Archive for February, 2012

To be a Champion!

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

Last night I watched “Mighty Macs” with my family. I liked it. It was actually my second time through. I took my 14 year old daughter to a screening last year.

(spoiler alert) Coach Rush teaches her players that trust is how you win. “If basketball were an individual sport, it would be played 1 on 1!” but when they get to the championship game, she adds another ingredient. Championships are won by heart.

Trust, heart…two great ingredients for raising up champions. What would you add to the recipe?

One local news story today was about Transcanada’s decision to build an oil pipeline from Cushing, OK to the Gulf Coast.  Are you bored already?  Hang on.

As with every news story there are multiple lenses through which to view the story, but the one that caught my attention had to do with the most immediate impact on my wallet.  Apparently there is an oil glut in storage in Cushing due to inadequate distribution.  And so I am told for the time being, our cost at the pump continues to be artificially depressed.  Of course, once the logjam is broken and adequate access exists to the oil, others will be able to enjoy the product and the price will equalize.

Of course, thinking about oil made me think about youth ministry!  Recently I have been pondering again the expectation in Scripture for the whole community of faith to be involved in passing the faith to the next generation.  (Actually, if the truth were told, I think about this all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  Just sometimes I think about it in fresh ways 🙂

In my context, I have an amazing church with unbelievably talented individuals.  Come to think about it, that’s the only way it has ever been in any of the four churches I have served.  Must be something about the people of God.  But I have at times struggled for volunteers.   (I don’t like the “v” word…but I’ll use it for now for clarity).   And even now, as I am in the trenches with some wonderful people….not all of my community is involved in reaching the next generation in ways they could….and even would want to!  And while there are valid reasons at times, at other times the reason is very much…. me.

Now some of you are racing ahead.  You have seen similar scenarios and are making a list of why a youth pastor may not have enough volunteers:  He has too much pride to ask for help.  She has her identity wrapped up in performance.  He thinks its about getting others to join/help “his” program.  She is intimidated.  He is overwhelmed.  Her life experience is limiting her vision.  Well, all of those have been true at some point and can sometimes still be lenses through which I may operate.   But there are moments of breakthrough and growth as well.  For example, our youth just pulled off an amazing event for over 700 people that took months of preparation and was made possible not so much by staff, but by this community of faith pulling together.

The one lens that has been getting my attention lately is to examine the bottleneck created when a limited number of people (sometimes as few as one in a church) are  enlisting/recruiting/empowering etc “volunteers.”  I’ve got a lot of thoughts.  But this is long enough already.  And I want to hear from you.

Let’s cut to the chase:

  • What do you do…or have you seen done….to empower a community of faith to reach young people in powerful, intentional ways?
  • What do you wish youth pastors could/would do to help free or empower you and others like you?
  • What are some actions/unintentional attitudes that stifle the community or create a bottleneck among the people of God?
  • What are some of the best ways to strengthen partnerships between birth families and families of faith?
  • What else needs to be said about this issue?

Thanks for being patient. I’m thoroughly submerged in the busiest time of my year.  Thankful for the invention of coffee.  You know, one of the politically correct addictions.    I take it intravenously during the month of Feb every year!

However, coffee is not my only PC addiction.  I’m a texter.  I never did like talking on the phone and wholeheartedly embraced texting when it came along.  Recently though, there has been a resurgence of interest in the issue of dopamine’s role in addiction as it relates to texting and social media.  Here is a recent article from Buffalo Grove, IL:

But this is not a new issue. As you can easily see by using Google, mulitple articles like this one from Slate have been around for at least four years.

After reading the above article from Buffalo Grove, I had a conversation with one of my children.  Some highlights:

I read an interesting article on teen addiction to texting and social media.  Did you know that a third of teenagers send 3,000 texts a month?   Did you know that I checked with our carrier yesterday and you sent over 11,000 texts last month?”  A pretty good conversation ensued.  And then  this…

Dad, would you like me to bring up Diet Pepsi now or wait until another conversation?”

Why don’t you go ahead and bring it up  now?”

Studies show that it makes your organs fat….one day yours are going to explode.   And it kills brain cells.   (Pause…wait for it) Which is probably why you believed that article!”

The research on dopamine seems to indicate that almost anything can become an addiction.  And some of the research seems to indicate that the access to use of technology may become one of the most destructive and debilitating of all.  It seems to me that there are some obvious questions:

  • Why are some addictions considered okay – Coffee, facebook, texting, foods, television shows etc – and others not?
  • How is addiction impacting our culture, our education, our families and the church?

And even

  • What is it about us that makes us susceptible to addiction?  (I don’t believe the answer is purely biological)

But there are also some more challenging questions?

  • How do we raise kids to function in this world without falling prey?
  • How do we raise ourselves?
  • What boundaries, habits, postures, and commitments are you making to guard against dopamine’s influence, to keep your habits and decisions governed by choice and your mind fresh and clear?
  • What role does/could Romans 12:2 (Scripture memory?) have in all of this?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Shamrock Shake

Posted: February 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I was surprised last week to discover that MacDonalds is offering their Shamrock Shake and it is not even March.  It was only 9:30 in the morning, but I had to get one for old times sake….you see, very few food items are as indelibly imprinted on my psyche!

I believe it was 1984 and the exact location of the MacDonald’s eludes me (Sutton, WV?  Perhaps Clarksburg?) but first a little background….

I had traveled to northern Virginia to work during my college break.  There was a fine lady that I was interested in (the magnificent Annamarie Stein, now Annamarie Hamilton) that lived in that area.  Always the strategist, I made arrangements to carpool with her and her brother.  Unfortunately, her brother thought it would be great to drive in tandem with one of his friends and invited him to caravan.  Annamarie decided to ride with her brother and I was elected to ride with his friend.

FINALLY stopping for a meal at a MacDonalds with an unusual floor plan, I let the others order first.  Receiving their food, they went around the little u-shaped divider and down 3 or 4 stairs to the recessed eating area.  I ordered some sort of combo with large fries and a Shamrock Shake and made my way to follow them.  I did not immediately see them as I started down the steps.  My eyes lingered on the room and not on balancing my tray.   I suddenly realized that I was about to lose my fries.   I adjusted the tilt of the tray rapidly.  Too rapidly.  My Shamrock Shake flew into the air.

Now I’m not very good at physics.  But apparently, when the little perforated X where a straw gets inserted is defective, there can be a sort of mild vacumn that exists.  And so when a milkshake (Shamrock or otherwise, one would assume) is launched into the air and lands not quite upright…but almost…the top can blow off as most of the mass of the milkshake exits its former container and seeks new lodging.

Have you seen the scene in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows where the protagonists are running for their life with an arsenal of weapons firing at them?   Even though everything is happening so quickly, time seems to slow down and for moments almost stop, before exploding into real time again.  I don’t know the physics for that either….but in those years….or were they mere moments?…before two old farmers exploded in laughter, this is what I saw:

  • A gentleman to my immediate left who appeared untouched….until he pivoted to look at me.  His nose was dripping green ice cream.
  • A young couple on a date diving to get the ice cream off his leather coat
  • Another gentleman noticeably balding, reaching for a napkin to wipe the green mist off of his head.
  • A family to my right handing out napkins to one another.
  • My own body, covered with hundreds of tiny green flecks. 

And this is what I heard, from a child in a high chair across the room:  “Mommy, he didn’t get me!”

And then it was loud laughter, and humiliation, and apologies and napkins and a quickly emptying restaurant. 

There are probably many worthy lessons I could and should take from this event.  But I leave those to your witty and worthy suggestions.   I look forward to reading them!

Love is…

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

It’s been said that love to a teen is spelled “T…I….M….E”

No question about that being true. What else have you found to be helpful in communicating love to teens?

The Winding Road is Jeffrey Jensen Arnett name for the period from the late teens through the twenties.    Arnett sees emerging adults (as he calls them) identifying three  cornerstones for becoming an adult:  accepting responsibility for yourself, making independent decisions , and becoming financially independent.  If he is right, then a bit of consensus is beginning to emerge for an cultural “marker” that would identify adulthood.  Years ago, I saw a study that looked at close to 20 possible markers in our culture (everything from driver’s license to voting  to marriage).  The question was asked “When in our culture are you considered an adult?”  The winner was financial independence….with only about 17% percent!

If you have crossed that threshold already, when did you consider yourself an adult?

Tomorrow I am part of a panel at a local high school to talk to parents, teachers and other friends of adolescents about staying connected to teens as they move along  this “winding road.”  You, reader, are a rich resource.  I have already listened to my college students and my  children.  I have reflected on what I have learned through study and experience.  The crowning piece would be to add your voice to my preparation!

Now or later, your thoughts on the following would be appreciated:

  • What should parents do/not do to stay connected with their teens?
  • How do parents keep the bond strong while making space for Arnett’s three cornerstones to be established?
  • What are some of the best ways for the faith community to support families?
  • What is the role of doubt…and failure…and risk?

Thanks in advance for joining the conversation!