Friday, February 26, 2010

Politics, Religion, and the Millenial Generation

I ran across this interesting article this morning about the decline of "religion" among the Millenials (the generation of young adults between 18 and 29 years old). It's worth the read, especially if you're working with young people.

But, assuming that many of you won't take the time to read the article, I'll give you a brief synopsis. According to the article, recent research has shown that younger generations of Americans are not abandoning faith--they are simply abandoning religion. And, according to some recent research, one major reason Millenials are abandoning religion is because of the strong ties between religion and conservative politics. Here's a quote from the article:
"Young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of 5-6 times the historic rate (30-40 percent have no religion today versus 5-10 percent a generation ago)....But youth's religious disaffection is largely due to discomfort with religiosity having been tied to conservative politics."
I find it interesting that in their "holy quest" to equate right-winged conservative American politics with the politics of Jesus, the Religious Right may actually be pushing an entire generation of young people further away from the Church, if not away from Jesus Himself.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Best Job Ever!!!

So today I was scheduled to substitute teach 11th grade English at Penn High School. I was pretty stoked about this job for multiple reasons:
  1. I thought there was a pretty good chance that I might be able to do some reading on the job.
  2. If I actually had to do some teaching, high school English is a subject that I knew I would really enjoy teaching. (If I had pursued teaching as a vocation, I think I would have chosen either high school English or History).
Well, I showed up to the job bright and early, only to find that there was a student teacher in my classroom! She was in charge of everything, and I was just being paid to be a "presence" in the classroom, I was told. Translation: just sit at the desk over in the corner and keep quiet! So, including three block classes and a two hour lunch/prep period, I got in almost 7 hours of solid reading time today, AND GOT PAID FOR IT!!! How awesome is that?!?!?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Vail

Me, Jordan, and Teddy on top of Vail Mt.

Teddy G enjoying a view of the Rockies.

One of the nasiest slopes we skied.

Check out those moguls!

Teddy's pumped up that he's almost to the bottom of that slope!

Vail, CO

Day two on the slopes took us to Vail Mountain. It was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day, and Vail was by far the nicest mountain that I have ever skied. Here are some pics...

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Breckenridge

Here are a few more pics from our day at Breckenridge...


Our first day of skiing was spent on Breckenridge Mountain. Here are some pics...

It snowed more than a foot the night before our first day of skiing, and it also snowed that whole day while we skied. We drove up to Breckenridge in blizzard-like conditions!

At the base of Breckenridge Mt.

Teddy G is ready to go!

Teddy and Jordan.

Teddy and me.

We thought we were pretty hardcore!

It was FREEZING up there on the mountain...

...check out the icicles on my beard and dreads!

Hiking in Nederland, CO

On our first day in Colorado, we spent a little time in Boulder and then drove up a mountain to a little town called Nederland to do some hiking. Here are a few pics from Nederland.


Teddy G down by the frozen lake.

Teddy and me walking out onto the lake...

...and trusting that the ice wouldn't break!

Teddy and Jordan on the dam in Nederland.

Jordan and AC on the dam.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Link Lovin' It

  • Geoff shares some challenging and insightful thoughts about lent here.
  • Terry talks good books here and here. I also really like his thoughts on rekindling our passions. Read about that here.
  • Derry shares some of the funniest videos I have ever seen here.
  • Kent from Church Relevance shares about the future of evangelism here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scenic Shots

Enjoy some of the sites from Colorado...

More to come soon...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Highlights from CO

I spent this past weekend in Colorado with my buddies Ted and Jordan. We've started somewhat of an annual tradition of "Manly Men" trips (a little over a year ago we spent a week touring NYC together). Here are some of the highlights from the four days we spent in Colorado:
  • Dominating a burrito from Illegal Pete's in Boulder.
  • Waking up to a view of the Rocky Mountains.
  • A day of skiing on Breckenridge Mountain.
  • At least a couple dozen sweet (and humbling) wipe-outs on the slopes!
  • A day of skiing on Vail Mountain.
  • Four days of good fellowship with good friends.
  • Getting buried in several feet of snow after a wipe-out, and taking a solid 5 minutes to dig myself back out!
  • Watching HGTV in the hotel with the boys (and loving it!).
  • Cruising around CO in our tiny little Kia Rio (and barely making it up the mountains!).
  • Super greasy (and tasty) burgers from Smash Burger.
  • No broken bones!
  • Getting away and enjoying God's beautiful creation.
  • Growing icicles on my beard and my dreads while skiing in conditions that included heavy snow and temps. with a wind chill as low as -21!
  • Relaxing in the hot tub at the hotel after freezing our butts off on the slopes all day.
  • A romantic Valentine's Day dinner with the boys! (Mad props to these guys' wives for letting them take a men-only trip over V-Day!).
  • The best (and biggest) nachos I have ever eaten from the Dam Brewery Restaurant in Dillon, CO.
  • Interesting conversations with strangers on the ski lifts.
  • Challenging conversations with Teddy both on the way to and from the Chicago airport at the beginning and the end of our trip.
Great trip. Great friends. Great times!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Smooth Criminal

I'm not sure how I've neglected posting this video for so long. During my time in Africa, I became good friends with a dancer from Zimbabwe named Tawanda (although I nicknamed him "Taekwondo"). Tawanda and I became friends when he joined me on a mission trip that I led into inner-city Johannesburg in July. It didn't take long for me to realize two things about Tawanda: He loves dancing and he LOVES Jesus. That made for a pretty cool combo, and Tawanda was able to lead our team in some incredible dance ministry during our week in one of Joburg's roughest neighborhoods. Not only is Tawanda an amazing dancer himself, but he is the choreographer for Zimbabwe's leading dance group. He's just an all-around great guy, and he loves to use his passion, dance, to share Christ with others.

Anyway, enough of the mushy stuff. During our mission trip, I shot this video of Tawanda free-styling to Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal. I repeat: THIS WAS NOT CHOREOGRAPHED! This is just Tawanda being Tawanda. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

God Bless America (and don't forget to curse all the other nations!!!)

I don't know if you caught any of Obama's State of the Union Address the other week. In case you missed it, here's a 10-minute clip of his speech, which lasted well over an hour (seriously, do they need to clap after everything the guy says?!). I'll be focusing in specifically on what Obama had to say in the first three or so minutes of this clip.

I must admit, after having spent significant time overseas these past few years, I see and understand things a bit differently than I did before. For example, growing up, if I had heard someone talk about "advancing industry" and "dominating the global economy," my response probably would have been, "Amen!" followed by a hearty, "God Bless America!"

But now, when I hear this kind of talk, I'm forced to wonder, "Dominate the global economy? whose expense?" I mean, for America to be #1, who do we have to trample on? Which nations or groups of people at the bottom of the food chain do we have to exploit to stay on top? Or, at the expense of sounding utterly unpatriotic, consider this: For all America has generously done in the public limelight to offer help to poverty-stricken Haiti in this time of crisis, how many other countries have we held captive in poverty so that our ideals, the American Dream, might be preserved? How many brutal African dictators did America bankroll during the Cold War, simply because they promised to spread "democracy" and fight off the evil Commies? Meanwhile, the people of these nations remained as oppressed, abused and mistreated as ever--sometimes even worse off than they were before America came in and "saved the day."* Something is definitely wrong here...

In conclusion, I certainly don't expect our American political system to ever reflect the politics of Jesus, but I do expect American Christians to view politics (and every other aspect of life) through a KINGDOM perspective. Otherwise, I think we've entirely missed the point.

What sparked these thoughts? Well, today I received an email from a friend of mine in South Africa. As a joke, she attached this picture:

It's okay to laugh when you see this (at least I hope so because I did!). It's quite the caricature of the average American's perspective on the rest of the world, but like most caricatures, there's definitely some element of truth involved here. And, I believe this way of viewing the rest of the world starts at the top, with our President. When Obama (or Bush or every other President before them) makes statements about America being #1, I believe what he is really saying is: "America should be matter who we have to trample on to get there." And when the average American uses a phrase like "God Bless America," I believe what we are essentially saying (whether we realize it or not) is: "God, Bless America...even if You have to curse all the other nations for us to remain 'blessed.'"


*If you don't believe this, check out Martin Meredith's book The Fate of Africa. It's one of the best books I've read in recent years, and it will give you a perspective on American foreign policy that you most likely didn't get in your American History class!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Five Stack: The Books

These are the books that I'm currently reading:


The Great Omission, Dallas Willard

Besides the Bible, this just might be the best book I have ever read. Seriously. If you've never read any Dallas Willard before, he's phenomenal. This book takes a deep look at what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ, as well as what practically we can be doing to develop our own personal character and spiritual formation. If you're looking for a challenging book, this is it. You can order it on Amazon here.

A Time for Machetes, Jean Hatzfield

This book combines two things that I love: Africa and history. However, this book is certainly not for the faint of heart. Hatzfield tracks down ten friends who are currently in prison for the atrocities they committed during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Through numerous interviews, the killers speak out about their experiences of slaughtering men, women, and children, many of whom had been their own neighbors and acquaintances. Some parts of this book make my stomach churn, but I think it's important not to sweep the parts of history that we don't like under the rug. This book teaches us a lot about the human condition and the sin nature that dwells in each one of us.

The God Who is There, Francis Schaeffer

This book comes from The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, Vol. I: A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture. It's the first book in the five volume set, which contains all twenty-two of Schaeffer's published works. This specific book, The God Who is There, is dealing with the degeneration of moral absolutes in society. Schaeffer outlines the historical reasoning for society's shift in abandoning moral absolutes and turning to the modern view of truth: relativism. He contends that this shift began in philosophy, then sifted down to art, music, general culture, and finally, theology.

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy, Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. & William D. Danko, Ph.D.

This is a fun and enlightening read. The authors have really done their research in searching out what kind of people are really wealthy in America. Interestingly enough, America's millionaires are not exactly what you might expect. As the book's title suggests, the majority of America's millionaires are living among us, among the "middle" or "working class" Americans. Generally, these people are first-generation millionaires, entrepreneurs who accumulated wealth through good old-fashioned hard work, smart investing, frugal living, and saving. What I really like about this book is the way that it critiques/criticizes the mentality in American culture that "you are what you own." According to these authors, lavish lifestyles and over-consumption are just downright foolish and irresponsible. Those who are truly wealthy understand this--and that simple understanding is a huge reason why they are wealthy!

Missionary Biographies
Brother Bakht Singh of India, T.E. Koshy

To be honest, before opening up this book I had never heard of Bakht Singh before. A few years back George Verwer, founder of Operation Moblilization, was speaking at a missions conference at Bethel College. He brought a bunch of books with him and gave them out to students for free. So, I snagged as many books as I could get my hands on, and this was one of them. It was actually published and printed in India by OM. I'm only about 60 pages into this 600 page biography so far, but it's downright inspirational. Singh came to know Christ in the late 1920's and then spent the next 70 years of his life literally pouring out his life to the people of India, sharing Christ wherever he went. He truly considered his own life worth nothing, and he allowed the Spirit to lead every aspect of his life. Encouraging. Challenging. Inspiring!

Hopefully as time allows I will be able to share more about what I'm learning through these various readings.

So, what good books are you reading these days?