These are a few of my favorite things…

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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

Adaptability and Two-pieces

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

Hello? Is that you? Wave or something, I can barely see you.MJ here! Hope you all have been making the most of your time since I last blogged. 


I just took a strengths finders test. Yes. I needed to find my strengths. I found them.


Adaptability was my first strength. The ability to adapt to situations, to go with the flow, to be flexible and able to change it up, jump on board or abandon ship. I would consider myself easy going, in fact most people would agree with me and have often questioned my passion and motivation.

I have grown up immersed in sports. Sports was my life, life was my sports. I was a great athlete, but I was always questioned on my passion and competitiveness because of my mellow personality. We won, I was excited – I was not jumping up and down, but I was excited. We lost, I was bummed – I was not crying but I was bummed. I got an A on a test, sweet. I got a D on a paper, bummer. I am just very mellow and for a some reason I have gotten a lot of flak for it, which led to me question my heart and my ‘lack of passion’. Something must have been wrong with me.

Now I have come to realize in a healthy balance that adaptability is a skill, a strength. My top strength. I am mellow, I can go with the flow, it takes A LOT for me to get heated or fired up. This is a gift. Why? Because life is one big curve ball. You NEVER know what the day can bring so to have the ability to adapt to situations well, is a great thing. It is a strength. 




Dear MJ-

Can I bring my two piece to camp?

                             – Taylor


Two-Piece Taylor –   I would not and here is why. Although you do get a better tan (skin cancer intake) in a two piece, camp is not a tanning tropical paradise. It is an adventure. We don’t allow “laying out in a two piece” on the pool deck because we want you in the water playing water basketball or doing crazy flips off the high dive. And well, doing that, plus our water recreation games in a two-piece is not functional. If all you have is a two-piece then you can bring it, but you MUST wear a dark colored shirt or tank top over it that covers your mid driff while on the pool deck. 🙂

Cheers and see you this summer!

Life on Star 51

Posted by & filed under Kidder Creek.

Official Sticker

At the risk of ruining a perfectly awful song, I feel it is my civic duty to inform you, dear reader, of a blunt reality that has ushered too many noble Americans into a false, albeit nifty, sense of security.

Though you (and millions like you) were dooped into believing there are 50, indeed, there are 51.

Now, before you shake your fist at the screen, furrow your brow and shout treason, hear me out.  The State of Jefferson is perhaps more accurately (depending on who you talk to) described as a State of Mind – but a state nonetheless. 

To legitimize our statehood, let me draw your attention to our flag, committee, 815 members, and most importantly, our website.

After visiting our website, you will see that though our history and soil are rich and bountiful, our public support is not. 

So sadly, in this cruel and curious world where the truth packs a wicked sting… today is no exception.  For now, State of Jefferson, we bow, we salute, but for the sake of the “nifty”, we ignore as we sing…

Steep & Cheap

Posted by & filed under Kidder Creek.

I love March… you know why? REI Dividend.  That’s right.  March is the month that brings joy to every gear lover’s heart.  The moment that envelope arrives in the mail marked “dividend inside”, I feel like doing one of those cheesy jump and heel clicks.

With this year’s dividend I received a new Camelbak, headlamp, and life jacket for my dog (bring it on, rapids).

So now that we’ve established that March dominates the gear junkie’s devotion, what is to become of the other eleven?  I mean c’mon, there’s April, June, and who could forget September?  Why can’t these guys show some love to us gear fiends? Are they destined for Gregorian doom?  Step it up August! 

Fear not, I bear good news.


Not only do they feature a super-smashing deal of the hour, but each morning they deliver a small gem of wisdom to my inbox.  Today’s:

“Waking up at 4am and thinking it’s time to get up for work is a pretty good feeling since you get to go back to sleep for another four hours. Waking up at 8am and thinking it must be about 3am is not a pleasant way to start the day. The best is the sheer panic that arrives at 9am when you think you’re late for work, only to realize a moment later that it’s Saturday and you’re allowed to stay in bed until noon if you want. I find so much more value in my time that I’m doing nothing once I feel that anxiety rebound.”

So true.

Low tops VS mids

Posted by & filed under Youth.

Lets just begin by saying without shoes where would we be?  Now I know that there are some places in the world don’t even have socks let alone shoes but that shouldn’t hinder us from some healthy discussion on style points.  So in my time on this earth I have worn almost every style of shoe imagineable but let’s face it what we really need to be concerned about is function, then fashion.  For me, I have to be able to do one of the following in my shoes

  • Bomb a hill
  • Skate a park
  • Do a wheelie or bunnie hop or kick-out
  • Run decently fast
  • Jump out of a moving vehicle
  • Climb a great tree

That pretty much sums up the need for shoes im my world and then by the way they gotta look sweet too.  You know, like you know what your talkin bout.  The other thing is they gots to be steady.  Meaning I have to be able to wear them with pants or shorts and not look goofy, which is why High Tops aren’t even a part of this discussion because of this eqaution

shorts + socks + High Tops = pants

besides when in your daily routine do need “ankle support”  all lumberjacks and crusty construction workers are dismissed at this time.

So now that we are alone let’s get down to business….is it lows or mids?  Let me make my case and then I will gladly take any comment or questions.

I’ll just come right out with it LOWS!  There I said it and here is why.  The low top is the most casual of all shoe.  It says “hey bud I know you see me” and also just gives you the easy confidence of a man about his business.  I will also say that there are far more variety of low tops available making them the dominating force in all shoedom.  Think about Run DMC, when they rocked the mic they were wearing lows.  Think about just rollin with your hommies who’s wearin what….lows.  And let me close with this, a recent study shows that we spend a total of at least two weeks of our life tying our shoes.  Now with Mids your adding a couple of  extra shoe string holes which means more time fussing about and getting your feet all situated which could easily lend itself to more of your life being spent tying your shoes.  If you are wearing mids right now I would say you’ve probably lost a good additional day or maybe even two just messing with those laces dahwg.  Which is why I wear slip ons as much as possible, which are mainly available in lows.

thank you for your time.

The Paradigm Shift of a Hot Dog

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

So the other day I was with a good friend of mine and we had a hankerin for some 31 flavs, you know jamocha nut slam, peanut buttery slider with a swirl of whatever that goo is, or the most confusing… gumbally wally.  So we had in mind the promise of the pink and blue sign skillfully located in some strip mall located next to some video store and a take home pizza joint.  To our surprise we found our Robins, Baskin in an old Der Weiner Schnitzel hut.  After a triple take and quick argument of whether or not we were going to get a foot long or a single scoop, we were there.

Paradigm shift #1  The protrusive A frame of Der Weiner Schnitzel is actually now a 31 Flavors?  I see the roof  line and I smell hot dogs but what waits inside is an arctic wasteland of frozen sugar and cream, and super ripped forearms….strange.

As we approached the front doors I was suddenly struck with a great idea.  It all happened at once…I claimed out loud that I am going to the top of that Weiner Roof to enjoy the view, and I was off.  In a full sprint.  By the way I’m pretty fast for 6’2″ and pushing 2 bills (you know winter and lazinesss).  Anywhoo I was two steps into my approach and my buddy said “that’s would be so sweet” .  The “eeeeet” was still hanging in the air when my foot made contact with the side of Der Weiner, dang it I mean Baskin and Robins.  And immediately following my first step was the momentum of my face.  You see you will almost get no where in life unless you lean into it and so I did .  The thing is, the marine layer had settled upon this fiberglass roof which had created the recipe for “slicker than snot”, and thus my face was rapidly approaching contact with Der Weiner Schnitzel.  Dangit, sorry, Baskin and Robins.  Fortunately for me, and you if we are ever attacked in a dark alley, I have wicked fast reflexes and was able to somehow catch my self before a certain shattering of teeth happened.  Sadly no summit was achieved that night, but fortunately ice cream was ate, even if I was thinking about hot dogs the whole time.

Paradigm shift #2  What appeared to be was not.  A promising A frame suggesting glorious peaks and promising views was just the worlds fastest slip-n-slide disguised as a roof.  A Weiner roof that is.

All this to say that things have been talked about and tried.  Big ideas have been even bigger flops, i mean take the double bun bike seat for crying out loud!  But let us pause and be encouraged to know what you know and risk big,  for reward could be hidden in a shape shifting hot dog stand.  Just stretch those hammies and go for it!

Don’t forget the dental insurance.

Why am I Such a Goof-Off?

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

The last post I wrote was about mentoring (the Spock/Yoda thing).  This one is about mentoring as well—the topic is something close to my heart and I’ve studied it a lot.  I promise no more 70’s/80’s sci-fi films references in this one.

So I am 43 now and still love to play.  Not just once in a while, but A LOT.  I’ll play nerf darts with my kids, surf any chance I get, (any game or sport for that matter) and join in most extemporaneous outbreaks of fun in the office.  Envision –shooting baskets with trash, sliding on trays down hills, and other stuff I won’t list (so people don’t think I’m a total slacker).
I get my work done and even act professional most of the time, but I’ve always wondered if there was something different about me because I seemed to like recess way more than class time.  Doesn’t that stuff stop when you get older?  Anyone else feel like that?
This all came to a head for me at one of those professional national conferences some years back.  I’d go to these to learn and grow in my profession, but secretly looked forward most to the creative late night activities we’d come up with.  For example, for some reason we had this challenge that we had to swim in whatever body of water was near the city of the conference.   I passed when we were in Colorado Springs one December because the ice was too thick, but I wish I would have passed in Orlando when we swam across that alligator infested lake at midnight.  We’d get about 3 hours of sleep per night and just crash for a few days once we got home.   I always learned a lot in the seminars and meetings (the ones I stayed awake in), but wondered if I should act more grown up.
Now, fast-forward to one of my doctoral classes at Fuller a few years ago.  I was in a session on peer-mentoring taught by Dr. Bobby Clinton.  He was my favorite teacher and an expert in the field of leadership.  He wrote a great book on mentoring called “Connecting: the Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life”.
Anyhow during this lecture he says as we get older we have less and less significant peer relationships and one of the most vital ingredients is fun together.  I’ve paraphrased his content on this issue this way:  Fun + Friends + Faith are the main ingredients of a significant peer friendship.
Those three ingredients exponentially accelerate each other.  In other words, the more fun you have the deeper your friendship and faith can grow together and visa-versa.  I’ve seen this principle proven over and over and over again.  That’s why camp is so much fun to come to—we have amazing challenges in our faith, you meet great people and having fun is expected.
If anyone out there needed a license to goof-off, there you go. See you at camp!! ,


The Adventures of Jimmy K., Mary Jane, and Chelsea

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Once upon a time, on a far off mountain top called Ponderosa, lived two happy munchkins named Mary Jane and Chelsea. Everyday, Mary Jane and Chelsea would don their colorful sweat pants and comb their stylish hair, and run to and fro across the grassy knoll on top of Ponderosa, pretending they were ping-pong balls and locomotive trains while sipping their coffee. The squirrels, birds, and rodents would watch and hum to the tune of the girls’ happiness.
But alas, one day, Mary Jane and Chelsea had to say goodbye to their beloved friend Scooter. He was on his way to another far off, distant land, so he could learn more stuff. Chelsea pouted her bottom lip, and Mary Jane withheld a silent sob in her throat, as the two stood at the top of the mountain and waved goodbye to Scooter.
As the months went on, Mary Jane and Chelsea tried to be brave. They would smile and wave to the visitors of the mountain as they came to share in the girls’ happiness. But as time went on, both girls knew that life on Ponderosa would never be the same.
Then one day, three people arrived on top of the mountain by way of long-board. Mary Jane and Chelsea squinted their eyes as the visitors approached, and then with a burst excitement, realized it was their new dear friends Jimmy K., Cynthia, and their son Gustavian. Mary Jane and Chelsea locked their arms and dosie-dosed in circles across the meadow and sang, because they were so happy their new friends were at Ponderosa to stay. The excitement brought together their other friends too: Emmeline Bartholomew who joined their song in harmony, Kelly Flane who gleefully giggled and Kittredge Car who clapped her hand together.
Life on Ponderosa became happy again. Mary Jane and Chelsea had three new friends, Jimmy K., Cynthia and Gustavian. And every morning, as the birds began to sing, all the people of Ponderosa would gather together and clink their “OceanSpin” mugs full of coffee, and continue to sing and dance.

The Nature of Power

Posted by & filed under Kidder Creek, Youth, Youth Pastors.

Last year, I began my job at Kidder Creek – Mount Hermon’s satellite camp in the Marble Mountains.  After moving from LA County (population 10,363,850) to Greenview (population 200), I experienced a brief period of culture shock, and became somewhat of a podcast junkie.  Without internet or television at my house, podcasts seemed to be my only link to the outside world, and I would download them by the gigabyte before leaving the office each day.

One of my favorites is the Discovery Channel Video Podcast – I highly recommend it. Every few days they release a new one – usually a short clip from one of their more popular programs.

I want to share one with you.  It’s called “The Nature of Power: Hans Florine” 

An arrogant title, no doubt – but ultra cool if your name is Hans Florine.  Imagine if it was your name in there – “The nature of power: Craig Thompson”  I feel my biceps growing already.

Listen to the way he talks about rock climbing – with such confidence, adoration, and excitement.  I hope that’s how you talk about ministry – I hope that’s how I talk about ministry!  

Hans sees climbing as a challenge, a joy, and a thrill.  It consumes his attention. It is his love.  Perhaps most profound: there are times when he doesn’t remember how incredible it is – until he shares it with someone else.

Check it out if you have 2 minutes.

Land of Beat Poets and Amish Rappers

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The title to Katie’s blog last week reminded me of one of the most simple yet beautiful times of Echo: the talent show. Through the weeks, we saw the entirety of The Princess Bride recreated; we heard piano playing, beautifully written songs, and the ordered cacophony of tap shoes; we felt (or at least one of us did) the refreshing cascade of buckets of water being spilled all over us; and we even got a taste of Eric Garner’s dance moves.

These were fun times for me. I was consistently impressed and humbled by the talent that could be drummed up from just a few people with only about an hour of preparation.  But talent shows were more than that for me. They were a microcosm of the larger community of Echo. At the talent shows, I saw a people dedicated to service, worship, study, and community. Service was being willing to take a backseat in someone else’s talent (maybe setting up the music for someone else’s dance, doing the beat-box for a friend’s rap, or giving up your costume for another person’s routine). Worship was evident in the content of the songs and poems written and performed. Study was clear in the math demonstrations that were given, the careful crafting of a verse, and the rote memorization of the entire song Amish Paradise. And community was all over the place. Community was the laughter that was the soundtrack of our evenings–my sides ached after each one. Community was the encouragement and acceptance and praise of one another–not once all summer did I hear boos or biting remarks. Community was the vulnerability–to stand up in front of a group and sing accapella a song that you wrote takes guts and it takes trust!

On the surface, talent shows were just straight up fun. My stuffed Eeyore costume was precious to me, and he brought to life the spirit of the dance that had lay dormant for so long in my soul. But there was a lot more to it than just that. Like I said, it’s a microcosm of the larger Echo experience.