Sunday, July 25, 2010

NASCAR's Flawed Point System

As I perused the website and looked at the latest standings after Jamie McMurray's victory in the Brickyard 400 earlier today, I noticed some things that seemed a little off... "Jamie Mac" also won the Daytona 500 earlier this year, and is amongst only six drivers with two or more wins on the circuit in 2010. Similarly, McMurray is amongst the six drivers with six or more top five finishes this year. You would think that with all of this success, he would be a cinch to make the top 12 and be in the NASCAR chase this year. Sadly, that would be a bad assumption. As I write this, Jamie McMurray sits in 16th place, 151 points behind Clint Bowyer for the 12th and final spot in the season ending NASCAR chase, where the top 12 drivers during the first 26 races vie for the season championship.

The three drivers in the 10th, 11th and 12th positions in the NASCAR standings are currently Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer. Not only do none of these three drivers have a win this year, but they have a COMBINED eight top 5 finishes amongst them, none having more than three...

Who leads NASCAR in winnings with $4,687,502 this year? Well, it's that guy who is 16th in the Chase... yes, Jamie McMurray AGAIN!

Does anyone other than me see something VERY WRONG with this picture? NASCAR's scoring system is VERY antiquated and outdated... it's time for an overhaul... wins and top five finishes need to be rewarded more, and mediocrity needs to be rewarded A LOT less! A top 10 or top 20 finish is often much more the product of luck and attrition than anything else. It's high time that NASCAR started adding an extra premium to top five finishes and an even bigger premium to wins... after all, winning is what it is ALL about in this sport! Given all of the success Jamie McMurray has had this year, it would be a crime for him NOT to be in the chase!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

My New Sunday Reality

Now that I'm two weeks removed from one of the most emotional Sundays of my life, I finally feel ready to write about it. For those of you that don't know, Sunday, May 30th, 2010 was my the last message by my pastor of nearly 12 years, Francis Chan, at Cornerstone Community Church. Instead of the usual 9 and 11 a.m., and 6 p.m. services, this final Sunday of Francis' was going have the three services at 8:30, 10 and 11:30 a.m. with a barbecue in the parking lot following the final service. My plan was to get there around 9:30 and have plenty of time to get a good seat for the 10 a.m. service. I was then going to help out a little with the setup for the barbecue. Given all that Francis, Lisa and Cornerstone had given me over the course of the last 12 years, I felt it was the least I could do.

As fate had it, I got off to a late start and didn't arrive until 9:45 a.m. This was probably a good thing actually, as there were many baptisms in that first service - an estimated 40! So it ran over to the point when I walked in at 9:50 a.m, Francis was STILL doing baptisms from the first service. I managed to get a seat in the left center of the 3rd row (about where I usually sit) on a straight line to my friend Jay who is in the band. Of course, Francis' wife Lisa was also there singing during worship. With those two there, I felt in my usual "comfort zone" during worship, yet at the same time, I also knew that would be the last time I was ever going to be in that "comfort zone."

The service itself went by very fast. Francis spoke out of Revelation 21:1-8 and talked of a time when there would be "no more sadness or goodbyes." And that "there will be (an infinite amount of) time to 'hang out'" with each other. A very appropriate verse, since Francis, Lisa and their family were leaving... once we all reach our final destination in heaven, indeed there will be no more "goodbyes" and we will have an infinite amount of time to just "hang out" with each other.

As fate would have it, there were more than enough people to help with setup for the barbecue. The 11:30 service predictably was PACKED. So, I quickly switched hats and helped set up chairs in the overflow area (the lobby). Never before had I seen so many people there at a service. I would estimate we had nearly 2,000 people for that final service and 5,000 total for the three. I ran into a good friend of mine (Christina) from way back in grade school. I spent a lot of time with her and her family during the service. Francis was just fine at the 10 a.m. service, but he got much more emotional that last service as he nearly lost it twice. He did manage to regain his composure though and was strong as ever at the end. By the end of that service, a total of 80 or so people had committed to giving their lives to the Lord that day. What a PRAISE!

Other than the emotions and the crazy number of baptisms, what I will remember the most about Francis' final day was the amazing time I had with friends afterward. I hung out with Jay and then had a great conversation about family with his wife Kara immediately following the service. I had an even longer conversation about work and life in general with my friend Reggie after that. I met and socialized with several of Jay and Kara's friends after that while devouring a burger, fritos and an ice cream sandwich. I then spent some more time with Christina and her family and later spent some time with the Rich and Marlene Bebo - two of the first friends I made at Cornerstone. I spent a little time with my longtime friends Hal and Wendy after that. The three of us converged on Lisa and I got a really nice picture with her courtesy of Hal. I thanked Lisa for her gift of music and song and just being such a great example to me these past 18 or so years - she often led worship at my old church, Calvary back in the early-mid 90's. After the photo op, Hal, Wendy and I walked inside to give Francis one final goodbye. The only two words I could tell him were "thank you" just as my friend and former Cornerstone college group ("Axis") pastor Chuck Bomar did during his video message saying goodbye to Francis. I told him I was very excited to see where the Lord was going to take him and his family. The journey ended that day with me running into Francis and Lisa's beautiful daughter Rachel on the way out. I talked to her briefly, walked away and then walked back and took a nice picture of her and her good friend Sam.

At 3:45 pm, six hours after I had arrived, I started on that 24 mile, 30 minute journey back home to Thousand Oaks from that place in Simi Valley on Winifred that I've called home on most Sundays the past 12 years. Appropriately, the name of the first street that we pass on Winifred on the way to Cornerstone is called "Angela St."... As most of you know, "Angela" is a derivative form of "angel." I truly believe God has sent many of his angels and worked through them at the church to affect my life and countless others in a positive way for His kingdom. Cornerstone's been the place where God has worked through Francis, Lisa, the staff and the church body to reach me. I think that's what has kept me going all of these years. There are many other churches a lot closer to me, but none of them have moved me or motivated me to change myself and my focus like this church has. And for that, I'm eternally grateful! As long as that still is happening at Cornerstone, it won't matter who is giving the message. In other words, I won't be leaving anytime soon as long as God continues to work through Cornerstone to positively impact my life and keep me focused on Him.

As for the Chans, I know that we will still be in touch, especially since I'm good friends with Lisa's parents. Still though, I know things will never be the same. As I drove home that day, and have to admit I broke down and cried a little. I knew that starting the following Sunday, things would never be the same there. Indeed, it was going to be a "new reality" for all of us as our leader was no longer going to be there. Then again, I know our true leader has always been Jesus Christ and Francis always said he was just the vessel to deliver the message. It comforted me as he said that one more time on his final Sunday at Cornerstone.

A week ago, Todd Nighswonger preached for the first time as the Teaching Pastor and did a GREAT job! He shared a lot about himself which I think really made him seem more real to all of us. Francis was never afraid to share about himself, and I think that was a lot of his appeal. He also always spoke from the heart and was genuine and authentic. I even briefly talked to Todd in the lobby afterwards and told him how great a job I thought he did. I told him just to "keep it real" and make the message "about Him," and that the rest would take care of itself if he did that. As long as he preaches and gives "meaty" and convicting messages, I think Todd is going to do just fine at Cornerstone. Francis' best messages to me were ALWAYS the ones which were most convicting and which made me think about my own life and what I could do better to serve Him. I just hope and pray the messages continue to be "meaty" and convicting there as the we all adjust to our new reality at Cornerstone.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thank You, Coach Wooden

As a very young kid, I was fond of most of the sports teams in the City of Angels. My parents were both into sports, following the Dodgers even before they moved to L.A. from Brooklyn. In football, we all followed the perennial "win the division, lose to the Cowboys or Vikings in the playoffs" Los Angeles Rams. While I loved watching the Dodgers and Rams growing up, the end result - not winning the whole thing - was very frustrating!

My solace as a youngster was that the basketball teams which ruled our city (the Lakers and UCLA Bruins) were winners. My first sports memory as a kid was watching the Lakers team led by the late Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West win the NBA title in 1972. A couple of months earlier (but beyond my recollection), the UCLA Bruins men's basketball team won it's 6th consecutive championship. The next year, the great Bill Walton behind a ridiculous 21-for-22 shooting performance led UCLA to it's 7th straight title as they mauled Memphis State by an 87-66 score. To this day, I still remember being awed by Walton's performance and coach John Wooden's amazing achievement. I also remember what happened the next year, as the Bruins played Notre Dame, seemingly on their way to their 89th consecutive regular season win. Up 70-59 with 3 1/2 minutes to play, the Bruins would not score again, as the Fighting Irish ran off a 12-0 run to stun them, 71-70. It was the first time as a child I actually cried over something other than physical pain. Yes, at the ripe old age of 6 1/2, I was a Bruin fan... UCLA's streak of seven consecutive titles would also be snapped that year. The next year, 1975, the Bruins came back though to win their 10th title in 12 years, defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 92-85. It would be the last of coach Wooden's 620 wins as a coach.

What a way to go out, I thought. As I grew up, I read about and studied coach Wooden. Each year that went by, I grew to admire the person he was more and more. He was a man of discipline, principle and faith. He also had a love for his late wife Nell which was truly an AMAZING love! When I graduated from high school, I applied to exactly ONE college: UCLA. Yes, this was the only place I wanted to go school as I'd been a Bruin at heart thanks to coach Wooden since I could remember. When I got accepted, I was ecstatic!

When I graduated from UCLA in 1990, I was very proud because I had graduated from the same school that coach Wooden had truly put on the sports map. Who was my favorite basketball player growing up? It was Walton's teammate, Jamaal "Keith" Wilkes. "Silk," as Wilkes would later be nicknamed as a pro, along with his UCLA teammate, the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor), would team up ( with Earvin "Magic" Johnson) to lead the Lakers to three titles. Kareem won a total of five titles with the Lakers and also one as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The great thing about coach Wooden was that he was more than just a coach. He was simply an AMAZING human being! His two heroes growing up were Abe Lincoln and his father Joshua. Upon graduation from grammar school, his father gave him a seven point creed. This creed helped him model his life:

* Be true to yourself
* Make each day your masterpiece
* Help others
* Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible
* Make friendship a fine art
* Build a shelter against a rainy day
* Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day

Although I always believed in God growing up, I didn't attend church for the first time until two years after I graduated from UCLA. Coach Wooden's words of inspiration and his lifestyle were things I tried to emulate growing up. I'm thinking that maybe that's why I felt so "at home" the first time I actually attended church and accepted Christ into my heart in 1992. He was the one who planted the seed in my youth - it just took some time to harvest! Kind of like how it took him a while to actually become a GREAT coach! The morals, the integrity, the convictions and the positive outlook on life he preached remain ingrained in me to this day! Indeed, they've seen me through most of my life.

No, I never personally met the man, but the impact he had on me is unmatched by anyone other than my own family. What did I do last night and today? I talked to friends about how coach Wooden impacted me and served as a source of inspiration growing up. He was THE REASON I ended up at UCLA! Thanks coach Wooden for mentoring me, and teaching me how to live life the right way. In a world so devoid of role models, you TRULY were one! We should all thank the Lord that He allowed coach Wooden to spend over 99 years here on the earth. When he left our world about 6:45 pm last night, I do know two words he certainly heard from our maker before being reunited with his beloved Nell: "WELL DONE!"


Friday, June 4, 2010

What, Me Worry? NEVER!

I recently interviewed for a job at a financial services company in Calabasas. They preached that they were a "forward thinking" thinking company and while it seemed that most what they said supported this idea, the salary they were offering most definitely did not! $8.65 per hour plus commission - yes, that's a paltry $18,000 a year! When they made mention of this two hours into the three hour interview process, I knew this wasn't the right job for me. As I told a good friend and sister in Christ a few days later, "I'm not worried, I won't be out of work for long. I know in HIS timing, HE WILL provide me with the job HE wants me to be in." A wide and affirmative smile from her followed because she knew I was speaking from my heart and that I TRULY believed in what I was saying. God ALWAYS takes care of His children!

What I didn't know at that time was that God was going to answer this prayer so quickly. Those of you who are close to me already know what happened, but still it's a good story, so I will tell it here - I mean I haven't blogged in over two weeks, so this also will help fill the gap. Around 9:30 am the morning of May 20th, I got a phone call from a temp agency asking if I was interested in a job at Bank of America. Of all mornings to sleep in until 9 am, I picked this one! The night before, I have to admit I was a little on the down side. I had applied for approximately 20 jobs since my last day at the previous one on March 1st and after lots of early success in getting calls and feedback, I suddenly wasn't hearing from anyone. Getting back to things though, the recruiter needed an answer for me within an hour. I quickly got some caffeine in me and called him back 30 minutes later. And within three hours of his first call, I had a job! The pay was good, the hours (7:30-4:15 Monday through Friday) fit my school, gym and pilates schedule well, and the location was perfect - barely a mile from my home! As I've told several friends the past two weeks, it all just happened SO FAST! After spending almost three months detoxing from that last job, God knew that I was now ready to re-enter the workforce. His timing, as ALWAYS was perfect!

The next Sunday I went to my church, Cornerstone in Simi for the 9am service, then made my usual Trader Joe's run after that. And then at the urging of another friend, I went to Calvary Community for the 11:00 am service. Although the message given by the Pastor at Calvary about "Giving Up Control" out of James 4:11-17 was good (and a great improvement over what I'd previously heard there), the whole experience overall just didn't connect with me. When the Pastor used Erma Bombeck and Ray Charles to illustrate a point late in the service, my thought was "ok, these people were famous, but anyone under the age of 35-40 is probably going to have a very hard time relating to them or remembering who they were." Given that the membership of the church overall still seemed pretty young, using more contemporary and LIVING celebrities probably would have made for a better connection. Also, the worship honestly didn't click with me either.

What saved the day at Calvary though was what happened AFTER the service. I ran into a friend there from the Hub group who I gleefully informed of my newfound employment... and when she asked me where I worked and I told her "Bank of America right up the street," she said "you're going to love it there, my sister is a supervisor in that office. I'll put in a good word for you!" Needless to say, it was comforting to know I had a connection awaiting me at my new job.

So the next day, Monday, May 24, 2010, I officially returned to the workforce. As me and the 75 or so other new hires entered, the managers were all there to greet us, clapping, giving us high fives and cheering us on. It was an AMAZING welcome, not like anything I've seen before! Not soon thereafter, I noticed my friend's sister - the facial resemblance was a dead giveaway. On our morning break, I introduced myself to her. Little did I know that three days later, she'd become my supervisor! Over the course of that first week, God just kept on comforting me. The first day, one of my ex-coworkers from my previous job was there in the lobby along with me and the other new hires. The next day, I discovered my neighbor three doors down from me was also in the class. The day after that, on my afternoon break, I ran into a friend of mine who used to work for Countrywide insurance - she had recently been relocated to that building. This week, they relocated some of the Simi Valley employees into our office, including another ex-coworker friend of mine. What a blessing to have so many people who I know surrounding me!

So, I'm now two weeks into my new employment and LOVING it. The 1.1 mile commute through three signals typically takes me about 3 1/2 minutes. If all of the signals happen to be green, I can actually get to work in UNDER 2 minutes! In the worst-case scenario (beginning of the red cycle at all 3 signals), it's taken as long as 6 1/2 minutes to get there. My old 22 mile commute was usually 25-30 minutes going and 35-40 minutes coming back home, sometimes MUCH longer if there was an accident. Effectively, I'm spending 5 hours LESS a week on the road! Can you say free time???!!! The novelty of having a job so close to home has not worn off yet, and frankly, I don't EVER expect it to! I come home for lunch every day (I've even snuck home a couple of times on breaks), I check my email, I make phone calls to family and friends, and yes, I even sometimes make my famous Italian style Boboli pizzas!!!

The only downside to this whole thing is that I haven't been able to take any more private sessions at the pilates studio with Romina. I learned soooo much from her in the first eight sessions. After practically "living at the studio" the final weeks of my unemployment, she's probably wondering where I disappeared off to. Thankfully, my 8-5 training schedule is ending next Thursday, which means that I'll be working my "normal" 7:30-4:15 schedule and also be free to trade shifts if need be and hopefully get some privates in!

So yes, life is still very good. School is going well two weeks into the the new term at Cal Lutheran. My Lakers are in the finals again, and are three games away from making me happily eat some crow! Last Sunday was a very emotional day as we said farewell to our pastor, Francis Chan, at Cornerstone. I'll write a full blog about this over the weekend. The only word I can use to describe that last Sunday is EPIC! Because that's what it was... I love that man, his wife and their family. They're truly GREAT people, and more importantly, friends! I'm very excited to see where God leads this GREAT man and brother in Christ.

In closing, I also want to give thanks to the late, great coach John Wooden. He passed away at 99 tonight. He was even better human being in coach, and a fellow brother in Christ. His wish when he passed on to meet his maker was the same one most of us believers aspire to hear from our maker "Well Done!" Around 6:45 Pacific time tonight, I know he heard those words. He was the single biggest reason why I chose to get my undergraduate degree at UCLA as from the time I was a young kid, I was a fan of UCLA basketball. Rest in Peace, Coach Wooden, and thanks for EVERYTHING you gave down here!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2 For Tuesday...

Yes, it was another "2 For Tuesday" for me today... as in two pilates classes at Teague - a morning intro reformer class and then a private session in the afternoon, both with Romina, just like last Tuesday! After a month at the studio, I'm really noticing A LOT of positive effects! My balance is a lot better and I'm feeling more flexible than ever. I really noticed both of these things last night in my mat pilates class at 24 Hour Fitness. Our instructor, Linda, had us doing a lot of stuff requiring good balance. A month ago, I REALLY would have struggled with the moves we did, but last night they were almost effortless! I also noticed I can now stretch quite a ways beyond my toes with my hands - about two inches more than before. My abdominals are also feeling stronger than ever! Consequently, my weight workouts at the gym are also becoming increasingly effortless - I'm letting my breathing factor more and more into the exercises. Speaking of my breathing, it's also improved dramatically. My once overly dominant shoulders are no longer as controlling as they were before.

I guess my only regret now is that I didn't join a pilates studio sooner. The day I joined, my friend said I would "like it a lot." I think she was understating it! I'm absolutely loving it there!

Oh, and yes, I got that Accounting final all done and turned it tonight! Then went to the Olive Garden in Camarillo and had dinner with a good friend. Quite a fun day, I must say!


Monday, May 17, 2010

A Manic Monday...

So today turned out to be a little busier than planned, but it's all good! A pilates reformer class at the studio in the morning and a mat class at the gym 10 1/2 hours later. Sandwiched in between was a heck of a lot of working on my Advanced Accounting final. Thankfully, I got it just about all done! I also made time to watch the first half of the Lakers 128-107 romp over the Phoenix Suns in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center. I didn't see the second half because I was in said pilates class, but given how they played in the first half I was pretty confident they would prevail... and then after I got home, a couple of my friends needed some help with some stuff, so I took care of them too. I'm always glad to give my time to good friends when they're in need. I never expect anything in return, but it seems like whenever I do something nice for someone, it gets paid back twice over!

So tomorrow, things return a little more to "normal" - yes, I said that yesterday, but that didn't happen... I think it will tomorrow though! Hope you all had a GREAT Manic Monday! :)


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Busy, busy, busy...

I've had a VERY busy past few days in case you didn't know. It was a VERY fun three days though, I must admit. I'm not quite sure what the biggest highlight was yet, though I will say that I saw the movie "Letters To Juliet" today with a good friend and we absolutely LOVED it! This same friend and I also saw the extremely disappointing "Date Night" together a few weeks ago.

A new week starts tomorrow and things should be a little slower... which will make for longer blog entries! I hope you had a weekend as fun and fulfilling as mine was!


Friday, May 14, 2010

A Happy Friday!!!

No, I didn't get a new job today... rather, I just did a lot of things which I truly enjoy. I went to an intro reformer pilates class this morning at Teague, did an hour on the elliptical at 24 Hour Fitness in the early afternoon with a good friend, and then another great private at Teague this afternoon with Romina. The best thing though was that I got to talk to one of the owners (Cathie) of the studio after my private today - it turns out she and her husband are Christians! I had a great time talking to her for about 20 minutes mostly about God and the church! It just seems like lately God just keeps putting more and more fellow believers in my path - and that's a great thing!

Tonight I hung out with some fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from the Hub. A few of us hung out at Baja Fresh in Agoura Hills in the early evening, and then we had an Angel Thread Sorting night at Calvary Community in Westlake from 7-8pm. We played a little frisbee in the parking lot after that before heading to BJ's. Unfortunately, they had a long 40 minute wait for a table there, so a nice guy named Ken Hansen (and his wife) opened up their home to us. We had pizza, ice cream and cookies! It was a great time of fellowship with friends, both old and new!

Today was truly a blessing. When your focus is on Him, the days always seem special. Have a great weekend all!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Temporary Home...

... It's not where I belong.
Windows and rooms that I'm passing through.
This is just a stop, on the way to where I'm going.
I'm not afraid because I know
This is my Temporary Home.

Yes, I'm quoting a Carrie Underwood lyric, but not just any lyric. It's one with VERY deep meaning... it tells a story, or rather three little ones. Carrie first encounters a 6-year-old boy who's "a little too used to being alone." Later, she enounters a young mom with a young daughter who has "got nowhere to go." Both are going through some struggles, yet they see the bigger picture, sharing the notion that this indeed is just their "temporary home."

At the end of the song, Carrie encounters an:

Old man, hospital bed,
The room is filled with people he loves.
And he whispers don't cry for me,
I'll see you all someday.
He looks up and says, "I can see God's face."

When I hear this song, it really helps me to put this world and my life in perspective. When I leave this temporary home I'm currently residing in, I want to leave it without any regrets. I try to always do the right thing and treat people the way HE would want me to. I very much want to live life the way God wants me to. The promise held by this song and its lyrics really drives the point home. That last lyric in particular is VERY moving. When I see God's face I want to then hear the words "well done, good and faithful servant." That's ALL I want to hear! I hope and pray that I can live a life here on this earth which will ready me for my someday journey into the next world so that I can hear those words. I hope and pray you feel the same way.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Name is "Anonymous"

I love it when people read my blog and leave me comments. Many of you agree with my posts, while others disagree with them. And that's all good. If we all agreed with each other about everything, this world would be a pretty boring place - though much more peaceful! Being a fairly social person though, I like to know who it is that is posting comments. Many of you post from your own blog or profiles, and often times I actually end up reading your blogs or posts and start following!

From time to time though, I receive "anonymous" comments from people. While I welcome these comments, one thing I don't like about them is that they don't give me any opportunity to interact with that person. Also, I honestly think people who provide comments in this way are doing everyone a disservice. I mean if you have something to say, at least have the backbone to back it up! God wants us to be honest, truthful and as pure as we can be as people. By posting anonymously, the poster is giving everyone the impression that they are hiding something or they don't totally believe in what they are saying. This goes against everything that we are taught in the Bible.

So, going forward, I will be moderating all "anonymous" comments here. If you include a way for me to get in touch with you (i.e: e-mail address, a link to your own blog, etc.) I will publish your comments posted in this way. If not though, I will simply have to delete these posts.

Thank you for your understanding!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lakers Feeding Me Crow?

Two weeks ago, I wrote this little thing called a blog about Why my Lakers won't repeat as NBA Champions. The team looked in complete disarray as they lost Game 4 of their Western Conference first round series to the #8 seeded Oklahoma City Thunder by 21 points. The fire and hunger that were there last season seemed to be missing, and the "new ingredient," one Mr. Ron Artest, seemed to be doing more harm than good.

In the two and a half weeks since that blowout loss though, something has changed. The Lakers have played six straight games without a loss, including three on the road. Last night, they jumped out to a 22 point lead in the second quarter over the Utah Jazz in their Game four second round matchup and never looked back, coasting to a 111-96 win. The four game sweep was especially impressive when you consider that Andrew Bynum was all but absent for the second straight game - six points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. But Bynum's poor effort was more than made up for by the Lakers tag team of Kobe and Paul. #24 had his fourth straight 30+ point effort, scoring 32, while #16 tallied 33 points and 14 boards. Lamar Odom only scored 10 points, but he made some other contributions as the Lakers were a +30 points in his 25 1/2 minutes of action.

With their impressive win, and their swagger back, the Lakers now get a week to rest. That should give Bynum some time to heal as they prepare to take on the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference final. Game one of the best of seven series is at 6pm next Monday night at Staples Center. In the meantime, I may spend this week off buying myself some crow. Thankfully, this Lakers team seems to have found the "on" switch. I'd be VERY happy to chew on some of that crow in another month or so!



Monday, May 10, 2010

A Great Mother's Day!

Since I decided to spend pretty much the entire day yesterday at church and visiting with my family in Mira Loma, I didn't get much work done at all for my Finance class. I must say though that I am SO glad I went down there to celebrate Mother's Day after another outstanding service at Cornerstone. Sadly, Francis is only going be speaking two more Sundays there.

I truly had a GREAT time celebrating Mother's Day with my Mom and Grandma, along with my Aunt Lupe and Uncle Steve. My cousin Steve Jr., his wife Natalie and their beautiful daughter Skyler were there when I arrived a little after noon. I had a lot of fun with Skyler. She is so sweet and cute - truly a blessing! Later on, my other cousins Mandy and Scott arrived. Many made this absolutely AMAZING Italian dinner. I just had go back for seconds. I'm not much of a cook, but I think I just might need some of her recipes... all of it was just so good! Facebook pics to come! :)

Thankfully, I was able to finish up my two assignments for my Finance class this morning after pilates and now am getting ready to study for tonight's final. Hopefully it will go as well as the three take-home exams!


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

To each and every Mom I know, I want to wish you a VERY Happy Mother's Day! Personally, I'll be heading out to Mira Loma after the 9am service at Cornerstone to spend the day with my Mom, my now 92 year old Grandma, Aunt and some cousins to celebrate their special day. I hope you and yours are able to spend this Mother's Day with your Moms.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jesus IS Reality!

If you're a Christian and a music fiend like me, then you're probably familiar with the group the Newsboys and their hit song called "Reality" from the mid 90's. The chorus goes:

in reality
that comes from above
God is calling
there's no bigger love
It's his reality that welcomes us back
Trust and obey
there is no other way

Simple, and yet to the point. Effectively, it's saying that Jesus IS Reality! Although "Reality" has always been one of my favorite Christian songs, it very recently took on an even deeper meaning for me personally.

I've always believed everything happens for a reason and there's no such thing as a coincidence. God's weaving his intricate framework more than we will EVER understand! As many of you know, my Pastor, Francis Chan announced on April 18th that he will soon be leaving my church of nearly 12 years, Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley. Three days before that, I heard through a good friend about a church in L.A. called Reality. I checked out the website that same night and listened to their Pastor, Tim Chaddick on some podcasts. And I was simply blown away by the depth of Tim's messages and how well I was able to relate to him. His passion for the Lord actually reminded me a lot of how Francis spoke of him! I was so impressed by Tim's messages that I talked to Francis' wife, Lisa about him and Reality that same night Francis made his announcement. I asked her if she had heard of the church and Tim. She thought she had, but she said I should really ask Francis. Not coincidentally, the day after Francis' announcement, I noticed another good friend of mine was friends with Tim on facebook. My friend remarked "I've been wanting to check out Reality for a long time." Like me, he had heard Tim's podcasts and was blown away by the reality and depth of his messages.

The next Sunday after 9 a.m. service at Cornerstone, I had an opportunity to chat with Francis. Of course, I asked him about Reality and Pastor Tim. It turned out that not only did he know of Tim, but he was meeting with him, Britt Merrick of Reality Carpinteria, and several other pastors in San Francisco two days later! Another two days later, Britt and Francis shared lunch. In the days that followed, it became very clear to me just how much of a mutual admiration the two pastors had for one another. Two great men of God who truly walk by faith! Britt said in his BIG GOD page on facebook:

"Just had a wonderful lunch with Francis Chan who wrote the cover (and first) endorsement for BIG GOD. He is such a wonderful brother and man of God. His cover endorsement for BIG GOD was far too generous... I love this man."

The following Sunday, Francis spoke of Britt's 5-year old daughter Daisy and the story of her grapefruit-sized cancerous tumor. More importantly, he spoke of how genuine and authentic Britt's faith had been in the seven months since the cancerous tumor in his daughter was discovered. Francis quoted some of Britt's words to him about his faith in the Lord during the service, stating "I will love YOU! Regardless of what happens. I'll STILL love YOU!" Talk about an AMAZING faith!

Yesterday, Daisy went in for 3 1/2 hours of tests to see how the treatments had been working. A few hours later, Britt twittered this message:

"Got the news: There are no signs of cancer in Daisy's body!!! Thank you Jesus. Psalm 94:17." Talk about a blessing! PRAISE THE LORD!

JESUS IS REALITY. WE EXIST FOR THE GLORY OF HIS NAME. This is how the bottom of the Reality church website reads. I've already made mention of Tim's Reality L.A., and Britt's Reality Carpinteria campuses, but there are actually three other Reality churches in California - Ventura, Stockton and San Francisco. There's also one in London. One of the great things about Reality is that you can listen to all of the sermons online. Simply go to iTunes and download them for free! This church has a vision, one which all of Christians can learn from and hopefully model to others. I've been truly been blessed these past few weeks in learning about this amazing church and look forward to learning more about the Reality family of churches in the weeks to come!



Friday, May 7, 2010

Why I'm a Carrie Underwood Fan

As I watched CMT this afternoon, I got to see the World Premiere of Carrie Underwood's video for her new single, "Undo It." I then reflected back on this "Carnival Ride" I've been on these past five plus years with her. After a rough 2004, I was looking for someone or something I could believe in as year changed to 2005. Yes, I still had my faith in God, but something in me longed for someone to root for here on Earth.

So during the auditions for season four of American Idol, I see this cute little blonde girl From Checotah, Oklahoma, with faded jeans and a pink top wearing the number "14887." Then I start hearing her rendition of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Her vocal range simply AMAZED me! That song is one of the hardest ones for anyone to sing and she was FLAWLESS! But that wasn't all. I found out she was a fellow Christian and had very good morals and values. But she also was a little shy. I knew that if she was going to go anywhere, she was going to become more confident and break out of that shell. I hoped and prayed that she would make it past the auditions and that she would gain self-confidence... Thankfully, both of those things happened, and she made it into the top 24!

If you're an Idol fan, you know making the top 24 is a great accomplishment. This season, another cute blonde with a great voice, Janell Wheeler made the top 24. I was so impressed by her version of Estelle's "American Boy" in the auditions, that I felt compelled to do something I hadn't done since season four - vote! I really thought Janell was going to be the next Carrie! Janell sang Heart's "What About Love?" and despite me voting all two hours, she was the first one eliminated this season.

Thankfully, Carrie didn't have the same fate as Janell... her week one song was a cover of Tiffany's "Could've Been." Perhaps not the song one would have picked for her, but she absolutely nailed it... to the point where I actually felt compelled to vote!!! And so after the show I voted five times for her.

Each week, I'd vote five more times than the previous week. So, I voted 15 times for Carrie the week they cut the field down from 16 to the final 12. Two weeks later, on March 22, 2005, Carrie would have her defining moment on Idol. She sang a rendition of Heart's "Alone" which simply blew the judges away. Simon Cowell stated "Not only you will win this show but you will sell more records than any other previous Idol winner." A pretty bold statement, especially considering how well season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" album was doing at the time - that album would spawn five straight top five singles, including three which reached #1 on the U.S. pop chart. "Breakaway" went on to sell over six million copies in the U.S.

Getting back to season four of Idol, Carrie continued to impress and kept breezing through. As the field was pared to five, I was now up to 50 votes for Carrie. Over time it became more and more who was #1 in Carrie's life. Yes, she loved her family and friends very much, but she made it very clear that God was the #1 person in her life. When I voted for Carrie, I felt like I was doing what God wanted me to do. She was not only a great singer, but a sister in Christ.

As the season drew to a close, my mindset became not one of just supporting Carrie, but giving her 100% of my efforts! I was going to do whatever I could to help her win! The next three weeks, I spent all two hours of the time the phones were open voting for Carrie. During those three weeks, I voted a total of over 2,100 times! Yes, that's 700 times a week. Ironically, my second favorite contestant that season was a guy named Bo Bice. And wouldn't you know it, not only would Bo make it to the final show along with Carrie, but he also became very good friends with her.

I still remember that final week as if it were yesterday. The phone lines opened up at 9 pm, and I voted until 1 am the next morning. In four hours, I managed to get through 1,418 times! Yes, I wanted Carrie to win BAD! My fingers were sore for the next two days afterward! On May 25, 2005, Carrie was crowned the American Idol season four champion. I jumped in the air and yelled at the top of my lungs "YES!" and then I cried many tears of joy. I'm a huge sports fan as many of you know, but this was better than any championship by my Lakers, Angels or Dodgers where I just watched passively and cheered. With Carrie, it was different because I had given my time and participated in helping her win. The 10 hours I spent voting those four weeks were not at all wasted, rather they were an investment in a sister in Christ who I knew could make a positive difference in the world.

Like everyone else, I wondered what would happen to Carrie after Idol. Deep inside, I knew she would be successful and I wasn't afraid to tell anyone that. I even got ridiculed on the ESPN fantasy baseball boards about my support for her by one person in particular. Like Rolling Stone magazine and their infamous "0 star" review of the video for Carrie's first single and their complete omission of reviewing her first album, he eventually proved to be an EPIC FAIL about Carrie. I only hoped that she would stay true to herself and keep her focus on God.

The afternoon of October 18, 2005 is one that I'll never forget. I was listening to a Tim McGraw song called "My Old Friend" on the now defunct Country station KZLA 93.9 here in the City of Angels. The next song was going to be the new Carrie Underwood single, and it was entitled "Jesus, Take The Wheel." The title of the song alone made me ecstatic. A genuine woman of faith, willing to put it all on the line for Him. Many thought she was taking a huge risk, others such as myself knew better. Sure enough, this song of hope and faith was a HUGE hit, making an unheard of debut at #39 on the Country chart in its first week of release and climbing to #1 for six weeks. It even rose to the top five of the Christian Pop and AC charts. The song would go on to earn the Gospel Music Association’s award for best country single of the year. Not only did Carrie have a huge hit song, but she had a hit song about Jesus which raised the spiritual awareness of our nation! What a blessing!

In the years following the amazing success of "Jesus, Take The Wheel," Carrie has won tons of other major awards. 66 major ones to be exact including 10 Academy of Country Music awards, five American Music awards, five Country Music Association awards, four CMT awards, and five Grammy awards. With each every one of the awards Carrie's accepted she's always thanked GOD first - before her family, friends, fans and anyone else. This has never changed!

Over these five years, God has continued to bless her musical career. Carrie's first album, "Some Hearts" sold seven million copies here in the U.S., breaking Kelly Clarkson's record for an Idol, and making Mr. Cowell a prophet of sorts. Her follow-up "Carnival Ride" has sold nearly four million copies, and her current "Play On" release is nearing double platinum. Her first 11 singles released to Country radio have hit #1 (Wikipedia is wrong) on one of the major Country airplay charts (Mediabase or Billboard), including her latest, "Temporary Home." Like "Jesus, Take The Wheel," it's another song about faith and how our lives here on earth are just temporary. Our greater life is in the heavens above with our Lord.

As many of you also know, Carrie is engaged to hockey player, Mike Fisher. In a recent article in the Christian Post, Carrie talks about how her fiancé has actually helped improve her walk with God. At her last awards show, the ACM's, Carrie once again proclaimed her faith in Jesus Christ as her savior stating "I thank God for country music. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for my family." It's so awesome that Carrie can be so bold and up front about her faith in God. All of us Christians can learn from Carrie's example and try to emulate her boldness. In this society of so few role models, it's nice to know that there are few still out there.

Thank you, God for Carrie Underwood!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Our National Day of Prayer

As many of you know, today is our National Day of Prayer. Pray for our nation, our leaders, the world, your family, friends, acquaintances and even those you don't know. Be in a mindset of prayer all day long! Praise our Lord that we are able to freely pray in this country. Many places in the world persecute Christians and those who believe in God. NEVER take this precious gift for granted!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Although today is supposed to be a celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the day has much more personal meaning. May 5th happens to be my Grandma's 92nd birthday... and also my friends Pam & Rick are celebrating their 9th wedding anniversary!!! So to Grandma, a VERY happy birthday... and to Pam & Rick, I pray that God continues to bless your marriage and family on this special day and ALWAYS!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Praying for Nashville

As most of you know, Nashville and the surrounding areas in Tennessee have been hit by severe flooding. Nearly 14 inches of rain fell in just two short days! To date, 29 people have lost their lives in Nashville and the surrounding cities due to the flooding.

As someone who has friends in the city and who has been there each of the past three Junes for CMA Fest activities, this tragedy REALLY hits home. Seeing places that I've visited multiple times such as the Grand Ole Opryhouse, the Country Music Hall of Fame and LP Field (where the Tennessee Titans also play football) has made my heart ache!

Needless to say, this tragedy has made me want to step up and help. If you go to this website you can put a sticker on your facebook profile as I've done and also donate.

Please keep the people in Nashville and the surrounding areas in your thoughts and prayers.


Monday, May 3, 2010

McIlroy Finally Gets His Phil!

When you're one stroke off the lead going into the final round of a golf tournament and shoot a 4-under-par 68 in very windy conditions to close things out as the great Phil Mickelson did yesterday at Quail Hollow, you wouldn't expect to end up FOUR strokes behind the winner as he did. "Lefty" sank a 40-footer for a birdie on 13, then birdied 14 to get within a stroke of 20 year-old Rory McIlroy. His hopes quickly sank when he walked down the 15th fairway when the kid eagled the 15th hole to push the margin back to three. McIlroy would go on to birdie 16 and 18 en route to a scorching 30 on the back nine and total of only 62 strokes.

Mickelson's performance was good enough to beat everyone but the youngster. The three-time Masters champion is on such a roll now that he could take over the #1 spot in the world rankings for the first time ever with a strong performance at the Players Championship this week.

The win for McIlroy was a VERY popular and much anticipated one. Indeed, many have proclaimed him the player who is going to be the tour's next big star. McIlroy barely made the 1-over par cut on Friday, and then absolutely torched the course on the weekend as he shot a 6-under par 66 on Saturday to get into contention. Yes, he was 16 UNDER PAR on the weekend! Does that remind you of someone? Look out Tiger and Phil... here comes Rory! And the timing on this win is perfect as Tuesday is the youngster's 21st birthday. Congratulations Rory on the first of what we all expect to be a career full of wins and majors!


Sunday, May 2, 2010


As the days of Francis Chan pastoring at Cornerstone Community Church in Simi come closer to their end, I find myself cherishing my Sundays more and more each week. I know something truly wonderful is coming to a close. The Lord has worked through Francis and his wife Lisa Chan to minister to me and so many others over the past almost 12 years I've attended. Today was no exception. Actually, it turned out to be one of my most memorable Sunday mornings EVER!

I arrived to church a little early today. I ended up sitting right behind my friend Jerry, his wife and lovely daughter, Faith. As I got into the worship, I raised my hands to exalt the Lord. Faith then started smiling at me. And then she did the AMAZING - she started raising HER HANDS to the Lord! It was truly a special moment! And it happened in ALL of the songs we sung both before and after the message!

Francis spoke from the book of Luke this morning, specifically the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:1-18. The bottom line is that many people know of or hear the word of the Lord, but for one reason or another fall away. In Luke 8:15, it's stated "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain the word, and by persevering produce a crop. Those truly walking with Him don't let anything in the world deter them from their walk."

Francis brilliantly used the example of Reality Carpinteria pastor Britt Merrick to illustrate the above. Britt's five year-old daughter Daisy was diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized, cancerous tumor this past September after a fall. As one would expect, this tragedy caused Britt and his wife Kate to do a lot of soul searching. Yet through it all, they have remained steadfast in their faith. Britt stated to Him that "I will love YOU! Regardless of what happens. I'll STILL love YOU!" Britt is truly a man of God. From listening to Francis' words this morning and seeing Britt's Twitters this week, there's definitely a huge mutual appreciation between them. What great men of God they both are! I look forward to purchasing and reading his book, Big God. The foreward is written by none other than my pastor, Francis Chan.

After the message, we saw SEVEN people proclaim their faith for the Lord and get baptized! Awesome stuff! After service, I chatted a little more with Jerry and his wife. I then had some deep conversation with my good friend, Jay Pierson after service. I look at Jay and I see another man of God who is truly walking with Him. No, he's not perfect (none of us are), but I know he truly tries to walk the walk. Friends like Jay definitely help keep me focused on Him. And that's a true blessing! Like Britt, Jay walks with the Lord and doesn't let anything deter him from that walk. I am blessed not only to call Jay a friend, but more importantly, a true brother in Him!

Blessings to you this Sunday and ALWAYS!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lakers Play On, Tiger:EPIC Fail

And yes, that's a Carrie Underwood reference for those of you paying attention to the first part of today's title... If nothing else, the Oklahoma City Thunder got the attention of the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Not only did the Thunder split the first four games of the best-of-seven series, but they outscored the Lakers by an average of four points a game in doing so. The embarrassing 21 point Game four loss definitely got the Lakers attention. They came back to post an impressive 24 point win at Staples Center on Wednesday night.

Last night, the Lakers controlled the tempo and the game for all but a few minutes. They took a 53-47 lead into halftime and stretched it to 91-84 with 5:09 to play. The Thunder would not go quietly though. Their raucous, 112 decibel-loud crowd urged them to a 10-0 run over the next 2:39. With Two and a half minutes to play, it looked like the Thunder might very well force a game seven.

But it wasn't meant to be for the Thunder. Kobe hit a tough 20 foot jumper from the left side, bringing the Lakers to within a point with 2:11 to play. The teams would alternate several missed shots over the next two minutes. Kobe rebounded a Russell Westbrook miss with 17 seconds to play. You knew who was taking the final shot... or so we thought. Kobe took a tough, fall away 13 footer from the right side of the key with just under two seconds to play. The shot was a touch long. Fortunately for the Lakers, Pau Gasol was there to grab the rebound and lay it in with just 1/2 a second to play to give the Lakers a 95-94 lead! Westbrook's desperation trey from the right baseline as time expired was well short. The Lakers had escaped! Pau only scored 9 points, but he had the two most important ones to go with his 18 boards. Kobe - well all he did was pour in another 32 to go with seven boards. With their 4-2 round one series win, the Lakers now have a date with the Utah Jazz in round two. Game one is at 12:30 tomorrow afternoon at Staples. Go Lakers!

As for the other sports news of the day. Well, in case you didn't hear, Tiger Woods not only missed the cut in the golf tournament at Quail Hollow... he had what could only be termed an EPIC fail of an effort! The world's #1 player shot a 79 in his second tournament back from his self imposed leave from the tour to get his life in order. It was pretty sad to see. Very obviously, his focus is just not there at the moment. Contrast that with the play of 2010 Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who is at six under par after a second round 68 despite battling a nasty infection. Lefty's only two off the lead held by Billy Mayfair at the mid-point of the tourney. For Tiger, it's only his 6th missed cut in 241 career tournaments.


Friday, April 30, 2010

When God Sends His Angels...

I'm a firm believer that God is always putting people into our lives to help direct us and get us through. He puts these Angels into our lives to help grow us and make us better people. If we're listening, we also end up growing closer to Him as a result. Sometimes, it seems like these people are sent in bunches, while other times you just keep plodding along with the people He's already put into your life.

When I look back at the past couple of years, I have to admit that, for the most part, my walk was not been the best with Him. I would have times where I felt encouraged, and He did keep putting great new people into my life to help me focus on Him. Four months ago, I could finally feel the Lord working on my heart. He was slowly transforming me, and He was mostly working through the people He had recently put into my life to help do this.

Over the past almost two years, I can think of five people who God has placed into my life who have had a profound impact. The saying "people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime" resonates with me, because it so applies with me. One of those people He put into my life was definitely for a season - a 10 month season. She's no longer part of my life, but I'm thankful for the time He had her in my life as she's the one more than anyone else who knew there was life beyond work for me. Not to mention she also was the one who planted the seed into my head about going back to school. We shared lots of laughs and thoughts many a lunch hour. I think I helped her too though as I was ALWAYS encouraging her... she also admired my passion for working out and pilates.

Another of these friends I haven't seen in over two months now. She's another ex-employee friend of mine. You talk about a great encourager! Although we didn't see each other all that often, the times we did spend together at work were amazing! From fun times and laughter to VERY deep and personal conversations. It was the whole spectrum! We still keep in touch via mutual friends (she's not a computer person at all). Hopefully one of these days soon our paths will cross again.

Those two Angels were put into my path the second half of 2008. In part two, I'll talk about the special people He put into my path last year.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

School, School & Some Pilates

Yes, that's my Monday-Friday life these days. Well, not really but it just seems that way and it's quite alright with me! I'm very much enjoying my time as a student at Cal Lutheran University. In another three weeks I'll be 3/8 of the way to getting my Accounting degree! This term, my Finance class is going well, despite it being a lot of work. My Advanced Accounting is actually going a little easier than the Intermediate Accounting did. For the summer term, I'll be taking three classes, though one is only two units. My midweek nights will be booked though as the classes are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

One of these days I'll hopefully not have a Thursday night class so I can make it to Trissa's pilates class at 24 Hour Fitness. Before school started this past August, I was one of her most consistent students. Next term will mark the FOURTH straight one I've had a Thursday night class at CLU. Bummer, I know. That said, I'm not being starved at all these days in the pilates department. Tomorrow will mark the fifth straight day I've had either a class at 24 Hour with Linda or a private session with Romina at the GREAT Teague Pilates studio I just joined. If you have any interest in pilates, I strongly recommend you check Teague out! You'll be glad you did!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Lake Show RETURNS!

Just when I thought it was safe to write off my Lakers, out of nowhere came perhaps their best overall game of the season. The "Lake Show" jumped out to a 10-0 lead and never looked back as they took on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of their best-of-7 series last night at Staples Center. They built their lead to 31-16 after the first quarter and 55-34 at halftime. The Lakers needed to make a statement after their embarassing Game 4 loss and they more than certainly did in that first half!

Just how dominant were the Lakers in the first half? They shot a stratospheric 65%, while holding the Thunder to an abysmal 26%! Yes, that's crazy dominance! The Lakers continued to keep the pedal to the metal in the third quarter, pushing the lead to as many as 32 points. The fourth quarter was all "garbage time" as the late, great Chick Hearn would say and they cruised to a 111-87 win to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

More important than the win, is that it looked like the Lakers may have gotten that swagger of theirs back. The much-maligned Ron Artest looked like he escaped the "Bermuda Triangle" for the first time in quite a while last night. Maybe he's doing some cramming so that he can finally fit into coach Phil Jackson's complicated offensive scheme. Game 6 of the series is in Oklahoma City on Friday night. Go Lakers!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why My Lakers Won't Repeat

Flash back ONE YEAR.... After finishing the 2008-2009 season with a 65-17 record, I was very confident that my Los Angeles Lakers were going to win the NBA title. Kobe Bryant had that look in his eyes - yes that look - the one which he had when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors during the 2006 season. Pau Gasol also had that look... Lamar Odom had that look... as did this young guy out of UCLA named Trevor Ariza. The whole team had that look!!! Indeed, these Lakers were playing with a chip on their shoulders after what happened against the Boston Celtics in the 2008 Finals. AND They had the complicated Triangle Offense of the Zenmaster, Phil Jackson, mastered! How confident was I that they were going to win the title? Well, I didn't even watch their clinching Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. Rather, I took in the CMA Fest in Nashville, while following the details of the game on my cellphone. During an intermission in the concert, I happened to catch the post-game celebration. I still remember the jubilation of Kobe hugging Pau... and D-Fish thanking the Lord for another ring... it was epic!

Now flash back to TODAY... During off season, there were rumors that the Lakers were interested in Ron Artest... yes, THAT Ron Artest! The one who infamously went into the stands one time going after a fan and getting suspended an ENTIRE SEASON as a result. My initial thought was this: he's simply not disciplined enough to fit in the Triangle Offense... In fact, he might not pick up on it AT ALL! Sure enough the rumor was a true one as Artest became a Laker and Ariza ended up in Houston. The 2009-2010 season started well enough for the Lakers record-wise, as they won 28 of their first 34 games... though that was a little deceptive as only 11 of those games were on the road. The rest of the way, the "Lake Show" went 29 and 19. Not a horrible record, by any means, but still not what you would expect from them. Although there were moments where the team looked in sync, there were many more where they appeared out of sync.

The above leads me to the main reason the Lakers won't repeat: Ron Artest STILL doesn't understand the Triangle Offense! You watch the Lakers play, and it seems like half the time he has no idea what he's doing out there. When in doubt, he tends to throw up an ill-advised trey with 15 seconds left on the clock. Although his on court behavior has overall been good this year, I can't say his head has been into the games. Indeed, my worst fears about Artest have been realized. Unless coach Jackson switches his role with Odom's, I'm afraid the Lakers simply don't have a chance at repeating. Look at what happened in Game 4 in Oklahoma City this past Saturday. The Lakers not only lost to the #8 seeded Thunder, they were EMBARRASSED by a 110-89 count! Game five of the best of seven series is 7:30 tonight at Staples Center. It's VERY conceivable, the Lakers could lose tonight's game. Even if they happen to get past the Thunder, I don't see the Lakers winning it all. The Nuggets look hungry. The Magic and Cavaliers look REALLY hungry! The Lakers don't look hungry. I really think Artest's apathy has affected the whole team, including Coach Jackson.

I'm now really looking ahead to football season to see if my New Orleans Saints can do what my Lakers aren't going to do: REPEAT!!!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Gym Etiquette 101

Being someone who has been interested in physical fitness pretty much my entire adult life, I've almost always been a member of a gym or fitness center since I graduated from college at UCLA. People such as myself work out to keep their body in shape and also for how we tend to feel afterward. Working out and sweating helps make the brain release endorphins or "feel good" hormones.

Public fitness centers such as 24 Hour Fitness require their members to adhere to some basic rules of etiquette. Now what caused me to be inspired to discuss this topic? Well, it was the simple breaking of many of the basic rules of gym etiquette which I recently have seen occuring at my gym. Some of these will seem obvious, others you'll probably be surprised I have to even bring up.

1) Bring a Gym Towel
Yes, this is an obvious one, but you would be amazed by how many people actually don't bring a towel into the gym with them. It takes me about seven minutes from the time I start on the elliptical before I'm sweating. And believe me, I sweat A LOT! Be courteous to all of the other members by bringing a towel and wiping off the equipment you've just sweated all over!

2) Adhere to the "5 Minute Rule"
Have you ever been to the gym and you see one person spending 15 minutes or more on a piece of equipment? Yes, it's rude and it's selfish for someone to "machine hog!" In today's busy, fast-paced world, people often only have a short amount of time to get their workout in. Be courteous and limit your time to five minutes on any one piece of equipment, making sure you wipe it clean of your sweat when you're done.

3) Never INSIST on Working In with Someone
Has this ever happened to you? You jump on a piece of equipment and not five seconds later, you get asked by someone if they can work in with you. As someone with a very long, small-waisted, flexible body type, the settings I use are different than about 99% of the members. As a result, I'm typically going to spend 30 seconds or more making sure I've got the equipment set up correctly for me. Consequently, having someone work in can be more than a little of an inconvenience. A minute or two isn't long to wait. Be patient and you will get your turn.

4) Don't Abandon Your Piece of Equipment
You would be amazed at how often I run into this one. You want to work on a piece of equipment and someone's towel is just sitting on it. A minute goes by, two minutes, soon it's FIVE and the towel is STILL there! Or how about this one which I encountered this past week. I was just about to jump on a leg curl machine when out of nowhere this guy zooms in on me and says "I need to do my final set!" I was actually ON THE appartus when he rudely interrupted me. If you're going to step away from a piece of equipment for a minute, at least have the common courtesy to leave a towel or a water bottle on the piece of equipment so that others know it's in use. At the same time, don't leave the towel there for more than a minute unattended as really you're hogging the piece of equipment when you do so!!!

5) Don't Be Mean
A few weeks ago, I inhaled my water wrong while on the elliptical and as a result, I lightly coughed a few times. A woman three machines to the left of me asked me "are you ok?" To which I said, "I'm ok, I just inhaled some water wrong." A week later, the same thing happens to me again and a guy on the machine next to me on the right yells so that EVERYONE in the gym can hear him say "THAT WAS RUDE!" I wasn't sick and I didn't cough in his direction... I simply had some water go down the wrong pipe. Not being a confrontational person, I pretended to ignore him. Two minutes later, when a machine became available in the row in front of me, I bolted for it!

6) Trash Belongs in the TRASH CAN!
I'm not sure what is so difficult about this concept, but for whatever reason, it's a HUGE problem at my gym!!! Whenever I go to use the urinal in the men's restroom, invariably there are several pieces of gum sitting at the bottom of it! Yes, that's EXTREMELY gross! I really don't understand why you spit your gum there. It's just as easy to spit it into the trash can!

7) Wear GYM Appropriate Clothing

I've been going to my local 24 Hour Fitness center for about 2 1/2 years now, and there's this one woman who every day I see her is wearing a striped, blue and white collared shirt! Yes, she wears this SAME collared shirt every time I see her at the gym! I've also seen plenty of people work out in their blue jeans or other non gym appropriate clothing. Get a couple of pairs of sweats and t-shirts at the very least!

8) Watch Your Mouth

Light grunting is perfectly ok, swearing is not. You're in mixed company and have no idea what may offend someone. Using obscenities or God's name in vain in the gym is NEVER ok. Once again, practice common courtesy!

9) Re-rack Your Weights
Have you ever gone to use a piece of equipment only to see 200 pounds of weight left on it from the last person who used it? This very thing just happened to me last week. Nothing like having to spend an extra minute+ removing two 45's and two 10's to get the lateral arm extension down to the 90 pounds that I wanted on it. Once again, it's a courtesy thing.

10) NEVER Use TWO Machines at Once
You would be surprised how often I actually see this one at my gym. Typically, it's the men that do this. They will be on one piece of equipment, jump to another piece of equipment while leaving their towel or water there, and then come back to the original piece of equipment. Yes, they're effectively using two machines at the same time! If you're doing this type of workout, you really don't belong at a public gym.

The gym is meant to be a place where you have a positive experience both mentally and physically. Practicing the above 10 rules will assure that it's like this for you and the other faithful gym patrons!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's been ONE WEEK...

... since you looked at me... No, I'm going to sing the rest of that song by the Canadian band, The Barenaked Ladies... But it's a very appropriate song title for what I have to say. One week ago today, my Pastor of nearly 12 years, Francis Chan, announced he was going to be leaving my church, Cornerstone Community in Simi Valley. Francis planted Cornerstone 16 years ago. About 20 seconds into his message last Sunday, I knew what he was leading to... and sure enough, about three minutes later, he made the announcement. Seeing how Pastor Chan has seemed so distracted most of the past year, the announcement really didn't come as a huge surprise to me. I talked to him, his lovely wife Lisa, and my good friend Jay after the service. The impact they and so many others from Cornerstone have had on my life has been overwhelming.

So what do I do next? Francis said he's feeling led to plant a church in L.A., though he's not 100% sure that's where the Lord is leading him yet. If he goes there, I may very well follow, even if that means doubling my current 30 minute commute to an hour. I may stay at Cornerstone as I have a lot of friends there who I know I can go to anytime when I need to talk about something important or need prayer. Or I may go elsewhere. I really don't know right now, though I am leaning toward following Francis and family to L.A. if that's where they end up. All I know are two things: 1) I will support Francis, Lisa and their family in whatever they do & 2) I will continue to pray about the future and where God wants me to be for church...

God bless you this Sunday and always!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Name Is Inigo Montoya...

... You Killed My Father... Prepare To Die! If you're a movie fan AT ALL, then you know this line is from the 1987 movie "The Princess Bride." It's one of those films that you can watch over and over again. The humor in it is so memorable that many lines and quotes come right off the top of people's heads. "Inconceivable"... "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I found those two sitting on my facebook page this morning after posting the famous "My Name is Inigo Montoya Prepare to Die" as my status. Yes, I watched it for the umpteenth time with a couple of good friends last night. It's good old fashioned, CLEAN humor. A movie you can watch with anyone - family, friends, children - and know that no one is going to be offended.

Very recently, I saw a movie with a friend called "Date Night" which looked like it was going to be fun and humorous (like "The Princess Bride") from the previews. However, the movie turned out to be a very poorly-written film full of sexual refences, innuendos and lots of vulgar language. While there were a few bright spots, inevitably they were all but ruined within about 30 seconds by the use of said references, innuendos and language. I really wanted my $9 back from Muvico! More than once, I was so offended that I felt like walking out of the theater. Thankfully, the film was only an hour and 28 minutes long. In summary, "Date Night" looked to me like a paper you threw together at the very last minute for a school project while you were drinking with some crude friends.

The moral of the story is when in doubt go with good old fashioned clean humor. It's a lot more fun, creative and memorable than the trite and hackneyed innuendos, language and references. MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA... YOU KILLED MY FATHER... PREPARE TO DIE!!! :)


Friday, April 23, 2010

Thank GOD it's Friday!

I haven't even had my requisite first cup of coffee yet, but my brain is already going a mile a minute... when we say "Thank God it's Friday" do we really mean what we say? I'd be willing to think that most of us don't. Like so many other common expressions today, it has very much lost its meaning. Do you actually thank God about it being Friday after HE has gotten you through your stressful week? If not, you may want to find another favorite expression or you can do what I like to do - say a short little prayer actually thanking God for the day! Happy Friday, ALL!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You Gotta Have FAITH!

No, I'm not talking about the George Michael song from many many years ago, but rather I'm talking about our personal faith. In this world, most of us are slaves to something. We're slaves to money, possessions, jobs, addictions, and so many other things. This brings me to a question: why do we let things control us? I'm going to hazard a guess and say maybe we're focused on the wrong things. Can money bring you happiness? No. Can things make you happy? I don't think so.

Nearly two months ago, I was released from my employer of over 18 years. I made a very good salary, received good medical benefits and had many good friends there. Heck, they were even paying for my continuing education at Cal Lutheran University. On the surface there was a lot to like. You would think that given all of that, losing my job might have really gotten me down. On the contrary, it's probably been the best thing that EVER happened to me!

Why do I say this? Well, the place I used to work had a very NEGATIVE work environment. Negative reinforcement was preached and practiced and it absolutely killed the morale there. Being a very positive person, this kind of environment and I were just not a good match. By the end of the often nine+ hour workday, I was physically and mentally exhausted. The 25-30 minute drive there and a 30-35 minute drive back home were also draining as we have people in this state who believe the right lane is a passing lane and it's their right to do 80+ MPH in it! And while going to the gym and doing an hour on the elliptical, the weight machines or in a mat pilates class helped me deal with that stress, it didn't resolve the inherent issues. Effectively, I was a SLAVE to my job!!!

As last year progressed, I could see myself falling downward in a spiral. I focused less on God and stressed more and more on things. Then, my self-confidence started to wane. If you know me at all, you do know that I'm usually very confident in my abilities... By September, I was an absolute basket case! I was trying to juggle school, the gym, and a 45 hour a week super stressful job while trying to spend time with family and friends. Can you say EPIC FAIL?? So what happened as a result? Friendships suffered, I missed commitments, I asked for extensions or changes on school projects, and I was feeling less and less like my normal positive-minded self. My sleep pattern had become ridiculous, varying between two and 11 hours of sleep depending on how I was feeling. There were even three "all-nighters" where I got NO SLEEP at all! Yes, the list was VERY long and it was just all bad! Sadly, I also almost stopped going to my church... I was still so drained from my Monday-Friday on Sunday mornings, that I often just wanted to hit the snooze button 20 times!

Toward the end of last year, I started to realize that I needed to do something different. Although I was somehow maintaining a 3.2 GPA and getting to the gym six times a week, there wasn't much else positive to say about how I was living. I was praying a little, but not nearly enough. I feel into some VERY bad habits. To make a long story short, I decided to go to my church the Sunday before Christmas after missing three straight weeks... the normal 11am service. So as I drive past Angela St. on Winifred, I notice there just weren't very many cars on the road... Strange, I thought. As I got closer to the parking lot, I could tell something was up as it was nearly empty! As me and about five other cars drive by the church, we see these little signs saying "ALL CHURCH SERVICE AT ROYAL HIGH SCHOOL at 10am." I was crushed! I REALLY needed to have my pastor speak to me. I REALLY needed to get some wisdom and encouragement from my friends there. Instead, all I got was nearly an hour of a wasted 50 mile roundtrip to the east end of Simi Valley from the west end of Thousand Oaks. Sadly, I was THAT out of the loop with my church and church body! As my cousin Scott would say "NO BUENO!" All I could think to myself was "this can't happen again... I REALLY need to get my focus back on HIM!"

So the next Sunday, the last one of last year, I finally made it back to my church. My pastor was there. A couple of valued friends were there. And I felt a peace. A comfort. A reassurance. A feeling that God was going to answer some things I had been praying about a lot. And HE did... the next night, He restored a valued friendship which had been torn apart mostly thanks to what I was dealing with at work... I started reconnecting with long, lost friends (mostly on facebook). As 2010 arrived, I just felt like there were going to be a lot of good changes happening in my life...

Fast forward to today. Not to boast or anything, but we're near the end of April, and I have managed to make it to my church EVERY Sunday this year! As I get further and further away from the thing that brought me so much stress, I've been getting closer and closer to God and also my friends. I'm also sleeping better than I have in a VERY long time. My family and friends all have remarked about me being so full of joy all of the time these days. And I really can't help it, because I'm truly happy and enjoying life. I see a friend in need posting a message on facebook and I can pray for them almost instantly. I can text or call my friends almost anytime to check on them... Heck, I can even drive over to visit some of them now too! Last week, I shared about the Lord to several different friends. I've even been listening to the sermons of other pastors online... As I told a good friend this weekend, I feel like God is finally working through me again to make a difference in this crazy world we live in... and that's a feeling not money, a job or anything else can buy!!! Thank you, Lord!!!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The numbers say Phil needs Tiger...

It's been quite a while since I posted a blog here, so thanks to all of you who have missed my blogging and/or left comments. After watching Phil Mickelson win his third Masters title this past Sunday, (and a BIG congratulations go out to you, Phil!) I felt inspired to blog again.

As those who follow the game closely know, "Lefty's" play had been very lackluster ever since winning the TOUR Championship last September. His finishes over that time: 19,45,8,24,14,30 and 35. Certainly not the type of play you would expect to preceed a major title. All of this got me to thinking about the last time Phil's play was lackluster - the latter part of the 2008 season into early 2009. Not coincidentally (in my opinion), the missing ingredient or common denominator was a certain man named Woods. Check out some numbers I just threw together on Phil on his PGA Tour play since the beginning of the 2008 season. By my count, "Lefty" has played 45 competitive PGA Tour events over that time. In 27 of those tournaments, Tiger was also in the field.

With Tiger in the field (27 tournaments):
Wins: 5 (18.5%)
Top 5's: 10 (37.0%)
Top 10's: 12 (44.4%)
Top 30's: 21 (77.8%)
Median: 14.5

Without Tiger in the field (18 tournaments):
Wins: 1 (5.6%) - note, win was the week prior to Tiger's last return
Top 5's: 3 (16.7%)
Top 10's: 5 (27.8%)
Top 30's: 12 (66.7%)
Median: 19.0

Pretty striking, isn't it? Phil was 3 1/3 times more likely to win with Tiger in the field than not! He was also 2 2/3 times more likely top have a top five finish with Tiger in the field. Given his often "go for broke" style of play, it's not too surprising that when he's out of contention, the "Tiger effect" isn't nearly as pronounced for Phil as shown by the median finishes of 14.5 with Tiger in the field vs. 19.0 without the world's #1 player amongst the competitors.

The bottom line based on the numbers of the past two plus years is that Tiger seems to inspire Phil's play. When Phil is near the top of the leaderboard, he's a MUCH better and more focused player and much more likely to place in the top 5 and/or win!