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?

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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.

Welcome to Texas!

texas starevery now and then we get these little unexpected cool things that happen out of nowhere.   that happened to me this week.  an old friend of mine moved to ft. worth.

it seems odd to refer to blair as an old friend,  but it just seems kind of disrespectful to refer to him as a “kid” from my old youth group in huntington beach…seeing that he’s a card-carrying member of the over-40 club.  how weird is that…for me?

blair is the new director of communications for a church down near TCU, after spending most of his first 40 in shiny orange county, california.  geez…talk about following in my footsteps!

on my way home from our first lunch together here in the great state, i started thinking about things i’ve learned in my years in texas that might be good for him to know…maybe even some things i wish people would have told me before i showed up here at my new home on the range:

pay careful attention to the service, or frontage, road.  those are the roads that run immediately parallel to the the highways.  you didn’t have anything like these in california.  they only go in the same direction as the highway traffic on that side of the centerline.  usually.

when there is serious traffic congestion on the highway, texas drivers  often make their own “off ramps” through the grass and onto the service road to avoid the traffic jam.  i think it’s illegal, but people do it all the time.  proceed at your own risk.

make sure you check the weather channel every morning…and then multiple times during the day.  yes.  the weather changes that much.

it will take some time to get used to prime time television starting at 7:00pm and not 8:00.  once you get used to central time, though, you will never want to go back.

tex-mex is not the mexican food you grew up on.  you will grow to like it, but it will never replace the flavor and experience of the northern baja flavor sensations.

be careful of buying a fish taco here.   a few places are good.  most are bad.

don’t ever invite people over for a backyard barbeque.  you’ll be laughed at…especially in fort worth.  barbeque is a food group here, not an event.

not everybody in texas is sports-crazy.  but almost everybody…and everything…is crazy competitive.  if there is not a winner and loser, there is generally no point in doing it.

there is no match for a long drive on a two-lane country road that ends  with lunch at a little gas station diner.

the love-affair with the “lone star” is genuine.  you will hang a star somewhere at your house eventually.  you might as well do it sooner, than later.

you and your wife may never say y’all.  but get ready.  your daughter will.  and she may eventually like country music… and it probably won’t be nashville country.  you live in fort worth.  it will be texas country.  trust me.

blair, you are not a sports fanatic, but you really need to spend some time listening to randy galloway.  just ask a sports fan at your new church.

don’t wait too long before you vist the fort worth stockyards.  i wish we would have gone years earlier.  it is a cool experience…and you don’t have to wear boots.

don’t let them fool you.  deep in the heart of every true texan is the desire and willingness to secede from the union.

you will always be referred to as the guy from the land of fruits and nuts.  speaking as a fellow former californian… don’t do anything stupid to reinforce their belief.  there’s enough of that already.

i was surprised at how many men dip.  you probably will be, too.  always double-check your dr. pepper cans and plastic bottles before you drink from them.

texas history means something here.  don’t ever disrespect it.

pool water in the middle of summer can reach the mid 90’s.  it is not refreshing.

malls and movie theaters will be your best friends during the summer.  you might even pick up bowling like we did.  those three places have the best air conditioning.

friday night high school football games and half-time shows by the bands are bigger deals than you have ever experienced in your life.  embrace them as part of the culture.

i apologize, in advance, for the phenomena of homecoming mums.  do a google image search, if you need to…but don’t say i didn’t warn you that your head will explode when you see some of the winners.

take a tour of the deathstar.  it will help you understand a major segment of life here.

these are just a few of mine.  no doubt i will think of more to pass on to you.

here’s a challenge to my adopted texas family:  for the most part, you guys have been totally lame over the past six months when it comes to commenting on my blog.  maybe i’ve worn out my welcome.  maybe i’m no longer interesting.  maybe you’ve been cheating on me with another blogger.

whatever.  it’s now time to man up.  what’s some texas advice you want to pass on to my friend blair…to educate him in the ways of his new home…to prepare him for the reality of life in a foreign land… to give him some tools for passing part one of his entrance exam to the texas militia?

come on.  help him learn to be one of us.

don’t make me hunt you down.

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.

Welcome back to Texas

remember how i said i “loved” texas the other day?   well,  here’s how the great state treated me once i landed on frontier soil:

  • 7:55pm – land at love field and taxi for an extra 35 minutes while we wait for some other southwest jet to get out of the way.
  • 8:30 – begin standing and staring at the carousel in baggage claim.
  • 8:50 – realize that my luggage didn’t make it.   i go to the baggage claim desk and they inform me that there was a huge mistake and a bunch of bags flew to houston instead.   this is bad for three reasons:   first,  melissa and holden have come to pick us up and there’s no way i’m asking them to stick around for another hour and a half to see if my bag arrives.   two,  the bag includes my sunday morning wardrobe.   what would i do without it?   third…and most important…we had packed a few slices of pizza from our favorite pizza joint, so we could have a little taste of socal for dinner right here in lewisville.   bummer.
  • 9:30 – arrive home…grab keys…and start to turn right around and drive back to dallas to see if my bag came in.
  • 9:32 – wanda feels bad for being gone from our dogs for a week,  so she decides they can ride with us down to the airport.   can you say dumb idea?   blasted little yappers…
  • 10:05 – arrive back at the airport to be told by the baggage claim lady that my bag didn’t come from houston and they had no idea where it was.   no idea?   come on,  is some baggage handler in texarkana eating my pizza?
  • 10:20 – hop back in the car to make the long,  sad trek back home.   start thinking about what fast food joint we have to drive through with the dogs,  so we can finally get dinner…that we don’t want.   we haven’t eaten since 10:00am…
  • 10:35 – receive a phone call from the airport.   my bag arrived!   turn around.   back to the airport.
  • 11:15 – eating microwaved pizza from munchies.   this is a great moment.   short-lived.   but great.
  • 11:30 – corey calls me on the way home from his baseball game.   we realize that the keys to our other cars  (the cars i need to drive in the morning)  are back at his house in roanoke.   no men’s breakfast for me…
  • 11:40 – wanda realizes that we left one of her bags in the trunk of melissa’s car.   the one with her meds and brush and toothbrush.   she’ll live,  but my next day just got more complicated.
  • 11:50 – i plug in my laptop…only to face the reality that the a/c jack is completely shot.   dead.   gone.   history.   the timing is amazing.   i’m ready to rock and jump right back into north point life,  and i’m facing the probability of losing the hub of my sermon writing and communication for a week…or more!   not to mention having to pay for the dumb thing!  argh…
  • 12:30 – laying in bed thinking “this is messed up”.
  • 8:15am – text melissa to ask her to leave wanda’s bag on her porch,  so i only have to drive to denton to pick it up.   she’s already at work…in frisco.   great.   we’re off to an awesome start.
  • 9:oo – text bill to get my other jeep key that i borrowed while we were gone.   i find out he’s in memphis.
  • 9:30 – i have to ask melanie to drop the key off at the house.
  • 9:35 – i turn on my laptop…hoping there’s enough battery for me to put password protection on it (which i’ve never felt a particular need to install) ,  since i’m going to take it in to a repair shop and pretty much give them access to my whole life.   the battery runs out before i can get it done. can you say identity theft?
  • 10:15 – i put the spare key that melanie brought back in the jeep ignition.   it doesn’t work.   it goes in,  but it doesn’t turn.   gee.   what a surprise.
  • 10:30 – i start walking to the north point officehoping the set of keys i have are the right ones to the NP church van.   hoping.
  • 10:50 – yesssss.   the keys work.   the tables finally turned!

picked up wanda’s purse and then dropped off my laptop.   not only did the guy tell me he might be able to get it done by the end of the workday,  but that it would cost about half as much as i thought.   and he backed it up.   i picked it up at 7:00 this evening.   all is well.   and i’m back and ready to rock.

tomorrow.