Ancarrow..the blog

Welcome to "Ancarrow...the blog," a place for us to share some random thoughts as we help start new churches in MD.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Adieu, my Stanley, Adieu!

One of the greatest up/downs I have in doing student ministry is that I only spend but a short time with those that I work with. I've often used a college basketball analogy to define youth ministry, because every four years I have a completely different team. Their strengths & weaknesses, their cliques, and their passions can be completely different, and the challenge of trying to contextualize the gospel for each becomes quite a challenge. This makes it hard, if not impossible, for us to compare classes, or even seasons of the X to other ones. Thus, in hindsight, I tend to have favorite series, events, or one-off nights or messages, as opposed to entire years.

Sadley, this happens with adults we grow close to as we minister alongside one another. We said goodbye to another set of teammates tonight, and some very dear friends, whom the Lord is undoubtedly leading the land of Florida, where america goes to die. This part is frankly exciting, as we've been alongside these friends through all the circumstances that have lead up to this night, and we know what an exciting step this is for them. WIth the wonders of social networking, I'll be able to talk trash about the yankees as readily as I have for these past few years. Plus, I now have a free couch to crash on in Florida, and an aged dog to cuddle with when I do. The downside is that you can never replace these members of your team. There will never been another Jeff & Dana. There are other great adult leaders, and there will be other great sponsors who will step up in their abesnce, as the Lord leads. Such has been the casey for eight years at NCC, and I don't expect that will change in the near future.

While these goodbyes, and others like it, have sometimes been painful to me, our students, or to the logistics of our minsitry, I'm grateful to see how God has used this little town of Danville to raise up a harvest of leaders for places such as Florida, and for places like TN, Ohio, and even for places as far reaching as Cambodia, Zimbabwe, and Northern Ireland.

So, farewell, oh Stanley Houser..and may we walk on the beach together soon.

Some final thoughts about the fam:
1. Reese is crawling now, but she has no teeth. What's the point of being able to run around if there's no good food to eat when you get there?
2. Emery believes that seeing the trailer to "The Princess and the frog" means that she has seen the movie. I don't think I want to correct her, for this ignorance will spare me the cost of two movie tickets.
3. Amber and I had a great visit to KY visiting the Ulrich/Bankemper clan for Thanksgiving. it was a great getaway.
4. I am soooo looking forward to a few vacation days coming up during the next few weeks. Some extended sabbath is going to do me very well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hot August Night

Today is the longest Monday in a long time. It began at 8:30 this morning (well the "work" work - Reese had me up at 6 a.m.), and it's now well past midnight. I'm stuffing my face with the best potato chips on earth, and working on my to-do list that starts up in 8 hours. Tis the season we call "Fall Prep." I have to say, I both love and hate this time of year. I find an incredible rush coupled with the incredible fear of, "what if this doesn't come together?" IWhile it always seems to, there's always the part of me that goes, "if I only had a few more dollars, or one more week."

I have to give incredible props to Ferg and Clayton at this point, who are helping me have a balance approach to things. So far, this is the first official "fall prep" that's gone past midnight. While more are certainly to come, I will admit that, by now, i've already had a few by now most other years. Truly, I love my job...this is the part of the upside of creativity and like-minded people.

I just need a quick minute to vomit out a few we go:
1. A Yankees hot streak, coupled with the return of Tom Brady, made this past weekend's sports coverage almost unbearable. Thank you, Michael Vick, for lessening the blow. Which, btw. ..
2. Michael Vick...I don't feel sorry for your punishment & crime. Sin feels like a party - and then the party crashes (take notes, those who are selectively ignoring wise counsel...though I'm sure you just glossed over that to in the name of "Don't tell Ancarrow..."). What i do feel sorry for you in, Mr. Vick, is all the extremism your struggle will draw for those looking for a platform. In a society where dogs are often treated better than children, it's pretty hyprocritical to me to hear those who cheat on their wives, screw up their families, and emotionally abuse their kids say stupid ignorant things in the name of "we don't like the fact that this guy gets paid what he does." Truth is, many who will drink and drive won't pay a tenth of the price Vick did for his crime. In that, I do feel sorry for him. What he did was disgusting...but let's look at the specks in our own eyes, people. Do we really think the NFL is full of boy scouts? It's all fine and good to throw stones until its our team that's affected. ...and winning super bowls shuts us up pretty quick.
3. the new Showbread CD - fun...not as great as Anorexia/Nervosa, but it has some really good moments. Let there be Raw indeed, my friends...September 9 will be sweet.
4. Emery at the Gear - great live show. Would have like to have heard "the Butcher's Mouth" and "the Poor and the Prevelant" though. Emery, please, work on that - after all, it's all about me, right? to the guy who proposed to his gal at the show...please, I beg you sir, do not let her anywhere near Clearwater, FL.
5. First soccer match tomorrow vs. Covenant - should be a real measuring stick of how our team is this year. I don't get overly excited about any non-conference game in the first who weeks of the season,but I am quite interested to see what we've got.

night night.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Epic Song Lyric Tuesday.

SHOWBREAD - The Fear of God

Dear God, why should I think You’re good in a world that’s falling apart?
The flags and lies, picket signs raised high, the endless enveloping dark
Now here we sit, drifting further from You, two thousand years on their way out
Now here I am, as I’ve grown to know You, still haunted by my fears and my doubts

Just a man, just a vapor, just a waste of your space
All the good that I’ve done is in spite of myself
I’m not sure that I can look You in Your face when I finally set foot in Your kingdom

Dear God, what went wrong? We hate ourselves, we hate our brother
We so desperately want to find our way, and all You say is "love one another"

And little babies starve to death, emaciated, out of breath
Unfaithful wives make vows untrue, husbands beat them black and blue
Junkies vomit in the streets, writhing, twitching in their skin
Sell themselves to die some more, rotting from the outside in
Parents steal the innocence from their children, scared and shaking
Drink away the guilt at night, brings quiet to the endless aching
And evil men boast on TV, swimming in a sea of wealth
While misery beds honest men, and lonely people kill themselves
And everyone cries out Your name, as the world is raped by selfishness
And no one knows the way to heaven, we only know the emptiness
And the storm it rages in my heart, and the endless empty roars in my ears
My world is coming all apart, I’ve no strength left to dry my tears
And through it all I hear Your voice, breaking my heart, breaking my will
Calms the storm inside my soul as You whisper "peace, be still..."

You place Your hands around my heart, You quiet the emptiness in me
A king that kneels, a God made a servant, You set the captives free
You wait for me, a wretch of a man, no record of wrongs do You keep
You are comfort when I mourn, You are strength when I am weak
Jesus Christ, the king of kings
Though we ache, though we cry, never break, never die
We sing of His great love again and again
And His love reigns forever, and forevermore
Forever and ever, Amen

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Northern Ireland Update - Day 9

I'm having some technical difficulties today. To read today's article on Day 9 - please report directly to facebook. Apologies to those who read on here...I will go ahead and put some pics up here though:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Northern Ireland Updates - Day 8

Hello everyone! Today was a very good day. First we started off with the usual by going to the VBS sites. The first site we always go to is the Murlough cottages. It is a nice little caravan park that Irish families go for vacation. The kids here are very kind and are nice to be around. We always have a pick-up game of soccer. Like yesterday we got our behinds kicked by the Irish team which had an average age of maybe twelve. I have come to know a little girl named Laura, and she has been a blessing. The second day I played with her she told me I was her best friend and my heart just swelled up with joy. Everyone else has been blessed by little children with big big hearts. Children are so important. I remember now when the disciples saw children following Jesus and they tried to stop them but Jesus said let them come.
Today had many blessings within itself. A few of our girls came in encounters with some boys and girls of which decided they wanted to follow Jesus. The transformations of these kids hearts were phenomonal. These encounters happened outside of the VBS, at a place called the drop-in, for kids so they can have a safe place to hang out. As you read this message please pray that our last day is even better. Love and miss you all.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Northern Ireland Update - Day 7

posted by Scott Ancarrow

Wednesday was another totally full day of programming. In the mornings, we are definately seeing the fruit of continuity and consistency. This morning, the kids were completely attentive and with Craig as he taught much so that when I could see storms clouds coming (in fact, Richie, our leader, said to be prepared have them run inside), I prayed for 3 more minutes of time before it hit. With the rain literally approaching us, I got 35 minutes. Pretty epic. While I have prayed such prayers in my life, this sums up the entirety of the day - a spiritual battle.

I see it even in myself...after seenig such prayers, a slam of the door or a rejection turns one of us back into that spiritual pansy that wants to just be a tourist. It's a constant that challenges our students (and leaders) to say, "maybe I should just go back to mediocrity," or back to empty relationships back home that placate my ego, despite what my wise counsel says....

But when we step out on the edge, beyond safety, where only God can work, he does. That's what I've seen most today. The double rainbow, a reminder of God's faithfulness, was our reminder on the way to the drop-in tonight. It was beautiful chaos...a night filled with laughter, loudness, prayer, and the fine line between annoyance and love that often fills you when you're worknig with people who are hurting. God's faithfulness...
I see students stretching beyond where' they're comfortable...and its, to quote my irish friends, "quite brilliant." I'm proud of my students, I'm proud of Murlough House, and I'm proud to see how God is using and working on hearts around me. .

I'll end with some commentary:
1. the kids were playing a karaoke game tonight - if you happen to see videos of "Survivor" by Destiney's child or "Never Gonna Give you Up" by Rick Astley sung by a certain red head- save yourself the pain of hearing it - and just know that it's funnier if you were there.

2. Worcestire Sauce flavored potato chips taste just as they're named...there you go.

3. The only material possession I miss is coffee...instant just isn't cutting it. Everything else here is epic. Good night, friends.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Northern Ireland Updates - Days 6

Posted by Brandon Doub...

WOW! Whoa! Where does one begin? It has been an amazing trip thus far, but we still have much more ground to make up in this journey of ours toward reaching the kids and their families with our message. This experience has moved so many of us in such a short time. It has been really neat to see everyone come together as a team (as one) in what seems to be an everlasting fight against the evil presence that has consumed so many of the young minds here. When I say that, I mean it in so many ways... this is something that has kids as young as four cursing at other children and throwing a punch like it is nothing... Mind-boggling! I have better news to report, news that made me stop and praise our AWESOME God today... This afternoon at our roughest test of each day, Burrendale Park, the kids started to respect and take in the experience as a all costs. Let me explain. These four, five, six, seven, and eight year olds participated with us and worshiped with us even though they were being persecuted by a bunch of older kids in the back... They were getting jeered at and laughed at, and balls were even kicked at them. How awesome is it to see those young kids take a stand against that evil that so many would have turned and ran from! Praise the Lord... kids know about what we are doing and they have began to tell their friends about it and our attendance was up today... simply amazing. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we have quickly learned that there is no other way of truly speaking with the Lord!

Editor's Note: We've got word here about our Zimbabwe team from Northview that is traveling at the same time as us. They have seen over 850 kids at their VBS - Praise God. However, we have heard that several on the team are not feeling well - and seem to have the flu. Please pray for their recovery.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Northern Ireland Updates - Days 5

Written by Lauren Callahan

Today was our fifth day in Northern Ireland. Today was our first day of vacation bible school and our team got a real feel for the youth of this area. We ran two vacation bible schools in two different locations. At the first location, VBS ran very smooth-even better than expected. The kids participated in all of the activities and was incredibly successful. The second location, however, was almost the complete polar opposite, as far as the response and attitude from the children. Our heart strings were pulled as reality hit us while working there; our team realized how the presence of God, in the lives' of the children, was something that these youth needed desperately. The shock of the behavior of the children was something that would surprise almost anyone. With tough lives, and without any positive role models, the pain in the childrens' lives was evident. Their craving for attention and their use of appalling cuss words proved this even further. Because of their tough outer shell, trying to connect with the children was difficult, but we did make incredible progress. We could clearly see God working, as the children began to respect us- something that some would consider to be impossible. Rebelling against adults seemed to be the only thing they knew. The kids were compelled, for some odd reason, to respect us and listen to us- though the progress was slow. Most of this progress was not seen, though, until our "coffee house" later in the day. Many of the children at the second VBS attended our "coffee house." During that time, we basically hung out with pre-teenagers and got to know them a little bit. This was the time when we saw God working the most. Two of our team members shared their testimonies, and one of the rowdier boys asked one of our team members even more about Christ. There were also two other girls who had a fantastic conversation with some of our team members about why God must exist. They received the information well and even said that they were eager to go home and read their Bible. God was clearly moving through our team and through the youth today. We hope that as we establish a greater relationship with the youth that each of the following days will be at least as successful as today was.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Northern Ireland Updates - Days 4

Posted by Dan Huffman
Sunday in Northern Ireland found us once again preparing for the mission to begin. There were giveaway bags to be packed, skits to rehearse and planning to be done. We also had the rare opportunity to attend some local churches for Sunday worship. We began the day by attending two churches in the Dundon/Newcastle area. They were very old, rustic churches in the countryside. The Church of Ireland has been around for centuries, and the service was very traditional in style. Hymnals were used as an organ played, and the locals (around a dozen folks) sang songs of praise. It was a far cry from the style our team is used to. Two of our youths spoke to the congregation and answered questions from the pastor, and gave a brief testimony. The next church visited was the same, as the pastor covered both churches. As I sat there, in this old building I imagined all of the souls that have worshipped there. But as I looked around, I saw very few left, and those that were there were mostly over the age of 60. Frankly, it seemed to be dying out. The last church visited was a Methodist Church in downtown Newcastle. It was an evening worship of modern songs, some of the same ones we sing at Northview. But again, the crowd was less than 30 people, not counting our team. This is Northern Ireland in the 21st century. People are not finding the Church relevant. But God is here, and he is working through those who still call on his name to reach out to these people. For all who wondered, "why Northern Ireland"? I see such a need. The people on the street are hardened by the years of fighting, by the hoplessness that living in a war zone breeds. I've read about it, but I saw it today in the eyes of the man who runs this place we have come to serve. As he spoke of the troubles, the mission became clearer. God loves his creation, on all parts of the planet. We are here to convey that. The team is ready. May we remain as eager to serve tomorow as we are today.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Northern Ireland Updates - Day 3

written by Alli Brown...

Today was amazing!!! We went into town and put flyeres in peoples mailboxes to let the parents know about our upcoming event. We went to some beautiful places; Tollymore Forest Park and Dundrum Castle. There was some hefty bridges that dated back to 1729 and the tower at the castle dates back to the twelth century. Ireland is like the US in many ways, for instance the first day I couldn't really believe we were in Ireland, but the things we saw today you cannot find anywhere in America. For me personally, earlier today I was super nervous about leading worship and how the kids were going to react to the songs I picked out to sing. The thought that it would go badly was in my mind all day, but with prayer and the knowledge that they will be skeptical at first because they would not know the songs calmed me down. Later Jess Grove, Kailan Chidester, and I went through all of the songs and a couple of times and worked on the motions and I relaxed even more. Now I am sitting here feeling relaxed and ready for the challenge ahead of me. I feel that as the week goes on that they will interact with the songs a little more each day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Northern Ireland Updates - Days 1 & 2

So, the Game plan here is to have students update the blog as the week goes on. For the first entry, I thought I'd get it started.

First and foremost, everyone is well, aside from the fact that, unless you're shorter than 5'6", it's really hard to sleep on an airplane. No travel issues, and no immigration holdups. God is good. A good night's sleep should address any little frustrations.

Before coming North, we took a 4 hour detour in's good that we have pictures, because most of our are too tired to remember it. I remember the double cheeseburger I got at Mcdonalds, and the free refills @ Starbucks.

We arrived at Murlough House this afternoon, and went ahead with our orientation meetings. This place is amazing, nestled on the Irish Sea. Did I mentioend it's mid 60's here? Very nice.

But we learned tonight that this is no vacation. Tonight, after Tea (dinner for us Yanks) we toured some of the areas we'll be working in this week. In one location, our students were taunted as being "Bible Beaters," which came in the middle of a barrage of swearing and disrespect towards anyone who would hear these students. In the midst of the beauty of this country, there is an angst that is still evident amongst people who are trying to let go of grudges and hatred. We even witnessed a fight on the boardwalk promenadet. It's evident to me that a backpack full of youth ministry games and cool giveaways won't be able to do what only Jesus can. Pray that we will show that like we should, and be humble enough not to present the gospel as behavior modification, but as a living hope.

I'll leave you with a shot from our backyard. Check back for more updates tomorrow.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Updates (thank you for your patience, Mrs Matthews).

Tonight was a good night. Seats behind home plate, about 15 rows back @ Great American Ball Park...peanuts, fountain coke zero, and the Wifey along with. The only one who had a better night than me was Albert Pujols, who managed to knock in 6 runs for the Cardinals in two innings. Regardless, the night was a much needed date night in the midst of five consecutive weeks with travel. We're at the midway point right now, but the 10 day trip to N.Ireland awaits. I'm excited, but frankly, these are the kinds of things that I wish Amber could still do with us. I've been doing breakfast for the girls everytime I've left -which may give Emery a complex the next time I bring Dunkin home after all this travel.

Everything has gone well so far, with the summer stuff. The rundown thus far
June 2-3 - Student Leader Retreat
June 15-19 - Know Sweat in Cincy with our Jr. Highers
June 23-27 - CIY MOVE in Holland, MI
July 1 - speaking at MOVE in Holland.

I have to say, honestly, if it wasn't for having to be gone from Amber & the kids, I'd almost prefer it this way. Being on the road definately reminds me to prioritize. I realize that I cannot possibly get everything done, and that all that I can do each day is the absolute essentials.

In lieu of some profound entry, allow me to share some random thoughts:
1. Michael Jackson's death, while overblown by media, is incredibly sad. Yes, I know that soldiers die, and that the world is full of a million atrocities not nearly as trite as the death of a pop star. But three thoughts come to mind. #1. Kids need to be kids. Joe Jackson may have gotten his family out of Gary, IN, but he did it at the expense of his kids, Michael most of all. MJ may have been the king of pop, but he himself was expoited, without a childhood. This was a hurting man. This excuses nothing, but is a thought for those of us who are flocking around TV's waiting to see what becomes of the "Jon and Kate minus affection" debaucle. Thought #2. Where was MJ's accountabilty? I cannot imagine being able to live in a world where NO ONE can tell you No. You want painkillers -Sure! YOu want to build an amusement park in yoru backyard - go ahead! This is a slippery slope, and a great reminder to me that the people who keep me level-headed are more valuable than I'll ever really know. How screwed up would any of us be in that situation? #3. The next 10 years will probably be full of sensationalism, books, and stories about MJ's life and times. A million "My name was Billie Jean" type of people will try to cash in. Sadly, the weirdest stories are probably yet to come.

2. Not being @ C'stone this year is a real bummer. I think I"ll forget about that in Northern Ireland though.

3. Breakfast is still the best meal of the day...especially for dinner. Too bad I'm in the middle of nowhere right now - a late night omelette sounds phenomenal.

4. Some good summer CD's: Emery "In shallow seas" and Maylene's "III" Haven't seen a movie since "Up," but the Johnny Depp as John Dilinger flick looks fairly sweet.

People always told me be careful what you do, don't go around breaking young girl's hearts....

Oh, and be sure to check back for daily updates from Northern Ireland starting next Friday!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'll pack the juice boxes and the orange slices, my dears.

A cup of coffee at 9:30 p.m. has given me just enough energy to get myself together for a bit and work on my summer messages. I've got a writer's block of sorts, and I'm hoping that just plugging away a little at a time, and praying my way through, will help lead me to some thoughts that may actually help someone. I'm listening to some Irish jams from my Northern Ireland playlist - too bad there's no Fish N Chips handy.

It would appear that in less than 24 hours, we'll be selling out to the soccer-mom mobile. yes friends, I believe we are getting a van. It's amazing to me how quickly one is willing to sell out to these things when they've got strollers and pack and plays to store. So, to my friend who will jest, know that I will welcome you into my sell-out club in a few years...when you too have your own little litter of puppies. In the meantime, I'll thicken my skin and allow you to jest.

I'm praising God this week for an intern - Clayton has only been with us a short time, but I'm grateuful for what he's brought to the table already. I think it'll be a great year.

baht-fest was a great day for Love Can't be Baht. The $1079 we raised helped make a dent in the summer expenses. If you missed the event, please pick up one of the new shirts. Cruise over to, or check out the lovecantbebaht facebook group. your financial help will put LCBB in front of 25,000 people this summer to help communicate about sex trafficking - and how us, in our world of $4 lattes, can do something tangible to help fight it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blessed are the __________?

Nail the gold up to the altar - Like Ahab taunts his crew to war
Blessed are the shareholders - Lack of faith is for the poor
Hold your wallets to the sky -A temple built to sooth yourself
Blessed is the church who tries - To help you build blessed wealth
("Blessed Are the Land Mines" - Brave Saint Saturn)

The month of May is a bittersweet time in student ministry. After a long year, the scaling back of programming offers a nice respite before the craziness of summer. However, the fact that I'll be saying goodbye to a great group of seniors is becoming all too real to me.

I must confess, I HATE GRADUATIONS. The droning on, school spirit, class songs, and assorted "you go girls" from the peanut gallery as names are called make me crazy. Honestly, I didn't even want to attend my own...But that's not what bothers me most. What bothers me most is what our students, in the name of success, will be challenged to rise to during that hour. In this season, they'll be told that success will be amassing huge wealth, going to a four year school, doing something "honorable," or building their comfortable American dream.

Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount have come alive to me this week:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

23"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. 24"But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)

Parents, dream for your students. But remember that Jesus' dream may be different than the American one. In the class of 2009 there are people who will shake the kingdom of God, but will not be handsomely rewarded for it. There are some who will step all over the earth, speaking the name of Jesus, but will never be asked to speak at big conventions or conferences. There will be those who serve wholeheartedly, who never will never own a big house. Yet, they will be called BLESSED. Rich or Poor, healthy or sick, what will matter is 100 years is not their desire to be called "success," but instead their desire to be called "disciple."

Congrats, class of 2009. It's weird that I've been here long enough to have known you as 6th graders....which is great, because if you ever ask me to do your weddings, I've got plenty of good stories to tell.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Zac Efron brings a deep thought

I just laughed at Zac, really. His opening monologue on SNL was funny. He was joking about tweens - and made the comment that parents will spend $ on anything that holds their attention for more than five minutes.

Over the years, I've had some parents who expect this from our youth ministry. The mindset is "Market to my kid, entertain him, and if he or she likes it, you're good at what you do." If not, then you're as expendable as chess club, or those violin lessons that lasted two months. Many of these folks expect me to Create 17 services a week (after all, we're just babysitters right), even though I'll be lucky to see there kid at one of them..maybe (I mean, because there is travel soccer, and American Idol is on Tuesday AND Wednesday!). I could go on, but then I'd be accused of being smug or crotchety.

I was reminded this week that, at the end of the day, I am terrifically uncool...that ultimately, the gospel, coupled with my convictions, which are inherently lame in the eyes of the culture, make me a poor entertainer compared to an "anything goes, I'm okay, you're okay" mindset that exists in many of those I'm trying reach. On a shallow level, how could I ever out-entertain that?

I'm trying to make sense of a lot in my head right now - mainly, how do we provide relevant, engaging experiences with Jesus without just creating one more entertainment option or babysitting service? This raises some questions about what we do:
  1. Are there programs that we do just because we're afraid of the criticism we'd get for not doing them - or are they creating the experience we're seeking for students?
  2. Can we truly be a viable, engaging experience without the ownership of quality student leaders?
I have my thoughts, and I'm looking forward to connecting with our team to talk them through...but first, let me make my pensive, deep-thought face.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Ides of March will never be the same.

Born Sunday, March 15
6 pound, 19.5 inches
All is well...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Time Is Ticking Away, Tick, tick, ticking Away

So, after a weekend of "hey, this might be labor..." Amber has been feeling pretty good. Things are chill and quiet, which is great unless your wife wants to get a baby out of her. I keep saying that, "hey, we've waited 9 months - we can wait three or four days." My wife hates that answer, especially because it seems to come within fifteen minutes of a friend or family member calling to ask "hey, did you have the baby?"

Here is how I have spent my time waiting
1. I've chewed on my hoodies. I'm learning this is a nervous reaction - and hoodie chew creates bad breath - especially in conjunction with coffee breath. My hoodies SERIOUSLY need this baby to come.
2. I've watched Wrestelmania 6 in its entirety. Thank you, blockbuster. For what it's worth, Hulk Hogan is totally overrated. Give me Bret Hart or Jake "the snake" Roberts anyday.
3. I've drank LOT of coffee.
4. I've planned an Ulster - Fry for a Northern Ireland Team training.
5. I've been the lost Emo guy in a video - Donnie Darko feels my pain.

Any more suggestions?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Great Article Worth Your Time.

I need a new jacket. It's freezing outside and I am shivering. So I head out to Urban Outfitters to see if I can find a stylish one.

I walk into the store. Scene kids and style demagogues abound. It's not the perfect store, but I occasionally find something I like about it, which is why I keep coming back. I find the men's section and begin to try on the jackets. I ask myself, "Which one defines me? Which one will fit me like a glove? Which one will send the message to the world I am looking for about myself?" I move from jacket to jacket, but none seems to fit quite right. Should I settle for one that does not define me perfectly, one that does not enhance me in direct proportion for my dollars spent?

Then, a familiar voice interrupts my search.

"Hey, man, long time, no see!" the voice says to me.

It's a friend from my former church, one I haven't seen in nearly a decade. This is the same church I left when the pastor was exposed as a embezzler, the same church I left when a majority of the leadership had various indiscretions come to light around the exact same time as the pastor.

"Hey, man! What's up?" I exclaim. I am genuinely excited to see this long-lost face.

"What have you been up to lately?" he asks me.

"Lots of travel, writing, music, etc. The usual. You?"

"Working, spending time with family."

"Great, man, it's so good to see you. Have you been going to church?"

"You know, I have really had a hard time finding one that fits me. I was going to Blahblahwhatshisface’s church for a while, but the pastor kind of bored me. And the worship director got fired for some shady activity. The new worship is kind of lame now. I don't know. I try to get plugged into places, but it just doesn't feel quite right to me. Do you know what I mean?"

"I definitely know what you mean ..." I respond.

We say our goodbyes, and I go back to shopping for the jacket that will define me completely as a 21st-century human male, pondering the conversation I just had. But I don't find the perfect jacket, and I end up shivering outside on the long walk back to my car in the distant parking lot.

I can't help noticing the parallels between my search for a jacket and my never-ending, frustrating hunt for a church which will meet my spiritual needs; I usually end up feeling left out in the cold.

I can't tell you how many times I speak with people who say that they cannot find a place of fellowship, or say that they just left their old congregation for one reason or another, or who are fed up with not being able to "plug in" somewhere. And as the disappointments builds so does our disillusionment ...

I left the church I was attending because I didn't like the pastor's teaching style.

I left the church because the worship was lame.

I left the church because I couldn't connect with people.

Still others hop and jump, trying on a different sanctuary every single week, only to find that each and every one is sadly far, far from what they are looking for. The numbers are staggering—thousands and thousands of believers in evangelical culture without a place they can call home, admitting that most weeks they would rather stay home for NFL football than go to a house of worship that is ..."less than inspiring." But no matter the individual reason, at the core of our legitimate qualms with local churches is the same basic concern: We cannot seem to find a place that meets our individual "needs." We cannot seem to find a place that offers genuine relationships with true brothers and sisters, while offering solid teaching, worship and a children's ministry.

Why is it so hard to find a home? Why do churches so often let us down?

There are answers to these questions, my friend. And I promise you the "right church for you" is right around the corner. It just isn't going to look the way you think it will ...

To better understand our difficulty in connecting with a particular congregation, we have to first understand the identity problems that the Church, as a whole, is facing today (and by “the Church as a whole," I mean the body of believer spread throughout the world, in non-denominational, evangelical circles). By identity crisis, I mean there is more division between individual churches in the same denomination than perhaps any other point in history. Why?


Fail to compete, and completely fail.

It's simple capitalism, and it is the basis for our very existence in America. Supply and demand. A citizenry of purchasers and entrepreneurs and consumable goods is what dominates our lives in this country. We are consumers first, believers second. At least, that is what not only general culture teaches us but Christian culture as well. We lead lives that are fully customizable, from our 12-pump, nonfat, no-foam, single shot of sugar-free caramel lattes to our iPod/DVD enhanced, four-screened, anti-lock braked, automated lumbar control Saturn Scion SUVs. We click a button and music plays, movies play, groceries are delivered to our doors. Church is too much like ... work ... and to have to settle for one that doesn't completely "fit" us is something that is completely contrary to everything else in our lives.

Stick with me here. There's more.

So churches are competing for the allegiance of a culture of people who are afflicted with ADD, and are programmed to treat fellowship like every other part of their lives: as fully customizable. And, to put it plainly, most evangelical churches are about attracting people above all else. This means, in order to be successful they have to be attractive. And they function more like a big business machine than an organic family. And the "successful" churches have gotten it down to a science. Here's how:

1. Have a celebrity pastor who steers the ship. He must be a charismatic figure, yet possess the everyman quality. He must be a great speaker who entertains as well as he teaches. He must be adept at the skill of storytelling, and must have some comedic skills. He must embody the face of a hero in some form.

2. Big-production, contemporary, classic-rock-influenced worship. This should also include a charismatic "frontman" for the band, so if people don't want to take part in worship, they will at least be entertained by great sound and lights and acoustics.

3. Catchy marketing, slogans, signs, decoration and logos. This includes everything from the decor in the lobby to the graphics on the bulletin.

4. The occasional Christian celebrity author/musician as a guest. This will attract "newcomers," which are really just believers who might have gone somewhere else to church that Sunday.

5. A ministry for every demographic. Men's group. Singles. Women's group. College. High school. Junior high. Elementary. Pre-school. Bikers. Jocks. Dweebs. Burnouts. Cheerleaders. Or am I talking about The Breakfast Club?

6. A youth program complete with a youth room that has 15,000 TV monitors and 38 XBOX 360s and a sound system that would raise Elvis. Must have a catchy name for the group like "The Happening" (yes, based on the movie!) or "The Haven" or "The Underground" (oooh ... subversive!).

7. Varied services for individual taste. We have the rock worship service. We have traditional worship night. We have screamo worship Saturdays. We have no worship Thursdays. We have in-depth study 10 a.m. in the parking lot. We have the short message service for those with Restless Leg Syndrome. And don't forget the 20-minute workout service, where everything just plays on a screen at double-speed. Twice the spiritual workout in half the time!

8. Hype your own church as the "place to be." Subtly point out through media, announcements and other outlets of communication that although people had many choices of places to attend they chose the "best" one. Make sure to hype your church as being on the forefront of Christian activity in your area. Create hype through advertising your name.

And on and on and on. Why not just have a long list of check boxes on a computer screen for every person that walks through the door on Sunday, where every person fills out a survey, then the computer spits out a list of recommended activities, services, etc., or just gives you a page that says in black block letters "YOU JUST WON'T FIT HERE, TRY THE CHURCH UP THE STREET"?

Now, I keed, I keed. And I probably go overboard for the sake of exaggeration and humor. I know none of these "attraction elements" are inherently wrong in and of themselves, and most of them are inherently right for the most part. But I can't help seeing the irony in the fact that as evangelical culture tries harder and harder to meet the individual needs of every consumer/believer possible, most of us feel less and less like we are attending the gathering of the body of believers and more that we are attending a movie or a broadway show or a concert—perhaps all three rolled into one. Instead of bringing us together as a body, it feels like we are being pulled apart. We show up, put in our time, leave with a seven-point list of things God wants to do for us this week, then drive home and forget about the whole thing. And though there are so many great people at church, it is so difficult amidst all this to actually just simply make friends and develop real relationships.

All we really want is to have true connection with a group of believers.

Now, I have a question or two of my own here:

What if the way to for a church to "meet our needs" was to go against the cultural trends of consumerism and competition?

What if we, as young churchgoers, are shopping, looking for all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons?

These are questions that are being asked not only by people like you and I, but prominent voices in the church as well. I was able to catch up with Mike Erre, speaking pastor of Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, Calif., and Ken Baugh, head pastor of Coast Hills Church in Aliso Viejo, Calif., recently. Both teach to a congregation numbering in the multi-thousands, whose demographics include a large percentage of young adults. Erre states, on the issue of the "church-shopping/consumerism" dilemma:

"We have reduced the church to one hour-and-a-half event per week; we have reduced the Gospel to cater to felt needs and personal preferences; and we have reduced discipleship to optional private spiritual exercises ...We are raised with so many options we are paralyzed by the possibility of something better ... God/church simply gets added to the list of things we consume ... the problem is that much of the 'attractional' church has fostered this understanding by catering to it ..."

It's comforting to know those in leadership are aware that these are big problems, that without connection to a body—a group of communal support—our faith will be choked off eventually. This faith is not a faith built for an isolated, loosely connected network of introverts. We have to be plugged in or we will die spiritually. So, talk of the acknowledgment of the dilemma is one thing. What is the Church willing to do about it? Baugh has an interesting answer:

"I think that Sr. Leadership needs to continually make sure that young adults are allowed significant roles of responsibilities in the church. It's interesting to me that in the United States military you will find young men and women put in charge of brigades and multimillion dollar equipment, yet rarely in our churches will you find them even allowed to do much more than help out with students or children ministries. I don't think that young adults should serve as elders because elders are called elders for a reason (they are old), but I do think we need to give them more and more responsibilities in key areas of decision-making and ministry."

Keeping young people on the sidelines and reducing them to observers of the spectacle that is a church entertainment service will do little to foster lasting, passionate disciples. Christ was not a teacher of the masses first and foremost—He was a healer and a disciple-maker, and a person who connected 12 individuals who became best friends. It is the Church's job not only to teach but to empower us to use our gifts—not to mention giving us the opportunities. But finding those opportunities—which are everywhere if we'll look—is a responsibility that falls on us as individuals. Baugh states:

"I think the whole mindset of finding a church to 'meet my needs' is flawed. As believers, we are to be part of a local body of Christ to serve, fellowship, grow and give to the ongoing work of the Great Commission. I think the question should be: 'Where can I best become involved in a Bible-teaching church where I can use my gifts and become part of a community that loves God and serves others?'"

Evangelical churches must understand that making the Church relevant through trying to "meet people where they are" is a valid philosophy to attract numbers. But, it is a flawed approach when numbers become the end in and of itself. Relationship should take precedence over the spectacle. And Christians should not be viewed as marketing targets who are to be stolen from other congregations. And finally, churches must stop viewing other ministries as rivals. In short, tone down the bright lights and turn up the message. Do anything and everything to put emphasis on community, rather than entertainment, rather than your particular church.

But we as individual "church shoppers" must realize there are problems with every single church. Let me repeat that: There are problems with every single church. There are lame people in every one. There is gossip in every one. There are weird, awkward people in every one. Pastors are going to screw up, the music might suck and the greeter at the door might turn her nose up at you when you enter. When these things happen, remember that none of those things matter. Do not be distracted by these things. People are always going to be flawed. That's why they need Christ. And you know what? You are there to bring more of Him to that place. You are there to give of yourself, to humble yourself, to form relationships with people you might not normally associate with for the sake of something greater than you. Offer to apply for leadership. Offer to help with a mission trip. Go feed homeless people. If you go with the intent to give of yourself in any and every way possible, I promise the sucky worship leader or the yawner sermons will not matter.

If we walk actively and raise our voices, we will connect. If we sit passively, expecting to be catered to, we will be left in the cold.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

15 things that tops the 25 random survey

My brother listed off his 15 essential records. I decided to do the same.

1. Five Iron Frenzy - "Upbeats and Beatdowns"
My first CD. I'm so glad that Rick Lee bought me this, so that my first CD is something I can actually be proud of owning. I actually hated this CD the first time I listened to it - then quickly realized my folly. Not their best record, but the genius begins here.
DOWNLOAD: "Where 0 Meets 15. "

2. MxPx - "Teenage Politics"
Great Teen-angst.
DOWNLOAD: "Rainy Day"

3. Zao - "Liberate Te Ex Infernis"
Metal Brilliance. Zao's importance simply cannot be overstated. While I wish this band hadn't been so combustible and misunderstood, methinks this is part of what makes them so brilliant even today. At first, I thought I just liked the fact that the title was in Latin (Tootie would have been proud of me for knowing what it meant), but I soon realized how brilliantly profound this record is.
DOWNLOAD: "Savannah"

4. Jimmy Eat World - "Clarity"
Emo-rock at its finest. Still one of my most favorite road-trip CD's.
DOWNLOAD: "Lucky Denver Mint"

5. Showbread - "Anorexia/Nervosa"
The most creative CD I have ever heard in terms of packaging, writing, etc. This double CD is what "Christian" music should be - pure art dedicated to Christ. This is a modern day parable.
DOWNLOAD: "The Beginning: Nervosa" or "The Journey: Nervosa."

6. Steve Taylor - "Squint"
Creation 94: Steve Taylor. The Christian "Cheese" that I thought of when I thought of Christian Music dripped away, and I saw the hope that would help me justify why there was more to music than Nirvana's "Nevermind." I am on my third copy of this record - I wore it out twice in high school.
DOWNLOAD: "Jesus is For Losers"

7. Emery - "the Question" -
I remember get an advance copy of the song"So Cold..." on a sampler at Cornerstone the year this record came out. I listened to it over and over for a month before I got the full-length CD. by August 2 of that year, I would have paid $20 just for that song.
Download: "So Cold I could Catch My breath."

8. Guns and Roses - "Greatest Hits"
I'd love to pick one G N R record, but I'll refrain. Axl tried to block the release of this CD - I'm glad that he lost. This is all the wailing, filthy rock,and massive orchestration in one place.
DOWNLOAD: "November Rain"

9. One-21- "self-Titled"
the 13th tribe looked up to One-21 so much. This CD started a 2nd run of brilliance in the life of this band. This time, we got to be a part of some shows where this record was played live. You haven't lived til you've seen your future wife rock out to one-21, standing on a chair while selling your merch.
DOWNLOAD: "Peculiar Nation"

10. Five Iron Frenzy - "Our Newest Album Ever"
My favorite five Iron record - perhaps because it brought their most famous song.
DOWNLOAD: "Every New Day"

11. Dashboard Confessional - "The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most"
Simply put: there is no better soundtrack for times when Girls from Ohio rip your heart out of your hole. I'm forever indebted to Mr Carabba for this work of Brilliance.
DOWNLOAD: "The Best Deceptions"

12. Michael Jackson - "Thriller"
I had a folder of this album cover in second grade. It's so brilliant its become cliche to call it brilliant. I have never bought this one again in its entirety (mainly because I don't want to support current MJ in this out of control incarnation of him), but I'll never forget listening to it as a kid.
DOWNLOAD: "Beat it"

13. Garden State Soundtrack
I love a soundtrack that is better than the movie. "Garden State" is typcial overrated Zach Braff - but man, he does know how to build a soundtrack.
DOWNLOAD: Colin Haye "I Just don't think I"ll ever get over you."

14. Brave Saint Saturn - "Anti-Meridian"
If you know me, you know I love Reese Roper. This is the most recent Reese Roper project - the first one in years. It may not be Reese's best work ever,but it is new dose of lyrical brilliance that reminds me why I am naming a child after him.
DOWNLOAD: "Blessed Are the Land Mines"

15. Brand New - "Deja Entendu"
I was over my girl-hating when this CD came out, so I didn't immediately want to give this CD a chance. Deja Entendu displays Brand New's maturity and depth.
DOWNLOAD: "Quiet Things No One Ever Knows"

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tonight, I Celebrate My Love...

On this St. Valentine's day evening, Amber and I indulged in several of our loves:
1. Wings
2. Conversation.
3. Coffee

By the way, read today that drinking coffee regularly is supposed to reduce your stress level by 13%. Reason #4,604 why you should drink more coffee.

T-minus 4 weeks until my house is filled with more estrogen!


Friday, February 6, 2009

Rick Roll'd

happy 46th birthday Rick Astley!

We're "never gonna give you up!"

Monday, February 2, 2009

No Sir, SteelerNation is not practical...

A big weekend. Let me begin with my congratulatory picture to the Steeler Fans everywhere.

Congrats to the Steelers. It is at least good to see the crown stay in the AFC, the superior conference. I would have loved a "Ravens/cards bird bowl," but alas, twas not meant to be. This year's big game was a great one - one for the ages - especially since it gave me a reason to eat 200 wings with my friends. I am feeling the effects of that right now though.

My favorite part of the weekend however, was the Josh Dies show on Friday night. Showbread has long -been one of my favorite bands, and when Josh's acoustic/book reading tour was pitched to me, I agreed to do the show within 15 minutes of the initial request. Kudos to any band that can maintain integrity in both their faith and in their ability to make great art. thanks for what you do.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 Reflections

The Big NYE party has passed, and I have had a few days to lay around the house thinking, reflecting and being emo (thank you, Colts, for contributing to this). Here are my top moments of 2008.

1. 2008's biggest news was the news that we're expecting baby #2. It's hard for me to put into words the utter excitement, and yet, utter fear that this brings out me. I feel like every day with Emery is an opportunity to learn what it means to be a good dad, and the thought of duplicating myself for another person is incredibly intimidating to me. Three girls in the house...I suppose I'm not far from need a regular boy's night out, full of chicken wings, grunting, and farting.

2. The Seattle trip. I have blogged about this before, so I will spare the rouse. I have to say, rocking out to Showbread's "You Can't Save Yourself" tour with my wife is an experience I'll never forget. Throw in Mars Hill, great food, Mt. Rainier, and it was just an incredible, incredible, week.

3. The Maryland Mission Trip. So many memories...such hard work....such a cool place. The trip turned into quite a personal adventure, and may have left me more convicted about where my future lies than any other student trying to navigate through the college junk.

4. Working with CIY & NYR . Let me qualify this by saying that I am still not sure what I was doing on stage alongside some of these people. I felt like some crappy 80's hair band (Slaughter) opening up for Guns and Roses. It was truly humbling, and truly cool. My prayer was that I handled the Word of God well, and that the Holy Spirit worked in lives through me. It was tremendously cool just meeting so many people from all over the country who are trying to live out their faith. I was blessed more than I blessed anyone.

5. THe opening of Dunkin Donuts in Avon. Coffee....glorious coffee.

Honorable mention: the Dark Knight and Showbread's "anorexia" & "nervosa"

stuff I learned in 2008.
- That you can win lots of regular season games, and still lose the Superbowl (man, how I love this when it's the Patriots).
- That sometimes "delete" is the best response to an e-mail. I wish I had hit it a few more times.
- That stuff that got me down three years ago doesn't really get me down anymore.
- That God has put some phenomenal people around me.
- That I make pretty good crabcakes.
- That I need to get out of my office more.
- That if I don't make time for myself, no one will make it for me.
- That the aging rocker in me doesn't want to die, but doesn't want to be "that guy"
- That I am the girl sometimes in my marriage.
- That, no matter how times it scrolls through my DVR on Nick at Nite, later season Family Matters just isn't funny at all.