Monday, December 25, 2006


Here's our morning in photos. The highlights of gifts for the kids include: Tyler's500 baseball cards and binders to sort them. Jake's Diego play set. TJ's star wars lego set. And the biggie, they all 3 were given a new trampoline to share. Oh good times wrestling and bouncing. We are blessed in many ways.


Sunday, December 24, 2006


Several hours ago I went to the Christmas Eve Church services at our church. My role is basically an attender at this thing now. Back in Fremont, I started an 11pm Christmas Eve service, which was our family tradition as a kid and my most anticipated service all year. It's one of my favorite memories from my years there and one of the few things I started that they still do.

Anyway, for over a decade, my normal Christmas Eve consisted of preparing the final details on our service and showing up at like 9pm and finally leaving around 12:30am on Christmas Day. I loved that service and still miss it.. maybe that's why it's 12:30am on Christmas Day and I'm still up. I still miss being able to end the service by saying ending a prayer and saying, "Welcome to Christmas Day. God is with us." Maybe someday I'll start one here. But for now, our family roles have reversed.

I have the primary job of being Dad on Christmas Eve and have evidently started a new tradition of washing the car and buying the Cinnabon Sweet rolls for the next day. In the meantime, Shannon sings in all the services. This year my boys decided they wanted to go to their respective Sunday School classes for their Christmas shindig there. But, since their mom was singing, we also then all went to the service together to support her and sit as a family.

During the 4pm service, while my boys were in their classes, I read all the Christmas Cards that have been sent to our house. We just put them in a big basket. Shannon reads them as they come when she gets the mail. I wait until the end and read them like a book. It was fun to see old faces and to get caught up on people's stories. I was so inspired by a friend of Shannon's who went around the world on a "teaching ship" where she taught high school biology at sea and from port to port. How cool is that?! I also have some friends who took 6 weeks and went and toured the whole North East of the United States on a "home school teaching journey" where they saw all these sights and lived out of an RV... adventure is in the air. They reminded me of these family vacations I used to do as a kid for 2 weeks camping across the country. Shannon and I talked about it and decided that SUMMER 2009 is our goal for a month off and a HUGE road trip with our boys to go camping and sight seeing all around this side of the country. I'm EXCITED. How fun would that be? Better start planning and saving my pennies.

Anyway... when I got to service, I was blown away by the whole experience. What great music and dancing and video and teaching and celebration on Christmas Eve! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The message was about at least 2 things that INSPIRE ME. The first is my favorite Bible topic... it's POTENTIAL- the fact that God loves to use the undesirable to do the unthinkable. I love that about God. I love that he loves to use the underdog. I think God is inspiring to me because of that part of the Bible. We see it in stories of Mary, Jesus himself, Abraham, Moses, Paul, Matthew, David, Gideon, so many Bible characters. It's a major theme of the Scripture.

The second is something I've been stewing on for a while. It's the fact that the saddest part about living disconnected from God is not an "eternity without him", it's a present without him. Our pastor talked about it as missing the "wow" of life with God. That's a bummer. That's a bigger bummer than eternity without him. Obviously eternity is longer, but how sad is it to have 80 years on this planet and to spend them without Jesus? That was his message anyway. It was not, "Don't follow me and you'll rot in hell." It was, follow me so you don't miss the WOW of a life lived with me. Yes, there is a post death implication to the present decisions. But it's the present ones that are more compelling to me and was the essence of Jesus' message. Incidentally, for fun, if you're looking for proof of this as a value, do a word study on the word "today" or "this day" (it's the same Hebrew word in both cases) in the book of Deuteronomy. It's used there more than any other book in the entire Bible. If you read all 74 verses in the ESV... you'll see why Jesus quoted Deuteronomy more than any other book. It's all about the call to a nation of Israel to embrace the covenant as a value for them TODAY... not a contract with God and their ancestors... not something for their children. NO, it's for them today, and then and only then does the past have purpose and tomorrow have hope. Today is the day of salvation... because it is about TODAY.

I hope and pray that he uses all those who feel useless and that they embrace him Today..... that is the JOY of the gospel... that is the message of Christmas. That's how I need to live everyday I have... embracing the journey and loving the process of a life lived connected to and enjoying the chasing of the God of all Wonder. That is a life of true adventure that will lead me through amazing times of serving, blessing, trial, and love. That is the life I yearn for and that Jesus embodies.



One thing our family loves during the Christmas time is to go see lights. We drive alternate routes home, we make a special trip to go see them around the area, we try and do our part to contribute to the festivities on our own home, and we go to special light displays we know about. This year we decided to use our annual passes and go try the lights at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. For years we've been going to the one at the Oakland Zoo to see their display, but that's a little far now... so we decided to check this local zoo scene out at night.

We stated the tour by making hot chocolate in the parking lot to save some flow. Then we went straight for the 45 minute train ride around the main wilderness area. It was pitch black except for this spot light they shine around. At night a lot of the animals come up closer to the tracks. It's kinda cool. Also, in case you were wondering... rabbits are evidently nocturnal. I think we saw 7000 of them- just running wild. We also saw lots of deer, some just from the wilderness around and standing in the way on the tracks. I also found out that Rhinos have sensitive feet and won't walk on rocks... something to be aware of if you're trying to get freed of them. Don't climb a tree, just run into the nearest rock field.

The guy they have driving the train thing though is some guy from a country in Asia and he talks with the appropriate accent. Add to that bad humor and jokes with predictable puns and you have a live version of the safari boat ride at Disneyland minus the guaranteed crocodile sighting. I think they give the job to guys who really bad wanted to be stand up comics, but got sent back to the tour gig and couldn't stand the thought of the Safari tour at Disneyland. My kids thought it was funny though.

We then went to go looking at the other sights to see. Kinda low on the light side. Mostly just a few things here an there along the paths and then lots and lots of various crafts to do. Our kids decorated cookies and then got their faces painted.

Here's the photos. If you're going to spend money on the Wild Animal Park though, I'd recommend going in the day instead.


Saturday, December 23, 2006


Well, our middle school pastor, Josh, got me inspired, so I decided to change my blog header into a picture. I had no idea how to do this, so after some searching, my first attempt at a new look to my bloggin world front page is complete. Hope you like it.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I re-read the story of Jesus' birth this year as I've done for many years around this time. I've also listened to a few sermons, read some book exerpts, and seen a few movies on the subject. I was watching "studio 60 on the sunset strip" for the first time with my wife and her sisters earlier this week and they were going off on how so much of the story is a hoax and false. I was wishing I had it recorded. But, much of what they were saying, many scholars don't debate much either. But, it got me thinking again about how much is assumed and "normal" to the story that we are not so sure of today and that many are pretty sure was not "NORMAL" to Jesus' day. Here's my list:

  1. JESUS WAS BORN IN A BARN: Bethlehem barns were caves. Jesus was likely born in what a 21st century American would call a cave. This is not surprising to those who live in Israel. To me.. this was shocking when I was there.

  2. MARY RODE A DONKEY: Maybe. But likely not. Donkeys are expensive. It would be rare for her to be able to afford one. She probably walked. There's no mention of a donkey in the text of Matthew or Luke- which are the the only two of the 4 gospels that even mention the birth details.

  3. MARY WAS LIKE 13-16 YEARS OLD: We don't know this. We are guessing based
    on data that was "normal" for marriage and such during her culture. Many scholars say this is the case. The Bible doesn't tell us.

  4. MARY AND ELIZABETH WERE SISTERS: The text says relatives according to the NIV, NASB, NLT, ESV and a bagillion more. It doesn't say sisters, cousins, aunts, ..... nothing. It says they were relatives. The message paraphrase says "cousin". But I think he's guessing.

  5. JOSEPH WAS 40 or 14 or? I've heard so much variation on this one it's mind boggling. Again, we're guessing here.

  6. THERE WAS NO ROOM IN THE INN: Some say this is true. Others say not so much. One of the most recent English translations- the TNIV- translates the word for "inn" as "guest room". Some say this is more accurate. Like Joseph went door to door, not to the Motel 6 in the small town.


  8. THE WISEMEN SHOWED UP AT THE CAVE/BARN? Maybe.. maybe not. Again, this is debated. Since it says they showed up at their "home" in Matthew 2:11 and because Herod has children 2 years or older killed in an attempt to destroy Jesus, many say they must have come at least a year after the child was born. Others say this is not true, they came to the Cave and the age that Herod used was based on when the star appeared in the sky, not when the Magi arrived. Uh.. who knows?

  9. THEY WERE WISEMEN. We don't know what they were. I've heard kings, scholars, wisemen, magi, astrologers, scholars... and evidently all of those are valid translations of the word used to describe them. So, they were smart, rich, influential travelers of some sort.

  10. THERE WERE 3 WISEMEN: We don't know this either. The text says there were 3 gifts. We therefore assume one per person. But it could have been 3 gifts from 2 people or 3 gifts from 20. We just don't know.

  11. THE WISEMEN CAME FROM EGYPT ON A CAMEL: I'm not sure where I got this one, but this is what I've always thought. But it doesn' t say this in the text. It says they were Wisemen form the another country to the East who arrived in Jerusalem before meeting Jesus in either Bethlehem or Nazareth, depending on how you read the story.

  12. JESUS WAS BORN ON DECEMBER 25TH like in the year Zero AD. Nope. Not likely. Probably born 5 BCish and more like in the Springtime based on the shepherds in the field and the difficulty of a traveling census in December make that month unlikely.

None of this ruins me or makes me feel I've been lied to. It just means that a lot of what is "central" to the story for a lot of church going people like me is not "CENTRAL" to the story. Here's to pondering the story, as Matthew and Luke record it for us- minus my culture read back into it. Following Jesus often gets muddied- not by the text as it's written, so much as how it's re-writen in my modern day messed up mind.


Monday, December 18, 2006


Today, our family went ice skating. Yep, ice skating. In Coronado. On the beach. Under the sun. At the world famous Hotel Del.

Shannon and her sisters, Caitlin and Erica, and TJ and Tyler all went ice skating together.

Jake and I bonded instead with fancy hot chocolate, a cookie, and a walk on the beach. At one point he went off walking really fast and I said, "Jake, where are you going?" He said that he was "making foot prints" as he stomped proudly, I snapped a picture. I love his smile in these pics.

As a side note, my intern coordinated a gift with all our adult and student leaders contributing and gave Shannon and I a gift cerficate to a night at the Del. Oooh laa la. How fun is that. We decided we're going to use it to celebrate 13 years of marriage in June. It's a rough life, but someone has to do it.



So, I was in Kohls the other day looking for a new sweat suit for Christmas. In the process, I overheard a lady telling a story very loudly about being in the store when someone came in and asked the clerk where he could find an ugly Christmas sweater. The clerk looked at him a bit confused. He then proceeded to tell her that he was going to a party where the ugliest Christmas sweater won $100. I thought that was the greatest idea ever.

So I stole it. Not the sweater- just the idea.

We had our student leader Christmas Party last Saturday night at our house and decided to lower the expectations from ugly Christmas Sweater- to just plain ugly sweater. I went to the thrift store in search of mine- which I'm pretty positive I wore in high school while snow skiing. Anyway, others went to grandma's in search of theirs. But, for the prize money of $40... here's our contestants.

It was finally narrowed down by survivor-type vote-off to these two below. Jade (on the right) ended up winning with his grandma's doily or something. Noah took second with his- shoulder pads and all. Oh good times.



Well, on Sunday morning we were talking about what signifies the holidays are here for our students. You know like Christmas trees or a trip to grandma's house or lights on houses or whatever. Then we talked about Mary's song and the things that she would have said would indicate that Christmas time is near. Her list was a little different.

Being the most holy part of Christmas however, at one point, I spoke of how Jesus would have appreciated it if the Wisemen had brought him gold, frankincense, myrrh, and peppermint stick ice cream. Then the angels would have sang another round of the hallelujah chorus dressed in pink.

This brought amazement to the students eyes and a mission to some of their souls which caused a mad hunt after church service by those who love me... which resulted in not one, but two half gallon containers of Dryers peppermint stick ice cream hand delivered to me- and get this- free of charge. Oh I do love youth minstry volunteers.

I can hear the angels singing now. My Christmas is complete and I can now stop making my grocery store dart board. Love is in the air and soon- very soon- my belly will be a nice shade of pink on the inside.


Friday, December 15, 2006


Yesterday I woke up, tried to eat, but felt like junk. I went to the office to do a devotional and tried to study for my Old Testament final. Um, that wasn't working so good so I went home.

Tried to sleep, then decided to do a reverse fast. Instead of not eating, I brought up everything I'd eaten to check for viral activity evidently. I hate puking. I hate having my head that close to my toilet. I have no idea how birds do it. How do you eat puke? Whose idea was that? Anyway, my puking has now stopped I think.

You know what's the worst part though? My puke was brown and not pink. If the stores would start putting peppermint stick ice cream in the freezers I could have a nice creamy tasty puke. Instead. I'm stuck with leftover lunch. I'm getting bitter. Several more trips to the store, I even tried target's freezer section have left me "peppermint stickless". I'm going to go put on sack cloth and sit in ashes as I mourn now.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Calling all managers, baggers, shelf stockers, purchasers, truck drivers, and grocery store owners.


It is Christmas or Holidayland or whatever you want to call it- but regardless of what label you put on this time of year, certain things need to be in ample supply during this season! Yes, evidently you are fine with having a million pumpkins at Halloween. You seem to get that you need to stock the big open freezers with thousands of pounds of dead bird at Thanksgiving time. However, much to my disappointment, you have failed to understand the mandate of stocking ample supplies of "limited edition peppermint stick ice cream" during December.

For whatever reason, the folks at Starbucks think Peppermint should only be allowed in the store at Christmas when they turn their mugs red. Whoever makes the decisions at Dreyers has also wrongly decided that peppermint stick ice cream is not an daily commodity but instead a precious treasure for the holidays. Fine. But if you must only offer it once a year, then you should make enough to cover the nation 12 inches thick in the stuff.

Three trips to three separate grocery stores have yet to produce even one scoop of Peppermint Stick Ice Cream. This is wrong and if it is not fixed soon, if the orders are not placed and the shelves not stocked to the point of overflowing, I will be picketing. I'm also going to assault the blog world with posts to end your failures. The fact that you are always out of stock should be clue enough to you that people buy the stuff- and evidently lots of it.

I went to Lowes on December 2 to buy a single strand of rope light that had gone out on my house.... only to find out that they were "sold out" and would not get anymore in for the remainder of the season. I eventually found the last possible strand on the very top and very back shelf a rival store- Target. This too is wrong. But it is like a childhood misdemeanor and the ice cream is like a federal felony.

For the love of all things good and holy, please, order the peppermint stick ice cream and no one will get hurt.

-One concerned consumer trying to keep the American stock market from crashing and trying to make the world a happy peppermint stick place,

Brian C. Berry


Monday, December 11, 2006


Last Friday night was our high school Christmas Party. We ate a traditional turkey meal cooked by families in our church, had a concert with a band called "This Holiday Life", and laughed a lot in our "late night show" portion of the night. The party is semi-formal and about 90 or so showed up dressed their best. It's a lot of work, but this year we saw a lot of visitors come, students really had a great time. All the planning, late nights, and phone calls seem to pay off.

This year we did a tradition I've done for the last 12 or 13 years. Whenever I do this semi-formal Christmas party, we assign a table number to all the tables: 1-12. Then we do the 12 days of Christmas- but we customize them. Everyone in the room sings the "on the ___ day of Christmas, my true love gave to me" part. Then the corresponding table group stands up and sings/yells their gift. Here's this year's 12 gifts list. Sing them to the tune as you read them and it'll be more fun. I put them in reverse order so you can sing it to yourself just once... :)

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
twelve molding fruitcakes
eleven chargers charging
ten hybrids driving
nine pants eemoing
eight ipods shuffling
seven mothers nagging
six blenders blending
five useless things
four lovely togas
three PS3’s
two myspace comments
and a monkey in a palm tree
We also did something new this year. For fun we did a contest of who could make the best "gingerbread" rendition of Mary and Joseph riding on a donkey on their way to the inn out of the supplies we provided in 5 minutes or less. They did it as a table group and it was tons of fun. They still amaze me when we do this kind of stuff with their creativity. (click on the picture above and it'll get bigger and you can see one of the creations) The supplies were:
  • 4 graham crackers
  • 10ish toothpicks
  • a hand full of skittles and runts candies
  • two small bins of colored frosting
  • 4 large marshmallows
  • a small bin of small marshmallows
  • candie sprinkle
All in all, it was fun, encouraging, and worth it. One of my values as a youth pastor is to see high school students enjoy themselves. I think they live in such a high pressure (and often pain filled) world, where everyone wants them to grow up and act 30 that I just want to preserve some of the joy of being in high school. I love it when they laugh, eat, and just seem to let the worries of life slip away for a few hours. I think that is one time when I feel God's presence most clearly.



Well, last weekend we went on the annual family Christmas light viewing. We piled in the car, hot chocolate and cookies in tow, even the dog in the back, put on our coats, and headed for Pepper Drive. We drove slow with the windows down and soaked it in. Shannon's favorite I think is one where this family has a wooden nativity out front and everyone is bowing down worshipping Jesus- even Santa who is on his knees and has his hat in his hand. I think that's kinda funny. I also like the guy who has this ridiculously huge display and then he has a "mailbox" out front asking for donations to the power company.

For what it's worth... here's a photo of our outdoor display. I added poinsettias to our annuals pots and Shannon found a new wreath this year. She said she couldn't handle the one with fake snow in the heat, this one looks more "tropical" she said. I just smiled and paid for it. We also added another lighted deer and an angel. I was told these were also needs, which upon purchase caused my wife to gather the children together, have them gaze up at me from under her arm, and then listen to their mother proclaim that when they grow up, she wants them to be just like me. Evidently the perfect husband buys too many freakin Christmas decorations.

Next year our landscaping project will be done and my boys are already plotting as to how we're going to light up all the new fence. I guess I better start saving for lights now. Maybe I should get ready for a power company donation box too :)


Sunday, December 10, 2006


I was talking with Shannon last night and we've been praying for a situation in the town where we grew up. We met in high school and attended one of two churches that had large youth ministries in our community. The two churches always had a good working relationship. But recently, one of them went through a big senior pastor change and they made a bad hire. The end result of the "search-hire-ask pastor to leave-search again process" was devastating on this one church and it's pastoral team- causing it to go from several thousand in weekend attendance- down to around 500 I heard. Here's some history.

  • Shannon and I attend in high school, our families serve there still.
  • We attended under Mark, our youth pastor who is still on staff, but in a different role.
  • I did 3 summers worth of internship in the high school ministry under Mark.
  • Current Senior Pastor, Larry, is our college pastor and also the youth pastor before Shannon and I's time.
  • Both Mark and Larry are good personal friends and mentors to me.

  • Church is across the street from Shannon's parent's house and right next door to our old high school.
  • We have lots of friendships with people who were on staff here at one time- one of whom was Doug Tegner, who ended up being the high school pastor colleague across town from me when I served in Fremont. He eventually left that church to serve as the National Network of Youth Ministries' president and I was invited to join him on a 3 year term of their Ministry Council.
  • Several years ago, Redwood made a bad senior pastor hire that caused the church to implode.
  • Doug went back to help serve in a role there with his wife, Leisa, on their team to help.
  • In the transition, lots of people leave, many find their way to Neighborhood.
  • Redwood decided a few weeks ago to hire their former youth pastor, Doug and his wife Leisa (who served at Redwood as a youth pastor colleague when Larry was youth pastor at Neighborhood) to be their new senior pastors.
  • Doug is also a friend and mentor to me.
  • Larry calls Doug and Leisa to come to Neighborhood on their weekend service before they officially start in their new position at Redwood in a few weeks.
  • Larry prays over Doug and Leisa a prayer of support, commissioning them as brothers and sisters in the faith to do the work of being Jesus to this community together with them.
  • Larry then speaks to the congregation. He encourages those who have transferred to Neighborhood from Redwood during this tough time to go back and support Doug and Leisa in the process of healing that community. They have found rest at Neighborhood, now they are encouraged to go back and rebuild across town at Redwood.
That's beautiful. That took guts and a Kingdom of God oriented heart. I've never been more proud of my mentors than today. What an amazingly clear Word from God and embrace of the Kingdom work in a community. These stories need more press. This is what Jesus came to create in us. I believe God smiled last weekend. I sure did.



I just paid $3.17 per gallon for diesel. When I bought my truck almost 7 years ago, I paid more to get a diesel engine because it would last longer, get better gas mileage than it's gasoline counterpart, would tow anything I needed to for youth group or family, and because diesel was the cheapest fuel available. Now, for some reason unknown to me, the gods of the fuel industry and decided it should cost me $.67 more than the cheapest fuel and a full $.20 more than premium. I think I'm going to go stab myself with a blunt object. It would be less painful than my fuel hell I'm living in. If I didn't use it so much for the purposes of a real truck and hauling stuff and yatta yatta... I'd get rid of it tommorrow. Ugh.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006


There are two- well actually three- billboards in my community that I pass up fairly regularly on my way to class. I risked my life on the freeway to photograph them for you.

One is creative, fun, and comically out of place. It's two billboards having a snowball fight. Click the picture below and it'll get bigger and you can see for yourself. But anyway, I dig it. It makes me smile. Party because in some strange way it's about coffee and partly because it's in a place where last year on Christmas Eve my kids had a water fight while I washed the car because it was 94 degrees. Notice their throwball fight is over a palm tree :)

The second is someone's idea of outreach I guess. I'm not sure what they are hoping for or why, but someone saw it fit to put some big sign up asking people if they are thinking about where they are driving theologically. This is moderately weird to me. It also presents God as a destination instead of a guide or a partner in life. I'd rather it said, "Choose wisely. No road is worth traveling without God." But I'd really rather it said, "Merry Christmas. -Jesus".


Monday, December 04, 2006


After 34 years, my Dad retired from serving the government. His job had some "secrecy" to it, so I never got to really be that close or that informed on the specifics of his work. I know generally what he did as an Engineer, but specifically- not so much. So when my mom asked me if I wanted to fly up last minute and surprise my Dad by going to his office retirement party at John's Grill in San Francisco, I jumped at the opportunity to meet his peer group. It was great to hear people say what he was like in the office and to hear his reputation for doing his job well. I was so glad I went. Now both Shannon and I have one parent "free of a boss". I'm looking forward to seeing God use my Dad as he wishes with no strings attached. How fun is that.



Just in case you were wondering, while taking pictures of my kids waiting to give their wish list to Santa, I was reminded who their mom is. Check out this picture of TJ and Shannon. Guess that seals it- we're going to have to invent a new excuse for when they behave badly. "They aren't ours- bet they were switched at birth" just ain't believeable.



This year my wife wanted to buy a pre-lit tree in a box for our family. She has her reasons. No more dead trees. No having to take it down immediately after Christmas. Yatta Yatta...

But alas.. I protest. If I had my way, I'd pile the family in the car, drive to the woods,and Paul Bunyan hack the thing down myself. I've done this several times. It's something we started doing when I was a kid. Then we stopped for a while and did it again once with my kids and my sister and her family in the snow covered mountains of Oregon. However, somewhere in there, Home Depot was invented.

So we don't even go to a "tree lot" anymore. We go to Home Depot and pick one out that's leaning up against a mountain of other trees. We settled early on in marriage on a compromise: I get my Noble Fir and shannon gets colored lights on the tree.

Anyway... last Saturday we made our trek to the land of all things pre-cut. Upon arrival, much to my surprise, we found that on the first Saturday of the month, Home Depot has a kid craft day in the parking lot. It's free from 9-11am. My kids got a workman's apron, a project pin, and a kit to make a box. They then lent us the tools and we had building and bonding time. All of a sudden- just like that- I'm a Home Depot fan. My kids loved it. I had fun. They had fun- and it was something we would not have done had I got to yell "timber!!!" in Oregon... though that would still trump this. Anyway, I put it on my calendar and now you know where I'll be the first Saturday of the month. Bonding, Building, and toasting to the land of bulk home products and evidently- family crafts.

Good times and Merry Christmas. Here's the HD project and the finished product of a decorated tree.



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

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