Welcome to earth

earthtxi’ve lived in texas for nearly eighteen years.  wow.

some days, it feels like yesterday when we loaded up our little boys in the 1982 dodge short-bed 4×4 (the greatest vehicle i ever owned) and headed to the new frontier.  other days, it feels as if we have lived here forever.

no matter how long we live, i don’t think i will ever lose my fascination with texas.  people…culture…history…food…personality …weather…values…all of it!  it is an amazing place with an amazing history.

it was a good trip to the coast.  it was even better to get home.  go figure.

we took a little different route home this time.  we travelled through the high desert of california to lake mojave (where california, nevada and arizona all converge at the colorado river).  next, we drove through the mountains of northern arizona.  flagstaff is one beautiful place!  then along I-40, through the native american indian country of eastern arizona and western new mexico to albuquerque.

when we hit santa rosa, NM, we took a detour down to clovis…to lubbock…to abilene…and then back to lewisville.  it was a great drive through west texas.  lots of country music, farmland, and little towns.    i now have some new “names” to add to my list of favorite texas town names .

here is my new top 11:

  • earth
  • utopia
  • wink
  • whiteface
  • muleshoe
  • happy
  • cut and shoot
  • buda
  • krum
  • poteet
  • pflugerville

even though there are some sweet new ones, nothing has yet to top pflugerville!  i love the sound of it.  i love to say it.  it makes me smile every time the word comes out of my mouth.  i love how it’s spelled.  it makes me wonder who the pflugers were and what they were like before somebody decided their home was worthy of becoming a “ville”.

i bet there are some pretty good town names in california.  i just never paid much attention to those details back then.  i’m sure oklahoma has it’s fair share of goofy names.  arkansas and alabama, too.

anybody want to pass on some good ones?

Hello. It’s me.

wow.  i just checked my blog for the first time in a week.  i haven’t written for a while.

there’s a reason.  here’s the view outside the dorm/apartment where we are staying this week:

PLNC 1

yup.  that’s the pacific ocean.  and a baseball field.   and 72 degrees at 3:30 in the afternoon.  look…somebody has to do this job.

for the uninformed, i am on the campus of point loma nazarene college, just west of downtown san diego.  i am the “campus pastor” for a weeklong high school youth conference.  i am here teaching, counseling, and encouraging the youth pastors and leaders…as they teach, counsel and encourage their youth groups.  it’s a pretty cool gig.

the past two weeks have been a whirlwind for me and wanda…that culminated with hoping in a car (a pretty sweet car…thanks corey and lindsey) right after i finished preaching on sunday and driving like crazy for nearly 24 hours to arrive at the pacific ocean by noon on monday.

we did it with time to spare.  (i CAN floor it, when necessary…).

i started working right away and haven’t slowed down much…though we have made time to visit a few favorite restaurants.  as hard as we try in texas, a fish taco just tastes a whole lot better when you’re eating it right near the fish’s former home.

we’ve seen a few old friends.  we might see a few more.  our free time in the homeland is pretty limited this year.  we’ll continue to enjoy it a lot for a few more days before we head home.  sure hope the cold front is lingering in north texas.  yeah.  right.

i had a lady come up to me this morning after i spoke.  she is on the youth staff of a large church in the denver area.  she had recently moved there from her home in southlake, texas (near our home in lewisville, for those of you who are geographically and travel-challenged).  she was a teacher in the lewisville school district for years…at griffin middle school in the colony…before they made the move out of state.

“why in the world did you ever move from san diego to texas?  what were you thinking?  we absolutely love the beauty of colorado and it’s even more beautiful here in san diego.  why did you do this?”   (i wish i could convey the appropriate voice inflection of her questioning.  it was rather dramatic.)

it’s funny.  it wasn’t until i moved to texas eighteen years ago, that i came to realize there were so many people who were absolutely passionate about where they lived.  and for many reasons.

over the years, i’ve personally met hundreds of texans (and thousands and thousands more through the media) who are fiercely loyal to the state…pledging allegiance unapologetically and declaring moral, environmental, ethical, political, religious, and sports superiority with no shame…and no filter.  and would NEVER even think of living anywhere else.

before we moved to texas, i had never experienced THAT kind of regional loyalty. ( back in the day, though, i wish i would have thought about making christmas ornaments in the shape of the state of california.  maybe things would be different there now.)

california?  look, there are probably way more people who HATE california (smog, crowded, liberal politics, illegals, gays, earthquakes, broken economy, snooty valley talk, whatever…) than like it.  a week of vacation in san diego or huntington beach?  sure.  move there?  they’d rather die first.

i bet some of the same regional passion occurs in other places.  the isolated beauty of a pristine hawaiian island.  the rugged landscape of a high elevation forest.  the quiet hills of west texas or the rolling landscape of the smokey mountains.  crisp new england nights.  the smell of salt air on the coast.  the call of geography is loud and clear for many.

regional passion occurs in opposite ways, also.  the over-crowdedness of the city.  concrete jungles.  cost of living.  too hot.  too cold.  too humid.  too mundane.  no seasons.  too liberal.  too country.  too old fashioned.  too isolated.  ethnic make-up.  school reputations.  crime.  you name it.

deep down, the truth is i don’t really care where i live geographically.  i haven’t lived in a bunch of places, but the places i’ve lived have been incredibly diverse.  if i could pick anywhere to live (regardless of job or church or family), i would probably pick somewhere that never got hot.   if i were skinny, i would probably widen my geographic choices.   norway sounds pretty nice.  and i would choose to live in a highly crowded area.  i like visiting the wilderness.  it doesn’t mean i want to live with trees.

i’ve learned to see the good in everywhere.  and i mean EVERYWHERE.  people are people.  a little bit of good and bad in all of us.

i’m grateful to be alive and to have a purpose that transcends location.

and i’m really grateful to be writing this while a gentle, cool ocean breeze is hitting  me in the face.

just sayin’.

Welcome to Texas…a postscript

Texas FlagOn behalf of my friend Blair, I want to say thanks for all the friendly help you offered to make his adjustment to a new land a little easier.  I’m pretty sure his load is a little lighter today.

Here are some closing thoughts…

I really appreciated the humor and the good-natured poking that went on, but there’s always a risk when the door is opened for people to be comedians at the expense of others.  There’s a proverb that speaks to the fine line we walk when we try to be funny:

Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”  Proverbs 26:18-19

Unfortunately, that’s a verse I ignore pretty often.  I like to joke and play and poke fun and be sarcastic in a friendly way.  But, at times, my humor (or at least my attempt at it) has gone too far and  hurt people.  I know it’s true because they have told me.  The lesson here?  Just because you have thick skin, doesn’t mean others do.  Innocent intentions can still do damage.

The past few days, we have poked fun at Texas driving, food, vernacular, dress, sports and a whole lot more and I only walked down this road because I trusted you guys as friends.

The very first and most important rule of mission work is to deeply and honestly respect and honor the people, customs, values, and practices of any foreign land you find yourself in.  I am…and forever will be…an outsider, a transplant, a pilgrim who wandered into Texas eighteen years ago, from my homeland of California.  So many things were new…different from what I was accustomed to.

But just because something is different, it doesn’t make it better…or worse.

Texas is my new home…but I will always be from California.  That will never change.  Nor do I want it to.  I have heard many people be horribly judgmental about the people and customs of Texas.  This is always wrong. My hope is that my joking or teasing will never be perceived as underhanded statements of superiority or condescension.  People here…my friends here…don’t deserve that.  Nobody does.

I have had some really rude things said about me and my homeland.  I’ve been told to take my customs and values and ethics back to California…always with a smile…but always with a smug seriousness just underneath the chuckle.  But those people are a hurtful minority that I totally discount.  I’m sure my Texas friends have had to make the same kinds of decisions about those whose joking crosses the line.  I’m sorry it has to be that way.

My life is better and fuller and richer because I have moved to Texas.  I have met some of the finest and most genuinely good people to ever walk through my life.  The differences we share have only served to broaden my perspectives and give me a deeper appreciation of the diversity that can and does exist in the world today…especially in the body of Christ.

And I would hope that people would have the same attitude and appreciation for the uniqueness and diversity found in my home state of California…if they had the privilege of sharing life with the good people there.

I don’t agree with everybody here in the Great State.  I have different values and ideologies.  I have different taste buds and driving habits and vocabulary and musical tastes.  But agreement is not necessary for respect and trust.  Only love is.   So get busy loving each other!

One final instruction for Blair that I heard today at our Memorial Day picnic:  Texans don’t use their turn signals when they drive.  Especially when they change lanes or merge on to the highway.  To me, it always feels like it’s an open invitation for the person behind you to speed up and win the race.  Gary had a different take… “For Texans, using a turn signal is sign of weakness.”

Nice.

Have a great week.

I’m in California this weekend

I haven’t really told many people what I’m doing this weekend. Not intentional. More of an oversight.

I’m actually speaking at Angeles Crest Christian Camp.

To the uninitiated, ACCC is the church camp I started going to in 1976…in my super-early days as a youth minister in SoCal. The camp is way up in the Angeles Crest mountains, above the Rose Bowl.

In fact, every New Year’s Day, I get to remember the incredible times I had there…when they photoshop the smog out of the picture and the mountains scroll across the screen.

This weekend, I’m the guest speaker at their annual Father-Son retreat. Pretty cool. Literally.

Even though the weather has been cooling off a little in the Great State, it won’t be anything like the crisp mountain air at 7000 feet.

I’ll try not to bring that up again.

Could somebody ask Wanda to overnight my ear muffs, tho?

Some thoughts on getting away….

everybody should have the opportunity to take time off.

everybody should be able to have a break from their regular routines…to get away from their day-to-day…to rest and reflect and gather perspective and breathe the fresh air that comes from a break from responsibilities.  even if it is only for a little while.

i am so grateful to have had this time away.  to say i deserve it is baloney.  none of us deserve any of the good receive.  i know people who work hard every day of their lives and never get breaks.  they need to work to simply live.  i know people who work jobs that don’t let them take time off.  i know people who would gladly change jobs so they could work more, in order to have food on their table.

in my first 18 years,  i can only remember one family vacation.  one.

my father didn’t have the luxury of taking time off.  we didn’t make enough money to go on trips and stay in hotels.  as a carpenter, he had to work all the time and if he would have turned down a job so we could go on a family trip,  someone else who step right in and take his job.  it was that cutthroat.

so trust me.  i am thankful for the life i have and the times i can get away and come back refreshed.  or at least try to.  here are a few things i’m thinking from the “vacation” part of my trip tonight:

first,  besides being over-the-top grateful for the opportunity to get away…and also recognizing that i don’t particularly deserve it…i am really mindful of the need for it.   there is to be a certain rhythm to the way we live our lives.  the balance between work and rest was established by god himself.   it was present at creation.   it was woven into the commandments.   it was modeled by jesus.  there is always to be a time to step back.

second, i have had the greatest friendships anybody could ever have.  relationships that span decades.  and the opportunities i get to reconnect with my past serve as bold reminders that if we invest deeply and profoundly in each other’s lives,  time and distance and separation will never become the enemy.

third,  whenever we come back to southern california, after moving away seventeen years ago,  we are always asked things like “do you miss living here?”  or  “do you think you’ll ever move back?”   the answers are yes and no.   of course we miss living near the beach!  it might not be true for everyone,  but the pacific ocean is still one of the most spectacularly beautiful and majestic landscapes on earth to me…and i can’t believe i had the opportunity to live here (and near here) for the first half of my life.  talk about getting something i don’t deserve!

but i don’t ever see us moving back here.   and get this…i don’t want to.   lewisville, texas is my home.  it’s where we have dug in and taken root for as long as we can see.  and beyond.   do i wish we had some socal beach weather back on the grand prairie?   who wouldn’t?   do i wish all my southern california friends…and their children…would pack up and join us to do church together in the land of smoked brisket,  chicken fried steak and friday night lights?   i can only dream.

that leads me to my last thought…

i love living in texas.   both of our boys call it home.   they are married to beautiful texas girls who call it home.   we have two grandkids who love us and i think they would probably be pretty sad if we ever moved away.   i get to spend life with some of the most awesome people in the world.  i wish my old friends could meet my new friends.   you would like each other.

and after years of never quite fitting in the churches we served,  i am finally no longer a square peg in a round hole.   i am where i need…and want…to be.

this has been a good time away.   but i can’t wait to get home.

Sorry for the disconnect!

If you are not in my personal loop, you probably don’t know that I am sitting near the beach in San Diego right now. Here’s the skinny…

I was asked by CIY, the youth ministry organization I go to my “wilderness gig” in Colorado with every fall, to join them at Point Loma Nazarene University for a high school youth conference this week. I am serving as the campus pastor for about 100 youth leaders. That means a week of counseling…mostly all day long!

Their plan is for me to be available to help these leaders and pastors serve their kids better this week. It’s just Tuesday morning and I’m already wading into the deep water with some of them. So many hurting kids…but some really good-hearted leaders here to help them.

It’s going to be a good week, I think. I feel like I’ve finally recuperated from our 22-hour, through the night, marathon drive from Texas to the Pacific Ocean! I can’t do those drives like I used to… It’s good my riding partner is with me for the week…

The conference is over on Friday night. On Saturday, we’re meeting up with the Peraza’s…an old North Point family that moved back here to San Diego last summer. They’ve asked me to baptize some of their families in the ocean on Saturday. Pretty cool. Actually…pretty cold. The pacific is about 68 degrees today…

Saturday night we’re taking in a Padre game. It’s been a while, but I’m finally back here to straighten things out for them. If they don’t turn things around, I’m just telling you now…I may have to make a few more trips out here to right the ship. Just saying’.

After that, we’ll drive up to Orange County for a few days, before we load up the wagon train and head back home to the chicken fried nation. Speaking of home…

It’s always hard leaving home. For those we left back in the “Great State”‘, we’ll miss you. These are nice people here…some of the best. But they sure don’t have the grizzled toughness that comes from enduring a Texas summer…in body and spirit. We’ll be home soon. Save some heat for us!

While you wait, here’s a pic of sunset over the university’s baseball field last night. And yes, that is the Pacific Ocean right behind the centerfield scoreboard. Very sweet.

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