UnreLENTing Optimism

We begin every youth group meeting at my church with a quick poll. Going around the room the leader asks every person how the week was, on a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being the worst week of their lives, 10 being the best they can imagine. Being the even-keeled, level-headed guy that I am, I usually offer up something in the 4 to 6 range. I figure most weeks are pretty average. However, I’m positively Eeyore-ish compared with everyone else, especially the teens,

“It was fine. Pretty normal week, I guess. Probably a 9”

What?

“I think, I’m an 8. I failed a math exam and got in a fight at school.”

Excuse me?

“School was ok. But, I lost my leg in a wood chipper and my mom caught meningitis ….so, 7 and ½” *

Oh, c’mon!

I usually feign annoyance: “how can you be so reckless with your 8’s and 9’s,” I scold. “It leaves no headroom for true growth. This happiness inflation is unsustainable and irresponsible!” (channeling my best Peter Schiff) But, the high numbers continue unabated. In fact, I’m even routinely teased for my moderate stance on weekly events.

The "overly positive" attitudes on display every Friday night at our inner-city Nazarene church are an interesting phenomenon. No doubt, they’re mediated by several influences: the use of an educational grading scale where mid 70’s (or, in our case, 7’s) is average, defense mechanisms to diminish the import of personal problems, peer-pressure to fit in with the rest of the group, etc. However, I think it also goes back to an ever-pervading under-current of American optimism. Tocqueville’s 200-year-old assessment that we “all consider society as a body in a state of improvement” still appears to ring true, according to several recent surveys.

While this optimism has a host of positive benefits (e.g., providing a living wage to self-help authors and "life coaches"), it often negatively affects our ability to be obedient in an important area: to mourn - both for our sin and the sin of the world. Jeremiah's command to Israel to "put on sackcloth and roll in ashes; Mourn as for an only son, a lamentation most bitter" (Jer. 6:26) seems a million miles away from the never-say-die, it's-not-the-size-of-the-dog-in-the-fight, "So, you're tellin' me there's a chance" pop American mantra. We appreciate Jesus blessing the mourner with comfort, but we often miss that to be comforted, you must first...      mourn.

One of the reminders of the Lenten season is to temper our optimism with a realism regarding the gravity of sin and our frail humanity. Or, in other words, as I struggle to fulfill my Lenten fast, I'm reminded that not only am I dust, but this dust has a REALLY hard time just getting up on time and avoiding insignificant things like facebook or internet video. This dust can barely eliminate Coca-cola from a diet or spend an uninterrupted half-hour in prayer, much less enact true righteousness in the relationships around me. Without continual Spirit intervention, I'm an uncontrolled mess - a violent, prostituting idolater, to borrow Hosea's words.

Thus, the promise of God through Ezekiel become all the more poignant:

"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Ezek. 36:25-27)

This Lenten season, may God continue to remove any pieces of our divided heart of stone, and in its place, impart a heart of flesh that His Spirit may replace our brokenness with His wholeness. May our optimism rest in the faithfulness of our God who transforms His people into "vessel[s] for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:21b)

In His Service,

Your District Admin Team

* Almost not hyperbole

 

Women's Retreat

Women's Retreat on March 11-13 is less than 2 weeks away! If you have not registered yet, time is running out. Registrations are now being accepted on space available basis. Registration payments are due in full by March 1st. Send one church check to: Kim Smith [10489 Bellflower Ave., Cherry Valley, CA  92223 - (909) 915-4734; ordwoman4god@aol.com.]

 

Basketball Tournament

Saturday, March 19th PLNU and San Diego First Church will host the annual Nazarene basketball tournament. If you and/or your church is interested in playing or participating, please call Denny Clark at (760) 805-5763. 2015 saw 20 teams participate with groups from both the So. Cal and Anaheim districts. We hope for an even stronger showing this year.

 

PLNU Women's Auxiliary and Friends

This year, PLNU's Women's Auxiliary and Friends will host their annual spring luncheon on Sunday, April 3, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Talega Golf Club (990 Avenida Talega, San Clemente, CA 92673). The cost will be $25.00 per person and will feature a light buffet lunch, a devotional with Rev. Larry Pitcher, live music, door prizes, and a silent auction. Proceeds will go toward rebuilding of the Prescott Prayer Chapel. For more information or to donate please go here.

 

Prime Time Retreat

Mark your calendars! On April 18 - 21, Murrieta Calvary Chapel will be hosting "The Gathering" Prime Time retreat. Our speaker will be Dr. Jim Bond, former General Superintendent and PLNU president. In addition, Brain Arner will be joining us in concert Monday evening. Please see the Prime Time retreat district webpage for registration and more information.

 

Church Plant Kick-off Dinner

Living Water Church of the Nazarene, church plant of Southeast Church of the Nazarene in San Diego, is having a fund-raising dinner on Sunday evening, April 24th. For more information on this new church initiative in East Village, downtown San Diego, check livingwaternazarene.com or email Pastor Chris Nafis personally.

 

Elevate

We have 10 things you need to know about this year's Elevate. So, without further ado...

  1. We have a new, easier-to-use registration platform
  2. We have a cap of 1400 registrants
  3. We will have a waiting list for late registrants
  4. We will not have any more sponsors in training spots
  5. Students must be, at the youngest, going into 7th grade to attend
  6. The cost is $150, but the early bird price is only $125
  7. Early bird deadline is April 25. Registration begins March 1
  8. Payment is by online checks only
  9. Registration at:  elev8event.com
  10. Mark your calendars for May 27-30

For more info on the new platform and Elevate 2016, please watch this.

Socal Roundup

Formerly known as "Caravan Roundup," the SoCal Roundup will be taking place May 20 - 22 at the Indian Hills Camp in Jamul, CA. It'll be a weekend packed with outdoor activities for all ages as well as inspiring times of praise and worship. Camp areas are available for churches interested in making this weekend a youth or family camping trip. Prices range from $30 - $57 per person for tent, cabin, or structure camping. For more information contact Janet Crow. And, remember - you don't need to have a Caravan program to participate.

 

Senior-High Camp

So. Cal Senior-High Summer Camp, themed "Handcrafted," will be  June 27 - July 1 at Pine Summit campgrounds. Early registration has begun and will extend to June 6th (price of $280 if postmarked by June 6). All entrants after will be considered late (Postmarked after June 6 will be $290). Check out our promotional video and our district Senior-High camp webpage for registration forms and further info.

 

Mid-High Camp

District Mid-High camp will be July 25-29 at Idyllwild Pines Christian Camp. The theme this year is "Illuminate" and will feature all sorts of games, activities, and strong Biblical teaching. All campers, counsellors, and parents, please check our District Mid-High Camp webpage for registration forms and promotional materials. Hope to see you there!

 

Monthly Reporting

Pastors, please remember that the district needs your monthly church stats reported here.  Your cooperation is greatly appreciated as it allows your D. S. to minister more effectively. Rev. Taylor is now offering a 6 week class on how to complete the monthly report most effectively entitled: "You Could've Been Done By Now!: How I learned to stop procrastinating and love the report."

 

A Fresh Start Thank You

Thanks to all those who helped with “Fresh Start.” We had 379 adults and 25 in the Nursery! For those involved in church discipleship this upcoming "planting season," just remember: If you paint a vision of changed lives, people finding answers, and gaining valuable tools for life many will want to join in. A good strategy is to show fruit from last year's garden as you start to plant.  One of the best weeks to plant a new class or start a new subject is the week after Easter.

We appreciate your hard work,

Rev. Kevin O'Connor

 

Church year apocalypse

The end of the church year has been changed to March 31. Please mark your calendars accordingly and warn all your friends and loved ones of the impending doom.

 

Church Financial Stats

We are working on making monthly church financial reports available in each newsletter. However, spreadsheets are hard. So, until we get all the issues squared away, here's a .gif of Scrooge McDuck diving into money. Just pretend this is Rev. Taylor diving into the district budget surplus.

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