Tag Archives: youth ministry

Shout out for Rachel! Hurray!

I certainly don’t have the readership of Sarah Bessey has nor can I  toast as eloquently as did dear Preston at Deeper Story.  But, I want to say something today as Rachel’s new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood,  releases. Allow me to at least lift a glass and utter my, “amen.”

I am just a mama, wife, teacher and youth leader, working perhaps too quietly, in the town where Rachel Held Evans grew up. As such, I won’t attempt to comment on the breadth of her influence…huge as it is.  But, I would like to share the depth, the generational impact her heart and words are having, even here, in this town, which is tough on the message she is suggesting we reexamine.  What I read, the young women I mentor usually read themselves or get in some successful trickled down format. At 47, her words are freeing to me, they echo the questions I cannot so well articulate. At 17, 18, 19 and 20 her words are springboards…

The finest natural theologians to ever cross my path here in Alabama are young women. The most talented preachers and the most gifted pastoral hearts among our youth group of 250 are girls. The youth pastor and I realize what God has released to our care. We make room for it, encourage it, strengthen it with skill and exposure and most importantly, OPPORTUNITY!

When we are absent, away or just tired, they preach, they teach. Jeremy, our youth pastor, explains he is making up for 2000 years of inequality, so they get the slots. And be sure, they rock it when they do…

I just want to say to Rachel, thanks for leading the way, blocking a bit for those who come after…they are coming! They are right on your heels, girl! I know that makes you smile.

So, thank you from Birmingham! I am sure Tennessee and Dayton claim you now, but so do we, and we always will.

Congratulations!….to “a mother in Israel.” – Judges 5: 7

Kim Sullivan

This post is part of a synchroblog hosted by J. R. Goudeau thanking Rachel for being a woman of valor who speaks for so many of us. Read some other posts at J. R.’s blog.

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this boy

Linking up at Amber Haines for the weekly concrete to abstraction study.  Always fun for me. Our word this week is “boy.” Here’s what came to mind this busy, crazy week.

For years he never spoke a word save through that white guitar of his. It sang. He played far to the back on the school praise band team. I never heard him sing a note. I never heard him say a word. But, he always came and played.

Three years ago: the one person I always saw him with moved on, angry. In a random poetry assignment, he offered that his father had just done likewise. It was a rich, tight tale. He gained my attention, full.

Two years ago: I got a shot at one of the Bible classes, was sort of commissioned to work a miracle or two. I choose him for my class. He chose me as well.  We wrote.

Last year: He started to sing back-up vocals in the band. He smiled at me as we passed in the hall.

This year: He was recruited to play with Hannah and Trent in the “big band” at Epoch. He agreed.

This summer: He signed up for EDGE.

This weekend: He came around the corner from the Green Room.  I heard their giddy sounding footsteps and wondered what it would be like to be 17 and playing in such a venue. His smile broke wide as he saw me, his teacher, and maybe more, a  muse…who said when others ceased to…”You can do this, I know you can.”

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That deathly quiet boy now leads worship and sings lead, no longer hidden behind those incomprehensibly good guitar licks. He brings me his poems, sets them out, stands back, smiling more. He shares his still hurting heart freely for all of us at EDGE to pray.

******

I put my arm around Alex’s friend, my ex-student as well, his collaborator in the set. He, too, grins that I have come. I turn and face Alex; his arms are wide for me.

How I love this boy.

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raves and realizations

I’ve been reading over at Megan’s site this morning. Her moniker is FriedOkra, which, of course, I love.  And I love fried okra, not the “sit in steam pan, in the meat and three” kind, but the “hot out of the grease, heaven, but you might burn and not feel your finger tips, for a while” kind. Megan’s words are equally as satisfying… and I know my mind was HS seared as I read them. I could think of nothing intelligent to say in response, so I just said something not intelligent, but really heartfelt.

BTW, my daughter, Molly, a 13-year-old, Paula Deen want to be, whom I graciously let practice every dang night…(I have cooked 3-4 meals a day for us 6 forever and we had 3 restaurants for 14 years, I’ve earned it people) is a master okra fryer. Yes, yes she is. That alone commands a high dang dowry in this neck of the woods. So, to my thinking, Molly’s marrying and my financial future is pretty well in hand. What was I saying?

Oh, Megan’s blog. I read it this morning. She is friends with Leigh, my flesh and blood buddy, who is a real writer. Those two and several other of the greatest talents and hearts out there in Blessed Blog World managed a bonafide get together at the lake. You can imagine the magic of that intersection. Well, if you can’t, Megan so richly renders it out, in oils…and people, it is so dang beautiful, to see what she saw. The Holy Spirit’s help is all over what she shares with us.

As a small aside, (Don’t get side-tracked by my tale, Go read the post!) Jeremy has dubbed me the official Reflector of our merry band. We do things: deeply spiritual things, daring things, dang near crazy things…and it’s my job to help us know what happened.

The present moves so swiftly. I thought about that as I read Megan’s post. I wondered if she registered all she wrote about as it went down, or if she, like me, saw it out the proverbial back window – think 1970’s station wagon and that backward facing waaay back seat. I spent some time there.  Scarred/imprinted me for life, take your pick.

One of the things I too have discovered from the Contemplatives’ wisdom is that life can be appreciated best in that back seat. The Holy Spirit shows us little in the present, the future is a foggy land. But, the past is His playground. He helps me see more…And, those of us willing to sit in that waaay back,  we get to look at life lived  longer than the souls up front, facing forward and all. We get to watch it a while, in what might as well be slow motion.

So, instead of despising my own youth, I am trying to learn from that perspective which I was given. Nausea and gifts don’t seem to go together, but then when one takes into account pregnancy – well, that pretty much makes my case. So, I am climbing on back, picking up my pen and watching the Holy Ghost Slow-Mo, the way Megan’s does with such acuity here: (Don’t forget to go there!) There will be a quiz, students.

Back to my job as Chief Reflector.  I go with us…and heck yes, I participate. One can’t catch much in the moment. It’s not like photography. I ride the rapids, fly through the trees, and play the parental, “No you cannot jump from thirty feet in that tree rising 100 into the jungle canopy down into this black river that might be 20 feet deep in a crevice-like channel, even if the natives, who do not speak our language save Hollywood heroes’ names, are waving you on down. I promised your parents to watch after you.”

Anyway, my job is to watch out the back window, rewind the movies, see it all again, slowed enough for the sweet we gulped to settle on my tongue, and write with the best words I can. I’ve written accounts of Costa’s Rica’s breath-catching glory swallowing us like a dream. We have yet to escape it. I’ve no eyelid who would dare lift to do so. I’ve written of nightmare in Mexico – where God walked close to us, His breath heavy and audible… I’ve written of camp outs and early morning manuevers. I’ve written and written and written and done no justice to any of the brutiful glory that was. But sometimes, something I write cues a memory of life not chronicled with photo or that wasn’t even recognized as it occurred… and for another soul, the memory movie plays over through the dusty but familiar back glass window; and they see it, feel it and know deeply that it is, always is, too.

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I love to build team

I love to build team. I love to gather the like hearted and minded who are fabulously unlike in gifting. I love to collaborate. I love the energy that fills a room when it is time to create.

It’s starting to be that season again. I can see the associations growing, the gifts converging, the glint of moment on the horizon in others eyes. And I am stoked.

About a week ago, I made an announcement to a group of young, gathered musicians, ones I have been watching and praying for a while now. It kinda jumped out of my mouth, “If you are thinking about writing or have started, press into it now. It’s time. It’s going to flow.” They looked at me a little startled, I’m sure they asked themselves who exactly I was in this regard.  ( They have known me most of their young lives.) But, I know GO! when I hear it. And Houston, we have a GO!

About a week before, Hannah and I had thrown around an idea and in a matter of minutes she had birthed something phenomenal. She sang it for us last Thursday night. We are on the backside of that.

This Sunday night our young composer asked me to come hear something on the grand. He had written 4 new pieces of music, had ideas for lyrics. The music was gorgeous and Hannah has gone to work on the words. She’ll pull them in, she probably already has.

I am having so much fun, watching and encouraging and pressing them to the full place God would have us go in this season. So much fun!

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I have been doing what I love to do the most.

What I love to do the most is facilitate encounter. God encounter. I love to help people get still and sensitive to what is going on spiritually, in and around them. Last night, MK and I started  imagining the upcoming Worship Experiment that we are facilitating in May for Epoch, my youth group. It’s an annual, intensely purposeful gathering of those who will and want to be with God, together, for about 36 hours. It is always a highlight of my year and one of the most creative and free times that we share.

I must give credit where credit is due.  Our working back story and the theme of it all for this year was Hannah’s brilliant idea. She’s one of our Edge kids: they are all spiritually brilliant.

Anyway, MK and I just ran with it a bit, trying to imagine a setting that would in all manner, even the words we share, communicate the theme. I loved the creative  ideas that MK suggested. I had about a million ideas, some good, some not so much so. I did not even share many of them, because I wear people out that way. But, I really did have so much fun just envisioning with her all the ways we could facilitate encounter and fellowship.

We are still listening, imagining, working on it. I’ll keep you all up to date with that as it begins to gel. Please remember it and us in prayer time to time. Worship Experiment is always pivotal in the life of so many of our kids and leaders.

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So, I got them in on it, too…

Miss Alece inspired us all.. to simplify, to focus, to hear God for a word, one word to help funnel the change we need into our lives this year. Today in class, I shared my word, vision, with the other students. I put on some music and asked them to listen to the HS for a guiding word and to write a brief explanation as to what they heard in relation to it. Why that word, if  they had any insight at this point.

After about twenty minutes most were looking up at me like, Well, are you ready to hear these?

I took me a week or more to clear my head enough to hear mine.

One reason I so love youth is that they more easily enter the NOW than us adults. We leap back and forth from past to future, but rarely settle in the NOW….where God is, all the time.

So, do you want to hear their words? They gave me permission to share them with you.

I sure would appreciate your prayers for these incredible young people. As you read over their names and words below, would you pray for a name if God drops it in your spirit to do so.

This class we share has been an incredible adventure in God’s goodness, love and His faithfulness to commune with us. We would so love for you to join with us, as we pursue God and let God pursue us, like never before.

thanks,

Kim

Blair: return

Hope: heart, passion

Karley: perspective

Madi: forward

Lauren: peace, selfless

Amelia: complete

Jessica: relationship

Allie: be

Mackenzie: relationships

Amber: courage

Micah: hope

Evan: light

Emily: surrender

Lindsey: obedience

Morgan: peace

Kasey: trust

James: placement

Brody: difference

Stephanie: hope, desire

Bailey: solitude

Katie: gift

They all had phenomenal paragraphs explaining the why’s of their words. I wish I could publish them all. You would be so very impressed as am I. Did I tell you that I love these kiddos? Well, I’ll say it again. Oh my gosh, I love these kids.

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We talked about each other today,

not behind backs but to faces. I promised my class that if we got through all the Dave Ramsey videos this week, we would share our survey answers on Friday. Some of the kids played Monopoly in the back of the room; that was  a legitimate option as well. Some wanted me to share the answers to the survey we took about one another.

Their assignment, which I gave a week ago, was to put three adjectives by each of the class members’ names. And then the students had to  answer all kinds of future oriented questions about themselves. I have found that students like you to make them do this kind of stuff, to give them the excuse of having to do it. I gathered everyone’s sheet and read all the adjectives the others ( including yours truly) offered in description – only positives to neutrals were allowed. They really  didn’t offer any negative.

They were Friday afternoon giggly, but when I called out an individual’s name, that person would always hush the others and lean forward, eyes wide to hear. I watched him/her take in and try to swallow down the encouraging and well thought out words. When I would read a well-chosen adjective, others would shake their heads in agreement and murmur yeahs. I watched the eyes of the receiver dart toward the source of the yeahs, listening well, barely holding back a smile and maybe even tears.

They loved it. They asked if we could do something like it everyday until our semester course was over. I promised a great deal of such.

Then, I asked them what they would want someone to describe them as. There was lots of silence for a bit, “Did I mean,” they asked,  “what they wanted someone to not say about them?”

“No, too easy. What would you want them to say?”

That was harder.

I called on one and got it going. And everything dropped down another level. Eyes started meeting. Moment obscured Monopoly.  Finally, we got to me. “How about you, Mrs. Sullivan?” asks the one guy who most loved the exercise, most begged for us to share it in class. He’s the student that is hurting and fumbling, but trying ( the good words seemed life and breath to him.) I so see him trying. I met his eyes and then inspected the ceiling’s contours. “I want you guys to know that I give a damn, ” I tightened my teeth against my own tears. I’m sure such utterance was a fireable offense. Fire me, I speak truth. They all smiled…some raised their eyes to mine, dared lock them and nodded, you do. Mr. Compatriot looked at me with his fatherless, forced out of his house by his mother, just recently suspended for fighting with a smart ass who would stop insulting another student’s mother, and as such being prosecuted for assault, always bursting out in class, my most difficult child, self,  and stared me through and said,” I know that you do. You, do.”

I can’t help but love these kids.  I can’t make all the circumstances of their lives better, but I can go to bat for them, and risk a little for them, and step over their not so high, not really electrified fences, and try my best to speak words of life and breath to them.

I owe them that…they do the same for me.

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