Happy New Years!

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, all! I hope you had good and safe fun during last night’s festivities!

Engine #6I was on the road at 12:10am last night. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you probably saw a tweet about this. I was leaving the Liberty right after midnight and was on Elizabeth Ave crossing Broad Street towards the courthouse. I saw, out of the left corner of my eye, two engines pull out of the Broad St firehouse, lights ablazin’ and sirens blaring. They came toward my direction with great acceleration as I pulled over and let them pass. I remembered then that, while walking to my car, I heard the distant crackling of a large amount of fireworks, mostly illegal I supposed. I would assume that someone rang in the new year by setting their home afire within 10 minutes of the ball dropping. Nice! I couldn’t help but chuckle a little while still feeling a little sad for the situation.

From the stageAnyway, I went to my church’s New Year’s gathering last night before the fire incident. I wasn’t aware I was supposed to be running sound for the night, so I planned on showing up “fashionably late.” Alas, I received a call about 15 minutes before the start asking if I was coming becuase they needed a tech there. So I geared up with haste and made my way to the Liberty Center. I walked in the door as they were starting to play the first song. There was a guy there who I’ve been training that got the stuff turned on and running, but quickly passed it to me when I arrived. It was a night of prayer and worship. Pretty good. A lot of people showed up… a lot more than I expected to. I think we had about 300 or so. I added a few photos from the night here, on Flickr.

I don’t have much scheduled for today. I’m trying to find something to do. I don’t think any stores will be open, and I’m having a hard time find people with which to do something. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just go shower and then head out and see what becomes of things.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great New Year’s holiday! Peace be with you.

Unwrapping Christmas, and general updates

Merry Christmas

Hey everybody. It’s been awhile. A long while. It seems I’ve dropped off the face of the earth the past few weeks, and I apologize for it.

My father going into the hospital really set me back. So many things were put on hold or postponed or cancelled. I tried, at the start to post something small every day, but going back and forth to the hospital in New York, spending all day in tiny hospital rooms and lobbies, fighting traffic in the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, and still trying to do Christmas things in the (late) evenings… it took it’s toll.

Merry Christmas to meWell, the good news is that my father was, in fact, released from the hospital the day before Christmas Eve. We weren’t sure if it was going to even be possible for him to be home for the holidays, but thank God it all worked out. Christmas was good this year, as you’ve already heard if you listen to my Utterz. I was sick on Christmas Eve and Day, but am feeling much better now. I got a Mr Potato Head. No, seriously. I mean, I did get some gift cards and cash, but I can honestly say I got a Potato Head for Christmas. 🙂 Actually I didn’t want anything. Especially as of late I’ve become dissatisfied with how commercialism has taken over what Christmas is really about.

ConsumerismEven while I was out shopping for gifts for my family and friends I was watching the frenzy people were in running here and there, shopping carts bursting to overflowing, clearing the shelves of every toy and department store. And while it is an amazing and beautiful thing to remember the gift God gave us on Christmas 2000 years ago by giving to those we love, it seemed a bit off to me. Maybe not off. Excessive is a better word perhaps. I heard a teaching in the weeks leading up to Christmas via podcast from a church that my friend goes to in Indy. The teaching and movement they were proposing resonated with things already stirring in me and helped refocus my priorities for this holiday season. I live in the most blessed nation on the planet. We have way more than we could ever need. Yet still there are millions within our own borders and billions outside them who can’t even afford life’s basic necessities. And so I decided to join the conspiracy and give away a significant portion of my “Christmas budget” to bring relief, aide, and justice to those who lack it. It forced me to rethink my shopping and spending. Let me tell you, I realized even moreso how easy it is to fall into the traps of overspending and excessiveness . It was a struggle to keep the dollar amounts down. But forcing myself to do it on top of my father being in the hospital really spoke volumes to me. I mean, what’s really more important? Getting a new iPhone of Xbox 360, or the fact that everyone in my family was able to gather in relatively good health and celebrate the season together? In comparison who really cares about money and stuff?

Honestly, there’s so much more I have to say about stuff that’s happened over the past few weeks, but it’s after 2am and I’m still extremely tired. I don’t even know if what I’ve typed tonight makes any sense. I’m too tired to go back and read through it and edit. It is what it is at this point. I think I may have to take my leave for now. Tomorrow is going to be a long day as well, but maybe I can blog more on Saturday.

In the mean time you can see what I’ve been up to by visiting my Flickr account. I’ve uploaded close to 300 images of my journies and experiences for your enjoyment. Recently added, you’ll find sets of:

1. The School 23 Christmas Party
2. Carlos’ Christmas Dinner for the 4th Ward
3. The Sanctuary’s Christmas Worship Service
4. Our journey to Tuscarora Inn and some Cracker Barrel!
5. My Small Group’s Christmas Dinner
6. Angelica’s School Christmas Concert
7. Castro’s 21st Birthday Dinner
8. The Bridge: Midtown‘s Christmas Party
9. My father’s hospital journies & random shots around NYC.
10. Visiting the Rockafeller Center Christmas Tree
11. Christmas 2007
12. Playing Transformers Risk
13. and finally, a set for photos not in a set – so you can find the most recent random images quickly amidst the mass uploading of other galleries.

5th Ave, Manhattan My turn?

Of course you can always follow me on Twitter or now on Utterz to see exactly what I’m up to right at that moment.

Refound passions, and the importance of the shimita

I feel bad that I haven’t posted recently. I know it’s not that big a deal in the overall scheme of things, but it has been an issue on my mind these past few days. Honestly, I’ve been pretty busy as of late. There’s so many projects and things that need to get done. And as a result, it has been almost 2 full weeks since my last real blog. I apologize a thousand times.

Bridge shirtsI had a realization this weekend. As you probably have already gathered, I am a youth worker in the city of Elizabeth. Actually, I am one of many leaders in one of many groups of which The Bridge Youth Ministries comprises. It seems, in recent months, that I have had a more overseeing/administrating role thrust upon me. This is nothing of my choosing, nor do I necessarily want it, but I accept the role as it has befallen me. Now, I’m not the one “in charge” of the group I work in (Midtown) and I don’t pretend to be, but it seems that many people come to me for organization and even for clearance on what to do certain nights, especially when Harold (our pastor) is absent due to his musical tour.

I say all that to say that I do spend a significant amount of time setting things up and preparing, and then making sure everything runs properly. As a result, I sometimes feel quite removed from actual interaction with the youth, though I do still get to do it a bit. Well, as circumstances would have it, due to the fire at the Liberty we are not currently able to meet there. (Side note: There was no really bad damage and we should hopefully not be too delayed in moving back in fully). We are meeting with a different Bridge, Bridge 23, for the month of December and then we will take up residence in School #2 for the start of 2008 and hopefully not tarry there too long before we can move into Liberty.

Since we are meeting with a different Bridge, we (the Midtown staff) are not the ones running the show, so to speak. I had no major responsibility this past week other than to be there. And so I actually had a whole night to hang out with kids. It was refreshing. I got to speak to a few, but spent a majority of time with one in particular who has some significant circumstances surrounding them as of late. It was great to just sit there and listen to their story and share thoughts with them. It was free and alive and the community our soul’s crave, of interaction with others and helping those who need it, was there. It was unforced and, really, was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me of what “youth ministry” is all about.

Me and GailAs did the events of the following morning. It was Gail’s birthday earlier this week. Gail is another youth in The Bridge whom I’ve known for quite some time now. I got to hang out with Gail on Saturday morning. We had some pancakes. And then we were able to talk for a bit. I haven’t seen her in awhile due to her insane schedule because she’s a pretty beastly soccer player. We got to talk about her college plans, SAT’s, scholarships, Mountain Dew, her recent birthday, The Bridge itself, her family and friends, etc. And then we got to look at some quality graffiti affixed to the wall of a local bowling alley. It was a great morning, and it further reminded me of how much I like simply hanging out with teenagers. It’s one of the things I was born to do. Even at work this week, I was talking to someone about these very events of the weekend and blurted out, “It sure is more fulfilling than being here.” (I am not shy about my lack of fulfillment at my current employer, though I don’t usually vocally assert this while there). And so I realize that there’s little more I’d like to spend my time doing than hanging out and talking to people… hearing their stories, helping where I can, trying to make a difference… and if they’re teenagers it’s even better.

Later that same Saturday we had a planning meeting for The Bridge to discuss what we are going to be doing in 2008 as well as to get some ideas out for Retreat(8). It was a pretty good meeting, though I can foresee that 2008 is going to be a very busy year. I kind of look forward to it. I have felt somewhat idle this past year. In reality, the entire 2007 has been somewhat of a break for The Bridge. We realized that we needed a rest because we are constantly pushing so hard and driving with great momentum. It felt to me, since we were so relaxed this year, that we might actually be losing some ground in what we are trying to accomplish. I’ve realized, though, over the past two or three days something interesting about this issue. This is the 7th year of The Bridge’s existence. There is a story in the book of Leviticus, where God tells Moses that the people of Israel are to farm and work the land as they normally do for six years. Then, on the seventh year they must give the land a rest. A Sabbath, just as the people were to observe a Sabbath on the seventh day of the week.

The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. (Leviticus 25:1-5 NIV)

This “seventh year rest,” or sabbatical, is known as the shimita. We now know that the earth does, in fact, need a rest periodically in order to regain and replenish all that is lost in planting and harvesting – the same as a person needs a rest to replenish and rejuvenate their soul in order to effectively face another week. Sabbath – Shimita – is given to put back what is used up in the daily activities and work of life. Is it coincidence that this year of rest came for us exactly seven years from when we began? I think not. It happened almost without effort. The natural rhythms of life and ministry told us to take it easy, and we simply listened to what was already there, without even thinking “sabbath.” And so, as the seventh year, our sabbath, our shimita, comes to a close, I’m excited for what will come in 2008. The “land,” the ministry, has had it’s rest and is ready for another six years of planting and harvesting. I, for one, am excited.

May peace be with you.


Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. A day to celebrate eating too much and preparations to spend way too much money the following day…. wait, that can’t be it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably have at least some familiarity with the “Thanksgiving story…” how the Pilgrims came to a foreign land, not really knowing what they would find then they got there. They left all the comforts of home in pursuit of an elusive dream that we all long for… freedom. Theirs was a freedom to worship as they saw fit. Maybe the freedom you seek take another form, but there it is. And then, late in the year they gathered with family and friends of old as well as new friends met in a “New World” to thank God for the blessings they had received and for the freedom they had found to live and love and worship as they desired.

And so we continue the tradition on the fourth Thursday of every November. Thanksgiving is a day we stop the busyness of life and the hectic schedules to remember how blessed we truly are and how much we have to be thankful for. And there is much to be thankful for.

The mere fact that I live in America, by default, shows how blessed I am. I have heard it said that if you live in the United States, have a roof over your head, and have a car, you are within the top 3% of the wealthiest people on planet Earth. Well, that’s me. A few years ago I took this fact for granted. Today I am more educated. I realize how blessed I really am. And I think differently about these things now as well. Even today, at Thanksgiving dinner, my father prayed over the meal before we began and he thanked God for the blessings we have and asked to bless us more in the upcoming year. It seems it is a cadence and ritual thing to say on Thanksgiving. But I think now that I am already so blessed, I don’t need any more. I really don’t. No, instead I think the time has come to take that blessing given to me and give it away to those who need it more.

And so I count my blessings

– I am thankful that all of my family is in relatively good health. There has been no major catastrophe within our midst, really ever. That is rare, and I am incredibly fortunate for it.

– I have some of the most amaing friends. I realized, especially in recent weeks, how good my friends, especially a select group of them, really are, and I come to the conclusion that I don’t really deserve them but they are mine anyway. It’s hard to believe that I get to belong to a community so close that cares about each other, or that I get to spend so much of my time sharing life with them.

– Along the same lines I am grateful for the community I am a part of in regards to my church. Even more so I am thankful that I get to be a part of group chosen to lead them. When I step back and think about it I can’t understand how it all happened or how I got where I am. I don’t understand how I deserve the honor of serving the community as a whole in the position I have been given. I don’t understand why I get to do the things I do, but I do. I am excited about what the future holds.

– I’m a tech geek, and so this may sound incredible stupid and geeky, but I am thankful for the Internet. Yes, the Internet. And for this reason: I have been connected to so many people across the globe that there is no way I would have met otherwise. There are a few new friendships I have made this past year solely via the Web. Some are only a few states away. Some are on the other side of the country. Others are literally on the other side of the world. It blows my mind how small Earth has gotten and how easy and quickly two people one, three, or a dozen time zones apart can be connected and talk and share life just as if they were in the same room.

– Finally, I am grateful that I get to live where I do and that I am blessed the way I am. I am grateful that I am able to help others, whether through the little girl I sponsor in Central America, through world relief funds, or through programs we are starting up in 2008 to bring hope and life to dying communities (more to come on that in 2008). 🙂 I am convinced now that the American consumerist mindset of “more more more” is a fallacy and actually sucks the life out of you instead of adding to it. I find that I feel most alive when I am doing things for people, and the more “sacrifice” it is to me, the more alive I feel. Jesus’ teachings about giving and sacrifice and finding life when you give your own away resounds in my mind and heart, and I think I finally understand what it means to live.

Looking back, I see a similarity, that all the things I am thankful for are related to relationships to people. “Community” is a topic that has been close to me the past several months. I understand what Acts 2 was talking about:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)

Group shotCommunity. It’s what our souls long for. To be wanted and loved. To belong. To fit in. Can you think of anything more terrifying than being alone. Alone by yourself, or even worse, alone while surrounded by others? Community is what dives is and motivates us. When we belong we are free to live and to love and to share and to experience life to the fullest. And so, this year, I am thankful for the community of people I am surrounded with and for the things we are able to do to bring peace and hope to this world when we work together.

What are you thankful for?

I want the truth!

Why is it that people like to talk and talk and talk before they know the full details of a situation? I’ve been thinking about the topic of “rumors” and “gossip” the past few days as they have been quite prevelant in my life.

It started last Friday. I got a text about midday from my brother, who works in the Elizabeth school system, that there was some major police activity in the high school. He wasn’t sure why, but there they were. It turns out that there were some threats of the potential of gang violence for that day and they were there to investigate. As a precaution, they evacuated all of the school (I think it was all of them). From there the rumor mill went into full swing. Later on in the day I received a text that 10 students were shot in school. I also heard that they cops found an AK-47 in the high school. Later on I heard that there was going to be a massive Bloods vs. Crips war happening that night. Next I heard that there was gang initiation that night and 60 people were supposed to be killed. From all the rumors it sounded like Elizabeth was entering into an Apocalypse with little cause for hope of salvation. At The Bridge that night we opened the night with a simple question: “What have you heard?” The room erupted with stories of chaos and anarchy and mass destruction. It came from all angles. Everyone had a different variant of the story which they held to be Gospel. And each were genuinely scared. Fear seemed to rule the city that night.

Today I received a call from Carlos that the Liberty Center (our church’s home) had caught fire. No one knew the full extent of the damage as the Elizabeth Fire Department would not allow people into the building until they were sure it was safe and fully inspected. Later on I hear rumors from other my parents that the entire building was engulfed in flame and the auditorium and stage was destroyed. This they heard from a friend of theirs.

What is it in us that likes to take stories and pass them along, with usual slight embellishment. Have you ever played the “phone game” in which you form a line, a code or phrase is shared with the first person and is passed via whisper until it reaches the last. The phrase is never the same as it was when it was started. The same is true of our stories, our rumors, our gossip. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t find anything wrong with the passing on of stories and of knowledge. But I prefer to have the solid truth before I share things. I don’t want to make things seem more, or even less, than what it is. I don’t want to implicate people or groups who have nothing to do with the story.

It is funny how what we hear can be so distant from the truth.

Yes, there was some recent gang activity in Elizabeth. Last Monday a twelve (12) and a thirteen (13) year old pair of boys were shot on Fulton St in Elizabeth. Yes, one died while the other survived. It just so happened that the funeral for Elisha Henderson, the boy who died, was on that Friday of rumor. And yes, it was true that the shooting was gang related. It is also true that that very same Monday, also on Fulton St, a house was sprayed and a man was shot in the neck. Yes, this was gang related too, though completely unrelated to the shooting of the boys. And yes, it is true that a gang OG was recently killed in the previous weeks… also unrelated. And all of these events were unrelated to the happenings of Friday. It is true that on Friday the police received a threat of violence at the school, hence the security. And yes, they found a gun…. a plastic toy gun, which they confiscated. And that was the extent of it. No gang initiation. No war. No Apocalypse. Just a toy gun.

There was no mass inferno in the Liberty today. A small fire broke out under the main stage – still under construction. The fire was contained in the storage room beneath the stage. The other auditorium and stage, located on the second floor, suffered no fire damage. In fact, none of the rest of the building suffered fire damage. The was much smoke, and we have to see how much damage that caused, but that was the extent of it. Of course, this will delay our occupation of the building, but there was no major catastrophe or destruction. All rumor.

I really try to steer clear of rumor-mongering and gossip. For the most part I feel I am successful. For the most part. And I think I will become even more resolute in my efforts after the events of this week. It was crazy to see what false rumors can do to people, and I want nothing to do with that. God calls us to live lives of truth. I want to live truth. I want to speak the truth. I think people crave truth. They want to hear it. They hear too many lies throughout their lives – on TV, in the news, from family and friends. Truth is a breath of fresh air, a straightening in a crooked and bent world. It’s what our souls crave and long for. And that is the goal for who and what I want to be.

A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful. (Proverbs 14:25 NIV)


So due to the fact that I was away for a week, my podcast publishing schedule went out of whack. I missed the week of the 28th due to shopping and packing and flying. While I was away there were some “technical difficulties” in the recordings, so we had nothing to post the week of the 4th. And finally I was back and recording on the 11th. And so I have everything posted that I have to post back til the 28th of October for all three of our podcasts.

Click here to subscribe to any of our weekly podcasts.

Christ Fellowship:
10/28 – Go Fish VII: The One that Got Away
11/11 – Take a Rest

10/28 – Communion
11/11 – Twisted Logic: The Misunderstood King

10/28 – Growing Spiritually IX: Love
11/11 – Accountability

Sorry for missing the teachings from 11/04. We’re back on a normal schedule now.

In related news, we should be ready to start up the monthly Bridge podcast very, very shortly. Keep an eye out.

Awoken humanity

I am, as you might already be aware, a leader in a youth program in Elizabeth, NJ. We have an interesting setup to our program, as it is not one group in one location, but one group with several locations all throughout the city, and now even the state.

Well, in the group I work with, we want to always be sensitive to the needs of our city. We want to get involved with serving and the helping of the oppressed and needy and downtrodden, no matter if that need is a physical one, emotional, spiritual, or any other kind. We want to be there for those who need us most. As we fully move into the Liberty Center we will be able to do more and more as well as start up new programs and endeavors to attack the roots of the problems… not to just provide for the needy, but to attack the very roots of poverty. Not to just help those who are oppressed, but to assault injustice itself. A big task, yes, but it is what we are called to do.

We are starting small. As I said, we are still in the process of fully moving into our new home and so we are not at our full ability to do what we want, but we can begin the process.

Can driveThis Thanksgiving, as we live in such a blessed society and sit comfortably amidst the top 5% of the wealthiest people on the planet, we want to stress to the youth the importance of giving. Giving of their time, money, talents, and abilities for the betterment of society and those around them. Sacrificial giving.

And so we have teamed up for the upcoming holiday season with the homeless services at St Joseph’s in Elizabeth in order to provide food for the poor in the city so that they might have a decent Thanksgiving. We are going around door to door in our area, collecting non-perishable food items with which we will in turn submit for the feeding of the hungry. It will be glorious.

We began the collection of foods on Saturday. It was a chilly day. We gathered a small group of teenagers from our little community and set out to the streets. We spit into two groups as to cover more ground with more rapid pace. This week we invaded the Jefferson Park areas of Magnolia Ave, Madison Ave, Catherine St, and other surrounding neighborhoods. Next week we shall set out for the Peterstown area, so be ready.

I must admit that the first half of the collection was slightly disheartening. There was not much luck in people answering their doors, or if they did answer to help us. The second half yielded much better results. We ended up collecting three semi-large boxes of canned goods, pastas, cereals, and other such products. We also have a small number of appointments to return this upcoming Saturday for collection as well as individuals who have said they will bring “boxes” of goods to the Liberty throughout the week to donate. This, coupled with our second outing on November 17, I hope, will provide much aide and relief for the overlooked of our society.

I noticed something while walking house to house with the youth in my group. During the first hour spirits were somewhat low as our efforts seemed to be in vain. With each passing rejection or unanswered door, the paced seemed to slow. But at the first donation all that was changed. It was as if a spark was set and ignited a new passion in the teens we were with. And then the second donation came. And the third. Soon they were excitedly running house to house, boldly speaking to the residents where there was once shyness. Waiting with excited anticipation as the home-owners said, “Let me go see what I have in the kitchen.” The second half of our journey sped by with haste whereas the first seemed to drag. And so I began to think:

There’s something about service, about giving of yourself to something bigger, about the simple act of helping others that awakens something within us. Something about service that awakens the fullest extent of our humanity, and I think somehow, as we give ourselves away, we are connected more deeply with those around us and with God himself. It’s as if there is some deeply latent area of our being within that is only roused when we give sacrificially and unselfishly for the betterment of others. It’s as if we were meant for more than just living for ourselves. Perhaps there is something deeply divine about denying yourself and lifting the needs of our fellow human beings above our own. Maybe there’s a truth in the idea that we were made to help bring peace and restoration and hope and justice to a broken and fractured world. Maybe it’s true that, as the Scriptures say, when we give our lives away, we will find true life, that when we help others we will really be living life to it’s fullest potential. We will be experiencing life as it was meant to be lived.


But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it… Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:6-7, 17-19 NIV)

PS: If you want to help out and live in the Elizabeth area, (non monetary) donations can be brought to the Liberty Center (1121 Elizabeth Ave, Elizabeth, NJ 07201) during business hours or on Friday night between 7pm and 9:30pm. Or you can contact Pastor Harold Boyd at 908-289-6322. If you would like to help out but do not live in the Elizabeth area, contact me via email at whartz at bridgyouth dot com.

Peace be with you.

NYWC St Louis Wrap Up and Image Show Off

Well, we’re back. In all honesty, we’ve been back for several days now. We arrived back in the great state of NJ Monday night. I’ve just been running around hither and thither and had no time to blog. Actually I have a pretty good story from yesterday about our wee excursion to New York City, trekking across the length of three boroughs and a fine evening of dining in Chinatown, but perhaps I shall save that for another entry.

Group shotThis is about the convention. It was amazing. I’ve been stressed about a great many things. Some of which I have spoken of here, others I have not for the reason that there are some that read my words and it would cause more problems than it’s worth. (Censorship, even if not direct, is great, isn’t it?) Anywho, life was crazy. I started vacation at 3:30pm on October 26 and it has been amazing ever since. Life is good. Quite good.

We left for the convention on Halloween night (happy birthday to Sarah). I have already spoken of the beginning adventures of the trip in recent posts, but due to crappy or overpriced Internet connections was unable to continue the blogs.

The entire experience was great. I took many informative and/or challenging seminars, including:

1. God’s Word on Center Stage: Leading a Biblically Centered Youth Ministry – Our Critical Concern. 8 hour course. Lots of good ideas on how to keep the ministry focuses and even how to plan teachings and flesh out ideas. I will use some of them this week as I prepare to speak on Sunday.

2. Deep Justice in a Broken World with Chap Clark – Really good. Had an “ouch moment” in the beginning as Chap ripped apart traditional concepts of service and what is important in the Christian life and approached the issue from a different angle. I think he’s on to something though.

3. Theological Tools… with Tony Jones – Dude is mad smart and incredibly deep. Some things I agreed with. Others I think he might be a bit off on. It all comes down to interpretation. Very challenging though. I enjoyed it.

4. Caring for God’s Creation: How to Involve Ministry in Environmental Stewardship with Peter Illyn – Not too impressed with this one… not because it was bad, but because it was nothing I haven’t heard before. I did get a free “I love God’s Creation” sticker though. Rock on!

5. Developing a Strong Volunteer Team with Doug Fields – Doug is the man. He has a whole lot of youth ministry experience and knows what he’s talking about, mostly because (as he says) he has made so many mistakes in the past. You should listen to his podcast.

As suggested, I skipped two seminars. One, I slept through. 🙂 The other I went to the prayer chapel to, well, pray. It was great. Quiet. Refreshing. Awesome.

I'm a fireThe General Sessions are always my favorite. Lots of great speakers – Duffy Robbins, Chris Hill, Lynne Hybels, Doug Fields, Greg Stier, Ralph Winter, and Marko. I must say that I think Marko was the best this year. He nailed it on the head. Great ideas about Youth Ministry 3.0. Gonna have to order that one on mp3. Crowder was fun as always. I heard Matt Maher and Jeff Johnson for the first time leading worship. I liked Matt Maher. Jeff Johnson not so much. Just not my style. I think Starfield stole the show, if that is possible, with worship. They were awesome. Jars of Clay, Flatfoot 56, Family Force 5, Ayiesha Woods, and Lost and Found provided musical entertainment. I was most into Jars and Ayiesha. Skit Guys were hilarious as always. Ted and Company were there for other skit performances. Somehow it was weird since Lee wasn’t there since he died. It wasn’t the same chemistry Ted and Lee had. Ah well.

The Skit GuysLate night was great. The best was the comedy show. Gut-busting hilarity. Then again, the Skit Guys, I think, were even better. Improv and ad lib all over the place, and it was all pure comedic gold. Laughter is awesome.

Then there was the community. It was great to be around so many other insane people. Felt like home. Met Mike Kupferer finally. I follow him on Twitter and we are friends on Facebook. Got to talk to Marko for all of 5 seconds, but it was still cool. Met some people who incessantly mocked NJ. They’re lucky the airport took our shanks, else we might have had a rumble. 🙂

Anyway, this is quite excessively long. I shall end it here. I could go on, but it would just be more and more ramblings of how much I enjoyed myself. Our group looks forward to the Pittsburgh convention next year.

I have uploaded several to many graphical images of the convention to Flickr. Be sure to view them and comment and do other such social networking things.

Until next time, peace be with you.

Group shot.

Blogging from NYWC II

I’m sitting in the “Night of Illusions” with Jared Hall. He a magician/illusionist who is at NYWC every year. There is another illusionist here tonight as well that I’ve never heard of. He isn’t on stage yet, so I don’t know what he’s like.

Anyway, today was pretty cool. The conference officially started today. We had part 2 of our Critical Concern Course. It was great. Lots more great ideas and practical examples.

We had two General Sessions today. Crowder led worship at both sessions. Jars of Clay played in one of them, but we missed the first half of their set because we were out at dinner. The other session introduced us to some strange Celtic Punk band, Flatfoot 56. It wasn’t quite my style, but it was cool.

I took a seminar on Theology with Tony Jones. It was interesting. He issued a disclaimer right off the bat that he would probably say something that we’d not agree with or might offend. He did have some really good thoughts, but there were some that I didn’t quite agree with. He spoke about the concept of truth, culture, what theology is, relativism, and some others. Really intriguing.

So far it’s been a great trip. Lots of fun and laughs and lessons learned. But I’m gonna go now because I’m missing the show.

See you tomorrow.

Blogging from NYWC

We’re here at the National Youth Worker’s Convention in St Louis. We got in about 12am last night. It was a really nice flight over. There were 11 people total on the flight and our group composed 9 of them. So, basically, it was like a private jet. And since there were so fee people, we had a small, tiny jet. Maybe a 50-person plane. The stewardess told us to make ourselves at home and sit wherever we’d like. She gave us candy since it was Halloween and joked around with us. It was much more intimate and personal than any other fight I have been on.

The hotel is really nice… almost too nice. I feel almost out of place in it. Still, it’s a great experience. The bed was extremely comfortable, and I think that was the best I’ve slept for the longest time.

Today we got all registered and got our new bags and convention books. We had the first part of our Critical Concern Courses as well. Me Jenn, and Sarah are taking “God’s Word on Center Stage: Leading A Biblically Centered Youth Ministry” and it’s been pretty good. Lots of great ideas and methodologies that we could implement back at home. Tomorrow we continue the second part.

Right now I’m sitting in the Digital Lounge area of the YS Store. The “YS Store Madness Sale”going on right now. Huge discounts and specials on products. I bought a few t-shirts and some books, including Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus. Excited about that…. the teaching series on the Mosaic podcast was very good this past summer and I’d like to see what the whole book says.

Anyway, I should have my laptop with me tomorrow, and so I can blog more, as long as I find some free WiFi. I also have many pictures I’ve already taken that will be on Flickr as soon as I get back to the hotel room and I can get them on my Macbook.

You can also follow my Convention updates on Twitter. Janelle and Samantha are also Twittering the event.

I may even stream some video on Justin.tv or Ustream.tv

Either way, see you tomorrow.

From St Louis, peace be with you.