Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and DeliveryI've been reading Presentation Zen for a class I'm taking this Spring. Don't let the title scare you, I'm no more Eastern mystic today than I was last week when I celebrated the astrologically heralded birth of a Middle Eastern man who grew up to calm nature and to claim to be "the way" and to tell people they could live forever if they ate his flesh. Dang! Maybe I am a little mystic...

Anyway, the book is a great look at some of the basics of putting together a presentation that people will actually gain from, enjoy, and remember - a presentation that matters. If you have something to say, and you have the opportunity to say it to a bunch of people at once, this book could help you present your message more effectively. And that's pretty important, unless your message doesn't really matter. If that's the case, just skip the book and keep doing what you would have done anyway.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Don't Quit in the Middle

"And so, since God in his mercy has given us this wonderful ministry, we never give up." -Paul, the Apostle who got beaten, shipwrecked, & imprisoned as often than any other non-criminal I've ever heard of.

I remember as a kid that sometimes, I wanted to quit some certain activity mid-season. Usually it was some activity that had caused my parents to part with money in exchange for the opportunity to participate. Often, it was with much weeping and gnashing of marbles that I'd convinced them to part with the money. Some days it was piano lessons, or little league baseball, or swim team, or pretty much any other endeavor that was requiring more sacrifice than I was in the mood to make...

Thankfully, my parents never let me quit.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Minute Shopping?

The week of the last minute deal is upon us, all decked out with holly jolly tinkling bells! Can't you just feel the excitement in that guy down the street trying to pass off his 4000 flashing lights and boom box as a high tech Christmas extravaganza for the whole neighborhood? Or maybe you caught it's whiff in the lady that just snatched the last almost passable sweater virtually from your grasp?

I once had a year where I proudly refused to buy any Christmas presents for anyone until the final week before the day. It was amazing. Well, not so much amazing, but that's not the point, now is it? (It's not, I promise.) I've noticed a couple different kinds of last minute shoppers out there:

  • "Oh, Crap. It's Christmas Already?"You see these guys, who've been diligently working to put food on the table all year long zipping around the mall like hummingbirds sucking all the tinsel tinged nectar the Buckle and Bath & Body Works have to offer.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Interrupting Mimes?

I got a phone call this morning to go help a friend tow a car. I left the office and got the car where it needed to go, but when we got done I decided to stop at home for lunch a little bit early rather than go back to work just to leave a few minutes later.  (Not like we're in a huge city where that's a big hassle, but still, early lunch sounded good.)

About 5 minutes after I got home, Lizzie decided to carry a geoboard (fancy name for a square block of wood with a pattern of finishing nails sticking up) into the living room. She tripped. She hit her face. She bled all over.

Instead of lunch, we took her to urgent care and got 3 stitches. That chin is really small for 3 stitches! She also knocked a recently capped tooth loose, so we get another trip to the dentist Monday. So thankful her face did not become a well measured graph of 1" squares though!
As I was writing about this, my wife sent me a message to let me know the phone was not functioning, so I just got back from a quick trip home to force the battery into submission. It would have been much easier if we'd had industrial strength tweezers to pick at the tiny wiring harness! I guess the elves who made it thought it would be funny...
Have you ever felt interrupted? You have everything (or at least some things) all mapped out and ready to go, but then something unexpected holds up your thought train like a gang of Old West mimes. You thought I was going to say bandits, didn't you? Desperados? Gunslingers? Nope. Mimes.

They're not exceptionally dangerous interruptions... just terribly inconvenient and awkward.

So do you let the mimes get through their schtick and then simply get back on course, or do you just run them over? 

(Bet they'd make some noise then!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wear the Name... Reflect the Reality.

I found myself being fairly critical yesterday. The Big Ten came out with a new logo. I checked, and the design firm that made it is NOT run by 4th Graders, it is NOT the Graphic Design Team of the Blind, and it is NOT staffed by invertebrates or crustaceans. I suspected at first that the press release was a leak from the GAP in a desperate attempt to recover from their own logo mishap not too long ago, but it turns out, the Big Ten really did commission a logo that is that bad.

In defense of Pentagram (there's a clause I never imagined writing), the design team tasked with imaging the new identity of the Big Ten, they had a rough place from which to start. How are you supposed to create a logo for an organization whose very name has nothing to do with what it actually is or does? They've done other work that's great. So why this dud in Carolina blue? There's no Carolina even in the Big Ten, but that's beside the point.

I wonder if the Big Ten has lost its story in order to cling to its name. Why call a conference which has not been limited to 10 schools for 20 years the "Big Ten"? I know, I know, "tradition... oldest conference in the nation... heritage..." But it's not 10 schools anymore and hasn't been for quite some time. Don't get me wrong, the Big Ten is a great conference - it's just not 10.

I know it's always easier to criticize than to actually do something... so I humbly offer a few alternatives (in unskilled jest, of course). 
  • The Big Ten played in the first Bowl game (in 1902) and this new conference will certainly see its fair share of bowl games far into the future. Maybe a name change to something reflecting the Midwest nature of the new set of 12 would be in order... 
  • The TV deals and Big Ten Network are sure to keep these 12 great schools in front of a lot of eyeballs. Maybe they could just become the TV Conference... 
  • The existing Big Twelve now only has 10 teams. Since these are heavily within the gravitational pull of Texas, maybe they'd trade names and pull in a negative space T for themselves just for fun.
I'm wondering why I find myself writing about college athletics right now, and here's a thought that's haunting me. These conferences' names reflect absolutely nothing about their reality, and that bothers me. What bothers me more is that I've recognized the same problem in the Church. How many Christians wear that name only out of heritage & tradition? How many wear the label, yet live as if Jesus is long dead and gone? How many people throw a fit about cashiers who don't say 'Christmas' to them, even while they imbibe with drunken stupor on a consumptive holiday buying binge that would have sent their precious baby in a manger into a table throwing fury? Jesus wasn't meant for a manger, he was meant for a throne. We (myself included) could do a whole lot better, Church. 

Wear the name... reflect the reality.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

60 Days of Nothing but Spuds

My mom tells me of a period of my childhood when the only thing I could eat was french fries and bananas. I don't know how long this time lasted, and I have no idea just what precipitated such a starch & K weighted diet. In fact, I really don't remember any of the details well at all (but I do remember the subsequent force feeding of fried liver quite vividly). This may have been a contributing factor to my entry into Kindergarten at the weight of a small 2 year old. When the teacher said to "Get in your desks" I could comply in a way that was much more literal than she'd hoped for (which is a pretty funny, but completely unrelated tale).

Last week, I came across a story out of Washington (the state) that reminded me of my pre-school starch experience. Chris Voigt is the Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission (I still suspect they were secretly behind the political disappearance of Dan Quayle a few years ago). In an attempt to prove the nutritional value of the spud, Voigt embarked a couple months ago on a 60 day journey of deprivation from all foods - except potatoes!

For 60 days, he ate about 20 potatoes a day. My spidey-math senses are telling me he ate about 1200 potatoes during October and November - and nothing else. No birthday cakes, no ice cream desserts, no Thanksgiving turkey... just fork after fork of potatoes. Mashed, baked, rebaked, broiled, sliced and put in the toaster (hope not)...

He lost 20 pounds and dropped his cholesterol levels significantly. I'm sure when word gets out, this will have people rushing out to the nearest corner store to stock up on bags of chips in hopes to shed a few holiday pounds. Bad news... your couch just called to say it's not going to work.

This all has me wondering?

What if I could only eat 1 thing for two months?

  • 60 days of Nutella on hard rolls sounds kind of good, but I'm afraid of what that would do to my youthful complexion.
  • I'd contemplate 2 months of smothered TDO's from Taco de Oro, but there's not enough Charmin in the Bluffs to counteract all that pork chili-taco salad goodness.
  • I really like donuts. I think I could handle donuts for 60 days. Unfortunately, a new wardrobe of stretchy pants is not in the budget - besides which, I already have enough trouble with finding new pants!

What would you eat exclusively for 60 days? What do you think would be the results?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hearing a Voice?

In a discussion the other day with a minister friend, we were talking about books as we rode down the highway, and Francis Chan's Forgotten God was mentioned. It really is a great book that addresses what I believe is the root cause of so many churches finding themselves less effective than they want to be - without the power of the Spirit of God, we simply cannot accomplish the mission of God.

I was challenged with a question: "So, how did the book impact your life specifically? What are you doing different because of it?" (This is a great question to ask someone when they tell you how good a book was.) I blathered something about trying to pay more attention to the Spirit and spending more time digging through Scripture, becoming familiar enough with the voice of God in Scripture that I recognize it more readily outside of Scripture.

Another youth minister who'd been at the meeting we were at all day had commented earlier about feeling that the Holy Spirit was pulling in a particular direction. Some in the meeting sort of chuckled at that idea, jokingly accusing him of trying to drum up support for an idea by invoking the Spirit of God as the idea's generator. It was a lighthearted moment for most of us, but I wonder... why are we so cautious (even skeptical?) when a trusted servant of Christ with a good reputation and a level head shares that God is leading him?

When the wind blows, why are we so afraid to let ourselves be moved?

I know, I know... how do you know the wind will take you where you want to go? How do you know it's really the Spirit of Jesus and not some other? How do you really know you can trust what you're feeling God wants? I offer no easy explanations for these questions, but I wonder... is our fear of the uncertain keeping us from connecting with the very power to do what we ARE certain should be done? We know, for example, that the church is here to continue on His mission. Do we really think we can accomplish the mission of Christ apart from the power of the presence of the Spirit of Christ?

The early Corinthian Church may have thought so, and Paul reminded them of God's foolishness. He concentrated only on Jesus and His death on the cross (which is not how you start a global movement of any lasting significance). It wasn't Paul's exceptional rhetoric that convinced those early believers - it was the Spirit of God.

Paul told them to stop fooling themselves, "Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?"

Do we need to stop fooling ourselves, too?
Maybe this is more of an issue within myself... How are you seeing the Spirit of God lead you? What are you doing to recognize and respond to His leading?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Dear Youth Minister...

Dear Youth Minister,

I know sometimes your job well done goes unnoticed and you feel taken for granted... A lot of people just don't seem to understand and they seem to be too busy to really, genuinely care or even take an interest in the next generation for which you are pouring yourself out... Just thought I'd send a quick note to remind you why you don't quit.

You don't quit because you don't work for them. God has called you into His mission to rescue young people from the sin and apathy that subtly choke the life out of them before they even have a chance to fully live. He is the one that works through your efforts to resuscitate a generation that is desperate for a breath of true hope. You're not responsible to the hearts of the people who look right past you and the students you love - but to the Father who loves us all... so you keep moving forward with Him.

You don't quit because your kids are awesome! They may be ignored by most of the adults in their lives, but you've seen what can be... you've seen the glimmer of life that blooms when Jesus moves in. You've seen them set aside their own egos and agendas in order to do what God is calling them to do, even if they don't know the outcome. You've seen them try - and keep trying and praying and learning to work to reveal the Kingdom to their friends who don't see it... so you keep working with them to help them hone their craft and offer the best of what they have to give to a King who deserves nothing less.

You don't quit because you've seen the future. If the church abandons the young the way much of the rest of culture has, it will be further relegated to a place of scorn and shame, set on a back shelf to collect nothing but dust and mold. As long as it is called 'today' you'll not let that happen without doing everything possible to see God turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. You love the Bride of Christ too much to let her be put out to pasture like some old cow... so you keep showing up in some strange stretch of time, trying to connect yesterday with tomorrow.

Your job in student ministry will result in waves of change you may never fully see. But those waves are part of a history shaping tide that will demolish the gates of Hell. It's never going to be easy, it's never going to be finished, and nothing in this world will be an adequate reward... so work hard, stay fresh, and remember Who you work for. May God strengthen you and sustain the work He's doing in and through you.

In Hope and In Faith

A Part of Your Tribe

Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas Series...

I'm  excited for the series that we're doing for the next few weeks. Advent is a time of anticipation, excitement, waiting... But do we really understand what we're waiting for? What are we supposed to be doing while we wait? What if it's time to stop waiting?

Pulled Together

We had a great night with our student ministry Wed. night. We did an open mic night where I encouraged the students to share what God had been teaching them that they could pass on to the rest of us. There were some really good comments shared by the students and even more after we were done. It is awesome to see the students really taking ownership of their faith and responding to what they see God doing around them. They want to be a part of His mission! I'm excited to see them continue to grow and to see what God will do as more hearts are open to Him.

Last night followed that up with a good time with our small group. We haven't all been together for a while, so it was great to meet again. There was nothing too urgent on the agenda, but it was great just to get together to talk and pray together and to bring together some resources to send to a great ministry's (3:18 Ministries) Christmas project. It's awesome to be brought into community with people with a pretty wide range of backgrounds & interests to encourage each other as we join God in His mission, and to be pulled into His momentum.

God is on the move in our community of faith. He's at work to rescue what's been wandering... to find what's been hiding. Today as I sit here reflecting on what's been a pretty good week, I'm so thankful to be able to be a part of it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Landing After I Leaped Before I Looked

First a little disclaimer: Do not read into this post anything that I did not explicitly write. Don't jump to conclusions and try to assign blame. The adventure began like this and it's about to end with a fully shingled roof and some valuable lessons. That's a good trip. It's been discouraging and frustrating at times, but satisfying and even a little fun at others. The whole experience has highlighted some problems to me during the last month. I write this to propose some solutions, not to place blame or lay on the guilt.

I write this with tongue in cheek (and possibly foot in mouth), so please take it lightly. I harbor no ill will toward anyone who couldn't help, and only a little toward whoever made me think this was a good idea in the first place (just kidding, that was me).
I have a lot of friends on facebook... but I don't have a lot of friends on my roof.

This has been frustrating for me lately. I've needed help. Roofing's one of those jobs that's kind of tough to tackle on your own.

Black Friday for me was tar paper black. My birthday was Saturday and a lot of people stopped by my wall to wish me a good day. I would have felt pretty good about that except for one thing - Zero of them stopped by my roof to help me finish the shingling. This was my first weekend at home since August and I got to spend it roofing. My 11 year old daughter and 8 & 7 year old sons have learned where shingles need to be and when. My mom lugged tarps full of shingle scraps to the roll off dumpster for her Thanksgiving vacation and my dad spent 2 days up there with me stripping off the old and laying down the new. They may still be in recovery. They may never come to visit again! My wife has made lots of trips out of the house to bring me stuff I forgot to take up with me. A couple of my 16 year old students have helped out a lot (except when both of them could come and distract each other). A few of my friends have spent several hours helping out, but most just couldn't make it.

Now, before this starts sounding as bitter as Marshall's coffee (hopefully, not too late) I need to say that I don't think this is an indictment of my friends. I sort of want to feel sorry for myself and be mad at them, but I'm not. I sort of want to moan about how my hour of need found me alone, but I know I'm not alone. I sort of want to be hurt by serving in a church full of people who watched the Huskers and Broncos, and "decked their halls", and took family holiday pictures, and played around for the long weekend while I sent nail after nail into tar and asphalt and wood... but the truth is, I'd have much rather been doing those things, too. Roofing's not nearly as fun as those things, or others... like pulling out your fingernails, or eating fried wombat hair.

I've identified a few possible reasons I've had less help than hoped for:
1. Maybe I suck at asking for help. Apparently, "I've never done this before and I'd love it if you could come help me put shingles on my house." doesn't mean what I thought it means. I've never thought of myself as someone who appeared to have everything under control, but maybe I do because if my friends knew the true level of need, I can't believe they wouldn't have helped. I know this because we've helped others together in similar endeavors. I think I need to communicate my need more accurately. But I don't want to use guilt to motivate, so I always leave an open door for people to say no. Maybe that open door makes my friends think I don't really need their help.
2. Maybe we live with no margins. We are a busy people. I mentioned earlier that this was the first weekend I'd been able to spend at home since August. Soccer, funerals, weddings, work trips, anniversary celebrations, family emergencies... all of these things keep us running from one thing to the next with no buffer zones... no empty spaces to simply be, and to breathe, and to be available. I wonder if we're just too busy.
3. Maybe we're just afraid to try. I realize that most of my friends are not roofing experts, or maybe even all that savvy regarding nails and hammers and construction type stuff. Neither am I (which is why I say construction type stuff, I don't know what most of it's really called). Once, when I was a kid, I hauled a few shingles onto a roof my dad was shingling for some lady that needed help, but that's the extent of my roofing experience. I'm not a handy guy. I usually can only fix the things that I've broken and seen exactly how I broke it. It's a whole different ball game to deconstruct a time honored method of getting the wet off the top of a house, and then to actually successfully do the work necessary to secure the shingles where they need to be. But guess what? I learned. Why do we let what we don't know stop us from trying?

So here's what I propose, friends:
-Let's stop mitigating our speech and say what we really mean.
-Let's stop filling every moment with something and create some margin in our lives (not just for our friends, but especially for our Father).
-Let's never let what we don't know scare us away from trying.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bad News About That Pardon

Some turkeys have all the luck. About 200 million turkeys will be eaten in the United States this year - a large percentage of which will be consumed tomorrow! But just a few days ago, two of them received the coveted Presidential pardon. One of those quirky little holiday traditions that don't quite make a lot of sense... two turkeys (the star and his alternate) are culled from the masses to be saved from your dinner plate.

Hooray for freedom... right?

But what happens then? We can safely assume that these birds aren't just turned loose to wander the West Wing, and you know what's going down if they start messing around in the garden. No, the pardoned turkeys over the past decade or so have gone on to live out the rest of their genetically altered lives in such amazing locales as Disney Land, Disney World, or the (hopefully) ironically named Frying Pan Park (I did not make that up, it's an actual place - here's a link).

How great must it be to be those pardoned turkeys? Maybe a gig at the head of Disney's parade... A nice jaunt in the woods when the mood strikes... No fat guy trying to squelch your gobble... Just kick back, watch the Lions get massacred, do a little shopping...

Actually it's not that great. Today's turkeys are bred to be eaten. Those tender cuts of white meat goodness may look great on the plate, but they don't do a turkey body any good. They actually lead to an early demise for poor Tom. Despite their pardon, the turkeys usually die within the year, anyway.

Oh, well.

Let's eat!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Abandon the Bleachers

I'm a terrible fan. I just don't get the whole idea of fan-hood. I 'became a fan' of exactly nothing on facebook (though I'm a little better at 'liking' stuff). I did have a poster of the Broncos' 3 Amigos when I was a kid (Can you name them?) and a hat that was autographed by Sammy Winder... but they're long gone now. For the most part, my life has been free of any 'fan' related paraphernalia. No giant foam fingers, no cheese or corn heads, no crazy colored body paint... I'm just not a good fan.

Don't get me wrong - I love sports. Almost all of them. I do have issues with basketball, but I can sit for hours watching cars turn left, Franco-Italian guys roll around on the pitch as if that beautifully executed slide tackle actually hurt them, grown men throw each other around like my boys do (minus the giggling), huge hulks of men in pads slamming into each other trying to move a weird shaped ball down the field, & even an occasional puck and ice related clash... But I'm just not a good fan.

But I don't want to be. This weekend's Husker-Aggies game only reinforced that. To put it quickly enough to make both sides hate me... the Huskers lost, their fans are bitter about missing out on that last little stab at A&M before they take their ball and go play somewhere else, the Aggies were saved by Cyrus Gray and Black, White, & Yellow, and their fans are left trying to defend a win that was not as completely earned as they would have liked. I have good friends in both camps. If I were a good fan... I'd be outraged by the poorly timed calls and the 'how could you not see that' no calls and the pinching of the nether regions. But I'm not (except the pinching stuff... that's just wrong in any context).

My favorite teams have always been the Broncos and Rapids (Colorado's good football team this year!) and Cowboys (of Laramie, not Dallas) and Huskers. That's not likely to change, but I'm also not sculpting my bushes into Cowboy Joe, I'm not painting my house red & white, and I'm not spray painting the rock part of my yard orange (although, that one does sound kind of fun, now that I think about it).

Here's the thing: I don't want to be identified by a mass of face painted wackos, I don't want my day ruined when my favorite teams lose (I remember being baffled when I saw the depression, seriously, of Husker fans when they lost one game one special season long ago), and I don't want to be forced to defend an outcome I had no hand in determining.

I don't want to kick the dog because what I'm seeing on tv is driving me mad. I don't want to sit in the stands and scream - I want to be on the field, pouring out everything I can to make sure my team comes out on top when the clock hits 90:00 (+3 or whatever) or zero if you're stuck in that football. And I think I've just wandered away from the realm of sport... but I think Jesus has too many fans in the church.

What if you got off your couch and stopped telling the church what to do to be better... and DID something to BE a better church?

What if more of us stepped out of the crowd cheering for the King as He rides in on a donkey (a fickle crowd that incidentally screamed for His death just a few days later) and joined Him in His work to win back the hearts of His people?

What if we stopped patting the preacher on the back for a job well done and actually did what the Word he's sharing says we should do?

Jesus doesn't need us to rabidly abandon all logic to defend Him. He doesn't need us to buy the latest and greatest Jesus junk, or to hold up our foam prayer fingers at all the right times...

He wants us to step onto the field with Him.

Abandon the bleachers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Check Your Pockets

I noticed this weekend that my favorite jeans (meaning, one of my two pair of decent ones) were worn thin in a fairly 'critical' area. I was not anticipating great things from the Bronco game yesterday, so I was thinking about going and getting some new jeans instead of watching. I know, I know - like you really want to read about me buying pants. I was really tired after a long weekend that came after a long couple weeks, so I decided to sit down and watch a little of the game, see how it started out, gather my mental resolve to keep plodding, then go buy some pants.

This may all sound a little odd, but the truth is I hate buying pants. I can never find pants that fit right... All the relaxed fit, boot cut, loose fit, I-can't-believe-you're-actually-trying-to-squeeze-into-this, straight legged nonsense is irritating. If I can find them short enough, they're about 8 inches too wide in the waist. When I find a pair that fits right in the middle, they either squeeze the crap out of my legs or would require me to wear stilts. It's like jean makers decided anyone with a 31" waist is either a flag pole, a weeble wobble, or an emo kid with a white leather belt. I actually even found some pants yesterday in the kids' section that are TOO BIG.

So I always have to settle. Something between 30"x32" or 32"x30" or some such combination that's not quite right, but close enough. By this time in my life, I'm tired of settling, so the whole thing gets me a little cranky. I briefly considered going on a donuts and McDonald's diet to try to gain about 6 inches in the waist, but decided against it because it would just cause too many residual sock issues. I can't handle any more sock issues.

So anyway... As soon as I sat down to watch a little football, I realized how tired I was and decided to put the whole pants buying thing on hold. I just didn't have the energy for all that mess. Then, something amazing happened. Denver scored a touchdown in the first quarter, stopped the Chiefs, then scored another touchdown. I was so excited I put on my shoes, picked up the keys, and took LuAnn to go buy me some new pants!

The problem is the emotional spike didn't change the underlying fact that I've been running on fumes and was still way too tired. So after hitting my limit for pants hunting, we headed home. Walked into the living room... reclaimed the tv and sat down to discover the Broncos were still throttling the Chiefs... then realized, something wasn't right. Something just felt off in my left thigh, so I put my hand in my pocket and felt a little loose change and nothing else. This probably wouldn't be an issue for most people, but when I was in high school I developed a paranoia in Berlin about getting pick pocketed (or is it picked pocket???) so I started putting my wallet in my front pocket. The habit has never died.

I hate trying to dig it out of a pocket that is too small, so when I try on pants, I always put the wallet in the pocket to see how the pants do. Kind of a real world test right there in the dressing room! Normally, I find wisdom in the practice and it has saved me from many aggravating pocket fights with otherwise innocuous pants, but yesterday... I was way too tired and left my wallet in the pants that I did not buy when I hung them back out on the clearance rack at Herbergers. Oops. Thankfully, no one else showed a whole lot of interest in those particular pants (maybe I have bad taste, too) so when we got back to the store, the wallet was right there where I stupidly left it. Bonehead.

After all of that, I still didn't buy any pants. Just couldn't settle. I remember once, a nice lady in the church named Mary Jane who gave me a pair of UnionBay pants that were a little miscut. She'd bought them for her son at the outlet store, but he was too normal shaped. Those pants were perfect. I miss them. I'd give my left cheek for another pair like those... but then I guess they wouldn't fit right anymore.

I don't think there's a moral to this story...
except that maybe you should always check your pockets.
Or that maybe if you're prone to being picky about pants, you should never go to Berlin.
Or maybe you should never forget to thank God for people like Mary Jane.
Or maybe that you should always shake hands after the game, even when you get your butt kicked.

Can you think of any other lessons I should be learning here?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I wasn't swinging for the fence or anything in my message last night, but to say that it didn't go well would be an understatement. I was pretty disappointed. I don't know if it was the change in weather, some last second technical glitches, or the fact that I wore the same t-shirt 2 weeks in a row... but there was no focus whatsoever. I'm not sure anyone in the room really heard anything. The thing is, that even though last night's delivery was no home run, I still think this is a pretty important message. We all are becoming something. Wouldn't it be a good idea to do that on purpose?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Don't Give Up

I came across this video this morning and wanted to pass it on. It comes from NewSpring Church down in South Carolina. They've been doing a great marriage series about fighting FOR your marriage. Check out the whole series, but watch this short clip, too, of one couple's story. "No situation is hopeless. Nothing is too big for God." It's so important to remember that. He is strong enough to sustain your marriage even when you are not - not only to sustain it, but to make it thrive!

A Story: From the Ashes from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

As a youth pastor, one of the most devastating events I've seen in the lives of my students has been divorce. When mom and dad don't love Jesus enough to love each other, kids get hurt beyond understanding. I know some of my students who read this can verify the pain and confusion that their parents' separation has caused them. It's a pain and confusion through which only Jesus could rescue them. To them I want to be very clear: the end of your parents' marriage is not your fault. You are a bystander, being injured in a fight that is not your own. Keep praying for your parents. Love them like Jesus does. Do your best to continue to honor your mother and father.

I love Jason's statement near the end of the video: "Divorce is no longer an option, and Jesus is the reason for that." May this attitude be reflected in the marriage of every disciple... Don't give up.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Leaders Who Don't Know What To Do

"O our God, won't you stop them? We are powerless... We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help." (from 2 Chronicles 20:12)

A friend had this posted this morning as a status update on Facebook and it really got me thinking about leadership.  Sometimes we think leaders are the ones with all the answers, but the truth is that leaders sometimes don't know what to do, either. If we did, we'd never make a bad decision. (Which reminds me of a great sermon from Andy Stanley at Catalyst West in 2009 - here are some similar thoughts I had in a post after that conference.)

The king of Judah was one such leader at the point when he uttered those words. The neighboring nations had decided they'd had enough of the Israelites and were gathering their armies to destroy them. King Jehoshaphat knew they were in trouble. These armies were huge, they were mean, and Judah had just recently split from Israel and wasn't really a military powerhouse. In short, they were dead meat and their king knew it. At the news of his impending doom, Jehoshaphat "sought the Lord for guidance. He also gave orders that everyone throughout Judah should observe a fast. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord."

Formative Experience

"The heart will gravitate toward whatever offers adventure and significance." [from Joiner/Neiuwhof in Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community (The Orange Series)]

I really appreciated this book's overall approach to parenting, but this quote really stood out to me. Our primary responsibility as parents isn't just to keep our kids safe and cozy and above the influence of a cold, hard world. It's to lead our families to tell a story so great that people want to know Who wrote it. If we don't foster experiences that really matter, our kids will look for them somewhere else.

These experiences of "adventure and significance" help to form a faith that is deep enough to share. They lead kids to the realization that God can accomplish something meaningful through them. They lead them to tell the compelling story of God's restorative, redemptive work in them and in the world.

I'm curious, as a father and a youth minister... I'm always trying to create experiences that are formative for the faith of the young people I'm with (those who are 'mine' and those who are not). What experiences have been most formative for your faith? Are there ways we could work together to craft some similar experiences for another generation?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Adventures in Leaping Before I Look

What do you get when you cross an entomologist, 3 high school guys, and a youth minister? There's no punchline, because this just isn't funny!

I don't really know what I'm doing at all, but does this look like progress to you? Anyone can roof a house, right? Right...? Oh well, I'm figuring things out as I go here. That's just how I roll.

Friday, the city dropped off a huge roll-off container for the debris, and I started stripping off shingles from the shed, workshop, garage, and patio - with the help of some really good people. We discovered some rotted wood on the patio roof, so that slowed things down a bit, but so far, that's been the only big surprise. I'll have to get some new decking to put up there.  Decking is roofing code...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Building Momentum...

Momentum is a tricky thing... If you've got it going your direction, you're golden. But if for some reason, it's not rolling your way - watch out. I've been thinking a lot about momentum in relationship to student ministry lately. Our students are at a point in life where they're gathering momentum in one way or another. The trajectory of their lives is being influenced by the momentum they're gaining today.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Know God and Make Him Known

It was really cool this morning to see my 8 year old taking his Bible to school. He's not trying to make a statement or stake a claim to some 'right' he perceives himself to have. He just wants to read it. He's liking what he's reading.

Too many times, we in the church become so concerned with staking out our territory in the public sqaure that we lose focus on what's really important. We need to know God and make Him known.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Somebody Turn On The Lights!

It's Homecoming week here in Scottsbluff, so that means several things. Parade... Theme Days at school... The big football game... and the Homecoming Dance...

In light of that timing, I found an interesting article from Jonathan McKee, a youth ministry leader/speaker who was invited to chaperon a recent high school dance. If you're a parent of a high school student, you need to go read the article. This is not coming from someone who wants to make kids miserable or vilify them in their pubescent impropriety, but from a dad who has given his life to helping the next generation. He's worked with teens for years and was caught a little off guard by what he saw.

He asks, "How stupid are we?"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's a Good Parent?

I've been reading Reggie Joiner's Parenting Beyond Your Capacity and came across a description of some Biblical parenting models:

"Noah had a drinking problem. Abraham offered his wife to another man. Rebekah schemed with her son to deceive her husband, Isaac. Jacob's sons sold their brother into slavery. David had an affair, and his son started a rebellion. Eli lost total control of how his boys acted in church."

He also mentions Joseph & Mary's 3 day desertion of their son and Adam and Eve's raising one son who killed his own brother.

Not what you expected at the words 'Biblical parenting models'?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Renovating Reality (pt. 2)

In part 1, I wrote about not liking to work my butt off for only small changes - I'd rather pour myself out in an effort at wholesale renovation. I definitely lean to the wholesale change side of the chalkline.

I'm realizing how that can cause some tension with people who have to work on the same team with me. What if they like to put that last little bit of polish on a project? What if they really value the minor detail that I completely ignore? What if their comfort comes from the familiar piece of life that I'm suggesting we blow up to start fresh?

A recent examples come to mind:

Friday, October 08, 2010

Renovating Reality (pt. 1)

I spent much of yesterday afternoon on a ladder, painting window trim on our house. By painting, I actually mean priming, since we only got the primer done and still have the finishing coat of actual paint left to do. It was not the most pleasant way to spend an afternoon off, but it needed done. I really don't like painting trim, but I realized something about myself as I was perched on that step that says "do not sit or stand" here...

Besides having good enough balance to sit where it says don't sit (and not enough sense to follow the directions of the ladder makers), I realized that I don't like to put a whole lot of effort into incremental change.

Writing Better Stories

I'm stealing some statements from my friend Tory's blog. These are statements from a training video he's used in working on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.  Tory is working through an organization called 3:18 Ministries to bring hope where there is little hope.  These statements are the statements of a generation without hope. This is how so many of the young people in San Carlos view life:
  1. There is no future.
  2. I think I can't.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why I Love Compassion

We Teach Children How to Dream (check out this post on Compassion's blog)

Poverty isn't just a lack of resources... it's a lack of hope. I love how this article looks into a few examples of what Compassion is doing to bring hope to the hopeless. LuAnn and I have sponsored kids through Compassion almost from the very beginning of our marriage, and this is why. I know there are a lot of other child sponsorship organizations that do a lot of good things, but we've never been disappointed in our first choice. Look into it.

Great Mentoring Picture...

The Mentoring Project - Elephant Musth Cycle from The Mentoring Project on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fatherless Generation

One of the toughest issues I've dealt with in my years in youth ministry is the absence of fathers for so many of my students. I grew up with my mom and dad and big hairy case of being sheltered, so I remember being pretty floored within my first few months on staff at a great small town church, when I was confronted with the fact that so many of the students I was working with didn't know their dads. Unfortunately, what was foreign to me then has become a theme today. The particular struggles that are associated with growing up without Dad around have become all too familiar.

When I heard about The Mentoring Project several months ago, I was immediately excited about what they're doing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Coming Soon

We previewed the movie "I Am" today in staff meeting and I thought I'd post the trailer here, as well.  We'll be hosting the movie at WestWay a couple times in October.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mad Church Disease

Anne Jackson has a new book out called Permission to Speak Freely that looks really interesting. I haven't read it yet, but I did finally pull Mad Church Disease from my pile of books waiting to be read. The book digs into the struggle with burnout that so many pastors feel from the perspective of someone who's been there (Jackson grew up as a pastor's daughter and has worked in a number of ministries as an adult) and offers hope in "overcoming the burnout epidemic" (the book's subtitle).

She points out some of the environmental factors inherent to ministry that contribute to burnout, but spends the bulk of the book seeking to give the reader some good tools for dealing with the stresses and expectations of ministry.

Friday, September 10, 2010

An Unwanted Visitor

I'm sitting in my office today, feeling a bit paranoid. I can't quit checking the floors, looking to see if anything's creeping around in the corners or behind the shelves... because, when I went out into the common area of our offices today, I found a little strand of slither laying beneath a chair - Pituophis catenifer sayi. If that's too cryptic, I'll translate: I found a freaking bullsnake in the office!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Curious? or Ignorant.

"But they didn't understand what he was saying, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant."

When Jesus told his closest disciples that he was about to be killed and resurrected, this was the confusion that ensued.  They weren't getting it.  They'd missed his point, but the more discouraging thing is that they let their fear keep them from understanding.  How many times had they had to ask Jesus to clarify?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hosting "The Nines"

Last year, I heard about this thing called "The Nines". There seemed to be a lot of speakers worth listening to, and the more I looked into it, the more I liked it: a free online conference consisting of 9 minute video segments from some of my favorite writers and speakers. Actually our whole staff ended up spending much of the day together with some great, quick thoughts from a pretty diverse group of presenters.

This year, Leadership Network has morphed The Nines just a little bit beyond their original idea, to include a group viewing/host site option. I signed us up. So if you want to take part in this conference beyond your own office doors and living rooms, come join us at WestWay on the Ninth of this month.  The conference starts at 9:30 and will go until about 6:30. If you serve in leadership anywhere near here or would like to be someday, we'd love to have you join us all day, or part of the day.  Go to their site and register, then feel free to drop by anytime - we'll keep the video feed going and even provide some rolls or sandwhiches or something! (If you can't make it, check out The Nines site and view it wherever you may be.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

3:18 Ministries

"...let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth." 

These words, taken from 1 John 3:18 lie at the heart of a new ministry to the Apache people of San Carlos called 3:18 Ministries. The ministry has been born out of a desire to see new life rise on the reservation as people don't just hear about God's love, but truly experience it. My good friend Tory, has started a blog to keep us posted on what's going on with 3:18 as work groups come and as the full cast of the 3:18 team comes together.

As a board member, I'd really appreciate your prayers for this venture.  Pray especially for the Satters, as they pilot our way forward in this and pray for God to bring the right people to the right places within the organization.

Check out the 3:18 blog, be praying for God's love to be tangible to the San Carlos Apache, and think about what you can do to make it that way...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Active Water

My students and I were introduced to a great organization this summer at CIY Move. It's called activewater and they are currently working to make clean water more accessible in Zambia. Dirty water causes or facilitates many diseases - many people die from sicknesses that may not be a big deal here because we have sanitary knowledge and water. Activewater is working to dig wells and install water purification systems that are helping give life to areas that have been afflicted with water born diseases, as well as educating the people about sanitation and hygiene.

We're going to be doing some fund raising for Activewater this fall. We'll be hosting a benefit concert in September.  100% of the ticket price will go to activewater. (Incidentally, if you work in an organization that would be interested in helping us sponsor the event, let me know.)

VOTA will be the main feature, with Delusions of Pluto opening. The show will be awesome, but the life that will be shared because we care will be incredible!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So... for a long time, I've resisted. I've brushed aside what so many have hailed: ignored the call of the Cupertino sirens... and stuck with what I knew. I've remained faithful to the familiar. But today is Day 1 in what some would say is the next stage of my computing evolution and others would liken to partaking in forbidden computer fruit. I have, for the first time, plugged in and started up my iMac - which is technically WestWay's iMac procured at my request and curated on my desk. I use the word curate, because taking the computer out of it's slim little box and placing it upon my otherwise cluttered desk felt like installing a piece of art with it's hidden power lights and shiny little keyboard and 1 button mouse that functions like 2 buttons and a scroll wheel and a track pad all in one - the simplicity of the mac design.

But fear not, my ever faithful PC friends. I am maintaining dual citizenship for now. The rest of the office functions in a Windows world, so I will not be closing those portholes or portals any time soon. I promise I won't look down on your hard drive seizing, frozen drive crashing habits. I promise not to laugh at your keyboard crushing frustrations (at least not any more than usual). I promise to still help you when you can't remember how to cut-copy-and-paste your way to completion of tasks and even to assist in the recovery of those all important pictures lost in the latest round of today's trojan wars.

I promise to refrain from dropping ubiquitous i's in front of words that don't need them for any reason whatsoever and to be diligent to keep myself free from the stain of the apple arrogance. I promise to avoid assailing your ears with a constant stream of the kindergarten-esque "music" projects I concoct in the lab of my GarageBand just because it's there.

Day 1 has begun. I've set up e-mail, found the network printer, adjusted the sound (which is really good and probably annoying my oldies-loving neighbor), done a little browsing and now, posted this iblog! I look forward to learning the new language of applework, installing a bit of software, and making full use of the creatively productive pieces of this machine that are at the core of why I made the switch.

Get it? Core - - apple. Ha ha???

Sorry... I promise to still apologize for bad jokes too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Compassion Event

Last week, I got to volunteer at a Compassion table at Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit (go check out some of the highlights) simulcast here in Scottsbluff.  LuAnn and I have sponsored kids through Compassion since early on in our marriage and I've presented Compassion at various times in the churches where we've lived, but I'd never been able to do a table at an event like this before.

I was a little unsure of how the event would go, but basically was anticipating being available to answer questions during breaks. That is essentially how things went - I had some great conversations with area leaders about Compassion and what a difference they and their churches and organizations could make in the life of a child in poverty. One lady was in tears as she began sponsorship of an additional child, another was ecstatic at being able to help with Compassion's Child Survival Program in Ecuador with only $20 a month.

I'm glad I got to help. It was good to connect with so many area leaders, and even better to be reminded of some of the reasons we started supporting children through this awesome organization in the first place. God is at work through Compassion and I'm so grateful to be able to be a part of that. If you haven't looked into Compassion lately, snoop around their website a little right now and see what you can do for a child.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tackling a Big Project

I'm hoping to embark on a pretty big project in our student ministry soon. Actually, it's an idea that's been broached before, but failed to launch for some reason. I've been reading through Exodus lately and found a great picture yesterday in the 35th chapter of how God's people once tackled a big project:

The Hebrews had escaped Egypt and were entering into a covenant with their Deliverer. Free from slavery, but not quite into the Promised Land... Part of that covenant was the construction of the tabernacle, a meeting place for God and His people. This was a huge undertaking for a displaced tribe of wanderers, but they did it. I think there are some notable factors to their success in building the tabernacle that we can learn from in the church today.

- They had a clear picture of what was to be done. In Ex. 35:4 "Moses said... 'This is what the Lord commanded.'" Moses had been given clear instruction and was able to articulate God's vision to God's people.

- They were invited to contribute to the work. "If their hearts were stirred and they desired to do so, they brought to the Lord their offerings..." Their gifts weren't coerced or given out of guilt - they were moved by God to give! "Everyone who wanted to help in the work the Lord had given them..." brought the materials needed for the construction of the tabernacle.

- They entrusted their offerings to those best gifted to make use of them. God had chosen Bezalel and Oholiab and filled them with His Spirit and the ability "to create beautiful objects..." and also to teach their skills to others. These guys were gifted by God to lead in this project, so Moses gave them the materials that the people provided. Then he let them do their work.

- They gave "more than enough to complete the whole project." God had provided all the resources needed to accomplish the work He wanted to do - and when the people set their hearts to do what He wanted, they gave so much that there was extra.
I wonder who really wants to help in the work God has given us today?
Do we have a compelling picture of what that work really is?

We have a huge job to do. God has not called us to merely get together and sing our favorite songs once or twice a week. He has called us to awaken the world to the reality of His love for them. He has called us to bring hope where there is no hope, to bring life where there is only death. He has given us everything we need to accomplish the work, and He is stirring in the hearts of His people right now - moving them to action, inspiring them to give themselves to His work to redeem humanity.

Spend some time with God today and find out what you can give...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coldwater Apps

Last summer, our youth ministry did a mission trip called coldwater. Basically, we packed up a van, truck, and camper and headed to an unknown destination to do whatever work we could find - small acts of relief for people who matter to God. We won't be making that trip quite the same way this summer, but we will be incorporating the concept this year through 'coldwaters apps'.

We're applying the same attitude of service, and showing people they matter.

Tomorrow will be our first official coldwater app. We'll be fixing up a yard that needs mowed and weeded at 9:30. If you want to help, meet me at the church building a little before 9:30. Bring some work gloves or rakes or just yourself! Don't get bent out of shape if you can't make it this time; there will be more. Call me if you need some details. (But remember, this is still coldwater, so there aren't many details to go around!)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kingdom Work Cards

One of the more meaningful moments at CIY Move this year was the last group time together. I appreciate how CIY doesn't just want to cram a bunch of content into students' lives, but they want to spur students to action. We each were given an envelope with an 'assignment' that would could either take or leave. Everyone in our group was asked to commit to doing whatever was on the card before they opened it.

"How do I know I'll want to do what it says?" You don't. You have to trust that CIY didn't just put a bunch of dumb ideas on the cards. You have to trust that whatever it is, God can use your efforts. Will you serve, 'no matter what'?

"What if it's hard?" It probably will be. When did anyone make a lasting impact by doing something easy?

"What if I can't possibly do it?" We'll help. God has pulled the church together, made up of people He's uniquely crafted to work with each other. Our group will need to support each other and help each other in every possible way to do the work He calls us to do. This stuff will not be easy but it is all possible:
     -Start or join a book reading program for other kids
     -Take a foreign language class and go on a mission trip to a country that speaks that language
     -Put together a 5K run to benefit ActiveWater
     -Visit a nursing home for an hour each week for the upcoming year
     -Adopt a single mom and include her family in your family's special events/holidays
     -Send an encouraging message to a different person each day for a year
     -Build new relationships by joining a new club at school
     -Find someone to mentor and find someone to be your mentor
     -Read through the Bible in a year

I'm excited to see my students doing the Kingdom work these cards have brought to mind, and to see what else their actions will spark. Already, some of them have been laying the groundwork for what is to be done. The students are excitedly sharing what they're up to and drawing other people into Kingdom work with them.
If you know the students who went, check in with them on how they're doing. Ask them how you can help. Also check out WeAmplify to read more stories of students all over the country and how they're being Kingdom workers no matter what.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Get Moving

Egypt had chased down the Hebrews. Trapped between an insurmountable sea and the army to which they'd been subjected all their lives, it seemed that this slave uprising had nowhere left to go. So they did what many of us would do:
    -they panicked,
    -they begged God for help,
    -they turned on the leader who had brought them this far.

Moses defended himself by telling the people to take a good look at the army bearing down on them because this was the last they'd see of them. He invoked God into the whole thing, telling the people to "Just stand where you are and watch the Lord rescue you." At this point, I'm wondering if Moses wasn't right about the whole 'not a good public speaker' thing! I mean, there's faith and then there's blatant idiocy. You can't just stand still when the most powerful display of military might you've ever seen is about to unleash its fury on you and your children.

But God turned the tables on Moses, and on Egypt. "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!" It wasn't enough for Moses to just say, "Trust God and everything will be ok." They needed to 'get moving.' God did indeed pull through for the Israelites, and ushered them through the Red Sea that was about to crush their pursuers. But His rescue was brought about only when the people moved. The route to their rescue wasn't just to stand around and ask God for another miracle.

Neither is ours. There are some things that we don't need to keep praying about, we just need to move. What move is God waiting for you to make? Why are you waiting?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thoughts From Last Week at CIY Move

- It was awesome. Seriously, CIY is a great organization, the conference was great, and if you're involved in youth ministry, you should look into what they do.

- We were fortunate. Mark Moore spoke for each of the morning sessions, setting the tone for the day and setting the bar high for the students. I love speakers who unapologetically challenge students instead of talking at them like they're six and completely incapable of anything that really matters. These morning sessions led us to some great discussions during our morning group time.

- Speaking of those discussions: our students have some great ideas! They want to be the church, not just attend a cool youth group - that really excites me. I love seeing young people become more passionate about working to bring God's Kingdom into people's lives - and actually taking steps to do it. After one particularly good discussion, one of my students asked "These are all good ideas and stuff, but what are we actually going to DO?" I LOVE THAT QUESTION! That moment was a hinge point for the week. No longer were we discussing the theoretical - they wanted assignments.

- During the very last night, students received cards in an envelope that they were instructed not to open until our group time later that night. Each card contained a different challenge. No one was allowed to open the envelope unless they first committed to do what the card said, "no matter what" that may be. Every one of our students made that commitment, and as we opened each card and shared with the group what it said, the sense that this was anything but random grew. Almost every single one of us had on our cards a challenge that directly (and I mean explicitly direct) challenged us in an area that we'd personally talked about that week. It will be awesome to see how our students come together to help each other fulfill their challenges over the next year.

- Here's an example of what I mean by explicitly direct. During our D-group time one day I was talking about the need for mentors... encouraging students to be mentors for younger students as well as to find a mentor to help them navigate. I shared with my students some of my experiences mentoring a group of guys. Most of my most rewarding experiences in youth ministry came directly out of that purposeful mentoring relationship. I shared with them how I've been frustrated lately because I haven't been very diligent in mentoring others (and how I intended to do better for/with them). I also shared that one of my greatest disappointments in my adult life has been the lack of a long-term, personal mentor. Now, I've been mentored from a distance by watching others in ministry and through the books and online teachings of several pastor/authors... I've been sharpened by peers in ministry... Several of my college professors and staff stand out as momentary mentors... and I am immensely grateful to those that I've gleaned from, but (outside of my very beneficial and appreciated relationship with my own dad) I've never had an ongoing personal mentor/mentee relationship. I've always regretted that, and been a little saddened by that - I've even tried to do something about it a few times, but I've missed out on having a "Paul" to my "Timothy". I shared this with my students to encourage them to seek a mentor and learn everything they can from them. Fast Forward a couple days to the cards. Mine says, "Find someone to mentor you and find someone to mentor." What else would it say?

- We all had a great week. God moved in our group, drawing us together to serve Him and reveal Him to the people around us. My kids are excited to be the church! But I have a problem. I'm finding something within me wanting to temper their excitement and quell expectations. That faithless part of me that says, "The leaders aren't going to like that idea...let's slow down a bit..." needs to be taken to the woodshed. Timothy had that part, too, so Paul offered him this: "I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self discipline." Which reminds me, I need to go check in with some of my fire starters!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Newspaper article about CIY Move

Durango Herald News, Church program brings kids to college

CIY posted this link to the Durango paper about Move. Good to see the connection between the conference and the community.

Processing Last Week at CIY Move...

My apologies to those of you who checked in here last week expecting updates from our high school trip to CIY Move. The Ft. Lewis network decided my laptop was unworthy of inclusion, and thus unyieldingly shunned me from access. Beginning with this post, I'll go through some of the highlights of the week. (I wrote this post Monday night, anticipating a resolution to my network issues that never came.)

After several hundred miles on the road, we made it to Durango in time to check in, unload, eat supper, and have a great time of worship in the first main session here at CIY Move.  It’s been a pretty entertaining mix of personalities so far in the van… some of these students seem to want to argue with each other NO MATTER WHAT (I’ve heard them completely change their ‘side’ in order to continue an argument!).  The friction can get a little annoying once in a while, but I really think God’s using the sparks to start some pretty exciting fires… can’t wait to see His plans for these guys come to be.

The ride down was fairly uneventful – no lost lunches or cookie tossing in the van, no accidents, & all foul odors were kept to a minimum (usually). After stopping for lunch, however, I returned to the van to find a huge dent in the front fender… some kid in skinny jeans decided to play Chuck Norris. Subsequently, he was induced to purchase a large suction cup to pull out the dent! It’s really not as big a deal as it may seem; it just sounds more dramatic and less like tattling than saying, “Shane kicked a dent in the fender.”

The session tonight dealt with the concept of grace. It changes our story. Grace changes everything. I couldn’t help but think of a particular student I’ve been praying for who needs so desperately to understand that. She’s had some pretty crappy circumstances over the last couple years, and has made some decisions that have compounded her difficulty. I wish she could have been here with us to hear the message, but more than that, I pray she’ll see Jesus revealed to her where she is.

Excited to see God continue to move this week…

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Problem? What Problem?

I have a problem.

Over my lunch break today, I decided to change the blade on my lawnmower.  I'm not one of those over-maintenancey guys who practically vacuums the lawn before I mow, so I routinely mow right over sticks, rocks, hidden toys... The blade was badly in need of being replace by something with much less chunks bitten out of it and much more actual blade. I haven't been cutting my grass lately, so much as I've been tearing it out in 20 inch swaths.

So I ignored the safety instructions about unplugging the spark plug, removing all the gas, and putting on a full suit of chain mail - I straddled the mower over two saw horses and did the job. You might be thinking this is where the problem comes in... it's not. Failure to capitulate to rubber room safety concerns may be a character flaw (or not), but it's not the problem I'm talking about.  Neither is ignoring rocks and sticks in the grass and putting neighborhood windows in peril. (And I'm really not heartless enough to mow over my kids' toys... usually.)

When I was finished, in the midst of putting everything away, I gathered up the packaging from the new blade to throw it away.  I threw my socket wrench back in the toolbox, along with the package of extra washers and spacers that I didn't need, put the mower and saw horses away, threw away the garbage... and this is where the problem is: I had to fight a very strong impulse to set aside the old mower blade.  I could hardly bring myself to throw it out. You never know when you might need an old mower blade, right?


Ok. Could somebody please tell me what possible use one could have for an old, rock-chinked mower blade?
Just thought of something. Someday, I could could carve out a handle from those Christmas tree trunks I have laying around (two of them now), and make a sword! Excuse me now, I have to go retrieve something!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CIY Move

While I'm with the high school students at CIY Move, I'll try to post some updates here so parents, grandparents, and innocent bystanders can keep in touch with what we're doing.  Also, you can go to CIY's site to get an idea of what we'll be doing and talking about each day of the week.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Can I pick your brain, please?

I've been a bit lethargic here on the blog lately, as I evaluate it's use, potential, etc. Looking at making some changes in style & content.

What would you like to see here?
How can my blog be most useful to you?
Which posts have you found most meaningful?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Follow the Leader

The opening of the book of Judges paints a picture of a somewhat aimless people with a short memory and even shorter attention span. (Kinda like us.) Once they'd settled into the promised land, they forgot who's promise brought them there. After disobediently settling in among the locals (rather than driving them out of the land as commanded), they forgot the one true God who'd brought them there and began to worship the local gods instead.

Over and over, God gives His people the chance to repent and worship Him alone, but time and time again He won their hearts only for a moment. It seems the Israelites just couldn't stay focused. As they drifted from God, the peace they experienced when with Him faded from the nation and the people were dominated by the surrounding nations. "But when Israel cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord raised up a man to rescue them."

"When Israel's leaders take charge, and the people gladly follow - bless the Lord!"

When God's people call out to him for help, He raises up leaders to rescue them. When those leaders lead the way He calls them to, and the people follow the leaders He's raised up... ANYTHING is possible. Bigger armies will melt in a puddle of fear - stronger kings will fall. Today... languishing churches will be revived, broken and hurting people will be brought together into wholeness, and the gates of hell will still not be able to stand against the church united in Jesus.

Pray for the leaders in your life and in your church. Whether you can see it or not, they are being attacked. Many have been wounded as they lead, sometimes severely. Pray that they'd be strengthened and that they'd rely on the presence of God to lead and sustain them. If you are a leader in some capacity, don't ever forget who you're leading for - remember that the strength you have is Him, not you. It always has been.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Quick Thanks

I want to thank those of you who had been praying for our elders and pastors last weekend.  We started out the weekend with a video from Dean Trune of Impact Ministries. It was a great reminder of our need to be in prayer. We need to consistently beg God for His direction for our lives and ministries.

We had some really good, healthy discussion about the way we get things done, and how we can improve on that. It will be exciting to see God work as we implement some ideas to help WestWay be everything God is calling us to be.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Simple Request with Huge Implications

I don't often ask for much on this blog - a little conversation, feedback, a free exchange of ideas... but today I'm going to ask. Because I need something. The ministry I lead needs something. The church in which I serve needs something.

Tomorrow and Saturday, our team of elders and pastors will be getting out of town for a little bit for a leadership retreat. To be totally honest, I don't know exactly what's on the agenda for the time we'll be spending together, but I do know that this trip is coming at a pivotal time for us. And that's where you come in...

I'm asking that on Friday night and Saturday, you'd be praying for these needs of our leadership team:
We need to hear from God and together be drawn deeper into His mission for WestWay.
We need to humbly accept what He calls us into and boldly move forward into whatever that may be.
We need to listen well, both to the Spirit and to each other.
We need to communicate clearly within the group and avoid being misled by assumptions.
We need to follow up when we return, diligently doing what we commit to and faithfully caring for the community in which we've been planted.

If you're a part of WestWay, I hope you already pray for your leaders, but especially this weekend, please be praying for us. Thanks.

(If any of you who will be on the trip have anything specific you'd like people to be praying about, feel free to click on 'comments' under this post to detail your request.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Audio - Believe a Better Story

This is a pretty low quality mp3 file, so if it's indistinguishable, it may not be here long.  We'll see how this goes.
EDIT: I can't figure out how to get the embedded file to NOT automatically begin upon page load, so I'm replacing it with this link to the mp3 to avoid annoying everyone who visits my page for the next several months until this post is off the front page. Sorry for the extra click my coding ineptitude will cause you, but at least you won't have to hear me stutter through the opening lines every time you come here to read a new post...

Message Delivered: "Believe a Better Story"

This isn't a transcript, but this is the message from yesterday. I'll try to post some audio if anyone would like it, but for those who can't stand the sound of my voice... read this in whatever voice you'd prefer.
I was struck last week by the number of runners in the half-marathon who, most people would assume would not be running. There was one finisher who was 73 years old - and she finished about a half an hour before I did! Not that I'm the swiftest distance runner out there, but she's 73! I think the biggest thing that keeps people from running a long distance is that they believe a story in which they can't run a long distance. As Donald Miller suggests, we become the character in the story we believe about ourselves.

We believe a lot of bad stories. Unloved and unwanted... Too fat, too short... Not smart enough, not fast enough, not talented enough... Too old, too young... We need to believe a better story. I don't mean some kind of self-help, believe and achieve type of thing: I mean that we need to believe God's story and overcome every obstacle in the way of living His story.

I had a student who walked into our youth ministry one night and sat down in the back row, bringing in a 'cloud' that changed the atmosphere of the whole room. I had no idea who she was or why she'd come - she didn't really seem connected with any of the other students, and every time I tried to get to talk with her she was out the door by the time I got to the back of the room. As it turned out, she was believing a story that started with an abusive father leaving the family. In her story, she was rejected, unloved, and worthless. One of my greatest joys in youth ministry was watching God reveal a better story to this girl - His girl. In God's story, she found out, she is invaluable!

Some bad stories we sometimes believe:
"I don't have what it takes."
"No one cares, but if I sleep with him, he will."
"I'm too old, I can't relate to those young people anymore."
"I'm retired - I already did my work"

If you find yourself buying into these stories, you need to believe a better story. Simon was a guy who was invited into a better story. Early in the gospel of Matthew, Simon was just a fisherman. Passed up by the Rabbis, Simon took on the family trade and spent his days throwing nets into the sea and smelling like fish... until the son of a carpenter invited him into a better story. Simon took Jesus' invitation and lived a better story. He saw the miracles of Jesus, the healings, heard the teaching first-hand, and saw the love in Jesus' eyes up close. He even walked on water! Peter lived a better story.

In Mt. 16, the story got even better. "Who do you say I am?" "You are the Messiah, the son of the living God." In this moment, Jesus opens a new chapter in His story for Simon. He gave Simon a new name, and invited him into the story of His unstoppable church. The church that even the gates of hell would not overcome. We, the church today, need to believe a better story. Just like individuals, sometimes churches settle for less:

"We're just a small family in a small town... can't expect too much from that."
"We have to keep youth ministry separate from adults and leave it to 'the experts'"
"The Pastor's in charge."
"We're big enough."
"Other churches in town are our competition."
"We've been hurt too badly to fully recover."
"Our best days are in the past."

Back in the late 80's and early 90's, there was a church that believed a better story. All they wanted was to reach people for Christ and no obstacle was too big to tackle. They weren't afraid to try things that other churches wouldn't try for fear of abandoning convention. The result of this was that the people of the church were excited about sharing Jesus with other people. They loved to bring their friends and neighbors... even the kids loved being a part of what was going on in this church. It was an exciting time. But as more friends came, and more neighbors came, another obstacle came up - a big one. It was an obstacle that had stopped many churches in their tracks: the building was hindering ministry to the community.

The church had pulled together to show Jesus to the community, and it was working. They'd stretched resources and rearranged service schedules to accommodate more people, but the facilities were simply maxed out. So in 1994, the church removed that obstacle with the purchase and renovation of an old lumber yard and a relocation. They continued to grow, and in 2004 a new auditorium was built that would facilitate their continued efforts to reach the community.

That room is the room in which we meet every week. That church was the Church at Bryant, which was given the name WestWay when they relocated. That's our story. But I'm afraid we've lost a little of the clarity to the story. Our vision can get a little fuzzy due to a creeping internal focus that leaves us dissatisfied when things don't go our way. People have left the church for unshared reasons, and some of those reasons remain unshared because they don't feel like anyone's listening anyway. We need to believe a better story. Don't believe that your leaders don't care. Don't believe that none of us are listening. Don't believe that this church belongs to anyone other than Jesus Christ.

In the book of Acts, we find the early Christians believing a better story. The Spirit of God was on a mission to establish the church, and despite all odds and obstacles, the church thrived. Through the last several chapters of Acts, we see a man joining that same mission. Paul was not going to be stopped. He had bought into the story of Jesus with every fiber of his being and was going to deliver the message of God's Kingdom in every place in which he could step foot! He was accosted, arrested, imprisoned... Paul was challenged and beaten and left for dead... Snake-bit, shipwrecked and shackled... and yet, he proclaimed God's Kingdom still.

The final words of the book of Acts tell us that Paul was telling everyone of the Kingdom "with all boldness and without hindrance." No obstacle would hinder him from living a better story.
That is the unstoppable mission in which we have a place.
That is the Kingdom we proclaim.
That is the story we need to believe.

God is not finished with His church. Though obstacles have arisen - and many more will...
Be a people who believe a better story: His story about His unstoppable church.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Believe a Better Story

As I've been preparing to speak Sunday at WestWay, I'm finding a problem. I want to move people to believe a better story (His story) about their lives, but I often find myself believing the wrong story, too. In the story that seems to be my default, I am a small, shrinking voice - easy to ignore, easy to brush by, easy to forget. Though I may have something important to say, in my story, no one listens. The moment I finish speaking, my words tumble through the sandy hills and deserts, unheard. In my story, I'm out on a limb alone, wondering if I should be there, but with no real mentors to have helped me decide upon which branch to climb.

What a stupid story!

When I believe that, I fail to believe His story as it's been played out in my life's history. I fail to believe He really loves me, not for whatever performance I may be turning in, but because I am His image bearing creation. When I choose my story over His, I forget that He has chosen me to be adopted into His family, and gifted me with something to share with that family. I short-change the men and women and friends and students and starry nights and books through which He's called to me and led me.

In His story, I am loved beyond all rationality.  In His story, I have been gifted and equipped to strengthen the Body of Christ. In His story, He's worked through me to draw lives into His Life and to help churches proceed with His mission. It's really a much more compelling story! I'm so thankful to God for the roles He's allowed me to live in His story, and grateful for the way He's using this time in my life to remind me that He's still writing!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Holy Mothers Day, Church!

For about the last year, I've been following NewSpring Church's services online. There is a lot that I like, and I've been pretty strongly challenged through their ministry. I started this week's service at my desk this afternoon, hoping to work on a couple other things while I watched - but I quickly realized that I wasn't going to be getting a whole lot done. I think they've got a great answer to the question "What if we loved like Jesus loved @ church?" I know they're a "big church" with lots of resources that we don't have, but the Holy Spirit is the same in South Carolina as he is everywhere else. How will we answer that question in our communities?

(If you want to jump to the message, it begins about the 14th minute.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Resources from Catalyst West

For the last several weeks, my desk has been piled with stuff I brought back from Catalyst West. Some of the stuff was purchased, some were free books that I seem to never be able to pass up (why would anyone want to?!), and some other promo materials from vendors that were set up at the conference. Just thought I'd pass on some links to some of the resources, connections, causes, and ministries I brought back:

Clover - Fashioners of great websites for growing ministries.
TOMS Shoes - A shoe company that gives a pair of shoes away to someone in need for every pair they sell!
Invisible Children - A movement working in northern Uganda to rebuild life for child soldiers, who've been abducted and forced into the longest running military conflict in Africa.
Orange - Proponents of a strategy that fuses children's and youth ministry with the rest of the Body - ministry to families starts at home.
Orphan Sunday - Nov. 7, 2010 Echoing God's heart for the fatherless.
One Day's Wages - A giving movement intent on alleviating extreme poverty by donating a day's wage. These guys have done a great job leveraging social media to work on their mission.
Gift Card Giver - Distributing unused and leftover gift cards to people in need.
ISS - Stewardship solutions to resource God's vision for the local church.
The Last Letter - Committed to taking up the cross among the poor and lost - a passionate call to action for all of us.
Bethany Christian Services - Orphan care, adoption, and counseling through unplanned pregnancies.
X3Watch - Accountability Software/Tools for fighting internet porn.

Many of these deserve a lot more attention than one post could give all of them, so check the links and see what you find. Then come back and comment and let me know which ones are most exciting for you.

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