Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Speaking at Youth Ministry Forum

May 16-17, 2011 I will be on the faculty for a fantastic event that Virginia Baptists are putting on called: Youth Ministry Forum. This year, the main speaker is Marko (Mark Oestreicher) whose important book Youth Ministry 3.0 will be the dominant theme for discussion. I am really looking forward to the time in Richmond with some really sharp folks to discuss the future of student ministry.

It was at this event two years ago that Chris Folmsbee, author of A New Kind of Youth Ministry (and more recently Stories, Signs and Sacred Rhythms), asked if I would be interested in writing a short book for students on the idea of Sacred Hope. A book that explores the idea that the hope of God for our lives is not simply for ourselves, but is an invitation to be on mission with God to restore the world to its intended wholeness. I spent the next six months working on it in various ways, and it came out at the end of 2010. It was fantastic working with Chris and the team at Barefoot Ministries to publish the book, and I hope it isn't the last time we get to work together.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have gotten some really thoughtful notes from some college students and college graduates that have enjoyed the book, and I've been trying to think through some of their comments as I prepare to speak on it at the Youth Ministry Forum (for Faculty Bios, click here). I have two different sessions that I am speaking on at the forum, one on my book, and one on student ministry in general. Here are the descriptions:

Form over Function: Moving From Entertainment to Spiritual Formation in Youth Ministry
Do you find yourself spending more time, energy, resources on games, events, and flash for your student ministry rather than creating space for reflection, formation, practice, conversations, and ultimately relationships? In this session, we will explore how our aims for formation should drive our calendaring rather than the measuring sticks of fun and entertainment.

Exploring Sacred Hope: An Invitation to Join God’s Mission
Sacred hope is an expedition into mission. In Josh’s recent book Sacred Hope, students are invited to imagine the future where God is leading us, only to plummet back down into reality to investigate how we can join in God s mission to restore the world to its intended wholeness. In this session we will discuss ways we can cultivate spaces and conversations of hope and mission in our student ministries.

If you are going to be at the conference I'd love to meet you, and look forward to a great couple of days of rich conversation and thoughtful exploration. Hope to see you in Richmond!

getting creative

I'm starting to feel creative again.

Not like I am ready to write a masterpiece kind of creative. Just creative. I'm reading more. Listening to good music. Am having better conversations. Am feeling a stronger and stronger desire to write again.

I just started reading David Dark's The Sacredness of Questioning Everything and so far I am loving it. I have enjoyed his work in one of my favorite magazines Paste (that is currently on hiatus in print, but only online). And he is a great person to follow on Twitter. One of the things I wrote about in my book for students Sacred Hope was a chapter on the importance of asking good questions, of perpetually asking questions for it helps us to be in a posture of humility; a posture of seeking so that we may find. Dark puts it this way: "When we have questions, illumination is possible. (p. 14)"

To some degree doubt is necessary in order for faith to exist. Without doubt, faith becomes unnecessary, for our certainty rules our hearts and creates our image or idol of God in our minds. Dark writes, "Religion is born out of questions, not answers. (p. 22)"

When it comes down to it, I think I am feeling more creative because I am starting to ask more questions again. I am opening my heart to wrestle with ideas, art, love, hope, and doubt. Truthfully, I might be feeling more creative because my boys are sleeping through the night again or spring is starting to make you want to be outside, or I am starting to find balance after our new addition to the family. No matter where it is coming from, I am going to settle in and see what kinds of great things might come out of the questions and creativity.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brush, Brush, Dust, Dust

So it's been a while since I've blogged. Life with two little boys is fun, crazy, and an adventure always...but it hasn't always helped me find time for writing. There have a been a lot of great things that have happened with us in the last few months, not least of which is the birth of a new little boy Elison. I also had my book published, Sacred Hope.

My good friend Stephen is going to be trying to blog once a week, and I thought that would be a good, and healthy goal for me too. I have a lot of things that I'd like to write about as a way of processing thoughts, and I thought that by writing regularly, it would be a really good discipline and way to cultivate those thoughts. I will try to be brief and playful at times, but more than anything, I just need to write.

This week have had two special moments for me with my oldest son Rowan. One happened today, I took him with me to get a haircut, his first done done at the hands of a professional instead of Shey. I didn't know what to expect, but he did a really great job, didn't cry, and was super excited for his slurpee prize afterward! At one point I look down and realize as he's sitting in the chair, how much he's grown, and crazy it is to be a father. Rowan is my son. My SON. As I watched him squirm with the clippers and give his hair stylist a high five when it was all done, I just kept thinking about how fast he is growing up and how humbling it is to be a part of helping him grow up.

The other thing that happened with Rowan, was that while I was giving Eli a bottle one day this week, Rowan sat on the couch and we watched an episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog together. During the episode one of the dogs had a best friend that moved away and was coming back for a visit. And for a while, the show centered around the two dogs being friends, and all the great things they did together, and ways they played. Then, one of the dogs moved away. And I look over, and my two-and-a-half year old has tears running down his cheeks. And as the show continues and the dog friends reunite, his tears continue to roll down. It was a beautiful moment to watch him learn and feel empathy for others. It broke my heart to see him recognize that kind of life lesson, but it brought tears to my eyes to witness his response of kindness, empathy, and joy when the friends were reunited.

This parenting thing is certainly one of the most humbling endeavors I have ever been on, but it is also one of the most insightful times of my life as well. I hope that I can find the strength to help Rowan grow up well, and help him live in that space of hopeful empathy and love for others, especially when he sees others hurting.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Running a Half Marathon: Hope, Justice, and Friendship Converge

Nearly two months ago I ran a half marathon. It was one of the most exhausting, physically and mentally challenging, and beautiful things I have participated in. Not because the hot day or 13.1 miles were particularly that scenic (though there were some great moments along the way), but it was a convergence of friendship, hope, reflection, and justice.

The last 6 months have been some of the busiest of my entire life. My wife and I bought our first house, found out we were expecting another little boy, realized that we didn’t have adequate insurance, had to move out of our apartment because our new house took too long to build, wrote a book, raised a hilarious and compassionate 2-year old, lived with my in-laws for four months (which went really, really well), amongst the normal things of our jobs, raising a family, enjoying our marriage, and more.

I don’t say any of that to sound impressive, and if you saw my running times for the half marathon, you’ll see and know, there’s not much to be impressed about...unless of course you have the keen perspective to see it a benefit to be able to run a half marathon for the entire duration of a Godfather movie. Instead, I wanted to say that I had every reason not to want to run, and many days my body tried to convince me that the major chaffage and general smell of my shoes in cooperation with the business of my life would make it stupid to even try to run a half marathon.

So when Jamie sent out an email to myself and some college friends taunting us with his bulging calves and promise of lapping us in the running of the Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg, VA I laughed of course. And promptly thought that I’d send in a couple of bucks to help them as they looked to raise fund through running these races for their adoption process.

But how could I look into the face of Jamie Berry, well at least read the hilarity of his blog, and think that I could not support the former college housemate and founder of the famous wrestling move called “The Fishook” and not try to help out? In the midst of all the craziness of my life, the half marathon provided some much needed space, and best of all I could actually participate in helping good friends and great people participate in practicing justice, of joining with God in making things right in the world as they are seeking to adopt a sibling group from the 5 million orphans currently living in Ethiopia.

What I didn’t expect, when I told Jamie that I’d run and help him raise money to help offset the costs of the adoption, is that through the training and running of the race, that I’d be changed through the process as well, and that it would be such an emotional and powerful experience for me personally. But as I trained and ran the race, and found myself inhabiting quieter spaces, enjoying the beautiful hills of VA, and thinking about my family, the future hope of Jamie and Misty’s new family, and the joy of what that day will be like when these children will have a home, I began to realize to new depths the significance of what Jamie and Misty are doing together through adoption.

As I slowly crossed the finish line, and trust me, it was slowly, and my pregnant wife, extended family, and thousands of other people who I didn’t know cheered me on, I was reminded of the vision of what heaven may be like: when all people, in all of our glorious differences, with our different languages, experiences, nationalities and more, can be together and have a home where there is no more sorrow or pain, no more hunger or thirst, and no more orphans.

So, as I crossed the finish line, with tears welling up, I was reminded of the powerful significance of what Jamie and Misty are doing, as they are bringing into reality, for their part of the story, the vision of heaven here on earth. And though the next couple of days I could barely walk up or down stairs, and the chaffage made me scream when I tried to take showers, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh, and even cry when I think about the joy that Jamie and Misty will give as they become a new family with the orphans they will adopt; but I think that I also smile, laugh and cry, thinking about the joy, hope, and change that these once orphans and now sons and daughters will bring about in Jamie and Misty.

I thought that I was the one helping Jamie and Misty out, to raise money, spread awareness, and get my butt kicked by some streets near a college that wait-listed me even though “they really wanted more men to apply to help raise gender equality at the school (blah blah blah blah blah).” And I think I may have helped some. But honestly, I was so glad that Jamie and Misty have invited others and me to share in their journey and story of helping orphans halfway around the world become sons and daughters.

Thanks for letting this slow guy run and participate in such a great act of justice and hope as you raise funds and eventually adopt orphans from Ethiopia. If you’ve read this far, take a minute and see if you can’t support my friends as they move through this adoption process. Whether financially, you can donate here. Or by sending funny pictures for the blog, you can send them to Jamie here. Or by asking Jamie and Misty how you might be able to do something where you live or with them to help. Not only might it change your life, but it will certainly change the lives of a group of siblings looking to become part of a family, and that is a great place to have hope and justice converge.

Thanks for including me friends.
Josh Hayden

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

40 Days of Water

This Lent I am going to be both giving up and putting some things into action. On the personal side of things, I am going to be reading through Peter Rollins newest book The Orthodox Heretic, which is a collection of parables exploring themes of justice, love, the nature of God, and much more. If you buy the book during Lent, Paraclete Press will email you an additional 7 parables so that you can read one parable per day for 40 days. I probably won't blog about it every day, but I am really excited to read the new book and to be shaped by the power of story.

Something I am really excited about is the 40 Days of Water with Blood Water Mission. Over the next 40 days I am going to be drinking water and donate the money I would have spent on other beverages to Blood Water Mission. This amazing organization provides access to clean drinking water to people in Africa who are in need. They are amazing with their donations and are great people.

As I look at the picture of Rowan (my son) above, it is hard for me to think that there are millions of kids, many his age or younger who lack the basic access to clean water. I simply can't imagine what must be like for those children and those parents who watch their children suffer.

I imagine there will be a few times that I have to break the fast for work, but for my personal time I will definitely be trying to consume nothing other than water. My friends over at Wordswell designed this awesome new site and helped shape the campaign for Blood Water Mission. It looks amazing. If you decide to join me and many of my friends for 40 Days of Water, you can sign up and get your own personal website to help you track the drinks you are giving up and the amount you'd like to donate. You can follow me here:

Take a moment and think about joining me on the 40 Days of Water campaign to support Blood Water Mission!

Friday, January 29, 2010

didn't expect that

I've been widdling down the number of emails in my inbox after the insaneness that was November and December, and tonight I came upon an email that jostled me. It is the obituary of a mentor, friend, adviser, professor, and much more who was the 70-year old spark that opened the door for theological inquiry, openness to new ideas, and a belief that I was capable of something great. Rev. Dr. William Thomas helped to change the course of my direction of life, as he simply entertained a question about a then unknown theologian to me Karl Barth, and whose Philosophy 101 class forever opened my mind to the mystery of God, humanity, and the complexity of life.

The next class that we had after I had asked him a seemingly small question on Barth, led to a brown paper bag sitting on my desk with a few new, great smelling books that he hoped would continue to help me ask more questions, keep up the conversation, and spur me on towards greater learning. Over the four years in college, and the next four years afterwards, we kept in touch, meeting occasionally for a meal, to discuss my going to seminary, to meet other prominent professors, to introduce Shey to some fantastic art historian, or just to catch up...he always listened, and he helped me to believe in myself in ways that I had never believed in myself before. He asked great questions, and he somehow kept ahead of the curve theologically, and was in tune with a broad swath of conversations and theological discussions across the spectrum.

Dr. Thomas passed away the right before I graduated from seminary, and the news was sent to me while Shey was in the hospital, in the middle of some of the worst weeks of my life thus far. To be honest, I haven't even begun to process the hole that is in my life now that he is gone. His death represents so much more than simply an absence of guidance, great questions, and insight...his absence is sorely missed as I evaluate Ph.D. programs, read a new theologian, or simply need a helpful voice to speak into my life. I know that I wasn't the only one impacted by this generous, humble, and kind man, he had a way of impacting every student in one way or another that he came in contact with.

So as I read tonight:

The Rev. Dr. William W. Thomas, Honorably Retired pastor

The Rev. Dr. William W. Thomas, age 74 and Honorably Retired pastor, died on Saturday, May 24, 2008, at the Bridgewater Nursing Home in Bridgewater, VA. Dr. Thomas was a longtime resident of Harrisonburg and retired from James Madison University as a full professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion in 1997. Since then, he taught at JMU on a part-time basis and continued his involvement with the students, faculty and staff at JMU. Prior to teaching at JMU, he taught summer sessions at Bridgewater College.

He was the last survivor of his immediate family. The Rev. Thomas Reynolds will conduct a graveside service at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 27, at St. Matthew's Cemetery adjacent to Reformation Lutheran Church in New Market, VA.

Memorial contributions may be made to Bridgewater Nursing Home or Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, Va.

from an email that I can't get myself to take out of my inbox, I was jostled a bit, because Dr. Thomas' life has left a lasting handprint into the very way that I see the world, and his generosity, kindness, humility, challenge, and strong spirit I know lives with me as I try to live and learn as he taught me. The truth is: I miss him. In the midst of the pain of watching Shey and Rowan fight to make it, I simply ran out of tears to cry, and so tonight, as the tears well up, I know that it wasn't because I didn't care then, that is when I first heard, that I didn't cry. It was because I had nothing else to give.

So tonight, Dr. Thomas, as we come closer to celebrate Rowan's two years of life in June, we will also remember you, and pray that we can spur on and spark in Rowan the joy of God, life, theology, hope, and curiosity that you worked so hard to create and cultivate in both Shey and I. Thank you for believing in me and helping me to believe that with some hard work, we can grow, learn, and open our minds to amazing things if we are just willing to listen and be open to the great diversity of ways that God can work in the world.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


We are expecting Baby Hayden #2 somewhere near August 5, 2010. The new addition to the family was a surprise to Shey and I (to say the least!), and we are getting more excited, but for a while we've just been overwhelmed. In light of recent events in Massachusetts, and the ongoing discussions about health care in our country, I thought I might add a personal story to the mix.

After Shey's difficult and complicated pregnancy, delivery, and Rowan's early troubles, we had a difficult time getting insurance for both Shey and Rowan. Rowan was added to my policy at the church after an initial appeal, but Shey was denied twice. They advised us to reapply after six months to a year, and thought that without any other complications she would be fine to get coverage. During the next year, we kept coverage for Shey through COBRA which is anything but cheap, stretching our budget a good bit, but we worked things out. We reapplied this past summer and Shey was denied coverage again on the plan with Rowan and me.

So we pursued an individual policy for Shey through Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (the same company I was on with Rowan, and the same company that Shey was on through her school) and she got coverage. Weird isn't it? As part of the policy, we had to pick up a maternity rider, the rules being that Shey could not become pregnant within the first six months of coverage or they would not cover the pregnancy costs. We made it 4 1/2 months. We weren't trying to get pregnant, but apparently being careful doesn't always work!

So, not only were we faced with the prospect of a major change in our family, which is surprising, but we could certainly grow more excited...but we then had to face what seemed like overwhelming obstacles of trying to figure out how we are going to cover the costs of all of the medical expenses. Pre-natal visits, labor, delivery, hospital costs, estimated between $10-15,000. Add to this that Shey must also be on a prescription of Lovenox shots, twice/day, with an estimated cost of $3,000/month. And oh yeah, we are in the middle of buying a house! And while we've saved some money by renting and living in people's basements, we don't have that much money...I'm a youth pastor and my wife was a teacher for four years before Rowan. Basically the conservative estimated medical costs (shots for 10 months, pre-natal, labor/delivery, and then a normal hospital stay) would be my entire salary for one year.

So most of December was spent trying to finish up teaching, finish my book, and then figure out how to cover some of the upcoming medical expenses. We found out that I make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay for all the expenses outright, so as you can imagine we were freaking out a bit.

Thankfully, the folks over at the company who make Lovenox (Sanofi Aventis) have a program for those who are underinsured or uninsured, and they have given us a 3-month supply of shots for free, and as long as I don't get a raise, and we should continue to be able to qualify for the program. Next, there is a Baptist Minister's Relief Fund of Virginia that is in the process of helping us figure out some things. I just got an email yesterday, and am going to talk with someone about negotiating with the price of the hospital stay for Shey.

We've played by the rules, we've been decent people, we've paid taxes, we've never lost coverage for health insurance, and we've done of good job of staying pretty healthy, but at the time when we needed solid coverage and health insurance, it hasn't worked. We are certainly thankful for the other organizations and even for the drug company (even though it is the steep prices that caused much of the problem in the first place), and of course our families will never let us starve or foreclose on our new house...but the healthcare system didn't work for us. And we aren't poor, and are educated, and have access to information that many other folks don't have, to at least explore other means of help.

I'm not going to say that Obama's plan is the only viable option, or that I know all the answers; because I don't. But I thought that our story is one that helps highlight the need for change and reform. If we can't get reasonable coverage or coverage when we need it the most, and we are in the middle class or even wealthy compared to many families who are without jobs or whose lives have been devastated by lack of coverage earlier, it seems like change might be a good thing.

We knew that the system was messed up after the last pregnancy and birth of Rowan, and their hospital bills without insurance would have been about $90,000/person respectively (and that's nothing compared to some of our other friends who have had more serious problems or Shey's sister who suffered through a car accident and was hospitalized for nearly a year).

I guess I wanted to add my voice to the discussion, because it is easy to think about healthcare as a political issue (which it certainly is), but it is also really easy to demonize people who disagree with you on the issue. I simply wanted to share our story about how the current healthcare system is not working for us. Thankfully, the community of faith, and our family are supporting us and helping us figure some things out, but many people are not so lucky.

So as you discuss healthcare reform or change, or talk about how the "Dem's" are trying to make us all socialists, or how the "Rep's" need to stop having tea parties and start offering other solutions, I hope that we can try to help others see beyond the political spin machine and remember that there are real people whose lives are being dramatically altered and changed, and perhaps forever changed depending on the results of the healthcare discussion. We know ours is.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

bumps and bruises

Rowan took his first spill tonight where he got a good bump and bruise on his head, plus a good cut with some blood. No fun. He actually didn't freak out very much; I think Shey and I were probably more surprised and worried to see his response than he was himself. But we didn't make any loud or surprising gasps at the sight of blood, and he calmed down in less time than a temper tantrum.

I've spent a good part of the last few months thinking about hope, in both preparing to write and in writing the book on sacred hope for students. It forced me to take a look at some of the bumps and bruises of the last couple of years, and some of the deeper wounds that are still healing from years past. Rowan is going to have a bump for a couple of weeks probably, and will have a little mark for probably months. All from climbing up on his play kitchen, slipping, and then bumping his head on the corner of our buffet.

I am just finally able to start talking about in any meaningful way about some of the traumatic experiences of the last year and a half, and yet we already have some new challenges that have arisen while finishing the book. I keep looking for a pause button somewhere; a place or time where I can catch my breath, slow down, and recharge, but so far we haven't found that place yet.

I suppose it is like advent: the waiting, the anticipation, the longing. Anticipation is a difficult emotion and means of life. It necessitates a hope in the present while also implying a hope in the future. It is really hard to live in those tensions. Not to mention the bumps and bruises along the way. Sometimes the bumps and bruises are actually cuts much deeper though, and take much longer to heal than I want to admit. I know that I haven't wanted to admit the pain still exists and affects me. In some ways, I'm just learning how to speak again.

I hope this means that I will figure out how to be a better husband and dad, to find a rigorous hope that helps me to live into the present with greater awareness of the future. The bumps and bruises are always scary at first, but they heal quickly; it is learning how to gain feeling back into the places where there were deep wounds and gashes that take time, silence, and perseverance.