Becoming A Red Letter Christian

Struggling to Live Out the Words of Jesus

Archive for the ‘Thoughts & Reflections’ Category

Seeing & Smelling Jesus

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“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” -Matthew 25:35 (NLT)

“…when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” -Matthew 25:40 (NLT)

It was unseasonably cool this morning.  A student from the youth group I serve and I stood outside our local Salvation Army ringing the buzzer.  We were there to help serve breakfast to the men, women and children that had spent the night in the shelter and others coming in off the street.

The people began to enter the dinning room, and all I could focus on were their faces, hardened by their experiences. Their eyes painted stories of a people who were dejected, humiliated, broken, hurt, afflicted, and disheartened.  The odor of humanity struggling to survive filled the room.  It was at that moment that I realized what I was experiencing.  It was Jesus.

He was there.  He was the face I kept seeing.  He was the eyes that painted the stories of a broken people.  Yes we were serving the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger, but in doing so we were serving Jesus.  In my feeble imagination, that is what Jesus looks and smells like.

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Written by joeldiaz

March 29, 2011 at 9:15 pm

crazy love

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i was captivated and challenged by francis chan this year at the national youth workers’ convention in nashville. he made it o.k. to acknowledge that there are many of us who think that there is something seriously wrong with the american church. i have walked around with that thought in my heart for a few years now. it was refreshing to hear someone ask about that in an open forum, and see so many in agreement.

crazy love

in response to that sermon and at the suggestion of others, i began reading crazy love by francis chan yesterday. i want to publicly journal as i walk through this book. i do not consider myself an academic, so please do not expect me to expound deep wisdom. nor is my purpose to review this book, i’ll leave that to the professionals.

my goal is to respond to the text as i sense God stirring within me. that is my prayer in this process, that God will stir up the passion for Him that i know is trapped in my soul. there is something that keeps me from shouting out His name, and i want the freedom and the boldness to do just that.

Written by joeldiaz

February 20, 2009 at 2:01 pm

testimony

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last night was one of those special moments in ministry for me. even though weeks of planning, hours of set-up, and support from staff members had occurred in preparation, something bigger was happening. it was evident that God was working in and through the lives of those who came to share their victories and struggles.

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i remember as a kid being in church, and people getting up and sharing a testimony. people would share about how God was working in their lives, or in certain situations they faced. these testimonies taught me several things about the Christian life and community that i have come to cherish.

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in the Christian life there will be great days of rejoicing as you walk in God’s path, but you will also face many struggles. you will be tested in your faith. you will have times when you wonder if God has abandoned you. sometimes your prayers will be answered in the way you hoped, but in other times the will of God just will not make sense to you.

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when trust and love abound in the community, we celebrate God’s good works in the lives of others, but we also come and share our burdens. we share how we have grown in our faith, but we also ask our brothers and sisters for help in a time of struggle. in such a setting, we feel safe to open ourselves up to others and let down our guard. we become genuine.

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that is what happened last night. through a conversation i had with a senior high student, this idea was born. she and i had a discussion about relationships, dating, sexuality and spirituality. when we were done, she told me that she wished that i could have this same discussion with the entire senior high group. as we continued our discussion we came up with the idea of hosting dinner. during the dinner, couples would come and share how decisions they had made affected their relationships. they would give a testimony.

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so last night we hosted a dinner, decorated a room, invited our friends and listened to three couples as they shared their stories. they were honest and open, and there was a sense of complete trust between the couples and audience of students. their stories were all very different but a common theme arose, our sexuality is tightly interwoven with our spirituality. it is virtually impossible to separate the two. that’s the way God designed it. it was beautiful to sit there and witness this evening unfold.

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thank you to my fellow co-workers who were not only supportive, but also excited about this unique event. thank to all the parents and adult leaders who came to serve the students, and to the kitchen staff who prepared a great meal. finally, thank you to the couples who came and shared your triumphs and struggles. with the help of God’s Holy Spirit you spoke to the hearts of all in attendance.

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“as iron sharpens iron,

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so one person sharpens another.”

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Proverbs 27:17

Written by joeldiaz

February 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm

contemplative binder clips

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even in the small city environment in which i now find myself people are busy. i have to remind myself that this is a reality for those around me. i compare everything to my life in atlanta, so i find the pace in albany pleasant. i have yet to be overwhelmed by the pace of life. yes i am busy at times, but having a 2 mile commute to the kids’ school or church makes all the difference. even with this certain simplicity to life, we still need times to be still.

be still

once a month we gather as a community to be still. we worship through song, reading scripture, we spend time in contemplative silence, we pray ancient prayers and we share in Holy Communion. we usually go to the chapel in our church for this time of worship, but this week we did something different. through a brain storming conversation between two co-workers and myself we ended up creating a tent, a tabernacle of worship.

worship "tent"

we used a bunch of sheets, binder clips, some area rugs, a rugged table, some burlap and candles. i loved seeing the reaction on some of the faces as they entered into the tent to worship. some students requested that we leave it up as a permanent structure. creating mystery and wonder in worship is so impacting on a student’s life. there is so much to unpack from last night. i look forward to next month’s meeting, and for the mystery that lies ahead.

Communion table

Written by joeldiaz

February 6, 2009 at 6:05 pm

catch up

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i have been in a tail spin since the national youth workers’ convention. i am finally getting caught up, but it has not been a pleasant experience. this week has been a big pile of elephant dung. it just hasn’t been a good week thus far. some of it i brought on myself, and other things are just discouraging bits of news that have made it to me.

there is nothing more discouraging in ministry than hearing that people are talking about issues they see in ministry and never come to the person who is responsible. what makes it even more discouraging is that i have practically begged for people to come talk to me and no one has. i have made myself available in numerous ways. i have offered to go to homes, lunch after church, meet at church, whatever is most convenient for our members. i have had one person tell me they wanted to get together and would get back to me. that’s the last i heard.

enough with the pity party.

on the positive front i have been recording a weekly podcast with my very good friends josh cook and sara liebross. this has been the one definite high light of my work week. it is published on josh’s blog youth hacks. check it out if that’s your sort of thing.

another exciting piece of news is a d-now weekend that i have been working on with several other youth workers. we now have 12 churches coming together in our area to worship and serve our community. i am looking forward to the big weekend at the end of february.

finally, i have teamed up with a guy who grew up in our church and is now a college graduate. in short, he took his double major from UGA and is working with kids at the local boys and girls club. he also decided to move into their neighborhood. very inspiring. a group of students and parents went over and helped him clean out the abandoned house he and a friend will live in and use for ministry purposes.

if you pray for me, please pray that God will help me to be patient and that i will wait on His timing.

Written by joeldiaz

January 27, 2009 at 4:05 pm

black is the new black

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i remember they day the berlin wall came down. i remember my dad with tears in his eyes as he watched the images on the news networks. he said that my grandfather used to say this day would come, and he wished he was alive to witness the events.

i have similar emotions about where i find myself today. i am seeing a common thread in history taking place. i came from a non-diverse staff and denomination, as it pertains to leadership. today i find myself on a staff with a clergy made up of a white man, a black man and a white woman.

through my education, i developed a desire to work on a diverse staff. not just for the sake of working on a diverse staff, but as an opportunity to develop a more wholistic view of ministry. that has been the tip of the iceberg.

i have witnessed three firsts this year:

  1. as i mentioned above, our church has a black clergy member. jim davis’ journey into ministry is a fantastic story of a servant responding to the call of ministry. he happens to be the first black clergy member in the 167 year history of the first united methodist church of albany, georgia.
  2. the south georgia conference has it’s first black bishop (that’s like an administrative bishop to you church of God people). here is a great article on bishop james king.
  3. i was told it would never happen this year but it did. the united states of america has elected the first black president, barack obama. regardless of where you align yourself politically, this is a major historical moment.

it’s neat to be surrounded by history. i just want to learn as much as i can, so that i can be a better husband, father, youth minister and citizen.

Written by joeldiaz

November 19, 2008 at 11:31 am

christian?

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am i a christian? are you a christian?

i have seen this video posted a couple of times today. i can’t remember were i saw it first, but my friend joel clackum posted it on his facebook page.  in this interview, tony campolo raises some tough questions. this is definitely worth your time. it is very challenging and will get you thinking.

Written by joeldiaz

November 10, 2008 at 9:59 pm