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
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
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
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
Amazon.com. We’d much rather you forget all about us, but
remember the biblical principles and time-tested advice we’ll
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,
www.haferbros.com. 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
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.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
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:
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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