Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ahhh. . . . College. . . .

Last week I decided to try to gather all my college Facebook friends who have been popping up into one place. I started a Facebook group for the 40 or so folks who've been reconnecting after our days spent in the mid-to-late 70s beside Western PA's scenic "Beaver Vale." I'm a Geneva College grad. As our alma mater says, it's "the college where I spent such happy days." We've been having some fun reminiscing and we're only getting started.

Thinking about my college days is somewhat bittersweet as my memories are serving to emphasize the contrast between what once was, and what now is. College is not an easy place for anybody these days. The pressures, challenges, expectations, choices, opportunties, and problems are sometimes over the top. That reality is what drove us here at CPYU to establish our College Transition Initiative a few years ago. With every year that's passed and every conversation I have (with college students and their parents), I become more and more convinced of the necessity and value of what our College Transition Initative Director Derek Melleby is doing.

Another few days and we're into March. For those of you - both parents and youth workers - who have high school seniors finalizing plans, graduating from high school, and getting ready to head off to school next fall, you've got a few months left during which you can turn up the volume on being proactive in the college preparation process. And I'm not talking just about academics. There's much more to the college experience than that.

Derek's done a great job putting together a host of resources you can use. You can read more about them on the CTI section of our website. What I will directly encourage you to do is think about scheduling Derek to come in and present our College Transition Seminar with the juniors and seniors you know and love. We've still got some dates available this Spring.

And in case you aren't convinced that your kids need to be prepared for the college transition, let me point you to a new music video from Asher Roth that released in mid-February and is now one of the most viewed and requested at I haven't put it here to alarm you. . . . just to show you how folks in popular culture are defining, viewing, and living the college experience. If this is the kind of stuff that's preparing your kids for college, don't you think they might need to hear something else?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ugly people don't have problems. . . .

Okay. . . . this is another one that just might get me into some hot water. . . but I think there's a strong need to speak up. . . especially after last week's blog on helping kids discern the unspoken yet loud messages that come across in marketing's visual barrage. What you might or might not realize is that book covers are a marketing tool. I've been privy to the process for a few years and I know that great time and thought are put into how to sell books based on the cover. There's nothing haphazard. Everything's by design.

So this morning I opened up a catalog of upcoming releases from a prominent Christian publisher. We get these catalogs regularly here at CPYU from lots of different publishers. We love it because we love to read. For us, it's like getting the old Sears and Roebuck Wishbook! As always, I paged through the catalog. And, as always I found lots of great and interesting titles that I want to add to my "need to read" list. Those pages are already dog-eared. But that wasn't all. In addition, I - as usual - leafed quickly through the "fiction" category. There was nothing new and usual this go round. There were loads of titles geared to the ladies who feel guilty reading anything with Fabio plastered on the cover or "Harlequin" printed on the spine. Of course, that's something that's always cracked me up and grieved me about "Christian" publishing. We churn out lots of the same type of stuff you see in the mainstream. . . . with very similar covers. . . . only void of the cleavage and unbuttoned wind-blown shirts.

And it sells. My oh my how it does sell. . . . which is extremely distressing as well. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with writing or reading good fiction. But when the fiction is an attempt at creating a sanctified and "safe" version for Christian consumption (sort of like. . . . near-beer), and then it sits prominently on the first display to greet you when you walk through the door. . . because it's also at the top of the Christian-book best-seller list. . . well, could something be wrong? And if this is what we're reading, and it, by default, becomes our theology and worldview shaper. . . well, then, it might not be such a good thing. As Bill Cosby says with a tone of pleading disgust, "Come on people!"

Can't we do better than this? Can't our choices lead to best-sellers that might not only feed our minds and souls, but reflect some depth to a watching world?

So what set me off this morning? It was a book and it's cover. Now just in case some of you want to flood me with reprimands, please understand that I've never read a Beverly Lewis book and I'm in no way passing judgment on her skill as a writer, the integrity of her stories, nor the ability of those stories to take people deeper into the things of God that are good, true, right, and honorable. I'm simply saying that the cover of one of her latest books is the cover that sent me over the edge. . . . and I've been teetering there for a long, long time based on a growing number of covers from a large pool of authors and publishers. I'm not picking on Beverly Lewis. I'm picking on us. . . . for the feeding frenzy we've created that gets marketers and cover designers creating stuff like the cover for The Secret.

So what's the problem? Take a look. What do you see? Well, I live in Amish Country. Amish women are deliberately plain and don't desire to draw attention to themselves. This gal looks like a super-model for the latest Spring fashion releases from Oscar De La Stoltzfus. Perhaps that's enough said. Speaking from the perspective of .
current cultural standards of beauty. . . well. . . that's one good-looking Amish woman! And the cover of The Secret is not the only example. How about the gal on the cover of Rachel's Secret? And it's not just the genre of Christian Amish fiction. These are just two small examples.

Perhaps my greatest frustration with stuff like this is that I would never be considered for a spot on the cover of a book. Ads have told me for years that I don't measure up. Now, Christian fiction is doing the same. Maybe there is a silver-lining. . . it's always the good looking people on the covers. Then, you start to read about their problems. Maybe the good news is that ugly people - like me - don't have problems!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Something worth talking about. . . .

Here's a question for you: Just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier than the edgiest ad you've already seen, what's the edgiest ad you're now seeing? Yep. The envelope is always getting stretched. That's something we've learned here at CPYU during our years of studying youth culture. Stuff not only changes over time. But over time, the stuff that changes changes us. In other words, the stuff that used to make us grimace 15 years ago is now, relatively speaking, somewhat tame.

While it's not a pleasant thing to be reminded of this, it's nonetheless something we need to be reminded of. You see, if we don't know what's in the soup that our kids swim in everyday, we can't address it. And if we can't address it, they'll keep swimming in it and thinking that it's a normal part of life in this world. The reality is that if we want to instill in our kids a way of looking at and living life from a biblical perspective, we've got to be checking the soup of youth culture and talking with them about the rapidly changing ingredients we find.

My thoughts were prompted by a series of Flirt Vodka Valentine's Day Ads found and sent to me by Ty Houge, a youth pastor working with kids in Western Michigan. Ty actually emailed me the ads while he was sitting in the back of the room last Friday night while I was speaking to a group of parents about marketing and teenagers. The ads are one more reminder of the need to help kids think Christianly and biblically about everything in their media-saturated world. . . . especially the ever-present world of marketing. Remember, ads do sell product. But their most powerful influence comes through their ability to sell not product, but to sell a way of looking at and living life (a worldview). Which is why I spent some time last Friday night telling parents about their need to train their kids to filter all marketing through what we here at CPYU call "The Simple Seven Ad-Filtering Questions."

Here they are:

What product is this ad selling?
What, besides the product, does this ad sell? (ideas, lifestyle, worldview, behaviors, etc.)
What’s the bait, hook, and promise?
Complete this sentence: “This ad tells me, use_________ (the name of the product) and ____________ (the result the ad promises).
Does the ad tell the truth? What? How?
Does the ad tell a lie(s)? What? How?
How does this ad and its messages agree or disagree with God’s truth and what does that mean for me?

So here are the four ads for Flirt Vodka (A bulgarian brand that has developed quite a following for its online campaign here in the US) that serve to shape the way kids look at life, love, gender, sexuality, etc. I'm warning you that they're over the top and the envelope has indeed been stretched.

How would your kids respond to these ads? Will they look and laugh? Will they look and grieve? Will they look and flatline in terms of a response? Each one of those responses and every response in-between tells us something about who they are, what they believe, what they value, and what they hold near and dear in their hearts.

Now that you've seen these ads, go ahead and comment. . . . pointing us to an ad that you've seen that you think warrants evaluation and discussion. We're always trying to build on our archive of print ads that can be used to discuss God's way and will for His world. And just so Derek doesn't steal all our book giveaway thunder over at, here's the deal: next Wednesday we'll pull a winner from all those who post an ad worthy of discussion. The prize is a treasure. It's a copy of our friend Sam Van Eman's book On Earth As It Is In Advertising. The bad news is that the book is out of print. The good news is that I've got a brand new copy of this wonderful book on marketing to give away.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Truths to make your head spin. . . .

Is it really possible that there are places in this world where there's a higher concentration of thinking Christians? Yes. I was at one such place over the weekend. The Grand Rapids, Michigan metro area is a place I've grown to love over the years. Populated years ago by Dutch Reformed Christians, Grand Rapids is jokingly referred to by some as "GRusalem." There's a high concentration of churches, schools, and Christian colleges (Calvin, Hope, Cornerstone, Kuyper, etc.). I was out there to spend time with parents, youth workers, and youth ministry students thanks to guys I've come to know and love over the years like Duane Smith, Ty Houge, and Brian Telzerow. My visits are always filled with encouraging and thought-provoking conversations and encounters. . . enough to make my head spin. This visit was no exception, with my head spinning several times. . . four that I'd like to recount.

#1. There was my early morning roundtable with youth workers at the Panera in Holland (by the way. . . a small town with the most beautiful main street I've ever seen in my life). So we're sitting around chatting about the state of youth ministry. . . joys, hopes, victories, struggles, frustrations, etc. While locked in the midst of talking about the bigger and better youth ministry cycle that we've come to believe is normal and right, one of the guys asked, "How can I compete with MTV?" How many times have I heard that question?!? "MTV" has come to represent all the flashy time-consuming and attention-grabbing technological and entertainment advances that fill our kids' time, hearts, and minds. We try to keep up, don't we? Trust me, I know. I've been into some pretty fancy big-church youth facilities (note: we now call them "facilities" and not "rooms"). The little-guy with the youth room gets frustrated. I'm happy to see that more and more of the big guys are getting frustrated as well. They realize that even though they've done a pretty good job of competing with MTV when it comes to all the flashy accouterments, spiritual growth hasn't been the result. What we've accomplished is getting and holding youthful attention. . . until they look away to the next thing. So the original question made my head spin. . . and then it stopped spinning on this. . . "We can't compete with MTV. Only the Gospel can. . . and the life-giving Gospel trumps it big time." It made me think about something I hear Duffy Robbins say all the time: "What we win them with is what we win them to."

#2. Still sitting around the table at Panera. As I listened to what everyone was saying regarding their frustrations, lack of spiritual growth, etc. I couldn't help but go back to the 3-word mantra I heard in a 1976 college Youth Min class that was taught by a Geneva College Bible prof who had no youth ministry experience at all. He taught right out of the only youth ministry textbook that had ever been written at that point in time. That book still sits on my shelf. It was creatively titled. . . . Youth Ministry and it was written by Larry Richards. The 3-word mantra that still holds true today but has seemingly been forgotten is this: "people not programs." Hmmm. If only we had listened. What is it that we've focused on? And "programs" includes buildings, equipment, etc.

#3. I go straight from Panera with Ty to a large Christian bookstore that sits nearby. I'm looking for some Thank-You cards so that I can send out notes to a few of our CPYU supporters. Ty and I are looking through the stacks of Thank-You cards and he tosses me one that has me doing a double-take. There printed on the front is a quote that makes my head spin: "May the Lord repay you for what you have done." I wouldn't send that one to anyone other than an enemy. I would be quaking in my boots if I received that card in the mail. Everything I've done is deserving of death. I don't want the Lord repaying me for that. Thank God for his grace and the gift of his son. Thank God I'm getting what I don't deserve.

#4. I arrive at Kuyper College and walk into the chapel. Immediately I look up and see an amazing hanging light that's been made by the school's president. It is absolutely beautiful. The words on it make my head spin for the fourth time that day. Shaped like a compass and crafted out of wood from every continent, the light is encircled by that profound quote from the college's namesake, Abraham Kuyper: "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry. . . " and then carved in large letters in the middle of the light. . . . "MINE!"

I leave Western Michigan encouraged, refocused, and reassured. It's good to be with thinking and loving Christians.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Being a Twit. . . .

So I'm walking through our church foyer the other week when I'm flagged down by a couple of mothers of teenagers. They wanted to know my opinion of Facebook. They weren't the first to ask. It seems that it's one of the first questions to pop up everywhere I go. . . . . "What should I do about Facebook?"

How do I answer? I begin by telling them that I'm already on it, that it's not a bad thing, and that it is a wonderful tool for connecting with and ministering to people. It's also a God-send to parents who want to keep track of what's going on in their kids' lives. I also tell them that it can be a really, really bad thing if it's used in the wrong way. . . . just like just about everything else that's a part of life in this sinful and fallen world.

For example, I'm looking right now at the WKRP in Cincinnati mug that sits on my computer desk. It's a great thing if I want to have a cup of coffee. It's a horrible thing if I choose to use it as a weapon and throw it at one my kids. It's not the thing, but the sinful inclination of my heart that makes it potentially bad in the way that it's used. Jesus talked about that, remember?

It's about this time that I explain Facebook - and the rest of life for that matter - using some great terms Al Wolters uses in his book, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. Wolters helpfully differentiates between structure and direction. Structure, he says, refers to "the order of creation, to the constant creational constitution of any thing, what makes it the thing or the entity that it is." He continues, "Structure is anchored in the law of creation, the creational decree of God that constitutes the nature of different kinds of creatures." Here's where it gets interesting. . . . it's the direction that we should be concerned about. You see, the direction can point to God's Kingdom order and things that are good, true, right and honorable, or it can point in a direction away from God and towards the world, the flesh, and the devil. Therefore, Facebook shouldn't be condemned as a structure. We should, however, be concerned about the direction that our use and the use of our kids points to. . . which, in the end, calls us to prayerful diligence in monitoring our use and our kids' use of this wonderful new technology.

Which brings me to Twitter, the relatively new and rapidly growing micro-blogging social networking technology that we jumped on board with here at CPYU just a few days ago. Have we lost our minds? We're trying not to! Rather, we want to employ the Twitter structure in a direction that brings honor and glory to God. We don't want to spend growing amounts of time sending Twitter updates that chronicle our every move as if anybody really cares. That's the problem with Twitter. . . . it could feed our inclination towards self-absorption, narcissism, and the growing sense that there are and should be people in this world who care about when I get up in the morning, when I eat, what I eat, when I go to the bathroom, and when I go to bed. As an aside, there are people who do want to know when I'm not at home. . . . thereby affording themselves a greater ability to break into my house and rip me off! In the latest edition of Relevant magazine, Brett McCracken has an article entitled "The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter." McCracken got me thinking about how we waste our time, waste other people's time, encourage voyeurism, become obsessed with status, view ourselves as brands, and feed narcissism when we use the Twitter structure (and numerous other new technologies) in the wrong direction. He writes, "We've become addicted to a strange sort of connectivity - a connectivity that maintains a comfortable balance between distance and proximity, anonymity and overexposure. We've become addicted to hyper-controlled, self-appointed 'just how I like it' communication. In this McDonald's-meets-Macintosh world, we're endowed with the ability to be even more self-obsessed than ever before. . . . Our lives have suddenly become much more dramatic, worthy of being 'performed' on a stage visible to millions." I understand how easy it is for kids to fall into this type of thinking because of where they're at developmentally. But what about those of us who are young adults and older adults? If this thing runs its course we might all wind up living in a world where every Twitter message we send simply says, "I'm now on Twitter!"

And while the jury is still out on where this is taking us as a culture, I don't think it's to any place too good if we become consumed by using the Twitter technology 24/7. One of the marks of today's culture is the seeming daily development of new communication and entertainment technologies. Our options increase minute-by-minute. . . and we grab it all up with great enthusiasm and very little thought or discernment. Now is the time for Kingdom-people to be thinking critically and Christianly, not so we can condemn and flush structures, but so that we will employ them with proper motivation and moderation in a direction that is glorifying to the One who has given them to us, and exemplary to a watching world.

So that's what we're trying to do with Twitter. . . .and if you want to follow us to get the latest updates on what we've got for you to use at CPYU, you can do so here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Books that freak out my kids. . . again. . . .

Last week I blogged about sending my 16-year-old son over the edge by laying on the couch and reading Twilight. This weekend I tried to be a bit more covert in my reading by hiding out in a corner of the living room with the latest book on my list. I figured that if I sat on the couch in the room least-frequented by my kids, I'd be safe. Not so. One of them caught a glimpse of the book's title as it sat unattended on the end table. It wasn't long before word of what I was reading and resulting waves of disgust spread through the little community known as my four kids.

This weekend's little book was one I found on the "new books" shelf at our church library a few days before. I was the first one to sign it out, meaning that for as long as the little book lives, my name will be inscribed in ink for all to see on that little white card that sits in the manila sleeve on the back inside cover. More reason for my kids to be embarassed!

The book I'm talking about is one that I'm going to be recommending widely. It's C.J. Mahaney's Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know. Another in Mahaney's series of thoughtful and biblically-sound little books, this one packs a major corrective wallop that needs to be heard both by our sex-worshipping culture, and a contemporary church that's allowed itself to be informed on all matters sexual more by the world, than by the Word. This is a book that reminds us that every "whatever" we do, should be done to the glory of God. We exist for Him, and His wonderful gift of sexual intimacy brings glory to Him and great satisfaction and pleasure to ourselves when we experience it as He intended it to be. From his first chapter ("Great Sex to the Glory of God") on, Mahaney calls his readers to love their wives by embracing God's best for their sexuality. This is a little book that I'm going to have my sons read. At the end of the book, Mahaney's wife Carolyn writes a helpful word to wives on the same subject. In a world that winds up getting everything so incredibly wrong, this is a phenomenal book.

But don't stop with Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the May 1 release of a wonderful new book on the same subject by my friend Dennis Hollinger. Dennis allowed me to read his new book, The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life, several months ago. In this wonderfully deep yet incredibly accessible and practical treatment of sex and sexuality, Dennis combines Biblical studies, theology, ethics, sociology, and a timely understanding of contemporary culture in what I believe is just what's needed in today's world. Even though the book isn't out for a couple of months, I'm already recommending it to parents, youth workers, and college students as a must-read.

As Dennis Hollinger writes, "we live in a sex-crazed world." Like the ancient Athenians whose landscape was littered with and covered by phallic monuments to their idolotrous sexual practices, we too are worshipping the Creator's good creation more than the One who made those good things. That's certainly true for sex and sexuality. By doing so, we take a wonderfully good thing in terribly bad directions. . . . and it's killing us.

For those of us who are older and who should be wiser, start reading. And who cares if your kids see you. . . they need to. Don't just read this stuff. Talk about it. And then someday, your kids will be able to disgust your grandkids!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Twilight. . . .

What's the most humiliating thing a father can do to his 16-year-old son? I think I figured that out. It went down last week. I'm laying on the couch in our family room. My head is propped up on two fluffy pillows. I've got a nice fleece throw keeping me warm. There's a crackling fire in the fireplace. It's a little bit snowy outside. I'm reading a novel. Perfect.

Then, Nate walks into the room and flips out. . . . humiliated. You see, he catches a glimpse of the cover of the book. Twilight. Paralyzed, he's not sure whether to report me to the police or throw me out of the house. All I remember is that he rattled off a series of fast-paced sentences laced with disgust, all of them starting with "I can't believe. . . . .!" In between there were accusations thrown around about my intelligence, my manliness, my use of time, and comparisons between me and three-quarters of the female population at his high school.

Yes, I read and just finished Stephanie Meyer's best-selling Twilight, the first in a four-book series about teenagers and vampires. Can I say that I was finally bit by the urge to read the book after weeks and weeks of seeing it on front and center book racks everywhere I turned, and hearing it come up in conversations too numerous to count. I resisted for a long time. . . after all, when was I going to be able to carve out the time to read the book? Eventually, I realized that if I was going to continue to study youth culture, the microscope had to land on this literary phenomena.

I got a little more serious about the endeavor about a month ago, when I sat down for lunch with a seminary president. Before talking about theological education, he asked me what I thought of Twilight. Pleading ignorance was all I could do as I typically refuse to comment on things I haven't experienced first-hand. He told me that his teenage daughter was fascinated by it all, and he and his wife were wary, if not fearful. I gave him the standard "read it and discuss it with her" answer, but walked away knowing that sooner or later, I would have to hit the couch with the book in hand. So, I picked it up and started reading it on a flight to Orlando. . . which of course, made me look a bit odd to my fellow passengers.

I was heading to Orlando to speak at a Christian School. I was speaking to students about making good media choices and developing media literacy skills. I was speaking to parents about their kids. I mentioned during my talk with the students that its important to read, listen, and watch critically, and to evaluate everything from the perspective of a Christian world and life view. To illustrate, I mentioned that I had just started reading Twilight on the flight down. Ripples of reaction went through the room. The reaction from the guys proved that my son Nate is a very normal 16-year-old male. The girls appeared validated and most likely saw me as, well, one of them. The majority of my follow-up conversations with students that day were about Twilight and what I thought of the book. Not surprisingly, many of my conversations that afternoon and evening with parents focused on my comments to the kids. One alarmed mother even accused me of telling her daughter it was okay to read Twilight. She calmed down after I had a chance to put my comments in context.

So, what do I think of Twilight? Keep in mind that I've only read the first book and that I have yet to see the movie. . . a fact that I'm embarassed to admit. After reading the book, I can see why it's a best-seller, especially among female adolescents. It's a story about adolescent struggles, confusion, and love. But it's also a book about good and evil and the human struggle to do what's right. I asked several girls who had read the book and wondered what I thought about what they thought of the book and its message. To a girl, each one said it's a book about right and wrong, choosing to do what's right, and sexual abstinence. It doesn't glorify vampires. They are correct. You see, my concern with something like this is what readers take to the book, and then what they take away from the book. Without a strong Christian world and life view and without having skills in thinking Christianly and critically about media, young readers most likely will not take away from the book what I took away from the book. For them, it's just a riveting love story. But when reading this story as one caught up in God's unfolding historical-redemptive story, there is much to celebrate in the book. For me, I was reminded of the fact that even though God has adopted me as a son and made me over, my depravity is still kicking at the door and wanting to rear its ugly head. I'm in a battle. . . something that the Apostle Paul talked about constantly. And to win the battle, I have to recognize that the battle does indeed exist. That's just one theological truth that the book drove home for me. And by the way, it was a bit difficult to put down. Can I admit that?

So what do we do with Twilight? My simple answer is this: if you're a parent or youth worker who's got kids interested in the book or who have read the book, read it yourself. . . and then talk about it with them. What a great opportunity to think with your kids. What a great opportunity to model how to bring the light of God's Word to bear on everything in life. What a great opportunity to seize a teachable moment. If you're a youth worker who's ministering to loads of Twilight fans - and if you're a youth worker you most likely have lots of Twilight fans in your group - why not get a Twilight discussion going? Again, this is a great opportunity to get talking about life, good, evil, right, wrong, and the need to exercise Biblically-informed media discernment. My great fear is that if we simply make the assumption that this should be avoided (book + vampires = evil), then we will not only miss a great opportunity, but we'll be sending our kids off to process the book without the benefit of our guidance and direction.

Have any of you read Twilight? And, what do you think? What have you done with the kids you know and love in response to Twilight?

Oh, and by the way. . . I want to be a reponsible youth culture watcher. That said, how humiliated do you think Nate will be when the UPS man knocks on the front door to deliver the box from Amazon containing the other 3 books in the series that I ordered?!? I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cultural Encounters of the Weekend Kind. . . .

If you've been around us long enough you've no doubt heard me mention the classic faith and culture quote from theologian Karl Barth: "Every Christian should start their day with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other." The order is essential. I believe that if I'm diligent about the first, truth will course through my veins, so to speak. Then, with eyes open on the world, discernment will take place. My prayer is always that I would remain faithful to the one true God by loving His Word, and faithful to His calling by knowing how that Word speaks to the world. I think this kind of thinking gradually becomes second-nature. . . a lifestyle.

Embracing that lifestyle over the weekend left me with several cultural encounters that have sparked thoughts on who we are and who we're supposed to be.

Friday night. . . a high school basketball game. I went with my 22-year-old son who is a coach. He was scouting the game. We sat in the top row of the bleachers where we could see the entire court. . . and everything happening in the bleachers below. I came away reminded that tweens, early adolescents, and middle schoolers are some of the most insecure people alive. They are changing, growing, wandering, wondering, trying to find their place. One of these days I'm going to film and narrate a documentary on kids this age. It will be like Wild Kingdom. . . "The male members of the species surround the females, who display their plumage in a strange ritual that includes laughter, chewing gum, incessant texting, and constant trading of places. Hormones flow and scream as the group slowly divides and reorganizes, over and over again. . . a process that begins now and will not end for several years. . ." I walked out of the gym reminded of the importance of what it is we do here at CPYU.

Saturday. . . visiting an Amish market. I've lived near these folks for years now. I still can't figure certain things out. Cars are not permitted. . . unless someone else is driving. They use cellphones, cash registers, packaging machines, etc. There's no electricity in their homes. But when it comes to running a business, electricity is everywhere. One Amish store sold entertainment centers! That's like me selling marijuana! I'm an outsider looking in, trying to figure it all out. It seems like hypocrisy. I'm sure lots and lots of people look in on those of us living in the Kingdom and see the same. "Lord, lead me to focus on me, expose my hypocrisy, and lead me to live an integrated life."

Sunday. . . worship. . . . the Lord's Supper. Sin has burst into every nook and cranny of our world and lives. It's a hopeless situation. There's nothing we can do about it. Then, God comes bursting into His world to undo what we've done. . . .all at great cost. The drama of the bread and the cup is played out once again, reminding me of the drama into which I've been invited and placed. It doesn't make sense. All I can do is say "thank you," and then somehow live a life of gratitude that's salty and bright.

Sunday. . . Super Bowl. . . worship. I love sports. I cheer for my teams. I just don't want to get it all out of order. While we must play and cheer redemptively, we must never think that it will ever redeem. Millions of Americans went to church on Sunday morning. And millions of Americans went to church on Sunday night at 6:28pm. It doesn't matter what sport or what team. . . we all get into this way too much.

Sunday. . . Michael Phelps. . . again. He's the poster boy for our kids. He not only serves as one telling them who to be, but he offers deep insight into who they are.

Sunday. . . most significant cultural moment in the Super Bowl. . . James Harrison. The Defensive Player of the Year, someone to emulate and look up to. His actions are caught in high-def slow motion as he pounds away at a fallen opponent. Another poster boy for our kids. He not only serves as one telling them who to be, but he offers deep insight into who they are.

Sunday. . . Super Bowl commericials. . . the economy isn't the only thing hurting. I guess we've lost our creativity as well. . . . unless of course you're a plastic surgeon "creating" cast members for commercials. If this is what we have to stoop to in order to sell things. . . shame on us.

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." - Jesus (John 8:31&32).

All that said, I think this one was the most creative. . .