Concert Tonight...

I've been busy getting ready for the Lindsey Kane concert that we'll be having in our student building, The Attic, tonight...We are hoping and praying for a big turnout of students because Lindsey always does an incredible job of speaking into the hearts of our students with her music and worship...It's been a busy day and the rest of the week doesn't slow down any...I've got to finish up my sermon and powerpoint/media for this weekend...We're leaving on Saturday to head to Bridge City, TX (about 4-5 hours away) where I'll be speaking on Sunday morning at Commonground Community Church...A good friend from college is on staff there and this is the second time I've spoke there this year...I am totally looking forward to it and praying God moves...Until next time...


Christmas Giving Revolutionized...

I used to hate Christmas...The songs, the gifts, the carollers, all of it...But I have mellowed into a guy who really likes - make that loves - that Christmas season...A big part of that is being able to spend the holiday season and share those experiences with my incredible wife...But one thing I still don't like about Christmas: THE GROSS CONSUMERISM that we have corrupted the holiday with here in America...Don't get me wrong. I love a great gift as much as the next guy. But I think we've let it get way, way out of control...I was in Wal-Mart last Friday morning as I watched people tear into packaging and knock each other over just to save a few bucks on the newest gadgets and gifts...Something is wrong there. And this is not a problem of the world. Christians are not exempt from this...Look at all the church fundraisers, parties, and events that have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with celebrating Christ and everything to do with celebrating us. I hope that this holiday season, you'll get a chance to look beyond that consumerism to unwrap the real truths that lay hidden in the Christmas season...Truths found not only in the crib, but also in the cross.

That being said, I want to share with you another great combination of generosity, creativity, and the media outlet of the internet...I give you www.igive.com....This website is dedicated to allow you to shop online while giving a significant amount of your purchase to charity. Here's how it works...Go to igive.com and choose from 680+ online stores, including the top brands and stores like Best Buy, Gap, Home Depot, Starbucks, and A&E...Each store has set a certain percentage of their profits, ranging all the way up to 26%, to give to a charity of your choice...You shop, pick out your favorite gifts, and select the charity that you'd like to benefit from your purchase...If you don't see your favorite charity on the site, you can even add it in. And, according to the website, you won't pay any more than in the store. Sometimes you'll even pay less with special deals and coupons for iGive shoppers...So if you must shop and spend this holiday season, find a way like igive.com to do it creatively...

I've got some more gift ideas for those who have it all and don't need anything that I'll be sharing later...If that person is on your list, then hold off for a while...Until next time...


This Week @ The Attic...

Thanksgiving Recap...

After an exhausting few weeks of work, I was able to take off the entire week of Thanksgiving. I just relaxed and rested on Monday and Tuesday...When you're wife says, "I wish you would take some time to rest so we can enjoy spending time with you over the weekend," then you know you've become completely drained. So I began the week with some much needed rest...On Tuesday evening, after Johanna got done with class, we headed to Gorman to see my parents...We actually made a pitstop in Goldthwaite to see some friends and got to Gorman really late Tuesday night...Wednesday we spent visiting with my grandparents and then headed to Brownwood to eat at one of the best places on the planet: Underwood's...It is one of the many, many things I miss about the Central Texas area...Johanna and I decided that should be a new annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner tradition...It was great. Thursday was spent eating Turkey and dressing (way too much!) and spending time with family...Then Friday was devoted to football...Jo and I began the day at Wal-Mart @ 4:45 AM...I am still not sure what we went after, but $120 and a crazy amount of chaos later, we headed back to catch some early morning naps...Then we spent the rest of the day traveling to football games and watching High School playoffs...First we watched my hometown Gorman Panthers lose to Windthorst...Gorman was 11-0 going into the game and was ranked #4 in the state while Windthorst barely made the playoffs...Needless to say the Panthers played terrible and were very dissappointing, losing 14 to 0...That night featured the Goldthwaite Eagles vs. the Albany Lions...A lot of my former students from Goldthwaite are on this team so it was great to go back and watch and rekindle old friendships in the stands during the game...I always love going back to Goldthwaite games and seeing old friends...Goldthwaite was picked to lose by two scores but I'd never count a Goldthwaite team coached by Gary Proffitt out until the scoreboard read 0:00 in the fourth quarter...Goldthwaite came out, highly motivated by being the underdog, and dominated Albany, winning 28 to 15, in a game that was never as close as the final score...Saturday we headed back to Lockhart with another pitstop along the way to see some great friends, Greg and Heather Proffitt...After a few hours visiting at their house, we headed back to Lockhart to get ready for church on Sunday....Yesterday consisted of church and cleaning around the house...We're trying to get the house cleaned up so we can get all our Christmas decorations out and set up...I love the Christmas holidays...I'll be posting some thoughts on Christmas later this week and throughout this month...Stay tuned for something I ran across on the web that can revolutionize your Christmas shopping...Shop and give back to your favorite charity at the same time! Details coming in the next post!...Until then...Hope your Thanksgiving was as full of giving thanks as it was of turkey...


Creativity + Generosity + Media Savvy + Education + Game = ...

I have seen this website floating around on a few blogs that I read...It is www.freerice.com. Basically, you go on the website and test your vocabulary and in doing so, your correct words end up as donations of rice through the United Nations...It is a rare, unique combination of creativity, the giving spirit, education, and a media outlet like the net...All you do is go to the website and basically test your vocabulary...For each word you get right, the website funders donate a certain amount of rice to the poor and hungry...You can keep going as long as you want...I am actually sitting in one of Austin's Public Libraries, killing time and waiting for Johanna to get out of class so we can head home for Thanksgiving and have been able to donate some rice just by killing time...So go check it out and spread the word...www.freerice.com...



There are times in youth ministry where you just get completely, 100% spent...I am at one of those times...The last over one and a half years has been non-stop ministry building...There seems to be a never ending list of things that have to get done, relationships that need to be developed, new students that need to be connected, and basic foundation work that needs to be laid...Usually, the summer is the most exhausting part of student ministry, but I feel like I am coming off of four or five consecutive summers...The past two weekends topped it off with back to back Fall Retreats for our Jr. High and High School students...And I am spent...It'a all from good stuff, kingdom stuff, but I'm still spent, none the less...So I took today off and have the rest of the week off...I am trying to rest for the first couple of days so that I can actually enjoy my time with my wife, family, and friends over the Thanksgiving weekend...

I hope that you'll take some time this weekend to really look into your life and see all that you have to be thankful for...We had a really cool meeting last night in our guys small group talking about what we're thankful for and looking at giving thanks in a new way...I hope that this will be more than just another holiday for you, and that you will see and reflect on all the goodness that God has done for you...


My YS Memories...

Johanna and I got to spend our time at the YS National Youth Worker's Convention with somem great friends, James & Sherri and Jason & Heather...One of the recurring jokes on the trip were how we would all quote clips from the National Lampoon's Vacation movie that Johanna had never seen...Every time we drove near the St. Louis Arch or the Mississippi River we heard this scene...word for word. This is just for you fellas...



This video is a little long, but incredible...Found it over at ysmarko.com...Thanks MarkO...


Say Thank You...

Yesterday I made one of the most important phone calls I ever make on a yearly basis. Every year on Veteran's Day (which was yesterday and is being "observed" today) I call my Papa to say two simple, yet very much needed to be said words: Thank You. My grandfather was a "lifetime" military man serving 20 years in the United States Army. He served his country faithfully and with pride and integrity in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He didn't serve for medals or for recognition, but for the love of his country. He and my grandmother made sacrifices so that He could serve, including living literally all over the world and raising their son (my dad) in an environment where moving across the globe was a literal reality. And I am so thankful for men and women like my grandfather. It was his sacrifice and bravery that paved the way for the freedom's I enjoy...A few years ago I was in Philadelphia with a couple of my students and we walked by one of the city's War Memorails that pays tribute to those who've served our country...The memorial had these words: "To those who've fought to defend it freedom has a taste that the protected will never know." I believe that is true. And I am thankful for men like my grandfather, and my friend Rodney Thomas, my cousin Thomas, my brothers-in-law, Jason and Jerry, and fraternity brother Gibby who all have served or are currently serving...Thank you just doesn't seem like enough...But it is the very least we can do...If you know a veteran or someone currently serving our great nation, take the time today to say thank you...


Holding The Hand That Holds The World...

So one of the things that I love about Youth Specialties and the NYWC is that they "cast a wide net." There is always a wide variety of speakers and bands and performers to choose from, so you get several perspectives and you also get to hear/see groups that are new to you...For me, one of those groups this past week was the band Starfield...They led worship on Sunday and Monday and I really liked their sound...But more than that, I think that the lyrics to their worship songs were incredible...Here are the lyrics to my favorite one they led this past weekend...It's called "Hold The Hand That Holds The World"...

No greater joy
Is there than this
To know for what
We're meant to live
To hold Your hand
To touch Your face
To find ourselvesIn loves embrace

I want to stand before the King
Join in the song that heaven sings
I want to hold the hand that holds the world

I want to know the mystery
Reach out and touch the majesty
I want to hold the hand tht holds the world

No greater love
Could be bestowed
That You would name us
as your own

Your daughters sing
Your sons rejoice
They gather here
before Your throne

You are, You are
The author of creation
We are, the chrildren of your heart

You are, You are,
The light of all the heaven
We rise, to worship all You are


Top 10 Reasons Texas is Better...

As promised, here it is:

"My Top 10 Reasons That Texas is Better Than St. Louis"

10. You never leave a restaurant with bleeding eardrums due to how stinkin' loud the music is. (It's Hard Rock, not Loud Rock.)

9. There are actually restaurants and gas stations right off the Interstate, where people who have never been there before can actually see them and get to them...wow, what a neat concept!

8. Our streets don't close down for a stinkin' hockey game.

7. Parking at a restuarant doesn't cost you twice as much as your meal.

6. Two Words: MEXICAN FOOD!

5. Fast food isn't considered between 30 to 45 minutes. (Steak and Shake - There are 44 in the city of St. Louis and I am betting that ALL 44 are slow!)

4. People involved in customer service professions actually acknowledge that the customer exists. (I have never been in a city where the waitstaff and customer service people were more rude or apathetic.)

3. Two more words: Diet Dr. Pepper. (Actually, I guess that's two words and a prefix.)

2. No one honks at you when you make a minor driving error...they just give you the finger. (I know some might prefer the honk, but at least the finger is a bit less obvious for the rest of the drivers near you and for your SUV full of people.)

1. People actually smile at you.

With that being said, we did have an oustanding time at Youth Specialites' NYWC...But St. Louis, not so much...So I will leave you with this from the band Bowling For Soup and hope that Mark Oestreicher or Tic Long sees the following and take it as an official invitation for the NYWC:

Come back to Texas
Its just not the same since you went away
Before you lose your accent
And forget all about the Lonestar State
There's a seat for you at the rodeo
And I've got every slow dance saved
Besides the Mexican food sucks north of here anyway

Human Tetris...

This video was featured on Yahoo's homepage today...Hilarious!

NYWC Revisited...

So, as promised, here is a brief recap of the NYWC in St. Louis that Johanna and I just returned from. Overall, the experience was incredible! As I posted previously, we come back every year refreshed and renewed with a new sense of hope for this calling that God has given us...We both attended several breakout seminars and got the chance to learn a lot. Johanna went to a couple Tony Campolo seminars on how sociology can shape youth ministry and what evangelism in a post-evangelical world looks like...I attended a conference led by Marcus Goodloe...One of the things he talked about is how we all have preferences and principles...Our preferences can be "violated" and we can get over it, but we have to be men of integrity when it comes to people violating our principles, in ministry and in life...I also attended a session led by MarkO (ysmarko.com) titled, "The Expectations that Killed the Youth Worker." It was great stuff and it was the kind of stuff that makes you examine where your own life/ministry is heading and if you want it to head that way....Another seminar I hit up was the one on Innovative Youth Ministry led by the guys at lifechurch.tv. It was a great seminar and challenged me on the level of innovation I am bringing to ministry...The "big" general sessions were great too...David Crowder band and Shane & Shane rocked! The Skit Guys were hilarious...We were led in worship by some bands that were new to us and that was cool too...Ralph Winter, the producer of the X-Men movies, spoke at one of the sessions and talked about storytelling...Overall, the general sessions were really good.

We also had a little down time...We got to go check out the Arch and went to this cool little park called Forest Park...And we got to hang out with some of our closest friends in ministry...That is always great and always leads to some interesting and fun times...

As I said in a previous post, it is so good to be around family...For a few days in the middle of the country we got to worship and learn and live and share life with 3,500 people who get us...They may not be in the same denomination and may not live anywhere near our state, but we are all family...They know what it's like to get a phone call at 2 AM from a kid who just needs to talk...They know what it is like to deal with unrealistic expectations from some people...They know what it is like to feel misunderstood and unappreciated...They know what it is like to deal with all the "junk" that comes along with ministering to students...But they also know what it is like to see a teenager's life changed by the incredible love of Jesus Christ...And knowing all those things is what makes us family...We have walked in one anothers shoes...We share one another's burdens and struggles and pains...And we share in the joy that is student ministry...And we're family...So I got to spend a few days at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers' Convention, or in my opinion, at my family reunion.

Stay tuned for my Top 10 Reasons Why Texas is Better Than St. Louis...Hopefully, it's coming later today...


Home from NYWC...

Johanna and I just got home from Youth Specialties' National Youth Worker's Convention in St. Louis...I am exhausted but it is such a good exhaustion...I have attended NYWC the past four years and Johanna has been with me the last three...And everytime we come back, we have been challenged, engaged, encouraged, renewed, revived, refreshed, poured into, and having met with Jesus...I love the people at YS for what they do for Youth Pastors! I have a lot to debrief ya' on but I'm about to hit the sack...However, some weekend highlights from the convention are sure to come tomorrow as well as my "Top 10 Reasons Texas is SO MUCH BETTER than St. Louis." Until then...


NYWC St.Louis so far....

It's been a great couple of days already here at the National Youth Workers Convention in St. Louis...It's been great to begin to be refreshed and refueled...God has already laid some serious challenges in front of us and I am excited about what is in store for the future as Johanna and I continue to walk with Him in this thing called ministry...I've attended some great sessions and the "big" general sessions have been incredible. David Crowder rocked yesterday and as I type this, Shane and Shane are on stage leading worship...These guys are the real deal. I've been at camps where we've interacted with them and they are so genuine...It's gonna be a great day...The only bad thing is how fast this has already flown by...But I have been reaffirmed already this weekend in many loves...I love my wife and could never imagine doing ministry without her by my side ever again...I have some INCREDIBLE friends in ministry whom I have a deep love for...These times of fellowship and sharing life only remind me more and more of that...My love for my calling to serve others in ministry has also been reaffirmed...I cannot imagine doing anything else with the life God has given me...What an incredible privilege to serve others in ministry...And most of all, and most importantly, God's love for me, regardless of my work for Him, has been reaffirmed...David Crowder led us in a song last night that summed that up best:

when clouds veil sun
and disaster comes
o my soul
o my soul

when waters rise
and hope takes flight
o my soul

ever faithful
ever true
you are known
you never let go

you never let go
you never let go
you never let go

when clouds brought rain
and disaster came
o my soul
o my soul

when waters rose
and hope had flown
o my soul
o my soul

ever faithful
ever true
you are known
you never let go

you never let go
you never let go
you never let go

o my soul
o what love
o what love

o my soul
fill with hope
perfect love
that never lets go

you never let go

Shane and Shane are playing It is Well With My Soul and it's time for me to go get some more refueling...I'll be blogging again later...It's great to be among 3,500 family members...It feels an awful lot like home...