Wednesday, April 29, 2009


ok, so this morning i had on my calendar "Student Series Performance, Memorial Auditorium, 9:30am" now a little history on these types of things on my calendar, when the elementary school bands/choirs perform, i try and make them. they're during the work day, so i'm in town, and almost all of our children are either in band or choir or both. i don't have any direct ministry with them...but these are the kids that are going to be in my youth group in 2-5 years, so i might as well be there for them now. PLUS the directors are members of our church, so i'm there to support them too.

ok, so i get to work at 9am this morning, turn my computer on, see the reminder, check my email then take off to the auditorium. as i'm pulling in, i see a massive absence of parents fact there's only a hand full of cars in the parking lots, but like 8 buses... well, i convince myself that this is so because it's the first performance (there's another one at 1pm) so they must just have a small crowd attending this one. so i'm walking in the lobby doors and the greeter (i think maybe a 4th or 5th grader) kind of gives me a weird look like, "What are YOU doing here?" (otherwise known as the stink-eye). doesn't faze me, i ask if everyone's in the balcony or on main floor, she says main floor. as i approach the doors i hear just kids' hushed murmur (which we all know rides somewhere between 100 and 120 dbs) worry, at the Christmas concert they had the students there to watch, that's what it must be.

so enter and find my seat...there's no parents there at all...hmmm...interesting. then i see my 6th grade teacher Mr. Graef (i went to a school 20 miles from worthington, i live a block away from him)...hmmm...interesting, why's he here? did he bring his class over? must have, the school must have advertised to area elementary schools...or maybe he's working in worthington now? don't know...

so the MC comes out and introduces the play, gives us the "turn off cell phones or else" speech, and promotes theatre etiquette (something i'm well versed in, but i don't think 4th and 5th graders really care). then the MC introduces, "Manzi is the story of...where this thing happens, then that thing, let's welcome such and such theatre company from St. Paul..." I hear a loud tire "SCRRRREEEEEEAAAACH!!!! (((((((SMASH!!!!))))))" in my head head...wait wait wait...who's doing what? theatre company? i thought...hmmm...interesting...

turns out, such and such theatre company from St. Paul was performing this short one act play for area was listed on my school activities know, the one that has band/choir performances, football games, softball games know, the activities that STUDENTS participate in?!?!?!

ok, so it wasn't a total waste of time, it was well done, educated the children on Cesar Chavez and the birth of the National Farm Workers Association (something that's very relevant to our kids). but the simple fact that i was duped...hmmm...interesting.

so i got thinking about why i had allowed myself to be duped...if i would have put two and two together, i would have known, i would have figured out that this wasn't a normal performance, it wasn't a student performance, it was a performance for students. but nope...i just rationalized and kept walking.

now my question is, is this what we allow ourselves to fall into with our faith? now i'm an advocate for experiential faith and life. i think life is full of new and life changing experiences just waiting for us to come. but at the same time, do we allow ourselves to fall into different situations because we ignored the warning signals? how many times do we rationalize certain activities because we think we're above the situations only to fall victim to it because of our self inflicted blindness? what about in youth ministry? are there things that we can see the warning signs flashing brightly (maybe even annoyingly) but we ignore them in the name of tradition or pride? "i put this program together three years ago and it worked great before, maybe if i just keep at it it'll get better..." or maybe i'm an idiot.

back when i was in college, i had to buy a car. i had money saved up, ready to buy a nice car that was going to be my baby for a while. i found a couple cars that i liked, drove nice, both were in my price-range. it came down to two cars, so i asked a mechanic about the two...he told me to stay away from one of them...Ah, but that was the one i liked was roomier, better gas mileage, sportier looks. so i went online and did some research. i found some reviews that literally said, "the (car name) should be vastly recalled because of it's faulty motor, this has to be the biggest lemon ever made. (the car maker) should be on the lookout for a large class-action lawsuit because of this car..." hmmm...but it drives soooo nice...

so i bought the car, drove it off the lot, got insurance, drove it home...drove it for literally ONE month...all of a sudden i can't get it started. so we pull it to the mechanic and ask them to look it over. i go in a couple days later (thinking it was something small) and ask about my car. i'm met with, "you got some decisions to make...the motor's blown, you're going to have to have this one rebuilt or a new one put're looking at between 2500-4500 depending on what you decide..." WHAT?!?!?!?! i was expecting a $150 bill...not 2500?!?!?!!? and that's on the low end!!!

needless to say, i don't own that car anymore...made it two more years after the rebuild, then she died for good.

the point i'm trying to make is that sometimes we need to swallow our pride. i'm all for going against the grain, being an individual, not doing it like everyone else...but when you're Spidee-Sense is blazing at 200 dbs, maybe we should open an ear to God and start listening...cause i don't know if you know this...but Spiderman's not real, but God's voice is...are we listening?

have a great Wednesday!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A puking dog, Utter Exhaustion, and 8am this morning...

ok, so if you've been wondering why i haven't blogged in over a week it is because of the above reasons. i've been up to my knees in dog puke, mixed with early mornings and late nights for the past week. i was looking forward to not being awake before lunch this morning...i mean i was really looking forward to it. i've been drifting home from work all week, desperately looking forward to my non-committed saturday to replenish my sleep debt (which has been racking up more debt than the american economy...Zing!). but alas, my full week of getting up early and going to bed late only conditioned me, and at 8 am (three hours before i was planning on waking up) guess who was wide awake? that's right me...this was the word for word conversation that my wife and i had this morning.

i get up, get dressed, she rolls over opens her eyes and says, "why are you up?"
i respond the best way i know how, "i don't know." then i proceed to the reading room because i am up for the 8am on a saturday...stupid brain.

ok, so through all the sleep depravity i have had a couple realizations this week. first: minnesota weather is for those with personality in point, thursday, high of 86, sunny, breezy, perfect to get my afternoon sweat on. friday, high of 56, WINDY...this morning, rainy, 36 (when i woke up), cloudy all day. if you have a hard time making decisions as to what your favorite weather is, come to Minnesota at any time during the year, you never know what tomorrow's going to be like.

second realization: most organized meetings take WAY too long...i had four meetings last week, each took at least twice as long as they should have. there was one that i was in charge of (it was kind of towards the end of the week...when i was really tired) that moved along was nice, we gathered, met, discussed, and there was minimal wasted time. i know it's not that personable to cruise through a meeting...but i have the mindset (and let me make this perfectly clear...i would rather hang out with people building relationships any day of the week) of, if it's business let's talk business, if it's personal let's talk personally. i think, "let's get through this boring stuff that we don't want to waste time talking about so that we can get to a time where we can waste (or maybe better understood as spend) time and get to know each other." i will sit in the hall talking with someone for hours...but if i have to be in a meeting that lasts longer than an hour then i start going crazy.

third realization: my "job" is distracting me from my ministry. yeah, it sounds like an oxymoron i know...doesn't make sense. my job is ministry right? so saying that my job is getting in the way of my ministry is a contradiction right? well...yeah...kinda... maybe it should be better stated like this: a lot of the "work" that i have to do as a Youth Director interferes with the time that i get to spend with youth building relationships and ministering to them. for example, i have to plan for a graduate's breakfast on the 17th (i have never done anything like this and is a long distance from anything in my "interests" list), then i have to get volunteers and logistics finalized and in order for VBS three weeks after that...and not to mention our summer missions trip the third week in June. so what i'm saying is that i am spending WAY too much time in my office typing on my computer, making phone calls, organizing that some times it feels like i only do youth ministry on this what i was hired for? i mean i know these things are within my capability to organize and do. and the summer missions trip is something that i know i should be in charge of, but when my week is filled with more "planning" than "ministry" then there needs to be change in the works. it will lead to a program driven ministry, which will mean burn-out in less than two years' time.

anywho, all this to say...i need to get out more...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

9-Ball, 3, and a missing dollar...

ok, so last night was...yes it was the tax deadline...people were sending ridiculous amounts of tea to various places (the funny one was the box of tea that got sent to the white house that had to be opened with a bomb robot...kind of ironic really, forcing the government to spend more money to diffuse a box of tea that was sent as a representation of wasteful government spending...kind of wasteful if you ask me). nope last night just plain rocked! not for any of the above reason...but rather because only three kids showed up to youth group. now this isn't said in sarcastic tones. actually i loved youth group last night. first, while we waited for more people to come (which ended up not happening) we played pool...yep, pool. we were playing pool and talking about life. it was great, just shooting the breeze. three of them showed up...three of the 'regulars'. after the game(s) of pool we got down to business. started my lesson (which consisted of finding a hidden dollar) and talked about God's forgiveness. it was one of those moments where you feel that while you're talking with the youth, you're getting ministered to just as much as they are getting ministered to. we talked and talked about how God is desperately searching for us. we read through Luke 15 and discussed each story. and because of the small intimate setting, it was as if we could finally be perfectly honest with each other. it was an amazing experience being in a place of pure honesty (at least i hope it was, or those kids are amazing at lying!).

but then it got me thinking...why is it that it takes a small group (maybe 1 or 2) to get the best out of us. and i'm not just talking about youth ministry. i'm talking about life in general. it's only in the small, intimate settings that we allow our true selves to be known. now i'm not saying that we should hold no secrets, but i think we should be perfectly honest with each other in that we should never put on a false front, a poser attitude that steals any sort of authenticity from out lives. if we are always trying to live as someone we're are we supposed to figure out who we are? and more so, how are we supposed to be examples to the coming generations? we CAN'T be! you look at the current span of adolescence (12-28 years old) and you can't help but ask yourself...what's taking so dang long? does it really take 16 years to 'find yourself'? or is it more it takes 16 years of posing before realizing they've wasted the last 15 years trying to be someone they're not? and i think this comes from certain attitudes of generations past. when adolescence was first coined, it was a 6 month period for teenage girls...basically it was a phase of puberty. now it's a major span of one's life. i can't help but think that the continuing deterioration of the older generations' models and the continuing failing of parental/guardian examples and guidance forces the younger generations to try to 'find themselves' on their own or end up following another crowd (which is generally not who they really want to be, just a group that they can feel a part of).

now, this may sound like a complaint about a lot of things that we cannot control...which is remarkably my point. we cannot control how other people live, parent, or act. but we can make this change in ourselves...and how we do that is by living authentic, honest lives. grasping hold of integrity and making it a part of our lives. we cannot live as a poser forever. because as it says in 1 Corinthians, "...when perfection comes, imperfection disappears..."

have a great Thursday!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pipe-organs, ham, and the open road...

This past Easter has probably been one of my most memorable family holidays in recent history. we didn't make the long haul up to warroad (although we really wanted to), we didn't go on a long vacation, we didn't even have Easter baskets. but this Easter was very very special.

as many of you know, i'm due to be a brand new daddy in July. Corrine's a solid 25 weeks along, on the downward trek towards birth, and upon the arrival of the crib mattress the nursery will be complete. this is number one reason why it's special. this time next year, melody will be a rambunctious 9 months old, Corrine will be done breast feeding and feeling somewhat normal (read not-pregnant) again, and we will be a happy little family.

reason number two this was a special Easter, we spent it with Corrine's mom's family. BIG family, BIG meal, LOTS of food...too much's always nice to have to plan a small breakfast because you're going to eat a huge meal around 1pm and aren't planning on eating the rest of the day...

and finally reason number 3 why i loved this Easter. this is probably more important than number two, but if i didn't save something grand for the end it'd be a great let-down to readers (all 3 of you), and i don't want to let my followers down! now, onto 3... me and Corrine are members of the First United Methodist Church in Worthington. our church is not contemporary, not emerging (far from it), the simple fact that i had to debate whether or not i should wear shorts to work (i'm the youth pastor) should indicate to some level my church's culture. we have one contemporary service a month which in one congregant's words, "is more like Lawrence welk than anything..." to which i agree. BUT what makes our church special is how much we LOVE hymns. now this isn't a sarcastic statement by any means. i grew up in the Methodist church in heron lake, my mom putting the organ to the test making beautiful music. i grew up with these hymns and as such they hold a special place in my life (same with Corrine). and i am a sucker for tradition (to some extent) especially tradition in the Methodist church. but the cool thing about my church is that they are on the edge of being progressive (read, they don't shy away from new things) but still embraces their traditional roots (read, we loves our john Wesley). what is even cooler for a small town boy who grew up with classical/traditional/billy Joel musical inspirations, is that most of the Worthington schools' music instructors attend out church, which means our choir rules, the music selections are awesome, and EVERYBODY sings out. we have a large sanctuary, and we FILL that space. we fully by into Wesley's Directions for Singing. another cool part is that each Easter at the end of the service the choir director invites anybody that wants to, to come up and join the choir in singing the "Hallelujah Chorus"...think of this, 60 people all singing their hearts out to that song...awesome. i tell you this, there was a stronger worship atmosphere in that sanctuary at that time than i've felt in most contemporary services i've been to. the one complaint that i have (and after you read this you are fully welcome to call me a momma's boy) is that we don't have an organist that can play the pipes like my mom can. i was spoiled as a child growing up with my mother's organ skills...but that doesn't matter.

anywho, what i'm getting to in this post is this. over the course of my 25 year life, i've been to many different church services. i've been to everything from a Catholic Good Friday Mass to a Charismatic Pentecostal Healing service. I have regularly attended Methodist, Baptist, E Free, Non-Denominational, Congregational, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and Assemblies services. when i left to go to college i went out to experience worship that i felt would bring me closer to god. i spent years searching for the church that was the correct way to worship. and it only took me to get away from all the contemporary worship and charismatic services to finally understand what it actually means to worship as a church. only after i had experienced all of those services could i come into my current church and fully feel God the same in our traditional service as i did at the Pentecostal churches. now i understand a lot of people will disagree with me on this and think that traditional services are for people that like a feel-good message and short church service (which may be true for some). but what i've finally grasped is that it does not matter how you worship, rather it matters that you worship. God cannot be confined to the models and services that we put him in. God is transcends denomination, worship style, and liturgy v. free prayer. God resides in each and everything that we experience, encounter, and engage in. we cannot limit God, we limit ourselves.

so may you find God's transcendence and may you ask him to take him with you in his epic journey we call life...

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009's the new cool...

ok, so this is going to be a rant...if you're not in the mood for a rant i suggest not reading this right now...

ok, now that we got all the losers out of here, this is what it's about...
the other day on facebook, i received this:

now i thought this was a pleasant little greeting, and once you get past the creepiness of a book offering a nice holiday greeting, you take comfort in the pleasantry that's given and that the person who made this took time to wish us all a Happy Easter. Innocent enough right? WRONG! well, apparently to some. as you can see, there's 462 comments...when i checked it yesterday there were only 270 or so. now, roughly half of them are, "thank you, i'll be reading you later," or something to that affect. and now it's more like 95% because someone has gone through and deleted all the others. but there are some people that have a vendetta against the very word "Easter"....
take this for example:

Tami at 8:06pm April 6:
Easter isn't even in the Bible!
or this:

Jeremy Nelson is right, Easter is a pagan fertility festival. We should be celebrating the
resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first Sunday after the Passover. Not during a sex holiday
observed by pagans and witches.

i'm not saying what these people are saying isn't true. in fact i agree with them...BUT my point is that nobody was asking these people for their opinion (and i wouldn't mind celebrating a sex holiday with my wife...God invented sex for married people, indulge and celebrate). i don't have a problem with people celebrating Resurrection Sunday instead of Easter. if you want to play with semantics, that's fine, go ahead. but my issue is with people that go out and make a point to tell everybody (Christians and non-Christians) about how Easter is a pagan word derived from a pagan god and this that and the other's bad, you shouldn't be doing it...blah blah blah...and then get this pious attitude (and i don't know if this is actually how it is, but it's the image i get in my head) and then with their noses pointed to the heavens, dressed in a tailcoat tuxedo, with the most arrogant voice (probably with a good English accent a lot like Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster) proclaim to the masses, "I celebrate Resurrection Sunday...NOT that drivel, heretical, heathen Easter...that's for pagans..." no one asked you, no one cares that you think more highly of yourself because of it. last time i checked Christ said, "Remember me." not, "remember me on this day, and by no means whatsoever remember me on any day that is, was, or will be any sort of pagan holiday, OR during a period of time that uses the title of a pagan holiday, cause that's just wrong..." i guess these people don't celebrate Easter, or Christmas, or remember Christ on any day that falls in the months of January, February, March, May, or June due to pagan god titles. July or August are questionable because they are named after Emperors, which would have worshipped pagan gods. April, September, October, November, and December are ok, because they have non-religious meanings. BUT, if any of these days (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and of course Saturday) fall into any of the acceptable months, remembering Christ's death and resurrection is absolutely out because of pagan titles! SO, now that you have your acceptable parameters, celebrate away...but today is Tuesday, so not today, maybe tomorrow...

CAN'T THESE PEOPLE SEE HOW RIDICULOUS THIS IS?!?!?! THERE ARE NO PEOPLE THAT STILL CELEBRATE EASTER THE WAY THE PAGANS DID, AND IF THERE IS THEY ARE IN A SERIOUSLY SMALL MINORITY! more so, in America i can almost guarantee that pretty dang near 0% of all Americans celebrate Easter the way pagans did.

but this doesn't just stop at Easter either. i've known people that celebrate Christmas a certain way, read the bible a certain way, even pray a certain way exclaiming, "it's the way the ancient Hebrews would have done it, so that's why i do it..." great, good for you, let me go sacrifice the fattened calf in your honor, it's time to celebrate...NO! if you want to do things the way the ancient Hebrews did them, fine. if it helps you connect with God on a deeper level, fine. if YOU think it's the way it's supposed to be done...FINE, BUT don't go telling people that how they meet god, how they worship, how they honor Christ's death and resurrection is WRONG because it's not, "how they used to do it..." last time i checked Christ died around 2000 years ago...which means that cultures change, people change, methods of worship and remembrance change...BUT GOD DOES NOT. God is not confined to be worshipped in a certain way, with certain words, at certain times. the only thing confining God is his infinite everything! there are no limits to our experience with God and Christ. it's like people like this are trying to achieve some sort of extra credit for not changing or being relevant to our current culture. yes we are to stand apart form the world, but not in a way that alienates us from the very people that Christ called us to go out and minister to! we are to be separate from the world in that we excel in love, our first reaction to each situation is to love, not to be selfish. which if you look around the world today (and look through history) would separate us from a vast majority of people.

what this whole thing boils down to is this: God cares about our HEARTS, not titles we (mankind) have given particular days, seasons, months, whatever. and if my heart is in the right place and i'm authentically worshipping Christ on a day that has a pagan title then so be it. i tell you the truth, i'd be closer to God on Easter than those that are worrying so much about Resurrection Day.

my $.02.