Rest in Peace, M's Suburban

The youth ministry at CSMSG lost one of its greatest friends last week-- the 1998 (or so) Chevy Suburban our program coordinator drove for years. Not only did it serve her family, it hauled our equipment and sleeping bags on mission trips, retreats and special events all over our city. We'll definitely miss it, even if we do find another family who can say, "No problem; my car fits seven!"


Happy Christmas, 2007

All God's best blessings on your Christmas and the New Year, from the youth ministry at St. Michael and St. George, in St. Louis, MO!

May He use you today to bring His love to your students and their families, even if you don't know how you did it.

And may the Holy Spirit rest on you as you stand in Christ's presence tonight.


My defining moment

My students had started to ask me, a few weeks ago, about what happens to people who don't believe in Jesus when they die. A lot of conversations I've had with students who are having a hard time in their faith lives revolve around, "why would God leave out of heaven all those good people who just decided not to believe the same things we do?"

One of my kids had left a question in the fishbowl that said, "Does God still love you if you do something wrong like decide to go your own way or choose a different religion?" He'd left me a nice out in the way he asked the question, because yes, God's love for people is infinite and the amount of love He has for us isn't affected by the things we do; God is able to differentiate between who we are and what we do. But I had a feeling C wouldn't appreciate me attempting to avoid the real question.

So I asked God about it, and as I was praying the Scripture that came to mind was when Jesus is first teaching about living bread, and the crowd starts to say, "This teaching is too hard. Who can understand it." When Jesus didn't go back and re-explain himself, a lot of the people there went away and didn't follow Him anymore. So Jesus went to the disciples and said, "What about you? Do you also want to leave because of what I'm teaching you?"

Peter stepped up and said, "Lord, who would we follow instead? You have the words that give eternal life. And now we see, and have come to believe that you are the holy one of God."

What the disciples realized, I heard, was that Christianity wasn't just a technique or an add-on to everything else they were doing in life. If you want to take a yoga class or learn computer programming, you might have to rearrange some of the other things you do to make time for it, but you can do those things along with everything else.

The disciples saw that following Jesus was going to be different. This was going to be a new way of life; it was going to replace everything they had done before, just as Jesus, when he invited them in the first place, had replaced their daily jobs with new ones.

I realized that while I've been teaching that Jesus is the way, I've been doing that in a very soft and unemphatic way.

I'm ready now to teach less apologetically and more urgently that when Jesus said, "I am the way to the Father," he meant it.

It was scary to me to realize for how long I've been avoiding answering that question.


Last Night's Nightline; "Hard as Nails" ministry

I ran across this story on "Nightline" last night, about a ministry that spreads Christ's message by saying what people are thinking, then confronting those words with the Bible. Any thoughts?

"Jumping up and down, getting hit by chairs and telling girls they are fat is hardly the image of a Catholic preacher. But for Justin Fatica, a 29-year-old unordained priest and leader of a nonprofit called Hard as Nails Ministries, that is exactly the point.
Fatica targets teens with his preaching, and his methods of spreading his brand of the Catholic message have brought him both admiration and criticism."

Here's the video


Something Christmas-related

In staff meeting this morning I had nothing to report. Since I'm not normally allowed to have nothing to say (my boss likes hearing about what we're up to) I ended my little paragraph this way:

"As we come closer to Christmas and are assaulted by televisions telling us what we really want, the message I'm giving the youth group is, 'Be very glad that neither from our parents or from God are we getting what we deserve this year.'"


Wings you can wear, but will they work well?

One of the "Tomb Raider" movies featured a set of wingsuits that helped the two leads escape some bad situation, and the clip from that movie was what made me wonder if they'd just come up with the idea because you can do that in video games... apparently, around the world, there are a few inventors and daredevils trying to fly.

This article explains it, from the New York Times: "Flying Humans, Hoping to Land With No Chute"

Here's a quote: "Wing suits are not new; they have captured the imagination of storytellers since man dreamed of flying. From Icarus to Wile E. Coyote, who crashed into a mesa on his attempt, the results have usually been disastrous.
But the suits’ practical use began to take hold in the early 1990s, when a modern version created by Patrick de Gayardon improved safety.
Modern suit design features tightly woven nylon sewn between the legs and between the arms and torso, creating wings that fill with air and create lift, allowing for forward motion and aerial maneuvers while slowing descent. As the suits, which cost about $1,000, have become more sophisticated, so have the pilots. The best fliers, and there are not many, can trace the horizontal contours of cliffs, ridges and mountainsides."

Until someone makes one that actually works reliably, this story could be a good illustration of the risks people take when they attempt to live without God.


The Rookie Speculates: on the Golden Compass

My friend Karl and I were talking last night and he asked me what I thought about the Golden Compass (which opened today in theaters) and the furor it's been creating among religious people who aren't going to see it and atheists who (apparently) celebrate the strongly anti-religious movie coming out at Christmas time. Here were our thoughts:

Overall, the movie's interesting, but nothing to be afraid of. (I'm personally going to see it just for the armored bear; how cool would that be?) As a priest here put it, "People are worried because in the end of the series, people kill God. That happened. God's children did kill Him. He came back." The small-g god in the movie is not one that Christians would be familiar with anyway.

The problem with making such a blatantly anti-Christian movie is that it's not going to provide much discussion between believers and non-believers. Instead, the story is going to make people who already agree with its ideas continue to agree, and people who disagree will be left umoved.

The most powerful bit of witness that will come out of it will be the chance to show real-world seekers that real-world Christians aren't like the overbearing Magisterium in the film. We have the chance here to humbly love and serve God's world and let curious people come up to us and ask why we do that.

Christianity Today's review The New York Times' review

The Extremes of Wednesday night Bible Study

These two conversations illustrate the lack of middle ground on Wednesday nights; either we really get it or we really don't:

Seventh-grader at dinner: "If I had enough armpit hair, I'd like to braid it!"
His friend: "Hey, yeah! That's a great idea!" (They start looking at their armpits.)
Isaac: (wads up napkin and throws it at them) "I'm throwing a flag on this conversation!"

Sixth-grader, in small group: "So if you're a Christian, is it hard to go to Hell?"
Isaac: (starts laughing) "Yes, C, when you're a believer, it's very hard to go to Hell."


the vegetable orchestra

I showed this to my youth group tonight as we started our Bible study and they watched it really carefully. They were especially trying to figure out which veggies the group actually uses.


Need some help on retreat planning

Hey everybody: I'm planning my winter retreat for the high schoolers and need some ideas. God's been nudging me that this group needs to spend the weekend experiencing a whole Gospel, not just a piece of it, so the first session we have together involves some lectio divina work where each person takes a section, reads it mindfully, then summarizes it for the group so we start to see some of the themes. That much has mostly come together. But where else do I go when I'm not focusing all the sessions on one or two stories? How do I help these high schoolers reflect and rest with God's word?