Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Patience of God

While in a brief moment of prayer this morning I was really drawn to one particular attribute of God. Patience. I am so aware of God's patience with with me. How he waits, not in anger, but because of his love.

After meditating on the numerous ways God has and continues to display His wonderful patience in my life, I remembered that scripture typically lists things in a particular order for a reason. I know in certain passages the most important or salient person or event or ideal is listed first. I don't know for sure, but I have to wonder if Paul was listing certain attributes of God in order of their importance to him? In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he describes love and begins with "love is patient". That's absolutely amazing to me.

We know that God is the actual emboddiment of Love and perhaps the quality Paul most appreciated about God, at least while he was writing to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, was God's incredible patience. This morning I am very much in agreement with Paul. God's patience is wonderful.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Talent and Heart

This artist is performing in a show like "America's Got Talent" in the Ukraine. She is depicting the war against the Nazis in 1940's. Wow!
It is so touching to see those in the audience crying. No doubt, they witnessed many of these things taking place or they have heard so many harsh stories from their parents and grandparents. It is beyond amazing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

History Reveals Government Isn't The Answer

I have been saying for a while that everything the government touches ends up broken and dysfunctional. With that in mind, why in the world would we allow the government to take control of medicine which amounts to 20% of our economy? Previous behavior is the best predictor of future behavior so I spent some time on researching their record. Perhaps we can look and see what the government has done in the past.

Here are examples of what the government has controlled and how (un)successful the government has been.

The United States Post Office: it was established in 1775. They have had 234 years to get it under control. Unfortunately, the US Postal Service is bankrupt and dysfunctional. When the number of complaints grow about customer service in the private sector businesses are very much at risk of losing everything so issues are addressed quickly. When the number of complaints grew at Post Offices across the country about the amount of time people had to wait in line they took an incredible measure. The removed the clocks from every Post Office waiting area in the country. Good Job! Idiots!

Social Security: it was established in 1935 and surely the government has gotten it right in the past 74 years, right? Not even close. The mark of well-run companies is that they accurately plan for the future through a series of investments, cutbacks and expansions. Since the government has many "experts" that wish to dictate how businesses should be run, I'm sure they know that. One would think so but unfortunately, the Social Security Administration has not at all planned for the future. The Congressional Budget Office reported just 6 months ago (March, 2009) that Social Security would continue operating with an expected surplus until 2016. However, they have since adjusted that projection. Now the CBO indicates that outlays will exceed revenue in 2010. "Outlays will exceed revenue" is congressional language for "We're Broke". Nice going "Government".

Fannie Mae: though it was founded in 1938 as a part of FDR's "New Deal", it was chartered by Congress in 1968 as a "Government Sponsored Enterprise" and surely 71 years is long enough to have been successful. If they weren't doing well before 1968, they have had 41 years to work out any kinks they may have had. That just isn't true for Uncle Sam. Years of poor business practices lead to gigantic financial losses for Fannie. The lack of revenue forced Fannie Mae to "borrow" money from the government, which sounds a lot like me borrowing money from myself, but anyway. Don't worry because I'm sure Fannie can pay itself back right away, right? No way. In the 2nd quarter of this year Fannie reported a loss of 14.8 Billion which is a lot better than the 1st quarter in which they lost 23.2 Billion. It sure doesn't seem like government interference in any sector ever works.

The War on Poverty: This program was kicked-off in 1964 and one might think that 1 trillion dollars and 45 years would be enough to become successful...since many businesses and programs in the provate sector have done so much quicker and in much less time. Unfortunately, the government needs more time and more money. In January 1988 President Reagan described this program very well.

"Today the Federal Government has 59 major welfare programs and spends more than $100 billion a year on them. What has all this money done? Well, too often it has only made poverty harder to escape. Federal welfare programs have created a massive social problem. With the best of intentions, government created a poverty trap that wreaks havoc on the very support system the poor need most to lift themselves out of poverty: the family. Dependency has become the one enduring heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, of too many fragmented families."

The largest redistrubution of wealth in human history has not ended poverty as 37 million Americans remain in poverty. So to once again quote President Reagan, "The Federal Government declared war on poverty and poverty won". I would add to his words by saying the war continues to be fought with our tax dollars...over 1 trillion of them.

Medicare: This special program began in 1965 and 44 years later it is a financial and beaurocratic nightmare. If the total amount of unfunded obligations of Medicare ($53 Trillion) were divided equally among American households, each household would receive a bill for $440,000. Since the average American income is less than $50,000 annually, imagine giving the government every penny you make, without paying any other bill or even buying food for the next 9+ years. If we all did that, again that is figuring on averages, we would simply eliminate the unfunded Medicare obligations...nothing would have been paid on the national debt or the continuation of the numerous entitlement programs. I think it is safe to say that Medicare is not the flagship of governmental success.

Cash for Clunkers: Perhaps you need a more recent reminder of government ineptitude. Here it is...the Wall Street Journal wrote that Cash for Clunkers is proof that "the feds can't even give away money very well". That statement could have been made about a number of programs, pork, projects or takeovers but the WSJ was specifically talking about this program. While I'm sure the Asian car makers are pleased with the program, it did little for the American public. Sure, a few cars were sold but the program that initially was "funded" (in this case funded is code for borrowed more money from China) with $1 billion. As we know, the program ended up costing American tax payers $3 billion and that isn't counting the amount of intrest we will be paying on the borrowed $3 billion. It may be interesting to see just how many American car companies increased their sales in the month of August, 2009...
Chrysler sales decreased -15%
General Motors sales decreased 20%
Ford sales increased by 17%
However, Honda sales increased 10%
Subaru sales increased 52% and
Hyundai sales increased 47%.

At the end of the program, which didn't come a day too soon, only 39% of the money spent by the government in this goat-rodeo of a debacle went to American companies. Since the money to buy the cars was borrowed from Asia, I guess it is rather ironic that the majority of the money returned there. Or maybe it is just one more reason why we shouldn't trust the government to handle any aspect of our healthcare.

If Americans have any remaining shred of common sense they will not allow the government to take control of our healthcare. The government seems to have the antithesis of "The Midas Touch". Every program they initiate turns out to be a drain on the American public and rarely, if ever, actually functions well.

Here's hoping Americans go vote for REAL change in 2010...and by REAL change I mean fire every elected official and elect people to actually serve the interests of the people who have elected them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Ultimate Super Hero

I was never very interested in Super heroes as a kid...or for that matter, as an adult. However, my boys absolutely love them. Because of the really cool super power, skills (bow staff, nun chucks and throwing star skills excluded) and ability to bring justice to every situation, my wife and I are constantly reminding our boys that the REAL Super Hero is Jesus. They seem to understand and appreciate that. It might be easier for them if someone could find out that the true Hebrew meaning of "your rod and staff comfort me" should be translated to something like, "your nun chuck skills and ability to catch a bullet in your teeth brings me a lot of comfort". Until that time I think we are left with discussing the most amazing aspects of God...and they are plentiful. Here are some thoughts that may help my boys appreciate Jesus on a new level (satire should be expected).

• Jesus does not sleep. He waits.
• Jesus counted to infinity - twice.
• When the Boogieman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Jesus.
• Jesus is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.
• If Jesus did sleep he would do so with a night light. Not because Jesus is afraid of the dark, but the dark is afraid of Jesus.
• If at first you don't succeed, you're obviously not Jesus.
• Jesus doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
• Superman owns a pair of Jesus pajamas.
• Jesus doesn't have to do anything for a Klondike bar.
• When Jesus was in middle school, his English teacher assigned an essay: "What is Courage?" Jesus received an "A+" for writing only the words "Jesus Christ" and promptly turning in the paper.
• Jesus ordered a Big Mac at Burger King, and got one.
• According to Einstein's theory of relativity, Jesus can actually roundhouse kick you yesterday.
• The quickest way to a man's heart is with Jesus.
• Jesus owns the greatest Poker Face of all-time. It helped him win the 1983 World Series of Poker despite him holding just a Joker, a Get out of Jail Free Monopoloy card, a 2 of clubs, 7 of spades and a green #4 card from the game UNO.
• Pi is not infinite. It stops when Jesus tells it to.
• Once a grizzly bear threatened to eat Jesus. Jesus showed the bear his fist and the bear proceeded to eat himself, because it would be the less painful way to die.
• The Dinosaurs looked at Jesus the wrong way once. ONCE.
• It was once believed that Jesus actually lost a fight to a pirate, but that is a ploy, created by Jesus himself to lure more pirates to him. Pirates never were very smart.
• Oxygen requires Jesus to live.
• Jesus can eat soup with a fork.
• Jesus challenged a statue to a staring contest. Jesus remains undefeated.
• Jesus does not have to mow his lawn. He simply stares at the grass and dares it to grow.
• Bullets dodge Jesus.
• Jesus can eat a Rubix Cube and poop it out solved.
• Jesus can hear silence.
• Jesus can unscramble an egg.
• Jesus could play Russian Roulette with 6 bullets.....and win.
• On Neil Armstrong's second step on the moon, he found a note that said, "Jesus was here."
• Jesus doesn't have to stop bullets because they know better.
• When Jesus does push-ups, he does not push himself up. He pushes the Earth down.
• Achilles was supposedly the greatest warrior of all time, but he died because of his weak spot, the Achilles tendon. There is no Jesus tendon.
• The first lunar eclipse took place after Jesus challenged the sun to a staring contest. Jesus always wins.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Amazing Forgiveness

I came across a prayer written by an unknown Jewish woman in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp during WWII. It may be the most amazing example of Godliness and forgiveness I have seen this side of the divine. May God bless us all with such hearts, vision and with such an incredible walk with Him.

Lord, remember not only the men of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering: Our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Tangible Kingdom

I typically don't write or forward a review on a book I haven't read. It is certainly not my custom to pass on a book review written by someone I don't know. However, this book was recommended to me 2 weeks ago by a dear Brother and I found this review on the website of the ministry through which he serves, Mission Alive. I can't wait to read this book and I am so anxious to do so that I also want to put the info out there on this book so others can join me. Enjoy.

Hobby Chapin is a church planter in Denver, CO at Higher Point. He shares with us his take on The Tangible Kingdom.

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay are practitioners in missional-incarnational church planting. The Tangible Kingdom is a platform for Hugh and Matt to share their stories in church planting and to extract the missional-incarnational principles from their experience.

The authors speak from the heart in addressing the tension that is present for those transitioning from traditional church paradigms toward missional-incarnational ones. Their goal is to show that the Kingdom becomes real in people’s lives when they have the right elements interacting. These elements are communion, mission, and community.

Missional-Incarnational communities must have a deep sense of communion with God. Both on an individual and a communal level, there must be disciplines that are aimed at spiritual formation and “being” in God’s presence.
Missional-Incarnational communities must have a deep sense of participation within God’s mission. The term “missional” indicates being sent; the term “incarnational” indicates how we are sent out into the world to live among people for the purpose of engagement. Therefore, there must be disciplines of engagement with the world.
Missional-Incarnational communities must have a deep sense of life together—that is, community. These communities practice disciplines of togetherness as they live out a shared story in God’s life. God’s calling and sending draws them together and form deep bonds.

Without these three elements, Christian community remains deficient and the Kingdom of God distant.

The transition toward practicing missional-incarnational principles can be messy and confusing. Hugh and Matt are pioneers plowing ahead and coaching others along the journey. For those who have read many books on missional theology or missional church planting, The Tangible Kingdom provides many similar bits of information and insights. What separates the Tangible Kingdom from many others is the candid story-telling of the authors and their insight as practitioners. For those of you who have taken the plunge into this journey of practice, there will be many relatable moments with sharpening nuance.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is that it will pose a challenge that will confront tendencies to sit and talk about these principles or to abandon them along the journey for “what works.” Missional-Incarnational practitioners are defined by their “being” in the presence of God and their willingness to “do” as God sends them to participate with Him in the world. That takes leaders out into the world rubbing shoulder to shoulder with those sojourners who are willing to journey with them. This requires consistency and intentionality. I appreciate Hugh and Matt for their candid leadership and for their sharp challenge to get on and stay the course.

*Halter, Hugh and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community; The Posture and Practices of Ancient Church Now. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2008.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sermon in a Song

This is creative and confirms what I have shared with my wife on many, many occasions. That is that all love stems from the One who is indeed Love. God is Love...not like love or similar to love...He is Love. Therefore the love songs that the songs from every era discusses, if it is indeed love, flows from God. Classical, Oldies, Rock, Pop, all of it originates in the Being of God. This Minister of Music takes some popular, well-known songs and makes it applicable as love songs to the one who is Love. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Warriors, Where They May Be

Some periods in my life seem to have been very simple and extremely well defined. That isn't to say that those periods were always positive or even healthy, but there is something to be said for clarity and a sense of direction.

One such time in my life was during some of my initial military training. Life was difficult by design and the situations were stressful and trying. However, I think people who stop simply being a soldier and somehow have everything within them morphed into a warrior remember the exact moment when they changed.

For me it was the moment when marching in accordance with approved military regulations was no longer important. Knowing who and when to salute, the appearance of my uniform and even when, where and how I would eat again all became peripheral details that neither greatly mattered nor were irresponsibly ignored. The lone thing that mattered was life. Surviving and being able to preserve my life and the life of those with whom I was with and the taking of the life of anyone or anything that seemed to challenge the first objective.

While that admittedly sounds gruesome and perhaps a bit barbaric, the simple truth is that without the warriors in this world, life wouldn't be as grand...or perhaps even possible for most people. Warriors on the battlefield transform history through courage, honor, bravery and brotherhood...yes, often through the taking of life. Sometimes warriors live long enough to wage battles in other areas of life. From service in those battles Warriors rarely receive medals and often they don't even receive recognition. Those things are fine for the Warrior because only soldiers care about the applause of men and the kind of glamour one can hang on the wall. The warriors of this world simply care that they gave their all for an honorable cause and that they were, collectively if not individually, victorious.

Some times in this world Warriors aren't found on the traditional battlefield. Sometimes they aren't even called Warriors. Maybe we call them Mom, Dad, Single Mother, Coach, Neighbor, Friend, Husband, Wife, Teacher, Physician, Minister, etc.
Warriors, when not on the traditional fields of battle are the people who refuse to "half-ass" life. They refuse to be defined by what are at times, really horrible circumstances. They may get down but they never quit...the Warrior's Heart beating within them demands that they die before they quit, give-up, surrender or retreat from the battle of life.

Warriors, regardless of where they are found should, at the very least, be honored. I hope we can all find a Warrior in our lives to honor. If you are the Warrior in your life...I honor you.

I close with quotes from two great Warriors who fought on opposing sides in The War of Northern Aggression (Civil War). Their statements represent the two sides present in the lives and hearts of every warrior who has experienced death all too intimately and who have also experienced what it means to really, fully live.

"The scene now presented was unspeakably grand. The resolute and impetuous charge, the rush of our heavy columns sweeping out from the shadow and gloom of the forest into the open fields flooded with sunlight, the glitter of arms, the onward dash of artillery and mounted men, the retreat of the foe, the shouts of the hosts of our army, the dust, the smoke, the noise of fire-arms—of whistling balls and grape-shot and of bursting shell—made up a battle scene of unsurpassed grandeur."

—Confederate Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson
September 20th, 1863 regarding The Battle of Chickamauga

"But out of that silence rose new sounds more appalling still; a strange ventriloquism, of which you could not locate the source, a smothered moan, as if a thousand discords were flowing together into a key-note weird, unearthly, terrible to hear and bear, yet startling with its nearness; the writhing concord broken by cries for help, some begging for a drop of water, some calling on God for pity; and some on friendly hands to finish what the enemy had so horribly begun; some with delirious, dreamy voices murmuring loved names, as if the dearest were bending over them; and underneath, all the time, the deep bass note from closed lips too hopeless, or too heroic to articulate their agony...It seemed best to bestow myself between two dead men among the many left there by earlier assaults, and to draw another crosswise for a pillow out of the trampled, blood-soaked sod, pulling the flap of his coat over my face to fend off the chilling winds, and still more chilling, the deep, many voiced moan that overspread the field."

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: 20th Maine,At the end of the first day's fighting at Fredericksburg

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Great Warrior, A Strong Man

I suppose that we all have people in our ancestry that have fought in wars or that have at least served in the military. I personally served in the U.S. Army and have so many relatives that have served in every branch of the military that I would be afraid to mention them for fear of leaving some out.

Today I read the story of my great-great-great Grandfather, Hillard Garrison Waldrep. He was born January 4, 1842 and he went by the name "Hillary". He was a soldier in The War of Northern Aggression (The Civil War). His story is inspiring and is certainly one of valor, bravery, courage and toughness. Here is a bit of his story.

Grandpa Hillary served in B Company of the 16th Alabama Regiment of Infantry. He voluntarily enlisted in August 1861. He served as a personal assistant to General Wood and General Preston. I imagine only certain people were allowed to serve in those roles. Since he enlisted at the rank of Private, he surely earned his position with the Generals.

In a letter written to his local newspaper and dated May 19, 1905 Hillary wrote,

"I have been shot and badly wounded several times. the first battle I was at Fisher's Creek but I only got my heel shot off. The second was at Chickamauga, where I was badly wounded by a shot through the neck. I feel it until this day, but I still like the gray (the color of The Confederate uniform). On the 22nd of July, 1864, I got shot in the foot, through both legs and through the bowels all in the same battle at Franklin, Tennessee. Those shots through my legs were in my thighs and one knee shot off. The total number of wounds I sustained were seven"

Another story from Hillary's time spent fighting the Yankees was that while serving with General Bragg Hillary shot and killed a Northern General. He told General Bragg that he thought he could shoot the General even though the General and Northern troops were very far away. General Bragg told him to give it a try so he did. Hillary raised the sights on his rifle 200 yards MORE than they already were and fired. After Hillary took the gun down from his shoulder, they saw the Yankee General topple off of his large gray horse. The horse was spooked and ran across the large field toward the Confederate Soldiers. General Bragg told Hillary that he could keep the horse, bed-roll and equipment. For what it's worth, Hillary later sold the horse for $100.

Other stories about my Grandfather and his fellow soldiers were not so glamorous. Like how the food wagons were drawn by mules and were often several days behind the troops. Often, when the wagons would catch up to the soldiers the food would be spoiled or molded. The men were often so hungry they would scratch corn out of the ground from where it had been trampled on by horses who were once fed in that area. They would simply wash and parch the corn and eat it. Despite the unsanitary conditions, starvation, insufficient clothing and multiple wounds, Hillary lived to be 88 years old. He died on July 21, 1930.

Hillary Garrison Waldrep is a great American hero and is a man for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. May his legacy of courage, honor and grit be honored and, if needed, repeated in the lives of his many descendants.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Red Clay and Red Roses

Death is part of life. Death is shrouded in fear and pain more than any other aspect of life and it just doesn't seem to be optional. Death can be tough at any age, but it seems to be more difficult for those who can't easily wrap their young and inexperienced minds around the concept. Such was the case this past Monday afternoon.

Reagan has been part of our family longer than our three sons have been. In fact, Reagan was the English Mastiff who was to be our "child" until we were ready to have kids years later. Obviously that wasn't God's plan as our oldest son was born a year after Reagan. Reagan was our 230lb baby that was determined and quite content to serve, love and play. It is only expected and natural that a void exists now in our hearts as Reagan died recently.

He appears to have simply gone to sleep and died in his sleep. We highly suspected that he had cancer as he had lost weight and seemed to age quickly over the past few months. Despite that, he never suffered and we know that far to many pet lovers have had a very different tale to tell regarding their sick pet.

After Reagan's death, my family gathered around a plot on our property where Reagan's original dog house was and we began to dig. For such a large animal a small and simple hole wouldn't suffice. After a long time of digging through the hard, red clay we finally had a very deep hole in which I could place our Gentle Giant. The boys helped me dig through the clay and we were all exhausted by the time we were finished. Alabama clay can be as hard to dig through as grief and sadness.

Once the burial was completed, the boys placed Reagan's favorite ball, a "tombstone" and some roses Brook cut from our plants. It was fitting and in so many ways beautiful. The most touching part to me was how the boys prayed to conclude the event. To hear their hearts being openly expressed to God and in their own way taking their emotions and loss to Him was amazing. Losing Reagan has been difficult for the whole family. His large stature is certainly indicative of the large hole left in each of us. I am thankful for the companion he was and for the lessons in life, loss and love the boys have learned through this process. The boys will face more significant losses in their future. We can only hope and pray that during those times they will show the same tendency to go to God with their hearts.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ready To Roll Again

I haven't been blogging for several weeks now. I have started to a few times and either my hectic schedule and/or the lack of having anything interesting or important to write have seemed prohibitive. I think it is time to write again and I think it is only fitting to begin with blogging about time, schedules and "being busy".

Several years ago I read a book by Dr. Richard Swenson titled, The Overload Syndrome. In this book, Dr. Swenson outlines how life can become unmanageable and out of control even under the best circumstances. He uses his own life as an example of how someone can be exactly where they have always wanted to be in their career, marriage, parenting, church and social lives...yet something is just not right.

Apparently the key to not falling victim to the Overload Syndrome is to create margins in life. Simply put, don't fill up every moment of every day with commitments, promises and plans. Leave room for rest, recreation, down time, contemplation, prayer, reading...anything that can be a respite from the raging river of our hectic, out of control lives.

After discussing my thoughts with several close friends and family members I have come to the conclusion that most of us have the most excruciating expectations placed on us by ourselves. I know that even my harshest critics or the most demanding people in my life don't hold a candle to the ways in which I critique myself and demand the most of the things I attempt to do in life.

I am attempting again to create margins and attempt to give myself a break when it comes to over-scheduling my time and my energy. I am hopeful that the margins will open up some time for me to relax and do the things in life I am called to do and created to do...not to mention the things in life that are simple and fun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Tree by a River in Tennessee

23 years ago a rather robust oak tree stood nestled on the bank of the Hiwassee River in East Tennessee. A young boy and his father were camping near that tree and had just spent the day rafting the river and they decided to mark their adventure on something that could possibly prove to be more lasting than even their own memories. So with a few quick strokes of a knife their initials, that happened to be the same, were carved into the sturdy oak.

Fast forward 21 years to another father and son visiting that very place to camp and play in the river. The father recognized the tree causing the carving of years before to dance through his mind. With great anticipation and a sense of the continuation of a tradition the father began to search for the initials. After a few seconds he found them. The growth of the tree placed the initials much higher than they had been years before. Fortunately the initials were still there and visible so he was able to show his son what had been done before. His son, still being young took in all he could and seemed to appreciate knowing where his father and grandfather had been before. Knowing their previous path and knowing that he too was now on that path seemed to add to his sense of belonging and acceptance.

So fast forward 2 more years ahead, this year in fact. They visited the river again except this time the son had two younger brothers in tow. Once camp was set up and everything was ready for the night the obligatory, yet much anticipated, trek to the river bank began. What an exciting time to share with other sons in the new generation what happened in the years that existed prior to them. As they neared the familiar landing something seemed very much out of place. Something was missing. Could it be possible?

It seems that a storm or perhaps disease had taken down the tree...the initials gone. In its place a broad stump remained, sawed neatly just inches above the muddy bank. Realizing that things like this happen the dad wondered what his boys would think? How would the oldest son react to something lost that he once had taken such pride in? How would the other sons react to the "loss" of something they knew only in stories? As one could imagine, the two younger boys didn't seem to mind at all. They obviously didn't miss something in which they never felt ownership. The older son was certainly not in step with his brothers. After a moment of staring into the air where the mighty oak once stood his head dropped. He turned and began to walk away. Before he had gone too many steps he began to cry.

Seeing his son so upset, the boy's father realized what was going on with his son and he wrapped him up tightly in an understanding hug. He asked his son why the tears, though the father felt quite sure that he was crying because of his own loss. It was at that time though that his son's depth, love and sympathy stood out to him. The son looked at the father and said, "Dad, I'm so sorry for you that your tree is gone". Brought to tears himself by his son's great compassion and love, it hit him that his son wasn't crying because of his loss. The son was crying because of his father's loss. The father explained to him that trees occasionally die and that the real treasure in the tree wasn't the initials carved in the bark but rather the experience of a father and son spending time together enough to carve the initials.

Now the thing that mattered most on the river bank was that another generation of father and son stood there together...sharing an experience and vowing to share more. Perhaps there is even a new tree with new initials on that river bank now...the sign of a father and son carrying on a tradition and furthering a legacy of love.

I'm the most honored man on the planet to have carved my initials in that tree with my dad and over 2 decades later with my sons.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Wedding and The Party

This past Sunday night I had the great pleasure of attending the wedding ceremony of some dear friends, Tyler and Helen. I expect greatness from these two in so many areas. Being such dynamic individuals, I can't wait to see what amazing things result from their union.

There is one thing that stood out to me as particularly meaningful and I think it is worth a deeper look.

The Party...though some call it a "reception" is that thing I want to consider a bit more. I love the fact that the people involved in the lives of Tyler and Helen celebrated the beginning of this marriage. Some of the people had known them their entire lives and some just recently met them, but the fact remained that they were known individually and a party was thrown to celebrate the new aspect of their lives together.

This may seem rather common to a lot of people from different backgrounds. However, I think the evangelicals of the South have failed miserably in showing the world how to throw, attend and enjoy a party. Consider Jesus, our great example, for a bit...

When Jesus wasn't teaching, healing or off by himself in prayer you often found him at a party. He partied with the stuffy religious types and he partied with the lower class people of the day. At some parties he did miracles and at others he really pissed some people off. Prostitutes clung to him...try that at you next party and some even cried on his feet. Despite what all happened at the parties, one thing we know for sure is that Jesus partied! Why else would he admit that people called him a glutton and a drunk?

Imagine for a moment that we back up in time 2000 years and we are at a party and Jesus is in attendance. let's go to that place for a moment...

In my mind some group is playing cheesy versions of various love songs mingled with the occasional Golden Oldie. The lead singer just struggled his way through "Endless Love" with the Bass Guitarist singing the female part in a weak falsetto voice...and sounding nothing like Diana Ross, though they look similar in some ways. The band, being older and more out of shape than they remember being the last time they actually got paid for playing announce that they are taking a 15 minute break. The crowd feels like they are the ones getting a break and they begin talking and visiting or perhaps getting a refill of wine.

Not too long into the break a loud reverberation shrieks over the sound system and it causes a bit of a startle for everyone and they look to the stage. Who is it that has grabbed the lead guitar and has a harmonica brace around his neck...that's right baby...JESUS!
Jesus obviously had enough of the bad music and drab song choices so while the band is on a break he breaks into a slamming rendition of "Proud Mary". Before the crowd can calm down he goes right into a sweet Blues Traveler medley. Some guy down front who has had a little too much wine and is obviously from the Southern part of Judea starts screaming out "FREE BIRD! FREE BIRD!", but Jesus slows the pace down with a different song.

Jesus pulls a dusty piano from out of the shadows and opens it up. People don't know exactly what is about to be played but they know it will be good. Jesus launches into the crowd favorite...the one everyone knows or at least mouths along a half step late as if they know it...Piano Man! By the end of the set, drinks are held in the air, strangers have their arms around one another swaying back and forth and everyone is singing together.

When the last note has been played Jesus stands, bows and then backs up to get a running start for the way he finishes every set he ever plays...stage dive! During the time he is being passed around people are trying to touch the hem of his garment and a few want an autograph. He is finally placed on his feet toward the back of the reception hall and he hugs a few of the disciples and gives some knuckles to some others. Though he had done this kind of thing before (and would do it again) the Disciples didn't think he would really do it when they dared him to do it some 15 minutes ago.

The end result is that the party is rocking, Jesus Christ really is a super star but maybe most important to Jesus is that he has set a small example for his followers...both now and forever...of what it means to celebrate and party.

May His people learn that lesson well because as I recall, one analogy of eternity has a lot to do with a great feast and plenty of partying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Obama Lied...and Continues to Break Promises

It seems that all of the gripes the liberals had against Bush and the GOP are not all that bad now that Barry Obama is in office.

Bush was ridiculed because he "suspended Habeas Corpus" and denied those pitiful souls at Gitmo to be held without a trial. Obama was upset about that too and was especially upset about the expanse of Executive Power under Bush...right up until he became the President. Now it isn't so bad:

Bush was demonized for his stance on warrantless wiretapping. The Dems cried about the gross abuse by the government and how Bush was using the Patriot Act to listen to phone conversations without sufficient enough reason to obtain a subpoena. Obama was against this practice too...right up until he was sworn in. Now it seems like the right thing to do. After all, you never know when you may have to listen in to some of those gun-toting, Bible-carrying, bitter-clingers:

Obama swore during his campaign that an Obama Administration would be completely transparent...not at all like the "secrets" mean old Bush and Cheney had been keeping. After all, the American people have a right to know what is going on in their government. Well, apparently Obama meant to say that the American people had a right to know what was going on in the government before and after his presidency...because what Barry knows and how Barry knows is a really big secret:

Obama was astounded at the amount of "pork spending" that was pushed through congress each year during the budget proposal process. He was so astounded that he was going to put an end to that kind of craziness...except he didn't. In the Spending Bill...uh, I mean, "Stimulus Bill" alone there were 8 ear marks...including "Green Golf Carts", a 36-hole "Disc Golf Course" (think about frisbee golf), and $150 million for "parking improvements" at a little league park in Puerto Rico. Here are more details:
Should you want to read about the 8570 earmarks that total $7.7 Billion found in the Omnibus Bill for 2009 signed by Obama you can do so here: So I guess the "No Pork Projects" promise isn't working out for Obama either.

And what about that tax cut all of us in the middle class were promised? It seems that not only have we not rec'd the tax cut but in fact, one new tax specifically targets people in the middle and lower class.

And as for the tax cut for any family making les than $250k:
Obama says he has 2 years to figure out how to deal with this broken promise...but that isn't what he said during the campaign.

What about the promise that lobbyist would not have a seat at the Obama table? Well, despite his campaign rhetoric about the evils of lobbyist and others who represent special interest groups, it seems that Obama has had a change of heart.

We are less than 3 months into the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama and so many of the issues people believed in have already shattered. Obviously, so many of these broken promises haven't been reported by the mainstream media but that doesn't mean that the proof doesn't exist. I pray that the people who felt disenchanted by the political system and sought anything other than the status quo will wake up and realize that change is not always good and those who promise to be change aren't always honest. If that happens we will only be stuck with Obama for 4 long years.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spots...of all kinds

I try to be on the lookout constantly for blind spots in life. Of course I check my blind spots while driving but I am not talking about those kinds of blind spots. I always try to imagine the areas in my life that need some work, have become unmanageable or in some way requires some attention.

So many areas of life seem to have a default setting and those defaults settings show up when your time, resources or attention is being utilized by other areas of life. The default setting can be really good and without much work or without even giving it much thought you can find yourself in a good place. For example, rest is something that most Americans don't get enough of. People don't sleep the amount the are suppose to and they don't make time for rest, relaxation or recreation. If you doubt that just check out the stress and fatigue related illnesses that seem to be more prevalent in our culture than ever. The default setting for humans is rest. If we avoid the stimulants like coffee and some pills and if we don't pack our schedules full of requirements we will rest more. How long would most of us sleep if we were allowed to get the day started when we awakened on our own...without an alarm clock?

However, the default setting for a lot of things are not good, productive or healthy. For example, exercise isn't really something that people do if left to live life due to their default settings. Exercise requires discipline and to some degree, the ability to do something at an immediate expense that will hopefully produce long term results.

With all of that said, for me to claim that I am looking for blind spots is really absurd. If I could see a specific area of life, I guess it wouldn't be a blind spot, now would it? So what got in my head to cause me to think about blind spots anyway?

This morning I was in the restroom at my office and I happen to look in the mirror on my way out of the restroom. I must have had the perfect angle because I saw something in the back of my head that looked strange. I did a double take to see if I saw what I thought I saw. Upon further review I did in deed see what I thought I saw in the back of my head....SKIN!

That's right! I saw a big patch of skin on the crown of my head. I knew I was thinning but good gracious! I didn't realize how bad it had gotten back there. The other men in my family began to bald from the know, the old receding hair line. Not me though. I still have plenty of hair up front. However, it seems that the hair in the back has begun an exodus that would make the Israelites envious. I feel as though I only have one choice left...kiss all of my hair goodbye. The only thing worse than balding is to be one of those men who seems to pretend he isn't balding. Those guys are dangerously close to the dreaded "comb-over".

So even though the default setting for my 33 year old scalp had not allowed me to know the severe lack of hair I found that I have found a previously blind spot, I am responsible for taking action. It seems that bald spots can help remind me of other blind spots I may have in life...and that alone reveals a whole world of clarity...bald or not.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Running Without Distraction

Last week my oldest son, Elijah, participated in a fun run at his school. He was suppose to run a mile though the parents of his class all knew that many in the class wouldn't make it a full mile. Some of the young students likely don't have what it takes physically to run that far yet. The few that may be able to physically run a mile may quit early simply because their attention spans aren't very long at this point and they may...just like me...get bored with running. Elijah finished 85% of his mile...but I have no idea if he lacked physical maturity required to run that long or if he just got bored. In fact, no one really knows why he didn't complete it because he was distracted.

See, we have always stressed to our sons that they drink water, water is good for them, water is the healthiest drink, drink water instead of colas, etc. At times we have even celebrated and made a big deal about our boys drinking a good bit of water. While we still stand by those things, it may have been good for us to explain to Elijah that there are stipulations. That is to say, sometimes are better than others to drink excessive quanities of water. It goes without saying that during a run is not the time to become enthusiastic about drinking water...or anything else for that matter.

Having never run in a race like this one before, Elijah wasn't expecting people to offer him cups of water. Being the big fan of water and thinking it is incredibly cool that people are standing around with free water for him it only seemed logical to drink water as it was offered to him. Of course I am not inside his head but I can imagine that Elijah became so distracted by the water that he lost focus of the real goal. It seems that the very thing designed to help him reach his goal actually became his focus and it caused him to fall short. As most of you know, too much water before or during a workout leads to cramps and poor performance. Poor Elijah.

That's not the end of the me anyway. As is my custom I have been pondering that whole scenario for the past week and wondering which areas of my life have become out of focus? Has anything in this world that God designed to be of assistance to me actually become my goal instead of God? In short, has anything been offered to me during my race of life that will prevent me from finishing well?

If I were to write about the areas in life that need more clarity, this paragraph would go on for way too long. If I were to consider every single thing that becomes interesting or exciting to me...but in the end isn't good for me at all...well, I don't have that much time. Time only allows me to pray that I will find balance and proper priorities in every aspect of life. I pray the same for you. May we never get so water-logged that we lose the ability to run and finish well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Catch and Release

There are many, many blessings involved in working a mere 2 miles from my house. The lone negative I can think of is that I rarely get to decompress after work or spend much time alone. Just like every other human, I occasionally need to be alone with my thoughts...or be alone and not require any thoughts.

There are few tasks that can be done with little thought but fishing happens to be on that list. Yesterday morning I had a chance to escape for a bit and do a little fishing. I knew of a new place I wanted to try and it ended up being absolutely gorgeous. More than one time yesterday I found myself standing on the bank and in my head I was living the Alabama version of "Legends of the Fall".

20 minutes had passed and I felt like Tristan when to my surprise I caught an Alabama Trout with my fly rod...OK, a little too much Tristan-like. I actually felt a strong tug on my Zebco bait-caster rod and reel combo. But the point is that my rod was bending like I had hook an alligator. In a minute or so I could see white belly of some fish beneath the water, his tail churning up the mud and swishing the water about with all of his might. Landing this monster on dry ground was imminent and I couldn't wait to see exactly what I had landed. My prize was just beneath the surface of the swells and whirlpools of water. When I finally pulled this thing out of his wet abode I was surprised. This wasn't a bass or crappie as I had anticipated. I caught a pretty large catchfish.

Only having a few minutes to fish yesterday and having some plans for later in the day I knew I wouldn't have time nor the inclination to skin this fish and fillet him. Plus, I am not enthusiastic about eating a scavenger fish caught in a river so I knew immediately that I would let him go. Catch and Release is popular among fishermen...especially when they have no plans of eating what they catch. This catfish started his day off in a rough way but his luck was about to get a bit better. So I stared at him once more and then tossed him back in. He looked at me as if to warn me of messing with him and then in a simple swish of his tail he was gone.

I fished a bit longer and then packed it all in and headed for the house. Once home I told my wife of my fishing adventures and she became excited about what I told her...which, by the way, had nothing to do with my catfish bounty...and she shared with me a section of a book she was finishing. The Same Kind of Difference As Me has really captivated my wife and I can't wait to read it myself. I don't usually discuss, much less blog about books I haven't read but in the case I suppose I can get away with it.

Essentially, and I must say that this is overly simplifying a beautiful story, one guy, who happens to be white, tells another man, who happens to be black, that he wants to be friends with him. Being skeptical, the black man says he will think about it. A week later the black man says he has thought about it and that something really bothers him about white people. He goes on to explain that he understands that white people "catch and release" fish. That practice blows his mind. He then contrasts that style to black people. Black people would never release a fish. In fact, they would take it around and show anyone that would listen or even possibly care their great catch, explains the black man. Then the fish would be cleaned and eaten. He explains that it is weird to him that a white man would put back or throw away the very thing that a black man would take pride in and would use to sustain him. After the analogy, the black simple tells the white man, "If you are lookin for a friend to catch and release I don't want no part. But if you ain't looking to catch and release then I will be your friend forever. Loyal."

That's an awesome story that really touches me. Being the introspective creature that I am I instantly began searching the numerous caverns of my soul for applicable situations in my life. The images of great friends that somehow...accidentally, circumstantially or otherwise...had been released. I recently learned of a friend from high school that took his own life and he came to mind. His name was Brian and his sister is Melissa. I couldn't help but thinking of the ways in which Melissa must feel that she was forced to release him and how much more painful loss is when the releasing aspect of "Catch and Release" isn't by choice.

Catch and Release can be beautiful but releasing is always difficult. Years ago when I witnessed the birth mothers of my adopted siblings handing them over to my family...unknown to them, I saw the beauty and pain of releasing first hand. To know that what we want and what is line up on different sides of life and knowing it is for the best always brings us to an impasse...a place where answers are void of significance and solace is found in hollow words.

What does it all mean and why does it matter anyway? If I can borrow some words from Kenny Rogers and twist them to fit my purposes here I think I can find some fact, it is a huge reason...why this matters. "You have to know when to hold'em. Know when to [release'em]". In this world I think we will one day live out a life of abundance or a life of regret based on how we choose the things we catch and release and the things we catch and keep. Obviously the release part isn't always up to us but in so far as releasing is up to us I want to live well.

May God also grant us all the wisdom and strength we need to treat life very differently from how "white people fish". I wonder if the next catfish I catch will be so lucky as the last one.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Attack on the 2nd Amendment?

I heard last week on a local talk radio show that a bill was introduced that would do some serious damage to the rights to own firearms without the government interfering. I researched the bill (HR-45) because I didn't think it could be as bad as the caller said. I was is worse. I try not to be an alarmist but the bill is scary. I imagine that this type of bill is the worst nightmare of the NRA and people interested in maintaining the rights afforded us in the U.S. Constitution and The Bill of Rights.

After reading the bill, the worst parts of this bill, so far as I can determine them to be, are:
1. The Atty General is in complete control of the law, enforcement of the proposed law and changes that can be made at his discretion.
2. EVERY firearm (other than shotguns and antique collectibles) must be registered with the U.S. Govt. That means hunting rifles, target rifles like .22LR and every handgun regardless of caliber or capacity.
3. ANYONE wishing to own a firearm must have a Federal License. The application process would include providing the following to the U.S. Atty General:
A. a "passport size" photo of yourself,
B. finger prints,
C. physical address,
D. proof that the firearm will be stored "safely" (which is to be understood as unloaded) out of reach or accessibility from anyone unlicensed and not 18 years of age,
E. passing a written firearm exam,
F. Authorization for the U.S. Govt to obtain any medical records pertaining to psychological treatment or evaluations.
4. A yearly fee of $25 will be charged (expect that to increase drastically over time)
5. Private sales of firearms (which means I sell my weapon to you without governmental paperwork) is a thing of the past. Each sale will be required to go through a federally licensed dealer which will charge a fee for their role in assuring that the weapons can be traced to individuals instantly.
6. The Govt will require that information be obtained on each weapon and each individual holding a license. The info includes how many firearms are registered to individuals, who the individual purchases weapons from and the serial number of each firearm.
7. It is UNLAWFUL if you have a firearm lost or stolen and you do not report the loss or theft to the Federal Govt within 72 hours.
8. It is UNLAWFUL if you fail to report any change in address to the Federal Govt within 60 days of the move.
9. Failure to comply with any aspect of this Bill can result in a monetary fine and between TWO and TEN YEARS in prison (depending upon the severity of the infraction)
10. To assure compliance with this proposed law THE FEDERAL GOVT HAS A RIGHT TO ENTER ANY BUSINESS OR RESIDENCE THAT MANUFACTURES, STORES, SELLS, DISTRIBUTES, HOLDS FIREARMS OR FIREARM RELATED ITEMS (which means parts, ammunition, operator's manuals, etc)
11. Yearly the Atty General is to make a public report available regarding the activities of this bill. I'm not sure if this means info regarding every person who owns firearms will be made public or if it will be less specific information.

The Dem controlled Congress can pass this thing without significant Rep support and Obama will sign it since he is unashamedly against guns and private citizens owning guns. It will be interesting to follow this bill and see how it may be dropped only so they can let it piggy back some other bill and be secretively hidden in 400-500 pages of some other less-controversial bill.

It seems strange to me that humans can enter this country illegally, maintain jobs and residences, utilize our healthcare system for free, receive money and food through government entitlement programs and in some places even cast a vote with less documentation, proof of identity and residence, testing and governmental regulation than a hunting rifle can be manufactured, purchased or owned.

Should this thing pass it is the beginning of the end of civil liberties for us as we know them. By the way, I can't determine if that subtle humming sound is our Founding Fathers literally spinning in their graves or our liberty being sucked out of our lives...but it is probably both.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Have Come To A Conclusion

So last week I said that I would get back to you when I decided if the gift of homebrewed beer is just an ordinary gift or if it is spiritual. Well, I have made a decision so I am getting back to you.

OK, so leaving you hanging with that question was kind of unnecessary. The answer is: of course it is spiritual. One might ask how I know that or what bit of information lead me to that conclusion. That's easy...homebrewed beer, as discussed last week, is a spiritual gift. it is so for the same reason everything else in this world is...everything is spiritual. And for what it is worth, nothing is spiritual. Think about that for a minute...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

15 Gallons and not an ounce for me

As many of you may know, I have an excellent hobby that I have enjoyed for several years now. I make beer at home...also called, "homebrewing". I also occasionally make wine but I make way more beer than wine. I have made some relatively unusual beers like Blueberry Wheat Beer, Peach Wheat, Strawberry Pilsner and a Chocolate Stout. I have also made some very usual beers like an American Lager, Mexican Style Lager, Irish Red Ale, Brown Ale and a German Pilsner.

So many lessons of life can be learned by seeing and understanding the really cool intricacies of brewing. For example, really small changes or decisions can create major differences in the finished product. If you fail to clean a single spoon or if you allow a single bacteria to get inside the beer it can cause you to have to poor out every drop of it and start over. But you can't be scared of have to branch out and be fun, adventurous and even a bit creative. You can't brew and be scared of what may go least not if you want to have fun and enjoy the hobby. It is better to not take yourself too seriously and play to win rather than playing not to lose. See how cool that lesson is...and all from brewing beer!

There is a more specific lesson...or maybe manifestation is a better word...happening in my brewing world right now. I currently have 15 gallons fermenting. A Trappist Style Belgian Ale is in the earliest stages of yeast being hyperactive (which is a really good thing). A Strawberry Pilsner just started secondary fermentation and is really active as well thanks to the sugar in the strawberries I added two nights ago. A Mexican Lager is almost finished with secondary fermentation...the yeast has all settled at the bottom and it is ready for bottling any day now.

There are 5 gallons in each batch for a grand total of 15 gallons of beer. For those of you who don't care to do the math, that is well over 150 12-ounce bottles of beer or over 6 cases of beer. What is really cool to me is that I will probably not drink the first bottle of those brews. It seems that some people really enjoy the beer I make and as such, have requested that I make them some.

The Mex. Lager is going to a Horse Farm in North Alabama so my friends there can have something refreshing to enjoy after a long day of work and fun. The Strawberry Pilsner is what I like to call Cana in the the location where Jesus turned water into wine. My friend Tyler is getting married next month and that beer will be served at his reception. The Trappist Style Ale is for a friend of mine that recently found out his wife is unexpectedly pregnant. It is a huge surprise as they already have 2 small kids...and she is prego with twins!!! That's enough to make anyone drink.

So anyway, I have been reflecting on how we can use our gifts to bless other people...maybe for a special event like a wedding or maybe just for a daily reminder. I have spiritual gifts and gifts that I just enjoy giving that aren't necessarily spiritual. I can't figure out which category to put the homebrewed beer in yet. When I figure it out, I will report back to you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ecclesiology and Hooters

After reading the title you may be expecting a play on words or you may be thoroughly convinced that I have lost my mind...if you weren't before now. But you should understand the title to be exactly what I mean to talk about today.

I love Buffalo Wings! I like the spice and I like the chicken. Until several months ago I firmly believed that Hooters had the best wings in town. Since I love wings and since I thought the best wings in town were at Hooters guess were I would go for a lunch once or twice per week? Right, Hooters. For what its worth, this isn't a fact that is a new revelation to my wife so erase any thoughts you may have of me sneaking off under the cover of darkness to indulge in one of my favorite lunches. In fact, Brook has often joined me for meals at Hooters...She really gets the fact that is revealed in a less than subtle way that is printed on the back of the shirts worn by the Hooters' Girls..."Delightfully Tacky Yet Unrefined".

So anyway, about 4 or 5 months ago I found another place in town that has bigger and better wings than Hooters and that effectively ended my lunches from Hooters. By the way, if you live in my area and wish to sample these little boned-pieces of love, affection and acceptance otherwise known as awesome buffalo can find them at On Tap. But anyway, this past Tuesday I headed toward On Tap, as the Lord intended, since Tuesday is "half off wings day" at On Tap. Unfortunately there was a wreck that prevented me from making it to On Tap so I had to turn around and find something else to do for lunch. My mouth was watering for wings so I was limited in my choices. So back to Hooters I go.

So I walk in Hooters and see a familiar face behind the bar. It is the same bartender/waitress that use to take my order. She sees me and says something like "long time, no see"...except cooler and I say hello. Her face instantly becomes serious and she says "Look!" Which seems to be a universal word when used in that way meaning, pay attention, I have to ask/tell you something. She continues, "I told my boyfriend what we talked about several times when you were in here and he didn't really think it was possible. I told him that the next time you came in I would ask you more about it and even see if we could come sometime." It was at this time that i remember having a remarkably deep conversation with her on several occasions about ecclesiology and what we were attempting to be about as a community of believers.

Like so many people, she nor her boyfriend feel welcome or at home in traditional churches but she really desires a faith community...some place where faith seems to intersect her life as well as the lives of those around her in a lasting, meaningful and relevant way. She went on to tell me that her boyfriend said he would like to try something like what we do because it sounded weird and different. I just smiled...understanding that anytime a community of faith in the Bible-belt is called weird or different it is likely a good thing. As a Hooter's Girl I imagine that she has plenty of people ask for her number so i wasn't about to go down that I turned the tables on her, I mean , why stop being weird and different now? I gave her my number and told her we would love to fellowship with her and her boyfriend any time that they are ready to hangout with us. I told her the only rule we have is that we love and we insist that people belong...way before or maybe if they never believe. She smiled...understanding that we are living out exactly what she has been hungry for.

Speaking of being hungry and Hooters and Jesus...if Jesus walked the Earth today and was culturally relevant, would he say something like, "Man does not live by buffalo wings alone..."? I would like to think so.

Friday, February 27, 2009

the truth...or at least my truth

Brook wrote some thing about our relationship on her blog. Unfortunately, she has some things skewed just a bit. It is only appropriate that I correct her fabrications and confabulations. Her original post appears below in black. I will do any editing in Red. Sorry Brook but the truth must be told :-)

This is kind of like the 25 things - except there are pre-decided questions and it's about you and your spouse, not just you. Come on, play along - inquiring minds want to know! ;-)

♥ What are your middle names?
Brook and Blake (we both go by our middle names too). (Our first names are Randy and Miranda, and we are both named after our dads who are both named Randy. Both of our mom's middle names are Lynn). TRUE…and how cool is this?!?!

♥ How long have you been together?
9 years Also true

♥ How long did you know each other before you started dating?
24 hours…technically it was one week. We met on February 22 and our first date was the following week.

♥ Who asked who out?
Blake asked me Very True. I would have been blind and insane not to ask her out.

♥ How old are each of you?
Blake is 33 and I am 28. True

♥ Whose siblings do/ did you see the most?
Mine, since they live in town. True, though we don’t see any of our siblings very often…or as often as I would like.

♥ Do you have any children together?
Yes, three sons Very much so

♥ What about pets?
Reagan (Old English mastiff), Meredith (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), Fontana (Simese Himalayan), and 2 goldfish named Shark and Whale True again

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
having opposite interests and likes and dislikes. It's really sacrificial for us just to have fun together sometimes I would say this is true as well

♥ Did you go to the same school?
technically UAB, but not at the same time True…because I’m old!

♥ Are you from the same home town?
No We are from the same state though

♥ Who is the smartest?
Depends on the subject. He covers the left brain subjects, I take care of the right OK, I'm not going to argue is way too sticky. I will say that Brook is incredibly intelligent. However, when it is to her benefit she can pretend that she is as dumb as a bag of hair.

♥ Who is the most sensitive?
hmmm...that's a tough one. I am usually more emotional about things, but Blake is more easily offended than me Brook is a drama-queen. The question wasn't who is more easily offended...however, if it had been the answer would have been the same...Brook.

♥ Where do you eat out most as a couple?
La Spada, Highlands Bar and Grill, and Surin as a couple
La Spada, Baha Burger, Pablos, Mellow Mushroom, and Indigo Joe's as a family True

♥ Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
either Bonaire or Banff, Canada Actually Hawaii would the furthest distance…but who is counting?

♥ Who has the craziest exes?
Blake I think answering this question would require a less ambiguous definition of “crazy”…though in reality it would likely still be me

♥ Who has the worst temper?
Blake's is probably the worst, but I have only ever seen it once and it was in our first year of marriage. Mine is vicious, though, and it comes to visit usually every month or so My temper is absolutely outrageous but Brook’s temper will be seen early and often. You have to really try to piss me off enough to see mine and even then you probably won't see it…or just hurt one of my boys…then you have immediate and serious issues. I win the quality aspect of this but Brook beats me out by a landslide on quantity.

♥ Who does the cooking?
I am the regular, but you would rather eat Blake's cooking. He actually enjoys it. I do love cooking…but Brook is a good cook too.

♥ Who is more social?
Umm... probably Blake umm…it probably depends on if being social means hanging out with closer friends or being a social butterfly

♥ Who is the neat-freak?
Me!! Absolutely true. I am the antithesis of a neat freak. I'm not a slob, I just don't care that much about "neat"

♥ Who is the more stubborn?
That's a toss up depending on the subject again I am way more stubborn…hands down. And I refuse to budge on that point. I am more stubborn.

♥ Who wakes up earlier?
We usually wake up around the same time, but that's a new thing. Traditionally it has been Blake That's true if by “traditionally” she means 5 out of 7 mornings…I am almost always up first.

♥ Where was your first date?
We started at Purple Onion off of Lakeshore (he was like 45 minutes late, I can't believe I waited), and then we drove around and talked the rest of the night. We talked about getting married that night. I was late because I volunteered at a church event and someone didn’t pick up their kid until late. We did talk about marriage thought that night…how cool.

♥ Who has the bigger family?
Blake by just a few I don’t feel like counting right now…but probably true.

♥ Do you get flowers often?
yes, but I buy them for myself. No one knows what I like better than me. I married the only woman in the world who told me that she would rather not receive chocolate, flowers and jewelry. Don’t worry though, she goes and buys what she wants.

♥ How do you spend the holidays?
Running around like crazy trying to see all our families! Pretty much true…except to be more candid we run around doing a ton of things with me bitching and moaning about being busy and running around doing things. Nothing says, “Happy Birthday Jesus” like driving up and down the interstate system. The holiday season alone is reason enough to never get a divorce. I refuse to make the boys hop-scotch the state of Alabama because their parents couldn't keep it between the ditches. But I digress.

♥ Who is more jealous?
Blake Blake Blake! Absolutely false. Brook has a skewed idea of jealous. I am way more protective but not more jealous.

♥ How long did it take to get serious?
It was love at first sight, so like 5 minutes if that long

♥ Who eats more?
I actually think I do, but I rarely see Blake eat since he is usually at work. I know he VERY rarely eats the food I cook, so there ya go. You will have to forgive Brook. She is mental. Occasionally her tendency to leave the road of reality and fall into some alternate universe leads to statements like this one. You can look at us and tell that I eat way more than her maybe even twice as much…end of discussion.

♥ Who does/ did the laundry?
I do the laundry. Blake is not allowed in the laundry room. I don’t touch the laundry at all…true enough. However, I did manage to do my own wash for 7 years before I met Brook. I am more than capable and I really like to do laundry…folding excluded.

♥ Who’s better with the computer?
Blake I am not sure about that…Brook rocks with photo-shop type stuff.

♥ Who drives when you are together?
Blake. He doesn't let me drive. I don't blame him. :) Good Lord, the fact that I am sitting here and am able to move my hands enough to type is proof that I drive…no exceptions. The only reason she is allowed to haul the kids around is because we own a Volvo…essentially a small tank that is impervious to missiles, bombings and the occasional car, tree, neighborhood kid and animal Brook will hit. If only Volvo could engneer some tires that don't destroy my lawn when Brook misses the driveway.

So there you have it…The Truth…at least my version of it :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

SM Lockridge

This is the audio of the famous speech wherein SM Lockridge speaks for 6 minutes about who Jesus is to him. Many would agree with him. This has always been inspirational to me. Hope you enjoy.


I am sick of the government making decisions for me. Moreover, I am tired of the government mandating that I give them money that I have made in spite of their absurd regulations on almost every industry in the country and then spending it in ways that make me sick to even consider.
For example, despite what people want to say about our government providing healthcare to those around the world, they are also making sure that our tax dollar financially supports abortions around the world as well. So my tax dollar helps pay for the killing of a child in another country...our founding fathers must be spinning in their graves.

So how else does the government shaft us with taxes? I'm glad you asked. Here is a list of just some of the taxes we have to pay:

Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax (Fed)
Federal Unemployment Tax (FU TA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Tax
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service charge taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Tax
Vehicle License Registration T ax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

And to think, we left British Rule to avoid so many taxes...does anyone think it is time for The American Revolution part 2?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Siran Stacy's Story

If you have a few minutes and wish to be challenged and inspired...this link is for you. Warning: don't start this link without tissue handy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Where is Robin Williams?

I am enjoying Obama's a weird sort of way. Other than Obama and Congress trying literally screw us for generations yet to be born with this spending bill and other than thinking that one of the first acts of his presidency needed to be the funding of abortions in other countries and other get the idea...

I know the media and Obama supporters will be as hesitant to admit that Obama is flawed as I was to admit the same about Bush but I must continue on the "call a spade, a spade" thought...

In an interview George W. Bush said "I'm the decider". Apparently George was caught up in the moment and failed to realize that "decider" is not a word. Let W. make up a word or say something stupid, redundant or otherwise funny and the Hollywood-types and other media people went nuts. A few days after Bush said "Decider", Robin Williams appeared on a late night show, Letterman or Leno or something, and was wearing a t-shirt that said, "I'm the decider". It was funny and people got a laugh.

If Williams is going to be consistent and fair...which I doubt as that would mean he isn't biased at all...he will now have 2 new t-shirts made. One would simply have about a thousands "uh, uh, um, uh" lines on it. I am as sick of hearing Obama say "uh" and "um" as I was of hearing Bush laugh at his own statements. Both behaviors get under my skin. The second shirt would have the following on "The NUMBERS don't reveal NUMERICAL STATISTICS". He said it and I heard it.

So is Bush and idiot and now Obama has already started doing the same thing? I don't think so. I think it was in the interest of the "left" to portray Bush as a moron. The fact that you won't hear the media discuss Obama's equally moronic statement is because it is in their interest to make Obama look good. The problem with this is that a certain journalistic integrity is expected and we should all understand by now that "journalism" and "integrity" have little in common these days. If you don't believe that, I suggest that you hold your breath until you hear the media laugh about Obama sounding like an idiot. God luck with that.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Family Genealogy

Since this past summer I have been compiling a rather vast family tree. In one branch of my family I have traced back 11 generations to "Thomas Wakefield" who was born in Maryland in 1618. Another branch leads back to Scotland and the year 1628. William Waldrop was born then and he would go on to be Knighted by King Charles and received a land grant from England in the new world...We know the part of the "new World" in which he settled as Virginia.

Going through my family history has been interesting and has revealed some things to me. Some of the things are pretty obvious and others aren't. I think the more evident facts still help keep things in perspective. Here are some of my observations thus far:

1. The most obvious and yet profound observation is that most of the people in my family tree are DEAD. I have over 300 people on my family tree website and only a very small percentage of them are alive. This is a good reminder to me that death is something we all have in our future. It should be respected but not feared. The fact that one day our time in this world will end also reminds me to make days, hours and even minutes count. Even the times when the kids are driving you nuts, or your spouse doesn't seem to get you or whatever...those times are really sacred as well.

2. It has also been interesting to see how culture has changed. Some changes seem to be due to technological and/or medical advances. For example, the more recent families don't seem to have 10-15 kids. It is also interesting to see how certain social norms seem to migrate over time. If you heard of a 14 or 15 year old female getting married today, there is an assumption of pregnancy and extreme dysfunction. Seeing marriages at those ages years ago wasn't really terribly unusual. For the record, the youngest age I can find in my families past to get married is 11...she had her first child at age 12. That leads to my next observation.

3. Solomon says in the book of Ecclesiastes, "there is nothing new under the sun". I have heard and believed that by and large girls have started developing much quicker. Puberty seems to happen sooner for young people these days and menopause and andropause seem to hit people earlier as well. As it would seem though, my 12 year old relative gave birth to a child. I assume she was probably pregnant at age 11 which obviously means that she had hit puberty early. Don't get me wrong, I don't really care when my relatives first developed armpit hair or acne. I do think it is wise to look at any social, spiritual or familial issue through a broad lense. We must understand that this current generation doesn't exist in a vacuum. We are a product of people and events that have lived and died way before we ever came on the scene.

4. Statistically my great-grandchildren will not know my full legal name. How many of you know your paternal, great-grandfather's first middle and last name? I imagine some of you do but the large majority of you do not. I was at a men's retreat once that featured Gordon Dalbey. By the way, should you ever have a chance to spend some time with Dalbey I highly suggest you do so. I digress...he said "a tree with no roots, dies". That really stuck with me since I have been interested in the people who lead to me. It especially sticks with me now as I attempt to think of some way I can impact positively those who will never even know my name.

I guess I could go on for a while but those things are the 4 biggest observations that stand out to me thus far. Have a good Tuesday.

Friday, February 6, 2009

So what now?

All we heard about during Bush's last 2 years was the horrible war crimes and torture tactics used by mean Americans. After we begin to see some "truth" about people and things I wonder if those so opposed to the "attrocities" of the Americans? It seems that those who blindly tossed out some of the most venomous rhetoric during Bush's administration now have to recant those statements...when under oath. They knew we know better now?

Leon Panetta...

Or what about the people who claim the people held in Gitmo are not criminals and if freed they will go about their peaceful lives? Seriously?,2933,489473,00.html

Let's call it both ways if we are going to call it at all.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Message in a Napkin

Why Did Jesus Fold the Napkin? Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection?

The Gospel of John (20:1-7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed separate from the grave clothes.

Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, "They took the Master from the tomb. We don't know where they've put him."
Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn't go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the napkin used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself.

Was that important? Absolutely! Is it really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.

When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.

Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, 'I'm done'.
But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because..........The folded napkin meant, 'I'm coming back!

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Prayer For Today

Father, you are my shepherd! Because of your great mercies and abundant kindness, I don't lack anything.
My rest is from you as you have bedded me down in the softest meadows. You have covered me with a blanket of the warmest clouds and have given me the stars of the universe as my celestial nightlights.
My daily provisions are from your hand alone. You find me quiet pools from which to drink. Because of your faithfulness, you let me catch my breath beneath the shade of your wings and once refreshed, you send me in the right directions.
Even when the way you direct me leads me through Death Valley, when I want to be afraid and anxiousness comes natural to me…I'm not afraid. I don’t have to ever be afraid because you walk at my side. Your strong hands and boundless love bids me to feel secure.
You serve me the best food, my favorite dish in fact, right in front of my enemies. Through this you teach me from whom my power emanates and in whom I find my deliverance.
You revive my drooping head and remove all guilt and shame from my world. Oh God, my cup brims with blessing and droplets of your greatness spill over the lips of my being…proclaiming to the world that you are the Great Shepherd.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. May I slow down daily and allow myself to be found by you and to be redeemed by your love. At the end of my days may you find me and keep me. Then all will know that I'm safely back home in the house of my Shepherd forever and ever and ever.

Lord, make it so. Amen

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Run In The Tall Grass

Yesterday my family rode an hour north of town to look at 56 acres that are for sale. The property was great. The rolling pastures, hardwoods and 3 ponds seemed to be the perfect mixture of a Norman Rockwell painting and the backdrop of Little House on the Prairie. I don't know that we will purchase the land but I know the most valuable part of the trip was how much fun the boys had running, exploring and getting lost in nature.

One part of the land was covered with a tall wheat-like grass that was thick and came up to my waste. I could see my oldest son's head bouncing across the field and whipping between the tall blades. My younger two boys were too short to see them so I had to occasionally call out to them and ask them to hold up their hands or at least answer me. As is usually the case, the younger two were trying to follow and keep up with their big brother. And, as usual the biggest boy was trying his best to be on his own and find his own path.

At one point while my wife and I were walking through this tall grass together I saw the youngest trying to keep up with his brothers. Had he tried to see me he wouldn't have been able to because of the high grass. He was running as fast as he could and since his brothers weren't running too fast he started gaining ground on them. As he finally got close enough to them to see them, he stopped and looked around. It was as though he had lost something or found something he wasn't expecting. Within a few moments he started to cry and yell "Daddy?" though he was asking, "Daddy, where have you gone". I started to run toward him to let him know that though he couldn't see me, I could certainly see him. As he began turning around he got tangled in some briars and my trot became a quick jog...I couldn't get there soon enough and he continued to cry. Finally he saw me getting near him and you could see the stress begin to dissipate.

Before I even got to him I reassured him and then once I was close enough I picked him up from the briars and wiped his tears. I made sure he didn't have any cuts from the briars and I told him that even though he could see me, I was very aware of where he was so that means he was never lost. He said, "Dad, I couldn't find you. I thought I was following you but it wasn't you". I told him that he doesn't have to find me as long as I find him and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

What amazing symbolism! What an amazing image of God.

How often do we run after a thing we think is right or believe that catching will fulfill us, only to find out that we have chased the wrong thing and in so doing have ended up in a place we never intended to go. When that happens we look for God, our "Daddy" and though we can't see him, he is certainly moving in our direction. He gets to us and removes us from the briars and holds us as we get back on the path. We learn from our Daddy that we were only lost from our perspective and that he knew where we were the whole time.

That is amazingly comforting and amazingly simple. God is a really incredible Daddy that always finds me in the midst of the wilderness.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Is Like Lincoln. Seriously?

I love history. I like studying the hidden stories and untold stories of history. The more I study particular times and people in history the more I realize that the popular opinions and even accepted ideas about certain historical events and people is often twisted and changed to benefit people or substantiate actions.

Case in point: With Obama's election and now his inauguration, I continue to hear how much like Lincoln Obama is. I can see some similarities. Both ran as Illinois as their home state. Both believe that bigger government is the best choice for Americans. Both are tall and lanky men.

But how closely related are Obama and Lincoln? Would the men line up on even a majority of their philosophies? I say, "absolutely not". In fact, I say that Lincoln would say that Obama should never be president...not because of his inexperience, his liberal stances or his lack of a production of a birth certificate. Lincoln would say that Obama is not worthy of the office because of the COLOR OF HIS SKIN!!! That's right. Lincoln was indeed "The Great Emancipator" but also would very much be consider a racist today. Would you like proof from Lincoln's own words? Sure. I'm glad you asked...

The words of Lincoln in September, 1858:

"I will say then that I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races -- that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the Negro should be denied everything."

Those words sound more like George Wallace than Barack Obama. If Lincoln thinks "Negroes" are not worthy of even voting or serving as a juror, I think it is safe to say that Lincoln never dreamed it possible for a "Negro" to hold the highest office in the land. Lincoln also seems to support the idea of "separate, yet UN-equal". In fact, since Lincoln seems very much opposed to white people and black people marrying, much less having seems to me that Lincoln would never even support the relationship that lead to the birth of Obama.

With all of that said, Obama wants to tie his boat to Lincoln's legacy...something that Lincoln likely wouldn't favor. So maybe Obama needs to study history a bit before claiming he is so much like Lincoln. Or perhaps Obama has studied history and he wishes to ignore the parts of Lincoln's legacy that serve him. I'm not saying we all don't do that to some degree. I'm just saying that we shouldn't be fooled by rhetoric and false assumptions.

I will also say that while I didn't support Obama and while I think Obama will be remembered in history as one of the least qualified and poorest performing presidents this country has ever seen...I also think it is time that people move forward as much as possible. Maybe these words from Lincoln will help give direction:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."