surely to be a lifetime channel movie in time for next christmas
Thursday December 27th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: news

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ysmarko’s best of 2007: music
Thursday December 27th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: music

this is a series of my subjective best-of choices in various categories. nothing, i suppose, could be more subjective than music. but here’s my favorites of 2007:

remedy, by david crowder band. i sing out loud to this album. key word: loud. my review here.

surf music unplugged, by the duo-tones. surprise find. massively cool acoustic music on two guitars.

the reminder, by fiest. haunting, beautiful, unique.

flyleaf, by flyleaf. screamo, baby, with a chick singer. after downloading and getting into this band, i found out they’re christians.

the idan raichel project, by idan raichel. world music to groove by. israeli-centered, but influenced by a dozen other cultures. there are tracks on this cd i could put on “repeat” and listen to all day long. my review here.

“once” soundtrack, by glen hansard and marketa irglova. i’ve listened to this more in the past month than anything else. gorgeous. this is school for every songwriter, and magic for listeners. my review of the movie here.

elect the dead, by serj tankian. system of a down singer on his solo project. dude seriously works it out. head-banger of the year for me.

in search of a unified theory, the cobalt season. ryan once again takes his craft (lyrics, melody) to a realm of honesty and musical tastiness that should make him the darling of the alterna-folk crowd. if they could ever find him. my review here.

in rainbows, by radiohead. what can i say?


ysmarko’s best of 2007: books
Wednesday December 26th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: books

i’m going to post a little series of “best of 2007″ categories. they’re all merely my opinion, of course. hopefully, i’ll have one post per day for 6 or 7 days, if i get them done.

first, up, my favorite books of 2007

, by dave eggers. my blog review here. amazing fiction/non-fiction mash-up, telling the true story of a sudanese lost boy.

, by pete rollins. my blog review here. one of the most “can’t put it down” books on the emerging church i’ve ever read. rollins both challenged my thinking, and put words to things for me. the section showing how his spiritual community has put flesh on these ideas was praxis briliance.

, by tony jones. my teaser blog review here. it’s a bit of a cheat to include this in 2007, since it doesn’t release for 2 months still (march, 2008). but i read it in 2007. compelling, helpful, articulate, creative.

, by yvon chouinard. my blog review here. one of the two or three best business books i’ve ever read. one of those books that is good for any leader, in any organization (including churches) to read, as the author so clearly and passionately articulates the implications of being truly committed to your mission.

, by sara miles. my blog review here. best spiritual memoir of the year, or, probably, best spiritual memoir of the last few years. trust me on this one: read it.

, by will self. my blog review here. creative, challenging, sometimes confusing novel-cum-religio-political-commentary. fascinating on several levels (story, allegory, character, apocalyptic vision).


christmas lights, easy to put up, easy to take down
Wednesday December 26th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: humor

honestly, i’m lazy about the christmas lights on my house. last year, i bought a “system” that allows me to place these little clips, with the string of lights in them, onto my eaves, using a long pole. it takes me about 20 minutes. it’s just enough to not be scrooge. every year, my family complains.


at least i did more than this:


but, i have to admit, i’m tempted to modify my lights to this next year.


a christmas note to youth workers
Tuesday December 25th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, youth specialties, youth work

“Don’t be afraid.”

That’s how the Christmas story starts in Scripture. Twice, in fact. First, the angel shows up to Zechariah (telling him about his future son, John) and says, “dude, chill.”

Then the angel shows up to Mary and says the same thing (well, probably not the “dude” part).

Is it just the being-startled-by-an-angel part that precipitated that calming word? Seems to me it was so much more than that. The messenger wasn’t only saying, “Hey, I realize I’m a strange sight, and I’ve just materialized in front of you in a way that is likely startling.” The angel was, I believe, defining a path. The angel was speaking words that would need to be remembered over and over as the arrival of the Christ-child would completely up-end the world of those intimately involved in his birth.

You see it coming, right? You and I, my youth working friend, are intimately involved in the arrival of the Christ. I mean, sure, we’re not physically there. But this is our story! Since we get to be children of God, Jesus is both our brother and our savior. Jesus IS OUR STORY.

So the “don’t be afraid” should come to us too.

You might be thinking, “Afraid? What do I have to be afraid of?” Well, my contention would be that if you don’t have a sense of what you should be afraid of, you might not be fully living into the upside-down, kingdom-rearranging, first-shall-be-last, love-your-neighbor reality of what Jesus brought (and continues to bring).

The truth: you have plenty to be afraid of. But be not afraid.

This is one of those wonderful (and sometimes annoying, if we’re honest) paradoxes the Bible leaves us with:
Fear God… Who loves you unconditionally and tenderly.
God is all powerful and all loving… But seems to regularly not intervene in human suffering.
We’re in this world and are called to engage this world… But, ultimately, we’re not of this world.
The creator of the universe… Often speaks in a still, small voice.
You have plenty to be afraid of… But don’t be afraid.

Let’s be honest: working with teenagers, no matter how much you love them and are called to this ministry, is cause for fear. They’re a messy lot. The work is never done. The needs are never fully met. The demands and expectations of youth ministry pull in every direction, often in opposition with one another. If you live into this calling, sooner or later, you’ll get hurt; you’ll get ignored; you’ll be misunderstood; you’ll be blamed; you’ll be misrepresented; and you’ll screw up.

But, be not afraid.

For unto us a child is born. And “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

We love you. During this busy Christmas season in youth ministry, we pray that you catch a glimpse of the One, the Savior, God among us, Emmanuel.

Marko, for all of us at Youth Specialties


christmas eve travel fun
Monday December 24th 2007, 1:01 pm
Filed under: personal

today was the only day i could get four frequent flier seats from san diego to detroit (we would normally fly a couple days earlier). so we’re flying on christmas eve. woke up at 4am. got to the airport about 5:15. got through security, boarded, all peachy. but as soon as we took off, it was obvious something was wrong. the plane kept speeding up and slowing down, and lots of turning. eventually they told us there was a faulty sensor (we later found out it’s a $1 sensor in the landing gear, that just had some water in it), and we were going to fly at 8000 feet to los angeles (a bit different than our itended chicago layover).

upon landing in chicago, max threw up.

we’re in LA now, waiting for the part to get replaced. we’ll miss our connecting flight, and (upon checking) were just told that both of the remaining flights to detroit today are sold out. so, we’re hoping they’ll get us on somehow, or put us on another airline. otherwise we might be waking up christmas morning in an airport hotel, which is, somehow, not quite the same for my kids as waking up at grandma and grandpa’s house.


made it to chicago. united got us rebooked on a late night flight. 6 hour layover here in chicago, but at least we get to sleep at grandma and grandpa’s tonite.

final update, a few days later:

i forgot to mention that upon our arrival in chicago, we got to our gate, to find a bus (yes, a bus) blocking it. and, the bus had a dead battery. the pilot said there were 8 guys walking around it, trying to figure out what to do about it. half hour later, we got into our gate. then, we made stand-by on a slightly earlier flight out of chicago, which made us extremely happy. of course, after boarding the plane, finding out the plane was missing ‘an emergency kit’ wasn’t as happy-making. the pilot kept coming on the speaker, saying it should be here any minute. he got more and more frustrated, and started talking about how completely unprofessional this delay was (it was actually kind of funny). the kit arrived after we’d sat on the plane for 45 minutes.

the final straw was my own fault, i suppose (though i still have no idea how i did it). upon arrival in detroit, i took the shuttle to get our rental car, while jeannie and the kids waited for our checked luggage. when i pulled up to the curb at baggage claim, i somehow locked the keys in the car, with the car running. yup. engine running, keys inside, us standing on the curb with our luggage. a policeman told me to move my car, and i told him i’d locked the keys in it: he laughed at me and walked away. really. eventually, a tow truck dude came over and got the door open for us.

it was a bad day. but the next day — christmas — was perfect.


creative christmas mash-up
Monday December 24th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: humor, music


jesus junk of the month award, nativity edition, #20
Monday December 24th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: church, humor

ok, this has to stop. it’s christmas eve, for goodness sake. i have to give you (and me) a day to shake the thought of these things and think about the actual christ-child who came to us. so, one last nativity.

yes, i give you, the naked troll doll nativity. eesh. feh.



Sunday December 23rd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: humor



(ht to mcnair, via email)

1 Comment

jesus junk of the month award, nativity edition, #19
Sunday December 23rd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: church, humor

what better expresses the spirit of the incarnation than owls? i found these at this cavalcade of nativities, where the comment was: whoooo is the son of god? whooooo?