Friday, December 11, 2009

Life IS a Box of Chocolates

Many of you remember the line from the movie, “Forest Gump.” Forest says to the lady sitting next to him on the bus stop bench, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” As the movie rolls you begin to see what he meant in the statement.

At this time of year I am reminded life IS a box of chocolates, at least for the next few weeks. We get all types of treats from all types of people but some carry a deeper meaning. For years my dear grandmother (“Nanny”) who lived in Ohio, then Texas, sent our family, and a few other families, a box of chocolates. These weren’t just any chocolates; they were some of the best. Esther Price candies of Dayton/Cincinnati, Ohio provides the quality calories someone would want when they choose to stray from healthy eating habits.

Every year I looked forward to arrival of this package and tried to stretch out the treat as long as possible. A few years Nanny died and so did the sending of the candy, temporarily at least. Now through the beauty of on-line ordering the candy keeps coming. This year, like last, I ordered our family a box and when asked to write a message on the note, I wrote, “Love, Nanny.”

Those simple two words covered it well. Nanny loved life and she loved us as her grandchildren and great-children. The box of chocolates communicates life and puts the fun and enjoyment in life.

We just received our box yesterday. The UPS man said I should open it quickly, it looked good. If he only knew how good.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I won’t be the first to comment on the sad story of Tiger Woods’ recent apology and confession of his marital infidelity. Hearing the emerging stories has brought me back to a parade of tragedies I have experienced all too many times in the lives of my ministry teammates and friends. Everything inside me wants to say, “What were you thinking?! You had it all and yet you chose to give it up.”

It is easy to be the judge but the truth is I and anybody else are one bad decision from wrecking our lives. We may feel like there are certain sins we would never commit. This feeling leads to pride and a false sense of security easily overcome by the sin around us.

Yes, Tiger behaved badly but it could have been me, it could be any husband (or a wife, for that matter). Without the wisdom of God, without prayer, without accountability we are doomed to repeat the same acts we so quickly loathe in others.

Once a month I meet with two guys who know me well. No question between us is too personal. I can count on them asking me about the state of my marriage, my family interactions, my spiritual life and more. They are my “safety net.”

Where is God in your life? Who are you when nobody is looking? Who (other than your family) really knows you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


When I was in elementary school I probably believed almost all teachers were mean. My definition of mean came from the belief anytime they made me do something they were indeed being mean.

By the time I reached college I began to understand most teachers were not necessarily mean. There were teachers who enjoyed their role as an educator. My faith in teachers was renewed.

Now, after 30 years of hearing the stories of hundreds, maybe thousands of youth, including my own three children (two of whom are in college and one still in high school) I have come to realize the sad impact of mean teachers. They may be a minority but they are frequently effective in discouraging students and athletes full of hope and potential.

Let’s not limit it to teachers. I have encountered mean coaches, parents, leaders and yes, even youth pastors. I believe people who lead, coach, educate and pastor need to challenge students. We may not always be perceived as nice. It would not be healthy for any of these groups to perform their roles just to keep everybody happy but when it becomes evident they no longer make it a priority to see students love learning and succeed then it is time to take a long vacation, retire or resign.

If I had the time and money I would write a book. I would love to do a study across many different high schools in the United States to somehow measure the destructive impact mean mentors are having in the lives of our youth and begin a proposal for how to overcome our current system which is failing to remove those who exhibit little to no desire to be excellent.

I thank God every day for those who do love youth and genuinely want to be a positive influence in their lives. How great is our God whose love and light wins the day against hate and darkness.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


It’s good to be back. I have been very busy writing for other people and haven’t taken the time lately to write for myself. Time to jump back in . . .

Today I took my daughter to a doctor appointment and while sitting in the waiting room I read an interesting article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, October 20, 2009. The title was “Lies, Damned Lies and Lies to Tell Your Spouse.”

The article was written by Elizabeth Bernstein and begins, “Would I lie to you? It depends. Are we married?” She goes on to mention she is not talking about big lies but rather the little lies serving as a “social salve” and “help a relationship run smoothly.” She goes on to quote one psychologist , Ed Dunkelblau, director of the Institute for Emotionally Intelligent Learning. He said, “If you don’t fib, you don’t live.”

Wow! At first glance I would say of course I wouldn’t “fib to live” but after further thought I’ve had to consider the times in relationships where I chose to NOT say what I really thought. Sometimes we are asked, “How do I look in this?” or “What do you think of so and so?” Can I say, can we say we have always answered these and many more similar questions with complete honesty?

I strive to be a man of integrity in everything I do and say. It’s not always easy. There are temptations but God gives me strength. Am I perfect? No, and in the relational area the struggle is found. It’s not just marriage, it is all relationships.

What is the answer to this? Be brutally and perfectly honest in all situations no matter what the consequence? Where do diplomacy, tact and discernment fit in to the equation?
I have no easy answer for this. The article has really made me aware of the “fibbing to live” philosophy.

I’m going to start by praying for more wisdom when these situations arise. I will trust God who sees the big picture and perfectly knows what is best for us. When I’m wrong I know I will be hearing from Him.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 3, 2009


We are in the first few weeks of the new youth ministry school year. It has been great to welcome back teenagers we haven't seen as much during the summer. We are also welcoming new youth who have been invited by friends.
When new students show most youth pastors ask how they came to attend. I am happy to have them join us no matter what the circumstance but I am even happier when we they come to us not as a member of another youth ministry but simply looking for a place to belong for the first time.

Last night we had a few new students visit who have no other church. It was our monthly "fun night" and the perfect time for our regulars to invite their friends. One of the friends enjoyed herself, asked questions about our purpose and other things we do. At the end of the discussion she said she would like to come and try out more of what we have to offer. She asked, "Is it alright that I don't know much?"

This was another reminder of how "youth groups" or churches can be perceived. To the outside world how many other people are wondering if it is okay to belong to the "club?" I am blessed to be in one of the warmest, welcoming churches I have ever experienced and yet still we hear this question posed in a variety of ways by a variety of people.

Would I say we are being intentionally exclusive? No way. Would I say we need to be intentionally inclusive? You betcha!! I have found I can never say enough, "Your friends are always welcome!" They don't need to have a resume, they don't need to know much or anything about God, church or how to sing song. They are simply invited to come into the "living room" of our lives and ministry, grab a soft drink from the refrigerator and hang out with us for this life and the life to come.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Taking Turns

Last week at this time I was in Dallas, Texas for the Echo Conference focusing on church media. While my primary passion is youth ministry another part of my role is in the area of worship. Inevitably, working in these two areas, I must work with technology and all the various forms of media available.

At this gathering I quickly found myself lost in a sea of creativity and enamored with the possibilities. Throughout the time I had the opportunity to experience various forms of worship and a variety of sights and sounds. Some were exciting, some I could take or leave and others I didn’t like at all. As I observed the tidal wave of technology I suddenly became aware of my biases. Other people seemed to connect with forms I didn’t like and others didn’t connect with those I did.

We all have aesthetic opinions. People who say they don’t have preferences about music styles, colors, lights, textures, etc. are choosing to deny a reality present in each of us. In the life of the church from the professional musician to the person who is tone deaf an opinion can be found. Ask what color the sanctuary should be painted and strap in for the ideas.

The good news of God’s love for us, the message of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are to be clear, truthful and Holy Spirit led. This is not a style issue. It is a content issue. How this message is delivered moves us into the style arena. It is there many choose to camp and argue endlessly. It is an argument resulting in division and leaves no one with a true victory.
God has created all of us and not one of us is alike in the way we learn, perceive and ultimately connect with our Creator. We want all people to walk with God and know the blessing of forgiveness found in Christ.

When my grandma was still living I asked her about her church. She mentioned they had started singing “worship choruses.” I asked her how she felt about this change. In her late 70’s she said something I will never forget, “I had my turn, now it’s the young people’s turn.”

May we allow God to help us see all His people, open our minds to all the possibilities and let His message, through whatever means, give everyone a turn.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Getting Booed in the Upper Deck

Last night we took our youth to a baseball game at Dodger stadium. This has become an annual tradition for us and every year we take kids to a major league baseball game for the first time. Their memory of a first baseball game will associated with us.

Often I choose a game in the middle of the summer, on a convenient night for leaders and one that fits my schedule as well. This year I was a little more intenional choosing a Dodger vs. Colorado Rockies game.

One of our former students, Ryan Spilborghs, plays for the Rockies and gets a fair amount of playing time. Last night he played the entire game, starting in left field. Sitting high in the upper deck I remembered the first I saw him show up for an event as a sixth grader and all the times we played wiffle ball out in the church parking lot. I remember the night he and his buddies came to my house to watch Cal Ripken (one of my baseball heroes) break the record for most consecutive games played. I also remember the night Ryan, joined some other high school guys in surprising me, for my 40th birthday, with seats directly behind home plate at Angel stadium for an Angels vs. Orioles game. Now that guy is actually playing on the field.

With each at-bat our group cheered for Ryan. Many of our youth were too young to remember him when he still lived in Santa Barbara and was a part of our church but they enjoyed the fact he had been one of them.

In the fifth inning Ryan came to bat with the score 0-0. There was one man on base and after a few pitches Ryan belted a home run over the left center field fence! We yelled and screamed while everyone around us glared, told us to sit down and booed. It's not often one enjoys hearing the words "boo" directed at them but on this night we didn't care.

I love visiting our youth doing what they do best. Whether it's a ballet recital, a high school musical, a freshman soccer game, a speech at graduation or a major league baseball game I feel equally proud of them, honored to know them and humbled to care for them as their youth pastor. If I get booed for doing that then bring it on. I'll be glad to bow!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Twenty-five years ago this coming July 1, my wife Nancy and I moved to Santa Barbara. I had grown up on the east coast and she in the midwest. We came to the west to begin my full-time ministry. We didn't know exactly what we would find. What we found was a loving a church and ultimately two families who would become our "family." We began as a Bible study where we prayed and cared for one another. At some point we decided it would be fun to try a little vacation together. We finished the vacation still liking each other so decided this was different and good. Along the way we continued to pray for one another and study the Bible but then saw the benefit of simply "doing life" together. Little did we know how important this would be.

Fast forward to 2006 and eight children now among us. We found ourselves sitting at what would be the final earthly birthday party of Alyssa, daughter of our friends Russell and Allison. In the fall of 2005 she had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and so together as families we faced those days with little hope of recovery. Alyssa had a great 15th birthday party that day surrounded by friends and family. We did a lot of laughing and loving.

On July 4th of that same year Alyssa went to be with God.

Now it is May 28th, 2009 and a day she would have turned 18 in a year she would have been in the high school musical, sung her final high school concert with Madrigals, been awarded honors for accomplishments, graduated high school and looked forward to the dreams of college.

We will celebrate this day without her, we will laugh, we will cry, we will feel the loneliness, we will imagine her at all the great events of her senior year and we will wish it all could have been different. Though I am blessed to have three healthy children in my own immediate family, Alyssa was one of my daughters too. I feel the pain of her departure, I long to know what she would have looked like now, what her career plans might have been or if she still would eat grilled cheese for breakfast.

Even so, I cling to hope. She is in God's eternal care and I am inspired to be sure I never take for granted my life here and now and my life forever with the Lord.

Happy Birthday, Alyssa! Thanks for the happiness you brought to my life. I can only imagine how it was to experience the most amazing of graduations. Someday you will be clapping at my graduation. I'll be looking for you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Every weekday morning I get up early and take a walk with our Dachsund, Laney, in tow. Dachsunds are definitely in the hounddog family. Laney's nose never quits.

I normally go the same route but this morning I decided to follow Laney for the little bit of time she actually wanted to lead. We took off on a different route. When I reached the local park after making the mandatory stops at various bushes and pulling out the handy bag for the deposit that was laid I suddenly heard my name being called. Usually on my walks I encounter the same cast of characters all who say "good morning" but none who would use my name. I guess we're too bleary-eyed to learn names at that hour of the morning.

To actually hear my name, then, was surprising. I looked up and saw the face of a person who went to our church years ago but no longer attends. This person explained they did not normally come to the park at this hour but had experienced the untimely death of a close family member,had come this morning to see the sunrise and spend time with God. The person added that now they realized there was a deeper purpose and asked if I would pray for the situation. We prayed and then I realized they wanted to talk a little more. We looped the park, I expressed my sympathy, commited to pray and we went our separate ways.

Many years ago a magazine was published called "The Wittenburg Door." It was a magazine that challenged one's thinking and poked fun at the non-important stuff of church life. They regularly ran a cartoon called, "Dogs Who Know the Lord." It was their purpose to point out the ways we can assign too much importance to animals.

I don't know what goes through Laney's mind on a day-to-day basis but I do know this morning she led me to somebody in need. Does this mean I will always count on the dog to lead me to a person in need? Probably not, but this is not the first time I have had pastoral visits on dog walks. I guess, in some way, she does know the Lord. He created her too and through the event of early this morning, before my mind was awake, God reminded me it is important to be available and flexible when we live for Him. Walking with God will inevitably create opportunities to care for his people. Am I ready? Are you ready?

Monday, May 11, 2009



I have been blessed to grow up in a healthy family where my mom and dad’s love for each other was growing and extended unconditionally to my sister and I. My parents have been and done for me all a kid could ever want. Still that love and care continues to this day.

Even so, we become greater in our love for God, ourselves and each other through the love and investment of many people in our lives. In addition to my own wonderful mom I gained a second one halfway through my high school years.

I suppose it all began when I “fell in like” with one or more of her daughters and then became good friends with her oldest son. I worked close by and often stopped off to visit before or after work. Out of respect, I hesitantly knocked on their door in the early days but that soon changed when this family of ten didn’t seem to mind having eleven, twelve, thirteen or any number of people be in their house. It was in this house I learned much about hospitality, generosity and values with a lifetime impact.

Mrs. Shorb or “Momma,” as I often called her was always there with a warm welcome and a big hug. She told me to make myself at home and then went about with her business. When nobody else was around or others were busy I would often stand in the kitchen and talk with her. She cared about me as if I was one of her own. It took me awhile to grasp how she could do that with so many other kids and responsibilities but yet her big heart and love for God reached out to me.

One of my funny memories with her happened at a time where my own family was away for a few days and the Shorbs graciously invited me to stay at their house for a few nights. After work one night I came back to their house. Everybody else had eaten but of course she offered the opportunity to eat. I cleaned up, came back to the table and saw a steaming plate full of good food. I saw the steak and I was celebrating. What a treat! After one bite I realized this steak was actually liver! Though I was a bit disappointed it was likely the best liver I’ve tasted and that’s saying a lot because I’ve never eaten it since.

I went away to college, got married, went to seminary then moved to California. This year I will have finished my thirtieth year as a youth pastor. Though I’ve only seen “momma” on a few occasions since those early days her impact on my life has continued. Her determined spirit, her compassionate heart, her boundless generosity and her love for me were investments no recession could ever diminish. My eternal investment in hundreds, maybe thousands, of youth, including my own family, is fueled by a Godly woman who dared to love and care for yet one more person in her life.

This last week she died. She finished the race well and I plan to do the same. I’ll look forward to the hug at the finish line.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Power of Presence

I've decided some people make ministry too complicated. It wasn't meant to be. John 1 describes how God came to live among us and show His love through His presence on earth. This presence made all the difference in our world through Christ's death and resurrection. He became one of us.

I'm not against education. I have an undergraduate and graduate degree. I'm not against continuing education. I've been to a bazillion seminars, read tons of books/articles/blogs and listened to lots of podcasts. Sooner or later they all bring us back to the pastor's role in being present in someone's life as the most powerful way to share the love of Christ.

I spend a lot of time recruiting people for youth ministry and often there is a reluctance because it is assumed they must be "up front" or play a guitar or be young or be funny or they don't have time to come Wednesday night or . . . you know what I mean. Yet Christ's call is for us to be present in the lives of teenagers and walk with them. It is as simple and challenging as that.

FRONTLINE YOUTH is here to show teenagers "God is where we live." I'm looking for more youth "pastors" to join me in this walk. Who is ready to be present?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Proud Dad

Two weeks ago our family had the opportunity to go visit our oldest daughter at Seattle Pacific University. Other than dropping her off at school for her freshman year we had not had the chance to explore the city. We blocked out 6 days and enjoyed discovering the sights and character of this unique city.

As fun as that was it was even more fun spending time with your daughter, Kelly, reuniting with her friends, meeting new friends and catching up with former youth ministry students. Several students from the Santa Barbara ministry settled in Seattle. In addition we met up with a former youth ministry student from my seminary days as a youth pastor. Sitting at lunches, dinners, breakfasts and coffees with these people was rewarding for Nancy and I. These are people I knew as Jr. Highers, now married with children who include a PhD college professor, a college/young adult pastor, administrative assistant in a local ministry, food service specialist with a non-profit helping homeless get on their feet in the job market and senior citizen pastor in the Seattle downtown mission. This is just the beginning of what they are now doing to serve Christ in their world.

Anybody in youth ministry for awhile would know how it feels to be around long enough to see your kids grow and serve God. Anybody in youth ministry would know you do feel like a proud parent in these situations. Anybody in youth ministry for awhile would also know with these "success" stories come the stories of pain and those who are lost. I still love these kids too. I will keep praying for all my youth and be ready to welcome them "home" at any time.

My verse for today? Proverbs 27:23, "Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Island Fever

Sometime late last week I felt restless. In hindsight maybe I really was "rest - less!!" I have had a full schedule over the past weeks filled with the good things about being a youth pastor yet there may have been too many of those things and so I longed for a little "unplug" time.

This feeling came even stronger when I found out one of our staff was taking off with her husband to Puerto Rico for the week. Suddenly all those memories of flying into Puerto Rico on my way to Antigua, West Indies (where I was helping to establish a church) came back. While I have always wanted to visit Puerto Rico I found myself ready to get on the next available plane to the country I visited for four straight years so I could greet the church, reunite with my island friends and chill on a white sandy beach with clear blue water.

Since then I have been thinking about it everyday, for at least a few moments! What does all this tell me?

1)It is time for a break - Good timing. This Saturday I leave with my wife and daughter to go visit our oldest daughter in Seattle for six days. Sun, a white sand beach and warm water are not in the forecast but God's beauty will still be there. More importantly I will be unplugged with my family.

2) I'm attracted to the slow life - Life on Antigua is slow, sometimes to the point of frustration. Why is it frustrating? I'm too accustomed to the fast pace. I think I want to slow down and then I have a hard time adjusting when the opportunity arises. Nonetheless, I am still drawn to it.

I'm not the first to say that ministry is not a sprint. It is a marathon. I pray daily for wisdom to use my days wisely. Wisdom challenges me to take regular breaks, whether it is a consistent day off or use all my vacation days. These times of rest give me strength to keep going and finish well.

Ministry could not have been meant to be this busy. Some would argue Jesus worked long hours. How do we prove that on a consistent basis? I also observe he took time off, not to mention he spent the first year and a half of his three active ministry years preparing his disciples.

I may not get to the island soon but I will go there often "in my mind" as a reminder to rest in God.

Friday, March 13, 2009

General Thoughts

A few things I'm happy about:
*Today I'm happy about a day off, it has been a full week
*My work with Young Life Committee. I'm meeting some great new people and getting a feel for where I can most contribute.
*My daughter Kelly. I have been helping her edit papers for college and she is a wonderful thinker who challenges me in a good way.
*Going to a Youth Specialties One Day seminar on teaching the Bible. These are great times of encouragement and I love being with our leaders.

A few things challenging me:
*I have a lot of writing assignments due in the next week or so.
*Finding times to "unplug." My mind is going a thousand miles a minute with some good stuff but I would like to "turn it off" at times.
*The thought of a possible salary cut due to the recession.

A book I'm reading: A biography on John Quincy Adams. I am reading biographies of all the presidents in chronological order. It is interesting to read about their lives and their leadership styles.

Friday, March 6, 2009


A few times a year, as a youth pastor, I am required to go join a bunch of other lead pastors, associate pastors, youth pastors, worship pastors and every other kind of imaginable pastor for some of time interacting, training, praying and being encouraged. These days away never seem to come at good times BUT when I'm there I am thankful. Why? Days away from family, a back log of work, people who need to be visited and more hardly ever sounds appealing. Getting together with all these teammates puts it all back into perspective.

I was born into a connectional denomination. Translation: We do a lot of things together we could not do individually. Our connection brings additional resources. Interacting offers challenging ideas and new directions. Being trained together adds encouragement and sense of purpose in Christ.

I come home (I came home yesterday) honored to be a pastor of youth and more committed to excellence in my work and faithfulness to the Lord.

I like belonging to the Free Methodist Church of Southern California. We're not the only good thing happening in the kingdom of God but I'm happy to be on this team.

Want to know more? Check out

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Categories

To at least keep me weekly on this blog it's time for a new strategy. In the tradition of FACEBOOK categories and other stuff I have seen blogger friends do I will offer my own short-list categories:

A few things I'm happy about:
*Kicked off a great two week series on HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS with our Jr. High and High School students
*Parents who loved the UNDERSTANDING YOUR TEENAGER seminar to which I referred them.
*All the good books I have yet to read
*My oldest daughter will be studying in Uganda next fall.
*Being connected with a great Free Methodist ministry called Eden Reforestation Projects. Check it out at

A few things challenging me
*Working on a book proposal for Youth Specialties. Carving out the time easier said than done.
*High school guys who need followup and extra care
*Financial strain of this economy, the impact on our ministry, our families and me.

One thing God taught me: Keep walking with Him. I'm always wanting Him to walk with me.

A book I'm reading: SURPRISED BY HOPE, N.T.Wright. What a great book to read leading up to Easter. Review to come.

Music I'm liking: RED's newest CD. Great, hard-charging music with a little screamo mixed in. These guys are Christian and doing well on the Billboard charts too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Camp Turnaround

Well . . . it was bound to happen! When you go to Winter Camp year after year sooner or later snow is going to be a problem. In my 25 years of being a youth pastor in Santa Barbara we have never missed a camp due to snow . . . until now. All week Southern California was facing a blitz of weather events. By Thursday before camp the roads to BIG BEAR mountain were clear. Friday morning the cold rain moved into Santa Barbara. I knew where it was heading . . . east and directly toward the mountains where it would turn to white stuff.

With a four day camp I chose to not leave until late afternoon so our adult leaders would only take one day off work. Leaving then would not put us at Pine Summit Conference Center until at least 10pm under the best of circumstances. When we left at 5pm the roads to BIG BEAR were clear and passable. By the time we got to Pasadena, 2 1/2 hours into the trip, we heard reports that chains were now required. We kept going with the hope the roads might be good by the time we arrived at the foot of the mountain. Finally we reached the decision point and the warning sign flashed, "Chains required in all mountain areas." Facing a 41 mile journey, 4 hour trip, with chains on a charter bus full of students on a cold, wind-swept night up two lane mountain roads forced a decision I didn't want to make but knew best to make: turn around.

Thankfully God had given me the wisdom earlier in the week to start preparing youth and parents of this possibility. When the possibility became a reality their response was as good as you could expect.

This one stop (at a McDonald's where I spent $89 on McFlurries and fries) 8 hour bus trip turned into a memory we will all remember for some time to come. It ended with our arrival in Santa Barbara at 1:45am and a sleepover on the church floor.

By 9:30am all youth had been safely deposited with their parents and I went home. I felt displaced and tired most of the weekend. For a few seconds I wondered about my decision. After all, many of the other 300 campers made it up there on Saturday around noon. I felt sad for our youth, our leaders and I knowing we were missing a great experience with God in His creation with His people but I also was affirmed many times by many people on a safe decision.

Later in the weekend God further affirmed the decision when another big storm came through closing the roads to BIG BEAR before camp had even ended. Even if we had gone Saturday we would have departed again on Sunday, just 24 hours later.

Just as God provided wisdom and safety I know He will provide another opportunity for coming together in His time. This ministry belongs to God!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I just turned 50 on January 29th and I have to admit it was fun. Whatever I thought 50 would feel like . . . well . . . it doesn't! I am just amazed I have been alive for 50 years. There have been a lot of changes in the world during that time. Anyway, I'm not going to get sentimental.

My birthday celebration began when our church surprised me during worship with a brand new guitar. Didn't see that coming! Then Nancy surprised me by inviting my parents and sister from D.C.. I also got an extra day off on the deal.
On the actual day my three children and wife surprised me a list of 50 things they love about me. I won't bore you with them all but here are a few:

*His love for crabs - eating them

*His love of M&Ms

*His desire to live to 100

*His facebook status

*His love of "Hockey pucks" and "Pineapple whips" at Disneyland

*His genuine laughter

*His love of cream-filled doughnuts and Suzy Qs

*His uncanny ability to dust off his trumpet and play Christmas carols annually with no practice all year

*He loves his wife and children

I feel loved!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Words or Actions

I just finished another book today called "Silence." The author is Shusaku Endo and it follows the fictionalized life of a 17th century Portugese priest in Japan during the great persecution of Christians across the country. Endo, of course, based his writing on actual history and so it is easy to read this book believing you are reading actual events.

Initially the plotline of this book may also sound a little slow. I found it to be anything but that.

If you are looking for an inspirational, pick-me-up, feel-good book choose something else. If you are looking for a book to challenge you in how you live your faith, welcome! One of the central questions at the core of Endo's writing might be posed as, "Is it more important to share our faith through words or actions?" You may have answered this question on other occasions but I guarantee you will moved to look at the issue in a different light by the time this reading is finished.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hot and Cold

Over these last days we have had the kind of weather people think we have all the time in Southern Califoria. While most of the country was thinking about ice tonight I was sitting OUTSIDE Starbucks with some high school students in my shorts and t-shirt. These are the moments where I get to "gloat" and so I admit to enjoying it.
I have lived here so long many forget I spent the first half of my life living in Pennsylvania (near Lake Erie no less!), Maryland, Illinois and Kentucky. I remember snow drifts, icesickles and freezing cold and . . . I don't miss it.

Some would say they love the seasons. I get that. I do miss the colors of fall. I do miss the emerging of spring but to be honest I would be happy with a wardrobe of board shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops year round.

I would love to have days like this everyday but even in Southern California we get rain (thankfully!). We occasionally have some "cold" and in late May, all of June we get invaded by fog for most of the day. Earthquakes, fires and droughts are a part of our profile as well.

There is no perfect place on earth. As a Christian my eternity with God has already begun. I'm okay with this place for now. I can only imagine what is to come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Good Read

I love being around college students. In their classes they are often referred to books or ideas that run under the mainstream radar. Having two college students in our own house gives us opportunity to hear about the newest resources.
Our son recently came home from Gordon College and brought us the little book, "The Illumined Heart," by Frederica Mathewes-Green. The book really is small at only 102 pages but she hits hard in asking and answering the question, "Why are modern Christians so indistinguishable from everyone else?" In addition, she offers many other questions in dealing with the topics of prayer, fasting, repentance, relationships with others and comparing our faith to that of the early Christians.

In this frantic Western culture I find myself often perplexed on how to apply the disciplines of a vibrant faith into my everyday life. It is easy to say "that was then and this is now." Mathewes-Green proposes there is no difference when "we no longer live but Christ lives in us." It's more about me walking with Christ than He walking with me.

Monday, January 5, 2009

When We Were Happy

It's a new year and I am resolved to picking up the blogging pace a little bit. It's been a once a week (if that) kind of thing. I am going to try twice a week and see how that works!

I had last week off for work so our family took a day and went to Disneyland. As our kids get older the times of just the five of us are inching toward a close. Nancy and I treasure each time we can take our children away and just hang out together.

We had a great day there. We never feel too old to be at the "Happiest Place on Earth."

Spending this day with the people I love the most is always a reminder to appreciate the present and leave room for rest and fun with my family (and the many other people who surround me). Happy days like that carry me through the more challenging days in the real world of pain, bills, deadlines and separation. They remind me of the eternal happiness to come.

Living in Christ will lead me to more "happy places" and "happy moments." I will be looking for a lot of those this year.