Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: Jesus Died for This?

Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen ChristJesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ by Becky Garrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Becky Garrison writes from the heart. she 'calls it like she sees it.' this is a book that is raw. i appreciated the tone that Garrison writes in. I connected with her sarcastic/satirical musings - as i, often feel the way she writes... only she is bold enough to lay it all out there - exposed... for all to see and read.

her musings on the current state of the 'church' (and all of the baggage that comes with that) are poignant and amusing. i appreciated that despite her skeptic bent, she attempted to be fair - acknowledging when God was active and present - even if in ways that she either didn't connect with or fully grasp.

Jesus Died For This is an honest book. we don't seem to get many people speaking as candid as she - so kudos to her for that!

it's an enjoyable read... worth my time... and yours.

the church is screwed up. most church's within empire building nations are probably missing the point (perhaps not intentionally) but Garrison brings to light some groups and communities that truly are uniquely 'church'... communities doing all that they can to BE Christ - with no conditions.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 25, 2010


the light of the world is upon us.

hope has come.

step into the light.

have you seen the star?

in the midst of your gift giving and gift receiving
may you experience the greatest gift to all.

do you see the star? look up more.

"After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."

Matthew 2

Friday, December 24, 2010

slient night





"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. "

on a night like this

it wasn't a perfect night (by man's standards).
it wasn't meant to be...

"But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."
Luke 2

Thursday, December 23, 2010

out of darkness

4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [John 1]

"out of darkness comes a great light."

and heaven and nature sing

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2

Friday, December 17, 2010

the literal journeys from here to there and places in between [2] westbound and down

the road west is long, straight and a bit wasted.

the first thing that comes to mind when i think of the road west is abandonment. have you ever been west of the Mississippi? have you ever been through Texas? New Mexico? Arizona? wide open empty spaces liter the landscape. and then, in what seems like a mirage, a building appears in the distance - only this structure is almost camouflaged by the weeds and debris that surround it.

the old west is a cataclysmic terrain of emptiness with pockets of civilization once booming, now looming. and yet so many are drawn to its lure. perhaps its because we all know what lies beyond, just a few more miles down the old road... the pacific. the land of opportunity. the land of celebrity. California. and California, for so many, represents hope.

my views of this road west, is slim. so forgive me for calling it like i have seen it - but driving along the mother road - Interstate 40 and off to the most historic of roads - Route 66 - all that is seen are memories of what once was. it's the past that has yet to catch up with the present, eons away from the future. because many moons ago, Americans were curious, and traveled across the country - living the dream, like Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Route 66 was the road of choice and boom towns sprung up along that sacred path - and they flourished. Then, in the 60's, Eisenhower's interstate system was implemented and old 66 was bypassed for the four lane super highway, connecting the east to the west, north to the south.

depression was left in its wake.

now that i've wasted three or four paragraphs painting my interpretation of history - what is the point? because i have, on a few occasions, traveled that road - both roads. and those experiences are monumental.

on one encounter - with the family, we traveled to Phoenix, to drop my sister off at an Indian Reservation school, where she served as teacher. the memories of that family trip, when i was about 20 - proved to be an experience right out of the script from the movie Vacation. It's as if my dad was Chevy Chase - bound and determined to make the trip exciting and fresh. but alas, everything went wrong, the least of which was the motel room in Tulsa. the Roadside Inn (not a 5 star hotel in the least), had a bed that was slanted (broken box springs) and a sound-scape of gunfire outside our motel door.

on another encounter - i was heading towards hope - and hope was discovered just past painted deserts and canyons so grand; through the intense, dry heat of Vegas followed by 300 miles of nothing... and then, with all its beauty shined the lights of the big city: the hopes and dreams of Los Angeles were right in front of me.

the journey was riddled with mistakes and bad food and the unmistakable stench that was Amarillo, Texas - but the backdrop of sun, rolled-down windows and U2 on repeat was redeeming enough.

there were 5 and dime's along the road - in small towns not fit for a truck stop. in one of these we stopped for a drink. i think they sold the Coke in the old glass pop bottles still. Time moved on, except here. our journey brought us to a stop. one couldn't help but reflect. the radio was stuck in 1958. the grass was faded, burnt by the sun. The pick up trucks were rusted, the old feed mills, closed. even the stop light didn't work. this was a town drunk from nostalgia in a shot glass - and i drank it up, too. i remember its vintage hues, its passing winds. the flat terrain allowed for the eye to gaze upon the Rocky Mountains due west and a bit north. i remember wondering if the inhabitants of such a town knew what was beyond that horizon? did they dream of opportunity like i did? did they long to escape? had they held on to any innocence? had they longed for a return of simple things? like jobs and passer-bys... and hope?

but my stay was not long. after a quick meal at some unknown shack where the hostess was the waitress and the waitress was the cook, we were on our way again. it was getting dark and a storm would soon be upon us. as Kerouac once said: "one fast move or I'm gone." the storm came quickly (as they tend to come out there). i was gone.

hope was ahead of me. despair was in my rear view mirror.

yet i have never forgotten that scene. that place. those places along the road, the road west.

what happened next was an adventure of a lifetime. Los Angeles. Hollywood. 3rd Street Promenade. The Pacific Ocean. Film School.

it was this journey that - in part - shaped who i am today. my values. my vision. my dreams. all fleshed out in the warm California sun. 6 months later i was back home again. i don't remember anything about the journey home. i remember that i made it back (that's about it.)

i returned with few regrets, clinging to hope - a hope that survived the journey west and the desolation of abandoned towns and crappy motels; a hope that survived the tragedies and dramas of life in the hills behind the Hollywood sign. for me, the destination was the journey.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: Story Signs and Sacred Rhythms

Story, Signs, and Sacred RhythmsStory, Signs, and Sacred Rhythms by Chris Folmsbee

this is a nice book that equipped me to help explain the story arc of the Scriptures... the story of God is something i feel most students do not connect with. it appears to be difficult for many to connect their story with God's story.

Folmsbee tackles this issue with this book. i have been drawn to 'story' and have tried to help my students connect with theirs and God's... but often i've wondered if they really are getting it.

i don't know that what i read was anything new - but Chris Folmsbee does do a good job connecting the dots, so to speak... connecting the God story and the Gospel story with Our story. he also gives guidance for any youth leader who may be courageous enough to use 'story' as a backdrop of teaching students about God and themselves.

this book takes the reader from Revelation to Foundation to Implication to Integration and finally to Application.

the most practical part of the book was his overview of the Story of God - from creation thru restoration. that was refreshing and simple.

After reading, i have some things to think about and digest.

This book fits with where i think God has been calling me in leadership and discipleship of students.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Review: The House Church Book

The House Church Book: Rediscover the Dynamic, Organic, Relational, Viral Community Jesus StartedThe House Church Book: Rediscover the Dynamic, Organic, Relational, Viral Community Jesus Started by Wolfgang Simson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

i found this book to be easily digested, easily read and easily understood. Wolfgang Simson has written, perhaps, the quintessential book on the House Church. Simson shows the simple side of the house church movement - a movement he suggest pre-dates what we currently know as church. with roots in the early, new testament era churches - the house church can be a movement that grows 'sideways' (as he puts it) rather than upward. house churches can also be low cost churches, small in size and stature - yet able to grow at faster rates than most mega-churches.

for anyone curious about new church planting or the house church movement - this is a must read. i'd suggest any and all potential church planters read this book as well. there are many practical thoughts that may aid in the development of new church starts.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Maker Moment # 77: Look Up More

chances are you probably know about Improv Everywhere - a performance art group from New York City. They were formed in 2001 by Charlie Todd and their slogan is 'we cause scenes.' Basically, the group carries out harmless pranks or 'missions' as they call them, in public spaces around the city. once missions are developed, they use social media to get the word out - then anyone who wants can participate in the missions. these 'flash mob' scenes are aimed to bring about 'chaos and joy.'

Frozen Grand Central Station is probably IE's most famous (and creative) flash mob gathering.

Improv Everywhere has spawned copycat flash mobs - to the point that the flash mob idea is gaining a cult-like following. Just YouTube "flash mob" and you'll see what i mean.

recently a flash mob video from Macy's department store has gone viral - with over 14 million views on YouTube in just over 3 weeks. This Christmas Food Court Flash Mob consists of shoppers standing up and singing the many parts of Handel's Hallelujah chorus.

What makes Improv Everywhere and other Flash mobs so appealing to people? I think it has to do with the idea that people want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. these friendly mobs are a picture of true community at its best. strangers coming together to bring goodness, delight and joy to the masses. people connected with something in common. people united for simple, some-what child like enjoyment.

mankind was wired for this! to be connected. to be in community with others. God wired us this way because at the core of the human heart is a need to be wanted, appreciated, needed and connected.

this brings me to the Christmas season of which we are now in the midst of. at the heart of the Christmas story are disconnected people being brought together because of the shining light that entered the world, in the form of a humble, innocent baby boy - born in a dirty, smelly stable.

there's an Improv Everywhere mission titled 'Look Up More' in which participants of this flash mob stand in the store front windows of a large, multi-story shopping mall. After doing a series of harmless stunts in unison (jumping jacks, pointing, dancing, etc.) the members in the middle section of windows hold up letters spelling out the phrase: L-O-O-K U-P M-O-R-E, to the amazement of the spectators who have gathered outside, across the street.

a simple reminder to 'look up more.' perhaps a reminder for all humans to look around and see the world - to see it's beauty... to see it's innocence, and to enjoy what God has given us all.

think of the group of shepherds on the hillside of Bethlehem, tending their sheep that special night 2,000 years ago. The looked up to the stars and an angel appeared - to proclaim the good news of a savior's birth. Think of the wise men - who saw the star in the east (Matthew 2:1-2) and followed it to the foot of the Messiah. They 'looked up' and the great light brought them not only together with each other - but together with the new born King of Kings. By looking up, the shepherds and wise men were instantly connected to Jesus.

and so God got there attention - and the attention of others. and so a connection was made. and so Christ-centered community was created.

and so it continues today. the innocence of the birth of our Savior connects us and reminds us that we long to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. we long to belong!

Improv Everywhere reminds us... flash mobs remind us... and this Christmas season, may the story of the birth of Jesus remind us: to truly belong - we must look up. see the stars. understand our role in the story. recognize that God is shining down upon us. every night. trying to get our attention.

just like the flash mobs referenced above: may we draw attention to the One greater than us all - who longs for us all to be a part of a his community, filled with grace and hope and love.

forever and ever.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

the literal journeys from here to there and places in between [1]

when i was a kid, my parents tended a garden out at a farm on the edge of town. my father was a pastor and a farmer in the church gave him some land to till each spring and summer. this sounded like a great idea. fresh fruit and vegetables. hands in the dirt. digging. tending. pruning. growing. the task was not as easy or as fruitful as one would hope.
none the less, we spent many evenings out in that garden.

i don't remember much about watering or any other type of care-giving that our family, together, gave to that plot of land. i was 6. maybe 7 after all. i do remember that there were beehives near by. i remember running from those bees and hiding in the rows of corn - as if bees wouldn't see me or find me there. but that's about it.

frankly, what i remember most about the garden - that overgrown piece of unfruitful land that us 'town-folk' had little success tending - was the trip to and from. we did not drive in the family station wagon. no, we rode our bikes. family exercise. family bonding. it was a bond alright. us kids were forced to do things against our will. we were fastened together and the rope was a general disdain for taking care of our plot of earth.

the trips out were fun. the trips back home, not so much. after an evening of 'bonding' while pulling weeds - you might imagine tense, exhausted nerves courtesy of my three older sisters. tired legs didn't help either. i don't know how many miles it was to the farm and my little legs never had to care. i sat in the child seat behind my dad. i never had to pedal. maybe that's what made the journey memorable for me. i soaked it up as i rested in back. no worries. care-free. i took it all in.

the sights, sounds and smells of that journey still ring true. i loved the part where we pedaled over the rail road tracks. on a good day an east bound freight train would whistle by. the fresh smell of roses as we rode past Mrs. Durfey's house was an added bonus as well. then there'd be that random chicken you'd find wandering in the middle of that old county road that led to the farm. "what would happen when it got to the other side", i'd wonder aloud. one time a pick up truck rushed by - said chicken didn't make it across. you know that expression 'running around with a chicken with its head cut off'? as a 6 or 7 year old, i understood that first hand.

the summer sun would be fading into the distance. cool breezes would flow across the terrain. waves of green and gold from one side of the road to the other were part of the larger canvas with a line of trees in-full-bloom, towering above and beyond. it was generally quiet. this was rural central Ohio. there was nothing much but farm land with houses and small communities sprinkled about.

each evening we had a destination. to take care of the garden. to make things grow. each evening we completed a journey, to and fro.

but there was something special about the journeys. special enough that i remember them vividly. Maxwell's farm with dairy cattle on the hill side. The Whetstone creek trickling by. Kids hunting for crawdads along its banks. the simplicity of that small town and large countryside. not much happening - except for the ritual of the journey.

the ritual of the journey is so much a part of who we are as humans. we are constantly in motion. from one place to another. what meaning do we find in the journey? what purpose does the journey hold? how vivid are the journey's of life? if even the simplest of journeys are forgotten - then what else might we be missing?

stop. think back. remember your journeys. what value do you find there?

that daily trip to the country - where i was a mere passenger on the back my dad's bicycle - allowed me to soak it up - to see it all; smell it all; feel it all. i was a part of the journey and i dared not miss a thing.

i still remember those summer sunsets on that old country road...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the possession of beauty

"Beauty reminds us that the best things in life cannot be owned; they can only be experienced, appreciated and shared. 'Possession', we may therefore deduce, is not the goal of life; the spiritually intelligent response to beauty is to reflect, instead, on why we do not need to possess the greatest things in order to be a part of them."

~from the book Spiritual Intelligence by Brian Draper (page 58)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Review: Other

The Other: Loving Self, God and Neighbour in a World of FracturesThe Other: Loving Self, God and Neighbour in a World of Fractures by Kester Brewin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

on page 175 Kester Brewin states what Other is all about:
In a sense then this book is simply a plea to see Jesus' summary of the law (Love God, Love People, Love the Self) as a new form of development practice, one that sees the face of the other as its sacred text.

Love God. Love Others. Love the self. that's it. simple isn't it? perhaps not...
Brewin's writing style kept me coming back to this book. admittedly there were times when i had to put the book down. at times i felt as though i was reading the words but not initially comprehending what i was reading. none the less i couldn't stop thinking about my relationship with the 'other.'

i think this book has made me more self aware, aware of God and (hopefully) aware of the 'other'. defining who is the 'other' in my present surroundings is my current dilemma. but i think my eyes are being opened more. perhaps some 'others' have already crossed my path. did i attribute conversations or assistance as God given, ordained times to be love? perhaps not always.

some of my favorite sections of this book dealt with 'embracing transcendence and immanence'; 'embracing the stranger and the dangerous place'; 'temporality'; 'losing our lives'; etc.

part four titled Loving the other in praxis was brilliant and practical. how do we practice loving the other? there is enough talking about it... enough theology... what about action? these sections in part four were highlights: Engaging the other within the self; Engaging the other within our faith; and Engaging the other within our communities.

kester brewin might be wrong. as he states on a blank page before the table of contents. but he might be right, too. this quote on page 133 sums it all up: "We will, in other words, begin to love the other when we love ourselves enough to allow God - who is love - to lead us." i think he's right.
Jesus states the greatest commandment in Matthew 22. (Love God. Love Others. Love the Self). Brewin tackles this commandment with grace - looking deeply into all three. (frankly - as many times as i've read that commandment, even studied that commandment, i've never focused on the 'love self' part) Brewin paints a picture where all three intersect in harmony. now i am beginning to see how that might play out in my life. As the back of the book states: what kind of selves do we need to be in order to live in harmony with others?

Brewin's Other is making me think... i wonder how long i can chew on his words before i either live them out or forget. i'm hoping i'll remember. i'm hoping this book continues to stick with me.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

we are falling out of love

With our every move covered by CCTV, our every click monitored by government agencies, our lives narrowed by what we are told we can believe, the flows within and beyond us are reduced to a trickle. In other words, we are falling out of love. With rising depression, addiction, obesity and mental ill-health we are falling out of love with ourselves. With fundamentalism and constant arguments over sexuality and battles for numbers we are falling out of love with God. And with knife crime and school massacres and racism and fears over asylum and economic protectionism we are falling out of love with those we perceive are different to us and pose a threat to us.

~Kester Brewin

from his book Other [page 165-166]

related post: We have house trained God

Monday, October 18, 2010

of happy trails and morning ails (or what trees would tell me if they could talk)

there's a stretch of trail that runs a few miles here and a few miles there out on the edge of town. it's an old Nickelplate railroad path - with the tracks now removed. i've been down this trail many times... on foot and on bike. this morning, the trail was nearing the end of a life cycle, giving it's all - breathing out color and at the same time, expunging its last bit of air. the outgoing air was fuel to my feet and legs. it wasn't energy-burning fuel. i was breathing in consistency.

i soaked it all in. i drank it up. the mental image of the long trail, coated with leaves, sun soaked and damp from the morning dew has now been forever ingrained within my mind. the fall foliage served as a playground for the birds of the air and the hidden creatures of the ground.

what is it that makes creation so spectacular? the cycle is repeated; the seasons the same. the sun rises and sets everyday. the gladdening light shines upon the land. the wind blows. the leaves fall. the flowers and trees die and then spring to life again every year. this is nothing new. what is it about nature that seems so fresh - when we take the time to engage with it?

like a forgotten friend, the trail is there. waiting for me. for you. for us - to take to the path - to set ablaze the road. to leave our footprints on its terrain - as if to serve as a sign of our temporary engagement. the rocks cry out and rejoice, thankful for our presence.

there is a connection between the earth and man. perhaps because we once came from the dust.

the trail of beauty was a trail of its own demise - its impending death continually serving a purpose, a necessity of nature and of the world. its necessity breeds my fidelity, ability, propensity and supremacy. i conquered the trail with invigorated steps.

to be at one with nature is a beautiful thing. to connect with a Higher power through the chill of the morning air, the color of the fallen leaves, through the words and lyrics of my iPod companion - it made for an experience to be embraced.

and i embraced it.

soon, the death of nature will be covered in white. my moment this morning will sustain me until the coming spring.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Book Review: Exercising Your Soul

Exercising Your SoulExercising Your Soul by Gary Jansen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Exercising Your Soul was just what i needed. i purposefully took my time with this book - as i did not want to miss a thing... it seemed my slow pace was just what i needed in order for the words and meditations to fully sink in.

Gary Jansen paints with words and the canvas of pages seemed to be a landscape of practical ways for me to connect with God in new, contemplative and fresh ways. he provided for me a much needed opportunity to experience the freshness of the Holy scriptures.

his stories and anecdotes resonated with my soul, with simple prayer practices that might take 15 minutes a day.

the best thing about this book is its simple approach. Part IV: Exercising with the Parables was particularly enlightening. There is a richness found within this book that i am certain will draw me back to it, when i am in need of a fresh encounter with God and the Spirit.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 04, 2010

four simple steps (to building community)

Four Simple Steps.
Tim Beck, New Church Start Team Chair, East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church
Youth Pastor, Christ United Methodist Church, Louisville, Ohio

Everybody needs somebody. Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to be wanted. It’s plain and simple, isn’t it? We all know that. We’ve all felt that. At the end of the day acceptance is what mankind desires most. People want to be a part of something but more importantly, people want to be a part of something greater than themselves. People want and need community.

That begs the question: what is community? In short, community (among other things) is a group of people with common characteristics or “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

If we want to live up to the expectation to ‘build up the church’ and advance the Kingdom, then we have to start with community. We have to enable people to be a part of something. We have to be the connection, the glue, that binds us all together, with Christ at the center. Creating an environment for people to interact with each other and with God might be the single most important building block of the church.

We must not forget what Christ did best: He built community and established relationships with ‘the least of these’; He discipled the disciples, loved the unlovable and reached the unreachable. How can we do the same? I propose an ethos of four simple steps that each of us can take - with hopes of building genuine community that compels people to follow the way of Jesus.


Love God and people (Matthew 22:28-40). No exceptions. It’s the greatest commandment, after all.

Create and inspire others to connect with God. Made in the image of God, man can use creativity to inspire and help others connect with God through interactive, out-of-the-box methods. Because of creativity, we are made new (Ephesians 4:24).

Share your story and God's story. The Good news should be shared through words and actions. St. Francis said 'Preach often, if necessary, use words.' Whatever the method, share your stories with others and along the way share God's story of love and redemption. Help others see the connection between their story and God’s story. May our stories inspire generosity and genuine community as we share the truth of the cross.

Respond to the needs of others and to the call of Christ. Ecclesiastes 4:9-1o says 'pity a man who falls and has no one to help him up.' Strive to become aware of the needs of others. Remember that Jesus said 'whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me and whatever you have not done to the least of these, you have not done to me.' Aim for selfless, not selfish community.

This is what I hope the Spirit of any community will be. Now comes the challenge to 'live it out.' Take the steps. Build community. Grow the church.

Friday, October 01, 2010

We have house-trained God

we have house-trained God. We have localized, accommodated & claimed ownership of God, and fabricated a sort of divine social contract with 'him'; only 'he' can use his great power to smite our enemies. We will be obedient subjects - so long as we are protected and prosper.
~Kester Brewin

from his book Other.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

MAKER MOMENT: Dayvan Cowboy

one of my favorite music videos of all time. it shows how sound and image, when edited together, can be a beautiful blending of creativity and art. the two (the music and film) become one.

creativity is one of God's blessed gifts to mankind.

[Dayvan Video wiki]

Saturday, September 25, 2010

the Geometry of the Cross

while ready Gary Jansen's book Exercising Your Soul this afternoon, i was compelled to blog. chapter 17's title is 'The Geometry of the Cross'. to be honest, i was never a fan of geometry. hated it. in 10th grade, i was doing o.k. in the subject. then my teacher went on maternity leave. our replacement didn't know math. she was the long term substitute. let's just say my grade dropped dramatically... and i've loathed geometry ever since.

so what does geometry and the cross have in common?

Jansen paints a picture of two lines intersecting. the geometry of these two lines intersect at a point, forming what resembles a cross. that intersecting point represents Jesus.

the horizontal line is me. the vertical line is God. man and God intersect at the point.

the God line includes all his creation: the beautiful and the ugly. birds chirping, mountain ranges, rivers wild, plazas and malls, families and strangers, shopping carts and SUV's. etc.

regardless - where we find God's creation, we find Christ. but are we even aware? or are we waiting... stubbornly thinking we can only connect with God for one hour on a sunday morning in a self-proclaimed 'sanctuary?'

i love how Jensen concludes this brief chapter.
he explains how we can be on the horizontal line and yet, since we are part of God's creation, are also on the vertical 'God' line.

"When we include you not only on the line that moves from left to right, but also bottom to top, you will notice that when you encounter yourself -- whether it be the face looking back at you in the mirror or the reflection of your soul against God's creation -- you will find Christ."
We often miss Christ... miss out on God. how much of that is because we are truly missing out on ourselves? how might one's lack of self-awareness correlate to one's lack of God-awareness?

so where did you meet God on your road to life today? on the slow morning jog. watching the joy of youth at the JV football game. the gentle, cool breeze. cleaning the garage. spending the afternoon in the great outdoors.

meditate on the times you were aware that your life intersected with God today. in the noises of life... airplanes overhead; laughter of children playing at the park; the breeze through the trees; the wind chime on the front porch...

the simple things bring us to that point of intersection... through geometry, even... to the point of Christ. don't miss out. don't miss Him.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns (a track by track description and breakdown)

by Tim Beck on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 10:16pm

just my thoughts... typed out as i listened to the album in its entirety. some thoughts might seem very random.... and i might be wrong with my interpretation... but none the less, here they are for you to see. check out the album for yourself. i recommend it. ~ tim

1. "The Requiem" 2:01 - ethereal. like a soundscape to something dark and mysterious. effects-laden vocals. a foreshadowing to The Catalyst. there is no daylight, just darkness.

2. "The Radiance" 0:57 spoken word. "now i become death, the destroyer of the worlds." a warning of things to come… to the end of everything.

3. "Burning in the Skies" 4:13 the first real song on the album. a simple beginning. a modest opening song for an alternative band. vocals by Bennington and Shinoda. the song slowly builds but never over steps its modest beginnings.

4. "Empty Spaces" 0:18 someone preaches in the background. explosions and cannons fire and explode.

5. "When They Come for Me" 4:53 a solid tribal drum beat with bass are persistent. Shinoda brings a Chuck D-esque rhyme, with no apologies. the choral parts are the perfect compliment. the tribal rhythms serve as an edgy, conflicting end to the song. aiding the listener navigate through the concept of the album.

6. "Robot Boy" 4:29 so many layers to this song, including a sweet vocal mix. "you say you're not going to fight 'cuz no one will fight for you." "you say the weight of the world has kept you from letting go." "you think compassion is a flaw and you'll never let it show." "you think you've hurt in a way that no one will ever know." "but someday, the weight of the world will give you the strength to go." i really like the lyrics to this song. "hold on. the weight of the world will give you the strength to go." thus far - this is the most powerful song on the album. this song would never be played on the radio - but it'd be a great song to hear live. and it is a nice touch to this album.

7. "Jornada del Muerto" 1:34 indecipherable lyrics… this interlude sounds like a helicopter blade is spinning around… like when The End by the Doors plays in Apocalypse Now. the song then builds to a crescendo and fades...

8. "Waiting for the End" 3:51 another kicking drum beat to start. like Jay Z's 99 Problems (or the remix of Rihanna's - Umbrella). def. a Rick Ruben influenced track. (he co-produced the album). Bennington's vocals over the drum dub is nice. "the hardest part of ending is starting again." this song has hope - unlike any other song thus far.

9. "Blackout" 4:39 this is the farthest thing from any LP song we've heard in a while. almost screamo. very fast lyric style. listening to this song reminds me that these individual tracks are not mere songs. the are pieces to the puzzle. if one is missing, the story of this album is incomplete. this is a great concept album… much like Mew's - And the Glass Handed Kites was a great concept.

10. "Wretches and Kings" 4:10 this is a stand up and fight anthem. more Chuck D influence here. lyrical references to Bring Da Noise and Fight the Power by Public Enemy. "Wretches and Kings, we come for you!" - Bennington bellows this. Shinoda then scares anything in his path. in this concept album were a movie, this track is the rising action. this is the anthem. put your hands up. Mario Savio speech heard in background.

11. "Wisdom, Justice, and Love" (Linkin Park, Martin Luther King, Jr.) 1:38 a piano track as MLK preaches against violence and war and hate. the voice of MLK becomes warped and morphed. the closing robotic line of speech: "cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love…"

12. "Iridescent" 4:56 Shinoda shows his softer side - with lead vocals shared with Chester. "remember sadness and frustration… and let it go." a change needs to take place. but change breeds difficulty. is it worth the risk? that is what this song is about. a chorus of many join together at the end. to show unity? to show commonality? voices rising up. standing together. ready.

13. "Fallout" 1:23 a transition to the end. Mike Shinoda's voice through a synth/robotic voice effect - sets up the climatic ending.

14. "The Catalyst" 5:39 this song is why the whole album exists. this is it. it all comes to a head here. "God bless us everyone… we are broken people…" the foreshadowing from The Requiem is here. very fast. driving. climatic chaos in song form. this is the rising up. the resistance. standing their ground. overcoming. preaching the truth. "Lift me up. Let me go." a resounding cry. a nice conclusion to a great risk of an album from a band that was capable of pulling it off.

15. "The Messenger" 3:01 i envision this song playing as the credits role. the story has been told. the world of Matrix-like struggle between man and authority and a machine that rules with iron fist and war - The Messenger closes the show. the curtain is being pulled. a final reminder of what the struggle was all for. possibly the first acoustic track LP has ever recorded. with Chester Bennington streching his vocals once again. the curtain is now closed. the lights are up. the show is over. never forget.

now listen again. repeat. and repeat. and repeat. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

new music tuesday

long ago - in the days before marriage and kids and soccer practices and yard work, tuesday meant something special to me. for quite some time, new music has been released on tuesdays. and thus - tuesday meant something. in the mid to late '90's - i spent many-a-tuesday leaving work and driving straight to Best Buy or some other music outlet to pick up the most recent release.

my cd collection ballooned as a result.

now tuesdays are simply days - filled with busyness, practices, quick meals on the go and parenting and homework with the kids, etc.

so what made today special? well for the first time in a long time i was anticipating two new music releases. rather than driving to Best Buy after work - i pre-ordered the albums on iTunes. i woke up early to download the albums so i could have them ready to listen to on my iPod in the car as i drove to a meeting.

so today has been a special day... reminiscent of the days of yore. even better: i am really enjoying both albums. these days, there are no guarantees - especially when it comes to new music.

so what did i download?

Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns
a concept album. there are no songs - this is an album. o.k. there are songs , but to truly appreciate the sounds of this recording, one must listen to it as a whole. admittedly, i was a bit skeptical. everyone loved LP's debut Hybrid Theory, and their other albums have been decent - but not must haves. but after a few listens, i am really enjoying A Thousand Suns. It's gritty. industrial. a bit of a shift for die hard LP fans - but i think it's a positive step. the listening experience plays in your mind like a movie (without the silver screen).

Underworld - Barking

i've long been a fan of Underworld. like many, the movie Trainspotting introduced me to this british house band 14 years ago. Born Slippy intrigued me. the Pearls Girl EP hooked me.

I had previously skipped their last few projects (Oblivion with Bells and their mix cd's) - but decided to give them another chance. i found the video for Scribble on youtube and that got me excited.

Barking is a fun, electronic album. it's nothing cutting edge. nothing that hasn't been done before - but so far, it's an enjoyable listen. frankly, that's all that matters. i'd love to see them in concert, if they ever come to the States.

new music tuesday. nothing finer. i'm just happy that both albums are a delight. no let down. no buyers remorse.

Monday, September 13, 2010

sound off: on burning books and spewing hate.

(a little late to the party, i know.)

there's been much talk these days about Mosque building and Koran burning. and even though most Christians stand against such a silly thing like burning someone else's holy book - i've heard my fair share of jokes about it, too.

so now it's time for me to sound off. to let my opinions be known.

to start, burning the Koran is not only un-American but unchristian.

1. it's un American because burning books is un American. yeah, people have a right to do it - but having that right doesn't make it right. we learned that lesson in Footloose when the, ultra-right, overbearing Rev. Moore condemned his flock for burning books outside of the town library. o.k. it's unamerican for more reasons than that. but, we don't need censorship or destruction. we need restoration. burning books goes against the liberties this nation was founded upon.

2. (and this is the crux of my post) it's unchristian because Jesus said 'Love God. Love people.' (Matthew 22:37-39).
because Jesus said 'Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you.' (Matthew 5:44).

Shaming another individual or followers of other faiths - ridiculing them - desecrating something someone else deems sacred (whether we agree or not) goes against the way of Jesus.

when Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17) he was standing on what many Greeks would have considered 'holy ground' or sacred space. Did he insult them? Desecrate their idols? Burn their sacred scrolls or holy materials? In the midst of idol worship that 'greatly disturbed' him - how did Paul respond?

in kind. he responded in kind.

Paul answered their questions. He piqued their curiosity. He used something common to them (an altar to an UNKNOWN GOD) to show them The God they had not known (but had known them)!

and... they... listened.

He showed them that despite of their misguided idol worship 'God is not very far' from them. (Acts 17:27)

He then preached Christ - with love and respect.

When dealing with followers of different faiths - no matter how radical - are we/Christians loving? are we/Christians respectful? or are we shaming or degrading?

Jesus said "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)

i want to be a disciple. i thought that was what Christ asked of all who choose to follow Him. Christians, perhaps, need to stop picking and choosing teachings and commandments to follow, while ignoring the 'greatest' of commandments*. Love aught to have no condition. i don't see how you can have it any other way if you are a true follower of the Way.

just my 2 cents.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Book Review: The Natural

The NaturalThe Natural by Bernard Malamud

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

there are some movies that are adapted from books that simply can not compare to the written word (The Road comes to mind). there are also movie adaptions that are so different from the book that you wonder what was the same - other than the title (My Sister's Keeper comes to mind). then there are the rare few... those movie adaptations that are far better than the book ever was. The Natural is one of those few.

i'll admit, while reading Bernard Malamud's written text found within The Natural, the voice of Roy Hobbs sounded distinctly like Robert Redford, while the voice of Pop and Red sounded a lot like Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth. i'll admit, the first half of the book was as intriguing as anything. a novel about baseball... what a delight! But the second half took odd turns that where anything but dramatic. Frankly, the movie had more drama and more of a climax than the book, and that left me disappointed.

perhaps i'd feel different if i hadn't already seen the movie, but i doubt it. i'm o.k. with the fact that the endings of book and movie differ... it was the steps that took Roy Hobbs to that conclusion that were tiresome and lame.

this is not Malamud's best text. he is a wordsmith. but to what avail?

Skip this book. watch the film instead.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

the lost journal entries: question about worship

i've collected and filled (some partial, some entirely) a handful of journals over the years. most of the journals are used for brainstorming. lately, i've been looking through some of them. i figured i'd take a picture of some entries and then blog about it.

[from Nov. 18, 2006; general session three of National Youth Workers Convention in Cincinnati]

"When I close my eyes, the worship is like a musical." ~ Jen Beck

what prevents worship (at other times) from being dramatic? does worship need to be dramatic? no. but when worship is compelling to us - might it also be compelling to God?

The real dichotomy is this: does worship then become more about me and less about God?

i don't think that this morning's worship is self seeking. it is real and honest and difficult and like a painted picture that tells a story. the story is Jesus Christ. May he be glorified.

Ubi Caritas et Amor ~ Charity in Love


So many different styles of worship. the "new" ways seem hard to grasp for many. are they that "new"? Why is worship such a struggle? is it possible to have a community of worshipers without boundaries or traditions or things that bind? things that hold us back?

where many gather, can there be silence?

the struggle within me is finding a place to create worship for self, others, young & old, youth, teenagers, etc... to gather and worship in ways beyond our current Sunday morning tradition. not that i desire to throw out traditions...i think traditions have value beyond what we even understand.

but some traditions or experiences have been forgotten. Acts 2?

God is with us. now. forever. do we recognize?

I need to be shown ways that God is with me. How he speaks to me. old ways are not bad ways. yet i feel compelled to think outside the box.

Psalm 21.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

bullets (over hollywood)

i found this commentary amusing, interesting and sad. enjoy.

Stop or I'll shoot! Not that this will hurt you:

Near the end of "The Expendables," Sylvester Stallone is shot at point-blank range, drops to the ground moaning -- and a few minutes later is totally fine. In the recent series finale of "24," Jack Bauer is stabbed in the stomach and bleeding profusely, then shot through the shoulder at close range -- and an hour or so later, beats up a huge strong guy, then runs away to escape the country, showing no effects from blood loss or wounds. In the season finale of the new FX series "Justified," the anti-hero, Boyd Crowder, is shot at close range with a sniper rifle and not only doesn't bleed but 15 minutes later drives away, completely fine, to chase a bad guy. In "Salt," Angelina Jolie is shot at close range yet, a few moments later, can kill a huge trained assassin with her bare hands, then shortly after that is able to jump from a helicopter into the Potomac River, swim to shore and run through a forest.

[+] EnlargeStallone/Rourke
AP Photo/Chris PizzelloAt age 64, Sylvester Stallone needs about three minutes to recover from being shot. After he turns 65, it may take a bit longer.

In the first Beverly Hills Cop movie, at the climax, Eddie Murphy is shot at close range, then a moment later is completely fine and telling jokes. In the series finale of "Miami Vice," Tubbs is shot at close range, then when seen the next morning not only is totally fine but is stylishly dressed in an expensive silk suit. In "Die Hard 4," Justin Long is shot at close range, and 30 minutes later by the movie's chronology is completely normal -- and Long plays a meek, timorous person. In that same movie, Bruce Willis falls 30 feet from an apartment window into a large trash bin, then the same day falls 40 feet down the elevator shaft of a power plant, then falls out of a crashing jet fighter (don't ask), then is shot twice -- yet is completely fine despite receiving no medical treatment other than gauze pads taped over two bullet wounds. And Stallone? In the 1997 movie "Cop Land," his character is shot at close range, then drives from New Jersey to the Wall Street part of Manhattan without treatment or, apparently, any effect on his body.

These are only some of many examples. Increasingly, action movies show the hero or heroine being shot yet suffering no ill effects -- while, needless to say, bad guys who are even sneezed on drop to the ground instantly dead. (In the egregiously overrated "The Dark Knight," the Joker stabs a huge muscular thug with a pencil and the guy dies in two seconds. Stallone is lucky he was only shot, not attacked with a pencil!) Maybe this is part of overall Hollywood unrealism: With the advent of computer-generated special effects, trivial stuff like physical law has ceased to matter, so why should bullets act realistically? But there's a disturbing aspect. Hollywood sells violence, violence, violence -- and then with movie stars, people the public empathizes with, suggests: Hey, bullets don't really do any harm, you'll be fine 20 minutes later. So fire away!

from Greg Easterbrook's article on (Tuesday Morning Quarterback)

Monday, August 30, 2010

sing to me a melody: of ticking clocks and ocean spray...

[just some thoughts after spending a week sitting on the shoreline of the Atlantic. written about a month ago]

[p.s. i'm certainly no poet... this was just free expression]

the waves come and go. come and go.
with the consistency of a clock ticking.
only the tides precede countable time…
the ticking of clocks.
the passing of second hands and the like.

seashells roll. broken and chiseled and colorful.
what stories do they tell?
where have they been? how were they broken?
finding the needle in the haystack - that select one…
that is the game for the searcher.

the rain drops fall down - but when in the water - you don't feel them.
it's as if the ocean spray is cooling your head.
with consistency and trajectory.
whipping winds appear fierce but are gentle at heart.
something beautiful is on the horizon.

at dusk - just before giving up on the day
it appeared. bright and shining.
casting silhouettes and shadows
the western sunset; broken through
what was grey now full of life.

a long walk along the incoming waters.
warm to the feet. pleasantly mild.
footprints along the shore line.
every seven seconds, it covers the sand like a blanket.
growing bigger. pushing forward.

every moment is new. fresh to the senses.
an ocean morning, noon and night.
it comes and goes, comes and goes
and if you're not careful, you'll miss its point.
soak it up. soak it in. you'll regret it later when it's gone.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

the violent soul vs. ______________

violence. it's prevalent. it's inconsistent. it's intertwined in to the very core of our culture.

what causes this violence? from where does it fester? what are we to do? can we escape?

Before we protest about the terrible violence we see in our cities and across the world, we must withdraw to some third place, away... and reflect on the violence within each of us and the violence inherent in the systems we inhabit.
~Kester Brewin (quoting Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek)
self reflection. to become conscious of our 'selves.' to better understand who we are. to become more responsible.*

when we retreat and reflect - what violence, do we observe, is within us? where does it come from? what is the root?

do you ever find yourself easily angered? no apparent reason as to why?

is it possible that more time spent in self reflection could actually become a form of release of the violence that is within us? could it be that rest and reflection is a key to a part of our life that is locked up? could it be that freedom of self could be a freedom from self? a freedom from the all hate, violence, anger, frustration and pain?

man needs quiet. needs rest. how would life be different for one and all across this globe if we were still? stillness brings contentment. if we were/are content - would we harbor anger? be violent? allow hate to over come?

*from Brewin's book Other.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Book Review: On the Road

On The Road, Classics of Modern Literature (Classics of Modern Literature (CML))On The Road, Classics of Modern Literature by Jack Kerouac

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jack Kerouac is a writer - not an author. Truman Capote said something like that about Kerouac and i agree.

i've always wanted to read On The Road. Always wanted to read Kerouac. call it a fascination. i've been drawn to 'road' type books and stories and On The Road had been on my 'To Read' shelf for quite some time.

although i am glad i read the book - my time could have been used more wisely. Kerouac left me disappointed.

there is no real story here. just words... just a recollection. there is no climax... no rising or falling action. just words and names and snipets of events that took place in Kerouac's life (as Sal Paradise in the book).

the one part that was intriguing to me was the first third of the book - about Sal's escapade hitchhiking across the U.S. other than that - his obsession with Dean proved to be less of a story and more of a desperate attempt to find meaning in his life.

As much as i wanted to like On The Road - i can't say that it was truly worth my time.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: The Bullpen Gospels

The Bullpen Gospels: A Non-Prospect's Pursuit of the Major Leagues and the Meaning of LifeThe Bullpen Gospels: A Non-Prospect's Pursuit of the Major Leagues and the Meaning of Life by Dirk Hayhurst

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

there's always been something magical about baseball. i'll admit, i couldn't care less about the major league game these days - but the lure of the game and all that goes with it - the sights, sounds and feel of real live game being played in front of you (at any level, mind you) is something special.

thus i was drawn to The Bullpen Gospels for the same reason i've been drawn to Field of Dreams and The Natural. The same reason i always loved listening to my dad tell stories of Lou Boudreau and the like from the '48 Indians World Championship team.

Baseball is filled with stories... good stories... like no other sport. The Bullpen Gospels is author Dirk Hayhurst's chronicle of his 2007 season in the minor leagues. Hayhurst - pitcher by day, author by night - seems more comfortable in the role of author. his writings of his challenges pitching - working to overcome failure to reach his major league dream are compelling because of his honesty. there is nothing glorious about minor league baseball - yet, Hayhurst reminds us that reaching for one's dreams is nothing to be disappointed in - even if he learned that the hard way.

this is more than a book about baseball. it is a book about life... a baseball players life... with struggles to make it - fears of being cut, rejected, forgotten. it's a book about hope - hope to mend a broken family, to make a father proud and to 'wow' the Brass of the organization.

it's fun. crazy. zany. awkward. compelling. it fits in with the tradition of baseball - and the lure that goes with that.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: The Starfish and the Spider

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless OrganizationsThe Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has some great insights that may be of use in more areas that just business. the general theme is that if you cut off the leg of a starfish - it grows back - but if you cut off the head of a spider - it dies.

there are also some really fascinating stories that relate to the topic of the book.

i think this book - although a bit sluggish and repetitive at times - paints a compelling picture of what collaboration and communication can do in any group or organization. to be a starfish is to be leaderless, in a sense. examples like Wikipedia, Alcoholics Anonymous and the numerous P2P sites prove that leaderless groups and organizations can thrive.

as a youth minister - i am compelled to ponder how leaderless groups might benefit the church. that is food for thought... i intend to chew on it for a while.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

What are you passionate about?

as part of my summer Sabbatical i am reading a number of books dealing with youth ministry and the like. one of the books i am currently reading is Practicing Passion written by Kendra Creasy Dean.
While reading, i was compelled to ask some youth i know the following question:

What are youth passionate about?

Here is there reply. you'll see some common themes.

~love? we all seem to be chasing after it

~Hanging out with friendsss... Forr suree.

~trying to fit in. thats definitely a big one i think.

~For me it's making a difference in the world.

~Having fun! without fun, you're not a true teenager.

~Figuring out what we want to do with our lives


~i get passionate about things i hold close to me getting hurt i show real passion in the protection of these things

~I am passion about my family.I have a huge family that cares about me and loves me for who I am.

~Defining who we are and what we're about.

~Figuring out who we are and what we stand for!

~We are passionate about finding ourselves, loving ourselves and loving others.

~I think it's a lot about fixing ourselves. As strange as that sounds, people just want to feel whole. And as teenagers, we're constantly trying to fill our lives with... pretty much anything and everything... to figure out how to be complete.

~I think teens in general just want to stand out in their own way yet fit in with others and just have fun in a good way. I think that everyone is just passionate about finding themselves and who they really are and what they want their lives to look like and how to make it happen if, that makes sense?

~love. Being loved, loving others, loving God.

~teens want to stand out and fit in. They want to love and know that someone loves them back. They [well i] want to make a difference in the world or just where they [i] live.


what themes are presented?
love/being loved. finding one's identity . to stand out (originality) and fit in (conformity). completeness. acceptance. making a difference. having fun.

when you look at the list - in some respects it's not much different than 'adult' passions.

but what is at the heart of their comments:

to be made whole. to be complete. as one of them wrote: we're constantly trying to fill our lives with... pretty much anything and everything... to figure out how to be complete.

all of the passions listed are things they 'want'.
want to be loved. want to fit in. want to stand out. want to love others. want to make a difference. want to have fun.

these students, it appears, feel that if these wants are achieved - then they will be… satisfied.

where does that root of satisfaction come from? i suggest it comes only from a deep connection with our Maker… with God. this can and will happen through Christ alone.

it is because of Christ's passion for all humanity (including teenagers) that we can find fulfillment through our passionate connection with Him.

but all to many teens (and adults alike) perhaps 'settle' and fill their emptiness… their holes with faux-passions that lead to deeper emptiness.

But mankind - at the heart of it all - is a lover and a dreamer. we (generally) believe (and hope?) that the next thing just might bring us satisfaction. we are hopeful people. that is why we are willing to give love and longing and searching multiple chances.

we want satisfaction. we are hard-wired to need it.

will man seek the One who can provide us with Hope Eternal? will teens discover the passion of Jesus is worth living and dying for? will youth take the necessary steps to find passionate satisfaction?

what are you most passionate about?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review: The Godbearing Life

The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth MinistryThe Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry by Kenda Creasy Dean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kendra Creasy Dean has her finger on the pulse of the spiritual side of youth ministry. i chose to read The Godbearing Life as part of my Sabbatical study. Although i found parts of this book a little outdated (published in 1998 - a lot has changed in the lives of youth with technology, etc. since then) I still found this book useful for understanding the deeper side of youth ministry.

i particularly liked chapter 3 titled Heeding While Herding. As youth leaders/pastors/volunteers we are more than just a shepherd - there to protect and 'look out for' our flock of teenagers. our job (or should i say 'calling') goes beyond that.

"protection is for naught unless the flock follows the shepherd home."

Jesus Christ is the 'home' we aim to lead our adolescent youth to. but with that calling come barriers.

Barrier 1: Me Tarzan, You Jane (i.e. The Messiah Complex)
youth leaders cling to the idea that 'we must fetch youth and save them.' the problem with that is that it can lead to a ministry that begins and ends with the youth leader - not Jesus. The Godbearing alternative: Entrainment. stopping and listening to the breath of the Spirit within us (that is the breath of God) and aligning our rhythm with Him.

Barrier 2: McFaith (i.e. the Manager complex)
when we feel like our need is to be efficient - we run the risk of making faith 'easy' for teens. Sort of a drive-thru mentality can invade our way of managing our ministry. We end up managing chaos - trying to keep every aspect of the youth ministry afloat. We know that our teens are used to everything instantly... now. and thus we attempt to give them a faith that is fast and easy.
The Godbearing alternative is teaching students (and maybe ourselves?) to wait... patience is needed and essential to one's Spiritual life. We need times of rest and times of sabbath. we need time to process our faith. we need to wait on God. with expectant hearts...

Barrier 3: Called but Clueless (i.e. the "Duh" Complex)
We affirm youth (rightfully so). We encourage them and boost there self image - as self esteem is such a difficult thing for most teens - but do we affirm them with the absence of expectation does not enhance one's self image.
i loved the example laid out in the book of Mary, the mother of Jesus. the neat thing is that while Mary expected God to move (as promised by Gabriel) God expected Mary to fulfill her calling. As much as Mary believed in Him, He believed in her.
The Godbearing alternative is discernment. We need to pay attention and call attention to God. If we encourage youth - we must empower them as well. show them we believe in them. Show them that God believes in them.

Profound stuff for anyone who works with teens.

This book is a worthwhile book and should be a must read for any new youth worker. It very well may enable them to connect with teens on a deeper, spiritual level.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Review: Exploiting Chaos

Exploiting Chaos: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of ChangeExploiting Chaos: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change by Jeremy Gutsche

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

i really enjoyed this book. i found it in the bargain bin @ Borders. it's a book about how to spark innovation in the world of business when change is needed.

i liked the presentation found within - creative anecdotes and images. very artsy.

i found many parallels to ministry and the church.

businesses will not survive if they lack vision for the future and if they are resistant to change. the same applies to the church. frankly, that is one main reason for decline in church participation and attendance.

perhaps more ministry leaders might want to read this book. very enjoyable.

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Book Review: Experiential Storytelling

Experiential Storytelling: (Re) Discovering Narrative to Communicate God's Message (Emergent YS)Experiential Storytelling: by Mark Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

i've been drawn to the theme Story for some time now. I've struggled to figure out how to implement 'story' more into my youth ministry.
Experiential Storytelling didn't tell me anything i didn't already know or hadn't already thought of. but it did confirm in me the desire to implement a more interactive process to storytelling - particularly the stories of the Bible.

Mark Miller's book was an easy, quick read - with larger print and plenty of quotes.

if you are intrigued with the idea of storytelling or 'storying' as another author has put it - this book is good for you.

i am already planning on implementing more story into our weekly youth gatherings staring in the fall.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Book Review: Cracking the Code

Cracking the Code: The Winning Ryder Cup Strategy: Make It Work for YouCracking the Code: The Winning Ryder Cup Strategy: Make It Work for You by Paul Azinger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

i like golf. i don't know that i like golf enough to read a book about it.
but i heard author Paul Azinger interviewed about Cracking the Code on Jim Rome's radio show and the book sound surprisingly interesting.

i ordered it and read it and i have to say - it lived up to my expectation.

basically, it's a book about the formation of the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team - and the success of the selection process.

Azinger used team building techniques from the NAVY SEALs and took the 12 man team and broke them into pods - based on personality and compatibility over skill on the golf course.

i really liked his model of team building.

frankly, i intend to take some of these ideas and implement them in the development of leadership teams (or 'pods') in my youth ministry.

who knew?

it's an easy and interesting read.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Sabbath. Rest. Sabbatical.

today is the first day of my sabbatical.

enjoy this TED message. reason enough for everyone to take a sabbatical.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

CYF 10 Highlight Video

CYF 10 Highlight Video from Tim Beck on Vimeo.

video highlights from a week of camp... CYF Camp is a Senior High Youth Camp held @ Malone Univ. I serve as the 'worship coordinator' and behind-the-scenes tech guy.

it was another great week... a highlight of the summer, no doubt!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the lost journal entries: the demon possessed man

i rewrote the story of the Demon Possessed Man for a worship service last September on the theme of Brokenness. i scribbled it out on to a few journal pages first...

here is what it says:
the story about the Demon Possessed Man found in Mark ch. 5:1-20

I come from the region of the Gerasenes. I had been living in the tombs (with dead people)... i was in hiding. No one wanted to be around me. Some said i was crazy. They tried to chain me - but i'd always bust out. No one was strong enough to contain me.

Night and day i would cry out. i swear, i had these evil spirits in me. a whole group of them. i was out of control. i'd yell. scream. i even cut myself.

then, out of nowhere, this guy, Jesus shows up. when i saw him, i ran to him - fell at his feet.

"What do you want from me, Jesus?" "Don't torture me! Please Help me!!!"

i told Jesus my name was Legion.

There were abut 2000 pigs in a smelly field nearby.

These demons in me then begged Jesus "Send us to those pigs over there."

Then the evil spirits were cast out of me and into those pigs.

Then all of those pigs rushed down the hillside and into the lake and drowned. All of them.

Man was that pig farmer mad. the whole town was mad.

There i was, clothed and in my right mind, healed by Jesus.

The people - mad about the pigs - asked Jesus to leave. I wanted to leave with Him but he told me to go and preach to the people of Gerasenes.

I'm the demon possessed man and this is my story.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: A New Kind of Christianity

A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith by Brian McLaren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
if you know anything about Brian McLaren you know that the church has a love/hate relationship with him. some are quick (too quick) to call him a heretic, while others view him to be the post-modern/emergent leader who will bring the church to the place it needs to be.

Brian McLaren is neither.

But his latest book A New Kind of Christianity is certain to further the divide between progressives and fundamentalists. that being said, it was and is a book that needed to be written.

I find myself trying really, really hard to not drink the kool-Aid when it comes to McLaren and the like. at first read, parts of A New Kind of Christianity found me giving thanks that someone had given a voice to the questions i have had wanted to discuss for quite some time. however - i try to remain fair, objective and level headed. letting his ideas fester in my soul appears to be the best solution. it keeps me balanced.

the controversy lies with his views on such things as 'how the Bible should be interpreted, is God violent, what is the Gospel, human sexuality (i.e. homosexuality), eschatology, relations with other religions.'

for the most part, McLaren conveys the gentl, humble spirit in this book (he has the same demeanor in person, i might add - having heard him speak and debate). But at times, he seems to get a little pompous. This, no doubt, irks those who dislike and disagree with him.

at other times in ANKOC, McLaren seems to be filling the pages with words, only he's not really saying anything.

I did take/make a lot of notes while reading. He brings up some things related to our Christian faith (and it's history) that should be looked at. Is our faith rooted more in Jesus or is it tainted with a Greco-Roman lens? I am thankful McLaren dares aske some questions like he has. too many Christians take the intricacies of the faith for granted. they overlook them - not knowing how there views may (or may not) be skewed by them.

i think this book deserves to be read - and more so, deserves to be discussed with civility. For too long, the church has decided to follow: pastors instead of Jesus; political parties instead of Jesus; war instead of peace; pride instead of humility; words instead of action; prosperity instead of helping the poor; serving self instead of serving others; status quo instead of useful change, etc. some in teh church appear to trust Paul's writings while neglecting Jesus' teachings.

You will not agree with everything McLaren writes - but don't fear his words and opinions. don't judge him - especially if you have not read his work. the church needs to diologue. and then it needs to act.

highlights from the book:
~looking at the narrative of the Old Testament and viewing how it relates to the New Testament.
~his in depth analysis of John 14:6
~how is a Christian to relate to a person of another faith?

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, June 20, 2010

the lost journal entries:

i've collected and filled (some partial, some entirely) a handful of journals over the years. most of the journals are used for brainstorming. lately, i've been looking through some of them. i figured i'd take a picture of some entries and then blog about it. so this is thus the 1st of 'lost journal entry' posts.

this is what a few of my journals look like.
(click to enlarge)

i've always enjoyed doodling, abstract writing, brainstorming and dreaming. that is why the pen was invented... to bring imagination to the page.

sometimes (more often than not) the inspiration seems utterly useless. sometimes a hidden gem lies hidden on the page.

sometimes the words and drawings and scribbles are merely chaotic. somehow - i am able to comprehend it all. sometimes i forget what my original intent was. regardless, the chaos on the page, at times, has brought about something magical.

(click to enlarge)
this chaotic mess makes sense to me. it was an outline for a message i preached at a youth camp last summer. the title was 'free your mind'.

each of the boxes represents a segment of my talk. thus - the most unorthodoxed outline. there is nothing linear about it.

ironically, as chaotic as this journal entry is, my talk was about how to connect with God through the freeing of our mind - of stress, chaos and the busyness of life.

sometimes i just draw random things. they don't mean anything. they just are what they are.

(click to enlarge)

this are some random drawings of televisions. maybe there is some subliminal significance to these simple drawings. or not.

i think i may attempt to upload and post some more of my random lost journal entries.

stay tuned.