Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crisis in Copperopolis

I know it sounds like the name of some town in a Dr. Suess book, but it really is the name of a fine little town in Northern California.

When we are planning on departing from Sacramento, I threw my hat into the ring for a Church that needed a new Pastor in this town.

Things were going along wellas they described some of the challenges they were having and I told them about myself and my family. They found that my resume and my experience was just what they were looking for at their Church.I sent them some cd's of some of my recent sermon's and they absolutely loved them. One of the guys told me that he felt like he already knew us.

But, he didn't know me well enough.

The Church had recently had a split and it revolved around something very silly. You see, a few years ago they had bought into a plan to be a "Purpose Driven Church". The P.D.C. was a Rick Warren book that he wrote several years before the Purpose Driven Life. In it, he described how a church should focus on five basic biblical purposes. It is a great book with great principles the Warren and Saddleback Church to grow huge and affect thousands of lives.

The Church in Copperopolis had used the principles in this book to anger half their crowd and drive people away. From what they described to me, it was easy to see that this was an ongoing problem. The people that remained were convinced that they had to do all in the book right now, or they weren't fulfilling their purpose a s a Church.

When I had my first phone call with the group of them, I told them that they were going to continue to go down the tubes as long as they were adamant that the most important thing was to dance to the tune they had been dancing to all along.

Once I explained this to them, it pretty much ended the conversation. I think they immediately lumped me in with all the critics that had already left their Church. I could feel the tension palpably when I spoke the words.

So, I never went to Copperopolis. It did have kind of a cool name.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Parental Legacy Tip #1

Parental Legacy Tip #1
Rev. James T. Allerton

I recently took on the challenge of leading the Kid's Club at our local Congregation. As a part of this role, I thought I would throw out some tips, thoughts, insights, struggles and the like on building a spiritual legacy for our children. About once a week I will post a Parental Legacy Tip for the parents of the Club Mac kids. The rest of you that read my posts regularly are welcome along for this added on ride.

This week, I gave the kids some bibles from my collection of give away bibles. Some of the kids were pretty excited, wondering how you find some of the stories we have talked about, if they could write in the bible and why there were so many psalms. Afterward, one of the parents told me that they would encourage their children to read them. Then, I began to think about how they would go about doing that.

One of the best ways I have found to get children interested in being interested in the things that they should develop an interest in is to let them see us having an interest in it. If we tell them they they need to be reading their bible, but they see that we always put it aside for other pursuits, then it will be meaningless to them. The same is true for other things.

Yes, we will still have to make them do the things they ought to be doing. We still have to send Ethan off to read his bible lessons before he can do other things. But, his interest is growing because he see us interested in this too.

You may not see results immediately in their lives, but we are going for a long term legacy. It will happen.

Hope this helps in some small way.

Marginal Divide.

Every good book you read has some margins along the outside. This gives the words a chance to be centered, leaves some room for thoughts and reflections and gives the pages a well needed break. Our lives, in order to be centered, need room in the margins. We need some time for thoughts and reflections, we need breaks from time to time. But, we seem to think that we need to cram those margins full of every activity we can squeeze in.

I think that being involved with a Church, a good one, is one of the best things you can do with your lives. But, with our cultural bent of being oh-so-busy, sometimes a Church can add to the propensity for us to live with no margins.
This post is not a criticism for outsiders to say that is why I am an outsider. It is more of something for the insiders to think about.

I have seen Churches on so many occasions, out of a desire to have some great stuff happen, try to invite all the same people to be involved in a myriad of activities. Instead of being gatherings that center us, the activities often become another add on, as in we have to take our kids to soccer, baseball practice, the science fair, oh yeah, lets throw in the Wednesday night religious thing so they can be a little bit spiritual too. Or I am watching my favorite program Tuesday night, I have to run to a meeting on Wednesday, on Thursday I play racquetball, they want me for a thing at the Church on Monday, etc.

On Sunday mornings, we often hear the cry from different factions in the Church pleading for us to be a part of their particular activity. Please add us on to your already busy schedule. It's good for you.

I think our churches should be a vital part of our life. But, they should be a vital part that teaches us to say no to the lifestyles that we think are so beneficial and to say yes to learning how to live with purpose and passion. How can they build our integrity instead of contributing to dividing our lives?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jerusalem Hat Trick

When I took a trip to Israel, I was struck by all the touristy-trap type stuff that was waiting for pilgrims around every corner. While I was never offered a piece of bone that was one of the martyrs, a splinter from the cross or ash from the original Wednesday(???), it did seem that every where you looked you could find a place where Jesus, one or more of the apostles or one of the patriarchs did something or the other. These sites, some authentic and some quite dubious, always included some articles you could buy to remember what had happened.

As I was arranging my office, which I hope to get you pictures of once I decorate it and all that, I found some of the keepsakes I got from while I was there. I have certificates attesting to my pilgrimage, commemorating my baptism in the Jordan River and proving that I climbed up Masada. And, I do have some very vivid memories of my experiences in the Holy Land.

Here, let me tell you about one of the experiences I had that you wouldn't expect from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

On trips like these, you always end up getting closer to some people than others, for whatever reason. During some of the free time we had, I went bumping about in the Arab Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem with Steve and David. Steve was my Jewish friend that planned on becoming a Mass Crusade Evangelist and who introduced me to some of the locals that he happened to know. David was a rough and tumble adventurer sort. I had no idea what he was doing at a Seminary, but he wasn't about to pass up a trip to somewhere cool, like Israel.

To give you some background, I was living in Texas at the time (that's where the school was) and had recently returned from a war in the Arab world. Maybe not the most diplomatic combination in the Arab Quarter. The Old City, especially the Arab Quarter, is full of shop type booths. Sort of picture the Suq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. My revelation that it looked like this came when I realized that I didn't have a whip or a revolver and I might soon be in need of one.

One of the vendors was selling hats and he seemed to think that his hats were much better than Steve's authentic Texas Guy Cowboy Hat. Steve politely tried to explain that he didn't want a hat and that his hat was one of the best ever until the vendor reached up and snatched it off his head. Since I was living in Texas, I knew the value of a man's hat, so I quickly grabbed the vendor's arm and snatched back the hat, put my finger in his face and told him not to touch his hat. The vendor looked pretty mad and a few of his buddies shuffled up behind him, like you'd see in a bad Kung Fu movie. Or a Billy Jack movie. Those movies are bad and they always have groups of angry men gathering behind their ring leader. If you don't know Billy Jack, you are probably better off.

Realizing that I lacked a little bit of the training that Billy Jack had and that my friends were not an elite group of heavily armed operatives, we backed off and got back to some more traditional Holy Land Adventuring. In retrospect, I should have punched someone. It would probably have made for a much better story.

And, If you thought I was going to blog about how our country has decided to try and ban Israel from building some houses in a place where, historically, no-one has ever lived in order to try and appease the Palestinians and in turn pissing off one of our closest allies, I apologize, you will have to look elsewhere for opinions about that issue.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tucson Taxes

The latest edition of the local news reports that the City is planning another property tax increase to retire some $18 million dollars in debt that they have decided is important to get rid of in this article:
City plans tax hike to pay debt

In tough economic times, governments, both local, state and federal, are finding less revenue coming in and more difficulty borrowing money. The standard response seems to be to increase taxes. Rather than cut back, spending is often increased and taxes are raised to pay for more and more. Now that many governments are in crisis mode, they are finally forced to make some cut backs, but these cuts don't match the loss of revenue.

Can you imagine running any viable business or household like this? I have tried spending my way out of financial problems before, and I can attest to the fact that it simply does not work. In fact, surprisingly enough, it can make things worse. I'll tell you that story some other time.

I am not opposed to paying taxes for things that are necessary. Like public schools. We don't send our kids to public school for a variety of reasons, but I think they are important. However, so many are convinced that spending more and more money on schools would improve the quality and the outcomes. Like so many other government programs, simply adding more money does not improve the results.

So, as your taxes grow, government deficits grow and elected officials frustration grows, all faster than ever, try to remember that giving more of your income (which may not be growing faster than ever right now) to them is not going to fix everything.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If you don't mind, it don't matter

Here is another pointless reminiscence:

A few years back, I traveled to India with an organization called Open Doors. I was there to train Church Leaders on how to have a biblical perspective about persecution.

We had just spent a week at the Central India Christian Mission and the founder's wife, Indu, made a fantastic feast for us. She served all sorts of Indian foods, a spread of American foods, pizzas, pastas, it was literally a feast. (On a side note, we went and saw a local hindu school and temple that had their own growing rock, just like the one from the Temple of Doom. When the dudes started chanting and playing their drums, I thought they were going to float up in the air.)

After the feast, I was stuffed and on the jeep ride from the mission to the town of Ranchi, I began to feel more than just stuffed. I started to feel sick. At first I thought I was just carsick, but it was more than that. Don't tell Indu, but I was starting to get feverish and absolutely ill.

When we got to Ranchi (pronounced just like "raunchy"), they took us to a hotel and I grabbed my key and went and flopped down on the bed, so glad to be laying down. A short time later, the whole crew came to my door and told me we were leaving. "This place was disgusting," they said. When they asked if I didn't agree, I told them that I liked it there and I wanted to stay in bed.

They took us to another hotel, which later did seem quite nice. I don't remember much about that night, except that I called Diane and told her I wanted to go home now and I came down to the brunch happy to be alive and able to eat something.

I included the two pictures above from the CICM website, because I am certain that both of these guys were there when we were teaching at the mission.

If you need a lesson to take away, here it is:

Don't get sick on the road to Ranchi.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"My head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me" Psalms 27:6

I recently grabbed a copy of this book and began to read. It is written with the understanding that the nation of Israel's beginnings have been truly miraculous. When most hear this, they think of all the wars and how they have survived and prevailed in spite of being surrounded by enemies. But I never realized that Israel is considered an economic miracle as well.

Israel has more companies on Nasdaq than all of Europe combined and all of India, China, Korea and Japan combined. Some of the most innovative advances in the tech business have been centered in Israel. Israel has more than double the global venture capital per capita than the U.S. Warren Buffet decided to invest in one nation outside of the U.S., Israel. This book takes a look at how and why Israel has done so well and what we can learn from them.

The book takes a look at some of the factors that has driven Israel's success. One of the major factors is how the military gives the entire nation a leg up in their economy. It highlights the differences between their military and ours and how Israel knows have to take advantage of the entrepreneurial and leadership lessons that are unique to the Israeli military.

The authors also feel as if the government of Israel and the government in the U.S. seem to be moving in opposite directions. Israel started out with a very socialistic bent and their economy suffered as a result of this. In the last couple of decades, the government of Israel is becoming more business friendly in more industries and is taking a hands off approach to more businesses in the private sector. The authors outline how when these industries are given a chance to thrive, they actually do.

More on the above thought. Prime minister Netanyahu, in describing the private sector, called it a thin man carrying the fat man of government on it's back. In this, he was describing how government spending can only be done when the private sector provides the money and that he believed the government was spending too much of the private sectors money, creating a burden that was too heavy for the thin man of the private sector to carry. As Israel continues to make steps to reverse this, the country corresponds by thriving more economically raising the standard of living for all that are there.

Interesting book and worth a read for anyone that thinks on business, economical or political things, or anyone that has an interest in Israel.

Next on my shelf to read are the following:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Building Dread

Yesterday, I joined Emily for her video lesson from the One Year Adventure Novel. This particular lesson was entitled "Building Dread." The idea of "building dread" is the idea of hinting at difficulties and challenges that are about to happen in your story.

The example the teacher used was the time in The Lord of the Rings when Gandalf tells the Fellowship that the only way he would go through the Mines of Moria is if there was no other choice. This builds a sense a dread about the Mines of Moria, which is, of course, where the Fellowship ends up having to go.

The entire 78 lesson series is about, not just the mechanics of writing, but how to build a story. Emily has always been a writer and this has been a perfect way to engage and teach her about how to make her stories, which are already good, great.

We'll let you know when you can check out her first novel. It should be sometime later this year. In the meantime, go watch the fun little video on the One Year Adventure Novel site.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'd sing it for you, but.......

Here is the farcical country music song I wrote some years back. It is better if you picture it with the guitar strumming and if you know the tune. But, this is all you get for now:

Had a real bad night

Got in a fight with my lover
The truck broke down

She ran off with another

Well, I can't believe the things that happen to me.

My dog jumped out
Got hit by a semi
You should've seen
that poor little mutt fly

Well, I can't believe the things that happen to me.

Alright, so I only have the first verse down. I was working on a chorus, but I gave up. Nonetheless, I think it has all the elements you need for a good country song....minus the strumming. I think it would be best with a banjo.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Fabulous Festival in the City of Broken Dreams

Even though one of my friends referred to this town as the City of Broken dreams, I like it here, usually. I love to get out and hike, especially during the winter months. The sunsets here are unbeatable. We are close to some interesting places to visit.

But, sometimes, Tucson events leave a little to be desired. With a million people hanging around town, why do things often seem, well, lackluster?

Happily, this was not the case for the second annual Tucson Festival of Books. Over 450 authors, a myriad of Exhibitors, live entertainment, book signings, kids activities. The event was done exceptionally well.

The kids and I went down yesterday to take it in. The girls enjoyed hearing James A. Owens, the author of Here There Be Dragons, talk about his harrowing and entertaining experiences as an author and a chance to meet the author of The Sister's Grimm books.

Ethan and I went the manly route and heard Doug Stanton discuss his book Horse Soldiers in Afghanistan and Jay Dobyns talk about his experiences infiltrating the Hell's Angels.

This event, after only it's second year, is already one of the premiere book events in the nation. If you didn't catch it this year, be sure do come next year. We'll be there.

And one more thought. Professional writing can be full of set backs and, well, broken dreams. So, maybe it is fitting that Tucson, the City of Broken Dreams, is the place to have a festival of this nature.

And another thought. Doug Stanton talked of how the Special Forces are trained, not to succeed in all they do, but recover from failure quicker than anyone else. So, when your dreams are broken, how long does it take for you to get back at it?

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I asked Emily to give me a random topic to blog about as a writing exercise for me and she suggested bananas, so here are some random facts about bananas:

Our friends from the Philippines told us that Bananas have much better flavor in the Philippines due to the greater variety. The ones we get at the store in the U.S. seemed terribly bland to them.

Bananasare mostly sugar, but since it is natural sugar and has plenty of other benefits, they are a much better source of energy than Dr. Pepper, which tastes better than Bananas.

Bananas have trptophan in them, which help your body produce seratonin, which makes you happy.

Bananas are high in Iron, which is supposed to be good for you.

I like to add Bananas to my cereal to sweeten it up. Although I don't really eat much cereal.

Bananas nourish the probiotic bacteria in your belly, which aids digestion and all that sort of thing.

Bananas are high in potassium, which is said to benefit blood pressure, heartbeat regularity and your bodies water balance.

My Mother used to use Bananas to make banana bread, adding in some walnuts. Diane makes banana bread too, but she substitutes chocolate chips for the walnuts.

Since they have no fat, are easy to digest and are tasty, Bananas are a good early food for babies.

I have heard that rubbing the peel from some Bananas on a mosquito bite helps reduce the swelling and itching. I could have used some the time I tromped through the swamp near the river on that youth group outing with the Methodist Church.

Bananas are yellow. I am obviously running out of things to say about Bananas. They really aren't even all yellow. Just the bland ones we get in our grocery store.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why would anyone start a new Church?

Many ask why, with so many Churches around already, anyone would start a new Church, like we did in West Sacramento and others are doing around the country.

John Piper, the bestselling author of desiring God has some compelling answers to this question.

From John Piper's sermon and blog entitled "I Will Build My Church":

  1. There are about 200 million non-churched people in America, making America one of the four largest “unchurched” nations in the world.
  2. Each year about 3,500 churches close their doors permanently.
  3. Today, of the approximately 350,000 churches in America, four out of five are either plateaued or declining.
  4. One American denomination recently found that 80% of its converts came to Christ in churches less than two years old

Monday, March 8, 2010

Here's our Community in Action

Last week, I saw a good example of how we have come to view community and a better example of how community should work.

A little old lady (seriously, about eighty years old) was driving her disabled brother, who lives in a care home and can barely walk, when her car stopped working. She was understandably upset, as she was a good distance from her destination with no way to get there as the day grew warmer.

Some helpful people passing by decided to call the cops. That's what we pay them for, right? To make sure we can help people. So, the local Sheriff's Deputy came and called a tow truck and the dealership for this lady that didn't have a phone. It was surprisingly easy to rescue her and help her on her way. I was wondering why someone didn't just try to help these people themselves, instead of just calling the cops. Thanks everyone for helping out the little old lady.

In another part of town, a local horse was running up and down a busy road being chased by dogs and scared witless. A helpful passerby, maybe the same one that called for the old lady, called the cops.

By the time the local Sheriff's Deputy had arrived, neighbors had already corralled the horse, even putting themselves in danger of the bucking beasts hooves. One helpful man even had the fog light kicked out of his truck as he tried to calm the animal.

Another neighbor got his personal horse trailer while others brought the thing some water and went and searched for the owners. At the end of the day, the cops didn't really need to be there because other people made sure that their community was taken care of and that the horse got home safely.

When it comes to your neighbors and your community, are you a cop caller or are you willing to take a risk, grab the reins and help out a little bit?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Here you are.

My friend J.B. shared this video, so I thought I would share it with you.

Try not to be offended....it's funny...:>)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There has to be a lesson there somewhere.

When I was in Jr. High and High School, one fellow, Bob Ray, always ran for City Council. Well, he wasn't the only one. There were others. Mr. Datus for one. Mr Datus was a popular Economics, Law and Government teacher at the High School. Mr. Datus regularly ran for City Council and regularly was on the City Council.

While it would have been much more aptly labeled a Town Council, or the even more appropriate Small Town Council, Bob Ray was quite interested in being a part of it. Every time an election came up, there was his name, big as day, in the local paper, The McCook Daily Gazette. Every year I had a little bit of a chuckle when Bob's bid for local politics was thwarted by some other local icon of farm, industry or marketplace.

This former marine from Northern California ended up having the last laugh. When I returned to town a few years later, Bob Ray was on the City Council and there he stayed for several years.

Bob Ray died a few years ago. You can read a bit more about him in this obituary.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pride and Prdejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls

I am in no way an expert on the subject matters I am about to discuss. Sure, I've read a little about Zombies. The little to which I refer means that I have read World War Z. I have also caught a couple of zombie films: Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, that one with Will Smith in a deserted New York City. But, the fact tried to get my wife to watch 28 Days Later by telling her it was a thinker will attest to the fact that I am not an expert on Zombies.

Also, I have never even read a book by Jane Austen. Sure, whenever the latest chick flick version of Emma or Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility comes out I am obliged to sit through it with my wife at least once. But I usually have no idea what is happening.

I must admit, both my wife and I were looking a little askance at the book rack when we first saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies staring up at us. She was wondering how they could twist such classics into a zombie thing. I am sure she thought that someone was going to try and tell her they were real thinkers. I was wondering why they didn't just write a straight-on zombie book and make it fun for the readers instead of trying to make it somehow tie into those books that I have never read.

So, when I heard that my friend (on Facebook anyways. Does that count?), Steve Hockensmith, had written the latest offering in the series, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, and that I could get a book for free if only I posted a review of it on here, I said, “Sign me up!” When I got my package with both the book and a poster, well then, in spite of my skepticism, I was excited.

Ok, I was still skeptical. How am I gonna get all the way through 288 pages of this thing and write a review. Not knowing how else to go about it, I began to read.

To my surprise and delight, as I began to read, I found I was actually enjoying the story. As I read on, I found that I actually wanted to know what happened to the characters. I was having so much fun reading that I was disappointed when the story ended. Not because the ending was disappointing, but....you know what I mean.

Speaking of the characters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, introduces us to a colorful and entertaining cast. Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of the original Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and her four sisters begin their martial arts training, dalliances with love and battles against the undead hoard (unmentionables, since it is not polite to use the “Z” word) in this book.

They are aided, or hindered, in these efforts by a number of colorful characters. Their Father, who has given up martial pursuits for a proper British lifestyle. Their mother, who continues to fret over who they will betroth, even in the face of a cataclysmic plague of animated corpses. Master Hawksworth, who travels from the east to teach them the skills they need to survive, and that even a man who can control a sword is not always in control of his passions. Dr. Keckipenny, who is trying to capture the undead, and maybe even the heart of Elizabeth, to research and defeat them. Capt. Canon, the limbless commander of the Army that is sent, pushed in a wheelbarrow by two “limbs”, to stand against the dreadfuls. The bombastic and lustful Lord Lumpley that is the local version of nobility. And the list goes on.

I was, at first, a little concerned with some little tidbits swirling around the martial arts maven, Master Hawksworth(does this seem a little to close to Hockensmith?). He was trained in the wu-shu ways of China, but showed up preferring Japanese weaponry. This seemed like an inconsistency, until I realized that he was a master of Mixed Martial Arts. Randy Couture would be proud of the heritage of zombie fighting his predecessors practiced.

Hockensmith has obviously done his research. I never would have considered the fact that quick lime on a body would make the later arisen zombie have a harder time moving, or the detail that a zombie moan would be phlegmy. Of course it would, but who would think of that? Steve Hockensmith. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a thoroughly readable story that makes Regency England and Zombie plagues fun. You can get a copy for yourself on March 23rd.

Find out more about the Quirk Classics and their latest offerings here:


Go here to log into their message board and let them know where you read the review. This gives you a chance to win a prize pack with the prizes listed below:

o A Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Journal
o Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Postcards
o Audio Books of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
o An advance copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
o A password redeemable online for sample audio chapters of Dawn of the Dreadfuls
o A Dawn of the Dreadfuls Poster
Go ahead and try it. Your chances are as good as anyone's.

Check out the author here: