Shuffle Up and Deal: Josh Griffin...

Here we are again at another Friday and we're back with another addition of "Shuffle Up and Deal"! This week's guest: Josh Griffin! Josh is the manager of PDYM and works super-close with Simply Youth Ministry and Saddleback's student ministries. Josh is also part of a sweet podcast, along with Doug Fields, Matt Mcgill, and Natalie Johnson, that is listened to, and watched, by tons of youth workers every week. I asked Josh to hit "shuffle" on his iPod and then give me his "First Five" songs that came up. No matter what they were!

I think that you'll all be a little surprised at what his musical tastes are...

1) Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood

2) Bigger Than My Imagination by Michael Gungor

3) I Still Believe by Jeremy Camp

4) I Love You Lord by Jason Morant

5) Sing Like the Saved by David Crowder* Band


The Newest Worship Sensation...

My friends over at Minus Media put together this amazing music video to open Saddleback's worship conference. Can you imagine worship pastors around the world taking this style of worship back to their churches? Uh-mazing! Go ahead. Enjoy...


Role Call...

Today I noticed that, once again, I have added some peeps to the "Sweet Blogs" section on the right. How could I ever expect you guys to become friends without a proper introduction? So, here they are; awesome peeps who have awesome blogs, and why you should read them...

Matt McGill- To say that Matt is awesome would be a gross understatement. He has been involved in student ministries in some capacity for somewhere around 13 years or so. (Sorry dude. I forgot how old you are!) Besides being an incredible pastor, planner, administrator, and the personification of mentally tough, he's also one of the most caring and wise people I've ever known. Check out his blog for a slice of that wisdom.

Jason Pogue- Pogue's a great dude that I met during my internship. He's easily one of the best Jr. High volunteers around. Not only that, but he's a pretty stern Fantasy Football Commissioner. Check him out for some great insights on being a dad and volunteer.

Puddles- You're probably asking yourself two questions. 1)Who names their kid Puddles? and 2) Who is in that picture on the left? Well, Puddles' real name is actually Eric Putman. I have to say that he's got to be one of my closest friends. He's a Middle School Pastor in Visalia, CA, but he's from Dallas, TX. Which leads to question #2. Above, from left to right, is Puddles, then Jerry Jones: owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Check out Puddles' blog for amazingly funny accounts of what ministry is like in between Northern and Southern California.

Gerry Rojas- Gerry is another guy I met during my time in Orange County. If there's another human on the face of the earth that may rival my level of nerdiness, it's Gerry. But aside from that, he's an amazing friend and an even better volunteer in student ministries. Check him out for all kinds of awesome concerning technology, ministry, people, and pretty much anything else!

Leigh Sarti- I can describe Leigh in three words: Hilarious. Austrailian. Not Paul Hogan. OK, that was more than three. But, he does own and operate one of the most talented design houses that I've ever seen. If you need any graphic design or any graphic resources, like countdowns, backgrounds, logos, or anything else of that ilk, check him out at Sarti Design


Every single one of you can thank Gerry Rojas for this one. (I don't know whether to tip my hat or shout out or what.) Here is your first look at the teaser trailer for Spider-man 3! The movie comes out on May 4, 2007. The teaser should premiere with Superman Returns tonight. If you want to have your face rocked off, click here. I can't wait...

TV Fast Update #3...

Well, I have almost made it through my TV fast. I have 3 days left. I have to admit, this hasn't been as tough as I thought it would be. I think in the 27 days that i have gone so far, three have been really tough. If I had any idea how to do math, I would reduce that to a fraction or a percent and amaze you with how little of the total time spent not watching TV, was spent craving it. But, alas, I am horrible at math. Anyway, here's a quick update on things so far.

So far, I have surpassed my goal of reading 4 books this month. I have read five. And, I'm going to try to finish one more before July 1. Here's what I've read. Reviews to come later. (Except for Blue Like Jazz, which can be found here and here)

-Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

-Superman Returns by Marv Wolfman

-The Alphabet of Manliness by Maddox

-To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller

-The Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley

-I just started Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies For Tough Times by Donald T. Phillips. Hopefully I'll finish it before July 1!

After the fast is over, I'll make sure I post reviews and learnings.

The funny thing about going a month without watching TV, especially when you've gone 25 years watching it A LOT, is that you don't necessarily look forward to going back to watching it...


Problem Parents...

My friend, Kurt Johnston, has a great post on his blog today about handling problem parents. He talks about it in the context of summer camp sign up. It's definitely worth your time if your in a student ministry setting. You can check it out here.


Friday Night Lights...

Wow…Our church has a Friday Night Service. For the longest time (about a month or two) after I was hired, I missed it. Not on purpose, mind you. But, the last church that I worked at was a Saturday night, Sunday morning and evening service church. So, I honestly would forget that my new church had a Friday service. The good news is that we don’t do student services on Fridays. So it wasn’t as if I had to teach, but just didn’t show. I would be on the way to Barnes & Noble and pass by church and see all of these cars and ask myself, “What’s going on at church?” It’s then that I would realize that I had, once again, missed service.

I’m so glad that I didn’t miss tonight’s service. Tonight was the last week of the teaching series Sexual Wholeness. The message was titled Sexual Healing – Experiencing God’s Restorative Power In Your Life.

And yes, as soon as I walked in, I did begin to sing the Marvin Gay song.

Now, I should probably explain this before I go any farther. I don’t need sexual healing. But I do feel that there needs to be some restoration in my life in some places. The wonderful thing about our teaching pastor, Ed, is that he crafts his messages in such a way to allow room for God to speak to you, even if you aren’t dealing with exactly what the topic is. I felt like, even though he was speaking primarily about sexual healing, I could carry a lot of the principals out of the message and into my life, and apply them to the places where I need to be healed. Here’s some of the things that hit me pretty hard:

-We all work BROKEN STRATEGIES that yield PREDICTABLE RESULTS in relation to how we attempt to fix ourselves. So the real question is “Will you trust Jesus to heal (i.e. CHANGE) you? Ed told the story from John 5 about the man laying by the pool wanting to get in to be healed, but he couldn’t. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. So many of us want to be healed, but we don’t want to change. We want God to take away our hang-ups, but we don’t want to move from where we’re at. We want to deal with our sin on our terms. Fortunately for us, that’s not the way that God works. If we want to be healed, we’ve got to be willing to change.

-Our brokenness can seem like our IDENTITY, but it’s not. And it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, we get so dragged down into our own stuff, that we begin to associate it with our very being. We think that it’s a part of us. That without it, we wouldn’t be who we are. That’s just not the case. 1 Corinthians 6:11 speaks about our brokenness as a thing of the past. It says that we’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.

-Just because we have a desire for something, doesn’t mean that it’s the best thing for us. We need to accept that we will go through life with many LEGITIMATE DESIRES UNFULLFILLED! A friend, whom I trust a great deal, once told me that God would not put a desire in me, that he would not fulfill. He said this, in relation to my perpetual state of singleness. But, according to this, there will be completely legitimate desires that I have, some of which are even good, that will go unfulfilled in my life. This makes me a little angry, but mostly it makes me scared.

On a side note, this morning I read in To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller, that when God doesn’t give us something that we want, it’s because it’s not something that we need. He talked about how, upon realizing this, it allowed him to trust God more. I think I need to trust God more too.

Great lesson as a part of a great service and time of worshipping before God. Just wanted to share it with you guys too…


Shuffle Up and Deal: Kurt Johnston...

Ok, so I started this feature a couple of weeks ago, and then kind of let it slip by. But, we're back! I promised you that, every Friday, I would put up a different person's "First Five". These are the first five songs that come up when you hit "shuffle songs" on your iPod. No matter what! So, as promised, here is another addition of Shuffle Up and Deal! This week's guest: Kurt Johnston! Kurt is the Junior High Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. I had the awesome priveledge of working for him for 2 1/2 years. He's a guy that I admire and respect so much!

He even has some pretty great songs on his iPod...

1) Acrobat by U2

2) Daughters by John Mayer

3) Our Lips Are Sealed by The Go-Go's

4) You Alone by David Crowder* Band

5) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep by AC/DC


One Of the Many Reasons I Have a Crush On Amy Poehler...

One of the many cliché plot devices used in sitcoms over the years, especially sitcoms whose two main characters are romantically linked, is "the list". "The list" is defined as a list of people whom you, if you ever met, would be allowed to cheat on your spouse with. TV has led me to believe that every person who is married has their own list, and at some point in their marriage a conflict will arise, be funny, and get solved in thirty minutes, all because of "the list". And TV never lies.

Well, I'm not married. And If I was, I wouldn't make up a list of women to cheat on my wife with, no matter how unlikely my meeting them would be. And I certainly wouldn't laminate it and keep it in my wallet. (Those of you who watch Friends just got that. The rest of you probably think I have a bad case of OCD.) But I do have something going for me that these people on TV don't have.

I would characterize myself as a slighly awkward person normally. Not too much, but just a little. However, whenever I am in the presence of a girl that I like like that, I inevitably go off the charts on the awkward meter. Seriously. I can't help it. No matter how hard I try to be cool, I just make it worse. It's like being stuck in a chinese finger trap. The more you try, the worse it is for you. All of that to say this: I have my own "the list". But it's a little different than the one I previously mentioned. My "the list" is a list of girls who, if I ever met them, I would be spectacularly awkward around because I have huge crushes on them. I know. I should abbreviate the title.

Amy Poehler is on that list.

Now, she's not in the top five. But she is in the top ten.

One day, I'll post the list for you guys. Until then, you'll just have to wonder.

But, here is one of the many reasons why I think Amy Peohler is amazing and, if I ever met her, I would be spectacularly awkward around her:

Amy Poehler’s 8 Simple Rules
For Being a Civilized New Yorker

1. Be nice to everyone, especially people wearing hospital bracelets.
2. Don’t ask white girls if they “left their @$$ at home.”
3. If you have to bring your baby to a movie, make sure he laughs at appropriate times.
4. Don’t eat Cheetos and then sit down at a fancy hotel piano.
5. If you are in Central Park and think you are getting mugged, first check to see if maybe you’re just part of a student film.
6. If you see Oprah at a fancy function, don’t grab her wrist and ask for money. Quietly sneak up behind her and whisper, “You give me that money, Oprah. You hear me?”
7. When walking on a New York street, try not to spit, litter, bleed, or take a crap.
8. If you need to do any of these things, try to do it between two parked cars.

Ahh, Amy...

You See...It's Art...With Sand...

A couple posts ago I told you about the sand painter that opened the Willow Arts Conference. Well, today I found a video of his second performance on YouTube. It's not the best quality, but it's the only one I could find. If you want to see more demonstrations of this, just go here. Don't you want to join your kids in the sandbox now...


Willow Creek Arts Conference: Day 4...

I’ve been home a couple of days now. But, work piled up while I was gone. So, now that I'm semi-caught up, I can tell you about the last day of the conference!

Today started a little differently than the other days I was in Chicago. What was so different about this day’s beginning, you may ask? IT WAS AT 8 O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING!!! In fact, each day we were at the conference, the sessions started progressively earlier. You would think that since the target audience is the artistic community, Willow would know that we are notorious for not enjoying rising with the sun. Or, in this case, rising with the 8 o’clock morning news.

Anyway, my roommate at the Baymont Inn, Jim, our technical arts director, and I decided to sleep in a tad and miss the first session so that we could instead go and purchase a thank you gift for Rod, our worship purpose pastor, who brought us to the conference. OK guys, I have to be honest here. We totally did go and buy Rod a nice sketchbook moleskin from Barnes & Noble, but we had an ulterior motive in going out too. We wanted to go to Caribou Coffee. This place has got to be one of the sweetest coffee houses I’ve ever seen. And I used to work in a coffee house too. So, we got Rod this awesome moleskin, had each member of the team decorate a page with a letter in the word “thanks”, and gave it to him once we got back. He loved it!

But, I digress…

So, Jim and I skipped the first session. Which, for me, was supposed to be Resolving Conflict. I forgot who it was taught by. Rod said two people on Willow’s staff. I signed up for this breakout because, at the time of registration, I was in a conflict with someone. However, the conflict got worked out before I left for the conference, so I don’t feel that bad about missing this session!

The second breakout of the day, we made it to. And, believe me, I am SUPER glad that we did. It was an arts showcase put on by Granger Community Church. If you’ve never heard of Granger, it’s probably because they’re in a very small town in Indiana. But they are rocking the face off of that little town. Not only that, but they’re rocking the face off of church culture itself with their amazing weekend services. Don’t believe me? Stop reading this right now and go to their media player (located at the top right-hand side of the page) and watch their 2005 year-in-review (in the “other” section). Go ahead. I’ll wait…

See?! What did I tell you?!

Anyway, the guys from Granger, Tim Stevens and Butch Whitmire, had some awesome things to say about programming their weekend services. Their philosophy, their methods, their execution, all completely thought out and done right. It totally inspires me.

After we get done with the breakout sessions, we go back to the main campus for one last main session with Nancy Beach. I feel like I should say this again: I really loved hearing Nancy speak. I felt like I really could connect with what she was saying. So this last session was kind of a rallying cry of encouragement to everybody. We finished out with communion and a “go around the circle and tell the person to your left why you love having them on your team” exercise.

And that was it.

We flew back to San Diego.

I have to say, that I would highly recommend this conference to anyone who considers themselves involved in anything creative. Whether in vocation or recreation. It was truly a blessing to me and to my team.

My only regret was not getting to eat White Castle while I was there. But I'll live...

Thanks so much, Willow, for all you do!

I’ve got to try that sand painting…


Superman Returns...

“You said that the world doesn’t need a savior. But everyday, I hear them crying out for one.” I can’t save you from mortal danger, but I can save you from living another day without knowing about Superman Returns.

Thanks so much to Paul at Willow Creek for arranging this advanced screening of the movie. You have no idea how long I’ve looked forward to this and what it meant to me.

Superman Returns
Running Time: 2 hrs. 34 mins.
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsters, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Hunington, Eva Marie Saint

First, I feel like I should say that, when it comes to Superman, I’m a little biased. Ever since I was a very little kid, I have loved Superman. I’m talking underoos kind of love here. However, this could benefit me in the reviewing process. Not only did I walk into the movie in complete anticipation, but with high standards. After all, we’ve seen what a great Superman movie looks like (Superman 1), and we’ve seen what a bad Superman movie looks like…twice (Superman 3 and 4). So as the theater lights dimmed, my team heard me uttering this prayer: “Please be good…Please be good…Please be good…”

What follows is a SPOILER FREE review.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the basic plot outline of the movie, it goes a little something like this. After returning from a five year absence, Superman is confronted with a world that has moved on. Friends, family, and even the woman he loves, have all moved on with their lives without him. Can he find a place in a world that seemingly doesn’t need him? And what about the growing threat from an old enemy, Lex Luthor?

Boom! The movie opens with the destruction of a planet. I would assume that it’s Krypton, but it’s never explained. We go into a sweeping fly-by tour of planets, stars, and other heavenly bodies. Slowly the music begins to build. We hear the beginning traces of John Williams’ Superman Theme. Then, the opening credits kick in. They’re just like the opening credits from Superman 1. Uh-MAZING!!!

The main concerns with this movie seem to have been the decision to cast a relative unknown actor, Brandon Routh, as Superman, and the rumored 200 million dollar budget. Rest easy readers, as both are completely justified.

Let’s first talk about Routh. When Bryan Singer took over this movie from the long line of directors who had abandoned it for various reasons (Tim Burton, McG, Brett Ratman, etc…) his first job was to cast an actor to fill the tights of one of the most loved characters in American fable. He mentioned fairly early on that he wanted to cast the best actor for the job, regardless as to whether that actor was well known (some names batted around were Jude Law, Keanu Reeves, Heath Ledger, Tom Cruise, and Henry Cavill) or a new face. The actor that he chose, Routh, was hardly known to anyone, lest they had watched the one or two episodes of Gilmore Girls he had appeared in. But not only does he fill the shoes of Superman by honoring the actors who had played the part before him, he takes the part to places that it hasn’t gone before. In the case of honoring those who had come before him, this guy is a dead ringer for Christopher Reeve. Reeve, also a relative unknown before 1978’s Superman, became eternally associated with the part. To many people, he is Superman. Routh not only looks like him, but embodies many of his mannerisms and voice inflections. But one of the many things that I loved about Routh’s interpretation of the part, was that he brought things to the table that hadn’t been seen before. Things like, whenever Lois’ (Bosworth) new flame (Marsters) shows up to greet her, Routh shows Clark clearly uncomfortable with surprise, jealousy, and competition. You can see in his eyes that he is thinking, “I’m so much better than you. How could you ever protect her?” Even in the red cape, Routh brings something that Reeve never did: a muscular body. Routh is cut! Ladies and gentleman, Brandon Routh is Superman.

As to the budget, rumor has it that anywhere from 150-300 million could have been spent on this movie. Definitely a risk by Warner Brothers, but a justified one. Superman Returns has the potential to become another tent pole franchise for the company, standing alongside Batman Begins as re-starts that were worth the wait.

Is their anything that Bryan Singer can’t do?

So, what was good?
-Routh was amazing as the man of steel. He embodied confidence, yet humility while donning the blue, yellow, and red. But while wearing the glasses, he made you believe that people could actually NOT SEE that it was a disguise.

-Kevin Spacey was UH-mazing as Lex Luthor. To tell you the truth, I was never that crazy about Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Luthor in the original series. I always thought that he played him too comical and soft. I never believed he could actually go through with killing somebody. But Spacey balances all of Luthor’s quirks with ease. He’s funny, but not too funny. He’s vein, but knows when to stop bragging about his intellect and actually act on his threat. He plays Luthor as a man who actually makes evil plans. So good and yet, so bad…

-The flying was the best I’ve seen in a movie thus far. I always thought that the flying in the original Superman movies was a bit cheesy. X-Men: The Last Stand had some flying, but it was way too Crouching Tiger. But man, when you see Superman take to the sky for the first time to save the day…It exactly as I imagined it. Amazing, beautiful, and more realistic looking than ever before.

-The story was fantastic. So original. Definitely revealing a more vulnerable man of steel.

-Parker Posey brought some great light moments, as well as some good emotion. She’s like a great spice. You should use her sparingly and she makes things better.

-I have to admit that, going in, I wasn’t completely sold on Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. I thought that she seemed a little too young and fragile. I think that she did a good job with the part, but I still think that she was a little too young. She also had on a hideous wig in this movie. Think MJ in the first Spider-man. They should have dyed her hair.

-That’s it. I have nothing else negative to say about this movie.

And so, to Superman Returns, I give the honor of being awarded with a certified 4 ½ Yarmulke™ rating.

This is an opening night movie folks. Great action. Great effects. Great story. For the first time in 19 years, you will believe a man can fly…


Willow Creek Arts Conference: Day 3...

Today was the start of Act 2 of the conference. We began this morning with a main session that started off with Charlie Hall leading worship again. After he was through, Bill Hybels came up and taught on something that he calls “Holy Discontent”. I was actually pretty disappointed when I saw that he was teaching on this topic, as it was the same lesson that he closed out last year’s leadership summit with. But, I’m thinking that maybe I didn’t pay too much attention at the summit, because God totally spoke to me through it today.

After the main session was over, it was time to divide up into breakout sessions. We get to go to five different breakout sessions while here, and we get to pick the topics that we want to go to.

The first session that I went to was called “What Sinks and Side-Tracks Leaders” by a guy named Dan Webster. I’ve been trying to take as many things on leadership as I can while here. I realized this last night: as a minister, I’m decent. I mean, I don’t know everything. I still make mistakes. I still have a long way to go. But, I’ve got a good heart and I love God, my students, and my church. But as a manager, I have A TON of work to do. To be honest, when I got into youth ministry, I didn’t know that I would have to manage adults. I thought I’d be hanging out with kids. So, a year and a month into this gig, I’m realizing that this is definitely an area that I need improvement on. Anyway, he taught on three things that slow leaders down or take them out: Laziness/complacency, Temptation, and Discouragement. He spent a lot of time talking about why each thing is so dangerous to a leader, and then how to defend ourselves against it. It was truly amazing stuff. He has a book called The Real Deal, that helps with recognizing weaknesses in ourselves and then helping us to deal with them before they deal with us. I’m buying as soon as I get back.

And guess what! We've got another body double. Dan webster equals Andy Brazelton in 30 years.

The second session that I attended was called Immediate Impact: Restructuring Life and Ministry Around the Life of Your Soul by Mindy Caliguire. I have to say that I actually had a lot of trouble connecting with this speaker. I could tell that she had a great heart for the topic. But I felt like her presentation was wanting. It was right after lunch and she spent a lot of time taking comments from the crowd. It was mainly spiritual disciplines. She had no powerpoint and hardly any notes in the packet she handed out. She seems like she would be a great person to have lunch with and engage one on one, but in a large group teaching session, not so much.

Session three was called Mind Map Your Way to Creative Thinking. It was taught by a guy named Will Flora. He works for Chick-Fil-A, which automatically makes him cool. However, I must confess. I skipped it. That’s right. I skipped. I got there a little late, everybody was around tables and there weren’t many more seats. (Even though I had a ticket which was supposed to guarantee me a seat!) So, no review on this session. Although Will, if you’re reading this, nothing personal. I’m sure you did a great job. For the record; I did think you were a cool guy during the 7 minutes I was in the room.

Ahh but you guys don’t want to hear about all of that. You want to know how Superman Returns was. Don’t you? Well, too bad. I’m tired. So, you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow. But I promise I will post a review (complete with an official Yarmulke rating™) tomorrow. Until then, I hope this doesn’t put you off flying…


Willow Creek Arts Conference: Day 2...

Dude...I am tired. Today was very packed with amazing and awesome things. For instance, I ran into a great guy that I went to college with and caught up on old times over a completely gross chicken salad thing. The funniest part of that was that I said to some members of our team, "I'm surprised that I haven't run into anyone that I know yet." Mere Seconds after this utterance, he passed in front of me. Here are a few other things:

The amazing picture you see at the top of this post is actually a guy leaning over a light box, being filmed from above, and "painting" with sand. That's right, nothing but playground sand and his hands. This dude made some Uh-mazing pictures too. The one above is Jesus on the cross. (I know, I know. Bad photographer.) But the sweetest thing of all is that he would make one picture, then cover it with a little more sand and immediately go into making another right over the first one! Simply stunning...

Today's first session featured Dan Allender. He's the president and professor of counseling at Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, WA. A couple of years ago he wrote a book called Bold Love. I totally recommend it as a resource to help sort through how to really love others, even when they're doing their best to murder you emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, or...otherwise. But, I have to say that he kind of lost me today. Maybe it's the lack of sleep. Maybe it was the giant breakfast at IHOP. Maybe it was his soothing, baritone voice gently inviting me to fall into the sweet embrace of an all embracing slumber. I'm not sure. But, super funny at parts, super jam-packed with content at others. He mainly spoke about it's important that we, as leaders, do our best to remain humble and human for the benefit of our teams.

-P.S. There was a lady behind me during this session whose laugh was so loud and weird that it was almost all I could do to not turn around and ask her to record it on my phone to make it my ringer. It kind of sounded like a doll that you have to pull the string in the back to make it make some type of noise. But then, something on the string catches...

Today's second session featured Ralph Winter. I blogged about how excited I was about him being here a couple of days ago. He was one of the few reasons that I really wanted to come to the Arts Conference. And, I would like to say that he was totally worth it. He had some awesome things to say on management from the perspective of a guy who feels it his life's work to serve others in a artistic industry that is mostly driven by the wrong things. We got lots of sweet behind the scenes info on X-Men, Fantastic Four, Planet of the Apes, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Fantastic Four 2. He also announced that he is hard at work on a movie version of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Including that he has asked Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and Anthony Hopkins to all be involved!

For the third session, we were rocked by Kenneth Ulmer. He's the pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, CA. His church bought the LA Forum, where the Lakers used to play. Everytime I hear this guy, I get totally pumped. Today he talked about being thankful and praising God, even through the difficult times because God has given us everything we need. I love hearing this guy speak, and today, loved seeing him. Why, you may ask? Because I think I found his body double:

That's right, Isaac from The Love Boat!

But, I digress...

This session also included a worship set by Charlie Hall and his band. Awesome songs. Awesome musicians (especially the drummer). Awesome goatee.

The evening was concluded by eating true Chicago Deep Dish at Gino's East. Now, when I say Sausage Pizza, I want you to understand that the whole pizza was covered with one sausage pattie. Uh-Mazing! My stomach was rocked...hard. But, it was totally worth it.

So, tomorrow is another full day, this time filled with breakout sessions on various topics. Oh, and I get to see Superman Returns! I love this conference...

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

I have a list of favorite things. One day I think I'll share it with you guys, but now is not the time. Instead, here's a video for you to enjoy which combines two of them. It's a mash-up of the State of the union address by our president and the song, Sunday Bloody Sunday, by U2. You know you love these videos...

Willow Creek Arts Conference: Day 1...

Well, I'm sitting in my hotel room at the smoke-smelling Baymont Inn in Chicago after a wonderful first day at the Arts Conference.

It actually took some convincing on my part for me to be able to come. We are offered the chance to go to one conference a year as part of our training at my church. Since I didn't go to PDYM this past year, and since I've always loved the arts (and use them as a part of my ministry), I wanted to come to the arts conference. I'd never been. I love Chicago. And, quite frankly, I thought getting away could do me some good.

I am so glad that I came! Today's sessions were taylor-made for me! It was as if God made some mental notes on things that have been weighing heavy on my heart, faxed them to the speakers, and brought me out here to hear them.

First up was Nancy Beach, executive vice-president of programming and production for the Willow Creek Association and one of the five teaching pastors at Willow Creek. She spoke on the art of collaboration. I've been trying, for some time now, to think of ways that I can work better with those around me. A lot of the stuff Nancy had to say addressed the problems I've been hitting. Here are a few highlights:

-When having a brainstorming meeting, or any meeting involving creative people trying to determine the direction of anything, you have to have a leader.
-You should always show up to said meeting with ideas.
-You need people at the above meeting who can pre-create (come to the meeting with ideas in hand) and respond (analyze the ideas which were brought).
-You need people there who can think through every aspect of the event or service (details...) and people who can feel through each moment of the event or service (what mood does it set, does it fit the atmosphere, etc...).
-You shouldn't settle for an idea too quickly just to meet a time deadline or to avoid conflict.
-When evaluating a service, you should celebrate what went well in the service.
-You should also define reality and talk about what didn't go well.

Nancy then went over a service that had been prepared on forgiveness and spent a little time unpacking why they chose certain elements. Then, feeling a leading from the spirit, she spent some time encouraging us to forgive anyone whom we might need to in order to better move on and serve God. I kind of felt like I was the only person in the room at this point. And God was pointing at me...

Next up was Patrick Lencioni. First off, this guy's picture does not look like him. Second off, he is amazing. He wrote a book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He pretty much spoke from that during his session. But, WOW... If you are in ministry, or management of any kind, and you have anybody working for you or with you or over you, you should read this book. For each of the five dysfunctions, he listed a role of the leader in diffusing them. Super-convicting. I have a lot of growing as a leader to do. I never realized how much of my team's health depended on me.

Lastly, the evening concluded with a concert from Delirious?. They actually recorded a live CD/DVD that will be coming out later this year. They performed songs off of their new CD, The Mission Bell. I have never been a big fan of this band, but after tonight I might be a convert. They put on an UH-mazing show! The picture at the top of this post is actually from this concert. The new songs were great and I love how they mixed in some their oldies as transitions.

OH MY GOSH!!! I almost forget! Our weekend pastor, Rod, has tons of connections out here. Today, he worked them like crazy and hooked us up! Check this out: Thursday night I will be seeing Superman Returns 13 days before it comes out at only the third showing of the movie anywhere in the world! Somehow Willow arranged for a private screening for 500 people and Rod got us in!!! Needless to say, the comic book nerd in me peed himself just a little. Gerry, if I could get you here, I would. As anyone that truly knows me knows, I am a huge nerd. Superman and Spider-man are my two favorites from when I was a kid. I have been looking forward to this movie for at least a year and a half.

I love this conference...


Back To That Same Old Place...

I am in Chicago. The last time that I was here was March of 2003. During my visit then, a new record was set for the coldest it had ever been at 12 noon on that day of 0 degrees. Up until that point in time, the point at which my eyes froze open, I could see myself living in Chicago. After that point, well, I didn't see much of anything. But this time is different. When we got off of the plane, it was an amazing 68 degrees and it's supposed to be beautiful like that for the rest of the week. So far, the trip has been great. I love that I'm here with people that I know, but I don't know. I've had some great talks with the team and I can't wait to get to know them even better. Tomorrow is registration and kick-off. I'll let you know how it goes...


Up, Up, and Away...

Tomorrow I head out to Chicago, home of our arch-rivals, to attend the Willow Creek Arts Conference. Not only is it going to be amazing AND awesome at the same time on it's own, but Ralph Winter, the producer of such amazing films as the X-Men Trilogy and Left Behind, is giving a main session talk. He also produced a small show that you might not have heard of called Lost. By the way, TOTALLY kidding about Left Behind. Don't you dare think that I think that was a good movie. I gave it one Yarmulke! So, I'll give you guys some periodic updates about the haps in Chicago. Oh yeah, I'm rooming with another one of our team members while there. What if he wants to watch TV?!?! Pray...hard...


Po(o) Street...

this is an audio post - click to play

I'm Blue Da-Bo-De-Ba-Mm-Da... Part 2

I posted part 1 of my reaction to Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz the other day. This is the first book that I have read during my month-long TV fast. (The second, for the record, was the novelization of Superman Returns. Health food, then junk food.) As I said before, these are just some things that stuckk out to me in the book, and my thoughts on them. So, here, as promised, is part 2:

-“Romance can’t possibly carry all we want it to.” I’m a single dude. Half of me; albeit the cynical, jaded half, agrees with this statement. But I believe that it’s all a matter of perspective. When we approach a relationship as that which should define us in how we are known to others and in our own self image, we are undoubtedly and expectedly let down. After all, one of the curses that was a result of the fall in Genesis 3 was that Eve would lust after her husband. But, here, the word lust takes on a different meaning than that which we give it today. Here, lust means more “to long for something that, once you get it, doesn’t deliver what it promised.” When we approach a relationship, be it romantic or not, with the expectation that it will fulfill us in our search for purpose and identity, we are let down because God didn’t design us to be filled that way. He designed us to be filled by Him. So, the other half of me, the half that disagrees with this, does so because I would like to think that I have healthy expectations of my relationships. Therefore, romance CAN carry all I want it to. But who knows? After all, I am a single dude…

-“We see those cigarette advertisements with the rugged cowboy riding around alone on a horse, and we think that is strength, when, really, it is like setting your soul down on a couch and not exercising it. The soul needs to interact with other people to be healthy.” This is another statement that scares me a little. I have always had a little bit of pride in being able to ?make it on my own". Maybe this come from being raised in The South, maybe it comes from my dad, who by every definition of the word, is a loner. Probably both. But, if I don't keep myself in check, I could see myself becoming the rugged, lonely cowboy. I think that Miller's right. People are what our souls are sharpened on. When we try to become hermits, sheltering oursleves from others because we're afraid we'll be rejected or hurt, we get spiritually flabby.

All in all, I really like this book. I'm starting a new one tonight. I'll let you guys know when I'm done...