The vacuum wasn’t vacuuming this past week. I tried cleaning out the hose, pulled the junk out of the catch-basin, and did all the usual things, including cleaning out the filter that is very visible (and was very much in need of cleaning). But still – nothing. So I did what any man would do (at least a man who’s man enough to vacuum): I just kept trying to vacuum. If it didn’t pick up the stuff on the first pass, then try it again thirty or forty more times. Finally, in absolute frustration that – unbelievably – my method was not working, I turned the thing off and tried again. This time I noticed (read: actually read the little instruction stickers that are all over the thing like it was some sort of Nascar racer) there was another filter under the main catch basin that I had missed. I cleaned it, and voila – suction.
I kind of wish I had a clearly marked filter on things in my life: my mouth, my thoughts, my actions. I think I would be much kinder. I know I would be more thoughtful. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have nearly as many Homer Simpson “doh!” episodes.

The real problem? I DO have that filter. It (He) is called “the Holy Spirit”. He is the one who is tapping me on the shoulder saying “don’t do that! That’s sin!” He is the one who says “Don’t go there – that’s simply not where you need to be.” He is the one who says “Don’t say that!”
But there I am – running full steam into the places I shouldn’t go, saying full-bore the things that simply didn’t need to be said.

But this site is about things that DO need to be said. So let me say this to you who might be reading this: youth pastors. You guys rock. You are doing something that not only affects today by ministering to a generation that has, in many regards, lost, or not been shown, the reality of the Living God – but also, because of that, affects generations to come. And you do it in the midst of some very difficult times. I truly honor you, and I am very thankful for you.

But because you live out this calling in times that are difficult, it can be easy to get discouraged. And when we are discouraged, our filters can get clogged, and we say, and do, and even don’t do, things that might be out of line.

So I want to encourage you: check your filters. In fact, have someone you trust help you with it – they might see some clogs or filters that you miss. If you’re married, your wife might be the one who can help you, but that might be one filter you’re missing: ie, you might not be seeing the clogs in that relationship. (Have you gone on a date night recently? Did you leave your cell phone alone? I heard recently “if you tweet about your date while you are ON your date, you basically suck”. I agree!)

What, you might ask, does all this have to do with thankfulness and filters?

I’m thankful for you guys. And I’m thankful for God’s grace. He loves me – even when I allow my filter to get totally clogged. I’m thankful for the grace of God’s people – who do a lot of the same. (Okay – not always; but I understand that all of our filters get clogged at various times over different things.)

I’m thankful. That, in fact, is one of the best filters I have. Thankfulness for all that God gives, and provides through His people, is a great filter that keeps the things out of my life that might really clog me up and keep me from having any effectiveness at all.
So, thanks. (I was going to say something clever right here like “you help me not suck” – but I decided to filter that.)

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