Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Some worship pics.

These are some photos that one of our parents, Rawge Jones, took during last week's youth worship service. We're still doin' the band in the back!

Bombarded by messages.

Tired of commercials? Aren't we all...

    Fueled by a growing sense of desperation, networks are inserting games, quizzes and mini-dramas into commercial breaks. They're incorporating more product pitches into programming. Two experimental programs without traditional commercial breaks will premiere this fall. NBC has even called on Jerry Seinfeld for help.

    This is all being done to stop viewers with DVRs from fast-forwarding through advertisements, or to circumvent those that do.

    Adding to the urgency, this week Nielsen Media Research begins offering ratings for commercial breaks, instead of just the shows around them.

    "We all need to become more creative in how we incorporate sponsors into a program," said Ed Swindler, executive vice president for NBC Universal ad sales. "No one on the creative side or the business side wants to make commercials intrusive, but we do need to commercialize efficiently so viewers can afford to get free television."
I found this article interesting because it ties into a book I just finished reading today, "The Big Idea" by Dave Ferguson, Jon Ferguson and Eric Bramlett. Probably will post on it and another recent read later tonight.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Personal posting record.

Geek moment. This post marks my 26th post of the month, which is the most number of posts I've made in one month since I started blogging last year. Totally insignificant fact, but read it, consume it, ponder it, devour it, enjoy it.

Just like I enjoyed some steak on the grill earlier this afternoon. And will enjoy another barbecue with some friends later this evening. Yum, yum. I don't always take full advantage of Monday holidays, but this week I am, and I'm enjoying it. Wrapped up the first season of 24 on DVD late, late, late last night. Fun re-viewing all of that.

Episode 50 is a myth.

Our friends over at Simply Youth Ministry are busy folks. We all know that. But life apparently has become SO busy that four well-meaning adults are unable to sit down for an hour of laughter and fun -- the hour we all like to call the Simply Youth Ministry Podcast.

Episode 49 was posted in iTunes on April 21. Today is May 28. That's how hectic their lives have been. Not that I have any room to talk, when it comes to posting things, or hitting deadlines, or things like that. But Episode 50, will it ever happen? Maybe Andy got mad because he didn't want to give 50 free products to the person with the best content idea for the episode. Perhaps we will never know. (Unless Josh blogs about it, which I'm sure he will, after fending off the little Jawas and oddly attired people in his Star Wars cult.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dodgers do something right.

Finally, a good reason to visit Dodgers Stadium:
    Luis Serrano is working on his second Dodger Dog and the game hasn't even begun. "On a good night, I'll eat seven," he said, smiling. That's how it goes in the new all-you-can-eat seats way out in right field at Dodger Stadium, where fans wolf down as many Dodger Dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn and soda as their bellies allow for one price.

    Bring your own antacids.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Great report from the doctor!

My mom got great news from her oncologist this morning: He doesn't want to see her for two months, and there's no reason for any continued treatment right now for her cancer! He didn't use the word "remission" but it's clear that most of her body remains cancer-free!

There is an area in her abdomen that he wants to continue keeping a close eye on, but other than that things look great. I was glad I drove down to be with her, especially if the news had been less than good. But being there for the good report was special, too!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Visiting my mom tonight.

I drove down to Turlock this evening so I could be here with my mom tomorrow. She goes to see the doctor in the morning to get the results of her recent PT scan. This will reveal if her body is still nearly free of cancer, or if any cancer has returned.

If you believe in the power of prayer, please continue to pray for my mom. I know that the doctor already has the results from the tests, but I also know that God can do incredibly, powerful things when we pray. I'll post an update Wednesday afternoon to let everyone know how she's doing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Christians at UC Berkeley.

To say the San Francisco Chronicle isn't always fair to evangelical Christians would be putting it mildly. The SF Bay Area is a region with incredibly low percentages of Christians and churches (parts of the East Bay are an exception, perhaps), so the Chron's weak coverage isn't always because of bias.

Anyway, the newspaper's website SFGate posted a well-written balanced article today about Asian-American evangelical students at UC Berkeley. Here's a snippet:
    At Cal -- which now has among the highest Asian American attendance in the nation at 43 percent of undergraduates -- InterVarsity was predominantly white until the late 1980s. Within a couple of years, it became predominantly Asian American and now offers separate fellowships for Filipino, black and Latino members. The "multiethnic" fellowship is the largest, but its roughly 200 members are mostly East Asian, with a handful of white students and members of other races.

    Many students attend Christian fellowships affiliated with their local churches instead of joining campus ministries, so it is hard to gauge the overall proportion of evangelical students attending UC Berkeley.

    Attendance at weekly fellowships offered by InterVarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ -- large group sessions with singing and speakers and small groups for intimate Bible discussions -- isn't meant to replace going to church. But it enables worship during the week and offers a social network, which is important at large schools, where students seek subgroups to avoid feeling lost.

A season of loss?

These have been interesting weeks around our church. In the last two weeks, we've had five different funerals, and within the last couple of months, I think there were at least two or three others.

The funerals have covered the range of experiences and emotions. An 18-year-old young man fatally shot. A greatgrandmother who had been married for 63 years. A man in his 40s who was a heroin addict for 20 years until God radically changed his life.

This morning's funeral struck an unexpected emotional cord for me. Near the end of the service, all of the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and extended family members each took a rose and placed it on the top of the closed casket. That sight reminded me of my grandparents' funerals, and my eyes started to well up with tears. Seeing a family's legacy is such an emotional experience; the loss of loved ones is a pain, a wound, an absence that never totally heals, never fully disappears.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Nice sight.

A nice joy of home ownership: A cool hummingbird was just flying around my backyard, enjoying the sweet nectar of my pomegranate tree. Super cool to see that. We don't have a bird feeder, so it takes a bird being drawn to "natural" sources for things like this to appear. Quite cool.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

An accomplished teen.

Just read about an 18-year-old from Southern California who climbed Mt Everest this week, becoming the youngest person to ever climb all the so-called "7 Summits," the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

It's quite impressive for anyone to accomplish, especially for someone fresh out of high school. There was a multi-episode show on the Discovery Channel some months ago about climbing Everest, and I recently read a book about the March 1996 disasters while climbing the mountain ("Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer).

Mountains are cool. No way I could ever climb anything like Everest or Denali or anything that huge, but they're amazing to see, admire and respect.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mike needs to blog.

I have a friend in Turlock named Mike. He's a cool guy, just graduated (finally) from Menlo College earlier this month. He and I ate breakfast today, and he was telling me some stories from his life right now. And I'm sitting there, thinkin, this guy needs a blog.

Mike and his wife have an apartment. They have a fridge, but it's not the one they bought. The one they bought is in the shop being repaired. So they got this loaner. Only the loaner has plenty of its own issues. Mainly, the fridge door won't stay shut. So they have to keep a chair up against the door to keep it closed.

So basically, his life is SO interesting he needs to keep a blog. He'd have lots of funny tales to keep us all entertained.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Good day.

Today has been a good day. Here are some reasons why:

* Ran media at a meaningful funeral this morning at the church.
* Had a productive meeting with some parents about their teen.
* Worked with one of my roommates on building a gazebo for the back yard.
* Enjoyed some chicken cooked out on the grill.
* Chilled out in the backyard under the new gazebo, surrounded by tiki torches.
* Watched Star Wars: Episode III with the music really loud.

And tomorrow is Mother's Day, so I'll be driving down to see my mom after morning church. We'll have lunch together, then I'll spend the evening down in Turlock before coming back to Sac. Should be another good, meaningful day.

Friday, May 11, 2007

D'ya ever notice?

Today I finally got around to getting my new registration tags on my car. I had intended to do it earlier (they were due April 20), but I had misplaced the forms from the state. Last night I finally found them.

In the last week or so, and even today after getting the new tags, I was surprised by just how many cars DON'T have current registration stickers. Just a few minutes ago, I was behind a car whose new sticker should have been added in January. I've seen a lot of fellow-violators from the month of April, and I even saw one this morning from October of last year.

I guess we're low-priority violators for cops, but I've spent the last few days with close eyes on the road, to make sure no cop pulled directly behind me and saw my expired tags. Maybe I'd get a ticket, maybe I wouldn't, maybe it would just be a warning. But I didn't want to take a risk. Fortunately, now there is no longer a risk. For me, anyway.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'd like to apologize: Volume 5

It's Thursday, which means it's time to get something off my chest -- and I'm not just talking about the pizza sauce from the Round Table Pizza that I ate tonight. So, this week I offer my apologies:

* To Katie Webb, for throwing a roll at her when I ate dinner with the family.
* To Katie Webb, for throwing it while her mom wasn't watching.
* To Mike Lara, for doing all his dishes.
* To our congregation Sunday morning, for starting the first song just a liiiiiitle bit too fast.
* To Aaron, Christina and Andrew, for embarrassing them during junior high chapel yesterday (but thanks for being good sports).
* To Brandon Groll, for missing his birthday -- oh wait, I remembered it...
* To Jennifer and Steven Nelson, for subjecting you to potentially contaminated chicken last Friday night (and no, I wasn't the one cooking).
* To the woman at BloodSource who drew my blood donation today, for cringing when she didn't quite hit my vein correctly.
* To Howard Dean, for making fun of him in a post earlier today.
* To my Kansas City Royals, for forgetting that they're in town playing the Oakland A's next week.
* To Levi Jones, for losing track of his email address.
* To the Battaglia family, for their loss this week.
* To all of you, for whatever hurt, pain, wound, injury you may have suffered this week at the hands of those who claim to love ya.

Is it bad when Howard Dean likes you?

I'm sure last night's comments from Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean will generate negative feedback for people like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen:

    Dean -- who once drew criticism by dismissing the GOP as a "white Christian party" -- told a San Francisco audience that his party should open its arms to a new group of converts: young evangelical Christian voters.

    "We ought to reach out to those folks ... and not be afraid," Dean told an audience of about 125 at a $50-a head Democratic National Committee fundraiser Wednesday night at the Palace Hotel. The national party chairman noted that in the wake of the 2006 midterm election, nearly 30 percent of evangelical Christians now identify themselves as Democratic voters, up 10 percentage points from the previous election.

    Dean credited the jump in numbers to the party's recent aggressive outreach. "We went out and advertised on Christian broadcast networks ... because in the evangelical movement, young people are changing America -- and they're changing the evangelical movement."

    "People don't want to go to church anymore ... and come out feeling bad because they happen to know somebody who's gay," he said. "People want to go to church because they know what they can do about poverty, about Darfur, about the environment."

    Dean specifically cited the positive impacts of Christian leaders such as Rick Warren -- author of the best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life," and pastor of the Orange County-based Saddleback Church -- and of young pastor Joel Osteen, the televangelist sensation who has welcomed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to his Houston-based Lakewood Church.

    "Those people don't beat up on other people to make their point and raise a lot of money," he said. "And we need to reach out to those folks, and work with them, and not be afraid. There is common cause with folks that we never thought we had common cause with."
I feel such comfort in knowing that Howard Dean says I'm the kinda guy Democrats shouldn't be "afraid" to go after. Especially after the way I treated that last DNC canvasser who came to my door.

I happen to enjoy being a registered non-partisan. Gives me wiggle room, but also gives me distance from both major political parties. Neither is a solid party, neither presents a truly biblical worldview, and neither is headed in the right direction right now. Gee, I just can't wait until next year's presidential election.

(And don't leave negative messages about the Dean pic. Of course the cat wasn't there in the original photo. I just happen to like this one better.)

Picking a youth conference.

My email inbox included a message today from the folks at Youth Specialties promoting their fall lineups for the National Youth Workers Convention. The West Coast edition happens in San Diego in October, and right now, it doesn't conflict with any major events happening at our church.

But I face a dilemma this year. San Diego is a driveable event; I attended the 2006 conference in Anaheim, so I get an "alumni" rate; I know of at least one ministry friend who's planning to be at San Diego. All great reasons to go.

There's a good reason not to go, however. In February 2008, Group and Simply Youth Ministry are holding their second annual National Youth Ministry Conference (sure glad folks don't make the event names confusing or anything...), and I'd love to go. Of course, it's in Cincinnati next year; it would require a flight; and it's in February, which is just such a lovely time of year to visit Ohio.

Lots of reasons to attend both conferences, and money is one reason I probably can't. Registration for these puppies can be pretty steep, and the travel expenses add to the financial dint. YS' event has proven to be a good conference over the last three years I've attended, but the Group/SYM convention takes a different take and approach and I've heard great things about the 2007 conference.

I don't have to decide today, fortunately, but at some point I must choose. We'll see which way I go.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Our worship experiment: An update.

This is week 4 in our continuing "worship experiment" in our midweek youth services. Back on April 18, we decided to move the band behind the crowd. In other words, when students look forward, all they see is the wall where we project the words. No vocalists. No musicians. No amps. No drums. Just words about loving God, serving God, worshiping God.

Initially, we caught flack from a few teens who aren't used to this notion. They felt uncomfortable because they couldn't watch the guitarist or drummer play. They felt weird closing their eyes or lifting up their hands during this segment of the service.

Well, tonight we took our experiment one step further and did a full "worship night" event. We did two extended sets of musical worship, but we added some extra elements. Isabelle is the student who usually prays for our offering; this week she also read some scripture from 2 Corinthians 9. Other students and leaders came up to read portions of scripture, some focused directly on worship, others talking about how awesome God is or how He meets our needs.

We anticipated ending around 8:10, with some food and fellowship time at the end. But we ended up going until almost 8:30, so our homemade brownies were consumed while we did end-of-service teardown in our modular.

Is our experiment working? I think so. Our band has been freer over the last 4 weeks than it has been in a long, long time. They're more confident and focused. Our crowd has more participation, and more students seem comfortable doing things beyond just clapping or singing. More are closing their eyes, lifting up their hands. Really cool stuff.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Too many labels?

I was just looking at the right-hand side of my blog, and I noticed that I have lots of labels for my entries. I mean, LOTS of labels. More labels than I can recall seeing on most other people's blogs. Various theories to explain this:

1. I cover such a breadth of subjects that a myriad labels must be used.

2. I'm so disorganized that I can't logically arrange subject matters.

3. I use my labels as sub-subtopic identifiers, instead of higher-level identifiers.

Or maybe all three are correct. Dunno.

I heart our new copier.

Go ahead, call me a geek. I don't care. We got a new copier (a Konica Minolta Bizhub 600) in our church office last week, and I'm in love with this piece of technology.

For the most part, it's a basic copier. It makes two-sided documents. It staples. Jobs can be interrupted. It has multiple ways to load paper. That's all pretty standard for this type of machine.

But now I can print directly from my computer, and we can even use our wireless network to send files to the copier. So, instead of making an original on my laser printer, walking into the copy room, running the machine and waiting for the final product, I can directly send my project to the copier. It will staple. It will do two-side documents. It's really, really cool.

And I'm not sure what it says about me, that I'm so stoked over a new copier. But whatever it says, it says.

Is it summer already?

Right now, at 5:20PM, it's 93 degrees here in lovely Antelope, California. According to my calendar, it's just the 8th day of May. But it feels more like mid-June or mid-September. Perhaps it seems odd because it was raining last week. Rain is good. I like rain now and then. But it's likely we won't see rain here again until, oh, October or so. Shucks.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hit us where it hurts.

This was a scary article on cnn.com today about gas prices. Scary, but not surprising:

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With gas prices near record highs, experts say $4-a-gallon gasoline is just around the corner.

    "I think it's going to happen," said Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago. "Unless things change dramatically, I think we're going to see $4 a gallon."

    Already, prices in California average $3.48 a gallon, according to the motorist organization AAA. And one service station in San Francisco was charging $3.95, according to GasBuddy.com, a handy site that lists the cheapest and most expensive gas stations by city and state across the country.

    Refinery problems and strong demand are the two main reasons cited for the runup. Prices hit a record high of $3.07 a gallon, according to the Lundberg survey released Sunday.
Every time I read an article like this, it makes me more and more thankful that I drive a Honda Civic Coupe. And I pray more intensely for those of you who own SUVs.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sing, sing a song.

For the second straight week, I've filled in for one of the other pastors at our church. Last week, my senior pastor was gone, so I got to preach in our second service (another pastor spoke in the first service). Today, our worship pastor was gone, so I led worship in the second service.

I enjoy singing, and I enjoy leading a team and congregation in worship. But I find greater satisfaction and fulfillment in preaching. Guess it's just more in tune with the way I'm wired.

First of the season.

Super cool, real-time blogging. Was sitting at my computer. Ice cream truck drove by. First of the season. Much joy to share with all of you.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Good choices.

So, today is the 4th straight day I've gone without drinking soda. Maybe that's not a big deal for you or people you know. For me? It's a biggie. I'm really making a commitment to cutting out the soda, trimming away the few fast food cravings, and focusing on better food. I've even been buying more fruit and veggies at the grocery store. Good for me!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Junk News: Edition 1

From the world of junk and nonsense and silliness and things that have no real impact on our daily lives come these stories:

    A judge sentenced Paris Hilton to 45 days in jail Friday for violating her probation, putting the brakes on the hotel heiress' famous high life.

    Hilton, who parlayed her name and relentless partying into worldwide notoriety, must go to jail on June 5 and she will not be allowed any work release, furloughs, use of an alternative jail or any electronic monitoring in lieu of jail, Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer ruled after a hearing.

    The judge ruled that she was in violation of the terms of her probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.

    "I'm very sorry and from now on I'm going to pay complete attention to everything. I'm sorry and I did not do it on purpose at all," she told the judge before announced the sentence.
Well, at least she's sorry...that's what really matters, isn't it?

How about this gem of a career:

    As cartography projects go, Christian Nold's approach to charting the peaks and valleys of urban landscapes is decidedly unconventional.

    First, he outfits volunteers with global positioning system devices and the sensors used in lie detector tests. Then, he sends his subjects out to wander their neighborhoods. When they return, Nold asks them to recount what they saw and felt when the polygraph recorded a quickened heartbeat or an elevated blood pressure.

    "Tried to stomp on some pigeons," one tester recalled after a stroll through the chic bohemian Mission District of San Francisco, California.

    "House right here, it reminded me of flowers at a funeral," another said of what he saw a few blocks south.

    "Security guard at a business giving lollipops to kids. I think I wanted one," still another volunteer observed.

    Nold, a London-based artist, calls his work "emotional mapping." Having mapped settings as varied as industrial areas of Bangladesh and the red light district of Brussels, Belgium, he recently arrived in San Francisco for his first U.S. project.

    He's the first to acknowledge that the intimate portraits that result from his endeavors won't help a confused tourist get from Fisherman's Wharf to Golden Gate Park. Instead, by taking polygraph technology out of the criminal realm, his goal is to offer a commentary on the subjective nature of reality.
So, when people say they left their heart in San Francisco, they might actually be right?

And let's cap it off with this one, thought some of you might disagree with its inclusion in "Junk News" this week:

    Queen Elizabeth II strolled Friday through a replica of a fortress built four centuries ago at what would become America's first permanent English settlement, then saw remains of the actual structure.

    The queen, flanked by Vice President Dick Cheney and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, strolled through Jamestown's tourist village of thatch-roofed buildings to commemorate the settlement's 400th anniversary.

    The queen was greeted by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who said American law derived from Great Britain "is the great and lasting achievement we celebrate today."

    Large crowds waited amid tight security to see the queen, lining her path through Jamestown Settlement.

    The queen toured a replica of an armory, and she smiled as she touched a gloved hand to a 17th century breastplate.

    She walked to the James River, where replicas of the three ships that the settlers arrived in were docked. A cannon was fired from one of the ships in tribute to her.
Here's why I call the queen's visit Junk News. Isn't this just another form of celebrity watching? We don't have royals in the U.S. like they do in the U.K., so we're left to admire and adore our singers and athletes and authors and talk show hosts and drug addicts and ... hmmm, nvm.

But every now and then, a "true" royal sets foot on our shores and we go all goo-goo for him or her. Just seems a bit odd to me. We fought a war to free ourselves from these peeps and now we love 'em to death? Weird.

I'd like to apologize: Volume 4

It's Thursday, which means it's time to get something off my chest...and I'm not just talkin' about the massive work of fiction I tried reading today. Anyway, this week my apologies are headed toward:

* To Cindy and Katie Webb, for cheating online and telling them the results of the American Idol show on Wednesday night.
* To Dr Pepper, for abruptly ending my lifelong relationship this week.
* To my friends at Freedom Fireworks, who provide a totally entertaining training sessions each year -- despite what I wrote in my previous post.
* To all the Tylers I know...Combs, Gillespie, Bewick, Anderson, Snyder, Hale... for confusing their last names far too frequently.
* To the wonderful folks at Round Table Pizza, who haven't seen me in weeks.
* To Melody Brown, for making her memorize my sandwich order at Togo's.
* To Mike Amaya, for missing his college graduation party...because of some silly fireworks thing tonight. Ugh.
* To all the coffeehouse night attendees last week, who heard me play the violin publicly for the first time in a long, long time.
* To Dustin Basye, for not calling you up to have lunch when I was on your end of town this week.
* To the folks in church Sunday morning, for my phone crashing and not being able to receive your text messages in the middle of my sermon as I had planned.
* To the folks in church who did the right thing and kept their cell phones at home, for springing an unexpected surprise on them.
* To all of you who think I actually wrote this on Thursday instead of Friday, for attempting to trick ya.
* To our junior highers at our school, for missing yet another chapel service with ya.
* To our friends down in Mexico, just because.

The joy of fireworks.

It ain't the Fourth of July yet, but my mind's afixed on fireworks.

Tonight is our annual meeting with our fireworks company and the county firefighters where we are subjected to the same list of rules, policies, and procedures that we hear every year before selling fireworks.

We can't begin selling until June 28, but I guess tonight's event gets my mind focused on this wonderful annual madness. In some parts of California, you can't sell any kind of fireworks. We get 7 days out of the year here to sell "safe and sane" fireworks. "Wimpy and limited" would be another accurate description.

But it's a great fund-raiser for our youth ministry, it gives parents and other adults a place to connect, and it's usually a great avenue for attracting some new volunteers each year.

Tonight's event? Ugh. But I'm hanging with some cool people from our church, so that makes it all worthwhile. They're serving food, too, but it's at a new venue so I don't know how good it will be this time. We'll see!