Thursday, December 27, 2007

Choose the Booze You Lose (it's a long one!)

Here's an "article" I wrote for youth group. In summation, we cannot expect our schools to "fix" problems like under-age binge drinking as it is not within their scope of influence.


With New Years Eve approaching I want to address a pertinent issue in our community. New Years is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, party night of the year; which is ironic because you’re either ending or starting your year partying, depending on how you look at it. Either way our students will certainly be in a position to make some choices if not this year, then in a rapidly approaching year.

Over the past several months I have had the privilege of working with a local coalition for drug free schools, made up of leaders from the Rockwood School District and the community. Rockwood students rate higher in participating in binge drinking than other students in Missouri and the country. In those meetings I got be on the “front lines” of alcohol abuse prevention and interact with teachers, students, and law enforcement officials. I learned a lot of information and got to see great efforts being made to face this issue in our community, an issue that could easily be swept under the rug or dismissed as “kids just being kids”.

I commend the efforts of the coalition and look forward to future collaboration with them. However I feel as a person in a position of “influence” with youth and parents, and as a Christian I can offer a unique perspective (by influence I mean I have a forum to espouse my ideas, that doesn’t mean I’m important!). It is not the responsibility of our schools to teach our children not do drink.

It’s ours.

By “ours” I mean parents and other adults who care about what is best for our students not only in the eyes of society (i.e. being “good” kids) but in the eyes of God. You see, our schools can’t really teach our kids about ethics or morality, that is not what they’re charged with. We cannot expect them to, nor be angry when they do not. Our students can learn about the legal and biological consequences of binge drinking, but they cannot be taught about why it is a “bad” choice. Because in making a judgment of what is “good” or “bad”, you will ultimately have to appeal to a higher authority. Otherwise your parameters for what is “good” and “bad” will be mere subjectivity, emotion, or pragmatism.

Again, our schools can demonstrate how you’ll pay this much for an M.I.P. ticket when you get busted or show a picture of a scarred liver after binge drinking for years. But can a health teacher weigh in on whether or not binge drinking is a good choice from a moral standpoint?

The problem with this situation is that most high school students do not find statistics, legal repercussions, or health problems to be a deterrent. After all, when we’re young we’re immortal! The “I’ll never get caught” or “that won’t happen to me” cards quickly trump any grounds we present from the perspective of mere information. So we are left with kids that are well educated but not morally (one could even say spiritually) motivated to resist the lifestyle of binge drinking.

So it then becomes the responsibility of the parents and other caring adults to impart this wisdom to our students. This can be very tricky! As a parent, do you fear your child asking if you ever drank before you were 21? Or that they’ll ask if even after you were 21 did you drink to excess? As a 23 year old male, who is a role model for students, should I feel dirty if I buy a six pack at the grocery store? Where are the boundaries? Total abstinence? The age old “if you’re going to drink I’d rather have you at home safe”?

We need to do more than make students aware of the laws in our community. They need more than stats or mock drunk driving accidents or Bible verses. Students need to see the behavior their parents are expecting modeled. Our students are surrounded by images that promote binge drinking as not just what is cool, but what is normal. If you want to see an image that is being portrayed to our students as “par for the course” behavior, rent “Superbad”.

Students need to be shown that binge drinking isn’t just a “bad choice” because of what it does to your liver or how much community service you have to put in if you get caught, binge drinking is a wrong choice because you’re not really living it up, you’re running away. When you drink it does harm your body; but so does the McDonalds I just ate for lunch. Again, it’s not just about the physical consequences. When you drink you are able to engage in behaviors that you might think twice about if you were sober- so you essentially can be someone else. Because hey, you can just blame whatever you did on the booze! (I won't even get into the drinking and driving issues, when you effect not only your own life, but those around you.) This is no way to live.

So what will “fix” the teen drinking problem is not more seminars or more education or more dramatic depictions of binge drinking, but a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, that’s a very “youth pastory” thing to say. What I mean by that is, students can relate with peers and other adults who honestly care about them and who are trying to live as Christ did. The student can see a very invisible thing be visibly modeled in others lives! If a student has already committed their life to following Jesus Christ, that student can be encouraged so that they don’t feel like a weirdo and they don’t have to judge the kids who are still engaging in un-wise activities. No one could come up with a sound argument against education and awareness, that would be ridiculous- there are consequences for actions. But we need to see the limits of mere information and re-commit ourselves to the power of relation: modeling the behavior Jesus commands for our students.

Appendix: Please know that I am NOT arguing for the Bible to be taught in the classroom or for our schools to be overtly religious in nature. What I am saying is, what else could you expect from an institution that is not bound to instill the things I described above?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, I Present A Very Mustoe Christmas: Platinum Edition

Starting in high school, back in the Napster days, I scoured the Internet, the airwaves, and the archives of western music in search of the best Christmas songs for a little compilation I like to call- A Very Mustoe Christmas.

You see, I am a Christmas music phene. I could listen to it all year round, as a child I actually did. You know when you're in stores like Old Navy and they're blaring some awful techno mix of "feliz navidad" and you're thinking "Man, I'm pretty sure they use this as torture at Gitmo" well, I secretly am enjoying it...

So I realize I'm tooting my own horn here, but I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the subject of Christmas music. Every couple years I try to update my ultimate Christmas playlist, and this years is now complete. Over the years there has been some great new additions (this year in particular) and we've seen some songs like "Mary Did You Know" be dropped altogether.

The list contains some songs that are actually quite bad, after all, part of the greatness of Christmas music is that it is so cheesy. Some songs might actually make you gag, but don't leave any comments talking about how terrible such and such song is. I don't want to hear it. If you don't like it, go sit in your tower and make your own list! I tried to limit instrumentals as well. So some of these are meant to be funny (like the first one), some are for nastalgia, some are classics, some are remakes of classics, and there are some really really really great songs here, like, make-you-get-a-little-weepy-great. The one rule I have is that there are no repeats, which makes for some tough calls, but I hope you can enjoy these songs as much as my family and friends have:

(artist/song, in alphabetical order)
Aaron Neville / Silent Night
Aretha Franklin / O Christmas Tree
The Beach Boys / Little Saint Nick
Bing Crosby / White Christmas
Bing Crosby / Mele Kalikimaka
Blues Traveler / Christmas
Bobby Helms / Jingle Bell Rock
Brenda Lee / Rockin Around the Christmas Tree
Bruce Springsteen / Santa Claus Is Comin to Town
Choir from Home Alone / O Holy Night
Counting Crows / A Long December
Dianna Krall / Jingle Bells
Frank Sinatra / Let It Snow!
Georgy Moravsky / Angels, We Have Heard on High
(from a CD my Grandma got me like, 6 years ago called "Acoustic Christmas Reflections" it's awesome)
Harry Connick Jr. / Ol' Saint Nick
James Taylor / Go Tell it on the Mountain
James Taylor / In the Bleak Midwinter
Jamie Cullum / Next Year, Baby
Joe / This Christmas
John Denver and the Muppets / The 12 Days of Christmas
John Legend / Jesus, What a Wonderful Child
Jose Feliciano / Feliz Navidad
Keith Sweat / Be Your Santa Claus
Luthor Vandross / O Come All Ye Faithful
Mariah Carey / All I Want For Christmas Is You
Martin Sexton / I'll Be Home For Christmas
Martin Sexton / Little Drummer Boy
Martin Sexton / Silver Bells
N*Sync / Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays
Nat King Cole / The Christmas Song
Nat King Cole / Deck the Hall
Nat King Cole / Caroling, Caroling
Perry Como / It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas
Ray Charles / This Time of the Year
Relient K / I'm Gettin Nuttin For Christmas
Tony Bennett / Winter Wonderland
Trans-Siberian Orchestra / Carol of the Bells
U2 / This Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Various Artists (Jack Johnson) / Rudolph
Various Artists (Barenaked Ladies & Sarah Mclocklin) / God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Vince Guaraldi Trio / What Child Is This?

So there it is. In terms of Christmas albums, here's some favorites:
John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together.
(from my childhood, and STILL on my iPod!)
Martin Sexton, Camp Holiday
Relient K, Let It Snow Baby...Let It Reindeer
Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song
James Taylor, James Taylor at Christmas
Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas

Thursday, December 13, 2007


The things we can do really never cease to amaze me. I was able to watch the George Mitchell conference live online, while simultaneously downloading and reading his just released report on MLB and steroids.

Book Review: Can Man Live Without God?

I'm home sick today with an ear infection. So you know what that means, lots of time to blog! A couple weeks ago I finished this book by Ravi Zacharias. I have also read "Jesus Among Other Gods" by the author, and his CD of a lecture series entitled "Why I Am Not an Atheist" really affected me in a positive way.

This book is very much a synthesis of Zacharias' lectures, built mostly upon those delivered at Harvard. There is a section at the end with actual dialogstranscriptions from audience-posed questions. So if you listen to his podcasts or are familiar with any of his audio lectures, then you will already be privy to the material.

In terms of format, the book is very conversational and is divided into three sections:
“Antitheism is Alive—and Deadly,” deals with issues such as God’s existence, ethics, evil, and death. “What Gives Life Meaning?”, investigates man’s relationship to God, and the nature of truth, knowledge, and love. The third section, “Who Is Jesus (and Why Does It Matter?),” compares Jesus’ truth claims with those of other religions. from review here"
Ravi is very much an analytical, logical thinker and his style lends itself to scholarly credibility while at the same time not writing from such a cold and detached posture that it alienates anyone outside academia. His critiques are formed by taking antitheism to its fullest logical conclusions and then juxtaposing those against existential problems that arise. For example, from page 140:
Two contemporary cosmologists make the terrifying comment, "Ultimately it is not human beings that are important, it's DNA." From those words one may infer that prejudice is not personal, it is merely an aversion for certain DNAs. Is this not the inevitable slide of an antitheistic view of man, even though counterintuitively and in practical terms such a bizarre conclusion is incongruent with life itself, where personal love and concerns outweigh all other considerations? Can we just reduce people to chemicals?
We can look at any one of the major tragedies going on in the world right now and if antitheism is true, no body should care because there is no point anyway- after all, we're just DNA.

Ravi is huge on worldview and I believe he is right when he looks at four questions that every worldview must answer: Questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. Great author, great book, great discussion opportunities within a local community.

Ravi Zacharias official website

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ear Infection=No Good

Haven't had one in years, ugh.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Under the Arrow

* warning, quasi-cheesy post ahead *

So yesterday I had to take I-44 on my way back home after dropping off my lovely special lady friend to whom I am betrothed. Highway 40 was closed in st. louis (ugh) and there's this one part where 44 and 55 split off. On the road, they have painted a giant I-44 West sign, in full color and everything. It was great! I don't often take that way home, plus it was dark with a wintry mix about which further impaired my confidence in where I was going. Also, I only have 1 headlight currently functioning. Anyways, I loved crossing over it and knowing full well that I was where I needed to go.

I thought, "hey, that's a great cheesy intro to a blog post about life, direction, etc" So here it is. As I thought about it further, I have thought this way about being on the highway for a while. When there's an exit sign before the exit, you know the one with the yellow "exit only" strip with an arrow pointing to the lane, I love that. It started when I was 16. I always would want to be right under the arrow. Even now, knowing that you don't have to be right under the arrow because of the ways the highways merge two lanes can go the same direction, I still prefer being under the arrow.

I think this is how a lot of us feel about life. We like the certainty, the satisfaction of knowing that we're where we need to be. Now, how we know that and who determines "where we need to be" and even who "we" is could all be seperate discussions. But let it suffice to say that people like security, especially in terms of our lives and plans we're making for the future. Even not making plans to change anything is still having plans.

The problem is life doesn't work like that great I-44 West sign does it? Almost a year ago I wrote a post about how I believe young adulthood is like another puberty. I know so many people my age who are struggling just to figure out what kind of person they are and how to determine their next steps.

A big frustration for me is that in trying to make decisions and seeking God's guidance for my life, it doesn't seem to work the way it does in the Bible. I don't hear clear audible voices. I don't have prophetic dreams. No angels appear to me (that I can tell anyway). I freely admit this could be totally my fault. But I think a lot of us would LOVE to recieve a "vision" telling us how to proceed.

Sometimes feeling like being under the yellow trimmed arrow would be nice huh?

I consider myself extremely lucky. I have found love, I have a career and a calling which I love, and I feel very secure in the choices I've made to work in ministry, and especially at my church- so this is not a veiled cry for support from EUMC people. I'm just saying I have experienced a disconnect with Biblical prophecy and my personal experience. Anyone else? Anyone feel differently?

Friday, December 07, 2007


I saw a Hummer commercial and went to check out the website because at first I thought the commercial was for:

1. a new discovery channel show
2. some stormchaser movie or a twister sequel.

It's for real.

Prepared for

...I wish I didn't think it was kind of cool.

Check it out.


So this year I've blossomed into a full blown fantasy football nerd. It's great. There is a massive amount of coverage on fantasy sports these days. The information that you have instant access to is just silly. ESPN has several columnists dedicated to covering fantasy sports. The most well known is Matthew Barry, who, every week writes a "Love/Hate" column. In it, he talks about players who will do better than predicted (the players he loves) and the players who won't live up to their statistical predictions (players he hates). So I'm going to do a little something similar, kind of. Things I'm loving and hating right now. I know hate is a strong word, I really don't, blah blah here's the list:

-The rise (or return) of the "vocoder" effect in pop music. You know what I'm talking about; remember that Cher song "Believe"? It's in there a couple times. Most Daft Punk songs, Hellogoodbye uses it, and pretty much every song T Pain is involved in. I'm a sucker for that little effect.

-Winter weather. In St. Louis it has been getting chilly which always makes me feel festive. Although, we didn't get any snow like a lot of the country did this week.

-Although I said it above, Fantasy Football. It makes every game fun, because chances are you're rooting for a player on your team or against one of your opponents players.

-Favorite TV shows online. This amazes me. I don't have cable, so I can keep up with my favorite sports show everyday, for free!Also I have worship band rehearsal during The Office, so I can keep up with that as well. Although, more on this topic below.

-Family and friends in the coming weeks- 2 weddings, a fiance coming home, a visit with the family, and my Grandma's birthday Red Lobster!

-Registry. What a great idea. "Alright guys, I'm gettin married, and I need some stuff. Here's a list for your convenience."

-The writers strike. I think it is kind of cool that the writers are stickin it to the man. That I salute. However, NBC and whoever else needs to get with it and pay these people. From what I can gather, the writers weren't getting revenues from newer sources of viewership like iTunes or online advertising. C'mon guys, buck up.

-As a subsequent "hate" item, I want to publicly denounce NBC for cutting ties with iTunes. I loved getting the Office episodes every week. NBC wanted more money per download (of course) but they also wanted to bundle TV shows with movies featuring actors from their shows (ex: you buy a season of the Office bundled with The 40 Year Old Virgin, and you have to pay more). This is lame. So NBC, you break even. But all I want to do is buy your show from iTunes, why won't you let me?

-Every single "carol of the bells" christmas time commercial parody. Guys, it's got to stop.

-Tailgaters. This could be a whole post in itself. Lets clear this up: if you are in a residential area, going the speed limit, tailgating is just rude. Most of the time the way stoplights work, you don't get ahead anyway. Now, if someone is on a major highway/interstate in the leftmost lane and is going the speed limit, they need to get over. But I've had way to many Suburbans and H2's creepin up on the Malibu lately, no respect. Also, I especially hate that my car is the perfect height to where my rear view mirror is at headlight level for said tailgaters.

I stayed away from several topics that really matter, but these are some of the things I've been appreciating and ruing lately.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Golden Compass

Greetings blog people. I haven't posted in longer than I'd like to admit. I apologize. There's been lots of buzz at my church and around the internet about the upcoming movie The Golden Compass. Here is an article you can read that outlines some of the controversy. From the article:
Starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, "The Golden Compass" traces a 12-year-old girl named Lyra from Oxford, England, to the Arctic to the edge of another universe, where she becomes locked in a battle between good and evil. The characters are shadowed by their own "daemons," talking animal companions that take on soul-like qualities.

In early October, the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights launched a boycott of the film, calling it "selling atheism to kids" at Christmastime in stealth fashion.

Director Chris Weitz has said he cut controversial religious content to make the film more commercially viable, with the plan of being more faithful to the original material in sequels.

For instance, the evil organization dominating the world is not "the church," as it is in the book, but the "Magisterium," which is getting criticism anyway because it's a Catholic term.

Here's what I think is funny- they changed some of the language and plot lines to make it "not quite as anti-religious". They did this to make the movie more appealing to a wide variety of groups. ironic. I remember when "The Prince of Egypt" came out they changed some of the scenes, Moses murdering an Egyptian in particular, to make the film more "kid friendly". So Hollywood makes our anti-Christian movies less anti-Christian, and also changes elements of our pro-Christian films to broaden the appeal of both.

I think people need to keep a couple things in mind, before we get all upset.

1. First and foremost Hollywood is out to make bucks. I don't think they're out to change people's perceptions about religion, they're out to make a movie that people will pay to see. With big budget films and studios, anything beyond economics is just an unimportant subsequence.

2. If people from religious groups get upset, I can kind of understand. A movie based on a book where the church is a worldwide institution of evil is an unfair characterization (although more fair than I would like to admit!). However, the answer isn't boycotting. The answer is to do it better. I challenge anyone to name 5 "Christian" movies they've seen that are any good. If we've got a better story than Mr. Pullman has written, we should be better at telling and living that story.

3. We can get all worked up about a movie coming out condemning Christianity. We can fear that our children will read the books and be influenced by the author's anti-theism. But I would contend that Cosmopolitan Magazine and Top 40 radio
(just to name 2) promote messages just as evil as the Golden Compass, they just do it more subversively. Or perhaps we're just used to it and don't hold that media to the same scrutiny. In short, your 6th grade daughter reading Cosmo might be worse than reading Pullman's trilogy.

So we need to teach our kids to think critically. I do believe that ideas and images have consequences. I'm not saying any hub-ub over this film is all misplaced, I'm simply saying that we should be just as discerning in what we are exposed to and what is shaping our children's ideas about what life is all about.