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!