Saturday, March 29, 2008


One of the blogs I read is nothing but comic strips about the church. I'm not sure where I heard about it first. It was either from Marko or Josh. It's from London I think and as a result, sometimes it's got some inside humor I miss, but for the most part, I read it daily since it takes about 10 seconds and I never comment or read the comments- though I see from time to time that he has quite a few.

Anyway- tonight I noticed this one.

I found it interesting because I just had a conversation with a coworker last week about a difficult discussion I was set to have with some parents regarding addressing homosexuality in our youth ministry on the weekend. In talking about this issue, it seems to be one of the things people like to label themselves or others with. Homosexuality is never an issue. It quickly becomes the issue or the way people define you. It's almost got a racial status.

On the one side, I guess everyone labels themself something:
  • Christian. Buddhist. Soccer player. Baseball Fan. Pianist. Drummer. Artist. Architect.. whatever.
But some labels come with more baggage or highly opinionated responses by those around you when you say it is what you are:
  • Politician. Lawyer. Pastor. Cop. Evangelist. Abortion doctor. CEO of Walmart. etc....
But it is also true, that virtually no one labels themselves by what they struggle with, and it's often unsafe to share that issue in many church environments. So, you find someone very upset when you address one issue, but very much ignorant of their own mislabeled self. If we were all true to our labels, they might read something like the "comic" above or like this:

  • Adulterer. Liar. Struggling Alcoholic. Luster after all things electronic and new. Obese due to lack of self control. Stress case. Worry Wart. Unfaithful with my eyes. Porn addict. Anger management nightmare. Insecure. Financially irresponsible. Bitter. Struggling sex addict.
So, especially in the context of the church, it seems odd to me that we would, even when taking the position that homosexuality (male or female) is not part of God's design for sexuality, choose to label people by the thing they struggle to give over to Christ. And if we're going to do that with one group, guess you might as well start passing out the markers and label everyone that way. Seems like about the dummest thing the church could ever become is a place where people are defined by their past or their sins or whatever- especially when we are supposed to be defined by the identity and redemption we have in Jesus.

I pray that our youth ministry and the church I serve in never becomes a place where people are defined by their past or their struggles and temptations. At the same time, I pray that it is a place where people can be open and honest about those same things that they still wrestle with and find comrades and partners in the process of becoming like Jesus instead of condemning and judgmental fingers.


Thursday, March 27, 2008


Last week, my wife and I and my parents were all set to go out to dinner and to see Dancing in the Dark at the Old Globe theatre. We had tickets for a 7pm show and a baby sitter coming at 4:30 pm. But by around 2pm, we still needed dinner reservations.

So I heard that the melting pot is tons of fun. I called and landed a 5:15 reservation. Score!!!

I discovered it is a blast to go to the melting pot. Very cool and so worth the flow- even though it's a little pricey. Cooking your food at the table in vegetable broth and the appetizers and stuff was very worth repeating.

However, it is not something you can do in an hour and a half. It is basically an event in itself and should be given like 2 1/2 hours for the 4 course meal . So needless to say, at 6:35pm, realizing we were not going to finish our food (or even dream about the chocolate fondue desert- bummer), we dumped the remaining meat in the pot to cook, I bolted to go get the valet to get our car. Our tickets had a note on them that said they do not allow any late arrivals. So, since we could not afford to lose our tickets- which cost more than the meal- we then sprinted for the theater in our "zippy car". Mapquest says it's an 18 minute drive, I made it in 14. I think I may have left Jesus somewhere in the process.

I dropped my family off at the front door and went in search of a parking space- which at Balboa park is like a half mile away. I then began a sprint for the door and walked in just as the attendant was literally closing it. I felt like I was walking onto an airplane as the door was closing. So crazy. So fun. Too fast. Next fancy date I'm taking a whole day and I say the show should start at 8pm.



I sold the bed and the christmas dishes from my previous post today. 1 via craigslist. 1 via my blog. Cool. $150 to Uganda. $everal thousands more to go. Woo hoo. The pennies are adding up.

Now I just need to sell the camera and the pda.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Well, if you're in the market for a PDA or an antique twin size bedroom set or you just dig a good garage sale and you want to help my family get to Uganda to serve in an orphanage this summer, well then I could use the help.

Here's 4 links to the berrytribe's latest craigslist adventures:


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Because of things like this map they linked to, which is AWESOME!!!!



Tonight I'm up for reasons I won't go into... but to kill the time, I'm going back through my long ignored list of bloglines. As a pattern, there are some blogs I read weekly, but some just get stuck in my blog roll for a once a month visit or something. These are mostly some of the more technical or theological blogs that I'm interested in the subject of, but that I don't share a personal relationship with the author.

One of those is the Emergent Village blog.

Well tonight I noticed a post for an Easter Message via song from Brian Mclaren on that blog and I braced myself before hitting play on the embeded video.. cuz for various reasons, there always seems to be hype and controversy surrounding Brian Mclaren- and I assumed this would be provocative too. I expected it to be some sort of music montage with a message of him speaking or something.

I was wrong on both counts. I can't imagine one Christ-follower who could honestly have anything but praise for him in this song he wrote about the life of Jesus and the message of Easter. Ok... I have one rant. "Can every pastor in the world play a guitar and sing except me!?!?" Ok.. rant over.

Here's evidence that Brian McLaren has musical talent too.



Well, one of the perks of moving to this house in San Diego almost 3 years ago was the empty dirt lot next to our house that we sorta inherited. It is about 3/4 of an acre of non-buildable land per the city and as a result, is a great exploration space that I'm sure my kids will see as symbolic of their boyhood years in the future. They, along with the other neighborhood kids, have claimed it as their own personal sandlot where they've been known to dig for treasure, fight battles, and more recently- build bmx jumps. As a result, there seems to be a constant supply of shovels and bikes in the back 40 these days.

We also have a set of jumps around the corner in the dirt off to the side of the main road. A group of dads, teens, and men who are just big kids inside have turned a barren/brush filled roadside into the land of all things dirt and big air focused called the Cuyamaca Jumps. Most of the jumps are too big for my boys (like some are 7 or 8 feet high) and usually we just go ride around them and watch other kids jump.

That was until this past Saturday when the "just-watch-others-go-big" days passed us up. My older two have now earned their flying wings (and accompanying flesh wounds) and thanks to some instruction from our newest Berry Family recruit- Matt who has stayed with us for a few weeks now and took my boys to jump school with his new bike- they are now flying in the land of all things dirt jump.

Here's 3 picture collages to see the proof I speak of...


Monday, March 24, 2008


Easter was a kick. Started pretty early and was at church until about 1pm. I loved church. Read: "LOVED it". It was so fun, exciting, and inspiring. Made me want to live more intentionally for Jesus and do a great job as a youth pastor at Journey, just so that I can hold up my end of the deal. I love the fact that I can invite a student or their parents to come and know they will all have a great time. So cool and so challenging.

After church we headed back to our house. My parents are here in town. We had the neighbors from down the street up for an egg hunt with their youngest kids and then dinner with everyone after. When we add the Cleaves family, a college room mate of one of their children, and Matt (a former student who we have taken in during some tough times and has been living with us for about 2 weeks now) and you end up with 14 people for dinner. So much fun.

Here's some pics:


Saturday, March 22, 2008


Today was my first day off in a while. I slept in. Had a cup of coffee. Picked up my parents from the airport, and then sat down to be lazy when TJ said, "Can you help me build a go-cart?" I thought about it and said, "What are you going to build it with?" He said, I don't know. Spare stuff.?.?

So, we went out into the garage...

  • 2 bike wheels off a busted bike.
  • 3 lengths of 2x4
  • 1 wood crate
  • 2 training wheels
  • and some nuts and bolts later...

we had a go-cart to rival the land of go-carts.


Friday, March 21, 2008


I'm lost. What is up with Twitter? I mean really, who has time to tell the world what they are doing every second or to check up on their friends? And since when do I want to constantly answer the question, "What are you doing right now?" all the time for my friends via the web? I thought it was weird enough that you're supposed to update a status on facebook answering this question, but do we really need another social networking site dedicated to just this one function? I think twitter is either a voyeuristic niche market or maybe for the technologically bored.... but what is the draw here? Am I missing something?

I can't see myself ever updating my status hourly so people know what I'm up to. This seems crazy to me.



In two days I'm going to celebrate Easter with a HUGE milk shake. HUGE. Like as big as my good ol friend Peter Yokota's head.

For 38 days I have not eaten a piece of chocolate, not one skittle, no ice cream, no cookies, nothing that could be declared a sweet or a dessert. I have not eaten the staff birthday cake, no easter jelly beans, not even didn't eat my stupid fortune cookies at Panda Express. It has been my first experience of giving up something for lent.

I have kept this candy jar in my office to lure people in like fish to my friendship bait and it works. People keep coming in and eating it, which is great but I have not eaten any. None. I just smile and say, "Enjoy". I have been trying to turn my face to Easter every time I've been tempted to eat it, which seems like every day. But alas... my fast is almost over.




Your the "pastor on call". You get called to the front office for two men in need of help. One in his 50's and one is his 20's. Both are previously married, have kids, and are now divorced. Both are estranged from their families and are now claiming to be "partners". They have been coming on and off to your church for 6 months or so and it's Maundy Thursday, 3 days before Easter. They are asking you for food money and a hotel room because the disability check they live off is 2 days late and the ghetto hotel they are living in kicked them out and they don't want to sleep in their car again.

You invite them to come to church on Good Friday and Easter, but feel the conviction of James 2 that if you simply say "God bless you" and do nothing to meet their physical needs, that you have not really been like Jesus to them. So you know you're going to give them a couple pre-paid food cards, but what about their hotel stay? Does their sexual preference or struggle play into what you do here?

So, do you buy these two "gay men" a hotel room with the hotel contract you have for this purpose through your church?

If you do, do you buy one or two rooms?

How would your answer change if they were boyfriend and girlfriend? What if it's a non-married couple with 2 kids?

I know what I did, what would you do?


Thursday, March 20, 2008


Well for about 6 months I've been stewing on this post, but for various reasons I have not said anything. Not that I think it's a real shocker or that very many of the 4 people who read my blog will even care, but tonight, I'm breaking my silence. I think there are two things that are normal in the church office life that I think are broken. I'm know they are normal in the business world too, but I don't like them in particular in my world and I don't think they don't foster our goals.


I think we all need to get out of the office to think a little. I think it's great to meet in a cafe or whatever. I don't have a problem with a conference room or place where private conversations can be had. But I really don't like the boxed in or absent faced office spaces that a lot of churches, including my own can tend to foster.

Here's why:
  • Offices keep people segregated, not integrated.
  • Offices enhance the individual at the expense of the team.
  • Working from home is about the product, not the community.
  • Offices cause people to call and e-mail one another when they are 3 feet away.
  • Working from home does not build relationships or cause others to share ideas.
  • Offices encourage the private life at the expense of the group life.
  • Offices reinforce comparison instead of creativity.
  • Working from home is often motivated by comfort.

My optimal? Some variation of cubicle land. This post I think is pushing it, but I'd try this before offices. It allows people enough personal space to not be distracted by every passer by while allowing the community to still be active. I think working together and dreaming and laughing and doing life in the office doesn't happen because we spend so much time working from home or locked up in our offices that a lot of the casual/ life on life community that could happen is circumvented by the architecture.

Recently I was given the chance to redo and resize my office to a smaller/neater work space and to redo our student ministries conference room to make it fun and inspiring. This was due to some office staff moving around and the need to create another office space due to new hires and such. Personally, I still would have loved to have bulldozed the interior walls and turned it into cubicles with some specific rooms for people to share: a library, a cafe, a brainstorming room, and a few meeting rooms around the side would have been sweet.

But despite my complaining, I do like my new digs... even if they must have fullsize boxed in walls.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


About 3 months ago I was asked to oversee not just middle school and high school, but college age as well. We now have 5ish people on our paid team.

  1. Myself as Student Ministries Pastor and High School Director.
  2. Christina as Middle School Ministries Director
  3. Todd as College Age Ministries Director (2 days a week)
  4. Sarah as High School Women's Coordinator and Weekend Producer (half time)
  5. Aundrea- Administrative Assistant (1 day a week)
We started having staff meetings for our whole team together once a month and one thing we wanted to do was unify our ministries under one common banner and decide what we could and should do together instead of apart.

As a result, we landed on an overall missions statement we really like that we are all going to teach through next fall as we launch into our new leadership teams. Here it is:
Inviting a generation to understand, own, and live out a life changing faith in Jesus.

I also had a friend toy with an idea about a logo using the recycling theme. I liked it because it was 3 sided and implied that our ministries were cyclical and dependent on one another. Well he tweaked it some and I really like what we landed on. Here it is (the E is from our Encounter High School Logo, the R is from the Riptide Middle School Logo, and the NF is from New Format- the college age logo):

Maybe now we can get some current websites up and stuff.



I wrote another article for simply last week called "Maximizing the ministry of the moment". It posted today.

Here's the intro:

There is a relationship between time spent and impact had. Just like you can’t get closer to your spouse by spending less time with him or her, you can’t change the fact that the more time you spend with a student or friend, the more impact you’ll have on one another. But this truth often leaves many (myself included) feeling guilty because there’s not enough time to meet with all the people you wish you could.

So, while there are no short cuts, there are a few ways to make sure the time you do spend with students, staff, or family is leveraged for maximum impact. Here are four ways.
Hit up the whole article if you want on read about how on Simply's site.


Monday, March 17, 2008


I hate it.
I hate it because it can control me.
I hate it because it can ruin my day when I fail at it.
I hate it because it is inevitable that I can't do it.
I hate it because when I don't, sometimes it means I screwed up.
I hate it because when I do it, it is a temporary fix.
I hate it because it feels like I'm living in a fishbowl.
I hate it like hollywood hates the paparazzi.
I hate it because it makes it hard to rest.
I hate it because it is always undone.
I hate it because it is both Godly and ungodly and therefore must always be inspected.
I hate it.

I hate it because it is a double edged sword. Even when I do achieve it with someone, it by default it means I did not achieve it with someone else.

I hate it because my job and my faith requires me to both care about it and not care about it. Constantly. Every day. It's like this healthy and unhealthy tension at all times.

I hate it because it makes it hard to say no to anyone. My family. My teachers. My boss. My friends. Homeless people. Pretty much anyone. Sometimes even those who hate me.

I hate it because it makes anything I do for myself sometimes feel selfish.

I hate THE PEOPLE PLEASER part of me. Sadly, it appears to be stuck inside and might never leave.

Here's some verses I've been wrestling with on the subject the last few months:

Galatians. 1:10 Am I now trying to win human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Matthew 22:16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. (Side note: even though the speakers are being sarcastic in this verse, I wonder if it's not like all sarcasm, holding a bitting piece of truth to it. Jesus both cared for people and didn't care what they thought.)

Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!"

1Corinthians 10:32-11:1 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

2Corinthians 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
One day. Maybe. Maybe I'll figure out how to care about people without caring about pleasing them. Then maybe I won't hate it. Maybe.


Friday, March 14, 2008


This weekend we finish our dating/sexuality series entitled "Hooking up" in Encounter. Instead of take the time that I've been taking each week to review our series up to this point, I decided to write a one page overview of the topics and themes we covered and put it in the high school program this weekend.

I always love what God does in this series and I love the challenge of trying to think and re-think of new ways to deal with a topic I've now given something like 50 different messages on over the years. It's interesting to review them and see how even my own theological perspectives have changed over the years too. For what it's worth, here's the summary of what we talked about this year:
For those of you who have been in this series the past 5 weeks, then you know that we have been talking about how knowing “what to do” and knowing “why we behave as we do” are two very different things. When it comes to dating and sexuality, most people want to know the answer to the what type questions: “What can I do? How far can I go? Who can I date? What is God’s plan for my dating life? What is sexually moral behavior?”,etc. All of these are common questions. However we believe, especially in regards to this issue, it is rather childish to merely do what we are told without knowing why. Having a list of taboo sex acts or dating principles in your back pocket or a promise ring around your finger representing a purity pledge you gave in youth group one Sunday will NOT be what it takes to live a God-honoring dating life when the real temptations come. Those things only have value when you know, own, and understand clearly why those decisions are valuable and wise in the first place. The more we own the why’s of a Godly theology, the more the “what to do and not to do” makes sense. Therefore this series has not focused on the what of dating, sexuality, and gender differences. Instead it has focused on the why’s of the faith. Why did God create us different? Why should we get married or stay single? Why should we make the choices we make with our body? Now we pray that these things we understand and truly own on a deep conviction level will therefore lead to a more powerful, more theological, and more intentional “what” in our behavior.

Here's the PDF you can download if you want to see the breakdown week by week and the main Bible Texts we used.

Another thing we did this year too was add an ability for students to "text in questions" using their cell phone at various points in my messages or during the service. It's something we stole as an idea from our main service. They call it a "chat room". We stole texting shorthand and called it "IDK" (or I Don't Know for you non-texting types) This year, we got some great questions and this weekend we will tackle on big question that came up on the issue of homosexuality. I'm team teaching with a guy on our staff who has a god-honoring perspective on this subject but would still describe himself as a "homosexual man" by way of desire or temptation. Should be an awesome weekend. I can't wait to watch God work in students lives, several of which I know feel this same struggle themselves.

Oh, and for the first time, I used the woman at the well as a teaching text on this subject. It was amazing and I had never looked at that text through those eyes before. But this girl's video is off the hook. I wish I had found it before I taught. So worth using.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


There have been some milestones in my role as a student ministries pastor over the years. My first job. My first hire. My first intern. My first office. My first "I'm gonna quit" day. My first day of seminary. My first seminary class I quit. My first ministry transition to another church. My first invitation to teach a seminar at a national youth pastors convention. My first wedding of a former student couple followed by various ones of those couples having kids. My first wedding that the marriage didn't make it. My first funeral of a former student. Some highs. Some lows.

Well, today I just found out that my desire to write something that is published has officially come to pass. I've been waiting to say so for about 6 months now, but last week the Bible Studies I've been writing for Simply finally finished the editing and graphic design process and are now online. So, it's another first. Kinda fun. Someday maybe I'll write my first real book. I don't get royalties from these studies and they don't even say that I wrote them, but I told them I didn't care about either one anyway. I just wanted to take my passion to write and put it into action in an environment where others could benefit from it. So, if you're looking for some Bible Studies, I think they are good and you can grab the first two online. The sell for $3 a week. Can't beat that.

The first one I wrote is called, "Minor Prophets, Major Messages" and is 6 weeks long.

The Second is creatively called "Ruth" and is 4 weeks long.

I have two more series in the hopper. One is in the editing process and one in the writing phase. I'll let you know when they hit the online world.

Wooo hoooo.


Monday, March 10, 2008


Several months ago I switched my day off from Friday to Monday.  This was due to the fact that I have been at church 15 hours or more on  most Sundays ever since we started a 6:30pm service for our students.  So I have room prep and then service in the morning.  Meetings almost all afternoon.  Ending with service in the evening and some clean up and such.  It all adds up to equal a very tired and spent Brian on Mondays.

Anyway- some Mondays have been fun days with my boys when they were off school.  Some have been date days with my wife.  Some have been sleep all day days- especially on Monday's that Shannon has to work.  But today was a little of a lot of stuff.  But it was supposed to be a date the wife and hang out with my boys day.   Shannon and I did go for a walk/jog with the dog.  We went out to breakfast and ran some errands together and then got the boys from school.  We all went as a family to Jake's t-ball game followed by dinner with some friends.  Then I helped Jake build his plan for a Lepricon trap for school (don't ask).  All sounds good.  Except for the fact that my cell phone found it's way in there a few too many times today.  Here's how:
  • An emergency call from a travel agent working on Uganda flights that ended up causing me to have to swing by the office and pick some stuff up to mail.  
  • A phone call to a broker I'm trying to do some investing through to make my dollar go farther these days.
  • A phone call from an detective on a case involving someone from our church.  
  • A conversation with a couple I've been meeting with for over a month whose marriage going through a rough time. 
  • A call from a family who we borrowed their van and broke the headlight on a youth trip, setting up a time to get it fixed. 
  • A text from a student wanting her new baby baptized.
  • Another student I'm mentoring telling me via text he was going to the movies.
All good/even important things.  Just not a Sabbath from work.   

This day came on the heals of a devotional thought by our Christina at the middle school adult volunteers meeting yesterday on taking a Sabbath day.   It also came on the heals of a ministry article I wrote this week for Simply Youth Ministry on the subject of maximizing the ministry of moments.  In it I recommended that one way to make the most of your time with others is to turn OFF your cell phone.  I also confessed that the entire article is stuff I'm working on, not stuff I have mastered. 

Well today was proof of that.  

So as a result, here is my edict:

On a Sabbath day, which in most cases will be Monday for me, I will not be answering my cell phone, texting, or responding to e-mail.  

It will all have to wait.  I'm spending time with God, my family, and giving my soul a detox from these pieces of technology.

My cell phone bill tells me I spend about 1300 minutes a month using this piece of equipment- 95% of which is for ministry purposes.  I almost never use my desk phone and rarely use our home phone.  I also send hundreds of e-mails and another 150 text messages or so now that my iphone allows me to do a group text to my guys small group and leadership team and such.

But not on Mondays anymore.  So that is my monday night edict.  Wish me luck.  


Saturday, March 08, 2008


Jake is the only kid playing baseball this year. This means we have 2- one hour a week games. This is a cake walk compared to the additional 4 games a week at 3 hours a piece, no life, a empty bucket of sunflower seeds, and a deep desire to stab myself in the eye with a pencil, that we would normally have occured if all 3 were playing and my wife and I ended up watching hours and hours of other kids play baseball.

But Jake is on cloud nine. He's there during the game too, pretty much proving he has a solid case of A.D.D. But today he said he wants to practice more, so hopefully we can channel some of his energy.



Last Monday I took my kids and some of their friends and ditched school to go see the saber tooth cats and mammoths and other stuff from the ice age in down town Los Angeles at the La Brea Tarpits. Who knew that we had saber tooth tigers and Elephants roaming in LA before it was LA and that we would eventually find their bones in a tarpit in the park. Crazy. You never know when you go to a museum what your kids are really going to think, but I figured with a tiger with 12" teeth and tar and stuff I had a good chance of them liking it. I wasn't too sure though until Tyler told his mom (who had to work and didn't go) that he wanted to take his friends for his birthday. Guess that means he thought it was fun.

On another level, these things make we wonder about the age of the earth, my view of creation, and the ebb and flow of the temperature of this globe through history.



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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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