Read Playground Chronicles ep. 1 on Steller

After the school bell rang, the self-proclaimed wand-wielding wizard walked across the baked asphault ground to lure an audience together to hear about his recent adventures…

Read the rest of my story, “Playground Chronicles ep. 1” on

Laughter is Good Medicine

I snapped this street performer as he chased people down to startle them with his toy puppy, stopped to show off his juggling skills, and hammed it up for anyone with an iPhone. Shoppers, co-workers on lunch break, and tourists were laughing and smiling and happy to stop and watch the street performer do his thing.

A proverb in the the Old Testament says that a joyful heart is good medicine. According to the benefits of laughter include increasing blood flow, boosting antibodies, and even helping with sleep.

My approach is that life is too short to be too serious for too long. You need to be able to laugh at yourself and comfortable in your own skin to make others laugh with you or even at you.  Do whatever you need to do get some laughs in. Hang out with friends who like to laugh and watch some episodes of Little Rascals. Do whatever it takes. Get some good medicine of your soul.


Floating for seconds

they enter and leave the frame

Crossing over earth.
Read the pictorial version of my haiku via Steller. My username is: joe_montoya. #stellerstories

An Empty Cart

“An Empty Cart”
Left behind. An empty cart. Full of tales.
Taken from its lot by young rebels one evening. They took turns pushing each other though the streets and alleys with recklessness and laughter. Each dared not to bring it home and risk parental repercussions. It was abandoned by curfew.
Picked up by an middle-aged man. There was a time he thought he had it all. Eventually he lost what he once had. He placed what was left in the cart and spent a season traveling from one corner of the city to another; looking to make a fresh start. He left a note inside the cart for the next caretaker to read, “This cart once held a man’s belongings and dreams.”
Discovered by a widow. She cruised around the neighborhood for a few weeks selling lovely potted plants she made with her weathered but resourceful hands. The day she left it unattended, with the intentions of reloading it with more pots, was the day it was taken from her and parked just a few blocks away.
Left behind. Empty cart. Full of tales.
Read the the pictorial version “An Empty Cart” on Steller.

The Tones of Cairo

The tones of Cairo. I snapped this shot of a lady walking against traffic along the freeway. I thought her black dress stood out from all of the various tones of concrete and brick. The brick and concrete buildings may not be aesthetically pleasing, but it’s truly the Arabic people who are works of beauty moving through the otherwise bland urban scape. 

Boys Playing With Guns

I spent a week in Egypt last week and posted this shot on my social media accounts earlier today. I snapped a pic of this boy as he walked by on a Cairo street.

There were literally hundreds of boys out in the streets playing with their toy guns and pellet guns during The Feast following Ramadan. The response I got wasn’t the usual “Cool pic” I normally get.

“A culture of war is being filtering down to the children,” was one of the responses I read. Do you agree? There is a presence of religious and political extremism that we here in the States don’t experience. In fact, a group of Muslim extremists ambushed and killed a number of Egyptian soldiers the week I was there.

Is this picture of the Arab boy accurate to that “culture of war” comment?

Is it different in comparison to our boys here in America playing “Cops & Robbers” and “Cowboys & Indians?” Ok that’s my age speaking. Is it any different when our American boys playing “Black Ops” in the streets?

I’d love to hear your feedback.

The Need for Endurance

Endurance is becoming extinct in this must-have-it-now culture. Simply put, endurance is the ability to do something over a long period of time. It automatically includes challenges, difficulty, and pain. So many in this generation (and I am not excluding the older folk of this generation) want to avoid pain and difficulty as much as possible. Whatever you do in life, finish strong.

I found this picture of my son running at a track meet at the age of 5. I put him in track because his hyper-energy needed an outlet, and a co-worker convinced me to join his track club. This particular track team in Long Beach was huge and very competitive. There were many athletes who were competitive in their age division within their region and even at the state level. The 5-year olds just graduated from the “lollipop” races that got the parents to smile and cheer.

There are 2 things that are clear in my memories of that track season. First, my son’s uniform draped over him like a robe. Secondly, my son hated the starting gun. At the beginning of each 200 meter race, he would plug his ears with his fingers and most of the time would miss the actual sound of the gun. The coach would run up to my son and yell, “Run Christian!” In every one of those races for almost the entirety of the track season, he would end up 8th out of 8 places. Sometimes he would cross the finish line walking. One time, he ended the race walking and crying while I held his hand as we crossed the finish line together.

At one of the last events of the season, I remember hearing the parents of the his teammates encouraging him to run his very best and that all that mattered was that he finish his race. I wish I could tell you that I gave him a spirited speech, but I think the other parents were the true source of his inspiration.

Once again at the start of the race, my son plugged his ears. The gun went off. Christian stood there. The other 7 runners took off. The coach ran up my son and yelled, “Run Christian!” My son took off as if someone laced his Gatorade with turbo boost. Even though the pack had at least a 10 meter head start, Christian gained on them immediately.

With 100 meters to go the pack had thinned out. The elite 5-year old runners were well ahead of the pack to finish with medals, but in the back of the pack, my son had the 7th place runner within reach and caught him at the halfway point. The entire group of parents on our track club stood up cheering at the top of their lungs, “Run Christian!” The entire group of parents from the boy battling my son for 7th place cheered for their boy as loud as they could.

With 50 meters to go, the rest of the crowd did what they normally did for only the premier races with the top athletes. The crowd stood up to their feet and cheered wildly for the 2 little boys battling for the last place.

I saw my son barely one length ahead of the other boy as they neared the finish line as I screamed as loud as I could, “Run Christian!” I remembered jumping up and down on the bleachers looking up at the parents with tears running down their faces as I had tears run down mine. I realized that in this particular race, it wasn’t going to matter who finished 7th and 8th place. Their spirit and determination to win inspired a stadium of witnesses. They were both winners.

It’s time we need to finish strong in the face of difficulty and even pain. You may not finish in 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd, but finish and finish strong. I’m in the stands cheering you on, “Run!”


The Restroom Swish


I get to work with kids as a children’s pastor at the church I’ve attended for over 20 years. I have accumulated a few stories about little people doing things that make me crack up and shake my head at same time.

While I was doing my churchy duties supervising the children’s department on a Sunday night not too long ago, Little Joel had been happily playing basketball for a while in the Kindergarten classroom until he had the sudden revelation that he had to use the restroom badly.

He did the pee-pee dance in front of his teacher to prove his sincerity and urgency. The teacher was so convinced that she personally escorted him to the restroom with his basketball in hand. However, Joel had nowhere to place his orange sphere that made him so happy just minutes ago. But inside this tiled, dimly lit, and cold place there happened to be the perfect place to hold his prized object. 

Swish! Score!

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