Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving - Hope it was a great one!

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and it was wonderful for you. Enjoy this completely random and strange song. And remember to give Thanksssssssss........

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Movie Review-007:Quantum of Solace

Here are my thoughts about the new Bond movie: All in all I liked it because of the new twists with the character of James Bond. I don't think it was as good as last year's Casino Royale though. However, the action sequences were good and I think Daniel Craig pulls off a good James Bond. I like the character of M, but if these are supposed to take place before the other Bond movies it would be better if they would have a younger actress playing the role instead of Dame Judy Densch.
The only problems I had with it was the fact that the movie seemed to be 2 hours of Bond traipsing around the world angry, killing anything that gets in the way. I know the character is supposed to be dealing with grief and a desire for revenge, but it just seemed to consume the movie more than the underlying story of figuring out who was behind the Quantum organization. Also the said action sequences seemed to go back and forth a little too fast for this guy. It almost made my head hurt to watch it.
As for teachable moments, this isn't a movie I would take a youth group to see, but I'd go see it with students if they were going. You could have some great discussions on dealing with grief, anger, and revenge after seeing the movie.
Overall not a bad flick, it's not the best Bond movie, but not the worst either. Grade B-

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Become a follower of mine...

I don't claim to know everything or be an expert on anything, but I am curious who reads this blog. If you do-whether regularly or occasionally, would you join my following? I'd just like to know who reads this and I'll check out your blog as well if I don't already. Just click on the follow me tab to the right just under the about me section. Thanks! You ALL rock!

Senior Adult Choir Hip Hop

I couldn't pass this up. Props to Josh over at for posting it first. I guess it was an opening video for a fall youth retreat meant to be funny, but has actually helped bridge the gap between the senior adults and teens. It makes me wonder what else we could do to bridge that gap. Anyone have any ideas that have worked for you?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


had to put that in there since this is offically the 300th post. Thanks for reading-whoever you are...

NYWC in pictures...

This was a new band called NewWorld Son. I had never heard of them, but was impressed by their eclectic mix of music-sort of rock-a-billy meets funk meets a little electronica. They put on a heck of a show as well. Definitely worth checking out!

Tic Long decked out in the leisure suit-I'm pretty sure it was just for Halloween but if anyone could pull it off it's Tic.

Starfield led worship for the first two days. I really like these guys. They were everywhere in Nazarenedom and that's how I got hooked on them. They are a great worship band and they have to attitudes to match. Awesome guys!

Tommy was thrilled because he got to meet Sarah Palin...not sure if you can tell or not, but there is a girl dressed as a moose in the background. Funny stuff-didn't have the heart to tell him it wasn't the real Sarah Palin.

This is the Monongahela incline-yup it's that steep. It took us up to the top of the Mountain where we took a scenic walk to the other incline and grabbed lunch. Beautiful views of the city and well worth the 5 dollar round trip!

Vinny,Tommy, and I just goofing off-Vinny tried to mess with Tommy a bit! These guys are awesome!

The three amigos with the city in the background-beautiful view of downtown!

This is the area of the city called the "Golden triangle." That's point state park in the foreground and the point where the three rivers meet. You can't see the convention center, but its back beside the two twin yellow bridges in the background.

Back at the convention center with mercy me-yup we were that close! I just thought it was awesome that one of the focal points on stage all weekend was this RIDICULOUSLY large disco ball. AWESOME!

You can't see the sign on the front of this old church, but on the way through the strip district we found this old church now called the "Altar" bar. Ironic huh? I suppose it could be a nod to post modern thinking and is an inner city outreach but judging by the Jaegermeister yellow tape on the handrail I am doubting this is the case. Sad-wonder what the story behind the church is?

This is the menu on the wall at Primanti brothers-a local dive where we had lunch at one day. You know it's local when it is open 24 hours a day in the hood and has the menu on the wall. Not to mention you get EVERYTHING on the sandwich and it didn't look like the place to ask for something special to be done to the sandwich-it was pretty good though.

Vinny and Tommy in anticipation of their first bite posing with the sandwich. I guess this place has been featured on the food network.

And a picture of my sandwich-the roast beef. Here's what you get-the sandwich with fries, slaw, and tomato on the sandwich. I picked the tomato off.

Vinny REALLY enjoyed his sandwich-but he might have been posing for the camera. I guess we'll never know!
All in all, it was an awesome weekend. I also had the chance to reconnect with another friend of mine named Eli. We all grabbed hibachi one night, but I forgot the camera. I didn't post any Crowder pictures because we didn't get close enough to get good pictures that night. Here's to friendship, networking, and a chance to be refreshed. Can't wait until NYWC 09!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

YS Podcast-NYWC Pitt recap

Since most of you didn't get to make it, here's just a little sample of what went on courtesy of the YS podcast. Enjoy!

NYWC-Monday morning

I always hate Monday morning of the YS convention-not because it isn't as good, but because it means it's back to reality. Now normally I am excited to get back into action and that wasn't any different this year, but I just hate saying goodbye to what feels "safe."

I had the chance to check out my friend Tony Myles' seminar entitled "secrets from the other side," which dealt with thoughts about youth ministry from someone who has been there and who is now serving as a lead pastor. I was really looking forward to this seminar because I went to school with Tony both in my undergraduate and graduate times at IWU. I have always been inspired by his thoughts and enjoyed trying to glean as much as possible from his wisdom...not to mention the fact that he's just a cool guy to hang with. The seminar dealt with various aspects of ministry from being in it for the long haul to working with your senior pastor. as I expected I was left with a lot to chew on but one thing I want to pass on are the following four points to remember:
  • Your senior leader is more than a tool (literally and figuratively-work together/they can be an asset)
  • Your peers are more than competitors (not to quote the musical from Hades High School Musical-but we are all in this together!)
  • Your students are more than numbers (still a big ouch for me knowing that there is that expectation placed upon us unfortunately)
  • Your calling is more than your own (it goes beyond ourselves and our gifts alone)

After the seminar we headed in for the final session with Marko. After a time of personal reflection and prayer which I really appreciated Marko shared his heart with us. When I say that I mean literally shared his heart-he scrapped his original message to share what he felt God was leading him to share. It really hit home as always-I appreciate his transparency with us as youth workers. The coolest thing he shared which was encouraging to me was the fact that we already have all we need to do youth ministry. We don't need all the "stuff" (whatever you perceive stuff to be whether programming, big budget, appearance, etc) because we are the equipment that God uses to reach young people. While that was scary to think about, I appreciate the fact that God is using me to hopefully impact if anything just a few students. I pray I don't forget that and get caught up in the craziness and pride of what youth ministry can be if it is all about the program.

Worship was led by a band that I had never heard of called Worth Dying For. We have been looking for some edgier worship for our teen praise band because they don't want to do the pop style worship of Crowder and Tomlin. These guys were amazing. Not only did they put on a great show, but they have the message and personalities to follow it up. They really did a great job of leading us to the throne-even thought the music was loud and hard. They are worth checking out if you are looking for some edgier music.

All in all, it was an awesome convention as expected, I'm already stoked about next year in Cincinnati. I'll post some pictures of the event later-I know I've already done a couple of videos, but I did get a few pictures.

Friday, November 07, 2008

NYWC-Tony Jones

Sunday night we had Tony Jones speak and before his message we were treated to a little bit of what you just saw in the video. Although it was just Tony speaking all three guys were there, and I think it would have been cool to experienced the whole church basement event.

I will have to admit though, it was different and I wasn't sure what to think at first when they began. At times I wondered if there was a little bit of making light of the revivalist movement in the 1900's, but what I believe they were getting at was helping us to take a look past to where we have been, where we are, and where we may be going to realize that our faith is about so much more than a building or a system of beliefs/worship style, but it is about realizing the concept of God in flesh. He was one of us and gave up everything for us and He experienced life just like us! Although the presentation was different than what I was used to and at times I found myself thinking more than listening. It was a reaffirmation of the fact of just how awesome this Gospel story is. It's so much more than something that fits into a little box of my understanding. It is a faith that is real, a faith that is radical, and a faith that is life changing.

Even cooler was having the chance to meet Tony just briefly after the session. I grabbed a copy of his latest book "The New Christians" and got it signed. Even cooler than that was the free bottle of Healing Balm of Gilead that I got for my own use. You'll have to watch the video and listen to the song to get the humor about that.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

NYWC-David Crowder sing-a-long

I can only get short little snippets of video on may camera and they aren't great, but here's just a little shot of the Crowder band leading worship Sunday night. I've seen them several times, and there is just nothing like it. It's a party and it's just a great way to worship. He may be one of the ugliest men in the world with the hair and goat, but that doesn't take away from the cool factor. Thanks again guys for leading us in worship!

NYWC-Yaconelli disco fever...

I was REALLY looking forward to Mark Yaconelli's session on Sunday morning. The main reason is that I knew it would be an opportunity to step back and slow down on purpose. I was first introduced to Mark two years ago when I went through his soul care critical concerns course. I was ready to give up before I took the class, but God really did a work in my life that weekend (you can read about that journey in the October 2006 archives)and I believe my life was changed forever. Even though I am in sort of a sweet spot in ministry right now I knew that God would have something for me I just didn't know what. Mark spoke on the "soul" and how it functions in our lives. First he suggested that the soul is the place of constant wonder and encouraged us to step back and become members of the "slow club" taking in everything that God has to offer around us and in our lives. He also mentioned that the soul is the place that holds suferring, but it is also the place that waits for joy. After saying that he talked about how he danced through his sorrows as a child and then encouraged us to remember the "dance" in our lives. For me that meant remembering the good times and seeking for joy even in the midst of sorrow. The he did what you just witnessed, he broke into dance. I'll have to admit disco is not my inner dance (I think I'm a little more MC Hammer), but I wept as I remembered just how awesome it is to serve God and the amazing things he has done in my life. I am praying that I will daily find time to "dance" and remember to take care of my own soul while trying to help save the souls of the students I work with. Thanks again Yac, your dad would be proud!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Final election thoughts

The election is over. Another president has been elected. For some he was the right pick, for others not so right. Some see him as a positive leader who can help bring a divided nation back together and others see him as the Antichrist (I'm not joking, there are those out there who have done their "research" and think he is the one) or simply a liberal "baby killer."

Whatever your opinion is of President-elect Obama, he is the next president and we now have a choice to make. We can choose to stay divided and talk about how he's not the best one for the job, how he is setting back the pro-life movement, and how he will soon be moving us to a socialist nation with big government control, or we can choose to get behind him and pray for him. More than anything, he needs our prayers.

I am not talking about praying for him to have a Damascus road experience where God changes him completely (only God knows where he stands) and makes him into what we feel a follower of Christ should be, but we need to pray that God will give him wisdom and guidance as he tries to lead this nation. Yes he has been elected, nothing will change that now regardless of your opinion of him-America spoke and the decision has been made.

I have heard people say why they chose not to support Obama and I have heard people say why they support him. Most of the time it is revolving around one issue, maybe its abortion, maybe its the economy, the war on terror, or maybe even health care-here is what we need to realize though, it is about so much more than one issue. That is why I chose a long time ago to not align myself with one particular candidate because of their party affiliation. I am a member of one of the political parties and always will be, but I do not vote along party lines. If we align ourselves to a candidate because of one party or another because of our specific beliefs then we have just made God about politics. Sure we should vote with our Christian convictions, but if we choose our candidate specifically because of one issue then we miss the bigger picture.

So now that the election is over we have a choice to make. Obama has been elected whether or not that was your pick. We can't change it now, but we can choose to pray for our new president and our nation. I'm sure I'll officially be branded a liberal now and I probably just ticked a few people off, but will you join me in praying? Thoughts?

Proud to be an American,

NYWC-quick thought from Margaret Feinberg

I ran out of time at NYWC to do all the blogging about it, and I am still processing all of the stuff I took in this last weekend. So I will continue to blog over the next couple days about various elements from the NYWC and what I learned, thought about. With that said, today I found a quote that I took down from Margaret Feinberg. Here's what I had written down...

"When we listen to the echoes, we hear God more clearly."

When I wrote that down, I just wrote it in passing, but after the fact the more I think about it, the more I realize how profound that statement is both for my life and ministry.

In my life, especially when I am looking for direction I try so hard to look for a "sign" that I think sometimes I miss what God has placed right in front of me. My prayer is that as I continue to grow in Him I will allow myself to simply step back, listen to what is proclaimed in Psalm 46:10 and just "Be still..." Perhaps then I'll know better what God is trying to show me.

In my ministry as I have already said, I like the wow factor when it comes to the kids I work with. I am so afraid that I will lose them if I don't wow them. I think they have become accustomed to that as well so I know I need to try to learn how to lead them in "slowing down" and listening for the whispers. Many of them want to know God's will for their lives and maybe if I can figure out best how to help them do that, we might be able to go deeper on this journey together.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Just a reminder...make sure you vote today, if you don't vote you remove your voice. So if you choose not to go to the polls because you don't like either candidate, I don't want to hear about it after the fact. Your vote is your voice. However you choose to vote is up to you, but just make sure you do, it's our right, and this is an important election.

Monday, November 03, 2008

NYWC-Francis Chan

I realized last night that I had not shared my thoughts from Francis Chan's general session Saturday morning. Here is what I took away from his message as a I calling kids to a radical following of Jesus Christ or to a program? The way he illustrated that was through the way Jesus taught through parables. He spoke to the masses, but really he knew most wouldn't "hear" what he was saying, so he gave the message (knowing the masses wouldn't get it) and then built from that. Now the way I interpret that in my ministry today is that there are really high expectations to following Christ and being His disciple. So how does that shape my program? I've always been taught bigger is better-you've got to entertain kids to help them see how awesome it is to follow God. I am not sure that is the case. Jesus called His followers to give up EVERYTHING. It was a high cost, it meant losing friends and family, giving up everything that is familiar to them. It has to be communicated the same to kids today-Jesus is asking for a radical commitment of following Him, which means if my kids are REALLY following Him, they may lose friends, they may have to take a stand even if it means being made fun of or ridiculed. WOW-now how do you say that to a kid..."Sign up for this whole Jesus the way, your life may get really tough after this, but it's worth it!" Sounds like a hard sale, but it can work. For me it means completely re-learning how I do youth ministry which is an ongoing process. This was simply reaffirmed to me again this weekend.

So Jesus didn't reach all of the masses. If I think about that, it's somewhat freeing for me. I can't reach everyone, but I can focus on the ones that want to know Him closer. Jesus didn't use everyone that asked to follow Him and I can't reach every student. Here's a question I wrote down for myself to think through..."What do we do with the kids we can't use (Jesus didn't use everyone that asked to follow Him-they didn't all answer the call)? By that I mean what about the kids who hear the message but don't answer it. Do I just let them go? Do I not pay attention to them so I can focus on the ones that want to grow? I have a desire to reach as many as I can, but I don't want to help create another generation of shallow students who walk away from their faith in the future. I guess I just have to trust that I am planting those seeds and that God is big enough to do the rest.

NYWC-Tommy in action on the streets of Pitt...

Tommy clames to be a world class athlete...of course he also still goes by his high school nickname "animal." As we were walking the streets this afternoon he promised us he could jump this double parking meter...guess he's not as limber as he used to be.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NYWC-Messin' w/ Tommy

I've had a great time hanging with a couple of fellow youth workers in Jackson this week. They are Vinny Powell who serves at First Baptist, and Tommy Long who serves at my old stomping grounds of Good Shepherd Wesleyan. Tommy falls asleep early so we've had a great time messing with him this weekend. Here's just a small dose.

NYWC Day 2-wrap up

To say that my head hurt at the end of the general session tonight would be an understatement. I honestly found myself struggling at times to stay focused listening to Phyllis Tickle. However, I am glad I did, because when she finally pulled it all together at the end I found myself thinking wow, I am really glad to be a part of what is happening on the horizon for the church as a whole.

Basically, the session was a bit like a church history class, minus the cup of coffee that I used to have to keep me awake then. It a was very much a lecture outlining the history of the church via 500 year time periods, with it being pointed out, that we are very near the end of the next 500 year period-meaning we are on the brink of most likely changing where the church views its authority structure. We've heard alot about this over the past couple years, but she really put it into perspective in showing that we are really moving away from our structured "natal" (born with church traditions) into more of a bridging/combined theological structure made up of a lot of different faith traditions within the Christian church. No longer are we simply mainline or conservative, evangelical or fundamentalist, but most likely as the new generation rises there is some combination of the crew. While I wonder if this is somewhat cultural in how it will unfold (I'm not sure I see a whole lot of it among the people in our community and with my students), I know it is right where I am at in my spiritual journey having grown up in a fundamental Christian environment and now serving in a more mainline/social justice driven tradition.

I really again am not sure how this is going to flesh out within my life and ministry, but she emphasized that we are shaping the church of the next 300 years with what we are doing now and honestly that excites me. I don't claim to be anything spectacular-I simply try to do my best to serve the Lord, but I am excited the think that maybe I might just have a small part in what the church will become. I'm really glad I stuck with the message until the end, it wound up being one of the best "lectures" I've set through in a while.

Thoughts-what is the church looking like in your area? What do you see happening in the future? What can we do now to help our churches and ministries during this transition? Is it cultural or is it happening across the board. Those are the questions I have...thoughts?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

a couple of quick rants...

Rant #1- When you think your bottle of cologne is empty, make sure it is before you hold it close to your face and spray it straight into your eyes...burns just a wee bit!

Rant #2- I've blogged this before, but I wish the hotels would get it. Hey Sheraton Hotel, don't ask me to help you be environmentally friendly by reusing my towels if you are going to go ahead and take them when you clean the room. I appreciate what you are asking us to do, but if you aren't going to do it, don't waste the paper to print the message.

Okay, I'm done. Day 2 is awesome, I'll blog more about it and the boys are "chillaxing" this afternoon, we skipped the seminars to sight see a bit and grab some food at the top of Mt. Washington. By the way, if you are ever in Pittsburgh, make sure you check out the Monongahela and Duquesne inclines to the top of the mountain. We rode one up, took a nice stroll along the top of the mountain and then grabbed lunch at a nice little restaurant called the Coal Hill Steakhouse.

Allowing myself to be uncomfortable...

Last night's general session made me a little uncomfortable. Not because of the environment, room layout, or they way it was done (three speakers in a 1-by-1 format w/ discussion) but because of the topics. It was a bit of a stretch for my Midwest, conservative, holiness upbringing. The Lord and a few of you know I have been on quite the faith journey recently dealing with allowing myself to being more open to ideas that are different to me. I don't want to say that I have been closed minded, but maybe I have been more than I wanted to. It is just a journey I am on, and the guys who are with me felt even more uncomfortable, but that's okay right? That is how we move forward on our faith journeys...even when it is agreeing to disagree.

With that said, I didn't really have any issues with the first and third speakers, but where I wrestled the most came with Andrew Marin, who spoke on understanding and building bridges with the gay and lesbian community. Now, I didn't have issues with what he was saying, but I had issues because this is an area that God is working on in my life right now...because I am living it. No, not because I am a homosexual or struggle with this, but I have people in my life who are and I am really wrestling with how to relate to them. My traditional conservative upbringing says-"Love the sinner, hate the sin...but just don't let them in our church." (my assumption not an actual statement). I really sincerely believe that at least one of these people really does love the Lord and wants to serve Him, but in my head I wrestle with how can he have a relationship with God and still wrestle with it. The answer is I don't know, and Marin at least introduced me to the idea of working with those that are in this situation.

In addition to this whole idea, he challenged us to consider being the ones who would bridge the gap with those who wrestle with homosexuality. At our school right now, "bicuriousity" and homosexuality seem to be the "in" thing, and yet no one really wants to address the issue or work with these students. It's taboo. Last night, I really began to wrestle with whether or not God may want to use me in this capacity, but what will that look like in my small conservative town. What will that mean for me? What will that mean for these students? How will we get past what I know will be said in the community about it? I just don't know...and maybe it was all just gas from the supper? I don't know, but I am open to what God wants to do and praying He will show me...will you pray with me?

Ministering to Middle School girls...

As I was looking for which seminar to attend for the first session, immediately I was drawn to Heather Flies seminar on ministering to middle school girls. I did this partially because she is entertaining and high energy and if there is anything I struggle with in ministry it is relating to girls. There are two reasons, one because of the issues of boundaries with students of the opposite sex, and two because I just don't understand teen girls. There are the emotions, the ups and downs, and the craziness of being a teen girl in today's image driven society. I was not disappointed in the session and here are a few of the things I took away from the seminar.

Her basic points were these in the form of the acronym SHARE...

S-Show up (if you want to reach a middle school girl, you've got to be present in her life-the concerts, the events, the activities of school, there must be that relationship. Basically she said that they have to know you care about them beyond their attendance and what you need them for).
H-Hear her heart (look for what's going on BEYOND what she says, and then listen to it-really listen to it)
A-Affirm her character (acknowledge who she is becoming and affirm that-take notice of things like when she changes her hair, because she wants these things to be noticed-and guys we can acknowledge these things too, just be careful how you do it).
R-Reassure her of her source of worth (Help her to see who God made her to be and who she can become. Help her to see past the expectations the world places on her for image and how she portrays herself)
E-Encourage female relationships (Teen girls, especially middle schools are noticing boys and are driven by that in many ways. Make sure you encourage your girls to look beyond just those and plan deliberate times for just the girls-guys of course make sure we include our spouses or another sponsor on this one and maybe even remove ourselves from those times so the girls can be girls.

Above all this she mentioned that there are exceptions to the rules as well. For the quiet girl-make sure find out what she likes and then let her talk about it. For the non-girly girl offer another option (she used the example of taking girls to the amusement park instead of shopping during the girls only event.

Another issue I am glad she addressed just briefly was the idea of how to deal with the "mean girls." This seems to be a growing issue. I know speaking as a guy here that teen girls can be catty, especially middle school girls and their relationships can come and go and they can be very abrasive at times-which can harm the ministry if not kept in check. She offered these three steps...first talk to the girls individually. If this does not solve the problem bring them together as a group. If that doesn't work, then do not be afraid to get the parents involved. I know this is a very real issue and PLEASE be aware of it. I can tell you, there was a rift in my youth ministry one year for almost a full year. Two girls who had been best friends since preschool decided to be enemies for an entire school year and it split our youth ministry. My suggestion in this are is to bathe it in prayer more than anything else except that God will move in your ministry.

This session was VERY helpful to me, and while I still feel I have a long way to go with working with middle school girls (that's why I'm glad I've been blessed with a wonderful wife), I think I took a few steps forward today.


Disciples vs consumers

Well the first day of the NYWC is officially over, and of course it was amazing as expected. There were three key times that were a part of the day, so I'll make each of them an individual blog post to prevent one large one. So we'll start with Mike Pilavachi's message in the general session.

The premise of the message-or at least what I took away from it focused on the idea of making sure we are making disciples and not just consumers. Our kids are consumers by nature and if we aren't careful they will just come to our program until something better comes along. No matter how hard we try we cannot entertain our students into the kingdom. When I heard that concept it shocked me, because for so long, I have thought that the best way to do relational ministry is THROUGH the program, but truthfully we need to do ministry in spite of the program. He used the illustration of the disciples and how they walked WITH Jesus when he did ministry. They experienced it with him, they didn't just hear it from Him.

Something else that challenged me from his message was the reminder that it is not about us. Too often I find myself trying to make sure that I am the "coolest" so the kids will want to be a part of our ministry. However, it doesn't matter how cool I am, if the kids don't know I care about them by being where they are and including them in the ministry that we do at our church.

Finally, he challenged us to not be afraid to release our students to do ministry. Again he used the example of Jesus and the disciples when they went to cast out demons. There was one time when it went really well and another when it didn't we have to allow our students to serve, and even make mistakes the whole time walking beside them and encouraging them to continue. During these times we have to encourage them, correct them when necessary, and love them the most. I was really challenged to step up this are in my ministry. We have some student involvement, but I think I have held back because of fear of failure with the students in ministry-again probably more out of fear of looking bad myself. I am praying that the Lord will help me to expand my student led ministry when I return home in a few days.

That's my thoughts on Pilavachi's message (which the British accent just made that much cooler) Anyone else with thoughts?