Archive for the ‘Different Learning’ Category

how the US is fighting world peace.

A news update I’ve become aware of (that you may all already know, because you watch the news), concerns the future of the US and our World in a way that seems to matter.  “UNESCO” is the “United Nations Educational, Scientific, & Cultural Organization”.  It was launched many years ago under the premise that you do not bring peace about by enforcing a cessation of violence, but by developing minds and hearts together.  Literally “building peace in the minds of men and women”.  More specifically, it came together in the mid-40’s, “In their eyes, the new organization must establish the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” and, in so doing, prevent the outbreak of another world war.”

unesco-sign-and-buildingSounds like a pretty important effort, right? One that we would not only want to join, but help be an influential voice within?  And we did.  Until 1984, when we left because UNESCO’s goals were found to be different from our own.  But in 2003, (after we were attacked horribly in 2001, and remembered why it’s important to connect hearts and minds globally), we rejoined.   President George W. Bush stated, “As a symbol of our commitment to human dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO. This organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning.”  Ever since 2003, we’ve been a big part.  Even as recently as a few years ago, the US Contributions to the UNESCO budget made up over 22% of their operations.

They’ve done great work to connect the scientific developments across the globe.  Along with cultural education/sharing/protection, encouraging/promoting rights to eduction and especially of girls/women.  They do some pretty incredible and VERY important stuff – for more specifics, check out their report from last year. Education for children, power for powerless, food for hungry, etc.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is, back in 2011, UNESCO voted to allow Palestine participate as a nation.  That went against a 1990 US Policy that amounted to “If you invite _____ to the party, we’re not coming.”  At the time, some feared that it was a first step into crazy things like Palestine joining the UN.  I get it, as a group, Palestine definitely has problems with stability.  Some with long-standing land-conflicts..and some from the “Fatah vs. Hamas” conflict within.  I’m very limited in my knowledge/understanding, but I don’t like a lot of what I’ve learned about the Hamas side of things.  That being said…would I still want to invite them to a global conversation on how to better humanity around the world?  I think so?  After all, look at the list of nations who are part of UNESCO…we were cool sitting at a table with North Korea.

There was a grace period of a few years, where we had opportunity to keep our involvement/funding.  But now we’ve officially lost our “vote” as a part of UNESCO.  Whether it was just a final plea for our finances or not, the Director-General made some very powerful statements about why the US needs to stay connected to UNESCO.

So what’s my rant about?  I just think it’s important to note that most of the world disagrees with us on this one (in the 2011 vote, out of 159 nations, 13 sided with us).  That in order to protect “our own interests”, we’re actually modelling the very behavior that in the 1940’s we set out to combat.  That the “interests of humanity” worldwide must always be more important than the “interests of a nation”…if we’re to avoid roads of world war…or even continue living on this earth as the growing collective humanity that we are.

So how do we communicate all of this…something I hardly understand myself…to our children?  I’m not sure, but it starts with prayer.  “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”, not as interpreted by one nation…but for all.

trendy witches?

A new article in “Newsweek” recently caught my attention, talking about a growing number of young people (teens through 30’s) who are interested & participate in the occult/witchcraft.  I’ll be honest…most of the time when someone starts talking to me about witchcraft, or the occult, or even the “wiccan” people….I have flashes of this movie play in my head:

But apparently, it’s gotten more hip.  At least, in big cities that define “hipness” for the rest of us.  I’m not too worried, really.  A news-source is supposed to do what it takes to tell stories that sell more copies.  Getting the general public worried about witches, or making the average Joe who’s looking for something new that’s socially acceptable….will definitely move issues.  Especially around Halloween.

But what caught my attention was toward the end when they had statements from a woman who’d recently moved to Brooklyn.  First she says, “It’s embarrassing to admit you’re religious….But I think a lot of people my age are sick of being nihilistic.  Spirituality is a lot cooler.”  (nihilism = believes values are baseless, and nothing can be known…denies all established authority and institutions)

So she and many others in our culture have thankfully come to realize the result of nihilism…and how empty that approach is to…well, anything.  But to jump from that to the trendiness of a vague “spirituality” definitely seems to be the move our culture is making.  Whether you follow this article as highlighting an actual trend, or you look out your window…we know people are searching for “something”….and it’s much more socially acceptable to keep calling it “something” than Jesus.

Unfortunately, we find a result toward the end of her interview…as she follows up with:  “It’s hard to say if anyone is actually invested in any of this occult stuff they meddle in…it almost devastates me to say this, but daily life can be so mundane.  Applying thematics of epicness to your life makes it more exciting.”

It’s amazing how spot on she is, and yet because of her rejection of “traditional religion”, she’s missing out on the “epicness” of a life lived for Christ, and joining God in His story of redemption/New Creation.

More than anything, her statements and this article can be an encouraging invitation.  Our world is recognizing now more than ever the internal desire to be a part of something much grandeur than ourselves.  Something powerful.  Something that I can actually live for…instead of just wait to die for.  May we, our families, and our churches continue to be places where the story of God is happening in ways that testify to the power of His Spirit…the Love of God….and the New Creation possible in Jesus Christ.  No goat-leggings required.  🙂

gym night.

I have a confession to make – I’m a youth pastor who hasn’t been a big fan of “Gym Night”. The one night each month where I don’t get to talk in depth about scriptures, or spend time in small group conversation, or lead teens in extended moments of prayer.  The purpose is plain: invite your friends, reach out relationally, play together.

But God’s been reminding me of some important aspects of what “Gym Night” can offer.  In a world that increasingly treats our bodies as objects that we’re meant to/encouraged to shape and mold as we see fit.  Where pursuits of beauty and athletic ability make any pain and sacrifice worth the “gain”.  Where we’re encouraged to prove we’re not aging, and our young people are encouraged to prove they can ______ better than ________.bowling

There are very few, if any, places our young people (or older people) can go these days to simply have fun.  Places where it’s safe to fail, and you’re embraced as one who is beloved.  Youth group gym nights at their best can be a safe place for play to happen.  Often providing games/experiences that are either too unique or goofy for anyone to brag about their innate or developed skill at them.  (Sure, they’ll still try to brag they’re the best at smacking your feet with a pool noodle….but just stare at them and smile for a while….they’ll come down from the pedestal.)

In his book “Ethics of Hope”, Jurgen Moltmann reminds us: “People who feel that they are accepted and loved can also accept themselves and their bodies as they are, and as they become as time goes on.  The experience of the divine love makes the believer not only ‘just’ but also beautiful……The incarnation of God has really already given us a counterimage to the modern ‘human being as machine’ and to the artificial products of ‘performance’ and ‘beauty’.  God became human so that we might turn from being proud and unhappy gods into true human beings.”

This hits home also as a parent, watching my daughters learn to play games and dress-up.  They’re so talented and beautiful.  But not because they can do an amazing “grande jete'” or because they share a rich inheritence of physical beauty from their mother. (although both are true)  They are beautiful and valuable because they are loved by God.  To pursue beauty or value from any other source is to participate in a reality we don’t believe exists.  An economy already proven bankrupt in the broken and ugly crucified Christ.

So if you come to one of my gym nights, you’ll probably find more pool noodles, balloons, and nasty foods than basketballs.  If you visit my home you’ll probably find my daughters dressing up like Fancy Nancy more than Barbie.  And if you stick around either, you’ll find people who are learning how to exist genuinely as those Christ has called His “Beloved”…

the makers.

I remember learning about the concept of “pax” back in college.  The fact that “peace” was not believed to simply be the cessation of violence, but active sharing/pursuit of right relationship.  That has come up again in both my reading and my parenting.

IMGP8574I’m naturally a “lover, not a fighter” (aka – a wuss).  I remember attending one wrestling practice with my big brother back in high school, jus to check things out.  The amount of grunting, sweating, and sizing each other up to see who could best who…for some reason wasn’t appealing to me.  To brag about how much you can lift, curl, crunch, or how many times you can pull yourself up on a bar….yah, I never understood that.  But someday when the zombies attack and I’m eaten first, all the jocks will be able to say “I told you so.”

I generally find myself agreeing with the kinds of things that pacifist Mennonite and Anabaptist writers might say in regard to conflict/war/etc.  But I was reminded recently by Jurgen Moltmann is his book “Ethics of Hope“, there must be something more.  That it’s not simply about allowing swords to do their thing, and retreating into ploughshares; but rather reforging swords into ploughshares.  Moltmann says:

“Nonviolence, like the forgiveness of sins, is only a negation of the negative, out of which nothing positive as yet proceeds.”

Or the more obvious quote:  “We are not told: ‘Blessed are the peaceful’ but ‘blessed are the peacemakers'”

It makes sense.  I don’t want my girls to simply shy away from an inflammatory situation.  Especially in our drama-rich culture that celebrates the ability to reduce your opponent by well-placed physical or emotional blows.  It can be easy for someone who’s been taught humility and gentleness to simply bow out, quietly walk away, and keep to themselves.  Certainly I hope they know when it’s wise to walk away.  But that’s not always the best response.

I want to raise my daughters to be filled with the wisdom, hope, and Love it will take to diffuse a tense moment.  To help bring healing and reconciliation when two of their friends are conflicted.  To mediate arguments, and offer solutions.  To speak up for the voiceless, and reveal the underlying and uniting Truth beneath the facade of drama.  To enter the places where swords are drawn, and bring redemption for the sake of all involved.

Oh snap.   It sounds like I want my daughters to be like Jesus…


Gluten Free Donuts

image(1)Over a year ago, my wife found out she’s been allergic to gluten for quite a while now.   It was a pretty significant change, for a woman who’d just discovered a love for baking.

Over the past year, she’s made changes accordingly.  I was aware of it, only as far as we were eating less baked goods actually in our home.  Notice that….LESS baked goods.  She continued to make things for her family and friends that she couldn’t even eat herself…because of her servant heart, love for baking, and gift of hospitality.  During this time, I’ve gone though moments of sharing gluten-free experiences with her.  But I’ve always had my trusty gluten-eating to fall back on when the xanthan gum settled.

So for a little longer than the month of July this year, I told my wife I wanted to experience her daily struggle of living gluten-free.  No gluten for me…even during the private or social hours of consumption away from home.  It’s been an eye-opener, for sure.  The amount of times gluten-ladened foods cross your paths on a daily basis is huge.  The tough times come unexpectedly, and complete with growls of hunger.  You’ve definitely got to be pro-active to stay afloat.  I once had dinner at Subway by getting my kids sandwich covered with fresh spinach, and scooping all of the spinach off before serving it.  With a small side of vinaigrette and some Cheeto’s as croutons, it made a decent salad!

But one thing that had been itching at me, was my wife’s inability to enjoy a great cake donut.  (and yes…my own hunger for them during this month.)  So I gave it a shot, throwing together a few flours we happened to have layin’ around.  They turned out to be pretty awesome fresh, and even tasted great as a lunch-time snack later on!  If you’re gluten-free, give it a shot.  If you don’t have these specific flours, try some other combination!  Don’t be too afraid…it’ll end up being dough that’s sweet, fried and covered with sugar… can’t go horribly wrong!  Just be sure to put in the Xanthan gum, and you’ll be alright.

2 Cups Sorghum Flour (I think potato starch would work here too.)

1/2 Cup Tapioca Flourimage

1/2 Cup Almond Meal/Flour

1/2 Tsp. Xanthan Gum

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Tbsp Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp. Salt

1 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp. Ground Nutmeg

3/4 Cup Milk

1 Egg – Beaten

1/4 Cup Butter – Melted & Cooled

2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, & nutmeg.  Make a well in the center & pour in the (milk, egg, butter, vanilla mixed).  Mix until well blended.  Cover & refrigerate (not sure if this part is needed when making donut holes).  I found holes were much easier to make than “donuts” themselves….so we went that route.

Heat oil to 370 degrees.  Seriously – this is perfect donutting temperature.  I’d always fried them in a pot on the stove before, but this time tried our fondue pot with specific marks for temperatures.  It went so much better, and I didn’t end up with uncooked dough balls that were crisp on the outside….like I usually do. 🙂

Spoon out bouncy-ball sized pieces, and put them into the oil carefully.  Let it fry around 8 minutes or so, turning as needed.  When they’re nice and golden all over, remove & place them on a paper toweled plate.  I fried about 10 at a time, and once they were cooled a bit my daughter helped me cover them with sugar.  She loved helping, and making sure they tasted good before we served the family!  Cover with cinnamon & sugar, or glaze (1 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar + 3 Tbs milk…I had no idea how easy this was!  I wanna try and glaze everything now.)  I hope you enjoy, and if you adapt the recipe with other flours, add your comments here!!

father the youth pastor.

I’ve joked before of all the many ways parenting has made me a better youth pastor.  After all, there are many similarities between a toddler and a junior high student:
1. If you meet their hunger, they’re much easier to work with.

2. Sometimes you have. to. talk. slowly. and clearly. if you want to make sure they’re going to get it.

3. One of the best ways to increase the likelihood of behavioral change, is to have them repeat the command back to you.

4. No matter how much they pretend other things are important, sometimes all they really want to do is run around a bit.

5. More girls = More drama.

And so on the list goes.  But on the flip side, I’ve been involved in youth ministry for several years before becoming a parent.  Here are  a few ways working with teenagers had been preparing me to be a father:

(for the rest of this post, check out my guest post at “Next Level Mama” today!!!)


Last week, we gathered a group of mostly senior highers together from all over Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois.  The goal was to take 36 young people through a few days of learning about our history as the Free Methodist Church, hear what God is currently doing through us, and look forward to how they fit uniquely into the future directions of our movement.  It.  Went.  Awesome.

Seriously, better than we could’ve planned. (we’re not great planners, admittedly)

One of the “Group Times” involved students taking important dates from our timeline, and important aspects of what defined us as we began the FM Church – and finding unique ways to remember them.  Here are a few our group came up with:

1. BT Roberts was an MVP, or “Most Valuable Preacher”.  Michael Jordan was also an MVP, and his number was 23.  BT Roberts was born in 1823.  Boom.

2. Heinz 57 Sauce is red, like a stop sign.  It was in 1857 that BT Roberts was told by his church to STOP some of the stir he was causing toward certain freedoms he believed were vital to the life of a Christ-follower.  Just one year later, in 1858, his ordination and credentials were removed.

3. So, since his church had “86’d” his role as a minister, he began a new movement by inviting like-hearted followers of Christ.   He began “Peeking” into a NEW movement (denomination) in 1886 in Pekin, NEW York.

4. From the very beginning, this movement embraced 5 essential freedoms along with the ordination of women:

S- Slaves should be freed!

P- Pews should be free! (Many churches in those days had begun “renting/selling” pews, with more expensive seats toward the front.   So an unofficial “caste” system had developed within the churches, leaving many people without a place for worship.)

E – Freedom of Expression in worship.

W – Freedom from the trappings of the World/Wealth.  (Freedom from Sin)

S – Freedom from “secret societies”. (Much drama was being caused in the church by members uniting in a secret society, and then approaching the church with a desire and ability to control what was happening within.  BT Roberts himself was falsely accused of this.)

Yup, that’s right….just about every one of the 7 small groups of teenagers came up independently with the acronym “S-P-E-W-S” to remember the 5 freedoms we embraced from the very beginning.  There was a beautiful moment on one of our last evenings out on the town, where our teens were approached by a stranger who asked what group we were.   They told him “Free Methodist Youth”, and he was confused.  He’d heard of Methodism, but not the “Free” kind.  They proceeded to explain to him, using the very elements listed above.   The teens thought perhaps we’d planted him in the crowd to test them!  It was great confirmation of wickrobertsthe importance of what we’d been doing all week!

Later on, we discussed the 9 points of emphasis our church is currently embracing here in the US.  Many of the teens were freakin’ out, because they’d talked earlier in the week about what they really want changed in our church, and this was almost an exact list of what they’d come up with!  Just another reminder for us not to simply give nods to our young people, but to listen to what God might be speaking through them.

Oh yes….and BT Roberts was often sporting a neck-beard.  I happened to have an NHL play-off beard that needed shaving.  It was perfect timing to illustrate what a neck-beard would look like in person…..

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