Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Moving insanity.

The last few days have been a blur. I got the keys to my house on Friday, and this weekend was move-in time. One of my roommates and one of my students drove down with me Saturday morning to pick up some furniture at my mom's house in Turlock. On our way back, we stopped at the IKEA store in West Sacramento to buy a few things.

At this point, everything's going fine.

We get to the house. Some others show up to help unload. Boxes are being carried. Stuff is being unloaded. Furniture is being moved into the right rooms.

Then we hit a snag. The fridge won't fit through any of the doors.

You see, my house was built in 1957. The fridge my awesome mom found for me at a garage sale is, well, a little newer. And bigger. Which is good, for a house with 4 bachelor guys.

But the fridge wouldn't fit.

Finally, we came up with this plan: We removed the door from its hinges, we removed the fridge door (it's a side-by-side, and we couldn't remove the freezer side because it has a water line to the door. So, then 4 of us managed to hoist the fridge up two steps between the garage and the kitchen, swing the open-door freezer side in first, then turn the fridge so it would move through the doorway.

It worked, and now we're enjoying a nice big fridge with plenty of room for milk. One of my roomies drinks nonfat. I drink 1%. Another drinks 2%. And the fourth drinks whole milk. Pathetic, huh.

Whenever I sell this house, the fridge might just stay with it.

BTW, the pic up top...it's a view of my office today, after I've cleared out some stuff, moved other stuff, and awaiting still more stuff. Fun.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Big day arrives.

This was the day I've been looking forward to for several weeks. I signed my life away -- more or less -- to buy my first home. Yes! My days of being a renter will soon end. Hallelujah. I'll post some pics later this week or this weekend. It looks like I should be able to start moving in either Friday or Saturday, which is super cool. Good youth service tonight, after a slightly rocky start. God's good, eh? Hope your day was good, too!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Have you voted yet?

Any candidate or campaign or ballot measure trying to grab my attention is wasting its time. I've already voted. Twice. Just kidding; this isn't Chicago, and I'm not dead yet. But I have cast my ballot, thanks to this wonderful thing called permanent absentee voter. My absentee ballots are sent to me automatically, which makes voting a much easier process. Only catch: If I change my mind between now and November 7 on any candidate or issue, I'm out of luck. Unless I can convince some poor soul to vote the way I should have.

Me and names.

I got an email from a friend this afternoon, writing me about my post on forgetting the guy's name at the grocery store. For the benefit of this friend and all the billions of other readers (OK, dozens at best), let me offer a more detailed explanation of me and names.

I used to be bad at remembering names. This is rather funny, seeing how I used to work in newspapers. But it's true. Then I moved up here to Antelope, and one of my prayers was that God would help me remember more people' names. When I arrived, I knew a grand total of 4 people in this church, so I had to start from scratch. Remarkably, I found that I could remember students' names. A lot of names. Seriously, a lot.

To this day, I can still recall some of the students who were attending here when I first arrived (but don't come here anymore). I've had students who came once or twice a year because of visiting family members in town -- and I'll still remember their name the next year. Sometimes a kid will remind me of their first name, and I'll immediately recall their last name.

So, Sunday's grocery store incident -- not sure if it's a significant event or not. Lately, my mind hasn't been AS sharp at retaining names. Perhaps I'm reaching my capacity with names. Or maybe I haven't been doing enough work on my end to recall names. Who knows. I'm not worried ... yet.

Happy anniversary to me.

On this day 11 years ago -- October 23, 1995 -- I started working at my first post-college job. Over the last 11 years, I've worked at 3 newspapers (including the one pictured above), 2 churches, a magazine start-up in Greece, and I spent a few months unemployed. And I have absolutely no idea WHY I can remember the date of my first day at my first job. I'm just weird like that.

Hate it when that happens.

So, I'm in a local grocery store Sunday night after a full day at the church. I arrived at the church around 7:30AM that day, and I never went home during the day. It's around 9PM, and I've stopped by the store to get some stuff for dinner. I'm paying for my groceries, and I'm leaving the line and heading toward the exit. I realize that the guy behind me in line looks familiar. But I can't remember his name.

And we didn't make eye contact. He just seemed familiar. I'm walking toward the exit, then outside, then to my car. I keep trying to peg his name and face. Then I realize: He and his family briefly attended our church a couple of years ago. What was his name, what was his name?

I'm loading my stuf into my car. What was his name? I'm moving around to my door. What was his name? Didn't it start with an "M"? I get my key into the ignition. Was it Mike? Matt? Yea, I think it's Matt. I turn the ignition. I shift into reverse. Matt... Hmm. Matt... Hmm. I leave my parking space and begin to pull away from the store.

Then I remember his whole name, and his wife's name. But I was about 3 minutes too late. Ugh. I hate it when that happens. I really do. It could have been a great chance to reconnect with someone, see how they're doing. Instead, it's a reminder that while I have a LOT of names stashed somewhere in my brain, I need to keep working on my recall.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Those traveling blues.

Great column today on SFGate (website for the SF Chronicle) from the editor of their travel section. It's the over-traveled traveler version of "You Might Be a Redneck" (even though the Chron would never admit it, I'm sure). I got quite a few laughs from the column, including these highlights:
    When you find a 3-day-old copy of USA Today and read every word, including the NHL transactions, it may be time to go home. ...

    When you stop Americans on the streets of Venice and ask them if they know who was eliminated this week on "American Idol," it may be time to go home. ...

    When you begin to develop a disturbing obsession with CNN International's Richard Quest, it may be time to go home. ...

    When you flip through the SkyMall catalog page by page, and there's not a single remote-controlled blimp or turbo nose-hair trimmer you haven't seen before, it may be time to go home. ...

    When you are drawn toward the Golden Arches as if by tractor beam, it may be time to go home.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ready for 'Indy 4'?

There's been buzz about this for years, but it appears a fourth Indiana Jones flick really, truly is in the works. Not sure how I feel about this. I thought "Last Crusade" neatly wrapped up the trilogy; adding a fourth chapter feels like Douglas Adams writing a trilogy in five parts. Hmmm.

Anyway, here's the latest on the Indiana Jones saga, courtesy of your monopolistic friends at The Associated Press and CNN-Time-Warner-Etc.
    ROME, Italy (AP) -- Harrison Ford says he feels "fit to continue" to play Indiana Jones despite growing older.

    Ford, 64, said at the inaugural Rome Film Festival on Friday that he was delighted to team up again with directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for the film. Lucas co-wrote and executive produced the earlier films, which Spielberg directed.

    "We did three films that stay within the same block of time. We need to move on for artistic reasons and obvious physical reasons," Ford said at a news conference. "I feel fit to continue and bring the same physical action."

How safe are Macs?

Are Macs safer just because fewer people use them? Or are they inherently safer than their evil cousins with Windows? Interesting thoughts in this article from CNN:
    One reason Apple has so far been shielded from nasty code is because its market share is relatively small.

    Apple accounted for 3.3 percent of total U.S. computer sales in 2004, and for 4.3 percent in 2005, according to technology research firm International Data Corporation.

    Experts say these low numbers, and the unlikelihood that Apple's share will ever account for much higher than the low double digits, is one reason why the Mac will remain relatively safe. These days, they say, viruses are written more for money than fame.

    Taking over a Windows-based computer and using it to send millions of pieces of spam, often with advertising or scams attached, to other Window's machines can generate big money . Writing a Mac-based virus, which could only target other Macs, isn't nearly as profitable.

    But perhaps a bigger reason for Apple's seemingly safe position is the stability of Mac OS X.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Christians and the Bush White House.

Great article on Time's website about the interaction of Christians and the Bush White House. It's a book excerpt from David Kuo, who was the No. 2 person in the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.
    George W. Bush, the man, is a person of profound faith and deep compassion for those who suffer. But President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works. Millions of Evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves--and their interests--better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them.
Take a few minutes to read the excerpt. I'm sure the book will cause its share of discussion and dialogue -- as it should.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Some pics from Harvest Festival.

Here's just a sample of the pix from this weekend's Harvest Festival.

Harvest Festival was a hit.

OK, so I think I'm largely recovered from our fifth annual Harvest Festival. Usually on the Sunday after the event, I'm wiped out. But this time, I found myself less stressed in the week before, on the day of, and now the day after. Perhaps it was because we were more organized in most of the areas, had more volunteers in place, and we didn't encounter any major last-minute problems.

As best as we know, there were somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 people here on Saturday. Our parking crew counted somewhere between 800 and 900 cars (I haven't gotten a final figure yet), and I don't think many people arrived solo. Most of the vehicles had at least 2, 3 or 4 people in them. We know that we served around 2,000 hot dogs and 2,000 portions of nachos; people were asked to pick either a hot dog or nachos.

Seeing the smile on the face of a kid is awesome, and we saw hundreds of those smiles Saturday. We don't charge for any of the pumpkins, or foor, or games, or crafts, or facepainting, or bounce houses, or entertainment. We just want to be a blessing to our community, and I think we accomplished that once again this year. It's awesome to hear and see the amazement of the guests when they realize we aren't charging them for any of this stuff.

Our volunteers are they key to the success of the festival each year. The youth ministry runs the carnival games, and for much of the day, I had more volunteers than actual places for them to work! That has NEVER happened on this scale before. We were a little shorthanded in our parking crew, with the crafts tables, and at the bounce houses, but other volunteers came through and carried the ball for us.

Could the weather have been any better? Probably not. Sunny skies. Highs in the 70s. A breeze at times. No smoke in the air from foothill fires. No risk of rain. No chill. No 100-degree record-setting temps. We've had those challenges in recent years. But 2006 will go down as the perfect weather year.

One of our TV stations came out and did a live remote around 9:50AM. I had several people -- both among our volunteers and among the guests -- say that they saw me on TV. That's always a weird feeling. I've given TV interviews before, but this is the first time I was on LIVE television. I could have said ANYTHING and it would have been broadcast right at that moment. Scary! The clip is online; check it out.

So, overall, this ranks up there as probably the best or tied for the best Harvest Festival I've been part of here at Antelope. We've done it five times; I wasn't on staff yet for the first event.

Let's do a quick score card of whether the event was a success:
We had some newer people involved, but many new families chose to just attend. We'll work on them for next year!
I'm not complaining about the size at all. One year we had at least 7,000+ so I guess that remains my standard for crowd size.
This was a new event for us. We took families' photos, and we'll now send them a copy of the photo, along with information about the church, if they're looking for a church home. We felt it was a low-key, non-intrusive way to gather some data for follow-up without feeling like a bait-and-switch. We needed more volunteers in this area, and we need to work out some kinks in the process, but good job for a first round, and we had more than 260 families get their photo taken!
Bands did a great job. Only reason for the lower grade is because I forgot to make sure we had bought watermelons for our watermelon eating contest. Oops!
The event ended at 4PM. I was the last person to leave the church campus; I left at 6PM. Enough said.
We had strong numbers in both of our AM services today. That's a contrast from other years, when we actually see a DROP on the day after because everyone's so tired. In fact, our 11AM service had a larger crowd than we've seen in several weeks!

So, based on all those criteria, I'd say we did a great job on Saturday. The team did well, people were blessed, our volunteers were engaged, and the bar keeps getting raised higher and higher!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My brief moment of fame.

OK, I know I should be in bed. But I got hunting around online and found the archive of our brief TV interview today. You can check out the video here. It should take you right to the video. If not, let me know and I'll see if the link has been modified.

UPDATE: If you arrived here thanks to Josh Griffin's link, and you want to see some photos from the event, please go here. And if you want a longer text post on the event, go here.

Awesome ministry day today.

Today was our fifth annual Harvest Festival. It was a great day, by almost any definition you can offer. We had somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people show up (we count cars, but not individuals, so that's a rough estimate). We had scores of volunteers, including newer people who are getting connected through serving. A local TV station came out in the morning and did a live remote, giving me 90 seconds of live TV fame (wearing my partially obscured orange "Simply Junior High" T-shirt, no less). My mom was feeling well enough to make the drive up to Antelope; it's the first time she's seen our Harvest Festival in the four years I've been involved. The weather was perfect; sunny skies, highs in the 70s, light breeze at times.

There's a lot more to share, but right now, I'm totally exhausted. I'll do some more blogging on Sunday, and post a bunch of fun pics from the day. Now? I'm headed to bed.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I hate being sick.

Ugh, I hate sickness. Got hit with a head cold Tuesday evening. Kept me in bed most of Wednesday. Pushed through the youth service that evening. Then went to store. Bought stuff. OJ. Drugs. Soups. Feel a bit better today. Need to feel better for Saturday. Thousands of people. Hundreds of volunteers. Great day of outreach. Perfect weather forecast. One TV station plans a live remote in the morning. Busy day. Worth it all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I love pumpkins.

This weekend, thousands of people will come to our church grounds for our fifth annual Harvest Festival. It's a fun time each year. We don't sell anything. It's all free to the community: free food, games, crafts, hayrides, petting zoo, bounce houses, music and entertainment. And on top of all that, we give away thousands of free pumpkins -- some grown in our own pumpkin patch, others donated or purchased.

This past Sunday was our pumpkin delivery day. These are a few photos from that fun afternoon. We had more volunteers show up for the unloading than we've had in the 4 festivals I've been here. That should be a good sign for volunteers this weekend!

Our senior pastor really believes in this event. It's a churchwide thing, and our reason for it all being free is to create a living illustration of God's love for us: Freely we've received, freely we give.

If you're in the Sacramento area this weekend, you're invited! Or if you have friends or relatives up this way, tell them to swing by for a day of fun!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Onward Christian Voters.

Interesting article today from The Washington Post about evangelical Christians and how we're all voting next month.

    A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.

    Even before the (former U.S. Rep. Mark) Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a "favorable" impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent, according to Pew polls.

    In the latest survey, taken in the last 10 days of September and the first four days of October, the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern "in a more honest and ethical way" than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.
Fun article to read, seeing how my closest friends know that I'm a diehard moderate who isn't registered with any political party. Maybe it's the former journalist in me that just loves to see a nice, messy, newsworthy election cycle. Maybe.

No Fields for me?

Wow, I was just scrolling through the list of workshops at the Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers Convention in Anaheim next month, and I realized something quite scary.

I might not attend a single workshop by Doug Fields this year.

He's doing the First Two Years in Ministry topic in Critical Concerns. I'm going to a different CC.

He's doing Small Groups from Start to Finish. Did that last year in Sacramento.

He's doing Beginner's Guide to PDYM. Been to its equivalent, I'm guessing, at the Purpose-Driven Church conference back in the spring.

He's doing Crafting Messages That Matter. Quite certain I went to that two years ago in Anaheim.

He's doing Marriage, Ministry and Family Q&A. Likely gonna skip that one, unless there's an arranged dating element to it.

Of course, I might still sneak into one of the sessions for a chance to win some free stuff from the gang at SYM. How can you say no to a chance at free stuff?

Just up the road.

Today is Friday, October 6. Something big may be happening 3 weeks from today, and I'm so looking forward to it! And a week later, I'll be down in Anaheim for the National Youth Workers Conference, hanging with my buddy Bill Rath from Richmond, those crazy kids from Simply Youth Ministry, and at least 319 other people. Sweet.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Jesus Draft.

We launched a new, month-long series tonight for our midweek youth services. Our underlying theme for the series is discipleship, so we're taking a look at the first 12 disciples. What did Jesus see in them? Would we have picked them as our first 12 "players" if we were in charge of a spiritual "draft"?

For this first night, we had some fun with a skit featuring two of our students portraying sports analysts who offered their insights and opinions on each of the 12 disciples. We also talked about David Carr, the Houston Texans QB who was in a video clip we showed last week. He's a California product (from down in Bakersfield), and when he was drafted in the NFL, his high school alma mater created a web page with comments and notes from former teachers and coaches.

Great quote from one of the coaches:
    "Dave, we all knew after the Bakersfield High passing league tournament that you were going to be something special. The first time I met you, all 5-4 105 pounds I knew you would be a number one draft pick in the National Football League (YEA RIGHT)."
Just goes to show that we never know what that 5'4" guy (or 4'2" girl) might become -- not just in areas like athletics, arts, or academics, but also spiritually. God looks at each of us and sees potential. Jesus saw potential in his first 12 draft choices. He knew they had weaknesses, but He also saw who they could become. He sees the same thing in each of us, even if we're just "jars of clay," as Paul wrote.

Should be a fun series!

PS: I know the Jesus football pic is absolutely tasteless. But somehow it seemed an appropriate image for this post.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Napoleon's a Mormon?

Apparently, Jon Heder -- the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite -- is a Mormon. And the writers and directors of that flick are Mormons. Wow. Wouldn't have guessed that, but I guess it's also not a surprise, considering how "clean" the movie is. Interesting.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fire Buddy Bell.

I'm hoping to soon look at this list and find the name of Royals Manager Buddy Bell there. God, please answer my prayer. Please let my baseball team not suck. Please!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Minnesota owes KC money.

I'm pretty steamed about this one. As many of you are aware, I'm a Kansas City Royals fan. Why any sane adult would root for this baseball team is beyond me. Perhaps being born near KC would help. Going to college a few hours from KC could be an extra motivation. Maybe it was that bottle of Coke that "Mean" George Brett gave me after that game back in '79.

I digress.

The Royals lost 100 games this season. That means they only won 62. I should be proud of my team's mediocrity. I should extol the virtues of this sub-par, underperforming, underpaying, stuck-in-a-small-market squad of troopers. And I would. Except that they failed in their ultimate goal this year.

They weren't the worst team in baseball. They were ALMOST the worst team. The folks down in Tampa Bay -- they still play MLB in Florida? -- walked away with that dubious title, thanks to the Devil Rays' 61-101 record.

One game difference. That's it, basically. One more loss by the Royals, and they hold a tie for the worst record of 2006. Two more losses -- an average weekend for most of the season -- and the title is theirs alone.

Tampa Bay? Right idea. Go on a 4-game losing streak to end the season.

Kansas City? Offer a glimpse of hope to its hopeless and hapless fans with a 3-game winning streak. Oh, and these 3 wins weren't over just any podunk team from Pittsburgh or Arizona. No sir, these were the Detroit Tigers. This was the team battling for the AL Central Division crown against those pesty Minnesota Twinkies. The Royals won THREE STRAIGHT GAMES against the Tigers -- in Detroit!

And so, the Royals earn the distinction of having the 2nd worst record in all of baseball this year. Such a shame, when they could have been the best of the worst.