new blog!

so i was on vacation this past week & finally bit the bullet & did something i've been intending to do for awhile: relaunch my blog. i moved it over to WordPress (new toys always help keep my attention) and i'm really gonna try & stick with it. so take a glance & add your two cents:




recently i've been enjoying the first fires of the new winter. i love everything about them. the sound, the smells, the warmth, the glow. they give me a new desire to stay home, a new desire to get work done. about the only issue is that i wish my fireplace was larger. it's not that it's tiny or anything...i just wish it was bigger.

sorry...i'm in twitter mindset. hard to think beyond 140 characters. : )


american tradition

so Jon Stewart hosted Bill O'Reilly on the Daily Show the other night. hmmm...think there were a few disagreements?

but the one that caught my ear the most was the two of them talking about the traditions that define the US. check it out:


and, surprise surprise, i disagree with both of them. first off, i don't think we're a "center-right" nation. secondly, i don't think that our tradition is defined by a "progression of individual freedoms."

beyond that, i often hear people, especially Christians, contend that our nation was founded (and thus its traditions begun) on Biblically rooted Christianity.

but with all of these i disagree. the tradition of the US includes the violent overthrow of a people already established on the land we happened upon (Native Americans). the tradition of the US includes the violent exploitation of a variety of ethnic backgrounds (African slavery from our founding through the 19th century, child slavery in our factories during the Industrial Revolution). the tradition of the US includes the suppression of countless voices through lack of voting rights until centuries after our country began.

the words that our country was founded on ("that all men are created equal") differed greatly from the actions that have been taken by our country.

this isn't to say that the US has not come a long way or accomplished great things along the way in terms of extending freedom and ending oppression. however, we need to be careful when we cite the "great history of our nation" that we don't forget the total history of our nation, which includes deeds both great and terrible, noble and ignoble. and i, for one, would prefer to work toward a brighter future while learning from our whole history than trying to recreate our history today.


smart man.

It's extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can't find $25 billion dollars to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.

- Bono


Batman: In the Light of Day

a couple of my students from the Chapel wanted to make a movie this summer (one of them, Brad, is awesome at editing/directing) so this is the final product...

my debut as the Joker...

by the way...this is actually a sequel to the original one they made a year ago called "Batman and Vanilla Face"...some of the jokes may make more sense with context clues from it. Then again, they might not : ) Either way, here's the link.



sometimes i get the most random emails...like today:

"i just wanted to know what you do if you think a prayer isn't getting answered.


his name wasn't really jim-bob...but anyway...

it made me smile. and glad that i do what i do. and then i realized i actually had to reply with an answer. tricky. so here's what i put:

"hmmm...good question...

sometimes i get discouraged and stop praying. i don't think that's a very good answer, though.

sometimes i just keep on praying. God's got this whole sovereignty thing going for him (which means he always knows everything and, well, i don't), which means sometimes the timing is different than i think it should be or the answer is different than i think it should be or, well, a lot of things could be different than i think they should be...and keeping the "prayer train" chugging allows for God to show me one of these things.

and sometimes, as Mother Theresa noted, i realize that i need to be the answer to my own prayer. maybe i'm praying that God would speak to a friend's heart about who he is and it turns out i've never even bothered to share who God is with this friend. and so, while i keep praying, i also take some action to line my life up with the words i say in my prayers.

not all of those apply all the time...just some things i think sometimes. hope that helps..."

any thoughts on this? better answers for a middle schooler who's trying to sort out prayer (or a middle school youth pastor trying to sort out prayer)?

who (am i)?

Identity. In my mind it is THE topic of middle school. And for probably a lot more of life than any of would like to acknowledge, but especially middle school. So, being at a new place and wanting the youth group to grow together, i thought that a series on identity would be a great start. I'm aiming it toward our fall retreat in mid-october, at which we'll be launching the rest of the year...a new name (and logo), midweek structure, sunday structure, etc. What better time to talk about identity when you're sorting it out, right?

The question then became what to cover in six weeks on identity. Here's my approach this time around...

1st Sunday...general intro's. Why is identity important? Talked about how we all have a desire to be known for something. among other things, i showed a pic of Mark Hamill and while all the students could identify him as Luke Skywalker, none of them (!) knew what his real name was. And so we spent some time considering whether we let our true identity shine through (at school, in our neighborhoods, in our family, at church) or if we spend the whole time playing out some part we think people want to see.

2nd Sunday...What should we identify with? Well, the Sunday school answer is Jesus, and while being correct...why?! We spent the morning in Exodus, looking at the conversation between Moses & God (at the burning bush) and God's name of I AM. God is THE definition...of life, love, and all things good. And Christ wants to live that out in & through us (a la Colossians 1:27)

3rd Sunday...If Christ wants to live out God's goodness through us, what does that look like? I figured we'd spend the last four weeks on claims that Christ makes about himself, using the "I am" statements that show up in John that reflect week #2's Moses/God convo. This week is Bread of Life.

4th Sunday...Light of the World

5th Sunday...the Good Shepherd

6th Sunday...Resurrection and the Life

I've only done the first 2 weeks, and am still working on the last four. If you have any ideas for ways that weeks 3, 4, 5, or 6 could be demonstrated, illustrated, exemplified, etc, I'm open to suggestions!


live it.

Colossians 2:6-23
"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving."

After a few temper tantrums & a bit of false starts, I really loved college. At first, in my youthful zeal, I wanted to have no part of it. "Why sit in a classroom and process when you can be out in the world practicing" was my early mantra. Several of my professors (wisely) sought to re-channel my impatience into a more vigorous embracing of my school work as something to be done "for the glory of God." And they were right. They also pushed me into internships so that I could immediately put into practice what I was learning.

I came to love the college experience. I loved learning & theorizing & philosophizing. I loved coffee shops & late nights & questions without answers. And so when graduation came around, while I was ready to go "live it," I was actually starting to think about grad school, something I'd mostly only swore I'd never do early on in college.

I haven't made it to grad school yet, though I hope to some day. But as I read Colossians 2 over the past couple days I was struck by, even without formalized "schooling," how easy it is to settle into talking about practices rather than actually practicing them.

Churches are one of the most guilty parties in this. Bring people into our doors where we can teach and instruct and equip and grow them and...and...and when do they actually live it out? Well, hopefully in their lives somewhere...in their vocation, in their neighborhoods, in their families. But is the church meant to be a place only of instruction or also a place of practice? Do we keep people at spiritual infancy by continually spoon feeding but rarely letting people handle the spoon themselves while still in the "safe" community of the church?

As I wade through re-designing the youth ministry at First Friends, these thought are ringing in the back of my head...


new blog topic, new youth ministry. change is in the air.

so for awhile i've been wanting to blog more specifically about things related to youth ministry, but just hadn't jumped on it. i don't really want to start another blog...i've got too many as it is. so i thought i'd hijack this one that's been laying mostly dormant anyway.

now also seems like a particularly appropriate time to start, as i'm also starting a new job. after 4 great years at The Chapel, i began just two weeks ago at First Friends Church in Canton, OH...the church i grew up in. i'm pumped to be back & looking forward to an exciting time there over the next several years.

one of the interesting things about starting at a new place is trying to find the right balance between continuity, culture, and your own individual personality. on one hand you don't want to overwhelm students or parents with a total overhaul of things too fast. it's also helpful to spend time listening, learning, and just plain "being" to get a feel for what the culture is of your new home. however, sooner or later (and the sooner or the later become the question) the youth ministry has to take on some individual & personal feel associated with who you are. oftentimes i've heard a sort of "one year" principle thrown around...keep things as they are for one year, until you can get a feel for it all, and then start making changes at an appropriate pace.

before i continue, one note of clarification. making changes to align things more with your personality doesn't mean simply pulling out your bag of tricks and putting it to work in a new place. instead, it has to involve a careful connection of the culture and community of your new locale combined with intrinsic pieces of you are, not necessarily extrinsic practices (programs) that you've done before.

at First Friends, however, i'm considering moving at a different speed. nothing had been planned or set up for the fall, so i already have a clean slate to work with (no cancellations needed). what's more, there's change occurring everywhere right now, due to a large staff turnover. while initially intending to wait for awhile before instituting any dynamic changes, i'm now planning on moving a bit faster (in about a two month time frame) with some changes, taking advantage of the current "ok-ness" there is associated with change. the Middle School youth ministry at FFC has looked pretty much the same since i was in it (16 years ago!), while a lot of culture has changed.

so...now the questions becomes what to change and why...


ethnocentric media

we live in a country that cares only for itself. if the rest of the world enters into the picture, it's only because of what it could give us (or what we could extract from it).

today, US media is totally caught up in Hurricane Gustav. this would seem worthwhile (and is a proper partial focus).

however, hop over the BBC and you find out that 1/2 a million people who live in India are stranded in villages that have been devastated by monsoon flooding. half a million. Gustav hasn't even touched land yet. oh. wait. it has. but "only" in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. 85 people have already died. and i haven't seen one story about it yet.

when will we care...



talking 'bout porn...

an email i sent out today:


The other week I wrote some of you & let you know that I've had the opportunity to speak several times at The Chapel recently, particularly around the topic of pornography & intimacy. Thanks to many of you who have taken some time to pray for me...your prayers have been felt & encouraging. Some of you go to The Chapel and heard me in the morning, but I thought you might be interested in talk I gave at Illuminate. Anyway, I wanted to give you the links to the two different talks that I gave so that you can take a listen if you so desire:

Reconstructing Intimacy: Intimacy with Others
I co-preached this sermon with one of our Sr. Pastors, Paul Sartarelli. The main topic I spoke on was accountability.

http://www.the-chapel.org/audio (both the sermon on the 13 & the 20 are the same sermon, just different services.

Reconstructing Intimacy: The Fallacy of Intimacy with Self
I shared this talk with our Illuminate service, an evening service offered at The Chapel. It's sort of a service for young people, but we really have a range of ages there. But it allows us to to be a bit more outside the box with sermon style, so it's definitely a different style of sermon that what Paul & I did in the morning. I've made a photo album on Facebook so that you can see most of the slides that I used...they're in order, but you'll have to use context clues to figure out when I was showing them : ) You can look at them here:


And the song we sang in response at the end, if you desire to really embrace the experience, was "Grace Flows Down." You can listen to it online here:


The sermon is the January 20th one found here:


I'd love to hear your feedback & thoughts on either of these. For a variety of resources we're making available along with this series, you can go to http://www.the-chapel.org/purity

Hope this finds you well...

Joel Daniel