Monday, May 07, 2007

Anointing Alexey

A conversation with my 8.y.o. son, Alexey, while we are getting ready for school this morning....
"What's that stuff, Dad?"
"That's a vial of oil. We used it this weekend to anoint one another."
"What's anointing?"
Dad then does his best to describe anointing....a symbol of God's promise, blessing, being set apart, of God's spirit falling upon you, part of a prayer....way to much info for an 8 y.o.
Alexey resumes working on his math sheet....then asks....
"Do you have to be a certain age to be anointed?"
"Nope - would you like me to anoint you?"
"I dunno."
Dad continues to fold clothes, pack snacks, start the grocery list for the day.
"Hey dad, yeah, I guess I'd like to be anointed."
So we finish up a few things and I get distracted by something and a few minutes later Alexey says - "Don't forget to anoint me!"
So I stop. I grab my bible...we read a couple of passages that speak to anointing from James and Psalms. I share with him what I will do - pray a blessing over him while I anoint his head with oil in the sign of a cross.
"Do I close my eyes?"
"You don't have too."
I anoint my son. He is looking at me as I pray for him. His eyes are SO big. Jesus is living there.
We finish.
"Can you see it?" "What's it look like?!"
We go to the mirror and look. You can see a small, shiny cross on his forehead.
"Can you still see where you got anointed?"
"Nope - I've washed my head too many times since then."
"Hmmm.....hey Dad - want to wrestle!?"
And life goes on.....Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Perception vs. Reality

I went to "The Core" this weekend. The topic was on "Helping Hurting Kids". This was the third year in a row I've attended. As usual - good training and good fellowship. I love having an opportunity to better equip our volunteers and parents - and in so doing better equip our kids. It is also great to get to know each other better outside of church.

One of the videos they used was from "The Skit Guys" showing youth ministry perceptions vs. reality. It was well done - and you can track it down here.

It has got me thinking about a conversation we had in SMYG a couple of weeks ago...

We were talking about the story of Jesus turning water into wine. (I used Laurie Polich's "Studies on the Go - John" and Grant English's devo on the passage as a frame - both great resources)

One of the questions I asked our kids was from Laurie's book -

"If you were going to throw a party with your friends and you had the opportunity to have Jesus there, do you think the party would be more fun or less fun? Why?"

The couple of students that answered - out of about 30 - generally said, "If it was a party of Christ followers it would be sweet, but He would probably make my friends who aren't Christians uncomfortable."

As I've replayed that sentiment in my head here are the questions it brings up....

* How does the kid's perception of Jesus relate to what we see of Jesus in the bible? To me it seems Jesus made those that are religious more uncomfortable than those that weren't.

* Is their perception of Christ a reflection of my teaching? Is this how I come across in my relationship with Christ? Lord, forgive me.

* Are the kids more worried about what their "non Christian" friends think about Jesus....or what Jesus thinks about them....or what Jesus thinks about their friends? I wonder where they think Jesus' focus would be during the party?

There are so many more questions it brings up.

Many of them make me uncomfortable - and bottom line is all I can say is God forgive me - and thank you for opening my eyes.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Happy Birthday, Drew

This past Wednesday (and Thursday) we celebrated my son's birthday. He turned 15.

I can see God transforming him - and it is cool to see - through his relationships, his choices, his priorities. It is such a privilege to be a parent.....and to be entrusted to nurture, encourage, support, and guide along side a child.

I know that you read this at I won't get too emotional here....but know that you are loved.

15 years. Great memories. Praise God for the blessing of my son Drew. Happy Birthday, Drew.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Woodpeckers, caulk, holes, and desert

I recently have been trying to do more of the house "things" that need attention - but everytime I look at one area....another pops up!

Today I discovered that the caulking job "Mr. Handyman" (the company...not me!) did has disintegrated in less than a week.

The corner of my yard near my driveway looks a lot like desert.
And there is a hole in my siding from a woodpecker - apparently a Federally protected bird - you can guess why I might know that!
Oh, and I just had a new roof put on my home two weeks ago.
Oh, oh and while I was looking at my outside walls I pushed on the corner of a board and my finger went through it. Not good.
I can't wait to live in a 2 bedroom condo again......

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

8 y.o. quotes

Some quotes between my son, Alexey, and his best friend, Peter.....

"When I die, I want to die in my sleep. Yeah, that would be the best way to go."

"If you lived next door to me....that would be like heaven!"

Man, there is so much about those quotes - and about their relationship that is true and pure and simple.

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

Lots there to ponder.....enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Do I know the poor"

I wrote the following for our "Church" newsletter.....pray for me to follow through....

At the 30 hour famine in February we got to hear Shane Claiborne speak and share his life experiences living as what he describes as an “ordinary radical”. (I highly recommend his book, The Irresistible Revolution, but be prepared to squirm as you read it!) One of the quotes in the book that made me squirm was, “the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”


Yeah, I’ve tried to rationalize that statement with really great thoughts like – “I know the poor in spirit” or “I know those that are poor in relationships” or “I know those that are poor in joy” as well as REALLY great thoughts like – “But I’m very active serving in the life of my church”…..but ultimately these feel like excuses to me. Or at least attempts by me to distract myself from what God is really saying to me. (And since I’m wrestling with God it’s obvious that I’m not really distracted – I just don’t want to have this conversation!)

As I ponder this ultimately I think I’m afraid.

Afraid of how “knowing the poor” may change my heart.

…..may change my priorities.

…..may change my life.

…..may transform my relationship with God.

Well – I don’t know if I am brave enough to have this conversation by myself. I at least need someone to walk along with me and help me process my thoughts. (But my prayer is that I can go beyond “thinking” and enter into “living”.) So here is an invitation….

Would you like to explore ways that we can truly get to “know the poor” better? I don’t care what age you are, what stage of life you are in, or any of that. We are the church – and we need each other. Specifically, I need your help in moving from caring….to knowing. I don’t know what that will look like. So come – with no expectations…no plan of action…entering into the unknown.

Thursday, April 19, 2007 hits me...

I sat down today and realized that for many - this has been a horrible couple of weeks.

I have read locally a story about a man who allegedly fabricated a story saying he found a child wandering and turned him over to police/social services....when it was actually his own child.

A teenage girl gives birth to a baby and stabs her over 100 times and throws the baby's body away.

A college student kills 32 others.

I'm busy planning lessons, thinking up fun/messy games, feeling like I'm connected to God in many ways.....

But I pause in my day....I feel like crying.

The heart of God must be grieving so.

Do our kids feel some of this?

The events of this past couple of weeks are probably raising a lot of questions in the minds of our kids....

Feelings of abandonment - maybe wondering if their Dad had a chance to pawn them off...would he? Or wondering why Dad left...was it because he couldn't get rid of he hit the road?
When our kids see a pregnant teen at school - do they wonder if the mom will kill the baby? Do they wonder if a student looks overweight if they are hiding a pregnancy? Are they sad for the mom...the baby...both? Neither?

Are they feeling less safe today in their schools? Are the graduating seniors a little less excited about going to college now?

Are they wondering where God is in all of this? Are you?

I've appreciated a couple of the resources at Youth Specialties designed to help youth workers help their students in these days. They have helped me start to process - and start the process for me as a youth worker - in my response to all that surrounds, invades, and disturbs our kids...and myself.

There are no concrete answers, no simple solutions, but I like the tone....and it spoke to me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"I've got that" - God

So today started off with me being uncomfortable.

But I started the day with God...and tried to remain with Him. Here are some of the things I noticed along the way....
My list of "to do's" was long. I wasn't comfortable delaying them to spend time with God. Yet, I noticed there was a confidence the rest of the day that "all is well". It grew as the day progressed.

Little things that happened that opened up space -

* I was able to think clearly (and creatively?) to write articles quickly that were due.
* The Direct TV guy was delayed from arriving so I had more space to "think/work" this a.m.
* The cleaners didn't come until very late in the day when I wasn't home. (yeah, sometimes I'm embarrassed that I have a cleaning service for my home)
* I was able to come up with an idea for a game and lesson for our Jr. High gathering tonight during lunch.
* I went running after lunch and had a great flow of ideas to make the lesson I had read thru "come alive" (John 8:1-11 The story of the woman caught in adultery - great Jr. High stuff!)
* I had scheduled with a friend to watch their son this afternoon - of course that meant that my son, Alexey, had a playmate all afternoon which allowed me to make the Powerpoint and purchase the supplies I needed for tonights game/lesson.
* I also noticed that my desire to "be with" the kids tonight was growing - the joy of just being in community with them was very appealing today - more so than my "worry" about the lesson. That is unusual (sadly) and was a nice moment of realization.
* I happened to run into my daughter, Kelsey, at the High School as I arrived to wait for my son, Drew, to finish track practice. She offered to take Alexey and his friend, Peter, and wait for Drew...then take them all out to dinner and watch them the rest of the evening...without me asking. Suddenly, I am free to get to church to set up the game, lesson, etc. Wow.

Very cool. And then, I had a fabulous time "subbing" for our usual leader, Steve, tonight at Powerhouse (our Jr. High gathering). I can see Christ growing in the kids....we had a great conversation tonight about judging others, how encounters with Jesus leave us changed, and more. And man...they bring so many of their friends it just rocks!

At the end of the day I am able to look back and know that I accomplished all that God intended me to. It was as if all day long God was saying, "I've got that". I still have a long list of things to do. I'm still uncomfortable with the size of that list and all that needs to be done in the next 48 hours. But I'm going to try to have coffee with God again tomorrow morning....and linger with him throughout the day. All is well...goodnight!


I've been up since 4:45 a.m.

The list of things I need to get to is long.

I felt the nudge to start my time today with God - so I made coffee and talked to God, read a little of Colossians, pondered a couple of things.

I am trusting that I will get done what God wants me to this day.

I can't say I'm comfortable with that...and a large part of me says "You should have started right in on _________ instead of coffee time with God."

Ever feel like that?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Clearing the Temple Update #3

For a little history you can go here and here.

It's been a little over 4 months since I was diagnosed with diabetes.

I've been exercising regulary - primarily running now - averaging about 20 miles a week over the past month.

I've lost about 35#. People are starting to comment on my weight loss - many of them not quite sure if it is good (because of exercise) or bad (may be related to a health problem - especially since our church family has been through that journey together recently....of course now that I think of is related to a health problem!)

A few weeks ago I returned to my doctor for my three month check of my glucose levels and......

I'm officially "non-diabetic" again. Wow.

A few observations:
  • Okay, I admit it....I actually like running now.
  • I thank God for my kids every time I write in the journal they made for me.
  • My body is finally starting to rebel a little...I am old.
  • The spiritual blessings continue to exceed the physical. The conversations I have with God during my running....or just the "silence" are precious.
  • I love running outside more than on the treadmill.
  • I have to be careful not to become "prideful" in this experience and remember it was God that slapped me around to finally get me started on taking care of the temple He has provided for me.

God is good....and I'm a running nerd.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Director of Youth Ministries Search goes "LIVE"

Our search for the person to join the gathering known as Eden Prairie Presbyterian Church as our new Director of Youth Ministries has just gone "live" this week.

Intrigued? You can find out more about the position here. (Go check it out and then come back)

We would love you to join us in prayer as part of the process - go with how you're led or use the frame below - a chorus of voices is so cool!

Dear Lord Jesus - Help us patiently persevere........remaining in your we listen, ponder, and respond to the plan you are weaving together in this place. May it all glorify you!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I love life...but do I live love?

Because of my recent experiences, I have been pondering life and death. This verse has been rolling around in my head....

I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. John 10:9-11 (Msg)

It's made me think of the stages of my life....and my understanding of it. Here are some of my ponderings and random thoughts.

In the beginning....I tried to just get through "my life". As a kid growing up there were things about my family I wanted to hide - secrets I didn't want others to know about. Life was all about trying to "hide and survive"....and very lonely and scary.

During college...I got married! My life and understanding of it changed a lot. I had to learn to share my life - and share of myself. To begin to live those catchy Christian words - transparent and authentic. (Even though I wasn't a Christ follower yet.) Life was no longer lonely - but not "full" - and still scary!

As a twenty-somthingish adult, Jesus works through a small group to transform my understanding of life - living in community. Wow - I become a Christ follower - sort of dog paddle that for awhile (not really going anywhere) and then Kimpa signs us up for a small group. My life will never be the same. I start learning about Christ, God, the Holy Spirit. I start seeing outside of myself and have a chance to be a blessing to others and allow myself to be blessed. I am carried through times of crisis, chaos, and grief - and help carry and encourage others. My life is becoming "full" - I am no longer lonely and scared. I still have lots of questions but I can start to see those other catchy Christian words actually happening - spiritual growth / transformation.

Today - My perceptions continue to change. Yeah, I love life and it feels full (in a fabulously grand way) ...but now I ponder if I live love in my daily experiences. I know that the fullness of my life isn't reserved just for the future - but for the now. And I have discovered that I can experience that by trying to allow myself to act and react through the eyes, ears, and heart of Jesus. That I may experience fullness in sacrifice, messy relationships, and in the presence of God.

That is my prayer today - that I not only love life....but that I may live a life of love now, today, to the glory of God.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I hate death

I hate death.

My sister in Christ, Amy, gently left this part of creation tonight to touch the face of God - a face that she reflected so brightly throughout the time that I have known her.

She and her family had persevered together for the past two years battling a cancer that slowly took over...and took away....her body.

But Christ remained in her as she abided in Him.....and could not be defeated.
A friend invited me to go along with her to see Amy today - a few hours before she died.

My memories will be of her smile....her hug....her whispers....her family gathered....the peaceful spirit that filled a sterile environment.

It reminded me of my Mom's struggle with lung cancer some years ago - and her last words to me being "I feel so loved". Amy felt that....and expressed that....and shared that as well in her own way.

I hate death.

But I love Christ.....and His victory over death....and know that He loves me.....and Amy......and those that now continue on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Just for fun

Try this illusion - very cool.

(ht to gman)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Small groups vs. Small Service

Okay, I know it shouldn't be either/or and it should be both/and. But I am getting ahead of my question so let me back up.....

I serve a medium size church as the volunteer 7-12th grade youth guy - trying to discern Jesus' ministry to students in this place and provide the foundational practices, experiences, and relationships that will give their faith legs - so they can continue to grow into the likeness of Jesus until they take their last breath.

Two things have been on my mind lately -
  • Small groups - a place for students to gather with adult leaders and go a little deeper in discussing their faith, reveal more about who they are and spend time working on being transparent and real with each they ponder aspects of their faith together. The groups would be "stable" as much as possible.

  • Small service - having an opportunity for 3-5 students go and serve a group of people or charitable organization in our local community (preferably outside of their normal interactions) with 2 adult volunteers 1-2X month. They would most likely be serving together for 2-4 hours. The adults and students wouldn't be the same each would be a "sign-up" type of deal - for both the leaders and students.

Yes, I believe both are good things. But if you had to pick one to start with - which would you choose? What are the questions you would ask to help come to the most wise decision?

Monday, March 05, 2007

I so want one of these....

Jetting around the cool is that? Envy consumes me...

Clearing the temple update #2

Yep - I'm glad to say that I'm still working out and trying to watch what I eat. For a little background you can go here....

I've now lost just a smidge over 30 pounds. My clothes look pretty baggy on me. I'm sleeping better. My longest run has been 8 miles. I'm still generally working out by biking or running 3X/wk and trying to watch my portion size at meals....and cut down on "bad carbs and sugars".

All that being said - a few observations over the last month or so.....
  • Last week was tough. I just came off the 30 hour famine and I'm not sure if that is what put me totally out of whack or not....but I have been grumpy, moody, physically a little shaky, and generally depressed. The last couple of days...and today in particular are MUCH better and I'm glad that week is behind me.
  • I've developed cravings for Girl Scout Cookies.....YIKES!
  • I've never eaten so much broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce in my life....
  • My family is so supportive it rocks.
  • My running time remains a good spiritual "habit" and good conversation with God but I am recognizing that I need the stillness and silent time with God as much....or more.
  • I really need to put something on the white wall in front of the treadmill - I have memorized every pattern of dots/dirt that are on it....and sometimes I see faces in them. another YIKES! (At least they aren't talking to me...yet)

Again - all in all the adventure of taking better care of my "temple" has resulted in spiritual growth and more quality time with God as the biggest benefit. The fact that I'm physically healthier is really a secondary bonus.

It hasn't been super easy - last week was a real struggle - but persevering through was a "good experience". Thanks to all of you that have been praying me through this adventure!

Now - time to go and buy some new clothes! (Too bad I'm a guy and I really don't have any joy shopping for clothes....)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Feed My Starving Children - at the famine....

I love the 30 hour famine. It brings so much to one "event". Worship, prayer, service, sacrifice, relationships, understanding, resources - all of it centered around Christ's compassion, grace, mercy, and love for each of us.

Normally we experience the famine at our own church and have about 30 kids participating. This year we combined with 12 other churches and gathered together with about 230 students. The line up included: Worship, conversations in small groups about hunger, prayer stations, Comedy Sportz, videos, Shane Claiborne, packing food for Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), games with hunger themes, games just for fun, collecting food for PROP, raising money for villages in Zambia, sleeping a little and a spaghetti dinner.

After the famine I got to talk to the kids and hear their thoughts - personal reflections on what it was like for them to go without food for 30 hours, how it impacted their understanding of how others live and actions they can take, where they saw Jesus in those moments. We also talked about "the event" and what they thought about the experience being with 200+ youth rather than with our own gathering.

What impressed me most was, that as we talked with our students afterwards, what they "liked best" wasn't the guys from Comedy Sportz (they were hilarious by the way), or the videos (very engaging videos on hunger, 'invisible children', personal visits to villages in Zambia), or the games (intense games of pin guard) but rather:
  • Shane Claiborne - "He was real! He wasn't just telling us to go and live differently...he was actually doing it himself."

  • Prayer Stations (we had 18 'experiential' prayer stations for the students to wander through and discover)

  • Serving - Packing food for FMSC.

It highlighted for me once again that ministry is NOT about entertainment. We can't outprogram the world. And in the context of packing food for Feed My Starving Children it brought to mind what our kids are "starving" for - they demonstrated spiritual cravings that were being satisfied during the 30 hours that they went without food. Cravings for:

  • serving others (love your neighbor as yourself)

  • closeness to God (Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength)

  • authentic relationship...seeing what it looks like to live, imperfect as we are, as a disciple.

Yeah....the famine helped to 'feed my (God's) starving children' and hopefully give them a taste of grace that will linger and increase their desire to follow Him.

What's the role of the youth pastor?

Mark Riddle posted this question on his blog. What are your thoughts?

(I won't put my thoughts here yet, but I did comment on Mark's)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I love my wife...

because she hides cards like this inside of my laptop for me to find.....and a million other reasons.

February 14th

Perichoresis (surprised I know this one!?)

Love (of course!)


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Did he get to heaven?

I had the privilege of teaching at Powerhouse tonight. First time this year I think. Powerhouse is our 7-8th grade youth gathering. (I really dislike the name by the way....but not enough to change it!) It is our most energetic group and unfortunately our most understaffed. Not a great situation - but kids keep coming, kids keep inviting, and I'm trying to patiently wait for the right person or two to be called to work with this age group....but that's not the point of this post. Sorry for the detour.

Tonight we were exploring the passage from Mark 2 where Jesus is teaching inside a home and there was a very large crowd. Four guys carry a paralyzed man to Jesus by climbing up on the roof, making a whole, and lowering him down. Then Jesus speaks the words to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Later the man is physically healed and he gets up and leaves. There is no record of any conversation between the man and Jesus. No record of his reaction more than him getting up and leaving (although the passage in Luke says he was praising God as he left.)

I asked the kids tonight, sort of off the top of my head, "Do you think that man went to heaven? Why or why not?" It lead to a great tension filled discussion with great questions and comments:

"Doesn't he have to ask Jesus into his heart, or say out loud that he believes?"

"Doesn't that fact that he got up show that he believed (and thus believed in) Jesus?"

"If his sins are forgiven, isn't that the start of his journey/faith in Jesus?"

"Was it enough that his friends had faith in Jesus and that saved him?"

Great questions - I was so impressed with our kids and leaders as they really talked about and tried to flesh out what was going on in the story and what they think.

What an amazing evening it was for me.....thanks Jesus.
Oh, by the way, what do you think? Did he get to heaven?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

PEAKS & valleys

Wow. This year has really started off as a roller coaster ride for me. I've had some very high PEAKS and some pretty deep valleys in the past couple of weeks. Here's a glimpse at the journey....

PEAK - Our prayer worship service to start the new year. We put together an opportunity for corporate, individual, and small group prayer into the worship service that was experiential, non-threatening, and inviting. One of the most intimate worship experiences I've had in awhile.

valley - calendar chaos. Between the family calendar and planning for youth events I feel WAY behind and as though I'm slogging through mud to start the year.

PEAK - SMYG this past Sunday morning was a great experience. Did a message on based on the stoning of Stephen. Lots of creative ideas came out of it - involving mirrors and rocks - and the kids/leaders seemed engaged. A good start to SMYG 2007.

valley - house chaos. I can't seem to get ahead on the house "chores" - just your mundane stuff like grocery shopping, laundry, keeping things picked up. And I let this bug me WAY more than I should.

PEAK - my run this past Saturday. I ran 40 minutes and felt great. Also felt very connected with God during that time - and landed on some good ideas for the SMYG lesson the next day.

valley - my daughter, Kate, heads back for college in 6 days. I don't show it enough (or tell her often enough) but I sure miss having her around. I can't imagine what it will be like when Kelsey leaves for college next fall - yikes!

PEAK - I have had some very encouraging comments from kids in our youth group over the past few weeks. Words are powerful tools.

As I process a little it is me striving for control that is frustrating me. That and just not buckling down and getting to work on things I need to persevere through. I guess I better start - and thank God for being present in the PEAKS and valleys of my life.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Clearing the Temple Update

What an interesting journey. I finally get it, that Jesus really wants me to start taking better care of my body (clearing the temple). A couple weeks later I find out that I have developed diabetes.
It has now been a little over 5 weeks since I've started running/biking and informally watching what I eat. In general I've been doing 30-45 minutes of exercise 3X/wk and cutting back on my portion size at meals. Here are some of my observations:
  • The first 5-8 minutes of exercising are the worst. It takes me a while to find a groove.

  • My weight has dropped about 10 pounds.

  • I have better energy in the afternoons.

  • My exercise time has become very prayerful. Especially in the "listening" phase of the conversations I have with God.

  • After about 25 minutes the only prayers I can say are very simple - "Holy Spirit fall on me"; "Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner", etc.

  • I enjoy watching sermons while I exercise....and listening to Kelly Clarkson. *sigh*

  • My family is very supportive of me. My kids even created a homemade exercise journal - complete with inspirational quotes - for me to track my progress.

It has been an amazingly positive experience - not just physically but spiritually. Praise God for blessing this adventure in clearing my temple so that there is more room for Him.