Sunday, December 25, 2011

A G-N-R Christmas!

Nothing says Christmas like a Guns-n-Roses song. Think: Contemporary service for next year! (For those of you who take me seriously, I kid).

Epic Fails of 2011

If the human race is dependent on these people we will be extinct before too long! You may want to mute this so you don't have to listen to their language.

The Myth of the "War on Christmas"

Here are some final thoughts on the myth of the "war on Christmas" that some evangelicals try to inflame every time this year.  Let's not focus on something that makes Christians look ridiculous and actually repeals people away from Christ.  Instead let's take advantage of attracting people to the love of God expressed through the birth of Christ.  Click HERE for the article.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

For Parents of Teens who Live on Their X-Box

If you are one of those parents who have teenagers with X-Box Live you need to read this article. Priceless! This has become a new concern for me in my house also. Just who is "listening in"? Click right here HERE for the article.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Occupy Cincinnati Event Tonight that All Christians Need to be Aware of

I do have to say that what we see on the news of the "Occupy" movement seems like a lot of street theatre to make a point.  It is usually the troublemakers that seem to get on the national news (and that would include protesters who break the law or law officers who over-extend their ability to apply force).  But I do like our Cincinnati Occupy Movement.  They are targeting specific, local issues that are targeting the homeless and low-income people and standing in support of those less fortunate.

     I would love to join them tonight for the "Occupy the Nativity" event.  I know.  When I read that title at first I thought that this did not sound good!  I thought they were gong after a church and making a mess of their celebration of the birth of Christ.  But thankfully it is not that at all.  Instead they are identifying themselves with Jesus by dressing up in nativity costumes to stand in protest to a major corporation that is trying to seize a property that is used for homeless and battered women so that they can demolish it and turn it into high end condos.  Shame on Western and Southern for their greedy use of the courts to try and get what they want.  It reminds me of 1 Kings 21 when Jezebel stole the property of Namoth for her husband, King Ahab.  Instead of respecting the wishes of the property owner, they found a way to just take what they wanted with no regard to Namoth.  It was Elijah that called them to account and let them know that their evil deeds did not escape the eyes of God and that they would be held accountable. 

I wish I could join this group tonight but it is more important for me to celebrate my 20th anniversary with my wife!  Maybe I can join the group for a future event.  But I did want to make others aware of what was going on tonight so that if you wanted to lend yourself to the fight against greed and show your support to the poor of Cincinnati that need this place to help them begin a new life, then by all means join the protest!  Details below:

Occupy the helping homeless (as Jesus did and as Western Southern does not) Peace to All.)

When: Wed, December 21, 7:30pm – 8:00pm

Where: Western and Southern's live Nativity at Krohn Conservatory Eden Park-Krohn Conservatory 1501 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH

DETAILS: Jesus was born homeless to poor parents, and he devoted his life to the cause of justice. 

WHAT: Wearing period garb at Western and Southern's live Nativity at Krohn Conservatory, distributing creative holiday literature This Nativity scene, commemorating Jesus' life, has been brought to us by Western and Southern, a major corporation that has tried to displace the Anna Louise Inn, a charitable group that provides support to abused women in the spirit of Christ. Western and Southern, a powerful corporation, has been allowed to occupy this park 24/7 with barnyard animals; however, Occupy Cincinnati has been told that political speech is not allowed to be granted a space in the parks. This has been told to us by Parks Director Willie Carden, who is paid not only by the City of Cincinnati, but also by the Parks Foundation -- a private corporation that receives gifts from Western and Southern. Come join Occupy Cincinnati, our coalition of Faith advocates, and our merry band of carolers as we stand in solidarity with the homeless women and children of The Anna Louise Inn, and all the Magdeline's of the world.

 Proverbs 22:22-23 “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.”
 Eden Park-Krohn Conservatory 1501 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH

Monday, December 19, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen Tribute!

Love it! Best comic ever!

Required Reading for ANYONE Going on a Mission Trip

If you are going on a mission trip anytime soon you must have your team read the posts in this article that can be accessed by clicking HERE.  Jamie "the very worst missionary" give a perspective from one who IS a missionary and what she observes when the short-term mission teams come racing into her community to throw their faith grenades at everyone and then head back home patting themselves on the backs for what they perceive as a job well done when that may not necessarily be the case from the people they "ministered" to.  You must have your team wrestle with the truth in each one of the posts Jamie has written.  It is really good stuff to consider so that you mission trip can have the best possible outcome for your team AND those you are there to minister to.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Apologetics 101

An Interpretation of the Christmas Story that ROCKS!

Now here is a version of the Christmas Story that is just AWESOME!  This alone could carry the lesson for all those churches having services on Christmas Sunday!  Priceless.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Creativity Gone Wild!

To appreciate the full impact of this video you must watch it to the end.  Do not check out half way through !

Looking for Bibles for My Kids

I was thinking of getting new Bibles for my kids this Christmas.  This new Bible might be the one that will get them much more interested in learning about their faith.  Seems like it would be expensive though.

The Millennials

Here is a very fascinating chart that dissects the differences between the current living generations.  What do you think?  What makes you smile? What infuriates you?  Is this a correct evaluations of the Millennials in comparison and contrast to the others?

Created by: Online Graduate Programs

United Methodists Garner Highest Favorability Score

Check out this study HERE that rates United Methodists as the most favorable religious organization in America.  It is pretty fascinating to consider what this might mean.  I serve in the United Methodist Church and all to often you hear a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to church attendance.  Many denominations have been experiencing decline in giving and attendance for some time now.  But if this article is true, then should this be a wake up call that we are actually doing well, or a "green light" for the UMC to move forward boldly and aggressively with the Gospel?  

The Real War on Christmas ... by Fox News | Jim Wallis | God's Politics Blog | Sojourners: Celebrating 40 Years of Faith in Action for Social Justice

Jim Wallis writes an excellent article HERE on the apparent "War on Christmas" that always seems to pop up during this time.  His theological and cultural analysis is right on.  I grow tired of well-meaning Christians feeling the need to "defend" Christmas without questioning the context, motivation and purpose behind those who want to force this apparent "war" on us.  Let our love and generosity be the most visible sign of our faith this season instead of arrogance, idolatry, and superiority.  Jesus is certainly not in anyway associated with the attitudes and behaviors that push this false war.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wake Up Call: Teen Statistics - YouTube

This is a powerful video about the pain and suffering that many teens face today.  A few things, I am always curious where they got their statistics.  Oftentimes you can find statistics to say anything you want.  That is not to discredit this video.  I just am curious.  I wish when you are having statistics thrown at you they would also say the source.  Besides that, I find the last line of this video very, very interesting.  The video is not necessarily a wake up call for teens but for someone else in their lives.  I won't give it away.  Just watch.  Why do you think the video ends like that?

What Rick Perry Actually Said in His Strong Ad

How Evangelicals Are Learning to Be Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice and Always Pro-Jesus | Munther Isaac

Here is a great article (Click HERE) on how evangelicals are starting to realize that they can be pro-Israel and pro-Palestine at the same time. There is even a conference featuring John Ortburg and Lynn Hybels among others who are discovering that there are a lot of Christians in Palestine who need our help and voice to stand for peace and justice in that region. Good stuff to think about. Christ at the Checkpoint Conference

Jesus Creed » Newt Gingrich and the Palestinians

Scot McKnight does an excellent critique on Newt Gingrich's poor word choice of calling the Palestinians an "invented people" HERE. Truth is, if there ever were an "invented people" it would be Americans. Many of our ancestors forcefully took this land from the natives and claim it as their own. The choice of words that Newt used are very troubling especially if he becomes the next President. A position as dogmatic as his could lead to disastrous consequences. We should continue to be a strong ally to Israel but we should also strive for peace in that entire region which would include moving toward statehood for Palestine and building bridges to those areas that have overthrown their dictators. We really do have a huge opportunity for good in that area if we move cautiously, compassionately and generously. We stand on the crossroads of what could be the most amazing time in history when we build bridges with countries that have historically been our enemies lead by dictators, or we say and do things that could quite honestly lead to another historic, deadly war that will only polarize the West from the Middle East.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011′s Worst New Christmas Song

I do have to admit that every time we get close to the Christmas season I cringe when anyone remotely suggests that there is a "war" on Christmas.  Of course these same people have no problem going on the offensive against Halloween.  I spent two years of my college life down in the Bible Belt at Liberty University and in that time I was just shocked at how worked up people got over Halloween. But that is another story. When well-meaning Christians want to take this defensive position that the consumer culture is declaring war on their sacred holiday, then make cheesy videos like this, the only thing it accomplishes is that it makes all of us who claim to be Christ-followers look ridiculous.

The month of December is meaningful to Christians because of their belief in Jesus.  But it is also meaningful to Jews as they celebrate Hanukkah.  And, all of us, regardless of religious background, celebrate the New Year.  So I get that saying "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" makes sense in a setting that serves a diverse amount of people from various cultural and religious backgrounds.

Besides, Jesus gave us the Great Commission.  The task to spread God's love to others.  When we take this defensive position against the secular culture demanding that they say "Merry Christmas" we just look like a bunch of condescending, judgmental people.  Who cares about the actual person behind the counter, making a lot less money than most shoppers, working crazy hours throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Besides, when you watch this video the hypocrisy of what the song says Christmas is all about contrasted with the images of consumerism, materialism and greed is really quite shocking.  You can also click HERE for a good critique of this video.  Every day of a Christian's life ought to be filled with the significance of Jesus's birth, death and resurrection.  If we live that out correctly, we will attract more people to the true message of Christ.  If we judge complete strangers because they didn't say "Merry Christmas" then we just act like the Pharisees.  So to my Christian family I say with deep meaning and passion, "Merry Christmas".  To all my other friends, "Happy Holidays".  Let us approach all people with humility, love and grace.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Vic Mignogna : Vader Did You Know?

An absolute classic! This is for all of you who are tired of listening to "Mary Did You Know?" whenever it is Christmas time but you don't mind seeing Star Wars for the millionth time. This is great!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Disappearance of the Compassionate Conservatives | Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis writes a sobering critique of our latest candidates vying for the Presidency at this link: The Disappearance Compassionate Conservatives. It is a tough read.  My hope is that Christians of all political leanings will realize that just because someone claims to be a person of faith does not mean that they will act like one in their political and personal lives.  It is much more important to study their track record instead of accepting their words.  So many will say anything to get the votes they need.  Christians have been fooled so many times in the past by the slick words of politicians.  The kingdom of God will not advance through man-made government.  It will only grow when we trust the Holy Spirit do lead us.  May God save America.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Here Am I Send Me! . . . Zaaaaap!

I grew up in the 80's when certain sections of the Charismatic church made the "experience" of the Holy Spirit a prime emphasis.  Speaking in tongues has been around for a long time, but then it moved to being slain in the Spirit, and then some pockets of the movement took it to a strange level introducing such things as Holy Spirit laughter and Holy Spirit barking. If anything, this was more of a reflection of the culture moving into a more experiential and instant gratification type of lifestyle.

Now we come to the present.  What does our culture seem to be fixated on especially in times of crisis?  Superheroes!  Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Batman, and on and on and on.  Soooooo, it would make sense that the Holy Spirit must be moving in this direction also!  The newest Holy Spirit gift is . . . . . teleportation!  Yep.  This would have been great for my Africa trip last Summer.  Would have saved a ton of money.

Also, one thing that really struck me was something that the female commentator said about teleporting from "meeting to meeting".  Really?!?!  If I had the gift of teleporting I would go from one meeting to ANOTHER meeting?! I think not.  I would be teleporting OUT of meetings and onto a roller coaster at Cedar Point or a beach in Florida or to a movie theatre, or my quiet house with a pile of books and a coffee.  But certainly not to another meeting.

And if the Holy Spirit is moving in the direction of superhero gifts then I want to make a list of what I hope God will shower down upon me as spiritual gifts in the near future!

1. Flying
2. Invisibility
3. Super strength
4. Shape shifting
5. Being able to use the "force"
6. Radioactive spider-bite abilities
7. The Matrix chosen one powers
8. Metal blades that come out from between my knuckles
9. Werewolf powers
10. T2000 Liquid Metal Terminator

A Missed Opportunity for a Funny Beer Commercial

This would be a great beer commercial.  I am a little confused how a church small group program fits this add though.  Enjoy!

An Instant Classic for Worship!

It's the end of the world as we know it and my ears are bleeding! Such a delightful tune for apocalyptic music!

CCM has now been Bieber-ized!

I know.  Christian music would be so much better if we just tried to imitate Justin Bieber!  What could possibly go wrong?

If this is grace, no thanks!

I am sure that this started out with a person saying, "Hey! I got a great idea! How about if we do this . . . " Unfortunately someone was not there to say, "Not sure we should do this."

These are not your normal Church Ushers!

It is always awesome when some well-meaning Christians decide to take a pop song and "Christianize" it.  It always comes across so deliciously cheesy!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Museum of Idolatry: Naked Old Church Men Calender

This is so wrong on soooo many levels. I would be so embarrassed if my dad or any older man in my church ever did this. How is this a church event? A fundraiser calendar?!?!?! I think not. But the choice piece in all of this is the quote that the blogger borrows from Gollum before you even click on the video. I really can't stop laughing at this one.

The Museum of Idolatry: Naked Old Church Men Calender

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A powerful prayer for Penn State

I do have to admit that the opening of last weeks Penn State game caught me by surprise, humbled me and gave me good reason to repent of my cynicism. Based on the students reaction to Paterno being fired I thought the game would attract even more negative acting out. But the students bounced back from their initial reaction and recognized the real travesty was the kids who were victimized in all of this. The candle light vigil and the spontaneous events that happened before game time humbled me. I should have been hopeful that something good would come out of all of this instead of letting cynicism get the best of me. May God bring healing, restoration and justice to this whole situation. Check out this link and allow it to give you hope for the next generation.

Check it out here: A powerful prayer for Penn State

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beware the evils of Star Wars and Smurfs!

I really, really like the inclusion of the soundtrack that goes with this video, and the random shofar.  Wait for the ending also. It is subtle yet sweet!  Once again, other religions have extremists that act out as terrorists, we Christians on the other hand just have crazies.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

John Stewart on the Penn State mess

John Stewart does a great analysis here of the Penn State mess.  Riots over who is being fired and not about the concern for the victims is shocking. I am glad to see that the Penn State students bounced back and had a candle-light vigil for the victims.  Let's let all of the investigation reveal the truth of what all was going on before we react, or else you may be very embarrassed by your initial reaction once all the truth is revealed.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Penn State Riots
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Word - Bully Pulpit - The Colbert Report - 2011-09-11 - Video Clip | Comedy Central

Colbert brings an interesting (humorous and sobering) report on bullying and Christianity. It is sad to see Christians try to make an exemption for the law instead of leading the way in anti-bullying whether or not they agree or disagree with a person's beliefs, lifestyles, or choices. Keep in mind that Colbert is not attacking Christianity per say. He himself is a practicing Catholic. He is speaking out towards those who fear that the anti-bullying law is prohibiting their expression of their religious beliefs. But whatever a person may believe when it comes to the hot topics of our culture, Paul is very clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we do not act, think, or respond with love above all else, everything else falls short. This was a very bad move to make a religious exemption in an anti-bullying law.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Bully Pulpit
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

RELEVANT Magazine - The Redemption of Horror?

Here is a great article on the topic of horror as a genre. I myself am a closet-fan of horror films. I love them. I agree that there are a lot of dumb, pointless movies in this genre (as with every other one) but there are also some real gems that speak to about our culture of materialism, greed, power, narcissism, in contrast to our human desires for forgiveness, redemption and salvation. And some are just so much fun to watch!

RELEVANT Magazine - The Redemption of Horror?

RELEVANT Magazine - It's OK to Say Jesus Is the Only Way

Here is a link to a great article on understanding the problem with religious pluralism. If all you have is a very surface view of religions (including your own) it is very easy to assume a pluralistic view. But a careful study of religions logically shows that they can not all be right. There are some good comments below also. I am very much in the Kierkegaard camp with the possibility of a middle way. I believe that Scripture does make an exception without stripping away the exclusive claims of Christ.

RELEVANT Magazine - It's OK to Say Jesus Is the Only Way

RELEVANT Magazine - Spiritual Warfare is Real

This is excellent. I have seen the topic of spiritual warfare used in a way to instill fear in people. I think this article gives a good sense of what it is and how we can best defend ourselves from evil.

RELEVANT Magazine - Spiritual Warfare is Real

RELEVANT Magazine - What's the Big Deal About Waiting for Marriage?

Excellent reflection here on asking the right questions and seeking out answers that make sense.

RELEVANT Magazine - What's the Big Deal About Waiting for Marriage?

Hippo Butt Explosion!! ' Wheres the Beef!??'

Oh my gosh! That was a spicy meatball!!! This is just about as funny as Jim Carry exiting the robot rhino in Ace Ventura 2.

Oscar... My Very Weird, Handstand Peeing Dog

Another reason why dogs are just awesome!

An Experiment (Stuff Fundies Like)

For any of you who have grown up in a conservative fundamentalist church this is a good test to take. I was able to stay seated. But the urge to run and kneel was there. My years of therapy have paid off!

An Experiment (Stuff Fundies Like)

My Take: Reactions to Cain, Paterno point to a not-so-Christian nation – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

I would have to agree with Prothero here. It is disturbing if we are honest with ourselves where our hearts go in situations like this. And it just may reveal more about our corrupt nature rather than our "Christian values". It is so important to be careful in our initial reactions to these stories which at the moment are just based on very limited information and emotion. The darkness must be revealed fully by the light. If there is nothing hiding in the dark then show your support. But if there is a world of evil lurking in the darkness and you spoke up to defend someone prior to that process completing itself, not only will you look foolish, but you may have a very serious crisis of conscience having to determine the nature of God's Spirit impacting you as opposed to your sin nature actually controlling you.

My Take: Reactions to Cain, Paterno point to a not-so-Christian nation – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

Christian Zombie Killers (a book for teens) | Jesus Needs New PR

Someone came up with a book that combines the two things I love the most: Christianity and Zombies. I will now have to come up with a different aspect of culture to make a cheap Christian copy of it. Any ideas? Christian Jersey Shore? Christian Hoarders? Christian Zombie Killer is so much cooler.

Christian Zombie Killers (a book for teens) | Jesus Needs New PR

This is Discipling

Wow! Some great thoughts, critiques and reminders of what discipling others is and is not. I think this may find it's way into a sermon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Weirdest Christian music Video (God's Backhand)

I wanted to laugh at the cheesy lyrics and 80's synth music at first but the images chosen in this video to "support" this song are quite disturbing. Especially considering the violence toward women and the images of war and domestic violence. I am at a loss for words in how someone can think they are speaking for God in this. This has to be a joke.


Now this is funny. Maybe Jesus was onto something when he told us to pray in secret. (Matthew 6). But then again, this website makes me want to go out and do some serious Tebowing. Pictures will follow soon.


My Take: Paterno's unfulfilled ethical obligations – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

Another really good article reflecting on the Penn State Debacle on understanding the difference between doing only what is legally required as opposed to taking a stand for what is ethically and morally right.

My Take: Paterno's unfulfilled ethical obligations – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

Say It Ain't So, David | Sojourners: Celebrating 40 Years of Faith in Action for Social Justice

Here is a good article analyzing the mess that is Penn State right now.

Say It Ain't So, David | Sojourners: Celebrating 40 Years of Faith in Action for Social Justice

Thursday, November 03, 2011

So How are the Gen-Xer's doing these days?

For all of the negative stereotypes that have been attached to Generation X throughout our teens and 20's, this is a refreshing, and I believe true, assessment of where the majority of us are at in our lives right now.

Emptyage — Generation X Doesn't Want to Hear It

If you are a passionate Gen-Xer then this is CLASSIC! If not, don't bother.
Emptyage — Generation X Doesn't Want to Hear It:

'via Blog this'

City's childhood poverty third worst in nation | |

This has me speechless. We can not allow this in Cincinnati. I am shocked that we rank 3rd worst in the nation behind Detroit and Cleveland. This is a wake up call for all churches and community organizations.

City's childhood poverty third worst in nation | |

'via Blog this'

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Concluding Thoughts on the Summer Mission Trips of 2011

Alright.  A long time ago I promised that I would finish up blogging about the stories of our last mission trip with the Junior Highers to Chicago.  I apologize that I am just now doing this but I am making a more concerted effort starting today to get back to blogging and reading!  So here we go!


The two teams headed out to their YMCA sites for the morning.  The kids at our site had a lot of fun this morning because they had one of those big blow up water slides to play outside with.  Of course any time I seemed to get near it an Epiphany teen mysteriously got wet.  Attempts were made to avenge but they soon discovered that I am indestructible.  

For the afternoon we took the "ethnic plunge" into Albany Park.  This is similar to a scavenger hunt.  We were given a list of things we needed to accomplish that would force us to immerse ourselves into the neighborhood cultures.  We had to do things like finding products in a store from other countries.  Find how many different ethnic restaurants we can find.  Talk with people about their cultural backgrounds.  See how many different languages we could find.  Buy a paper in a different language.  Along the way we met this one guy that I initially thought he was working on something that seemed like a part to a skateboard.  He noticed me looking at him out of the corner of my eye and called us over.  He showed us what he was doing.  He had what started out as a silver dollar that he was hitting with a spoon.  What was strange was that he did this over a long period of time and eventually transformed the silver dollar into a ring!  It was kind of crazy yet wild at the same time.  But he was very proud of his rings that he showed off for us.  

After that experience we headed out to the Ravenswood Community Services to help serve dinner.  This was a church that provided groceries and dinner for the poor in their community.  We started out by bagging groceries down in the pantry.  We worked fast and hard to get the job done quickly.  Then the teens helped to give out the groceries and serve the dinner.  It was a great experience.

Team #2 did several activities during the afternoon.  They did a "meet-a-need" activity where they were given $5 and they had to go out into the neighborhood to find someone and meet a need of theirs with the money.  They are also told to try and spend some time talking with the person and get to know their story.  Team #2 also served dinner at Cornerstone Community Outreach and then ate dinner at a Vietnamese Restaurant.  This is the team that Doug went with and of course, some of our most colorful stories have come from.  Apparently when they were driving through the city somewhere a very loud "pop-pop-pop" went off.  As the teens began to look around to see what the sound was, our awesome driver, Arlene Wise, very discretely with out making a scene, just put her foot on the gas to get away from whatever that noise could be.  Unfortunately, Doug did not take my class on how to be discrete in a potentially dangerous situation.  At the sound of the noise, according to many witnesses, he began looking around wildly declaring, "WAS THAT A GUN? DID I JUST HEAR A GUN?"  This of course, made the teens even more excited looking around like scared Barney Fifes.  Now, keep in mind, no one can confirm if they for sure heard a gun.  It could have been a car backfiring, a jackhammer, or any number of things.  There were police chasing someone, but no one in the van could confirm if they actually saw a real gun.  So myth busted.    

Team #2 had dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant and it did not get great reviews. My team on the other hand went to a Mediterranean restaurant and it was delicious!  We still have some teens freaking out about the food.  I won't mention any names but the initials of one of them is Rachel Mellett.  She did try some of the food so I had to give her credit for that I guess.  

After dinner we had our team debrief, took our showers.  I told the teens that we would be going through the letter to the Philippians for our morning devotions.  So they needed to make sure that they read one chapter a day and be ready to discuss it the next morning.  What was really cool was that Doug and I were talking church talk in my room while all the boys had some free time before lights out.  As we were talking, all of a sudden Doug hushed me and said to listen up to what is going on in our dorm.  As we eavesdropped, we listened to our one Senior guy, Max, reading out loud Philippians chapter 1 to all the boys.  This was an awesome thing to experience for me.  This was confirmation for me that this youth ministry is working!  Typically it is common to lose many of your Juniors and Seniors due to many factors.  One of them being the "been there, done that" attitude, which quite frankly, I can understand.  So I tell my upperclassmen that if they want to stay connected and not be one of those "drifters" then they need to learn to give back by actively finding a ministry and pouring themselves into it.  Max did a great job of modeling this.  It was one of those moments where I felt very proud to be a youth pastor to this bunch of teens.  They didn't even invite me or ask for my spiritual insights and THAT WAS JUST FINE WITH ME!  After that we all hit the sack.

We woke up, ate breakfast, made our lunches and had our devotions.  Each morning we had a different adult lead the devotions.  I did the morning before,  Doug did this morning and then the interns took the other two devotion times.  We all sat outside in an alleyway for our morning devotions.  It was a really good way to start the day off.  

Once we finished we headed off to our 2 YMCA sites.  Today I decided that Doug and I would switch groups so that he could spend a day with each one of the teams.  I headed off to the other YMCA.  I had the chance to bounce around from room to room and watch our teens assist and help with many of the early childhood groups.  There was also another mission group there under a different organization so I took some time to talk with them and find out who they were. Some of our teens did really well interacting with the little kids and some felt out of their element.  With one of the rooms that felt a little awkward, I went ahead and taught everyone the glorious game of "Honey, if you love me, won't you please, please smile?"  This broke the ice for everyone as you attempt to try and get someone to crack a smile by saying the above line to them.  

For lunch we decided to meet at one of the Chicago pizza places.  We decided on Lou Minalti's.  I have never had this pizza before but I can say that it was definitely one of the best!  It was soooooo delicious.  I highly recommend this if you ever head into the Chicago area. 

In the afternoon we all meet back at the main site.  Doug headed back to Loveland at this point.   The rest of us were split up into groups of 5 or 6 for a challenge called "Immersion".  Each group was given different instructions.  My team had to walk down to the corner and take the subway train into downtown Chicago.  We had the assignment to initiate conversations with people to find out their thoughts on homelessness in Chicago.  We headed off to an area with several small parks.  I sent the teens in groups of two so they did not overwhelm any one person with this mob of teens coming at them.  Our teens did a great job engaging people and learning about the city.  After some time we headed down to the park with the giant fountain.  We came across a man who was selling "The Onion" newspaper.  I bought one and the teens took it from there and talked with this guy for at least half an hour.  He voice sounded a lot like Denzel Washington.  We then proceeded to the "Giant Bean" park.  We sat down and tried to come up with a plan for dinner.  This was one of the challenges.  We had $2 for each person on our team and somehow we were supposed to come up with dinner for all of us.  We eventually ended up at a 7/11 and bought some nasty hot dogs and slushies.  That was dinner.

We then headed back for debrief.  At the debrief we processed all the different experiences each team had in learning about homelessness and trying to find food with so little money.  They were also challenged to not eat any snacks that night so that they really do feel hungry.  The teens got a lot out of this experience.  

We started out the day like usual: get up, eat breakfast, no bag lunches though because we had special plans for lunch, and then do group devotions.  Then we headed off to our YMCA sites, hung out with the little kids all morning and had fun with them.  

We then had a little time to waste so we headed to the Navy Pier for a few hours.  The teens all had a lot of fun exploring all the cool stuff there.  I, on the other hand, found the food court, got some food and sat down for a little quiet time just to enjoy the opportunity to sit down and relax for a few moments.  

Later in the afternoon we headed back to the North Park University campus for a dinner and program involving all of the teams with the Center of Student Missions for this week.  We were all taken out to their main entrance where there was a nice open area where they had the group play some goofy games.  After that we had a Mexican dinner catered in for the entire team.  After a delicious dinner we went to their theater hall.  There we spent some time in worship and sharing as we got to hear how other church groups were experiencing the city and their faith throughout the week.  We then got to hear a speaker that was simply amazing.  I can't remember the name of the speaker but her story blew everyone away.  Here is a single lady who felt that God was calling her to minister to one of the worst gang areas of Chicago so she bought a house in the neighborhood and just started reaching out to the gangs.  Her house has evolved into a place where all the kids in the neighborhood know they can go to for safety, help, support and encouragement.  She went through a list of teens and kids who have died from gang related violence and the extreme hopelessness that so many of them feel as a result of believing that they may die at any moment.  None of them think of a future.  As she explained the impact that her ministry is having, you could see how what she is doing is beginning to help open the eyes of these teens to believe that they can have a future.  Through her ministry she has been able to see God restore many of these teens into people with hope, faith, and love.  It was very, very powerful.  

We debriefed later that night, hit the showers and lights out!

Again, the morning went like clock work: wake up, eat breakfast, make sack lunches and do group devotions, then we head off to the YMCA sites for the final time.  It was another beautiful day so many of the kids enjoyed playing outside on the play ground.  It was during this time where two of the young boys were pushing each other around until one of them fell and hit his head on the steel frame of the fence going around the playground.  He opened up a gash on his head bad enough to have to call the paramedics and the police.  The boy would need a few stitches.  The other boy was hiding in the playground equipment thinking he was going to get arrested.  The YMCA staff were all apologetic and frustrated by the whole thing.  But it seemed to all work out.  Leaving was a little sad for many of our teens knowing that we will never see these kids again.  So there were a lot of goodbyes.  

In the afternoon the other team did their "ethnic plunge" while we while we did a prayer walk, meet-a-need, and served dinner at the Cornerstone Community Outreach.  The first event involved us going to a particular area of uptown Chicago where homelessness is the most visible.  We walked to a variety of sites where we would stop as a group and lifted up a prayer for the neighborhood.  At one point we came across the rather large mural painted on the side of this building.  It was a beautiful painting of Jesus.  As the story goes, apparently the local gang gave permission for a painting of Jesus.  And some of the gang members came down and helped with the painting.  The message and symbolism used throughout the mural was awesome.  

Meet-A-Need was the next activity.  The group was broken down into 3 smaller groups and we were give some money with the challenge to find someone who as a need and find a way to help them.  I thought I was quite sly in noticing a woman sitting along the sidewalk that we passed by about a block ago.  I took my team and quickly retraced our steps to go find that lady and see if we could buy here lunch.  Of course, when we found her she said some other group was getting her food at McDonald's but if I really wanted to get her something she would love some beef tips from the nice restaurant across the street.  I politely backed out of that and we found another person who was homeless.  We bought him some lunch and spent a little time talking with him.  Before he took off we also prayed for him.  After that we walked around and took advantage of opportunities to talk with people and invite them to dinner at the soup kitchen we would be serving at that evening.  

We then walked down to Cornerstone Community Outreach where we would be helping to serve dinner.  As we walked there we went down this alley that we were told was made famous by Al Capone and his gang.  It used to be called Blood Alley because you could not walk through it without getting blood on yourself from people getting whacked.  At the outreach we helped to prepare the food and then the people came in.  A couple of interesting things happened.  First of all, I love how hard working and fun our teenagers are when they are given just about any challenge.  This especially becomes apparent when you are working with teens from other groups who don't seen to be there for the right reasons.  Also, we encountered a lot of different types of people.  Those who were thankful for the food and very friendly and personable.  Others who were ungrateful, mean and just nasty about what they wanted and thought they deserved.  But it was a good lesson for our team to be reminded that when we serve, we do it for Christ.  People may be grateful or ungrateful.  It doesn't matter.  We don't serve to have someone pat us on the back and think we are great.  We serve in obedience to our faith.

That night we went to dinner at Silver Seafood.  It was an amazing Chinese restaurant.  We ate a lot of family style portions of many, many things that tasted so delicious!  Right across the street and down from where we were at, the speak-easy that Capone always hung out at was visible.  

We headed back to our campus and had a time to debrief with our CSM leaders.  It was a good time to process all that we learned throughout the week and how it can apply to our lives and change our perspectives on how we see our world.  

After that it was time for showers and lights out.  But being the last night and all, I knew that the Junior Highers over the past few days were getting themselves all tense about practical jokes.  In fact, just a couple nights ago I laid down the law that they needed to relax on the practical jokes.  But being the last night and all I did not want to end this week with the reputation of the big party-pooper.  So I thought if I could manage to control a simple, harmless, non-destructive practical joke, then the boys won't label me!  So I recommended that we go up to the girls dorm, open up their door, and then yell as loud as we can, and run back.  They were very happy that I threw them a bone so we quietly scaled the stairs up to their main entrance.  Just as we were about to open the door one of my junior high boys decided to drop his shorts so that he only had on boxers.  With a very perplexed look on my face I asked him what the heck he was doing.  He responded back to me as if I had no sense of humor explaining that it would be funny if he ran in there with his boxer shorts.  My response came rather quickly: GET YOUR FREAKING PANTS BACK ON!  Then we opened the door, yelled loudly and ran.  The boys were happy, I was no longer the party-pooper, and now we could all just go to bed.  

Today was the day to pack up and head off.  We managed to get everything back into the vans rather well.  But I will admit that when we held onto these vans for back-to-back mission trips on two weeks where it was pretty hot, and saving the last week to be with Junior Highers, the vans we quite a mess to behold.  We said bye to our group leaders and then left.  Knowing that we had to travel through Chicago, we just had to stop for a few hours.  We parked our vans, walked around for a while, and then ate lunch at Ed Debevic's.  This is one of the most classic 50's diners were the waiters and waitresses are very obnoxious and fun.  The kids loved it.  After a nice, full, and entertaining lunch, we left for home.

As I look back over the Summer now I do have to say that it was really interesting to go on an international, urban and rural mission trip all in the same Summer.  There were many, many different experiences that come with each type.  I loved it.  I really enjoy doing mission trips.  I love helping teens see that they can make a difference in their world.  I love teaching them how to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who are hurting and hungry.  I love helping them to get a much bigger picture of life outside of our safe suburban neighborhoods.  But to do 3 trips crammed into one Summer was a lot.  I did not like the fact that if a teen was not signed up for a mission trip then there was very little else going on back here in Loveland.  So I hope to limit myself to 2 trips each Summer.  I want to continue to add variety to the locations and types of trips we do as I believe that this gives us a new perspective and challenge every Summer to help grow our faith.  And I also want to make time throughout the Summer to do fun things back here in Cincinnati just to keep everyone more connected.  Now if you made it this far in this post I will reward you with letting you know what we are doing for next Summer!  I am trying to work it out for the Junior High to go to Cleveland and serve with the Nehemiah Mission from July 8-14.  The Senior High hopefully with be going on a trip to Washington D. C. through the Center of Student Missions on July 22-28.  I hope these dates work well for everyone so that we can get maximum participation.  Both trips will be awesome!  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fight the Famine, Feed the Future

It is disturbing to me that this is not one of the lead stories in any of our major news media. It is time we speak up about this famine and do what we can to help save lives. Read below, watch the video and sign the petition.

 Fight the Famine, Feed the Future: Drought is inevitable, but famine is not. The current crisis in the Horn of Africa is the result of a tragic combination of factors that are man-made, including abnormally high food prices, lack of governance and security in Somalia, and a historic lack of investment in long-term agricultural development in the Horn. Over the past few years, we lost the political will and public support necessary to prevent the famine – and its causes. As a consequence, tens of thousands of children have died. We have also missed the opportunity to help 200 million people from poor farming families lift themselves out of poverty. Communities in Africa can cope with droughts and natural disasters. But we need donors to put resources toward seeds, irrigation and teaching farmers new growing techniques. We need leaders to invest in early warning systems and national social safety net programs. Congress can help keep our commitment to farmers in developing countries by fully funding Feed the Future— a life-changing USAID initiative that is investing in long-term agricultural development and could help put an end to famine for good. Please sign our petition to Congress calling on them to fund this vital program:

The Real "F" word

Thank you!

Is Anybody Listening? | World Vision ACT:S

Once again, we made a difference in our area! Our politicians listened and responded in favor! Click on the link to see what is happening with the TVPRA bill.

Is Anybody Listening? | World Vision ACT:S

Praying for Peace and Looking for Jesus at #OccupyWallStreet - Jim Wallis - God's Politics Blog

Here is a link to a very interesting article on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Read the comments to understand some of the differences between the OWS group in comparison to the Tea Party.

Praying for Peace and Looking for Jesus at #OccupyWallStreet - Jim Wallis - God's Politics Blog

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Walking Dead Season 2 Preview!

BEST. SHOW. EVER. Here is the preview of Season 2 of The Walking Dead on AMC starting on October 16th. (now if only the zombies could attack the cast of Glee!)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Blog Post #1: Junior High Mission Trip to Chicago 2011

Sunday, July 24
It was a bit hard to just run home wash my closes and head back up to the church on Sunday morning to get ready to head off for the final trip.  I actually used the Junior High class to help me out with getting the last-minute stuff ready after we had a time of prayer.  I also asked those who were not going on the trip to please keep us all in prayer throughout the week. 

We eventually piled into the vans and headed north this time!  We had a really good start as the Junior Highers seemed to display better bladder control than the Senior Highers.  I was mildly impressed.  I drove one of the 15 passenger vans this time.  I had Max riding shotgun.  Most of those in our van were boys.  Max took it upon himself to give this young bucks an education in country music just about the whole way up.  At one point, he found a polka station!  This was delightful!  The Junior High boys were squirming but they would not dare challenge Max.  They might whine a little but that was all.  Once the desire for perogies, polish sausage and a pint of beer became too unbearable for me, I had Max change it back to his country music.

After navigating through the traffic of Chicago, even on a Sunday afternoon, we made it to the campus of North Park University.  This college is affiliated with the Covenant Church.  Once we parked we met our host leaders for the week, Lauren and Rachel.  They told us that the group will need to be split into two separate groups for the week.  So I had all of the kids link up with one friend in a single file line.  Then I went down the line sending each pair to the left then the next one to the right.  So to be fair I let them have their one friend they really wanted to be with but the reality was that we all knew each other pretty well so they had friends on their team as well as the one they personally picked out. 

We also settled into our room situation.  It actually was a pretty sweet deal as these were apartments that would house 4-5 college students.  So the boys all slept in the living room area or the dining room area while this guy here got himself a room with a bed!  My room was right in the middle of the apartment so I was able to monitor the noise levels if needed but overall I was very happy!

Once we figured that all out we headed out for our first cultural experience eating dinner at a Columbian restaurant!  They would bring out large family style plates of food.  We were hungry enough that we would devour the first plate, and then another plate of something else would come out!  This happened several times until we were all stuffed.

After dinner, we did a driving prayer tour all throughout Chicago.  We spent 2 hours going to many different locations.  At each location we would stop the van, our host would explain many of the social, economic and spiritual issues that this particular area was struggling with and then one of the teens would take the time to pray for that area. It was great at first how our teens all had that blank stare when our host would ask someone to prayer.  They started to learn really quick that they need to get over this fear because we are all going to take turns praying all throughout the week!  On the prayer tour we learned a lot about the economic contrasts between the wealthy and the poor.  We were also pretty surprised to learn how real the issue of racism still is in Chicago.

Unfortunately we were unable to take showers this evening.  Very gross when you consider how much I sweat.  But I also had the extra issue that poison ivy was starting to get out of control on both of my legs.  So I waited until the boys were all asleep and then I snuck in a very hot bath to kill the itching.  There was only one bath in the apartment so the deal was that in the evening we would all go take showers in the locker rooms.  If we used the apartment shower we would have to wait for each person to shower one at a time it would take forever. 

Monday, July 25

We woke up and were ready to head off to our first day of ministry!  Both groups would spend each morning throughout the week going to a local YMCA and serving kids that were there for day care.  Then the afternoons consisted of a variety of ministry sites and opportunities.  My group went to our YMCA location and broke the ice with the kids.  It wasn’t very hard as some of the kids even ran to the teens and hugged them when they entered the room.  We had a good day playing in the gym kicking soccer balls around and playing “Duck, Duck, Goose”.  This particular YMCA was very, very nice.  The program and structure that the kids had throughout the day was really nice.  All the children seemed to enjoy their experience there.  

We left close to noon and ate our lunch out by our van.  This is always the time I take to shot 1,000 questions at our CSM leader.  I am always fascinated by these 20-somethings that give up their whole Summer for a very low-paying but very active and spiritually rewarding experience whether it is CSM or Mountain T.O.P. or serving in Africa.  Rachelle was the leader of this team.  She is from California.  She attended a CSM trip to Los Angeles as a teen.  Now she is serving in Chicago and loves it.  She has one more year of college to go and then the sky seems to be the limit to what she is open to doing.  She has traveled a ridiculous amount around the world going on mission trips and just traveling so we had a lot of questions about those experiences. 

Our afternoon was spent going to 2 different Senior Living Centers to spend time with them and lead bingo games.  We stopped at a CVS and got a bunch of random prizes.  Many of it was toiletries stuff.  I think we tossed in a slinky just for fun.  Little did we know that we were about to enter into the most dangerous and volatile area in all of Chicago.  Our first stop was actually pretty nice.  There were a lot of elderly Asian people who came out and played well.  The only issue was that our teens were not loud enough.  If you have been around me at all, you know I do not struggle in the area of volume.  In fact my very first girl friend in Junior High tried to teach me how to not talk so loud.  She failed.  So I went to the front of the room and used my big, booming voice to holler out the letter and the numbers.  Every once in a while I would yell out something that didn’t make sense like: “OH . . . Henry!” or “Bee – Have!”.  I would get some confused looks and some smiles.  Some caught on, others didn’t.  Many of our teens sat in with the people and played with them.  Of course we would never take a prize and they knew that. 

After a fairly positive experience we headed off to our next Senior Living Center.  What we were unaware of was that we have now just crossed into the territory of Mordor and the eye of Sauron was looking at those prizes we were carrying!  You could almost hear that deep, diabolical voice saying, “I see them!”   We entered into the meeting room and everything seemed to be very similar to that last place we were just at.  I helped to pass out bingo cards and I was also looking for any extra ones so I could also play.  Unfortunately, one of the elderly women picked up on my intentions and started pointing at me while saying, “YOU CAN’T PLAY!”.  She said this over and over again until I realized that she was being quite serious and I better just go sit down and shut up. 

I went to the back of the room and decided to observe things as I checked my emails on my phone.  The first sign that something was not all good here was when I looked up and noticed that one of the women who seemed upset about how the game was going, grabbed a bingo card from someone claiming to win and chucked it at my teens who were running the bingo game up front.  I was fully engaged in watching what was going on now in that my own daughter was one of the ones standing up their trying to lead the game.  The look on her and Morgan’s face was awesome!  Their eyes were about as wide as they could get them as they tried to continue on calling numbers. 

Within minutes, apparently one woman felt that she had won and another who was strategically sitting up front facing the aisle, believed strongly that this woman was a liar.  So as the winning woman was trying to get a prize, the woman who disagreed decided to reach out and grab this woman by the back of her belt.  She pulled with enough force that the woman started to lose her balance and fall backwards.  This was one of those “slow-motion” moments where you can’t believe that you are seeing what you are seeing and your eyes and mouth are about as wide open as they can get.  As she fell backwards, she landed right in the lap of the lady pulling her.  She jumped off her lap, turned around and the foreign languages began to fly as they turned red in the face. I thought for a moment we were going to have a full on fight.  What was I doing? I was staying right where I was at in the back of the room far, far away from this whole thing!  My luck, if I had tried to intervene, would have been not good.  If it was a kid fight, or a teen fight, or even an adult fight that would have been different, but 2 elderly people? No way.  Besides it was way to awesome to watch my daughter react in the middle of it all.  This is a story she will remember forever!

After our exciting times with Bingo madness, we met up with the other team on the beach of Lake Michigan to debrief how the day went.  It was an interesting debrief as our leaders had the teens act out 3 scenes of how their day went.  Of course, my team acted out the whole Bingo death match.  The memorable scene from the other group was that Nile, our straight-faced, monotone-voiced super jock, apparently was reading books to the kids they were with.  His team seemed to really enjoy seeing him do this.

For dinner that night we went to a Thai restaurant.  I ended up sitting next to Rachel Mellett.  If there were ever 2 people who had completely different views on food it would be me and Rachel.  I ate anything and everything brought out to the table and I couldn’t get enough.  Rachel on the other had would look at something on the table and make comments of great dis-like as to what the plate of food reminds her of, its putrid smell, and when she would try just a little bit you would have thought she tasted a cockroach.  I gave her a hard time.    

When we arrived back at our rooms, we were finally allowed to take our first showers.  We all showered in the athletic locker rooms.  This was a nice place to shower as everyone was able to be showered quickly and the facility was very nice.  It was also air-conditioned so you weren’t sweating again once you came out of the shower. 

When we got back from showers we were blessed with the arrival of our other intern Hannah and our Senior Pastor Doug!  Doug’s first initial observation of our sleeping quarters was not positive.  He was a big overwhelmed by the heat and humidity.  He wasn’t sure that he could get any sleep in these conditions.  But whenever any officer has his general come to visit him in battle, it is wise for that officer to make sure the general is well taken care of .  So I got him set up in a bed room that was just for him and we got some windows open and fans going to make it somewhat comfortable. 

Once Doug got settled in, I took the teens to the corner McDonald’s for a snack.  We hung out until about 10:30PM and then headed back for lights out.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ruff Notes on Chicago Trip: Blogs are coming

Okay, it has been busy and I just have gotten behind on the blogs. I know! But I have been taking notes, of which, I will be sure to eventually flesh out into stories. So for those parents who are texting and emailing me about how all their kids are doing I will at least give you the notes for now. Check back later and I hope to get this updated more soon.

WARNING!!!: ALSO DO NOT CALL YOUR TEEN WHEN I PUT THEM TO BED AND PROCEED TO TELL THEM THEY ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A TORNADO WARNING!!! You do that again and you will have your house TP'ed by me. I promise. There were no warnings. Only a watch. Even in a real tornado we would have been just fine where we were at and we were keeping our eye on the weather. I have personally been through tornadoes and I know what to do. Panicked junior high girls make it all the worse to maintain control! A pile of girls freaked out and in my room was NOT what needed to happen which was caused by texts from parents at home!  I will ban cell phones next time if you stir this pot of prepubescent energy after lights out! And I will tell them it's their parents fault, not theirs!  Cut your kid off for the week and enjoy the peace and quiet! For real!

My rant is over now. Deep breath . . . . proceed . . . 

Ruff draft of the week so far:

July 24 
Up and off to church
Junior High Class: prayers for our trip and help with sorting out tools!
Getting ready to leave for Chicago
Much better bladder control than the Senior Highers!
Arrive at North Park University(Evangelical Covenant Church Affiliation)
Meet our Host leaders: Lauren and Rachel
Split up our team into two groups
Dinner at a Colombian restaurant: nonstop family style dishes
Prayer tour all throughout Chicago: learned about economic contrasts and impact of racism

July 25
Bingo with the elderly: anger, tension, the will of a bingo ninja warrior, and the fight scene!
Nile apparently reading to a group of kids!
Prayer walk
Dinner at Thai restaurant
First Showers
Arrival of Doug and Hannah
Slip out to McDonalds with kids for last night snack
Lights out

July 26
YMCA’s in the morning: kids having fun on a water slide

Team #1: Ethnic Plunge in Albany Park

Team #2: Uptown Prayer Walk
Serve Dinner at Cornerstone Community Outreach
Dinner at Vietnam Restaurant
The gun shots

Team #1: Serve Dinner at Ravenswood Community Services
Dinner at Mediterranean Restaurant
Head injury
Max reading the scripture to the boys for tomorrow
The joy of seeing ministry reproduction in our kids
Lights out