three christian books that will never be together again
Friday April 29th 2005, 5:41 pm
Filed under: books

i just glanced down at the desk area in front of my computer and started laughing. i had, earlier today, moved a few stacks around, and had put three books in a little stack right in front of my monitor, because all of them require some bit of action from me in the next few days. my laughter was due to the realization that — i’m fairly confident — never before or again will these three books sit in an exclusive stack together, anywhere in the universe:

on the bottom of the stack is… The Complex Christ: signs of emergence in the urban church, by Kester Brewin (a London emerging church leader). i met kester last night, and he gave me this copy, which i’m really looking forward to reading.

in the middle is… Praise Habit: finding God in sunsets and sushi, by David Crowder. i recently finished this book (ooh, i forgot to list it in my “books i’ve read in the last couple months post” below), and am due to send David comments about it (which will be very positive — it’s both whimsical and deep, rich with both story and insight).

and on top of the stack (drum roll please)… Battle Cry for a Generation: the fight to save america’s youth, by Ron Luce. Long story that i’m not sure i am ready to post about here (because it’s so fresh and feels so vulnerable, and i DO NOT want to turn it into a talk example or objectify it), but Ron and I recently had a fairly significant connection, which i would never have expected, and God has put a good measure of warmth in my heart for him. Anyhow, he sent me a copy of his book, and i need to email and thank him.

So… what three books can you never imagine sitting in stack together — like, they would probably spontaneously combust if they were to rub up against each other in that manner?

pasadena tonite
Thursday April 28th 2005, 4:57 pm
Filed under: emerging church

i’m heading up to pasadena this afternoon and evening to connect with a bunch of emerging church leaders from all over the world who were brought in by Fuller and Al Roxburgh for a multi-day forum. what a rare opportunity to see old friends like Simon Hall from Leeds, UK (simon was the worship leader, and i the speaker, at a youth camp in Denmark about 10 years ago!), Doug Pagitt, Tim Keel, as well as newer friends like Andrew Jones and Steve Taylor (the Kiwi author, not the Nashville musician).

and, i lived in pasadena for five years before coming down to san diego for YS; so it will be fun to hang there.

great time last night. wonderful dinner with Doug P, talking openly and warmly about the future of the emergentYS publishing line. it’s good to be going through tough questions with friends you can trust, and i really sense that with Doug — emergent is not going to stab us in the back or dishonor our friendship and history (that is clear). we’re truly trying to decide what’s best for the books, and for the church — not what’s best for YS (which would clearly be to continue as is) or emergent. pray for us on this. but this wonderful dinner was made more wonderful by the food; we ate at my favorite italian restaurant on old Colorado in Pasadena, called Mi Piace. i had ricotta and pumpkin stuffed ravioli with a piece of grilled chicken on top. i’m convinced angels made it — or, it’s what angels ate for dinner last night also.

we ambled over to The Yard House (100 beers on tap!) to hook up with 25 or so of the 40 emerging church leaders from around the world — a full half of them non-U.S. Got to chat with Karen Ward, Tim Keel, Spencer Burke, John Franke, Doug, Andrew Jones, Simon Hall, Steve Taylor, and met several new friends, including a wonderful conversation with Alan Hirsch. i’m really looking forward to reading , which i hear is fantastic.

Jay and i left pasadena at 10:15, tried to stop at my old favorite coffee shop (which was closed), got stuck in a total-stand-still traffic jam at 11:45 somewhere south of riverside (one of those weird traffic jams where you sit on the freeway for 45 minutes, then, instantly, everyone starts moving full speed, and there is not one single sign as to what caused the stop), and got home at 1am. oof.

an open post to my nephew, just about to graduate from HS
Wednesday April 27th 2005, 7:36 pm
Filed under: personal


So – this is weird – “uncle marko” doesn’t write very often. Fair enough.

I’m sitting on a plane somewhere between Atlanta and Denver. And I’ve been reading a really heavy book about youth ministry (called “Practicing Passion”). It’s kind of academic; no, it IS academic. There are lots of pages where I have to decide to keep reading. But there are also many pages where I’m struck speechless (not that I’d have anyone to make a speech to here at 38,000 feet!) by the simplest and most profound thoughts.

And – here’s the really weird part – I keep thinking about you: Zachary Lincoln Dunlap; my first nephew that I see once or, maybe, twice a year, and have pretty much no contact with between those visits. I’m not really offering an apology, and I’m certainly not asking for one from you! Our lives are what they are, and they’re both very full. And this may very well be the only letter you’ll ever get from me like this!

So, here’s why I’m thinking about you…


Let me type in a few quotes and thoughts from the book first (bear with me):

“Passion is loving something enough to suffer for it” – Jurgen Moltmann

“The Christ-event transforms adolescents into people who actually do ‘have it together’ as they repent and identify with Jesus Christ instead of with the piecemeal fragments of consumer culture. Passion transcends lesser commitments of the self, and binds them to a common higher order allegiance.” – Kenda Dean, the author of the book

“There are only four questions of value in life: what is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: Only love.” – from the movie Don Juan de Marco

Teenagers, while lacking in some areas of maturity (psychological, emotional, social) have at their fingertips something that most adults find terribly difficult to reach: passion. Teenagers, in this sense, are closer to the heart of God, and can experience the Passion of Christ in ways that clarify their otherwise fractured identities and give direction to their lives. Adults need teenagers to show them the path to passion. – my thoughts from the book

Ok. So. Back to Zack.

You, my nephew, are remarkable. The lives of teenagers today are more fractured than ever – even more than when I was one, even more than 10 years ago. Most teenagers (really, almost all) live a collection of lives through a collection of “selves.” There’s gym-class-self and chemistry-self and Friday-night-party-self and after-school-job-self and family-self and even church-self. This is a given in today’s youth culture. It’s really the art of self-protection and survival – I don’t “blame” kids for it; it’s the only way they know how to walk down the path of trying to find out who they are in a safe way (because EVERY part of the world is so completely unsafe for all teenagers).

But once in a while, a teenager is somehow able to rise above this. Ooh, wait, “rise above” probably isn’t the best wording. Once in a while, a teenager – because of a deep soul-level connection with the Passion of Christ (remember: loving enough to suffer) – is able to find a story, an identity, that allows them to “piece together” all those fractured atomic identities into one: child of God, beloved of Jesus.

I know this is true for you. You are one of the few. You ooze this. It leaks out of every interaction you have, Zack, every decision you make, every stand you take. OK, I’m probably exaggerating a tiny bit – maybe not EVERY one of those; but you do leak and ooze!

I’m so proud of you, Zack. I’m so glad to know you (which sounds silly, since I didn’t really have a choice!).

I just know it; I know you are going to have an impact on the kingdom of God. I know God is going to use your combination of gifts (arts, business sense, entrepreneurial spirit, outspoken nature…) and your wonderful brashness, combined with what I think I see as a gentle spirit – all of that, God is amped to use for his glory; I know it in my bones.

Let me put it another way. Max and you are two very different people, no doubt. So I don’t expect him to be you. But I would be absolutely thrilled beyond words to have Max “turn out like you.”

Well, that’s my 38,000 foot thought for you, ZLD. In a sense, my current literal elevation is a decent metaphor for what I’m writing to you: this letter is about what I see in you from a distance, a generalization about you and your life and the norm of teenager-land from a satellite viewpoint.

Stay the course, nephew – blood-kin of mine. Hold on to that passion of yours, and that Passion of His. Continue to order your life and direction and identity and future and choices and priorities around the only thing worth living for, and the only thing worth dying for: love.

better design to come
Wednesday April 27th 2005, 7:11 pm
Filed under: blogs

sorry this blog looks so lame. more to come…

Brian gets resource award
Tuesday April 26th 2005, 8:02 pm
Filed under: youth specialties, books

A Generous Orthodoxycool — i was just paging through the newest (May/June) issue of outreach magazine, and noticed that they awarded Brian McLaren’s book, A Generous Orthodoxy (one of our emergentYS titles) the best 2004 resource in the “postmodern outreach” category. Experiential Storytellingand Mark Miller’s Experiential Storytelling (another eYS title) was one of the other three nominees.

Postmodern Children's Ministryoh — and i just noticed that Ivy Beckwith’s book, Postmodern Children’s Ministry was a nominee in the children’s outreach cateogy (ooh, it got beat out by The Big Cube, by the evangecube peeps — where’s the justice?!).

more (?) — our One Life Revolution DVD resource, part of our YS partnership with World Vision to mobilize north american teenagers to make a difference in the lives of zambian AIDS orphans, was a nominee in the “missions/global” category.

seminar title for convention
Tuesday April 26th 2005, 7:22 pm
Filed under: youth specialties

i’ve done seminars on junior high ministry (usually two or three) at, i think, 35 different national youth workers conventions. One time, i did a seminar on a broader topic. it went OK. i absolutely love talking about young teen ministry, and will continue to do so.

but this fall i wanted to do something broader again. so i planned on doing a seminar that’s basically a rant about what ticks me off about the american church that i love so much. i had it called “what ticks me off about the american church”. but the thought around here was that the title was too abrasive. fair enough. these alternative titles were suggested:
- “Rethinking Church”
- “How the church needs to change in the 21st century”

and i countered with:
- “Getting up to speed: Changes the church needs for the 21st Century”

but i’m still not happy with it. what do you think? any ideas?

seaworld, here i come
Tuesday April 26th 2005, 11:25 am
Filed under: personal

i’m off to chaperone for my son max’s 1st grade field trip to seaworld today. i hope my little group doesn’t want to sit in the “splash zone” during the shamu show. ah, living in san diego. i’m sorry for all you parents who have to chaperone your kids field trips to places like this.


i got shat on by a pickin’ seagull. the kids we playing with starfish in a tidepool, and i was having a chat with the teacher. a gull flew over and “striped” me up the front, across the top of my head, and down my back. there’s just no way to gracefully recover from that.

i know, someone reading this will think it serves me right for my arrogance about living in san diego. but i think i can honestly say that a day with seagull crap on your head in san diego is still better than a day without in, say, minneapolis. (c’mon, tony and doug, bring it on — “but some report said we’re in the most liveable city in the US”. yeah, for penguins.)

books i’ve read in the last couple months
Tuesday April 26th 2005, 10:52 am
Filed under: books

one of the things i’m hoping to do with this blog is document (for myself) books i read and what they’re leading me to think about. i’m a “fits-and-starts” reader. some months i’ll read 5 or 6 books; and some months i won’t get through 1. it seems tied to the amount i’m traveling in a month, as planes are consistently my best place for reading. i’m not much of a “before bed” reader, or a sit on the back porch with a cigar and a book reader (i do that, but without the book!). so, planes, the occaisional hotel room, it is.

(by Marjane Satrapi). a wonderful illustrated book of a girl growing up in Iran amidst the revolution. as insightful into the thoughts and feelings of a pre-teen girl who wants to be her own person (much like my daughter liesl) as it is an interesting history.
(by Anne Fadiman). one of the best books of non-fiction i’ve read in a long time. tells the story of culture clash between displaced hmongs living in the central valley of california and the culture that surrounds them (specifically, the medical community).
(by Elaine Pagels). i’ve tried to read this book on three occasions. can’t get into it. found it boring. didn’t finish it.
(by Chap Clark). a truly excellent book for anyone who cares about teenagers. i like to think i know a good bit about teenagers; but i learned a wad of new stuff about what’s really going on in the lives of kids today. this book gave me wording for much of what we’ve all been observing in adolescents over the last few years. every youth worker must read this book.
(by Douglas Coupland). i love coupland’s stories.
This I Believe!: tom’s 60 TIBs (by Tom Peters). ooh. perfect “bathroom break at work” reading. any page, gives me something to think about. download free from the link.
(by Malcolm Gladwell). wow. a brilliant read for any leader. about intuition and first-impressions, when to trust them, and when not to. great research, fun stories, cool insights.
(by Kenda Creasy Dean). halfway through it right now. some big words for me, which means i have to choose to keep reading on some pages. but loaded with (truly) brilliant thoughts, and, finally, suggesting a new (better!) way to think about youth ministry. another must read for all youth workers. i’ll by blogging more on this book in the days to come.

Tuesday April 26th 2005, 10:25 am
Filed under: faith

i don’t know if i’d ever heard this description of passion before, from Jurgen Moltmann (Kenda Dean references it in Practicing Passion):

passion is loving something enough to suffer for it

i think i could go sit in a cave (or, more likely, a hotel room) and ruminate on that for a year. it sure had my head buzzing friday when i read it on a plane. and i talked about it all weekend (likely, the people i spoke with thought i was a simple caveman who’d never heard the word passion before, as this was, of course, its obvious definition).

i’m kinda big on passion. my wife gets really tired of me “doing talks” on passion at camps and retreats and such. i preached on it at my church last year. i’m not sure if i’m naturally pre-disposed and pre-wired to be into passion (likely); or, if i’ve experienced stuff in my life (whatever that would be) that would drive me to embracing passion (likely); or, that it’s some combination of those and other factors (likely).

when i realize i’m passionate about something (like, let’s say: an idea for a book we could publish at YS, or an event idea, or a book i can’t wait to finish reading, or a family vacation), i experience a fullness of life that pulls me up above normal living for a bit. and those blips above the surface seem to be — as i look backward — the markers of my spiritual journey. even if the moment of passion (or day of, or week of passion) doesn’t seem to be anything remarkably church-y or jesus-y, later, i can see that it’s become part of the unfolding of my spiritual journey.

those markers (i’m liking the word ebeneezer these days) are holy points, mercy points, grace points. they’re the “thin places” (i can’t remember where that phrase comes from) where heaven and my existence are a breath apart; where God’s story and my story are scratching each others’ backs and rubbing each others’ shoulders.

i guess what i’m thinking is this: every moment of passion in my life is a holy moment. is that true? i suppose it’s more accurate to say: every moment of passion in my life is pregnant with the possibility of holiness.

hmm. still more to think about.

i’m caving in…
Monday April 25th 2005, 7:47 pm
Filed under: blogs

so. people have been bugging me about blogging for a year or more. and i’ve wanted to. i’ve almost started many times. here’s been my two primary concerns: i don’t want a cheesy blog that’s just a marketing front for Youth Specialties. i keep seeing organizational leaders are starting blogs simply for this reasons (of course, there are great exceptions). i could easily write laundered, sanitized, and even occaisionally fiesty-but-well-aimed thoughts in a organizationally-promoting way. not interested (as much as i love promoting YS).

But the rub has been this (and my 2nd reason for a year of hesitancy): if i blog about what i’m really thinking, i stand to alienate a reasonable portion of the YS crowd! i don’t really want to do that either.

so, i sat and stewed about it for a year.

about a month ago, i decided, “crap, i have to do this.” then, this past weekend, i was reading (WAY overdue reading, i might add) Kenda Dean’s Practicing Passion (the link goes to Jonny Baker’s review of the book, because it’s such a great summary) on a plane, and kept thinking, “ooh, i wish i could blog about that!”

i want to do this as a sort of spiritual discipline. i know this will help me work things out — whether they be personal issues, faith issues, church issues, youth ministry issues, whatever. if you choose to read, so be it.

here we go!