Friday, August 31, 2007

This news stinks.

It's always possible NBC and Apple will work out a new deal, but right now they don't seem to be on good speaking terms.
    Apple Inc. escalated a dispute with NBC Universal over the pricing of television shows by announcing Friday it would not sell any of NBC's programs for this fall season on iTunes.

    Earlier, NBC had told Apple that it would no longer allow its programs to be sold via iTunes at the end of the year. NBC Universal-controlled television programming accounts for an estimated 40 percent of the video downloads on iTunes.

    "We are disappointed to see NBC leave iTunes because we would not agree to their dramatic price increase," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of iTunes. "We hope they will change their minds and offer their TV shows to the tens of millions of iTunes customers."

    Rather than cut off NBC programs in the middle of the season, Apple decided to stop before the new fall episodes premiere next month, he said.

Average mediocrity.

Once again, a month will close without my posting at least one thought per day average. I've yet to hit that mark. Some friends seem to flow forth with great brilliance each day. Yet I do not. So for now, I'm settle for my mid-20 output each month. Maybe I'll have more to say in my new role...

Updated profile.

I just realized my profile still said I was the youth pastor at my church. Seeing how I've now had my final youth events, programs, classes and service with the students, it was time to "upgrade" the title.

While there, I opted for a new question, too.

"Do you believe that forks are evolved from spoons?"

"No. More like intelligent re-design."

Sometimes my witticism amazes even me.

Vending machines rule.

I've tried to cut back on the number of times I visit vending machines to buy a soda or a candy bar. And that's OK, because there are still plenty of other reasons to hit up a vending machine. Here are two recent experiences

While walking through the halls of the, um, mighty Indianapolis International (?) Airport earlier this month, I encountered one of those cool iPod vending machines. Lost yours on the plane? Forgot it at home? Got 150 bucks just sittin' around in your pocket begging to be spent? This is the answer! Seriously, it seemed to attract lots of attention from passers-by but no one stopped to buy anything. Still, it's cool.

And then today, I needed a map from AAA. I went to our nearest office, and what did I see but a vending machine with maps and tour guides! How cool! Now I can avoid those awkward interactions with, um, what are they called -- oh yea, people! All I have to do is slide my AAA card into the slot, select my map, and presto! It drops like a can of soda! Wow. So awesome. That whole talking and interacting with real people thing is so overrated anyway.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An exciting step for our church.

Tonight, a group of folks from our church gathered in the nearby community of North Highlands to pray, dream and see what God has in store for us. The door is opening for us to launch new outreaches into these neighborhoods, which are plagued with crime of all sorts.

Earlier this year, an 18-year-old young man was killed in a drive-by shooting. Some of his relatives attend our church, and we held the funeral for Joseph. God began stirring something in the heart of our senior pastor that a door was opening to begin reaching people who would never walk into our church on a Sunday morning.

Well, after a series of setbacks and many doubts, the door has opened! But not just one door -- two opportunities have emerged. On Sunday, September 9 we'll hold a concert on the campus of a nearby high school. That's a miracle and an answered prayer.

And tonight's gathering was to pray about this second, unexpected opportunity: a small ministry that rents space in the middle of North Highlands, just blocks from where Joseph was shot and killed. Aida, the woman who is renting the facility, has been praying and praying that God would bring along a ministry partner that would help her reach more people in her community -- and we believe this is the right fit for our church and her ministry!

It was incredible tonight to hear from one guy in our church who's been clean for 137 days, and another who's been clean for 120 days, and another who's been clean for more than 3 years now. We're believing for even greater miracles and changed lives in the months ahead.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

5 stories worth a read: part onze

Taking a break from a project for a few minutes, I came across these lovely morsels:

1. As China rises, pollution soars from the International Herald Tribune

2. The Iraq war is not like others, or is it? from the International Herald Tribune

3. UC Merced freshmen find a new home from The Modesto Bee

4. Where will Bush rank in presidential history? from McClatchy Newspapers (via The Modesto Bee)

5. Study finds emotional trauma can alter size of a child's brain from the San Francisco Chronicle

Dig in and enjoy.

Wild wildfires in Greece.

Came across this image online as I was sifting through some news websites. Pretty incredible view of all the wildfires in Greece.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Buncha fires in Greece.

I'm going to Greece next month with my mom and brother, but it sounds like the country is having all kinds of problems with fires right now:
    Fires pushed by gale-force winds tore through more parched forests, swallowed villages and scorched the edges of Athens on Saturday with ashes raining onto the Acropolis. The death toll rose to at least 49 as the government declared a nationwide state of emergency.

    Soldiers and military helicopters reinforced firefighting forces that were stretched to the limit by Greece's worst summer of wildfires in decades. In the most ravaged area — a string of mountain villages in southern Greece — rescue crews picked through a grim aftermath that spoke of last-minute desperation as the fires closed in.

    Dozens of charred bodies were found across fields, homes, along roads and in cars, including the remains of a mother hugging her four children.

    And new fronts emerged. Dozens of fresh fires broke out across the country — including some blamed on arson — with the worse infernos concentrated in the mountains of southern Greece.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hey, I know that guy on the billboard!

Strange experience yesterday. I was driving along a major street near our church, and I glanced up at a billboard and thought I knew the guy on the sign! In fact, I was pretty convinced it was Mike Tuck, a professional angler who attends our church.

It turns out Mike's primary sponsor for the upcoming season is Hydrate 2-O, and it's one of their billboards. There's another billboard in Roseville/Rockline with ultimate fighter Urijah Faber and then a third one downtown with both guys on it. And there are at least 3 buses in town with the ads on them.

Pretty cool.

I agreed with Mike when he said it's kinda weird to see yourself up on a billboard. But as I pointed out, I'd rather see myself on a product endorsement sign than on one of those "most wanted" signs!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

5 stories worth a read: part neuf

Check these out. Some pretty good choices today.

1. Turlock Students Face First Day with No Cell Phones from News 10/ABC affiliate in Sacramento

2. Barack Obama gets name-dropped in hip-hop from

3. United adding digital TV from Bloomberg News (on

4. Hollywood studios split on format to replace standard DVD from the International Herald Tribune

5. College knowledge relegates more to history; What’s the Berlin Wall? Incoming freshmen grew up after the Cold War from The Associated Press (on


Monday, August 20, 2007

Worship God in the middle of it all.

A thought shared with our worship team after a technically challenging Sunday!

    I'm a big believer in doing everything with excellence because it's a reflection of our commitment to God. But I also know that life throws us curveballs, and we always have to be ready for those unexpected moments. I've learned, through trial and error, that it's always better to deal with problems and challenges head-on, instead of trying to ignore them or pretend they don't exist. When they microphones go dead in the middle of worship, what do we do? We pretend that the only instrument in the house is our voice! We sing acapella and lift up a joyful noise and declare that our God is great! We roll with it, and through our actions and responses, perhaps we encourage others to remember that worship isn't about slick performances or a picture-perfect life. Worship is honoring God and demonstrating our devotion IN SPITE of all the challenges.

    I look up to the mountains- does my help come from there?
    My help comes from the Lord , who made the heavens and the earth!
    He will not let you stumble and fall; the one who watches over you will not sleep.
    Indeed, he who watches over Israel never tires and never sleeps.
    The Lord himself watches over you! The L ord stands beside you as your protective shade.
    The sun will not hurt you by day, nor the moon at night.
    The Lord keeps you from all evil and preserves your life.
    The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

    Psalm 121

Sunday, August 19, 2007

This scares me.

I probably need to say a few Hail Mary's this week to make up for the results of this silly online test (apologies to my Catholic brethren and sistren in the mix). I'm evil? Harsh.


Take the Transformers Quiz

Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons. He will stop at nothing to establish his empire and destroy the Autobots, starting with Optimus Prime.

Like Megatron, you are evil, motivated by destruction and chaos. You are inspiring, confident, and a natural leader. The Decepticons have chosen well. In addition, you enjoy technology and are aware of the latest trends, but you stick with what works for you.

ht to Taffy for this

Goodbye, early 30s.

Today is the final day of my early 30s. Back in my 20s, I had a conversation with a friend about exactly how to divide each decade. Our solution was quite brilliant: the "early" years are 0-3; the "mid-" years are 4-6; and the "late" years are 7-9. So, a 22-year-old is in his "early" 20s, while a 28-year-old is in her "late" 20s.

And now I'm in my 30s. Tomorrow I turn 34, ushering in the beginning of my mid-30s. I just stepped into a new ministry role at my church. I own my own home. I drive a moderately new car that isn't falling apart and isn't covered in oxidized paint. I've got a great family, with a wife and 2 kids. (Well, OK, haven't quite gotten to that part yet...)

Now sure if I'm happy or sad to see my early 30s ending. Perhaps I'm just in a reflective mood tonight. Seasons of change tend to do that to me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Change the worship forecast.

I shared this today with our worship team, as part of my new role working with that team and many of our adult ministries. I thought it was worth reposting here:

    Supposedly it's August outside, but I'm sure enjoying this spring/fall type weather. Somehow it just makes things less tiring and makes the outdoors a little bit more appealing when our temps are in the 90s and even the 80s!

    The weather forecasters say it's going to be a great Sunday, with highs in the upper 80s. Incredible! These forecasters use all kinds of maps and gauges and devices to predict the weather, but no matter what they say or do, they can't AFFECT or SHAPE the weather. It will be what it will be.

    But did you realize that you and I can AFFECT and SHAPE the "weather" in our services each Sunday? Our hearts and attitudes and lives will affect the atmosphere in the Sanctuary at 11AM Sunday. If our hearts are filled with anger or bitterness or frustration or greed or lust or resentment -- any fruit that ISN'T the godly fruit of the spirit -- then we're bringing "down" the atmosphere. But when we walk in and our hearts are filled with love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and faithfulness and self-control, then we help to "raise" the atmosphere. Incredible isn't it!

    That doesn't mean we walk in wearing a "happy Christian mask." That doesn't mean we hide the pain we've experienced over the last week. That doesn't mean we pretend we're perfect. But it means that we prepare our hearts LONG before 10:59AM on a Sunday. That means we're worshiping God all week, not just during our set of songs each weekend. It means our choices and lifestyles during the week honor God and set an example for the people around us. It means our attitudes and actions on Sunday draw people closer to God. It means that as we stand on the platform, lifting our hands, clapping our hands, singing out praises to God (or playing our instruments for His glory), we are setting the temperature and atmosphere for the rest of the congregation. We're leading people into God's presence through our attitudes and actions and heart condition. And that's just an awesome thought. The weather forecaster can't change the weather. But worshipers can change the atmosphere of worship.

5 stories worth a read: part huit.

Some good stuff online today.

1. CD celebrates 25th anniversary from

2. Beijing pulls cars off the road to clear smog ahead of Olympic Games from the International Herald Tribune

3. U.S. moves to declare Eritrea a 'state sponsor of terrorism' from the Associated Press (on

4. What happens inside an earthquake? from

5. Pinole councilman, facing recall, enlists in the Army from the San Francisco Chronicle (on


Monday, August 13, 2007

Sorry I'm late to The Office.

I'm ashamed to admit this. I've only recently become a fan of The Office. It's not that the show started weak and has improved. It's just that, um, well, I only recently started watching.

And that's embarrassing to admit!

Last week I downloaded the entire first season (gee, all 6 episodes) so I could watch on my iPod while traveling to and from Indianapolis. I finally got around to viewing yesterday on the way home. Advice: Don't watch hilarious shows on your iPod in the middle of an airport. You'll get strange looks from other travelers as you truly LOL.

Anyway, it's now time to download the second season and enjoy more of the hilarious, painful, authentic, gutwrenching fun!

Thoughts from General Council, Part 1

If you're not affiliated with the Assemblies of God, some of the next few posts might feel foreign to you. I just spent a week in Indianapolis, Indiana, for our denomination's biennial General Council meeting, and most of my posts from there were pretty harmless. Talked about the weather. Mentioned friends and more friends I ran into during the week. Nothing too deep. But I'm home now, so time to offer some opinions.

(As a disclaimer, part of the reason I didn't blog many opinions during the week is because I cover the business sessions each time for the Council Today newspaper. The paper's produced by our headquarters PR office, so most folks know we're not going around digging up dirt or focusing on the negative stuff. But I still do my best to distance my reporting work from my opinions as a license A/G minister, who has the right to comment from the floor but chooses not to because of my role each time.)

This year's GC revealed that many ministers in our fellowship are unhappy about a number of things. This isn't a new revelation, but a mix of new technology and a greater willingness to speak openly has brought it to the forefront. I don't think any of the disgruntled or disillusioned folks walked away totally happy from Indianapolis. In fact, I know many of them left even more upset and maybe even ready to leave the A/G.

There is a growing sentiment among some of our younger pastors (generally meant by 45 years or younger) that they aren't represented well by our older leaders. As a sweeping generationalization, I'd agree. Most older ministers I know (let's say 60 or older) aren't exactly in touch with younger much the same way that many of our younger pastors aren't exactly in touch with the needs of older leaders or older folks in their churches (if there even ARE any older folks in their churches).

Many younger ministers are seeking new ways of doing ministry, new freedoms in associating with other churches and leaders, new strategies and methods and paradigms for ministering to an increasingly non-Christian, un-Christian, post-Christian society. Many older ministers feel increasingly disconnected from a culture that bears little resemblance to what they knew growing up, and too many of them associate the younger leaders with the culture as a whole. Too many of our younger leaders associate the older generation with the stale, predictable, organ-and-choir-robes ministries of the past.

Some younger ministers believe an effective way to increase their voice and impact is to increase the number of younger ministers in key leadership roles. They believe that a greater diversity on a national level -- age, gender and ethnic diversity -- will result in a fellowship that is more open to new ideas and new leaders and new strategies.

Several attempts were made at this year's General Council to address some of these issues. One of the oddest moments came Friday when we failed to approve a plan that would add an extra 10 percent membership to our General Presbytery (GP), a key policy-making body. These extra members would have been women and ministers under 40. But then we turned around and added 2 slots to our Executive Presbytery (EP), basically our CEO/Board of Directors group, one for a female minister and one for a minister under 40.

Why the contradiction? It's really all a matter of politics. Both changes required a two-thirds vote of the body. The GP vote came first. After vigorous (though predictable) debate, a voice vote was taken. Clearly, a majority of delegates approved. But did two-thirds approve? A pastor challenged the vote from the floor, we used our electronic voting devices (one of the coolest things from this year, worthy of a later post) and it turned out "only" 62.8 percent of us approved. So the measure failed.

Later in the day we debated the EP proposal. More of our national leaders spoke in support, and this time, the measure was approved. Weird, perhaps. But the critics have missed the point: Yes, the GP plan failed. Yes, more national leaders should have spoken up.

But come on, guys! Four years ago in Washington, D.C., the delegates rejected a plan to add THREE women to the GP. It wasn't even a close vote! And this year we ALMOST added 30 women and younger ministers. Progress can be slow sometimes, but progress is happening.

An even better example: Zollie Smith, president of the Black Fellowship of the A/G, has been an executive presbyter since 2002. He stepped into that role after the fellowship created a spot specifically for representing our various ethnic fellowships (we have a separate spot just for our Hispanic fellowships). This week, Smith was elected our executive director of U.S. Missions -- one of the top 6 executive positions.

Oh, and in the voting for our assistant superintendent, the second place finisher is 45 years old (Doug Clay), and the third place finisher is a woman (Beth Grant).

That isn't progress?

Yes, I realize it isn't fast enough for some. There are times I'd like things to radically change overnight. But the Assemblies of God is a 93-year-old group that has become more like a denomination than just a fellowship of likeminded ministers and churches.

Yes, the GC rejected a plan to create "relational districts" that churches could join regardless of where in the U.S. they were located. I think the idea is intriguing but the bottom line is, if you approve a measure like this, you're basically setting the death watch for many geographic districts. Maybe that's not a bad thing! But let's approach it differently. Besides, this was the first time the idea was floated nationally. Try it again in 2009, or 2011.

Sure, some of our churches "can't wait" that long because of all the rules that forbid pastors from joining other organizations or creating affiliation networks or ignoring sectional and district activities (oh wait...we don't have rules like that). But some of these churches are ready to bail on the A/G anyway because of years of frustration or discontent, or because of theological disagreements. That is unfortunate, because we need to be open at a national level to examine and re-examine our theology. That's a sign of strength not weakness. Regardless, a relational district concept might not even retain some churches or ministers that are ready to leave.

Our fellowship is at a crucial place in its history. We just elected a general superintendent who's 65 years old -- but he has a law degree, graduated from a liberal arts college, pastored in Costa Mesa, California, was a district official in Southern California, and was the best chapel speaker I ever heard in 4 years at Evangel College. I believe George O. Wood is the right man for where we are today. Maybe a Doug Clay or a Beth Grant will emerge in 4 or 6 years to take a national role (Clay got elected to the EP, so he's already part of the way there).

Patience, love and understanding. That's what older AND younger ministers in our fellowship need right now. When everyone's shouting at the same time, no one's listening and no one's truly communicating.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Deodorant was needed.

Ugh, I sat near a guy today who wasn't wearing any (or maybe just not enough) deodorant on my flight from Indy to Chicago. Fortunately, it's just a 35-minute flight. The people around me on the Chicago-Sac flight were must more well groomed. Which is good, 'cause that was 4 1/2 hours long. But I'm home. Tired. Had great week back in Indy. I'll try to post couple times on Monday, get caught up on stuff. But not right now. Too tired. Adios.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Faces and names, vol. 2

Some more folks I saw today here at General Council in Indianapolis:
  • Andy Denton
  • Matt Wilkie
  • Jason and Jill St. John
  • Brett Hendrickson (in person, over lunch)
  • Chuck Cox
  • Glenn Bernet
  • Helen Waggoner
  • John Maempa
  • Vance Turnage

And a whole bunch of other people I ran into on Monday or Tuesday. That's one of my personal highlights from our convention every two years: seeing people I know yet seem to only run into at Council!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wow he did it!

Like him or not, but Barry Bonds just set the new HR record! Wow!

Faces and names.

OK, so far at General Council, I've caught up with the following:
  • Josh Wellborn
  • Paul Logdsdon
  • Dan & the Council Today Crew
  • Mel "we only see each other every two years at Council" Surface
  • Juleen Turnage
  • PR office staff
  • Ken Horn
  • Brett Hendrickson (via text; that counts, right?)
I'm sure I'm forgetting folks, but the odds are they won't be reading my blog, anyway.

It's really hot here in Indy.

Ugh. Warm and muggy. I hate this weather. Seriously. I don't just dislike it, or have strongly negative feelings toward it. I really, truly, honestly hate muggy weather. Yes. Hate.

I'm back here in Indianapolis for a week for my denomination's General Council meetings. These happen every two years and we meet in a different city each time. Because we always meet in early August and we usually congregate in the Midwest or East, the weather typically is miserable.

Indy is no exception. Highs have been in the 90s with high humidity. When I got picked up Monday at the airport by college buddy Josh Wellborn, we went to the store to buy some snackage. Getting out of his air conditioned van, my glasses steamed up because of how warm and muggy it was outside. Yuck.

But I'll make it through, thanks to all the water I'll drink and all the time I'll spend indoors. I cover the business sessions for the daily newspaper produced by the public relations office, so this isn't a vacation week. My senior pastor is awesome, that he allows me to do this every two years; it's a fun opportunity and a great chance to see old college friends, former employers and co-workers, and even a relative or two.

Not sure how much I'll be posting from the various sessions. My main focus is writing articles, so the blog writing will take a backseat. But I might be able to catch up in slower moments and share some of the highlights from workshops and business sessions. We'll see!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Time to Transition.

Well, the day finally has arrived. I'm no longer the youth pastor at my church. I've now moved into the role of worship/adult ministries pastor. It's been an incredible four years working with our students, but I know God's hand is in this change.

He's been stirring something inside of me for many months. Wasn't quite sure what He was doing most of the time, but as far back as February or March, I knew He was up to something. And just the other week at summer camp, I finally experienced the release and the peace to know that it was time to take this step.

I'm excited about the new role. I've been working with our 11AM worship team for the last month, since our worship pastor left our staff. Things have flowed much better than I had anticipated, and I really began to feel God shifting my attitude and perspective on where and how to serve this congregation.

Of course, that doesn't mean it will be easy for the students. They're handling it in different ways, with different mixes of acceptance, anger, excitement, disappointment -- all the emotions we feel in a big transition.

But I've reminded them that this transition is different from a "typical" departure of a youth pastor because I'm not going anywhere. Yes, my role is changing. Yes, we'll be hiring someone to oversee youth. Yes, that person will become their primary leader (or leader of leaders). But I'll still be around, still be visible, still be available in some capacity as a staff pastor. And I'll be there to encourage them to give the new person a shot, to pray for that person, to remain active in ministry, to keep their focus on God and not just on the circumstances.

So, here's to the next chapter!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bourne hits big again.

I don't usually do movie reviews, but I gotta spread the word and the love for "Bourne Ultimatum." I'm a huge fan of the first two flicks, and this third one keeps the adrenaline flowing, the action moving, and the fists flying.

I'm not gonna give away any major plot twists, and there are several that will interest fans of the franchise. Let's just say that "Ultimatum" answers a lot of questions from the earlier movies in a consistent fashion to what we've already seen. Some old characters return, some new ones are introduced, and a few people are killed along the way.

At the same time, the movie manages to make some political statements about it would be like to live in a world where your government could hack into your email, tap your phones and track your every move -- even if you're an American citizen. Sure glad we don't live in a world like that...

Anyway, it was a blast, the best movie I've seen this summer (yes, different from yet better than even "Transformers"), and I'm sure I'll be back to see it at least once more while it's in theaters.