I missed the second half of today’s NYWC because our family went up to Disney for their annual Mickey’s Halloween Treat night. If you have the chance to go, it is lots of fun — games, crafts, dancing and, of course, tons of candy. In any case, that’s why these are my reflections from Day 2A at NYWC.

The running theme throughout the convention is “Storyline” and the YS team has done a fantastic job so far in pulling together the idea that we are all part of God’s larger meta-narrative story. I love that in the room where we meet for the general sessions, they have even played with the way we sit — kind of an “in the round” experience. I was half-expecting one of those U2 circular-type stages where Crowder could run a circuit through the crowd :)

For me, Joe Castillo’s artistic presentation of the Creation story was totally new and unexpected. I can be kind of a cultural Philistine when it comes to art, but my heart was definitely moved by his “SandStory” presentation. Joe has a SandStory video clip of the Passion on his site, which will give you an idea of what this was all about. Marquis Laughlin presented a powerful monologue from the book of Revelation — what a voice! If I had a voice like his, I would talk all day long (not that I don’t already!). I love the fact that to kick off the first general session, we were immersed in the beginning and the end, so to speak, of The Story.

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I’m a sucker for old-school punk rock. I grew up skateboarding to Minor Threat and The Pogues, so getting to hear Flatfoot 56 for the first time today at the general session was really nice. I mean, seriously, how can a band with a bagpiper not put a smile on your face? I really appreciated the video clip in which Tic interviewed them and they had a chance to share their heart. They are reaching kids who might feel utterly rejected by the church by literally meeting them where they are — for example, opening for Irish-punk heroes Flogging Molly. I commented to the bagpiper afterward that this probably isn’t their usual crowd, but he smiled and said they knew this wouldn’t necessarily be their typical audience but that they still had lots of fun performing.

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Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil gave a stirring talk which used The Lion King as an extended metaphor for reclaiming our identities as the people of God and our role in pointing youth back to their true heart and calling. It will probably take a couple of days to interpret the scratches and doodles I wrote in the dark in my notebook, but I will share soon about some of the great things Dr. McNeil shared about the global story in which we, and our students, find ourselves.

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As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of the David Crowder*Band. And, from what I could see today, it appears that so are most of the 4000 or so of us gathered here this weekend. From the opening quarter-note hoedown clapping of “Undignified” to the really green keytar and the exhortation that our singing was “pretty” but need to be much louder, it was classic Crowder — which is to say, the man really has a knack for leading groups of people into the presence of God. The Super Mario synth jam and the (somewhat frightening) video of Crowder as Mario were bonuses.

Singing “Remedy” this afternoon was particularly powerful for me. I think people who have criticized the Remedy album for being too simple have missed the point. I think David has always been an incredible lyricist — pushing the boundaries of our imaginations in corporate worship — and his skill has only grown over time. He evokes so much through so few words. Those of us in ministry (or who have suffered through the “sermon that never ends”) know that it is much more difficult to preach a meaningful short message than it is to drone on & on for an hour.

These words came to life as we sang:

Here we are / Here we are

The broken and used / Mistreated, abused

Here we are

Here You are / Here You are

The beautiful one / Who came like a Son

Here You are

So many of us in youth ministry are hurt, wounded and weary. That’s why I appreciated Marko’s words about the “holiness of wasting time” so much. We need to be honest about our brokenness, not hiding it by working even harder. But it’s not just a story of our brokenness; rather, as we view our frailty and limitations, “We lift up our voices / We lift up our hands / To cling to the love that we can’t comprehend.”