Profound, but by accident

...so the trouble with dropping a Bible in a river is that, six months later, everyone who looks at it can tell which books you use all the time and which ones you skip over... poor Deuteronomy is feeling a little left out.

And I called a kid this afternoon (nearly saved this for the podcast, but it's a true story) and the call went like this:

Me: Hey, I just called to say happy birthday! (feeling very excited that I'd remembered to check the birthday list on my computer's calendar this morning)

He: Oh, um... it's not my birthday.

Me: (now feeling quite confused because the computer told me so) Is your birthday anywhere near here?

He: No, it's in October.

Me: Oh...

(Long pause)

Me: So what else is going on?


Christian life as a coffee bean

Hey folks, this is just worth reposting, and it's a forward I hadn't seen before (rarest of rarities!) Thanks to Heidi, our clergy secretary, for passing it along to me. Everyone print it out and put it in your illustrations file...

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."
"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?" Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water , they had changed the water.


What I learned on the ropes course

Ropes courses, to me, are very inspiration. Usually I'll pull out some kind of devotional point. This past weekend, though, on the middle school retreat, I learned one simple lesson, at the intersection of prep time and face time.

Trout Lodge's staff does an amazing job leading students through their different courses, so when our middle schoolers got out to the site I'd been planning to cheer them on for a little while and then head back to the lodge to get ready for the next program session, setting out the supplies and material we'd need.

But my students kept saying, "You have to climb with us!"

I hadn't thought they'd be so insistent. "But I've done this before!" I said. That had been a valid excuse for the kids who weren't climbing.

"Maybe, but we haven't seen you!" one smart sixth-grader shot back.

So I climbed. I put on a harness and went through the course and said to myself, "Isaac, you can go back and prep when the next group comes through."

But the next group wanted me to stay too. They let me hang out on the ground, after I told them (and the staff vouched for me) that I'd climbed earlier, but they weren't letting me go anywhere.

On the way home, I thought about that. And I dug one simple rookie lesson out of it:

Any chance for face time with students has to be spent with students, duh! It's straight out of summer camp training, and something I remind adult leaders about near-weekly: spend most of your time with students.

Minor prep can always wait. Program-writers and perfectionists *Isaac raises both hands* like me need to be especially careful not to forget that.


Don't think we're not busy...

...just because I'm not here every day telling you about it. Here's some photos from one of our last projects; painting the youth room and redecorating it.


Rookie on the Radio: Show notes for Episode 3

On this week's "Rookie on the Radio," Youth in the News digs up some funny stories about exams:

Ban all homework as exams near, student trustee urges (Toronto Star)
Hong Kong tutors discovering sex sells (Guelph Mercury)
NC State students use Morgan Freeman's face to ease exam stress (Brock Press)
Japanese School to test chopstick skills as part of entrance exam (International Herald-Tribune)

Undiscovered listens to G.A.S, courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network;

I Called This Kid and asked him to invite someone special to church this week;

And we'll think about how candles and science speak to us about God.


Theology Tuesday: A Theology of Education

I am nearly a college student again. Just the registration line stands between me and 8am classes, between me and the $2 student discount at the movies. Just that one step stands in between me and a new arena for my faith.

Driving back from the entrance assessment and advisor meeting yesterday, I asked myself, "How can I use this semester of classes and the knowledge I get there to inform my faith?" Like the Magnificat, I didn't ask it in those words on the first try, but that's the gist of it. Then I started thinking, "How will this semester of classes let me show that Christians value knowledge?"

...Actually, I've now been through the registration line and sat for my first day of class. I have not yet taken the movie discount, but only because it's retreat season. Still, I couldn't not use that first paragraph. This post just sat in my admin area for a little while while I debated how to finish it.

Frequently in the general culture, and more frequently in college/other educational settings, Christians are viewed as people who don't appreciate knowledge, especially the scientific brand. Just look at the debate over intelligent design vs. evolution in curricula. Both are interesting and provocative theories, but the publicized arguments a year or so ago stamped Christians once again as closed-minded and unwilling to allow anyone to study in a way we don't fully endorse.

Long story short, lots of secular folks believe that Christians don't like to think. Which isn't true. Reading the church fathers, their works are always full of profound intellectual arguments, wrapped in faith that makes the un-understandable parts fit into the whole. Which is as God intended us to work.

So how, in this current semester, I asked myself, can I use my time in class to show that Christians love knowledge, and love to think about God's world and how we can use our skills to make it a better place?

On the bottom line, I can follow Paul's admonition that earthly authority is part of God's plan for running the world, and be on time for class, do my homework, read the assigned chapters for each session and listen carefully to my professors.

Beyond that, I can pick essay topics and articles to analyze that mesh with my beliefs and let me show that I've considered them carefully. I can ask good questions. I can be proud of my beliefs and at the same time show that the new things I learn help to shape those beliefs and principles.

I'm a Christian who loves to think, after all. Is the educational world ready for such a thing?


Check This Out: God Detector

I finally opened an issue of "Wired" that's been on my coffee table for a while, and found a gadget... that's what you find when you read Wired, but this one's different.

How do you know when you're in the presence of the Supreme Being? You have a God Detector, of course, and it tells you.


Church attendance makes you healthy!

An email just came in from one of my adult leaders, with the following information:

"Active Participation" (ie standing, attending a ceremony,) at church burns 136 calories an hour...
"Reading religious materials at home" burns 88 cal/hr

How much of a workout do you get at church?

Theology Tuesday: Not Defective!

Urbana '06, a giant missions conference (over 22,000 participants) happened in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago. Here's the link to a story that ran in the Post-Dispatch about the event.

A friend of mine was in town for it, and on the last day of the event I took her and a friend of hers for lunch. Talking about the different workshops and events that were part of the conference, M's friend made the comment that she was "really struck by the total depravity of people."

I've heard that same sentence a lot. I've even said it now and then. But that time, it made me nervous. And now I know why.

I think it's possible to insult God by focusing too much on the "depravity of mankind." We, after all, are good creatures who behave badly, not defective creatures God made wrong andwill someday completely replace.

In another time this might be too fine a distinction, but everything in our culture focuses on what's wrong with us. From "consolidate your debt" to "melt away fat with such-and-such a new procedure" to "you're not in my top 8 anymore because you're a freak," the whole world is telling us we're made wrong.

When you discover something you bought doesn't work correctly, you bring it back to the store and have it replaced. You don't fix it yourself; most of us wouldn't know where to begin fixing the things we buy today. That's replacement, not redemption, and it is not what God practices with us.

Depravity would be a safer topic in a culture that valued redemption of its possessions more, in a place where everyone knew how to fix things. We don't have that, so what we need is to strike a balance with teaching, reminding ourselves and our students that God made us right and perfectly, and when we behave badly doesn't give up on us and replace us with a better model.


Rookie on the Radio: Show notes for Episode 2

The new episode of "Rookie on the Radio" is now available at Podomatic: http://rookieyouthworker.podomatic.com. The RSS feed for subscribing, through iTunes or other music managers, is http://rookieyouthworker.podOmatic.com/rss2.xml

General Info: After this week's episode, look for new editions of the Rookie podcast on Saturdays!

“Won't Say Uncle” by Pierced-- www.myspace.com/piercedrocks
Podsafe music from www.garageband.com

Youth In the News Stories:
Teacher Took Bribes to Skip Gym Class
School Fundraisers Put Big Dent in Boca Parents' Pocketbooks

Unclaimed Lottery Winnings will go to After-School Programs
Youngster Saves Sister from Choking

Rookie on the Radio intro/exit music from ccmixter user SCott
Youth In the News music from ccmixter user Vidian
Here's a Thought music from ccmixter user aenygma


The Intersection of Forgiveness and Ropes Course

The retreat this weekend made me remember a newsletter piece I'd written last year on the value of ropes course safety equipment when we're talking about God's capacity to forgive. There's a chance this has already appeared on the RYW blog-- if it has, consider it a classic, not a rerun!

Forty feet in the air, with my feet resting on a one-inch wide rope, I lost my balance. The rope I was crossing shook, my body bent at the waist, and I fell backward into thin air.

My fall lasted eight inches, until the rope attached to my climbing harness reached the end of its four percent stretch and held me fast. On the ground, a staffer named Jack held the rope, keeping me in the air. With a little work and some encouragement from the others on the ropes course structure, I pulled my feet back on the rope, stood and finished the course.

On my own, without the rope and harness, the fall would have hurt. Since I was supported, it gave me a chance to look carefully at the rest of the path through the course, take a deep breath, and keep going. While a high ropes course is not as easy as walking down the sidewalk, I trusted my gear. My harness, rope and clips were as strong as I needed them to be.

One part of the safety talk we heard before beginning the ropes course at Trout Lodge was a few statistics about how much weight each part of the safety system could hold. The weakest part, the threaded caribiner clip holding the rope to our harness, is rated to support 5,000 pounds. The ropes themselves hold up to 6,000 pounds. If we could get the harness around it, one rope and one biner could belay a small pickup truck.

The smallest detail of God's plan for this world is stronger than our greatest fears. The least part of God's love for us is able to defeat the biggest wrong thing we've ever done. And just as the ropes course gear is able to support many times more strain than I was able to put on it, God doesn't just give us the minimum support we need, but lavishes love on us, more than we'll ever know and certain more than we could ever use up.

Sometimes we fall. Sometimes our balance shakes in the wind or in our fear. But God's care for us turns that fall into a rest, when we can look at the path, take a deep breath, and let God lift us back onto it. --February 2006, Dragon Tales (the newsletter of the Church of St. Michael & St. George, St. Louis, MO)


Good (odd) Read

You know you have to click on a headline like this:

No, no, I said to NOT lick that

It's only a little funny, by the end, but the headline sounds like something you'd have to say to a middle school student (HS Sophomore on my retreat...?) so go for it!


Hi from the retreat!

So great that places are discovering how wifi keeps people happy when you're staying at their facility... here we are at Trout Lodge, one of the very best retreat sites I've ever been to, and today I was once again reminded how grandiosely high school students think of their abilities. One of our guys was on the high ropes for the first time this afternoon, and he reached the highest point. I was on the next element over, and called to him, "Hey, Michael-- how do you like it?"

He looked at me, put his arms out wide and said, "It needs to be bigger!"

We did a moonlight zip line just a little while ago, and it is one of the most amazing feelings in the world-- running into the darkness, feeling the harness slowly lift you off the ground until you're flying across deep nothingness... try it!



When a student comes to you to ask for a reference, for a job or some kind of special fun cool program you wish you'd been offered when you were in school (just a little bit of personal baggage there...) what's the criteria you have for offering the reference?

I generally have a very open-door policy about giving recommendations, because I really want these kids to have a lot of great opportunities. At the same time, writing a couple of references has put me in an odd position. In one case the student had asked after not being anywhere near me for a couple of years, and I wrote it hoping the position she was applying for would be exactly the challenge she needed to get her life organized. In a second one, the kid's mom said to me, "Thanks for writing the reference, but I don't think he's living up to it."

Most of the references I've written haven't caused any trouble like this, but these two stick out in my head as ones I sort of wish I hadn't done.

How do you handle this, and how can I better handle it in the future? Are references a good chance to challenge students, or should they only be given when a list of conditions (and what should be on the list?) are met?


The Rookie Reviews: Night at the Museum

PLEASE NOTE: This review contains plot spoilers for the movie "Night at the Museum."

I was in college when the first "Lord of the Rings" movie came out, and my sister wanted to see it. Each Christmas break, when the movie started and I arrived back at home, we'd go to see it. This year, I flew home as a surprise for the family, and one of my first questions was, "What's our Christmas movie going to be this year?"

There were a few movies we wanted to see with specific people, and one I'm still saving to see with the mission trip crew (We are Marshall; we stayed at a church in the town where the story happened and movie was filmed) so we settled on "Night at the Museum" a movie I'd just seen the ad for in the Minneapolis airport.

Movies that come out during the holidays sometimes get overlooked. And that's sad, especially with a treasure like "Museum."

Here's the outline: A guy with a thousand good ideas, none of which quite ever work, has to find a steady job to keep from being evicted from his apartment and have to move, with his young son, yet again. Told that his resume is too unique (aka useless) to land him a job, he does find one slim possibility: night guard at the Museum of Natural History.

Which, he learns, has a secret. You'll see this part in the previews, so it doesn't spoil anything to say that all the exhibits, big and small, come to life during the night, so the watchman's real job is to corral them and make sure they don't escape.

What do you do when you're in possession of a secret like this? You try and restore your son's confidence in you, help a gorgeous grad student who's stuck on a thesis, and make peace between warring dioramas, of course!

This is a film that could have taken itself way too seriously, but didn't. It's a fun story, with mostly good messages about responsibility, family, cooperation and the value of history. Check this out with family or youth group-- I think you'll enjoy it!

An Exciting Announcement

I realized last year that I don't do enough actual work... so 2007 will be the year of the Podcast here on Rookie Youthworker. That's right, the first episode of a weekly podcast, "Rookie on the Radio" is out now, and you can subscribe by pointing your music program here:


Or go here and listen online:


The RYW blog will also get a bunch of new material and attention this year, as it's also the year of Wasting No Time.

Hope God blesses you incredibly this week, and that the RYW blog and podcast continue to count in the column of blessings in some small way!