Hulkamania Runnin Wild

Posted by & filed under Youth.



So when I was in eighth grade my aunt thought it would be cool to take me somewhere special.  Now that could be almost anywhere for me; a Denver Broncos game, to go see The Clash live, a giant mud puddle, out for ice cream….blah blah.  That list could go on and on but when she meant special she really meant it.  You see there was one event that I was really dying to see.  Much like a baseball game when you get to actually see your favorite players take the field and spit stuff on the fresh cut grass.  But instead of seeing the greats like Ken Griffy Jr., Randy Johnson, and John Mattingly, my event involved names like “Hillbilly Jim”, “Leapin Lanny Paffo”, “The Junk Yard Dog”, “Mad Dog Jim Duggin”, and “Jake the Snake Roberts”.  And there battles did not take place in the great open diamond shaped ball field but in a small ring bound by turnbuckles and springloaded ropes. 

We stepped foot into the darkened Tacoma Dome arena.  The smell of musty sweat and fog machines competing for first place against the electric light show and glam rock overloading the central nervous system.  A half an hour of chaos and two hot dogs in the chamber and then it began.  “LADIES AND GENTELMEN WELCOME TO THE WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION TONIGHT WE BRING YOU INTENSE WRESTLING ACTION!  BLOOD, SWEAT, AND BROKEN BODIES! WE BEGIN OUR EVENING WITH A POEM FROM LEEEEPIN LANNNNNNYYYY PAFFOOOOOOOH!” And then everyone boo’s and this skinny guy comes out reads a poem from a frisbee and then gets hit with a folding chair and the madness begins.  It was 2 hours of huge muscles popping out of small spedo’s, cut foreheads and foreign objects in the ring.  Even the ref got throttled a few times.  And then, the moment we have all been waiting for, with a momentary hush accross the dome, the lights went dark, the fog machines working over time, one lone spotlight suddenly beams to a corner and the song signaling our hero’s entry fills the arena….” I am a true American, I fight to…..” the crowd erupts with excitement and our hero emerges from the fog.  Hulk Hogan, the tannest, most shirt rippingest, body slammenest man of the WWF.

I sat in awe.  Watching in disbelief as the man who inspired all of my back yard brawls systematically dismantled Kamala the Ugandan Warrior.  I couldn’t believe what a priveledge I had, to witness a combination of over 600 lbs get thrown, tossed, slammed, airborne, and eventually flattened.  The raw power of these men was over-emphasised by their drama and summed up with a simple count of three by a balding man in a striped shirt.

This was a moment burned in my memory and often encourages me in times of intensity.  I share this story with you so that when you see me slightly tap my elbow before I slam it into something, you will know the moment I am re-living.  That Hulk inspired moment.

What’s Amata with you?

Posted by & filed under Youth.

Ever since we named our teen girl camp last year, we have heard every joke and question under the sun about the name “Amata”.  My favorite is the old joke that’s a play on words:
“What’s amata?
Nothing, what’s amata (the matter) with you?”
<<insert roll of eyes and deep sigh here>>

Let’s set the record straight: Amata is the Italian word for Beloved.

So, back to the cheesy joke…
The question, “What’s Amata with you?” could easily be translated:
“What’s Beloved with you?”
Now that’s a GOOD question.  That’s a question we seek to answer.  That’s a question I want to know the answer to.  That’s a question I’d love to hear your answers to

Marshmallow Maniac

Posted by & filed under Kidder Creek.

My friend Bryan and I were driving through Ft. Jones over the weekend when we saw a teenaged boy (let’s just call him the Marshmallow Maniac) walking down the highway with nothing but the clothes on his back and a box of “magically delicious” Lucky Charms, presumably just purchased at the local market.

There was a spring in his step and a smile on his face as he bounced home to consume his disgusting “magically delicious” Lucky Charms.

We casually commented on how dedicated this young chap was to walk to the store for no other reason than to buy a box of tooth decaying “magically delicious” Lucky Charms.  

We had no idea.

Bryan and I continued at our comfortable rate of 60 mph, drove to Etna (15 or so miles), enjoyed a tasty treat from Dotty’s Corner Kitchen, purchased a few items from Ray’s Foodmart and then began the drive home.  

A short geography lesson: from Ft. Jones to my turn off is over 6 miles. six. VI. seis. sechs. 六. SIX!

 As we made the turn off, guess who we saw: the Marshmallow Maniac! Are you kidding me!?

What’s worse he didn’t even look like he was phased.  He was still complete with springy step, bounce, smile, and box of rot your insides “magically delicious” Lucky Charms!

This sugar fiend had walked over twelve miles round trip seemingly without regret.


Here’s to you Marshmallow Maniac, and your dedication to burn a whole in your stomach “magically delicious” Lucky Charms.

1st Place to Bath Time!!

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

For many years I’d take my family to Palm Springs in May for about a week just before the start of camping’s crazy season of summer camps.  We’d often be tired of the cold, wet winter and loved sitting (sweating really) by the pool taking it easy.  We stayed at my brother-in-law’s place at PGA West in La Quinta—if you’ve ever been on that ride “Soaring Over California” at Disneyland, it is the golf course scene…hole #16, Palmer Private Course.
One of my favorite memories was how we finished up each day.  The golf course was empty an hour or so before dark and we’d take walks on the perfectly manicured fairways along beautiful lakes surrounded by palm trees.  Our kids loved to sprint barefoot up and down the hills just before heading in for the night.  My son Isaac loved to race by us and would shout out “1st Place to Bath Time!!”.  It didn’t make a lot of sense, but if it made him feel good and helped get him headed in to a bath before bed—so be it.  Well, for some reason that phrase has stuck in our family culture when it comes to finishing something up.  I guess it gives us this nice feeling of being on vacation, care-free and bringing closure to something good.
I teach a lot on “finishing well” as a Christian Leader.  I was stunned to learn during my doctoral studies under Dr. Clinton at Fuller that over 2/3 of Christian Leaders don’t finish well!!   We bomb out for a number of reasons (Money, Power, Sex, Family, Pride, Plateau are the top ones).  What a waste when we lose a trained, caring leader!
Finishing Well involves more than just knowing and avoiding those pitfalls.  We need respond to Hebrews 13:7 that says,

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith”.

When we look at those that have gone before us and finished well, we see they had disciplines in their lives, avoided isolation, had intimate relationships with Jesus and were always learning.
Most of us don’t really think much about the end of our days.  But when that day comes for me, I don’t want to be full of regrets or worse– disqualified from the race.  I just want to have the same joy and freedom as little Isaac running barefoot across that grass headed to bed!   How about you…Want to finish well?


A Simple Encounter with True Theology

Posted by & filed under Youth.

In approaching Phoebe Palmer’s excerpt in the Study section of Richard Foster’s Spiritual Classics, I was anticipating an account of someone excited by exegetical enigmas and preeminently preoccupied with parsing participles—and maybe even awkwardly allured by alliteration, as so many pastoral theologians seem to be. I mean, this excerpt falls in a portion of a book dedicated to the spiritual discipline of study, so I was naturally prepared for some sentence diagrams or a crash course on Greek vocabulary. Instead I was met with a woman who had undoubtedly studied the Scriptures deeply and lived them out passionately. I had expected to see a work of theological study mostly devoid of heartfelt devotion, but instead was met with someone who had altogether disregarded the false dichotomy of the heart and head that is so often promulgated in Christian circles. Here was a woman who had merged homiletics and hermeneutics in a beautiful way that also allowed the reader to see that she passionately lived out her theology.


In this passage, Palmer’s main character is wrestling with the question “Is there a shorter path for getting to the way of holiness that so many saints have walked?” Yes is her simple answer, but there is really only one way: God commands that we be holy. Palmer declares in response, “Whatever my former deficiencies may have been, God requires that I should now be holy. Whether convicted, or otherwise, duty is plain. God requires present holiness.” As she pursues this ideal, Palmer’s protagonist is met with a number of questions and struggles which she consistently brings into the submission of Scripture. Even in confusion and disenchantment at the difficult call towards holiness, Scripture guides: “Be ye steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Eventually, this leads Palmer’s pilgrim to declare in true devotion, “I am wholly thine!—Thou does reign unrivaled in my heart! There is not a tie that binds me to earth; every tie has been severed, and now I am wholly, wholly thine!” Into this ubiquitous surrender, the Holy Spirit speaks: “What! Wholly the Lord’s? Is not this the holiness that God requires?” Thus we come full circle to see that we are called to be holy as God is holy, and to be wholly God’s.


I wish that I could capture or reflect even a sparkle of the glory that shines forth in Palmer’s prose. What other than a deep commitment to Scripture and passion to obey can lead one along such a journey as this? I was humbled and encouraged—and probably convicted a bit as well—by such a simple example of someone wholeheartedly devoted to allowing Scripture to speak the truth of her identity and to dictate the texture of her life. It seems to me a perfect model of what should come to mind when I think of the discipline of study: allowing God to inform my mind, yes, but also my heart and my actions. This is just the second or third segment from Spiritual Classics—the book Echo will be utilizing throughout the summer—that I have read and I am thoroughly thrilled (I know, I just can’t get enough of that cursed alliteration today!) to continue diving deeper both now and in Echo!





Life on Star 51: “Moodonna”

Posted by & filed under Kidder Creek.

As we discussed in an earlier post, the great State of Jefferson (SOJ) has many endearing landmarks.  Today, I’d like to draw your attention to one in particular.



As each tourist enters the SOJ, Moodonna stands as a welcoming metallic ambassador.  Not always is she adorned in such patriotic garments – this is her 4th of July outfit – but regardless of her “gettyup”, the giant scrap metal cow named after a 1980s pop star/cultural icon stands ready to warmly welcome guests to the luscious land of the SOJ.

I wonder if the flag she’s wearing boasts 51 stars.

Comparative Study between Pirates and Jedi Masters….

Posted by & filed under Youth.

To my slight embarrassment one fateful night, I made known to a group of strangers that it was my dream to one day become a pirate or a Jedi master. Attributes I found quite normal within myself were finally unveiled for what they were: slightly abnormal and quirky. Nevertheless, I still proudly display in my office my die-hard authentic pirate flag and official Obi-Wan Kenobi bobble head…may he rest in peace.

Lately, there have been circulations of discussions relating to who would win in a fight: Spock or Yoda. While that debate still leaves me perplexed, I feel that a comparison between pirates and Jedi Masters cannot be based upon who would ultimately win in a fight. And here’s why: to be entirely thorough in such a delicate topic, one must look at all the angles before hastily making a decision. Consequently, we will quickly take a gander at a few of these angles before coming to a conclusion.

Attire: This is ultimately an issue of comfort vs. style. While Jedis look cozy in their pajama-like hoodie-bathrobes, Pirates have the advantage of wearing many layers so they are ready for any weather, hot or cold. And they are the masters of accessorizing and eyeliner.

Weapon of Choice: Pirates do get the benefit of many options when it comes to weaponry, from the traditional sword to the cutlass or cannons, but there is nothing in my opinion that trumps a light-saber. Case closed.

Theme Music: I count this a tie. John Williams and Hanz Zimmer are both absolute geniuses. There’s nothing more chilling than Williams’ opening credits score while you watch the yellow horizontal text float into space. But then, Zimmer created a masterpiece in capturing a melodic tune that fits the heart of a pirate. I’d sail into the far off blue or jump to lightspeed with either music playing….gladly.
Powers: Well, other than backstabbing and marooning your shipmates, pirates don’t necessarily have any natural powers, unless they happen upon a magical compass that leads to their heart’s greatest treasure. Nothing beats Jedis getting to use the force.
Villains: As vomit-inducing as it is to face an undead ship of pirates, or the abominable stench of the Kraken beast, there’s nothing more unnerving than realizing the worst villain in cinema-history is your biological father. My heart goes out to you Luke.
Ship: Hmm, while the Millennium Falcon and X-wings are pretty sweet with their light-speed capabilities, I’d personally like to climb to the heights of the crows nest and gaze at the horizon.

After reviewing some of the evidence, the choice is yours. I personally will never come to a conclusion because my heart strings are far too attached to both. So for those of you who share my thirst for adventure on the high-sea and deep-space, I say to you: Keep to the code, for the force will be with you….always.

Blogderdash – it’s classified.

Posted by & filed under Kidder Creek.

So I’ve been trying to sell these whitewater rafts on Craigslist. One guy who responded really peaked my interest. He wrote very ambiguous emails seemingly sidestepping any details and avoiding pointed questions I had for him.

I had a funny feeling so I reported him to the Federal Trade Commission – which is the grownup’s equivalent to tattle-tailing, but this guy was trying to take me for a lot more than my lunch money, so I didn’t feel bad.

Turns out he was a fraud. Crazy, right?!

He sent a cashiers check (which was phony) that was for much more than we agreed on. Then I was to cash the check and give the moving company the difference when they came to pick up the raft. So, in essence, he gets money AND my raft, and I get a court hearing and a hefty fine for cashing a fake check – SWEET!

Don’t worry, due to my tattle-tailing clever reporting, his evil plan was foiled (mwuah ha ha ha).

Now to the subject of this post. When I reported the craigslist criminal mastermind, I was asked to forward his incriminating emails to When I asked what UCE stands for, I was met with the famous line: I’m sorry sir, it’s classified. Words that breed a cruel level of intrigue in the heart of anyone who has ever yearned to utter them (for realsies – not in the I can’t tell you what I bought you for Easter way, but in the I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you way).

So, I bring it to you. What does UCE stand for? Give me your best guess.

This is like blog Balderdash… or, you guessed it: Blogderdash (ha ha ha)

Then join me in a collective shout out to the craigslist criminal mastermind, and a tribute to good ol’ Kevin McCallister by saying: “Keep the change ya filthy animal!”

home alone

40th Writer’s Conference Anniversary

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

We’re a week away from our 40th Writer’s Conference Anniversary!! Can you believe it?  And I’ve been thinking a lot about the present economy and its effect on writing in general, and publishing in specifics.

–I read the first-time CBE event in Dallas over the weekend was expecting 10,000 registrants and came in with less than a third of that! Is it just the economy?

– just came out with it’s second version of the Kindle making it possible to download and read any book out there. Will this cut into the publishing business? And the business of literary agents?

One of our Mount Hermon executive staff members cut an article out of the Time Magazine from February and gave it to me to read . . . I wonder what you’re thoughts are about it.  Read it and think laterally for the future of writing!  Willing to share your thoughts and creative ideas for the future of Writes Conferences?

Excerpts from an article in Time Magazine, February 2, 2009, pg. 71-73

Written by Lev Grossman and reported by Andrea Sachs.

“…The publishing industry is in distress. Publishing houses—among them Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Doubleday and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—are laying off staff left and right. Random House is in the midst of a drastic reorganization. Salaries are frozen across the industry. Whispers of bankruptcy are fluttering around Borders; Barnes and Noble just cut 100 jobs at its headquarters, a measure unprecedented in the company’s history. Publishers Weekly (PW) predicts that 2009 will be “the worst year for publishing in decades.”

A lot of headlines and blogs to the contrary, publishing isn’t dying. But it is evolving, and so radically that we may hardly recognize it when it’s done. . . .

What’s the Matter with Publishing?

It isn’t the audience. People are still reading. According to a National Endowment for the Arts study released Jan. 12, literary reading by adults has actually increased 3.5% since 2002, the first such increase in 26 years. So that’s not the problem. What is?

The economy, obviously. Plenty of businesses are hurting . . . (but) publishing has deeper, more systemic problems, like the fact that its business model evolved during an earlier fiscal era. It’s an antique, a financial coelacanth (def. no real commercial value, apart from being coveted by museums and private collectors) that dates back to the Depression.

Consider the advance system, whereby a publisher pays an author a nonreturnable up-front fee for a book. If the book doesn’t “earn out,” in the industry parlance, the publisher simply eats the cost. Another example: publishers sell books to bookstores on a consignment system, which means the stores can return unsold books to publishers for a full refund. Publishers suck up the shipping costs both ways, plus the expense of printing and then pulping the merchandise. . . . These systems are created to shift risk away from authors and bookstores and onto publishers. But risk is something the publishing industry is less and less able to bear.

If you think about it, shipping physical books back and forth across the country is starting to seem pretty 20th century. Novels are getting restless, shrugging off their expensive papery husks and transmigrating digitally into other forms. Devices like the Sony Reader and Amazon’s Kindle have gained devoted followings. Google has scanned more than 7 million books into its online database; the plan is to scan them all, every single one, within 10 years. Writers podcast their books and post them, chapter by chapter, on blogs. Four of the five best-selling novels in Japan in 2007 belonged to an entirely new literary form called keitai shosetsu: novels written, and read, on cell phones. Compared with the time and cost of replicating a digital file and shipping it around the world—i.e., zero and nothing—printing books on paper feels a little Paleolithic.

And speaking of advances, books are also leaving behind another kind of paper: money! Those cell-phone novels are generally written by amateurs and posted on free community websites, by the hundreds of thousands, with no expectation of payment. For the first time in modern history, novels are becoming detached from dollars. They’re circulating outside the economy that spawned them.

And there’s a staggering amount of fan fiction, fan-written stories based on fictional worlds and characters borrowed from popular culture—Star Trek, Jane Austen, Twilight, you name it. It qualifies as a literary form in its own right. hosts 386,490 short stories, novels and novellas in its Harry Potter section alone.

No printing and shipping. No advances. Maybe publishing will survive after all. Then again, if you can have publishing without paper and without money, why not publishing without publishers?

Vanity of Vanities, All Is Vanity

. . . It’s true. Saying you were a self-published author used to be like saying you were a self-taught brain surgeon. But it has begun to shed its stigma. Over the past couple of years, vanity publishing has become practically respectable. As the technical challenges have decreased—you can turn a Word document on your hard drive into a self-published novel on Amazon’s Kindle store in about five minutes—so has the stigma . . . . The fact that William P. Young’s The Shack was initially self-published hasn’t stopped it from spending 34 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

Daniel Suarez, a software consultant in LA, sent his techno-thriller Daemon to 48 literary agents. No go. So he self-published instead. Bit by bit, bloggers got behind Daemon. Eventually Random House noticed and bought it and a sequel for a sum in the high six figures. “I really see a future in doing that,” Suarez says, “where agencies would monitor the performance of self-published books, in a sort of Darwinian selection process, and see what bubbles to the surface. I think of it as crowd-sourcing the manuscript-submission process.”

. . . And there’s actual demand for this stuff. In theory, publishers are gatekeepers: they filter literature so that only the best writing gets into print . . . but (self-publishing would suggest) that there are cultural sectors that conventional publishing isn’t serving. We can read in the rise of self-publishing not only a technological revolution but also a quiet cultural one—an audience rising up to claim its right to act as a tastemaker too.

The Orchard and the Jungle

So if the economic and technological changes of the 18th century gave rise to the modern novel, what’s the 21st century giving us? Well, we’ve gone from industrialized printing to electronic replication so cheap, fast and easy, it greases the skids of literary production to the point of frictionlessness. From a modern capitalist marketplace, we’ve moved to a postmodern, postcapitalist bazaar where money is increasingly optional. And in place of a newly minted literate middle class, we now have a global audience of billions, with a literacy rate of 82% and rising.

Put those pieces together, and the picture begins to resolve itself: more books, written and read by more people, often for little or no money, circulating in a wild diversity of forms, both physical and electronic, far outside the charmed circle of New York City’s entrenched publishing culture. Old Publishing is stately, quality-controlled and relatively expensive. New Publishing is cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money or institutional taste. If Old Publishing is, say, a tidy, well-maintained orchard, New Publishing is a riotous jungle: vast and trackless and chaotic, full of exquisite orchids and undiscovered treasures and a hell of a lot of noxious weeds.

Not that Old Publishing will disappear—for now, at least, it’s certainly the best way for authors to get the money and status they need to survive—but it will live on in a radically altered, symbiotic form as the small, pointy peak of a mighty pyramid. If readers want to pay for the old-school premium package, they can get their literature the old-fashioned way: carefully selected and edited, and presented in a bespoke, art-directed paper package. But below that there will be a vast continuum of other options: quickie print-on-demand editions and electronic editions for digital devises with a corresponding hierarchy of professional and amateur editorial selectiveness (Unpaid amateur editors have already hit the world of fan fiction, where they’re called beta readers.) The wide bottom of the pyramid will consist of a vast loamy layer of free, unedited, Web-only fiction, rated and ranked YouTube-style by the anonymous reading masses.

And what will that fiction look like? Like fan fiction, it will be ravenously referential and intertextual in ways that will strain copyright law to the breaking point. Novels will get longer—electronic books aren’t bound by physical constraints—and they’ll be patchable and updatable, like software. We’ll see more novels doled out sporadically, on the model of TV series or, for that matter, the serial novels of the 19th century. We can expect a literary culture of pleasure and immediate gratification. Reading on a screen speeds you up: you don’t linger on the language; you just click through. We’ll see less modernist-style difficulty and more romance-novel-style sentiment and high-speed-narrative throughput. Novels will compete to hook you in the first paragraph and then hang on for dear life.

None of this is good or bad; it just is. The books of the future may not meet all the conventional criteria for literary value that we have today, or any of them. But if that sounds alarming or tragic, go back and sample the righteous zeal with which people despised novels when they first arose. They thought novels were vulgar and immoral. And in a way they were, and that was what was great about them: they shocked and seduced people into new ways of thinking. These books will too. Somewhere out there is the self-publishing world’s answer to Defoe, and he’s probably selling books out of his trunk. But he won’t be for long.”

There you have it from the secular side of things. I’m not an alarmist, but this had made me do a lot of thinking. I’d love to know what you think about the future of publishing?

  • Is this writer accurate in his analysis?
  • How does this affect your own writing?
  • How does this affect Writers Conferences as we know them?

I’d love to “pick your brain” on this whole subject. Looking forward to interacting with you . . . on the Web, of course!

These are a few of my favorite things…

Posted by & filed under Youth.

One of the greatest things I have come to find about serving at Echo is the list of strange “favorites” you start accumulating in the back of your head. It’s inevitable, at some point in your two weeks serving at Echo this fate will come to you, you will begin your list of “favorite” things.  At first you may keep it to yourself, fearful of what others might think or say, but then it happens, you catch someone smelling and marveling at the sweet aroma of the Mint-O-Dis also.  You then realize, you are not alone, it’s a beautiful moment.  After much contemplation and internal debate, I have just finised my “Top 10” list of favorite things, groundbreaking,  I know.  So here we go (deep breath)….

Let’s start off with number 10 (I feel it is more suspenseful this way)…

10. Birds flying into windows after you have just cleaned them. (ok, so this isn’t by any means a “happy memory”, however, you must realize that our windows must have been amazingly clean for a bird to think it could fly through it….think about it.)

9. Slipping on the wet floor up at Ponderosa Lodge and spilling all the silverware. (Fun fact about  washing silverware: it has to go through the washer twice…not once, twice.)

8. Pearls of wisdom from Uncle Don. So good.

7. Singing Johnny Cash while cleaning the fieldhouse bathrooms (mopping + Windex + mint-o-dis+ Jackson = Magic)

6. Audry’s bread and Ivan’s brownies. (you have to taste these marvels to truly understand)

5. Learning how to stack plates that have just come out of the washer (that are still in the rack mind you) with one swoop of your hand.  I can’t even begin to describe the feeling you get when you do this right for the first time.

4. Cutting boxes and boxes of bell peppers and making “bell pepper villages” from the remnants.

3. Secret ice cream brakes on Wednesday and Friday in the Fieldhouse. (One of the many Pearls of Wisdom bestowed upon me from Uncle Don)

2. Phil blasting Kelly Clarkson every day in the Pondy kitchen. (I had the whole CD memorized by the end of session 1)

1. The smell of Mint-O-Dis in the morning. Glorious.

I hope this list will inspire and motivate you to join us this year and serve at Echo, for this list could easily become yours as well.  Or, maybe, just maybe, you will come up with a list of your own favorites, yes I  know…let that sit for a minute…you could have your very own list.


-Tall Katie