Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Brian Rhen, good friend, fellow pastor, (and neighbor), sent me this info on grief last year to help those who have suffered loss. He himself suffered deeply through death himself. This is something that I have filed away and brought out when needed. It is definitely needed now.

A season of grief or grief fog occurs when we have a sudden or unexpected loss of expectations hoped for (i.e. loss of job, relationship, life). Grief causes a variety of emotions to swirl around within us. It is not a linear process that moves in a specific order. Actually, it is quite the contrary. All of these emotions can be felt in the same day or hour. It just depends on the individual. The best thing you can do is identify the emotion you are feeling and verbalize why you are feeling that way. This will help you understand yourself better and will help others support you.

These emotions include:

Denial: “It doesn’t seem to impact me”

Acceptance: “I am OK/at peace with it”

Bargaining: “I should have…or If only I would have” (includes regrets and any form of questioning)

Depression: “I have no joy, energy or focus”

Anger: “I get mad and my temper gets the best of me even in the little things seemingly unrelated to the grief issue”

How long does it take for the season or fog to clear? Well it depends on the person, but the first 3 months are the most severe. The challenging part is that work gives folks 3 days to grieve, friends give us 3 weeks, yet the season or fog may not begin to clear until about 3 months and the entire process if done well (with support from other, professional and not) takes at least 3 years. Typically, as anniversaries, birthdays and holidays cycle through our lives they often cause our grief to spike. In time, with help from God and others the sting of death will be replaced with a sweetness of memories.

What else can I do to take care of myself during this time?

1. Lower your life expectations
2. Don’t make any major decisions unless you have to
3. Get support through professional counseling or a grief support group
4. Pray to God to release your fears, anxiety, sadness and anger
5. Take care of yourself (i.e. rest, exercise, avoid overeating)
6. Don’t avoid this season or try to bypass it with busyness or substances, for it is your season to grieve and you will be healthier if you process your emotions.
7. Allow this season to give you a renewed perspective on what you do have in life.

Monday, September 29, 2008

In Memory

The lord gives and he takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).

After multiple red eye plane trips and airport connections, I'm back home from the memorial and celebration of my Step-brother Kyle. I had all day Saturday with family to reflect, pray, cry, hug, and laugh. I am so glad I had that time. (His obituary can be read here.) Although tragedy brought us together, God's goodness and grace came out in so many ways. Remembering, eating together, playing games, praying, reconnecting with family, meeting new friends, and reflecting on Kyle's life (as well as the meaning of our own) was a bittersweet time.

My brother Chris (who just two weeks earlier was married) and I landed at DFW airport and quickly rented a car to drive about 75 miles outside of Dallas to the memorial service. It was amazing with over 500 people showing up to remember, sing, watch pictures of Kyle's life, and most importantly to hear and respond to the Gospel spoken through the various pastors and people who knew Kyle.

Some of Kyle's prized possessions like football jerseys, car parts, and size 16 shoes were on display. Kyle loved hunting and all types of animals, especially dogs. He was known for singing that song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," especially in the shower.

Since Kyle was a deputy he had about 30 uniformed service men and women who came in his honor. This was quite a sight.

I am grateful for the Church family of CLC. Lead Pastor Barry spoke God's truth and brought words of comfort and challenge at the burial. They also had a 21 gun salute graveside. Both my Step-dad and Kyle's mom received a folded flag in his honor.

The little town in Texas had an outpouring of support and encouraging words. Pray for Kyle's friends and my family (consisting of mom, step-dad, step-sister, and five other siblings from age 12-18) as they process. May God's power and peace be strong to satisfy and comfort them. May their lives be more committed to knowing God and living in his ways as they process their own life as a result of this experience.

I myself was so saddened at Kyle's loss and seeing everyone else suffering in the pain of his absence, that it caused me deep reflection on my own life.
Here are thoughts that set up camp in my mind:
Death reminds us of the shortness of life. We are reminded of the invitation God has given us to center our life on Him and prioritize his kingdom, family, forgiveness, and living in a way that brings honor to him every day and not put off obeying and following Him.

Death is painful and confusing. Words are good but sometimes not enough or the best response in times of grief. Sometimes we just need to be quiet and pray or cry, and other times we just need to be silent and hold each other. God is close to the broken hearted and he rescues those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

We must do life together not alone. (BTW thanks to all who have prayed, texted, emailed me, etc.) People responded generously, quickly, and in abundance. I was proud of the Church who came out and served in so many ways providing food, prayer, and presence. When the Church truly serves it touches so many lives. There were numerous people who saw God through words spoken, music, prayer and the overall sense that life doesn't end with death for those who know and trust God through Jesus Christ. (I personally had some really great conversations and witnessed people who seemed open and hungry for God. I was touched). Very importantly, we must remember the pain doesn't end quickly and grief lasts for a long time. The need for love, togetherness, prayer and support will extend for quite some time.

Kyle's death reminded me that I want to love my family well and be in good relationship with each other. I want to live forgiven and reconciled and hold no grudges. And finally, I want help others be prepared for their going home and standing before our lord (and be prepared myself)! Because with God's love, following Jesus, and living in the Spirit, death cannot conquer us, but we are victorious through it.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"[ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's a......

the word is out.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vlog Episode 4 September 25, 2008 (TRT: 5:22)

I filmed this Vlog early in the week and didn't have time to edit with the news of my Step-bro Kyle, until last night. I almost wondered if I should just bag this Vlog and not post since it didn't seem to fit with the mood of this week's circumstances. I actually say, "This season is going good so far," and it didn't seem right that I should post it in light of the death experienced this week. But then I got this comment from good friends the Wongs: "Life is so bittersweet - a wedding one week, finding out if you're having a boy or a girl, seeing Isella play, and grieving a loss. And God in the midst of all of it. God is sovereign and mysterious." They are so right.

Thanks Glenn and Jenn.

Since I love the opportunity to to express creatively my time spent editing was fun and worshipful. Enjoy. I love our community and being the church.

So with that, here's VLOG Episode 4, which includes your predictions on Baby Gap #2!

Hope and encouragement in an email

I received this email the same day Kyle died. God knew this week would require extra grace and encouragement for me. What seemed "random" came at the right time with specific and strategic purpose. As I read it I get chills. I've been sitting on it all week and now, (with permission from sender) I get to share it.

To Tony Gapastione
Dear Friend,

I call you friend though we have never met, and I have prayed for you and truly thanked our Lord Jesus Christ for you many, many times in this past year. I'm sure you have no idea how blessed my life has been because of you and the impact you had on one individual some years past.

My name is Livie. I lived in Northern California nearly my entire life until one year ago when i moved to Poland to teach English at a Christian language school. I ended up involved in an international English speaking church where I currently serve as a ministry intern. I knew that coming here would impact my life, and that this was truly the path God had for me. But for all the blessings that God has given to me over this year, there is one that cannot be compared to any other.

Over the course of this past year, it was through working with the young adults ministry that I met an amazing individual leading that group who used to attend PCC named Krzysztof Piotrowski aka Chris Columbus to his friends.

Chris has been an amazing part of our church here in Warsaw, and often speaks of his time in California and makes mention of you and the impact you've had on his life. Apparently his time there did an awful lot to shape his perspective on ministry, the great commission and how we as Christians are to live that out. Chris does live this out. He also knows what it is to love people and care about them. These two things have made him such a vital part of our church and impacted my own understanding of ministry and caring for others in an unbelievably big way. Every Sunday he gathers people to go for coffee after service just to connect with them and get them talking about faith and life and helping to integrate these two things because this is what he saw an example of during his time in California. I spent over half a year getting to know him and his heart for God. These are the conversations in which he often talked about you.

So for this. Thank you. Thank you for letting God use you. Your impact on Chris's view of ministry and faith lived out has been really big and it has been used to impact not only myself, but also countless lives here in Poland

But there is something else I wanted to say thank you for regarding your impact on Chris's life, and it is perhaps a little more personal in nature. His attitude toward God-honoring relationships between men and women.
Chris says that you, more than any friend, relative, or pastor, has had a bigger impact on his views of relationship, purity, and marriage than anyone. He says that having been able to talk with you about what good healthy relationships between men and women look like, the kind that honor God and are something truly beautiful, made a difference in his perspective. But then also, getting to see that you lived this out in your life, he says really made all the difference in the world as far as wanting that. Willing to strive for that, willing to wait for that, and he has been.
It is for that, as Chris's fiancee, soon to be wife, I especially wanted to say thank you.
Thank you for your willingness to be used by God to touch Chris's life.

I, who have been a Christian nearly my whole life, have never been in such a Godly relationship as I have been with Chris. Never have I found anyone so committed to seeking to honor God with everything in the relationship, especially in Godly devotion to the other person and to purity. We both realize that honoring God comes first, and that by honoring and being committed to God we are able to honor each other and from that comes this amazing relationship and love that is something so beautiful. Every time we talk, we delight in praying together, studying God's word, and now are looking forward to the days and years ahead when we don't have to go home to different addresses. But for the time being, we are both so delighted at the joy that comes from having a relationship/engagement that is pure and right before our Lord.

Often we never know where the people God places in our lives will go, what will happen to them or even how we were used in their lives. Yet I wanted very much to be able to share this with you, the blessing that you have been in one Polish guy's life and those around him who've been touched by him because of that, especially the one he'll be sharing his life with.

So simply... thank you. God bless you for your impact on Chris's life and mine.

In Christ,


I don't share this to toot my horn by any means. I want to toot God's horn. It's all about what he did in Chris' life and how we at PCC got to be a part of it. (1 Corinthians 3:7).

I can't tell you enough how encouraging this email was for me. Getting an email like this is so rare. I replied back to Livie and have been back in touch with Chris. It gave me some added encouragement to keep doing what God has called me to do. Stories like this remind me to boldly speak and teach God's word for we can see some results here in our time as well as on the other side of eternity. I love challenging and preparing people for the future. I would have never guessed how God would use my meeting Chris in 2001. Not only am I stoked he's a Godly man and getting getting married to a Godly woman, but he loves ministry and coffee!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

death, fear, and reflection

I am utterly amazed at the out pour of prayer and words of support. Thank you to all who emailed, commented, facebooked, text messaged, prayed, and showed love. It still seems very surreal to me. I talked with my Mom today and they are still arranging the memorial to celebrate my step-brother's life. I feel so sad for my family enduring this situation. There are so many people, siblings especially, grieving Kyle's death deeply. I hope to be able to fly out to Texas at some point to be a part of the remembering.

The story can be read here.

Today, every time I was in the car I couldn't help imagining my car hitting a tree, or losing control somehow with a blow out. Just this week the same thing took the life of a 9 year old boy in San Mateo.

I could easily see how this thought could paralyze anyone with fear or paranoia. All I could do is pray to trust God's love and his plan for my life. I trust he knows our days (Psalm 139). I wanted to squeeze and hug my family each time I left them today in case it was my last. I wanted to ensure that I honored God in all that I did and left a legacy that would always point to him. If only I could live each day like that. It seems that death always reminds that life comes to an end, and what we lived for today will live beyond us tomorrow.I want my life to always point to God.

Father God, I ask for your grace on us. We need your love and comfort. We need your power to see life as you designed it and live with eternity in mind. May we be Colossians 3 people.

In the name of our savior Jesus Christ who gives us life now and beyond the grave,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Just a little over a week ago my family was celebrating a wedding and now we are mourning. My Step-brother Kyle died today in a car crash.

Please pray for my family, especially my Mom Robin, Step-father, Greg, and siblings. Kyle was the tall one in the back. He would have been twenty years old in November. I don't have many more details other than he was on his way to work and never made it. They live in Texas outside of Dallas.

Here's a picture of our visit to Texas about year ago. Big guy, big sense of humor.
He will be missed.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Doing" weddings

I got to do three wedding ceremonies this summer. Two for great friends in our community and just last week, for my own brother. I really like "doing" weddings. Partly because it's exciting to stand before two people making such a huge commitment as the one representing God in sealing the promise. Another reason is I like to have fun (and make weddings fun-Have you ever been to a boring wedding? Ug! Comment now!) and remind people of God's design and how amazing marriage can be--especially for the guests. I think some of the brides and the grooms are so busy, excited, stressed, nervous, scattered, distracted, and hungry that they barely remember what the officiant says until they watch the video after the honeymoon. That's just how it goes sometimes for some. But the guests who come, although maybe hungry, aren't so distracted and a little more open to "heart." I always assume the following in regards to the guests: 1-Some are married and enjoying it, working hard and making it work. 2-Some are married and hating it, it's too much work, or they don't put enough work into it to make it enjoyable-therefore they come skeptical and bitter about marriage (some actually betting how long this newlywed couple will last and some even on the verge of divorce). 3-Others are single because they haven't been married yet, divorced, or death, and of those some really want to be married badly and others never again-for many reasons. And finally there are some who will never married as they are gifted by God to do so. So.. Whew, that's a huge cross section of people in which to address a message on God's design--within ten minutes, but I always try. This past week was especially challenging as I stood before my whole family and my one and only (blood) brother, Chris.

My Daughter, Isella, was one of three little flower girls (my cousin's daughters). Here they are as they wait for their big moment.

Here she is checking Papa's pockets for lint, snacks,...money..(BTW--my flower eventually got fixed).

We have a very large family (part due to being Italian, the other due to divorces, remarriages, and adoptions). Here are some family shots.

Above -my Mom with all my other brothers and sisters. (A combination of step-siblings, 3 adopted siblings, and three others who are foster brothers. Brady Bunch: eat your heart out!) This is my cousin's son, Caden, below. That night my cousin and I were talking about parenting and leading our children (that are on "loan" from God). I got to pray over him that night, and we had an impromptu dedication. It was a cool privilege.

Here is my Aunt and Uncle: Jerri and Daryl, with my two cousins: Gavin (5) and Cooper (1.5).
I have spoken about them a lot. Although I call them "Aunt and Uncle," they are more like good friends. Daryl is actually like a brother, both to me and Chris. Many of my friends have been praying for Daryl and his fight against cancer. He continues to amaze me with his great attitude. He has survived cancer over eight years. He is now in a new round (somewhat experimental and new) of radiation. Please continue to pray for him. What I loved about this wedding is that my brother and sister-in-law decided to make a donation to LiveStrong and gave everyone yellow bracelets, in which I am now wearing as a great reminder to pray for Daryl and all those (8 Million) fighting Cancer.

My dad giving his best man speech. He said it would be "short" and rolled out a scroll. He's to the right of the layered cake in the middle.

I choked up twice. Once during the ceremony talking about the importance modeling the love of God in our marriages according to Ephesians 5:22ff and showing love to your spouse by encouraging them with words (thinking of my own wife and how much I love her for being a great mom). The second was during my reception speech when I was encouraging my Chris, my brother. All his friends know him by the nickname, "Gap." What people don't know is that he shares the "Gap" nickname (and wears it well) with my Grandfather, who I was named after: Anthony James (Gap) Gapastione. Grandpa Gap was one of the most influential men in my life and I only had ten years with him. He died over twenty years ago, But it goes to show the power of someone who loves much. He went out of his way to spend time with me, made me feel special (nicknamed me A.J.), and was a generous and loving person. I still have fond memories of him and become emotional when I talk about his influence on my life-over twenty years ago his legacy still lives on. What great footsteps to follow for my brother and me.

Poppie and Grandma (Isella's names for my Dad and StepMom). Doesn't my Dad look like James Gandolfini(The guy who played Tony Soprano)?

You know I'm gonna get down when my brother comes up to me and says, "Let's have a dance off!" What is this? Grease? High School Musical? Either way, I'm poppin' moves that would make John Travolta and Justin Timberlake cringe. But hey, I had fun. (no wonder people like to crash weddings).

Yes ladies and gentleman, all this with not a sip of alcohol. This is no joke. Somewhere in a dance hall in Illinois late last Saturday night: yes, I did think I could dance!

A favorite part of life. My daughter in my lap.

Congrats Mr. & Mrs. (Chicago) Gapastione. Although, they are not the only Chicago Gapastiones, they now must be distinguished from Wendy and me as the Cali-Gaps.

By the way, I received so many text messages and facebook comments about how people were praying for me and my family during the weekend. Thank you! I love being a part of the church! A huge shout out to the Newlywed Koldings who sensed God was going to do something completely awe-inspiring. And so I waited and waited and one of the coolest moments was at 11:55pm, 5 minutes before the dance-a-thon (reception) shut down. A guy (friend of my brother) came up to me and asked a question. It started like this:

Guy: So what kind of church are you a part of
Me: One of those weird, judgmental cult ones, why? (No Just kidding)
Me: A Christian one.
Guy: What kind of Christian one?....

Then we started talking about God, the Church, grace, bad experiences with boring, irrelevant churches etc...And I tried not to rant or get on a soapbox too much but I was really excited someone was really interested seeking God. It seemed like he was hungry for the real God who he hadn't quite seen presented in a way that was loving or likable. So I did my best to affirm him about God's goodness and plan. I talked about our church family and how I had experienced God through community.

Guy: Well, if I could find a church like the one you are talking about I would love to be a part of that!

It was so awesome.

and GOD-RONICALLY, he and his family live in a town that has a great church that meets and serves there. We've talked by phone and he's now considering looking into this church --which happens to be the same one in which Aunt and Uncle are a part of in Illinois.

I am "awe-inspired!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Looking for photographers and film-makers

6th Annual Hallowed: an underground awakening – Saturday, October 25th at 7 pm – Club Oasis, 200 N First St. San Jose. The theme is “Lens” which will be focused on compassion. Pray that artists would respond to our call for short film submissions and photography. Pray for partnerships with other churches, and many would attend and hearts would be won for Christ.

If you would like to participate contact my friend, Jonathan Fung. He teaches at the SF Academy of Art and is also a pastor. Here is his email: funghus@sbcglobal.net.

Here are videos from the past:



Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I have guilty pleasures, yes. I admit it. The EW magazine, Madonna (scandalous), some reality shows (yes, I've tuned in to ANTM, embarrassing) and even some loud mouthed political radio shows, but..This is a huge confession.

Since I went through my high school years watching Kelley, Brandon, Dylan, and Brenda,

I thought I'd check out the newly revamped CW show: 90210. I had my wife DVR it while I was at the United Hillsong concert exactly a week ago today.

Am I the only one who wasted 120 minutes (thanks to DVR I could have fast forwarded through commercials, but another confession: I like them. Sick, I know) of my life watching 90210? If you did, will you admit it? Comment now. Now. I'm waiting.... (Please make me feel better). But please don't shame me.

If you didn't tune in, pat yourself on the back and be proud of yourself, if it's waiting in your TIVO-delete it.


9-0-2-1-NO. NO!

Heck no.

Why do I say, NO?

The extreme, super-spiritual answer:
How many more superficial, mean girl, one tree hill, clueless, gossip girl, OC, spin-offs do we need to deteriorate our culture and morally ruin the minds of teenagers, twenty-somethings, and possibly elementary aged kids who sneak peaks? Do we need more BAD role models in our culture that promote sexual promiscuity, deception, manipulation, cheating, pornogrpahy, disobeying parents, substance abuse, materialism, and vanity (all in the 1st installment of our West Beverly High crew) for our already struggling generation? Just another Hollywood attempt to get ratings by selling temporary satisfactions and glorifying the self-centered lifestyle. Couldn't we find more uplifting shows on the food network or Man Vs. Wild (or practically anything on the discovery channel). We all could spend our time doing better things, like learning to cook salmon, surviving in the wild, or hey reading our Bibles. Novel idea.

The thumbs down, Roger Ebert, "art critic" answer:
This attempt at revamping an iconic show that lasted ten seasons in the 90's is a risk...that failed hellatiously. The entire first episode was nothing but stereotypical characters and situations. The jocks, the drama queens, the substance users, the party girls, etc. Do we really need another show with teenagers showing off their private jets, lying about oral sex, and spending $800 on a dress (yes, these actually happened in the pilot episode). How about a show with award winning acting, real life situations that acknowledge and wrestle through issues and spotlight deep and witty characters like Juno?

The acting in 90210 was horrible, the writing was cliche, and overall the word CHEESY comes to mind. I'm so tired of bad TV. (If it wasn't for the WGA strike we'd have more episodes of LOST to watch!). Isn't the world tired of shows where people live immature, self-centered lives with no redeeming value what so ever? Uh, no. It's not. Cause we'll always be interested in watching this type of garbage.

Ok, maybe my angst comes from how possibly real to life this is for SOME PEOPLE. I know not everyone lives large like this, but I remember my high school experience and the masks I wore. I was desperately wanted acceptance and significance. And I also interact with many students both in high school and college that face the same challenges. And then my angst turns to sadness. I guess Solomon was right. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Same Zip Code
Same Drama
Just different people.

Maybe the frustration comes from sinful desires and the wake up call to reality (thanks to the Holy Spirit's prompting). If I (or we) was honest, I'd admit living in this fantasy. Come on, right? That's what sucks us in to these guilty pleasures. Wouldn't it be great if life was like Hollywood? Always look zit free in the newest designer clothes, drive great convertible cars, live in mansions the size of Disneyland, get anything you wanted, sleep around with anyone and everyone with no fear of STDS, party it up, and have it "all work out" within an hour slot on TV. But when we combat lies with truth we are smarter than that. We know #1-that this isn't reality (everyone wakes up with bad hair and breath) and #2-there's real pain and deep consequences to living life like this. And TV rarely exposes or deals with these. We know that God's design calls for us to live a life that has purpose beyond our our fleshly desires. We know that relationships are hard work and honesty must be a foundation. God's word calls us to DENY OURSELVES and pick up our cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23-27). We are called to lose our life and forfeit comfort. Most of us are better off, more safe, more healthy, and more satisfied by living lives according to God's truth especially when we find it a joy and not a burden. Unfortunately, Hollywood will never make a TV show about that. (For your listening pleasure listen to SUPERCHICK'S TV LAND). (Another song I like is Vicky Beeching's: Created).

So, what about you? What tabloid do you read, reality show, or utterly pointless TV drama do you watch, (or secretly wish you did)? How do you handle the messages from the media regarding appearance, sex, relationships, marriage, stuff, etc?

Once you confess we'll all start a support group...or else a production company

Keep praying for Glory

I am thankful. I am loving this little girl and I've never met her. I posted a while back to pray for Glory Ruth, the baby born prematurely to friends who a part of our church family and staff of our community center. In fact, Glory's Dad and I share office space (our doors open up to each other). Here is the good news report from the past couple weeks. Please continue praying.

Glory is doing very well. she had a blood test today and her red blood count went down from 20.9 to 20.1 over the last week. if it had dropped below 20 then she would have had to have a blood transfusion. she must have known that as she is really a tough fighter and she kept it just above the line. as it stands she will continue status quo until her next blood test in a week. thank you for all your prayers. she continues to gain weight and is currently 1345 grams (nearly 3 lbs)!!

Glory is growing daily. She is no longer in a covered isolette, her bed is now in “crib” mode and she is doing fine maintaining her body temperature. She is closing in on 3 and a half pounds and looks really beautiful. She may be looking at coming home in 3 or 4 weeks!!!!

Thank you all for your support and prayers.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Glitz, Glam, & Jesus

Last night hundreds, probably almost thousands, paid $22 (that's like 5 Starbucks' drinks, man) to sing, dance, and witness the world wide, (church proclaimed), phenomenon known as HILLSONG UNITED. A group of people who love God and want to serve him in the world (AKA: a church) through music, media, and messages. So, I must mention that this church (a called out people), also happens to be made up of extremely good looking, trendy dressed, twenty somethings with cool accents, who dance and sweat around the stage strategically striking awesome guitar strumming poses. What better way to get people to follow Jesus, right? (hmm..Shane Claiborne has a great quote in Irresistible Revolution about being "cool for Jesus," and how Jesus might even have been considered UGLY. Yikes. I'm convicted).

Can I say if I've coveted anything--besides being a hand and foot model-it's to be a sweaty Rock Star.

So there we were just a small group of youth groupies, tweens, twenty (and thirty plus-me) somethings all crammed into a building in San Jose to experience the music that has filled the lips of worshippers all around the world. I was excited to go because I love music and experiencing God in and through these types of venues. And I love the story of the Hillsong band which emerged from the youth group of passionate followers of Christ. But here's my thoughts on my experience...

First off, when we arrived at Jubilee Christian Center, no joke we (Shoe and Rocky carpooled with me) were at the end of this line at 6:30pm. The last will be first, right? I couldn't fathom so many people lining up for a gathering like this--and made me wish this were the norm--the typical case for most of our worship gatherings--maybe that's what it felt like for the guys in Mark 2.

But thanks to friends who arrived earlier-we DID get to be first---cause....WE CUT in with them. Did I feel bad? Yes. Yes, I did, but because everyone around loved God, too, I absorbed the love and grace that permeated that place--and didn't get punched in the face, nor feel bad afterward--like what would have a happened if we were entering any other different concert. So continuing, we entered the huge building--which some people mislabel a church-(more ranting on that in a post later this week) that I admit I admired!

It was ginormous, with it's high tech, swarming, strobe lights and feature film-like video equipment! Again, I tried not to covet. But then I started getting all philosophical and theological. Maybe it's because I'm the 30plus guy now. But I was thinking about how we as the church complicate the gospel, mislead people, and get carried away by the hype--which, come on, I love a good smoke machine, once in a while, just like the rest--but sometimes it's these experiences that American Christians compare as they "church-shop" and then don't commit to a family of believers because they "don't feel" the worship, don't "get fed" by the messages, and don't like what they see. Oops, I digress, I said I would rant later this week. So, last night, I couldn't help think of the worldwide church....like in Africa. How our brothers and sisters there simply worship by the dust of the ground and with only the sounds they can make from their own mouths. Humbling. Humbling, Humble pie! They aren't complaining about their worship venue, that's for sure.

So by this time I pull my scattered brain back into the moment. As the night goes on they gave away FREE STUFF like CDs and T-shirts (with their cool logo) by throwing out their products to us blood-thirsty American consumers--sorry-more sarcasm-(I ALMOST bought a t-shirt for $25 but bought instead a sticker for $2). Cool Logo, huh? A picture is worth a 1000 words.

They also had a competition. Below is our very own Carla, who went up for the "Australian accent impressions." Every one thought she did great! And that's because she's a native Australian. Way to go CAAHR-LA!

So then..
Out comes their (very non-geeky) Hillsong United front man for the Band. He really wasn't your typical sweaty rock star, even though he looks like it. He's got heart. He really challenged us. As all these philosophical thoughts were going on in my head and I was seeing all these people raising hands and singing out to God--myself being one of them...

I found myself really doing some mental work, wanting my heart to be right with God as I sang. I didn't expect this experience to be "work" at all. At one point I heard another one of my (non Hillsong) favorite songs playing in my head. Jon Foreman's INSTEAD OF A SHOW which has amazing lyrics from Isaiah. I've fallen in love with the song while at the same time feeling completely uncomfortable and disturbed. Watch and listen here. And it was a perfect anthem for the night. So as I am singing these great Hillsongs--I'm thinking about how easy this is to worship God in this way (feeling conviction and enjoyment at the same time) and how good it feels as I dance around with the colored lights swirling all around me (Seriously at one point I imagined Heaven and the excited of worshipping at God's throne). Is there anything wrong with that? Comments? I don't think so, unless--like Mr. Non-geeky guitar man said last night--that's all we do. I was so struck, appreciative, and impressed that this glam band for Jesus really GETS IT. In fact, that's what he said last night. At one point he stopped, and looked at the crowd. Almost prophetically, in the quiet- between songs, with some gut of frustration and compassion--he said, "I wish we could all just get it {the gospel}." And he went on to talk about the Church's need to GO, to serve, and to live out God's love in the world by loving others-AS WORSHIP! And check this--they had videos of serving and going--TO AFRICA.


They really seemed to be challenging and warning a generation of people from getting emotionally wrapped up in feeling good about singing and walking out the door and doing nothing- ignoring the real needs of the world. And maybe he was also warning us NOT to pigeon hole our worship to just singing--but that it also includes feeding the hungry, taking in orphans, clothing the naked, healing the sick, and visiting the imprisoned. This gutsy Australian also called us out as the American Church saying we are a SLEEPING GIANT! And he's right, we have SO MUCH and we have so much potential that we really could help lower the pain and evil in the world (some being 27 million in human trafficking, 63 million orphans, 1 in 5 in San Francisco hungry to name a few) but we're tired, blind, busy, lazy, and too comfortable.

I walked out of that building last night breathing deep, breathing deep the breath of God and the mission of his church. Now, that was a sweet time of worship for me. It "felt" good and not so good. And I like that.

As I made my way to be with our Street Church, I was encourage and filled.

Here's the crew who came together last night and gave up 5 Starbucks drinks. Way to suffer for Jesus everyone!