Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When Your Platform is a Minefield

The voices of the audience all blend into a steady murmur as they make their way to their seats. The lights go down and the voices quiet. A stagehand tells you its time and gives you a push towards center stage. Finally, the curtain goes up, you wonder how your mouth got dry so quickly, and the spotlight locks onto you. Every eye is focused on you.


Most of us have been there before. Staring into the spotlight like it was an oncoming train. For some of us the last time we found ourselves in that place it was an elementary recital. For others it was a high school play or maybe more recently someone talked us into the embarrassing act of Karaoke. No matter what the platform is, when you find yourself in the spotlight, your body acts like it has entered an entirely different atmosphere.


Change of perspective, Bill Shakespeare said, “Life is a stage.” If Jersey Shore has taught us anything it’s that Bill was right and people will watch anything. Life really is a stage though, and our technology and culture have intensified things. Cameras are everywhere, and if something interesting happens, there’s a pretty good chance it will get distributed on a global scale. Have you ever had a bad day? Maybe you have accidentally walked into a fountain while texting? Yeah, millions of people are going to see that. They are going to comment and video will probably get linked to their Facebook wall too.


If it gets people talking it’s newsworthy too. Forget about finding ways to create more jobs. If you can turn reality into the surreal and catch it on camera you have found an economic stimulus that politicians would die for. Have you heard of the Failed Marriage Business Model? Whether Kim and her wedding was real or just a gimmick it generated an amazing amount of attention. Fox News said that most estimators think that Kim received nearly eighteen million dollars. Who else gets paid $10,000 an hour for being married? She may be the punch line for many a joke right now, but isn’t the real punch line that we paid for it all?


Over 7 million people tuned into watch a football game on a Thursday night. It wasn’t a pretty football game either. Both teams only combined for one offensive touchdown. Still, for some reason it was the 6th largest TV audience to watch a Thursday night football game. The cause? The guy who managed the offenses’ only touchdown: Tim Tebow. Talk about living life under a microscope. Everyone from ESPN’s talking heads, all the way down to a plethora of Facebook statuses are full on arguing if he is actually a QB or not.


Tim is a pretty vocal guy. He is vocal in his faith, he is vocal in his leadership, and he has even been vocal after some of his failures on the field. His personality, desire to win, and faith have attracted a huge amount of interest. Every time he tweets nearly a half a million people read it. I wonder what its like for him to look into that spotlight?


Today, having a platform means constant scrutiny, ridicule, and constant potshots. All of that is a given, even if you don’t falter. Make a misstep in the spotlight? Prepare to get eaten alive. I’m not ready for that kind of stage. Are you? Is your faith?


Reading through the book of Acts you will find the followers of Jesus sharing His story with countless people and those people embracing Jesus as a result. Every step of the way, you will also find a huge amount of resistance. Paul, Silas, Barnabus, and Peter couldn’t stay anywhere for very long. Not because they did anything wrong, but because they made some people very uncomfortable. In Acts 14 a mob beat Paul beyond the point of consciousness and thought they had killed him. Just a few chapters later Paul and Silas are arrested and beaten without even being properly accused. Still, as they traveled from town to town their routine stayed the same. They would find people who wanted to talk about knowing God and introduce them to Jesus. They weren’t seeking the spotlight, they were simply messengers sharing the Message God had gave them. Are you ready for that platform? Can you imagine staring into that spotlight?


I’m not ready for MTV to send a camera crew out to my house to film a reality show pilot. I’m not sure what I would do if a CNBC reporter surprised me for an interview on current events. I don’t even want to think what the rest of the country would tweet, comment, and blog about if I did an in-depth interview with ABC. I would all too likely sizzle like an egg in a frying pan.


Paul followed God’s lead all over the place. He got to see God do amazing things through his words and actions. He also had a very angry group of people chasing him every step of the way. If they had gotten the right opportunity, they would have killed him too. Paul, still, was comfortable with the platform God had given him. He was also willing to go through all the other suffering that came with it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Afternoon Links

youthHOPE
This is a blog a friend of mine writes on from time to time. The organization tackles ministering to students on a global scale. If you really wanna get involved you can support my friend and his wife Adam and Kristy Griffith. I really believe in what they are doing in Thailand and the passion they have. Great blog with some wonderful (and challenging) insights.
 
Harassment Survey
 I read this article this morning from WCPO's website. The article discusses how rampant sexual harassment is in schools, between students. It covers the span of topics like sexting, bullying, and moments of harassment where students really just think they are joking around. This is a very thought provoking article on the reality we find our students living in everyday.


Meals for Haiti  
I LOVE me some Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. A group of our students and leaders went down this past summer and served with Northwest at the Mole Saint Nicholas. It was a great experience. Our friends at NWHCM are doing something really cool this Thanksgiving Season. They are trying to raise money for a MILLION meals for Haiti. Here is the best part: the meals only cost a nickel a piece. They are raising money from now until December 7th. So go check your couch cushions for change and get in the game!

Waking Up
This is a really cool spoken word video from a young adult conference a few weeks ago. Not only is it well made, but it is a great challenge to never stop dreaming, be a part of solution, and radically help others. Watch the video it is a great use of your next 3 minutes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Justice on a 7 Billion Person Scale

I heard on the radio the other day that the world’s population has reached 7 billion people. That number exploded in my head. It led me to a YouTube video on some University’s website that showed population growth throughout history. I saw how the United Nations is projecting that by the year 2100 there will be over 10 Billion people in the world. Those are big, big numbers in a small, small world. (It is a small world after all, isn’t it?) Essentially more people are being born each day then are dying.


If this info makes your mind jump to where mine did, then you know what I’m going to say next. I looked it up and scholars estimate that anywhere from 150,000 to 180,000 die each day. That would be the equivalent of Guam being sucked into the ocean each and every day.


Turkey just had a horrible earthquake that has left families trapped in the rubble, and many are still sleeping in tents and in their cars out of fear of more aftershocks. Still, at last count, far less than 1000 people have died in the earthquake. I’m not saying that this catastrophe was not tragic or that it did not affect hundreds of thousands of people. It did however only represent about .6% of the deaths that occurred that same day. I don’t know how to put death on that scale into perspective.

A student recently shared with me the story of Herod killing all the babies around Bethlehem, found in Matthew 2. He said that he didn’t believe that there was a God, but if there was, he was obviously cruel. “How could a kind God allow other innocent babies die so that His own son could escape and live?” He commented. That was the first time someone had shared this story with me from that perspective.


A few days later I started reading through the book of Matthew again. It didn’t take me long to come across Herod’s horrible act, or as my student put it, God’s failure to act. It got my wheels turning again and so I decided to spend some more time wrestling with the reality we all live in.


What about Herod, or more importantly, what about the question of God’s goodness? Does God’s seeming lack of intervention in Matthew 2 mean He is cruel? It would be very easy to turn this into ethics debate. Do the deaths of a group of innocent children justify the eventual hope of salvation of us all? I worry that putting the conversation in these terms cheapens the value of life. I don’t believe God looks at life in those terms.


It would be just as easy to look at the culture and context of this story and begin teaching the problem away. Herod was a bad man you know. He had lots of people killed for lesser things. There are lots of accounts of Herod killing big groups of people and asking questions later. When you think about it Bethlehem was a small country town. Even if you included the infants in the surrounding villages like Matthew 2 describes, the number of children killed could have been less than 100. You could go on and on. That might all be important information to better understand what exactly happened in Matthew 2, but it still doesn’t make the big question go away. Is God cruel? Is this story proof of that?


My student really got me thinking. My faith didn’t change, but I knew this was something that I needed to wrestle with, so I did. I came to a few conclusions:


Death is an experience I don’t understand and I can’t avoid.

It is a reality that hits our planet on a huge scale every day. I read Matthew 2 and see God sparing Joseph, Mary, and Jesus from a corrupt ruler’s hands. I see children in Bethlehem being murdered at the hands of Herod. I think the author of Matthew shared this story because it really happened and the prophet Jeremiah prophesied that it would (See Jeremiah 31:15). I don’t see this as proof of God’s cruelty. In fact I don’t see God as cruel at all.


God loves justice and promises it.

(See Job 37:23 or Psalm 9:16//11:7//33:5)

A leader or ruler’s job is to maintain order and ensure justice. God entrusted Herod with that job and he abused it. That doesn’t mean that God stopped serving justice. Herod’s act of evil did not go unpunished. God saw to it that those children and their families were given justice. In fact, Josephus, a Jewish historian, records that Herod came down with a ‘loathsome’ disease. Josephus credits the manner of Herod’s death as ‘Judgment from God on account of his sins.’ Herod didn’t get away with anything, and God did not sit idly by and watch it happen.


We need to trust Him even in life’s cruelest of times.

He deals with life and death on a mind numbing scale. He watches injustice on a grand scale and still honors our free will. I do not entirely understand why God spared Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, but let Stephen die in Acts 6 and 7. I do believe we are created to bring God glory and reveal His glory to others. Living and dying is all a part of that. God is above and beyond me, but at the same time he chose to come down and live alongside of me. I don’t know his thought process in every decision he makes, but He is far greater than me and I trust that He is good. The author of Revelation describes God’s final triumph over evil in Revelation 19. God is seated on a white horse. He has come to right the world’s wrongs and bring justice to us all. He is called Faithful and True and He brings Justice as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All will be made right. This is a very good thing.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

God's Wonderful World of Surprises

Have you ever had someone come into your life quickly and unexpectedly make a big impression on you? And I'm not talking about the 'He ran a red light at Beechmont and Five Mile, didn't see me, and totaled my car' kind of impression. I'm talking about when you meet someone seemingly by chance and that conversation becomes the highlight of your day.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I ran into a couple at Parkside on a Sunday morning. The couple had recently come to the US from Ethiopia. They only knew a few people in Cincinnati, but they had heard from one of them that Parkside cared about Ethiopians. Now I don't have a clue who they talked to, but whoever it was, was totally right!

We quickly developed a friendship the Telahown, his wife Ayantu, and their son. We had them over to our house, we went over to their place. We even taught each other about our different culture. I really enjoyed having conversations with Telahown about Scripture and his heart for ministry. He has a huge passion for teaching others about God's truth.

More than a year ago, Telahown and Ayantu had another son. As is customary in their culture, Ayantu went back to live with her mother in Ethiopia for the first few months of their new son's life. Telahown had been looking for a better job and found one in Nevada. Ethiopians who move to America keep in very good contact with other Ethiopians in the US and that was how he discovered this job opportunity.

So just like that, they disappeared from our everyday life. A couple months after they moved, I got a call from him telling me that he made it to Nevada safely. We prayed with each other and that was the last I heard from him, until yesterday.

God's surprises are great aren't they? Telahown called me yesterday to tell me they had lost our number but found it in an old notebook. He is still in Nevada and is working as a Taxi driver (He really likes it). His wife and boys have moved to Nevada with him. The last time I had talked to him I told him that there was a church close to where he lived that I had done an internship at. Yesterday on the phone he told me it is their home church now and they really have become a part of the church family.

Telahown made a big impression in a short time in my life. It was such a blessing to hear that he is well and is still connected with the Body of Christ. I share this story to remind you to keep investing in people. Whether they are in your life for a week or for years it's worth it. Let God's love flow from your life into theirs. You may never get the kind of phone call I got yesterday, but you might. Keep praying and celebrate the promises of God's goodness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sticky Faith and I am Second

Kara Powell Sharing on Sticky Faith

Kara Powell - Sticky Faith from MPPC on Vimeo.

Shorter Kara Powell Interview


Inspiring Testimonies:

Check out this website for a movement called IAMSECOND.COM which includes testimonies from Josh Hamilton, Brian Welch, and LeCrae (not mention a ton of other great stories).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fake Faith in a Genuine God

A thought hit me the other day that has continued to surface in my day to day life. I thought to myself, "Isn't it wonderful that I'm a hypocrite?" Yeah I know I am sounding like I'm crazy, but a few days later I actually told someone else about my eureka moment. They were a little perplexed. Being a hypocrite is not something most people are proud of at all.

Let me explain. I try to follow God in all areas of my life. I try to fill up with His Spirit so He can overflow into the lives of those around me. I teach others about God's word and His amazing message. Right now our Student Ministry is teaching each other about what it means to be Faithful in all areas of our lives. Here's the truth though: Nobody is Faithful, Nobody is Perfect and It's super-hard to try to be. Stick with me here, we are getting really close to the wonderful part of this.

God is faithful. God is perfect. It isn't something he 'tries' to do it is simply who he is. I am a hypocrite who tries to be faithful, but I fail a lot and more often than not my faith is pretty fake. God is the genuine thing though. There is nothing fake about him. How wonderful is it that our feeble and often fake faith is placed in a God who is real, true, and able to keep His promises.

Our High School Guys Sunday Morning Group talked about James 1 yesterday morning. James talks about fake faith. He compares it to people who literally can't remember what they look like. He essentially is saying, "Hey if you have met God, you are going to remember it!" Listen to what He says in James 1:25 (The Message)

"25But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action."

Take joy in this awesome truth today! In all of our fakeness and failures. He is the real deal and those of us who stick with it, we will find delight and meaning in our action. It's is wonderful to know that even me, the hypocrite, is loved by the genuine God.

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Adventure in the Unexpected

When Alicia and I found out we were going to be parents we started praying for our unborn child. We prayed our baby would know God's love and share God's love with others. The thing we probably prayed most often is that our child would always sense God's adventure in their life.

Robert Frost described life as a journey. Rascal Flatts recently reminded us that life is a highway that is intended to be driven all night long (Someone needs to explain that philosophical perspective to me. Is it better to drive only at night or is it that when we are going to drive for 12 hour stretches that night driving is best?). Our Constitution says that life is our God-given right and that we should have the freedom to pursue happiness.

I've recently been reading Karen H. Jobes commentary on the book of Esther. In her commentary Jobes discusses the unique nature of Esther in the Bible. The book does not mention the name of God nor does it mention prayer. Still, in what seems like the absence of God, amazing things happen in this historic account. God is present in amazing ways even though He is not listed among the cast of characters. The story is immensely powerful. So much so, Jews imprisoned in concentration camps during WWII would recite the entire book of Esther from memory. This bothered German soldiers to the extent that they forbade them from reciting the story because of the message it carried with it. Jobes used an interesting word to describe what happens in Esther's powerful story. She calls it Peripety.

I had never heard this word before so I looked it up to see exactly what meaning she was trying to convey. Peripety is when something totally unexpected happens seemingly out of nowhere. In Esther's case, right when you think all of the Jews are going to be killed, God uses Mordecai and Esther to save His People. That is peripety. As I looked up this word I found out that the history of this word actually carries with it the idea of adventure. After all, aren't the best adventures filled with unexpected things around every corner?

Alicia and I continue to pray for our son Zeke that he would always sense God's adventure in His life. Today, that's my pray for me and for you. That we would see God's adventure. That we would experience His Peripety in our lives. That just when we feel like He has abandoned us or that He is far from us that He would reveal himself in powerful ways.

Whether your life is a journey, a highway, or a pursuit, may you always sense His Adventure.

Uprooted

This morning in my quiet time I read Proverbs 12. Verse 3 of that chapter reads,
"No one can be established through wickedness,
but the righteous cannot be uprooted."
By itself this verse is a great truth, but in perspective with my weekend, this verse was especially fitting. On Saturday afternoon my dad and I spent 4 painstaking hours trying to remove a tree stump from my front yard. Needless to say I'm moving a lot slower today as a result.

My brother and I cut the tree down earlier this summer, and over the past few weeks I have been digging the stump out and cutting its roots. I thought I had gotten all of them, but after chaining it up and trying to pull it out it was clear that we still had work to do. We dug deeper and deeper, kept chopping more roots, and enjoyed the encouragement and jokes from my neighbors. Finally as the sun disappeared the stump finally came out. We were dirty, stinky and dog-tired.

As I read Proverbs 12:3, that tree stump came to the forefront of my mind. It wasn't a huge tree. At its thickest point it was maybe 16 inches in diameter. The stump had been cut off from most of its roots and the rest of the tree for nearly 3 months. Still it wasn't going anywhere fast.

Colossians 2:6-7 says, "
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

God encouraged me with those words from Proverbs and Colossians this morning. As I think about how difficult it was to uproot that tree, I love to think about how soundly God roots us in faith and the righteousness He gives us. When we put our trust in Him, He is faithful, and nothing can seperate us from Him.

(I can't forget to thank Clayton for letting me borrow his truck, Kevin for letting me borrow his chains, and my dad for working hard even with two knee replacements. Thanks!)


Links:
Jodi's Blog in Haiti
This is the blog of the missionary family in the Mole St Nicolas in Northwest Haiti. Such a cool update. Be praying for them!

Google Energy
Have you ever wondered how much electricity a Google Search uses? This article tells you that and a lot more info on how much energy Google takes up. Pretty interesting.

Benefits of Teens Being in Small Groups
Veteran youth minister Doug Fields writes a post about Student Ministry from the perspective of a Dad. He has come up with a great list of benefits small groups have for families and students.

Engagement Photos
My Uncle Denver put this link on his facebook page. By far the most interesting Engagement photos I have ever seen. Is that a zombie coming over the hill?


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Couple Emails Worth Sharing

Here are a couple emails that have found there way into my inbox the past few weeks that I thought were encouraging and worth sharing. It's neat to see God work in people and see them be active in His Kingdom. Here is what they had to say.

From a Teen Who Volunteers in Children's Ministry...
I wanted to share a real quick story with you. As a human, life throws you through tough times and I have kind of been going through one of those. But I look forward to every Sunday and teaching my lambs class SO much. The way they snuggle with you and look up to you makes my day. Yesterday, I had this little girl who was really tired and wanted me to hold her the entire time (which of course I LOVED). When we were singing songs and saying how much Jesus loved us and how he is our comfort, it really got me thinking. These little kids fears and worries are so different than mine, but God is there for all of us. These kids make me smile and make my day and take the stress out of my life for that hour or so. Helping in the lambs class has really impacted me and been a great experience! I just thought that was worth sharing :)
Erika

From a Mom who went with her daughters on a Student Ministry Trip to Haiti this summer:
When it began to rain but it was still light out I remember looking up at the mountains and the scripture, "I lift my eyes up to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." came to mind. I said that verse many times over the course of our bus ride. After we got stuck for the 3rd time I realized that though I thought I was trusting God when it came down to it I really wasn't. Most of my prayers up to that point were more like me begging God to get us there safely. God basically told me that He had kept me safe that far and that He'd gotten us unstuck each time so I needed to trust Him for the rest of the trip. After that I began to pray for the kids (and adults) that they wouldn't feel sick, that they'd feel God's peace, and that God would give them the strength to endure. While it was still a challenging trip after that, I did feel more at ease as I trusted God. All that time that verse was going through my mind. Though I knew the verse, I wasn't real familiar with it, and didn't know exactly where to find it though I tried to find it the next day. Anyway I looked it up when I got home. I read the whole Psalm 121 and was so amazed to see how fitting it all was to our trip! God was telling me He was going to protect me even though I didn't know the whole Psalm at the time. I just love how He works! Yay God!

Have a great day,
Andrea

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CIY Move Update

CIY Update: Tuesday Evening


Alright, it’s way past time for an update. Instead of me just typing away though I’ll let the students and leaders tell you what they have learned, enjoyed, or experienced…


Cory Hinaman

I have loved singing at the morning session and evening session with the awesome worship team. When we talked about the story of Rahab and how God can use all kinds of people to serve I thought it was really cool and inspiring.

Anna Self

So far CIY has been a blast. The AaronPelsueband is awesome and the speakers have been just as great. My favorite message so far has been about Samuel and how he learned to listen to God. It takes a lot to slow down and just say to God, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” We have also learned about Rahab and how God can take the biggest messes, love them, and turn their lives into something powerfully important. Rahab is a prostitute who ends up being the great great grandmother of Jesus. That alone proves how God can turn anyones messy life into something beautiful. That’s why he is called the Mess-iah.

Tanner Sotkiewicz

CIY ha been amazing so far. It has been so much fun to spend time with friends while growing closer to God. My favorite part so far was definitely worship on Tuesday night. It was so moving and inspiring and just awesome.

Megan Josefczyk

CIY has been awesome so far! Today, our morning speaker spoke about how we should not “decide to read the Bible” but feel “desperate to read the Bible and hear from God.” It was really inspiring and made me really want to dive into my Bible.

Elyse Purtilar

With this being my first CIY experience, I came in with no expectations because when I was in high school I grew up going to Woodland Lakes and Big Stuf Camp. I am a person who finds musical worship as my main form of worshipping the Lord. I came in not even really knowing or hearing much about the Aaron Pelsue Band and find myself weeping at how humble and selfless they made the experience of worship. I am definitely more than blow away at the experience overall, not just the worship and speakers but building deeper relationships with the youth group as a whole. To see my students get so much out of it and realize things that have taken me years to figure out or realize has been the most encouraging and humbling part of this trip. For my students to be so authentic and real with each other has made it a church “family” experience. Humbled. Blessed. Encouraged. Loved. Thank you for letting me spend the week with your children and be able to pour into them and students thank you for teaching me so much!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Intern Update

So it’s July and we are as crazy as ever. As I type this Tanner is trying to get me out of his seat, but in all seriousness we have learned a lot. We’ve all learned how to organize, but mostly we have learned how to serve others with a cheerful heart. Today we went on a prayer walk that taught me personally that God doesn’t care about your “prayer position,” but just that you talk to Him and share what’s on your heart. CIY Move is coming up, and we are all really excited, since we are partially in charge of planning our small group time. All the interns and Matt plan on Move being a life-changing, relationship-growing experience (with each other and God!). We are already brainstorming ideas about how to improve Student Ministry next year! But I can’t forget the best part of the summer so far, TIM DUNN”S CAMP! Camp taught me that no matter what age you are you can impact the world and others around you. It was awesome to see the kids open their hearts up to us (their counselors) and God’s truth that we were trying to instill in them. One of the things that impacted me the most was the heartfelt worship and honesty you could see on the campers’ faces. This type of worship became contagious and the dynamic of the camp changed from then on. Besides the great experience I had with the campers, I also made some tight friendships with the other counselors. The other counselors are now my friends for life. I miss camp, but I’m ready to take on the rest of my already fantastic summer!!!

- Anna

Hey this is Tanner, these girls are driving me crazy, but I am learning to live with these crazy antics and “prom dress” chats. I really do have a great time every day though. I am learning a lot more from things I didn’t think I would learn from. Like cleaning out closets, and wiping down things dirtier than you can imagine. Doing this work has taught me to be a servant. It’s like I’m really starting to understand that it’s not about me, but that I was called to be a servant to God. This includes being a servant to others. Also, TIM DUNN’S JR.HIGH 1 CAMP, as mentioned earlier in Anna’s paragraph. We spent the whole week as “family members” or counselors at this camp. I went into this camp expecting to help middle school students get one more step along the way in there walk with God. Which definitely happened with many students, but what I didn’t expect was to learn so much about myself from those kids. So for the most part I am really enjoying the internship so far.

- Tanner

As another day of the internship begins, I enter Parkside excited to find out what is going to come my way as soon as I open the door to the office. I open the door every Wednesday and Thursday to see my three fellow interns (Dana, Anna and Tanner) and Matt sitting and chatting as I proceed to almost always be the last one there. I guess I am still getting used to the 9-5 job experience. We started reading this book called Radical by David Platt and we discuss a different chapter every week. So far, I have learned a lot just by reading this book. I am not far in the book but I can’t wait to read more. In the past few weeks I have learned many things about working in an office, as well as learn the responsibilities around the church. From learning how to work a copy machine, to organizing and cleaning different things around the teen center, I have learned a lot about having responsibilities and serving in God’s Kingdom. So far it has been an awesome and fun experience. While Matt was in Haiti we attended, TIM DUNN’S JR.HIGH 1 CAMP!!! I, as well as the other interns, each were counselors in a so called “family.” The theme of the camp was “Grown Up.” We heard many different sermons about knowing your faith, and doing your faith and how to apply God’s word to your life. One of the best nights of camp was the interactive worship night. Kids learned how to worship God in other ways besides just singing, reading the Bible, or praying. It brought a new meaning to the idea of worshiping the Lord. Camp was a great opportunity to reach out to Jr. High students and to serve in God’s Kingdom. It was a life-changing experience that furthered my relationship with Jesus Christ, as well as the relationships with the people around me. So far this camp has been one of the highlights of my summer and I learned a lot about becoming a leader and serving. It was a blast, and I hope to stay in contact with the people that I met there. I have learned so much from working in the church these past few weeks, and working in other students lives. This is more than just a 9-5 job, it is all about glorifying God’s Kingdom and leading people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. I am loving the internship so far and I can’t wait for our next big thing, CIY MOVE! We have just begun planning and it is going to be a great trip! I am excited to see where God leads me and the rest of the team in the next couple months. It has been a great journey so far!

-Katie


It feels like we’ve been here forever. This internship has been a huge blessing for me. I’ve had so many opportunities to grow my faith and grow relationships. We went to Woodland Lakes Christian Camp last week for Tim Dunn’s ‘Grown UP’ Junior High 1 camp. It was a fantastic experience. I had been praying every day leading up to the camp that the counselors would open their hearts to these kids and pour into them. I also prayed that Kurt, our speaker, would just really hit a chord with these kids and that the kids would be broken down so that God may build them back up.

My faith and leadership were challenged in many ways in this camp. I was able to take an active role in my family group. My group was very closed off at first; conversation was hard to get out of the girls. But by the end of the week, we were all as close as can be. The over all sermons were about having an active faith and to ‘know faith…do faith’. As Christians we need to work on having a genuine faith as well as finding a balance within the works we do. The best part of the week for me wasn’t the sermon, paint-balling, the giant swing, or even the worship. The best thing that happened was that I was able to mend my relationship with my brother.

At the beginning of the camp, each camper was asked what they want to get out of the week. My friend was in my brother’s family group and passed on to me what his response to this question was. He said this: “I would really like to deepen my relationship with God, but I would also like to grow closer to my sister. She’s usually really busy and I never really see her. Plus she’s going away to college this year and I’m gonna miss her.” This was the best thing I could ever hear. By the end of the week, my brother and I were finally on good terms. We even had a nice hug/cry session during our interactive worship day during camp. This camp was such a blessing. It did not only answer my prayers about breaking the kids down to be built back up by God, but the counselors as well were broken down and built back up. Also many friendships blossomed from this camp, as well as in this internship. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer holds!

-Dana

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Headed to Haiti

Our team leaves for Haiti bright and early tomorrow morning. Pray for us, we return on July 1st. You can get updates on the trip here:
 Thanks,
Matt

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Obligation to Share Our Story

Life gets busy fast... or as that one insurance commercial quips, "Life comes at you fast."

Alicia and I have welcomed with open arms, and we love it. Most of our days are spent in a somewhat sluggish fashion that reminds most people of zombies. Still, we have smiles on our faces so we are happy zombies. Happy zombies with a beautiful son.

Ask anybody who has had a conversation with me and they will say that my ability to recall certain.. oh wait one second... let me think... oh yeah... WORDS, has decreased considerably. I might not even be fluent in American English anymore. It's probably closer to a dialect of Tired Dad.

Recently, I was having a conversation with my small group and we talked about the importance of sharing what God has taught us through our life story. One of us mentioned that they didn't want to sound like they were bragging or had life figured out, and so they seldom shared God-stories or stories of personal growth outside of their close friend circle. They didn't want to come across as spiritually pompous so they celebrated the truth to themselves or with a few others.

As the conversation wore on we (or maybe just myself) came to the conclusion that we need to share how God's growing us, or what he is teaching us with others. There are verses all over the New Testament about 'one another.' We are called to love, encourage, help, admonish, bless one another because of God's work in our lives. So whether that means a facebook status, a conversation over dinner, in your group, at work, or on your blog, I think we need to be sharing the growth, life lessons going on inside of us.

Which brings me back to the busyness of my new role as Dad. I'm embarrassed to say that its been a month since my last post. I have had different things happen in my life that I will write a note to myself to share with others on this blog. Those post-its are collecting dust on my desk. I know my first responsibility is to minister to Alicia and my son Zeke, but I need to do a better job of sharing what is going on in my life, with others. It is what God has called each of us to do.
Not so that we can sound more spiritually fit, but so we can strengthen each other in our service to God.

I'd love to hear what God is revealing/teaching you as well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Things of Interest

I just wanted to pass these things along to everybody. I hope you find them useful and/or enjoyable:

The Vilardo Blog:
Some of our Students are currently on a mission trip with their family in Kazakhstan. They are doing some pretty neat things for the Kingdom of God and are sharing some of it on their blog. I've loved keeping tabs on them. Please be praying for them during their trip!

Zach Steever in Bolivia:
During our HS Retreat this year we spent time praying for Zach and some of his students who were on a work trip at the same time in Bolivia where he teaches. It was a really neat prayer time. Afterwards he sent us some pictures of how their trip went. Their team of students dug a well and fabricated parts of the well. It was also a time of discipleship for all involved. Pretty cool to see what they did and how God let us be a part of it through prayer.


















ISAIAH117CHALLENGE T-Shirts:
Necia Disse is designing our shirts for this year's Isaiah 117 Challenge. She is coming up with some cool looking stuff too. Here is just a taste of the brilliance!














 Volunteer Thank You Video:
Here is a video that a church did to appreciate their volunteers. It's awesome and I'm gonna use it as a chance to say how much I love the team that serves our students and their families. It's awesome to serve in God's Kingdom together. This video is pretty awesome too. The people that came up with it did a great job.


Volunteer Rap from Kensington on Vimeo.

Your Kids an All-Star?:
This is a blog post that was sent to me by a friend of mine. It is by a guy named Scott Linscott. He discusses all the negative effects sports, drama, music etc. can have on students. He says some pretty thought provoking stuff and I think he is right on most of it too. We need to treat our students a lot more like we treat our retirement accounts sometimes. We can't try  to rush their growth or over do things. We have to look at where we want them to be 5 to 10 years down the road and help them make good decisions that reflect our spiritual beliefs. That's really hard to do in this day and age. Be sure to read Scott's post. It's worth your time!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Special Thanks to Everyone at Rel Community

This past Sunday night at Rel Community, our students and group leaders threw Alicia and I a surprise party for Baby Zeke. It was so thoughtful of them. Here are some thoughtful things they did, highlights from the night, and some other things I noticed:
  • The students made a scrap book for us. Each student did a page or two. It turned out pretty sweet and now we have a way to look back at past Student Ministry Events. It's in my office right now on the coffee table, but It's gonna be great to have around the house to show friends and family different things our students have done.
  • It's also kind of creepy that the students were able to create a scrapbook of most of our lives just from the pictures we have up on Facebook. I'm surprised that George Orwell didn't specifically name Big Brother Facebook in his classic novel 1984.
  • The students decorated, brought baked goods and balloons. It was one happening place on Sunday night.
  • The activity for the night was Price is Right: Baby Style. Not only was this hilarious, but we also learned that Turner Seal pales (yes that's also a tanning joke) in comparison to Bob Barker.
  • Probably the biggest thing that blessed me on Sunday night was realizing the wonderful family God has put around us here at Parkside. It was so thoughtful for our students and group leaders to do something like that on their own and they did it in such a loving and thoughtful way. I can't wait to introduce our new son to each of them.
And yes, as I write this my wife has yet to go into labor, and I have yet to get to meet my son for the first time. The due date is April 1st, just a few days away. Be praying for a safe, healthy delivery for mom and baby. Oh and be praying that he gets here sooner rather than later!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Adverse Change

I came to a shocking realization this morning around 2:30. I have a tooth that really really hurts.  At about 4AM, I came to the conclusion that the pain wasn't going away, and I was going to have to do something about it. Well, I wasn't going to have to do something. A trained professional was going to have to do something. So as soon as my dentist opened up shop today I headed over to get things looked at. That's when I received my death sentence: Root Canal.


I asked the hygienist Tiffany, how long they typically take. Apparently they last around an hour if all goes well. If having my mouth stretched open wide while one of my nerves is destroyed in my mouth wasn't enough, I haven't been getting too many excited comments from my friends and family about their experiences with the process. The general consensus is its painful, long, and at the end of it they give you a bill. No this isn't my attempt at a Charlie Brown Dental Visit, or me sharing Matt's Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  That's not the case at all.


I hate when I know I have something painful ahead of me. I hate it even more, when I know that it is necessary. It only makes things worse to know on top of everything else, that whatever necessary pain is ahead of me, it won't necessarily fix all of my problems.


It is easy for me to recognize this when my jaw is throbbing and anything is an improvement over that constant pain. It is a lot harder for me, when that necessary pain means having a tough conversation with a friend,  making a tough cut in my personal budget to pay off debt, dealing with sin in my life, or making some other change in my life. 


People are naturally resistant to change because they know it can be painful. We are even more resistant when we know it will be painful.  Still, we can't avoid it. That only makes things worse. Pain is sometimes an inevitable part of life. When we recognize that we have some of it up ahead, we best prepare ourselves to trust God and go through it. If we drag our feet, it can only last longer.


I've gotta run. I think I have an ice skate in my basement. I think I saw Tom Hanks give himself a root canal with one in Castaway. It couldn't hurt to try right?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CIY Believe 2011 Tour: Student Minister Field Guide

Our students went to CIY Believe this weekend in Cincinnati, and we had a GREAT time. The Believe Team did a really good job of making Friday and Saturday a wonderful and challenging experience for our leaders and our students.  It's Tuesday and my Facebook News Feed is full of inside jokes, song lyrics, memories, and pictures being shared by students and leaders from this weekend. 

Cincinnati was the 3rd of 11 tour stops for Believe this year. I thought it might be helpful for other ministers, leaders, and churches for me to throw out some info that I found helpful, and to share a little bit about our group's experience. Here are some things that I thought were noteworthy, helpful to know beforehand, or things I appreciated that Believe gave us ahead of time. I hope you find it helpful, and I hope your students and leaders enjoy their weekend at Believe like we did.

Registration Process
Because our church was close enough to the arena, I went early to register without our students, and to reserve seats for the evening sessions. The early check in at Believe started at 3pm. I got there around 3:15.  I was able to reserve front row seats for our whole group, but be careful that you get a seating chart for the evening to ensure you save seats that match up with your groups bracelets otherwise you might have to move unexpectedly. I loved the chance to get in early and take care of our seats.

Another thing that I wasn't expecting when I arrived early, was that we needed to turn in all of our permission forms and leader releases in order to get our small group materials and student Bibles. I did not have all of our forms etc ready, but they were very gracious and allowed me to go ahead, pick up our stuff, and turn in our forms later that evening. It was great to get the Bibles ahead of time to leave on the seats we had reserved.

Small Group Materials
The small group materials that they provide the groups this year were significantly different from previous years. This year each group will receive a 'inflatable conversation starting' ball. You toss it around the group and depending on what your hand is touching on the ball determines what question the student gets asked.

The ball is more ideal to be used outside the arena, in your hotel room, or in your church. It won't work to well if you try throwing it around your table at lunch or at a late night coffee shop etc. The ball itself doesn't provide your group leaders with much info on the sessions either. Some group leaders really like to know what topics are going to be covered so they can get their thoughts together on things. The Believe team has released a session by session, element by element overview of the weekend so that leaders can get a good grip on things for their small group times. You can find that HERE.

Worship Materials
This is one of the areas that the Believe team really hit it out of the park. I can't speak for everybody, but I love it when I get info ahead of time about what is going to be said, sung, and done at these events. Not only did they let us know what songs we would be singing, but they provided us with an ITUNES ping list, chord charts, and an overview of what their goal was with the worship times. I hope they provide us with this type of info every year. You can access the worship info HERE.

Oh and I can't forget to say that the band that they brought with them to help lead worship, the Sparks, did a wonderful job. I really enjoyed them.

Finding New Seats
At Believe you group switches seats throughout the weekend to give as many groups as possible a chance to be close to the action. I think its a really good idea. One thing I would give you a heads up on though is the Saturday: After Lunch switching of seats will sneak up on you. Hopefully in the future, they will just have you sitting in one area on Friday, and then one area all day Saturday. My advice for getting your seats for Saturday after lunch, is to try and find seats for your group BEFORE you all leave the venue for lunch.

Believe Bibles
I love the fact that Believe gives every student a Bible and encourages them repeatedly to read along with them in it. However, every year we have several students leave their newly received Bibles all over the place. I think what I am going to try next year is to either print out name labels to put in each of the Bibles on the first night, or have each student right their name in their Bible right away when they get it.

Lion Stencils
One of the underlying themes is that God gives us the courage to do what we are called by Him to do. They have this awesome picture of a lion that represents the courage He gives us. Throughout the weekend, they will use a stencil to spray paint on the lion to students' t-shirts. They actually have stencils for sale at the event, but I thought you might want to get a different lion stencil online to be tagging people's shirts with that weekend. Here are a couple I found:

Lion Number 1

Lion Number 2

Cardboard Box Painting
This was one thing that got me a lot more stressed than I needed to be about it. When we received our info pack with our wristbands, we also received a letter that told us to get a sample size amount of black and white pant, and things to paint with (brushes, gloves, sponges etc).  We would use it in Saturday's last session to paint a box. I tried talking with other people to see what they were going to get, and I called CIY to ask how many I would need for my group of around 40. They told me that I would only need 1 box and enough paint for that box. What worried me was I was worried that not all of my students would be able to participate in the activity.

What I ended up doing turned out to work pretty well. I asked a few students to paint the box during lunch on Saturday, and then had all of our students write on it before the last session started. The element they use the boxes for is pretty cool, and it will come together whether things go smoothly on your end or not. 

CIY's Event Cell
In the packet that we received our wristbands, we also had an overview letter from Corina Ferguson our event coordinator. It talked through different aspects of the weekend, and it also included a cell phone number we could reach her at during the weekend.


On Saturday as we left the arena, we ran into a girl who had been separated from her group in the parking garage. I was so thankful I had brought that letter with me. One of our small groups of girls talked with the student while I called Corina. She quickly found the girl's church, called them, and the group turned around and quickly came back to the parking garage. The Believe team (Thanks Corina!) took care of that problem in 5-10 minutes. I was  so impressed, and I could see how thankful the student was to be able to quickly find her group again.

Make sure you have that number with you in case something happens with your gorup, or someone else's.

Tricycle Racing League
The goofy, entertainment element this year at Believe is a series of videos about the Tricycle Racing league. Although a lot of our students didn't really get these videos, or think they were very funny, they all thought it would be pretty fun to race tricycles some time. So if you have the time before hand, you might go out and grab some tricycles for Believe Free Time, or just start having some Tricycle races with your Middle School students  right now.

Highlights:
Heather Flies-  was our speaker for the weekend and she did a phenomenal job. A lot of our team said that they would love to have her come speak at our church. I love the way she was authentic, quick to the point, and the way she showed love for Middle School Students. 

Roaring Like a Lion and These Are Your Words- were the two songs that our students came away from Believe singing. These were both very meaningful songs for our group, and they will be sung a few more times here at Parkside before too long.

Awesome Group Leaders- Our team of leaders here at Parkside did an incredible job this weekend. I loved overhearing conversations about reading the Bible, living your faith at school, and just seeing our leaders love their students. I also have to celebrate just how much initiative our leaders exhibited this weekend. We had a few students picked up early, and our group leaders handled all of it. Any time a student had an issue or concern the first person to hear about it was their group leader and their leaders did a great job handling those moments. We had a couple of students who didn't like heights and didn't want to sit in the upper deck. Their leaders just grabbed a couple other students, checked in with me and found a small section of seats in the lower deck. It is such a blessing to be a part of this team. They are all passionate about loving students and being a part of God's Kingdom.


No Cathedrals Preview- The focus for CIY Move this summer is on places in the world where churches aren't made up of buildings, but are simply a group of people. These are parts of the world where persecution is a huge concern for followers of Christ. The Believe team showed an extended preview of the documentary called No Cathedrals on Saturday morning. I am excited about revealing this part of the world to our students. We take our faith for granted all to often, and we need to realize just how much grace is worth.


-I hope you found this overview/field guide helpful for Believe. Don't hesitate to email me with any questions you might have. Our weekend at Believe was great, and I hope and pray you have the same experience.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

CIY BELIEVE: Day 1

We have had a great first night at Believe. it's involved tricycles, magic, loud music, dancing, the story of Esther, and our students having WAY to much fun at IHOP at midnight. The students took a lot of video with the flip cam, but it won't be until next week before we get that video online.

So yeah we had a lot of fun. The big thing they challenged us with tonight was for us to realize what has brought us HERE to this moment and what God is wanting to challenge us to do NOW. If anyone wants to read along with us this weekend, they can do that by reading the book of ESTHER. Parents this would be a great way to know a little bit about what your students learned this week and start some good conversations with them.

Please be praying that our students would have open hearts to God's word. Pray that our adult leaders would get more rest than the actual hours they sleep (its 2am as I am writing this!), and pray to that we wouldn't miss God's Spirit in this awesome time. We sang a song tonight about God being fully alive in us and how his power is like a roaring lion within us. Pray that we wouldn't miss Him and his power this weekend.

We have a great group of students here who all have different talents and gifts. They also have a lot of different things that they are working through. Its all a part of being a middle school student. It isn't always fun either. Pray that they would begin to see the ways God guides us and strengthens us for every present moment. Thanks! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Our Savior, Shepherd, and King

When I was a kid, some where along the way, someone showed me a series of verses from the book of Romans that sum up the message of Jesus. They talk about our need for a savior, how Jesus can meet those needs, and how he deserves to be in control of our lives. They are all solid passages, just like the rest of Romans.

Recently, I have been reading through the book of Psalms with one of our High School Seniors who I meet for breakfast every week. We will get together for the tasty food at Big Apple Bagels and talk about life and then read through a handful of Psalms.

This morning we got to 3 Psalms that I absolutely love. I think they accomplish the same thing that the verses from Romans do. They paint a beautiful picture of Jesus' sacrifice, his loving compassion, and his mighty power.  The thing I might love the best out of all of it is the fact that God inspired these three Psalms to be written by King David a long time before Jesus was even laid in a manger.

The Psalms I am talking about are chapters 22, 23 and 24. Psalms 22-24 start of in chapter 22 with words that Jesus eventually spoke on the cross. The chapter is prophetically about Jesus' suffering. He endured the ridicule of men, and the pain of the cross for all mankind. The chapter ends not with sorrow, but with eternal hope. Psalms 22:30-31 declare, 
"30 Posterity will serve him;
   future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it!" 


Psalms 23 is one that you will see quoted on Hallmark cards, as well as plenty of other things, but as you read it don't miss the person that the LORD is described as. The person that is described in chapter 23 is the perfect, most compassionate dad anyone could ever think to have. 


Chapter 24 hits you like an incredible pep talk before the biggest test or challenge you might possibly face. It describes the Lord in His great power and might. It paints a picture of God returning victorious from battle to the praise of his people.


Please take the time to sit down, read, and meditate on these 3 chapters today. Thank Jesus for his sacrifice for our sake, embrace him as our loving Shepherd, and take safety in him as your King.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Student Super Bowl Commercials


Is this an And1 Mix Tape???



Awake and Alive -or- Is that a Chocolate Chip Cookie or Oatmeal Raisin?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another Super Bowl Commercial from Our Contest and Random Stuff

This video was done by one of our Middle School groups. As you can tell I think they had WAY too much fun filming this!




I'll be posting other commercials from our students' commercial contest at Rel Community. Here are some other things that I hope make you laugh, brighten your day or grow you in some way:

VINCE LOMBARDI
For those of you who might not know the Super Bowl trophy is named the Lombardi Trophy after former coach Vince Lombardi. As crazy as it might sounds, someone with the same name was arrested on Super Bowl Sunday for shoplifting. He doesn't look too happy does he?

WORLDVIEW 101
A friend of mine who is currently a teacher in Bolivia sent me this website, and looks like a really informative and valuable tool. It has tons of information and articles about pretty much everything. If you are a Christian who wants to go a little deeper in their knowledge of God or other worldviews, this would be a great resource.

MARRIED IN MINISTRY
Whether you are in full time ministry, its something you are pursuing, or you just want to know more about what life in ministry is like, I came across a blog interview that has some great insights as to what it is like for the wife of a full-time minister. The interview is with Lauren Chandler who is married to Matt Chandler who is the Lead Minister at Village Church in Texas.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Parent Night at Rel Community

This past month we decided to do something different at Rel Community for one Sunday night. We invited all of the parents to come with their students. We were motivated by our desire to team up with parents in ministry, and our desire to encourage them in the day in and day out challenge they have raising up their kids in the way they should go. Still, we didn't know exactly what the response would be. We put a high value on supporting parents from our student ministry and community so we decided it was something we had to do.

So we put announcements in the bulletin, the e-newsletter, and spent a whole month announcing it to students and giving them take home cards to give to their parents. We prayed a lot that parents would show up. We also prayed that it would be an encouraging time for our parents and our group leaders.

I can't speak for everyone on the Student Ministry team, but I for one was pretty nervous about the Parent night for a couple of reasons. First off, there is unfounded, but pretty inherit fear that most Student Ministers have of parents. I know it is pretty ridiculous, but I'm guessing that its the same kind of feeling that teachers get at times at Parent and Teacher Conferences. It only takes a few times of getting blindsided by a parent to get a little bit apprehensive. Student Ministers and Volunteers spend so much time and passion investing in students' lives, and sometimes parents will unsuspectingly blow us out of the water. It doesn't happen all the time, but it definitely happens, and the scars we get from us can easily affect how we interact with other parents. So not only was I nervous that some of our group leaders would get hurt by a well-intentioned parents words, I also had another fear. I was worried that students would choose not to come because they didn't want their parents to be there.

I spent the week leading up to Parent Night giving my fears up to God and joining other Student Ministry Team Members in prayer for the night. What God did on Parent night was incredible. We had over 35 parents show up and take part in the evening. Not only that, but we also had over 70 students there that evening. Not only did they show up, but everyone participated in the evening's events. We played a HUGE game of Parents vs. Students Dodgeball and nearly everyone played. After that our students taught their moms and dads the Cupid Shuffle, and everyone had a blast!

For our group time that evening we split up our group leaders. Half of them went with their normal group of students, and the other half went to meet with their group's parents. In our parent group time we got to know everyone, shared our biggest fear for our sons and daughters, shared our kids biggest successes, and really just tried to encourage the parents in their God-given role. We ended the night by praying for each other in our circles. It was truly incredible.

One of my favorite parts though was what happened afterwords. I kept getting approached by parents and by group leaders who wanted to say how much they enjoyed getting a chance to interact with each other. Group leaders said they loved hearing form the parents, and the parents kept thanking the group leaders for what they did. On the way home from Rel Community that night I got two phone calls. One was from a group leader. I was worried that someone had said something hurtful or something like that. That wasn't the case at all. They were just calling to say how much fun being with the parents had been. The other call was from a parent. They wanted to let me know how blessed they were to have a ministry for their kids that also wanted to help and encourage the parents. What a blessing those two phone calls were!

Its been a couple weeks since Parent night, and everybody already wants to do something like it again. I talked to some mom's who were at the church the other day, and they said they could hardly wait until they got the chance to come again. I asked them if it would be hard giving up a Sunday evening to come to more Parent Nights. They didn't even hesitate. They said they would be there in a heartbeat. I think God's trying to tell our Student Ministry something. We have loved working alongside of parents, and we are definitely going to be making more opportunities to do it more!

Here is a video to give you a little taste of what the evening's activities were like:

video

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things I've Been Reading

Well there was a little longer between blog post than I would like, but a lot of great stuff has been going on the past few weeks that has either kept me away form the computer or kept me pretty busy. Right after Christmas, I had the awesome opportunity to go on a Cruise with Alicia's family that was so much fun. Once we got home, a last minute plan turned into reality, and my Dad and some of my friends to a van load down to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. We drove there and back in the course of 48 hours, but it was TOTALLY worth it.  Then finally, our Middle School Sunday Morning Group was going through a series our leader Yuri came up with called Carrots and Donuts: The Civil War Within, that focused on the struggle we have as Christians to give up certain things to go on the adventure God has for us. As a part of that our group was challenged to give up something that we spend a lot of time doing. I chose the internet, so for a week I was out of commission, but now I have some time to pass along some things to you for your perusal.

Here are some links of things I've seen or read recently. Hopefully some of them brighten your day, challenge you, or just make you laugh:

Shane Claiborne on Prayer
This is an article from Relevant Magazine. It talks about the power of prayer as a community. 

Stop Reading Your Bible
This is a link to a blog from a Youth Group that decided to stop reading their Bibles for a month. I know that sounds crazy and well, unbiblical, but check out what they are doing. It's pretty interesting.

Radical By David Platt
One of my friends at Nagel Middle School recommended this book to me. I got in on my IPOD and I have listened to the first few chapters and its been really solid. It not only challenges your thought process on what God is doing in your life, but it also challenges you to think about what God's purpose is for the church.

Inside a Moment in Time
This is something that ESPN put together on their website. It has everyone's perspective on the Eli Manning to David Tyree catch from Super Bowl XLII. Not only does it tell you some pretty cool things about the play itself, it also shows you how much work, effort, and chance went into one of the greatest plays of all-time.

The Empire Farts Back
Yeah ok so this one isn't serious at all. Still, embrace this video. Click on the link and enjoy fart after fart. It's pretty interesting what someone can do with some editing of Star Wars and a fart machine. You'll love the Yoda sequence too!