Saturday, November 29, 2008

Planned Parenthood Gift Certificates

While driving home, I heard a report about Planned Parenthood now offering gift certificates. After a little searching, I found this article from a newspaper in Indiana on the issue. I am a big fan of gift certificates, but this is a bit too far. Here is the reasoning behind them...

"People are making really tough decisions about putting gas in their car and food on their table, so we know that many women especially put healthcare at the bottom of their list to do," said Chrystal Struben-Hall, Vice President of Planned Parenthood of Indiana.
Further down the article it mentions that the gift certificates can be used for abortions, if that is what the young lady wants to use it for. That is not the intention, but there are not restrictions on what the certificates can be used toward.

I hope this does not take off in Indiana and then to other states.

What do you think? Should it be addressed in your youth ministry? What (if anything) should the church/youth ministry do in response to these gift certificates?

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Other 364 Days of Thanksgiving

Being thankful is hard for some people and its difficult at certain times. Being thankful is not limited to one day in November, either. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have the right to be thankful every day of the year.

Being thankful is not about the situation or circumstance you find yourself in. To only be thankful when things are going well is a rather narrow, self-centered and shallow understanding of God and your role in the world.

Thanksgiving should be a way of life. Yet, for many people it is not. For many years I was one of those people who was only thankful when things were going well. It was just easier for me.

1 Thes. 5.18 says "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Really, all circumstances? Being thankful in every circumstance can be challenging, to say the least.

In the last year, I have been around one person who has taught me something about being thankful about anything and everything; my 4 year old. There is one specific thing he does which always serves as a reminder. He always starts his prayers with "thank you."

I'm not talking about a "thank you for our food" or a "thank you for my new toy." I'm talking about prayers like, "thank you that Grandma is not feeling well" or "thank you for our next house." He says a prayer of thanks for things that are going to happen (things he is trusting will happen because my wife and I tell him they will) and things that are happening, even though they are negative.

When he first started to say these prayers, I had a hard time not being emotional. How amazing is it to hear a child pray for someone's sickness or for God's provision. He trusts God to be able to handle and provide. He thinks God is concerned. He thanks God in his prayers for the things going on in his life.

I want to be like my son, able to thank God for every aspect of my life. And I pray you do too. God does, too - "give thanks in all circumstances"

When you have trouble being thankful, take a moment to stop and think about a few things. First, think about what it means to have a Savior who loves you enough to die in your place. Second, think about what your future would be without the hope of eternity in Heaven. Third, stop and take a breath. Now, thank God for the breath of life. Fourth, adjust your outlook.

Do not limit your thanksgiving to just one day a year.

Photo Friday: NYWC Resource Center

The place I spent most of my time at the National Youth Workers Convention - the YS Resource Center. A lot of good conversations were had in this space.

NYWC '08: Monday

Monday was a 1/2 day at the National Youth Workers Convention. But it was just as full as the other days.

A lot of my day was spent tearing down the Resource Center and helping to turn it back into a big open room. This is always a sad part of the week for me, because it means that all of the youth workers are going back home.

This year, the tear down was different. I had a lot of last day conversations with people. I finally got to meet some youth workers for the first time in person - Josh Cook, for example. And it felt like I was leaving behind a lot more friends/family as I left.

In our morning staff breakfast meeting, we shared about what we were leaving with. There was a good amount of tears and laughs. It is always fun to hear how God has touched each person during the week, as we serve. And this year, there was some healing that took place. Other people received hope or assurance.

I was glad to be leaving, heading back home to see my family. But, a part of me wanted to stay at the convention (to stay on the mountain) with everyone else. I will truly miss everyone with whom I worked. I wish they could all come back home and at least live in the same area/town. But, that isn't how the Kingdom works, is it?

(Thanks to technology, it is easy than ever to stay in contact with my fellow volunteers, youth workers, and YS staff.)

I did not leave the National Youth Workers Convention with all of the answers I wanted. I did not leave with a clear plan of what the future holds. I did leave with more than I came with. I did leave with an assurance that as long as I'm following God and trusting Him, I am right where I need to be.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #97: Denali National Park

answer #96 - day 4

question #97 - In which U.S. state is Denali National Park and Preserve located?

Monday, November 24, 2008

NYWC '08: Sunday

Sunday is the last full day of the convention. So a lot of people are pretty tired by this point. I can tell this from all of the people who seemed to be skipping out on sessions and just sitting around. I think it was probably the best thing for them to do. There are definite times where the best thing to do spiritually is to just sit. I pray that no one goes home tired, but rather refreshed and encouraged.

Here is the quick rundown of my day on Sunday (again in no particular order):
1. Sad that I had a couple conversations with people today who have recently lost their jobs. I know what they are going through and my heard breaks for them.
2. At the same time, I love to talk with youth workers. It is one of the best things about the NYWC.
3. I got to make it to the Twitterer/blogger meet-up today for lunch. Though I could only stay for part of it, it was really good to see some of the online friends in person.
4. Some of the people I've met today (sorry if I forget you): Shawn Michael, Brian Senecal, Eli Roogles.
5. I got to have a really great dinner with Andy Brazelton (@outsideallday) and Chris Davis (@crd55). Both great guys. Dinner also included a some of the fine people who work with HomeWord.
6. I got to write a verse (1 Sam. 14.37) in the Zondervan Bible Across America. It was cool to know that I was a part of something that big and there are so many different people who are handwriting a verse at a time.
7. The Skit Guys were just hilarious today.
8. Mike Pilavachi had some great words of encouragement. God wants to use the broken & Do not give up. Discipleship takes time.
9. (This one will sound like a broken record, but its true and its part of my day). I really miss my family. My daughter smiled and cooed when I talked to her on the phone today - just about broke my heart. I am ready to drive home tomorrow and see them.
10. This year feels different. It's not a bad different, just different. I'll have to take a few days/weeks to really process and determine what it is.

I'll try to put up a Monday recap by Tuesday night. And within the next week or so I'm going to post a NYWC in pictures. Not everything, but a few of the ones I've remembered to take.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

NYWC '08: Saturday

I thought Friday was crazy, well Saturday was even crazier.

Here are some quick thoughts:

1. I helped set up the YM Women Luncheon. Women in youth ministry do not get enough acknowledgment. Thank you!!!! (that goes out to all of the women who are in youth ministry)
2. Finally hooked up with Gavin Richardson.
3. I got to talk to Andy Thompson (tydna on twitter). I met his wife before I got to meet him, because she is also a volunteer - so I've been working with her since Tuesday.
4. I got to have a great lunch with a friend, Scott Williams. Some really good conversation - stuff that makes me think.
5. I love my family!!! While talking to my wife, she told me about a situation they had at the grocery store. My oldest son accidentally knocked off some price tags and had to tell one of the store employees about it (a big lesson on responsibility for him). He did it, though he was a little shy. I was so proud of him.
6. I missed the general session with Mark Yaconelli. Before you comment about how foolish that was, I already know I missed a great message. I was planning on going, but ended up helping a friend out instead. So it was totally worth missing out to serve.
7. I am tired.
8. Had a fun time running through the exhibit hall with some friends - picking up some swag :)
9. Got a chance to experience some of the worship (with Lincoln Brewster). I needed it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

NYWC '08: Friday

Friday was day #1 for a majority of the youth workers. Day #4 for me :)

Here is a rundown of the high points from the day, from my perspective (again, in no particular order)...

1. I got to see some old friends. Ones I didn't know where going to be here.
2. I met/talked with Mark Matlock in the green room. Good times.
3. I almost talked with Gavin Richardson a few times, but was really unable to stop to have an actual conversation.
4. God spoke through my reading in Exodus today. It is always good to hear from God. :)
5. There were 2 great general sessions today - though I need to listen to the messages again
6. I did finally get to meet Adam McClane. (no further comment - hehe)
7. I had a good conversation with my family on the phone - I really miss them!
8. I didn't get much sleep last night, but I suspect that will be pretty normal for the rest of the week.

I know that was brief and somewhat sporadic, but that is really how my brain is functioning right now. Tomorrow, I will have up some thoughts on today (Saturday) and maybe they will be a little more developed - maybe not.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pre-NYWC: Thursday

Thursday was the day that the critical concerns started and people started showing up in more numbers. It was a constant blur as people were coming in and getting ready for a great weekend.

A few highlights from my day (in no particular order):

1. Met Jasper Rains and his family. Had a good, but brief, conversation about life, ministry and rental cars.
2. Got to talk with Tim, a guy I met last year. We caught up on how ministry is going since last year. It is really crazy to think about what a year can bring. It was fun to walk around and talk and meet some of the people he came with.
3. Met a lot of youth workers. Some brand new to ministry, some veterans, part-timers, volunteers. I love youth workers - they rock!
4. Went to dinner at 9pm. On a Thursday night, a lot of downtown food places close by 9pm. So we ended up in an Irish Pub. Got some live music, good food and a great conversation. The cold walk back to the convention center was not fun at all.
5. Got to hear Johnny Parks and Robbie Seay. Good music.

Photo Friday: Spider

Just a simple photo of a spider. Though I do not like spiders, I cannot look at one and not be in awe of God's creativity and wisdom when He created animals.

(this is the last picture this spider ever took)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pre-NYWC: Wednesday

Today is day 2 of set up for the convention. All I can say is that I am excited for the weekend. For me, this pre-convention set up might be just as encouraging as the actual convention. so, I'm having a blast. And as we set up, I can say that the weekend is going to be amazing. There are some awesome things in store for the thousands of youth workers who will be attending.

If you'll be here in Nashville, stop by the Resource Center and say "hi" - I'll be working all week.

What else to say about the convention without giving anything away? I'll just add one thing...

The YS staff truly desire to make sure you (the local youth worker) get to connect with God and hear from Him. That is their heart and goal. I pray you can do that, too. If you are coming to the convention, may you hear God speak to you in just the way you need it.

Trivia Wednesday #96: Creation

answer #95 - weight

question #96 - On which day did God create the sun, moon and stars?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Youth Pastors in a Negative Light

I'm reading through Signature Sins by Michael Mangis (a review will be posted in the future) and came to the chapter on Gender, Family and Sin when something grabbed my attention. In order to try and not lose any of the context, I'm going to post the entire paragraph, then I'll talk about what bothered me and why.

"Several years ago my (Mangis) friend and colleague Cynthia Neal Kimball and I surveyed college women about unwanted sexual experiences. The women wrote their stories anonymously. Although we read some accounts of date rape and sexual abuse, more than half of the stores were accounts that we came to call stories of the 'lost voice.' The women recounted being with men who did not overpower them in any literal way yet left them feeling violated. The men in the stories were often youth pastors or other figures who held powerful roles in the women's lives. These women wrote things such as 'NO! was running through my mind but I just couldn't say it till afterwards' and 'I couldn't say no to a guy even thought I knew I should. I was not forced to do anything - I just didn't have the strength to say no.' The women seldom blamed the men or spoke of themselves as victims. Instead they described feeling confused and ashamed that they could find themselves in such a situation and not know how to get out." (emphasis added)
I am upset with the numerous accounts (high percentage?) of unwanted sexual experiences by the women surveyed. But what bothered me more was the fact that youth pastors had a role in those stories. I am not naive about the struggle many (all?) youth pastors have to stay sexually pure. And I have heard of youth pastors who have been inappropriate with a student. It is not new to me, yet it saddens me every time I hear about it.

I hope that youth pastors would just stop this kind of stupid behavior.

This is one of the reasons why I have certain "rules" for one-on-one interaction with female students. (and if you are a female youth worker, just switch "female" for "male" in these rules)

#1. I am never alone with a female (student or adult)
#2. If I am driving students home and one is a female, she will be dropped off before the guys. (goes with #1)
#3. Always allow a female youth coach to do the counseling of female students (when it is not possible, limit discussion as much as possible and talk in a public place).

#4. I tell my wife about all conversations I have with females, there is no need for there to be any secrecy or suspicion.
#5. If my wife is not home and a female student stops by, I will either talk to them right inside and stay by the open windows or talk to them outside on the porch. (or I'll politely tell them my wife is not home and see if they can come back at a later time)

#6. Make sure the students and adults understand your stance on this issue.

What about you? What do you do to keep yourself accountable and prevent this from happening to one of your female students?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A lot on my mind

I've got a lot on my mind the last couple weeks. Some things are good, some are bad and some are just middle-of-the-road. So, here they are. I would appreciate some prayer on some. Thanks.

1. My brother-in-law's mom passed away this past week.
2. I leave on Tuesday (11/18) for Nashville to help set up for the NYWC.
3. My wife goes in on Monday (11/17) to have minor surgery.
4. I cherish one-on-one time with my kids a lot these days.
5. It have been 6 months this Wed. (11/19) since my last day at my previous ministry.
6. I am antsy to get back into full-time youth ministry.
7. I am excited about the possibilities that await at the NYWC.
8. God has been amazingly good to my family over the last 6 months.
9. I am confident that God will take care of our daily needs (emphasis on the daily part)
10. I hurt for my friends in ministry who are hurting or struggling.
11. I have been encouraged by the family-like atmosphere of Twitter.
12. I have the best wife in the world.
13. Have I mentioned that I'm ready to be back in full-time ministry.
14. I am thankful that I can be involved in the middle school ministry at the church we are attending.
15. I am thankful for all the friends, who act like family, who have been so willing to help us this past week and this next week. It is nice to have a family away from our family.
16. God is so much bigger than anything that I encounter. He can handle all the stuff I can't.

Friday, November 14, 2008

NYWC '08: How to Get the Most From it

Recently, I had a friend ask me for some advice on how to make the most out of the convention. He is only going to be able to be there Thursday to Saturday and wanted to know if I had any insight on how to make the most of it. I thought I would take what I shared with him and expand it a little and post it here for anyone who might be going to the NYWC for the first time or who might just need some new ideas.

How to get the most from your time at the NYWC:

1. If you can afford it, take a Critical Concerns Course
2. Go to a class on something you need to do better within your ministry.
3. Listen to a teacher/speaker you normally wouldn't listen to.
4. Buy the mp3's to classes you don't make it to (not all of them, of course.)
5. If needed: sign up for a spiritual director or ministry consultant - or both.
6. Take time to quietly spend with God. Two convention offered options would be the labyrinth and the prayer room.
7. Go to lunch/dinner with a youth worker you do not know.
8. Take a nap, or two.... every day.
9. Encourage another youth worker.
10. Most of all, do not be worried about sticking to the schedule. Do what you need to do to get the most out of the convention.

Photo Friday: Corn Maze Path

This was taken in a local corn maze. I like the contrast you get beaten the beaten path and the dry corn on either side.

As you look at this picture think about your ministry, your students, your family... Are you traveling down the path that many others have before you? Or are you willing to venture into the unknown and untraveled to find a new way out?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #95: Isotopes

answer #94 - camel

question #95 - Isotopes have the same atomic number but a different atomic...what?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NYWC '08: Anticipation (2 of 2)

This is part 2 (6-10) of my list of anticipations about going to Nashville, TN for the National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC) put on by Youth Specialties (YS). You can see part 1 (1-5) that was posted earlier.

6. Being challenged by God.
This will be my 5th convention to work at and my 8th one total (I think). And each time I go, I am challenged in new ways. This week of the year becomes like a week of camp or retreat for me - a time to get away and unplug from a lot of the stuff I deal with daily and connect with God.

I arrive at the convention with at least one big thing on my heart, something I am struggling with or an area in which I need to grow. If I make it a point to quiet myself and listen to God, I always hear what I need to.

7. Helping/encouraging fellow youth workers.
I absolutely love this part of the week. It is such an honor to be able to encourage someone who is struggling to see just how important they are and how important their ministry is to the Kingdom. There are so many youth workers who go through seasons where it seems like no one appreciates what they do or how much they put into their ministry. There are also those youth ministers who just seem to be going through a rough time in their ministry and feel like it would be easier to just get out. It is so encouraging to be able to help people remember they are not the only ones struggling and to remember why God called them to ministry in the first place.

8. Laughing a lot.
Whether its the skits, hanging out in the store, at a meal or just talking to another youth worker - there are plenty of laughs to go around.

9. Praising God with thousands of other youth workers.
Getting together with a couple thousand youth workers to worship God is just amazing. Hearing people sing with all of their hearts, unreserved, is an amazing sound to the ear. For me, the only thing better than hearing everyone sing is watching the crowd worship. Some people stand with hands raised, some are sitting, some will kneel. Just seeing the expressions of praise can bring a tear to your eye.

Over the 7 sessions, the worship leaders will be: Starfield, Lincoln Brewster, and the David Crowder Band.

10. If its anything close to what I've heard from the first two conventions, it will be an amazing week.
I've been able to hear about the first two (Sacramento and Pittsburgh) through following the liveblogging, reading blogs and following people on Twitter. And from what I have heard, both of the conventions were amazing. So, I'm looking forward to this one in Nashville.

Those are my anticipations for the NYWC, do you have any? Add a comment and let us know what you are expecting or hope to experience.

Monday, November 10, 2008

NYWC '08: Anticipation (1 of 2)

In just over a week, I'll be in Nashville, TN starting to help set up for the National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC) put on by Youth Specialties (YS). With each convention I go to, there are always things I anticipate and I thought I might share those with you. This is part 1 (1-5) of my anticipations...

Reasons I'm looking forward to the NYWC: (in no particular order)
1. Zaxby's
This has nothing to do with the actual convention, but its been 2 years since I've had Zaxby's and I really like it. The route I'll be taking from here to Nashville is the same route we took from GA to here for visits and to move - so I know exactly where one is along the way. Let's just say I'll be stopping by on the way down and the way home. Unfortunately, there are no locations in Nashville.

If you get a chance to stop by and enjoy Zaxby's, might I recommend the Big Zax Snak Meal (chicken fingers, texas toast, fries, and zax sauce).

2. Connecting with old friends
One of the great things about a conference like NYWC is the ability to connect with friends who do not live close. In the past, I've been able to see friends from college and catch up. Being able to hear what happened after graduation is encouraging. I've also been able to connect with people I met at an earlier convention. The NYWC is like a reunion of sorts.

The other group I am excited to see again are the friends I have at YS and the other returning volunteers. It is always a highlight to get to spend long hours "working" during the week to just laugh, think, grow, and share. For me, these friendships are better than those camp friendships you made at summer camp over the years. I know I'll have a blast just hanging out.

3. Meeting "online" friends
I have youth ministry friends whom I have never met in person and this week will be a chance to meet a few of them. There are friends from twitter (some people would call them tweeps). There are Facebook friends. There are YMX friends (though some of these friends have migrated to other areas of online friendship). And there are those people I have met through this blog or other youth ministry blogs.

Last year, I got to meet a few online friends at the St. Louis convention, which was pretty cool. I don't know what to expect this year, but I have been more intentional about trying to connect at the convention. I must admit, I think its pretty awesome that the youth ministry world is so much "smaller" thanks to the internet.

4. Hearing stories from youth workers about what God is doing.
I love listening to other people share their stories. Hearing the stories of God transforming students. Hearing about how God is stretching and challenging youth workers. This is part of the week that I can never fully anticipate. No matter how much I "expect" to hear some great stories, I am always blown away with the extent of what God is doing.

5. Being challenged by general session speakers.
The general sessions are like church services; filled with announcements, videos, drama, mini concerts, praise & worship, speakers, prayer and some greeting. These 7 sessions are the only times most of the attendees are all together in the same place, doing the same thing. It is at times overwhelming.

I'm looking forward to speakers like Francis Chan, Mike Pilavachi, Andrew Marin, and Marko (we'll see if we get an all new message this time).

I can't wait to see what God has in store for this week. And if you are going to the NYWC in Nashville, I'd love to connect. Leave a comment or find me elsewhere online and let me know.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Photo Friday: Mortie & Ferdie Mouse

This picture is in honor of one of the recent trivia questions. Before I saw this book, I had never known Mickey Mouse's nephews. I don't think I even realized he had nephews.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

a bike ride and a lesson on trust

I went on a bike ride with my oldest son (4 yo) the other day. It was just him and I. We started out the same way we usually go, but at our first turn I asked him if he wanted to go right instead of left. He thought that would be good, so we went right. It was a fun ride with him, and he was doing great. He was doing most of the peddling himself, I only helped push him a few times.

As we made our next turn, Nathan was telling me that he was scared to ride down this street because it had a rather big hill. He does not like hills very much on his bike, which I understand completely. I was trying to reassure him that I was going to be there with him the whole time and I would stop his bike if I needed to. As we continued to ride closer to the hill, he started to get anxious about what was going to happen. I started to remind him that I was going to be there the whole time with him, when he interrupted me and said something that completely shocked me (and made me start to cry).

He said, "Dad, I know you are watching over me and you'll protect me, but I'm still scared."

He had just stated to me the same feelings I have been having toward God lately. My son's words were honest and real. He has heard me tell him over and over that I'm going to be there for him. He has heard me tell him that he can trust me. And over and over, I have been there
for him. I have picked him up when he's fallen or caught him before he did. Yet, as he is growing up and learning to do more things independently he still has fears. He is experiencing life in new and unfamiliar ways and knowing I'll be there for him helps, but it does not take away his fear.

I loved the honesty with which he uttered the sentence. It was not something he had practiced. It was not something he had even thought about. It was an honest response to his dad, in a particular situation he found himself in. I sometimes wish I was that honest with God.

I believe that sentence is the very sentence I need to be saying to God every day. Right now, my life is rather unpredictable. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I do not know how things will work out financially. I do not know when I'll get that phone call I've been waiting for. But there is one thing I do know for sure - God is faithful.

God, I know You are watching over me and will protect me, but I'm still scared.

(even as I type this post I am tearing up)

Free PDF Book: 13 Ways to Ruin Your Life by Jarrod Jones

Looking for another book that is geared toward teenage guys? Jarrod Jones has just released on with that audience in mind - 13 Ways to Ruin Your Life. It deals with sexual temptation and offers advice on how to deal with it.

Go to this website to download a free copy of the book in PDF - 13 Ways to Ruin Your Life

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #94: desert animals

answer #93 - Green Bay Packers. (SBI - 35-10 over the Chiefs, SBII - 33-14 over the Raiders)

question #94 - Which animal is known as the "Ship of the Desert"?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

to quote someone else: Lynne Ellis (preparing students)

"How might God be preparing your students to be world Christians after they graduate?"

taken from Mission Trips: From Start to Finish by Lynne Ellis, with Doug Fields

As youth workers, I think this is a question we need to be asking ourselves on a regular basis.

As you plan your year - ask this question.
As you think about the incoming freshmen - ask this question.
As you plan your lessons - ask this question.
As you put together your next retreat - ask this question.

What do you see God doing in the lives of your students today to prepare them for their future?