Oops, is this gas pump yours?

The Lovely Miss J recently reminded me of an incident that took place about 10 years ago, and recommended I share it with the world.

Here in the fine state of Oregon, it is illegal to pump your own gas.  That’s right, illegal.  For some, including most native Oregonians, this is a blessing.  For me, it is super-annoying.  Gas costs more, and filling up takes longer, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

So it’s with that understanding, that we begin our story.

One Wednesday night, I was driving home from a long day working at the church and a great night at youth group, and I noticed that my Pontiac Grand Am needed gas.  I pulled into the Shell station, and waited for the attendant to come to the window.  I asked him to fill it up with regular, and I waited.  When he was finished pumping the gas, he approached my window and handed me a receipt, and he went back inside.

This is where the story takes a turn.

I drove out of the gas station, took a right, and headed down the busy street when I heard a banging sound against the side of my car.  In my passenger side, rear-view mirror, I could see the hose and nozzle from the gas pump hanging out of my gas tank and dragging along the road at 45 mph.

As you can probably imagine, I was as surprised to have taken a souvenir from my local gas station as they were to see me driving out with it.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t really  my fault.  I didn’t pump the gas.  I didn’t leave the nozzle in the car. I didn’t hand the customer the receipt and say thank you as if to signify the completion of the transaction.  I did nothing wrong.

So I returned to the gas station to return the pump to a teenager and a washed up twenty something who just stared at me blankly, before one of them said, “Don’t worry about it, happens all the time.”

Really?  All the time?  So this wasn’t your first time making the mistake of sending a customer away with a gas pump hose still inserted in their car?  Brilliant.

This is one of many reasons I hate Oregon gas stations.  That is all.


The Youth Pastor Has No Clothes…

I spent last weekend with a great group of students at Washington Family Ranch, but it didn’t start out so great.

We left for the three day weekend at camp on Saturday morning. It was at the end of a long week of meetings and preparation for me. I spent a good portion of Monday wrapping up a written proposal for a non-student ministry related church project. Later that week I had an all-day meeting about that project, followed by a half-day staff meeting. And aside from those days I had to make preparations for our student ministry team to lead our youth services while I was at camp. Phew! I’m tired just thinking about it.

But don’t get me wrong, I also love it. I love helping wherever I can in the church, I love the people I get to work with, and I love focusing on the future. It was just a lot of other things on the week leading up to camp.

On top of all that the church had a men’s breakfast that I wanted to go to on the Saturday morning we we’re leaving for camp.

So thats the background for what happened next. Saturday morning I was late getting out the door to get to the men’s breakfast. I realized I left all my camp paperwork at the church office so I was going to have to stop by to pick it up before breakfast. When I came into the office the alarm the off because I entered the code incorrectly. So I’m frazzled because I’m late and the alarm is ringing. I get that taken care of and get to the breakfast but totally forgot to get a check signed to pay for camp. I got the keys to the bus but students were arriving early so I rushed to get the bus pulled around to begins adding and checking them in. I collected payment, loaded the bus, prayed, and set off for our 5 hour drive.

That’s when it happened. 2 hours into the drive I realized I loaded everyone’s bags but my own. My bag with all my clothes, toiletries, and sleeping bag were in the back seat of my car back at the church.

So, at our lunch stop I ran into the store and bought a bag, some toiletries, and clothes and got back on the road.

We made it to camp and had a great time, but that evening I had a picture in my mind of myself running all over tending to all kinds of things: some necessary, some that I just chose to add on. And in my running around trying to take care of everything else, I dropped the ball on the simple thing I should’ve taken care of first.

I realized that first, I need to do a better job of handing off some things to others. If I had someone else checking students in, someone else taking care of the bus, etc. I could’ve focused better.

Second, I need to focus on the things that matter most. Winter camp is a big annual event. I should’ve been better prepared for it and not spread myself so thin the rest of the week.

Those were expensive lessons to learn, but it least it was just my disorganization that was exposed and nothing else!


Happy Birthday to The Lovely Miss J…

Today is my wife’s birthday.  I have been blessed to be able to spend the past 15 or so birthdays with her, and I have to tell you, she gets more beautiful with each year.

So here’s to The Lovely Miss J: May this year bring more happiness, and may we spend many more birthdays together!


Pearl Jam Sings “Jeremy (Lin)”….

Something to brighten your Friday…

Pearl Jam Sings “Jeremy (Lin)” – Show Clips – Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.


Childhood Hero: Gary Carter

I love baseball, especially my hometown San Francisco Giants.  But as a kid in the 80’s I watched Gary Carter catch for the New York Mets, and he became one of my heroes.  It helped that I was playing catcher in Little League at the time, but it was more than that.  Gary Carter played with grit, but at the same time looked like he was having fun.  Today he passed away.

With deaths like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and now Gary Carter, it’s like little pieces of my childhood fading away.  It makes me feel much older than I am.  These celebrities were larger than life, and for them to be gone somehow makes the world a more fragile place.  But I’ll always have  memories.

In 1990, Gary Carter joined my San Francisco Giants and split time at catcher with Terry Kennedy.  During a weekday night game at cold and windy Candlestick park, I was seated in the “Family Pavillion” in right field.  There might have been 8,000 people in a stadium that seats over 50,000, so it felt empty.  A friend and I moved from our ticketed seats down the third base line near the bullpen to get a better view and maybe catch a foul ball.

I built up the courage to lean over the rail at one point and stick my head into the bullpen where Gary Carter was sitting on the bench, waiting to catch during a bullpen warm up.  His hat was tilted over his eyes as he tried to take a nap during the game.  I called out to him, “Mr. Carter, I’m a big fan, can I have an autograph!”  He tilted his hat off his nose and replied rather gruffly, “I’m trying to sleep here!”  I pulled my head out of the bullpen more than a little disappointed.  Some young ladies pushed past us and were asking pitchers in the bullpen for autographs, and generally flirting with anyone wearing a uniform.  I sat in my seat and watched the game.

The Giants lost that game, but as players were leaving the bullpen to head down the tunnel to the clubhouse, Gary Carter said, “Who wants an autograph?”  Of course the young ladies were screaming and positioning themselves to get the autograph, but Gary Carter picked me out of the “crowd,” pointed to me, and said, “Hey Kid!”  He signed a ball he had in his pocket, and tossed it to me.  It was my own personal “Mean Joe Green” moment.

I lost the ball, and now, we’ve lost Gary Carter.  But the memory lives on.

“I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 pm.,” his daughter Kimmy Bloemers wrote on the family’s website. “This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know. He is in heaven and has reunited with his mom and dad. I believe with all my heart that dad had a STANDING OVATION as he walked through the gates of heaven to be with Jesus.”

Thanks for the memories, and the example, Gary.


My Thoughts on Nikki Minaj…

A couple of days have passed since the Grammy’s, giving me time to think and compose my thoughts about Nikki Minaj’s “controversial” Grammy performance.  I’ve seen several blog posts and articles from the usual “foamers” upset about her performance, so I thought I’d add my voice to the din.

Let me start by acknowledging of my presuppositions:

1.  The Church – Specifically the Catholic Church Is A Target
The church has long been a target of many artists because it’s iconoclastic imagery and because of what it stands for.  This was true when Lady Gaga released “Judas”, when Madonna released “Like A Prayer,” when “The Last Temptation of Christ” was released,  or when art installations depict Jesus or Mary a disgusting manner.  The Catholic Church has become an even greater target in the wake of the child abuse allegations and cover ups.

2.  Islam and Other Religions Are Not Attacked The Same Way
I heard this argument when it came to NFL players “Tebowing” and “mocking” Tebow’s faith – that if Tebow were Muslim, they wouldn’t mock him the same as they do a Christian.  And there’s some truth to that.  It is socially acceptable to mock the church and Christianity.  It is not socially acceptable to publicly mock Muslims and other religions.  I would add though, that because Christianity is generally accepted in the US, Christians don’t face the day-to-day bigotry, prejudice,  and discrimination that Muslims face on a day to day basis.  In short, Christianity in the US is the front runner that everyone else can take shots at.  It doesn’t make it right, or fair, but it is the current reality.

3.  Nikki Minaj’s Grammy Performance Was Tasteless
And before I get into my full comments on Nikki Minaj’s Grammy performance, I’ll state my opinion: it was tasteless.  It was offensive to many Catholics and Christians.

4.  I am a hypocrite.
I am not outraged by Nikki Minaj’s performance.  I’m mostly underwhelmed and saddened.  But I might get outraged about something else.  And I might choose to “foam” about that.  I am a hypocrite.  And so are you.

Ok, with that boilerplate out of the way, here are my thoughts on her performance: It was dumb, not demonic.  It was poorly executed, not a well-crafted attack on the person of Christ.  It was done purely for shock and commercial value.  Nikki Minaj has a new album coming out next month and needs to get people talking about her – this was her shot at doing that.

Minaj tried to out-Gaga Lady Gaga, and was largely unsuccessful.  The truth of the matter is that Lady Gaga has taken performance art to a new level of shock and awe with everyone wondering what she’s going to do next.  This makes other commercial artists like Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Nikki Minaj try to duplicate that success by becoming more controversial, and more shocking.  But Nikki Minaj dragged out the raggedy old “naughty Catholic” routine, and it was more “been-there-done-that” than shock.  It was a pathetic grab at attention.  And what’s worse for her – the performance was almost universally panned as being out of step with the rest of the show, weird, and incoherent.

So she’s getting 938 words on my blog, and thousands of others.  Maybe she is getting what she wanted after all – a little buzz.  What I really despise about these “controversial” shots taken at the Church, is that the Church pours gasoline on the embers with our outrage.  What would have been commentary the morning after the Grammy’s will now stretch on for months because groups will boycott, pundits will take to the airwaves, and people will picket.  All the while, album sales will get a boost because of the continued publicity – even though most thought the song wasn’t very good.  She performs this act because the controversy sells albums.  So stop foaming at the mouth if you want to halt sales.

The other thing I often hear is that we have to protect our children from such imagery.  Yes, we do.  As a Christian, I believe it is our responsibility to protect our children from seeing, hearing, and experiencing things that will negatively impact them.  I believe we should teach our teenagers to filter and know right from wrong and make those decisions based on God’s Word.  But I don’t expect a V-chip, a ratings system, CBS, the Grammy’s producers, the advertisers, or Nikki Minaj to do that for me.  It’s sad that our society doesn’t have a higher bar set for our morality, but society never dictated that anyway.  I stand on God’s Word alone.

Yes, I believe Christians need to stand up and defend their faith.  Yes, I believe the performance was tasteless and offensive to many.  But why do we keep expecting non-believers to carry our values?  Why do we expect one who is “sinner” to look reflect anything but our broken world?

Why not spend our time doing things that actually matter?  Let’s take care of orphans and widows.  Let’s put an end to abuse of children in our churches instead of covering it up.  Let’s feed the hungry and help the poor.  Let’s love our neighbor as ourselves.

If you really want to put an end to these tasteless, anti-Church performances, take the power out of their hands.  What if instead of boycotting Nikki Minaj, we chose to feed a child for every album she sells.  What if the church’s response was to drill a well in Africa every time we’re inclined to take to the air with our latest outrage?  What if we made a difference instead of just making noise?

Anyway, just my thoughts…


FLASHBACK: Valentine’s Day 1998

Every Valentine’s Day I get to spend with the lovely miss j is the best one ever.  (Induce Awwws and/or Ewwws now).  But seriously, last year I wrote about my favorite Valentine’s Day ever, so check out this flashback post:

My wife posted a really good post about valentine memories.  You really must read her post first, or this post will make little sense.  I really like how her parents made Valentine’s Day special for her.  She grew up with a healthy view of what love and affection should look like.  And I love that her dad was, and is, and always will be her first love.  (It helps that he’s a great dad and a great guy!)