Friday, June 18, 2010


I'm responsible for working with several paid staff at Journey in the student ministries department. One of the specific things I think I must do in order to help us all lead well together is evaluate where we've been, where we're headed, and what we need to do to get there. The summer is a great time to do this while the last school year's learnings are still fresh and well before the beginning of a new school year is upon us.

To that end, I dreamed up some questions I want to answer with those I help lead. As I sent them off in an e-mail today, I realized that not only did I want them to answer them, but I wanted to answer them for myself too.

Perhaps they might be of some use to you, my faithful blog readers. :) HAAAA!

Ok... here's my quick list of 5:
  • What part of your current responsibilities brings you the most joy?... like you could do it all day and be stoked.
  • What part of your current responsibilities drains you?... like you could never again do it and never miss it.
  • What do you think you're spending the majority of your time doing?... like what piece of your job or perceived job is taking the biggest chunk of your time- for better or for worse... draining or empowering... what takes the lion's share of your job?
  • What are you currently lacking, that if I gave it to you, would solve a lot of problems that are weighing heavy on you?
  • What would your dream role be in 5 years and what do we need to do to make movements towards that?



I feel in love with and was deeply wrecked by this book.

What Donald Miller has captured in it is something that has just placed it on my must read list for everyone (and that's a very short list in my world).... In fact, if I could have given one book to every graduating senior in our ministry, I would have given them this book.

I could go on for hours, but basically, the message on these pages rocked my world even more than when I heard Donald speak about this book at a conference I attended last September. It inspired my heart. I cried. I laughed out loud a few times. It messed with me on a level that has me up at 2am writing about it.

Without stealing the thunder of the book, let me simply say that it is a story about story. It is about what makes a good story and how my life and your life are often robbed of greatness when we create a boring story and a pointless plot. This book scared me: mostly because I don't want to live the life it warns most are. It scares me because more days than I'd like to admit, I think I make choices that move me out of the dynamic story God has for me and into a much more predictable and pointless one.

Here's a few quotes and my musings that I'll be stewing on for quite some time.

"The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won't make a life meaningful either."

  • in other words... if someone followed me around with a "reality tv camera crew" or a book script writing team, how much editing and creative license would they have to employ to get anyone to watch/read it? If I am living a life that is so predictable and mundane and risk-free that the audience would flip the channel or put down the book, then maybe something is wrong.... or at the very least, seriously lacking in my life.

"People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain."

  • this is super true. Most "boring life stories" are cuz we are too scared to live the really fulfilling one. Real stories require sacrifice, often more sacrifice than I'm willing to make. It's waaaaay too easy in our world to kick life into neutral. I need to risk more if I'm going to gain more. There is no easy way out of that reality.

"Robert McKee says humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their story, they won't enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen."

  • if there was a part of this book I wanted to rip out, it was this section. I hate that this is true. I hate that most of the time, I'll opt out of the better life for the safer life. I also hate that it often requires the discomfort of an inciting incident in my life to get me to choose the better life. I hate that pain moves me more than joy. I hate that I let peace become comfort become complacency and then I settle into a life that only pain can jolt me out of. Dang it. I want to choose to jump into the inciting incidents in my life instead of waiting for God or life or whatever to throw me into them.

"And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal: you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time."

  • noodle on that phrase for a while: "the forgettable thread of wasted time" I want to sew a patchwork quilt of life experiences tied together by the meaningful risk of a faith-filled life, not a forgettable thread of monotony.

"You become like the people you interact with. And if your friends are living boring stories, you probably will too."

  • this resonated with me. I want to spend my time around people whose lifestyle inspires me to be intentional about living a life of significance. I want to do life different with people who want to do life different. I want to inspire people who inspire me.

One final note, as I turned the pages of this book, I kept thinking.. I really want to try and meet Donald Miller and maybe even Bob Goff, the San Diego/Ugandan lawyer whose story makes up some of the pages if I can figure out how to do either of those things. I really really want to do both of those things if for no other reason just to say thank you: thank you for living and writing like you are. Dang this book blessed me.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Hey Youth Ministry friends. I'm gonna be at the National Youth Workers Conference here in San Diego again this fall. YOU SHOULD JOIN ME. I'm super stoked to be able to go and to have a chance to teach some seminars and learn from some great thinkers whose seminars/main sessions I get to hear this year too.

Here's a video to inspire you :)

Here's the FYI on the 2 seminars I'll be teaching if you wanna join me. The first one is new to me this year. Or maybe I should say the teaching of it in this format is since I've been dealing with the subject matter for quite some time now :)

"You Suck: Enduring, Learning From, and Responding to Your Critics" (Saturday, Oct. 2 - 8:00AM to 9:30AM )

  • Criticism is about as enjoyable and endurable as a root canal, but it might be just as critical to your long term ministry health too. (That's probably why this seminar as at 8am. HA! ) Regardless, one of the essential skill sets of all leaders is the ability to learn from -and at times- even ignore the voice of critics. This seminar will examine some why we fear criticism, why we need it, and how to respond when it comes.

This second one is one I've done several times and it has gotten some great reviews and has even graduated into a the big ol' 2 1/2 hour time slot. Anyway, I've had lots of people bump into me somewhere at some youth ministry gig and tell me they're using the stuff from this seminar in their day to day ministry responsibilities. I even had a former student who is now a youth pastor in the Sacramento area ask me if he could have the notes to teach it to a group of youth pastors he leads in a network. It's very practical and something I'm using in my ministry daily too. Super cool how this little life learning has been a blessing. Join me if you think it might be good for you too.

"The Big Picture: How to Develop a Coordinated, Year-long Calendar and Teaching Plan" (Saturday, Oct. 2 - 2:00PM to 4:30PM)
  • Ministry can be all about the tyranny of the urgent. When it is, the result is limited creativity, high stress, and usually low volunteer involvement due to the immediacy of the needs and short term demands. This seminar is all about changing that by helping you to develop a teaching and events calendar that lets you get ahead and get others involved. We'll show you how to create a visual calendar that you can use to stay ahead, discuss ways to get group ownership, as well as talk about practical ways to make a calendar year that creates momentum instead of a constant drain on you, your ministry, and families.


Monday, June 14, 2010


Recently I've been reading like crazy... probably making up for my lost time studying Greek every spare moment the last 9 months :) Since I spent several hours on planes last week, I had ample time to do just that.... which will lead to a few blog posts. Here's the first.

One of the books I read last week was called "Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements" It's the latest survey-summary type book from Gallop and the same people that created StrengthsFinder 2.0 (a book about discovering what you're good at and how to leverage your strongest passions and skill-set for maximum impact)

Wellbeing, instead of helping you discover your strengths, ironically... kind of assesses your weaknesses in an attempt to try and help you to develop a well rounded life. They claim that one's wellbeing can be summarized in 5 basic areas of your life, based on a worldwide survey:

  • CAREER WELLBEING (enjoy your job)
  • SOCIAL WELLBEING (good friendships/relationships)
  • FINANCIAL WELLBEING (stress-free finances)
  • PHYSICAL WELLBEING (healthy eating and exercise)
  • COMMUNITY WELLBEING (feeling safe and invested where you live)
Then, when you're done with the book, just like Strengths Finder 2.0, there's an online test that you take and then it gives you a 6 month subscription to their website to be able to set goals and track your progress as you try and move your whole life to a place of wellness.

Here's a few things that got me thinking again:
  • SPIRITUAL WELLBEING is not on the list. Why? The authors said, "For many people, spirituality drives them in all these areas. Their faith is the most important facet of their lives, and it is the foundation of their daily efforts." As I read the study and it's implications for my life, I found myself concluding that the Bible has basically been teaching the same thing for thousands of years and wondering why I haven't been a better listener. I'm stupid.
  • THE POWER OF MY DECISIONS: Speaking of stupid, the authors also concluded that, "The single biggest threat to our own wellbeing tends to be ourselves. Without even giving it much thought, we allow our short-term decisions to override what's best for our long-term wellbeing." As an example, most people would say, "I want to live a long, healthy life". But then we don't exercise regularly, get enough sleep, or eat healthy. There is a disconnect often between our longterm goals and our short term decisions. Really got me thinking again about my daily "small" decisions and how they all add up to produce the story of my life.
  • WELLBEING AROUND THE WORLD: Let me try and explain. The book has Gallop's survey results at the end that are organized by a variety of criteria, one of which is by continent. What was most interesting to me is what the survey found if you compared The Americas with Africa. They list the countries on each continent in order according to the percentage of people in the country that claim to be "thriving" based on a representative survey sample. Regarding "The Americas", the United States is listed #4. (No, we're not the best country in the world. Duh.) Canada, Mexico, and Panama were ranked in that order as the top 3. (interesting that a "3rd world" country like Mexico would rank #2) However what is more interesting to me was that if you compared the Americas to the 36 countries in Africa, you'll find that if you live in the vast majority of North or South America, no matter how bad it is, the overall wellbeing of your peers is rated better than anyone living anywhere in Africa. This reminded me how spoiled I am and how jacked up our planet really is. Also made me think of people who I know in other countries who would not have passed this wellbeing test very well, but whose life is lived way more significant. I think Spirituality not only drives one's wellbeing, but redefines the categories pretty radically too.
Anyway, I'm gonna keep stewing on these things and my online survey results in the coming months as continual food for thought and stuff worth wrestling with as I pursue a God-honoring wellbeing in every area of my life.


Thursday, June 10, 2010


My mom is starting a new era of her life next week. She is retiring from 25 years of teaching. I flew up to Nor Cal to go to her staff retirement party on Tuesday and it was so great to see and hear how my mom's friends have such a deep respect for her. I was super proud and teared up more than once as her friends shared stories about her. It was clear to me:

  • My mom has navigated 25 years in the secular school district in a way that her colleagues respect her for, even writing a silly song they all sang to her expressing it.
  • My mom has a passion to teach and does it well. One teacher said, "She could teach a rock to read."
  • My mom has shared her authentic life of faith and family with them, so many of them knowing the stories of her children and grandchildren
  • My mom LOVES the kids in her classroom and she is so important to them. They are the reason she teaches. Her colleagues had the kids in her class now and even some former kids write little suggestions and draw pictures about what she should do with her new found retirement "free time". Lots of them wrote about how she should go to Africa, be with her grand kids, and spend time relaxing. One little girl broke my heart though. She wrote in her broken english, that Mrs. Berry should not retire and she should keep teaching because she loves my mom. I asked my mom this little girl's story and she told me she was a little second language girl who had lost her mom to cancer at 5 yrs old. For this little girl, my mom clearly represents stability and hope. What a solid thing for a kid at such a young age in tragic circumstances. Oh I pray this girl finds many more Mrs. Berry's along her education journey in the years to come.

I took this picture of the roses in my parent's front yard on our way out the door to the party and it seemed so poetic. The ending of a beautiful legacy and life of service to her community and the budding new flower of stories untold. I know that for my mom, retirement is not an end, but a new beginning of a new era of adventures.

Here's to you mom and dad. Welcome to retirement. Welcome to the chance to influence your friends, family, and community every day in ways that are directed by your desires instead of the demands of your work schedule. Enjoy your marriage. Enjoy your days. Invest in the Kingdom of God. I for one, can't wait to see how God will use these years of your lives in amazing ways.

Oh... and 3 cheers for frequent flyer miles. Southwest will surely know you by name soon. :)


Thursday, June 03, 2010


I have some big shoes to fill. It's the ones my kids have for me. Here's what they've written about in school this year. I'm both blessed and scared to death. I love that they feel this way, but oh boy.... those are some BIG shoes and some BIG eyes they have looking my way. Oh by the grace of God go I.


"Dad's Rock"

My dad is my hero. He is an intelligent man. He went back to school to get his Masters degree. He is very tall. He has brown eyes and blackish brownish hair. I love him very much.
My dad loves me very much. I know it. I don't have to ask him. At night he gives me hugs and kisses. When I'm scared he snuggles with me. Like one time we were watching Lord of the Rings and I was scared, but my dad was there to snuggle with me. After the movie was over he tucked me into my bed and gave me hugs and kisses. My dad is always there when I'm scared.
My dad is a very caring man. he goes to work to get paid so he can feed me. And he only gets 2 1/2 days off at the most. He pays for some stuff like bed, clothes, and a roof over my head when I sleep. If I ask my dad to take me somewhere, he always takes me. He takes me so many places he even takes me to Yosemite. He takes me to all my soccer games. For the past two years I haven't missed one single game. he will take me anywhere if I ask.
My hero is my dad. He loves me, takes me places, and even cares for me. Isn't he a great dad?


"My Dad"

My Dad is a very special person. He is a high school pastor at my church. He is also a good carpenter. Knowing how to work with wood is a cool part of having my Dad in my family. One year for my birthday my Dad gave me a room remodel. It was one of the best birthday presents I have ever gotten.
When I was turning ten, my parents gave me the present of a new room. So my Dad set to work, with my help, to make me a new room. We took all the stuff out of my room, and then went to Home Depot to get all the materials. We picked for my room to be green, light blue, and orange stripes. So, my whole family came in and helped us paint. Then we built a loft for me to sleep in. We built a desk underneath it and constructed a new, smaller closet under the loft as well. When it was all finished it was so cool to think that this was my awesome room.
My Dad is very special to me because he likes to help me and to build me things that make my life really fun. Him building me the loft was a way of him showing how happy he was that I was who I was. It was an awesome way to get a new room. Without my Dad my life, I think, would be really boring.



So... today I posted on twitter and facebook this status update. "wanna guess what i have until Tuesday am to finish?" with a link to this pic:

To which a friend of mine, danny bowers, sent me a "direct message" via twitter. Now, if you're not familiar with this lingo, it means Danny sent me like a private 140 character text message of sorts that can't be seen by everyone who follows my twitter account.

His "private" Direct Message to me read this "snazzy shirt your sporting in that pic! I'm wielding a hammer & crowbar tomorrow for 8 hrs wanna come join for $20p/h instead of seminary??"

Now, so far, so good. This was a no brainer though for me. I immediately would choose a hammer and a crowbar over my 15 page greek paper in a second. So, I sent him a quick reply of "hell yes :)!"

Or so I thought.

What I actually did was reply to the text message I got from twitter, saying that I had a direct message from danny. However, when you reply to the text that twitter sends, it doesn't send a "direct message" back just to danny, it sends a public twitter. My twitter then auto-publishes to my facebook status. So, in a matter of nano seconds...

If you're still with me:
  • I posted a pic
  • Danny messaged me privately
  • I accidentally replied publicly
  • it auto posted to twitter and facebook, very publicly
I then tried to quickly undo this since my facebook is read by parents in my ministry and stuff and while I won't say I don't say "hell yes" on occasion, I don't usually type it for the world to read as often as they like and certainly not as the only 2 words in my status update.

Immediately, it got a reply from Nicholai saying "wow, serious stuff there" and my wife replied "wow" and another pastor on our team laughing at me said "I LOVE this" and my fiasco.

So I tried to delete it and limit the damage and the explaining I'd have to do. But I couldn't cuz I was away from my computer and only using my cell phone to post things and I couldn't figure out how to delete it for the life of me.

By the time I finally figured out how to delete the stupid thing, 10 people had already commented on facebook and I was laughing really hard at my silly story. In the end, I actually deleted it on accident once I finally was told how to do it via my phone.

Funny day. Just goes to show, what you do publicly, is completely public. Ha ha. Be careful when you say "Hell Yes!"



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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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