Reflecting On My Stolen MacBook

Well, it’s been a frustrating day. I thought twice about posting this but what good is a blog if you only write when you’re feeling content and reflective? Part of this is for the sake of authenticity and another part is catharsis. So here we go.

During our Sunday worship service, my Macbook was stolen out of my church office. The power cord and case were taken as well. Even the case! I like to imagine the thief’s thought process, “Well, I better protect my hard-earned investment.  It would be a shame if something happened to it.”

Having been one who has lost data, I backup about twice a month. Initially, I thought I had only lost the last two weeks of data but after checking my external hard drive, it looks like it was an incomplete back up and the last complete one was Dec. 28th. So it looks like part of digital life will be entering in 2010 again.

The data lost was not only the last month’s worth of work but also work that I’ve had been picking at, like most importantly our upcoming winter retreat. Pretty frustrated about that. Not because we won’t be ready, nor will it alter the retreat, I’ll get it done but I am  frustrated that I’ll have to redo my outlines from memory. But who knows, maybe they’ll turn out better.

That’s the attitude I want. But if I’m being honest, just as quickly as I write that, I’m consumed with anger that this person took from out of my church office. And while I’ve contacted my banks and credit cards and off shore money laundering services, I’m frustrated that I will live in a bit of paranoia as I monitor my financial accounts.

Jesus talks a bit about this like in Matthew 6, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …” It’s an excellent big picture perspective to keep in mind. So much in life is temporary and trivial.  And so many other parts are essential and eternal.

I know this will pass and like December is to me, a month from now, the non-financial data will have less value to me and would have been part of the archive. We’ll see how things play out between insurance claims and other factors moving forward. There is a bit of potential awkwardness but I am hopeful that things will go well.  It’s been nice to feel the support of some friends.  It’s only a laptop and data but some people get it and that’s cool.

We keep saying that it’s a shame that it happened in a church and that carries a sense of violation with me, it also tells us that we do have at least one more sinner in our midst. So it’s me and this jerk and maybe a couple others. We’ve stolen more from God and others and I hope that keeps my anger and frustration in check.

DCLA '09- Pre-Nassau trip – Post 3

Prior to this year’s mission trip, we attended Youth Specialties’ DCLA.  It was fantastic and one of the best events any high schooler could ever attend.  I encourage you to consider attending DCLA 2012 (?) and book a mission trip with Next Step Ministries for the week after. This was my third time here in DC and having gone as a student and twice as a youth pastor, I honestly think this was the best one yet.

In fact, it’s been pretty interesting for me tracing back some of the history of DCLA.  As a high school student, I remember thinking at DC’94 that this blows camp away! (Don’t worry campers, i still went to Berea that summer).  Back in those days, DCLA  was produced by Youth for Christ and would have big themes like, “Live to Tel”.  For you Millennials that was a Geoff Moore and the Distance song and if anyone knows who he is, you are either laughing or cursing because it took you this long to repress that song and now i just brought it back.  Yeah you can thank jaded X’ers like us for purging out some of these bands.  Unfortunately we were not completely successful ;-).  DCLA was billed as an evangelism conference but for some reason they loaded up a tons  and tons of music that seemed to say, “We’re trying to be like Creation but with air-conditioning.”

Certainly I’m a much bigger fan of the event these days.  It represents a lot of the thought that has gone into student ministry within the last 15 years or so.  It used to be that if we made Jesus cool enough, then kids simply wouldn’t be able to help themselves and just fall in love with the sacrificed lamb of God and inevitably they would pick up a blood-stained cross and follow.  This is how we came to have things like Awesome Radical Truth Time, Spectacular Savior Series, Wild and Zany Witnessing Tricks! Then, add on some CCM and students could think positively about life all day while singing “Shine” while wearing WWJD bracelets (for the record, I proudly never wore one.  Unfortunately, I do know all the words to Smitty’s teary classics like “Friends” and “Pray for Me”).

While I cannot honestly say that DCLA is cheese-free (sorry Lost & Found), at least it’s focused on its mission.  I do not claim to know the behind the scenes decisions, nor do I know specifics and I would only guess the names but from where I sit, it seems that after YS took over, the event underwent quite the paradigm shift.  This year’s theme was “Be, Love, Serve, Repeat”.  Perfect for our group.  There were no bigger than CCM-life bands but it was cool that Family Force 5, Hawk Nelson, KJ-52 were there.  All of us had a good time, we laughed, we were entertained and at times overloaded by it all but what I loved is that the focus on loving Christ and others was central. If you didn’t see it, you were daydreaming about Toby Mac and Mac Powell flying down from the rafters.

Here’s a run down of what I/we liked:

– They told the entire Scripture narrative in 3.5 days in the Big Room.

–  The Speakers were fantastic choices:

Francis Chan – is truly a good man, a great communicator, and seems to be a great example of the faith.  We enjoyed his seminar and appreciated his time in the Big Room.

Shane Claiborne – we were debating whether to change our youth  group name to the Shane Fan Club but another group already did  that.  They grew out their hair, had dreds, made their own clothes  and ran their cell phones off of solar power.  We were willing to do  that and  convert the church music room into a homeless shelter but  we lost  our momentum over the lifelong celibacy vow.  In  seriousness,  judging from the low attendance at Shane’s seminars,  he’s not the superstar to this age group as he is to X’ers and older  Millennials but by Monday, everyone knew who he was.  (Ours did of course, because  Claiborne worshippers like Evan and I made last year’s mission team read Irresistible Revolution).  Seriously, I liked that YS didn’t ask Shane to “tone it down”.  He spoke about war, Iraq, peace, love, and sacrifice in his usual Tennessee meets Kensington way. Some were offended and I wanted to tell them this wasn’t Battle Cry (link does not go to their homepage ;-).

Mandee Radford – was a favorite among our female students especially.  She’s the anti-Joyce Meyer/Beth Moore because she’s cool and normal.  I was grateful that YS asked her to speak.  One of the biggest challenges in our youth ministries is the lack of female voices and examples.  Mandee was fantastic and some of our guys liked her too ;-)

– Optional Seminars – There were two sets of optional seminars a day.  “Optional” to us meant you get to pick one that you wanted to go to, then during the other time slot, you were required to attend that we told you to. It wasn’t as bad as I made it sound, we saw a documentary and a movie together.

Invisible Children’s new documentary “Go”.  Like all of them, it was really good and served as an excellent way to get students and their schools involved. We signed up to screen it so maybe we’ll show it at our church.

A new movie called, “To Save a Life” – Umm, not sure how to describe this one.  it was good that we saw it together because it produced great discussions and I compliment the project.  Although it’s one of the best Christian movies I’ve ever seen (and I’m including Thief In the Night ;-), it tackles a bit too much and lacks some artistic style.  I did like that they cursed in it a few times; that actually added credibility to me and to some of our students.  I also liked that Kirk Cameron was no where to be found.

– Kendall Payne – I’m pretty sure she’s not signed to a label but a true indie artist.  I admit I almost missed the boat on Kendall.  She had released some kind of anti skinny model looking girls song that encouraged girls to appreciate themselves for who they were and to pursue a healthy sense of identity but she probably didn’t hear how it sounded with a bunch of 14 year old girls singing it in the church van (a moment from a few years ago that resulted in Bose, noise-cancelling headphones to all youth leaders).  The rest of her work is brilliant (like Scratch and I personally like the Grown album.)  I usually don’t like to talk about the cover songs of talented artists but she did two that are worth mentioning.  One was “What if God Was One of Us?” which was pretty controversial back recorded by Joan Osborne back in 1995.  It seemed to me that too many of us Christians perceived it as an attack on God’s deity but instead, it said and asked a lot more.  She also did a cover of U2’s “One”.  It was smooth and slow and I hope one day a youtube clip of it appears.  As a fan of U2 (Sept 26 at Giants Stadium can’t come fast enough!), this song is so overdone, but Kendall did a fantastic job.

– Skit Guys! – They’re classic, we love them every time.  We’d follow them into Mormonism if they asked us to.

– Labs – Our students loved them!  They are broken up into student led small groups of 8 and divided into rooms that hold a couple hundred each.  There’s an adult speaker, 4 student-speakers, multi-media and then small group time.  Everything lasts about 5-10 minutes each and that cycle keeps repeating itself.  It’s an incredible use of time that intends on teaching a room full of young minds in an optional learning environment.

– No alter call.  I’m not kidding, I liked that there wasn’t one.  They are not helpful and countless youth pastors have been saying this for years.  It worked for Charles Finney, it doesn’t work anymore.  Instead, there was an incredible time of singing on Sunday night, prayer and worship where we were asked to sit, reflect and ask the Spirit to move in us.  Our students connected with this, even those who weren’t appreciating Starfield’s leading earlier.  It’s out of these times that conversations flow a bit more naturally.

There was a lot more (like the painter Scott Erickson.  He’s featured on YS Video Podcast from last month.  Many of ours loved his work and his seminar.  Marquis Laughlin, the dude with the super deep voice and instead of doing movie previews, he’s reciting Scripture in a beautiful way) but I should end this.  You can watch a quick summary from another YS Video Podcast here (thanks Adam).

Wished that:

– … the focus on our worship wasn’t on Starfield’s lead singer so much.  With access to multiple camera angles, a million different types of backgrounds, a million more that motion backgrounds and the idea of flat worship, Tim’s face was on the big screen way too much and it got distracting.  I know that is not Tim’s, Starfield’s or YS’s intention but it seemed considerably more than at NYW Conferences.  This isn’t a criticism of Starfield, I like them but just the way we did worship seemed too focused on them. I didn’t mention this until one of our students brought it up.  It led to a great conversation regarding worship.

– Fred Lynch would have rapped for us … just once.

– Would have liked to see Tic more.  We love you brother.

What happens when you Google "Cuil"

So I was talking to one of the faithful readers out there when he told me about the new Cuil search engine.  Like everybody, I couldn’t figure out how to spell it so I Googled it.  Couldn’t find it – when search engines can’t find each other then I guess we don’t have enough of them.  So I clicked on “News” and there it was. And when I clicked this was the first article I saw.  

remainder of article here.


Reflecting on McLuhan's "message is the medium" (and Hipps)

I am taking an intensive class through Biblical called “Ministry and Media”.  It’s being taught by Pastor Tim Lucas from Liquid Church and we are encouraged to blog of course.

One of the books we are reading and posting feedback on our class site is The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture by Shane Hipps (who was at Fermi’s Q Conference – fantastic).

This was the assignment that we were to respond to:
“Marshal McLuhan famously observed, “The medium is the message.”  Yet, a lot of evangelicals claim media is value neutral.  Do you think media affects us as powerfully as Hipps suggests?  Or do you think it is truly neutral?  Give some examples of ways media has impacted you powerfully (for good or for ill).  In a well-thought out paragraph, show your interaction with the text we’re reading!”

Here was my response:

Like everyone, I agree with McLuhan and love the idea. Though it’s rare that I would defend an established evangelical opinion, especially one concerning the view on technology, I’d like to unpack this a little. Evangelicals are scared to death of watering down the message. If they believed in tattoos, they’d get Rev. 22:18-19 inked (“If anyone adds anything [to this book] … God will add to him the plagues ….”). Kidding (sorta) but our modern “interpretation” puts a great deal of fear in us that results in guarding the message. There is almost a theological reason to disagree with McLuhan.

In a sermon I preached this Mother’s Day, I said something to the effect of “The Gospel is changing”. I learned quickly that the “bolts of lightening” were not electric at all but were pews being thrown from the balcony. “I said, wait the resurrection is still true but the way my parents understood the Gospel is different then how I understand it … which is different then how my child(ren) will understand it … Jesus still died and was raised BUT understanding that is different….”. As they elderly women dismounted from the projection screen that they partially tore off, I tried to use the example that Rob Bell has regarding the idea of having a “personal relationship with God”. He reminds us that it is a new idea to the church, it’s an invention from this century’s evangelical movement. This revelation of course resulted in the biggest offering ever collected …

This based on a true story account did not end in tragedy because for many of them, the message was still in tact. Surprisingly, I did receive several positive comments from the “Silent” Generation because they saw their grandchildren in these thoughts.

Like everyone’s above comments, aside from the periodic data loss, I have had a fantastic experience with media and technology. Ipods, podcasts, ezines, blogs, have helped me grow spiritually in addition to the written word (and frankly with no help from the televangelists. But may those who are blessed by it be blessed by it). Hipps makes mention of the local Ft. Worth pastor who insisted the spiritually successful have a daily quiet time with the Lord, part of my normal morning ritual includes listening to sermons via podcasts as I am applying deodorant and hair gel. And though I’m not spiritually successful and couldn’t imagine making such a legalistic statement, I feel what that guy was trying to say.