cry_babyWe’re turning into crybabies.

All this declaration of our rights is making us weak.  Follow the progression…

I deserve X.

When I don’t get X, I get to cry foul.

Why? I deserve X because somebody else has X and they’re no better than me.

Therefore, if I don’t get X, I’m going to complain until I get X.

My neighborhood has a Facebook page.  It’s a place people can post things like “My dog got out, can you let me know if you see it” and “We’re having a yard sale” and “Hey, there’s a shady guy in a hoodie. Lock your doors” and stuff like that.  But there are frequent rants too.  One recent post was someone complaining about how the local elementary school had a fire drill and their kid was made to go outside without a coat.  This particular wall post had lots and lots comments, many commiserating with the troubled parent.

Boo.  Hoo.  Hoo.  Your kid went outside without a coat.  Let’s lynch the teacher, principal, and administration for the uncaring, unthoughtful, and reckless monsters they are.  My kid was a tad uncomfortable for 10 minutes.  Boo.  Hoo.  Hoo.

Now, the irony that I seem to be complaining about people complaining is not lost on me.  I know you could point the finger at me and say my complaining is no better or more justified than anybody else’s.  I get that.

But I want to point out the fact that it seems that by and large, we’re becoming a spoiled people. And an entitled people. And a complaining people. And therefore a weaker people.

I’ll put myself in the shoes of that parent who had their kid outside for 10 minutes without a coat (my kid goes to the same school).  My child comes home and I say, “How was your day?”  They say, “Good, except we had a fire drill and I had to go outside without a coat.  I got cold out there.”  I say, “Oh really? That’s a bummer. Well, glad you’re okay and it was just a drill.”

Was I uncaring? Was I calloused to the fact that they were cold for 10 minutes?  You make the call.

Taking away my kids' problems robs them of the lessons those problems come loaded with.

Taking away my kids’ problems robs them of the lessons those problems come loaded with.

What I’m trying to do is to teach my kids that the inconveniences of our lives are usually where the lessons live.  That with discomfort comes strength.  That when we see something that seems unfair, we should remember that we’re not always the best at defining fairness.  And that yep–life is sometimes if not often quite unfair indeed.  But that unfairness is by no means a license for whining.

Are there things worth fighting for?  Sure there are.  Are there injustices that ought to be righted?  Of course.  But from what I can tell we’re becoming a people who are bent on trying to make EVERYTHING okay for EVERYONE.  It can’t be, it won’t be, and it shouldn’t be.

And on a grander scale, us trying to complain ourselves into a better future is simply as nonsensical as it sounds.


“Complaining is the language of cowards.”  -Dan Webster



babys in headphonesMusic plays an integral role in our formative years.  As a dad to four, I regularly get the eye-roll from my high school daughter when I crank the tunes of my youth and tout how THAT was when music was good and how today’s musicians are largely big corporation products rather than authentic artists.  But I digress.

The fact that music shapes us so dramatically leads most of us to be passionate about our tastes in music.  Having been in student ministry for nearly 20 years now, I’ve seen so very clearly the role music plays in the life of a high school student.  I recently asked a roomful of teens what type of media they’d be willing to live without.  Nearly every one of them declared they couldn’t live without music.  It’s incredibly powerful.  And it might be something we’d do well to give a bit more thought to.

Now let me assure you, I’m no legalist that claims to listen to only “Christian” music.  I love Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, and U2.  I love Five Iron Frenzy, Matt Redman, & Hillsong.  I love Steve Miller Band, Billy Joel, and Bon Jovi.  I love David Crowder, Gungor, and Vigilantes of Love.  So don’t think I’m pinpointing any particular type of music.

Every style has its own inherent message.  Listen to rap music, and you’ll think life is about stacking ‘dem g’s and smacking ‘dem        ‘s.  Listen to country music and you’ll think life is about getting that porch swing kiss, throwing back that shot of whiskey, sitting on that tailgate, and bemoaning that lost love.  Listen to mainstream pop and you’ll think life is about dance, and fame, and fun, and carefree, go-with-whatever-is-in-front-of-you kind of living.  Slice it anyway you want to: What goes in our ears goes in our heart.  And what goes in our heart comes out our mouth.  (Proverbs 4:23, Luke 6:45)

I don’t believe that music is all-powerful and that looking into your iTunes is looking into your soul.  But I do believe that I can make a direct connection between the music a teenager regularly listens to and the general attitude of that teenager’s heart.  I’ve seen it too many times to discount the undeniable power of music.

So, what is the answer?  Well, if you believe there is one I think it starts with a return to two powerful words and understanding the difference and similarities between them:  Entertainment and Edification.

The mind set only on entertainment will justify its intake of otherwise objectionable content.  It will say things like “I just like the rhythm. I just like the bass.  I just like the melody. I don’t listen to it for the lyrics.”  But if that’s true, how it is that the same person can sing along to every word?  Saturation, that’s how.  Because being entertained has won out over being mindful of intake.

The mind set on edification looks and listens through a different lens.  Not a lens that says everything not a hymn is from hell, but a lens that is more discerning and more discriminating.  That mind knows that there ought to be a portmaster checking the cargo of every ship that would seek entrance into its harbor.  That mind knows that “all good things come from God” (James 1:17) and that Jesus didn’t die to make us legalistic, party-pooper, rule-followers. He died to make us alive and free.  And we are fully alive and fully free when we live lives that revel in Him, His goodness, His creativity, His grace, and His presence.

So know that your ears and heart are indelibly connected and as you enjoy the gift of music, you are shaped by the power of music.  Don’t be afraid to make split-second decisions on what you allow in, knowing that what comes in will find its way out in how we think, speak, and live.

As you unpack…

simply-youth-ministry-conferenceToday thousands of youth leaders from all over the country are heading home from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference (#symc).  As they do, they’ve got a lot on their minds.  I’ve been to my share of conferences and I’d like to share some advice–in short order–to those who find themselves (today or any other time) returning from a conference, and how to make the most of the time and money you or your church just spent…

1.  You’re the you God put where you are.  Be that one.

You probably caught yourself comparing your ministry to others and maybe even thinking/wishing that where you are looked more like where “they” are.  Don’t.  Stop that.  Cut it out.  Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” but sometimes we switch that out for “Go and make comparisons.”  If you’re called to where you are then live like it.  If you’re not then don’t be afraid to say so and move on that conviction.

2.  You picked up a lot of ideas.  Good for you.

Choose the top 3 and map them out.  But not this week.  There’s nothing worse than the eye rolls your students or fellow staff give you when you get all “That’s IT!  We’re changing EVERYTHING!” right after a conference.  Temper those good ideas with a few questions like: a) how do I contextualize this idea? b) how do I contextualize this idea? c) is this even a good idea for our ministry and d) how do I contextualize this idea?

3.  Stay connected with those new friends.

You met people there who likely live far away from you.  You should stay connected with them.  I’m not saying share a latte over a Skype session every afternoon, but use them to share thoughts with, bounce ideas off of, and even vent to.  Them not being near you is something you can benefit from.

4.  Say “Thanks!” to those who sent you.

Did your church board approve your conference?  Write them a letter of thanks.  Did your senior pastor go out on a limb and spend non-existent budget money to get you there?  Make a point to share your genuine gratitude (and it wouldn’t hurt to actually DO something with what you experienced).  Did your spouse handle the house, kids, chores, and job while you were galavanting up and down the corridors of youth ministry wonderfulness?  Well…I’m sure you’ll think of something to properly thank them.

Did you go to SYMC2014 or any other conference that has taught you some post-event wisdom?  Share it!


(And if you want info on SYMC2015, click here.)

Lent is here.

lent-ash-crossToday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.

As I sit and watch social media posts about what people are giving up for Lent, I think it’s important to ask ourselves some fundamental questions:

1.  What are the origins of Lent?  Is Lent biblical?

2.  Why do people (or I) give up things for a period of time?

3. What is significant enough in my life that if I were to give it up for a time it would definitely adjust my view?

4. Why would I tell anyone a) that I’m giving something up for Lent and b) what that something is?  

If we’re not careful, the enemy of our souls can use even the Lent season as a device of pride, self-righteousness, and distraction from Christ Himself, Who is the reason for it all.