Thursday, December 20, 2012

#CFyouth -- Instagram and Ministry

Why the hash-tag (#)?  Because, being the hip youth pastor I am (that's a joke), I plan to use it in a way that is to benefit my youth group.  Before I make my way to the How, I would first like to clarify the why.

When I arrived at Chamblee First UMC about 8 months ago, one of the first things I did was to meet with our volunteer committee that we call our "Youth Council."  In that meeting, there were the usual introductions that one would expect, but I made a special effort to focus on some of our time on visioning in order to gain some direction from the crew that I was to work with.  Fortunately, they are an awesome group of people and we were all mostly on the same page with many common goals.  The common thread, of course, was the youth, and our trying to understand how to meet them where they are.  If what we are offering is not appealing to the students, then, as wonderful to us as it may be, it will not work.

Somewhere along the lines of church history, we have made a sore mistake.  We, the church, have removed ourselves from those of whom we were chosen to serve.  Now, this makes sense, when reading verses of how our purity means to coexist in opposition to that of the world:
1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 
But, one must also take into consideration that the Father also sent to us a son that would become manifest through humanity and take form as Christ.  This, of course, is the mystery of Christ, that he was 100% man and 100% God.  Considering our picture of Christ is one of a man on a cross, a superhero of sorts saving the people, it is easy to skip over the 100% human part and look straight to him as the Son of God, here to save the day.  And though, yes he was here to save the day, he was also human.  His existence occupied both time and space.
Luke 1:31
You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
With it being the Christmas season, we hear this verse quite often.  It's from an angel, Gabriel, speaking on behalf of God to Mary, the mother of Jesus, delivering to her the news that she is to become the mother of God's son.  But the significance here is two-fold: 1) Christ's heritage runs straight between Christ and God himself, a point we are not tackling here, and 2) Christ entered humanity through a virgin womb.  Christ came into being as a child, born of a mother, fully human.  Having just taken a class on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theology, we could study this more in depth as his christological beliefs shape nearly every other part of his conception of God's interaction with the world, but the main point that we need to know is that Christ was born, human, in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.

Now, this started with a hash-tag, and somehow has turned into the ramblings of a youth pastor and Christ's humanity...How did this happen?  It happened because I firmly believe that God intentionally made the decision to become manifest as human into a world that has turned its back to God far too many times, yet Christ was sent anyway.  Why?  Because God loves us.  We are God's creations...reflections of God's image in which we were made.  This glorious news is that God has not given up on the world.  Has the church?

The reason this started as a hash-tag is because on that list of goals the youth council created in that visioning session was a realization that we must meet youth where they are.  Well, where are they?  They are all over the place.  Mine are on Facebook, and Instagram.  They're on the soccer fields and swim teams, taking tests in schools, and trying out crappy part-time jobs.  If an all powerful God, who can do whatever he cares to do, sent his only Son into the world to save it, then where is Christ's bridegroom to be?  I believe that we, the church, are to be on those soccer fields, in the schools, on Facebook, and, yes, on Instagram, too, if that's where the people are.

#CFyouth is a representative of Chamblee First UMC's youth program that works everyday of the week, free of charge, and appeals to students.  Sure, I would love to make the youth drop their cell phones in a box as they walk in the door because of its use as a distraction, but because we have not required them to conform to our agendas, we have students with Bible apps downloaded on their phones.  We have opportunities to utilize social media instead of battling it.  We have put our rusty swords down and are reevaluating, restrategizing once again, our approach to ministry.  We are set apart.  A people loved by God.  This set apart and loved person by God is tired of the church's disconnect with society and wants to see it once again a moral barometer with whom people can trust.

What must our youth group do to spread the gospel of Christ in our community and turn hearts towards Christ?  We must do whatever it takes to spread the gospel of Christ in our community and turn hearts towards Christ.  Pride swallowed.  Past considered.  Let us move forward with Christ's blessing in his Great Commission with a model that becomes available to the whims of pop-culture, and not one that moves in opposition to it.

Note: There is, obviously, an ethical limit as to how far within the world the church reaches, less it become the world.  This blog post is simply meant to be a reminder for us youth workers that middle and high-school students learn differently than we did, and, in light of that fact, adjustments to our approach to ministry must be made.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I went on a new venture yesterday.  It was full of goblins and warlocks...and hydras, the most deadly of sorts!  ...Okay, perhaps there were none of those things, but an adventure did take place and I found myself somewhere I hardly ever go: the seafood section of Kroger.  I am ashamed to admit the actual length of time it had been since I had last cooked Brittany, my fiancé, dinner, so let's just go with that; that it had been too long.  Peering through the glass at all the various frozen fish, I found myself pretending like I knew what in the world I was doing, admiring each fish, each lobster, crawfish, and shrimp as if I could tell a difference.  Finally, there it was, crunched in the ice: snow crab.  That's romantic AND delicious!  So I picked up a few sides I knew she'd like and headed home to cook dinner.

A few phone calls to home and a Google search later, I was prepared to try and cook these crab legs and was convinced that they would be great!  It was all ready--I had the frozen crab, the vegetables and salad, the pots, and even a nut cracker to help us get the meat out of the claws.  For whatever reasons though, I must admit I was still a little nervous to actually try this new recipe (I even bought a lb. of ground beef in case it be necessary that we resort to cheeseburger Hamburger Helper as a back up).  It wasn't until I had begun boiling the water that I had started to ease up.  The seasoning, though, that did it.  I put some salt and pepper in the water, and that was okay, but the Zatarains crab boil seasoning did it.  The water turned colors and an aroma that reminded me of crab filled the house.  I was about to vigorously boil the mess out of these crab legs (as said on the package) and they were going to be the best dang crab legs ever.

Those crab legs were pretty good, perhaps even the best ever, but don't really point to where the rest of this post is going. My point in describing this actually has to do with the fact that, in my mind, they were not validated to be good until I smelled the seasoning in the air.  It was not until Then that I accepted them as good.  It caught me by surprise, honestly, that such an indicator, as smell, was all that was required for me to gain my confidence in both those crab legs and in my cooking abilities.  Perhaps its because I have been studying about people with disabilities and who those who are marginalized in our communities in my classes at seminary, but I could not help but wonder from there what the other indicators are that have or have had a greater impact on me.  It made me wonder what is first required for me to validate someone as "able," or, even more basic, human.  Is it literacy?  Comprehension?  The ability of one to have mastered his senses, so he can properly see, feel, talk, taste, and smell?  Maybe the capitalist in me kicks in and my indicator is wealth.  Who knows?  But those flashing lights are in all of us.  In seminary, the word is "capacity."  "Who do you have the 'capacity' to be friends with?", is a question that might be asked of us.  It is to prompt us to think deeper into who we are, to look at our closest relationships, be it with family or friends, and wonder why and how we connect.  Or don't.

When asked this, it was easy for me to look within myself and my circles and stop there.  If following this prompt is all a self evaluation is based upon, and in this class it was, then the question can be quickly answered and dismissed.  Unfortunately, I have the problem that I sometimes let these things haunt me.  The issue is that ultimately we MUST look beyond ourselves and our circles in order to properly address the root of the question: value.  Often we attach value to those who are quite like ourselves, bringing about social issues, race, gender, class, etc.  I use wealth as an indicator.  Speech.  Clothing.  Virtue.  Virtue, that's a good one.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer takes up this idea of "virtue" quite convincingly in his book Ethics.  He argues that because we are no longer at our origin, one with God, separated when we ate of the fruit and attained the knowledge of good and evil, our knowledge of even virtuous behavior is invalidated, as our rule of measurement is now  of our Own knowledge, as opposed to God's.  He says this, "It is not by ideals and programmes or by conscience, duty, responsibility and virtue that reality can be confronted and overcome, but simply and solely by the perfect love of God."

From crab to Christ.  The deal is that it goes something like this; our love for others comes from God.  In fact, God is LOVE (I John 4:16); "that is to say not a human attitude, a conviction or a deed, but God Himself is love.  Only he who knows God knows what love is." (Bonhoeffer)  Christ, manifested from this love, broke the barrier between God and world down and filled the gap.  Our love MUST come from the source, an infinite source of unlimited love poured out for ALL of us, even those of the margins.  The question in turn moves away from what is our capacity to love others to what is our capacity to accept Christ's love for others, because he, who gave the command to love over and over and over again was sent to the grave for them, and ascended for them, too.  That's the magnificence of it all--we have ALL been validated by the cross.  Yet, even with this knowledge, I withdraw myself and judge, incapable of understanding Christ's full embrace of humanity, forced to rely upon my signals of validation, even with this new Christ-like pursuit of invalidating this world-notion of validation with the realization that in some ways we are all disabled; already purchased; incapable of being loved more; that we have already been validated.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Media Matters

I'm aware that the average attention span for an online video is about 5 mins...but...
Media Bible Study Promotion from Joshua Gale on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

One generation to another

I came across a picture on Facebook today...I think it has some interesting implications, of which I don't feel the need to explain:

I'd give credit where it's due, but I have know idea who took it.
Welcome to the internet...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bezalel, Oholiab, and Flobots

I have recently found myself admiring the people most who have not forgotten who they are...what makes them "tick."  I will never understand it, but my current boss at Papa John's loves his job.  That may seem random to anyone who is reading this, but I say that because, of all the people I have ever met in management positions at that place (including myself), he is the only one I have ever met who genuinely wants to be there--and could be other places if he wanted.  Why then is everyone else there?  I was once a manager there to make more money.  I took the position to escape things that were happening outside of that job because I knew that it would take up a lot of my time, and it was a lot easier taking care of other people's pizza problems than it was dealing with my own.

Recently I posted a quote on Facebook that said,
"The creative adult is the child who survived." 
There is some truth to that--creativity in adults is many times attributed to a lingering curiosity from childhood that often times gets squished by "the real world."  I have begun listening to a band called Flobots again while on Marta.  I don't 100% agree with all that is said but I appreciate them deeply for 2 things: 1) taking a genre of music that is unfortunately deeply saturated with shallow lyrics and utilizing the style to say something meaningful and 2) allowing themselves to use their art as a means of communication.  For instance, Stand Up:
(heads up, it may contain some bad language...)

My intention with this blog post wasn't to get too personal as I have only just created the blog, but it appears it is going to happen anyway...  Considering I will begin Candler in the fall and I have just put my name in to begin the candidacy process (the first steps towards becoming ordained in the Methodist church), it feels like the path ahead of me is rapidly becoming set in place.  Where in the world does a degree in art fit in with that--lots of papers and history and theology?  I am trusting in God and am faithfully stepping where I feel I am supposed to be...but God will remember me, right?  In his plan somewhere, are my interests included?  And by that, I mean beyond beyond photoshopping our organist into the church directory:

The season of Pentecost is not too far behind us on the calendar.  Remember this text, or something like it?
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. -Acts 2:1-4
That is what I imagine when I think of the Holy Spirit coming down and making its presence known to people.  We who are spirit filled are born again and when God calls down the Holy Spirit for a specific purpose, sparks are going to fly.  Almost literally, it appeared to Moses in a bush on fire and he was made to take his sandals off.

The interesting thing is that when I was doing my devotion a few days ago titled "Skills for Work," a passage from Exodus came up.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent—the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand—and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.” Exodus 31:1-10
Wait, wait...the "Spirit of God" came down with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and all kinds of skills, why?  To make artistic designs...  Where is the speaking in tongues?  The prophets?  In chapter 36 of Exodus, it goes on to say that Bezalel and Oholiab were overwhelmed with help from everyone in the community because of all the skills and abilities they had to offer--not stuff.  So, will God be sensitive to everything that makes me who I am when showing me the calling that he has put on my life, as he does with everyone?  Playing sports, art, teaching, mission work, flipping pizzas... I do not know, but he did it with Bezalel and Oholiab.

Over the next few months, a lot is going to change, but I know that God is going to remain consistent.  I never would have guessed that I would be creating scriptural lessons based on elements of pop culture ranging from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to Call of Duty to The Avengers to Phineas and Ferb, yet here I am...moonlighting Bible studies...taking a moment to get back on the blog train.  We all lose sight of it, who we are, where we are going, which way is forward, or backwards...caught in the ever consistent spokes of time.  But, the interesting thing about serving a God who was before time, whose spirit hovered above the waters before when the Earth was formless and empty, is that there is nothing he cannot do, and nothing he won't do to show his love for us.  He is love. 

A well respected art professor of mine told me simply when I let him peak in at my fear of the future, "do what you love."  Maybe my boss at Papa John's has that figured out.  Maybe God is not limited by my fear.  And maybe, just maybe, the God, whose image I have been created in--the same God that orchestrated the creation of the universe--knows exactly who I am and what I want and need, and I just have to keep an ear out for it.  The worst kind of story is the one where everything always goes right.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Katy Perry and neighbors to love.

This pianist has some great music to listen to during a quiet time.  No matter the artist, she finds a way to make excellent compositions on the piano.  Definitely worth a listen in my book.

Sunny Choi – (Tribute to Katy Perry)

“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor[f] and hate your enemy.   But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you   so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.   If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?   And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. -Matthew 5:43-48

I find that working part time as a youth pastor and part time as a pizza guys lands each of my feet in two completely different worlds...yet in many ways, whether they should or shouldn't, they parallel each other, but that's another thought for another post.  It comes up at Papa John's occasionally that I work at a church--generally because someone will ask "so how did you make your way up to Atl?"  For whatever reason it came up again tonight with a coworker, and it somehow made its way to me saying, "yeah, I'll tell you what though.  What shocks me most about many Christians, who are supposed to be all about some love, is how full of hatred they are."

He proceeded to say, "yeah...actually the Last time I ever remember going to church the pastor walked up to my brother and I talking about how we were both going to Hell because we weren't tithing enough."  And, rhetorically, he went on to say, "What ever happened to a God that loves us no matter what?"

The conversation pretty much ended around there when I told him the God I serve's love is deeper than that, and he agreed by saying "yeah, I think so, too.  I don't know who he was serving, but I don't want to be a part of that."  Pizzas flashed on the screen to be made and our minds split into other directions from there and nothing more was spoken of anything.  I'm not sure how much hatred was in that pastor's heart as much as greed (from the way it was told to me), but for whatever reason my coworker still remembers that moment and it was enough to push him away from the church.  How sad.

I'm not always one for fluffy clouds, sunshine, unicorns pooping rainbows, and fluttering butterflies but what Jesus has to say about loving your enemies is a revolutionary thought, if we would just embrace it.  How do we lovingly correct someone?  I'm not 100 percent sure, but I know it all begins with love.  And I knew this--in fact, just the other day I found myself telling the youth "Love God and love your neighbor and you'll be alright"--but I find myself reverting back to an eye for an eye mentality anyway.  It's a work in progress I guess... I challenge you to read those verses closely again and let them sink into your lifestyle.  I promise you will feel more free if you let go of any hatred stored up inside of you.  We weren't made to hate.

I have begun reading through Matthew on my way to and from work at PJ's while I'm on Marta.  It's amazing how a little of the Word before work can make your day run more smoothly.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blogging Anew

It appears that life has lurched forward a bit since I starting blogging on my former blog, "What's this all about?" (  When I'd begun blogging there, I was waste deep in paint (so to speak)--going into my junior year of college studying studio art.  My life still sometimes feels like an arrow with no place to land, but 3 years ago I had no idea which direction to even move...and so I started that blog thinking it would be interesting to look back one day and trace my steps, like bread crumbs of where I'd come from.  And it is.  I love looking at it.  I wasn't the most avid blogger, but I stayed up with it enough to be pleased with its substance.

But here I am...a few years later, probably not actually much wiser (even though I'd like to think so), not much better at writing, still befuddled by life, just as dorky, and still not really sure where the bull's eye is, but I can't add much to my previous blog.  I'm no longer a liberal arts student trying to make his way in life, but a youth pastor trying to make his way in life...and though my college job paid me just about equally as well, if not better, I wouldn't trade spots for the world.  Seminary is just around the corner, I've an awesome girlfriend whom I couldn't be happier with, I'm living on my own out in the "concrete jungle" of Atlanta (as my dad would call it), and unlike most jobs my salary is anything but an indicator of the responsibilities of my current job description.  At the present start of this blog, I'm worlds apart from where I was.  It just doesn't feel right posting there with anything but art anymore.  I'm changing gears.  I've, quite simply, reached a new era in life.

I'll still be a little artsy here I hope, but it's purpose is slightly altered from "What's this all about?" in that it was essentially an art portfolio, and I made a deal with myself when I started it that I Only wanted to post new things that belonged to or were written by me.  Here there may be writings of others or responses to other blogs.  Here I'll be posting Bible studies of mine, lesson plans, papers for grad school, recent artwork or whatever else I want to.  The restrictions are off and I can not wait to see what God has in store for me next through this blog.  So here's to a public journal and bits of privacy being revealed (no, not nudity...privacy referring to thoughts and events happening in my life.   I know how you think...).  I can't promise it will be interesting, but I will promise that I'll try...and that's all I can do.  So, here we goooo........ (note the Mario referen....nevermind).

A poster I designed a long time ago that never got printed...