Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yes, they are using their feet...

While I don't play as much as I used to, I still have a passion for volleyball.  So, it is a wonderful blessing that I have so many teens in my youth group who play for their school.  

As I mentioned in previous blogs, this past Olympics also reignited my love for the sport (and, deep down a desire to play again, despite being extremely out of shape).

But, now I have a new appreciation of volleyball, after I discovered a form of the sport I never knew existed (you HAVE to see it to believe it)..

Friday, September 26, 2008

The funny green line

So, the youth ministry video is done.  I've had some good feedback already from everyone who has seen it.  I pray that it will serve as a reminder to everyone about the beauty of God's mercy, that's He's always calling us and giving us the choice to enter into it.  And hopefully, it will inspire generosity of time and money, of which I can use large helpings of both.

As I said in my last post, I am most definitely an amateur editor.  Because of this, I cannot figure out why there is a silly little green line at the bottom of the screen that appears and disappears.  I hope no one minds.  It will certainly bug the technologically inclined.

Now, this funny green line has pointed me to something else.

My friend in ministry Marko blogged today about how inadequate, unprepared and unqualified he feels sometimes in his role as the president of a youth ministry resource company.  He called himself a "poser".  He's a junior high youth pastor at heart, not someone who can talk easily about financial projections, strategic plans or collaborative partnerships with business people.

And, boy, did that just hit the green line on the head for me.  For all of my professional experience, I love to do ministry.  I love the life of ministry.  I love how ministry has brought me closer to God.  I really have no idea how to remove the green line from a video or raise money or lead a group of people or administrate this ministry.  I'm not saying that I'm down on myself.  I'm stating a truth that I've known about myself for a long time, yet was afraid to admit because, like Marko, people would see me as a "poser" too.

I've had this feeling for the better part of my ministry career. And, let me tell you, it kinda sucks. And yet, that feeling forces me to spend more time on my knees in submission to His will.

Youth workers (and everyone involved in ministry) almost has to have this feeling of inadequacy to keep us humble. I don’t know about you, but it is certainly a huge challenge to stay humble when doing the Lord’s work.

I wrote in another post that the thing that keeps us out of trouble is humility…recognizing who we are, who we are not, and why God loves us so abundantly because of that!

Now, please don't misunderstand me.  This is not my attempt at getting any sympathy or positive affirmation.  

It's just that the green line reminded me that God fills my incompleteness in ways that I can never imagine possible.  I hope no one minds...

Monday, September 22, 2008

I think I'm gonna implode

I just finished the first "draft" of my youth ministry video that we will be showing to the parish community this coming weekend.  This will definitely be a work of God.  Because there are always technical problems associated with projects like this.  AND since I am an amateur editor/Final Cut Express user, it took me longer figure out how to do even basic commands.

But, I feel like the story works and is compelling.  The teens did a great job being honest and deep.  Rob made it look really good.  And Bob Rice, Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin add such a beautiful prayerfulness to it.

I'll be tweaking and refining all week.

It's definitely hard work.  So hard that I think I'm gonna implode now...on my couch watching the Chargers/Jets game.

Friday, September 19, 2008

“This is Katrina in the entire country, but without the means that Louisiana had.”

I was having dinner with a friend the other night and we were discussing the impact of natural disasters in the history of our lives, as well as the current impact of all the recent hurricanes on the Caribbean and the southern United States.

As we were talking, I mentioned how our mainstream news media has not to this point described the extent of the devastation in Haiti.  

This article from the New York Times is still only a glimpse of what the Haitians are going through.

I am sad because of the mighty suffering these simple people have to endure.  I pray that I will endure with them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This will put a smile on your face

My friend in ministry Marko posted this video on his blog. It's funny a look at where Christian music used to be. And it just really begs the deep theological question, "Is Jesus your friend?

Bring on the Euros

I golf.  I watch golf.  I love Ryder Cup golf.

Match play is much more engaging format to watch than stroke play.  And this competition has so much intensity and passion.  Although, I think the coolest part of the whole thing is to see an individual sport become all about team.

Now, you know that this event is a big deal when the self-proclaimed "greatest" of all time decides to make an appearance at a practice round.

Golf has so much sportsmanship in its culture.  But, for this Team USA fan, it's about winning.  They can shake hands and sip champagne with the Euros on Sunday evening.  Until then, I wanna see a lot of competitive banter...and a bunch of American birdies.

P.S.  Hopefully neither team will be wearing hideous outfits, a la the 1999 USA shirts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Words are the voice of the heart"

That Confucius dude is one smart cookie.  He could craft a simple phrase like the one above to move it's reader to something deep deep deep.

But this phrase moved me to a very specific word, one that I desire more and more.

My friend and I were talking about the work and life of a missionary.  And, as we were talking about what it means to work among people who are materially poor, I said this:

"What people want most, whether they are materially or spiritually poor, is someone who will stand in solidarity with them."

Now, there's a word you don't use everyday, solidarity. When I said it, I remember my body doing an internal double-take. It's a word we hear and know exists, but have no idea how really vital it is to our existence here on earth.

The United States Conference of Bishops defined solidarity like this:
Solidarity is action on behalf of the one human family, calling us to help overcome the divisions in our world. Solidarity binds the rich to the poor. It makes the free zealous for the cause of the oppressed. It drives the comfortable and secure to take risks for the victims of tyranny and war. It calls those who are strong to care for those who are weak and vulnerable across the spectrum of human life. It opens homes and hearts to those in flight from terror and to migrants whose daily toil supports affluent lifestyles. Peacemaking, as Pope John Paul II has told us, is the work of solidarity. (from Called to Global Solidarity: International Challenges for U.S. Parishes)
It's amazing to think that this one word speaks from the heart of every man and woman.  If only we could be the walking, living, loving definition of this word.

What a way to start a morning

My mind has been racing this morning.  I FINALLY have an idea for what I want to do with the youth ministry video that I need to present to the parish in a week and a half.  But it brought up all of the things I have to do between now and then.  This caused me much anxiety!!!!!!

So, this was my state of mind as I walked into church for daily Mass.  I was fighting the battle of praying and planning the whole time.  Then, as Fr. Leo finished his homily, he did something out of the ordinary.  He invited this couple to the front of the altar.

It turns out that this couple is celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary today.

And it was at that moment that God smacked me in the head with perspective.  

Our life here on earth is naturally ordered to love.  And when we are obedient to the love that is written into our hearts by our Creator and Father, commitment is not only possible, but preferred.  And the only kind of authentic commitment that exists is the one that involves relationship between God and His beloved, you and me.

The relationship we have with God leads us to love others like Him and through Him.  It leads us to sacrifice all for the sake of this divine love, as a couple married for 65 years or as a saint willing to suffer martyrdom for Him who loved us first.

So, Regina and James, God bless you on this beautiful day as you renew your love for one another in holy marriage.  And thank you for reminding me that a producing a video will not complete my life.  Only love can.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A smattering of schtuff...

  • I'm currently listening to two very powerful albums: Revelation by Third Day and Hello Love by Chris Tomlin.  Both albums are not just wonderful musical experiences, but are also powerful expressions of how God works in the tangible to draw us close to Him.
  • The iPhone is still a pretty amazing machine.  My friend told me today that the word on the street is that it will be available through multiple cellular carriers within a year.
  • I love to eat.  Picking up breakfast at Pipes Cafe in Cardiff always brings a smile to my face.
  • Is it just me, but are there ALOT of people (men AND women) who are fanatical about football?
  • If you haven't done so already, you need to see the video on catholicvote.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Do you get dressed like this?

Don't try this at home, for your sake, and your jeans's sake:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's already been seven years

Like many people, I can remember very clearly what I was doing when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 started.  Not just remember what I was doing, but what I was feeling: sad, confused, angry, unsure, scared.  But, now, as we commemorate the seventh anniversary of those attacks, I feel those same feelings, yet with a different context.

I asked myself this morning, "Have we forgotten what happened?"  Sure, there are a lot of ceremonies honoring those that died.  Our news media will be replaying all of the horrifying images from that day and trying to analyze how safe we are from another attack.  Polls show that our country's concern over another act of terrorism is at its lowest level since 2001.  And certainly, for as life altering as that day was for all of us, we must move on.

But now, I think the better question is "Have we forgotten how we reacted?"

We, the people of the United States, reacted in a way that was, in a word, holy.

Men and women - young and old - being obedient to their vocation to the armed forces to sacrifice their very lives to protect you and me (which they continue to do today).  Americans rich and poor caring for total strangers, no matter how near or far.  Family being the priority over sports, business, politics, money.  Priests and pastors of every denomination preaching to packed churches.  Self-donation exceeding self-satisfaction.  A nation that was truly, if only for a moment, one under God.

Perhaps all of the pomp and circumstance of today will remind us of this: that the best way for our country to honor those who died is not just to be more protected and secure, but for Americans to be truly and authentically loving of family, friends and the other alike, as we were on Sept. 11, 2001.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm so very blessed

As a part of my "job" as a youth minister, I get to be proud of the young people that come into my life and witness them succeed and grow and struggle and laugh, all in the pursuit of happiness.

I get to watch volleyball players play just because it's fun and they've been blessed with the talents to do that.  I get to be a part of the important life/career choices that take my young people all over the globe in search of their vocation.  I get to share in the excitement of going away to college for the first time.  I get to talk/read text messages/have IM conversations with these men and women about getting an amazing job or getting an A on a test or being selected for a major part in a play.

Thank you, God, for these small blessings.  And thank you that, in your greatness, you allow me to witness your goodness incarnated before my eyes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Other

I met my friends Tony, Matt and Bri for noon Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary and lunch in Little Italy today.  It was a nice break from work and planning and thinking way too hard about ministry.

The priest who celebrated Mass today, Fr. Louie, brought up something that has been on my heart since I returned from the Dominican.  That is the concept of the "other".

Our Church today celebrates the feast of a holy priest, St. Peter Claver.  He dedicated his life to ministering to people who were considered the "other": Africans sold into slavery and brought to what is now South America.  He gave them food and drink.  Cared for the sick and dying. Taught the Africans about God.  And converted thousands of souls to the Church.

But what made the people of the 17th century see these Africans as the "other"?  Was it the color of their skin?  Was it their socio-economic status?  Were they "less" human?  What made St. Peter want to serve them?

And what about today?  We have lots of "others" in our midst here in the United States.  Why are some of the "others" in our country treated with dignity and some not?

Over the weekend, my dad and I were talking about all of the political issues that have come up in this election year.  And he posed the question: Why are we Americans so insistent on strict immigration laws and practices?  And what would happen if the strict immigration laws that some voters desire caused the immigrants who perform the many tasks of our many service industries to not be in this country?

When I first started working in the Haitian villages, I definitely did see those people as the "other"...at first.  But as we grew in relationship, their need for love and friendship and God was no different than mine.

As I have met and related with Christians from non-Catholic churches over the past few months, I definitely felt the awkwardness of the denominational boundaries...at first.  But when we prayed, we prayed to the same triune God with the same desire to worship our Creator.

Maybe, just maybe, the "other" is not as different as we think they are.  And maybe, the sooner we recognize the "other" in our midst, the sooner we can ask for God's grace to see them for who they are: a son or daughter of God, just like us.

Path of Humility

As I was writing music and lyrics the other day for a new song, I found this definition of humility on Wikipedia that opened my eyes and my heart:
    • submission to God and legitimate authority;
    • recognition of the virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those which surpass one's own, and giving due honor and, when required, obeisance;
    • recognition of the limits of one's talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for that which is beyond one's grasp.
        Humility...recognizing how small you are and how big God is.

        St. Augustine of Hippo is one of my favorite saints, as well as one of the most quotable.  I discovered this one on his feast day a few weeks ago that I can't stop thinking about:
        "To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him; the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement."
        Humility...the act of authentic praise of God by our love of Him, by our search for Him, by our encounter with Him.

        I saw this article on CNN.com on several visits to the site.  I was attracted to it, but afraid to click on it.  So, I finally did that this morning.  It's a story about a new book that details the common traits of people who survived disasters of all kinds.  As I was reading, I realized why I was so hesitant.  I desire a larger helping of humility in my own life.  My deepening need for humility has given me awareness that my lack of it has caused some of the challenges I face.  And then, the author of the book was quoted as saying this:
        "Humility can keep you out of trouble."
        Humility...it can save your life whether you're trapped in the wilderness, floating helplessly in the ocean for days, or trying to find a way out of your life's "disasters" caused by lonliness, greed or pride.

        Monday, September 8, 2008

        Taught by the poor

        As I was putting the video of my working among the Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic together a few weeks agao, I was struck by this quote from Mother Teresa:

        Only in heaven will we see how much we owe the poor for helping us love God better because of them.

        The people of Haiti have undergone much suffering over the past few weeks as four hurricanes have battered their island and caused much death and destruction.

        Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has called upon the world family to help.

        These people did not asked to be in the destructive path of the hurricanes.  Nor did they ask to be born into the poverty of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  But they are certainly teaching us something in their suffering.  The question is, how will we respond?

        Sunday, September 7, 2008

        Family Weekend

        My Grandmother is visiting from the Philippines for a few weeks.  And this weekend, we had family day.  And Villa family day usually consists of two things: eating, shopping and more eating.  Oh, and picture taking.  It's definitely not a gathering without picture taking.

        So, here's a picture of my beloved Grandmother and I (taken, of course, after our family day of shopping and in between eating).

        As we were hanging out, it hit me...we (as in you and I) need to take time for family.  Whether it's flying 16 hours or driving for two, the travel is a worthwhile investment in love.

        P.S.  Google Earth rocks!
        P.S.S.  What a football weekend: St. Augustine High vs. Carlsbad on Friday, SDSU vs. Notre Dame on Saturday and Panthers vs. Chargers today.  Oh yes, ready or not, it's football season again!

        Friday, September 5, 2008

        Let's play a game

        I really enjoy listening to speakers who teach me, who give me words that not only touch my heart but move my mind to deeper understand.  My dad is one of these people.  Mark Hart is another.  And so is Bishop Robert Brom, the Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego.

        I had the blessing of spending the morning with Bishop Brom yesterday as he held his annual meeting with church ministers from all over the Diocese.

        He talked about two very powerful topics.

        One was how God has written LOVE into our very genetic make-up. Love finds fulfillment only when self donation exceeds self satisfaction.

        The other was HOPE.  We experience hope when we give and receive the divine love that is written in our hearts (see above).  All hopes are good and meaningful (i.e. the Chargers win their season opening game versus the Panthers this Sunday).  But there is only one hope that fuels our desire to live: the resurrection of the body and live everlasting.

        I am always in awe of how Bishop Brom makes these very high theological teachings accessible to me as a lay person.  He shared so many terms and concepts that I found myself not just soaking the information in, but also applying it to my own life.  Hence, a word association game broke out in my head.  Here's how the game went:

        COMMUNION: the summit of our existence on earth (the Eucharist), the source of how we are to live our lives (discipleship and holiness).
        COMMUNITY: necessary for all humans, but is incomplete without communion.
        INTEGRITY: trust and confidence in who God made us to be, boldness in proclaiming that publicly and privately.
        HUMILITY: a life of ministry cannot succeed without it.
        SERVANTHOOD: there is no "I" in team and no "I" in servant either.
        SACRAMENT: Jesus Christ hanging on the cross.
        SUFFERING: Bishop Brom is a model of handling suffering with and through grace.

        Thanks, Bishop Brom, for inspiring me to be a better son of Christ and his Church.

        Wednesday, September 3, 2008

        Music = unity?

        Coming from a family of musicians, I have been around music all of my life.  Music has touched my soul, made me laugh, made me cry, annoyed the heck out of me.  And it's brought me closer to God.

        Now, being a musician and a music minister for the Catholic Church, it is quite interesting to see how those emotions that I and countless others have experienced are present in the celebration of our Eucharistic liturgy.

        It's interesting.  And it's sad.

        Sad to see how brothers and sisters - bishops, priests, lay people alike - in our Church are so divided because of the on-going argument of what constitutes "liturgically appropriate" music.

        Sad to see how brothers and sisters rest their experience of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass based on how good the music sounds or if a genre of music fits their musical preferences.

        Now, these discussions about the liturgical appropriateness of certain musical forms are good and necessary.  And those of us involved in music ministry need to be well versed and well practiced in our talent as we share it with Christ and His Church.  God doesn't deserve mediocre.

        But we need to see that God's true and real presence comes before us at every Mass, and we can miss Him because we're distracted because of our mis-understanding of the real purpose of music.

        Check out this article from the National Catholic Reporter.  It focuses on the use of contemporary forms of music in liturgy, but it really is about getting our Church back to real, authentic worship of our Father.

        Tuesday, September 2, 2008

        The stretch run of the baseball season...

        The very long baseball season now enters its final month.  And while our hometown San Diego Padres are in the midst of the end-of-the-year minor league call-ups, I'm still hoping that the team finishes this disappointing season really strong.  And I really hope that Buddy Black continues to have the chance to develop this team into a winner.

        But, while watching tonight's game between the Pads and the Dodgers (who I was a fan of when I was younger), it reminded me about the importance in having passion for life and your vocation.  The minor leaguers who are brought up to the major league team have everything to prove and everything to gain.  

        So all these "meaningless" games to us fans whose team won't be playing in October, are really a chance to root, root root for young men playing their hearts out because they're fulfilling their dreams even if it's one-two-three strikes you're out at the end of September.

        P.S.  If you haven't seen the Champions of Faith films, you should.