Monday, November 30, 2009


Ever since I started taking our high school men to the desert, my kids have been begging me to take them. I have taken them several times shooting, but never for an overnight stay and never with "fire". But this year I promised them I'd change that and we'd go spend the night and we'd invite some friends and family- (The Berrytribe with Sr. member Papa, The Phillipsons, The Hammonds, and The Bowers)

So, the Friday after thanksgiving we ditched the women, finished loading up my truck, a trailer, and 2 suburbans and peaced out of El Cajon and headed to our favorite desert spot- an hour and half east of us.

Here's what was on the agenda for our 30 hour overnight trip:
  • eat too much food
  • shoot shotguns and .22 rifles to the tune of over 1500 rounds.
  • HUGE bonfire with some explosions
  • model rockets
  • climbing rocks
  • zipline
  • letting my kids do all kinds of stuff they can't do at home.
  • 4 families, 9 kids, 6 adults
Here's what was not on my agenda.
  • 40+ mile an hour wind storm starting at 1 am on Friday night.
  • Having the wind break my french press- for the 3rd time in the desert. I need a steel one for the desert and camping evidently.
  • Getting chased out earlier than planned on Saturday cuz we were completely soaked and freezing from the rain.
Here's the pictures that prove it was all worth it anyway. My kids now have back-to-school stories to tell today and for years to come. Including Billy doing the zipline in a torrential downpour!


Sunday, November 29, 2009


Often bedtime or meal time prayers around the Berry household (especially those said by the kids) are long lists of thank you's to God. We have so much to be thankful for and this Thanksgiving was surely more proof of that. It was a first for Becky and Billy and for us with them. It's so great to see it fresh and experience all the wonder of the holidays through new eyes and ears.

We expected a bigger crowd and invited several other friends and family, but in the end we had lots of cancelations due to other family obligations that came up. But since our family is 7 strong and we had 4 grandparents here, it made for a large group none-the-less.

Here's a window into our day:

Becky was our hairdo specialist, adding berets to anyone with enough hair to hold them in :)

This is the pie making crew.

My dad and I gave the BBQ it's annual cleaning before I BBQ'd the bird, like I've done every year since we moved to San Diego.

The boys and the papas made rockets to fire off on our post Thanksgiving day desert boy/man trip.

We watched the parade on a TV that we got last Christmas.... and that was super fun for my mother-in-law and wife especially who have had this as some kinda family tradition for decades or something (even going to it a few years back after Cheryl retired from Macys). Cheryl said it made her feel like she was there again. Billy also decided that he wants to go to the parade. I think there's something about watching it that makes everyone want to go to New York right now too.

Finally, here's the table all decked out and filled with the official "thanksgiving dishes" we inherited, the family, and too much food.



Twice a year, once on Shannon's birthday and once on our Anniversary, we try and escape sans kids. A few weeks ago, Shannon and I escaped for a few days while her mom watched the tribe.

The budget is tight, so we have to get creative, and the last two times I've scored nearly free beach pads via friends of friends. This time, we went to a BIG beach house (literally on the beach) in Capistrano Beach just south of Dana Point proper and where HWY 1 meets I-5 along the pacific coast. The gal who lives in the house is a grandma who travels now and again and when she does, she opens the house up to friends and family to stay for a small cleaning and housing fee. So we had like 3000 square feet all to ourselves.

It was beautiful and we were so thankful for the place to stay. This year, shannon and I decided to watch movies, eat, sleep, walk on the beach, and veg for 3 days, 2 nights. I ended up having to some homework catch up with Seminary, so while shannon slept and read, I crammed my brain with Greek words. But if you gotta study, this ain't a bad place to do it.

We watched the sun set both nights.

We made a trip to the store to stock up with food and such so we didn't have to leave much and could relax. I made fruit and toast for breakfast each morning and chicken quesadillas for our one lunch we had there. We ate out one night and found a place that was beautiful and out of our price range but by the grace of God, was 50% off food and beverages if you sat down at your table before 6pm. So we had arrived early and got super lucky! SCORE!

I enjoyed watching the birds do life on the coast, a seal or two, and even had a dolphin pod sighting off our deck :)

Finally one indicator that you are in a place you can't afford to be in: the neighbors pay the gardener to rake the sand on their property between their house and the high tide mark. Yeah, American's are stupid.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009


...with 2 things this fall:

#1. SOCCER FOR THE SEASON. August to November, my world is filled with hours of practice, names to memorize, games to attend, athletes to train, goals to set up, fields to chalk, and so much more. It is all encompassing as all 5 of our kids play. It finished on Saturday.

I coached TJ's U-14 boys. We finished tied for third.

I also coached Tyler's U-10 boys team. We also finished tied for third.

#2. PIANO FOR BOY NUMERO DOS. I'm not musical. In any way. I can't sing, play any instrument, or even call out the latest and greatest artist on the radio. So I don't coach anything regarding music. Instead, they can coach me. :) But if you want to play an instrument in the Berrytribe, per the family mom rules, you have to learn piano first.

Tyler finished his season of training and graduated on Sunday with a recital. You go Ty. Now he's off to play drums and he can school me :)


Friday, November 20, 2009


I'm not sure what just yet, but something's broken.

Maybe in me.

Maybe in my ministry.

Maybe both.

But it's clearly broken and I'm not sure how to fix it or even that there is one solution.   I know of some things that are broken that I can and should fix.  I know of other things that are broken that I think I could fix if someone holding that thing would just say, "Ok, I agree it's broken.  Let's fix it together."  But this thing that is broken is deeper than either of those.

I can't describe it or put my finger on "it", but I'm hunting.

Tonight I walked into my house and shannon and I unanimously said, "What is that smell?  Something is dead in here."  I'm not sure if a rat died in a wall or the milk is rotten in the fridge, but something is not right.   I have that same feeling about several other things right now.  "Something is dead in here."

I also checked my snail mail tonight.  Bills came and so did an advertisement for a conference I normally would not attend.  It features another pastor who I don't have a lot of respect for his methods or at times his message.  I actually hadn't heard his name in a while and then I read this conference ad and inside was this quote:

"In a recent and important book, Michael Horton has made a compelling case that the American church has been willingly taken captive by American culture and ideals including consumerism, pragmatism, self-sufficiency, individualism, positive thinking, personal prosperity, and nationalism.  As a result, we have pushed God aside and trivialized the faith.  Instead of the gospel, we proclaim a therapeutic and moralistic deism."  
I have not read this book and I don't know that they are right.

I don't know that they are wrong either.

I do know something is broken and I can't fix it with my hammer, my computer, or by myself.

I'm on a quest.



Monday, November 16, 2009


God's been chasing me on something for a few months. It has come up all over the place for me. It came up in some conferences I went to. It came up in books I'm reading. It came up in a retreat with our guys in the desert. It has come up in my own teaching and preparation several times. It came up in a devo I did for our staff last week.

It's the reality that I do not want to live my life "near God". I want to do life "with God".

This has lots of implications.

THEOLOGICALLY: I believe God is omnipresent- everywhere. I do not have to travel somewhere to go find God. (ie: Psalm 139:7-12) God is near me all the time. But near me, and with me, are separate things. God can be "near" a drug deal, but it doesn't mean God is "with those doing it". God can be "near" a church service, but it doesn't mean those teaching or those listening are doing so "with God".

PRACTICALLY TODAY: I think in our internet and electronic driven world we live in today... we think we can do life "with people" who we are never truly "with". I do this from time to time. But there is no exchange for real, hand-to-hand, life-on-life, with one another kind of living. I think there are those who read this blog or follow my facebook posts or twitter updates and think, "man, I feel like I know Brian" because I update those things fairly regularly and they choose to read them regularly. But the truth is, that connection a reader experiences is something... but it is not "with one another". I'm not saying it's bad to read a blog or follow someone on facebook. I'm just saying we shouldn't mistake the feeling of intimacy we feel for the real life value of being truly "with" one another. Sometimes distance makes it impossible. And facebook is a nice way to minimize the distance and to talk and to connect, but facebook will never replace the value of my real presence somewhere. I can't coach soccer from facebook, or hug my kids, or love my wife, or give a shoulder to a hurt friend to cry on. It is what it is. But it is not "with" one another.

PERSONALLY WITH GOD AND I: I think I can make this error with God though too. I can get content with following God at a distance. With sort of a voyeurism of faith where I observe and watch and even follow God, but I'm not doing life hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart, WITH GOD. I do not want that to be the summation of my life. I don't want to settle for anything less than life with God.

Anyway, I had forgotten that this was also the subject of a devo I did for Youth Specialties on their podcast. It was just posted today, but I recorded it a while ago. So I watched it "fresh" for myself today since I did not recall what I had said then. Like a voice from inside my soul, calling me back to what is important... it was good for me to be reminded today by my own voice from the past, that the with God life is what I really want.

O God, may it be true of me what was true of Noah: "Brian walked with God."


Friday, November 13, 2009


I have come to love Mexico. I thought moving 30 minutes from the border would mean I'd take hundreds of students every year... but the truth is, we've taken waaaaaay less in San Diego than we ever did in Nor Cal. My largest trip here is still about as big as my smallest trip team from there.

Part of it is because local Mexico news is local news here, so people are actually more afraid of the border here than they are in Nor Cal. We tend to believe the news and lately, Mexico is a fearful place to go filled with drugs and waring and you'll likely die if you go.

Yeah... well... we keep going, but now that they require passports (something I've required from Nor Cal for years), we are taking fewer and fewer students. This time it was 4 high school girls, 5 from the Berrytribe (we didn't take Becky and Billy cuz we thought it was too soon a transition for them and a variety of other reasons), and some of our adult volunteers- all in all totaling a nice size group of about 15 of us for a day trip in honor of the Veteran's day off.

But regardless... I'd go with my family alone. Why?

  • CUZ I'M RICH: It's good for my kids to get around a culture that reminds them they have too much. It's good for me to be reminded I'm rich. Today I went to a wedding rehearsal in Rancho Santa Fe. In the hour before the rehearsal that Shannon had to be there, Jake (who is a ring bearer) and I went to a coffee shop. Rancho Santa Fe is the land of 10 million dollar homes. Really. The church the wedding is in is sitting around MULTI-million dollar estates. Jake and I had coffee in a place where my car was clearly lower class and we went window shopping for fun at a real estate broker next door and there was not one house for sale under 2 million. The largest we saw had 9 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, 2 pools, a grass tennis court, and was going for 16 million. Yeah.. hang around in Rancho Santa Fe and you'll feel poor. Now drive south of the border for 15 minutes, spend the day there with a family we sponsor who has no car, no phone, no refrigerator and 6 kids who live in a 200 sq foot home and you'll shut up about being poor in a hurry.

  • CUZ IT MAKES ME HAPPY TO SEE THEM HAPPY: I love seeing kids play. I love sharing food and serving along side those who could use my help. I love bringing them food and sharing the abundance we have with those who could use a little more.

  • CUZ OF THE FOOD: Ok.. I go for the taquitos and the ice cream. Truth be told, if you told me I couldn't stop for taquitos, I think I might question motive one and two in light of motive 3. I LOVE to eat in the hole in a wall open air taco places. I've yet to get sick. I always pick one whose reputation is good among the locals and looks good and clean and yeah... we just roll in and eat till it hurts. It's really the best thing about Mexico. They are good cooks :)


Thursday, November 05, 2009


So, last summer I took a group of high school kids to the beach for the day. Or at least that was what we planned, but it ended up being just a bunch of hungry dudes who could go... so it ended up becoming a trip to Hodad's for lunch. It's an eclectic and super fun burger joint just blocks from the beach in downtown Ocean Beach.

That summer day I ordered one basket of fries, an order of onion rings, and a round of sodas and the guys each bought a burger. Nicholai- who was interning during the summer- thought...
"Oh... I'll just order like I do at In-n-out and order a double double with bacon."
Yeah... well his double double was double the size of his face and he gave up after 1/2 way done and cried uncle.

Ever since then, our small group of guys has been claiming they wanted to show Nicholai the burger could be owned. So, finally, we took them on last Wednesday night for them to experience it first hand- 6 of them for the first time.

The numbers: $119 bill for 9 dudes. 5 bought doubles. 4 got wiser with singles. I ordered 2 baskets of fries and one onion ring to share and a vanilla shake to mock them with.

There was sooooo much fat and grease and sugar and God knows what on this table that we didn't even dare to pray "Dear God, please bless this meal." We just asked for grace and forgiveness for what we just did to our body and agree'd we'd be seeing God a full 30 days earlier than He planned due to this diversion in artery health on our part... and then ate.

The result?

Yeah... 4 singles got polished off. And so did the baskets of fries and rings.

As for the doubles... Um.

David Bach (almost done below) and Brian Brangwynne (fisting it in the background) are have now been bestowed the title of "HODAD" for finishing the entire burger.

Michael (ordering) was bestowed the title of "SLOWDAD" since he did finish his, but ate it all the way home and finished the last bite as we exited the freeway to church.

And Jeff Sers (burger pride) and Michael Conley (slacker boy)- both of whom talked big game... have now been dubbed the "NODAD'S" since they got spanked by the burger and could not polish it off, leaving at least 1/3 of it still in the basket.

This day shall now be a historical moment in the lives of 7 high school students and 2 leaders who came, saw, and even a few conquered.



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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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