Random Randomness

- Enjoyed a fantastic Thanksgiving yesterday with both sides of the family. Sure missed having my dad there.

- Shows that I watched PART of during the course of the day: Lions/Titans game, Cowboys/Seahawks game, James Bond, Godfather parts 1&2, Texas/Texas A&M game, Kung Fu Panda, Dirty jobs, and others that I'm forgetting. Yes...it was a LAZY day!

- Today I'm trying to figure out whether to shop for black friday specials, take Cole to what will certainly be a crowded Vans skate park, clean my garage, See a movie with the entire family or some crazy combination of all the above.

- My new favorite drink (one that I "invented" on a plane trip a few months back but forgot about until a couple days ago)is cranberry juice with a slice of lime squeezed in. I call it a "CRIME". I'm sure there's a formal name for it, but hadn't ever heard of it until my discovery so I figured I could come up with my own name.

- Absolutely loving the cooler weather that has visited us for the past few days.

- Excited about this week's junior high lesson. We are going to attempt to, in 20 short minutes, educate our students on how to use various tools to study the bible on their own. Probably not the most exciting lesson, but an important one.


My Dad

Yesterday was a tough day. We got a call at about 7:30 a.m. telling us that my dad had passed away. As I write this I'm grieving but filled with joy knowing he is in the presence of our heavenly father and enjoying perfect health...something he hasn't known for many years.

Thanks a ton for all the comments and emails of support and encouragement the past couple of weeks. It has meant a lot. If the technological world of texts, instant messaging, facebook, blogs etc. have hurt "true community", I haven't sensed it during this time. I have had very few face to face conversations about my dad in recent days, but have never experienced more community and closeness with the body of Christ.


The End Of Ice Cream

I have fourteen 7th grade guys in my small group, which I co-lead with one of our volunteers. He travels quite a bit and couldn't be there this past Wednesday night. Because my fourteen guys are....one might say...."spirited", I knew I needed to try something different if I had any hope of keeping control of the group by myself.

I decided to show them Rob Bell's Nooma video called "RICH". In case you don't know who he is, Rob Bell is a young senior pastor who is an amazing story teller and teacher. He produces 10-15 minute teaching videos along a variety of subjects. "Rich" is dedicated to helping us understand that God has blessed us and our country so that we can be a blessing to the world around us.

At one point, Rob says something along the lines of "Did you know we could solve the problem of starvation in the world for "X" billion dollars? .....Guess what, Americans spend more than that each year on ice cream." That comment seemed to resonate with my guys because there was an audible "oooohhhhh" from the group.

When the video was finished I decided to seize the moment and ask about the ice cream statement. The short conversation is a classic reminder of junior high ministry 101.

ME: "So, remember that part about how the entire world's starvation problem could be solved for the same amount of money that Americans spend on ice cream?"

THEM: "Uh, yep"

ME: "What do you think something like that might be saying to us?"

7th GRADE BOY GIVING VERY SERIOUS ANSWER: "It means we need to shut down all the ice cream places in America."



Check Up

If you're like me, the busier you get doing God's work, the easier it becomes to find yourself feeling far from God. Over the years, I've created a short little "check list" of questions I try to ask myself on a regular basis, and especially in the busy seasons. For me, the categories are more important then the specific questions.

- Am I feeding my soul?
- Are jealousy, greed or other cancerous motives creeping in?
- Is Jesus my first love?
- Am I generous?

- Am I guarding my thoughts?
- Do I like the "stuff" that has been at the forefront of my mind lately?

- Is the stuff I'm watching okay?
- Is the stuff I'm reading okay?
- Currently what do I tend to "set my eyes upon"?

It's not some sort of spiritual measuring stick or check list of do's and dont's that cheapens grace and invites legalism, but rather the acknowledgement of my sin nature and the fact that the busyness of ministry and life in general has a way of making it super easy to neglect my spiritual well being.

Time after time I've found that when I'm grumpy, stressed, overly frustrated, impatient, feeling unfulfilled or under-appreciated etc. there is a direct correlation to the categories I've listed.


Random Randomness

- My friend, Gregg Farah, just started what I think will be a really good blog. Greg is a great writer and it seems like his posts will mostly be short essays like this one. Good stuff, I think.

- When they first came out I really, really wanted an FJCruiser. My enthusiasm wained quickly for two reasons: 1) they seem to have a real bad blind spot which made me uncomfortable when I drove my buddy's and 2) I couldn't afford one. It's been about two years, and I suddenly find myself really, really wanting one again. They still have a blind spot and I still can't afford it, but do you really need to be able to see when switching lanes? Do my kids really need to go to college?

- My new "guilty pleasure" t.v. show is Sons Of Anarchy. It's a really well written and acted show that revolves around a motorcycle club/gang in a small town in Northern California. It isn't for the faint of heart and is pretty strong much of the time...like a cleaned up (but not too clean) version of the Sopranos on Harley's. Viewer discretion is advised.

- We are wrapping up "The Red Stuff" in our junior high ministry this weekend. I think it has been one of our better series in a long time. If I taught longer series, this would be an easy one to stretch five or six weeks.


Thanks And An Update

Thanks a TON for the prayers for my dad and for my family over the past few days. I truly have felt supported and strengthened by our heavenly Father.

It has been a crazy roller coaster which has brought no real sense of direction as of yet.
When we took my dad off his life support on Saturday night, we were told he would survive anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of days, so we all braced ourselves for what was to come.
Now, a few days later he has stabilized to the point where they believe the best thing for him is to return home and "let nature take it's course" which could happen extremely suddenly or take a couple of months. His heart is at functioning at about 17%, his blood pressure is extremely low and his heart rate extremely high. It's basically a trifecta of bad scenarios that his body can only endure for so long. The hope of having my dad around for a little longer is thrilling, but the uncertainty of the situation is so much more un-nerving than I would have anticipated. In essence we are in a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, week-by-week posture.

Right now, I'm enjoying a few moments of alone time at Peet's Coffee trying to figure out how best to structure my life and time for the short-term future in order to maximize time with my dad without abandoning everything else.


Monday Miscellaneous

It's been a CRAZY Weekend....

- I wasn't at church this weekend so we decided ahead of time to do something we've never done: I video taped my entire message beforehand and showed the video instead of asking somebody else to fill in and teach. I was told that it was super effective. What I found interesting was that instead of shooting it in a creative setting we simply set me up on the stage and I taught to an empty room. I thought that was a mistake heading in because I assumed in order for the video idea to work it would have to be more creative...but the word is that students totally responded. I helped, I suppose that much of my lesson was built around a fun story and that we had a live "teacher" set me up and wrap it up.

- While we were in the dessert dirt bike riding we got word that my dad had suffered a heart attack (he has had several heart attacks and strokes in recent years), and had been placed on life support. We packed up, headed into town and have spent the last couple days and nights at his side. He has specifically requested no drastic measures be taken to spare his life, so we took him off the medication that was keeping his heart somewhat stable...so far he is still very much conscious so we have had some great time together. The doctor originally said that when we took him off the medicine he could survive anywhere from 10 minutes to several days.

- My dad loves the Lord and has been an incredible example of faithfulness over the years. He has always questioned his effectiveness of a father because we struggled financially so much while we were young and he has always seemed to carry an enormous amount of guilt over his "inability to provide for us". He brought this up in conversation at the hospital and we had some great conversation reminding him what some of the true measures of a man really are...all of which he has faithfully fulfilled. I would appreciate your prayers.


10-Minute Moment

A couple years ago while leading my 8th grade guys small group, the conversation took a detour along the topic of spending time with God. One of the guys mentioned something about not feeling close to God which set us off on a fantastic discussion. After a short discussion of their current prayer/bible study/devotion habits, I quickly realized that...well, that they had no habits at all.

At the end of our discussion I issued a challenge: "Let's all spend 10 minutes a day for the next 30 days spending time with God and his word." I did the math....30X10 added up to 5 hours of time with God...over an hour each week! The guys all agreed that spending 5 hours a month with God would probably help them grow in their faith and feel a little closer to God.

We came up with the name "10-minute moment", and everybody agreed to the goal of 10 minutes a day for the next month. Much to my surprise most of the guys in the group hit their goal (of course, they missed a day here or there) and all of them were stunned at how quickly spending 10 minutes a day had become a habit.

Ever since, I've been challenging the kids in my ministry to have their own 10-minute moment every day. To help them, I just created the first 10-minute moments journal and can't wait to put it in their hands. I pass the link on to you in case you want to help your students spend a few meaningful minutes with the father every day.


Monday Miscellaneous

- On Halloween, our student ministries department hosted "Trunk or Treat" for the young kids in our community. Families in the church sign up to host a trunk and are assigned a parking spot in our lot and decorate their cars and hand out candy as little ones file by. It was really, really fun and attracted an amazing number of families from our community who had never stepped foot on our church campus.

- "Trunk or Treat" ended at 7:00 p.m. and we then spent two frantic hours turning the Refinery around and setting up for our High School department's "Pumpkin Fest" which lasted until midnight. Our high school team and several of our junior high team members worked until about 3:00a.m. cleaning up and getting the building ready for the weekend.

- In Junior High, we kicked off our first week of our new series, The Red Stuff, and overall I think it went pretty well. We had lots of fun programming around the topic including a "Red Stanley" activity that involved giving every student their own Red Stanley to take home in the hopes that they will take a fun picture of Red Stanley and email it to us for a slide show next week. The music was great, the games were fun, attendance was strong. I ditched out of the fourth service and hustled down to our San Clemente campus to cheer on their new youth pastor.

- Football: I think my Broncos might be lucky to finish 8-8...but that could be good enough to win their division. Hard to believe a USC dropped two spots in the ranking after a blowout win. It is shaping up to be a wild finish to the college football regular season.

- Today, I'm having lunch with an old friend from San Diego who I haven't seen in years. Every time I am with him I go home refreshed, challenged and spiritually sharpened so I'm looking forward to re-connecting.