Thursday, August 31, 2006

Back in business.

You know, every time my blog gets linked from the SYM Podcast, my hits jump through the roof. Guess that means: 1. People watch/listen to the podcast; 2. People also look at the links; 3. People follow the links. Hmm...I must have gone to college, to have figured that one out. "Yeah, well, your mom went to college." Thanks.

So yes I'm back in civilization now, after several days in the mountains, and I have LOTS of stuff to blog about. In fact, I'm going to ask my senior pastor if I can spend half my week in the mountains, because I have more blog material from 4 days in Yosemite than I typically get in 4 weeks in the Sacramento area. Go figure.

Might be a post or two later tonight. Right now I'm visiting my mom, who has lost ALL of her hair from her two rounds of chemo. She's letting me take pics of her, so I'll post something tonight or tomorrow on how she looks bald. Never thought my mom would go bald before me.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Gone for a few.

I'm up in the mountains for a few days of spiritual R&R. Got my Bible, my books, my tent and some food. Should be fun. Just praying it's not too hot. I'm trying to get away from the summer temps, although it's only been low to mid90s around here lately. Anyway, no new posts until late Thursday night. Cya.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hurray for Star Wars.

I'm sitting here in the middle of a group of students watching the 5th of the 6 Star Wars movies (that would The Empire Strikes Back, in case you're not a huge Star Wars fan). It's been quite an adventure, and we still have about 3 hours left until we're done.

Most of the gang stayed awake through the first 2 films; outdoor basketball between games helped, I think. But with each passing Episode, the number of still-awakes continues to shrink. The low point was about halfway through Episode 4: A New Hope (the "original" Star Wars), I think there were maybe 4 or 5 of us awake. Right now, as I scan the room, I observe at least 10 or 11 of us awake, even though I (and others) continue to battle the desire to sleep.

I'm supposed to take a few days of vacation after this, and I'll need it. But overall, it's been a fun event for the students (and the brave adults who are still here), and I highly recommend to any of you looking for a way to spend at least 14 straight hours with your students.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Star Wars mania.

Tonight we're holding a Star Wars Movie Marathon for our students. It was a student-initiated idea, which means it will deprive me of much sleep. But it'll be fun. We gonna flip on Phantom Menace (by far the weakest of the 6 flicks) right at 6PM sharp, and then go until 8 or 9 in the morning. It should be fun because we've got a projector set up in our "fellowship" facility, so we're gonna project big on the wall and run sound through a decent stereo system. Should be fun.

I've already got games and activities lined up (thx, JG!), and the event is just 3 hours away. But if you have thoughts on silly or fun in-between-movies activities or games, fire off an email or post a comment here. Maybe we can squeeze in some other stuff to keep everyone awake all night!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto gets the boot.

Poor Pluto. It's got an identity crisis. For 74 years it thought it was a planet. Today, astronomers ripped away its planetary status. I'm sure there's some deeper thought about self-identity here somewhere, but I don't feel like searching for it. Anyone else is welcome to take a stab at it.
    PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

    After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

    For now, [planetary] membership will be restricted to the eight "classical" planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

    Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Divided Survivors.

The new season of Survivor is just a few weeks away, once again bringing meaning and purpose to Thursday nights. They have a new twist for this season:
    LOS ANGELES (AP) - Get ready for a segregated "Survivor." Race will matter on the upcoming season of the CBS show as contestants will be divided into four tribes by ethnicity. That means blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians in separate groups.

    The announcement was made on CBS' Early Show. Host Jeff Probst says the idea "actually came from the criticism that 'Survivor' was not ethnically diverse enough." He says the twist fits in perfectly with what "Survivor" does, saying the show is "a social experiment. And this is adding another layer to that experiment." Probst says contestants had mixed reactions to the racial divisions.

    This time the new Survivors are stranded on the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. The castaways include a police officer, a heavy metal guitarist, an attorney and a nail salon manager. The new season of Survivor debuts September 14th.
Haven't had a chance to look through the cast profiles yet, but I'm sure they've tossed in a few token roles once again (probably at least one Christian among the batch). Not trying to be cynical about it. I enjoy the show, but come on -- it IS television. It's not some redeeming force for our world.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Signs of wonder.

Marko from Youth Specialties has a hilarious post about silly, obnoxious, horrid church signs. Go check it out. Lots of fun, if you have a sense of humor about such things. If not... well, you probably shouldn't be looking at lots of these blogs, anyway.

Another #33 hero.

Just as I'm going to bed, I swing by SFGate and find a story on Joe Rosenthal, the photographer who captured the classic image of the U.S. flag being raised in Iwo Jima. Turns out he was 33 years old when he took the pic. He died Sunday at the age of 94.
    He was a 33-year-old Associated Press photographer on Feb. 23, 1945, when he captured the black-and-white image of five battle-weary Marines and a Navy corpsman struggling to raise a flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

    He took the picture on the fifth day of the furious 36-day battle that left 6,621 American dead and 19,217 wounded. All but 1,083 of the 22,000 dug-in Japanese defenders were killed before the island was secured.

    It was of that battle -- one of the bloodiest in Marine Corps history -- that Adm. Chester Nimitz, World War II commander of the Pacific fleet, said: "Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue."

    Wartime Navy Secretary James Forrestal said of Rosenthal: "He was as gallant as the men going up that hill."

Birthday go bye-bye.

My birthday has ended. It fell on a Sunday, so that made it weird. We had a funeral in the afternoon, so that added to the unusualness of the day. Now it's Monday. And now I should head toward bed. Adios.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Give it up for #33.

So, yes, today is my 33rd birthday. I decided to do a little research and find out what other people had accomplished by their 33rd birthdays:

* Thomas Jefferson. Wrote the Declaration of Independence when he was 33.
* Jesus Christ. Was crucified and resurrected when He was (probably) 33.
* Bill Gates. Was facing a legal battle from Apple over Windows 2.0 when he was 33.
* Joan of Arc. Had already been dead for 14 years.
* Billy Graham. Was into his first year leading the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association when he was 33.
* Katie Couric. Was a national correspondent for the Today show when she was 33.
* Doug Fields. Was working on a book called "The Purpose-Driven Life," which somehow was lost and discovered by someone else years later.
* Winston Churchill. Was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for the UK government when he was 33.
* Julius Caesar. Was just launching his political career when he was 33.
* Susan B. Anthony. Was just beginning her involvement as a leader in both the women's suffrage and anti-slavery movements when she was 33.
* Alexander the Great. Had conquered most of his known world by the time he was (almost) 33; he died just a month shy of his 33rd birthday.

So, how 'bout them apples?

I'm old. Not really.

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
I spend time around teens
Who laugh that I'm 33

Friday, August 18, 2006

The next Harry Potter?

So I'm sitting at my mom's house this evening. She's just gone through her second round of chemo to battle lymphoma. We're watching the evening news (yes, people DO still watch it, apparently), and ABC World News decided to name the newest Sesame Street muppet as its Person of the Week.

This new character is named Abby Cadabby, a 3-year-old fairy-in-training who apparently is the first new character in 13 years to be introduced on the show. Her appearance is an attempt to create a strong lead female presence on the show. Cool.

But she's a fairy. She flies around and has a magic wand. And it got me thinking. Is Abby Cadabby the next Harry Potter? Are some evangelical Christians going to latch onto the idea of a "magical fairy" teacing their kids on Sesame Street, and become irate about it?

If so, I'll be disappointed. But I should at least get some kind of applause for predicting the trend before it happened... maybe I'll write a book about it... maybe I can retire early or buy a house or travel the world... hmmm...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Did the Dog go wild?

For all you fans of "Dog the Bounty Hunter" comes this lovely tale of a Bay Area lawsuit...
    The brawny, long-haired, leather-clad ex-con with a soft side -- known to reality television fans as "Dog the Bounty Hunter" -- swept into a Daly City park last year with cameras rolling and city police officers in tow.

    Duane Chapman and his Hawaii-based "posse" of family members, who star in A&E's most popular series, were after an elusive bail-skipper who had played for the Daly City Renegades semipro football team.

    What happened next is the subject of an unusual civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. ...

    "This is reality TV run amok," said (Simaile "Cisco") Lutu's attorney, Jim Hammer, a former San Francisco prosecutor and television legal commentator. "There's got to be a bright line between television entertainment on one hand and real police work on the other."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tag. I'm it.

Yet another example of viral activity on the Internet. But this has a little bit more depth to it than funny videos that tell people to part the Red Sea. Thanks, Josh.

1. One book that changed your life: This is tough. Best answer is "Visioneering," Andy Stanley. Challenging, thought-provoking, encouraging book for leaders.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: "Fahrenheit 451," Ray Bradbury. Sorry Michael Moore. I'll pick the original book over the knockoff film any day, and twice on Tuesday.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: "War and Peace," Leo Tolstoy. It's really, really big, so it will take me many, many days to read through it each time as I lament my desert experience. BTW, shouldn't this be "deserted" island and not a "desert" island? If you're on an island, you have water nearby, which seems to limit the impact of being an alleged desert. Just a thought.

4. One book that made you laugh: "The Know It All," A.J. Jacobs. It's a hilarous account of a guy who decided to read the entire Encyolpaedia Britannica. Fun.

5. One book that made you cry: "The Last Battle," C.S. Lewis. I admit it. I really like the whole Narnia series. I've lost track of how many times I've read each book. Some may criticized Lewis' work, but I love it. I still get a little misty-eyed at the end of the seven-book series (any time I read 'em, I read 'em all in a row).

6. One book you wish had been written: "All the Winning Lottery Numbers of the Early 21st Century," Nostradamus.

7. One book you wish had never been written: Hmmm. Tough one. Let's go with "My Life," Bill Clinton. Is he really deep enough to warrant such a huge tome?

8. One book you’re currently reading: Just one? I'm in the middle of reading three. "Franklin and Winston," Jon Meacham. It's a down-to-earth biography of the friendship between FDR and Winston Churchill during WWII. Good read.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: Just one? There are so many unread books that line my shelves. Let's pick "Leading from the Second Chair," Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson.

10. One book you’d like to write: "Entering Ministry When You're 30 OR Ministry as a Single Guy and other humorous tales"

So, now it's my turn to tag some friends. My choices: fellow youth pastor Evan Mattei; missions man extraordinaire Matt Wilkie; and other superduper missions guy Tom Hammond.

Monday, August 14, 2006

One rough day.

Today was one of the most difficult days we've had at our church in a long time. We're preparing for a funeral tomorrow -- our senior pastor's dad, who had been active in the congregation for decades -- which we know will be a mixed day of celebrating his life and mourning his loss.

This afternoon, another member of our congregation died -- but in much more tragic circumstances. Today's loss has torn at different emotions, but both deaths have left wounds on the hearts of many here.

There are never easy answers. Why do certain things happen in our world? Why did I lose this family member? Where do I go from here? How do I handle this pain? What do I tell our kids? What can I do to ease their pain?

Easily answered? Hardly. But the questions will be asked. The questions must be asked as we grapple with our Christian experience, as we do our best to life God-honoring lives in a sin-filled world.

    "It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three -- sin, guilt, death -- are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!" 1 Corinthians 15:57 (The Message)

One small (mis)step for NASA.

In case you lose things in your office, you're in good company. It happens to our friends at NASA, too. Of course, you probably don't keep original copies of the Magna Carta sitting around in your office...
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. government has misplaced the original recording of the first moon landing, including astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," a NASA spokesman said on Monday.

    Armstrong's famous space walk, seen by millions of viewers on July 20, 1969, is among transmissions that NASA has failed to turn up in a year of searching, spokesman Grey Hautaloma said.

    "We haven't seen them for quite a while. We've been looking for over a year and they haven't turned up," Hautaloma said.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Viral Christianity.

Tomorrow morning, our senior pastor won't be preaching. His father passed away this last week, and he's feeling the need to stay away tomorrow -- which I think of us would feel in similar circumstances!

So I've been working on a sermon for tomorrow morning, borrowing a few loose concepts from the Being a Contagious Christian material that Willow Creek produced back in the 1990s. Our focus tomorrow will be on "Viral Christianity," noting that our call as Christians in the Great Commission is similar to the viral videos and marketing techniques of our generation. They're addictive, they're agents of change, they spread rapidly, and they're active not passive. Those strike me as characteristics of what a genuine Christian life should be.

So go be viral for God.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Such a busy week.

This afternoon, I was sitting down and looking at this blog, and I realized that it's been silent for several days now. I've done a pretty good job of keeping this thing semi-active since I launched it back in June; just a few breaks of silence now and then.

It's been a wild week around here. My senior pastor's father passed away yesterday, so our office has been busy with phone calls and preparation and discussions about the funeral next week. Tonight several of us are gathering at his house so we can spend time with him and his wife, along with his mom and other family members.

Loss is never easy. Anytime we lose a loved one, a part of us is gone. As Christians, we know that there's the opportunity to see that person again, if they also know Christ, yet we feel part of us is gone forever.

I've lost all 4 of my grandparents, as well as a stepgrandma. Frances (who married my dad's dad after they had both lost their spouses) was the last one to pass away, earlier this year.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the memories and the times I shared with my grandparents. I look back and wish I could relive some of those experiences. I wish I could ask my mom's dad, who was a pastor for many years, how he handled some of the "stuff" pastors deal with each day. I wish I could hear some of those stories now -- when my grandparents were alive, I wasn't involved in full-time ministry, so the tales didn't mean as much. Today, they'd be more meaningful -- especially this week.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The dangers of fishing.

I'm familiar with various fish-slapping dances, but here's a new twist:
    Wildwood, Fla. (AP) -- A man riding a personal watercraft on the Suwannee River was injured after a 4-foot-long sturgeon jumped out of the water and hit him, wildlife officials said.

    Blake Nicholas Fessenden, 23, was heading north on the Suwannee River Sunday just north of the Hart Springs Sand Bar when he was hit and fell off the craft, according to a statement from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    Fessenden was knocked unconscious.

Lieberman vs Extremists

Today, Democratic voters in Connecticut will decide if Joe Lieberman will become their nominee for another term as their junior senator, or if he will be forced to launch an independent campaign if he wants that job for another six years. One of the most intriguing aspects of this election has been the activity of liberal online groups, including, that have activated their angry base of supporters. The primary issue: the war in Iraq.

This one Senate race may be getting lots of attention, but it's not the only example of online groups using their power and influence to affect a political or social campaign. And liberal groups aren't the only participants. Conversative bloggers and talk-show radio hosts are doing their fair share of blowing on the fire.

It all concerns me because the loudest, most vocal, most influential voices and outlets represent the Left and the Right -- not the moderately liberal or moderately conservative views, but the Extremes.

I've never been a big fan of the Extremes. I'm a registered non-partisan voter. My liberal friends think I'm conservative. My conservative friends are convinced I'm a liberal. I've voted for Republicans and Democrats (but never Bill Clinton), and I've even cast a few votes for third-party candidates (including, yes, Ross Perot in '92).

The Extremes are great at talking. They're great at shouting, actually. What they're not very good at is communicating. It's like having two friends who've gone through a huge fight, and they never fully resolved the issues. You bring them together, and they can talk AT each other, but they never seem to be able to talk TO each other.

So as the Left and Right go at it, the Moderates are stuck. Where is the dialogue? Where is the true concern for the big picture and the legit national interest? Where is the willingness to find a real Third Way (not the Clintonian version)?

I don't live in Connecticut, so I won't be voting today. But our fair state of California has an election this fall, and the Extremes are already gearing up. The presidential election is more than two years away, and the Extremes are lining up their forces. The bullhorns are ready. The picket signs are painted. The demagogues are tuning up their voices.

Such a shame.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Music affects teen sex. Surprise.

This article won't really surprise youth pastors. It has some good observations and research on the impact sexually oriented music has on teens. The bottom line, of course, is that the more parents can be involved in the lives of their teens, the more parents will know what their teens are hearing and watching and reading, and who they're hanging with. All that good stuff.

    CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.

    Whether it's hip-hop, rap, pop or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.

    Songs depicting men as "sex-driven studs," women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.

    Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Fashionable phones.

Check this out. Pretty good article from the SF Chronicle's website about the fashion side of mobile phones.

    Alison Hong never thought she'd be turning heads with a cell phone, but that's exactly what's been happening with her latest gadget.

    The 22-year-old San Francisco paralegal just bought an LG Fusic -- a sleek, white phone from Sprint with colored face plates -- and noticed the reactions immediately.

    "You know how people leave their phones on the table? People will always grab my phone first because it catches their eyes," she said. "They think it's an iPod phone.''

    Long an afterthought, cell phone design is in the spotlight with a host of new phones sporting stylish and eye-popping looks. While there is still a market for unremarkable silver-and-black phones, throwbacks to the dawn of the cellular age, a new generation of devices is playing like never before on color, form and materials.
For the record, I don't have a pink Razr. Or a blue Pebl. I opted for function over form when I got a new phone earlier this summer. My choice: a Treo 700p from Sprint. Great phone. Lot of functions. Easy to use. And not cheap -- but worth it.

dear wrkr: u r fired

I've never been fired from a job before, but I don't imagine it's a pleasant experience. Imagine how much worse it was for this woman:

    LONDON, United Kingdom (AP) -- Katy Tanner's cell phone beeped with a startling message — you're fired. The 21-year-old had a migraine headache and took a sick day last week from her job at Blue Banana, a chain body-piercing studio in Cardiff, Wales, she said Monday. She turned on her cell phone the next day to discover she'd been terminated from her sales position.

    "We've reviewed your sales figures and they're not really up to the level we need," shop manager Alex Barlett wrote in the message. "As a result, we will not require your services any more. Thank you for your time with us."

    Ian Bisbie, a Blue Banana director said the company does not usually fire employees by text message, but had no other alternative after phoning Tanner five or six times and calling her boyfriend.
    The company also defended the sacking-by-text message as a way to keep modern.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Deepish Thoughts. Friday Style.

One of my roommates has a pet hamster. The rodent escaped from its cage-condo last night and made its way into my room. (I refer to the rodent as "it" because I've never asked and never looked.) I didn't notice its presence until it had been in there awhile and was safely protected by all the storage boxes under my bed. Eventually, we captured the creature. But I was starting to wish we also had a cat...

I was clearing out some out text msgs today, and came across one to my good friend, Bill Rath, who loves the Doug Fields Podcast and will be happy to know that I've finally used the names "Bill Rath" and "Doug Fields" in the same sentence. I sent Billy Boy a text last week in which I asked, "Did u do anything fun for ur bathroom?" I meant to ask if he had done anything fun for his birthday. I wonder where I was when I typed the msg...

Our youth group is holding a Star Wars movie marathon later this month. All six movies. All night long. I wish we could skip Episode I, but we have to be true to the entire Lucas genius (such as it is). Yesterday, I came across a sweet movie from The Skit Guys that stars Leia, Chewie and Han Solo. It's a riot. I highly recommend you download it. Unless you have dial-up. It will take you forever...

And speaking of Lucas, do you know the only city name mentioned in his classic movie "American Graffiti"? If you know where Lucas was born, that will put you on the right track. His hometown isn't the right answer, but the right answer isn't far, far away...

My students gave me an early birthday present on Wednesday night, which is really cool since my birthday isn't until October. (Just kidding, it's this month; you're welcome to send cash, iTunes cards or Amazon gift certificates.) Among the unique items:
  • a "Sportcap Buddy" for washing my dirty, disgusting baseball cap
  • a writing pen that also includes a red laser and a blue light
  • a box of instant popcorn, a bag of pretzels and a box of Slim Jims (all inside jokes)
  • and a Dr. Pepper T-shirt
That was all pretty cool, in my book. But I'm still tryin' to figure out where they stashed the cash...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sweet podcast.

OK, so Josh Griffin says the latest Simply Youth Ministry podcast episode is their most depressing ever. I'm glad that I had a part in creating a tad of that depression. If you need help for depression, there are many options.

I know that Fields and McGill are leaving soon for their Kenyan adventure, so no clue if any of the following will ever be heard live on the podcast, so I offer this for your consideration.

On Episode 25, Fields, McGill, Natalie and Griff (with a little Brazel help) debated how many of my emails had been read on their fine show. Here was the email response I sent to each of them...


Hey gang! It turns out that Natalie was right, though I'm not sure everyone heard her guess of "7" for the number of my emails that have been read.

Let's break it down.

#1: The sexually charged comment/"P.S. I'm movin' to Brooklyn"
Emailed: 17 March 06
Read: Episode 8

#2: Purpose-Driven vs. 7 Checkpoints
Emailed: 23 March 06
Read: Episode 9

#3: The non-humor coach
Emailed: 21 March 06
Read: Episode 9

#4: State abbreviations list for Natalie
Emailed: 5 April 06
Read: Episode 11

#5: Questions for Austin Carty (including Pat Robertson leg-pressing 2K lbs.)
Emailed: 26 May 06
Read: Episode 18

#6: The best time to start writing small group curriculum
NOTE: Was read anonymously
Emailed: 11 Feb 06
Read: Episode 19

#7: The risks of humor
Emailed: 17 July 06
Read: Episode 24
Re-read and answered: Episode 25

And I'm glad to know that at least 3 items on a Top 10 were funny. That's batting .300, and they might put me in the baseball hall of fame with an average like that.

Sure hope my future emails get ready...I've probably exceeded my quota...


Anyway, I hope they read your email soon. Good luck. Just kidding. Sorta.