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I remember it like it was yesterday - Marilyn Manson was performing at the VMA's and it was 1997.  At the beginning of his song he was dressed like a goth priest standing behind a pulpit.  By the end of the performance the pulpit was destroyed and the crowd sat their in an awkward stunned silence.  It was Marylin Manson after all and he at the time was making Ozzy Osbourne of the 80's look like a saint.  Chris Rock, who was the host that year, got on the mic directly after Marilyn and his band left the stage and demanded that the whole crowd immediately get up and,   "Go   To   Church!"    It was absolutely hilarious and perfect comic relief to relieve the tension in the room.  The crowd and the whole world howled in hysterics.  

This past Sunday night at the VMA's we had a new sort of host in Miley Cyrus.  Now there has been a lot written and said about this years VMA's.  I watch bits and pieces and really, only one thing surprised me.  It wasn't the overt sexual stuff that has been written about ad nauseum - I expected that.  Let me explain what surprised me. 

With the advent of reality Television, we now appeal to the lowest common denominator and applaud dysfunction and brokenness...  all for our own entertainment.  This has had profound affects on how we as a culture are entertained.  What surprised me and what was in my mind as I watched these young performers was, "where have all of the mentors gone?"  If you saw any part of the show you would have observed stupid everywhere. 

I love the Tom Hanks movie, That Thing You Do, about an early 1960's rock band called The Wonders.  Tom plays their agent/promoter/mentor.  In one scene he tells the young lads that they are to wear suits and bow together after they perform.  Why? "Because they are good boys."  He let them be themselves but he was always speaking into their lives, directing and giving vision whenever he could.  This was my thought as I watched Miley, Kanye, Nikki, and even Swift.  Wow do they need a mentor!  

If entertainment really is about watching other people's dysfunction and immaturity, then why in the world would the music industry bring up young artists slowly and invest in them over the long haul?  Nurturing, coaching, and mentoring...  Maybe the reason why we keep seeing young people explode onto the scene with all of their talent and then subsequently fall apart, is because they are actually set up to fail.  Why?  For our entertainment.  



 
 
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I couldn't sleep very well last night.  I felt tormented and my thoughts got the best of me.  I hate it when this happens.  I woke up early this morning hoping that I'd be free, but honestly I've struggled most of the day with thoughts and memories.  For whatever reason, I just feel heavy-hearted.  

There are many reasons many of us struggle like this.  Maybe you made a mistake and hurt someone and you're beating yourself up.  Maybe someone has hurt you.  You might be gripped by fear about what is to come - you're really struggling to have hope for the future.  Or maybe you left a position and there is awkwardness and hurt that you're carrying from that organization.  Some of us have family difficulties and pain from the past that plague us.  There have even been times when I'm not even sure why I feel so heavy-hearted.  Whenever I struggle like this, I eventually do what I should have done at the very beginning:  turn to scripture and wisdom and allow God's Spirit to remind me of some truths. 

So if you're struggling at all or maybe you just want to tuck some of these away for later, please allow these verses to kind of wash over you (a bit of a brain wash):

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

1 Peter 5:10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalms 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalms 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Isaiah 43:18 Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

And here are some quotes:

“Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.” ~ Oswald Chambers 

“Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days – when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when your out of options, when the pain is great – and you turn to God alone.” ~ Rick Warren

“Was I bitter? Absolutely. Hurt? You bet your sweet ass I was hurt. Who doesn't feel a part of their heart break at rejection. You ask yourself every question you can think of, what, why, how come, and then your sadness turns to anger. That's my favorite part. It drives me, feeds me, and makes one hell of a story.”  ~ Jennifer Salaiz

“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.” ~ Willian W. Purkey

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“Pain is a pesky part of being human, I've learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can't be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart. But then healing feels like the wind against your face when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air! We may not have wings growing out of our backs, but healing is the closest thing that will give us that wind against our faces.”  ~ C. JoyBell C.

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." ~ Jesus

Blessings,
Brock

 
 
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Someone recently asked me about a book I wrote, Youth Ministry in a Post Christian World.  They had the book, but hadn't read it yet.  They told me they've been reading my blog but just can't seem to dig much into books recently.  So, here's for that person, you know who you are =)  I hope this excerpt encourages you to open that bad boy.  
  
MIGHT AS WELL START AT THE BEGINNING

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. In fact every time I think about it, I cringe a little. At the time, I was the brand-new youth pastor at the church, and my youth group was full of doubters and skeptics. I wanted to prove them all wrong. So I worked all week on a talk that I believed would change everything. Because, you know, talks do that. But I was convinced this talk would open the students’ minds and illuminate how wrong they really were. I would show them that if they truly used their brains, they’d come to the same conclusions I had.

What’s funny is that I was so convinced that once they heard my brilliant speech, they’d all repent and come running down to the altar to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. What a perfect time to do communion! I thought. You can see where this is going, huh?

After I finished delivering my “brilliant” message, I explained the bread and the cup. And then I invited the students to come forward and receive communion. No one moved. Now put yourself in this scenario for a moment: You speak passionately about why faith makes sense, you explain the elements of the communion, and then you invite your students to come forward to receive it . . . and no one blinks, no one prayerfully considers it, no one moves. No one gets up to participate in communion. No one responds. Not one person.

Awkward!

Obviously, I needed a new strategy. I’ve been a youth worker for over 23 years now, and most of those years have been spent in Southern California during the heyday of American youth ministry. Back then we’d build an awesome youth room and play cool Christian music videos on big screens, and tons of kids would come to youth group.

We’d organize area youth rallies and see 2,000 high schoolers show up to eat free pizza and play Nintendo 64 on the big screen. I’d preach the gospel to hundreds of students on a Wednesday night, and a majority of them would invite Christ into their lives.

But as the years have gone by, I’ve noticed a few things. Kids look at me differently. Their questions have changed—they are deeper, more personal, and usually loaded. The answers I gave students 15 years ago will no longer suffice.  To be honest, those answers don’t even work for me anymore.

The world is changing and it’s changing us—in some ways for the better. It requires us to reconsider the ways we think about and interact with the people around us. The good news is that thoughtful, humble, and curious Christians are making headway in today’s world. However, many of us remain stuck in the old systems and structures, using methods that were brilliantly effective at one time. But our culture has changed.

And if we’re honest, we’ll admit that the things that once worked so well are no longer cutting it with our students. My prayer is that this book will cause youth workers to lift

their heads, that it will stretch them and even shake them up a bit. But please know that I write this as a practitioner. I am not a youth ministry professor at a seminary;; I’m a youth worker too. In fact, as I write this introduction, I’m also thinking about the game I’m leading tonight with our middle schoolers. It has something to do with balloons and shaving cream . . . but I digress.

What I’ve discovered over the past 10 years is that I have to let go of the junk I’ve accumulated throughout my entire life of youth ministry—the methods and the mindsets that have boxed Jesus in and kept students out. As you read this little book, I hope you’ll allow the systems and structures of your own ministry to be challenged and take an honest look at your students, the church, the world, and yourself. Hopefully we’ll emerge from this exercise better equipped to represent and extend the reign of Jesus in a world that, at best, isn’t interested.

Please note: This book contains the story of what I’ve stumbled onto in my youth ministry work. It’s the story of how an evangelical modern Christian has tried to make a difference in the lives of pluralistic, post-modern students. It’s the story about repeatedly going back to the drawing board and trying desperately to hear the cutting-edge voice of Jesus. My prayer is that you will join me on this humbling and scary, yet wonderful journey.


*If you'd like to order the book, you can here.
Thanks everyone!


 
 
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So I had kind of a bad day yesterday.  In fact, I acted like an idiot... my wife can attest to this fact.  But this morning I ran into an amazing verse.  I found it at just the right time.  It is 
2 Timothy 2:13  - "If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

As I get older I realize more and more my short comings. I know that I am not very faithful.  Oh, I want to be, but I have a really bad problem - a disease, a tendency to regularly disappoint people... including myself.  I can make a mess of things and often, in fact very often, I feel like I am faithless to others and faithless to God.  But that is why this verse is such a great reminder of how very good the good news really is!

So this morning I read this verse as I was feeling pretty guilty and kind of depressed about the way I acted.  I Have been feeling pressure and a lot of stress about our housing situation, that has just not come together and, while a host of other things are going amazingly well (especially our new ministry), I have felt a real burden about finding a home so we can register our daughter for her senior year of high school.  So I've been stressed and feeling like we are running out of time.

Then we went to visit Lee University and attended their chapel service.  Their wonderful student band sang a song that really ministered to me.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold 
Like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old 
Your love is enduring through the winter rain 
And beyond the horizon with mercy for today

Faithful You have been and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips 
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips


This song so goes with this verse.  Our response to his faithfulness has to be worship.  He is always working, always loving, always faithful.  

So on our way home I get a phone call.  It was someone who offered us a home 
- FOR FREE =
Yeah, I know!  

I almost starting crying!!!  Really, like for real =)

Despite me, he loves.
Despite my junk, he is faithful.  When I am not holding up my end of the bargain... he is!

Yay God!
Here is a video of the song:
Your Praise will Ever Be on My Lips

Please subscribe to this blog.  It won't hurt, I promise =)



 
 
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In this season of launching a new ministry, I am taking some additional speaking gigs.  In the past I have had to say no a lot, but now my calendar is a bit more flexible and I'd love to partner with you in a variety of ways.

Below are a list of topics and information about what I can offer:

1. Parenting Seminars on current cultural themes and how to respond.  I've written a parenting book and love doing parent events! 
2.  Camp, Retreats, or Youth Conferences - I am very flexible on themes  and have spoken extensively around the country at various camps etc...  I absolutely love speaking to students!
3. School assemblies, chapels, and fall/winter kick-off events 
4. Youth Worker Training - I speak at a lot of youth worker conferences - mostly I am doing post-christian realities but have been speaking and writing about practical youth ministry for over ten years.
5. Smorgasbord Variety - It is always fun to come into a community or church and do a plethora (that word always reminds me of the Three Amigos) of things.  Parenting seminar, meet with area youth workers, speak to students, and whatever else comes to our minds =)

LET'S PARTNER!  
Just contact me at brock220@gmail.com  - I hope to hear from you soon!
-brock   


 
 
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BY: Kelsey Morgan

My husband and I encounter many youth workers as we travel and attend conferences.  My heart goes out to them as I listen to their stories and often hear our own story echoed back to us in their words. 

We share a deep love for the students God has given us, a constant desire to do more in the world, and the consistent pain of having to leave a place we love.  Some ministers stay put for many years, but that has not been our story.   

As the spouse of a youth minister, I’d say we should probably go back to living in tents.  I know all the stats on youth workers and their lack of job security, and I have been the willing participant in all this moving around.  It’s something that we share with really amazing youth workers and all around great people we run into at conferences, at work, at seminary, and through friendships.  A friend just confided that he has changed job titles or location about every 4 years.  He is a lifer as a youth worker.  Doesn’t want to be the adult pastor.  

So we live like nomads.  Always ready to pull up stakes, no matter how difficult this feels.  Thank the Lord he put examples of this kind of life all through the Bible. We may not be living the American dream, but at least we are living Biblically!  =)   That’s some comfort.  Abraham did not settle in Egypt, but lived in the desert along the trade routes.  Egypt sure looked good though.  All that food and wealth. Yum.

So there is nothing wrong with putting down stakes and staying put.  I yearn for it.  However, I do believe that as a follower of Christ there is a mentality attached to the nomadic existence that is valuable to us all.  How many of us in our passion for Christ have claimed we will go where ever God tells us and do whatever he says?  Fess up, ‘cause we all have.  But unless we maintain this mentality, we lose heart and lose hearing.  We spoke out of turn, when we really had nothing to give up, but now we have a ship load of stuff to lose.

 Our latest move has been one of the toughest for me.  I am not Lot’s wife, aching for what was, but I am certainly feeling it more than I used to.  It’s not making it any easier that we are walking into an extremely uncomfortable season of life.  There have been some BIG sacrifices.  And yet, God is faithful in so many ways.  It’s like he has a carrot on a stick, dangling it out in front as we walk this unknown path.  We’ve witnessed miracles.  Interesting how miracles tend to happen outside of my comfort zone, because miracles are thrilling and uncomfortable all at once.  They reveal to us the vast power of our God in comparison with the myth of my own puny power.

I recommend Mark Batterson’s book, “The Circle Maker” which you can order here.  It has been helpful in praying through this season of life and letting our faith grow as our perspective of God grows through prayer.  Super encouraging as we strain to hear the voice of God in our own lives and dare to dream again.  

 
 
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Recently I was asked what the worst part of summer in youth ministry is.  I told them I thought it was coming home after camp or a mission trip.  On these trips, students experience authentic community, convicting messages, and the power of God in their lives.  They go back home to the noise, the patterns, and the life that drowned out God's presence from them in the first place.  Oh, we try to keep the momentum going, but at times it feels like a losing battle... until we get them to the next retreat that is.  Now,  I am not a pessimist at all.  In fact I've been called a delusional optimist at times.  But after 24 plus years of doing this routine, it has pushed me to wonder if we could come up with a new strategy around camps, retreats, mission trips, and conferences.  

About a year ago my wife and I, with some of our friends, started dreaming.  We began by asking some questions.  What if a student conference began a journey, a conversation, a theme, a lifestyle instead of just being a one-off experience?  What are the stumbling blocks that keep students from thriving, and could we address those and scheme together for a better way?  What about the good news is actually good news for daily life today?  Do we even understand what the good news is?  How can we strengthen a student's faith for the week, but also empower them in their faith for a lifetime?  How could we begin the process of giving them skills to navigate this very complex and confusing world?  Could there be a conference that is deeply intellectual (not afraid of the big questions or the answers students land on) but also deeply spiritual and rooted in the work of God's Spirit?  Could a conference or camp be the instigator of beautiful change for youth ministries as a whole, not just in the students' lives?

Some of these thoughts and questions are a bit audacious I know, but we kind of liked that about this conversation.  We know that there are other camps and organizations doing really good things.  Some are highly intellectual, others are highly spiritual, and others that are very inspiring.  

But that conversation led us to this idea:
A conference that creates an environment of grace, where students are not told what to think, but given the tools that help them grapple with the tough questions.  A place where we reengage with the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study, pray, discuss, and worship.  Students leave this event empowered with the knowledge that God did not give them a spirit of fear, but of Power, Love, and a Sound Mind.  This conference is not just intellectual OR spiritual OR inspirational - It is all three.  And finally, youth leaders leave with a game plan in place that continues the conversation as they live the way of Jesus with students in a very complex world.  

If you'd like to find out more about The Amazing Next Conference, check it out here.  We are looking for partnerships and for regions to bring it to.  Let us know if you're interested and if you have any questions at all.      

 
 
So this was harder than it looks!  I originally thought I could quickly throw together a top ten list of the all time greatest sport films but then the list got to twenty and I'm not even sure if I like the order I've put them in.  Plus, there are some great ones missing from the list!  I'm not even going to offer much of a rationale for my thinking... Anyways, take a look and tell me what you think.
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#1 - Rocky

I don't care what anyone says about Sylvester Stallone - in this case, he wrote a brilliant script and the movie is almost flawless.  I saw it as a little kid in the theater and it had a lasting affect on me - heck, I still watch it every time its on!

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#2 - Field of Dreams

"If you build it, he will come"  Need I saw more?!

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#3 - Hoosiers

Hoosiers is inspired by the true story of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team that won the Indiana State Championship. Milan was a very small high school in a rural, southern Indiana town. One of the teams that Milan beat on its way to the title was led by basketball great Oscar Robertson. Gene Hackman stars in it with one of my favorites,  Dennis Hopper who is a basketball-loving town drunkard.  It's a performance that brought Hopper an Oscar nomination.

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#4 - Miracle

In the 1970's & the 1980's the U. S. was locked in what was called the "Cold War" with Russia. Russia was the enemy.  It was a scary time and the movie Red Dawn didn't help =)
But at this time everyone knew, hands down, the Russian hockey team would win the gold medal. Everyone else was competing for the silver and bronze medals. Or were they?

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#5 - Victory

A film about Allied prisoners of war who are interned in a German prison camp during World War II.  This is one of my favorite all time movies and its one of the most forgotten films of all time.  If you haven't seen it, go watch!  It even has Pelé!

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#6 - We Are Marshall

I know, I know - people hated this film - I don't care!

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#7 - Seabiscuit

I absolutely love this film! Seabiscuit, based on a true story was an undersized, knobby-kneed, and not much to look at... but don't count him out, he just might surprise you!

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#8 - Bull Durham

This movie is considered one of the Best Sports Movies of all time. Sports Illustrated ranked Bull Durham as the "Greatest Sports Movie".   So... enough said.

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#9 - The Endless Summer

I watched this and fell in love with surfing - in fact the whole country did!

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#10 - Caddy Shack

Too many classic lines in this film to count.  If you're under 35 you might have missed it and  your parents didn't raise you right.  

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#11 - Chariots of Fire

Based on the true story of British athletes preparing for and competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics.  It's a bit slow but I like that about it.  A true character piece.

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#12 -  Any Given Sunday


Great football movie - there just aren't very many of those!

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#13 - A League of their Own

Our family loves this movie!  Madonna is a bit over the top but we love Gena Davis in this role.  It's about a candy-maker Walter Harvey (played by Garry Marshall) who decides to create a women's baseball league during World War II.  

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#14 - Friday Night Lights

Football is BIG in Texas and the Odessa Permian Panthers play in a 19,032 seat stadium. Crazy True!

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#15 - Rocky III

"What's your prediction for the fight?"  "Pain!"

I love Clubber Lang in this one and Rocky teams up with Apollo Creed - its a classic!

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#16 - Eight Men Out

This movie retells the story of Major League Baseball's 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the World Series.  Plus it has some of the best actors of the 80's.

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#17 - Cinderella Man

Try not to cry in this film, I dare you!

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#18 - For the Love of the Game

Most people don't have this one on their list.  I don't care - its the perfect movie if you're dating or married.  Some stuff for the ladies and some stuff for the dudes.

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#19 - Jerry Maguire

This is the first time I'd really ever heard  what a vision statement was.  I was a young youth worker trying to figure out what  I was doing... So not only was it an education, it was thoroughly entertaining.

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#20 - Major League

The haters can hate!  I know this movie is ridiculous - but I love it!

So there's my top 20.  What am I missing?
 
 
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I love this blog post by my amazing partner in ministry and life.  My wife Kelsey has been a youth worker for over 20 years.  She has worked for churches, been a basketball coach, a science teacher, a volunteer, and just about every other role you can think of.  She also worked for Youth Specialties and comes with years of expertise.  And I really hope you love what she's written as much as I did.  I love the challenge she's given here.  Maybe life is not supposed to be balanced at all!  Anyways, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!


I knew a woman once who always had a saga to relate.  Dramatic events were constantly unfolding in her life and every second of her day seemed like a burden she did not know how to bear.  She seemed to be saying, “Whoa is me,” as she would weave her tale of all the stuff she had to do and how life was not working out according to plan.  I remember thinking that she only had herself to blame…This was a less grace-filled me obviously.  At that point in my life I still believed that a person could bring, actually, should bring a sense of balance to their life, no excuses.  My view was pretty naïve and lacked some understanding about how complex it all really could be.

It took me several years, the birth of our daughter, and a relationship with one of our faithful volunteers in ministry before I could begin to lighten up. This lovely lady was a mother of 4, all of who were teen-aged.  It was close to Thanksgiving and my one child was involved in 2 performances to ring in the holiday season.  I was a working mom, running all over the place, and all the while trying to maintain some semblance of sanity. I looked at this mom/youth leader and asked, “How do you do it?”  Her words ring in my ears even today, “Kelsey, life is just crazy sometimes, but somehow you just learn how to make it work.”  No judgement and no pride.  My respect for her is solid.

As I ponder the lunacy that is life, I remember teaching full time, being a mom, trying to make time for my husband, calling my small group of girls, leading a bible study, dropping students off/picking students up, having family time, folding the laundry, blah, blah, blah… Whether you are married or single, I am sure you can relate to the drive to do it all, all the time.  The fact that a light bulb had gone off in my mind made me do the typical thing: take an inventory of what is really important to me.  

So I made a list:
1. Marriage
2. Family
3. Ministry
4. Work
5. Friendship

I know what you are thinking, but “relationship with God” is like an umbrella over all of that, so I didn’t think it needed to be stated.  The other thing you might be thinking is that maybe this list is incorrect. And you might be right, but let’s be honest-this list is ridiculous.  At this point in my life I look back and laugh a little because I know that this list is impossible to keep in order.  I can also tell you that I am not the same person in my 40’s that I was in my late 20’s.  For example, most of the married folks I know never realized how much work a healthy marriage is.  I am amazed when my husband goes out of town for a speaking engagement for a few days and how absolutely co-dependent I find I am.  But by the time he comes home there is a realization that my time is no longer my own.  Married ladies with kiddos all mistakenly think that life will get easier when the children are in school, but find that between homework sessions, taxi driving them to sports, and the more intense emotional needs they have to deal with, there is very little “umph” left in them.  Single ladies are probably the most un-balanced of all- You all rarely have anyone telling you to slow down and care for your soul as you pour yourselves into your work and social life. God bless us all!

I have tried to find some Biblical examples with heroes of the faith living life in some sort of harmonic zen-like way and really could find none.  They all worked too hard, worked too little, gave their lives away, totally lived for themselves, loved God, worshipped idols, ate too much, ate bugs, and so on.  

Living in the extreme seems to be normal for most of humanity.  

I don’t know a single person at the same place in life as me that hasn’t said, “Let’s simplify!”  And we all endeavor to do it for a time, carving out time for certain hobbies, creating a family night, and pulling our kids out of lessons.  I also know a single gal in her late 20’s who switched jobs so that she could be more consistently involved in youth ministry.  Kudos to us all!  But then your kid has not one but two sports and the other one is taking violin lessons and a student or two isn’t showing up to your program so you’ve got to have a Slurpee with them and the church is kicking off a second service that you are helping run and… and… and…  It kind of makes you sweat just thinking about it!

So here is where I land - ”there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil-this is God’s gift to man.” Ecclesiastes 3: 12-13

I want that- joy in the toil and taking pleasure in my life. Recently my husband and I have talked at length about these things and I came away with three strategies that have been implemented in our family consistently, especially in how we raise our daughter, that I felt would possibly revolutionize the way we “do” life.  

The first is being intentional with my life and our life as a family.  You could look at this as “doing things on purpose” instead of letting things just happen.  A big piece of this for me is to make lists of the things I want to see happen.  If I desire friendship, I must realize that relationships take time and energy and plan for them.  Maybe I am strangely inept at friendships and they just come naturally for everyone else, but I actually have a list of the women in my life that I want to nurture relationships with.  I am building relationships ON PURPOSE, just like we plan activities for our ministries to connect students ON PURPOSE.  Saying “No” to some things so I can say “Yes” to other things ON PURPOSE.

The second strategy is being fully present in the moment. Technology can be so detrimental to this.  There is always something new, better, more interesting, and just plain distracting on those dang little gadgets.  So, when I am intentionally spending my time with someone or my family, I want them to feel like there is no other place I would rather be.  It creates memorable moments with people that, if I was unaware, would pass me by.  

I remember a friend of mine had a meeting with a very well known actor.  He told me afterward that the thing that most impressed him about this person was the attentiveness he was shown.  As soon as the famous actor left the table he was back to business as usual, but the hour he spent with my friend was focused on that relationship alone. I find that rather lovely.

The third is this: I choose to take a few pointers from Jesus.  I refuse to take on the burden of every kid that refuses to be in relationship, every parent that unfairly expects me to be the savior of their kid, and every pastor that places pressure on me to make them look good.  Shame on me for ever placing that same pressure on myself.  Yes, I am devoted to and love deeply the students in our ministry as well as their parents.  Nothing thrills my heart more than seeing them walk with Jesus and being a part of that, well, is my delight. But for crying out loud, even Jesus took breaks, even Jesus said, “No, not today, not this week, not this month.”  In Mark 1 and Luke 4, stories are recounted of Jesus not doing what people wanted him to do.  “Everyone is looking for you!” they say, insinuating that he is disappointing “everyone”.  He does not apologize or run back into the fray, but rather he says he has to go somewhere else.  It’s humorous how many times Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him, in a boat no less.  As much as he loved them, I am thinking he just needed a break.  He said no often, he went away often, he disappointed people often.  Yet somehow I think the world will stop spinning if I don’t show up at that function or take a break from calling all twelve of my small group kids or choose to pray instead of working on my talk for 2 more hours.  When did sitting back with a glass of iced tea watching the sunset become a guilty pleasure?  Shouldn’t that just be me receiving from God’s good and generous hand?   Breathe, baby, breathe!  Jesus came on the scene and offered a freer and lighter way.   I receive it.

For now, that’s it for me.  Life is messy and busy, but it’s what I can do to make life a little more honoring to God - fully taking pleasure in each day and doing good as long as I live.  It isn’t simple or easy, but I sense God taking pleasure in me as I take pleasure in what I have been given.  So take heart and be at peace with the knowledge that we are in this together - living in off-balanced freedom.

What are your light-bulb moments regarding your life priorities?  Have you figured out how to find joy in the toil? What works for your family as you try to juggle your life?  
We would like to know.


 
 
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There was a time in my life when I was afraid to hope.  Heck, I'm still gripped by the fear of hope from time to time.  Maybe you can relate.  You have big dreams, aching longings, and you might even feel "a calling." But there isn't a light at the end of the tunnel.  There doesn't seem to be an open door, no matter what you do, and you wonder if this dream you have is nothing more than that - just a dream.  It can look something like this: There's a room at work where others are making big plans, but you've never been invited to enter into that room or into those conversations.  Or maybe you've submitted a book proposal to a publisher only to hear... nothing, not even "rejected".  Or maybe you have a real desire to speak; you know you have something to say that could help shape language and culture and that could contribute to the cause, but your boss won't give you a shot.  Maybe you're getting older and the dreams you once had or the life you envisioned or the relationships you long for or the bank account you've dreamed of - these things just haven't panned out.  So now you're thinking that maybe you should just give up the dream, move on, settle.  

Sometimes I've thought, maybe hope and maybe these longings I have are just the very things that cause discontentment in me.  Maybe I need to leave them behind!

There's this verse in the Scriptures that goes like this: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" -Matthew 6:33.  That word "kingdom" is talking about God's reign.  It's telling us this - focus on his reign, his reign over your every day, his reign over your thoughts, your desires, your relationships.  Let his presence overwhelm you - guide you, direct you - may your focus be on his leading - he will animate you by his very spirit.  Focus on that and then he'll do something - you will not only have his kingdom but, he will actually take care of all these other things.  

Many moons ago I worked for a guy who wouldn't allow me to speak outside of our church.  I had this strong desire to help shape people's thinking, to inspire, and point others to Christ.  Offers would come in and I would have to turn them down.  Honestly, I felt a bit hopeless and frustrated, with a strong overwhelming sense of stuckness - yes that's a word.  

But it came to a boiling point when I made an appointment with a spiritual director.  I remember sitting there and confessing what I thought was pride or ego - I confessed this awful desire to be a speaker and a writer.  I felt guilty, I felt heavy hearted, like these desires were sins or something.  This spiritual director looked at me and said, "Have you ever thought that maybe God actually placed those desires in you?  And if he did, there's nothing that can keep you from them.  If you can just focus on his leading, he will lead you."  No duh. "If you let him lead, he will lead you."  Uh yeah.  But it was revolutionary to me!  It changed everything!

I left that meeting with a new resolve.  I was going to trust God with my future.  I would focus on today and let him worry about tomorrow.  I was filled with hope.  

Now, I do have to clarify something - there are times when where you are working  is doing nothing but keeping you small, boxed in, and controlled (I've been in this situation more than once).  Its an environment where you can't grow or develop or become everything you were meant to be. 

Leave that place.  

Now don't leave right now, but begin to plan an exit strategy.  It might even be a two or three year strategy, but plan it.  Here's a good article for an exit strategy. But surrendering to God's reign doesn't mean staying small or being squashed at work - that my friends is called abuse.  

But let me sum up the last 10 years in one run-on sentence.  I was STUCK in that job, but attending a conference where the president of a company running the conference, who I didn't have a relationship with, walked up to me and asked me to apply for a job, and then a while later a publisher asked me to write a book, actually two different publishers asked me to write 3 different books (I still haven't written a book proposal), and the rest is history. 

God led me from where I was, to where he wanted me to be.  

Was it easy? Heck no!  Do I have this worry free, live by faith, I'm so full of hope I can't stand it kind of life figured out?  No way!  It's why I'm writing about it in this blog.  I need to be reminded! 

But here's Matthew  6:30-34 in the Message -  read it slow, soak it in:             

30-33 If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

You may want to read that one again.  And thank you Eugene Peterson!

So recently we've ventured out to start a new ministry called, Generation514, and I am full of optimistic hope.  Actually, MOST days I am full of optimistic hope.  People in the know have told us that we've got a really good and unique idea, but occasionally there are some hard days when I am overwhelmed with the thought, "What in the hell are we doing!!??"  On those "difficult to hope" days, I hear voices in my head.  Voices of the skeptics and the doubters.  Voices that Brennan Manning called, the Imposter.  I hear the Imposter saying that I don't have what it takes or that our idea won't work.  Those voices in my mind are speaking bad things about me, spreading lies or half-truths to people, or even worse, they've forgotten all about us.  In these weak moments I think that maybe no one will fund our vision and that I'll need to go back and work for an organization that won't let me use my gifts or reach my potential.  Pessimism and worse case scenarios come easy to me.  But then, like clock work, something happens - there in the quiet, hope comes breaking through.  My wife or daughter, my parents or a good friend will remind me of the beautiful truth that comes flooding in like a refreshing stream on a hot and humid day - and it always seems to be at just the right moment.  "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?"  In those moments I breathe in deep.  I close my eyes and breathe in the goodness of the one who called us to a marvelous life!  And he's got an amazing plan, guaranteed!    

If you'd like to read more about Hope - I highly recommend my friend Marko's brilliant new book, Hopecasting.  You can order it here.  If you want to read more about our new ministry (which, by the way, is a really good idea =) you can click here.  Also, don't forget to subscribe to this blog - I promise, it will be... decent.