We get to Choose

It seems like a lot of life comes to us or even at us, often leaving us with the feeling that we have no choice in the matter. Sometimes it’s little things like our kid gets on a lousy little league team, the restaurant runs out of the special of the day that sounded so good to us, some car wreck in front of us brings traffic to a crawl or a storm comes in and rains out our plans for a big day outdoors. We didn’t do anything to cause these things, they just happened to us. Other times however it’s big things, difficult things, painful things, things that can alter the course of our life. A loved one gets cancer, our pastor gets caught in an affair and our church is a mess, our child has a learning disability that makes school way too difficult and painful, or in my case your job comes to an end. It wasn’t my choice to leave YS, the choice was made for me. I wasn’t the only one involved in the “downsizing” but I had no say in the decision and in a sense it was done “to me”. Of course nothing is really that clear cut in real life. Very seldom are things completely one way or another. Seldom are any of us completely innocent or without any responsibility in a situation but we can still be left with a feeling or a sense that something was done to us and we had no choice. But of course that is not true. We always have a choice. WE ALWAYS GET TO CHOOSE! This was not how I envisioned leaving YS, this was not the time I would have chosen to leave YS but I do have a choice in HOW I leave YS. I get to choose my response. We all get to choose how we respond to something that comes our way. We get to choose our response and in the end that may be the most important choice of all.

In the difficult “big things” that come our way there are many questions that flood our minds and emotions. You know the “why”, “how”, “what”, “who” and “where” type of questions. Some questions come at you like waves on the beach one after the other while others you hunt down, sometimes in hot pursuit of them. For me I have found chasing the “why” question to be the least productive and in fact actually a waste of time. Do we ever get an answer to that question that is truly satisfying? I don’t think so and at least for me it often ends up an exercise in self -justification, self-pity or blame placing. Not a very healthy place to take up residence and not a place where I find God hanging out much. For me there are other questions that are much more powerful, much more life giving and more God finding. The “what”, “how”, “who” and “where” questions area much better place to live in. Chasing down answers to these questions are allowing me to leave the way I want to leave.  I want to leave with integrity, grace and gratitude so these are the questions I am choosing to ask myself these days to help me stay that course:

What is God trying to teach me in this? 

What do I need to lean about my myself?

What is going to be revealed in me?

What if all that God has taught me to this point has been preparing me for what  is next?  

How can I respond to this situation with integrity, grace and faithfulness? 

How can I find God in this? Can I embrace that God is in the midst of this? Can I remember that it was God who brought me to YS so can’t it be that God is leading me away from YS?   

How can I be anything but grateful for the wild and exiting ride it has been at YS? 

How can I be anything but thankful that God has allowed me to minister to youth workers for 32 years? 

Who am I going to become in this process?  

Who is God bringing into my life right now and for what purpose?  

Who can speak truth into my life that I need to listen to?          

Where am I placing my trust?   

Where am I finding my identity?   

Where am I going to serve next and can I embrace this as an adventure with God?

These are the questions that bring me life, hope and faith these days. My guess is that in a difficult situation you might be facing it is questions like these that will bring light to dark places. Remember we get to choose our response. It is never helpful to play the victim, to think we have no choice in a situation. That posture gets us nowhere and in my case is an act of faithlessness. It is saying that what I am going through is outside Gods control. It’s denying, as crazy as it may seem, that God may just be in this after all. This does not mean denying the real pain of a situation or acting like it is all no big deal or playing some “happy Christian” game.  It’s just the opposite, choosing these responses and ones like them allow us to embrace our pain and grow through it.  My leaving YS is incredibly painful for me and I have been on an emotional roller coaster and imagine I will for a while. I don’t try to deny that.  But, and it’s a big But, it’s not the end of the story. I get to choose how to respond to what God has put in front of me and to embrace the adventure. To me it’s all about the journey and we get to choose how to embrace that journey and that is a pretty awesome thing.

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38 Comments

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38 responses to “We get to Choose

  1. Les Christie

    Tic, Your blog is totally cool. I love it. I am so glad you are journaling your thoughts. I am in Lake Tahoe at a freind’s cabin for a week and I used your sentiments on leaving YS as a backdrop for my quiet time this morning. Your a classy guy and I hope I am able to have the same mind set as you through difficult, challenging times. So glad were friends.

  2. Doug Fields

    Tic… you have chosen well and your friends are watching. Those that know you and all you’ve done for YS and the youth ministry world know that it was a bad decision made for you. You have taken the high road and it’s “the talk” of your friends. Thanks for your gracious model of responding in a God-honoring way.

    You are loved!
    Doug

    PS: In 20 years i’m not sure i’ve ever seen a Tic Long letter/email/anything without a typo…I’m very impressed (actually stunned–did Michelle edit this for you?).

  3. Marv

    I love you my brother – You stand tall as a model of strength, integrity, gentleness and class. I know a bit of the depth of pain that these words are rooted in because of our experiences over the past 18 months which makes them ring even more true. Looking forward to seeing you soon. You continue to challenge me to greater godliness.

    Marv

    • Tic,

      This is exactly the type of classy response I would have expected from you. You have represented YS/ Youth Ministry/ Your Church/The Covenant Church and Your Family with grace. It’s rare when great leadership gifts and great relational maturity reside in the same person. I am excited to see what God has in store for your future. Phil. 1:6 Ray

  4. Patti Christensen

    BRAVO Tic!! Your stance is elegant, wise, balanced, healthy, lovely. I am going to print this out and hang it on the fridge so we can be mindful of these things ourselves. I can’t wait to see you and tell you in person that you are adored.
    Patti

  5. One big “YEP” to all of that. The older i get, the more i realize how much of life is completely out of my control … even the parts that I, at one point, may have thought were in my control. Of course (preaching to the choir now …), the great thing is that there is a BIG GOD out here, mixing it up with us, my friend, who has that control thing down to a T. If He were an ogre i’d be scared to death. He’s not. We’re okay, even when we may think otherwise. You’re still the best. Always were. Love ya.

  6. Duffy Robbins

    Hey, Ticcer!

    Those of us who know you, and who know YS, would have expected nothing less from you than the kind of graceful and grace-full exit that you are making. You have poured yourself into this ministry from Day 1, and, in the process, many of us who are your close friends have been refreshed by the overflow. There is nothing in what you’ve written that minimizes or trivializes the pain that we all feel about what has happened at YS with the downsizing, et. al. But, what I hear in these words is maximizing (I guess the spiritual word is “magnifying”) what God can be doing in the midst of difficult and painful moments in our lives. Thanks for letting me share the adventure with you for so many of these last three decades. I don’t think the ride’s over yet. And I look forward to seeing (correction: I hope I am wise enough to CHOOSE to watch) where God takes us in the days ahead. I love this idea: we get to choose. In fact, as soon as possible, I will steal it! But, then, you already know that. See you soon! Maggie and I send our love to Ter as well.

    Duffy

    • Duffy, steal an idea for a talk?!!! NO!!! I refuse to believe it would ever happen! The supreme complement from Duff, or any of the rest of us “word bandits” is that we only, only, only steal from the best.

  7. stacy reed

    Tic,

    You continue to inspire me as you have for so many years in my ministry and for the last several years as a friend. Now you even amaze me. I cannot imagine the depths of your pain since you’ve given so much of yourself to YS for so long. And yet you are so gracious with your words trying (and succeeding) in ministering to us all still even at such an emotional time. There is no doubt that God has something amazing in store for you and your unique gifts and talents. Your blog lets me know you are well on your way to finding what that something is (who knew you could write so well?). I am working on an email saying more but I just wanted to affirm you not only for your past but what I feel will be the most satisfying work you’ve ever done still awaiting you in the NOW and the near future.

    Last year you said for the two of us to enjoy this wild adventure coming up…well the adventure is here and my prayer is you will not only enjoy it but look back on this time and cherish how closely you walk with Jesus thru it.

    for the Love of Christ,
    your friend – stacy

  8. Jim Burns

    Tic,

    You are a hero of mine. I count my relationship with you as one of the highpoints of my life. It’s because of comments like your “We get to choose” blog that reminds me why you have been such a positive influence in my life. Thank you for all you have done for so many of us and thank God for Tic Long!
    Love,
    Jim
    P.S. I have never commented on a blog before so it would take someone like you to make that happen.

  9. Chris Brooks

    Ticker,

    Great post man. I have been wrestling with some of the same “vocational” questions as the ones you raise. When I left the Willow Creek Association after a very brief and tumultous stint (health wise), I was spiarling for several weeks. I was crying out to God to make sense out of a situation that made/makes little sense to me. I am still crying out to Him for some answers…

    I have been reading through the Psalms. I try to do one a day. It has been very helpful and healing to me, even though I am still in my “Dark Night.”

    I’d love to catch up sometime soon. You gonna be in the Midwest anytime soon?

    Love ya kid, CB.

  10. tic, all of these comments from your friends speak to the kind of person we know you to be. I know jesus has you right where he wants you and he also has something very special for you waiting around the corner!

  11. Tic,

    Your transparency is medicinal. As I sit and read this morning half-way through my own sabbatical, it brings me peace. Thank you for writing it, friend. My struggle leading up to this moment in my “rest” has been learning to rest (I suck at it). Instead of choosing to let go and listen or “be still,” I have planned, positioned, and propositioned God about my next steps and future of the youth in ministry movement…bad choices. I can do better, and your simple challenge through your honest words have been a blessing this morning.

    I can only imagine the next season of influence He has in store for your life, but for now, get ready to rest during your own time of sabbatical this fall.

    Blessings, bro!

    T.

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  13. Jody

    Finally! A blog worth reading! =0) Dang Tic- you are flat-out eloquent! Who knew?

    I think coaching may be EXACTLY what you’re meant to do, if your blog is any indication!

    Your decision (choice) to look UP and forward is inspirational. Your blog has confirmed (yet again) why you’ve always been absolutely, unequivocally the ‘heart & soul’ of YS.

    Just love you to pieces.

    • Doug

      Jody (+ Tic)

      My time is probably nearing the end at the place of occcupation I have been at for 5+ years. I am trying hard to choose to leave well and positive and the questions Tic proposed have helped me with the grieving process. I printed them out as if they were mine, thanks Tic…and I hope that this grieving process is quick. I, like Tic, and probably you Jody do not have a clue what is in store for me and I do not know what capacity of “serving” I will be involved in. I hate the fact it is going down as it is, and I hate the fact that families that choose to go to another church are being put solely on me. I hope for the best for all of us and maybe God is preparing me for a little sabattical as well.

      Blessings,
      Doug

  14. Toney Thornhill

    Tic,
    First and Foremost, I want to take the opportunity to say thank you for the selfless commitment to serving God through your example to several thousands of youth leaders, myself included. You are a wonderful role model. I remember as a volunteer for YS, you always had a smile and would take the time to get to know those people around you. You made everyone feel as if they truly were a family to you.
    As for your blog and the exit from YS. I can only say this “Bravo my friend, God Speed and God Bless. Your willingness to leave a situation with the grace you are showing is truly a “Allow God to work in my life first attitude” and for that I commend you.
    God has many more wonderful plans for you. I hope and pray that someday our paths will cross again.
    Thanks for the friendship

  15. Dave Pentecost

    Tic,
    As I have shared with you before, you have such a “Pastors heart” and have always displayed class and grace in the face of adversity. Love you my Brother

  16. Mike Flavin

    Tic..
    Thanks for starting this blog-this entry was helpful as I (and probably many others) struggle with what’s happened at YS. Thanks also for getting up early and spending time with my students at DCLA. The scene of them listening to you and praying over you is tucked away in my heart-especially when one of my kids prayed “Thank you God for helping Tic be for Mike what Mike’s been for us.” Exactly! I wouldn’t still be in youth ministry after 30 years without your leadership and friendship. Thank you brother!! Looking forward to what lies ahead…

  17. Bill McNabb

    Brother Tic,
    It is hard to imagine YS without you, just as it is impossible to imagine it without Yaconelli. You are such a part of what made YS such a fun, wild organization to work with. You have made a wise choise in eshewing the path of resentment. I wish you well in all future endeavors my friend. God Bless
    Bill McNabb

  18. Tic. . . . the way that you’re processing this and the words that flow from it are not at all surprising to me. This is who you are. And for that example, so many of us are grateful. I’m guessing that what you’ve said here may in the end mean more to the youth workers and peers who read it than anything you’ve ever said or done before. . . and that was valuable stuff. The faith you’ve worked so hard to communicate, build, and nurture in others. . . well, this is the fruit that makes all of that so real. Like so many others, I’m so sorry that this has happened. Very sorry. But you have challenged me and countless others through the response you have chosen. I remember a conversation I had with a friend about 25 years ago. He said that when we encounter times like these we can choose to be bitter or better. Thanks for living out the high road in front of all of us and challenging us to be better ourselves. I know that you’re driving through it all right now and looking at it through the windshield. Very confusing and sometimes harrowing I’m sure. Once you get through it, I can’t wait to hear about what you see in the rearview mirror!

    One more thing. . . thanks for all you’ve done over the years to support and encourage me and our work at CPYU. God used you to not only encourage me, but to more or less put CPYU on the youth ministry map.

    Oh, and one more thing. Fields was wrong this time! There is a typo in there. Let’s see if you guys can find it.

  19. Brock Morgan

    Dude! I love and miss you! You are such an amazing example – I’m proud to have been your ministry partner and your friend. I am still waiting for you to “choose” to move up here to Oregon… =) Have a blast this fall on your adventures. Love you bro!
    -brock

  20. Tic,

    What a shock for me to read your status message on facebook and then to read this blog. I am deeply saddened by this. I want to thank you for your years of encouragement to me. I am also pleased of the (high) road you have chosen to take and sure that this is not an end to the wild crazy ride. Last year at the YS conference, I had breakfast with you and that was the high point of the conference for me to hear your story along with others stories. You have made YS seem very personable to me (even though we hardly know each other). Thank you and from one youth worker who is assured you have prayed for us, be certain that I will be praying for you during this transition. Can’t wait to see what God has for you on this wild and crazy ride.

    Looking Forward,

    Jim Perry

  21. Jenny Urbanski

    Hey Tic…Mikey posted this link on FB. Reading it was full of grace-filled moments for me. Thanks for sharing, as it speaks to my own life, too.

    Thank you, also, for all your years at YS. I was one of those youth pastors who was touched and greatly encouraged by your ministry. Just seeing your smile from the mainstage conveyed your passion for Christ, youth ministry, and youth workers. Through you, we (youth workers) witnessed in a tangible way that God saw us, loved us, and with us was well-pleased. This is no small gift…in fact, it is life-giving to a youth worker who feels she is about to drown. You will be greatly missed.

    Dave and I wish we could be at your party to celebrate the gift you’ve been to YS and to countless youth workers. But we will join you in prayer for whatever lies ahead.

    Peace and blessings to you.

  22. Thank you for your honest response here…very encouraging!

  23. Tic,
    Love ya man, you are pure class all around. Not sure I would have responded the way you have. You have been a model to all of us on the One DAY/CORE team. I have a feeling that with you greater things are yet to come greater things, greater things are still to be done in Tic Long and through Tic Long.

    Glad I was there for your last event, it was an honor.

    Mark Helsel

  24. I am humbled and awed by you, my friend. You are an incredible servant-leader…the kind of Jesus-follower I strive to be. You bring out the good in people around you like no one else I’ve ever seen. You’re still who I want to be when I grow up. :)

    Thank you for what you’ve done for youth workers, and for those of us who’ve been able to share in your ministry to youth workers. I’m absolutely convinced that you’re going to be blown away when one day you get to see the magnitude of the impact you’ve had on the Kingdom.

  25. Tic … I love and respect you so much—thx for your example—thx for your spirit—thx for your humility—thx for your wisdom. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

    … I know God has done great things through your position at YS … there is no doubt about that!!! … however … it seems to me, as I read the words in your blog, that God may be using you more now through your example, through your choosing, than He did through your efforts while serving Him at YS.

    I appreciate you so much and will be praying for you on a regular basis …

    peace my brother!

  26. Tic, you have always inspired, encouraged, and loved all of us youth ministry folks. You’ve made us laugh, cry, cheer, and jeer. Your position at YS placed you exactly where you needed to be for that moment. I know your words spoken at YS the year following Yac’s death gave me courage to press forward in ministry during a very dry time. I am thankful for having sat in your presence as I know the Lord spoke through you. So many of us will will miss knowing you as Tic from YS, but we also look forward to just being able to know you as Tic as so many of these other responders already know you.

    May the God of peace guard your heart and mind as press forward.

    James

    P.S. I am thankful you chose to take the stance you have taken in this situation… without even having written any details you have spoken volumes of your integrity,character, grace, and mercy. Jesus loves that stuff!!!

  27. Tic,

    What an amazing blog post. I read it the first time and was touched, and then I read it the second time to find the typo Walt mentioned (yes, I’m that geeky). I did find it, but the bigger issue is that I was even more impacted reading it the second time. You are so right about where God takes up residence – and your questions inspire me to be more real today with the “stuff” in my own life, and to CHOOSE to be authentic with my friends and family and let them walk with me as I’m making choices too.

    I meant what I said in the e.mail – if you’re ever near Pasadena, I’m buying breakfast/coffee/lunch/a cool Fuller coffee mug…

    You inspire me…

    Kara

  28. Mike Farmer

    Tic –

    Thank you for your ‘classy’ post. You have been a great influence in my life and ministry.

    I will looking forward to reading more on your blog.

  29. Tic -

    You have an opportunity in this that many of us have had… different situations, but similar choices.

    But you are in a bigger spotlight today than many of us. That may be the very reason you are going through this – to illuminate a path for others in smaller trenches whose only ripple may be on one kid who is watching how their youth pastor leaves.

    That one kid matters.

    And the way you are handling this will inspire that youth worker, who will inspire that one kid, who just may very well change the system for the better one day himself.

    All for Jesus…

    Together,

    T.

  30. Tic, great post. You continue to model a great example and attitude to youth workers around the country.

    I’m excited to see you’re blogging – I’ve always enjoyed what you have to say!

  31. Karen Norval

    Your grace, style and class is obviously not simply being brought to the front as you struggle with leaving YS. The comments left by so many indicate that your pattern of example, not only in leadership in your official capacity, but to them as a friend, has been for the long haul.

    I am grateful for the sharing of this blog and for the opportunity to read the thoughts of others because you continue to lead us all through the process. Peace to you in all that lies ahead.

  32. Rick Duff

    Tic,
    I can only imagine what Yac must be thinking from “on high” in addition to his “woo-hoo, what a ride”! I’m certain he’s not surprised at your response; and certain he’s disappointed in the decision/action/situation.
    Thank you for your example, your words, your many years of serving both God and youth workers!
    It will be so cool to see where/how our Heavenly Father uses you in the next chapter of your life.
    Praying for you!
    Peace.

  33. reneealtson

    thank you.
    (love)

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