Embracing the Hard Conversations

Being in youth ministry something that we talk all the time about is relationships. How to be a good friend, how being a good christian means that we love one another and what that looks like. Something we don’t always talk about are romantic relationships. There is an unspoken tension that exists where some youth pastors think that it should be a conversation that parents ultimately have and parents hoping that youth pastors will take care of it. Students are left in the middle most likely learning from the internet, television, movies and their friends. Personally, growing up I can’t remember too many conversations about the birds and the bees but I remember learning from my parents how to treat woman and how to behave in a romantic relationship. I’ve been married for over 6 years now and I’ll never be the perfect husband but I do remember the first time I knew I was going to marry my wife. I was living in Monessen, PA at the time and my wife was then a junior at Georgia Tech. Sounds kind of crazy to say that not that we were so young but it just felt right at the time. I was living in a church and when I walked down to the kitchen area and was greeted by one of our favorite community members, Jim Williams. I started to talk to him about visiting my girlfriend over Christmas break and how excited I was to spend some time with her. He hit me with this question: “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to love your wife liked Christ loved the church?”

When I heard it I knew that I had no idea if I could ever do that, but I knew I wanted to try and I needed to try with this amazing girl. It’s that type of seemingly random question that doesn’t end up in conversations with youth a lot. Students are trying to live what they consider a good life. Their definition of good might vary from self satisfaction to living to love others but I truly believe no one sets out to be an evil person. They want to be a good person and have a good life. In these talks we often leave to others I wonder how I will talk with my children. I know that scripture says that we should train up a child in the way they should go and they will not stray from that path so I hope that I can set a precedent of having those awkward and tough conversations from the very beginning. This way, it’s not weird or awkward for them to ask me about sex, dating, God’s plan for romance, why bad things happen to good people ect…

As a youth pastor it is part of my job to have these tough conversations. To teach God’s plan for sexuality, to talk about the eschaton, and even the all powerfulness of God in a broken world. While living in an increasing world of information, internet deep dives, and an increased sense of never being shocked by a crazy story I see in the news. So as I randomly think about things I wonder about these conversations. In my head I can see myself with my future teenage son or daughter sitting on the edge of their bed giving them a look like, hey, you know what we have to talk about now. But does it need to be this way? I can imagine a time when these conversations aren’t difficult but come about naturally in everyday dinner conversation. I imagine not being shocked to hear shocking statements in a good way.

I have no idea how to be a parent, I’m not sure I should be giving advice but working with students I know that all the work that I try to do to bring them closer to Christ, to point them in the direction of the cross means that a lot of the time I need to embrace hard conversations. Jesus didn’t shy away from these, in fact he started many of them. From romantic relationships, to what it really means to love your neighbor as yourself. These hard things are to be embraced not avoided. Obviously this is easier said than done. There have been plenty of times that I have all the intention in the world to suck it up and talk about the hard things only to have last minute nervousness have me bail on the topic. What I’m hoping to bring out of this post is an embracing of the idea of the hard. To never offer simple answers when the questions are complex and to explore what it really means to love. When real love recognizes real love the only reaction can be to produce more of it. It can be difficult, awkward and weird. But so am I and these conversations can’t be avoided when the stake are this high. We know that as Paul says: The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

Presenting an Image

I typically don’t spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning. I’ve gotten to the point that I can get up, do a quick routine of brushing my teeth, letting my dogs out, getting dressed, whatever else I need to do, and I can get out of the door in about 20 minutes. Typically I just throw on a hat, think about the fact that I’ve worn the same t-shirt way too many times and then head off to work where I’ll make some coffee and continue my routine. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the image I’m presenting. Or at least that’s what I thought before I noticed something a few weeks ago. I was in a wedding for an incredibly good friend of mine in Virginia. I was excited for him and I was pumped to be with my brothers from my college baseball team. We’re family and always will be. I found myself constantly wondering if I was looking right. If my cufflinks were on the right way, was my tie fixed like everyone else, should I button my jacket or just leave it open? All of these questions made me analyze the image I created and presented to the world more than I realized I did.

I’ve always tried to be a good observer. I feel like a lot of times if I go to a restaurant or a coffee shop all I need to do is see what others are doing and that will teach me the proper protocol of putting up my dishes after I’m finished with my meal or if I pay at the table or the counter that type of thing. Yet I didn’t realize just hot much I tried to present myself in the perfect light in what I would do and how I would look. It’s no secrete that most people present their best self on social media. It’s what we do. We take silly, beautiful, and random photos. But it’s only the best pictures that make it online. It’s never pictures that present us in a bad light that we post. In an attempt to be real you might hear about someone’s struggles or something they might want prayer for.

I recently organized and executed a training session for adult and student leaders for our small group program we call Life Groups. We talked about what it means to create and facilitate authentic community. To be real and vulnerable with the people we have around us, to be able to ask and answer the question: “How is it with your soul?” It’s a tough question when you think about it. I can remember having an exhausting week, working long days, yet at the end of the week it was well with my soul. On the other hand I’ve had really easy weeks but my soul has been wrecked with anticipation and restlessness. When I think of authentic community the words Facebook, twitter, and instagram never enter my thoughts. I’ll be the first to admit that I love how social media connects us. One of the first things I did when I started my new job was to take over social media because we all agreed that it was important but at the time it wasn’t executed to the best of our ability.

I want to fight back against the perfect image society and yet one of the ways you can tell that my life isn’t perfect is by the fact that I’m not posting any pictures. So that’s the question I’m left with and the one that I hope you’ll explore within yourself and with me. What does it mean to be in authentic community? What does it mean to do Life Together as Bonhoeffer wrote about? Whenever I go into a new context and meet new people I know that I can be a different person. I can completely recreate my personality to fit whatever narrative I want because these people don’t have any preconceived idea of who I am and what I’ve done in the past. I seem to never be able to do that though. I’m never able to change who I am. I hope I never do because God has created me in his image to walk the path I’m on. I hope I can remain true to that and stop even for just a few minutes analyzing what I’m doing in reference and comparison to others but I am able to love in the unique way God has called me to love. That I can find and be in authentic community. I hope to be able to teach that to others and model that through social media and my daily walk so that my children can see I’m real, I’m not perfect but I’m striving to take hold that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Incarnational Social Media

One of the very first things when I started my new job I knew I could own was social media for our ministry. Trying to do my due diligence when I was applying for my now job in youth ministry I would do research on the church and what I might be stepping into. For many people like me this was looking at their website, searching through Facebook pages, instagram, twitter, google searching for what others were saying about them online. I discovered a great website and an okay social media presence. The more I looked the more I noticed it was mainly an issue of consistency. When I was hired and I talked more about what little I know about social media marketing and ministry through an online presence I discovered it was also an issue of social media theology. There’s not a lot of people who think social media and theology connect other than the promoting of something else that is theological on social media. Yet what I know to be true is that we are called to be like Jesus. What this means is that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. This incarnation ministry applies to wherever people are. This means we can’t do ministry like Jesus without going to people, we can’t be like Jesus if we never interact with anyone. For all the monks in the world that don’t interact with anyone but pray for the world, thank you. I need your prayers and your service. Some are called to be that way. But if we are going to be incarnational people we have go to where they are. It’s no secrete that people are online. This is made true by the mere fact that you are reading this on a blog of some random dude in youth ministry at a United Methodist Church in Georgia.



There is audacity in the incarnation. There is great joy and hope. But most of all to me there is an example that we should follow. The God of the universe gave up His throne in heaven to be a baby. A baby that was nourished by a woman’s womb, who’s life depended on a woman for sustenance, which can get me on a whole other tangent about the role of woman in ministry and how gender really shouldn’t matter when it comes to leadership or a ton of other things, it’s really about who the Holy Spirit has appointed. But in regards to social media it’s easy to see that Jesus went to people and where they were at. The broken and poor in spirit weren’t in heaven they were on earth, so He came to us. Once we realize this, I think we need to consider who we are online and how we can be an incarnational presence.  I believe if Jesus were walking this earth right now He would have a twitter account.

When I started posting for the ministry it had a completely different feel than when I would post something from my personal account. I tried to lay out an overall plan for the type of postings I wanted to do. Through this process of analyzing the things I would be posting for our student ministries it made me take a greater look at if I was being an incarnational presence through my personal account. There is a big part of me that wishes to be famous. One of my proudest moments was when I saw that the embassy of Rwanda to the United States had mentioned me and linked to a video of a poem I wrote about the amazing country. Part of me wants every blog post I write to go viral. But the truth is I’m not writing this to be famous (I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that hoped I would) but I’m writing this to try and be a fairly young Christian voice online because I believe part of how God made me to act is to write random blog posts for friends and strangers.

I still have questions and very few answers. How does someone be an incarnational presence on social media? How do I represent who I am through my pictures, my captions, my blogs? Is this post I’m writing actually something that I should do? There are a few guidelines I’ve made for myself as a person in youth ministry I adhere to and I would love to hear some of yours. What are some questions you ask yourself before posting? For me I struggle a lot with the gratification that comes with a large number of likes. Some of it doesn’t even have to do with how many people actually like my post but the fact that Facebook has a crazy algorithm that ensures only a certain number of people see it so there is a finite number of likes I can actually get in the first place. Yet I still rack my brain and have to remind myself that my self worth will never be represented by how many people click on a button to tell me that they liked what I posted. I almost feel like I’m trying to play to a cheering section. And each time they double tap my picture it’s like they patted me on the back. But is that what should be going through my head?


I believe that part of how I am called to live is different than most people. If I am supposed to live different, think different, my social media should be different. How I represent myself to the public should be different because I am called to be my authentic self. The worts and all. I would love to encourage you on this social media journey. If you believe in Christ and He has made a difference in your life, is it evident by how you live and what you post? Part of what I have to do daily is look at what I’m putting out there for the world and does it represent that difference that the Lord has made.

This of course doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to try and make things look perfect. Better pictures, better captions, witty banter. I think God has a great sense of humor, I mean have you seen the platypus? But it does mean that I have to have an extra filter. To be an incarnational presence takes time, thought, and incite into the world. It’s this calling that I would love to be on together with you. Good luck, and happy posting.

The Gospel Being Real

logoIt can’t be understated the effect that the organization YouthWorks has had on my journey in Youth Ministry. I was a youth participant on a summer trip when I was a senior in High School, I spent three summers on staff and I was even an adult leader on a trip. I can’t say enough how much I love those people and what they do. I can remember days and nights of exhausting work. Not just the fact that I was one of four staff responsible for around 70 – 80 youth and adult leaders in a place I had never lived in before. But the 18 hour days trying to always have enough energy to run with kids, make them laugh, cast the vision of what they were doing. The work days were always good work. Explaining and showing them how painting a house was more than just painting a house. The physical work we did was important, people needed their house painted, they needed a handicap ramp, they needed a shed to be built. More than those physical needs it was my main task to help the youth and adults understand the spiritual ramifications of people who might think they unworthy of interaction having people come to them in order to do a necessary task also listen to their story. The communication of love is often in doing things and can sometimes be best communicated without saying a word and merely listening to a persons story.

When I consider the different aspects of the Christian life and the categories we put them in of discipleship, missions, evangelism, servant leadership, and others I have found that you can’t put God in a box when it comes to loving strangers. When you’re able to interact with people you never would have otherwise in an intense summer environment like is set up with YouthWorks God is able to break walls and speak with and through us in ways never imagined before. I can remember sitting in Kansas City with some homeless friends who would tell us about their struggles to find meaning, struggles in the heat, their joys in living on the street, and the joy of hope in something beyond themselves. In these moments there is the hope that it the message of the Holy Spirit takes root. This is not to help the youth understand for them to put into practice at a later time. This is to help them understand that they are not a part of the Church of tomorrow without also being members of Christ’s body today.

I recently spent time with the YouthWorks Staff here in Atlanta. I wanted to find a way to bless them a little bit. I had them over for some pizza and snacks. We broke bread together sharing stories of where we come from, the ministry experience we have and the vision of what God is doing this summer. I was reminded not only how much I miss a YouthWorks summer, but why I got into Youth Ministry. The family like atmosphere of the staff isn’t something that comes together easy, yet that’s exactly what it was like. Swapping stories, digging deep into what The Holy Spirit has done to bring this seemingly random group of individuals to my house eating dinner. There are times when moments feel so real, when the past and present collide in a way that makes the air seems like blissfully sweet. These are the moments conversations come easy and time stands still while simultaneously you find hours have passed.


YouthWorks ATL Crew hanging in my dining room

The Church was made present with YouthWorks for me. In my weakness and inadequacies that I discovered through the summer, Jesus was able to make me whole. His strength was made perfect. I think that happens a lot. In our weakness is when God not only speaks to us, but is able to do work in our hearts that we would never other wise allow Him to do because of our pride or our inability to recognize that we need work to be done.

Today I am praying for all of YouthWorks staff  and the staff here in Atlanta I broke bread with. For them to know God is moving among them. That the work He plans for them to accomplish is bigger than they can imagine. For the strength to make it through the preparations, the time crunches, the crazy adult leaders, the crazy community members. I pray for enough coffee to wake up and a miracle on energy when no coffee can be found. I pray for the students coming on these trips to be blessed to have open minds and open hearts ready to receive and move with what God gives them. For many youth it’s an obligation, maybe they are being forced by their parents or they believe it’s an obligation to God and while we have obligations to God it’s never without our free will to obey. So I pray for obedience to the word of God living and present among us.

These memories they never fade. Maybe you can’t see them as clearly in your head, I know I certainly can’t. But I remember the Holy Spirit talking, moving, living. I remember the rush of joy and the crash of a Friday afternoon nap. I remember the feeling of belonging. I remember The Church coming together regardless of denomination and living in common with one another. It set the stage for me to go to Rwanda, to go to seminary and earn a masters degree in youth ministry, to be a coffee professional and serve strangers all day.

These memories and experiences furthered my journey of faith resulting in being at Mt Bethel. For all of that it was for me, the gospel becoming real.


A view from Lake Kivu in Rwanda.



Serving coffee at the US Barista Championships in 2016



My YouthWorks Staff in Texas – 2010


Comfort Zones

We all like to live in our comfort zones. It’s our natural human state to like things that are familiar and easy to for us to do or relate to and shy away from the things that we find uncomfortable. I have found myself in that position several times since taking on a new job. I left the coffee world and a job that I knew I was good at. I knew what was expected and how to do everything that I might need to. I started at a church knowing that indeed it was the exact right thing to do but not having any idea what I was getting myself into. I’m a little over a month in and I’m still not exactly sure what I’m doing but I know I’m exactly where I need to be. What I’ve found is that even though I know I’m in the exact place God wants me to be I’ve been thrown in some situations that make me uncomfortable, but in a good way.

I firmly believe that God has given us all certain gifts. Paul writes in 1Corinthians that “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 corinthians 12:7) So if we have these gifts for the command good of all people I think we also should be pretty confutable using them. And it’s true that you ask me to get in front of a group of people to preach, teach, perform a poem, make them some coffee, and I’m as comfortable as my pugs on the couch. But to ask me to start basically making cold calls to random adults in the church that I’ve never met to ask them to be adult leaders in our ministry that kind of scares me a bit. However, this is my task, this is my calling, this is where I’m supposed to be, so I do it. I’ve discovered, I don’t suck at it.


This is what my pugs look like on the couch… Comfortable right?

I wonder how often God puts us in positions to succeed, He gives us everything that we need and yet we miss something, we never take the risk or the chance because we might feel uncomfortable? I know it’s happened to me a lot. Somehow I think most of the uncomfortableness people experience in the Church, especially one in a bubble like East Cobb County has to do with interacting with strangers. I could easily greet hundreds of strangers every day when I was at a coffee shop. It would be a little awkward and I would be fired pretty quick if I never talked with them. However now that it’s still part of my job and on a much more intimate level I think about it from the perspectives of the people that it’s not their “job.” When I was in high school Jesus grabbed me when I was going into my senior year. No one invited me to church even though I desperately wanted to go and eventually stopped resisting the call of God and went. I think about when I would have gone in a heartbeat if someone just asked me to. But no one spoke up.

Maybe it’s because we might be scared to talk about our faith. Maybe there are some people that think church is an exclusive thing that they like to be members of and if more people join it loses it’s value. Yet I’m reminded constantly that we have something that doesn’t belong to us. The gospel belongs to the world. If it belongs to the world we can never and should never think of ourselves as an exclusive club that loses value the more inclusive we are. The Church from it’s very beginning was never meant to only be for certain people who pass a test or have the right characteristics. The Church as they say is for everyone. A church that lives within it’s four walls is no church at all. My friend James Barnett reminded me of something important this week when in a message he was preaching to Embrace Church in Sioux Falls he said: “What’s the point of being healed if we just hang out in hospitals?”


If we come to church and we are healed. Which as a believer in Christ you may not have healed of a disease, or a broken bone, or had a demon cast out of you. But we have been healed of the stain of sin in our lives and we have been redeemed and healed of the pain and sickness that causes death. We know that Jesus put death in his grave and we are no longer bound to the life that might have been. We are healed and now it’s our job not to hang out in hospitals with other folks that have been healed of their sin but to go into the world. To be uncomfortable in how we ask people to come to church. To be confident that if we are being asked to do something uncomfortable we can have the confidence that God will show us the way to make it happen.

When we go into the world with seeds of hope and love we can start to see the world with new eyes. There is a filter in which we interact with the world with a rose haze of love. As C.S. Lewis has said “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal.” These immortals that we talk with, work with, joke with, walk by everyday might not realize that they have an inheritance in Christ and we just need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s a simple act of a smile that can communicate love beyond our understanding so that we can live giving hospitality to strangers as well as the people we know well. Not only are they not ordinary but either are we, we are the hand with which Christ will bless the world. Because what if we’ve not only been saved from something, but we’ve been saved for something too?



My Best Loved Podcasts


I love living in the city of Atlanta. I love my beautiful neighborhood with fantastic people. I love that my neighbors are more than just people who live next door but we have parties and share in our celebrations together along with sharing our stuff. I love that whenever we go out of town I can count on Neighbor Will (yes that is what we call him) to look after our house and pick up our mail. I love that this city has had an abundance of coffee shops open up that are each unique and the market is not even close to saturated. But there is also the fact that I work about a 30 minute drive away in Marietta and that’s without traffic. Anyone who knows Atlanta will know this place isn’t exactly the best at driving in and out of the city. It’s not exactly great at driving in the city either but that’s for another day. With all this time on the road I’ve discovered music just isn’t always the thing to listen to. So instead I’ve been using this drive time to do a little learning and keeping up to date with our culture. So Today I’m just going to list some of my favorite podcasts that I listen to every day. This is going to be a very diverse mix of pop culture, ministry, coffee, and sports. so without further ado and in no particular order, my favorite podcasts:

Dan-Patrick-Show-LogoThe Dan Patrick Show

I love this for more than allowing me to keep up to date with sports in the US. It’s a national show that also touches on pop culture, TV, movies, and helps me to talk with my community while being informed on the issues they might care about. Many people at the church I work at love sports and since I don’t have cable or watch Sports Center this enables me to be able to be informed and participate in our conversations. I also love Dan’s interview style. He asks tough questions of his guests and doesn’t let them off the hook with nonsense answers. I love that it’s like there’s just a microphone in the middle of their conversation and allows us as the audience to listen in as if they are just friends talking. This also ensures that there is buy-in from his listeners. Audience members can call and weigh in on the topics of the day and sometimes the callers are just as good as the famous athletes that come on. It’s a great sign of a good podcast when a complete stranger like me who has never called in can feel as if they are a part of the team. I would suggest this podcast for anyone who loves sports and wants to keep up with the topics of the day. There are plenty of times when I’m watching an important game and can’t wait until the next day just the hear the Dan’s opinion on what happened. He also has a great supporting cast he calls his Dannettes. 4 people that have a great following on social media and allow the audience to relate to someone who isn’t a big name like Dan Patrick.


The Threshing Floor

This is a ministry focused podcast hosted by 3 young adult pastors and graduates of Asbury Theological Seminary where I went to school. There can sometimes be a lot of tangents in the course of the show but the majority of the time it’s a journey you want to go on. Mean who doesn’t want to find out more information on Bigfoot sightings and how to track him in the wilderness? This show also allows you behind the scenes into the thoughts of pastors wrestling with the same questions we all are. How is it with you soul? How to minister to a hurting world? What is the purpose and meaning of lent? Why do we fast? These are topics that as educated pastors they discuss in depth and don’t settle for easy answers and sometimes can’t come up with any because there might not be one. They invite others into their conversation by having on amazing guests like Adam Weber form Embrace Church, or Alan and Deb Hirsch. As we all think about how the incarnation affects our lives and what it means to be a Christian voice in this world this podcast is insightful, inspirational, and most of all an encouragement for all Christians to try and understand our world with a christian worldview. If you are looking for a place to explore deeper issues for our world and The Church, listen, listen right NOW!

The Cat and Cloud Coffee Podcast

Cat and Cloud is hosted by Jared Truby and Chris Baca out in Santa Cruz California. This is all about my nerdy coffee side. I’m technically no longer a coffee professional since no one pays me to make coffee anymore. But the culture and love of service is something the Church can learn from. Jared and Chris not only describe the super awesome nerdy things that coffee people love like blue tooth enabled scales and La Marzocco espresso machines but also how to change the culture of pretentiousness in the coffee industry by investing in people who love to serve others. Service is something that can get lost in the super controlled world of coffee sometimes. There is so much emphasis on preparing a delicious drink that people forget that the main thing that coffee does is bring people together. Chris and Jared not only remember this but make it their main priority. They have some super cool guests to talk about the competition scene, how to make coffee great, and what really matters when it comes to opening a cafe. I still love to be informed on what’s going on in the coffee industry and this podcast is one of the best when it comes to content and is an overall amazingly entertaining show.


Youth Culture Matters – A CPYU Podcast

Being in youth ministry you can imagine I spend a lot of time with teenagers and a lot of time trying to figure out how to relate and minister to them. There can be a lot of issues that youth don’t want to talk about or there are things that we all do and need to be able to relate them to youth ministry. This podcast tackles them all. From how to make worship not only relevant to students but also the depth at which they want to worship the creator. To how to deal with crisis situations that aren’t an every day occurrence but if you’re not prepared for them it can be a detriment to a students faith. There is of course talk of social media, blogs, digital information and how not only can parents be able to monitor electronics but why it’s important to The Church to make sure and address technology. We obviously no longer live in the first century church when we wouldn’t have had to worry about Television, twitter or Facebook. Today’s teenagers have access to the best information in the world literally at their fingertips. With all things this can be used for redemption purposes with grace and love for Christ, or it can dive them deep down into a hole of depression and evil. This podcasts allows for discussion on how to help teenagers understand their role in The Church and help them deepen the their faith.


This American Life

Sometimes I just want to hear a good story. NPR and This American Life does an amazing job at researching and telling great stories. Some of this relates directly to my life other things are just intensely interesting. There is definitely an art form to telling great stories and these people know it backwards and forwards. I can’t recommend this enough for people who are interested in the world. It helps to remind me that there are people everywhere living a story. Sometimes our job as humans isn’t to tell other people about us but it’s to listen to one another and to tell the story of someone else. Without this podcast/radio show these stories would probably never be told, it’s the connections that are created through this medium that can empower and encourage others who might be going through similar situations. It also allows us to connect with one another as a human family. There are days like today with me sitting in a coffee shop watching the world go by. It’s easy to think you’re the center of the universe and forget that there are stories waiting to be told all over the place. I’m thankful for a show like this that allows those stories to be told.

Sheer Silence


This world is full of noise. You can’t go anywhere without something happening in the background. Music at a coffee shop, a podcast in my ears as I drive home, cars driving past. If I ever take public transportation I need some music to listen to and a book to read. Silence it seems makes us uncomfortable. When I start to teach adult and student leaders about leading others in a Sunday school class or small group discussion, one of the first things that we need to understand is that silence is not only okay, it’s needed. When we ask a question, awkward silences can be times when the Holy Spirit can speak the most to us. I feel it all the time when I teach. Students don’t like to be in silence. They squirm and wonder what to say and want to come up with something quickly. I feel that in my own life. Fridays are now a day off for me while I work in a church. I get to sleep in while my wife goes off to her 8-5 type job. I absolutely love to sleep in and I’ve discovered my routine of waking up, taking my dogs out, fiddling around at the house with stuff most of the time is still filled with noise. I want to have a podcast on in the background and I give myself the excuse that I’m learning something. This could be about the sports of the day listening to Dan Patrick, or maybe it’s about youth culture as I love to listen to Youth Culture Matters a podcast by The Center for Parent and Youth Understanding. I might even be supporting some amazingly talented friends by listening to The Threshing Floor Podcast. On a side note, every one of those podcasts are awesome. In an ever changing world with technology flying around at a million miles an hour it’s important to keep up on what my students are dealing with. Some of these things are deep and heavy, others are wondering about what is the best snapchat filter and not so deep. But they are all important to teenagers.

IMG_5970The Threshing Floor has become a great place for encouragement for me being back on staff at a local church. One of my favorite things about podcasts like The Threshing Floor and the Dan Patrick Show is that I feel like I am ease dropping on a conversation. Joshua Toepper, Drew Causey and Chad Brooks, have deep and meaningful conversations with each other and others inviting their listeners to participate. It’s encouraging to hear struggles and joys as they wrestle with how to theologically think about the practicality of ministry. This is huge for me as youth ministry is in the middle of a theological turn. When ministry to youth needs to be more than just something to do and a way to teach others about Jesus. There is a need for others to participate in the Holy Spirit’s work in the world. Teenagers are looking for more than just pizza and a message but desire for questions that shake their soul to be explored. Of course I also listen to random fun podcasts like Dan Patrick, Bill Simmons, This American Life, The RobCast, and others. Maybe that will be another blog post when I just write about my favorite podcasts because there are plenty, don’t get me started on the coffee ones.

IMG_5041Even when I am alone in my house I still want noise in the background, as I shave, cook breakfast, make my coffee, whatever it might be. Silence is a killer. It’s something I avoid whenever I can. These past few weeks I’ve had conversations with a few different people who are asking some awesome questions like how can I hear God. It’s an important question because I think the Holy Spirit communicates in a lot of different ways. I believe that if we are all made in the image of God and many of us have been given the Holy Spirit that lives within us. With that belief then we can experience the voice of God when others talk with us. It can very well be in the noise that God speaks to us, it’s always important to never put God in a box on how or when he speaks to us. But then I read stories like in the book of 1 Kings and the prophet Elijah. He was at one point afraid for his life. He ran away to be alone and wanted to hear from God what to do. He was told to go stand on a mountain because the presence of the Lord was going to pass by and this is what happened:

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

The Lord was not in the loud noises but in the sheer silence Elijah knew that the presence of the Lord was upon him. Our world is filled with noise. There are studies that tell us that ambient noise like that of a coffee shop can stimulate creativity. Which is probably why my last few Thursdays have been spent at one of my favorite local spots here in Atlanta. There is a website that you can go to in order to stream noise that was recorded at a coffee shop in order to help stimulate your creativity. This is to make sure that all you people who might be working at home can enjoy the creative power of a coffee shop without needing to pay for an espresso or cortado. There is always something to hear, so it makes me wonder, have I missed the very presence of God because I haven’t sought Him in the sheer silence?IMG_6034

There are several examples of Jesus being bombarded by people. He would heal the sick, teach and then go off to the desolate places to pray. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus sends out His disciples giving them authority over demons while they also anointed many of the sick among them. They proclaimed that people should repent and then when they returned to Jesus, so excited to tell Him all they had done and taught Jesus immediately tells them to rest, to go to a desolate place where no one will find them and to rest. Everyday there is noise, there are places to go and things to do. There are people that are searching to hear the voice of God. Often my loneliest times are when I’m surrounded by people. I can be out in the world, at a restaurant, even in a church and be surrounded by like minded people. Yet be completely alone. I think we can be in the middle of an earthquake of noise surrounded by people. Yet wonder why we’re not hearing from God. Sometimes there are days like Pentecost when the spirit is like a mighty rushing wind and empowers people to make a lot of noise and we can hear and feel the Spirit of the Lord. Other times it can take sheer silence to discover what His voice sounds like.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to find more times of silence in my life. Hopefully I start to seek them out so God doesn’t have to force them upon me. In the midst of meetings, in the midst of coffee shop noise, in learning from podcasts or getting pumped up by music. We return to the silence not to feel uncomfortable or awkward but to be at home in the presence of God.IMG_5494