Friday, December 30, 2011

Grandma and Grandpa Larkin Visit

On Wednesday my Grandma and Grandpa Larkin drove out from Phoenix - where they have been spending the holidays with my Aunt Cindy - to visit us. On Thursday we packed a lunch and enjoyed a beautiful day in Joshua Tree National Park. When we got back to the valley we experienced another stunning sunset. It was great seeing Grandma and Grandpa! Over breakfast this morning I shared with our daughters what a rarity it is to have not only their grandparents, but all of their great-grandparents alive and well, and the privilege and opportunity to spend time with them. Memories to make and moments to be treasured.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eyes of the Ship

Every year I read a lot of books. Among the books I select I try to always have a few that deal with marriage and family. Last week I read the little book Eyes of the Ship by Jim Moore. In the book Moore uses the story of the Titanic as a metaphor to talk about fatherhood. While there was nothing necessarily profound for me personally, I found the questions at the end of each chapter helpful. The book was good in that it simply caused me to reflect on how I am doing as a father, reminded me of the high calling of raising my daughters, and challenged me to be the best dad I can be for them. And that, of course, is the point.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Check Out New Website!

Hey Everyone! Check out our church's new website! Would you be so kind as to pay a quick visit? I would love your feedback on the site to pass along to our designers. 

How does it look? 
Is it easy to use? 
How could it be improved? 
What's missing? 
Were you able to find what you were looking for? 
What was your favorite thing about the site?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Serving the Elderly

Today we took about 40 students from our high school and middle school ministries and went to Mission Hills Senior Living to spend time with the residents. The high school students visited members of the memory care unit, singing songs and enjoying conversations. The middle school students visited with members of assisted living and played BINGO with them. It was s joyous time and fun for all. See all the pictures here.

The Noise Youth Choir: Noisy Christmas Day 3: "Joy to the World"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

What Keeps Us From Being Poor?

"In the first three centuries of church history the Gospel spoke primarily (though not exclusively) to those who belonged to the lower classes, not to the middle and upper classes. It was largely the little people who trusted Jesus and the people on top who fought him. But in the year 313 Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion in the Roman Empire. Overnight we changed, so to speak, from underdogs to top dogs.
"We should try to win back our lower place. Jesus says that he has “come to preach the Gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18) since, in fact, they’re the only ones who can actually hear it! They don’t have to prove or protect anything. The status quo is not on their side.
"Which means we all have to ask: In what sense are we ourselves rich? What do we have to defend? What keeps us from being poor and open? The issue isn’t primarily material goods, but our spiritual and intellectual goods—my ego, my reputation, my self-image, my need to be right, my need to be successful, my need to have everything under control, my need to be loved." - Richard Rohr

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Party Middle School Style ... Wild Wednesday

Last night we had a fun time at our Wild Wednesday Christmas Party. We had a great turnout of kids and played some pretty crazy Christmas games - Gingerbread House Face, Fruitcake Eating Contest, Egg Nog Chug, Siamese Gift Wrapping, and Human Christmas Tree. See all the pics here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Disneyland with Abuelito

On Friday we were blessed to be able to go to Disneyland as a family. We decided to surprise Abuelito (Spanish for grandpa - Adriana's dad). It was an awesome day and he was like a little kid, overwhelmed by his first visit to the happiest place on earth. It was a very special memory that we were able to create for him to experience with his granddaughters. See all the pics HERE.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Adriana's Dad Visiting

Sunday we picked up Adriana's dad from the border which is exactly 100 miles from our house. He lives in Mexico City and made his way up over the last few weeks. He is self-employed and was able to work along the way. Our daughters haven't seen him in 4 years, and other than a brief coffee together in 2008 when we were in Mexico, neither have Adriana or I. It's good to see him, and we're looking forward to spending the holidays together.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Francis de la Sissies

A rare mute monk order from Molalla Oregon performing the hallelujah Chorus.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Brief Review of "Sacred Rhythms" by Ruth Haley Barton

I recently finished reaching the book Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. I heard her speak at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference last year and picked up her books following her session. The book was a wonderful read and challenged me in many aspects of my relationship with God. Last week I posted a portion of one of her chapters dealing with Scripture which you can read here. The book is a well-rounded, holistic approach to spirituality addressing areas such as Scripture, prayer, Sabbath, and caring for the body. I especially appreciated the exercises at the end of each chapter which are designed to move the reader beyond information into experiential application. A tremendous resource for anyone who desires to experience deep communion with God. You can order the book here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Tree

Yesterday we put up our Christmas tree. The first live one we've had in well over a decade. It's a bit crooked in the pic, but we fixed it. :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Reading for Relationship" - Ruth Haley Barton

I recently began reading Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. Today I was reading her chapter on Scripture. Having learned the Inductive Bible Study in seminary, I have a tremendous respect for the method of Observation, Interpretation, and Application. In this chapter I appreciate how Barton challenges us to go a bit further than a strictly cognitive approach to Scripture. Listen and be challenged ...

"When we engage the Scriptures for spiritual transformation ... we engage not only our mind but also our heart, our emotions, our body, our curiosity, our imagination and our will. We open ourselves to a deeper level of understanding and insight that grows out of and leads us to deeper into our personal relationship with the One behind the text. And it is in the context of relational intimacy that real life change takes place.

"This is a fundamentally different kind of engagement than what we are normally accustomed to with the things we read. When we engage the Scriptures for spiritual transformation, we make it our top priority to listen to God relationally rather than seeking only to learn more about God cognitively. Our approach is driven by the longing of a lover. We read slowly so that we can savor each word and let its meaning sink in. Rather than rushing on to the next chapter so that we can complete a reading or study assignment, we stay in the place where God is speaking to us, contemplating its meaning for our life and for our relationship. We receive it as it is given without judgement, wanting only to hear the heart of this One we love. Like the little boy Samuel, we approach the Scripture with utter openness and availability to God: 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening' (1 Samuel 3:9).

"In this listening stance, Scripture becomes an instrument of God's control rather than a tool that we control to our own ends. Then, as God speaks to us through Scripture, we respond to what we read with our heart and soul rather than just our intellect. When we are falling in love with someone, we want to know everything about them. We are fascinated by every detail, every relationship and every event that has shaped them. But the desire for intimacy moves us beyond fact finding to seeking understanding, connecting with that person emotionally and sensing our own response. Thus when we read Scripture for relationship we pay attention to our own inner dynamics and allow our response to take place in the deeper levels of our beings. We are open to a whole different set of questions - questions that help us to risk greater levels of truth telling with ourselves and with God. In addition to asking, What does it say? What does it mean? How do I apply it to my life? - all questions that promote primarily cognitive activity and allow us to remain firmly in control of the whole experience - we might ask:

  • How do I feel about what is being said? Where do I find myself resonating deeply? Where do I find myself resisting, pulling back, wrestling with what Scripture might be saying? (Note: It is important to notice these inner dynamics without judging them, because they have much to tell us. You may even notice that you feel resonance and resistance at the same time. For instance, you may have a deep sense of rightness of what the text is saying but on another level have the feeling There is no way I can do that! This is a particularly important dynamic to notice, because it indicates a place where God is at work beyond your own cognition.)
  • Why do I feel this way? What aspect of my life or my inner being is being touched or spoken to through this Scripture?
  • What do my reactions tell me about myself - my attitudes, my relating patterns, my perspectives, my behaviors? Am I willing to look at that in God's presence?"

You can order the book here.

Christmas Gifts for Students to Help Them Grow in Their Faith

Looking for some great Christmas Gifts that will help your kids/students grow in God? Check out the Books For Students on Be sure to click on the 10% Off Coupon at the top of my blog for a discount on all of your shopping at SYM. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Walking in a Winter Wonderland" by Worship Tegether ... COMING TO SOUTHWEST COMMUNITY CHURCH!

Friday, December 9, 7 PM

Join us in the Worship Center for an evening with these Southern California Christian recording artists as they present a night of original and seasonal Christmas music for the whole family. This is a great opportunity to invite your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors to Southwest. Bring an unwrapped toy with you to support the Coachella Valley Christmas Store or a canned food item for The Narrow Door to help support local ministries.

"Advanced School" by Philip Yancey

We tend to compartmentalize our lives. We fill our days with activities such as work, errands, chores, caring for children. And then we try to carve out time for “spiritual” activities such as church, small groups, personal devotions.

I don’t see that separation in the Psalms. Somehow David and the other poets managed to make God the gravitational center of their lives so that everything was related to God. To them, worship was the central activity in life, not something to get through so other activities could be resumed. The process of letting God in on every detail of life is one we need.

For me, the Psalms have become a step in the process of recognizing God’s true place at the center. The psalmists have an urgency, a desire, and a hunger for God that makes my own look anemic by contrast. They panted for God with their tongues hanging out, as an exhausted deer pants for water (42:1-2). They lay awake at night dreaming of “the beauty of the Lord” (27:4). They would rather spend one day in God’s presence than a thousand years elsewhere (84:10).

It was “the advanced school of faith” that these poets were enrolled in. Maybe as we read the Psalms, some of it will rub off on us.

Source: Grace Notes

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

3 Books I'm Reading

Here are a few of the books I am currently reading ...

Order here

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Family Outing to Joshua Tree National Park

Yesterday after church our family packed a lunch and headed to Joshua Tree National Park for a picnic, some rock climbing, and a beautiful sunset drive. We bought a season pass and are looking forward to many returns to this gorgeous place!

Some rock climbers (unfortunately, not us.)

See the full album here