The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jason's Productivity Tip #1

If you want to get work done, don't enable the Netflix feature where you can stream movies directly over the internet on your office computer.
Now playing: Anthony Hopkins in "The World's Fastest Indian."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Movie Review: Amazing Grace

So this weekend, I went to see the film Amazing Grace. The buzz on the film has been fairly good in the circles I run with, though sometimes my circles are guilty of buying into hype machines. The film is the story of William Wilberforce, who was an abolitionist in England around the turn of the 19th century.

And I have to say, that while the film will win no major awards, it is a very well film about a very good character. It does a remarkable job of studying the choices that Wilberforce had to make in regards to his faith and his convictions, as well as the burden that came with those choices.

I thought the end was especially well done, including an amazing speech at the end that found me crying. Because that is how I roll, I am a movie crier. (Worst example of my movie tears- Mighty Ducks 3, because the fat kid scores the winning goal. FYI- It has been over 10 years since the last Mighty Ducks film...crap, I am getting old.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Craig Ferguson Speaks From His Heart...

One of the most interesting things I have seen lately. I really have admired Ferguson, especially his eulogy to his dad last year on his show and now this:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Movie Review: The Prestige

So in the midst of everything happening last summer, I completely missed seeing the just recently released on DVD film, "The Prestige." Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, the film has an imdb rating of 8.2, which I would bump to at least a 9. The film is about two rival magicians and their quest to be the best. It involves several twists and turns that I don't want to give away. I will say that this is the first film that I was surprised by the ending in some time. It is definitely worth a watch.

Nolan has a tendency to play with how a story unfolds and he does it again in this film, using flashbacks that aren't obvious flashbacks. This is the kind of movie that you have to watch with your full attention or else you wind up out of sequence. But I would also say that is part of the film's strength. The technique helps to make you focused on the plot and the characters.

Again, it is a very strong film and worth watching. Due to the fact that it is set in the past, it is remarkably free of language and gory violence. I am considering adding this to the Youth Choir tour list of movies but think I would have too many middle school kids who would be whining "What is happening? I don't understand" even though they can tell me every step of life of Paris Hilton. (Note: I am feeling a little jaded today.) But it will/could make an excellent example of the damage of the sin of envy and the cost it takes on ourselves and those around us.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Breach" and "You Can Count on Me" movie reviews...

So over the weekend, I took in two movies...
"Breach" is a new film out in your local theater that stars Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe. It is the story of an FBI employee who is given the task of shadowing an older agent, who turns out to be one of the biggest spies against America ever. It is based on the true story of Eric O'Neil and Robert Hanssen.

I have to say that I was very impressed by the movie. It does something that is difficult to do: build intrigue when you ultimately already know the end result. Chris Cooper is amazing as Hanssen and should get some consideration for the Oscars next year. Phillippe, the former Mr. Reese Witherspoon, gives another great performance. (Another excellent Phillippe film is "Shattered Glass." which is another true life story.)

The imdb rating for "Breach" is 7.4 out of 10 and I would score it slightly higher, an 8.3.

Via Netflix, I rented the movie "You Can Count on Me" which stars Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney, as well as being the debut movie for Rory Culkin, who shouldn't have his family relations held against him. The movie won tons of awards in 2000, when it was the darling of the Sundance film festival. I really liked this film and would rate it higher than the 7.7 rating on imdb.

The film centers on the relationship between a brother and a sister who lost their parents as young children. Now as adults, they have very different life. The older sister, played by Linney works in the same town they grew up in as a bank loan officer. The brother is essentially a drifter who comes home to get some money from his sister. In the time he is at home, he builds a touching relationship with his nephew, who doesn't have a male role model in his life because his dad abandoned them. It is a really good story and well put together film. In particular, the more I see of Ruffalo, the more I like his work. He is rapidly moving up my list of favorite actors, in part because he does good work and in part because he chooses good films to work in.

Quote of the week...

From Seth Godin

"When the pain gets so bad that you're ready to quit
you've set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose.
And someone with nothing to lose has quite a bit of power.
You can go for broke. Challenge authority.
Attempt unattempted alternatives.
Lean into the problem; lean so far that you might just lean right through it."

Friday, February 16, 2007

Random Sports Notes...

Some completely random sports thoughts:
1. Attention Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons...whatever you do, do not draft a wide receiver unless his name is Calvin Johnson. We know you need guys who can catch the ball. It's called free agency...check into it.

2. NBA All-star weekend in Las Vegas. The record for hoochies will be broken and possibly set for all-time this weekend.

3. Hard to believe that it has been nearly 20 years since 'Nique was robbed. You can watch it here on YouTube.

Things we have come to accept in youth ministry...

A tip of the hat to Marko for pointing to this post, which lists some things that Mark Riddle thinks we have come to accept in youth ministry.
Mark Riddle's Post

Here are some that I have experienced or am experiencing:

2. That the success or failure of the spiritual nurture of our kids is based primarily on the giftedness or lack thereof, of a person filling the youth position.

8. That we give lip service to parents being the primary spiritual nurturers of their children, but do absolutely nothing to actually support parents in our church.

13. That having a youth pastor means the youth ministry is taken care of.

Really thoughtful and provoking ideas. In my time as a youth worker and as someone who provided some care for youth workers at time, some of these are definitely spot on.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ELCA Study Emails #2: Adults that Care...

A couple weeks ago, I sent out an email talking about the recent study of youth and involvement that was done by the ECLA church. In that email I talked about how the number one factor in predicting involvement of older teens in the life of a church was the level of involvement of their whole family in the faith experience.

This week, I want to look at what the second factor is: the involvement of 3 or more adult mentors from their faith community in their lives. These adults were over and beyond the paid religious leaders and their parents. These adults played a significant role in the ministry of helping students feel connected to the life of the church.

When I made the decision to follow Christ as an almost 16 year old, I needed support and involvement in my life from caring adult Christians. When I look back on that time, I think about people like:

  • Chip, the youth director at our church
  • Jeff, my Young Life leader who started a Bible Study for all the geek kids who didn’t fit in anywhere else. (Yes, I am a recovered(?) high school nerd…)
  • Steve, a dad from my church who just loved us high school guys by being at youth group every week
  • Nancy, a mom from our church who did whatever was asked of her, including shuttling ten of us home every week after youth group.

And there are many more. And I needed those folks to help me navigate my teenage years as God continued to work on me and help me grow in faith. Because of their willingness to share their lives, I grew deeper and stronger in the faith than any of us realized. (When I go to my home church, they all shake their heads and wonder, because I was the quintessential problem kid in the youth group until I was college aged.)

And the truth is, some of you are making a difference in the lives of the youth here at Bethlehem. In one of the first combined Synagos at the first of the year, we talked about people that the students look on as examples of faith. Many of your names came up and as we shared, I realized how much an impact you all are making in the lives of students, both now and in the past. In a world where the extended family lives hundreds of miles away, the local church is helping students to grow strong and deep in the faith.

I want to encourage you to realize you can make a difference. We have some really amazing adults that are serving students right now- as Sunday School leaders, as Youth Choir helpers, as small group Bible study leaders. At times, I know that those of you in those roles are frustrated, aggravated and you wonder if you are making a difference. Trust me- you are! Students know they are loved and cared about because of you faithfully giving your time and energy to them!

But there is always room for more! One of the things that I am most passionate about is helping more people discover the joy of serving in a place where they really fit. I get the most excited personally in seeing God change the lives of students. It is what I am gifted at and called to. But you think about putting me in charge of some 4 year olds and I break out in hives and cold sweats: it just isn’t my gift or my call. Some of you may be missing the call and I want to encourage you as Lent moves closer and closer to beginning to consider getting involved in a ministry with youth or children. As much as Lent can be about us giving up something, it can also be about us adding things into our lives, both inside the life of the church and outside its walls.

As we want to grow and expand as a youth ministry, it is going to mean more hands and hearts being willing to love students. Right now, we have some great folks involved and we need more! So, if God is tugging on your heart, please consider calling me and seeing where you may fit. In particular, we could use some adults to come be a part of what we are doing on Sunday nights at MYF. Just being present, loving kids and being with us as we play, worship and learn together!

ELCA Study Emails #1: A Family of Faith

So, I recently was at a seminar where the speaker shared a list of factors that the ECLA found in a study of students from their 7th grade year to their senior year. Essentially, they wanted to look at the factors that kept students engaged in the faith. I found some of the finding to be spot on to my experiences and wanted to share them with parents as we rebuild our youth ministry. I thought I would share the emails here for the other youth ministry folks that read here. Maybe it will spark something in you for your ministry!
Here is the first email I sent parents:

Dear parents,

As part of Warmth in Winter, there are workshops and some of those workshops are designed to help adult youth workers to grow and become better youth workers. I attended one session that was particularly good and is making me think a great deal.

In 2002, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) finished a study where they looked at one class of students from the 7th grade through the 12th grade. Their hope was to look at what things help keep students involved in church as they get older. What the study did was then look at what were the common factors for students who stayed involved. They found 8 key things and I would like to send some emails over the coming weeks to look at each of those factors and talk about what we as a church, a youth ministry and as followers of Christ can do to help students mature into adult disciples of Christ. (If you want to opt out of these emails, just send me a note letting me know and I can pull you off the email list that will get this specific series of emails. You would still get the weekly emails!)

First, 80-90% of these students were active in their 7th grade year. As 12th graders, that number dropped to 30-35%.

The number one factor for students who stayed involved in the life of the church is that the Christian faith was deeply embedded in the families of those students.

As someone who has been involved in youth ministry over the last 12 years, that factor doesn’t surprise me. I truly believe that the birthplace of faith and the people most responsible for nurturing it in the lives of children are parents! I think it is the way that God designed the faith to be shared, lived out and expanded. Listen to what God spoke to the earliest families of faith in Deuteronomy 6:6-10 (The Message):
“Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”

Basically, God is calling us to be living and sharing the faith with our children as much as possible, in the things we say and the way we live. The desire of God is that we would see all of our life as a walk with Him.

So as the youth director here at Bethlehem, I want to encourage you. It would be easy for us to read that finding and feel frustrated that we may not be doing “enough”. I know that sharing the faith in our families is sometimes the hardest place. (It has been for me!) But it is worth it so much! So here are some practical ideas to help you share your faith with your students:

  1. Talk about what being a Christian means to you. Look for opportunities to talk about decisions you have made or things you have done that were directly influenced by your faith. If you grow up in a Christian church, share that experience and if you didn’t share what helped bring you to Jesus.
  2. Encourage your children when you see them living out their faith! They deeply need to be reminded of who God has made them and called them to be!
  3. Pray with and for your kids. Prayer is deeply personal, but it isn’t always supposed to be private! Be willing to pray with your kids and pray for them as well.
  4. Read spiritual books or books of the Bible together. I would be more than willing to help find books that are age-appropriate that could help foster some conversation between your child and you about the faith.

Again, I want to encourage you. Simply by having your student here at Bethlehem is communicating that following Christ is something important to you. But let’s continue to partner together to help students grow strong in the faith!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Real Life Conversations That Didn’t Happen This Morning….

Scene: The Oval Office, the White House, Washington, D. C.

Characters: Condi Rice, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

GWB: So did you guys see the Grammys last night?

CR: Absolutely! That Justin Timberlake has definitely brought sexy back.

DC: I was tired. My pacemaker needed a break. You know me, in bed by 6 PM. Besides, when Lionel Richie is singing a song from before the first Bush was in office, it isn’t exactly a cutting edge show…

GWB: Seemed like the Grammy voters were pretty upset. Those Dixie Chicks people won a lot of awards. Didn’t they hate on me at some point?

CR: Haters! Go on and brush your shoulders off…

GWB: What did they say exactly?

CR: That they were ashamed to be from the same state as you.

GWB: Dude, Texas is huge. Tons of people are from there…

CR: Including them.

DC: You know who else is from Texas? The one, the only Gambler…Mr. Kenny Rogers! If Lionel Richie can be on the show why couldn’t they reunite Kenny and Dolly to sing “Islands in the Stream”?

GWB: So their album won a lot of awards. Seems like the music elite would be sending us a message. Maybe they are unhappy?

CR: Yeah maybe.

GWB: I guess that we really need to rethink our entire foreign policy and do everything we can to pacify Natalie Maines and the Grammy voters. Let’s get all the advisers together and completely rethink this whole Iraq situation…

DC: But only if they go back to being blond again. That is the only way we should make nice.

CR: I’ll see if I can make it happen. I'll get Shakira on the phone...she is an excellent negotiator. Her hips don't lie...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Prayers for the saints...

At my last church, there was an annual mission trip with Honduras Outreach International in the late winter and early spring. This week, a group from Cornerstone UMC in Newnan, GA took the retreat and the group is full of parents of kids that I had the honor of ministering to for 4 years.

Two days into the trip, there was a major accident. The long and the short of it is that the brakes appeared to fail on a vehicle, it went over a ledge and several people lost their lives. The people who are gone were from some other Atlanta area churches. My heart aches for them and their families. In the same accident, several people were injured and hurt and are making their way back to the States to receive medical care. So pray for Karen, Nolen and Frankie, who were all veterans of the trip and were there to share the love of God with the people of the country that have become very dear to them. Let's wrap them in our prayers...

(Here is a story about the accident from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)