2013-01-14 "You'll Find Your Way"

I'm really trying not to post videos this year, but I thought I would share this one that I just discovered was released.  It's a song by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Andrew Peterson, called "You'll Find Your Way".
As I've been reflecting on the power of memories this song has really been speaking into my inner-dialogue.  If memories can physically transform our mind, and it is the by the renewing of our minds that we are transformed more and more into the image of Jesus, than the power of story only increases in significance since it is by rich, detailed stories that powerful synoptic connections are created in our minds and give us greater recall of lasting truths.
If we can remember the power of God in the past and the truths of God which are eternal, then perhaps we can embrace the love of Jesus now.
In Jeremiah, chapter 6, the LORD is speaking to the Israelites in their distress and He say:
     "Stand at the crossroads and look;
          ask for the ancient paths,
     ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
          and you will find rest for your souls."

So Andrew Peterson set about writing a song to one of his boys trying to impress upon him that there are foundational truths that, no matter where life takes him, he can always return to.  Here listen:

I love the imagery of this lines...
     "Go back, go back to the ancient paths
     Lash your heart to the ancient mast
     And hold on, boy, whatever you do
     To the hope that's taken hold of you
     And you'll find your way" 


2013-01-12 Up

I came across these images from the Pixar movie Up. Those first 15 minutes are brilliant.


2013-01-08 Litter

I preface the following by saying that while I try to recycle and occasionally watched Captain Planet back in the day, I certainly would not qualifiy myself as an environmentalist.

So today I was at the gas station and a car pulled up and parked. Then the passenger window rolled down a crack and the hand slipped out and threw a balled up piece of paper on the ground.

Brazen littering. Such a wierd thing to witness.

Then the passenger opened the door and exited the car. He walked the short distance from the car to the store's door, passing a trash can as he entered the store.

Brazen littering. I was almost impressed.


2013-01-07 Doctor's Appointment

I had an appointment with a doctor this morning. Almost two years since my last visit, but my chronic asthma had force me to concede another visit.
I typically don't think much of doctors.  For some reason I have never had the good fortune to be doctored (is that the right word?) by a doctor who performs their duties in that hyper-obsessed way that you see doctors on TV do.
The doctor I saw this morning saw me in an office with medical degrees of one of the other doctors in the building on the wall. And the picture frames were all crooked. I didn't have a good feeling.
I specifically scheduled this appointment because of my asthma and allergies. However, when the doctor performed his exam he didn't seem all that concerned about my asthma. He checked my ears. He checked my nose. He looked in my mouth and made me say "e-e-e". Then he started prescribing some meds for me and an allergy test (I'm going to get started on those allergy shots). And he suggested I get a CT scan.
A CT scan? Really?
Then the doctor started to leave the room as if the exam was over.  I was confused, so I asked him if he could write me some prescriptions for my asthma medications. He replied "of course" and then asked me what I wanted.The doctor asked me what medication I wanted. Does that sound odd to anyone else?
I asked if medical marijuana could relieve my asthma. Okay I didn't, but I should have.
One final thing about this whole visit. I had the doctor prescribe for me Advair. Maybe you've seen commercials for this purple disc inhaler. It's supposed to help prevent asthma symptoms. With my insurance the one month supply of this Advair rang up on the pharmacist's cash register for about $240. I told the pharmacist I would rather just wheeze all day. He stared at me as if I asked him to help me commit suicide. I was serious though and made him put it away.


2013-01-06 Ministry Experimentation

I began an experiment tonight.
For a while now I've had a vision where multiple churches could invest in one youth ministry program.  The idea is that churches in partnership can offer to students a large group setting together, and offer small group community individually.  Resources can be multiplied through sharing, influence can be leveraged at a higher level, service could be done with greater efficiency, all the while honoring individual church's DNA and values.  
So, it's taken a while, but officially tonight I began the work of blending two sets of teenagers, and two sets of adult volunteers, from two individual churches into one youth program.  And I really do believe that there is potential for additional churches to get on board.
I really have no idea what I'm doing, or how it will turn out, but I've never been more excited about student ministry.  Never more energized.  Never more scared of failure.  Never more drawn to prayer.
Should be fun.


2013-01-04 A Changed Mind

"All of our memories are bound together in a web of associations. This is not merely a metaphor, but a reflection of the brain’s physical structure. The three-pound mass balanced atop our spines is made up of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 billion neurons, each of which can make upwards of five to ten thousand synaptic connections with other neurons. A memory, at the most fundamental physiological level, is a pattern of connections between those neurons. Every sensation that we remember, every thought that we think, transforms our brains by altering the connections within that vast network. By the time you get to the end of this sentence, your brain will have physically changed."
- Joshua Foer, Moonwalking With Einstein (emphasis mine)

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  The you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
- Paul, Romans 12:1-2 (emphasis mine)

The thoughts of our lives, figuratively and physically transform our minds.  The thoughts we give significant emphasis to fire more synaptic connections in our mind, creating memories we have greater access to for future recall.  When we give God greater attention - practicing the presence of God, studying the Scriptures, meditating on His character and precepts, etc - we are allowing our minds to be spiritually and physically transformed and renewed.

That's just amazing.


I met with a former student today.  He is in the middle of a road trip from San Antonio TX to Buffalo NY and was staying a couple of nights in Durham NC.  He wanted to meet up and even though I've been really busy lately, and didn't honestly have the time for him, the weight of his texts pinned me into submission.
We met at an area McDonald's, I purchased us some beverages, and we sat down.  At first it was some small talk, catching up.  "How is 'so and so'?"  "What are you up to?"  Then is was some memories of youth events, $5 burgers at TGIFridays, and shopping cart races in empty parking lots.
I was feeling guilty about work I was ignoring so I threw out a question hoping to wrap up the conversation and I could get back to work.  "So why aren't you at Passion this year?"  
The last time we had spoken was over a phone call about one year ago.  He had just returned to Buffalo from the Passion conference in Atlanta.  There was an enthusiasm and zeal in his voice that I had not ever heard from him before.  In fact, previously I would say that this was a young person who probably would be diagnosed as clinically depressed.  But not that day.  Over that phone call I heard a young man with fire in his bones.  A young man who had caught a glimpse of a living Jesus.
Back to today.  
"So why aren't you at Passion this year?" I asked as I began sliding out of the booth.  
"Well, that's probably something I should tell you about." he answered.  "I think I would label myself agnostic these days."  
I settled back into my booth.  What happened in the course of one year, that could quench a fire?  
Over the next hour and a half I listened to this young man express a spiritual journey he was experiencing.  He questioned every emotion he experienced, believing he had mastered the art of hypocrisy.  Masked emotions of spirituality.  Outside of the times of deep hurt and regret and shame, of which he honestly has had more than his share, everything he felt was real about Jesus, he no longer sensed.
I wanted to preach the Gospel.
I wanted to hammer him with my all my Christian apologetic training.
I wanted to wrestle his doubts into submission.
I wanted to somehow express the words that would bring life back.
Instead I listened.  I asked probing questions to get him to share his spiritual regression.
I listened.  I affirmed his doubts.  I prayed.  
I felt helpless.
I felt helpless like the time I visited him at the hospital.  He had wrecked his car on a rather dangerous stretch  of road around San Antonio.  He spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, and by all accounts was miraculously saved from a lifetime of disabilities, mentally and physically.  
I felt helpless like the time I visited him at another hospital.  His parents had been out of town, and feeling down about a relationship that had gone sour, he tried to empty his parent's liquor cabinet in one night.  His neighbor found him passed out.  The doctors pumped his stomach and keep him on watch for a couple of days to make sure that there were no repercussions.  
And I felt helpless in a booth at McDonald's today.  
But not hopeless.
And when his story of regression was told I tried to remind him of those other stories. 
That while he may have felt an absence of God, or a distance from God, that God was still near to him.  
I asked him to not give up hope either.  Could he hold on to the possibility that perhaps God is true, and perhaps God is still at work in this world, and that perhaps while he might be close to giving up on faith, that God had not yet given up on him. 
As an exercise in his budding agnosticism, I asked him to attempt a journaling exercise. Maybe God isn't real and active, but if He possibly is, could we record some potential 'possibly' moments of God.  If there was a moment in his day where the expressions of love or compassion or generosity or kindness or patience or grace or....wherever those expressions were evident would he jot them down in notebook or an email to me and considering the potential for God.
I left him with that.  We walked to our vehicles and said our goodbyes.  And he promised to send me his "potential God moments". 
I don't think this young man is an agnostic on the verge of atheism.  Rather, I believe this is a young man in the midst of some difficult and honest doubts.  And this doubting kid is going to send me regular updates of moments he potentially sees God.  I'll take that. 

Lord.  I'm praying for my friend tonight.  You promised that if we seek you that we would find you, if we seek you with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13).  That if we ask, it will be given.  That if we seek, we will find.  That if we knock, doors will be opened.  (Matthew 7:7).  So God, I'm asking for my friend, who has promised to recognize potential moments of your glory, that you bombard his life with voices of truth and grace.  Orchestrate the interactions of his days to reveal yourself through the kindness of others.  God, for my friend who considers himself alone and continually at arms length from others, would you wrap yourself around him tonight.  Overwhelm his soul in moments of stillness.



I made a appointment to see a doctor today.  My appointment is Monday at 9:00am.  What a horrible time to see a doctor.  I was hoping for something in the early evening, say around 6 or 7pm.  But apparently the lady on the phone who I made the appointment with didn't think I was being serious.

I haven't seen a doctor for quite some time now.  Um....was it the Spring of 2011?  I really don't remember. And that experience was a pure waste of time.  The entire exam lasted less than 10 minutes and consisted of a student doctor listening to my lungs and a real doctor listening as well.  Guess what!  I have asthma.  Before that I haven't seen a doctor in years.

I don't see the value in making my monthly insurance payments and then paying for my copay, only to have a doctor confirm that I wasn't lying when I told them I have asthma, and finally they write me a prescription for the medication I tell I need.  Why can't I skip the doctors and just go see the pharmacist.  I need my only prescription pad.

But I do think I'll take this doctors visit seriously.  So I was trying to come up with a list of questions I should ask of my doctor.  Here are some of my questions:

- What is gluten?  Isn't it in like everything?  How does one know if they are allergic to gluten?  Am I allergic to gluten?
- Can you tell me what blood type I am?  (I can't ever remember having blood drawn).
- What is the most important change I can make to improve my health?
- What cancer screening tests are appropriate for a person my age?
- What vaccinations do I need to be up to date?
- How is my blood pressure?
- Can you give me more samples of each of the medications you're prescribing me?

What other questions should I ask?



It was rainy here today.  Overcast skies and wet cement.  The perfect day to read a book, catch a movie and just enjoy the possibilities of a fresh start, new beginnings, a new year.
At some point in the day I decided to swing by the theater and catch a movie.  Something I probably wouldn't find someone else to watch with me.  Sometimes it's nice to just sporadically attend a movie.  No calling all your friends, no trying to organize a gathering of others, just sneaking off to see a movie by one self.
The theater parking lot was packed when I first pulled into the lot.  Yet for some reason I decided to gamble on finding a spot in the first row of parking spots.  And wouldn't you know it, just as I navigated down the row a car began to pull out and I was parked in record time.
I started to walk towards the box office and as I did I fell behind a group of teenage boys, probably on their way to see The Hobbit.  Yeah, I'm making assumptions.  What was specifically interesting about this group of guys was that one of them was wearing a black duster jacket and a hat.  This hat was one of those kinda pirate looking hats with a big red feather in it.  And I don't think this kid was wearing this get up ironically.  But what seemed odd is that no one else in that group, which he was the center of, resembled him at all.  It just struck me funny.
And just as I was going to shift my walking gears to a quicker pace and beat these gang of guys to the ticket window an older, fifty-ish couple stopped me.  They wanted to ask me a question.  I thought they were going to ask for directions or about a movie time.  Instead they asked me if I go to the movies often.
"Um, I suppose so," was my response.
They then proceeded to give me a gift card to this theater.  "This has $11 left on it and we never go to the movies" they said.
"Um...what movie did you just get out of?" I questioned.
"We saw Lincoln." the wife said.
"It was good." he followed.
"You're giving me a gift card to the movies, as you are leaving the movie theater, because you don't go to the movies?  Are you sure?"
"Oh, and here's a coupon for a free drink."
I stared at the blankly for a few moments and then a "wow, thank you" stumbled out of my mouth.
Not a bad outing to the movies.  Not bad at all.