Book Review: Getting Fired for the Glory of God


Wow. I'm not usually known as a reader, but lately I've been chewing right through a bunch of the books that have been on my to-do list for a while. Today I wrapped up Mike Yaconelli's Getting Fired for the Glory of God.

I should make it clear on the blog the way I've had to make it clear to everyone on staff this week at work, I have no intention of actually getting fired any time soon. So just so we have that out of the way...

The book is tremendous and painful. Painful when I start to think about how much Youth Ministry as a profession has left to go, how hard it is to do the job we've been called to do, and how much is standing in our way. It was painful to think about how many youth workers neglect to take care of their souls at all, making the job their number one priority.

It was tremendous because it reminded me that my church is actually pretty decent at taking care of me and Ed and our ministry to young people. We've never been in need, and we're incredibly blessed because of it.

But perhaps the most challenging part of the book had absolutely nothing to do with youth ministry. Yaconelli writes about a wide variety of topics, but at the heart of everything he writes is Jesus, and his concern for our relationship with Him. It's easy to get caught up in the programs, in the business, in caring for our family, in the ins and outs of our daily lives. Even for those of us who are crazy enough to claim to be theologically minded, a lot of times we spend our energy and time working through Paul or the Holy Spirit or the Doctrine of Atonement, and not enough time on Jesus and what it looks like to follow him. But Yaconelli hammers it home, line after line, paragraph after paragraph, page after page. Nothing else matters, just Christ and following him.

If you're in youth ministry, it is a MUST read. If you're not, I still think there's a lot you can gain from the book. It's one of the only books in my library that I didn't highlight or color through, so you're welcome to borrow mine if you'd like!



Living with grace


One of the books of the bible that I read a great deal on my personal retreat last week was the book of Galatians. It's quickly become one of my favorite books in the bible, because I find myself identifying with the Galatians on a number of levels.

These were people who had heard the Gospel message from Paul and were overwhelmed by it. They bought in with everything they had to the forgiveness and grace that was being offered to them in the name of Jesus Christ. But then Paul leaves, and the Galatians start to fall prey to other ideas. They start to think that faith is about what they do, about which laws they uphold. And in this letter, Paul flips out on them for forgetting the grace that Christ has given them.

I am a Galatian. I think just about every year I need to read a book along the lines of Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel to remind myself of how much I need the grace of God. Lately it feels like in my life that the need to find approval in others has been trumping Christ's free gift of grace. And this, according to Paul, makes me foolish.

What's even more crazy is that when someone comes to me and tells me they feel that they need forgiveness, I am more than willing to remind them again and again that guilt has no place in our faith, and that Christ has set us free to live in his grace. On paper, this is easy. When it's someone else, it comes naturally. When it's me, it's a whole other story.

I have a feeling that I'm not alone on this one. I think that most people have a pretty easy time assigning grace to other people, but we have such a hard time accepting God's grace in our own life. How do we turn it around? How do we live a life full of grace, not just for other people, but for ourselves?

Living as a blessing


Every Wednesday, I meet with a handful of my closest friends for breakfast at Pamela's Diner. First of all, the pancakes are amazing! But more than that, this is a time for us to gather together as friends and occasionally hold each other accountable in certain areas, but more often just enjoy each other's company.

This week, as we were getting ready to leave, we were introduced via our waitress (Edy, probably the coolest gal on the planet) to Father Joe, the priest from right next door. Father Joe was the kind of guy you knew you liked from the moment you laid eyes on him. He was at his core a story-teller, as though these stories that he has collected over the years are far too cramped in his heart, and he must get them out to whoever will hear them. He told us about parishioners he has, some who have experienced miracles, some who just had their own great stories to share. It was quite wonderful!

At the end of our time together, Father Joe asked if he could give us a blessing. I grew up in a Catholic background, so I understood the significance of this. A blessing from a priest is a big deal. And so I bowed my head down and listened quietly as he blessed us, and through us our ministries.

I've been thinking about it all day yesterday and today, how much it meant to me to be blessed by this stranger. And I also started thinking about the typical Presbyterian language that we believe in a "priesthood of all believers," that actually you and I are called to the ministry of reconciliation within ourselves. And so I've been toying around with a few thoughts. What does it look like for you and I to offer blessings to other people? When I'm speaking to a person, whether it's a dear friend or a random stranger, are they blessed by my words and actions? When I'm working with students, are they blessed by our youth ministry? What does it look like to live as a blessing to other people?

I don't know if I have the answer yet. I don't know if I have it all sorted out. But I'm pretty sure that simply living with the question on the top of your mind would lead to results. How can I be a blessing to this person? In this time? In this situation? If we follow hard after this idea, the world would be a significantly more Christ-like place.



Book review: One.Life


Greetings friends!

Last week on Wednesday and Thursday, I snuck away to Pine Springs Camp to have a time of quiet reflection and prayer (more on this later). As I was getting ready to leave, I was scanning our office book shelf looking for something to read while I was away, and Ed suggested I take a look at One.Life by Scot McKnight. I had really only taken that and N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope, which turned out to be a bit heavier and more theological than I really wanted for the weekend. I wanted something that could both challenge me and nurture me, and One.Life did not disappoint!

In short, I think One.Life is like the Christian Field Guide to Everything. Each chapter builds one upon the other in an attempt to describe what the life of a true disciple of Christ looks like. I've seen other books that attempt a similar goal, but these other books almost always come across as a bit snarky, matter of fact, or even rude. Not so with One.Life. As I said, the tone was both challenging (it said some things that I truly had to wrestle with up in the cabin) and reassuring (I came home more enthused to do youth ministry than I had when I left, which was the goal).

Perhaps my favorite chapter of the book was Imagined.Life, where McKnight takes a look at the world as Jesus saw it, and invites us to see it in the same light. I am pretty well known throughout the galaxy as a dreamer, and it was super encouraging to see our Savior in the same light. However, again to go with the challenge, I was convicted that the dreams I have for the world and the dreams Jesus has for it might not line up exactly as well as I had thought.

I highly recommend this book to anyone! Go to Amazon and get yourself a copy today!



Wait, how many blogs do you have?



I've been posting about my cycling on the J-Blog for a bit now, but I'd like to get some separation between all things theological and all things cycling. Plus, I have some pretty hefty fundraising goals for a few rides coming up, so I thought it would be best to set up another blog to keep up with all my cycling adventures.

I'd love it if you could poke your head over to and read the continuing adventures of my training and the handful of fundraising rides I have coming up this summer.

Specifically, I'm raising funds right now for the MS-150. If you are willing or able to make a financial contribution to my ride, please go here. You have no idea how much it will mean to me and my team (The Roadkill Warriors)

Thanks friends,



Thinking about doubt part two: The good kind


Hello friends,

Last week we took a look at the bad kind of doubt, when we doubt ourselves or our importance in the kingdom work being done all around us. But actually, I think there's a very good kind of doubt, the kind that not only helps our faith, but is central to our spiritual survival!

For example, I am working right now on a sermon for our Easter sunrise service. Have you ever stopped to ponder the sheer lunacy of the resurrection? In our world, typically, when a person dies, they remain dead. Typically stones weighing hundreds of pounds do not roll themselves away of their own accord. We do not typically see men in shiny white robes. We do not typically confuse the Lord and Savior for a gardener. And so, I think if we're honest, most of us doubt these stories on some level, even if it's only a double take.

But what if we let the doubts play out? What if we let our questions take over? What if we start to dig into the reality of the resurrection, and see what kind of truths we might find along the journey? Because the truth of the matter is, if we claim (rightfully so I believe) that Jesus Christ is the ultimate truth in the universe, then I have the freedom to dive as deeply into that truth as I want. Just accepting the truth is great, but doubting the truth and letting it take you on a wonderful journey towards a deeper truth is even better.

And honestly, when we talk to a lot of non-believers, we hear people who are frustrated at Christians for their "closed mindedness," which ultimately make no sense because my idea of Christianity is extremely open to whatever Christ is doing in and through the world. Maybe what they mean is this constant acceptance of facts as facts, without any room for growth within them. It's not that I'm suggesting we throw the facts out. I'm suggesting we're not getting enough out of them.

What have you doubted? And what did you learn from asking questions?



Thinking about doubt part one: The bad kind.


Hello friends!

I was reading through my typical blog roll this morning, and came across this entry by Donald Miller, and it got the brain kicking in to high gear. Seriously, people could smell the smoke all the way down the hall!

I can't tell you how many times people have said something to me that puts me on a much higher pedestal than I deserve. When my family gets together and someone needs to say grace, the eyes all turn to me because I'm the youth pastor. When a new volunteer steps up, the say that they could never teach the way I teach. People assume when I'm shopping for groceries, I'm somehow doing it more holier than they could.

Truthfully, I hate it.

If people only know the very humble path I took to get to ministry. I'm here because I went to be a music education major who couldn't read music. When I started, I didn't know anything. I didn't have a full or complete grasp of the Bible or what was in it. I didn't have the most eloquent teaching style (I've seen some old tapes from college, and they'll be making their way into a bonfire very soon). I am not special when it comes to religious-y things. I'm just like you.

When doubt begins to tell us what we can't do, we're in serious trouble. When we doubt our ability to have a kingdom impact, we have a bigger tendency to sit on the sidelines and wait for something to happen. When we doubt our ability to speak truth into someone's life, we have a tendency to retreat to our comfortable sanctuaries and cushy pews while a whole generation doesn't experience the love and grace of Christ. When we doubt ourselves, things fall apart.

More than that, we worship a God who believes in us and seems to have very few doubts about our abilities. Like Don said, Jesus left his ministry in the hands of fishermen and tax collectors. Not exactly the A-Team, and probably not even the B-Team. Yet God believed in them, and they in turn believed in themselves. When God believes in us, and we start to doubt ourselves, does that mean with think God's a liar?

Today, be confident in what God has called you to! Go confidently into whatever mission field you've been called to, whether it's in a distant land or right here at home. And know that God believes in you.

Tomorrow, we'll see how we can make doubt an ally.