Moving day.

It's here!!

Time to pack up the 'ole rvaym.blogspot.com. The blog is now at www.rvaYM.com. If you read the blog on the feed, then you don't have to change a thing. If you come to this live blog page, make sure you update your bookmarks 'cause there won't be anymore posts here.

Thanks for reading the past couple months, weeks or years. Looking forward to the future!


Big news: delay.

In the spirit of the World Series being delayed, so is the big news. Check back tomorrow...


referee tackle.

This video is laugh-out-loud funny. Watch this NCAA referee drop his shoulder and knock USC's QB to the ground:

Thanks for the video, ESPN!


Start the countdown... coming Monday, rvaYM will be moving to a new site and a new design.

cardboard testimony.

Great video my friend Doug passed along this week:

david price.

I can't even imagine being David Price right now. The Tampa Bay rookie played his first Major League game just over a month ago. He is 23-years-old and wasn't even playing professional baseball 16 months ago. His first Major League win didn't come until the playoffs. His first Major League save sent his team to the World Series. And it was pretty clear that the intensity didn't phase him at all.

So today, the first day of the World Series: best of luck to Price and his TB Rays.

Prediction: Rays in 6


monday update: october 20

The weekend that was... the leaves are changing and this weekend the temperature plummeted. That meant it was great weather to stay inside and relax on the couch. Friday we ventured out into the rain to pick up a refurb'd PS2 (it's DDR time now!), had a great lunch at Casa, got pumpkin muffin mix at Trader Joe's, went out to the jam-packed theater (it was raining...) for Secret Life of Bee's (another great portrayal of race relations in the mid-20th century) and got dessert after that. On Saturday, we spent all day (literally) in front of the TV watching football: Clemson vs. Georgia Tech, Spiders vs. UMass and Hokies vs. BC. Unfortunately, only one of our teams won. And during the VT/BC game, I put up our 2nd TV next to the other one so we could keep up with the Red Sox and Rays.

And Sunday. Oh, Sunday. Sundays are so busy now! We had a great close to our (entirely too long) series on our storyline. The students walked into the youth room in complete silence, had some guided prayer and Scripture reading on the big screen and then worship time. The message was reading the stories of Jesus' life, and we closed with the first Last Supper story, broke the bread and had communion. The kids had a great experience. I think we'll do it again!

Where I am at the moment... Richmond for the week. Actually, Richmond for a while. I'm good with that.

To-do list this week... This is catch-up week. And it's Fall Break, so no class Thurs/Fri. Last week was insanely busy and I felt like I was behind all week. This week is more relaxing. And I might venture out to see an unnamed presidential candidate in the capital city tomorrow...

Music that caught my attention... Two songs. Both by Jason Mraz. The first one is his new single, "I'm Yours." The second was the closing track on his last album, "Mr. A-Z," titled "Song for a Friend." At the end of the track, a choir sings with him, and in that choir are some of my former youth. They recorded that three years ago and I'm just now listening to it...


Keeping Your Job and Your Sanity: Part III

Missed Part I and Part II?

During these months, I started to take solace in this quote: “I can’t apologize about where God is calling me.” I just didn’t know where God was calling me.

That seems direct and to the point. But the issue is also much larger. If I place all hope in myself, I am not allowing space for God to move. Perhaps God is saying that my journey here is over and is placing a call on someone else’s life to carry the baton. In my overfunctioning, my blinders were keeping me focused straight ahead, running forward with everything I had in me.

I eventually left and moved onto another ministry position. My “official” reasons were many, and made much sense. Looking back, I realize that burnout was probably the biggest reason, although I don’t know that I was aware of it at the time. I was only part-time. Why did I think I could do all of that, without even so much as a weekend vacation? Without some sort of stress-reliever.

My new position was temporary, and I often wondered if I should have stayed in that first church and tried to push through. I wondered when I left if that church would survive -- that was the overfunctioning talking.

With space between that time and now, I see that the church has moved ahead, and others became empowered when I stepped aside.

A former student in the youth ministry took the reigns of the youth ministry for a season. Talks about the new building moved ahead. That video projection ended up in the Sanctuary. New families began attending the church. Another couple stepped up to lead the college-age/stage ministry.

I thank God for my time there. I learned so much, and as I moved into a new ministry position, I knew myself better and could position myself to not fall into the same traps. I knew my boundaries of time, of communication, of needing a personal day off.

Overfunctioning? I’m done with it! I hope I never find myself thinking that the future of the church I work in is based only on the success of the ministries I oversee. I have to create that space between myself and my job, differentiating my sense of self from my work. When a day is good, I can celebrate. But when a day is bad, I need to separate myself from the situation.

And I learned about conflict and anxiety. The deacons who cried “foul” were simply anxious. The problem was not me, and I see that now. But I did not have the experience or the maturity then to know that. I laugh at that story now. If I keep living stories like that, I might have to write a book!

God is working in the midst of what I do. And God is working in the midst of what I don’t do. As long as I am in tune with God’s call for my life, then the rest will fall into place. Sometimes that might include leaving a ministry position. Other times it will mean staying even when it hurts. But God provides, and that’s all that really matters.

Read the original.


Keeping Your Job and Your Sanity: Part II

Missed Part I?

The pastor had visions of a new building, with increased fellowship space, new offices and a new place for the youth ministry to call home. The existing youth space was the original sanctuary and had been renovated by the students. They didn’t want to see it go away, but the reality of a decaying structure had rendered the building passe. So what did I do? Spent countless hours drawing up plans and drawings for a new structure.

What about my job? Oh, right. I was still leading the youth ministry, planning events, teaching Bible studies and keeping that train moving. In and of itself, it seemed to be an uphill battle.

When a renovation of the Sanctuary came around the following spring, I worked hard to give the Facilities Team a proposal for a video projection system. “That will help the church move forward,” I thought.

Following an intense Bible study on poverty with the students, we planned a huge community concert/fundraiser. The schedule included bands all afternoon, food and entertainment, with the proceeds benefitting poverty-fighting organizations. We raised a few thousand dollars, energized the congregation and brought much of the church out to enjoy the afternoon.

By that point, I was looking for jobs. “I can’t go on,” I reasoned. “I can’t keep putting this much energy into this.” The night after the fundraiser, I had an unofficial interview at another church.

A week later, I was to fill in for the pastor while he and his wife got away on a much needed vacation. He would miss two Sundays, and I would preach both times, serving Communion on the second Sunday. Deacons in the congregation cried “foul”: I was not ordained, how could I possibly be serving communion? One of them even boycotted communion while he was sitting in the pew!

I interviewed officially for that job in early June, but didn’t get it. I had another opportunity pop up, but the logistics were too difficult to solve. I returned to my office each day dismayed, tired and frustrated. My boss’ kids were in high school and college, so our discussion often turned to keeping it going, for the sake of his kids.

The pressure was mounting, and I was finding no release. My family visited during that fundraising concert and had a conversation with the Pastor. He knew most of my frustrations, and I knew some of his. He voiced some of that to my family, letting them know he hoped I wouldn’t leave.

Check back tomorrow for the finale, Part III.


Keeping your Job and Your Sanity: Part I

I bought into the myth. The myth that a vital, thriving ministry to youth, college students and young adults would draw families into an aging church. Youth don't have money to tithe, and young adults just don't tithe. But their families bring money. And more people.

To a church past its 125th anniversary, in a neighborhood past the rapid suburban growth, increasing in average age, money, people and vitality are important for survival.

Once that myth wrapped its loving arms around me, filling the role of youth pastor seemed to be the most important role to birthing a new day in that church. The future of the church sets itself on your shoulders, and it’s off to the races.

When I started at the church, three students had just graduated high school. My first year, four graduated.

As we entered the next year, I knew 5 students would be graduating at years’ end, leaving a small group of students still in the ministry. I knew that it would be my last unless something changed.

What did I do? I worked harder. I spent more hours on things that weren’t in my job description, hoping those ministries could either become part of my job or result in fruitful growth that would perpetuate my current job description.

My job was 15-20 hours a week during the school year. I was also in my first year of seminary. And I was single. With no reason to be home, I worked late into the evenings, just trying to make something happen.

It started with the young adult ministry. I laid out a vision, shared with the young adults and the church, set a start date, invited other churches to be involved. The pastor was excited: he had a college-age son, so the ministry would attract him to the church. Church leadership was excited. The first night we had five young adults. Over the weeks that followed, we had a dozen young adults show their faces. It was great. They said it was just what they needed. It lasted a few months, but I was the only one sensing the call to lead, and I burned out.

Check back tomorrow for Part II.


henrico, VA

Don't send our mail to Richmond anymore!

No, we didn't move. Because our local government felt slighted, they wanted to change the addresses across the county from "Richmond, VA" to "Henrico, VA."


wednesday catch-up.

If you can't make a Monday Rundown, at least make it in time for a Wednesday Catch-up.

Looking back, it is fairly evident that certain periods of life can be defined as a season: of joy, of waiting, of change. Well, the past 6 months or so have been all of those. The seasons of joy and change are continuing, which is great -- I would not want it any other way. But now, the season of waiting is over. As of Sunday morning, I have a new job at a great church with people I really respect, and I am excited to be working with them.

The rubber has been hitting the road this week here at Gayton, and I'm excited about what lies ahead. My office is "blah" right now with a lot of bare space on the walls. I'm sure it will be full pretty soon.

And most importantly, I am now (again) legitimately rvaYM



do you know.

Driver's ed is one of those rights of passage -- you're glad to be done, but you'd never in your life wish to repeat it. Well, give it another go. Five quizzes to test your knowledge of road and highway signs. How did you do?

I missed 1 question in Quiz 2 and 1 question in Quiz 5. Must have been a slow Friday...


monday, monday, monday.

Well, it's Tuesday. But Monday was a holiday, so Tuesday is the Monday.

the weekend that was: A long drive to Charlotte, obnoxious phone calls, a tough Hokie loss, a night in Wilmington and a tour of EUE/Screen Gem Studio on Sunday.

where i am at the moment: rVA, but just until Friday. Again.

on my to-do list this week: Will I find a job this week? I can only hope so. Hopefully I'll be reading and writing some this week. This would be the fun reading and writing, since classes start next week.

procrastinating about: And I still can't get motivated too much to read or write.

books i’m in the midst of: Eat This Book (Eugene Peterson), Thunderstruck (Erik Larson) and A Comedian's Guide to Theology (Thor Ramsey).

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: Kind of the opposite. We made nearly the entire drive from Wilmington back to RIC without the radio or iPods. It was kind of nice.

next trip: After last weekend's abysmal ending to the Hokies/ECU game, I can only hope they step it up for Furman this weekend. We'll be spending the weekend in Roanoke, which will be our first visit since the wedding. Hard to believe. And the Spiders, coming off a solid win at Elon last week, moved up to #3 in the nation heading into Saturday's matchup at UVA.

how i’m feeling about this week: Eh. Starting the week with two flat tires is never good. The anticipation of school, albeit something to add to my calendar, is kind of depressing. And the lack of job is wearing thin.


screen gem studio.

EUE/Screen Gem Studio, home to the largest sound stage (studio) east of California, in Wilmington, NC.

EUE/Screen Gem has been home to the production of movies A Walk to Remember, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I & II, 28 Days, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Muppets from Space, along with TV shows "Matlock," "Dawson's Creek" and "One Tree Hill", along with almost 500 other productions.

We took the tour on Sunday. It's quite impressive how they do what they do. The are currently filming this season of "One Tree Hill," so those are the only sets we could see.


christian junk of the month award.

ysMarko puts up some good "Jesus Junk" [Jesus Junk refers to items that portray Jesus in a product available in the American marketplace. Because I'm sure products like these lead to meaningful conversations] every now and then. Well, this isn't specifically "Jesus Junk," but it is sure...well, unique.

openMike sent me the link to this new product hitting stores near you real soon:

Guitar Praise

Fun times.



the weekend that was: A rainy day in Charleston, SC, and a long, long drive back to VA. And a nice Sunday evening watching the Spider soccer team beat JMU.

where i am at the moment: rVA, but just until Friday.

on my to-do list this week: Find a job? Maybe.

procrastinating about: Reading more. I have all sorts of free time and a nice pile of books. Still can't get motivated too much.

book i’m in the midst of: This Way to Youth Ministry by Duffy Robbins. Still reading. It is 550+ pages, so I can't get too down on myself. Also on the to-read list: Eat This Book (Eugene Peterson) and Thunderstruck (Erik Larson).

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: Coldplay. I'm always a step behind on the latest music, but the title track from "Viva La Vida" caught my attention last week. I think it's the string section jamming out. And I just plain like Coldplay. Good stuff.

next trip: Charlotte, NC. College football season is here, and the Hokies are opening up against the ECU Pirates at Panther Stadium. (In all fairness to my Spiders, they open up against Elon University, trying to hold onto their Top 10 spot in the FCS Division rankings. Go Spiders!).

how i’m feeling about this week: Pretty excited. Even if nothing exciting happens during the next few days, the anticipation of college football season starting up is enough to push me through the week.


quote of the week.

Open quoteI think many of our problems as a country would be solved if people had thick passports.Close quote

    Matt Damon, actor
    saying Americans should travel more to better understand global problems; just 20% of Americans have passports


find your [remedy].

The David Crowder Band has a way with music and worship, a fusion of passionate energy, creative talent and an ever-apparent love for their God. Their work in the Remedy Club Tour Edition CD/DVD is no different.

After the Fall 2007 release of their latest album, Remedy, DC*B hit the road to some of America’s best-known clubs. In the DVD’s bonus material, David Crowder says the band believes God is at work all the time, everywhere, so why not bring people to a worship experience where they might least expect it?

The CD/DVD begins with “Trying To Make you Sing” and "The Glory Of It All," a simple, yet powerful song that draws in the complete power and glory of God, from Creation to the end of time, and drawing on the whole Gospel story. It sets the stage for an experience of awe in worship that is incredibly powerful.

The rest of the CD? It continues on, almost as its own, complete worship experience. The band breaks for Crowder to explain bwack’s (DC*B drummer) technical prowess, including the radical transformation of a Guitar Hero controller into a stand-alone musical instrument. (His latest project built a sampler for the rock band Family Force 5).

Late in the show, Crowder explains the dual-purpose of the show. The evening was not pure entertainment for some faithful followers, but an opportunity to give back to the communities where each show took place. DC*B invited attendees to bring socks and towels to be donated to homeless shelters in each city. In one city, the patrons of the shelter came to pick up the goods and shed tears at the overwhelming generosity.

As usual, DC*B has innovated their use of music, they bring diverse styles to this album and yet remain so simple. The words are powerful, but not complex. They draw the listener in and share a hope for so much more. If you missed the tour, you can host your own concert experience. And while you’re at it, don’t let it be pure entertainment: find a shelter in your town that could use some socks and towels.

Published at HJ


the secret life.

Maybe I missed it, but ABC Family’s hit summer debut seems to have snuck past the realm of (most of) the youth ministry blogosphere. I don’t know how my wife heard about it, but I would have missed this.

Right on the heels of Juno and the Massachusetts “pregnancy pact” comes another tale of an untimely teen pregnancy in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

Welcome to the dog days of summer, where the weather is hot and television is on repeat.

Over the past few years, cable has picked up where the networks fall off during the summer months. The networks have thrown in a few new sagas this summer, but cable still rules the summer.

ABC Family and veteran writer Brenda Hampton have joined elements of Hampton’s popular 7th Heaven series with a growing interest in teen issues to shock the summer TV lineup. Figuratively and literally.

Almost as surprising as the silence in the youth ministry blogosphere is the silence from Christian media in general. I found one obscure (and one-sided) blog from LT Nixon, and one from the Apologetic Youth Pastor (who notes that blog hits have spiked from search engine referrals on this subject -- probably because he’s the only one writing about it!). Aside from those two blogs, no one seems to be writing on it.

This surprises me. This is the kind of show that big, southern denominations would have boycotted in the past. It portrays Christians. It portrays sex. In the same show.

Common problems with The Secret Life: too many references to, and too many people having, sex. Teen pregnancy is “glorified.” Too predictable. Derogatory toward Christians.

Amy Juergens (Shai Woodley) has a one-night fling at band camp with the bad-boy drummer, Ricky Underwood (Daren Kagasoff). She gets pregnant.

Grace Bowman (Megan Park) and her boyfriend, Jack Pappas (Greg Finley), take a trip to “splitsville” after Grace’s down syndrome brother catches Jack kissing the town bad girl, Adrian Lee (Francia Raisa). Her parents, the strong Christian leaders of the community, disallow Grace (ironic name?) from seeing Jack.

Adrian is also dating Ricky. Adrian gets jealous that Ricky starts hanging out with Grace, so she starts hanging out with Jack to make Ricky jealous.

And niceguy Ben Boykewich (Kenny Baumann) starts dating the (unbeknownst to him) pregnant Amy.

The Bowman’s are stereotypical, strict Christian parents, but the portrayal is not disrespectful. Every teenage problem is condensed into a half-dozen characters, which is not necessarily realistic.

But this secret life of teenagers is realistic, if not a bit cheesy. Christian teens are tempted by their significant others to “take it too far.” There are teenagers in our schools who are pregnant. There might be a lot of sex in the show, but statistics do show that a lot of our teenagers are engaged in sexual activity.

And maybe the scariest scenario of all: Adrian’s mother, in the midst of sneaking around with Amy’s dad herself, has no clue what her daughter is up to in her spare time. Sometimes this can be the biggest problem we face in student ministry.

We are only four weeks into The Secret Life saga, so my spin on the story may change at the end of the season. But for now, keep an eye out for this show. Missing it would be a shame.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager can be seen Tuesday nights at 8/7c on ABC Family.

Article originally published on The Journal of Student Ministries blog.


the weekend that was: the first time Kim and I had spent two straight weekends off the road in a year and a half. And it was long -- Kim had off Friday, so we got a three-day weekend. Braves game, pool time, church softball with two wins against my brother’s team, and shopping for her birthday.
where i am at the moment: richmond, VA. I should be here for a while.

on my to-do list this week: read. A lot. And find a job? Probably not, but I can hope.

procrastinating about: at the moment, getting off the computer. I’m still trying to wake up, so I’ll let it go.

book i’m in the midst of: This Way to Youth Ministry by Duffy Robbins. I figure if I don’t have a job, I should at least be reading to get my mind ready for when I do have a job. And by the time I finish that, a preview copy of it by Craig Groeschel should be here. What is it about? It.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: Aqualung. The photographer that did our wedding put an Aqualung song on the slideshow

next trip: Broadway on Friday. No, not the avenue in New York. Broadway, Virginia, a town of 2,192 in northwest Virginia.

And it’s not the next trip, but it is a trip...to Nashville! I got an invite from Youth Specialties Friday afternoon to help out with NYWC in Nashville in November. Should be fun!

how i’m feeling about this week: I’m kind of excited about reading, and getting some things done around the apartment. I wish I had a job, but I’ll do my best to be productive around here.


living room.

After nearly four weeks of moving in, it finally looks almost like home. Now all we need are some pictures on the wall, and a new smell -- not curry.


power hitter.

My brother IMed me this afternoon and said:

i was glancing through the paper today. there was a story about these two guys who play softball there was a quote by one of the two guys and then it had his name, comma, "softball power hitter". that's my dream. to make it into the paper with the title "softball power hitter

Here's to my brother, future "softball power hitter."



I put together this short reflection video to use during tonight's invitation time in worship. Technical difficulties stopped the video about 10 seconds from the end, but I think it got the message across.

Visit VirginiaBaptistYouth.org to download the full-quality video.


oh happy day.

Well, nearly 5 months ago we heard about the saddest day, and now we find ourselves at June 20. Today's SportsCenter quoted USA Today -- today, June 20, 2008, is hereby declared the happiest day of the year. Enjoy!

Funny thing is, I don't think I feel any different today than I did back in January. Except the wedding is only two weeks away. Now that's exciting.


Proverbs 19:21

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans go a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.



Want a free book? Head on over to the review of Jazz Notes at HJ and post a comment. Then, free book will be yours. Only available for the first 4 comments!



Originally published at:

Dan Merchant wonders, “Guys, guys [and presumably gals, too]—how are we supposed to have a conversation when everybody’s talking at once? Why is the Gospel of love dividing America?” Want to know why? Merchant decided to find out, so he donned a religious bumper-sticker-covered jumpsuit and set out across America in the documentary Lord, Save Us From Your Followers.

Along the way, Merchant meets Southern Baptists, apathetic Protestants, atheists, Al Franken, Catholics, homosexuals, Jim Santorum, a cross-dressing nun, and Tony Campolo calling Jon Stewart a “prophet of God” (referencing Tucker Carlson’s Crossfire on CNN, October 2004). He listens, asks, talks, pokes, prods. People critique his bumper stickers. They talk religion. In a conversation.

Merchant meets Ron Luce, leader of the national youth movement “Battle Cry” and discusses the “bee-hive” Luce and the event ran into in San Francisco. “Battle Cry” wants today’s Christian youth to speak out against the mass media culture that has turned America, a “Christian nation” according to Luce, into a culture opposed to Christianity. In San Francisco, “Battle Cry” staged a protest event on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall.

“It’s like we put our finger into a bee hive, and we didn’t know it—we didn’t realize it was a hotbed for a very violent response to people who represent the Bible,” Luce said.

This situation, according to Joe Garofoli, of the San Francisco Chronicle, put this Christian event on the same sacred steps for gay marriage, where the Mayor had decided to bless gay marriages just a few years ago. After the blow-up during the first event and plentiful press coverage, Luce brought “Battle Cry” back to San Francisco the next year, and again held a protest on the front steps of City Hall.

Merchant’s documentary opens with an animation of commentary from talking heads:

Jon Stewart: “Religion: it’s a powerful healing force in a world torn apart by… religion.”

Jerry Falwell: “We formed the Moral Majority. We weren’t intending to say everyone else is in the Immoral Minority.”

Merchant hit the streets and asked for the opinion of Americans on what Christians are all about: to be holy. Fanaticism. The Crusades. Killing off non-Christians. Trying to get other people to be Christians. Being good people That “love thy neighbor” thing. Theatrics. Jesus Christ. Being really snobby. Hypocritical. “Preparing to be holy, and being butt-[censored] wild behind closed doors. And that’s a fact.”

For Merchant, the trip began on a trip to Ethiopia, where he met Christians “full of joy, kindness and grace, despite living with daily hardships that would snap [him] in half.” That messed him up, he said, because he started to recognize the “stark contrast” between the Christians in Ethiopia, and the Christians he saw in America. “This collision of faith and culture in America—is killing me,” Merchant says. “It’s one thing to project our faith from a bumper sticker, it’s another to have a conversation. I think we’re getting it wrong again.”

Some will recognize this title from the book release. Lord Save Us has garnered attention from the Today Show and a USA Today Op/Ed piece. The film is available on DVD via group-screening license, by free download from the film’s website, or in a planned limited theatrical release June 13.

As documentaries go, Merchant and co-producer Jeff Martin produced a solid one. Both put their extensive television and film production experience to work, and through their production label hope to create more titles that express the spiritual truths of grace, redemption, and forgiveness.

The voices they include in Lord Save Us span the colors and faces of America and give a multi-sided voice to this commentary on Christianity in America. Politics and hot topics make up the early minutes of the film, while social justice and humility fill the later minutes. The film is also up-to-date, including footage of the Iowa Debates between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Through much of the film, there is a visual stimulation overload with animation, news clips, original interviews, talking heads, images, and music. Yet the representation implied is clear: there are many, many voices… and as Merchant noted early in the film, they’re all talking at once, and few are listening.



I met Bob this week working on a college mission project. I was the construction "expert" on our crew, and Bob was along for the ride. Bob is not a college student. Bob is a retired minister, has worked with the campus ministry at his local college for a few years and came along with a group from the college-age/stage church in his city. Bob loves those college students. And from what I've seen, they love him, too. It is nice to see a group of 50+ college students roll up to a mission trip with their pastor and somebody like Bob leading them. Here's to all the Bob's working in college ministry -- and youth ministry too!



Originally published at:

Jazz Notes CoverIn college, one of my friends thought a jazz book was misplaced in the spirituality section of the local bookstore. He bought it, liked it, passed it around his apartment and the rest of campus. None of us realized how big this book would be. That was Blue Like Jazz in 2003, which author Donald Miller himself never imagined would be a big hit. Miller admits in Jazz Notes that the books success surprised him, and he “anticipated about 90 percent more [negative feedback]” than he got.

Five years later, Miller himself has moved on, as have many of the crowd’s favorite characters, including Tony the Beat Poet and Pastor Rick. The book had sold over one million copies, and the screenplay for “Blue Like Jazz: The Movie” is complete and ready for filming. Now, Miller revisits Blue Like Jazz with Jazz Notes: Improvisations on Blue Like Jazz, a remix version, giftbook style.

Miller’s story is riveting at times. His stories are vividly honest and he asks questions that other people of faith often avoid. He talks about the first time he sinned at the age of 10. He talks about his friend Laura, a pastor’s daughter and avid non-Christian, exploring God and the Bible. He tells the ever-popular story of setting up a Confession Booth at Reed College in Portland, a notoriously secular school, where he and his friends apologized for everything that Christians had done wrong.

Blue Like Jazz is one of those books that I read nearly a half-dozen times, and it was difficult to decipher the new material from the old in Jazz Notes. Even if you have read it a dozen times, Miller writes with a freshness that will grab you every time. Clips from Blue Like Jazz are woven together with Miller’s commentary, new stories, and updates on the original story. The book also features a CD of Miller reading excerpts from the audio book.

If you are really interested in Blue Like Jazz, I would recommend the entire book. If you’ve read Blue Like Jazz and know friends who would like it, or if you want just a quick read, pick up a copy of Jazz Notes. And stay tuned for “Blue Like Jazz: The Movie” and Let Story Guide You, Miller’s much anticipated new book due out later this year.



Kidding. But in Nicaragua, they are celebrating what almost was:



Apparently I picked the right time to leave Richmond for a few days. After 5+ inches of rain over the weekend, now this??

Times Dispatch: "Strange Yellow Ball in the Sky"


Hey CP, It's an alpaca at the Lincoln Park Zoo



The Windy City from 1,000 feet.



On subway car 666 this morning, I had just heard a mobster analyze the near fight we watched on our bus detour -- two insecure men needed to ensure themselves of their masculinity, threatened lawsuits, hitting, slapping (but not punching). I could tell the mobster was watching me out of the corner of his eye from the other end of the subway car. We descended into the subway tunnel, things got darker and I thought, "Great, I'm on car 666, the lights are going to go out and the mobster is going to attack me in the dark and whisk me away to some unknown location."

Thankfully, he moved to another car and got off a few stops later. I arrived at Willow Chicago late, but unharmed. And none of this is fictional.


After 29 hours of travelling, i finally made it to The Drake. It's real nice. Too nice. And the Cubs won 13-6! Time to go meet high society...


Ahh yes. Cubbies and Pirates, comin' up next


Well, i got to Willow Creek's Chicago Campus 9:46 service at 10:52. Great old fashioned theater like Richmond's Byrd. On to Wrigley? I think so.



<>This tunnel in the Detroit airport has some psychedelic light/music show. crazy!


Flying to Chi-town in about half an hour. It's nice to have a break from school and work for a few days. Check back for pictures!



I'm flying out to Chicago tomorrow until Wednesday -- frequent flyer miles are the greatest thing ever. No particular reason, just for fun. On the agenda:

  • Wrigley Field
  • Pizza
  • Frank Lloyd Wright's House/Studio

  • We'll see what else we find while we're there. Dad's company has its annual conference at The Drake, so that's where we'll be staying. Hopefully I'll have updates on the blog.



    Over a decade ago, Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson's number: no player would wear his number again. This year, on the anniversary of his debut, players around baseball wore #42 as a tribute to Jackie.

    Adam Jones wore #42 for the Orioles. This kid (yes, kid. he's 1.5 years younger than me) is on my fantasy team, so I was excited that he hit a home run. But more importantly, a nice tribute to Jackie Robinson. When Adam hit the home run, one of the commentators said, "Somewhere, Jackie Robinson is smiling." I'm sure he is. Go Orioles!



    I didn't have a video camera, and needed to create a promotional video for our churchwide mission celebration weekend. Here's what we got...



    Somebody else linked to this yesterday, and I was amused and interested. How could downloading my own personal web browser of choice be like getting into college? This Firefox thing is a piece of cake compared to what I had to do to get into college, much less graduate:

    Why downloading Firefox is like getting into college

    A quick glimpse at just about any profession shows you that the vast majority of people who succeed professionally also went to college.

    This could be because college teaches you a lot.

    Or it could be because the kind of person that puts the effort into getting into and completing college is also the kind of person who succeeds at other things.

    Firefox is similar.

    Read on...

    Macs come with Safari, and PCs come with Internet Explorer. Seth is saying that it takes effort and persistence to make Firefox your browser of choice, so only the most dedicated of computer users would make it happen.

    Seth says only the most dedicated students will achieve the prerequisites to go to college, apply to college and finish college are the same kind of people who would download Firefox. Interesting.



    According to a Times-Dispatch story today, the Norva will be named one of the top 5 rock clubs in the country by Rolling Stone next week. I've seen a few shows at the Norva (The Fray, Switchfoot twice and Relient K) and they have all been great. A lot of times at a concert you feel lost in the crowd, but at the Norva every seat (well, ok there aren't any seats -- every "stand") is close to the stage.

    But the best part -- Bill Reid, owner of the Norva and part owner of the National in Richmond, said, "What we've done at The National is even better than what we did at NorVa." He expects The National to get the same award before too long. That will be something Richmond can be proud of. For now, we can just be proud of our neighbors.



    Remember those bean burritos you had last night, and how they just keep coming back? Yeah, missions is like that. Funny ad from Amor:



    I just got a message on Facebook from my first youth pastor. I knew he had been working on a new project for a while, but didn't know what it was. He's been working behind the scenes on EverythingMustChange.org. I haven't had a chance to read Brian McLaren's new book, which the site is based around, but I've heard great things. Kind of exciting to know the behind-the-scenes guys...

    50 STATES: GO!

    thanks marko



    Clinton's campaign has stuck the media following in the men's locker room at the Berger Athletic Center in Texas. One writer said the room doesn't affect the integrity of their stories -- glad their stories aren't crap.

    link to CNN.com



    Originally published at:

    The American frontier was often a dark and scary place for those back home. If you weren’t adventurous enough to head out west on your own, you sat back home and worried about those who did. Tony Jones tells a story of a mother and father grief-stricken at the unknown: their daughter and her new husband had ventured to the new frontier, and for months they had no word from their daughter. They did of the frontier’s horrors in the newspaper: disease, extreme weather conditions, poor health and fights with the Indians.

    In The New Christians, Jones introduces the world to the new frontier of emerging Christianity. Emerging church leaders, Jones says, are moving their churches to focus more on outward, Gospel-inspired ideas than on self-preservation.

    Jones and others have received much flak from prominent Protestant leaders. He jokes that any church leader reading The New Christians would receive less criticism by covering the book with a dirty magazine than to show what they are reading. A pastor joining Jones on a convention panel, warned the audience, “It’s dangerous...if these Emergent guys get their way, pretty soon we’ll be [practicing bestiality].” Jones strongly denies this claim, but acknowledges the source of these fears. “The primary concern for traditional evangelicals,” Jones says, “is the specter of relativism.”

    For centuries, people have taken their faith quite seriously, and Jones is unabashedly turning his boat in a different direction. He writes of someone who likened the traditional church to an ocean liner. One day, a small group boarded a life raft and set off in a new direction, only to find that “scores of others” wanted to follow. This “life raft” is taking faith more seriously, calling people to a deeper understanding of their belief and calling into question any “easy answer.”

    For many of his opponents, particularly evangelical megachurch pastors, the message of the Christian faith has been simplified in order to draw a Gen X crowd back into the church. That worked, Jones said, for that generation, but others want something deeper.

    Emergent is not the faith of a church claiming to set itself apart from culture while promoting Hollywood blockbusters (think Evan Almighty or Passion of the Christ), selling their books to discount retailers (Joel Osteen, Rick Warren) or “reveling in their newfound influence...on Capitol Hill,” Jones writes. This is a faith that finds spirituality in all of culture, finding hope in the redemptive, humanizing side of Ryan Seacrest in American Idol, balancing out the chastising voices of Randy, Paula and Simon.

    The PR company’s press release said that Jones visited four emergent churches across the country, so I expected a case study of sorts. What Jones delivers is a story: of the early days, before anyone called this “Emergent”; of the detractors and his response to their position; and the stories of these four churches.

    In the early days of the American frontier, dispatches were the source of what people in the East learned about the Wild West. Here’s what Jones says, in the dispatched from The New Christians, the Emerging Church is all about:

    Dispatch 1

    Emergents find little importance in the differences between the various flavors of Christianity. Instead, they practice a generous orthodoxy that appreciates the contributions of all Christian movements.

    Dispatch 6
    Emergents see God’s activity in all aspects of culture and reject the sacred-secular divide.

    Dispatch 12
    Emergents embrace the whole bible, the glory and the pathos.

    Dispatch 19
    Emergents downplay -- or outright reject -- the difference between clergy and laity.

    Emergent Churches don’t necessarily resemble typical Christianity in their gatherings, although some aspects are familiar. Tim Keel, pastor at Jacob’s Well in Kansas City, invites audience participation in his sermon. Journey in Dallas has a podium in the center of the room, surrounded by chairs with a stage on one side, and the band begins with worship music from evangelical recording artists. Karen Ward, pastor-priest of Church of the Apostles in Seattle, VJs the worship service while others take on leadership. At Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, members gather during the week to craft the following week’s sermon.

    Emergent Churches may not speak to everyone (although Jones’ fear of his parents disapproval of his church was unfounded: “My parents loved it!!”), but it has drawn in many disenfranchised with traditional forms of church. The New Christians is deeply theological (words about God). It is not a light read or a quick one and will give you a lot to chew on. And you may not agree with everything Jones writes.

    In Glenn Beck’s column last week on CNN.com, he told of a theology course he took a few years ago where the professor assigned only the books with which he agreed. Beck asked the professor for a list of books he disagreed with and read those as well. Whether or not you think you might agree with Jones and Emergent, allow yourself the space to read The New Christians and make your own opinion. You might decide to jump off on the life raft.



    Check it out: my preview of The New Christians, Tony Jones' latest due in stores next week.

    I wrote the preview (duh!) before I read the book, but now that I've started, it's hard to put it down! It certainly gives me hope for the church. Stay tuned, the full-fledged review will be up in a few days, and I'll post it here too.



    Originally published at:

    My friend’s dad passed away Monday night. He lived a great life of fifty-six years, and died having spent special time with his family by his side. In death, life seems more precious. More precious for me. More precious as we reflect on his life lived. Precious life.

    Milt Shields has passed his ninety-seventh birthday with barely a hiccup. His physical health is impeccable; he played tennis and golf until his mid-nineties, and still swims a few laps a day in the neighborhood pool. He says he has seen a doctor more from 94 to 97 than he did in his first 94 years, yet only a colonoscopy has kept him back in recent days. His son, David, however, is not so healthy: he boasts an aching back, a receding hairline, a reconstructed leg and, most importantly, a birthday past fifty. He views his own physical problems as an indicator of his aging as he reflects on birth, life and death in his memoir The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead.

    Shields follows the four stages of life: infancy and childhood; adolescence; adulthood; and old age and death. In each stage, he weaves the biology of that life-stages, stories from literature and history, the well-matured life experience of his father and the days of his own fifty-one years.

    In the first half of the book, Shields writes as though the glass is half-full. These young years bring life, hope and vitality, and Shields writes with a sense of longing for those years. In his own adolescence, his star athletic abilities were snatched from his life by an untimely injury. Hope is gone. When he begins writing on adulthood, the glass becomes half-empty. Life is no longer a wonderful gift, rather a curse that ends in death.

    Shields views the purpose of life as reproduction. After children are born, life is lived on a downhill slope, speeding rapidly toward impending death. Shields writes as an atheist (raised in the Jewish faith), so his perspective (fear) of death can be understood in that light.

    The biological implications of aging, along with Shields’ apprehension at moving toward death, yield the dark side to his writing. The scientific exploration follows his writing in verifying the decline of the human body after adolescence and early adulthood. Yet the evidence provides a fascinating glimpse into the complexity of human life and the changes we have seen in humanity from generation to generation. Did you know:

    “You’re born with 350 bones (long, short, flat, and irregular); as you grow, the bones fuse together: an adult’s body has 206 bones.”

    “Cardiovascular disease kills 40 to 50 percent of people in developed countries. Cancer kills 30 to 40 percent; car accidents kill 2 percent; other kinds of accidents kill another 2 percent.”

    “A major new study of body weight and health risks by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute concluded that the very thing (a person with a body mass index below 18.5 -- for instance, a man who is 6’ and weighs 136 pounds or a woman who is 5’6” and weighs 114) run the same risk of early death as the very fat.”

    “Your IQ is highest between ages 18 and 25. Once your brain peaks in size -- at age 25 -- it starts shrinking, losing weight, and filling with fluid.”

    From generation to generation, life changes and is increasingly complex. “In 1900, 75 percent of people in the United States died before they reached age 65; now, 70 percent of people die after age 65.” Medicine, diet and technology in the last century have lengthened our lives. Yet the proverbial “fountain of youth” has not yet been found.

    Shields’ stories will draw you in. One biology fact will make you want to change your life habits one way. The next will push you the other. The wit and humor from lives gone by will make you laugh and think, and long for a vibrant life.

    The thing about life is that one day you will be dead. How will you live yours?

    Disclaimer: This book’s MPAA rating would be PG13. Shields is deeply honest and open -- not dirty, just brutally honest -- regarding human biology and sexuality.



    Found this in Publication 525 of the IRS Tax Law, page 33:

    Stolen property. If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner.


    REV. LEE

    February 10th marked the first of two monumental events on my calendar in 2008. My home church ordained me in a service Sunday afternoon. It was a great time to see friends, family, teachers, baseball coaches, former pastors. Dr. Burhans (left), Chaplain Emeritus at the University of Richmond, spoke during the service. And Norman got a family shot to make up for the camera issues we had at the beach...

    And now you can call me Reverend Lee. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should.


    A friend of mine said recently that I have recommended all of the best books he's read lately. Samson and the Pirate Monks was one of them. I can't claim it as an original idea -- a friend of mine in Nashville recommended it to me. But alas, I am the one who gets the credit -- verbally and in print. Jacob's review is up at Hollywood Jesus.



    Exciting times: this is post #100 on rvaYM! It has been an exciting first 100, and I am very much looking forward to the next hundred and beyond. My New 100 Resolution is to post more often. We'll see if that happens...





    Back in July 2007, Steven Furtick at Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC (The 8th fastest-growing church in America according to Outreach Magazine) preached a 5-week series titled "Confessions of a Pastor." This message was the 5th week and was preached by Shawn Wood, Weekend Experience Pastor of Seacoast Church.

    We think of prayer like this:

      1.] We should do it
      2.] Jesus did it

    What do we think about prayer? We don't know what to say. It's boring. We talk about the "weather" (you know, like people talk about the weather when they don't have ANYTHING else to talk about?). When it really boils down to it, how many of us would say we should pray more? But what if we didn't need to pray more? Maybe that's wrong. Bigger isn't always better. We live in a super-sized world where we want more, more, more. But maybe in our prayer lives, bigger [more] isn't better. Maybe better is better.

    Ephesians 3:20-21:
    Now to [God] who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to [God's] power that is at work within us, to [God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

    1.]Now to God...

    My prayers are usually about me, but they need to be centered around God. It's kind of like Santa Claus prayers: here's what I want, I was good, so I should get them.

    2.]...who is able...

    It's about a God who can do big things. We tend to be boring people with boring lives who pray boring prayers. We have framed our prayers in terms of what WE can think up or imagine, but God is able to do so much more.

    3.]...to do immeasurable more...

    We need to believe that God can do what God is capable of doing.

    4.]...throughout all generations...

    When only God could possible do what we pray, "to God be the glory." We need to pray prayers that could change generations -- not just what our small, boring prayers could dream up. We need to pray prayers that can change a life, change a church and change a city.

    Are your prayers boring? Stop praying small prayers.

    TOP 5 OF: 2007

    With a couple weeks gone by, it's a good time to reflect on last year. After [read #1], it would be easy for everything to revolve around that. But I'll try to incorporate more of the year than just that.

    5.] Unofficial "Sabbatical"

    Finish one job. Wait a month until the next starts. Read a lot of books. Go to [see #3]. Family vacation in Emerald Isle. Get [see #1]. See where they film One Tree Hill (if you're wondering, I am not a fan. Yet. I'm sure someone will be working hard to change that in the next year!). I'd say that month-long break was a great experience, and well worth it!

    4.] Spiders vs. VT: January 3

    Jacob and I ventured out to Tech for a big basketball game against an ACC school. The trip was well worth the effort, even if the Spiders lost...without it, [#1] would never have happened.

    3.] Myrtle Beach, SC/Greenville, NC

    After finishing up work on Wednesday, I left for a beach/mission trip with a friend's church on Friday for a week to lead worship. It was a nice, relaxing trip, good food, good times. Then after a long trip back to Greenville, NC with that group, I went back to Myrtle Beach with Kim's family for a few more days on the beach.

    2.] Loose Change Benefit Concert

    We worked with the youth at the church to pull off a benefit concert to raise money for Loose Change to Loosen Chains. The event raised over $2,000 (I think? I can't really remember now...) and had some great music.

    1.] Emerald Isle
    I told her I needed new tires. She thought I had an itch. The "tires" was the ring, and the "itch" was pulling it out of my pocket. We have just over 5 months til the wedding now (and Kim could tell you to the day!), and the anticipation grows every day. That was another great, relaxing week at the beach with my family and we got to un-officially welcome her in as part of the family. I guess the official part comes in July.

    I kind of went back and forth on what should be #1, but in the end it was the engagement. Actually, it was the #2-5 that were so hard. I could have included my first trip to Blacksburg for Hokie football. Cameron's choir singing the National Anthem at Oriole Park. Or the trek to Clemson to watch the Hokies beat up on Daniel's Tigers. 2007 was a good year.


    No, not me! Are you?

    According to a study by Dr. Cliff Arnall from Cardiff University, today is the most depressing day of the year. He uses "a formula he developed, which factors in the weather, consumer debt from holiday spending and failed New Year's resolutions and arrives at that conclusion" (Time).

    Today's been a pretty good day, so I think he missed it. Better luck next year...




    When you accomplish so much, expend so much energy, work so hard and feel so full of life, why do you have nothing to say?

    That is the story of this January. The month has been great: a great class, good time with family (current and future!) and friends. Yet at the same time, I have nothing to say here, and nothing to show on the photo blog. I think about blogging every day, but you can't blog when there's nothing to say!

    A busy week coming up, but after this things get back to a normal routine. In all likelihood, it would be a waste of time to check the blog before February!