Thursday, February 26, 2009


I'm in a suburb of Salt Lake City and I'm trying to find the hotel I'm staying in and when I do, it's next to this Massive Ford dealership. And out in front of the dealership is this MASSIVE truck:

I think I'm getting old or changing or I dunno. Here's what i used to think:
  • dang, cool truck.
  • I want to get in that thing.
  • How in the world do you see out of it? Who cares?!
  • I bet that was fun to do.
  • Let's go mud bogging.
Here's what I was thinking when I took the picture today:
  • why?
  • what a waste of money
  • this is why they say America uses more resources than any other country on the planet.
  • this is why kids are in poverty around the world, cuz Americans are putting $50,000 into lifting and painting fantasy dragon porn on the side of their trucks in the hopes that it will make other people buy more trucks.
  • what exactly is the purpose of a side step that is 7 feet off the ground?
  • I spent way too much time in Africa last year to appreciate this truck
  • This truck is 10x larger than anything I've ever seen in Uganda.
  • Crap... I own this same truck, just A LOT lower to the ground and a different paint job.
  • I must be an idiot too.



Well, TODAY, was the first day of school in America for Becky and Billy. That makes 5 kids, one substitute teacher, and one field trip dad in the public schools for our family.

We met with the principal on Monday morning to finalize a teaching plan for our newest recruits. Then by Monday afternoon we were back and they got to meet their teacher (Mrs. Olsen), sit in their desks, and see the place they'll call "school" for the next few months. Billy in particular has been doing the count down ever since. We told him "3 sleeps and then you get to go to school". Every night since he has told us what number sleep it was.

This morning he woke up saying, "Sleep 3 is all finished. Now we get dressed, eat breakfast, and go to school." So fun.

Shannon stayed through lunch and here's her account of the day. I got it in an e-mail she sent, so this is her first ever blog post of the 707 on here (without permission by the way)- shhhhh, don't tell her I stole it from my in box :)

  • Mrs. Olsen is very kind and they were so happy to go today! I stayed with them and talked them through all of the processes until lunch time. I left them for the afternoon. When they came out of their classroom after school, they both seemed rather pleased-and a bit shell shocked- but all was well. Becky brought me into the room after school to show me the art project that she had done in the afternoon. The students had made a duck and on hers was written the word "duck". Very cute. The teacher has asked that I come back tomorrow morning until recess. That is when her small reading groups are going on and Becky and Billy need a little one-on-one direction until they are more able to work semi-independently. They used the computers in their classroom, loved having their own pencil box, and had a great time at recess. The other children were very attentive, a little too attentive!! Becky couldn't walk 2 steps without a girl or 3(!) holding her hands. I'm hoping that it all dissipates by Monday when they come back after the weekend and they aren't "new" any more. Jake found Billy and was his leader out on the playground. So nice for Jake to feel like he had a job of looking after them on the playground. Jake was pretty puffed up answering all the other kids' questions. His class has waited for these kids to come to school-they were all very excited! I so badly just want Billy and Becky to be "normal" and one of the "regular" Rancho kids. I hope soon... All in all, a successful day!! Another huge step towards our "new normal". The bonus-they were REALLY tired and took REALLY long rests today! LOVE THAT!! :)
And here's some pictures from day #1.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Tonight in our guys small groups, we stumbled upon a question towards the end of our discussion.  I liked it.  I think it has potential to increase the "get it" factor among our dudes if we press it for a while.

So tonight I decided that I'm gonna put some planning and effort behind this question that I'm gonna ask every week for a while.  I'm gonna ask it of myself and my students:



Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I've spent the last 2 days in planning meetings and prepartion for a thing we host each summer with some other churches called OGN.  This is the second time we've hosted the meeting at the Dana in Mission Bay.  Dang is this place pretty.  Makes you feel bad for being inside at all and guilty for living in San Diego.  I mean some of the people in these meetings live in Fresno.  Seriously.  Fresno.

Here's why Fresno house prices are $5 a square foot and SD's are $500.  I actually went the wrong way out of the Dana on our way to dinner tonight solely to snap this pic of an AMAZING sunset.  Man if I lived on the beach I'd set a date with God every sunset and watch him paint.  Simply incredible and a beauty beyond words.

Oh... and just to prove we're actually working and not just watching the sunset, here's the plan we've come up with for the teaching we'll be doing in the classes at OGN this year.  Yep, those are brain storm sticky notes on a window with a bay view.  I know, it's a tough life we're living, but someone's gotta use this conference room, so it might as well be us.


Sunday, February 22, 2009


So, today was a fun morning at Encounter in our annual dating/sexuality series. We laughed, we thunk, we prayed, we talked, we read our bibles, we sang... good Sunday with some visitors, good student involvement, and pretty high engagement in our teaching.

In main service this weekend, the "adult services" are in the last Sunday of a campaign/ re-commitment/ vision casting series on the process our church has gone through to buy our buildings that started 18 months ago and is now at the half way point of a 3 year project. Good stuff. Important stuff.

But IF you were in high school, which series would you take your boyfriend/girlfriend to?

IF you were me, then you watched two separate couples at two separate times walk hand in hand smiling and giggling right past your high school room door, acknowledge you, and then keep on going to main service.

IF you are me, then you would scratch your head, wonder what in the world you are doing, and why two dating couples would ditch a dating series to go listen to a money talk while pondering stabbing yourself in the eye with a blunt object. 14 years of youth ministry has taught me I don't know jack about teens.


Saturday, February 21, 2009


There are a few people in the christian writer/ speaker/ pastor world whose words and teaching really rub me wrong. By way of an example, there are a few whose view about women I disagree with significantly. But then I remember those men are married and (in this case) have daughters who love them and then I think... I must be missing something. Those same individuals I'm annoyed by are also cuddling and kissing and tucking in little kids who think their daddy hung the stars.

I think that all too often we treat famous people or public figures as easy targets for our angst. Somehow, subliminally we believe that their "public" position or their power gives us the right to de-humanize in some way and cast our frustrations boldly in their way, ignoring the other roles they also play. They are a "public figure" so we have the right to be public with our opinions. That's called "freedom of speech" and the big ship makes an easy target.

While I find from time to time these feelings rising up in me, one thing that keeps me grounded is remembering that while I might not like them or understand them right now, in many cases, they are "it" in someone else's world who sees them VERY VERY differently than I do through my eyes.

So... when I was catching up on blogrolls I have not read in along time, I ran across this video clip on a friend's blog. It shows a VERY VERY different perspective on a few public figures who are/were "the most powerful men in the world" to some, but simply "Daddy" or "Grandpa" to others.

I cried when I watched this. I long for this kind of sweet innocence and hope.


Thursday, February 19, 2009


One of the things I returned home to was a stack of magazines I had not read along with a DVR full of 24 episodes I can't seem to get to.

But anyway, in the Newsweek article from Jan 19 I read this article and it wrecked me.  I actually printed in and used it for our guys small group discussion last night... which I think was amazing and inspiring and challenging to think through as we read Scripture and compared it to what was recorded in this article.  But reading it hurt.  It saddened me.  The words on the page pained me.

I hurt for the local church.
I hurt for the global church.
I hurt as I read some of the comments on the online post and the implications this story has.
I hurt for Ted's family and for Ted.
I hurt for whatever pain would seemingly justify a group of "believers" to tell an old friend to take his severance package and leave the state, never to return.
I hurt for unity and grace and truth and true community.
I hurt for those in hiding.
I hurt for those who keep people in hiding.
I hurt for a family who is trying to follow Jesus and feels like they must do it in hiding.
I hurt....

I'm positive this article is biased against the Christian church in general.  I'm also positive God's grace is big enough even for this mess.  Grace is messy.  Grace is big.  Grace is soooo desperately needed in the mahem that is the wake of sin. 

O God help us. O God protect us.



The newest addition to the manhood of the berrytribe is a nut job.

Yep.... he's a goof. He's smart as whip. But he's a total goof. Here's my proof, God help us :)

  • "There are ten." This is the answer to any question about how many of an item there are that is beyond what he can count. It is the perfect substitute for the word "lots". There are "ten." When you see planet earth showing you thousands of bugs and he screams, "There are ten".... it's funny.
  • DEEP SCRATCHY voice. When he really wants to tell you something intense, he lowers his chin and says it in this deep scratchy voice. It's super funny. When he says, "There are ten" in this voice, it's even funnier.
  • Dancing. The kid dances like a crazy goon and shakes the tiniest buns on the planet in the funniest of formations.
  • Running. He is not so fast. Like he is ridiculously slow and he runs all hunched over. We did not adopt a future million dollar athlete. He is a goofy runner.
  • Laugh. He laughs funny. I don't know how to type it. It's like Haaaahaaaahooo haaaaa heeee hooo hhaaaaa. Or something like that. But it makes me laugh just thinking about it.
  • He is deathly afraid of the dog. Watching him begin to not get deathly afraid of the dog by showing you how the dog yawns, licks, or scratches by demonstration is super duper funny. Good news, he no longer jumps on the table or screams when the dog comes around and the other day he actually touched him. Oh.. and the revelation that the dog did not eat people was a REVELATION.
    • "Zues eat food in bowl. He no eat Becky. He no eat Billy."
    • "Yes. that is right. Zeus does not eat people."
    • "Zeus no eat Billy."
    • "Right." (glad you discovered we did not go 20,000 miles to get you to feed you to the dog)
  • He can pitch a fit with the best of them when things don't go his way if he forgets this does not get him jack squat in the berry house. This is not funny. But it is so overrided by the other funny stuff, that he is still super duper funny.
here's the funny man at work:
  • Dancing at the pool:

  • Showing me his first pair of shoes and socks he's ever owned:

  • overlooking the Nile with his big ol grin

  • Dancing to the beat:



I have long wondered what it would be like to have a daughter. After 3 good old fashion births that produced boys, my wife was convinced that there were evidently no girls swimming in the race at all. So we formed a pact and agreed that if a girl was coming to the berrytribe, she'd have to come via adoption.

So we waited for the right timing. For years it turns out. And when we went to Uganda to get a daughter and another son (who we had no idea God had in mind too), I was nervous and excited. I'm so thankful we did though, on both accounts.

As a father of a 5 year old little girl right out of the starting gate, here's what I'm learning so far:

  • The idea that boys are made of snails and puppy dog tails might be true. However my girl is not made of sugar and spice. She is made of flowers and clothes.
  • Everything made for little girls that we own has either a flower or a cupcake on it. Sometimes a cupcake with a flower.
  • Hair is a big deal. Putting things in your hair is also a big deal.
  • When you go to bed, you should get lots of furry friends, all your dolls, and then you cuddle. This is why in high school, 12 of them will sleep in one queen size bed if you let them.
  • She has a HUGE conscience and is not a fan of being in trouble. She learns fast.
  • She loves tomatoes.
  • She LOVES flowers.
  • She HATES being messy or dirty.
  • The little brown cabbage patch doll she was given by her brothers must get up and get dressed like she does. When headed to bed, she also needs a change of clothes and ALL the doo-dads out of her hair too. This not negotiable.
  • When she says, "I want kiss you" it is may be the cutest thing I've ever heard.
  • I love my boys. I'm gonna train them to be men of character as best I can. Then I'm gonna train them to circle up and fend off boys who don't make the cut from getting anywhere near the only little girl around here.
oh.. and by request, here's my favorite 3 pics for you amy :)


Tuesday, February 17, 2009


If you are one of the 4 youth pastors that read my blog, you need to know the joys of Coroplast.

For over a decade I've been doing some kinda set design.... some elaborate. Some simple. But almost always it has involved making something out of cardboard and then painting it.

Well, for the last 4 years I have not touched a piece of cardboard. Thanks to the beautiful and wonderous gift the sign industry calls coroplast- which is basically a plastic cardboard of sorts.

It's about 10 bucks per 4 x 8 sheet, it comes in a grip of colors... even one that is clear so that you can backlight it if you want. You can cut it with a basic utility knife or a table saw or whatever your heart desires. We have used it for everything from life size silhouettes to cutting out letters to basic decor changes.

It pretty much rocks.

In our current series, I used the table saw for the first time to cut a black sheet into strips and then the students hot glued them onto a white sheet and we hung them from the ceiling to give the walls some pop for fun.

You just can't be the transformational possibilities of coroplast. You can even get it in at least two thicknesses, one that is about a 1/4 inch thick that we use most often and occasionally we use the thicker one that is about twice that thick.

When I took our kids to the children's museum, they had made an entire igloo and some trees out of it. You gotta love coroplast. The sign industry already does. You should get some and have some fun. I buy mine through our local plastics dealer, but you can also get it from wholesale sign supply shops.


Monday, February 16, 2009


We have basically been electronic free with Becky and Billy.  No wii, no tv, no movies, really not much at all.  Our other 3 boys have done great with it and it's helped us get to know Becky and Billy as a family and play with them and let them get acclimated to our culture without being baptized into commercials and so much more too.

Truth be told, it's probably good for all of us. 

However the one thing that has become somewhat of a tradition already in spite of this technology free world is sitting around our front room letting everyone be mesmerized by the crazy amazing video footage of plants and animals of Planet Earth.  It's so fun to hear them announce names of things they know, call out colors, and ask questions about everything.  My boys and I already loved planet earth, but now we are indoctrinating the twins.  So far, we've made it through almost one of the 5 disks in our 20 minute stints before bed.  So fun.

Here's the crew pondering the craziness of fungus' that kill bugs before heading to bed.



When in Uganda, we bought 4 paintings for our home from 3 different artists.  The local artists paint them on canvas and then -so you can get them home easily- they pull the painting off the frame and roll it up in a cardboard tube.  You then take it home, rebuild the frame, stretch the art again, staple it, and hang it in your house. 

Today I spent a few hours and cleaned up my garage a little and then made the frames for all 4 paintings and hung them.  Here's the end product.


This one for our front room.  It was originally 2 big giraffe's, but we changed our mind and got this one instead at the last minute.  It is the only one that didn't ship well.  Not sure what happened... if it was rolled wrong or too soon after painting it or what, but if you look close it has quite a few cracks and stuff in it.  Oh well.  It's still kinda fun to have and from a distance, it looks great.

This one for our kids "play room".  It was originally for Becky's room, but we changed our minds.

ONE FROM GERALD for Jake and Billy's Room. 

ONE FROM JAFFER for Becky's Room... with my self portrait as a bonus :)

We also hung a name plate that Auntie Erica sent us for Becky's room.  She loves it. 


Sunday, February 15, 2009


Every once in a while, I have to pinch myself and make sure I'm not dreaming. San Diego can be so beautiful and sometimes doing life here feels surreal. I never "wished I could live here" and there are lots of beautiful places on this planet, but some days I find myself in this "world class destination" and looking at the tourists around me and wondering why God said we could live here.

Saturday was one of those days. I found myself on more than one occasion asking myself, "Are you kidding me? This can't be real." Since Tyler's soccer tournament was canceled due to the rain all week making the fields unplayable, we decided to take the kids to the Children's Museum in San Diego. Oh boy, so much fun. We landed parking on the street for $2 and hung out in this kids wonderland of play and creativity for a few hours. Plus... since we have like 500 kids now, the $10 per person entrance fee got us so close to a season pass that I sprung for the extra $5 it required and now we can go all year for free.

here's some of our fun in photos....

Afterward we headed to Seaport Village for lunch and to see the boats and Grandma even sprung for a merry-go-round trip too... The whole day amounted to some great bonding and an entire new set of "firsts" for Becky and Billy.

I'm sure my rainy days are coming, but this valentines day was a sweet day of love.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Well, pretty much everything these days is a first for our kids.  Here's a list of the Becky and Billy firsts from our first half week in America as a family of 7.

  • first time in a car seat
  • first trip to the grocery store
  • first trip to the doctor's office.  Billy weighs in at a hefty 33 lbs according to the doctor.  Hey- that means the kid has porked up a full 3 pounds while with us!  His wrist is so skinny that I can make a circle with my index finger and thumb and slide it up and down his arm with room to spare.  The doc is doing a bunch of tests to make sure everything is functioning correctly too.  But I think he's just a tiny kid in a happy home.
  • first time touching a dog.  Yeah, pretty much that took 3 days to accomplish.  Our dog is a lab/rottweiler mix and he weighs over a 100 pounds, so he weights 3x more and stands almost as tall as they do.   In addition, in Uganda, dogs are either wild or trained to defend the house and eat you.  So to say that they were petrified of this GIANT beast before them is the understatement of the year.  But we're making solid progress. 
  • first time eating cherrios cereal
  • first milkshake
  • first PB and J sandwich
  • first time taking a bath... and first one with a muzungu :)

lots more firsts to come. 


Sunday, February 08, 2009


Well, after 20,000 miles in the air, 4 planes, 3 continents, 4 passports, 2 U.S. visas, months of planning, 32 days in route or in Uganda, too many hours to count of waiting in line, filling out legal documents, praying, anxious waiting and wondering we are finally and officially home safely in San Diego as a family of 7.

I have just finished sorting a 24" pile of bills, tax documents, and stuff I need to follow up with down to about 6" deep, but I felt the need to stop and update you on our progress before I try to go beat some of my jetlag via my pillow.

Here's a few tidbits for you.

PICS: I have posted the best of my pics via facebook along this journey. I restricted access to the face shots of our kids until we got home. So, if you want some family pics, minus our arrival shots which I have not gotten yet because they were taken by the entourage of family that was there to greet us, I have now changed their status to be viewed by the general public. I probably won't leave them up for forever, but if you want, you can find them


Jake, our youngest white boy:
  • "Dad, I thought that having a sister would be bad. But I like her."
  • "Dad, will they ever turn white?"
  • "No Jake, they'll always be brown."
  • "Oh, Ok."
TJ, our first born:
  • "Dad, can we go to breakfast on Wednesday?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Good. I miss breakfast with you."
Tyler, the former middle son:
  • "Dad, you know what I missed most?... tickling."

  • I think our kids think that our latest additions are part puppet, part new friend, part playmate, part brother and sister. They are constantly asking them to do new things, trying to hug and kiss them, and teach them anything and everything. It's so fun and slightly corny. It's like bringing home two new babies from the hospital to the house except that they can actually play and are potty trained upon arrival. I'm sure this will all go away in about 5 days and they'll all be fighting for stuff. But don't burst my pretty little bubble.
  • Our table does not hold 7 very easily.
  • 7 people go through a loaf of bread really fast.
  • My first 3 kids grew like weeds while I was gone.
  • We have sweet grandparents for our kids and an awesome set of supportive and risk taking family members to join us in this journey.
  • The internet is FAST in my house.
  • I don't miss my TV. I am out of the news loop however.
  • I never left my pajamas today. It was like Christmas day at our house and every toy was brand new.
  • My adoptive kids have slept like babies in any bed I have put them in.
  • I think it is going to be just fine.

Should be a crazy week ahead, but I'll try and post some pics and updates a few times this week. Thanks for praying with us in this crazy life changing process.


Friday, February 06, 2009


Well, I'm headed to bed soon for one final nights rest before heading home to the U.S.A. We are about 98% done with the papertrail between Uganda and the US. and about halfway home from Kampala to San Diego.

I'll post more pics and more details about our adoption her on my blog once we are home and I'm psuedo sane again. But for now, I posted some more on facebook and I'm aware that I'm increasingly becoming a mixed bag of emotions. Here's a few I'm kicking around on this rollercoaster:

  • FEAR: wow. I'm a dad of 5 kids ages 5 to 11. And my parenting quotient almost doubled virtually overnight.
  • ELATED: wow. I'm a dad of 5 kids and finally have a daughter. wow.
  • FEAR #2: Everyone I see who asks me for my passport or for the papers for my kids seems to be searching for a way to tell me I have to turn around. Man, I'll be so glad when I don't have to walk around with my passport and prove my case every 5 minutes. We still have to finalize our adoption in the U.S. I so am ready for this legal crud to be over so I can simply love on and live with these kids.
  • ELATED #2: God kept us on schedule and we have become the legal guardians of 2 more kids in about a month. Crazy.
  • FEAR #3: Racism. I don't know that I fear this really, but I've found myself wondering what people were thinking. It was intensely awkward in the Entebbe airport. I never knew what people were saying, but the combination of looks, fingers, and words said we were the subject of the coversation. I wonder if I'll feel that way in SD?
  • ELATED #3: At all the support we have gotten from friends and family in the last 3 months. Prayers, facebook words of encouragement, financial gifts, and so so so so much more. Elated is probably an understatement in these things. Thank you Jesus and thank you to those of you who joined us in this process from last summer to today. What a ride. What a ride.
Ok... sleep is calling. Hopefully by late afternoon tomorrow, I'll be firmly on the ground, airport passport checks securely behind me, and starting a new series of family adventures as our Berrytribe is now officially tribal. (ps: more on my kid's tribes to come in the coming posts).


Monday, February 02, 2009


When you're in Uganda, here are some things to note:

If your bike is going up hill and the traffic is thick, just hitch a ride on a semi.

This is not a truck filled with breast implants.

Word to my son billy: " these pretty balls in the bottom of the urinal are not candy and this is not a sink."   Word to self... pay for a urinal to be installed in the orphanage so they know how to use it and not to wash their hands in it.

Milk Man still comes door to door.  Via Bike.

Fed Ex really does go everywhere.

This is a Mobile Home


Sunday, February 01, 2009


Well, my kids have enough English to get by, but there are some very funny things that the locals do with the English language. 

My brother-in-law and now my friends and I too, love to joke around with some of their mannerisms.

  • The dramatic "what pause" followed by the answer to your own question is funny and frequent, especially from William, the director of our orphanage.  We joke with him and do it ourselves, answering our own dramatic pause... but he has no idea we are teasing.  It's too funny.
  • Exhibit A:  per Wiliam.... "I have to go to the Embassy today" = Today I have to go to the what? (insert dramatic pause here) The emboss.  (yes, he calls it the emboss.  So do we now :))
Our kids have added a new funny thing they say too.  They use the word "for" with great frequency, like an adjective.

Some examples:
  • I want to go to the airplane= want to go for aeroplane.
  • I want the red ball= want the ball for red.
  • I want sprite=  want soda for green.
  • I want orange soda=  want soda for orange.
  • I want chocolate ice cream =  want ice cream for brown.
So, personally.... I want the internet for fast.  This post has taken me forever to get online.

I feel my brother-in-law's pain on this as he updates his from Kampala regularly to the same frustration.   I'm not sure if I'll be able to update until I'm back again in the states- which is SATURDAY!!!!  Yahoo.  Our power has been sketch and our internet even sketchier.  If I have one, I don't seem to have the other lately.  Currently it's raining every night the power goes out all the time.

So... I've tried to upload some fun pics into this blog post, but I have finally given up as I keep getting bumped offline.

So in the meantime, here are some pics on facebook that don't require my friend base. They have no pics of the kids, but lots of the general Ugandan landscape and culture.



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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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