Wednesday, November 05, 2008


For the first time in my adult life, I voted. (And I got my free tall cup of coffee at Starbucks - money!) I know, I know - shame on me for holding out for so long! I was one of those first-time voters who came out in droves to make their voice heard and participate in one of the most historic elections in our time.

I have to confess that I've always been wary, or even afraid of expressing myself politically. My parents never voiced their political views to me growing up, and accepting Christ at 16 turned everything I knew upside-down, and I haven't settled yet on how me as part of the church and the state are supposed to interact. So after 5 five years of being scared into inaction, I took the plunge. I pored over both sides of the issues, listened to others older and wiser. I prayed for guidance and discernment, and for the heart of Jesus to be my heart as I formed my own opinions and decided my positions. And then I walked down the street to my polling place, asked a bunch dumb questions about how actually to vote, and then put my pen to the paper.

We as the church can't hide our light, and I couldn't hide behind my excuses and insecurities anymore - now is the time to be bold, to be responsible, to have our voice heard and our presence felt as servants of the King. I did it. See you soon.

Monday, October 27, 2008


For those of you who don't see me on a regular basis, the 6+ month experiment is over - I am shorn. When I came to church next week, people literally did not recognize me. One guy asked if I was feeling week, but I said that no, my strength is not connected to the length of my hair a la Samson. I refuse to spend any more than one minute on my hair on basic principle, and the price was right - my senior pastor's wife cut it for free!

I'm sorry if you liked the longer do, but it was weighing me down - literally! Jennifer said it was probably about a pound of hair that she cut off. It would've been awesome to grow it out really long and donated to Locks of Love, but that was not happening. Back to the magnificent monotony - haircuts, washing dishes, paying bills, and doing "all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17) See you soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This past weekend, Monica and I headed up to Sacto for the National Youth Worker's Convention. This is always an awesome time of hanging with old friends, being challenged, stretched, and equipped in new and exciting ways, and to worship without abandon our Lord. It was off the chains! This is the second one that Monica and I have been to as a married couple, and it continues to be an awesome time.

Not only did I attend the conference this year, but I started a Certificate in Youth Ministry program through Fuller Seminary, which meant that from Thursday afternoon until Monday morning, I was filling my brain and heart with the stuff of the call of youth ministry. The result: a weekend of good memories, a wealth of information and insight that it is going to take me a whole day to process, and a 3 1/2 hour nap to cap it off on Monday afternoon. Life and ministry are crazy, but they are good. See you soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008


This last week, Monica and I rented "Bella." I'd heard quite a bit about the movie, it having been out for almost two years now. I greatly enjoyed it - it wasn't fast-paced or melodramatic, but it drew me in to the relationship that develops between the two main characters over the course of the film. The pace reminded me of Lars and the Real Girl, another slowly developing but strangely heartwarming movie that Monica and I watched a few months ago. The flashbacks and flash-forwards are a bit jarring at first, but by the time the final scene rolls, it all comes together in a beautiful and moving celebration of the endless beauty and joy of life. (I love kids.)

This movie has also gotten a lot of attention and press over it's pro-life message, which is communicated in such a winsome way that it has impacted and influenced many parents to keep their children or give them up for adoption. This story took on new meaning today when Brian informed me via a blog post that his family was working to adopt a pair of 5-year old Ugandan children that they met while there on a missions trip this last summer. How beautiful it is when those created in God's image experience God's love and provision through a pair of loving parents! A big part of the heart of this film has to do with Eduardo Verastegui, one of the main characters and producers of the film who went from singing in a Mexican boy band at the age of 18 to having a resurgence of faith and deciding to do only "films that matter." Here is a link to an article talking about his personal transformation, and below is a YouTube clip of him on the Today Show. See you soon!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Part of my call as a youth pastor is to to know the world that teens today inhabit. My society's current definition I still am a adolescent, but being removed removed by almost a decade from our incoming freshmen (WOW) means that I don't know a whole lot about today's youth culture. Because of this, I have to intentionally enter into the music they listen to, the books they read, and the TV they watch to have an understanding of what kind of world our kids inhabit. Our teens need to a caring Godly adult more than they need some 20-something who know the lyrics to "I Kissed a Girl" or knows what happened on last week's episode of "The Hills," but I still think it's a valuable part of incarnational ministry. Hence me reading Twilight.

I'm not going to take this space to review the books - I'm only halfway through the series! - but these books have topped the bestseller lists for months, so I figured I would see what all of the hoopla was about. Having finished half of the series, I can see how these books strike a chord with teen girls - so much so, that teen girls have been visiting the actual town where the books take place: a tiny town in northern Washington called Forks. Read the news article here. Crazy stuff - how badly we long for meaningful relationship, to be loved with a supernatural love. See you soon.

Monday, September 22, 2008


One year ago today, Monica and I tied the knot. Woohoo! To celebrate, we got away for the weekend to Mendocino, about three and a half hours north of us here in Benicia. We actually stayed in Fort Bragg, about 10 minutes north of the town of Mendocino, because Mendocino itself is bank and a half.

The weekend included a trip to a place to called Glass Beach (where they dumped a gang of glass bottles in the 1930s that have now been worn town to tons of pieces of worn glass in the sand - really cool), a trip to the tidepools at Mackerricher State Park, a walk through Mendocino Botanical Gardens, and a trip to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. Not to mention some delicious coffee, pastries, and good grub. I posted some of the best shots on my Picasa page.

It feels like this past year has flown by, and it's hard to remember what life was like before coming home every day to the love of my life. I can't begin to say what a joy being married has been, and how becoming one with Monica has deepened my understanding and experience of the unconditional and forgiving love of our God. Having someone who knows more about me than anyone else, and still loves me, has freed me to be myself in a way that was never possible before, and it is our privilege and joy to paint even an imperfect and broken picture of the love that Jesus has for his church. We've come this far by God's grace and mercy, and we're looking forward to loving one another with the love of Jesus more and more for the rest of our lives. Thanks to all of you guys who have supported and encouraged us to grow closer to God and to one another in our marriage covenant - I wouldn't trade it for the world. See you soon.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Well, if anyone's still reading, you probably know the truth by now: my blog, like the economy, is in a recession. But it's not the end - it's a new beginning.

Yesterday, September 20th, marked the end of the third month of my second year in full-time vocational ministry as a youth pastor here in Benicia. In the past couple weeks, I have begun to reflect on just how significant and profound the changes in my life (well, the changes in Monica and I's life - one of the big changes!) have been.

I hit the ground running that Sunday in June that I started my first job as a full-time youth pastor - I turned 22 a week later, moved from the college town that I had called my home for the past for years, got married to the woman of my dreams three months later, and threw myself into the vocation that had made such a profound impact on my life. Every week exercising my passion for God's Word in preparing messages, planning camps and events, and connecting with and shepherding leaders and students.

But for any of you who have read my blog for any length of time, you probably noticed that although my last post was in April, my real posts stopped quite some time before that. As life got crazier and crazier, my blog was one of the things that got the axe. But it wasn't just the blog - it was the time that I took to be still, to reflect, and to explore my heart and my mind as I typed out electronic words. As this last year wore on, I spent the majority of my time either fretting over the past or worrying about the future.

This last week, I picked up the novel The Shack. I've heard a lot of to-do about it, from the glowing endorsement from Eugene Peterson on the cover (I've been reading Peterson's book Under the Unpredictable Plant - it has been good for my soul) to getting ripped by some for purporting faulty trinitarian theology. (That's a mouthful!) I wanted to judge for myself, so I picked it up this week. Today, I read a passage consisting of a dialog between the main character and Jesus that really spoke to my heart:
"'When I [Jesus] dwell with you, I do so in the present - I live in the present. Not the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit, not an extended stay. And for sure, I do not dwell in the future you visualize or imagine. Mack, do you realize that in your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?' Again Mack stopped and thought. It was true." (pg. 141-42)
This struck me to the heart - I have fallen into the habit of both dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, a future without the abiding and loving presence of my Savior, Jesus. And this is where I feel the need to begin again; to forsake dwelling on the past and worrying over a Jesus-less future to focus my mind and my heart here and now, and remember that the Lover of my soul is shaping me, loving me, and transforming me into His glorious likeness. And part of that, for me, is to take the time to slow down, be still, and share with you (if you're still out there!) a glimpse into the life of someone trying to be too busy loving Jesus to be concerned with anything else. See you soon.

Monday, April 28, 2008


This last Sunday was a gorgeous day, and we as a church headed on down to the 9th Street Park here in Benicia to do some baptizing. We usually just walk straight out into the water off the beach, but yesterday, that tide was out - like 50 feet out! So we improvised and went off of the boat ramp instead. How exciting it is to hearing stories from people of all ages and backgrounds talking about the faithfulness of Jesus in their lives. It reminded of when I got baptized: it was a bucket of water standing outside a gymnasium in Avery in the middle of winter, with snow falling down. No matter where or how you do it, new life is always worth celebrating. See you soon.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Two weeks ago, Monica and I took our first "adult" vacation - we didn't really know what to do, but it was a good time to "do nothing" and hang out as husband and wife. We stayed with Dan and Krystle in their sweet place in Mira Mesa, and spent our time doing a bunch of stuff. Here are the highlights:

1. Riding the wave of rising frozen yogurt popularity
2. Dinner with Brian and Shannon at the Old Town Mexican Cafe
3. Visiting the San Diego Zoo
4. Playing xBox Live with Deezy (I enjoyed this)
5. Hanging out in the Gaslamp district with the Browns
6. Hanging out in La Jolla
7. Reading and resting
8. Hang time with Buchner, Aisea, and Peter

It was a needed blessing to take off and be renewed in the presence of family, friends, and my beautiful wife. Things are good - see you soon.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Well, I'm hitting the road again. Last year, I rode 100 miles around Lake Tahoe with Team in Training to celebrate the life of my buddy, Mike, who made a full recovery from Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and I'm gearing up to do it again.

I started working at my current church in Benicia full-time in September of last year, and a short time afterwards, one of the long-time members of the congregation, Gary Nuss, passed away after a battle with Leukemia. He is survived by his wife and two teenage daughters, one of which is in our student ministry. My ride this year will be dedicated to a celebration of his life and memory. I'd love your support in prayer, as I need to get whipped into shape and it is a long road ahead. Pray that I would be the hands and feet (and legs) of Jesus to my fellow teammates, and that I would respect the law as well, as cyclists often don't obey things like stop signs and bike lanes. I would greatly appreciate your support financially as well, so please check out the links below to my fundraising website and support letter. See you soon.

"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I use a little gadget called Sitemeter to keep track of how many people visit by blog, when, and from what pages. As I was perusing this information, I saw that someone got to my blog by googling my name. Although I've done this myself before, I clicked on the link to see what came up when my name was googled. And there, the third entry from the top, is my contribution to

To set the record straight: it is true that a few days after I graduated from high school, I made these entries in the Urban Dictionary. I've always employed slang as a regular part of my vocabulary, which is kind of ironic given my propensity to use complicated verbiage. But there it is - if you are a prospective employer, I did clarify the meanings of "mugging" and "schmobbing" for the whole world.

This goes to show the power of the internet, that in this digital and interconnected age nothing stays hidden for long. It hurts my heart to see what some people post on the Facebooks and MySpaces, Flickrs and YouTubes, and then live like those things are completely separate from the other, "real" lives. I'm glad that these silly definitions are the worst thing that comes up when you google me. Well, I'm going to go schmob on some work. May I be able to bear all of me, in bits of bytes as well as in Christ, and by His grace not be ashamed. See you soon.
"Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." (Luke 12:1-3)

Thursday, March 20, 2008


My friend Bronwyn posted some thoughts on how God is refining her, and she referenced a Calvin and Hobbes comic. I personally have a theory that you can tell a person's personality by the kind of comics they enjoyed as a kid. If you liked Peanuts, you might have a quirky sense of humor that people often don't understand. If you liked Far Side, you might enjoy puns and bizarre situational comedy. I liked the Far Side. The other one I loved was Calvin and Hobbes, because it's witty dialogue and hilarious characters brought me endless joy and laughter as I stayed up clandestinely reading after my bedtime.

All of this to say that I taught this last Tuesday on God being our father, one of the implications being that we are dependent on him as our children to provide for all our needs. This brought to mind a Calvin and Hobbes comic I'd seen years ago which, after searching the internet diligently, I finally found:
It's official: Calvin and Hobbes is money in the bank. Here's the online database where I found this, that has every Calvin and Hobbes comic : Calvin and Hobbes Archive. See you soon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I'm breaking the silence. Tonight, we're talking in our youth ministry about the passage in Matthew 18 where Jesus talks about entering the kingdom of heaven:
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
We'll be talking about the importance of our humility as needy children before our heavenly Father, but before we get started I'm going to talk about what Jesus doesn't mean when he says "become like little children":
  1. Stay immature forever.
  2. Avoid having any kind of responsibility.
I came across an article today called "Raunch is rebranded as 'confidence'", which talks about the annual phenomenon that is "Spring Break." It had a lot of sad realizations, which definitely resonate with my experience going to a 4-year university. A quote:
"What's happening on on spring break beaches isn't just boys and girls being wild. It's young people... deciding that the way to measure their readiness for the adult world is not in terms of education or emotional maturity but sexual desirability... When they talked about what they wanted to do with their lives, they spoke not of jobs or grad school but of looking good, of having the right equipment and experience to ensure a place in the raunch-obsessed pop culture they'd come to see as the real world."
This is the deception that we as a generation, as a culture are buying: that life is defined simply by the value that other people place on what they can see, and that the blessings of material wealth are to be used to entertain ourselves and avoid adult responsibility and maturity for as long as possible. (I clicked through a few links today to the website of the TV show Greek, and I watched a few minutes of the pilot - it made me want to barf.) Going from an unmarried college student to a married youth pastor has definitely not been an easy transition, but my heart aches for those of my generation who are squandering their money, time, and energy on deceitful pursuits that leave us feeling only more empty and alone, disconnected from the real world. What will this mean for our children? For the countless means around our globe, starving physically and spiritually? When will our eyes be opened to see the terrible waste?

No easy answers, and I'm not free of guilt either - riches are deceitful indeed. But until then, may God's grace may I be a praying pilgrim, being led by God's grace and grieving over a generation asleep. See you soon.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I have really enjoyed getting better at playing the guitar, and more specifically leading worship, which I recently had some awesome opportunities to do. I enjoy doing it by myself, and singing the songs as prayers to God.

One of the songs that I've been listening to and playing over and over (which is also on the God of This City album, which I picked up this week and is amazing) is Hosanna, by Brooke Fraser, who is associated with Hillsong. I love it's scope - when I sing it, I think of it as a prophetic revelation, like what was revealed to the apostle John - a powerful vision of God's desires, and of his Kingdom coming with power. Here are links both to a performance of the song, as well as an interview with Brook Fraser about how the song came to be. See you soon.

I see the king of glory
Coming down the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes, the whole earth shakes
I see his love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing, the people sing

Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

I see a generation
Rising up to take the place
With selfless faith, with selfless faith
I see a new revival
Staring as we pray and seek
We're on our knees, we're on our knees

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what is yours
Everything I am for your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


When I was in high school, I lied to my parents like it was going out of style. For years, when I wanted money, I would just go in to my parent's bedroom and take a few bucks out off of my dad's dresser, or out of his wallet. (Don't worry, I found Jesus, and they know.) Not only that, but I had no problem with telling my parents that I was spending the night at a friend's house if I was really going on a camping trip, or that I cut my lip helping a buddy move furniture, when really I had been punched in the face - both true stories!

This afternoon, I read a really interesting article called "Learning to Lie." It talked about how, from a very young age, children (and then teens) use lying as a way to exert power and avoid consequences, and often without a glimmer of remorse. Here's a clip:
"The most disturbing reason children lie is that parents teach them to... they see us tell the telemarketer 'I'm a guest here,' They see us boast and lie to smooth social relationships... Encouraged to tell so many white lies and hearing so many others, children gradually get comfortable with being disingenuous. Insincerity becomes, literally, a daily occurrence. They learn that honesty only creates conflict, and dishonesty is an easy way to avoid conflict."
Working with students, I have seen a lot of lying, but I need to realize that I need to remove the plank from my own eye to truly call out and remedy the rampant dishonesty that pervades the culture of our youth, and all the more so the culture of us "adults." My we speak the truth in love, and let it set us free, no matter how much it hurts. See you soon.

Read the article here: Learning to Lie
[ht yPulse]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Monica and I just got back from out middle school winter camp up in Truckee, in conjunction with Bridges and Antelope Springs. It was an awesome time, not just for our students who had a blast, but also to be united in ministry alongside a lot of good friends. Working alongside people that you love makes the work so much more joyous and fulfilling, and that was our experience this weekend - not just old friends, but growing closer to those we are working with in ministry now too.

One of the things that really struck me this weekend was the current generation of leaders in the ministry I grew up in at Powerhouse - people like Nina, Jake Lobato, and Robby Rodruigez. Robby was in my cabin for summer camp many years ago, and Nina and Jake were both students in the ministry when I was in high school, and to see them now, having taken ownership of their faith and moving into ministry themselves gives a satisfaction that surpasses understanding. I haven't been in full time ministry for long, but I have been in the service of the King for some time, and I have experienced no greater joy than to see the seeds of truth find fertile soil and bear much fruit. To see those in which I have been privileged to have a hand in discipling grow to disciple others - what gift! These precious "click" moments, these moments of encouragement, these reminders that the Word of God is living and active - these are my joy and crown. See you soon.

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy." (1 Thess. 2:13, 19-20)

Monday, January 14, 2008


Well, I'm back after the awesomeness of Christmas and New Year's, and Monica and I had a great time celebrating with friends old and new, rejoicing at the birth of our Savior, and getting a little breather from our new lives as working adults.

This last weekend, we took in quite a bit of really sweet entertainment. On Saturday night, Monica and I headed down to have dinner with my parents in Niles, at the Italian restaurant where we had our rehearsal dinner. The place is only about 3 minutes from my house, and it was definitely some good grubbin'. Afterward, we headed directly across the street to the Essanay Silent Film Museum. You see, Niles is now just a little quirky subsection of Fremont, but back at the turn of the twentieth century it was a hotspot for the filming and production of silent movies. One of the most prolific silent movie studios was a place called Essanay, which in the handful of years that it was open produced and released over 400 movies. So on Saturday evenings, the museum, which is actually one of the original theaters that showed movies in Niles around the turn of the century, shows silent movies. This last Saturday night, the theme was "Comedies from 1926." So we saw these three flicks:

Long Fliv The King
Saturday Afternoon
And the feature, A Gentleman In Paris

All of us weren't really sure what to expect, but we loved it. Saturday Afternoon was a little weird and we didn't like the premise, but we thought the other two movies were hilarious. And all of the movies were accompanied by a live pianist, who pseudo-improvised on musical themes to suit the mood of the scenes for the length of every film. I loved the simplicity of the movies, in contrast to cacophony of inane stuff that goes in to a lot of today's films. There was a innocence about, coupled with the good laughs that made me really appreciate their creativity and artistry.

Last night, we saw Andy McKee, an acoustic guitarist who was become wildly well-known through his YouTube videos. But he isn't just an internet star - this dude was amazing. I was blown away by his musicality and musicianship, and it was a joy to see him have so much fun playing beautiful music. He's touring with a guy named Don Ross, an amazing guitarist from Canada, and they did a bunch of duets together that were amazing. Below is the duet that they opened with, a cover of a song by The Yellowjackets called "Spirit of the West:"

All in all, it was a good weekend. Life is good - see you soon.