Faded Memory???

Saw an article today from a 60 Minutes show about a drug that reportedly decreases the pain associated with memories of traumatic events. It’s actually a drug that’s used to lower blood pressure, assuage migraines, and slow down hearts that beat too rapidly. Apparently, it does this by isolating or decreasing the amount of adrenaline in the brain. (note: don’t read this like a medical research item, because I’m not a medical researcher and the terms I’m using aren’t meant to be technical) The theory is that this decrease in adrenaline response will in turn decrease the strength at which the memories are ‘inked’ into our brains.

As I saw the article, my synapses were flooded with questions. What memories would I want to erase? What did I learn from bad experiences that would also be lost along with the pain? How would I know I’m not going to erase the good memories? What if someone used this to mess up a ‘witness’ so they no longer could remember to what they need to testify? Is there a ‘desktop trashcan’ somewhere in my brain’s hard drive where I could recover memories I wish I hadn’t deleted?

But it also got me thinking about the great lengths we’ll go to in order to avoid pain. We’ll drink the pain away. We’ll work so hard or so much that we don’t have time to think about it. We’ll indulge in more destructive patterns of behavior in order to ‘normalize’ the pain. And maybe in the near future, we’ll be able to take a little pill that makes whatever memory that’s causing us pain virtually disappear.

Two problems I see: 1) This never deals with the issues causing the pain – it just covers them up. 2) When we spend so much of our lives and selves trying to avoid (or alleviate) pain from our lives – we also cease to experience the joy of living. We spend so much time and energy trying to find ways to avoid getting hurt that we in effect avoid living at all.

Whoever wants to save his life will lose it...” Peter had the same pain aversion that we do. When Jesus said, “I’m about to go to Jerusalem and suffer and be killed.” Peter protested forcefully. Then Jesus told Satan to get out of the way, told His disciples to stop thinking of their own well being and follow, and headed for His death in Jerusalem. Jesus knew the rest of the phrase. “But whoever loses his life for me will find it.

I think we’d do well to heed Jesus’ words. We must lose our lives to Him if we are to have any hope for living a life that matters eternally. A life not dulled but full. There was a movie back a lot of years with this bipolar ski guy. (Someone must have slipped me a propranolol because I can’t remember the title of the movie.) That guy was a wuss – whiny, scared of everything, hypochondriac… Then he’d turn into this crazy, fear-nothing ski-slope daredevil. As he’d wrestle with himself he kept repeating the phrase, “Taste death, live life.”

I always liked that guy.

Buckle Up!

Just bought a car that I’m going to race next season! No pictures, yet, but it’s a 92 Colt (for a small 4-cylinder class) and it cost $150. Hopefully I can clear the space in my garage quickly and start stripping it down. Some of the students are into cars, so I’m sure they’ll love helping with that part. Anyway, we have several months before the season starts, so there’s a lot of time – but there’s a lot to do to it also. Looking forward to hanging out with a few of my guys and building the car. If anyone wants to send us sponsor money, feel free to do so!

Athens or Troy???

I’ve read several places that have compared the contemporary youth culture to a kind of Athens. The idea is that students are searching in deeply spiritual ways, they just aren’t recognizing/identifying God as the one true source of the whole-ness they’re so desperate for. So we must, like Paul, understand their culture well enough to intelligently discuss how elements from their very own construct point them to the one true God. This is what Paul did in Athens, on Mars Hill, in making known to them the identity of their ‘unknown God’.

I think this is a good paradigm for what we in youth ministry have to do. But if youth ministry is like going into Athens, it is also like getting into Troy. It’s not easy to gain admittance!

The city was virtually impenetrable. After 10 years of siege, the walls still stood. The city still survived. I think the student community has built up protective walls through which the church has found no way of entry. And much of the youth culture has closed the way to the entry of the church.

Don’t get me wrong. Our desire is not to sneak in and destroy youth culture, as the city of Troy was destroyed when the ‘horse’ was finally accepted into the city. But I think we need to find ways to offer peace to students. Instead of packing the horse with troops to destroy the city, what if we fill our gifts to students with a substantial caring and genuine love that will supersede their defenses?

So that brings up the question, “What does the church have to offer that students actually want?” Great music? They can have better… Awesome games? You’re joking right… Meaningful Bible Study? How many students are chomping at that bit… Music, games, Bible studies, etc. are all important tools in youth ministry – but I don’t think they’re gifts that youth culture by and large is eager to receive from us.

Here, I think is the Trojan Horse of youth ministry: meaningful relationships. Not surfacy ‘how’s school?’ acquaintances with adults, but real relationship. Students want to be known. They want to be loved without conditions. And when they are honestly offered that, don’t be surprised when they start tearing down the walls they’ve put up to keep God out.

Grandma always said “Make a list!”

Since my birthday’s just around the corner, and I know you’re all dying to know, here’s a list of a few things I’d be sure to enjoy…

Also, a healthy birth for my second (and last) daughter and quick recovery of my last (and first) wife would be nice, but most of you don’t have a whole lot of influence over those, so feel free to just stick with the books and CD’s on the list! (Unless of course you feel an extreme need to buy me a laptop or the new Zune or guitar gear’s always nice or…)


Made this video for a youth event this weekend. Just having fun… til moviemaker crashed.

Ah, my first step to many film awards. (haha… long way to go!) Just trying something new that I probably should have learned how to do long ago. If any of you know of any good video editing software, equipment, sites, advice, etc. let me know. More tools for communication!

Metaphorically Speaking

On a Christian radio station this morning, I heard a lady talking about how a certain artist was going to be on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. In one breath she was both excited at the credibility factor of his being featured on the pop culture show – and appalled at the show itself. “Be sure to tune in to watch so and so play, but make sure you don’t watch any of the other stuff on the show – it’s garbage.” (That’s not a literal quote, but it is a good summary of what was said.)

It reminded me of a line from a recent article I received in an e-mail yesterday. It’s from The Journal of Student Ministries, which has a lot of other interesting articles you may like to check out, too. The author says, “I believe it’s time to admit that the church has lost its positional status with earthly powers (i.e. governments and political parties) and confess that we’ve craved endorsements from the wrong authorities.”

This statement was made in the context of a larger discussion of the use of the ‘war metaphor’ in youth ministry. We need to remember that, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood…” but we are in a spiritual battle. But (think great big BUT there), does that mean we have to use the war metaphor all the time in youth ministry? I’ve never really felt comfortable talking about battle cries and winning souls and taking ground and conquering foes… maybe there was a time when that metaphor was useful, but I’m not sure that time is now.

Now, I know that some of that language is used in Scripture, but it’s also very focused in Scripture. Jesus is fighting Satan (and as His followers, we join him in fighting Satan). Not ‘the world’. Not Hollywood. Not youth culture. In the world as it is today, I wonder if we’d do better using other metaphors, that are just as Biblical, when we talk about the church in relationship to the world. Surely we can find metaphors that speak more truthfully of Christ and His Church to this generation… Bride, Family, Body, Salt, Light…


Well, the election is over – except for Chad and his dimples that have to be ironed out. Control is shifting, seats have been lost. Now, I’m not ‘died in the wool’ anything except a follower of Jesus, a husband, and a father (and short, but there’s no options for me there anyway), but watching news reports last night as vote counts started coming in was a little annoying. Why did the anchors have to have that giant smirk on their faces when they announced a democrat victory? Can they at least feign objectivity?

I don’t know, just thought that was kind of dumb. It will be interesting to see how things will get done in the next couple years. I don’t think this is the great beginning of a golden democrat-controlled era, nor do I think this is the end of the republic or the death knell of our nation or anything like that – there’s more than enough corruption on both sides of the aisle. Days will still pass by one after another. Liberals will still say the Conservatives are uncaring money grabbers (which SOME are), and Conservatives will still accuse the Liberals of killing babies and pandering to gays (which SOME do).

But I’m not sure about the labels anymore. The characterizations of the liberal democrats and conservative republicans have gotten way out of hand. Straw men are too easy to burn. Perhaps this shift will allow us to stop talking in hyperbole and discuss real ideas and real problems and real solutions with real people.

Then again maybe not. Maybe there is no middle. Maybe our nation is destined to be hopelessly divided between left and right (which oddly enough often looks more like coastland and heartland). Either way, I’m glad my allegiance, though it’s been pledged to the flag since Reagan was president, is ultimately to another Kingdom. A Kingdom that will not pass away.

I’m also glad I don’t have to watch another opposition-party bashing commercial. Well, at least not for a couple years.

Beaten Bride

He came home, only to find her there – battered and bruised on the front porch. As he ran to help her up, the old feelings rushed back again. How could she? Every time, it ended up this way…

But it wasn’t always this way. The tattered memory of her pure beauty on the day of their wedding still lingered in each tear. He could still see within her the reflection of the bride that once was. The bride who trustingly walked out to meet him. He could still feel the flicker of pure love as he gathered her quivering hand in his that day.

And even now, that flame still burned within him, as he bent to pick her up, careful of the wounds freshly inflicted by the attacker she’d so willingly pursued… Again. But amazingly, when he looked at his wife, Jesus didn’t see her infidelity. He could deal with that. He could wash it all away. He’d clean her up again. He’d once again see her pure and spotless.
With the recent events surrounding Ted Haggard, the Bride may be seen by the world to have been beaten severely. A widely trusted figure has proven all too human. Those of us left to lead in the church have another case with which we will be lumped in. This hurts. Some will point to this and say, “See, they’re all a bunch of liars. Don’t trust them.” Others will be quick to say, “He was just under too much pressure… too much for one man to handle… it’s not his fault…”

The truth is, we all have this propensity to fall to sin. And we all have the same responsibility to choose Jesus over our own sin. Only He can restore broken humanity. Only He can restore Ted Haggard. Only He can restore me. Only He can restore His Bride.

Despite the first faltering steps after the allegations were made public, it’s been interesting to note the admission of culpability. No more trying to cover his backside. No shifting of blame to someone else. No trying to redefine what ‘is’ is… I pray that he’ll continue further in this road of contrition to repentance and restoration.

I pray that we all will resist the temptation that is present in our own lives. May God’s grace keep us pure and whole, and restore us when we’re messy and broken.

Posted By:C. Thomas Johnson

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What do you listen to?

Saw this video from Community Christian Church in the Chicago area. They’re doing a series on what it means to follow Christ. The other two clips in the series are good too. Go to youtube (click on the logo in the video) and check them out (or you can find them at marko’s blog, too.