Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's - Push the Pause Button

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ferris Bueller

Happy New Year!

Today and tomorrow is a wonderful time to meditate and reflect on life. 2011 has brought blessing, struggle, disappointment and joy.

That's life isn't it?

There's something important about remembering. Did you experience great victories in 2011? Where did you see the hand of God clearly in your life? Were there times of great struggle and failure?

For me, the answer is a resounding YES!

Today or tomorrow take some significant time to push the pause button and reflect. Here are some ideas.

1. Look through your calendar or journal

There's no way I can remember last week much less the 3rd week of January. If you journal this is a great wonderful time to skim through your thoughts from last year. Your calendar is another way to stop and remember. Whatever you use, work though 2011 slowly and think about how you spent your time and energy.

As you look over last year some events will jump out at you. As these special events jump off the page, slow down and reflect.

2. Stop and give thanks

After taking a stroll down memory lane stop and thank God for all the blessings. Remember, some times blessings don't seem that way when you're going through life. Sometimes looking back can bring difficult circumstance in to focus. "In all things give thanks."

3. Embrace your failure

As you honestly reflect there will be times of regret. Be honest with yourself.

I plan to own up to my struggle and failure, once again tell God I'm sorry and ask for his grace and power to grow in 2012. You may need to pick up the phone and call someone you've wronged. Whatever the case, use this as an opportunity to apply God's grace to your life not to sit in shame.

4. Jot down 3-5 hopes for 2012

Ok, this is a little different than New Year resolutions. Where do you hope to see the hand of God in your life and your loved ones next year?

Some of these hopes may be simple like, "I hope to spend more meaningful time with my wife". Or they may be "bhag" hopes. (big, audacious, hairy goals). Wherever God takes your thoughts and imagination make sure you're depending on the power of the gospel not your effort.

5. Share your hopes

We need prayer. Hopefully you have some people close to you who will share in your desires for 2012. If not, maybe that could be one of your "hopes"? Find a couple people to share what you're praying for in 2012.

Life happens at the speed of sound. Let's use this holiday as an excuse to stop, reflect and connect with a God who has been and will be gracious.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 9 in 2011

Everybody's doing it. So to keep up with the Jones'...

Why just 9 you ask? Well honestly, I'm not sure what the 10th most read blog of 2011 is.

So here are 9 most read posts of 2011. They're probably at the top because my mom read them over and over again, thanks mom!

Number 9

This was written while sitting in a hotel in Honduras at the end of leading a trip with high school students. It was an amazing experience but as usual I had a big questions.

Number 8

Our high school pastor Trey Grant does a great job challenging students to empathize with the poor. This a letter from a parent who was involved.

Number 7

My daughter's 16th birthday was this year. This is about / for her.

Number 6

After hearing stories of Godly men committing public sin, I was reminded of my own frailty and potential collision course with scandalous sexual sin.

Number 5

One of the greatest struggles teens have is navigating how they will handle their relationships with the opposite sex. It effects all their relationships; parents, friends and God.

Number 4

How can small group leaders serve their students through the summer? Here's a note our highs school ministry sent to our leaders.

Number 3

This is simply our information sheet on how we do our 2 year internships at IBC.

Number 2

When on vacation I watched most of this TV series. It impacted me at a deep level. There's more to come on this as I've now finished every episode.

Number 1

This was a short email sent to the IBC staff the morning after one of our students, Jha'Kyric Nixon drowned. That night I led a candle night service. 1 week later I had the privilege of officiating the funeral. God did a magnificent work but students are still hurting today.

Wow, what a year. Can I encourage you to take some time and reflect on your year? Maybe sit down with your calendar and look through the year to remember God's blessing. Of course there where hard times, but remembering God's goodness at the end of the year helps launch us into a grace filled new year.

Happy 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christ with Us - Spurgeon

"He is as surely with us now as He was with the disciples at the lake, when they saw coals of fire, and fish laid thereon and bread. Not carnally, but still in real truth, Jesus is with us. And a blessed truth it is, for where Jesus is, love becomes inflamed."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Sign of Christmas

Our arts team at Irving Bible Church came together to produce this whimsical short film for Christmas. Enjoy, and a very Merry Christmas to you!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent, Much More than the Manger

Believe it or not, my family believes I'm a Scrooge.  To be honest so much of the materialistic focus of Christmas makes me irritable BUT I love the mystery of the Advent Season.  It seems the invisible layer separating heaven and earth becomes a little thinner during the Christmas season.

Every year I learn more and more about the richness of the Christmas season. Last year I worked my way through Shawn Small's book "Via Advent" which added so much depth to my Advent meditation.  I'm pondering visiting Shawn's book again this Christmas.

This Advent season has also been full of new learnings. A few weeks ago I was chatting with a Catholic youth director friend. I was curious about some of his church's advent traditions. We began to discuss how Advent is a celebration of the "3 comings of Christ".

Of course the first coming is what we celebrate in the manger. And I knew about a second coming in the future but what is this third coming? Personally I had never thought about Advent being much more than meditating on and celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.

Below is an excerpt from a sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaux. He was a very influential monk born in France in 1090 A.D. He was a noble who chose to abandon his life of privilege for the ministry.

Meditate on his words below as he describes the 3 comings of Christ as we reflect this Advent season.

We know that there are three comings of the Lord.

The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible.

In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him.
In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced.
The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved.

In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.

For most, Christmas is simply about baby Jesus but a closer reflection gives the season greater richness.

You may want to reflect on the "3 comings" through this little prayer exercise.

First Coming - Prayer of Gratitude
"Jesus, thank you for leaving the comfort of heaven to clothe yourself in human flesh..."

Gal 4:4-5
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Second Coming - Prayer of Awareness
"Jesus, remind me of the power of your presence in my life, for when I received you I became a son or daughter of God. Help me to recognize the mystery of "Christ in me the hope of glory"".

Col 1:27
27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Third Coming - Prayer of Longing
"Jesus, we long for the time when you return to make everything new. We live in a constant state of waiting"

Rev 21:4-5
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."


So as we think about the first coming of our Lord, let's not forget his second coming into our hearts. And may we eagerly look forward to when he comes again in glory.

Even so, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Social Network Christmas

I'm not sure why, but this media presentation makes me a little emotional. Perhaps it brings the story of Christmas a little closer to real life.

Sometimes it's difficult to imagine this stuff REALLY happened.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Humility in Leadership

Collaborative leadership, which must be humble leadership, is something we should think about and seek.

I'm reading "Church Unique" and came across this amazing quote on leadership. It's from an ancient Chinese philosopher.

A leader is best when people are hardly aware of his (or her) existence, not good when people praise his government, less good when people stand in fear, worst when people are contemptuous. Fail to honor people, and they will fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who speaks little, when his task is accomplished, his work done, the people say, "We did it ourselves!"

This quote haunts and challenges me. Left to myself I will always want to be the center of attention and praise.

May we be leaders who collaborate, avoid the spotlight and seem invisible.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Single Parent Ministry

Single parents have unique needs that sometimes aren't met through traditional children or student ministries.

I'm blessed to work with some great leaders who serve single parent families. A question we constantly ask is, "what can single parent ministry accomplish that other ministry doesn't".

Jennifer does great job leading single parent ministry at IBC. Here's an email I received from her describing a special event this ministry provides every Christmas Season.

Good morning!

Yesterday Single Parent Ministry hosted 140 children for our annual Christmas Mall. If you aren’t sure what that even is, I will tell you.
J Each year we set up a “mall” in the Commons for children of single parent families to choose gifts to give their primary care givers. It might be mom and dad, mom and grandma or any other combination you can come up with. We start them off with a hot breakfast prepared by Kelly Haney, Dean Andree and team. From there, they are put into small groups with 2 adult leaders to rotate through other stations.

They choose gifts, wrap gifts, make Christmas Cards, decorate sugar cookies, make a holiday craft and visit with Santa. We also run Christmas movies on the big screens for them to watch while in between stations. What does it take to pull off an event like this you ask? How about 65 volunteers, 30 dozen eggs, 40 lbs of bacon, 20 jars of sprinkles, 200 candy canes, 200 sugar cookies and 2 gallons of icing just to start.

We had many new faces attend this event this year, and two families that came together and wanted to rotate through the stations together. One family had been to IBC twice, heard the announcement last Sunday and thought they would try it out. The children were older then our typical crowd, but they all seemed to enjoy being together and having fun! They really loved how IBC is the hands and feet of Jesus in the community!

On another note…one of our single moms that came through On Track this fall listened to another mom’s struggle through a custody case and really wanted to do something to help with her legal fees. Her 10 year old daughter thought they should hold a garage sale, so they decided to get the word out, named their project “In His Love”, and secured a location…the IBC parking lot. They held it on Saturday, and aside from raising over $1400, they met a man from Jerusalem. He is Muslim and purchased about $400 worth of goods. During his shopping trip they were able to chat with him a bit, and one of the men there was able to witness to him.

I would say that God had his hands ALL over the single parent ministry this weekend, and He provided in many ways to many people. The joy on the faces of children enjoying the holiday season and not having any worries for at least one day makes it all worth it. The parents get a morning off to themselves to refresh, relax or prepare for the holidays. The gratitude I have for each hand that helped make this weekend happen is more than I can express.

Merry Christmas!

I hope this encourages you as you're perhaps thinking about how to better serve single parents in your setting.

Also, would love to hear how you are serving single parents in your setting. What have you do that's encouraged single parents?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Adult Volunteer Christmas Party

We can never say "thank you" enough.

Our student ministry rises and falls on the service of our adult leaders. We continually pray that God will raise up Godly leaders who will serve life on life with students. If you're a relationally driven ministry you do the same thing.

Our adults are busy. It's a delicate balance to get time with them and serve them well. How do you train and serve them personally without requiring too much time in addition to their investment with students?

Sometimes we do it well, sometimes we don't.

Over the last few years we've found that a Thursday night Christmas party is one of the best ways to honor them and say "thank you".

Last year we went a little radical by taking everyone to a karaoke restaurant. It was epic and someday we'll do it again.

This year was a little more "traditional". We invited our leaders and their "significant others" to a catered dinner at a nice home. Our time was heavy on relationship and very light on programming. Sometimes it's just good to be together.

Here are some of the details...

  • We provided every leader with a small gift that was nicely wrapped...
  • There was a professional photographer to take pictures of individuals and couples...
  • We presented a short video of our students saying "thank you" to leaders...
  • I spent a few minutes sharing a story about how life on life investment makes a difference...
  • We recognized leaders who have served 3 years or longer...
  • We had great food and beverage...
  • "Thank you" was said over and over again...

There was only about 10 - 15 minutes of programming. Most of our time was spent chatting, playing ping pong or doing karaoke (we have some performers).

Our hope and prayer is that our leaders walked away encouraged, inspired and appreciated. When we tell them our ministry doesn't exist without them we really mean it.

I want to continually pray and dream of ways to serve them well. Here's a questions we all must wrestle with.

Do our volunteer leaders feel served by us or do the feel used by us?

So, put your money where your mouth is. If you're a life on life ministry do a quick assessment to see where your time and money is going. If there isn't consistent time and money spent on encouraging and training your leaders think about where you can adjust a little to invest deeply in them.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Introducing "Parenting at IBC"

I’ve always wondered why someone didn’t give me an owner’s manual when my first son was born. Even after being a Dad to four, I still run into challenges where some kind of advance notice or “how-to” would save me from making a mistake. With so much that’s at stake as a parent let’s face it: we can use all the help we can get.

It certainly seems that I’m not alone in my desire to become a better parent. Over the last months I’ve had no fewer than ten discussions with parents who desire to raise their children well. There’s clearly a need for excellent training and connection for parents both at IBC and in our area and we are proud to offer just such a resource in our new series of parenting events we’re calling “Parenting at IBC”.

Parenting at IBC includes three types of gatherings that will connect you with other parents and provide excellent training and resources.

1. Half Day Gathering

On February 4th we’ll host our first “large event” where Dan Webster, an expert in training and coaching pastors, youth pastors and parents will be with us to discuss the uniqueness of our kids. Dan has over 30 years of experience and is a gifted communicator in bringing clear teaching and authenticity to those he serves. The training and interaction will be suitable for parents of any aged child, birth through college. After Dan speaks we’ll break into age groups for further training and interaction.

The event will be from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at IBC.

2. Sunday Nights

At Sunday night events you’ll get answers to practical questions you may have about parenting. Questions like, “What does appropriate discipline look like?” or “Should my seven year old have an iPhone?” and “How do I handle technology?” We plan to offer four of these Sunday night gatherings during 2012.

3. Small Groups

In addition to Parenting at IBC large events, we are working to develop an eight to ten week small group curriculum that will help you get to the heart of Biblical parenting while you interact with other parents who are seeking similar direction. We hope to pilot a few groups this summer.

As we prepare to launch Parenting at IBC here are some key thoughts…

· Parenting at IBC is designed with parents of all ages in mind, so whether you’re the parent of a six month old or a 16 year old, we’re thinking through how to best connect and encourage you.

· We are working hard to make sure each gathering is planned and implemented with a high level of excellence. No one has extra time. We want you to walk away from each gathering encouraged and equipped.

· Parenting at IBC is not just for you. Each of us have relationships with other families who need encouragement in this area. Sure, we’re going to be presenting content that is Christ based but we believe that each Parenting at IBC event will provide great encouragement for all parents, even those who don’t know Jesus yet.

So, mark your calendars. February 4, 2012 will be a great opportunity to grow together as we become better equipped to serve our children.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Future Moral Failure

I'm convinced that if God doesn't continue to show overwhelming mercy and grace in my life AND if I get sloppy in my interaction with the opposite sex I'm on a collision course with moral failure.

Just to be clear, this blog isn't in response to current relationships and inevitable moral failure for me, but stories I've heard that have gotten my attention.

Over the last 10 days I have had no less than 5 conversations with men who have fallen morally. A dad, a youth pastor, a ministry leader, a pastor, a father were all included in my conversations.

Sure, we've all heard stories of people who have compromised and given in to sexual temptation but for some reason the potential of moral failure has been screaming at me at the top of it's lungs.

I'm listening.

My response has surprised me a little. A younger me might have heard those stories and thought, "there's no way I would do something like that". Or "how dare they..."

Here are some thoughts I've had as I've heard these stories and prayed for those in the wake of sin's devastation...

I'm so, so sorry...

I'm sorry for families. I'm sorry for churches. I'm sorry for the name of Jesus. I'm sorry for the men who fell. I'm so sorry. There is a wake of devastation.

Sadness overwhelms me when I think about all the people affected. There's no doubt our enemy has come to "kill, steal and destroy."

In the middle of temptation it's so difficult to see the big picture. If only we could see what our actions might do to those around us. If only we could see what our actions might do to the name of Jesus and the purity of his church.

If not for the grace of God....

I'm no better than any of these men.

God has been so gracious to protect me from scandalous public sin in my life. Of course there is the constant struggle of "hidden" sins. I'm a life long struggler with pride, arrogance and lust. As I think about my own hidden (well, mostly hidden) struggles it makes me keenly aware that I have the potential of any sin.

Also, it's important to remember that public moral failure didn't begin in public but in private.

Why has God granted me grace in these areas and not these other men? I have no idea.


Here's the reality. If I don't give special attention to my own heart and struggles, I'm on a collision course with moral failure. Doing nothing is not an option.

If you are a lover of Jesus and especially if you are a ministry leader, you must give constant attention to your soul. To do the work of the ministry without giving attention to the health of our own souls is a recipe for ministry failure. To give people Jesus without meeting with him ourselves is always a temptation.

We are so busy with so many needs that must be met but how can we give that which we don't possess?

We must order our schedules to make time with Jesus the greatest priority.


For years I have had good accountability in my life. Currently I meet with a couple of guys who have the freedom and expectation of asking me the tough questions. It's effective most the time but it's easy to get sloppy.

The flesh has an incredible desire to protect it's self and stay hidden. Sometimes I can share just enough to get me off the hook. I, we, must have real focused accountability in our lives.

For more on accountability see...


The gospel is good enough and powerful enough to bring redemption and restoration to these men and yes, to me. Although the stories are sad, within some of what I've heard there has been full restoration and healing. Of course there is a scar, but the work of Jesus brings strength, perhaps even greater strength than before.

Even as I write about my "future moral failure" I'm reminded of a moral failure I had while in college. While serving as a youth intern my girlfriend, now wife, became pregnant. God's grace is sufficient and that incident is a constant reminder of his goodness and grace.

After we became married and had our first son I knew there was no way I could fulfill my calling to youth ministry but God had other plans for me.

Would I choose to relive the pain my sin caused during that time? Absolutely not. But God is a God who restores and his gentle love and patience is so evident in my life.

So, by God's grace, may we be self controlled and alert. May we give attention to our soul.

The name of Jesus is at stake.

We must do whatever it takes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent

This is an amazing prayer I discovered on Christine Sine's website, "Godspace". Enjoy

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait in joyful expectation,

Draw close, Lord Jesus Christ,

Shed your light on all that is filled with darkness.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait with hope filled hearts,

Draw close, God’s beloved son,

Teach us the wonder of your all embracing love.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait for God’s redeeming presence,

Draw close, Saviour of all creation,

Our hearts ache for justice, our minds long for holiness, our spirits seek for unity.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises,

Draw close, reconciler and transformer of all things,

Renew our world, restore your peace, display your righteousness.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait for God’ light to shine over all the earth,

Draw close, pain bearer, life giver, love sharer,

Shine through us, in us, around us, shine for the world to see.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait attentive to the signs of his coming,

Draw close, Lord Jesus Christ,

God beyond imagining, fully God yet truly human, draw close


Friday, November 25, 2011

Are Christians Actually Living Like Atheists?

Ran across this today looking for non Christians view on the foolishness of Christianity. Pretty sobering.

"Christians tell me that they are “foolish” because they believe in a God. A God that is the owner of Wal-Mart, Apple Computers, Microsoft, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, ExxonMobil, Samsung, Yamaha and Sony combined. A God that loves them, and will care for them, and has committed the ultimate sacrifice for them.

And then they stand right next to me in line, worried about having enough money to buy a newspaper.

Foolish? Or very wise indeed; since they, too, pragmatically are convinced there is no such God."

Can I just say "ouch"?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Highlight - Day 2 NYWC Atlanta

In what places or environments have you seen students connect with the Divine?

It’s a question posed at the theological forum at the National Youth Worker’s Convention. Yes, youth workers thinking about and engaging theology is kind of important. Maybe not expected but very important.

By definition “theology” simply means “God / Word”, the study of God. In many ways those of us who have a passion to see students connect to God and know him passionately are theologians. Whether we know it or not we develop a theology of student ministry hoping to connect students to the Divine.

The panel consisted of people I’ll call “real theologians”. Sure, we are all theologians whether we like it or not, but these men and women actually have credentials.

The panel included Andrew Root, Cheryl Crawford, Jim Hampton, Kenda Creasy Dean, Adam English and Kara Powell. Yes, that’s some serious brainpower.

The room was standing room only as these youth workers really have a desire to learn about “The interaction between human and divine action.” To be honest it just seems like a fancy way to discuss how students connect with God. It was encouraging to see youthworkers who may be perceived as shallow and good at games eager to learn and interact at a little deeper level.

So, back to the question at hand, “In what places or environments have you seen students connect with the divine?”

The panel had some great answers. Here’s what I jotted down.

· In the wilderness where students can interact with creation

· In community as they see God work in and through those around them

· Working with people with disabilities (this surprised me but I loved it)

· Service and working towards battling injustice

· In worship, actually knowing and understanding the words they are singing

· Brokenness and suffering

· In Scripture, seeing themselves in the story and finding what God says to them

It’s a great discussion. Is there any greater calling for a youth worker than to work towards connecting students with God? At the end of the day after all the smoke settles that’s the purest form of student ministry.

How have you seen students connect with the Divine? There are those special times when the space between heaven and earth is a little thinner. What’s your experience?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hightlight From Day 1 - NYWC Atlanta

“I see a generation,

rising up to take it’s place

with selfless faith.”

Yesterday was an awesome day here at the NYWC. Being able to connect with old friends and meet new ones is always a highlight for me. I learn great stuff from seminars but my greatest encouragement comes from sitting at a table with other youthworkers learning from their heart and experience.

Although going to Lars Rood’s seminar was a close second, I would have to say the most powerful moment for me was singing the lyrics you see above.

Ever since I first heard “Hosanna” I’ve thought, “This is a song about the next generation”. This song reflects my heart and the prayer I’ve prayed for students and myself for almost 25 years.

Something powerful happened in my heart when around 3500 youthworkers sang these lyrics together. I had this moment where I felt as if through the people in this room, fouled up needy youthworkers, where going to be used by God to raise up a generation who selflessly share the gospel in word and deed.

What an exciting privilege to work along side men and women who love kids. As Tic said, we're a family, yes, a dysfunctional family.

So, youthworkers, let’s continue to pray that God will declare his greatness to the next generation. Let’s model a heart that cries out..

“heal my heart and make it clean,

open up my eyes to the things unseen,

show me how to love like you have loved me”

Have a great day 2!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NYWC Atlanta

I wrote this last year before attending the nywc in Nashville. The danger is still very much a reality for me.

Why NYWC is a dangerous place...

...well, at least for me.

In fact any place where there are other youth workers who do what I do can be a struggle. You see, I struggle with all kinds of pride issues. It seems God uses gatherings like these to shed a huge spotlight on the places that may be in the dark.

I love to be noticed.

I am naturally competitive

I play the comparison game

I typically feel I'm a little better than others

I typically feel I'm a little worse than others

I want to be seen as important

And yes, "I" was used with intentionality. Those of you who don't struggle with these same issues please don't judge, you have your own.

My hope and prayer for myself and others who struggle with insecurity and ego is that this weekend will be a time we genuinely walk in humility and "esteem others as better than ourselves". It is true, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

I can't afford to miss what I can receive from others and the little I can offer.

Now, on to Atlanta

This year as I'm thinking and praying for Atlanta here are some things I'm very excited about.

I'm going to connect with a lot of old friends.

I've been in youth ministry for around 25 years. Yes, I'm ancient. Some of my closest friends are men and women I've worked with over the years. I'm not great at keeping old relationships fresh but I'm trying to learn. These relationships are important to me.

I'm going to learn a lot.

I have a fear. As I get older I'm afraid I will stop learning. I'm afraid I'll be that old fart that knows everything and can learn nothing. With that in mind I'm going to seek to learn everything I can this weekend. I'm going to learn in seminars and through conversations. I'll be coming home better equipped to serve and lead the next generation.

God is going to speak to me.

When I get away and focus on my soul God always speaks to me. I need to hear from HIM.

So yes, nywc is still a dangerous place for me but the gospel is good enough to break through my crusty heart and move me closer to the heart of God. Please say a little prayer for me and all the youth workers who will be in Atlanta.

May youth workers be better equipped, more connected to Jesus and more passionate as a result of what Jesus is going to do.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sleeping With The "Least Of These"

I love what our middle school ministry is doing. In conjunction with their teaching series on Sunday mornings they have challenged families to "sleep with the poor" for one night. Our hope is that middle school students would feel what the poor feel in some small way.

Here's a story from one of our super star parents, Kristi Herring.

So as I mentioned in my status update last night, we are joining Carter (and the IBC Middle School Ministry) on a Journey of Awareness Challenge over the next 5 weeks, fasting from everyday things to experience what living in poverty is all about.

Our first challenge: to sleep on the floor.

In the world today, there are around 2.2 billion kids. Sadly, over 640 million of them live without adequate shelter. 640 million of the 2.2 billion. 640 million children will go to bed tonight, but it won't be in a bed. The majority of these kids end up on the streets at night, sleeping on the hard ground, no pillow or blanket to cushion their heads.

This week you get to choose a day where you will experience the realism of living in poverty by sleeping on the floor. If you want to add more challenge to the expereicn, take with you no pillow, no blanket, and no additional padding. Sounds tough right? It is tough, and that's the point. You will experience what 640 million children experience on a nightly basis. So as you lie on the floor tonight, tossing and turning, trying to stay warm, pray for the millions of kids throughout the world who are also sleeping on the ground tonight.

So last night was our night. One night on the floor.

Paige made it through her bedtime story lying on the floor, but opted for her bed to sleep. She is 5. We gave her a pass. But it caused me to wonder, how many of those 640 million bedless children are 5 and under. I probably don't want to know. Paige said "mommy, they could sleep in the grass. it's soft". I said yes, but it can be wet, and cold, and there are ants, and bugs. She prayed for the children without beds, and then added her routine nighttime prayer of "help me to not think about bad things, or have bad dreams, help me to think about happy things and have happy dreams." And went to sleep in her cozy bed. Her biggest worry at age 5 is bad dreams.

Audrey took the challenge fully. When I went upstairs to go "to bed", I found her asleep, face down, on her floor, with no blanket, no pillow, nothing under her, or over her. Of course, she was wearing her warmest fuzzy, fleece pajamas. 640 million children don't have fuzzy warm pajamas. And, this morning I found her in her bed. She said she woke up at midnight, her back hurt, and she got in her bed. I am proud of her for trying.

Scott has been feeling under the weather, and decided to postpone his challenge night. I don't blame him. But it did make me think...I wonder how many of those in poverty, without beds, or even without homes are feeling under the weather. The can't postpone their night on the ground, and probably don't have a Dr. appt for the next day either. We are priveleged indeed.

Carter made it all night on his floor (once he cleared it of the dirty clothes). He did take with him a pillow and comforter for cover. I asked him if she slept, or if he woke up during the night. He slept. Of course he did. He has always been a good sleeper. He could sleep on a rock, like a rock. I did catch him getting about 30 minutes of comfort in his bed after he woke up at 7am this morning though. He has seen poverty first hand in New Orleans, and San Antonio. And this will be just another reminder to him to not take our priveleged life for granted.

I did not sleep as well as Carter. But actually, better than I expected. I took the "easy way out" and brought my pillow and fuzzy brown blanket for cover. I did sleep directly on the carpet which was rough and scratchy, but I was thankful it was not the hard wood floor that has been on my wish list.

With a lighter blanked than my usual weighty comforter (I need it, I know some of you have this same quirk), and tossing and turning to find a comfortable position without one of my limbs falling asleep while I was still awake, I prayed and eventually found sleep. But I continued to wake up off and on during the night. Tossing. Turning.

Often my first thoughts were selfish "oh man, my arm is asleep again", "my back hurts", "I wonder what time it is...HOW MUCH LONGER TIL MORNING" (I was not where I could see my clock, which was another adjustment). But I would then remind myself to PRAY.

Tossing. Turning. Praying.

Praying for the people do this every night. Without a pillow. Without a blanket. Without a shelter.

I don't know how many times I woke up, but it was often. In fact I was READY when my alarm went off. Sleeping on the floor certainly kept me from hitting the snooze button. I was up with my alram. Glad the night was over. My ONE night on the floor.

I came downstairs, brewed my coffee, and sat down for my daily Bible reading. I'm a few days behind in my One Year Bible, which is obvioulsy no accident on God's part. I was reading the October 29th reading today, starting a new book, the book of Lamentations. A time of misery and desolation for Jerusalem. Yet as I read these words, I was not thinking about Jerusalem, but of how they could be true of someone RIGHT NOW, TODAY, in our WORLD, even in our COUNTRY, even in our LOCAL AREA.

These are all from the first two chapters of Lamentations...just the phrases that jumped off the pages at me as I read.

"she sobs through the night, tears stream down her cheeks"

"she has no place of rest"

"now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out"

"little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets. 'mama we want food' they cry, and collapse in their mothers' arms"

I read these verses. And I wept. For all those in poverty today I wept. For the mothers who cannot feed their children. The babies that don't have beds. I sat in my beautiful lovely home, drinking a warm cup of coffee, in my warm robe and slippers and I just wept.

One night on the floor is not enough. We need to do more.

Want less. Give more. Pray more.

I've been kind of stressed out lately. Still adjusting to working part time and trying to balance that with being a mom and wife. Suddently, this morning, I realized 99% of my daily stress comes from the priveleges millions of people would be grateful to have.

Three kids. Sometimes I need a break from them. I have three amazing kids. They are all healthy.

Ugh, the house is a mess. I have a house. A considerably nice house.

What's for dinner? Who knows. There is plenty of food in my pantry. Even if I didn't make it to the store this week, or next, my kids would not go hungry.

The laundry never ends. My kids are clothed. I could not do laundry for a couple weeks, and they would not go dirty or naked.

Pick up your shoes! Why do you have to kick them off right here in the way? My kids have shoes. Plenty of shoes.

Will my husband be home at a reasonable dinner time? He has a job. A good one.

Have you finished your homework? How much homework do you have? My kids are getting a GREAT education and amazing schools.

Choir. Dance. Football. Dance. Piano. I LIVE in my minivan, driving kids around. I have a car to get us where we need to go.

Paperwork. Desk work. Entering receipts, balancing to the bank. So BEHIND on managing all these pesky things. We have money to manage, money to buy eveyrthing we need, and even what we WANT.

And the list could go on.

For every stress I have, there is a blessing that I tend to take for granted. Yet these are my biggest worries and stresses. Not if I can feed my kids. What I will feed my kids (and will my picky eaters eat it) Not where will my kids sleep. But WHEN will they go to sleep so I can have a break. Suddenly after a night on the floor, all this seems a little silly to even be stressed about. In fact, I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I let these things stress me as much as I do.

Yes, I got all this from spending one night on the floor. And this is just the beginning of our 5 week Journey to Awareness. Wow. I'm expectiong God to speak in big ways to our family...and look forward to what we learn, and what actions we take.

Want less. Give more. Don't take things for granted. Don't let my "stuff" stress me out. Pray more.

PRAY more.

Lamentations 2:19

"Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer. Plead for the children as they faint with hunger in the streets."

Try a night on the floor. I recommend it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Steve Jobs on Christianity

I found this interesting and am wrestling through this quote by Steve Jobs.

Perhaps he's partially right but obviously doesn't understand faith.

"The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it."

Yes, Christianity is following, living like and seeing the world as Jesus sees it. But isn't faith the fuel that gives us the potential to be like Jesus?

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Top 3 Horror Movies

I grew up in the 80's when slasher movies like Friday the 13th and Halloween were king. Even now I can hear the "che-che-che- / ha-ha-ha" playing as Jason closes slowly closes in on the stupid guy who can't get away. Why is it the car keys never fit into the ignition?

Scary movies aren't my favorite but every once in a while the suspense and euphoria of horror films is enjoyable. Now, gratuities violence of some horror films is ridiculous and unnecessary, but there's a lot to enjoy about a good psychological thriller.

Why do we love horror films? Psychologists say perhaps people are willing to endure the discomfort of fear to experience the euphoria of relief. In the theater or living room we're not really in danger, we simply experience some of the fear.

To be honest it's kind of difficult to list my top favorite scary movies.. I don't watch scary movies often but over the years I've enjoyed them from time to time. Here's my shot at listing my top 3.

3. The Ring

Ok, the girl is just simply spooky. It kind of makes your skin crawl when she crawls out of the television, but what I love about the movie is the tension it builds from the vhs. You see all kinds of random objects, a ladder, a circle of light, horses. As the film continues the mystery of the video begins to make sense.

The acting isn't great and the story has gaps BUT it builds great tension. After my oldest son saw this at the theater he took his tv out of his room for a few days. Enough said.

2. The Shining

One name says it all, Jack Nicholson. He has to be the greatest crazy person of all time. There's something really scary about being cut off from the world in a haunted hotel with someone you trust loosing it.

I can still see the look on his face when he breaks into the room and says "here's Johnny". If you want to be scared this Halloween this is a great place to start.

Here's a warning. The movie is rated R. I've only seen the tv version of the film but have been told there's some nudity in the unedited version. So, If it's on tv give it a shot.

1. Psycho

Here's the tagline for the movie.

"A young woman steals $40,000 from her employer's client, and subsequently encounters a young motel proprietor too long under the domination of his mother."

It's the classic horror movie. One of Alfred Hitcock's best movies which has been modeled over and over again by movie makers.

My favorite scene is the shower scene which still brings chills without showing everything. The tension and the music create an unbelievably scary experience.

And of course there's a great surprise ending.

What are your top 3?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reminders from "Friday Night Lights"

About a month ago I got hooked on the TV series "Friday Night Lights". I know I'm a little late to the party but...

With good acting and great writing it's well worth your time, especially if you're interested or involved in high school culture. And oh yes, I live in Texas where high school football and mums are king. (show is set in a small west Texas town)

I'm in season 2 and being reminded of many issues. Friday Night Lights isn't a "Christian" show and there are themes that should concern those of us who care about students. It does a descent job depicting the highs and lows of high school culture. The series explores deep issues on parenting, marriage, friendships and integrity. It also gives great reminders for those of us who care about high school students.

Here are a couple that have struck me.

1. There is always more going on underneath the surface.

When a student "acts out" and displays bad behavior they're probably doing what makes sense.

Matt Seracen is the senior QB 1 of the Dillon Panthers and a very responsible kid. Out of the blue he begins to drink heavily and become irresponsible. In an effort to "sober" him up and get his attention Coach Taylor gets in his face and chews him a new rear end.

As Matt breaks, it becomes obvious there is a lot going on underneath the surface. Matt's dad is in Iraq and has left Matt with the responsibility of his grandmother struggling with dementia. At least 4 people important in his life have left him. The scene ends in a climax of Matt saying,

"everybody leaves me, what's wrong with me"?

If I were 17 and dealing with the pressure Matt was dealing with I'd probably act out the same way and worse. It makes sense that he is angry, hurt and stressed. Why wouldn't he want to medicate that kind of pain?

When dealing with struggling students we must always be willing to take the time and energy to "drill down" and find out what's going on. When confronting students let's do it with a heart of compassion and a desire to understand issues of the heart driving behavior or attitude. Then and only then can we apply the truth and love of the gospel to the heart.

Are you relating to a student right now that is difficult to deal with? Look beneath the surface.

2. Sometimes you have to pursue the individual

I'm very impressed and challenged by the Dillon Panthers head coach Eric Taylor. Sure he's rough around the edges but he often takes time from his ridiculous schedule to support and help his players.

Brian "Smash" Williams was a highly recruited star tailback. After injuring his knee in the playoffs it seemed his football career and chance to go to college was over. Coach Taylor met with Smash one on one to help him get in shape. He called college coaches and finally got Smash a try out at Texas Tech. He went way above the call of duty. He cared.

I love one scene in particular when Coach Taylor drives to Smash's house late at night to tell him he got the tryout. Sometimes a phone call or facebook message isn't sufficient. Presence is important.

What amazes me is his interest in the individual and the desire to sacrifice time and energy to be there.

Student ministry is a ministry of presence. No, he's not a youth pastor but Coach Taylor understands the power of relating one on one with high school students. He is able to see potential they can't see and cast vision for what they can become.

I want to be more like that.

By the way, it seems the only way we can see what's happening beneath the surface is to pursue the individual. It's very difficult to know what's going on in a students life if we're not taking the time time to invest.

So for all of us who lead some kind of student ministry, is our focus and attention on getting as many students as possible in one place at one time? OR do we work, plan and pray in such a way that gives loving adults an opportunity to invest life on life? Depth and life change happens more often from across a table than from a stage.

Something to think about

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Does heaven exist and does God really send people to Hell?

Our weekly event for high school students is called SWAG. To find out more you can check this out.


We desperately want to create and nurture an environment where students can freely ask questions. And yes, even students who have been in our churches for years have questions. So our first series is called "Questions Christians don't want to be asked?"

So with that background I would love for YOU to help me think about heaven and hell. Yes, this is the topic I'm speaking about on Wednesday, October 12.

How would you handle the question?
What resources would you recommend?
Have you ever had conversations with high school students about this topic.

I thought it would be fun to have a conversation. Thanks in advance for engageing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shout Out - Our MS Ministry Team

Would you allow me a second to brag on our stumin staff, especially those who serve middle school?

Merge AM is our new Sunday morning worship experience for middle school students. With a lot of prayer, vision and work, Trey and Shea have done a wonderful job developing, communicating and implementing great programming on Sunday morning.

Our hope has always been we would meet new middle school students on Sunday morning and connect them to lifegroups on Sunday night. Yes, “life on life” small groups have been and will continue to be the foundation of our programming.

It’s happening! And not only are we meeting new students but Trey, Shea and our volunteer leaders are creating amazing environment for growing in Christ and connecting in community.

Please continue to pray for our middle school ministry staff and volunteers at IBC. They’re intimately involved in the lives of young people and families at an exciting yet challenging stage of life.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quote for the Day - "I will be their God"

"Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let they soul be always ravished with his love.
Get out the marrow and fatness which this portion yields thee.
Live up to thy privileges, and rejoice with unspeakable joy."


Monday, August 1, 2011

Question of the Day

"Why is there something rather than nothing?"

It's a question of why not what which leads me to believe it's more of a philosophical / religious question rather than a scientific question.

Nevertheless, Stephen Hawking (famous scientist) is tackling the question on the Discovery Channel this Sunday night.

How would you answer the question?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Please Pray

Please pray for our students.

Last night Jha’Kyric Nixon drowned while at a birthday party for one of our students. He was around most Wednesday nights, he was one of us.

I spent a couple hours with students and parents at my house last night praying and remembering. They’re confused, sad, shocked, feel guilty and angry. They also have hope he is with Jesus.

Pray for comfort for his family.
Pray that students might see God clearly through the fog of loss.
Pray that God would take tragedy and turn it for his glory and our good. That’s what he does.

And really, please pray, even if just for a minute. There is so much at stake at times like this. The wall between the physical and spiritual feels paper thin.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SWAG - New High School Gathering

Yes, we're starting a new gathering for high school students. And yes it's called SWAG. No, it may not be the name you or I would have chosen but the students chose it and seem to love it.

There will be a teaching team involved so I decided to gather some thoughts and values to get our speakers on the same page. Here's what I sent them.

Hey SWAG speakers! Thanks for using your giftedness to present truth to high school students. Here are a few thoughts to consider as you begin your prep.

1. We want to encourage and challenge the hearts of our students who follow Jesus, but also communicate as if there are many students in the room who don’t understand and embrace the gospel. We can’t assume they know anything about the Bible or the gospel. As believing students walk away our desire is that they would want to expose their searching friends to SWAG.

2. Our hope is that the communication will be interactive. We’re setting up ways for the students to text questions. Normally we hope to have a short question and answer time following each talk. Don’t worry, we’ll filter the questions but be ready to answer and be willing to say, “that’s a great question, I have no idea”. We’re not there to “know it all”.

3. We want to be creative. Creativity usually takes time to develop and pull together. As speakers let’s try to get way ahead of the game so those juices can flow! You don’t have to be creative alone, our producer, Joel Gwartney is going to be a great asset to the creativity.

4. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but vulnerability is so crucial. As speakers we’re not up with all the answers, we’re on a journey seeking to understand and embrace what it means to follow Jesus. When appropriate jump at the opportunity to share personal struggle and doubt. As you do, students will see you as a real person not just an old person.

5. Let’s use our Bibles. Although there will be many students who don’t believe the Bible, it’s still true that God’s Word is powerful. We’re not avoiding truth, simply presenting it in a humble / whimsical fashion.

6. Let’s be gospel centered. I know, that can mean so many things. Here’s the deal, students don’t need more rules and encouragement to simply be better. What they need is the life transforming work of Jesus. If there is practical application in your talk make sure you focus on the example and power of Jesus doing it in and through students, not simply asking them to “try harder”. It’s the gospel that changes lives, not pure effort.

7. Have fun! Speaking at SWAG should be a blast, but let’s keep it to less than 25 minutes. So don’t’ have too much fun!

Again, thanks so much for being a part. We are eagerly expecting that God is going to use you to impact the hearts of high school students.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beach Camp 2011

This morning at 6:30am sharp 2 charter buses, 3 fifteen passenger vans and one food truck (driven by our cook, Pat O’Reilly) left IBC for Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Our purpose? Beach Camp 2011!

For some reason God seems to work in special ways at camp. A good friend of mine once said that camp is “life the way God intended”. It has consistent time alone with Him, time in community, fun, worship and great teaching. (and again this year, Bob Downy’s Brisket)

This year we’re focusing on the idea of “mission”. We hope students will understand that mission isn’t simply something you do, it’s more who you are. It’s about loving, serving and bringing the presence of Christ to whomever God puts you in your path. Whether it’s Honduras, downtown Dallas or your Algebra 2 class, people need to experience the love and grace of Jesus.

Please be in prayer for us. Our hope is that students experience deep and authentic change that will also impact our area campuses.

And really, we need prayer.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Love / Hate Relationship With Student Mission Trips

I’m struggling with something. It’s a good struggle I would like to explore and discuss with others smarter than me. We are called to serve those who are hurting which I desperately want to do. It’s also a great thing to take students with us to serve. But what if in our attempt to serve we simply serve ourselves without helping those who are hurting?

As I write I'm in Camoyagua, Honduras on the last day of a short-term mission trip. I'm with a team of 14 students and 5 adults serving in an orphanage as well as other places. Our goal is simple, be the hands and feet of Jesus by “visiting the orphans in their affliction”.

There's no doubt the love of Jesus has been shown to a group of children who need it desperately. They are hungry for love and affection but also food. Yes, they’re literally hungry. There’s no doubt our being here has encouraged and helped others with basic needs. I’m so proud of our team. They have made a profound impact on these people, but even coming off this great experience I’m still processing short-term trips and their effectiveness.

First of all let me say this; I wholeheartedly reject the philosophy that says trips should be planned primarily for the students who are traveling and not really for the people they are serving. If that is the case it seems we're being very foolish with a lot of time, energy and money. If our primary goal and strategy is set on the hearts of our students we cease to have an authentic mission. There are less expensive ways to challenge the hearts of our kids.

Being purposeful is essential if ministry effectiveness somewhat matches the time, energy and money spent. I know the issues are complex and you can’t simply quantify results but we can work hard to make the experience as beneficial as possible. Beneficial for those we are serving which will result in growth for our students.

As I’m living in the tension allow me to share some thoughts…

1. The experience must be utterly authentic

Students want to make a lasting impact. If they’re on a trip that is primarily designed to serve them instead of giving them authentic opportunities to serve, they will know the difference and be frustrated. Also, if all our thinking and planning is about serving the needs of our students we will miss great opportunity to impact the world.

The last thing I want to do is take students on an expensive sight seeing trip and call it missions. There is enough need in our neighborhoods and world that can be met with passionate students. Let’s be careful to find those needs.

2. We should think long and hard before doing construction

The orphanage we are serving needs some buildings finished so more children can be housed and enjoy better facilities. We could get a team here to “knock it out” in a week or two. That would be awesome, or would it?

To bring a team here might cost $20,000 plus materials. For locals to do the work it would cost less than $10,000 and they would do a better job. There is 35% unemployment in Honduras. If we came and did the work it would be stealing needed work for those who are here. Is that really serving the people of Honduras well?

Of course there are exceptions, but if the purpose of mission is to glorify God by serving the needs of people we have to make sure what we’re doing serves them…not just us. So, if the only way to get something done is for us to do it, let’s go. If we can serve better in different ways, let’s stay out of the way.

3. Our students will naturally be impacted as they serve

Of course there is a great possibility our students will get receive far more than they give, but that shouldn’t dominate our planning and purpose.

This afternoon I'm meeting with Holly and her husband Alex. Holly first visited Honduras in 1996 on a youth mission trip. God used that trip to draw her heart to Central America. I’m thankful for that trip 15 years ago.

As I sat around the circle with my students last night I couldn't help but wonder how God might use this trip to create greater compassion in their hearts. Compassion and calling that may be used to impact the world with the gospel. It's not the number one goal but it inevitably happens when we obey Jesus' command to serve the "least of these".

It’s exciting to hear our students share what God has done in their heart on this trip. I’m thankful for his work in their lives and look forward to how that carries over into their everyday life.

It’s ok to expect our students to get more than they receive, in my opinion however that should not be the main goal.

4. Consider using a mission organization

Wonder Voyage is supporting my team, which is a ministry that creates custom opportunities for student groups. They do an incredible job working with the youth pastor to create an experience, which meets the unique needs and desires of a particular group. They also provide a person on the ground to help with logistical and spiritual needs. They’ll help as much or as little as you want.

For years I planned and carried out trips by myself but after going on my first trip led by Wonder Voyage not only did I save a tremendous amount of time, it freed me to be relational with the students on the trip. So whether it’s YWAM, Youthworks or Wonder Voyage, consider using someone to help you with your mission experience.

After thinking about the way our students served Honduras I’m more convinced than ever that we must unleash students to serve the world. It’s part of my responsibility as a pastor to help them leverage their gifts and passions to reach the world with the gospel knowing it will change them as well.

Each of us is leaving Honduras changed, that’s great. My greater hope is that children and others have experienced the hands and feet of Jesus in a way leads to his fame and worship.

I’m all ears, what do you think?