Breaking News!


Tomorrow is a glorious day.
After 2 and a half years of working at Westminster. My dream is finally coming true.
Tomorrow, is the opening day of the brand new Dunkin Donuts in Dormont. I feel like this is good on several levels. There is a double D close by, but not so close as to cause obscene fatness and wallet emptying.
To celebrate, I will be popping in and picking up donuts for the staff. And an extra big shot of coffee for me. Real big. Super sized. Not addicted.


iPod playlist December 09.


Somebody wrote on twitter or something the other day that they wanted to see less lists and more original blog posts. I took the bait, I'm going to be making some lists. HA!
But seriously, about once a month I get severe music ADD, and change out every song on my iPhone. And so, I present to you, the good people of the blogosphere, the contents of my iPhone this month. Feel free to argue my poor choices in the comments!

  • Alanis Morissette (Flavors of Entanglement)
  • The Album Leaf (Green Tour EP, In a Safe Place)
  • Anathallo (Floating World)
  • Anberlin (Cities)
  • Andrew Osenga (Letters to the Editor Volumes One and Two, The Morning)
  • Andrew Peterson (Behold the Lamb of God)
  • The Beatles (Abbey Road, #1) (It should be noted here that my Beatles collection is in sad shape, and I'll be looking to remedy this situation sometime soon!)
  • Ben Folds (Ben Folds Live)
  • Ben Harper (Diamonds on the Inside)
  • Blue Man Group (The Complex)
  • Bob Dylan (The Essential Bob Dylan)
  • Bob Marley (Legend)
  • Brandon Heath (Don't Get Comfortable, What if We)
  • Brenton Brown (Everlasting God, Introducing Brenton Brown)
  • Caedmon's Call (In the Company of Angels, Overdressed, Share the Well)
  • Chris Tomlin (Glory in the Highest)
  • Dave Matthews/Dave Matthews Band (Some Devil, Live at Luther College, Live at Radio City, Before These Crowded Streets, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, Central Park Concert, Live at Mile High Music Festival, Live at Nissan Pavilion) (I like Dave)
  • David Crowder Band (All I can Say, Church Music, Illuminate, Sunsets and Sushi)
  • Death Cab for Cutie (Narrow Stairs, Plans, Transatlanticisim)
  • The Decemberists (The Crane Wife, The Hazards of Love, iTunes live from SoHo EP)
  • Derek Webb (The House Show, Mockingbird, The Ringing Bell, Stockhom Syndrom)
  • Eisley (Combinations, Fire Kite EP)
  • Enter the Worship Circle (Second, Third, Fourth Circles)
  • Fiction Family (Fiction Family)
  • A Fine Frenzy (Blue Christmas EP)
  • Goo Goo Dolls (Dizzy Up the Girl)
  • Guster (Ganging Up on the Sun, Goldfly, Keep It Together, Live in Allston MA, Lost and Gone Forever, Parachute)
  • Hellogoodbye (Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!)
  • Jack Johnson (En Concert, In Between Dreams, On and On, Sleep Through the Static)
  • Jars of Clay (Christmas Songs, Furthermore, Good Monsters, If I Left the Zoo, The Long Fall Back to Earth, Redemption Songs)
  • Jarvis Cocker (Further Complications)
  • Jason Mraz (Jason Mraz's Beautiful Mess- Live on Earth)
  • Jimmy Eat World (Chase This Light, Christmas EP, Clarity)
  • John Mayer (Battle Studies, Continuum, Heavier Things)
  • Jon Foreman (Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter)
  • Josh Wilson (Sing: A Christmas EP)
  • Life House (No Name Face)
  • Matt Maher (Alive Again)
  • Moby (Play and Play B Sides)
  • Mute Math (Mute Math, Armistice)
  • Nevin James (Perfect Strangers)
  • The Notwist (The Devil, You + Me)
  • O.A.R. (All Sides, In Between Now and Then, Live From Madison Square Garden, Stories of a Stranger)
  • Owl City (Maybe I'm Dreaming, Ocean Eyes, Of June)
  • Paul Baloche (Glorious, Our God Saves, The Writers Collection)
  • The Postal Service (Give Up)
  • Radiohead (The Best of Radiohead, In Rainbows)
  • Regina Spektor (Begin to Hope)
  • Relient K (Let it Snow Baby, Let it Reindeer)
  • Robbie Seay Band (Better Days)
  • Rogue Wave (Eyes, iTunes Exclusive EP)
  • Shane and Shane (Clean, an Evening With Shane and Shane, Glory in the Highest, Pages)
  • Shawn McDonald (Live in Seattle)
  • Sisters Hazel (Santa's Playlist, ...Somewhere More Familiar)
  • Starfield (I Will Go, Starfield, Beauty in the Broken)
  • Switchfoot (The Beautiful Letdown, Hello Hurricane, Oh! Gravity)
  • Third Day (Christmas Offerings)
  • Thom Yorke (The Eraser)
  • Tristan Prettyman (Hello, Live Session, Twenty Three)
  • U2 (All that You Can't Leave Behind, How to Dissmantal an Atomic Bomb)
  • Various Artists (Across the Universe, City On A Hill Christmas, I Am Sam, iTunes Fall 2009 Sampler, A Very Special Christmas)
  • The Weepies (Hideaway, Say I Am You)
  • Weezer (Christmas With Weezer)
  • Nooma (Soundtrack Volume One)
There you have it! What's there that shouldn't be? What's not there that should be? Let me know!

Pep Talk


Greetings bloggers!
I hope everyone is enjoying the Thanksgiving hangover that is Black Friday. If you were brave enough to hit the stores today, my hat is off to you! If you are like my sister, and had to work on a day like this, you are a hero! I still have not quite figured out what would possess a person to be up at 3 am to find any kind of "deal." Personally, I did some shopping on Old Navy dot com, and came away with some pretty good bargains. And all while sleeping in for the morning!

But I want to talk to those of us who find ourselves doing ministry. Consider this your pep talk.

This is it my brothers and sisters! This weekend represents the last moments of sanity you or I are going to possess until Christmas. You know it. I know it. It's a reality, and it stems through all kind of church work, not just youth ministry.

If you're the pastor, or if you find yourself preparing sermons for the coming Advent season, you're in trouble. Everybody has such high expectations for the Advent/Christmas season, and you better not let them down. Or at least that's what it feels like sometimes, right? You feel like you have to come up with something that's bigger and better than last year (while trying not to remind yourself that your congregation can't remember what you preached about last week, let alone what you preached on last Advent). And so you find yourself either locked in your office twitching in the fetal position or attempting to maintain some dignity while doing the same thing in a public coffee shop.

Or maybe you're in the Christian Education department. These little ones absolutely lose their minds around Advent time. Maybe it's the promise of presents to come. Maybe it's the ridiculous quantities of sugar they're consuming on a daily basis. Maybe it's the fact that mom and dad have a million Christmas parties to attend, and so every night they get to order pizza and harass the baby sitter. Either way, they're yours now, and that hour seems to tick by way slower for the next couple of weeks. You are tempted beyond all temptations to throw a Veggie Tales marathon, and take a little personal time. Don't do it. You'll end up hating them while they ask you a million questions through the film and wind up telling them that (spoiler alert) Santa doesn't exist just to spite them. I've seen it happen people. You do not want those phone calls.

Or (on a more serious note) perhaps you find yourself in pastoral care. My good friend Tammy assures me that while there is no physical or statistical data on hand just yet, it is true that the church will field more care calls during the holiday season (not meant as a cop out, just trying to find a way to cover Thanksgiving too) than you will the rest of the year. This is difficult. People will tie these memories to the holidays for the rest of their lives. Plus you will be run ragged. You will be from hospital to hospital, hospice to nursery, home visit to home visit.

Youth ministers, you have all of these things, but you will do them for 7-12 graders.

My point is this: we know it's coming. We know it's just around the bend. But we also know that we serve a God who will never throw anything at us that we cannot handle. If you're anything like me, you've taken a couple of days off here around Thanksgiving, and you'll probably be a celebrator of National Associate Pastor's Weekend (the service after Christmas). Take these times to make sure you're ready to do God's work in the world. Remind yourself that his grace is enough to cover you through this season, so if you don't get to everything and you don't perform as well as you'd like to, his love for you is unshakeable. Take some time to pray for the people who are going to need to hear an encouraging word from you, and pray that you can be attentive to God's Spirit and distribute it appropriately in their lives. And most of all, make sure to spend some time with your family and assure them that they are your first priority. It's easy for them to get lost in the hustle and bustle of what comes next, don't let that happen!

There's your pep talk team! Now go out and get em!



The Youth Worker and the Janitor


So I had a pretty interesting experience today.

Before we left for the convention, the kids had collected 1,621 food items in our thanksgiving scavenger hunt. That's a lot of feeding people we're going to do! So today, we were gearing up to deliver the food (or, as it turned out, the half we could get to). As I was loading up the food on the bus, one of the containers of Chicken Broth exploded, leaving a pool of chickeny goodness all over the floor of our bus. This has allowed me to finally utter one of the sentences I've been waiting for in youth ministry:

"And that is why the bus smells like chicken soup."

So after driving the food to SHIM, I brought the bus back to the church for a meeting, and decided I needed to mop it out before going any further with my life. Now, here's the thing about our church. We have an excellent team of janitors, who do an excellent job, but are impossible to find when you need them. There are walkie talkies that supposedly will get them to you in a hurry. It's lies. Plus, where I had parked the bus was nowhere near a walkie. So I decided it was just easier to get the mop myself and clean out the bus.

I took off my blazer in the bus, revealing my neat looking but pretty grungy t-shirt. I walked back to the janitor's closet, grabbed the mop and all it's glorious bucketry, and started to walk towards the bus. Just then, a member of our counseling center saw me, looked at my shirt, looked at the bucket, and kindly asked me to clean up the bathrooms just outside his office.

He had no idea who I was.

He thought I was the janitor.

But here's the thing, and what I think makes it an interesting experience. I didn't mind. First of all, it's not like there's any less value to the ministry that janitors perform in churches. If it ain't clean, people ain't coming! But more than that, I was thinking about this quote that I heard in high school about leaders.

There are really two types of leaders:

The first walks into a bathroom, discovers an absolute disaster zone in the stall, and screams in disgust while running to find the nearest person to "lead" into cleaning the mess.

The second might moan for a second, and then steps on the flush. That's true leadership.

Now, I didn't clean the bathroom for this guy, and I'd like to think it's because one of the actual janitorial staff came by and did it for me. But I totally would have! Because though I know some of us in youth ministry feel under-apreciated for what we do, I don't think that's license to feel more deserving than we are. What's wrong with picking up a mop and cleaning out the church bus every now and again?

So maybe you don't have to scrub toilets, but take some time in the coming weeks to think about how you can serve the church. Not just by throwing a dodgeball, but by stepping into a new role for yourself, and maybe stepping into someone else's shoes.

Some food for thought:

Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

7 Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

8 "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

9 "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

10 Jesus answered, "Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.





A brief list of things I am thankful for (in no particular order, please don't be offended):

  • jesus' love
  • sarah's love
  • my dad
  • my mom
  • my sister
  • my dogs
  • my dog's twitter account.
  • my band family
  • the pittsburgh penguins
  • the stanley cup rings they're all wearing this year.
  • interviews with evgeni malkin
  • the westminster staff (they're my best friends)
  • staying up all night debating theology with Matt
  • staying up all next day debating theology with Ed.
  • each and every single student who's a part of veritas.
  • seriously, I mean you.
  • sunny days
  • cloudy days accompanied by the right music
  • pumpkin spice lattes (fall only)
  • peppermint mocha (coming soon!)
  • dunkin donuts coffee
  • a flight on a plane
  • a flight on a plane at night time
  • a day off with the aforementioned sarah
  • a snow day (we get them off of work too!)
  • singing
  • singing at the bridge
  • the feel of a good guitar in your hands
  • hitting things
  • (the last one only applies to drums and my steering wheel in traffic)
  • vacations
  • new york city
  • Stuff Christians Like
  • pensblog
  • youth specialties. (even in the middle of whatever they're in the middle of, they're still the bees knees)
  • the saying "the bees knees"
  • marko and tic (I know it's probably because the whole sale thing's been on my mind, but I've been really appreciative of everything they've done for youth workers)
  • going over to friends houses for dinner
  • having friends over to our house for dinner
  • peanut chicken
  • writing
  • writing for j-blog
  • writing sermons
  • writing books
  • writing in my prayer journal
  • writing songs
  • people who comment on j-blog
  • fighting bears
  • a warm hoodie
  • old navy
  • t-shirts
  • the decemberists
  • the david crowder band
  • dave matthews band
  • dave matthews acting
  • filming the j and ed variety show
  • not capitalizing words.
  • my iphone
  • my laptop
  • colorful shoes
  • being silly.
Of course, I missed some things. Would you be so kind as to celebrate Thanksgiving J-blog style by leaving your comments below!

Happy Turkey Day everybody!



NYWC #10: The Sale of YS! or (Everybody else is blogging about this!)


(Author's Note: It became clear to me only after I had read Adam's comment that the previous title of this post could be construed to mean I was suggesting that YS itself had died. I was actually trying to poke fun at the people who were freaking out about it. I failed. Miserably. This could be blamed on a great many things, the first of which being my lack of sleep, or my inability to actually be funny. Sorry if I offended. I do not in any way, shape or form believe YS is dead or even dying. I'm just concerned. And now, on to the show!)

Hello friends.
What an exciting weekend we've had here at NYWC! I hope you've enjoyed these kind of reflective blog posts as much as I've enjoyed writing them. It's been fun to think about how a lot of things don't really change over time, and how even though we've learned a lot in our life-times, there's a lot left to learn.

My over all experience at the convention was wonderful! I really felt like God was speaking to me specifically (I know he was speaking to more than that, but I really needed to hear his voice this weekend!) I learned a lot, I discovered a lot about myself, and I think and I hope that I've grown a lot.

However, there was kind of an elephant in the room the whole way through the convention. At the first big room, an announcement was made that YS had been sold to YouthWorks camps. The arrangement as we were told (in what might have been the worst and most awkward announcement I've ever seen, which is staggering when matched next to all those "minute" for missions...) that Zondervan would be handling the publishing side of things, and that Youthworks would be handling the events.

PR skill aside, I knew this announcement was coming, and it still left kind of a sinking feeling in my stomach. Look back over those blogs I've written this weekend. I have 6 years of experiences just like those. 6 years of learning about youth ministry, learning how to do it better, making friends, experiencing healing and forgiveness when I needed it most, and becoming part of a family. Obviously when all of that gets threatened, a lot of people (myself included) get nervous. We all seem a little nervous.

I want to have hope in times of uncertainty (thank you Andy Stanley, and a mighty boo hiss to the dvd company that somehow forgot to push record for his talk!), and so I'm not saying I'm giving up on YS. It has literally been there for me my entire youth ministry career, which is getting longer than I had thought! (I was looking at Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry in the book shop, and thinking about how that was four years ago! Yikes!) But as is always the case, my friends and I were talking last night, and some great points were raised. And then I read some blogs by some smart people today, and some more great points were raised. And so I thought I would share my thoughts, not to be a jerk who throws stones at people in the hopes of making them feel bad, but in the hopes that some folks from YS/Zondervan/Youthworks will read this (pass it along if you can) and take these thoughts and suggestions to heart. Consider this my comment/suggestion card for next years convention!

1. Business?
One of the things I have heard most through this weekend is that Zondervan and Youth Works will most likely treat this whole thing as a business, where profit is the bottom line. This is tricky. Of course, you want to make money to be able to do more and bigger things. It's a part of the game, when you're in the business of blank, you are in business! Even those of us who find themselves in the business of youth ministry are actually in business. You would not just give away all of your trips for free, you try to cover your costs and offer something amazing to kids. That's all well and good.
But what concerns me is the potential (very critical word here: potential. I'm not saying it's happened already) for business to trump ministry. At Tony Jones' blog, he says that "I think that Yac wanted to make enough money each year to pay everyone and throw a kick-ass Christmas party." The bottom line wasn't dollars, the bottom line was lives changed through Christ.

Please, people in charge now, listen to that. I'm fine with you being a Christian business. I think it's great that we have Christian businesses. But if you plan on using that adjective in front of your name, if you claim to be different than the businesses around you, then you must actually be different than the businesses around you. This of course will mean different priorities and probably even sacrifices. Failure to do so doesn't make you a Christian business, it just makes you a business, at which point I want nothing to do with you. Again, this isn't to say this is happening yet. It's just not hard to imagine a situation in which it could.

2. One Convention?
Last night, Mark Matlock announced that there would be a true National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville. The claim was that YS was not capable of pulling off three conventions and pulling them off well. First of all, that's incorrect. They've been doing it just fine for years, and I was more than a little offended at the idea that none of them were any longer considered "good conventions".
On the surface, the idea of one convention sounds great. All of us, in one room together, for a whole extended weekend? We cause enough trouble when divided into three groups, all together is going to be a blast! Who wouldn't want to sit down front for Crowder with upwards of 10,000 youth pastor voices screaming behind you? It's going to be phenomenal!


There are logistical concerns that may not be on the tip of everybody's mind yet. Were you in the food court at CNN this year? Did you see how hard it was to find a table? Our group spent a lot of time every day trying to find something to eat. Combine this with the fact that everything in Nashville closes at 4 in the afternoon (them musicians gotta get to their gigs!), and I wonder where we're all going to eat? I wonder if you will have to intentionally allow more time for meals, or just hope that we all find food and make it back in time? Either way, chances are there's going to be less time for sessions or big rooms, which sucks big time. That's what we come from.

Or what about hotels? Our church is lucky to have the budget we have, so we were able to have hotel rooms within a reasonable walking distance of the convention center. These were not cheap by any stretch. So we have to assume then that the less expensive hotels (which tend to be farther and father away from the downtown of any city) will be where most youth workers go, and they will sell out quickly. What does this mean for smaller churches with smaller budgets? Are they out in the cold? Will a single convention actually be bigger, or will condensing it like that actually drain a cities resources to the point where it's the same size as any of the conventions we have now? People will miss out...and that's not good.

Maybe one convention is a good business decision (you only have to set it up once, pay the bands once, rent the convention center once, etc...), but I don't know that it was made with youth workers in mind. With that said...

3. Where are our guys?
For as long as I have been coming to this convention, I have been certain of one thing: Tic and Marko were one of us. They didn't just understand our world from a philosophical standpoint, they were citizens in our world. As I watched that announcement on Friday night, I got the sinking feeling that nobody at the top is a part of our world any more. And at the risk of sounding melodramatic, our world is not the easiest to understand.
Who will represent us? Who will be our voice when decisions are made? Who will separate the actual, honest to goodness good youth ministry ideas from the absolutely terrible books that are going to come across Zondervan's desk? My heart breaks for Mark Matlock. I was hoping to get to see him sometime this weekend and talk to him, but unfortunately our paths never crossed. He looks like someone in stress to say the least. If suddenly we're asking him to be our go to guy and our voice, that's a lot to put on his shoulders. And I think he'd do a phenomenal job at that, I trust him fully. But he's not in charge, YW and Zondervan are. So like I said, I'm nervous.

Please, don't take any of this in the wrong light. I'm not mad. I'm not enraged. I'm not trying to stir up a fight (read my previous fights and see how quickly I shy away from them!). I'm simply trying to raise some concerns that are in my head. All in all this convention was one of the best I've been to, and I'm super thankful to the YS family for putting it on once again. But let's be honest, this is the last one like it. Next year's convention will be completely different, and unless some of these concerns are addressed, I feel like we're going to experience some birth pains in the not too distant future.

Thanks again to everyone who started reading the blog through the convention. It's been a blast to write for you! I'm headed to the airport now, and will be back in Pittsburgh before you know it! And then (I can't believe I'm saying this) I'm back to work tomorrow! (Gasp!)
Stay tuned for more stunning adventures at J-Blog!



NYWC #9: Going home.


Six Years AgoI can’t believe it’s over. EJ, Ro, and I are sitting just beside the escalators that head down to the main room. EJ is real big on the concept of a debrief, making sure that we have opportunities to discuss what we’ve learned, and spend a little bit of time learning from each other. As we’re sitting there talking about our latest seminar, Karla Yaconelli, wife of the late Mike Yaconelli, goes zipping by on a pink scooter, looks at us, and proclaims “Huh, guess there really isn’t an elevator down here...” I look at her and say “I don’t know, but I bet the business men having a conference down the hall aren’t riding around on scooters!”

I woke up in a cloud in my room. Literally. I opened the window and all I saw was white. That was kind of neat, not going to lie!

Yesterday the convention went out with a bang. After posting my last post, Ed, Dan, Abby, Mike and I went to John Acuff’s seminar on satire in youth ministry. The amount of jokes we were making to each other under our breath during the seminar proved for certain that we didn’t need any help with our satire! But it was a really cool seminar, and John’s an awesome guy. If you don’t already, you absolutely need to check out his blog at

We went out for dinner at the CNN center, again. Every meal we have eaten at this conference has been at the CNN center. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this blog in the CNN center. I love CNN. Maybe they’ll google their CNN brand name every now and again and CNN will put me on TV, you know, on CNN (please). Anyway, I sat looking around the table, and even thinking about it now, I get overwhelmed at the privilege of sharing this convention with the people I love. If any of you guys are reading the blog, I really had a blast with you all! I learn more from you guys than I learn from any of the presenters here, and I’m so happy to do ministry with you!

Reggie Joiner was our speaker at the big room. He spoke about systems upgrades, and making sure we don’t fall into a rut, almost doing ministry on maintenance mode. If you work in a church in any capacity, and you live in the greater Pittsburgh region, let me know and I will loan you the DVD. It was amazing! He got extra bonus points from me for making Apple products the big illustration for his talk. Huge bonus points Reggie. Huge.

I watch as EJ talks to Karla about losing Mike. I never knew Mike Yaconelli, I had just heard that he was the guru of youth ministry, and that he had died in a car crash recently. I didn’t know just how huge and wonderful a man he was until I got to the convention!You can tell that everybody here loved him deeply. You can tell that his loss has caused some very deep rifts in YS, that things are starting to change. After Reggie’s talk last night, Mark Matlock got up and once again brought up the sale of Youth Specialties, which has seemed like the big huge elephant in the room. I feel like the whole Youth Specialties staff is hurting, they aren’t sure what to do or where to go next. The youth ministries community has lost a very good friend in Marko. You can tell that a lot of people were really invested in him as a leader, and now he’s gone. Now there’s some sort of future ahead of us, but we don’t exactly know what tomorrow holds. All we know is that God is good, and that he loves our kids even more than we do. I am certain beyond all reason that youth specialties finest days are still ahead of it, even if we have to go through some painful transitions to get there...

(There will be more thoughts on the youth specialties/zondervan/youthworks camps deal later today.)



NYWC #8: Photoblog 4


Greetings again folks!
By the time you read this, I will be sitting in Atlanta wondering what to do with the next four hours of my life. But the writing of the next few posts was actually at about 1 AM on Monday, as I had a lot on my mind and was working on winding down. Anyway, check out the photos!

Donald Miller will be your speaker this morning. Be prepared for awesome sarcasm, biting wit, and being challenged to see the world in a different way!




Banjo. (Apparently there's no way to get a photograph of the banjo that isn't blurry. It rocks that hard!)

There's a really awesome artist here at NYWC this year named Scott Erikson. I hope it's ok that I'm posting some pictures of his work! (Let me know if it's not Scott, I'll take em right down). But this stuff is powerful and awesome. You should go to his website here and support him big time. Seriously. Have you purchased a painting yet?

This one was super cool. Based on a kid who was sponsored through Compassion. I really encourage you to (after your done supporting Scott) sponsor a child. Sarah and I have a child, and I promise you that it's absolutely a blessing.

This one was my favorite. I wanted to get it for Sarah, but I did not have the dollars. Really cool design.

Lilly Lewin's prayer station/experiential worship workshop. I have a lot of ideas that are coming from this, I'm sure there will be more on this later!

A rainy day, but I did dig this fountain all weekend. Good place to rest and think.

Ruth splashing in the puddles. Don't listen to peer pressure kids... chossa...the wrong guys...

Seriously, how funny are the skit guys? SO funny!

I have two more posts left. One artsy fartsy one like the other ones, and then a wrap up, including my thoughts on the Zondervan Youth Specialties situation. Let's face it, everyone's thinking about it, and lots of people are blogging about it, and I want a piece of that pie. But I'd like to eat it when I'm more awake.



NYWC #7: Worship


Six Years Ago:
"You've never heard of him?" I questioned Ro in a rather shrill voice. "How is it possible that you've never heard of David Crowder? He's huge right now?"
It's true he is huge, but in all fairness he's huger to me because at this point in my life I'm going out of my way trying to be just like him. We've started a new worship service at First Presby called "The Remix", and it's my honest attempt to get contemporary worship in our community. Ed and Matt are huge helps with this, but even they would tell you that I try to be just like David Crowder a little bit too much. All the same, he is leading us in worship three times this weekend, and I am planning on being up front for all three times...

My phone rings at 8:30. I am amazed that the crew back home has sorted out the sound system and everything already! Usually I'm just rolling into the gym around then to get everything set up! After double checking a few of the finer details with Mandi, I return to my devotional time, and say a couple of quick prayers for our team back home, for the congregation at the Bridge, and for our guest speaker Chris (who I hear did an excellent job! I can't wait to hear him next week!) It's nice to #1 know that you can leave the church for a week and have an excellent team to step in and take care of things for you and #2 be part of a worshipping community where being away literally tears at my heart strings. I love the Bridge. I love the people at the Bridge. They are like family to me.

Like I've said in a couple of these blog posts, I've had a gripe with the house band at this year's convention. (Actually, at lunch my friends and I discussed a couple of things we have a grip with. Look for those in the wrap up post). Honestly, save one major detail, I would probably have rather been at home worshiping at the Bridge than be here, with lights and video and effects and 80s singers. The major detail, of course, is that Donald Miller is speaking, and David Crowder is leading worship after the house band.

Crowder rocks! Illuminate is such a good CD, and it comes across flawlessly live! Watching them lead people in worship reminds me that I want my role at the Remix to be even bigger. I want to be on this never ending quest to take worship one step further, one step bigger. What's the next click for us? What's the next big thing?
This is tough. We have a congregation that fluctuates in attendance more than any other church in the nation I am certain. Some weeks there are 30 people. Some weeks there are 5. We change the seating arrangement every week, mostly because we never know what to set ourselves up for. I keep looking for that hook, for that next big thing, for that flashy element. What's coming next?

I realize as I am down front for David Crowder that in my youth (you know, like 6 years ago) that I wanted worship to be the next big thing. I wanted to see how far I could push the envelope, how far I could push my musical ability, how many more amps we could get on stage. And that's fun, and that's cool to listen to every now and again. But I'm realizing as I listen to Crowder Band that I am in dire need of finding the next small thing. I want things to get smaller, to get to a point where it's simpler. I want quiet worship. I want things to be more personal, between me and God. That sounds appealing to me these days. Please, everyone who's reading this comment in the section below and affirm for me that this is not a result of getting old!
(Something happened in between these two paragraphs, but for security reasons I must not blog about it now. Tune in later people! It's going to be fantastic!)

We all went out for lunch and had a big discussion about Youth Specialties. I don't know how all of this strikes me, but I know that it all strikes me. I want to come back to this stuff a little bit later for a secondary blog, but again, because I've seen some increased blog traffic these days, what are your thoughts about everything that's been going on with YS? Happy? Sad? Scared? Hopeful? I'd love to read your thoughts before I offer mine.

Six Years Ago (I think...maybe I'm mixing up memories here...if I'm wrong, pretend I'm not...this totally happened, I just don't remember when...)
I browse the offerings for this afternoon's workshops, and find something called "Experiential Worship". This sounds good! I am very worship minded today, feeding that side of my Dr. Youth Minister/Mister Worship Leader monster. However, as I get there, I realize this is all completely lame. Could it be that pretzels and Goldfish crackers could actually lead anybody to a deeper prayer experience? I doubt it severely! I take a piece of advice from Marko, and leave the session early to call my girlfriend Sarah.

After lunch, I went to a lab called Experiential worship with Lilly Lewin. Dang it was cool! In fact, I had a hard time paying attention towards the end, not because it was boring or anything, but because she had my mind so busy creative with ideas and plans to impliment back home that I was having a hard time not planning or creating during her workshop. This lab, along with Dan Kimball's the other day, has kind of opened up to me that we might have a hole (all be it, a smaller one) in our ministry. What do we do for the kids who don't like the loud worship? What do we do for the kids who don't dig youth group games? Are we leaving them behind? So I snuck down to the lobby to spend some time dreaming about some new ideas. I think we're going to have a lot to discuss at the Student Leadership Meeting this week!

More to come my friends. Oh, and as would be easily predictable, I have completely lost count of how many cups of coffee I had today.

Coffee Count: A lot.

NYWC #6: Photoblog 3


Welcome again to another day in pictures! I'm posting this early, because I didn't do anything super spiritual or deep today, I just took some time for me, and I want to keep with two blog posts a day. That, and as my friend Kathy noted on Facebook, there's no way I'm sleeping with the amount of caffeine that's in my system. So that said...

The prayer chapel. I spent about 20-30 minutes in here. Super awesome time! I really regret that there needs to be candles and nifty lights for me to get serious about prayer, so I've been thinking about ways to take that experience home with me without having to set up an Ikea in my living room every day. I welcome your suggestions!

A Sanjay Gupta cut out stared us down during lunch. I dared Ed to steal the good doctore. Ed declined.

Our hotel from the outside. My window is that one WAAAAAAAAY at the top.

Centennial Park = one of my new favorite places. Nice to take a walk through.

Remember before when I said I would totally go to the aquarium if I was on vacation? Well my walk led me there, and I decided to spoil myself a little bit and go for it.

These guys (like Phillips Arena) will play a role later...keep reading

Shucks, I was totally going to sing Raffi.

Freaking HUGE crabs! Like, deadliest catch variety! Sick!

For my hippie wife.

Frog staring contest. He totally won.

Otters are one of my favorite animals.

These were all kinds of little tiny snakes poking up from the ground. They weren't nearly as cool as watching the women around this particular tank freak the heck out when they realized they were snakes. As if the 12 inch glass won't help them. Yikes...

So I'm chillen, checking out this cool shark in a seemingly normal tank, wondering if this was worth the money, when all of a sudden...

That's right, a whale shark. These things are monstrous! I don't think any of my pictures do it justice. I was trying to find some sort of way to give scale to what was going on, but these guys are massive.

It's like two Volvo's put back to back. I sat for another good 20-30 minutes watching these guys, just amazed at the great Creator we worship. Unbelievable.

Naps are good...

Oh yeah. My new friend Mike Swick and I went to the Pens/Thrashers game tonight. It was awesome! There were probably 3 Penguins fans for every 1 Thrasher fan. And we played an exceptional game! Fleury (whose Jersey now sits in my closet) had the game of his life! Seriously, keep an eye out on youtube folks, there were some killer saves made tonight!

Phillips Arena was so cool, I can't wait until they build the Consol Energy Center. I think it's going to bring a whole new atmosphere to Pens games. Those birds in that picture? Yeah, they shoot fire. No part of me understands why birds would shoot fire, but I guess they do.

All in all a great night! I feel like I've been fed enough for an entire convention, and there are still two days to go! Let's keep it up people!



NYWC #5: Me Time


Six Years Ago
EJ, Ro and I are walking to the next general session when I feel my pocket buzz. I take a quick look and realize that my mom is calling me. Apparently approaching college graduation means nothing when it comes to the frequency with which my mother can call to check in on me. I tell EJ and Ro to go ahead, and I'll catch up to them in a couple of minutes. My mom sounds disturbed. She makes small talk for a little while, but then quietly and politely informs me that our dog Tucker has died. I sit on the bench stunned. This is the same Tucker that had jumped up with his front paws on my shoulders before I left! I knew he was old, but I didn't think he was that old! I certainly didn't think there was even a remote chance that he wouldn't be alive when I got home. He developed some kind of complication of something, I couldn't really hear what my mom was saying over the voices in my head. The vet had to put him down. She was with him when he died, and I think Dad was too. I was here. In Atlanta...right outside room 201...

I have slept in through the big room that starts the day. This was predictable. I didn't actually fall asleep until about midnight. I remind you of the Shane and Shane concert and the total ass kicking received from Francis Chan. Obviously I had a bunch on my mind. But rather than waste the morning, I thought I'd take some time to intentionally pray and develop my own spiritual walk. So I find my map while I'm walking to the convention center to locate the prayer chapel. Room 201.

I walk in and spend some time going through a variety of prayer stations. They had a bowl of water to dip your hand into to remember your own baptism. They had a pitcher of water with a note card reminding us from John 4 that Jesus gives us water that will lead to eternal life. I drink it quick and deeply. I have been praying ever since Chan's talk last night, like a kid who won't let up until Dad finally hears his plea: "Give me your spirit!"

I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit so I can spread it around to others. I want to know what it's like to produce fruit the way Chan was talking about. I am driven. These words just keep replaying themselves in my mind again and again and again. Give me your spirit.

And I find my way to the prayer station with candles, and I start to pray for all the people back home...

I sit on the bench outside of room 201 for at least 15 minutes. No tears will come. This is the dog who used to climb the hill in our back yard and wait for me by our clubhouse. This is the dog I used to take sledding. This is the dog who loathed our new little dog about as much as I did. Tucker and I were taking the phrase "Mans best friend" as far as it could go. And while he was suffering, I was here. While he was in pain, I was having the time of my life. While he was dying, people were investing in my life. The whole thing seemed so stupid. Why did it go down this way? Would other people understand my sadness? Would I be able to bring this up in a session? I mean he was one of my best friends to be sure, but wouldn't most other people think "He's just a dog..."
I spend the whole rest of the day wandering the convention center and the CNN food court like a zombie. I was here in my body, but my mind found itself home in Pittsburgh, with the people I love...

The prayer station was simple enough. Light a candle for the people you are praying for. I kind of got lost in my prayers and thoughts. I had just started reading Philipians, and I wanted to love my youth group as much as Paul loved that church. By the time I snapped out of it, I realized I had lit about half the candles on the table. I started praying for a couple of specific students, and just got on some kind of a roll. I wrapped up with a few other prayer stations and made my way to the door.

After lunch, our group decided we were going to spend the afternoon all over the place. Nothing that was being offered sounded all that interesting to me at the time (though I'm told now that I absolutely missed out on the open space situation), so I went for a walk. Centenial park is beautiful! Actually, this whole city is becoming one of my favorites. Then I remembered from a blog post at the begining of the trip that I would totally have gone to the aquarium if I were on vacation. So I saddled up, took a walk, and found myself hanging with the fishes...

Sometimes you just need a break.

Sometimes you just need to let the convention be, and take some time for yourself.

Sometimes the heavier things are weighing on your heart.

Sometimes when you're body's in Atlanta, your head is in Pittsburgh.

Sometimes God will speak to you when you are willing to take some time to listen.

And so it is with great joy that I announce nap time...



NYWC #4: Photo Blog 2


Greetings friends!
A look back at yesterday through photographs!

Dr. Campolo lecturing. I learned my lesson from the last time I attended one of his lectures and sat way in the back. Crazy deep stuff though, really good session.

Phillips Arena is right across the street. This will come into place soon enough!

Youth workers doing what youth workers do best: going to lunch!

As for me and my house, we will dine with Larry King.

Standing in line for the Wendy's, I see a...could it it possible that...

YES!!! Dunkin Donuts! What a glorious day!

The stage set up for the big rooms. Pretty cool the way they do their lights this year. Super cool production.

This one's for Sarah. In the book store they have a section for soul care, and right below the big sign you would find

Let your life speak by Parker Palmer. Sarah's been totally digging this book lately, and really wants me to read it. Apparently God does too!

Late night with Shane and Shane. What a perfectly wonderful way to end the evening!

I just got out of the prayer chapel! What a wonderful experience! More on that later.

Coffee Count:
Same as yesterday with the addition of a Pumpkin Spice Latte. The real joy of this latte was that it was free because I turned down maid service. I figure I've been living in my own filth for years, I can handle a weekend to save the environment and get some delicious coffee.

Total Cups of Coffee: 7