Monday, April 28, 2008

look out below!

one of my favorite new ministry tools is a 10-gallon water cooler.
students are always asking to leave the youth room to go get a drink of water- i can’t blame them- we do a lot of strenuous activity in those rooms. the water cooler helps them get a drink without having to get out of sight.

the youth room is on the second story of the church- and every Sunday, and every Tuesday, i dump the unused water out of the water cooler over the stairs and into a dirt area below the stairs. its something i sort of look forward to, because it makes a big splash, and mud flies everywhere.
and of course, every time i check to see if someone is down there; and no one ever is;
well, i shouldn’t say that no one EVER is-

so Sunday morning, church lets out, and we start to tear everything down.
i go to dump out the bucket, and as i’m about to dump it, i see this high school girl who just got a tattoo. i said, “hey! i saw your pictures!”
“what pictures?!”
“the ones of your ink!” i said.
“your ink!”
as i said that, i dumped the cooler over the edge.
people in the parking lot started freaking out, falling on the ground laughing and pointing.
they were calling my name, “ROB! oh my gosh!”

for the first time ever, someone was below my water cooler as i dumped it out.
it was a little guy.
he got soaked with water and mud.
what was he doing down there?
i have no idea?
who was he? what happened to him?
i’ve got no clue.

sorry little guy-
i should have looked.

the moral of the story is:
look before you dump-
don’t play in the dirt under stairs
and don’t get tattooed.

be the cow

in 1 samuel 4, the israelities are fighting against the philistines and they are not winning. so they decide to pull the ark out of the tabernacle and bring it onto the battlefield- as if it were some sort of weapon of mass destruction. they lost the battle, and they lost the ark. the philistines stole it.

in chapter 5, the philistines put the ark in a temple along with a statue of their god, dagon. maybe they thought that the ark was an idol, so they put it in with the other one. after all, the israelites were treating it like some sort of idol.

that box began to mess with the philistines. when they went into the temple the next day, they found the statue of dagon bowing to the ark. that should have clued them in, but they put the statue back up, and the next morning, there it was again, bowing to the ark.

then the people started getting tumors. and it didn’t take long before the philistines decided that the ark needed to go away. but how would they move it?

in chapter 6, they decide to make golden tumors (gross) and golden rats and put them in a trailer attached to a cart that the ark was on. then they found two mother cows that had just given birth to calves. they attached the cart to these two mother cows. the notes in my study bible explain that the two mother cows would have stayed with their calves by instinct; but if they were truly being led by God, then they would go against their instincts and carry the ark back to israel. and the cows did.
later the cows were sacrificed and burnt with the wood from the cart.

so you have the israelites using the ark as a weapon. and you have the philistines using the ark as one of their idols or gods. two nations looking to use God or manipulate Him, but in the end, it was He who was in control. He proves again, that He won’t be used as a good luck charm, a weapon, or even as the tool of a nation.

the only ones in the story who really seem to understand what’s going on are the cows.
they follow God’s leading even when it means doing what seems completely unnatural.
they follow God even if it means that they are living sacrifices.
they serve Him, even though it would cost them their children and their lives.
the philistines and the israelites attempted to use God,
but it was the cows that knew that we don’t use God, God uses us.

so be the cow. follow God’s leading- even if He leads you in a direction that is foreign, even if you have never traveled that way before.
be the cow; and understand that God uses us, we don’t use Him.
be the cow; and live a life that is sacrificed and dedicated to Him-

Saturday, April 26, 2008

grease is the word

one of the fun parts of being a middle school pastor is watching students perform live at a school program. i try to go to these things each time i’m asked, which isn’t very often. middle school dance recitals or school plays are usually pretty choppy, but there is always one or two performances that are truly inspirational. there is a certain protocol to these things. you have to listen closely, because the mikes usually don’t work very well, you have to stay to the very end, so you can tell the student and their mom that they did a great job, you have to be ready to shmooze with parents and grandparents, and you have to bring cash for cookies at intermission.

tonight my friend bruce and i went to go see my 8th grade friend trevor play danny zuko in grease. yeah, the sound was bad, the mikes were picking up police radio, and and it was hard to hear, but it was grease- and i love grease. its got such great music. when i first saw grease on video, i thought that kids in high school broke out in song all the time. i was so disappointed to discover that this wasn’t true.

grease has some group-songs just can’t be messed up; and sadly, it has some individual songs that can be butchered. but hey, its middle schoolers- so you get over it. one little red haired girl nailed my favorite grease song, “those magic changes.” she could seriously have made american idol. here is sam harris singing it on broadway:

it’s a little awkward seeing middle schoolers perform grease. its pretty nasty. they cleaned up the lyrics, but the basic message remains: if you want to land a bad boy, you’ve got to become a bad-girl. and seeing a middle school girl dressed up like a “bad girl” is awkward to say the least.

all in all, it was a great night. i got to enjoy some ribs and some sports with bruce, i got to see some parents, and i got to support some students. there was another student from the ministry, tiffany, who played rizzo. she owned it. trevor did great too. AND as danny zuko, he got to kiss a girl (woo!)

Friday, April 25, 2008

more improv everywhere-

there should be more things like this in the world...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

there can be only one

this is my favorite time of year to be a tv owner and a sports fan: it’s the nba playoffs. that means for every night until june, there will be a great basketball game on tv. and i love every minute of it. deanna and i have had many a stressful night over the years cheering for the kings and the warriors; and cheering against the lakers. back when we didn’t have cable, we used to go to the sports pubs to watch games. what a great wife!

of course i’m bummed that my number 1 team, the golden state warriors are not in the playoffs- they would have played with any team and pushed them as far as they could go. but there are several former warriors in the playoffs including antawn jamison and gilbert arenas.
there are also several former kings in the playoffs including mike bibby, peja stojakovic, bobby jackson, and the former coach of the kings, rick adelman. so even though my team isn’t in, i can cheer for some of my favorite players. i would love to see kevin garnett or steve nash win a championship after so many years of playing well. other players that i think deserve a ring include tracy mcgrady, peja stojakovic, sam cassell, and jason kidd. i wouldn't mind seeing dallas win if they weren't owned by mark cuban.

this year the western conference is a super tight race- the east not so much. but here are my picks:

in the first round, i’m picking the lakers over denver, and utah over houston. that will be super close, and I would love to see tracy mcgrady get out of the first round, but i just don’t see the jazz losing that one. i’ve got the suns beating san antonio, which is another toss up, but i think that shaq and nash can get by the spurs. i’ve got the hornets taking dallas, mostly because i love seeing mark cuban lose, and peja plays for the hornets.

the east is pretty easy: there are basically only 3 good teams: the celtics, the cavs and the pistons. the pistons are always great, the cavs made some good trades and the celts are one of the best teams ever. i’m picking the pistons to come out as eastern champs.

i’m also picking the suns to come out of the west, although that could easily be san antonio or the lakers. it would make me a little sick to see kobe win the championship, and i think that the spurs are a few steps behind, so i’m picking the suns.

again, this is basically what i predict/ hope will happen. but this year, anything can happen- that’s what makes it so fun to watch. next year warriors! next year…

Saturday, April 19, 2008

church//gym: entry 11

the other day i was on the exercise bike, and gary was on the elliptical behind me. this old lady walks into the room and starts checking in on everybody. she says, “hey janet, how is your sister?” “mike, how is your job?” “gary, how are your dizzy-spells?” he said, “i’m fine.” she says, “are you really feeling fine or are you lying to me?”
i was shocked.
so was gary.
she said, “hey- i’m just looking out for you!”
and to me that reminded me of some thoughts about accountability.
i’m all for friends keeping each other accountable.
i’ve had a bunch of friends over the years keep me accountable.
it’s a great thing.
and she is right-
it is a sign of love-
and it only works if everyone chooses to be honest.
but it also only works if it is in a spirit of love and confidentiality.
for her to ask gary those questions in front of everyone
showed that her questions were more about her than they were about him.

it also showed that you can’t just keep anyone accountable-
you need to make a friendship-
and an agreement-
and a pact built on trust-
that is when your questions are welcome and earned.

you really can’t sniff around in someone else’s life
unless they have given you that freedom,
and you have given that freedom to them.

she's a baller-

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

church//gym: entry10

:: the other day I walked into the gym and gary was on the elliptical talking to the guy next to him who was also on an elliptical. gary had this guy cracking up. they guy said to gary, “wow! its already been 20 minutes!” gary said, “that’s why I’m always talking to rob or to pam or to connie- because it makes the time go so much faster!”

and that’s true for us who want to grow in Christ- when we try to go at it all by ourselves it can be slow, boring, and just difficult. but if you can do it with a friend, its so much easier.

:: gary was chatting with me and this girl. he shared that he was feeling worn out and tired. the girl next to him said, “I think you need to stretch out more.” he went on about how he doesn’t stretch. then she went on and on about how she loves to stretch and how one time she got up at 5 am to stretch for a whole hour and how stretching is the best. he and I weren’t convinced.

there are always people with advice- who make you feel like you’re not at the level they are at. and they are usually annoying.

:: I’ve been thinking- at what point have you arrived with your health? do you ever? if so, how long does it last? health is a daily maintenance. it’s a way of life- not a destination. its about a journey, not an arrival.

it’s the same for us who want to grow in jesus- or as the theologians call it, “sanctification.” at what point have you made it? do you ever? how long does it last? its not about arriving, its about developing good habits and making good choices every day, every moment. it’s a journey, not a destination.

:: gary and I were talking about our work outs. he was telling me about his crunches, and how he lifts weights- and then he said, “the most important thing is what we’re doing right now- working our hearts (doing cardio). because when your heart is right, then rest of you is right.”

that’ll preach brother.

Monday, April 14, 2008

random-rob-thoughts: april 14

:: I keep hearing about this place happy hollow in san jose. I looked into it and saw that there were kids rides, a train, and a zoo- so I was really looking forward to taking jane there.

it was ghetto.

and we had a pretty cruddy time there.

maybe it was just that it was hot outside, maybe its that we are spoiled with all of the new parks that we have been going to, and maybe it was just gross.
we are used to this cool park flooring made of old tires that’s super-soft; this place had a mixture of woodchips and sand in the playgrounds that made jane’s feet hurt. also, the new park equipment is made to never really get hot, its mostly made of plastic, and the slides are at a slow angle. at happy hollow, they have those old steel climbing areas that look like they could knock your teeth out if you run into them. jane went down a steep steel slide. first of all it was blazing hot, second, she went down so fast that she fell hard.
its bizarre to think that i grew up playing on that kind of stuff and never got hurt, and yet i won't let jane near it.

the train wasn’t a train- it’s a giant dragon- she flipped out.
some girl practically mugged her in a maze trying to steal her sunglasses. dad came to the rescue.

there was a fire truck that we liked:

and a Viking ship that she REALLY liked:

the zoo was pretty boring, but they had a jaguar that I thought was cool:

jane didn’t like the jaguar.
so, happy hollow: thumbs down!

:: while I was at happy hollow, I could hear all of these parents calling their kids or giving them instructions. I couldn’t help but notice all of the lame names that parents give their kids these days. I heard, “connor!” “Jordan!” “cooper!” “Madison!” “Harrison!” “taylor!”
and then it dawned on me: parents are giving their kids last names for first names!
I can’t really tease, I have a first name for a last name.

:: I went to a sabercats game with bruce and jeff- it was fun. the sabercats lost. I think that arena is bad luck for san jose teams.

:: what I the deal with electrical outlets and plugs? why is one side of the plug bigger than the other one? because it seems that every time I go to plug something in my plug is upside down. annoying!

:: spike tv has been showing all of the star wars movies lately. one a night for 6 nights in a row. I love those movies. they were so exciting to me when I was a kid. its really fun to watch the original movies after seeing the prequels. it makes darth vader seem so much more tragic.
there is so much in those movies about the power of deception, redemption, teamwork, friendship and hope. maybe someday I’ll explore the spirituality of star wars, although I’m sure its already been done.
they added some new things to the original movies, which is cool in some spots, but lame in others. they replaced the ghost of “old Anakin” with the ghost of “young Anakin” which doesn’t really make sense to me- since the ghost of obi-wan Kenobi is old. oh well.

:: lots of bay area teams to cheer for right now: sharks are in the play-offs, but are down. warriors are 1 game out of the playoffs, and giants aren’t as bad as everyone said they would be. its kind of sad to see the park unfilled.

Friday, April 11, 2008

DMV physical

everyone knows: rob drives a church bus. that requires a class B license with a passenger endorsement. i first got one of these licenses years ago when i was an intern in modesto. back then i drove the church’s 15 passenger vans. when you have a commercial driver’s license, the DMV requires that you have a driver’s physical every 2 years. if you don’t pass, you don’t drive.

these physicals test things like eye-sight, hearing, blood pressure, and they always take a urine sample.
i’ve had these physicals every 2 years for the last two years and e very time it’s a different doctor, with a different standard and way of testing things. and it seems like every year, i barely pass over something strange. one time, this one doctor gave me this weird test to see if i was color blind. i was supposed to see some numbers in a pattern, but for the life of me i couldn’t see half of them.

on several occasions doctors felt that my blood pressure was almost-too-high- and almost didn’t pass me. one time, when i was on the low-carb diet, there was a lot of protein in my pee (duh) and the doctor almost didn’t pass me because they thought i had some bizarre disease.

not only that, I never know what to expect. some doctors give me the gown and tell me to suit up. some get out the rubber gloves (I think just to freak me out). others do neither of these.

today was my test.
so in order to make sure that my blood pressure was low, i avoided salty snacks and caffeine all day- ACK!!!
to make sure that my hearing was good, i chose not to listen to my iPod or loud music in my car.
and to make sure that i could come up with a urine sample, i held it for a LONG TIME.

so when i got to the doctor’s office, i was nervous, under-caffeinated, under-snacked and in need of bathroom. and of course they make you wait forever.

but i passed just fine! it was painless! no rubber gloves. no gowns. no weird eye-tests. and no high blood pressure! i’m healthy! woo-hoo! two more years! so when i got home, i totally downed some iced tea and pretzels. yum.

Monday, April 7, 2008

better stop shaving...

(from a funny blog caled 'stuff christians like')
#125. The mandatory youth minister goatee.

This is how I imagine most job interviews going between a church search committee and a potential youth minister:

Search committee member

"Well, so far everything checks out. Your beliefs are the same as ours, you're smart and the kids seemed to really like you. But there's something missing."

Potential youth minister
"Do you need more references? I could get more references."

Search committee member
"No, I'm going to cut to the chase. It's your chin. It's just so bald and boring. The kids in this community need a youth minister with a bit of an edge. Someone that understands them. Someone that speaks their language with the "phat" and the "twittering" and the "i said a hip hop the hippie the hippie, to the hip hip hop, a you don't stop, the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie." They need someone relevant and now. Someone ... with a goatee."

Potential youth minister
"I'll start growing one today."

Search committee member

That's probably not exactly how it happens but the magazine Christianity Today did a survey and 72% of youth ministers in America have goatees. OK, I made that up but it sounded true because chances are yours had one. I don't think there is any great follicle conspiracy at hand, I just think it's a really easy way to tell the senior minister and the youth minister apart. Unless your senior minister has one too and in that case you might be going to a church with a name that starts with a lower case "x" or "i" (xPerience, xTra, xTraordinary, iNtouch, iChapel, iSaved etc.) and at that point all bets are off.

Friday, April 4, 2008

april four

church//gym: entry 09

before this week, i had gone to the gym, like 90 times in a row, without missing a day. (my gym is closed on Sundays). but last week i missed 2 days for my missions trip and this week i missed 2 days for my breakfast club and to help Deanna watch jane. so this morning when i woke up i had a choice: do i miss 3 days in a row? it was really tempting. it would have been easy to say that i’ve been there so many times already, what’s another day? but then again, once you miss 2 days, its easy to miss 3 and 4. plus, who would notice?
this is what we all face when the decision to go to church or not rests with us. once you’re in a situation where no one will really notice if you go or not, it can be really tempting to just stay in bed and miss a week. its easy to justify it and say that you’ve already gone so many times before.
well i went, and it was hard, but i’m glad that i did.

another thought:

i go to this kettlebell class- and its hard. not because the kettlebells are heavy, but because its hard to get my body in the right position to do the exercises. i’m usually the only one in the class, so eddie the instructor just watches me and corrects me. so there i am, lifting this weight, or passing it around my legs and eddie is there saying, “butt-back. chest up. feet straight. butt back! head up. butt back! open your stance. keep your head still! butt back!” it gets to the point where i’m twisted into this weird position lifting weights, and dying. so i think i’m going to quit the class- not because the weight is heavy, but because eddie is all up in my grill all the time!

and again, i think that church is fun, as long as we feel that everyone stays out of our business. but once we get called on our mistakes and corrected, it starts getting uncomfortable. will we quit or improve? will we listen to our trainers, or just go work out somewhere else?

last thought:

again, i missed 4 days in the last 2 weeks. and the people at the gym noticed. when i walked in, several of my friends noticed, greeted me, and expressed that they missed seeing me. it made me want to make sure that i don’t miss another day anytime soon!

what a great example to all of us who see people each wee that haven’t been to church in awhile. instead of beating them up, we can be excited to see them and motivate them to get plugged back in.

“let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
-hebrews 10

Thursday, April 3, 2008

back in time

this year, one of the major themes of my teaching has been bullying. i researched the issue all summer. i have spoken on bullying dozens of times this year in several different venues, and each time it seems to strike a chord. i can’t talk about bullying without sharing my story of being a victim of bullies in junior high. and i can’t tell that story without referring to the movie that gave gasoline to the fire of my bullies: back to the future. this movie has a bully named biff and a victim named george mcfly.
when i was in junior high, every 8th grade boy was possessed by the spirit of biff- and to each of them i was known only by the name “mcfly.”

i showed a clip from the movie on Sunday morning and it got me thinking about all of those movies where someone goes back in time and lives their life over again. i started thinking, “what would i do differently if i went back in time and lived junior high all over again, knowing what i know now?” here are some thoughts:

:: i would probably spend more time with my parents. like most junior highers, i withdrew from them during these years. i’d learn more things from my dad, like how to fix things, and how to drive a stick (we lived on a farm, and the tractor was a stick shift- he taught my uncle how to drive a stick shift on that tractor). if i went back in time, i’d fight with my dad a lot less, and i’d help him a lot more.

:: i wouldn’t get too bothered by those bullies. if i went back in time, i’d probably get to know them and laugh along with them. i didn’t fight them then, and i wouldn’t fight them if i did it all over again.

:: i would avoid the drama of junior high girls all together.

:: i’d pay attention during math- its always been my worst subject. i would do better at school in general- that way i’d do better in high school.

:: i’d go out for football. i’ve always regretted never getting interested in it earlier. who knew there was a big person waiting to be born out of that scrawny frame?

:: i’d get over to first baptist a lot sooner. i never went until high school. if i had shown up earlier, i could have avoided a lot of mistakes, and had support for a difficult time. that’s one of the reasons it bugs me when students take youth group for granted- they don’t know how much caring people and a relationship with God can not only improve your life, but protect you as well.

:: i would have thanked a lot of adults who looked out for me. i would have actually listened to what they were saying.

:: i would join band class and learn music-

:: i could have learned computer science and become a billionaire, but if i went back, i still probably wouldn’t.

:: i wouldn’t pretend to be someone else- i’d just be me. i was pretty cool as i was, i don’t know why i felt like i had to be someone else.

:: P.E. at my school was like boot camp. there were uniforms, ranks, obstacle courses, showers, etc. if i went back, i would work even harder at P.E. like they say, pain is temporary, but pride lasts forever.

:: i’d spend more time with my brother. he was 6 years younger, which put him at 6 years old when i was 12- not the kind of friends i was looking for. but if i went back, i’d make more memories with him.

:: of course i’d avoid some decisions that led to consequences- lies, bad friends, reckless words-

so let's see: if i went back in time, i'd spend time with my parents, spend time with my little brother, go to church, i'd be friendly to bullies, i'd do well at school, i'd join band and listen to adults and stay away from girls and bad kids.
in short, if i went back in time, i'd be a nerd!
maybe that's the true revenge of the nerds: they grow up knowing more and have fewer regrets. maybe that's the secret of a life with no regrets: be a nerd!
cool is overrated!
so are junior high relationships!

anyhow, the reality is, i can’t go back. and if somehow God gave me the chance, i doubt that i would take it. junior high was awful. it still is- that’s why i do what i do, because i empathize. but since i can’t go back, i’ve got to live right now- so that when i’m old and grey, i won’t wonder how life would have been different if i made better choices in the days i’m living in right now.

“i have seen the burden God has laid on men.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
i know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy
and do good while they live.
that everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—
this is the gift of God.
i know that everything God does will endure forever;
nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.
God does it so that men will revere him.
whatever is
has already been,
and what will be
has been before;
and God will call the past
to account

-ecclesiastes 3

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

1st day of club

today was the first day of the new club at Princeton plaza. it was like being in middle school all over again: awkward.

my firends anna-marie from youth for christ and my friend chris from st. timothy's and i all showed up at 7:30 to pray and set up. we had cereal, pastries and orange-juice. we had some music, and all of our paper products- we felt like we were all set.

anna-marie stood out in front of mcdonald's, while I stood out in front of Walgreens handing out flyers. there were these 2 girls who were all dressed up for their friend’s birthday who thought I was a creep. a friend of mine stopped by to talk while they were in Walgreens- they looked like they were waiting for me to be distracted so they could get out of the store without talking to me. later they went back in with a friend. I said, “free breakfast today!” and their friend stabbed me in the chest with an eye-roll/head-snap/sigh-combo. i went into club and the students said, "some birthday girls rejected us!"
i said, "they rejected me too!" i went back outside and saw them again.
i said, "i'm not even going to invite you guys after that vicious eye-roll"
but this time one of their friends recognized me from church or camp or something.
she said, “oh hi! I know you! you’re pastor rob!”
I said, “aha! see?! I told you guys there was nothing to be afraid of! and you thought that I was a creep!”
and one of them said, “well, only lauren thought you were a creep…”

you could almost see the thought-bubbles over the students’ heads saying,
“what will my friends think if I go inside? will they think that I’m not cool?” students would walk up, look for their friends, and then run away. and then they would slowly come back. it was pretty funny.

there was a big difference in the type of student around. there were the rich almaden kids who wanted to know “what kind of food is it?” and then there were kids from the apartments who were just glad that there was food.

in all, we reached out to about 30 students- mostly Hispanic boys. we had a lot of fun connecting with them- and we’re all looking forward to next week.