after my freshman year in college, i spent the summer working in marion, illinois as an intern to the youth pastor at a large united methodist church. even though i was far away from home, i had a great summer just loving on youth and growing in my own faith and understanding of ministry. during that summer we went on a mission trip to mexico. and on the way home from that mission trip (and probably at many other times during it), i employed one of my favorite ways to relate to young people: being an absolute crazy person. for some reason, i have just always found that if i can lose my conventions and inhibations enough to do something fun and memorable, it tears down all sorts of barriers and walls and allows me to seem like a regular (if a bit odd) person and not an intimidating "leader." so, during the flight home from somewhere in texas to the st. louis airport, i went ahead and just let loose and had a great time and, in the meantime, made some great memories. i had actually forgotten about this until my recent birthday caused some folks from that chapter of my life (1995) to call it to my memory. my friend and mentor, hal, who was the youth pastor there at the time, even reminded me that i was sitting next to a lingerie model on the plane whom i proceeded to talk to. i looked through the skymall catalog with her, asking her advice on a gift for my girlfriend. meanwhile, i was wearing, well, you need to see for yourself. i dug this morning and found this picture that pretty much tells the story:
for those of you who are currently in my congregation, i'm sorry that you had to see this. you are just going to have to reconcile this with the guy you see in the pulpit. i am one and the same!
after deciding on the automatic dog feeder from skymall with the lingerie model, i passed around a barfbag and got people to sign it, including the flight crew! unusual ministry practices? perhaps. but it certainly made a memory that endures 15 years later. this picture is a reminder to me that even with all my idiosyncrasies and strange behaviours, God can use all of us - even me - to love people and make a difference for the Kingdom.