Monday, March 31, 2008

Stanley's Time...


It's about that time again. The beast that I try to hide from most of you throughout the year, but during the next month or two I simply cannot. NHL Playoffs are about to begin. The Detroit Redwings have 3 games left to play...once against Columbus, and twice against Chicago (who is desperate for a playoff spot....you NEED to watch this passionate of a game).

The quest for Lord Stanley's Cup....is beginning. You can sense the change in the players, as you watch them compete...even if only on television. The rivalry's are more intense. The energy level is soaring. This is what every player desires. What every team works towards. What every dynasty is built on.

The last time the Redwings tasted victory like this, was with Yzerman still as captain back in 2002. I have an autographed jersey from just after that win. :)

Since that year, they've had several chances, but so far have fallen short of what it's taken. This year, however...is different. I'll have my lucky stick in hand, IBC's cracked open, jersey on, and will not be shaving until we're hoisting the cup...or out of the playoffs.

Most of our best players experienced injuries in recent months, creating a vacuum for the 2nd lines to pick up the slack. They did...and then some. We now have almost all of our best players back on the ice, and a newly developed 2nd and even 3rd line...that are a force to be reckoned with.

With leading scorers like Zetterburg, Datsuk, Holmstrom(if he can get through this injury), Cleary, and lately Franzen...Defensive players like Chelios, Lidstrom, Kronwall, Lilja, (and my favorite, Lebda, even though he won't hit his peak for like 3-4 years)....and the 2 TOP goaltenders in the league, Hasek and Osgood.....if ever there was a year....this is it.

Get your octopus ready...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a final frontier...


Parents, teachers, youth pastors, child advocates, psychologists, sociologists, etc...are all beginning to realize the same thing: The internet has very little regulation when it comes to advertising. Any type of advertising, really...and to any targeted audience.

Over the past decade, small numbers at a time have realized this...but it seems as if the movement to bring it to the "powers that be" is finally gaining momentum. Or maybe I finally crawled out from behind a rock and realized it myself.

One large area is advertising targeted at minors, from unhealthy products. We don't have to look far to realize that our culture of immediate self-indulgence is producing a generation of unhealthy and overweight youngsters. This article talks about the thousands of experts and advocates who will be proposing a new INTERNATIONAL CODE...which probably won't get approved of just yet, and even if it did, would take years to actually enforce... the code is:

Unhealthy foods are defined as energy-dense, nutrient-oor foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt.

The proposed code would:
-Ban unhealthy food ads on radio and TV between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
-Ban unhealthy food ads on all forms of new media, from web sites to social networking sites and text messaging.
-Ban unhealthy food promotions in schools
-Ban unhealthy food promotions that include free gifts, toys or collectible items that appeal to children
-Ban use of celebrities, cartoon characters, competitions or free gifts in unhealthy food ads and promotions

I think this might do SOME good. But I doubt it will do any SERIOUS damage to the rate of obesity and unhealthiness of our culture. We don't need a cartoon to tell us that unhealthy foods taste good. I'm pretty sure that even if cheesy poofs came in a blank cardboard box, and was never advertised, kids would eventually, by experience, LOVE the sight of that box, and get excited about having some.
I guess a lot of it goes back to parenting. To discipline, self-discipline, and learning moderation. Smaller portions. But what age does this begin? I'm pretty sure I need to get better at it myself too, before I can fully understand how to approach it with my daughters.
For now...we're thankful when Addie eats anything. Oh sure, she'd love to sit down with a bag of cheese puffs and go to town (so would I)....we've set limits on that at least. And we scrape frosting off of stuff, etc. And Sarah helps limit the amount of times we have frozen pizza in a month....come to think of it....my wife has been saying stuff like this, and pushing vegetables for quite some time now. Shucks...maybe I should just listen to her.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Matthew 25:45


When I was in high school, our youth group took a mission trip with the theme of "The Least of These". We were given the opportunity to serve in places of great need, to feed and love on people who had been disenfranchised by society.

It was good. Hopefully it was good for them...the memories I have certainly seem like God used us to bless others. It was definitely good for me...to have my world-view broadened, and to realize that as bad as it may be at times for me/my family.....that was nothing compared to the needs of some others. I stayed involved in ministry to the "underprivileged" (even though I put myself in that category growing up...having attended as a camper, and then as an employee) through a camp called "Youth Haven Ranch", and man...if I had millions, I'd support that camp like crazy. The theology may not run deep, depending on who is actually doing the programming that year, but they feed and clothe, and love God's children in a personal/relational way that fed my hunger growing up. And thinking of it....that's pretty good theology. Pure and undefiled, even.

Now, I'm a youth pastor. We've talked about poverty recently, and will touch on it again tomorrow night. What our response should be as followers of Christ, etc. But I know many of the students in our group come from homes that float close to the line of "poverty". They see themselves as "poor". Resting inside their own shell of need, they don't see themselves as called by God to serve others (wonder who they get that habit from?). I can show them videos of true poverty for hours, but it wouldn't sink in until they actually travel across boundaries to experience/view these conditions first-hand.

Wish we had a "Youth Haven" type option nearby. Maybe there is, and I'll find it someday. So many teenagers today get depressed about life in general. Or bored. Or feel like their situation is so uniquely bad that no one could possibly "get" the struggles they have. I want to introduce my teens to a regular ability to serve others less fortunate. To see the change that happens, when instead of focusing on "how bad I have it"...we focus on how we can contribute to the needs of others.

There are many who went on our "mission trip" from last summer. But those types of experiences fade if not incorporated into a lifestyle of serving others. Their youth pastor probably should've found a way to continue that pattern when they returned.

But I don't want to simply take them to a bad part of town, and have them walk door to door giving out hugs of God's love. This is Decatur, IL for crying out loud.

Our Church has a food pantry that is open every Monday from 11:30am-1:30pm. I've not been involved regularly, but have gone a few times. Teens don't have school in the summer. I think a good option would be regular participation in the pantry for now...and see what happens. I imagine cheesy scenes of teenagers smiling while walking a nice older lady to her beat up car, showing her God's love in a brief moment of relational connection. Will that happen? Maybe. Or maybe it'll be pulling teeth just to get one or two teens down there on a regular basis. I sure haven't set a good example of it being a place we should be.

Thanks for following that thought train. Chugging on for now....

Friday, March 21, 2008

a good day. (friday)

just home from a great tenebrae (shadows) service at my church

it was good, and different from ways I've done it in the past. but it brought up a thought or two, also. we remembered Christ from the "big picture" perspective. which was good.

but trying to think of what the closest friends to Jesus may have been feeling on this night. two main thoughts come to mind.

sadness. to have lost a man who most of them had known for quite a while. and not just "known"...but had some VERY close bonding experiences. they didn't just coast through life together. they were tight.

disappointment. to have lost the man who all your hopes for "a change" had rested on. political. social. economic. revenge. the man who was going to flip the tables, and who you would reign with. dead.

another random thought....i'm glad there's a "holy saturday". a time for humanity to rest from our expectations and reasons we mourned losing Christ......so that we can better celebrate His rising again, without jumping directly back into those, but instead allow our view of Christ to receive new life as well.

Not someone to make us feel good all the time. Not someone who will give us vengeance against all those who we are quick to label as "evil".

But Christ. The Son of God.

Risen.

(no celebrating yet.....wait until Sunday. Until then....rest, mourn, and release the Christ you thought you knew)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Holy Week: Side B

Meanwhile...just found this....made me smile. Not a big KJ-52 fan, but if he can roll with Pigeon John...I guess he's kosher.

To all the high schoolers thinkin' about prom....we feel you. We've been there. You'll survive.

(imagine me as the 3rd character...I fit in with these guys...I just decided to be a youth pastor)



Keep the faith...hopefully someday you'll have a spouse that rocks as much as mine.

To quote the song, "...all I need to know is that my wife will dance with me..."

She totally will.

Holy Week...


Palm Sunday was the first hill of the roller coaster that is Holy Week....culminating in the celebration of Easter this Sunday. Most of the thoughts I could post about Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, and even Easter itself...you've probably already heard.

So what to post? It definitely deserves something. I think a memory would serve it well.

When I was in high school, I was able to visit Israel, and see many of the sights talked about throughout scripture. Although I was young, the memories are still with me, and I have pictures to remind me of this trip.

The picture above is the "Church of All Nations" (stolen from a website, cause it's better than mine). Surrounding this church are well-kept gardens of Olive Trees, where it is believed to be the Garden of Gethsemane. Inside the church, there is an altar above what is believed to be the rock where Christ possibly prayed the infamous "let this cup pass from me" prayer. Bearing the weight of suffering for all of creation's redemption, he was moved to tears.

I think pursuing whatever moved Christ to tears in those hours, would be a good one, especially this week. To have our hearts broken by that which breaks the heart of God. To experience that much of a yearning...with the understanding that if we're to be a part of what God's doing, it will take us putting our selves (our families, our desires, our stuff, our plans, our lives) on the altar.

Not that our sacrifice is anywhere near Christ's....but I think it's in the same direction.

But aligning our heart with God's....looks like a dangerous thing. Cause when/if we actually do it...

...it may mess up our lives completely.

I suppose we should make sure we're ready. And let go of "trying to have God's heart", allowing God to do GOD'S work IN us. I don't think I can even reach for that kinda thing on my own. Or something like that.

In any case...I think praying for God to give me that kind of burden for the restoration of His Kingdom.....is a good place to start. And this is a good week for that kind of prayer...

Monday, March 17, 2008

a deal?


So it's official, Deal or No Deal is coming to Central IL, for an open casting call on Tuesday, April 1st. They will be at the Hickory Point Mall from 1pm until 4pm. I will definitely be there that day.

"But you've already been on Wheel of Fortune!" you might say.

Yup. But - you're allowed to go on 3 game shows in life. Why would they have that rule, unless it was totally possible? I know I won quite a bit on WOF, but with everything I won....we ended up with a dishwasher, and less debt. Which is AWESOME.

But why not give it a shot? Even the "losers" on Deal or No Deal end up with over $100,000 usually. :) I'm cool with that.

Taking a moment to seriously check myself for wrong motives, I make a mental list of why I would love a booster shot to our bank account:
- pay off the car/house/college loans
- possibly move to a new house? One that Sophie would actually get a closet, and maybe even with sidewalks for the girls to play on!
- gasp - a mini-van?
- allow Sarah to be a stay-at-home mommy for as long as she desires!
- etc. - depending on the amount, being able to help out some family/friends with random things too. To be in a position to share something like this would be sweet.

Yeah, I think those are decent motivators. No crazy desire for a Corvette or a Harley. No need to "pimp my lifestyle" with unnecessary toys. Okay, so maybe I'd buy a new hockey jersey or a new mac laptop....but I can swallow those.

I'm a family man now. So mature. So old. ( or maybe I'm getting good at pretending)

so my recommendation to you? TRY OUT FOR THE SHOW!! Someone has to get picked....might as well be YOU! :)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

the movie I didn't watch....(rated PG-13)


Giving up movies for Lent, I have allowed my wife to make me watch any movie with her that I normally would not want to watch....she just gave birth to our daughter, it's the least I could do.

So earlier this week, we watched "The Jane Austen Book Club". Not a movie I'd ever wanted to see. Still not a movie I'd openly recommend. But Sarah is really into those "Pride and Prejudice", and "Emma", and "Sense and Sensibility"...etc...all written by this lady. And we'd just watched "Becoming Jane" not too long ago...so I figured, I'll endure this movie. For my wife.

Watched it. Didn't really like it during the movie. Didn't really like it much directly after the movie either. But something about it stuck. Slowly, I've decided I kind of like the idea of the movie.

A group of women who have been disenchanted with smacks of reality from life, who want to escape. They commit to meeting together on a regular basis, through whatever else life throws their way, and share their struggles, and joys. They support each other, and eat together often. They find comfort in connecting with this woman, Jane Austen, through the stories she tells....and even though her stories also contain smacks of reality....they accept it as a greater "thing" that's going on. Through the words she's written, they attempt to try and connect to Jane herself, and learn more about her character, who she is as a woman and an author, and it helps them through the realities of their own lives. They also begin to realize how much their personal stories echo those found in the books.

At this point, I can hear my wife saying "stop over-analyzing, and just enjoy the movie!!". Sorry - I'm a corny youth pastor. It happens.

So yeah....people sharing life and community together, because they realize the need for something and someone "other" in their lives. Breaking bread together, not because a book or a technique of community was asked of them, but because they want to. Reading words, discussing them passionately, diving into the depths of the life that lies within them. The words becoming flesh. Leading us to who "the author" truly is, and realizing how our stories are connected to those stories we read.

It might just be a decent movie.

(minus the lesbians and the high school teacher making out with a student...but the fast-forward button still allows you to get the message)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

God bless cell-phone cameras....

We took this video via my phone, when Sophie was just 2 days old. She's a pro...


video


Not to be outdone....here's Addie practicing her aqua-turn tables to an imaginary beat...


video

My daughters rule.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Pascha....

Hippity, Hoppity, Easter's on it's way...So while we're in Lent...still preparing to celebrate together at the end of these 40 days, I thought it apropos to mention something about this holiday. Watching a Wal-Mart commercial the other day, it brought up a topic I never really gave much thought to before being a parent of a child who can semi-understand what's going on around her.

In the Wal-Mart ad, a mom says something to the effect of: "With Wal-Mart's prices, I can afford to put more in their Easter Baskets this year!"

As excited as I am that she's saving money, it also made me wonder how many kids turn to their parents, and ask if she's somehow "helping out" the Easter Bunny, who we all know is the one who actually fills those baskets. Surely no child will watch that commercial, and have their dreams crushed....right?

I'm sure we have friends who believe it's "lying" to tell your children fanciful tales such as Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. And I'm sure we probably have friends who will obsess and stress over it to the point of being really disappointed when their child somehow figures out the truth.

(not having discussed this with my wife much, really)....I think we're somewhere in the middle. It'll be fun, playing along and pretending. But when they figure it out, we will have great discussions on the true meanings and stories behind these holidays, and still have some fun pretending. I'm at peace with this. But Wal-Mart...is it too much to ask that you at least say something like, "With Wal-Mart's prices, the Easter Bunny (wink) can put more in their baskets this year!"

Also, side note....as Wal-Mart's cheap prices on cheap chocolate continue to cheapen....is it really better to continue buying more chocolate to fill up those baskets? I think their diets are already bad enough. Give your kids some fruits and nuts with their Marshmallow Peeps this year, and make some sort of "baked" product together as a family....giving you time to talk about Christ rising (maybe even while the dough is rising...cause Christians are cheesy like that).

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

for my daughters...


Today, I lift up my daughters, Sophie Grace....and Addison Elizabeth.

Not quite like Mufasa allowing Rafiki to lift up Simba so the other animals can bow....more like me just publicly making a prayer for both of them. God is good. I'm thankful for their lives, for the futures that lay ahead of them, and that I get to be involved in raising/loving them. I pray about a million things for the years to come, and for their relationships with God, our family, and others. But in reality, there are immediate prayers too. :) More than I could list, but here's 2.

For Sophie. That she would learn how to poo. I can't imagine being at a stage where you have to poop so often, and not knowing how. The grunts she makes on a regular basis make you wish somehow you could just transfer that knowledge to her. Someday, Sophie...you'll get the hang of it. And it rocks.

For Addison. That she would know how much her parents love her. She's so excited for "baby!" to be here, she'll climb on Sophie just to get close. Asking her to be careful sends her off crying at times. What's going on in her mind/heart...we can't know. But a lot is happening. May God bless your new independence as well, we've seen your imagination grow steadily!

The new routine is working so far. The diaper champ never filled up so quickly. We go to bed not long after Addie has. The car has a full back seat and trunk. Hopefully we'll get settled in to a normal routine just as Playoffs begin. :) (not so that I can ignore the family and watch hockey, but so that we can all enjoy them together, as God intended.)

Monday, March 03, 2008

..for what it's worth...



In April, I'll be attending the SHIFT Conference at Willow Creek. I will be representing the Gateway Conference of the Free Methodist Church, for the National Student Ministries' Team.

Starting to get a little excited. I've attended many conferences and seminars over the past 5 years since graduating, but so far I've either been volunteering, in charge, or it's been combined with taking a group of teens somewhere as well (IYC 2007). So it will be nice to just attend, take notes, soak up some good teaching, and figure out what I'm doing a little bit more. Sometimes I feel like I have no clue. But I cling to personal growth and development, caring for my family, and hoping that my church won't fire me while I try to navigate being a Youth Pastor as well. My shortfalls? I'll confess them: organization, communication, fund-raising, planning ahead, etc. I get afraid that I'm already asking too much of my volunteers, that I don't arrange "planning" meetings very often....and that probably gets read as nothing's happening, which makes them wonder why they give so much of their time...etc. But I probably overanalyze it all.

Thankfully, the crew the previous Youth Pastor gathered around him, has put up with me....and hopefully they'll stick around if it takes me a while. They pretty much rock, and are a LARGE reason things here are happening.

SO anywhoo. I took a Hermeneutics Quiz as part of preparing for the conference. I scored a 68, which puts me just over their "Progressive" mark (66-100). Being so close to the mark, it also means I lean a bit toward their "Moderate" category of Biblical Hermeneutics as well. I could see that. Although it's strange that my score is higher than the likes of Dan Kimball...one of the "Emergent" guys. I wouldn't have guessed that. I suppose it's a reminder that in discussions like this, categories and labels only go a certain distance. Our relationships with God and each other, community, discussion, and journey of faith together plays a lot larger of a role. But it's a good conversation starter.

So yeah...really looking forward to the conference, but at the same time, weary. I've given up books for Lent, and although hard for me, it has reminded me of an important thing: New trends/books in ministry/theology come about 10 a day. Giving up books for Lent has allowed me to be content with not having read the newest book by the newest author, or even the oldest book by the newest rediscovered author, so that I can "keep up" with certain thought circles.

One of my mentors once told me, as I headed into ministry, to beware of being caught up in "ministry fads". Having that advice with me over the past 5 years has been very valuable. Not that I'm close-minded to new views/thoughts/movements. But I'm very cautious of what I invest myself in. Thanks Papa Boone.

SO yeah...learning, growing, soaking up....and hoping to be better at everything in 20 years, but still with a sense of humility that allows for continuing growth. That's me.