Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Love Hugs

This video reminded me of how much our family is a "hugging" family....and how much I love that! One of the things that my daughter Kate noticed when she went to college was how much she missed getting hugs from Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother - and I missed her hugs as well.

To be embraced by someone that loves you unconditionally - it doesn't get much better than that.

May you feel Jesus' embrace this day and know that His embrace lasts forever.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pass the mashed potatos

You can now have "family dinners" via video-link! (Read about it here.)

At first I was put off by this....but as I ponder it I'm intrigued. I know that I treasure the times that our family is all gathered around the table, sharing a meal, and sharing stories. The biggest downside I see is that no one could pass the food "virtually" least not yet....and that would leave me to my own cooking!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Have yourself....

a very merry Christmas! (And thanks for stopping by!)

If you'd like a couple of great "deeper" thoughts for this day.....go here.

God has wrapped himself in human cool is that?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let Loose - Remix

The following is a post from last December - but it has been on my mind once again and so I am "re-blogging" part of it here.

On one of my fave blog sites here there was a discussion about what word you would choose to meditate on for Christmas......after pondering this I chose the word(s) "let loose". I was reading "The Message" translation of the story of the birth of Jesus and in describing the shepherds in Luke 2:20 it says,"The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. "Those words "let loose" have been rolling around in my head ever since with thoughts such as:

God let loose his Son on earth.

I should let loose of things that keep my focus off of Jesus
when was the last time I really let loose in praise and glorifying God.

Jesus let loose of his life and died for me.

The list goes on....

God satisfies - I need to let loose and let Him all the way in so that I can truly grow and become who He wants me to be. That is my prayer this day.....that this Christmas, as I remember Jesus' birth, that I can let loose of those things holding me back from being "birthed" into the man God wants me to be.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"A Worship Service That's Not Inn"

That was the title of "the lesson" this past Sunday for SMYG (our name for Sunday School at our church - Sunday Morning Youth Gathering). We adapted a worship service from "The book of Uncommon Prayer" by Steve Case - a fabulous resource by the way - that has the kids go outside for a worship experience after they discover there is no room at the Inn.

We had a great time with this - all of our leaders wore name badges as employee's of the "Bethlehem Inn". The leaders played their roles up pretty well. We had locked the youth room up and set up a hotel front outside the door. The innkeeper took names on a waiting list and directed the kids upstairs to the shuttle waiting area. Of course, the shuttle driver called and the shuttle was broken we walked. (Being in MN we were blessed with a perfect day - mid 20's, light wind, sunny and no snow on the ground!) As we were walking one of the kids even said, "The sun is sure bright!" and that of course led to comments about following a bright star!

Our "journey" eventually led us to an area set up outside between a few trees. I had put up two big blue tarps to frame the area. We had a manger and some candles. Once we gathered we had a very cool worship service that included group prayer, an advent celebration, a responsive prayer, bible readings, and then a re-telling of the Christmas story using 4 of Max Lucado's writings.

Then we closed by singing Mercy Me's version of Silent Night.

It was great - to be outside, trying to relate to what it was like for Mary/Joseph when they were turned away from the Inn. The journey they were on and that continued on from there. To ponder what is must have been like to be entrusted with protecting, nurturing, and letting go of God's son.

It was a great way to start the day!

Friday, December 15, 2006

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Yup. It was going to be a fine morning. No meetings. Nothing big on the schedule. Good quiet time to think through and prepare the message for our Sunday Morning Youth Gathering (SMYG). And then Alexey says, "Dad, the Christmas tree fell down."

I walked into the "Christmas Tree Room" and saw this.
Of course when I shared this story with Kimpa she had to ask the question: "Did you know it was going to fall down?"
Well...truth be told...over the past couple of days I would look at the tree and think: "Is it leaning a little to the left?'s just the way the branches look. I'm sure it's fine. It must be my imagination."
Obviously, it wasn't my imagination. *sigh*

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I've just been diagnosed with diabetes.

This creates some interesting ponderings when put into the context of the conversation I had with God about my needing to "Clear The Temple" about a year ago. Maybe if I had followed His leadings back then I could have avoided this diagnosis now.

Anyway - I can only go forward from here. The good news is that I have been consistent with my exercising for the past 3 weeks (and Drew is still checking in with me!). The biggest challenge now will be diet. I've got some reading to do to figure out what the best "diabetic" diet is - what to avoid (sugar/starches?) and what to lean more toward. Luckily, I'm not a huge fan of sweets.

I'm already noticing that my mind is craving some things I shouldn't eat - I think simply because I know I shouldn't eat them, not because it is a food I absolutely adore. I find this interesting as well. Why is it that when we are given so much abundance in our choices we focus on the ones that come with the words "anything but that." Maybe this is how Adam/Eve felt (fell?) in the garden.

So some lifestyle changes are required. Diet and exercise. And maybe better listening skills and follow through when God nudges me.

Of course I'm off to breakfast with friends going to the Original Pancake House this morning! Here is a picture of their famous apple pancake. Lord, give me strength...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Listening in....

Bits and pieces of conversations i hear around me as I hang out at Bruegger's Bagels....

"I need help!"

"I smelled great!"

"Would you say that is a flat trend, diminishing trend, or something else?"

"The next day they had lights on their porches, too."

"Can I stall?"

"She is so crabby right now. It is hard being around negative get sucked down."

Hmmm. Makes me wonder what God thinks as he listens in on my conversations during the day. The good/bad news is that He hears the whole thing in context - both comforting and scary at the same time!

Regardless - I'm glad He cares enough to listen.....and to speak.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Christmas Story

During our weekly small group gathering at our home, we took some time to share our fave childhood Christmas stories. Here's mine.

When I was a kid, our Christmas Eve tradition was to go for a drive and look for Rudolph. Mom, Dad, myself and my two brothers would all pile in the car and drive aimlessly around looking for Rudolph's red nose up in the air. Of course, we spotted him numerous times - my parents seemed to have an especially keen eye for spotting Rudoph. There would be screams of "I see him!" "There he is!" "He must be getting close to our house!" Since Rudoph was obviously cruising the neighborhood we were very excited then to return home and see if Santa had visited yet. Of course, before leaving on our adventure in the car we had left cookies and milk out for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. Magically, every Christmas Eve, when we returned home from our drive there would be presents under the tree, the milk and cookies would be partially eaten, and a few good nibbles were gone from the carrot!

Well, the brothers and I got tired of always missing Santa so we convinced our parents that we should stay home on Christmas Eve and wait for Santa to arrive. So on Christmas eve, as we were sitting around the dinner table we suddenly heard the sound of reindoor hooves and bells jingling!! My dad says, "Quick, let's go outside and see Santa and his reindeer - they must have just landed!" We go sprinting outside and look up to see......nothing! My Dad yells - "We must have just missed him, I bet he's in the house!" We all go tearing back into the house and my mom is there waiting exclaiming, "Ahh, you just missed him!"

And there were the presents - under the tree!

In a child's mind - it was magical. And was probably the reason I believed in Santa until I was....well....let's just say I hung on for awhile!

Good times.

(For those of you wondering - my dad had rigged a rope that went up through the chimney and attached to some old boots and jingle bells. When my mom had gotten up to get "something from the kitchen" during dinner she yanked it.....and the rest as they history!)

If you love penguins....

you might want to skip this game.

Otherwise, my best was 320.5. What's yours?

Warning: This game is addictive and a TOTAL waste of time. Sort of like 24.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Do you have "the word"?

We were traveling in the car somewhere, my family of five and I, along with Alexey's best friend Peter. I'm driving and most likely pondering the to-do list for the next youth event at church (or NOT!) when from the back seat my son Alexey calls to me, "Hey, Dad!" Being the good dad that I am I respond with, "What?" And with that comes hysterical laughter from two 8 y.o. boys along with screams of "You've got the word!"

"THE WORD" Have you ever played the "You've got the word!" game? The object, at least in the example above, is to get someone in your vicinity to say the word "what" - thus subjecting them to laughter and embarrassment until they can make someone else say the word and thus alleviating this almost unbearable burden of being stuck with "the word".

Did I mention that I hate the word game?

I was thinking about "the word game" as I was teaching last Sunday.

We were looking at the story of Joseph and Mary's encounter with Simeon and Anna at the temple. I was focusing on how all of them had gotten "a word" from God. We talked about the story a bit and then we talked about the words associated with Advent - Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. We spent some time pondering what each word might mean for us this season. Then we had a time of prayer - lighting the Advent candle and then listening for what "word" God wanted each of us to hear during this season of advent - Hope, Peace, Joy, or Love. I had made some cards with each word on it, a scripture verse and then a prayer that turned that verse into a prayer back to God and encouraged the kids to personalize it as much as possible as they prayed back to God, a prayer based on the word they felt they were being led to.

Maybe there is a word I need to be "stuck" with this season.

Maybe, if I listen a little closer, I will hear God saying, "Hey, Dave!" And I will respond.

Of course, God is hoping we all get stuck with "the word".

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 14

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The loss of "childlike" faith

Here is an interesting article about how "Tweens are becoming the new Teens". Not earth shattering and certainly something most people working with kids have noted, myself included.
But as I've been pondering what it means to have a childlike faith, this article struck me from a theological perspective....which is rare for me - I'm not a big theological type thinker.

The reasons stated in the article for changes both physical, emotional, and behavioral were related to diet, obesity, and exposure to more "adult" themes at earlier ages - mainly through media. Yeah, I can see that.

But then I think of the many times Jesus spoke of children and faith:

At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Mt 11:25-26

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." Mt 18:3-5

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Mt 19:14

It makes we wonder if one of the reasons "tweens are becoming the new teens" is that they are being exposed to sin at an earlier age than ever before. And as their eyes, ears, brains, senses are "marinated" in culture - they are losing not just their childhood sooner but their childlike faith - and how this must break Jesus' heart in some ways.

It also makes we wonder what my response should be as a "youth guy" - hoping to create an environment to allow childlike faith to blossom, occur, recur, or ???? in our gatherings and in the relationships we strive to form with and among the kids we are entrusted with.

It brings up a lot of other questions in my mind as well. But those I'll ponder in my heart for a while longer before (if?) I share them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Lap, Dance, Grumpy

Yeah, maybe that title is a cheap way to get your attention....but it worked didn't it? Stay with me....I might pull it together! (But grab a cup of java first....this is a long one!)

I've been stuck on the phrase "child-like faith" the past couple of days. It has been rolling around in my head. As I've been pondering that phrase and I've been watching how my son, Alexey (8 y.o.) explores the world, I've been struck by a couple of things.


Alexey naturally desires to spend "snuggle" time with mom/dad.

At night, when we put Alexey to bed, he loves it when I lay next to him (or sometimes on him!) and tell him a story, sing a "silly song", or read to him. I've decided it isn't so much about the story, song, or book as much as it is about having something that makes the "snuggle" time last longer. When I am putting Alexey to bed we'll snuggle and do a story/song, then I get up and get him a drink of water. That is usually when he says, "I wish Mom was putting me to bed. She will lay down with me after I drink my water." Alexey can't get enough snuggle time.

Alexey is also in the habit of seeking me out in the morning after he wakes up (he usually finds me typing random thoughts on the computer!) and will ask, "Can we sit on the couch?" And we will go and I will hold him on my lap and we'll just sit....Alexey resting on my lap and snuggling in. Not saying a lot. Just enjoying each other's presence.

As he is getting older these times of snuggling and sitting on my lap are gradually decreasing. Some would say this is "natural". Yeah, maybe. Maybe the natural way of the world. But is it right?

The sad part is, as I reflect on this, the decrease in time spent "resting together" is not because of changes in Alexey's wants/needs as much as it is about changes in me. Being too stressed out and/or busy - worrying more about getting Alexey to bed so I can finish watching a TV show, or read a book, or prepare for youth group - than honoring his desire for "snuggling" - resting with me. Same thing in the mornings. More and more often I'm busy on the computer, doing some laundry, writing my list of things to get done for the day - instead of welcoming Alexey onto my lap to just sit and rest in each other's presence.

Am I training my son to lose this desire to spend time with his Father? Was I trained that way?
Is that why I struggle with spending time with God? Is that why it so often seems to be a discipline rather than a desire? Am I trying to reclaim a desire that was trained out of me? I don't want to be the one that takes away my son's childlike faith. I want to be the one that nurtures it. I want him to always have the desire to rest in his Father's presence - to rest with God, enjoying each other's presence.

For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me. Matthew 18:2-5


A couple of days ago, Alexey was dancing around the living room (which he is prone to do!) as he listened to a Mercy Me CD. He was jumping, moving, twisting with his hands in the air. As he was dancing he started to take off his shirt. When I asked him what he was doing he said, "I was going to take off my shirt and then jump into the crowd! That's what rock stars do!" Complete, childlike abandon. How cool. How unlike myself - me wondering if people are staring as I raise my hands in praise - and definitely not thinking that my clothes are getting in the way of worship - but maybe they are? Hmmm.......

Our family is going to the Michael W. Smith Christmas concert this weekend and as Alexey and I were talking about it he said, "Michael W. Smith won't be taking off his shirt and jumping into the crowd." Wow. Somehow, he has already "framed" his thoughts about how to "behave" during various concerts. Why don't I praise with the abandon that is demonstrated by kids/youth as a rock concert? What am I training my child up to learn? Am I nurturing his spiritual growth or stifling it? Lord, I need your help.

When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, "Hosanna to David's Son!" they were up in arms and took him to task. "Do you hear what these children are saying?"
Jesus said, "Yes, I hear them. And haven't you read in God's Word, 'From the mouths of children and babies I'll furnish a place of praise'?" Matthew 21:15-16


The other night I was exuding all of the bad characteristics that I just mentioned. Now, I don't get grumpy often (my wife claims I only lose it about 4 times a year!) - but the other night everything was bugging me. I was feeling sorry for myself because the house was a mess and I didn't think the family was helping enough to pick stuff up. Alexey was irritating me because he kept randomly breaking out into song/dance while we were playing a game. It was a great pity party. And of course, my mood ended up making everyone uncomfortable. It was horrible. And it was my fault. I couldn't get to the place wher I could enjoy playing a game with my family, watching my child dance and sing just for fun, because I was focused on myself. I was about as far from a child-like faith as I could get. Shame on me. God forgive me - and I hope my family does as well.
People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. "Let these children alone. Don't get between them and me. These children are the kingdom's pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Luke 18:15-17

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Helping me clear the temple - thanks, Drew!

I used to love running. I think I liked the mental aspect of it more than the physical. I'm generally a pretty laid back guy......but back in H.S. I used to try to destroy other runners on the track.
Now I'm old.
Running doesn't have much appeal anymore.
But I'm also gaining girth. That doesn't have much appeal to me either.
It was some time ago (like a few months) when I was "pondering" the various passages where Jesus clears the temple. At that time I felt God nudging me to start clearing the temple he has given me to live body. Clearing it of not just evil desires and thoughts - but of how badly I treat it.
That thought recently returned to me again - sort of like "HELLO, didn't you hear me the first time. I'm not kidding about this! Clear the temple!"
So I've started running.
But to keep doing it I'm going to need an accountability partner. So I've asked my son Drew to ask me every day if I ran or not.
I didn't think he actually would....but he has been. And it has made me keep on track so far. (Okay, I'm only into my first week but I've run twice so far and that has been because Drew has asked me if I have.)
And a child will lead them.....
Thanks Drew. I appreciate it more than you know. And I know you read this sometimes so as long as I'm being mushy and all....I love you!

Now how about that Bears / Vikings game this weekend. Go Bears! (Does anybody have a QB we can borrow?)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nose Hair Trimmers

Is it a bad sign that, not only do I own a nose hair trimmer, but that I had to change the battery in it today? Man, am I old.....

I'm a blog idiot!

Okay, I just "converted" my blog to the new "beta" format. Not even sure what that means but since it is new it has to be better, right?

In the process, I saw that I had "21 unmoderated" comments. What?! Comments?

I didn't realize that I had to "moderate" the comments. Didn't even know I had some. Nice to see - but I'm sure those that did comment are wondering what was so objectionable in their comments that they weren't published! Ummm....nothing - clearly operator error!

I'm a blog idiot - welcome to my world!

(And thanks to all of those that did comment! I appreciate it!) *sigh*

Where I've been....

I had the one person who reads my blog ask me if I was ever going to update it again! While it has been nice not putting pressure on myself to put my thoughts here....I have also missed it. So I'm jumping back in. Here is where I've been the last couple of months....

  • Hangin' with our fabulous youth at Lake Beauty for the "Revolutionary Rabbi Encounter '06"
  • Taking 15 or so eight y.o.'s to Sever's Corn Maze for Alexey's Birthday party
  • Relishing time with my daughter Katie as she came home for a week before returning to CO to work at the 4UR Ranch until Christmas
  • Having a "coffee date" with my wife to discuss what charities to support and just to gaze into each others eyes for awhile
  • Watching my daughter Kelsey and the EP soccer team play for the State Championship
  • Watching the EP Band in competition at the Metrodome
  • Celebrating my good friend Lois' 40th Birthday
  • Attending my son Drew's band c0ncert
  • Taking a group of 7 youth leaders to a training event at Bethel University
  • Taking the big Thanksgiving tour to see family - 6 hours in a plane, 14 hours in a car, 3 states, 3 family visits, 4 homes all in just 6 days! (It was fabulous...really...I'm not kidding!)

Lots of places. Lots of relationship building. Lots of fun.

Life is good.....and God runs through it!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ya gotta love Minnesota!

It's October 11th.

Just 2 days until we leave for our Sr. High Fall Retreat (now renamed "Revolutionary Rabbi Encounter - Fall '06).

Lots of outdoor activities are planned. High ropes activities, bonfires, ultimate, evening worship around a campfire.

Of course it's snowing today with a high temp around 38 degrees.

Ya gotta love Minnesota!

(Or maybe it's God reminding me that He is in control - regardless of MY plan!)

Friday, October 06, 2006

"What you win them with is what you win them to"

The above quote is from Greg Fess on his blog which you can find here. Stop reading this and go there and read his post about youth ministry. Go now....I'll wait.

I stumbled upon Greg's thoughts from Marko's post asking the question - "What will youth ministry look like in 50 years?" (You should also go to Marko's post and follow the links to the other writers. It is some amazing stuff. Convicting and encouraging thoughts. I love that!)

Anyway - I love that quote - "What you win them with is what you win them to!"

It has been especially striking for me this week. I have had some conversations with our students as well as some parents about concerns they have about our Jr. High gathering - various things from not enough game/fun time to not connecting with the leaders and/or not feeling like they are growing. I've also had students and parents share the opposite - excited that their students feel like they can invite friends, excited about what they are experiencing and learning, making it a priority in their week.

As a ministry team we try to make all of our gatherings contain these three characteristic (there are many more but these are our top three right now) - Christ-centered, passionate, relational.

Because there isn't a "typical" teenager I don't imagine we will ever find a mix that engages all the kids every week. That is why our ministry has to look beyond our programs. It isn't about our programs -it is about finding ways to engage kids with maturing adults to help them grow in their relationship with Christ so that when all of the games, messages, worship, small groups, mission trips, lock-ins and their time in our youth ministry is over - they have a faith that will last, persevere, and meet the challenges of their journey ahead. And we need to be a church that will embrace and nurture them - regardless of whether they show up on Wednesday, Sunday, after they graduate, after they have made a huge mistake, after, after, after....again, and again, and again.

As I think about the comments I have heard this week and I ponder our gatherings and the impact I hope they have it makes me wonder......what are we winning our students with...and therefore...what are we winning our students to?

I also remember that God is working through our imperfection. That ultimately His Spirit will be the force behind our student's faith....and we are a leaky, imperfect, dinged up conduit....and what a cool place that is for me to be - and there isn't anywhere else I'd rather be. Praise, God.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Kayaking - the perfect sport for introverts!

A few years ago my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday. For some reason my mouth said that I wanted a kayak! Of course, you can't really buy a kayak for someone else so I had some fun learning about and eventually buying a kayak.

It has been been way more fun than I ever could have imagined. It is the perfect "sport" for me. You see, I love to fish. I'm also an introvert at heart.

The best part about the kayak - it only has one seat!

Yep, when I'm kayaking I can only take me. Maybe that sounds selfish - but in a family of 6 and all the related schedules - being able to get away in the kayak and fish for a couple of hours is very restorative. Being out on the water, hangin' with God, catching the occasional fish - very nice.

Thanks, Kimpa, for letting me "splurge" on my birthday - and understanding me so well!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Diet Coke, Mentos, the Holy Spirit and kids

Okay, I know I'm behind the "cool" curve - maybe a lot behind. I just found out about the Diet Coke and mentos phenom. That when you drop a few mentos into a 2 liter of Diet Coke a pop geyser ensues. I love that. Of course, I had to work it into our SMYG lesson this Sunday!

I had already planned on taking the gathering outside. There aren't too many 75 degree days this time of year in MN! We are studying the book of Acts and the key verses were:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:5-8

As we talked about the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples I made the comparison of the kids being the Diet Coke and the Holy Spirit being the mentos - and when the Holy Spirit (mentos) dwells within them (Diet Coke) transformation and power occurs.

As we further talked about the Holy Spirit we all sat still, closed our eyes and felt for the wind outside. God provided a nice breeze - one that the kids noticed varied in speed, direction, and strength. Some noted that it seemed to surround them. Others noted that it provided comfort on this warm morning. We then talked about how that might relate to our understanding of the Holy Spirit - it was a great conversation.

Then we finished with a time of prayer - of who we are called to witness to in our relational circles - from family/friends, to community, to regionally, to globally. Then we just sat still and let the Holy Spirit "blow" over us.

I don't know what the kids will walk away with from today. I'm sure some will just think it was fun being outside and watching stuff blow up. But my prayer is that others will enter this week with a new/evolving understanding of the Holy Spirit in their lives - and that it is the same spirit that was active in the lives of the apostles.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Homecoming - then and now....

Homecoming. Just the word brings back awkward memories from my High School days. All those horrible questions that seemed to be asked on a daily basis:

"Are you going?" "Who are you going with?" "Do you know if ________ is going?" "Who are they going with?" "Are you going as friends or do you actually like each other?" "Has anyone asked you to Homecoming?" "You are going aren't you?" "If you go, do you want to double?"
"If I ask _______ do you think they'll say yes?" "Did you get her flowers yet?" "Bouquet or corsage?" "Do you know how to tie a tie?" "Are we going out to eat somewhere?" "Are you going?"

Admittedly, I was a pretty awkward H.S. kid looking for a place to fit in. Lots of stories to share there but that will be for another time (maybe).

This week I have been able to see Homecoming from a different perspective. My daughter, Kelsey, was voted onto the Homecoming court. I have had the privilege of supporting her - in my limited and awkward Dad knowledge of such things - this week. It has been way cool to see her friends get excited about dresses, hairstyles, make-up, shoes.....and show up at our house to help my daughter get ready for the events of the week. How fun. What a great community of friends she has. Good times.

And I am the luckiest guy in the world - having been able to escort two of the most beautiful women (on the inside and the outside) I know during Homecoming week.....then and now.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Good Monsters

I just picked up the Jars of Clay "Good Monsters" CD yesterday. When I first heard it.....I thought it was okay. The musical "style" isn't really one that captures my attention. Then I opened up the
CD and started reading the words to "Work" - the first cut on the CD.

The line that jumped out at me was:

I have no fear of drowning
It's the breathing that's taking all this work.

I don't know why but as soon as I read that line I had to sit down.....and I started to cry. Wow. Not sure if it is a personal sadness or the sadness that a friend is experiencing or the sadness I see in kids sometimes that caused this reaction. That will be one for me to ponder.....

As I read that rest of the song lyrics I was moved by their depth and emotion. An amazing effort by a band that refuses to just copy what they have done in the past. Kudos to you, Jars of Clay!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Off to a good start

Our youth ministry "program" year is off to a good start. We have lots of fabulous volunteers surrounding and nurturing our Jr High and Sr. High students.

We are about 3 weeks into the beginning of our gatherings. It is cool how some of the theme's for all that is going on are converging without having planned it.

One of our goals for this year is to try to create opportunities for more interaction between the students and the congregation at large - with the hope being that we can surround each student in our church (whether they attend our "programs" or not) with three maturing Christian adults outside of their family that they would feel comfortable sharing a joy, concern, or question about faith with.

One way we are trying to measure this is by simply our students that question: Can you name up to three adults in our congregation that you would feel comfortable sharing a joy, concern, or question about faith with?

We are asking that now, at the beginning of the year, and will ask this again at the end of the year. Very non-scientific and imperfect I know. But it will be interesting to see if/how their answers change over the course of the year and if our/their relationship web is expanding or contracting. (It will also help us identify adults that are already forming good relationships with our students and possibly invite them to join our ministry team in the future!)

Then the challenge is to put that into the mix in looking at our ministry - are those relationships going to help keep our kids growing and engaged in becoming disciples even after they leave our gatherings? Will require some long term tracking....and praying.

God has so blessed us with volunteers and students that are already growing in community. I feel a burden to nurture this gift that God has given us. As you read this - if you feel lead to pray for me, our students, and/or our volunteers - please take a moment now to do so. I appreciate it more than you know.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Just the facts please, m'am!

Okay, so my wife has been complaining about our phone not working so well lately. Sometimes when you press a button it won't register or it will repeat it. Yeah, a little incovenient but not that big of a deal.

Unless you are dialing a number that starts with 91.

And the phone chooses to repeat the 1.

And you don't notice that you have just dialed 911.

You do notice when the policeman shows up at your door asking if everything is okay. And then another squad car pulls up because they always send two cars for an incomplete 911 call.

Guess I better make time to get a new phone.....

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gettin' my groove on....sort of....

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of prep and planning. From the start of the youth ministry program year to traveling back to IL to bless my friend Thornton to helping with our church's 150th anniversary celebration. There has been little time to look at big picture things and I have been falling behind on the "taking care of the house" list as well.

This week I've had the chance to be home - preparing for SMYG (Sunday Morning Youth Gathering) - and I can feel a rhythm starting to return. Spending time with Jesus, reading a little, working around the house a little, meeting friends.....

I'm not there yet - but I can see a rhythm forming in the near future that is going to be good for me......if I can be disciplined enough to stay in tune with God's spirit each moment of each day. Or at least be willing to keep an ear out for Him.....

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thanks Thornton

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of returning to my church family in Illinois and be part of a celebration of the 10 yr. anniversary of the life and ministry of my buddy Thornton (He is the good looking guy in the middle!) at Chatham Presbyterian Church. It was a surprise party during worship - recognizing the cool things that God has done thru this man.

Thornton was the first Christian man to really invest time into me.....and disciple me. It was a very interesting ride and one that I am forever grateful for. Here are some of the thoughts that I shared with Thornton in reflecting on the adventure we had together.....

A few words and phrases that come to mind when I think of you (and I think of you often):

Change-agent: You are one who will challenge “tradition” and always seem to have your Holy Spirit radar up for when God is doing a new thing – not just in programs….but also in people.

Joyful exuberance – You bring that contagious quality of joy into all of the situations you find yourself in…..and people notice.

Authentic – Being joyful doesn’t mean being happy all the time. You are transparent in your walk with Christ….sharing your struggles, failures, successes, and questions. I love that!

Creative extravagance – We so often had conversations where I was trying for simple and you were trying for “over the top”! From ideas for “Hot air balloon rides” at the Gathering, to hanging the Moravian star over the sanctuary (with electricity!), to gathering of musicians for plays/musicals you keep looking over the edge to see what else can be done. Thanks for not letting me “settle” for less than what God wanted as we ministered together in this place.

Integrity – You have it. I see it. Thanks for sharing it.

Unquenchable passion for seeing lives changed thru the love, grace, and power of Jesus.

You are so filled with passion for Christ that it leaks and oozes out of all that you do…..and all of the relationships that you invest yourself in. Because of our friendship and God’s work in you and through you, I have become a better husband, father, and friend. You have been a blessing beyond measure in my life. I thank God for you.

I ran into this scripture while “pondering” you (is that weird…that I pondered you?):

Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:10-11 (Msg)

A fitting description of the life and ministry of Thornton Woerner at Chatham Presbyterian Church.

It was a great day. Thanks, Thornton!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nobody's home....

I tried calling about 21 Jr. High kids last night between 6:45 and 7:00. I wanted to make a personal invitation to our mid-week youth gathering. Out of the 21 phone calls I made...only 4 families were home.

It made me wonder where they are.

My hope would be that they were out having dinner as a family, or playing at the park, or riding their bikes, or hanging out with friends. My fear is that it is just another night of soccer, gymnastics, dance, tennis, piano, ????. My fear is that it isn't just that Tuesday night is busy and scheduled.....but rather every night is like this.

Of course none of those activities are "bad". My concern is that the activities never let up - there is no "free choice" time to decompress. And it wasn't just the kids that were missing from their was the parents as well. Yeah, I have a tendency to be a little cynical in this area....but still....75% of the houses I called last night were empty.

What does this mean in persepective to a mid-week youth gathering? Are we just piling on to their already overbooked lives? Are we adding value? Or are we just adding stress? Are we forcing a good choice about priorities and doing battle with the culture.....or are we just helping our kids slowly become exhausted. Are we creating space for Jesus to provide the new, abundant life they need........or making it out to be just another "activity" to be conquered?

Nobody's home.....that worries me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Perseverance, character, and hope

My daughter, Kelsey, continues to astound me. (Actually, all of my kids do....but today my thoughts are focused on Kels.)

When I think of her so many positives come to mind. But three in particular are perseverance, character, and hope.

Kels is a senior this year and recently tried out for the H.S. soccer team. She was placed on the JV team - the only Senior on that squad. After pondering that for a day or two she chose to accept that position. She didn't whine or complain. She decided to play.

I am so glad because I love to watch her play (although I don't think the parents of her opponents take as much joy in it!). She really loves the game for the joy of playing. Her character shined through in accepting that position and continuing to play with joy and abandon.

We talked about it and also thought that there was hope she would be asked to play up with the varsity squad at some point as well. (The girls varsity soccer team won the state championship last year and returned all but one from that squad.) happened. Kels has been invited to play with the varsity team this weekend at a tournament. Way cool. Way to let your perseverance and character shine through....and living a life of hope - not just for a chance to play soccer, but for the hope that I know lives in your heart because of Christ. Way to go, Kels.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A not so great start

Wake up. Make coffee. Pour cream into favorite Starbucks Christmas mug. Add coffee. Seal mug. Drink coffee. Open mug to add more coffee. See small white chunks floating in coffee. Become slightly disconcerted. Smell cream. It reeks. Dump coffee. Dump cream. Try not to gag.

Welcome to Thursday. Have a great day.

And so it begins....

My kids started back to school this week. Being a stay at home dad this has opened up some "space" in my day. Hopefully, I'll use that time wisely but that post is for another day.

As I watch my kids return to school and see/hear about all the stuff they have to deal with....the more I am in awe of them. And, the more convicted I feel as a dad. What are we as a society/culture and specifically me as their dad allowing to happen to them.

Schedule for a 14 y.o.
  • 6:30 a.m. - Wake up at 6:30 - shower, prep, eat bkfst, talk to dad about when/where the drop off and pick ups need to be made for the evening.
  • 7:30 Ride to school with Sr. sister (what a blessing that is!)
  • 8 - 2:45 School - no open hours......and ALL those numbers to remember (locker number, locker combination, sports locker number, sports locker combination, student number, lunch pin code number, room numbers.......I would never make it in H.S. these days!)
  • 3-5:00 Soccer practice (If there is a game that night, Drew won't be home before 6)
  • 5:00 - 6:30 Actually talk to dad about his day, plan for the rest of the night, eat dinner (probably not as a family except 1-2X/wk during the school year)
  • 6:30-7 practice french horn
  • 7-9:30 homework
  • 9:30 "Free time"
  • 10 - off to bed and read for awhile......sleep for 8 hours.....hopefully....
  • Repeat until exhausted

This would be the "light" schedule. If Drew has a band concert, band lesson, soccer game, church activity (Youth group on Wedndesdays), etc it really bogs down. Basically, the "base" schedule has almost zero flexibility - and little to no time to develop deep relationships with peers or adults that I would like to have in his included.

How do we stop this train now that it has left the station? How will I let this realization impact my decisions/priorities as a dad - and our priorities as a family? How does this impact how we look at youth ministry and the additional pressures that adds to kid's schedules?

I get tired just watching Drew manage his day. And Kelsey's (Senior) and Alexey's (2nd grade) are not that much different.

This has got to change. And I need God to help show me the way - and then for the Holy Spirit to provide the courage to act.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Simple blessings

I was cleaning the youth room today at church - trying to prepare for the start of our Sunday School and youth program year. Yeah, I was being sort of grumpy about it....and trying really hard to feel sorry for myself.

As I was pulling out really old books and VHS tapes I found a sealed envelope. Of course, nosey noot that I am I opened it. Written inside on a piece of paper was "Jesus loves you!"

A simple blessing. One that I needed. Left by someone long ago by accident - only to be used in a very cool way on this day. Thanks God!

Monday, September 04, 2006

7 y.o. conversations

"Hey Alexey - I saw that you took your hockey stick down to Sam's house. Did you play hockey?"


"Did you take it because you thought you might play hockey?"


"Why did you take the hockey stick?"

"It looks like a gun!"


Fashion statement

Last Sunday I had the chance to meet a new family. Welcomed them to our church and chatted for a minute. Also had the opportunity to speak with a few friends and be generally social. Was feeling pretty good about it until......

My daughter came up to me, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, "Dad, your shirt is on inside out!"


Yeah, that's right. I'm cool.....

Fashion statement

Last Sunday I had the chance to meet a new family. Welcomed them to our church and chatted for a minute. Also had the opportunity to speak with a few friends and be generally social. Was feeling pretty good about it until......

My daughter came up to me, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, "Dad, your shirt is on inside out!"


Yeah, that's right. I'm cool.....

Friday, September 01, 2006

Precious Moments

Nope, I'm not talking about these "cute" little figurines.....and if I ever buy one just shoot me. The precious moments I'm talking about usually happen in the morning - anywhere from 7-8 a.m.

That is the time that my son Alexey wakes up and comes wandering downstairs.

Almost every morning, after he gets out of bed, he wanders downstairs and sits on my lap. Sometimes it is in the computer room (he did it just now as I'm typing this!), sometimes in the living room on the couch, sometimes in the kitchen....but he always finds me.....and plops onto my lap. Then we just sit quietly for a few minutes. Alexey will rub his legs on mine, yawn, stretch, reach up to my face and touch my cheek, give me a kiss, and just sit.......nestled in. Soon he will ask, "Can you play a game with me?" and the day's activities begin.

Those moments - before the day's activities begin - are so precious. It is so cool to start the day with your child resting on you. Listening to his breathing, noticing the scent of his hair, watching him snuggle in as deep as he can, wrapping him in my arms, noticing how he tries to use my arms and legs as a blanket to keep him warm.

Precious moments. Moments I'm not sure he will remember when he gets older. Moments I'm not sure will last much longer.

I wonder if God feels the same way when we nestle into Him. When we slow down enough to just sit and be in His presence. Not saying anything....just breathing, seeking His warmth and comfort, allowing Him to wrap His arms around us...and snuggling in as deep as we can before the day's activities begin.

I have a feeling God perceives those as precious moments - even though there will come a time when I don't remember those moments. And I don't know how much longer those moments will occur.....but they are precious moments none the less.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Perception does not equal impact

(The following reflection is from my experience as a youth leader three years ago with a young man I will call "John".)

I couldn't figure out why John came to youth group. He was one of the "quirkiest" kids I'd ever met. He was constantly plugged into his music and he hardly ever took his headphones off. He had this thing about being touched - wouldn't shake hands or hold hands during prayer. He didn't participate in small groups or games much.....didn't say very much. Why did he keep coming? I couldn't figure it out.

Then one night he told me. I can't remember the circumstances but his statement haunts me.

"This is the only place that I feel anything."

There was so much pain in those words. To this day it makes me cry just thinking about it. (Yeah, even as I type this.) Those words hit me like a sledge hammer.

I never had a chance to really get to know John. To know where those words came from and why they carried such pain. John was a senior and he drifted away.....and I let him. Shame on me.

But God didn't leave John alone on the journey.

This past Sunday, John showed up at church. He came up to me and I recognized him and knew his name immediately...which is unusual for me. I greeted him by name - and his face started to beam! "I can't believe you remember my name!" he exclaimed. He shook my hand.....that in itself was a sign of transformation. We had a brief conversation. John shared that he was in college, doing well, meeting people. He had brought a friend with him that shared that John had been telling her what a great youth group we had here! He was looking me in the eye, sharing a little about himself, smiling........a completely different person than the one I met three years ago.

I still know very little of John's story. But I know this........

My perception of a student's experience can be WAY off - in good/bad directions.

The Holy Spirit is at job is to keep inviting, engaging, encouraging, praying.....

Knowing a student by name and remebering them is HUGE.

Providing a safe place to hear about God, know God, believe God, question God and feel God is important.

Dear Lord.....thank you for John. Thank you for remaining with him, pursuing him, engaging him. Thank you for the privilege of being part of his journey. May he continue to grow in his understanding of you..........and continue to feel and experience you in new ways. Amen.

Friday, August 18, 2006

God, mashed potatoes, jello, and dancing colors

We had a youth ministry team meeting last night. It was a great meeting. Lots of.... what if we try this; wouldn't it be cool if we could.....

I left the meeting with a cool milieu of creative ideas, God, praise, thankfulness, hope, Jesus, names of students and volunteers, and the Holy Spirit all resting on my heart and head.

Later that evening, as I was driving to pick my son up from a party, the song "Blessed Be Your Name" came on the radio. And I started singing along. Aand it felt great. And I started to sing with abandon. And thoughts like, "God is SO cool. Keep your hands on the wheel. God, you are so awesome. Keep your hands on the wheel." And then the next thought/picture that flickered through my brain was "God digs this....he is smiling and dancing as I am singing His praises!"

And then I thought - "Why doesn't worship feel like this when I'm gathered with my church family? What's different?"

And one of the first things that came to mind is mashed potatoes.

When I'm worshipping God - too often the picture I have in my head is like a pile of mashed potatoes. White, fluffy (if their made right with real butter and milk!), comforting, warm......and static. They just sit there. (Go ahead - try singing to a pile of mashed potatoes - I'll wait.) Mashed potatoes are safe, comforting.....and lifeless. So many times as I'm singing, praying, worshiping my focus is sadly on me - silly stuff really - like "Should I be clapping? Should I raise my hands on this verse? Should I stand up? What if I'm the only one standing? Does the guy in front of me think my singing is bad (actually I'm usually in the front row so as to avoid this situation!)?" Of course this picture isn't only around when I worship....but as I live each moment of the day (after all isn't worship really how we live?) *sigh*

And then my thoughts turned to Jell-O.

Yeah, I started to picture God as Jell-O as I worship. Vibrant colors, able to assume various shapes, sweet and tasty, easy to swallow, and jiggly. Still very safe but a little responsive - it will react to my singing with some amount of vibration. (Go ahead, get out some jello and start singing to it. If you get loud enough it will jiggle for you. I'll wait.) Sometimes God is like this in my mind. I've watered him down where he is easy to swallow. Safe, sweet, and tasty - yep, that's the God for me. That's a God that will fit very nicely with the safe life I find myself in - and it's sort of cool when He vibrates like that.....*sheesh*

And then my thoughts turned to dancing colors.

Amazing dancing colors. With depth, complexity, and rhythm. Colors that grab my attention. Colors that when I try to focus on just one it becomes fuzzy and difficult to pin down - but when I just let them flow over me are beautiful and engaging. Colors that respond and yet somehow also lead. As I sing - they dance in amazing ways. Colors that mysteriously become entwined in my very being and cause me to dance and sing in a new way, a unique way, in a way I was meant to. Colors that dance and lead in a way that I know is good....but not safe. Colors that help lead me to see those same colors in all that is around me. Colors that flow around me, in me, and through me. Colors that cover me and leave their mark on me....and in me.....and grow.

So, I've had a reality check...or maybe a truer glimpse of what is real. A change in perspective, perhaps.

I believe those colors that I started seeing last night lead me to read these words this morning...

"So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. (Col 3:1-2)

.........And sing, sing your hearts out to God!" (Col 3:16)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Just keep swimming

This time of year is always seems to involve worry and hand wringing for those involved in student ministries (all ministries?). Typically the stress revolves around:

* Volunteer staffing needs for core programs
* Ministry Fairs that introuce the programs to students/parents
* Getting students excited about coming to "programs" in the midst of school starting and
all that it entails
* Equipping leaders, curriculum, communicating with parents/students,

The list goes on and on.....

Of course, looking back over the past 5 years or so and my growing involvement with ministries at EPPC - God ALWAYS provides and/or guides. Why do I worry? My job is to keep showing up, keep walking forward, keep listening to the Holy Spirit and ACT when moved to......and God's blessings pour out in abundance.

I've had some amazing conversations this past week with individuals that have lead to cool possiblities for "youth stuff" this coming year.

God has got it under control........

"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. " (Matthew 25-34)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bamboo flute music is evil

Help me! My wife put on some "Bamboo flute" music last night just before some friends were coming over for dinner. We forgot to turn it off so it has been drifting through the house all night. I'm starting to like it. So mournful, peaceful, contemplative, and full of space.

From the dark side it is.

Where is my Count Basie jazz CD when I need it!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Billy Graham

I found this article from Newsweek to be an interesting read about Billy Graham.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I know what to do with that treadmill in my bedroom!

(ht to marko)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Going deep part 2

A few more reflections on how I kept seeing (hearing?) the word "deep" as I read through Philippians.....

(Part 1 is here)

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends." Phil 2:1-2

Deep-spirited friends. Love. Life. Community. Spirit. Heart. Care. Agree. Love. Deep-spirited friends. Do I nurture deep-spirited friendships?

"Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God." Phil 2:12

I love this verse as it speaks to living out your salvation here and now - energetically, reverently, and sensitively. Lots to ponder there but it is about living deeply in God.

"Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God." Phil 2:15

Start with just a glimpse. God is so deep, so inviting, so abundant, so full of grace that a life can be changed with just a glimpse. Will I walk across the room and engage in a conversation and provide just a glimpse of the living God?

"I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness." Phil 3:9

Keeping only rules in my heart......petty, inferior living. Trusting Christ with the depth of my life and relationships......robust, deep righteousness.

"Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!" Phil 4:4

Celebrate, revel in Him. Live deeply in Him each and every moment of each and every day. Revel in Him and allow him to be revealed more and more deeply.

"Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves." Phil 4:23

Allow God to enter in......through the amazing grace of His son Jesus........deep, deep within.

Go deep.

Going deep

I've been reading through Philippians the past couple of weeks. Man, what a great book to read if you are feeling a little low. It is one great cheerleading and encouraging letter. Over the next couple of days, thought I'd share some of the verses and phrases that have "shimmered" as I have been reading.

The word "deep" has been rising to the top of my thoughts as I've been reading.

(All of these quotes are from "The Message")

"Paul and Timothy, both of us committed servants of Christ Jesus, write this letter to all the followers of Jesus in Philippi, pastors and ministers included." Phil 1:1

I find it interesting that he singles out "pastors and ministers" - just one of those things that makes me go, "Hmmmm." The message is to pierce beyond the congregation - and land deep within ALL of them....leaders included.

"There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears." Phil 1:6

God started His work IN me......He is working deep.....from the inside-out.

"So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well." Phil 1:9

Ah, but to love well. What does that look like? Loving well....not just much. To me that also speaks of depth - to allow my love not to just meander along the surface of relationships but to look for cracks and crevices to pour Christ's love, through me, deeply into my relationship with God, self, others, and the He has started a great work in me.

"Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul,...making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God." Phil 1:10-11

A life of depth thru Jesus Christ......bountiful in fruits from the soul. I love that phrase. fruits from the Jesus works deep in me, my very soul will become bountiful and reveal more and more of the attractiveness of Christ.

"Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done." Phil 1:19

Faithful prayers and generous Spirit - not only do I need to go deep in my prayers with God but I need to let myself marinate deeply in the prayers of others. To humbly ask for and graciously receive prayer - so that I am deeply immersed - and that everything he wants to do in/through me will be done as I respond to the Spirit.

"So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues." Phil 1:25

Depth in relationships through perseverance in love. Depth by committing time. Depth in walking along side and encouraging depth in another person's journey with Jesus. This is a theme that has resonated with me greatly in looking at how we minister to youth - and how we need to better walk with them rather than challenge and abandon them.

Go deep.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Happy Birthday....

to me!

That's right. I turned the magical 44 this past week. Here is a smattering of quotes from the various cards I received from friends and family:

"Yay! Happy Shiny Head Dave."

"Thanks for teaching me sooooo much."

"Thanks for being like my second dad to me."

"You're a great farter....oops....I mean father!"

"I love you, dad. Thanks for everything you do for me!"

"Another birthday for a wonderful son."

"You are the one that makes me smile, that knows everything I'm thinking, and who I crave to spend time with!"

Wow - am I a blessed husband, father, and son. Is it cool being a child of God or what? No birthday blues where is that cake!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Doing the right thing....

is more important than doing things right.

This phrase was listed as one of the "core values" that give direction to youth ministry at a conference I attended last fall. It is one of those phrases that sounds cool and generally makes people nod their heads in agreement.

Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.

But I was having a hard time trying to come up with a concrete example of what this might look like in real life and in youth ministry specifically. And then I watched my son's soccer team completely destroy an opponent. They played the game right - they watched their spacing, they marked their men, they had good first touches, they used their support, they shot at the far post, they talked, they played aggressive, they scored goal after goal after goal after goal after goal. I honestly don't remember the score at halftime. It was at least 6 to 0.

Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.

I have a lot of respect for my son's coach. I believe him to be the best coach my son has had since playing "travel" soccer. He has developed a great team concept. He has demonstrated great balance and patience with the boys involvement in other activities that conflict with soccer. He has been up front with the parents that yelling at the refs is plain wrong and he doesn't ever want to hear it. I thought the team would come out and lay off some after the half. I was wrong. They continued to score at will. The score ballooned to something greater than 12 - 0. I literally lost track. I felt embarrassed.

Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.

To be fair the coach on the other team was not helping. He apparently had a point to make about something. He took kids out of the game and made his team play shorthanded by 2 players. His team has not won any games this year and has scored only two goals. It would have been great to see the kids out playing the last game of the year and have fun - but he tried to turn it into some kind of personal message or control thing. I felt sad for the players on his team.

Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.

From my perspective the right thing would have been to lay back. Require all goals in the second half to be from headers. Or any shots taken have to be with your weak leg. Or set it up so that the team has to make 6 passes before shooting. Or all shots have to be taken outside goalie box. It just seems pounding the ball in wasn't the right thing....even though they were playing the game right. There are things that are bigger than the game. The balance between competition and compassion, destruction vs. dignity, goals vs. grace.

Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.

Maybe I'm completely off base here. Maybe I don't understand the level of competition in "travel soccer". Maybe I don't know what the coach was trying to accomplish. Maybe I don't understand all the subtleties of the game. What I do know is how the players on the other team looked walking off the field. How the parents looked at their children - as though their child had been beat up by a bully in front of them and they were helpless to intervene. In the end, I apologized to the parents of the other team. They were very gracious and said things like "It's not your fault" or "It's travel soccer, what would we expect", etc.

Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.

Of course, I can't be free from my own rant. Other than wish for it to stop and apologize for our teams unrelenting play, I did nothing. I didn't walk over to the coach and ask him to have his team pull back. I just watched - as one group of children destroyed another group. I didn't do the right thing..........I did what the culture says is doing things right.....stay quiet, don't rock the boat, don't cause a scene, don't embarrass your child......

I wish I hadn't needed an example of what "Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right" may mean in real life. It came at the expense of a group of children. And I am ashamed. Lord, help me not sit idly by the next time, know that I have seen that ......

Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Kickball dangers I never thought of!

We played kickball this past Sunday at our 2nd annual "bike to Lake Riley from church" event (you can read details about it here). It was a great day - 20 minute bike to the lake, swimming, BBQ hotdogs for lunch, and then the mandatory kickball game.

Sometime during the third inning or so of kickball, I fielded a hot grounder. The ball had skidded across the grass and took a hop that caught me on the side of the face after which I fielded the ball for the last out of the inning.

As both teams were passing one another to change offense/defense, one of the kids in the group looked at me and said, "Hey, Dave! What's that yellowish brown stuff on your face?" I stopped and noticed a strange odor about me which lead me to say, "I think it's dog poop!" That pretty much put a stop to the game - as kids were laughing, looking, pointing, running, giggling - and I made a quick exit to the lake to wash off! Ahh.....the joys of youth ministry!

At least part of the answer is.....

play and conversation in community.

I've been pondering the value of summer youth group gatherings here and also some ideas about doing things differently here.

This past Sunday, we had our 2nd annual youth group bike ride to Lake Riley. It was hot - the temps would eventually reach about 98 degrees. There was much concern expressed about the trip from the parents. But we pressed on - here is a short summary of "the event" and some ponderings on what I saw/learned about the value of these events.

The low down on the trip - the kids bring their bikes to church. After worship (and after collecting permission slips, calming parent's fears for their children's safety and coordinating some of the adult volunteers) we leave for Riley Lake park. It's only about a 20 minute ride and we had a water break half way there. At the park we swim, have a cookout, play kickball, and then swim/hangout some more. This year we had 13 students and 10 volunteers....along with two 7 y.o.'s!

Ponderings and reflections on what I saw/learned:

These trips pump me up! Okay, I admit that I absolutely hate the planning. But on the day of the event and throughout the event itself - I am super psyched. I look forward so much to hanging out with our students as well as the adult volunteers. I love being able to just watch how kids interact (or don't).

God has blessed us with a very cool community of adults. You may have noticed that we had almost a 1:1 ratio of students to adults. Sometimes this could be stifling to a youth gathering. But our adult volunteers have such hearts for the kids - looking for chances to interact but also just letting the kids hang out and play. A truly intergenerational event.

Community forming - This day I saw our incoming 7th graders being folded into our tribe of kids at EPPC. They were welcomed and other students as well as adults. It is so cool to see "the church" - from 7 y.o.'s to those of us over forty - having moments of "union with God and communion with each other" to borrow a phrase from Scot McKnight.

Play is an important part of a passionate ministry - biking, swimming, kick ball, water fights. I bet that Adam and Eve played hide and seek in the garden, even before they ate the apple. How can one not want to just play when immersed in God's creation and living in community with each other?

My biggest take-away of the day is that we as "the church", not just as a youth group, need to have opportunities for play and conversation - in community - allowing us to be real with one another and develop "deep spiritual friends" (Phil 2:2 Msg)

As I look at my ponderings over the past week - I have a new appreciation for creating events over the summer that nurture play/conversation. But I also believe it to be a prime opportunity to have volunteers and kids build relationships as well. Really is a both/and rather than an either/or. I'll keep pondering.....and keep listening......and keep God is present and beckoning.....

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Summer youth group ponderings.....what if.....

As i think about how I view summer youth group activities the following pops into my head:

What if......

* Every one of our kids was invited to breakfast by one of our leaders twice over the summer
* Our leaders went to one sporting event, recital, practice, etc each month
* A phone call was made to just say "hi, how's your summer going" to each of our kids
* Our summer "program" consisted of a mission trip and a camping trip - the rest of the time was left unscheduled
* We made the time to sit down with the parents of our kids over the summer and asked them what their hopes and dreams were for their children - spiritually, relationally, school, career, etc.

How would this effect the spiritual growth of our kids? Would it be different than what we are doing now? Is it either/or......both/and? How would it impact our leaders? More burnout or less?

What is the wise way?

Kid's quote...

The following quote was heard as two "almost eight" y.o.'s exit the movie theater to use the bathroom - during the AMC music previews portion of the show.

"If we didn't have to go to the bathroom we could be dancing right now!"

I'm convinced that part of having a childlike faith is dancing with God - and not caring if anyone else is watching.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Summer youth group activities - what's the value?

Trips to the amusement park, gatherings for swimming/BBQ's, movies, bowling, paint ball, "the mission trip", bike trips, etc....

These are some of the types of activities that I have tried to schedule this summer for our youth. Our regular "programming" stops over the summer and we do 3-5 special events along with a mission trip.

At times, I wonder, what impact having these events has. Now I must say I can't imagine not doing a mission trip over the summer, especially having just returned from Mexico and the cool things I saw happen there to me and the youth that went along. But the other events i struggle with.

What are your thoughts?

If a parent - do you think there is value in these gatherings or is it "just another thing." If there is value - what is it? How does that value compare to the value of a sports practice, play practice, band practice, etc? What is your hope for your child in attending these events?

If a youth worker - what is your purpose in having these events? Do you think that purpose is accomplished? Do you think your group would be negatively affected if you didn't schedule these outings?

If a student - do you see these gatherings different than other outings you go on during the summer? If so, how so? What are the factors that help you decide whether to go to a "youth group" event or not?

Do you think there is a better way for achieving what you feel God's plan is for the kids He has entrusted you with over the summer?

I'd love to hear your thoughts......(both of you!)

Converging quotes...

I ran into this quote from Mark Galli, editor at Christianity Today, and author of Jesus Mean and Wild while reading Scot McKnight's blog.

"God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life."

I was also reading this passage from Phillipians 1 this morning:

"There's far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There's also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You're involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter. "

Knowing that the journey is difficult increases my trust in Christ - knowing that He is persevering through the adventure with me. But running into these quotes on the same day is a little unnerving....

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Adventures in a "girlie" jeep.....

My wife and I recently returned from a wonderful trip visiting our daughter, Kate, who is working at the 4UR guest ranch in Creede, CO.

We flew into Denver then rented a Jeep Liberty to drive to Creede. When our kids at home heard we were renting a Jeep Liberty they began referring to it as a "girlie" jeep.

"Seriously, Dad, do you know anyone who owns that car that isn't a girl?" was the question they posed.

Here are some stories of adventure while driving our "girlie" jeep.....

"How does the 4wd gear shift work?" While playing around on some gravel roads in the rain, we (I?) decided to try out the 4wd. I wasn't sure how to work it other than pulling up on the little gear shift next to the big one. I pulled it up and it worked fine.....low gear 4wd. We tooled around for a few minutes then decided to head back into town. The problem arose when I was unable to push the lever back wouldn't go back into 2wd! Katie thought it was funny. My wife however had visions of us driving back to Denver in low gear and didn't look to amused. After struggling with it for a few minutes it did go back into gear.....and all was right with the world.

"Flash floods and avalanches" That same night that we tried the 4wd, there was a torrential rain storm. It lasted a good 2 hours with an amazing lightning display across the mountains. We were taking Kate back to the ranch after having seen a play in Creede. It was dark, raining, and we were on a two lane paved road. I thought the two cars in front of us were going WAY to slow for conditions - yeah, a little hard to see with the weather, but 15 MPH?! Then the cars in front of me started to swerve. Just as I'm wondering "what are they doing?" I see some soccer ball size rocks on the road! We were driving along a sheer cliff and the rain had washed rocks onto the road. YIKES. We came upon two or three more areas where rocks had ended up on the road...from gravel to rocks about the size of a large watermelon. That will get your adrenaline pumping!

We eventually found the road to the ranch - a packed gravel road that runs along Goose Creek, an off shoot of the Rio Grande river. We turn onto the road and cross the bridge over the Rio Grande. As we do, we can see that there is water covering up the road ahead....and there are logs and stuff floating in the water......and the water is moving......and the road is quickly dissappearing in front of us! As Kimpa would later "man genes" kicked in - gotta save the family! I am freaked out. Kimpa and Katie are laughing as I execute a three point turn on a narrow road, in the dark, missing and confusing drive/neutral/reverse many times. By the time I get turned around the water is at the car.......we bolt back across the bridge and I endure the combination of relief, laughter, and comments by my wife and daughter. We decide to head back to Creede (driving thru the avalanches again!) and spend the night there - but not before Kate and Kimpa have me take their picture on the bridge as a flash flood is happening! *Sheesh!*

Good adventures.....driving around with the girls in the "girlie" jeep!