sacramento calling, muscles tensing, breathing shallow
Monday September 26th 2005, 1:30 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal

in a couple hours, i’ll get on a plane to fly to sacramento for the first of our three national youth workers conventions. these are the highlight of my year, in so many ways. they’re completely exhausting for me, and i usually get about 3 - 5 hours sleep/night for 7 days. but the real exhaustion comes from the whiplash swapping of roles i do at these babies — one minute i’m presenting a seminar, the next i’m having lunch with a key author or potential ministry partner, then i’m MCing a general session or trying to figure out how to explain one life revolution in two minutes, then i’m hosting people at a reception or giving a 5-minute “we’re glad you’re here” pitch to an affinity group of some sort.

my family is joining me on friday, and staying through monday, so that will be great.

but here’s the “muscles tensing” part. i can do seminars about middle schoolers all day long and not get stressed. and now that i’ve done the MCing thing for a few years, that doesn’t make me nervous (it did at first!). but this year, i’m actually giving a general session talk in all three cities. it’s difficult to describe the level and complexity of both self-projected and real pressures this brings. i mean, just the fact that i’ll be speaking in front of 3400 of my peers, and in a general session line-up of speakers who do this all the time and have really good things to say — that should be enough to send me cowering to the closet in my hotel room, right? but that’s truly just the beginning. last year was the first time yaconelli didn’t speak in the closing general session (since he’d died the year before). so there’s been a one-year buffer. but it still feels (at least to me and many of the ys insiders) like this spot i’m speaking in is “yac’s”. and that makes some sense that i would speak in it — but it adds a level of comparison and expectation (again, both real and self-projected). it’s pretty much unavoidable that many of my closest friends — like those on our CORE team — will be seeing how i do “in yac’s spot”.

then, there’s the general youth ministry professional audience, who, while they might not be thinking of “yac’s spot”, will (many of them) be thinking, “ok, so here’s the new guy. let’s see if he can bring it. probably can’t. how come i’m not up there?” (i’m exaggerating a bit, and bringing together several different kinds of responses into one quote there).

finally, there’s the internal (tic and i even agreed to this) sense of “test”. if i suck, i likely won’t be up there next year. to be honest, sucking isn’t likely. but “ok, but not great” is always possible!

wrap all that up into a burrito and here’s where i’m at: i don’t want to be driven by these factors. i don’t want them to influence my prep or delivery or anything. i want to speak from my heart to those willing to stay (and, i do feel like god has given me something to share — which almost makes it MORE stressful!). but i’m human and imperfect and do care more than i should that people like me and approve of me being the president of this thing.

i’d hoped to be way further along the preparation-road by now (shoot, frankly in maturity also!) — but i can hide in my hotel room tomorrow and wednesday.

the newest dangerous trend amongst teenagers
Sunday September 25th 2005, 5:37 pm
Filed under: youth ministry

just when you thought the latest fad in teenage culture couldn’t get worse…

just when youth workers are getting used to saying “oral sex” without an awkward pause that belies their own issues…

just when “pharm parties” and “rainbow parties” and “”friends with benefits” and “gay until graduation” have become commonplace in our youth ministry fundraising venacular…

along comes a new trend, a new fad, that is so terrifying, so destructive, so anti-christian and counter-to-what-anyone-would-consider-good-taste. a fad that, while surely helpful to speakers and youth ministry non-profits who need to scare a few more donors into kicking in some “save the kids” bucks, could ultimately signal the true bottom, the absolute depth of evil of youth culture. this fad seals the deal on the concept that today’s teenagers have no moral grounding, no sense of right and wrong, and no ability to move beyond belief to conviction.

you may not want to read further. it could become painful. those with medical issues or weak stomachs are encouraged to stop here and begin praying for the rest of us, who, because of our calling to love teenagers, are compelled to find a way into and through this latest beelzebubbian lure.

i can hardly type it. i did not even know about it myself until this past weekend, when i spoke to a group of so-called “leaders” — high school perverts who embraced this new vileness.

but i must make you aware. because my calling is to equip youth workers, i am compelled, though i hesitate even now…

it — the evil thing — is…

the casual use of the ukulele — four-stringed baby-guitars of death.

three teenagers, from two different churches, had ukuleles with them this weekend. and they played them non-stop. well, thankfully, they stopped during my talks. but that was about it. all weekend, i was unwillingly bathing in the strum-strummy sounds of junior don ho’s. and when i casually mentioned to one seemingly sharp and christian girl (though her response would lead me to believe otherwise) that i had certainly had my yearly fill of ukulele this weekend, she responded (to my horror): “oh, they’re really popular now — two of my friends back home play them all the time.” to make it worse, she said this with a casual smile and a false innocence that shook my very soul and caused every muscle in my body to involuntarily tense.

picture the natural progression of this trend, if you dare. these kids on this retreat are san fransisco bay-area kids — arguably, next to new york, some of the earliest in any youth culture tipping point. what happens in san fran does not stay in san fran. before we know it, innocent plains teens from otherwise pure states like kansas and south dakota will be picking up these reasonably inexpensive, but deadly, instuments of simple pleasure, and bringing their down-home hokey plunkety-plunk chords to unexpecting peers.

we youth workers must prepare. we must be ready.

i, for one, will commit the resources of youth specialties to creating awareness and resources to help youth workers in this struggle. we will start a campaign, either called “Don’t Be A Don Ho” or “Know Jesus, No Ukulele” or “The Battle for a No-Uke Generation”. we’ll develop curriculum, available for free (with any substantial donation), and lots of articles and cool graphics and other nifty “no uke” stuff.

** this just added: we’ve squeezed two additional seminars in at all three youth workers conventions this fall: one on understanding the basic of the uke phenomenon and how you can fight it; and a second on the basics of playing a ukukele, for those of you who wish to try to infiltrate this segment of youth culture and create a revolution from the inside-out.

as for me: i’ll have that heinous sound ricocheting around my brain for a few more days. pray for me, that i can escape this evil, and not be lured into it myself.

danny’s here
Saturday September 24th 2005, 2:37 pm
Filed under: personal

i emailed my friend dan kimball yesterday morning, saying i was sorry i’d forgotten to tell him i’d be in santa cruz this weekend (where he lives), and wondering if we could get together even though i wouldn’t have a car. he emailed back that he’s doing seminars at this very event i’m speaking at!

so we just had coffee, and now he’s doing his first seminar (i think it’s “hair care products for the emerging student leader” or something like that). and we get to have lunch in a bit.

i love bumping into friends in unexpected places.

i’m an idiot
Saturday September 24th 2005, 2:10 pm
Filed under: youth ministry

so, it would have slipped by with only a few of the boys noticing, but i was stupid enough to call it out…

i’m speaking to 140 high schoolers at mount hermon, for a “leadership retreat”. they are, theoretically, student leaders from about a dozen churches. and i’m talking about moses. this morning is did the excuses talk — i’m sure every youth pastor and pastor in the world has given this talk, but it seemed to apply well to this context (you know, moses’ five excuses in chapters three and four of exodus, as to why he was not the best choice as a leader). and i get to excuse #3, where moses says “what if they don’t believe me”, and god gives him these two really cool parlor tricks — the staff that changes into a snake and back, and the hand that goes leprous and back. neat stuff! and then i talked about how god gives us transformed lives instead of parlor tricks. but i was winging a bit of dialogue between a couple imaginary teenagers, and i said (idiot that i am): when one of our friends says, ‘i don’t believe you’, it’s not like we can just say, ‘then look at my snake!’

yes, i actually said that.

and if i’d moved right on, like a reasonable speaker, a few of the high school boys would have given each other knowing smiles and maybe laughed about it later. but no. i paused. for a long time (contemplating my gaffe), and then said, um, that didn’t come out right. which brought riotous laughter, and looks of concern on all the faces of the adult leaders in the room.

off to mount hermon
Friday September 23rd 2005, 10:22 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal

my son max (7) and i fly to san fran today, then drive to santa cruz, where i’m speaking at mount hermon’s senior high leadership retreat this weekend. should be a nice time with my son. but i have to watch out for that TSA employee.

we get home sunday late afternoon, then monday i head to sacramento for the first of the three national youth workers conventions. 3400 coming!

the worst christian email ever
Friday September 23rd 2005, 10:11 am
Filed under: church

a friend of mine forwarded this email to me (which is funny in and of itself, when you read it!), calling it “a perfect collection of bad theology, superstition, legalism & schmaltz.”

only read this if you have an extra 10 minutes, because it’s 10 minutes of your life you will never get back!

It will be interesting to see how many of you send this back to me….

Read only if you have time for God
Let me tell you, make sure you read all the way to the bottom. I almost deleted this email but I was blessed when I got to the end.

God, when I received this e-mail, I thought…

I don’t have time for this… And, this is really inappropriate during work.

Then, I realized that this kind of thinking is… Exactly what has caused lot of the problems in our world today.

We try to keep God in church on Sunday morning…

Maybe, Sunday night…

And, the unlikely event of a midweek service.

We do like to have Him around during sickness…

And, of course, at funerals.

However, we don’t have time, or room, for Him during work or play…

Because… That’s the part of our lives we think… We can, and should, handle on our own.

May God forgive me for ever thinking…

That… there is a time or place where…

HE is not to be FIRST in my life.

We should always have time to remember all HE has done for us.

If, You aren’t ashamed to do this…

Please follow the directions.

Jesus said, “If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father..”

Not ashamed?

Pass this on ONLY IF YOU MEAN IT!!

Yes, I do Love God.

HE is my source of existence and Savior.

He keeps me functioning each and every day Without Him, I will be nothing. But, with Christ, HE strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

This is the simplest test.

If You Love God… And, are not ashamed of all the marvelous things HE has done for you…

Send this to ten people and the person who sent it to you!

I don’t think I know 10 people who would admit they love Jesus. Do You love Him?


I knelt to pray but not for long, I had too much to do. I had to hurry and get to work For bills would soon be due. So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,

And jumped up off my knees.

My Christian duty was now done

My soul could rest at ease.

All day long I had no time

To spread a word of cheer. No time to speak of Christ to friends,

They’d laugh at me I’d fear.

No time, no time, too much to do,

That was my constant cry,

No time to give to souls in need

But at last the time, the time to die.

I went before the Lord, I came, I stood with downcast eyes. For in his hands God held a book; It was the book of life.

God looked into his book and said

“Your name I cannot find.

I once was going to write it down…

But never found the time”

Now do you have the time to pass it on?

Make sure that you scroll through to the end.

Easy vs. Hard

Why is it so hard to tell the truth but Yet so easy to tell a lie?

Why are we so sleepy in church but Right when the sermon is over we suddenly wake up?

Why is it so hard to talk about God but yet so easy to talk about nasty stuff?

Why is it so boring to look at a Christian magazine, but yet so easy to look at a nasty one?

Why is it so easy to delete a Godly ema il, but yet we forward all of the nasty ones?

Why are the churches getting smaller but yet the bars and dance clubs are getting larger?

Do you give up? Think about it . Are you going to forward this, or delete it?

Just remember-God is watching you. Prayer Wheel-Let’s see the devil stop this one!

Here’s what the wheel is all about. When you receive this, say a prayer for the person that sent it to you….

That’s all you have to do….

There is nothing attached….

This is so powerful….

Do not stop the wheel, please….

Of all the free gifts we may receive, Prayer is the very best one…

There are no costs, but wonderful rewards.. GOD BLESS!

May God keep you and bless you. If this doesn’t give you chills, nothing will…this message is very true. Hope you are all as blessed as I was from this story. I wonder how many people will delete this without reading it because of the title on it?

There once was a man named George Thomas, pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak…”I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, “What you g! ot there, son?” “Just some old birds,” came the reply.

“What are you gonna do with them?” I asked

“Take ‘em home and have fun with ‘em,” he answered. “I’m gonna tease ‘em and pull out their feathers to make ‘em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.” “But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later What will you do?”

“Oh, I got some cats,” said the little boy “They like birds. I’ll take ‘em to them.”

The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?”

“Huh?? !!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing. They ain’t even pretty!”

“How much?” the pastor asked again.

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, “$10?”

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.

The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. “Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn’t resist. Got ‘em all!”

“What are you going to do with them?” Jesus asked.

Satan replied, “Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I’m gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I’m really gonna have fun!”

“And what will you do when you get done with them?” Jesus asked. “Oh, I’ll kill ‘em,” Satan glared proudly. “How much do you want for them?” Jesus asked

“Oh, you don’t want those people. They ain’t no good. Why, you’ll take them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don’t want those people!!”

“How much?” He asked again.

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, “All your blood, tears and your life.”

Jesus said, “DONE!”

Then He paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage he opened the door and he walked from the pulpit..

Notes: Isn’t it funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell.

Isn’t it funny how someone can say “I believe in God” but still follow Satan (who, by the way, also “believes” in God).

Isn’t it funny how you can send a thousand jokes through email and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing?

Isn’t it funny how when you go to forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it to them.

Isn’t it funny how I can be more worried about what other people think of me than what God thinks of me.

I pray, for everyone who sends this to their entire address book, they will be blessed by God in a way special for them.

And send it back to the person who sent it, to let them know that indeed it was sent out to many more.

cool pic
Thursday September 22nd 2005, 1:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

we had a freakishly rare lightening storm the other night in san diego. this amazing pic is lightening striking the imperial beach pier, just south of downtown san diego.

bending time and finding connections
Wednesday September 21st 2005, 5:53 pm
Filed under: faith, church, youth specialties

when i read this article today, about how evil ys is and how much we’ve embraced eastern religious practices (no, apparently, the author doesn’t get that these are christian practices that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years), my mind went into one of those 3-dimensional space-time bending things, and popped onto this article from the onion.

i think the connection is 4-bars, baby. but, then, maybe it’s just my eastern leanings whizzing me down the slippery slope of irrationalism.

faith of my fathers
Wednesday September 21st 2005, 10:54 am
Filed under: church, books, emerging church

about a week ago, i read chris seay’s new book, . yeah, we published it, and i worked with chris quite a bit two years ago on the original concept; but i’d never read it. now that i’m not the publisher at ys, i don’t/can’t read all of the 35 - 40 books we publish each year.

let me start right off by saying i enjoyed it and recommend chris’ book (surprising, i’m sure, since we published it, that i would say that). but it’s not what i thought it was going to be; and it’s not what i remember of the original concept. the book was developed for our emergentYS line (which is going away, as most of you know, in early 06). the book was to be a bridge-building book between generations — and on that, it delivers. in the final throes of development, zondervan and us (i wasn’t involved in this decision) decided to pull the emergentYS logo off of the book, and just publish it as a regular ol’ book. this was a wise choice, as the book has very little to do with the emerging church.

it’s a warm look inside a ministry family — 3 generations-worth. and it captures their conversations about various topics word-for-word. this has great strengths and some weaknesses. it’s feels very real and unscripted, though it’s laid out like a script. the reader gets to be an eavesdropper on a mostly interesting conversation, but occasionally it feels like a family dinner where you don’t get their jokes or aren’t interested in their family stuff — it’s their family stuff.

i can totally see giving this book to my dad, or other older ministry-type peeps — almost as a gift of respect. the book spends much, much more time talking about being a pastor in the 60s, 70s and early 80s than it does about today. and the tenderness the seay boys (chris’ two brothers are part of the discussion also) have for their grandfather (called pop or papa throughout - “aw, that’s sweet”) saturates almost every page. i’m saying this as a good thing; but not knowing the guy, this borders on making the book feel like a tribute to papa, created as a family document.

i do think there’s value in younger ministers reading this book. it’s easy to be clueless about the issues pastors had to wade through thirty or forty years ago. and this light, quick read can be a friendly reminder that it’s not just an empty scriptural mandate to honor those older than us, there’s real value in it.

there are a handful of sections where the discussion gets a bit dicey, and those are fun — though the reader can end up feeling a bit voyeuristic, hoping it gets even worse, waiting for papa to knee one of “the boys” in the groin or something. or even for some really nasty name calling!

there was one thing that bugged me: it’s male-ness. now, it just so happens that the five family members in the discussion are all men; and i can’t blame their family for that, really. it just is. and i don’t see the value, given the set up, of importing a female pastor into the mix, or re-writing their family history to introduce grandma (oh, sorry: “noni”) in as an aimee semple mcpherson prop. this is a real family history. but it felt to me like the male-thing went beyond the reality of history. the section on “ministry, kids, and a wife: the balancing act” kinda wigged me out a bit. i suppose mysogenistic is way too strong a word, and i know lisa seay, chris’ wife (but that’s another story), and she is a strong capable woman — certainly no stereotypical demur pastor’s wife. there just didn’t seem to be any acknowledgement or awareness that “pastor = men” could be a cultural artifact reflecting the fact that these five pastors are all texas baptists. i dunno; i just get the sense that my wife woulda been pretty hacked if i’d written that chapter.

all this to say: nice book. not fantastic! buy now! run out this second! you MUST read this! but nice book. funny thing is i’ll likely give away more copies of it than most books i read, because i can think of so many who would really enjoy it.

the best insensitive husband
Tuesday September 20th 2005, 1:45 pm
Filed under: personal

conversation this morning:

me (paraphrase): …and that’s what i think about it

jeannie (paraphrase): blah, what i think about it, blah

me: [eyes wander, impatient stance]

jeannie: [realizes i’m “done”, stops talking] dork

me: [goofy grin] at least i realized it!

jeannie: yes, you’re the best insensitive husband; you’re a self-aware insensitive husband.

me & jeannie: [hug]

–end scene–

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