Saturday, May 18, 2013

just for a moment

I fly in some of my dreams.

More like levitating, I guess. It requires a great amount of concentration just to stay a foot or two off the ground.

Its a wonderful feeling, but never quite satisfying.

Sometimes I climb to the tops of hills and jump, and for just a moment it feels like I really am flying.

I can draw my focus away from keeping my feet off the ground and just feel. Exhilaration. Freedom. Peace. Just for that one split second. And then...

Gravity takes hold. Tethered to the earth again, it takes everything in me to stay afloat. But I still hold onto that one moment.

The other day, I painted a picture for the first time in years. It's not exactly fine art, but it speaks to me; communicating exactly how and what I intended it to.

Sparrows, so plain and common. But when they fly, they're like all the other birds in the sky. Free. Their tawny hues become brilliant.

Even if for just a moment.

“The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” -J.M. Barrie, The Little White Bird

Friday, May 17, 2013

snapshot 051713 0700 PST

Why, yes! Of course I'm wide awake!
This smile is 100% legit!

And no, I'm not just barely holding up my own head by the hair. Nope, not me!

I mean, its only been 36+hrs since I've slept! And thats IF you're NOT counting the two twenty-minute naps I've taken.

That's a sufficient amount of rest, right?
Right? Zzz...

School. Adjusting to two new professors I've never had before and trying to sort out syllabi that practically need decoded. Work. Picking up extra shifts with older boys who are apparently unable to hear the sound of my voice. A visit with my old friend Insomnia (its been a while, so I'm not complaining). A creative buzz in the back of my brain that keeps me awake. Adjusting to a recent decrease in medication (which may explain the sleeplessness). Not seeing my wife. Ever. Or anyone else, for that matter. Preparing for an upcoming message at the Branches (which I'm totally pumped about, btw). Trying to coordinate the 1,000 ducks that must be lined up for practicum and to begin my new on-call job. Car problems. Failed smog tests on both cars. Designing an image for an upcoming sermon series that is RIGHT THERE where my brain meets my fingertips but can't quite push through onto my computer screen (super frustrating). Trying really REALLY hard to make healthy eating choices but am struggling (it always gets tough right around 3am, when my brain goes kapoot after too many hours of reading/writing psychobabble that is fascination yet exhausting at the same time). 

And... well, I'm sure if I keep trying I could come up with a lot of other stuff to whine about, but thats just wasting precious time that I could be using to hold up my own head by the hair :-) That is, for about twenty more minutes until I wake up the munchkins at work to get ready for school. The current 'problem' of the problem children was arrested last night, so this should be a smooth morning! In theory...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

just give me a reason

Simple melodies and mellow instrumentation seem to be the flavor of the week right now. Love it!

from the mouth of babes

Me: Hey, I like your dermal. Did it hurt?

Kid: Um, I don't know...

Me: You don't know?

Kid: I was too doped up to even remember. Just woke up one morning and it was there.

He's fifteen. And only God knows what else he's gotten himself into while 'doped up.' Sad, but not uncommon.

*BTW, this is a Google searched image, not a pic of an actual kid I work with. I uphold HIPPA and all CA privacy laws, mostly because I value getting a bi-weekly paycheck :-)

37 days

My dad. 

He’s a busy guy. 
Probably the hardest worker I’ll ever meet.

Plus, he’s a jack-of-all-trades. 

Literally, everywhere he goes he manages to amaze at least one person he encounters with his vast set of obscure skills and knowledge. 

Just thirty-seven days 'til he flies in for a week’s visit. 

Now, a week is a big deal; a hefty chunk of vacation time off work, and seven whole days to fall behind on his many side-projects at home and around the farm. 

Plus, I kinda get the impression he’s not a big fan of flying. 

With all that said, I’m grateful, and super excited for the visit. I can't wait to spend time together and make some new memories! Now I just gotta start mapping out an itinerary! Palomar Mt. is definitely gonna make the list!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

this kid

This kid, he's kinda awesome. His 'lil bro and 'rents aren't too bad either. Here's something his momma had to say on FB today:

3 years ago, Isaiah was sick. He refused to eat, had excessive thirst, was losing weight and lethargic. We had to wait for the official diagnosis, but we already knew. Type I Diabetes at 2 1/2 years old. So little. So scared of shots and finger pricks.

Today we have a 5 1/2 year old who is so brave and responsible, that I can't hardly believe it sometimes. He has been forced to grow up (in some ways) a little too fast. Waiting for meals until his blood sugar has been checked, realizing that there are times he can't eat what everybody else is enjoying. And he's okay with it. He doesn't cry, and rarely complains.

Diabetes sucks.

But I am so thankful. I'm thankful that God knew this was coming, and He had created Isaiah with such a calm, patient and adaptive personality. I'm thankful for the discovery of insulin and now, because of God-granted wisdom to some doctors, maintenance of the disease is manageable. I'm also thankful for all the support we received at diagnosis, and continue to experience from friends and family.

I look forward to watching Isaiah grow into a man, and using his gifts to help spread the Kingdom.

Yep. Love this kid. And when the strain of working as a childcare counselor gets to be too much for me, all I gotta do is pop in for a visit with this little guy. Instant therapy. His calm, caring, and good nature just melts all the 'yuck-of-the-world' right off my heart. A reminder of hope. He will, no doubt, spread the Kingdom. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dear Mommacita,

Two thousand three-hundred and thirty-seven. Big number, right? That's how many miles there are between us, from Randolph Co., IN to San Diego Co., CA. In fact, I couldn't have moved any further away without leaving the continental US. Driving that exact same distance from home in any other direction besides here would have led me deep into Canada or plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. Even though I can feel every single one of those two thousand three-hundred and thirty-seven miles between us, you don't really seem all that far away. Its like you're just a twenty-minute drive down the road.

Thats who you are; always close.

You love deeply, and not just from the bottom of your heart; you dig all the way down to the tips of your toes. And I'm blessed because of it. We all are. Thank you for that love. For always being close.  For everything you've given. Thank you.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

off with their heads

These kids...
they be making me crazy!


I work three twelve-hour shifts, 11am to 11pm. When I report for duty, the evening staff I relieve gives me the low-down on the day's happenings.

Typically, its not a pretty story.

And those details; the threats and the violence, the opposition and the insults, they all paint a picture of what my morning might look like when all these darling 'lil kiddos rise and shine... And more often than not, the picture painted tends to be pretty accurate. So there I sit, ruminating and dreading what will inevitably come to be.

I try to keep my attitude in check and be positive but, well, thats stinkin' hard to do at times. With funds running low, the money just isn't there for the counties to send these kids to a higher level of care, even when thats what some of them really need. And with our organization not doing too great itself, we're definitely not turning kids away, even when we're unequipped to treat them.

Its a hot mess. And until the economy picks up and helping troubled kids become a priority, its unlikely to get much better. Hence my frustration.

Compassion fatigue has set in, or is revisiting, and I've run out of room in my heart. My knee is jacked up from busting down a barricaded door and doing a restraint last weekend, I leave work most days smelling like the spit of dirty kids who haven't used a toothbrush in only God knows how long, and I guess I'm just tired of the continuous string of unresolved crisis'.

Yep. Off with their heads! All of them! Just make it painless...
I guess I must still have a little room in my heart for them after all  :-)

"Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action."

-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Friday, May 10, 2013


“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

-Mother Teresa

Thursday, May 9, 2013

letting go / holding on

she shall not whither

Pray for her. Pray for her. Pray for her.

Jocelyn, six years old.

Daughter of Amanda Berry, who was kidnapped and imprisoned ten years ago, hidden in a small urban home in Cleveland, Ohio with two other captives.

Jocelyn was born in this mess. This mess is all she knows. She was rescued from it, yes. But still, she has been ripped away from all she's ever known.

Its human nature to set roots, even in the most extreme circumstances. We'll do so wherever we're planted, in whatever soil we're forced to stand. Otherwise, we'd be washed away, dried out, and eventually whither to nothing. Though we may remember a better way, 'now' soon becomes 'normal,' and even when a preferable circumstance is presented, being transplanted can still be quite traumatic.

Unlike her mother and the other survivors, Jocelyn isn't coming back to anything; she's going away from the only plot of soil her little roots have ever known.

There's no doubt her life will be so much better because of it.
And I only have hopes this flower will grow and thrive.

But the process, the transplanting... it can take time.

Pray for her. Pray for her. Pray for her.

"... as a tree planted by the waters that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, her leaf shall be green; and she shall not whither in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Jeremiah 17:-8

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

snapshot: 050713 1300 PST

A skinny latte, one sugar-free vanilla pump. A complimentary homemade wafer on the side.

A cool breeze and warm hoodie. A drizzly sky and the covering of the overhang. A chair and side-table on the patio.

A newly bound, worn out bible.

A well spent hour.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

-Amit Ray

Monday, May 6, 2013


"The road to restoration is paved with the bricks of confession and repentance."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

zip zip

"Sometimes the thing
that brings us together
also pulls us apart." 

"Sort of like a zipper.

-Jarod Kintz

achy breaky heart: a universal melody

SoCal summer approaches. The grills are fired up, the Coronas are on ice, bouncy-houses are blown up and overwhelming the backyards of every lucky kid on the block.

All this, to the festive beat of mariachi music.

And when listening close, even a gringo like me might recognize a song or two. Its a wonderful, yet occasionally unfortunate, merging of cultures.

"Occasionally unfortunate?" you ask. Allow me to present Exhibit A: Achy Breaky Heart. I guess good 'ol Tennessee twang and stories of unrequited love speak to all hearts. In fact, the 1992 country hit has been rerecorded and released in well over one-hundred languages, representing numerous cultures and influencing multiple generations.

Now, no disrespect to big Billy Ray fans, but the song humors me. Maybe its the plunky melody or the cheestastic lyrics. Either way, it makes me chuckle. But there's obviously something about it that permeates cultural barriers and continues to defy ever-changing trends in the music industry. A person could probably come up with a whole list of reasons... but I'll put my money on one: its the achiness and breakiness.

Smiles may be universal, but there is no greater commonality than broken-heartedness. From fiesta-goers to barhopping cowboys, and everyone else under the sun, we've all experienced some level of sadness. I believe the running royalties accrued in Mr. Cyrus' bank account will attest; share a man's burden and make a lasting impact. Sure, sharing a good laugh may be a lot more enjoyable, but... well, I guess there are just some things an achy breaky heart can't understand.

Too bad the partiers down the street aren't as generous with their carne asada as they are with the volume of their music...

Saturday, May 4, 2013


is a language
which the deaf
can hear 
and the blind
can see.”

-Mark Twain

snapshot: 050413 0730 PST

Little things, like free Starbucks, make a big difference in a person's life; especially a person working an overnight shift...

The boys should've been waking up right about the time I got back from my little coffee run, but, lo and behold...

Saturday mornings in a special home for maladaptive adolescents are not typically pleasant. Something about the nostalgia of what weekends once were or what they 'should' be; family and friends, video games and movies, pizza and staying up late.

Essentially, everything a Saturday is not when living in a group home.

Its a reality check for them every single weekend, as though Saturdays are somehow unexpected. But today was a little different. It wasn't without a few fires to put out, but I was able  to sip my delicious, hot and caffeinated beverage in peace, enjoying my scone nibble by nibble instead of wolfing it down between crisis'.

It was... dare I say it?
Almost normal.

*blessed and grateful!

Friday, May 3, 2013


"Oh You fill those who are empty
And rescue those in the valley

And through it all 
You calm my soul 

Oh You find me in my weakness
And heal the wounds of my heartache

I worship You 
in spirit and truth"

-Matt Crocker, Hillsong United


"In order to be effective,
truth must penetrate 
like an arrow . . .
and that is likely to hurt."

- Wei Wu Wei

Armies of Goliaths

We all know the story of David and Goliath; the ultimate tale of an underdog's success. The shepherd boy's triumph against the giant-sized warrior has even permeated the most secular corners of our culture.

Zero to hero.

One could even draw comparisons to the American dream.

But David wasn't pining away for his big break. His didn't put his nose to the grindstone to make a mark on the world. David didn't step up to the plate hoping to hit a homerun. In fact, I think he would've been just as happy making ends-meet herding sheep.

For forty days the Philistine and Israelite armies were at a standstill. Both set up camp on mountaintops, a valley between the two served as the battleground... that is, it would have, if the Israelites ever made a move. In their defense, the first army to enter the battlefield would have been at a serious disadvantage, losing altitude to their enemies. Not to mention, the Philistines had Goliath on their side.

Everyday, Goliath would step down into the valley, alone with his shield barrer, and challenge the Israelites. If any one soldier could kill him in combat, the Philistines would pull back, leaving Israel in peace. But thats not all the behemoth-of-a-man had to say. Goliath implemented a special war strategy used to attack the opposer's morale and judgement. In civilian terms: smack talk.

Lets take a moment and see the world through the Israelites' eyes. Look familiar? For me, its strikingly similar to circumstances I find myself in daily. Theres always something seemingly undefeatable thats obstructing the path God is pointing me down. And like the Israelites, I tend to freeze in fear. Negative thoughts, self-doubt, and outside discouragements start getting to me. Goliath's taunts begin echoing through my mind...

Being a true lover of God, David couldn't standby knowing the blaspheme coming out of Goliath's mouth. Not only did Goliath mock and defy God's army, he was doing so in the very land God declared as His' peoples'.

This week at The Branches, Paster Pink put an emphasis on a single verse that really struck a chord in me, "... David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine." 1 Samuel 17:28

David didn't pray Goliath would just go away, or that he might somehow be able to avoid the battle. David ran to the battle line; David ran towards something I run away from. David knew, full heartedly, God was with him. His faith was strong. But David's bravery wasn't just an act of faith; it was a testimony of God's glory.

"Then David said to the Philistine, “... I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts... This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand... that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel." 1 Samuel 17:45-46

Is it possible for us, today, to have the same faith and determination David had the day he defeated Goliath? Is it possible that our doubts and fears are the battle tactics of our enemy? Can we hear these things as blaspheme and feel a righteous anger instead of discouragement? Can we prove to all nations God is alive? 

Goliath stands before us. Armies of Goliaths. But God stands behind us, and no weapon forged against Him shall remain (Isaiah 54:17). He gave us a spirit of power, not fear (2 Timothy 1:7), so lets run to the battle line and make His victory known!

See you on the other side? 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Five May 1st's

Today I flew kites at the Carlsbad State Beach with the Canady kiddos.

A year ago from today I snapped some shots of Mr. Pinkerton for the Branches website. Later that evening, Kimberly and I babysat those Canady kiddos while their parents went out on a date. Kimberly melted my heart when she sang lullabies and said prayers with the children as she tucked them into bed.

Two years from today I received an official warning from Warner Bros Studio for pirating the movie Sucker Punch. In reality, my only crime was being too gullible. I gave a neighbor the password to our wifi, and... well, that was a mistake I'll never make again.

Three years ago from today we were still living in IN. Kimberly cut my long hair off in preparation for job searching in CA. We were at the Canady's old farmhouse, I believe after youth group.

Four years ago from today I was celebrating my last month managing a residential program for sexually maladaptive adolescents. James was away, so I covered for him and led youth group. Ironically, one of our youth group kids ended up getting himself into trouble and my worlds collided when I visited him on the campus I worked at, where he was court-ordered to attend a day treatment program.

Five years ago from today I perusing the internet for some artistic inspiration. I wanted to combine water color and charcoal, but couldn't quite come up with an image to create. I never did find the image I wanted, but I did eventually come up with a pretty cool painting.

Five May 1st's.

I feel ya', cuz

a new song

I'm not Pavarotti.

But I can write a damn good song. And I'll sing the hell out of it when given a chance.

A former worshiper leader, a wonderful musician, and an amazing vocalist somehow ended up in my living room with my wife and I tonight. 

I sang out, stumbling across the strings of my guitar. Every sour chord, all my arrhythmic strumming and plucking, it seemed to fade away despite her keen ear.

The lyrics. The melody.
My voice. The meaning.
That's all she heard.
It all came together.

It meant something to her.

Just as it was. It meant something to her without being refined or reconfigured. It meant to her exactly what I meant it to mean. She found my heart. She listened and heard it, touched by it's words. She spoke to it. Comforted and encouraged it.

And a part of me was renewed.

I was made to sing a new song. And a new song. And a new song...
In fact, the songs just keep coming, one after the other.

I've kept them all under my hat as of late. Text files on the Mac, scraps of papers and scribbles in notebooks. Melodies in the safety of my car and shower. Strums on the guitar at 3:57am when the rest of the world sleeps.

But under that hat... I'm beginning to think, yet again, might not be the place for all this... whatever this is... But mostly, I'm just thankful for this evening. For the fellowship. The graceful ears. The colliding of hearts. The opportunity my wife and I shared with this fellow believer to worship God in our own home. I am grateful. And inspired.

And from it, in my heart, a new song is growing.