Friday, February 29, 2008

My newest addiction: Texting.

There are many good reasons I don't drink alcohol. Probably the best for me personally is because I have something of an addictive personality. Getting bottles of booze into my hands probably isn't a good thing!

Here's my latest addiction: text messaging. I'm not totally new to the world of texting, but my texting activity has reached new heights in the last few months. It really got started in November, when I asked friends to send me lots of texts, so I could see how many I'd send and receive in one month. The total? Somewhere around 1,900. Not bad -- my highest month before that was just over 1,500 (incoming and outgoing combined).

In December, the number grew to more than 3,400. In January, I passed the 4,400 mark. And this month? Well, by the end of this day I expect to have received or sent more than 5,100 messages.

This actually puts me into the realm of some students at our church. I talked with one teen yesterday, as I was reaching the 5K mark, and she was around 5,900 at that point.

"Hi, my name is Rob." "Hi, Rob." "I'm a textaholic."

Happy leap day.

Wow, an extra day on the calendar. Nothing terribly special about the 29th of the month, except when it happens in February. And this year it lands on a Friday, which is my day off from the church. I'm sure I'll find some way to memorably mark the event. I might do yardwork, or clean the house, or go to the gym, or work on some book ideas, or...

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm hyperconnected.

This weekend, I entered the hyperconnected zone. I was on my cell phone talking to a friend. At the same time, I was engaged in two text-message chats. I also was talking to two friends in MSN Messenger, and another friend in AIM. I had MySpace open and got a few messages that way, too.

It was almost too much for my system -- meaning ME -- to handle!

How can people contact me?
1. Text messages
2. Email (I have four different addresses)
3. MySpace
4. Facebook (just joined last week)
5. AIM
6. MSN Messenger
7. Yahoo Messenger
8. Old-fashioned phone calls

Yeah, I'd say I have issues...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lyrical thoughts: Volume 1.

Sheryl Crow - God Bless This Mess

Daddy’s in the hallway
Hanging pictures on the wall
Mama’s in the kitchen
Making casseroles for all
My brother came home yesterday
From somewhere far away
He doesn’t look like I remember
He just stares off into space
He must’ve seen some ugly things
He just can’t seem to say

God bless this mess
God bless this mess

Got a job in town
Selling insurance on the phone
With Robert and Teresa
And two con men from back home
Everyone I call up doesn’t have the time to chat
Everybody is so busy doing this and doing that
Something has gone missing

And it makes me kinda sad, oh

God bless this mess
God bless this mess
God bless this mess

Heard about the day
that two skyscrapers came down
Firemen, policemen
And people came from all around
The smoke covered the city
And the body count arise
The president spoke words of comfort
With tears in his eyes
Then he led us as a nation
Into a war all based on lies, oh

God bless this mess
God bless this mess
God bless this mess
God bless this mess

Friday, February 22, 2008

Odd dream.

I don't really have too many weird dreams. Sometimes I remember them, sometimes I don't. But last night I had a really weird one. (Honestly, it was probably early this morning, and we all know that's when the truly bizarre dreams occur.)

Details, as much as I can recall:

I was on a vacation to London. But we didn't visit any of the major tourist places. We were visiting places that I don't remember as being terribly London-ish, and I don't even remember who I was with. But then I recall being on an airplane headed to the next destination, and the airline was Oahu Air, so the plane flew like a dolphin, up and down and up and down. The right wing of the plane hit another plane but we were all OK. I could look out my window and see Big Ben, and then our plane flew under the London Bridge.

And then I was in an airport terminal, needing to buy tourist gifts for friends back home. I don't remember what was being sold. But I remember my mom and dad having a disagreement over what rental car to get, which is odd because 1) they're divorced and 2) I think this trip was nearly over, so what was the point of getting a rental car? (Sidenote: At least I wasn't trying to rent and drive a car in the middle of winter in Ohio.)

And somewhere around this point, I woke up and realized that it was a pretty odd dream with absolutely no hidden spiritual meaning. Only meaning I could find is that I enjoy traveling to Europe, haven't been to London since 1989, and maybe it's time to make a return visit. Perhaps? Yea, pretty weak. I agree!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jericho returns to form.

I finally got around tonight to watching this week's episode of Jericho. I was reasonably pleased with last week's season premiere, but I felt something was lacking. Tonight I realized what it was: All of the first season was filled with this foreboding sense of doom and confusion and fear.

First episode of season two? Ho hum.

But with episode two, Jericho returned to form. The conspiracy is back, shadowy figures have been revived, and Ravenwood has stormed into town.

The next five episodes should be a blast.

Political sidenote: The "Allied" states are considered red states, and the "United" states are considered blue. A political undertone? Commentary by the show's creators? Perhaps...

Some iTunes purchases.

I'm not the kind of person to go around telling the world what iTunes songs I buy and load onto my device. There are a few reasons for this.

First, I don't buy individual songs. Call me a bizarre hybrid, but I usually buy entire albums from iTunes. Haven't bought a physical CD in a long, long time. But I still enjoy getting the entire experience of an album, and on several occasions I've discovered songs that I really like -- but they wouldn't have been original picks if I didn't buy the entire album.

Second, I haven't been buying a lot of iTunes stuff lately. I've just gotten back in the habit in the last couple of weeks. So for quite some time there really wasn't anything to say on this subject.

Third, most of my purchases are Christian music. Beyond that, most of those purchases are worship CDs. Is this bad? Of course not. But there's a certain attitude among ministry bloggers about Christian music and such. I agree that much of it is weak and mediocre. But the same can be said of most mainstream music, too. Hence the success of American Idol.

All of this leads me to the last few days.

Here are the albums I've purchased recently (within the last week, basically). It truly is an odd mix:

Detours, by Sheryl Crow

Hard Candy, by Counting Crows

God of this City, by Passion

Relentless, by Natalie Grant

We Need Each Other, by Sanctus Real

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto; Isaac Stern, Leonard Bernstein & New York Philharmonic

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto; Berliner Philharmoniker, Joshua Bell & Michael Tilson Thomas

Yes, quite a diverse mix. Haven't heard much from Sheryl Crow in years, sounded like an interesting album. Used to be a huge Counting Crows fan in the mid-'90s but lost track over the years. Love almost everything from the Passion worship people. Natalie Grant's stuff sounded intriguing. Usually love Sanctus Real (and I've been listening to it almost nonstop since last night and I really love this one).

And why two versions of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto? Each musician and orchestra interprets the work differently and I wanted to hear some new versions. I already own copies of the concerto by Jascha Heifetz and Kyoko Takezawa. Of these new versions, I really like the Bell interpretation. Stern is an incredible violinist, of course, but it's a slower rendition. Too slow for my tastes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Great analysis of Hillary spin.

There's a great article over on Time's website talking about the insanity of Hillary Clinton's spin machine. Here are my favorite paragraphs, from later in the story:
    It's understandable that the Clintonites operate in permanent spin mode; they weathered a constant barrage of attacks in the 1990s, and they came to see politics as a perpetual war room where you say whatever's necessary to win the day. It's hard to know whether their self-justifying and self-contradictory nonsense bothers actual voters, or just the reporters who have it force-fed to them. Strategy and marketing can be overrated in the world of retail; it might just be that a majority of Democratic voters, faced with a choice between two strong candidates with similar policies, prefer the Obama product.

    But the Orwellian spin and the silly gotchas certainly could reinforce Obama's message that Clinton is mired in the small-minded, zero-sum, it's-all-a-game Washington politics of the past. There was that classic debate moment when Hillary said her worst quality was her impatience to change the world, and then criticized Obama for admitting he was disorganized. The next day, Obama said that if he had known that was how the game was supposed to be played, he would have said his worst quality was his overeagerness to help old ladies cross the street. Who do you think won that argument?

I love typos.

Having worked in the newspaper business for about 8 years, I understand how errors happen in a daily news environment. Sometimes the typos are just plain funny, like this one from a report about Barack Obama receiving an endorsment from the Teamsters:
    According to AP, Ohio and Pennsylvania have some of the highest levels of unionization in the country. More than 15 percent of the Pennsylvania's workforce are union members, and over 14 of Ohio's workers are unionized.
Wow, glad to know that more than 14 people in Ohio belong to unions. That's power...

Is there a cancer in your church?

Perhaps that's an odd question to ask. I don't like thinking of people as being cancerous, but sometimes actions and attitudes do keep a church from becoming as healthy as God intends.

The idea came to my mind because of a comment a friend made a few days back. He told of a person who claimed that I had used the word "cancer" to describe members of his family many months ago. I didn't. I actually used that word to describe people from a completely different family whose actions and attitudes were crippling our ministry and undermining our senior pastor. Sounds cancerous to me.

But I guess even USING a word like "cancer" in a conversation is risky. Someone can misunderstand and misinterpret the main message being communicated. I certainly learned that!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Still lookin' for a new roommate.

As of yesterday, my house is down 1 occupant. Matt was one of my roommates for over three years (first an apartment, now my house), and this weekend he moved over to the Santa Rosa area. We'll miss him around here. He was a youth pastor at a nearby church for 4 years, and I know he's leaving behind some deep friendships as he takes this next step in life.

We've been searching for a new roommate to move into my four-bedroom house, and so far we've had minimal success. Personally, I wish I could afford to NOT have another roommate join us. I'd love to turn the empty room into a true office, but I don't know if it's financially feasible.

So if you happen to know of any Christian guys in the Sacramento area looking for a room in a house, we have a spot! Leave me a comment with email info and I can get in touch with all the details. It's a great house, great location, fun place to live.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Great analysis of Obama's recent wins.

Was just headed to bed, but checked up on couple news sites. Came across this great article from the SF Chronicle (on about Obama and his growing appeal in this presidential primary:
    The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a white woman, and Barack Obama, a black man, has scrambled 21st century identity politics, producing startling turns in an election that, whatever its outcome, will make history.

    It was former President Bill Clinton who called the racial divide "America's constant curse" in his second inaugural address 11 years ago.

    But it was after Bill Clinton injected race into the South Carolina primary last month that African Americans, one of the Democratic Party's most important voting blocs, abandoned his wife's candidacy in droves.

    Obama's novelty is not that he is the first black candidate for president, but the first black candidate who is not running as a black candidate. Obama has scrupulously avoided racial stereotyping, yet his race is an obvious element of his appeal that no rival can match.

I know my states.

ht to josh treece

Cleaning time, moving time.

It was a beautiful day here in Sacramento, California. One of my roommates, Matt, is moving out this weekend, so today turned into a packing-cleaning-moving event at my house. Matt has cleaned out his room and loaded a UHaul truck. That means Mike is moving out of his room and into Matt's old room, and he's doing most of the work this evening (with his girlfriend and her sisters assisting).

As Matt was cleaning his room earlier in the day, I got in the mood to do some dishes to make the kitchen look better, and Dave decided to do some other cleaning around the house. He then opened up a bunch of windows and patio doors, and turned on the whole house fan to bring in some fresh air.

The laundry's been running full-tilt in the garage all day, and the place has a nice clean feel about it. Except my bedroom. Didn't quite get around to cleaning it today. Oh well.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sad but expected news on '24.'

Bauer fans lament.

    NEW YORK (AP) -- One fallout of the Hollywood writers strike is that fans of Fox's drama "24" have to wait until next January to see Jack Bauer again.

    The network has committed to air a full season on consecutive weeks and had been planning to start last month. If it had started airing new episodes soon, the season finale would not have taken place until the summer, when TV networks rarely show their high-profile programs.

    Even though eight episodes for this season had already been filmed before the beginning of the writers strike, producers would have had to ramp up production soon to complete the season.

    So "24" represents this television season's most prominent casualty due to the writers strike.

    A January 2009 start seemed the best way to comply with viewers' wishes that a season's episodes run without interruption to conclusion, Fox said on Thursday.
They could have made it a fall premiere, but oh well. Life goes on.

Oh yeah. It's Valentine's Day...

Yet another reminder of just how single I am...

It's "spirit week" for our K-8 school here at the church, and the kids have been dressed creatively each day. They've been biblical characters, cartoon/fiction characters, and they've worn their pajamas. Much fun.

Well, today I got to the office and I saw all the kids walking to class, but I couldn't figure out the day's theme. I asked the school receptionist, and she started to laugh. "It's Valentine's Day, silly, so they're all wearing red and pink and white." As she said this, I realized what I wore today: a black shirt.

Guess I'm lacking that Valentine's Day spirit today...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How healthy is that volunteer?

I had a great conversation a few days ago with a ministry friend in another town, and we got talking about volunteers in our churches. We came up with a few characteristics of what makes a healthy volunteer, and I thought I’d share eight of them.

Spiritual Growth
A healthy volunteer is becoming more like Jesus. This seems obvious, but it’s easy for volunteers (or ANY of us in ministry) to become so focused on the “doing” God’s work that we forget about “being” a follower of Christ. A healthy volunteer has learned how to feed himself spiritually, without relying on the pastor or a program as the sole source of spiritual nourishment. A healthy volunteer knows that she is ultimately responsible for her own spiritual development, that spiritual growth is a process, and that there is always room to grow until the final day of life.

Balanced Commitments
A healthy volunteer understands the importance of serving God and others, but not at the expense of other major commitments in life. Ministry must never become a hindrance to family (spouse and kids if married; other family members if still single). But also, a healthy volunteer doesn’t spread himself too thin among too many different ministries. It’s tough to be an effective usher and worship team member and teen ministry leader and board member and greeter and sound operator and groundskeeper and kitchen cook and – you get the idea. Help volunteers find a primary (maybe a secondary, too) place to serve and then help them stay focused as they grow.

“Big Picture” Connections
A healthy volunteer understands that her place of service is just one of MANY in the local church. Her role is neither more nor less important than anyone else’s. A healthy volunteer also recognizes the importance of being connected to the church at-large by attending weekend services and being connected in a small group or Bible study. Serving others is important, but we do everyone a disservice if we ask our volunteers to be solely committed to our sub-ministry; all of us need a place where we can connect with the corporate life of the congregation.

Ministry Clarity
A healthy volunteer clearly knows where and how he is being asked to serve. Clarity increases impact and influence. Confusion increases discord and frustration. We must always make sure a volunteer understands our expectations of anyone serving in that specific role. At the same time, our volunteers should know what to expect from us: training, support, prayer, encouragement, growth opportunities.

Ongoing Recruiter
A healthy volunteer knows that the team always needs more members. I can’t think of a setting or ministry where we have too many volunteers! (OK, maybe if we have 12 guitarists on the platform at the same time – but even then, some of them will be rookies who are learning and growing and perhaps shouldn’t be on the platform yet.) Every volunteer should be encouraged and empowered to recruit other people to your specific team AND be on the lookout for folks who would be great additions to OTHER ministry teams in the congregation.

Faithful Giver
A healthy volunteer demonstrates faithfulness through consistency tithes and offerings. Let’s face it: Our healthiest volunteers are the ones who truly understand and support the mission of the local church, and one of the best demonstrations is through the checkbook. We don’t need to be checking the weekly offerings to see if all of our leaders are on the list, but it is important for us to model and encourage a lifestyle of giving.

W.O.R.D.S. Lifestyle
A healthy volunteer is growing in the areas of worship, outreach, relationships, discipleship, and service. This is important because our volunteers are leaders, and our leaders need consistency and balance in living out these biblical principles. We’re not just a “worship” church or an “outreach” church. All of these areas are essential. In our context, we believe people should honor God through worship and stewardship, grow together through relationships and discipleship, and serve others through ministry and outreach. Find ways to incorporate those themes into the sub-ministries of the church, and our volunteers will have a greater understanding and awareness.

Regular Breaks
A healthy volunteer needs to be permitted to take breaks. If a one-time commitment becomes a five-year or life-long commitment, our volunteers will crash and burn. Offering sabbaticals and breaks is crucial for the long-term health of our ministries, but more importantly, it’s crucial for the long-term health of our leaders.

Anyway, just some food for thought!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

'Jericho' makes its return.

"The nightmare is over. Order will be restored."

An interesting promise for an addictingly fascinating show. "Jericho" returned tonight for a short season, thanks to the writers' strike and the original plans to cancel the show after its first season.

Tonight's episode was decent. It did a good job of tying up some plotlines left over from the season finale. Jake and Heather were reunited. A new flag is flying over Jericho. Most of the states west of the Mississippi have united under a new government, which appears to be corrupt.

I'm probably hooked again. Great...

Some new books in the hopper.

OK, so I'm addicted to buying books. And every now and then I actually read the new acquisitions. But here are some new ones that have joined my "to read" stack.

1. Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully Engaged Members of Your Chuch, by Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson

2. Church is a Team Sport: A Championship Strategy for Doing Ministry Together, by Jim Putman

3. Among Empires: American Ascendancy and its Predecessors, by Charles S. Maier

4. Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerced, and Culture, by Taylor Clark

5. How Starbucks Saved My Life, by Michael Gates Gill

6. The Great House of God/Just Like Jesus/When Christ Comes (3-in-1 book), by Max Lucado

Now I just need to start making more time to read...

Hurray for writers.

For those of us longing for the return of such TV shows as The Office or 24 or 30 Rock, this was such good news today.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Magical odometer moment.

This happened a few days ago, but I just finally sync'd my Treo with my computer. Enjoy the wonderful numbers.

My ideal presidential matchup.

Just read that Mitt Romney is dropping out of the GOP race today, leaving John McCain as the clear candidate. Mike Huckabee is still in it, but let's face it, the nomination will go to McCain.

And I'm happy because McCain is one-half of the ideal Dem-GOP race that I'd like to see this fall.

On the other side, I'm pulling for Barack Obama as the Democractic nominee. I believe an Obama-McCain campaign holds the greatest potential for legitimate debate over issues and policy and direction and philosophy. Yes, there would be some mud tossed about -- this IS politics, after all. But if Hillary Clinton wins the Dem nod, then things will just spiral downhill and out of control.

So, we're halfway to my ideal presidential matchup for 2008.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Driving: Great opportunities to connect.

Sometimes it's easy for me to hop in my car and drive places solo. But this morning brought a great reminder that sometimes it's worth the extra effort to bring along a passenger -- or become the passenger! Instead of driving downtown today to feed the homeless, I caught a ride from one of the newer guys in our church. We've had a chance to talk briefly before, but I'd never heard his story of how he became a Christian and all the stuff God had done in his life. So, today's drive proved to be a great time to get to know him better and connect on a deeper level.

Just got done feeding the homeless.

We sent a team of about 30 folks to downtown Sacramento today to feed the homeless and the needy. This is a twice-monthly outreach that targets a specific area where homeless individuals tend to congregate. It was much colder outside today than I had first expected, and it's been raining periodically this morning. So, our crowd wasn't as large as it sometimes is, but we still had several dozen folks who got a hot breakfast, coffee and juice, and could then receive other items to help them... beanies, jackets, clothes, eyeglasses.

This is a healthy ministry at our church for a number of reasons.
1. We have many newer folks who are involved.
2. It gets us outside the walls of our church and into a hands-on ministry.
3. It meets a legitimate need in our community; certainly it doesn't solve the problem of homelessness but it does play a part in keeping people warm and fed.
4. Several of our ministries team up to help; our children's ministry and men's ministry have been particularly active, and our teen ministry leaders are interested in participating, too.

So all around, a good way to start off the weekend!