I don’t want to sound ungrateful but Christmas left me wanting more this year (as it does most years).  christmas_overload

I got some nice swag and spent quality time with my family and friends but as usual, after the holidays are over I feel a kind of spiritual discontent, kind of like I did after the LOST finale.  Unresolved…

Each year I commit to making Christmas more deeply profound for me and my family.  Each year I fail at that task.  I tend to feel neurotic in the weeks leading up to Christmas with the cleaning, shopping, spending, wrapping things up at work before taking time off, and generally tying up loose ends.  The closer it comes to Christmas Eve the more anxious and unsettled I become.  I am short tempered, crabby, tired, and not filled with grace.

Christmas morning was filled with frantic activity with bows and wrapping paper flying everywhere.  Once the pillaging settles down we stuff ourselves so full of food that we can barely move, gluttony at its finest. After the food settles enough we load the van with our spoils and it’s off to the next stop. We do this twice more over the next couple of days.

Our New Year’s Eve tradition for the last 10 years has been to open our home to any Jr. High or Sr. High students that need a safe alternative to typical NYE endeavors. We usually have anywhere from 15 – 30 students.  I look forward to this time.  I am energized by being around students, but not this year. I’m tired. I just want to go to bed and sleep until, well, until I’m done sleeping. I’m exhausted, mentally depressed, physically out of shape, and spiritually empty.  Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

After the new year has come I become aware of a growing need for a new rhythm.  The current pace is not sustainable. Viktor Frankl says his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “Not every internal conflict is necessarily neurotic; some amount of conflict is normal and healthy.  In a similar sense suffering is not always a pathological phenomenon; rather than being a symptom of neurosis, suffering may well be a human achievement, especially if the suffering grows out of existential frustration”.  I am existentially frustrated.

I decorate my spiritual life with the spiritual disciplines and practices of our faith but more often than not it’s a sham.  I wear these disciplines like badges so that you will know how much more spiritual I am than you and others.  There, I said it.  I am a fraud.  I don’t want to be a fraud but it is so much easier than actually becoming disciplined.  I never feel like I measure up to others.  I am an overweight, lazy, insecure, self-centered, angry, attention-seeking, and have a tendency to be narcissistic.

Whew! That felt good to get off my chest, but why am I telling all of you this?

Because, confession is good for the soul…

Before I can move forward into 2014 I first have to let go of the baggage I’ve dragged with me through 2013.  I’m not talking about the cheap grace kind of letting go but a deep understanding of the grace that is waiting for me when I confess.  See, forgiveness and mercy are only accessible when we understand our need for it.  1 John 1:9 tells us that IF we confess He is faithful and just to forgive.  I desperately need the grace and mercy that transforms.  I am a broken hammer trying to nail myself back together and that is just silly and exhausting.  I am broken beyond human repair.  I need the baby that came in the manger.  I need the Jew that healed during His time on earth.  I need the Christ that has power to overcome death, because without that power we can do nothing.  I need you, who are infused with that very same power and it strong when we are unified in mission.  I need the hope that comes when God and His people are aligned in their will. And so do you.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” – Titus 2:11-12 NIV



Coordinator of The Shelter at Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014 (psst… deadline to reg for SYMC is 1.15!)

Hallelujah – A Gift for You

Tony Myles —  December 30, 2013 — 1 Comment

christmas_hallelujahThe days of Christmas may be over, but the Story of Christmas never is.

There comes a day when we let God write new lyrics into our lives… and that day is when we literally become a brand new Hallelujah.

It can happen right now – literally, right now… yet again.

May this arrangement bless you… way before you think about how to turn it into a lesson for someone else.


signlanguageforJesusImagine being a non-deaf child in a deaf household.

Lori Koch posted this video to YouTube of her daughter Koda (who isn’t deaf) signing the lyrics to some popular songs of the season. Lori and her husband are both deaf, and yet they were able to enjoy the concert through the extra efforts of their daughter serving them. You can tell Koda’s quite the ham – check it out.


This video is obviously inspiring and easily creates all the right warm fuzzies.

There’s something deeper here, though.

  • What if Koda represents what it means for you to share Jesus?
  • What if Lori represents what it means for someone to “hear” the message because another person (who can actually hear) explained it to them?

Around 3:08 in the video, you’ll notice something different happens for a few moments. According to Lori:

“Yea…that one was a whoopsie…obviously [the video] was done by a deaf person.  Ha.  I edited those few HA HA HA moments to slow motion because I loved how she acted it out, but didn’t think it would skew the audio.  That’s the one and only thing I would change, but a little too late now. ;-)

This is a great example of how we all flub a bit sharing the message… and yet, “So what?” Do those few seconds matter? Or is the greater win that Koda rocked the rest of it?

This Christmas you’ll have the opportunity to just go through the motions like everyone else around you.

On the other hand…

You’ll also have the opportunity to put in just a little bit more effort (and enjoy doing it) so that someone you love gets to hear what you hear.

Go… tell it on the mountain.

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:17-18)

I am always looking for cool videos to show in our ministry, this will become an opener as a Christmas countdown! Enjoy

Christmas Song TriviaIf you’re looking for a last minute addition to your weekend programming, try this game created by our student ministry team.

Merry Christmas!


Christmas Song Trivia QUESTIONS

Christmas Song Trivia ANSWERS

Screen shot 2013-12-16 at 6.57.56 AMIn the last post, I shared how coming back home for the holidays can be a relationally awkward time for college students.  I also shared one idea for reconnecting with them: asking direct and specific questions.  And, as promised, here are 3 other quick ideas to reconnect with students while their home:

Share about your personal life. You pursuing your students for a time of coffee or lunch will likely be great, but it can come across as formal – or maybe even an “accountability time” from their perspective. This can be okay, but I’ve found it’s MUCH better if you take the “pastor” hat off and share about yourself. Now is the time to intentionally begin to treat them like a friend, especially if they were in your high school ministry. This can really bridge any separation and kill any awkwardness they may be feeling about their “home church.” Sharing about your own struggles, doubts, family life, etcetera can be a great next step for your relationship – as long as you don’t dominate the conversation!

Ask for prayer request. At the end of your conversation specifically ask them for ONE thing you can pray for them about. This let’s them know they don’t leave your mind as soon as they leave, and let’s them know your relationship means more to you than just being a part of your job! Periodically over the next few months make sure you send them a text message or six letting them know you’re still praying.

Ask them if they’re being encouraged. You could get a whole spectrum of answers on this one, but it’s a great question to ask. Some might break into tears, while others will simply be encouraged you asked. Either way, I’ve found it to be a great question to ask. It can also give you insight into areas where you can personally encourage them. Some will be more open about this than others, but you may want to ask them specifically how their relationship is with their parents, an ex, their best friend they had in high school, etc.

Try all of these methods with your students and let us know how it goes!


Merry Christmas Simply Insiders!

Have we told you guys that yet?!

And for your Christmastime freebie, we’ve got some very Merry Christmas slides for you…

Kinda like this one…



But we do have Christmas slides to download and use for your presentations in your next message or at your Tacky Christmas Sweater party!

Click here or the image below to start downloading your fun, free Christmas slides!



Enjoy! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,