Tuesday, November 01, 2011

To Church or Not To Church?

Every day now, my inbox is filled anew with requests to join new websites, or add someone as a friend, or join an online group. I have reached a point where I have to try 5 different passwords because I belong to so many sites! On Facebook, I'm a member of about 20 groups, whether they are for social purposes, or a product that I like, or a sports team. What keeps me coming back to these sites? Well, to be honest...I visit the sites that have something to offer...to ME! My interest wanes if they don't post new content every week or so. Giveaways are nice; don't ask for contributions, though. I really don't want to contribute anything, whether it's money or an article, or my opinion, or my information. I just want your stuff! Unfortunately, this seems to be a growing attitude towards the church. If I'm going to come to church, what's in it for me? Can I get everything done my way? I really don't want to get involved, I just want to watch. I'll gladly take a handout, I just don't want to give you my information or a contribution. Oh, and don't ask me to donate my time either. Everyone at church needs to pursue me as their best friend. If I don't have friends in two weeks...I'm gone. No, I don't have time to join a group that visits newcomers to our church. I don't have time to make friends with everybody!! Many run from churches at the first sign of disagreement. Conflict resolution is a lost discipline among individuals. Churches contain people. Sinful people. Relationships with these people are sometimes messy and need regular maintenance. Being a member of a church isn't just about what you can get from it, but what can you contribute? Is there a problem in your church? Before you give up, I beg you, ask how you can be a part of the solution. Don't give up on church, God didn't!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Taking the Family to Camp

As a youth minister, my family usually does not get to attend long, weekend trips. So, it was a joyful blessing when they got to tag along this past weekend to a rally held at our summer camp...Nebraska Youth Camp. Not only did I want my boys there just for their presence, but also so they could start to enjoy camp the way I've enjoyed it. For those in youth ministry, it's a great idea to take your kids to "work" and make sure they enjoy being with you during ministry activities. Church offices should be family friendly. Hopefully, the other staff at your church loves your kids and shows it when they come to visit. But, back to camp... We decided to hike around the large pond. Fischer discovered a small dock that I had never seen. Milkweed, caterpillars and monarch butterflies were scattered all over the side of the path. Birds and squirrels jumped playfully from tree to tree. A fish leaped out of the water as if it had legs. The pathway itself was small, but clear...until we reached the northeast corner. "Ouch! Honey, there are stickers," my wife said calmly. Fischer noticed some on his pants. "Daddy, help me!" I picked them off and we continued. Tracy screamed. She had stepped on a sticker. Yes, she was wearing flip flops. No, I don't know why! This startled Fischer, who looked down at his own pants again and found more stickers. He proceeded to roll up his pants and found a dozen more on the inside of his pants. His face immediately went red and he started to cry. "Oh, nooooooo!" "Fischer, let's just keep going..." "I can't...we'll never make it!" he droned. "Fischer, it's OK..." "SOMEBODY SAVE UUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSS!!!" I don't have to tell you that we survived the evil, sticker monsters. Other than that, they kids thoroughly enjoyed the camp. Dirt to play in, tetherballs to hit, swings, a pond with some rocks that are great for throwing, and a bunch of teenagers to give them attention. Stickers aren't really a problem in the summer. So hopefully the boys won't be too scared to go to camp on their own in a few years!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fischer's Firsts

Fischer has had a few "firsts" lately. It's so exciting watching these things happen through his eyes.
His two bottom teeth have been "jiggly" lately, but I haven't forced anything.
I remember the horrendous experience of my own dad saying, "Lemme grab the pliers and we'll pop that tooth right out!" I remember strings and doorknobs and gobs of blood and sobbing.
So, Fischer has allowed me to reach in his mouth several times and just wiggle the tooth.
But, last week, it must have really been bothering him. He wanted me to remove it! It was already lying flat in his mouth. With a quick twist, it squirted through my fingers and we had to pick it up off the floor.
"It didn't even hurt, Daddy!" he said through his now toothless smile.

Last night he had his first sleepover with a friend. Ahhh...the sleepover! It's every kid's dream and every parent's...well, you know! If you never experienced a sleepover as a kid, your childhood is not complete! Even the teenagers I work with at church still LOVE it when we have a lock-in! Me? I'm getting too old for that!
You want to guess what Fischer's biggest problem was?
They slept in a tent in the backyard, and...the "bugs were too loud!" He was the last one awake, and actually came in to tell his host parents about the loud bugs.
That's my CITY BOY!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Youth Rally

So, last night our youth group sat down to iron out some details for our annual youth rally. Among the topics was, "Who should we get as our speaker?"
Our teenagers are fantastic. I asked them to list some qualities of the person they wanted to bring in. I was prepared for descriptors like, "spiritual giant," "thought-provoking and deep," or "inspirational."
You know what we came up with?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Appreciate Your Volunteers

There is a group of people that make me smile when I think about them: VOLUNTEERS!
Volunteers are the pillars of the church. Without volunteers, chairs would not get set up, meals would not be cooked, classes would not be taught, and church vans would not be driven. Without volunteers, ministry would be EXTREMELY difficult.
Most volunteers do not realize the importance of their role.
1. Ministers cannot conjure up "ministry excitement" all the time. They NEED church members to take up the torch, to back them up, to be excited and supportive. In fact, truth be told, programs are BETTER when volunteers play an integral part in planning them!
2. Ministers cannot do all the work. They either need help planning or executing the programs for their ministries.
3. Volunteers keep ministers honest. As a youth minister, one of the things I struggle with the most is being paid for my job. Would I still do it if I wasn't paid? Could I? Then I see someone volunteering to be the youth worker for a small church, and I think, "YES! If I weren't paid, I would want to be like THAT person!"

I try to tell those small-church volunteers how much I appreciate them. At our annual youth rally, I don't want them to pay admission. Last year, I was blessed to pull them into a room and try to give them some encouragement and resources.
In fact, I probably show my appreciation to other volunteers better than the volunteers at my own church!
As far as my own volunteers, I am still learning. Notes, emails, phone calls, a personal thank-you...but more is coming! I hope I will always keep learning how to encourage my volunteers and give them ownership of our church's ministry to young people.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I hijacked my husband's blog so I could enter into the I Heart Faces competition. The theme this week is "Let's Hear It For The Boys." I know a lot about boys(having three myself), so I figured this one would be easy. However I did decide to use this photo of two brothers. They make me smile. They have been clients of mine for several years. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Love Wins" Review

Several people asked if I would put out a review of this book by Rob Bell. Because of the scope of the book, I cannot do it justice in just one review. This will be a general review of the entire work.

Author's Assertions
Bell asserts several things in this book, unfortunately, he is also vague enough to leave you wondering where he stands on several points. Here are some things (in my understanding) he is trying to assert...
God loves everyone, no matter there background or baggage.
There are many "Jesus-es" in the world. He is different, depending on who you talk to.
Heaven is not some hazy, far off realm for all good people. God will re-make the earth and live with His people.
There is no hell. Jesus paid the price of death for all men, all sins, all at once. Everyone will live with God in heaven-on-earth one day. Not one person will be lost.
Hell is reaping the natural consequences of your sins. (For example, if you commit adultery, you may be estranged from your family.)
Every heart, no matter how hard, will one day be melted, and will love God.
God loves everyone, no matter their race, gender or religion.

Things I liked about the book...
The fact that God's love always wins. Even the worst person can be changed by seeing God's love in action.
The assertion that we will be surprised to see some people in heaven. (God's grace is bigger than my grace!)
Bell's attempt to utilize a LOT of scripture references in his book.
The attempt to open a conversation with non-believers who are "turned off" by the concept of a loving God who would send people to hell.

Things I didn't like...
Pick-a-scripture methodology. The author picks a BUNCH of scriptures when he is trying to make a point, instead of examining the scriptures in their context. Some Old Testament verses that are clearly allegorical, he says are real references to heaven. Some New Testament verses that are real descriptions of heaven, he says are allegorical. (Wish I could go into more detail here, but I won't for now. For a good article on the topic of proof-texting, go to http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/14435.htm)
Lack of bibliography - There is one section in which Bell asserts that MANY church fathers believed that EVERYONE would be saved. He proceeds to name the church fathers who supposedly said this, but then fails to provide the sources. (To be fair, perhaps I didn't see this because I read it on a Kindle.)
Leaves too many open ends - The author asks many questions (and many of them are good questions!) However, I can immediately fire some questions back that need answering. For example, if everyone is going to be saved...
Couldn't God have figured out some other way to save people? I mean, is He is so loving, why in the world would He sacrifice His son? (We get angry that God would send people to hell, but not that He had His son murdered?)
Where is the motivation to live a God-honoring life? (If I'm going to be saved, why in the world should I be a youth minister? I might as well make tons of money, cheat on my wife, and have lots of fun!!)
Why does God make reference to those who are "set apart" or "chosen people?" How can you be set apart if we are all headed for the same destination?
Will Satan get to return to heaven?
What about justice? (His idea of "everybody sitting at the same table" in heaven sounds good, but tell that to someone who has been grievously wronged or attacked!)

Overall, there are many questions left after reading the book. The author makes some compelling arguments, and some that fall absolutely flat. He is a thinker...I'm not sure he is a scholar. Read the book if you want to start a study (or an argument) but beware. Be willing to open up God's word and check it out for yourself!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

We Love Justice...YEAH, RIGHT!

I'm reading Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins. I must say, it's living up to its controversial hype!
The total review will be held off until I finish the book. Perhaps I can be a little more fair then.
However, there was one line in the book that made me laugh out loud the other day as I read it.

"We love justice."

First of all, let me give some context. The author was saying that we tend to naturally enjoy it when justice is served.
Now, my thoughts on that...

When I got home the other day, I was told a story about my 2 and 1/2 year old son. Apparently, he went missing for 10-15 minutes. My wife and mother-in-law were almost in hysterics, combing every inch of the house without success. They then asked the neighbors to join in on the hunt. Nothing.
The terrible thought began to come up that maybe he was down by the railroad tracks about two blocks away.
Before they ran down to the tracks, they decided to look around the house one last time.
And finally, they found Garrison...
...hiding in Grandma's bed, under the covers, completely silent...
...eating berry-flavored Rolaids!

Now, why did he NOT call out and let them know where he was?
Because he was afraid of being caught...he was afraid of JUSTICE!
I agree with Bell that we love justice...when we have been wronged and the OTHER PERSON gets their "just desserts." But, we don't like it when WE get what's coming to us!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


This is a funny video that illustrates some serious truths...

What would people see/hear in YOUR heart?
At this year's National Conference on Youth Ministries, I was really impacted by one of the speaker's questions. He said, "What would your children say if I asked them to list the top five people that you loved?"
'Good question!' I thought. 'I think I would do pretty good!'
Then, he brought the point home...
"...would Jesus make that list?"
Can people REALLY tell what's important to me without me having to REASSURE them?

When I look at others, do I just see what everybody else sees? Or do I see what's in their heart?
"How's work? What's the weather like there?"
Really? THAT is all we've got to talk about?
While small talk is necessary (when you run out of things to say) it shouldn't be the ONLY conversations that you have! I want to know others deeply (and for them to know me.) I want to know what makes their heart race, and what makes it stop in fear. I want to be able to help when there's a problem, instead of asking, once again, if they've seen any good movies lately.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

What Faith Can Do By Kutless

I've decided to do "The Week of Videos!"
Feeling very blessed today. Blessed to have a relationship with God. I feel like God will stand beside me no matter what obstacles I face, and even when I let myself get in the way.
I love what our preacher, Jim White, said today about David and Goliath..."We've got the story all wrong. We say, 'Poor David,' but it was GOLIATH that NEVER STOOD A CHANCE!"
And, that story illustrates what faith can do...

Friday, March 04, 2011

Little Changes

When you look at the same thing every day, and things start to change, you will notice the change!

Yes, this is a little update on my P90Xperiment!
I'm into Week 5. I have not lot lost a lot of weight (probably only 4 or 5 lbs.) And, I have cheated several times on diet and skipped several workouts because I was on vacation.
But, I am noticing a change!
It starts when you take a second look at yourself in the mirror. You notice that one of your chins is missing. Then, as the excitement builds, you notice one or two less rolls in the ole tummy! Your neck...even your fat fingers start to look different.
To someone who doesn't see you all the time, the change may seem rather small, even non-existent.
I can feel the change. I can feel myself getting stronger. I can stretch further than I've stretched before. I don't tire as easily.

If you are working at improving some aspect of your life, the best evaluator is YOU!
An ancient Greek scholar (we're not sure who) came up with the wise phrase: KNOW THYSELF.
YOU are the best one to evaluate yourself, because you know who you are!
Too often we base our evaluations on the opinions or results of others.
"Honey, I just don't see how this is helping..."
"Well, when I did it, I lost 175 lbs, so you're SURE to have similar results!"

If I compare myself to Tony Horton (creator of P90X), then I'm a miserable failure! But if I compare myself to where I was, then I'm no longer a couch potato, and this is good!
The Bible puts it this way, "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." (Galatians 6:4-5)

Are you down on yourself? Quit comparing yourself to someone else! Learn to see the little changes and be proud!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


...the name alone is enough to strike fear into the hearts of the..."not so fit."
Yes, I asked for P90X for Christmas and I am on Day 3. I will NOT post pictures of me shirtless...YOU'RE WELCOME! But, I should probably keep track of some other stuff.
I am starting at 255 lbs. I wear size 42 jeans and my gut hangs out over them! My eating habits over the holidays have been terrible (as usual!)
My goal is to drop at least 30 lbs. and POSSIBLY run a half marathon next January. I plan to go through P90X Lean first, and then go through the regular program.
Maybe if I chronicle about it, you kind and beautiful people will give me a shout every once in a while: "DON'T QUIT, FRANKLIN!"

Side Note: More importantly, I have been faithful to my daily Bible reading resolution. How are YOU doing?!