Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Should I vote for Ron Paul?

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Family connections.

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

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


Thursday, November 22, 2007

5 stories worth a read: Part 18

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 18, 2007

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pizza moments.

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

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


Friday, November 16, 2007

Spellchecker, please?

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

"Good things are being said about you."

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

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

Good things are being written about you.

Amen to that!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Some random photos.

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

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

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

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

An empty Round Table Pizza box, October 2007

People iceskating at the downtown Sacramento rink, November 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Maybe this is why I have few readers.

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

cash advance

Congrats for reading! You must be smart!

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

Why I'm fascinated with jury duty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 10, 2007

How can Kansas football be doing so well?

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

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

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

Happy Birthday, Mom!

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

Love ya, Mom!

Mixed feelings on jury duty.

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

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

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

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

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

5 stories worth a read: Part 17

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 08, 2007

The experiment continues.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Frozen food.

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

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

Pick the right clothes.

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

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

Take a moment to read this passage of scripture:

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 05, 2007

Got my cell? Send me a text.

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

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

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

Just mark it up as a silly personal experiment.

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

This looks and sounds gross.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Servanthood sacrifices self.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 01, 2007

5 stories worth a read: Part 16

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

1. Foreign automakers drive makeover of Smalltown USA from CNN

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

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

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

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