Zimbabwe

March 3, 2009

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one of the things i’m often frustrated with is our knowledge, as people who live in the US, of what’s going in the rest of the world.  some of it i blame on the media, who does a lousy job at covering international news, but the majority of it i probably have to blame us, who are too lazy to do any research or pursue any sort of larger world view (myself included). 

so a couple weeks ago, when my friend, Adam Speas, sent me an email that had “crazy idea” in the subject line, i didn’t know what was coming.  he’s living in South Africa right now and it just happens that he has several refugees from Zimbabwe living with him.  apparently, unbeknownst to many of us in the West, Zimbabwe is in the midst of a gigantic humanitarian crisis.  now, i know where Zimbabwe is & even what shape it is & what their flag looks like (because of my weird obsession with geography) but i was fairly oblivious to this situation.  just one staggering fact among many is that 1/2 of their population lacks the food they need to get through each day. Read the rest of this entry »

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message prep meets web 2.0

January 27, 2009

800px-web_2_0_map_svgsometimes i wonder if technology is more of a benefit or a detriment to my lifestyle and ministry.  it’s a cause of a lot of procrastination.  it’s a seemingly endless distraction for tangential pursuits.  as i’ve shared often publicly, it’s also been a significant part of the problem in my struggles with porn.  

but despite all of this, i haven’t given up on technology.  it seems to me that there’s too much potential, too much good if channeled properly.  in the last few weeks i’ve had some cool opportunities to use web 2.0 to my advantage… Read the rest of this entry »


curriculum redesign

January 8, 2009

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we’ve just started a series on stewardship titled as seen above.  i’ve never spent a whole month on stewardship before, but i’m excited about how it’s coming together.  whenever i create a lesson for our small groups, i always try to incorporate a leader devotional at the start that speaks straight to the leader, challenging them to start thinking/pondering/ruminating on whatever topic we’re about to tackle.  i thought you might enjoy the one that goes with this month’s lesson and have included it after the jump, as well as a PDF of next Wednesday’s lesson, which incorporates a brand new curriculum design i just finished and am pretty amped about… Read the rest of this entry »


Current Series: Christmas Conundrums

December 18, 2008

my friend, Andy Jack (who has since shut down his blog), gave me an idea in November for a December series.  so toward the end of last month i asked students for any questions they had about Christmas…no topic off limits.  from there we (my interns & i) sorted the questions into  4 general categories & have used them for the basis of our lessons this month.  week one i did a lesson i called “the myth of the nativity,” all about the things that we believe to be true about the Christmas story that aren’t.  week two was “the real meaning of Christmas?” talking about how the holiday has evolved over the years and where the traditions we use to celebrate it have come from.  week three, Chrissy is leading a lesson on Mary.  and on week four i’ll be doing a lesson on the wise men (which is appropriately falling after Christmas).  

it’s been a lot of fun researching each lesson and learning a lot about Christmas along the way.  i had no idea how much i didn’t know.  which seems like a constant lesson i’m learning these days…i have no idea how much i don’t know.  it’s somewhere in the category of a lot.  or more.  but after being out of formal education for going on 5 years, i’m really enjoying researching, studying, and pursuing a variety of topics, from the nativity story to world geography to adolescent development.


who (am i)?

September 8, 2008

Identity. In my mind it is THE topic of middle school. And for probably a lot more of life than any of would like to acknowledge, but especially middle school. So, being at a new place and wanting the youth group to grow together, i thought that a series on identity would be a great start. I’m aiming it toward our fall retreat in mid-october, at which we’ll be launching the rest of the year…a new name (and logo), midweek structure, sunday structure, etc. What better time to talk about identity when you’re sorting it out, right?

The question then became what to cover in six weeks on identity. Here’s my approach this time around…

1st Sunday…general intro’s. Why is identity important? Talked about how we all have a desire to be known for something. among other things, i showed a pic of Mark Hamill and while all the students could identify him as Luke Skywalker, none of them (!) knew what his real name was. And so we spent some time considering whether we let our true identity shine through (at school, in our neighborhoods, in our family, at church) or if we spend the whole time playing out some part we think people want to see.

2nd Sunday…What should we identify with? Well, the Sunday school answer is Jesus, and while being correct…why?! We spent the morning in Exodus, looking at the conversation between Moses & God (at the burning bush) and God’s name of I AM. God is THE definition…of life, love, and all things good. And Christ wants to live that out in & through us (a la Colossians 1:27)

3rd Sunday…If Christ wants to live out God’s goodness through us, what does that look like? I figured we’d spend the last four weeks on claims that Christ makes about himself, using the “I am” statements that show up in John that reflect week #2’s Moses/God convo. This week is Bread of Life.

4th Sunday…Light of the World

5th Sunday…the Good Shepherd

6th Sunday…Resurrection and the Life

I’ve only done the first 2 weeks, and am still working on the last four. If you have any ideas for ways that weeks 3, 4, 5, or 6 could be demonstrated, illustrated, exemplified, etc, I’m open to suggestions!


live it.

September 5, 2008

Colossians 2:6-23
“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.”

After a few temper tantrums & a bit of false starts, I really loved college. At first, in my youthful zeal, I wanted to have no part of it. “Why sit in a classroom and process when you can be out in the world practicing” was my early mantra. Several of my professors (wisely) sought to re-channel my impatience into a more vigorous embracing of my school work as something to be done “for the glory of God.” And they were right. They also pushed me into internships so that I could immediately put into practice what I was learning.

I came to love the college experience. I loved learning & theorizing & philosophizing. I loved coffee shops & late nights & questions without answers. And so when graduation came around, while I was ready to go “live it,” I was actually starting to think about grad school, something I’d mostly only swore I’d never do early on in college.

I haven’t made it to grad school yet, though I hope to some day. But as I read Colossians 2 over the past couple days I was struck by, even without formalized “schooling,” how easy it is to settle into talking about practices rather than actually practicing them.

Churches are one of the most guilty parties in this. Bring people into our doors where we can teach and instruct and equip and grow them and…and…and when do they actually live it out? Well, hopefully in their lives somewhere…in their vocation, in their neighborhoods, in their families. But is the church meant to be a place only of instruction or also a place of practice? Do we keep people at spiritual infancy by continually spoon feeding but rarely letting people handle the spoon themselves while still in the “safe” community of the church?

As I wade through re-designing the youth ministry at First Friends, these thought are ringing in the back of my head…


snakes on a desert plain

February 1, 2007
  so, i tried something a bit different at youth group last night, and it went over rather well i think. we’re studying the book of John, and we were in chapter 3, which usually ends up with people talking about “born again”, Nicodemus, and 3:16. however, i was really caught when reading it by verse 14, which makes this great OT reference. so i wrote a dramatic version of the story from Numbers and then tied it into how Christ, raised on the cross, is our present day deliverer. anyway, i thought i’d post the story online…it’s a bit longer than a xanga post might normally be, but hopefully it’ll be worth the read (by the way…this is best read dramatically, possibly even outloud. i refuse to let you bore yourself with my journal entries, so please read with feeling : )…

Cries rang out in the darkness. Cries of desperation. Cries of death. It had begun early that morning, the first ones announced by screams and trampling feet. We had been awakened from a restless sleep to the sound of terror. 

It was impossible to get a good night’s rest…sleeping on the ground in tents hastily set up, changing locations every night, wandering and wondering when we would get to the end of this seemingly everlasting journey. Every day seemed to end us just at a different place in this hopeless desert. 

Last night around the campfires a moaning had risen up. Whisperings and groaning began softly; husbands to wives, family to family, friend to friend. 

“How long must we walk through this forsaken land?!” 

“Where are our leaders taking us?” 

“Why didn’t we just stay where we were…at least there we had food to eat and the same place to sleep every night!” 

Worn out by a long day, the complaining rose and twisted together with the thousands of others. Before long it was like a whirlwind of irritation, sweeping up the whole camp in its wake. Angry eyes glanced across the fire, fists clenched, and mutters rose to shouts.

Finally, we were all too tired to even complain anymore and people shuffled off to their tents. We had not slept long it seemed when the first screams began. At first no one new what was happening. Men grabbed their weapons and rushed outside, thinking perhaps we had been surrounded and ambushed in the night. But no standing enemy was to be found. All of a sudden, just down the row, two men let out horrific screams and collapsed to the ground. What sort of invisible terror was this?! Now in tents behind them, men heard their wives and children wailing in fear and pain. What was happening?! Torches were grabbed and lit and a site unlike any we had yet seen was revealed.

It’s not that we were unfamiliar with strange events. We had seen millions of frogs descend upon our owners when we were slaves. We had seen days last longer than humanly possible. We had walked through the middle of a vast sea…on dry land. And just a short time ago, we had drunk water from a rock. A rock that before our guide struck it with his staff, was as dry as the barren desert that surrounds us.

But this was terrifying. Flitting among the flickering flames were snakes. Snakes everywhere. Snakes on a desert plain. And their poison was swift and deadly. The men that had been bitten upon leaving their tent were already dead. Men rushed back into their tents to wake their families and move them away from anything that could hide a slithering visitor.

It was such a snake that years ago, in the time that humans first roamed the earth, had misled all of humanity. With his forked tongue and sneaky words, he’d led us astray…and broken the perfect the world in which we had lived. Now we realized that we, too, had spoken evil and deceitful words. Words of hate and anger had boiled out of us even earlier that night. And now these snakes were sent to hold us responsible for such carelessness.

Several of us rushed to guide’s tent. He had seen us through every impossible situation so far, even if only to lead us in circles. Surely now even his luck had run out, but we didn’t know who else to turn to. 

“Moses…save us! They’re everywhere! We cannot kill them all…they are too many! Pray for us to God. We know we brought this on ourselves…we know the words we spoke were hateful and horrible, but save us, Moses! We will follow and listen. We will obey and live with the Promised Land in our hearts. Just save us…save our families!”

He sent us away and we went back to our families. We kept our weapons and torches in hand and desperately kept the snakes at bay, waiting for Moses. Waiting for, perhaps, a kinder judgment. 

At dawn Moses came out of his tent with a staff in hand, a bronze snake wrapped around it. With a booming voice, thoroughly unlike the one he used to have when he called us on this journey, and authority he spoke for all to hear:

“If you are bitten, look upon this staff that I raise up before you and you will not die. But now, release your irritation upon these snakes and clear these beasts from our people. Vent your anger and destroy your ill thoughts. Remove these deceivers from us.”

We did not need to be asked twice. Immediately the whole of the Israeli nation set upon hacking and burning the snakes to death. And whenever any were bit in the struggle, the looked up to Moses, standing with the sunlight streaming across his shoulders, the rod grasped firmly in his hand, and they were immediately healed. 

And so we were again delivered. Like so many times before. We forget so quickly, but tonight around the fire we share stories of faithfulness and God’s provision. We remind each other of the miraculous and even celebrate the mundane ways in which he has given us all that we need to make it through each day. And we look with hope toward a land worth this long journey.


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