I am so excited right now, because I get to take my lovely pregnant bride on a week-long, no kids (other than the one in her) vacation. We're going to Scotland tomorrow and won't be back until next Saturday. Pray that we have safe travel, that Jamie's health will be good, and that we get closer to God and each other. We're both a little stressed right now and I'm hoping we can shed that quickly. I'm sure I'll have lots of pics to share upon our return. No blogging till April, though. God bless you all!


ahhh...Memories of the Kids' Table

A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids’ Table
by simon rich (from the New Yorker Magazine)

MOM: Pass the wine, please. I want to become crazy.
GRANDMOTHER: Did you see the politics? It made me angry.
DAD: Me, too. When it was over, I had sex.
UNCLE: I’m having sex right now.
DAD: We all are.
MOM: Let’s talk about which kid I like the best.
DAD: (laughing) You know, but you won’t tell.
MOM: If they ask me again, I might tell.
FRIEND FROM WORK: Hey, guess what! My voice is pretty loud!
DAD: (laughing) There are actual monsters in the world, but when my kids ask I pretend like there aren’t.
MOM: I’m angry! I’m angry all of a sudden!
DAD: I’m angry, too! We’re angry at each other!
MOM: Now everything is fine.
DAD: We just saw the PG-13 movie. It was so good.
MOM: There was a big sex.
FRIEND FROM WORK: I am the loudest! I am the loudest!
(Everybody laughs.)
MOM: I had a lot of wine, and now I’m crazy!
GRANDFATHER: Hey, do you guys know what God looks like?
ALL: Yes.
GRANDFATHER: Don’t tell the kids.


Randall House Retreat

I want to send out a HUGE thank-you to Ron Hunter and the whole crew at Randall House Publishing (the Free Will Baptist publishing house) for inviting me into their Vision Retreat. Myself and five other pastors were invited so they could pick our brains and get feedback. It was one of the most enjoyable things I've done in quite some time. Not because I get my kicks from focus groups or anything, but because it was actually very therapeutic to have someone on a denominational level actually listen to all of our wishes, dreams, frustrations, and ideas. This is not done nearly enough. I was actually the only youth pastor on the panel - the other 5 were "real" pastors. I told Ron this, and I'll share it with anyone else from RHP who reads this. It was the first time that I can remember feeling valued as a youth pastor on a denominational level. So thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

With all the thanks out of the way, now let me say I'm sorry. On the flight home I couldn't help but feel as if I had just taken a HUGE emotional dump on all of you. I wish I had given some more focus to what you guys are doing well and how much I appreciate your role in the Kingdom. Even though alot of what was said may feel like personal attacks because you have so much personally vested in your work, I hope you don't take it too personally. I hope you know all the conversation was in love and with every respect for what you do and who you are. RHP has played a huge role on the life and spiritual formation of my family. Jamie and I are both Truth & Peace alumni, our kids benefit greatly from CLEAR, and a lot more. So again, I'm sorry!

Anyway the retreat was great. Thanks for inviting me to the dance!

The iRack

To my new friends at Randall House Publications. This "apple" stuff is just a fad I tells ya!



I posted the following message on my teen ministry blog today. Pray for me and the teens. I know some of them will be disappointed.

I need to deliver some news that might be disappointing to some of you. After MUCH prayer and consideration, I have decided to cancel our Acquire the Fire - Kansas City trip. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1) This is an expensive event for us and with the basement remodel, Panama missions trip, and half a dozen other things that we are doing, I think it would be best to spend our money in other places. 2) The primary reason is one that I'll be talking to all of you more about this next week in person. ATF and it's leader Ron Luce are going in a direction that I have a very difficult time supporting. I've taken teens to ATF for several years now. When ATF first started, it was a dynamic event that encouraged teens to get more serious about their faith and live out their faith in bold ways. On top of that, the worship was incredible and spirit-filled. Over the last 2 or 3 years there has been a shift in ATF's focus that I find disturbing. Their call to boldness has taken on a very "combative" tone. Last year's conference "Run to the Battle", this year's conference "BattleCry", and Ron's latest book "BattleCry for a Generation" are just a few examples of this. There has been a lot of war and fear imagery in recent ATF conferences. To most of you this will probably not seem like a big deal. Honestly, if it was directed properly, it wouldn't be a big deal. After all, we Christians are at war, aren't we? Here's where I take offense to ATF's message. Ron Luce and ATF are calling young Christians to battle or war against our culture. Christians are at war, but it's against the enemy/Satan, not our culture.

We are called to love and bring the good news to the people of our world. Last year ATF rallied thousands of teens on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall to protest gay marriage and the gay lifestyle. Now I am not a supporter of gay marriage or the gay lifestyle. The Word of God is crystal clear that homosexuality is a sin. But it's a bit hypocritical to say you love the world if you have a picket sign in your hand. This is why I wouldn't picket or demonstrate against the war in Iraq even if I felt it was wrong. Because you can't really say you support our troops if you're picketing the war they're fighting in. My love for the troops far outweighs my right to demonstrate against the war. Likewise, our love for a lost and dying world should far outweigh our right to demonstrate on any political/moral issue. Just because we have the right to do something, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying we should support everything our culture engages in. But we are NOT at war with the culture, we are at war with Satan and his legions. If we follow the example of Jesus in the gospels, we find that Jesus spoke love, truth, and forgiveness to the worst sinners. He saved his angry, combative, harsh language for the religous people who would publicly point fingers at sinners because they were easy targets. It's really easy to hate gays and foul-mouthed hip-hop artists and goth kids and greedy rich people and all sorts of other people who live lives contrary to the word of God. But it takes a true Christ-follower to get around those people and show them the love and forgiveness of Jesus (while speaking truth to them in love).

Some of you are probably thinking, "Jeff, I don't even care about that stuff so much. I just like the concerts and worship music." I totally understand. I will look for other conferences that we can attend, but for now I've added the Crossover Music Festival to our calendar in June. I'll also work on a different activity for April to replace the ATF event. I hope you all know I didn't come to this decision quickly or lightly. I spent a lot of time in prayer about it. Sometimes false gospels don't look all evil and dark. Sometimes false teachers look very much like one of us, but we need to reject false teachers no matter what they look like. I hope you all understand!


Jackie - "Give Me Time"

After posting below about the def poetry, I got to thinking about one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Her name is Jackie and she's a senior this year from my former youth group in California. Here's a pic of her from when we visited Cali in January.

One time at Bay Hills Community Church we were doing a youth Sunday and I had been trying to pull the teens in to do music and scripture reading and such. Jackie is an extremely gifted poet. One of the things that makes her so great is that she's a lot like King David in her poetry. If she's angry about something, she doesn't express it by just saying she's angry, she's more like "death-to-the-infidels" angry. Anyway, I asked her to write a poem for youth Sunday about her faith. She said she would try. As it got closer and closer to the date, there was still no poem and I was getting nervous. She said she was really struggling because honestly she didn't know where she stood with her faith and didn't feel like she could write anything that the church wouldn't be offended by. I asked her to keep trying and write from her heart, but if she couldn't figure it out just bring one of her poems about friendship. Sunday morning came and I hadn't heard any poem from Jackie so I went to church assuming we were going to get a nice generic friendship poem. When she showed up, she handed me a piece of paper and said, "I wrote this late last night, but I don't know if it will work." I sat down and read it real fast and literally broke into tears. It was incredible. She read it at all of our services that morning and each time it was received with tears and applause. Jackie's awesome and here's her poem "Give Me Time".

Others act like I've committed a crime,

When sometimes I think that heaven's a lie.

Im sorry if I'm not as excited as most,

To bring into my life the heavenly ghost.

I don’t know why my mind works as it does,

Especially since it's as dark as it ever was.

I can't help it if I can't say,

That I believe we’ll all be in paradise one day.

Please don’t think of me as a bad person,

Because after all I'm only human.

So don’t judge me by my clothes or those kind of things,

My negative outlook or my piercings.

I've been left on my own more times then I can count

So dont be surprised if I'm always in doubt

Because I'm not that bad of a person inside,

Just a 15 year old girl with a lot to hide.

Def Poetry - "Lost"

One of my favorite shows is an HBO series called Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam. The def poetry, or spoken word, movement has really sparked some great poets to surface. This week's episode was all young poets, most of them only 18. This young lady absolutely broke me down. It's the cry of her and people like her that break my heart for this world.


Robble, Robble!

Can you believe they caught the guy who dismembered his wife and it turned out to be the hamburgler?! I never saw that one coming.


Monday is for Sabbath

Well, after reading the Peterson book I reviewed earlier, I've decided to take the Sabbath principle more seriously in my own life. Since my "day off" is Monday, this is when I will try to observe my Sabbath whenever possible. Today was great! I spent some quality time with God, praying and reading. I hung out with some friends, practiced a little guitar, played some basketball, and squeezed in a little family time. It was a truly refreshing day. In my prayer-time God really spoke to me about getting back into the habit of doing family devotions with Jamie and the kids. So I guess I'll start that back up too. That's the annoying thing about actually listening to God - He's always got stuff for you to do!

Communicating for a Change

I just finished a great book by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones titled Communicating for a Change. It's a follow-up to another church leadership book they wrote together called 7 Practices of Effective Ministry that was also quite excellent. Communicating for a Change is Andy basically revealing what he goes through to craft a sermon. I don't know if you've ever heard Andy preach, but he's pretty awesome. Every preacher should read this book. I don't believe Andy's way is the only way to preach a sermon, but it is a very good one. He focuses on 1)only preaching one point, 2)an easy to remember formula for constructing your sermon that he calls ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE, 3)committing most of your sermon to memory, and 4)engaging your audience. There are actually 7 principles in this book, but that's the biggest gist of it. Oh, by the way, both of these books are laid out in a very readable format in which the authors tell a fictional story of a pastor being taught these principles from some unlikely sources (in 7 Practices... it's a pro baseball team owner and in Communicating... it's a truck driver). After the fictional narrative, Andy goes into more detail on the principles. This is definitely a worth-while read that I know I will benefit from!