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.



My photo
San Diego, CA
Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

Blog Archive

  © Blogger template Blogger Theme II by 2008

Back to TOP