Category Archives: Reflections

This Post is Not About Davy Jones

Facebook and Twitter streams reflected people responses and sadness over the death of Davy Jones on Wednesday. While I recognize that a 66-year-old music icon’s passing reminds us (especially children of the ’60s) of our mortality, I struggle with the amount of attention it’s getting.

Because when I woke up this morning, I heard this report from Syria on NPR:

After pummeling the Baba Amr neighborhood with tanks and rockets for nearly a month, the Syrian government pledged yesterday to, quote, “cleanse the area.” And that’s what appeared to be happening today. Activists say soldiers are going house to house, arresting all males over the age of 14. This morning, activists say soldiers lined up 10 men and shot them, execution style.

14-year-olds are reportedly being rounded up in an effort to quell the rebellion. Those boys would be high school freshman in the United States.

Soldiers are executing people. Despite repeated efforts, the the Red Cross has been turned away, and many Syrians are without food, water, electricity, and medical care.

The crisis in Syria is overwhelming, the politics are complicated, and I don’t claim to understand what’s happening. I don’t know what I can do to help the people of Syria.

But I’m paying attention. And I’m thinking about how life is fragile. And I’m praying for resolution in Syria.

Even if it would be easier to change the topic to Davy Jones’ legacy.

Immerse Journal Interview

Hey, that's me!

I’ve been honored to write for Immerse, a youth ministry journal that offers a great mix of theologically deep, thought-provoking, and practical articles by some great thinkers and leaders in the youth ministry world today.

When I was at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta back in November, I sat down with Aaron Mitchum for an interview about my article, “Imagination, Tinkering and Theology: Youth as Theologians” (Jul/Aug 2011). The interview was just posted to their site last week, and you can hear it here.

And then check out the Jan/Feb 2012 issue to see my next article, “Encountering the Messy Midrash.” And then subscribe–or give a subscription to your favorite pastor or youth minister. Because it’s a great publication. 🙂

Atheism 2.0

I found this TED Talk on “Atheism 2.0” fascinating. Alain de Botton makes an argument for atheists to borrow some of what he considers the best aspects of religion so atheists aren’t cut off from community, morality, culture, etc. He even brings up the positive aspects of institutionalized religion (which is especially interesting in contrast to the viral spoken word YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus“).

Worth checking it out. And then I’d love to hear what you think.

O Holy Night

Christmas Eve is here.

I’m spending the next few days celebrating with both sides of my family, but before I go offline, I wanted to share a choral arrangement of “O Holy Night.” My sister composed it, and it was performed by an area choir, From Age to Age. I listened to it again this morning as I’ve been finishing some Christmas preparations, and it brings me so much joy.


Blessings to you as we celebrate Immanuel. God with us.


On Cookie Monster…and opening my eyes

When I first saw this project by artist/graphic designer Timm Schneider, I busted out laughing.

And then I had an urge to dig out some ping pong balls and a sharpie.

And then I clicked through to read more on Turnstyle News. A favorite quote from the interview:

What do you find so fulfilling about putting eyeballs around the city?

Timm Schneider: That something so little can do so much. It transforms things into beings. It changes the way people see the world around them by shifting only a detail — the very same way humor works. The eyeballs explain something difficult like perception very easy. It changes the purpose of things: a trash bin can be the Cookie Monster. The world around suddenly isn’t something fixed anymore, it’s something you can change. People are realizing this very optimistic opinion with a smile on their faces, more than I ever could have asked for.

I think that’s what I like about guerilla art projects like this. Besides offering a moment of levity (and perhaps inspiration), they challenge me to see something that wasn’t there before. They open my eyes to new possibilities…and make it hard to pass a dumpster without imagining Oscar living in it.

(via laughing squid, images via Timm Schneider)

Miss Representation (in Youth Ministry)

Miss Representation 3 minute Trailer 8/24 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

I just saw the trailer for Miss Representation, a documentary that premiered at Sundance Film Festival this spring. The film looks at the media portrayals of what it means to be a woman, and how these messages hold women back from becoming strong leaders in American society. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I think it would be really interesting to watch, especially in context of youth ministry.

I know a lot of women who are pastors and youth ministers. But just flipping through the program book for a youth ministry conference I recently attended, I discovered men outnumbered women at least 3-to-1 in the speaking/presenting line-up.

Yes, many people across the church (including the leadership staff for that conference I attended) are working to lift up underrepresented voices. But we have a long way to go, especially since our actions send messages to young people in our congregations about the place and value of women in the body of Christ.

Which is why Miss Representation intrigues me. They’re asking what we can do to make sure girls don’t think youth, beauty, and sexuality are all they have to offer the world. Seems like that’s a question the church and youth ministries should be asking too.

Has anyone else watched this film? What do you think?

(Want to see more? Check out the extended trailer.)
(Video HT Cathy Zielske)

Sunday Ritual

A peek into my fridge - July 24

For the last two months, I’ve been working with a nutrition coach to improve my eating habits and figure out some food sensitivities. (The whole process has had a really positive effect on my energy level throughout the day, not to mention some weight and body fat loss–but that’s another post.)

Anyway, a big part of maintaining my eating plan is having healthy food ready so I can throw together a quick meal or snack. Thus a new Sunday afternoon ritual: food preparation. I get rid of any old produce or leftovers and cut up a bunch of veggies, cook up some protein to top a quick salad, and sometimes try out a new recipe inspired by CSA or farmers market finds.

So here’s what’s in my fridge right now:

  • Leftovers: Roasted beets with wilted beet greens. (And since the oven was on, I roasted some carrots with grapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt.)
  • Veggies: Prepped broccoli, cauliflower, celery, snap peas, and green beans. Plus a big box of spinach, romaine, arugula, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, summer squash, bell peppers, and extra roasted beets.
  • Fruit: Cubed papaya and mango. Plus peaches, blueberries, cherries, mangos, and avocados in the crisper drawer.
  • Protein: Ginger-sesame ground beef (for lettuce wraps or salads), grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, tempeh, and silken tofu (for smoothies).
  • Other: Leftover homemade pesto from basil I bought at the farmers market, coconut milk, coconut water, almond butter, store-bought hummus, olives, nuts, etc. (Plus a box with bread, deli meat, and cheese for Brent’s sandwiches, but I haven’t been eating deli meat, dairy, or much bread.

Besides giving me a better shot at healthy eating during the week, I’ve found this time to be almost a spiritual practice. I give thanks for my “daily bread” and pray for people who don’t have enough to eat. And I think about the farmers whose hands touched the food before me. And I have a renewed sense of appreciation for creation and life and growth.

Do you have any food rituals? And what’s in your fridge? (Bonus challenge: Snap a picture and link to it in the comments!)

(Writing this post also reminded me of a photo project, You Are What You Eat. Check it out!)

Six Word Story Every Day

breathe in. breathe out. repeat often.

I came across the Six Word Story Every Day site concept (thanks to a tweet from Ali Edwards) and got lost poking around the contributors’ stories and visual interpretations. What a cool (and easy!) way to capture moments, both profound and passing.

Since I’ve been absent from blogging while sorting out some busyness and priorities in my own life, it only seemed appropriate to create my own version to recap my day (err…month).

What would be your six-word story for today?

Why the future of work (and faith formation) is play

Some really interesting nuggets in this video from PSFK about why the future of work is play. Aaron Dignan explores motivation, achievement, overcoming boredom, and learning, and one of my favorite quotes is, “Play is nature’s learning engine.”

Dignan also differentiates between “gamification” and a playful/game approach to learning in a way I haven’t heard before but really appreciated.

What would it look like if we considered the future of faith formation from this play lens?

PSFK CONFERENCE NYC 2011: Aaron Dignan from Piers Fawkes on Vimeo.

Moving beyond Bin Laden

September 11 memorial construction

I happened to be on vacation in New York City when news broke of Osama Bin Laden’s death. Brent and I had gone out for a musical and dinner, and as we were walking past Times Square toward the subway station, Brent got a text message saying Bin Laden was reportedly dead. People were gathering down the street.

We headed back to the hotel and flipped on the TV to watch President Obama’s speech. B-roll footage showed crowds gathering outside the White House and all over New York City, singing, shouting, and waving flags as they celebrated.

On my laptop, I followed the Facebook and Twitter updates as my friends struggled to make sense of how to respond. Is it right to celebrate death—even when it’s a terrorist? How can we pursue peace and justice? Share a quote from Jesus or another famous theologian?

TV crews crowding Church Street near Ground Zero

The next morning, we went to the World Trade Center site (which we’d already been planning to do before the news broke). Church Street was clogged with TV crews and satellite trucks. Security personnel were everywhere, and tourists held up the day’s newspaper as they took pictures in front of Ground Zero.

News media madness near the World Trade Center site

We went on the Tribute Tour and heard the powerful stories of courage, loss, and hope from that autumn day nearly ten years ago.

And it got me thinking about another journey I was on exactly a year ago.

I was traveling in Israel and Palestine with a small group of young adults, meeting people of faith who are working across religious and cultural lines in the Holy Land.

For the last ten years, we’ve let Osama Bin Laden influence interactions between Christians, Jews, and Muslisms. At times, we’ve let his representation of Islam become an excuse to shut down interfaith dialogue and work toward peace.

I still don’t think I can celebrate Bin Laden’s assassination. But I do pray that we move past letting his image define Islam and instead see hope in the change that’s rippling through the Middle East. Through the voices of young people in Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan, and Libya who are trying to shift the conversation.

For that, I can pray and hope and celebrate.

Banner from the Diyar Consortium in Bethlehem, Palestine