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oh what a funnny face

oh what a funnny face

This weekend was my 25th birthday, in fact it was even my golden birthday.  Annie and I were planning a pretty mellow day (that was a birthday request) and were going to go to the beach for some body-surfing, come back and grill something special (other than the inexpensive standards of pork chops or chicken) and finish the evening watching a movie and not staying up too late. Annie also encouraged me to try to make sure I spent Friday afternoon Body-surfing so I made sure I planned to go with one of our HS-ers, Brandon.

So Thursday morning I woke up and was tired, Annie told me  about how she wanted to go do some work at a coffee shop.  I bugged her a little bit about making sure we don’t spend too much time and money at coffee shops and she went off shortly after.  I spent the morning reading and studying, and around noon I was getting ready to go over to our lunchtime bible club at Kailua High School.  I went to the cottage to get my keys and when I stepped out our white neon pulled up.  Annie was there and it looked like somone else was in the front seat also.  I figured she saw someone at the coffee shop and gave them a ride to church.

She got out and I asked, “Is there someone in the car with you?”  She answered that yes there was and out of the car stepped my ‘little’ brother Kenn.  Who lives in Oregon.  Across the ocean.

It took my mind a couple moments to understand what was going on.  I hadn’t expected to see Kenn in a while, but there he was!  They let me know it was a surprise they planned out and that Kenn was spending my birthday weekend with us out here in HI.  It was totally one of the best surprises ever, and very sweet of the two of them to conspire to make it happen.  All in all Kenn and I went bodysurfing 3 times over the weekend and would have gone a fourth had the weather and waves not skunked us on the North Shore.

Sean and John, morning wake up

Sean and John, morning wake up

We had a great time hanging out together: cooking, making bread, making our own chocolate haupia pies, watching Friends and movies.  Saturday morning (the actual birthday) i was planning on sleeping in, and did, but woke up to my two friends, Sean and John at the foot of my bed singing Felice Cumpleanos a Ti (Happy Birthday in Spanish).  We went out to breakfast with another friend, Trey, and my brother-in-law Pat.  Another awesome surprise for the birthday weekend.

Gettin out of the water
Surfin' like champs


Gettin out of the water

Thanks to all for the birthday wishes, for your friendships and generosity.  Love you guys and am excited to be 25 and not pay more for rental cars!!!!!!!

Pics to come…


I recently finished Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence and I must say it is one of the most important books around now.  She historically and culturally explains Christianity’s current path and place, and she even relates it to giant historical events in the past.  She shows how Christianity and Judaism fall into 500-year epochs that radically shift the way those religions are in the word (she also explains that Islam goes through this also, but it is 200 years later than this).

Tickle takes us back in time, explaining the epochs going backwards.  She shows us 500 years ago and The Great Reformation and she explains that in each of these shifting epochs, society must answer the question, “Where now is the authority?” The Great Reformation answered that question with Sola Scriptura.  She then moves us back 500 years before that to approximately 1000ce, and The Great Schism.  She explains certain doctrinal differences that brought the rise of The Vatican and the way it influenced Western Christianity even today.

She takes us 500 years before that to Gregory The Great and she describes the Fall of Rome, and the advent of Christian monasticism.  She shows how this period’s Christianity survives and flourishes in the monasteries, convents and abbeys through The Dark Ages.  In showing this, she then takes us back 500 years before that to Christ Himself.  She shows the massive impact and changes in Judaism and the birth of Christianity during this time.  She then notes the Jewish epochal shifts as 500 years prior finds the Babylonian Exile, and 500 years prior to that is the beginning of the Davidic Line of Kings.

Anyway, she explains these historical shifts and explains that as we ask, “Where now is the authority?” we are forced to examine 3 parts of our religion; spirituality, morality, and corporeality (the physical evidence of religion; buildings, writings even clothing).  She shows the historical events leading up to now that cause us to question Christianity’s morality, spirituality and corporeality.  She shows the way our post-modern world asks, “Where now is the authority?” to sola scriptura.  It’s very interesting to see the different things going on in western culture that affect our perception of God.

Tickle goes to these great lengths to try to show us what’s going on because she shows how each situation led to enormous bloodshed.  Her purpose and encouragement is to show us where we are and what we are going through so that we may avoid the massive bloodshed that affected the previous shifts (or ‘rummage sales’ as she calls them).  She writes to show us that what we are going through is in fact giant and epochal, and that it is a good thing (each previous shift has resulted in the split parts of Christianity being strengthened and spread or dispersed); she wants us to see that Christianity will become better, both traditional Christianity as well as Emergent Christianity.

Phyllis Tickle is an amazing writer.  Her book is fun to read, and is dripping with scholarly wisdom and research, though not boring.  She writes so positively, valuing and blessing each part of Christianity, and even mentions that the seeming-at-odds parts of Christianity cannot devalue each other.  I honestly think this is one of the most important books a Christian could read now.  I think every Christian should read it (and even people who aren’t Christian would benefit from it).  I highly recommend this book.

Monday started off REAL early for me.  I was messed up be the time and my allergies were messing me up too.  Anyway I got up early and started off with some reading and writing over at Starbucks and then Annie, Sean and I all grabbed coffee before we headed into the final seminar and general session of the conference.  We just hung out got some coffee and caught up and debriefed.

We then moved over to Chap Clark’s final session, Deep Justice.  Chap Clark is a huge name in youth ministry, writing definitive the work on our society’s systemic abandonment of youth.  His most recent series of books focus on deepness in our shallow world, the first was Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and then that was followed by Deep Justice in a Broken World.  So Chap’s seminar this Monday focused on cultivating God’s justice in our world and in our teens.  His challenge was to move past mere service projects to moving toward lifestyles of justice; literally righting wrongs against God in this world.  He showed some statistics that better illuminate how often our ‘service’ helps neither those we serve nor us.  Chap’s work is always challenging but he speaks prophetically, calling we Christians to live as God created us to.

After the seminar with Chap, we went to the final general session, where we worshiped with The Glorious Unseen.  I personally felt like their music was a little too mellow, and a little too much mellow, but they were a good band so it will be fun to see what they do in these next few years.  We saw another AWESOME performance by The Skit Guys, they were hilarious and they broke character and they were even funnier in doing so.  Then Marko came up and he was great.  He spoke on the idea of belonging, and how we minister to youth to help them belong, but how we also need to work to find our own places where we belong.  He spoke passionately about our need for authentic community and connections and he really blessed us.  Marko has such a heart for ministering to those who minister to youth and he definitely did that throughout the course of the weekend and especially during his general session talk.

After that we went back to our hotel room at the Sacramento Hyatt.  The four of us, Sean Annie, Elli and myself debriefed about the weekend and talked about how would take some of the things we learned and implement them in our ministry back in Hawaii.  We came up with some cool concrete ideas and plans and we felt our time at NYWC Sacramento was invaluable.  We were ministered to, we learned a lot and we got to experience some killer worship (the worship experience is a little freer when you don’t have to run it).  We connected with other youth workers and realized we weren’t the only crazy people who think the way we do, there were 2500 others who were crazy like us and that is comforting and necessary for one’s sanity sometimes.  We loved the trip and really have a heart and desire to figure out a way to get our youth staff over to one of these in the coming years.  Well done YS and thanks.

Sunday afternoon we went onto a couple of seminars in a row.  The first seminar we went to was from Sean Dunn, a speaker from Colorado.  He shared some really cool things about youth pastors’ need to show kids to The One God and God’s earthly manifestation in Jesus of Nazereth.  He argued that the reason kids do not continue in a relationship with Jesus after high school is that we ministers fail to really show Jesus to them.  He argued and showed that we absolutely need to introduce teens to Jesus and then continue to push them into a closer relationship with him.  He did a great job showing his point and challenging us to point kids to deeper relationship with Jesus.

After Dunn’s session we moved down and grabbed some coffee for a quick break before we headed out to our next session.  The session I chose was called Creating Our Own Middle School Curriculum and it was in this track called Open Source.  I was super excited about this seminar because I read about the idea previously on YS president Marko’ blog.  Marko actually led this seminar and it was so great.  We spent at least half the time discussing and working together and we actually went through the process of making a middle school lesson.  So not only did Marko teach us the processes of making a lesson for youth (though it emphasized a middle school age group), but we actually made one together in the session.  I applaud Youth Specialties for their innovation and their quest to better minister to youth ministers, I personally thought the open source format was awesome and hope they continue doing both that and the discussions during the general session.

After that session we went back to the hotel room and hung out with Pops and Mommom (Annie’s parents) and some friends and family came by to visit.  We went out and said sad good-byes to Mommom and Pops and went to dinner with Sean, our buddy Niko, my sister, Auntie Monica, and our friends Auntie Teddy, and Auntie Cait. We went for a late dinner at the Pyramid Brewhouse over by the hotel on K street.  We had an awesome meal, enjoyed a couple delicious brews, and just had a great time catching up and joking around.  We actually we having so much fun and hanging out that we decided not to try running into the evening’s general session late, and by the time we finished it was pretty far into the session so we just called it a night and got some rest.  I did hear that the evening session was totally killer and Tony Campolo rocked everyone’s face off.

Sorry folks, but I have to break Sunday up into 2 parts so here is the first part of the day.

We started off Sunday with a slower morning with Ellie.  She got tons of sleep and so did we.  We headed over to the convention for the morning general session and I got to see my first session of worship led by Starfield.  Those guys have such awesome hearts and a wonderful ministry.  They are just a killer band and led us in worship in a really cool way.  I’m jumping ahead of myself though, the morning’s artist was Shane and Shane and they actually also started the time in a worship-ful way.  We also loved these guys because they are some awesome, burly men.  If you hear their music you may be tempted to think they are small, sickly, whiny guys, but they are quite the opposite.  They are fun, funny, burly men who have some killer tenor voices.

The morning’s speaker was Mark Yaconelli.  Mark has a really cool, interesting relationship with youth ministry and with YS.  Mark’s dad, Mike, founded youth specialties with another guy 40 years ago this month, and youth ministry has not been the same.  With that history, one would expect this guy to rebel against ministry and youth ministry and probably YS, but instead he champions youth, ministers to them and participates in YS conferences every year.  What a cool story.

Mark is such a godly man, and he has a beautiful gift and heart for tending souls.  He ministers to souls getting people to experience God in deep, impacting ways, and Sunday’s message was about the soul.  It’s quite interesting and coincidental (I don’t think God makes coincidences, I think they’re purposeful) that Phyllis Tickle’s message the day prior mentioned how one of the issues our generation must wrestle with is that of the soul.  She talked about how our generation must decide what constitutes humanity, and if the soul is where the imago dei resides and if so, what that soul is.

Mark talked about what the soul is.  He talked about the soul holding our sense of wonder, our grief and mourning, and underlying, infiltrating joy.  He showed how his young son started “the slow club” and taught him to slow down and wonder at God and creation.  He talked about his own experiences of grieving over his parents’ divorce, and how he found joy in listening and dancing to disco music in his room.  He finished by sharing how he felt God and God’s joy while ‘boogying’ to that disco music.  He closed up telling a story about a jr high dance, and how no one danced (typical of a jr high dance), and how he was shocked by that, since his only exposure to dancing was his innocent and joyful boogying alone.  The DJ finally stopped the music and turned the lights on, announcing that since no one was dancing, he was going to end the music.  Mike tells how he went and pleaded with the DJ for one more song, that he would dance his heart out if even if no one else would..

He then described the situation, “ The lights went back out,” then the lights in the hall we were in dropped out.  “The disco ball lit up,” then the disco ball on the bands’ stage in our hall lit up.  “The music started bumping,” a disco song was cued up in the hall, and the lights came back up to reveal Mark changed into a disco shirt and pants, and he started dancing his heart out!!!  He was boogying classic, joyful, disco moves with a giant, sincere smile on his face.  The moment was so moving that about a dozen people in the crowd made their way up to the stage and started dancing with him.  As the song finished and the dancers started moving off the stage, you could still see Mark Yaconelli with a giant smile on his face, high-fiving and hugging the other dancers he’d never before met.

Starfield was on stage, and the leader singer said, “How do you follow that?” and simply began the worship set.  It was a great time of worship.

Rob Bell’s most recent book, a collaborative project with Don Golden is powerful and challenging.  Bell brings his characteristic Hebrew scripture, culture and narrative knowledge to illuminate how the modern American church is in exile; In fact, the book’s subtitle is A Manifesto For the Church in Exile.  Bell’s point centers on four places in the biblical story, Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem and Babylon.  He describes these places in terms of spiritual, cultural and narrative markers rather than strictly their geographical locations.  In his spiritualization of these places the authors make certain to point out that they do not intend to encourage or facilitate racism, religious hatred or intolerance or anything along those lines.

Bell universalizes the Egypt experience by relating the Israelites enslavement and cries to God.  He points out how the God of the Bible always hears the oppressed’s cries.  He liberates the Israelites trough an atoning process that involves first-born son’s paying the price and that event becomes Passover, which we remember as a sign of God’s response and grace.

After Egypt we move to Sinai, where God speaks to Israel, and where a marriage covenant of sorts is made.  The picture of Sinai is of marriage with God, of receiving God’s word and of near immediate adultery.

We move on to Jerusalem, God’s promised land and blessing and living in that.  Here, though, Bell shows two possible outcomes of blessing; we can either remember the slavery, deliverance and blessing and the God who did that, or we can do what Israel did, forget about Egypt and institutionalize our ways against God’s.  Here we see Solomon building God’s temple upon the backs of unwilling workers, slaves.

We move on from here to Babylon, the effect of living against God’s ways and desires.  Israel is conquered and taken back into slavery.  In Babylon we get the picture that Israel stops worshipping in their sadness.  They are back in slaver, yet the prophets speak for God and relate God’s desire for bringing all of creation back into right relation with God.  They speak of another son of David who will use his power in suffering service and will right wrongs through his life.  His life will be God’s blessing of all people and will be the fulfillment of covenants made at Sinai and earlier.

We then see Jesus.  We understand his place in this narrative calls back at least 500 years prior to his life on earth.  He is the one to make things right with God, all things.  He is the one to show God’s love to all nations, even enemies.  This book shows how we are in the midst of empire living.  We have the opportunity to be the Jerusalem God designed or to fall into the path against God’s desires will and plan.

America is so blessed, and God blesses so that others will be blessed, those without a voice, those without power, those without.  Because God always hears the cry of the oppressed.  Bell shows us our incredible opportunity to live as God’s Church and help enact God’s will here on earth, just like is would be in heaven.  I highly recommend this book, but do so with this preface; you will be challenged, you won’t be the same, and hopefully you will be more of who God created you to be.

2 pses.  check out Marko’s review here, and i also think this book is very similar in subject to Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, but maybe more people will be able to identify with it.  I am glad we have voices like Shane and Rob and Don calling us to more.

Saturday morning’s general session was pretty fantastic.  Annie and I arrived late because Ellie needed to eat so we missed the artists before but we caught the tail end of Lincoln Brewster’s final worship set and it was great.  I really appreciate that after the set was over, they just stayed on stage, eyes closed, hearts focused on God and remained in silence for quite a while.  I think it is something unique and cool to be led enough by The Spirit to just remain in silence.  The temptation is always great to speak or do something or leave, but these guys remained, and helped to keep us worshiping in silence.

We then heard form Phyllis Tickle, a great writer and speaker whose intelligence and wit are both sharp as a knife.  She is a seventy-five year old gal with more spunk than many teens we meet.  I will say that am I actually right smack dab in the middle of Phyllis’ book, The Great Emergence, and her speaking topic was literally the same as that of her book, yet she is able to get more in depth in the book (I HIGHLY recommend this book to any Christian).

To Tickle’s credit, even with knowing the first half of her talk, I was not bored for one second.  Her talk was incredibly scholarly and academic, yet her combination of jokes, folksy and pure blessings towards all people and her edgy humor kept me rapt the whole time and absolutely wanted more.  She did a great job of explaining Christianity’s tendency toward major upheaval every 500 years and explaining why and how we are in the midst of one of those now.  The best thing she did was exhort and encourage us that since we know we are in it, and since we can learn from the past, we can avoid the large-scale bloodshed that has literally followed each of these great shifts throughout history.

BTW.  Tickle made a really funny joke about how she wanted to have some words with the apostle Paul when she gets to heaven, and then joked that they might not be in the same place.  Many misunderstood this joke as her saying Paul wouldn’t be in heaven but the funniest part was the joke was that she might not be in heaven because she doesn’t follow all of Paul’s teachings about women.  I know it’s random, but I wanted to clear it up, since some people thought otherwise and it really not what she was saying.

Saturday afternoon brought super seminars and I went to Doug Fields’ seminary on small group ministry from start to finish.  I was very affected by this seminar and particularly by Fields’ commitment to small group ministry.  Fields explained that he only got to go to one YS conference this year and out of that he only got to speak at one thing; he chose small groups because they are that important to him.

Likewise one of the videos he presented showed this ridiculously cool timeline.  It started with his wife sharing her testimony of being a small group leader in the early nineties, she talked about a certain student she connected with. They then moved to that student’s testimony, she shared how effected she was by her small group and leader, and how she then became a small group leader and connected with a certain young girl.  The video moved to the third young girl who was in HS in 2000, and she talked about how great her relationship was with her previous leader and how she wanted to also do that, and so she did.  The video then talked about a relationship she made with one of her girls, Fields’ oldest daughter, and she shared how impacted she was by small group ministry and the third leader, and then she went on to minister to jr highers and shared one of the jr highers story where she thanked the leaders all five steps back to Fields’ wife and the first small group.  What a cool and powerful illustration.

Saturday night finished for me with an evening in the hotel room.  The family (Grandparents, Great-Grandparents and Aunties) went out for dinner and I stayed back while Ellie slept and then she woke up and decided to scream instead of sleep for the last hour of her nap; awesome.  Anyway, the fam came back and I was finished so we stayed in the room that evening and had a good time with the Burdettes and Auntie Cait.

I just finished a GREAT book that my friend Josiah recently gave to me, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn.  This is a bit of fiction set in Wales in about a generation around the turn of the twentieth century.  The novel is told from the viewpoint of Huw Morgan, the main character and youngest son of the coal-mining, God-fearing Morgan family and is largely an elegy to people place and way of life that no longer exist.

Huw speaks of his childhood with beautiful, rose-colored fondness and the picture he paints both help the reader mourn their loss and celebrate it’s transience.  The story follows the decline of coal mining as an industry, and the Morgan family can be viewed almost as a barometer for the village’s prosperity and happiness.  The family slowly separates as the sons marry and move, and the town likewise feels a decline.  The brothers return home for a season and the town also experiences a brief and renewed contentment.  The analogy follows till the story’s end (SPOILER ALERT) when Huw’s Father dies in a mine collapse while trying to fix stuff during a large strike.

Llewellyn writes beautifully.  His prose crosses into poetry, and he taps into universal feelings within his reader.  The book is long-ish (450 pages) but it is an easy and captivating read and I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good fiction story.  PS. Thanks to my buddy Josiah, for giving me this book.

We started off our National Youth Workers Convention experience on Friday just after noon.  We started by experiencing a couple really cool and worshipful art experiences, one of which was a really cool dramatic reading and monologue by Amena Brown.  I personally think she just tore the roof off and started the convention off with a bang.  Her readings absolutely infuse excitement and weight into a crowd of people.  We also watched as Joe Castillo performed some sand art.  He made beautiful and intricate pictures out of sand on a light-box, and we watched and were absolutely moved as he told the story of the prodigal son through sand pictures.  It was powerful and moving.

We then had the privilege of hearing a performance by Mercy Me.  We didn’t know what to expect form this, and we were really floored by the way that this “Contemporary Christian band” led us in worship.  I think we were expecting more of a concert and they really started the convention off with a cool worship set.

Joe actually performed after Mercy Me and then from there we went into a time of worship led by Lincoln Brewster.  I am already personally biased as I own a live-worship album by Brewster and love it, but actually getting to be led live by him is a different story in that he totally exceeds my expectations.  He shared some really cool things and I think did an awesome job of engaging a bunch of kooky youth pastors.

If you don’t know anything about Lincoln Brewster, he leads on an electric guitar, and is the only guitar in the band.  It’s a rocking four-piece band and he leads singing while playing screaming lead guitar.  He also has pure-melt-your-face-solos and throws those in.  Now there are many who may deride someone who solo’s their guitar in as showy and boastful, but Brewster describe it this way, “sometimes I have these feelings of worship in my heart that I can’t express by words or singing, but I can express it with my guitar;”  (or something along those lines) what a cool and beautiful statement.  Anyway, the worship was great and he led us into a time of speaking with Bishop Sherwood Carthen.

Bishop Carthen was awesome!  He gravely and seriously started by sharing the seriousness and significance of our roles as ministers to youth.  He spoke about the cost of leadership and pointed us to Jesus’ own ministry and his time in the wilderness prior to beginning his ministry.  He showed us that God was the one who led him into the wilderness and then he was tempted and tested.  He told us that if we are called we will go through the wilderness and that we probably will be led there by the spirit, not the devil.  He gave us a powerful message and call and I loved it.  He challenged us to authenticity, brokenness and continual dependence upon God.

The evening session was just as innovative and challenging.  Worship was again led by Lincoln Brewster, and was awesome.  We went into the speaking time with a very cool and different format where three speakers spoke.  Each speaker has 18 minutes to speak, then we, the crowd, would discuss for 8 minutes then we would go back to the speaker where they would answer on-the-spot questions that were texted in.

The three speakers, Jared Stevens, Andrew Marin and Shane Claiborne each spoke on hard and even controversial topics.  Jared talked about our need as ministers to constantly examine our means of showing people to God even if it means shutting down good and successful things.  Andrew talked about and encouraged the church to reach out to the lgbt community.   Shane, as ever, encouraged us to live peculiar and love-filled lives that are markedly different and peace-filled than the consumeristic and selfish world we live in.

Well I was trying to blog from Youth SpecialtiesNational Youth Workers Convention this past weekend in Sacramento, CA.  My plan was to try to get daily recaps and updates out but for some reason I could not get any internet access.  It was incredibly frustrating to see anywhere from 15-20 public-but-locked wireless networks on my screen and I complained about it alot.  So much so that my wife, Annie, made fun of me, and my buddy Sean told me to write a song about it.

Anyway, now i am back in th eworld of the world wide interweb and will be posting my reactions and thoughts from this year’s NYWC.

as an incidental side note, I have very fond and wonderful memories and associations with NYWC in Sacramento as 3 years ago, Annie and I were there togther as volunteers for Bel Air Pres youth min and that was where I began to realize that I really liked this girl, and maybe even where I knew that I wanted to marry this girl.  And now, three years later, we are back at the Sacramento NYWC, we live in Hawaii, work together in YM, have started a beautiful family and are growing along in our path following Jesus.  What a cool deal, I bet Marko and the YS guys don’t really know that their convention is so influential.  anyway, more to come.

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