Tuesday, December 18, 2007

CHRISTMAS SOUNDTRACK.

I thought I would share with you the three discs that I appreciate most during the Christmas season. Here they are:

1. The Jackson 5 Christmas Album, Jackson 5. This album was the soundtrack of every Christmas of my childhood. Christmas officially began when we got our tree home, set it up in our living room, and started hanging the plethora of Christmas ornaments from my mom's bountiful collection to the sounds of the Jackson 5 singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." This is actually a really good Christmas album, and the arrangements and vocals are really well done.

2. Acoustic Christmas, Brian E. This is an album that I happened upon by chance. My buddy Dan was going to a church where one of the guys who plays on this album attended, and they were selling these at the church. This isn't available on iTunes or Amazon or anything like that, but the music is beautiful - the arrangements are rich with violin, acoustic guitar, piano, and vocal textures, and the song "You Became Nothing" has become one of my favorite Christmas songs.

3. Christmas Songs, Jars of Clay. I just came upon this disc in the last week (I'm listening to it right now), and I've listened to it over and over again. It is definitely not your "normal" Christmas album. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is in a minor key, and all of the songs employ some very unique and eclectic instrumentation and production. But I've fallen in love with it. It paints a beautiful picture of the Christmas season in sound that is sublime, humble, and full of wonder and thankfulness.

See you soon.

Monday, December 17, 2007

WOW - PT. IV

I came across a Christianitytoday.com blog posting that noticed in a NY Times article that the Penthouse Media Group just purchased a corporation called Various Incorporated, which runs a variety of social networking sites. One of those sites is bigchurch.com, a Christian dating site that is "bringing people together in love and faith." Wow.

[I'm not saying anything about couples who met on the internet. My wife and I met a really nice couple who met online this last weekend. But this story seems pretty ridonkulous.]

Sunday, December 16, 2007

THE PASSING OF THE TORCH.

[This post is a long time in coming, but I wanted it to be known.]

When I got my permit, my parents let me drive them around in our automatic 4runner. The week after I turned 16, I went to the Pleasanton DMV to get my driver's license. When my dad got home, he handed me the keys to what would be my car for the next 6 years of my life - a silver 1992 Ford Escort that he had driven off the lot brand-new - with a manual transmission. After I informed my dad that I didn't really know how to drive a stick, he took my out for a lesson or two, and then I was left to sweat over getting the car rolling and stopping on hills.

I drove that car everywhere - to school every day, through blistering heat (with the windows down because of the absent air conditioning), through snow, to Davis and back countless times, to Southern California and back numerous times. I drove it on camping trips, I drove it to Yosemite, I drove it to Lake Alpine. I drove it in the wee hours of the morning, and across silent streets on many dark nights. It heard many a prayer, many tearful sobs, many loud and boisterous conversations as it carried my friends and I anywhere and everywhere. The car was a part of me.

This last August, I was blessed to be the recipient of a new car - the first "new" car my family had purchased since 1996. The new car was [and is] a blast to drive, but I knew that a familiar and treasured chapter of my life was to come to a close at last.

One of my favorite movies growing up [and still one of my all-time favorites] was Herbie the Love Bug. The movie had a special affinity for me because my dad raced Volkswagen bugs on dirt tracks around California, and I would sit in my dad's bug and pretend that I was racing in Herbie. But what I loved most about the story was the gratefulness that the main character felt for Herbie - a car that was more than a car.

My car got 35 miles to the gallon, and in all the years that I drove it, it never pooped out on my or overheated. But beyond the mechanics, it was more to me than a chunk of metal - it was a gift from GOD, and it's trustworthiness and dependability was a reminder to me of the surety of GOD's providence. What a joy it is when creation is redeemed in the little things of life, to do what they are created to do: a sturdy pair of shoes, a good walking stick, a worn hammer, a tattered hat, a jacket passed down from father to son. Then these things are no longer a piece of cloth, metal, or wood, but a whisper in our ears from GOD himself - "I'm watching over you. I'm with you. This is my creation doing what it was supposed to do."

Thanks for the ride, Jesus - every good and perfect gift comes from you. See you soon.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

THE GOLDEN COMPASS.


Over the past few weeks, I've been hearing a lot about the movie The Golden Compass, a movie that is based on the first of a series of books by Phillip Pullman. There has been a lot of controversy about the movie in the Christian community because although this movie doesn't really deal with it, Pullman's later books espouse his antagonistic views of what he perceives as the oppressive and power-hungry nature of the Christian Church and the delusion of Yahweh being the creator-god of the universe. I've been told that it is really imaginative and clever fantasy writing, but as his atheistic views become more and more prevalent in the development of the story, the story loses its luster and beauty.

I got that observation, and a lot of other helpful ones, from a christianitytoday.com article that came into my email inbox today. I found it to be a balanced, loving, and truthful piece on how we as Christians should be thinking about this movie and the ideas that it presents. Here's a quote I liked:
"Essentially, don't behave in ways that the Magisterium [Pullman's straw-man, negative representation of the Church] in Pullman's books would behave. You'll just make his stories more persuasive, by confirming for the culture around us that Christians only really get excited when they're condemning something. Instead, respond with grace and love. And truth."
See you soon.

Fear Not The Compass

Monday, November 26, 2007

EVERLASTING GOD.

I learned this song a few weeks ago, and I can't get it out of my head - I love it. Here's a clip of the songwriter, Brenton Brown, talking a little about it and teaching you how to play it. See you soon.



Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord

Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer

You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary
You're the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles
(Everlasting God, Brenton Brown)

BÜX: PRAYER: FINDING THE HEART'S TRUE HOME

I just finished up this book tonight. In short, this book is the Celebration of Discipline of prayer. I've read a lot of his work, including the aforementioned Celebration of Discipline and The Freedom of Simplicity, and I just picked up his book Money, Sex, and Power: The Challenge of the Disciplined Life from the thrift store over Thanksgiving break - awesome!

As I've read his work, I've been deeply moved and convicted by the compassionate warmth of his writings, as well as his ability to deal with his subjects comprehensively and compellingly, while maintaining a prophetic edge that makes you uncomfortable, but in a way that draws you closer into life with God. My experience with this book was no different - he dealt with the subject of prayer from a variety of angles, organizing them intuitively and sprinkling them personal anecdotes that both convict and comfort. Looking back on the book's scope in the final chapter, Foster reveals his thesis for the book:
We saw some of the ways God's loving friendship draws us inward into the transformation we need: changing us, molding us, forming us. We were invited upward into the intimacy we need: adoring God, resting in God, listening to God. We heard the call outward into the ministry we need: healing the sick, suffering with the broken, interceding for the world. (p. 255)
If your prayer life feels shallow, meaningless, or devoid of life, as mine often does, I'd recommend this book to you; I hope the joy that Foster reveals in the privilege that we each have to come confidently before God in prayer will put a smile on your face and breathe life into your prayer life. If you've read this book, let me know what you thought in the comments. See you soon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

HONEYMOON PICTURES UP.

I uploaded the pictures from our honeymoon to my Picasa page. Check 'em out. See you soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

WOW - PT. III.

Saudi Prince Buying "Flying Palace" Jet

Reading through the news this morning, I came across an article that reveals that Prince Alaweed bin Tabal of Saudi Arabia is purchasing an Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger plane just recently unveiled. It holds 853 passengers in an economy setting, but the prince is having the seats stripped to customize it according to his desires, which may include a movie theater and a gym. The price of with plane, with customization, could be close to half a billion dollars. Here's a quote from the article:
"'It's like buying a new car or a new TV,' Velupillai told The Associated Press. 'One wants something bigger and better.'"
The prince is already the only private owner of a Boeing 747, the "world's most spacious plane" prior to the A380. Wow. May we be weary of the grip that the love of money can have on our lives, and see the opportunity and call upon each of us to give with reckless compassion to those who have nothing. See you soon.

Monday, October 29, 2007

WOW - PT. II.

Britney's Mom to Write Parenting Book

Out of curiosity, I clicked through to Britney's website, which is currently just a picture of her covering herself with white gloves. Oh, how sad. One thing I did notice in this article is that this book is going to be published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing house. See you soon.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

BÜX: THE YOUNGER EVANGELICALS.


Over the past few years, I've become more educated on what is being called the "emerging" Church. I want to say off the bat that I'm woefully ignorant of what is really going on in "emerging" churches around the world, but from what I have read in a few books and experienced through conversations with good friends and visiting churches that label themselves as emerging (like my buddy Trevor's church, Risen), I have found myself drawn to the honesty, authenticity, and commitment to living and loving in the way of Jesus exhibited in them. A few years ago, I read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, and although I really appreciated his honesty, transparency, and his heart for the purity and mission of the church in the world, his bitter criticism made it hard for me to take him seriously. In contrast, I found Robert Webber's The Younger Evangelicals to be a winsome and hopeful picture of how the Holy Spirit is moving across continents and denominations to call the Church to a renewal of heart in our world.

To avoid butchering Webber's analysis of how "The Younger Evangelicals" are making their own unique contribution to Christ's Church, I'll let him speak for himself:
"...the leadership of the younger evangelical will be distinctly different than that of the twentieth-century evangelical. It will be biblically informed by the Missio Dei to rescue the entire created order; it will be theological, rooted in the trinitarian and christological consciousness of the ancient creed; it will be spiritual, reflecting the purposes of God to restore the fullness of his image in us and to bring all creation to its redemption and reconciliation to God; and it will be conscious in its action in and to the world of the new cultural situation in which we live, taking into consideration the new realities of the twenty-first century." (p. 243)
If that was a bunch of gibberish for you, then ignore this post. But if you know a few of those longer words, you'll see that Webber has the ability and the desire to portray clearly how younger evangelicals are different from the predecessors, including Pragmatic and Traditional evangelicals, which he sucessfully does in a way that both encourages and challenges.

If you've got a little time and you want to have a better understanding of some of the hopeful and exciting strands that are emerging in the evangelical church, I found Webber's work to be academic but approachable. He incorporates a lot of interviews with "younger evangelicals," he looks at a few examples of churches which exemplify his findings, and there's even an essay by Rob Bell on preaching inside. His words on the value of the arts in the emerging church has struck a chord in me, being a musician, and having read his overview of the world of the "younger evangelicals," I feel more hopeful and expectant of the amazing work that God is continuing to do in our radically broken world through us, his people. See you soon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

BACK FROM THE SOUTH.

Monica and I are back from San Diego - we had a great time hanging out at the Youth Specialties conference. Some highlights:
  • Running through the Halo 3 campaign with Danny
  • Hearing an awesome message from Francis Chan
  • Watching TJ's soccer game with the Berry family
  • Going to a bunch of sweet seminars, and spending time being encouraged by people I love
The conference was a welcome rest, and Monica and I come back excited for new things and getting settled into our new home. I'll be posting about some of my learnings over the next week or two. See you soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

THE FIRST SUPPER.

We haven't gotten around to picking up a kitchen table yet, so we've been eating off of our desk. Actually, since this picture was taken, we've plopped this in our office and now we're eating off of our coffee table. We've heading to San Diego for the National Youthworker's Convention this weekend - we're looking forward to an awesome time of hanging out with friends (we're staying with Dan and Brian, and hanging out with a gang of other folks), spending time together as newlyweds, and being equipped and encouraged to faithful to our calling to youth ministry. See you soon.

Monday, October 15, 2007

BÜX: BEYOND BUMPER STICKER ETHICS


One of the books that I had a chance to finish off while Monica and I were down in Carmel was Beyond Bumper Sticker Ethics, by Steve Wilkens. I found it in my office, and it seemed like it would be an interesting read. Wilkens is a professor of religion and philosophy at Azusa Pacific University (Peter is taking a class from him right now), and I think that this book is probably what is used as the textbook for his Ethics class. Wilkens defines ethics as "the process of how we work through moral issues." I find this issue to be extremely significant, because it answers the question, "What do we as Christians do?" For those of us committed to living out our faith in Jesus today, the issue of how we decide upon the actions we choose is incredibly significant, and so I was really excited to be challenged and stimulated in my own journey towards developing a better foundation for the way that I make decisions in the Way of Jesus.

I really enjoyed the book - Wilkens writes in a way that is academic and thorough, but very readable. The format of the book centers around a series of what he calls "Bumper Stickers": short little catchphrases that he uses as jumping-off points to examine different ethical systems. He uses the phrase, "When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do" to describe and critique the ethical system of Cultural Relativism, and "All You Need is Love" to describe Virtue Ethics. He gives a summary of each ethical system, describes the positive elements, and then offers some critiques of each.

Wilkens does not conclude this book with a cut-and-dried description of a comprehensive Christian ethical system - I see the wisdom in this, because the truth is that the convictions that govern our actions cannot be neatly wrapped up and applied in every situation. But Wilkens does say that the point is not necessarily to come to a finite end at which all ethical decisions will solve themselves, but to strive with compassion, wisdom, and truth to do that which brings Glory to GOD, whether it's deciding whether or not it's OK to download TV episodes off of YouTube or giving money to a homeless man who might use it to buy a sandwich or buy drugs. Wilkens says it this way: "Truthfulness, goodness and rightness need to characterize not only our conclusions but also the means by which we get to our conclusions." I came away from this book with a better understanding of how to think critically about how I make decisions, but also with a heart to pursue GOD's heart for my hands, my feet, and my money, and to place my trust in the Holy Spirit to guide me and the grace of GOD to cover me as I make decisions as a steward, a friend, a husband, a pastor, a giver, and a Child of GOD.
May you and I be the hands and feet of Jesus with greater wisdom, discernment, compassion, love, and truth tomorrow than we were today. See you soon.
Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

PSALM 130.

I'm almost done with Foster's Prayer, which talks about the beauty of praying and singing the Psalms. I was blessed enough to find it in the thrift store - I'm not quite finished yet, but I am moved again by his great warmth, the depth of his passion and devotion, and the eloquent simplicity with which he deals with his subject. This morning as I was reading the scripture, I read through Psalm 130. I was struck by how lyrical it was, so I was moved to put it to some music.

So through the techno-wizardry of my wife's brand new MacBook, I recorded this setting of Psalm 130 on GarageBand, converted it to mp3, and posted it on my church's website. This is a rough cut - you can hear the metronome in the background, but I was so excited about it I wanted to put it up. I'll replace it with a more final cut later. I hope you're blessed by the singing of GOD's word. See you soon. The link below leads to the final cut.


1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;

2 O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?

4 But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.

6 My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.

8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

THE BEGINNING AND THE END.


It's official - I'm (we're) hitched. Our wedding was amazing - there was a sense of holy expectancy in the air as GOD brought about a miracle between us that was so beautiful and joyous. It rained during the exact time of our ceremony, but numerous people told us that rain on your wedding day is a good omen. Whether this is true or simply meant to make us feel better was irrelevant - the rain made it all the more intimate and significant. As we stood before our family and friends, our thought and hope is that that was a little slice of what heaven would be like - filled with joy, surrounded by dear family, treasured and invaluable friends, trusted and beloved fellow travelers walking beside us on the journey of faith. We are blessed to be so dearly loved and supported by so many, and to share with you, if not the joy of our wedding day, the surpassing joy of our lives lived for GOD's glory.

We spent a week in Carmel, came back for my brother-from-another-mother Dan's wedding, and then headed off for a week in Kauai. We're silly blessed, and we had an awesome time. I'll be posting up the pictures to my Picasa page, which I mentioned in the last post. I'll put a link on the sidebar, and I'll let you know when they're up. I also had the chance to chew on a few good books - I'll post some of my thoughts later. See you soon!
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

MY PEACE I GIVE TO YOU.

This month has flown by - getting ministry responsibilities in perspective, moving into a new place, and getting married in two days has occupied most of my waking thoughts. Monica and I both use the same word to describe it - surreal. I don't have the mental tools to process just how profoundly my life has been and is changing, but it is exhilirating to begin to see the curtain rising on what Charles Spurgeon called, "my lifework."

I pray that GOD would make me worthy of the responsibilites that he has entrusted to me, and that I will not just "grow old," but grow up into the man that GOD desires me to be. I've taken some good shots over the past month with stories to go with them, but I left my camera in my buddy's car after my bachelor hangout day. Look forward to some sweet honeymoon shots as well. See you soon.

[ My Pictures on Picasaweb ]

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Monday, August 27, 2007

UNDEFILED WORSHIP.

Yesterday, my pastor continued a series of sermons talking about the foundations of our church's ministry, and as he was discussing the different facets of the ministry of our church he made it a point to say that the church is not a building or a location, but it is God's people.

This afternoon, while I was reading through The Letters of James and Peter in The Daily Bible Study Series by William Barclay, his comment on James 1:26-27 really struck me:
"All through history men have tried to make ritual and liturgy a substitute for sacrifice and service. They have made religion splendid within the Church at the expense of neglecting it outside the Church. This is by no means to say that it is wrong to seek to offer the noblest and the most splendid worship within God's house; but it is to say that all such worship is empty and idle unless it sends a man out to love God by loving his fellow-men and to walk more purely in the tempting ways of the world." (p. 61-62, emphasis mine)
This is truth - I need to remember that "worship" extends beyond the corporate singing that we do on a Sunday morning, reaching into all of our time and all of who we are to being passionate for purity and justice in our lives and in the world that we live. These are the pursuits that James describes as "undefiled worship," and it is these things that are at the heart of you and me being the church today. See you soon.

"This is pure and undefiled worship, as God the Father sees it, to visit orphans and the widows, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27, Barclay's translation)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

ON THE ROAD.

I was driving home two nights ago through Niles Canyon, and just after passing through Sunol and I came to a construction zone where a dude with a stop sign was stopping all the cars going in my direction. After a few minutes, a few cars passed by coming the other direction, and then a truck pulled out in front of us to guide us through the construction zone. Apparently, they had installed a rumble strip in the middle of the highway, but other than that I didn't really see any construction, and didn't see a reason as to why they had closed down the road to one lane. But after we had been driving a while, we passed a Caltrans truck, and I saw what all the hoopla was about.

The truck was driving along slowly, and there was a dude hanging off the back with a glue gun, squirting little puddles of glue periodically onto the rumble strip. And here's what blew me away - there were two other construction workers following the truck putting reflective dots into the puddles of glue in go-carts! I felt like I think I would feel if I got to look into Santa's workshop and see the elves putting all the toys together. That made me smile on the way home. See you soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WOW.

I'm getting married a month from yesterday. WOOHOO!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

NEED TO KNOW.

This past week, I was studying Luke 12 in preparation for a message. One of the things that is really helpful for me is reading other people's thoughts on the scriptures, as these often help me to understand the meaning of GOD's word more clearly. One of the resources that I often use is bible.org, which has a wealth of studies and Godly wisdom covering a lot of the bible and other topics.

I was reading this article by Bob Deffinbaugh, and I came across a quote that I thought was very powerful. He was talking about the teaching methods of Jesus, and he said this:
"Good teaching does not tell others all that we know, but it conveys to them a few things that they desperately need to know."
For me, this is a hard principle to follow, because I like to pack all that I can into everything that I say, but I think that this statement illuminates one of the most effective and powerful elements of Jesus' teaching. When he spoke, he spoke relatively briefly and in simple language, but with a wealth of meaning and nuance that we are still in awe of 2,000 years later. He told simple stories of fishermen, mustard seeds, servants and their masters, and good neighbors to communicate GOD's eternal truth.

I think the question for me is this: What is it that we desperately need to know? And how can I say it? Jesus, I pray you would teach me to teach, and to communicate your truth in a way that people will know in their hearts the things you desperately want them to know. See you soon.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

BÜX: SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP.

This last week at Silver Spur, I finished reading Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. My pastor gave this to me a few weeks ago, and I really appreciated it's wealth of Godly insight on what it means to be a "leader" in God's church. It wasn't written in a particularly flashy style, but it's emphasis on biblical interpretation for the foundation of his leadership principles was nails, and he covered a wealth of topics in a straightforward manner that I really appreciated. He also drew on a lot of biographical examples (complete with citations), which has whetted my appetite to read the biographies of some of the great men of GOD that he mentioned. Some quotes I appreciated:

"True leaders know that time spent listening is well invested."

"Time cannot be hoarded, only spent well."

"The strength for moral character is preserved by refusing the unimportant."

"To succeed in getting things done through others is the highest type of leadership."

"Indeed, no man, however capable and devoted, is indispensible to the work of leadership."

"To tell a man he is called to be a leader is the best way of ensuring his spiritual ruin... The church needs saints and servants, not 'leaders,' and if we forget the priority of service, the entire idea of leadership training becomes dangerous."


Powerful and Godly words. Other things I'm reading:

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Ronald Sider (I found this for 99 cents in the used section of a Christian bookstore)
Beyond Bumper Sticker Ethics, Steve Wilkens (I've really enjoyed this book)
Abide in Christ, Andrew Murray
Boomsday, Christopher Buckley

See you soon.

Monday, July 30, 2007

JULY IN PICTURES.

Jose and I at Silver Spur

Student Ministries

The Critchfield Men at Lake Alpine

Jenna's Wedding

Carpetballin' at Junior High Camp

What a joy it has been. See you soon.

ON THE GO.

Sorry for the blog silence - this last month has been crazy busy, but so good. The rundown:

- 2 weeks at Silver Spur Conference Grounds
- 2 weddings in Southern California
- over 2000 miles driven
- A day camping with the family at Lake Alpine
- A day of fireworks at Rio Del Mar beach

After having my arm hanging out of my window for countless driving hours, my left arm is blackened in comparison to my right. But now I'm back at home to settle in to do some solid work and get ready for the rest of my life. More to come - thanks to Jesus. See you soon.

Monday, July 02, 2007

FLIX - RATATOUILLE.

Last night, I saw my first movie in Vallejo - Ratatouille. As it came out on my birthday, I felt a special connection to it and I wasn't disappointed. I love Pixar movies for being unbelievably creative, winsome, and beautifully rendered, and this story wasn't an exception. I continue to be amazed by the vibrancy and freshness of the stories that they tell, and the interaction between the three main characters was very well done.

Some people I talked to couldn't get over the thought of kitchens and rats going together, but after living in a fraternity house for three years, it not such a big deal for me. (Just kidding, it was clean.) Though I'd prefer a grilled cheese sandwich at Country Way over some fancy-schmancy french thingy, this movie compelled me to move beyond my daily dinner staple of wheat pasta with red sauce to explore to joyous suprises of cooking stuff that tastes good. See you soon.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

MOVING ON.


On Tuesday, June 12th at 5:30 PM, I walked out of my last final as a UC Davis undergraduate student. The shadows were just starting to get long, and the the burning heat of the Davis summer was beginning to give way into the cool of the Davis summer evenings. As I walked away from the Music building to get into my car downtown, I turned to look down Hutchinson to a campus that had been my first home away from home. It seemed like yesterday that I was walking to class holding a campus map up to my face in the blinding sun, but here and now you could drop me anywhere on that campus in the dead of night and I could tell you exactly where I was.

I remembered the long walks I took, praying to GOD and calming my mind under the dim vacuum bulbs sparsely placed to give a better view of the stars. I remember sitting on the cool grass of the quad, chowing on some frozen yogurt in a plastic cup or munching on a CoHo sandwich on a muligrain roll while talking with a good friend. I remembered walking to class on a brisk winter morning, wearing the coat I inherited from my grandfather and treasuring the cold air on my face. Even as I write this, these four years of memories of the place that I came to treasure so dearly weigh heavy on my heart. The friends and relationships I developed and the spiritual and emotional maturity that I experienced could never be fully described or understood, but I have a special place in my heart for things: I experience the joy and providence of GOD when things do what they're meant to do (I think it's the influence of Herbie the Love Bug), and UCD served me well as the backdrop of some of the most significant moments of my life, and it will always have a special place in my heart until I get back to my true home.

In spite of these strong feelings, this past few weeks have not felt at all like an end, but rather an exciting new beginning. After finals I took a trip out to Yosemite to climb Half Dome with some good friends, and then I spent a few days on a houseboat up at Lake Shasta with some awesome youth workers who are a part of Sonshine Specialized Camping Ministries. It was an awesome time to be out in GOD's creation, reflect on GOD's work in my life over the past four years, and pray over how he wants to use me in the next four. This last week was my first as the Youth Pastor at New Harbor Community Church - I can't believe that five years after coming to Christ, I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else but serving GOD's church. Add to that my upcoming marriage to my awesome bride-to-be and I'm blown away with how blessed I am.

So I'm moving on - I pray that just as he has lead me this far, that by his grace Jesus would lead me on for today, tomorrow, and forevermore. See you soon.

Monday, June 11, 2007

SNOBBY CYCLISTS.

For a self-described cyclist who lives in a town with more bikes than people, this video made me laugh. All the cyclists I know are really nice, but I can't say that I don't see these stereotypes often - Take a look for yourself. See you soon. (ht Treehugger)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

THE LAW WON.


One of things I enjoy is reading up on the news, and the story that has been all over has been the jail saga of Paris Hilton. For those of you who were fortunate enough to not be exposed to this, the story went that Hilton, after having her license suspended for driving under the influence and then being caught twice driving on that suspended license, was sentenced to serve 45 days in the Los Angeles County Jail. But the outcry came when, three days later, she was released by the LA County Sheriff to serve out the remainder of her sentence under house arrest. But this did not sit well with the Judge presiding over her case - the next day, he called Paris back into his courtroom and ordered her back to the county Jail to serve out the rest of her sentence. And she left, sobbing and in handcuffs, to return to the cell from which she came.

Paris' return to jail sparked a flurry of news editorials, many who took this chance to take their shots at Paris' character or lack thereof. But this is not the issue that caught my attention; though I would never condone or excuse her actions, the question that was raised that caught my attention was this one: "How can we say the law is just if it doesn't apply to everyone?" For our system of law to function, it must be applied to everyone, regardless of gender, race, or celebrity status - this is the essence of justice. This is the reality that hit Paris like a ton of bricks - the law is the law, whoever you are, and you will be held accountable for what you've done.

This is the truth for GOD's law as well: whether we like it or not, there will come a day when GOD's justice will become a palpable reality, and we will all be faced with this reality: "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23a) But this is not the end of the story; unlike Paris, who will have to serve out the rest of her 42 days in the big house, those who have realized they couldn't do it on their own and fell into the arms of Jesus will have no fear when justice is fully realized, because it is Jesus who will have stood in our place: "...and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Tony Campolo described this action as the cross of Christ "being like a gigantic vacuum cleaner, sucking all of the world's sins to himself throughout all eternity." For justice to truly be justice, all evil must be answered; thanks to Jesus who "became sin" and imparted to us his righteousness so we could walk free in the new life of grace. Now that's a story worth talking about.

A final thought to chew on from the SF Chronicle article I read:
"'She's a real person who has chosen to live a fictional life,' Calo says. 'She is a shallow, dumb blonde who flaunts her lifestyle. But we can't fault her. We're the ones who decided that this is entertainment.'"
See you soon.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

IT IS FINISHED - AGAIN.


Today, I walked out of the last class of my undergraduate career. I've still got papers and stuff to write, but I'm only beginning to feel the weight of a chapter of my life coming to a close and a new one beginning (more on that later.) I'm still winding down from working hard at so many things for so long, but I've learned about what it feels like to truly persevere in something, and I hope to do the same in my love for Jesus for the rest of my life. In the midst of the nuttiness I seem to have lost my blogging voice, but I feel it coming back after all this time. I wanted you all to know how much I appreciate and love you - thanks for coming to my recital, praying for me, supporting me, and being my friends. Talk to you soon - for real.

Monday, May 07, 2007

STORIES.

This last week, I got the newest issue of Relevant in the mail. As I was perusing it, I came across an interview with Eugene Peterson, author of The Message paraphrase of the bible and many other sweet books. One of his comments on the power of literature stood out to me:
Throughout civilization we have lived by stories. Stories draw us into worlds bigger than ourselves. They help us live... Every time someone tells a story well, the Gospel is served. Stories invite us to participate, to identify the characters, to get caught up in the emotion of them. The Bible is essentially a big narrative that invites us to participate in its ongoing story.
For the past few weeks, I've been reflecting on the power of story. I've been studying the Gospel of Mark with my College Life bible study, and I see over and over again that when people came to Jesus with tough, incredibly significant questions, he didn't respond with lengthy and technical philosophical discourses - he told stories. Stories about a father and a son, some soil and some seeds, or a man building a house. I think that we all recognize the genius of Jesus when we see the power to convey the most powerful and compelling of truths in the simplest of stories.

This last weekend, I watched Stranger Than Fiction with Will Farrell. Monica and I passed this movie up in lieu of Babel a few months ago when it was in the theaters, but as I finally got to see it this weekend I enjoyed throughly seeing a different side of Will Farrell and a very compelling story. The plot follows the life of a IRS agent whose life is extremely dull and monotonous until he begins to hear a female voice narrating his life as his lives it. As the movie progresses, he finds himself caught up in an extraordinary life dictated by a storyteller that he has never seen, guiding and directing his life to a beautiful, bittersweet ending.

I think this is what the Christian life is like - we read the stories of scripture, and then we soon find them coming alive and bearing fruit in our own lives, sweeping us up into the grand narrative of GOD's redemptive plan to bring his Kingdom here and now. Now that's a story. See you soon.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

BIKE CRASH.


The week after I returned from Mexico, I was riding my bike to the music building to do some practicing for my recital. I had ridden my nice road bike that morning, which weighs considerably less. So after I came around a corner and went to take my hands off the handlebars to cruise, I immediately lost control and began to pitch forward. I started to flail my arms, and almost instantly I was over the handlebars and laying on the ground. The miracle was the I hardly hurt anything, but as I laid there on the ground I soon realized that my foot had somehow gotten lodged inbetween the spokes of my front wheel, when was then firmly lodged in the front fork of my bike. So there I was, laying on my back, stuck to my bike. As i laid there on my back, I had this sense of calm come over me, and this question came into my mind: "Why am I in such a hurry?"

Brian has a saying I remember from my days in the youth group: "There's two ways to learn something - the hard way, or from somebody who's learned it the hard way." Unfortunately for me, I often am unable to learn via the latter - GOD has to let me crash and burn before I'm ready to turn to him and listen.

This last month of school threatens to eat up my peace - working to raise the support for my bike ride, taking care of wedding details, practicing for my senior recital, riding 70 miles a week on my road bike, being diligent in my classes, and beginning to transition into a job working with students at a sweet church in Benicia. (Whew.)

But by GOD's grace I'll carry on - I'm beginning to learn the meaning of perseverance in a whole new way, but I'm still trying to be mindful of the balance between being responsible and being swallowed whole by the idols of busyness and anxiety. No more biking for me - I'll walk, one step at a time. See you soon.
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

BACK FROM MEXICO.


This last week, I went down to the YUGO ranch near Rosarito, Mexico and spent a week with the high school students of FBC. It was an awesome time of service, joy and community as we sang songs, gave capuches (piggyback rides), shared our testimonies, poured concrete, and played soccer. It was a blessing to encourage the students to be bold in their faith and to remember the life-changing significance of encountering Jesus - to embrace it wholeheartedly ourselves and to share that experience with others.

The teen in the picture above is Lalo - I met him last year playing sports, and after sharing my testimony with him and having a few short conversations in my broken spanish, I gave him a bible and signed in the front cover. A year later, on our first day of ministry, I didn't see him, but on wednesday he showed up. I wasn't sure if he even recognized me, but after awhile we got to talking again and I asked him about the bible I'd given to him. He said, "Si, Si!"

When I was a senior in high school, I went to Cuernevaca with Powerhouse and I played sports. At the end of the week, two of the kids who we'd been playing with, shoeless and in the wearing the same clothes that they had worn all week, asked me if they could pray to receive Christ. Their pictures hang on my wall now, reminders of the way in which GOD has mercifully used me, in spite of brokenness and imperfection, to sow his seeds in the hearts of others. Thanks, Jesus. See you soon.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

CENTURY BIKE RIDE.

As I've already posted about, I am riding in a century (100-mile) bike ride on June 2nd. Being someone who's never been athletic in my life, sometimes I question my sanity. But I've posted about my enjoyment of cycling here several times, and I'm excited to express that joy in a meaningful way.

I'm riding in this race with Team in Training, a branch of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that trains willing people to complete endurance events and raise money for blood cancer research. The training has been very trying at times, but my family and friends have been a huge blessing - supporting me, praying for me, and making me feel loved. I'm riding in celebration of my sister Jordan, who is mentally and physically handicapped. I'm so richly blessed, it's dumb.

I'm also heading off to spend a week in Mexico with the youth group of FBC - I'm looking forward to a week of fruitful service, worship, and communion with people I love. And celebrating Easter in Spanish is going to be sick. See you soon.

Visit my fundraising page here
See my home for the next week here

Thursday, March 29, 2007

CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.


This last week, I finished up the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I have been reading quite a bit of C.S. Lewis lately: I read his Space Trilogy this last summer,his Screwtape Letters a few years ago, his novel Until We Have Faces last year, and the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Van Auken, an amazing book who had a personal relationship and letter correspondence with Lewis. Currently, I'm reading through Mere Christianity with one of my bible study boys. As I've read through his work, I've been struck by his warmth, the depth of his intelligence, and his desire to plainly and truthfully lay out the Christian life in all of its life and vigor.

This comes through in The Chronicles of Narnia - beautiful little books that tell stories rife with imagination and joy that are full of brilliant allusions to the Gospel story. They're kind of like a movie like Shrek or The Incredibles - light and simple enough for children to enjoy and understand, but full of clever nuances and deep lessons that satisfy the most mature adults. This is the great gift of C.S. Lewis - to make the Christian life simple and plain without watering it down, to explore the narrative of the Christian story with his brilliant imagination without being limiting. Word. See you soon.

Monday, March 26, 2007

SPRING BREAK.

Last Monday, I finished up my finals, and the next day I was headed back to Fremont for a time of rest and renewal. Things I've done:

  • Read the Chronicles of Narnia (I'm halfway through The Magician's Nephew, Book 6 of 7)
  • Watched The Prestige
  • Watched Casino Royale
  • Watched Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan
  • Celebrated my Dad's birthday
  • Celebrated my finacee's sister's birthday
  • Slept in
Monica pointed out to me that this will be my last break as a college student. That was sobering. But I'm blessed with this chance to take a breath before I dive in to my last quarter at Davis. That's all for now - I'll write some more when I'm back to school. See you soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

PACELINE.

I've written here several times about the joy that I get from cycling, and now I've got the chance to enjoy a lot of cycling - I am training to ride in a century bike ride around Lake Tahoe in June with a group called Team in Training. A century consists of 100 miles, which will probably take me about 7 hours, including stops for food and stuff. That's really far.

Since I couldn't just jump on a bike and ride for 100 miles, I get together with my 120 teammates and go on team rides every Saturday morning. Each successive Saturday they get longer and longer, and each time we learn a new cycling "skill." This saturday, we learned how to form a "paceline." (Mom, if you're reading this, skip over the next part. I'm wearing a helmet and I'm really careful. Don't worry!)

Basically, a paceline is formed when a group of cyclists travel 6-18 inches behind one another in a straight line. I ride with the fastest group of riders (which, by the way, includes women who have children my age), which means were averaging between 18-19 miles per hour. For someone who generally rides a bike alone, this is pretty unnerving. The point of the paceline is this: traveling close together makes it easier to pedal faster for longer, because it cuts down on the wind resistance. The person who is the lead rider "pulls" the paceline, and everyone takes turns being the lead rider by allowing the lead rider to drift to the back of the paceline.

The biggest problem is this: travelling so close behind at other cycles at high speeds leaves little reaction time should a big rock or pothole suddenly appear. This leads to the most important element of the paceline: communication. If there's something in the road up ahead, it's the lead rider's job to call it out: rock, car, tree, and so on. If there's is a car coming up from behind, it's the last rider's job to call it out, and it the job of all the riders in between to pass the messages along so that everyone is aware of what the haps are. The closer we get, the better the communication needs to be, or we risk some serious hurt.

I find this to be true in my spiritual life - the closer I get to others and to GOD, the better the communication needs to be. You can't have relationship without communication, and the closer those relationships are, how much more important it is that we are honest, open, encouraging, and truthful with one another. When I neglect this reality in my closest relationships, I can coast along for awhile like nothing is wrong, but it is not long before this lack of openness results in some serious hurt. Though this hurt is a serious possibility, I can't go it alone - I need people who can come close and know me intimately. But unless I'm willing to open up to those that I love and that love me, I'm asking for trouble.

Jesus, teach me to draw close to You and to others, and to go beyond surface relationship to the deep intimacy with your children that is possible only possible because of your great love and forgiveness. Help us to be One, as You and the Father are One - teach us to draw near to one another and lead us home. That's a paceline I'd ride in anytime. See you soon.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

CELEBRATION.


This weekend was an awesome time of celebration. On Saturday, Monica and I went to the wedding of some good friends, and we had the chance to hang out with good friends and take joy in the miracle of love. The next day I attended a baptism service at FBC and saw a bunch of the members of my college community publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ.

Seeing my brothers and sisters in Christ get baptized this weekend reminded me of the time that I was baptized - having a bucket of water dumped over my head in the snow 2 years ago this last month. It fills me with joy to be reminded of the great lovingkindness of GOD, and to see his hand working in this world, turning hearts to him and raising up disciples to follow him. Thank you Jesus, for so much to celebrate. See you soon.
"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 2Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." (Luke 15:20-24)

Friday, February 23, 2007

TONGUE-TIED.

For the past month or so, I've had a case of "Blogger's Block." I haven't been sure what to write here and what to keep to myself. I keep from posting anything really personal here - I share stories and things, and I how I see GOD working in the little things of my life, but the big stuff I keep between GOD and I, in the pages of my journal and in my heart.

But for the past month, big stuff is all that has been going on - getting engaged, looking forward to graduating from college, interviewing for a job, preparing a senior recital, and getting my school on. I feel like I'm living in a dream; it is so surreal sometimes to see the rest of my life beginning to take shape, and so humbling and overwhelming to see how richly blessed I am. I'm struck my the truth that my life is not my own - to quote Justin McRoberts, "I feel like I'm living in a movie of my life." And it's too good. God is too good. I don't know what to say except, "Jesus, hold me close."

That's all for now - see you soon.
And I'll stand
With arms wide and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
And I'll stand
My soul, Lord, to you surrendered
All I am is yours
(Hillsong United, The Stand)

Friday, February 02, 2007

SPURGEON.

I follow Jesus. But as I have followed him, the words and wisdom of other men and women of GOD have guided me, convicted me, and inspired me to pursue Jesus with greater vigor, abandon, and zeal. Over the years, GOD has used different voices at different times: In my freshman year of college, some of the audio sermons of Tony Campolo filled me with a passion to follow Jesus more wholeheartedly. Later, the sermons of Jon Piper helped to shape and strengthen my faith.

Recently, one of the men of GOD that has really been helping me to grow has been Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I read a book about him in regards to spiritual leadership with the Teen Staff last summer, but with the advent of 2007 I picked up a devotional he penned called "Morning and Evening." The title is pretty self-explanatory - it has 2 readings for each day, one for the morning and one for the evening. What strikes me most powerfully about it is his passion and zeal for Jesus - every sentence reflects his deep love for GOD. Some passages that I've appreciated:
"The first thing for our soul's health, the first thing for His glory, and the first thing for our own usefulness, is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus... " (Jan. 24th)
"Jesus' College is the only one in which God's truth can be really learned; other schools may teach us what is to be believed, but Christ's alone can show us how to believe it." (Jan. 19th)

"Go on seeking, for it is dangerous to be without thy Lord. Without Christ you are like a sheep without its shepherd; like a tree without water at its roots; like a sere leaf in the tempest - not bound to the tree of life. With thine whole heart seek Him, and He will be found of thee: only give thyself thoroughly up to the search, and verily, thou shalt yet discover him to thy joy and gladness." (Jan. 19th)
Thank you Jesus - thank you for those who have run the race of faith, and for those who are running it now, that their passion and zeal often ignites my own. Thank you for the church - it rocks. See you soon.
[Read "Morning and Evening" online]

Monday, January 22, 2007

THESE ARE PRICELESS.


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

MLK.

This past monday was Martin Luther King Jr. day - a day that we stop to remember a man who had a compelling vision a passion to see GOD's kingdom manifested here and now in the form of the abolition of bigotry, greed, and selfishness.

In truth, I didn't really know much about King at all until I took a class last quarter called, "African American Studies 165 - The Black Christian Church." It was over the course of that class that I developed a deep appreciation and fondness for the rich tradition of Christianity amongst the slaves, and how the abiding presence of Jesus brought them an indomitable hope and the strength to endure to most horrible of persecutions. It was not until the end of the class that we turned to study the Civil Rights Movement, which was in many respects the pinnacle of the African-Americans' struggle to be free of oppression and hatred.

In studying King, I came to see his passion for the justice of the Kingdom of God to be manifested here and now, and the beauty and power of his sermons and writings have spurred me on to say "Thy Kingdom Come" with renewed passion and zeal. My buddy Trevor re-delievered a few of his most powerful sermons (subscribe to his podcast here), and I wrote my final paper on King and his role as a "prophetic theologian." If that sounds intruiging, you can read my 12 page paper here. See you soon.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

MESSY ROOM.

Back when I was a little kid, my mom would read to me from the "Berenstain Bears" book series. They're all beautifully illustrated, but the one that I remember most fondly is the one pictured above: "The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room." I remember being awestruck by the depictions of a neat, clean room with cool little receptacles for everything, mainly because my room was such a far cry from my sadly disheveled living space.

Though those idyllic scenes never compelled me to clean up my act in my youth, I think it was this childhood memory that spurred on the impulse buy pictured below, while waiting in line at Rite Aid to purchase safety pins:

Mom, if you're reading this, I want you to know that your labor of attempting to mold me into a responsible, cleanly individual has finally borne fruit. This project came out of the few days before classes began; part of my attempt to reverse the entropy of the past quarter and look to a new beginning, a fresh start. And so it begins - my prayer is that GOD will do in me what I've done to my room - to strip away all the junk and organize my priorities so that his honor and glory come before all else. Maybe mom was right: cleanliness is next to godliness. See you soon.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)