april fools day

i get great enjoyment out of april fools day. to kick off the festivities, i decided to play a little email prank on my wonderful wife to "break her in" a day early.

here's an email from her after i pranked her:

The point of that was what exactly? Of course I'll believe soemthing from you! Jerk.

i love how blunt she is sometimes. here's my loving response:

HAHAHA - the point was to start my april fools jokes a day early on the people I love the most! LOL

if you want a really good laugh that the people at simply youth ministry played on one of their new hires, check this video out!


all teens do is cause trouble...

i don't believe the above line, but i hear it from well-meaning people all the time. this weekend, the students at lakeshore proved it wrong... in fact they proved it VERY wrong!

this weekend we had an amazing group of students participate in this year's 30 hour famine, an event to raise awareness and resources to fight the global war on hunger. it's one of our stronger events...and though i feel like i've been run over by a 20-ton gorilla by the event's end, it's one that i honestly say every year was worth it all!

this year, in addition to collecting a boatload (literally) of canned goods from the homes surrounding the church to be donated to mission share (greece) and the hilton food shelter, our students and their contacts in and outside of the church raised a whopping $6,300+! these funds all go to world vision to help aid their relief efforts around the world! according to world vision, this will give 17 children the chance to see 1 more birthday!

in addition, and i'm even more excited about this one... we started something new this year at the famine. as an entire youth group, our students and leaders committed to taking on 5 children at the Ray of Light project in Mozambique as a part of CRI's Child Sponsorship Program! there are dozens of organizations pushing child sponsorship, including world vision, but the cool thing about this is that these are children in Dondo, Mozambique...individuals that we walked past last summer, and 5 special kids we will be able to see and meet this summer when we go back! AND...the 5 teens we'll be bringing on the team will G0d-willing be able to meet these kids, hug them, and shake hands with them! it's gonna mess me up so bad!

some say that all teens do is cause trouble.
today i say that teens actually are changing the world.


chocolate bunnies

i love visiting creativemyk.com and i love how the artists on there freely give away their artwork for use in churches and ministries. for all the negatives we see from technology these days, there is so much good happening in the kingdom as well.

i love this image and it cracks me up every time is see it. it was created by bridge element, and even from just watching their opening promo video on their site, i'm intrigued to discover more about them...


burning for the lost

logged on to facebook earlier today and noticed the post below from Heather, one of our adult leaders. profound stuff, and really challenged me. it's worth the read!

Last year Ray and I went with a bunch of fellow youth leaders to a conference in Pittsburgh and we saw a preacher named Francis Chen, he really had an impact on me. Recently I have been watching some of his sermons instead of just watching Ray sleep here in the hospital. He just blows me away. The sermon I just watched was called Holy Anguish. And it really got me to thinking about my heart and whether I anguish over the lost.

Francis spoke on Romans 9:1-3 and Paul

1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race.

He anguished so for his fellow man to know Christ to the point that he would rather go to hell himself than live with the thought that his brothers might end up in hell. Personally I know I don't want to go to hell for anyone. So I am left with do I anguish enough for those who don't know Christ? Do I weep for my family and friends who don't know Christ? Do I pray for them? And mostly do I tell them about Christ, because I can't live with the idea that might end up in hell. Or am I to embarrassed or afraid that they won't like me or reject me. Do I worry more about what people will think of me now? Or do I worry about what they will think of me if they end up in hell knowing that I knew the truth and never told them? Can I live with the idea that people I love and care about could end up in hell? Or do I anguish over them and pray for them, do I weep for them? Do I beg God for the opportunity and privilege of telling them about Christ?

And then he read Luke 16:19-24

19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

The rich mans agony in hell can I ignore that so blindly. Such agony that he is begging for just a drop of water to cool his tongue. Can I walk through life knowing that is what is in store for so many and not be compelled to preach God's word to everyone I know? I know the pain and sorrows of this world. And I know that hell is worse than all of that. Will I allow my pride to stand in my way because I want to be liked so badly that I would keep silent so as to not offend anyone? Or will I anguish in my heart and soul for the lost? Can I walk by a stranger on the street and not want to tell him of a God who loves them so much that He died on the cross to save them. Can I walk through life and not see the souls of the people around me? Am I merely an ostrich with its head in the sand ignoring who is around me and what is going on around me, out of fear? Will I die with the knowledge that I have done what Christ called me to do? Or will the faces of the lost haunt me because they beg for me to dip the tip of my finger in water to cool their tongue?


Ever have one of those days...

So this morning...  we woke up at 7:57AM.  We were supposed to be at prayer circle at church at 7:45AM.  Then, when Cory ran downstairs to get Mariska out of her crate - he realized our basement was flooding again!  And that's when you know its gonna be a loooong day!

Overall, we had a great day with a few more minor bumps.  This Sunday we started a new series called "God wants Fruit not Nuts" where we're covering the Fruit of the Spirit.  And had our Impact Festival.  All the different ministries in the church set up tables and provide "first serve" opportunities for anyone wanting to get involved.  There was some really fantastic displays - plus a few that really made us laugh.  :)  Our Young Adults group had stand-up cardboard cut-outs of one of the guys.  Hysterical!  And kinda freaky when I walked into Cory's office after church and there were two people standing there!  (or just the cut-outs but whew!)  lol. 

We also had another Mozambique meeting at lunch today.  I've really enjoyed getting closer as a group.  We spent a lot of time laughing and just having fun.  We were missing one of the girls due to a nasty migraine, so the group felt a little incomplete - but overall, it was good.  Our new favorite game is Crud.  If you haven't played it - you should!  It doesn't take lots of coordination and it'll keep you jumping and laughing. 

When we finally got home - Cory sucked up most of the water with the sump pump and shop vac and then I mopped everything up.  Since then Cor's decided he needs a jack hammer to dig a hole in our concrete floor.  He's already priced them out and wants to pick one up tomorrow.  Thankfully, Cory's dad spoke some words of wisdom and caution...  we might hold off on extreme and permanent house-altering decisions a while longer.  Though I suppose a jack-hammer might have been some fun.

Cory's phone has officially gone off in anticipation of our day off tomorrow!  :)  So, in the words of Jack Bauer "I'm going dark!"



I've been anticipating Spring since last November.  :)  There are some things I like about winter - like warm, cuddly sweaters and hot chocolate.  But, overall - I struggle more emotionally during the long winter months.  Everything just seems a little harder to do, such as walking from my front door to the car.  And the gray sky hangs so low and heavy and confining...

But, Spring! - Spring is soft dewy color and sweet whispering breeze, strawberry shortcake and skies the color of Cory's eyes.  Mud puddles and baby robin eggs, dark purple tulips and bright yellow daffodils, morning bird songs and evening tree-frog lullabies.  Spring brings freshness, life, and new beginnings.  We persevere through long winter months, because Spring is ahead.  We hope for Spring; a sure-thing in this chaotic world.  And so, endure for now - these last lingering days - because Spring is coming!   


demon dog strikes again

somedays we like our dog. she is nice, playful, and some would even call her cute.

other days... we come home, find things like this, and want to kill her.


leviticus according to a lamb of God

the bible reading plan we're doing as a church right now is going through the book of leviticus this week... and to help motivate and encourage those trudging through this "policy-manual-like-book", the leader of the ministry made this hilarious video. thanks andy!

learnings from SYMC 2010

got back late last night from the simply youth ministry conference, feeling so blessed to have the opportunity to go to this and soak so much in. josh griffin posted a lot of the fun elements on his blog here for you to check out. for me, here's a few of my learnings that i came away with strong...

MY primary ministry...is not students
this came up several times in the affinity group discussions throughout the weekend. something i've been toying with in my mind for the past few years, but it never really "felt" right until hearing it from others this weekend. i would often feel shame if i spent more time in admin stuff or adult leader support than actually spending time with students. as a youth pastor, you set out in this calling because you love hanging out with students and pacing with them. but as the ministry grows, so does the lead pastor's role...and in order to sustain that growth, there needs to be someone still steering the entire ship, and equipping others to do the ministry.
my primary ministry is our adult leaders/volunteers... caring for them, loving on them, and equipping them to be better team leaders, small group leaders, and catalysts for growth in the students' lives. i'm coming away from this weekend with a renewed drive to invest more of our resources and more of my time in the 15+ adults we have, so that they in turn can invest themselves in 3-5 students. i'll be investing even more in a select few adult leaders who will then invest their leadership in the rest of the adult team as it grows.

this does NOT mean that i'm unavailable and unapproachable to the teens... in fact i don't think the teens will actually notice any difference because i've tried to already put a lot of this in place. i will still lead a small group, and still deeply invest in a few students that i naturally connect with. it'll come out more in my own thinking and planning than anything... so often parents will come to me with their kid's issue, and the easy and natural temptation is for me to right then and there setup time later in the week to connect with that student. the answer is different now. it's sending those students directly to the adult volunteer on our team who would best be able to meet that need...or run that event...or lead that meeting...or...etc.

delegate responsibility...not tasks
there are so many reasons why this is so difficult, but there's even more reasons why it's even more important. our leaders need to be empowered and equipped to run entire pieces of the ministry...entire programs, and that's a major weakness of our ministry right now. many of our leaders are busy taking on various tasks that i individually hand off...but few have the responsibility given to them by me to run and develop and grow a certain area of our ministry. it's plugging up the process, overworking me, and inhibiting the overall quality.

i work too much
this is something i've been gently told for a while now by a few close friends, and have been trying to improve on. it was incredibly encouraging to hear from so many others struggling with the same thing, but also to hear from them practical strategies they're using. i used to think that a good youth pastor was "always on" and always available, but more and more i'm learning that that's not a good youth pastor...that's an unhealthy youth pastor. so for the sake of my wife and future family, here's what i'm trying to implement:
  • quit youth ministry every sunday night, and start back up again every tuesday morning. i've been taking a day off, but now i'm going to really take it off. my phone will be off and locked away in the nightstand for 24 hours.
  • no more than 2 nights out/away each week. we have a great ministry process that helps with this, and i don't have to be at board meetings and stuff like that. thursday nights i'm out every week, and most tuesday nights for small groups. while there are certainly some exceptions to this, to maintain healthy balance, this is crucial.
  • home by 5:30/6:00 every night (earlier on Tuesday & Thursday nights). being in the office till 7 or later is just stupid and controlling, and it cheats the ones that matter most. this might be the toughest one for me, but i'm committed to sticking to it.
here's this year's conference rap... so fun!