Friday, April 27, 2007

Recharge Your Ministry Passion

The number one way to recharge your passion for ministry is to shed the to do lists, chuck the adminis-trivia and hang out with your students/people. Everyone in ministry knows that contacting students is the youth worker's fuel.
Without contacting, our teaching becomes stale and irrelevant, we lose sight of the big picture, our impact diminishes, and we lose empathy and patience for those we disciple.
Here's a pretty good article from Youth Specialties on contacting.
And here's an awesome group of guys who went with Jonathan and me to the Drake Relays. We ended up in the VIP tent and chowed on walking tacos and hot wing chicken strips; and we played some kind of movie title game. My car had a great discussion about God's goodness and the holocaust.

"Really...what makes swear words wrong?" she asked.

For those of you who don't know me well, I have a knack for starting a discussion with the obvious and ending it at an unsuspecting place. You think this post is about Swearing; but it's not.
A few of us were talking after Prime Time recently and one girl challenged us with the Question/Statement, "Really...what makes swear words wrong?" After a lively discussion trying to use Scripture to sort this out, no Biblical arguments made sense to this Christian girl. Perhaps out of desperation, I asked her what her goal for herself is. "What does she envision herself becoming?"
I tried to ease her embarrassment as she finally admitted that she had no idea what her future looks like. It dawned on me that we can easily coach or prod kids into a Christian lifestyle but unless that is integrated into their own preferred future, they'll never adopt it.
Another girl, a bright Russian exchange student, chimed in. She had almost given up trying to live the Christian way because, "No one can be perfect, so what's the point? And don't tell me it's for the 'glory of God'. How is God glorified by the death of children or the holocaust?" Then the first girl chimed in again, "And isn't life just God's big test to see what we'll do?" This discussion made me ask some questions...
  1. How many other kids need a clearer future hope? The majority? Or is this a small minority?
  2. How can I give kids a clearer picture of God's vision for His relationship with us and with His world? And how are His purposes best communicated to postmoderns?
  3. If you have ideas or other questions that need to be asked about this, please comment.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My Daughter One-Upped President Jimmy Carter

Shannon got us some face time with former President Jimmy Carter at a reception before she escorted him onto the University of Iowa Carver Hawkeye Arena stage. My daughter eloquently introduced the 39th president to about 10,000+ onlookers. Although she kind of whipped up her 2 minute presentation that afternoon, she delivered it with conviction and poise.
How does she do it? I remember I was wetting-my-pants nervous when I read a few Bible verses at my college graduation. Of course I'm mildly biased, but here she was, giving a more moving speech in 2 minutes than Jimmy did in 20 minutes! She talked about getting involved. I was about ready to become a democratic activist!'s a Presidential Peanut Quiz.
  1. Guess what President Carter uses for toothpaste?
  2. What one thing would Pres. Carter have done differently during his presidency?
  3. How can evangelicals wonder how other evangelicals can vote for a democrat?
  4. How can a 2 minute speech be more moving than a 20 minute talk by a former President?
I'll post the answers and a family pic with President Carter on later post.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bible Abuse

One 80 year old veteran Baptist church-goer recently told me that “you can get the Bible to prove just about anything”. This statement was his justification to dismiss the Bible; because it is impossible to understand.

Judging by some of my recent 9th grade Bible Instruction Class students’ glazed expressions, I wonder if they think like this 80 year old. In fact, one of my steepest obstacles with each year’s Bible Instruction Class is to convince the students that studying the Bible is worth it.

But then, what does it mean that Bible study is "worth it”? Unfortunately, to some of us, the Bible is worth something because it is a Pepto-Bismol devotional crutch we use to salve our emotional upsets. Taken in this light, the Bible has value if it makes us feel better. Thus, we gut the Bible of its prescriptive content and moral directives.

I talked recently with a believer who kept searching his Bible and praying for peace before he made a wrong decision. He wanted encouragement from the Bible but not exhortation. His prayer could very well have been, “Lord, make me feel better about my disobedience toward you. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.”

So how do we get kids to want to move beyond Biblical illiteracy?

1. Pray for them.
2. Provide real life applications to increase the practical value of the Bible's message.
3. Your Ideas Welcome Here:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I Attended a Core Training Event

I've been to well over 100 youth worker training events. I've heard many more good trainers than bad, and The Core 2007, Helping Hurting Kids, ranked pretty darn high. Great content, great presenter (Dave Ambrose of Bridgeway Community Church). The Core omitted most of the nonsensical games and mixers, but included relevant video clips and edgy examples.
The subject matter shifted seamlessly through Understanding Hidden Hurts (session 1), Critical Skills for Tackling the Tough Stuff (session 2) and Successful Response Strategies (session 3).
I lifted some of this stuff as a teaser:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Middle Schoolers' Questions About Heaven

I spoke about Heaven at Main Event club recently at church. I overheard what the 8th grade girls were discussing afterwards:

1. “There are still things that I want to do before I go to heaven.”

2. “I hope we play soccer in heaven.”

Even though I think my talk was pretty good (they paid attention), these girls' unanswered questions made me ask some questions of myself:

  1. How could I have better addressed these girls' questions that I obviously left unanswered?
  2. How can I better anticipate what questions my audience is asking?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I Must Be a Geriatric Rocker

Last night's Rod Stewart Rockin' in the Round Concert (aka, The RodFather) was Okay! I was pleasantly surprised! Of course I had low expectations of my free concert with scads of Geriatric Rockers; and I don't mean rocking chairs. I pictured withered old Rod-fans lustfully tossing their back braces onto the stage. I was braced for the aged rock star to have to stop halfway through his show to work out some cramps or to pull his belt back up to cover his paunch.
But, hey, I was surprised. It really was a cool stage setup and concert in a Scottish kind of way (Stewart plaid stage curtain, plaid drumset). Also, I didn't realize how many of his songs I had heard before. I actually got out of my seat well after the intermission; and, if you know me, I don't get jarred off my rear very often. But I joined in when the entire crowd sang along to "It's a Heartache, nothing but a heartache...."
Okay. I admit it. It was fun.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cleaning off the Desk

  1. I just might use the new Google MY MAPS to plot and advertise our Summer Missions trip to the Big Apple this summer.
  2. Speaking of the Omni-Inventive Google, I tried this out: I simply typed in my home phone number in the Google search bar and POOF! My name and complete directions to my home appeared as quick as a google-wink. This is especially handy for my new friends, predators and stalkers! Fortunately, I was able to click the link and I found directions to delete my number from this invasive service.
  3. Did you know that you could buy a Cessna personal jet for $2.7 million at SAM’S CLUB? (per Consumer Report).
  4. At COSCO you can purchase 6.02 carat diamond earrings for $110,999.99. And COSTCO also sells caskets!! (per Consumer Report).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Barna: Parenting Approach Determines Kids' Devotion to Christ.

We already know that parents really influence their kids' faith, but what I'm puzzling over is what are the Key approaches that parents employ that make or break their child's faith. Here's Barna's article.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Excerpts from: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day; ch. 1-2

Sue and I just started reading Mark Batterson's book before bedtime. We haven't done bedtime readings much in the past but if I find more books like Batterson's, it may become a Thomas tradition.
Taking his cue from the obscure OT passage about Benaiah, son of Jehoiada in 2 Samuel 23, Mark Batterson challenges his readers to become modern day lion chasers. In fact, he calls it a "survival guide for lion chasers."
I thought I'd yank some meaty lines out of the guts of "Lion"...
  • "Spiritual Maturity is seeing and seizing God-ordained opportunities."
  • "Unlearning fears and embracing uncertainty requires a counter-intuitive approach to life."
  • "Most of our problems are not circumstantial. Most of our problems are perceptual. Our biggest problems can be traced back to an inadequate understanding of who God is. Our problems seem really big because our God seems really small. In fact, we reduce God to the size of our biggest problems."
  • "You know what the greatest tragedy in life is? It is someone whose god gets smaller and smaller with each passing day."
More later...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Interview of Dr. Francis Collins

The head of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis Collins, is interviewed about his coming to faith on Anderson Cooper 360.
Great Stuff!

Also, my daughter Shannon has arranged for Sue and I to join Jimmy Carter for a reception and a Photo Op next Wednesday night! What to wear? What to wear? More info later.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"I slaughtered a llama on the way to work..."

I skipped out of a ministry night at Prime Time to take Sue and Megan to the My New Orleans Tour of Harry Connick, Jr. and his 11 piece band. As you can see from the ticket, we were in the nose bleed section; right balcony, section 3.

We savored everything; from the New Orleans style set complete with lamposts, ceiling fans and an upright piano to the incredible musicianship. Connick selected the best for his band; the trombonist and drummer were my fav's.

The band started in minor keys and transitioned to upbeat major keys. The jig-like dancing must be a New Orleans thing; different, relaxed and fun. He performed infinite twists on classic tunes that I haven't heard in years; simple songs composed in a very complex, jazzy way:

Working in the Gold Mine
Havin' Fun Down on the Bayou
Hello Dolly
I'll Love You Till the End of Time
Heaven, I'm in Heaven

On Connick's first trip to the front of the stage to converse with the crowd a boy, Mason, came to the front and gave the musician a large bag of Skittles. I was surprised at Connick's sharp sense of humor and we loved him mocking American Idol.

Connick, noticing that the audience was in a mood to laugh at nearly every he said, began to make stupid statements just to hear us laugh, like, "I slaughtered a llama on the way to work and covered myself in its entrails." Silly, but comfortable and fun.

What was my divergent mind thinking during the concert?
How can so much talent reside in just one person?
How much does he end up making from a concert like this; after he pays agents, managers, musicians, etc.?
There's a wedding ring on his finger. I'm surprised he wears it; but kinda glad he does.
Jazz like this feels like a guys' thing. Relaxed and cool and a little off-beat and spontaneous. Like a bunch of guys goofing around.
Fantastic encore with the drummer tapping on the top of the grand piano with Connick, the trombonist and a trumpet joining him at, or on, the piano.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Yes, sir. I'd like to have my truck "fixed"...

4 things, among others, are bugging me.

Peeve #1. I absolutely detest those artificial things that pozer macho dudes dangle from the trailer hitches of their trucks. I'm not going to go into it because I'm trying to keep this a "G" rated post. But they're disgusting. Every time I see those things I want to ask the driver to get his truck neutered. You can imagine little kids asking their dads, "What's that?" And the dad can answer, "It's Sick." I really don't like our hyper-sexualized culture.

Peeve #2. I can't figure out how to have the dates on my posts dated when I actually post them. As it is now, blogger automatically dates my posts permanently on the date that I create a draft.

Peeve #3. Another blogger peeve...why can't I create a draft and assign a certain date that blogger will automatically post it? Other blog services do this. Am I missing something?

Peeve #4. Why can't I add my own header to my site without knowing computer code?

(I'll probably be proven a real idiot for not knowing how to work blogger).