Happy Memorial Day.

Don't forget...

Youth Specialties

It seems that has been chosen as the featured blog in this week's YS Update. Thanks Youth Specialites. If you found your way here from the YS Update....welcome!

Since we are on the subject of Youth Specialties let me just say if you are a youth worker and have not been to the National Youth Workers Convention, make this year the year you go! I will be at the San Diego convention in October and can't wait! There is something so great about being with thousands of other people that share your passion. The worship is incredible, the teaching is inspiring, and the refreshment is off the charts!

Check out this year's promo video.


In preparing my message for Sunday morning I came across a great story worth sharing. My message is on contentment and I'm using 1 Timothy 6:6-10 as my text. Verses 6-8 really capture the heart of it. It says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

This story entitled The Rich Family In Church by Eddie Ogan, illustrates so well how when we are content with what God has provided we experience the truest form of riches.

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12 and my older sister Darlene was 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.

When we got home we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1. We made $20 on pot holders.

That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep.

We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering. We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20 bill. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor.

We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night. We had two knifes that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor. That Easter day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor.

I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed, I didn't even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed.

All that week we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money.

What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go to church on Sunday but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day we didn't talk on the way. Mom started to sing but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?" We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope.

She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church." Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100." We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so? From that day on I've never been poor again.

I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!

The Worship Industry

I have written much about worship on this blog. It is my belief that we are to live our very lives as lives of worship. Romans 12:2 tells us we are offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God as this is our spiritual act of worship. It is all too easy to make it more than that. It is easy to become consumers of worship as opposed to participants; participants that engage God in honest and creative worship.

Brian McLaren speaks to the worship industry.

Relationship vs. Reading

Tony Myles has asked a great question on his blog which got the wheels in my head turning. A question that I so appreciate and one that I think all followers of Christ should consider. The question .... Why do you read the Bible?

We are often taught that in order to be a good Christian we must have a "quiet time" or a "devotional time" each day. For many years I beat myself up because I didn't spend time reading the Bible every day. I would try. Often I would fail. Because of my failure I would fall into guilt. I thought I was not meeting God's standard for how I should live my life. I felt I was not measuring up. Does God really measure our spirituality by how much time we spend reading the Bible?

Don't get me wrong. I believe it is crucial for all followers of Christ to spend time reading, studying, and knowing God's Word. He tells us to hide it in our heart. That cannot be done if we are not regularly reading it. We must remember though, that more important than trying to fit in a reading time, is living God's Word, and experiencing the full extent of our relationship with Him.

Living God's Word and enjoying His constant presence in our lives means seeking after Him and enjoying a continual love relationship with Him. For me that sometimes means reading and studying large portions of His Word, other times it means reading one verse from the Bible and stopping there to allow it's truth to fully permeate my thinking and life. On other occasions it means sitting quietly before Him to pray and simply listen to Him. Sometimes it means listening to a beautiful worship song filled with the truths of God's Word and worshiping Him through it, or listening to the Word being read on my iPod as I drive. There are times in which it involves sitting out amidst God's beautiful creation and just taking it all in and being thankful for all He has done and continues to do. For me it takes on many forms. It is far more than trying to carve out a few minutes for God each morning.

I never want to reduce my relationship with Jesus down to a reading plan, or a check list. I want to be daily following after Him, enjoying a vibrant, joy filled relationship through out my day. If it is anything other than that it becomes a duty which is often accompanied by guilt. It is not God's desire that we live a life of duty or performance. That kind of living will only lead to an overwhelming sense of failure. We live in and enjoy His presence because of who He is and what He has done.

May it be our desire to be consumed with God's presence throughout the whole of our day, not merely a segment. May we walk with Him and show Him at all times.

What do you do to experience God's presence in your life and to grow in your relationship with Him?

American Accent

Just took one of those silly internet quizzes to find out what kind of American accent I speak with. It pegged me dead on. I love that my accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Dude!!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland
North Central
The South
The Inland North
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

How's your accent? Do the quiz and let me know.

Thinking Blogger

I was honored this morning to see that I was tagged here by Doug Jones to receive the "Thinking Blogger Award."

Doug has been doing youth ministry for about as long as I have so we have a cool connection in that way. He is now the Director of Spiritual Formation with Sonlife Ministries, and resides just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Thanks Doug!

I am now supposed to tag fiver others with the award. Here are my five, in no particular order.

1. Mike DeVries - Mike is one that is genuinely seeking to walk in the way of Jesus and is a part of a cool church community called Sa'kred that is trying to do the same. Mike also shares my love for San Clemente. We got to meet up down there this summer man.

2. Matt Singley - Matt is a blogger local to me and quickly becoming a good friend. He is the Minister of Operations at Sunset Presbyterian Church and shares my passion for seeing the Church come together as one to see the Kingdom of God spread. We got to do coffee again sometime soon dude.

3. Tim Schmoyer - Tim is a true pastor to students. Tim publishes a blog that is committed to seeing the work of youth ministry done in an excellent manner and has done a great job of drawing together a large community of like minded youth pastors. His blog is also full of great resources for those that work with students.

4. Adam Mclane - Adam is the creator of YMX and has done an awesome job of building the great resource that YMX is. Adam publishes a great blog that informs, entertains, and challenges.

5. Zak Boyle - Zak is a high school student of mine and thinks deeper than most people I know. He is one that has experienced a lot of the ugliness of life at a very young age and is learning to find God in all of it. Keep pursuing Jesus brother.

Jesus Vs. Christians

This video produced by Orchard Valley Community Church in Aurora, IL. illustrates well the great gap between people's perception of Jesus and their perception of Christians.

May we as Christ's Church be living reflections of the true Jesus of the Bible.

High School Beach Retreat

This last weekend we had our annual High School Beach Retreat at Wi-ne-ma. It was a great weekend of living in community and together seeking the heart of God.

The theme of the weekend was 24. We played off the TV show 24 quite a bit, but our main focus was on how we only have 24 hours a day so make them count. My friend Marshall Snider, director of Bridgetown Ministries, spoke and really helped us focus on the things that really matter.

We looked at scriptures like Ephesians 5:15 calling us to "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise," and Micah 6:8 that shows us what the Lord requires of us... "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

God did great things in our hearts and we had a blast in the process. Check out the video of our time. It's only 3 minutes and 23 seconds long.

RSS Feed

You ever get tired of returning to blogs everyday only to find there are no updates? Your troubles are about to come to an end!

Did you know that instead of going out to the blogs that you can have them come directly to you? In doing so you save a whole bunch of valuable time. I check in with 43 different blogs a day. Most of them don't update everyday and yet I know when they do. How? With an RSS Reader. There are many of them out there. I happen to use Google Reader. What an RSS Reader essentially does is bring the blog updates directly to you instead of you going to them, thus saving you a bunch of time.

Check out this video from The Common Craft Show.

There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don't. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don't know where to start.

Now all you need to do is set up your reader and begin subscribing. Once you have it set up come back here and click on the RSS Feed button in this post, follow the prompts and make your first subscription.

Meet Up

One of my favorite things about blogging is all the great people I meet. I have met, and am friends with, people all over the country as well as the world. The internet has really served to make this world an even smaller place. I have really enjoyed sharing ideas and interacting with people that share my passions for God, life and ministry.

This last week I had the opportunity to actually meet up with "the person behind the blog." Both Matt Singley and I had been reading each others blogs for a couple of months. When we realized we both lived in the Portland area we thought we ought to get together for coffee; so that's what we did!

We met up at Starbucks and had a great conversation about life, church and ministry. Matt is the Minister of Operations at Sunset Presbyterian Church. He shares my passion for living a life on mission and seeing the Church come together to live that mission out.

Check out Matt's blog here. He's got a lot of great things to say!

May we as God's Church continue to look for ways and opportunities to come together to fulfill the mission He has give us.

Change In The Church

Change is not always easy. It is easier for some than others. I for one enjoy and embrace it. I have never been one to get stuck in a rut. I enjoy discovering new ways of doing things, and new ways to be more efficient and effective. This is particularity true in my ministry.

I have been ministering to students for nearly 22 years. I have seen much change, both in youth ministry as well as overall church ministry. Change is necessary. Change is good. Change is difficult. Sometimes it is a battle. Twenty years ago the church was at a place of transition. We were discovering that worship services consisting of hymns, organs, and choirs, were not connecting with younger generations. In many churches it was a real struggle and battle as guitars and drums were brought in, and organs and choir robes were ushered out. It was a necessary change and it was a good change, yet it was difficult for many. The church is now facing a new time of transition.

Today's emerging generations are not connecting well with our modern contemporary format. We are at a place where change is once again necessary. Today's emerging generation have grown up in a different world than those that came before them. They have different values, different learning styles, and different ways of relating to one another. They are much more interested in things like community, and interaction with both worship and teaching. They are less interested in lecture and more interested in dialog. They are less interested in dressing to impress and more interested in just being themselves. They are less interested in being a passive participant in a worship service and more interested in being actively engaged and involved. The question the church is now facing is what do we do to effectively connect with and minister to this new generation. Change needs to happen. These are the very issues we at our church are currently wrestling with.

It is my hope and my prayer that it not be similar to the battle that previous generations faced. May it not be a power struggle, but rather a move made in love. Today there is a proliferation of church plants. Many have found it easier to start fresh than attempt to try and turn the ship around. There is a place for that. Others are looking at ways to effectively reach emerging generations within their current context. That is where we, The Grace Place, are at.

May it not be a battle. May we as a church grow in love and understanding, and learn to embrace all generations and the changes needed to effectively minister to each of them. Conversely may today's younger generation be able to change and freely adapt when my two year old's generation comes of age.

Community Christian Church as produced two more of their Mac parody videos which illustrate some of these issues.