Recently I got a call from a former student who was struggling in their faith. Honestly, it was greater than that. They made the decision that the “cost of following Christ” was just too great. Life was not working out the way they had hoped. Trials had come and as Jesus himself predicted of some, the thorns had choked the life away. My heart broke as we spoke. This had been a student who was entirely “on fire for the Lord” not only through High School, but also through their first years of college. The student told me it was just “too hard” to live the way Jesus wanted them to, He continued to let them down anyway so they were walking away from Him.

In the same week I opened up the paper to see the mug shot of another former student. When he was in Junior High a family tragedy had forever changed his attitude about life. Two summers ago he came back to our programming for a short time, and I had been encouraged. Then once again he dropped out of sight, and we couldn’t find him. That is until he has been arrested for armed robbery.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I have had other students make life choices that have forever altered their path. Former students have been murdered, committed suicide, joined gangs, ended up in abusive relationships, and become addicts among other things. Each time there is something inside me that feels like I am the one who failed.

Before you tell me I’m not, I know all the right answers. I am the first person to remind others in ministry that we are never the Savior of anyone and Jesus is bigger than us or the students for that matter. However, I can’t help it. I feel like I could have “done” more. I couldn’t even tell you what the “more” is every time.

As these two events collided this week I started to wallow at my “lack” of success. This is when my husband reminded me of a vital truth, “These are their choices. This has nothing to do with your success or failure in life, and certainly not your failure or success with Jesus.” 

How easily I forget. I can so easily make their decision about me. I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, it has nothing to do with us at all. The beauty in God creating us with the ability to choose, is we are given the ability to be in relationship with Him. The ugly side, of course, is that we can also choose to do our own thing.

I think I need to remember how easy it would be for me to walk away from the Lord as well. As CS Lewis once said, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had ever been done.” The problem in running from God is that we look over and He is running with us.

So what I can do is to pray. Pray and realize my success comes the moment I show up and choose to be with Jesus again today. Pray that my students would realize the same for themselves. Pray you would remember for yourself.  Pray I would choose to believe what I wrote.

How do you deal with the days you feel like a failure?



Some great posts from friends around the tragic Matthew Warren story of this past week. Matthew, the son of our pastor, battled with depression and took his own life on Friday morning. Needless to say this has been a challenging season for our people. The response has been incredible though, so proud of our church and of much of the greater Christian community. Here are some thoughts from friends.

From Doug Fields – Friends Show Up:

When my mom was in the hospital, then on hospice, and then when I had to deal with post-death details, I felt extremely exhausted and lonely.

During those three weeks, I realized that I’ve been an average friend to my friends who have experienced crisis. Here’s what happened in my situation: almost every one of my friends made contact, told me they were praying for me, family, mom, etc., and most said and/or wrote, If there’s anything I can do, let me know. It’s a very sweet and genuine gesture. Actually, it’s EXACTLY the type of gesture that I’ve expressed in the past. Exactly!

But here is what I learned during those three weeks that has changed my response: I’m not just offering up help, I’m showing up. (I’m embarrassed it took so long to learn.)

From Walt Mueller – Matthew Warren, His Family, And Guidelines For The Rest of Us:

  • Don’t speculate. Don’t speculate on what happened or the reasons behind it. Don’t speculate on the specific causes and circumstances. We don’t know. We won’t know. We don’t need to know.
  • Don’t simplify. This was a 27-year-old man whose story was just as complex as your story and my story. There are no easy answers here.
  • Don’t downplay depression. It’s not something a person can magically turn on and turn off with the flick of switch or a decision. If you’ve been there yourself or with someone you love, you know how powerful, deeply difficult, and complex depression is.

From Beth Moore – Sadness and Madness:

But even now at the hardest moment of their lives the Warrens can teach something vital if we are willing to learn. Their heartbreak demonstrates what has always been true but has never been more profoundly overlooked: these who serve us publicly also suffer privately. They are not caricatures. They are not just personalities. They are people living on a painful planet with the rest of us.

The Warrens will come forth like gold. The enemy will not win. They will fight the good fight. They will finish the race. They will keep the faith.

I love the Body of Christ. I don’t want want to get cynical. I don’t want to sit around and hate the haters or I become one. But this morning I just want to say this. We can love each other better. Let’s do. People have enough hurt. Let’s be careful with one another.


Got a solid response from this post yesterday so I asked the volunteer behind the student-led project to give me some insight into how the video was made and the process of making the video for the past few months. Here’s some of what he sent along:

The Landing video was made entirely by students for students. It started with an idea to get rid of the static image that advertises the landing in the Refinery common displays with something that was a little more catchy. We also wanted to try and redirect the thoughts some students have about the landing which is that its for “those” students and so we were aiming for the concept that on the outside we appear all put together but on the inside we can still hurt and have alternate feelings that we are dealing with. We wanted to emphasize the idea that you are not alone and you shouldn’t go through it alone and so the initial thought is groups that go deep and have a safe place to share at the landing but they can also discover that Jesus Christ is right there with them and they are not alone.
The project from concept to finish took us 3 months. We work on a volunteer schedule of schools and all their extra-curricular programs. These guys are definitely committed. They all have tons of after school programs and academically we have been making sure their grades have not been taking a back seat as a result of being a part of the ministry and they are all B average and higher students. So they work extremely hard. This is a learning ministry. None of these students knew anything about animation before we started and most had never been a part of a real film production, let alone organized one so it was a great learning experience for all of them. They had to organize the dates to shoot, allocate equipment and resources from other teams (we are a ministry with $0 budget so everything was borrowed). They had to find actors and rehearse choreography for the film, they then had to design the content which was shown in the hands, motion track both hands individually, frame by frame (there are nearly 2,000 frames which you have to do twice). Then again add the slide content and then animate the signs in such a way that they have weight and appears that they actually live in reality and are not just digital. Finally they had to mask (cutout) the slides frame by frame to give it the effect of being held. They re-did this process about three times to get it to look right as they learned new and more advanced techniques along the way.
Finally we had Troy write and compose an entire original soundtrack for the piece. We spent several skype sessions together getting it just right before we went into the studio to record. We then had it mastered to make it sound really great.

As this project expanded we began to realize it could be used for more then just a simple ad in the Refinery Commons and had the potential to be used in a service (hopefully) and by other churches as they advertise their Landing program (super hopeful).
If you would like to get information on how to get this resource for your church and/or to customize it to include your churches specific information you can call 707-676-3342. Proud of the students who worked so hard on this project: Josh Campbell, Troy Sullivan, Ian Glatz, Jacob Lewis, Caleb Haine and Carson Daniels.

This weekend we played a new promo video for The Landing that was made entirely by students. It was incredible! Probably one of the best videos to come out of our whole church in a while honestly, I was blown away by how it was made. I’ve asked the volunteer who led the student project to share more about the making of the video which hopefully I’ll be able to post later this week, too. If you’re interested in learning more about The Landing program for your church, click right on over here.

Designed for junior high and high school students, The Landing give you everything you need to lead young people in making Jesus the foundation of their lives, avoiding or breaking cycles of dysfunction, and experiencing God’s incredible forgiveness and healing.


Doug Fields, Josh Griffin, Katie Edwards and Matt McGill return for episode 160. The gang quickly jump into your questions about: Doug’s blog, a volunteer dating students, teaching help, picking volunteers for events, student leadership conference, depression and suicide, and feeling bad about leaving a ministry.