Why I live!

It was still early when the place He laid was empty! I live, because it was empty. There would be no reason for me to get up in the morning if He didn’t do what He said He would do! 

I tell the youth I serve and my own sons, that would have no reason to go on in the life if I didn’t believe that Jesus did what He said He would do! I live because He lives!

And because He lives, I can face tomorrow! I have committed my entire life to following Him! It has changed everything in my life – His resurrection! 

What has it changed for you? Are you stuck where you feel like life is just happening to you? 

When He is in control, when I’ve surrendered everything to Him…I’m full. I’m not saying it is easy nor am I saying it isn’t a moment by moment decision everyday. But what I am say, is because He is no longer dead but alive, I can have a life forever connected to my God. I’ve found only one God that chases after me like Christ! His love is abundant and all surpassing! 

Why do you live? What causes you to say “yes” to tomorrow! I know for me it is because of Christ!

Advertisements

Two Decades in Youth Ministry

This year I start my 20th year in youth ministry. In 3 days I’ll be celebrating my 39th birthday. All of this has put me in a reflective attitude. 

One of the very first youth I remember working with was a kid who’s life had been turned upside down by his parents getting a divorce. Also, a group of 10th grade boys that I was able to follow all the way through their high school career (I still pray for each of them). 

This morning I had breakfast with one of the young people who was in my youth ministry and is now a peer, one of my closest friends – I’ve known him the longest!

Youth ministry is a calling I felt at a very young age after my volunteer youth leader, Bruce, spoke at my summer bible camp and asked those who felt called in full time vocational ministry to stand after his sermon. I’m still just as passionate today about seeing youth come to know Christ as the leader of their life, but my role in that is to empower others who share this passion and calling to be more authentic, more honest about their journey, more effective in their care and empathy for youth. 

The population of youth I work with have changed over the years from youth “in the church” to youth who are considered the most high risk and have suffered the most on this earth. But three things are the same in all of these young people: they want to belong, they want to know they matter, and they want to be loved!

In 3 days I will be 39, I know it isn’t the big 4-0 or what people say is over the hill, but many of the youth that used to be in my student ministry have kids now and even though that makes me feel a bit older, I know I am just as passionate about discipling young people to follow Jesus more and understand His love for them moment by moment each day as I was when I was first approached by Ray Fritz to work with the Harvard Avenue Baptist youth ministry.

To all the youth that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of your life, I thank you for the honor to be a trusted friend to you and I pray that you will live loved on this journey, know God more each day, and feel His love in a tangible way moment by moment! The most spiritual thing we do day in and day out is choose, choose to follow Him or choose to ignore Him. My life is dedicated to knowing Christ more and loving Him more! 

If you would like to partner with me, for my birthday I’d like to invite you to participate in giving to youth we serve through Denver Area Youth for Christ. Even $5 goes along way, my friends on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter would raise over $20,000 if everyone gave a little. That would allow us to work with 200 more youth. If God leads you would you join us in generousity. These weeks leading up to Easter could be the time that youth make a decision to have Christ lead their lives and change forever their families for the future! https://dayfc.givingfuel.com/jjm-unruh

“For the least, the hurting, the marginalized, the abused, and the searching!”

Mother

My mom has taught me so much. I remember a day that I wanted to go outside for the 5th time and hadn’t learned to tie my shoe yet, mom said if I could tie my shoes I could go outside. It was just the motivation I needed to learn a skill, as well as my Kindergarten teacher didn’t have to tie my shoe everyday (Teachers, am I right?!)

This was one of many lessons my mom taught me. Mom showed me tons of grace, I know I gave my parents more gray hair. One night mom was waiting up for me when I show up late for curfew…she wouldn’t scold or give me the 5th degree, she would simply ask me about my night and let me know she loved me.

mom

I remember one time mom did have to come down pretty hard on me. I was interning with the organization I work for now and I was young and making stupid decisions with relationships. She was visiting her sister, my Aunt, and asked me to help her in the garage. It was her way to get me alone and give me the “what for”, I knew she was right and I knew I needed to make a better decisions that summer. Her talk was the push I needed at a time in my life that I needed to hear those words from her, I would have only listened to her!

Thanks mom for being everything I’ve needed through out the years. Your unconditional love for me has been an example for me that has helped me learn out to take care of my family! Thank you for reading devotions to me every night of my childhood and for bringing me to Christ as a child.

I’m who I am today because of my mom! I love you and am so thankful for your love and nurturing of me in my life. Happy Mother’s Day! (sorry the card is late, it’s in the mail)

Does prayer work

IMG_5057

This is something I devote much of my life to, I spend time with so many people in my day and we spend so much time doing this…praying. Today, I’m finding it hard to pray.

Cancer is in my family history, 3 out of 4 of my grandparent’s died of cancer. Now, my Uncle Roger has it. He fought it a few years back and we thought we were free and clear but now it is back with a vengeance.  In my mind, the justice part of me for those that know what I do in my calling, it would make sense for those who are making poor choices in life that they would get cancer! But not the best of the best!!

The thing about Uncle Roger is that he is the same whether he is standing in front of 20,000 youth or sitting 1:1 with someone. He is the same whether he is at home or on a trip with all his friends. He is constant and has this ability to make you feel like a million bucks, everyone he comes in contact with feels a familia connection to Uncle Roger. I wish I had even an ounce of that skill!

I believe in miracles, I see them everyday in big and small ways so I don’t lack the faith to pray for them or for Uncle Roger to have a miracle happen in his body. Every miracle performed in the Bible pointed to God or to Christ, to be a witness and honor to the power and presence of God! So do that God! But…I know that in life or death my Uncle Roger’s story and his journey is changing hundreds of thousands of lives! I know that because I have seen that on his caring bridge page to his facebook page to the pictures people are posting and their memories to the cards, letters, and mail that he is receiving. I know many friends that are reeling because of this news with the cancer coming back and how quickly is it affecting him.

So I sit here, reflecting on my time with him!

_Playing basketball in the gym of Markhoma in Tahlequah, OK.

_Having him bounce me on his knee when I was a toddler.

_His jokes, faces, smile, and laughter.

_Cleaning fish at the WickiUp Village cabins.

_The tears we have shed together.

_Meeting with him in the office at YFC/USA to pick his brain as the president of Youth for Christ.

_Being my constant encouragement when I’m discouraged in ministry.

_Monthly breakfasts with him.

…calling me Howdy Doody (I need to find out why he called me that!)

Praying for my Uncle Roger!

I don’t get it!

I hear my own son working on homework saying, “I don’t get it!” I sit in youth facilities each week and hear them say, “I don’t get it!” I look at our education system in high school and the lack of arts, vocation, or creative ways to present the material and I say, “I don’t get it!”

homework-600x420

I get to be with youth everyday that don’t get it, most don’t get a dad, most don’t get help with and academics, most are reading at only a 4th grade reading level, most don’t have any support or reason to show up for school, and most had to stay at home to watch siblings while mom goes to her third job.  Education has such a big influence on success of a youth after they turn 18!

You can help! We might not be able to change the education system but you can help support youth who need one-on-one time to work through their education, help them with the motivation necessary to be in that trade that would fit them better. See the greatness in them and walk through small goals, encouraging them along the way. It is so important to catch our young people doing something right! Why do we default to just yelling at them for what they’ve done wrong!

A caring adult mentor who cares about youth can change a young person’s life completely. Support, consistency, care, empathy, listening. prayer, asking good questions, pushing them to achieve their goals, patience, seeking to understand, earning trust are all descriptors of our best mentors! Our youth have the deck stacked against them from day one, we can help turn the odds and show up in their lives.

Start with your own children. How about other friend’s kids? Your neighbor’s children? It doesn’t have to be complicated but education and mentoring can keep a young person on the right track!

To be a Dad…

dad unruh

I know that today has many mixed feelings for many! I work with many of youth that do not know their dad or their dad was never around, for that I’m truly sorry and have so much love for you because of Christ’s love for me!

I have a Dad that focused on the most important things in his life and that was Christ! If it wasn’t for my dad I wouldn’t have the three incredible sons I have today and would not have had the example of a Christ follower that I’m able to pass on to my kids!

If it wasn’t for my dad I wouldn’t have the ministry I have to hurting, broken, orphaned youth that I have today!  My dad taught me hard work, responsibility, integrity, and character AND because of that I am able to give back what was passed on to me!

I love you Dad! Happy Father’s Day! Thanks for raising me in the way Christ would have me live! Enjoy today! You deserve it!

Cost of Mentoring

Jenny and Marcy

When adults talk with me about mentoring for our program I share that we will prepare them for this new journey the best we can. But I never know how to prepare them for the disappointments they will experience and for the strong connection they will have with their mentee.

A recent conversation I had with one of our mentors is no exception. “Jenny”, the mentor, is working with “Marcy”, the mentee. Marcy shared with Jenny that she has dropped out of school because the school counselor called the police to have her taken to the hospital and now she doesn’t trust the school. Marcy hasn’t been home for 3 months and when she was talking with Jenny she was staying that the Spire, a downtown high rise in Denver, by herself. Both Jenny and I think that this could be a trafficking situation.

As Jenny and I continue to talk about the situation it is not our role to “fix it” but to be available and ready when Marcy will ask for help from us and to continue to build trust. Jenny continues to see Marcy on a weekly basis and talks through future, goals, and what is best for Marcy. Marcy has said she is lonely, doesn’t feel loved at home, hopeless and helpless, but when she hangs out with Jenny she feels “normal”.

Jenny seems to be the glue right now for Marcy and her life. Jenny is committed to the best for Marcy and prays, hopes, and encourages Marcy to make choices that are best for her. They have a long way to travel on this journey, but as we care for Jenny and helping her with healthy boundaries and taking care of her own spiritual and emotional healthy we will continue to see change for the better in Marcy’s life.

Would you consider this investment in a young person, even if it isn’t with an organization? (i.e. friend’s teenager, neighborhood kid, etc.)