Month: September 2009

Identity and Lifestyle

newconspirators

Identity and lifestyle walk hand-in-hand through the malls that define contemporary culture… It is at the mall that you pick and mix your lifestyle. At the same time, the selection isn’t as individual as it sounds. The choices are still pre-selected by powers outside of our control.

What an awesome quote from “The New Conspirators” and Tom Sine…

In the documentary, “The Merchants of Cool,” it is reported that the consumers are trying to colonize the pre-teen and teen culture through a 450 billion dollar budget.

We need to question ourselves as youth leaders as to whether or not we are portraying the western dream as God’s dream, as Sine puts it. I personally think it is important to use and embrace culture to the extent that the God is evident in all areas of our lives and, as hard as we try, we cannot neglect the influence and voice of God found on the screens and stages that are all around us.

As youth leaders, we are given the task to help youth decode their culture and media that are penetrating their lives. We all know kids are not dumb and are capable to decode it all for themselves, however, it is unlucky for them as they not only have to deal with the marketers and researchers, but they need to deal with a little problem called peer-pressure. That is where the youth leaders of the today come in as we get to do what we love everyday: Hang out with the youth in our churches and show them how they can live a life like Christ. Those should be our two callings as youth leaders, should it not? Teach kids about God and to be present in their lives.

Through the power of presence we are able to move beyond the calling of the mall towards challenging the claims that are presently redefining reality. Once we can challenge this mentality and provide our youth with the same ability, the great revolution of living like Christ within our culture can truly begin.

Chris Tomlin – Whispers of Worship

But what got my attention most was when he said the music wasn’t very good in his church gatherings.  Through his translator, he stated, “If we sing loud, they’ll hear us and arrest us.  So we just gather up close and whisper the songs to God.  We have to be quiet.”   It was an awakening moment for me.   Again, I saw another picture of true worship living itself out.  I thought of all my efforts to sing and play loud for God, and never had I been a part of a chorus as loud as their whispers.   In our culture today, if our music is a bit lacking, then so goes our “worship.”  But I was awakened again that worship has little to do with style or volume.  It is about spirit.   It is about being on a mission to live and die for the name and renown of Jesus.  My humble friend from China was a representation of what it looks like to present your body as a living sacrifice to God.

How often do we forget what true worship should be?

ht to Royal York Baptist Church

Knowledge and Immediacy (This Goes For You Too, Kanye).

Middle schoolers don’t have a willingness (or the ability) to wait for anything. Our culture has trained them to expect everything instantly. Patience is a rough one, “delayed gratification” is a foreign concept, and slowness can have a deeply profound impact on their lives as it’s something they simply do not experience daily.

This is a quote from Mark Oestreicher in an article from the Youth Worker Journal. In this article, he says there are two cultures found within middle school. A culture of information and a culture of immediacy. Both can be traced back to the increase and knowledge of technology. Your iPhone allows you to search the web from anywhere and, at anytime, you can download your favorite tunes. Hence, because of this ease, you can also download the video of your favorite rapper making a fool of himself during an awards show.

Now, I know I am a couple of days behind on this topic, but I had to think about it for a little bit. What I came up with was this: Kanye is no different than the 14-year-old that feels it is their entitlement to have an iPhone. They need it then and now, and it is their parents’ duty to buy it for them. Just as this 14-year-old feels entitled, does Kanye really think that his opinion mattered at all?

No one cares who Kanye feels should win the award, and if they did, he would be the judge of it. He needs to grow up and realize that he, like no one, has an entitlement to whatever they want, that is, unless, your name is Jesus.

Religion Saves, But The Book Hurts.

I have read three books in the last three weeks. The first two by Tony Jones was fantastic, the third by Mark Driscoll made my heart sink a little. I will say upfront I have read Vintage Jesus and Church as well as Death By Love in that order and most recently Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions. Even though I enjoy reading books with ideas that I don’t always agree with, this is the first time in a long time I wanted to put the book down on the bookshelf and leave it there. However, I finished it and realize that yes I very much disliked the content and writing style, and tone of the book, I realize that it will be a best read for someone out there. I will refrain from making statements about Mark Driscol as a person as best I can, as I do not personally know him.

I bought the book not realizing that this was a regurgitated sermon series and if I had known that upfront I probably would have just watched the podcast. I knew upfront that there would be some bashing of the Emergent Church, or where the majority of his beef is located with Emergent Village. I was curious as to what he would say, but where he lost me was on the chapter about Humour.

Now being a speaker myself and knowing how sensitive and important my words are to the individuals around me I was really hurt by his words in this chapter. I was hurt for all the people that have felt hurt from what he decribes as humour.

My favorite targets tend to be action-figure-loving single guys who play World of Warcraft at their mom’s house while downloading porn and blogging about how the world should be, in between long sessions of sleep in their Star Wars sheets. Vegans are also funny because they get upset every time I promote bacon, and they often tell me that I will die if I eat bacon, to which I reply “Yes, praise God, I will die and go to heaven… full of bacon.”

I have a couple of problems with that. First, he knows his words are hurtful, yet it does not seem to matter. My question is this;

How do the people that are in his congregation, in the Seattle area, or reading his material world-wide?

If my pastor got up and just let loose on who I am as an individual while trying to express the way to live a life that is in line or even imitating Christ, I think I would be re-evaluating where I was going to church. I do agree that there is indeed humour in the words of God, both in the Old and New Testament, however knowing exactly the context of these words is next to impossible as translation occurs. I don’t think this kind of humour is not what Jesus did. Blatantly hurting individuals does not seem to be the style of the God I know.

He goes through ways that he sees the Bible as being a comedy of sorts, but I struggle to agree with him in the ways he finds certain Biblical accounts humorous.

I will give him credit though as he does tackle some very FAQ’s that are relevant to the everyday church goer. Such as, Is birth control ok? He also does a great job at outlining the very ominous questions surrounding predestination.

In regards to the emergent question, Driscoll attempts to show the reader the different types of leaders within the emergent movement. Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Brian McLaren are the leaders that take the brunt of Driscoll’s dislike. He attacks everything from the gay perspective, Nooma videos, the question of sin and even the cult possibility of Emergent Village. He calls this Emergent Liberalism and he really sees no use for them within Christian circles. However, to me when these Emergent Liberals can ask themselves questions like; If we were wrong about slavery and civil rights, what is it in today’s society that we are blinded to?

I have to say I really disliked many opinions that were raised in this book, but I also realize that some people that are important to me may agree with them. That’s ok! I can live with that, something I learned from Tony Jones, being a Christian shouldn’t cause me to shut out other ideals or theologies, I should be able to flourish through the discussions they may raise.

Book Review: Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions

I have read three books in the last three weeks. The first two by Tony Jones was fantastic, the third by Mark Driscoll made my heart sink a little. I will say upfront I have read Vintage Jesus and Vintage Church as well as Death By Love in that order and most recently Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions. Even though I enjoy reading books with ideas that I don’t always agree with, this is the first time in a long time I wanted to put the book down on the bookshelf and leave it there. However, I finished it and realize that yes I very much disliked the content and writing style, and tone of the book, I realize that it will be a best read for someone out there. I will refrain from making statements about Mark Driscol as a person as best I can, as I do not personally know him.

I bought the book not realizing that this was a regurgitated sermon series and if I had known that upfront I probably would have just watched the podcast. I knew upfront that there would be some bashing of the Emergent Church, or where the majority of his beef is located with Emergent Village. I was curious as to what he would say, but where he lost me was on the chapter about Humour.

Now being a speaker myself and knowing how sensitive and important my words are to the individuals around me I was really hurt by his words in this chapter. I was hurt for all the people that have felt hurt from what he describes as humour.

My favorite targets tend to be action-figure-loving single guys who play World of Warcraft at their mom’s house while downloading porn and blogging about how the world should be, in between long sessions of sleep in their Star Wars sheets. Vegans are also funny because they get upset every time I promote bacon, and they often tell me that I will die if I eat bacon, to which I reply “Yes, praise God, I will die and go to heaven… full of bacon.”

I have a couple of problems with that. First, he knows his words are hurtful, yet it does not seem to matter. My question is this;

How do the people that are in his congregation, in the Seattle area, or reading his material world-wide?

If my pastor got up and just let loose on who I am as an individual while trying to express the way to live a life that is in line or even imitating Christ, I think I would be re-evaluating where I was going to church. I do agree that there is indeed humour in the words of God, both in the Old and New Testament, however knowing exactly the context of these words is next to impossible as translation occurs. I don’t think this kind of humour is not what Jesus did. Blatantly hurting individuals does not seem to be the style of the God I know.

He goes through ways that he sees the Bible as being a comedy of sorts, but I struggle to agree with him in the ways he finds certain Biblical accounts humorous.

I will give him credit though as he does tackle some very FAQ’s that are relevant to the everyday church goer. Such as, Is birth control ok? He also does a great job at outlining the very ominous questions surrounding predestination.

In regards to the emergent question, Driscoll attempts to show the reader the different types of leaders within the emergent movement. Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Brian McLaren are the leaders that take the brunt of Driscoll’s dislike. He attacks everything from the gay perspective, Nooma videos, the question of sin and even the cult possibility of Emergent Village. He calls this Emergent Liberalism and he really sees no use for them within Christian circles. However, to me when these Emergent Liberals can ask themselves questions like; If we were wrong about slavery and civil rights, what is it in today’s society that we are blinded to?

I have to say I really disliked many opinions that were raised in this book, but I also realize that some people that are important to me may agree with them. That’s ok! I can live with that, something I learned from Tony Jones, being a Christian shouldn’t cause me to shut out other ideals or theologies, I should be able to flourish through the discussions they may raise.

Tonight in Toronto – Drops Like Stars Tour

We plot, we plan, we assume things are going to go
A certain way and then they don’t and we find ourselves
In a new place, a place we haven’t been before, a place
We never would have imagined on our own,

And so it was difficult and unexpected and maybe even
Tragic and yet it opened us up and freed us to see
Things in a whole new way

Suffering does that—
It hurts,
But it also creates.

How many of the most significant moments in your
Life came not because it all went right, but because
It all fell apart?

It’s strange how there can be art in the agony…

The Drops Like Stars tour is a two
Hour exploration of the endlessly complex
Relationship between suffering and creativity—
And I’d love to see you there.

ht to www.robbell.com

Russian Love

One of my passions is Russian history. Part of that love is Russian poetry. I came across this one this morning in Starbucks.

1. Please don’t ask me questions and don’t wonder…
2. Don’t trust me when I say, in sorrow…
3. Since I’ve been all alone, since you have been so distant…

Alexey Tolstoy
(translated from the Russian by Alec Vagapov)

My thoughts went to God as I read this. How often we ignore Him in our lives. We fear His questions and we hide the true answer.

However, He doesn’t hide and He is never distant.

Youth Worker Update on Social Networking

Studies show that 22 percent of kids check social networking sites 10 or more times a day. Only 4 percent of parents realize their kids are that active on these sites. These and other insights can be found in a new study from Common Sense Media, a watchdog group that tracks children’s media exposure.

The organization also published a new study assessing the safety features of the most popular social sites: MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, YouTube, Club Penguin, Webkinz and Neopets.  You can link to the full report here.

Special ht to Youth Worker Journal for this post.

Superheroes and Volf

I saw this book the other night called Microtrends at my local Chapters. Located on the back cover, the author made a statement about culture that peaked my interest. He hypothesized that the so-called “comic nerd” label is disappearing as these “nerds” are taking over culture and becoming the social butterflies of this generation.

I started to think about some areas in my own life, both in the past and in the present, to see if this was, in fact, a social trend that is present within society.

In the last week or so, Disney has purchased Marvel Comics to combat with Warner Bros. and DC Comics, but also to booster their presence within the pre-teen to young adult male that made Iron Man, Spider-Man and the X-Men movie franchises so huge. So, yes, these “nerds” that have been mocked so openly in the past are quite, in fact, very prominent players in this multi-million dollar deal.

Another example: Amy and I, like many our age, got hooked on the show called The OC. My question is this…

Do characters such as Seth Cohen (avid comic collector and knowledgeable in all things comic related) help or hinder the images of the people that they are supposed to represent?

Personally, I feel Seth and the mainstream acceptance of comic material has made comics the new “indie cool,” and by that I mean it’s cool to like comics and know about them, but I am still not going to run through the streets proclaiming my love for it because that would be uncool.

Let’s look at an annual event held in Toronto called Fan Expo (see previous post). I have seen this event grow immensely in the past five years to the point where culturally and demographically speaking, this event has as much diversity as Toronto itself.

The lesson for us as Christians here is integral in my view for growth for those inside and outside the Church. The lessons are simple and I will pose some of them as questions:

How can we be a part of culture and society and still have a leg outside of it?

How can we become more accepting to the point were we are not labelled Christian by the clothes we wear, music we listen to, or words that we speak?

What can we learn from events like Fan Expo?

I think the answer can be found within both the Fan Expo and Miroslav Volf’s book, Exclusion and Embrace. Volf interprets Christian identity as,

…at its core…(Christian identity) lies an all-encompasing change of loyalty, from a given culture with its gods to the God of all cultures.

To those that read and collect comics, this concept is simple. Their heroes are apart of the culture and society that they protect during the day. They don’t force change, they watch and observe those around them during the day, but at night their presence, their influence and their actions show you what they are really all about.

Can we as Christians accomplish or even attempt this?

The answer is yes. We do not have to retreat from the culture we are apart of, we just have to learn how to join them. We need to be examples of the cross…loving, sharing, and living a life like Christ with those who make up the society around us.

Fan Expo 2009

Fan Expo is one of my favourite weekends of the year. Each yeah my dad and I attempt to make it to this overwhelming event to search, buy, and meet some artists that have sparked old and new interests.

Dad and I at the end of the day.

No, we did not try to dress alike, it just happened. I tried to find him a Legion of Super-Heroes t-shirt, but no such luck.

Oliver CoipelMarko Djurdjevic

Oliver Coipel and Marko Djurdjevic are two Marvel artists that work on the Thor on-going series. Both took the time to sign a couple comics for me. Next time you are over to our house I am sure I will end up showing them to you. I also bought Marko’s cover art book which is fantastic.

Who would have ever thought to  draw a cover of Thor listening to an iPod?

Photo on 2009-09-12 at 15.49

Marko and his buddies that is who.

At some point I am going to post pictures of the costumes people had on, but for know those were the highlights, but most importantly of all it was a good day for dad and I. We also met up with mom and Amy for a fantastic dinner at Boston Pizza.