Good morning friends.
As mentioned in my last post, I really want to get in the habit of blogging just a bit more than I typically have been these past weeks. And so, as I spent the morning going through my Google reader, I thought perhaps I should share with you some of the blogs out there that have captured my attention, and give them some props. Here are your Links-N-At!
-Here's a great post by author Ed Cyzewski about that whole Prop 8 mess. If you ask me, Ed has nailed it in this controversial issue. 
-From a couple of days ago, Marko from youth specialties has ended his blog. On the one hand I'm really bummed because it was some of my must read material through the week, but on the other hand I'm super pumped that Marko could make such an awesome decision in his personal life. Such decisions are never easy. 

-John from Human3rror always has some of the best caption contests. Plus, the comments section led me to this video:

That's a good start, considering I came up with this idea AFTER I had cleared everything from my Google reader. I'll try to get more in next time we do this.

More later,


Wednesday Night Post-Game: Batman

Hello friends!
First of all, the J-Blog theme had to change. The old one looked cool, but things like the time-stamp and the links above the page were a mess. Since I was kind of forced to take the day off to deal with the dry-wall guys, I thought I'd spend a little bit of time working on the theme. I would appreciate comments and suggestions, so long as they make me happy.
I've also really fallen out of the habit of blogging with any kind of regularity. So here we are, trying to get back in the habit of blogging after the major events at Westminster, most notably Veritas and the Bridge. There's only one Veritas left, so that will fade out over the summer. But I'm hoping to be doing some live-blogging at Alive via my iPhone, and we'll make sure to include all our little day trips on here as well. Habits are good, so I'm gonna get back in the saddle. get the idea.

Last night we had Veritas. There were only about three 6th graders who showed up, which kind of scared us a little bit after the 20 some 6th graders from last week. However, we really hyped up last week because it was move up night, and there was apparently some sort of concert last night. What can you do?

Before we even got to Veritas, we had problem solving 202. Last week, we had the full youth band play, and they brought the rock pretty hard core. We desperately wanted to have that again, but we had also all but promised that we would play dodgeball. Until the new worship room is finished, we're not going to have a space to do the full band every week other than the gym, which is where we play dodgeball.

We eventually figured out a way to make everything work with minmal headaches. It did involve playing dodgeball sideways in the gym, which gave panzies like me much less room to hide. 
 For worship last night, I got to sit in on the drums with the band. It's been a really long time since I sat down behind my kit, and I have to say it felt pretty good. Some day I tell you, we're going to buy a house where I will have a basement in which I can set up my kit and leave it there, able to be played at a moment's notice. But until then, I'll just hop in whenever I get a chance, including this Sunday at the Bridge. 
We've been going over the directions series again at Veritas, trying once again to put our mission statement out to the kids in a new and creative way. The mission statement at Veritas is actually hidden in our logo:
The first arrow represents redemption, the love of Jesus Christ given for us to forgive our sins. The second arrow is the reaction arrow, which asks the kids what it is they're going to do about the forgiveness that Christ has given them.  This is the third or fourth time I've tried to give the same three week series, trying to mix it up a little bit each time we do it. This year, I'm going with a "Heroes" theme, and for the reaction arrow, I went with Batman. 
The point was that Batman owes everything he does to one pivotal event in his past. He decided that rather than just sit on the couch after his parents were murdered, that he was going to get up and do something about it. While I didn't advocate vengeance in any form, the question to the kids was "If you believe what we talked about last week, that Jesus died for your sins, then what are you going to do about it?" The talk was going pretty well, except the middle school boys were being fidgety and disruptive, which is usually ok, but they were totally distracting me! But that's alright, Veritas was pretty good last night. 
So today I am at home while the dry-wall guys fix my dining room ceiling. I'm going to try plugging away at some more writing for a book idea I have in my head, one which will hopefully actually get written. More posts to come!

Writing Projects

It's 8:50 in the morning, and I'm not at our usual Wednesday breakfast. This makes me sad. I have to sit in my living room while the dude from the dry wall company fixes this:
Unfortunately, I think that it might be worse than this alone. I'm seeing a couple of more little cracks in other places in the ceiling, so this might be a bit of a bigger issue than first anticipated. 
**Note: The dude just looked at the ceiling, and said that is absolutely a bigger issue than first anticipated**
So I am stuck at home, and at the moment, I am procrastinating about some of the work I have ahead of me. I have two big projects that I need to get acomplished, and I should be significantly more worried about the one. Today, before Veritas, I must:
1) Write my talk- And by write, I mean write, not just polish. I have absolutely nothing on paper right now. Other than I'm going to start with Batman. 

Well, actually I know a little bit more. I know that I'm going to include "Sharkbomb" from the Original Batman movie. 
(Imagine this with a bomb inside it...)
But beyond those illustraitions, I have absolutely nothing. But strangely, I feel pretty good about the talk. It just seems like lately Ed and I are about as on our game as Sid and Geno.

We had move up night last week, and the new sixth graders are a ton of fun! We hope that they'll come back tonight, and enjoy hanging out with us as much as we enjoy hanging out with them. 
I'm also working on an announcement loop for tonight. We haven't done those in a while, and while we've been pretty good about communicating announcements, it would be nice to bring it back.
Wow, it's taken me almost an hour to write this post. Up and down and up and down. Gotta work.



Good morning everybody!
I've been up since 7:30 this morning, but at 8:10 I've already been a productive little bee.
  • As I woke up, I leaned over and kissed my beautiful wife on the forehead (I appologize for the graphic nature of this blog)
  • I crawled my way into our tiny little bathroom, and took care of what needs to be taken care of when dealing with a fully functional digestive system. 
  • I came downstairs, ground some Dunkin Donuts coffee beans, and made about two cups of coffee for myself. I've been ill the last couple of days, so my stomach was in no mood for coffee. Thank God that's over!
  • I then opened up my laptop, and continued to find interested free apps for my iPhone. I'm up to five pages of apps already. So far my favorite app is one called Papijump. If you have an iPhone or an iPod touch, get this game! Just be warned that it is highly habit forming.
  • I opened up my e-mails, and deleted any that were trying to sell me something. The absence of e-mails after that made me a little sad. 
  • I then opened up my summer project. I'm working on a book about leading youth in worship, since I am both a youth pastor and a worship leader, I figure I may have a thing or two to say on the subject. I've tried to write books before, but the little avail. I'll have more on this later.
As I gaze back over that list, a thought occurs to me on this day of all days. How many items on that list would not be possible if it weren't for the men and women who fought to protect our freedom? Typically, I'm fairly anti-war. I really disagreed with the Iraq war from start to finish. But today is much bigger than the war itself. Today is about the people who are so willing to offer themselves to us as Americans. People who stand up and say "I'll go where no one else is willing to go." People who will stand for absolutely nothing less than our total freedom.
For some reason, it seems like this year we are focusing more on that than we are on cook outs and hamburgers. I hope so anyway. If you are a veteran, please accept my most heartfelt thanks. Our lives simply wouldn't be the same without you, and we are forever in your debt. May we never forget what you've done.

Why I love my job:


If I believed in Karma...

Hello friendly blogger readers. 
Here's a story for everybody:
A couple of months ago, my wife accidentally washed a pair of pants that contained my iPhone in their pocket. Well, she didn't accidentally wash the pants. They just accidentally had my iPhone in their pocket. It was an incredibly bad time for me. I had so fallen in love with all the Apps, the ability to listen to music as loud as I'd like in my car without fearing that I would miss a call, the looks of envy on other youth pastors faces at NYWC. Now they were all gone. And I was sad...
I took the phone to the Apple Store, hoping to purchase a new one and kiss my three hundred dollars goodbye. I was nearly sent to an early grave when the lady behind the counter informed me that my new phone would actually cost me $600!!!!!!!!! Come on people, I'm a youth pastor. I don't think I've ever had a spare $600 to spend on a phone. I walked out sad and alone, down to the AT&T store, and picked up a Palm Centro. I passed the time by writing many sad poems. 

But then, hope sprung eternal. It was brought to my attention that Apple was offering a refurbished iPhone to owners of water-damaged iPhones for a mere $199. I was thrilled. With some generous donations from the parents for my birthday, I went to the Apple store and picked up the new digs. Happy days were here again.
 I spent all day yesterday re-establishing my settings on the olde iPhone, making it personalized and all ready for active duty. I played games like MonkeyBall and Pampi Jump. I made the occasional phone call. It was all going so swimmingly. Until...
Our roof collapsed. 
Sarah had noticed before we went to bed that there were cracks in the plaster above the table. We agreed that we should call our landlords in the morning, as it was 11:00 when we noticed this problem. Sarah wanted to move everything underneathe the cracks. I thought she was crazy. Admitting you're wrong is important in any marriage.
At about midnight, we heard a rather loud bang from the room beneath us. We knew exactly what it was. The plaster just came straight down.  Things that could have been ruined had I not listened to my wife:
My laptop.
My $2000 Guitar
Our super comfortable (yet structurally unsound) reading chair
If I believed in karma, I would say that entirely too much good stuff was happening to me that day, that things needed to balance out. I would simply say that weird stuff was happening at weird times. Either way, I got to have a pretty good chuckle at my roof fail.

Stay tuned, more to come tonight.



Hello friends.
I have to admit, I was skeptical. I was exceptionally nervous coming into tonight, assuming that it would be a 1 goal game, two if there was a pulled goalie. God help us all if the game went into overtime, my heart wouldn't have been able to take it. But then it happened. 
(Note: That's transmission fluid. If you're first thought was blood, know that that was the intended metaphor, only no one had to die to produce this photograph.)
6-2. Are you kidding me? At one point this game was 5-0!!!!!!!! Unreal. Everybody says bring on the 'Canes, but after surviving this series, and winning the way we did tonight, I say bring em all on. We can handle it. Bring it!
Lately, I've felt like a little bit of an injured athlete. Not one of those "I tweaked my pinky finger" injuries either. Something a bit more like this:
Tonight was my first time back at Veritas in three weeks. Three weeks folks! That's entirely too long to be away from my passion. The problem has been the illness, sure. But even the couple of times I've poked my head in the church over the last few weeks, it's been a distraction. Not that it's bad, it's just that I've spent my time focused on things other than youth ministry. I have preached up at the 8:30 service two weeks in a row, with a brief stop at the 11:00 two weeks ago. Again, I love preaching up there, but it was a distraction from youth ministry. I was working on the end of confirmation stuff, which again is fun and part of what I do, but not really youth ministry. It was time to get my head on straight.
So tonight was good. We started up the Student Leadership Interviews today, and they've been going pretty good so far. The unfortunate part is that 13 kids have applied, and we're only opening 7 slots this year, so we're going to have some tough decisions to make in the coming days. But for now, I took great comfort in hearing the kids describe what Veritas meant to them. In their answers, it really indicated that the kind of vision and dream we had for Veritas is starting to take on flesh and blood and move into the neighborhood. It was just a nice way to hop in and get my feet wet with the job I am so desperately in love with!
And the best part is that I'm not done yet!
More to come.

Random Sillyness

Hey kids.
I'm just now crawling out of the illness realm. While I'll get back to more serrious blogging soon, I thought I'd pass this along to you all for your giggles.

H/T to Vicki Beeching for this one.
Enjoy the day!

A life recap.

I am up to a billion things right now. Here's a brief selection for you:
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I am camped out on the couch watching the Pens game. If you ask me, we are crushing them right now even though it's only 1-0. We just seem like we're dominating. It's freaking hockey, so this could all turn on us in two to four seconds, so let's not get the cart before the horse. I'll feel comfortable when it's 3-0. 
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I've really been enjoying reporting for Examiner. So far I've had 5 stories up, and they've all been pretty well read. None better than my article about gay marriage, so maybe we'll spend a little bit more time on that topic. Gotta give the people what they want. If you're interested in supporting a new and budding journalist, click on that pretty blue link at the top of the J-Blog.
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I may have bronchitis. I had a sinus thing a couple of weeks ago, and I even took a week off to try to shake it. Now I can't stop coughing. WebMD seems to think it's bronchitis. I'm hoping to get with a doctor tomorrow before you all start mothering me over the internet. 
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I try my very best not to be political on this blog. It's supposed to be either about youth ministry or the useless recounting of whatever is on my mind at the moment. However, I feel the need to plug Natalia Rudiak. 
I was shocked a couple of months ago when Natalia herself called me to explain what she was running for (things like making sure the roads get plowed here in Overbrook), and to ask for my support. I was stunned to think that a candidate would call herself, rather than a volunteer or whatever. So my love of clear roadways and personal touches led me to pledge my support to her.
Then tonight, she showed up herself at my door. I've already had some volunteers from the other campaigns stop by, but she's the first to stop by herself. We really didn't even talk about the campaign, she just wanted to get me in on some existing community organizing that's going on around here. Class act I tell ya.
If you're anything like me, when it comes to city council in sill elections you play rock paper scissors in your head or pick the candidate with the coolest sounding name (another reason Miss Rudiak will have my vote...). But I think Rudiak will do awesome things for the south of Pittsburgh, so if you have a vote in the City, make your way to the polls on May 19th and vote!
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Let's go Pens!

The sound of silence.

Greetings bloggers!
As I mentioned in my last post, we just wrapped up our confirmation process last week, and it was quite a marathon for me and the other leaders. On Thursday of last week, I realized that I was tired, worn out, burnt out, beat up, bruised, and all around incapable of doing my job. So I decided to take an impromptue vacation this week. 
(I wish I had gone somewhere cool like that...)
Actually for the most part I stayed home. I think I watched about 4 movies on demand, and then switched over to the netflix movies we've had sitting around for a while. My dog Marley sat by my side almost the entire week, usually putting her nose in my lap in such a way that says "I am absolutely the cutest thing you will ever come across, and don't you forget it!"
(Doesn't stand a chance...)
However, on Wednesday and Thursday I went up to Camp Harmony to take part in a little bit of a silent/reflective retreat. I have preached I don't know how many times about spending some time in silence to hear what God has to say to you, but this was the first time I had ever spend any decent amount of time in silence. Or at least tried to. 
When I got there Wednesday afternoon, Dan invited me to go to worship with him. I hadn't been in a place where I could just worship without having to worry about a sound system breaking down, so I thought even though I had intended a silent retreat, it might be nice to get out and sing some songs with people I don't know. This of course turned into a on the spot solo-show, five songs later my voice starting to give out due to the cold that I had been holding on to for weeks (which is finally starting to slip away, thanks for asking). One night into my silent retreat and it was about as silent as this was graceful:
(Still the best video on the internet)
But after I got back from worship, it was as quiet as could be. I was up late into the night, journaling my prayers and really asking God to restore me to my former energy levels. I spent more time in the word than I can remember in recent months. I read some books that had been on my reading list for quite some time now. I read some magazines about dorky stuff like computers and video games. But most of all I prayed, and I sat in silence waiting for a response. And while the skies didn't open up, and the phone didn't ring, and I didn't hear an audible voice, God answered me. 
I feel more awake and alert and energetic than I have in a long time. I feel like digging back in and going forward in ministry. I feel like diving in head first, making the most of every minute that's left of this ministry year. 
When was the last time you spent any serious amount of time in silence?