Thursday, April 28, 2011


Today we had our local youth pastor network meeting.  We meet once a month for lunch, encouragement, and some training.  Youth Specialties lets us host it in their offices, which are centrally located for us, so that's a huge win. One church brings in lunch and then we do some training and life-on-life sharing.

Since we lost a youth pastor, Mike Hendricks, in our network suddenly this month to a tragic bee sting, we decided to dedicate our meeting today to talking about what would happen to our ministries if any of us were to die unexpectedly.  We then spent some time praying for Mike's church and his wife and infant daughter who are dealing with the loss of a husband and dad.

Sounds depressing, but it really wasn't.  In my opinion, it was one of the best meetings we've had. The result was, a solid conversation among our team about how well we are connected to support one another in crisis and how we have structured our individual ministries.  As we talked, I gleaned at least 3 things that were worth reminding ourselves of as youth pastors.


Tragedy will happen.  Jesus said so in John 16:33.  And when it comes, yes we can lean on our faith, but we also need to lean on one another.

Being part of a network has been a huge priority for me, producing amazing friendships and great church partnerships in my life.  For virtually all of the years I've been employed as a youth pastor, I've been in networks, led the networks, and even served on the National Network of Youth Ministries board for a stint.  I really can't imagine what it would be like to be doing ministry without mutual church connections like this.  We really need each other.

Mike's funeral will be this Saturday and is actually being hosted in another church in our area.  They inquired at our church but we couldn't due to a date conflict.  But regardless, I think it's awesome when churches support one another, both inside and outside of tragedy.  I really think unity it's the clearest picture we have of God with us to a watching world in our culture.


It's great to be loved. Every youth pastor on the planet wants to be loved.  But none of us want to be the foundation of any student's faith.  One of our main priorities must be to get out of the way and point students to Jesus.  We reminded ourselves that we're all going to die, and when we do, whenever that is, we want to have led students to dependance on God, not on us.  

Here's some practical ways we talked about doing this:
  • Be careful that the stories we all tell as part of our teaching don't become the focus of our teaching.  We're teaching the Bible and illustrating it with life.  Not visa versa.   
  • Make sure that we're leading students to faith in Jesus first and deep connection with our leaders or staff second
  • Use language that affirms and notices the work of God in and around us.  We must be the chief pointer to the evidence we see of God among us in our ministries.  
  • Remember that the power of the resurrection is ridiculously more powerful than our latest idea, camp, or plan. 

We also agreed that if we don't want a ME centered, but instead want a JESUS centered ministry, then we need to constantly get ourselves out of the way.  We need to be intentional about discipling others and giving the ministry away to a team, not just being the doer of everything.  Someone in our group said, "If you can't leave your ministry on a weekend and have it run fine without you, you have a major problem."  So true. 

Here's some ways we talked about doing this:
  • Don't do everything. Being the one man/woman band is not a sign of strength, it's a sign of an over inflated dependence on you.
  • Take a vacation and don't cancel your weekly gathering. 
  • Make sure you're not the only one who can lock the building, turn on the sound, etc.  Give away the logistics to a team of people who are confidant to run it when you're gone. 
  • Be more concerned about who you are becoming than what you are doing.
  • Remember that sometimes, we are the problem.  Some people aren't helping because we act like we don't need their help by doing it all. 
  • Empower others.  Along with being the chief pointer to the evidence we see of God among us, we should also be the chief pointers to the evidence of God focused potential we see in people around us.  When we empower students and other adults to lead, we fuel the Kingdom of God.  


Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Our staff meeting today started with us talking about being stuck.  We talked about how we can all get personally stuck in some stuff that we can't seem to break free of.   We talked briefly about what do you do when you're stuck in a rut and prayed about some stuckness in our church and lives.

I once heard this quote about a "rut" in a leadership class I was taking.  It reads:

"A rut ain't nothing but a grave with the ends kicked out."  
So in decided to write some thoughts in agreement that ruts are deadly to my spiritual growth, to my ministry, and to potential.  I'm no rut busting pro, but as I mulled this over today, there's  things I think I need to bust out of any rut.  This is what I need to remind myself, my students, and my team that we have to do if we're gonna get out of the ruts we're trapped in- both individually and collectively.

#1. CALL IT OUT----->>  I have to call out a rut for a rut. And not just a rut of bad patterns, but a death trap i'm stuck in.  Everyone who's ever been through a 12 step program out of anything knows this is always step one.  If you can't name it, you can't defeat it.

#2. PRAY IT THROUGH ----->>  I can't just click my heals and wish a rut away.  It's a rut for a reason.  I'm gonna need some divine guidance, strength, wisdom, and intervention.  I'm gonna also need way more than just one days worth, I'm gonna need a lot of prayer and probably a lot of time.

#3. TELL SOMEONE ----->> Do I have to?  Yup.  If calling it out is giving it a label, then telling a friend is giving it a flag.  It says, "hey, I hate this rut" and I need some help and some accountability to get out.  If I want to get out of any deep seated pattern in life, it takes accountability. It just does.

#4. ASK FOR INPUT ----->> I'm not gonna find a new perspective in me.  I need outside influence and ideas.  I need others to help me de-stuck stuff.  By definition, if I could have unstuck it myself, I wouldn't be stuck here in the first place.

#5. REPLACE STUCK STUFF WITH NEW STUFF ----->>  Old patterns don't just go away, they must be replaced with new patterns.  If you want to stop "x", then it must be replaced with "y", whatever that is. So busyness can be replaced with solitude.  Anger can be replaced with exercise.  Alcohol can be replaced with.... anything but nothing.  When something that has had a strong hold on us is to be broken free of, we can't just break free into nothingness or it'll grab us again. We must turn that attention somewhere else.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I just got home from seminary again... making today another 15 hour day, the last 4.5 hours of which was dedicated to reading, taking notes, and talking about what is the role of the pastor.  It ended in a debate where I tipped the cart over in our class and told them that I thought we had unnecessarily created a gap between the "clergy" and the "laity" in church and that this was not a good thing.  All kinds of Bible verses came up and discussion about apostles and teachers and yatta yatta ensued.

I was lobbying for an elevation of the "priesthood of all believers" and several others in class were calling the idea out as if I was a wishy washy leadership guy who can't handle anyone taking charge.   We talked about "anointing" and "calling" and "ordination" and such. In the end, I'm not sure we really concluded anything beyond the truth that there is a tension in Scripture where both viewpoints can be supported, which probably means that both views are simultaneously correct and incomplete.

For what it's worth, here's how I think "pastoral" leadership should shake out, regardless of the title you put next to your name. I think it's a "top down from the bottom up". I ultimately think someone should be called the leader.  But, I also think that someone should sit with the crowd.

LEAD WITH HUMILITY.  If someone needs a title or must constantly introduce themselves with a title, then I wonder if they want to lead or just want to be noticed.  There's massive difference between leadership and having a leadership position.

LEAD WITH PASSION.  If you don't want to lead, then please stop and let someone who is passionate about it. We all need leadership that is passionate about their calling and passionate about inviting others to lead in their calling.

LEAD OFF STAGE.  This means, let others shine.  Get out of the way and let others do what God has called them to do. Whenever we can give others the chance to blossom in ministry we produce a Kingdom win for God.

LEAD IN THE FUNK.   Lead in the midst of it not going well. Leadership is messy.  Leadership is about cleaning up the mess together. It also doesn't fit nicely in a flow chart.  When we lead like Jesus lead, then it's gonna be funky.  True leadership knows it's most needed when things are most funky.


Monday, April 25, 2011


Our student ministry sponsors 5 kids around the world through several organizations.  The Berrytribe also sponsors a kid in Uganda through World Vision too.  His name is Kakooza Geoffrey.

Our student ministries sent each of them $75 toward the end of last year for an Christmas gift.  We did the same for Kakooza.  I just got a note in the mail- it takes a while sometimes to get half way around the world and then back to me.  The note thanked us for our sponsorship and for the generosity and said that the money was used to bless his family and here's what he got.

So... take a good look at this picture. I've been to Geoffrey's home.  He said that thanks to the money we sent, he and his family are now sleeping on new mattresses, a new bed, and new sheets.  

Now... look closer at the picture. Click on it directly on my blog and it will get bigger.  Seriously study it.  

Now, here's what sponsorship does and why you should stop right now and go sponsor a kid through world vision or some similar organization.

CLOTHING:   It gives them clothes... that fit and are not torn. I promise you, the other 3 boys in this picture are not "sponsored".  There's a chance that they are Kakooza's brothers "Kasibante and Kewessi" who he said were going to share the other mattress they bought.  That one boy is wearing a big long shirt and I'd bet you my closet full of clothes that's all he's wearing and that's the only article of clothing he has.  Look at the shirt on the kid closest to him.  He's not in a zombie film.  That's his shirt!  For the love of God, please go sponsor a kid right now!

SCHOOLING:  You know why Geoffrey looks like that?  Cuz he gets to go to school.  I bet that he came straight from school and that very well might be his uniform.  He is getting an education because we send a mere buck a day his way.  An education for kids shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a right. 

HEALTH CARE:  The life expectancy in Uganda is somewhere in the neighborhood of 53 years old.  Geoffrey is getting a great start by beginning his life with health care and food.  

HOPE:  you can't put a price tag on hope. It gives a kid hope.  Oh God, please keep giving Geoffrey and his friends, family, and community hope.  

If you want to see what the other kids got, read this post. 


Sunday, April 24, 2011


I tried to get up really early to spend some quiet moments with God before heading to church this morning for 3 services at Easter. But I didn't manage to do that.  Instead I got up, made some coffee, woke up tyler, and headed to serve and attend together.

After a great sunday morning I came home and we gathered everyone and headed to grandma and papa's for Easter egg hunting and dinner.   As we drove in, we passed this little pond by their house and I noticed the pond lilies were in full bloom.  I knew I wanted to grab my camera and go on a photo walk to just be quiet and enjoy the nature around me.  So after the egg huntage and before dinner, I snuck away alone for a half hour or so.

God is crazy creative, Easter is a crazy story, and my life is blessed in crazy ways because of it.  So nice to find a few moments of rest and connection with Jesus this day.  Here's the beauty I found around me.  Hope you find as much peace and amazement in them as I did. 


Friday, April 22, 2011


A friend of mine asked if I'd do a devotional at a weekly mens breakfast they call Dawn Patrol last week when I was in Nor Cal. I'm teaching at their mens retreat next month, and he asked if I'd come answer a few questions about my life and faith and share a few thoughts too. I said sure.

But at the end of our time, I had this aha moment. I realized that in the room was my dad, my youth pastor, my son, and two of my friends/peers in ministry.  It reminded me of the principle I once read during the "promise keeper" movement: that we all need a Paul, a Barnabus, and a Timothy in our lives. 

This was a once in a decade opportunity to snap a pic of my own mentor constellation and to vocally thank them each for their influence on my life.  All I had was my cell phone that I tossed to a guy in the audience and asked to snap our pic. I had to spend some time in photoshop trying to edit out a big nasty TV projecting blue (some still visible) all over the picture and a bunch of other stuff I tried to correct to get it to be a pic I could tolerate.  

But here it is: 

From left to right you're looking at:

Mark Campbell: pastor and friend I share my life with.
Mark Teyler: my youth pastor who led me to Christ.
My Dad: a great role model and wonderful dad/grandpa who loves Jesus.
My oldest son TJ: so proud of who he's becoming.
Scott Berglin: friend from high school who also went to my youth group, now a pastor I share my life with.

I'm hoping at the retreat to re-create this pic with a few guys who have come through my ministry and as a youth pastor and are now in ministry themselves.  That'd be like the best picture ever.  As a youth pastor it reminds me of a few things though:

FAITH TAKES A COMMUNITY:  I could add a lot of people who have shaped my soul to this picture.  But in the end, no one builds authentic faith with just a few, it takes a community to form authentic faith. I'm so thankful for these men in my life. 

I NEED SPIRITUAL MENTORS TO DISCIPLE ME: I continue to need spiritual fathers and grandfathers.  We all do. 

I MUST BE DISCIPLING OTHERS. The basic principle of 2 Timothy 2:2 requires that we be passing on the faith to those who will pass it on.  I'm thankful for those who have handed the baton to me, for those who run with me in this day with it, and those whom I'm handing it to that will eventually run past me with it.  

So, who are you doing life with?  Who is pouring into you?  Who are you pouring your life and faith into?


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I, like everyone I know, have tons of e-mail to deal with.  Additionally, I've seen several people recently ask on twitter and such for tips or ideas from others on how to deal with the dreaded stuff.  I'm not pro, but if you're swamped by your inbox, here's what I do to manage mine.

USE ONE MAIL PROGRAM.  I use a mac so I have all my mail accessed from one program- apple mail.  It's native to mac and integrates well with my phone and my dot me account.

BUT USE MULTIPLE E-MAIL ACCOUNTS.  While I use only one program to manage my email, I have multiple inboxes that feed it.  First off, I separate my life by e-mail addresses from the beginning by using multiple e-mail accounts.

  • EMAIL #1: work e-mail.  I send anything related to ministry through this e-mail.
  • EMAIL #2: youth group e-mail.  I use this e-mail as the reply e-mail on retreat flyers and promotional products.  It's also the e-mail listed on websites for student ministry stuff. 
  • EMAIL #3: family e-mail. This is an e-mail address that both my wife and I get.  It is our family e-mail and it's what we use for mailing lists we want to subscribe to, family or friends, and if the school or some club needs to send us info.
  • EMAIL #4: private e-mail. This is an e-mail I never really send much from.  Mostly I use this e-mail as the place where all my twitter, facebook, and blog comments go so that I can manage them easily or ignore them and not have them clog up other areas of my life.  I also like hearing about this stuff when it happens, so this is the only e-mail I have that feeds to my phone.  
APPLY AUTO FILTER OR RULES. If you're on my staff or someone who regularly sends me e-mail, I have your e-mail filtered to a folder in my mail program before I even touch it.  To do this, I have created "rules" within my mail preferences and whenever mail is from certain people, it automatically is moved to a folder with their name on it.  This allows me to do two things:  #1. manage my inbox inflow better.  #2. find things from key people without using the search window to go hunting.

DECIDE IMMEDIATELY WHAT TO DO WITH IT: I have 3 basic things I try to do with my e-mail so that it's not touched 20 times by me:  
  • READ IT, REPLY, MOVE ON.  I try and do this with everything I can.  If I can read it and reply, then I do.  Once it's done, if I don't need to keep it, I delete it. 
  • READ IT, REPLY, FILE IT, MOVE ON.  If I can't delete it, because it's important or I'm gonna need it again, then I file it in a folder according to the topic.  Like if it's for a trip or a writing project or a family vacation... once I respond to it, I remove it from my inbox and put it in a project folder. 
  • READ IT, LEAVE IT, COME BACK TO IT.  This is my to do list in an inbox. If it requires a more lengthy response or I need to re-visit it again in the near future, then I leave it in my inbox and try and set a time to address e-mail all at once.
DECIDE WHEN TO DEAL WITH IT:  e-mail has this nasty ability to run my life.  So I have to turn it off from time to time.  This is one reason why I don't get work e-mail to my phone.  Lately, I've had to decide that I'll handle e-mail first thing in the office and toward the end of the day.  In the middle, I can only respond to the stuff that falls into the first category because my days just get too full and sidetracked by e-mail if I let it be a constant voice in my ear.  So, if it can be done in a quick, one or two sentence reply, I'll hit it midday.  I also have found that blocking out a chunk of time (2 hours or so) periodically really helps me to pound through a bunch of e-mail all at once and get a lot of it cleared away.   



Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I hate that I'm writing this today.  I really wish I was not.  Even writing it a few weeks from now would feel better than today.  I even debated not posting this at all because I'm not sure how open I want to be with the world on this, but I felt I needed to.

So instead of praise and rejoicing, the post I put on this blog yesterday is now being followed by a "today, our community lost a fellow youth pastor" post.

I really wish this was about how God answered the prayers of hundreds of people in my community in a way we were asking. But tonight there's a 22 year old wife holding her 8 week old daughter today wondering why God let their husband/daddy leave this earth.  I can't imagine how that must feel.  In my heart, I know Mike's experiencing more joy and peace with Jesus than myself or his grieving wife and family.  But I still hurt.  I hurt for Mike's daughter, his wife, his family, his church, and the students in his ministry.

As a result, I'm left with a "what now?" moment.  I don't believe in "unanswered prayers".  I believe that God is working and has answered prayer, just not in the way that I was praying!  But the miracle I was asking for did not come today.  So, I was left to ponder for the last 12 hours, "how do I deal with unanswered prayer?"

Here's how I'm dealing with it.  I don't know that it's right, it's just me verbally processing.

MOURN.   I'm choosing to mourn with those who mourn today.  I'm hurting for those who were closest to Mike and who prayed fervently with me for a miracle.

TRUST.  I'm trusting that while I don't understand, God knows better than I what is needed in this situation.  I'm trusting that how I feel is somehow skewed by perspective and realm.  I'm praying that God gives all of us a peace that surpasses understanding.

LEARN.  I'm asking God for wisdom. I'm really hoping and praying that God continues to show me greater understanding about prayer, God's will, and our lives.  When I lack wisdom, the scriptures call me to ask God for it.  So i'm trying to be faithful to that call.  I truly want my faith and my understanding to increase, and in the midst of moments like this, both are stretched to the breaking point.

ENDURE.  Whenever I don't experience what I'm praying for, there's a little piece of me that wants to stop asking or praying with belief.  But I'm choosing to lean into God for more faith, especially when mine is strained and seems unreasonable. 


Monday, April 18, 2011


I think prayer is powerful.  Jesus said it can move mountains, heal the sick, and transform a soul.  But if I look at most of my prayers, they don't usually reflect this power.  It's like using a ferrari to get groceries or a professional kitchen cooktop to heat water. It's not like you'd be using it wrong, it's just that you wouldn't be even close to tapping the potential within.  I even wonder if God gets bored with requests that don't require much spiritual umph.

On the massive umph needed side, I have a friend in our local youth ministry network who is in the midst of a miracle only kinda moment.  He is the youth pastor at East Valley Christian Fellowship and about a week ago he was enjoying his hobby of bee keeping with his father-in-law when he was stung on the head.  He's been stung countless times before, but this time something had changed in his body and he went into anaphylactic shock.  He was rushed to the hospital and I've been told "died" numerous times on the emergency room table.

His name is Mike Hendricks and this is him with his wife and baby who is now 8 weeks old.  He is currently in ICU, kept alive by machines, and has been in a coma ever since. We're praying for a full recovery, but for that, what we need is a God-sized miracle.

So, to this end, here's what I'm trying to do in my prayers for Mike and others.

CHOOSE BELIEF OVER DOUBT.  I'm choosing to believe God can and wants to heal.  Until God tells me otherwise, I'm going to ask God to do what I believe God can do for my friend and co-worker.

DON'T ASK GOD TO DO WHAT I CAN DO MYSELF.  I'm not asking God to go get meals for family members or provide clean clothes for Mike's daughter. I'm asking God to do what no one, not even the doctors know how to do, and that is heal.

WHEN MY EXPERIENCE HURTS MY FAITH, I LEAN ON THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHERS.  I could give you a hundred reasons why treating God like a genie in a bottle has not worked for me.  I'm not suggesting that this ever works, but hospitals all around the world are filled with the "unexplainable" healing.  Ask any doctor, and they'll tell you, "Unexplainable stuff happens".  Maybe I've experienced a miracle or two, but when my faith waivers, I lean on the reports of miracles of others, especially of those in the Scriptures.



Sunday, April 17, 2011


Jesus was once asked "What is the greatest commandment?"

He famously responded by quoting the most central text of judaism, the "shema", and said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

But then he boldly added to it a not-so-famous quotation from Leviticus and said, "And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself."

For years, I thought of loving your neighbor as yourself as very logical.  Surely, we are all selfish and will look out for number one on some level.  Even the most selfless of us, are selfish about some things.  It is therefore logical to conclude that if I could simply love God first, and then love others like I love myself, the world would be a brighter place.

But for the first time in my life, I had this kinda "aha" moment when I realized that if I don't "love myself" in healthy ways, I cease to be a good model for how to love others.  I break this second commandment by Jesus by breaking the foundation clause of this sentence.  When I'm not loving myself right, I can't love others right.

In the most extreme cases, it would be like asking someone who is cutting themselves, to love others like they love themselves.  This would be a ridiculous premise. Or if someone is constantly looking in the mirror and telling themselves how ugly they are or jealously measuring their life against the life of everyone around them.  In those cases, loving others like I love myself would be abusive and damaging.  In that case, I would actually need to learn to love myself in some healthy ways before I could love others out of the overflow of that.

For me, I had to confess, that while i'm not cutting, I'm not really very good at loving myself in the way I want to love others. I'm not claiming to be selfless, but rather a little jacked up here.  For example:

  • I will deprive myself of sleep to "help others"
  • I will say no to a planned exercise run to say yes to an "emergency" counseling need.
  • I will ditch a day of doing nothing to help someone who asks.
  • I will interrupt solitude to help someone who needs "just a quick thing"
  • I will do a lot of things to myself I would never ever ask someone else to do to themselves.
And for the first time in my life, I'm realizing this is actually hurting my ability to love others.  The very thing I'm trying to do, is actually hurting me and in turn, is therefore hurting my ability to love others rightly out of the overflow of a healthy self love.  It's a vicious cycle I'm trying to break.  

So along with a rule of life and rest, I'm also trying to cultivate the spiritual discipline of self-care: loving myself as I want to be loved by others, so when I love others, I actually have some basis from which to do this.  That seems crazy to me.  But I'm starting to realize its essential really.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I don't know what to say about rest... other than I should probably not be talking about it.

I do sleep... and I take naps. Sometimes people wonder if I do... but I do. Based on convos I have with people around me, I evidently need less rest than most to feel solid and energized.

But nonetheless, it is true too that I suck at rest. There, I said it. And since it's 11:23pm and I have an early morning run tomorrow on my exercise plan, I'm gonna make this post brief before it becomes too self-prophetic or demoralizing.

I will also say that I have a strong aversion to laziness, and I think some have confused rest with apathy.  But for those who have not, I have a lot to learn from you... something I'm working on practically setting aside time for in the coming weeks as I enter this 39th year of my life.

Here's my definition of rest I'm working on:

REST IS the refusal to keep moving without pausing to replenish both body and soul.

Are you good at rest?  For me, I think it is a rhythm, an additional rule of life per se, that I desperately need.  This, in my mind, is a baby step towards a true Sabbath... something I really have never practiced well.  I don't say that with pride, but rather a fear that it is something I have missed for decades now.  Both rest and Sabbath are desperately needed in my life and I need to be very intentional about it.  I'm starting with saying no to some stuff and choosing to close my eyes and lay on the floor and do nothing in moments throughout my day.  I'm kinda digging the floor and grass and even the sidewalk outside my office in the warm sun these days.

I'm striving to lean into and learn what it means to honor God like this in one single block of time, slowing down to rest and enjoy God, not feed my own desire or the desires of others for more more more.  I'm learning. I evidently missed the nap time lesson in kindergarten.  I'm gonna try and make up for lost time in the next 3 months.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011


This week, I'm trying to flush out 3 spiritual desires inside me that I felt like I really needed to work on in the next 3 months between my birthday and my wedding anniversary.

The first is called a "RULE FOR LIFE".  Essentially this "rule" is not really just one practice, but rather a set of practices or spiritual rhythms that someone decides are necessary for their own continual spiritual growth.  They must be intentional and purposeful.  Made famous by The Rule of Saint Benedict that was some 73 chapters long... mine will be much shorter than that.

The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook that I'm using for class suggests that a Rule  For Life will "honor your limits and God-given longings. It goes against grandiosity and must be written for who you are, not for who you aren't."  It also says that it can change and adjust as you do, but not like on a whim.  It also should not be a legalistic set of rules, but instead a set of agreements that help you to say yes to what is most important and no to what is not. It is a plumb line, allowing you a central focus point from which you can intentionally evaluate your spiritual journey.

I wrote a set of personal core values about a year ago.  I think a Rule For Life is essentially the flushing out of how I'm going to do the first two.

A rule for life is about saying yes to my soul and to God in whose image it was created.  To that end, here are 10 categories of things I know I need to feed my soul. They may be helpful for you as you consider when writing your own rule for life.  So I could memorize them, I used the acrostic of "S.P.I.R.I.T.U.A.L."

SILENCE:  I need silence in my life.  I need regular, daily, spaces of short term and extended solitude and quiet.  When I don't make time to just sit or close my eyes or listen intently to the voice of God, I'm irritable and lose patience and energy fast.  Some people might need a snickers or cup of java.  I've been known to try either. Quite often however, a 20-30 minute set of silence can give me the energy I need to reengage.

PRAY: this means my life must be a constant conversation with God.  It also means my first response needs to be to pray. Then my second can be to act.

IMITATE:  My goal is to imitate Jesus. My priority must be to spend time reading the gospels and examining the life that Jesus lead.  I must constantly evaluate my own life not in light of how I'm comparing to my neighbor, but instead to my Savior.

READ: It is good for my mind and soul. God moves me through reading. I need to read at least 20 minutes a day.

INITIATE: I am profoundly a man of action.  I think that to keep my soul growing, I must keep moving toward God. I find the greatest joy when new things are started, new ideas are seeded, and new progress is made.  In my own life, I need to continually initiate newness to keep my faith vibrant and challenging.

TYPE: for me, typing out my thoughts is a soul shaping activity.  I need to find and make almost daily time to type.

UNDERSTANDING: I have some doubts. I am also a realist who would rather say it like it is than candy coat it to make it sound or taste better. The consequence of this as a child of God is that I need to constantly be asking childlike questions that send me searching for clarity and answers. When I wrestle with my faith, it doesn't get weaker, it gets stronger. I need to fight for understanding.

APPETITE: I must feed the desires that move me to God and starve the ones that distract.  Easier said than done, but it must be said and repeated and practiced for it to become a reality.

LISTEN: I must pay attention to everything around me.  If I want to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, I must be a keen observer of how God is moving in and around me.  I need to say no to the myth of multi-tasking, which I believe is not only impossible, but something I sincerely suck at. 

I'm not sure if that's all I need to care for my soul. But it's a good start.  It's a Rule For Life that gives me some key evaluation points in my life.  It's a Rule I want to live by in my Spiritual life.

Now... go write yours... or if you already have, tell me what piece of yours is missing from mine, I'd love to learn from those who have been there and done that for a while.  


Monday, April 11, 2011


I think that leaders are learners.

I think that leaders must be applying their learning to their own life first.

I want to be that kind of leader.

In order to apply my own learnings to my own life, I have discovered I need at least quarterly evaluation points or my learnings just become something of my past.  I have decided that there are some natural and some local mile markers in my own life that I want to utilize for this purpose.

  • January 1- a new year
  • April 11- my birthday
  • June 25- my wedding anniversary
  • September- labor day which is the day Jake was born on and is an easy day to mark the fall quarter.
So, today being my birthday (the last one in my 30's) I tried to spend some time thinking about what I wanted to do and what I needed to change.  Two classes I've been attending are shaping this season of life for me.

  • we had a physical fitness trainer and nutritionist come and talk with our high school and college students on Sunday afternoon about the Biblical mandate to take care of our bodies. It was a great reminder and even had some information that was new to me.  The most revealing of which was that he said that 80% of our diseases and physical ailments in America are actually a result of choices.  If that is true, then the logical conclusion is that I'm choosing the condition of my body, how much energy I have, and even what will eventually kill me based on three factors he said:  
  • Chew on that for a while.  What you eat and how you exercise and how you rest are determining how long you'll live and what you'll eventually die from... 80% of the time. 
  • He also gave each of our students a customizable 30 day online eating and exercise plan that I'm going to use this season of my life to dive into.  I'm kinda stoked about how that could actually change my life.  But the truth is, it's time to practice what is not really knew news to me. But at 39 the next phase of my life is directly being affected by the choices I am making today.  And I have some big goals that are gonna require a healthy me.  From my end, I need to do my part.  Game on. 

I'm taking a class for seminary that uses this book as it's main text.  

For my assignment this quarter, I was asked to select 3 of the disciplines in this book to process and focus on.  (there are like 60 or something in there) I chose these 3:

RULE FOR LIFE:   This is an ancient practice of creating a set of values for spiritual development that becomes part of your regular rhythm of life.
REST: The refusal to keep moving without pausing to replenish both body and soul.   

SELF-CARE: to value my own life as God values me.

I'm going to take the next 3 posts to flush out those 3 spiritual disciplines this week. Hopefully they will challenge you as they have challenged me.  


Sunday, April 10, 2011


My family showed up to church today in shoes.

We then all walked down to the main service lobby and gave our shoes to Japan through Soles for Souls.

Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.  You can tell my kids that people who live with more should give to those with less.  You can tell them, but Shannon and I are trying desperately to show them.  Some days we do a better job at that than others.  But the truth is, we still have shoes and barefoot was a choice for us. Sadly, that simple choice is not an option for many.  

When followers of Jesus follow Jesus, we MUST show compassion for those in tragedy and poverty. It's not optional.  It's mandatory.  Going shoeless for a few hours was powerfully simple.  I'm praying my kids won't forget it for quite some time.  


Thursday, April 07, 2011


I made a decision to follow Jesus as a freshmen in high school at Neighborhood Church in Castro Valley. I then eventually married my high school sweetheart who also went to Omega, the youth group there that literally taught me what a real youth ministry looked like.  I am who I am today because of the seeds God planted through that church in my life.

I then was 21 when I spoke at a water ski trip for a church in Fremont via a referral from my old youth pastor, Mark Tyler.  That led to my first full time youth ministry position where I stayed for 11 years.

Now, 25 years after I first stepped foot in Omega, I'm headed back to join old friends, my old youth pastor, and a great mens ministry led by an amazing friend for a retreat at Alliance Redwoods on May 20-22, 2011.  I'm stoked to return to the conference grounds where I've spent a decade of my life running a week of summer camp and to teach on some stuff I'm passionate about and can't wait to see men grab hold of.  Dang, I can't wait.

So, if you live in nor cal or within driving distance of Alliance Redwoods, are a man in high school or older, then you should join me.


Wednesday, April 06, 2011


I work with men and women on our church staff.  But right now, I work with a lot more women than I do men in my day-to-day job responsibilities because currently, all my direct reports are women.  I have always worked with women in the church in a variety of paid and volunteer roles and have no issues with women or men by gender.  But they are different.  I'm sure working with me as a man is different than working with a woman in my role.

But I will confess that sometimes, it gets weird and I feel like an outsider at the wrong party.  Like this week in my kids ministry staff meeting one of the women proclaimed emphatically to another, "Hey, you know you look really good in that green shirt.  It goes awesome with your hair." If this happened in a all men's staff meeting, someone would be punched.  

I just laughed and realized, Oh yeah, I'm the only dude at this table. 

But along the way, I've learned some things about working with women in specific.  I'm sure they fit men to some degree too.  But if you're a dude, here's my 4 pieces of advice:

Don't ever assume you can read your female colleagues emotions, attitudes, or feelings.  Don't assume that you know what they are thinking or why they may or may not be upset.  I cannot afford for the women in my ministry to think they can read me anymore than I can read them.  I have a rule... if something's wrong, I say so. If not, then we're good.  If you have something wrong and don't say so, they we're still good. It's all about communication and communication must trump intuition. 

Triple that if you're married, cuz it's not funny and you're not cute.  Laugh at life.  Be complimentary.  Be an encourager, just don't flirt. Like you should consider yourself a creeper if you flirt with your staff or your students.  Don't meet in your office without the door open or a window visible in hours where people are really in the office. More than one marriage has been ruined by casual flirting that wasn't so casual.  

There is a myth out there that you women only want to be heard by men.  Maybe it's true in marriage, but not in the work place.  My experience says in the office, when a woman is bringing me a problem, she rarely is looking for me to say, "Oh, I've been there too.  I hear your pain.  Let me know if you want my help."  It doesn't mean they need me to bulldoze them or handle the problem for them, but rarely are they just wanting to be heard.  They want my thoughts or help or resources or ideas or something that resembles leadership.  They have plenty of girlfriends and or maybe a spouse to give them an ear.  I'm not that guy.  So I try and help them solve problems, not just be heard. 

The work place, and sadly, especially the church can have a stigma of inferiority for women.  When you choose to empower and encourage them that you are behind them and for them, it creates a culture that is anti the norm.  If you're leadership doesn't encourage the women you work with, you'll be working up hill all the time.

oh..and I thought of one more... ASK FOR THEIR INPUT.
In as much as I see stuff through a mans eyes, the women on my team can see stuff I would have normally missed.  I save myself a lot of headaches when I get a female perspective on stuff, after all, a lot of what I do as a pastor or leader directly affects lots of men and women.  Getting another point of view is super helpful to avoid missing stuff or creating problems I otherwise could have avoided.  


Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Today I went barefoot and tried to be conscious about those in the world who go without much of what I consider normal... the very least of which is the right to own shoes.  Thousands of people around the globe went shoeless to join the hundreds of thousands of kids around the world who don't have them.

Here's what I learned while barefoot.


  • my sons do a better job of hitting the toilet and they are "sword fighting" half the time.  the floor in front of the urinal in the mens room at my seminary might be the grossest place on the planet. I think I'm peeing in the bushes next time.
  • soles of my shoes insulate me from temperature and textures I miss.  I said miss on purpose.  I think I probably experienced some pieces of my world today that I should be experiencing more often. Grass, black top pavement, carpet, concrete, dirt... they all feel different and most days, when I'm wearing shoes, I miss it.  
  • I think I could go every day without shoes in San Diego and probably not even be considered a hippy or weird or whatever- kinda like how women can ride their cruiser bike in a bra and underwear near the beach and no one thinks it's weird around here.  So, if you went shoeless in the rain or snow or on some kinda long dirt path hike, then I tip my shoes to you.  I walked on nice surfaces all day and didn't even suffer really.  I was reminded that I don't really even "need" shoes in my community for so much of what I do daily. 
  • We talked about this at dinner last night and Tyler was the one who said he wanted to do it.  So, I wrote Tyler a note today so that his teacher would let him go shoeless anywhere it wasn't a danger to him.  They wouldn't let him go to recess without shoes, but he could walk around his classroom that way.  He even told me he didn't put on shoes when he got home but played basketball with TJ without them.  He's very proud of himself.  I asked him what he said to his friends when they asked. I was amazed at the words this young man spit back at me today about his privilege of shoes, how other kids go without, and how he could help identify with them. Tyler and I bonded today across town.  


Monday, April 04, 2011


Today I got an e-mail from a friend of mine, Timothy, in Uganda.  He uses a yahoo account and a computer at the local library to send me e-mails from time to time.  His English is better than my Lugandan, so we write back and forth a couple times a year.  We have some stuff in common as we both are parenting a grip of kids, share a passion for Jesus, and like a good bowl of ice cream.  However on a practical day to day level, our lives couldn't be more different.
  • His house has no electricity, mine has like 50 places to plug into it.
  • His house has water from a well out front, mine has it from 5 locations inside my house.
  • His floor is dirt, mine is not.
  • His house has holes where windows would go, mine has windows where the holes are.
  • He has some clothes, my family has enough clothes for his whole village pretty much.
  • He is the sole pastor to many churches, I'm one of many pastors to one church.
  • He has no health care, I have medicines if my kids get a cold.
  • He has 2 boats to get across the lake, I have 3 or 4 cars to get my family across town. 
I could go on... for pages.  And if you don't know people in situations like this, then it's easy- especially for Americans- to assume their privileges are international rights.  But they aren't.  I didn't choose what country I grew up in or the kind of family I was born into.  It's a privilege.  So from time to time, I need to get myself and my kids around those who have radically less than I do to remind me of both my gratitude and my responsibility to share the blessing.  I need to identify with the poor as a follower of Jesus. 

So, this week, I'm doing two things for this function, specifically in terms of shoes.

TOMORROW IS "ONE DAY WITHOUT SHOES" sponsored by TOM's.  I'll be going shoeless all day tomorrow as a fast of sorts with people from all over the globe.  It's a chance to remind myself that again, my shoes are a luxury, not a right.  It's a chance to go without something I don't have to, but need to go without for a day. 

THIS SUNDAY, my family will be joining our church to work with SOLES FOR SOULS to send shoes to Japan.  We're going to buy new shoes for our family, then wear them to church, then we're leaving them there as an offering and going home shoeless.  I'm praying it leaves an impression in our kids and reminds them that they are a luxury.

This picture is actually from our plane ride out of Uganda and Billy is realizing for the very first time in his life that he owns shoes.  As I snapped this picture he said, "I have shoes and socks!"  I just cried for joy for him.  I still cry at this picture.  It's a privilege.

You can learn more about it here in this video if you want to participate. 

So join me.  Let's go without and remind ourselves that most of want we NEED is really a WANT for the rest of the world. 


Sunday, April 03, 2011


I've been processing this for about the last 30 days or so, and don't have this all figured out, but one of the things I'm trying to do as a parent these days is this:

I want to live in a such a way that I model and teach values to my kids that they won't have to unlearn later.  
I don't want to spend a lot of time apologizing for false guilt, misguided rules, unhealthy expectations, and solid convictions I lived by and clearly enforced but have since then abandoned.

Sure, every parent is screwing up their kids in some way.  None of us are perfect.  But the most extreme example of this I can think of is that parents in our country- in the not so distant past- honestly defended racial segregation, even in the church... and yet were sincerely WRONG.  Like I can't ever imagine a day when I'm going to change my opinion on that statement.  But there are pastors who had to apologize to their kids for being comfortable with the sin of racism and even promoting it.  I really don't ever want to look myself in the mirror and say, "I firmly believed this thing to be true, taught it with great passion and conviction, and now know it to be fully false."  So I ask myself, "What are the things I believe today that I will apologize to my kids or my grandkids 20 years from now?"  Because I know that stuff is so hard to see in the mirror, the answer scares me to death as a pastor and a parent.

In the past month or so, I've read or heard two quotes that have surfaced this in me again:

Ed Noble, our lead pastor said this at our Parenting Summit last month:
"we need to lead our children to a Jesus that we're not going to have to unlead them to later"
Rob Bell, in a sideline comment about the Jesus we lead students to in his book "love wins" says:
"My wife and I often talk about raising our kids in such a way that they have as little as possible to unlearn later on in life."  
So to this end, I'm trying to do these three things at least:

  1. LEARN FROM MY KIDS QUESTIONS:  I'm trying to read my kids by reading their questions. When they ask questions, they are not just seeking information, they are telling me what they are observing.  As I hear them ask stuff, I'm learning not only what they are wondering, but what I'm teaching them by accident.  That is more important to me than what I think I'm teaching them on purpose.  
  2. EMBRACE HUMILITY BEFORE CERTAINTY:  I'm not trying to be wishy washy with my kids.  But I am trying to help them develop a thinking faith and I'm honestly trying to think about mine.  The older I get, the more educated I become, the less stuff I'm willing to die for.  I'm trying to model for my kids a humble genuine faith that doesn't paint the world black and white just because it's easier to be clear about stuff. Maybe I should be less clear and more humble on purpose. 
  3. DON'T EXPECT WHAT I DON'T MODEL:  If I want my kids to care for the poor, then I better do that clearly before and with them.  If I want my kids to keep their room clean, then mine better be clean.  If I want my kids to not drive and text, then I better stop driving and texting.  If I want my kids to say their sorry when they wrong someone, then I had better do it first.  If I don't want my kids to unlearn stuff from me, then a great place for me to start is to not teach stuff I have already begun to unlearn myself. 


Friday, April 01, 2011


Well, April 1st means I'm at the quarter mark in 2011. Actually, it means we're all at the quarter mark.

So, a new month and new quarter are both decent reasons for a renewed evaluation of my goals for a new me.  I have been trying to take care of my own mind, body, and soul better in 2011.  I broke it up into some significant categories.   I'm not sure how vulnerable I want to be on the internet, but here's what I'm willing to lay out there.

BLOGGIN':  I have been bloggin' 5x a week for 90 days now. Hope you've enjoyed it. It's been a fun outlet for my life, learnings, and I plan to keep going... I don't know how long, but for a while I think.

RUNNIN': First 30 days were aces... then I got some new job responsibilities at work that kicked into full swing and seminary started crankin' and yeah... I essentially stopped running. I kept playing soccer, but stopped running on my own. Not good.  Went for a run yesterday. Going again in the morning.  When life gets crazy, my physical self takes the first hit.  And I discovered, my body atrophies in like 30 seconds too.

BUDGETIN': I was entering all my receipts in a budget program every week for our family.  I did this in January. I wanted to make this a regular habit.  Good news is we have cut spending quite a bit.  Bad news is... I stopped doing this after January.  Pickin' it back up in the morning, cuz it was good when I did it.

READIN': Outside of stuff for work, I finally got some traction on reading for life and blogs and such... and then seminary reading took over.  So, again, this one started good and hasn't stopped like running, but definitely slowed down.  Time to figure out a better plan and time to do this.

SLEEPIN': Um... nope.  There were a couple weeks in there where I did very little.  Spring is here, maybe the hammock will inspire me :)  Maybe I should put one in my office again like I did when I was 22.

EATIN': I think my goals here were too vague.  I'm gonna revisit this one all together.  I downloaded a calorie counter thingamajig for my iphone/ipad back in late January... but I didn't use it at all really.  Gonna try again with clearer goals this quarter.

FAMILY: Spent lots of time with my kids in the first quarter.  Made it to pretty much all the important stuff.  Lots of field trips and soccer games and several sushi dates in there :)

ok... so yeah, not a great first quarter.  I don't want to grade it, cuz I might get depressed and I'm really just hoping the honest eval of my life gives me enough of a kick in the butt to keep pressing on without trippin' up my goals so bad that I stop running after them.

How about you.  How was our first quarter of 2011?



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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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