Thursday, January 31, 2008

the little chipper that couldn't

kurt johnson, the middle school pastor at saddleback asked for crazy middle school stories for his new book. I'm sharing the chipper story with him. I've shared this one a few times, but if you haven't heard it, I hope you'll enjoy it.

our ministry used to do a messy “extreme night” every six weeks. the most infamous was the chipper night. I saw this guy putting branches into a wood chipper and I thought to myself, “what if we put vegetables like watermelons into a wood chipper and sprayed the shredded vegetables onto students? they would love that!”
so the volunteers and I went to work. we made announcements for weeks. we got a ton of safety glasses so that no one would hurt their eyes. we went to local grocery stores and got a mountain of day old vegetables. and of course, we got a wood chipper.
on the night of the event, we had a huge crowd of students; they were dressed for a mess and anxious to get started. after a brief message and a brief small group time, the students went to the back parking lot where there was a huge sheet of plastic, the mountain of vegetables and the wood chipper.
the first game was to see who could fill a cup up with chipper-mush. so they stood there in front of the chipper wearing safety goggles, raincoats and holding their cups in the air.
we tossed watermelons, pumpkins and tomatoes into the chipper; there was only one problem: nothing came out the other end. we tossed in more vegetables, nothing.
the chipper began to cough and sputter, and an orange goo started to ooze out the sides. (I later learned that chippers only like to chip up DRY things, like branches. wet things like vegetables clog them up.)
I started to panic. the night was still young, and all of these students came looking for an adventure and we had nothing to offer. I made a quick and foolish decision. I yelled out two words that I still regret, “FOOD FIGHT!”
the students grabbed the vegetables and started throwing them at each other. one student slipped on the plastic and hurt his knee. one girl got a fat lip from a flying potato. and every one of us walked away with bruises.
at the end of the night, I must have given out a hundred apologies to parents and students.
the volunteer staff and I stood there stunned as we looked at the mess that needed to be cleaned up and the chipper that needed to be repaired. one volunteer broke the silence saying, “it seemed like such a good idea at the time.” we all laughed and cleaned up the parking lot.

I share this students whenever we talk about wise and foolish decisions and I often say, “a good idea doesn’t always turn into a wise decision.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I just have a few minutes before youth group, but I thought I’d share some updates:

number 1- an update on teflon-aaron- I was ticked that aaron didn’t get punished, and that God didn’t seem to even acknowledge his crimes. at dinner I read Deuteronomy 9 which reviews the whole golden calf story. verse 20 says, “The Lord was so angry with Aaron that he wanted to destroy him, too. But I prayed for Aaron, and the Lord spared him.” aha! I knew God was mad about that! but God listened to moses’ plea for aaron. “uhh- aaron? you’re welcome!”

number 2- my bus. its all better and home in the church parking lot. it was just an electrical issue associated with the alternator. it was a pretty cheap repair- whew!

number 3- my soul. I was pretty down last weekend. but I have had some extremely encouraging conversations in recent days. also, I spent the entire day working with my hands on a project in the youth room. my mind and my heart were replenished by mindlessly working with my hands and accomplishing a goal. not only that, my new favorite basketball team, the golden state warriors just signed my all-time favorite basketball player, chris webber! its just another sign of how much God loves me.

all that is to say- I’m feeling great and I’m totally ready for the future, and ready to connect with students tonight!
thanks to all who have been remembering me in their prayers!

church//gym: entry04

I’ve been at the gym just about every morning (except sundays) for about 6 weeks now. each morning I start out with some cardio on the elliptical machine. one morning I was looking at how many strides that I had done, and I thought to myself, “if I really push myself, I can get to 5000 strides!” and I did. and the next day it was 5100; and later it was 5500. each morning I’ve been trying to go farther. some of my gym friends have been a little concerned. yesterday when I finished, my friend connie said, “be careful! if you keep that up you’re gonna burn yourself out!”

today I was going for 6000 steps in 30 minutes. I was stepping pretty fast. there is this really kind older gentleman who is in the gym in the mornings- he was on the machine right next to me.
when I finished, (I only hit 5800) he said to me, “you were going pretty fast there!”
“I was going for 6000 steps.” I said.
“6000 steps? that’s pretty good! you’ll do it.”

encouragement came as easy as exhaling for him- and as naturally.
and since he encouraged me confidently, I really believe that I can do it.

what kind of good could I spread if encouragement fell out of my mouth as quickly, naturally and as easily as it did for my friend at the gym?
what kind of difference would it make if all of us encouraged strangers and friends instinctively?
let’s try it and find out!

“do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
-ephesians 4:29

Monday, January 28, 2008


well I’ve spent the entire weekend bummed about my bus.
the way it was driving, i was sure that the transmission was destroyed and that my bus with new floors and new paint, and new logos would have to be junked. or that the new administrators would give me the evil eye when i requested the money for a new transmission.

i called the bus repair man first thing this morning on the way home from the gym. we’re on a first name basis. i told him that i would have it towed to his shop today. and i told him to expect a shot electrical system, a shot transmission and blessings from God if he showed us grace.

at 1pm the tow truck man came, right when we agreed on.
he asked for the keys.
he opened the door and started the bus.
HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!” i thought-
on the outside i looked very cool and mechanically smart.
the tow truck man said,
“can you drive it over to the back of my truck?”

in my mind I thought,
“uhhh no. that’s why you’re here! it doesn’t drive!”
but it did. ack!
so the transmission must still work!

i said, “should I just drive it to the mechanic?
he said, “sure, if you want to risk it…”
“hoist it up.” I said.

after he had it hoisted up I hopped in the passenger seat.
he gave me a blank stare.
“uhh, do you need a ride?” he asked
“sure! how else am I going to get to the mechanic?”
“umm…do you have a car? you don’t want to stay there do you?”
“oh, uh, yeah- umm- no. umm yeah- I’ll just… drive my own car…”
i felt DUMB!

and it turns out that my broken bus probably just needs a new alternator.
and tonight i wil be able to sleep soundly.

“oh rob!
you so CRÄ€-zy!”

Saturday, January 26, 2008


last night was middle school ministry’s event at sky high sports. as i was getting things ready in the afternoon, i saw the rain and the wind and i felt that disaster could be looming on the horizon. my mind went to the worst: what if there were an accident on the road? or a student got hit by a car in the parking lot? or broke their neck? i prayed off and on all afternoon for God’s grace and protection.

it was a pretty stressful event, i really tried to be calm and cool, but looking back I’m sure that i looked frazzled. one of the bus drivers almost didn’t make it, some students arrived almost an hour early, the phone was ringing off the hook with people wondering if they could bring one more friend, the check-in girls were running late, the rain was pouring, the students were hyper, and a ton of parents still had papers to fill out. at one point, it looked like there weren’t enough seats on the vehicles to hold all of the students.

we finally got on the road about ten minutes late. about 90% of the way there, the bus i was driving started to act funny. it started slowing down. i pulled off the freeway at our exit. i tried so hard to get it to sky high, but on the off-ramp it just stopped. there i was, in my bus with 21 hyper middle schoolers in the rain, on the side of the road. the bus wouldn’t start.

i made some calls quick. i called kyle to drop off the students in his bus and come and get mine. i called Justin to fill in for me at sky high, i called the tow company to come get the bus. i don’t like asking for help very often, i guess I don’t like needing things, but there were students involved, so i had to make the calls.
the students did great. i told them that I was so proud of them. I said to them “I KNEW something crazy was going to happen tonight!”
one student said “I felt it too, Rob.”
we only lost a few minutes of their bouncey time. after kyle picked them up, i called wally to let him know that we were ok, and i called my wife to give her the update.

i’ll be honest: as i stood there in the rain, waiting for the tow truck to come, i was very disappointed with myself. i’m the bus-guy- I’m the one that looks after them. i felt that i should have seen this coming. there were so many bright spots to the evening, but at the moment, i couldn’t see any of them. i thought about all kinds of things: no longer having events that need busses, selling the busses, becoming a mailman or a lightrail driver.

the tow truck guy showed up, and the first thing he said was “I can’t tow something that big.” but he looked around and said “let’s see if we can at least get you off of the road, then I’ll call a bigger truck.”
for about 30 minutes I stood there in the rain watching him hook up cables and chains and pull levers, and finally, he pulled that big bus on top of his truck.

at one point he had the bus up at and angle and he had his head underneath the back tire while he chained up more points! i seriously thought he was going to be crushed. finally he said, “get inside.” we got inside out of the rain and he said, “alright. now where are we going in los gatos?”
“you mean you’re going to take it back to the church?!” i asked.
i wanted to cheer.
the driver’s name was rick, and he was a great guy.
being a tow-truck driver, he sees the worst parts of life: road rage, accident scenes, and people honking at cars obstructing traffic. he told me that recently he saved someone from committing suicide in the santa cruz mountains. i said “wow! you don’t just do towing, you do crisis-counseling as well!”
he had all kinds of interesting and crazy stories to tell me. he was telling me a story and we both paused and held our breath as we passed under a 15 foot tall underpass. once we made it through without scraping the roof off of the bus, he continued with his story. i told him that i was afraid that he was going to get crushed under the bus when he was hooking everything up; he told me that he was a little scared too. he could tell that i was really disappointed with myself over the bus and he said, “you know, these things all happen for a reason…”

a lot of people had that message for me that night: students, staff, even parents. one parent said “God cares more about working on you, than getting the logistics worked out."
the bus is back at church, waiting to be repaired next week.

i planned on sleeping in this morning, but i couldn’t sleep. i just stared at the ceiling thinking though what-ifs and what i could have done differently. i got up early and went to the gym. the sunrise was amazing. the rain had stopped and the colors reflecting off of the clouds were an absolute gift. i took time to thank God for all that went right last night:

the students had a blast
we had a great turn out
none of them were injured
the staff pulled together in my absence
sky high took care of us
wonderful people came through to help me, including Justin, kyle, bruce, niki, gwen, and a whole handful of parents that i didn’t get to thank.
i thanked God for letting MY bus break. not kyle’s not bruce’s.
i was proud of myself for keeping a level head and not shouting at any students.
i thanked God that the cell phone worked and that I had a great talk with Rick.
and i pondered the fact that even though it was wet and cold and very sad, it could have been a lot worse.
and i pondered that maybe it was all for a reason- and maybe I'm being prepared for stressul moments in the future.
thanks again to all who came to my rescue-
you’re all heroes to me.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

more pics

i know that some of my readers could do without the theological musings-
they want to see the super-girl!
here is an update:
lately, she is REALLY into CLIMBING!

she's climbs everything, everywhere.
and when we see a climbing structure,
she heads right for it-
so far she has conquered climbing gyms at
the jungle, chuck e. cheese,
burger king and carl's jr.

its a great way for her to talk with other girls her age.
its fun to watch her say to them,
"let's go this way!"
or "can you help me up?"
"what's your name?"

its pretty scary when i can't see where she's at
in the climbing area.
i try not to be a nerdy parent,
but i have climbed up my share of climbing structures
just to make sure everything is ok.

she's also really, really into backyardigans these days.
its a cartoon about animals that sing showtunes.
its a crack up.
more children's songs to swirl around my brain all day.
the backyardigans all have ethnic names:
tyrone, pablo, uniqua, tasha and austin.
jane sleeps with a pablo stuffed animal.
he is a blue penguin.
she got these backyardigan masks from the party store
and she walks around wearing them saying
"wait a second! where's jane? oh! there she is!"
what's really funny is that everytime she pulls the mask off,
deanna has to put it back on.
which is about every 10 seconds. hee-hee!

we're having a lot of fun!
if you're related to us,
we'd love for you to come out and see us-
we would be glad to show you some fun at the children's discovery museum-
another one of our favorite places to play!



so I’ve been reading through the first five books of the bible for a LONG time now, and something keeps coming up that bothers me to some extent: teflon-aaron.

(images from the brick testament)

this guy aaron does some crazy things, but with no consequences.
and then moses does something that seems to be a lesser crime and gets serious punishment.

let me explain:
aaron is moses’ brother.
when moses was too afraid to speak to pharaoh,
God told him that He would send aaron to do the talking.
aaron and moses lead the israelites out of egypt,
through a series of incredible miracles,
and then moses goes up mt. sinai to receive the law.
while he is up there, the people revolt
and who do they complain to? aaron.
they say that they want gods to worship,
so aaron has them get all of their jewlery together,
and he forges the golden calf.
aaron forged it!
and then lied about it!
he makes it sound like the calf just appeared out of the fire.

so when moses got down from the mountain,
he had the calf ground up into powder,
put into water, and made the idolaters drink it.
all the people were punished, but not aaron.
and what’s worse-
he was made a priest!
and his sons were made priests!

later on, miriam, moses’ sister, and aaron
have a problem with moses’ wife-
so they start talking bad about him.
God sticks up for moses
and temporarily gives miriam leprosy,
but not aaron!
he’s teflon-aaron! nothing sticks to him!

later on,
the people are thirsty.
God tells moses and aaron to talk to a rock,
and water will flow out of it.
instead of talking to the rock,
moses hit the rock.
and thanks to God, water still gushed out

God was so mad at the both of them,
that they were told that neither of them
would enter the promised land.
God gives an interesting reason for keeping them out:
part of it has to do with trust,
part of it has to do with a view of His holiness.
He says:
“because you did not trust in me enough
to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites,
you will not bring this community into the land I give them."
so aaron died of natural causes,
but moses had to go up to pisgah
and look down on the promised land.
he could see it, but not enter it.
he died a little while later.

now i understand aaron not getting in,
but moses?
after all that he endured?
doesn’t that count?
aaron led two rebellions!
one against God, and another against moses,
and no punishment.
instead, grace;
and the office of priest.

i don’t know why God didn’t react to aaron’s crimes.
but i do know that
if all of my mistakes were recorded in everlasting scripture,
then no one would think that i ought to be a servant of God.
future readers would wonder why i didn’t have it worse.
maybe i would be teflon-rob.
maybe i already am.

i guess God was the same way then the way He is now.
He doesn’t work on the system of karma:
He doesn’t bless me when I’m good
and curse me when I’m bad;
He loves and shows grace,
without compromising His own justice.
He doesn’t always give me what I think I deserve,
good or bad-
and just like in moses’ day,
He has His reasons for that,
and sometimes those reasons are hidden from me.

it reminds me of a lyric to a U2 song:
“grace, she's got the walk
not on a ramp or on chalk
she's got the time to talk
she travels outside of karma
she travels outside of karma
when she goes to work
you can hear her strings
grace finds beauty in everything…”

aaron didn’t get what he deserved-
its unfair.
but then again, grace always is;
its unfair in our favor.

one more line from U2:

“what once was hurt
what once was friction
what left a mark
no longer stings
because grace makes beauty
out of ugly things.”

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
while we were still sinners,
christ died for us.”
-romans 5

Monday, January 21, 2008


sleep tonight
and may your dreams
be realized.
if the thunder cloud
passes rain
so let it rain,
rain down on he.
so let it be.
so let it be.

sleep tonight
and may your dreams
be realized.
if the thunder cloud
passes rain
so let it rain,
let it rain
rain down on he.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

balaam part 3

I read the end of the balaam story a few weeks ago
and unfortunately he died with the rest of the midianites.
I was hoping that he would turn out to be a good guy-
I was hoping that he would be the sorcerer that met God
and turned to know Him and serve Him;
but instead, he schemed against God and His people.
2 peter 2 says that balaam “loved the wages of wickedness.”

instead of making a curse on Israel,
balaam told the midianite women to seduce the Israelite men.
(revelation 2:4)
numbers 25 says that 24,000 israelite men fell for it
and were punished with death.

balaam didn’t need to use sorcery to beat Israel,
he used the power of sex and seduction instead.
and it turned out to be pretty effective against God’s people.
it still is, I guess.

what’s really cool is that dust press
just turned the story into a comic book
and it looks super cool.
here are some of the pages that I’ve seen so far:

“the LORD your God would not listen to balaam
but turned the curse into a blessing for you,
because the LORD your God
loves you.”
-deuteronomy 23:5

Monday, January 7, 2008

balaam and the star

so balaam goes with king balak to curse Israel, but he realizes that he can’t.
God has blessed them-
but God gives him seven oracles to say to king balak-
all of them are blessings on Israel.
numbers says this:
“then balak's anger burned against balaam. he struck his hands together and said to him, "i summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. now leave at once and go home! i said i would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded."

balaam answered balak, "did i not tell the messengers you sent me, 'even if balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, i could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the lord -and i must say only what the LORD says'? now i am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come."

let me just pause and think “isn’t this weird?”
I mean, God speaks to this guy-
and he obeys God! but he’s not “saved.”
God uses him and balaam respects God-
but he isn’t an Israelite. he is a sorcerer!
does this mess with your idea of who can hear God?
who can obey God? who can honor God?

here is the part that gave me chills:
balaam gives one last oracle and says this:
“then he uttered his oracle:
"the oracle of balaam son of beor,
the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly,
(this is a ironic, because he was the one that could not see the supernatural, even though his donkey could. eventually his eyes were opened)
the oracle of one who hears the words of God,
who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the almighty,
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
"i see him, but not now;
i behold him, but not near.
a star will come out of jacob;
a scepter will rise out of israel.”

who did he see?
who is this star?
the star of david?
or the star of bethlehem?
the “morning-star?”
could it be that God allowed this pagan sorcerer to see thousands of years into the future to see the coming of jesus?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

pre-school obsessions

characters jane has been temporarily (and seriously) obsessed with:

1. baby einstein (especially the turtle)
2. winnie the pooh
3. mary poppins
4. the wiggles
5. mickey mouse
6. hi-5 (a little known kids “boy-band” with girls in it)
7. thomas the tank engine
8. the little mermaid
9. blue’s clues
10. elmo and his sesame street friends
11. superWHY! (an adventure-show on PBS about reading)
and most recently,
12. angelina ballerina (a VERY emotional mouse that does ballet)

and yes, we have invested serious time and money into EACH of these little obsessions. (we have gone to see hi-5, thomas, and elmo live, and we have tickets to see mickey and winnie the pooh next month. crazy!) anyhow, i've heard all of their theme songs OVER and OVER, and just like jane, I've got them memorized in my brain. sigh.
its fun to watch her get excited and learn new things.
what will she be into this year?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

rush hour 3

i just watched rush hour 3 and i laughed until i teared up.
chris tucker always cracks me up.
i concluded that when i watch movies, i just want to laugh-
i just want to be entertained- is that shallow?
here is a funny scene- pardon the language:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

all is quiet on new year's day