Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pondering a Japanese Steakhouse Dinner

I hope that all of you have enjoyed this Christmas Season...I know that I have. In fact, this has been one of the most memorable weekends of my life. A "White" Christmas was a reality this year and my daughter Rylee was a joy to watch as she opened her gifts. (It's amazing how a fever of 101 does not stop a two year old at Christmas.) But the part of this weekend that I have chosen to speak on today did not actually even take place this weekend (It happened Thursday night) however, I have been thinking about it all weekend.

Thursday night Em and I had the pleasure of going to one of our favorite restaurants (Tokyo Hibachi) and dining with some very special people. We did not eat with family members. We did not eat with childhood friends. We didn't even eat with people that are our age. We met, had dinner, and spent the duration of the evening with four young adults. Chevy, Perry, Katherine, and Josh all range from 18-20 years old and to say that I was excited about going out with them would be an understatement. In reality, I was thrilled at the opportunity! The tipping point of my excitement was when I was getting ready before we left. As I was brushing my teeth, showering, fixing my hair, and doing my normal routine before going out, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. As I began to think of the company that Em and I would be with, I began to cry. There were even moment when I literally stopped moving, looked up, and told God "thank you" as tears rolled down my cheeks. I eventually got myself together and we were out the door. The dinner was great and we all had a great time as I knew we would.

I am an emotional person. Now I don't cry in movies. I don't weep when people yell at me or make me mad. I don't even cry often. But on this particular night, the tears flowed easily from my eyes. I began to think of how grateful I was to have these young men and this young woman in my life. I also thought of how they all wanted to be spending this free night, before a holiday weekend, with Emily and I. You're probably wondering what the big deal is. After all, Emily and I are youth pastors so we hang out with people younger than us all of the time. But what made this moment and this group special was that I began to see how these people were a part of our legacy.

We have worked with teens for more than five years now. We have had the honor of serving and getting to know so many different students over the years. Some have been a lot of fun and others have.....well...not been as fun to deal with at times. That's youth ministry! Ask any youth pastor, social worker, or high school teacher and they will give you the same type of analysis of today's students. Unfortunately, some don't always stay as close to us or to the church after they have grown older. I personally have deep feelings of regret when thinking about the lives of some the students that have been under our leadership. Did we do enough for them? Did we pray enough? Did we call them enough? Did we do everything that we could to keep them on the "straight and narrow?" These questions still haunt me sometimes as I think back on some of the names of the students we have dealt with.

I believe that the dinner that we had with those four young adults was a gift from God to me and Emily. These four lives are now out of high school and stepping into, or have already stepped into the next phase of their lives. They love God with an incredible passion and each of them understands how God has raised them up and will use their own personal "stories" to benefit the Kingdom. I believe that they will all touch many lives with their testimonies and every life that they touch is an extension of our efforts into their lives. What an amazing and humbling thought???!!??

I have always wanted to be someone that made a difference, not just in my own little part of the world, but in as much of this earth as I could. I can't "save the world" but if I can make a difference in a handful of lives, then who knows how many more they will touch. Think about Mordecai Ham. Not many people know who he is. Ham traveled the US as an evangelist throughout the 1930's. At a meeting just outside of Charlotte, NC, a 16-year old boy walked forward and accepted the invitation by Ham to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of his life. You probably HAVE heard of that 16-year old boy. He went on to preach the Gospel of Christ to more people than any other man in history. That boy's name was Billy Graham.

The millions of lives that were changed under Dr. Graham were all just an extension of Mordecai Ham's legacy. Those lives can be thankful just as much for Mordecai Ham as they can for Billy Graham. If Ham isn't faithful to the Gospel, then who knows whether or not Graham hears the saving message of Christ.

This is why it is important to pour into other people's lives. What good is it to live life just for one's self anyways? You never know the difference you may be making in others. The next Billy Graham may just be sitting at the dinner table with you!    


  1. Very touching all area doing such an amazing job!!!! God bless you and Emily..Love you all!!!

  2. Ryan, I enjoyed this read so much. A lot of those feelings will return as parenting feelings after Rylee has grown and left home. You will think, did I say all the right things, do all the right things. But all in all, you and Em will have raised a young woman who is ready to face the world and in her time, I pray there will be a couple just like you and Emily who will be there to cheer her on and care for her as you guys care for all the "younger" people you come in contact with.
    Bless you both!

  3. Ryan i think you are doing a really cool thing here...i could never do something like this....i know you have a gift that touches so many people...keep it up bro!