Ramblings: The Super Bowl, Hot Tamales, and Leadership Development.

The whole aftermath of the Super Bowl focusing on Cam Newton would make me really mad if I was a Broncos fan. Manning is the sentimental story, this moment should be about him riding off into the sunset. And about dropping Budweiser and God both into his post-game speech.

The real story of the Super Bowl should be Von Miller. Yikes. All of the sudden I don’t feel so bad about the Charger losing a couple of games to Broncos this season. Miller is a beast, and I’m glad he got MVP.

The advertising background in me always gets excited to see what the best and brightest come up with for the big game, so this year was an overall letdown. What a waste of Anthony Hopkins selling out. I’m guessing ad agency talent is being directed somewhere else besides tv commercials at this point.

The whole Chargers thing is a mess. Committing to another year in SD the same day they sign an agreement with the Rams ownership is like telling your girlfriend you want to stay together right after signing a lease on a new place with someone else.

I’ve been pretty vocal about how much of a tool Spanos has been in this mess, but make no mistake, the city of San Diego needs to share in the blame. Both sides have shown little regards for the people of San Diego, and one side is going to end up looking like a hero if the Chargers do manage to stay.

Buying new tires may be on of the most frustrating car maintenance purchases. Normally, something that expensive means it’s too complicated to understand if you’re not a mechanic. Tires go in circles, it’s pretty easy.

I can’t wait for baseball season. I know the Padres are in unofficial rebuilding mode, so my expectations aren’t that high. Hopefully this will make the season that much easier to enjoy. Also, we have the All-Star Game this year. I went in 92 and have plans to go this year as well. Stoked doesn’t begin to describe my excitement for those festivities.

What kind of 7-11 doesn’t carry Hot Tamales?

Pacystace and I have found ourselves really interested in the People vs OJ series. I can’t begin to explain why. I didn’t realize that we have that trial to blame for the groundwork of the Kardashian family mess taking over pop culture. Now I don’t like OJ even more.

I’ve been listening to a lot of indie-punk lately. Everything from late 90’s Piebald to the latest Prawn album. There’s something so appealing to about listening to music that could have been written by the guys in the garage next door.

90’s Ska/Punk is still king of my iTunes though.

A couple of weeks ago our staff did some leadership development training with Eric Metcalf from Community Christian Church based out of Chicago. One of the big takeaways for the process of developing leaders was the three-step process of: Identify potential, give a task to complete, then give something that stretches abilities. Seems so simple, but I can see where I, and other leaders could easily skip one of those. If you miss out on identifying abilities, you assign the wrong things to the wrong people and it won’t stick. Not giving an initial task can cause someone to be overwhelmed by going immediately to something over their head. Not stretching someone leads to complacency and boredom.

Instagram is making it easier to switch between multiple accounts. That’s actually been my only frustration with app. I’m declaring them the winner in social media outlet of choice (sorry friendster). Representing a few distinct entities (church, camp, myself) got a whole lot easier to keep separate. Now, if they would go back to only square photos.

Undercover Boss: Kylo Ren may be the funniest SNL video short of the 2010’s.

One love, one heart.

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Thoughts From Yard Duty

For the past couple of years I’ve been volunteering as a yard duty at one of our local K-8th grade schools. Twice a week I head to the school for a couple of hours and stand watch while the 4th/5th & 6th/7th grades eat and head out for recess. To say that it’s been fun is an understatement. Beyond the joy that comes from hanging out with a bunch of my kiddos a couple times a week in the (usually) beautiful SoCal weather, my time as a yard duty has repeatedly taught me quite a bit, and reminded me of things I’ve long since forgotten from Jr High. Here are a few things that I’ve learned/ been reminded of in my time working the yard:

Jr High crushes are a big deal. At least they are when you’re in the middle of one. I think as we grow older we forget how utterly confusing it is navigating your way around a crush for the first time, or the first few times. Without the benefit of perspective that comes with age, kids are simultaneously trying to express their hearts, guard their hearts, and grow their hearts. All of this with the potential pressure of friends that have no basis for comparison when trying to offer advice, and adults that can easily limit their influence to ‘you’re just a kid’. A few weeks ago I watched a jr high boy break down because he didn’t like his crush anymore ‘like that’ and had no idea what to say. His tears were only matched by hers when she received the bad news. Hollywood writers can’t even begin to capture this type of heartbreak.

The Breakfast Club begins a lot sooner than High School. It’s amazing to watch kids start to splinter off into different groups and personality types so young. The brain, the athlete, the basket case, princess and the criminal are all right there. It’s surreal to watch these traits develop. Knowing some kids are going to coast through school (and probably life), while seeing signs of kids that are on a much more difficult path, maybe even dangerous, is heart wrenching. The youth pastor part of me is so used to being able to speak into kids lives, to have a certain degree of comfort knowing that they’ve at least heard a Godly path presented to them. Not being in a place to speak into their lives is by far the most difficult transition.

Kids are hilarious. On any given day one of the kids will say or do something that catches me totally off guard. The Yard Duties laugh a lot. Despite some of the difficulties and frustrations that come with the role, any given day has it’s fair share of quotes and memorable moments. My favorite quote comes from the week when the kids were in a Heath & Wellness class, and they were telling me about the film they were viewing. “We had to watch Puberty. It was awful.”

The happiest kids are the ones that just want to play. I’ve always been a big proponent of not burdening families with a crazy youth ministry calendar, and working with kids that have so much of their time structured really drives that point home for me. On any given day I’ll run into a kid stressing about everything they have to do after school. Hint: it very rarely involves the dreaded word ‘homework’. Usually, it’s a sigh followed by the mention of a practice, or rehearsal. I’m all for kids playing sports and being involved in theater and music, but I think given a choice, most kids would be happy with the chance to simply play with their friends. In no way am I in favor of abolishing organized sports or art programs, I’m just saying we as a culture might want to back off the throttle a little bit when it comes to filling up our calendars.

The most prominent, and most convicting observation is how much their home life affects kids ability to navigate the day. Between the classroom, interaction with the teachers, interaction with other students, friends, crushes, homework, recess, who to sit with at lunch, dealing with bullies, and the millions of other difficulties that come with growing up, our kids do have lot on their plates. A solid home, and healthy relationship with both parents provides the foundation that kids need to navigate the day. You can see it in their eyes when things aren’t good at home. You can hear it in their words when they haven’t talked with a parent in a while. You can tell by their walk when they’ve been an afterthought.

My prayer is that we as adults can remember the joy and pain of growing up, that we can speak wisdom into the lives of kids, and have the wisdom when to let them figure things out on their own. May we value their time, thoughts, sense of humor and energy, and respond in kind. May we draw on the Lord for strength when things get difficult, and teach them to do the same. Oh yeah, and may we give plenty of high-fives. Kids love high-fives.

One love, one heart.

Mona Lisa and the Art of the Important Walkers.

If you head out to any school gym, on any given night, and sit up in the bleachers you’ll see them. They’re trying to make it to their friends, their seats, or just out from the obvious attention they’re getting by walking in front of ‘literally everyone’. They move in increasingly rapid strides as they near the center of the action, desperately trying to move out of the way quickly, but not too quickly, because that’ll draw too much attention.

They’re important walkers.

It’s a phenomenon we’ve all seen, but can easily be overlooked. The other day I was at a basketball game and I noticed them again. They moved in a closely huddled group back from the snack bar to the comfort of their seats, which were near-their-parents, but not too near. I’m sure you’ve seen it as well, kids cutting across the gym floor, or the stands at a football game, the stage at rehearsal, no place is exempt.

As we grow older its easy to forget this phenomenon. Being equally thrilled and mortified at the rush of trying to get to your friends, or your seat as quickly as possible. With age comes perspective, and a desire to camp out, and to skip the snack bar. But to those kids mid jaunt- there’s something significant going on. Wether it’s getting out of the center of attention (there’s a great basketball game going on that everyone is here to watch but, oh no!everyoneisstaringatmeibettergettomyseatquickthisissoembarassingwhatkindofweirdotakesthslongtowalkinfrontofmypeoplewasthatmycrushlookingatmeibettersitdownlikerightnowgoodimherefinally) or simply being excited to see someone, the important walk serves as a clear reminder that perspective changes with age, maturity and perspective. For example, those important walkers hustling across the court today may be the important walkers in a few years taking a carefully calculated stroll to make sure that certain someone knows they are cool enough to walk to the snack bar with their own money.

Meanwhile over at the Louvre in Paris, thousands of people line up daily to see the Mona Lisa. If you haven’t seen the Mona Lisa, it’s a 30” x 17” painting of a lady who may or may not be smiling. Or, if you’re an art lover, It also happens to be considered a masterpiece painted by one of the greatest minds in history.

I’ve got friends who don’t ‘get’ the Mona Lisa. They know it exists, but they have no idea why it’s a big deal. They know it’s attached to an important part of history, and it’s image is used in a lot of places, but if you ask them to break down why it’s important, they struggle. On the other hand, you can sit down with many artists, or art aficionado’s and comb through volumes of thoughts how every slight gesture or change in hue secures the Mona Lisa’s status of masterpiece.

One of the things that I’ve learned from working with teens, is that there is an art form to understanding what is a big deal to others. We may see a teen crush that’ll blow over in a few weeks, but they may not be able to see anything but that crush. We may see the latest gadget that’ll be obsolete this time next year, but they see the item that consumes seemingly every conversation.

Recognizing what is a big deal in the life of others doesn’t stop at youth ministry though. Operating with perspective when dealing with others was one of the masterful strokes of Jesus’ ministry. If you’re the woman at the well, having a Rabbi acknowledge your presence with grace means the world. If you’re a leper who’s used to having others required to avoid you, being touched by a Rabbi is a life changing moment.

A few years ago my friend asked me why I like the Mona Lisa. She said she had tried to understand why that painting was such a big deal. I talked to her about composition, lighting, juxtaposition, the history of da Vinci and that mysterious look on the Mona Lisa’s face. We had a long discussion about art and she asked a ton of questions, letting me geek out on art along the way. The important thing is, she understood that it was a big deal to me. Even when she didn’t ‘get it’, there was never an attitude of dismissal, derogative language, or placating comfort. There was an authentic desire to understand something she knew others saw as important.

May we all seek Jesus’ perspective when it comes to recognizing what is a big deal in the lives of others. May we seek His grace when it comes to dealing with situations that are difficult for those who don’t have the life experience that comes with age. May we ask questions when we don’t understand, and listen well when someone struggles with an answer. And may we all chuckle a little bit and remember that we all have been an important walker at some point in time.

One love, one heart.

From the YM: Tips and Thoughts on Kids and Social Media

Lately I’ve had a few parents ask me for tips on helping their kids navigate the world of social media. I’ve talked with a few of the NVC teens about this as well to get their thoughts and here are a few tips/reminders that I’d like to share.

The question I get asked most often is, “When is my kid old enough to be allowed on social media?” My usual answer is every family needs to make that call on on their own, based on the individual child. Much like rated R movies, dating, driving, and curfew, how ready a kid is to navigate social media ultimately comes down to the parents belief in their maturity, and their willingness to walk alongside their kid as their world expands. The keys are an open and honest talk beforehand, clear expectations and guidelines, and a willingness for kids and parents to revisit the issue on a frequent basis.

There are a three areas I recommend talking about before allowing your child on social media:

Setup.

  • Parents should register social media accounts to a shared (or parent) email so notifications of changes in security are sent immediately.
  • Parents should have password access to the account for an agreed upon time. My recommendation would be until High School. Obviously, that timeframe should be based upon trust that has accrued.
  • Especially when it comes to younger kids, parents should be on every social media platform that their kids are, and connected to their account.

Safety.

  • All social media accounts should be set to private, meaning anyone that views the posts or profile have to request permission beforehand.
  • All friends requests/followers/subscribers should be approved by parents for an agreed upon amount of time.
  • Turn off all location settings for posts until an agreed upon time. Almost every social media app has a setting allowing your location to be displayed. A quick internet search can help you turn that off.
  • Report all bullying immediately to the social media outlet.

Posting guidelines.

  • For the first several weeks/months kids should get verbal approval from parents before posting anything to social media. This allows kids and parents to establish a mutual understanding of what the family does/does not want public. It also allows parents to speak to the kids about potential dangers of social media in a non-threatening way.

A few other ideas to consider:

Social media is well past mainstream acceptance, and is a viable means of communication, but like any other means of communication there are social cues to be learned. Talk with your kids about what they see on their feed, and how they feel, or want to respond.

One of the dangers of social media is the temptation to use it as a means of self-worth. Unless you are getting paid for posting (a growing, viable demographic we’ll talk about at another time) how many likes, followers, reposts etc… does not determine your self worth.

Like I mentioned before, social media is an increasingly valid form of communication. Encourage your kids to think about what they want to communicate. Do they want to share extraordinary events? Daily life? Encouragement? Connecting with others? Creating an intentional plan for how to use social media encourages your kids to use social media to be a blessing to others. For example, instead of posting selfies, maybe there is a friend they can build up instead.

Respond to what your kids post in person. If your kid posts a great picture of the sunset, let them know you enjoy their photography, or the way they see the world. If they post a picture of their group of friends, compliment them on their decision making, and ask how one of the friends is doing. If you’re struggling with a conversation topic, your kids social media account may provide a great lightning rod for conversation, and insight into their personality.

I’d love to hear your tips and advice for helping kids navigate social media as well. Feel free to share in the comments below.

One love, One heart.

Maximalism and the art of the New Year’s Resolution.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about new year’s resolutions. While the beginning of the calendar year seems like a great excuse to embark on something new, or create a new discipline to follow, I’ve often fallen into the trap of feeling burdened by new resolutions. Looking back on previous years’ resolutions, especially the ones that were not fulfilled, it seems like one of the common threads was this idea that I had to add something to my life.

Back in the 1970’s a new style of art was birthed out of a response to the minimalism movement. Maximalism artists started to operate under the axiom of ‘more is more’, trying to jam pack every square inch of canvas, fabric, space with as much visual eye candy as possible. Simple gave way to complex for the sake of complexity. Layers begat layers, and soon a whole movement was born trying to fill up space with as much design as possible. This movement wan’t about filling space with patterns, but micro images that created a macro work that visually overwhelmed the eye.

I feel like many of the new years resolutions I’ve declared in past years have focused on adding something to my life, wether it’s working out, daily study, or spending more time (fill in the blank). This year I decided to mix things up and approach this opportunity of seasonal based change from a different perspective and remove things from life. I don’t have a set list of things to remove, but am focusing more on the principle of ‘does this need to be here’ when it comes to my time, thoughts, and usage of energy.

My inspiration for this approach comes from a Bible study I started a while back, comparing the numerous laws of the Old Testament to the teaching of Jesus. While many of the ancient laws work congruously within the framework of Christ’s teachings, I find that the words of Jesus tend to simplify the intent of the law into a much more meaningful way of life. Instead of focusing on the minutia of the law, focusing on a way of life seems to affect change from within.

So this year in an attempt not to be overwhelmed by laws and systems that govern my time and energy, and tend to create frustration when measured against the calendar, I’m looking to remove the unnecessary things that add complexity to my life. Discarding new goals in exchange for classic principles, finding comfort in the minimal, and avoiding the maximal.

One love, one heart.