Tag: Growth

Before You Were Born (for Ransom)

 

Newborn

Before You Were Born

(For Ransom)

by Daniel Griswold

 

I promised myself that I would record everything when my first son, Ransom, came into the world.  I’ve become so wrapped up in the wonder, and immense life changes of fatherhood, however, and have not kept that promise and this is my moment to rectify, in a small way, that transgression against myself and my family.  This blog will be more personal than previous blogs, and there are many people in here that I am incredibly thankful for.  There are those I know I will forget (likely due to “Father’s brain” or some human frailty, but I am so thankful to you as well.  So, so thankful.  So Ransom, this is how I remember your genesis.

August 2013, Amanda (your mom), started acting a bit funny.  I can’t say exactly what tipped me off, but I began to feel like something was up.  Maybe she looked at me differently a few times.  Then, one day she came down the stairs of our home on a sunny day and said, “Guess what?”  She looked serious but smiley and expecting something from me.  I think I responded, “Are…you…pregnant?”  (Background information – Amanda had tricked me into believing a baby was on the way on a prior April Fool’s day, and it was not funny to me, so I didn’t think she’d do it a second time.  Totally ruined that day for me.)  This time it was different.  She said, “I think so.”  She had the test, and I was pretty excited about the whole prospect but also worried now.  Could it be a mistake. So we tested a few more times and guess what – you were on the way!

The next few months are a blur, but here are a few details.  You vacationed with us at Lake Junaleska in the Kilgore summer home.  We walked around the lake and talked about our future with you and pondered how different life was going to be.  We also worried a bit about money  (births are expensive), but we kept having to lean in on God’s provision.  If you were coming, God would give us a way to support you in the way you would need it.  When we came back we got some loans out and paid for a midwife group in Savannah, GA that friends had mentioned was amazing.  We wanted you to start out right and with lots of care.  The birthing center did all your checkups, we took lessons on how to know when you were coming and what to do, Amanda’s mom came and spent a bit more than a month and a half with us as we prepared, and our church family at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC in Hilton Head became more and more excited!

I’m not going to lie.  I wanted you to be a boy, and my wish came true.  I’ve wanted to name you Ransom since I was in High School.  I met a young man in New York with that name, and I thought it was amazing. Your middle name Kelly, is my mom’s name, but I’d met guys who had it as their name, and I thought it was cool.  It means Warrior.  Ransom means to “Redeem”.  You are a Redeeming Warrior in my book.  I’m glad your mom liked it too.  If you had been a girl you’d have been Gwenfair, but perhaps that’ll be next.  I also prayed you would be good looking.  I think that is a tradition my grandma passed on. I remember her telling me she prayed for that and it came true of all her kids and grandkids.  Seems vain, but I thought – why not?  Overall, though, I prayed that you would be a great man of God full of faith and wisdom and compassion and justice.  I hope this comes true.

So what did we do waiting for you?  We kept exercising until Amanda couldn’t.  Running slowed and then you became so big that we had to chill a bit.  That was okay because we bought lots of ice cream.  I gained 15 lbs waiting for you (stress weight).  I wanted you to be healthy, I wanted to meet you, and everyone we talked to asked how you were doing.  As far as I could tell, you were doing good, and the doctors confirmed it.  Our church launched a second campus,  I played guitar a bit and helped lead up some new initiatives, but I slowly realized, as you were coming that I couldn’t do as much.

I let go of a few things in preparation to take care of you.  Lots of hobbies, writing, and some things that felt good to drop for a while.  I’d been doing some things for five years or more and it felt refreshing to reset for you.  All I wanted to do was see you and hang out with you.  The church was so loving and generous and we were blessed by their support as their gifts stocked you up on diapers, cute outfits and lots of gear we now use all the time.  Oh, and toys…and books!  So glad we can read to you all the amazing books full of rhymes, stories, and prayers.  I hope you really like to read.

The time started coming, and it became harder to wait.  Amanda’s mom was there so she helped out so much as it became harder for Amanda to move around the house and get around town.  She kept both of you safe and kept you both company when I was working at the church.  And as time came to your date, we prepared a kit to take down to Savannah (about 30 minutes from our house).  We thought you would be born in late February, but you didn’t think you needed to yet.  Each day we anticipated and thought, “Is this the day?”  We visited the midwives and they thought we had more time.  It wasn’t until March 16th (much later than we’d thought), and one day before we would have to have some help, at 42 weeks, you started to give signs you were ready.

Contractions began around 8 PM on March 15th and we timed them.  They were long and were becoming more regular.  We called the midwife center at about 9:30 PM, and they told us to meet them at 11 PM there.  Nancy was your midwife, and she was wonderful.  All of us drove down a little road dividing a marsh leading from Bluffton, SC to Savannah, GA in the middle of the night.  It was the day before Saint Patrick’s Day, so the roads were busy and it was dark.  We were very careful that we protected both of you by driving safely.  I remember worrying that the contractions would stop, and it would be a false alarm, but it wasn’t.   Nancy took the readings and guess what, you were on your way!  But it wasn’t easy.

Very soon, a strange heart issue appeared.  It was minor, but after a contraction your heartbeat slowed when it should have sped up.  Because of that Nancy made the call.  We would have to go from the midwife center to the hospital.  Nancy packed her stuff, and we packed ours and we drove over to Memorial Hospital about 8 minutes away.  The next 20 hours were amazing.

Over the course of your birth, we had a two midwives (Nancy and Jill), a Doula named Erin, and several nurses.  There was a lot of waiting, and your mom was incredible (if you’d been there, you would never ever disrespect your mom, and I think I’ll hold you to that in the future).  at 8:08 PM on March 16th you were born with the help of nurses, Jill the midwife, Erin our doula, your grandma Frankie, and myself.  I’ll never forget being with you when you were born.  Again – respect your mom.  Forever.

That night we were exhausted.  We didn’t know what we were doing, but I was proud.  I called your Grandma and Grandpa and Great Grandma and Great Grandma Griswold in New Hampshire and in Texas, respectively, to give them the  news.  A baby boy named Ransom (“Handsome Ransom” as per Jill Whitfield, our midwife) would sleep in the basinet we’d prepared for you next to our bed.

You were tiny, soft, and not as loud as I’d expected.  Your eyes were dark blue, and you had little tufts of brown fine hair.  Your hands were wrinkly, and you slept a lot (which we were thankful for).  And after a doctor checked you over, we took you home (after a call to AAA to replace a flat tire – that’s another story).

Now you are almost 5 months, and you’re giggling and laughing and playing with a strong grip and I’m pretty sure you’re going to be somewhat athletic.  You’re smart and like to see everything that’s going on, and you’re already an extravert.  Ask anyone at the church that’s held you.  You’re awesome and we love you incredibly.  We feel this when we creep into your room and watch you sleep. We’re so glad you’re here.

I’ll try and keep you updated as you grow and we figure all this stuff out as your new parents.  May God keep us all in His hands.

1 Samuel 1:27–28
“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.”

 

Baby

Be clear about your values to help prevent a ‘Patchwork Self’

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Being One
BY DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
November 6, 2013

In mathematics, an “identity” is an equation that is valid for all its variables.
For a human, the definition is similar. A quick search on Dictionary.com shows that most of the definitions of the word “identity” tend to assume “oneness.” For example: “the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another” and “the sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time.”

I first started thinking consciously about identity when I was taking classes in youth ministry with Dean Borgman, and he asked us to read David Elkind’s book, “All Grown Up and No Place to Go: Teenagers in Crisis,” which describes a disease of identity known as the “patchwork self.” This is a condition that happens to teens, or any age group, when they are under great stress without guides and relationships that encourage wholeness of self. This wholeness is inclusive of one’s value system and how one acts in the world according to those values.

The patchwork self is one who never created one homogenous set of values, and thus, acts according to whatever the norm is in the group they are in. An example would be a businessman who extorts money from a company with fellow co-workers, then chastizes children for stealing at the grocery store.

So why is this a problem? Why is it bad that people act differently with different groups? Isn’t that just part of getting along? I’m not talking about what brand of soda you like, or what type of frosting should be on the cake. I’m talking about the big things in life that require us to dig deeply into our value system and make decisions appropriately. These decisions forge new destinies.

One image of this that really got my attention was in the movie “Valkyrie,” starring Tom Cruise as a man who is charged by a secret party to assassinate Hitler. After the assassination attempt, communications would be sent telling the outside world that Hitler was dead. When the attempt came, they relayed the false message, and began relaying all the information that a new government had been set up.

A problem arises — Hitler is not dead. He restores communications and sends out messages to arrest the group. The communications hub receiving these transmissions then has to make a decision. Orders are going out for arrests of both sides. It is utter chaos. The leader of the hub is either committed to Hitler and his government (that is killing people and perpetuating war) or the opposition’s node and a revolutionary.

Either way, neutrality means losing. How is one supposed to be trusted if a simple decision cannot be made? In times of uncertainty, who leads? Sometimes situations require us to decide who we are and where we stand. It causes stress until the moment a decision is made.

What are your values? What is important? What decision would you have made?

In the letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Romans he states, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” He’s calling us to unify ourselves in common goodness with God’s purposes.

Meditate on these words for some time, and begin to think through the question: “Who am I?” and “What makes me who I am?” If chaos ensues, begin to work it through — take some time.

Sometimes there are patches on us that we didn’t know were there. The point is to discover and find the oneness that the definition of identity entails. And when you’re well along that trail, perhaps you can help a few others start that road and have fun doing it.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/11/06/2765209/be-clear-about-your-values-to.html#storylink=cpy

Pastor’s Corner: Shiny New Things by Daniel Griswold

New

Pastors Corner: Shiny New Things

By Daniel Griswold

Youth Director at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC

Hilton Head Island, SC   Twitter:  @Dannonhill     Email: DanielGriswold@Gmail.com

Blog: DanielGriswold.Wordpress.com

This article was originally published in The Island Packet, Bluffton Edition

Last Wednesday iOS 7, the newest operating system for the iPhone was released in the United States.  For an entire week building up to the launch, the internet and many of my friends had been buzzing, hoping to be able to be the first to try it out on their phone.  For non-Apple people, this is a major revamp of iOS and changes the look, feel and inner workings of the phone on a level not seen in a long time.  The New Factor was extremely high, much like someone waiting for a revamp of the prior year’s Corvette.  On launch, at 1 pm, Facebook and Twitter (as well as Instagram) went wild reporting those who could actually download it.  The demand being so high, that the servers could not bear the load of all, so many are waitlisted until a later time when the servers go idle.  This is not just an Apple phenomenon, in general, most people love new things.

I think on my own life, as my wife and I expect our first child, and the excitement that this new development is bringing to our home.  Last year we adopted a Mini-Scnauzer named Bella, and now, we’re going to have a real live human being to take care of.  I’ve already been told by just about everyone that our lives will be completely changed – and it is going to be good.  The newness of a future child has me nervous and excited, like being in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park – the really big ones.  All I know is that I’m going to do this – and I’m going to do all I can to make it as awesome as I can.  Adrenaline races through me as I think about it, and I’m finding my being refreshed, rebooted, and remade by my new reality.

The reverence that comes with viewing newness changes us, much like the moment in my life when I was renewed in the spirit as I began to try to understand God and began a relationship with Jesus years ago.  When I read these lines from 2 Corinthians in relation to looking at Christ as my savior from a life of darkness, and brought to a new light: “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!”  I imagine the earliest Christians grappling with what it would mean to live out a faith that was new and exciting and that would be pioneered as a lifestyle, often misunderstood, yet strong and full of the Spirit of God.

Like all new things, I felt pulled into its rotation by its natural beauty, and unlike an object that I hold in my hand, the relationship kindled by God’s love continues to transform me each and every day.  This message is for all, that we can be brand new, because there is a God in Heaven who came to us, and says, “Come with me.”

Foundations in Youth Ministry: Making Mission Part of Your Mission

Panama Mission - Making Concrete

Foundations in Youth Ministry:

Making Mission Part of Your Mission

By Daniel Griswold

(This is the first copy of the article published in The Advocate, UMC Publication in the South Carolina Conference)

When first starting a ministry to youth, mission may not seem like a huge priority.  There is a budget (or lack of) to wrestle with, relationships to build, schools to visit, parents to meet, programs to run, volunteers to lead, and a new pastor to get to know.  That’s a small fraction of the to-do list, and wrangling a team together and convincing them to pay good money, or fundraise to travel and be inconvenienced by the unpredictability of travel seems like a hard sell.  It would be far easier to do some quick local service projects, we all can feel helpful, and we sleep well at night knowing our kids can work hard.

There is a small problem though.  I’ve yet to see local service projects have the same personally transforming experience that a week and a half serving others in a foreign situation can.  Why is that?  I think that there are a few factors that come into play that bring about a huge transformation in young people.

First, being inconvenienced and having to convince oneself that serving others is worthy my time, money and effort creates a self-sacrificing atmosphere.  Youth can often be idealists, so speaking about the good that can be done and showing the people that we can serve with builds not only compassion, but camaraderie with peoples around the globe.  Once the team is on the ground, they can already be an oiled team who has met the challenges of fundraising, getting passports, doing paperwork, and learning the local culture and possibly language.  Once on the ground, it is assumed that the projects will be hard, that everyone will have to step beyond comfort, and because of this, everyone is stretched.  It is in these situations of stress that we can learn who we all really are.

Second, young people need to see that God is alive and is working through the hearts and hands of people all across the globe.  Sometimes we accidentally fall into the mentality that we, the privileged, can go and serve among the unfortunates who need our help.  This is dangerous thinking because it sets us in a caste above those we serve.  I’ve always been able to experience excellent teams who realize that we are going to serve with and among good hard working people, and partner with Christians and missionaries already on the ground.  We become part of a continuum.  We bear our own weight and don’t expect more because of our lifestyles back home, and we worship in the styles and culture of Methodists here and there.  In this we begin to see a glimpse of the future multi-national, all-cultural unity of the Kingdom of God.  Those who see it tend to get over some of the petty cultural battles that disengage the church from its true mission to spread the Gospel through action and love.

Throughout scripture, in the Old and New Testaments, God calls out to His people and says “Go”. “Go where?” I don’t know where God will lead you and your young people, but it is clear that it is in the midst of going out that we begin to fully understand what it must have been like for Moses to leave Midian to save his people, or for the apostles including Paul, who went out and became missionaries to all people who would listen and come alongside them.  Our youth groups need someone with leadership and vision enough to take on the challenge and say, “We need to listen to God and go out.”

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission constantly run great trips.  Salkehatchie, with 48 camps across the state, has been amazing for our youth group as well, and allows for in-state but still out of comfort trips uniting many churches with one mission.  Talk with your church’s mission committee or to those who are passionate about mission opportunities and to ask them, “How can we get young people serving alongside you?”  It may take some time to build the chain of trust with working adults and retirees, but the resulting intergenerational opportunity will break open misconceptions of all sorts and show the world that our God is not someone who segregates us by culture, race, age, geography or whatever separates us.  We are all children of the same God, and we are all in need of the saving Love of Jesus Christ.  Your youth group may or may not grow in numbers, but you’ll likely produce a few world changers.  Pray about it and meditate a bit on the Great Commission at the end of Matthew.  Jesus said, Go.  Let’s get going.

 

Youth Director at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC

Hilton Head Island, SC   Twitter:  @Dannonhill     EmailDanielGriswold@Gmail.com 

Revolution: An Amazing UMC Youth Group Retreat – Our Group’s Report

Amazing-Revolution

Revolution 2013 Youth
Growing with God this Weekend in Columbia, SC
14 of the Surf and ACDC Youth set out on an adventure to Columbia to the USC Coliseum for a Revolution.  We joined thousands of youth from Methodist Youth Groups from around the state there for an amazing time of worship, challenging talks, and amazing arts meant to inspire and grow our faith.
We knew it would be a great weekend when the entire stage erupted with a Youth Group version of the Harlem Shake, with youth ministers and youth from all over running up and dancing for about 30 seconds.  This was definitely going to be an energy packed weekend.  Watch the video – its a bit crazy ;D
Harlem Shake at Revolution SCUMC
Harlem Shake at Revolution SCUMC

Then the big worship started.  The Digital Age began us in songs of hope, worship, and love of God with a sonic envelope of amazingness.  All our young people ran up front and they can be seen in many of the conference pictures taken from the stage worshipping, laughing, enjoying the entire experience.

From Hip-Hop (SPF on!) to worship through dance, amazing choir singing from Claflin, and a country performance by a local young person – we were inspired and wrapped in the love of a God who gives us talents and abilities to lead and point everyone back to His amazing presence.
All weekend long our speaker Mark Oestricher challenged us in our faith to “Build and Reconstruct” ourselves looking to Christ as our center.  He talked about the Stupid things we do, and how sin can effect our lives and hurt those we care about.  We learned how we are all misfits who are in desperate need of being rescued by God.  He pushed us to think about living a life of holiness, centered on Him alone.  He talked about being like a baby eagle who makes a journey from the nest and has a mother eagle who teaches us how to fly making sure that we don’t hit the ground when we are dropped and learning how to fly.  He challenged us to take risks in faith and to live it in an action packed way.  The main scripture verse John 10:10 wrapped it all up, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  I could see the eyes light up, and faith grew this weekend.
 In the midst of the conference we grew closer to each other, as we got to know each other better in the hotel, chilled and ate meals together, served together picking out good potatoes from the nasty ones for a local food back (40,000 lbs of potatoes were sorted and bagged for local families).
God has done an amazing thing in this group, and it is my prayer as a youth minister, that their inspiration will translate to transformed lives in the people around them, and they would feel a boldness to spread the light, the goodness of Jesus Christ to anyone who will listen.  Just ask one of our participating young people, and you will find the seeds of a faith that is alive and ready to reach others in love.
-Daniel Griswold, Director of Youth
Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC
 For more information about Revolution check out the website: 

Beginning in Youth Ministry: The Art of Perseverance

never give up churchill

Foundations for Youth Ministry: Perseverance

Albert Einstein is quoted often, saying “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”  He may have been a physicist but it seems that he knew a bit about youth ministry too.  Youth Ministry is cyclical and many elements remain the same: our core truths and teachings, the liturgical calendar and the repetition of the cycles of middle and high school and then graduations.  We are often doing the same things over and over (though in varying and extremely creative ways).  Case in point: I’m so sick of pizza, but each generation of young people seem to gravitate towards it.  It blows my mind!

Here is a modification: “Youth Ministry: doing the same things over and over again, expecting wildly different results.”  Each person ministered to, whether part of a large or small youth group, over time will own their faith in sometimes extreme variations. I’m always surprised by the energy that explodes from empowered young people, and I love (absolutely LOVE) seeing their ideas become reality.

But the hard part of that same principle is the “doing the same things over and over.”  There is a repetition to ministry, and to relationships in general.  How many times do you ask “How are you doing this week?”  “What’s up?”  “How’s the family”  “What are your plans for the holidays?” “Who are you going to be?”  “How can I help you make your dreams reality?”  “Where is my phone?”  “Seriously! Who took my phone? …and my backpack …with my laptop?!”

Monotony and the ordinary challenges of this ministry (the almost parental worry; safety during events; the many awkward conversations; walking with the teen who has thrown off their faith), means that there is a serious burn out risk in the first year to 18 months of ministry.  Notice earlier that I made a correlation between insanity and youth ministry.  You don’t necessarily have to be insane to jump in, but over time, your heart has to be radically oriented towards care and love of those who so desperately need it.  You will need to constantly refresh your God orientation.  Otherwise, you’ll burn out.

How does one do youth ministry day after day, year after year, and dare I say decade after decade?  The easy answer is “Just do it.”  We all have to.  Young people are everywhere and they need adult guidance.  That helps me, but a more theological response is that ministry to the young is a sacred responsibility given to all of us.  No one can say, “I’m not made for this,” or “I’m too old.”  God has made us the stewards of not only the earth, but of the cultivation of future generations.

Deuteronomy Ch. 6:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

If the love of God is on your heart, share it continually and meticulously with those who are young.  The potential is great, and the results of your perseverance will change lives.  Don’t look at the short-term challenges (just face them).  The real rewards come at the back end.

 

(This article was originally published in The Advocate, South Carolina’s Connectional Newspaper for the SC United Methodist Church)

Beginning in Youth Ministry: Making a Proper Foundation, Planning, and Philosophy

Philosophy Definition

Building a Philosophy of Youth Ministry

Khufu’s pyramid in Egypt was a limestone masterpiece that originally stood 488 ft, towering on the skyline and impressing people with the weight of its magnificence.  A people do not undertake such a massive project without knowing a few things about how to build or without a guiding philosophy about what needs to be accomplished.  Obviously there needs to be a strong foundation for such a heavy structure.  As the tower of Pisa highlights, when you build on soft ground, eventually what you build will be in danger of falling over.  If the structure is too top-heavy, it will collapse under its own weight.  Not to mention that you have to have access to stone and the relationships and leadership and labor to pull off such a massive scale project.

So what makes us think that we can go into such an important construction project like Youth Ministry without having a strong foundation and a vision for its growth?  Many have walked in with the mantra “Fake it ‘til you make it,” though that’s hardly ever a formula for true success in ministry.  There has to be clear guidelines for your leadership, your team, your students and the destiny of your ministry.  Remember that you are building for eternity in the hearts of young people.  Their lives will continue on in an everlasting line, and the trajectory of your ministry will be a strong parallel in their spiritual growth.  Like a good football coach or architect, you have to have a game plan to execute.

Take a few moments and vision out the goals of your ministry and build a framework based on biblical principles for how you’re going to accomplish your goals.   I begin with a simple purpose statement (see Doug Fields, “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry”), and ours is simply “Saint Andrew By-The-Sea’s youth ministry exists to create lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ.”  It gets to the “Why” of what we are doing together.  Next, I dug into the scriptures, studied youth ministry a bit, and prayed through my passion to reach families and youth and discovered five principles that would guide our ministry.

A Short Youth Ministry Philosophy:

(1) Our ministry is Theological and Discipling in nature (Matthew 28:8-20). We need to encourage reflection on God’s work in the world (past, present, and future) and help students to live engulfed in God’s Word.  (2) We are a relational/incarnational presence in youth’s everyday lives (John 1:14).  (3) We are a family centered, equipping ministry (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16).  Parents are important to us, and by ministering to the whole family system, youth are better off and equipped to be strong and succeed in their faith journey.  (4) We are a life enabling and counseling as a community (John 13:34-35).  By connecting youth and families to one another, and by listening to the needs and concerns of all, we gain a glimpse of the Kingdom of God here and now.  (5) We are a team based ministry (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Love is spelled T-I-M-E, and it takes a lot of it to build a relationship with a student and more to walk with them in faith.  Because of this, it is impossible for one Youth Worker/Leader/Pastor to reach out to all the students deeply, and simultaneously.

So what does your youth ministry foundation look like?  It may look a bit different.  Take some time and seriously consider what heights can stand on the foundation of God’s glory.

(This article was originally published in The Advocate, South Carolina’s Connectional Newspaper for the SC United Methodist Church)