Bicycle Repair Man


Very funny!

Driving in the snow



I was talking with a friend this morning about our mutual weariness of the lack of progress Washington DC seems committed to making in the wake of the State of the Union Speech. I mentioned that I'd much rather work for the Church, a body known for it's quick decisions and responsiveness.

It's true, we are not at all known for rapid progress in the Church. It seems to be an affliction that particularly affects youth workers, those of us who are young and in the church have this desire to see things move along just a smidge faster. I'm in that boat too for the most part. I've spent more than a few conversations over coffee whining about how slow our session's moving with this idea or how unwilling to change our congregations are.

But, is going slow such a bad thing?

I was going through my book shelf, determined to actually read the books I bought at the National Youth Workers Convention this year (and then when that's done, I'll take a look at the ones from years past!), when I started to get frustrated. With subtle few exceptions, every youth ministry book I have is a deconstructionist manifesto. It seems like everyone's solution is to tear things down, wait for the dust to settle, and then build something new again. And sadly for me, as a less-than excited reader, I almost never make it past the demolition. Some books don't even really talk about building something else up, because we don't know what should go there. We just know that what we have isn't working.

As I was reading these books, I began to feel kind of weird, because it turns out that things are going exceptionally well for our team at Westminster. I don't at all feel the need to tear anything down. But at the same time, I know that we are capable of improvement and making a much better ministry than we already have. Am I psycho to think that we could improve a youth ministry slowly, by tweaking this idea and that program just a little bit as we go?

I had coffee with a very good (and it turns out really wise) friend the other day, who told me that leading the Church is actually like driving in the snow. Slamming on the brakes or making a sudden sharp turn is going to spin you completely out of control, and you're going to end up in a ditch. But if you take it slow, if you gear down a little bit and make minor corrections along the way, you'll wind up at your destination safe and sound. Maybe not as fast as you want, but for sure a lot faster than you would if you wound up in the ditch.

Is anyone else feeling this? Let me know in some comments!

(By the way, enjoy the new digs. Hope everyone likes it!)



Training Update #1


Hey friends,

As mentioned in my goals for the year, I'm working out for the MS 150 this June. In the future, I'll have some information on how to support the team financially, but in the meantime, I thought it'd be cool to have a group of folks praying for me, and I'll keep you all updated here on the blog. So here's a bit of what I've been up to!

The (other) Bible

I've been reading this book, and it turns out to be pretty great. It's a great start for someone who wants to get into the cycling world on the ground floor. It's a big long read, and I've still got a ways to go, but it's really got me going on the right foot. Friel really stresses the idea of training happening in periods, or seasons, which is helpful because the season I currently find myself in has temperatures of -6 on a somewhat frequent basis. So that leads me inside, to the gym!


Starting last week I joined Bally's Total Fitness, and I am absolutely loving it! The biggest thing they have over my previous gym is a pool, which is one of the best things I could possibly do to improve my aerobic ability (something that needs to be drastically better before June!). I also really dig the indoor track, again a good place to get the lung capacity up. Plus, the training bible has me working through a thorough plan in terms of strength training, which makes me feel a little bit less like a lost child wandering around the equipment.

Man cave.
Ahhh yes, the final touch. For Christmas I got an indoor mag trainer, which might well be the best thing I've ever done. It's been great in the off days from the gym to take a spin in my own training room, pushing through some intervals. But I will admit, if the snow could just stop falling a little bit, I would absolutely love to get the bike outside into it's natural habitat.

Biggest Accomplishment This Week: I've dropped down to 234.2 pounds, the lightest I've been since college!

Biggest Frustration This Week: I want badly to go outside and take a big long ride. It will come.

Thanks for tuning in! More to come later!



S***y first drafts.


Happy friday everybody!

This has been a fun week in terms of one of my new year's goals, the idea that I would like to write more. I spent a decent amount of time working on a new project that I'm not quite ready to make public yet (though it's gonna be awesome when I do!), and have some ideas swimming in my head for a sermon for next week. I like when my job affords me the ability to do the things I love!


I have one project I'm working on that's giving me all kinds of trouble. Ed and I have decided to write a devotional guide for Lent, and it's going to be amazing! It will tie in to all the sermons at the Bridge for the season of Lent, so if you read along with us it will bring a really great unity to the church's learning. All of this sounds lovely, but my week has looked exactly like Sam in the beginning of this post. I write a little bit, become disgusted with myself, and throw it away.

Anne Lamot says that any serious writer has to be (excuse the language) ok with "shitty first drafts" that they will allow absolutely no one to see. Some people actually light them on fire! I write mostly on my laptop, so that's out, but the symbolic act of tossing a document into the trash bin has a similarly exhilarating effect.

I've actually never had trouble with this. Tree Anthem is about to enter the studio to record our first full length CD. At the moment it has 17 songs on it, but when we sat down to first start thinking about it we had 40 to choose from. That means 23 songs of mine weren't worthy of seeing the light of day (or at least not yet), and to be honest I'm more than ok with it. Those 23 songs probably led in some way to the creation of the 17 good ones, so though they didn't serve their original purpose, they did lead to good.

I wonder if in life we're ok with shitty first drafts. When we come to something challenging, something that's going to require a lot of our energy and effort, and we screw it up the first time around, do we realize that's ok? Or do we get frustrated, bummed out, burned out, and quit? Do we allow the 23 bad attempts at something get in the way of the 17 good ones, or do we allow them to pad the landing of the 17 good ones?

So, as I sit down to take crack number 55 at this devotional guide, my encouragement to us this morning is to be ok with shitty first drafts, both as authors and as people with stories. You never know what a mistake might lead us to!



Enough is Enough.


Hello friends,

I've been following pretty closely this tragic shooting in Arizona all weekend. Goes without saying that my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, particularly Congresswoman Gifford. (Which, I don't know much about this sort of things, but it sounds to me as though if she's been shot in the head and has made it this far and is even responding to simple commands, we might be witnessing a miracle. Just a thought.)

To be honest, I actually had a fair amount of hope for the outcome of things earlier this weekend. It sounded like people were blaming the shooting on the exceptionally childish behavior and toxic climate of our national politics. Not directed at either party, but at both in fair measure. I thought we were really going to see something exceptional, that for once a tragedy was going to lead us to a better tomorrow.

That thought didn't last long.

Really? A group of people who readily label themselves Christian are going to protest a funeral? That idea being ridiculous enough on it's own gets worse when you find out that they're doing so because the girl was Catholic. Really?

I noticed too that the debate has turned back into finger pointing, party vs. party, ideology vs. ideology, and I suppose (I'm still stunned here) even denomination to denomination. I simply can't believe how quickly it turned into a divisive issue, rather than create a united front to end the tension between two groups of people that frankly see more eye to eye than either side is willing to admit.

So I'm here this morning to issue a challenge. To those in Washington and in Arizona, if they happen to read this blog, but also to you and me sitting on our couches watching it unfold on TV. If you find yourself tempted to point the finger at someone, or some people group, or whatever, take a couple of moments to ask how you might be responsible. Seriously, even those of us in Pa probably bear some of the responsibility for the political climate that has again and again been blamed for this event. I have said things about people I disagree with that I wish I could take back, and I'm sure you have too. On the surface, these are just words, but sooner or later we need to realize that those of us who are created in God's image possess the power on one level or another to create entire worlds with our words. (Genesis 1:3)

And when we've come to the realization that we all have a hand to play in the political climate that's out there, let's repent. Let's literally turn it around. What would it look like today for your to pray for the political party you disagree with? Not the "Hey God, help them see the world the way I see it" kind of prayer, but the "I honestly wish them well" prayer. What would it look like to reach out to a branch of Christianity that you have never really seen eye to eye with? (I'd like to recommend we reach out to other faiths, but hey one step at a time here I think.) Instead of tearing people down, what would it look like if the entire nation committed to building bridges?

Enough is enough. I'm tired of the nasty politics out there, but I'm even more tired of complaining about it. It's time for you and me to lay aside our pride, and start repairing the world we live in.



The Player or the Coach?


Good morning friends!

First of all, how good did Dan Byslma look for the winter classic last week? That hat was the bomb!

I have seen churches (and I think I've even been a part of churches) where the youth pastor is looked at as the next Sidney Crosby. A young, talented, and dare I say even good looking youth pastor walks in, and without warning there's talk of championships. "We're going to have a bigger youth group!" "He can start preaching more!" or my favorite "Things will be just like they used to be!" The church has their superstar, and they're feeling pretty good about it.

But the harsh reality of it is, one person cannot do everything. If Hines Ward was the only player on the Steelers, they'd be terrible, because there would be no one to throw him the ball. No one would be around to play defense. And most of all, it'd be an 11 person to 1 slant. If such a game were ever aloud to happen, I reckon Hines Ward would be dead by somewhere around the 2nd Quarter.

But I've seen youth pastors (and other leaders for that matter) fall into the trap of thinking they actually are the superstar player for the team. They try their hardest to do everything. They're at every meeting. They're at every student's sporting event. They're writing every lesson plan. And at the end of the day, they start to wonder why it is that youth pastors only last on average 18 months in any given job.

Last night as I was watching the Seahawks game (may they make it to the Super Bowl to play us!), I was listening to the commentators talk about Pete Carrol's coaching style. I started wondering what things would look like if the youth pastors job was less to be the player, and more to be the coach. A player is responsible for doing things, while the coach is responsible for resourcing and guiding the player to get things done. A player is motivated, but mostly because the coach behind them is motivating them. A one player team would be horrible, but a single coach can influence and be successful with a team of 30 or so players without issue.

Who are the players in the youth ministry world you ask? Your volunteers. Your student leaders. If you're fortunate enough to be in a big church, your staff. You may have to start a re-building process, but in my experience most of the people who attend a church actually want to be active players in what's going on with the church. And this doesn't just apply to youth ministry either, I think that anyone in a leadership position can be overwhelmed with the idea that they have to do it all.

So this morning, take off the pads, put on the fedora, and do a little bit of coaching. Your team will thank you for it!



New Years Goals


Hello friends!

If you still read this blog, you get a gold star! 2010 wasn't the best year in terms of blogging. Personally, I'm ok with this, because I was so busy with other amazing things in terms of ministry and personal life that I didn't really have time to sit down and blog! But starting today, I'd like to get back in the saddle and write a bunch more.

You could call it a new years resolution, but to be honest I'm not such a big fan of that particular tradition. For one think, I think it's something like 80% of everybody who makes a new years resolution will loose it by the 21st. Not a very encouraging number!

Instead this year, I have a couple of goals that I'd like to accomplish. I'm trying to use them as a marker of success, something tangible that I can actually see and feel good about. And each of these goals is something that the blog will have something to do with, so hopefully it will encourage more writing! So, in no particular order, the goals of 2011!

  • Complete the MS 150. I've been getting into bike riding on and off for the last year. A couple of months ago at a dinner, I was talking about how much I was enjoying it, and my friend Travis asked me if I'd like to bike the MS 150 with him. It's a 150 mile ride to raise money and awareness for folks with Multiple Sclerosis. At first, I honestly kind of laughed it off. 150 is a large number of miles. But then I realized that it was something I needed to do. And so with the arrival of an indoor trainer and a fairly strong resolve, I'm in the process of training for the 150 in June. This goal has really impacted a great deal of my daily life. I'm working out 6 days a week, shifting between really hard rides and recovery rides. I'm working on eating better, including not going out to a fast food restaurant this whole month (so far so good on that one!) and eating more fruits and veggies. And even in the winter, I'm taking at least one outdoor ride for 20+ miles. I have a lot of friends helping me out with this, and it's been a great feeling to get back in shape! Soon, I'll have some information as to how you can support me both with encouragement and financially, but at the moment I'm really enjoying the ride!
  • Write more. At Westminster, we recently picked up a printing press. Pastor Jim joked that we were on the cutting edge of the late 16th century, but still, this thing is going to be cool. Ed and I are working on a bible study/devotional for the season of lent, and I'm also kicking around an idea about a book for how to evangelize as a Presbyterian (we are soooooo horrible at that!). Also, we're working on a new blog for college students, where I will be doing a lion's share of the writing. I really enjoy writing and getting things out on paper, but for the last couple of months I just haven't been in it. It's kind of wacky. This year, most tangibly, I'd like to have more blog posts than I did in 2010. When I'm blogging, I tend to write more in other areas, so we'll start with that!
  • One on One Time with Students. One of my favorite parts of being a youth pastor is spending quality time one on one with students. Unfortunately, a lot of times I make my schedule in such a way that I don't have time to take kids out or get to hang out with them. I'd like to try to change that this year, by committing to the goal of hanging out with a student one on one at least once a week. By the way, if you're a student and you're reading this, give me a call and we'll get together!
Some of those goals are pretty lofty, but I think they're all achievable. What are your goals for the new year?