Sunday, December 24, 2006
That very act helped me lose three pounds. I weighed in this past Friday at 251 pounds. Three weeks, three pounds. Hey, it's a start.
I have only one goal until the end of the year: try to maintain that tiny bit of weight loss through the holiday rich foods-great snacking-you'd be a fool to starve yourself period.
Reviewing my food journal, I see there was a little too much emphasis on late night eating, especially ice cream ... so I'm also going to try and cut down on that.
Come the first of the year, I'll give exercise another serious effort. We bought a treadmill and everything recently.
Your encouraging words are appreciated.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Carol Mead, a remarkable writer with a wonderful gift of finding the holy in the ordinary (please visit her website), said it quite well in a recent post titled, "Mirror Christianity."
Commercials for a high-definition television say that the TV's clear picture results from thousands of tiny mirrors inside the set. Those mirrors produce, as closely as technologically possible, the "exact mirror image of the source material." To explain the high-quality picture, the ads say, "It's the mirrors."
We long for a clear picture of how God looks and acts, and each person has the potential to be one of those tiny mirrors reflecting God's image. If each of us lived only for God, then together we would produce a nearly exact image of the Source. Sadly, most of us can barely reflect God's image accurately for one moment, much less a lifetime, so the image of God appearing through us remains distorted and broken.
Occasionally, though, when we get it right, a glimpse of God appears. When we show selfless love for another person, we reflect the perfect love of God ... so it's not that God chooses to remain completely hidden, as we have the potential to reflect him. The problem is not God.
It's the mirrors.
Speaking of reflecting Christ more perfectly, the title of Carol's piece reminded me of another lesson I recently read regarding a passage in C.S. Lewis' seminal work, "Mere Christianity." It dealt with our prayer life. Lewis says that whenever we pray to "Our Father in Heaven," or "God, the Father" we are, quite literally, claiming to be his son or daughter.
And that means that when we pray, we are "dressing up as Christ." That concept blows me away and makes a sham of all my selfish prayers to just get me through the day, help me lose weight, and bless my latest endeavors. It spins an entirely different perspective on my prayer life.
So it's not so much "What Would Jesus Do?" as it is, "What Would Jesus Pray?"
Sunday, December 10, 2006
What I'm reading: I'm in progress on two books at the moment. One is an escapist little children's story by Cornelia Funke: The Thief Lord. My daughter ordered it through Scholastic and hasn't yet bothered to read it and I was desperate for some fiction one night, so I picked it up. The other book is Flyboys by James Bradley. He's the man who wrote Flags of Our Fathers, which some of you may have seen at the cinema, courtesy of Mr. Eastwood. It chronicles World War II in the Pacific arena through the perspective of the fighter pilots and crew. At times it can be quite, umm, graphic in its detailing of the horrors of war.
What I'm hearing: The Lead Instructor for my Computer Lab Cadre just congratulated all of us by giving us copies of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's latest CD. It's awesome.
What I'm watching: Being a guy who appreciates good science fiction, I was on the "Heroes" bandwagon from the start. I also thoroughly enjoy "Studio 60"; I think it's the best written show on television and Aaron Sorkin is one writer who doesn't insult our intelligence. Still a big fan of "NCIS" on Tuesdays and we still catch "Numb3rs" Friday nights. We've sort of fallen off the "Lost" bandwagon. And oh, we also enjoy "The Closer" on TNT. Happy it's back.
What I've paid money to see: Don't tell my wife, but my daughter Amanda and I snuck off to see Happy Feet while she was in Florida. It's full of rhythm throughout and is a nice story with a nifty little ecological twist near the end. Go once for the story and twice for the soundtrack.
My latest wonder: I saw an article about "Generation Y" and it set me to thinking. All this "generational" talk began with the Baby Boomers, then it was the "Gen-X" crowd, now it's the "Generation Y" group of kids just starting/finishing college. What's next? Generation Z? And what happens after that? Is it the end of the human race? Or will the alphabet start over again? Maybe - since we've been through it once already - we'll start at Generation AA? And what will the battery people have to say about that?
My latest "Little Joy": Backing into a parking spot. Folks, it is sooooo much easier when you leave. Safer, too.
What I'm trying to get done: I'm in the middle of editing/writing some documents for my daughter's choir, I need to update my fantasy baseball league's Constitution, my band is in "negotiations" (for lack of a better word) with my church to be officially adopted as a ministry, there's a few more Christmas gifts to buy, lots more cleaning to do on the house, and my office is just about hopeless. I think the paperwork is winning.
That's about all from this end of the swamp.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
So I'm driving home from a computer lab class today ... it's about an hour's drive, in good weather.
Today the weather was not good.
Not only was the evening gloaming coming on, but the clouds gathered and the sky grew extraordinarily dark, and then it began to pelt down big, wet, splattery drops of rain.
But here's the cool thing. All the way home I was listening to a CD by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and right when things get their darkest and gloomiest outside, on comes a song featuring a children's choir and a melody that just takes wing and soars inside my vehicle and echoes all the way down into the depths of my heart.
The lyrics spoke of Christ coming at Christmas, bringing light and hope to the world. That song, at that moment, saved me. Just as things got their darkest, I was reminded that there is a Light no storm or gloom or black of night can quench.
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
Monday, December 04, 2006
So my car was broken into this past Saturday and the thief took our digital camera, which I thought I had hidden underneath the seat ... apparently not well enough. The photo, by the way, is just one I found on the web, not our car. Couldn't get a picture of that because I NO LONGER HAVE A CAMERA.
But I'm not bitter.
Wait, yes I am. Mostly at myself, actually. I knew I should have put the bloody thing in the trunk but just didn't want to take the time.
I've been broken into before, many years ago, when I lived in a fairly shabby tenement with disreputable neighbors living upstairs and not much security on either door. My apartment was broken into several times, actually. Usually they just took food and whatever cash I'd left lying around. After those robberies, I felt, well, violated. Angry, vulnerable, and violated. I moved as soon as I could.
But this time I just feel stupid.
Stupid and broke. It's nearly $200 to fix the broken window and another several hundred to replace the camera. What's that? Insurance? Well, if we had more coverage than just the classic PL/PD on our vehicles, perhaps that would apply. As it is, we're just out a ton of money ... at least half a ton, anyway.
Man, these lessons are too expensive to be learning at my age.
Friday, November 24, 2006
It is the most I have ever weighed. In all of my 49+ years on the planet. I am appalled at myself.
And it must go. I must lose weight. And not just lose it, but take it out deep into the woods and set it free someplace where it will never find its way home again.
And you're going to help me. I hope. Your job is to provide tips, advice, and most of all, encouragement. I'll post a monthly update here on the blog and I expect you to use the comments section to keep me going. Here are the targets:
225 makes me a happy guy.
200 makes my doctor a happy guy.
180 makes my insurance company happy people.
Behavioral science tells us it takes three weeks of repeating an activity for it to become a habit, and that's the impetus behind the "Change One" Diet Plan. Change one thing about your lifestyle or diet for three weeks, until it's locked in, then change one more thing. It's a gradual lifestyle change in hopes it will be a lasting lifestyle change.
I'm going to give it a try. Starting today - the day after Thanksgiving - I'm going to attack this weight problem and cure or at least alleviate some of the ills that plague me (hiatal hernia, diabetes, constant fatigue).
My first step is to begin a food journal. They say when you write down everything that goes into your mouth, you wind up eating less. I guess it's because you're more aware of what you're doing. At any rate, I start today.
That means you're on the clock with me. I thank you.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Usually being the first one up in the morning, I stumble into the bathroom with the cat fast upon my heels, having apparently missed the company of humans for all of five or six hours. And there we are, the cat rubbing up against my legs, purring, meowing, telling me her food bowl is empty and I'm the only one in the world who cares about her and WHY HAVEN'T YOU FILLED IT YET???
Meanwhile, I'm telling her, "Look, I don't bother you when you're in the litter box, so leave me alone." To date, she has never understood this.
Many times when my wife comes around a corner of our house, the cat will bounce on her feet for a moment, then move away. I am constantly hearing her tell the cat, "It's me. It's always me. It's always going to be me."
Lately though, I confess the cat seems to be mellowing out a bit. She's over three years old, now, and she'll actually let me lie down on the bed - disturbing her nap, mind you - without jumping off and running away. We'll actually even nap together. I'll always wonder if she thinks my snoring is just my way of purring.
The other day I was staying home with my daughter, who was ill and didn't go to school, and while I was at the computer, she actually jumped up to my lap and curled up in the crook of my elbow for about 45 minutes, until I had to put her down and see if the joint would still work. Getting old sucks.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
My personal preference is to have Congress balance the White House. Republican president? I'll take a Democratic Congress. Democrat at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Gimme a Republican House and Senate. That way whatever laws make it out of D.C. are bound to be ones *everyone* wants, and that's the only way to play this game we call politics.
My parents flashed me an emergency email prayer request, so I'm passing it on in that spirit of an "eCommunity of Prayer" (see the blog index to your left). It seems that during the years my parents wintered in Texas, they made some good friends. One family (Ray and Pat F.), just passed on a prayer request about Chad, who was shot in the head while riding in a HumVee through Fallujah in Iraq. He is currently in critical, but stable condition, waiting to be stable enough to transport to a better medical facility in Germany. Please pray for a complete recovery.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FINISHING YOUR MEDICATION: You know how you catch one of those ucky respiratory infections and your doctor gives you some pills to make it go away? Take all of them, even if you feel like you've gotten better. My daughter had the creepy-crawly crud a couple of weeks ago and when she got to feeling better, we stopped enforcing the pill routine. Well, her infection wasn't completely gone so guess what? It came back in spades and the pills we made her start taking again didn't help because her body had built up an immunity to them. So now she's missed three days of school with a temperature over 100 degrees and she's on a heavier antibiotic ... and you can bet your proverbial bippy she'll finish ALL of those pills.
I see the Detroit Tigers hitting coach - Don Slaught - fell on his sword over the team's woeful hitting performance in the World Series and he resigned. A shame we can't blame the *real* culprits. Golly, you'd think paying someone - several someones - $12 million a year would mean they could hit a ball where the defenders aren't every once in awhile. Ah well, let not this miserable ending to a fantasy season detract from Detroit's accomplishment in achieving heights in the baseball world no one could have ever predicted.
Hey, it's time to start making supper so I gotta run.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The answer is yes, most certainly.
One thing people just have a hard time wrapping their heads around is the fact that we are eternal. Our bodies may be temporary, but the stuff you can't see inside - the soul, the spirit, the essence of US - lasts forever.
I wonder (and, I confess, occasionally worry) about retirement. Do we slow down? Do we stop doing things? Does the central thread of our lives begin to unravel? I applaud all of you who are busier in retirement than you were during your occupational years. For two reasons: because you're now busy at what you want to be doing - which is always more fulfilling - and because you understand the eternal equation.
Death is only a speed bump. And I want the speedometer of my life to be red-pegged when I hit it.
I want to keep going ... right on into eternity.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Sometimes you folks will share a prayer request with me. Like the ones I got this weekend, from list member Pam W. about her husband, who just had surgery for colo-rectal cancer; or the one from list member Carolyn W., who is fighting her own good fight against cervical and ovarian cancer. Then there was the time list member Lee J. sent me an email about some family members who were in a tragic automobile accident and killed and would the list pray for the remaining family members?
Sometimes the prayers come closer to home, as when my own parents were in a collision this past summer, or when you prayed for my wife's appendectomy in 2004.
I guess the point is, prayer works. Revelation 5:8 talks about the prayers of God's people rising as incense to the Lord and filling up golden bowls in heaven. I like that concept ... that our prayers are heard and received and kept and, I believe, answered. Our job is to fill up those prayer bowls.
So why can't my list and this blog be more than just "yet another spot on the Web to toss my thoughts into the abyss" and actually be useful for one another? Let's turn this little corner of the Internet into an "eCommunity of Prayer" - at least periodically - and let's pray for one another.
I invite you to use the "Comments" link at the bottom and offer up something - let's keep it to just one thing per person, if you can - that you'd like us to pray about. And as you read the comments, read them in an attitude of prayer and intercession. And know that at the very least, *I* read each and every comment and I'll certainly be praying for you as I read them.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
They started an IV drip, hooked me up to some oxygen, strapped a plastic cylinder into my mouth, rolled me onto my left side and started a sedative. Next thing I know I'm feeling a little dizzy and the very next thing I remember is waking up with a sore throat.
A really, really, really sore throat.
And a hiatal hernia.
For which there really isn't any surgery, from what I can discover on the web. Just need to take it easy and make a few lifestyle changes. Like the way I stand, the way I eat, and everything else about the way I live.
Hmmm, this may take some time.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Now it's time to tackle "Life's Little Rules." Here's my Top Ten:
10. Spring ahead, Fall back, Winter where it's sunny.
9. Never pass up an opportunity for a good hug.
8. Never leave a restaurant empty-handed.
7. Sleep until you wake up naturally; trust that your body knows.
6. The only thing more important than a good education is a good heart.
5. Oil changes every three months or 3,000 miles really do work.
4. Pay your bills.
3. Understand that time is the true currency of life.
2. Do what you can and leave the rest up to God.
1. There are never any endings; only beginnings in disguise.
So what's your version?
Saturday, September 02, 2006
They're caused, as I understand it, by spasms of your diaphragm, which is the muscle that sits right on top of your tummy. Most hiccups last less than three minutes, though I did read about one documented case where they lasted nearly 60 years. Really.
The folk legend cures that we've used around our house are the classic "drink a glass of water," which also works for a few of you, according to what my list members sent me. We've also tried holding our breath and eating a spoonful of peanut butter.
Then I asked for your cures. Here's a sampling:
"Take a deeeeep breath very, very, v-e-r-y-a-l-m-o-s-t-p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y-s-l-o-w-l-y. Hold it for two or three seconds, then exhale just as slowly. Repeat three or four times, and that's usually enough to get those pesky critters gone. What it does is work that spasming muscle much like you would walk off a 'charlie horse' in your leg. It gently and slowly allows the diaphragm muscle to relax. Works like a charm every time."
"When my children were small I used a remedy that my parents had used on me as a child. I would ask them to remember the LAST white horse they had seen. They would go deep into thinking and then finally come up with an answer. They were then surprised to learn that their hiccups had disappeared. I guess the moral of the story is it is difficult to concentrate on one thing while you are seeking another."
"If you place a straw lengthwise between your teeth and drink water with the straw in place ... the hiccoughs will stop!"
Sunday, July 30, 2006
No doubt nothing would have changed, Bonnie's a wonderful woman and I have ABSOLUTELY no regrets, but these are some things I wish someone had made me at least think about before we knitted and knotted our lives together.
Do you understand everything will change? Can this person change with you?
Between the ages of 18 and 24, everything changes. Every. Thing. The way you look at the world, your social circle, the way you handle money, the way you look at the rest of the world, the way you eat and sleep, your views on religion, politics, sexuality, and every other big issue and in the middle of all this change you have to figure out where you fit in to the big picture of life for the next 50 years.
There's an old joke that says "a man marries a woman thinking she'll never change, and a woman marries a man thinking she can change him ... and they're both wrong." At the time most people get married, their life is already in a constant state of flux and growth and change ... and now you're adding another whole life into that mixture. You'd better both be sure you can make those changes together and come out the other side as stronger, happier versions of yourselves.
What goals do you have in life? Can this person help you achieve them? Can you help him or her achieve his or her own goals?
If not, better to wait. Because marriage is forever. At least it's supposed to be. You want to climb the Himalayas? Does he? Does she? If not, there's a dream gone bust and a regret that will simmer in the back of your heart until an innocent disagreement over the way you brush your teeth erupts into a full-blown marital World War III.
Old hurts and missed chances have a way of popping up and ruining a relationship unless you are able to thoroughly and completely let go of them. And that's a dang hard thing to do.
Do you make each other laugh? Can you carry on a conversation all night long? Apart from the snuggling and social activities and dates, do you long to be near this person?
In short, is this person your friend? Your best friend? Because the passionate flames will turn to smoldering embers soon enough and there's only so much money to keep you occupied with activities and dates ... in the end, there's just the two of you. If you can't find happiness - and by that I mean true contentment, the joy of just "being" - with this person, then perhaps you still haven't found the right one for you. Keep looking.
How do you feel about children? When do you want them? How many?
It's amazing to me that most couples only have a vague idea for an answer to this question. "Yes we want children. No, not right away," are about the only answers I hear. Do you understand how much wiggle room is in those statements? Define "not right away," for starters. One year? Two? Ten? Is this how the other person defines it?
See earlier paragraph on being able to change with one another.
Finally, can you keep your word?
Because that's what it all comes down to: making a commitment to this person for the rest of your long, long life and sticking to that commitment through thick, thin, and all the gooey stuff in between. The marriage vows kind of cover all the territory here: richer-poorer, sickness-health, better-worse, forsaking all others until death do you part. Those words should strike terror into your heart that only a complete and utter trust in your own fidelity and integrity can quench.
Those are the questions I wish I'd been asked. From this end of the calendar I know the answers. 23 years ago, maybe not so much. But I sure would have liked the chance to think and talk about these questions with my fiancee. Who knows how she would have answered? Who knows what would have happened?
What kind of questions do you wish you'd been asked?
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
I wrote this in Mark Mail today:
I never quite know how to feel on patriotic days. I am an American by birth, a Christian by second birth, and those two sometimes walk hand-in-hand and sometimes, by necessity, are poles apart.
As an American, I'm proud of our accomplishments, ashamed of our excesses, horrified by our abuses, and yet confident of our future.
As a Christian, I feel much the same way, actually, only with a good deal more humility and not nearly so much pride, and I am more than confident, I am absolutely convinced of an eternal destiny and a bright, heavenly future.
I saw a sign outside a church I passed yesterday that set me on to this thinking. It said, "American and Proud, Christian and Humble." That is the unique dynamic in which we find ourselves - Christians, I mean - living.
Personally, I'm not sure I know how to do that. Any ideas?
Friday, June 23, 2006
I tried to upload some vacation photos to my website, but the Internet connections here are just not cooperating long enough to do anything. Watch for them to be there by Sunday evening.
Today we toured the Mackinaw Point Lighthouse, climbing 51 spiral stairs through four floors and 11 rungs on a ladder to reach the tower top. The lighthouse ran from 1892 until 1957 when Mackinac Bridge opened. The Bridge has flashing lights at the top of its towers, which rise 552 feet into the air, making the lighthouse obsolete. The Bridge also has its own foghorn. Five men were killed in its construction, though we were told the builders expected to lose a baker's dozen. It was built for $99 million and in three years, coming in under budget and on time. It is the country's longest suspension bridge. There will be a picture of it on my website by Monday.
Then we hiked over to Fort Michilimackinac, which was built by the French and occupied by the British until 1779, when they moved the whole thing over to Mackinac Island and a better defensive position. The fort was carefully reconstructed and today is the site of the longest ongoing archeological dig in Michigan. A dig that began in 1955 we took pictures of today.
Tomorrow we start for home, much to the chagrin of everyone. I only hope our builder finished the bathroom remodel....
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Photo of the Day: That's me and Midge. Midge is the horse. Midge had a mind of her own. I'm wondering what I'm getting myself into. We went horseback riding on Mackinac Island at the insistence of my daughter. Next time I'm renting a bicycle.
We spent Wednesday on the island, enjoying a carriage tour and Fort Mackinac and the ferry ride over from the mainland, and we've even had a little bit of fudge. There are at least four fudgiers (is that a word?) who claim to have the state's best fudge. Fact is, you mix that much sugar with that much chocolate and it's hard to tell the difference.
I put a whole bunch of other vacation pictures up at my website. Have a look if you'd like.
There are only four vehicles with large combustion engines on Mackinac Island: one ambulance, one police car, and two fire trucks. Everyone else gets around by horse or bicycle. During the winter, it's either a horse or a snowmobile.
And we found the reason Mackinaw/Mackinac are pronounced the same. The Ojibwa Indians called the area "mishilimakinak" ... which means either "great turtle" or "many turtles" depending on your interpetration. The island was given the name Mackinac by the French fur traders and when the English settled the city in the 1880's, they gave it the more phonetic pronunciation for a name.
We spent Thursday in the city proper, having a good look around, playing some miniature golf (Bonnie won), and then we slipped across the big bridge into the Upper Peninsula and journeyed over to "Mystery Spot" in St. Ignace, which was founded as a tourist attraction in 1955. It's claim to fame is that gravity seems to work backward in this little 150 square feet tract of land. My wife claimed she grew lightheaded upon entering the "spot" so maybe there's something to it.
Tomorrow we're off for a tour of a lighthouse and the colonial land-bound fort here in the city, before taking in a Beatles look-alike show in the evening. Should be fun.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
So here we are in Mackinaw City and today we're bound for Mackinac Island. Can anyone tell me why those two are spelled differently, but pronounced the same?
So far the word we've coined most often is a concoction of my daughter's: "purtiful." It's a combination of pretty and beautiful. The scenery in northern Michigan is certainly purtiful.
I'll try to post a "Picture of the Day" later this evening. My Internet connection here at the hotel seems to be a bit dodgy, but I'm more determined than it is.
Monday, June 19, 2006
This is my Step-Mom. Hazel Esther Raymond. It's a pretty good picture, isn't it? My nephew and amateur photographer, Chad, snapped it recently. Just by looking at the photo, you'd never believe that she'll be 87 years old this November, would you? She's a petite woman, coming in at just under five feet and just over 100 pounds.
I wish I could show you the picture I took two days ago in the hospital. It paints a gruesome portrait of a woman suffering dearly from an automobile accident that may end up claiming her life.
My dad and mom were driving west on a Michigan highway in an Olds Silhouette minivan, with the cruise control set to 55 m.p.h., when a car driven by a 17-year old (carrying three other teenagers) attempted to cross the highway directly in their path. My dad barely had time to tap the brakes when they hit. The passenger side of the other vehicle was driven nearly to the center of the car and into the ditch. Inside the van, the impact was so sudden and hard that the seatbelt broke my mother's sternum as the airbag deployed and smacked her in the face (saving her life in the process). Both her hands smashed against the dashboard and when the van spun a complete 180 degrees, Mom was thrown against the arm rest, breaking a rib.
During the same time, my father was thrown into his airbag, bruising his nose, and his head was thrown back so violently he fractured the C-2 vertebrae in his neck, as well as bruising both legs against the steering column and dash. Being a larger man, the seat belt merely bruised his torso rather than breaking anything. Again, despite any damage caused by the airbags, they are both alive to tell you this story because of them.
Well, Dad could tell you. Mom is still lying in the neurological ICU as I write this, an oxygen tube in her nose and a fluid tube down her throat. Her arms are black and blue from the elbow all the way down into the palms. She cannot talk. She suffered a mild heart attack late Sunday night, but because she was in the Intensive Care Unit, they were able to administer aid quickly and now she's in stable condition. Pneumonia and/or congestive heart failure remain very real possibilities. Her life hangs in the balance.
We may never know or understand why the other driver felt it was safe to cross that intersection. Was the sun in his eyes? Did someone or something distract him? Did he think he had time to cross? Was he more concerned about impressing the three girls in his car than he was about driving safely? All we know is that of the four people in the car, the front passenger broke her leg severely but everyone else walked away with bumps, bruises, and lacerations ... despite the fact they were trapped so badly in the mangled automobile that paramedics had to cut the roof off the car to get everyone out.
In a heartbeat, my parents lives have changed. Perhaps irrevocably. The only "blessing" that can currently be found in this situation is the outpouring of love from all those who have been touched by my mother and father's ministry in life and are lining up to offer their help, support, and encouragement. It has also brought my stepsisters and I closer together. And I got to spend most of last week with my Dad, helping him adjust to life in a cervical collar. We haven't spent that kind of quality time together in, literally, decades. It's an honest shame it takes such a tragic event to trigger these "blessings."
In the end, only God knows and time will tell what roads this story will take.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Just a few scattered thoughts today. The picture is from my wife, taken this morning as Tregilgas Tree Service went to work, owned by the husband of the daughter of some good friends of ours. Networking! Wes is lopping off one of the branches and then he did some tall acrobatics for us, which are not pictured. We'll have plenty of "before" and "after" pictures, but I'll probably put those up on my website.
Our builder also dropped off our siding materials and he took some more door measurements as well. He'll start in earnest tomorrow. The materials are being stored in our garage so one of our cars has to park out in the street for about six weeks. Eh, a minor inconvenience.
I saw the very definition of "uncouth" the other day. I was in the restroom at my postal unit, and there was a man using the urinal ... talking on his cell phone. Ewww! And then HE FLUSHED, leaving the caller *no doubt* about where he was and, more grossly, what he was doing. People, people, people, let's conduct our affairs with a little more decorum, shall we?
The concerts this past weekend were a blast. The guys of "Big Daddy Weave" are all really nice and I recommend you run out or go online and purchase all of their CDs. We got to have a bite to eat with them in the "green room" before the show and had some time to chat. The sound company was over an hour late, so all the sound checks were rushed and we were feeling a little anxiety about that, but we just decided to leave it in the hands of the Lord, play with confidence, and have fun. And boy, did we!
Someone in the audience came up to Bryan, our lead guitar guy, and told him how much she enjoyed our music and that "she heard our stuff on the radio all the time." Bryan had to let her down gently and let her know we don't have anything on the radio, we just cover popular music in our band. Still, a nice compliment.
The Lapeer Art Festival was also nice. The weather was gorgeous, we got to play twice as long as we did the night before, and there were some really creative artists and their works on display along Nepessing Street, which is the main thoroughfare through the business district in Lapeer. We played on the lawn of the courthouse, which is the oldest courthouse in the state of Michigan.
We've finished making our vacation plans. We'll be heading up to Mackinaw City and over to Mackinac Island in a couple of weeks for a few days. We were supposed to be going on tour with my daughter's community choir, but that fell through when not enough kids (or their parents) were able to commit to doing the tour. So we decided to make it a family week. I'm looking forward to it.
Well, the tree service folks have got their commercial-grade chipper up and running again, just outside my office window by the curb, and it's nearly dinner time here, so I'm going to run. Thanks for reading, as always.
What are YOU doing for vacation this year?
Saturday, May 27, 2006
What I'm reading: "Unlearning Church" by Mike Slaughter and Warren Bird. It's about how the church needs to "unlearn" traditional methods of connecting people with God because we no longer live in traditional times. (There are some who would say that's a shame. Not me, but I understand the sentiment.) It's the kind of book that makes me put it down every few pages because something will grab my heart or my mind and I'll have to spend some time meditating and digesting it.
What I'm hearing: Not any one CD right now. My musical energy is focused on a couple of upcoming gigs my band is playing. The first is as the warm up band for national recording group "Big Daddy Weave." That's kind of a big deal for us. The other is the very next day as we play at the inaugural Arts Festival in Lapeer, Michigan. There have been a couple of songs that have grabbed my attention recently, however. One is "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts. I love the lyric in the refrain: "God bless the broken road that led me straight to you." The other is the new single out by Mercy Me: "So Long Self." It's got an infectious 1960's style melody and some great lyrics. That band just keeps turning out great song after great song.
What I'm watching: Not much since the summer rerun season has begun. I enjoyed the season finale of "NCIS"; Gibbs won't quit for long because that show would collapse without Mark Harmon. We taped the season ender for "Lost" but we haven't watched it yet, so NOBODY TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS. Other than that I'm just keeping an eye on the baseball highlights.
What I'm celebrating: The successful refinancing of our home over the past couple of weeks. Without going into all the gory details, we were in some pretty severe financial straits in 2003 but with some good professional advice, some smart living and good choices, some long hours on the overtime list, and the grace of God (always the grace of God), we're back on top of our game, or nearly there. Not only were we able to sign contracts for $21,000 of external home renovations, we also are getting the bathroom remodeled, paid off both mortgages, tucked some extra cash in the bank, and still lowered our monthly payment by nearly $200. The only drawback? The mortgage that had only 14 years left to its payoff date now has 30 years once again. Hopefully we can add a little bit to the principal each month and get that date drastically shortened.
What I'm trying to get done: The aforementioned renovations, the aforementioned concerts, and get my son home safely for the summer months.
What I've paid money to see: "RV" was very pleasant, indeed, and certainly more enjoyable than the critics led me to believe it would be. We also got a big kick out of "Over the Hedge" and especially appreciated its gentle jab at our conspicuous consumerism. We're going down to see the Detroit Tigers play some baseball tomorrow afternoon and that's bound to be pretty good, too.
The smartest thing I've done lately: I'd like to say "hire the right builder" but only time will tell. The renovations start June 5.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The first thing I'd do is sleep. The kind of deep sleep where you soak your pillow with the drool and wake up to three civil noise infractions from your neighbors due to the snoring.
Then I'd bail out my Inbox so Outlook Express doesn't go under from the weight of so many unfiled e-mails.
I'd catch up on some of the fantasy baseball research articles I seldom have time to read.
I'd brew a half pot of coffee and munch on toast and butter while reading some backlogged magazines.
I"d explore some new secret intimacies with the missus.
I'd curl up in a corner of the sofa with a really good science fiction book and go walking amongst the stars and visit alien vistas and feel, somehow, mildly disappointed when I put the book down and realized I was still here on Earth.
I'd reread my prayer and scripture journal and make a new entry.
I'd break out the Cribbage board and play a few matches with my kids.
I'd dust off some of the DVD/Video boxes in our collection and watch some classic movies or television shows.
And then I'd sleep some more.
So what would you do on a rainy day with nothing to do and nowhere to go?
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I certainly don't feel any older. Well, in an "all-at-once" kind of way. I mean, in the aggregate sense of changes building up over time, well, yes, I feel older. The beard I see in the mirror is no longer red. The lines around the eyes are there all the time, not just when I smile. I've caught myself grunting upon occasion when I get up off the sofa.
And just the IDEA of actually running anywhere makes me break out in a sweat.
But other than that, I'm still a young buck.
What changes have you noticed as the years have slipped behind?
Sunday, May 07, 2006
The service was packed with specials ... the choir sang a benediction, the handbell choir played the offertory, our worship band played while the "Miracle Offering" was taken up. Letters from former pastors were read, we showed a 15-minute slideshow on the 85 year history of Calvary Church, one of our beloved former pastors spoke for 20 minutes, *AND* we also had Communion, this being the first Sunday of the month. And did I mention we still did all the other regular elements of our service (praise and worship songs, announcements, hymns)? The Pastor even preached his sermon, albeit he did skip great chunks of it.
By all accounts, it was a marvelous service, but it's sticking in my craw a little bit that SO MUCH was planned to fill our 90 minute service. I'm no stickler for walking out of church at exactly twelve noon and certainly believe in allowing the Spirit to move in the midst of our weekly time together ... but stubbornly insisting on stuffing in every little bit of planned item when it's clearly overkill - if I can use that word when referring to a service of Christian faith - seems to me to be poor stewardship of God's time and more than a little bit selfish.
There, I've said it and it's off my chest and I thank you for letting me do that.
By the way, more than $130,000 was brought in and many old members visited us, resulting in some very fine conversations.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
In a post I titled "Has It Really Been 11 Days..." (see link at left), I published a photo of my daughter's bedroom.
Well, in the interest of fairness, here is her room once we cleaned it up and installed the new/used furniture we purchased from an estate sale.
Quite the difference, eh?
Remarkably, more than a month later, it still pretty much looks like that.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
It helps that I hid all the remote controls.
But still, I think even if I hadn't, we would have had the strength of character to keep the screens dark. Though we have been tempted, and have kind of "cheated" just a little tiny bit. Amanda goes to a latchkey program here in our neighborhood after school three days a week, and we allow her to watch what little bit of television is on there. If there was a set turned on at the mall, or coffee shop, we peeked. We definitely peeked. Once we sat at our kitchen table and noticed we could see through our neighbor's window and view their set ... but the distance was too great and the picture was too small to be meaningful. I confess it here only in the interest of full disclosure.
My wife did ask her boss to TiVo one of our six "must watch" shows. The other five we gave up this week ... but even that was not such a sacrifice since two of them weren't on and two others were reruns (I think; I gave up reading the TV listings this week). Finally, we agreed that playing a video game using the TV screen wouldn't be considered watching television ... but no one even did that.
We've spent more time playing games on the computer, we've read a whole lot more, and my daughter has spent some time this week composing her first musical piece on the piano. And oh, we napped a little bit more. That's always good.
Did anybody else out there take part in this social experiment? What was it like for you?
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
"Not long ago I attended a strategy session on the culture war. Participants examined the decline of marriage, the cheapening and flattening of human sexuality into contextless pleasure, the exploitation and destruction of unborn human beings. Speeches were given. Brows were furrowed. Resolutions were made. All were earnestly committed to the cause, and most, to be blunt, were not having a very good time ... it is hard to believe someone who speaks of love through clenched teeth.
"Jesus was hardly shy about confronting the patterns of sin in his culture - though he was consistently harder on the pious than he was on the pagans."
Now this is the part that leapt off the page and grabbed me by the heart:
"But everywhere Jesus went, life blossomed. The sick were healed, lepers were touched, daughters and sons were plucked from the mouth of the grave. Jesus left behind him a trail of tears and laughter, reunited families, and terrific wine, as well as dumbfounded synagogue leaders, uneasy monarchs, and sleepless procurators. His witness against violence, amidst a culture in rebellion against the good, was neither withdrawal nor war. It was simply life: abundant, just, generous life. And, ultimately, a willingness to let the enemies of life do their worst, confident that even death could not extinguish the abundant life of God."
Make it your mission to plant goodness, and watch life blossom. 'Nuff said.
Friday, April 14, 2006
I only drew a blank on one question: "How would you accommodate diversity in your classroom?"
Now we come to the title of today's post. What's diversity mean to you? When you hear the word, what do you think?
Maybe it's my age, but when that word was first put into use it was as a politically correct way of saying "affirmative action." It meant women and minorities. So my brain is thinking, "how would I accommodate women and minorities in my classroom? The same as anyone else. Duh!"
What came out of my mouth was some mumbled jumbo about making sure my instructing staff was diverse and all postal employees of diverse backgrounds would see themselves represented in the leadership of the lab...blahblahblah, woofwoofwoof, etc.
But then I confessed to the board, "I really have no idea how to answer this question. It doesn't seem to be an issue for me. People are people."
It was then that I learned that in our Postal Service World, diversity means "anyone who is different than you are" and the question was really about people with hearing impairments, the physically impaired, or people with medical conditions that require them to leave the room frequently ... which is very nearly a totally different question than the one I thought I had been asked.
A friend later that night clarified things for me. She said, "What they should have asked you is how would you accommodate special needs in your classroom?"
Now THAT question I could have answered.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Okay, so how are those Lenten resolutions coming along? Only three more days to go!
It's nice the way the calendar (and God, must never forget God) keeps giving us these second chances to do things right. New Year's ... Lent ... the end of the school year ... the start of the school year ... Advent ... these are all "bookmarks" in the calendar where we can make up our minds to do it right or at least do it differently this year.
But tell ya what, let's agree that we won't beat ourselves up for not hitting the mark on these resolutions, okay? Let's just do our best. If we fall, shake it off, get up and make another attempt tomorrow.
That's the recipe for sanity.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
I confess I love to gather in a small room once a year with at least eleven other grown adults who love to pretend we're smarter than anyone else in the place. It's a strange game, fantasy baseball, invented by several New York sportswriters and raconteurs in the mid-80's. The basic premise is this (and I'm really, really simplifying things for you): through any of several means, you "draft" real major league baseball players for your team, which closely mimics the actual roster of the major leagues. Only you're not bound by team loyalties. You can choose any player from any team.
Then you watch the games. The statistics compiled by the real life players are the statistics your team compiles. Whichever team comes up with the best aggregate of statistics at the end of the regular baseball season wins the league. The winner usually gets a small gratuity, a trophy of some sort, and - most importantly - bragging rights throughout the next long six months of winter.
This is not considered gambling - and has been ruled on by the courts - due to the fact that nothing rests on the outcome of a single event or game. In fact, Major League Baseball (at www.mlb.com) sponsors several versions of fantasy baseball each season.
I founded a league at my Post Office in 1989. I was the Commissioner and Statistician for many years. I still play in that league.
I have never won it.
I've won other leagues and "finished in the money" on many other occasions, but I've never taken home the trophy in the league I started. I can't figure out if this is poetic justice or just a cruel twist of fate. It certainly keeps me humble ... usually because the other owners in my league never, ever, EVER let me forget it.
(Insert pause while I mumble and grumble incoherently to myself about that for a bit.)
Anyway, I currently limit myself to playing in two leagues and had my first draft today. As usual, I thought I did an outstanding job, though I did miss my partner (I have a co-owner in that league to bear some of the burden; he had prior commitments). I won't bore you with any more details ... but watch this space in about six months to see how everything comes out.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
...since last I posted here? Gracious! I'll try not to let *that* happen again.
On February 23 in "Mark Mail," I wrote about the "Owner's Manual for Your Teenage Daughter." In it was the sentence, she will "sleep in a burrow of dirty laundry." I offer the picture above as Exhibit A.
That room looks *much* cleaner now. We picked up some second-hand furniture, a new canopy bed, and an area rug at a friend's estate sale and had to shovel everything out and clean to make room for it.
So what's new at your end of the swamp?
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The sound you're hearing is conservative Christians everywhere retching.
As I mentioned in Mark Mail, the missus starts the latter half of her 4th decade on the planet this weekend. Congrats, best wishes, and - of course - cold cash can be sent to email@example.com. We're celebrating at her favorite Chinese restaurant with friends.
I've been thinking a lot about the Lord's Prayer recently. Everything you need for a full, vibrant prayer life is in there. Hmm. More on that in a separate post.
Okay, now it's your turn. Fill in the blanks. "Old ____ never die, they just ____."
Thursday, March 09, 2006
I first met Bonnie at a local Wendy's fast food restaurant I was managing. (Long story.) She had long, long red hair and a blue windbreaker on with a little button that said - in a mimicked Coca-Cola script - "Things Go Better With Christ." She also had a smile that you could plug into an outlet and light up a stadium.
I was smitten. Turning on all my playboy charm, I smoothly said, "I like your button." Then I fetched her drinks and her burger. We didn't see each other again until we both attended the same small Christian fellowship group at a ministry I was working with. One of our friends was getting married soon, so I asked her to go the wedding with me. She agreed and the rest, as they say, is history.
What's your spousal story?
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
o Mary Jo is well and truly married and on her way to a new home in California. It was, as most weddings are, a thing of beauty and a joy to behold and even more fun to be a part of. My band provided all the music for the wedding, which had a decidedly Beatles theme. We played "When I'm 64" for the bridal party processional, the traditional Wedding March for the bride, "Love" by John Lennon for the Unity Candle, and then we finished up with "All You Need is Love" and "With A Little Help from My Friends" for the recessional. We'll probably keep most of those songs in our repertoire.
Oh, and we also played "Butterfly Kisses" during the wedding rehearsal as a surprise for the bride. Her dad sang it. Well, sang and sobbed and choked his way through it, anyway. It was a tender and touching moment.
o I've put in for a new shift at the Post Office. Right now I'm working 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m (with the commute, it winds up being more like 10-8). Yuck. It's too early to get much done in the morning and too late to get anything done at night. I'm sure I've whined about this before to many of you. I've applied for a position at a sub-station closer to my home with hours of 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. We'll see if 20+ years of seniority will be enough to land it. It's quite a shift in my bioparadigm, after working the later hours for nearly a year-and-a-half, but one that I look forward to making. I should know by the end of the week.
o My daughter got her hair cut! My daughter got her hair cut! This is significant, folks. She had been wearing it nearly down to her backside and was adamant about not getting it cut ... but she was, unfortunately, equally adamant about not brushing it out regularly and it snarls pretty easily and fairly badly. Many's the night I heard her down in the living room screaming "Ow" and "Not so hard!" at her mother as they worked at fixing it. I don't know if she just got tired of that battle or what, but Monday night she and Mom went out to the mall and when she came home, her hair was shoulder length. Yay! It looks good, too!
So what's new in your world?
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Some people give up things, like coffee or chocolate, for Lent. One year our family gave up ice cream - we were hooked on Dove Bars - and used the money we would have spent on them in our church fundraiser against world hunger.
I usually look at Lent as a personal time in the spiritual wilderness ... 40 days to prepare my soul and spirit for the renewing celebration of Easter. Not so much a time to give things up as to rededicate myself to doing something for the Kingdom.
So what are you doing for Lent?
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Darren McGavin, Dennis Weaver, and Don Knotts all passed away very nearly within 24 hours of each other.
Whenever I think about death, my mind goes back to my college days, when I roomed with a guy named Gary Driskell. Like myself, he was a musician and songwriter, and we wrote songs together and played concerts together and put a band together ... umm, together.
The reason I think about Gary is due to a snatch of lyric he once wrote, which turned out to be one of the most profound things I've ever read and I've never forgotten it.
But people just walk on and live in disillusion
Satisfied with their confusion
Leaving death as their conclusion to life
I guess they just don't comprehend the situation
Death was meant to be elation
And life is but a revelation of love
After graduation, I wound up moving back to Michigan while Gary married his childhood sweetheart and moved to Nashville, where he eventually found work as a songwriter for Word Publishing. He won a Dove Award in 1991 for "Another Time, Another Place" and has written songs for Wayne Watson, Sandy Patti, Larnelle Harris and others.
Well, I'm not sure how I got here after starting to talk about dead celebrities, but that's a blog stream of consciousness moment for you, I guess.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Sometimes list members send me things that, for one reason or another, don't wind up in Mark Mail, so here's another reason the blog is handy ... I'll post them here if I think they'll be of interest to you.
List member Mary R. sent me the hilarious photo above.
This one I've submitted to Reader's Digest, with the approval of the list member who sent it to me. He respectfully requests to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of his work.
As a chaplain for a local psychiatric hospital, he tells the story of the day he went to visit a friend and the interns were the only staff looking after things, which were quite hectic. As one young woman fumbled with the keys to admit him to the ward, she said, "I'm sorry, things are a bit crazy in here today." He gently asked her, "Isn't it meant to be that way?"
She didn't get it.
Quote of the Post: "Wine is sunlight held together by water." (Galileo)
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Friday, February 24, 2006
From my father, I've inherited this occasionally blinding migraine - to which the usual solution is a violent upheaval of everything I've eaten in the last 24 hours and a day in bed sleeping it off. I've also inherited his hairline (thanks, Dad). And we share a similar body type and facial features. In fact, should I ever shave my face or head completely, my wife will stop sleeping with me because I look too much like my Dad and the emotional implications are too spooky creepy for her. Can't say I blame her.
To be fair, I've also inherited his sense of humor and down-to-earth way of looking at things practically, as well as his sense of compassion.
From my mother, I inherited a modicum of musical talent, a way of looking at things creatively, and diabetes. Every silver lining has its cloud, right?
Anyway, that's why I didn't post here the past few days.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
I suppose I'll have to go and buy another. So which translation do you like best, and why?
While I enjoy Shakespeare, I'm not overly fond of King James' English in my scriptures. The last two Bibles I've used have been New International Version, and I've been very happy. But now I'm wondering about maybe exploring a different translation.
Maybe an Amplified Bible, so I can gather as much nuance as possible from the text. I've also heard some very good things about "The Message" and the New Living Bible paraphrase translations.
I used to have a "Parallel" Bible, with four translations side-by-side, but that was too large and unwieldy for easy use and transportation.
So which version do you use, and what do you like about it?
Saturday, February 18, 2006
What I'm reading: "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell and the Rolling Stone interview with Bono from last November.
What I'm hearing: "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles ... but mostly I'm listening to the music for a wedding our band is playing on March 4 ... which, as it turns out, is mostly Beatles stuff. (Yeah, it's an unusual wedding.)
What I'm watching: NCIS ... Lost ... both Stargate shows ... Hustle on AMC every Saturday night. And that's it, period. About five hours of TV each week.
What I'm celebrating: The renewal of my season ticket club for the Detroit Tigers. Once again, we have great seats for the 2006 season.
What I'm trying to get done: I mentioned the wedding, yeah? There's also another little concert for a United Methodist Men's District Prayer Rally at the end of the month and a little thing the Internal Revenue Service calls my annual income tax return.
The smartest thing I've done lately: Subscribe to King Features Syndicate and U-Click Comics comic strips so they come to my e-mail inbox instead of me visiting their website every day. Can't tell you how much time that's saved and how much I enjoy starting each day with laughter.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Then - about 24 hours after that little spot of sunshine - we have rain. Driving sheets of rain. And thunder. And lightning. A full blown thunderstorm. In February. With three inches of snow on the ground.
And the people who know such things tell us that by Friday night we'll be lucky if the thermometer hits 20 degrees.
Michigan. Come stay for a week or two and you'll pretty much experience all four seasons.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Don't you hate running over that stuff? It's like you're driving on a gravel road for a few seconds, hearing each little pock and ricochet as it bounces off your car ... only you know it's not all bouncing. There's going to be some that sticks to the lower part of your vehicle and it's not going to come off easily, if at all.
I was struck by the thought that isn't that kind of how sin works? You try to avoid it, but in the end you have to run through just a little of it and a tiny bit jumps up and sticks to the undercarriage of your soul. If you're not careful, before long you have several ugly black patches of sin sticking to different parts of your life.
Let me encourage you to ask Jesus to start scraping those areas clean. I need to do that my own self. It'll hurt, but in the end you'll look and feel better.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
I tried to raise the bar a little bit and get us thinking "big picture." What needs to be in a worship service? What has to happen? The Word must be preached. Praise and Worship. Participation at some level. Sacrament. What else? Anything? And what is a church supposed to be about, anyway? What if we stripped down to the bare bones and built it all over again from scratch. What would it look like?
Rob Bell, the Pastor of Mars Hill Community Church, has written a book called "Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith." (You can find cheaper copies at Amazon. I really, really recommend you read this.) In it, he describes a church he attended that set him on the path to founding his own church.
"It was like nothing I had experienced before. This community was exploding with creativity and life - it was like people woke up on Sunday morning and asked themselves, 'What would I like to do today more than anything else? How about going to a church service?'
"The concept was so new and fresh - people who gathered because they wanted to. There wasn't a trace of empty ritual or obligation anywhere in the place. I felt like I was going to see my favorite band. The anticipation. The fact that I would do whatever it took to get there. It didn't matter how far away I had to park. The bond I had with the other people in the room.
"Not 'I have to' but 'I get to.' Not obligation, but celebration. Not duty, but desire."
Yes! That is the kind of worship experience I want and the kind of church I want to help build. What should a church be about? I believe it should be about learning together what it means and looks like to grow more into the image of Jesus from week to week. It should be about a group of human souls traveling the same road toward a common destination, and somehow doing what it takes to get there together.
Monday, February 13, 2006
So my wife, who suffers from a host of nagging aches and pains ... abdominal pain from hernia scar tissue, an occasionally inflamed bursa sac in her bum, chronic tendinitis in her ankle, arthritis in her neck and shoulders ... has decided to try this new wonder drink that's popping up all over. Maybe you've heard of it: Xango®.
We're giving it a try - it's not the most inexpensive drink on the planet - on the advice of some good friends. So what's your story with this stuff? Good or bad, I'd like to know.
The picture is my wife, so you know why it's important to me that she feel good.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Well, that plus an ego the size of Kansas that seems determined to foist my opinions, thoughts, feelings, and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night upon whomever will let me. But seriously, it's a place for me to journal some more personal issues than what I can do in "Mark Mail," as well as write about more serious topics and, most importantly, write without feeling like I have to be funny or quirky every time.
And though it's just one more thing to do in a long list of other things that never get done, I do hope to keep this updated, well, if not daily, then at least occasionally. Perhaps even frequently.
At any rate, take what you can from it ... be kind and constructive in your comments ... and if there's nothing here of value for you, then please leave just as quietly as you came in. Someone may still be reading and won't appreciate the distraction.