Monday, April 30, 2007

    IMAGE OF THE DAY: Graffiti Jesus

    fIMG_4979, originally uploaded by Paul Carstairs.

    Friday, April 27, 2007

    Gone Fishin'...

    The title of this post has a double meaning, I suppose. I am, in a sense, about to be "gone fishin'" as I head off for a weekend retreat with my youth to a campgrounds in Illinois. This will be a much needed time for our group to do some bonding and focusing on what it means to be a community that invites others in.

    In another sense, I've had the phrase "gone fishin'" on my mind today as I continue to celebrate the great teamwork displayed by the young adult ministry I serve as they led a fantastic example of creative worship last Sunday. Using the story of the resurrected Christ having breakfast on the beach with the disciples, the young adults designed an outdoor service that simulated having a meal on the beach. Worshippers sat on the ground in a large circle on blankets, with a sandbox in the center where the children were invited to play throughout the service. Guitar music carried on the theme of fishing and water, as did collecting the offering in giant sea shells. The message was focused on ways in which we encounter Christ in our daily lives and worshippers were invited to dialogue with each other and the speaker throughout the message. Finally, communion was an actual meal, shared together as we enjoyed the fresh air, sound of birds, smell of grass, and the blessings of community.

    Ned Flanders, creationist.

    I went to see an excellent production of "Inherit the Wind" last night, featuring a student from my youth group. Amazing that we are still debating this issue even today.

    Small Front door....Big Back Door

    I've heard it said that many churches have small front doors (where visitors come in to check things out) and big back doors (where many of those who feel unwelcome choose to leave and never come back). I suspect many of us experience this in youth ministry, where youth come to visit but never come back or youth who have been coming casually disappear and no one even notices. I asked a fellow blogger, Stuart, who's opinion I have come to value, what his thoughts are on how we welcome new students into our youth groups and keep them there. Stuart's youth ministry position is not in a typical church setting, but what he has to say on this subject is both thoughtful and helpful for anyone working with youth. Check out his vlog on this very subject here and add your two cents.

    Practice What You Preach...

    I was recently reminded (like a two-by-four to the face) by one of my senior high youth, that youth group shouldn't be learning "about" Jesus so much as it is experiencing firsthand the way Jesus loved and lived. Bible studies and discussions are fine, but our real focus should be on helping youth to experience what it means to love and be loved, to serve and be served in the way Jesus has set before us.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    Empty Bowls Project

    The youth of the inner-city church I serve recently took part in the Empty Bowls Project. This project enlists young people to raise awareness and funds for the problem of hunger:

    In 1990 a high school art teacher in Michigan helped his students solve a problem. They were searching for a way to raise funds to support a food drive. What evolved was a class project to make ceramic bowls for a fund raising meal. Guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread, and were invited to keep the bowl as a reminder of hunger in the world. By the following year the originators had developed this concept into Empty Bowls, a project to provide support for food banks, soup kitchens, and other organizations that fight hunger.

    In our version of the project, the young folk created "artsy" paper mache bowls which were then auctioned off following worship. The funds were donated to Food Outreach, a local organization that provides nutritional food and diet help to those suffering from HIV and AIDS. This project would make a great outreach effort for any youth group.

    Need Ideas? Who Doesn't!

    Check out this blog, "Youth Ministry Ideas," that delivers on its name. It is is chock full of practical and useful ideas for Youth Ministry. If you are feeling grateful, why not contribute an idea for others to use!

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Say Cheese!

    Check out this great set of free tools for use with images from Flickr or any photo you might have on your computer. Some options include making fake magazine covers, CD covers, trading cards, mosaics and photo cubes.

    My favorite is a tool that turns your selected image into a movie poster. Lots of possibilities here for using photos from your youth ministry for promotional items or cool gifts!

    (*Click on photo to see larger version of image.)

    Cool Idea: Who Am I?

    Here's a good opener for a youth meeting. Prepare a half sheet of paper handout for your youth that reads "WHO AM I?" at the top. Down the left hand side of the sheet, print the words "I am" 6 or 7 times, followed by blank lines so that students can fill in the rest of the phrase.

    I am____________________.
    I am____________________.
    I am____________________.

    Invite youth to take a few minutes to fill in the blanks with words or phrases that describe themselves. The repetition in this activity helps youth to move beyond the superficial and dig a little deeper for ways to describe who they are. The more lines they have to fill in, the deeper they will have to go to come up with something to write. When everyone is finished, invite students to read all or part of what they have written. Even for those who do not want to share outloud, this can be a valuable activity in self-awareness.

    Time Travel: A Youth Minister Rants

    Sometimes (only sometimes) I wish the world could go back to the way it was when I was a kid. Families ate dinner together every night, kids could wander and roam through their neighborhoods without fear of strangers, and Sundays were church days. In my youth in Jefferson City, Missouri, we still had the "blue laws" which meant that almost every commercial business was closed on Sunday. You could buy groceries (not beer!) but there were no shopping malls, bookstores, bowling alleys, or movie theaters enticing us away from home, family, and church. Of course, as I kid I hated this. As an adult, I have to look back at those times with definite nostalgia for something lost.

    Now....well, as one person told me the other day: "It's a whole new world." Youth in my church often miss morning worship, sometimes for weeks on end, because of sports seasons and practices. Youth miss church and youth group because of school play rehearsals or scouting activities. There is so much to do on Sunday afternoons that "enticing kids to come to youth group" should be taught in seminary. The phrase I loathe to hear on Sunday mornings is "What are we doing tonight?" This always comes from the mouth of a young person, raised and baptized deeply in the waters of a consumerist-capitalist culture, where one always has endless options from which to weigh and choose how to spend their time/resources.

    And, so often, we as the church are reluctant to say anything. We resist even suggesting to youth or parents that church/worship/youth group cannot have the impact it might if one is only there every other week, or whenever there isn't something else going on that's more important. Because church is "voluntary," we just don't see that it's our place to demand a higher level of participation and fidelity to the church body. In some ways, this all makes me long for my days as a school teacher, when my students had to come to me everyday. They didn't have a choice! It was the law (and of course, without those laws many of those students wouldn't have been at school, either!).

    If only that time machine they had in Napoleon Dynamite really worked!


    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Tribute to Kurt Vonnegut (1933-2007)

    A tribute to the late, great Kurt Vonnegut who recently passed away. Inspired by a passage from Vonnegut's classic book Slaughterhouse Five in which the character Billy Pilgrim describes how beautiful a war in reverse would be.(If more young people read Vonnegut's books, the world would be a better place! -- Brian)

    "People don't come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God."
    Kurt Vonnegut

    This will preach...

    The Four Candles, Author Unknown

    The Four Candles burned slowly.Their Ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak...The first candle said, "I Am Peace, but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit." Then Peace's flame slowly diminishes and goes out completely.

    The second candle says, "I Am Faith, but these days, I am no longer indispensable." Then Faith's flame slowly diminishes and goes out completely.

    Sadly the third candle spoke, "I Am Love and I haven't the strength to stay lit any longer.""People put me aside and don't understand my importance. They even forget to love those who are nearest to them." And waiting no longer, Love goes out completely.

    Suddenly...A child enters the room and sees the three candles no longer burning. The child begins to cry, "Why are you not burning? You are supposed to stay lit until the end."Then the Fourth Candle spoke gently to the little boy,"Don't be afraid, for I Am Hope, and while I still burn, we can re-light the other candles."With Shining eyes the child took the Candle of Hope and lit the other three candles.

    Never let the Flame of Hope go out of your life. With Hope, no matter how bad things look and are...Peace, Faith and Love can Shine Brightly in our lives.

    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    Virginia Tech and Your Youth

    If you are still thinking about how to engage the feelings, fears, and confusion of your youth over the deaths this week at the Virginia Tech campus, Disciples of Christ pastor Randy Kuss has made available a (pdf) resource he initially developed to help students cope with the Columbine shootings and he has now adapted it for use to deal with the recent events. Entitled "Steps Toward a Process of Living After the Gunfire," Randy's discussion guide provides a sensitive way of helping youth struggle with their questions and concerns.

    Some of his questions include:
    • As you think about the Virginia Tech shootings (and similar incidents?) what do you learn about people?

    • What songs (or movies?) come to mind as you think about the Virginia Tech shootings? What do you hear from them?

    • What phrases or stories from the Bible come to mind? What do you hear from them?

    • What would you like to say to or do with or for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings?

    Related resources can be found here at the STEP (Student Ecumenical Partnership National Network) website.

    (Randy Kuss was the national youth ministry leader for the Disciples of Christ from 1995-2003. He is currently Director of Christian education and Youth Ministry at Speedway Christian Church in Indianapolis as well as leader of God @ Center youth leader retreats, based in part on his work with the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project.)

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Counting Youth...

    Here is a great post at the YSMARKO blog on the obsession with numbers in youth ministry. Read the comments as well -- Marko's post has raised quite a debate. I've never been one to focus much on numbers. As the old saying goes, its more about quality than quantity. But there are arguments to be made for tracking the numbers in your group, and for making it possible for your group to expand to welcome in more youth in need of a spiritual home.

    Virgina Tech: Where was God?

    It's likely many of our youth will have Virginia Tech on their minds this week as they gather for their youth group activities. Inevitably such incidents challenge our understanding of how God works in the world. The same sort of questions came up following the 9-11 attacks. Those who held a fairly orthodox view of an interventionist theistic God were bombarded with questions: Where was God when the terrorists took over those planes, when they flew them into the towers. Where was God when the buildings caught fire and collapsed, killing those inside? Others, who held a more "God is the ground of all being" view also had to struggle to explain how such a God could be relevant in the face of overwhelming death and destruction. Then there were those willing to accept the questions and not offer quick answers --those willing to live with the mystery. Mike Yanconelli, responding to the question "Please tell me why God allowed over 6000 innocent people to be murdered on September 11, 2001?" wrote a Youth Worker column that made room for the mystery. The column has been turned into a reader's theater that might provide a thoughtful way to approach a conversation about Virgina Tech with your youth.

    God's Gift of Sexuality

    Last weekend, coincidentally, we had our seventh grade sexuality retreat. The retreat started at 5:00 Saturday evening and concluded with a brief worship Sunday morning. After eating pizza and doing a few silly skits, we rotated the youth through three individual sessions: 1) God’s gift of sexuality; 2) Images of sexuality; and 3) Good touch, bad touch, and confusing touch.

    Overall, I thought the retreat went very well. At the worship on Sunday morning parents were invited to attend. I shared with the parents that at the retreat, at least in the beginning, there is always some awkwardness when discussing sexuality. But, I can think of no safer place to have a conversation about sexuality than at the church. As a youth minister, I hope my youth feel comfortable discussing with me, and other adult volunteers, issues involving sexuality. I think avoiding the topic of sexuality would be a serious mistake.

    This summer, our camp program is offering, for the first time, an Eighter’s camp that is focused on sexuality. The description for this camp says: Eighter’s is a unique camp just for youth entering 9th grade in the fall which provides youth with factual and spiritual understanding of God’s gift of sexuality. Morning keynotes focus on the humanity of Jesus, God’s love, forgiveness, and plans for camper’s lives. Workshops on anatomy, puberty, abstinence, dating, STIs/AIDS, conception, and contraception are presented in the evening. Small group sessions daily provide a place for related activities and fellowship. Worship wraps up each day. Campers also enjoy swimming, crafts, games, music, team challenges, and campfire.

    Has anyone done anything similar?

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    News Flash: Teens Still Having Sex

    This Washington Post story confirms what many suspected:

    A long-awaited national study has concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration's social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.

    How else might we have spent the $176 million/year that this program cost? Actually, I'm not surprised by these findings. My bet would be on parents, peers, and church as the greatest influencers of sexual behavior (or the lack thereof) of teens -- not schools and government programs. Just last night, the topic of sex came up with the older students at youth group. One of the guys said "This whole topic is really confusing. It's hard to know what to think when it comes to sex and our religion." He's right. It's hard to look to bibical texts, particularly the gospels, and find much of anything relevant to say to youth about sexual behavior, particularly when we go out of our way to make Jesus into a celibate do-gooder who apparently never had a sexual thought in his whole 30+ years. And don't even get me started on the sexual ethics of the Hebrew scriptures! So, what's a good youth minister to do?
    (Blogger Andrew Sullivan has more commentary on this issue here.)


    Monday, April 16, 2007

    Photo of the Day: Careful Christian

    Careful Christian, originally uploaded by Thomas Hawk.

    Lots of ways you could read this. I think it would be interesting to show this to youth and get their responses.

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    Cool Idea: Prayer of St. Brendan

    I came across this reading inspired by the prayer of St. Brendan, a missionary known for his likely mythical seven-year voyage. This responsive reading would be a great resource if you commission your youth group in worship before taking off on your summer mission trip. The youth could lead the piece, with the congregation providing the response:

    As I go I will not question the journey, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will not refuse any destination, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will embrace all that crosses my way, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will open my heart to the good in all creation, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will hold close to the Word of God, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will not be bound by self-doubt or restricted by my weaknesses, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will not be limited by my strengths, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will see each struggle as a place of learning, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will welcome any companion who wishes to journey with me, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will never cease to pray, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will not be corrupted, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will not be tempted to predict outcomes, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will relish the surprises, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will take great risks, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will not hold to my culture as if it were right and pure, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    As I go I will look for God in all people, for:

    Holy, Holy is the Lord

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Getting Caught...

    Several weeks ago, during Lent, I preached on a text that described Peter's call to ministry. It's that well-known passage where Jesus tells Peter and the other guys to drop their nets out in the deep water, even though they had fished all night and come up empty-handed. Peter has his doubts, but does it anyway. Of course, they bring in a huge catch of fish and Peter prostrates himself before Jesus, declaring himself a sinner. Jesus tells him to "Get up! Stop being so afraid. Come help me catch other people." In the sermon, I suggested that in that moment of grace and understanding from Jesus, and in that moment of experiencing the abundance of the Kingdom (symbolized by the catch of fish), Peter is "caught" by Christ. I then challenged the congregation to consider when in their lives they had been "caught," realizing that this is not a singular event but rather an existential experience, happening moment to moment as we open ourselves up to recognizing and embodying the love and grace of God through Christ.

    I even invited the congregation to write their experiences of being "caught" on small paper fish, which they then brought forward and placed on the communion table. Some wrote about being "caught" at church camp, or by a loved one, during worship, in the act of communion, even a walk in the woods. Those who felt they had not yet been "caught" were invited to write a prayer asking God to help open them to the possibility. It was quite a sight to see these multi-colored fish all over and around the table of communion.

    Well, last Friday our elementary-age children had a lock-in on Good Friday. Part of the evening was devoted to talking about the children who are going to be baptized on Pentecost and sharing what that meant to them. One boy shared that he finally made the decision to be baptized during my "fishy" sermon about being "caught" by Christ. He had decided that he had indeed been caught and it was time to respond to that experience.

    The story of this young boy reminded me that this is primarily what ministry with youth is about. It's not about making them into Christians or indoctrinating them with our theology, or adding to the church membership roles. It's about helping to provide spaces and places and times in their lives when they can experience God's love and grace so palpably that they too can say, "I've been caught. Now show me how to help others get caught, too."


    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Christian Clowning: Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid

    Years ago, when I was beginning my first youth ministry position, the church suggested I consider starting a clown ministry with the teens. What they didn't know then, but would eventually come to discover: I hate clowns with a passion. What's more, I've yet to find a single person who really loves clowns. Don't miss the point at about 2 minutes into the video where a group of clowns freak out an elderly man!

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    They Won't Bite....Most Likely!

    Tonight I speak with the elders of our church about ways to involve our youth more fully into the total life of the congregation. The popular model of youth ministry that places teens in the care of youth ministers and adult volunteers virtually guarantees that most other adults in the church will abdicate any responsibility for the spiritual life of those youth. The assumption is that the youth minister or the adult leaders are taking care of it. I hope to remind our elders tonight that, particularly once youth are baptized, they fall under the care of the whole congregation. For a gentle nudge in the right direction, I will share with our elders the following ideas for making connections with our teens:

    • Engage youth informally at church. Though they may be shy or not know quite how to react, youth appreciate being approached informally on Sunday mornings, called by name, and asked about how things are going in their lives. This sort of outreach goes a long way to help young people see themselves as full participants in the life of the community.
    • Write to youth. Young people love to get mail, particularly personal notes that are written for no other reason than to just to let them know you are thinking about them and praying for them. If you are particularly computer savvy, try email, myspace, or Facebook.

    • Ask youth their thoughts and opinions. Who knows what wonderful results might come from occasionally inviting a group of young people to sit with you and simply reflect on the current state of the church, the church’s mission, and how they see their role in that mission. Teenagers can bring a unique perspective that can enable us to see the Church in new and useful ways.

    • Invite youth to use their talents/gifts in leadership of the church. Young people are gifted in a multitude of ways to provide leadership in all areas of the church, but more often than not they need to be asked and invited before they will step forward.

    • Engage the youth on their own turf. Simply put, rather than expecting them to come to you, go to them! Take time to visit a youth Christian education class or evening youth meeting. Visit youth and their families in their homes with no other agenda than to get to know them better.


    Favorite Youth Ministry Resource Sites

    Tim at the Life in Student Ministry blog has thoughtfully offered up his top websites for use in youth ministry. Thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and offer a few of my own:

    Pastor 2 Youth - This site is a wealth of free programmatic materials for those who work with youth. Once you sign up for free membership, you have access to tons of lesson plans, bible studies, powerpoint games, templates, and presentations, links, leadership tips, game ideas, and more.

    The Source for Youth Ministry - Another excellent site for free resources that you can adapt to use in your own ministry. Catergories include games and icebreakers, team builders, event and activity ideas, movie clip discussions, and stupid skits, to name a few.

    Creative Youth Ideas - Yet one more site full of free activities and ideas that are easily adapted, particularly when it's one of those weeks when there just doesn't seem to be enough time to get everything planned. I also like to steer leaders (both youth and adults) to this site (and the ones above) when they need inspiration for leading part of a youth group program.

    Johnny Baker Blog: Worship Tricks - Johnny Baker, a blogger from London who is part of the alternative/emergent worship movement, shares a wealth of creative and inspiring ideas (he calls them "worship tricks") for making worship more interactive, challenging, and sensory. Some of his ideas may be more elaborate than you'd want to try with your youth, but they are adaptable and will likely inspire some ideas of your own.


    Breaking Down Barriers

    Heard on the news this morning something I would describe as "Easter hope." Students in Ashburn, Georgia, ending long-held tradition, are planning their first integrated prom.

    Breaking from tradition, high school students in this small town are getting together for this year's prom. Prom night at Turner County High has long been an evening of de facto segregation: white students organized their own unofficial prom, while black students did the same.
    This year's group of seniors didn't want that legacy. When the four senior class officers two whites and two blacks met with Principal Chad Stone at the start of the school year, they had more on their minds than changes to the school's dress code. They wanted a school-sponsored prom. They wanted everyone invited. On April 21, they'll have their wish. The town's auditorium will be transformed into a tropical scene, and for the first time, every junior and senior, regardless of race, will be invited to an official prom.

    See full article here.

    Easter Sunrise Service

    Last Sunday morning, forty of our youth met at 5:30 in the morning to participate in an Easter sunrise service. We traveled to a local state park where we took a short hike to a bluff that overlooked a creek and thousands of trees. As we watched the sunrise, and listened to the birds and water, we reflected on the resurrection of Christ and what the Easter message means to us today.

    I briefly shared with the youth my understanding of Christ’s resurrection. I have found that it is almost impossible to prove the resurrection. For every argument in support of the resurrection, there is an equally compelling counter-argument. But, I believe that the message of the resurrection, even to the point of death, is that Christ is not separated from us. When Christ calls Mary by name, Mary encounters Christ. And just as Mary encountered Christ that day outside the tomb, we too encounter Christ daily—new life begins with us.

    I asked the youth to share, if they were comfortable, some of the experiences they have had in encounters with Christ. Answers included: mission trips, church camps, random acts of kindness by complete strangers, retreats, worship, and even silence. As we shared our stories, and listened to one another, I truly believe that I saw the presence of Christ in each individual present that morning.

    After the service, we returned to church for a great breakfast of cinnamon rolls, bacon, and eggs. As we sat down to eat, I was reminded once again that a defining act of Jesus’ ministry was table fellowship.


    Friday, April 06, 2007

    Chocolate Jesus: Revisited

    Here is some more interesting and thoughtful commentary on the chocolate Jesus controversy, posted at the blog Holy Semantics.
    I don't agree completely with his theology, but the sentiment is, as we used to say in the late 70's, "right on!"


    Cool Idea: Water Prayers

    Try this idea during a quiet time of worship with youth. 

    Have the group sit on the floor in a circle and place a clear pitcher of water and a bowl in the center of the group. Invite youth to share their prayer concerns either out loud or in silence. After each person prays, they are to take the pitcher and pour a small amount of water into the bowl. The youth watch as the bowl fills with the prayers of the group. Conclude by sharing thoughts on the importance of pouring out our prayers in community, so that all our joys and concerns become as one in God. You might also talk about how our prayers mingle with the prayers all people in the world --even those we will never meet.


    Words by Carl Sagan, Astronomer.

    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    The Politics of Paul

    Every Wednesday night, I have a group of students come over to my house for Bible study. For the past two years (we take summers off and don’t always stay on track), we’ve been working our way through the United Methodist Bible study, “Disciple: Becoming Disciples through Bible Study.” Last night, we tackled the book of Romans.

    For awhile, everything was going well. The youth were really digging the notion that we’re accepted by grace and faith, not solely works righteousness. They also enjoyed the conversation that dealt with sin and the concept of original sin. We had a great debate over nature versus nurture.

    Then, we came to Romans 13: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. One individual asked: What’s going on here, this doesn’t look like Paul at all?” Someone else suggested that maybe we should just ignore this chapter of Romans.

    The more I thought about it, and the more we talked, I really I wasn’t at all sure how to interpret Romans 13. This morning, I think Romans 13 may be seen as 1) a general statement about ruling authorities and the idea that God is the head of order; 2) for some reason, Paul may have respected the Roman government or perhaps the Roman government offered some sort of protection from persecution (though I think this is unlikely); and 3) perhaps Paul wrote this when Nero was in charge of the empire (54-68 CE) and believed that Nero offered some benefits to the early Jewish and Christian community.

    Ultimately, I’m still not sure. I hesitate to think that ruling authorities are ordained by God. But, I am sure that posing such questions is one of the reasons I enjoy working with youth. They are unafraid to share their thoughts and questions.
    What do others think?

    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    Chocolate Jesus

    Stuart recently mentioned the "My Sweet Lord" controversy regarding the artist who has created a life-sized sculpture of a crucified Christ made entirely of chocolate. What amazes me about all this is that those protesting the art refer to it as "hate speech" even though the artist himself is a Christian. Their biggest complaints seem to focus in on the fact that the sculpture is made of chocolate and that it depicts Jesus as nude. I suppose there will always be religious folks who cringe any time Jesus is depicted as a little too "human." Historically, of course, people were always crucified naked. It was meant to be the ultimate form of humiliation and degradation. The fact that we always cover Jesus with a little loincloth says a lot about our discomfort with Jesus' human body (not to mention our own). Even Mel Gibson, in all his "pains" to show the suffering of Jesus on the cross in "The Passion", wasn't willing to go all the way. Even Gibson sanitized the crucifixion.

    Might the protesters also be bothered because the artist's choice of chocolate gives this Jesus dark skin? Cosimo Cavallaro, the sculptor, has explained that he wanted to create a work that gave Jesus a flavor. He chose chocolate because "it's sweet." Ironically, at a time of the year when the passion is trivialized by chocolate eggs, chicks, and crosses, we don't seem to be able to stomach a chocolate Jesus.

    Seeking Silence

    Last Sunday night, I wasn’t sure what to expect for youth group. Most of us, including myself, had been out of town for spring break. I always find it a little hard to adjust to the normal swing of things after vacation. I’ve also noticed that once you get out of rhythm, it takes the youth a little time to adjust as well.

    So, I was a little concerned that my topic of the night dealt with silence and ways in which we can listen for the voice of God. The youth that I work with are constantly surrounded by noise: i-pods, cell phones, televisions, stereos, and x-boxes. When there is an absence of noise, they start to become uncomfortable.

    Nonetheless, after spending some time just hanging out and playing games, we watched a NOOMA video by Rob Bell entitled, “Noise.” In this short clip, Rob Bell suggests that there is a connection between the amount of noise in our lives and our inability to listen to God. He also asks if, when we have a problem (which we all do daily), we spend as much time listening to God as we do talking about the problem with others.

    Once the video was over, I asked the youth to spend three minutes with me in complete silence. This wasn’t a problem for either the younger or older youth.

    As we sat on the floor of the youth center, which is the original sanctuary, and listened to the walls creak and the air conditioner hum (yes, it was warm on Sunday), I gave thanks to God that I am surrounded by youth who, at least when asked, our comfortable shutting down the noise in their life and seeking out, in silence, a relationship with Christ.


    Monday, April 02, 2007

    Battle of the Peeps!

    Looks like fun. Though I prefer to leave them out until they get stale...then eat them!

    Image of the Day: Holy Week

    Flickr link