Monthly Archives: March 2012

Experiencing God Aesthetically: Loneliness, Monks and Gungor

Latte art at Intelligentsia Coffee

This week was an interesting week for me emotionally and spiritually. Hillary and the girls spent some time with her parents in Roswell, New Mexico while I took part of the week to experience life at a monastery. My motto for the week was, “Expect Nothing.” Everything I had heard about spending time at a monastery warned against expecting a major spiritual experience. As I now look back on this week, while drinking some amazing coffee at Intelligentsia Coffee, I can describe it in four chapters.


With two young girls who are very expressive, our home is never quiet. But Monday night it was quiet. I actually went to the public library because I didn’t like being in my quiet house. That night as I lay in bed it was almost impossible to go to sleep in the quiet house. Again Tuesday night, I had a hard time sleeping. I felt lonely. Ronald Rolheiser talks frequently about loneliness and the danger if it is not worked through correctly. Laying in my bed alone did not feel good. My emotional state was not in a healthy place. Read the rest of this entry


Byte Sized Newton Updates

I thought it might be time for a few byte sized updates on what is going on with our family.

  • We are still hoping and praying for a ministry job in the Denver metro area. Denver is home for our family.
  • Hillary and I fly out to Denver to interview for a youth ministry position the week after Easter.
  • This week I get the chance to spend a few days at Saint Gregory’s Abbey in Michigan. I am looking forward to the silence so I can spend uninterrupted time with the Lord with all the big decisions we are making about the future.
  • We are really excited that Peyton Manning is joining the Denver Broncos. It took Anna a few days to mourn the loss of “Tebow Time” but now she is coming around to the idea.
  • Our girls are growing up right in front of our eyes. This fall Norah enters kindergarten so we will have two girls in school. Where does the time go?
  • This summer is Hillary and I’s ten year wedding anniversary so we are spending almost a week without the kids in the Dominican Republic with two other couples from college. We are counting down the days!
  • Last week was Newton Kidney Transfer Week as my brother Ben donated his kidney to my dad. They are both recovering well!
  • I am continuing as the youth director at First Presbyterian to follow out our high school seniors. I am also helping our southwest campus work through the details of launching them as a new PCUSA church plant. I am building a new website, learning about church management systems, designing budgets and satisfying the systems side of my brain.
  • Here’s a picture of Anna’s favorite activity to do with her daddy

  • Thanks so much for your prayers through this transition. Hillary and I both have a deep sense of peace that God called us to transition from First Presbyterian and that he is preparing our next place of ministry.

Katniss Everdeen: A True Heroine for Girls

Lionsgate Films

As I have wrote about before, my seven year old daughter Anna is drawn to Princess Leia in Star Wars instead of Barbies and pink dresses. Anna says she likes her because she can fight. Instead of pushing her to take the identities that culture wants her to fit into as a girl, we encourage Anna to pursue her passions and develop her own identity. I firmly believe that God gave Anna the same gifts, talents and leadership skills as he would give to a boy. Read the rest of this entry

Girl Toy or Boy Toy?: McDonald’s and Gender Assumptions

My seven year old daughter Anna loves Star Wars and hates Barbies. For her recent birthday the mom of one of the boys who was invited called the night before and asked Hillary if Anna would want a Barbie. Hillary chuckled and told her that Anna wasn’t quite into Barbies. Anna got a Darth Vader mask and a light saber instead. She was so pumped!

Anna and I have our bi-weekly date after school at McDonald’s. Anna has given into the marketing and can’t get enough of Happy Meals. She gets most excited about the toys. Now that she has moved away from Barbies and anything pink, she has learned that she now has to ask for a “boy toy.” She would rather have the Transformer truck than the My Little Pony.

This time as Anna ate her Happy Meal it struck me that McDonald’s is making some big gender assumptions with their Happy Meal toys. They ask parents, “Would you like a boy toy or a girl toy?” They are assuming that girls will like My Little Pony and boys will like  Transformers. What if they are incorrect? With Anna she would much rather have the boy toy than the girl toy.

Couldn’t they just ask, “Would you like the Transformer toy or the My Little Pony toy?”

Not all girls like pink.

Jesus is Our Shepherd: Lent Family Devotions for 3/18/2012

This Lent Family Devotion is a big one for our girls. A few weeks ago when we talked about Jesus being the light and turned off the lights in our house, the girls freaked out in fear. They are scared to go back to the laundry room and get their shoes because it is dark back there. We are continually reinforcing the idea that when we are scared we need to pray to God for strength. Read the rest of this entry

Adventures with the Nebraska State Police

Saturday afternoon as I was driving my brother home from Colorado, I received a call from someone with a Denver area code and immediately picked it up. My excitement heightened when the person on the other end of the line was the head of a search team for a youth pastor position in Littleton! As he explained how they wanted to fly Hillary and me out for an interview, I saw a sign for a police checkpoint coming up. Not wanting to drive through a police checkpoint talking on my cell phone, I decided to pull off at the next exit.

We parked on the shoulder of the off ramp and my brother Peter got out to check the ropes holding his kayak to the car. I listened to more details about my upcoming interview and something caught my eye in my side mirror. I looked out and there behind us was a cop with his lights on. I didn’t think much about because I assumed he was just making sure the kayak was alright in the high winds of Nebraska. I ended my phone conversation and stepped out of the car. Read the rest of this entry

Jesus is the Way: Lent Family Devotions for 3/11/2012

Warmup Activity

  • What have we learned about Jesus so far in our family devotions? 
    • You can use the symbol cubes to remind your kids
  • Tonight we are going on a little car trip as part of our devotions and going somewhere new
    • Find a new restaurant or dessert place that your family hasn’t been to
  • Tonight we are going to go to _________. Do you know how to get there? How can we find out how the way to get to there?
  • Go to Google Maps and find the directions to the spot. Print them off and drive to the location. Have one person tell the driver the directions.
  • Once you are there get dessert or food and while you are enjoying, work through the next questions.
  • For us to get to this restaurant, what did we need? (directions)
  • How did the driver know where to go? (they listened to the directions)
  • Tonight we are going to learn about our next symbol and it has something to do with “the path”

The Word

  • Read John 14:2-6
    • “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

      Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

      Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

  • Who is Jesus’ father? 
  • Where is Jesus preparing a place for us?
  • Jesus is the way to who?
  • Just like we needed directions to find this place, we need directions to find God. Jesus says that if we follow him we will find God. We just need to listen to Jesus and he will tell us the way to live.

The Connection

  • What kinds of things distract us from listening to Jesus?
  • Do you think Jesus talks to us? How?
  • Daily application question at dinner: How did you listen to Jesus today?

Symbol Activity

  • What do you think our symbol is today?
  • Now whenever you see this path you can remember that Jesus tells us the way to follow him
  • Color in the path and then we will put the square on our cubes
Here is the design for the cube that can be printed on card stock and cut out.
Here are the symbol cut outs for each week.

Who am I?: Identity Issues of a Thirtysomething

I’m getting older. Just tonight I realize I am getting wrinkles in-between my eyebrows. White hair is spreading like a virus through my hair. I throw out my shoulder playing dodgeball with students. I’ve been married almost ten years and both of my daughters will be in elementary school next fall. And yet I’m back on Youth Specialties looking for jobs just like I was ten years ago when I graduated from Taylor University.

Who am I? How have I changed since then? Ten years ago I was the young kid looking for a job. Now I feel old looking for a ministry job. Yet I’m only 32 years old.

I feel like I’m in between two worlds, two generations.

I feel like a Millennial but researchers put me in Generation X.

Last week I listened to Leadership Network’s Groundswell online conference and heard Millennials talk about what they wanted the church to be like. I resonated with some of their ideas and others didn’t quite match up with my experiences.

I was born in the summer of 1979 just down river from the Three Mile Island disaster. This puts me at the tail end of Generation X. But as I read more about Millennials and hear their stories, I resonate with that generation more than GenX.

Differences between GenX and Millennials

Generation X
Born 1965-1976
51 million
Born 1977 – 1998
75 million
Accept diversity
Reject rules
Killer life
Mistrust institutions
Use technology
Latch-key kids
Friend-not family
Celebrate diversity
Rewrite the rules
Killer lifestyle
Irrelevance of institutions
Assume technology
Multitask fast
Friends = family
Mentoring Do’s
· Casual, friendly work
· Involvement
· Flexibility and freedom
· A place to learn
Mentoring Do’s
· Structured, supportive work
· Personalized work
· Interactive relationship
· Be prepared for demands, high

Source: The Learning Café and American Demographics 

Maybe part of the reason that I have felt a little out of place in church leadership and the workplace is because I am on the leading edge of the Millennial Generation.

For those firmly in the Baby Boom Generation or Generation X, it is important to read up on this incoming generation and listen to our stories.

We need help from you. We need your wisdom. We need to learn from your mistakes and your successes. Most of all we need the chance to lead.

Our generation wants to experience God and they look everywhere except for the church. For the sake of the future of the church, let us lead our peers.

To learn more about the Millennial Generation, check out this resource from Pew Research.

Jesus is the Light of the World: Lent Family Devotions for 3/4/2012


Warmup Activity

  • Tonight we are going on a little walk before our family time
  • Light a candle
  • Turn off all the lights in your house
  • Walk around your house with your kids and have them follow you as you hold the candle
  • What was it like walking around the house with just a candle?
  • What would have happened if we didn’t have the candle?
  • Tonight we are going to learn about another statement that Jesus said about himself and it has something to do with this candle

The Word

  • Read John 8:12
    • “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  • How is Jesus the light of the world?
  • Do you remember a story in the Old Testament about how God made a pillar of fire to show the Israelites where to go in the desert?
  • In the same way Jesus shows us how we can live like him

The Connection

  • What is one thing Jesus gives us as a guidebook to show us how to live like him? (the Bible)
  • How does the Bible show us how to live?
  • Without the Bible and without Jesus we wouldn’t know how to live our lives
  • Application question: What is one way that you can live like Jesus this week?
  • Daily application question at dinner: How did you live like Jesus today?

Symbol Activity

  • What do you think our symbol is today?
  • Now whenever you see this candle you can remember that Jesus shows us we can live like him
  • Color in the candle and then we will put the square on our cubes
Here is the design for the cube that can be printed on card stock and cut out.
Here are the symbol cut outs for each week.