Friday, December 21, 2007

Satire

Just found this funny post over on a blog called Purgatorio.

Now, it's always easy to target large, 'successful' ministries and poor starving artists, but it takes a special kind of gift to strike fear in the hearts of vast numbers of copy-cat-pastors like that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Failure?

I've noticed I am really affected by "how things go" on a typical Wednesday night. Some nights just click and I go home with a ton of energy. My wife says she can tell how things went by my demeanor. I can't even go to bed for a while until the excitement wears off. Other nights, I get home exhausted.

Tonight was one of those nights. Things just didn't go very well. Lots of new students and "the group" wasn't really doing much to welcome them. Kids' attention scattered everywhere. I left out a song from the projection program (kind of hard for them to sing a new song when they can't even read the words). Didn't speak well enough to keep their attention. Clean up kids didn't/couldn't stick around.

Maybe I beat myself up a bit, but it just didn't go that well and I was feeling pretty down. When everyone was gone I plugged my Zune into the sound system and started to vacuum the room. Lots of popcorn and chips on the floor (no spilled drinks, though - a little silver lining for the night). As I finished cleaning the floor and put the vacuum away, I was reflecting on all of this and just how unhealthy it is - for me, my family, the ministry itself. I turned off all the lights and sat in the still room to pray and think about it. As I prayed, an awesome song called "Only You" from David Crowder played. It's really about how it's only God that matters. As I offered myself up to God I was reminded of how success/results/impact is really in His hands not mine. I need to be reminded of that often.

Maybe you do, too. So don't forget. Ours is the responsibility to respond in faith to His Voice. His is to accomplish what only He can.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ready for Weddings...

I've been asked to do a couple of weddings this summer and am looking for some good material to use for pre-marital counseling with both couples. The problem is that one couple lives 500 miles away, and the groom of the other pair is out on the East Coast for military training. I want to find something they can go through on their own, then talk together about it, then talk with me about what they talked about.

So I got Craig Groeschel's new book "Going All the Way: Preparing for a Marriage that Goes the Distance". I liked the book, but am now trying to decide what to do with what I read. It's got some great stuff regarding choices and commitments that will enable us to live in a marriage that is everything God created it to be. If people lived the way he describes, they would truly be setting the table for great marriages.

The problem I have is one of timing. I think a lot of the book will be more helpful for young 'unattached' singles than couples who are engaged and only months away from their wedding. (Which is why I will be exploring the possibility of distilling the book for use in our student ministries - it really is good stuff.)

I can think of a number of students that I'd love to pour this book into. So much heartache and emotional damage could be avoided by making God priority over relationships. Going All the Way includes a lot of really practical truth about developing intimacy, destroying it, why living together doesn't really make relationship sense, re-establishing abandoned values... if you've struggled with relationships with the opposite sex, get the book and gain some possible insight as to why.

Storyteller God

Somewhere in our spiritual walks, a lot of us pick up the idea that God is still on Day 7 – that He’s still ‘up there’ resting. Depending on our experiences and what we’ve been taught, we might think of Him as a kind old grandpa type of figure just waiting on His rocking chair for us to come climb into His lap, or maybe as a grumpy old man watching us and waiting for us to mess up so He can smack us into submission.

Over the past few weeks in Wind and Water Student Ministries we’ve been exploring another view of God. We’ve been picturing God as a storyteller – one who deeply loves the characters in His story (that would be us, by the way) and who is still engaged in His creation. Jumping off from some of what John Eldridge writes in his book Epic, we’ve been challenged to “Enter the Epic” of what God is doing in the world today.

I believe that God is still at work today. Working on my heart, working throughout each day, working through circumstances both near and far. He didn’t just set the world in motion then sit back and watch it spin. He still holds the world in His hands, causing the sun to rise and set, lifting each tide at the proper time, directing each breeze… All of creation bows to His desires.

But among that creation is one character that’s different than the rest. Mankind is alone in being made in His image. We have the capacity to ignore His will and do whatever we want. We also are alone in being capable of loving Him and being loved. Are you paying attention to the story God is writing in and through your life today? Is there a connection of what you hear and read in Scripture and how you live your life each day? My prayer is that we will pay attention to God; that we will “Enter the Epic” and live as the characters He hopes we will be (and only He can make us). Because God is still writing history…
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A Great follow up to our “Enter the Epic” series will be this summer’s CIY conference: MOVE. We will be going to Durango, CO the week of June 15th – so save that week. MOVE is for students going into 9th Grade through the graduating class. Plan ahead now so you don’t miss this awesome opportunity to learn to recognize how God wants to MOVE in your life.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Injured...

A couple weeks ago, we hosted the students from Central Church of Christ in Gering, for a night of worship and focus on our response to the pain of life. After tacos and chips together, we watched a short film about Bethany Hamilton called Heart of a Soul Surfer. She's a competitive surfer who uses her life as a platform to lift up Christ - despite losing an arm to a shark.


We talked about how if you're going to live a life that really amounts to much, chances are you're going to be hurt at some time or another. It's how we respond to our injuries that reveals our character and opens or closes a lot of opportunities. God often uses our injuries to point people's attention (ours and others) to Himself.


In response to the message of hope despite pain, I asked the students to offer their injuries to God and allow Him to work through them. I had them write down their injuries and leave them there. Some of them got stuck on the physical pain part of being injured, while others brought out some pretty heartbreaking stuff. As a youthworker, it hurts me to see students being hurt. But it doesn't do any good to pretend we don't.


Here's a sampling of the injuries listed:

-"My arm broke when I was 5. When I was 3 I got stitches."

-"Girls always talking about you... Boys are a hurt, too in my life... God, take this HURT!"

-"Everyone holding stuff that I have done in the past still against me. People thinking I should be perfect and always happy, to never have a bad day"

-"I broke my arm playing football and sprained my ankle wrestling"

-"I have done many bad things in my life. God I thank u for dying on the cross for my sins. I love you."

-"Boys tell me I'm fat. I used to be bulimic and I started cutting this year, but trying not to. I'm giving it to God."

-"I have been abused both sexually and physically by a boy I thought was my friend. But I didn't tell anyone about it & still haven't. I need help! (*She's getting some now.)"

-"I need your strength to help me be stronger."

-"One of my best friends was raped. She is broken and seeing her melt down like that kills me... I don't know how to be strong for her when I'm not strong myself."

-"Had to use my left hand to write in 6th grade."

-"Having mono and not being able to play my favorite sport for a whole season."

-"This is gonna sound weird but I think he uses me because I'm blonde, because a lot of people are always like, "You're such a blonde" and I just say "Well, I don't care that's how God made me and He loves me!" Just by saying that I've opened doors for someone to come to Christ."

-"My parents split up and my dad doesn't pay attention to me and it feels like he doesn't love me any more."

-"I broke my collar bone."

-"I was taken away from my parents and went back to live with them and got taken away again and they move and I'm in foster care."

-"I guess feeling left and rejected. It's been hard without a good Christian influence in my school system."

-"Asthma and still being able to play baseball and basketball."

-"Uncertainty."

-"I have broken my arm 3 times and I'm glad that was all that happened. I know God was watching over me."

-"A friend of many years took things from me that can't be replaced."

-"I'm very uncertain what God wants me to do. I feel like I've been hurt so many times that he has made me strong so I can pray for and help my friends. I'm not sure how or what he wants me to do."

-"Focusing more on boys than Christ. Being selfish. Thinking of myself as better than others and sometimes doing the opposite and thinking worse of myself."


I wish I could identify which students went with which anonymous comments to sit and discuss some of these very personal issues. So much pain for young people to know how to handle. But they've been trained to hide it well, and so often never allow themselves to be healed. Pray for young people today.
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I had written this post last week, and planning to post it later. In light of the shootings in Colorado over the weekend, please pray with me that God will bring healing and hope to those involved. I can't imagine any injury like losing a child to such random senselessness.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Maybe I Like Mike???



I haven't yet decided on a candidate for president, but this video is awesome and made me take a look into Mike Huckabee. I did a little digging and found some pretty positive stuff. You can go here to find out where he stands on important issues.

More "Polar" Than Just the Bears...

As the Golden Compass is set to begin its gilding of our silver screens and young minds, it seems the conversation between church and culture is once again faced with a polarizing talking point. Several months ago, I received the first of many well intended warnings to stay away from Pullman and this movie. To be honest, I was pretty skeptical - I mean, no one warning of its dangers had even seen the movie. As I read more about the film, and the books of its origin, it was an interesting hornet's nest to watch. Conservative Christians were mad because of the atheism and anti-church stance. But I also found Phillip Pullman fans angry due to Hollywood's removal of a pretty good deal of the atheistic and the anti-church from the story. I began to wonder if boycotting was simply adding more hype to the movie - free publicity.

I've refrained from commenting until now, but today found a great post from Dick Staub that provides some very good perspective. Visit Staublog and read the post. This really isn't something new... and it's not something to be feared. Phillip Pullman, or Hollywood, or Nicole Kidman, or Friedrich Nietzsche or whoever you want to blame are all powerless to change the reality that God is, and God loves.

Be wise, but not fearful. Nothing can destroy the reality of God.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hiding from Love

Embarrassed and ashamed, they hid from their Maker. Their state of attire hadn't changed. Their reason for being hadn't changed. The fact that they'd been designed for relationship with God and each other hadn't changed. But their awareness of their own (and each other's) inadequacies, that had changed drastically. With an act of experimentation beyond a clear border God had placed, Adam and Eve broke the very fellowship with God that they were made for. And we've been following their path ever since.

The irony is that ever since, we've also all been seeking for someone to love us. As the song says, "We all want to be loved... tell me what's wrong with that?" There's nothing wrong with that - it's what we were made for! What's wrong is that we spend so much time hiding from the only one who possesses a love deep enough to satisfy our need to be loved.

We hide in our jobs, a general busy-ness that keeps us blinded to Love's advances.

We hide in sex that is divorced from love, a counterfeit to the true intimacy God intended.

We hide in money, and power, and iPods, and weed, and church, and movies, and books, and any number of other things that can serve to numb us to the reality of God's love for us.

Embarrassed and ashamed of how we've fallen short, we hide. And God still asks, "Where are you?"

Maybe it's time to come out of hiding, faults and all, and let yourself be loved.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Guitar News

I've been fortunate to have guitars that tend to stay in tune pretty well while I'm playing - either that or I'm tone deaf enough to not hear when it's out! Now, for those who are less fortunate and find themselves re-tuning far too frequently, a self-tuning guitar! It's even a Les Paul.

If only the tones of our lives were so easily adjusted...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Empty Passion

"I am learning not to be passionate about empty things, but to cultivate passion for justice, grace, truth, and communicate the idea that Jesus likes people and even loves them."
-Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

In some recent staff discussions, we talked about our passions and serving God out of our passion. What are you really passionate about? What types of things get you really energized and excited? What gives you a sense of accomplishment & satisfaction? Are those the areas where you're serving God? Could they be? Should they be?

So I've been re-reading Blue Like Jazz and came across this quote that's got me thinking again about those questions and measuring my responses with the ideas of justice, grace, and truth and thinking about the ways I'm communicating to people that Jesus loves them. Does the flow of a week for me reflect God's passion (which would be justice, grace, truth, and us)?

I love the church. I love seeing seeing people in action together as His Body, reflecting His heart. I love traveling with students in the moments when they're just on the edge of discovering their place in His Story. Taking in the view with them as they reach the next ridge and discover the grandeur that God has set before them. I love seeing the church find new ways to love people and call attention to God.

Unfortunately, I can find myself absorbed in lesson plans and evaluations and scheduling trips and following up on issues and putting out fires and assuaging hurt feelings, and buried in new books and seeking new methods and untangling teen dramas... It's been a good reminder that my heart needs to beat with the Heart of God. My activity needs to be directed by His passion.

Monday, November 19, 2007

December Series

Next month I'll be going through a series of lessons with our students about God's story and their place in it. Also going to be using this time to introduce new students to our youth ministry. (If you know any 7th - 12th Grade students who come to WestWay but haven't ever plugged in to the youth ministry, let them know about this - and let me know about them so I can get in touch.)

Birthday/Christmas List

For those of you who've been asking... Here's a link to some options:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Deadly Viper

"Character isn't a destination, but a journey towards becoming a more whole, fulfilled, and healthy person."

Recently finished reading a fun, but challenging book called Deadly Viper Character Assasins by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Basically the book is a warning to pay attention to your character before the Assasins tear you up. An essential part of being a person of integrity that can stand up under attack is to have someone fighting with you. Mike and Jud have made a commitment to fight for each other - to help the other maintain his own honor.

That kind of relationship is something all of us need, and sadly, few of us have. We may have a lot of business associates, work buddies, or just 'the guys' - but how many of us have real friends who know us well enough to see when we're slipping and love us enough to tell us so? How many of us will dare to be real enough with someone else that we allow them to see the cracks in our lives and the wounds in our souls?

The warning in Deadly Viper is that to fail to do exactly that will likely lead to catastrophic failure of your character. Don't go there. Find someone to help you maintain your integrity. The hope of the book is grace. As much as it is a warning to watch out for life's common pitfalls, it is also an offer of a chance to climb out of the muck you may have found yourself in. Grace. Mistakes. More grace...

I'll probably come back to some of the topics of the book in further blogs, but for now, check out the Deadly Viper Site for more, and get a couple copies of the book for you and a good friend and start today to build the character you need to survive.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Kidney Stone

I had another kidney stone last week. About halfway through Wednesday morning, I could tell I had one and started drinking tons of water. I figured if I could drink enough, and keep it down, I could flush the stone out... but not this time.

Friday morning the pain was finally so bad I had LuAnn take me in to the ER, where they eased the pain and did some scans and found a stone they said was big enough that it may not pass on its own. So on Saturday, I had surgery to remove the stone. It's been a painful week or so.

I've done some more reading on what causes kidney stones and how to prevent them and haven't really found anything conclusive. Lots of "secret" home remedies that I can get in on for $37 or $17 or... whatever. It's frustrating. People are in pain and don't know what to do... let's make some money.

You can't sell hope. It's discouraging to know that for the rest of my life, I'll probably have kidney stones - and maybe the only thing I can do about it is take drugs every day that don't really do anything to change the root of the problem. I want to know why my body has become a rock factory and what I can do to shut down production.

Maybe chugging olive oil will do the trick. Maybe I need to drink lemonade everyday. Maybe it's coffee... no don't drink coffee. Here's a special kidney bean concoction to try. Cranberry juice... stay away from salt. No, it's your thyroid... try this secret mix of three common grocery items... eat more basil... don't eat kelp...

The frustrating thing is the 'just hand over some money and we'll help you out.' attitude. Conditional assistance. I wonder if that's what we offer in the church sometimes. "Talk like us, look like us, arrange your daily schedule like us and we'll share with you the answer to all your problems." As a sufferer, what I'd really like to see is help. Help me through my struggle as I am, and when I've come out the other side, I'm yours because I know it's really me you care about. We need to give the love we've been given - without qualification - and then see real transformation take place.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beyond the Sheen

Yesterday, we went up to the monument for our staff meeting. No real agenda except a brief time out of the office for prayer. The plaque at the top of the monument always gets me thinking... a tribute to a man who died within reach of help, but didn't make it - abandoned by his friends. I often wonder if that's still happening today? People dying for eternity - abandoned by the church.

It's not that we don't care. I'm not so cynical as to think that most people in the church really don't give a rip about their neighbors. We do. But I'm afraid we've forgotten just what is at stake.

A team from our church just returned from Haiti and they're talking about how dark a place it is. The voodoo and witchcraft that are so visible there have made the evil palpable. This thought of blatant darkness has converged in my mind with some recent conversations and sermons having to do with the materialism so prevalent in our own Western culture. We have so much - and often what we have has blinded us to the spiritual reality that without Christ, we are dead.

As I looked out over the view of our community from the top of the Bluff, I noticed that there are a lot of white buldings in town. Coupled with the glitter of glass on the sunny day, Scottsbluff looked like a shiny, bright sparkle in the midst of the browning fields.

As these contrasting thoughts collided, Nehemiah came to mind, surveying the city of Jerusalem and finding the rumors of desolation and destruction to be true. When we survey our cities, do we look beyond the glitz to see the grime?

A beautiful darkness has crept upon us -
----but darkness, nonetheless.
This beauty illumined is no beauty at all -
----but greed, and pain, and death.
But who wants to expose the ugly?
----"Paint the town white!"
----"Cover it up with a little shine!"
So we whitewash our tombs,
----extinguish our lights,
----and go blind to what's dying inside.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Challenging Video

Just came across this video montage of some of Mike Yaconelli's speaking on Knotter's blog. Good stuff...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ministry via Master Chief???

I read this NY Times article the other day about youth ministries featuring Halo. Video games have been and will continue to be a sticky issue for a lot of people. Right now, as part of some revamping of our youth ministry, we're talking about setting up a few video game systems and this is an issue we're talking about. How do we decide which games are ok and which are not? I've gotta say that the arguments used by some of the people in this article to justify their practices sound pretty hollow to me.

I've played the Halo games with some of my kids. Had fun. Pretty sure I'm not emotionally scarred for life as a result. But if you ever hear me utter the words 'Halo' and 'relevant ministry' together, please come and pluck the XBox out of my eye so I can see better. The whole baiting the hook thing really makes me feel kinda queasy.

Are our youth ministries so devoid of meaningful substance that we can't survive without the latest gimmick? Do we not have a passion for what students really need and the ability to transmit that message in ways that they'll receive it? Or is this just the easy way out - trade kids a 20 minute spiel for a little game time?

Please don't take this as one self-righteous youth worker looking down the barrel and taking pot shots at other youth workers and their methods. I'm wrestling with this issue myself in my own ministry. I like video games. I like playing video games with my kids. I will continue to play video games with my kids - including some games that some people don't like. But to say about Halo that "It is crucial... to reach the elusive audience of boys and young men." just takes it too far.

Dick Staub also had an article about this same issue on his blog today. Read the whole articles and see what you think, but the following couple quotes say a lot:
Marty O;Donnell, one of the creators of Halo and himself a Christian agrees-- I too read the article in the New York Times today and was disappointed and shook my head. Once again (I believe) the modern evangelical church has misinterpreted Christ’s injunction to be “fishers of men”.
and the bottom line...

I think Youth pastors face a huge challenge--gamers play Halo because it offers sensatory excitement, a good versus evil storyline and a real sense of connection in community. If we love kids we will serve them in ways that address those needs more deeply than Halo can

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Job Shadow

One of my students has to do a job shadowing project. Someone told him he should do one with me and his response was, "Mike works? I thought he just went to church and stuff..." So tomorrow, he's spending the day with me at work.

Then today, I found this spoof video on Fess's blog that some of the youth staff at Saddleback did. Maybe I'll let him watch it for part of our 'day' tomorrow.

Well... back to work!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Praying for a Friend...

I cried for you today.
I saw them entice you and drag you away.
I wish you could see from here
The joy in your eyes - you replaced it with fear
and the pain they inflict
makes you sick to the heart.
I know you don't know but you're falling apart.
Wake up look around
He'll be found nearby.
Lift your eyes to His gaze - stare into His grace.
He loves you.
He's just dying for you to come home.
We love you.
We're crying for you to come home.

Lifehouse "everything" skit

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kids Matter.

Just thinking through some final thoughts for tonight. One of our core values at Wind and Water is that 'students matter to God'. I think to most of the world the young are a source of cheap labor and expendable income. Students are often pushed to the edges of society. Unfortunately, many churches reflect our culture in this area. "Keep them out of our hair... keep them so busy they don't have time to get in trouble... keep their messes out of sight... can't they find something used that someone wants to give away..." Doesn't sound very much like Jesus' "let the children come..."

So I'm talking to the students about how they matter to God, even if they aren't valued by our culture. I keep coming to how I imagine God values the creativity and passion and energy that are so obvious in youth and the fact that we all are made in God's image (a creative, passionate, and energetic God). When we sin, we mar and scar His image within us.

When we push youth to the fringes of the church, are we missing a glimpse at the image of God? Could it be that the image of God can be seen more clearly in their passion/energy/creativity because they've had less time to stamp it out? When I find myself without energy and passion and creativity... what does that say about my spiritual health and vitality?

God, may our students live lives that remind us what you look like!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wind and Water...

Next month's newsletter article...

Wind and Water Student Ministries is more than just a name for our youth ministry here at WestWay. It’s also a developing strategy for how we do ministry with students. Those two elements (wind and water) capture the essence of what we’re all about: Bringing Students to Life… and Taking Life to Students.

Jesus didn’t just come into this world to teach people how to behave. I remember as a kid being told to ‘mind my manners’. While that is important (and often lacking in the world today), that’s not what Jesus came for. He came to bring life to people who were dying. He came to restore us to the life giving relationship with His Father that we were made for.

Over and over again in Scripture, there is a connection between the breath of God and life. (Genesis 2:7, Ezekiel 37, John 20:22) Without His Spirit, there is no life. Make no mistake, most people aren’t really living, they’re dieing. We want our student ministries to be driven by God’s Spirit to bring students to life. In everything we do, we are striving to be a ministry that is breathing life into the student body of our valley.

But we are not content to stand on the sidelines of the world and shout about life, we actually have to go into the shadows and take life to students. Expect to see an even stronger emphasis in our youth ministry on serving our community. Our students are developing a heartbeat that is in tune with God’s heart as it relates to serving those in need. They are coming to understand that “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) Jesus talked about offering water to the thirsty. He offered a water that quenches thirst. We are here to do the same.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What Church Looks Like

This is what the church should be doing more of. It's exciting to read about this kind of passion for service.

Now, I'll admit, I don't know these people and I've never been to their town, but I've got to imagine that a church serving its community this way is making an impact. As much as I don't like how "externally focused" is becoming another buzzword bandwagon model for churches to jump on, I love the heart that this church has been planted with to observe, serve, and be in community with... its community. We in God's Kingdom should all be so externally focused.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What's Being Distributed?

I was just reading the Ethur blog and came across a post that included this quote:

"The future is here. It is just not widely distributed yet."I think it is important to take a look at our efforts and evaluate whether we are distributing the future or the past. Some organizations/individuals clearly do one or the other. When looking at what you pour your time, energy, ideas and resources into, which one do you think you're helping to distribute?
This made me think of Jesus' words, "the kingdom of God is at hand..." in Mark 1. Jesus was the very presence of God, Himself, here on Earth. God's kingdom isn't just some far off, mystical, "somewhere up yonder" place - it's His people here and now, living in His presence, as His body. We should be Kingdom distributors.

Think about your "time, energy, ideas and resources"... Where are they going? What are you pouring your self and your life into? Preserving what you've had... or distributing what is to come?

"Father...Your kingdom come, Your will be done - on Earth as it is in Heaven."

Monday, September 17, 2007

From Blank Slate to...

We have a large room in our church facilities. It used to be the worship center, but when the new auditorium was finished a few years ago, this room became known as the chapel. It's used for weddings and funerals on occasion and for 1st - 6th Grade Children's Church on Sundays and our Jr. High and High School worship on Wednesday nights. For the next 12 weeks it will also be used for a special class one of our elders is leading called The Truth Project.


We've been talking about how we could use the space more effectively. See, the problem is that the rooom is pretty much a blank/empty room with a cross on the wall and padded pink chairs. Our discussion has basically come to the point of deciding just what the best use of the room will be. It's blandness makes it usable for all the above mentioned things, but ideal for none. We want to use it to the best of our/its capacity.


One of the options is to turn the room into more of a youth & children's ministry friendly place. As the youth minister, this idea has some appeal, but when it comes to specifics, I'm not sure how things will play out. When someone says to me, "Here's a big empty room. What would it look like to make it more ideal for youth ministry?" my mind starts running with ideas that, frankly, scare people.


I don't want to spruce it up with a new coat of paint - I want to tear out a third of the stage and rebuild a different one in one corner. I don't want to trade in the pink church chairs for a more youthful color - I want to replace them with living room sets and lounge chairs. (Not mouse infested throw-aways either, btw.) I want to create with our students, a home away from school.


I want to redisign the room to reflect the values and mission of our student ministry. One of our catchphrases that we've been floating around the past month or so is "Bringing Students to Life... and Taking Life to Students". We could make this room a life-giving space. A homey, holy refuge not just for "our kids", but the students of our community. (Here's a link to an article I found talking about the theology of this kind of space design... interesting reading if you have a few more minutes.)


I'd appreciate your prayers as we discuss further just what we're going to do with this room. Whatever we do, may we honor God.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Summer's end...

Well, racing's over for the season. I think I ended up 4th, maybe 5th, in points - which isn't bad considering I missed so many weeks. The racing was a blast and it was great to meet some new people and spend some good time with the students that helped me out most weeks. The sad part of it is that my timing belt broke about two laps from the finish of the last race. If you don't know... that's really bad. Most engines will basically tear themselves apart if the belt breaks... I haven't dug into it yet to see if that's the case.

Dakota started preschool this week. He doesn't always respond too well to being told he has to do what everyone else is doing, so this should be an interesting experience. When we pulled up to the Y (where the preschool is), he wanted to go in the main doors and around to the back of the preschool "so we don't have to go through all that crowded part." (which was where everyone was lined up waiting to take their kids in). He doesn't like groups, but there's one little boy from our small group at church who is in his class, so he followed him around all day yesterday.

We also got started back into our regular schedule in our student ministry yesterday. I'm still wondering what adjustments we can make to be more effective, but right now I'm at a loss. A lot of the students just seem to be coming with no expectation of God having anything to say to them. Almost like it's just such a part of their routine that they're sleepwalking through it. Time to wake up...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Membership vs. Mission

I just read a great article called No Members, Just Missionaries in the Catalyst Monthly that arrives in my inbox every 4 weeks or so. (I also shared some thoughts along these lines at the church picnic a few weeks ago.) Just thought I'd post a couple quotes from the article:

One of the surest ways of becoming suspect to mainline evangelicalism is to actually reorient the church around the mission of Christ.
The article then talks about how for a long time, the American church has sent out missionaries to far away places to fulfill the mission of the church there - while settling for adherence to ritual here at home. But the globe-trekking 'missionaries' have grown up into leadership in the church and are now calling the church to join the mission they should have been on all along.

Their calling isn't to pastor churches that focus on the happiness of its
members, but to mobilize the church for the purpose of fulfilling God's mission of reconciling the world to Himself. We used to send our missionaries out, and it kept the mission a safe distance from us. Some how they broke back in and decided they were not going without us.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. The idea of "membership" is focused on self. What can I get out of it? If I pay my dues and follow the rules, what do I gain? Frankly, there's no place for that attitude in the church. The attitude of Christ led him to leave the comforts of heaven - the privileges and perks that come with being the Creator of the Universe - and become one of us in order to reconcile us to His Father. Where is that attitude in the church today? Thankfully, it flickers in places, but the world needs to be able to see a church that is bright with the light that's created when we humbly set aside all claim to what we think we deserve - in order to pass to someone else what we know they need.

Why do we even need church membership anymore? (That is not the same question as "Why do we need the church?") Is it only a way of 'keeping score' between different teams? I know this slaps the face of institutional church practice, but I wonder if membership and mission can even coexist? And if they cannot, how many more churches will have the guts to say "we have no members here...but here's our mission"?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"I feel like I'm married to Peter Pan" ~ Eileen Flynt

Here's a story about a man named Mike Flynt who got kicked off his college football team for fighting and is now coming back onto the team - 37 years later! Yes, you read that right. He's 59 years old and he's made it back onto the team. He'll be playing college football at 59 years old.

There's a myth in youth ministry that you grow out of it. That eventually, you're just too old to keep up with students. That after so many years, you just can't relate to kids anymore. But if a registered member of the AARP can play college football...

Will he get hurt? Maybe. So do the young guys.
Has he worked hard to stay in shape? Obviously.
But what a story!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blessings?

This Sunday night, I'm leading worship and preaching for an annual event that we do here called "Blessings Beneath the Bluff". It's a hog roast / all church picnic / fun time / celebration of God's blessings held at the foot of the bluffs here in our area. But I have a bit of a problem... (and writing out some of these rambling thoughts is helping me find solutions)

It's way too easy, in celebrating God's blessings, to focus on the blessings and forget about the Blessor and His purpose for blessing. So I want to challenge the people to stop thinking of blessings as something which they collect for display. It's not that it's bad to receive blessings (obviously), and it's definitely a good idea to praise God for the way He blesses our lives and our church. But, too often, we stop there. It's an immature perspective on blessings that allows us to thank God for the sunshine and simply bask in it. I don't want to bask.

I don't want to enable our church to bask (which is our inherited Western tendency). So instead of talking about the various ways we've been blessed, I'm going to push for our people to be blessings. Throughout the OT, God talked about His people not just as 'blessed' - but as 'blessings'. They themselves were blessings for others. Even as early as God's promises to Abram, He spoke of Abraham being a blessing for others. After he gave Israel hope of restoration in Ez. 34 (and calling them blessings) God continued to reasssure them with the episode at a valley full of dead bones (Ez. 37). "Just like I did that, I'll put my Spirit into you and you will live." For what purpose? To be a blessing? Just maybe...

I'm going to hit on James' take on wealth when he said that the man in "humble circumstances" has "high position" and the "rich man" should "glory in his humiliation". It's not what we have that is evidence of our state of "blessity" or "unblessity" (again, I know those are not words) - but a "man who perseveres under trial" is called blessed. Following through the first chapter of James, you hear him telling us to actually do what the Word says to do. Hearing Him without doing what He says is pretty much worthless.

And that is often where we get stuck. That is where many churches are more "bluff" than "blessing" (I'll definitely be playing with those words Sunday night). I'm reminded of Casting Crowns' "If We are the Body" Are we blessing our community? If our church disappeared, exactly how would our community be worse off? Do we settle for "membership" at the expense of "mission"?

We need to stop asking "What do I need to do to get blessed" (A close cousin of "What's the least I can do to pass this test?") and ask instead, "How can I bless our valley?" Primarily, by living a life that leads the way to Jesus... By loving my neighbor the way only Jesus can... By actually stopping to help that guy beaten at the side of the road... By giving a drink to that lady that looks so thirsty... By letting that kid get close enough that I might get hurt...

Incidentally, if you are looking for more ways to 'be a blessing' check these sites out:
Compassion (give a kid hope)
Kiva (small interest free loans for businesses in underdeveloped places)
Blood:Water Mission (clean blood and clean water projects in Africa)
The Junky Car Club (I love their slogan "Living with less, so we can give more.")

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wind and Water

I'm not quite sure, but I think I just felt my paradigm shift! I've grown up in the church and seen too many people and too many churches that seem to be completely out of touch with reality - living in some kind of lalaJesusland where all the messiness of life is wrapped up in a nice sugary bow just after the second commercial break so put on a happy face and pretend everything's alright. A broken world can't relate to such a nicely facaded (not a word, I know) church, so they stay away.

Because of that experience, I've talked a lot about the church needing to be more relevant in our communities in order to reach those communities. I've never advocated going overboard with gimmickry (yes that is a word, actually) in order to entice consumers to listen to our Jesus-spiel, but I have endorsed an approach to taking down traditional walls that don't need to be there any more in order to be 'relevant'.

This effort to be relevant carries the implication that the church is falling behind culture and needs to catch up. A Catalyst TV podcast I just watched (#4 I think) showed a clip from a couple years ago from one of my favorite pastors, Erwin McManus (and no, I'm not just agreeing with something because he said it). He asked the question "Aren't you tired of trying to be relevant?" Why are we playing catch-up? Why are we not leading the way?

The time is way overdue for people in the church to live lives that lead the way. I still want to lead students who don't live a church life AND a separate school life. I still want my students to live amongst the mess of life in such a way that they are leading people to the Water they really need. I still want my students to keep their head out of the clouds of religion and live in relationship with Jesus and his people and our community. But maybe I need to find a better term than relevance. We're not playing catch-up anymore. As we follow the Wind, we'll lead the way to the Water.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Great Idea!

Found this on the CCT page. This club was started when someone put some feet on their faith. Living with less, so I can give more - great idea!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Solid Rock trip

Just got back from a climbing trip with Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries. This was a student leadership retreat for our student ministries, and it really went well. One of our weaknesses over this past year has been in the area of leadership. Just as I was coming into the ministry here, the students who were the leading students of the group graduated. They are a great group of students and the student ministry felt their absence. So I chose a handful of students who I hope will become the leadership team of Wind & Water and invited them to come do a little backpacking, a lot of climbing, and a great deal of searching out God's heart. Not all of these students would call themselves leaders, but I wanted to get them to see the potential that I've seen that God has put in their lives.

The trip went really well - from cooking meals together over a little camp stove, to huddling under the tarp while it rained, to just spending time together surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery of God's creation. It was good to develop a deeper level of trust between the students and myself and between the students and each other. I'm looking forward to seeing how the challenge will play out now that we're back home...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fuel for the Fire?

I've wondered at various times in my ministry if I was heading for burnout. There are times when it seems like I'm just churning away, getting nowhere, burning up all my fuel. I used to think that all I needed to do was just spend more time reading Scripture to solve that problem. More fuel = more fire, right?

Besides the obvious problem of thinking that simply cramming more Bible-time into an overworked life will automatically result in peace and tranquility, Bible knowledge just isn't the fuel that I need. Don't read that wrong. I didn't say that the Bible is not needed or necessary. We can't live without it. We can't really minister without it.

But God Himself is the only power sufficient for ministry. If I'm doing ministry out of anything other than His Heart ~ I'll cook myself. God wants me as a living sacrifice, not a charred carcass that only vaguely resembles the life that once dwelt within it. One of my favorite passages is Philippians 2, where Paul points to Jesus' humility as the attitude that we should have... It's God working in us... Do everything without complaining... hold out the word of life... As I read this passage this morning I couldn't help but think of times of spiritual exhaustion when those words are clouded in my life.
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Mark Driscoll has posted a number of videos about burnout and related issues called "Death by Ministry" on his Resurgence site. If you've ever just felt 'run over', take some time to check them out. I got a lot out of the first 7 sessions and will listen to the last 4 when I get back from this week's student leadership retreat. (A couple days of camping, backpacking, & climbing will be rough on my out of shape body, but great for my tired soul!)

Monday, July 30, 2007

More Jr. High Camp thoughts

Jr. Highers are great. They're fun. They're always exploring. They offer up a never-ending variety of olfactory concoctions that always staves off boredom... But being in charge of a camp full of them caused me great stress. I still have hair, but I'm sure more of it is gray now!


I like camp to be pretty laid back. It's church camp, not boot camp, so there's a good amount of freedom in the schedule. As you and I would both expect, some Jr. Highers at our camp took advantage of that freedom in some pretty negative ways. When they came and explained what they'd done, they actually painted a far worse picture than what actually happened.


The knee jerk of most of the camp staff was send them packing. Call the parents and get them out of camp immediately. Since I was the dean, though, the call was mine to make. I've never been one to do things the easy way, so I didn't kick them out. I'd given them the freedom to choose. They chose poorly. But the consequence (of which there were many) was not going to be that they go home. I didn't feel like they'd learn anything that way. So I offered grace enough to keep them there.


It struck me that we're all the same. God gives us way more freedom to choose than what I'd given the campers. And we all go around picking on the weaker kids and making messes for someone else to clean up (that's a sanitized statement of what they did AND what we do). We take the freedom that God gives us and misuse it for our own benefit and positioning. And God gives us grace that allows us to stay in camp.

Jr. High Camp thoughts

So a couple weeks ago, I left for Jr. High camp. Came back for a weekend and went back to camp for Sr. High week. Our network of churches in our area of Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota utilizes a great facility in the Black Hills of SD called Kamp Kinship for our summer camps. It's a nice retreat center that is a far cry from the spartan cabins of my youth at camp in the mountains near Lander, but I was able to recapture a bit of my camping tradition that the students really got a lot out of...

At Lander, we always took a hike up to a peak called Candy Mountain (at least that's what we all called it). I always loved that hike and looked forward to it every year. The Black Hills are nice, but there really wasn't a summit close enough to the camp to be suitable for this type of event. The camp does have a tradition of making some kind of excursion off campus though each year... usually into town for putt-putt, a water park, go karts... stuff like that.

I kind of figure kids can do those things anytime, so this year I wanted to do something a little bit different. I was the dean for Jr. High week, so I had the ability to make that happen. (Why they put someone in charge who's only been with the group for one camp season is beyond me, but they did!) The theme of the week was "Be still and know that I am God." so something out in a peaceful natural setting seemed appropriate. We ended up taking a hike along a path that followed a creek up to a swimming hole. (Probably not appropriate for church camp, but the hole was called Devil's Bathtub. I'm pretty sure some of the kids peed in it just for the symbolic spiritual significance!)

With 98 of us, that was no small deal. I had been assured, though, that it was a pretty easy trail... I passed that assurance on to our students. Note to self ~ don't trust Ryan's childhood memories! The trail crossed the creek (sans bridges) more times than our Jr. High boys' voices cracked during the week!

Sidenote: a student with cerebral palsey didn't really want to go on the hike, but I promised him he could do it. We'd help him as much as he needed. If the trail was too tough for him, we'd do whatever we needed to get him through... Nice, reassuring things. His response: "No it's not that... I'm just LAZY!" He made it to the destination and had a blast in the process - just like everyone else!

I wasn't sure how this choice of hiking over water slides or go karts was going to go over, but the kids loved it. (And it turned out there was a bit of a rock water slide anyway!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A little musical diversion...

I was tagged by Knotter a friend in the blogging world.

If I were to list what I was listenning to intently right now, it would be Future of Forestry over and over. (A great band you may have never heard of.) But since that's not really what the tag is all about, I'm hitting 'random' right now and here's what's coming out in the next ten slots...

1. - Sarah Kelly, Still Breathing
2. - Sarah Kelly, In Your Eyes (so much for random)
3. - Jadon Lavik, His Name Shall Be Called
4. - Audio Adrenaline, Rejoice (Whoah! That's been a while!)
5. - Jars of Clay, Faith Enough
6. - Future of Forestry, Sunrising (I promise I didn't cheat!)
7. - Tree 63, I Stand for You
8. - Jars of Clay, Only Alive
9. - Tree 63, I Will Never Be the Same
10. - Audio Adrenaline, You Still Amaze Me

Realized part way through that this is only pulling from 'recently added' (although not new) stuff - explains the 'unrandomness' of repeating bands! Oh well. That's some of what I just heard. Maybe I'll edit this post and do a more diverse 10.

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Here's a better random sampling (and a much better playlist I might add - that wouldn't get me kicked off the radio show I'm on)

1. - The Fray, Fall Away
2. - Chris Tomlin, Uncreated One
3. - Disciple, Scars Remain
4. - Newsboys, I Am Free
5. - Falling Up, Escalates
6. - Sanctus Real, I'm Not Allright
7. - Fair, The Dumbfounded Game (another great band you may have never heard)
8. - Pillar, Awake
9. - Sarah Kelley, Still Breathing (The song that never goes away!)
10. - Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Christmas Jam (the epitome of randomness!)

I suppose I should tag someone, so how 'bout Gman, Kari, and Meghan

--Incidentally, the next 2 random songs that came up was Thinking of You from Future of Forestry (those guys are awesome) and Grace from U2 (another of my favorites).

Monday, July 09, 2007

Knowing God...

Getting the last few things put together this week for Jr. High camp next week. We're focusing on Psalm 46, leaning toward verse 10's "Be still and know that I am God." So I've been thinking of what it really means to know God.

I'm tired of church stuff that leaves people unaffected. Tired of churches and youth ministries that simply make their way around the carousel of activity without changing lives. I'd hate for this camp to be simply another full week in busy schedules that are filled with apathetic activity. My prayer for the week is that students would come face to face with their Creator.

Because that will change a person. I think, if you enter into a real conversation with God, you only have two options: outright rejection of Him or living a life of worship. I just don't think there's room for authentic encounter with God to result in.... more of the same.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

You Can't Cancel Church.

Last year a bunch of people I know and interact with online were all upset about some churches "canceling church" in order for families to be home with their families on Christmas morning. Others have lamented how some congregations "cancel church" on the Sunday night of the Super Bowl. Well, the issue has come up again...

A church in KY has forgone its normal Sunday morning schedule in order for the whole congregation to go to a special screening of Evan Almighty. Now, I haven't seen the movie yet, so my comments have a limited perspective on why or why not seeing this movie together could be a good idea.

But here is one thing I do know. There is nothing we can do to 'cancel' church (or 'skip' it for that matter). The church isn't the place we meet on Sunday morning. It's not the sitting around and the singing of songs and the hearing of sermons. The church is the Body of Christ, alive and serving in the world today. And that cannot be canceled.

I'm not saying that our weekly gathering to worship together is not important to the life of the Body. But if that one gathering (or two...) is the full extent of our worship, then we are only weakly gathering (and I'd hesitate to call that worship). If we can't break from the routine for something a little out of the ordinary once in a while, then are we holding to tradition, or is tradition strangling us?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

1-1-1

Finally made it through a whole night of racing without any 'incidents'. Didn't hit a wall. Didn't blow a tire. Didn't break anything. Didn't have any mechanical issues. Didn't even scratch the new paint job!

Didn't lose. Despite having the wonderfully fortunate opportunity to start in the very back row for the main, I was able to get through all the traffic and win all three of my races last night. And for the first time on a Saturday morning... my car's ready to go for next week's race. Too bad I'll be out of town this next Friday! Oh well, at least the car's ready to go when I get back. (Of course that doesn't mean there won't be any tinkering whatsoever.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Look...



Huge thanks to Greg - who painted my car while I was out of town! Now, it's fast AND it doesn't look like a pile going around in circles.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Because I Can..."

My kids love to climb. It's a trait I think they've inherited, because I love to climb, too. So I wasn't really surprised the other day when I was sitting in my office, not climbing, and my wife called to say that Dakota (who is 5) had climbed up onto the roof!

Ok, it did surprise me a little; he's usually very cautious unless he's extremely confident he can do something right . He wouldn't even walk when he was little until he knew he could do it without falling.

Apparently our younger boy, Josiah, had come inside saying something that wasn't too intelligible. Right now, a lot of what he says is less than intelligible. But LuAnn could make out "climb" and "roof" so she called on Emily for a little translation. She is fluent in Siah and confirmed that he was indeed talking about climbing on the roof. "It wasn't me!" was her reply, coupled with a less than surreptitious nod in Dakota's direction. (The boy, not the state.)

Dakota acknowledged that he had climbed onto the roof a couple days ago and shrugged off the whole incident like it was no big deal. So last night, I asked him to show me exactly how he got up. He climbed up onto the top rail of a short section of fence between our carport and garage. "Look, my head is clear up here!" Again, with a very cavalier approach for a five year old, he pulled himself up. "See." "So how did you get down after you were up there." The look said, "Duh." The boy said, "The same way I got up!"

Talking with him about the seriousness of cracked cranium's and sidewalks, and power lines and fried insides, I asked him why he climbed up on the roof. I wasn't quite ready for his answer. I expected and "I don't know," some shrugging of the shoulders, a misplaced frisbee for an excuse... but I got none of the above. Instead, it was "To show Emily that I could."

The dead pan tone in his voice said more than his words ever could. I'm not quite sure if he was 'dared' by his big sister or had been called on a claim to greatness that he was forced to back up, but he revealed himself to truly be a boy seeking adventure... conquering challenges... proving He can.

I pray as he grows that he'll come to know and love the God who can make him able to accomplish whatever He sets before him... and that he'll survive the "as he grows" part!
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Oh, and yes I did get him to jump off to me! Sorry mom - I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

First Win!

My second time out, I hit the wall (see a few posts back). This was the result:

Actually, that is what the car looked like after about 4 hours of pounding, pulling, twisting, sledgehammering good times! It was a really frustrating afternoon last Friday. I wasn't sure that I would be able to race that night - actually I wasn't sure the car would ever be race ready again. It was pretty twisted and things not quite lining up right.

But, with despair hovering like the stench of a dead carcass, I pulled it out to the track anyway, knowing that I might not be able to race and hoping against all mechanical logic that it would be ok. I didn't get there during practice, so I was a little anxious for my chance to time in. Just wanted to see just how the car would run and handle. Got all my gear on, buckled up, etc. and turned the key... nothing.

A battery cable was loose enough that the juice couldn't flow, so nothing happened. Got that adjusted and started and turned off the car several times and ready for the trophy dash. Went to line up for the start... all geared up... buckled... nothing. This time, I worked out a better solution to the problem.

Despite missing the time in, and the trophy dash, I was ready for the heat. I'd won two heats in previous weeks, but that was before smashing the face of the car into the wall of Turn 4. Determined to take it easy (not sure that means a whole lot to anyone driving a car on a race track), I headed out for the heat. Things felt pretty good. I was right with the leaders and made one move to the outside for a pass, but when the back end started to slide out again I decided to not push it too much. So I finished third in the heat.

After waiting for the other classes, it was time for the main. I got held up a little bit behind a slower car at the beginning, but made it around him without too much problem after a bit. I settled into second spot, but was really pushing the leader (and by pushing, I mean following very closely - and by very closely, I mean inches). I worked my way to the outside of him and passed on the outside WITHOUT ending up in the wall. After that I pretty much checked out and finished about a half a lap ahead of the second car. A much better ending than the week before!

I got this trophy and I'll get a check this Friday for winning, but a really cool and unexpected thing was a little deaf boy who'd drawn a picture of me winning. He came up afterward to give me the drawing. It was pretty cool - and a good reminder of what's important. I'm here to be a light for people. Even in the midst of competition and grease and banged knuckles and bent sheet metal, it's about being an ambassador for Christ. I got a fan. Someone noticed me. May he see Him.



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This is the size of my engine, btw. Pretty sure it's the smallest one out there, but it likes to run!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Know 1 Student

This was my article for the newsletter this week:

I want to use this space today to ask for something of grave importance. Actually the results and consequences of what I’m asking for reach far beyond the grave. Here’s what I’m asking you to do… I’m asking you to make the effort to get to know one student well enough to pray for them. Not some generic “God bless Junior…” type of prayer. You need to really know the student. And that will take time. It will take investment of your self into their life. And it will send ripples through the waters of eternity.

Students across America are walking away from what they see as a church that has nothing to do with real life. Many churches have set themselves up as little bubbles that float around, visible to the world but never really making contact. We at WestWay are called to be more than just visible. The Body of Christ is in the world today to show God’s love to the world (just like Jesus did). We’re not going to do that by simply turning the lights on and saying “Here we are, look how well we do church.”

Students don’t care how well we ‘do church’ (I suspect that neither do most other people outside of the church for that matter) – they don’t want to ‘do church’. They want to be known. They want to know their Maker. They want a reason to live. And they can find all of that through you if you’re willing to care for them.

Get to know one student. Talk with them. Talk with their parents about what’s going on in their family. Love them. Pray for them. Prove to them that they are worth the attention of the Creator of the Universe.
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I still feel that there is much work to be done in building bridges between generations. I am completely on board with ministry that specializes in working with specific ages - but something is wrong when there are near zero opportunities in the church for generations to interact. I don't think it's primarily a programming issue, though. I don't think the solution is to just come up with artificial opportunities for young and old to rub elbows - though that could be a good step as well.

I think it's a matter of the heart. Is it just that we are so easily sucked into our own lives... have we become blind to anything outside our own gravitational pull? ...unwilling to sacrifice for the sake of someone 'different'? I'm still not sure if we're being distracted or just plain selfish.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Oops

Friday night started out really well. I got to the race track at a good time. My car passed the safety inspection. I timed in with the second fastest time in my class. That means I started the trophy dash in the back of the pack (they do inverted starts here with the fastest cars in the back). I finished that race second (out of 6 cars).

Again, for the heat race, I started in the back of the pack. This time, I made it past everyone and won the race. Things were going really well. We'd adjusted air pressures in the tire and I'm getting a better feel for what the car needs to get around the track quicker.

So we get started in the main. The last race of the night. I was in third place and really pushing the guy in second (not literally). I was a little faster and just waiting for the right moment, when he'd bobble a little and leave me enough space to get past. As we went into Turn 1, he slid up just a little and I darted into the open slot below him - just as he recovered and decided he wanted to drive in that same patch of asphalt. We banged side to side - no damage, no loss of control - and kept racing.

I'm now in second, and I just had my first contact with another car. I didn't really know the guy and wasn't sure how he was going to respond. As the laps wound down, I got to thinking a lot more about where he was behind me and less about keeping my car on the the right line around the track. Honestly, I was afraid he might retaliate and try to spin me, so I moved up on the track a little bit to make sure there was plenty of room if he thought he could pass.

The problem is... someone had spilled a bunch of oil up high and there was still a lot of track dry up there. Track dry is great for soaking up oil off of asphalt. It's lousy for creating traction on asphalt. I started to slide around turn 4 and slid right into the wall. My first crash!!! The front end's all bent out of shape and the car wouldn't start back up because the battery cable actually popped off the terminal on impact. My night was done, but the car should be ok. I should be able to get it bent back into shape (mostly) by this Friday night and be back out there. Fun, fun, fun...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Something to Think About...

In the second installment of the Out of Ur series on youth shaping the church, there's this quote:
In youth ministry, you get permission to break the rules,” explained Doug Pagitt, a former youth worker and now the founding pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis. “Youth pastors get to do things that other people don’t get to do. Youth ministry requires that you break the conventions to connect with teenagers. If breaking the rules is permissible in youth ministry, then why is it not permissible in a broader scope of ministry?
This really made me think about what I've been doing in my ministry. I think I've been too concerned with figuring out what the rules are. Too much attention paid to questions of propriety and convention at the expense of awareness of and responsiveness to God's direction.

Need for Music...

A professor at seminary got me interested in a blog done by Dick Staub. He writes about different elements of culture and creativity and interaction between the church and the world we live in. This morning, I was reading this post about the Necessity of Music. He has some great quotes from Rich Mullins.

In a letter to his label, he once wrote,
I want to be involved as much as possible in church work. I want to work in settings that are specifically designed to challenge people, to encourage people to seek their life in Christ. I would like not only to sing but to teach…to "hang out" with people, to be accessible, to model faith [to] them, to be with people, not as a performer, but as a practitioner of the faith.
I saw Mullins 'perform' a few times, but after reading that I know why I never felt comfortable calling it a performance. He didn't perform with his music, he worshipped His Creator through it and drew the audience into participation in worship as well. Another time Mullins said,
You don't write because the world needs your music; you write because you need to make order, to organize things.
Just the other day, I was talking to a former student (who is a musician) about some music I'd written several years ago. We'd used the songs in worship there in Auburn and at camp, and I've used a few of the songs out here as well. But she asked me about what I'd written lately...

Not much. Somewhere in our move a year and a half ago, I misplaced the box where I kept my creativity. (I think I left it next to the one full of security and confidence.) I've missed it. Thanks Megan for challenging me to unpack that box again... I needed it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

First Race

Sometimes in life, there are things you think you’d like to do, but never get to do them for one reason or another. I’m thinking about things that you’d think are so exciting that they may be a little too scary to try – serious white water rafting, hang-gliding, skydiving… things like that. This last Friday night, I got to do something that I’ve always thought would be a blast but never really thought I’d do.
When I was a kid, we’d go out to the Casper Speedway and park grandpa’s camper at the entry to Turn 1 and watch the races. I remember hiding out with my cousins and brother inside the RV and watching through the little window in the loft whenever the sprint cars came out. They were loud and I said they “scared my ears.” But, like many little boys, I thought it would be fun to race.
Last summer, I was sitting out at Highway 92 Raceway East of Gering with Ted Grant and our boys and the announcer started talking about a new class they’d started. The idea was you get a cheap little 4 cylinder car, strip it, put in some safety equipment, and race it. Ted and I both got that little-boy-with-a-fast-car look and talked about how fun it would be.
Greg Elliott helped me find a little Plymouth Colt sitting in a pile that the guy was willing to part with for $150. We put in a new clutch to get it running and built a roll cage, and Friday night, Matt Snyder towed me out to the track and I got to race. It was as much fun as I ever thought it would be. Not that this is some high-powered precision work of automotive wonder… but it was a blast. I’m really looking forward to Friday nights at the track this summer (though I’ll miss a few for my brother’s graduation, CIY, etc.)
There were a number of times when I remember thinking how ridiculous it was for a grown man to be putting so much effort into boyhood fantasies of racing a little car around a track. Sometimes, I questioned if I just needed to grow up and put those dreams away. I’m glad I didn’t because what I experienced was great.
Living in Jesus is full of things much more spectacular than driving around in circles. The dreams God has for our lives far exceed the thrill of a short track win. Pray that God would give you the courage to follow His dreams. The message of the cross may be foolishness to the world, but when we live that message, what we experience will be a life that is unparalleled by anything else... the full life that Jesus came to give. Don’t let anything cause you to miss it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Youth Shaping Church

Out of Ur is a kind of community blog run by the editors of Leadership Journal. They've just started a series of articles on how the rise of youth culture & teenagers (a sociological development over the past 50 years), and youth ministry (the church's response to those developments) have shaped the church. After reading the first of the series and the comments, I'm interested to see what the follow up articles are like.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Drive Fast, Turn Left!

Racing starts this Friday night! My car is oh so close to finished. I still need a paint job, final welding on the roll cage (about 80% finished now), new battery, and sponsor checks! After all this work, I'm really hoping I don't put it into the wall right away! It's pretty exciting to think about getting out on the track - kind of nerve racking too - what if the car's just got no speed?!

The downside has been the annoyed looks I get from LuAnn when I go out to work on the car and the fact that I'm selling my other car. Since I got the 4runner, I just don't really need another car sitting around, but I like the Avenger and really don't want to get rid of it. After driving the 4runner around for a month or so, I got the Avenger fixed and drove it a little today. It just feels so much quicker and more fun... maybe I'll make it into a race car!!!

If you're around on Friday night, come out to the Hwy 92 track and say hi. I'll be in the little Colt with a 94 on the side (haven't picked a color yet, but the old color's red, so that might be a safe bet)!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Church Gone Wrong...

Saw this story today about a lady suing her former church where she hit her head and apparently did some damage. Something's definitely at work here ~ but it sure doesn't seem like the Holy Spirit I know.

Monday, May 07, 2007

It's Not Brain Surgery...

I used this story of a young writer, from Eugene Peterson's Under the Unpredictable Plant for this week's newsletter article. Thought I'd post it here as well... with some bonus comments.

The young man longed to be a writer. As he grew up, that’s all he wanted to be. As he prepared to go to college, his mother took him aside, with good intentions, “I know you want to be a writer, but why don’t you become a brain surgeon instead. You’ll keep a lot of people from dying… and you’ll make a lot of money.”
“But mama, I don’t want to be a brain surgeon, I’m a writer.”
This conversation continued for years, in bits and pieces sprinkled over vacation conversations and holiday dinners, always with the same refrain, “You’ll keep a lot of people from dying, and you’ll make a lot of money.” Eventually, the ‘suggestion’ became a little more pointed.
“You’re wasting your time! Why do you insist on this writing business? Be a brain surgeon! You’ll keep a lot of people from dying. You’ll make a lot of money.”
“Mama, I don’t want to keep people from dying, I want to show them how to live!”

Too much religion has settled for keeping people from dying. I’m glad that WestWay is a place that doesn’t stop there. Please pray for our student ministries as we seek to show students how to live. This summer will begin a new phase for Wind and Water Student Ministries that is specifically targeted to show students how to live as disciples of Jesus. Be praying for the students and leaders of our small discipleship groups. May we all know how to truly live!

My family was supportive of my choice to go into youth ministry. Several teachers and counselors at school, however, echoed the words of the mother, "You're wasting your potential." After over 10 years of living with the repercussions of that decision, I can honestly say they were wrong. What I've chosen is not brain surgery or rocket science. I don't build bridges or fly airplanes or design great buildings. My name will never appear on some great scholarship endowment or public library. But what I do matters. What I do helps some students know how to live.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Legacy

Spent this past weekend with about 200 Middle School and High School students at an annual event some of our area churches do called Spring Thing. It was the 25th year of the event, and the focus was on leaving a legacy. Central Church of Christ over in Gering hosted the weekend this year. Shane, from here at WestWay put together a really good band to lead worship, and Rob Maupin of Lincoln Christian College did a great job as the speaker. He grew up in the area and used a lot of stories from his time here to detail the idea of leaving a legacy by being a disciple of Jesus - actually doing what He says as opposed to just hearing what He says. He had a lot to say that the students and leaders need to hear, and did it really well. As far as spiritual impact for me, his messages were the highlight of the weekend. I hope the students got as much out of them as I did.

I have to say, that I did not like the medievil banquet (greasy chicken thrown on to the table to manhandle-share with whoever else happened to be in reach - tear off a piece and pass it around) but everything else went really well.


Another highlight for me was Saturday afternoon's paintball tournament. I've never done paintball before and even had to borrow stuff to use, but it was awesome. It was 3 man teams and our team got second. We lost the final to a team with a former prison guard with a little SWAT team training, so I really don't feel too bad about that. The few bruises I ended up with were well worth it, but there was one episode that caused me a little more angst - I made a girl bleed. She wore shorts. I shot shin. She bled. In three spots. I felt bad about it, but she thought it was cool. Reminded me of some of my soccer girls, who loved to get bruised and beaten on gameday.

Looking forward to what we'll do next year as we're looking into making a few changes. Possibly working with the Cheyenne church to have them host for the first time. Lots of possibilities...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Good News - Bad News...

The good news is I got a new vehicle. I've been wanting to find something that will tow a small load without paying a huge amount and found this: It's a 1990 Toyota 4Runner. What I would have loved to have 15 years ago mom before it had 175,000 miles! It's weird buying a vehicle that I couldn't afford in high school after all this time... Just wait through only 4 years of college, 4 kids, 8 years of ministry and 15 years of living - and all your vehicular dreams could come true, too! Ha! (The kids love the sunroof!)


The bad news side of the story is that I'll be getting rid of the Avenger. Just don't need the driveway to look like a car lot! I'm sure it will when our kids are older and driving, but for now...
Also, as part of the deal, I will not be drinking pop until the truck's paid for. If you know me, you know how traumatic this is. I am not physically/chemically addicted (I'm not) to Mt. Dew - I just really really like it. No actually, it's just a habit. But... it won't be for now. (By the way, not drinking pop alone is not going to save enough to pay for the truck. Sheesh, I'm not that bad!)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Leeland's "Tears of the Saints"

Found another video today that really captures a great deal of what student ministry is about...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Car and Radio!

I've been working on the race car lately trying to be ready for the start of the season - very soon!. This is pretty much what it looks like at the moment. Not much to look at, but it'll be a lot of fun. Actually right now, it's up on jack stands waiting for us to put the transmission back in. Had some help today from Greg and Kyle to put in a new clutch.


It's been fun to learn a lot about the machine and stuff!
Another new thing lately has been the radio show I'm doing right now. A Christian station here in town let's some of us youth ministers come in and take over the air for a few hours on Saturday nights. It's been a blast!

Friday, March 30, 2007

What could be...



"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming." -Goethe
In youth ministry, and every other way of life, it's critical to be able to see past what is into what could be. It's so easy to label each other based on what is seen. But what if we were able to look past the shells we wear, the plastic faces we hide behind, and the mistakes we've made? This is what God does, it's what Christ modeled for us. With an impetuous man named Simon, he even changed his name to Peter (rock) to reflect what could be.

What could be for the people in your life? What potential are your friends falling short of? What if you treated them as if they were reaching that potential?

I wouldn't agree with Goethe on every line of thinking he ever explored, but this is truly a great thought.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Be Led to Lead

I just finished reading again a book that was suggested in connection with my last class. I don't read books more than once very often, but I was looking for a quote to use in my last paper and got wrapped up in the book and wanted to soak it in again. It's "In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership" from Henri Nouwen - a brief book sharing some lessons learned as Nouwen moved from a Harvard professorship to a community for mentally handicapped people called Daybreak. (For more about Nouwen, check out this website from Wil Hernandez - who incidentally was the teacher for my class.)

He points out a lack of spiritual depth in much of Christian leadership today and blames the pursuit of relevance, popularity, and power (though his description of relevance is a bit different than I'd always thought of relevance) and prescribes prayer, confession/repentance, and theological reflection. He ends "with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility. It is the image of the praying leader, the vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader. May that image fill your hearts with hope, courage, and confidence..."

He uses Jesus' comments to Peter about being led where you do not wish to go to draw this picture of servant leadership. Really made me think of my own image of leadership. How I've defined it for myself and what I've aimed for as a leader. I've got to say, I've allowed myself to be distracted by managing things ("Don't mess up.") to the point of no longer being led and leading.

But it's risky to be led by Jesus. If we're going to be able to lead the emerging generation to have any depth of relationship to God whatsoever - it's a risk some of us must take.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Trust

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I [Paul] am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” (Acts 20:22)

“Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf…’” (1 Samuel 14:6)

I wonder if we require too many details of God’s plan before we’ll take action…
I wonder if we desire too much of a safety net before we’ll allow the Spirit to move us…
I wonder if we insist on knowing at the expense of trusting our Father…
I wonder if we follow directions instead of following Jesus…

Maybe it’s just me. I’ve been challenged lately to pay more attention to the Spirit of Christ in my life. But maybe it’s not just me. Maybe Satan has made it very easy for all of us to become complacent in our spirituality – to reduce our relationship with God to one of attendance and apathy.

Don’t allow him to do that to you. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) Walk with Him today. Don’t allow the fear of uncertainty to shackle you. Trust the Spirit that God has placed within you.

Maybe an uncomfortable thought, I know… but if you only follow what you already understand, you’ll only go where you’re already able to get to.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bad News for People Who Prefer the Bad News First

Came across this spoof article I did several years ago on a forum with some of my kids. Please note 'spoof'. It's not real. Don't call a press conference!
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A new study, jointly sponsored by the UP, AP, CBS News, Reuters, and the International Bureau for Useless Studies and funded through grants from the Pew, Gallup, & Inane Polling Agencies as well as the UN Center for Resolutions on Meaningless Information, shows that those who take the Good News first, then the Bad suffer no adverse effects, as is commonly assumed.

The lead surveyor for this study, a libel-avoidingly nameless former news anchor (moonlighting for carreer options) noted that 87 of the 158 respondents seemed ok after receiving both the good news and the bad, no matter what the order.

Those who received the good news first, then the bad news, reported feelings of euphoria and elation, quickly followed by deflation and a "thump, thump, thump, thump" flapping sound. Bad news firsters simply seemed to ignore the bad news and concentrate on the rosy outlook of the good news - only to experience the cold, hard slap in the face of reality some time later (which is roughly tantamount to the thumping-flapping feeling on the International Scale of Stress Induced Ill Senses or ISSIIS).

Those who attempted the simultaneous assimilation of both the good news and the bad news as well as a series of mild to strong electrical pulses to the frontal lobe experienced extreme convulsions that could only be controlled by the consumption of several small town newspapers, which really contained no news at all. Scientists attribute this to the "no news is good news" theory of seizure modification, which was popularized of late by Marcel Marceau and other lesser known mimes throughout Western nations. Further studies are expected on the long-term effects of newsprint digestion.
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So do you want the good news first or the bad?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What Do You See? Pt.2

What Do You See?

Saw the video in the next post on Fess's blog and wanted to share. It says a lot about why I do what I do. Who will notice...

Please notice the pain and brokenness of the emerging generation. Don't pass by on the other side of the road anymore.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Listening to God

In Mike Yaconelli's book, Dangerous Wonder, he talks in one of the chapters about listening to God. Between the service the youth led ("Be Still...") and my papers on the Holy Spirit and Vision for ministry, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Yaconelli quotes Sue Monk Kidd about the idea of waiting for God. She was told at one point that

When you are waiting you are not doing nothing. You're doing
something. You're allowing your soul to grow up. If you can't be
still and wait, you can't become what God created you to be.

I really like that thought, but it runs totally against the values of the world we live in. Work more. Play more. Live large! You're only as valuable to me as what you can do for me... These are the messages sent by a world where you are what you accomplish.

But the economy of Christ is so different. Jesus says, "Come follow me... Let them come... watch and pray..." In His family, it's not about what I can do for Him - it's God who is at work in me to dream and act out His ideas and hopes. And sometimes that means waiting. But waiting isn't being lazy and non-productive - it's growing up.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Don't Shoot - I Work Here!

Ok. So, apparently, not only do I look too young to be some kind of pastor - I also look like a hooligan! (At least at 1:00 in the morning.) Last night, I was leaving the office after having worked on a paper that's due this weekend. As I walked to my car, I noticed a car with a spotlight driving slowly through a group of storage rentals across the street. It seemed to be a police car, but then it seemed to be coming across the street toward me.

What should I do? Drive away and have them chase me down? Hide and hope they didn't see me? Just sit and wait?

I decided on another option. I closed my door - I wasn't quite in yet - and walked around to the front of my car, facing the officer's car.
Commence yelling "Get back in your car, sir!"
"But I wasn't in my car - is something wrong."
"Get back in your car."
"Are you looking for someone?"
"Get back in your car."

This was not the right option. I think it set the officer on edge and set the tone for the rest of what happened. I had a million things flying through my head. 'Keep your hands out and don't make any sudden moves' was prominent among them. I got back in my car and waited as the officer came and asked what I was doing here at the church so late, license and registration, etc. When I told her I was a youth pastor here, she called in to see if there were any outstanding warrants for my arrest! Do youth ministry and warrants really go together that concretely?

I offered to take her into the building, where I could give her a visitor packet that has my name on it to verify that I really was a pastor there. She took my up on the offer (I think she thought she was calling my bluff), but she didn't keep the visitor packet.

Sufficiently convinced that I did indeed work here at the church, (and more importantly to her that there were no warrants she could exercise and arrest me) she told me I could go - but gave me a warning about how this was pretty "unusual". The whole thing was kind of weird. But at least I know that next time I'm here late, there's someone else around who will confront anyone suspicious... that and "stay in the car!"

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