house full of 8 year-old boys
Saturday November 26th 2005, 11:53 am
Filed under: personal, family

max’s birthday is this week, and he had his first sleep-over last night. i was, as they say, the grand poobah of 8 year-old boy partydom. clearly, i am not a children’s ministry guy.

an edited script of me in the last 12 hours would be:
“welcome, liam, good to meet you”
“guys, let’s take turns on the xbox”
“cole, you have to give your controller to garrett; you’ve had it too long”
“hey, try not to scream too loud, OK?”
“OK, guys, we have 8 pizza toppings, since max is turning 8; come make your own”
“tommy, are you sure you want that much cheese?”
“pizza’s ready!”
“come sit down in here; we’re going to play a game where you can win dollar bills!”
“first person to bring me a blade of grass gets a dollar!” [of course, this resulted in handfulls of grass thrown in my face seconds later]
“let’s go have cake!”
“wow, another target gift card, max!”
“yes, cole, you can go in the hot tub in your underwear”
“guys, no cannonballs into the hot tub, OK?”
“guys, no running on the hot tub stairs, or you’ll slip and fall”
“wow, cole, you’ve gone down the waterslide 25 times? 28?”
“HEY! stop running!”
“liesl, if you leave them alone, they won’t bother you”
“tommy, can you stop hitting people?”
“let’s all sit by the fire pit and i’ll tell you what we’re doing next”
“kyle, don’t stand that close to the fire”
“cole, your towel is going to catch on fire if you stand there”
“ok, get your jammies on”
“cole, you didn’t bring anything to sleep in? yeah, you can sleep in those underwear. you don’t want a shirt on while we’re still playing?”
“we have 8 kinds of snacks for you to make your own snack mix”
“cole, that’s a lot of marshmallows”
“garrett, i think that’s enough pretzels”
“ok, we’re starting the movie”
“yeah, that’s funny dancing, cole”
“guys, i want everyone to go to the bathroom, then get in your sleeping bag”
“ok, guys, time to start quieting down”
“TJ, can you stop farting? no one will be able to quiet down if you don’t”
“kyle, turn your flashlight off please”
“cole, please stop rolling around on top of the other guys”
“ok, guys, really, you have to quiet down”
“wow, it’s 6:10am; can you guys who are awake try to stay quiet?”
“ok, it’s 6:15am; i guess everyone’s up now”
“ok, make sure you take turns with the xbox controller — remember how we did this yesterday?”
“the donuts are here!”
“ok, i’m setting up the pinata in the backyard”
“cole, careful with that stick! you’re going to take someone’s head off!”

come to think of it — this isn’t all that different than junior high ministry. it’s kind of like junior high ministry on speed; and with a bit more positional authority.

one more hour.

a perfect thanksgiving
Friday November 25th 2005, 2:43 am
Filed under: personal, family

our house was full today:
- my wonderful wife and kids
- my parents from detroit
- my cousin who lives in san diego, and his fiance
- my cousin’s three roomates (who together run a parachute jump business)
- jen and jay howver, from ys
- the teenage daughter of our friends who are out of town

we ate like kings, played extreme bocce ball (the hill and the trampoline are fair game), sat in the hot tub and around the fire pit, and played some wicked halo 2 battles.

what a blessing to have a full house of friends and family on a day like this. i don’t take it for granted.

oh, and the yams and stuffing were my favorites.

five-line self-portrait
Wednesday November 23rd 2005, 5:22 pm
Filed under: thinking...

a great exercise, suggested in daniel pink’s book, , in his portfolio of suggestions to increase your aptitude in the area of “symphony” (being able to orchestrate divergent things into a cohesive whole):

for those of you with more curiosity than patience [when it comes to learning to draw], consider playing around with a five-line self-portrait — that is, drawing your self-portrait using only five lines. it’s a great big-picture exercise and plenty of fun.

there used to be a cool website ( that walked you through the process and showed a bunch of examples; but it seems to have gone dormant.

i could see this being a fun exercise to use in youth ministry, to get kids thinking about themselves. it would be a good activity when talking about self-image, or identity, or other subjects.

packing up, going home
Monday November 21st 2005, 4:15 pm
Filed under: youth specialties

the last general session of the convention ended minutes ago. i’m spent. but i have an overwhelming sense of gratefullness. right now, as i type, thousands of youth workers are getting into cars and vans and planes to head home. i know they’re spent also — but i am confident (because SO many have told me) that they are leaving encouraged and reconnected to the god who calls us into this wild ride called youth ministry. i also know that many go home to churches and ministry settings where they get beat up, where they will be second-guessed at every step, and where people don’t give a rip if they’re encouraged and reconnected to the god who calls them into youth ministry. my heart breaks for these people; and i pray that they will listen to the quiet voice of god telling them how proud he is of them, how important they are to the kingdom, and how perfectly loveable they are to him.

our amazing ys team have a full afternoon of tear-down, and will have a celebration dinner tonite, before heading our seperate ways for a — hopefully — restful thanksgiving weekend. we’ve closed our office on wednesday (in addition to thursday and friday) to give everyone a bit of space and recoup time. i look forward to hugging my kids tomorrow, and my parents (who are in san diego from detroit, taking care of our kids). and i look forward to sitting around our dining room table on thursday with my family, my parents, a couple west-coast cousins, and a couple ys staff with no family in the area — laughing and eating and resting and being thankful.

sunday convention in marko-land
Monday November 21st 2005, 11:56 am
Filed under: youth specialties

really good day yesterday, for the most part. still a bit rollercoastery at times.

the general sessions have gone really well this year. we haven’t had a dog speaker in the bunch (woof). and the singing-worship (as i’ve said a few times already) is just stunning — breathtaking. after louie giglio talked last night, chris tomlin came back on stage by himself (no band) and led a couple mellow songs; and the beauty of those thousands of voices singing was overpowering. at the end, chris just backed away and left the stage while people finished the song. no one had come up to the edge of the stage in rock-concert mode; a few people were standing throughout; but, in general, there was a stunned sense of awe that came over the whole arena. i stepped on stage to close the session, and it just felt wrong to speak. it felt like i would be violating sacred space to interject my own words about the session being over and when to come back for the third day concert tonite, blah, blah. so i just stood there, and the room was completely silent (this wasn’t a ‘choice’ on my part, as much as a non-choice — i really wasn’t sure what to do!). i think it will become one of the best memories of the convention for me.

i also had a great time with a packed room (aren’t they all packed rooms here?) for my middle school small groups seminar yesterday. great group of very engaged people — it’s always a life-giving thing for me to be in a room full of people who are called to ministry with young teens. although, the guy sitting right in front of me (in the front row) waving a toilet plunger at my through the whole seminar freaked me out a little bit!

i had a great meeting last evening. i’ve blogged here before about the ‘accountability’ group i am in called Young Notorious Sinners. there are 8 of us, all over north america; and we meet once a year for four days. we’ve done this for three years, and hope to be meeting like this for the rest of our lives. 7 of the 8 happened to be at the convention (well, 2 made the trek because 5 were going to be there). actually, the 8th was here also, but had to leave before we met. we had four hours together last night, getting caught up on each others’ lives. the commitment to one another in this group is a gift from god.

was hoping to get to bed by midnight, but got into a series of important conversations, and didn’t get to bed until 1:45am. i’m speaking in the closing general session in an hour, and don’t really feel up to it right now. but i’m completely confident god will show up.

ye olde accountability group
Sunday November 20th 2005, 12:23 am
Filed under: personal

about 11 or 12 years ago, i started meeting weekly with a group of five guys for accountability. we met on my front porch, every single week, for four years. two guys moved at one point or another, and two more added — so we had a total of seven guys at one point or another.

well, five of us just happen to be at the nashville convention. some of them hadn’t seen each other in 7 or 8 years. i hadn’t seen some of them in that or close to that. we had a great 2 1/2 hour catch up today, talking about what has happened in our lives in the past 10 years, and how god has walked with us. what’s so cool is that all five of us are still walking with god and serious about our faith. one, a former caltech phd candidate, is now a high school science teacher in lafayette, indiana. another, a former JPL rocket scientist, is also a high school science teacher, but in rural illinois. a third is a youth pastor in irvine, california. the fourth just moved from portland, oregon, to tulsa, oklahoma to pursue love and a new job. and then there me, in san diego.

what a kick to be together after all these years. none of us had kids then; three of us have two of them now. all of us were employed or volunteers in junior high ministry then; all of us still work with teenagers in one capacity or another. what a gift.

today was a freakin’ rollercoaster ride: amazing times of worship with crowder (and a beautiful time of prayer with the band before they rolled out to drive all night for waco); great listening to doug pagitt on the main stage — it was just a blast for me to have a good friend giving a general session talk; and david nasser did a great job tonite also; we also had an attendee who found out at the end of the first session that her husband (not here with her) had suddenly, and unexpectedly, died today; and i got some personal news (sorry, can’t blog about it) that was pretty tough for me emotionally, and has created a small pocket of fear or unknown or concern; sharing the stage with the stunning prinjcess zulu from zambia was amazing — she is one of the most amazing people i know.

so hangin’ with ye olde homies was great, and much else was great. but i’m tired.

no time
Saturday November 19th 2005, 11:12 am
Filed under: youth specialties

sorry i haven’t posted. really just no time.

so far the convention has been great. i had been concerned about what the opening general session would feel like with that many people in it; but it was electric. and the fact that we’re in an arena (instead of a giant convention center hall facing the same way), means that we can actually see each other. and with so many people sitting at different elevations, the sound of the singing is amazing. last night, during the crowder set, well, i just don’t have words for how gorgeous it was. i told crowder it was the best i’d ever heard them: but i think, in reality, it was the best youth worker worshipping group ever. mmmmm. i could go for another slice o’ that.

my second great concern was the move to the first seminar slot. 7500 people was absolute max, and we’d added 5 off-site (non convention center) seminar rooms. i was concerned that the shortness of space, and — for some — the walk to their seminar, would decrease their excitement. but my concerns seem to have been exaggerated. yes, some of the seminars had to ‘close’ because they were totally full; but no one seemed to get too bent about it, and we were ready with staff standing there to help redirect people.

favorite moment of friday: singing crowder’s new ‘you are my joy’ with 7500 youth workers at the top of my lungs.

let the convention blogging begin
Thursday November 17th 2005, 12:27 pm
Filed under: youth specialties, blogs

here’s a list of 26 bloggers (plus me) who have promised to blog regularly from the nashville ys convention.

a guiding verse for ys
Wednesday November 16th 2005, 8:18 pm
Filed under: youth specialties, personal

on tuesday, while i was praying and reading some psalms, i asked god to give me a verse that would be visiony for ys. this kind of ‘give me a verse’ prayer isn’t normal for me, really. but a few minutes later i was flipping through ecclesiastes, and this verse jumped out at me:

Ecclesiastes 8:1

Who is like the wise man?
Who knows the explanation of things?
Wisdom brightens a man’s face
And changes its hard appearance. (NIV)

Who is like the wise man and who knows the interpretation of a matter?
A man’s wisdom illumines him and causes his stern face to beam. (NASB)

There’s nothing better than being wise,
Knowing how to interpret the meaning of life.
Wisdom puts light in the eyes,
And gives gentleness to words and manners. (The Message)

this is who i want ys to be. i want us to be wise; i want us to tell the truth about the love and grace of god, about god’s passion for youth workers; i want us to ‘know how to interpret the meaning of life’ — specifically in the arenas of teenagers, working in churches, and engaging youth culture. and i long for that wisdom to continue to bring light to the eyes of youth workers around the world. i long for ys to help bring a gentleness to youth workers and youth ministry (not a word normally associated with either ys or youth ministry!). bright faces and soft appearances — what a beautiful result of wisdom; and how opposite of what we often see in the church, especially in this age of line-drawing and arguments and accusations and orthodoxy-police. yes: wisdom that results in gentleness. that’s what i long for — in me, and in ys.

priorities for the convention
Wednesday November 16th 2005, 6:49 pm
Filed under: youth specialties, personal

i just saw steve argue’s fantastic and inspiring list of ‘promises’ for the youth workers convention this week in nashville. it’s really worth reading, and i would love to encourage all bloggers (and all attendees reading this, for that matter) to post your own list. this is such a helpful exercise for clarifying goals before getting caught up in the swirl of energy and schedule and mob-mentality.

don’t allow not scoring 100% on the list you create to make you feel like a failure — that would miss the point. this is just a helpful and prayerful guide for remembering why we’re attending.

here’s my list:

i promise to get to bed no later than 2am every night. no exceptions. and i promise to get to bed by midnight at least two nights.

i promise to stop and notice things: youth workers in conversation, youth workers thinking, people around the hotel and convention center and arena, people in the restaurants.

i promise to engage in meaningful listening conversation with anyone who stops me, as long as time possibly permits.

i promise to hug my wife multiple times every day.

i promise to give lots of hugs to other ys staff, those who are living on the edge of insanity and pouring themselves out for youth workers.

i promise to give compliments and encouragement to tic and karla, and to other ys staff.

i promise to call people by name.

i promise to remember to thank god for this amazing spectical every day.

i promise to soak in the friendship of so many wonderful people i can’t wait to see: doug, tony, mark d, bobby, tad, george, paul, jerod, matt, lilly, holly, rolly, sandy, marv, dave, dan, heather, jeanne, kara, doug, ginny, dave, david, jeremy, mike, mike, and so, so many others.

i promise to be curious. when someone says or does something that bugs me or strikes me wrong, or even hurts me, i will look for their positive intention. this is hard enough when i am rested.

i promise to call my kids on a regular basis.

i promise to deflect any attention i receive and re-direct that to god.

i promise to remember that i’m a dork, that many people could do my job, and that god’s reasons for putting me in this role are beyond my grasp, yet to move forward with confidence in my calling.

i promise to tip well.

i promise to listen to god during worship and the general session speakers — not to listen to ‘how they’re doing’.

i promise to be thankful for the ys staff who are back at the office holding things together.

i promise to bask in the movement of the holy spirit, generously sweeping through this event, the thousands of lives present, and (as steve said in his post) the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of teenagers represented by these amazing youth workers.

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