Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Teamwork on sermons.

We've been experimenting around the church lately with the way our senior pastor does his sermons on Sundays. Two or three times a week, he meets with a team of us to discuss his outline, brainstorm illustrations, and identify the best scriptures for his points. I'm aware of this process being done at our churches, but it's the first time for us.

So far, it's proving to be a positive experience. It's helping him because the whole process removes some elements from his plate but in return we're adding more content and application ideas. It's also good for me in my role, as executive pastor, and our youth pastor to gain some insight into how he preps his messages.

And it also means that if our senior pastor were to get sick at the last minute, one of us already would be familiar with the sermon and could easily step in to preach in his place.

Interesting times at Starbucks.

A new Starbucks opened just a short distance from my house this month. I realize many of you could utter the same words with identical accuracy. I've picked up several books on the company, its impact on our broader culture, and even its spiritual implications. But today I came across this news article:
    "Starbucks ratcheted down the number of new stores it plans to open this year and said it would close some U.S. locations as it reported a 2% rise in fiscal first-quarter earnings Wednesday.

    "The company said it's slowing the pace of store growth worldwide by 350 to 2,150 stores for fiscal 2008, down from a reduced target of 2,500 earlier in the month. That includes closing about 100 underperforming stores in the U.S. and opening about 75 new stores abroad."
Probably the most remarkable statement in those opening paragraphs is the idea of Starbucks closing some locations. That just doesn't happen. This latest news certainly doesn't mean the company is headed for disaster, but it could mean that Midas has left the building...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Best idea I've heard in the last 48 minutes.

Just caught the end of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. The final guest was a professor of some sort, who has a particular interest in poker. His closing suggestion to Colbert ranks as the best idea I've heard in the last 48 minutes: You should invite the presidential candidates onto your show to see how well they play poker. That would absolute entertainment.

Only problem: Bill would find a way to cheat for Hillary...

More pics of snow.

Here's my latest installment of my obsession with Yosemite National Park. Sure wish I was enjoying some of this snow... from the safety of a cabin with heating, fireplace and lots of food, of course!

The woes of sprained ankles.

I have some odd "reminders" and "anniversaries" that I keep on my smartphone. By far, the oddest is my annual note for January 23: "Call Jeremy re: sprained ankle." Want an explanation? Keep reading.

Five years ago yesterday, my friend Jeremy Anderson and I were playing racquetball down in Turlock. We had been playing regularly, but this would be a monumental day because I sprained during this particular session. Through that whole experience, I learned several important lessons:

1. When you're injured, don't hop around on your own. Use your friend's shoulder to balance yourself as you go out to the car. Otherwise you might fall down and hurt yourself.

2. If you must climb steps with an injured ankle, remember to NOT use the injured ankle on the second step. Otherwise you might fall down and hit your head against the front door of your house.

3. When you get ready to stretch out on a couch, make sure you're careful as you rest your head. Otherwise you might bonk the back of your head against the wooden armrest of the couch.

4. For you Pentecostal/Charistmatic types... If you're speaking in tongues while your body is in shock, be aware of how loudly you're speaking. Otherwise the health club employee may give you a weird look.

I've only played racquetball a few times since that injury in 2003. If you have a choice of breaking or spraining, I'd quickly pick the broken bone because the healing time is faster. It took me a long time to feel truly comfortable on my ankle after that sprain!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Political season: It's in the air(waves).

We've started seeing more political TV ads in recent days. Most of the ads involve the state propositions on the February 5 ballot, but now a new face is being seen: Hillary, proclaiming her ability to heal the nation, rescue the health care system, and bring global peace to this planet and the entire galaxy.

Or something like that.

Yea, the election is almost here. I'm registered as a "permanent" absentee voter, so I've already received my absentee ballot, and this time around I get to vote in the Democratic primary. I'm actually a "non-partisan" voter, but the Dems and American Independents allow NPs to vote in their primary. And considering I can't even name a single AI candidate from the last 100 years, the only real option is to vote Democrat.

And I can tell you this: I'm a big believer in the ABC approach to politics this year. "Anybody But Clinton." We had a Bush then a Clinton then a Bush... the last thing we need is a Clinton again. Let's find a new voice, a new vision, a new leader. Quit going back to the dynastic cesspool.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I ventured into the cold. Brrr.

It's pretty cold here in Iowa today. I think the temperature is around 17 degrees but it feels much, much colder because of the wind. My dad and I went walking around for a few minutes along the trail behind their house. I only lasted about 30 minutes, even bundled up like this:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gettin' ready for snow.

We just watched the news... it's 6:30 here, which means it's 4:30pm in California... which really doesn't matter, but I thought I'd point it out...

Anyway, the weather folks (who are always right and never wrong, of course) are forecasting that this part of Iowa could get 4 inches of snow on Wednesday night, into Thursday. That would be supersweet. There's still snow here, but I'd love to wake up Thursday and see a fresh blanket of snow covering everything. Then I could grab one of my dad's sleds and slide down the hill in their a 6-year-old kid. Awesome!

I've arrived in Iowa.

Yesterday turned out to be a full travel day getting from California to Iowa. There were no problems in the morning getting to the airport and leaving Sacramento. And there weren't any major problems in Chicago, either. But while I was waiting for my flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids, they announced that they were looking for someone to give up a seat on the plane, in exchange for a later flight AND a free round-trip ticket to anywhere in the U.S.

I was tempted. But I had some freelance editing work to finish, and I just couldn't see myself doing the work in the middle of the airport. Then they made a second announcement. You could literally see passengers looking around at other passengers wondering, "Well, is someone gonna do this?" I walked up to the counter and asked if I'd qualify, because I already was flying on a free ticket. The woman working the counter said it was fine.

So, I decided to call my dad to see if it would be alright. The last thing I wanted to do was through off their plans by arriving 4 hours later. But he said it would be fine (though it WOULD mean I'd miss most of the Kansas basketball game on TV). I ended up giving up my seat, getting the free ticket, finding a relatively quiet place (with a table, even!) to do my work, and then taking the much later flight.

During that time it snowed, and many of the planes were getting the de-icing treatment. But eventually my flight made it. Needless to say, by the time I went to bed last night, I slept solidly. And my body didn't really want to get up this morning!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cold days ahead for me.

I'm leaving Monday to visit my dad and stepmom back in Iowa. Just checked the weather forecast, and it looks like the HIGH temperatures may never break past freezing while I'm there. I think that's been the case both of the other times I've visited, too. Gotta make sure I grab my gloves, a scarf and my beanie!

I'm a cautious driver -- to a fault, perhaps.

Last night I spent time with some friends (and some total strangers) at a birthday party. First part of the evening was just hanging out at a pizza place; still a fun time. But the second part was a series of races at RPM, down in Rancho Cordova. They offer some intense kart racing, and it was a great time for everyone.

I even enjoyed it, despite coming in last. Seriously. I was dead last in our group of 16 racers. While talking to roommate Dave (who holds the 61st spot in their Top 100 RPM charts; check it out on their website), it occurred to me that I was driving way, way, way too cautiously out on the track. In other words, I drove on the track similarly to how I drive in the real world. Of course, in the real world, I haven't had an accident since October 1989... I've never gotten a speeding ticket... and I've only been pulled over twice by cops (see here and here for more info on that).

So, the moral of this story: Next time I go back to RPM, I need to drive more intensely. Or something like that. I'll also have to bring plenty of cash, 'cause it isn't cheap (it's only real downside).

The most annoying woman on TV.

Her name is Nancy Grace. Perhaps you've heard of her. If not, congratulations. Your world is a bit less shrill, less annoying, less bizarre without her.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I miss manual odometers.

This afternoon I was out running errands, and I realized my car was about ready to hit 33,000 miles. Unfortunately, I have a digital odometer, so I have to pay close attention or I'll miss the actual "rollover" moment. Watching the odometer and watching the road at the same time -- well, it's probably riskier than driving without a hands-free device on your cell! But I did catch the actual moment this time.

It occurred to me today how much I miss having a manual odometer. I loved the sense of anticipation for the changing of a thousand or a ten-thousand mark. You see one number slowly start to roll, then the next, then the next, then the next... With a digital odometer, nothing. One moment my car had 32,999 miles on it. The next it had 33,000. Blink and you miss it. Such a shame.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My fortune-less cookie.

Just got done eating a to-go lunch from Panda Express. Of course, I save the fortune cookie until the very end. When I cracked open the cookie, much to my dismay, I discovered that there was no cookie inside. Is the absence of a message somehow a message in itself? And if so, what would that message be? Hmm...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Presidential choices.

Thinking of voting for Rudy Guiliani this year? Interesting article here from The New Yorker that raises some deep issues for me about whether he's really presidential material. I already had concerns, but I'm afraid I'd almost rather have the styles of some other candidates over a Rudy-style presidency.

On another note, I was fascinated by the results of last week's Iowa caucuses. A year ago, who would have honestly guessed Mike Huckabee would win the GOP contest, and Barack Obama would easily win on the Dems' side? Remarkable how this year's presidential election is going. There are some candidates I clearly don't like or trust, but there are some others who could turn out to be good nominees, and I pray the one who wins end up being a good president.

Volunteers need access and support.

I learned a tough ministry lesson last night, though I hope it all has a good outcome. We ran into a problem over the weekend where a key volunteer wasn't able to access all of the places and resources needed for one of our teams. It added to a sense that priorities had shifted in our church, and formerly important things weren't quite as important as before. This leader and I spoke yesterday, had a really tough heart-to-heart, and it was clear that I needed to take a bigger role in making sure things happen correctly around here.

I moved into a new role back in the fall, and I'm no longer the "cheerleader" for any specific ministry, even though I work closely and directly oversee several groups. But really, my job is to be a cheerleader for all of the church ministries -- without appearing to favor one over another. That's a tough balancing act. It also meant I had to apologize to this leader yesterday, because the buck stops with me in my new role.

I guess I'm simply praying that yesterday's conversation will help me get back on track and remember that volunteers need access, support, prayers, friendship -- whatever it takes to help them succeed!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Have you googled yourself lately?

I hadn't googled myself in quite some time, so I decided to do it, and I was surprised by the results! When I typed in "rob cunningham" in the search engine, my own blog was the first hit. Remarkable! Last time I did it, my blog was the 13th result, so apparently I'm moving up in the world...

Mountain snow.

I realize some of you are convinced I'm obsessed with Yosemite. That's not entirely true. No, I lie. It's true. Here are two pics of fresh snow up there from yesterday's storm -- and more snow on its way today!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Pick 3: Politics

So, it's a new year and I've decided to drop the "5 stories worth a read" feature, and instead offer the occasional Pick 3 -- three news articles from online sources, all relating to one theme. That means I might have more than one Pick 3 post on a given day, depending on the news articles I encounter. This round: politics.

1. Close race means California primaries may matter from

2. Analysis: Huckabee up, Clinton down heading to Granite State from

3. ABC cuts 3 from presidential debates from The Associated Press (via


Crazy weather.

Today has been wild. It's just 2PM, but we've been without power for most of the day (since around 7:45AM). We've had a huge storm moving through, and the winds have been insane. I haven't been able to check much online because of the power outages (it seems rather stable at the moment) but we've had heavy winds, lots of rain, downed trees -- wild stuff.

Here are a couple of pics from my house. No real damage to show, but a bit messy outside today!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My dad now has a blog.

As I sit here, realizing my recently abysmal blogging patterns, it's worth noting that my dad has launched his own blog in honor of the year 2008. Or something like that.

He and my stepmom live in Iowa, which today is the center of the political universe. Tomorrow, of course, no one will give a flying leap about Iowans' views on presidential candidates. But today is the day faithful voters go caucus (apparently it's a verb, not just a noun) and pick their state's nominees for both major political parties. If you care who my dad's supporting, you can visit his blog.

Anyway, it should be interesting to see how consistently my dad maintains his blog. I've done a horrible job of late, faithful reader, but perhaps I can get back on the wagon. Or off the wagon. I always get that one mixed up...

My friend and blogging inspiration Josh Griffin (seriously, he's the one who encouraged me to take up this "habit" couple years ago) recommended that I consume energy drinks like Rockstar to inspire me and my writing. But I think energy drinks are of the devil. Like dancing.