Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Crying for the "Tough Guys"

Today I went to visit a teen guy who presents a pretty tough facade. He has only come to Contact a handful of times, and those times were all about life on his terms. One of his first visits was at a basketball fellowship time with the teen boys. I laid out the rules of conduct for how we as guys need to respect each other. He came up to me after my talk when all the guys had cleared out from signing the contract of conduct. He felt like I was looking at him the whole time. I knew then that this guy had been judged before by people in authority and that this could be a rough relationship as he carried a chip on his shoulder.

Today we talked outside of his home on the small concrete slab of a front porch. We chatted for a while, and then he asked if I have a daughter. He then asked if I cried when she was born. I don't remember crying per se, but I do remember being close to it with all of the joy in the moment. He asked if my wife Sarah cried. Yep. He said, "That's dumb to cry about that." My knee jerk response was to give him the three point sermon about why he was wrong. I just said that crying is not a right or a wrong thing, not even a dumb thing. He said that he doesn't cry. He just holds in the anger and started to explain that this is probably why he feels so angry. He caught himself in the midst of this and went back to making rude comments. He made rude comments about stuff in which he knew nothing. He wanted to get a rise out of me, and with the Lord's grace, I didn't take the bait. He had felt uncomfortable letting his guard down, if even for a moment. I told him that I realize it's hard being uncomfortable talking about stuff on the inside, but he wasn't having anymore of that being vulnerable stuff.

He told me not to come back to his house anymore, that I was of no benefit to him. As I left him, I said, "I love you, man." He turned around and asked, "Are you gay?" I just said "no" and left the premises.

As I reflected on my drive back to Contact, I realized that this guy was throwing out at me all of the ugly stuff that he could muster. He wanted to see if I would beat him down, if I would judge him, if I would let him know that his hurt and anger was too ugly to look at. The ugliness coming out is a sign of the "ugliness" that he sees in himself--"Could God really love me as I am?" When I go to see him next time, I'll let him know.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mother Daughter Tea- by Sarah

Last weekend the teen girls hosted a Mother Daughter Tea for their Moms and Grandmas. It was the result of several weeks of planning by the girls and numerous trips to the store by me. It was definitely worth it when I saw them sit down with the important women in their lives and enjoy tea, cookies, and laughter.

The girls gathered on Friday night and set up tables, arranged flowers, painted flowerpots (as gifts for moms), laid out centerpieces, etc… It was a late night, but well worth it. When we left the building, the Contact “cafĂ© area” was transformed into a tearoom, complete with china teacups and cloth napkins. Quite different from our normal paper plate affairs at Contact!

Saturday afternoon my mom, grandma, and sister (who came into town for the event) helped me put the finishing touches which mostly involved making sure the food was ready- cucumber sandwiches, mini-tarts, and shortbread cookies, and of course, tea. The girls arrived with their moms and grandmas. We took their pictures together to remember the day. One of our teens, who generally has a very solemn demeanor, had the most beautiful smile for the camera.

When everyone had arrived they were welcomed by two of our girls. Then they were ready to serve tea and snacks to their families. In this soda pop and latte culture I truly expected everyone to just sip a little tea and be done. I was so surprised to see everyone, including the teens, going back for refills and enjoying the tea and company.

When the teapots were getting close to empty, we played a game, “How well do you know your mom/daughter?” I asked a series of questions such as: “What is your daughter’s favorite T.V. show?” and “What is your mom’s least favorite household chore?” It was so funny to watch the girls and their moms try to get inside each others’ heads. In the end, Porsche and her mom won the prize. This was especially meaningful since Porsche and her mom have only recently begun to develop much of a relationship.

I hope this is the beginning of a Contact Mother’s Day tradition. I loved watching the girls and their moms enjoy the time together, but I also enjoyed getting to help walk the girls through the planning of an event like this. I would guess most of our teens rarely sit down to a meal of any sort with their family, especially with fancy china and cloth napkins. This was an opportunity to learn how to plan an event, participate in a dress-up tea, and make a positive memory with family. Mission accomplished.

Special thanks to my mom, Mary Ashlock, my Grandma, Mary Wood, and my sister, Rachel for all their help. Thanks also to D. MacGuffee for letting us borrow her china. You guys helped provide a great memory for the girls and for me!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Pray for Everybody

I find in urban ministry that when you ask people what to pray for, they answer, "Well, just pray for everybody." A few years ago, a dear sister Marie Thomas in Memphis would always ask us to pray for everybody as we sat in her apartment unit waiting for her kids to come home from school. She died at the hospital, while taking care of one of her children. She had medical problems that she didn't seek help for because she was so busy thinking of her children. Yesterday I rolled around Tulsa with a young guy named Taylor. When I asked him who we could pray for, he guessed it, "everybody." He didn't want to leave anyone out. He has a single dad who takes care of him and his sister. Tonight Miriam and I went to visit a family with nine children. One of them is on the verge of either going the way of the world or possibly the way of the Lord, probably the first option. When I asked his family what we could pray for, he said, "Everybody." I said, "Well, let's get more specific." The response "everybody" is a heavy burden that often leaves me speechless before God. They are right--we can't leave anybody out.