I realize that being busted by mom and dad is an ongoing thing with children.
But I thought this one needed to be shared.

A couple weeks ago, we were skyping with my parents to give the kids some "papa and gama" time. After talking for a while, we realized that our two kids had not only been out of our field of vision...but were not making any noise.

Yes. We panicked.

Fortunately they were only in the kitchen.

Unfortunately...they'd found the brown sugar.


winner of best decorated house for christmas

"Do you want to put up lights on the house this year?"
"Well, we should put something up."


i don't want to hear that at christmas!

As part of my job at Salem Alliance Church, I design graphics and publications for various ministries and for Sunday morning services.

Recently my lead pastor passed along a sermon title that he needed a title slide for. The name of the sermon..."A War in a Manger". His text was Revelation 12 where John writes down a vision of what's happening in heaven surrounding the birth of Jesus. Fascinating stuff.

Here's a snippet...

"A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days...

Pretty cool stuff!

So I worked on a title slide and submitted it to my online Flickr group where I get immediate feedback on graphic projects. Here's my slide...

war in a manger02

And here's the first person's feedback..

"my biggest problem is the title. "war in a manger" freaks me out, and it's not what i want to hear at Christmas (and i'm not even a fan of Christmas)... ...yeah, you may need to hit the drawing board for a new concept. see if you can get a new title from leadership as well. i promise, this one won't go over at all. "


You don't want to hear that Jesus fought for you? You don't want to hear that there was an all-out war on your behalf? You'd rather stay in Hallmark card land where everything smells of french vanilla and overcompensation?

If we're picking sides, I'm on the team that NEEDS to hear this message. I need my idea of the Christmas story stretched from time to time. I need the comfortable plastic manger scene to be replaced by a scene that more closely resembles "Star Wars". I need that.

Don't you?

P.S. If you want to hear the sermon, click this link to download it


friends and big towers

I found myself with a weekend off from leading worship. So we decided to take a trip up to Tacoma, WA to spend some time with dear friends of ours. Justin and Melissa Morris have been friends of ours for a LONG time.

Kara and Melissa were roommates in college and teammates on the basketball team. Melissa said she actually met me before she met Kara, but I was a "snob" then. Let's be honest Mel, I was a big deal. A BIG deal.

When Justin later moved out from Nebraska to take the Junior High Pastor job at RCF, Kara and I both had an underlying motive to hook Melissa and Justin up. Apparently, so did God. Cuz' they hooked up.

Now we all live in the Pacific Northwest (aka, Promised Land). And our times together are special and too short.

Enjoy the pics.


brown update

Kara turned 30!
Yep, we're the same age for the next couple weeks. And you'd be proud to know that Kara took turning 3o in total stride. Plus she's hot.

She woke up to balloons, streamers and a birthday breakfast with a "3" and "0" candle sticking out of the linguica sausage. The van was decorated with non-distracting white window paint. The kids and I gave her a one-hour body massage, which was fine until after the massage when she had to come home and I had to go to work...and it was as if the massage never happened. Such is the life of a stay-at-home mom.

Sam is walking!
And our lives of watching both kids in the same room is over...

She still continues to balance herself with her arms which resembles very closely the chicken dance. Gone are the days of slow transportation down the hallway. Onward to quick exits and fast getaways.

She's also catching on the fact that she can run away from mom and dad if they catch her holding something she's not supposed to. Yep...gone are the days...

Caleb talks while he dances!
His sentence structure is incredible. I'm no longer searching for one recognizable word in his sentences to understand him. He's actually communicating. Some of our favorites..."Dadda gonna go pee pee", "Sissy (Sam) goin night night", "daddy gonna drive car" and "Al down!"

The last one is a command to our dog Ally, who the kids have lazily renamed "Al". THE DOG IS A GIRL!!

He's at such a fun stage of learning ABC's and 123's (Jackson 5). I'm so impressed with Kara as a teacher. Every day I come home to something new that Caleb has learned. And Kara's comprehension of numbers, letters, and colors has soared above all expectations.

Hee hee.

"Dadda gonna be in trouble".


hot off the press

I've just recently begun doing freelance graphic design. It has become a side passion of mine.

I was approached by a pastor at my church who was finishing up a 2 1/2 year book writing journey, and wanted me to design her cover for her.

And here it is.

Email me if you have any graphic design needs.


forgot this one

I forgot to post these pics of the kids hanging out with Grandpa and Grandma Santos back in October (sorry Dad and Karen). Kara and the kids took a trip up I-5 to see them in Washington, and their first stop was a real live steam locomotive that was being rebuilt.

Kara thought Caleb's head was going to explode with "choo-choo" excitement.

that's my boy

Yeah, he knows he peed his pants.

So do you.

But who's gonna be the first to laugh? Huh?

Not me...


ny trip - day three and beyond

Sorry to leave all you people hanging like the Star Wars Trilogy.

Ready for the Readers Digest version?

Beginning of the Rekindle the Flame conference. The first two sessions left a lot to be desired. I began to wonder why God brought us here. What I thought would be a conference that filled me up started off like a masters degree course that was emptying me of all hope.

Then the night session started...

We learned about "listening prayer", asking the Holy Spirit for direction in praying for people, and following his whispers. Totally new mindset for me. Then we got to practice it. Imagine that...putting movement to scripture.

Maybe this conference won't be a forgotten memory.

Started with hot Starbucks. This day had to be good.

We joined Nyack College for their morning chapel service. Totally brought back memories of leading worship at Simpson College for our chapels. Except...and don't take this the wrong way...but we had no culture back at Simpson. For that matter, we had no culture in all of Redding. There were 5 African Americans in my entire high school.

Sitting in the chapel service, I looked around at the melting pot. And I smiled as I heard voices other than the sound of Caucasian conversations. I miss that. I miss the energy and passion that African American people bring to a worship service. And their voices together in that jam-packed gymnasium filled me up.

Then the speaker got up and spoke on prejudices. Ha! Love it. Once again, we put feet to our faith and were asked to pray with someone of a different culture than us. I found a guy named Hakeem and we prayed together for unity, asked forgiveness for pre-judging, and declared God's heart for each other.

A couple of us took a trip to Hobokan, NJ to seek out a bakery that is featured on the TLC show "Cake Boss". After the GPS took us to the wrong place (operator error), we finally found the promised land. While we were there, we saw the guy who plays Cipher in the Matrix movies.

Day 4 was good.

Last day of the conference. Started off with a bang.

We heard from a professor at the seminary on prayer and spiritual warfare. The most eye-opening thing was that we have been given the authority to push back the darkness in our world. Jesus has the power...and we the authority. That better change the way I pray or nothing will.

Half of the team went home today. I would have been happy to go home with 'em. But I had chosen to go home on Saturday. So I was "stuck" in NY City, checking out Central Park, getting dizzy looking up at the Empire State Building, and eating at Thunder Jackson's Urban Roadhouse for the second time this week.

What? They've got the Dirty Burger. Don't judge me.

Heard from my wife that Sam was throwing up...for the fourth time...and I wanted to be home.

After we checked out the Staten Island Ferry and the huge bronze "Charging Bull" on Wall St., we headed off for the airport. I was pretty homesick at this point.

Got home at 10:00 that night and rejoined life with my wife and kids.

I want them to go with me next time.


ny trip - day two

Our first full day in the city that never sleeps. Greg and I got up at the butt crack of dawn (officially 5am) and drove to pickup our coworker Becky from the Newark airport. Keep in mind we went to bed at 2am. For you math majors = 3 hours of completely useless non-REM sleep.

Thanks be to my Lord and Savior for the creation of caffeine.

We drove into Manhattan and visited the original church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. I grew up in the CMA. My dad was a CMA pastor. I went to a CMA college. I now work at a CMA church. It was pretty sweet to see our roots and to see how a small passion in the heart of a brash and bold preacher grew to literally change our world. The church is now a pizzeria.

So instead of a sermon, we received the ministry of pizza.

We split up into 2 groups after that and one went to the Ground Zero Museum. A-maz-ing. Pictures and artifacts from the rescue and recovery operation after the towers fell. CHILLS ON THE BACK OF YOUR NECK ALERT: There was a clock that was located underneath the towers that stopped when tower one fell and it still reads the exact time (right down to the seconds).

Then we visited Ground Zero where they are finally starting to build the memorial building. We visited St. Paul's Chapel which was directly next to the towers and served as a safe place/cafeteria/sleeping quarters/counseling room for the rescue workers. To see how people came together after 9-11, how they loved on each other, how this church served as heaven's outpost...makes me proud.

The rest of the night was spent eating dinner, walking to Rockefeller Center (we didn't see anybody famous), walking to Grand Central Station, and back to Time Square.


1. Don't eat at HB Burgers if you go to New York. I don't usually call for an all out boycott of businesses, but not only did our server walk by our empty drinks all night, but he FORGOT MY STINKING RANCH!

2. I got a whole new respect for the pandemonium that must have ensued after the plains hit the towers. People were everywhere. And you add a terrorist attack to the mix...

3. I love driving in New York City. I honked twice tonight, almost hit 4 pedestrians, tailgated a taxi cab, cut in front of 4 cars to change lanes (without using my blinker), got back to our hotel without the use of a GPS system, and did it all while humming "Bohemian Rhapsody" to myself.


ny trip - day one

I'm writing from my hotel room in the beautiful state of New York. A couple families in our church blessed the entire church staff by sending us all to the "Rekindle the Flame" conference at Nyack College in Nyack, NY.

But the conference isn't until Tuesday. So until then, we be tourists.

Here are my thoughts from our first day in New York.

1. Spend the money and rent the GPS. I'm pretty darn good with directions but this place is nuts. There is no North, south, east or west here. It's a black hole for instinct and "This looks familiar".

2. You could eat all night in New York City. We walked around looking for a place to sit down and eat dinner. We passed bar after cafe after grill after diner...and our problem was not that there was a shortage of places, but the exact opposite. Don't worry about dinner. The restaurant will find you.

3. Don't stare at Times Square too long. The gi-normous tv screens that stretch from concrete to sky light up the streets like it's day time. I found myself overstimulated and wanting to find a dark corner to suck my thumb. My eyes hurt like they do when you watch too much TV and you can't blink. That kinda hurt.

4. Bring the ones you love with you to New York. My wife and kids couldn't be with me on this trip since it's staff only. And I miss them. Like a fat kid misses cake.

Day 2 is tomorrow.

Bring it on.



Last Sunday, Kara went to pick Sam up from the church nursery.

Her eyes were red from crying.

"Why?", you ask.

Cuz she's a Binkie-Stealer! That's why. She steals other baby's binkies (a.k.a. "pacifiers").

Nobody likes it when their binkie gets rudely pulled from their mouths. So the victim in this case thought a fair retaliation was to BITE Sam's hand.

I feel no pity for my daughter. The punishment fit the crime. I would have bitten her hand too.

Call me cold. Call me shallow. But do NOT call me a "Binkie-Stealer".

Don't forget this...

My wife picked up our daughter.

"I wanna keep this moment forever."

As you wish...


ever wonder what kind of parents you're kids are gonna be?

Yeah. I do.

This gives me some hope.

Samaria's Day

It's official. We no longer have babies in the house.

Sam turned one.

Even though I personally think they should count the time in the womb when considering birthdays, which means that she would have turned one last December sometime. Makes sense in my head.

But in your country, she turned one.

Let the onslaught of photos begin.

Tutu making some frosting...

...and sharing it with the birthday girl.

Have you seen the tv show "Ace of Cakes"?
This is nothing like that.

"I want to help, too. As long as I get to lick the spatula."

Proud Mama.

We had the party at the Riverfront Carousel (a fully-operational indoor carousel). The costumes ranged from a giraffe to Yemen garb (right).

Aunt Mel holding on tight.

Uncle Justin and Caleb.

Corrie and the girls came up for the party.

Our friend Erica Martin came with her son, Eli (the giraffey-looking little cutie).

Looking at them this close, they don't actually look appetizing. They look alive.

Parties wipe him out...

...and the birthday girl had a good time too.

Thank you to all the family and friends that made Sam's first birthday special.

And to all the ladybugs that sacrificed their lives for our cupcakes.

Happy Birthday Sam-a-bama. Mama and Dada love you.