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Prayer : why would I read other peoples prayers…


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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!
ENJOY!

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 10.35.17 AM

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Needtobreathe // Music Monday


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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!

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Faith, Hope and Love :: Some teaching


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

FHL BG 2

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 my blog here some of the things I’ve been teaching. Maybe even offering some resources and study guides every once in awhile. I may even get crazy and post some audio & video… who know!
I’m start with the Faith, Hope and Love series we’ve done. I’ve share 4 times during this series, I’ll post some of my notes, thoughts and resources connected to this teaching over the next few weeks. 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!)

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Feast of the Transfiguration


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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.

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Camp Playlist // Music Monday


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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.

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Leaders on Post-Christian Culture [ VIDEO ]


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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.

post-secular
— 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.

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

 

 

 

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Cold War Kids // Music Monday


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Every once in awhile I scroll through my iTunes artists or songs, I might even get crazy and shuffle! I have A LOT of music on my computer, stuff I never ever listen to you. (tempted to brag of how many hours of music or how many songs I have on my computer but I’ll hold back. You probably have more then me anyway.) I do need to figure out a good way to get it all off my computer but still have access to it. Any ideas? I subscribed to the iTunes Match but to be honest, I’m not a huge fan, I haven’t found it super helpful and it doesn’t actually get the music off my hard drive. So I have many gigs of unlistened to music on my computer that I can’t bring myself to delete. Oh no, I’m a hoarder! ;-)

With all that said, the other day I ran across the Cold War Kids. SO GOOD!!! I had kinda forgot about them, it’s probably been 2 years since I’ve listened. I don’t really listen to rock and roll all that much! I’m more of the singer songwriter type these days but for the last week or so they been on a heavy rotation. They have some really great tunes!

Hang Me Up To Dry is one of their more popular songs. One of my favorites. It’s really good. Here’s a video…
[ I wanted to post a live video of this song because they are a really great live band! I was able to see them with my friend Brad Strouse who works in the music industry in Nashville. He was like, “you’ve got to check these guys out and I have an extra ticket.” DONE! He was right, they put on an amazing live show. Tons of energy, musically the album totally transfers to their live show (can’t say that about many great bands ) and in general they just draw you in and give you a great experience. But I couldn’t find any great video on youtube that show this so here the “official music video” of the song…


They have some really great music, their album Robbers and Cowards is the best! In my opinion.
Here are some of my favorites songs…

Hospital Beds
Audience
We Used Vacation
Royal Blue
Mine is Yours

You can check them out on spotify but add them to your playlist however!

A couple more video’s worth a watch…

Louder Than Ever

Miracle Mile

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RHYTHM :: Life, Love and blogging…


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I had an amazing time at camp this past week! Our theme was RHYTHM and I look forward to sharing more about that with you! I had a few people at camp ask me about my blog… WHAT?!?!  I didn’t think anybody even read this thing. I’ve been trying to hit my blog once a week for the past few months. Don’t look back to far, you’ll see my failure!  But i’m gonna keep trying to hit this about once a week. Some times it will be more and sometime I might even miss a week (don’t give up on me — i’m giving you opportunity to practice Christian love, patience and persistence.)  ;-)

I’ll be blogging on ministry, music, life and other thoughts and pondering.
I have a couple writing projects that i’m working on and starting to work on. I’d love to run some of that by you!

Basically i’m always thinking, working and creating.
The more voices, the better the conversation! So let me know what you think.

The next few post will about about camp. And some of the things I shared there. Our these was RHYTHM. So much fun!!!


Stay tuned for the conversation! I’m loving it!!!

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Summer Camp & My Philosophy (and a few memories)


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For the past 14 years I’ve been speaking at summer camps! Haven’t missed a summer, at least 1 camp for the past 14 years, WOW! And for a good stretch of that time I was speaking at 5, 6, 7 — I think my record was speaking 8 camps in a summer!

I remember one summer having an open week and as I was traveling from New York back to Nashville for my week off when I received a call from a fellow camp speaker and friend, “Erik, I’ve got car problems. Can you go to West Virginia this week and speak a camp for me?” I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. My answer, “HECK YEA!” I turned around and headed to West Virginia for an amazing week of camp.

I LOVE CAMP!

I’ve grown over the years in how I understand camp and how I see my role at a camp when I’m the speaker / camp pastor. I understand the importance of the role and believe it to be a sacred privilege to come along side youth pastors and camp programmers in the ministry of summer camp. And the amazing opportunity to connect with students, if even for only a week, on their spiritual journey is absolutely trilling!

I also feel like I understand this in a deeper or at least different way now that I’m also a youth pastor who takes students to camp. I understand a bit better the hopes and prayers of those youth pastors sitting next to their students whom they’ve loaded up and driven hundred of miles to camp. Youth pastor and volunteers who have taken time away from their families and are sleeping on poorly padded slabs of plywood and eating less then desirable food all with the hope that these students they love and are invested in will encounter God and be transformed to live their faith when they get home!

I GET IT!

These days I speak at 1 or 2 camps in a summer. It’s perfect!

Life is busy. I’m a full-time youth pastor, which I love and is my ministry priority. I have a growing family, which is actually my highest ministry and priority. I’m writing books and blogs and dreaming about the future God has for my family and me.

Life is busy but I am so very thankful that I still get to do camp ministry as a speaker!

This summer I’m speaking at 1 camp. It’s only an hour from my house, which is awesome!
(Although I love traveling – which I don’t get to do much these days.)

I was emailing with the camp director the other day and was trying to communicate with him about my philosophy of camp and something like this is what came out…

“My philosophy of being a camp speaker / pastor is that I’m at the disposal of the director of the camp and the youth pastors of the camp. Whatever you need and however you can use me to make the camp experience what you are hoping for, I’ll do my best to deliver that! I don’t see myself as a hired gun who comes in with a prepackage set of messages that may or may not work for your camp. I’m crafting message specifically for you, your students and the experience you are trying to create, trusting with you that God will be encountered and transformation will be set in motion as we come along side God and what He is wanting to do! So let’s do it!”

That’s my heart!
I love it!
I can’t wait till next week!
It’s camp time!!!

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As I write this blog I’m remembering some of my favorite camp experiences!
I’m thankful for these people and places! Thought I would share…

#1. Manville Nazarene Camp – NWIL Camp :: This has to be number 1 because it’s the camp I grew up at and it’s the place and the people who God used to draw me to himself. I remember getting the opportunity to be the camp speaker. I was probably 22 or so and in absolute awe that God would bring my life in such full circle. From being the little middle school student with no clue of who Jesus was to now being the speaker He was using to tell those squirly students of who He was and the good news of a relationship with him and the abundant life He was leading them into! WOW! So awesome!

(no order for the rest of the camps)

* Alaska Naz. Camp :: 2 weeks in Alaska, hanging with students, sharing Jesus and doing a lot of really cool experiential exercises in faith and growth. Bob Sugden, the camp director is a stud who really loves students and puts on a GREAT low key and transformational camp!

* Youth Front / KC Naz. Camp :: The Youth Front people are some of the coolest folks I know. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE what they are doing! They would probably be my highest recommendation if I were to asked by a youth pastor “where should I go to camp.” (With camp Illuminate & Bryant Underwood a close second, even though I haven’t spoke for Byrant.) Youthfront is doing some different kinds of things these days, still LOVE IT though. Micah Thomas and Mike King are some of those people who I really wish I could spend exponentially more time around!

* Edge Camp :: Bob Swan is probably one of the best youth workers I’ve ever crossed paths with! A veteran – lifer youth pastor! He puts on a RAD camp for sure!!!

* IL Naz. Camp :: Spoke at this camp many times! Have make many friends at this camp that I still keep in touch with! Amazing people like Jamie Toolen, Brad Grinnen, Todd Holman, Erin Murphy and more! I’ve also had the weirdest camp experience ever at this camp. That’s a story for another day ;-)

* Barefoot Republic Camp :: This camp has one of the coolest missions ever as they seek racial, economic and denominational reconciliation. I had an amazing week with them despite rooming with the loudest snorer I have ever encountered in my life! Tommy Rhodes is doing an amazing ministry here!

* Fuge Camp Belmont :: I don’t often get to hangout with the Baptists at camp but the handful of Fuge camps I’ve had the opportunity to speak at have been really great. They’ve all been mission camps, working and participating in God’s mission during the day and connecting your actions to God’s Word at night. Love that model! Jerod, Kyle Cravens, James Jackson — such great camp hearts and minds!

* Fuge Hawaii :: Hawaii — enough said! But it was also a great camp. Got to dig in with students in Bible studies and activity groups. Exhausting week but really great and did I mention it was in Hawaii!!! And Lori Mangum, Brad Puckett and Eric Vinson were amazing to do ministry with!

* NY Metro Naz. Camp :: Hanging and sharing at such a diverse camp was a really cool experience. And the pranks were EPIC! ;-) Lou Zambito and Darren Ojeda are amazing dude and the Morales crew are simply amazing people!!!

* Smithmills Camp :: I been to Smithmills a couple times, such a great family experience! A very primitive camp, open air tabernacle and all the trappings that remind one of the “good old days!” And really great people and the best seafood ever! Bill and Jayne Eklund and all their amazing student leaders! Amazing place, amazing people!

As I make this list I just realize i’ve had so many amazing camps experience and I can’t even remember them all! Chicago camp, So Cal Camp, Virginia Naz Camp, Ohio Camps and the list goes on! Thankful for all the people and places God has introduced me to!

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Worship Music // Music Monday


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My father-in-law asked me for some good worship music the other day. I sent him this little list with some links to check out these tunes on spotify (if you don’t have a spotify account you might need to sign up for a free account.) I thought I would share here as well! And I added a few video’s for good measure.
(some of these tunes have been featured on Music Monday already but that’s ok, all are really good and worth a REPEAT!)

Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern

Spotify link :: Passion – Hymns Ancient And Modern

All Sons and Daughters :: The Longing EP
:: The Live Album is also really good.

The Brilliance :: The Brilliance Road Recordings
:: Their Lent Album is AMAZING! And their 1st Advent album is also really good

Gungor :: I Am Mountain
:: Ghosts Upon The Earth

John Mark McMillian :: Borderland
:: The Medicine

And here is a playlist i’ve make on spotify of some worship music i’ve been listening to. Some of what’s above is included and a lot of other stuff as well.
My Spotify Worship Playlist

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