Saturday, January 31, 2009

Inauguration Composite

This was composited by a photographer at the inauguration. You can zoom in and out to see snipers on rooftops, peoples faces, TV camera tents, and some unbelievable detail. You'll find a few people who have double heads (since it was a composite). Note the white camera tower. Follow the isle just in front of it going toward the podium. Several people are standing. One in a gray cap is Denzel Washington!

THE BIBLE ILLUMINATED: Blasphemy or Beauty?

N.T. Wright was once asked, after one of his lectures, about having collaborated with British Bible Society on a spread in British Vogue called "The Prodigal Daughter Returns." It was a photo essay based loosely on Luke 15:11-32, with various pictures of a model in different urban settings, each with a snippet from the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The questioner asked why he did it, was he not concerned that some people might misunderstand, etc. I don't remember the exact words of his response, but it was something to the effect that he would gladly and dutifully take the risk of being misunderstood by some in order to get the gospel message into others' heads. Which brings me to Bible Illuminated: The Book: New Testament. With its pop culture depictions of the New Testament, it's one of many recent attempts to present the Scriptures in an innovative light. “Well-known figures among the more than 200 photographs are Andy Warhol in drag in the Book of John, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, cult leader Jim Jones, Bill Gates and John Lennon,” according to columnist Byron Crawford in The Courier-Journal. “Muhammad Ali, Angelina Jolie, Al Gore, Princess Diana and Bono” are also portrayed as characters from the Bible. Read the full article here

Grandma: Octuplets Mom Obsessed With Having Kids

This would be a good discussion-starter on the ethics of in vitro fertilization as well as un-wed pregnancy.

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

I just finished reading The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. In typical Yancey fashion, he approaches his exploration of Jesus not as a theologian, but as an investigative journalist. Focusing specifically on the portrayal of Jesus through the accounts of His life as recorded in the four Gospels, Yancey engages in a thorough, inductive investigation, assuming nothing and asking many questions - questions which too many people avoid asking, assuming that they know the answers to them because of what they have been taught either directly or indirectly through tradition. While I personally enjoyed another of Yancey's books What's So Amazing About Grace a bit more (most probably because of where I am at on my own spiritual pilgrimage), this book is nonetheless an excellent book, and I highly recommend it as a read for anyone - Christian or not.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thinking Critically (& Biblically) About Super Bowl Commercials

CPYU (The Center for Parent & Youth Understanding) has just released their 2009 Super Bowl Commercial Discussion Guide which fosters redemptive conversations about the infamous Super Bowl commercials. You can download it by following this link:

Still Witnessing to High School Peers

I had an interesting encounter tonight on Facebook. I was reading some messages when suddenly a guy from high school popped up in the chat window asking if I still had contact with someone. I vaguely recognized him, so I went to his page to try to get a visual. Recognizing him we began catching up. At one point he began sharing about some things in life that have been troubling him lately. I could sense that in some way he was attempting to reach out to me. I asked him some questions and prodded him to try and discover what God might be trying to say to him through what he is going through. After several minutes he had to go, but said he would like to continue talking and even invited me to visit him at his home down south.

This was the most recent of a string of interactions I have had with former high school peers. Interestingly, hardly any of them were close friends during our high school years. Never in a million years would I imagine that we would be engaging in meaningful conversations after all these years (16). Yet, I am realizing that while the way I lived my life during my high school days may not have born fruit in terms of lots of kids coming to Jesus back then, it could certainly be accurately described as faithfully letting my light shine and sowing seeds. I don't know what that led to for most people, but I do know that now, with the advent of social networking and reconnection with former peers, many are recalling that I had something real, and some people, in their times of question, crisis, or confusion, are reaching out to me for a sense of direction, or hope, or encouragement. God is faithful! It's great to know that when we are likewise faithful to Him, He might just allow us little glimpses of the mosaic He is creating.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Surprising Benefit of Bad Weather & Mid-terms

Today was really gross outside. It snowed during the night and then it turned to rain during the day, so it was a very wet and slushy outside producing lots of puddles and flooding on roads and in yards. Schools were closed due to the weather, and it's mid-term week, both of which lead to low attendance at youth group. At first the feeling is a bit discouraging. Then kids drift in, adjustments are made, and things seem to improve. But perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel on a night like this is the opportunity to connect with students that I might not be able to connect with when so many kids are present. There's that feeling after youth group that everyone just want to hang out and laugh. I was at the church later than usual this Wednesday night doing just that with several students and leaders. The cup is half-full!

Two Revelations from a Survey ...

Over the past couple of months I have been assisting someone with their doctoral research. As a part of his study, I have been participating in many different surveys. I completed two surveys last week, and through both of them two themes from my responses emerged in glaring fashion: I am highly relational and highly missional in terms of my philosophy of ministry as well as practice. Neither of these things were a surprise to me, rather confirmational. The thing that caught my attention was just how much I value these two as compared to other, more traditional forms of impartation and ministry. I am a teacher by gifting, and I love standing in front of a group and giving a challenging talk. However, as youth ministry has confirmed over and over again, I find my most fruitful times of impartation are when I am spending time with someone one-on-one, or with a small group, and when we are atively engaging in doing the work of ministry.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Family Healing Up

Just a quick update to say that my 3 lovely ladies are on the mend. They should all be good to go to school tomorrow God willing. Thank You Lord for Your healing touch!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Running a Home Hospital

Well, today I had to play doctor. Adriana was sick with a fever. My 11-year old was still sick with a fever. And, at 1pm I had to go and get my 7-year old from school because she also had a fever. I was dishin' out meds, servin' up soups and Gatorade, taking care of the house, etc. Jesus instruction to care for the sick hit home today. Lord, please heal my family. Amen.

One of New All-Time Favorite Books: Sabbatical Journey

It seems like an odd choice, but I have just finished reading the book Sabbatical Journey: The Diary of His Final Year by Henri Nouwen and concluded that it is one of my new all-time favorite books. In some sort of mysterious way, the simple, intimate, honest reflections of a man (which were never intended for publication) have resonated with my heart in a special way and encouraged me in my pursuit of Jesus.

Nouwen, a Catholic priest, died sadly and suddenly within three weeks of the conclusion of a year-long sabbatical during which he committed to daily journaling. The back cover describes him as "an author of more than 40 books (none of which I have read, I might add, but all of which I will now try to get my hands on and read), is considered one of the great spiritual writers of modern times. He taught at the University of Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale but shared the last ten years of his life with people with mental handicaps as pastor of the L'Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, Canada."

I was fascinated by his life: His communion with God, his authenticity in the midst of struggle and questions, his deep sense of community and friendship, his appreciation for culture, and his commitment to caring for the poor and the least of these. As I was reading his daily thoughts and reflections I found myself dreaming and longing for a deeper connection with God, a more authentic and meaningful sense of community with my family and friends, better and deeper conversations, and a more intentional and compassionate extension to the poor. In some strange way getting away from the x's and o's and how-to's of so many books and just seeing the raw life of a man living well has inspired me in an intensely personal and powerful way. I have much to ponder and meditate on after reading this book, and I will revisit it often.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Double Alley-Oop Dunk! Sweet!

NASCAR Racing Finally in Laymen's Terms!

My father sent me this tremendous NASCAR tutorial video noting that it really helped him finally understand the "sport" of car racing. After watching the video I could not agree more! My minuscule mind could never quite understand the complexity of the sport, so dad and I would settle for watching simpleton sports like basketball, baseball, and football. Now, maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to watch car racing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Adventures in Missing the Point

Just finished up another book entitled Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian McLaren & Tony Campolo. I really enjoyed this book! Each author tackled different issues writing their take on various issues and how they believe the Church has missed the point. The other then presented a brief response to what the other had written. Taken together there was much to consider and hopefully they are getting us on the track of healthy dialogue which gets us closer to a more healthy, balanced, biblical view of and approach to the issues. Included in the book is also a discussion guide. I have ordered several copies of the book and I am going to be inviting a bunch of my friends to read through the book and gather together on a weekly basis in a small group format for fellowship and to work through the discussion questions provided. I am really looking forward to this!

Monday, January 19, 2009

William Booth: Soup, Soap, & Salvation

I just finished reading William Booth: Soup, Soap, and Salvation by Janet & Geoff Benge. It's part of the Christian Heroes: Then & Now book series. William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army, and I was very much looking forward to reading this book about his life and ministry. The read was quick and easy and it's a book that older children and youth will enjoy as I did. I most appreciated reading of Booth's holistic approach to ministry. In the beginning of his ministry he was only concerned about the soul. But as he began to get more in touch with the compassion of Christ he began to recognize the need to minister to the entire person - something I have been meditating on much of late.

Gearing Up for Small Groups!

Tonight I had about 20 of our student and adult small group leaders over to my house gearing up for our Spring Small Groups which kick off next Sunday night, January 25th. During February and March we will be doing a series called Love Out Loud, and in April and May we will be doing a series called Live Pure. It's going to be great!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Redeeming the Snow

Although I can't stand snow (I was traumatized growing up in Rochester, NY and have seen enough snow for two lifetimes (lol!)) today I embraced the principle of God seen in the life of Joseph (What the enemy meant for evil, God has turned for good), and took my 7-year old out sledding. We had a really fun time together! After we were done we went to Starbucks. On the way home we stopped by a pond near our house where many people were playing ice hockey and we walked out onto the ice. At first Natalia was excited, but then suddenly she thought of the fish under the ice and the possibility that they might break through the ice and get her, freaked out, and jumped into my arms. It was quite comical. Enjoy the pics and videos.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Centerreach High School Bible Club

Today I had the privilege of speaking at the Centerreach High School Bible Club. Here are some questions we thought through together:

When you think about the things that characterized the life of Jesus, what kinds of things come to mind?

What would you school look like if people lived out the teachings and followed the example of Jesus?

Where do you see Jesus in your school?

How can you serve Jesus in your school this year?

Scriptures we looked at together that related to the above questions:

Matthew 25:31-46
Matthew 22:34-40
I John 4:7-8, 20-21

Thursday, January 15, 2009

January Fill The Tub: Shoes!

This month for Fill The Tub we are collecting new and lightly used shoes. Go through your closet or attic and bring in any sizes for either gender. Our goal is to collect at least 1,000 pair of shoes! The shoes will go to Global Soles - an organization which distributes them to people in need around the world. Bring your donations to the youth office.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Faith Still At Core of Warner's Success

Faith still at core of Warner's success

Cardinals quarterback goes out of his way to credit God

"If you ever really want to do a story about who I am, God's got to be at the center of it. Every time I hear a piece or read a story that doesn't have that, they're missing the whole lesson of who I am." - Kurt Warner

Read the entire article here:

How 2 Conference

For any of you who work with or are interested in working with children, please check out this high-quality children's ministry conference by Group. Visit the website to find a conference coming to a city near you between now and the end of March.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pics from Saturday

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Playing in the snow

More Winter Retreat Pics

Friday, January 9, 2009

It's Almost Time!

Here are a few more pics of our setup. The band arrived a while ago and is currently doing their sound check. A few weeks ago they received a Grammy nomination for Best Christian Rock Album. They're really great and they love Jesus! Two more hours and we'll be rockin' out with 500 students and seeking Jesus together to understand His desire for us to REACH out and touch the world with His love!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winter Retreat Setup Pics

Today I arrived at Tuscarora Inn with 25 of our adult leaders and seniors to begin setting up for our winter retreat. Here are a few pics from our initial setup. The black corrugated PVC is making a hand which will move by motor. Our theme is Reach. Finished hand will be posted tomorrow. Really cool! Creative guys on my team! Thank you Jesus!