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Wake Up and Smell the Pizza

Read Excerpts From This Book:

The Love Perspective: Nose Art

Here by Chance? Not a Chance!

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More articles for teens on


Wake Up and Smell the Pizza

By Todd & Jedd Hafer Divorce. Drugs. Teen suicide. Sex. Internet predators. We talked about all of this and more. It was another Wednesday night with a church youth group—maybe like one you belong to. We laughed a lot, a few people teared up, and at one point a teen asked to be excused from the group for a moment because she had to, and we quote, “take care of a wedgie problem.”

After the evening ended—and the last pieces of cold pizza and cups of room-temperature Mountain Dew were scavenged—we handed out response cards to the attendees. This is a Hafer brothers tradition. We hunger for feedback. We want to know if we’ve connected with a group. We want to know what we can do better the next time. And we’re insecure. On this particular night, the responses were rewarding, so positive that it was almost embarrassing. As we shuffled through our thick stack of three-by-five cards, we read comments like “Please come back soon,” “You guys are hilarious,” and “Please stay in touch.”

Then, at the bottom of the stack, we found one dissenting reaction. The note was printed in a scrawling, scratchy, asymmetrical hand that had to be a guy’s (because it looked like our handwriting). The feedback was terse and to the point: “Next time, bring more pizza.”

At first, this seemed like a real buzz kill after basking in all the compliments, but we ended up laughing and marveling at how God does such a good job of pounding home lessons in humility—even using our favorite food as a hammer.

We didn’t think much about the “Pizza Card” after that night—until it was time to start writing our latest book for teens and the adults who care about them. We were trying to come up with a theme, a “hook” as they call it in the publishing industry.

We knew what we wanted to do: Talk about what’s fresh, what’s hot. We wanted to deliver a devotional with the works. Then it hit us: Fresh, hot, deliver, the works. Pizza, of course.

“Okay,” you might be saying, “I understand why you titled this book Wake Up and Smell the Pizza, but why write another teen devotional? Like brands of frozen pizza, don’t we already have enough of them?”

Maybe. We know there are a lot of great teen-related books out there. We recommend many of them at the end of this book (check out the “Extra Toppings” section). But we couldn’t think about things like market saturation or duplication of effort. We simply had to write this book.

Why? Because we care too much not to. We have worked with teens since we were teens. As high school students, we taught Sunday school classes to our peers. We led Bible studies—one in the biology lab of a public high school. Try to get away with that today.

Currently, Jedd’s job is working with teens. He is a director at Children’s ARK, a treatment center for kids who have run away, been abused, arrested, and/or kicked out of traditional schools or programs. (The average ARK kid has been kicked out of four other programs. And as for the “above average” kids, you might not believe it if we told you!)

Todd is a parent to two teenagers, a reality that still amazes and frightens him regularly.

We also work with school kids, church kids, sports teams—you name it. Bottom line: The teen world isn’t just a book topic for us; it’s our life.

Much has changed about teen life since our own middle school and high school years, but there is one constant: Being a teen is hard. Do you know that almost one-fourth of eighth graders have tried “huffing”—using household chemicals like paint thinner or type corrector to get high? Or that almost four million teens get infected with a sexually transmitted disease every year? (That’s about equal to the combined populations of Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont, and North Dakota!) Or that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teens? Or that the 2003–2004 school year was the worst for school violence in a decade? School-related violence claimed forty-eight lives, more than the two previous school years combined. Want more cheery news? Millennials, people born in 1982 or later, are leaving churches by the millions.

Statistics like these are important to acknowledge, but we share them reluctantly. You see, sometimes when you talk about percentages and millions of people, the stats lose their personal meaning. And that cannot happen, because we are talking about individual human lives, and each one matters. When we walk through the halls of a middle school, for example, we look at the faces and it kicks us in the heart to think that about every fourth kid is risking his or her mental well-being—and even life itself—in a quest to get high.

So we didn’t write this book for “the millions of teens out there.” We wrote it for you, personally.

Maybe you’re strong in your faith and have been able to avoid the tragedies and heartbreaks that invade many teens’ lives. But you need encouragement and information to help you stay strong. And you want to be able to help your friends, some of whom are dancing with danger. We’re here to help you.

Or maybe you feel your life is a mess. You’re into things that would shock your parents if they knew. Perhaps, more tragically, they wouldn’t care. We’re here for you too.

If you’re like most teens we meet, you’re somewhere between the two extremes. Some areas of your life are under control, but you have a weakness or two. Secret temptations. Private but dangerous habits. You’re being pulled in two different directions. It’s like your heart is a chunk of meat that two starving dogs are fighting over. You’re not sure which one is going to win. Dude (or Dude-ette), can we help you! We’ve been there.

You might be a concerned youth leader, parent, or teacher looking for a way to connect more closely with the teens in your life. You are looking for a resource. Maybe this is it.

We sincerely hope this book will be meaningful to you, whatever your situation. Not because of our impressive credentials (we don’t have any; the only professional organization we belong to is the Subway Sandwich Club), but we do have a few things going for us. First, we truly want to offer encouragement and faith-based advice more than anything else. It’s not important that you remember our names or write glowing reviews of this book on We’d much rather you forget all about us, but remember the biblical principles and time-tested advice we’ll be providing.

Second, we aren’t the smartest guys in the world, but at least we realize that fact. Thus, this book isn’t just a collection of our insights. If that were the case, it would be more like a pamphlet. So we relied on the wisdom and experience of people more qualified than we are. Some of them are authors whose books we recommend back in “Extra Toppings” land. (In fact, the section called “More Stuff to Chew On” might be the most valuable part of the whole book.)

Other insights came via teens from high schools, middle schools, churches, etc., who have helped us get a clearer picture of what it means to be a teen in the twenty-first century. So, thank you, students from Wasson High School, Doherty High School, Monticello Trails Middle School, Mill Valley High School, Colorado Springs Christian School, Pulpit Rock Church, The Children’s ARK, Woodmen Valley Chapel, and Southwoods Christian Church. Thanks also to those of you who shared your hearts via our Web site, This book wouldn’t exist if not for you.

Also, we have enjoyed the humbling privilege of tapping the brains of some awesome colleagues and friends—see the “Acknowledgments” section for more info on these people.

Finally, we want to assure you—or perhaps warn you—that we don’t duck difficult topics in the following pages. One of the reasons we wrote this book is that we have noticed a trend in Christian publishing to deny the realities of life in today’s world or to quickly gloss over them. This doesn’t work. If a teen is addicted to pornography, for example, it’s feckless to say, “Just quit looking at the porn, dawg. Read Deuteronomy instead, and try to think of Moses or Elijah whenever temptation emerges.” Indeed, that is advice entirely lacking in “feck.”

If you believe that God is relevant to contemporary life (as we do) and that his Word is more than a quaint relic from a time unlike today, then you must trust that he will provide guidance for all areas of life. That means Internet pornography, substance abuse, eating disorders, suicide, you name it.

We are trying to convey that guidance in a way we hope you will find relevant, challenging, funny, and memorable. In short, we hope we can deliver.

And, by the way, to that guy in the youth group: Dawg, we promise to bring more pizza next time.

Well, basically, you just read it and try to learn something. It’s not complicated. But since we have a page to fill here, we should tell you about a few of the features and benefits of the book. (And if we say “features and benefits” one more time, or use any other bit of soul-less Corporate America jargon elsewhere in this book, you have our permission to throw corn dogs or the projectiles of your choice at us if we ever come to your town to speak.)

As you dive into Pizza, you’ll see that each of the forty readings features an ingredient that will enrich your life in some way. The “meat” of each devo is a story, mini-essay, or interview that explores what the ingredient is, why it’s important, and how to incorporate it into the mix of your life.

Next comes a “Slice of Advice,” a Bible verse or quote related to the topic.

In some cases, a “Slice of Advice” will be followed by a brief rant titled “Please, Easy on the Cheese.” Here, we will take on so-called pop-culture experts or expose myths that too many teens are buying in to.

Topping off each devo is a challenge called “Deliver on This.” This is where you get practical. This is where you take what you’ve read and make it work in your everyday life, because the words we write aren’t meant to just lie there on the page any more than a pizza is meant to sit in the box until the cheese gets rubbery and the crust fossilizes and not even your dog will eat it.

This is stuff to live out. Ideas to put into practice. You can work on one idea a week or go at a quicker pace if you wish. Every so often, we’ll provide a “Time to Reheat It” section, in which we’ll review what has gone before and allow you to reflect on how you’ve been doing with your “deliveries.” So let’s get started. We’re at your door. We have something for you.

Read excerpts from the book:

The Love Perspective: Nose Art

Here by Chance? Not a Chance!

Excerpted from: Wake Up and Smell the Pizza by Todd & Jedd Hafer
Copyright © 2005 ; ISBN 076420033X. Published by Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission.


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