Thursday, March 31, 2011

3 in 1

I feel called in 3 different areas; youth service and counseling, music and songwriting, and the visual arts. Its an interesting thing, because those 3 callings don't always flow together so nicely. I mean, my life is so much more streamlined than what it used to be, but there are still a couple areas of disconnect. I'm praying about how to bring these things closer together. Its a difficult thing, as there are only so many hours in a day. But 2 things that are blending well are my youth service and music. I spend at least an hour a day leading a couple of my kids in worship and sharing with them songs from my heart.

And I recently began taking part in a great project combining my 3 loves and callings into 1. In order to keep funds generated to support a guitar class for teens, I'm attending the classes to take pictures and snippets of film of the students with their guitars, which I will later cleverly blend together to pull at heartstrings.

Youth. Music. Visual arts.
3 in 1!

I love it!
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Justice Wrapped In Love, by Shaun Groves

I love this post, found here, so... well, I re-posted it! Enjoy:

I have an awful memory so it’s not uncommon for me to have zero recall about a church I’ve visited in the past. But I remembered East Side Baptist the moment I walked in this morning. I remembered the pastor – a young guy with a thin build, a short hair cut, warm demeanor, slight lisp and incredible speaking voice. I remembered his love for the have-nots and marginalized in Paragould, Arkansas.
I’ll remember this morning for a long time too.
The sermon was on Jonah – the prophet who ran from God to Spain, was swallowed by a big fish on the way, but was spit out and eventually told the brutes in Nineveh about God as He’d commanded.
“Justice wrapped in love,” the pastor summarized.


There are two extremes to avoid, he said. On the one hand there’s that church we all hear about in the news – the one that pickets the funerals of soldiers and says Katrina was God’s wrath against New Orleans. The pastor this morning said “fundamentalists” sat around talking about God’s wrath when Katrina hit but Christians prayed for the people of New Orleans, took up offerings, took in displaced families, went to Louisiana to help out. Beautiful.


On the other hand, he said, we sometimes so major on God’s love that we forget He is also just. A day will come when God will pour out justice on the world. There will be a time of judgment for all mankind and to deny that is to say God is not just – only love.

“Justice wrapped in love,” he said. God is just but has “opened a window of grace” for us. Justice is coming for sure but at this time God is lovingly pursuing us, wooing us with kindness, allowing the world to exchange loyalty to Him for life with Him.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
His conclusion was convicting. I’m doing my best to relay it to you word for word. “It is ludicrous to say we believe in God’s love and coming justice and not show love to others and tell them about Jesus.” He said it’s time to stop yelling at homosexuals and start loving them, to stop picketing abortion doctors and find ways to love them and the women they see. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t have convictions or take a stand,” he said,” but we have to love those who don’t take the same stands we do.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

still songwriting!

I've not been blogging much about songwriting lately, but it remains something huge in my life. I think one reason why I don't feel the need to blog about it as much anymore is because I have a new outlet for it. Since taking a few guitar lessons, I've been bringing in my guitar to work and playing my songs for the kids I work with. Almost all of them know the lyrics to the songs I share with them, and I've worked with some of them to help them write their own songs. Its been an awesome way to share my faith with them, teaching basic Christian principles through my songs.

Maybe soon I'll record a new song or two on my webcam and post them!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elfin Forest: A New Favorite Place

This place, sigh . . . it's so beautiful and peaceful. I mistakenly thought I'd been there before, but I recently realized that I was actually just visiting another park located near one of the Elfin Forest communities. Upon taking my work kids to the real Elfin Forest Reserve to hike, I fell in love with the place and have since been back several times, even recreationally on my days off.

The hikes are challenging without being discouraging, and the views are fantastic; the overlooks provide views of the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, Coronado Islands, the Laguna and San Bernardino mountain ranges, and the Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir.

The rangers and volunteers do a great job disposing of any traces of litter, and benches and picnic tables are strategically placed throughout the reserve. The entrance of the main hiking trail even has a station to pick up and leave behind community walking-sticks and bells for mountain bikers to use. Huge stepping stones and boulders jutting out from the Escondido River make for great exploring and cozy places to just chill out with a good book or a guitar.

And even better? Its only about a 10 minute drive from my apartment! Gotta love that!

It's hard not to cry...

. . . when the adrenaline dissipates after the crisis has been diffused.
All that's left is thoughts. And feelings.

And a sobbing, apologetic little boy.
"I'm sorry! I'm so so sorry I hurt you!" he cries.
"I'm okay. I'm not mad," I say, blood dripping from my busted lip.

And that heartbreaking expression on his face; the look of realization when he joins the rest of us back on Earth, from wherever it is he goes when the monster inside him takes over, to see what he has done.

But was it really him?
Was it really him doing and saying those awful things?

I don't think so. I really don't.
And that's what makes it hard not to cry.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Round Two? Or is it Three? Maybe Four...

I can't count how many times I've gained weight, then busted butt to lose it, just to quickly find it again.

My weight has consistently yo-yo'd back and forth for about eight years now.

Just last June I lost significant weight, but I steadily gained each pound back, and then some.

So, here I am. On it again.

Over the past two and a half weeks I've lost sixteen pounds eating so, so carefully and busting it hard on the elliptical every day and hiking in the afternoons.

Maybe this time will be the last?
Eh, who knows?

seeing stars

Monday, March 21, 2011

Snapshot: 032111 1700 PST

At the Melting Pot in the Gaslamp district with Kimmy.

Sigh. I love this place.
And this woman.
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy First Day of Spring!

Hebrew 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Live to Graduate

Today, I was invited by my friend Anne to judge posters for a high school competition through the nonprofit organization she works for, COMPACT.

"Live to Graduate" was the students' design prompt, raising alert of the risks of drug and alcohol abuse in teens.

The poster I liked the most was voted #1! I love the simplicity of this student's design, and the creative twist in transforming the image of a beer bottle into a gun. This kid has a future in ads!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Queen Califia's Magic Circle

Pray for Hope

"Thank you for sharing; its refreshing.  This is probably weird, but I gotta say, I'm kinda in the opposite place in life right now."

You know that feeling when someone opens up? Like, just totally shows you their heart, scars and all? Its an amazing thing. Today a young woman shared her heart at the Branches' Sunday morning gathering. The strength it takes to be that transparent is incredible and inspiring.

She spoke of a dark place she's in; a place I've been before.
A place I sometimes worry I might go back to.

Sometimes its easiest to hurt, to just live in pain, as though if there are no mountains of joy in our journey then perhaps we won't have to experience anymore valleys of sorrow.

But God has brought me to an amazing spot.
I'm happy. And I'm not scared to embrace that happiness.
My meds are just right. I'm right where God wants me. I'm surrounded by the right people.
He knows me so intimately; my every need. And He has met every single one of them.

I pray that this young woman experiences the same liberation from fear, anxiety, and depression that I have over the past several months. Will you join me in this prayer for her?

You don't need to know her name.
Just call her . . . Hope.

Pray for Hope.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good Deeds?

I'm concerned.

We live in a token based society, and I see the benefits of it. It's a logical system; consequences and rewards are motivating. But there doesn't seem to be much focus on character anywhere.

In the group-home I'm working in, we have the "good deed box." Different undesirable behaviors warrant one or more good deeds, based on the particular offense. The good deeds are drawn randomly from the box as a consequence. All privileges are restricted until the deeds are completed.

For example, lets say I punch you in the face. You weren't instigating me; my aggression was totally unprovoked by you. In this case, I would have to draw three cards at random from the Good Deeds box. So I wash a couple windows, sweep the hallway, and wipe down the counters. Then presto! Just like that, I'm off the hook! Its like nothing ever happened! That black eye you have? It doesn't exist anymore.

I just feel like we're teaching these kids that there's this cosmic scale out there, measuring the weight of our choices and actions, and that as long as we counter-act our cruelty with good deeds or extra chores, then 'by golly, you're a good person! Everything's okay!'

But its not okay. I don't believe that making decisions based on the  fear of impending consequences and the hope for positive rewards is what we should be teaching children. Sometimes in life we find ourselves in situations where there are no consequences or rewards, and what motivates us in these times must be something more internal. Or eternal.

I get the Good Deed box. I really do. I see the point. But I also see kids engage in harmful, selfish behavior just to turn around and say, "Can I do my good deeds now?" instead of processing anything resembling remorse.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Numbers are important. They're powerful.

But you gotta give me something qualitative to rock my world. I'm a case-study kinda guy. And God knows this about me.

So when I'm contemplating something like Sunday service attendance, God floods my mind with names.

You see, The Branches is more than a time and place to gather; its a movement. People are seeing God in this movement, people who may never attend one of our services or even meet our pastors. But they are being loved with God's love and their lives are changing because of it.

And these names, although they may never be written in an attendance book somewhere, just may be written in the Book of Life.

Numbers? Yes! Please!
Numbers and numbers of names.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Next Big Thing

Behavioral trends are like fashion. At least in my line or work, anyway. And much like in fashion, it all starts with an individual.

Who has influence? What are they doing differently than me?
And what kind of attention is it getting them?

A couple months ago, the kid everyone in my house looked up to had a serious issue with cutting.
His motto? When in doubt, cut. Sad? Cut. Happy? Cut. Bored? Cut.

You get the picture.

So, all of our boys became cutters. I mean, it was all very surface cutting, with no real physical or psychological implications. But regardless, its an unhealthy practice.

Well, cutting . . . that's so 2010. What's hot this season is self-strangulation. Yep. A few weeks ago some kid on campus decided to remove the laces from his shoes, make a noose, and hang himself. Fortunately the kid wasn't successful, thanks to his staff's intervention, but the commotion cause by the incident has started a craze.

Just last week one of my kids was being unsafe and had to be escorted to a protective safety room. While in the room, he attempted to strangle himself with his shoelaces. After taking them from him, he then tried using his shirt, then the drawstring from his pants, and then his socks. By the time it was all done, he was sitting in the protective safely room, which is basically outdoors and unheated, just in his boxers on a 40*F night.

And today it happened again with another kid. The trend has been set. Great.
I wonder what the next big thing will be...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
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