Clark W. Griswold

hola blogworld, it's been a while. i titled this post Clark W. Griswold, because that's who i have felt like these past few months. i had a crazy road trip across half of our country, a one-of-a-kind christmas, and my own european vacation. i still have never been to vegas, but admit it, no one really remembers the vegas vacation movie. anyways, it's been a while since i put my thoughts together in a readable format, and as i sit down now i'm remembering how therapeutic this is. i guess the best place to start off this post (which is by far going to be the longest post i've ever put together) is with what's on my mind currently...

this week has just been one of those weeks. mi padre is closer to earning his wings than we had originally anticipated. part of me is waiting for that sense of relief in knowing that dad is finally cured of all pain, and that mi madre can relax and take a well deserved deep breath, while another part of me is tensing up like when you know you're going to get hit really hard. to be honest, this is wrecking shop for me physically, no sleep etc. however, i do feel the need to remind those around me that in no way shape or form does this have me questioning God's grace and compassion. in fact, i feel like the more tired i get, the more i can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding me through my days. it's like that old church song says, "more of You, and less of me", or something like that. whatever, i've felt God do too much in my life to start denying that He is still going to bless me through these next few months.

also on my mind this week is my brother by love, dantheman. he was up snowboarding on tues and took a pretty serious hit. when the ski patrol checked him out they realized he had ruptured his spleen, and was bleeding internally. they rushed him down the street to the hospital where they removed his spleen and about half of his blood. as of right now it looks like he is going to make a very good recovery. i went to spend the day with him on tuesday, and he was in good spirits, and was able to move around, although you could tell he was still in a lot of pain. actually, we couldn't really spend a lot of time together, because we would get to laughing and it would literally break his stitches, so i ended up getting him a free lawn mower and working on the yard outside. tappertrainman came by later to hang out as well and hooked up dantheman's entertainment system so we could watch blazing saddles. one of those things where you know it's going to hurt, but you do it anyways. whatever, you really don't need an excuse to watch blazing saddles.

about a month ago i said some things to dan in a way that was completely non-constructive. after my parent meeting (read below) a few months back i should have known better. fortunately those things were cleared up before this happened, but that has been weighing on my mind heavily the past few days. i've had years to prepare for my dad, but the potential to lose dantheman is something i simply could not handle. if i've learned any lesson recently, is that things that need to be said, need to be said. i'm talking about the 'i love yous', the 'thank yous' and the 'please forgive me' type of things that we always assume will come about naturally. i've cleared the air with dantheman and futuremom, and truly feel forgiven. i'm just ashamed that tragedies seem to be necessary to be called into action on certain things. this is a part of my life i am truly ready to change.

now that i have cleared the negativity out of the my writing mood, i would be remiss to not mention the amazing gift of friendship that God has granted me lately. i'll start off with dantheman, because that's where friendship stats with me. these past couple of months dantheman and i have spent less time with each other than in previous years, and it continually amazes me how a friendship transfers through time. we have this uncanny ability to pick off where we left off at any given time, and finishing each others sentences is old hat to us. i think if we really wanted to freak people out we could convince strangers that we were psychically connected or something. it's gotten to the point that some of our conversations are boiled down to one word. he says a word, that reminds me of a story, we both laugh because he's thinking of the same thing, and then we move on. at the very least it's an efficient way to communicate.

next, i have to move on to move on to the youth ministry here in socal. specifically merlin and ronald. in my line of work, there really aren't a whole lot of other people who truly understand what i go through on a daily basis. so spending time with these guys becomes very important. also, we have a way of balancing each other out. lately, i've been struggling a bunch with my organization, and i have ronald to lean on for that. merlin has been struggling with some stuff happening in his church, and he has used us to vent and alleviate pressure with comedy. and ronald, well i think he's glad that someone laughs at his jokes, and will go on the buzz lightyear ride with him. to sum up, when it comes crunch time, playtime, work time, or whatever, i am realizing how much God uses my friends to affect the way that i feel.

then there's my two new friends that have entered my life with a bang. valleygirl and a-list. a-list asked to help out with the youth ministry a while ago, and he recently quit his part time job so that he could spend more time with the youth group. nuff said there. but i will mention that i've never would have imagined being friends with him way back in the day, which is awesome because it serves as a constant reminder of the way God plans stuff for us that we never see coming. he graduates this april and i plan on sabotaging any job interview that takes him away from the north l.a. area. then there's valleygirl, oh man i don't even know where to begin. we hit it off pretty good when i first got here, but not until recently have we sealed the deal as great friends. we spent a whole day together last week and it was like hanging out with someone i've known for years. needless to say it's been a while since i've been given the name 'bff', but coming from a legit valley girl, i just have to laugh. and yes i do refer to her as 'bff' as well. shut up.

and finally, i have to give it up to God for the new female in my life, risas mucho chica. not a lot to say yet on that subject, mainly because i don't want to jinx anything as has happened in the past with this very blog. regardless of that though, it's been fun so far, and i don't see any reason why that's going to change anytime soon.

so that's the current stuff, now i'm going to hear back to the time of my last post and put together some paragraphs about the stuff i remember. feel free to skip ahead or whatever. this blog was originally set up for me to look back so there's prob stuff coming up that no one else will care about.

so we had our annual impact jr high retreat which was, as usual, an awesome event. i'm always encouraged to see jr high kiddos start to really appreciate and understand God for themselves. one of our kids decided to baptized when we got back from the weekend, which is def justification for the speed at which we traveled on the freeway back to church on sunday morning. definitely. i love it though, when you can see it in the kiddos faces that they get it. it's a little hard to describe, but it's like a look of shock, recognition, surprise, contentment and joy all in one. it's moments like those that serve as great reminders of why i do what i do.

impact was also my first time to be a speaker at a retreat, which was def a trip and a half. i'm so used to my kiddos, and my church, and it has taken over a year to get to a comfort level where i'm not really nervous to talk in front of a group that doesn't know me. it was weird being in front of a large group again, and it only took me a few seconds to realize that these kids had no clue about my sense of humor or my background, and it completely changed the way i had to present my lesson. needless to say, it didn't go as i had planned, but God took over and i think it ended up being a good day. we were talking about thanking God, and i had the story of the ten lepers that were healed and only one returned to thank Jesus. so at lunch time i had the chaperones give different problems to the kiddos like tying their arm in a sling, taping up one leg, covering their mouths, and putting caution tape on them to symbolize losing a limb, being mute, and being a leper. (had to be there kinda thing). anyways, i think some of the kids still remember the lesson a few months back which makes looking back at impact a pretty fond memory.

there are certain things in my life that i avoid like the plague. the top of that list would be unnecessary drama. on down that list would be parent meetings with the youth ministry. i work my tail off to keep open relationships with the parents in my youth ministry, esp those that show a really involved interest. i think it's also important to note that i am not a big fan of doing things simply because they're 'supposed' to be done. in short, if we're doing something in the youth ministry, there's going to be a purpose to it. i held off for a while on a parent meeting because there really wasn't a whole lot to share yet, and every parent meeting i've ever been to has ended in someone, usually the youth minister leaving discouraged, instead of encouraged. i warned people about this, and i was still asked to hold a parent meeting. i agreed to have the meeting, as long as it was not a time to air out grievances, and we could focus on future planning.

so i prepare a couple of things to talk to my parents about. i know my weaknesses, because i deal with them every day. i also spent a lot of time in prayer and study on how to overcome my weaknesses. i did this because i did not want to have a bloodbath (which i have seen happen before), and i didn't have time to update my resume (i know a youth minister that updates his resume before every parent meeting, and after seeing the parents he works with, i can't blame him). so i go into this meeting hopeful that things are going to go smoothly, and we can focus on the future. i let the parents know about different books that i use for research that they might not know about, and i clue them into myspace, one of the biggest dangers to the kids in our youth group. so far so good. then i introduce some planning books that we are going to use this year, to help parents plan events.

then the bomb drops.

our former youth deacon asks the parents if anyone has any 'issues or concerns', the very question that turns any good meeting downhill. for a second things are going awesome. we had just baptized two kiddos in the youth group that previous week, and their parents had some great words of encouragement. i've got another set of parents that give me some awesome compliments, which were great to hear, but i really don't need a meeting as a forum to build me up because these parents tell me outside of meetings. see above relationship building. so then one set of parents decides to tee off on me. they start off with the books that i recommended for research saying that the Bible was nowhere in there, which automatically shows they weren't listening, because i prefaced my book recommendations as 'books parents might not be aware of'. then, they tee off on merry christmas madness, calling it unholy and embarrassing to the church, because last year a kid threw up. i'm sorry, but just because your child doesn't want to do anything to slightly get out of their shell, does not mean that everything they don't want to do is unholy. merry christmas madness was a huge success, and we even had our preacher involved last year. i'm not a fan of throwing up either, but when a kid tries to drink a two liter of soda and chucks it back up in sink, that's comedy. regardless, it's not some kind of unholy embarrassment. if that's the case, youth groups across the country should be warned not to ever ask any kid to do something they might have the slightest inclination of fear about, because it might cause an ounce of discomfort. yeah, you would never want to be uncomfortable as a christian. wait a second, try dying on a cross or being dinner for a lion. moving on, the one set of parents then teed off on the fact that we openly talked about one of our new members of the youth group being pregnant. to clarify, this young lady started hanging out with the youth group last summer, when she was already two months pregnant. she started attending on thursday nights, and we had several bible studies with her and her boyfriend. we were making huge progress with her and her family to bring them both to Christ. so these parents start in complaining how tough they had it having to talk to their kid about someone being pregnant in the youth group, never mind they are sitting right next to her mom (who has just started getting involved in the church) who promptly leaves the room crying. my heart is breaking as i'm watching so many souls potentially walking out of the door forever. the set of parents then finish up with me personally, insulting my artistic background, and saying that i don't use enough scripture in my lessons.

here's my response, once and for all, so i can finally just move over this. first of all, this should have never happened in this setting. in no way shape or form were those comments constructive to the youth ministry. secondly, i felt like my elders and youth deacon sold me out and left me out to dry, because they knew there was an issue with this parent, and they gave me no heads up. which leads me to the bigger issue, the parents should have come to me first. the irony of being called immature and unscriptural by someone who won't talk to me (and continues to avoid me) and completely skipped the biblical process of dealing with someone first, then going to others (check matthew 18), still doesn't sit well. to be honest, it's put a huge chip on my shoulder and still has me fired up. i was just getting settled with being okay as a youth minister, now i am out to prove to God, myself and anyone who cares to pay attention that i will never settle on anything less than being an excellent youth minister. talk about my feet to the fire, i'm so charged up now, and my ministry has become so clear, yeah... this is going to end up being a good thing. also, i really have a problem with any parents who complain about my teaching style, when they have never sat in on a single class, or asked me about my studying. esp when they're child spends an entire class time text messaging their friends. and lastly, i brought up a scripture in the parent meeting and this perspective has truly changed my outlook on my role as a youth minister. in matthew 9:12 Jesus says that the sick are the ones that need a doctor. enough said. sick people need Jesus, we have Him on our hearts, so we have the responsibility to share what we have. no more country club churches, no more secret society stuff, we're here to affect people.

all in all, things have worked out for the best. i called the mom that left the room the next morning and smoothed things out. we continued to study with the young lady and her boyfriend, who were both baptized soon after. i've had a huge outcry of support from my elders, along with an apology, and the continued support of my good friend and coworker lawdog, who has continued to be a spiritual rock for me.


so after all of that drama, it was great timing for me to get away, so i hopped on a plane and went to visit mi hermana, who was spending the semester in oxford with her group from ACU. this was by far the best trip i've ever been on, and my first real vacation on my own. yeah, i've set the bar pretty high. anyways, here are some of the highlights.

we spent a couple of days in and around oxford, which was an awesome town. we saw christchurch, the spot where cornwall was burned at the stake in the middle of the street, university park and all kinds of ancient buildings. my favorite places in oxford were the bench and park where tolkien wrote the hobbit, the restaurant where him and c.s. lewis hung out, and the oxford dictionary press. first off, i love lord of the rings, and sitting on the bench where tolkien wrote the hobbit made a huge impact on me. it really helped the movies come alive, and made me realize how much an environment can have an affect on how you feel and what you see. eating at the 'eagle and child', where the inklings met was also kind of a big deal, because you really got a sense of history, and how much one person can influence the world. that really came into play later on that week. as for the oxford press, it was just funny to be in oxford and be surrounded by dictionaries. call that my warped sense of humor. on my 'i guess it's famous' list, we also ate at the pub where bill clinton never inhaled, and saw the school where hugh grant attended (evidently that's a big deal over there).

then we spent a day or so in london, which may be the coolest city in the world. riding around on the underground was awesome, but it was kind of creepy too. here you have all of these packed cars, and no one makes a sound. i guess it's impolite to talk loudly in public over there, which def took some getting used to, but it does explain why every person on 'the tube' had their ipods on. but talk about useful, the underground was by far the coolest way i've ever gotten around a city. as much as i loved it tough, i was so stoked to get back home and drive my big ol suv around with my radio cranked up. back to england though... we also got to go to the first hard rock cafe, which was so sweet. i'm typically not a fan of hard rock cafe's, cause they usually have all of this stuff from one hit wonders. seriously, i don't really care to be eating under a rick james famed jerry curl wig. but in london, the hard rock had original beatles' guitars, guns n roses jackets, jimi hendrix concert posters, and then there was the vault. downstairs they have in one room a trumpet from miles davis, kurt cobain's guitar, bob dylan's hat and guitars, stuff from the clash, the who, bo diddley, elvis... nothing but huge names. the highlight for me was getting to hold a six million dollar jimi hendrix flying v guitar. i'd go back just to do that again.

then we walked through princess diana park to buckingham palace, which was trippy to say the least. the palace itself wasn't as impressive as i had imagined, but the fountain in front of it was unreal. some of the coolest sculptures i've ever seen, and me being the type that is really moved by art, was standing there speechless. oh yeah, something else i noticed about london; they say the police don't carry guns, and that may be true of the beat cops or patrolmen, but i guarantee there were plenty of swat looking guys with their hands on the triggers of m-16s walking around london, and they don't like to have their picture taken. especially the ones in and around buckingham palace. unfortunately though, we weren't able to see the changing of the guard, but that may be something to put on the list for another visit.

the next morning we woke up early and went to the british library, which was my favorite part of london by far. in one room they have original works of shakespeare, c.s. lewis, davinci, handel's messiah, mozart, beethoven, the beatles, an original guttenberg bible, THE magna carta, and on original king james bible. it was absolutely amazing to sit there and read the king james bible. i was overwhelmed with a sense of pride in knowing that i was reading something that truly has stood the test of time. there was also this feeling of satisfaction in knowing that the message i give to my youth group is the same message that God has been giving man for thousands of years. in one way, it made me feel really small because i kind of got a taste for the long reaching impact of the message of Christ, and i have my small little corner here in simi. on the other hand, it made me feel really important because i realized that i am part of a long list that includes some very distinguished and admirable people. this may sound odd, but i haven't been able to get that image out of my mind in a long time, and to be honest, i'm not sure if i really plan on doing so anytime soon. let's move one.

later that afternoon we made our way to ireland, which was some comedy. i've always griped about southwest airlines and how much their flights are like a cattle call. no more. we flew ryan air, which i guess is the equivalent to southwest for europe, because they had the cheapest fares, and they fly everywhere. well, the balance to the cheap fares is sitting in seat so close together that the in flight meal may as well be your knees. i'm not even that tall, and i could barely fit between the seat, fortunately, the flight wasn't that long, and i can pretty much sleep anywhere. unfortunately, the plane is bright yellow and bright blue on the inside, and just the reflection of light makes it impossible to sleep. it's one of those things i can look back and laugh because i know i don't have to constantly rely on that for transportation. the funniest part though, was the stewardesses dressed like hot dog on a stick employees, who were selling stuff on the plane. they don't have complimentary drinks or snacks on ryan air, but they do have a menu. the menu has the usual stuff like peanuts, sodas, candy... then they have watches, teddy bears, backpacks, flowers and pretty much anything else that you would never expect to see on a plane. it was like flying on a flea market. good times.

so we land in ireland, catch a double decker bus to downtown dublin, and proceed to the temple bar district, which is the heart of dublin. what a crazy town. seriously, they need to rename the island Guinness, because that's all that the irish talk about, and evidently it's all they drink too. seeing a Guinness sign in a restaurant window there is like seeing the visa/maastercard logo in a window here. needless to say it was a bit of a journey to find a pepsi anywhere, but i did manage to find the irish mixture for coke. not so good. anyways, dublin was a cool town. everyone hangs out in the pubs and watches football and has a pint from about 5-7 then everything shuts down. seriously, one minute we're walking down the street, ducking in and out of pubs checking out the different bands playing, then the next thing you know it's only the tourists out. a little weird, but fun.

the people of ireland are amazing too. they'll talk to anyone about anything irish all day long, and we met plenty of people that were ready and willing to do so. i loved it, because i was having these conversations, and i know these people were speaking english, and i didn't understand a single word. authentic irish gibberish, so much fun. even the little kids were hard to understand. i was barely able to understand our tour guide the next morning, but you get the idea that the whole island is kind of like that crazy little brother, to the stale and polite english older brother.

so on thanksgiving, we decided to take a celtic history tour. typically, i'm not a take the tour kind of person, but i'm so glad we did. our first stop was a tomb that was believed to be the spot where the evil spirits of the island rose from the ground. the tomb was literally a mound of dirt, but it was older than the egyptian pyramids, and inside was on of the first carvings of a human face. most other carvings at that time were of the human body, and there sitting in this old tomb was this unreal artifact. we then went to this abbey that had the oldest standing celtic cross in the world.

the celtic cross has always been a point of interest for me, i've always wondered why there was a circle around the cross. the celts were a pagan race, that believed there were hundreds of gods, and the island itself was a god, they worshipped the sun, because when the sun was out, things grew, things lived, when it was cold, things died. when the first missionaries came over to talk to the celts, and told them that there was only one God, and the sun wasn't it, they would get their heads chopped off. no barbaric race wants to hear that their gods aren't real. anyways, over time missionaries figured out to change their message, and sated saying that Jesus was the 'God over the other gods', and they combined the image of the cross with the image of the sun. so the celtic cross is really a symbol of diluting the message of Christ, and compromising the beliefs of Christianity. But the artwork on the cross really interested me. the celts did not believe in a written language (if i write down what i know, then you can know it, then you will be smarter than me) so the missionaries would use pictures, or carvings to tell their story. so in one frame you have this poor guy being sold out by his friends, then he's taken prisoner by these men, then he's killed up on a cross. but in the pictures, the poor guy didn't look like a Jewish guy, and the bad guys weren't Romans, they were Irish monks and vikings. interesting, they reworked the story to make it relevant to those they were preaching to, if this doesn't strike a chord with the current trend of american mega churches, it should. so i guess the question i started asking was how to find a balance between this message that has stood for the test of time, and still make it relevant to the culture i'm on w/o changing the meaning.

we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in small town, and ended up having turkey and stuffing which was cool, because it was thanksgiving day. then i met my favorite irish person of the trip. there was this stereotypical old irish guy sitting at the bar drinking his pint of Guinness, wool hat, jacket, sweater, the whole nine. he made some comment to me, then proceeded to talk to me and mi hermana for several minutes... i didn't understand a single word. i think he was mad because he may have been asking us questions, and we were just standing there nodding our heads. regardless, it was fun to hang out with some locals.

then came my favorite part of the trip. we went to slane abbey, where st. patrick became famous. here's how the story goes. patrick was a slave captured by an irishman, and forced to work for seven years. he learned the language and customs of the irish, and escaped to england on a fishing boat. he went back to france and decided to become a priest. after several years of schooling, he felt a calling to go back to ireland as a missionary. so he went back and changed the way Christianity was brought to ireland. for hundreds of years, priests went to the commoners to teach Christianity, because it put them on a level playing field spiritually as their masters, and the masters weren't having anything to do with God. every year to appease the sun god, the king of ireland would assemble all of the druid priests, and light a huge bonfire as a sacrifice to bring out the sun. every clan would send a reporter to the bonfire to report on what happened. so patrick builds a bigger bonfire than the king, and lights his first, getting the attention of not only the reporters, but the king and his men. so the king gathers up his men and charge over, expecting a fight (see next paragraph) only to find one unarmed man charging at them. they're thinking this guy is either crazy, or he has a powerful god on his side, either way, they don't fight him. patrick talks to the king, and tells him that there is only one God, and Jesus is Him. the king challenges patrick to prove it, and sends him in with some druid priests to a room, and patrick is the only one who comes out. the king then gives permission for patrick to tell of the Jesus, but he doesn't convert out of respect for his ancestors. so all of these reporters go back to their clans telling of this powerful Jesus, and his servant patrick. now, when priests come to these clans and ask if the people know about Jesus, the people are excited to hear about this all-powerful God. so i'm standing there on this hill, and the wind changes direction, and brings about this arctic chill. this story was amazing, one man completely changed the history of a whole nation. i realized how often i sell God short of what he is capable of doing, and how limited my own vision for the future is. one man changed an island. wow. suddenly converting a whole city or school doesn't seem like such an impossible task. this is one of those moments that has really had a profound impact on me. i'm still sorting out all of the details, but i do (still) feel a new sense of purpose and possibility when it comes to my ministry.

then we went to tara hill, which is where the celts used to crown their king. this is where the term 'king of the hill' comes from. rival clans would fight over who would be king, and whoever could hold the hill was the king for however long they could hold it. in 1600 years they had over 800 kings, so you can imagine it was a pretty stressful job. anyways, after the king had won his battles, the druid priests would cleanse (think hazing) them for a week, and allow them to touch this sacred rock that was supposedly the center of the heart f the island. i touched the rock, and my reign was about 30 seconds until me hermana took over. i like to think i was a good king.

so we headed back to temple bar, had a night of tourist shopping and getting lost, then got to work on getting back to england. the next morning we rode the bus all the way down to a ferry, that was supposed to take us across the sea to wales, and we were going to ride a train back to oxford. problem, that arctic storm that came in made the seas too rough, and the ferries weren't going to be running until the next day. problem. my flight left at 10am the next day. so we booked it back to the dublin airport and coughed up the extra money to get on a flight back that night. we had some chill time at the dublin airport, which was good, because we were tired and kind of getting on each other's nerves a little bit. a quick flight back, led to an adventure with trying to find a train back to oxford, where me and jake got to get all of our stuff back, sleep for three hours, before i had to get back to london to catch my flight.

what a crazy week. my first real vacation was def a memorable one. we took a bunch of pictures, i lost a lot of them on mi hermana's computer, i stayed at some hostels, had some english food (which was surprisingly good), met some good irish folk, was king for a few minutes, walked more in a week than i had in the previous month, got some cool stickers for my table, a couple of t-shirts for the closet, and a bunch of crazy stories. oh yeah, speaking of hostels, if you want to add an element of craziness to your trip to europe, i def recommend staying at hostels. the one in oxford was crazy, the people were pretty loud, and the rooms were mixed, so i ended up sharing a room with 20 other people, and had no clue who they were. the one in london was cool, and a lot nicer. the three of us were in there with some japanese girls, we think, but we never heard or saw them. really weird. the hostel in ireland was the real trip though, we had a french roommate who never said a word, a south african roommate who had just moved to ireland, and a kiwi roommate who had been in country for a while, and was looking for a flat. the kiwi was some comedy, and we invited him to grab a bite to eat with us the second night. the next morning though, was the 'yep, the US is a little different from here' moment of the trip. i got up early to take a shower, and as i'm opening the door to get my towel, i realize that the bathroom is a mixed bathroom. i realized this because there were two girls changing, and they laughed when i got embarrassed and shut the door. awkward much? i'd say so. wither way, it makes for a funny story now. all in all though, i had a great time. mi hermana was an awesome tour guide, and being in such a different place really put things into perspective for me. i'm not sure what that means, but i think you're supposed to say that after going to europe.

so after a few weeks of getting back into the swing of things, we had our year end big event, merry christmas madness. we doubled the attendance from last year, and had a really good time of outreach and craziness. i toned back some of the stuff on our list from last year, but the kids seemed to have a blast doing it. the video is still in the works though, several months later. too much stuff going on. not a great excuse i know, but the truth. so i'll prob post more on that when the video gets finished (thats the plan for the next few days)

all in all, i'd say it was pretty fun, and i think we have the groundwork for a great event every year.

one of the benefits of being a youth minister is the fringe benefits. we have an event coming this summer called youthwave, which is an evangelism training camp. so we spent a couple of days up north talking about youthwave, kinda like those weekend sales pitches where they offer you a free toaster to hear about the joy of owning a timeshare. except that our 'time away' means a bunch of us getting together to get something done, then have a blast hanging out. so we talked about youthwave, which has me impressed to say the least. essentially, you get training every morning on how to preach to strangers, then they drop you off in los angeles all afternoon and you talk to strangers about God. here's the cool part though, the focus of the week is not to convert strangers, it's to get over fears we have of talking to our friends about God. it's an amazing concept that i'm really banking on to spur some great changes here. the focal point of the week is actually to write four letters to friends that you want to grow closer to Christ. i'm not the first to say it, but letter writing is starting to be the next big thing in ministry. if you're not writing letters yet you will be soon. anyways, we had some awesome praise and worship time, and we stayed up nice and late joking around, talking youth ministry stuff with the only people that could possibly identify.
the trip was sponsored by pepperdine, and since we stayed at a friends' house in morro bay, they had extra money left in the budget, so our host took us out to pismo beach to ride atv's on the beach. let me repeat that for all of my friends outside of southern california: last december we went to the beach and rode atvs. i had a blast. i'm not so much into the jumping dunes and all that, but i did love taking the atvs down the edge of the water at 60mph, going so fast your eyes dry up. too much fun. anyways, that's how we roll down here in socal, work hard, play hard.

i'm a big fan of christmas. someday i'm going to be the guy that has 20,000 lights on his house, dresses like santa for the neighborhood kids, serves egg nog to anyone that comes over, and constantly hums christmas tunes. this past christmas was a blast. i kept my shopping to a minimal, got people stuff that they needed and wanted, and got it all done in one day, christmas eve. actually, christmas eve in our family has kinda become the holiday. we're all up and not tired, other families are usually able to join in, and we have a whole day of excitement to build up to our dinner and presents. anyways, this year was fun, because the whole family was able to make it out to my parents' house, which always leads to some good stories. and most importantly, mom was able to get most of the snowman militia out for the celebration. anyways, here are the other highlights:

the good: everyone really chipped in and mom wasn't near as stressed as i thought she was going to be. the cooking was great, we had plenty of food, no big drama, just a lot of chilling with the fam.

the bad: my aunt inadvertently telling jokes that make a guys locker room sound clean. me and my cousins trying to not to look at each other to keep from cracking up. my aunt repeating the joke with no clue of how dirty it was, and me and my cousins losing it and pointing out what she said. to top it off, my mom is now wondering how we know about certain things we know about, and my granny i think has given up on our family.

the ugly. the cuz singing his one country song for the whole family, a song about a dysfunctional redneck christmas. my other cousin's wife commenting on how much that song reminded her of her family.

the sentimental: mi padre not being able to shop for presents for anyone, but managing to describe the necklace he wants to get mi madre. even more sentimental, was him working on singing 'we wish you a merry christmas' for the whole family. it's one of those 'two coins' stories where someone give all that they can, and def puts gift giving in perspective.

the only in our family: after finishing up his first song, mi padre started up into the marine corps hymn, which prompted my grandpa to stand up and sing a long, followed immediately by granny, then my mom and her sisters, then the rest of us. that's right, christmas eve, and we're standing around trying to remember the words to the marine corps hymn. wouldn't trade it for the world.


due to a change in schedule, and not wanting to spend 16+ hours traveling by plane each way (layovers on expedia flights are a punk), i decided to drive out to texas for christmas. it was awesome. mi hermana got to come out to simi and we hung out for a day or so. then we drove straight through to frisco, tx. not an eventful trip, but we did manage to have fun together, despite the fact that we were rarely awake at the same time.
the real fun was driving back by myself though. one of those wild at heart moments where you feel like you've conquered the road. i really enjoyed having the radio to myself for a day, and i know i blew at least two of my speakers. but, i got to see a lot of our great country, the desert at sunrise, and i was able to just talk out loud to God for a loooooong time. that last part happened early on, as it became more necessary to have louder music as i went on. lets just say by the time i was 45 minutes from home, i was listening to motorhead's greatest hits. my only complaint about the drive home was el paso. seriously, someone needs to go to el paso and make every person there retake the driving test. the interstate is not the place to see if your car can make it up to 45 mph. nuff said. anyways, it was a good drive, one that i am glad is out of my system.

this new years was pretty fun, and it def qualifies as one of those 'fun despite the circumstances' nights. we were slated to go to knott's berry farm for new years, but it rained a torrential downpour new years eve, so half of our kids backed out. whateva, those of us that went had a blast. the best part, was that the weather cleared up as we were heading south, and by the time we go there the skies were clear. so all of these people that had bailed on knott's left the park open to the few thousand of us that stayed the course. me not being one for rides, i still had a blast hanging out with the kids, and we all had a great time watching one of the best fireworks shows i've seen in a while. so it was a long night, but, i did get a good laugh the next day when i saw the...

so i walk into my office sunday morning, new years day, and open my door to see nothing but newspaper... floor to ceiling. my whole office was filled with newspaper. it was soooooo funny, just thinking back on it is making me crack up. i have yet to get the culprits back, but plans have been set in motion, and they will reap the consequences for the greatest prank ever. by the way, the cleanup took a total of 12 man hours, and six mini dumpsters full of newspaper.

so i took off to san diego a few weekends ago, and i just thought it was noteworthy to comment on how much i love going down there to visit mi amigos, esp the girls at north county c of c. they have one of the most close-knit groups i've been around. they have a way of building each other up that is pretty sweet , and def makes me feel like i'm having one of those on top of the hill moments. it also doesn't hurt when you split the pot playing poker. regardless, it was a fun night, a good bbq, good friends... nuff said. can't wait for the next trip down.

and while i was down in s.d., i stopped by to say hola to cutler and erin, which always turns out to be a blast. it's fun to hang out with people that have completely different lives than you do, just to get some other views on life. anyways, cutler is kind of like a second dad to me, and catching up with him is one of those things that should be much higher on my priority list. that, and he's one of those guys that goes to any extreme to make sure everyone is relaxed and having a good time. we ended up going to a nice italian place with his new wife, erin and her boyfriend, which was one of those mixes of people that only comes from hanging with cutler. needless to say, there was waaaay too much food, then they ordered desert, and there was plenty of great little awkward moments that make an evening interesting. and to top off the night, cutler gave me money to buy this Muhammad ali print that i've always wanted.


so one of my kids is in a punk band, officer whitey and the book'em boys, and i went to see on of their last shows over in the valley. what a flashback that night was. maybe thirty kids, all friends of the bands, an abandoned movie theater and plenty of really loud fast music. def took me back about ten years to my days in the punk/ska scene, which was a fun trip. that, and it's kind of fun to see that something that you were a part of has remained around.

a few weeks ago merlin had a one night seminar down in mission viejo, so a group of us that went decided to stay down there that sunday night and go to disneyland that monday. i'm not typically the disneyland type, but man i have to say it is so much fun going with a bunch of twenty something guys. i still laugh at the image of the five of us grown men walking around, going on rides. and then there's buzz lightyear, the ride of choice for ronald and merlin, who have every target memorized, and compete with disneyland imagineers for the top score every day. yeah, we def rode that ride 14 times in one day, and i would venture to say that is not a record for either one of them. anyways, i actually had fun riding space mtn, and the matterhorn, which is cool because i'm not really the rides type of person, but space mtn esp is cool, because you can't tell how high up you are, and i can't really psyche myself out. the funniest part of the day though, would have to be me literally bumping into nikki hilton. i just apologized and then started laughing, because i couldn't think of anyone who i would be less likely to ever run into again. hard to explain, but at the very least i got to add to my celebrity spotting list.

i've been working on my artwork a lot lately too. ever since i saw this guy banksy's work over in england, i've been really into stencil art ever since. i hope to have some of that stuff posted soon on my other blog dedicated to my artwork.

lately we've had several kiddos that have pretty much walked in off the street to the youth group. it's pretty crazy to be honest. one kid started coming because he heard we had prayed for him and his family a few moths ago, another started coming because his family life is pretty crazy, and another started coming on her own to church just because she was interested. i've always been a firm believer that God will send us people when we are ready, and i think that this is a pretty good sign of where the group is at. the tough part goes to me on crossing over from a pastoral type of minister to an evangelist minister, but i think it's going to be fun.

we've got several college students, including valley girl and a-list, who have asked to start helping out with the youth ministry. let's see, volunteers coming to me to help out, all of which happen to be friends of mine here at church.... um, okay. yeah, needless to say, i'm pretty stoked about what is possible with this group, but i know that a good portion of my time coming soon is going to be dedicated to them and getting them events to pull of with the kiddos.

wow. this took forever. if it seems a little disjointed, it prob has something to do with the fact that i started this post a while ago, and have worked on it for several days and many hours. but, having it done def feels therapeutic, like i have one less thing on my list of stuff that
needs to be done. hopefully i can move on now and continue to do what i've done in the past, and update on tuesdays. we'll see. well, i'm going to relax for a bit and listen to the new jack j soundtrack to the curious george movie, do roots tonight, and then go home and play on guitar till i fall asleep. here's to you the devoted reader...

one love, one heart.

1 comment:

Jen said...

DJ, I am sorry to hear about your dad. We will be thinking about you. The loss of a loved one is hard and if you need someone to talk to, we are always available.

Sorry about that youth group meeting. That stinks, but it sounds like you handled everything very professionally and it all worked out. Keep up the work that you are doing. It is so important!