Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Open Letter to My Old Junior High Pastor

(Mark Oestreicher, Jeff Thune, and Me at Ped Mall in Iowa City)

This summer is the 20 year anniversary of when I first "got it."

You see, I was a Christian butthead. I grew up in church, prayed "the prayer" every night ("God if you didn't hear me last night, I really don't want to go to hell. I invite you into my life once again as my personal Savior."), but I had a problem. I was an angry, violent, insecure skate punk.

My mom, along with Sally Kuphal (my friend's mom), conspired to get Joe and me on a mission trip to Mexico. They brokered a deal with Marko, the junior high pastor, that we would both go if we could be together the entire 10 days of the trip. And so it happened, we went kicking, but not screaming, because we figured, "Ehh, it can't be that lame if we can be together. We should be able to endure this uncool group for a week."

It was the first time I prayed out loud in a group (other than my family), saw poverty, got caught up in corporate worship, felt "called" to something bigger than skating, made friends other than Joe... (One of them I'm currently planting a church with. Cosmic accident?)

I look back on that summer as one of the top ten defining moments of my life.

But somewhere in the middle- between a 13 year old spoiled American skate punk and a loving and good God- was a junior high pastor who believed that 13 year olds are worth it.

Nineteen years later, as divine providence would have it, Jeff Thune and I got a Facebook message from our old junior high pastor, "Hey, I'm in Iowa City doing some training for youth pastors. I heard you guys are here! Let's hang out." Of course, 20 years later he's going stronger than ever, loving teenagers (he still has a small group at his church) and training youth workers (he travels the world, speaking, writing, and mentoring).

From 13 year old punk to 33 year old church planter. That's me. I have a trail of people to thank along the way.

Thanks, Marko, for believing that teenagers can change the world. Bless you, my friend.

P.S.- You can find Marko at markoestreicher.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What God did

Here's a short highlight reel:

- People... about 175-200 of them. There were probably 50 or so well wishers there from Ames, which was so encouraging to see their overwhelming support.
- Jeff Thune teaching... he went yard with the first talk, speaking on God's glory and how we're wired to delight in him
- Connection Groups... I think a lot of the connection groups filled up- except Jeremiah's. Apparently the sign he thought would scare freshmen INTO his group actually scared them away.
- Iowa students... I met tons of new people. One guy's zipper was down, but I didn't think we were at the place in our relationship for me to break the news to him.

- El Diablo... (below) Rapping with Lance. This is a homeless guy that we've taken in. Literally... he crashed at Lance's a couple nights ago.

Servants... I was thinking on the way home how God has brought just the right people to Iowa City. We didn't plan it that way...it just happened. I wonder if there's some greater Plan in all of this? Here's a glimpse of one of our many God-sends- John Debold

- International students... one turned to his American friend and said, "This is not our belief. But can I come again?!"

Thanks to all of you who have participated with us- you were there with us in spirit through your prayers and financial support. May God spread a passion for his name here at the University of Iowa, and to the ends of the earth.

There's so much more to report, but I'm so wasted. I was at the bar all night. For church...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What will God do?

Our first Salt in Iowa City is tomorrow. There's no, "This is what happened last year..." or "Let's count those we think will come..."

Bottom line- we have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow night. But this was the scene tonight at our rehearsal at the Blue Moose...

Please join that empty chair in the prayer circle, and pray with us that God would show up tomorrow night.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Ever...

Salt Company Iowa City Monday morning prayer- bright and early at the Old Capitol...

Jeff Thune closing in prayer for one of our last informal potlucks in City Park (2 more!)...
A new guy I met at our Sunday night gathering showed up at prayer this morning. Frank, Spaid and I had a great time prayer walking around the Ped Mall. It was fun praying for some of the other ministries who were out doing spiritual surveys.
Your kingdom come!

No way

A 60 mile, 9 day traffic jam in China- projected to go until after our Veritas kickoff (Sep 12). This is one of the most ridiculous things I've heard (click here).

Mike, Emily and Laurie, I hope you're not stuck in traffic.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New Anthem Album is on its way!

Here's a sneak preview of a song on the new album, which will be released on the 27th: http://www.youtube.com/anthemworshipmusic

In other Anthem news...

- Anthem will be opening for Shane & Shane at the Alternative in Ames on August 27 at 8pm at ISU Campanile

- The website got a little update (http://anthemworship.com/). Blogs, twitter, FB, etc will be updated regularly.

- The album is rockin'. I think you're going to like it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Imago Dei

Today I was driving down a fairly busy four lane highway, when a driver a few cars ahead of me decided to randomly slam on his brakes. The next car quickly responded with brakes and swerving.

I had to make a quick choice... rear end the car in front of me at a high speed or risk it- hitting the brakes and swerving into the left lane, hoping for an opening in that lane.

I swerved, barely missing the car in front of me.

As I passed the stopped cars to my right, I saw the reason for the mayhem...

A Dog.

Are you kidding me? For the love of humanity- hit the animal!

Whatever you do, don't get yourself and others killed trying to avoid... a dog. Nobody wants to be responsible for hitting Max the Retriever, but nobody really wants to be responsible for saving a dog and killing a human. They teach that in driver's ed. Back in high school, a kid in Omaha was paralyzed when he swerved to miss a squirrel.

I drove by the madness on the road, then I recalled a conversation with my philosophy professor back in the day.

I was talking to him about the moral argument for God's existence, which I consider the most intuitive (i.e. It's naturally obvious) of the classical arguments. I asked him if he thought there would be a moral obligation in the following scenario: A house is on fire and you can save the baby or the dog. Are you morally obligated to save the baby? If so, where does this sense of "ought" come from? Is it mere preference and/or socialization, or moral obligation based on something outside of us. And something in us.

It made me think of the aforementioned scenario on the highway.

If a child were to wander out onto the highway, there would be an obligation to brake, swerve or whatever to avoid the child. But not in the case of a dog, cat, deer, raccoon, or bird (btw: two of my coolest roadkill- a hawk and coyote).

The difference, of course, is that we we're made in the "imago dei"... image of God. His fingerprint is on us. We have souls. We are eternal beings, and although we have some things in common with animals, a dog will never watch a sunset in awe of its Maker. A dog cannot lift its paws in worship or sing a hymn of praise. It cannot repent and surrender its will.

Nor can it blog about its experience of almost getting killed on the road.

All said and done- I'm glad the dog is still alive. But I'm more glad that I'm still alive.

Cue Pearl Jam.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Thanks, Julie, for the vine on this blog that cracked me up. The very worst missionary: Click here

Dang that's funny. I'm still laughing.

The People Who Were There

We haven't officially launched Veritas Church yet (you have meet in a sanctioned church building to count it, right?), but there were 51 people attending our Sunday night "informal gatherings," as I call them.

We had some great discussion on what it means to work for the good of the community. Jeremiah 29:1-7 is a killer passage to consider what it means to live as exiles in this world. We have a lot in common with those Jews living in Babylon. Jeremiah's advice to them is interesting, not necessarily what you'd expect.

Since my wife was on life guard duty, I came out to help. Good thing, because Sophie had to go potty. I told her the pool is like a big toilet and she should take advantage of the convenience of swimming in a really big toilet.
She didn't buy it.

Good thing for everyone else in the pool.
I guess you could consider this our nursery. Personal attention, baby.

Our children's ministry rocks. You can be Spider-man, Iron-man, or if you get bored play a little Candyland, or worse, cross dress. What the heck, we're in Iowa City.
With a shady tithe box like this, I'm not sure my salary will be getting paid anytime soon.

So I guess that's my subtle way of saying, "We could still use your support!" Click here. Be sure and designate "Veritas" or "Iowa City"

Next week we're in the park for our first ever Church potluck. This could get interesting. See you at City Park at 5:30. Shelter #6. BYOB.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jeff Thune's blog

So my friend and partner in ministry just started a blog: http://witnessthecorridor.blogspot.com/

I commend it to you- it's already been cracking me up. I was especially enjoying the 80's post.

Add us to the list of reckless bloggers that will probably be posting things to the world that we shouldn't (probably me more than Jeff- he's already told me about some restraint he's had).

Stay tuned.