deep roots

this morning, i started looking through old family albums from my dad's side of the family. i know a ton about my mom's side [they love to tell stories, plus my grandmother is still alive]. as i looked through the albums, i realized i don't know that much about my dad's side of the family, or even my grandparents on that side. i know my grandpa was in a war and he worked at studebaker most of his life. i know my grandma was the youngest of 13 kids and worked in a prominent hotel in south bend doing management, where she met all sorts of celebrities. i know my grandpa's family came over from hungary in 1913. beyond that, there's not much else i know.

there's some cool pictures in the albums, but they're all falling out or getting weird because of the paper they're on, so i went out and got a scrapbook to transfer them into. i'm hoping it will become a family project, where i'll get to hear the history of it all. i'm sure there are some great stories. there's one picture of a baby sitting next to a boston terrier. the dog has a spiked collar on and looks pretty rough, and the baby is just sitting there. it's a pretty cool picture. there's another one of my dad when he was maybe 4 or 5, curled up next to my grandpa. my grandpa's drinking a beer out of a bottle, while my dad is drinking coke out of a bottle. my dad's looking up at my grandpa, trying to look just like him.

i think it's so important for each of us to know where we came from, to pass down the stories about fishing, first dates, pranks, and everything else. so much of who we are is made up by where we come from, and it's important for us to preserve those memories. i'm excited to start this project and hear about all these snapshots into my dad's family. it's going to be a great bonding time for us, and we'll be able to preserve these pictures for a long time.


Guest Blogger: Katie!

Katie, who's one of my senior high students and an awesome member of the Flipside team, told me to check out these verses from Lamentations. You need to read them, too.
Lamentations 3:21-24 [NCV] But I have hope when I think of this: The Lord's love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning; Lord, your loyalty is great. I say to myself, "The Lord is mine, so I hope in him."
We tried to find it in Pidgin, but the POTB [Pidgin Old Testament Bible] isn't published yet, so we settled for the Message:
Lamentations 3:22-24 [MSG]God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left.
yeah, Katie's pretty awesome. we got to talking about how the book of Lamentations is so crazy, and how even though sometimes it feels like God isn't there, when we're patient and faithful, things work out.

she spoke into my life with boldness and authority, and she didn't even know it. God is working through our students, folks. He's using them to make a difference in the world.

boomaranging the kudos

my friend and former coworker, mark, left me this comment, which is worth sharing:
My reflections from still being young in ministry have brought me to this conclusion: We can choose the easy way or the hard way.
The easy way is about me or the kids (or the church). The hard way is about Jesus.
The easy way is serving my ego. The hard way is serving others.
The easy way gets bitter and cynical regarding people's actions. The hard way sees hurt and fear and a need to be loved in others.
The easy way is desired and hated. The hard way is not desired yet respected.

note to self:

when you get flyers in the mail for ministry organizations you know you'll never use, instead of filing them on your desk, just file them in the trash. we all know you're not going to use them, so save yourself the space.

end note.

Lessons from a broken Jesus

Right now, there's a statue of Jesus sitting on my desk. Somehow, it ended up broken, and since I've done a lot of ceramic repair, I'm going to try to piece it all back together.

I can't help but address the irony of the situation. Here I am, fixing a broken Jesus, when Jesus constantly is fixing a broken me. There have been many times where I've felt shattered, felt like my life was in pieces, and God's love pulled me together, bringing me to wholeness.

Psalm 34:18 says, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Regardless of how many pieces we're in, God takes the time to "glue" us back together. He does it with gentleness and care, and He does it in love. We're just as fragile as this porcelain Jesus, and things happen that break us, but that doesn't mean we're lost forever. When we spend time with God, allowing Him to come into our lives and mend that brokenness, we're made whole again.

how great is our God.


Adolescence and the Amish

adam mclane, of youth specialties podcast fame, wrote this awesome post on how the Amish may understand adolescence better than most of us. if you're a youth worker, parent, or you just love teens, you need to check it out. it will blow your mind.

[sidenote: i've always thought the Amish were smarter than the rest of us. I was just talking about that this weekend in Sunday School, and how I wish I could have been born Amish. It's interesting how simplicity seems the right way to go in our fast-paced, high tech world...]

from the YS blog

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me— watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” - Jesus in Matthew 11 (The Message)

God is so good to us :)



being in full time ministry is tough, and the second year is definitely harder than the first year. you have more critics once the honeymoon stage is over, and at the same time, you have more opportunities for deeper relationships after building trust for a year.

lately, i've been struggling. i feel like i've let my students down as i've tried to find my footing in this new school year. it's been a tough couple of months, and time isn't slowing down. and it's hard for me to admit this, because in ministry, we want to seem like we're all sunshine and roses because we love Jesus, but the truth is that ministry is as hard as it is rewarding. i try to do the right thing, and i try to follow the heart of Jesus, but i don't know if that always comes across.

tonight, God placed Acts 14:1-3 in my mind as I wondered if i was still effective. I had no idea what it said, but when I got there, it definitely spoke to me. "At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders."

the passage directly relates to what i'm dealing with, which is one reason why i love God and His Word so much, because they provide unending comfort when i need it most. The passage says that even when Paul and Barnabas were effective, there were still people who refused to listen, and those people tried to stir up the others. Paul and Barnabas stuck it out and continued to speak boldly.

in my humanity, i think i stopped speaking boldly. i think i stopped relying on the heart of God to lead my students, and instead, i tried to lead them. i tried to deliver a message they would remember me by, rather than a message they would remember Jesus by. It sucks to realize that. It sucks to realize how human we all are, and how we don't always get it right [or better yet, we rarely get it right]. But God is a God of second chances, and third chances, and 90th chances, and when we rely on Him, when we speak boldly and glorify Him, everything changes.

i don't know where to go from here, but I know that God will do what He wants with all of this and will help me figure things out, because God is good, because God is trustworthy, and because God loves me in my brokenness, in all of it. If you're the praying sort, I could definitely use it these days.

reason #497 why i love my family

today i was shopping around on fredflare.com, looking for some new apartment stuff, when i found the perfect Christmas present for my brother:

how disgusting is it that bacon-flavored dental floss made me really excited? There's an ongoing joke in our family regarding my brother and his beloved pork product. In fact, last year I got him bacon shaped band-aids. When we were in elementary/middle school, my dad left those "Beggin' Strip" dog treats on the counter [out of the bag], and my brother accidentally ate one, thinking it was leftover bacon from breakfast. Me being the bratty loving little sister that I am, I try to remind him of it as much as possible. it's a classic Szyarto family story, ranking just below "Camping at Aunt Ruthie's" which is a story reserved only for family insiders, so don't ask me to tell it. Anyway, I'm excited to see the family's reaction this Christmas when Jeff unwraps that bacony goodness :)

get your own bacon floss here.
one blog that i've started to really appreciate is onethought.net. It's a daily devotional, and each blog revolves around one word, or "one thought." it helps me calm down, helps me focus in, and lately, it's been a lifesaver. Thanks to Dan for coming up with this brilliant idea to simplify life when most try to make it busier.

anyway, today's thought was good, and i wanted to share it:
In everything, set them an example by doing what is good. - Titus 2:7

No matter who we are, someone is watching us. Our lives set an example for others not merely by what we say, but more importantly by what we do. When people "see our good works", God is ultimately glorified. What is one thing that you can do today to set an example for others to follow? Is there a habit that you need to leave behind?

I try to lead a life where people can see Jesus through me. I'm not as good at it as I'd like to be, but I'm working on it. With everything we do, we need to ask ourselves, "does this glorify God? does this help others see Christ?" To glorify God is to reveal Him- to take off the blinders we all wear and see the big picture. I pray that my life makes this a real possibility. I wish we all could make this a real possibility. Imagine what the world would look like if we all lived to glorify God...



this weekend was: honestly, i can't remember. friday i hung out at the apartment with Cleo. Fridays have become a sabbath for me, and I look forward to bumming around in my pajamas all day. It's my lazy day. Saturday, I ended up in Fort Wayne, visiting family. We raked leaves all morning, and it was just a really good day. I had to shovel up a dead bird from my grandma's driveway. then i told everyone i had bird flu. it was awesome.

this week: is all over the place. i got most of my work done yesterday morning, which is good because today we have full staff, tomorrow i have flipside, thursday i'm going to school with Vincent then meeting andymaxson for coffee, friday is our "wholistic health fair," and saturday i'm leading a team of freshman guys for the high school's service day.

on my to-do list: shareholders' banquet stuff, ski trip stuff, lots of stuff.

excited about: spending time with my students this week. i got invited to go to school with Vincent, which was cool of him, and then Nathan invited me to lead his service project group. I'm really blessed that they even considered me. that's cool of them.

procrastinating about: shareholders, just a little bit though. i'm trying to get a grip on where our ministries are headed, but they're moving really fast, too. I need like, a week to just think and brainstorm and develop vision, but there's not a week to give, so I've got to find time for it during my busy schedule.

book i’m in the midst of: still Crazy Love. poor Francis Chan... it's taking me forever to get through a book that should only take a few hours. yikes.

music that caught my attention this week: Prince. i know, weird. i left a note on Heidi's desk the other day that said, "i have to go upstairs and listen to prince or i will die. really." He's taking over my brain. not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's definitely a catchy thing.


Learning to Swim

i just sent out my second draft of the book proposal. this whole situation is definitely one of those "trust Jesus"/"God's going to do what He wants" situations. would i be stoked to help people understand 18-30 year olds and all of our baggage and issues with the church? absolutely. does it completely wig me out that i'm 24 and submitting book proposals? absolutely.

luckily, God has placed incredible sounding boards in my life who believe in me and believe in this book and push me to really go beyond the surface.

some days, i just don't feel smart enough to be involved in a project like this, and i feel like i'm in over my head. but in the end, none of this matters, because God is God, and He knows what's up.

This is the Goal

get here:


why i'm in ministry, reason #43

"That was a good message tonight. It really applied to my life right now."-Alan

one of my students told me this tonight after HSM. i was so blessed to see God move in his life. sometimes as a youth leader, you wonder if the kids are really connecting, because a lot of times you get the blank stare. then, every once in a blue moon, one of them gives you a comment or a hug or a smile, and you know God is moving :)

Quote of the Day

"God is saving me for something special. That's why I'm not dead yet." -DJ Qualls

This is a long one...

[my HSM message for tonight's kick off to "The Best Life Ever" series]
In the late 1500’s, Ponce de Leon set out to find the fountain of youth, because he was hoping to cheat death. He never found it, even though he spent his whole life searching. If you think about that, it’s kind of messed up. He wasted his life searching for something to make his life longer, because he thought that would make his life better. He left behind family and friends in the quest to find life, and it got him nowhere.

How often do we find ourselves doing the same thing? Now, most likely we’re not wandering around trying to find the fountain of youth, but we ARE always searching for something to make this life better, whether it’s money, recognition, being needed, or whatever we think we need to feel whole. Just like Ponce de Leon, we can spend so much time looking for life that we don’t even see it’s right in front of us.

What does it mean to live? How do you know if you’re really living? Some people jump out of planes, others get involved in high-speed races, and that’s living to them. Basically, if something gets your blood to rush, if your adrenaline starts pumping, then you’re "really living." Life is found in whatever gets your blood moving. In Leviticus 17, it says that the life in the body is found in its blood. And obviously without blood, the body can’t function and it dies. But it’s not enough to just have the blood. It’s got to pump; it needs to flow. That’s where life comes from.

So what makes your blood pump? What makes you alive? Does Jesus make your blood pump? The verse in Leviticus says that life is found in blood, which is why Jesus had to spill his blood to bring us back to life. The Bible says that the result of sin is death, so until we look at Jesus and say, “I get that you did this for me,” until we can accept that God has something bigger planned for us, we’re not living.

Sometimes I think even when we do have that relationship with Christ, we can get in a place where it feels like we’re not moving anywhere. Blood can only flow as fast as the heart pumps it, as fast as the heart beats. Is your heart fully beating for God, making your blood flow and causing you to move? Or maybe you’re heart’s only kind of beating for God. We’ve all been there. Sometimes, I’ve felt like mine was barely beating at all, but even then, it was still beating. It made me feel sluggish with my faith, but my heart hadn’t stopped. Even though I was frustrated with God and frustrated with myself, I still had life. And eventually, when I went after Jesus, when I got real with him and said “I can’t deal with this anymore,” when I said, “I need you to love me. I need you to help me,” all the stuff that was getting in the way was gone, and my heart could beat again. When I went after life, my blood began to flow.

Put your hand on your heart or find your pulse on your wrist. Feel that. God makes that possible. He’s the one who gave you a heart, who gave you blood. Is your heart beating for him? Do you accept the life He’s got for you? There was this quote that I clung to, before I even knew God, but God still knew me, still knew what I was going through. I read this quote in a Seventeen Magazine, and it said, “God is saving me for something special; that’s why I’m not dead yet.” I still had a pulse, and in that moment, I realized that pulse had a purpose. God had a purpose. He gave each of us life so we could have a relationship with him. Let your heart beat for God. Don’t spend your whole life looking for life, like Ponce DeLeon, because you’ve already got it. You’ve already got life. Your heart is beating, and there’s a reason for it. If Ponce DeLeon had realized the life he had, he could have done things so differently. He wouldn’t have wasted all those years. Don't waste your life looking for what you already have.


Let my love open the door

I love this clip from Dan in Real Life. This Pete Townsend song has been stuck in my head all week, and actually, not even the real version. I've got the Steve Carell version stuck in my head. As I watched this clip, my brain started turning.

How often in ministry do we give people a chance to lead, to let their message be heard, and then halfway through, we assume we can do better and take over? Maybe they forget the words or panic at the thought of leading, or maybe they just aren't as seasoned as others. As a "favor" to them, we quickly jump in with the "right words," trying to "save their efforts."

When does support become take over? And when is that okay?

I never want my leaders to feel like they aren't supported. I want to be their "back-up singer" in the case of the video, making their presentation that much better doing whatever they need me to. I want to give them a chance to shine and learn and grow in their leading abilities. At the same time, this means letting go.

In Dan in Real Life, Steve Carell finds himself falling in love with his brother Mitch's [Dane Cook] girlfriend. So in this moment where Mitch is trying to send a message to the woman he loves, Dan takes over and the original message loses its meaning.

A lot of jobs I applied for before ending up in CC wouldn't give me the time of day without experience. That's what I love about our leadership- they give you a chance, they help you grow, they let you sing your song. I hope that I can do that for others- give them a place to try things out, support them in their efforts, and help them shine.

What would you do?

there was an e-mail in my spam, offering me a job for $74/hour. i didn't open it, in fear of what the job might be [plus it was spam, and who knows what kind of vortex i'd end up in if that happened]. however, it did get me thinking about what jobs I might do for a paycheck like that... [insert dream sequence here]

1. put my head in an alligator's mouth once every hour for five seconds. and it better be a trained alligator, too.
2. rap; our director team just released our first demo today on myspace. we're going to be the next soulja boy...s...girls... soulja girls.
3. do laundry for the Indianapolis Colts [hello ebay...]
4. wear a Halloween costume every day. that would be embarrassing AND profitable. seriously, though, what would you do if you're in the check out at Wal-mart, and Batman walks up behind you, mid-July?
and, 5. touch raw meat. like how you have to squish hamburger into patties or whatever. and even that is debatable.

so... what would you do for $74/hour?
[and obviously, don't be gross. duh.]

mark is bringin' the heat!

my dear friend mark wrote this on his blog, and i'm reposting it over here because he and i are on the same wavelength these days.

Karl Marx once said that religion was the opiate of the masses. Contrary to what you might expect, I agree. Far too often, religion is been used as a way to pacify and stupify the crowds. It can me used to make people feel good about themselves. It can be a social affair, chic, and erudite. A politician, king, or pastor can weave spells with religious sounding words that sound and feel good.

That's the last thing we need or that God wants for us. We don't need a faith that dulls our intelligence or minds. The true disciples of Jesus aren't drugged into a stupor; rather, we're quite caffeinated. Our faith should unsettle us. It should convict us. It should motivate us to energy and action. Our faith should inspire the courage to topple empires and confront Pharaohs.

yeah boy, get it!

we've GOT to stop being passive about our faith. if it's really faith in Christ, it should energize us enough to MOVE. it should ignite something in us that makes it torture for us to sit still. it's the faith of the disciples, and it's not easy. but if we want to bring the Kingdom of God here on earth, we've got to stop sitting on our duffs waiting for it to happen.


soundtrack 08

i totally ripped this idea from andy maxson, but it's all good in the hood.

basically you go through your iTunes and find songs that fit for each topic, if it was the soundtrack to your life. oddly enough, all my songs juuust fit on a cd, so I have an actual soundtrack. crazy...

Opening Credits: "Miss California" -Rude Buddha
Waking-Up Scene: "Wait Wait Wait" -The Format
Average-Day Scene: "The Way We Get By" -Spoon
Best-Friend Scene: "Hotel Yorba" -The White Stripes
First-Date Scene: "I'm Yours" -Jason Mraz
Falling-In-Love Scene: "On a Night Like This"- Dave Barnes
Love Scene: "Love Me Tender" -Norah Jones and Adam Levy
Fight-With-Friend Scene: "Hide and Seek" -Imogen Heap
Break-Up Scene: "A Lack of Color" -Deathcab for a Cutie
Get-Back-Together Scene: "I will not Take my Love Away" -Matt Wertz
Fight-at-Home Scene: "Rock and Roll Queen" -The Subways
"Life's Okay" Scene: "We Will become Silhouettes" -The Shins
Heartbreak Scene: "Smile" -Diana Ross
Mental-Breakdown Scene: "Perfect" -Alanis Morrisette
Driving Scene: "Shut up and Let me Go" -The Ting Tings
Lesson-Learning Scene: "Gravity" -Sara Bareilles
Deep-Thought Scene: "Waiting for my real life to begin" -Colin Hay
Flashback Scene: "All at once" -The Fray
Party Scene: "Summer" -Modest Mouse
Happy Dance Scene: "Saturday in the Park" -Chicago
Regret Scene: "Fix You" -Coldplay
Long-Night-Alone Scene: "Suicide Blonde" -The Weepies
Death Scene: "Not too Late" -Norah Jones
Closing Credits: "World Spins Madly On" -The Weepies



this weekend was: another good one. BUSY on Saturday, but it was also a really cool day. last night I got to chase a goat while riding a golf cart for farms. yeah, if only we all could be this cool :)

this week: is going to be awesome. I'm predicting.

on my to-do list: FINISHING THE BOOK PROPOSAL! haha, I ACTUALLY got around to it this week! We're in the home stretch of cleaning up some stuff T-money caught. He's a genius and super humble, so I'm glad we're friends and I'm glad I got to learn from him for 3 years.

excited about: my new haircut. it's the little things, people!

procrastinating about: not a whole lot right now. maybe a little shareholders' stuff, but that's it.

book i’m in the midst of: Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. It's shaking my foundation.

music that caught my attention this week: coughjonasbrotherscough... did somebody say something? weird... :P


the angels are singing

the book proposal's almost done! YES!

i just need to come up with potential titles for it, and being an academic person is making that very difficult. Everything I come up with, I would never read.



one more thing...

The Garden of Eden.
The Ark of the Covenant.
you and me.

these are all connected, and when you realize the connection, you understand a little bit more about how God sees you.

All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you. -Song of Solomon 4:7

the heart of God

i've been thinking a lot about Deuteronomy lately, which is a little weird, since most people think about family or the economy or what they're going to have for breakfast. one of my professors at Bethel said that if you were to read the book of Deuteronomy in the English NASB, in Hebrew, in Greek, and 2 other ways that I can't remember [let's just say I'm lucky I remembered 3/5 of them], you would truly understand the heart of God. maybe that's true, i don't know. I haven't read much of Deuteronomy, and it keeps showing up in my life, like those people who love to surprise you, so they hide in bushes. [note to self: no posting after midnight. end note.]

lately, I've been searching for God's heart. I so desperately want to be the person He created me to be, and at the same time, I want to be able to help my students find their place in His heart, too. a lot of people have been building me up lately, which is so weird to me, because i've been tearing myself down a lot. most of this battle is about my identity as a leader, so the encouragement i've gotten from our congregation and staff has been a blessing. but anyway, maybe all this Deuteronomy biz is for a reason. God has to do that a lot with me- put things in front of my face 90 times for me to say, "oh, i should pay attention."

so anyway, somewhere in this scattered, past-midnight, mess of a blog entry, i want to get to the point that i went to biblegateway.com to be inspired or connected or whatever people want to be when they look at verses this late, and the verse of the day is from Deuteronomy:
It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

uncanny that it deals with all my issues lately, isn't it? :) i love that i serve a God who understands my sense of humor and love of irony. that's a good God right there.

slow your roll... er, blogroll

the amount of blogs i check in on everyday is getting a bit long, but it's a good variety of friends, co-workers, fellow ymin people, and people who challenge my ministry. these are brilliant people, my friends. i definitely recommend checking them out [in a blog sense, not a "hey good lookin" sense] here's a [sort of] organized list:

Ministry Folks
Scot McKnight * Think Christian * Dan Kimball * Andrew Jones * Dan Vukmirovich * Jonny Baker * Mark Riddle * Rob Wegner *

Youth Ministry Folks
Mark Oestreicher * DC Curry * Josh Griffin * Willow Students

The Challenging Ones
OneThought.net * Claudia Mair Burney * Kem Meyer

Hey, I know you! [some of these are ymin, too]
Adam Cramer * Deena Best * Judy Gregory * Mark Need * CC Youth * Heidi Emmert * Tom Carpenter * Alan Boggs * Jen Chaput * Katie Rogers * The Pepplers * The Podjans

and then, of course, Dwight Schrute.

since we're being snazzy and all...

now that my blog design is a little less country and a little more rock and roll...[sorry, i probably shouldn't have made that joke]

all day I've had a Jonas Brothers song stuck in my head. This is weird for 2 reasons:
1. I don't really know the words [i've only heard it from the kids]
2. I've never really caught onto the Jonas Brothers bandwagon. I mean, they're good kids [from what I know], so that's good, but I'll stick with Hanson anyday.

so i figured if it was going to be stuck in my head, i should probably learn the lyrics, and i was surprised at how this teeny-bopper love song relates to the relationship between man and his Creator [well, minus one cheesy line].

Every time I think I'm closer to the heart of what it means to know just who I am, I think I finally found a better place to start. No one ever seems to understand. I need to try to get to where you are. Could it be you're not that far? You're the voice I hear inside my head, the reason that im singing. I need to find you, I gotta find you. You're the missing piece I need, the song inside of me. I need to find you, I gotta find you. You're the remedy im searching hard to find to fix the puzzle that I see inside, painting all my dreams the color of your smile [yeah that's the cheddar right there], when I find you it will be alright. I need to try to get to where you are. Could it be you're not that far? Been feeling lost, can't find the words to say, spending all my time stuck in yesterday. Where you are is where I wanna be- next to you, you next to me. I need to find you.- Gotta Find You

I find God in the weirdest places these days... which makes me think of Tim Stevens's video about finding Jesus in pop culture, from Innovate 08:

Quote of the [yester]Day

in a comment to Deena about leadership in ministry:
we think we need to be perfect, because everyone is looking at us, when really all we need to do is be transparent, so everyone can see Jesus through us.


Gray hair?!

All my life, I've heard stories of how my grandma had a whole head of gray hair by the time she was 16 [the accuracy of this story has yet to be determined. I personally think it was just a dark, ashy, brown, but everyone else swears it was gray]. So naturally, I worry when I find a gray hair. I immediately pull it out, and then I usually dye my hair shortly after, just in case. Now, I know I'm overreacting, and I know that gray hair is part of life, but I'm barely 24, and I've got this looming "gray hair at 16" story in the back of my mind, so I think it's okay to react this way. Plus, when I find a gray hair, it's not actually gray; it's white... like platinum white. So you can imagine the fear that washes over me. And, in my experience, the gray hairs are harder to pull out than the brown hair. Those suckers play for keeps. Anyway, I was doing a word study in the Bible this morning on the word "life," in preparation for our all-church series coming up, and I found this scripture comforting.

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.-Proverbs 16:31

So, now when I find a gray hair, I can glorify God with it! Gray hair is gained by living a Godly life! It's God's way of showing us, "Well done!"

that doesn't mean that i'm going to stop pulling them out anytime soon... but it does bring me a little comfort :)



this weekend was: wonderful! I bummed around all day Friday, then went to emmerts' house to work on music that night. Saturday we had the WC Dodgeball Tourney, and my guys were the underdogs that come back from behind to win it all [SO PROUD OF THEM!]. Then I headed to Fort Wayne to visit family, and then I surprised the Fall Fest crew at Lakewood. I never laugh as hard as I do with Monica and Kelli. Their friendships are so valuable to me. Plus, I saw Jeff, and we haven't seen each other since early July.

this week: will be different from last week [my new mantra, haha!]. I'm ahead of the game on lessons, so I'll have time to think more about the big picture.

on my to-do list: a lot of thinking and praying and following and leading.

excited about: tonight's message for HSM

procrastinating about: [see the last update]

book i’m in the midst of: Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. It's shaking my foundation.

music that caught my attention this week: lady gaga. LOVE her music.


WC Dodgeball Tourney

Hey, if you're in Whitley County today, looking for something to do, you should head over to Indian Springs Middle School [off SR 9], because The Center is putting on a huge dodgeball tournament, and our team is ready for some domination! It's a fundraiser to keep The Center- a VITAL Whitley County ministry- up and running.

We'll be there... Will you?!

10 AM-?


The Truth About Jesus, part 2

[this is a continuation of the last post, so start there if you haven't already]
You couldn’t help but be transformed by that. You would want to tell everybody about it, too. Maybe that’s where evangelism and sharing the gospel came from- people were blown away by the power and love and message of Jesus and couldn’t help but tell others about it.

When I was trying to come up with what to say to you guys about Jesus, I was overwhelmed. Where do you start, with someone like that? And the more I thought about His miracles and his followers, the more I wondered why we don’t have this radical faith like the disciples. Do I believe in God? Yes. Do I try to follow Jesus? Yes. Do I live my life with reckless abandon, believing God can do anything in any situation, trusting him with all areas of my life, not just the easy ones to give up? That answer’s not as easy. In fact, if I get honest with myself, if we all get honest with ourselves, the answer is probably no. We don’t want to admit it, but we know it’s true. And it’s an ugly truth that trying to follow Jesus is hard and often results in failure.

The disciples had the same problem. Half the time, they had no clue what Jesus was saying. In Matthew 15, Jesus tells the disciples a parable and Peter, who was one of the smarter ones, asked for an explanation, to which Jesus said, “Are you still so dull?” In Mark 6, 5,000 people need food and Jesus leaves it up to the disciples. As you probably know, they freaked out, and Jesus had to take care of it. The crazy thing is that it happens again in Mark 8 with 4,000 people, and once again, the disciples space out. It’s easy for us to get on the disciples about it, too. In my Bible, I wrote next to Mark 8- “are they really that stupid? do they not remember?” But how many times has God pulled me out of something, only for me to fall right back into it?

So how do we follow Jesus? How do we transform our lives into these awesome adventures in following Christ? It’s simple: we need to know Jesus, to REALLY know Jesus, not this weird girly version that we settle for. We need to seek Him out, try to learn all about how he dealt with people, how he handled stress, how he relied on God. The disciples followed him around for three years. They spent every day with Him, asking questions, listening, trying things out. They left everything behind because they wanted to know more. They forgot about the past because they were so into what was happening in the moment. Jesus said, “Follow me,” and they went. He’s not just asking the disciples, though. This isn’t just a situation that happened in the Bible and we read about it and say “oh, nice story.” This is a call on each of us. He looks at us and says, “Follow me.” He sees our potential for greatness. He believes in us. He cares about the end result and sees the big picture, and he wants us to be a part of it all. Believing in Jesus shouldn’t be this easy, passive, boring thing, unless we believe in the wrong Jesus. The Jesus I know isn’t boring, isn’t lazy, isn’t sitting on the sidelines. He’s right in the middle of things, right where we are, and he’s saying, “Follow me.”

The Truth about Jesus

[this is a work in progress for my high schoolers this week, but i think it's worth putting out there. comments are welcomed and encouraged]

We’ve all got this watered down image of who we think Christ is. He’s this wimpy, skinny guy in a toga who resembled an old school hippie. He becomes boring and unrelatable, if we get honest with ourselves. He’s got this message of love and we know that, but it’s hard to make a connection with someone we don’t really and truly understand.

If we really understood the heart of Jesus and what it means to follow him, our lives would be radically different. When Jesus was rounding up the disciples, he got together this band of misfits and told them, “Come, follow me.” They were the people society had pushed aside; everyone thought they were either idiots or shady people or worthless, and Jesus said, “Hey, let’s do this together.” And now we know them as these great biblical figures, and they’re held in such high regard, but that’s not where they started out. And if you talked to them today and told them how people see them, they’d probably laugh or get creeped out because they never saw themselves that way. They’d probably tell you the only reason people are drawn to them is because of their friendship with Jesus. And we know that- we know that they would point it all back to Jesus because that’s the right thing to do, but if you think about their pasts and think about how drastically their lives changed when they said yes to Jesus, it makes sense that they would blame him.

Why is it that the disciples’ lives changed so drastically when they started following Jesus, but ours still kind of look the same. How come they had this radical faith, one that shook their foundations and transformed their lives, and our lives look the same? It’s like trying to compare an earthquake to someone stomping on the floor- both shake the floor, but only one leaves a lasting impression. I think if we truly realized who Jesus was, we’d stop seeing him as this wimpy, boring guy who wandered around with a group of bearded guys in skirts. The Bible talks about Jesus yelling at people and calling them out and getting angry and frustrated, but all we focus on “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Jesus came to earth so that we could relate to God better. He came to earth so we could know that God gets it- he knows what we go through and he knows what temptation is and he knows what our pain feels like because he’s been there. He’s experienced loss and heartache and also joy and excitement. He knows what it’s like to laugh. He knows what it’s like to go to the bathroom or not be able to sleep or have a bad hair day. And yet, somehow, we end up with this watered down version of Jesus that we can’t relate to.

In three years, Jesus drove out evil spirits, healed hundreds of people, made a paralytic walk, cured leprosy, calmed storms, brought a girl back to life, fed 5000 people with hardly anything, walked on water, made a deaf man hear, fed 4000 more people with just 7 loaves of bread, made a blind man see, performed exorcisms, trashed a temple, killed a fig tree just by speaking, showed love and compassion to outcasts, predicted the future, was tried, crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. We know Jesus healed people and multiplied food and walked on water, but when you realize all the miracles he did in just three years, it puts things in a new perspective. Can you imagine being one of the first disciples, and seeing all of that? Can you imagine what would be going through your head? It would be life changing.


an excellent article

Mark Riddle wrote this for the YS blog. It hits me right in the gut. I appreciate Riddle's desire to approach a topic most people are afraid to speak on. It's changed my view of programming and helped me see how I've fostered some of the problems I'm currently battling.

I got off the phone this morning with John, a youth pastor, who will leave his church in 20 days because of the church’s financial situation. He’s built a big youth ministry with lots of kids and very few volunteers. “The church isn’t interested in working with teens,” he tells me. John is truly heart-broken for the kids and is reaching out to me to see if I can help the church in some way after he leaves. He doesn’t want to see it all fall apart and he knows it will after he leaves.

I didn’t tell him this. It’s probably for the best.

You see, somewhere along the way we youth pastors bought into a lie. We believe our job is to make things happen, to build programs, to attract youth all in the name of ministry, or building the kingdom. We bought into the idea that our job, our ministry is to make things go. We believe that somehow, our success or failure as a pastor is dependent upon our ability to motivate people to follow through and implement our plans and our dreams in the name of vision. In fact, we in the church are infatuated with visionaries who make it happen. The lie is pervasive these days.

Chances are this is a small reason why you love being a youth pastor. You have ideas, and you get to inspire and envision people to produce your programs. Chances are you are evaluated by how efficiently you bring others on board with your vision and how well you produce the goals and objectives you declared.

But this is a deeply flawed understanding of leadership and is destructive for church staff, and those within the church as well. This is a flawed perspective because it has unintended consequences. This kind of thinking is highly colonial and creates a level of isolation, entitlement and passivity that enables congregations to abdicate their responsibility to the leaders, who often gladly take it.

The leaders become strangers and distant from the people they are called to lead in this environment. In extreme cases people can become cogs in the details of a leaders mechanistic plans. Service is reduced to volunteer positions that must be filled.

It’s important for you to understand something.

You aren’t called to make things happen in your church.

Oh, you may be paid to make things happen, but it’s not God calling you to plan, lead and pull off all that unsustainable stuff. It’s not God calling you build it all, or convince others to build your vision either.

You will always have more ideas, more dreams, more hopes, more plans than your church should pull off in your ministry. You will always see more than can be done right now. You must learn to live with this tension.

* Your job as a leader isn’t to make plans and then have others buy into them.
* The role of a leader is to declare the mission, and create an environment in which people can dream and live into it.
* By making things happen you are robbing people from the God given responsibility they have to children in your church.

The difference is in the level of commitment of the people you lead. Take John for instance. John created a lot of great experiences, but the people within his church weren’t committed to it outside of a paycheck to a staff member. When John leaves in 20 days, his ministry will crumble and it will be a beautiful thing for his church. Because it will force them to make a decision about how engaged they will be for teens.

I know what you are thinking. His church won’t step up. They will lose kids.
Could be. It’s pretty common.

This is the commentary on how well we lead in the church though, not so much on the church itself. The people of the church are being faithful to how they were led. They are living out their ministry teens the way it’s been expected of them.

How many of our churches are this way and how many churches would lose people if the staff stopped making things happen? There is an entire culture of leadership within the church rising up based on this faulty understanding of leadership.

You see, not only is top-down leadership often manipulative, colonial and patriarchal, but it’s also reactive. It only creates more of the same problems that it’s trying to solve.

Whereas leadership that declares the mission and then cultivates an environment within which it can happen is restorative. It produces energy, not hype. It confronts people, and forces accountability. The kind of leadership creates accountability, without directly calling for it.

So is this the end of visionary leadership? Absolutely not. It is simply a change in the way churches approach the role of staff and the way the mission blooms within your church. There’s a difference between helping your community imagine a world beyond their currently reality (vision) and convincing them to live it your way.

What kind of leader are you? Do you feel the need to make things happen? Have you always been this way? If not, what taught you that this was the right way?

Or do you cultivate an environment in which people can engage deeply, or superficially? An environment where you let go of the implementation to the people of your church?