Another reason I have no time to blog... I just for the heck of it tried to delete some messages from my deleted folder. I had 1100 e-mails deleted in 2 months. 1100 deleted- that has nothing to do with the ones I sent. 1100. No wonder I have no time.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Monday, December 12, 2005
Wow. This month sure did fly by. If ya care... here's where it went and thus by implication- why no time to blog about it.
SOCCER: 2 games every Saturday. One for TJ. One for Tyler. One on Sunday afternoons for me. Um... yea. Soccer takes a lot of time. I've scored 7 goals this session of indoor. I found that out cuz I was stretching before the game next to some list of goals scored. Guess I'm supposed to be counting. I didn't know anyone was.
INJURY: Got a cyst in my knee. Don't ask me how. It popped in my leg. It was gross. I felt the liquid run down the inside of my leg. Got healed up. Now I'm back to playing... but I was out for a while cuz it caused a tendon to pull too.
CLASS: I took a Theology 1 class this last quarter at school. Liked the class. Tons o reading. Took a final. Wrote a paper on the authority of scripture. Wrote about how I think inerrancy is an unneeded doctrine. Without a long explanation why- here's a brief summary: I believe the Bible is a trustworthy document and the teaching and living out of it's contents changes lives. But, no Bible scholar will tell you that any translation on the planet today- in any language, including the greek or hebrew texts we have- are "inerrant". They have minor errors (usually of very insignificant effect) in them. However, God uses them. And he will continue to- cuz he chooses to. Anyway- theologians made up this doctrine called "inerrancy" that applies to "the original manuscripts" because there is fear that people who don't accept this, start playing dice with the Bible and picking what they think they want to listen to and what they want to say must be an "error". Well, I suppose that's a possibility and some may do just that... but those who do will do it with or without a doctrine telling them not to. Basically we teach a doctrine that cannot be proven and is solely a hypothesis based on the Bible being God's inspired word. Most concervative theologians believe that if the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is also authoritative. (there's lots of the Bible that teaches that). If it is to be authoritative, it must be also perfect... and that means it doesn't have any errors (that they say- is implied by the Bible verses about inspiration and authority). After all- God doesn't make mistakes. Yeah, that's all well and good but he uses lots of mistaked filled people every day. He also uses the Bible as the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit- with or without "errors". So... I'll probably get kicked out of seminary after the prof reads my paper or someone forwards this Blog onto the national office... maybe I'll wake up and find out I'm an idiot. Either way... it's been a ride. Made me think. That was good.
BBQ THE BIRD: Had all the family down for Thanksgiving. BBQ'd the bird on the grill. That was good times. 2nd year I've done the BBQ thing. First time we've hosted the event at "our house" in 11 years of marriage. This time I soaked it in a brine all night before and used a big huge ol gas grill that came with our casa. Can you believe I wore shorts and my kids played outside all day? It was hot here. San Diego is foggy in the summer and sunny in the winter. Remember that when planning your vacation here.
RETREAT: Taught 45 students the Bible was worth reading and how to do it. Gave them new Bibles and showed them what actually is in the preface. Showed them how to use the "center collumn" and the concordance. We also played broomball, ate lots of food, and fed the homeless. It was good times.
SEAWORLD: Took my student leaders to Sea World for a day. That was good times. Had 3 hours of training by Sea World staff on real life skills and job training. Then we played all afternoon. Would do it again in a heartbeat.
ANIMAL PARK: Took my kids to the wild animal park. My first time there. They have been a bunch of times. We were given passes. Didn't know there were so many varieties of Rhinos. Didn't know they had Gorillas. I think they should let them live in the same space. Bet that would be fun to watch. Also, I think it's lame that they don't let the Lions roam the "wild" lands with the rest of the animals. That would sell more tickets too if you got to see them catch and eat a gazelle on your train ride. But, maybe that's why they don't let youth pastors plan animal parks.
HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE: Took the wife on one for her birthday. Did you know they can make those things go up and down really fast. Like several hundred feet per second. Did you know they also can (and do) land them in suburban housing tracts. Yeah... like we landed in a street like the one I live on. We were like Santa minus the reindeer. I swear we could have put the thing on someone's roof. Oh.. and those flame thrower things they heat the air up with.. yeah they're loud enough to send people out of their house to see you fly like 25 feet over their house. It was a memory maker alright. Especially for the kid who got to share in show and tell that one landed in his side yard. Also stayed at a couple of very nice places along the coast down here and ate some great grub.
CABINET: built a 10 foot maple wall unit for our downstairs. It's almost done but I've got my labor and my Dad's labor into it and something like 50 hours between us. Hope it looks it when I'm done.
CHRISTMAS STUFF: Bought Tree. Put up ornaments and lights and such. Added lights to our house.. you know hung the new lights up- that takes like 5 hours after you move and have to do it for the first time on your casa. Made 14 batches of my families secret Christmas Toffee. Shopping. Went to 5 Christmas parties. Planned a few parties. yatta yatta.
MISC. JUNK: I finally washed both cars. Yeah that took longer than this blog to get to. Kept getting bumped off the to do list. I finally erased the words "TJ's side" and "Yo Tyler" off the sides of my truck. It was so dirty strangers starting writing on it things I cannot repeat on this blog... Oh.. speaking of things I cannot repeat but will anyway- I also found out that the local hardware store sells bags of chicken crap. No joke. Whole bags of the stuff. Like they have a pallet full of it and they sell it in bags the size of the concrete mix. I think they should advertise that. Big huge ol' bill board on the freeway. "Dixieline: we sell everything from plummers putty to chicken (insert your own word here for dung)". Now that would be funny. Either that or buttons for the employees that read, "Ask me about chicken poop. I can help."
well. there ya have it. a month can fly by. I'm sure I left some stuff out. I just shot off from memory. Hope yours was less busy. Hope you can enjoy Christmas and laugh and eat baked goods with egg nog or a nice hot cup of tea by the fire.
Monday, November 07, 2005
So, 10ish days ago my wife and I were going out after church on Friday night and we go to Rubios for dinner. Rubios in right next to Barnes and Noble- so upon finishing our grub, we decide to go parooze. This is always a big mistake because I'm a sucker for books. I already have a stack of to be read that is too tall to admit so I was falsely hoping we would really just look.
We started down the center isle which is large table after medium size table after larger table of books according to themes. One whole table on Cooking. One whole table on the upcoming "Lion, the witch, and the Waredrobe" movie. (We bought this book to read to the boys before the movie comes out. We finished chapter 9 last night and we are the part where all 4 kids fianlly went into the wardrobe and just met the beaver and his wife for dinner. We read it in our guest room which has a wardrobe. I'll probably find Jake in it one day trying to get to Narnia) Anyway.. . There was one table of comics- which made me really want the exhaustive anthology of the Far Side, but it costs like a benjamin and change... then onto a table of like random board games and books about how to become a pro at them...
...and then we stumbled onto this entire table on a subject I'd never heard of. It was Su Doku. Not one book. Not 4 books. Like 30 books on a subject that sounds like something you should say after someone sneazes. "Su doughku". We felt very ignorant on what was obviously a very important subject. I mean- it got a medium sizeish table to itself. Anyway- we looked over the table and found it was books of games you play like the cross between a math problem and a crossword puzzle. We decided to try it.
So we bought "Su Doku for dummies" cuz that seemed appropriate and then went home and layed in bed and did 4 puzzles together. Now, like eating one Dorito chip, we're hooked and addicted and my "to read" pile is getting higher. We now own 2 Su Doku books, I downloaded a wigit for my computer, and the dumb game calls to me when I'm sitting on the couch. I think if you scream it, it can be a word you use to vent frustrations "SU DOKUUUUU!!!!" But it creates it's own set of frustations as you try to solve the problems. Of the 4 we tried labeled "easy" that first night- we quit on 2 of them. So much for our collective college degrees.
Anyway, the thing about Su Doku is that if you stare at it long enough and rework solutions over and over in your mind, eventually you find something you had been missing the whole time and then you're one step closer to completing the puzzle. Eventually, you'll get far enough that the clues start screaming at you and the thing almost fills in itself.
One day while staring at a puzzle, and trying to think about life, I realized this is how I feel about youth ministry too. It's a partially filled in puzzle that is missing some key pieces. Problem is, I started a brand new puzzle, and I'm staring at all the empty boxes and the puzzle is laughing at me like it owns me. Again I find myself tempted to declare myself defeated and put the puzzle down. I could give some real life examples here.. but it would be depressing to read. It will suffice to say that I almost walked out of my own second service this last week cuz yet again- it felt too defeating. Then I get one square to click and it gives me hope that if I stay at it, evenutually another one will click and then the puzzle will be finished. But, I know that the puzzle is endless, and life is not nearly this mathmatic and well... somedays I wonder how God sticks to it too. If I was God, I'd have put the puzzle down a long time ago and walked away from all of us. It seems that He too finds faith in the baby steps... like one student who told me she put the sticky note we gave them on her dashboard to remind her to pray.... go figure. 93 kids and at least one was listening. WOOOO HOOOO or maybe I should say SU DOKUUU!! Back to the drawing board I go.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
I know the Israelites had manna fall from the sky and they ate it. Then they started to complain about it and they woke up to a hailstorm of quail. (Exodus 16) But, I'm not thinkin' this was a future marketing ploy by God. And I don't want to be ungrateful, but I'd like to complain a little. Here goes: who told a local realtor that it would be a good thing to rain down bags of microwave popcorn on my driveway? I think I'd like to toss a few quail their way. Where do Dawn and Victoria live?
I woke up in the morning and someone (I'm assuming Dawn and Victoria paid someone and did not do it themselves) had driven around my neighborhood and tossed out their windows clear cellophane bags with candy corn pictured on it and a twisty tie on top. It's like raining here- not a lot- but my enough to cancel my kids soccer practice last evening. Now there's a wet dewey bag with popcorn on my driveway and I'm supposed to run inside, pop it in my microwave, feed it to my kids, and then call Dawn and Victoria so they can help me sell my house? Somebody went to one too many cheezy marketing seminars.
Dawn and Victoria, please stop throwing food products on my driveway. When my house gets toilet papered, just so you know, we don't use that stuff either. (except my freshman year in college, when I was really poor and I took it with me to school in bags :) Maybe that's it- go to SDSU and huck popcorn at the students on their way to class. Maybe they'll appreciate it more and when they get out of debt, you can help them get into their first home.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
UP: Phone calls from former students who keep on loving Jesus.
DOWN: My phone ringing and e-mail chiming with messages of and from friends, both young and old, who for a moment -or for good- are choosing to put Jesus in a box in the attic along with other things they once thought they loved and displayed prominantly in their lives.
LATELY: More reports of down than up by about 3 to 1.
SO I BREW: The hit and miss of youth ministry and the seemingly inability after over a decade of pouring my blood and sweat and tears into it to make a lasting difference, makes me wonder... it makes me question... it makes me feel like a failure some day. Other days I feel like a swimmer headed up stream and making little progress on an river that is rushing harder and faster for the cliff behind me. So what do I do?
OPTION 1: BLAME GAME. Someone is to blame. There must be a reason. Bad parenting. Sucky youth pastor. Poor friendships. Lack of ownership of truth. The media and music. Somewhere, somehow, there must be someone to blame. Most of the time I want to point the finger at the man in the mirror and think I could have and should have done more. A call comes from someone who says, "I know you're far from this situation now, but I also know you poured a lot of time and energy in to so and so and I thought you'd want to know this is the story today.... yatta yatta." I then call or e-mail to hear the truth from the horses mouth... sure enough. Yatta yatta ain't good and Jesus is in the attic in a box to be dusted off one day or forgotten for good... time will tell I guess. So, I blame myself for my own mistakes, for other's mistakes, and for a failure to seem to have a lasting impact in others and enough personal discipline to employ them myself.
OPTION 2: QUIT. Decide I suck at being a youth pastor and the evidence around me proves it. Start digging ditches for a living where the only thing I have to watch out for is gas lines and water mains. I tried this option once (not the ditch digging but the quitting part). God wouldn't let me. Most days I thank him for that... some days we have a "chat" about it.
OPTION 3: RETHINK THE IF/THEN THEORIES. Rethink the idea that there is a formula. I want there to be a clear "if/then" clause in Scripture. I want there to be like 100 of them. If I love students, then they'll love Jesus. If I love my wife, then marriage will be happy all the time. If I love my kids, then they'll grow up to love me. If I love my God, then serving him at the church will be a great experience. But near as I can tell there are just a few really.
Here's one: Romans 10:9-10 "That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." That's amazing and I'm glad salvation is a promise... but I want there to be an "if/then" for everything- not just the end product. However, more often than not, it seems like I'm told, "if/then/maybe" or "if/then/more likely". If I eat right and excercise more then I'm more likely to have a healthy heart and avoid a heart attack..... but no guarantees. If I teach students the truth about sex and alcohol and lies and hope, then maybe they will decide to trust Jesus with their activities and obey him.
Here's another if then fact we don't often trumpet in the church and perhaps is why so many chuck the faith... cuz it just isn't always fun to love God in a culture that does not. Jesus said to his disciples in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I know it doesn't say "if" or "then", but basically it does. It says, if you love God, then you will have trouble and receive peace. Not 2 points of a message people sign up for much. 1. Trouble. 2. Peace. In fact the first one evidently is enough to get believers to chuck Jesus before he can give the second.
CONCLUSION; Quitting won't fix it. Ie: If I quit then more students will live for Jesus. (Lord I hope not). Blame game won't work. If I blame so and so, then the problem will get better. Wrong again. My only option appears to be Rethink. Rethink faith and trust and hope and what it means to serve God today and love Jesus as best I can. Accept his grace for my failures. Trust that God is not finished working in or through me and pray that somehow, some way, the seeds of his grace and truth and mercy I try and plant in and through youth minstry find a few fertile hearts to grow abundantly in Him. To this I press on.... I think.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Reason number 1001 why I do not recommend swallowing your food whole. Here's a hysterical article from the boston globe. By Denise Kalette, Associated Press Writer | October 6, 2005
A 13-foot Burmese python recently burst after it apparently tried to swallow a live, six-foot alligator whole, authorities said.
The incident has heightened biologists' fears that the nonnative snakes could threaten a host of other animal species in the Everglades. "It means nothing in the Everglades is safe from pythons, a top-down predator," said Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor. Over the years, many pythons have been abandoned in the Everglades by pet owners. The gory evidence of the latest gator-python encounter -- the fourth documented in the past three years -- was discovered and photographed last week by a helicopter pilot and wildlife researcher. The snake was found with the gator's hindquarters protruding from its midsection. Mazzotti said the alligator may have clawed at the python's stomach as the snake tried to digest it. In previous incidents, the alligator won or the battle was an apparent draw. "There had been some hope that alligators can control Burmese pythons," Mazzotti said. "This indicates to me it's going to be an even draw. Sometimes alligators are going to win and sometimes the python will win." It is unknown how many pythons are competing with the thousands of alligators in the Everglades, but at least 150 have been captured in the past two years, said Joe Wasilewski, a wildlife biologist and crocodile tracker. Pythons could threaten many smaller species that conservationists are trying to protect, including other reptiles, otters, squirrels, woodstorks and sparrows, Mazzotti said. Wasilewski said a 10- or 20-foot python also could pose a risk to an unwary human, especially a child. He added, however, "I don't think this is an imminent threat. This is not a `Be afraid, be very afraid' situation.'"
Sunday, October 02, 2005
I saw three signs in like two hours. One made me laugh. One made me mad. One made my heart smile. Here they are in the order of their appearing.
A FUNNY SIGN: On my way to search for coffee this morning I ended up walking down a 3 foot wide section of concrete that weaved it’s way through a planter bed. When I got to the other side there was a post placed right in the middle of the path with a sign bolted to it that read: “not a walkway”. I laughed. Call it what you want, but you made a sidewalk through the planter box… the very fact that you need a sign like this should be a problem. Not sure why? But someone has way too much time and money on their hands. Wish I had my digital camera with me.
A NOT SO FUNNY SIGN: I found coffee.. Now, I'm sitting in the Sheraton at the National Youth Workers conference in Sacramento put on by Youth Specialties because their lobby has free internet (woo hoo! the hyatt charges 10 bucks a day). Anyway, out the door is a guy in a white hat and black vest with a with the words "JESUS SAVES" in big huge yellow letters on his chest. Really wish I had my digital camera with me now. Anyway... he has a sign about the size of an interstate billboard that reads, "HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN".
I don't understand people like this. I've seen them hundreds of times on campus in college and around events I've been to around the country. They always drive big trucks with signs and carry banners and sometimes they scream and sometimes they don't. But never once in all my life have I ever seen any of them with a sign that reads, "I'M A SINNER SAVED BY GRACE."… or “FORGIVEN. WILLING TO SHARE.” It's always about everyone but the guy in the mirror. I have a hard time stomaching judgmental spirits that lack humility.
A HAPPY HEART SIGN: After I left coffee at the Sheraton- I headed to this morning’s general session. On the walls of the convention center halls there were 2 foot by 2 foot signs people made and taped to the walls. There was one that read, “Brian Christopher Berry. I love you. Thanks for being an amazing leader, mentor, and friend.” I really really wish I had my digital camera now. Next year I’m bringin it. Buch- you warmed my heart... you rock.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Last night I was reading a story on the bed to my kids. Jake (being 3) lost interest and went into the next room. He then returned to the bed to lie down and listen to the story. I continued to read until I was interrupted by a cough and Jake crying that he needs to go to the doctor. I said why? He said cuz he ate his penny. Penny? Yes, penny... My kid left the story, found a nice Lincoln faced hunk of copper on his bedroom floor, and brilliantly put it in his mouth. Then he lied down and sent Lincoln packin'.
So, I called Kaiser. They said we get to sift his poop for 2 days in search of copper coinage. Oh what fun. We finally teach jake to go poop on the big boy potty and now I gotta go fishin in it for brown trout. I'm hoping that maybe I'll find my starbucks card too. Maybe Jake ate it.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
I now have a fountain. It's in my front yard. It's pleasantly noisy. It is really heavy. Here's a picture of it. If you come to my house we can have coffee and sit and listen to my fountain from the front room. Then you can either feel like you have to pee or be so calm that you fall asleep or are afraid the dentist will enter the room at any moment. I think all houses should come with fountains.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The guy who said, "don't sweat the small stuff" was wrong. All the big stuff in life is made of small stuff all piled up. It's the small stuff in life that makes something great. It's the little things you do in marriage that make the big difference. It's the little things you do to send a note, to call a friend, to help a neighbor, to ensure a customer is satisfied... it's the little stuff in life that makes the biggest difference. Here's the proof from my viewpoint:
A RESPONSE: Last week a lady said she wanted to serve in High School at Journey because I responded to her e-mail in a timely manner. She had waited for very long periods or never even heard from other places she tried to volunteer at. What she noticed most was a small thing that made a Big impact in her world. Wish I was that "on it" more often. But I often let the small stuff slip.
A CHIP: My computer got stupid slow. I was annoyed and thought I had a bug or something. I let it sit for weeks- making me more and more annoyed- even avoiding opening certain applications that made my computer too slow to stand it. I did all kinds of research and then I ran a self test on the computer and found out that I had a memory problem. I was running on max capacity on a 256k memory chip. I decided to go whole hog and put a 1GB chip in the empty slot. I found out when I put the new memory chip in that the real problem with my computer was it was trying to access memory off a dead 256k chip. The stupid thing is smaller than a stick of gum and it's causing havoc in my world. Now it runs like a Ferrari. It's the small stuff that makes the biggest difference.
A SKILL: I joined a coed indoor soccer team. We lose a lot. Why? Small stuff. Someone doesn't run hard. Someone makes a bad pass. Someone misses a shot cuz they lean back when they shoot. A bunch of small stuff really. Sometimes the someone is me. It just all adds up.
A TOOL: I went to go fix my mustang cuz the brakes are out and I can't stand the stupid price of Diesel for my truck now being well over 3 bucks a gallon. So I go to fix the car and I have the part I need, I have the brake fluid, I have a manual, I have everything I need- except the correct wrench.... It's only like 4" long... but without it... the brake line will likely be useless when I go to put the thing back together. It's a small thing, I had to postpone the project till I had it... cuz it's so small that it just makes a big difference.
A FUSE: It was 101 degrees at church on Sunday. I think it was 105 in youth group during our 10:30 service. The AC blew a fuse. The AC unit is the size of a refrigerator on the roof. It won't work cuz of a fuse the size of a AAA battery. It's the small stuff that makes or breaks it in my life. I often refer to our second service as Purgatory cuz the crowd is tough to teach to. this week I sweat like a pig and purgatory was officially upgraded to hell on earth.
YOGURT: I took TJ to soccer practice last week. Afterward we stopped to eat Yogurt- just he and I on our way home. We talked for 20 minutes and then went back to go to bed. On the grander scale of life, Yogurt after soccer practice is about as small as it gets. Try convincing TJ of that.
A VERSE: Jesus put it like this in Matthew 17- "You didn'’t have enough faith," Jesus told them. "“I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,'’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."
Sweat the small stuff- it's what makes all the difference in the world- at least in my world.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Last weekend, I went to the leadership summit- a conference for leaders in the church and business world broadcasted via satellite from Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois- at our church in San Diego. There were many memorable moments: some that made me laugh, others made me cry, and still others made me think and re-think the way I live life and lead.
As I reflected on what I heard and what I should do about it, I found a teaching by Bill Hybels- the senior pastor at Willow- to be an exclamation point at the end of a sentence God had been repeating to me for a while now. Bill was opening the conference and said that he had been thinking about vision. In specific- he had been asking the question, "What precedes vision?". Like before someone gets a vision to do something world changing, what happened? His conclusion: "Something in the world wrecked them from the inside out." Some statistic, some reality, some truth of the way things are caused an inner switch to be flipped that made them decide, "That's it. This cannot be. I will not sit by any longer and watch from the sidelines" Aids, hunger, teenage apathy, marriage pain.... you name it. Something inside bugs and then someone casts a vision to solve the problem. Andy Stanley, in his book "the next generation leader" defines a good vision as something that addresses what "is" in life contrasted by what "could and should be." Bill was saying that if you want to know your calling in life, then you have to stop running from the thing that wrecks you because it "likely wrecks the heart of God too." It's what could and should be. It's what must be done and cannot be ignored any longer.
For me, the thing that could not be ignored any longer was me. Yes, me. No longer could I look myself in the mirror and continue to accept certain things about my life as normal or as expected. Some things just needed to be told to get in line. Bill Hybels used the example of Popeye. He reminded the audience that in every episode, the hottie of the show, Oliveoil, would end up in dire straits due to the brutality of the villian, "Brutus". Inevitably, Popeye would end up tied up somewhere while Oliveoil's life was in danger and then he'd finally snap. When he did, he'd say, "that's all I can stanz and I can't stanz no more". Then he'd bust open a can of spinach, grow anatomically impossible biceps, and save the day.
Well, I grew up with Popeye and slept with a stuffed version of him complete with plastic pipe and all for the early part of my life. A few months ago my Mom gave him back to me. He's so worn that his clothing is see through in several places and he would fall to shreds in a good toddler tug o war. After the summit, I took him out of the box from under the bed and put him on my desk at work.
He's a daily reminder that there are things that simply cannot stay as they are. There are things that could and should be different. There are things that "I can't stanz no more." While there are plenty of things in the world that I can't stanz... the ones that I needed to address were in the mirror.
HERE'S THE VALUES I RE-DROVE DEEP INTO THE BEDROCK OF MY SOUL:
My role as disciple of Jesus and child of God is the most important role I have. I cannot let my spiritual life slide.
My physical health is a spiritual act of worship and a key source of energy to do His will.
My role as a father and husband cannot be filled by anyone but me.
HERE'S WHAT THAT REALLY MEANS:
I can't stanz no more going a day without praying with my wife. I can no longer accept that as a pastor, married for 11 years, that I don't pray daily with my wife. That stopped Monday.
I can't stanz no more that I make time in my day to meet with an office collegue or an accountabilty group once a week but don't have a one on one meeting with each of my children. I will meet with each of them once a week. My McDonalds trips will surely quadruple in the near future but the alternative is quite simply unacceptable. I will no longer let my children not get my individual attention.
I can't stanz no more that I let my body go from in shape to out of shape like a rollercoaster. I began a non-optional observation of my eating and regular excercise. My body is the temple of the Lord. I need to treat it as such. I began running 30 minutes a day. Why I let my health slide is beyond me. I can't stanz it no more.
I can't stanz no more that I let the personal disciplines of fasting, solitude, prayer, or reading the word eb and flow in my life like the coming tide. Too much stuff in my life ebs and flows. My basic spiritual disciplines are supposed to be the thing that give me stability in the eb and flow of life, not the subject that ebs and flows. Enough!
I also decided I'm too stupid to do this without breaking it down to ridiculous simplicity. I made 3 lists. One that I check off daily, one that I check off weekly, and one that I check off monthly. They are the non-negotiables of my own life. They are the mandates that "I can't stanz no more" letting slide.
I pray God gives me the strength to do what he's called me to and the ability to avoid abusing his grace with complacency.
Monday, August 08, 2005
An hour from the Mexico border at 2pm yesterday, while headed south from vacation on I-5, Shannon and I ran into a caravan of people proudly going to Mexico on a mission. The classic youth ministry caravan of 8+ passenger vehicles complete with luggage on the roof and painted slogans on the windows announced their journey and clarified who was -and who was not- in their entourage. I passed one SUV with the words, "we're on a mission to Mexico" covering the entire back window. The next said "Honk if you love Jesus." The next said more of missions trips and honking and then I ran into like 3 more cars that all said this, "Honk if you love Methodists".
What in the world is that about? I can accept that for some crazy reason we want to be supported in our causes on the road by honking. Protesters want you to honk. Children passing big rig trucks on the freeway want to be honked at. Marriages are celebrated by honking. Ok... all is well and good if you want to start a honkathon. Maybe it's just me and my upbringing, but the honk if you love Methodists thing bugged the hell out of me. I grew up going to a Methodist church. I then started attending a youth group and eventually attended and did internships at a Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) church. When I went to UC Davis I attended a Baptist church. I took my first job as a pastor in an Evangelical Free Church. I then moved to a church that lacks a denominational affiliation but has Calvary Chapel roots. I have served on the National Network of Youth Ministries Council at local and national levels for years now and have fought members of my own denominational affiliation at times for putting up walls over junk that didn't matter. I have such a huge passion for unity in the body of Christ that anything that seems to separate and divide grinds against my soul.
It's like putting honk if you love blacks or Mexicans or white people on your windows. Like does that mean by not honking that you don't love them? What about the Lutheran? Maybe this rant is stupid and they were a Baptist church showing some love to their Methodist brothers and sisters... but I'm not thinkin. Maybe I'll start making bumper stickers and selling them at christian conferences. Honk if you love ____________ and fill in as many denominations and details as I can. Like:
Honk if you love Southern Baptists in Texas but not in California.
Honk if you love wine with communion.
Honk if you love grape juice with communion.
Honk if you think drums are from hell and should never be in a church.
Honk if you think the earth was made in 6 literal days.
Honk if you are pre-trib. Frown if you are post-trib.
Honk if you loved the old pastor more than the one you're stuck with now.
Somehow... this isn't what Jesus died for... somehow I must be wrong but right now.... I'm just annoyed. How bout this... Honk for loving people unconditionally and declaring war on division among believers who have the same Holy Spirit now indwelled inside. How about Honk for Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Ps... lest I be accused of failing to practice what I preach... I did honk :) - primarily to love those who I'm guessing are Holy Spirit indewelled family members with whom I share a small point of frustration that grace covers for both of us. That is what Jesus died for.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
I did a wedding with a few other pastors this last weekend for two friends- Trevor and Amber. It was tons of fun and reminded me why I love ministry and what I do. I had some great conversations, laughed a lot, and did some running down memory lane. I was reminded of the beauty of new love and the deep respect I have for love that lasts. I was reminded again that I care very little about much that doesn't advance relationships. I was reminded that what I want to be remembered for is not accomplishments, but a relational cup that is overflowing with people who know I care about them, will fight for them, and love them unconditionally. Over the last few days, I enjoyed getting to know new friends and catching up with old ones. Weddings are good times. This one surely was.
But, of all the things I will remember, I think at least one of them will be LSD. A man (I'm guessing in his 60's) who Trevor introduced as a great mentor in his life was called up and asked to pray for them at their reception. In his prayer, he said, "I pray God, that you would give them generous amounts of LSD". I tried not to laugh out loud- wondering if he knew what he just said. He then paused for a good long 3 seconds to let what he prayed soak in (knowing full well what he had said) and then clarified with the phrase, "Love, Support, and Devotion". To be honest, I'm not sure what he said after that, because my mind was off to never never land and down a memory lane of acrostics and play on words from my past.
Here's where my brain went: In high school my cross country coach used to say we're going to do a little LSD today and he called it "Long, Slow, Distance." But, this was the first time I'd heard LSD in a prayer. One time I was in a staff meeting years ago and a woman who was near retirement on our staff and ran the children's program at our church came into the meeting and announced that she had been going through her video library at church and wanted to know if anyone had any use for a bunch of "adult videos". I said I could use them to increase attendance and fell off my chair laughing. I think I was the only one in the staff meeting who thought that was funny. Then, once when I was in college I heard a message on how Jesus was treated by his followers around Easter time and the outline spelled BARF. He was Betrayed, Abandoned, Rejected, and Forgotten. For some stupid reason, I've never forgot that either.
When I finally pulled my brain back into the year 2005, I smiled as this man shared his creative and sincere love for God and this couple though prayer. We then kicked his "LSD" comment around in conversation at the table for a few minutes. My conclusion is this: thanks to Trevor's wedding, I will be surely writing a messages for my high school group titled, "LSD: why we all need copious amounts of it". Here's to a life of Love, Support and Devotion- especially when it comes to marriage.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
I am now an official G2 convert. Dusty and Max will be proud. I used to be faithful to the Uniball Vision, but I have now officially skipped ranks and become a G2 follower. I will continue to use my Uniball Visions till they are dead, but all new funds are now being devoted to what I have found is a higher class of G2. Why you ask? Well here's a few reasons. The retractable pen of the G2 requires no cap to avoid loosing, the ink flows rather nicely, and they dont' explode on airplanes- something too many Uniball Visions have caused great leakage pain in my life. Long live the G2.
Went camping last week in Northern California. My favorite time was riding the ol tandem kayak I recently picked up. Now I can add that to my list of "new things I've done" in my life since I moved to SD. I have taken it surfin' in La Jolla (that's a blast). I've been twice: once with TJ and some friends visiting from out of town and once with my youth group. Last week it went with me to the Eel River. My wife thought I was crazy for takin it and that it would just sit all weekend in the camp ground. But we had tons of fun in it- even Shannon later changed her tune. I took a trip with my brother-in-law, with my wife, with TJ, and with Tyler at separate times on the river. Two trips started at camp and went down river to a dam and two trips started up river and we rafted to camp. I think it totaled like 20 miles. The Eel River is not like white water rafting.... it's more like float and paddle and try and find the deepest way through the rapids so as not to get stuck. (like TJ and I passed up a floating beer party. Yes a floating beer party. Inner tubes tied to a canoe filled with a BBQ, beer, and grub. It was hysterical to see. They stopped like every 50 feet to refill their beer or jump off a rock. Their "destination" was 6 miles down stream. I think they are probably drunk on shore about 3 miles down now) Needless to say, the river doesn't require a lot of skill, so the conversations I had were sweet. The memories are fun too.
All this kayaking made me realize how much I enjoy the outdoors and how much more I enjoy just about everything in life when it's working in Tandem with others. The more life I live the less I want to live life alone. I think God has designed us to live in community with one another and with himself. Sure, I need my "alone times" to fill my cup, but the bulk of my life needs to be lived in and around others or it just seems pointless and tedious to me. I yearn to live my life not doing my own thing, but only the thing God yearns for me to do. How cool would it be to have my epitaph read: Lived life in tandem with God and men.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
TJ: Yelling through the bathroom door- "What happened to the toilet paper?"
Me: On the couch in the next room yelling back- "Why, are you trying to back one out?"
TJ: Still yelling through the bathroom door- "Yep, I'm droppin some dirt".
Mom: (looks at me with accusing eyes that I have taught him too many creative ways to say, "I have to poop" which are now flowing freely out of our soon to be 8 year old sons vocabulary.)
Me: Shrugs shoulders, smiles innocently, and says, "That's my boy" ... to which I went to go aid a brother in distress and fetch another roll.
NOTE: no need to reply with your infinite list of ways to say this. This will only get me in trouble with my lovely wife- I'm probably already "busted" as my youngest Jake would say, for posting this funny story anyway. Trust me, I can rattle off like 20 more creative gestures for needing to "go number two" without pausing to breathe. My experience says this is true for just about any other male who ever played sports, went to camp, sat around bored with his friends, shared an apartment with 7 guys during college, joined a fraternity... or any number of other reasons that I too can. :)
1. Not wanting to wake someone up who is sleeping is not a good reason not to flush- especially after the above. Flushing is always mandatory. I think I'm going to decree this as the King of the house from a perch a top our stairs soon.
2. As King.... I also decree that not replacing a tp role when you use up the last of it or not replacing a toilet paper roll to the "extra toilet paper" section of the bathroom after you use that one to replace an existing empty one should be grounds for requiring you to use an outhouse in the vacant lot next door for life.
3. My children are learning to read while on the can. I cannot support any policy that keeps my children on the porcelain for extended periods. I never want to remain in there for long. I can't imagine wanting to stay long enough to read a book.
4. Air fresheners are not fooling anyone. Your stuff still stinks and now the potpouri smells foul too.
5. Fans are good. Windows are better. Remember this when you design a house without windows in your bathrooms.
6. If you can say, "Daddy, I have poopy in my pants"- then you're old enough to not poop in your pants. Someone please tell Jake. He seems to think to himself- "If I don't poop in my pants then I'll get candy. But that will mean I have to go to the potty and ask for help. Then I'll have to stop playing. If I poop in my pants I can keep playing and loose the candy. Play? Candy? Play? Candy? Play wins..... ". The candy thing ain't workin.
7. I have a friend who went to Russia and brought be back a roll of toilet paper because it is such a rare commodity there. This is wrong on many levels.
8. Parenting so far as I can tell is entirely too much about ensuring people poop.
Last week I spent 7 days in Point Loma, Califonia on the coast enjoying the beauty of the ocean and developing new and old friendships. I was there for a student camp/conference called "Operation Good News (OGN)". I spent the morning going to classes with high school students about how to understand, defend, and share their faith in Jesus Christ as well as what other world views believe. We then spent the afternoons in guy/gal pairs going to the malls and beaches around San Diego County and engaging people in spiritual conversations. Here's my revelations from the week.
1. SKEPTICAL AM I- GOOD THING GOD IS NOT BOUND BY MY SKEPTICISM.
I was asked to take a group of students to go to the mall and share their faith with strangers on day 1. This seems like a chief way to make people hate Jesus. One step shy of cold calling them in their homes and interrupting dinner with a survey as if Jesus were something you sell lost souls when they've expressed no interest and have no relationship with you. At the mall people are trying to buy something and now we are going to mob them with teams of two teens who are going to ask them about Jesus when the mall would rather they not be there anyway. Needless to say... I was skeptical and as a "pastor" I didn't feel like I could sit in rebellion in my car just cuz I didn't feel like doing this. So, I prayed and went- not in, but around the mall.
I was there for all of 3 minutes when the first conversation I had was with a 19 year old guy on a bike. It was a really cool low rider bike he had obviously invested time and money in- it was all silver and made me want it. I said, "cool bike". Cool bike led to this; which led to that; which led to more of this; which led to me finding out he and his girlfriend (who was on her own less exciting bike) met in a homeless shelter when their families were in tough times a year or so ago. Tough times talks led to wanna have lunch with me? Lunch led to Rubios and the best $20 I've spent in a long time. That led to an hour and a half conversation with two really cool teens who rarely have adult influences in their lives which led to two phone number exchanges which may (I pray) lead to a friendship and joining us on the beach on Monday.
I guess God works in the mall too. I guess my comfort zone and skeptical mind has God in a box. I won't be picking up a bull horn or painting some verse about sin on the side of my truck anytime soon, but I will be opening my eyes more. I also vow to not let the billboard "Christian" guy who condemns people and screams at them to repent to keep me from sharing the truth in love. I think I miss a lot of spiritual needs because I reduce the mall to a place of material exchange and forget it only works cuz people with eternal souls go there daily. I need spiritual eyes. I wonder how many conversations I've missed with God in people's lives because I let buying groceries be about getting out of line fast and never even said, "Hi so and so.... "(whose name is always on their shirt.) I'm going to try and do better.
2. PEOPLE IN MASS = MASS CONFUSION.
On the 4th of July I spent the day with 750,000 people on the beaches of San Diego. What an experience. 1.7 million people come to SD over that holiday weekend and I for one, had never been in a more party going or people packed scene in all my life. There are countless reasons why people are there. Some are there to celebrate freedom and are freshly thinking of lost loved ones in wars (both current and distant) that define our country and culture. Some are there to capitalize on the crowds and make a big financial boost. (Parking is so limited I saw apartment owners selling their space for $100 a day. Ralphs in downtown Ocean Beach sells spaces for $25 an hour. Rentals sell for $3000 a week on the beach). Some are there to check out and maybe get lucky with the nearly naked populace. (You'll just have to trust me on this one) A couple hundred twenty somethings are there to attend an invitation only $21,000 party held in a recently sold 3.7 million dollar Condo on the beach front home I saw. Some are there to play Frisbee with their family and enjoy the sun. Some are there to get drunk. ( I spoke with one guy at 2pm who said he had 7 beers and two shots of tequila in him already. He was standing next to a shade tent that had an inflatable kiddy pool filled with ice and no less than 400 beers in it for a party on the beach). Some were there to see the fireworks. Some are there in teams to speak with people about Jesus and his hope for their lives. Some were there to celebrate their honeymoon. You name it, people were there for any of a million reasons people find purpose and pleasure in this life. Here's how Jesus viewed the crowed per the Message paraphrase of the Bible: "When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd." (Mat 9:36) I tried hard that day to see the crowd as Jesus does. Some lost and distant from God. Some found by God. All are loved by their creator.
I had some great conversations that day with Tony and Oliver- two guys I met at the beach who had gone quite simply to enjoy some beers and people watch (the chicks, the old friends, the cops arrest people who don't know they can't walk on the boardwalk with an open alcohol container and get a $340 ticket due to their ignorance, etc) Tony wants to retire by 30. Both Oliver and Tony have had their experience with the church and have subsequently left. I don't know whether God sees them as lost- for only he knows the condition of their souls, but they see themselves as pursuing God on their own terms. It was a sweet conversation.
It too reminded me that in the midst of the crowd of life, it's easy to get distracted by the worries of this world or cast judgement based on externals. I want to live for the things that matter. I want to see the crowd as Jesus does. I want to live a life that is not distracted by the junk.
3. I STILL NEED TO WORK ON THE SHUT UP PRINCIPLE.
I said some things this week I had to go back and apologize for or clarify. Mostly it's cuz I still have not mastered this principle in James 1. "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." So case and point, someone does or says something. It makes me annoyed or "angry". I mull it around in my head. Then given the opportunity- my big mouth spits out what was formerly trapped in my mind and my slow to speak is not so slow and I become quick to try and gather my words back. I would be better off to practice the principle of listen longer, speak less, give God my anger. Ahhh, the joy of being a work in progress. This piece of clay has a lot of shaping left to be done by the master.
Monday, June 27, 2005
This last week I spoke at a camp for about 300 high school students in Northern California on the subject of the spiritual warfare titled "Rivalry- the fight for our lives." It was an awesome experience. It was life changing for myself as well as many new and old friends. Here's some of my Rivalry Reflections as I look back on the past 10 days.
POWER STRUGGLE: this week was an electric purgatory. My computer power cord died, my printer died, two DVD players died, and on Wednesday night someone crashed on the road to the camp and took out the power to the entire retreat center. Evidently my electronic world was possessed by the demon of voltage nightmares. Personally, it was a fight to stay focused on the spiritual aspects of the Rivalry and not this material world that jacks with me. Every time though, God answered with meeting the need. He provided new DVD players, a new power cord, my parents "happened to have" a brand new printer in the box just waiting for me to take the very day we left, and the emergency generators for the camp provided all the power we needed to run chapel without a glitch. Through all this, as I wondered and feared and got distracted by the unwanted and unexpected- I was reminded how dependent I can be on juice to power the stuff I use for ministry and yet how the real power is not in the stuff of "wires" at all. I need to keep my dependence in the right place and on the right person. It's easy to get tangled up in the cords of worry and the stuff of this world. Jesus never prayed for electricity to light a room or for a computer not to crash. How trivial and stupid this stuff can be and how easy it is for it to creep it's sorry electronic self into the focus of my life. Even as I write this Blog, I'm reminded that technology can be used for God or as a distraction from Him. I pray it's the former for me. That is a daily fight however. The Rivalry between physical and spiritual stuff is real for me.
AUDIENCE: I spent a lot of time trying to silence the voice of the enemy in my life this week. He kept trying to get my eyes off God and onto men and women. Worry about pleasing people he would say, "for if they don't like you, God isn't using you." I quoted Galatians 1:10 to myself about a thousand times this week. Tuesday night before I taught I spent over an hour in my room telling thoughts of inadequacy to flee and through tears reminded my heart that pleasing God- not men was my goal. I really struggle to keep my focus on God, no matter what others say or think about me. I want to live for an Audience of One- but that's easier said than done. The Rivalry between pleasing God and pleasing people is real for me still.
MORNINGS: I was struck this week by how God spoke to me in the mornings. I got up every morning at between 4:30 and 5 A.M. to re-look over that day's messages. I'm not a early morning riser normally. Late nights-yes. Early mornings- not so much. Plus, I was up past midnight every night- which meant that I was running on 4ish hours of sleep. But, every morning- the routine was the same. Hit the alarm. Jump in the shower. Grab a cup of coffee, a blanket, and my G4 laptop and head for the porch of our cabin to sit in the brisk pre-dawn air and listen to the quiet flow of small stream just 15 feet away while I prayed over and tweaked and re-wrote the messages for the day. I was surprised by how much I liked starting my day so early and so specifically thinking about God. After camp I went away with my wife to Pelican Bay in Watsonville for a night and a day away to celebrate our 11 year anniversary. While there and taking in the awesome view of the ocean and the sound of waves crashing on the quiet sea shore, I began reading "Life Together" by Bonhoeffer. The second chapter is all about how God has throughout history in the Bible and in the present day spoken to people who exercised the discipline of seeking God in the morning. I've normally bucked that statement as mere traditions of men cuz God is not bound to a clock. But, it kinda proved true and enjoyable for me this week. So, here goes, I'm going to try and rise early (maybe not 4 AM :) ) and discipline my body to get up with the sunrise. Now I guess I need to also discipline myself to go to bed earlier. Notice this post is long past midnight. Guess I have my work cut out for me- that's the Rivalry of personal disciplines.
RETHINKING: It was great to see 12 students rethinking life as they know it and deciding to stop running from God and begin running to him. 12 students committed their lives to Jesus Christ and got on God's side of this spiritual rivalry for the first time. Literally hundreds of others made significant life change decisions this week in how they are going to rethink living for Jesus and stop letting Satan have his way with them. I was blessed by seeing and hearing their boldness as they shared their desire to quit drugs, break off bad dating relationships, forgive Dads, and stop hiding in shame they felt due to sin in their lives- and so much more. In the process, I was reminded too that God calls each of us, myself included, to rethink the way I'm living daily- not just at camps and retreats. I think it's a moment by moment, minute by minute, hour by hour commitment to not confuse what "is" with what "could and should" be. I want to live a life of change. I pray that this week has changed me. I know it has. I also hope it's but one small adjustment in what is sure to be a life of changes as God molds me into the man he desires me to be. Through several significant conversations this week I also drove the stake down deeper into the soil of my heart and soul that I don't want to be a "legalistic list maker". I don't want to be so sure of so much that I start making stuff that is circumstantial and temporary into something more black and white than it is. When the Bible makes something black and white- I intend to keep it that clear. I don't want to be wishy washy when God is not. I also don't want to be dogmatic when God has left room for the Holy Spirit to speak to individuals differently. When it's grey, I want to keep rethinkin' and rethinkin' what that looks like today and how I can love and live with people whose convictions lie in a different shade of grey than my own. So goes the Rivalry over my mind.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Bocce ball on Sunday. Surfing on Monday. Two firsts in two days.
BOCCE BALL: Sounds Italian. Have no idea if it is. It is like shot put and bowling and horse shoes and billiards all rolled into one. This is a game that requires so little effort and athletic ability that you can play it while holding a beverage in one hand the entire game. In fact, I'm pretty sure alcohol was involved during it's invention. Anyway, after our church did it's quarterly baptisms in mission bay with a BBQ and stuff, then I was invited to partake of bocce ball with Marko and John. Josh and I came from a 7 point deficit to get beat by one. 9-10 was the final score. But on the whole, I'd have to say that my first day proved I'm a natural 7 in bocce ball. I could be a 10 given more practice. I might need to buy a set.
SURFING: Sounds fun. Not sure it is yet. But, I now live in "so cal" and my youth group goes to the beach pretty much weekly if not daily- so I figured I should try it. It is like jumping on a floating ironing board while paddling like a fish to avoid an 18 wheeler coming at you with the goal of being pushed gracefully down the freeway of water that will eventually crash into the sand. I get the paddle part. I get the float part. It's the one, two, three stand up before you get dumped off part I'm not so good at. Rarely, if ever in my life, do I find myself lying flat on my stomach and for any reason, immediately jumping to my feet to land in a shoulder width spread in one fluid motion. I take that back... I never do that. Never. Consequently- day one was like watching a toddler try and stand up, most of the time falling flat on their face. Oh, by the way- it is possible to "surf" in like a foot of water. So, when you fall off and stick your hand down- you hit the bottom really hard, really fast. It hurts. I think I need a prosthetic hand now. On the surf scale- I'm officially a 2. At this rate, I might be a 5 in 5 years. So, I now own a wet suit and a very sore arm. I borrowed the board. Not sure I'll be buying one anytime soon.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
I've come to the conclusion that there are only two ways to learn things in life. #1. The hard way. #2. From someone who learned it the hard way.
Tonight I came home from Bible Study to find my house slightly white. Not really- white- but 20 minutes clean up of white none-the-less. It was clearly a girls Bible Study that was responsible. I found them at church having a last study of the year party and all mysteriously dressed in black at church. I didn't think much of it when they all left in cars around 9pm while I cleaned up my Bible Study- but when I got home it took me 2 seconds to put it together. Many of them are the same group that did this to mi casa the first month I was here.
I responded to that attack on my abode politely and assumed ignorance on their part. I nicely informed them this was not a bright move on their part with a powerpoint presentation during the high school weekend services of things that had happened to others before them who tried such endeavors: duct taped to trees, cars in crates, personally covered in kitchen slop, cars on jack stands at school, dead fish under a girls bed.... etc. I thought they got the picture when like 2 months later a girl in the group stopped me to ask out of the blue, "Did you really put a dead fish under a girls bed?" I said, "yes". She said she would learn from that girls mistake.
Evidently not all do- some girls just want to learn the hard way. I now have a trash back full of white stuff, two leaders, and several key students to make examples of... not today... but someday soon- the white stuff shall be served. I once was told by a wise man this great motto to live by: "Don't get mad. Don't get even. Just get one or two up." Tis the season to learn stuff the hard way I guess.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Keeping numero uno numero uno is a lot of work. It doesn't come naturally to me. What comes naturally is procrastination, distraction, and stuff that interests me at the moment. God clearly says in the very first of the 10 commandments through Moses and again through Jesus in the greatest commandment - perhaps the most fundamental of all Christian responsibilities: "Love God first." I wish that was simple. I'm sure it is. But somehow- it rarely is for me.
Here's how it plays out in my life:
WITH MY KIDS: Last Thursday a friend asked me if I wanted to take my kid to the baseball game on Friday night. The padre stadium has this little baseball diamond behind the ball park but still actually in the stadium gates where you can play baseball all game with your kid while seeing the game on a giant screen or watching part of it live from this grassy knoll. Problem is: I am supposed to be at church on Friday nights because I need to participate in the service and I lead a service elsewhere on campus for high school students during both Sunday hours. I enjoy going Friday- but I was faced with a dilemma: "A"- worship God in the church with music, my Bible, and a pencil. OR "B"- worship God with my kid, a hot dog, ice cream, and baseball. In the end, I chose B. My son Tyler has not stopped bragging about it since. Honestly, I had no time to be there, was supposed to be at church and had- lots to do for "Sunday" and the baseball game lasted 3x longer than the "friday service". In the end- I'm not sure "church" was the center of my worship experience that weekend. Tyler shared with me more about faith and numero uno than anything I did all weekend in his smile, hugs, and endless games of catch.
WITH PLANTS: I ended up planting our yard on Saturday instead of working on Sunday stuff- which I should have been doing because I was gone all week, went to a baseball game with Tyler, and was behind on prep work. In the end, the decision to spend the day planting flowers with my mother in law cost me hours of sleep. But the joy it brought my wife and her mom to see it done and enjoy our back yard over breakfast coffee reminded me again that sometimes- sleep is over rated and worship has many forms.
WITH SUNDAY: I ended up preparing for Sunday most of the night and morning and getting there on little to no sleep. I prayed that God would use me in spite of myself. He answered by steering the High School group in such a way that we never actually got to my message on Sunday. We ended up hearing the voice of God through the experience, regrets, and wisdom of graduating seniors. So many students liked what they saw and heard and were blessed and told me so that I had to stop and laugh at myself... Numero Uno doesn't need me.
WITH MY FRIENDS: Yesterday I had a friend in a tough time that needed to talk. I had minus 4 hours to talk. I was so far in the hole from my weekend of baseball and planting and meetings and such and had a paper due that night in seminary that the last thing I had time to do was comfort anyone but my own mounting pile of paper work. Anyway- I ended up talking with two friends for the better part of 2 hours yesterday. Later that night I went up to my professor and started to ask how I turn in a late paper... and before I could finish my sentence- he said, "Lots of people are in your shoes. I decided to give a short extension." I walked back to my seat believing and reminding myself- that sometimes- keeping numero uno numero uno isn't as difficult as I make it out to be. Sometimes God does it for me.
I wish I did this more often. I want to simply love God first. In the end- when I do- the joy is worth it. Now if I could just go do that daily and get so good at it- it's a reflex- that would be cool.... so here I go- off to worship my God with baseball, plants, and friendships- among other not so complicated acts of worship.
Friday, June 03, 2005
So, I went away with our staff (like everyone: part time facilities guy, receptionists, pastors, you name it and their spouses) for the first time on their annual retreat to the "desert". My wife and I left a day early and spent some time together and then arrived at what can only be accurately described as a "oasis hallucination too good to be true". We drove at night and arrived late to what was a gated retreat of water, grass, palms, and luxury surrounded by miles and miles of desolate sand, wind and utter nothing like I've never experienced before.
At the Westin Resort I had poolside meals, ate like kings and queens, met in air conditioned rooms, and went for late night walks in 80 degree star filled skies with my bride of almost 11 years. It was amazing!!! I was truly blessed. My marriage was blessed. Wow. What a four days.
The ironic thing was we started out the "official staff meeting portion" of the retreat with a verse from Mark 6. This is how the passage reads in the New Living Translation. It's context is right after the disciples have served long and hard in a ministry that Jesus sent them out to do and then receive word that Jesus' cousin John the Baptist has been brutally beheaded. Mark records it this way:
"The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and what they had taught. Then Jesus said, Lets get away from the crowds for a while and rest.” There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn'’t even have time to eat. They left by boat for a quieter spot."
Here's the irony... in the text- they never make it there- to a replenishing place. Jesus and his disciples head to what the King James translates as a "desert place" and many others translate a solitary place for rest, encouragement, food, and replenishment of their souls. They are however met by a crowd. Instead of eating and relaxing and deepening friendships just the 13 of them... they find thousands wanting to be healed and fed by them. The disciples complain. Jesus rebukes them and has compassion on the hurting around him. It made me feel a few things:
1. OVERWHELMED. I was overwhelmed by the luxury that surrounded me like I had never experienced before. I mean my wife forgot her tooth brush and they delivered one in a terrycloth envelope to our door. Somehow- I don't think this is what the disciples dessert location looked like- even without the crowd.
2. QUESTIONING. Why me? If even the disciples didn't experience this as they desired with Jesus, should I? Why not others? How many today are never going to experience this? I feel guilty sometimes with the blessings I received. I know that some live nicer and are "more blessed". I know that others still deserve more. I live 45 minutes from a country where the drinking water is not contaminated. Who decided which side of the border I would be born in? Why does it matter?
3. CONFLICTED. Thank you vs. expectant. I wrestle with staying appreciative what I have without expectant of blessings like this to be the "norm". I hope I never stop wrestling with that. It's easy to be judgmental too- when it's all relative. Some people spend $400 on an ipod. Some spend it on a weekend in a lush resort. Some spend it on a bike, some on a car payment, some on gifts, some on diapers, some on books for school, some on ..... you name it. Who is to say one is God honoring and one is not? I know that living like this for 4 days is not unholy. It's also not my goal in life. As I reflect back on this experience, I'm striving to keep those two thoughts from causing internal bleeding as they wage war inside me to remain thankful without the baggage of materialistic lusts. For example: Like I really want a fountain now. They are beautiful and I have two perfect places at my house for them. Is that ungodly? I guess yes if it consumes me. I guess no if... I don't know. I'm just not prepared to tell everyone on the planet that I have the will of God for material things nailed down and I know what kind of car Jesus would drive.
So... in the mean time... I'll just keep wrestling with all three and ask the Holy Spirit to give me a peace and understanding about his will. I don't want to live with guilt in the freedom I have in Jesus. I also don't want to use my freedoms to indulge my sinful nature and lusts of the flesh.
Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Dear God, may that always be true of me.
Monday, May 30, 2005
If you, like me, grew up watching star wars and find it rather nostalgic to see the rise in our culture again with the advent of episodes 1-3, and can hardly wait to see them with your kids when they get older.... well then perhaps it's time you and I made our own rendition of these memories. Cuz these two made me laugh for days:
Thursday, May 26, 2005
I really should be able to say that I desire God. But just this week I figured out that it's the other way around. I'm sad to admit that I worship my desires. When what I desire is God, that works out rather conveniently, but when I desire other things, well- not so much. Here's how I discovered this sad fact about myself:
So, when I joined the staff of my new church, I found out that just 2 weeks before I got there the entire staff went away to meet and pray. While meeting and praying on a pier in North San Diego- God told them to fast. He didn't tell them to go fast- like drive quick. He told them to fast- like abstain from eating. So they decided that this year as pastors, they would fast the first Wed. of every month and then 4 times a year we'd have a 2 day fast. So since I'm a pastor, God has by default spoken this prophetic word into my life too. Honestly, this is the first time in my life that I've regularly disciplined myself to fast. It's been a learning experience. In the just over 2 months that I've been here, I have twice fasted for a day and just this week was my first 2 day fast ever in my life. I'm in fasting boot camp.
Anyway what I've discovered is that a one day fast is almost like you got too busy to eat. By the time you get hungry- like really hungry- you can go to sleep and then when you wake up- you eat. No big deal- at least for me. Totally different story when Day 2 hits and you watch your family eat dinner and you don't join in satisfying your hunger for the second time. In those moments you realize- wow, I really want to eat- bad! So you pray and talk to God about desire instead. Or perhaps more accurately- He talks to you. In my case, I talked about how bad I desire food and about how hard it is to ignore the urge to eat. Then God starts talking to me about other urges I get that I don't ignore either. Then before I know it- God is all up in my face and I realize- I'm a spiritual woose- owned by my desires instead of my God. I lack discipline.
I've been reading a book by Bill Hybels called, "who you are when no one's looking." I thought the book would be all about integrity- but it's not. It's about character. He talks about 4 character traits that are endangered species in the character trait world. He says that one of those endangered species is "discipline" which he defines as the ability to "delay gratification." In essence, disciplined people he says are people who learn to say no to immediate impulses for greater returns. They decide not to spend money but save for a better purchase or to give it away to someone in great need. Or they may decide not to eat that desert so they'll be fit and healthy or not to look at porn so they have real relationships with real consequences and blessings instead of a cheap temporary imitation. As I thought of delayed gratification in light of my fasting- I realized I have some work to do.
All of this caused me to go back and re-read a chapter of the famous book Celebration of the Disciplines, by Richard Foster. In his chapter on the discipline of fasting, he says, "More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the thing that controls us." Wow. He hit the nail on the head. He also says that, "In many ways, the stomach is like a spoiled child, and a spoiled child does not need indulgence, but needs discipline." So it is with me spiritually. I need to discipline my desires, not feed the spoiled brat.
Remember the time that Satan tries to tempt Jesus with food after he fasted for 40 days- 20 times longer than my woosie dos dias? Jesus responds to Satan's temptation and quotes a passage from Deuteronomy when God fed the Israelites with Manna from heaven when he says in Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, "“It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”" Wow. I have a long way to go for that to be true of me. Fasting made me realize how far I have to go to want and desire God and obey his voice more than even the simple spoiled child of my stomach. I have several idols I need to melt into an offering for the Lord. That I hope and pray will become my desire- to yearn for the word of God more than any other lust in life. That would be victory. I think I have a lifetime of fasting ahead of me before that happens though. Fast I shall.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Not sure there are too many better one word describers of what I hope God will create through my youth ministry than Legacy. Maybe it's carnal- but part of me is asking God to create a legacy that I'd be proud of. Ultimately I want- a legacy- not for my glory- but for God's. But still, I'd like to play a part... I'd like to say, "See that. See that. Yeah. God used me to see it come to pass." Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." That's the goal right? That we would set an example that would cause others to see God in us, and in turn choose to follow that same God in a way that the process will self repeat. Paul says it again to his disciple in the faith- "Hey Timothy- live the faith and entrust others with faith who will carry the baton and pass it on."- 2TI 2:2 -my summary.
Well, every once in a while I get a glimpse at the Legacy God is leaving through me. Sometimes it's less God and more me and isn't much to be proud of. In those cases, I fall to my knees and pray for God to work anyway. Every once in a while though, the Legacy makes me smile and fall to my knees and thank God for answering the "please God work anyway prayer".
Last night at midnight I got a call from a former student in my youth group- now a young man and a great friend, who called to tell me that he had been recognized by his peers as a spiritual leader and would be taking over the job of chaplain of a fraternity that I had the privilege of helping found at UC Davis. As the founding chaplain of that fraternity, I felt it was my job to give the baton of leadership to the next chaplain as I graduated and to pass the baton to others. That baton was placed in Matt Jurach's hand initially. He carried it and placed it in another guys hand who did the same. That baton has been passed numerous times since then. Well, last night it was given to Max to carry next year. Wow! Who would have thunk that God would use me to start something that eventually would come round full circle to a student in my youth ministry- 12 years later. I was so blessed and so encouraged. Thanks for the call Max. You are the man! If you know him. Click on his name and give him an "atta boy".
2 weeks ago I got a call at 10pm while leaving church on a wed night and it was a former student, now a youth pastor, who answered the phone this way. "Hey Paul- it's your Timothy- I have a question for you." I don't think I could ever receive a nicer compliment. We talked for 45 minutes about a tough youth ministry decision. We prayed. I was blessed.
Several months ago- I got a phone call from a former intern in student ministry who called me and said, "Brian, I wanted you to be the first to know. I got into the Sheriff's academy!" We laughed, we cheered, we cried. He called me before he called his parents. I was honored. I am honored. I can't believe the blessing of long term friendship some days.
I wish I had volumes and not just pages of those stories- But those are the relationships I treasure the most actually. It's the relationships that I maintain over years of ministry with those who have stood the test of time and kept the faith. It's students like Trevor, Buch, Peter, Kyle, Lindsay, Matt, Jared, P Rowe, Rhianna, August, Cassidy, Amanda, Angela, Max, Daryl, Alyssa, Kai-ping, Andrea, ... those are just some of the students who came full circle as I think over the last decade plus. They got involved initially as high school students and have stayed faithful as adults to serve Jesus in a lot of professions. They are carrying the baton and it's a joy to call them friends today- friends who stay in touch and bless one another regularly. I can't imagine the joy it will be to see those friendships 20 years from now. It's a reward I never knew when starting ministry I'd get. Now it's the rocket fuel that keeps me going on dark days. It's those moments that remind me why I do what I do.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Earlier today my family and I went to the beach for the first time in San Diego. Here's what I learned about family beach trips.
1. SPRAY SUNSCREEN ONLY WORKS WHERE YOU SPRAY IT. Our kids now look like a cross between an leopard and candy cane. This is a big one in my family because if it were up to my wife, when God wrote Leviticus, right after disobeying your parents, another sin due the penalty of death would have been failing to adequately apply sun screen.
2. WHEN THE LIFEGUARD SAYS, YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE. GIVE THEM YOUR ATTENTION. So I was building a sand castle with my kids and two other kids of a friend of ours- so do the math. Me and 5 boys under the age of 8- who by the way are all asleep in a tent in my backyard. Or at least they are supposed to be asleep. Jake maybe at the neighbors now that I think of it. Anyway- we were building a sand castle, and my youngest son, Jake, well he wandered off and I missed it. Yeah. I'm the idiot Dad. Well, next thing I know I hear the Lifeguard Suburu truck thing say, "your attention please. If anyone is missing a two year old boy named Jake, please come to the Lifeguard truck." Yeah, so my wife went running after we got eye contact and figured out neither of us had a two year old named Jake in our midst. Boy I wished it were my head lights were left on and not my son was in the passenger seat. I could at least live with that. Anyway- when I asked Jake what he did- he said that he went to another Mommy and Daddy and said- "can you help me find my Mommy?". He wasn't even rocked. The life guard asked him how old he was and his name and he said, "I Jake. I two." God is good. Who knew that asking Jake how old he was to tease him every once in a while would ever help him out. I'm still an idiot.
3. SOME PEOPLE TAKE SAND CASTLES TO AN ART FORM. Yeah, the guy next to us built a sand castle using tools designed for carving and cement work. It looked like a master piece. Silly me thought plastic buckets, shovels, and wagons were enough. Next time I'm bringing my Dewalt 18 volt power tools and showin the guy up.
4. GET CLOSE TO THE WATER. NO CLOSER THAN THAT. Yeah, so we arrived early and were the closest one's to the water. Yeah- not so much. Like 3 rows of nomads showed up after us and pitched tents and strollers and coolers and pretty much anything you can imagine between us and the water. Yeah, by noon if you wanted to find us, our base camp was in the middle of a half naked refuge camp. Maybe that's why Jake had the mobile white courtesy PA system help.
yeah.... so that's it. Live and learn. I'm gonna go print this posting and laminate it so I can read it before we take the kids back to the land of sand, water, sun, and mayhem. peace.
I was listening to a tape the other day of a preacher and he was talking about Matthew 18 and how we need to go direct to the source if we have a problem with someone. Then he talked about the problem of "triangulation." I'd never heard it called that but it's when person A has a problem with person C and instead of bringing it to them, they talk to them through mutual friend- person B. Yeah. Well I just had that happen to me. I was person A and the whole B and C thing happened. I always knew I hated that, but today I confirmed it. Yep... I hate it... still do. Do you ever like to hear news about yourself through a friend of a friend. ? Does anyone? Maybe I'm missing something. I don't. Bugs me to death. Not sure why we do it. Sadly, I think I have to say "we" do it. I've done it before. But, I decided a new and a fresh- I'm not going to anymore. I'm abstaining. If I have a concern or beef or angst or conflict at all about a friend, coworker, family member, politician, you name it- I'm going to them direct. I've decided that I no longer want to be in, around, near, or anywhere distantly related to a relational triangle. If I find my self the apex in a couple of friendships, I'm gonna become the bridge or I'm out. I hope I can hold to that and help others too. I think the world would be a lot more Godly place- and certainly the church- if when we had a beef with someone- we had the love and guts to go to them directly with it. It takes both. Guts and love. I decided a new today that I'm gonna do my best to make sure I have love people enough to go to them instead of around them. Lord help me live up to that vow.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
I can't believe I'm admitting this on the web. But I officially have what my track coach in high school called PMS- pre meet syndrome. It's that nasty I feel like I'm gonna puke, can't wait to start, excited, scared, nervous, amped, and freaked out feeling you get everytime you stand around waiting to be called to the starting line before the gun finally goes of and you do what you've trained so hard to do. I have it- because I'm teaching in "big church" on Friday night and then twice on Sunday for the first time here. I've tried to hold it at bay, but like the incoming tide- it's here whether I like it or not. I'm trying to pray and give it all to God. I know that after I teach a few times in this new space, I'll relax and feel comfortable again- it'll feel like I'm home in front of friends. But right now, it just feels like PMS. Ok- that's all. I'm gonna go pray and study and ask God to do whatever I cannot. Which is a lot. Peace.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
So, i went to Target to get some stuff for Bible study and princess Lea walked by. I kid you not, hair in buns on the side of her head. White outfit. Everything. It was 5:30 pm and there were at least 200 people in line outside of the theater half a block away. There's 3 radio stations doing live broadcasts and one tv crew. It's now 9:43pm and I'm at my computer. Tens of thousands of people all over the country evidently are lined up (or now inside on the East Coast) to see the latest transformation of a man going from the force to the dark side with the revenge of the sith. I passed up a ticket tonight to a 12:01am showing in LA because it was either the "wisest thing I've done in a while" or the biggest proof in the world that I'm "old and out of it." But here's the real kicker for me right now. Honestly, I don't really care about Starwars but a bunch of our culture deeply does. Some are even fanatical. I care deeply about Jesus- fanatically- but a bunch of our culture does not. Ironically- they are both in the same line at the theater tonight. I almost was with an entire youth staff from a church of thousands. I have friends that are passionate followers of a different force in the same line as princess Lea look-alikes. But then again, I guess that's true of every line I've ever stood in- one common desire but different destinys. Maybe, just maybe I'll have enough forethought to ask God to use me to bridge the gap and spur on conversations of a different Force. Jesus was a master at transitioning conversation. He asked a woman at the well about water and ended up talking about her soul. He answered questions about rules with conversations about conversion and sacrifice. I wonder how easy it would be for Jesus to turn a conversation in line at Revenge of the Sith to an Eternal One? I wonder how much he wants to do that but his followers will be lured away? I wonder if I would? I wonder if I already have? I pray not.
Why blog? Don't really want to be trendy. Don't want to try to impress people- plus what overflows from me is just that- what overflows. I've been kickin the idea around in my head for about 3 months now. I have interviewed 2 or 3 friends who blog about their experience and process for deciding to begin a blog. The reason I did this was and is for 3 reasons. 1. I have some long term friendships I hope can be maintained by us sharpening one another via what God's sharing with us and we post. 2. I hope it will discipline me to really process my life and thoughts more intentionally. 3. I think it will help me to be a better writer, something I desire to do over the long haul. Aight- there ya have it. Have no idea how often I'll post here. But, the first overflow has now spilled over onto the web.