Friday, October 31, 2014

Will's Top 10 Halloween Movies

A happy BOO Day to each and everyone of you. May this Halloween be both fun and frightful for you all! In honor of the holiday I thought I would share a list of 10 great Halloween movies with you- but then I remembered that scary movies are not really my thing. My list would include Young Frankenstein, Ghostbusters, Hocus Pocus, Scary Movie 3 and Scooby Doo 2 (the monsters are real!). So rather than subject you to my thoughts, I turned to our resident expert on all things movie related- my son Will. He has watched dozens of scary films and even written a few of his own, so he is just the man for the job. Here is his Top 10 list of scary movies for your Halloween enjoyment. And in case you have a question, with each and every title he is referring to the original movies made under the names mentioned. Remakes are the wrong kind of scary...

Will's List

  1. Psycho
  2. Halloween
  3. The Shining
  4. The Thing
  5. The Exorcist
  6. Evil Dead
  7. Alien
  8. Cabin In the Woods
  9. Bride of Frankenstein
  10. The Strangers
So there you have it. I know a few of you are stunned that The Last Dinosaur didn't make the list. Why not? I don't.......KNOW! Have a safe and happy Halloween- and let us know what would be on your list!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

#TBT: Remebering Yac

Mike Yaconelli was killed in a car wreck 11 years ago today. I've never met anyone who was quite like Yac. Co-founder of Youth Specialties and creator of the Ideas Books, he is considered by many to be the father of modern youth ministry- a title which he would have hated. He was much happier with his own description of himself as a man who had been kicked out of Bible College and was for the last few years of his life the pastor of the "slowest growing church in the country." I first met Yac at the YS National Youth Workers Convention in 1982, and I was immediately overwhelmed by his passion and his personality. His early morning bible studies at those events were legendary, and I seldom missed one. Over the years I was fortunate enough to attend numerous seminars which he led, and we sat and talked on several occasions. His heart for Jesus was enormous; his love for youth workers knew no boundaries. Seldom does a day go by that I don't think of Yac.

I remember his stories about youth ministry and the ever-present Jones Memorial Carpet. I think about the time I was standing at the front desk of a fancy hotel that was hosting the NYWC, only to feel a finger-blaster go whizzing by my head and hit the clerk. I turned to see Yac laughing hysterically- having fired the shot! His story about serving communion using orange juice and stale hot dog buns inspired me to use OJ & Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I remember spending 2 days with him leading a small group in a spiritual renewal seminar just soaking in prayer and scripture, being reminded how important it is to be still. No one who ever encountered Yac will ever forget him. Just before his death I made arrangements to have him deliver the Sunday message in February of 2004 at the Tampa church I served at the time. I couldn't wait to see the wild, messy and totally unpredictable Yac blow the roof off the place. That day was never to be...

Today, I want you all to understand that Mike Yaconelli was all about a dangerous faith. He challenged everyone he encountered to step outside of their comfort zone and follow the radical teachings of the Christ. This passion often made him a critic of the institutional church and of corporate student ministry. The 3 quotes below are from his book Dangerous Wonder. They tell you a lot about Yac. They tell you even more about what is should mean to follow Jesus. Read them. Re-read them. My hope is that you will be overwhelmed by his words just as I have been- over and over again. If they make you uncomfortable...GOOD!  Then I know I have used them well. I have said before that I have known 2 men in my life that I know really "got" Jesus. Rich Mullins was one. Yac was the other. I was blessed to have known him. Enjoy his words.

If Christianity is simply about being nice I'm not interested... I'm ready for a Christianity that "ruins" my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and.. well... dangerous. Yes, I want to be "dangerous" to a dull and boring religion.  

How did we end up so comfortable with God? How did our awe of God get reduced to a lukewarm appreciation of God? How did God become a pal instead of a heart-stopping presence? How can we think of Jesus without remembering His ground-shaking, thunder-crashing, stormy exit on the cross? Why aren’t we continually catching our breath and saying, “This is no ordinary God!”?

It is time to find the place where the dangerous wonder of faith can be discovered—a place landscaped by risky curiosity, wild abandon, daring playfulness, quiet listening, irresponsible passion, happy terror, and naive grace. In a day when most of us are tired, worn-out, thirsty, and starving for life and joy and peace, maybe it is time to become a child again. Maybe it is time to quit college and take a year off to go to the mission field, or give up a secure job and go back to school, or leave the corporation because the work is killing our souls, or give up the possessions that are possessing us. Maybe it is time to live this dangerous wonder of faith, take our shoes off, roll up our sleeves, and have such a romp as no one has ever seen. Maybe it's time to play in the snow once again.

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Two Things

I thought about doing a Wordless Wednesday post today, but I am not sure I am capable of being wordless. But here's what I've got...

* There are very few things in my life as a sports fan better than the 7th game of a World Series. And tonight, we get one. It's been an amazing postseason that deserves and incredible finish. Let's go Royals!!!

* There are very few people people in my life who have been a better friend to me than Jerry Hanbery. Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of his 39th birthday. A celebration is definitely in order!

It's not a Wordless Wednesday, but it's about as close as I get! Have a great day, my friends!

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

" Stupid!"

Do you have friends? Do you talk with other people? Do you read blogs (obviously!) and other types of thought provoking literature? If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, then there is no doubt in my mind that you have come across people with whom you disagree. You may have even found yourself agreeing with the great David Letterman that "People is stupid!" And you know what? So what?

I have known for many years that a great many of the people I know do not agree with me on many of the hot button topics of the day. Politics. Social justice. Theology. Eschatology. Meteorology. The list goes on and on. I have many friends on Twitter - friends that I pray for on a regular basis- who would just keel over dead if they really knew my thoughts on the USAmerican political system. I have worked for churches who would have banished me if they had known parts of my theology. We live in a world where those kinds of differences are often walls that separate people. But I'm not here to write about the world- I'm here to talk about the Jesus Revolution. And the revolution says this- it doesn't matter how different (or stupid!) someone may seem, your task is to love them. Not to convince them of your point of view, not to change them, not to tell them how wrong they are- just to love them with the radical, forgiving and grace-filled love of Jesus. If our relationships are based in God's love, then our differences will not separate us, they will lead to discussion and healing. I can disagree vehemently with someone who knows I love them, and in the end the love will remain. If we spend our lives arguing things we really don't know about with people we really don't know, then we are just bags of hot air wasting our breath. Just like_____________  (insert your least favorite political figure here, because I know we would disagree!).

So here's your homework. Today, whether in conversation or on social media of some sort, when a friend says something you disagree with, simply remind them that you love them. Save the arguments for another day. If someone you don't know says something you find ridiculous, just think to yourself (or post randomly for no apparent reason), "People... is stupid!" And then move on to the really difficult conclusion to that statement "...and Jesus said to love them ALL!!!" Actually, to love US all.  Hi, my name is Carl, and I'm stupid...  Viva la revolution!

Because of Jesus,

Monday, October 27, 2014

It's Daybreak!!!

It's Monday, the day when everyone feels just a little less peppy, a little less enthusiastic and a little less joyful. But it's also the start of a new week, and a new opportunity to do something amazing for the people in your life. A few weeks ago I ran across this old song from (of ALL people) Barry Manilow. I remembered it from way back in the day, but I did not remember it had such a wonderfully spiritual message to it. We just never know where inspiration will come from, do we? Want to jump start your week? Check this out:

Make this a day to shine, a day to spread faith, hope and love to your world. It often feels so dark outside. But if we truly believe, if we seek "that of God in everyone," then we can indeed "Shine, Shine, Shine- all around the world!" I wish you all blessings and great week filled with joy and adventure!

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Farewell, Joe Maddon

We will miss the themed road trips, the tips on high quality wines, the way he reached out to the community, the witty quotes and the occasional penguin in the clubhouse. We will miss the way he shuffled his lineups and was often unconventional with his strategies. Tampa Bay Rays fans will miss so many things about Joe Maddon, who opted out of his contract yesterday. But let's be honest- mostly, we will miss winning. Not just any manager could have taken one of the lowest payroll teams in baseball and turned them into winners year after year and year. Before Joe, we were a laughing stock. With Joe, we won division titles and went to a World Series. So au revoir, Joe. I have no doubt you will manage again soon. And I will be a fan of that team as well.

And oh by the 'bout them Royals!!!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Queries & Questions from a Quasi Quaker

One of the many blessings of my recent week in North Carolina was reconnecting with my Quaker roots. As many of you are aware, I grew up attending a Friends Meeting (Some Quakers use the words Meeting and Meetinghouse instead of Church because they believe the church is made up of people, not buildings or institutions. Others have abandoned this practice.) and spent the first 16 years of my professional ministry serving within the Society of Friends. In addition to working with local congregations, my involvement at the statewide level (Q's refer to their conferences as Yearly Meetings, because they gather once a year to do business) was significant. For a number of years I chaired the Young Friends (youth age) Activities Committee, served on the Quaker Lake Planning Committee and the QLC Board and represented our Yearly Meeting on a few national committees as well. I was well known in Quaker circles and my opinions were often valued. My involvement in those years was intense, time consuming and very important to me. When I left Quakers in 1994 to take a youth ministry position among United Methodists in Florida, a part of my heart was very heavy. And a part of me was very relieved.

You see, being a Quaker is very hard work. Friends have long believed (as did Jesus) that a good question is often better than an easy answer. It is hard to explain what a denomination believes when the answer is so personal. There is no creed or statement of faith that lays it all out- you must discover faith for yourself. Friends affirm that there are many paths one can walk on a spiritual journey and that no church or pastor can answer our questions and fulfill our needs completely- only God can. We are all called to be lifelong seekers of truth, according to traditional Quakerism. While I believe in this basic concept as stated by the first Quaker, George Fox, in 1652- "there is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to my condition" - in practice it does create some interesting dynamics. A room of 50 Quakers can have (and often does!) 50 different opinions, and because Friends are not a creedal society they are all "correct." This has led to turmoil, disagreement, compromise and discovery on many occasions throughout their 350 years. Quakers have had a disproportionate impact on history for such a small society. They were among the early leaders for religious freedom in the 13 colonies, among the leaders in abolishing slavery, among the leaders in obtaining voting rights for women and consistently at the forefront of peace and social justice issues, including the equal rights movement past and present. It is my belief that they had that kind of impact because they used their differences to grow and become stronger instead of to hold each other down. They found common ground in loving people. They changed the world in many ways. I read a pamphlet as a teenager published by the Catholic Church about the Society of Friends that contained this statement- "Quakers differ from us in nearly every way in the organization and practice of the faith. But it is hard to deny that Quakers often make the best Christians."

But recently, as old friend after old friend described to me the turmoil currently taking place in NC Yearly Meeting, it was clear there has been a major shift. The once healthy debate and respect for the spiritual equality of all people has turned into a typical USAmerican Red State/Blue State type of battleground. Fewer and fewer are seeing those 50 people in the room as different but right. Now they are different and WRONG. There has been a move from disagreement and debate to "Throw the bums out!" Pastors and other "Weighty Friends (a Quaker term for someone with wisdom, experience and reputation for speaking the truth)" spoke of a growing sentiment that the Yearly Meeting might split, dissolve or just get rid of some "trouble makers." Some of the issues are theological. By design (no creeds), Quakers are a very diverse group in both faith and practice. For many years the varying worship styles and debates on the topic of evangelism versus social justice have created tension. Tolerance for this wide range of beliefs seems to have reached a new low. Some problems are financial. Dwindling numbers have put new financial burdens on local Meetings, and their abilities to pay their Yearly Meeting "askings" have been compromised. Those who do pay are demanding a greater say in where and how the money is spent. And part of the issue seems to be just good ol' USAmerican arrogance- "I'm right...and you're stupid!"

All of this saddens me. My experiences with Quakers as a teenager and young adult are at the base of everything I  believe today. They taught me to search, to accept and to look for "that of God in everyone." My theology these days is simple- it's all about Jesus. I identify with the part of NCYM that holds to a Christ-centered faith and understand the frustration that arises when it feels like others don't believe the one thing you find to be most important. But I also understand the history and the practices of the Society of Friends. There are those who find refuge in a more open faith, accepting possibilities and practices that are foreign to me now. But know this- I came from that very same place. I was allowed to seek. I was nurtured. And eventually I came to believe in Jesus as my savior because I found it to be true in my own life- not just because someone else told me so. Choosing to be part of a non-creedal denomination means you forfeit the right to dictate what others in your group believe. You can disagree, complain, argue and influence- but you cannot dictate. The other choice is for YOU to leave, not to seek to throw those with whom you disagree out of a fellowship they have belonged to for hundreds of years. Being a Quaker is often about compromise. When I reached the point where that was uncomfortable for me, I left. But a part of my heart will always be among Friends.

In true Quaker fashion, there days there are tough questions with no easy answers. There are amazingly faithful people, and people I love dearly, on both ends and squarely in the middle of this struggle. It is my hope, through prayer and reconciliation, that healing can take place and NCYM can remain whole. Every time I pray about this my heart hurts for ministries like Quaker Lake Camp and the Serenity Youth Choir that have long served EVERYONE in the Yearly Meeting- no matter where they are on the theological spectrum. It would be tragic to sacrifice such great, life-changing programs to any kind of selfish, superior attitude that denies the spiritual equality of all Friends. It's been 20 years since my days on the inside of Quaker politics, and my voice no longer matters there. But my prayers do. And this quasi Quaker is praying hard. Please join me.

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Abreadcrumb & Fish

Today's Throwback Thursday takes me back to the summer of 2002. In July of that year the student ministry of the Wesley Memorial UMC headed out on their first trip to North Myrtle Beach, SC. We had a great group of kids, some outstanding adult leadership (Hal & Joanne Gastler) and lots of genuine excitement. To make things even better, 3 of my favorite FUMC-Kissimmee youth- Adam Hill, Josh Fry and Sarah Crudele- joined us. I was excited to have them along to help show my new youth group "The Carl Way."  The Betsy B was no long available, so I found another Ocean Drive beach house to rent. It was brand new and had many more amenities than the Betsy B, but it was not oceanfront. We had a great trip with lots of great moments. But it was very different because of how nice the house was. Sound odd? Let me try to explain...

North Myrtle Beach is a very special place to me. My family would camp there for a couple of weeks each summer when I was a kid. I travelled there with friends as a high school and college student. My youth group took trips there. When I started as a youth director at New Garden Friends Meeting in 1979, we started taking trips to NMB. For the next 20+ years I often spent at least one week every summer there with youth groups and my family. For all of those years the main attraction was always the beach. Wide, sandy and beautiful with just the right amount of waves, we would be out on the beach or in the Atlantic for hours every day. And we loved it.

Sean Bell & Nina Mock enjoy the pool table.
 In 2002 we stayed at the beautiful new Ocean Surf Club (see picture at top). We had TV and stereo in the house. We had use of golf carts we could use to explore the little village of Ocean Drive. We had a billiards table in the house. And we had to cross Ocean Blvd. to get to the beach. All of those things, plus a bit of rainy weather, turned the group into land-lovers. They just didn't go to the beach. They watched movies, played pool, explored the local shops and hung out. A couple of the guys (Ken & Philip?) got pulled for illegally driving a golf cart on the street (it wasn't their fault; the realtor had told us it was OK). We played mini-golf and went to the Pavilion. We ate great food. They had a great time. But it all seemed so odd to me that I wasn't convinced they were having any fun. Finally toward the end of the week it got warmer and sunny and we spent more time in the ocean. The trip accomplished much of what I wanted it to- relationship building and gaining the trust of the students. I just wasn't sure they thought the trip was great. And I wanted it to be great. I needed it to be a culture changing event for a youth ministry that was in rebuilding mode.

A few weeks later at our regular Sunday evening youth fellowship I was presented with a gift. The students who presented it said it was a "thank you" for taking the group on that trip. It was a t-shirt that read, Abreadcrumb & Fish- He Still Works Miracles. The scripture from Matthew 15:36-38 was also included. Those youth will never know how much that meant to me. No one had had ever given me a gift simply for planning a trip. The fact that they had spent their own money to buy it while we were in NMB made it even better. After being in Tampa for 9 months, I finally felt like I was a part of the family. Acceptance is a wonderful thing. We were on our way to becoming a real family.

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lessons Learned...or Forgotten?

My readers know that I love taking trips down memory lane. But not all such trips are filled with nostalgia and happy memories. Some are reminders of terrible moments and hard lessons. That's where I am today. You may not like this post very much...

Sometime in the early 1990's I read a book entitled And the Band Played On. Written by Randy Shilts and published in 1987, the book is a graphic look at the Gay culture of the late 70s and early 80s and the first days of what would become the AIDS epidemic. Shilts (who would eventually die from complications due to AIDS) attacks the story head on, tracing the origins of the HIV virus, tracking it to the US, and exploring how even as it was killing thousands by 1984 it was still being treated as a "Gay plague." The politics involved in our nation's response to HIV/AIDS were stunning and had tragic consequences. The unwillingness of the Gay community at that time to give up newly won freedoms- even if those freedoms were killing them- was a reminder of how selfish we all can be when it comes to protecting what is important to us. The book was very moving and very eye-opening to me in many ways. I re-read the book in 2007 and had the same gut-wrenching reaction, and was left to wonder if the lessons of our failures had been learned...or forgotten.

Then this week all of that was brought rushing back to my mind as I watched two movies for the first time. On Sunday we watched Dallas Buyers Club, and then Monday I saw The Normal Heart. While they are not directly connected, in some way I watched them out of order. The Normal Heart was a film made by HBO based on a play written by Larry Kramer in the 80s. Kramer was one of the first Gay men in NYC to try to alert both the Gay community and political leaders to the horrors of the coming epidemic- and he was ostracized by both groups for his efforts. The film is his story, and it is an amazing (albeit tragic) piece of history. There was so much that could have been done in the early years of the crisis- and so little that was done. The overwhelming response of medical community was to be afraid of what was happening to these Gay men, Haitians and intravenous drug users. Research for either a cause or a cure moved at a snails pace because there was no money pumped into either. Gay men refused to believe it was sexually transmitted until it had killed many of their friends. President Reagan did not say the word AIDS in public until 4 years after people started dying. It took the death of a gay movie star- Rock Hudson- to make us see that the crisis was real and we were all at risk. Once that happened. the money began to flow- a full 5 years after the first deaths. It is a horrific story in many ways, but it also a love story about caring for loved ones in the depths of misery and despair. The actors- Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Taylor Kitsch- are simply amazing. And the story it tells should not be forgotten.

The Dallas Buyers Club won OSCARS this year for Matthew McConnaughey and Jared Leto, and it chronicles the HIV/AIDS crisis in the mid to late 80s. As the worldwide medical community rushed to find treatments that would improve the quality of life for patients- remember, in those days a diagnosis was a death sentence- our government refused to approve many medicines because they were "unsafe." Believing that nothing is risky when you are dying, a straight, homophobic AIDS patient named Ron Woodroof begins to find ways to bring illegal medicines to Dallas to help people he was certain he hated. The government fought him at every turn, but he persevered until his death in 1992. Another amazing movie, another crushing story.

Earlier I mentioned lessons learned or forgotten. What are the lessons for me?  First, we are all connected in this world and what happens to any human being has an impact on us all. There were people in power during the early years of AIDS who thought that it was a disease for "those people." They were horribly wrong. We tend to be so selfish. Ebola has killed thousands in Africa, but it didn't really matter to us until a man in Texas was diagnosed. We share a planet, and we must learn that God has commanded us to care for everyone on it. The second lesson is that no freedom- no matter how dear we hold it or how significant it feels to us- is more important than the life of another human being. True freedom comes from Jesus. And every life is important to him. Thirdly, we as a nation must think hard about our priorities. In 1985 one month of our military budget was three times the total amount spent on HIV/AIDS research and development in the first 4 years of the crisis. Could our doctors and scientists have cured cancer or diabetes by now if we funded them with the same passion with which we build bombers? And finally I am left to wonder where the church was in the midst of that crisis- and where we are in the midst of such crisis today. Do we reject people based on our personal beliefs and opinions, or do we love as Jesus taught us to love- everyone no matter who they are.

History wouldn't repeat itself so often if we would just listen the first time. Read the book. See the movies. If you are even slightly homophobic then get ready to be overwhelmed with an inside look at a culture you despise. If you view the politics of the 1980s through rose colored glasses, you will be disappointed and stunned. Sometimes a trip down memory lane reminds us we still have miles to go to be the people God has called us to be. My prayer is that our hearts and minds will be open to learning the lessons of the past.

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Golden Thread of Friendship

Inspiration can come in strange places at strange times. Our maid Agnes (Who is actually me.  For those of you who don't know, Agnes is my alter-ego. I turn into Agnes whenever I am house cleaning!) was cleaning one of our bathrooms a while back and thinking about how blessed I am to have such wonderful friends, and what a technological miracle it is that I can stay in touch with them on a regular basis these days. It never fails to light up my life to get a ping on my phone indicating I have a new text message, or to find I have a new Twitter mention from one of my buddies there. These are reminders that there are people who care about me, and reminders of the power of friendships old and new. As I was thinking to myself that I might have stumbled on to a good topic for a blog post, I realized that there was a calligraphy hanging on the wall of the bathroom that has a lot to say about the blessings of friendship. So rather than bring all of you to our bathroom, I share it here with you.

Sometimes I view the pattern of my life and say a prayer
A prayer of thanks for many things I see so lovely there
And woven into this pattern is a shining golden thread
Reflecting something kind you've done or something nice you've said
And so I want to tell you that the peace and joy you lend
Can make one's life so rich and sweet
I'm glad that you're my friend.

Thanks be to God for filling my life with people who make me smile, bring me encouragement and make this world a far better place than it would be. And yes- I mean YOU! I hope you have a blessed and wonderful week!

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Waiting Expectantly

The Presence in the Midst
FYI- very few Quakers still dress this way

This morning at 9:30 Marilyn, our friend Lisa and I (Will is sick ) plan to worship at our home church along with nearly 1000 others. There will be loud music from a killer band, exciting use of giant video screens and a video wall, and a sermon that comes with the usual promise from our pastor of "the most important one I've ever given." And it will be excellent- they most always are. There will be excitement, energy and plenty of noise as we worship God together. I look forward to being there.

Last Sunday morning I was in NC where a group of us visited a small Quaker Meeting pastored by an old friend. Even with the 5 of us there were less than 40 in attendance. There was no praise team, just a choir and a piano. There were no video screens or any other technology besides one microphone. There was no hoopla, no hyperbole and no frills whatsoever. At the appointed hour, worship began. And it began in silence. I was so excited.

Silence is as scary thing in the modern church and in modern culture. Long "pauses" without noise make people uncomfortable. I remember once at the UMC I served in Kissimmee, FL an Associate Pastor going on and on about how we were going to have brief period of absolute silence to quiet our hearts and clear our minds. He repeated this over and over as he instructed us until finishing with these words: "And now, as the organ plays, we will pause for a moment of complete silence." We just don't do silence very well anymore. In worship last Sunday, there were periods of silence in between each of the elements of the service. I laughed to myself thinking that in most churches today people would have been sitting in their pews wondering, "Who messed up? What should be happening now?" There are fewer and fewer Quakers who have an appreciation for silence. Where silence is still a part of worship, it is often tolerated rather than embraced. People no longer understand the power of the quiet moment. But there is great power if you truly grasp the WHY of silence in worship.

Silence in worship is not about being quiet, it's about expectantly waiting. We allow the presence of God to fill the room in a very real way when we wait on it. We allow the Holy Spirit space to move in us when we center our hearts and minds on the things of God rather than the troubles of the day. We take the time to allow the scriptures, the message, the music and the Holy Spirit within us to speak into our hearts- and sometimes give us a message to share. A vibrant Friends Meeting that uses periods of silence in worship rarely has "silent worship." Last Sunday was no exception. People wait expectantly, and often numerous members of the congregation will rise and speak messages of faith, hope and love. So many times in the days of my youth those messages were much deeper and much more important than anything the pastor had to say. And I can tell you first hand of finding myself on my feet and speaking during periods of open worship with no real memory of standing up. When the Spirit says move, you move. And then you settle back into waiting. Because God always more for us if we take the time to wait on it.

I love worshipping at my church. The music, the technology and the high levels of excitement often move me and let us all express our praises to God and our love for Jesus. But we miss so much when we are afraid of silence. There is an intimacy in those moments that cannot be replicated by any other element in worship. I have my silent times by myself during the week and they are wonderful. But in my experience there is very little that equals the power of the gathered body of Christ waiting expectantly to feel the presence in our midst. It is my prayer today that the modern church would rediscover the power of silence in worship. Even if we have to do it "as the guitar plays..." Be still and know.

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Shout Outs: Trip Report Edition!

Sometimes a Saturday rolls around and I think to myself, "Do I have enough material to publish the Shout Outs this week?" Other times- like today- the concern is more about how all of the shouting can possibly fit into one blog post! It's been an amazing couple of weeks, beginning with my birthday, stretching through my awesome trip to NC, and finishing up with Marilyn's birthday this past Thursday. There are people to thank, blessings to count and joys & concerns to share, so let's get on with it. It's Saturday, and I am ready to SHOUT!!!

* To everyone who texted, tweeted, commented and otherwise wished me a happy birthday back on October 6, I say thank you! Special mention goes to Jennifer (Bob) Kuramochi (with special help from Josephine and Noah!) who dropped off some red velvet cupcakes. Yum! It was a great day that culminated with a dinner at Bahama Breeze with this fine group of folks...

* Before I get into my trip, there are numerous prayer requests to share. Amber Herrick (FUMC-Kissimmee) was married on October 10th; Mandy Beggs (Springfield Friends) is expecting a baby any minute now; Cyndi Browning (FUMC-K) is still job hunting; Terry & Leigh Ann Venable and Cynthia Davis Strider (Quaker Lake) are new grandparents; and yesterday was my Mom's birthday. Marilyn and I are headed up to celebrate a little later this morning!

* On my first night in NC I went to dinner with our dear friends Butch & Barbara Moran. It was so great to catch up with them and remember some of the great times we shared together. Plus, yesterday was Butch's birthday!- so this is a double whoop of a shout!

* Among the other old High Point area friends that made time for me my first couple of days up north were Millie Simmons, Ray Luther, James Robinson, Terry Venable, Lisa Moran and Wayne Gless. I spent Thursday evening with Jimmy & Karen Chester and we nearly talked all night. The connections I share with so many of these wonderful folks are still so strong- even some 20 years later!

* I spent pretty much all day Friday with Beth McGalliard, who had been an important part of my life since middle school. We had lunch, went shopping at Sam's Club, drove what seemed like 100 miles to buy pansies and stopped by for a visit with her son at work. I got to simply hang out with one of my favorite people in the world for a few hours. I could get used to that.

* I spent my last 3 nights with Carl & Diane Semmler in Greensboro. Carl is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and Diane is such a sweetheart. Their hospitality was so gracious, even if their giant attack cat Carson was a little scary! On Saturday morning we headed over to a place called The Moose Cafe for breakfast with some of my favorite people on the planet. We were joined by Chuck & Tammy Foster, Alan Brown, Mark & Martha Farlow and Susan Tuggle (plus her grandkids!). While I was a bit disappointed that The Moose Cafe serves no moose, they did serve something called a Hillbilly Breakfast that features liver mush. I did NOT partake; Chuck did. Special thanks to The Asheboro Flash for buying my breakfast, although he may or may or not have made Carl actually pay for it! 

* Saturday for lunch (in case you haven't noticed there was no shortage of food on my trip) a group of my former youth from Springfield gathered at our favorite place from back in the day, Pizza Inn. It was so wonderful to be joined by Todd Farlow, Ken Hill, Jennifer Wood Jones, Marie Allen, Danny McCorquodale and some spouses and kids as well. I heard from a dozen or so others who wanted to be there but couldn't make it work with their busy family schedules. Next time for sure. But here's the evidence that myself,  Ken, Danny and a little photobomber were there...
Picture courtesy of Missy McCourquodale

* Saturday night brought another meal, more time with Beth, and a visit from another very special old friend- Denise May Langley. It was great to catch up with Neesie and for the three of us to sit talk and eat as we had sooooo many times before. It was all so comfortable and so...NORMAL. It made me long for the days when we all lived just a few miles apart and such dinners (and late night doughnut runs!) were a regular activity. Either that or the days when communes were perfectly acceptable...

* After a bit of arm-twisting from Martha Farlow, Sunday morning found Carl, Denise, Beth (and her hubby Bob) and myself worshipping at Jamestown Friends Meeting. Once again, it was incredible to take a trip down memory lane. The pastor, Frank Massey, was one of my counselors when I was a Quaker Lake camper in the mid 70s. Wallace Sills was an early influence on me at camp and through NCYM; Beth Phillips Massey was one of my first youth leaders at New Garden Friends Meeting. An added surprise was discovering that Wendy Mattocks (from my Springfield group) was presiding over meeting for worship. And worship was simply wonderful. I do miss silence...but you can read more about that tomorrow!

* Sunday afternoon and evening were spent watching football and exploring Greensboro with Carl & Diane. Again, spending time with such valued friends was the whole purpose of the trip. And I was blessed to get to do lots of it! But I have to admit none of it felt quite the same with Steve Semmler up in Ohio. Which is why a  beach trip NEEDS to happen next September!!!  :)

* There were, of course, people I didn't get to see and hope to the next time around. Lots of former youth and campers, Neal & Susie Thomas, Mark & Liz Hyde, Donna Haynes Myers, Sabrina Perry, Andy Maynard, Tim Vail, Drew & Andrea Ward and so many more are on my list. I drove through Quaker Lake but didn't get to really see any of new facilities, and I got real barbecue, but not Stamey's. So there is work still to be done!

Thanks again to everyone who made me feel so welcome and so special, and to Marilyn and Will for letting me take the trip. I feel more like my old self that I have in a very long time. Have a blessed Saturday and thanks for stopping by!

Because of Jesus,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Flashback Friday: The Sit In

Last week at this time I was visiting old friends and reconnected to some of my Quaker roots in North Carolina. To say things are a bit tumultuous among Friends there is a massive understatement. There will be more written about that here in the days to come, but today those thoughts led me to this Friday Flashback, first shared here in 2009. Enjoy.

The early 1980's were a strange time to be a 20-something, socially concerned seeker/christian trying to find his way in the world. In November 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected and my roommates and I strongly considered moving to Canada (just so you know, this was not simply politics; I was a registered republican at the time and I voted for John Anderson, a republican who ran as an independent. It was just that Reagan scared us to death!). In December 1980 John Lennon was shot and an icon of the peace and justice movement was dead. By 1982 Reagan had declared it was "morning in America" (which was true if you happened to be white and have money) and the country was on an extreme conservative swing. Worse, at least for me, was that the church was becoming completely immersed in politics. Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority and Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition had been a great help to the Reagan campaign, and now they were using their power to urge congress to pass more "christian" legislation. On the national stage Christianity became less about what Jesus taught and more about conservative politics. And if you dared disagree with them, you were quickly declared both unchristian and un-American, which they saw as the same thing. For example, the Moral Majority worked tirelessly against the re-election of Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon, despite the fact that he was one of the most outspoken evangelical Christians in the Senate. His flaw? He was for disarmament and a World Peace Tax Fund. To paraphrase the great Tom Lehrer, "it takes a certain amount of guts to get up and speak out on behalf of peace and justice and brotherhood and all the other things those people are against!" Strange days indeed...

In the midst of these changing times, Quakers in North Carolina were changing too. For years, the Young Friends (7th-12th grade students) of NC Yearly Meeting had been primarily led by students who went to Quaker Lake for summer camp, many of whom also attended New Garden Friends Meeting. (For those of you who are regular readers, you will know that those are the two ministries I worked for at the time, so I was double trouble!) This began to shift in the early '80's as the leadership at the top of the Yearly Meeting began to change and reflect the political climate of the day. When the position of Youth and Christian Education Director for NCYM came open, the search committee went outside of NCYM, passing over several local candidates and hiring David Tebbs from Ohio. Over the next few years David and I disagreed on many things, but I always had the ultimate respect for him as a leader and as a Christ-follower, and eventually we became good friends. At about the same time, Jerry Cannady was installed as the new head of the Young Friends Activities Committee, which controlled the planning for all NCYM youth events except Quaker Lake summer camp. Jerry was a large, angry pastor who had no interest in youth- he was put in place to put us (the Quaker Lake and New Garden crowds) in our place. He did not have our respect on any level, and he made it clear he didn't like us at all. A showdown was inevitable.

The showdown came at Yearly Meeting (a once a year, statewide gathering of Quakers), August 1982 at Guilford College. For several years part of the program had been the showing of the Quaker Lake slideshow from the the recently completed summer camping season. The campers who also attended this event looked forward to it, and others came in just for the slide show presentation. On this particular occasion, the slide show was the last event of the day on the next to the last day of the sessions. For those who attended camp, the slide show was often a very emotional event, and this year was no exception. At the conclusion, before anyone connected with QLC could say anything, Jerry Cannady jumped to his feet and announced that it was time for everyone to go back to the dorms, and that there was to be total silence as we did so. We were stunned. No time to visit and chat about what we had just experienced. No time to go back through the slides and take them in more slowly, without the soundtrack. Jay Osborne, the Presiding Clerk (that's Quaker for chairman or president) of the Young Friends spoke up and asked if those who wanted to could watch it again. He was told NO in a most unpleasant way. As people began to get up and leave in silence, Jay and I did not move. Neither did many others. Jerry began yelling at us and using some distinctively un-Quaker language, demanding that we get out and go to our dorms. And still we sat there. A long, ugly discussion ensued that let us know in no uncertain terms that things were changing. Those of us who found our expressions of faith more in seeking, peace, equality and the radical teachings of Jesus were now being dictated to by those who saw everything in black and white; and we had just been declared part of the darkness.

I don't really remember how it all ended that night; I don't think we saw anymore slides. My own theology and beliefs, so young at the time, have certainly changed since that night. But what I really remember is my good friend Jay Osborne, age 17 or so, (yes, the same Jay who would one day drop my guitar off the roof of the QLC lodge!) staying seated to "stand up" for his beliefs and his friends. I was proud to sit with him and all the others. It didn't ring a bell at the time, but today it is not lost on me that our little "sit-in" took place in Greensboro, home to one of the great and powerful sit-ins of the civil rights movement. But the real heart of the story is this- many of "those people" who left as we sat took the time later on to talk to us, to lovingly share their side of the story and to seek a middle ground. Many of them would become my friends and co-workers in the years that followed. Quakers have never been and will never be homogenous, being a wildly diverse (and often quite confusing) group in theology and worship styles. But historically they have always been willing to seek consensus and work for the greater good in God's name. It is my most fervent prayer that my old friends currently embroiled in difficult circumstances in NCYM will remember that fact and remember that the love of God is not based on theology, styles, finances or politics. God loves us all. Even the people who are not like us... 

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Birthday Girl

Today my lovely wife Marilyn celebrates her birthday, and I hope you will all join me in wishing her the happiest of days! She's been my partner in marriage for 28 years and a wonderful mother to Will for the past 19. She has loved and cared for us both in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse. She is the rock of our family, and we love her very much. She actually has a a day off today, and we look forward to a full day of celebrating with her. Happy Birthday, Marilyn! May the coming year be full of blessings and joy!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Parable of Radical Forgivness

I used to tell students that we only needed forgiveness for two things in this life- the things we do and the things we don't do! With that in mind...

In case you missed this while reading your Bible, Jesus was big into forgiveness. His mission statement- "I came to save the world, not to condemn it"- is all about offering us grace and forgiveness, because God knows we deserve to be condemned. Jesus came and died on the cross so we wouldn't get what we deserve. He told the following parable in Matthew 18:21-35 (The Message).

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"   Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn't pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market. The poor wretch threw himself at the king's feet and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, 'Pay up. Now!'  The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' But he wouldn't do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

The king summoned the man and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn't you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?' The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy."

Over the years I have encountered both the king and the servant from this story. The kings- of which there are many- have seen the sin and failure (the debt) in my life, and have forgiven me anyway. Paul writes that sin will always be with us on this side of heaven. My past sins serve as a reminder of how much I need Jesus, but the debt has been erased by the sacrifice of Jesus and these "kings" I have encountered along the road. The servants- of which, thankfully, I have encountered but a few- have seen the sin and failure in my life, and they seem determined to make sure those things are never forgotten. They feel hurt and betrayed by my actions (and I don't blame them) but they just can't let it go. My sin seems to effect them more than their own. And if I am not careful, their actions and attitudes can cause me to sin again- because they make me want to not forgive them. But I must. I cannot experience the abundant life that Jesus came to bring unless I can forgive myself and others. People who are otherwise faithful Christians seem to carry around an unhealthy bitterness and resentment that one would think should be absent from the body of Christ. And that is their prerogative- as long as they never need forgiveness themselves. This parable is not the only scripture that makes this point very clear. In the LORD's Prayer, we are told to pray for God to "forgive our trespasses (debts)  as we forgive those who trespass against us." Jesus said "Judge not at all, or you will be judged." He said "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." In other words, Jesus makes it clear that we will all be held to the same standard that we hold others to. If we forgive and offer grace and mercy to the people who wrong us, then that is what we shall receive from God. If we don't- well, I'd prefer not to find out what refusing God's grace feels like. 

We all seek forgiveness in our lives, and those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers know that we can repent and ask for grace, and that it is a gift given freely by our God. Far too many people, however, struggle when it comes to personal grace; we want forgiveness from God but are not willing to offer it to those around us. I hope that this parable will inspire us all to be like the King- both the one in parable and the One we worship. He understood the debt, he hated the debt- but he erased the debt. Many of you have been "human erasers" in my life, and I thank God everyday for your mercy- and His.  Have a happy Hump Day, everyone!

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Visit To Memory Lane

Yesterday I returned to Tampa after spending 5 glorious, wondrous days in my native state of North Carolina. It was more than amazing to share warm hugs and big laughs with people I had not seen in many years- some in over 20. People kept asking about the purpose of my trip, when in fact people were the purpose of my trip- and it was a major success! One of my friends answered that question by saying. "It's a Carl reunion," And it did feel that way. There will be much more written about this adventure as the week goes on, but after hitting the road at 4 am yesterday and driving the 700 miles home, I am reminded that the words "spring chicken" no longer apply to me. So today you get a brief summary of my journey.

Last Friday I drove past the house you see above at 405 Springtime Road in the Guilford College area of Greensboro. My parents had this house built in 1964, and we lived there throughout my childhood and young adult years. For the purpose of this trip, it may as well as well have been located at 405 Memory Lane. That house was ground zero for so many adventures, so many relationships and sooooo many memories. It still looks great, and even though many of the leaves have not turned yet, the tree you see welcomed to me to Autumn- a season which for all practical purposes does not exist in Florida. The lawn looks too good, making me think that the front yard football games may be a thing of the past. When I told my friend Carl Semmler about my "drive by" he wondered if the current residents had left the living room unfurnished (The Chinese Room- you had to sit on the floor!) as my parents had for all those many years. It was a powerful visit for me. They say you can't go home again. They also say home is where the heart is. As I took that picture and the memories of my years in NC flooded my soul I was much more connected to the second of those old sayings than the first...

To the dozens of people with whom I sat and visited during my trip, thank you for making my time with you so special. There will be more specifics coming in the Saturday Shout Outs later this week, but the love, grace and friendship you showed me was overwhelming. I am truly blessed.

To the dozens of other friends I didn't get to see, please know that you were thought of, talked about and missed. Marilyn and I will be back before too long and hopefully we can catch up with even more of you the next time around. I know that we can't live in the past. But for a few days, it was really nice to take up residence at 405 Memory Lane and just revel in the people and events that made me who I am today. And, as it turns out, Memory Lane can be a great starting point for planning new adventures. But more on that later this week. I hope you missed me while I was gone, dear readers. Have a blessed day, and peace be with you!

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Real Life

Having just finished a big 3-day birthday weekend and having arrived at the ripe young age of 55, today I find myself preparing for yet another adventure. Tomorrow morning I will set sail for North Carolina all by my lonesome to visit friends and enjoy some serious time away from Florida. Now don't get me wrong- I have an amazing family and I love them very much. I have great friends (thanks for the cupcakes, Jen!) scattered all over the Sunshine State. But NC is home, and I am very excited to spend a few days there just reconnecting.

For much of the past 5 years many of my friendships have been nurtured, rekindled and jump-started through the use of technology. This blog, my Twitter account, Marilyn's Facebook and the ability to text with old friends have been a gift from God. There is little doubt in my mind that there have been times when these tools have been the life jacket that kept me afloat in hard times and tough situations. Yesterday's many, many birthday greetings on FB and Twitter are an easy example of the positive power of social media in my life. But nothing beats the power of human contact- and starting tomorrow, I am going to get 5 days of reuniting with people I care about very much, many of whom I haven't seen in a very long time. This computer has been a a blessing- but there is nothing better that real life.

So for the next week there will be an interweb "brownout" in my life. Don't look for any posts here, and there will be very few Twitter updates either. I'm going to be immersed in reality. There will be real hugs, real laughter, great memories and quite possibly a tear or two. The downside to reality is that, as the movie once suggested, sometimes reality bites. But the risk is sooooo worth the reward! So have a great week, miss me while I'm gone, and get ready for some great stories starting one week from today when I return. Technology, family, friends and most importantly the grace of God have kept me afloat for a long time. Now it's time to dive in and do some swimming. Peace, my friends!

Because of Jesus,

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Ol' Double Nickel

Today is my birthday. I am 55 years old. They say age is just a number. I am guessing that whoever "they" is hasn't hit the ol' double nickel! I know in this day and age 55 is not really old, but it sure does sound like it ought to be. So today I will celebrate appropriately. I will eat a high fiber cereal for breakfast. I will complain about things I know nothing about. I will drive too slow in the left lane and NEVER turn off my turn signal. I will sign up for AARP, and with any luck I will eat my birthday dinner early bird style- around 4 PM. And then it's off to bed around 9:30. It's time to settle in to a new lifestyle.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth! It was a wonderful weekend filled with awesome football and baseball, great times with family and friends and even a movie (The Equalizer) with my dear friend Lisa. We all celebrated last night at the Olive Garden while watching Will work; tonight there will be big birthday dinner at Bahama Breeze. Tomorrow there will be final preparations for my trip to NC, and then Wednesday I will make the drive north. It's going to be a great birthday week, full of adventure and excitement. Maybe 55 really is just number. I feel good, life is good, and I am loved and blessed. I don't feel a day over 52! Have a wonderful day, my friends, and remember to enjoy this day that we have all been given. 

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The National Youth Workers Convention: My Top 10 Memories

The Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention is going on this weekend in Sacramento, and even after 8 years away I still miss those events. I attended 18 of the conventions (NYWC) between 1982 and 2006. The full list of conventions I attended is as follows:  Dallas (1982, 2001); Atlanta (1987, 2000, 2004);  Chicago (1988); Orlando (1989);  Nashville (1995, 2002);  Anaheim (1996); Philadelphia (1985, 1997); Denver (1998); Cincinnati (1999); Phoenix (2003); Sacramento (2005); 
Pittsburgh (2005); and Charlotte (2006). Today I want to remember some of the people, speakers, seminars and events that made those conventions such life-changers for me. Today I take a look back at 10 of the best moments. Two of my very best memories- Mike Yaconelli's early morning bible study and the Exhibit Hall (featuring every youth ministry resource you can imagine, from finger blasters to bibles)- happened every year and are not included on this list. 
  1. Dallas, 1982Convention #1 has to go at the top of the list. I was amazed at everything, but among my favorite memories are hearing Tony Campolo speak for the first time; meeting Mike Yaconelli for the first time; Jim Burns and his incredible Advanced Youth Ministry seminar; the Wittenburg Door Banquet with radical speaker Dick Gregory; and of course, my amazing souvenir belt buckle (pictured).
  2. Atlanta, 2004-  Tic Long offered me the opportunity to lead my very own NYWC Seminar, which was a dream of mine. I had finally achieved the status I always desired- that of Minor Christian CelebrityVery minor. My seminar was called Pagan Eye For the Christian Guy and focused on taking our ministries out of the church and into the community. It was well attended and well received. A true highlight of my professional career.
  3. Phoenix, 2003- I signed up for a two day intensive seminar (called Critical Concerns Courses in those days) led by Yac and Fil Anderson, who had been my Young Life leader during my first couple of years of high school. It was a spiritual growth workshop, where we spent 8 hours focused on the scripture found in John 12:1-8 where Mary pours perfume on Jesus' feet. We literally soaked in the scripture, building our own clay jars and making our own perfume. It was amazing. The fact that Yac would be killed in a car wreck less than a month later made it all the more significant to me...
  4. Philadelphia, 1997- All of us who had served 20 years or more in student ministry were called to the stage and presented with a framed copy of the great Geoff Moore & the Distance song, Only A Fool- while Geoff and the boys sang it to us. The framed copy (pictured) still hangs on a wall in my home.
  5. Atlanta, 1987-  The Country Quakers (myself, Terry Venable and Ray Luther) sang Blue Pick-Up Truck at the Wittenburg Door Banquet and rocked the house! Also that same year Wayne Rice did a great Sinatra impression while singing I Did It His Way...  Classic.
  6. 1982-2006-  The "group singing" in the general sessions was always just incredible. Over the years I was fortunate enough to share in worship with Yohann Anderson, James Ward, Bob Stromberg, Chris Tomlin, 721, Starfield and of course, *David Crowder Band. I can't even begin to explain how these amazing artists impacted my life and my ministry, or how many of their songs I took home to my groups. I used to say that the Angels would have a hard time matching the sound of 1000 youth workers singing "Where justice rolls down like a mighty water" or "There is no one like you..."
  7. Dallas, 2001Late Night Live on the final night of the convention was always good, but in 2001 it was simply awesome! Lost And Found came out to warm up the crowd, doing cover songs and claiming not to be themselves. When asked who they were, they responded with crazy names like Czars of ClaySecond Day or abcTalk. Comedian Brad Stine joined in with his "Put a helmet on!" bit, which killed. Lost And Found then came out for real and played my request, Used To Be. And finally CPR closed with their brilliant improv act. Best. Night. Ever! And I was on the front row...
  8. Philadelphia, 1997- During general sessions YS used to have a set of bleachers on the main stage that they called The Peanut Gallery. The seats were first come, first served, and in those days me & The Banana Splits were always first because we volunteered to do set-ups before the sessions. We usually avoided the Peanut Gallery (preferring the front row) but for some reason we sat in the bleachers for a session featuring Third DayMac Powell (complete with blond hair!) came over and sat with us during one of the songs, as did Mark Lee. I may be wrong, but I think Campolo spoke at that session too. A great memory!
  9. Anaheim, 1996- We got on an elevator at the hotel with some weird looking British dudes we had never seen before. A few hours later we were worshipping with them. We had just encountered Deliriou5- and that is something you never forget. I had never experienced worship quite like that. I still get chills every time I hear Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?
  10. Nashville, 1995- It should come as no surprise that music was the thing at my first Nashville NYWCMichael W. Smith showed up unannounced and played some songs from the then-unreleased I'll Lead You Home album. PRF performed with help from members of Jars of ClayAudio Adrenaline played without lead singer Mark Stuart, who had laryngitis. One of their roadies sang lead on Big House. And I met Geoff Moore for the first time over dinner at the hotel. It was all awesome!
  11. BONUS:  Chicago, 1988- Can't leave this year off the list. It was the year I roomed with Terry Venable and got the "You're dead meat!" call from his wife Leigh Anne at 5 AM because their sick child had kept her up all night. It also featured the only speaker I ever walked out on in 18 conventions- Rev. Charles Stanley. But that is a story for another day... 
I could go on, but I'll stop there. The NYWC has a special place in my heart, and I hope this has been an amazing weekend for everyone in Sacramento. I know that the leadership and the tone of the conventions have changed a great deal since 2006, but one thing will never change- the best part was always the time spent with the other participants just talking shop. These were other people who actually understood what it was like to live life as a youth pastor. My prayer is that all youth workers will feel the love and support in their lives that the NYWC always gave me. And that there's still room on the schedule to get into a little trouble...  :)

Because of Jesus,