Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween 2005

God hates gluttony

As we neared the church, however, our joyful anticipation quickly turned to horror as our eyes began to focus on a pick-up truck, parked sideways, off the road but purposefully obvious, so passerby either direction could view the homemade built up sides of the truck, emblazoned, in all-caps: "NO GAYS!" "GOD HATES HOMOSEXUALITY!" "GAYS WILL BURN IN HELL!" etc., etc. Of course, there were the Bible verses, and also a couple of giant photograph posters of young men kissing, with ugly slash marks crudely painted over their handsome faces. Tim and I were pretty much dry-heaving as we turned to enter the parking lot.

We were late, as usual, so had no time to alert the pastor. Trembling with quiet rage, we took our seats and spied around the room to locate the creepy culprit. Sure enough, to our left was the despicable fellow in a glaringly white sweatshirt, screenprinted both front and back with a huge red circle with a slash across it, over the single word in black, "GAYS".

My eyes scanned the room, from this horrid human being, to an angelic and unassuming friend of ours who happens to struggle with lesbianism.

Looking upon my sweet friend, I lost it.

I was livid.

Now, just so you know, the old, pre-Jesus me would have immediately "thrown down," if you know what I'm saying. I know the pattern well: my face turns hot red, my hands start to shake, and pretty soon somebody goes down. And it's not me.

So my ancient physical mad girl symptoms began manifesting themselves, and I was begging Jesus for help. I leaned over to Tim and whispered, "Do you have a coupla safety pins on ya?" He didn't. I asked him for the car keys.

In the safety of the car, Jesus quieted my soul and, I believe, helped me locate two safety pins, two niced sized pieces of paper, and one black magic marker. (Our car's really messy.) I made a giant circle on each paper, wrote "GLUTTONS" in the middle, and ran the big slash mark across. I pinned one to the front and one to the back of my shirt. Then I slowly and deliberately made the trip back to my seat, to the joyous sounds of our friends' stifled, thankful laughter.

Read the whole post here.

Post 30 hour work day

I just finished a marathon weekend of work. It was absolutely ridiculous. Our software release that was scheduled for roughly 8 hours of work turned into about 28. I was literally at work from 10pm Saturday night to almost midnight Sunday night. And we are still dealing with the fallout from some very costly mistakes from the weekend. All the mistakes were in implementation - the execution of a plan. Unfortunately for me, all the mistakes centered around implementation of something my team was responsible for. It ended up being very costly for a whole team of people, not just mine. In other words, a real drag.

Corporate America makes no promises to us. It will not tell us that it cares for our families or our personal time or that we have a well rounded life. In this case, I knew that I needed to stay around, until I was physically unable to do so anymore. My boss didn't need to tell me how important it was. And the culture of our organization is, "The business needs come first." Whether that is a good mantra or not (believe me, I have an opinion), it is what it is. Therefore, I stayed, tried to be engaged in the solutions and tapped the homemade dessert resource (my wife D.)

On this weekend, we totally messed up the customer experience. We broke a bunch of things and really didn't even give the field users a reliable system. I know its just a job (the spiral down from a career to just a job has been full bore of late - another post at a much later time), but it still matters when we blow it big time. And it should still matter.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Londrina, Brasil religious study

Those of you that know about my trip this summer to Brasil know that my team and I went to a city called Londrina, in the state of Parana. Tonight I somehow I ended up at a site called Brasil 2010.
Project Brazil 2010 is the saturation church planting effort originally associated with the AD2000 Movement. Its goal is to mobilize all the denominations in Brazil to plant churches until there is "a church within easy access of everyone in the nation in this generation".
I stumbled on to this religious presence study in Londrina. Interesting study.

The methodology for the study included:
- dividing up into teams of two people and covering each block and each street of the city to find the churches and sites for religious meetings.
- visiting each Protestant church during its principal weekly meeting and to count to the number of people present.
- verifying, analyzing and double-checking the data with the available demographic and population data in the mayor's office.
- dividing the city into 17 geographic regions and comparing the evangelical presence between the regions to determine which parts of the city had greater or less access to a church.

The summary of the results include:
Population of Londrina: 424,000
Number of Protestant Churches: 353 (of 388 churches found, 35 or 9% of them were closed)
Average of Attendance: 82 people per church
Percentage of the Population in a church on Sunday: 6.8%
Average number of inhabitants per church: 1,201 (one geographic region represented 6,200 inhabitants per church)
Churches with 100 or fewer people at their services: 80%
Churches with more than 250 people at their services: 5%

The study makes me think about the following:
- About 10% of church buildings are closed. What does that infer about the culture?
- Majority of churches are small. Not only in Londrina, but worldwide, right?
- The study focuses on pure quantities, not at all on the quality of faith communities. We don't know anything about the quality of these churches, and of course, this would be a very subjective opinion.
- Less than 7% of the city go to church. From what we saw there, not too surprising.
- That is some serious leg work to get the results of the survey, literally.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Debunking Youth Ministry's 18 month myth

'Youth pastors stay at their job for an average of 18 months.' Not true, read more here.

Chain Reaction summit

Friday night I got to be a 'fly on the wall' and listen in on the discussion at the Chain Reaction summit. It was a really cool time, just being able to listen in and hear the team process experiences and emotions from last summer.

Basically, it was an intense debriefing time, helping the leaders process, while the directors took detailed notes, all in an effort to set the stage and plan for this coming summer. Jeremy was the facilitator and included four discussion points for the leaders: Expectations, Preparation, Implementation and Take Aways.

What was most fun for me was to hear the convictions on these people's hearts, including:
- Students matter and can make a difference; it's worth it to invest in students.
- Helping local and indigenous ministries in communities is vital.
- The overall goal is having students live missionally. Empowering them to make a difference themselves, not just experiencing a Chain Reaction week, is the big picture.

Definitely lots of fun for me to be around people that exude passion about investing in students and making a difference in their communities and around the world.

Rosa Parks

"Rosa Parks has met that standard of extraordinary service to her country. She didn't have a weapon on her. She didn't have an organization behind her. All she had was her conviction." - Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)

WaPo article here detailing the tribute.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Like getting water to run up hill

Found someone's rough notes from an Erwin McManus talk or something....Lots and lots of stuff here....

Invest in people who are willing to invest in others.
Don’t have everything down… if you do, then no one will join your team.
The quality of leaders that you call will be proportionate to the level of influence that you let them have or the impact that you can make.
If I can get a person to love God and follow Jesus, then they will naturally want to go find a non-believer.
If I can get people to be fully alive, then they will lead all over the world.
The presence of God will make people yearn for God
People don’t share the gospel because they don’t have a life worth transmitting
Getting people to be evangelistic is like getting water to run up hill.

Loads more here and here. Dig it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Picture of a Mission Leader

From Out of the Comfort Zone by George Verwer
1. Vision
2. Sensitivity and understanding
3. People of prayer
4. Encouragers of others
5. Committed to high standards in communication
6. A reader

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Weekend Update - Chain Reaction and day job work

A long work weekend ahead of me this coming weekend. My team will be on from 10pm Sat night to probably 4 or 5pm Sunday afternoon. I'm getting too old for these all night work marathons. Nobody at my company can remember the simple fact, "People are finite."

Friday evening I will be traveling to York, PA to meet up with Jeremy and the dudes from Chain Reaction for their summit. I've got a few goals, specifically:
1 - To try and capture their ethos. I don't meet a lot of people (or even hear of them) that are specifically called to student missions. Sure there are a lot of missions people. And a lot of youth pastors. But I don't think there are a lot of people that specifically find their calling and context to be the intersection of students and mission. But I think these guys are. So I'm going to be taking a lot of notes and not speaking very much. I want to take notes about what drives them, what is their passion, and what God is speaking to them about.

2 - To see how they plan. I want to see what goes into putting together an event like a Chain Reaction week. I know for sure its huge. As a person who puts together missional experiences, it will be fun to see what kinds of details they take care of and the subtle nuances associated with them. I also think they have lots of connections within the communities that they serve in. So getting some insight into that would be great too.

3 - To see whether Chain Reaction would fit within our context. I'm always looking for other opportunities that could benefit our students - that is a must. There are boundless student mission agencies out there, but their goals, methodology, and values don't - and won't - always fit our context for students at GCC. It will be fun to listen and dream about whether it might be a good fit to send a team and what that might look like.

I kind of feel bad that I'm not helping out with one of the two student retreats we are having this weekend. But I had to work anyway. And I've already spent too many nights away from the fam for SPACE this year. And I'm beginning to be philosophically opposed to retreats (well no not really, well maybe, well another post.)

And of course, Halloween is Monday, and we love it. D writes a bit about it here, and here is a thoughtful article about engaging our culture in light of the festivities.

The Critical Period

Forbes has a series of short interviews with great thinkers on the nature of communications. Here is a snippet from "Noam Chomsky On Why Kids Learn Languages Easily."
The primary assumption goes back to Eric Lenneberg, who pretty much founded the contemporary field of biology of language. His thesis--which was pretty much everyone's--was that language development was like other forms of growth and development. Almost invariably, growth and development has what's called a critical period. There's a particular period of maturation in which, with external stimulation of the appropriate kind, the capacity will pretty suddenly develop and mature. Before that and later than that, it's either harder or impossible.
Sounds like various forms of growth and development have specific critical periods where maturation can occur. Just off the top of my head, I have a few questions as I think about this concept as it relates to mobilizing students and spiritual formation when young people.

1 - Can we re-enact a critical period where students grow and develop spiritually? Maybe it looks like taking them out of their current context, like on a retreat (we have two retreats this coming weekend - maybe a later post) or a mission experience. Maybe it looks like informal times of hanging out and building trust and relationship.

2 - Are we good at identifying when students are in the critical period? We know that life's difficult circumstances can catalyze times of spiritual growth and we know that day to day life can be rough for students in our care. How good are we at perceiving these critical periods in our students lives?

3 - And of course, acting and executing to help students learn and grow during the critical periods are the essence.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Patagonia's art of leadership

"This kind of independent thinking applies to our management philosophy as well. In fact, our employees are so independent, we've been told by psychologists, that they would be considered unemployable in a typical company. We don't want drones who will simply follow directions. We want the kind of employees who will question the wisdom of something they regard as a bad decision but, once they buy into something, will work like demons to produce something of the highest possible quality, whether a shirt, a catalog, a store display, or a computer program. How you get these highly individualistic people to align and work for a common cause is the art of management at Patagonia."

I've been in love with Patagonia for a long time, ever since about 1989. Not only do I love the products that they make, but the principles they embody as a company. I'm afraid to admit it, but I have a ton of their stuff. Three fleece jackets (one of them known as the yak fur), a sweatshirt, two rain jackets, a big duffel bag, a laptop bag, countless pairs of socks, long underwear, tshirts ... the list goes on. I love their stuff, because its really well made, their gear is well designed in terms of fit, functionality and purpose and they do what they believe in - their commitment to the environment shows up in how they run their company. The only negative point about their gear is that it is really expensive, but I got most of mine on discount when I worked for an outfitter.

The quote above is from a post that Influx had about Patagonia recently winning a design award. The post also talked about the corporate culture at the company and was a good reminder to me about leadership. Leaders don't create clones who just follow a plan. Leaders exude a purpose and a passion. The plan can come later.

I want to make clear that what focuses the speed of the church is not a plan but a purpose and a passion. This may sound strange, but you can focus the energy of a movement without knowing where you are going. You do this by knowing why you are going. ... Too many times as leaders we feel pressure to tell people things we don’t know. In other words, we make them up. Spiritual leadership is not the ability to define everything the future holds. It is the willingness to move forward when all you know is God. The apostolic leader finds his direction from the compass of the purpose of God, is fueled by the passions of God, and, while he’s moving to do what he knows, God clarifies and directs. - Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force

Nov Launch prep

Getting geared up a bit for our November launch. This is becoming an annual deal, which is kind of funny. The first year we did, it was totally an experiment, and I had no idea that it would generate such momentum. And... it was never my idea, I picked it up from somewhere...and never thought it would be something we ended up doing every year.

The gist is that we drive around in a school bus around the community, hop out and rake people's yards for about 10-15 minutes, get back in and drive to another house. We do this for most of the day, stopping for lunch and stuff. Last year, lunch was at my house, which was really cool, since my kids love a house full of activity. (A later post sometime - how much my kids drool about SPACE experiences and the impact we hope it makes on them.)

A few key things that I'm working on:
- Getting a school bus or two (note that there is a high fluctuation in prices from last year to this year, probably due to the cost of fuel - except I just got an exceptional quote from one place)
- Getting a list of potential yards to rake. We target people in our body at GCC, but also are open to people that are sort of connected to in one way or another. To get this list, we talk to one of the pastors and also reach out to other people at GCC that are involved in some of the service ministries, like GraceCares. Eventually, we will go and physically look at each yard and also map out a route that takes into consideration direct routes, length of time to rake, where is lunch, etc. This year, we have also invited another local youth ministry to come along with us, so they will have a few families in this mix as well. One thing I learned in detail in Brasil - natural connections. So every year, there are people on the list that don't go to GCC, but are connected to us via natural connections and relationships.
- Lunch. Have to figure out where to have lunch. This year, we are asking kids to bring their own lunch. Last year we did Subway, the year before we did pizza. Kids bringing their own lunch is a little bit easier. We will provide some kind of snacks though.
- Gathering time and token gift - part of the overall design of the experience.
- Another aspect that is different this year is to have a little bit of worship at the very end. We will see how that will work, I'm hesitant because I know it will be a long day already. Maybe we can pump the kids up with sugar snacks at the end of the day.

Previous year's posts: 2004, 2003

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Resource - Washington Post Teenager Poll

Today's Washington Post Magazine is devoted to the results of a survey they did with involving teenagers and a variety of subjects. The survey was conducted with 800 high school age students and sponsored by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. Survey pdf file here.

It's a must read if you work with students around here. It's also probably a pretty good representative picture of students and their opinions around an urban/suburban metro area.
97% Have had a friend of a different race
65% Have taken an Advanced Placement class in school
58% Have visited or lived in a foreign country
57% Have had a friend who was openly gay or lesbian
53% Have had a friend who dropped out of school
48% Have known someone who was in a gang
47% Have had a friend who became pregnant
45% Have dated someone of a different race
21% Have had a friend who was killed or injured by gun violence
19% Have personally been a victim of crime or violence

Percentage of local teens saying each is "very important."
75% ... Being successful in a career
65% ... Having a family of your own
65% ... Having lots of close friends
64% ... Making a difference in the world
62% ... Having enough free time to do things you want to do

Break out articles include looking at:
- Stress levels of high school girls from academics (60% of local students who experience stress say school is the biggest source of stress in their life)
- African American boys and their expectations to be rich and famous
- Acceptance of gay students
- Religion and its importance to students (65% of African American students ay religion is important in everyday life versus 35% of Caucasian students)
- Race and relationships (45% have dated someone of a different race and 80% would consider marrying someone of a different race)

Here are a few ideas which are relevant for our ministry with students:
1 - These kids are unbelievably busy. They get stressed out. They have a lot going on. If we are trying to draw students into our student ministries, we have a lot to compete with. If you are building an attractional program, it better be really good. The relational aspects of our ministries need to be sensitive to these time constraints. Maybe this idea deserves a new approach to relational peer ministry. What would it look like for some of your core kids to offer homework/study hall/tutoring opportunities within the context of "there are a bunch of us that go to this church and thought it would be a good way to serve..." (totally off the top of my head)

2 - These students are a lot more multi-cultural already than most of us are. In most senses, they probably move in and out of different cultural contexts a lot better than we do. How does that relate to your Sunday high school church, small group Bible study or outreach opportunity? Do we see such a mix of cultures in our youth group environments? Me neither. How can we capitalize on their daily experience as we prepare them for summer missional experiences? (That is a question I will be thinking about more from reading this survey.)

3 - They want to make a difference, even in the midst of a violent, fast changing and tragic world. I only saw one fight when I was in high school. I didn't know any gay people. I was a bit apathetic about my future. I didn't travel to another country. My high school was mostly white kids. I didn't know anyone who was pregnant. Evidently, I was a bit sheltered and too complacent. 64% of these kids want to make a difference in the world. If you ask me, that's plenty enough optimism.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Missional follow up

A few days ago, Em got a postcard in the mail from a church down the street. Here is the card (edited without personal info, click for larger size) "...Remember to attend Sunday school and church and have your mommy or daddy call us to let us know how you are doing."

Now I'm not into churches sending out mail at all. I think churches should grow subversively, from word of mouth and relationships, not mass marketing. But despite my opinion, I thought the card was really, really thoughtful. They were really thinking about Em. For people that are not connected to a church, wouldn't it be cool to feel like, "Wow, they are thinking about me."

The card came about from Em raising her hand at the DC Festival. (See D's post about it here and mine here.) This is a great example of the staff and volunteers of the Festival implementing a viable followup strategy. They must have rotated the response cards from the event to local churches by geography and then empowered those churches to follow up with specific people. Actually doing the ministry activity is one thing - implementing and executing a follow up strategy is just as difficult if not more.

A viable follow up strategy is one element we strive to have with SPACE mission trips. If there isn't a viable strategy, we will try to avoid the experience. Some examples of good strategies that I have seen:
- a missionary family continues to build relationships with students they met from a summer team visiting
- continued presence by a local, indigenous ministry in parks after we spent an afternoon hanging out with little kids
- skatepark outreach with follow up being a weekly drop in skate center at a local church

Friday, October 21, 2005

Using Flock

I've been playing around (just a bit) with Flock, a new browser. What is cool - a built in blogger component integrating Flickr pictures. Pretty slick. However, very buggy right now. Crashes a lot. Thanks to Jason Clark for the tip.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Technorati links in real time

I was checking my stats tonight and noticed someone came from the Washington Post. So I clicked the referring link and saw that it was an article that I had linked to in this post, talking about safety while taking students into DC post 9-11. Notice that there is a section that lists real time blogs that are linking to the article you are reading. I noticed a few months ago that Time and Newsweek were also doing this. The links are gathered via real time searches in Technorati - one of the top blog search tools.

Yet another movement in the way blogs are changing the way we gather and process information - real time listing of blogs in association with news articles, both talking about the same thing. Click the image for full size.

Marko on middle school missions

Mark Oestreicher, president of Youth Specialties, writes about his experience and principles for middle school mission trips here.
No airplanes
Tons of prep
Careful leader:student ratio
Stepped approach
Partnership with local, indigenous church
Nice. Good post with some great principles.

Repost - 7 world changes

I'm reposting this, because it's so good and because I don't have much to say right now. Originally posted in May, 2004.

7 world changes relevant for missions
The full article here.
1. 24x7 global communications
2. Largest population migration in history. More than 50% of the world now lives in urban areas.
3. Global economy.
4. The center of the Christian faith is shifting from the West to Latin America, Asia and Africa.
5. There are now more than 3000 mission agencies and entities.
6. Churches are reclaiming the front line of missions.
7. The laity are being empowered and released. A release of God's people unparalleled since Acts 8.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The College Transition Project

Fuller Seminary's Center for Youth and Family Ministry just released a study titled "The College Transition Project." See the pdf here.

It is the results from "a survey to 234 students who had graduated from the youth ministry of a Presbyterian church within the last four years. This particular youth group was comprised largely of middle-class Caucasian students. The responses on the 69 questionnaires that were returned were both interesting and surprising." The survey and results specifically address students transitioning from youth ministries into college and the hows and whys they either stay involved or leave churches.

I've jotted down a few quotes and thoughts from the survey and would encourage you to read the survey for yourself. There is some interesting statistics as well as some good and thoughtful analysis and action points.

1. Context
Based on the responses to our survey, the big three topics that seem to deserve special attention are developing new friendships in new contexts, how to live responsibly when you're away from home for the first time, and how to find a new church or college ministry in which you can be both nurtured and challenged.

Context seems to be a recurring concept in the results of the study. Maybe that is why missional experiences are so formative for students - when one has to go live in another context for a little while, see that the world is much bigger than you, and realize that your perspective of church is not the only perspective on Church. Not only does the Bible tell us that we must go and make disciples - giving us the imperative to go and do, maybe God realizes that one of the best ways to grow disciples is when they must go and reproduce themselves, whether that's in another country or a new college campus.

2. Places to work through doubt
Perhaps the most significant finding of the College Transition Project to date is that students who felt like they had a safe place to talk about doubt showed greater faith maturity.
This idea is definitely compelling to me. I can't say that I have ever set out specifically to engage students that had doubts. It is an idea that is well worth our time to think through.

3. Well-processed tough times
Perhaps it's the depth that comes from the well-processed tough times that builds roots that can withstand the shifting winds of college life.
Maybe it also has to do with youthworkers providing specific, formative experiences that deepen the faith of students, and being able to help kids process through those experiences. In other words, more than just pizza and karoke night.

Missional Leadership Lessons #3

Our leaders must be able to speak with engagement. And I don't mean that they just talk. But they speak. They:
- Speak life into their students. They know their students well enough to encourage, challenge, coach and correct. They are making disciples - a big part of that is conversation.
- Speak about the mission at hand, to other adults, leaders, students, potential prayer supporters, churches, missionaries, pastors, friends, people who would never understand why they are doing what they do. You can't shut them up about what they are doing and why.
- Speak formally. Sometimes they get invited to share formally.
- Speak informally. Sometimes they don't get invited and they still talk.
- Take advantage 'teachable moments.'
- Are able convey the essence of the trip when they get home.

Life is filled with teachable moments - an unplanned event that can be used as a learning opportunity - we only seem to recognize them when we are outside of our normal context. Discussions look like:
- our current approach to evangelism after we just saw a street evangelist with a bullhorn
- whether the stuff they gave to the homeless guy would really help him and whether he was a scammer
- were those really street kids at the park and what does that mean for us?
- what a tiller does and why it helps plants grow

Speaking with engagement - much more than just talk.

Some questions:
1 - How do you teach people to recognize and take advantage of teachable moments?
2 - All of us are at some time guilty of just talking to hear ourselves talk. How do you personally maintain the balance of speaking at the right time?

Photo: JAB and FZ speaking to a living room full of Brazilian high school kids about how Jesus has made a difference in their dating relationship.

Missional Leadership Lessons #1 and #2 in this series.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Resource - "cutting her body"

People who cut often have feelings of inadequacy from growing up, difficulty with problem-solving and communicating pain, and also suffer from depression, impulsivity and aggression. It's also common among people who grew up with abuse, neglect or invalid feelings for one reason or another. A cutter typically has poor interpersonal relationships and a shaky sense of self.

Important article for all youthworkers to read.
HT: Thunderstruck

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ever lost a student?

D and I saw the movie Flightplan tonight. Even though some of the reviews weren't that great, I enjoyed it. One thing that I thoroughly enjoyed (well, enjoyed might not be the right word) was the level of panic that the main character had looking for her child.

This summer during the LC missions trip, while we went out for ice cream, one of the students thought it would be funny to call his mother from the Dairy Queen telling her that the leaders accidentally left him at a gas station. He left her a message on the answering machine. Two hours later when she picked it up, she freaked. I could relate. Needless to say, I nor his mother thought it was such a good joke. I think he got the picture too.

As a fourteen year old junior counselor at a wilderness camp, one afternoon I took some bad advice and took my group the wrong direction on a hike down from a collection of rock outcroppings called Big Schloss. One counselor (me) and 9 eight year olds hiked an extra 6 miles that day, while the rest of the adult leader team searched the ridge for us.

The widow in Luke 15 sweeps the whole house to look for the lost coin. The WHOLE house.

All of this reminds me - we should instill two things in our next generation of mission leaders. First, we need to instill this enormous sense of responsibility for those in their charge. Watch the first 30 minutes of the movie and pay close attention to how absolutely deranged the main character is. She is mental about her child. Pay close attention to your charges, or you will have to deal with a parent like that. Secondly, we need to instill this enormouse sense of responsibility for the lost. For those that may not yet know Jesus, do we - and the teams that we lead - sweep the whole house looking for them?

MM and Alex McManus

My friend MM got himself in on a Baptist annual meeting tonight to hear Alex McManus speak for the first time. After Skyping with MM for an hour, I'm happy to report that he had a great time. When MM posts some notes, I will link to them.

Alex is doing a round table tomorrow (Tuesday), also in Orlando. In case you haven't heard about it but can go, register here.

Update - MMs notes are here with a picture of him and Alex. Cool.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Their appreciation is most important

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - Work - Family - Health - Friends - Spirit, and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls -- family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed,
marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered.
- Bryan Dyson, CEO, Coca-Cola, Georgia Tech commencment address, 1996

The Sheng family helped out this morning at the Extreme School Makeover that GCC organnized. D has most of the details here. It was a lot of fun and most of the fun was doing it as a family.

I get a lot of great thank you and appreciation notes. Mostly from students, sometimes parents. I got a lot of great great notes this past summer. And it is so easy to let it get to your head. Ministry, just like work, will bounce back. It is not an end all/be all. Let's not forget our families as we engage students to change the world.

New Tribes Mission being expelled

New Tribes Mission is being expelled from Venezuela, because of Pat Robertson's comments back in August. Sad. I posted a little bit about NTM's very deliberate and hardy missionary training strategy here. Read more here. Lets hope there is some way that NTM and the government can come to an agreement.
HT - Jeremy

Ride On

K riding a bike for the first time. Thanks to the expert teaching ability of her father, moi.

Friday, October 14, 2005

From planning to designing

Walt Disney's widow was being interviewed after the completion of Disney World in Florida. The reporter remarked, "Isn't it a shame that your husband never got to see this?" Mrs. Disney quickly corrected him. "He did see it. That is why it is here!"

"Design is treated like a religion at BMW."

"Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation." - Steve Jobs

"Every Starbucks store is carefully designed to enhance the quality of everything the customers see, touch, hear, smell or taste."
"People want to be part of something larger than themselves. They want to be part of something they're really proud of, that they'll fight for, sacrifice for, trust." - CEO Howard Schultz.

I'm not much of a visual guy, at all. I don't draw or paint, and I don't do anything very artsy at all. In high school, I just about failed out of mechanical drawing. Too much attention to detail, I think. (Which is strange considering my current vocation.) Ceramics was just an easy class to take as a senior and, no, I didn't bring any of my projects home.

But these quotes - and my experience of late - is convincing me that this idea of "design" is much, much more than the way something looks. It's more than art or color or aesthetics only. We need to turn ourselves into designers - whether it is the design of a small group Bible study, of a retreat experience, or a mission trip. Not just planners, but designers. Think about how even the simple distinction of the language used changes the whole intent of the task. We move from being mere organizers of tasks and activities to agents of change that affect people based on how an experience (not just art or architecture) impacts someone.

A few things come to mind about this in regard to students:
1 - Gathering and transit times. We should capture that time and engage students in some way related to the event. D hit this on the head after the Sept launch. An important distinction to note is that the thinking about this time has transitioned from, "How do we occupy students before things start moving?" to "What else could we do to fully engage them in this experience of blessing others?"

My Brasil leaders got it this past summer in two ways. First, they put devotional packets together for the overnight plane ride. Secondly, they had the team put together a 'mailbox' that was used throughout the rest of the trip. The team put those together during a six hour layover in the airport. Not only were these great contributions to the overall experience, they were a great use of time.

2 - A token reminder. When SPACE first started, we used to give every student something to remember the experience with. A checker piece to remind them of being strategic. A old, beatup spoon purchased from a thrift store to remind them of the homeless. These token reminders can be pieces of the experience students take with them once its over. We are going to start this again.

3 - Key people. Key people make the difference in the environment. They can either be welcoming or distant, engaging or disconnected. These key people, both leaders and students, set the pace for the environment. We must communicate this idea to our key people - that they can set the tone and be proactive about creating and shaping the event, study, etc. The design, not the plan, should be communicated to them. Instead of saying, "Here is the plan," maybe we should say, "This experience should look and smell like _____. The essence of this day is about this ____."

And we know that, in the end, the design of the experience is not just for our participants. We know that, like the last quote above, if we call people to epic movements, if we call them to be a part of changing the world, to serving strangers, to reaching out, they might just in fact be more than participants themselves - and contribute to propagating experiences for others to make an impact.

Photo: Columns and the dome inside the National Gallery of Art.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Article - Journeys to Significance

From Leadership That Lasts: Journeys to Significance - An Examination of Paul's Improving Missionary Advancement, By Neil Cole
Leadership is influence. Not all leaders are good ones. There are some leaders that God doesn't want to multiply. The best leaders are not those who win the most followers, but those who create other leaders.

Most studies of Paul's missionary methods do not take into account the fact that Paul is himself a learner who improves in his influence as he follows the Lord of the harvest.

Paul's First Journey
This trip covered 1500 Miles in one year without frequent flier miles! Paul and Barnabas functioned as a team of traveling evangelists leaving new disciples behind in every city. This method saw great fruitfulness, but left behind weak churches that had an overwhelming leadership vacuum.

Paul's Second Journey
Paul, like most of us, when he saw a great need for leaders his first response was to recruit more leaders. This is a shortsighted and short-lived solution. The problem is that we are all recruiting from the same pond. Eventually the pond dries up and we are only left with the muck at the bottom. But as he left leaders behind to care for new churches he soon found out the disadvantages of recruiting leaders as opposed to raising them up.

Paul's Third Journey
Employing the lessons learned on the third journey, Paul began a true multiplication movement by releasing workers for the harvest from the harvest and started all the churches if Asia Minor without going to all the locations himself.
Paul integrated evangelism into the spiritual formation of his disciples as a foundation for training leaders for ministry.

Paul's Fourth Journey
One sure way of spreading the church is to take out her leaders! Being locked up provoked others to take up his mission.

A truly fascinating article, you should really take the time to read it yourself. I'm convinced of some of these ideas more than ever - the need to raise up your leaders rather than try to recruit people to fill the need; the importance of releasing leaders to do ministry that God has birthed in them; the non-programmatic approach to mentoring and doing life together for spiritual formation. (In fact a good friend and former ministry partner and I have gotten quite an email discussion about this idea in the last week.) An excellent article that puts the right kind of focus on leadership - true leaders grow other leaders that are on mission.

HT: Fuel Movements

The spontaneous expansion...

The spontaneous expansion of the Church reduced to its element is a very simple thing. It asks for no elaborate organization, no large finances, no great numbers of paid missionaries. In its beginning it may be the work of one man, and that a man neither learned in the things of this world, nor rich in the wealth of this world.
- Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church
HT: Fuel Movements

Misc Thursday

"A focus on the church service as connecting point perpetuates the idea that following Jesus is about going to church." Read more from Ryan. HT Jordon

DCist maps - Google maps of DC with overlays of the Metro lines.

People particularly want to know if Aslan comes off as a Christ-figure, or just some warm and fuzzy magic lion. Well, I personally cried every moment Aslan was on the screen. But then, I walked in with my character development done by my Jesus thing. I so wanted to be Lucy and Susan, with their heads resting on his body on the stone table. I wonder if people who don't love Jesus will feel the same? So, I am going to say that Aslan is absolutely discernible as a figure of Jesus -- for those who have eyes to see.
From Barb who has seen a prescreen of Narnia

In December 1800, after seven years of missionary labor, Carey baptized his first convert...
...over the next 28 years, he and his pundits translated the entire Bible into India's major languages: Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit and parts of 209 other languages and dialects.
By the time Carey died, he had spent 41 years in India without a furlough. His mission could count only some 700 converts in a nation of millions, but he had laid an impressive foundation of Bible translations, education, and social reform.
An article about William Carey, one of the first missionaries to India. A few things that article didn't mention about him - he was a botanist, conservationist, writer, father of printing technology in India, first to make indigenous paper, astronomer, started libraries, introduced the steam engine to India, a shoemaker, etc. Yup, amazing stuff. Another older article about him here.

MTI - Mission Training International. They have an intriuging debrief program called DAR - Debrief and Renewal, where it is on site, lasts for a week and done in the context of community. Would be fun to go and learn from them.

I just changed my delicious 'missions' link on the sidebar. It used to be a link to the rss feed, so that you could just plop it into your newsreader. But I think it might be more useful as just the straight browser link. If you really wanted the rss, there is a link to that at the bottom of the page. And for those of you that don't use, you really should.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

D has a blog

I haven't written about this yet because she didn't want the publicity. Too late now. My wife, D, now has a blog. If for nothing else, it should give you readers some very balanced and interesting insight into life in our household.

Here are two of my favorites posts so far:
- my fixation with being old
- the real truth about how SPACE events are planned

The best way to learn the gospel

is to do the gospel.
The title of this post is taken from PM's post. Check out his 2006 summer mission plan. I notice I am always about 6 months behind him in planning. Ha.

And - he is right. The best way to learn is to do.

Next launch

I've spent a bit of time in the past two weeks doing some setup for the future. I'm tired and I've spent too many evenings away from my kids. I sort of hinted at something for next summer in this post here. Can't talk about that quite yet.

But here is something I can talk about. Tonight, one of the other SPACE leaders and I met with the youth director (or something) at another area church. We have invited them to our November launch, the one where we rake yards and travel by bus. It was fun to meet her, she seems a bit overloaded since its really only her 2nd month in responsibility - she just started at this church in August. I can't really imagine what that would be like.

I think this is going to be really something pretty cool. It will be neat to see how our kids see some other kids from their schools that they might not know were involved in a church. We make an impact whenever we expand the number of kids that intentionally bless others.

Almost immediate feedback

One cool, dynamic element to bloggers is this almost immediate feedback loop. You can read up on details and details almost real time. A good example has been people posting their notes about the Catalyst conference.

Here are a few posts from people that I met from UMCP Tues night and some fun commentary on both meeting me and hearing my talk.

- FZ, of course.
- Ă„nna (I even figured out the umlaut)
- Bert
- Sara

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Expansion - Megashift

These should astound you, like they did me. From Shane, who got them from the book Megashift. Sounds like a good read.

- Between 1990 and 2004, Christians in Cambodia grew from 200 to 400,000.
- Kazakhstan went from 100 evangelicals in 1990 to 6,000 in 2004.
- Guatamala is now 44% born -again Christians.
- El Salvador is at 53%
- About 25,000 house churhes were started in India in 2002.
- China has the largest church in the world with 115 to 120 million true Christians, mostly in house churches. They have about one million active church planters.
- As of 1970, Nepal had 5,200 Christians. As of 2000, its 543,340
- More than 100,000 members of the Hmong tribe in northern Vietnam have turned to the Lord after listening to Christian radio programs (no missionary visits). This was discovered by accident because none of them were literate enough to write the station and report their massive response.

InterVarsity - Univ of Md, College Park - Speaking Notes

Here are my speaking notes from tonight. I thought it went a little bit better than average. There were a few things that I wanted to say, but totally forgot. It was definitely fun though, and fun to meet and see everything that is going on there. It was also fun to see JAB squirm for his phone when it started to ring right after I started speaking. Funny.

The band for worship seriously rocked, that was a lot of fun, they were really good at both playing the music and setting the environment for worship. It was also fun to meet a few of FZ and JAB's friends, neat to see the context of their friends at school. And I've read up on some of their blogs so that is kind of funny and weird too. You know that whole blogger weird, but fun, dynamic. It was great to see a few CpR graduates as well as my neighbor there. It was also fun to see a few kids from our old church, sort of. One of them was part of a ministry a good friend of mine ran, the other one's brother was in D's first grade class when she was a teacher. Yup, feeling the age. Even the person in the crowd yelling that I looked like I was 12 years old didn't help. Ha.

Cool to see them launch their 'justice' component - Aqueatas (I know I'm totally misspelling it - I've practice for 4 weeks just trying to pronounce it.) They are having a night where they show the movie Crash and talk about it. Oh man, I would love to hear that discussion...

There is some serious momentum with the juniors there, I get this sense that they will collectively make some impact this year, Senior year and after they graduate. Definitely ones to watch. All in all a lot of fun.

Photo: The front of the Art/Soc building where Intermission was held.

me: D | the girls | job | SPACE
Scripture : transformation, more questions than answers | regurgitate in community

Mt 25
three passes

Pass1 - Invest
- what do i have?
you are the haves: living in DC | UMCP | IV
6.5B people | 3B less than $1 a day | 1B in extreme poverty
it is your job to care about the world - you have something to invest
not if i can invest but what can i invest

- a certain level of risk is ok
SPACE nursing home, playing football
not sure how it ever ends up

- payoff
living in phenomenal times
world is waiting for the church to DO and not just to KNOW
care and not just believe
500 year impact

Pass2 - Fear
Courage is not the absence of fear but the absence of self - McManus
Being on mission always clarifies
Servants probably knew what the mission was
Story - Glenn and the food fight party
Story - GMcM - saying to me lets go somewhere more risky

Pass3 - Kingdom
what is the kingdom of heaven like? what does it look like here on earth?
engagement, every moment, every motive, every desire, every action and thought
maybe the more you let God reign, the more abundant He makes that
You will look different if you do that
You will look like a nut
John the Baptist, Paul

Close - Pursuit of the kingdom on earth
some will invest some will not
the ones that do, that put their self aside, and allow God to grab hold and be in the moment

F in Brasil
explosion of the Gospel
natural connection
person of peace/gatekeeper

InterVarsity - Univ of MD, College Park - tonight

I speak at IV - UMCP tonight. I hope FZ still has some credibility when I'm done. Ha.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Resource - Andy Stanley - Drive Conference videos

I don't know too much first hand about Andy Stanley and Northpoint Church. But what I do know, I like. Here are four videos from their Drive Conference, their conference for Senior pastors and staff. I watched #2, "Creating Irresistible Environments." It was really, really good.

Post DC Festival

Well we spent a lot of time at the DC Festival this weekend. Our original plans were to take a small group of SPACE kids down to help serve at the Festival. We had a team that had pre-registered to help with some of the sports clinics and stuff like that. Instead, all of the children's activities, the sports clinics, skate park, etc. were closed all day Saturday due to rain. And did it rain. The Festival ran a modified schedule instead, with just a smaller stage show.

Instead of bagging the idea, we asked the kids what they wanted to do. Of course, they wanted to go anyway. So we went. And it was still raining. We did help out a little bit, passing out some gift bags to people in the show for a few hours. And the students got to see Kutless and Toby Mac, which was a lot of fun.

Sunday was a much nicer day, so D and I decided to take our girls to it too. Everything was open and it was neat to see it all in full swing. Our kids had a great time and we even spent a few minutes in one of the art galleries at the end of our day - injecting just a bit of culture in them. The Metro, being in the city, the Festival, the grand art gallery, they loved it all.

One of my goals was to expose our SPACE students to this style of a large, attractional, evangelistic festival, specifically to have them evaluate whether this type of thing works in our culture or not anymore. In my first video clip related to this blog, I interview three of our students. I think its working - click here to watch it. If it doesn't work, please let me know via the comments.

Related to that topic, I can say that in the children's area, the workers there took every opportunity to love the kids AND share the Gospel. My kids heared the Gospel explained at least three times - the stage show, the Gospel braclets and the spin paint. There was always an opportunity for a decision and there were plenty of counselors right there in the area. They also gave out children's books which included both fun games, a response card and a Gospel presentation. My impression was that volunteers knew straight up why they were there - their goal was clear. In fact, their goal was so clear that Em actually raised her hand during the stage show when they asked the kids if anyone had prayed that prayer. We haven't had time yet to really talk to her and see if it was indeed significant but she heard both the message and the opportunity to respond loud and clear.

Kudos to the DC Festival staff and volunteers. One of our old friends works for the organization and they moved here two years ago to plan this weekend. It really took a lot of work and must have been very satisfying to see all the events on Sunday instead of all the rain on Saturday. A pretty neat experience to be looking at the Capitol building while the Gospel was being presented.

Photos: Luis Palau on the main stage, with the US Capitol in the background; some of our team serving in the rain; the childrens maze with the Monument behind Larry (thats a little weird); D and the girlies in the National Gallery of Art

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Loads of rain

Lots of rain today - modified DC Festival schedule. Should be somewhat fun but very wet. Whoever said SPACE runs according to plan?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Charismas 30 Emerging Voices

I think this article about 30 Emerging voices under 40 was published last summer, but just got online recently. Anyway, its a ton of fun to read. I got stoked just hearing about all of these different people, the passion they have for engaging the world, and the many different ways 'ministry' looks to them. Very very cool.

A few highlights from the list:
- Jeremy is on the list.
- The founders of Overland Missions. I can't imagine a trip with this missions outfitter. Would make boot camp look like a resort.
- The editor of Relevant Magazine.
- A church where the congregation washes clothes for street people once a month.
- YWAM founder Loren Cunningham's son.

Friday misc links

IV's Entry Posture Diagrams for cross-cultural mission training:
Openness, Acceptance, Trust, Adaptability -> Understanding, Deepening Relationship
Suspicion, Fear, Superiority, Prejudice -> Alienation, Withdrawal, Broken Relationship
PDF here.

Steve Addison's Indigenous Christian Movements post.

Some blogging from the Catalyst Conference:
- Out of Ur Blog - new blogfrom the editors of Leadership Journal
- David Trotter
- Tony Morgan
- Joe Dworak
- Here is Technorati search results

Read Marc's post (with a downloadable article) about Jesus among the wiccans.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More DC Festival pre thoughts

This weekend we take a small team of students to the DC Festival. It should be a lot of fun, and will be interesting to see the students perspective on a large Christian festival specifically designed for outreach. I think it's going to be neat to see how its done and how people react to it. However, I do have this funny sense in the back of my mind dealing with attractional vs. incarnational ministry (see this good concise writeup here) and how we do the latter in the suburban world where I and all the students I work with live.

On a somewhat related but hopefully not overdramatic note, I am concerned a little bit about going to DC with students for a big event. Having lived around DC for all of my life, seeing the authorities react to potential threats usually isn't a very big deal. The shutdown of the road in front of the White House, the sharpshooters on the roofs of Congress buildings during the first Iraq war, the recent bomb scare on Wednesday, the recent bioterroism sensor incident. Usually, its just part of the news.

But I don't think it can be just information. Our world is more dangerous than ever. And we must take that into consideration when we take students anywhere anymore. We must be aware, engaged, vigilant. The events in NOLA should teach us that we own the responsibility to best prepare our families in the event of a disaster. Therefore, one of the things I'm thinking about in the next two days is a disaster scenario. Best way out of the city? Where do we meet if kids get separated? How to contact parents to let them know the latest info? Stuff like that. Hopefully, we won't ever need to act on those plans.

Eldredge oldie but good

What was the hardest lesson you have had to learn?
Eldredge: Wow, what a question. What’s the hardest lesson I had to learn? How to handle power. I heard Dallas Willard say once that he believes that the story of the Bible is the story of God wanting to entrust men with His power and it destroying them.

"It’s very dangerous," Tolkien said, "if you live near a dragon and do not believe in dragons."

Yeah, heaven is not a never-ending church service in the sky, and we don’t go to heaven and just sing songs, forever and ever amen. The longing that brings us to tears at the end of Apollo 13 when the men make it safely home; the longing that brings us to tears at the end of Titanic when the whole ship is restored, and all the great hearts of the story are back, and they’re alive and they’re together … you just go to the ending of the stories that you love. Go to the ending of The Return of the King, and you ask yourself, why does this bring me to tears? It’s because God is showing you Ecclesiastes 3:11: "He has set eternity in the hearts of men." There is no way that the end of God’s story is less than the end of these stories.

Read the whole interview here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I remember

Well, it's been exactly two months since the Brasil trip, just one of the great experiences this summer. Like everybody, it's getting more and more difficult to remember specifics about those experiences - the subtle memories that we often forget. So I thought, just for me, that I would try to list the funny, obscure, and subtle details of what I could remember:

I remember --
how good that taco soup was
all the passion fruit (juice, pudding, candy) there was
that JAB ate a *LOT* of those little mints on the flight from Sao Paulo to Londrina
TFS - the one who 'never' sleeps on planes, slept more than anyone else on the planes
how good the desserts at Brasilian McDonalds were
what a huge help GMcM's neighbor was at the park
how new friendships seemed so easy and natural
how powerful a tool drama is
how badly I wanted to *just* get seats -- any seats -- on the flight home
that I really didn't want to pick up AW's water bottle since she just threw up all over it
that I knew I needed to pick up AW's water bottle since she just threw up all over it
how thankful I was for LB's hand sanitizer after I had picked up the aforementioned water bottle
that mission always clarifies
that plans don't always go according to plan
how all those kids at school wanted our autographs
how good it was to see the rest of the team every single morning
that there is a fine line between being firm and being harsh

Leadership Comm and the move

GCC invited all the ministry leaders tonight to hear more about the move. For those of you that might not know, we are building a building. In two months. It is large. It will have a lot of seats. It's on a good sized property. You can think mega-church, but do read through the rest of this post.

If you were to a building project with a church, this is the way you should do it. I could go on and on about so many things that have impressed me about the way the leadership led this project. (They really did lead.)

What was so cool to me tonight was that they took the time to again re-engage the ministry leaders and tell them again why we are doing this. It isn't to have a nice new building. It isn't to have a great facility. It isn't about growing to grow or boasting about attendance. It is simply to make room for our friends and neighbors that might be looking for a church home.

Our staff and elders at GCC *lead*. They communicate, they share vision, they empower the Body to care for people, to dream big, to make a difference. Once again, it's a joy to serve at a place like this.

Blog sidebar issues

Sorry to all of you readers with IE... I didn't realize for a long time that my sidebar was all the way at the bottom of the blog page. Weird. Since I use Firefox, I never noticed.

Anyway, I'm in the middle of fixing it, which might take a few days. This includes editing older posts to fix some formatting, republishing and checking out each post to see if it loads everything correctly.

For you bloggers, here is what I think might be important:
- Test your blog page on more than one browser
- Take care in when emailing a blog post with formatting. I had to re-edit a bunch of posts that I emailed to post. I think the formatting gets a bit mixed up when it gets posted via email.
- Take a look at this article, specific for my template (Thisaway) but pretty instructive.

Monday, October 03, 2005

maybe my first short film

I'm really thinking about entering this.

Tom Peters - The Nub of Leadership

Leaders do not transform people - instead they:
(1) provide a context which is marked by
(2) access to a luxuriant portfolio of meaningful opportunities (projects) which
(3) allow people to fully express their innate curiosity and
(4) engage in a vigorous discovery voyage (alone and in small teams, assisted by an extensive self-constructed network) by which those people
(5) go to-create places they (and their leaders-teachers-mentors) had never dreamed existed—and then the leaders-teachers-mentors
(6) applaud like hell, stage "photo-ops," and ring the church bells 100 times to commemorate the bravery of their "followers' " explorations!

Full post with ppt slides here

Sunday, October 02, 2005

"Ask the blind pastor anything about God"

Dan Kimball is working on a book titled "They Like Jesus, but Not the Church."  In his post, he has listed seven main reasons why people stay away from church.  The list is generated from his interviews with people for his research and would be an important list for us to keep in mind.  One of the commenters said, "One thing I do to try and engage the community is go to the local community college and sit in the middle of their commons with my sign that reads "Ask the blind pastor anything about God".  That would be an interesting experiment huh?

Weird vocabulary from around the world

"GRILAGEM" - Brazilian Portuguese - The practice of putting a live cricket into a box of newly faked documents, until the insect's excrement makes the paper look convincingly old.  
More from the article here.

Where is Mr Mom going to sleep?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Active Next Two Weeks

I have a pretty active next two weeks. This coming week, there is a leadership gathering at GCC talking about the building move, which happens in 9 weeks or so. Pretty crazy. It is the last time the ministry leaders will talk and pray before we move.

(I actually wish I was able to go to the IMN New England Leadership Roundtable, happening on Monday. I went to the one in Orlando last January - here are my notes. I know it is going to be an awesome time, Keith is one of the organizers.)

I will also meet this week to talk about one of the ideas that is cooking for next summer. It should be a fun meeting, because this person is totally energized by the idea. But, I know its totally a manic idea. It is a pretty big undertaking. It could get huge, much bigger than I imagine.

Next Saturday is the DC Festival. It should be a lot of fun and I'm liking the fact that we are only taking a small group of kids. The last launch was a little over the top in terms of caring about such a large group of kids. And moving them.

The week after that, I'm actually speaking at IV at U of Md, College Park. Hence all the stuff about Matthew 25, because that's what I'm speaking on. I have very little idea of what the parable actually means. In any case, it should be *interesting*. FZ is brave for inviting me.

The Saturday after that is GCC's Extreme School Makeover. It's an opportunity where our church goes and does a bunch of stuff to clean up and help out at local public schools. Last year was the first year and it made a huge impact to the community. I'm taking the girls to help with that. So that should be fun.

Photo: Orange was the theme for my birthday.