college football ratings part II

not that i'm an expert like those at ESPN, but i have some things to say about college football. well, i have one thing to say: GIVE US A PLAYOFF!

this season once again proves one thing - crowning a champion in college football is guesswork and extremely biased. it also proves that the rankings are extremely nebulous so long as teams refuse to play a schedule filled with legitimate games.

let's look at the current standings:
how is Iowa ranked behind Penn State? didn't they beat Penn State? doesn't that imply they are better?

and doesn't USC's loss to Stanford confirm their "overrated-ness"? i'm still trying to figure out how they were ranked higher than Oregon last week after getting demolished by Oregon and lowing to powerhouse Washington!

not to toot the Big-12 horn, but if Oklahoma State were USC, they'd probably be ranked 4 this week. the Cowboys only losses are to Texas and Houston. somehow USC stayed at number 8 last week with losses to Washington and Oregon.

finally, a plea for my Huskers. how are they not ranked higher than Miami? they have two common opponents: Oklahoma and Virginia Tech. they both beat Oklahoma and both lost at Virginia Tech. Nebraska should have beat Virginia Tech while Miami got destroyed. how is Miami ranked higher? how is Miami ranked higher than North Carolina who has the same record and just beat them? confusing...

i demand a PLAYOFF!


conducting an orchestra as a model for leadership

stumbled across this video from TED [ideas worth spreading]...watch the video...

"when you love something, you give it away."

what does it look like to lead as a conductor leads an orchestra? here's what I think...

*the conductor has the overall piece in mind, but also understands and appreciates each part.
*the conductor is almost like a coach. he/she participates and leads during the performance, but the real success is based on preparation and cohesiveness of the group as a whole.
*the conductor, when confident in preparation, can "give it away."
*the conductor, by his/her body language, can give praise or criticism to individuals to help them help the group be successful.
*the conductor is the leader. if the performance goes awry, he/she will be held responsible.

what do you think? what principles would you deduce?
i'd be very interested to hear from any who have participated in orchestra, choir, ensembles, band, etc...
how do/did you view the leadership of your conductor?


retreat ministry

just had a weekend retreat and it got me thinking about my life and the importance of camp on my spiritual journey. there are so many people who have influenced my faith and have given of themselves for me. thank you to everyone who has taken time to influence me!

i thought of this as i had the chance to be part of 17 students' lives this weekend. retreats are great opportunities to connect with each other while we're disconnected from life's normal distractions. thank you to all of you - students, adults alike - for trusting me and allowing me to speak into your lives!

check out some highlights from the retreat...


psalm 119

read through all of Psalm 119 today (it is a joyous chore!)...
i am struck by the Psalmist mentions of loving the Lord's commands, laws, decrees, statutes, rules, etc.
it almost makes me wonder, is he trying to convince himself he really loves the Lord's laws? have you ever felt that way? have you ever tried to convince yourself of something you ultimately knew was good for you, but had a really hard time acting on? surely we can all think of things we know we shouldn't do but we do anyhow because in the moment it feels/tastes/looks so good.

as i read Psalm 119 in the New Century Version, i finally came across verse 131 and felt more at ease. finally, the Psalmist was speaking my language. it reads:
"i am nearly out of breath.
i really want to learn your commands."
we all want to obey. we want to know the right thing to do. we want to follow God and reap all the benefits. we want badly to draw nearer and nearer to God and godly living. sometimes, we get in our own way. sometimes, we run after things that aren't good for us and flat out ignore God's commands.
and then, we are nearly out of breath - nearly to the point of having nowhere else to turn - we say, "ok God, i guess i'll give you a chance."
we cannot do this thing called "life" on our own. we need God's commands because they give us life. read Psalm 119 and see how many times the Psalmist links God's rules, commands, decrees - God's Word - to LIFE. God's rules give us life; help us live an abundant life.

so i conclude: Lord, help us - make us - to WANT to WANT to learn your commands.


college football ratings

WARNING: this is a rant. it may be irrational. it is a bit biased. but i've always wanted to rant about college football, so why not now.

the rankings are a joke. obviously, being a Nebraska Cornhusker fan, i'm biased, but see if this logic makes sense...
Nebraska has one loss. to who? Virginia Tech who is currently ranked #6 in the entire nation. Nebraska barely lost, should have won, and it was AT Va Tech. so where is Nebraska ranked? #23.

Oklahoma has one loss. to who? Brigham Young [BYU] who is currently ranked #20. Oklahoma's loss was AT home as well. so where is Oklahoma ranked. surely below Nebraska right? #8.

please, someone explain how USC is still in the top 10 after losing to Washington? Washington just got beat by Stanford people. that's not even a loss to a quality opponent [sorry Husky fans but you did go 0-14 last season; you're not quite "quality" yet, but you're getting there and i have hope as a current Washingtonian].

do i need to go on? probably not, but i will anyway. hopefully you're with me and you're enraged!

Penn State has one loss. to who? Iowa who is currently ranked #13 after previously being UNRANKED. so Iowa beats an untested, unproven Penn State team at home and jumps to #13? surely they must have some other quality wins, right? wrong. they barely beat powerhouse Northern Iowa at home [they had to block to field goals to win], and they held off perennial clunker Iowa State. but don't worry, Penn State kept a #15 ranking. after all, they have beaten Akron, Syracuse and Temple, all HOME games.

i'm begging for consistency. i'm begging for sanity. in the end, i'm begging for a PLAYOFF system that puts an end to all this nonsense...


Scripture 'N Youth Ministry

ran across this short video from Youth Specialties a few weeks back. simply put, i was challenged and inspired. the role of Scripture in my own life, especially as a youth, is a major factor in my desire to follow Christ and my call to ministry. without the Bible, i don't think i would be where i am today.

i hope you watched the video. it's only 1 minutes and 24 seconds! amazing ideas. things i want to implement and see happen. how? how do we get kids to fall in love with Scripture? i think it's nothing short of a miracle that i did.

thinking specifically about traditional "youth group" and "Sunday school", how do you think kids should be introduced to Scripture? what is the best way to get them to fall in love with God's Word?


"old school" U.S.A.

in New York Times opinion piece, "High Five Nation," David Brooks weighs in on the U.S. then and now. specifically, he writes of the attitudes and sentiments following victory in WWII. it was a moment of humility, of awe, and, as war correspondent Ernie Pyle expressed, "I hope that in victory we are more grateful than we are proud."

why don't we hear more of that today? have we lost our sense of gratitude and thankfulness for life and all its little joys? have we lost the sense of privilege and gift that is each new day? instead, we complain about the little things. instead, I complain about the little things that bug me, annoy me, and that need to be fixed or else. or else what? or else i'll shrink away in self-loathing and self-pity...

from the article:

But that humility came under attack in the ensuing decades. Self-effacement became identified with conformity and self-repression. A different ethos came to the fore, which the sociologists call “expressive individualism.” Instead of being humble before God and history, moral salvation could be found through intimate contact with oneself and by exposing the beauty, the power and the divinity within.

Everything that starts out as a cultural revolution ends up as capitalist routine. Before long, self-exposure and self-love became ways to win shares in the competition for attention. Muhammad Ali would tell all cameras that he was the greatest of all time. Norman Mailer wrote a book called “Advertisements for Myself.”

Brooks ends the article with a line that caught my attention and continues to scream out to me:

It’s funny how the nation’s mood was at its most humble when its actual achievements were at their most extraordinary.
what about us? as followers of Christ, are we humble? are we willing to celebrate adversity and an opportunity to grow? are we pursuing Christ's vision and Christ's Kingdom goals, or are we after wealth, fame, and self-grandeur?

i ask these questions as a fellow traveler. i ask these questions as a 21st Century American Christian struggling to find the answers and make some sense of it all...

join me on the journey!


health and

stumbled on an interesting article [read full article here]. it caught my attention because it isn't just about the need for health care reform and the ongoing debate, but about the need for prevention and education on healthy living in the United States of America. why do we spend so much on health care? there are a number of reasons, one of which is our general lack of healthy living. this is something the church can and should address. our bodies are gifts from God. we ought to treat them as such.

my specific reason for posting this is that the article mentions the the increase in the U.S. of those diagnosed with diabetes. this hits home. this is real for me and my family. my sister has been diabetic since age 2 and my dad had adult-onset or type II. eventually, complications from diabetes are what ended his life over 3 years ago.

read this paragraph from the article:
The market for prescription drugs and medical devices to manage Type 2 diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates will afflict one in three Americans born after 2000, is one of the brighter spots in the American economy. As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. There’s more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise.
do you find that shocking? don't hear what i'm not saying. i'm not blaming the "system" for poor lifestyle choices. i'm not blaming my dad either. i'm suggesting that the need for change in the health care system goes beyond whether people are "happy" with their current plans. it goes beyond whether America is the best and other countries suck. i'm talking about making sure every person gets the care they need to live healthy, holistic lives; to do our best at allowing all of God's children to flourish. i'm suggesting that helping people live in the bodies God gave them shouldn't be about PROFIT.

will we have to sacrifice? yes. will we have to give up some of "our" money? yes. will the transition be awkward and imperfect? yes.

call me idealistic. call me a dreamer. i just know we can do better.


Glenn Beck in Mount Vernon?

have you been following this? do you have an opinion?
Glenn Beck is coming to Mount Vernon, WA and getting a "key" to the city...
it made the news in Boston [read about it here] read more at goskagit.com

i'm pleased to say i don't really know much about this character, but i'm confused as to why a political analyst would receive a "key" to the city. what has he done for Mount Vernon? is it worth dividing a town?

weigh in...



read this article...
To Father Kabat, the nuclear issue — and his protests — remain essential. The building of weapons continues to drain money that could be used to fight poverty and hunger, he says, adding, as if caught in a time warp, “There’s still a real threat these things could go to the U.S.S.R.”
is this man a "radical"? is he being faithful to the gospel and a call to follow Christ?


stuff...enough stuff...

fascinating article in New York Times this morning...
"The Self-Storage Self"...worth your time. enjoy this excerpt; check out question at end...

“A lot of the expansion we experienced as an industry was people choosing to store,” Litton told me. A Self Storage Association study showed that, by 2007, the once-quintessential client — the family in the middle of a move, using storage to solve a short-term, logistical problem — had lost its majority. Fifty percent of renters were now simply storing what wouldn’t fit in their homes — even though the size of the average American house had almost doubled in the previous 50 years, to 2,300 square feet.
Consider our national furniture habit. In an unpublished paper, Schor writes that “anecdotal evidence suggests an ‘Ikea effect.’ ” We’ve spent more on furniture even as prices have dropped, thereby amassing more of it. The amount entering the United States from overseas doubled between 1998 and 2005, reaching some 650 million pieces a year. Comparing Schor’s data with E.P.A. data on municipal solid waste shows that the rate at which we threw out old furniture rose about one-thirteenth as fast during roughly the same period. In other words, most of that new stuff — and any older furniture it displaced — is presumably still knocking around somewhere. In fact, some seven million American households now have at least one piece of furniture in their storage units. Furniture is the most commonly stored thing in America.
The marketing consultant Derek Naylor told me that people stockpile furniture while saving for bigger or second homes but then, in some cases, “they don’t want to clutter up their new home with all the things they have in storage.” So they buy new, nicer things and keep paying to store the old ones anyway. Clem Tang, a spokesman for Public Storage, explains: “You say, ‘I paid $1,000 for this table a couple of years ago. I’m not getting rid of it, or selling it for 10 bucks at a garage sale. That’s like throwing away $1,000.’ ” It’s not a surprising response in a society replacing things at such an accelerated rate — this inability to see our last table as suddenly worthless, even though we’ve just been out shopping for a new one as though it were.
“My parents were Depression babies,” Litton told me, “and what they taught me was, it’s the accumulation of things that defines you as an American, and to throw anything away was being wasteful.” The self-storage industry reconciles these opposing values: paying for storage is, paradoxically, thrifty. “That propensity toward consumption is what fueled the world’s economy,” Litton said.

do you have a storage unit? why?
are you defined by your stuff and how much you have?
do you have Ikea stuff [i do!]?


socialism n health care

"socialism is the enemy of all free people"
have you seen this bumper sticker? what does it mean to you?

interesting New York Times editorial today by Nicholas Kristof, read it here.

"Throughout the industrialized world, there are a handful of these areas where governments fill needs better than free markets: fire protection, police work, education, postal service, libraries, health care. The United States goes along with this international trend in every area but one: health care."

and check out this video:



finished What is the What...
gained perspective on life.
the final chapter begins with these words from Valentino Achak Deng,
"I will reach upward. I will attempt to do better. I will not be a burden upon those who have helped me too much already. I will always be grateful for what pleasures I have enjoyed, what joys I have yet to experience. I will take opportunities as they come, but at the same time, I will not trust so easily. I will look at who is at the door before opening it. I will try to be fierce. I will argue when necessary. I will be willing to fight. I will not smile reflexively at every person I see. I will live as a good child of God, and will forgive him each time he claims another of the people I love. I will forgive and attempt to understand his plans for me, and I will not pity myself."

so much wisdom. how can someone who has been through so much still trust in God? honestly. how can you see what this man has seen and still believe there is good in the world and a divine presence?

but by the grace of God. because there is nothing else which gives HOPE. there is nothing else which gives meaning. there is no other God who can put up with us and continue calling out to us.

praise God for understanding us; for forgiving us; for loving us...

and praise God for those who survive and cling to faith in the midst of insane life circumstances. and praise God for those who truly have compassion for these individuals and peoples. may our hearts break for the things that break God's heart. and may we be moved to make a difference in our world that the Kingdom might be seen in and through us.


what is the what

almost finished with the book What is the What by Dave Eggers, the story of a Sudanese Lost Boy named Valentino Achak Deng.

i'm captivated by the story. it helps remind me of the reality of life on this planet; that is, life on this planet is not glamorous or remotely safe, secure, comfortable for many. while we worry about what to wear, or what brand of toothpaste will get our teeth the whitest, there are people wondering whether there will be a meal today or whether their fellow traveling companion will get eaten by a lion. seriously. we need perspective.

as i've read the story another thing stands out...the dates, years he describes. when i read stories like this of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes; when i read about genocide; when i read about families separated and teenage boys taking on the role of "burial team" for a refugee camp; i think to myself, "wow, the world was different back then; back when people weren't civilized." but then i see the date and it grabs me: 1994. this happened in the early 90s, and continues today.

just like when i saw Hotel Rwanda for the first time and realized, this happened during my lifetime. where was i? where were we? as people were slaughtered in Africa, where were we? as people waste away in refugee camps, where are we?


health care II

not to belabor the point, but Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog has been hosting some great discussions on health care reform.

one commenter, Scott Lyons, recently posted this response on whether health care should be a "right" for all Americans [you can read full post and comments here]:

That being said some of our arguments make no sense for us as Christians. For instance, (1) We need to look for other means or look to other institutions to provide health care reform or assistance for those who need it. Why are we discussing this only now that the government is seeking to solve the problem? The bottom line is that most Christians don't want the government telling them they need to be righteous - forcing them to be righteous. I figure, if you ain't already righteous, someone's gotta help you. And if you already is, shouldn't be a problem for you to be giving the money to those who need it (if you got it). Catholic social teaching couples subsidiarity with solidarity. And a good central government's subsidiary function is to step in and assist when other institutions or local governments are insufficient. And the American health care system is insufficient.

(2) Some people do not deserve care because of bad personal choices. This line of thinking turns away from the essence of God's mercy. Compassion is not merely for the innocent - indeed, mercy and compassion are divine when they are directed toward those who don't deserve it. This Theology of Desert is typical in conservative circles, but it's the theology of the unmerciful servant and not of Christ. Showing mercy and compassion ought not to hinge on the good decision-making history of the recipients. The man shown mercy by the King (in Christ's parable of the unmerciful servant) was in debt because of his choices. We are debtors because of our choices and are continually shown mercy, but we cannot show mercy to an overweight person who continues to overeat? Or a smoker who is slowly, consciously killing himself? This is disheartening. So what if the system is abused by some. Isn't it better to be used than to be unmerciful?

(3) People from all over the world come to America for top-notch health care. This only tells us that we have top-notch health care for those who can afford it.

As to the secondary question about raising taxes or not to pay for it. This is the crux of the argument for many of us, I suppose. Not, What is the right thing for me to do? But, What is it going to cost me? I am not suggesting that money and taxation are unimportant. But it shouldn't be a counter-argument to the provision of health care for those who need it, especially when we can "afford" unjust wars and trillion dollar bail-outs.



will you be my friend?

facebook, myspace, twitter, etc.
i'm beginning to learn something about myself through using these online social networking tools...I WANT PEOPLE TO LIKE ME. in fact, i want lots of people to like me. i want to know that people care about what i think and what i do and what i ate yesterday and what i'm about to do and why i'm going to do it.

it's an astounding, mind-blowing truth i've discovered - we all want people to like us!

while i think being like is a worthy endeavor, i'm discovering it can't be the end gain. to what lengths will we go to be liked? what will we do to ensure people like us? what will we suppress, hide, or lie about so that others won't notice our blemishes?

i am a conflict avoider. there. i admitted it. i hate conflict and would rather see others be happy or get their way so that they'll continue liking me. there are times, if i'm honest, that i'd rather be liked than be honest with someone. i'd rather maintain our perceived friendly relationship that speak harsh words. the crazy thing is - they are usually not harsh words! somehow i've told myself they might possibly be perceived as being harsh, critical, or judgmental. so i suppress these words in order to be liked.

through this discovery i'm finding we have a deficit in the area of vulnerability in our society. when we all look out for ourselves and make sure people like us, we don't allow ourselves or others to be real. we protect, suppress, and even lie. in the end, the potential consequences are scarier than telling the truth!

so who's with me? who wants to begin by confessing everything and getting vulnerable! just kidding! please don't spill your gets via facebook or blogs. but honestly, let's get honest. let's get real with each other people. i promise, i'll still be your friend. but will you still be mine?


health care...here goes nothin'

dare i mention health care? dare i bring it up? dare i ask tough questions about health care in a time where all sorts of crazy myths, propaganda, talking points, etc are flooding the internet?


i feel as though i have to. and here's why. my sister is diabetic. she has been since age 2. she cannot get affordable health care because of this "pre-existing condition." in fact, she had to have her insulin pump removed because she could no longer afford it once she finished school and came off my mom's health coverage. i guess it sucks to be her. she should have been more careful at age 2 and not got diabetes. now she has to pay for her poor lifestyle choices and unfortunate genes.

that may seem crass and unfair, but it's pretty much the way our current system works. at least she is employed and can afford her insulin without going into debt. why can't she get affordable health care? simple. she costs too much for private insurers to carry. she is too expensive. they won't make as much money. if you don't think that's fair or i'm misinformed, then why can't she find affordable health care?

so you don't like what's being proposed by the current administration. you fear SOCIALISM, EUTHANASIA, RATIONING, ____________ [insert other fear-mongering buzz words]. please, if you don't like what's being proposed, come up with a better plan. something needs to change. we have to learn from the global economy; learn from those who are trying universal systems and create our own.

why do i care about this issue? it affects my sister. it affects the poor. it is clear that God cares deeply about the poor and so should we. how we treat the poor is an excellent reflection of the success of our society. so how are we doing?

finally, my biggest concern - will anyone, including myself, do anything about any of this? i'm talking to people on both sides of the political aisle. will we do anything? will we have civil discourse? will we admit the system is flawed and be intelligent and compassionate enough to fix it? do we care enough about those without access to affordable health care? do we care enough to do anything? OR, will those of us with excellent health insurance sit back and say, "i don't want to pay for them."



attended a great discussion group today on the topic of evangelism with other area Covenant pastors. wow! amazing things happening and so much more to be done...

what did i walk away with?

tough questions. tough reflections. some thoughts...

[old question] when you die will you go to heaven?
[new question] when you die will you be remembered?

do we [pastors] have authentic, growing relationships with Christ SO THAT others can have authentic, growing relationships with Christ?
if so, do we bother to tell anyone?

overarching questions: what is the role of evangelism in the church today? that is, what does evangelism look like? what are the roadblocks/challenges? what are the successes? who does evangelism? how many church activities are outward focused vs. inward focused? do we tell others how we came to Christ? how much of our church budgets are focused on local outreach/mission? what events/programs are we doing that are outreach focused?

and finally, how do we appropriately celebrate and affirm those things we are already doing? that is, how can we do those things in which we already excel better or with more frequency?



"There's a fine edge to new grief, it severs nerves, disconnects reality - there's mercy in a sharp blade. Only with time, as the edge wears, does the real ache begin."
-Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job

i'm not going through grief, but ran across this quote in a hilarious book and thought i'd throw it up just to remember it...hmmmmmm.


youth ministry: where's it going?

i just read some thoughts over at internetmonk.com on youth ministry and thought i'd share them. i'm particularly struck by number 2 on his list:

2. It all rolls on how you view the church and how you see the overall church carrying out the mission of Jesus. Young people are not a subset of the church’s mission that just happen to be handed over to twenty year olds and people with guitars. Whatever the church is doing needs to be relevant to young people: worship, pastoral care, teaching, mission, evangelism, stewardship. The scary thing for a lot of youth workers is the possibility that they might have to give up their cool outreaches and trips in order to be more like the church/follower Jesus wants. We’ve been told that we can use any tool to make church interesting, so youth workers like myself were allowed to run a program of fun, trips, food, sports, recreation, etc. in order to keep young people hanging around for whatever the church was doing. We now know that those young people simply insisted that the church become like their youth group and, ta da- there is today’s evangelicalism. Oh…and there’s a bunch of our kids, never coming back to church again because they eqaute it with juvenile, shallow entertainment.

what do you think? where is youth ministry going? it seems like this is a never-ending quest for the "right" way to raise up kids in the church and bring new kids to Christ. will we ever figure it out? probably not, but we keep trying!

again. what do you think? where is youth ministry going?
the better question may be:
where should youth ministry go? what should we leave behind? what should we keep?


read your Bible

over a year ago i came across some advice from a pastor on Scot McKnight's blog [Jesus Creed]. 15 years or so into ministry he he realized that people in his congregation were extremely capable and surpassed his abilities in the areas of finance, administration, building, recreation, you name it, but the one area in which they hoped, or expected, him to be competent and knowledgeable was the Bible. so he began reading and re-reading the Bible 2 or 3 times per year.

i began a year ago by reading the Bible through once in a year, and now that i'm on year 2, i hope to read the Bible twice in a year.

maybe you think this could make Bible reading obligatory or a bit legalistic, but that hasn't been my experience. i need discipline. i need something to pursue, or i simply won't make time outside of preparing for sermons and youth messages to read God's Word. i'm just being honest.

after reading the story through and beginning all over again a month ago, i'm amazed at how the story of stories never gets old. i'm amazed at how i find myself entering the story.

so, if the Bible, the Word of God, is alive and active, let's get some of that life and let's get going. the Word of God has the power to transform our minds and move us to action for the glory of God's Kingdom; let's get in on some of that!

so stop what you're doing and read your Bible.



"guns and God"

i think i'm getting to this story late, but i came a cross this article in the New York Times today,

read the first few paragraphs of the article linked above for context...

"'God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,' Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday in the small brick Assembly of God church, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from side walls."

he continued, “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”
no contradiction? guns and God? can you love your enemies while simultaneously sticking a gun in their face? can you bless those who persecute you while pulling out a handgun?

but Pastor Pagano goes on,
“When someone from within the church tells me that being a Christian and having firearms are contradictions, that they’re incompatible with the Gospel — baloney,” he said. “As soon as you start saying that it’s not something that Christians do, well, guns are just the foil. The issue now is the Gospel. So in a sense, it does become a crusade. Now the Gospel is at stake.”
so the Gospel is at stake if we can't have funs in the church? really? if we can't exercise our 2nd amendment rights as AMERICANS, we can't be CHRISTIANS. i see. that makes perfect sense.

i guess i'm just a liberal sissy who thinks guns kill people and Jesus doesn't want us to kill people. someone help me understand what this guy is talking about. does anyone get it? what does God have to do with guns?


"the primary social task of the church is..."

from Stanley Hauerwas', "Ten Theses Toward the Reform of Christian Social Ethics."

#5 - The primary social task of the church is to be itself - that is, a people who have been formed by a story that provides them with the skills for negotiating the danger of this existence, trusting in God's promise of redemption.

The primary social task of the church is to be itself.

i like that.  i can live with that.
but what does that mean for us?  what does that actually look like?

what do you you think?


Getting Fired for the Glory of God...

just finished the collections of essays, talks, and other writings by Mike Yaconelli entitled, Getting Fired for the Glory of God.  amazing!

where do i start?  this is one of those books every youth pastor should read.  it includes Yaconelli's tender thoughts, streams of consciousness, rants, etc.  they are challenging, refreshing, honest, and most importantly, filled with his hope that young people will come to know Jesus Christ.

youth ministry is about pointing youth to Jesus.  youth ministry is not about bigger and better.  it is about drawing student into a deeper relationship with God or introducing them to Christ for the first time.  it's about seeing the Holy Spirit grab hold of students' lives and changing them little by little.

his final essay, "Caring for Your Own Soul While Ministering to Others," really hit me.  in several of his essays he talks about the need for time with God, intimacy with Christ.  his son, Mark, also an author and youth ministry minded guy, talks about his dad "loving Jesus; weeping because of his love of Christ."  i want that.  i want to be unashamedly in love with Jesus; so much so that people notice and see him in and through me.

back to the essay.  this quote stuck out.  i'll leave this post here...
"If your youth ministry begins with your relationship with Jesus instead of theirs [students], then working on your own soul isn't periphery or extracurricular - it's central to your ministry.  Your soul is your ministry.
"Real ministry is not what you do, but who you are."


Exodus 4 - Moses' Call

preparing for sermon on May 31 and the text is Exodus 4:1-17, the continued story of Moses' call...

i wonder, does anyone have a story to share about being called by God?

could be you answered the call, could be you didn't!  i'm just wondering if anyone has a story to tell [well, we all have stories to tell, but what's yours?]...



surprised by hope

just finished NT Wright's, surprised by hope.  yes.  yes.  and yes.  great stuff.

let's see, what to quote in a 290 page book that i couldn't put down.  i guess that's why people book blog chapter by chapter, huh?  anyway, where do i start?

what is God's plan?  heaven?  life after death?  yes, but......
heaven is life after death, but resurrection and new creation is life after life after death, and this IS OUR HOPE!

we have a hope in new creation!  we have hope in resurrection bodies; in being made new in Christ!  hallelujah!

Wright connects the strains of Christianity with which i've had some experience.  he argues from the Bible and tradition for the middle ground between the conservative,  "it's all about souls, so forget this world and look toward the next," and the liberal, "forget going to heaven, we need to help folks right now."  it's about both people!

i'm going to pose a question here, in hopes that someone out there might at least think about it...Wright says that if Jesus is really raised from the dead, then the new creation, the new world has begun in part.  and we, those who declare Jesus as Lord, are responsible for living in that new world under the authority of our King, Jesus Christ, even though we wait for the ultimate fulfillment of the new creation...in light of this reality; in light of the fact that we are supposed to live in the power of Christ and under the principles of the Kingdom of God, he asks why we aren't changing the world and challenging the world more often.

he says, "If the gospel isn't transforming YOU, how do you know that it will transform anything else?"

so i ask, is the gospel transformative?  do you really believe it?  where do you see the gospel transforming the world, your world?  what can you do to live in the power of Christ and be transformed that your world might be transformed?


peace and power [sermon 4.26.09]

Peace and Power

            I looked at the text today and two words stuck out: Peace and power.  If you like points to follow get ready because I only have one:  the Peace of Christ is Power.  The Peace of Christ is Power for those who believe.  In reflecting on these words, my first thought was that they are opposites.  So I created a research team out of my high school Sunday school class to see if my observation was correct.  We formed two groups to write all adjectives, images, people, etc. they associated with their group’s word.  Here’s a sample of some of their findings.

            You can see there are exact opposites represented in these lists.  What I found is that for some reason in our culture we associate peace with weakness.  It’s unfortunate, but we need to be aware that when we talk about turning the other cheek, admitting our weaknesses, confessing our sins, we might be perceived as weak.  Some people consider faith a crutch.  Some say faith itself is for weak-minded people.  Turning the other cheek, admitting your faults, that’s weak.

            Let’s look at how peace is used in our text.  Jesus’ followers are in a room; it’s possible they are hiding; it’s probable that they are scared, depressed, angry, confused.  The Messiah, or at least he One they hoped was the Messiah, the one who they left everything to follow, has just been killed.  The ride is over and it was too short.  The excitement; the anticipation; the thrill of it all is done.

            But some say he is alive.  Some say they’ve seen him!  The tomb is empty.  Then news comes that others have seen Jesus.  Peter has seen him.  The two on the road to Emmaus have seen him.  Could it be?  Is Jesus really risen?  As they are discussing these things Jesus appears.  “Peace be with you.”  What!  Is that all you have to say for yourself?  “Peace.”  I’ve always pictured Jesus saying something more like, “Yeah, that’s right!  Who defeated death?  Take that!”  Then the party would start, right?  Instead, he says, “Peace be with you.”  And instead of a party breaking out, the text says that the whole group thought they saw a ghost and became terrified.  Even though Jesus told them he was going to do this, they never really expected a real bodily resurrection – a flesh and blood resurrection.  This is a new thing!   When God raised Christ from the dead, the whole game has changed.  The resurrection is peace and power.  Ephesians 2:14 says, “He himself is our peace, who has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  With the resurrection, God’s power breaks into the world, busts in and a new day begins.  Now there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.  Jesus’ sacrifice, his willingness to suffer and complete the task for us and for the salvation of the world, brings peace.  But that peace is power.

What can we say about Jesus’ offer of peace?  Why is his peace powerful?  Look at Jesus’ next move.  He allows them to touch his wounds.  Jesus offers a peace that is tangible.  “Here, touch my hands and my feet.  Go ahead, see that I’m real.  The peace I give you is real.”  The peace of Christ isn’t fluffy clouds; it isn’t a feeling or emotion; it is for real.  The early church practiced the passing of the peace.  In his letters, Paul instructed people to “greet one another with a holy kiss.”  To kiss someone you need to be right with that person.  You don’t kiss your enemies.  Today we more often give holy handshakes or something like that, but do you seek to make peace?

I recently read a reflection on this text that suggested when we offer the peace of Christ we imitate Jesus.  Jesus offers his peace, recognizes the situation of doubt, fear, and disbelief, and immediately allows them to touch him and see that he was broken for them.  He doesn’t cover up his wounds.  He allows them to see that he is real, and he is present.  What if we did the same?  What if, in passing the peace, we showed people that we are present for them?  What if we were willing to show our wounds to one another and accept the peace of Christ that has the ability to heal our wounds?  Financial troubles, family troubles, sin, brokenness, self-doubt, emotional distress, disease, addictions.  Christ offers us a peace that is real – a peace that overcomes the world – a peace that overcomes our sin and broken relationships – Christ’s peace is power because Christ’s peace heals.  Christ’s peace restores our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.  Christ’s peace is tangible, real, and it is power.  The peace of Christ – Christ’s presence; his sacrifice; the showing of his wounds – helps the disciples move out of their despair.  He moves them and gives them a new task.  Sometimes that’s what we need when we’re in a tough place.  What else, but Christ’s peace, can help us move beyond the pain and troubles of our world?  When loved one’s die; when people we love make bad choices; when finances get crazy; when nothing makes sense, when injustice goes unchallenged, allow the peace of Christ to wash over you because the peace of Christ is power for those who believe.  How does peace move to power?  What is the new task?

How many of you want a faith that is more than a feeling; a faith that moves and transforms lives; a faith like dynamite?  The Greek word for power is “dunamis.”  Sound familiar?  Dynamite.  When Jesus says, “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high,” I get excited.  Jesus says, “You are my witnesses.  Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power.”  The new task is to be Christ’s witnesses to the world; to be witnesses that proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The image of the Holy Spirit coming on these people, clothing them in power is unbelievable.  The peace of Christ is power.  And we know that they believed it and it happened.  So when the Holy Spirit came and clothed them with power, the disciples couldn’t stop talking about Jesus.  They aren’t content with a faith that only looks to the life to come - to a heavenly home - they want to change the world now.  According to Acts 2, the immediate result of this power in action was that there were people being saved daily.

Then in Acts 3, Peter and John are walking into the temple and they see a crippled man begging at the gate.  This guy had been this way since birth.  Peter looks intently at the guy and says, “Look at us.”  Now that he has his attention, he says, “I don’t have money, but I’ll give you what I have.  In the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk.”  Bam!  The man is healed.  That’s power.  Of course the Pharisees don’t like this display, so they haul Peter and John in.  Look at what they ask them in Acts 4:7, “By what POWER or what name did you do this?”  They recognize that there is a power at work here, but where did it come from? 

Have you ever been asked that question?  “By what power or what name did you do this?”  I’ll be honest, I haven’t been asked that question.  I don’t generally do things that elicit that question being asked.  “Why not?,” I asked myself.  Do you believe the same power available to Peter is available to you and me?  I believe that God is still at work and still active today.  Do you rely on, and call on, the power of God living in you? 

 I was reading Ephesians and I came across some verses in chapter one, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  Now listen as he describes this incomparable power available.  He says, “That power is the same as the mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”  The power that raised Christ from the dead is available to us.  We are clothed with the incomparable power of God.  We wear the power of God!

I came across another that spoke of God’s power that shook me.  Go with me to 2 Timothy 3:1-5…Read.  Listen to that phrase in verse 5 again, “having a form of godliness but denying its power.”  Is that not a message for us today?  If I allow myself to be honest, that’s how I feel most of the time.  I became really good at this from an early age.  Allow me to explain.  In 8th grade, I was taught and told that being a Christian wasn’t cool; rather, swearing was cool and talking about what you did with girls or at parties was cool.  I learned that and quickly adapted to my environment, and I still fall into this trap at times.  I still find myself trying to be someone I’m not at the baseball or football field.  I have to remind myself that I need to live differently, set a different example, behave as Christ would.  But sometimes it’s easier to blend in so we can “earn the trust” of others.  Sometimes I would rather blend in.  Putting yourself out there and talking openly about Jesus makes some uncomfortable.  But we need to get uncomfortable.

That seemed to be the theme of the men’s retreat this year.  We are too comfortable in our faith.  In the 1800s, Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “To proclaim Christianity is to make sacrifices, to be willing to suffer.  If there is such a one or if there are several such, then Christianity will once again begin to become power.”  But what does suffering and sacrifice look like for us?  The obvious is money, but what about our time?  What about safety?  We have built our lives around being safe and secure.  We avoid pain and suffering at all costs.  I was reading an article recently where the author questioned the prayer life of the church.  He says that Jesus specifically calls us to pray for enemies in his name, but “I’ve never heard a really good intercession for Osama bin Laden.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. knew the power of God.  He relied on the power of the peace of Christ to confront and topple an unjust system of racial oppression.  And for his efforts, he came to know sacrifice and suffering as well.  But what about us?  What about you and me?  What might happen?  What would we be called to sacrifice?  How might we be called to suffer?  To be completely honest, I’m a little scared to think about those questions, but I’m convinced that to see the power of God at work - to see the power the disciples called on in Acts – Christians must be willing to make sacrifices and be willing to suffer.  We must be willing to admit we need the power of God; we need God to be in control; we cannot do it on our own.  Our own power is temporary, fleeting, and will fail us.

Go back with me to our friend Kierkegaard for a minute.  Before we get too excited, and I hope you’re excited, he warns us of a trick the world likes to play.  He knew that a life of suffering and sacrifice isn’t an easy calling.  He warned that the world gets freaked out when the church gets powerful.  He writes, “The world has also taken care to protect itself so that Christianity does not through proclamation become a power, a power with the right to engage a person’s life, and therefore, this world requires the trustworthy guarantee that the proclaimer’s life turns the proclamation into shadowboxing.  The world wants to be deceived…”  Isn’t that true?  “The world has taken care to protect itself so that Christianity does not become a power, a power with the right to engage a person’s life.”  This is where I sometimes buy into the world’s trick.  I buy the lie that I don’t have the right to engage a person’s life.  I fear many of us have.  I’m pretty sure I don’t want to sacrifice anything and I know I don’t want to suffer.  Besides, tolerance is easier to sell than Truth.  My faith is turned into shadowboxing.  That’s a fascinating metaphor he uses.  There is no opponent.  We have eliminated the opponents not by bringing them into the kingdom, but by ignoring them.

For me, I convince myself that I’m just a coach.  I’m just supposed to do my job and make these kids better athletes.  In the end, I have a form of godliness – I know the right things to say and do – but often I deny the power of God living in me.  I rely on my own strength.  I have too much pride.  I’m selfish.  I might ruin a relationship.  The conversation might get awkward.  I don’t have the time, the energy, the right words.  If God wants this person to know him, he can make it happen.  Yes, I have godly desires, but I deny the power.  But I am called to be more than a baseball coach.  We are called to be witnesses to truth.  We are called to preach the gospel of peace with power.  Jesus gives us the task of being his witnesses, of imitating him.  We are called to live in and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.  In order for God’s power to become transformative in our world, we need to sacrifice and be willing to suffer.  You see, the world doesn’t care about our faith as long as we don’t live like it matters.  They would rather be deceived. 

What about you?  What would it take for you to see the power of God at work in the world?  One thing I’ve tried to do is pray, pray, and pray some more.  Ask God to reveal his power in and through me.  Another thing is to trust that God is putting people in my path for a reason.  We all have a sphere of influence.  We all have a “world” we can change.  What impact are you making on your “world”?  Are you trusting in God’s power?  Do you believe God will answer when you call on Him?  We claim allegiance to a Lord who plays by different rules.  Our Lord is willing to lay down his life.  Our Lord speaks truth because he is The Truth.  Our Lord touches the untouchables and sits down for dinner with sinners.  Our Lord searches and seeks that which is lost.  Our Lord is the Great Physician, the Prince of Peace, the Provider, the Author of Life, and the Creator.  Our Lord is powerful.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked.  God placed all things under his feet, and we have the awesome privilege of calling on that name.  Let’s do it more often and see what happens!

We are witnesses.  We are called to proclaim the good news of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation between God and humanity.  We are called to shout to the ends of the earth that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, representatives of Christ to a world in great need of the powerful peace of Christ.  May you be clothed with the power of Christ.  May you come to know and experience the peace of Christ as it reigns in you.  May the Holy Spirit empower you to transform your world through Christ’s message of peace and forgiveness.  Amen.  


the youth at worship

we've been experimenting with worship at our weekly youth group meetings, and i've been very encouraged.  i hope the students have too!  we started with an Ash Wed service which i posted about, and have since help an baptismal affirmation service and a Taize Communion service.

when challenged; when given the opportunity; when trusted...

students respond.

can Junior Highers sing Taize songs seriously?  can they focus for 30 minutes?
YES they can!

tonight was special for me.  i long for moments when young people can be freed to worship, encouraged to express their faith, and opened to new expressions of Christian worship.  my hope is that Sunday mornings can be the same; that on Sunday mornings they would feel truly included and engaged in the larger church.  they are, after all, part of the church right NOW.

praise God for our students and for His work in their lives.  


enough is enough

reflecting on the current "economic crisis."

it seems that there is a big concern for placing blame on someone.  during the election both parties said it was the fault of the other.  not enough regulation.  not enough support for the administration.  not enough of this, not enough of that.  enough already.

is it the banks' fault?  is it the governments' fault?  is it the greedy CEO's fault?  is it my fault?  is it your fault?  what if we quit pointing fingers and admitted our complicity in this mess.  we're all at fault.  we're all living on money we don't actually have.  all of us.

it brings me back to the concept of ENOUGH.  when do we have enough?  when will we be satisfied?  when?

can The Church speak to this, please?  can we share?  can we practice hospitality in radical ways?  does every Christian need their own lawn mower; their own plasma screen; their own copy of every popular Christian book published; their own espresso machine; even their own cars?  why?  why can't we, those who were taught to love our neighbor and love one another, figure out how to share?

what resources might be freed up if we shared?  what sort of radical community might develop if we shared our resources more freely?  if we all had to actually watch TV together, borrow each other's cars, law mowers, etc.  try it.  i dare you!


haze - teen drinking

what can i say.  i watched this short documentary [30 minutes] and was outraged.  i thought of all the stupid parties i went to in college and high school.  i can honestly say that this sort of story doesn't surprise me.  that's really sad.  that's really hard for me to admit.  it's hard for me to admit that i've been around people that were harming themselves with alcohol while the rest of us stood around like it was a show.

this is serious stuff.  this is real life.  if you think this doesn't or won't impact students you know, please think again.  binge drinking is a reality on most college campuses.  yes, even Christian colleges.  binge drinking is a reality in many high schools.  yes, even Christian schools.  
are we willing to talk about it?  are we willing to acknowledge the problem?  will we have frank, honest conversations with young people?  are we willing to admit our own short-comings, or will we chalk it up to "kids being kids"?

watch the film....weep.  get frustrated.  think.  educate.  tell someone.  have a tough conversation.  peace.

h/t http://rethinkingyouth.blogspot.com


ash wednesday

we had a wonderful ash wednesday service last night with our students.  i was moved and impressed with how focused they were.  maybe they fooled me and they were just texting in silence the whole time, but i was honestly moved.  it's pretty deep and amazingly moving to look someone in the eyes and tell them, "remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.  repent and believe the Gospel."

remember you are dust.
you are dust.

the reality of death is gripping.  we live in a culture that fears death and tries to defeat death.  little does our culture know, death has been swallowed up.  where, o death, is your sting?


the Blue Parakeet II

what's the purpose of the Bible?  what is the overall theme of the Bible?  is there one?

i like how one of the pastors i work with says it: "the Bible is the story of God's relentless pursuit of us."  how true!

in the Blue Parakeet, McKnight talks about the Story in 5 parts [and no, he's not crazy exclusive about this!].
1) Oneness - creation
2) Otherness - sin
3) Otherness expands - sin expands!
4) One in Christ - redemption
5) Perfectly One - consummation

there is a Story in the Bible, and sometimes we forget that it is a BIG story.  the Bible isn't about grabbing a verse here and there to make ourselves feel better on a particular day.  the Bible isn't focused on making us feel good.  the Bible is about us locating ourselves in the Story.  it's about helping us come into contact with the God who pursues us.

McKnight says, "God's idea of redemption is community-shaped."

is our idea of redemption and, therefore, our reading of the Bible too narrow?  have we made it all about us?  we have a scary tendency to do just that - to make everything about us.  let me tell you, in working with students and in my own life, the desire to make everything about me is there.  but the Bible is about the Story; it's about the BIG picture.

the question remains, how do YOU and I fit in?


the Blue Parakeet

great read. Scot McKnight's, the Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible.

"God did not give the Bible so we could master him or it; God gave the Bible so we could live it, so we could be mastered by it. The moment we think we've mastered it; we have failed to be readersof the Bible..."

amen! are we honest in how we approach the Bible and what baggage we bring? are we honest about our "picking and choosing"?

how can we develp a consistent hermeneutic? do we read to master the text or be mastered by God's Word?


proverbs 14:31 NLT

"Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, 
but those who help the poor honor him."

really?  well.  it's in the Bible.  must be true!  what a thought!  the way we treat the poor, or those in need, is a direct reflection on how we relate to God.

in fact, those who oppress the poor INSULT God.  those who help the poor HONOR God.

can it be any easier than that?  it's plain.  in the relationships between God and neighbor, how we relate to our neighbor is a direct reflection on how we really feel about God.  and this is why Paul is able to say that fulfilling the command to love our neighbors as ourselves fulfills all the commands of the Law and the prophets.

loving your neighbor = loving God and vice versa...


why do we fight? why do we wage war?

next post.  same book.  everlasting man, G.K. Chesterton...

why do we fight?  we do we wage war?  what's in it for the soldiers?  a good question.  something i've asked myself before.  what causes men/women to go to war?  why risk their lives?  pride.  bravery.  defense.  what causes people to take up arms and kill others?

G.K. writes,
"In nothing is this new history needed os much as in the psychology of war.  Our history is stiff with official documents, public or private, which tell us nothing of the thing itself.  At the worst we only have the official posters, which could not have been spontaneous because they were official.  At the best we have only the secret diplomacy, which could not have been popular precisely because it was secret.  Upon one or other of these is based the historical judgment about the real reasons that sustained the struggle.  Governments fight for colonies or commercial rights; governments fight about harbours or high tariffs; governments fight for a gold mine or a pearl fishery.  It seems sufficient to answer that governments do not fight at all.  Why do the fighters fight?  What is the psychology that sustains the terrible and wonderful thing called war?"

later he says, "It is always stubbornly and stupidly repeating that men fight for material ends, without reflecting for a moment that the material ends are hardly ever material to the men who fight."

in war...who wins?  how is the winner decided?  are the winners content, happy, satisfied?  were the sacrifices and losses incurred worth it?  how do we decide the worth of human life?

in the last election there was a great deal of argument, usually hostile and irrational, about abortion.  now, abortion is never good.  it is never right.  it is always bad, horrible, evil, murder, etc.  however, when i brought up to people that war and guns kill people as well, they said i was crazy.  in fact, they rationalized, God sometimes wants us to go to war.  sometimes war is necessary.  so, therefore, sometimes the loss of human life is necessary.  hmmmmm....

who gets to decide?  why do we fight?  why do we kill?

G.K. is right.  we need to look at the psychology of war.  especially in times like these.  in times where more and more men and women are returning from war with minds that are beaten.  with spirits that are tired and tortured.  what will we do?  thank them, then forget about them?

why do we fight?


the everlasting man

reading, the everlasting man, by G.K. Chesterton.  the book is, some believe, a direct response to H.G. Wells', outline of history.  Chesterton's writing and polemic is almost hilarious!  it's refreshing.  he says things that make you go, "yeah, i guess he's right!"  he makes you think, and anymore, that's a really great thing.  we need to think!

here's some inspiration.  for free.  be inspired.  but please, do something with this inspiration.  [inspiration that doesn't inspire one to actually do something is pretty much worthless]

Chesterton is talking about "comparative religions," and he basically says:  "you can't compare religions.  it's not a level playing field."  that's what i love about G.K.  he just says what he thinks.  he doesn't deny or gloss over the Truth.  maybe not the greatest evangelism tool, but it's got my attention.  in his look at world religions, Chesterton notices that almost all religions have an idea of a Supreme god who is in charge of the other gods.  every religion has the one god who is over the other gods.  he is also refuting popular theories of evolution where, he rightfully argues, everyone becomes a god.

Chesterton writes, "In short, there is a feeling that there is something higher than the gods; but because it is higher it is also further away...For them what was truly divine was very distant, so distant that they dismissed it more and more from their minds...As the Jews would not degrade it by images, so the Greeks did not degrade it even by imaginations.  When the gods were more and more remembered only by pranks and profligacies, it was relatively a movement of reverence.  It was an act of piety to forget God."

"it was an act of piety to forget God."

the big, supreme being, became so scary, other, holy, that it was too much to think about or talk about.  this being was unreachable.  so it was an act of piety to forget God.  

unfortunately, we do this today.  dealing with God means dealing with sin.  it means we have to deal with God's holiness.  in the end, we come out like Isaiah, "i am unclean and i live among a people who are unclean.  i'm not worthy."

let us confess.  let us turn to the God that reaches down to us even when we ignore him or believe he is far off.  and, let us be sure that he will bend down and listen.  thanks G.K.!



back from the annual high school retreat at Cascades Camp.
i love retreats.  i love retreat-ing.  getting away from the junk that clutters my life; the distractions; the stress.

it seems like every time i go on a retreat or go to camp, i'm reminded of my call.  i'm reminded of why i work with youth.

if i'm honest, there are days i wonder, "why am i doing this?"  those days where i'm at church until 10 pm.  those nights, weekends, weeks away from family.  the pain of watching kids make bad choices.  the feelings of inadequacy...

that's what makes my camp experiences so meaningful.  camp reminds me of why i work with youth.  camp re-energizes me.  at camp, God reminds me of the call on my life to serve youth.
God reminds me to be attentive;
to listen to the stories of students;
to let loose and have fun [be vulnerable];
to worship;
to give thanks for creation;
to be joyful instead of cynical.

for me, God shows up when i'm retreat-ing.  God shows up when i'm out of my element.  

what about you?  when does God show up for you?  what are the places in life where you go to unwind and be renewed?


romans 7

i've been off and on this "read the bible in a year" program of sorts since last May [i think]...

today's readings [i'm a week behind] were from Romans 6 and 7.  i can't get over Paul's honesty.  Paul, the know-it-all, Pharisee of Pharisees, admits he does what he doesn't want to do.  it's these sorts of honest reflections on the human condition that make the bible more real for me.  Paul admits that there are things he wants to do but doesn't and things he does do but doesn't.  Paul is imperfect.  Paul is like me.  Paul is human.  


Paul also recognizes God's kindness.  Paul recognizes that God is the instigator of the reconciliation.  in the New Living Translation which i've been reading the translation says that we were enemies of God, but now God calls us friends because of the reconciliation made through Jesus Christ.

do you want to be God's friend?  do you want to be in relationship with the Creator of all that is?  it is available.  God is available.  Christ came to point us toward God and reveal God's grace and kindness.


prayer in the new year

why is it that though i believe in prayer, i pray so infrequently?
why is it that though i believe in prayer, i teach and lead others in prayer so infrequently?

i believe prayer changes things.  i believe God cares.  yet i neglect to pray.  why?

i began thinking what i was taught about prayer as a kid.  from a young age i learned that prayer was private, or something an adult did out loud for a meal or in church.  in these cases, the prayer must use lofty words and be sure to say the right things, be a professional pray-er.  every night i would go to bed and say a prayer.  at the beginning of the week i would say my prayer asking God to protect my family from robbers, tornadoes, etc.  then each night after that i would simply say, "God, i pray the same prayer i prayed last night."  i kid you not.  i figured that if i at least said the full prayer once a week God would honor my requests.

in high school and college i learned about "popcorn" prayer where pray-ers say "just" a whole lot and usually repeat some sort of title for God such as "Father God" or "Lord Jesus" a thousand times in the course of a prayer.  does anyone really know the actual definition of the word "just" anymore?  

then there was seminary.  i learned about lectio divina and praying the Psalms.  someone even said it was okay to be contemplative and imaginative in prayer.  people talked about reading the Bible and praying what you read; the idea that God might actually speak to us through Scripture.  i learned that praying in church could be participatory.

why did it take seminary for me to learn these practices?  well, for the same reason my youth group students don't know these things.  people like me don't tell them!  sad.  but true.

i've been reading a book by Mark Yaconelli, Downtime:  Helping Teenagers Pray.  i see that theoblog looked at this book some time ago....i love the suggestion of encouraging teens to be imaginative.  use your imagination.  be present with God.  talk to God.  imagine that God is actually doing something about your prayer.  imagine that God might actually speak to you.  i think i knew and believed all these things, but it sure would have been nice to have someone help me experience and express these types of prayers.  

now the task it to incorporate these ideas into ministry.  that's where the New Year comes in.  i am challenging myself to pray for students and encourage and equip them to make prayer a bigger part of their lives.  otherwise, i guess i just keep praying the same prayer i prayed yesterday...good enough, right?