Dealing with Disagreement

Thanks to memecenter.com for this awesome meme.

To (aspiring) Christian leaders- if I can tell you one thing that will come during your leadership, it is disagreement. People will disagree with you. Some people may not like the way you do a certain thing, your views on a certain area, or your approach to an issue. This is inevitable. People aren’t going to like every single thing you do. Get used to it.

That doesn’t mean you have to throw a tantrum any time somebody thinks you’re wrong. Being wrong doesn’t mean you are a terrible leader. The fastest way to prove that you’re a bad leader is by responding poorly. One of the best ways to show that you’re a good leader is to respond to criticism with grace, understanding, and wisdom.

There are a couple different ways of dealing with disagreement.

1.) You can be angry:
It’s easy to become angry when somebody disagrees with you. It’s easy to buy the lie that if somebody disagrees with you, they dislike you. They very well might, but generally we should separate disagreement from dislike. James 1:19-20 tells us that the proper response for a Christian includes being “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Anger only stops us from hearing what the other is saying: don’t let your pride stop you from hearing what God may be saying to you through the other. It also can offend someone very easily. It also makes you look like a jerk and can alienate you from many Godly relationships. And it can make people hate you. Just sayin.

2.) You can be discouraged:
It’s discouraging when somebody disagrees with you. But it doesn’t have to be. Instead of letting yourself be discouraged when somebody disagrees with you, see it as a time to grow. The other person may be genuinely crazy and be completely wrong. But it’s not very likely. Much more likely is that they have a legitimate concern. Be quick to hear it, and see it as God using people to push you in the right direction. You should pray, weigh their opinion against scripture, and consider the context and the consequences of their critique. You may come to the conclusion that they were wrong. But you should be encouraged that you grew closer to God by praying through it, studying the scripture, and approaching the situation with a gracious heart.

3.) You can use it as a growing experience:
I consider myself incredibly blessed to have a leadership team that is far more experienced and practiced at Youth Ministry than I am. In fact, I have leaders on my team that have been in youth ministry longer than I’ve been alive. That is a challenge at times- but I respect so much their willingness to submit to my authority (those crazies!!!!) and trust God’s guidance for bringing me into ministry where I am. That said- when my leaders, church members, or others feel the need to say something to me, I listen. I often come to a different conclusion than they do, but by goodness I’m going to listen. I may view ministering to students in our context differently than they do based on a number of factors- life experience, growing up with students like we’re ministering to, etc. but God brought these leaders and church members into my life to teach me as much as I’m supposed to be “leading” them. Every time there is a disagreement, even though I may not agree about the issue at hand, I can still grow by submitting to their God-directed concerns. I can still see it as a chance to grow in grace. I can still use it as an opportunity to lovingly disagree.

What are some ways you deal with disagreement? Are there constructive ways that you deal with it? Destructive? Any stories you’re willing to share of times where you grew through disagreement?

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30 Hour Famine Recap

  1. Here’s a recap I wrote up for our youth ministry’s 30 Hour Famine event- I posted this via Storify.
    When students first showed up to Hope Church in Everett, WA on May 18th, they walked in the door and checked in. When they checked in they received 1 cup, a “tribe” to be in, and a disability.
  2. The cup had to be kept the entire event, symbolizing the limited resources often available for those in destitute poverty. The “tribe” they were a part of was their group that they were a part of, each tribe was named after a country World Vision is working in. Finally, each student had a disability that they had to work with during certain activities over the weekend- this was representative of the disabilities that many malnourished people have to overcome just to get food. A sample of the disabilities: healthiness, weakness imposed by hunger, weakened knees, partially working hands, muteness, and blindness.

    One of the first things each tribe had to do was to create a flag for their tribe.
  3. After the tribes made their flags, they had to head outside to erect their shelters for the night. The activity was centered around cardboard- a staple for many low-income shelters. This was filled with much “creative bending of the guidelines” with some teams using rope, trees, fence structures, and even one team lead by one Mr. Mike Lee breaking out PVC pipe and powertools.
  4. After the building of the shelters, we had a short juice break, then we engaged in “Disabled Kickball” where we had a game of kickball in which every student was effected by their disability. The blind were definitely at a disadvantage during this particular event!

  5. Students standing in the kicking line
  6. Pastor Beau provided hilarious commentary.
  7. After Disabled Kickball, we had a couple of relay races to get water into a pitcher using only one small cup. This represented the often difficult journey to fetch water that many have to take in poor countries.After the relay race, we learned about many of the issues that affect those entrenched in poverty and how World Vision has been able to address many of the systemic issues that developing nations face. After watching informative videos (and some not so informative. WE spent some time watching HomeStarRunner videos) we settled in for the night. Some students chose to sleep in the shelters they built. Others chose to sleep in the building. And some who slept outside deserted for the inside.That morning, those who slept outside were awoken rather abruptly thanks to Pastor Beau and the crew blasting some classic 90’s music, blowing air horns, and rushing the shelters were people were sleeping. The rest of the day was spent busily cleaning up the church and preparing for the days events.

    We split up into two groups: one group headed down to Seattle to pass out sack lunches to homeless folks, the other group did a canned food drive by going door to door asking folks for contributions.

    The Seattle crew went to Pioneer square where all of the sack lunches (close to 150 of them) were gone within 5 minutes. Then they met a group from another church that was providing lunch for the homeless and sharing the Gospel with them. We helped out by cleaning and singing Amazing Grace with them.

  8. The canned food group was able to bring in over 400 pounds of canned food! An impressive feat indeed! The food was donated to the Everett Food bank, so we were able to provide direct relief for local needs as well.The whole event was a huge success. Students were able to raise money (EFC youth raised over $200!!!) and awareness for global poverty, but they were also able to help with local poverty and hunger, which is also a massive issue. Overall, 30 Hour Famine was a powerful testimony of the ability of students’ making a difference in the world by being Jesus with skin, and bringing the life of Christ to their community and world.Blessings,

    Max

  9. Update: The official 30 Hour Famine twitter account Retweeted this article. Many thanks to Pastor Beau and crew for putting together such a great event!
  10. 30HF
    Thanks for sharing your weekend with us! Great ideas for Famine Leaders! RT @maxwellamooney: 30HF recap here: http://sfy.co/11gn #30HF
    Wed, May 30 2012 17:05:11

Prayer Labyrinth, burnout, and other things

This design is an ancient labyrinth design

Over the past month or so, I have been extremely busy (hence why my blogging has dwindled, as it always seems to do). I have an incredible amount of things going on- I have 16 credits at Northwest, plus debate there which could theoretically add 4 more credits, I am a youth pastor at Everett Family Church, I lead worship fairly regularly, and I have a pregnant wife that I have to make time for. I’ve struggled, at times, to make sure I am balancing my time budget well, and I feel like I have been approaching the borders of burnout. Do I do everything as well as I could? No. But sometimes its overwhelming to try to keep everything straight.

That being said, God has been reminding me through various avenues that I need to slow down and take time for him. So, I’ve been very intentional about spending more time with him. I think it’s really helped my productivity, oddly enough as that may be. When you struggle to find time to do everything, and you don’t make your relationship with God the primary concern, you WILL burnout- and much faster than normal.

One of the ways I have been intentional about making more God-time is to focus on praying. It’s been one of the areas I’ve struggled with, constantly praying as 1 Thessalonians 1:17 reminds us, so I’ve really been trying to deepen that time with God. So I’ve done a few things to help me along this path- 1.) I’ve been attending dedicated prayer times at church, 2.) I’ve been spending more God time at home, 3.) using a prayer labyrinth.

Now, most of you are totally comfortable with the first 2 things on this list- me too. Those are my defaults, my comfort zones if you will. The third thing on this list will likely elicit one of two responses- what the heck is a prayer labyrinth? or dude, that stuff is like weird mystic, new agey BS (or maybe you just think it’s dumb).

Let me tell you how I became acquainted with the Prayer Labyrinth. I first heard of it this school year. One of my professors wrote a blog on it and mentioned that he thought it was silly. It did, indeed, sound silly. Basically, a prayer labyrinth is a maze-esque design either inlaid on a flat surface (painted, built with brick, etc.) or a raised wall structure (like a corn maze, or even just rocks outlining a path) that is laid out in a twisted, convoluted path always moving towards the center of the labyrinth. Labyrinth’s are distinct from mazes, however, in that they only have one path and are not meant to confuse the participator. So basically, you walk along this path, making a fool of yourself to anyone who doesn’t know what you’re doing (perhaps a fool even to those who do know) while praying/reading scripture.

Well, I later enrolled in a class with my professor and one of the books we read for that class is by Tony Jones called The Sacred Way. The book is a compilation of spiritual practices that one can use to help deepen their faith, the faith of their students, or the faith of congregants. In The Sacred Way is a chapter dedicated to the prayer labyrinth. Now, my more conservative (read: Calvinist) friends react pretty strongly against the name Tony Jones. He’s one of the leaders of the Emergent movement, especially in youth ministry.

One of the things that categorizes the Emergent movement (as much as this wide-spread, largely diverse movement can be labeled and categorized) is a rejection of modernity’s influence on Christian thought. This influence has lead the church, they claim, to over emphasize propositional truth (truisms, statements, creeds, etc- i.e. you have to believe core doctrine x, y, and z to be a Christian) over the personal and relational truth that exists in Christianity. Their strongest argument, I believe, is that Jesus says that He is Truth. Truth is a person, not necessarily a proposition (that doesn’t mean that truths can’t exist in proposition, however). This challenge is very post-modern (or at least, not modern… the romantic period developed much of the same existential tendencies as the post-modern period has) so much of the church, particularly fellows in the apologetic realm, have come down hard on the Emergent movement and anything that doesn’t fit within their systematized, well thought-out, intellectual perception of Christianity. Thus, practices like walking the prayer labyrinth are considered non-Christian or anti-Biblical- because they emphasize relational truth over propositional truth.

Perhaps I need to rephrase this- the prayer labyrinth is distinctly existential. When I say existential I mean that the meaning and value of a prayer labyrinth is expressly created by the participator. That means that each person develops their own understanding of it and how it relates to their relationship with God. Everyone’s relative truth meters are starting to freak out. It’s okay. It’ll be fine. Bear with me.

The reason this is so, is because ironically, prayer labyrinths are old. We have examples of labyrinths from 1000 BCE. In Greek mythology, it was said that the Minotaur was trapped in a labyrinth and could not escape. Theseus went in after a few failed attempts by others, tied a string to himself so he could find his way out (Hansel and Gretel, you thieves) and successfully killed the Minotaur. The church began to use them as alternatives to pilgrimage in the 14th and 15th centuries, however, in which pilgrims would couldn’t afford the travel to the Holy Land would go to the closest cathedral and walk through a prayer labyrinth on their knees (ouch!).

Eventually, they fell into disuse, and were almost forgotten until a lady in San Francisco began to really push for them to be picked up again in Christian spiritual practice.  Now, they’ve really gained some steam amongst more mainline Protestant denominations (PCUSA, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc.) and the emergent church.

I find them valuable for a couple reasons, but first I need to point out that they aren’t for everyone. That’s the biggest thing for me- they work for some and not for others. Particularly if you’re in ministry, labyrinths will work more for some than for others. If you live in an area that doesn’t really buy subjective reality like the country, or in urban contexts working with minorities, or in poorer communities, this would probably flop. Because, let’s be honest, this whole prayer labyrinth thing will only work for yuppie white people who drink lattes and pretend to be socially and environmentally conscious. That being said, I find value in it for a number of reasons.

Number 1- it forces me to slow down. I live in a busy, loud, crazy world where technology exists only to help you be even more busy. Silence is something my generation cannot stand. We don’t do quiet. Our brains have been rewired so that if we don’t have something to do for 5 seconds (literally, there is research to back this up) we get bored and start trying to find something to do. I struggle with this, and in my loud city I need quiet.

Number 2- walking in a labyrinth is monotonous, so you can focus on God. My brain likes to be doing something menial in order for me to reflect on life. That’s why I like doing yard-work or something simple with my hands. It allows me time to reflect.

Number 3- it’s uncomfortable. This, perhaps, is the greatest benefit to the Labyrinth. When’s the last time you did something uncomfortable? The main reason I chose to do the labyrinth was because it was weird. I thought it was uncomfortable (also, my professor not liking it presented a challenge… what, don’t judge me, I like a challenge). Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves and step out of our comfort zone- you just might be surprised.rd-work or something simple with my hands. It allows me time to reflect.

Are you busy? Does it feel like you rarely have time to breathe? Do you sacrifice your relationship with your Creator for the other things in life? Maybe you too should step out of your comfort zone and walk a labyrinth. Here’s an easy way to find one close. Also, if you’d like a little more info about the Labyrinth, just ask me. I have more resources that I’ve worked on, or I could even do more blog posts about it.

Short Reflection on St. Paddy’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In the midst of all your pinching, a few of you and your drinking, and everyone in their green wearing (warning: I pinch), I thought I would share an encouraging little post.

In all my years, I’ve simply viewed St. Paddy’s day as simply a day where you wear green, and college kids get plastered. Perhaps that biggest tragedy of St. Patrick’s day is forgetting St. Patrick. Though… McDonald’s Shamrock shakes do help make up for it.

Patrick was a saint (hardee har). He loved Jesus. He was taken captive as a slave to Ireland as a young boy, escaped, and returned as a missionary. He taught the doctrine of the Trinity using a shamrock- so as you wear your shamrock’s today, remember that it represents the Triune God. His work started the Christianization of Ireland from paganism.

Ultimately, remember, today isn’t just about fun, it’s also about the sacrifice of great Christians in history. Our picture is painted with the brushes of the saints- and in Protestantism, we often forget that we are connected to a greater history- the story of Jesus’ work through his church. Take time to remember that today. Take time to remember that Jesus is ultimately the true point of St. Patrick’s Day- perhaps this short prayer will encourage you.

I shared this with my youth students two weeks ago- it’s a prayer called St. Patrick’s Breastplate. There is more to it, but this is just a short section of it.

“St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”
‘Christ be with me, Christ in the front, Christ in the rear, Christ within me, Christ below me, Christ above me, Christ at my right hand, Christ at my left, Christ in the fort, Christ in the Chariot seat, Christ at the helm, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.’

The Yo-yo Gospel?

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Yes. The Yo-yo Gospel. Sure, it may sound ridiculous but hear me out.

Lately, in a fit of nostalgia and more probably, childlike glee, I have had a renaissance with the yo-yo. I was first introduced to the yo-yo in the second grade when I saw some kids on the playground with the Yomega X-brain. I begged my mom to get me a Yomega Fireball and she finally caved. I came home from the mall with my newfound source of joy and ripped it open. When I finally removed the pesky packaging from my coveted prize I quickly put the end of the string around my finger and in one fail swoop managed to tangle my precious yo-yo in a rat’s nest of frustration. But, over time and with much practice I was able to finally throw a yo-yo and get it to do the most important of all things- to sleep. You see, the sleeper is the foundation for almost every trick you can do with a yo-yo.

After a while I developed some significant skills with my weapon (legend has it the yo-yo developed as a weapon in the Phillipines), at least I thought so anyway. I could walk the dog, go around the world, rock the baby, scale the Eifel Tower and even ride the elevator. After a while though, I lost interest in my yo-yo because I encountered a few problems. Number 1 was that I was in second grade, thus the maintenance regimen for my yo-yo was dependent upon my mother’s subsidization, number 2 was that tricks got increasingly difficult, and number 3, finally, was that my yo-yo strings broke while performing around the world indoors and I broke one of my mother’s favorite picture frames. Whoops.

Life moved on and I duly forgot about my yo-yo. Then I encountered it again through my students at EFC. I saw them doing some crazy tricks and asked if I could see their yo-yo. To my surprise I found that yo-yoing is similar to riding a bike. My wife was shocked that I had this secret “talent”. So I got a yo-yo and I am now able to do some pretty advanced tricks.

Between homework assignments I will intersperse some yo-yoing. This means I get lots of practice… cause I have lots of homework. Anyway while I was doing a particularly involved trick called Cold Fusion I got to thinking. I realized how absurd it was that I’m doing such a complicated thing with string and a piece of metal/plastic.

See, the yo-yo is extremely simple. It’s a classic toy- one that has been around for centuries and has entertained even my grandparents. The basic premise is that a circular object descends down a string and returns back up the string. Fun. Simple. The yo-yo is a giant paradox. It is simple enough for a child to pick up and use and complex enough for the masters to baffle everyone with.

The Tuesday after next I will begin a new teaching series at Praxis Youth Ministry. I will be teaching through the book of John. The book of John is the yo-yo Gospel, for it is simple enough that a child can understand what it says and complex enough to have warranted the largest body of Biblical scholarship throughout history. This Gospel is perfect because it is a great entry point for anyone and it is deep enough to keep even the most seasoned Christian on their toes. When you read through John’s account of Jesus life, you WILL encounter Christ. You cannot get around it- Jesus is the center of John’s Gospel. It teaches us more about the person of Jesus than any other body of scripture, in my opinion.

John begins his narrative of Jesus with the beginning. He takes us on a journey through the magnificent work of Christ and the story of His redemption of humanity through history. It begs us to ask ourselves where we fit within the narrative of salvation. How is the story of Jesus continued with us? John’s Gospel will ask these questions of us- even if they are just implicit questions.

So I want to encourage you- if you’ve never read the Bible before, start with John’s Gospel (4th book in the New Testament, about 3/4 of the way through the whole Bible). If you’ve read through the Bible more than once- read John’s Gospel again. Meditate on it. Let the presence of the Word saturate you in the Gospel story. If you are just checking out Jesus for the first time- John is a great place to start. If you’ve gotten a little distracted from your relationship with Christ by the busyness of life- John is a great place to re-encounter Christ. If you’ve been a faithful Christian for a long time, John has a wealth of spiritual depth to discover and mine.

Let us ultimately remember the words of John (The Baptizer), “He must increase, I must decrease.” Amen.

New Seasons

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I’ve always found the phoenix to be a fascinating (mythical) creature. Though it isn’t a Christian image per se, it definitely fits with the Christian’s walk of faith, the imagery fits quite nicely with resurrection as well, which is probably while some early Church Fathers, like Clement, used it as a type of Christ.

It’s a fascinating story. The phoenix was mostly red, with a tail-full of gold feathers and would live anywhere from 500-1000 years. Then, when it was ready to procreate, it would migrate (most believed to Egypt), build its nest out of twigs (Clement wrote that it was out of frankincense and myrrh- referring to Christ), then lay down and set itself on fire. I feel like that might be a bit much, but hey, the bird can do what it wants. The true beauty of the story, as most are generally familiar with, is that from the carnage and ashes, a tiny little phoenix would find life. The phoenix would find its sustenance from the ashes of the old and new life would emerge. The baby phoenix, once it was strong enough, would the emerge from the destruction that was its home, and would find a life of beauty for 500-1000 years afterward.

Startlingly powerful imagery. Like Clement, I find it to be of incredible value to the Christian faith. It’s clearly a type for the death and resurrection of Jesus- but it also has implications for our own lives. As we ponder the year that has passed and dream (sometimes fear) the year set before us, the phoenix is an image to guide us.

Maybe 2011 was a great year for you, maybe it was the worst year you’ve ever experienced. Maybe you’re in the middle of the greatest blessings you’ve ever received, or maybe you’re in the depths of despair wondering where God might be. I like to view 2011 as the old phoenix building its nest- and 2012 holding some wonderful things ahead.

Don’t get me wrong- 2011 has been a great year for me. I married my best friend, developed even greater friendships with people that I value greatly, answered God’s call on my life to enter into ministry, and built friendships and Godly community with two fantastic faith communities this year!

My heart still breaks for those who experienced the roughest year of their lives. If this has been a tough year for you, I encourage you to look to the future. 2012 looks to be a great year, regardless of what stupid predictions clutter the media, presidential outcomes, or economic quality. I am fully convinced that God has something incredible for those who trust in Him and His Son. Will it be devoid of pain and hurt? No way! Will it be difficult? Absolutely. Just like the baby phoenix that must grow from the destruction of its past, so too must we learn from the mistakes of our past. My personal experience has been that God will wreck me when my goals and priorities are not oriented around Him. But if you can come away from the wreckage with a repentant heart and humility, Christ can do amazing work in your life. It might not be the Benz or the big house- but it will be something greater.

Beauty in the midst of pain. Joy in spite of adversity.

Any of you who know me well know that I’m not an optimist necessarily, but I truly believe that God will be moving this year, and if we orient ourselves to Christ, and make everything we do about Him that is when he can truly use your life.

Christ has called every Christian to die to our old selves, like the phoenix, and emerge a new creation. This year, may we die to the old to make way for the new.

May we always remember that we are nothing, by our own power, but Christ can take fisherman, tax-collectors and whores and change the world through them. Let us seek Christ with a diligent heart this year, and be renewed by his restoring presence.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19