Monday, December 17, 2007

Train Wreck in Hollister! Dozens Injured!

Yes, you read that right, ladies and gentlemen. A train wreck, right here in quaint little Hollister. It happened at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollister where Calvary Chapel Hollister Fellowship was having its annual Christmas Potluck Dinner. I'm sorry to say that the entire congregation of the Hollister Fellowship was involved in this unfortunate accident, and, though the survivors might say otherwise, they will bear scars that will last them a lifetime.

You see, as the bass player for the worship team, I was asked last night by the worship leader to help play a song I had never played before as part of the worship service preceding the potluck dinner. Our alloted practice time, zero.

Against my better judgement, I agreed.

What followed was unmitigated disaster of the highest order. Had last night's events been recorded on video, the period of time during which this particular song was being played would have been marked by a slow pan of the camera across the room, with Barber's "Adagio for Strings" playing in the background as church members reached up to cover their ears in slow motion, twisted expressions of agony on their tortured faces...

OK, it wasn't quite that bad, but it was bad enough that, halfway through, I had to stop playing because I was so far off.

Thankfully, the second song was one with which I am so familiar that I could almost certainly play it in my sleep. It still wasn't great, as I hadn't had any time to warm up my chops, but it was certainly better than the first one.

It was certainly a lesson learned, for my worship leader if for no one else. Never let Sergio play without at least one dry run.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

On Children in Love with the Lord

As I sat in church on Wednesday night (yes, I'm posting this a few days late, sue me), singing to the Lord in praise; at one point, I opened my eyes and looked over at my pastor's daughter. She was lifting her hands up in praise as she sang, totally lost in her love for our Lord. It was a beautiful thing to witness. I'm ashamed to admit that, for a brief moment, I envied her father. If it is beautiful to me to see a child lost in her love for the Lord, how much more beautiful of a sight must it be for her father?

I want that. I want it so bad it hurts. Adding to my distress is the possibility that a family may not be what the Lord wants for me. I honestly have no indication that that is the case, other than the fact that I'm 31 years old and single. But as I now find myself at a point in my life where I am seeking to know His will for me, with every intention of carrying it out, well, it's a possibility I must now consider.

Friday, December 14, 2007

On Dancing, Spandex, and Bitterness

So I'm at this party (no story which begins in such a manner can end well). Said party is being thrown by a Hispanic couple with lots of Hispanic friends. The music for said party is primarily cumbia, with some salsa and merengue thrown in for flavor (unpleasant tasting though it may be). Someone asks me if I want to dance. My polite response?

"No thank you, I'm not much of a dancer." Now, that's what I said. What I thought was, "Two things, sweetie. One, I do not dance (if my ex-wife tells you different, I assure you she can't prove anything). Two, if I did dance, it would most assuredly not be to this crap."

I had to pretend to like this stuff two months ago when I DJ'd pretty much this exact same party. I have no such requirements being imposed upon my taste tonight. I can sulk quietly in the corner if I so choose.

Parties seem to turn me into a judgemental jerk. I find myself looking at people and making snap judgements about them:
  • You! Spandex is a priviledge, not a right.
  • You! The sooner you quit snapping your fingers while you dance, the sooner I can stop feeling embarrassed on your behalf, ya spaz.
  • And you! You're hot, but stop freaking on your sister! Seriously, that's just plain gross.

Yeah. I can be a jerk sometimes. Like when I'm pretty much the only person at the party who's not having any fun.

I really felt the loneliness tonight. I mean, of course I've been conscious of the fact that I have no social life whatsoever since I moved back out here, but tonight I really felt it. As I sat alone at that party, all I could think about was how I really needed a Ben and/or a Crystal to commiserate with, or a Dan and/or a Dave to mock a few party-goers with, and then go home and jam with.

But, for now, at least, my work is here. And theirs is there. And alone I shall remain, sulking quietly in the corner. For now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Going Kinetic

I'm a pretty poor excuse for a writer, aren't I? The words don't flow like they should. I'm like a river caught up by a dam. The force of all that water is there, but it's all potential energy. There's a wall holding me back, keeping the potential from becoming kinetic. And isn't that what it's all about? Being kinetic, I mean. Flowing from point A to point B like the purest form of energy. Communicating thoughts like a landslide, an unstoppable torrent of thought.

But here I sit, like soil too dry, too dense with foliage to go anywhere. The inclination is there, but the earth won't flow. It's all just potential. Potential like a thousand pound weight suspended over my head, just waiting to become kinetic so it can convert the matter that is my brain into energy. Energy that turns a blank page into a repository of knowledge and information, useless though it may be. The font of useless knowledge, that's me. Glad to know you.

And who are you? Just another stop on the way to nowhere in this landslide that is my life. Just waiting for the rain to fall so it can start. But the rain won't come, so here I am. All potential, no kinetic.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Opportunist

Luke 4:13 - "When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time."

And that's really what the devil's all about, isn't it? He's nothing but an opportunist, with all the negative connotations that word entails. Like the disease-ridden mosquito that waits for the opportune moment to strike, to steal away your life blood, small, almost imperceptible amounts at a time, so is the enemy. He lurks, never putting himself at risk, watching, waiting until an opportunity presents itself, and then he strikes.

But I place my hope in the Lord God Almighty. I will not fear. I will be wise to the devil's workings, but I will not fear him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On marriage

I've been giving a great deal of thought lately to the institution of marriage. A lot of things are to blame for this... My own fairly recent divorce and my subsequent longing for companionship chief among them. This has been long overdue, though. After a year of deftly avoiding the emotional fallout of the end of my marriage, it's time to figure out what lessons were learned, cowboy up and take the pain, and then move on.

I have shined the aforementioned light of Christ into my life, and it has thrown my various shortcomings into sharp relief. With a painful clarity, I can look back on my life and see all the stupid things I've ever done to mess it up. It's a good thing, though. Acknowledging one's shortcomings is the first step toward eliminating them (which, perhaps, is why I've quit smoking and lost 40 pounds in the last two months).

There seems to be a great deal of discussion (and frequently, controversy) over the role of a woman in a marriage. But what I've heard very little of is discussion over the man's role in a marriage. Marriage is, after all, a two way street. So many people seem to be concerned over what the Bible says about wives without giving equal weight to what it says about husbands:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
(Eph 5:25-31 NASB)

We are to love our wives as Christ loves the church. As Greg Laurie says, that's a tall order. Think of the suffering that Christ endured because of his love for us. We are to love our wives like that.

It is with a great deal of regret that I look back on my life with Sunny and I know that I didn't love her like that. Don't get me wrong, I cherished her, and loved her more than life itself, but how can I say with a straight face that I loved her as Christ loves the church? I should have taken care of her, I should have protected her, I should have made her feel like she would always be safe in my arms, but I didn't. My failings as a husband are now abundantly clear to me. But that's what the light is for, isn't it?

I need time. Time to grow as a person, and more importantly, to grow in Christ. The Lord is working in me, and I know He has a plan for me. Whether that plan includes another marriage, well, I guess I'll find out. I do long for someone to share my life with. I harbor dreams of a future filled with love, happiness, and children. In those dreams, the woman's face never quite comes into focus. Whoever she is, I hope she knows that as long as I draw breath, I will take care of her, I will protect her, I will hold her in my arms and never let her go. I will love her as Christ loves the church, and we will be one flesh.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Link with the Past

A few days ago I drove down to San Diego with my church. The San Diego Natural History Museum was displaying the Dead Sea Scrolls, for what appears to be the last time outside of Israel. I had to take the opportunity to see them before they were gone for good.

On top of that, it was really an outstanding opportunity for fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I developed much closer relationships with some very faithful Christians, and that can only be a good thing. I also had a couple of good talks with Pastor Fred about my walk with the Lord. Overall, it was an incredibly enlightening couple of days.

To be honest, though I was very interested in seeing the scrolls, I thought I would be approaching this in an almost academic sense. It was a chance to see how the people who wrote them lived, and what they believed. The theologist in me was excited.

But I was unprepared for the emotional impact that the exhibit would have on me.

The way the exhibit was organized, we first walked through a gallery of photos of the Holy Land. Next to each photo was information documenting the subject of each photo. I learned quite a bit about Israel this way. Then the exhibit turned to scale models of Qumran, and replicas of the jars the scrolls were found in. There was a full size replica of the tents that the people who excavated Qumran lived in as they worked in the desert. And then there were videos documenting the preservation efforts of the scrolls.

This is where I started losing it.

Just seeing them on video was overwhelming. I was almost dreading seeing the scrolls in person. I'd probably fall to my knees and start blubbering like a baby.

But I bravely soldiered on and moved to the next portion of the exhibit. This part was beyond cool. The area where the scrolls themselves were on display was down in the basement of the museum. The entrance to the area was a replica of the cave the scrolls were found in. Like I said, beyond cool.

Walking past the entrance, we entered the gallery where the scrolls themselves were on display. Only I didn't see them yet. First, more information on the lives of the people that we believe wrote the scrolls. They were a highly orthodox sect of Jews that segregated themselves from the mainstream Jewish population. I got to see how they lived. I saw some of their personal belongings. Their combs, their phylacteries, their cups and plates, and even their money. The upswell of emotion was growing within me. These were people who literally gave up everything they owned, and everything they were, to fellowship with the Lord. They devoted their lives to Him. I almost felt a certain kinship with them.

And then I saw the first scroll. It was an awesome sight. The parchment was brown, cracked, very damaged, but the writing on it was as clear as if it had been written yesterday. I think that's what really got me. These words were being written down on this paper when my Lord and Saviour was walking the earth in human form, I thought. What an amazing thought. The people that wrote these scrolls wrote them under the same skies that saw our Lord Jesus Christ die on the cross. Wow. What else can you say to that? Just, wow.

The whole experience was faith affirming. I'm reminded that, during the time in my life when I was not living as a Christian, one of my "arguments" against Christianity was that the Bible had been translated so many times that it was unlikely that it still said the same things it used to say. Kind of like when you play "telephone" at a party when you're a kid. The message is always wrong when it gets to the other end of the line.

And here are these documents, written 2000 years ago, long before the Bible was translated into anything other than its original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. And they say exactly the same things. The Word of God. Unchanging and eternal. Praise the Lord.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Light of the World (thoughts on John 9)

The Lord may put us into situations in which we may display His power and His glory. We were created for His glory.

When we walk in Christ, we do not stumble. Jesus is the Light. Only through Him can we know the way. The Pharisees were blind because they walked in darkness.

The presence of light reveals the condition of one's eyes. We cannot know that we are blind if we walk in total darkness. In much the same way, the presence of the Lord reveals the condition of one's soul. We must use the glorious spiritual Light of God to continually check ourselves. In the Light, we can no longer cloak our sin. (John 3:19-21)

"Whereas I was blind, now I see." The blind man's testimony is simple, straightforward, and to the point. There is no embellishment. It gives all the glory and credit to God. His past is irrelevant. No focus is given to how much of a sinner he was. Only that before he walked in spiritual darkness, and now he walks in spiritual light. What a powerful statement. This, truly, is the message.

The Pharisees ask the man repeatedly how it was that he came to see. He tells the Pharisees, "I have told you already, and ye did not hear." They did not hear because, though the spiritual light had been shined onto them, they remained blind to the truth. The condition of their souls had been revealed.

"Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" This, ultimately, is the question. It is the question that leads us to salvation in the grace of the Lord. The man's answer points to his eagerness to seek God: "Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?" We must seek God with this same eagerness. "Lord, I believe."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A little dust on the bottle, revisited

A couple of days ago, my dad and I stopped by our friend's house, in whose garage the primary fermentation of the grapes is taking place. By that time, they had already been fermenting for about four days. The smell was pungent, but it brought back a lot of memories from when my dad made wine when I was little. It smells, well, it sorta smells like rotten grapes. But I happen to like it. The vat was warm to the touch. About 74 degrees Fahrenheit, according to our infra-red thermometer. The grapes themselves were a tad warmer. I guess the yeast feeding on the grapes is an exothermic reaction. That is, it releases heat energy. I took some photos. They're not great quality, as I took them with my phone, but you can sort of see what the crushed grapes look like about halfway through the primary fermentation process: Here's a shot of the grapes just sitting in the vat. The whole mixture is beginning to take on the dark purple color that most people would recognize as the color of wine. The juice itself is really weird looking. It's surprisingly opaque, and it's almost a lavender color. You can actually hear the juice in the vat bubbling as the fermentation takes place. The bar sticking out of the muck is a metal bar we use to aerate the mixture. We just sort of push it in and out, reaching all the way to the bottom, in order to make sure that the bottom most grapes in the vat are getting their fair share of oxygen. This has to be done several times a day. It's weird, when you break the surface of the grapes with the rod, and some of the juice bubbles up to the surface, it's bubbling so fiercely it almost looks like it's boiling.
Here's a shot of our friend aerating the mixture with the metal bar.

It's been a pretty interesting experience so far, and I'm quite looking forward to the next few steps of the process.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ah, cruel irony.

I've been making the heavy punching bag the central part of my workout for a few weeks now. I started out using speedbag gloves, because the only other gloves I had available were full on boxing gloves that were impossible to put on by myself. I used said speedbag gloves for two weeks with no problems, but decided a little extra protection couldn't hurt. So I picked up some heavy bag gloves. They were great, but I was still having some issues with my wrists buckling when I started hitting really hard (turns out I have weak wrists... Who knew?). So, again, I decided a little extra protection couldn't hurt. I started taping my wrists and hands under the gloves. So now, using the most protection I've used in weeks, I somehow managed to hurt my left wrist on the bag today. What's that all about?

Monday, October 8, 2007

A little dust on the bottle...

I got to try my hand at winemaking today. My dad's been making his own wine since as far back as I can remember, and he now wants to pass his knowledge on to me. I have to say, he excels at it. His wine is better than probably 80 or 90% of the stuff on the market. Of course, I'm not a wine expert, but my brothers are, and they seem to like it as well.

But I digress. If I'm going to learn winemaking from anyone, it's going to be my dad.

Today was the harvest. We spent most of the day out in the field harvesting ripe bunches of grapes from the vines in our friend's backyard. We harvested just over a thousand pounds of grapes. We then brought those bunches over to the crusher. You see, the first step in winemaking (other than the harvest, of course) is to crush the grapes and let the big vats of juice, grape flesh, skin, and stems ferment for ten days. That's called primary fermentation. That's what we did today. Now we monitor the primary fermentation for ten days, allowing just the right amount of fermentation to take place, making adjustments as necessary.

In ten days, we press the grapes and filter out the skins and stems. That's when you end up with something that looks a little more like wine, but it won't be wine yet. Once we press them, it's time for the secondary fermentation.

More on this topic in ten days or so.

Until the next post,

Sunday, October 7, 2007

On wolves and unbelievers

Tonight my pastor was discussing, among other things, witnessing for the Lord. He made an analogy that really got to me. You see, I'm an animal lover. Put anything in terms of animals, and I get it.

Like most any other Christian, I feel a calling to witness to unbelievers. I love my fellow man, and I don't want any of them to spend eternity seperated from God. But hey, I'm busy, right? I got lots of stuff to do, and most of them probably don't even want to hear it. I'll get around to witnessing. You know, someday.

But tonight Pastor Fred made an analogy about how Eskimos used to hunt for wolves (wolf lovers and those with weak stomachs, you may want to stop reading now). You see, they suspend a razor sharp knife in a container of blood. They let the blood freeze around the knife. When it's frozen, they leave it out. Some unsuspecting wolf comes along and thinks, hey, a bloodsicle! Must be my lucky day! So they get to licking. Of course, their tongue gets numb from licking the frozen blood, and they don't even notice when they get to the razor sharp blade, and they eventually bleed to death.

Now, I'm not saying anything bad about Eskimos here. When you live in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet, you find ways to survive. But yikes. The thought of a wolf thinking he's getting a yummy treat, only it's secretly killing him and he doesn't know it, man, that's just depressing. Things like that cut me to the core. I can't stand to see an animal suffer. I can't even stand to think about animals suffering.

So, all the wolf knows is that he's enjoying his treat, but he's really dying and he doesn't know it. It makes me wish I could be there and warn him. Hey, that bloodsicle is a trap! Run! Run away! Don't lick it! And then I got it. People are living their worldly lives, enjoying their treats, but they're dying and they don't know it. For the wages of sin is death. They think they're just enjoying the pleasures of the flesh, but they're dying and they don't know it. How can we as believers just stand by and let them die, when we have the power to do something about it? It can be as simple as talking to a co-worker, or a friend, or a relative. You don't have to stand on a street corner with a sandwich board, ringing a bell. But chances are, if you're a believer, you know someone that isn't saved, and you might be the one that can save them.

If you're dying, know that all you have to do is accept the gift God has given you. He's holding it in His outstretched hand. All you have to do is accept it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The way is hard

Up until a few weeks ago, I was a lukewarm Christian at best. I loved the Lord, but I wasn't living like a Christian should. I wasn't reading my Bible regularly, I wasn't studying it, I prayed once every few days at best, and usually only when I needed something. But, through a combination of events, Christ has grabbed me by the lapels and told me, in no uncertain terms, that my days of passive belief are over.

Perhaps some backstory is in order.

I came to know the Lord when I was in the third grade. That was the year I started attending a private Christian school in San Juan Capistrano. I spent the next four years driving my jaded, cynical father crazy. We argued about creation, the divinity of Christ, and who knows what else. At one point, when I was in the fourth grade, he even called my school to complain about what they were teaching me. It was a Christian school. What did he expect?

The day he called, I remember coming back in from recess and seeing the principal waiting for me. Now, I was a Christian, and I was a good kid, but trouble tended to follow me, so this wasn't the first time the principal had been waiting for me to return from recess. It usually wasn't anything good.

But this time, he walked up to me, with a look of respect and admiration on his face, and he reached out and shook my hand. He told me he'd had a conversation with my father. He congratulated me for fighting the good fight, for keeping the faith, for being a soldier of the Lord.

It's a moment I'll never forget.

Sadly, by the time I entered the eighth grade, my parents could no longer afford the private school, and I started attending public schools. Surrounded by drugs, alcohol, and with no church to go to (I was the only believer in my family, after all), I started to backslide. By the time I was in high school, I was a self declared agnostic, and I was a punk. I was lost.

It was in high school that I met my future wife (now my ex). She had had a strict religious upbringing, and was rebelling against it. That was one of the things on which we bonded. We laughed at the stupid Christians, believing in their magic sky pixie.

I continued living like that until I was about twenty, when, through a close friend (thank you, Mitchell, wherever you are), I again found my faith.

Though I had rediscovered my faith, I remained lukewarm, paying lip service to the Lord. I talked the talk, but I didn't walk the walk. Things got better when I found a church in Michigan that welcomed me in whole-heartedly, with open arms and with open hearts (Delta Community Christian Church, I'll love you guys forever). But I still wasn't the Christian I should have been.

I've since moved away from that church, and some of my friends were concerned I might begin to slide again. They were right to be concerned. But it was when I moved back to California that something amazing happened. It was like a switch got flipped. I felt the Lord calling me. I felt Him at work inside me. Don't you leave me, Sergio Di Martino, he said. I felt a fire inside. I felt, and still feel, the Holy Spirit burning inside me. The Lord directed me to a new church. They have welcomed me with open arms, and with open hearts. I feel the Spirit at work there, like I did at DCCC. And He moves me. I wish to commune with Him daily. I wish to know Him more. I wish to be with Him at every moment. I wish to walk with Him always.

The way is hard. The devil works against me at every turn. He tries to keep me from getting out of bed in the morning when it's time for the morning watch. He keeps me so busy that it's hard to find time to study the Bible. He tries to fill my heart with anger and with evil, that he may push me away from the Lord.

The way is hard, but that just makes me more committed. I will walk with the Lord always, and nothing, not even the devil himself, will ever seperate me from Him again.

Until the next post,

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Migrating from Myspace

I've had my blog on Myspace for a while now, but their blogging service is feeble compared to Blogspot's. I justified leaving it there because of the social networking aspect, but it occurs to me that I don't even use Myspace for that anymore. It's been a long time since I got anything useful out of it. Just an endless line of "Hi, I'm Tina! Will you be my friend? Here's my webcam!" Go take a long walk off a short pier, "Tina," whose real name is more likely Bob or Richard or Horace.

Anyway, I don't blog all that much, but maybe that'll change. Up until now, it's been mostly reflections on significant events that have taken place in my life, and my life has been pretty boring up until now. But things are changing. For the better. Perhaps I'll have a little more to say.

Until the next post,