Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas Adam!

Yes, you read those words correctly! December 24th is Christmas Eve, so years ago, my brother and I decided that December 23rd should be Christmas Adam...

...because, of course, Adam came before Eve...

Hope it was a good one for you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's snowing in Yosemite.

I have just one word: woo-hoo!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

They're fixing the sign.

Last month I noticed a funny error in a sign at our neighborhood Save Mart grocery store. Well, I was back in the store last night and noticed that they're finally addressed the mistake. Cool.

Yosemite snow.

Friday, December 07, 2007

We finally got some real weather.

It rained here yesterday -- around 2 inches of rain in 24 hours, here in Sacramento. That's really, really good news for us because we're behind our average rainfall for this time of the year. Just as importantly, the mountains got snow. The first pic is from a cam at Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park. Elevation up there is something around 9,000 feet, I believe. The second pic is from Chico yesterday, while we were loading up the donations for the homeless.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ready to help the homeless.

Today we picked up a huge donation of military items that we'll be able to use with our street ministry to the homeless. We got boxes of coats, ponchos, boots, sleeping bags -- stuff that will be an awesome blessing to homeless folks in our communities. God is awesome!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Recovering from our robbery.

It's been a wild couple of days around the church since our break-in overnight Monday. Tuesday and today both have been filled with meetings, unexpected tasks, extra help from volunteers, additional safety measures for our buildings, and just all kinds of other "fun."

Two interesting "positives" in the midst of this. One, we had to buy some replacement monitor speakers for the platform, so we bought better ones than what we'd been using. Our stolen set really wasn't a pair of monitors; it was a pair of good speakers that were being used as monitors. Unfortunately, that sometimes created additional sound directed from the platform toward the congregation. We now have real monitors in place, which will help people on the platform AND out in the crowd.

Second, tomorrow we appear to have an opportunity to collect a large donation of clothes, coats, boots and blankets for the homeless. This will be a HUGE blessing to our street ministry, and the donation couldn't arrive at a better time: Real fall-winter weather is beginning to hit, and the homeless in our communities need more than a one-time serving of food. We're praying that this donation will be a blessing to hundreds and hundreds of people in the area.

So, even in the midst of junk, God is good!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Burglars hit our church.

Today has been a looooong day. As I pulled out of my driveway for my 8:30AM meeting with my senior pastor, I got a call from the office staff: Our church got robbed last night. I quickly changed course and headed to the church to see what got taken and what we needed to do next.

The staff already had called the sheriff's department but the deputies hadn't arrived yet. I walked through and saw where the burglars hit us: sound equipment, some drums, some speakers, some food in the kitchen and -- craziest of all -- some clothes that had been donated for the homeless!

So today has been about phone calls and meetings and missing property reports and more meetings and alarm company visits and video surveillance equipment and a CSI visit and still more meetings.

In the midst of this, several points of "good news" emerged:
1. They didn't vandalize the building or the grounds; they just took stuff
2. No one was here when it happened, so no one's safety was at risk
3. If they choose to return, we'll be ready with some new safeguards (I feel like we should have watched "Home Alone" as a staff for extra ideas)

It's past 7PM and I'm still at the office because my regular Tuesday agenda was completely thrown out the window. Oh well. God's good, even in the midst of junk like this!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Weekend wrapup.

Lots happened this weekend. Here are some highlights.

Actually, it might just be one dog with an irresponsible owner. But while raking leaves Friday, I encountered several spots where dogs mistook my front yard for a bathroom. Maybe an electric fence would help...

Hit up a local concert Friday night to support a friend from another church. It was a screamo concert, and I forgot to bring along some earplugs, just in case. His band did well, and it was fun catching up with friends at the concert. But I'm still not sure if screamo is really gonna last, or if it's just a musical/culture phase like grunge...

Last I checked, I'm no longer the youth pastor at my church. But several students thought it would be funny to call the former youth pastor early Saturday morning. As in, 4:50AM early. Funny? Maybe. But the cell was the only alarm I had set for that morning, and when I moved the phone into silent mode, I set myself up for a bad morning: missed our men's breakfast at 8, our homeless outreach at 9, several calls and text messages from other staff members wondering where I was...

We held our first new family luncheon in many months, and it was a fun, healthy, good event. It's a great time to talk with people, introduce them to some of the leaders in the congregation, and start the process of getting them connected. Great time...

Our youth ministry and one of our outreach teams helped a combined worship/prayer event on Sunday night and did an awesome job. This was the second attempt, and we had a stronger turnout, better organization and overall a more effective night. A highlight was a water baptism at the end of the evening for a teen guy whose dad has been coming to our church for a couple of months. The son hadn't been attending but wanted to get baptized, so our youth pastor got to do his first water baptism!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Should I vote for Ron Paul?

So far, I've come up with one reason why: He has the same birthday as I do. We were both born on August 20 (different years, of course).

Anyway, I came across that interesting bit of trivia while reading through a story on Paul's presidental campaign, on the SF Chronicle's website. Interesting piece.

Interestingly, if elected, Paul would be the 2nd U.S. president to share my birthday. Good ole Benjamin Harrison was born August 20, 1833. More on presidential birthdays here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Family connections.

I was calling some new families this evening from our church, and I was struck by the "degrees of separation" in our world. We had several first-time guests on Sunday, but it wasn't clear how they were all related until I made a phone call that clarified everything.

And then another phone call went out to a first-timer whose mom has attended a few times. Turns out the family link runs even deeper...her younger brother was a student in our youth ministry several years ago.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

5 stories worth a read: Part 18

In honor of Thanksgiving Day, these stories have nothing to do with Thanksgiving Day. So there.

1. Global migration is cornerstone of Western Union growth from the International Herald Tribune

2. Canada to announce vast new national park from the International Herald Tribune

3. China downplays Three Gorges Dam damage from The Associated Press (on

4. Ex-adviser says split with Bush hurts, liberates from the L.A. Times (on

5. Woman arrested in 'Santa Bandit' armed robberies from The Associated Press (on


No jury duty after all, and no cancer in my mom.

Well, two big things have happened in the last week that have gone unnoticed here on my blog. Time to take a moment on this Thanksgiving Day to mention them both.

First, I didn't get picked for the jury. I was on jury duty 3 days last week and again this Monday. But within the first hour, I had been bumped. Oh well. I was kinda annoyed at first, because I could have been tossed Thursday and saved me the whole weekend of wondering, plus it was the deputy DA who excused me, and he never asked me a question during voir dire.

The case is the trial of Anthony Ocampo, who's accused of killing his wife back in 2005. There wasn't a lot of news coverage that I could find (I didn't look until Monday, after being bumped from the jury), but one local TV station had an article that had been posted. The Sacramento Bee probably had stories back in 2005 but I wasn't able to find them. So, no jury service for me this time.

Second, my mom went to the oncologist yesterday, and the latest scans show no evidence of cancer in her body. Amen! She underwent several rounds of chemo in late 2006 and early 2007 for stage 4 lymphoma, so this is really awesome news. She'll have some follow-up work done in 2008, maybe even a few rounds of preventive chemo treatment. But things are looking good!

I appreciate all of the thoughts and prayers over the last 18 months. They've meant the world to all of us. Thanks!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why can't MTV do this in the States, too?

Apparently MTV is actually capable of creating boundaries in its content. At least, when it's the new kid on the block in the Middle East:
    MTV is hoping hip-hop and reality television tailored and sanitized for a more conservative Middle East will draw young Arabs away from dozens of locally produced music video channels that already dominate the market.

    MTV Arabia, which launched over the weekend, will feature 60 percent international music and 40 percent Arabic music, along with local adaptations of the channel's popular non-music shows.

    But MTV, which is known for airing provocative videos featuring scantily clad women, says the Arab version of the pop-culture channel will show less bare skin and profanity.
And MTV is unwilling to do this in the United States why? Oh yea...we take their bait hook, line and sinker.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pizza moments.

Today I had lunch with a former student from our youth ministry who now lives up in Canada. He'd been in town for over a week but we finally were able to connect today for lunch and Starbucks.

Well, turns out that even though Carl used to live here in Cali, he'd never eaten pineapple on his pizza! So my half of today's pizza was a Maui Zaui there at Round Table, and he made sure to try a slice...his first taste of fruit on a pizza.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Spellchecker, please?

I was in the grocery store tonight (different from the store I was in the other night) and I realized there was a significant typo in this sign. How can this happen? I don't live in Minnesota or North Dakota. This is California. How can any California-based company misspell a word like "Mexican"? Spelling, anyone?

"Good things are being said about you."

That's what my fortune cookie from Panda Express told me this afternoon, and isn't that what we all really want, anyway? We enjoy when positive things are said about us, or directly to us.

I've been working on some thanks cards for an event that happened weeks ago at church, but I never got all of the cards written and sent. So now I'm finally wrapping up that project, doing my best to make each card personalized with a word of thanks and appreciation.

Good things are being written about you.

Amen to that!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Some random photos.

I was looking through the pics on my cell and realized I had a few that were absolutely random and borderline funny. At least, I think some of them are funny.

This is Doug Fields speaking via video at a PDYM luncheon event, April 2007.

This is some food left in a building at our church, May 2007.

This is Jeannette Lara, Liz Ramirez and Ernie Lara, when Ernie was in the hospital after a car crash, September 2007

An empty Round Table Pizza box, October 2007

People iceskating at the downtown Sacramento rink, November 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Maybe this is why I have few readers.

I found this "test" over on YS Marko's blog and thought I'd find out how "difficult" of a blog I write. Yikes! For a guy who used to work at a newspaper (4th-grade writing level, they say), I was surprised by the verdict that ...

cash advance

Congrats for reading! You must be smart!

So is this evidence that I need to get off my butt and finally move forward with a graduate degree?

Why I'm fascinated with jury duty.

I've had jury duty this week. Since Tuesday, I've been in a pool of jurors for a case, and by Thursday afternoon, I should know if I'm gonna be picked or not.

I'm not opposed to being on a jury. In fact, I think it's a cool idea.

But why? Why am I drawn to something that so many other people find unappealing?

Today while walking around downtown Sacramento, it occurred to me that my interest in jury duty can be traced to two memorable life experiences:

1. Back in 8th grade, our social studies class did a "mock" trial of the Dred Scott case that the Supreme Court heard back in the 1850s. I was a member of the Supreme Court (the chief justice, actually), and our job was to made a ruling based on the evidence presented by our peers, NOT by the original court ruling.

2. Back in 1996 (or 1997?) I covered a juvenile homicide trial in Stanislaus County, while working for the Turlock Journal. I was fascinated by the entire experience of covering a case from opening arguments all the way though a verdict.

Anyway, I think those are the two defining moments that explain why I would enjoy serving on a jury, instead of trying to find a way to get out of it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

How can Kansas football be doing so well?

I've been a lifelong fan of the Kansas Jayhawks -- but because of their basketball team, NOT because of their football team.

Yet today, the Jayhawks won their 10th game of the season. They're undefeated. They'll probably keep moving up in the national rankings this next week.

I'm sorry, but did I miss the memo about hell freezing over?

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday, and seeing how she's one of my regular readers (as opposed to those of you who are borderline abnormal), I thought I'd post a couple of pics from our trip to Greece in September.

Love ya, Mom!

Mixed feelings on jury duty.

So, yeah, I have jury duty on Tuesday. I have some positive and negative feelings about this, so I'm going to do some self-therapy via blogging.

I've always wanted to be on a real jury. I once came close, but it was during my newspaper days and I figure one of the attorneys would have axed me because I was a reporter. I'm a pastor now...does that help or hurt my chances?

On Tuesday, there's a funeral for a friend happening down in Turlock that I'd like to attend. I use the word "friend" loosely, I guess, because he wasn't someone I'd kept in contact with since moving to Sacramento, and he and I weren't extremely tight in Turlock. But he was in his 40s, he died unexpectedly, and I've known his extended family for years.

I know I can't really use the funeral as an excuse for getting out of jury duty at this point, though I'm tempted. But I guess I'll do my civic duty.

Here's the deal. If I get picked for a jury, I want something good. Make it worth my time. Don't give me some lame case. I want something that will give me LOTS of blogging material (after the case is completed, of course). I haven't been reading the newspaper or watching local TV news lately, so I don't have a clue of any big cases going to trial this week. But I can always hope, right?

5 stories worth a read: Part 17

It's cloudy outside, but that can't keep the sun from shining on these crazy, noteworthy, news stories done right.

1. Enjoy a refreshing ham soda from The Associated Press (on

2. Tired of slights, embarrassment, man sheds 87 pounds from CNN

3. Dissent and satire still alive in Russia from the International Herald Tribune

4. The risks of playing with a brand's 'look' from the International Herald Tribune

5. Disney Sued for Segway Ban from The Associated Press (on


Thursday, November 08, 2007

The experiment continues.

So far I've reached 948 texts (incoming and outgoing) for the month of November. I'm running this silly experiment to see how high the number can reach this month. A few things I've learned:

1. Sprint's count of my usage sometimes changes
At one point, the system told me I had used 717 texts (I have unlimited), but the next day it said I had 640. So "948" may or may not be an accurate current count.

2. Some people really get annoyed by text messages
I won't mention any names, but some of my friends think this is the dumbest, most annoying experiment I've ever run. They might be right. But I don't care.

3. It's good to know which friends have unlimited texts -- and which don't
I can send and receive as many messages as I want, but not everyone has that option. I'm learning who DOESN'T so that I don't send them lots of texts, or so I know why they don't reply very often.

4. A little encouraging word is usually appreciated
With some of the people involved in the church ministries, I'm using my hypertexting season as a way to send encouraging messages throughout the day. Figure that's a good use of technology, eh?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Frozen food.

Random moment this evening at the freezer in the grocery store:

And no, I really didn't put that candy bar there. It's exactly how I found it. Honest!

Pick the right clothes.

This is a note I sent off to our worship team tonight, and thought I'd share it here:

I remain amazed at God's ability to guide and lead and provide. This team has gone through some rocky times this year, but I sense such a strong heart for worship and a deep commitment to each other whenever we come together. Yes, we're all wired differently, and I know we have "moments" along the way when we don't always see eye-to-eye, or we bump into each other because of strong personalities. And ya know what? I'm fine with that! We're all human, and we're all works in progress. No one on the team is perfect, and that definitely includes me!

Take a moment to read this passage of scripture:

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Colossians 3:12-15

One of our deepest desires should be "perfect harmony" with the people on our team. Musical harmony requires a complex interaction of notes that are all different but tied to the same melody, the same chord, the same root. When those different parts come together correctly, there is harmony. When they clash, you get dissonance and sounds that make you cringe! The same is true for us as a team, or a group of believers, or a church body, or a family -- we WILL offend each other! We WILL make mistakes! The apostle Paul makes it pretty clear this stuff will happen.

And when it happens, how do we respond? It's a choice. We must clothe ourselves with the right attitude and the right response. You're the one who decides what physical clothes to wear, and you're also the one who decides what spiritual clothes to wear!

So I encourage each of you this week to clothe yourselves with mercy and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience and -- most of all -- love.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Got my cell? Send me a text.

That's right folks. If you know my cell phone number, you're welcome to send me as many text messages as you like! I've had unlimited text for many months, but this month I'm trying to set a personal record.

As of this afternoon, I had reached around 540 texts so far this month, a number that includes both incoming and outgoing texts. The most I've ever had in a single month was 1,514 (according to my monthly statements from the fine folks at Sprint), and I'd like to break that personal record here in November.

So, if you have my cell number, you're welcome to text me! (At reasonable hours, of course...)

Just mark it up as a silly personal experiment.

UPDATE: Just checked my usage. So far, up to 717 texts this month. Keep 'em comin!

This looks and sounds gross.

My friend Matt Wilkie, a fellow Evangel University alum and now a member of the Convoy of Hope team, posted this on his blog today. He uses xanga, and I think I found the right way to link to JUST this one post, but if it doesn't work, look for his November 5 entry:

    I haven't blogged in a long time, but when you eat balut, you just want to share the experience.

    I just returned from Manila where I worked with our Convoy of Hope Intern team. We had fun. Among the fun times...eating balut.

    If you don't know, balut is a partially formed duck fetus, still in the egg and boiled for your enjoyment. It comes in various levels of development, but ours had the beak, feet, eyes, feathers and more. Not all ate it, and we could understand why.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Servanthood sacrifices self.

Spoke this morning at our monthly men's breakfast. Good atmosphere, good group of guys and good food. Nice way to start a Saturday -- even if it requires me to awaken much, much earlier than I'd like on a Saturday!

The struggle to pursue servanthood begins with our decision to sacrifice self. We all struggle with selfishness. I'm most selfish in the morning, around Round Table Pizza and in Best Buy. I'm sure you have your own place where the ME-FIRST attitude kicks in strongly. God's plan is for us to live lives that benefit and serve the people around us. That doesn't mean we have low self-esteem or ignore our needs. But it means we make a choice to live less of a life that is focused on just us. If we try to be #1 in all areas of life, then we're missing the boat when it comes to servanthood.

Pursuing that lifestyle requires sacrifice, just like it requires sacrifice for a lot of us to get to the gym. It reminds me of the people I've been watching on "Everest: Beyond the Limit" on Discovery Channel. These folks make huge sacrifices just to get an attempt at climbing Mt Everest. Pursuing a lifestyle of servanthood requires sacrifice, just like Jesus Himself made the ultimate sacrifices for us. Philippians 2 reminds us that He demonstrated ultimate humility by taking on human form and then dying on the cross. We must sacrifice self to become servants.

Jesus should be the greatest role model for anyone wearing the label of Christian, of Christ-follower. He told us in Mark 10 that He came to serve others, not to be served. Let's face it: If anyone should have been served, it was Jesus! He deserved it because He's God! But He chose a different path. He chose to serve others, and that should be our goal. Servanthood is a lifestyle and an attitude. If we want servanthood, we must choose to sacrifice self.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

5 stories worth a read: Part 16

Start your November with a fresh dose of some interesting articles online:

1. Foreign automakers drive makeover of Smalltown USA from CNN

2. Class assignment: Write an original Wikipedia article from The Associated Press (on

3. Rush of Cuban migrants use Mexican routes to U.S. from the International Herald Tribune

4. EU report on Turkey deals new blow to Ankara's membership bid from the International Herald Tribune

5. Cheney: Being Darth Vader not so bad from The Associated Press (on


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Post No. 36

Wow, 36 posts in a 31-day month. Sometimes I impress even myself.

Great night tonight. Lower numbers in some of our midweek programs because of Halloween, but a great turnout for our Trunk or Treat event for the kids. Our children's pastor and her team did a great job with an event we haven't tried before. Didn't really know if we'd have a good turnout, but we did.

And tomorrow, we move into November. Two months left in 2007. Wow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The power of our senses.

I had lunch today at Baja Fresh. We don't have one in Antelope (or near my house in Sacramento, for that matter), so I went to my usual one up in Roseville. As I was sitting there enjoying my Baja burrito (chicken, with extra guacamole) and my chips with salsa, without the Spanish-language music in the background, I realized that the combination of sensory elements created a unique response. I was reading a ministry book, but I felt like I was reading a book from several months ago, which I primarily read at Baja Fresh. Just a weird experience.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Live weather update.

Just a few minutes ago, we had a nice thunderstorm roll over us here in Antelope, California. We don't get a whole lot of these puppies, and this was a nice one. Had one big thunderclap strike almost right over us, and a good amount of rain in just a few minutes. It's moved out, but here are some images from it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Why have I blogged so much?

So I've finally broken the average of "one blog a day" for the month of October. This is the first time I've ever written more than 30/31 posts in a single month. Why?

1. Harvest Festival
This was a big event, had a lot of excitement and activity and involvement, so it was easy material

2. New job
I try to send one or two emails each week to our worship team, and I've started carrying over some of those thoughts into this space, too

3. More thinking and reading
I guess I've been doing a lot more thinking about ministry and writing and ideas and other stuff, so some of it is bound to spill over here

4. Greece trip
I didn't really do lots of blogging while in Greece, but I did lots of journaling, so I had plenty of material to share -- mostly funny stuff

5. Family inquiries
Last month, lots of friends and family were asking me what was up with the blog because I wasn't posting much

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sometimes, too much to do.

Ever feel a little overwhelmed? Not to the point of mental or emotional breakdown, but the sense that little things just aren't getting done because of all the bigger things on the schedule?

I feel that way today. I'm attempting to get some "thank you" notes written and sent to our Harvest Festival volunteers. This was an event that happened 12 days ago, and I'm just now getting around to it.

Maybe it's not a "huge" issue, but I just think it's important to thank the nearly 200 folks who volunteered and made the event a success. And the further out from the event, the odder it is to receive a "thanks" in the mail. Oh well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Indiana Jones rocks.

This is awesome news:
    "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume One" was released on DVD Tuesday, the first of three boxed sets gathering all of his youthful exploits from the 1990s TV series.

    Along with seven feature-length adventures, the 12-disc set packs 38 documentary segments offering historical insight into the eras, events and illustrious figures Indy encounters, including Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, T.E. Lawrence and Sigmund Freud.

    "If Indy just touches on it, sees it or hears about a major historical character, there's a full half-hour documentary on every one of those people," said Rick McCallum, Lucas' producing partner on "Young Indiana Jones."
I remember the shows on TV, and they were well produced as far as TV shows of that era go. I bought many of the episodes on VHS, but now I need to go get my hands on the DVDs. And the second set is supposed to come out in time to make the annual Christmas list for family members...hmm...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trivial knowledge inside my head.

Need an example of that trivial knowledge?

Twelve years ago today, I started by first job out of college, as a reporter for the Turlock Journal.

Why do I remember October 23? Why should I remember that date?

I don't know. I just do.

Oh, and October 28 is now the anniversary of when I moved into my first house. Again, moderately trivial knowledge.

Shared just for you. Enjoy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

All kinds of fires.


The weather is wonderful up here in Northern California, but the same can't be true for all of our friends down to the south. This morning I came across a bunch of news articles and blog posts about the wildfires in both the L.A. and San Diego areas.

From CNN:
    Helping residents who ignored evacuation orders diverted fire crews away from firefighting efforts Monday as wildfires burned out of control in the San Diego area, officials said.

    "We've been unable to do any suppression effort because, in most cases, the fire resources are being used ... to do rescues," said Bill Metcalf, chief of the North County Fire Protection District in Fallbrook.

    Metcalf said the wildfire situation in the San Diego area "has gotten dramatically worse overnight."

From YSMarko (Mark Oestreicher from Youth Specialties):
    weird morning here in san diego. there are two fires, burning somewhat out of control, in the hills to the east of san diego. one of the fires, overnight, moved into a neighborhood to the north and east of san diego and burned down some houses. i’m still watching the news and don’t know all the details. heard from one of our seminar speakers this morning that he stayed with a friend in north county and can’t get down to the convention, because the roads are closed. a few of our ys staff live in areas where there homes will likely be evacuated soon. i’m still trying to find out if there’s any sense that i should be worried about my home - i don’t think the fire is moving to my area at this point (the fire in the north east seems to be the one that’s much worse at this point; my home is closer to the fire that’s in the south east).

From Mike Lovato:
    Be praying for those in SoCal who are affected by the wildfires. It's all over the news here. And if you go outside it smells like smoke (even though our house is a decent ways from the closest fire). Also, be praying for Malibu Presbyterian Church. Their church building burnt down today in the fires.

There is also more wire service coverage from MSNBC and SFGate, plus local coverage from the L.A. Times.

UPDATE: A woman in our church passed along this item this afternoon. "Please pass on a prayer request to the team. My parent's house and brother's condo are in the path of the fires in San Diego and they were evacuated today."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

5 stories worth a read: Part 15

Hmm, things have been busy over the weekend, but still time to share a few of the best stories I've encountered online:

1. In many countries, cement is crucial for growth but an enemy of green from the International Herald-Tribune

2. In Europe, a growing fervor for Elvis Presley from the International Herald Tribune

3. As Apple gains PC market share, Jobs talks of a decade of upgrades from the International Herald Tribune

4. Children detach from natural world as they explore the virtual one from the San Francisco Chronicle

5. Colbert says presidential run is no joke from Reuters (on


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Leading people into God's presence.

This was a thought I shared in an email earlier today to our worship team:

    I spent some time the other day thinking and meditating on the principle of leading people into God's presence. That really is our most important role on Sunday mornings. We don't stand on the stage to entertain. We're up there because WE spend time regularly in God's presence each day, and our Sunday experience is simply an extension of our ongoing, intimate walk with God.

    What we do on Sundays is just part of the leading, the going, the experiencing, the being in God's presence. Our job ISN'T to push or prod or cajole or manipulate people into His presence. If folks don't want to seek Him, we can't make them. Our role is to walk in each week eager to be in God's presence because we've been spending time with Him. That doesn't mean being perfect, but it means living a life that glorifies and honors Him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

5 stories worth a read: Part 14

Some random browsing brought these to light:

1. U.S. Southeast reaches most severe category of drought from the International Herald Tribune

2. French strike expected to affect travel elsewhere in Europe from the International Herald Tribune

3. Mutants or saviors? Rabbit genes create trees that eat poisons from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

4. Friction over weak dollar expected at G-7 meeting from McClatchy News Service

5. Stephen Colbert to run for president from The Associated Press (on


Too many books?

I've been trying to reorganize the books in my office, to shift things away from my desk that are less relevant (i.e. youth ministry) and bring other books closer to my quick grab (i.e. worship, adult ministries, etc). I'm having mixed success. But really what occurs to me is that I own lots and lots of books. I've read many, but not sure if I can say I've read most of the ones I own.

Perhaps the best solution is to stop buying more books until I read every tome I already own.

Yea. Right.

Monday, October 15, 2007

5 stories worth a read: Part 13

Check these out. Maybe grab some popcorn, too. Or not. Your call.

1. Secret tunnels tell tale of gambling, prostitution (down in Fresno) from The Associated Press (on

2. Writers strike could pull plug on TV favorites on

3. Top secret no more, restored fort opens doors from the San Francisco Chronicle

4. U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Modesto case from The Modesto Bee

5. NBC overhead camera falls onto field from The Associated Press (on


Hmm, a new Harvest Festival event?

I wonder if my boss would approve of this feature at our church:

    What can you do with pumpkins? The list is not all that long. You can make pumpkin pies and breads, carve jack-o'-lanterns or use them to decorate your front porch.

    Or you can send them hurling into the autumn sky at 400 mph with a 30,000-pound cannon.

    It's pumpkin-chucking season!
Probably not. But still a fun idea.

I like books.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Saw this quiz over on YSMarko's site and figured I'd give it a shot. I'd say it's pretty accurate. Anyone who's seen my stash of books knows it. But I think it's genetic, from both sides of my family. I blame, er, thank them.

Best news hour on TV.

If you're looking for a good one-hour news program that isn't filled with a bunch of idiots yelling at each other or non-significant news stories, check this out: Watch CNN each day at 9AM Pacific (noon Eastern), for "Your World Today." It's actually a broadcast from CNN International, which I've fallen in love with during my various trips to Europe. CNNI has a calmer tone than its American counterpart, which I find obnoxious (I also find Fox News and MSNBC obnoxious). Anyway, it's not quite as "serious" as the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" over on PBS, but "Your World Today" is a good, internationally focused program that helps Americans remember that we aren't the only country of significance in the world.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More pics from Harvest Festival.

Today I received some more photos from volunteers who were part of the team at our Harvest Festival yesterday. Thought I'd share some of the really cool pics.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My day just keeps gettin' better.

Sweet! I just checked YSMarko's blog, and I won his most recent "photo in need of a caption" contest. Awesome. Now I just gotta figure out which Youth Specialties book I want as my prize (quite ironic, now that my job description has changed).

It's 6PM, the day of Harvest Festival

Wow, it's all over. Our 6th annual Harvest Festival is done, in the can, finished, complete -- and man am I tired!

We don't keep an exact count of the number of guests each year, but here are some facts that I do know:

  • We had more volunteers than last year

  • Our construction work was nearly complete by Friday night, giving us lots of time this morning for decoration and atmosphere

  • Our men did an incredible job handling all the cars, with more volunteers in that area than the last few years

  • We had lots of new faces among our volunteers, always a healthy sign

  • We had plenty of veterans return to help, another healthy sign

  • We ran out of ministry brochures within the first 90 minutes and had to print more, which has never happened before

  • Our "Celebrate Recovery" and "Fired-Up Ministries" booths got lots of inquiries from people

  • It rained much of yesterday, but no one got stuck in mud here

  • We gave away at least 2,000 hot dogs

  • It's 6PM and I can go home!

  • This is an incredible event each year because it shows the power of a church coming together, all of its ministries and all of its leaders and all of its team members, focused on the single cause of creating a fun, free event that sends a positive message to our community.

    And at the end of the day, isn't that what a church should be doing every week? Focusing on helping others and not fighting petty battles? Working together as a team and not defining territory? Looking out for others and not worrying about the sacrifices that must be made?

    An awesome day indeed.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    It's 9PM the night before Harvest Festival.

    It's 9PM on Friday. A small crew of us is wrapping up some projects here at the church, getting ready for our Harvest Festival tommorow.

    First volunteers arrive in 10 hours.

    Main set-up crew arrives in 11 hours.

    First early-bird cars arrive in 14 hours.

    Gates open in 15 hours.

    Cleanup begins in 19 hours.

    Rob crashes hard in his bed to get a good night of sleep in 23 hours.

    And we pray that whatever seeds God planted in people's lives will continue to grow and eventually produce a harvest. That's why we do this!

    Can you hear me now?

    Horribly wonderful story about a guy who had an ear grafted onto his arm. Seriously. I can't make this stuff up. I'm not that funny.

      An Australian performer who has had an ear grafted onto his forearm in the name of art has sparked controversy.

      Cyprus-born Stelios Arcadiou, known as Stelarc, says his extra ear, made of human cartilage, is an augmentation of the body's form.

      But surgeons questioned whether such an operation should have been carried out, given the absence of clinical need.

      A patient who had similar surgery to correct a birth defect said she found the artist's work offensive.

    Weird. Just plain weird.

    ht to Amanda Coffman for the story

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    5 stories worth a read: Part 12

    Hey, haven't done one of these in awhile. Guess it's been a busy season of life. Anyway, you might enjoy a trip to check out these stories:

    1. In India, a $2,500 pace car from the International Herald Tribune

    2. Belgians agree on one issue: foreigners from the International Herald Tribune

    3. Many patients can’t name drugs they’re taking from Reuters (on

    4. S.F. plans market rates for prized parking spaces from The San Francisco Chronicle

    5. Merced takes turn at top for lost homes from The Modesto Bee


    Um, excuse me?

    Forgot to blog about this yesterday...

    I went into my bank to make a deposit Tuesday. Walked up to the window. These were there words out of the cashier's mouth: "Did you find everything you needed?" do you respond to that kind of question IN A BANK? I mean, that's a wonderful question at a grocery store, or a bookstore, or Wal-Mart. But at a bank? What am I supposed to find?

    Good thing I wasn't feeling like too much of a wise guy, or who knows what might have come out of my mouth.

    What a team.

    We're 48 hours away from the official start of our 2007 Harvest Festival outreach. Wow! It's come down to the wire. Fortunately, we have a team of volunteers already on campus constructing and preparing and creating.

    The last couple of years, most of our construction work -- we build various facades for the food booth, prize booth, etc. -- has happened the day OF the event. That's just madness.

    This year, some of our men have really risen to the occasion, and they're working today. I'm proud to see the team working this hard and this well.

    Regardless of how many people show up Saturday, it's already a winning event for our volunteers!

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    The single pastor.

    This afternoon, one of the junior high students in our school made this comment to me:

    "I can't believe you're not married," she said.

    "Um, OK...why's that?" I replied.

    "Because you're such a cool guy."

    Kinda made me laugh when I got back into my office, thinking about what an early adolescent (or younger) kid thinks about who gets married, why people marry, how easy it must be the find the right person to marry. Gave me a chuckle and a smile.

    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Random moments from Greece: Part 3

    21 September 2007: Irakleion, Crete

    Someone on this ferry apparently thought that the hits of Lionel Richie would be a great way to send us off musically here in Irakleion. His music is playing right now. Interesting, eh? No. Not really.

    22 September 2007: The road to Meteora

    Rick had an interesting episode today. We ate at a restaurant along the route to Meteora. Apparently something he ate gave him food sickness, and we had to stop so he could throw up. But he only ate a salad -- one of the two things I ate at lunch. I haven't thrown up, but something else has been working through my system in other ways. Ugh.

    Postscript: On the drive back to Athens, we noticed this: "All Time Classic" on the signage for the restaurant where Rick got sick.

    23 September 2007: Meteora

    Just finished visiting a second monastery here at Meteora. Smaller than yesterday's but still interesting, with great views. This one had some surveillance cameras all over the place, keeping an eye on us guests. Yesterday's may have had cameras too, but I wasn't looking and didn't see any.

    24 September 2007: Athens

    Sometimes a free flower really is a free flower. Mom was just offered a rose by a young German guy. She refused it, because she thought he was a vendor trying to sell a flower (that has happened a couple times to us). But it wasn't. It was just a free flower.

    Some recent reads.

    Here are some books I've recently read:

    1. "Encouraging the Heart: A Leader's Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others," by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
    As someone who's always led more from my head than my heart, I found this book inspiring, thought-provoking and encouraging. Kouzes and Posner, who wrote "The Leadership Challenge," do a good job of explaining the benefits of creating a team environment where everyone is encouraged and motivated to perform well and to reach their potential as team members. The book ends with a great to-do list of ways to encourage others and yourself.

    2. "Jim & Casper go to Church," by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper
    It's a quick read, but this book really forced me to reconsider the first impressions people have when walking into a church. Granted, most guests aren't going to be atheists (one of the authors is, and that's key to the book's approach), but people often do walk in with skeptical minds. At the very least, the authors' experiences gave me deeper ideas about the thoughts a first-time guest has at a church. I guess I'm just glad MY church wasn't picked...and I'm sure most other pastors would say the same thing!

    1. "Simple Church," by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger

    2. "The Complete Worship Leader," by Kevin J. Navarro

    ON DECK:
    1. "The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and their Employees)," by Patrick Lencioni

    2. "In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day," by Mark Batterson

    No YS = a little sadness.

    I got an email today reminding me about the upcoming National Youth Workers Conference sponsored by Youth Specialties, and it made me a little sad because I won't be attending this year.

    It's not a financial decision, or a schedule conflict. It's simply the career shift that happened in my life this summer. No longer a youth pastor, I can't find any way to justify attending this time around.

    And that's just too bad, because it's tough to find an event for associate/worship/adult ministries people that is as much fun as a YS conference. Oh well. Life goes on, eh?

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Why I value our Harvest Festival.

    This coming Saturday, thousands of people will visit our church grounds for our 6th Annual Harvest Festival outreach to our community. Last night, as part of our annual vision night/business meeting, I shared some of the reasons I value Harvest Festival as a meaningful outreach effort. Here are some of those thoughts:

    • I value the wisdom of veterans
    Over the weekend, I spoke with one of our longtime volunteers, Marcus Vincent, and he reminded me about the first time he got involved. He was worried that it wasn't going to all come together -- but it did. Now he can look back and rest easy this week, knowing that God will provide everything we need, as we continue to work and prepare for the event.

    • I value the enthusiasm of newcomers
    While I was out of the country, Helen Moran made dozens and dozens and dozens of phone calls. She gave me a huge list of highlighted names, and info added to the list, and all sorts of other details. Then she asked what she could do next. I passed along a project. She got that done within a day. Then she send me an email asking for a new project. And then another, and another. Such enthusiasm!
    I'm also enthusiastic that Pastor Randall and our Celebrate Recovery team will have a booth at the event this year. We know from experience that many hurting people will be on our church grounds that day. This is a great chance to connect them with a ministry that can help them with their hurts, hangups and habits!

    • I value the smiles of guests
    That's really what each person is Saturday: a guest. They're coming to our church, and we need to treat them with dignity and respect as our guests. Some of them will be happy guests, and some will be rude, unhappy guests. But we still treat them correctly and have the right attitude -- even if they don't!

    • I value the sacrifices of our congregation
    Sunday morning, we had a first-time guest at church who offered to donate some portable bathrooms for the event. We've never had that donation before! We have so many people willing to sacrifice their time and energy. Our parking areas are already done because of the hard work of David Sherr and Javier Moran, who spent all day Friday preparing the ground.

    • I value the prayers of the team

    We ask all our volunteers to take time this week to pray for the rest of the team, pray for the guests, and pray for the spiritual seeds that will be planted in people's lives this weekend.

    Sunday, October 07, 2007

    Just around the corner.

    We're just 3 hours from our annual business meeting here at the church. We don't like calling these things "business meetings," because it's really about the vision and direction of the ministries and leadership team.

    We've ordered a bunch of pies from Marie Callendar's, along with whipped cream and ice cream. Pastoral staff members are working on some cool, passionate presentations, and we will have a board member election at the end of the evening.

    Right now a team of volunteers is working around the church grounds, getting things ready for tonight. So, I should get back to work with them!

    Saturday, October 06, 2007

    Yep, it snowed.

    Here's how Tioga Pass looks today, after the storm that came through on Thursday and Friday. Didn't bring huge amounts and didn't drop much on lower elevations, but it appears winter has begun a little bit early for parts of the Sierra. And we can all say yes and amen to a good snow year in the mountains!

    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    Will snow arrive?

    Apparently, we have a storm system moving our way that could drop some measurable snow over the Sierra. That would be awesome, considering how dry last season was. So, I've posted this image from this afternoon up at Tioga Pass in Yosemite NP, elevation around 9,000 feet (I think). By tomorrow afternoon or Saturday morning, I hope I can post a snow-filled image from their webcam. Oh, and it might rain here, too. That's a good thing.

    Random moments from Greece: Part 2

    15 September 2007: Athens
    We're continuing to see tortoises here in Athens. Very weird. First one was near the Acropolis a couple of days ago. Then we saw some while watching through the National Gardens. So far, we're up to 4 tortoises. I lived here for six months and never saw any. Weird.

    15 September 2007: Athens
    Large man, loud music, small car. I was expecting that we would get passed by a Mercedes or a BMW, but it was just a guy in a Smart car.

    18 September 2007: Crete
    We went driving today. End up way in the northeast corner of Crete, around Vai. If you have to pay to park at a beach, leave! That's what we did. We kept driving on the road, with some winding roads and slow drivers along the way. Mom got some pictures of goats along the side of the road. We reached signs telling us we couldn't take pictures because we were in a military area. Then we saw signs telling us to turn around -- because we were in a military area. Oops.

    19 September 2007: Crete
    Along the national road, there's a sign saying it's 64 kilometers to Agios Nikolaos (where our hotel was). A few km later, we see another sign...saying we have 65 km to go. Huh??

    19 September 2007: Agios Nikolaos, Crete
    So, who are these 6 percent? We just a report on CNN International saying 80 percent of people surveyed believe O.J. Simpson was guilty of those murders in 1994, and 14 percent don't think he did it. So who are the 6 percent who can't decide one way or the other?

    19 September 2007: Agios Nikolaos, Crete
    Sorry folks, but I just don't think soccer is terribly interesting to watch. We have two soccer options on TV right now, but I just don't get much out of watching soccer on TV.

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    Random moments from Greece: Part 1

    11 September 2007: Frankfurt
    We were walking through passport control, with long lines. Suddenly, one of only two lines for non-EU people closed, sending that line into ours. Needless to say, people were quite upset. One guy started yelling, "Wake up Germany! Open up the gates!" Remarkably, he wasn't arrested. But many people's tempers were rather short. Ironically, just as we reached the passport control, they opened up several more lines. Lucky us.

    11 September 2007: Athens
    This is pretty cool. I'm in Athens with Mom and Pepie; we just ate dinner. We stopped at a business owned by some of our extended friends here, and a woman just bought a copy of the Sandie Morgan's Greek cookbook. Pretty cool.

    14 September 2007: Athens, National Gallery of Art
    Translations in art museums can be fun. Just walked past an artwork translated as "The Holly Trinity." Hmmm...

    14 September 2007: Temple of Poseidon, Sounion
    I didn't come all the way to Greece to listen to some Americans debate politics. But that's what I've been hearing for the last few minutes. Ugh. Had a couple of ignorant tourists (not Americans, btw) go past barriers here at the temple. That just bugs me. The guy even went up to the temple and put his hand on it. Why? Because his lady was taking a picture of him.

    15 September 2007: Athens
    While walking through Plaka, heard a restaurant guy attempt to get a potential customer's attention by saying "konichiwa," even though the guy clearly wasn't Japanese. (And no, I wasn't the potential customer.)

    Gotta return to my blogging ways.

    I only blogged six times in September. Yes, I was out of the country for two weeks, but I apparently lacked the writing energy to post my thoughts. I sure hope Josh doesn't disown me as a blogging friend...

    Traveling far from home.

    Here are some thoughts that I had while visiting the ancient Minoan site of Malia on Crete, during my recent trip to Greece...

    It's hard to imagine living a lifetime without traveling more than a few miles from your birthplace. I can't even imagine never leaving a single state, like many of my former students who had never left California. I guess I'm a reflection of my family's habits and the current state of my culture.

    Growing up, our parents traveled. A lot. We moved 4 times before I was 9 years old. I've visited 45 of the 50 U.S. states, and much of that happened while on family trips. I've been to Canada several times, Mexico four times and Europe six times. Family members have been part of many of those trips.

    And it's just so easy -- though, perhaps not always cheap -- to get on a plane and be on the other side of world. Sure, it might take 2 or 3 or 4 flights to get there, and it might require nearly 24 hours of travel. But you can't travel on a train for 24 hours and end up in Europe or the Middle East. You can't hop on a steamship and do it, either. Today's culture truly has made the world "smaller" and easier to experience.

    The irony for me is that I don't get the same "feeling" when I travel, that I once did. Yes, I just returned from two weeks in Greece. It was awesome. Had great time. Good memories with my mom and brother and friends. No regrets. And yet, it doesn't hold the same level of "magic" that travel once did. Maybe I've traveled to Europe too many times. Perhaps I should go to Africa or Asia or South America. I love traveling, and I never want it to become routine or boring. It's a long way of reaching that stage, and I never want it to get there.