Friday, December 29, 2006

Ummm.... can you say "left turn at Albuquerque"?

I'm going to Los Angeles next week for some seminary classes. Saw this article, and suddenly I'm double-checking my flight itinerary!

Aim for Sydney, Australia....

Find yourself basking in the wonderful Montana winter!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Drummer Boy

Wrote this last week, but since my brother reads this occasionally, didn't post until now...


My Mom knew I was going to be buying a bunch of books on Amazon.com for some classes I’m taking in January, so she asked me to order another one for my brother while I was at it. The book arrived the other day, and I just had to… It was short, and looked good, and I couldn’t help myself... I read my brother’s Christmas present!

It’s a Christmas story called Drummer Boy by Ted Dekker. (Not quite his usual suspenseful type of book, but it’s good.) I’m glad I read it. It’s about this little boy who’s given a small stage prop drum. The kicker is, the story happens in the future, where Christmas has long been forgotten (even made illegal, along with any mention of the birth of Jesus) and replaced by The Holiday (to celebrate the world’s prosperity).

Inside the drum, he finds the song of the first Little Drummer Boy, a promise from a young boy to his father to once again play the drum for the king, and the story of Jesus’ birth so long ago. The boy reads, for the first time, the story of the King who came and loved and healed. And he knows he must play that drum for the King.

As I read, tears welled up in my eyes. I read it again later to Emily, and several times choked on the words – and their implications for my own life. I must play my drum for the King. You must play your drum for the King. We live in a world that is forgetting. If we don’t play our drum, our children will live in a world where He’s been forgotten. As hard as it might be for you to hear, YOU have neighbors who have never heard the true story of Christmas. Play for your King and let them hear.

This isn’t about protesting stores that say Happy Holidays, not Merry Christmas. It’s not about words at all. It’s about playing the song that God has put in your soul, however feeble you may think it is. It’s about living for the King and inspiring the world to hear and join in His Story.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Radio

I’m kind of an explorer/investigator at heart. I like to go new places. I like to try things I’ve never done before. I like to take unfamiliar things apart and discover how and why they work.

Last week, LuAnn had a pump that dripped a type of local anesthetic into her incision following the c-section. We left the hospital before the pump was out of medication, so the removal of the 'soaker hose' contraption was up to us! After gingerly scraping tape and what is basically superglue away from the punctures where the hose entered her abdomen, she pulled them out and I had fun deconstructing the entire pump!

Also, this past Saturday, I also got to jump into the previously-unknown-to-me waters of radio. In January, KCMI (96.9) here in Scottsbluff will start airing a program each Saturday night from 8-12 called Cutting Edge. The basics of the show will be a youth minister and a few students coming in to run the show on Saturday nights. (There are four of us local youth pastors who will rotate.) It will be 4 hours of great music and conversation aimed at the students in our valley. I’m really excited about this great ministry opportunity aimed at students.

So, back to Saturday night… I met Ryan, Brian, and Travis (the other youth ministers who will be hosting the shows) at the station at 8:00 for kind of a trial run of the show. Brad and Lola from KCMI were there to get things going and show us which buttons to push (and which ones to avoid). To put it shortly, it was a blast. We haven’t done any radio before, and really haven’t even all been together much, but there was a great sense of camaraderie among the group. We all shared a little excitement at doing something new, but more than that was a sweet sense of working together on a worthwhile project that will impact students' lives.

If you like your music with a little more kick than what’s normally played on Christian radio, check us out starting in January (if you happen to be in the area). If you know students who think there’s no Christian music they’ll like – listen with them and prove them wrong. And if you’re a student who wants to come in and help run the show, let me know… we can try something new together! If you've got something you're just dying to hear, let me know that too...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Overwhelmed?

I really like the idea that I can 'cast all my cares' on a God who is big enough to handle them. It would be easy to get overwhelmed by life if I didn't know, that it's not my life I'm living. And since I'm living His life for me, I don't have to be overwhelmed by circumstances. I've just been kind of struck lately by the immensity of who/what I am to be. These things might overwhelm me if I did not have that assurance:

- responsibility for another life - having a new baby in the house.
- preparing for 6 hours of seminary in Los Angeles this January.
- learning to do a radio show that will also begin in January.
- being a father of 4 kids.
- being the husband my wife deserves.
- exploring new potential avenues for our student ministry.
- 2 youth trips on the same weekend (which happens to be the day after I return from class).
- spurring friends on to grow.
- correcting wrong assumptions that many students have about what the church is and does.
- leading students to discover the life God dreams for them.

These are huge things, and I take them very seriously. But if I get all wrapped up in what I have to do in each of these situations, it's so easy to lose focus on the One who sustains me and has led me to these places in life. May God help us all to keep our hearts aimed at Him and to rely on Him to be everything we need.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Elizabeth

Today, we went in to the hospital at about 7:30, and at 10:34, the newest member of our family was blasted with more sensory overload than she ever would have guessed was coming her way. Rudely plucked through an incision in the finely insulated walls to her erstwhile comfortable home, she notified all parties present that this was not her idea of a good time. The 6 lb. 13 oz. bundle of fury seems to have calmed greatly now that the poking and prodding and shocking brightness of the world have subsided. Her brothers and sister are eager to show her to her new (though much less efficiently insulated) home. (Lizzy's the small one, btw!)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Faded Memory???

Saw an article today from a 60 Minutes show about a drug that reportedly decreases the pain associated with memories of traumatic events. It's actually a drug that's used to lower blood pressure, assuage migraines, and slow down hearts that beat too rapidly. Apparently, it does this by isolating or decreasing the amount of adrenaline in the brain. (note: don't read this like a medical research item, because I'm not a medical researcher and the terms I'm using aren't meant to be technical) The theory is that this decrease in adrenaline response will in turn decrease the strength at which the memories are 'inked' into our brains.

As I saw the article, my synapses were flooded with questions. What memories would I want to erase? What did I learn from bad experiences that would also be lost along with the pain? How would I know I'm not going to erase the good memories? What if someone used this to mess up a 'witness' so they no longer could remember to what they need to testify? Is there a 'desktop trashcan' somewhere in my brain's hard drive where I could recover memories I wish I hadn't deleted?

But it also got me thinking about the great lengths we'll go to in order to avoid pain. We'll drink the pain away. We'll work so hard or so much that we don't have time to think about it. We'll indulge in more destructive patterns of behavior in order to 'normalize' the pain. And maybe in the near future, we'll be able to take a little pill that makes whatever memory that's causing us pain virtually disappear.

Two problems I see: 1) This never deals with the issues causing the pain - it just covers them up. 2) When we spend so much of our lives and selves trying to avoid (or alleviate) pain from our lives - we also cease to experience the joy of living. We spend so much time and energy trying to find ways to avoid getting hurt that we in effect avoid living at all.

"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it..." Peter had the same pain aversion that we do. When Jesus said, "I'm about to go to Jerusalem and suffer and be killed." Peter protested forcefully. Then Jesus told Satan to get out of the way, told His disciples to stop thinking of their own well being and follow, and headed for His death in Jerusalem. Jesus knew the rest of the phrase. "But whoever loses his life for me will find it."

I think we'd do well to heed Jesus' words. We must lose our lives to Him if we are to have any hope for living a life that matters eternally. A life not dulled but full. There was a movie back a lot of years with this bipolar ski guy. (Someone must have slipped me a propranolol because I can't remember the title of the movie.) That guy was a wuss - whiny, scared of everything, hypochondriac... Then he'd turn into this crazy, fear-nothing ski-slope daredevil. As he'd wrestle with himself he kept repeating the phrase, "Taste death, live life."

I always liked that guy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Buckle Up!

Just bought a car that I'm going to race next season! No pictures, yet, but it's a 92 Colt (for a small 4-cylinder class) and it cost $150. Hopefully I can clear the space in my garage quickly and start stripping it down. Some of the students are into cars, so I'm sure they'll love helping with that part. Anyway, we have several months before the season starts, so there's a lot of time - but there's a lot to do to it also. Looking forward to hanging out with a few of my guys and building the car. If anyone wants to send us sponsor money, feel free to do so!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Athens or Troy???

I've read several places that have compared the contemporary youth culture to a kind of Athens. The idea is that students are searching in deeply spiritual ways, they just aren't recognizing/identifying God as the one true source of the whole-ness they're so desperate for. So we must, like Paul, understand their culture well enough to intelligently discuss how elements from their very own construct point them to the one true God. This is what Paul did in Athens, on Mars Hill, in making known to them the identity of their 'unknown God'.

I think this is a good paradigm for what we in youth ministry have to do. But if youth ministry is like going into Athens, it is also like getting into Troy. It's not easy to gain admittance!

The city was virtually impenetrable. After 10 years of siege, the walls still stood. The city still survived. I think the student community has built up protective walls through which the church has found no way of entry. And much of the youth culture has closed the way to the entry of the church.

Don't get me wrong. Our desire is not to sneak in and destroy youth culture, as the city of Troy was destroyed when the 'horse' was finally accepted into the city. But I think we need to find ways to offer peace to students. Instead of packing the horse with troops to destroy the city, what if we fill our gifts to students with a substantial caring and genuine love that will supersede their defenses?

So that brings up the question, "What does the church have to offer that students actually want?" Great music? They can have better... Awesome games? You're joking right... Meaningful Bible Study? How many students are chomping at that bit... Music, games, Bible studies, etc. are all important tools in youth ministry - but I don't think they're gifts that youth culture by and large is eager to receive from us.

Here, I think is the Trojan Horse of youth ministry: meaningful relationships. Not surfacy 'how's school?' acquaintances with adults, but real relationship. Students want to be known. They want to be loved without conditions. And when they are honestly offered that, don't be surprised when they start tearing down the walls they've put up to keep God out.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Grandma always said "Make a list!"

Since my birthday's just around the corner, and I know you're all dying to know, here's a list of a few things I'd be sure to enjoy...



Also, a healthy birth for my second (and last) daughter and quick recovery of my last (and first) wife would be nice, but most of you don't have a whole lot of influence over those, so feel free to just stick with the books and CD's on the list! (Unless of course you feel an extreme need to buy me a laptop or the new Zune or guitar gear's always nice or...)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pierced

Made this video for a youth event this weekend. Just having fun... til moviemaker crashed.


Ah, my first step to many film awards. (haha... long way to go!) Just trying something new that I probably should have learned how to do long ago. If any of you know of any good video editing software, equipment, sites, advice, etc. let me know. More tools for communication!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Metaphorically Speaking

On a Christian radio station this morning, I heard a lady talking about how a certain artist was going to be on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. In one breath she was both excited at the credibility factor of his being featured on the pop culture show - and appalled at the show itself. "Be sure to tune in to watch so and so play, but make sure you don't watch any of the other stuff on the show - it's garbage." (That's not a literal quote, but it is a good summary of what was said.)

It reminded me of a line from a recent article I received in an e-mail yesterday. It's from The Journal of Student Ministries, which has a lot of other interesting articles you may like to check out, too. The author says, "I believe it's time to admit that the church has lost its positional status with earthly powers (i.e. governments and political parties) and confess that we've craved endorsements from the wrong authorities."

This statement was made in the context of a larger discussion of the use of the 'war metaphor' in youth ministry. We need to remember that, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood..." but we are in a spiritual battle. But (think great big BUT there), does that mean we have to use the war metaphor all the time in youth ministry? I've never really felt comfortable talking about battle cries and winning souls and taking ground and conquering foes... maybe there was a time when that metaphor was useful, but I'm not sure that time is now.

Now, I know that some of that language is used in Scripture, but it's also very focused in Scripture. Jesus is fighting Satan (and as His followers, we join him in fighting Satan). Not 'the world'. Not Hollywood. Not youth culture. In the world as it is today, I wonder if we'd do better using other metaphors, that are just as Biblical, when we talk about the church in relationship to the world. Surely we can find metaphors that speak more truthfully of Christ and His Church to this generation... Bride, Family, Body, Salt, Light...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election

Well, the election is over - except for Chad and his dimples that have to be ironed out. Control is shifting, seats have been lost. Now, I'm not 'died in the wool' anything except a follower of Jesus, a husband, and a father (and short, but there's no options for me there anyway), but watching news reports last night as vote counts started coming in was a little annoying. Why did the anchors have to have that giant smirk on their faces when they announced a democrat victory? Can they at least feign objectivity?

I don't know, just thought that was kind of dumb. It will be interesting to see how things will get done in the next couple years. I don't think this is the great beginning of a golden democrat-controlled era, nor do I think this is the end of the republic or the death knell of our nation or anything like that - there's more than enough corruption on both sides of the aisle. Days will still pass by one after another. Liberals will still say the Conservatives are uncaring money grabbers (which SOME are), and Conservatives will still accuse the Liberals of killing babies and pandering to gays (which SOME do).

But I'm not sure about the labels anymore. The characterizations of the liberal democrats and conservative republicans have gotten way out of hand. Straw men are too easy to burn. Perhaps this shift will allow us to stop talking in hyperbole and discuss real ideas and real problems and real solutions with real people.

Then again maybe not. Maybe there is no middle. Maybe our nation is destined to be hopelessly divided between left and right (which oddly enough often looks more like coastland and heartland). Either way, I'm glad my allegiance, though it's been pledged to the flag since Reagan was president, is ultimately to another Kingdom. A Kingdom that will not pass away.

I'm also glad I don't have to watch another opposition-party bashing commercial. Well, at least not for a couple years.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Beaten Bride

He came home, only to find her there – battered and bruised on the front porch. As he ran to help her up, the old feelings rushed back again. How could she? Every time, it ended up this way…

But it wasn’t always this way. The tattered memory of her pure beauty on the day of their wedding still lingered in each tear. He could still see within her the reflection of the bride that once was. The bride who trustingly walked out to meet him. He could still feel the flicker of pure love as he gathered her quivering hand in his that day.

And even now, that flame still burned within him, as he bent to pick her up, careful of the wounds freshly inflicted by the attacker she’d so willingly pursued… Again. But amazingly, when he looked at his wife, Jesus didn’t see her infidelity. He could deal with that. He could wash it all away. He’d clean her up again. He’d once again see her pure and spotless.
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With the recent events surrounding Ted Haggard, the Bride may be seen by the world to have been beaten severely. A widely trusted figure has proven all too human. Those of us left to lead in the church have another case with which we will be lumped in. This hurts. Some will point to this and say, "See, they're all a bunch of liars. Don't trust them." Others will be quick to say, "He was just under too much pressure... too much for one man to handle... it's not his fault..."

The truth is, we all have this propensity to fall to sin. And we all have the same responsibility to choose Jesus over our own sin. Only He can restore broken humanity. Only He can restore Ted Haggard. Only He can restore me. Only He can restore His Bride.

Despite the first faltering steps after the allegations were made public, it's been interesting to note the admission of culpability. No more trying to cover his backside. No shifting of blame to someone else. No trying to redefine what 'is' is... I pray that he'll continue further in this road of contrition to repentance and restoration.

I pray that we all will resist the temptation that is present in our own lives. May God's grace keep us pure and whole, and restore us when we're messy and broken.

Posted By:C. Thomas Johnson

Get this video and more at MySpace.com

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What do you listen to?



Saw this video from Community Christian Church in the Chicago area. They're doing a series on what it means to follow Christ. The other two clips in the series are good too. Go to youtube (click on the logo in the video) and check them out (or you can find them at marko's blog, too.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Little Rhymy Time...

I talk with students about dangers online. There's the great potential to access information (and I love that), but there's also danger that I want to make sure our students are wary of. But I'm not just talking about porn (though that's obviously something online to avoid). I've encountered a divisive spirit in some Christian sites that seems to want to be 'right' at all costs and to tear down everyone else. It's dangerous, too.

There's a forum that I've visited often, and posted at occasionally, that really seems to be in a time where everyone there just wants to fight, as opposed to actually discussing things. It's gotten pretty frustrating, and even though I don't post there often, I've found myself wasting time 'watching the fight' - kind of like the train wreck you slow down to see.

But today, I've turned those thoughts into a little rhyme for you to enjoy. And think about the productivity of your discussions. Or maybe it's just for me to enjoy! Ha ha. Anyway, I've decided to pretty much stop going there, because there just hasn't been much gained by the whole thing. Here's the rhyme... maybe I'll post it there, but probably not.
____________________________
Just one page view and I was hooked;
The siren called me in.
I quickly clicked
The X at top,
But I’d be back again.

And so it went for many moons -
My browser’d sort and store ‘em.
These pages full of words, not porn:
An argumentive forum.

Theology and doctrine queries?
Answers: vitriolic fury.
Prideful claims and hurtful names -
The love of Christ made blurry.

I still returned though burned and battered
While Jesus’ body mocked and scattered;
Scraps on the floor,
Bolts on the Door,
I pray no wand’rer stumbles by.

For he would find a force divided,
Broken family, brothers chided.
He may decide ‘the way is shut’
And never find His Way.

It needn’t have been so, I think,
Discussion warm and free could be.
But trolls are live and sacrifice
Our desperate need for Thee…

Monday, October 23, 2006

Youth Culture

This was my entry in our church's newsletter this week:

I’ve been reading a book by Walt Mueller called Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldview and Christian Truth. It’s about learning to communicate Jesus in ways to which young generations will respond. Obviously as a pastor of student ministries, that’s an important topic to me, but my prayer is that as a believer in Jesus, it is important to you, too. We should be very concerned with communicating the truth of Jesus with students.

But, in some ways, it’s not as simple as we may think. It’s not enough to just walk up and say “Hey kid, Jesus loves you.” While that statement is definitely true, that approach to revealing the truth often falls on deaf, young ears. In many ways, youth ministry today is cross-cultural missions work. We must work to understand the youth culture that exists today (whether they’ve created it in a kind of generational self-defense or it’s been created for them by marketers) in order to communicate with students who are living in that culture.

If I were to commit my life to ministry with German people, I would need to learn German. If I gave myself to ministry with Venezuelans, I’d need to learn the Spanish language as well as Venezuelan customs, attitudes, and values. I’ve committed to ministry with students, so I need to know what they care about, what shapes their thinking, what drives their hearts and passions…

If you have kids at home, you do too. Take a look away from what fills your world everyday and examine theirs. It may be more different than you think. The youth culture in our country really does operate according to a different set of behaviors and values than previous generations.

I want to challenge you to join me in studying, loving, and reaching students in our valley. Get to know them and their world. Ask questions and really listen to their thoughts. The author of that book is also the director of a ministry called the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. Their website (www.cpyu.org) may be a great place to start taking a continually updated look at youth culture.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Who's It?

Haven't written in a long time, but leave it to something stupid to get me back here. There were reports yesterday about schools banning tag like that one. This is as bad as the whole dodge ball thing a few years ago. Why can't kids be kids without living in a glass (no wait, better make that non-breakable plexiglass - or better yet, memory foam lined rubber) bubble? WE CANNOT KEEP THEM SAFE FROM EVERY BUMP AND SCRATCH! Nor should we.

I live in an area of the country that's known for a little less hectic pace, wide open spaces, and common sense type of people. But just a couple hours away in Cheyenne, the buffalo may roam, the deer and the antelope can play, but kids can't play tag at recess. Seriously? It's been 40 some years since you were supposed to be able to pray in school, and now you can't play there either?

I have a solution. Let's get over the idea that someone else is responsible and teach our kids to do the same. Fell down and scraped your knee? You'll be ok. Fell out of the tree and broke your arm? Hurts, doesn't it... as opposed to "Let's sue Johnny Appleseed and the asphalt company."

I could go on... but I've gotta go pick up my daughter from school - where she can still play tag and hang upside down on the monkey bars. Then I'm taking her home to her brothers and I'm going to chase them around the house for a while!

"You're it."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Future of Youth Ministry

The current issue of Christianity Today features an article that is a compilation of thoughts from prominent evangelicals regarding "the next 50 years" for the church. Thanks to zus for the e-mail of the youth portion of the article (and to Marshall, who doesn't know yet that I borrowed the issue from his inbox so I could read the rest).

There are some really good thoughts about youth ministry and where it should be headed. I really like the main point of the article, that much of what has happened in youth ministry hasn't produced long term disciples. (I don't want to put words in anyone else's mouth, so read the article so you know what they actually said.) There's a really good quote from Mark Ostereicher of Youth Specialties that talks about the disconnection between real faith and being present at youth activities. Just because a kid's here all the time now, doesn't ensure he'll be involved in the church at all 5 years from now.

Another comment that really resonated with me is from Chap Clark of Fuller Theological Seminary (you may remember I recommended his book Hurt... or you may not, but it's a great book). His comments indicated that "the greatest challenge is developing 'a theology of intergenerational community' that helps a whole church to feel responsible for its youth. Otherwise, he said, churches follow mainstream culture's market-driven vision—and, like secular culture, abandon adolescents to raise themselves. " That's not ok. The world sees students as cheap labor, open wallets, and idle consumers and treats them accordingly. Youth ministry that panders to kids who just want to play, parents who just want a babysitter, and people who just want big crowds does the same thing. (Again, that's my two cents, not Clark's.)

I'm sure youth ministry will look much different in 50 years than it does now. I won't pretend to know what exactly will change. But in short (I know, it's too late for short), I hope youth ministry will become known for producing lifelong disciples of Jesus. The flash, the games, the hype... they can all disappear. What students cannot live without is learning to follow the lead of Jesus.
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For a nice look at what editor's have to do, check out the summary of Marko's thoughts in first paragraph of the article, then read the expanded version of his own words on his own blog. CORRECTION: (just in case you don't read the comments) the article's paragraph is actually word for word from the interview. Marko's blog has more of his thoughts from the interview.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"an infinite capacity for not knowing what can't be done"

A speaker I once heard quoted Henry Ford as saying, “I’m looking for a lot of men with an infinite capacity for not knowing what can’t be done.” I love that thought! The idea that we can accomplish what someone else thinks impossible.

Maybe I like it so much because God is always sticking ideas in my heart that other people scoff at. Maybe I like it because it reminds me that I’m not the only one who’s not satisfied with status quo existence. Ford basically stated what he was going to do and gave people the chance to join him or mock him. "I’m going to do what’s ‘impossible’ – want to help?" Most of us drive the mass-produced results of his undefeatable attitude.


But there’s a bigger picture for us. Today, God is at work in the world doing the impossible. He’s transforming self-absorbed, self-righteous individuals into a community of faith, hope, and love. He’s turning people’s attention from themselves to their neighbors. He’s changing my focus from what I want to what others need.

You might expect me here to say that He’s doing it in the church and you should attend more often and be a part of it…But that’s not where I’m going. God’s not just at work in the church – He’s at work everywhere in the world around us. Volunteerism isn’t just something that a few ‘extra-nice’ people do anymore. Students no longer do community service because they broke the law. And they don’t just do it because they have to get some credits to graduate, either. They do it because they want to help!

Unfortunately, many adults have turned their blindside to youth. They’d rather believe the status quo that youth are always getting in trouble and disrespectful. But God is at work in the youth of today, and He definitely has “an infinite capacity for not knowing what can’t be done.” Do you? Then work with God to build future generations.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Good Article from Mark Driscoll

Just read this on Mark Driscoll's blog. His last book was a great story of what God's been doing through the church over the last 10 years. Pray that the junk that's gone on will only strengthen the church for the future.

Returned.

The men's retreat went fairly well from all indicators that I've seen. Thank you for praying. I got through all 4 messages without saying anything really stupid, and there were only a couple guys that caught a few zzz's while I talked! Seriously though, it was evident that God had something to say and I'm glad I got to be a part of it. (If I can, I'll get the gists of my messages posted here later, which would be a lot easier if I'd have had some notes!)

We golfed on Friday and Saturday, despite the crazy wind, and that was fun, too. I've finally learned how to hit the ball, so my scores are much better (though I'd still hesitate to call them good). I may be at the point now, though, where I'm good enough to really have fun, and inconsistent enough to get really frustrated.

I'm getting ready to buy an old junked car that I'm going to race next year, too. They've started a new class at the track here for 4 cylinder cars that you don't modify much at all so it's cheap, so I'm going to race next season! It's been a great way to get to know a few guys from church and the students I take out with me. Plus, I'm really looking forward to driving fast with a bunch of other cars!

Also this week, I began leading a Bible Study at the Middle School here in town before school on Monday. It's pretty exciting to be invited in to do this in a public school.

God's at work.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Question...

In preparing sermons for the men's retreat that I'm speaking at this weekend, I came across some notes I took from a sermon by Len Sweet given at a National Youth Leader's Convention a few years ago. (I'll be borrowing his term 'pneumenaut' for the weekend.)


In describing a shift in focus in the church from the Reformation to the present, he contends that God is moving the church into a more missional mindset. From the "Here I stand." mentality of Martin Luther to the "There we go." of today's missional churches. The question that the church has been asking for the past several centuries (especially evident in the modern evangelical churches), "How do we get more people to come?" is giving way to the more missional, "How do we send more people out?"


In youth ministry, I am constantly asked, "So how many kids do you have coming?" It's tough sometimes to not get snippy with well-intentioned questioners, because the truth of the matter is that we have quite a few kids, with the potential for a lot more, but that's not the point. How many kids am I sending out? How many of my students are taking the kingdom with them into their schools? How many are setting aside the ambition of the world in order to serve Christ with every ability they have been given? These are the questions that should be asked.


The big statement in Sweet's sermon was that God is on a mission in the world. The big question is "WILL GOD'S MISSION HAVE A CHURCH?" Will we set aside our own agendas in allegiance to His Kingdom?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lately...

Haven't posted much lately due to about a half hour limit on daily internet usage before our server's been 'molassassed' into non-functionalness. It's fixed now (since we undid a change we made last week). Probably won't be posting a whole lot next week either, since I have four sermons to be finishing up for a men's retreat I'll be speaking at next weekend. Also, I'll be preaching here this Sunday night at WestWay if you want to come...

Something to Ponder

I recently came across these articles about some research into the effects of homework. One is an article in Time, the other an article in Salon.com. Maybe there is more to life...

I guess it probably varies greatly by school, and even by teacher and student. How much is too much? I really appreciate the overall attention in the articles given to the concept of loving learning. If we can foster in kids a love for learning... we wouldn't have to 'assign' busywork.

This has some great application in the church, especially in the area of discipleship. Often, discipleship is reduced to a process of forced daily 5 minute readings, shallow times of prayer, and mandatory attendance of weekly gab sessions with other 'disciples'. (I know that's the bleak side of the picture, but bear with me.) The view is that if you're fulfilling these obligations daily and weekly (or is it weakly?) then discipleship must be happening. (Just like the thinking that, if you're getting all your hours of homework done, then you must be learning.)

But the conclusions don't strictly follow the actions. Just because you're doing homework doesn't mean you're learning, and just because you're dutifully going to your small group meeting doesn't mean you're a disciple. You're a homework doer. You're a faithful attender. Learning is more than filling in the right blanks. So is discipleship.

May you have a love for following the Master. May the love of growing more like Him lead you to pursue His likeness with everything you are in every place you find yourself - whether it's assigned or not.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Updating...

Blogger is adding some new features and stuff, so my blog will be using a beta version of what they're doing for a while...

Sorry if this gets things all jacked up for a bit (like the blog links are gone and the side bar is at the bottom of the page and who knows what else).

As soon as I figure out how to get it fixed, I will.

One feature that I do like will be adding labels to posts that will categorize things a lot better than just what month they were written in. (But it will be a while before I can get through all the posts and get them labeled.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Best 6 Bucks I Didn't Really Spend

Last Christmas, I recieved a gift card for a church bookstore in town. I don't get over there very often, so I still had a few dollars unused on the card. I happened to be in the area a couple weeks ago with a few extra minutes, so I stopped in to see what I could find. Just before I got to the music area, I found a small table full of clearance stuff. Books, music, CD's, etc. (They even had some old cassettes!)

"Everything $2."

The words called to me. I don't know, maybe I'm cheap, but if there's a table full of $2 items, surely there's something worthy. In addition to the book about U2 that I blogged about last week, I got Derek Webb's "I See Things Upside Down" CD, and Charlie Peacock's book "At the Crossroads", which I've been reading. For 6 Bucks! For 6 Bucks that someone gave me!!!

This book is about the Christian music industry. Some good points, some shortcomings. Actually it deals with some similar themes as "Walk On" did, but from within the industry itself. Peacock advocates a more complete kingdom vision - God's story everywhere in everything, as opposed to Christian music being reduced to 3 mentions of Jesus and better days to come when he returns. Living a life that is fully integrated with that kingdom vision.

It's been a very enlightening book, and a challenge to pay attention to the ever-expanding nature of the Kingdom of God and the beauty of creativity that is a part of the nature of His image bearers.

As he is speaking to the fact that there are so few examples of music from Christians that deal with the broader (but less easily labeled) aspects of God's Story, he mentions a passage from Song of Solomon: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth - for your love is more delightful than wine." This lyric wouldn't go over so well as a "Christian" lyric in CCM.

But ironically, within five minutes of reading that page, the Derek Webb CD that I bought that day played a song titled "Better Than Wine" that deals with just that theme! And now is a song called "T-shirts (what we should be known for)" is speaking to the same topic as much of the book. Then again, Derek Webb is being seen as somewhat of a rogue element in the Christian Music Industry. But I bet he's read this book, too.

Either that, or, he and Charlie Peacock are living the same Story...

May I live it too...

And you with us.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Coming Up



Yeah, it's a month away, but make your plans now!

Send me a sign...

There are a number of links to church sign generators on the web (click here for example), where you can fabricate a church sign to make whatever ridiculous comment you want it to make. This site, Crummy Church Signs, however is reportedly filled with examples of real live church signage gone amuck. Some of those are trite and cheesy, others are downright wrong. Some are sad and others are just hilarious.

I wonder, though, what is wrong with this picture. This is a picture of an actual sign that I took in front of a business that is located next door to a church facility. What does it say about a church's relationship to its community? Now, I don't know anything about the church really except the location of its building and that they have a reputation for free food (soup kitchen type of outreach). But something is wrong here...

Great Message...

Not sure if this is legit or not... but it's hilarious. If you're ever running late to something, this may just get you off the hook. It's great to know in this age of image in communication, some people can still paint a great picture with their words.

(Thanks to Marko for posting this first)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Walk On

Just finished reading this from Irish Presbyterian minister, Steve Stockman. I'd almost picked it up a while back, but didn't have the money, but I found it at a bookstore for two bucks so bought it last week.

If you like U2, it's a pretty interesting look into the spiritual depth behind much of their music. If you don't like U2, this might give you a reason to try again, with fresh ears to hear their message.

The 2001 edition (the one I found) obviously doesn't include anything past their Elevation tour, but there is a new edition out from Relevant Books that includes everything through How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, which some say is their "most spiritually profound" album yet.

The book may make you think about this band (among other things) in a very different way. What does a living/visible faith really look like? Has the church tried so hard to not be "of the world" that we really don't live "in the world"? Do my actions and my words make the same statement about my self/belief/God?

With Trepidation...

I just dropped off Emily for her first day at school. It was interesting to see her excitement be diluted by trepidation. For weeks, she’s been looking forward to getting back to school and going to her new school. She’s talked and talked about her plans for the playground and the kids she’ll get to see.

This morning, she excitedly slung on her backpack, loaded up with all the supplies she’ll need for the year (which apparently was very heavy). But as we entered the school, full of anxious parents slipping away from their kids, I felt her little grip tighten. As we dropped off her stuff by her desk, I could see her wondering, “I don’t know anyone… what am I supposed to do now?”

The uncertainty of the new was tempered a little when I led her to the playground to wait. A quick hug and a beeline for the slide seemed to put the world back in order for her. But then she discovered a new rule… most of the playground is off limits until the regular recess. Back to dad’s side and ‘what am I supposed to do now?’

I know my kid well enough to know, she’ll be great. Today when I pick her up, her fears alleviated, she’ll have a thousand stories to tell. So I left. She’ll be ok. She’ll figure out what to do.

So will I. So can you. No matter what uncertainties we may face in life, we know Someone’s coming back to pick us up when the time comes. Regardless of the fears that steal the excitement of life from us, we know our Father’s love is stronger than those fears. And that’s enough to get us through...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Step into Disaster

It was just after Christmas, 2004. Do you remember? A small wave flooded the beaches just moments before a mammoth wall of water brought the world's attention to Indonesia. In the wake of that disaster, walls crumbled... spiritual walls. Last night, our students got to hear from a couple who stepped into that disaster to bring hope.

They told us how the people of Indonesia, which is the most populous Muslim majority nation (almost 90% of its over 200 million people claim Islam), had been very resistant to the message of Christ. But that changed. When Christians rose up to pour themselves into helping the Acehnese to rebuild their homes, their city, their lives... the wall of hostility toward followers of Jesus began to crumble.

It was a great picture of living, active faith. By making the world a better place for someone else, these missionaries are able to love those who are lost. Working with Team Expansion and IDES, they've built over 300 homes, helped establish brick factories, and accomplished so much more. As they build, walls come down. (I read an article today that was an imam lamenting the fact that Christian missionaries were making headway in the Muslim world.)

Pray for followers of Jesus to show this love that rebuilds lives and tears down walls.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Interesting Article

Just read an interesting article in the Washington Post called Ministering With New Maturity. Some really good thoughts about how youth ministry has 'grown up' over the past few decades. It was nice to see a positive perspective of youth ministry from an 'outside source'.

--for more insight into the world of youth ministry, you might check out Marko's blog (where I found the link to the WP article).

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dakota...

Kind of hesitant to put up another post on this topic, but it's just too funny...

Last night I was giving Dakota a hard time about eating my popcorn or something. He said it was his popcorn because he "told" mom to make it. I replied that, no, he had "asked" mom to make it. Here's how the rest of the conversation went:

Me: "Kota, you don't really tell mom to do anything. You ask her. There's a difference between telling and asking."

Dakota: "and poop."

So, yes everyone, there is a difference between asking, telling, and poop. Don't forget. (And don't expect anymore poo posts anytime soon, either!)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Who says they don't teach anything on TV?

Last night, LuAnn and I were talking about something, making plans for the rest of the evening, and the kids kept interrupting. Trying to get them to go play elsewhere, she said "Scat." to which Emily replied "Animal poop? We're not animal poop!"

Hey, at least it's something.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Post Camp Thoughts...

It's nice to be home after the past couple weeks of camp. Jr High camp had a few bumpy days, but overall it was great. Really got to see the students coming together. High School week flew by and was a good week, as well. Most of our students were involved in leading worship for the week, and they did a great job.

On the way home last Friday, we came around a corner and almost hit a buffalo! As I stopped, I rolled down my window for a nice chat (I don't know why, so don't ask!), but he decided to jump the fence and head the other way.

Also, from the highway, we could see some of the flames from the fires that are burning up the Panhandle. A few times yesterday, I could hardly see the bluff out my window through all the smoke that's settling in the valley.

So, now that camp is done, it's officially the beginning of the end of summer (or something like that). I'm excited to move into the fall and continue to see students growing and being discipled. God is at work here, and it's awesome to be able to play a part in it all...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Consumed

This week at HS camp, our students will be challenged to be “Consumed”. In a time when so many things pull us in so many different directions, the idea of being consumed by any one thing may seem a little off. Aren’t we supposed to strive for ‘balance’ so we don’t suffer ‘burn-out’?

You can read a lot of modern thought about achieving balance in your life. Certainly there are areas of life where a proper balance is important. But can we really have a spiritual balance? Or a balance of spiritual life and physical life?

I think the answer is “No”.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus doesn’t present a balanced picture here (in Matthew 10:37-39). It sounds like all or nothing to me.

Too many Christians have concerned themselves with the prim and the proper and the well ordered life at the expense of being consumed by the mission of Christ. When you’re on a mission, everything must succumb to the import of that mission (or you’re not really ‘on’ that mission are you?). Our students are being called to pick up their crosses and follow an imbalanced, all consuming Way. In doing so, they will find life and take that life with them everywhere they go!

The well balanced man has never changed the world but one who is consumed will set it ablaze.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Transformation

“Anyone who thinks transformation always shows up carrying fireworks hasn’t paid much attention to caterpillars and butterflies. Give me a deep, heartfelt transformation anytime; it grows wings and flies.” – Audrey Ferris quote stolen from a promo from Group Publishing

Youth ministry is all about transformation. It’s about students being transformed by the living, breathing Word and Spirit of God into living, breathing letters of His love for His lost. It’s about selfish kids being transformed into generous sharers of God’s compassion. It’s about gifted students being transformed into humble servants.

Next week, I'll be at camp with a group of students who are being transformed. After that, I’ll be at another camp with another group that is caught up in this transformational process. A few weeks ago, I was CIY with our high school students as they moved toward further transformation.

During these intense weeks, you can be sure, that tears will be shed, decisions made and shared, walls torn down, and emotional floodwaters raised. But that is not the transformation. Those moments often mark important points on the transformational journey, but they are not the transformation itself.

The true transformation that is needed in student ministry only occurs as students learn to live their lives in more Christ-like ways. They’ll come back from conference and camp excited… but the transformation is still in process. And much of what they’ll become depends on you. They will imitate the example you set, so be sure that you are being transformed into a model of humanity that is worth emulating – one like Jesus.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More Thoughts on Unity

This theme of unity has come up a number of time for me the past month or so. From this post to one of the days at CIY to another couple items in the past few days. Interestingly, I've been asked to speak at camp on the topic of unity as well. (Funny how God prepares us for things if we're paying attention!)

A couple days ago, I found this short story by Clint Heacock called A Castle for the Ages on Relevent's website. It's a good metaphor (don't try to push too far, though - any good metaphor breaks down eventually) for a lot of what's going on in the church today. You should go there and read the article.

You should also check out the blog of Tony Myles (Don't Call Me Veronica), specifically this post about a recent trip to speak and listen at an Emergent gathering. A lot of interesting thoughts there, but what struck me most were his observations of how people from differening points of view would approach each other in dialogue.

A great picture of unity in the church:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possissions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts... -Acts 2:44-46

Some thoughts from Paul:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. -Ephesians 4:1-3

Monday, July 10, 2006

speechless...

What Did He Say???

Never seen anything quite like this at this level of any sport. What a way to go out...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Absence...

I've been gone for a while, but here's a little bit of what's been going on...
I took a bunch of students to the desert mountains of Colorado...
for a little bit of this...

And some of this...










But mostly for this. CIY Summer Conference is always great, but this year was especially beneficial for our ministry. Our youth really pulled together through the week. The time to reflect on the book of Ephesians was awesome and impacting. Now, we must follow through on the commitments we've all made to each other and to God.

(There's way more to write about the trip, but it'll have to wait for another day...)


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Failure to Advance

Disappointed that the US will not advance. They were in a tough group, but still just didn't seem to play as well as they should have. Didn't seem ready.

But, it's the World Cup! There are still some great teams advancing and some exciting games to be watched. Hopefully, I'll be able to watch a few over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Accountability

In some recent discussions I've had and this article that I read, I've been thinking about the idea of accountability. I like the article's suggestion that it's more than just spilling your guts out to someone - revealing your faults and secret sins. It's humble submission.

Unless you're willing to submit to someone's advice/instruction, it doesn't do you any good to ask for it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Summer Fun

We're having VBS this week and taking students to CIY in Colorado next week, so.... I've been doing a lot of preparing for those things. VBS is going well and I'm really looking forward to CIY next week.

BUT... It's so close and there's way too much to do between now and then to be ready for the trip and for stuff when we get back (like two weeks of camp within a couple weeks of our return). Oh well... such is the fun of summer youth ministry!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Reichstag

The way it was meant to be seen...


Never Give Up - How 'bout that for a first appearance?

Note to Power Companies Everywhere - We want our World Cup TV!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Unity

In an excerpt from Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that "Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participtate."

In Christ, we have been joined together - apart from any effort or desires on our part. He unites us with each other as we become united to Him. I wonder if I've spent too much attention trying to create a sense of unity among students that is at best artificial. It would be better if we concentrate on being united to Christ, and as His character grows within us, we'll grow to understand and participate in the reality... in Him we're family. Whether we act like it or not.

But I think there's also a balance somewhere between trying to acheive unity by our own effort and just sitting back and doing nothing to foster the brotherhood that exists in the church.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Talent...

I've been reading a little book called Stand Against the Wind by Erwin McManus which seems to be mostly art-enhanced extracted thoughts from his book Uprising (great for gift-type book). This quote stood out to me the other day and has kind of been floating around my head...

Talent without character is a dangerous thing. Talent fueled by character is a gift from God.
In helping students discover and become what God is calling them to, I'm often pointing to talents they already have that could be developed for use in the kingdom. This was a good reminder to pay attention to character development as well. Without character, it's so easy to get sucked into a 'look-what-I-can-do' mentality. The world doen't need more talented people - it needs men and women who have taken on the character of Christ. I wonder how many have been taken down by the very talents that could have been of great use to the Kingdom? I pray I'll have the character to recognize the gift and use it wisely.

Almost here...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Credibility

Gman, this one's just for you if you haven't seen it already...

This has been debated on CBSportsline, Slate, and tons of other sites, but, check out this claim. Haven't seen this trick since my days in Jr. High gym class! In attempting to sell his shake, he's sold any semblance of credibility as well.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Crack in the Wall

When you own a home, there are a certain number of ‘projects’ that are always lurking for you. When these are done, several more will rise up in their place. Having just bought a house, here are a few of my projects: refinish old wood floors, remodel bathroom, install flooring in kitchen and dining room, put up fence in backyard, resuscitate grass, uncover window that was boarded up for no apparent reason, re-rock fireplace, paint, replace fake wood paneling… These are not all short-term projects, but things that we’d like to get done in the next few years. None of them are absolutely essential, just things we’d like to do.

LuAnn and I have talked about another project, as well. Our kids will be using the basement, so we’d like to put in an egress window (basically a window close enough to the floor, and big enough, that you can escape a fire - or more accurately, so that a fireman can climb in and drag you out). This involves a pretty substantial removal of basement wall concrete in order to install the larger window. Translate that – big, hairy, & expensive. This is something that we’ve decided can wait a while.

That changed Wednesday night. Instead of hitting golf balls with friends as I had planned, I was tearing out soaked carpet (and the tile it was glued to) and shop-vac-ing (yes, I know that’s not really a word) water out of the basement. (Eric, thanks a ton for your help!) Apparently, the wall between the inside bedroom and the outside flower bed is not watertight. Who knew!

As we proceeded to clean up, we took some panel off the wall to discover a gaping hole in the wall. (Ok, it wasn’t gaping, and it was more of a crack than a hole, but… that’s where the water was coming in so I’ll call it a gaping hole if I want to.) And, once the wall is repaired (still waiting for bids on how that job will go), that’s where the egress window will go.

It’s funny how something you’d been thinking about doing can become something you must do NOW. Maybe there’s something going on in your life like this. Maybe God’s just revealed a huge spiritual crack in your wall that’s begging to be fixed. Maybe you’ve got a hole that’s letting things leak into your life that don’t belong there. Maybe there’s some area of ministry you’ve been thinking about for a while, and NOW is the time to act.

Stop thinking about it. Do what you must do.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Speaking of College...

According to a note on CNNMoney.com dated May 2, 2006,

"Nearly 2/3 of college students now use loans to finance their education, up from 46% in 1990. The class of 2004 graduated with an average loan debt of $15,622 for the public school students and $22,581 for those who went to private schools. A 2006 graduate with a consolidated debt of $40,000, they will owe a payment of $243 a month until they are 52. As they begin eyeing their senior discounts, they will have paid over $47,000 in interest alone on that loan."

Yikes! And that's just under-grad. I hate the thought of so many students marching proudly into such a deep debt. That's a decent car payment. So skip college and buy yourself a new car every few years instead. Just kidding! (The angry parent letters are already starting.) The education received in college can determine or at least shape much of a student's future. Very seldomly would it be a good idea to skip it!

But it's expensive. Maybe it would be better to take it a little slower (forget about graduating in 4 years) and leave yourself some time to work. Find a job (as humble as it may have to be) and pay for school as you go. Work summers. Cut back on what you don't really need. Spend what you have wisely. Save. Graduate in 5 or 6 years with a student loan payment of zero.

Or maybe you're fortunate to have parents paying your way through school. If so, appreciate it. Don't take for granted that gift. When you get your first post-graduation paycheck, call home and thank mom and dad for making sure you won't be paying for your education til you're ready to retire.

Or maybe I'm out of my mind! Maybe there is no other way than the 'way of Stafford'... nah, there's gotta be a way. Hope you find it...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Scrambled Code

One of the aspects of conservative Christianity that I really don't care for is our penchant for banning. Afraid our children will be led astray by the latest Pied Piper??? Never mind teaching them to think critically and make good choices... just ban him. Ticked off that some company's policies will benefit some group you don't like??? Don't try to reason with them, don't examine your own heart toward that group... ban the company.

In this case, it was a movie. Now this bandwagon was far from full, but the debate has been pretty hot. With the Da Vinci Code showing up on screens this weekend, things are coming to a head. But wait! What's this? The movie stinks, you say?

How much free publicity did this movie get because so many were so eager to picket and ban and rail against a movie that probably would have flopped on its own anyway?

Don't get me wrong. It's vital for Christ's body to stand up and proclaim Truth, and to point out the deception our enemy uses to dupe the masses. But, can we find a better way?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

going home

We just got back from about a week long trip for graduations and receptions and to visit some missionary friends who are staying in IA til their new baby has his passport. Scott and Kelly and baby Nathaniel are doing well (despite the laryngitis and pink eye) as they prepare for a few last visits with family and supporters, then the return to their language and literacy work in Papua New Guinea. We had a good visit. Scott was a very good friend growing up (as well as LuAnn's cousin) and it was great to see them again before they take off.

It was also great to see the graduating students from my former ministry. These kids were just starting in Jr. High when I started in Auburn. One of the girls was baptized on our first Sunday there - you could just see her head popping up over the edge of the baptistry, now she's flipping her tassel. It was humbling to see how they've grown and how God continues to work in their lives. I had promised them when I came here that I'd come back for graduation this year. I had enough barbeque sandwiches to last for a really long time (at least 'til next year's receptions). Lots of late nights piled together and topped off with an overnight drive to get back, though... I'm tired.

Even if it was 4:00 in the morning, it was a great feeling to come back from our trip to our house instead of the apartment. Just felt more like coming home. It's a funny thing we have with this idea of home... When we first went to Auburn, I definitely felt like a stranger in a strange land, but it became home - those people became family. And now, a new home is developing for us here in Scottsbluff. Our family is expanding.

Kind of reminds me of scripture talking about being foreigners. We have a better home. We're on our Way there now. And the family we're bringing with us should keep expanding...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fire/Water

"More than 2,200 wildfires have burned over 44,000 acres in Florida since Jan. 1, according to the state Division of Forestry." - from an AP story Tuesday

That seems strange in a state that is nearly surrounded by water (1100 miles of coastline), and nearly submerged in water. Home of the Everglades. The highest point above sea level is less than 350 ft high and the mean elevation is only 98 feet. There's water everywhere - but the equivalent of 70 square miles has burned this year alone.

I think often we fall into a pattern of living that is very much like these fires in FL. Surrounded by the Living Water to sustain life, but still burning out. Stop and drink. Drink deeply and live. Drink, and be satisfied.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ok, now breathe...

Spring Thing 2006 has officially concluded. There are a few loose ends to tie up as far as reports and expenses and evaluation, but the weekend went well. (Any of you who were there feel free to disagree if you want to.) Couple weeks ago, I asked our congregation to be praying that the Spirit of God would blow life into the skeletal schedule of events. They did. He did. Here's my article from this week's Westway newsletter...
........
According to the “Human Anatomy Online” website “The average human adult skeleton has 206 bones joined to ligaments and tendons to form a protective and supportive framework for the attached muscles and the soft tissues which underlie it.”

In the last couple weeks, when I asked you to pray that the Sprit of God would blow through Spring Thing, giving life to the skeleton that had been planned, I had no idea just how He would do that. Ezekiel was amazed to see a valley of bones come to life – I got to see something very similar this week. Look at this math…

3 states + 11 cities + 15 churches = 206 students and student loving youth leaders at 1 great weekend! The Holy Spirit was definitely present, joining us together in His Body and breathing life into us all. On the very first night, our speaker, Tory Satter, commented to me about the overwhelming sense of community that he could feel in the students and adults that were present. It was not natural. We had been joined by the ligaments and tendons of your prayers.

Thank you for praying. Thank you for opening your homes. And special thanks to those of you who cleared your schedules to be here and help. Nancy, Missy, Andi, Joel, Joe, Marcia, Greg, Matt, Cody, Trevor, Drew, Adam (& crew), Rodd, Aaron, Scott, Dave… I can’t thank you all enough.
................
For me, this was the first of what I hope will be many such events. There were a few things that I'll do differently next time, but this time overall went very well.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stressful weekend ahead...

There is the back.



And here is the front.



We're closing on Friday! After quite a process and many concessions (all on our side), we're finally closing the deal on our next house.

Also on Friday... about 200 youth and youth leaders will descend into our nice little valley for the Spring Thing youth rally that we're hosting (see post below).

Now if I could just figure out how to get a little separation in the big, hairy stressful things in life... Actually, my freshman year of college I took a life stress evaluation survey thingamading for psych class and had been through like 13 of the 15 most stressful life events within 6 months. How did I get in this pattern??? Oh well. I get to buy a house Friday morning and race go-karts Friday night. Who can complain?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Only One More Week...

Only one more week until a couple hundred students and youth leaders converge on WestWay for the weekend! Things have come together pretty well. Pray for good weather - we'll be going to the Great Escape (mini-golf, go karts, etc...) Friday night!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shaped by God's Life

One last phrase from the first chapter of 1 Peter:

"...let yourself be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, 'I am holy; you be holy."

Because God is holy and it is this Holy God that has called us into relationship with Himself, we should be holy. That's not some ritual cleaning type of holiness, but a real and practical way of living life.

We are not shown to be holy by our collection of perfect attendance pins. We are not proved holy by the stillness of our prayer or the size of our offering check or the volume of our singing. Holiness is evidenced in the way we live our lives. It is seen in our treatment of the idiot drivers around us and the teachers that give us too much homework and the bosses that overlook our hard work and our parents and coaches and that kid that's always in the background and the one who's obnoxiously calling attention to himself...

Is your way of life shaped by God's life?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Photo Fun

Got my wife a new camera, so I'm messing around with it before she gets it! Probably will never get to pry it out of her hands again, so I'll have to enjoy it while I can.

This is a partial view of the corner of my office. (And no, they're not posing, they're just like that!)

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Are You Conscious?" or "God at Work" or "The Traveling Excitements of My Family of Five"

A third phrase from the first couple chapters of 1 Peter that really stands out to me is this: "Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God."

Echoing the thought that we are foreigners on this earth, Peter urges us to live in constant awareness of God being at work. He's at work now, so what's He doing? How should I be responding to His working?

Last week, my brother in law and his wife had their first child, Kole Malachi. They only live a few hours away, so we left Thursday night for a visit. On the way home Saturday, we had a little 'incident' on the road. Now I know some of you that will read this live in higher traffic places like LA or Denver or Tryon (ok maybe not Tryon) and this may be a commonplace kind of thing, but I'll have to admit to being pretty shocked at this type of road rage in the land of big skies, wide open spaces, and long stretches of clear highways...

Here's what happened. As we left one small town, I brought our mini-van up to the speed limit (yes, I specifically checked because I remember my dad getting a huge ticket in this vicinity once for a couple mph too many.) Set the cruise and settled in for the next 10 mile stretch to the next little town. A car well ahead of me put on his blinker and slowed down to turn left - then just kept driving down the road. I quickly caught up to him and slowed down to about 45 mph to stay behind him thinking he'd be turning any moment. I didn't want to pass him because I didn't know where he'd be turning, so I thought I'd be polite and stay behind him. Apparently he didn't think it was as polite as I was.

After what seemed like forever, but was probably about a mile, he was going about 35 on the highway (where the speed limit is 65) and I could tell that the moment we'd all been waiting for had arrived! Behold, a dirt road emerged from the fields on the north to show those who were eastbound the way home. Surely, he was taking this road. Yes, he's turning! He's sliding over into the other lane (which is ok, because there's no oncoming traffic for miles).

As he begins his turn, I move to the right to pass, halfway into the emergency lane of the highway (which the nice state trooper I'll meet later in the story says is perfectly legal as long as you stay on the pavement and the car you're passing is indeed turning left). This is where things get ugly. The car in front of me suddenly slams on his brakes and pulls back in front of me (it was a move that has made many NASCAR drivers proud and many other NASCAR drivers boil over with rage). But instead of pushing him out of my way like Busch may do to Biffle, I hit my brakes and passed on the now wide open left. As I did so, I saw much wailing and flailing of arms - instructing me to pull over. I don't think so!

As my heart catches back up to the beat that kept going when I slammed on the brakes, I check my mirror and find to my dismay that him who had gone before was now coming behind - rapidly! (All joking aside, I was scared he was going to hit us.) He pulled up next to my left side and began waving and pointing and mouthing for me to pull over. There is no way I'm pulling over on this stretch of highway to talk with him! So again, as he tries to cut me off, I do the old crossover and pass him back, to which he again speeds up to my bumper.

To speed this long story up... He reported me to the highway patrol for reckless driving, and about a half hour later I pulled over to explain the aforementioned events to a state trooper. For about the next 20 minutes or so, I gave my side of the story. After asking me if I wanted to press charges against the other guy for reckless driving (a process for which I have neither taste nor time), he said he had to go talk with said 'other guy' and get his version and proceed from there. Last night he called and told me that the guy said I was lying, but that no charges were being filed. It's done....

But, before being relieved at this conclusion I had spoken with my mother in law and told her of our adventure. She seemed a little apprehensive to say so, but told me that during their Saturday night service, she had felt the need to pray specifically for us as we traveled. Not just the generic 'traveling mercies' kind of thing, but really an urgent sense that we needed to be prayed for right now. (Just in case you didn't connect the dots, this was happening to her at the same time the 'incident' was happening to us.)

You can chalk it up to whatever you want, but I'm glad my wife's mom lives "with a deep consciousness of God."

Are you conscious?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Building Stones

"Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you'll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God."

Our second 1 Peter phrase. Just so there's no confusion... we're talking about Jesus here. The Living Stone. The Source of Life. Rejected by the builders. Honored by the Creator.

It's awesome to think that as I place myself into God's hand, He joins me to the Living Stone in building a life filled sanctuary where He can dwell. Not only is my life a gift from Him, it is my offering to Him, and it is a home for Him.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Among the Natives"

There are some great phrases in the first couple chapters of The Message translation of 1 Peter. Phrases that stick in my mind...

"...let yourself be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, 'I am holy; you be holy.'"

"Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God."

"Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you'll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God."

"Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices."

Over the next few days, I want to comment on these few verses, starting with that last one. It is evident today, that 'among the natives' of our world, following Jesus is no big deal. Jesus is seen as one option among many. And many people in our society who do choose to call themselves Christian live lives that look very little like the life of Jesus. A good number of them even seem hostile toward the very Body of Christ.

The stereotypical Christian response to 'the world' seems to be to withdraw into a churchy shell, do everything possible to build an appearance of being holy, and boycott anything that might reveal a crack in that facade. But this is not living 'among the natives'. If all our good is done inside the church bubble, the world will not see it. And they'll hold on to their prejudices.

Thankfully, that stereotype does not ring true for a growing number of Jesus' followers. There are many who have traversed beyond the bounds of the bubble and are living out their following of Christ in full view of 'the natives'. They love them the way Jesus does. They treat them the way Jesus does. They teach them the way Jesus does. And the walls of prejudice that many have built up against the church are giving way to the power of His Coming Kingdom.

May all our lives display Him so fully that others will come to give Him glory with us and celebrate with us when He returns.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Then it dawned on me...

I heard a youth minister today talking about turning 30 before too many years pass. I'm already there, and lately it's struck me that I'm closer in age to my students' parents than to my students! A lot of people are surprised by that. Sometimes, I am too.

They are surprised because a lot of people don't realize how old I am (not that 30 is old - I just get mistaken for one of the kids often). I'm surprised because I feel such affinity for students that I forget that I'm twice as old as they are. I don't know what the proper way to be 30 is, but I'm pretty sure I'm not following it. At least I'm not living the way I always thought adulthood would be.

My life is an odd mixture of adult and student... Example: We've been looking for a house in our new town lately. As we wrestle with decisions about type of mortgage, sufficient bedroom space, garage, wiring, furnace, flooring blah blah blah... I keep thinking, discipleship group hangout room, pinball, coke machine, surround sound PS2 on a wall mounted flat screen... If I wasn't married with 3 kids of my own and purchasing a house to replace the one we sold several months ago, I might wonder about a guy like me.

It's wierd being an adult kid... or, kid adult... or Peter Pan...

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ADDENDUM:::

After I posted this, I found a link on Marko's blog to this Lark News Article (Youth Pastor Hazing On the Rise). Ok, so it's not exactly the same issue, but the article is funny. Just in case you don't realize this... Lark News is satire. If you don't appreciate satirical looks at touchy issues, don't read the article.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What do you think?

Saw this article on USA Today's site about the possibility of FL requiring HS students to declare a major program of study - like college.

The thought is that by choosing a major, students will be able to focus more on courses that are interesting to them and be better prepared for college or working. On the surface, that sounds really good. What high school student wants to sit through classes that have no bearing on his intened future? The problem is, 'intended' future is often not the same as reality 5 or ten years down the road.

Will this really leave students more prepared? Or will it just add more stress for students to deal with in a time of life when they're not really ready for that kind of decision. What do you think?

Students - what major would you pick? Would you want to be forced to choose a major in HS?
Adults - At 15 years old, would you have picked a major that would have prepared you more for the future you are now living in?

Coming Soon to WestWay...

If any of you are in the area and have a free weekend April 28th & 29th - get the details and bring some students...

Friday, March 24, 2006

What would you do?

I've been listenning to some of Erwin McManus' podcasted sermons today while I'm preparing a display for our ministry fair (basically cutting and gluing). Several of them are from his Chasing Daylight series, which is also a book by that same title that was just released (and released a few years ago as Seizing Your Divine Moment). As he talked about Jonathan going out to do battle with the Philistines, knowing that the outcome was uncertain, he asks a great question that I needed to be reminded of:

"If you were afraid of nothing, what would you be doing?"

Fear shackles people into jobs they hate, relationships that degrade them, and patterns of living that actually suck life away. But what if we didn't fear being alone? What if we didn't fear the pain that comes when we're not numb? What if we weren't afraid of not making ends meet?

It's staggering how much of our lives can be motivated by fear, if we allow it to be. I've always dealt with a fear that people wouldn't like me. The last few weeks I've been thinking about how the fear of failure has marked my actions. I was always a good student. Things came easily for me in school. Other things in life have come easily for me as well. But I know that waiting for me somewhere around the corner of a choice is failure. I will fail. I know it. I know that it's coming... and I fear it.

But, what if I didn't?

What if I trusted God to build me through whatever failure may lurk ahead, enough to break the patterns of ease? The natural ability that God has given me has gotten me to a comfortable place in life and ministry... but where will the supernatural courage of initiative take me as I cast aside the fear that I won't be up to the task/good enough/strong enough?

I hope to find out.

But what about you? What do you fear? What uncertainties hold you back?

"If you were afraid of nothing, what would you be doing?"

Monday, March 13, 2006

Back to School...

I know I haven't blogged a whole lot lately, but I did run across this awesome experiment from the blog of another youth pastor named Scott Green.

For all 0f you who've said you just can't relate to today's kids anymore....

Try this. (same link as above)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ouch...

Last week did not end well...

The two houses we were most interested in sold. We were scheduled to go for a final look to make our decision and prepare an offer, but they sold before we got to them. So on the house search, we went back to square 1 basically and checked out a whole new slate of options.

In the middle of that, I woke up about 2 AM on Friday with really sharp pain in the left side of my lower back. I've had kidney stones before, so that was my first thought. Not a pleasant thought... and I was right. The pain subsided for a few hours of relief later in the morning, but came back everytime the stone shifted. Finally passed it on Saturday afternoon after drinking enough water to keep Dumbo hydrated.

The good news is - it's a new week. The pain is almost completely gone. Also, yesterday afternoon, we found another house that we like and are meeting with the realtor this afternoon. We'll make an offer then. It had some nice trees and bushes and stuff and a really cool shed/workshop/garage area that will work out as a great playhouse for the kids.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

40 Days...

I usually get ran over by the bandwagons - seriously, I have wagon wheel ruts on my back as deep as the ones at Ft. Laramie. That's ok, though, I have some kind of allergic reaction to whatever it is that most people are into at any given moment anyway. (Don't worry, there's a big but coming.) I just get really annoyed when I see people changing everything about themselves in order to fit in (maybe because that tendency is a constant undercurrent in my own life).

BUT...

Right now, our church is doing the whole 40 Days of Purpose series (probably the biggest bandwagon running in the church right now)... and I like it a lot. Maybe I can rationalize this bandwagon ride by convincing myself that I was ahead of the curve because I read Warren's first book long before I knew how huge it would become. Or maybe a few points of disagreement are enough to make me feel better about 'going with the flow' of thousands of other churches. At any rate, I'm excited to walk through this with WestWay (we went through it in Auburn as well and it was one of the best things the church ever did together).

I'm excited to see people realizing there's a point to this whole thing called life. I've grown up asking "Why?", seeking purpose for everything. (Probably got really annoying when I was a kid and had to know "Why?" all the time.) I've neer been satisfied to just do what I'm told. (Which is really odd, because I was always the kid that did do what I was told - just wasn't satisfied by that.) I pray that people will be able to move past the mundane and discover why they're here.

We started a new 'roughly college age' group last night. There seemed to be a really good mix of people looking forward to walking through a little life together. Can't wait to see how it all unfolds.

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