Tag Archives: hardie

A Plethora of Shirt Options

I’ve realized through my interaction with those taking their students to LIFE that there has arisen a misconception concerning the LIFE Merchandise (that will be sold physically in the store in Kansas City) and the custom shirts that LIFEMERCH is designing and printing for groups.  Many people believe that everything I’ve produced will only be available in the actual store, however that is not the case.

I had to find a way to convey that “Custom Group Shirts” means that I can create anything for the various groups headed to the LIFE Conference in July, it’s just a matter of preference for the leader as to what they want their shirt to look like.  It’s incredibly easy to make the name of the group stand or to make “LIFE 2016”  the focal point.   It all becomes a question of taste and desired outcome.

Thus I polled a few Facebook Youth Pastor Groups to find some current, catchy youth group names circulating through the broader spectrum of Christianity today. I then spent quite a bit of time doing potential mock ups with those designs to show the varying styles that we can tap.  I was trying to give a clear visual indication of the versatility that LIFEMERCH is capable of.

Hopefully this time investment pays off and the group leaders see the great shirts that their youth groups could be wearing to LIFE!

the C Word

My family will remember the date of July 27th rather well. We have gauged most of contemporary life as “pre” and “post” July 27th 2014. That day that we all sat around our humble kitchen table and heard our beloved, kind, compassionate mother utter the C Word. A word that you never expected to hear (because, in your mind it only happens to other people) an ugly, terrible word that injects fear into the hearts of loved ones. The more you love that person, the worse the word is.

“I have Cancer”

It’s like a terrible villain from a movie, an amorphous evil that has no shape or face but merely a dark, inky presence; as real as sin, as thick as tar. I’ve worked with teens my whole adult life and have heard every vulgar, explicit, profane word and their various creative incarnations yet no word is as filthy as this one.

You know that feeling you get when you see somebody fall and get hurt; that shot that goes through your body, that odd empathy that you (should) have for another human being? It’s the reason that people cringe at movies when a person is visibly, often times creatively injured and you wince at the act. In times of great visual agony the matching appendage on your own body may tingle as if you are being similarly afflicted by the world of pain they are living in.

When I heard the C Word it was as if my whole body was afflicted. As if my very soul was covered in malignant, fast reproducing cells seeking to ravage, consume and destroy. It felt as if tiny little spiders were ripping me apart from the inside.

I felt as if I was going to vomit, as if the world was spinning. I realize now why in old movies they ask the person on the other end of the phone line if they are sitting down when they receive terrible news.

Every time I have to say the word Cancer now it feels like I am cursing, like I’m using the big daddy of foul language, a noun that makes the F word look tame, feeble and silly in comparison.

You soon learn that there are other variations of, and additions to the C Word, like acne covered junior high boys trying to impress each other with their vast vulgarity. Tumor. Stage 3. Chemotherapy.

I remember my art teacher in High School trying to explain what it was like trying to battle a brain tumor in his younger years. I’ll never forget his odd description of Chemo “They kill you, and hope they kill the cancer at the same time.”

Fighting sickness with poison.

As I type these words my mother is receiving her first dose of Chemo. They are pumping poison into her blood stream to try and kill the remaining cancerous cells that have spread to ravage and destroy. She was so nervous last night when I talked to her; choking up at the mere mention, begging to talk about something happier like her grandchildren, or how my sermon went that morning. She asked “Can we just talk about something else?”

It would seem that everybody has a C-Word Story that they want to share with me. I am consistently amazed at the lack of tact and common social understanding that logical adults exhibit in many of these instances. I do not want to hear about your grandmother who was given a clear bill of health after her Chemotherapy only to find that they didn’t get it all, that it had spread and she died in agony a month later. That is not something to tell me and my family right now. We know what can happen. I know that you are struggling to deal with the loss of your loved one and you need to cathartically share with others to continue to work through your tragedy.   However we are in it; we know the danger yet we need to claw through the dirt toward that faint light, that glimmer of hope.

We pray. I don’t know what we would do if we couldn’t pray.

Can God heal my mother? Yes.

Will He?

I do not know.

We pray and huddle together for warmth as winter approaches.

You Quit

Image

I’ve become the old hand in youth ministry in my local context. At age 30, having been in full time youth ministry for the past 7 years I’ve become the seasoned vet, the father figure, the sage-like rock of knowledge. This has all happened at 30. Looking around I would wager that it has very little to do with my skills, giftedness or intelligence and much more to do with all of the holes and voids left by all the people who have left over the years.

This breaks my heart.

I remember being young, getting ready to go to college for youth ministry, talking about changing the world for Jesus. We had big plans. We were going to be different than our predecessors; we were going to aggressively further the Kingdom no matter what….

And then almost everybody quit.

There were various reasons that this happened. Some of them seemed good, logical and fair, others were downright tragic, sinful and abhorrent. Regardless of the why, I am left standing in a world full of gaps, plugging holes with rookies and newbies, trying to keep this thing afloat.

My mind constantly travels back to a scene from the acclaimed graphic novel, “Watchmen” where two heroes are talking, one of them, Rorschach a hardened, angry hero who has never given up his pursuit of justice (albeit flagrant vigilantism) and the retired Nite-Owl who has distanced himself from crime fighting to take up a life of comfort and conformity (to be fair, the government told the heroes that they had to cease and desist, not unlike the mandate that will most likely come down against Christian ministries in the next 20-30 years).

The paths of these two cross again due to the death of one of their mutual associates. Nite-Owl nervously asks Rorschach “Whatever happened to those times?” The answer the retiree receives shakes him to his core.

“You Quit.”

Rorschach disappears into the night as he strives to make a difference in this chaotic world.

If I’m honest, this is how I feel most of the time. As a grizzled, bitter hero who never gave up the childhood ideals that we could bring about change, that we could make a difference. There have been trails, sacrifices being made; I’ve made some ludicrous decisions that have allowed me to stay in ministry of some sort and I’m crazy enough to wonder why other people refuse to do likewise.

If you know anything about Rorschach, he’s anything but a well adjusted balanced individual. But he never gave up. There’s something deeply admirable, noble and true to his character.

I have heard people say “Ministry was for a season” “God will raise up other leaders” “Some programs just have to die” and to be honest I get sick to my stomach when I hear those things.

Maybe God wants you to fight. Or maybe I’m crazy.

I’ll just disappear into the shadows and let you reminisce about the “Good Old Days” while I go try to change the world, even if it’s impossible, even if it kills me.

This is probably how Elijah felt most days.

Your Spouse MUST have Access to all of Your Online Accounts

A few days ago I had an opportunity to teach a seminar on Social Media for a group of teenagers. I am constantly stymied at how the internet, along with all its tentacles of apps and connectivity, is plugging into our lives and bit by bit; piece by piece is taking over.

The smartphones that many of those teenagers own are almost the equivalent of that person’s soul being carried around outside their body, protected by an Otterbox case. If you think that I’m wrong try to take a cell phone off of a kid. One time when I had to confiscate a phone from a student who was abusing it, she ripped open the back of the pink envy phone, covered in sequins and glitter, pulled the battery out and put the shiny grey item down her pants so that nobody could access the deep recesses of her inner being……or her photo reel, while it was in the possession of adults.

As I was talking to the group I made many controversial statements (as is my custom) however one elicited a response that I wasn’t ready for.

When I firmly stated “In the future, when you get married, your spouse MUST have access to all of your social media accounts at ALL times” many of the middleschoolers mouths fell open in flagrant disbelief, as if I had asked them to cut off an arm or gouge out their right eye.

I have seen far too many marriage relationships get wrecked by old high school sweethearts who creep into their lives through late night messages, promising an escape from the mundanacity of monogamy and before they know it they are rendezvousing with their old flame in some seedy motel outside the view of the community, while their spouse rocks their newborn to sleep wondering how that business meeting went so very late.

A few days ago my wife and I got matching iPhones, an event that’s been long overdue. At the advice of a trusted friend we decided to share the same iTunes account and thus EVERYTHING on our smartphones. We share the same calendar and contacts. In the middle of the day, after iCloud has synced I am pleasantly surprised to find pictures of my boys playing on the couch together, or odd pictures of my Pug wearing wigs or glasses; pictures that I did not take. There is even an app that allows us to know where each other’s phone is on a digital map at all times of the day or night, just by clicking a button.

Somebody told me that this was creepy; I however believe that it’s how things ought be in married life.

If I need to hide it from my wife, I shouldn’t be doing it.

We are one flesh in the eyes of God; it would do us well to live as such online as well.

History Will Judge You!

I have heard it said of those who hold to traditional biblical standards “History will judge you as it did the racist proponents of segregation! Your children will be embarrassed of you and your legacy of hate will be a stain on your family for generations.  They will think of you as an intolerant Nazi, fueled by antiquated, oppressive standards.”

That may be a paraphrase or a conglomeration of statements I have read in the occupied territory known as the internet, yet it details many people’s view of us, the “bigoted, biblicaly based.”

History can judge me.

I’m fine with that.  History changes and fluctuates, it has been rewritten so many times that I’m still not entirely sure who to trust.  The victors define History until somebody conquers them and rewrites the whole thing with their own pen and perspective.

History doesn’t scare me.

God Does.

If we are all “Unique Apes” as Richard Dawkins claims, then I don’t care one iota about what History or a collection of Unique Apes have to say about me.  If we are all grunting, grumbling, complex creatures whose origins are a cosmic accident of sorts, then why should I care? Give me my 70-90 years and forget my name (because it only meant something to a few other Unique Apes in my small context anyhow).

But if there is a God, who created everything, who knows everything and who is weaving a divine story of redemption, if there is meaning and hope apart from what we have created……well now, that is different.

What if that God has established a standard that does not waver from who He is?  What if we cannot find true fulfillment in anything that is apart from Him?

And what if one Day He, not History will judge us?

Here is what I will do: I will raise my children according to His Word, not yours.  I pray that they accept fulfillment and purpose only from God and that they seek His face.  I will teach them to love everybody, to see people as image bearers of God with value, worth and purpose regardless of the broken choices they make.

I understand that they may not believe this way.  They may learn to live like Unique Apes and someday judge me according to the culture and time that they live in.  That they may participate in tacky, hollow, mass weddings at a popular awards show in a neon, faux church of their own creation, following their own doctrine in an attempt to give myself and my people a shining middle finger.  They may strive to rub my face in it and shame me into agreement.

If that happens, so be it.  It’s sad, but I’m not angry, broken or deterred in my belief.

I don’t fear History.

I Fear God.

Image

The Worship Wars

When I hear the old stories of the “Worship Wars” as some older pastors call them, I am perplexed, confused and deeply annoyed.  Hearing retellings of those primordial tales reminds me of the ancient wars mentioned and referenced but not entirely fleshed out in certain sci-fi/fantasy movies.  The “Clone Wars” from Lucas’s imagination or the”Time War” from the Whovian’s corner of fandom come to mind.  Ancient wars where blood was shed, old characters lives were altered forever but to the present day participant we really don’t know what went on.  It can be very much like listening to your grandpa ramble on and on about The ‘Nam while he slips in an out of lucidity.

That’s how I feel about the late 80’s and early 90’s war that went on in many churches all over America over the deeply secondary issue of Hymns versus Chorus’s.  This was no small deal to them.  Churches split over this.  Pastors lost jobs, left the ministry and families were literally destroyed in some instances; all the while I can picture Jesus in heaven with his hand over his face like Jean Luc Picard in all of those snarky face palm internet memes.  Some of the stories I hear are flat out absurd, sad and tragic.  There are pastors who react to a person picking up a guitar in a church like somebody pulling the pin from a grenade.

I heard that the worship wars are over, mostly.  Other than a few crazy vets from either side still battling it out like soldiers who never got the message that the Civil War was over, it’s mostly done.  We’ve moved on to other fights and small battles.  Appearance is still a big deal.  One of my youth group girls recounted a story of being at a summer camp where, during the message the speaker looked into the crowd and publically called her “a blue haired harlot on the path to Hell” due to the visible coloring of her hair and her Blink 182 shirt. Nice job man, really furthering the Kingdom with those remarks.

The spirit of the Worship Wars is alive and well.  Don’t worry, this generation will grow old and fight battles over frivolous issues that will directly, negatively impact the possibility of many coming to a salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ, of this I am sure.

I heard a story from a friend about his grandmother who in 1992, while the Worship War was poised to consume her church she said “I’ve had my time, it’s not my style; but it’s not about me, it’s about saving souls for Jesus.”  She realized that the style of the church can change yet the spirit of the church never should.

I have two adult leaders who are in their 60’s.  They are the much needed grandparents of the youth and they fill that role admirably.  The students love them.  They impart wisdom and kindness in the most non-judgmental ways.  I’m sure they would be happier singing an old, organ fueled rendition of “It Is Well” however I have caught glimpses of them worshiping to David Crowder, Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin.

When we are old and grey may remember that style is fleeting and secondary; Spirit is key.

Image

Land of Legends

I have been working on this massive project for my good friend John Gardner for a while now.  It’s for his annual youth retreat Snow Camp, the theme of which is “Land of Legends.”  They are basing all of their activities for the weekend around mythical creatures.  Sounds like a pretty cool time!

When he told me he wanted a Yeti, Sasquatch, Chupacabra and the Loch Ness Monster drawn up for the shirt I knew it was going to take gobs of time, but in the end I would have some pretty cool images to work with.  I plan on using some of these for isolated, limited edition T-shirts later in the year (I think that a good bit of Bigfoot lovers would be interested in buying the Sasquatch shirt) however I am thinking that I could use them for a bit more.

I already plan on using the Yeti as a pretty major Character in my Cynderbreak universe.  I am deeply tempted to use Sasquatch as his archrival, a larger, more intelligent creature who exists in the shadows controlling and waiting to strike.  Yeti VS Sasquatch sounds pretty cool and it just may be the type of thing that people would really enjoy!

I think that I could find a place for the villainous Chupacabra as well, almost like a Gollum character, searching for something, seeking to devour.  There is something inherently humorous about Chubacabras, perhaps it’s the fact that their name literally means “Goat Sucker.”

Anyhow, I see potential in borrowing some of these mythical creatures.  I need to cultivate a familiarity in Cynderbreak early or I am going to lose people.  They need to have some connection, what better way than to use un-copyrighted familiar monsters!?ImageImageImageImage