Tuesday, February 26, 2008

overall, the game was a success

We made it to the middle of the 5th inning, which after talking with some folks around us at the aforementioned TCU baseball game, was quite a success, especially since we got there about 30 min early to boot. It was a struggle at first (Jax fell asleep in the car, so was groggy and grumpy for a bit), and he did NOT want to sit in our upper deck seats for the first few innings, so we ate pop-pop (aka popcorn) for awhile down on one of the first base-line picnic tables (pretty good seats actually). Jax finally started chatting up the neighbors (mostly Fullerton fans in our area) who were all gracious and patient with him. Then, after many attempts, in the 3rd inning or so proclaims, "I wanna go to our seats now." Yes sir...

Only other "iffy" thing is it was WINDY as crud... Not even that cold temp wise (close to 70), but gusty winds made it chilly for all. Yet, a fun day.

Frogs won 4-2.

Friday, February 22, 2008

excited to go to our first "family baseball game"!

Well, tomorrow at 2 pm, Jax, Missy and I will attend our first family baseball game: TCU vs. Cal St.-Fullerton game! Jax has been to two Cats games (minor league baseball), but was very young and slept most of the time. he has been to a couple TCU football games, once again both at a young age, a couple Weatherford high football games, and some middles school football...but not a planned out outing like this (tickets just bought). Jax is WAY excited. Both are highly touted this season, and in Fullerton, a perennial powerhouse (was in last years' CWS). So, I'll tell you how it went tomorrow...


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Really am Ok...

Just letting any readers know that despite my last post, I'm doing alright attitudinally...in fact, there are some cool things going on. I guess I just feel the need to share some concerns, thoughts, challenges, etc., every now and then. My blog wouldn't be an honest one if I didn't, and once I begin to over-sanitize, it's time to stop (not that I don't attempt to use some discretion...even if just a little :-)

There are exciting things going on, to be sure. Any time a teen (or adult even) shares something God is doing, or even just acknowledges a lesson, conversation, or book recommendation that is messing up their soul a bit (in a good way), my heart leaps. And it does happen (did this week!).

So, some things I'm looking forward to in a great way and with much expectation of seeing God work include:

*** Planet Wisdom in 10 days
*** Our second annual Spring Break Road Trip to Kerrville (some new faces will be there, and will surely add to the good times)
*** CTCYMs looming this summer...
*** The summer theme of either "ReBoot" or "Remodel"
*** Looking ahead to a re-boot of Elevation for fall...

Monday, February 18, 2008

youth ministry questions, rants, fears, dreams, etc...

For some time now, I've been somewhat discontent with the state of the youth ministry I serve. Not that God isn't evident in it (he is), but more of a sense that something is amiss. Yet, I have had difficulty nailing it down. Am I just tired? Am I losing the kids? Am I afraid that if we "blow things up and start over", it will fail? Will powers-that-be start questioning my worth on staff (or at least at this salary) if "numbers" decline (even if the core group is growing spiritually like never before)?

Well, after reading this http://whatiskingdom.blogspot.com/2008/01/breaking-point-youth-ministry-rant.html, I at least know I'm not alone in my frustration with how youth ministry has been "done" over the last several years.

There have been so many ministry models attempted over the years, and at one point they were quite successful. Some models (and my experience) include:

*** Ministries encorporating lots of fun-and-games or cool "outings" so kids would want to be there, bring their friends, etc. I have definitely done this, and usually unapologetically. But to what end? Sure, sometimes new folks come and have a good time, but few of those guests ever come to any of the more spiritual offerings. And also, I'm running out of "tricks" (and believe me, it bothers me that I even feel like I have to use the term "trick" to speak of what we do to get teens in the door). Fun ideas are running their course...and you can only recycle so much...

*** Pure Relational Ministry. You know, the Young Life model (well, part of it...). Go to schools every day, as many sporting events/band concerts/plays/recitals/etc. as you can muster, make sure you are "seen" by parents (so they go, "wow, he really cares about my kid!"), etc. Is it worth it? Well, certainly it can be, but one thing I've noticed lately is the amount of kids who don't seem to care if you are there. Not that I do it to feel good about myself, but there are just some kids (and maybe this isn't new really...just noticing it lately) that seem to not care no matter what efforts are made to speak into their lives. Another thing that keeps me from really doing this style of ministry anymore is time/family. When I was single, i did go to lunches each week, to games/events often, and even just grab kids and hang out. But now... family responsibilities are too great. Oh sure, you find tve occasional "super youth minister" who is married with 3 kids and still goes out three nights a week to events, is gone four weeks a summer at camps, trips, etc., but my guess is that if you were to ask their kids or wife, they'd probaly wish dad/hubby paid more attention to family... I'm sad to even know a few youth ministry-families that are pretty dysfunctional in the name of "relational youth ministry at all costs". I know of some families where a minister's own children are almost neglected (and they rebel as a result) due to this priority. I even know of a few divorces because of it. Sad. Is this what it takes?

*** Big-flash-bang-bells-and-whistles Ministry. I struggle here, because I admit (and I hear my kids say similar things when they visit youth groups like this, go to conferences, etc.) I can be impressed, see the energy, love the band/speaker/video/skits, etc. But muchcare needs to be taken, and too easily I know ministries that either fall prey to being a "slave to technology" or numbers, or worse, start a ministry with those as the main priorities ("We need more folks here! Let's buy a bunch of cool gear, make a slick production, and hope a million folks show up!"). I even confess that while one of our ministry events (Elevation) may evolve into more of an "event" with music, video, etc., I do have a fear it will become about being "slick" to attract teens, etc.

So what is it? Making disciples. Problem is there is no formula or model for it. And in today's western society, it is getting more difficult for God's message to break through. Does he still speak? ABSOLUTELY! But the distractions/priorities/desires/attitudes are so great. I see it my the kids I serve. Such as...

Money/Affluence. Is being rich evil? Well, not in itself...but I do think it can make it difficult to truly surrender to God. I have (and have had in past ministries) kids that are slaves to "stuff", status, etc., and yet don't consider themselves rich because while their dad brings home a million bucks a year, the guy down the street brings home ten million and owns multiple homes, cars, etc. It's all about comparing yourself to the next level up... Yet despite not feeling "rich", nice cars are expected upon arriving at age 16, stuff is "boring" if it isn't top-of-the-line", and even attitudes toward others suffer as one's high expectations vome into play, like how waiters are treated, etc. It's also really difficult to even truly acknowledge one's sin and need for redemption when, well, you've got everything you "need"...

Technology. Video games, internet, text messaging, etc. I know so many kids that seem to all ow their entire lives to be governed by games, or networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, etc.), or always texting or talking on cell phones, etc. Bad in itself? Well, like almost anything, not in itself...but I know kids that are so into games they would probably not eat or sleep if their parents never said "enough!". Or looking at inappropriate, damaging-to-the-soul websites all night long, or even acting like "rules don't apply" in how they talk to others on IM, or texting, or facebook...seems like people want those places to be "zones" where gossip is ok, or bad language, or simply lying about yourself to appear cool to someone... All of this is evidence we are sick and don't naturally want to seek God's way.

Quest for "success" at all costs. This is something hitting home lately. Seems like kids nowadays think "anything goes" in the quest for winning, getting ahead, etc. And they get it from all over, TV, music, movies, coaches, teachers, and (gasp) parents. For example, when our youth group plays games, it seems tvat the underlying goal to kids is to both a) see what I can "get away with" (aka cheat) so I can win and b) tattle on others I catch cheating (often same kid does both). But, this is what they've been fed. Coaches teach this. Parents even encourage it, because it's "the way the world works". I'm sorry, what again happened to honesty???

Overall Busyness. Simply put, people have too much going on nowadays. It's not that kids used to have nothing to do, but it seemed there used to be less "stuff". Now, there are daily practices, tons of homework (I don't remember having as much homework as these kids...), even things scheduled during the once-untouchable summer break. It is just difficult for a teen to set time aside for spiritual growth and community building.

So, I feel the pain of the blogger I linked at the beginning of this post. And I am certainly NOT immune to some of the above distractions creeping into my life. I just think I need to seek God with all I've got on issues like this, trust his direction, and move forward without fear. And fear is the kicker. Fear of "losing kids". Fear of my job being seen as not-necessary if "numbers suffer" ("how come we pay him full-time and benefits, when our part-time folks get more people in their ministry?") Fear of, essentially, "jumping the shark" and messing things up. But I need to allow God to give me peace and faithully, obidiently move forward in seeking the best way to minister to folks, where tvey are loved, understand their great worth, and ultimately give Jesus their entire selves...

Just this morning (after I had already worked out this post in my head), I saw an example of God at work in what we do: a youth (a girl, as I could tell by the writing) snuck in and left me a creation based on yesterday's Sunday School lesson. I was so moved...almost to tears of gratefulness. God does still move in the youth ministry of First United Methodist Church in Weatherford, Texas...even in the midst of confusion, concern, frustration, and distraction. And he still moves whereever you are, too.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Interesting "Alternate Commentary" on the Film "Juno"


I myself have not seen "Juno" (but I understand I really need to), butl like the article said, most commentary has been about its' title character choosing to not have an abortion (which, believe me, is nice). But as one who can struggle with being a "grown up", often getting bitter because life is simply tougher as you grow up, with no-fun responsibilities, demands, etc. (see http://haphazardangus.blogspot.com/2007/12/ramblings-and-rants-about-myself-not.html for a treatise on my struggle/frustration), but is trying to truly "man up" and own my calling as a leader, husband, father, etc., I can't help but agree with this article's sad commentary about disinterested boys and "child-men", refusing to grow up, seemingly bitter with life after marriage, careers, etc. In fact, I know friends that "jokingly" refer to their life as a family man as "no life", with a chuckle, sure, but as they say, "there is some truth to all sarcasm..."

I mean, I'd be lying if I NEVER longed for the "easier" days of childhood, college, etc., with few responsibilities, limitless time to do whatever I choose, etc., but as a husband and dad claiming to be a follower of Jesus, I need to let those desires go...just like he said, I must lose my life (aka my desires, wants, etc.) for the sake of others, ESPECIALLY my fmaily... Problem is, in today's American culture, that view is seen as almost offensive. We are told we are to seek personal happiness above all elses, no matter who gets thrown under the bus (including wives, kids, friends...). So, to promote sacrificial living is so "other". But, despite my occasional struggles, I can truthfully say that the joy I get from loving my wife and son, assisting and serving them unconditionally, and watching them succeed far outweighs everything else...

Friday, February 1, 2008

My List of Most "Beautiful" Film Characters (not what you expect..)

No, I am not meaning "pretty" characters, but, you know, those characters you watch and just go, "THAT is one great (and usually funny) human being..." So, here is a fun list, and it's just partial (I could always think of more)...would love your comments...

Irwin M. Fletcher, from "Fletch" and "Fletch Lives" (Chevy Chase): Chevy Chase in the 70s and 80s was pure gold, and as a result, you'll find him a few times on this list. As Fletch, he was so great...smart aleck, funny, quick witted, etc. And a freind of mine who is obsessed with the films says much of the dialoge was ad-libbed. Awesome. My favorite Fletch "creations"? John Cocktoston, the airline reparman ("It's all ball bearings nowadays!"), "Claude Henry Smmoott" (televangeslist in "Fletch Lives")...

David Wooderson, from "Dazed and Confused" (Matthew McConaughey): I tend to like McConaughey, but he nailed this character, the "older guy still hanging around high schoolers" in the mid-70s. "Dazed and Confused" has many beuatiful characters, but Wooderson takes the cake. "Alright alright alright!" "I get older, they stay the same age..."

The Dude, from "The Big Lebowski" (Jeff Bridges): So wonderful, the proclaimed "laziest man in all of Los Angeles, which probably means he's one of the laziest men in the whole world." So laid back, so funny, so confused. He just wants his rug back, man.

Walter Sobchak, from "The Big Lebowski" (John Goodman): The Dude's best friend, a Vietnam vet still affected by the war, and a converted "Jew" ("I don't roll (bowl) on Shabbos!"). Addicted to bowling and anger. And the schemes he plans (and is so sure of their success) are just hysterical (and doomed to failire).

Ty Webb, from "Caddyshack" (Chevy Chase): Ah, Ty... I can't help but love his shenanigans. Watching him golf is a joy, almost as good as his, "I was born to love you..."-song...

Stephen, from "Braveheart" (David O'Hara): Gotta love Stephen, the crazy Irish fighter ("MY ISLAND!!!!"). Obviously crazy (I love his quick "Yes Father, I'll tell them!" in mid-sentence as he is speaking with fellow fighters...hearing from God? Possibly. Crazy anyway? You bet. But fiercely loyal...I would want him on my side.

Derek Smalls, from "This is Spinal Tap" (Harry Shearer): You could add just about every charachter from this groundbreaking "mockumentary" gem, but I just love Derek, the "intellectual" bass player from a washed up British rock band. AWFUL stage outfits, getting busted at the airport security due to a foil-wrapped cucumber (I'll let you figure it out), "jazz odessey", etc. Brilliant.

Ok, a good enough list for now. I may add more as I feel led.