. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the image I’m presenting. Or at least that’s what I thought before I noticed something a few weeks ago. I was in a wedding for an incredibly good friend of mine in Virginia. I was excited for him and I was pumped to be with my brothers from my college baseball team. We’re family and always will be. I found myself constantly wondering if I was looking right. If my cufflinks were on the right way, was my tie fixed like everyone else, should I button my jacket or just leave it open? All of these questions made me analyze the image I created and presented to the world more than I realized I did.

I’ve always tried to be a good observer. I feel like a lot of times if I go to a restaurant or a coffee shop all I need to do is see what others are doing and that will teach me the proper protocol of putting up my dishes after I’m finished with my meal or if I pay at the table or the counter that type of thing. Yet I didn’t realize just hot much I tried to present myself in the perfect light in what I would do and how I would look. It’s no secrete that most people present their best self on social media. It’s what we do. We take silly, beautiful, and random photos. But it’s only the best pictures that make it online. It’s never pictures that present us in a bad light that we post. In an attempt to be real you might hear about someone’s struggles or something they might want prayer for.

I recently organized and executed a training session for adult and student leaders for our small group program we call Life Groups. We talked about what it means to create and facilitate authentic community. To be real and vulnerable with the people we have around us, to be able to ask and answer the question: “How is it with your soul?” It’s a tough question when you think about it. I can remember having an exhausting week, working long days, yet at the end of the week it was well with my soul. On the other hand I’ve had really easy weeks but my soul has been wrecked with anticipation and restlessness. When I think of authentic community the words Facebook, twitter, and instagram never enter my thoughts. I’ll be the first to admit that I love how social media connects us. One of the first things I did when I started my new job was to take over social media because we all agreed that it was important but at the time it wasn’t executed to the best of our ability.

I want to fight back against the perfect image society and yet one of the ways you can tell that my life isn’t perfect is by the fact that I’m not posting any pictures. So that’s the question I’m left with and the one that I hope you’ll explore within yourself and with me. What does it mean to be in authentic community? What does it mean to do Life Together as Bonhoeffer wrote about? Whenever I go into a new context and meet new people I know that I can be a different person. I can completely recreate my personality to fit whatever narrative I want because these people don’t have any preconceived idea of who I am and what I’ve done in the past. I seem to never be able to do that though. I’m never able to change who I am. I hope I never do because God has created me in his image to walk the path I’m on. I hope I can remain true to that and stop even for just a few minutes analyzing what I’m doing in reference and comparison to others but I am able to love in the unique way God has called me to love. That I can find and be in authentic community. I hope to be able to teach that to others and model that through social media and my daily walk so that my children can see I’m real, I’m not perfect but I’m striving to take hold that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Incarnational Social Media

One of the very first things when I started my new job I knew I could own was social media for our ministry. Trying to do my due diligence when I was applying for my now job in youth ministry I would do research on the church and what I might be stepping into. For many people like me this was looking at their website, searching through Facebook pages, instagram, twitter, google searching for what others were saying about them online. I discovered a great website and an okay social media presence. The more I looked the more I noticed it was mainly an issue of consistency. When I was hired and I talked more about what little I know about social media marketing and ministry through an online presence I discovered it was also an issue of social media theology. There’s not a lot of people who think social media and theology connect other than the promoting of something else that is theological on social media. Yet what I know to be true is that we are called to be like Jesus. What this means is that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. This incarnation ministry applies to wherever people are. This means we can’t do ministry like Jesus without going to people, we can’t be like Jesus if we never interact with anyone. For all the monks in the world that don’t interact with anyone but pray for the world, thank you. I need your prayers and your service. Some are called to be that way. But if we are going to be incarnational people we have go to where they are. It’s no secrete that people are online. This is made true by the mere fact that you are reading this on a blog of some random dude in youth ministry at a United Methodist Church in Georgia.



There is audacity in the incarnation. There is great joy and hope. But most of all to me there is an example that we should follow. The God of the universe gave up His throne in heaven to be a baby. A baby that was nourished by a woman’s womb, who’s life depended on a woman for sustenance, which can get me on a whole other tangent about the role of woman in ministry and how gender really shouldn’t matter when it comes to leadership or a ton of other things, it’s really about who the Holy Spirit has appointed. But in regards to social media it’s easy to see that Jesus went to people and where they were at. The broken and poor in spirit weren’t in heaven they were on earth, so He came to us. Once we realize this, I think we need to consider who we are online and how we can be an incarnational presence.  I believe if Jesus were walking this earth right now He would have a twitter account.

When I started posting for the ministry it had a completely different feel than when I would post something from my personal account. I tried to lay out an overall plan for the type of postings I wanted to do. Through this process of analyzing the things I would be posting for our student ministries it made me take a greater look at if I was being an incarnational presence through my personal account. There is a big part of me that wishes to be famous. One of my proudest moments was when I saw that the embassy of Rwanda to the United States had mentioned me and linked to a video of a poem I wrote about the amazing country. Part of me wants every blog post I write to go viral. But the truth is I’m not writing this to be famous (I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that hoped I would) but I’m writing this to try and be a fairly young Christian voice online because I believe part of how God made me to act is to write random blog posts for friends and strangers.

I still have questions and very few answers. How does someone be an incarnational presence on social media? How do I represent who I am through my pictures, my captions, my blogs? Is this post I’m writing actually something that I should do? There are a few guidelines I’ve made for myself as a person in youth ministry I adhere to and I would love to hear some of yours. What are some questions you ask yourself before posting? For me I struggle a lot with the gratification that comes with a large number of likes. Some of it doesn’t even have to do with how many people actually like my post but the fact that Facebook has a crazy algorithm that ensures only a certain number of people see it so there is a finite number of likes I can actually get in the first place. Yet I still rack my brain and have to remind myself that my self worth will never be represented by how many people click on a button to tell me that they liked what I posted. I almost feel like I’m trying to play to a cheering section. And each time they double tap my picture it’s like they patted me on the back. But is that what should be going through my head?


I believe that part of how I am called to live is different than most people. If I am supposed to live different, think different, my social media should be different. How I represent myself to the public should be different because I am called to be my authentic self. The worts and all. I would love to encourage you on this social media journey. If you believe in Christ and He has made a difference in your life, is it evident by how you live and what you post? Part of what I have to do daily is look at what I’m putting out there for the world and does it represent that difference that the Lord has made.

This of course doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to try and make things look perfect. Better pictures, better captions, witty banter. I think God has a great sense of humor, I mean have you seen the platypus? But it does mean that I have to have an extra filter. To be an incarnational presence takes time, thought, and incite into the world. It’s this calling that I would love to be on together with you. Good luck, and happy posting.

The Gospel Being Real

logoIt can’t be understated the effect that the organization YouthWorks has had on my journey in Youth Ministry. I was a youth participant on a summer trip when I was a senior in High School, I spent three summers on staff and I was even an adult leader on a trip. I can’t say enough how much I love those people and what they do. I can remember days and nights of exhausting work. Not just the fact that I was one of four staff responsible for around 70 – 80 youth and adult leaders in a place I had never lived in before. But the 18 hour days trying to always have enough energy to run with kids, make them laugh, cast the vision of what they were doing. The work days were always good work. Explaining and showing them how painting a house was more than just painting a house. The physical work we did was important, people needed their house painted, they needed a handicap ramp, they needed a shed to be built. More than those physical needs it was my main task to help the youth and adults understand the spiritual ramifications of people who might think they unworthy of interaction having people come to them in order to do a necessary task also listen to their story. The communication of love is often in doing things and can sometimes be best communicated without saying a word and merely listening to a persons story.

When I consider the different aspects of the Christian life and the categories we put them in of discipleship, missions, evangelism, servant leadership, and others I have found that you can’t put God in a box when it comes to loving strangers. When you’re able to interact with people you never would have otherwise in an intense summer environment like is set up with YouthWorks God is able to break walls and speak with and through us in ways never imagined before. I can remember sitting in Kansas City with some homeless friends who would tell us about their struggles to find meaning, struggles in the heat, their joys in living on the street, and the joy of hope in something beyond themselves. In these moments there is the hope that it the message of the Holy Spirit takes root. This is not to help the youth understand for them to put into practice at a later time. This is to help them understand that they are not a part of the Church of tomorrow without also being members of Christ’s body today.

I recently spent time with the YouthWorks Staff here in Atlanta. I wanted to find a way to bless them a little bit. I had them over for some pizza and snacks. We broke bread together sharing stories of where we come from, the ministry experience we have and the vision of what God is doing this summer. I was reminded not only how much I miss a YouthWorks summer, but why I got into Youth Ministry. The family like atmosphere of the staff isn’t something that comes together easy, yet that’s exactly what it was like. Swapping stories, digging deep into what The Holy Spirit has done to bring this seemingly random group of individuals to my house eating dinner. There are times when moments feel so real, when the past and present collide in a way that makes the air seems like blissfully sweet. These are the moments conversations come easy and time stands still while simultaneously you find hours have passed.


YouthWorks ATL Crew hanging in my dining room

The Church was made present with YouthWorks for me. In my weakness and inadequacies that I discovered through the summer, Jesus was able to make me whole. His strength was made perfect. I think that happens a lot. In our weakness is when God not only speaks to us, but is able to do work in our hearts that we would never other wise allow Him to do because of our pride or our inability to recognize that we need work to be done.

Today I am praying for all of YouthWorks staff  and the staff here in Atlanta I broke bread with. For them to know God is moving among them. That the work He plans for them to accomplish is bigger than they can imagine. For the strength to make it through the preparations, the time crunches, the crazy adult leaders, the crazy community members. I pray for enough coffee to wake up and a miracle on energy when no coffee can be found. I pray for the students coming on these trips to be blessed to have open minds and open hearts ready to receive and move with what God gives them. For many youth it’s an obligation, maybe they are being forced by their parents or they believe it’s an obligation to God and while we have obligations to God it’s never without our free will to obey. So I pray for obedience to the word of God living and present among us.

These memories they never fade. Maybe you can’t see them as clearly in your head, I know I certainly can’t. But I remember the Holy Spirit talking, moving, living. I remember the rush of joy and the crash of a Friday afternoon nap. I remember the feeling of belonging. I remember The Church coming together regardless of denomination and living in common with one another. It set the stage for me to go to Rwanda, to go to seminary and earn a masters degree in youth ministry, to be a coffee professional and serve strangers all day.

These memories and experiences furthered my journey of faith resulting in being at Mt Bethel. For all of that it was for me, the gospel becoming real.


A view from Lake Kivu in Rwanda.



Serving coffee at the US Barista Championships in 2016



My YouthWorks Staff in Texas – 2010


Comfort Zones

We all like to live in our comfort zones. It’s our natural human state to like things that are familiar and easy to for us to do or relate to and shy away from the things that we find uncomfortable. I have found myself in that position several times since taking on a new job. I left the coffee world and a job that I knew I was good at. I knew what was expected and how to do everything that I might need to. I started at a church knowing that indeed it was the exact right thing to do but not having any idea what I was getting myself into. I’m a little over a month in and I’m still not exactly sure what I’m doing but I know I’m exactly where I need to be. What I’ve found is that even though I know I’m in the exact place God wants me to be I’ve been thrown in some situations that make me uncomfortable, but in a good way.

I firmly believe that God has given us all certain gifts. Paul writes in 1Corinthians that “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 corinthians 12:7) So if we have these gifts for the command good of all people I think we also should be pretty confutable using them. And it’s true that you ask me to get in front of a group of people to preach, teach, perform a poem, make them some coffee, and I’m as comfortable as my pugs on the couch. But to ask me to start basically making cold calls to random adults in the church that I’ve never met to ask them to be adult leaders in our ministry that kind of scares me a bit. However, this is my task, this is my calling, this is where I’m supposed to be, so I do it. I’ve discovered, I don’t suck at it.


This is what my pugs look like on the couch… Comfortable right?

I wonder how often God puts us in positions to succeed, He gives us everything that we need and yet we miss something, we never take the risk or the chance because we might feel uncomfortable? I know it’s happened to me a lot. Somehow I think most of the uncomfortableness people experience in the Church, especially one in a bubble like East Cobb County has to do with interacting with strangers. I could easily greet hundreds of strangers every day when I was at a coffee shop. It would be a little awkward and I would be fired pretty quick if I never talked with them. However now that it’s still part of my job and on a much more intimate level I think about it from the perspectives of the people that it’s not their “job.” When I was in high school Jesus grabbed me when I was going into my senior year. No one invited me to church even though I desperately wanted to go and eventually stopped resisting the call of God and went. I think about when I would have gone in a heartbeat if someone just asked me to. But no one spoke up.

Maybe it’s because we might be scared to talk about our faith. Maybe there are some people that think church is an exclusive thing that they like to be members of and if more people join it loses it’s value. Yet I’m reminded constantly that we have something that doesn’t belong to us. The gospel belongs to the world. If it belongs to the world we can never and should never think of ourselves as an exclusive club that loses value the more inclusive we are. The Church from it’s very beginning was never meant to only be for certain people who pass a test or have the right characteristics. The Church as they say is for everyone. A church that lives within it’s four walls is no church at all. My friend James Barnett reminded me of something important this week when in a message he was preaching to Embrace Church in Sioux Falls he said: “What’s the point of being healed if we just hang out in hospitals?”


If we come to church and we are healed. Which as a believer in Christ you may not have healed of a disease, or a broken bone, or had a demon cast out of you. But we have been healed of the stain of sin in our lives and we have been redeemed and healed of the pain and sickness that causes death. We know that Jesus put death in his grave and we are no longer bound to the life that might have been. We are healed and now it’s our job not to hang out in hospitals with other folks that have been healed of their sin but to go into the world. To be uncomfortable in how we ask people to come to church. To be confident that if we are being asked to do something uncomfortable we can have the confidence that God will show us the way to make it happen.

When we go into the world with seeds of hope and love we can start to see the world with new eyes. There is a filter in which we interact with the world with a rose haze of love. As C.S. Lewis has said “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal.” These immortals that we talk with, work with, joke with, walk by everyday might not realize that they have an inheritance in Christ and we just need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s a simple act of a smile that can communicate love beyond our understanding so that we can live giving hospitality to strangers as well as the people we know well. Not only are they not ordinary but either are we, we are the hand with which Christ will bless the world. Because what if we’ve not only been saved from something, but we’ve been saved for something too?