Friday, June 29, 2012

Scooter Pride

It’s no secret to my church family that I own and drive a scooter. The fact is, since I can’t see myself while I am on the scooter, I envision myself looking pretty fly while I ride. But that all changed recently.

As I was riding along, scooter-style, to get some allergy medicine I passed another guy on a scooter going the opposite way. The fact that I was shopping for allergy meds should have been my first clue regarding my illusion to cool. As we approached, he pointed his fist towards the ground and in my direction. The following are the thoughts I had in the next few seconds.

·         Is that fist for me? Is that the universal sign for scooter drivers to show our support for one another?
·         I thought that was the sign Harley Davidson riders used for one another.
·         Why isn’t he wearing a helmet? Doesn’t he know that’s dangerous?
·         Should I respond with a downward-pointed fist of my own?
·         What if people see me? Will they assume I’m reaching for cool like a kid helplessly reaching for cookies on the top shelf, though hopelessly out of reach?
·         Worse yet, what if I swerve while trying to flash the scooter-sign? At least I have a helmet.

As he passed, I settled on one of those guy-nods that are universal for hello and what’s up. And as the moment passed, I realized I was too embarrassed to use the sign. Maybe it was because I thought a Harley owner might see me use their sign and come rough me up. Maybe it was because I realized I was driving a scooter to go get my allergy meds.

Then I realized that my decision on the scooter is like many other decisions you and I make every day. This one may not have had a moral right or wrong, but many of them do. Will I tell the truth or tell a little white lie? Will I help a person in need when I have the opportunity? Will I admit my love for Jesus no matter who else is around?

Life comes at each one us fast, oftentimes faster than a 50cc scooter. Will you be ready to make the right decision?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo!...June 28, 2012

I like to say stuff. But sometimes, oftentimes, other people say the stuff that makes my heart say, Woooooo!
This is where I point some of that stuff out.

First link this week is to a friend who is a great writer. When he decides to rant about the ridiculous, I like to nod along. Enjoy Randy Streu's latest on An Unfinished Life.

Speaking of rants, here's one from one of my favorite culture watchers, Jonathan McKee. He reminisces about the 80's, a decade I am fond of as well. Here are his Top 10 Reasons Why Growing Up in the 80's Ruled.

 This last one isn't a rant, although I suppose it could be if Seth Godin wanted it to be. But at the very least, it's a reminder to me that I'm okay merely occupying a small corner of this globe. Your turn, Take this Simple Marketing Quiz.

Alright, that's all I got today. Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Gaggle?

Take Your Pick…Holidays

So my good friends at YouthWorker sent me a gaggle of goodies. That’s right, a gaggle! Among the loot was a DVD titled Take Your Pick…Holidays. Produced by Jim Hancock, it has videos, study guides and message outlines for 6 sessions based on….wait for it….the holidays!

This resource is handy because Jim doesn’t stick with the basics and when he does, the vantage point is not the mundane. Everything comes complete on 1 DVD, with a PDF of the leader’s guide, which I’m sure the technologically proficient could transfer to their tablet of choice for ease of use.

This particular resource will be good for youth workers who don’t simply want talking heads or generic videos. Se the leader’s guide to create your meeting or craft the night and plug and play the video. This is a great resource.

Group’s Emergency Response Handbook

If you’re in youth ministry for longer than 15 minutes, ten chances are you will experience a teen in crisis. I’m not just talking about middle school girl crisis which comes and goes like weird outfits from Lady Gaga. This book covers everything from suicide intervention to crisis pregnancy, academic problems to gender issues.

This won’t make you a trained counselor, but you’re going to feel like you could be. Each section comes with counseling background, as well as tips and ideas. This is a book you’ll want to read early and often in ministry. I like it so much I have a copy on my Kindle. Crisis doesn’t come planned, so preparation is key here.

Obviously this is for use with teens in crisis, so one idea would be to make each section a leadership training time and talk through your leader’s specific skills for your setting and group. And just for clarification, just because you aren’t a middle school girl anymore, or in my case, never were, don’t assume their grief isn’t a crisis. This book should be in the hands of every youth worker. 

You can find both of these resources at  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teen Drivers and Holding On

Young driver
I compared the teens I work with to bad drivers. Which is to say, I compared them to each other. Yeah, I was the only one really laughing when I did that, although a few fingers started pointing at each other. The truth is, my kids remain safe, thanks in large part to my keeping them off the streets and sidewalks and out of parking lots where teens are practicing their...ahem...skills.

But why would I discuss teen driving skills. Because the Bible verse we were looking at mentioned swerving. More to the point...

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
~Hebrews 10:23

So holding on to our faith should be nothing like how they drive. We shouldn't swerve, but this isn't because of how awesome we are. It's because God who promised knows how to drive, steer and any other metaphor you can think of for cars. The author of Hebrews tells us God is faithful. 

How do we do this? I could tell you stories involving Greek culture and small mirrors, but that would be Robert Fulgham's story from It Was On Fire When I Lay On It. Google it, it's a good story. 

My story could include driving into the back of big trucks, seeing my dad weep over his previously undamaged minivan. It could include doing 360's in a church van in the middle of a blizzard (not on purpose, of course). But those stories might not go over so well with the little gecko and those people who insure my driving. 

Needless to say, there have been moments when more focus might have been beneficial. Lack of focus leads to swerving, on the road and in the paths of life. That could almost be in a commencement address. The bottom line is we have great reason to hope. His name is Jesus. We have many things which can distract. Those things are called life. 

But we have a calling to hold on. Without swerving. Don't worry about your skills. God is faithful. 

Do you have any good stories of horrific driving?

Monday, June 25, 2012

God First, Man (Dead or Alive) Second

Then Elisha died and was buried.
Groups of Moabite raiders used to invade the land each spring. Once when some Israelites were burying a man, they spied a band of these raiders. So they hastily threw the corpse into the tomb of Elisha and fled. But as soon as the body touched Elisha’s bones, the dead man revived and jumped to his feet! ~2 Kings 13:20-21

All I'm saying is that Elisha did not even need to be alive for God to use him.

So perhaps I get in the way of what God is doing a lot more than I would like to admit. Should I even consider that more incredible stuff was done with Elisha's rotting corpse than I have done...ever? Should you?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hey World!

"I'd rather be a fake somebody than a real nobody." ~Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I've never seen the movie, but doesn't that sum it up for many people? It's what we convey when we say we want to go out of here with a bang. That could mean leaving the party or it could refer to dying, but all we seem concerned about is getting noticed.

Since the movie came out 13 years ago, I am positive some smart writer has already switched the quote around and discussed how being a real somebody is the best option, but the alternative is a fake nobody.

That may be where most people end up.

Let's face it, getting your 15 minutes of fame is easier said than done. Even once you achieve it, there is no telling if that is the genuine you we are seeing, or a fake. So most people will be stuck in between, playing their part but not getting any attention for it.

That is a tragedy, one I am not willing to risk. I think we should all stand up and shout to the world, 'Hey everybody, this is who I am.' Then we should be satisfied with the outcome.

What else would you tell the world?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo! ... June 21, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I explained why I say Woo! when people say Rick Nier. But rather than keep all the woo for myself, I am sharing my space so you can check out what other people have to say. What can I say, I'm a giver.

So here are a few posts that caught my eye this past week.

This first one is from a pastor down in Nashville, Pete Wilson. I often like what he has to write about. Here he wonders What's Going On In That Mind? This post isn't long, but it reminds me of the first time my son saw the Atlantic Ocean. He was only a year old, could barely talk, but just stared at the ocean as if overwhelmed.

This next one is from Walt Muller, who rarely writes lightly. Walt is the president of the Center for Parent / Youth Understanding, a place I often venture for news and stats. Interestingly, he also wants to know what's going on in the minds of males...and females. Sobering stuff.

I'll end on a lighter note as we all wonder what's going on in the minds of some people. linked to a story where 1 in 3 British people apparently have no idea where eggs, bacon and milk come from.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Just Say Yes!

If you're asking, the answer is yes. Yes, I have already blogged about this book. You can see that review, in the form of video blog, here.

Since I've already commented on this book, here's a bit more information from the publishers.

In The Gospel of Yes, Mike Glenn reveals God's most powerful word, which opens our eyes to everything he does. That word is YES. God said "yes" to creating a world for us to live in and "yes" to inviting us into a relationship with him. No matter what we face in life, the best way to live is captured in one word: yes.
I already told you about my good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah hooking me up with this book for review. But here is what I didn't mention the first time. They also offered to give me 4 books to give away once I had done so.

So I have 4 books to give away. You can thank Waterbrook Multnomah. You can also thank my wife, who agreed that we could afford the postage, should you live out of driving range for me to deliver.

If you want a copy, be among the first 4 to leave a comment on this post saying YES and your address (or send me an email with your address). And since my blog could use a bit more conversation, leave a comment on another post from the past couple of weeks. You could add something to the conversations I start. You could say something inspired. You could say something fueled by passion.

Or you could just say how much you like me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Are You Waiting For?

I waited for 2 hours in the hot Florida sun in a line that saw no shadows from trees. I waited there because it was the line to see Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, from the Disney movie Tangled. No it wasn't for me. And I wasn't alone. Sweaty dads filled a line that went nowhere really fast. I waited for my daughters, whose trip was made complete by meeting Rapunzel and Flynn.

While I waited, my wife took the kids on a couple of rides. They joined me in time to smile for photos and talk with this newest Disney princess and her prince. Jerica, my 4-year old, ask Flynn to put the smolder on.
This begs the question, was it worth it? Was my patient suffering in affliction worth the prize at the end? Perhaps I'm being over dramatic, but my answer is yes. It was worth it. Dads have gone through much more for their children. But while I sat there waiting, I did ponder.

After all, people will wait like that at Disney (for rides as well as character greetings), for good seats at a concert, for sales on Black Friday, or even to purchase movie tickets. We share stories of incredible dedication that people have for different things. But have you ever seen this in church?

When was the last time people lined up the night before to make sure they got a good seat at church? How often have you counted the days before a church potluck? Have you ever highly anticipated the pastor's sermon? We could take this one step further...

How long did people wait to see Jesus? Did they allow discomfort to discourage them? Did they give up after it seemed too long? Just like our stars of today, they had heard stories of miracles and great teaching about Jesus. But was there a breaking point for most people? I like to consider the people who were not there for healing. What about those people that just wanted a glimpse? How long were they willing to wait?
How long are we willing to wait for Jesus? Are we patient in suffering? Are we enduring scorn and shame for His sake? There were several people that found out what we dads were waiting for at Disney, rolled their eyes and moved along.

We draw near to things we are passionate about.

 Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. ~Hebrews 10:22 

*I have shared this story on my blog before. I recently shared these thoughts with my youth group. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Taco Bell and Life Lessons

At a hotel my family was eating breakfast down in the lobby when a news story came on about a guy who drove into a Taco Bell because they left a taco out of his order. You read that correctly! They left a single taco out of his combo meal. So he assumed the correct course of action to remedy this was to take his truck and drive through the restaurant.

Because it would not be easier to simply go back up and ask for the missing taco. No, in order to help Taco Bell patrons everywhere and for all time, the appropriate response is to drive your vehicle through their restaurant.

Upon hearing this, my kids start laughing at the absurdity of it all. And as a father, I instantly think...teachable moment!

After talking with my kids for a few moments about anger and how we respond; my son thinks for a moment and then asks..."Did the guy get his taco?"

It is all about food for my boy.

I thought we were having a good life lesson on anger management. I even filled the moment with real life applications as we talked about how they will fight with each other over insignificant matters. But in the end, my son wanted to know if the guy achieved his goal and received a taco.

Well, no my son, he received a one-way ticket to court for vandalism and for being a moron. In fact, nobody is getting a taco from that restaurant for a while. Thanks for ruining it for everyone.

So, when you think you're doing a great job as a father, keep in mind that the questions you receive may not always be the ones you hope for.

Have a happy Father's Day this weekend. What's your most absurd fathering moment?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo! June 14

This is week 2 where I am practicing sharing my platform, such as it is, with some of the voices in my head. Don't worry, it's not a psychotic break. It's simply me sharing with you some good stuff I've read recently.

Here's a short one from a youth pastor I've followed for years out in California. His name is Matt McGill. I fell in love with him for his sports instructional videos, I laugh through all of his random comments but I stay for the nuggets of wisdom.

This next guy needs no platform sharing help from me, but I've followed the writing of Jon Acuff for a while and he makes a fantastic point here. 

How to get the most amazing retina technology ever invented.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Studies on the Go...Genesis

To be honest, I had not heard of Studies On The Go before being offered a review copy by my god friends at Youth Worker. But since I’m always looking out for study ideas, I said yes to this opportunity. Studies On The Go by Laurie Polich-Short has 30 studies. This particular edition is on the book of Genesis.

Any book of the Bible can be daunting when you’re trying to interest and impact teenagers. But Genesis increases that difficulty due to the many questions that arise on the topic of creation. On top of that, you have the many stories of questionable characters that we often call heroes of the faith.

Each study comes with great questions, not mindless Sunday School questions where every answer is Jesus. They also come with an optional activity to take the lesson a step further and create true impact. Add to that a weekly plan for students to go deeper and you have a winner of a study in one little book.

If all the book studies are as well done as this one, I’d recommend getting the entire set. You can check it out here

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Learning About God, Learning About Us

Is it possible that at the same time God reveals truth about Himself, He is also revealing the truth about us? For example, I've always read the story of Samuel anointing David the same way. While God is busy rejecting David's older brothers, He tells Samuel that man looks at the outward appearance while God looks at the heart. The focus is on God. He's more focused on the inside and all that.

I wrote that as if it's no big deal and everybody gets it. Understanding that we do not, let's move on to the point I want to make.

Why are we so often surprised when people judge us by our outward appearances? Didn't God say that man looks at the outward appearance? He might not have said He was okay with this way of viewing people, but at least God warned us.

It's like being surprised when someone tells you a certain type of food is hot. It doesn't seem to slow us down from popping it in our mouths and then turning red in the face and searching for water. Didn't they say it was hot? What exactly were we expecting?

I discuss with people, quite frequently, how we should be focused on God and how it is all about God and not about us. This is true, but the questions that get us looking for God and His purposes are usually centered on us. Who are we? What is our purpose?

What we learn about God also teaches us about ourselves. It most often shows us what we are not. It tells us what we can become. It gives us hope for what should be.

So keep asking questions. Keep pursuing the answers. But don't be surprised when people still judge you by the outward appearance.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bad Decisions (When God Doesn't Come First)

There are bad decisions that effect your day. You regret it, like buying tacos from a truck. But you pay the price and you move on.

Then there are the really bad decisions. These might not effect your day, but they change every day after that. This could be likened to getting addicted to truck tacos.

There was a king in Israel who made such a bad decision. His name was Jeroboam and he was handed 10 tribes of Israel to rule when Rehoboam, son of Solomon, made a bad decision.

So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!” ~1 Kings 12:28

Jeroboam wasn't really concerned with the worship of God. He was concerned for himself, thinking that the people would return to Rehoboam when they went to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God. So he decides to throw out worship of God altogether. 

Really. Bad. Idea. 

Not only did J-boam do away with true worship, he did away with true priests, setting up his own friends with new jobs. This pushed the Levites to go down to Judah and serve with Rehoboam. But the real problem was that Israel would turn from God and continue down a road that would not end well. 

Neglecting God = Bad Decisions = Bad Endings

It is not too much trouble to worship God in the way He deserves. The truth of God does not change with what becomes convenient for us. Take the trouble to put God first. You won't regret it. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

By We I Mean You

Have you ever noticed how people will say one thing and mean another? I don't mean when people lie, but when they try to hint in subtle ways. Here are some that I've discovered along the way.

When they say...What are you doing this Saturday?      
What they mean is...Would you like to help me move?

When they say...Do you have a minute?
What they mean is...Because I'd like to bare my soul to you for the next 45  minutes.

When they say...Can you help me for a second?
What they mean is...I need you to show me how to use the copying machine, then write down step-by-step instructions and then watch me do it.

When they say...Oh, are you closing in 5 minutes?
What they mean is....I'm sure you won't mind me as I take the next 20 minutes of your life away.

And I'm sure I have been guilty along the way. Here's one I use on our awesome church secretary (I'm sure she'll read this). Can we get this mailing out today? Or can we possibly get this event organized in the next week?

She's come to learn that by 'we' I mean 'her'.

But by 'we' I mean 'you' and sometimes by 'we' I mean 'me'. It really just depends on the context.

If it's something I don't want to do, I mean you. If it's something good, and I want credit, then I mean me.

Yeah, I struggle not making this all about me. Hello? That's why I'm searching. If I had this mastered, I'd already have a book written and it would probably have my picture on the cover. Then I'd rename my blog to say this is how I found insignificance.

But I haven't written a book....yet. And I didn't rename the blog.

This is my search for insignificance.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rick Nier says Woo!

So it's a bit of an inside joke around my youth group that when people say my first and last name, I answer with 'woo!' It comes from when I first started at this church. And though the reality is much less fascinating than the legend, it makes me feel good.

Everyone loves to hear their name. For other to expect an exclamation pint filled Woo afterwards only makes it feel better. But I have always felt a conflict in my blogging world because I tell people this is my search for insignificance. And I truly am searching. So why would the title include my name with Woo, as if people should be excited to see me?

Well, I shan't be changing the blog name anytime soon, but I've been pondering how I can share the love with others. Here's what I've come up with.... It's called sharing. Yeah, it's a pretty monumental idea. I will post a link or two to an article that caught my attention in the past week. It might be ministry related, or poignant, or just straight-up funny. You may find it useful or not.

I will do my best to expand my blog reading so there is variety. For today, we'll just start out with one. It's from Donald Miller on his blog. It's dated from May 28, but I'm sometimes a bit behind in my blog reading. But to this I say Woo!

Want to Make Better Decisions? Here’s a Mental Trick

I was talking with a friend recently who was going through a tough breakup. He was angry, to be honest, because his girlfriend hadn’t been faithful.

It’s easy to get caught up in a moment like that. Our subconscious, squirrel brain takes over and we want to react, vent, seek vengeance, and basically trade pain for pain.

As I talked with my friend my advice was simple.

You can find out the trick overhere

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

You've Got Something On Your Face

Why Me!?!?

Going through the Old Testament prophet Malachi recently, I found that God is not beyond disgusting to make a point.

“And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.

“Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it." ~Malachi 2:1-3

I don' think I need to add much to make this story interesting. Sure, I have many gross poo stories from when my kids were younger, but nothing that matches this. God threatened to smear dung (poo for the less sophisticated) on the faces of the priests.

What? What?

To offer a bit of background, when priests would offer sacrifices, the excrement of the sacrifice would be removed and taken outside the city to be burned. You know, because who wants that when you're roasting a sacrifice? So God is taking the priestly functions away from them, since they don't seem to want to do it the right anyway, and removing them with the rest of the waste.

Why would God do such a thing? "Because you have not resolved to honor me." Oh, I guess God takes this pretty seriously. This is actually the message Malachi has over and again in his four short chapters. The Israelites didn't seem to understand. But then again, neither do we.

We read all over scripture how God is jealous for His glory and His Name and His fame. We should be too.    Otherwise, when the world comes to look, we'll have a lot more than egg on our face. If we choose not to revere God's Name and to live as a royal priesthood should, then we will continue to be embarrassed by how our words and our actions do not line up.

This life is about God. Do you want to make it about anything else?

Monday, June 4, 2012

God First, Man Second

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 
I have begun to wonder if Jesus was thinking of my son here in His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is imagining a son asking for bread and fish. That’s interesting, because all Luke asks for all day long is food. The boy is only 8, but the rest of us will be halfway through a meal and he’ll start eyeing our plates, asking if he can finish our food. Fortunately for him, he has a couple of sisters who don't always finish their food. 

We love him, even though he’ll be the sole reason we need to get a combination lock on our fridge. But we know how to feed him. We like to see him satisfied, even if it doesn’t seem to last for long.

But it is interesting to me what Jesus does here. He calls the audience evil as He compares earthly fathers to God, His Father in Heaven. It's not been very often that I've attempted calling my audiences evil, but it seems to work for Jesus. The crowds eat it up and keep on coming. 

But Jesus' point is clear. In terms of goodness, God comes first and man comes second. It's almost as if God is singing, 'Anything you can do, I can do better!' 

And God is right. He can!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Vocabulary Words

I only thought I had graduated from doing homework. I did my time, I received my diplomas and I moved on. I had no idea that having kids would result in my having to repeat grades I had long forgotten.

How silly I am!

My children, still in elementary school, come home from full days of school with homework in areas that their teachers have not even covered. At least that is what my children try to convince me. Especially when it comes to math, I have had more than one example of the following conversation.

Me: How did your teacher say to solve these problems?
Them: She didn't teach us anything about this. (This is usually said with tears.)
Me: She just gave you homework on stuff she hasn't yet taught you how to do? (This is always said incredulously.)
Them: Yes! And she'll force us to make bricks without straw if we don't finish our quota!

I may be mixing that last part up with another story, but nevertheless, the angst they feel is real. But math homework is not the only stuff I have to check. The other day I had to review 10 pages of vocabulary words as my daughter demonstrated her mastery of new words and their prefixes. As a bonus she had to choose two words and write a sentence. She chose forecaster and distrust. The sentence she wrote?

I distrust you, Mr. Forecaster.

Ah, it would seem even my 10-year old understands that weathermen only have to be right half of the time to be seen as a success in their field. She is learning about people.

And so am I. I'll tell you more in subsequent posts, but alas, school is out for the summer. It's time for a break.