Wednesday Night Post-Game: Reset

Hey Bloggers,
Have you ever had an idea that was so great, yet you had the idea a little bit too late so you had to cram about a month's worth of preparation into about a day? That, my friends, has been my weekend.
The story goes a little like this: I was in the youth room on Saturday before Ed's wedding, and the Wii was broken. 
Cue failblog:
It wasn't that bad, and I didn't break anything in the youth room. I just had to push the reset button on the thing and let it cool down a little bit. Kind of like how you used to have to blow on old NES cartridges to make them work.
But then I started thinking about how Lent was pretty much designed to be a spiritual version of just that. We were meant to take a few moments out of our lives (40 of the 365) and push reset. Taking stock in everything that we're up to, how we need to fix things up, maybe clean out a few closets. 
My other big inspiration came from cleaning out the house this weekend, in particular a certain junk drawer that had been collecting way too much junk. This week, I challenged the kids to take an inventory of their lives, and sort out what got to stay and what had to go. Kind of like cleaning out a mental junk drawer. Just dump the contents on to the bed and get to sorting, and don't be afraid to throw things overboard. 
PS, there's a littler blog at our youth group site ( that we're going to be running throughout Lent. If you're interested, I'm looking for a couple of different voices to add to it, so hit me up if you're interested in writing. If not, just keep reading!



Monday Morning Update

Good morning faithful readers. It's time for the Monday Morning update, a useless recounting of what's going on in my world. Go grab that cup of coffee, and let's dive in.
Current Listening: This is not a suggestion: everyone go buy Mixtape Metro's new CD. It is a wonderful CD, and I can't stop listening to it. (I think this may ultimately be one of those CDs I over play, but I'm willing to live with that.)
Current Reading: I am way behind on my reading plan. I have halted all reading projects and gone back to How can a good God let bad things happen, because I'm supposed to review it in the next week or so. 
Bible Study: One of the only new years resolutions that I'm still hot on the trail of. Must stay strong!
The Gym: Haven't seen the inside of the gym in about a month. No good. Gotta get back in there.
Big Project: I am super excited to be writing some new songs. More on this later!

Catch ya later!


Sunday Post Game: Technology and the Bridge Will Never Get Along.

Hi kids,
Today we continued a losing streak when it comes to Jim attending the Bridge and Technology. His microphone died right at the beginning of the sermon. It worked fine during sound check. I'm personally asking Congress this week for federal bailout money.

(Sugar Daddy)
On top of that, I was dead dog tired today, because last night we were rocking away at Ed and Elise's wedding. A great time was had by all, but it led to a very sleepy morning that even Starbucks cannot cure. 

Can I admit it is hard to worship in these moments? It's hard enough to get yourself to wake up out of a slumber, but to do so on a day when nothing was working technologically? Mandi did a terrific job leading worship, except her microphone kept falling down. Jim's sermon was wonderful, except I could not hear it over the heater fan. It was a tough morning. 

I desperately want our new sound system. Tomorrow. 

Tough loss today too. On the rebound though. 
More later.

The Sex Talk

(Let us all hope that this is the last time I'll have to venture into Google images looking for a related image that doesn't cause me to sin out right...)
Greetings friends,
As I mentioned in the last post, we just wrapped up our yearly series on sex. The whole process (as it does every year) has got me thinking about what a youth pastor's role is in shaping the sexual activity of teenagers, and this year in particular, why nothing I said the last two weeks makes a hoot of difference. 
For starters, here's what the talk focused on:
  • 46% of teenagers today admit to having sexual intercourse.
  • 20% of teenagers today admit to "sexting", sending raunchy photos or messages to each other.
  • For me, these things are cheap immitations of the good sex that God has planned for each and every one of us, which takes place in the covenant of marriage. 
  • 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8 says that there is a "most excellent way", and that it involves a love that's patient, kind, etc.
The moral of the story the last couple of weeks has been comparing pre-marital sex and God's view of sex to Hunts ketchup vs. Heinz
During the time of questions (my favorite 20 minutes of the year) we got the same question we get every year: how far is too far?

(This guy RAN too far)
I get asked this question every year, and every year I move the goal posts back as far as I can. This year I even suggested that girls who wear provative clothing are taking things a bit too far, given that boys are visually stimulated and that even a lug wrench can turn our minds to thoughts of lust.
As the talk wound down, and I made my way back to my house, I felt the yearly sense of disappointment. The truth is that even as a youth pastor, someone that an alarming number of kids have admitted looking up to, I have little to no influence over them in this matter. The chances of me finding sexually provocative photographs on facebook tomorrow are every bit as good as they were before I gave this talk on Wednesday. The mainstream culture has taken over and immersed these kids with the idea that it's ok, and while I don't usually buy into the Christian Culture Wars, this is one area where I feel passionate.

At the end of the day, I suppose it's just about being there and trying our best to show the kids "the most excellent way", both in our own lives and by pointing it out when we see it. Of course I'd be interested in your thoughts on the subject, so leave some comments action. 
I'm going to try to read a little bit before leaving for the weekend! 

Wednesday Night Post Game: A perfect storm

Hello friends.
The cold still lingers, though today is probably the best I've felt all week. Though last night, I was horrified that the cold was going to ruin Veritas. I was half tempted to ask Ed to cover for me while I went home to sleep, but then a slight family situation arose for Ed, and he had to leave for the evening. I was on my own again.
So I did what any average human being would do in my situation:
That's right. Shortly after lunch time, with writing the talk still hanging over my head, I laid down on our incredibly comfortable couch and took a nap. I felt like I was in Kindergarden again. I laid down on the couch and put my laptop on a chair beside me to play an episode of CSI.

(Gil Grissom is the MAN!)
I can't remember at all what happened in the episode. I was out like a light man. Right out.
Matt came to hang out with us and teach the Jr. High. He is far and away my hero. The night might have been horrible without him, given my cold and my inability to speak in a normal voice.

Oh, and add to the mix that last night was the last installment of the sex talk.

It all went really well. We played some kickball, rocked and rolled some worship, and then talked about making babies. I want to write a little bit more about the sex talk in depth, some of the reasons why it's one of my favorite talks to give and at the same time one of my least favorite talks to give. But I think that's for a later post.
Today I am home, waiting for the Comcast people. I'm going to get caught up on some writing (talks and sermons and books) and watch some more CSI.

Do it.

The sense of home and the local church.

Greetings from my couch. 
I am home sick again today. I went to staff meeting and creative lunch, but then felt the need to bail after that. I feel like someone has grabbed a hold of my sinuses and is trying to pull me around the room. Plus, I woke up at 4:30 AM for no reason, so I'm more than a little bit tired. But from my couch, and while watching some television, the idea for a blog post came up.
I walked in the door, set my back pack down. I ran up to our office and put on a set of PJ pants and a hoodie. I wanted to try to do a little bit of work, so I popped in a little David Crowder Band how to DVD, and worked on a couple e-mails. The whole time I was overwhelmed with this sense of cozi-ness, the sense of home that is so irreplaceable. Any other day this prevailing sense might be over-looked, misplaced, or down right ignored. But in a time when I am beat up, beat down, run down, etc, it is right in my face, and it will not be ignored. 
While I was watching Crowder, and feeling this sense of tremendous "At-Homeness" (it's a word), Crowder began talking about his local church in Waco TX. All of it got me thinking about the local church I attend at Westminster, and how the last few weeks have just felt so right walking through those double doors in to our gymnasium, and the same at-homeness that has washed over me. Worship needs to happen in a comfortable place, in a place where all involved can feel comfortable. This is why to me and many of my friends, worshipping in a basketball stadium just doesn't seem to make sense. 
The thing is (I started writing this post about four hours ago), I'm still sick. I feel worn out and run down and actually, even a little bit worse than I did when I got home. The sense of home didn't actually make me feel better, but it certainly helped ease my mind. 
I think this is absolutely critical for those of us who lead worship.  For me, it would be easy to be the "staff person", come in with the guitar, sing a few songs, and run away to whatever Sunday school class came next. But for us, to creat that absolute sense of home, I think we need to immerse ourselves in the community of our churches. 
Preach it Crowder:

Now for some cereal and sleep. Hopefully I'll feel good enough for Veritas tomorrow!


The Cold Lingers

I am ill. I have a cold. I have attempted to write some blog posts yesterday, but my mind was way too cloudy. Then I woke up today at 4:30 AM. Like wide awake. Crazy.
So, instead of the typical postings, here's a stupid video for you.

God bless Sudafed.


Episode 15

As promised, here's this week's J and Ed. Laugh!

Wednesday Night Post Game: Abraham Lincoln Beard

Good morning everybody. 
Today would be Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. Even if he had lived to be 200 years old, I doubt very much he would look any more or less scary. What a guy!
Last night was great. We kicked things off with a J and Not Ed Variety Show (which I'm currently trying to upload to Youtube, and they're being babies...) including Dr. Phill playing some B-Ball. It might not have been one of the funniest skits we've ever done, but I think it might be one of the most well shot. If youtube ever gets off it's butt I'll post it here. Until then, enjoy this video:
For a game we went with the old stand by. 

Worship actually went extremely well too. We sang Mighty to Save, which is turning into a crowd favorite. Then I tagged on the bridge to The Stand, which was also pretty well recieved. I feel like our kids are finally starting to see why worship is so important.
 Then we waltzed into the dreded sex talk. Actually, as could easily have been predicted, we didn't get to cover everything I wanted to cover last night, so I'm splitting the talk and going back to cover part two next week. More on this later I am certain. 
I got me some new shoes last night. They're that red. There is no effect on the photograph. I am in no danger of being hit by cars at night any more. Unless of course I blind the driver. However, I love the feeling of new shoes, and so I leave you with this:

More later.


Let's talk about sex

(A quick note about searching for the intro image to this post: Google Safe Search is up to the task!)
Good morning everyone.
The week before Valentine's Day has been traditionally the week I choose to talk about sex at youth group. This year is no exception, only this year I'm stepping aside from how I usually do things and trying a new approach. It was actually fueled by a friend of mine on our ski retreat weekend, who said something along the lines of "It's more effictive to show people the kingdom they could have instead of the hell their on their way to."

So often I feel like the sex talks I've witnessed and even (sadly) given have all centered around the concept of making the kids feel guilty for having sexual thoughts and desires. That really isn't fair, is it? I mean, God created us in the beginning to have a strong desire to pair up and find our mate, someone God had intended for us. He created a system by which we get to have sex, and make it rather enjoyable. Our kids have these desires to have the world as it was, pre-Eden, pre-fall. The thing we have to fight against is what the world has done with sex since.

In researching for this talk, I discovered that a recent survey showed that 20% of kids admitted to "Sexting", or sending Nude photos of themselves to their boyfriends/girlfriends. Again, I know that I don't want to guilt our kids or make them feel bad about this. Isn't it easier to tell them that there is a better plan for their sexual lives than trying to stare at a naked body on a 2x3 inch screen? Not to mention, what makes me truly sad about the art of sexting is that if you're under 18, you can be charged for possession of child pornography for taking pictures of yourself.

The moral of the story is I'm still working through all of this for the talk tonight, and I could use some prayers. I'm not sure how it's all going to play out, but I'll keep you in the loop!

Diary of a Lunatic: Give up

(Hey everybody! I write a monthly article for our church's newsletter. I thought I'd share this month's article here on the blog. Enjoy!)

I remember as a young boy going to youth club (our church’s version of the much better named JAM) during the season of lent. At first, I thought everyone was saying lint, and I was a bit confused as to why we had a Christian holiday to celebrate that stuff dad makes me pick out of the drier. But later that night, we met with our youth leader and she discussed what lent was all about.

Somewhere in the discussion, we were told that one of the key points of Lent is that Christians the world over would choose something to give up between Ash Wednesday and Easter. My initial response was to give up vegetables, but I was quickly overruled. As it turns out, you are supposed to give up something of value to you that is in fact getting in the way of your faith.

As the years have come and gone, I’ve given up a whole host of things for lent. Chocolate. Pop. Fried Food. Coffee (that was a bad year). And yet, the whole thing seemed a bit unsettling to me. I would give up whatever I felt was standing in the way of my faith (as I type this I have discovered that apparently what I eat has a lot to do with my faith walk...), but then Easter morning I would relapse and begin consuming it, sometimes with even more passion and zeal than I had the day before. It just didn’t seem right.

Or how about Marti Gras? The whole celebration is based on the idea that the next day (being Ash Wednesday) you’re going to give up whatever it is you love the most, so you better consume or celebrate it as much as you possibly can now! Kind of like going on a spending spree at Diary Queen the night before you start your big diet.

Is it me, or is that kind of approach to lent misleading or even misguided? In reality, the season of lent is designed to strengthen our walk with the Savior, to enhance our faith. As I think about it now, I think the early church fathers were brilliant in the timing of this season. Just as winter has lost it’s majesty and beauty and has turned into ugly slushy muck, we’re given a chance to strengthen our faith. If you’re like me, you’re going to need it to get to spring.

What if instead of giving something up, we gave in? I’ve been talking with a bunch of my friends about the concept of Irresistible Grace, this idea that no matter how hard we fight it, Christ chases us with his love and we will inevitably give in and love him back. So what if we spent this season of lent giving in to that love rather than giving up something that will only come back into our lives at Easter?

Maybe instead of giving up, we should be adding on. If you’re anything like me, your quiet time with God usually lasts for a day or two, week tops. Then the life’s insanity takes hold, and you’re left asking yourself where the days have gone. What if instead of giving something up, we added on to our faith? A new spiritual discipline? Perhaps a renewed zeal towards quite time, or scripture meditation, or even a weekly walk on the Westminster Labyrinth.

The obvious problem with this approach is that it’s a little bit harder. I admit it would probably be easier to pick something I could probably live without anyway and go on a 40 day cleanse. But this “give in” approach requires attention, or discipline. So I would recommend a prayer partner, or an accountability group. Someone you trust, someone who can keep you honest about your faith and what you’d like to add on to it. After all, the entire idea behind church is the idea of community.

And while you’re at it, stop by my blog every now and again. ( I’ll be sharing tips and tricks along the way throughout lent to help us all add on to our spiritual lives.

May we all give in to the love that pursues us.



Monday Morning Update

Good morning faithful readers. It's time for the Monday Morning update, a useless recounting of what's going on in my world. Go grab that cup of coffee, and let's dive in.
Current Listening: In all my trips back and forth from Camp Harmony, I think I've listened to everything on my iPod. However, if I had to pick a couple of bands that have been at the Forefront I'd have to pick The Notwist and Owl City. Good bands!
Current Reading: I'm reading tons of books right now. This morning I'm sitting with Doug Field's Refuel. I think it's a book that's going to be speaking to exactly where I am, even though I'm not nearly as beat up and tired as I was about a week ago . 
Bible Study: Still working through the Remix. Slow going though, as I've missed a couple days. Gotta get back on track. 
The Gym: Wow. My retreat weekends have decimated my gym routine. Ed being in India and Matt having broken his butt hasn't helped either, but I don't want this to be about them. I need to go, and in fact I need to go today. 
Big Project: I really don't have any projects right now. I've been writing some new songs, so I imagine I'll spend a little bit of time this week hammering them out. Other than that, I would really like to set aside some time to clean my office this week!

Catch ya later!


Sunday Post-Game: Slacking.


Greetings readers!
It was such a busy weekend, I had to post the Sunday Post game a day late. Sorry about that to those of you who faithfully await the recounting of Sunday's adventures. However, I will gladly take the delay, because there were absolutely no technical issues this week at the Bridge! NONE! Say it ain't so!
Actually, this Sunday update starts on Friday, when I spent my third and final weekend on the Camp Harmony tour. Can this be a space for some serious encouragement? The folks at Camp Harmony are doing a terrific job. All three of the weekends were a wonderful time. The first weekend I played drums for Mark, and then the second two I was the worship leader. It was just some good clean fun. I really enjoy leading worship for a group of energetic kids. But again, I really can't compliment the Harmony staff enough. They're doing a terrific job, which is surprising when you consider the guy in charge has destroyed somewhere around 6 cars:
Sunday I returned to Westminster to lead the Bridge. I had a moment when I walked into the WROC with my amp and guitars, when I remembered why I loved this worship service so much. It's just fun to be around this group of people, this community of believers. I guess in a way, it was just a feeling as I walked in the door that I was home.
It was a small worship team, just me Alan Jeff and EWoo. In fact, we were pretty tight that way. I played electric guitar all weekend, which was fun. We mic'ed it for the first time, just to make sure you could hear it no matter where you were in relation to the amp. The set list was:
  • Undignified
  • Everything Glorious
  • He Was There
  • Mighty to Save
  • Hold Me Closer
We haven't played some of those songs in a while, and it was fun to see the congregation respond. All in all it was a really good morning of worship. And did I mention that there were absolutely no technical issues?

(Didn't even watch. Probably shouldn't have.)
Don't go far. The Monday Morning Update is coming.

Wednesday Night Post-Game: Back in Action

(I defy you to listen to get that song out of your head. It's been in mine all day)
Greetings faithful readers. 
Last night was the stuff that crappy Disney sports movies are made of. My star player was in India. I was (as previously posted) a bit tired and out of the loop. It was worship night (traditionally a bit more work involved than a standard Veritas). I was going to need to summon all of Coach Bombay's strength to win this one. 
But all kidding aside, last night was a really great night. We worshipped with the JAM kids for the first time, and they were a lot better behaved that I would have imagined them being. They were awesome. I was also pretty proud of our youth worship team, who have really come together over last weekend's retreat and have gotten their A-Game on. 
For a talk last night, three of our students gave a presentation on their trip to the Dominican. It was stupendous! The girls did a really good job, and had a lot to back their talk up with. It was good stuff.
We did a couple of prayer stations that I want to tell you about, but I'm going to save that for another post. 
I'm just so excited that a night of worship is really all that's required to get me out of my slump. Seeing the kids respond the the call of God the way they did last night was excellent, and I say again to everyone in this business that the kids minister to us more than we ever minister to them. 
Another weekend at Camp Harmony coming up. More on this later!
PS, you want to see unbridled joy? Take a look at this from last night's game:

When your faith is tired.

Greetings readers.
The Penguins coughed up yet another lead, and I just couldn't bare to watch. I am tired. So tired I don't think I could sleep right now. Sarah went to bed early, but I could not fall in love with the idea of resting my head on a pillow right now. I am in between awake and exhausted, and it's not just a physical thing.
Rob Bell spoke once about each of us having different fuel gages in our lives. There's a gage for being actually physically tired, like when you get home from a retreat tired. There's a gage for emotionally tired, like when your favorite hockey team absolutely refuses to well, play hockey. There's a gage for your faith. There are many many gages, and at the moment, every single one of mine is sitting on empty. 
I spent the day today cranky and irritable. Little things that shouldn't get under my skin did in a big way. I'm glad I had enough in the reserves to not blow up for no reason at all, which typically happens on days like today. Helpless victims are left scratching their head as to what they could have done to warrant such wrath, when the truth is my mind is just lashing out at how things aren't going exactly my way. 
One of the biggest tell-tale signs of an empty tank for me is an incredibly restless spirit. Like I said, I'm so tired right now I can feel the bags under my eyes, but I just couldn't lie down right now. All day I've been switching between activities. I would read a page or two, then put the book down and start writing a talk, then I would go to the worship service for this weekend and hammer out a detail or two before getting sucked into watching the news before picking up a different book and reading one or two pages of that. I sometimes feel like I'm going crazy. 

I've been carrying a prayer journal around with me the last few weeks, and today while I was eating lunch in the food court I wrote down that I wanted to drink God's grace like a cup of coffee. At first, it just seemed like a nice sentence to write down, but it turned into a whole train of thought for me. Coffee is not often a beverage chugged. For me, it's not even a beverage any more that is meant only to wake me up. I have a mug of coffee in my hands at all times during the day.

For a while on Sundays, I would stop at Starbucks before the Bridge. I would typically order either a Venti Peppermint Mocha or a Venti Raspberry White Chocolate Mocha (and yes, I'm aware those are two of the most pansy drinks available). But what shocked my friends was that a Venti coffee could last me from set up to tear down, all in all about 3 hours worth of work. I was traditionally known for sipping the last cold drop from my cup as I was walking back up to my office. Coffee is meant to be enjoyed, savored, slow, flavorful. To just throw back a cup of coffee in a college-worthy chug would miss about 95% of the experience. 

How much different would life be if we could convince ourselves to enjoy God's grace like a decent cup of coffee? Tonight, as I am running on empty in all tanks, I believe I need a different approach. So often I pray as I climb in bed that God would heal me tomorrow, that I would be back to 100%. But maybe grace is meant to be enjoyed slowly, savored, right down to the very last drop (which will ultimately never come, a coffee lover's dream come true). Maybe I should stop treating God like a bank teller, only there to provide me with a good or service. Maybe I should start seeing Him for all He is. Rather than going for the quick fix, maybe it should be more like a pair of friends catching up over coffee.