November 27, 2003, 9:35 am
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If our local weather were in New York city this morning, they’d have to cancel the big parade. Heavy winds are whipping and whistling outside. Normally this would mean clear and cold (cold by SoCal standards) air. In this case if you look out the windows of my house, you see what appears to be a blanket of fog settling in over the valley. Of course, wind and fog don’t typically coexist. That means that what appears to be fog is actually ash and soot from the recent wildfires kicking up into the air. Not pleasant.

It’s a Thanksgiving Day reminder of what we have and what’s been lost.

November 26, 2003, 3:37 pm
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Well it’s the day before Thanksgiving, and I just want to send my warm wishes out to my blogosphere pals. I am thankful for those of you who I’ve had a chance to meet in the past few months, and for those who I haven’t yet had the opportunity of meeting. I am grateful for your prayers and thoughts, especially recently as we have dealt with the SoCal fires and their aftermath.

Having Michelle’s parents in our home during the holidays will be fun in some ways and hectic in some ways. I’m sure that Friday morning I’ll be mounting my trusty extension ladder to hang the Christmas lights. By Friday night I’m guessing that the 8ft. inflatable Christmas bears that Marge bought will be greeting all who pass by our house. Yep, it’ll be fun in some ways and hectic in some ways. More fun than hectic, though.

I’m hoping to find my way into balance when it comes to celebrating the festivities of the holiday season without giving in to mindless consumeristic waste. It is important to Michelle and I to let her folks go a little crazy with Christmas decorations and all, mainly because it’s something they really truly enjoy, and giving them a place to do that is a gift to them. I may roll my eyes at some of the things that go up, but that’s totally o.k. with me. I really would like to create a space within all of this, though, to participate in the tradition and practice of Advent. We are still planning our first gathering on Sunday afternoon, so hopefully that will set the stage well.

One of the potential inner conflicts that I anticipate is that in the middle of the festivities of Christmas, it’s important that we remember that Advent has its darker side. When we light the candles each week, we do so to remind ourselves that the world is a harsh and difficult place to be . . . the kind of world that needs the hope of a coming Light. We have to realize that even the hope of the coming Messiah is the discomfort of knowing that we’ve only tasted a little of Him. His Kingdom may be in the here and now, but we are acutely aware that His reign has not yet fully been experienced here. Our hope does not disappoint us. But it does make us hungry. And even while we gorge ourselves on gingerbread cookies and turkey and egg nog, we cannot fill ourselves, because we really want the Bread of Life.

Celebrate friends. Our Savior has come. But don’t settle for half the story.

November 25, 2003, 8:22 pm
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Update on my last post: three puddles in three days.

November 25, 2003, 11:29 am
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Large old dogs sometimes have bladder control issues. Two puddles in our family room in the past two days have taught me this. I just thought I’d share.

November 21, 2003, 4:09 pm
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How could I be this wasted only a week after returning from vacation?? I think I really underestimated the stress related to living with others. I’m adjusting to the rythms and lifestyles of Michelle’s parents, and trying to maintain my own rythms in the middle of it. Not so easy. I’m sure it’s still a heckuva lot easier than having to adjust to the rythm of life outside of the house you’ve lived in for the past 30 years, and having to deal with the stress of insurance adjusters, demolition contractors, architects, and construction companies.

As Michelle and I approach our 7th wedding anniversary next week, I realize that this situation is challenging our marriage in new ways. I’ve learned more about my selfishness lately. I’ve learned about how inflexible I can be sometimes. I’ve learned a lot more than that, but more things are being revealed to me daily . . . or is that hourly?

I’m hoping for a quality weekend with my wife. She’s had a rough go of it at work lately, and adjusting to our new lifestyle is stressful for her too. I just want her to get some rest.

November 19, 2003, 7:19 pm
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Ugh. Challenging day . . . a little annoying. Not the worst day of my life, mind you . . . just annoying. I got up this morning to discover that a screw had found its way into a rear tire on my truck, so I got to change it. No worries, I need to replace all four tires anyway. Then I discovered that my in-laws’ dogs had broken into my bedroom to terrorize our cats and eat their food. Then I drove to downtown San Diego for my denomination’s annual USBH convention. Never heard of USBH? I’ll clue you in – it’s the Ugly Suit/Bad Hair convention . . . basically they don’t let you in the door without one or the other. They used to require both, but in a nod toward progress they began only requiring one. Since I know you’re wondering, here’s what I chose:

Just kidding. I don’t even know this poor soul . . . but I’m pretty sure I saw about six of his siblings today.

When I emerged from the chamber of fashion and follicle horrors, I sat through a monster traffic jam before finally arriving home.

O.k., enough of my whining. Now for the real reason for my post . . .

As Michelle and I are adjusting to life after the fires, we’re realizing that since we’re unlikely to move out of our current house/area for the forseeable future, we’re looking at moving the location of our new church start. Things had been going pretty sporadically in the original area where we were trying to start (and planning to move), in part because we didn’t actually live there. And since we definitely believe that it’s important to live in the place we do church, it looks like we’re going to give things a go right here where we’ve lived for the past couple of years.

That’s definitely a change for us. We had planned to move in order to start the church for a couple of reasons – one was that we don’t really fit into the community in which we live. Ramona is an unincorporated town – an outer suburb of San Diego, and really it’s only considered a suburb because San Diego has grown so much over the past 20 years that the population center has moved closer and closer to this area. Ramona is basically a carbon copy of many small midwest/southern towns I’ve been in – lots of horses, some cows, a chicken ranch or two, open spaces, rednecks, rodeos, no fine dining establishments, no art galleries. Going to the grocery store is always an experience in people watching. But here we are. And it looks like we’re staying. So it looks like we’re gonna make ourselves available to all comers. And if that means I have to trade in my Doc Martens for cowboy boots, I guess I’ll have to keep an open mind.

One of the things I’m going to be doing very very soon to try to get something going is host a series of Sunday afternoon/evening Advent gatherings in our home. Our neighborhood has come together well to support the one family that lost their home in the fire. I would like to keep them together during an important time of the year. So I’m going to be out and about meeting my neighbors and inviting them to come and participate in the season of Advent. We’ll do a short devotional each week around the lighting of the candles and just see what God wants to do with it. It may become a springboard for further relationship development. I’m open to whatever. Mostly I am just looking forward to meeting more people. I used to know all of our immediate surrounding neighbors, but in the past couple of months two of the homes have had a change in ownership, and even as I write, a family across the street is packing up and moving away. New opportunities are all around us.

Sorry for the long post. I guess I just felt like writing. If anyone has any ideas about elements I can build into the Advent gatherings, drop me a line.

November 17, 2003, 3:28 pm
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Well we’re back home now, and back to our normal stuff of life. Except that it’s really not so normal at all. We arrived home on Friday afternoon to our new housemates . . . Michelle’s folks were here too. All of a sudden our pretty quiet existence of two people and two cats has turned into a full on zoo of four people, four cats, and three dogs. The house feels a lot smaller already.

We had a very good and relaxing time on our vacation. Much needed sleep, reading time, talking time, etc. The Napa Valley area is alive with different sets of colors at various times of the year, but none more beautiful than this season. The grape vines haven’t been pruned back yet, but their leaves are in transition from green to gold to burgundy to brown. The trees in the area are also changing color, which makes it a really great place to enjoy God’s goodness.

We got some good thinking and talking done about life in general. We dabbled with vocation, passion, vision, and other things. We tried not to think about the real estate mess we’ve been, and I think we were pretty successful.

Now that we’re back to reality, it does look like a solution to our housing dilemma is close at hand. Our buyers seem to be willing to walk away . . . if they can walk away with some of our money in their pockets. Makes sense, really. Although we would never have chosen this particular detour in life (i.e. Michelle’s parents’ home burning down), we know that this has caused our buyers significant inconvenience and disappointment. We feel badly about that, and do think it’s reasonable to compensate them for their lost opportunity. Now it’s just a matter of negotiating a buyout price. Hopefully it’ll be finished very soon.