As I was navigating high school, I was blessed to have an amazing youth pastor. Kevin Moyer served students for over 20 years, and spent 17 or 18 of those years at the church where my family attended. He had the “privilege” of having all four Castanedas come through his ministry; I’m sure he would like a few of those years back!
I grew up during the time when fast-food was making its way into the American home. Microwaves started making it possible to cook foods more quickly, and frozen foods were exploding in popularity at the grocery store. Another American favorite, popcorn, was also getting a makeover as the air popper made faster, “healthier” popcorn. (Let’s be honest, pop as healthy as you want, but when you put a pound of butter on top, all the air popping in the world won’t save you from cardiac arrest! And I loved my popcorn with lots of butter!)
PK (Pastor Kevin) however, was a popcorn purist. He was appalled at the decline of American culture and the thought of air popping seeds of corn was akin to liking the Dodgers -- it was un-American (he being a life-long Giants fan). Instead, he favored the proper way of making popcorn. He would pour a little oil in a pot and set it on the oven, waiting for the burner to warm up. When it did, he would dump the perfect number of seeds into the pot, shaking it occasionally, until he heard the first pop! Then he would spring into action, moving the pot in a circular fashion until each kernel had exploded.
Then the most important part of the ritual took place: The pouring of the butter. There was always butter, and always lots of butter. And of course, a pinch or two of salt. But believe me, right up there with air poppers and liking the Dodgers was using margarine or some other form of not-butter. Popcorn was always handled with honor in PK's house.
One of the reasons I know so much about PK’s love of popcorn is because I spent so many hours at his house. It was not uncommon for me to show up late at night (after the farm chores were done at his property so I wouldn’t have to do any actual work) in order to cash in on the bed-time popcorn ritual. His eldest daughter Kendra was a friend of mine, and I was more than happy to hang out with her and Charis (for whom I’d later have the honor of performing her wedding ceremony!) in order to watch the popping ritual take place and enjoy the fruit of his labor.
I ate a lot of popcorn in that man’s house.
My youngest daughter and I have quite the love of popcorn in our house. While I don’t cook it on the stove, I do use an oil popper and usually real butter. I over use the butter so that I don’t need to add any salt, and honestly, I think the old man could use a few of my popping secrets. Next time he’s in the area, we’ll have to have a pop-off with Celina as the judge. (And of course, her allowance at stake!)
I’ll tell you this: My 17 years of pastoring, followed by the year (plus) I’ve had here at the camp, were directly influenced by the hours of popcorn eating I did at PK’s house. It wasn’t that his popcorn was that good, it’s that the conversation and life investment was. We spent hours talking about youth ministry, talking about baseball, talking about relationships, parents, the Bible, the weather, youth events and even on the rare occasion one of his daughters was in the hot seat (he had four daughters at the time, then adopted two sons later) we’d talk about how to discipline children. (Ok, Kendra was in the hot seat all the time. I’m confident if it hadn’t been for me standing between her dad and her teenage freedom, she’d still be locked up in some tower guarded by a dragon!) (There's a slight chance she's reading this...)
Over a decade later I remember sitting in my own home on a Wednesday afternoon. About a dozen students were spread out between the family room and kitchen. They were eating soup, doing homework, playing the Wii or just hanging out with their friends. Hannah and I were talking about a recent missions trip to Philadelphia and in the middle of our talk, I just paused and took it all in.
It wasn’t popcorn, but my wife’s soups are very good. The students were all smiles, the conversation was meaningful and I was doing what I had been taught: offer what you have to the Lord and watch what He does with it.
Over the years I realized that PK wasn’t the most gifted pastor I ever knew, nor was he the one with the greatest vision or the cleanest office. He was, however, even to this day, a pastor with a great passion for God and an insatiable desire to use his gifts to serve others. He studied carefully, preached powerfully and lived out his faith relentlessly. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfectly suited for what he did in serving students. And his life didn’t just impact the students he worked with, but his students worked with students, who have since worked with students, and they have a heritage that goes back...to popcorn.
Popcorn changed my life!
Are you using your gifts and talents to serve others? As you live the Overboard Life you realize that what you have, has been given to you by God, for the primary benefit of others. Too often we live to serve ourselves, we live to not be bored and to make sure we get the most out of what we have. But God didn’t bless you so you could bless you more, He blessed you so you could have the richest blessings of all -- sharing God’s goodness with others. PK gave freely and the result of his life and ministry has been seen for decades after he left youth ministry, and will continue for decades to come.
In fact I was looking at some recent pictures of the young man who is now running the youth group that Traci and I left a little over a year ago. He was eating pizza with some students and I realized that he too, had learned the lesson, serving those students with the tools he had been given (in this case, a nice looking pizza from Dominos!).
You’ll never find joy in satisfying yourself. I’ve tried and each time I’ve failed. Oh sure, we can find some temporary happiness or pleasure, but lasting joy comes from giving, not receiving. If you choose to live Overboard, you’ll have to learn to give out of the richness with which you’ve been blessed. And if you need some help, feel free to stop by and have some popcorn; I’ll show you all I know about giving to others with a few seeds, a little oil and a pound of butter.
19 down, 21 to go.
Go ahead and take the plunge, even popcorn is better on the water!