Archive for the Life Category

Bedford’s Burden

Posted in Life, Reflections with tags , , , on June 7, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

I don’t know how much play it got where I live, but yesterday was the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the day of the massive Allied invasion of German-occupied beaches in France during World War II. It was, and is still, the largest amphibious military assault in history. I happened to be in a small town in western Virginia visiting family. As we talked, my grandmother handed me a newspaper article about her first cousin, Lucille Boggess. The article followed her as she went to Washington, D.C., to take part in a private viewing of a documentary film titled “Bedford’s Burden”. The reason – two of her brothers, my grandmother’s first cousins, were 2 of 19 men from the town of Bedford, VA, to be killed on the beaches of Normandy.

Bedford, VA, holds the dubious distinction of being the U.S. town with the highest per-capita death rate on D-Day. 19 of 34 men from Bedford were killed on June 6, 1944, while storming the French coastline, all from Company A, 116th Infantry, 29th Division. Bedford is the site of the United States’ D-Day memorial. As far as memorials go, it is fantastic. Google it. Did you Google it? See the guy facedown on the beach? That statue is inspired by the story of my grandmother’s cousin, Raymond Hoback. Raymond’s body was never recovered from the flotsam after the battle, but his Bible was. The Bible he carried had been a Christmas gift from his parents in 1938. Corporal H.W. Crayton found the Bible laying on the beach on D-Day plus one, and was kind enough to send it back to Raymond Hoback’s family.

The impact of D-Day on the town of Bedford was huge and tangible. Bedford is a small town, even today. Losing 19 young men in a single battle was roughly equivalent to losing half a generation of men from the town. It’s really not possible to overstate the importance of D-Day to the town of Bedford.

As I pondered all of this last Friday, sitting in my aunt’s living room, reading an article from the Roanoke Times, watching the local news (more than half the broadcast was devoted to D-Day celebrations the following day), it occured to me that D-Day is not just a huge deal for the history of Bedford, VA – it is a huge deal for the history of us all. If you read up some on World War II, you will quickly discover what a huge, desperate gamble the invasion of France was. The stories of gallantry, heroism, and dedication to the cause are too numerous to recount. And it is in large part because of the heroism of so many men that the Allied Armies were able to defeat some of the worst evil in human history.

If you’re not sold on why you should get excited about June 6 each year, do a quick Google search for Bedford, Virginia, and read up on some of the personal stories. For me, it’s enough to be related, however distantly, to the inspiration for a war memorial. And it’s enough to see my grandmother tear up with pride and loss (in that order, mind you) talking about her cousins who didn’t come home from France.



Best Wedding Video Ever

Posted in Life with tags , , , on June 1, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

There’s been a trend in recent years of having the bride and groom’s first dance be a surprise boogie instead of the traditional slow dance. That’s awesome. More power to them.

I ran across this video on a blog I read, and I have to say that this tops all of the ‘Baby Got Back’ wedding dance videos out there. I hope this becomes a new trend. Congratulations, Brian and Eileen. You officially have the coolest wedding video ever. Enjoy.

Swine Flu Insanity

Posted in Culture, Life with tags , , , , on May 4, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

panflu1A friend told me yesterday that she was ‘scared to death’ of getting swine flu. I asked her why and she said, “Seriously?! Have you been watching the news?!” I said that yes, I had been watching. I also told her that I wasn’t concerned about swine flu at all. She seemed surprised, so I told her a few facts I had learned about the flu.

Regular old seasonal flu kills something like 36,000 Americans every year. Americans. We have some of the best health care in the world, and we lose 36,000 people per year to flu. As usual, those most at risk of serious illness and death are the very old and the very young. Who do we see worldwide being killed by swine flu? The very old and the very young. And how many deaths have we seen worldwide? Less than 200 in Mexico, the ‘epicenter’ of the ‘imminent pandemic’, and one in the U.S. It doesn’t even come close to the number of Americans who die from seasonal flu every year.

There have been serious flu pandemics before (and many more scares and pandemic threats). In 1918 a strain of flu known as Spanish Flu killed more than 50 million people. In 1957 the Asian Flu raised the U.S. death toll to around 68,000, a little less than twice normal. Swine flu itself was first identified in 1976 and labelled a pandemic threat, but never spread beyond the area it was discovered in. Most recently, in 1997 and 1999 there was the Bird Flu madness that killed a total of (wait for it…) 8 people.

So why are people losing their minds over Swine Flu? I think it’s because our news media needs something to talk about. The talking heads need something to keep themselves in their position as the informed know-it-alls who help us average American bumpkins navigate our confusing lives. They also need the advertising dollars that pay their salaries as we’re glued to coverage of our latest ‘public health emergency’. The Centers for Disease Control and World Health Orginazation are trying to save face after their initial over-reaction by continuing to insist that swine flu is a serious threat and that we should all be on our guard, travel less, wear surgical masks, and not shake hands with people.

Be smart, people. The influenza virus is a nasty little bug every year. Swine flu, the H1N1 variation, seems to be a pretty mild strain, as far as flu strains go. Take care of yourselves. Wash your hands frequently. Don’t get sick. But most of all, don’t buy into all the panic hype. Don’t let the media run your life.


Haiti Top 5

Posted in Causes, Life with tags , on April 23, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

There have been too many words and not enough images on this blog over the last few weeks. So, to correct that problem, and to further communicate the impact of my recent mission to Haiti, here are some images from the trip. These are ‘representative top 5’, meaning that these are 5 images that sum up our trip in as neat a nutshell as you can with 5 pictures. More will come later.








Posted in Life, Reflections on April 20, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

This is the second post in my series about my recent short-term mission to Haiti. The first was titled ‘Excess’, and explored what I consider to be the most shocking experience of my entire trip – our return to American culture after a week in Haitian culture.

In this post, I want to talk about my best experiences in Haiti. There are three or four that jump out as the kind of memories where you don’t even need a picture to remind you because the image seems like it’s seared into your brain on an entirely different level. Know what I mean? The common thread running through all these memories is an idea that we misunderstand all too often in our culture – the idea of fellowship. I’ll run them down in the chronological order that they occurred in.

Sunday, April 5, 2009 – We worshipped on Palm Sunday at an orphanage in Jacmel, on the south coast of the island of Haiti. Our group leaders, Jeff and Rita, have been supporting this orphanage since 2006, and in that short amount of time it has changed from a complete and total dump to what is in most respects a nice place to live, particularly by Haitian standards. There is a chapel in that orphanage, and so at 10AM all eight of us, plus a group of five or so from Canada, plus the 73 kids who live there piled into this little room and had a worship service. It was something I will never ever forget. At one point I nearly lost it because I was so overwhelmed by the import of what was happening – We were singing ‘Lord I Lift Your Name on High’, the Haitians singing in creole, us and the Canadians singing in english, and the Holy Spirit moving through everyone. It was a truly beautiful moment.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 – Our main project for this trip was to build a chicken house at another, smaller, much more needy orphanage near Christianville. As we started to build it, several men from nearby came to help. They never asked for money in return for their labor, never asked for a share of the chickens that would be raised there, they just showed up to help because they understood that the chicken house would benefit the orphanage and the community alike. Despite all the barriers that we felt like were in the way (language, race, economic status, culture differences), God once again showed that fellowship doesn’t hinge on any of that. There was a moment on Tuesday when we were putting the roof on the chicken house when several of the Haitian men and myself were standing around watching (when roofing, the guys on the ladders do the lion’s share of the work). The Haitian men were joking around with Exod, our Haitian ‘foreman’ for the job, and Jeff. Even though all of those supposed barriers separated me from these men, I felt like I was being included in their fun. We had ceased to be Haitians and Americans, dark-skinned and light-skinned, creole-speaking and english-speaking, impoverished and well-off… We were simply a group of men building a chicken house together and enjoying one another’s company.

The theme of true fellowship was heavy on my heart throughout our entire Haiti mission. I have thought more than once over the last couple of years that we might not truly understand fellowship in the United States. In our churches, the meaning of the word fellowship is often restricted to, ‘standing around in the fellowship hall talking’. In reality fellowship is much more closely related to the concept of ‘doing life together’, of sharing all of our meaningful moments (both good and bad) with those we are close to. In Haiti, people are much closer with one another than they are here. It’s out of necessity – the Haitians we were around understand that if they don’t work together, none of them will survive.

It’s a lesson that I think we could stand to learn here, too.


Sexting and consequences

Posted in Culture, Life with tags , , , , , on April 15, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

There has been a tremendous amount of attention in the news media and among bloggers (youth ministry blogs included) about ‘sexting’ – the sending and receiving of sexually explicit photos and videos via cell phone, particularly by middle and high school students. First there were reports and explanations of what it was, followed by stories of young people being caught and prosecuted for child pornography, followed by myriad articles and blogs about how common it is, followed by myriad more about how the initial numbers were skewed and exaggerated, and now followed by the ‘who do you believe?’ articles and blogs. This last group raises a particularly important point – what polls do you trust, how was their research conducted, how large was their sample size, from what groups (geographically, racially, socio-economically, etc.) do its respondents come from? Personally, I tend to believe some of the higher numbers, at least for more technology-based areas, such as urban areas and affluent suburbs of cities. I believe this because I grew up near Rockdale Co., Georgia, where you may remember seeing national news articles about the syphilis outbreak among high school students there about a decade ago. But for the purposes of this post, I’m going to leave all of this behind and focus in on something I’ve been paying attention to over the last few days.

The state of Vermont has been in the news for considering legislation that would prevent 13-18 year olds from being prosecuted as sex offenders for sexting. I have very mixed feelings about this. Let me say up front thatVermont senator John Campbell, who was on the Today show this morning, made a fantastic point that I had not considered before. He used the following hypothetical situation – a 14 year old girl ‘sexts’ her boyfriend a picture of herself topless, is caught, and prosecuted for child pornography; she then has to register as a sex offender; she then has difficulty getting into college; she then wants to go into education, but finds it utterly impossible to get a job because she is a registered sex offender – all for a bad decision she made almost a decade before. Put in that light, I can at least see the point of view of those in Vermont who want to pass this piece of legislation. It should also be noted that the people who see this legislation as ‘legalizing sexting in Vermont’ are incorrect. The law would not remove all penalties from 13-18 year olds who sext, it would only prevent prosecuting them for child pornography.

Here’s my problem with it, though. Ours is not a culture that usually learns things the easy way. We, as a nation, typically have to learn our lessons the hard way if they are to stick at all. Think about it. It took ten years of the worst economic downturn in our nation’s history to teach our grandparents and great-grandparents about the dangers of credit, over-lending, over-borrowing, and speculation on the financial market. Sixty years later, we let the regulations that helped to stabilize our economy expire, and here we are once again – after a decade of rampant speculation, borrowing, lending, and spending, we’re facing another severe economic situation. And these mistakes were made by educated adults with years of experience. Can we really expect a 14 year old who’s brain is not fully developed to learn without the guidance of severe penalties?

Maybe I’m just being too hard here, but it hasn’t been too long since I was a teenager. I remember the way I thought when I was 14. If someone said to me, “This action used to carry a severe penalty, but now it carries a much milder penalty,” that would translate into my 14 year old mind as “This used to be wrong, but now it’s okay.” And I think that’s the message that young people will get if Vermont passes this piece of legislation. Yeah, it will stink for the ones who have trouble later in life because of a bad decision they made as a teenager. But will teach them an even more valuable lesson about living with the consequences of their actions. To try to spare them from the consequences of their actions will only lead to an attitude of entitlement later on in life. America’s young people have to learn personal responsibility and accountability.


Posted in Life with tags , , on March 31, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

So, I just spent the better part of 3 hours trying to learn basic html so that I could create my own CSS stylesheet and personalize the look of my blog. Then I found out that you have to pay extra money to be able to save your changes. Thanks, WordPress…