Friday, December 21, 2007

Valley of Vision

I just bought the Valley of Vision prayer book per the recommendation of our associate pastor and I am totally in love with the introductory prayer. It is a book with Puritan prayers and devotions in it and is really designed to help usher someone into a prayful dialogue with the Lord. I have only had this about 2 days and I would strongly suggest it for everyone and their brother! Here is the first prayer:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
Where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
That the way down is the way up,
That to be low is to be high,
That the broken heart is the healed heart,
That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
That the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
That to having nothing is to possess all,
That to bear the cross is to wear the crown
That to give is to receive,
That the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
And the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent Conspiracy pt 2

Here is something I wrote for our ministry connection this week regarding the Advent Conspiracy:

As we are thrust into the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I want to take just a moment to slow down, look around, and help. What is Christmas all about? Ultimately, Christmas is about the God of the universe making the ultimate sacrifice by coming to earth as a man and living the perfect life in order to save us from eternal punishment. Then, why do we fight traffic, mall lines, and deranged parents on this glorious occasion? It is because our culture has created a Christmas in which we are more worried about getting the good picture with Santa, standing in line at 3 am to get a new Wii, and making sure our house has a Clark Griswold amount of lights on it. Are these things bad? Absolutely not but I do think that we need to think about what we are celebrating this wonderful Christmas season.

That is why our youth group has joined a group called the Advent Conspiracy ( whose goal it is to put justice, mercy, and compassion back in Christmas. The Advent Conspiracy has four main functions: Worship More, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. The call here is to find more times to worship, give relational, less expensive gifts, spend the money that you save on a charity or clean water initiative, and find ways to love the people in your life now and those around the world.

As a result of these four things the youth group has decided to do things a little different this year. Instead of having normal Christmas parties, we wanted to find ways to give back to our local community. Our Middle School group brought in tons of clothes to be given away at Good News at Noon and our High School group will be volunteering at a local charity on December 21st (If you would like to be a part contact me and we would love for you to help out). I wanted us to take just a small amount of time and give back to our community in a real and tangible way.

Therefore, this Christmas season I want to encourage you to worship more by taking advantage of the things like Jingle Jazz and the candlelight Christmas Eve service as well as carving out time with your family to worship and reflect the magnitude of Christmas. I want to encourage you to spend less and give more by finding ways to give relational gifts and then spend extra money or time on a clean water initiative (Living Water International) or some other charity. Lastly, let me encourage you to love all. This may mean having to forgive your mom, or love your crazy aunt, or tell your kids you love them but whatever it looks like for you, just love.

Here is a link for a blog post with a couple of ideas for relational gifts/charities.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Trees, Fire, and Timer Photos

I thought I would add a picture of Emily and I's new somewhat ghetto Christmas tree. We don't really have real ornaments so everything on there is homemade and funny. We also made a fire for the first time that night and I think we ended up with more smoke in the house than actually up the chimney. I finally have the whole fireplace thing figured out but the first couple of times I made one our house smelled like a campfire for a couple days. Winnie doesn't really understand looking at the camera but she is a cat and they really don't do anything that you tell them to do. I love timer photos.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Lesson Learned from little kids and Spiderman

As I was conducting a play therapy session with a couple of kids, I was reminded of the verse in Phillipians that says: "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,..." (4:12). Let me explain...the kids are told that they can play with anything they want in a room full of toys for an hour. They aren't given any rules, are not required to clean up, are not told what to do at all (unless, of course, what they are doing is harmful in any way). Sounds like a dream for a little kid...right? Well, one boy thought so. I look over to see child # 1 happily playing with an old-McDonald's nugget box. Out of all the toys in the room to choose from, he was perfectly content...and seemingly filled with joy over this one toy. As I was admiring this situation, I hear child # 2 begin to wine and complain b/c he wanted to play with Spiderman. He went on and on about how "at home, he had Spiderman" and "nothing in this room was as cool as his toy." Amidst over fifty things to choose from, this child could not seem to find anything that he liked b/c he was so focused on what he didn't have.

All this is to to say that I walked away with a visual picture of how I often treat God. He provides me with everything I could ever need and want, yet, I so often am longing for more...and missing out on the very blessings that are right in front of my eyes! Instead of focusing on "Spiderman," I hope to learn as child # 1 certainly demonstrated that I don't need more things, or better things, to make me happy. As Paul had learned in Phillipians, Christ is our ultimate joy and satisfaction, and only when we focus on him can we be content. When I lose focus of Christ, my heart begins to long for more.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is not hidden with Christ in God." Col. 3:1-3

Advent Conspiracy

The Advent Conspiracy is an organization that is trying to put compassion, justice, and mercy back into Christmas.  We are going to talk about the conspiracy and what it means to us this week in youth group.  It will be a good time for us to look into how we can help put Christ back in Christmas.  Check out their website. 

Friday, November 30, 2007

No condemnation!!

Romans 8:1-4

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit."

I have started a small study in Romans 8 and these four verses have been something I have really been chewing on the last couple of days. To believe that I have NO CONDEMNATION before Christ is a really hard thing to believe. So often, I don't really believe that Christ could love me enough to die for me and become a sin offering on my behalf. The truth is that Christ was completely sinless and a perfect representation of the law and took on my sin and condemned it so that I could have life. Now instead of living in sin, I live according to the Spirit. I like Jesus!

Monday, November 26, 2007

American Justice

Last night at youth group, (which I thoroughly enjoyed thanks to awesome students and the musical genius of Ian Driver) I mentioned a movie that Ian and I did for a Campus Outreach meeting and I wanted to post it. This is Ian at his very finest playing out the role of "funniest man in Campus Outreach" perfectly. Enjoy.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Emily and I spent this last weekend at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta. Besides the fact that we had to drive into downtown Atlanta and traverse the largest building in the world (Georgia World Congress Center) we had a really good time. It is a really cool conference because we were in a place where 5,500 people had the same passions as us and we could all relate to many of the same struggles.

I feel like I am walking away with a lot of things to think through and be challenged by but there were a couple of really cool things that were worth noting:
  1. Joe Castillo- An awesome artist that tells the story of Christ through this weird sand art. It is really hard to describe but go to or check out a clip here.
  2. Walt Mueller- He is a youth culture guru that really challenged me on being up with the culture in order to better serve the youth in Gainesville. I am currently reading Engaging the Soul of the Youth Culture and thoroughly enjoying. A must for all youth leaders and parents of teens.
  3. Shane and Shane's song "Burn Us Up"- I love the story of Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego and they performed a song they wrote about it. It is so sexy! Go to their myspace page and listen.
  4. Doug Fields-Secretly I have always hated Doug Fields for that mustache/soul patch combo that he rocked but he turned out to be a really funny and compelling speaker (plus he shaved). Him and his wife's Q & A about marriage and ministry was the most helpful seminar Emily and I went to.
  5. Shane Claiborne- He was a speaker for one of the general session and he got up did a fire breathing routine then read the Sermon on the Mount and then walked off. It was really weird but it made a cool statement.

Overall, it was a great learning experience and there was the best of the best as far as christian music and entertainment go (no offense Slaten I will take you over Tomlin any day of the week).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Awesome video

I found this today and loved it! It is a bullet in slow motion going through different things. My fav is the water bottle. Which do you like best?

Add to My Profile More Videos

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


On Sunday, I met a guy who has been a part of the Catholic Worker Movement. This is a movement of christians who live in community together in voluntary poverty with the goal of trying to make an impact on poverty and consumerism in the US. While I don't necessarily agree with all of their methodology, I was struck by their view of community. Here are people that live together in relative poverty and share most everything they have with each other and those around them.

It was really a wake up call to me to think about how I am living out community. I live in a condominium that shares a wall with a family and the most interaction that happens is when we happen to be in the driveway at the same time or when our cat goes on their porch and bothers them. I work in a church and yet at times feel incredibly disconnected with most of our members. I am dropping the ball in this area of community.

How should Christian community play out? I don't really have the answer but I do know it has something to do with us as christians learning how to live life together and engage in the culture around us.

Here is sarcastic blog post with a list of ways to avoid community and for more info on the catholic workers movement's aims and means go here (again we disagree a little here).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Halloween costume

I dressed up as Dwight from the office and though it is a little late I promised some that I would put up a picture. The hair is a little long but you can't beat the tie shirt combo

#1 All Time

While I generally think that 98% of what is on Youtube is stupid and/or innapropriate, I did come across the most watched video of all time on Youtube today and thought I would share. If you have never seen it enjoy!! If you have seen it enjoy it again!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

So True...

Here is a post from a girl in our ministry who has a great view on sex, sexuality, and modesty. Thanks for your faithfulness Hayden!

my fellow female peers

You might think that, if you're easy or "experienced", you're more appealing to guys. The truth is our culture is sending out the messages that influence the way we feel about love or sex. Girls feel so much pressure from guys and girls alike to show off our bodies and act a certain way. It's time now to ignore the criticism and to stop listening to those people that taunt you everyday for not having a boyfriend,or not giving a guy want he wants,or believing that sex is meant for marriage.Here's my point,one day you will find someone that says "it" can wait. And that will be the true definition of love.

~Hayden Couch

Friday, November 2, 2007

A message from the wife...

I am the wife of the wonderful man who started this blog. I've never been much of a blogger, but since it's the new cool thing for youth pastors to have a blog, I am jumping on board too
so here goes nothin...,

Andy and I moved to Gainesville about 4 months ago, and not before that our lives had looked very different. Looking back, I realized that we were about to make some huge life changes, but no part of me understood what this would look like. Now we're living in a new town, with new jobs, a new marriage, and an additional member of our new family, Winefred, or "Winnie" Nelson (who is our lovely cat, most of the time.) A lot of days I wonder how we got here, but then through all the changes, the Lord teaches me new lessons every day.

Acts 17: 26-27 says, "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." I know God has called Andy and I to Gainesville, Ga. and Westminster Church for a reason, and I just pray that we can serve him wholeheartedly through being a part of so many different lives. I love to think about this verse and how God has specifically designed this time for each of us to be a part we just need to ask what we can do in it to make a radical difference for him!

Lack of Judgement

"But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints." Ephesians 5:3

In placing a video clip that had a direct sexual reference in it, I realize I could be sending a message that would be confusing to somebody. I stand for the highest level of purity in my life and in the lives of those that the Lord has called me to pastor; therefore, I have taken down the clip.

In a world filled with confusing messages about sex and sexuality, we must stand for purity in our lives and the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters. We are bombarded with images and ideas about how the world views sex on television, in movies, and in print. "The Office" is a show that I watch and enjoy, but that doesn't guarantee that it is free from this worldly perspective on sex. God calls us to be wise and discerning in all we watch, say, read, and do. We need to be very careful about what we are hearing and ultimately how we translate these worldy messages into our own lives.

I pray for Godly wisdom and discerment in every area of my life and thank the Lord for a brother in Christ that loves me enough to exhort me and push me toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lessons from "House"

Emily and I love to watch "House" together on Tuesday nights. If you haven't seen the show it is an incredibly intriguing show in which a Dr. House tries to figure out what is wrong with the patients with extremely rare diseases, all while being an absolute jerk (secretly I like him). One thing that is interesting about the show is that at times there are very serious themes or thought provoking statements that leave me chewing on deeply spiritual thoughts. Tonight was no different as Dr. House made a comment that had intense spiritual implications.

I don't have the exact line but it went something like this: "We do not try and eliminate misery we just try to minimize it." Is this what we are called to as Christians? Am I simply here to minimize misery or is there something more grand, something life changing, something unmiserable that I was put on this earth for? I think House is misguided in his view of misery.

As Christians in a secular world we have been called to cultural transformation. To eliminate the misery with the incredible power of the gospel. To not only change our lives but to change the world we are living in by making everything we do for the glory of Christ (Col 3:23). Doing homework is not only for a good grade but it is for God's glory. Running cross country ceases to be just a hobby and becomes a highly spiritual, sacred event. Who we date and what that looks like has serious kingdom ramifications. Our lives are more than just a journey to avoid misery, but instead they are narratives of Christ's overwhelming grace and the elimination of misery only happens through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

So is our job to just minimize misery? Absolutely not let's eliminate misery and change the world!

For more reading on this concept check out this post by Matt Adair.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 goes nothing!

Word on the street is that if you are going to be a hip youth guy these days you must have a blog. So, in an attempt to be wicked awesome I am joining the world o' bloggin. All this comes with the caveat that I am really not that good of a writer and my grammer will at times be absolutley atroucious. I have no problem with changing verb tenses in mid sentence, really no issue with passive voice, and I don't think I could identify the object or indirect object in this sentence, but what the heck...

This blog exists for the purpose of speaking to how Christ works in our lives and culture to bring glory to himself. If you are a student involved in the Westminster youth group (or just a really cool person) and want to add something to the blog please email me so that I can post it up for all to see. I want this to be both posts from me as well as students that want to share what the Lord is doing in their lives. Even if you are struggling we can all learn from what you are going through and how the Lord is speaking in the midst of tough times. So...Giddy Up!