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A conversation partner | Wesley & Student Ministry


A conversation partner | Wesley & Student Ministry
(a book review)

A fellow I crossed paths with quite a few years ago recently contacted me about reviewing a book he wrote on student ministry and John Wesley. My first thoughts was… I like student ministry, I like John Wesley and I really like free books! SURE!
Now I guess I should confess that it wasn’t all that recently. I’m a bit behind on writing this little ditty here. Sorry Jeremy! But the good news… the book is available, go buy a few copies!!! Tell em’ Erik sent you.

So here’s the review…

Lost_Soul_YMTo have a conversation partner who helps you think through how what you believe shapes what you do is an extremely value thing. Youth pastors often get pretty stuck in the rut of just making it happen; programs, events, small groups, mission trips and a million other things. I speak as one such youth pastor. Often the why can get buried in dust kicked up by the doing. To have a few people that are continually calling you back to the why of ministry is really important. In this this book Jeremy is offering himself to fill a bit of that space for anyone who has been shaped by the beauty and truth of John Wesley’s theological contribution. (And to say practical theology is redundant but if you’re into Wesley much you already know that.

Bottom line, if you like Wesley and if you work with students you’ll like this book. So pick up a few copies and let Jeremy lead your student ministry staff and volunteers in a conversation about the real Wesleyan soul of student ministry!

That was my Amazon review, I would add that I especially enjoyed a couple of the grace sections. To talk about how prevenient grace and the means of grace can and should be a reminder that God is always and already at work, taking pressure off youth workers and rather inviting us to create spaces and places for that grace to be encountered. I love the vision and invitation we get from Wesley’s understanding of Grace and Jeremy helps us remember that we are simply participating in the grace that is always and already wooing and working on all of us.

I do think there were a couple chapters where he was stretching it a bit or maybe trying a little to hard. His contribution about John Wesley’s class meetings and bands is good but not unique. I would love some more source material and resources around this.  But no doubt thinking about how Wesley structured his ministry is helpful for the church and specifically youth ministry. And the book ended strong as well. The missional nature of Wesley’s theology, the constant impulse to be on the go alongside God’s grace, to be living in a way that is for the world is strong and Jeremy does well at highlighting that this and challenging the youth worker to embrace this.

My cirque is minimal, this is a good book. At first read I was bit unsure of the title but I get, I think. The soul is all about our desires and impulse, it’s about what is deep, at the center of a person. The soul (and I would add the heart, if we were speaking in OT terms) is root of all our actions.  My soul often feels buried by my to-do list. This book and John Wesley are both great partners in caring for the soul as we participate in the mission of God for the sake of the world.

You can pick up the book here.
And read more about the author, Jeremy Steele here. Or read his tweets. Or his blog.



Solitude is where community begins…


I had the opportunity to join some folks I work with on a retreat over the last couple work days. Our family ministry team at Christ Church snuck away and spend some time together at a really cool log-cabin retreat / wedding venue just North East of Plano. The location was actually in McKinney, which is the town I live in. It was about 15 away from my house.

We had a great time of praying alone and together, talking about things ministry related and even more importantly, things related to our personal formation as people who follow Jesus. I very thankful I work with folks who find this type of engagement important and “productive” in most meaningful of ways.

Nouwen Quote

This is a quote I pulled from a little book we read during our personal prayer / retreat time and then talked about when we came back together. The book the quote is from is entitled A Spirituality of Living  by Henri J.M. Nouwen. I’ve read this book a couple time before and I’m sure I’ve shared a quote or 2 from it’s pages right here on this blog. Maybe even that quote I put in that picture… it’s resonates so deeply I could post it once a month for many months to come and it would do my soul, my inner life good! (the picture is one I took on location at the retreat.)

I even took a little spiritual temperament test (we all took it and chatted about it). Contemplative wasn’t my top temperament but just behind it. Hmmm… I’m not sure that test would have looked remotely similar a few years ago! That’s exciting to me. I think with God’s help, my spiritual directors help, some good & godly relationships and significant growth that only the Spirit of God can bring about I am learning to heard my monkeys and order my desires rightly around Jesus and the life he desires to live in and through me. I have lightyears to go, I am still totally and completely a novice (in the proper monastic sense) but I’m on the path and for this A.D.H.D. kids (recently diagnosed! ;-)  that is a really big deal.

Screen Shot 2012-09-11 at 10.18.04 PMA few more from Nouwen… 

Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there space for that in our lives?

In and through the Spirit we become participants in the communion of love that Jesus shares with his Father. That is the mystery of our redemption and the promise of the spiritual life.

The way I would like to define communion here is that Jesus spent the night listening to the Father calling him the Beloved. (Luke 3:22 & 9:35)…
It is with this knowledge of being Beloved that Jesus could walk freely into a world in which he was not treated as the Beloved.

To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of our being and permeate our whole life. Who am I? I am the beloved. If we are not claiming that voice as the deepest truth of our being, then we cannot walk freely in this world.

Real freedom to live in this world comes from hearing clearly the truth about who we are, which is that we are the beloved. That’s what prayer is about. And that’s why is is so crucial and not just a nice thing to do once in a while. It is the essential attitude that creates in us the freedom to love other people not because they are going to love us back but because we are so loved and out of the abundance of that love we want to give.
This is where ministry starts…

Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we are going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that we are. We will expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. They cannot.

Community is solitude greeting solitude: “I am the beloved; you are the beloved. Together we can build a home.”

The word discipleship and the word discipline  are the same word—that has always fascinated me. Once we have made the choice to say, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus,” the questions is, “What disciplines will help me remain faithful to that choice?” If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we have to live a disciplined life.

It takes real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our mind.

A spiritual life without discipline is impossible.

Solitude, community, ministry—these disciplines help us to live a fruitful life. Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete.  (John 15)

(Just a few of the great quotes from the book! You should really check it out!)




Acoustic Goods // Music Mondays


I listen to a good bit of music, i’m not an A&R rep or anything but I listen to a lot of music. It’s varied, I listen to a lot of different stuff and have gone through phases where really different kinds of music have dominating my headphones.

Today I’m sharing a playlist I’ve been listing to A TON on Spotify… my Acoustic Goods playlist! I love acoustic singer song writer music! Like this…

Iron & Wine :: Boy with a coin

(also check out the official music video of this one)

It’s kinda funny, looking back and remembering the different stuff that has been on repeat. I can remember my rock phase, my U2 or anything that sounded like them phase , my indy band phase, my rap phase, not to be confused with my R&B phase. The techno year, and my moody sad-bastard music phase (still love that, my wife hates it, i.e. William Fitzsimmons). My Christian music only phase, which was a kinda long one but probably good for me! Many different bands have also had their turn on repeat… Dave Matthew, Guster (because I saw them open for Dave Matthews), Cold Play, Griffin House (he might have the record!), U2 (as mentioned above), Nashville only guys (Andy Davis, Matt Wertz, Dave Barnes, Trent Dabbs), Damien Rice (connected to the sad-bastard phase), David Crowder and all the passion worship guys had a long phase, as did Derek Webb (along with Caedmon’s Call), G Love and the Special Sause had a special phase!, Matisyahu (who can beat jewish reggae! This was tied to my study of the Jewish roots of the New Testament phase!), Gungor and the Brillance (their related so I connected them), Radio Head (who hasn’t had that one!), Sigur Ros… Wow, the list could go on!!!

But the acoustic, singer song writer thread has pretty much always snuck in from time to time. If I only could listen to one type of music, my desert island top 5 play list, it this would be all acoustic, all the time! Great song writing, voices and musicianship! It makes me want to play my guitar more and move back to Nashville! 

This playlist isn’t complete by any means. Guys like Griffin House and Ari Hest haven’t even made it on here yet. Sorry! There is always new guys popping up and new discoveries to be made (I’ll recommendations). I’ll keep adding to this list but check it out! There is some pretty great stuff on here! 

Here are a few of my favorites… 
(in video form)

Cataldo :: Prison Boxing

James Vincient McMorrow :: From the Woods

Iron and Wine :: The full show



PS :: There are a few off handed references from my #1 all time favorite movie!
(Here is a link to one of the best scenes from said movie — above references included)
*** warning — adult language will be found ***



Urban Rescue // Music Monday


My friend Jordan Frye and his band just released a new worship EP… AND IT’S GOOD!

Urban Rescue is the band & the name of the EP is Wildfire

Here’s my favorite track form the new EP

So it’s an interesting story. A buddy of mine gave me a flash drive with a bunch of music to check out and on that stick was this band Urban Rescue with this really raw worship EP but I loved it. Come to find out  it was some music they had recorded at the college they went to and played at, Point Loma Nazarene University. I was living in Southern California at the time, traveling and speaking, doing ministry wherever and whenever I got the opportunity. I was always looking for worship bands to travel with me and to play at events I was speaking at so I reached out to Jordan and a friendship began.

We didn’t do any ministry together for along time. But 4 or 5 years ago Jordan and I finally did a little tour together up and down the West Coast. It was a great week on the road with a dozen different stops and some amazing ministry. (Jordan even got a couple jobs out of the tour! You’re welcome! ;-)

Since then Jordan and the band Urban Rescue has really taken off and they continue to put out really great music. This new EP being is high on that list.

Their 1st big release which is a self-entitled album is still one of my favorites but you can listen to all of their stuff (except that first underground EP my buddy gave me) on Spotify and if you like it, of course you should then go buy it!

Here is the title track and also a great song on this new EP. Go listen to the whole thing… you’ll love it!



Prayer : why would I read other peoples prayers…


Prayer is a constant learning curve in my life. I most times feel pretty inept at praying and despite my many hours of practicing over the past 10 – 20 years, I still pretty much feel like a novice. This is why I am often reading or at least flipping through some book on prayer, how to pray, or creative prayer practices. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Ignatius inspired resources like these OR these OR this, uber helpful!

I picked up this very small book by Ronald Rolheiser on prayer a month or so ago. I finally starting reading it and wow! it’s really good! It’s pretty basic and accessible but really really good. It doesn’t dumb anything down or speak in juvenile language. I’m about halfway done and already think it will be the kind of book I get lots of copies of and hand out to people in my church some day. Rolheiser is a Catholic guy, a priest to be precise but so far in the book he is writing to a wide audience with very little Catholic specific verbiage. (His book Holy Longing is also really great and to say it’s worth the read would be an understatement!)

I wanted to share this little bit from his book. I often get the question, “why would you read other peoples prayers? Shouldn’t prayer just be from the heart? Simply you talking with God.” And of course that is part of prayer but I always try and speak to the experience of having a hard time praying and why there are times when having a prayer to read or a prayer book to guide you has really helped me to come to the father in ways that I often feel incapable of on my own. Rolheiser, in talking about Lauds (morning prayers) and Vespers (evenings prayers) says some real great things about these written prayers. I think they can have a wider reaching purpose then he suggests but they at least live into what Rolheiser is talking about, maybe more but not less. It’s very good! Here is a bit from this section, pick up the book to read the rest.

Prayer; Our Deepest Longing — I decided to picture it instead of type. Much faster!

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 10.35.17 AM



Needtobreathe // Music Monday


I’m a big fan of Needtobreathe. I love their sound, they write some great tunes and for the most part they really break the mold when it comes Christians bands. Their 2009 album The Outsiders, WOW! Such a good album!

But I’m featuring them on this Music Monday because there is a song off their new album that is completely stuck in my head. I had only heard it a few times, I liked it but it didn’t really capture my attention and I haven’t really listened to their new album, Rivers in the Wasteland much at all.

This past weekend I spent some extended time unplugged, silent and in prayer. And for some reason during this time their song Difference Maker was thoroughly stuck in my head… primarily just the line, “I am a different maker — I am a friend of God.” I couldn’t get that line and the melody form the song out of my head. Having only heard the song a few time and not being overly struck by it, it’s constant mental repeat during my prayer time felt like a message or a reminder or something like that.

I’m trying, in the way of of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, to recognize that everything is spiritual, God is always and already present and involved, and that it’s ALL a gift — every single thing and thought. So with that in mind, “I am a different maker — I am a friend of God.”

Needtobreathe has a TON of great music! Like I said, listen their album The Outsiders, track #1 to track #14 (front to back) and you won’t be disappointed once! But here are a few of my top recommendations (make sure to follow them on Spotify and then go buy a album or 2!)

The Outsiders — Track 1, side 1 —  ;-)
Let Us Love ***
Something Beautiful
Through the Smoke
Lay em’ Down
These Hard Times
Washed by the Water

As I look through their music I’m realizing all over again… It’s all good! Just click play and listen! And ENJOY!

And this series of LIVE Needtobreathe videos are also really great!



Faith, Hope and Love :: Some teaching


We’ve spent the summer with our students at Christ Church walking through 1 Corinthians 13, specifically the virtues of faith, hope and Love.


This Sunday is the final message in that series. I’m really excited to share with the students the finale and what everything has been pointing to all along.

Some verses we will be hitting…
John 14:6 (1-7) — Philippians 2:5 (1-11) — 1 John 2:1-6 — 1 Corinthians 2:1-6 — 1 Peter 2:21 — Matthew 5:48

We might not get to them all but you get the picture. Any guess what we’re gonna talk about! ;-)

I’m hoping to post more often on this blog some of the things I’ve been teaching. I might even offer some resources and study guides every once in awhile. I may even get crazy and post some audio & video… who knows!
I’m start with the Faith, Hope and Love series we’ve done. I’ve been able to share 4 times during this series, I’ll post some of my notes, thoughts and resources connected to this teaching. The idea is to do this every Wednesday but that I probably shouldn’t even tell you that. I try not to set myself up for failure to often! Even this post isn’t on a Wednesday, #FAIL! But you’ll be able to use the category tag “Wednesdays Word” regardless.

An even better questions :: Is anybody actually interested in this kind of  thing? What would be most helpful to you pastor type folks?

Peace (and pray for my students and for me as we dive in and hopefully find Jesus in the deep end!)



Feast of the Transfiguration


Today was the feast of the transfiguration. I wanted to write and post this earlier but I didn’t get to it. So here’s goes.

The the transfiguration is an amazing event in the gospels and is worth pondering anytime. It’s definitely one of my favorite stories, I find it absolutely fascinating.

This is my favorite icon of the transfiguration. I like it so much I have it with me always! Just ask to see my arm!

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware says, “It [ the transfiguration ] reveals to us the highest potential of our created nature, our ultimate vocation as human beings.” Very much in line with Fr. Roberts Barron’s capture to the above icon from Word On Fire Ministries, “[ the transfiguration is ] a preview of our own destiny!”

I love it! I think they are right on! The transfiguration is an event where the curtain is pulled back and we see how things are, how they fully are in the realm we call the kingdom of heaven. We see this same thing in the life of Jesus but it’s during the transfiguration that we see a scene where everyone is wrapped up and living into the reality of God’s kingdom, the living and the dead.

When Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark, “the kingdom of heaven is near.” That word near is often translation “at hand” because the kingdom has come so close in the person of Jesus that we see and experience this heaven, this realm where God rules and reigns as we see and experience Jesus. In the transfiguration the curtain is pulled back to ware these two realms, the kingdom of heaven and this present age collide or overlap or intersect. Hmmm… it’s kinda hard to explain it. I always think of the TV show Fringe. Yea, it’s kinda like that! Or maybe the Matrix if you’re looking for a pop-culture reference here. ;-)

Either way, welcome to the story!

Fr. Andreas Andreopoulos in his book “This is my Beloved Son: The Transfiguration of Christ” helps us to see that this is an event that keeps happening. We keep seeing the kingdom break into our world and into our lives. We live with this reality in mind, we participate in it’s in-breaking from time to time and we pray for it to happen often and finally.

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the prayer Jesus taught us to pray and it’s a prayer for his people to live lives shaped by the transfiguration and participating in the transfiguration story – transfiguration reality. We pray for God to act and answer this prayer and we open our lives for God to use us to be answers to this prayer. This is transfiguration kinds of stuff — kinds of prayer!

Bishop Todd Hunter gave a stellar message a few months ago on the transfiguration. Here’s a link ::
Todd Hunter | The Transfiguration: Unseen Reality.
Go listen to it ASAP. He nails it! Here’s a quote from the message, “There is always this glorious reality that sits behind the seen world that is always and already there.” #TRUE, this is the reality we see and experience in the transfiguration.

I could go on and on here. It’s absolutely fascinating and if we’ll let it this is a story that really can shape our lives here and now as we follow Jesus and live as he calls us to live.

Pray-As-You-Go is a great prayer resource. They provide little 10-12 minute audio meditations for folks to listen to as they go about their day. Today’s meditation was on the Matthew passage (17:1-8) on the transfiguration. Here’s a link if you’d like to pray a bit with the transfiguration in mind.

 Pray-As-You-Go | The Feast of the Transfiguration

I’ll probably write about this more in the future but for now, I hope you can have some thoughtful, prayerful moments guided by this story we’re given and this challenge we all have to live with the reality that the kingdom of heaven is near, always it’s near!

One last icon. This is a picture I took when I was at the Getty in LA.



Camp Playlist // Music Monday


Summer is winding down and I’ve been listening to a couple songs we sang at camp on repeat. So I thought I would make this Music Monday all about camp songs. What’s been your favorite song from camp this year? Or we could do an all time favorite camp song playlist. Hmmm… I’ll leave that to you.

So here is my top 5…

Here is the song I’ve been listening to the most from the camp I spoke at a couple weeks back. I really like it, it’s prayerful and leads me to sing some things I need reinforced in my head and heart. And it’s on an album entitle, FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD.  Very nice!
Closer | Bethel Worship


Here is another song I’ve been listening to for awhile. I play in some of my own prayer and meditation time. So I was stoked when they lead us with this song at camp.
Holy Spirit | Bryan & Katie Torwalt

I don’t listen to this song a ton but it’s fun and it’s been popping up a lot at events I’ve been speaking at lately.
Alive | Hillsong Young & Free

This song is everywhere. It’s the current worship hit! But it’s good, a great prayer, i’m a fan!
Oceans | Hillsong United

I love this song and this album by JMM but I don’t think of it as a corporate worship tune often. But the band at camp did it and it worked. Love the song!
Future / Past | John Mark McMillian


That’s my top 5 from camp! There are some other good one like One Thing Remains, they did some Sons and Daughter song – always good.



Leaders on Post-Christian Culture [ VIDEO ]


My bishop is Todd Hunter. Todd is one of those guys you just want to hang out with and listen in on everything he is saying because you know you’ll learn something, grow somehow and know Jesus better. I’ve started listening to the podcast from his church (Holy Trinity Costa Mesa), really good stuff!

I ran across this video today where he and  former African Archbishop Henry Orombi are interview about post-Christian culture. They hit on a bunch of really great topics around this and share some really encouraging words, especially for youth pastors. LOVE IT!
(I’ll post some thoughts below the video but make sure you watch this, it’s really good.)

Anglicanism in Post-Christian Culture from Christ Church Anglican on Vimeo.


Here are a few notes I made as I watched.
(this is a sort of stream of consciousness – FYI)

Todd talks about the draw and the leverage the Anglican church might have in our culture today.
“The instinctual draw to something anchored, historic, wasn’t invented yesterday…”
— Anglicanism as an offering to this stirring in the life of people in our culture.

— a desire to care for the spiritual part of you but it’s

Thomas Cranmer
— Cranmer as this intensely pastoral theologian and leader. This was his impulse …

Todd, We need honest to goodness disciples of Jesus. That’s what we need.

Todd loosely quoting Lesley Newbgin, “the best explanation of the gospel will be a community of people who live as if they actually believe it.”
— Real life disciples will be our very best apologetic in the generation to come.
— Todd says he doesn’t know anything better than the prayer book (BCP) as the simplest, most profound resource to actually produce disciples. And this is a gift from Anglican church.

The Anglican church as being able to embrace a charismatic / Holy Spirit filled life in since with a prayer book spirituality.

(a note from me)  This has been one of the more interesting revelations as I’ve walked down the Canterbury Trail as some call it, learning that this collar wearing, robe rocking, communion – sorry, Eucharist taking people are often very open and embracing of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. From the beginning it’s just felt really healthy. I’ve see priest speak in tongues and get slain in the Spirit. WHAT?!?! It’s true! Not the norm, doesn’t seem to happen often, it’s forced or contrived but the tribe I hang with these days does leave room for it and I think that is cool even though I have never done either.

So there’s not pressure to be “entirely sanctified” or to speak in tongues but there is freedom to be fill and manifest the Spirit however God leads one to. I might say this is the real journey of sanctification.

Todd talks about simply making yourself available to the Spirit work in your life.
(and check out Todd’s message from Pentecost Sunday. VERY good!)

Archbishop Henry Orombi talking about ministry and young people — very encouraging!
“If we can’t capture young people today we have lost them! We have a huge problem.”

“I feel very strongly that every grownup should have the capacity to disciple someone that is younger. Maybe one person alone, just pour yourself in that young person.”
#HECK YEA! #GOArchbishop #you’respeakingmylanguage #iloveit

“In my country these two areas are so important, the family and the young people. So important that the church has to do a lot in equipping them to be able to be a witness.”

Todd, “Trying to do youth group continually more cool has diminishing returns.”

Some things Todd has noticed that are working in youth ministry.
— Join apologetics with some kind of social justice.
— Call kids to radical discipleship.


So yea, those are a few of my favorite nuggets from this interview. What did you like?