How young is your heart?

Now that you are covered with mud, what are you going to do next?…… “I’m going to church!

The state was Ohio, I don’t remember the city, but I will never forget the moment. I was about to speak to a several hundred teenagers who had spent the day playing wild games at a YFC Campus Life event.

A local  farmer plowed a football sized field next to the church then the fire department soaked it with thousands of gallons of water.

The result was the  gooiest mess of sticky black slime I had ever seen. It was in this quagmire the teens were to compete in what Campus Life called a “Mud Bowl”  A series of athletic events designed to get them covered in mud from head to toe. Then immediately afterward they were invited to hear a band and my talk – inside a brand new church!

Do you see where this is going?  My mind began to race. How were these adults going to deal with 200 mud-covered teenagers in a pristine new church?  And WHY did they agree to this certain catastrophe in the first place.  I remember meeting a youth leader who had been fired because one of his students had accidentally scratched pew during a music concert.

I peeked into the church to discover that the leaders had covered every bit of floor and furniture with black plastic.  How many hours did that take?  These were people that loved kids. I felt a lump in my throat.

I stepped outside just as the games finished and noticed a mountain of towels that had been lent to the church by the YMCA.  The fire truck had returned, and black plastic had been spread everywhere.  The teenagers formed a long line and as each stepped forward an elderly deacon hosed them down with the fire hose and another handed each kid a towel.

No grumpy warnings or threats from these men with wrinkled faces and bent bodies, only broad welcoming smiles.  I was so moved by the compassion and spirit of these guys that I had to ask the question stumbling in my brain.

I stepped up to the elderly deacon holding the fire hose.  “Why do you do this?” I asked.
“Why do all this work and take the risk getting your new church dirty?  He broke into a huge smile that pushed the wrinkles to the edge of his face.

I don’t know about the other guys, he said, but I do it because deep in my heart I enjoy seeing this…….  Then he opened the valve on the fire hose and blew the next teen in line 9 ft across the black plastic.   I laughed until I hurt.  Everybody laughted.

There were no OLD people at the church that day.  Just a bunch of seventeen year old hearts, some of them wrapped in wrinkled packages and some with fresh young faces being blasted along the ground by a fire hose.  So how young is your heart?

When was the last time you felt the heart of a seventeen year old beat inside your chest? 

When was the last time an older person with a young heart touched your life?


  1. I love this story! My kids make sure I keep a “young heart”. Things like playing slug bug in the car, calling seats for dinner and laughing over silly things all go together to make sure I keep things “young” and don’t act “old”. In fact, I find myself playing slug bug…even when I’m the only one in the van. 🙂

    Let’s do that mud bowl thing – sounds FUN!!

  2. Awesome! I love the response from the elderly deacon who then blasts the teen with the firehouse! Wish I could’ve been there! Oh how I wish every church was filled with such young at heart seniors. So many churches are filled with staunchy seniors who don’t want to change anything and have no desire to reach this generation for Christ. How amazing to see a church go out of their way to reach these young people! They will receive their rewards in heaven!

  3. I love the concept, the hearty laugh I just let out and we have an elder at our church that would just love to do that to some of us-way past teenagers-and you know God was smiling. Thank you for sharing that story.

  4. Oh how I need the fresh experience of living for Jesus ,to laugh, to play ,to be there for others and enjoy others in a loving way ,to express my love for Jesus and just enjoying the moment of being accepted as they need to be accepted and loved as a child of our loving God

  5. I love this!! Would love to see more of this–youth and elderly together having fun. At our church, every so often they put cardboard down on the steps for kids that come to Wed. afternoon after-school program. But, during the day, the staff at the church go sliding down it (even the pastors!)–laughing is good for the soul.

  6. My husband is always saying I am a teenager at heart. Recently I had 3 friend of my stepson ask if they could move in with us. I had just helped stag the cake in the face of my stepson at his Army National Guard going away party. Kids are wonderful, Never grow old, always stay young at heart. You will have more fun living” Fully Alive!”

  7. This is brilliant. I smiled all they way through, between the laughter that is!
    I love kids, they are so free and such fun. I would have got down and dirty with them and enjoyed being jettisoned 9 ft across the plastic afterwards.
    I guess this is why I love writing for children, I’m still one inside. It’s only the mirror that tells me I’m headed toward 60!

  8. Ken, I have a stomach ache this morning and I feel better after reading this story. Laughter truly is great medicine. Thank you!!

  9. When was the last time we worried more about another’s “heart condition” instead of the condition of their appearance?

  10. Fantastic story! Thanks for sharing. This is something we all need to remind ourselves to do…or rather BE. Life is wonderful and grand if we allow it to be. Don’t take it too serious.

  11. i love the movie this conjures up in my mind! i’ll bet the teen with the hard wash was sooo surprised. i work with middle school kids and i think that is because is still have not grown up yet. bless you for your wisdom, your laughter and sharing with us all.

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