Thursday, February 13, 2014

legos . GOD. free will

This past Sunday we launched a series at church based off a book called The STORY. It’s basically the Bible, somewhat condensed, giving framework for the story of God. It’s said to be in chronological order, and goes through the narrative of Scripture. (If you’re interested – Beach Cities Christian Fellowship : Sundays @ five)

This week we also launched what we’re calling STORY.groups. They’re smaller groups intended to provide room to discuss in greater depth each chapter, each week.

As one would expect; The STORY begins @ the beginning. Genesis. Chapter One.
In the midst of creation… God did something very interesting. He gave us the ability to choose. Just as he chose to create : he gave his creation the ability to choose. to create. to think. to love. He gave his creation free will.

Free will. It’s an interesting thing.

Last night was the first session of the material, a beautiful analogy was given.


The Lego Movie came out this week and I’m excited to go see it with my son. Almost every day he asks me to play Legos with him. We go to his room, plop down on the floor, and build. It’s always fun to get a new Lego kit : a new car, a truck, a building. To put it together and watch it take shape.

When my son got his first kit, I had to do everything. But as he’s growing, he’s able to do more. He might not be able to work of the map yet, but he can piece them together.

Right after Christmas we had every Lego Kit built. They sat on his little table. He played with them. He admired them. He enjoyed them.

I loved watching him. It brought some joy, some sentimentality. And it brought excitement for when he would begin (on his own) to build and create.

A month and a half after Christmas, there’s not a single fully intact Lego kit. They have all been modified. Pieces have been removed, and others installed. Buildings torn down and new ones put up. His imagination is going full-bore.

As we discussed chapter 1 last night, what I found interesting about creation, free will, and Legos is this: In Creation, God has a plan. He built. He said it was good. He then gives us free will and allows us to use it. Using our free will often takes us off track from the original blueprint. But it’s ok.

Sometimes I go into my son’s room to see what he’s built. He’s excited, and practically jumping off the ceiling telling me about it. I head up the stairs and enter his room to see what? Not the perfectly placed car that was just built from the map. But a modified car with 6 windshields and no doors, lights that stack 10 high and 3 steering wheels. And a smile upon his face.

Sometimes I walk in and am sad that I can’t remember what the original fire truck looked like. I know I couldn’t put it back together, not from memory, not without taking other things apart.
I think this is like the free will God gave us.

He took us out of the packaging, put everything together, sat back, smiled and said “this is good.”
He then let his kids begin to play. They took pieces apart and put them in weird places.

One time, he stopped, and took everything apart,
and started over. He saw the hurt and the damage it did to his kids. He swore to never do that again!

Instead, he joins us, sits down on the carpet. Sometimes he’s guiding, other times just listening. But he’s always there, ready to be involved in the creation that is our lives.



Free Will.

Monday, February 3, 2014

intuition or something more?

Wednesday (last week) I took my son to preschool and headed to Newport Beach for an all day conference. As I drove east on Artesia, headed for the 405, I had an odd feeling – I just didn’t want to go. I couldn’t pinpoint why. However a few thoughts came to mind : the conference was at the same time of another meeting I wanted to attend, none of my friends were going  to this conference, and I didn’t want to fight the traffic. Silly reasons right!?!

Since I was already in the car, had already paid for the books that accompanied the conference, and had to pick-up the books at the event – I pressed on.

I arrived to the venue, found a seat, and did my best to wrap my attention around what was being shared.

To my surprise, my attention was quickly averted (and not by my doing)!
Before lunch my wife called.
My son’s preschool called.
He broke his arm.

Here’s what’s been spinning around my head for the past few days : Is there a connection between me not wanting to go and what happened that morning? What is intuition? and what role does it play?

Merriam-Webster defines it as:
 noun \ˌin-tü-ˈi-shən, -tyü-\
: a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence : a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why
Wednesday morning, a feeling swept over me, I didn’t want to g
o to the conference. I couldn't explain it. It didn't make sense.

Over the past few weeks my wife and I have been watching Warehouse 13 (from the Sci-Fi channel). If you’re not familiar with the series, one of the main characters (Pete) has what he calls vibes. He gets these feelings in his stomach. He doesn’t really know what they are or what they mean, but he has learned to pay attention to them and respond. Pete get’s a “vibe” something bad is going to happen and it puts him on high alert. Along with his sense of humor, Pete’s “vibes” prove to be a fun part of the show.

Sometimes in the Christian community we might attribute an experience like this to the workings of the Holy Spirit. Scripture says the Holy Spirit has come to guide, instruct, and journey with us. The Gospel of John 16:13 says this of the Holy Spirit : “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” (NLT)
As a pastor, one who has devoted one’s life to “knowing” God & his ways – I still have so much to learn. Sometimes I wish I could be more like Pete – and simply recognize the “vibe” I’m experiencing, reflect upon it, and respond.

My son’s arm is in a bright red cast.
Holding him back from donkey kicks or a playground won’t help him grow and develop. 
But being receptive to the workings of the HOLY SPIRIT : THAT IS what I want to live and teach!

Monday, January 27, 2014

immigration, meaning, perspective

I RECEIVED a reference from a friend a few weeks ago. When I got around to calling I explained who I was, who I was calling for, and what I was calling about. I was told that the person I was calling for was not available. And after a few minutes of conversation, the phone was handed to someone else. With the new person, I explained who I was, who I was calling for, and what I was calling about. And after a few minutes of conversation, a break in the voice on the other side of the call, I learned why the guy I was trying to reach was not available.
He had been detained. He was in an immigration holding facility. He was awaiting a decision, a direction.
Hearing the voices of the two women I talked to on the phone that day, puts the difficult situation our community/country is experiencing into perspective. As they tried to describe the situation without change to their voice, I could hear their eyes welling up. I could hear the rhythm of their heart quicken. I could hear all this.
When I dialed my phone that day (just about 2 weeks ago) I had no idea who I was calling, or what was going on in their lives.
This is often the case isn’t it?
Sometimes this is even the case with longtime friends. Sometimes even the case with family.
Sometimes we call and have no idea what’s going on. We don’t know the hurt, the sorrow, the situation.
Our lives are full of trials and adventures, some we want to experience, others we want to run from. Sometimes we believe it’s easier to live life in a perpetual state of ignorance – having accepted the “blue” pill (inter Matrix reference).
But ignorance is not bliss. No matter how simple or disconnected we may feel. The truth is – ignorance is not bliss. The Blue Pill would not have made life easier; rather it would have made it meaningless.
For it is within our daily interactions with one another that we find meaning. A listening ear, an embrace, a laugh; this is where we find meaning.
I’ve thought a lot about this immigration thing which daily flies under my radar. The confusion, hurt, and uncertainty was not lost on me that day – nor since. Hearing those voices crack and hearing their eyes fill with tears will stick with me. I don’t know them, but having spent time with them on the phone, living life together for those few minutes…
I pray.
I pray that I don’t live a life of ignorance; pretending lives around me are not experiencing great joys and often greater pains.
I pray for my friends. I pray for my neighbors.
I pray for hostility to be calmed.
I pray for peace in the midst of chaos. I pray.
Today, I choose the red pill and pray that my eyes may forever be opened to the reality in our midst.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Big Box
We hear this term a lot in our culture. Big Box. Big Box stores have popped up everywhere. At times we’re inclined to visit them simply because they hold so much of what we “need.”

Sometimes it’s kind of comical to read posts from friends after they visit Target or Costco. I’ve read facebook posts like: “wow, I got out of Target for under $100” or “why do I go into Target to get one thing, and come out 15?”

My wife and I shop at both of these Big Box stores. I actually enjoy Costco (even though they don’t play music while I shop). I enjoy wandering the aisles, checking out the ever changing samples, and the tasty treats. This summer I stopped in to grab some milk. (I have a 4yr & 1yr old, so we go through those 2 packs pretty quick!) On that particular trip, all I got was milk. As I checked out, the cashier looked at me kinda funny. She smiled and said: “Wow, this might be a first! Wish I could just come in and get only one thing.”
Novel feat, right!

What strikes me about these Big Box stores is our attraction to them. In my head, I associate Big Box with any nationwide chain. But Wikipedia told me this morning the term really is representative of these big stores that have a giant footprint and typically look like – well a big box.

Back in ’05 an Art Student, Julia Christensen, researched the growing trend of empty Big Box stores. You know the ones that sit vacant year after year. The Rensselaer Magazine article about Christensen’s research noted that: “Many of these superstores close because of lack of business or, more often, says Christensen, they move into a bigger and better space across town.”

Why is it if we are so attracted to them (as I believe we are – particularly after visiting Costco before and after the holidays) that they close? Why is it that these giant buildings are left abandoned? Why is it…?
Beyond these questions, I really wonder about these Big Box or nationwide chains and our inability to support the small, local, independent.

I lived in Seattle Washington for five years. While there I loved all the local restaurant choices. When we would have friends visit we’d take them to one of the fantastic local places – often just a short walk away. But this is not the case in most of the country. And unfortunately, having now returned to Southern California, this is not the case here.

If you ask where to meet a friend for lunch– what’s suggested is all too often the “big box” chain. We like the familiar. We like having everything in one place. We like the simplicity of the common.

As I perceive it, we have this same tendency within our culture when looking at churches. We look past the small to see the big. Culturally we gravitate to the all-encompassing, one-stop options where we think all our “needs” will be met.

But what fascinates us about The Standing Room, Catalina Coffee Company, Ocean Diner, Two Guns Espresso, Triangle Hardware, and (the list could go on, but I’ll pause there)  – with their quirky atmosphere, great product, and unique experiences… These stores provide us with something a little more.

In the New Year, I want to challenge you, when we look for places to meet friends, take family, or to just go and be; consider the smaller independent spots before giving in to the gravitational pull of the Big Box.
In the New Year, I want to challenge you, if you’re considering a place to go and worship; consider the small local faith community in your neighborhood.

Sometimes these seemingly smaller places (restaurants, stores, faith communities) actually offer us more. Sometimes these seemingly smaller places actually provide what we really need – a place to be, a place to participate, a place of community.

Monday, December 30, 2013

a walk in the park

To start the 2012 New Year, I joined a handful of others and jumped in the pacific ocean. Ya, not that great of a feat, considering on previous New Years I’ve jumped in Lake Washington. But none the less – it was still invigorating and a fun way to launch into the New Year.

As of yet, I haven’t decided what this New Year will entail? I’m not sure what will signify the start of 2014.
I have a small family – a wife and two kids (a four and a half yr old boy and 1 and a half yr old girl). Last year I embarked to the beach in Hermosa to jump in, by myself. It was fun. But I missed doing it with my wife. I missed having my family there to experience it too.


Family really is important in this day and age. With all our ability within social media for immediate connections, there is still something about spending time with family. A walk in the park, a jump in the lake, a kite flying, a bike ride; there is still something compelling about our tangible family connections.

Over the past few months I’ve thought a lot about the word “holistic.” It seems important to give appropriate and healthy (note healthy) amounts of time, energy and intention to work, family, physical health and spiritual health. Many of us desire this holistic life.

We all know the importance of spending time at work, accomplishing tasks, getting a paycheck, and providing for our (family) needs. We show up (40ish hours a week) and strive to do our best.

We all know the importance of balancing work life with our family life. Our parents, our siblings, our spouse, our kids; they need our attention, and we need theirs. Balancing time at work with family has been at the top of many New Year’s Resolution lists for years.

We see the health of our nation, our neighbors, our family – and we are driven to think about our physical health. Many will commit to loosing that “extra weight” from the holidays. We join Health clubs with good intentions. We lace up the trainers and run around the block. We eat better, play better, and work better.

But so often we forget one aspect of the holistic pie – our spiritual health!

What are you doing this New Year to tend to your spiritual health? BibleGateway and You.Version have great bible reading plans. Many churches have Bible Studies & Small groups. Our church is going to read “the Story” this New Year in 2014.

To live a holistic life – we must give attention to each aspect of our life pie. It’s not healthy to leave one out, or let it sit neglected. Friends who are out of work can attest to this. They’re anxious, and bored, they’re frustrated, and ready. We understand this. So let’s be intentional this new year to tend to all the aspects of our life.

As I think about it, this New Year, I hope to take my family out for a walk in the park (or perhaps the Strand). I hope we can create time to be together, exercise (running after the little ones), admire God’s creation, and breathe deeply the hope of a new year. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians : Forgetting what is behind, and pressing on toward what lies ahead.

join me on – a walk in the park

(ps – and if you’re curious, our church gathers SUNDAYS @ five)