Friday, February 23, 2007

More snow in the mtns.

Today and tomorrow, our youth are participating in the 30-Hour Famine. It's a great event that raises funds for World Vision and awareness of hunger issues around the world.

But wow. Selfish confession here. I so wish I could be up in the mountains today. The day after a snow storm is always a wonderful experience in the Sierra. Check out some of these photos from Yosemite and surrounding areas.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Just what we need. Really.

It's raining here in the Central Valley, and it's snowing up in the Sierra. When I flew back to Cali this past weekend, it was VERY noticeable how dry our winter has been. I saw large stretches of the Sierra bare when they should have been covered in snow. This storm is helping, even if it's just a little.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

DOD: Discovery of the Day

I might do more of these in the future. Or not. Deal with it.


If I stay in Starbucks long enough, and consume my Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade while staying in the cafe, I can get a refill for just 50 cents -- instead of paying $3 for a new one.

Perhaps some of you knew this. But for me, this was my DOD: Discovery of the Day.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Some recent reads

OK, folks, here are some books I've recently read -- or recently FINISHED reading. Some were from last week's trip back to Iowa. Others were finished earlier this month.

The Starbucks Experience, by Joseph A. Michelli

Offered some interesting perspectives on how Starbucks' corporate values could be translated into other organizations. Author is definitely a Starbucks fan, perhaps to a fault. But still had good ideas about why Starbucks is a valued "third place" in our culture. Lotta ideas that could be applied in church settings, especially for front-line ministries like greeters, ushers, grounds, etc.

The Gospel According to Starbucks, by Leonard Sweet

Takes the idea of Starbucks' popularity and appeal, and finds some spiritual application. Sweet focuses around the EPIC concept: that Starbucks is experiential, participatory, image-rich and connecting. Sweet isn't a gushy fan of S'bucks in the way Michelli is, but he recognizes the social and cultural impact the corporation has, and he makes a good argument for how Christians can live EPIC lives. Seems like a great book for small groups, or for front-line ministries.

Second-Guessing God, by Brian Jones

Wasn't sure how good this would be when I bought it, but I read it in a span of just about 3 days. Jones tackles some intense topics that Christians face. He doesn't shy away from addressing the challenges -- things like feeling distant from God and wonder where He is and what He's doing -- but he also doesn't offer cheap, simple, easy answers. Wrestling with these issues is part of the Christian experience.

The Rock That is Higher, by Madeleine L'Engle

Great book. Not sure if I agree on every theological tenet L'Engle holds, but she's a superb writer with mature spiritual insight. The book follows her path as she recovers from a car crash back in the 1990s, and she offers her unique brand of wisdom along the way. No easy answers about what comes our way in life, but she's a good companion for the journey.

Preaching Re-Imagined, by Doug Pagitt

Wow, this book has challenged me more than almost any book I've read in the last year. Pagitt makes a rather strong case that our approach to preaching isn't really consistent with how the earliest Christian circles understood or practiced it. He makes the case for "progressional preaching," which uses the experiences, insights and understandings of the WHOLE congregational community -- not just the pastor/preacher -- to create and present sermons that are more than just memorable or cute or funny. He talks about finding ways to interact with the body of believers and battling the image that a pastor/preacher has all the answers to people's challenges. I found myself doing a LOT of thinking in recent days. Not sure if I have any real, solid, strong answers yet, but I'm thinking and praying and wondering how this whole notion could apply to our youth ministry here, and our whole church ministry.

The Three Hardest Words (in the World to Get Right), by Leonard Sweet
We're doing a Love/Relationship/Sex/Dating series all month with our youth, so I've spent time reading through love-focused books. Sweet's book proved a fast read for me: two airplane flights on Saturday. He breaks down the words "I" "love" and "you" to discover how Christ-followers need to receive a new identity, new integrity and new intimacy. Good February read!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Hey everybody! Especially you Californians enjoying 70 degree highs! It's snowing right now in Iowa. It's cold outside (maybe 13 degrees) and a light snow is falling. I took some pics and vids with my cell, so I'll try get them posted later. Enjoy your weather today, however hot or cold it might be!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hoover didn't suck. Get it?

Before today, I had never visited a presidential library. It wasn't too high on my list of goals to accomplish in my lifetime. But this afternoon, my dad, stepmom and I drove out to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, just about a half-hour away from their home here in Iowa.

It ended up being a really educational and enjoyable visit. History fascinates me, and politics intrigue me. A presidential library, at its best, combines both topics. The Hoover Library did a great job of telling his life story and the story of his political life.

Granted, it's HIS presidential library. There's going to be a positive spin on his legacy. But at the end, I'd say it seems he got a bum rap for the Great Depression. His legacy includes a lot more than just being the president in office when the stock market crashed. So, all in all, it was worth the drive over.

Of course, it was COLD again today. When the wind was still, it wasn't bad. It was sunny, and the sun was pleasant -- until the wind returned. It was a sharp, bitter breeze, the kind you'd expect when it's about 12 degrees outside. Beanie. Scarf. Gloves. Jacket. Ooops, I left my scarf in the car for the walk around the museum's grounds to see the house where he was born. Man did I miss that scarf.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cold yet crazy.

My dad and I went out earlier to get a newspaper. It's cold outside...around 21 degrees. We were bundled up, me more so than him because I'm a wimpy Californian.

We walked into the nearest convenience store. He grabbed a newspaper. He paid for it. As we're climbing into the car, we see a kid wearing shorts. The kid was probably 9 or 10. And he was wearing shorts. In the cold. As if it was no big deal.

I was in my dad's car, wearing an undershirt, long-sleeve shirt, jacket, jeans, socks, shoes, beanie and gloves -- and I was kinda cold. Not sure if I admire that kid's bravery or question his sanity. Or both.

The joy of travel.

I'm back in Iowa for a weeklong visit with my dad and stepmom. It's been snowing lightly for much of the day, and it's really pretty. And I'm glad I'm inside, where I can enjoy it behind insulated walls and windows.

Traveling here was quite an adventure Monday. Here are some highlights:

  • Being able to see our church grounds from the air as my flight left Sacramento
  • Seeing a layer of fresh snow covering much (but not enough) of the Sierra
  • Bouncing all over O'Hare International Airport as my flight into Iowa got moved, shifted, delayed, undelayed, redelayed
  • Pulling up with my dad and stepmom for dinner at a pizza place -- only to find that it had closed at 8PM; pizza places shouldn't do such things
  • Walking into a nearby Mexican food restaurant and being asked, "Smoking or nonsmoking?" Wow, another reason to love California
  • Having a waiter at that restaurant who used "amigos" with every interaction; got old real fast
  • Feeling the cold, sharp wind when it was already 20 degrees outside
  • Sleeping in this morning!

Monday, February 05, 2007

An Apple a day...

Wow, big news in the world of apples today.

    IPod maker Apple and the manager of The Beatles' Apple Corps resolved their long-simmering dispute on Monday about who has the right to the Apple trademark.

    The settlement offered greater hope to fans of George, Paul, John and Ringo that the two sides could now focus on permitting downloads of the band's music through the iPod maker's iTunes online music service. The catalog of all Beatles songs, including "Let it Be,""Get Back" and "She Loves You," is the largest holdout from iTunes and other online music services.
You can read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I hate being a pastor.

It's true. Not every day. Not most days. But every now and then, I have days when I hate being a pastor.

I hate dealing with messy situations that I didn't create but I'm asked to resolve. I hate cleaning up my own messes created by my insensitivity or hyper-sensitivity. I hate running into people who think I've got it more together than I really do. I hate feeling the pressure to live an unbalanced life, to do things and be places I'd rather avoid, and to have the right answer for other people all the time.

Perhaps hate is too strong of a word. Today was just a tough day for me. I found myself battling emotions I haven't experienced in a long time. I found myself regretting the way I handled situations. I found myself snapping at people who don't deserve that kind of treatment (does any of us, really?). I found myself wanting to withdraw and avoid and ignore and diss.

Maybe I'm on edge because my mom gets to hear some test results Monday. She'll learn if the combo of chemo and prayer have done their work in overcoming her lymphoma cancer. I'm down here in Turlock to be with her when she gets the results in the morning. I guess I'm a bit nervous at what the doctor will say. And part of me -- the Pentecostal-Charismatic-Spiritfilled part of me -- feels some level of shame that I'm nervous.

Tonight I feel overwhelmed and underwhelmed and hyperwhelmed and angerwhelmed. I know those last two aren't really words, but I can't find the right words to explain what I'm feeling and experiencing and sensing.

I treated one of my student leaders poorly today. He and I spoke earlier, and I apologized. That felt good, to get it off my chest. We need to talk in greater depth this week, but the pastor in me wonders what I should share. When do I take off the "pastor" hat and become "Christ-follower"? Why do I feel this pressure to be more "complete" or "finished" simply because I'm a pastor? Sometimes showing my weaknesses allows me to draw closer to the people around me. And sometimes those revelations seem to become fodder and ammo in the hands of others.

Today is one of those days I hate being a pastor.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Awesome pic.

Check out this view from a Yosemite webcam. Usually night views don't show up at all, but the moon behind Half Dome creates a super-cool silhouette. Enjoy.

Painful to watch.

Oh, tonight was such a tough night. My Kansas Jayhawks were on ESPN again, giving me another chance to see my team win. Alas, KU was unable to hold it together near the end of the game, and the Texas A&M Aggies walked away with a victory -- the first time the Aggies have beaten the Jayhawks in basketball.

Before the game began, I texted and then spoke with Evan Mattei, a die-hard Aggies fan, who reminded me that until this year, A&M wasn't really known for its basketball squad, just the football team. Methinks that's all-a-changing. Tonight's game showed A&M has a real team, worthy of national recognition. Kansas showed it has a lot of work to do if it expects to survive past the first or second round of the NCAA tournament next month.