Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In the year 2009...

Instead of some New Year's Resolutions, I have decided to list out some of my New Year's Expectations.

In the year 2009, I expect:
  • A phone call in the middle of the day with good news
  • A phone call in the middle of the night with bad news
  • New friendships to emerge and grow
  • Old friendships to require some investment and energy
  • To laugh on at least one occasion
  • To cry, but not as often as I laugh (I hope)
  • To complain about the weather at least 27 times, maybe even twice in one day
  • Some rain
  • Some sun
  • Some snow and flooding and landslides and fires – but not near my house, I hope
  • At least one memorable trip or vacation
  • At least one picture of myself that makes me cringe
  • At least one victory in racquetball
  • At least 10 defeats in racquetball
  • To sleep in a few times
  • To oversleep maybe once
  • Gas prices to rise
  • Gas prices to drop
  • To hear worse economic news
  • To not let bad economic news bring me down
  • To covet an iPhone at least once
  • To read some books I enjoy
  • To read at least one book that deserved a refund
  • More friends on Facebook
  • More friends on Facebook to make easy jokes at my expense
  • More friends on Facebook to experience the same toward them
  • Deeper intimacy with God
  • Deeper questions for God
  • Greater clarity from God
  • Greater wonder toward God
  • Many moments when I feel younger than I really am
  • Some moments when I'm reminding how old I'm becoming
  • Opportunities to act my age
  • Opportunities to act immaturely
  • To reach the end of 2009 wondering how the year passed so quickly

Friday, December 19, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow in Yosemite.

Cool. This storm system is dropping rain on us in Sacramento right now, but the mountains are getting snow. This pic is from a webcam in Yosemite Valley, where the elevation is around 4,000 feet. Awesome...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

“My” Starbucks: Volume Four

This afternoon, a customer proposed to one of the baristas here at Starbucks – for the second time. He was denied both times. Apparently he wants to hook up with a woman who will give birth to a baby but then disappear from his life. The barista – gently and kindly and professionally – encouraged him to consider surrogate options.

I’ve quickly become a regular at “my” Starbucks. It helps that two of the employees are former students from my youth ministry days. It also helps that I’m here nearly every day for at least four hours each visit. I don’t mind being known as “the guy who works on his Mac over in the corner” or whatever label I’ve earned.

Regular customers earn labels and reputations. Employees – whether we’re talking about a coffee shop or a grocery store or a gas station – recognize familiar faces and remember favorite orders and idiosyncrasies. It’s a comforting reminder of how communities ideally work.

I think my label is a positive one with all the Starbucks workers. I hope so. Apparently, there’s a guy who frequents this location who regularly tells the employees that they have the wrong answer to the question of the day – so regularly you could probably use the phrase “almost every time we have a question on the board.”

What is it about trivial knowledge that some of us find so appealing while others find so lame? I like the fact that I can explain the numbering patterns behind the Interstate system (thanks, Dad) or the only high school mentioned in “American Graffiti” (thanks, David Jack) or the origins of the phrase “mind your P’s and Q’s (thanks, Shirley Shedd or some boss from newspaper days – I’m afraid I don’t remember who first explained that one to me).

Can trivia push out more important knowledge? I’m sure it can. But I doubt it’s happened to me, because I’m not sure how much “important” info was locked inside my brain to begin with – just lots and lots of trivia, methinks.

But does that give me the right to go around and be a jerk with my trivia? No, although I’m probably guilty of having done that on many occasions. If I ever get to the point where I become known as “that guy” at my local Starbucks, then I’ve gone too far and deserve some kind of punishment – like being forced to watch “The View” every morning.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

“My” Starbucks: Volume Three

After yesterday’s brilliant decision to work at a different Starbucks location, today I got my head screwed on correctly and returned to “my” Starbucks. I won’t say this was a mistake, but it was another learning experience.

It turns out I’ve been pretty good about avoiding peak customer hours at this location. Mornings can be crazy here; that’s okay, because I seem to be most productive in afternoon and evening hours. But apparently weekends are busy, too. I drove up and saw a lot more cars in the parking lot than I normally do – that was my first clue. And once I got inside, I realized there were no tables free, and almost every chair was full, too.

Abnormal? Crazy shopping day? People avoiding the cold, foggy weather? Nope. The employees said this is common for the weekends. I guess I’ll have to come up with another game plan: finish everything by Friday, work from home on the weekends, or find a quieter weekend location. Something along those lines.

The good news: A table did open up eventually, and I did run into a friend from my old church. So not a complete waste, by any means.

Friday, December 05, 2008

“My” Starbucks: Volume Two

Nothing overly eventful happened yesterday at “my” Starbucks. I didn’t have to battle for “my” spot, and the place was pretty quiet all afternoon. My card did, at least, finally give me free refills on my tea. This was a “discovery of the day” sometime ago, that I could pay 50 cents and get a refill. Well, a few weeks back, that was topped by a better DOD when an associate – isn’t that what they’re all called? – said I could get FREE refills if I registered a Starbucks card online. So I did. And still got charged, even though I’ve been able to access the Internet for two hours each day (another free perk for registering a card online). But today, I got a free refill. Let me rephrase: I got FOUR free refills. Yes. I drink a lot of tea here. And I make multiple visits to the bathroom.

But then I failed today. I didn’t go to “my” Starbucks. Instead, I picked one closer to my house. What a mistake. The place was packed when I arrived. No seats available. I kinda hung around for a few minutes and finally a table opened up. They aren’t playing any music here. The seating is limited. The store is smaller than “my” Starbucks. I’m quite certain I won’t return to this one to work again.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Editing vs Writing

“I’m an editor who writes.”

That thought occurred to me Tuesday while sitting on airplane, reading a book. I’m not really a writer (even though deep down inside of me, I somehow feel it’s a nobler calling than editing). I think I’m a stronger editor who also happens to write well. But I feel more drawn to editing than writing. Those statements might surprise a few friends and former colleagues.

I don’t always feel like writing. Yes, I’ve heard and read plenty of writers who say they don’t often “feel” like writing but they force themselves to do it, anyway. I believe them. Sometimes I don’t feel like editing. Attempting to decipher a confusing thought or sentence and make it palpable – it can be as joyful as anticipating a trip to the dentist’s office. The joy, of course, is found in the final product.

There’s also joy in the process. Being an editor sometimes feels like working on a puzzle. You take this piece and that piece and shuffle these other pieces and twist this piece and clean up that piece – maybe you get the idea. This word feels wrong, but that word communicates the writer’s intent more clearly. This sentence is too long. Would you ever say it the way you just wrote it? What are you attempting to convey here? Why are you so attached to the word “very”? Seriously, you don't know what a compound modifier is?

The funny thing about being an editor is that you aren’t really working with your own words or ideas. Your job is to take someone else’s words and ideas and make them stronger, clearer, more effective. Sometimes I get a project where I need to add some “original” writing, but that’s the exception, not the rule. These days, my life revolves around helping other people communicate more effectively. And I’m OK with that.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

“My” Starbucks: Volume One

It’s good to be back in Sacramento. One reason: I’ve missed “my” Starbucks. That may be a silly concept, but for a freelance editor who struggles to be productive at home, Starbucks has become my office.

Calling it “my” Starbucks is an interesting label because I pass two other Starbucks to reach this particular location. But I prefer this one because I know some of the employees (two of them are former students from my youth ministry days), it has a more open feel, and it has a great area for working on laptops with easy access to power outlets.

There are some very interesting people who spend time at this Starbucks. A couple of weeks ago, a guy and his wife walked in, and as he approached the counter, he yelled, “Is everyone here happy? Are you happy?” He certainly seems to be a happy guy, and the workers smiled – or at least chuckled – in response.

On another day, I managed to get “my” corner spot in the store, and I found myself sitting near two day-traders. I don’t think they knew each other before that day. One of them was loud and boisterous; he yelled – in a loving way, of course – at a guy who left the bathroom door unlocked. The guy who got yelled at – well, he didn’t think it was a loving thing to do.

It’s Wednesday afternoon (two weeks ago, not today), and I’m sitting here editing a file and sipping on my Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino – yes, I know that’s a “foo-foo” drink but I needed a change from my Unsweetened Iced Green Tea with 5 Splendas – and a woman walks up and says, “Hey, you’re the real Eagle Man!”

This statement makes no sense to most of you because you’ve never experienced an “awards chapel” at Antelope Christian Academy. For several years, the students knew me as “Eagle Man” because I was the person who randomly drew the name of the Eagle Award winner each month. This mom recognized me – I’m embarrassed to admit that she only looked vaguely familiar to me – and wanted to say hi.

That’s the bane and blessing of this particular Starbucks. It’s on the edge of Antelope, and lots of people from my old church visit here. Usually that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s a little weird or awkward, especially if the person wants to talk longer than I’m really available.

I used to get paid to have conversations with people and learn what’s going on in their lives. Now I get paid for editing. Personal chats? Those hafta be on my own time – and my own terms, perhaps. OK, back to work…

Friday, November 28, 2008

Snow vs. Snow

Hmm, I was checking out some online "live" cams of Yosemite today, and I realized there really is a difference between a fresh snowfall and snow that fell a day or two earlier. Check out these differences:

The top photo was from today; I think it snowed in the mountains earlier this week. And the second photo was from earlier in the month, on the day of a snowfall. Remarkably difference.

I'm in Iowa this week. It hasn't snowed, but it might this weekend. We'll see...

Music at the airport.

When I left Sacramento on Monday morning, there was a musician in the B concourse, adding musical cheer to the atmosphere. I was tired and a little cranky, so I didn't have a full appreciation of his contribution.

Apparently, this may be a holiday trend at airports this year:
    It was an odd sight, to be sure: a rock show amid a tempest of luggage carts, weary airline crews and rushed passengers. But this is the exact reaction the airport's marketing and communication manager, Jane Sullivan, was hoping for when she tapped local musician Marc Capelle to curate a series of concerts at SFO [San Francisco International Airport], billed as You Are Hear.

    The intent was to give travelers and the 30,000 employees at the airport a bit of entertainment during the hectic holiday season, and maybe make the whole travel routine a little less stressful for everyone involved.

    "People keep telling me it's an unexpected delight, which is a phrase you don't normally hear at the airport," Sullivan said.

Check out the full story here, on the SF Chronicle's website.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Voting for President: Part Two

OK, so here it goes.

I voted for Barack Obama, but I'm not an Obama supporter.

Let me explain.

Yes, I voted for the Democrat this time around, but it wasn't out of some passionate, enthusiastic, messianic motivation. But it also wasn't a protest vote against John McCain as an individual candidate or leader.

I've had a peculiarly high interest from friends (especially on Facebook) on my voting plans this year. Maybe some people really care. I think others are just bored or bizarrely curious. I've held off from writing about it because I don't really feel it's appropriate to share that kind of info when serving on a church staff. It's too easy for people to confuse Rob the Voter with Rob the Pastor (who are both different from Joe the Plumber).

In any case, I know that I won't affect anyone's vote by discussing how I voted for president. And if it does, well, you probably need to do more research and analysis on your own, instead of using me as a guide.

These are some of the main reasons I made my decision for president. I will not attempt to pre-battle any of my more conservative friends, some of whom will berate me for my choice. But here are the highlights:

George W. Bush has been a horrible president. Our international reputation and influence have been diminished, largely because of military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Going into Iraq was a mistake, even if Bush will never admit it. When it comes to domestic issues, Bush has failed to live out his self-described "compassionate conservative" agenda. I'm no historian, and I don't even pretend to play one on TV, but I doubt Bush will be viewed too highly down the road. And I don't buy the argument that John McCain is such a maverick that he won't continue many of the Bush failures. So this area shifted me toward Obama.

I needed to watch this event on TV because I wanted to hear what Obama said in the areas of faith. Yes, I know his answers didn't appease all evangelicals (especially when talking about abortion), but I was impressed. McCain offered a bunch of sound bites and lines that were targeted to evangelicals. Obama proved that he had actually thought through his ideas and opinions. In other words, I'd like a president who demonstrates intellectual capability (more than our current one) and the willingness to speak in nuances and thought-filled sentences (unlike what I heard from McCain).

This is easy. Sarah Palin is not qualified to be vice president (or president) of the United States. Plain and simple. And anyone who'd pick her as a running mate wouldn't get my vote. Joe Biden was a safe choice for Obama, but it wasn't a dumb one.

McCAIN OF 2000 VS McCAIN OF 2008
I liked McCain back in 2000. He was more independent and less bound to the GOP power base -- which is why he lost in the primaries, of course. This year's McCain has sounded too much like a GOP boombox.

Sorry, folks, I'm not going to vote for McCain just because of the fear or threat or danger of what might happen under a President Obama. That just strikes me as a small-minded approach to choosing a president.

I think it's time for some change in the White House. I don't think Obama is the Messiah and I don't agree with him on every issue. But I just couldn't bring myself to vote for McCain or a third-party candidate. This was not a choice of the "lesser of two evils," but it certainly wasn't a choice of two perfect candidates. Still, I'm willing to take a chance on someone new at 1600 Pennsylvania for the next four years. And I know that many of my friends will disagree, but life will go on for all of us.

And if you'd like a nice biblical view on the election as a whole, without an endorsement or a slam, I'd encourage you to hop over to Mark Miller's website and read what he wrote earlier today.

Voting for President: Part One

So, tomorrow is Election Day but I've already voted, thanks to my permanent absentee voter status. It's a great option here in California. My absentee ballot was in the mail last week, and I presume it's waiting to be opened tomorrow.

This will be the fifth time I've voted for president (fifth election, not fifth time this year -- I don't subscribe to the "vote early, vote often" mantra of Chicago politics). I've never been particular proud of any of my choices. In 1992, I voted for Ross Perot as a protest vote. I didn't believe George H.W. Bush deserved a second term, but I didn't like what Bill Clinton offered. Four years later, I voted for Bob Dole because I couldn't bring myself to vote for another Clinton term.

In 2000 and 2004, I struggled with my choices. I was never a fan of Al Gore, but I considered voting for him. Because I was going to be in Greece at the time of the election, I had to vote early (in September), and I ended up going for George W. Bush. Looking back, I'm not sure I would have voted the same way. I went through the same struggle four years later, and ended up casting a reluctant vote for Bush again, because John Kerry just seemed, well, just seemed like a bad alternative to a bad president.

I've never been excited to vote for a president. I've never encountered a candidate who stirred me up to believe that we could make things different and better for our nation. I've never been given the option of voting for someone who can truly be a "great" president.

And here in 2008? I don't have that option either.


Snow in Yosemite

This was a very nice sight to see online this morning, from Tioga Pass (around 9,900 feet) in Yosemite National Park. It's likely there will be snow at much lower levels after today's storm. Sacramento got over 1.5 inches of rain for our all-day rainfest Saturday. We need it!

My final day: What's next?

Today was my last day on staff at Antelope Christian Center. I've been working at the church since June 2003, so I have a long list of highlights and memories and moments that have brought lots of emotions to the surface in the last few days.

I had the privilege of preaching in both of our services this morning, and I wasn't able to fully keep my emotions under wraps. But I didn't completely fall apart, so I guess it was all OK. And then tonight I finished cleaning out my office.

So, what's next? I don't have another full-time job lined up, but I do have freelance editing and writing opportunities. Honestly, that's really what I want to do; it's a great way to blend my editing and writing background with my ministry experience. Certainly there are some risks, but there are also some great rewards and lots of flexibility in my schedule.

Time to begin this new chapter of life!

Friday, October 24, 2008

VP profiles

I came across profiles of the two major vice presidential candidates on the International Herald-Tribune website. If I recall correctly, the IHT is owned entirely now by the New York Times, so these articles may also have appeared under the NYT name elsewhere.


JOE BIDEN profile

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Final days: I keep way too much stuff

This isn't a new lesson or self-revelation, but I'm reminded of how much stuff I keep that should be thrown away.

My office is filled with all kinds of stuff, most especially old files from my youth ministry years and my exec pastor years. I've tried to keep the files to a minimum, but I've failed. So, I still have folders with planning information for events we tried once that failed, and events we did every year -- but with signup sheets that are completely irrelevant and unnecessary.

Unfortunately, this is not a new or limited experience for me. I like to collect stuff. Over the years, I've had collections of baseball cards, coins, postcards, Hard Rock Cafe hurricane glasses and shot glasses and guitar pins, books, DVDs, wooden toy cars...

Yea. Issues.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Final days: Institutional memory

I'm now in my final stretch of time on the staff at Antelope Christian Center. I'll be there for another two Sundays; the 26th will be my last time to lead worship, and then November 2nd will be my final Sunday. I'll be preaching in both services that day.

This weekend was our seventh annual Harvest Festival, and the event went well once again. After the event, it occurred to me that one of the biggest losses in any staff transition is the loss of institutional memory. I've been involved with the Harvest Festival for six of its seven years, and I've been the point person for the last two years.

So, one of my big projects in the next couple of weeks is to sit down and either type or record the most important aspects of this event. Who are our key vendors? Where do we get all the resources? When do we begin promotion? What has failed in the past? Why do we do certain things a certain way now? It's going to be a long list!

I guess the good news is that I'm not leaving the Sacramento area, so if others run into a wall, they can always call or text me!

Evolutionary thinking

Good post over on Mark Batterson's blog from the weekend:
    Evolution is a lot like sex. It was God's idea. But God rarely gets the credit for it for a variety of reasons. The enemy has stolen the idea. He has abused it and misused it. And turned into a bad word. It's not a bad word. It's not a bad idea. It's a good word. It's a God idea.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My mind is filled with new ideas.

So, I'm eating Chinese food today, yet again. Or as "someone" pointed out, it was just Panda Express, not REAL Chinese food. Anyway, I get to the most exciting part of the meal (second only to guessing if the dried up Orange Chicken is still any good). This excitement, of course, comes from the wonderful source of wisdom and insight and inspiration and direction and guidance that can all be found inside a fortune cookie.

Today, my fortune read: "Your mind is filled with new ideas. Make use of them."

So, that got me wondering. What new ideas are trapped inside this brain of mine, and why do so few of them seem to be showing up lately?

Perhaps I need to water and fertilize these new ideas. Perhaps they are still little baby ideas that need time to grow. Or perhaps they remain trapped inside a mental cocoon, undergoing their remarkable metamorphosis.

Or perhaps someone put something into my Dr Pepper this evening and is causing me to ramble on mercilessly.

For now, I shall simply sleep well knowing that my mind is filled with new ideas. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to discover one or two of these ideas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Christian ghetto and me.

I realized this evening that in just a few weeks, I’ll no longer be on the staff of my church. This wasn’t a sudden realization, of course, but for some reason it struck me tonight as I sat inside a local Starbucks doing some editing work.

It’s quite likely that my next career step will be a season as a freelance editor and writer. I don’t know if that season will last six months, a year, two years, or longer. But I’m excited to see what God has in store.

And while working tonight, I realized that as a pastor, I’ve done a pretty weak job of developing meaningful relationships with people who don’t attend my church or don’t already have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Back in my newspapers days, I had friends from a wide range of backgrounds. They weren’t all Christians.

One of my hopes and goals and desires is that in this next season of my life, I’ll do a better job of breaking out of my Christian ghetto.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My choice for president...

...will remain my own personal decision, at least for a few weeks. I'm still on staff at a church, and I don't ever want anyone confusing my personal choices with any kind of "promotion" or "mandate" from our congregation.

But I expect that around November 1st, I'll probably post something explaining who I intend to vote for and why. I hope some of you will remain my friends after that. I'm kidding. Sorta. Well, kidding that some of you might be upset when you read my decision, not kidding that I want to remain your friend.

I'm rambling.

I think I'm going to vote absentee once again, but I'll probably wait until the end before filling it out. I hate the thought of voting in the beginning of October but then learning some huge revelation that affects my views and makes me regret my choice.

But for the record, I should state that I will NOT be voting for a third-party candidate, including Ralph Nader, Bob Barr, and Cynthia McKinney. In my book, all three of them are borderline loonies, anyway. So, you can take some confidence -- especially those of you still dismayed over my 1992 vote for Perot -- that I will be voting for one of the two major candidates, warts and all.

And yes, folks, both of them have lots of warts. But if you're really looking to a single politician as the savior of this nation, then you have bigger issues with your worldview, your spiritual condition, and your sanity.

But I hope you'll still be my friend.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My apologies...

...for not blogging these last two weeks. No real reason for the silence. But I accept your forgiveness for my absence.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fire at our church

We had an interesting end to the second service today. A fire started in the grassy area behind our church sanctuary. The church sits on a 28-acre lot, and much of the property remains undeveloped. The fire department responded with numerous vehicles, and a helicopter even flew over at one point to drop some fire retardant. Needless to say, it was quite a memorable day!

Fortunately, no one was injured, and no property was damaged. The fire was near one of our parking lots, but we cleared out all the vehicles. It was a little windy today, but the wind was carrying the flames away from that parking lot and the nearby sanctuary.

We had numerous cars attempt to enter the church grounds as spectators, but we were able to keep most of them moving. Otherwise, it would have created a roadblock for the firetrucks that needed access.

Here are some photos. The first shot up top is mine. The remaining pictures come from Bob Clements.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A room for rent...

I have a room available in my 4-bedroom house near Century Theaters in Old Foothill Farms, near Pioneer Elementary School, here in the Sacramento area. Includes access to common living areas, kitchen, nice-sized backyard. Shared bathroom. Bedroom is unfurnished. Good access to I-80. Rent is $395/mth + share of utilities.

For info, please email Rob at

I've posted this in several places. Figured my blog and facebook are good places to include...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Running into people.

I keep running into people. Not with my car, of course. Those situations would probably be described as running OVER people.

No, I keep going to events and places here in Sacramento and bumping into people I haven't seen in awhile, and oddly enough, it's almost entirely been former students from youth ministry.

Today I was at the state fair with my friend Trista, and we were watching some people on the Rock Band stage (yes, a whole stage dedicated JUST to Rock Band). Suddenly, a person standing a few week away gets my attention and says hi. Turns out it was a former student from my youth ministry days.

That also happened on Saturday. It happened last weekend, too. Just seems to be a recurring theme lately.

Oh and this was a pic from the state fair, too. A couple decided to bring their "baby" to the fair. Turns out it was a dog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interesting fortune cookies.

I've been picking Chinese food for lunch a lot lately. Each time, I seem to get a fortune cookie that could be read as "guidance" for some kind of major decision or event just around the corner. Here are the 7 most recent fortunes I've received:
  • Many people are seeking you for your sound advice
  • Luck will soon come your way
  • Success will come to your plans
  • You will have fortune as your desire
  • Re-evaluate your plans for long-term success
  • You have great physical powers and an iron constitution
  • Accept the next proposition you receive
It's a good thing I don't live my life by fortune cookies. I prefer the Magic 8 Ball instead. Just kidding.

Newspaper job? Um, no thanks...

The process of finding my "next step" after Antelope Christian Center has been interesting. I have lots of "lines in the water" and have been pursuing various options, all the while waiting for God to make it clear what that next step will be.

A few friends have asked me if I've thought about returning to daily newspapers. The answer is no. My heart left that world many years ago. And logically, here's a good reason to avoid daily newspaper jobs these days:
    Sacramento, Calif. (AP) -- The Sacramento Bee and The Fresno Bee offered voluntary buyouts to a majority of their full-time employees Monday in the latest round of cost-cutting at the newspapers.

    Buyouts are being offered to 55 percent of The Sacramento Bee's full-time employees and a smaller number of part-timers, including most editorial employees, according to Sacramento Bee publisher Cheryl Dell. Reporters in the newspaper's state capitol bureau were exempt from the buyout offer.

    The Fresno Bee's offer is being made to most of the company's full-time employees and includes severance pay and extended medical coverage, Fresno Bee publisher Ray Steele Jr. said.

    Both publications are owned by McClatchy Co., which has seen advertising revenue at its California and Florida newspapers drop 22 percent this year, Dell said.
    Sacramento-based McClatchy owns 30 daily newspapers nationwide. It imposed a companywide wage freeze two weeks ago.

    The Sacramento Bee's move to cut staff Monday comes after that paper eliminated 86 jobs in June. The Fresno Bee cut 44 workers in June.

    The McClatchy-owned Modesto Bee offered all its full-time employees buyouts last week.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are the Olympics a reflection or a predictor?

I was looking at the medal count from the Summer Olympics in Beijing, and I was amazed at how poorly the Russian team is doing so far. My amazement was centered on the fact that in the past, the central rivalry was West vs East, the U.S. vs the U.S.S.R. Obviously, the Soviet Union disappeared nearly two decades ago, but there are many within Russia who would love to see their nation return to the global position once held by the Soviets.

This time around, are the Russians our primary rival? Hardly. In 2008, it's the Chinese. Sure, some of that comes from holding the Olympics in Beijing. But it's also a reminder that China has quickly emerged as a global power.

So here's my thought: Is a strong Chinese performance this year a reflection of the new global stage, or a warning/predictor/forecast of things to come?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Resume updates.

Have you updated your resume recently? It's been several years since I've done a major overhaul of mine. I've added some jobs and experiences, but because of the impending transition in my life, I realized it was time to make some major revisions. I've put in about 4 hours on this puppy so far, and still got more to go. Such fun!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Diversity within the Church.

Interesting article over on about racial and ethnic diversity -- or the lack thereof -- in American churches:
    Americans may be poised to nominate a black man to run for president, but it's segregation as usual in U.S. churches, according to the scholars. Only about 5 percent of the nation's churches are racially integrated, and half of them are in the process of becoming all-black or all-white, says Curtiss Paul DeYoung, co-author of "United by Faith," a book that examines interracial churches in the United States.

    DeYoung's numbers are backed by other scholars who've done similar research. They say integrated churches are rare because attending one is like tiptoeing through a racial minefield. Just like in society, racial tensions in the church can erupt over everything from sharing power to interracial dating.

    DeYoung, who is also an ordained minister, once led an interracial congregation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that eventually went all-black. He defines an interracial church as one in which at least 20 percent its membership belongs to a racial group other than that church's largest racial group.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Big change in my life.

Some of you already know the news I'm about to write because I've called you, told you face to face, or you were at church this morning. The rest of you... here it goes...

For the last couple of months, I've been seeking God's direction for my life. I always do this, of course, but this season has been centered on my career and calling. For the last 5 years, I've worked as a staff pastor at Antelope Christian Center near Sacramento, California.

Recently I had a possible job opportunity that would have given me the chance to blend my passion for ministry with my passion for editing and writing. The job, unfortunately, didn't work out, but the opportunity began to stir something inside of me. I entered a season of simply asking, "God, is this where You want me to be? Is it time to move on to a different place of ministering and serving?"

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Seattle and had some great "God time." I returned home with a clear sense that yes, it was time to talk to my pastor about leaving my role at the church and taking the next step God has for me. We met last week, met with the church board, and then announced the news to the congregation this morning.

So, what's my next step?

I have no idea. And that thought both terrifies and excites me.

I'm confident God is in all of this. I'm confident He has a much better plan than anything I could dream or concoct or manufacture. I'm confident He will reveal the next step at the right time and in the right way.

So that's where I am. If I had my choice, the next step would involve freelance editing for organizations, publications, and writers who are communicating the love of God to a wide audience. I have several "lines in the water" and will begin the process of seeing what doors may open. At the center of it all, of course, will be my prayer for God to reveal His plan and purpose.

Otherwise, what's the point?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Second thoughts?

I'm on the verge of taking a big step. Honestly, the step's already been taken. Soon it will be known publicly. But today I had a moment of doubt, a moment when I wondered if it wasn't the right step or the right timing.

No, it wasn't at lunch, when I opened my fortune cookie to read, "Re-evaluate your plans for long-term success." I no longer make life decisions based on fortune cookies and magic 8 balls; that's the one New Year's resolution I've kept since 2003.

This moment happened randomly, while I was driving this evening. I had a small wave of fear sweep over me, causing me to question if I knew what I was doing. And for a moment, I truly wondered if I did. Was it a mistake? Did I misread God's plans? Am I headed for disaster?

And then I remembered a time nine years ago when I took a big step (it was much clearer and easier in that situation), and I remembered how I awoke one morning completely engulfed in fear that I had made a mistake. Fortunately, my roommate was able to knock some sense into me and reminded me that I hadn't made a rash decision, I had taken time to pray and seek counsel, and just hours earlier I was confident that I had God's peace in the situation.

My friend was right. And tonight, I had the same reminder. It's all rooted in Philippians 4:6-7...
    Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A stirring inside.

It's remarkable how life goes. Sometimes everything is expected and predictable and calm and normal. Whatever "normal" is. And then something happens. It can be a small moment. It can be a word from a friend. It can be a line in a movie or a page in a book or a phrase in a song or sermon. It can be a new opportunity or a second chance.

Something happens. Something is stirred.

Dreams and thoughts and ideas re-emerge. Clarity is sought, and found, and sometimes fumbled for the sake of ease and comfort. Current seems less desirable than future, especially when future seems a better mix of past and current, the best pieces of each picked and blended into something new and challenging and inspiring.

That doesn't mean it's easy or simple. The desire for clarity can itself create more confusion than before, when clarity wasn't the goal. And even when the first step is clear, that doesn't mean you've discovered clarity for steps two, three, or four. It simply means it's time to take step one, praying and trusting and believing and praying more and hoping and knowing and praying more and desiring and --

But then it comes time to take that step. It must be taken. It can't be ignored. It can't be brushed aside, even if others will misunderstand or judge or disbelieve or wonder or doubt or challenge or question or criticize. Still, others won't. They, too, will pray and trust and believe and pray more and hope and know and pray more and desire, that steps two, three, and four will be revealed.

In His timing. In His path. In His way. In His hands.

'Swing Vote' an enjoyable ride.

How far is a presidential candidate willing to go to win the support of one single voter?

That's the question at the heart of "Swing Vote," but it isn't the only question the movie raises. Can you be a news reporter and still have a soul? Are some white lies OK if they serve a bigger cause? Do politicians really understand the big issues facing the average American? And if they understand, do they truly care?

On several levels, "Swing Vote" reminded me of "Primary Colors," the movie based on the "barely fictionalized" book about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. "Primary Colors" approached the topic of a presidential election from the insider view of a campaign team; "Swing Vote" tackles the question of what would happen if a presidential election came down to the vote of just one person.

But unlike "Primary Colors," which features a campaign staffer's suicide near the end of the movie and always leaves me feeling negative about the many shortcomings of candidates, I walked away from "Swing Vote" with a sense of why every vote matters, why people still want to have faith in our political system, and how each of us can make the right choice at the end of the day.

In case you're planning to see the movie, I won't offer any spoilers. I'll simply say that the ending surprised me -- but it shouldn't have.

This isn't summer blockbuster fare like "The Dark Knight" or "Iron Man," but it's an enjoyable ride, especially for fans of the political world or the news business.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Trouble with Scrabble on Facebook?

Interesting news article for those of us who use the Scrabulous application in Facebook:
    T-R-O-U-B-L-E could loom for a Scrabble knockoff that has become one of the most popular activities on Facebook.

    Hasbro Inc., the company that owns the word game's North American rights, sued the creators of the Scrabulous program on Thursday, less than two weeks after the release of an authorized version of Scrabble for Facebook.

    Hasbro said in its lawsuit that Scrabulous violates its copyright and trademarks. Separately, Hasbro asked Facebook to block the game.

    In the year since Facebook began letting outside developers write Web programs that Facebook members can plug into their personal profile pages, Scrabulous has attracted some half-million daily users, despite efforts by Scrabble's owners to end it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Seattle: Day 4

So, today was my last full day here in Seattle. Spent a lot of time again in downtown Seattle, wandering the general area between the Seattle Center (home to the Space Needle) and Pike Place Market.

So, I'm really afraid of heights but I decided to go to the top of the Space Needle, anyway. It's pricey; $16 for an adult. Still, it offers awesome views of downtown Seattle, the Puget Sound, and all the surrounding cities. In this particular pic, you can see a sea plane flying through downtown.

I'm not sure why, but I struggle to smile for this kind of "MySpace" self pic. I'm still trying to peg the "emotion" on my face. It's probably, "Wow, it's a lot sunnier here today than it was yesterday, which means it's warmer and I chose jeans instead of shorts, and it's also really bright, which is going to leave me with some sun on my face and is making my eyes a little tired, too." Yea. You know that emotion. Don't deny it.

These two photos are from the Olympic Sculpture Park (I think that's the right name), near the waterfront. The most interesting sculptures are the large cones. I felt like I was going to get ticketed for walking into the Cone Zone. Oh, I also rode the monorail through downtown today. Nothing to do with cones or sculptures. But I just thought of it. And these entries are more freeflow than organized.

It scares me to think that at some point, there was an "Unsanitary Public Market" somewhere in the Pike Place neighborhood.

Yep, this photo very clearly made an impact on me. I think it's even funnier than the "Turkey Crossing" signs near my house. Maybe.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Seattle: Day 3

Today was the first day that I finally got into the "real" city of Seattle. I don't have a rental car, so all of my travels are either by foot or by public transit. So far, the bus system has been easy to use, and my decision to find a hotel near a transit center ended up being one of the best decisions I've made for this trip.

I'd never been to Seattle before, so today's itinerary centered around a few "important" places downtown: the waterfront, Pioneer Square District, Pike Place Market, and of course, the original Starbucks.

I was amazed that the public market was much smaller than I had imagined. Perhaps I was thinking of something on the scale of Pier 39 or Ghirardelli Square in SF, or even Cannery Row in Monterey. It wasn't as big as any of those. But it was still an interest site to visit. Managed to not buy anything, either.

Saw some fish-throwing, but the camera on my phone is too slow to catch the action. Had to settle for a pic showing all the non-customer tourists gathered around the shop awaiting a flying fish.

Yeah, seriously, this is the original Starbucks. It isn't very big or impressive, but it feels almost like a shrine with the number of customers filling the store. But I did wait in line, and ordered my venti green tea lemonade with 5 splendas in place of the sweetener. I may not drink coffee, but I'm capable of my own Starbucks addictions.

The store has the semi-original logo on its wall. This is, of course, the "re-introduced" logo that has generated recent controversy because it shows the mermaid's breasts.

My bus route back to my hotel took me past Boeing Field and the Museum of Flight. This is the (apparently rebuilt) building where Boeing got its start. Unfortunately, my bus route also took me along a LOT more city streets than the route I took downtown. So I spent almost 2 hours on the ride to the hotel. Praise God for the iPod!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Seattle: Day 2

Last night, I decided Tuesday would be my "chill" day. So I slept in this morning (only until 10AM, which isn't very late, I guess), and then just relaxed around the hotel for awhile. I caught an afternoon showing of The Dark Knight, along with maybe two dozen other people in a huge theater. Pretty funny.

The movie was great. It has the same dark feel as Batman Begins, but with a lot more action. I'm not sure if I like it more, less, or the same as Batman Begins. Regardless, it was worth seeing. Probably even worth a second view.

This evening's been quiet. Just doing some reading. Couple phone calls. Some texting. Not much else. Weather has been nice and overcast today. The high maybe hit 70.

Wednesday morning I'll head into the city, spend some time in downtown Seattle. Should be fun.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Seattle: Day 1

Got here to Seattle. Technically I'm outside the city in the suburbs because that's the only place I could find a hotel. Downtown seems completely booked. But I'm near a transit center with good access to the city, and I'm near plenty of shopping -- which is also good because I didn't want to pay $400+ for car rental this week. Yea, crazy trip!

This pic is from the flight here. I'm pretty certain these are the Three Sisters mountains in Oregon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Back in town. And then gone again.

I got back last night from a quick trip down to Orange County, to see the guys at Simply Youth Ministry. I've been doing freelance editing work for them for about 3 years now, and we got together to talk about some upcoming projects.

Trip highlights, you ask? How about these...
  • Finally eating a meal at the great, glorified Wahoo's Fish Taco place
  • Seeing the new student ministry building at Saddleback, The Refinery, and having oh-so-short chats with Doug Fields and Josh Griffin
  • Spending a day in nice OC weather
  • Renting a car and remembering how much I really like driving my *own* car
  • Hearing Andy Brazelton offer lame excuses on why he was skipping his 10-year high school reunion
  • Admiring Nadim Najm's ability to keep a close eye on so many websites every day

Next week I'm in Seattle, for "pure" vacation time. Should be fun.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Smoky skies and hot days.

Life is borderline miserable in this part of California right now. I know it's not as bad as the folks who had flooding in the Midwest last month, and right here in Sacramento we don't actually have wildfires threatening our homes. But our sky is filled with the smoke from fires in the region, and our temperatures are passing 100 again today.

I'm sitting in my office at the church, and when I look outside, there's a dull orange tint to everything. Visibility is limited. It smells like a small valley filled with campers. And if I spend too much time outdoors, my eyes start to sting. All in all, just not a lot of fun to be outside.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Obama finds support in GOP

Interesting article today about conservatives supporting Obama, from the San Francisco Chronicle, on
    The "Obamacans" that Sen. Barack Obama used to joke about - Republican apostates who whispered their support for his candidacy - have morphed into a new phenomenon, or syndrome, as detractors like to call it: the Obamacons.

    These are conservatives who have publicly endorsed the presumptive Democratic nominee, dissidents from the brain trust of think tanks, ex-officials and policy magazines that have fueled the Republican Party since the 1960s. Scratch the surface of this elite, and one finds a profound dismay that is far more damaging to the GOP than the usual 10 percent of registered Republicans expected to switch sides during a presidential election.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Crazy day for worship teams.

Today's been a wild day. It started when our drummer didn't arrive for service; apparently he got injured but I didn't get the word until 10:40AM. Our main backup wasn't available, but another drummer came through in the pinch to help us out. That was a hue relief! We had a few rough moments during the morning service, but we made it through.

I was exhausted this afternoon, and found myself just sitting around the house vegging. Had some phone calls to return. Missed one from a local number that wasn't in my cell; I'll come back to it in a moment. Anyway, I took a call from a friend who said he needed a vocalist for his youth group's worship team tonight. At first, I wanted to say no because I was tired.

But then I realized. Someone came through to pinch-hit for me and our worship team this morning. It's only appropriate and right that I say yes to these friends. Actually, I kinda looked at it as a way to say "thanks" to God for meeting my need in the morning.

So, things went really well with this youth group tonight. It was great to see some good friends, catch up on things, and spend time together worshiping God. Definitely the right choice.

Well, back to that local call I didn't answer. Turns out it was a friend calling on a different line. He wanted to see if I was up for a game of racquetball. I probably would have said yes, if I had taken the call. But then I wouldn't have been available to help the other worship team tonight.

Funny how that all worked out, eh?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Political musings.

I'm fascinated by this year's presidential for many reasons. One of the biggest fascinations is watching a relatively liberal Democrat vie for the votes of evangelical Christians and a relatively conservative Republican largely ignore (or weakly attempt) to connect with those same voters.

I don't know who I'll vote for this November. It won't be Bob Barr, and it won't be Ralph Nader. Not that I oppose the concept of third parties; I voted for Ross Perot in 1992, the first time I could vote for president. But both Barr and Nader just don't cut it.

Anyway, I've been closely following online articles about Obama and McCain and issues of faith. Here are a couple of interesting articles I found today relating to Obama and faith:

Obama focuses on faith; McCain slams earmarks in crime speech

Obama works to mobilize 'Christian left'

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Memories and the senses.

I recently came across a CD that I hadn't listened to in years. Once I tossed it into my car's CD player, I realized that it was filled with all kinds of songs that brought back memories of my first trip to Europe, way back in 1989. On that trip, I took along 1 cassette for my super-hip Walkman, and I practically wore out the tape by the end of the 2.5-week vacation.

But I also unknowingly engrained those songs with memories of Europe. As I listened to each track, my mind was filled with visual and emotional memories of a train between Brussels and Paris... a train station in Paris... walking around the streets of London... experience the Rhine River in Germany... all kinds of wonderful memories.

Last fall, I traveled to Greece with my mom and brother, and I intentionally listened to one album on my iPod repeatedly, in an attempt to re-create this experience.

It worked. Those songs now remind me of the great trip last year.

Our senses seem to be so closely linked to memory. When I smell cigarettes, I often think of smoke-filled sidewalks in Athens. Certain smells remind me of my childhood, including times with my grandparents or other family members. The feel of shag carpet reminds me of my paternal grandparents' floors. A humid evening will stir memories of Missouri or Alabama. Cool weather around Thanksgiving time reminds me of college trips during that holiday. The smells and sounds of Christmas evoke more memories than I can possibly record.

I wonder what senses in a year or five or ten will evoke memories of my life right now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Religious contradictions?

Came across an interesting article on about seemingly contradictory religious beliefs held by Americans:
    Americans remain heavily religious, but their views rarely conform to dogma, according to a massive new survey released this morning.

    Seventy percent of religious adherents in the United States believe multiple religions can lead a person to salvation, while 68 percent say there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their religion.

    Those views are at the centerpiece of a survey of 36,000 people released today by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey - unprecedented in its combination of survey pool and breadth of questions - reveals that religious beliefs and practices in America defy doctrine.

    - 57 percent of evangelical Christians say that multiple religions can lead to salvation, though nary an evangelical theologian or minister would say that.

    - 58 percent of Catholics believe society should accept homosexuality, a view that is greatly at odds with U.S. Catholic bishops, including the Bay Area.

    - 12 percent of Eastern Orthodox Christians say they speak in tongues once a week, even though it is a Pentecostal practice that is not in Orthodox liturgy.

    - 21 percent of self-defined atheists believe in God.
What also caught my eye in the article was this statement that holds incredible implications for those of us who work closely with people discovering, experiencing, living out, and growing in their faith:
    But several scholars who read the study - or were involved in it - said the often counterintuitive results revealed another ongoing theme in American religion: Many believers may know little about the true practices of their own faith, much less others. So the fact that Americans largely see multiple religions leading to salvation may not reveal a trait of true understanding, but possibly naivete.

Cody's is closing for good.

Sad news from the Bay Area. Cody's Books is closing its doors and going out of business. I remember visiting the location on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley a few times when I lived there back in 1999-2000. More books than I could ever possibly consume in my lifetime. Loved the place!
    Cody's Books, the legendary Berkeley bookstore that catered to literati nationwide for more than half a century and was firebombed in the 1980s because of its support of the First Amendment, has closed its doors, the victim of lagging sales.

    The bookstore, which in recent years had closed its flagship store on Telegraph Avenue and its branches in San Francisco and on Berkeley's Fourth Street, finally settling in early April in one store on Shattuck Avenue, shuttered that store Friday.

    Calling it "a heartbreaking moment," Cody's owner, Hiroshi Kagawa of the Japanese firm IBC Publishing, said in a statement, "unfortunately, my current business is not strong enough or rich enough to support Cody's."

    "Cody's is my treasure and more than that, Cody's is a real friend of (the) Berkeley community and will be missed," Kagawa said.

    Pat Cody, one of the store's co-founders, said the closing "makes me very sad. We worked so hard and we put so much into it, and it meant a lot to the community. It's a big loss."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Today's funny photos.

Two shots from around town today...

Pic #1: The people at Fry's Electronics forgot how to spell the name of this MacBook...

Pic #2: The owner of this car likes the name "Jetta" so much, a second appearance of the name on the back of the car was apparently warranted...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More coverage on killing of a Turlock toddler.

Couple new stories online about the weekend murder of a 2-year-old just outside of Turlock, where I grew up and where my mom still lives:

Article from The Modesto Bee

Article from The San Francisco Chronicle

Monday, June 16, 2008

Political roundup

A few interesting stories I've come across this evening:

Obama the delegator picks when to take reins
International Herald Tribune

Fiorina woos Clinton supporters for McCain
Reuters, via MSNBC

State-run Chinese paper voices doubts about Obama
Reuters, via International Herald Tribune

Analysis: Age an issue in the 2008 campaign?

Gore endorses Obama and promises to help him
Associated Press, via SFGate

Tragic news from my old hometown.

There's been a bit of covering in the last couple days about the brutal beating of a toddler in Turlock on Saturday night. I grew up in Turlock and worked there (twice) after college. Here's coverage from two media outlets:

The Modesto Bee article

The San Francisco Chronicle article

As of 5:45PM Monday, the Turlock Journal had nothing on its website about the incident. This isn't a surprise, because the Journal is a joke. It has been for many years. I'll admit it was a joke when I worked there, but it got worse when the paper was sold and went to twice-a-week publishing, instead of six days a week.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Schwarzeneggers debate Obama, McCain?

Great article on IHT about Arnold and Maria and the debate over which presidential candidate to support this year. Good read.
    Of all the supporters behind the two presumptive nominees for president this year, none are quite as intriguing as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - a Republican who has thrown his support behind John McCain - and his wife, Maria Shriver - a Democrat who is a vocal backer of Barack Obama.

    The lawn of their home has dueling campaign signs. The breakfast table has become a casual debating society. Shriver is even threatening to bring a life-size cutout of her preferred candidate into the house, something the governor has seen her do in other elections. "When one of the candidates screws up," Schwarzenegger said of the cutouts, "the kids carry them outside."

    The four Schwarzenegger children - who range in age from 10 to 18 - have already taken sides, though only one of them, Katherine, is old enough to vote. She, too, favors Obama.

What will Bush's legacy be?

The time is quickly winding down on the Bush Presidency, and the International Herald Tribune had an interesting article today looking at the legacy question, especially from a European perspective:
    The finale of George W. Bush's presidency has never seemed more imminent as it has during his tour of European capitals, a farewell visit in which reminiscence, valediction and even eulogies trailed him.

    At the Vatican on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI gave the president a tour of the gardens where he prays each evening - the first time a pontiff has done so - and then offered a gift of four volumes about St. Peter's Basilica with an allusion to a life after office.

    "Perhaps you'll have some time to read it," Benedict told him. ...

    Legacy is a word over which Bush's aides profess not to dwell, and the president himself seems averse to reflection. "The president does not have second thoughts," his press secretary, Dana Perino, once said.

    But his legacy hangs over his eight-day visit to Europe nonetheless - in interviews he has given to foreign journalists, in his friendships with European leaders, in his appearance Thursday night with Berlusconi when he had to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court's rebuke on the Guantánamo Bay prison, which remains an unredeemable blemish for many in Europe and beyond.

Tim Russert died.

Being a former journalist, I pay attention when a former newsperson dies. Was sad to see the news just a few minutes ago about Tim Russert dying:
    Tim Russert, who became one of America's leading political journalists as the host of NBC's "Meet the Press," died Friday, according to the network. He was 58.

    The network said Russert suffered a heart attack while at work and could not be revived. He had just returned from a family vacation in Italy to celebrate the graduation of his son, Luke, from Boston College.

    Russert joined the network in 1984 and quickly established himself as the face of the network's political coverage.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Joys and pains of writing.

I'm the first to admit that I'm a word geek. Yes, I'm a geek in other ways (and for a few months of my life I was a Greek, but that's a different story), but my greatest geekiness is found in the area of words.

If you regularly visit this blog, you know I've written very little over the last couple of months. The silence fascinates me more than it fascinates you, because I enjoy writing, I love words, and I'm always full of thoughts and opinions.

Last week in Oregon I did more journaling and writing, which seems to have unleashed a desire to write again. I regularly use twitter (see the top right corner of my blog for recent updates), which I find to be an awesome form of micro-blogging.

Anyway, I guess this is my declaration of intent: I intend to write here more frequently, and to reactivate other areas of writing in my life.

Cindy McCain vs Michelle Obama.

Great analysis piece on CNN about differences between Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, and whether the potential First Ladies affect their husbands' candidacies:
    They're not elected. They're not paid. There's no precise job description.

    But whether it's an elegantly dressed Jacqueline Kennedy giving Americans a tour of the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt speaking on civil rights or Hillary Clinton saying "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies," first ladies are praised, criticized, adored and scorned -- but never ignored.

    The two women poised for the job, 54-year-old Cindy McCain, wife of Republican Sen. John McCain, and 44-year-old Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, come from strikingly different backgrounds.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama courts evangelicals.

Interesting article today on about Democrats, including Sen. Obama, targeting evangelical voters for the fall:
    Polls have showed evangelicals, following national trends, are disaffected with Republican leadership and increasingly up for grabs.

    The organizer of the "Matthew 25" effort, Mara Vanderslice, led the religious outreach for the Democratic presidential ticket in 2004, and -- perhaps more troubling to the GOP -- has done similar, and successful, work for winning Democrats in reliably red states and battlegrounds, such as Govs. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Ted Strickland of Ohio and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

    This new energy has not been matched among conservatives. Same-sex marriage has galvanized some issues-motivated activists, but the Republican standard-bearer has yet to galvanize longtime evangelical foot soldiers this campaign season.

    Since former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee ended his presidential run, many organizers and former Huckabee backers such as Farris have taken to the sidelines -- and said they have no plans to re-enter the electoral fray before Election Day.

    And as new reports surface of McCain's difficulties with evangelical leaders, Obama's campaign revealed an ambitious effort to appeal to young evangelicals and Catholics set to be unveiled this month.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tears of sadjoyness.

Just a few minutes away from my house, the doors have opened to a new In-N-Out restaurant. If you're unfamiliar with In-N-Out, it probably means you live in the ho-hum eastern part of our nation and have never experienced burgers that surpass nearly any other under the sun.

I like In-N-Out's burgers. Especially a cheese burger or Double-Double, animal style, of course. Their fries are incredible, and how can you resist dropping a lemon wedge into your Dr Pepper?

And of course, this is the sadness that surrounds my joy. I'm happy that I'm now just 5 minutes away from In-N-Out. But I'm sad because now I will actually need to be a disciplined adult and not eat there every day. That wouldn't be healthy.

So that, my friends, is the source of my tears of sadjoyness.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In search of a children's pastor.

Our church is in the middle of a transition, as we say goodbye to our children's pastor and begin the search for a new staff member. I've been spending fair amount of time on the phone and sending/receiving emails yesterday and today.

Here's the job posting, in case you know of someone interested. Maybe that person is you.

Antelope Christian Center is accepting applications for Children’s Ministry Director.

We’re seeking a person with:
• Committed relationship and love for the Lord
• Energetic personality and love for people
• Passion for children and family-oriented ministry
• Organization skills to help a ministry continue to grow
• Ability to work on a multi-staff team
• Positive heart and encouraging spirit
• Desire to recruit, train, and release adult leadership
• Experience in children’s ministry

Our church is looking for a self-motivated, highly energetic Children’s Ministry Director. The ideal candidate will have a clear calling to raise up children who are passionate about becoming more like Jesus, and expanding our team of adult leaders committed to that same goal. We’re looking for someone with godly integrity and values, and the ability to lead a ministry to the next level.

The Children’s Ministry Director is responsible for overseeing our various ministry for kids from birth through sixth grade, including Sunday morning, Wednesday night programs, events and activities, and outreach efforts, with the goal of operating a safe, effective, healthy ministry to children and their families.

Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

Antelope Christian Center is a church of 400 to 500 people, located in Antelope (North Sacramento region).

Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, brief personal history, resume, and letters of reference.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Some "good" problems at church.

Ordinarily I dislike problems. I'm capable of handling and addressing and resolving problems, but I don't walk around pursuing them. Lately, I've been grappling with some "good" problems around the church:

1. We're running out of programs/bulletins on Sundays.
This is good because it shows our attendance is growing. But it's largely growing because of new people attending, getting saved, getting baptized and being discipled. We've been averaging 3 or 4 water baptisms a month, which is a good start! So, we've been increasing the number of bulletins each week, and just yesterday we ran out -- again!

2. We have too many office volunteers.
Seriously, I have one person who comes in Mondays and Wednesdays, another three who come in Thursdays, another couple who are here Wednesday mornings, and then a new one who will be starting on Tuesdays and maybe another day of the week. This creates a need for me to be more organized, so I have plenty of meaningful, significant projects for each volunteer.

3. We have too many new faces.
This goes back to "problem" #1. I walk around church on Sunday morning, and I'm still able to identify the majority of people in our services. But then I see someone whose name eludes me, and I can't ask them again to share their name. Oh the joys of having lots of new people in your church!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Tale of Two Dads.

I don't quite know where to begin with this. Our church is having a rough time right now because of the tragic death of one of our members last week. I got a call around 1:40AM late Thursday/early Friday morning from a teen in our church. She asked for prayer because her dad had stopped breathing and he was being rushed to the hospital.

About an hour later, I got a text message from my senior pastor saying the dad had died. I was out of town, but I continued to receive text and phone updates throughout the early morning hours.

Losing a loved one hurts. Losing that person in a sudden, tragic experience hurts so deeply.

You see, we have another family in our church whose dad is battling cancer. His doctors disagree over how to battle the disease or how much the treatments will help. Tomorrow they have another conversation with one of their doctors. I'm praying they have clarity and wisdom and peace.

Two families. Two struggles. Two dads. The stories are similar, yet the circumstances are so different. One family didn't get the chance to say good-bye. Another family doesn't know when good-bye will actually come. One family was rocked by tragedy. Another family is slowly tossed back and forth by different analyses and different recommendations.

Both families are in my prayers, and both need God to prove Himself in their situations. I know He will. It's just sometimes hard.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Another summer movie I must see.

OK, my list of "must see" summer movies continues to grow. We have the latest installments of Indiana Jones, The Chronicles of Narnia and Batman. We have another Pixar flick (Wall-E) that looks interesting, a Speed Racer movie that might be entertaining (or lame, not sure), and several others I've seen in previews and summer articles.

Add to the list a new X-Files movie. Honestly, I didn't know they were shooting another one, which is pretty embarrassing for a guy who owns all the DVDs and used to avoid Sunday night activities so he could catch each week's episode.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taxes, cell phones, and racquetball.

Unlike the last few years, I didn't wait until April 15 to file my taxes.

I got them done on April 14, instead.

The good news is that I'm getting a refund from both the state and the feds. Unfortunately, it's only half the amount of last year's refunds. It's rather ironic because I now own a home and have an entire year of reductable interest. The flip side is that I also have an entire year of roommates paying me money to live in my house. So it all panned out. Without roomies, huge refund. Without roomies, couldn't afford the house!

Topic 2. Cell phones. I bought a new one last week. The Palm Centro, with Sprint coverage. I like Sprint, it has good coverage here in the Sacramento area. The phone is cool, and with all the discounts and rebates, it came out to just about $100. And then I switched my service plan to the unlimited everything. So that's cool.

Topic 3. Racquetball. I played again today, against the third different friend since I got back into the game a few weeks ago. It's a good workout, good cardio stuff. Today, I almost lost the first game but pulled off a come-from-behind win, 22-20. Then I swept the second and third games fairly easily. But it's a good thing to do, as long as I don't do something stupid, like sprain my ankle again.

Am I a blogging failure?

Over the last few weeks, my blogging patterns have been weak. Horribly weak, one might say. Why has this happened? Let's ponder the possibilities.

1. Rob is spending too much time writing pithy messages on twitter; he's unable to complete thoughts longer than 140 characters.

2. Rob is so enamored with his most recent Moleskine purchase that he feels compelled to only write on physical paper using ink. Not pencil. Ink. Pencil is for wimps who can't commit to an idea.

3. Rob is spending too much time watching TV, now that he can catch new episodes of The Office, 30 Rock, and, um, well, what else does he watch...

4. Rob is overwhelmed with the project of re-creating his church's database from scratch because his senior pastor was tired of sending birthday cards to dead people and anniversary cards to divorced couples, so Rob got the job of using new software and starting from Square One.

5. Rob is using all his spare time coming up with excuses on why he's slow on getting editing projects back to his friends at Simply Youth Ministry. No wait, that doesn't sound very professional.

So pick whichever excuse you like. All of them are right and wrong, in an Obi Wan-explaining-to-Luke-about-his-father-and-truth-from-a-certain-point-of-view way.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The prayers of my blog.

We just wrapped up our church staff meeting, and in his closing prayer, our senior pastor prayed specifically for each of us. When praying for me, he said, "God, we ask that you would answer all the prayers of his blog," which made all of us laugh.

I know Kansas DID win the national championship last night in men's basketball. And according to at least one online article today, some people believe God played a role in helping the Jayhawks win.

I'm not a huge proponent of the "God lets Christians win" theory. If two Christian QBs face off in the Super Bowl, only one can win. Does God play favorites? Does God have a big coin in heaven that He tosses to pick the winner?

Certainly I believe God gives us the strength to do our best, to excel, to perform well. Besides, didn't we all learn years ago that it's not if we win but how we play the game?

Then again, I'd be a bit unhappy today if Kansas had lost last night. So maybe I still have some learnin' to do...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Parking confusion?

So, did this guy park in the wrong section of the parking lot? Or did the rest of us not get the message?

Too many text messages.

OK, so my five-month experiment has come to a close. Back in November, I decided to see if I could set a personal record for the most text messages in a month (combined incoming and outgoing). Before November, I had never used more than 1,550 in one month.

Well, November ended up being around 2,900 -- thanks to my sending messages to friends, asking them to text me. In December, I continued the experiment and got my count up to around 3,400. In January, I reached 4,400. In February, it grew to 5,100.

This brings us to the just-completed month of March. I broke all those personal records. In fact, I completely shattered them: just over 11,000 text messages used last month.

My friends, that works out to be more than 350 messages per day.

That's insane.

And I'm done.

Not with texting, but with my attempts to use mass quantities of messages. I'm sure I won't fall back into the 1,500 range again, but if a month from now, I've sent and received more than 11,000, it's time to check into rehab.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back in the swing of things.

I played racquetball this afternoon, the second time in a week -- after a break of more than 4 years. I've been surprised that I still have some of my skills intact, although a strong, highly talented player would probably crush me -- just as I've crushed the two younger guys from church that I've played against.

Still, it's good to get back in the swing of things and add an extra reason to visit the gym, and we all know I need as many reasons to get down there as I can.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A good time in Old Sacramento.

Went down to Old Sacramento on Saturday with my friend Trista (yes, I know I'm late in posting, but better late than never, eh). We had a good time walking around, checking out some of the unique stores down there, and enjoying a dinner at Joe's Crab Shack. The weather was perfect, and the company was fun.

One of the interesting moments was coming across some "Jesus Junk" that would make Marko proud. In fact, it's probably appeared on his blog before. But this picture is Trista holding up the Jesus Action Figure. I thought about buying it for my office, but decided to hold off for now.

We also ran into some former youth workers from my church. It was great to see them and talk for a few minutes, and then they came to our sunrise service yesterday. Good stuff!

How should we judge Easter 'success'?

So, today is the "day after" and I'm still in recovery mode from Easter. I've managed to get some productive work done around the office, but I'm definitely not running on all cylinders.

One thought bouncing around my head is how to judge the "success" of an Easter weekend. Is it just about numbers? Which numbers matter most? Is something entirely different beyond numbers?

Here's what I know about our weekend. We had a strong Good Friday service, with around 60 folks at noontime. We had a great Easter Sunrise service, with around 80 people at 7AM. Our 9AM service had 260 people (usually around 100) and 11AM had 285 people (usually around 160), plus our kids areas had at least 40-50% more than a typical Sunday.

Does that mean Easter was a success?

We had dozens of volunteers get involved in our weekend activities. I had a crew that showed up at 6AM Sunday just to set up tables and chairs outdoors. We had about three dozen people involved in the actual Easter presentation, and we had new volunteers serving throughout the weekend.

Does that mean Easter was a success?

Things flowed nearly seamlessly throughout the weekend. We had no major problems, no major obstacles. The power didn't go out, the donkey didn't drop "Jesus" in the Palm Sunday scene, and we had enough parking for everyone.

Does that mean Easter was a success?

We don't actually know how many first-time guests came Sunday, but we had response cards from 13 (we usually get 3 to 5 most weekends). We had at least 5 people indicate that they made a decision or recommitment to follow Jesus, and I'm sure we had others who said a prayer but didn't respond to let us know.

Does that mean Easter was a success?

I guess that last paragraph has some of the most important "numbers" and info. The other areas are important, too, so it's hard to say. I'd call this weekend a success, but I'm still struggling with what was most successful -- and if our level of "success" could have been higher, and if more people could have responded to a chance at a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A good reminder for drivers.

Just came across this story; it's a good reminder that we California drivers have some new rules to follow come July 1:

    "Come July 1, drivers in California who make or receive phone calls other than emergencies will be required to have a hands-free way of talking. Motorists who don't can be pulled over and cited, $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent violations.

    At the same time, a companion law will go into effect that prohibits drivers younger than 18 from using any type of electronic communication device to text or talk - even hands-free ones. However, it's a secondary infraction, which means it can't be the main reason a driver is pulled over."