Thinking Out Loud

February 22, 2018

Thank You, Billy Graham

“The closest thing America has ever had to a national pastor.” – NBC-TV’s Lester Holt 

Last night I watched the full hour of the Canadian daily Christian talk show 100 Huntley Street which was a tribute to the late Rev. Billy Graham. They ended the program with a video I had never seen before and was unaware of — it’s had less than 40,00 views — titled Thank You, Billy Graham.

A number of top entertainers came together to produce this “sung biography” of Billy Graham containing some great documentary film footage. The song was written and produced by motion picture actor and recording artist Pat Boone, Grammy-winning Rock artist David Pack from Ambrosia, and Country star Billy Dean. You’ll recognize Kenny Rogers, even Larry King has a role. So basically, this isn’t your usual CCM artist project — though you’ll recognize the input of DCTalk — which in itself shows the clout Graham had in the wider marketplace.

After an intro from Bono, the song itself begins at the :44 mark. Even if you aren’t crazy about the finished result, it’s worth watching for the film footage which was incorporated throughout.

•Watch a background 4-minute video on the making of the song at this link.


April 3, 2016

We Were Created to Create

Created to Create Spring 2016

Last night I went to see a kids musical production being performed in a church that was almost within walking distance of my house. We don’t have children in that age cohort anymore, but I wanted to be supportive and the proximity of last night’s show — the first of three performances — left me without excuse.

If you had come with me you might have seen a kids play with a couple of missed lines, several audio problems, and some awkward scene changes, but I saw so much more; so very much more.

created to create logoCreated to Create is an initiative of our local chapter of Youth Unlimited, formerly known as Youth for Christ. Their focus with this creative arts program is inclusive of kids normally younger than you find at any given city’s branch of YU. This was, I believe the third such show they’ve done, and the second one I’ve seen.

What struck me last night was the producer/director’s commitment to excellence. The whole program was, I’m told, something that was conceived in her mind over a year earlier and incorporated content from three different primary sources, plus some original dialog and the addition of humorous video inserts throughout the show.

One of those video clips was filmed in Lake Ontario; so it had to be shot at the beginning of rehearsals in September, with great faith that the casting would stay the same over six months later in April.  Some actors played multiple roles — no small challenge — while others took on their parts rather convincingly, given that for some of them this was their first time in a dramatic production of this magnitude.

The thing that struck me the most was how, by the third and final act, these kids very much had their audience. The inside of the great fish was convincing, even if executed solely with Styrofoam pool noodles and black light. If you had been a neighbor or a relative of one of the kids and didn’t really know the Biblical story, there was enough of a message here that you got both narrative and practical application. In the finale, when ‘Old’ Jonah and ‘Flashback’ Jonah joined hands at the end to take their bow, I think the audience was fully aware of the thought and work that had gone into the production and completely convinced that the 90 minutes had been well worth their time.

We serve a God who inspires us with creativity. True, it hits some people more than others, but I believe we all have a measure of imagination inside us that can be used to inspire others.

Bonus item: Though not recorded at the show, here’s a song it contained, from the Newsboys: In the Belly of the Whale.

March 22, 2012

Three Conversations and a Wedding

Today’s post is written by Carlo Raponi who is Evangelism Outreach Director for Kawartha Youth Unlimited based in Peterborough, a city about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto, Canada; with a population of 80,000 or 115,000 depending on your sources.

This fall I attended a wedding as a +1 to a friend of mine. Weddings are always a great time. Even when it’s the wedding of someone you don’t know. Technically, its like crashing the wedding only there’s no threat of getting kicked out. You get to dress up, eat, drink and cut a little rug on the dance floor! I personally think that there should be open wedding-like parties you can attend on a weekly basis. I think the world would be a cheerier place for it.

At this particular wedding I was expecting to be the mystery guest. I didn’t know the bride or groom, I didn’t grow up in the area nor do I have relatives that live here. This was going to be my night to sit back, relax, eat some hors d’oeuvres and be, for the most part, anonymous. However that wasn’t the case.

Upon arriving at the reception a young man came up to me with an excited and surprised look on his face. “Carlo, wow, do you remember me?!” he asked as he cornered me at the coat check. In scenarios such as these your mind does one of three things. Either it searches it’s database for every possible instance where you might know this person, or it looks and listens for clues that could give insight into who this person is, or it looks for the best, and most vague, manner of saying hi that gives the air that you recognize the individual while seeming both genuine and credible. While I began with number three, suddenly number one kicked in and in a flash I recognized the now grown up individual that stood before me.

He called his friends over to introduce me. “Hey, this is Carlo. We used to skate together all the time at the skate park…man, you’ve helped me out with so many things!…” He went on to tell of how we would skateboard around and then just talk. While I remembered it all, I stood bewildered that those times we spent meant that much to him.

Later that evening the brother of the groom approached me. “Hi, do you remember me?” he asked. Ok, this time I really had to call upon brain function number three. He filled in the gaps for me telling me that he and I had a conversation one day that changed the course of his youth; that the words I spoke to him while we hung out in the streets of Peterborough significantly impacted his life and that he wanted to thank me.

I spent the rest of the night in amazing conversations with these two young men; and when I got home I was quick to share this story with a friend of mine who also volunteers at The Bridge Youth Center. After telling him about how stunned I was at the words of these two boys and how incredible it was that my words had has such impact, my friend commented saying, “…wow, I wish my night was that great. Instead I all I did was hang out with a bunch of rowdy kids at the youth center…” It was here that I turned to correct him. He missed the point. All that time I put in skateboarding or hanging out downtown was time setting the stage for those poignant conversations. All that time spent was time relationship building, time leading up to the moment at which something clicked inside of them.
People are not machines, they take time to change and grow. The work we do at The Bridge Youth Center is not just about playing pool or hanging out at the canteen. It’s time invested into actual lives that are actually transformed by Christ through the relationships established. That night was both an eye opener for this volunteer and a reaffirmation of the value in what Youth Unlimited does through it’s staff and volunteers. May these kinds of stories never cease.

Carlo Raponi

November 6, 2009

A Different Kind of Bible Translation

Jeff Snow is a guy we got to know shortly after moving from Toronto, Canada 20-years ago, to our current home in small town Ontario.   In a smaller town people in ministry often have to wear many hats, and we don’t know anyone who juggles them better than Jeff.   Whether working with Youth for Christ, hosting a radio show, serving on the town’s Character Committee, helping serve dinner once a week in a low-income ghetto, guest speaking at local churches, or leading worship in a variety of settings; Jeff brings with him the best of two worlds and two ministry models:  Years spent training for and serving in a local church setting and now eight years serving with Youth for Christ.

He wrote this recently for a YFC Newsletter, and we think we know Jeff well enough that we didn’t need to ask permission.   Guess we’ll find out soon enough…

I decided to back to school part-time this fall to work on my Master’s degree.  It was a bold decision.   It was an exciting decision.  Some weeks, I think it might have been a foolish decision.

The course I’m taking right now is Biblical Greek Exegesis.  Our assignments involve taking the Greek text of the New Testament and translating it into English.   Through the exercises, we hope to better understand the nuances of the language in order to better understand what scripture is saying.

As I thought about what we do at Youth For Christ, I realized that I didn’t start translating scripture a few weeks ago in this course, I’ve been doing it for years.

For example, I took a course this summer in Spiritual Formation, and the major assignment focused on the themes of Justification, Sanctification and Glorification.  For Talk-Time at drop-in, I’m going to share on these themes.   But if I used these three terms, all I would get is blank stares, and maybe a few laughs.

So I need to explain these important truths in a way that teens can understand.

Justification — When we ask Jesus to forgive us of the wrong things we’ve done that hurt ourselves, hurt others and hurt God, and rely on His death on the cross to pay the penalty of these wrongs things, then God declares us not guilty.   It’s like He looks at us through a “Jesus filter” and doesn’t see or remember our sin.

Sanctification — There’s more to knowing God than just saying “I’m sorry.”   We also need to say “Take Over,” and let His Holy Spirit guide and direct our decisions.   And the more we do that, the more we become like Jesus, and the cool parts of who He is become more and more a part of our lives, like His love, His patience, His self-control.

Glorification — When we ask Jesus into our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to live in us, it’s the beginning of life forever with God, not just here, but in heaven as well.  Jesus promises us a home forever with Him that goes beyond our wildest dreams.

We at Youth For Christ are in the translation business.   We do our best to take the timeless truths of the Gospel, and, without changing their inherent meanings, present them to a generation of young people in ways that they can understand and relate to.  We present them to a generation whose language and ways of learning are constantly changing and evolving.

Please pray for us as we translate the Gospel to youth.  And pray for our youth, that they will hear, understand, and believe.

~Jeff Snow, Northumberland Youth For Christ; Ontario, Canada.

If you are interested in supporting the work that Jeff does, use the Contact Us page on the sidebar so we can send you more information on giving by check or VISA.   Canadian tax receipts available. (Or leave a comment which we’ll delete; your e-mail will not be visible on the page.)

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