Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stewards of Grace

During our courtship, Wendy & I were involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the U of M, the same ministry through which we met and became friends for a year before officially dating. It was in that campus group that we both began to stretch and hone our various talents: my roles included worship song leader, Large Group announcements, comedic/dramatic presentations, and Bible Study leader; Wendy’s roles included graphic designer, social event organizer, and occasional skit participant. We never would have guessed half a lifetime ago that those uses of our gifts would become the foundation for the mom-and-pop business of a large, one-of-a-kind youth juggling company! For this reason, I admonish young adults (including my own kin) to maximize their talents & interests, no matter how trivial or mundane they may seem. One never knows how our gifts can be used both now and in the future!

In addition to our “public” forms of expression, we’ve have always tried to grow in our Christian faith as a couple. Our times of prayer, Bible study, and relational ministry hold some very sweet memories. Years ago, Wendy pointed out a passage that reflects our complementary gifts:  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV)

Talk about weighty words! Speaking with God’s words; serving with God’s strength. If I had made that up, I would be guilty of tremendous arrogance—to dare to speak for God or serve in His strength! However, since the Apostle Peter wrote it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I believe it. For 20 years of marriage, Wendy & I have tried to live “as good stewards of God’s varied grace”: Wendy as the “server” (graphics, organization, hospitality) and me as the “speaker” (visionary, leader, communicator). Again, lest you think I’m ascribing divine qualities to our gifts and marriage by my own authority, I’m not—we’re just relishing in the privilege to speak & serve as God’s stewards for His glory, others’ good, and our joy!

I know that many JH families do not share our Christian faith. However, in honor of our 20th anniversary next week, I wanted to shed some light on the spiritual history of Paul & Wendy Arneberg, and how our faith has not only has sustained us for 20 years of marriage, but it sustains us in this work. As we face heart surgery on May 28, we’d like to deeply thank all who have expressed concern for us while expressing gratitude for JUGHEADS. God willing, we will continue speaking & serving for God’s glory for years to come, and we’ll continue helping youth and young adults to find their gifts which will then bless others for a lifetime.

Strength in Weakness

In a recent update to the JH families’ group email list, I quoted 2 Corinthians 12:10: “When I am weak, then I am strong (in Christ).” This is a paradox, and although it’s never initially pleasant to experience weakness and the surrender of one’s control, there is a surprising strength that comes (by faith) only through trials. My deep belief is that God Himself through Jesus is my strength, especially in my weaknesses, but even in “secular” settings such as Juggle Jam 15, we can all experience being strong for each other when somebody else is weak.

Consider our annual production. Ultimate Club members, specialty acts, and skits have more stage time than the average Jughead. However, even the strongest individual or team is “weak” when ones remembers that we need a stage, an audience, a sound man, a lighting technician, ushers, safety codes, and audience amenities to make the show complete. The “star performers” would not have any fame without a strong network to make up for their weaknesses. And that all applies to our most seasoned performers! For the younger and/or less experienced Jugheads, stage fright and self-doubt can sometimes be overwhelming. One young performer literally prayed about his stage fright in last month’s EYJA Showcase, and his success led him to say, “Now I finally know that God is real.”

Wendy and I have expressed that same sentiment countless times, and we do so now daily perhaps more than ever as we’re between two major surgeries while peaking JJ preparations and approaching our 20th wedding anniversary. I’ll reiterate what I often wait until JJ to say, here quoting one of the great hymns of the Christian faith: “To God be the glory, great things He has done!”