Monday, April 30, 2007

Poetic injustice.

Simple Words
The smallest words can have the biggest impact, even when we use them in a way that intends no impact at all, like when we think the person of whom we speak will never hear the words that flow from our mouth, even though we know from the pains and trials of our experience that words work like boomerangs, flowing through the air of life from one person to the next, often striking innocent verbal victims, who then share their pain and those unintended verbal arrows with the people nearest to them, thus continuing a pattern of hurt and resentment and suffering, which may not have been our intent when we first spoke those seemingly small, insignificant words but became the ultimate result nonetheless.

River Walk
We enjoyed our walk along the river, which was richly covered by trees and shrubs, all of which released a life-giving sense of calm and peace and relaxation, things we too often don’t find in a mad, mad, mad, mad world like ours, in a society that tells us to go, go, go and push, push, push, a society that tells us rest is a four-letter word, an accurate presentation of a fact but hardly the insult our culture intends, for when we discover the joy of rest we will discover more joys of life, and when we encourage ourselves to live lives of rest, we will find that we are a little less stressed and a little less worried and a little less frustrated and a little less anxious and a little less angry and a little less mad and a little less obnoxious, and a little more patient and a little more loving and a little more thoughtful and a little more balanced and a little more focused and a little more calm and peaceful and relaxed, just like the trees and shrubs along the wonderfully flowing, life-giving river.

The Camera
At the heart of the camera sits the lens, a masterful creation and a wonderful revealer of the world around us, a world filled with greens and blues and reds and yellows, colors that in one moment may blind us, in another moment lure us, in still another moment confuse us into thinking that left is right and right is left, that truth is a lie and a lie is the truth, confusion that can cause our minds to shake and our brains to shudder and our eyes to water and our ears to wonder if all we know and learn is true or false, right or wrong, here or there, real or fake like the world of The Matrix, with all of us living in some kind of dream world that seems better yet worse than a world to come, a world that is lacking yet yearning for a day to arrive, a world that is needy and hurting and empty and alone and isolated yet also hopeful and loving and optimistic and wonderful and God-blessed and God-created and God-ordained in a way that the camera can never quite capture, even as it gives us glimpses into the soul and heart and mind of what it means to be us.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fun with coffee.

Last night, our youth held their first coffeehouse night in nearly two years. It was lots of fun seeing students showcase their creative skills, from solo guitarists to a worship band to a rock band to freehand drawing to molded-clay creations to original poetry to silly, silly songs.

We did these coffeehouse nights back in the day, but we seemed to run out of students willing to present and perform. Last night showed that we have incredible creative depth in our youth ministry. It also reminded me that despite some big challenges we've experienced since the beginning of the year, we have a core of kids committed to our group and committed to seeing it thrive.

We'll probably do more of these over the summer. We used our outdoor courtyard, a new venue for us, and the vibe was awesome. By 7pm, the area is in shade and by 8pm the candles on the tables shone brightly. Lots of fun.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I'd like to apologize: Volume 3

It's Thursday, which means it's time to get something off my chest...and I don't just mean the missed drops of antibiotics I'm using to treat my pinkeye! This week I offer my apologies:

* To anyone who touched my eye on Monday, for the possible pinkeye they will soon experience.
* To Jeremy White, for forgetting to give him my $5 for the PDYM lunch today; it'll get to ya, I promise.
* To people who've been using tax preparation software for years, for thinking they were silly; now I know why you do it.
* To Tyler Combs, for making jokes about what life will be like when he's away from Turlock for a few months.
* To Kaiser Permanente, for complaining about their quality of care, which was much better this week than I've had in the past.
* To the folks at Thunder Valley Casino, for not stopping off at their fine establishment and wasting money on Tuesday.
* To Jack Bauer, for thinking his world get any easier -- or more realistic -- this week.
* To Starbucks, for only visiting once over the last week.
* To our coffehouse crowd in advance, for hearing me doing something musically tomorrow that I might regret.
* To Dave Welborn, for using AIM to chat with him, even though he lives just down the hall from me.
* To Hillary Clinton, for taking yet another blood oath to never ever vote for her.
* To my neighbors, for still having Christmas lights up (but not used) even though it's almost May.
* To Jim Sanders, for not connecting with him last week like I had promised.
* And on a very serious the family that visited our church on April 15, for the loss of their mom in a car accident just 2 days after they were with us. Your family remains in our prayers.

PDYM lunch day

So, today was the springtime Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry (PDYM) luncheon for our region here in NorCal. Drove over to Vacaville to Valley Church, and host Jeremy White did a great job once again.

This lunch was a bit different because we got to watch a cool training video from Doug Fields. He offered some great tips on recruiting and nurturing volunteer teams in youth ministry. As always, good stuff.

But I must share some fun moments from the event and video:
* Hearing Fields talk about podcasts and blogs -- especially considering his absolute love for blogs.
* I've never seen anyone indicate the number "2" by using the two index fingers on their hands. Most of us would hold up 2 fingers on one hand. Fields? Both index fingers.
* Jeremy got teased mercilessly because he has a soul patch -- just like Fields.

Anyway, great time once again. The video training added a lot; nice extra!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Guess what I got?

Nope...not a new iPod...or $1,000 in the mail...or anything really fun at all.

I got pinkeye. Yuck. Technically, it's called "conjunctivitis," and technically, it leaves my eye all red and icky. But I got some meds this afternoon and I'm on my way to looking and feeling better.

And remarkably, I got into and out of a Kaiser Permanente facility in just about an hour: got vitals done (blood pressure and pulse good), met with the doc, got a prescription filled, had some blood work done (to check on cholesterol and pre-diabetes issues from a few years ago). Pretty cool. In the past, I've sat in Kaiser facilities for a long, long time just to meet with a doc.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

DOD: Discovery of the Day

OK, this isn't a NEW discovery that I made today. But it's recent, from earlier this month.

I love Togo's sandwiches. Truthfully, I love Quizno's sandwhiches more, but the price and value and quantity of a Togo's sub bumps the big Q outta first place for me. Subway? Hmm, isn't that a dirty place where people leave nasty grafitti? That's what I thought.

So, a few weeks back I ordered my usual sandwich (large #8, parmesan cheese bread, mustard only and a good amount, swiss cheese, little bit of lettuce, six or seven tomato slices, lots and lots of pickles, and black pepper) but at a different location. When I got to my "good amount of mustard, please" line, the employee asked me if I wanted Dijon mustard.

Flabbergasted was I. Togo's has more than just yellow mustard? Wow! So now, everytime I buy a sandwich at the big T, I get some Dijon mustard on it, too. Sweet.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Our worship experiment.

We did something in our youth service this week that I've heard discussed many times but never seen implemented. I've even talked about it in the past but finally felt it was time for us to attempt it. It's a pretty crazy experiment.

We turned the crowd away from the band. Or we put the band behind the crowd. However you want to say it.

And the world didn't stop spinning. Remarkable.

Our youth recently moved into a "new" facility. It's new for us; it's either the 10th or 11th "home" we've had on our church campus. Or maybe the number is much higher. I keep losing count.

Last month, on my mini-sabattical/personal spiritual retreat, this was one of the ideas I had as a way of helping our students focus more on what worship is all about. There really were two reasons for moving the band behind the crowd.

1. It's good for the band. It's too easy for student musicians to get involved simply because they get the attention and the eyeballs and the focus. That's not the purpose of worshiping God through music. Our goal is to lead young people into God's presence. Moving the band helps the band members remember what their role IS and what their role ISN'T in the service.

2. It's good for the crowd. One student asked me, "Well, what will we look at if the band isn't up front?" Well, the words on the wall -- if you don't know the lyrics to the songs. And if you do know the lyrics, you could close your eyes. Lift up your hands. Clap your hands. Kneel in prayer. Focus more of your energy on WHOM you're worshiping.

So, just as we entered that segment of the service, we explained to the crowd why we had modified the room. We asked them to not turn around and watch the musicians. We asked them to focus on the words they were singing and the reason we sing.

And then we led. And worship went better than it has in a long, long time. Our musicians felt freer. I felt free vocally. I didn't feel the need to "push" or "drag" people into worship. The students didn't turn around. Many of them lifted up their hands. Many of them really seemed to get what we were doing.

Only drawback? With no one up front, many people struggled to clap on the correct beat. You know what? If kids are more focused on the real reason for worship, I can live with that drawback.

It's a one-week experiment that worked well for us. We'll see how things go next week. Would I recommend it to others? Well, I'm not gonna write a book or build a whole theology around "band in the back." It's meeting a need in our group. A month from now, six months from now, a year from now -- at some point we'll likely switch back. When we're ready.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'd like to apologize: Volume 2

It's Thursday, which means it's time to get something off my chest. And I'm not just talking about the salsa I dripped on myself last night! This week, I offer my apologies:

* To Sanjaya, for not voting for you.
* To true "American Idol" fans, for rooting for Sanjaya.
* To my brain cells, for watching "American Idol."
* To Kurt Johnston, for secretly orchestrating the whole "America's Top Pastor" debacle.
* To customers at Wal-Mart last week, who may have seen me walking around in a pair of far-too-holey jeans.
* To Dani, Gabriel and Sal, for making them eat the disgusting candy bars last night.
* To the fine folks at Mizu sushi, for being a little too intimidated by some of the sushi they were serving yesterday.
* To the federal and state governments, for being a last-minute filer once again this year.
* To my friends at Simply Youth Ministry, for taking far too long on a certain project.
* To Jennifer Gomez, for proving that some people WILL buy stuff for me at Starbuck's and pay for it.
* To Tyler Gillespie, for my jokes.
* To the rest of humanity, for my jokes.
* To Isabelle Read, for making her cry last night with our video testimony from a guy who passed away last week.* To "The Apprentice" and "Survivor," for no longer really caring.
* To "The Deadliest Catch," for missing an episode.
* To Round Table Pizza, for being very upset the other night when none of the local stores would deliver me a pizza, even though my house MUST be in someone's territory, thus forcing me to buy pizza from (yuck!) Domino's instead.
* To you, dear reader, for once again making it to the end of my weekly apologies.

I'm crying right now...

...over the departure of Sanjaya from American Idol. I thought he would last forever. I thought he would keep shocking us with creative, colorful hairdo's. I thought he would bring down that Death Star of pop culture.

But now he is gone. Tragic. What's the point in watching now? Seeing which victim, er, singer becomes part of the pop music machine? Nah, not worth it. Keep voting, America. I'll be watching "The Deadliest Catch" on Tuesday nights from here on out.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rob has issues: Volume 1.

Today is Tax Day. Thanks to the quirks of the calendar and the holiday schedule in Washington, D.C., the deadline has been extended to Tuesday. And I'm grateful.

I don't owe anything to the feds or state this year. In fact, I'll be getting by largest tax refunds ever. That's pretty cool. Especially with the long list of "high-priority" items needed in my life. A new iPod. Patio furniture. Dues to my denomination's district. Ya know. The biggies.

This weekend I went into panic mode. I couldn't find my W2s. Or my forms from the last few years. Or the forms for this year. Ugh! So, first I went and bought software to do my taxes this year. Then I dug through my room. I found the W2s. Cool. Then I found a folder marked "2005 Taxes." Awesome. Oops. Files are missing. I hunted some more. Found old taxes. From the 1990s. Eventually, I did find all the "missing" elements that I needed.

Here's the funniest-yet-most-pathetic part of the whole story. I don't throw things away. It's a disease, an illness, an ailment. I keep stuff. And by "stuff" I mean all my federal and state forms going back to 1992. The first year I filed on my own. While in college. Yes folks, I have my complete history of tax filings still in my possession.

Rob has issues.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Denegrating language.

Great article today from The Associated Press talking about hip-hop culture's attitudes toward women. The thoughts stem from all the controversy surrounding Don Imus and his unintelligent comments this month.

    Fighting in vain to keep his job, radio host Don Imus claimed that rappers routinely "defame and demean black women" and call them "worse names than I ever did."

    That's an argument many people made as the Imus fallout intensified, culminating with his firing Thursday for labeling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Now that Imus has been silenced (for the moment), some critics are moving down the radio dial to take on hip-hop, boosting the growing movement against harmful themes in rap.

    "We all know where the real battleground is," wrote Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock. "We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A tale of two companies.

Once upon a time, in a multinational corporation land far, far away, there lived two electronics companies, CompUSA and Fry's. This is the story of how these two companies' lives intersected at a crucial moment in both of their lives: as CompUSA was on its way to oblivion and as Fry's continued its rise toward its zenith.

You see, CompUSA is going out of business. It's selling all its products. It's selling all its furniture. It's even selling the shelves -- all in the name of liquidation.

Fry's is not going out of business. In fact, in Roseville, California, it's building a brand-new store. It's a huge store. It's a megastore. It's ginormous. And today, I visited one store and then drove past the other.

Because in Roseville, the new Fry's is just down the street from the soon-to-be-out-of-business CompUSA. And I found that, well, ironic. Not in an Alanis Morisette way. But there seems such rich irony that one store is closing its doors, while another its opening its huge rollup doors -- and both streets are practically within viewing distance of the other.

I'm sure there's a life lesson here. But it's my day off. Nothing too deep from me today.

To read a book, a book to read.

I bought a new book the other day. I'm trying to cut back. This book addiction can get quite expensive.

I try avoiding the places that feed my addiction, just as an alcoholic avoids bars, liquor stores and bingo halls. But earlier this week, I was hanging out with a student and we visited Borders. And I gave in.

Fortunately, I did pass over the "Inside Details of Anna Nicole's Death" and "The Notepad of Legal Paper," by John Grisham. What caught my eye was "The Jesus Way" by Eugene Peterson. Some of you know him simply as "the guy who wrote The Message translation of the Bible." Well, maybe not so simply.

This is the third book in his series on spiritual theology. I've bought and breezed through the two previous books, though both demand and deserve much more thorough readings. Last month we did a series with our youth on The Way of Wisdom, and this one feels like it'll be relevant and interesting, especially since I'm still kind of focused on the word "way" and the path of following Jesus.

So, this should be a good read.

Once I get around to reading it.

I'd like to apologize.

With all the big-name people in our world who feel the need to apologize (this week alone, Don Imus and Paul Wolfowitz -- what a combo!), I've opted to go introspective and apologize to a few people:

* To that kid at camp in 2nd grade, for throwing his toothbrush into the river.
* To my downstairs neighbors in Berkeley, for creating lots of noise above them during my two-week stay in their multiunit house.
* To the National Weather Service, for stealing a few of their pamphlets on a trip in 3rd grade.
* To various hotels and motels, for permanently borrowing signs from their rooms and stairwells during my years of high school competitive speech trips.
* To Carl's Jr, for doing the same thing to their table numbers.
* To TBN, for the jokes I made at the network's expense last night when preaching about evangelism.
* To my friends at the Simply Youth Ministry podcast, for skipping past all the other questions until I reach mine each episode.
* To Sarah Simmons, for almost never replying to her emails.
* To one set of neighbors, for living in my house for more than 5 months without introducing myself to them.
* To the people in my cabin at camp last week, for all those smells.
* To my long-dead cat, for trimming his whiskers, which he never seemed to enjoy.
* To Jeremy Anderson, for never dropping the jokes about him causing me to sprain my ankle while playing racquetball...4 years ago.
* To Shirley Shedd, for missing her retirement party.
* To Trudy Bryan, for missing her funeral.
* To former newspaper co-workers, for marking all their newspaper designs with red ink.
* To the Turlock Journal, for calling it The Urinal, even when I was an employee.
* To all 3 of my faithful blog readers, for not writing more frequently.
* To my students, for repeating certain stories way too frequently.
* To employees at Burger King, for truly "having it my way" with my burger orders.
* To Vince and Anthony Battaglia, for the silly footage at the end of our camp video.
* To Ernie Lara, for not including his funny footage from camp.
* To that stalker chick, for screening calls and not taking hers.
* To Steven Nelson, for always beating him in chess.
* To America, for voting for Ross Perot back in 1992.
* To America, for voting for George W Bush. Twice.
* To you, if you've read all the way to the end.

Blogging patterns.

I've been trying to figure out why I struggle to blog frequently when I'm working real-life hours. When I spent a week+ at my mom's house, I was churning out 2, 3, even 4 posts in a single day. None of them will win Pulitzer Prizes, mind you, but I at least felt I had something to say.

Now I'm back at work, in the office regularly, meeting with leaders and kids. I'm back into routine -- and I've been silent here all week. Do I spend time in front of the computer? Of course. Are there interesting anecdotes from my life? Probably. Do I somehow have less to say when I work than when I don't? I dunno.

Very weird. Maybe I need a shrink's couch to help me figure this out...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Who are my true MySpace friends?

So, what's the proper etiquette for "ranking" friends on MySpace? Should it be based on the friends I chat with most frequently? Should it be the people who are my closest friends in life? Should it be my key student or adult leaders from my ministry? Should it be all the folks who send me free stuff or gift cards to

I'd love to hear your input. Especially if you're a 14 or 23 on my list but you think you should be a 1 or 2.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Back from camp.

Wow, we pulled in from Easter Camp just a few hours ago. What a week! We took the smallest crew of campers EVER to any camp in my nearly 4 years here, yet I can't call the event a failure. Our guys had a great time. They behaved well (as far as I know!), and they all seemed to develop stronger friendships with God and others.

As we took our final camp photo this afternoon, at our traditional spot at Springs of Living Water camp, it reminded me of how much these guys have grown up, and all the other students who have come through our doors since I arrived in June 2003. Some of them have become leaders. Some of them have gone on to college. Some of them have slipped through the cracks. Some are struggling in their faith. Some of them are excelling in their faith. Some have chosen to walk away.

Through it all, God's been faithful. I've made more than my share of mistakes. These kids haven't led perfect lives. But many of them have dug deep and found a strength that only comes through that vibrant, living, active faith in Jesus Christ.

Our team had an awesome counselor this year, Mark Grueninger, and this is the first time we've ever included a non-Antelope counselor in our team pic. His wife attended these Radical Reality camps as a teen, and she wanted to return as a counselor for this year's 25th anniversary Easter Camp. Wow I'm glad Mark came along, too! If anyone needs a financial planner in the Los Angeles area, let me know and I'll see if I can connect you with him! Mark stands out as probably the most well-rounded counselor we've had for a camp...and we've had some great counselors...Sofia Acero, Luis Cruz, Melodie Gomez, Mike Lara, April Harlan, Jesse Dalton, Zac from the Bay Area whose last name I forget but who always seems to get our guys! And Mark stands out among that pack.

Anyway, I've thrown in some other pics for fun, just to show images from other camps...Easter Camp, Summer Camp, a Jr High Summer Camp one year. Unfortunately, I don't have a digital version of the team pic from the FIRST camp I went to with these kids, in Summer 2003. There's a print in my office, and I'll get it scanned next week so I can add to this collection. Incredible how much the students have changed as individuals, yet students in many ways haven't changed. They face many of the same struggles and battles, they have many of the same hopes and dreams, and they have the same need for acceptance, love, forgiveness, impartation, redemption, and ministry.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Gone for a few (again).

Hey folks, I'm outta town for this week. Taking a group of students to Easter Camp. Should be fun. Enjoy your week. See ya on the flip side.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I like my Moleskine notebooks, dangit.

On a recent episode of the Simply Youth Ministry podcast, our esteemed friend Josh Griffin made a critical comment about people who walk around with little Moleskine notebooks to jot down their thoughts and ideas and inspirations.

I, my friends, am such a person. I write in mine. I give them as gifts to family. I think they're really quite convenient and cool.

Why mention it in my blog? Because today, I came across one of my notebooks that I thought had been "lost." Turns out it was just misplaced.

But it jogged my memory on Josh's comment.

And gave me a great idea on a birthday gift for later this year. :)