Tag Archives: ysmarko

welcome to whyismarko.com

it clearly didn’t make sense for me to re-fire up this blog under the name ysmarko. so, welcome to the “new” whyismarko.com! yeah, there’s a little play on words (or sounds) there; but the new name is also reflective of the stuff i’ve been wrestling with for the past year.

really, as i look back over the past year, i’m just stunned at how much god has been lovingly preparing me for this transition.

– last december, when i was told i had to re-organize youth specialties, there was a week or so when i thought i was supposed to leave also. it created a massive panic within me, that, in hindsight, i wouldn’t trade for anything. even when i settled back into my role, i was left with a new awareness that my identity and my work were completely enmeshed, in a very unhealthy way. i was struck with the question: if i were to lose my job for any reason, who would i be? and, the really disequilibrating bit of that was that i did not have an answer to the question. sure, i had the cognitive answers. but they weren’t “soul answers.” i started down a path of unraveling marko from ysmarko (the persona, not the blog). this resulted in lots of prayer and thinking, lots of conversations with my wife and a few trusted friends.

– in march, i began a one year leadership coaching program with john townsend. it’s a 360 style thing, where a team of 8 of us meet with john for a whole day, once a month, and have regular interaction on a closed networking site in-between. i was asked to share, at our opening meeting, what i hoped to get out of this program; and, among other things, i talked about this un-entwining i needed to delve into. in the months since then, this team has walked with me as i’ve wrestled and prodded and queried and cried. really, i can hardly imagine what this current transition would be like for me had i not been processing all of this with that group all year.

– in may, on a ys leadership team retreat, i was deeply struggling with these issues. and, in an exercise our consultant led us through, i had an imaginary conversation with a 60 year-old version of myself, who was worn out and tired, and spoke to me (it was kinda freaky!), saying, “you have to stop!” for about an hour or two, i was interpreting that as meaning that i needed to quit ys! but in a side conversation with our consultant, i realized that i needed to take a significant step away from my “ysmarko” persona, at least for a season. i knew in that moment that i had to shut down my blog, cancel my twitter and facebook accounts, significantly reduce my travel, and pursue presence (both with my family, and with the staff of ys during that difficult season).

– in june, i was still regularly struggling with anxiety over the thought of “well, what else could i even DO with my life?” i brought this up in with my coaching team, and townsend wisely counseled me that my constant stiff-arming of the question (which i saw as a distraction) was actually keeping me from presence. he encouraged me (it was actually my “homework” for that month) to do what felt counter-intuitive: to focus on coming up with some answers to that question, so i could then set it aside for now. i went on a silent retreat, and i met with our consultant (who is also one of my closest friends), and came up with a handful of buckets of things i could imagine being life-giving for me, if a “post-ys” time ever become a reality.

– then, the last few months have been a roller-coaster ride. and i was very emotionally prepared (as much as one can be, i suppose) for the news that i was being let go. even three days before it actually occurred, i connected the dots and walked into the meeting completely knowing what was about to go down.

all of this was god’s grace. all of this was god lovingly preparing me (and, i think, in a sense, preparing ys) for this current season.

oh — one more: a week before i was let go, i got an email from a youth worker i’d never met. she’d been at the ys convention in los angeles, and wrote about a vision she’d had. she expressed that she was uncomfortable emailing me about this, and that she’d never done this before – especially with someone she’d never met. but she’d been standing in the back of a big room (general session), and suddenly had this vision of a man standing at the foot of a mountain, with hiking boots in his hands. he was looking at the mountain, trying to figure out how to best start his climb. then, he noticed that there was a picnic laid out on a blanket next to him. it looked so inviting, and he was conflicted about whether to attack the climb, or sit and enjoy the picnic. she knew the invitation to the picnic was the real deal – the loving invitation of god to sit and rest in god’s love. then, she wrote that she felt god telling her, “this is for marko — i want you to share this with marko.” she wrestled with this, and tried to dismiss it, as she didn’t know me, and thought the whole thing was just too weird. but, weeks after the convention (and one week before i was laid off), she took the courageous step of emailing me, telling me this story, and writing, in the most understated way, “i don’t know if this means anything to you right now or not.”

i was blown away. and that image of the picnic blanket laid out on a grassy hill, with cool fall breezes blowing, and yummy picnic food, has stuck with me in a profound way over this last month.

so, other than the cutesy play on words/sounds, that’s why this blog is now called whyismarko. i’m not done figuring all this out — that’s for sure! but, even when i do land in some other role, i want to be a new man and a new leader. i want to be confident in who i am as a child of god, a husband and father, and as a leader; and i want to lead from those places.


and now, the technical stuff: i’ve reset feedburner, and the 500 or so of you who were subscribed to the old blog shouldn’t experience any problems. but if you do, just drop that feed, and subscribe to this one. with the help of a friend, all the old ysmarko stuff should be here, but it might take a week or so for all the images to work. and i’m sure there will be technical glitches we haven’t foreseen. if you still have a link on your blog to ysmarko, i’d greatly appreciate it if you would update that to this URL. i’m still not going to re-start my twitter account; but please do feel free to tweet this new URL.

i’m very stoked about reconnecting with the conversation, thinking, and fun we’ve had on this blog in the past. i’ll not be posting with the frequency i once did, because i refuse to become obsessed with this thing. but i expect i’ll show up here a few times a week for now, and see where it goes.

the end of ysmarko

this is a hard post to write, but an important one for me.

i’ve experienced some pretty significant a-ha’s in the past week or two, all around the sustainability of my lifestyle, my identity, and my most important relationships.

a month and a half ago, i started a leadership coaching process with john townsend. and i was asked to talked about myself at the first gathering. i wrote a bit about this on this blog (the whole plate spinning thing). since naming that, i’ve had a few more words to describe the dissatisfaction i’ve been feeling about my life; but i still felt way short of clearly understanding what i needed to do about it.

then, last week, on our ys leadership team retreat, we were spending some time talking about blindspots and roadblocks. to make a long story short, it became very clear to me that two things consistently eclipse the relationships and values that are actually most important to me (especially at this stage in life and work):
1. my family
2. the staff of youth specialties

the two imposters that constantly threaten (or supercede) the things that are most important to me are:
1. my travel schedule
2. being the voice of youth specialties (or, to put it in a more negative way, “nurturing my public persona”)

here’s a thought: our behaviors –> reveal our priorities –> which reveals our true values.

here are a couple photos i snapped in new zealand (ironically — mr. travel) of the “community lounge” on the back side of a church

i took these pics because i thought the sign and location of the “community lounge” said something significant about this church’s value of community. in other words: they might have a community lounge, but they don’t seem to actually value community.

this is a metaphor for why i’m making some big time changes.

i’ve been having a value stand-off, between what i say my values are and how i’m living my life. and it’s eroding (and threatening) my long-term happiness, and the life i really want.

let me get to the point:

1. i’m going to stop nurturing the whole “ysmarko” thing. which means, starting today, i’m going to stop using facebook (i’m planning on deleting my facebook account tomorrow), and stop twittering (i’m going to delete my twitter account tomorrow), and this is my last blog post on ysmarko (at least for the foreseeable future, though i’ll leave the blog sitting here for now).

2. i’m also reframing what “essential travel” is for me, which is allowing me to cut back 50 – 75% on my travel. i won’t be traveling internationally in the next year or two (or ever?), other than our canadian convention. and i’m cutting back on all other travel, other than a few truly essential things as well as family-related and personal stuff.

i know this is going to be hard in many ways, and i’ll likely go through some form of withdrawal. but i’m also excited about the new focus, extra time, and relational presence i expect to experience in the coming months.

i’ve enjoyed the interaction i’ve had with so many of you through this blog, and pray god’s blessing on you, as i ask you to do for me.

welcome to the new ysmarko

when i started ysmarko a little over four years ago, i grabbed a clean and simple free wordpress template called “benevolence”, with a cross-section of green grass sprouting across the header. a little while later, ys online dude at the time, will leingang, helped me a tweak it a tiny bit. but for the most part, i’ve had that same old template for four years straight. and these days, i see so many blog designs i love (and quite a few i really don’t like). i spoke with adam mclane, my coworker at ys, about redesigning the whole thing. adam asked me to identify a bunch of blogs i liked (the look of), so he could get an idea of what i was thinking. after looking at a few hundred, it was obvious i don’t go for the ones with lots of clutter and darkness. i like clean. and i knew i wanted a twitter feed, and a current reading list, and a few other things. so adam asked ys media scion ian robertson to whip up a little ysmarko logo, then adam presented me with a string of ever-evolving possibilities.

and here it is!

i hope you like it; but, ultimately, i chose it because i like it.

the tabs at the top give a few more biographical options. the right side has the twitter feed (it had a facebook status feed also, but that seems to not be working with facebook’s redesign; so it might be back later), a few other sets of unobtrusive links, and my current reads. clean, baby, but with some life to it. yeah.

there are a bunch of back-end changes also, like the permalinks are now the titles of the posts, rather than a number; so you should be able to find specific posts more easily (as should google).

anyhoo. thanks to ian and adam (and i think jonathan matlock also).

whatcha think?

happy blog anniversary to ysmarko

birthday4today, april 24, 2009, is the 4th anniversary of ysmarko.

as a little hat-tip to history, here was my first post from four years ago:

so. people have been bugging me about blogging for a year or more. and i’ve wanted to. i’ve almost started many times. here’s been my two primary concerns: i don’t want a cheesy blog that’s just a marketing front for Youth Specialties. i keep seeing organizational leaders are starting blogs simply for this reasons (of course, there are great exceptions). i could easily write laundered, sanitized, and even occasionally feisty-but-well-aimed thoughts in a organizationally-promoting way. not interested (as much as i love promoting YS).

But the rub has been this (and my 2nd reason for a year of hesitancy): if i blog about what i’m really thinking, i stand to alienate a reasonable portion of the YS crowd! i don’t really want to do that either.

so, i sat and stewed about it for a year.

about a month ago, i decided, “crap, i have to do this.” then, this past weekend, i was reading (WAY overdue reading, i might add) Kenda Dean’s Practicing Passion on a plane, and kept thinking, “ooh, i wish i could blog about that!”

i want to do this as a sort of spiritual discipline. i know this will help me work things out — whether they be personal issues, faith issues, church issues, youth ministry issues, whatever. if you choose to read, so be it.

here we go!

and this one cracked me up — my 7th post:

sorry this blog looks so lame. more to come…

in light of that post from four years ago, a new look for ysmarko is just around the corner!

fluffy week

so, i’m outa town all week (first half: jh pastors summit; 2nd half: personal silent retreat). the camp i’ll be staying at is up in a mountain valley, and there’s neither wifi nor cell coverage. this is a good thing for my silent retreat, but it’ll be a little frustrating during the first half of the week. some of us will likely make the 30 minute trek down to a coffee shop at some point, to grab a little wifi.

but… this no-technology week means: no blogging, no email, no facebook, no twitter, no bloglines, FOR 6 DAYS!

yeah, i know: it’s good for me.

as for this blog: i have a couple posts set to go live each day. but, uh, i don’t expect, as i look them over, that you’ll find much depth or insight. so, i’m claiming this as “ysmarko fluffy blog week”! maybe some other time we can join hands for “ysmarko meaty blog week”.

the best of 2008: favorite ysmarko posts

this is my final post in this ‘best of 2008’ series. as i looked back over my blogging from 2008, these were my favorite posts:

organizational thinking, part 2
horton hears a who and the culture of fear
my stake in the ground on male pronouns for god

ys stuff:
pittsburgh nywc, monday morning
the outrage, the injustice, the unfairness

youth ministry:
ah, 6th grade boys
my top youth ministry website picks

personal stuff:
things learned from my life on the rails
poser week
world youth day update, days 3 and 4
on worshipping as an other
great children’s song

most read (meaning, highest traffic; not necessarily my favorites):
so, the ys obama book
band name meme
worst christmas nativities
my stake in the ground on male pronouns for god

funny stuff:
cornel west and david crowder: twins seperated at birth?
one sentence true stories
small world awkwardness

also in this series:
the best books of 2008
the best tv and movies of 2008
the best music of 2008
the best blogs of 2008
the best family moments of 2008
the best ministry moments of 2008


i posted before about why i’ve been resisting twitter. i have a bit of a compulsive personality, i think. and i don’t want to be consumed by twitter (and have a fear that i will be). blogging, reading blogs, and facebook seem to occupy enough of my mind-bytes as it is.

but i have caved.

i’m a bit of a johnny-come-lately on this, due to my year of resistance. but, here we go.