coldwater video

This is the video we’ll be showing Sunday to go along with talking about coldwater. The trip was great, this song became sort of an unofficial theme song, and if you missed it you missed out! But since life is a mission, there’s still time so get to work…

+ 1 for the vegetarians

You can call me a pansy if you want to, but the whole blood and guts thing has never been my favorite part of guy-hood. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action movie with a lot of explosions, etc. But it’s the real life, 3-dimensional, all 5 senses gore that I’m not fond of! It’s one thing to see it on a screen, but quite another to touch and hear its squishiness and smell the rancid rot.

I have tons of hunting and fishing relatives and the part of those sports that I never liked was the ‘cleaning’/’field dressing’ (or ‘gutting’ as we more often called it). While I was in college I went deer hunting – this was actually the only time I’ve been deer hunting as a hunter instead of the tag-a-long kid that can’t keep quiet (I was good at that role!). I gutted my own deer, but I didn’t like it. Actually, my shot was “less than immediately lethal” so I even had to cut Bambi’s throat before slicing her open and ‘cleaning’ her out. I did it – but I didn’t like it.

All that pales in comparison to the putrid pile of flesh I had to deal with today. It may have been just a temporary failure (I hope) but this morning we discovered that our large freezer was no longer freezing its contents. (What am I supposed to call a freezer that doesn’t freeze things?!) We’re not sure how long the thaw had been happening, but there was a 2 inch pool of blood underneath about 90 pounds of rotting bovine. Having cleaned out the meat, I have never been closer to becoming a vegetarian than I am right now. (I am seriously thanking God and the city of ScottsbluffGering that tomorrow is trash day!) I can’t even describe how disgusting this was for me at every level of my being – tactile, visual, financial, olfactorial (just made up that word I think, but I like it), aural – everything in me wanted to do whatever it could that is closest to vomiting.

As I was scooping up rotting meat and being as totally grossed out as I have ever been, God reminded me of Isaiah, where it’s written that “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;” Now, I have some shop rags in my garage that are covered with oil and dirt and auto-grime. That’s not the kind of filth He’s talking about. A less G-rated rendering of this phrase could be ‘bloody tampon’. Gross. (God is graphic!) I’ve always understood the way our sin sickens our Holy God – but this wasn’t the sin of His people, it was the ‘righteous acts’ they did alongside their sin, thinking they could cover it up or outweigh their guilt with their good. It makes God want to wretch.

I’m strongly reminded today that nothing I can do on my own can clean out the rot that I’ve allowed in my life. Nothing that I can do to make you or anybody else admire/approve/respect me will allow God to ignore the rancid stench of sin in my life. It is only by His mercy that I can present myself to Him as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him – only by His grace that I can enter into His presence – and only by the blood (ironically) of Jesus that I can be freed from continually having to breathe the smell of death.

It’s easy to deal with rotting meat – you throw it out! Maybe there’s something rotting in our lives that we need to throw out, too – ask God to take you deep into your heart and show you what needs taken to the curb. It’s trash day – take it out.

Miles for the Mission

I am putting together a team of runners who will be raising money for our student ministries over the month of September. Each runner will take pledges for a certain amount per mile they will run during the month. (For example, if you pledge $3.00 per mile that I run, and I run 100 miles, your total contribution would be $300 – thank you for being so generous!) At the end of the month, we’ll collect the donations to fund upcoming student ministry initiatives that will help us in our mission to “reveal God to students.”
If you want to be one of my runners, let me know and I’ll get you a form to start tracking your pledges. If you’d like to sponsor me, let me know what amount I should put down for your pledge. (I’m currently doing a 100 miles in 30 days challenge that will go into the first part of Sept., so I expect to be somewhere around 100 miles, just to give you an estimate.)


This summer schedule has killed my reading. Once camp season hit, I basically only read a chapter here and there. I did, however, manage to finish a literary youth ministry trifecta:

Youth Ministry 3.0 from Mark Oestreicher, Sustainable Youth Ministry from Mark Devries, and Simple Student Ministry from Eric Geiger and Jeff Borton. Each of the three had their merits, but the one I’d most recommend is Sustainable Youth Ministry. It addresses the church as much as the youth leader – every church looking to hire a new youth minister should require the search team to read this book before even taking resumes.

DeVries tackles a lot of the church systems issues that can cripple youth ministry. He doesn’t just bash the adult oriented church, however, these are issues that can be resolved to enhance the ministry of the whole church.
SYM also addresses the long-term nature of youth ministry. Many churches focus on the short-term when thinking about youth ministry. We only have them for a few years, right? But healthy youth ministry doesn’t really stop when a student graduates, and the things we do that may bring short-term “success” may do little to develop long term disciples. Devries offers helpful wisdom to churches who want to do more than graduate a bunch of shiny, happy faces into a life they are not equipped to handle. He offers help to those churches and youth workers that want to build environments in which young disciples can thrive. This is one that I will definitely return to.
*DeVries also has an organization called Youth Ministry Architects that does consulting to help churches build youth ministries that are sustainable.

Running Discipleship

A few months ago, I posted a comment regarding running and age and marathons and determination (which prompted some finely crafted ‘encouragement’ from my brother). I’m not there yet, but I did take up a lesser challenge this month: 100 miles in 30 days. It seems like a lot, but it’s only about 3 miles a day – this forces me to run consistently.

My 30 days started last week and I’m at about 15 miles right now. That’s just a little behind schedule, but I did get in a good 5 mile run Saturday and felt pretty good. 2 and 3 mile runs are much less of a struggle than they were a few months ago. (Except last night’s run – the first mile was a battle to keep supper where supper is supposed to be!)
The thing with this 30 day challenge is that it sort of artificially imposes a demand for some kind of running activity on a regular basis. I don’t HAVE to run, but if I want to meet the goal I will. I wonder if a healthy relationship with God thrives similarly. We don’t have to ‘watch and pray’ – but if we desire God like He desires us, we will.
Incidentally, I’m thinking about getting a group together that would run through the month of Sept. to raise money to fund some youth ministry initiatives here. (Basically, people will be asked to pledge some amount of money for each mile we run during the month.) If you’d be interested in running in the group (and collecting pledges for your miles) let me know right away.

Satan Lies series promo

Sweet trailer for Perry Noble‘s next sermon series, dealing with Satan’s lies. Willie just preached a couple weeks here at WestWay about the reality of Satan, so this seems like some timely exploration of the lies he uses. You can follow the series at NewSpring’s site. They post the video on Tuesdays, and also stream the service on Sunday evenings. The series starts this week.

Promo: “5 Lies of the devil” from NewSpring Production on Vimeo.

Life’s a Trip

I like it when something significant comes out of my mouth without my first formulating the thought into words. My thought editing process can distill my intended message so much that it’s castrated, robbed of any potency the message may have had. I don’t want to be a jerk about things, but sometimes, I try too hard to say things politely (thanks, mom!).

During our staff meeting today, I had one of those moments where things came out right. I was talking about the way we went around during the coldwater mission, looking for some way to serve and open to just about anything. Why don’t we do that normally? Why don’t we go to our jobs and schools and homes and hangouts… looking for any possible way to be of service?
Willie commented on how we don’t have that mindset because we get too busy ‘at home’… too caught up in our own lives. We can set all that aside for a week long “mission trip” but often fail to do so in our normal day to day living.
Before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, I heard myself saying “But, my whole life is supposed to be a mission trip!” (or something close to that) We have, too often, bought into a screwed up idea of ‘home’. If you are in Christ, YOU ARE NOT HOME! (unless you’ve already died and Heaven has some sweet wi-fi hot spots, that for some reason you’re using to check this blog) You’re not supposed to be ‘too busy’ to notice the needs of the people you share air with. You’re not supposed to be so wrapped up in your own life that you don’t see the dead people walking all around you. You’re supposed to be on a ‘mission trip’ – seeking out those who are merely ‘breathing to death’ and taking them to Jesus to be resuscitated!
Stop complaining about your job and how you don’t make enough money – go there to make disciples, instead! Quit whining about having to go back to school and make the most of that opportunity to connect with people that don’t know Jesus and show them they matter to Him! Stop moaning and groaning about how boring church is and realize YOU ARE THE CHURCH… so don’t be boring!
[My filter is telling me to tone down that last paragraph, but honestly…]
I see a lot of people right now who are diving into the ‘mission life’ mentality. It’s exciting to see so many friends taking seriously the example of Jesus as He picked up a towel and started washing feet. Today, we are picking up garbage and sandpaper, paintbrushes and shovels, Bibles and moving carts. We are watching for places to paint and people to love – begging God to show us how and whom we can help next. We are looking for ways to let people see the Kingdom that is unseen – because that is our home. HE IS OUR HOME! We’re learning that our lives are a mission trip – His mission trip into His creation to reveal His Kingdom and win back the hearts of His people…
Hope wherever you are, you join the trip…

coldwater coincidence???

I get really skeptical when someone starts talking about secret codes in the Bible and the significance of numbers here and there, etc. I’m not the kind of person that ‘looks for signs’ all the time. But there were a number of things that we came across in the course of coldwater that some may call ‘coincidence’ and some may call God at work verifying what He was doing… Here’s a list, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide: God or coincidence?

– Biblical numbers (12 team members on Monday/7 for the week)

– We drew 144 miles the first day. At mile 144, we found Grant, NE – which happens to have a sign next to the railroad that simply says “GRANT 144”.
– We drew 257 miles on Wednesday, which led us to Fairmont, where there is a mile marker 257.
– One team member stated before leaving that He wanted to see a day where God just provided everything… How ’bout free tent space and 3 free meals!
– Meeting a kid at the Grant pool who used to live in Scottsbluff.
– Landing in a town where Greg had worked (actually after spending the week traveling, this may just be a product of Greg working everywhere!)
– Finding an “Andrews” grave marker as we turned around in a little cemetery (good reminder – we’ll all be there someday!)
– New Life’s church sign echoing my earlier message to the students: “Listen for God to speak to you.” (Hope you guys finish what’s being started there Vince…)
– Andrew throwing up dog biscuit at the gas station (Ok, it probably wasn’t a coincidence or God working, but it’s just so fun to mention!)
I’m sure there were more that I’m not thinking of right now. Help me out guys, what did I miss? (Click on ‘comment’ and add your thoughts..)

coldwater improvements

Thinking of a few things that could be better next time we do coldwater…

– Shorter distance options later in the week – or staying in one town the whole time.
– Learning how to know when to stop working when you’re working on a project that has no (or an unreachable) end…
– We lost a little focus Wednesday – maybe due to travel/fatigue, but needed to do something to keep focused.
– Could have done a better job with a more regular, scheduled devotion/journaling time. (Though we did make good use of a lot of ‘teachable moments’ I think.)
– Wish we could have traveled in one vehicle.
Those of you who went: use the comments section and tell me what you think could be better next time.

coldwater journal entry

Since I wasn’t able to post updates here too often last week, I thought I’d share some thoughts about the mission trip to start this week. I’ll start with a modified journal entry from Tuesday that sums up the first days of our trip.

It’s been a great trip so far. We started off Monday morning spinning Southeast and drawing 144. We headed out through Bridgeport and had a tire blow out near Lake McConaughy. Only took 12 minutes to change – not NASCAR, but pretty good! We stopped in Ogallala and got a new tire and went and had lunch in Carrie’s (my sister-in-law) yard. Got back onto the road and finished the driving portion of the day in Grant, NE
(mile 144 was right at the entrance to the golf course on the edge of town).

We drove around for a couple minutes and stopped at a park and divided into 3 groups to cover the town. (We prayer walked the town looking for some ways to serve.) The population of Grant is about 1200 or so, so we can walk the whole town. Two of the groups noticed the building of New Life Fellowship Church. I went inside and poked around a bit, but didn’t find anyone there. We were attracted by the sign that asked? “Are you listening for God to speak to you?”
[As a rule, I hate church signs with their cute little sayings that no one outside the initiated really get, but this one was great.] Kim’s group was near the same church building later and met the pastor (Vince) who knew of someone in the historical society (Brenda) that might need some help.
They are restoring a house to be a museum – so we ended up scraping wallpaper for them. I hate scraping wallpaper. (The house was a lot like the parsonage we lived in when we first started in ministry. It, too was covered with wallpaper. I hate scraping wallpaper so much that I just painted over it there!) I am just too much of a perfectionist to feel like I’m making any progress. My perfectionism can cripple me, but it can also help me do things well – I may have been moving slowly, but my section was CLEAN.
It was awesome to see Brenda (from the historical society) and Vince’s reactions. Vince and his wife made us dinner and are making plans to help with the project. Brenda has been grateful for the help and also the attention that’s been drawn to the museum’s need for help (she bought us lunch the next day). The paper came to take some pictures and word spread around town.
We finished up two rooms, then visited the pool Tuesday afternoon. After cleaning up, we went back to the gas station for supper (yes, I said “gas station for supper”) then went around town and took a few pictures and hung out at a local youth center. It was a pretty cool place and really makes me wonder what kind of response and impact we could have at WestWay with that type of approach to youth ministry…
In defense of his prior actions, Andrew gave us the quote of the week Tuesday night: “I only threw up because I ate a dog biscuit.” Security camera video of “the incident” was simply incredible! You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a kid toss his dog biscuit via closed circuit video… Thank you In and Out night shift!