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.

45 thoughts on “welcome to whyismarko.com”

  1. Marko,
    I want to just say “Thank you.” For many things ranging from what you did at youth specialties and how you stretched me to places that I had not gone before in my walk with Christ. I also want to say thank you for being so open about your journey. I am excited to continue to follow you and to see what God does in this time and what is to come.

    in His service,


  2. hola, amigo

    sounds like you are on a transformational journey during which significant change takes place – a pilgrimage

    walk slowly, friend, and know that the cloud of witnesses surounds you, lifts you & yours up and encourages each step

  3. Is this like a “Where’s Waldo?” type of thing? LOL

    I am glad to see you doing well. I have been and will continue to pray for you. If you ever want to come to Cincy, I have a nice “Michigan” room that you can sleep in.

  4. many blessings on this pilgrimage of finding self. i love the new blog identity, very becoming. thank you for your open and honest sharing of the last year, its enlightening & encouraging for many of us (especially us types who have been in this a long time).

  5. Marko – thanks for popping your head out, and there are a great number of people who are thankful for you doing so. You have taken us inside your journey here, and that is a gift. It’s never easy to expose the innermost parts of our soul. That’s a great risk in many ways, so again, thank you.

    If I may be so bold, I would like to say that some day we’d like to know the “rest of the story.” I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it’s not because I’m nosy… but because Satan is having a fun time planting thoughts in my head about “what really happened.” I heard some of this at NYWC Cincy this past week as I’d walk by and random people would be in conversation with each other about you, YS, Zondervan, and “I’ll bet you this is what it was…” It wasn’t the theme of the convention by any means, but the absence of information creates insecurity in most people.

    Granted, it’s none of our business. I’d guess there is a courtesy agreement you and Zondervan have with one another on this. If so, please honor that. That’s a big deal.

    And yet… if it’s a matter of time, we’d like to – as friends – be more intelligent about this. Too many people in the spotlight have fallen down for the wrong reasons, and it’s easy to drift to false conclusions. Likewise, too often the Christian community has demanded to know things it doesn’t need to know. Maybe this is one of those moments,.

    I know I’m a bit out of line on this. So please forgive me for that.

    But if there is a way to (one day) move into a greater understanding of this and thereby demolish any foothold the enemy would like to have, I’d simply ask you to pray on that and follow God’s lead.

    Enjoy the picnic of being in His presence.

  6. Thank you – as always you lead by example Marko – your perspective in this is so life giving and whole – I love that God has walked you through this past year and prepared you – unfortunately he hadn’t prepared any of us and we’re all still a bit shattered, so bear with us if we are hurt, angry and feel vindictive – think of me as a mama bear protecting one of her own. This just mirrors so many of our stories leaving churches that we loved, and youth that we’d die for.

    Thanks for being willing to spend your life for us – but even more – thanks for being willing to live for yourself and your family – and lead with health and wholeness.

    I have so missed your words!
    love, Mama bear…

  7. tony — yeah, in due time i’ll share more. but there are a few details (some in my control, most not) to wrap up before more can be said. for now, know that this wasn’t about anything moral or ethical, but was about my former boss making a decision she thought was best for ys and zondervan. i haven’t been jazzed about every aspect of the process, but i don’t for a second question her right to make this choice, or her motive to do the right thing. more to come.

  8. Marko – that’s a powerful story of God working in your life this last year. Thank you for sharing it. May God bring many blessings you, Jeannie, and your kids in this time!!

  9. Marko,
    It’s good to hear your voice again! It was missed. The Oestreichers are in my prayers!

  10. Great to see you back again Marko. Even more exciting to read how God has been preparing you for this season and how He has met you right where and when you needed him.

    I had very much the same experience before being asked to leave my ministry position 8 months ago. Like you, I had a complete stranger hear from God for the purpose of encouraging me. You can read about it at http://tinyurl.com/am74yx I was blown away! Following Christ is nothing less than an adventure.

    Praying for you and your family.

  11. Marko, very interesting and inspiring and I can’t wait to see where God leads you.

  12. Stoked that you are blogging again and I’m excited to see what happens next in your life. I bet it will be cool.

    Thanks for how you have cared for me over the years.

  13. Mate! Woah… I am blown away by all of this, and am praying for you and your family. I am so excited about this as well, it sounds painful but smells like Jesus to me.
    You my friend are a legend.

  14. Well whatever you do with the blogging, I sure it will be fun and intriguing. Thanks for opening up a bit and being willing to share what’s going on with your world.

  15. Hey Marko, God has created an exciting opportunity for your to land on your feet, brother. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Happy picnic-ing. Much love to you and the O clan. God Bless

  16. Hey buddy, I am glad you are back up and running on this. Now remember our conversation yesterday? Look at the people who chimed in about your “journey”…you were meant to be with us in January. Still praying for the four of you,

  17. You are a hero to many and a great inspiration to me – and it was great getting to have dinner and hang out tonight! Glad you are blogging again!

  18. Marko, thank you for posting this. your vulnerability and courage gives hope to my soul. Blessings!

  19. For the love of all that is good, please bring back Jesus Junk and Caption contests (even if there is no prize) I need an outlet for zany captions!!!!

    And I know you know I deeply care about you and am along for the journey. Talk to you soon!

    PS I sent you a googlewave invite, did it go through yet?

  20. Marko, it’s good to hear from you. I’ve always appreciated the honesty in your blog and the wisdom and voice to us younger junior high leaders. It makes me happier like a junior higher drinking a Rockstar that your voice and wisdom will be shared once again. Thanks for all you’ve done and will do in youth ministry. I’m praying for clarity and patience for you during this time of your journey.

  21. Marko, Thank you for sharing your ongoing journey. I am in the exact same scenario as you – in an incredible ministry for over 2 decades, enmeshed and all – I’ve now been unemployed for the last 10 months. I look forward to reading where your journey takes you as I am on mine. Blessings… And may your heart be filled with the peace of Christ.

  22. Oh, wow. I just dropped in here by chance. Wasn’t expecting to see a new blog rolling. What a wonderful end of the week surprise! Love the whyismarko title. Welcome back!

  23. Marko,

    Thank you for the impact you have (AND WILL HAVE) on so many in youth ministry and beyond… Keep close to the Tri-God. Praying for your next chapter…blessings! Jeff Baxter

  24. Marko,

    I have been catching up on the newer posts and can see how God has prepared you for this part of your journey. You have touched so many people and given encouragement to so many people that God does have something good in store for you!

    Its people like you who have kept me motivated to teach young people about God and His love for them, and for that I will always be greatful!


  25. Mark,

    When you write about “ysmarko, the persona” what do you mean by that? Is that a separate identity? Could part of your problems be that you define/d yourself as a different persona, the “youth guy,” the “YS Expert,” instead of defining yourself by God and His grace? Not to say this was intentional or on purpose, but that you just got caught up. I mean, to call yourself and have everyone call you “Marko?” Maybe you got so caught up in being the youth specialties “persona” that it created an identity for you that was kind of like a WWF wrestler. It was not you, and it consumed you being the YS guy instead of just being Mark Oestreicher. No disrespect intended here, just an outsider looking in. I could be WAY off…

  26. BL (brian) — actually, i’ve gone by “Marko” since high school, when my friends started calling me that to differentiate between me and the other two Marks in our youth group. even my parents call me Marko.

    what you suggesting, though, is what i thought i was saying in this post (as well as the “the end of ysmarko” post back in may. i don’t think i would put it quite like you did (in terms of ‘getting caught up’ in this ‘other thing’, instead of ‘being defined by god’). but i would say that my ‘who i am’ and my ‘what i do’ got way too enmeshed. or, more accurately, my ‘what i do’ became my ‘who i am’. of course, i’m also saying i spent the whole year addressing that and bringing some correction — that wasn’t a new revelation in this last month when i got laid off.

  27. I’ve missed reading your blog and I’m glad you’re back! Thanks for sharing so openly about your journey. As a youth worker, I struggle as well with finding my identity in what I do. God has recently brought this to my attention as I prepare to give birth to our first child in the spring. I know that at some point I will take a break from full time youth ministry to focus on my family, and because of that, I’ve been asking myself some similar questions.
    I love the story of the vision the youth worker shared with you. God sure does find ways to take care of his people. May he shield you and give you peace and direction in this season.

    Blessing to you and your family!

  28. yes!! it is soo great that you re-engaged!! you bring a great and rare leadership example and perspective to the youth ministry field. seriously thank you soooo much for everything you have done and will do for youth workers!


  29. Marko,
    It is such a blessing to see that God has a plan for all of us. 6 months ago, I was running a youth ministry and a middle school teacher. Now, God has put me in the interesting world of Auto Sales! I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know what He has planned for me. But, now I am working on my calling to ministry as a local pastor. May God bless you in your journey. I will be looking forward to the new blog. Thank you and thank God!!!

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