Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Disneyland 1968

I think what you're looking at is my first visit ever to Disneyland... of course, you're not looking so much at me as you are at the head of a blond child (me!) and my mom & dad.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What's With All the Disneyland Stuff?!

Regular readers of this blog will have astutely spotted that the number of posts about Disneyland has increased over the past few months... and, though absolutely no one has asked this question, I feel compelled to explain why the flood of Disney memories & pictures.

The main reason is that we are now in the throes of planning our next expedition to Mouse Country. We've been racking up "points" on our Disney Visa for over four years... and that, coupled with the cash I'm pulling down from my consulting gig for the folks at Klutz Press, will pay for 5 days at Disneyland & California Adventure. As well, this is the last year we can take Collin "for free" - once he's 3 years old, we have to buy him a ticket, too.

Our plan right now is to go either the week right after Thanksgiving or the first full week of December... the parks are beautifully decorated, there's a Christmas parade each night (as well as fireworks when the winds are favorable), and both Small World & the Haunted Mansion have their seasonal "makeovers" in place. Most importantly, the time between Thanksgiving break & the beginning of Christmas break is the lowest attendance time of the year, particularly during the day. (During the evening, local Annual Passholders show up, which increases the numbers somewhat.)

There's another reason for posting the trip reports... not long after our last trip to the Disneyland Resort in 2003, I posted to an e-mail group about the trip & hinted that I had taken notes to do a write-up. Susan Rozmiarek replied that she would be very interested in reading them - and as she & her husband, Ed, are regular readers of this blog - consider this a belated birthday present. Or whatever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Disneyland 1970

The cute kid in the glasses is none other than yours truly - aka pastor guy. The lady next to me is my mom... and the guy taking the picture from the Dumbo in front of us is my dad - which is weird, since we have a picture that looks just like this one, taken in the same way some 33 years later. Man, I feel old.

The Latest Whatever

Some capsule reviews from the "media" intake in my life:


Stephen Lawhead's Hood is a wonderful beginning to The King Raven Trilogy. In it, he reimagines the legends of Robin Hood & sets them in Wales after the Norman invasion of England. As usual, he mixes Christianity with mysticism & high adventure, evoking a sense of place & character that makes his books a delight to read.

My only frustration is, of course, that this is the only book of the trilogy that's been published. The next book, Scarlet, is due sometime this year.


Reiner Knizia's Blue Moon City finally hit the table when I was playing - and while I think it suffers from "theme disconnect" (this could literally be about almost anything), the gameplay itself is a lot of fun. I esp. liked figuring out how best to use my cards in creative combinations. I also really liked the way timing plays such an important part in the game - when you do something is almost as important as what you get out of it. I'm not sure I need to own a copy, but I'll happily play it again.

My first play of Battlelore: Call to Arms was great, even if I lost to my 5 year old son & his evil Giant Spider. More details on that later.


Derek Bell's The Ringing Bell is probably my least favorite of his albums... of course, that's a bit like saying that Big Thunder Mountain is my least favorite rollercoaster at Disneyland - dude, it's Disneyland. The music & the writing is still strong here, esp. so on "I Want To Marry You Again" and "This Too Shall Be Made Right" - but they don't (for the most part) pack the same punch as "Wedding Dress" (from his first album, she must & shall go free) or "The Strong, The Tempted & The Weak" (from his second album, the brilliant i see everything upside down). It's short, as well... just about 35 minutes. On the plus side, the limited edition graphic novel presentation of the lyrics is very nicely done.

Chris Duran's EP, More Than I Know, is a 4-song collection of music written for the worship gatherings at Mosaic. It's not your standard rock'n'roll praise/worship tuneage, though - it feels like it would music that's friendly to someone on a search for God while also expressing the cry of the hearts of Jesus followers. I know it does that for me.


Spiderman 3 was quite good - but not as good as Spiderman 2. Shari & I got to see it at the Imax, which was great. The action sequences are splendid and there are some wonderful moments in there - but it all fit like they tried to stuff 10 lbs of potatoes into a 5 lb sack.

I finally saw Casino Royale... I think this will do for James Bond what Batman Begins did for Batman. It's a complete reboot of the franchise with plenty of sly in-jokes & references for those of us who've been watching for a long time. It's not a "nice" film - the torture scene still has me wincing in sympathetic pain - but it manages to raise real questions about what doing that particular job can do to your soul. I look forward to the next installment.

I also watched Deja Vu, which benefits immensely from the gravitas of Denzel Washington. As in most time travel films, the plot will fall apart if hit by a strong breeze, but with Denzel to anchor the story, along with the nicely done SFX, it works. One caveat: the opening terrorist attack is filmed in order to play mightily on your emotions - frankly, it's pretty manipulative. If you can get past that, there's a decent film here.


It's season finale season... and I'll weigh in on a few of them before posting this.
  • The Amazing Race - All-Stars: the only good thing is that Charla & Mirna didn't win. Otherwise, it was just sad... particularly since the last challenge basically was "how much gossiping do you & your partner do on the race?" Sigh.
  • Survivor - Fiji: Go, Earl... of course, I'd have picked Yau Man in a heartbeat, but Dreamz & his struggle with integrity/$ put everyone's favorite contestant out of the running.
  • Heroes: Just like the rest of the season, this focused more on character development than on SFX, which is a major part of what has made this show so wonderful. The epic battle we were all waiting for turned out to be inside Nathan rather than between Sylar & Peter. I can NOT wait for next season!
  • Veronica Mars: What a horrible way to go out... with a pair of splendid episodes that set up all kinds of interesting plotlines for the next season. Unfortunately, the show is cancelled. (Yes, the CW has learned that more people will watch women compete to be the next Pussycat Doll than will watch an intelligent show that deals with ethics & morality with humor & intelligence... go figure.)
  • American Idol: No matter who wins tonight, Melinda Doolittle got cheated. That girl can sing.
  • 24: I'm planning to catch up on iTunes this summer - so don't anybody tell me anything that happened after Jack started out after Audrey.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rules Lawyer - continued

Here Collin cheerfully points out my error. (For more errors from me & others, check out my Lost & Found page on my website.)

Rules Lawyer

Collin decided he needed to check out the rules to Buddel-Wuddel for himself... probably to make sure I was teaching them correctly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Disneyland Resort: Christmas 2003 (Friday)

Last day - sigh. I hate the last day of a vacation, and none quite so much as the last day behind the Mouse Curtain. (There's a certain "the world is extra far away" quality about Disney - which they cultivate, as it's part of the appeal of the Disney experience.)

We loaded up the minivan & drove over to park in the Garage of Infinite Size (they call it the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure) - seriously, Disney has built a parking structure that has such mass that, when full of tourist vehicles, evidences enough gravitational pull to affect the tides at the Port of Los Angeles. (Don't believe me? Check the following picture from Google Sightseeing - the giant rectangle to the NW of Disneyland is the parking structure! It is, according to a couple of places I referenced, the largest parking structure in the world.)

Side note: if this thing is called Mickey & Friends, I'm assuming that Timon & Pumbaa did something shady to get their names assigned to the two overflow lots - Timon, which is pretty close to California Adventure, may have simply forgot to RSVP for the 50th birthday celebration. Pumbaa, OTOH, possibly questioned Minnie's parentage... it's over a mile away from the parks and they don't have tram service. Trust me - if they want to park you in Pumbaa, you should NOT be going to Disneyland that day.

One short tram ride later, we were on our way to our final day in the parks... it's a little weird, of course, to ride along the berm as it goes by the Haunted Mansion, Pirates & Indiana Jones show buildings. (They don't look like rides on their exterior, but that's where you go after you drop down the elevator in the Mansion or go down the falls in Pirates... or walk 10+ miles through the maze that is the line for Indiana Jones.) And when I say "weird", I mean "funny weird", as in "that's the area I walked through when I got kicked out of Disneyland many moons ago."

It's A Small World: One final ride through the Doll's House for all of us... we managed to average one trip per day, which may seem like a lot for those of you who want to "borrow" a weapon from the Frontierland Arcade & start taking pot-shots at the singing "kids of the world" dolls, but it's actually a lot of fun to watch a child enjoy it. (In fact, that's a major theme of this trip - I'm a huge Disney parks fan, but there's nothing like watching your son laughing & playing & enjoying himself in a world you already enjoy.

Matterhorn Bobsleds: When we wandered by the Matterhorn, I realized that the line for the bobsleds was tiny. (For those of you who know Disneyland, it didn't even extend 1/2 way through the Alpine hut at the bottom of the mountain.) Shari & Braeden went to ride Small World again while I managed to make a round trip run through the line, up the mountain, down the mountain & back to them BEFORE they could get through their ride. (Important Matterhorn tip: the Submarine/Tomorrowland side feels faster than the Fantasyland side... but the Fantasyland side has more "outside" views. Ride 'em both!)

Man, I love the Matterhorn... it was the first rollercoaster I ever rode - and I remember riding it with my dad. That was "back in the day" when the interior of the mountain was open. You could see the bobsleds going in & out of the tunnels, as well as the Skyway cars going through. (The new enclosed lift pull is cool, but not as scary.)

Enchanted Tiki Room: More than any other attraction at Disneyland, this one is a trip down Nostalgia Lane for me. What I mean is that I don't really go to enjoy it in the here & now, but instead to enjoy the time-travel back 35+ years to when I enjoyed it as a kid. Braeden was OK with it - he really liked the singing & drumming totems - but compared to many of the newer rides, this one is kind of pale. (At least they left the Disneyland version in it's original form - don't get me started on how badly they screwed up the one at WDW by having Iago & Zazu take over the show.)

As you see from the picture above, Braeden's favorite part of the Tiki Room was the fountain in the outside waiting area.

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train: We then trekked back into California Adventure to ride Heimlich for the 10th & 11th time. (Seriously - I kept count.) It's funnier the first few times you ride it.

And with that, we bid adieu to the parks - Braeden was finally worn out enough to be cool with getting something to eat & driving 4 hours back to Fresno.

Downtown Disney: Disney's answer to your local shopping mall is probably the least interesting part of the resort, particularly to those of who have small children. (Well, there is the Lego Store, but I'd go in there even if I didn't have kids.) We ate at the House of Blues (which has pretty good food, though the food we ate at the House of Blues in New Orleans some years back was much better).

And even with five posts worth of stuff, somehow I missed two other rides that I know we "did" - so I'm adding them here:

Pirates of the Carribean: Braeden was nervous about this - what with the talking skull above the door & the darkness - but Shari & I pushed on, not remembering just how scary the caves full of skeletons could be. Brilliant parents, that's us. He toughed it out - but for a couple of years was pretty clear that he wouldn't be riding that again. Recently, he's talked about fondly remembering the classic "dog with jailhouse key" scene and thinks it might be OK to try again.

Alice in Wonderland: One of the "lightest" of the dark rides - there's no real story and nothing terribly menacing in the ride... Braeden tolerated it (I like it - but it's one of those "if nobody's in line" kind of rides. If you have to wait more than 4-5 minutes to ride it, you're wasting your time.)

The Brothers Grin

I took this picture of Braeden & Collin last week - here's what it looks like to be 2 and "almost" 6 and a Jackson.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More Yelo

Some specific quotes & thoughts that popped up during this very cool one-day seminar... for more of my reactions, check out my post, Yelo, from last week - or the Yelo website.
  • Someone asked Erwin a question and used the phrase "a strength overdone will become a weakness." I don't remember what the question was, but Erwin quickly quashed that kind of thinking. "A strength overdone will not become a weakness... a strength overdone will become a greater strength. A strength informed by bad character will become a weakness."
  • In fact, that was a key teaching of the day - your character is more important than your strengths. A charismatic leader with good character turns out like Billy Graham; a charismatic leader with bad character turns out like Adolf Hitler.

For those who are interested (and have some background with StrengthsFinder), my strengths are (in order):

  • Input
  • Learner
  • Belief
  • Maximizer
  • Responsibility

I think Input is clearly dominant (I'm not sure if it's my ability to remember where to find information in books and/or online, or my 2000+ volume personal library, or my game collection of nearly 800 board & card games that tipped the scale), along with Belief (which, I think, is probably a nice thing for a pastor to have.) The other three are supportive or lesser... I'm not sure in which combination.

Coupled with the StrengthsFinder results was some very interesting conversation about having a "strengths culture" in your enviroment - in my case, NewLife Community Church. One of the big questions I have to answer for myself & our community is "what strengths do we over- or -under-value?"

Monday, May 07, 2007

If Everyone Jumped Off A Cliff

I wrote this on Thursday morning at Ethos (the last part of the Origins Experience)... it sums up my experience very nicely.

"All of the cool kids are doing it" -- could be a come-on for illicit substances ("first one's free!")... unfortunately, it's the knee-jerk "conference" response. And I hear it echo in my heart: "I want to be as cool as Mosaic."

But when I slow down & talk to You, Jesus, what I really want is to be as contextualized as Mosaic. I want to be who I am, who I was created to be... and to be radically effective in changing lives. I feell like I'm spinning my wheels in so many ways... and I want to stop.

Jesus, I wan to enjoy gaming without it owning me. I want to be a bit more organized. I want to eat & live in a healthier way, both for my family & for my ministry.

I want to be bold -- asking to pray for others, sharing the truth, not obsessed with finding simple fixes for people's lives and/or the challenges of church leadership.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


On the way home from The Origins Experience on Thursday (yes, I'll blog lots more about it later), Aaron & I were trading boyhood "war" stories - I told the story of how I sprained my ankle and he told about (among many other injuries) tripping over an 8 foot fence and doing a belly flop onto hardpan dirt.

We both agreed that the bad part about stuff like that is not simply getting the wind knocked out of you - but the feeling that no matter how hard you gasp, no matter how many parts of your brain scream at your body to intake oxygen, you can't get any air.

Today is kind of like that emotionally. I'd sure appreciate your prayers.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Origins Experience: Tuesday

Again, just a short post to tide my loyal readers over until I can blather on & on.

Today, it was Erwin's description of maturity that blew me away...

Maturity is the gap between understanding & obedience. It is not measured by Biblical or doctrinal knowledge - you can know a lot & do nothing. It's not measured by length of service... by how long you have been a follower of Christ.

Someone asked an excellent question - how do you help people become mature followers of Christ?

You have to remember that human beings are enviromental... they don't do what you tell them, they become what they experience.


Well, we've got one day under our belts here at Mosaic. "Yelo" (I don't know how to put the funny accent mark over the O) is their way of doing "Network" (Willow) or "S.H.A.P.E." (Saddleback) in their context... I have some reactions:
  • I'm more addicted to "spiritual" language than I thought - even though the leaders & the content are clearly Biblical, and the desire is obviously to enable people to lean into their God-given uniqueness for the good of the Kingdom, they very specifically make this open to those who have not yet chosen to follow Jesus. I could tell you intellectually how cool I think that is... and yet, I still find myself wanting more "spiritualized" talk. (I don't think this is their problem - it's mine. "Hi, I'm Mark, and I'm addicted to sounding like a pastor." "Hi, Mark!" "It's been 12 hours since my last...")
  • It's really sweet to get to do something like this with Aaron (our worship pastor). I'm growing in appreciation for the way he's wired and how God made him to function.
  • The Clifton Strengths Finder (administered by Gallup) is impressive in how it both helps you see your own strength "themes" and in how it informs the process of working together, inside or outside the church.
  • My Myers-Briggs, as usual, comes out INTJ. (Yes, there are lots of pastors who are introverts - trust me on this one.)
  • The key piece of Yelo is that "character determines how you use your strengths" - and the stuff they use for that is based out of Erwin's book, Uprising.

More on this later... I need to mull a lot of it over. (And figure out how to help the leadership at NewLife grab on to these concepts.)