The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Uh, okay. Singles. Ministry, Right.

Okay, so here is the deal, I went to the thing for singles at a large church near me yesterday evening. And I learned a couple things:
1. I cannot turn off my internal critic.
2. I need to find a small group because the big scene just isn't for me.

I would say that the thing was okay. I am always a little hesitant when a ministry is clearly trying to be something different than it is. I think what this group would like to be is a large gathering for single folks in the greater Nashville area. They want to think large and they want to be the cool, hip happening place. What is came off as is a not great effort trying to be something they aren't.

The music was your standard big band worship. 2 electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, a bass player, a keyboard player and drums. They were okay. The lead worshipper did what most lead worshippers do, which is talk way too much and completely lose the flow of worship. (Sorry to all you great worship leaders out there. Just my two cents.) The whole big sound and lights for a gathering that was 100 people tops was just weird to me.

The speaker was a speaker. His message was very "youth group" to me and smacked of elementary faith. There were some historical, theological, not to mention scriptural, issues with what he said. I let it pass. As Nic Cage said in Con-Air: "It's your barbecue."

So I doubt I will be back much. Certainly I won't be back for their big September 11th bash, which sounded like a rah-rah for the conservative Republican agenda. The guy who ghost wrote a book about Todd Beamer, one of the heroes of Flight 93. (I doubt they will talk about Mark Bingham.) And if you know me, always ends with me wanting to be Gideon and go pyromaniac on the idols of our I will stay home, for the benefit of us all.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sunday Recap...

So this week was full of interesting things…
During Sunday School, we somehow were short a teacher, which meant a giant glob of humanity pushed into an entirely small room. After some general discussion time, we watched the Luggage film from the Nooma video series. The television was goofy and green-ish. It looks like we may need to add a TV to the list of stuff we need. (An ever growing, morphing list by the way.) We had a brief discussion afterwards. To be completely honest, I struggle hard with making Sunday school work in a way that is relevant to tired, brain dead 15 year olds at 9:30 on Sunday mornings. So we will do Nooma’s for awhile and then we will see.

After church, we headed down to La Hacienda, a decent restaurant in the area. Good food for the most part. Always fun to sit around the table and learn things. Like this week, I learned that Youth Choir tour sometimes turns extremely violent towards the end of the experience. Afterwards, I hightailed it to Toys R US. And through my experience there, I learned that there is a Nerf shortage in this country. Our youth group is now the proud owners of 3 girly-girl pink dodgeballs, because that was all they had.

So youth the last two weeks, I have been using some material I helped write a year ago on David and Jonathan and their friendship. It is a very low entry kind of material and I think it has been a great starter series for us. The response from kids that are talking has been very good. I think next up may be some stuff I am doing with the movie Remember the Titans. Good film clips, which will help stretch our time together (I am having a hard time filling an hour and a half…) and the series is basically a call to what the church should be like. My friend Jeremy and I wrote it last fall and I have never gotten to use it, so it should be really good for us in this time. (For those interested, we played Protect the President with minimal damage. Slow white kids always choose to hold the ball and pretend it is because they have a strategy when really they are weak, armed losers. Afterwards, we did a people bingo sheet, which went over okay. And we tried one song to very unfavorable results. River of Life. I valiantly tried to get it going because hand motions = FUN. Yeah, they didn’t buy it either.)

After youth group I stuck around to play basketball with a couple kids and some adults from the church. I was told it was a “Let’s have fun game” and typically ran half-court. I got roped into a wee bit intense game running full. Not pleasant. I did hit the game winning shot and it has motivated me to take some of my birthday money (It was Sunday) to go get some new shoes that I desperately need. Tomorrow I head to the New Balance store looking for 2 pairs of good shoes, some sneakers and maybe some basketball shoes.

So what is up this week? Contact work city. I am hitting as many games, events, etc. as I can between now and Friday. This weekend my mom and my bro’s family are all coming to Nash-vegas so I want to be as free as I can to hang with them and see the sites. So I am making some volleyball matches, some football games and a couple other things. This is my last week with an assistant, so I hope we finish database stuff and work hard on getting some loose ends tied up.

Well, I am off to a gathering of singles (think 7:22 Atlanta people), which I am working overtime to convince myself to go, because their myspace page and pics make it look like a meat market. And in that given analogy, I am the stuff they use to make hot dogs. But I hope I am proven wrong. I will write about it tomorrow maybe.

For a Younger Clergy...

From the Atlanta Journal and Constitution:
The need for young blood is acute, agreed the Rev. Ed Tomlinson, executive assistant to Bishop G. Lindsey Davis of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. The organization, the largest Methodist congregation in the nation, represents about 342,000 Methodists attending more than 900 churches.

Occasionally an article like this pops up in a paper or magazine somewhere as denominations are looking for younger pastors. In short, most mainline denominations have difficulties attracting younger people into pastoral ministry and it happens for a variety of reasons. And the truth is that most Methodist seminaries are full of second career people who won’t serve for the 35-40 years someone straight out of college might. Here are some thoughts I have about that process:

We need to pay for people’s education. Do it liberally, do it loudly and make the hoops to get it as easy as possible to jump through. The truth is that right now the process of knowing how to secure funds for education rest largely in the hands of the senior pastor. And if he or she has better things to do, like cut grass when they are supposed to be officiating a wedding, then you are pretty much up a creek. I just left a church that has three students who are now sophomores in college all pursuing ministry and everyone of them is having a difficult time paying for their undergraduate degree. Bishops, District Superintendents, people in leadership- it is time to put your money where you mouth is and help pay for the significant need for education if you want another generation of pastors.
(And as the article stated, a starting pastor makes around $30,000 a year, the same as most teachers. But the pastor also has significant and substantially more education and the cost that comes with that.)

Second, help students succeed in ministry. The truth of the matter is that most conferences see new pastors as the whipping posts of the conference. They get sent to places where no one has had successful ministry in 20+ years. They get kicked around by old and stubborn church goers and they have the life sapped out of them. The Methodist church needs to begin to realize that young people need mentoring and training in places that are functioning and supportive. If the best we can promise people in seminary and coming out of seminary is a three point charge in PoDunk, then no wonder our young people aren’t flocking to be pastors!

Third, invest heavily in college and young adult ministries. Every conference I read about and hear from is currently talking about ratcheting up significant young adult ministries. The issue is that we seem to have no idea what that means. The truth of the matter is that we have no idea how to do it well. Too many times I see college and university Wesley Foundations get pastors appointed who aren’t entrepreneurs and who don’t understand college kids. (I can imagine Cabinet meetings…"So that pastor is left, the one we don't know where to send. Let’s make him the Wesley Director at the local U. Meeting adjourned!”) We need to build, understand and focus on vibrant college and young adult ministries. And to do that, you need people with a willingness to constantly be challenged. Think about it: if you are a pastor/leader of a Wesley Foundation, you essentially are having to completely re-create your leadership every 4-6 years. The average pastor in Methodism can't handle that.
(And I completely realize I am being completely unfair to some talented, gifted pastors and shepherds who are doing phenomenal work in Wesley Foundations and on campuses everywhere. But those are the exceptions and not the rule in my experience.)

And where God is at work, we need to partner. Why not put a recruiting station at the upcoming Passion conference? Sure, it is outside the box but the box isn’t working! We need to find people that are passionate about Christ and building His kingdom!

Fourth, let new pastors try new things. To be bluntly honest, in my experience it isn’t that young people aren’t going into ministry, it is that they are doing it outside the bounds of the mainline denominations. I know of 6 or 7 church planters who seem to be doing great ministry that are all 35 or younger. When we expend so much time, energy and money in holding up some dying congregations, it is eating up the potential for young people to do new things. With our polity and our egos exclude young people from being used by God, we have a problem in leadership and theology. (David, Timothy for instance.)

Lastly, broad our definitions of who can be “pastors.” The truth of the matter is that churches are incredibly political machines. In certain denominations, the leadership and polity are absolutely homogenous, one sided and narrow. Essentially it is “You must think, act, breathe and talk our way to be a pastor.” And that narrow minded philosophy is part of what is killing mainline churches. I dread the day that I may one day decide to become a United Methodist minister because I know I will stand before some pastors, be honest about who I am, what God has lead me to believe and maybe not be “good” enough for them. My theology may differ slightly in certain test-case areas and exclude me from being a UMC pastor. Let’s focus on the things that bind us together and quit using smaller issues and agenda to tie us down. When we limit and put agenda driven, political constraints on who can and cannot serve congregations, we are only opening the door to people leaving, doing their own thing and hindering the long term growth of the church. God is bigger than our small disputes and agendas. Let us act like we believe that!

May God guide us to find more shepherds and more minister because as Jesus said “The harvest is ripe.”

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Movie Reviews...

So I am still working on making friends. In the meantime, I am still seeing a lot of movies. Here is the tally from this week:


Teen comedies are what they are and if you know that going into it, you will come out better in the long run. So Accepted is just that, a teen comedy with some interesting aspects. The basic plot of the movie is that a kid and some of his friends don’t get into college so they start their own, including a functioning website. The end result, a whole bunch of the losers and geeks of the world show up for orientation and pay their dues and the South Harmon Institute of Technology is born. (Pay attention to their initials. It is a running gag through the movie.)

What I like about it: It wasn’t over the top in terms of sexuality. Sure, there is some of it there but nothing horrendous that I recall. It is definitely funny and Lewis Black is hilarious. And believe it or not, I think the movie really makes an excellent point about education in America. The long and the short of it is that education has essentially become the regurgitation of facts so you can go to college, regurgitate some more facts and get a job making lots of money. But there is no actual education happening. That is why at my last church, the honors kids all read the Cliff Notes rather than the actual books. They got degrees but I am not sure that the Coweta County schools gave them an education.

What I didn’t like about it: For a teen movie, it was funny. It used stereotypes. Basically, if you are very PC, then this kind of movie will always offend you. If you can lighten up, then it is okay.

John Tucker Must Die
Sue me, I was bored and I don’t have cable yet.

Essentially this movie was a way lame, tamed down attempt at looking at high school life and how to navigate it. The basic plot is that John Tucker is the star everything at this school and dates and sleeps with girls from different cliques, telling them all that each of them is his girlfriend. They all find out and plot a revenge using the new nerdy girl as bait.

What I like about it: It is okay. Towards the end there are actually some pretty profound little speeches that I can see using as movie clips in youth group one day. But, it has been done better and in other places. The speeches from Can’t Buy Me Love (“Nerds, jocks. My side, your side. It's all BS. Its hard enough just trying to be yourself.”) or Angus (“But most of them walk through these halls EVERY DAY, never telling anybody what they really think, or feel, or believe, because people like you, NORMAL people like YOU, have them TERRIFIED of being who they REALLY are. If YOU'RE normal, what does that make all of them? So which is it, Rick? Are you normal? Or are you just one of us?”)

What I didn’t like: Teen skanks. I just really, really don’t get what makes teenage girls feel so worthless that they would value a movie like this. (A teenage girl I know calls this “the best movie ever.”) Essentially the end of the movie is that John Tucker is okay now because he tells the girls that he is sleeping with other girls. (And these are the “winner” girls.”) And this country wonders why teenage girls have self-esteem issues.

So today I went to see the new Marky Mark movie. (He can cry Mark Wahlberg all he wants, but I will always know him as Marky Mark.C’mon, c’mon, feel the vibrations.")

Basic plot: A guy from South Philly tries to make the Philadelphia Eagles during the early 1970s. It is about his quest to be on the team and be a part of something big for the people of his neighborhood.

What I liked: It is a good, real, true story. So I am a sucker for those. It is a football movie, which in general I like, even the bad ones. The soundtrack is really, really phenomenal and the editing, especially in the opening sequence set to a Jim Croce song does a fantastic job of setting the scene for the rest of the movie. Marky Mark was okay, which has always been true except when he made it on to the list of "Guys Who Play Psychopaths because They May Well Be One" from the film Fear. Greg Kinnear does a really, really fantastic job as Dick Vermeil. It is just a good, clean, feel-good story.

What I didn’t like: It was a bit over the top at times. A bit long. On the whole a good flick.

What is on tap this week:
The new season of Veronica Mars came out on DVD last week. So needless to say, I will be using my Netflix account to run through those discs. And maybe some 24. Plus I need to save some cash.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Is it 1943?

From the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal:

"SALTILLO - Twelve-year-old Joe recently asked Jesus to live in his heart.
Yet the church where Joe accepted his Savior not even two weeks before will no longer allow the biracial boy to enter."

In short, the article is about how a church decided race was more important than the love of Christ. It is really unbelievable. What is sad is that the child had evidently been involved in the life of the ministry of this church.

In the early 1990s, I worked at a church that shall remain nameless. It was in a denomination different than the one I am most accustomed to. The church was located in a thriving part of Augusta in the 1950s and 1960s until the decision was made to put an overpass right over its neighborhood. So the community it was located in suddenly underwent a major demographic change that the church never made. It was a lower class white congregation when I began serving there doing youth and children ministries. In the midst of my time there, I began to make some inroads to kids that were from the church's neighborhood, mainly because we had a monument to 70s gaudiness in a youth room complete with pool, bumper pool, etc. So in a run down neighborhood, once the Boys Club closed everyday, we became the place to hang out. It was great ministry until it began to bother some of the older folks.

From there, I had several run-ins with people. Once an elderly lady told a young African American girl that she wasn't allowed to use the restroom at the church. Several major run-ins that were for the most part handled by a fantastic senior pastor, who exemplified the idea of loving the church even when it is majorly messed up. (His sexuality was called into question at a church elder's meeting once, despite the fact that he was married and had a loving wife. And the sexuality question was just being used to give him a decrease in salary.)

So here is the best story of the time there and the part that leaves me hopeful for the future.
As the outreach to these kids grew, some of them started coming to youth group and eventually youth retreats. In particular, a kid I will call Carlos started coming a lot, asking a lot of questions and was clearly trying to find himself through some tough times. He was involved in a gang, though I should clarify that being in a 1990s gang in Augusta, GA isn't like hardcore gangsta land. But it was a real struggle for him.

So Carlos goes with us on our fall retreat and accepts Christ. Completely surrendered to Him. He counted the costs, all of them and made the decision to put Jesus in charge of his life. And he really did. Over the next month, God began to do some amazing changes in Carlos. He became more gentle, discovered that he could be a great student with some help, started caring for his little brother and sister. He left the gang. That isn't to say that Carlos was perfect. He had some issues that were still there: he smoked, he drank some, and he had a pretty foul vocabulary. But I just tried to love him and encourage him and realize that God was way bigger than I ever thought he was.

So about a month after the retreat, the pastor asks if I can have some students share at a Sunday night worship service. I ask for volunteers and get a couple, including Carlos. I just coached them a very little bit, encouraged them to be real, honest, authentic. Think about what you are going to say but don't write down something and read it.

That Sunday comes, the first two kids do a great job articulating what God is doing in their lives through the youth ministry at the church. Then Carlos gets up and he starts off fine explaining a bit about who he is and where he came from. He talks about feeling safe at the church, of feeling loved. And then he begins to talk about the fall retreat.
About 90 seconds in, he gets a little choked up. And then the tears really start to fall. He is sobbing. This tough, "gangsta" Latino kid is standing in front of all these old white people and weeping. And through his sobs, he is working incredibly hard to try and talk about who Jesus is and how He is changing his life. But it is coming out as jumbled phrases between his sobs and Carlos realizes it.

So he takes a deep breath, composes himself and says loudly and clearly, "Jesus is one bad MFer." Only he doesn't use MFer. He says it and he sits down. I have never in my life been in a place that was so quiet. All I can think about is how much of my stuff can I fit in my Chevy Sprint because I am certain there is about to be a meeting which will end with my release from my position at the church. The awesome pastor looks stunned and has this "you are on your own kid" look. (And who could blame him?!?) So as I am thinking these thoughts, sitting in the front row, well aware that everyone in the building is looking at me, I hear a pew in the back creak. And an older man clearly his throat. We all begin to turn and look. And he simply says "Amen!"

In that 30 seconds between Carlos' unique proclamation and this old man's affirmation, there was tension. And one of the older leaders of a church that had a bad history of racism, of pain, of hurt decided that caring for the people was more important than the color of a man's skin or his vocabulary. His affirmation, his joining his voice with Carlos' was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. He choose to love the one different from himself rather than trying to make him fit a mold.

The night ended with people thanking the youth, people coming to thank Carlos for his sharing of his story and with me still having a job. Because the truth is, Jesus is exactly who He is, no matter what language you use to praise Him.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Busy Sunday...

Wow. It is 5 PM Monday and I am still worn out from yesterday. I am out of youth group shape (and out of shape period). Having not done youth for 3 months or so, it is kind of crazy. Here are some things that I learned…

  • I need to remember my “Have everything done by Friday” rule. I was running around like a chicken without a head Sunday. But I didn’t let that be a reason or excuse not to have some lunch with kids. (Moe’s where I had the fish tacos. Pretty good…) So, the goal for this week, I have all my preparation work done by 6 PM Friday, when I head to the high school football game.
  • Never believe Office Depot will have your chairs assembled when they say they will. And then they are rude on the phone about it.
  • Developed a funny new thing- each week we are having snacks and we will do a drawing from the kids there each week and the winner gets to call what the snack is. I think it could be fun…once I figure out how to cover the snack costs.
  • I have got to figure out how to make a weird shaped space work for 40 people. Think 14 feet by 50 feet. Low ceilings with dividers in two places. The space we used this week is only occasionally available to us.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Saturday randomness...

Because my upbeat tone has started to scare some of you, I thought I would share a list of things that are irritating to me since my move.

  1. Tennessee Volunteer fans. On a scale of 1-100, with 100 being massively annoying, they are 1,467,439. I think I will be not stopping at the Cracker Barrel anytime soon because of all the awful orange crap everywhere. It is really sad. The mighty Volunteers went 5-6 last year and lost to Vanderbilt. (Side Vanderbilt rant: Vanderbilt fans are awesome because they are just as delusional as Georgia Tech fans. They have no real chance every year, they occasionally have a bright flash like Jay Cutler was for Vandy last year, and they suddenly think they can compete in the SEC East. Gotta love them for their faith, even if it is deluded.) And God please, please don’t let UGA lose to Tennessee this year. I will never hear the end of it.
  2. It was supposed to be cooler here. It is still hot. All the time. Everywhere.
  3. No root beer in the Coke machine at the church. Argh! (Not to mention the joy of the random button and Yoohoos.) I am forcing myself to buy Cherry Coke and saying things like “Well, it is better than nothing.”
  4. I haven’t met any other youth workers yet. So when I occasionally want to vent something, I got nowhere to turn locally. My cell phone bill is going to be ridiculous.
  5. No reasonable high speed internet access around. I am seriously, seriously annoyed with this one. I pretty much decided against cable and want to go with internet at the house. And it is all hugely expensive. So my plan for internet access and hooking up a Slingbox to my brother’s Tivo and cable doesn’t sound like it may happen.

In other news…

The Franklin Federales are going to win big time in the fantasy football league I am in. (The real mascot here at the high school is the rebels. I will refrain from comment. Other than to say I am not a fan and I have questions for Turff, who grew up around here.) Current roster is:

QB- Tom Brady, RBs- Steven Jackson and Warrick Dunn, WR- Hines Ward and Reggie Brown. TE- Ben Watson. My random player pick was Matt Jones.

Clearly, my reaches are Reggie Brown and Matt Jones. I took Brown because he is a UGA guy (admittedly a bad reason) and Donovan McNabb has got to throw the ball to someone. Reggie is going to be that guy in his second season. Jones is hopefully going to be a fantastic deep threat to the strong armed Byron Leftwich in Jacksonville. In case of injuries, my bench has Marc Bulger (QB), WRs- Derrick Mason, Ernest Wilford, Chad Jackson and Troy Williamson. And my last pick was Vince Young. If he gets it going, he may get me another good running back or if Brady goes down, he is at least going to get some snaps. I was hoping to have John Kitna on my bench as the surprise QB that gets it going, like Mark Brunell was for me last year. I need a good back-up running back but in my league you only have to play one RB. One spot can be WR or RB, so I feel good about where I am at.

Franklin High School better figure out its passing game ASAP. 4 interceptions last night, in large part because the QBs were locking and loading on one receiver, who is very good and headed to Tennessee next year. They were playing a team they hammered last year and squeaked out a win because the other team had 4 fumbles to match their interceptions. It was nice being back in a town where the whole town shows out for high school football. But I didn't get a seat and stood all night. Major calf soreness today.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Moving on up

So I guess it is really official now…I started unpacking my books in the office today.

Now those of you that know me know that I own lots of books. Maybe over a thousand. Enough so that in my old office at my old church that old people would come in and ask “Have you read all these books?” And I have read them all except for a pile closest to my desk which are the “to read” and “reading” piles. So all of that to say, my English degree having self loves books, thinking and reading. (And I always wondered if they thought I was illiterate because they always asked the question with a hint of "stupid kid.")

In fact, when I was asked to resign, I went on a purge because everything I owned had to fit in three small spaces, a 10 X 10 storage unit, my minivan and the spare room of my friends. So I threw out all kinds of things; irons, ironing boards, lots of clothes, some furniture, lamps and more. But I threw away maybe 10 books. Of my thousand or so. So they are important to me, even if irrationally so…

So to be unpacking the books is a major step. Having been sharing an office and not having shelves, they have been a pile of boxes that, at times, have beckoned me with cries of "Pack us up and head for home. We don’t fit here. This isn’t our home. We don’t fit here and neither do you.” Today some of them have found homes. With more shelves to come, the rest of them will. And hopefully, so will I.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Leading Through Change

Four years ago when I arrived in Newnan, I never would have thought of myself as a leader of an organization. But that is the reality that anyone in ministry deals with; like it or not, you are a leader of an organization and you have a responsibility to do it well. So I have been working and learning and stretching and doing what my gifts call me to do.
So as I start at Bethlehem, some of the things that I have learned are playing out.

Don'’t confuse motion with movement. In one of the big lessons I learned early in ministry is that people like motion. They love to see a calendar that is jam packed with events, meetings, gatherings, Sunday school classes, etc. The general idea is that the more you have going on, the better you must be doing. But motion is dangerous…because it doesn’t necessarily get you anywhere.

If you want to move people and an organization forward, you have to be dedicated to movement, not motion. You need to be dedicated to a few things, do them well with excellence and know why you are doing them. Too many youth ministries fall into the trap of scheduling and calendaring all kinds of things with no real clear idea of purpose. So I am trying hard to help folks here see that we need more movement and less motion.

This week, our consultants from Youth Ministry Architects are coming and we are re-evaluating some goals, etc. that had been laid out. In my notes, the question "Why?"” appears beside quite a few things. If you were going to ask me what I am focusing on for the first 6 months, it is leadership development and Sunday night youth group. The leadership development is key. We have a ton of great parents that are investing in the youth ministry but they lack some necessary training and they lack a sense of community. So those are my two focus points early on.

Everyone has an agenda. This one used to drive me crazy but the truth of the matter is that it is just a reality. We all have agendas. I am coming in with one. (Full disclosure: My life call is to help students grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus so they can be mature adult disciples of Christ and change the world.) But it can be very frustrating when you have all those different groups pulling and pushing their agenda. And it is one of the most significant factors in getting overwhelmed and overscheduled. Managing those agendas is sometimes best done simply by being loud and vocal on what your one focus will be; it tends to get people on or off your ship, which leads to...

People are going to get mad and are going to leave. Even as I say this, I don't want to seem like I am happy or enthused about this reality. But the truth is that for some people, it is going to happen. In my past history, there are certain kinds of kids and families that are going to bail. If Vegas will give you odds, bet on these folks leaving...

Cool Kids. In the hierarchy of the teenage world, these kids are at the top of the food chain. Which is neither here nor there. But those kids don't deal well when they come to youth group and everyone is treated the same.

Families with really big agendas. Eventually, they will just get too frustrated with me and my head nodding, hand holding conversations that don'’t change where we are going. I appreciate people's concerns and interests but it doesn't necessarily mean I am going to change where we are headed.

The Social Club. Bottom line- if you want youth ministry to be closer to the YMCA (safe, shiny, good) than to a ragtag group of disciples (messy, open, dirty) then you usually won'’t be very happy with the kind of things that I do in youth ministry.

More later...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Moviefest Weekend

So as I have said, weekends are bad when you are new to town and do really know anyone. So this weekend, I worked on unpacking (some) and watching movies. Here are the verdicts so far.

World Trade Center (Seen on Friday afternoon at the Bellevue 8, right near my apartment.)
I really chose this movie mainly because of time. In general, I am a fan of neither Oliver Stone (the director) nor Nicolas Cage (the main actor). But on the whole, I enjoyed this film.

For starters, I found it to be very a-political. As everyone knows, 9-11 has become a very divisive thing. The right wing of the world talks about the declaration of the war by terrorists on us all. The left wing of the world generally bashes the right wing and says we shouldn’t be in Iraq, etc. And with a director like Oliver Stone, it had the potential of being a piece of propaganda. Surprisingly, it wasn’t.

The story focuses on two main families and what happened when their Port Authority husbands went into the Twin Towers just before the first one collapsed. I thought for the most part, the story was told extremely well and it helps to understand the sacrifice that the people like police and firemen make all the time. I would classify it as a solid rent, while it didn’t have any great acting performances, it did have a story that deserves to be told.

The Greatest Game Ever Played (Seen on DVD Saturday morning)
Again, a solid rent. I am a big fan of young Shia LeBeouf, who has the potential to become one of the key actors of this next wave of people. It is basically the story of the 1913 US Open golf tournament and a local player who participated. Again, nothing great. As a bonus, Bill Paxson, star of the hit movie “Twister”, served as director and has some hilarious lines during the special features section. Suffice it to say, Bill may be a little too big a fan of his own movie.

(Side rant: The Sansbury theory of the Bills- I am of the belief that Bill Paxson and Bill Pullman are absolutely interchangeable in all of their roles. Not that casting one of them would make a movie better or worse. I mean you would get the exact same performance. Put Bill Paxson in “Independence Day” and imagine the speech near the end; no change. Same exact performance. Put Bill Pullman in ‘Twister” and you get the exact same performance. So, if you are a Hollywood casting agent, bring them both in and get a bidding war going. Cheaper Bill wins. And neither is a great actor but neither is a terrible actor.)

The Matador (Seen on DVD Saturday night)
Dangerous admission #1: In the 1980s, I was a big fan of the television show “Remington Steele.” There I said it. I was a fan of a show that is most likely in reruns on the Oxygen network. But I was a fan of it in large part because of the comic genius of one Pierce Brosnan. Before he became James Bond, Brosnan was a great comedic character, and in this movie, he gets the chance to show those chops.

The basic premise is that Brosnan plays a contract killer (“a facilitator of fatalities”) that on his birthday goes through a mid-life crisis and wants to become a regular guy. So he befriends a regular Joe while in Mexico and begins a friendship that results in a pretty decent dark comedy.

It bodes well for Pierce Brosnan. He has the chops to become in his older age a Michael Caine, working in a diverse number of roles and opportunities, from serious to comedic. (If you were going to remake “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, Brosnan would be a perfect older guy ala Michael Caine. Of course, if you re-make it, some idiot casting director would give the younger guy role to some like Ashton Kucher and ruin the whole thing.)

Skanking as an oldie...

Downtown Franklin is a wonderful area. It is full of independent shops and cool places like Ben and Jerry’s, which is something I never saw in Atlanta. So it has all kinds of unique places. One of those places is the Mercantile. It is a really nice sandwich place that is open for breakfast (?) and lunch. The Mercantile is the kind of place where lawyers with a few minutes jump over to grab a quick, nice lunch.

But at night, it becomes “The Merc’ as the kids call it. The owners for the Mercantile allow people to rent out the place at night for a nominal fee and do different things. Last Thursday night, it meant that three local teenage bands got together and played. Mostly the music was ska oriented, or as I call it “A Chance for Marching Band kids to Feel Cool.” It was a cool experience, despite the typical teenage angst that requires the ornery kids to yell “MFer” into a microphone when given a chance. It is cool that the couple that owns the Mercantile is allowing the kids of Franklin a place to chill, be angry and do it safely. At some point down the road, I will post about teenage angst and music.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"By their fruit you will recognize them."- Matthew 7:16

Moving my stuff from the greater Atlanta area to my new home, I had some time to really think, be still and reflect on my time at my last church. Of course, coming to Newnan on Friday had me smack dab in the middle of a new controversy at my former employer. Oh well.

But in that reflection time, I was genuinely overcome with the knowledge of how much God used my efforts and blessed them during my time. In Matthew 7, Jesus is instructing his disciples on how to tell if someone is a false prophet or not. In essence his advice (is there a stronger word than advice when something comes from Jesus?) is that you will know the heart of something by what it produces. So here is to some of the "fruit" God blessed me with from my last church:
  • Kevin. Kevin is working hard on being a bi-vocational youth pastor. As he and his wife have kidded me from time to time, I wrecked their lives. The truth is that God put us on the same life path and it was/is fantastic. I got to share with Kevin some about ministry. He taught me an awful lot about how to navigate difficult situations, about having faith and becoming stronger in my gifts. I count him as my brother and I am thankful for all that he has done in my life and what he is about to do in the lives of the kids God calls him to.
  • Keith. Keith helped me move this weekend and during that time, we got some awesome news. This week, Keith will start as the part time youth director of a small church. He is going to do an excellent job because he is great at building relationships with kids and that seems to be what this church needs most of all.
  • Brianna. Bri is at school right now and, even in the midst of that, she is becoming a better youth worker. She volunteered at a church that probably put way, way too much work on her. She is involved in some great campus ministries. Without a doubt, Brianna is a fantastic youth minister and has been since she was in high school. As she heads back to Statesboro, I know that she is going to be a great, great leader and teacher of young people for years to come. I am proud to know that I was/am her friend and mentor.
  • Michael. Michael is the one of us left in the fray. And because of it, I will say I don't know very many people at all that have his tenacity and steadfastness. In what has been a difficult situation, Michael has done everything he can to serve others. I am saddened that he and I aren't partners directly anymore, in particular because this school year, he and I were going to work hard on his skills as a communicator. Michael will still get better and be a fantastic lead youth worker in the not too distant future.
Eventually, I may spend some more time talking about the fruit of what came out of my time in Newnan. I am just really, really thankful to know that when people really look at the fruit, there is something worth seeing because God made it so.

And...We're off...

Sunday night was my first "official" welcoming reception by the parents and youth of the church. (Thursday, the staff threw me a lovely shindig/BBQ.) It went well. We ate fried chicken and lovely side dishes. We played some "Do You Love Your Neighbor?" during which I learned that the church's gym has horrendous acoustics. Then I had a time of Q and A with parents where we talked about some of the things coming up...
  • The Big Fall Event will be a Lock-out in and around greater Nashville following the football games.
  • Sunday night youth group kicks off on August 20
  • We are moving towards a junior high and senior high split of youth groups in January
  • High schoolers will be attending the "Warmth in Winter" event put on by the Tennessee Conference
  • Middle schoolers will be attending some other event to be determined later. Most likely? The Edge Middle School Retreat is back! (Forest Hills and Bethlehem could be a fantastic combination...)
Because of the track record here of quick and short term youth workers, I knew that it was going to take time to convince kids that I want and I am called to do something long term; after last night, it is apparent that it will take some time to convince some adults as well. Not that I am nervous or anything. As I recently re-discovered, I hate moving. In fact, I hate it so much that I have decided that if forced to move again, I am going to donate everything I own to Goodwill and start over with some clothes, a computer and a guitar. So if for no other reason than I hate moving, I am here for awhile. (And there are LOTS of other reasons why I would be here...)