Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cal crushes Texas A&M.

This item probably only matters to one of you (ahem, Evan) but I thought it noteworthy to remind the world that the University of California Golden Bears defeated the Texas A&M Aggies this evening in the glorious Holiday Bowl held in San Diego, California. You can go here to read more. You can go here to offer sympathies to an Aggies fan.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas.

I trust today has been a good day for you, your family and your friends. It's been a nice, quiet Christmas here in Turlock, where I'm visiting my mom for the week. Some friends were over yesterday for awhile, and today my brother joined us for lunch and some gift-opening. "Santa" was good, delivering cash and gift cards -- as requested this year, now that I'm a homeowner. There may be some posts this week, but I'm focused on relaxing and spending time with family and friends, so blogging won't be my highest priority this week. I pray God's blessings on you, wherever you are, whatever you've gone through in 2006, and whatever is just around the corner in your life.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

10 Highlights from 2006

Back when I worked in newspapers, at the end of December we'd always write these "best of" or "highlights" stories about specific beats we covered or hot topics of the day. In the spirit of days gone by, I offer this 10-Spot highlight list. More perhaps will follow, with narrower categories.

10 Highlights from 2006:
1. Buying a house.
2. Seeing my mom succeeding in her battle against cancer.
3. Leading a missions trip to Mexico.
4. Spending two refreshing weekends in Yosemite (including snow on April Fools Day).
5. Having billions of my emails read on the Simply Youth Ministry podcast.
6. Being part of the team that organized our most successful Harvest Festival outreach so far.
7. Challening and being challenged by my friend Bill Rath at this year's Youth Specialties conference.
8. Getting my hair buzzed by my students in January.
9. Deciding to get a mohawk 11 months later.
10. Going to the California Train Museum with my dad and stepmom.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Words of a child.

Overheard at Maison de Target:

Young boy: "Daddy, do you really want to spend that much money?"
Dad: "You don't think mommy's worth it?"
Young boy: "Oh, no, she's worth it."

Mountain views.

It's a relatively clear winter day here in Antelope, and from my office windows I can see the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The mountains are obscured in the summer, when our air becomes smoggy and hazy and brown. But during the winter, we're given wonderful views of the mountains on many days. Our church sits on the crest of a hill, enhancing the view.

I don't have links to any webcams that show this particular part of the Sierra, but if you're needing to view some true California snow, then check out this link to some views of Yosemite National Park.

Life With a Mohawk.

Top 10 Life Changes With a Mohawk:
10. It feels weird having your hair brush against the backs of chairs so easily.
9. You have to buy hair products again.
8. Longer stares from people in restaurants, businesses, church, neighborhood, family events, staff parties...
7. Washing your hair is a mix between quick scrub (buzzed zone) and real wash ('hawk zone).
6. You have new-found respect from all those 14-year-olds in your youth group who wish their parents would let them grow a mohawk, too.
5. All kinds of interesting women give you their phone numbers.
4. Little kids giggle and point -- more so than normal.
3. Going to iTunes and feeling like you should buy some punk music from the early '80s.
2. You get more traffic and comments on your blog.
1. Being called "Pastor Mo."

Special Mo-ments.

One of our parents (Joe Webb) took some pix at our fourth annual Route 1 Christmas Banquet this past Sunday. Another parent (Geoff Voss) took some, too, and other parents picked up a few shots here and there. Joe's are the only ones I've seen so far, so I thought I'd share a few highlights. This first pic is of me, encouraging everyone to pray for world peace at Christmas. Not exactly. But it's the best shot of my mohawk from the banquet.

This is the first of two votes on whether the mohawk should stay or go. These are the students who thought it should go...

and these are the students who thought it should stay...

Overwhelming, eh?

Each year, our banquet includes a silly team competition, and we almost always include Play-Doh as a competitive element. We've decorated small Christmas trees, we've made snowmen from Play-Doh, and other fun activities. This year's project: Create a manger scene using Play-Doh. This was the winning team. Note: Jesus is sportin' a mohawk in this scene. Or cowlick. Not sure.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

5 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me.

OK, Mr. "I have a photo of me with Robert Gates" (a.k.a. the Most Rev. Evan Mattei). I'll bite. The problem with this meme, though, is that I have multiple audiences for my blog: relatives, friends, students, parents, parishioners, fellow youth pastors, total strangers, old college classmates. Each group knows different "bits" of my life, so we'll see how many will learn something truly "new" about me.

1. I own every episode of The X-Files on DVD. I completed my final acquisition tonight by buying Season 7 at a super-discounted price at Best Buy. Only took me 7 years to complete the set...

2. I've broken bones 4 times, cut my head open twice, and sprained my ankle once. This may explain a lot about me...

3. I tried out for College Jeopardy during my freshman year of college. I didn't make it...

4. I have a collection of Hard Rock hurricane glasses, shot glasses, and guitar pins. My dad's largely responsible for the hurricanes because of all his travels back during my junior high, high school and college days. I'm responsible for most of my guitar pins...

5. I've studied several different foreign languages, yet I'm unable to hold a conversation in any of them. I took classes in French and in Russian and in Japanese. I lived in Greece for 6 months, so I picked up a little bit there. I've been to Mexico a few times, and Spanish is quite similar to French. And yet, the only language I can converse in is English...

The "New" Me.

OK, so at last it's revealed. I'm sportin' a mohawk these days.

So, how on earth could a normally sane person like myself end up with a 'hawk? Well, I'd like to say it involved someone paying me large sums of money to get a silly haircut, but no such luck. Instead, it's a way to pay respects to my students' support for a missions program.

In 2005, we set a goal of giving at least $2,000 to Speed the Light, a missions program that provides vehicles and sound equipment to missionaries around the world. We hit that goal, so my students got to shave my head in January 2006.

We set our 2006 goal at $3,000 but we didn't hit it. However, we DID give a little more than the year before, so I felt it was appropriate to do something silly once again. Thus, the mohawk.

Funny thing is, the mohawk doesn't look as bad on me as I thought it would. The students overwhelmingly like it, and some of the parents think it's cool. Some other parents aren't thrilled because now THEIR sons want mohawks, too. "Come on, dad, Pastor Rob has one! Why can't I?"

Anyway, that's the big news. I can't get rid of the mohawk until at least December 31st, and then I'll decide if I should keep it longer or not. I welcome your comments and feedback. Maybe even Tom Hammond will run another vote on his blog.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Experiment Continues.

Well, today is the third full day of my personal appearance experiment. So far, I've gotten a few stares but no harshly negative comments. Around the office, I've gotten a few shaking-heads and sighs, but no one has refused to talk to me because of my changed appearance -- though one parent Sunday night keep trying to avoid contact with me. Tomorrow night I'll have a fuller and clearer explanation of what happened, how long it will last, and what I really think about it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A personal experiment.

For the next two weeks, I'm willingly participating in a unique cultural and social experiment. I can't divulge too many details yet because it involves a slight altering of my appearance. I have family and friends coming to town this Thursday, and I don't want to risk them seeing the change before arriving at my house. After they've been here I'll post more details and images.

The experiment wasn't my original motive for the appearance change. Tonight was our fourth annual Christmas banquet for Route 1 Student Ministries, and I decided to do something that would add an extra touch of "memorable" to the event. I'm quite sure that none of the students who attended will forget their reaction when they first saw my change. I got some great responses from students -- and parents!

My senior pastor was quite positive. But I'm not sure how positive he'll be to discover that this change is becoming less temporary than I had planned. You see, for the next two weeks, I will be observing how I am observed. I will watch to see how people interact with me. I will look for stares and glances and giggles and such. I'm quite sure such thing will happen, even though I've only undergone a change in my outward appearance. I'm still the same person, yet my interactions will be different with some people.

And I'm sure I'll find some interesting spiritual applications and illustration. You gotta understand: I'm the guy who got pickpocketed in Prague in May 2005, and managed to create a three-part sermon series out of it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

At last, Steven has a blog.

If you're a regular reader (especially of the comments on this blog), then you've seen me interact with Steven Nelson, one of my students. He finally took my advice and got himself a blog and has started posting. I encourage you to swing by and check it out. Of course, now Steven faces the challenge all of us bloggers face: keeping our blogs active.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sometimes I hate my blog.

There have been a few moments around the church this week that have caused me certain amounts of frustration, yet I find myself frustrated by one simple fact: I can't talk about those issues here.

Some of my blog's visitors are involved in ministry at other churches; you can related to many of my experiences, I'm sure. But many of the people who visit this blog ARE involved at my church: students, parents, other adults. I firmly believe in the principle of not griping or complaining around our leaders or students; peers in other places of ministry are the best "sponges" for my complaints.

So, all I can say is that I've been frustrated a few times this week, and I can't write about it. Which creates more frustration. Ugh.

Monday, December 11, 2006

This almost happened.

Sunday night was the second and final night of our church's annual Christmas production. I had produced several videos for the event, and I was upstairs running the media and sound, along with one of our adult leaders from the youth ministry. During the production, we had to swap CDs a few times, and after one of the switches, we nearly had a huge catastrophe: My hand apparently brushed against the CD player's power button. Mike and I both looked at each other, because both of us had heard a sound that we THOUGHT was the sound of the player turning off! Remarkably (miraculously, perhaps) the CD player didn't turn off. I'm not sure how I would have explained that one to the crowd, the choir director or my senior pastor. Yes, it would have been a moment I laughed about for years. But I'm still glad it didn't happen. I think.

Wish I was here.

This is so where I'd enjoy being today... Yosemite National Park, after a fresh round of weekend snowfall.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don't try this at home.

This is a hilarious video that Marko from Youth Specialties posted over on his blog. Enjoy. But don't imitate. Especially if I'm baptizing you this Sunday.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The people have spoken.

Yes, they have spoken. Votes have been cast on which profile photo I should use. But will I heed the call of the people? Or will I ignore them, as if I'm the leader of a military coup d'etat?

Great service.

Last night was our United service with 3 other youth groups. We do this every five or six weeks, and it's always a great time. It's a cool way to build relationships with other youth pastors and ministries in our area, and it exposes students to the fact that every church is a little different, every church has its own personality.

When I was first approached about being a part of United, I was concerned: If our students spent time at other churches, are we going to lose them TO those churches? In some communities, this might happen. But I haven't seen it with the United groups at all. There's no attempt at stealing other students, and there really isn't a sense of competition about quality of programs, leaders, facilities or congregations. That's so cool to see and experience.

Last night was my turn to speak; the speaker is never the youth pastor at the host church. This being Christmas, we jumped into the topic of "What are you doing with Christmas?" Too often we ask the wrong questions at Christmas. We ask what people got, instead of what they gave. We ask how people got blessed, instead of how they blessed others. And we ask what people are doing FOR Christmas instead of what they're doing WITH Christmas.

Using the shepherds, Simeon and Anna as our models, we saw how Christmas should be a wonder-filled, magical, meaningful event in our lives -- but it should be something we share with others who don't know Jesus yet, and we need to recognize just how powerful it was that God would give His very best at Christmas.

We also had some fun with the students, pointing out how our image of the nativity scene isn't quite right. The shepherds and the wise men didn't show up on the same night. We don't know how many wise men there were; they presented 3 gifts, but the Bible doesn't say there were 3 wise men. The big display of angels happened in the fields with the shepherds, not around the stable. And there wasn't just one shepherd at the stable; the Bible is clear there was a whole group of them.

All in all, a great night! We host the next one, in February (no United in January), and I'm praying our warehouse renovation project will be completed by then...insulation, heat, carpet, new lights...mmmm. Much better than freezing in our metal building!