Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Where Should Teens Worship?

This topic has come up a lot lately.

Some churches have teens in the general worship service. A few even give teens significant responsibility there. The idea is that everyone should worship together as a church family and that this will give teens a sense of belonging to the wider group.

Other churches hold a separate, concurrent service specifically for teens. The idea is that teens are interested in different topics and different worship styles than adults and a separate service will draw them in and give them a sense of ownership.

Personally, I hold with the first group. Teens should be required to struggle with complex and controversial ideas and be challenge toward adult thinking and understanding.They are very capable of this and that capability should be respected.  Even younger children can actually be a part of all-church worship service.

Yes, teens need ownership of something. A well-run youth group, meeting at a different time than worship,  can offer that, especially if youth have their own physical space within the building to (within reason) make their own.

The trend, though, seems to be toward option two and there are some good arguments for that as well.

What do you think? Where should teens worship?

If you are in youth ministry, check out CYC a two week conference for youth that meets in August on the beautiful southern coast of Maine.

Monday, May 27, 2013

In Flanders Field

In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 

We have work to do. Let us keep faith.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Song for Sunday: Riding With Private Malone

We are at war.

Soldiers fight far away.

Some will not make it home.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, the Song for Sunday is "Riding with Private Malone."

 I was just out of the service thumbing through the classifieds
When an ad that said:"Old Chevy" somehow caught my eye
The lady didn't know the year,or even if it ran
But I had that thousand dollars in my hand

It was way back in the corner of this old ramshackle barn
Thirty years of dust and dirt on that green army tarp
When I pulled the cover off,it took away my breath
What she called a Chevy was a sixty six Corvette

I felt a little guilty as I counted out the bills
But what a thrill I got when I sat behind the wheel
I opened up the glove box and that's when I found the note
The date was nineteen-sixty six and this is what it wrote:

He said,"My name is Private Andrew Malone"
"If you're reading this,then I didn't make it home"
"But for every dream that shattered,another one comes true"
"This car was once a dream of mine,now it belongs to you"
"And though you may take her and make her your own"
"You'll always be riding with Private Malone"

Well it didn't take me long at all,I had her running good
I love to hear those horses thunder underneath her hood
I had her shining lika a diamond and I'd put the rag top down
All the pretty girls would stop and stare as I drove her through town

The buttons on the radio didn't seem to work quite right
But it picked up that oldie show,especially late at night
I'd get the feeling sometimes,if I turned real quick I'd see
A soldier riding shotgun in the seat right next to me

It was a young man named Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that's shattered,another one comes true
This car was once a dream of his,back when it was new
He told me to take her and make her my own
And I was proud to be riding with Private Malone

One night it was raining hard,I took the curve too fast
I still dont remember much about that fiery crash
Someone said they thought they saw a soldier pull me out
They didn't get his name, but I know without a doubt

It was a young man named Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that's shattered,another one comes true
This car was once a dream of his,back when it was new
I know I wouldn't be here if he hadn't tagged along
That night I was riding with Private Malone
Oh,thank God,I was riding with Private Malone.

My Grand Uncle Russell Henderson never made it home from WWII so I never met him. My father, grandfather, various uncles, father-in-law and brother-in-law all served in the military as well. I am proud of them all.

What songs remind you of our soldiers?
Who are you remembering this weekend?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Song for Sunday: Deep

One of our Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park faculty members stood up during worship at a recent meeting of Baptist churches in Massachusetts. "I love this song and I made the mistake of teaching it to CYC and now we always sing it." 

Her resonant voice began the spiritual: "Deep, way down deep...." The congregation joined in with the CYCers at the back of the room adding some extra energy to one of their favorite songs. Just as if they were at the Dining Hall up in Maine, they banged the tables when they sang the word "deep" in the chorus. The rest of the congregation sang and clapped along. 

So today's Song for Sunday is this song. We worship with it, having fun at the same time. It is a song that has brought us joy.

Deep, way down 
Deep, way down 
Deep down in my soul

Deep, way down 
Deep, way down 
Deep down in my soul

(call) I've got the love 
(response) I've got the love of Jesus 
call) I've got the love 
(response) I've got the love of Jesus 
call) I've got the love 
(response) I've got the love of Jesus 
And it's deep down in my soul

(Repeat, replacing "love" with joy, then peace, then hope and sing a final verse using each one of those with the chorus between each verse.)

What song brings you excitement and energy?


"If you aren't sending your teens to the Christian Youth Conference, you should be." ~Rev. Steve Youd,
Director of World Mission Support, The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts. Check out this amazing two week leadership development program for teens here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Teens and Confidentiality

It used to be that there was a very active conversation among parents about when to send your child into the pediatrician alone. Opinions varied from age 9-16 and many felt that it depended on the child's maturity, personality and comfort level.

In Massachusetts, that all changed a few years ago, when a new law mandated that all teens 14 years and older have time alone with their doctor. It was no longer a parental decision based on the unique needs of a particular child. It became a cookie - cutter rule.

You can probably sense that I have a problem with that, but it has also sent me thinking in another direction. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a parent about the youth leaders of her church. She has some concerns about the youth program and has not sent her kids. The leaders have been quite forceful ("almost threatening", the mother said) about wanting access to her kids.

"Your kids are going to do things that they don't tell you about. We'll be able to advise and protect them," they said.

This seriously concerned the mother. "They weren't going to inform me if they found out my child was up to something. They were going to deal with it themselves."

My sense is that these particular youth leaders may need to look at their approach to parents and their overall attitude towards them, but this situation does open up a wider conversation.

How much confidentiality should teens expect from their youth ministers?

Certainly some things -- questions about scripture, struggles with prayer, difficulties with friends, dislike of school and the like -- should be held close to the vest. There are also things that clearly need to be reported -- if the child is threatening to harm themselves or others, parents must be told; abuse needs to be reported to appropriate authorities.

Youth ministers can not always deliver and, therefore, should not promise absolute confidentiality. However, they shouldn't be blabbering about everything that comes up in private conversation or in group meetings. A sense of safety must be preserved. Care must be taken.

So what if a teen is:

Drinking underage?
Experimenting with drugs?
Texting while driving?
Sexually active?
Pregnant/fathering a child?
Considering running away?

What's the line? How do we balance the teen's need for a safe adult to talk to with the parent's right to guide their child's behavior?

In some cases, we can help a teenager speak with their parents, even being a supportive presence during a difficult conversation. Other times, we may choose to advise the teen ourselves. Sometimes, we may call the parents.

But, again, how do we decide? This can be a difficult balancing act.

I'd love to open up a conversation. How do you handle these things? How would you want your child's youth leader to handle them? Teens, what's your perspective? Please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

$40 Electricity Bill

I told a friend of mine that my electricity bill -- for a two-story, four bedroom is house -- is between $40 and $50 a month, normally. Usually closer to $40.

"How do you do it?" she asked.

Well, here goes:

Three of the biggest electricity guzzlers are the microwave, TV and clothes dryer.

We don't own a microwave.

The TV doesn't get channels. We watch about one movie a month and an additional three to four hours of video a week. The rest of the time the TV is not only turned off, it's unplugged.

I use the dryer once a week, for sheets and towels. Clothes get hung up to dry. Emergencies are limited to once a month on that score.

We also do little things. Turn off GFIs when not in use, run the washing machine and dishwasher only when full, turn off lights when we aren't in the room. We don't have wifi at home, we use the library. We try to keep the freezer full.

Little things add up.

Hope this helpful, though I know different families have different needs.  I'd love to get my electricity bill below $40, but we'll see.

How do you save electricity?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Song for Sunday: Faith of Our Mothers

Happy Mother's Day!

Today's "Song for Sunday" is an homage to the faith and love of mothers, especially in the contexts of home and church. We sang it at worship this morning.

The music is the same as that of Faith of Our Fathers and in places I found the lyrics a bit stilted. They are trying to make the point, I think, that mothers' faith is just as good as fathers'. But that point is valid and the song caught me. The phrase that especially grabbed my attention was in the last verse:

"Faith of our mothers, Christian faith, In truth beyond our stumbling creeds, Still serve the home and serve the church..."

I was at the annual meeting of my region of American Baptists and a few times we heard about celebrating love above our theological differences. There are some things that do need to be addressed in the theological realm, but love should be first. Unconditional love, like that of mothers, like that of God.

Faith of Our Mothers

Faith of our mothers, living still
In cradle song and bedtime prayer;
In nursery lore and fireside love,
Thy presence still pervades the air:
Faith of our mothers, living faith!
We will be true to thee to death.

Faith of our mothers, loving faith,
Fount of our childhood's trust and grace,
Oh, may thy consercration prove
Source of a finer, nobler race:
Faith of our mothers, living faith,
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
For youthful longing, youthful doubt,
How blurred our vision, blind our way,
Thy providential care without:
Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our mothers, Christian faith,
Is truth beyond our stumbling creeds,
Still serve the home and save the Church,
And breathe thy spirit through our deeds:
Faith of our mothers, Christian faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

What song helps you celebrate the love of mothers?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mermaids and Babies

I run a creative writing club for homeschool kids and right now they are working on a set of shared world stories. My son decided to populate an underwater kingdom with good and evil mermaids.

He began with an illustration, drawing mermaids in traditional form with their chests  obsured by  long hair and their lower private parts replaced by tails.

This lead to an interesting question: How do mermaids reproduce?

My son pointed out that there are mermen but didn't think that really was a complete explanation, because of the tails. We discussed fish reproduction but didn't find that a satisfactory answer either. Merpeople have too many human characteristics.

So after debate and discussion, we concluded that these amazing legendary creatures reproduce by:


If you have a better answer, please let me know. 

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Song for Sunday: La Cucaracha

Feliz Cinco de Mayo a todos!!

Today's Song for Sunday celebrates this Mexican Holiday. To learn more about Cinco de Mayo click here.  (Hint: It's not Mexican Independence Day.

Anyway, now this is a fun dancing song. About a cockroach. :) During the Mexican Revolution it had some verses that were political satire. Some compare it to Yankee Doodle. There are dozens of versions. Here's one:

La cucaracha, la cucaracha,
ya no puede caminar,
porque no tiene, porque le falta
una pata para andar

Las muchachas son de oro;
Las casadas son de plata;
y las viudas son de cobre,
Y las viejas oja de lata.

Las muchachas son de oro;
Las casadas son de plata;
y las viudas son de cobre,
las viejas oja de lata. 

La cucaracha, la cucaracha,
ya no puede caminar,
porque no tiene, porque le falta
una pata para andar

And the English translation:

The cockroach, the cockroach,
You can no longer walk,
because it has, because it lacks
a leg to walk

The girls are golden;
Married women are silver;
and widows are copper,
And the old oja Tin.

The girls are golden;
Married women are silver;
and widows are copper,
And the old oja Tin.

The cockroach, the cockroach,
You can no longer walk,
because it has, because it lacks
a leg to walk

Do you know any good songs for today?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Keep Running, Boston

At the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park, we often have cause to be proud of our campers and alumni. Their accomplishments are legion. Today I will say a few words about one.

Keith is a graphic designer, who runs his own company, Keirstead Designs. Being from Massachusetts and knowing people at the Boston Marathon, he was deeply affected by the bombing as we all were. He decided to use his gifts to help.

During the manhunt the weekend after the marathon, Keith was locked down. He put his time to good use, crafting this design.


He shared it on Facebook, his friends shared it and it became an important symbol and slogan.
Now, you can purchase this design on a t-shirt to help support a pair of bombing victims.

Keep Running Boston T-Shirt

This article about the design going viral gives more detail about how the design ended up being created, how the t-shirts came to be made and exactly how the proceeds will be used.

I am sure a lot of things went into the development of Keith's character, but I hope that CYC did a little to push him in the direction of making a positive difference. It's what we work and pray for, knowing Jesus calls us to train up young people to do good things for Him.

Well done, Keith! We are all proud of you!!

Have you seen someone make a difference?

Friday, May 3, 2013

That Little Something Extra

I am writing a knitter's devotional and would love feedback on this post.

"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little something extra."
What makes for an extraordinary knitting project?
Well, we pick the right pattern for the item we are making, one that is within our ability and suited to the person we are knitting for. We choose good yarn in the right colors. We leave ample time and knit carefully. We take out mistakes. We block the project to even up the stitches. We put on the finishing touches with care. We keep our yarn clean. We stitch with prayer and keep our love for the person we are knitting for in mind. All of these things make for a great project. 
All that we do, in every area of life,  should be characterized by this same thought and care. We should not offer shoddy work in our employment, in our homes, in our churches, in our community organizations or in our relationships. What we do, wherever we do it, we do for God.
Let us give our best.

In all the work you are given, do the best you can. Work as though you are working for the Lord, not any earthly master. Colossians 3:23