This past weekend I attended an "Especially For Youth" conference in London, Ontario as a workshop speaker. This is one of my all time favourite things to do. It's so much work, researching and writing and delivering a message. Keeping teenagers engaged for an hour is no easy feat. There is a fine line between engaging and entertaining.
I didn't know how this one was going to pan out. I knew I wanted to talk about Daniel, and at the same time I started a Beth Moore bible study on Daniel. This meant I was provided with her wealth of information, research and knowledge right at my fingertips. Unfortunately, we are only three weeks into the study, so I had to race ahead to get a handle on the first six chapters. Then the hard part was taking all that information and figuring out how to link it, what to emphasize, and what angle would be most meaningful to the teens I was teaching.
I really struggled with it this time. I filled page after page and nothing seemed right. I organized and reorganized and it was still wrong. Right up until the night before I had to leave, I still felt like I was just reading them a story, not helping them really connect with scripture.
Then there was a little spark, at 1am. I jumped out of bed and typed away for half an hour, unsure of what I had but needing to get it down anyway. Once it was all out, I left the stream of consciousness in its jumbled mess and went to bed.
The next day the kids were home for the first day of March Break and so there was no opportunity to fine tune anything. All of a sudden I was pulling out of the driveway with three young women in the car that I was driving and we were off. That night I dropped off the girls, but instead of going to my hotel I dropped in on a friend. Part of me wanted to hole myself up in the hotel room and hammer out the details, but something else pulled me to my friend, to an evening to sit and chat and engage in a beautiful exchange of encouragement. As the evening passed I finally had to pull myself away and get a good night's sleep. She and her husband spoke a word of prayer over me as we stood at the front door, a much needed blessing.
The next morning, finally rested and able to enjoy some quiet, the words filled my mind. Alone in my hotel room, the workshop finally pulled itself together.
Later that morning I stood in front of my first group of 60 youth and launched into the story of a biblical personage that was their age, facing much of the same trials they are facing. And it was incredible. The Holy Spirit was present and their hearts were touched.
I could see their minds being challenged as they each took a piece of string and laid them in a line in the middle of the room, as we named our weakness and resolved never to cross that line. At that point they were thoughtful.
I ended the workshop by having four of the 15 year old young men kneel in a group, just as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego did that dark night when they prayed for an answer to King Nebuchadnezzar's dream. As I bore testimony of the reality of a God who cares about their fears and will answer their prayers in the same way, many of the teens wept as they felt the Spirit. The four boys kneeling quietly sobbed. It was a phenomenal experience.
Two of the boys kneeling in that circle are friends of our family. The are the eldest sons in their respective families, and their parents are parents to whom James and I look as examples of how to raise our children. I was so touched that in an age and culture that worships self-centredness and entertainment that these two boys could reach beyond such earthly matters and feel something spiritual on such a level.
I know I have a calling in this line of work. I don't know that it will ever be an easy process, but it is a gift I have been given and I am so grateful to be able to use it so effectively.