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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

Dream Home


I've always enjoyed looking at house plans, drawing my own house plans, and even more so, walking around houses looking at their layout. Even as a child, I knew that someday I'd be building a house to live in. It hasn't happened yet, but I know that someday, maybe even soon, it will.

Jodi got me a book of luxury home plans last year for our fifth anniversary and I love it. Not only does it have the floor plans for the houses but since they are all actual homes, they've included photos of them as well so that you can really see how they look completed. I doubt that we'll ever build one of the houses in the book, but I imagine that we will incorporate many of the good ideas in a home that we build.

Lately, we've talked a lot about what we would desire from the ideal home. Some of the things that we've discussed have included a greenhouse, shop, and craft room. Some may say that we dream big, but I don't see any reason why we shouldn't.

Besides, the greenhouse is to grow healthy food for ourselves and depending on the size we build it has the potential to create a partial income from what we produce out of it. The shop serves lots of purposes. For starters, I'll finally have a place to do automotive repairs on our vehicles where I can get them done fast and efficiently. I'll have a place to finally do vehicle flipping like I've dreamed of doing which would be a fun partial income, as well. Aside from automotive space, it will also have a wood shop area that I can use for all types of things instead of using the front yard like I am forced to do now. And, I see the craft room being an amazing space for Jodi to have all her crafty things available without digging and searching. The craft room could also double as a transition room from the house to the greenhouse so that it could have space in it designed to be a good spot to pot plants, store greenhouse and household tools, and perform various other duties that greenhouses require.

So, in the near future, I'll be toying around with my own sketched out plans of what our obtainable dream house would look like. After I achieve a sketch that both Jodi and I like, I'll throw it together using the new Google Sketchup. I'm not sure when Google Sketchup Version 8 was released, but it's a much welcomed advance from Version 7.

In case you are unfamiliar with Google Sketchup, it's an extremely user-friendly, free, 3-D modeling program. It has simple push, pull, and drag tools to create complex 3-dimensional models fast and with ease. The best part about it, though, is the 3-D warehouse. Anyone can upload their own completed models to the warehouse. And, anyone can search the warehouse easily and download any of the models found there right into the project you're working on. Before remodeling our kitchen, I "built" our kitchen plans using Sketchup and it allowed us to see exactly what our new kitchen would look like. This way, we would be able to anticipate any issues that we would have with the layout. It was relatively easy to put together, too, since all of the cabinets that I used were available for download from the warehouse. So, all I did was arrange them in the room that I created. Version 7, though, when you used the orbit function to move 3-dimensionally around your object, it was slow and choppy. Version 8 is instant and smooth, so it makes the 3-D environment even more fun to work with. Check it out. Click this link to be taken to the Google Sketchup download page.

Missing Cat

Our cat, Tracker, has been missing now for 14 days. Two weeks ago, I let him out while I was getting ready for work. Then, I let him back in as I was leaving. That was the last I saw of him. Jodi let him out later that day and he's never returned. I walked all around the neighborhood, but saw no sign of him anywhere. Jodi went to both the animal shelter and the Humane Society the next day and saw a lot of sad faces but not Tracker's.

I hate to speak of him as if he were gone for good, but it's time I quit looking out the door for him. I keep expecting that sooner or later he'll have climbed the screen door again (which always irritated us) and be sitting in the glass section above the door waiting for us to let him in.

Tonight, I'll make a couple posters to put up around the neighborhood just in case some one around us did take him captive unknowingly. If we don't hear anything by the new year I'll clean out his food bowl and litter box and put them away in the basement. Maybe, it's just as well that he did leave us. With the baby on the way, it's safer not to have a cat. I figure that someone "took him in" not knowing that he had a home to go to. Though we had one for him, we never made him wear a collar or anything so there was nothing other than his perfect health and well-fed body to show that he did have a home.

Who knows? Maybe the posters will work. Or maybe he'll show back up someday. We'll see.

Room Transformation (in progress)

Last Saturday, Jodi and I started the transformation of Lyric's old bedroom to Ezra's new bedroom. Months ago, Lyric began sleeping in Jacob's room on the top bunk. Neither Jacob nor Lyric would have it any other way. They like being roommates, I guess. And, being the largest room in the house, there's plenty of room for them, though we may have to figure out a better layout. The full drum kit takes up a lot of space.

All the decor in Lyric's room has come down which was sad to us, but the fun has just begun really. We've mudded up the walls to fill in all the holes from past decor, and even filled in and smoothed out a few cracks in the plaster. It's ready for a light sanding, some primer, and a fresh coat of paint. We don't really know exactly how we will decorate it, but rest assured that I'll post more pictures as we get Ezra's decor up and furniture all in.

Another fun part will be rearranging and fixing up the boys' room. A couple months ago, I picked up a really nice dumpster find. It's a bank of 6 lockers; 2 high, 3 wide. Other than being dirty and having some chipping paint, they were in really nice condiiton. All the doors work. There was one dent where the side collapsed in, but it was easily fixed. Jodi and I bought the paint already for them and when we're done they'll make an awesome contribution to the boys' room for both storage and style.

The photos here look like we're transforming the room into a dreadful place, but I assure you that these photos (taken in the dark with my phone) give the room no justice. As a matter of fact, they look so terrible that the only reason I am posting them is to make the photos to come look that much more awesome. Stay tuned.

8 Simple Rules


I have a wonderful marriage. It's easy for me to say it, too. It's not wishful thinking. It's not hopeful optimism. It's simply true. I'm not comparing my marriage to other marriages, either.

Back on the sixth of this month, Jodi and I had our seventh yeariversary (the anniversary of the day we met). Of those seven years, we've enjoyed 5 years and 5 months of an amazing marriage and I would like to share some marriage basics to the men out there that stand to only improve your marriage (women will surely gain from this advice, too, so keep reading, ladies). The following list is not in any particular order nor is it complete, by any means. I didn't make them all up, but they all did come out of my head. Who knows for certain how they got there?

  1. Say "I'm sorry."


  2. When arguments arise, and they will, apologize. No matter how right you may be, apologize. Chances are you hurt her feelings by something you said, or did, or maybe just the look on your face struck a powerful emotional blow to her. Regardless, you should be sorry. Yes, you should. Yes, you should. Stop arguing with me. You should be sorry for hurting her feelings. You should be sorry that you're not having a good time together. You should be sorry for your role in contributing to the disagreement. She should be sorry, too, but whether she is or not doesn't excuse you from what I'm saying to you. You're the leader here, right? The head of the home? Then, lead her. Say you're sorry first and mean it. Put aside your hurts. You're a man. You can do it.

  3. Smile when you reconnect.


  4. Whether it's coming home from a 12-hour shift at work, or coming in from taking out the trash greet her with a smile, at the very least. Your greeting sets the tone for the time you will be spending together. If you come home immediately complaining about work, expect a negative and overwhelmed atmosphere all night. Contrasting that, try smiling at her like you just met her when you get home. Give her a hug. Make the time you get home something that is looked forward to all day by you and the others in your home.

  5. Pray for her.


  6. This is key. Even if you don't believe in God, pray anyway. What if you are wrong about God and he does exist, then at least she'll be doing well for your answered prayer. Even so, praying for someone is the best way to relieve any unforgiveness you may have against that person. And, that's good for everybody.

  7. Replace "I deserve..." with "I'm thankful."


  8. Let's face it, our first instinct as humans is to protect ourselves and serve ourselves. However, our selfish instincts don't really know best when it comes to bringing lasting happiness to ourselves. All too often, people tell themselves that they deserve something that they don't. For example: "I worked all day, I deserve to sit & relax for a few hours." Why do you think you deserve these things? Who decided that periods of work deserve periods of laziness? When you hear an "I deserve ..." thought coming on replace it with what you are thankful for instead, like maybe a house (that needs a little TLC), wife (that needs a little TLC), kids (that need a little TLC), pets ("), ... The list goes on and on. You want all these things because they bring you joy, but do not forsake them because you are a little tired. They will revive you better than any "me" time.

  9. Laugh often.


  10. Our moods are chosen. Make no mistake. Do not let anyone else tell you otherwise. Your emotions have no control over you. You are not a slave to your surroundings. You decide how people will affect your day. You choose how your circumstances will shape your countenance. Choose joy. Shake off all negativity. Attack it with optimism. People will love you for it.

  11. Don't go to bed angry.


  12. This is an old one. And so true, too. Ephesians 4:26 says, "...let not the sun set upon your wrath." Old anger turns to bitterness and can defile many. It can become unforgiveness, that hurts the bearer worse than the ones he holds unforgiveness towards. Deal with your stuff. You don't need time to think. You need guts to deal. Be strong, man up. Fix it.

  13. Do things together.


  14. I've never met an obviously happy couple that didn't do virtually everything together. And, I've seen many unhappy couples who don't hardly do anything together. One watches the game while the other does something else. One tinkers in the garage, the other scrapbooks. One hangs out with the guys playing cards, the other goes out with the girls. Find some things that you both enjoy. If you can't think of anything that you both enjoy, then go sit at a coffee shop and talk until you come up with something. Don't drink coffee? Have some water, then. If you don't look forward to time spent with your spouse, then you need to change something.

  15. Help each other


  16. You each have your roles to play to maintain the lifestyle that you have chosen. Each of you have your part and a set of responsibilities, but many people will wind up excusing themselves from the other's responsibilities and refusing to help on the grounds that “that's not my job.” But, that attitude only causes problems. It's better to make it a competition of who can do more for the other. If you're both trying to please the other, then you both will be endlessly happy. However, if you are only out to do things to get for yourself, then not only will you not be happy, but you will eventually lack motivation to do much of anything at all. I'll borrow from John F. Kennedy here and say that it's not what your spouse can do for you, it's what you can do for your spouse.


God created everything and then He "saw that it was good." Then He created man and said, "it is not good for man to be alone." So, He created a wife for man. You all know the story. But, notice, when He saw that it wasn't good for man to be alone, He didn't create a TV, or football, or all-you-can-eat buffets, or bars, or a bad influence of a friend, or four-wheel drives, etc. He created him a wife. Marriage can be such a fulfilling life to you, but you have to follow some rules. Like these here. Rules not to stop you from having fun, but rules set to teach you how to have lasting fun, happiness, and joy until death do you part.

Theft by Deception

I don't think that I've written a blog this short since I started blogging. I've wanted to write one about this subject for a long time, but what was taking so long was that I knew that it wouldn't be a short one. I'd fill the World Wide Web full of my opinion and rantings and no one would even begin to attempt to read it knowing that they would be bored out of their skull long before they even finished the introduction. Even now, I'm losing some of you. So, being sensitive to my impatient fast-food culture blog readers, I'll keep it very short.

A few years ago, I watched a video online called Theft by Deception. In short, it takes you through step-by-step of how it came to pass that American citizens were expected to pay a tax on the money that they earned. By exploring not just the current tax code and regulations but also the tax code and regulations before revisions were made since the birth of the Income Tax in 1913, it shows you exactly how the federal government imposed an unconstitutional tax on the American people. But, even the federal government knows that it's unconstitutional and therefore illegal. So they made great efforts to conceal the fact that the tax code and regulations themselves don't say anywhere that regular citizens like you or me are required to pay any income tax. Yeah, you heard me correctly. There is no law, code, or regulation that requires an American citizen to pay federal income tax if they live and work with only a domestic income from within the borders of the United States.

Have you ever seen the law that requires you to pay federal income tax? I KNOW that you haven't because it doesn't exist. Don't you think that it's ridiculous that you have probably payed a tax year after year in blind faith that you are required to do so. I bet you have some questions and I'm sure that you have some doubts, but rest assured that all those questions can be answered simply by watching the video. It's long, but very worth it as it helps the regular person better understand how the tax law is constructed, how it functions, its original intent, and its current intended purpose. Watch it.

How I Met Your Mother


It was December 6th, 2003. I had long hair again. I had grown my hair out over the course of the previous year or better in the same style that I had had through the latter three years of high school. It wasn't too popular of a hair style then, but acceptable nonetheless. It definitely wasn't in style in 2003. Not hardly, but I didn't care.

It was about 1:00 AM if I remember right and I was playing a game of cards called "Spit" with my friend, Gabe, over at Shannon's house. Shannon told us that her friend Jodi was coming over. Then the two of them proceeded to tell me about her not even attempting to conceal the fact that they thought that we would be a good match. Again, I didn't really care.

I had this picture in my head for the future and it was Jacob coming home after school in his car, and I'd be in the garage or yard working on something. Just two guys living their lives. I couldn't fathom anything else, really. So, the prospect of meeting a girl who my friends thought that I would like didn't really interest me.

Then, this girl enters the room. Despite all of what I just told you, she captured my full attention as she walked across the room, found a chair while still talking to Shannon, greeted Gabe, and then finally made eye contact with me. My brain had failed to complete a thought throughout that time. It didn't start working again until after we were introduced. My first thought afterward was, "I really like this girl." The thought immediately following that one, though, was "Yeah, but she's out of my league."

As the night (morning) went on, the four of us had a good time just sitting around talking. Shannon's next door neighbor, Adam, even came over and hung out with us for a while. However, the time finally came when some sleep was going to have to get slept. I had a truck to go buy at 9:00 in Republic, a 1959 Ford F-100, and I was going to have to drag Gabe out of bed to drive me out there so that I could drive it back. I wanted to see Jodi again, but I didn't know how to go about making that happen without being blatantly obvious about it. We were parting ways and I could feel the opportunity slipping from my fingers. To delay, I offered my hand in a formal handshake while telling her that it was nice meeting her. She took my offer and repeated it back to me with a smile. The words we spoke played no role in our communication in that brief moment for it was all in the handshake. A handshake mutually prolonged to let each other know of our interest in the other. Not so delayed to be terribly transparent, just long enough to be unmistakably noticed. Then, with just as much subtlety as the handshake, came the graceful release that included an ever-so-light, almost imperceptible grazing of her fingertips across my palm as our hands separated.

There was no doubt, at that moment, that I would see her again. I didn't know how, when or where. I just knew.

New Favorite

There was a time (before meeting Jodi and having some accountability) when I ate Chinese food about three times a week on average. And, I do mean on average. There were weeks that I hit five times. I admit it. So, it goes without saying that I really like Chinese food, I think. My wife can attest to the fact that any time someone brings up getting food from somewhere or going out to eat that my mind, by default, goes straight to those deep fried little pieces of sweet sauce covered heaven.

So, imagine my surprise upon finding a restaurant that I like more than Chinese. Or maybe I should be more specific since the restaurant in which I found to be better is technically Chinese as well. HuHot is relatively new to Springfield and the only reason that I hadn't gone before was due to the fact that someone had told me about it and compared it to Nakato. So, I pictured just another "remove your shoes, please" sort of place.

However, it's not like that at all. It's a nice modernly laid out business with all the dramatic lighting you would expect to find in a successful, growing nationwide chain of restaurants. And, your shoes are expected to stay on for the course of the dining experience, so that's nice. But, of course, the food is what makes the place a landmark. It's a huge Mongolian Barbecue. You go through a line that passes a buffet of uncooked food, of which you fill bowls with to your heart's content. Then, you pass a buffet of nothing but sauces and oils, then it's on to the grill. You watch as four or five cooks mechanically, and skillfully cook and plate your food for you in about a minute. It's healthy for you because it's all MSG free, it's mostly vegetables that you wind up with, it's cooked fresh, and it's cooked without the use of oils and grease. It's a welcome healthy alternative to the scores of other restaurants that may taste good, but leave you feeling much larger than you felt before having gone. Also, it's fun to get experimental with the sauces and see what great new tastes you can come up with by mixing the different flavors together. I'm getting a craving for it just writing about it.

It's definitely my new favorite restaurant, replacing New China Buffet. Sorry, old friend, but you're old hat. Maybe, I will visit you every so often when I am feeling nostalgic, but don't leave a place for me at the table.

If you haven't tried HuHot yet, you should. And, If you feel like you can't do it on your own and need a tour guide, I'm available and willing to help you along the way for the low, low price of covering the cost of my meal.

Emerging Poster Boy


I'm sure that you've noticed, but I added advertisements to my blog a while back to see if there was any monetary incentive to doing so. Predictably, I have seen no kickbacks of any kind and will be removing them from my blog. I knew that I would not like them, but sometimes you just have to step out and do something you know you won't like to prove to yourself that, indeed, you don't like it.

This morning, I saw this ad and got a kick out of it. This, they suppose, is the poster child for the Emerging church. A white male in his late 20's/early 30's, facial hair, multiple facial piercings, earings that appear to be scales, sporting somewhat untamed hair, and let's not overlook that he's not smiling. We get all of this from nothing more than a head shot. This guy probably has a balanced look and has some tattoos, some visible in short sleeves, some not.

What seems to be the obvious interpretation of this ad to me is that they are establishing two ends of a Christian spiritual spectrum and saying that their curriculuum caters to everyone in between much like Centrum's slogan "from A to Zinc." But, if that's true, then being on the opposite end of 'anchored' suggests that you're un-anchored. Is that what the term 'emerging' means? Emerging circles do talk a lot about deconstruction and anti-foundationalism. From my conversations with emerging-thinkers, I would expect that anchored is probably an adjective that they wouldn't like too much in describing themselves. So maybe this is correct.

Or maybe it's not two spectral ends, maybe they are just saying that they're anchored in Christ and that they are also teaching in an emerging format. But, a close look into their website lists many doctrinal statements without being vague at all, which isn't much like the emerging format that leaves very little room, if any at all, for certainty about any knowledge.

From what I can tell from their website, I'd like to think that really what they are attempting to do with the advertisement is to make it known that they are not anti-emerging. They want to reach these so called emerging thinkers, because, like a good Christian organization should be, they value the people and all the good aspects of a typical emerging-minded individual and want to give them a place for training to equip them to do the work of Christ Jesus in any setting whether domestic or abroad.

Regardless of the intent of the ad, I found it funny. I wonder who the poster boy would be for my categorized beliefs and Christian praxis.

Food

Eating food is such a sensual experience. Probably the only sense you don't use is hearing, although the sound can be a marketing tool (i.e. Rice Krispies, Pop Rocks). Taste obviously plays the biggest role, but smell is tied very closely to taste. And taking in the delicious smells of a meal being prepared is part of what makes us desire the food so much in the first place. Feel also has its role. All good cooks know that texture is a very important part of a meal. Some people don't like certain foods based simply of their texture alone. I, for one, can't stand coconut because of that very thing. And, of course, there's sight. Presentation is king.

What's more is that we all have different preferences in all these categories. What one may find delectable, another may find appalling. And even our own preferences change over time. Have you ever been grossed out by someone's choice of condiment for a particular dish only to find out later that the combination is so tasty that they seem to have been made for each other? Or maybe you witnessed a friend preparing a snack in a peculiar way and then you tried it and altered the way you made the same thing? Has there ever been a food that you just couldn't stand even the smell of that later in life became the centerpiece to all your planned meals?

My tastes have changed remarkably throughout my life. I remember a time when I hated onions with a contempt. It bothered me tremendously that places such as McDonald's were "dumb" enough to put them on hamburgers for kids by default. "Shouldn't they only put them on if you ask them?" I would wonder aloud. However, at age sixteen, I was at an Independence Day party at a house where I didn't really know anyone. One of the hosts, a mother of small children, was nice enough to make me a plate probably knowing that I would decline an offer of food if asked. It was a burger right off the grill "with all the fixin's." Out of habit, I wanted to remove the thick slices of red onion off the top of my burger. But, as I was raised to be a thankful, appreciative boy with good manners, I left them there just as she had prepared it for me. The first bite kind of impressed me. By the second, I was hooked. Never again would I eat another warm, soft, crunch-less burger as long as I lived. Today, there's onion incorporated in almost every dish I make.

Another thing that I would see people do is putting ketchup on their eggs. I never quite got that. Others would use Tabasco Sauce. And, I couldn't figure out why they would want to destroy their sense of taste for the day. However, growing up, when we would have homemade tacos my mom would make a taco sauce by mixing ketchup and Tabasco Sauce. It was just a cheap way of having taco sauce without buying it, I'm sure, but nonetheless I liked it. Every time I make homemade tacos, I recreate the recipe. Since we're Italian, at least in part, I have dubbed it 'Italian Taco Sauce'. I even have Jacob making it now. Anyway, a couple weeks ago, we made breakfast burritos and I made some of the sauce. As I was enjoying eating one, it occurred to me that I was, in essence, adding both Tabasco Sauce and ketchup to my eggs. I had become one of them. How did this happen?

Do you have any similar stories? Any foods that you couldn't stand as a child only to find yourself looking forward to them as adults?

Subverting the Norm OR Making Gods of Ourselves?


It's 5:23 AM, Monday, October 18th, 2010. I'm seeing this on the display of my phone wondering why I'm awake when my alarm isn't set to go off for another seven minutes. This has been happening to me a lot lately. I get up and gather the few possessions that I need for the day that I've left all together so as not to have to scramble around the room and risk waking my wife who is probably at minimum partially awake despite my best efforts to the contrary. Downstairs, I put on my work uniform for somewhere around the 220th time. I'm buttoning up the literal, not figurative, blue-collar shirt and I have to let out a little laugh as I come to realize the expansive degree of separation between the profession in which I find myself today and the ones in which I was associating myself with during the weekend prior.

The Friday and Saturday before were two very long days for me as I attended a conference at Drury University entitled "Subverting the Norm: The Emerging Church, Postmodernism, & the Future of Christianity". I didn't count heads or anything, but I figured around 250 people attended the conference for at least part of it, although I doubt that there was ever more than 200 people present at one time. Those in attendance fell almost exclusively into one of two categories: theology scholars or church practitioners. Some were both. I'm sure there were exceptions, but none that I met. Everyone I spoke to either came right out of the gate asking me about my educational background or they first assumed I was a student and then, upon finding out that I wasn't, asked me about my educational background. During one of the sessions that I sat in on hosted by Chris Rodkey titled "Satan in the Suburbs: Ordination as Insubordination", Mr. Rodkey suggested since we were only a small group of about eight that we go around the circle and introduce ourselves. I was second in line and merely said, "Hi, my name is Levi and I'm from right here in Springfield, Missouri." I left it at that despite the continuing eye contact I was receiving from Mr. Rodkey who was, no doubt, encouraging me to share more about myself. But, I just politely held his gaze with a smile to let him know that I had no intention of describing myself any further. After several seconds, he moved on to the next person who without hesitation or pause listed his own currently held titles, the degrees he had and were still studying for, and a couple other qualifications that he must have deemed relevant to the conversation and necessary to be mentioned. The gracefulness and almost sing-song quality in which this information was delivered suggested that these verses of self-qualification had been recited to people many times.

That last observation maybe sounded a bit like I am bothered by being surrounded by academics or that I am in some way demeaning someone for their post-high school education and achieved titles. However, rather than delete the sentences and try again in my defense, let me instead just state that I'm merely attempting to paint a picture as to what sort of people I was attending a conference with while also pointing out that stating one's titles and educational background as a means to introducing yourself was not only done but also encouraged by the hosts. This follows right along the social norm here in the West where it is commonplace to identify oneself with one's occupation. I could write an entire blog about my psychoanalysis on this alone, but instead I'll just say without further explanation that this phenomenon of occupation as a means to self-identity is simply our attempt to feel purpose in our lives. But, as a result, since different occupations have varying degrees of levels of their contribution to society, at least in the eyes of society, people consequently are made to feel that they are only as useful, only as important as their respective occupation relates to the general consensus' view of it's role in contributing to the general welfare of society. In layman's terms, the hosts at this conference advocated, whether purposefully or not, the old phrase 'you are what you do.'

There's entirely too much to go over about what I disagreed with at this conference without writing a book about it. Which, who knows, maybe I will do eventually. But, I will say that of all the names of writers, theologians, scholars, and the like being thrown around that weekend, none did I hear so often than those of Jacques Derrida, Thomas Altizer, and John Caputo (who was one of the keynote speakers at the conference). One name I didn't hear save for a few times was that of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche's writings, I will say with much conviction, is the launch point of the entire movement in which the conference was being held. Nietzsche's statement, "God is dead", brought into mainstream media by TIME magazine, ushered in a new theology most commonly referred to as 'Death of God Theology.' There was much talk about this theology throughout the entire conference, so much in fact, that at one point I jokingly wondered if I hadn't stumbled into the wrong conference altogether. At the time, I was unaware of what this theology even was and only had a vague understanding, at best, of what Nietzsche had written about all those years ago.

I still have loads of research to do before I can come to any solid conclusions or theories of my own, however in good scientific form I will throw out my hypothesis on the table: Postmodernistic thought was born not out of a study of the Word of God and documented history, but rather came out of a self-negating philosophy that sought self-justification. The emergent church (and most 'emerging' churches, as well) are simply the ecclesiological practices of this theology which may be better defined as atheology. To put it simply, the only thing that I can see that separates these people from atheists is that they claim that there is a God, but they completely and radically redefine what God is into something unknowable. And, thus, create their own God based out of their own desires and cultural standpoint.

Like I said, I won't go into why I believe this hypothesis to be true because I haven't done all the intended research yet and right now I'm only basing this on my own observations. But, for good measure I have opened the door here to any critics (as well as anyone else) to contribute to the ongoing conversation that I am having here. I have no "formal education" that gives me some status, official knowledge level, or title. I just read and research those subjects that I feel God gives me a passion for. So far, in direct relevance to the subject at hand, I have attended the conference that I spoke of here in this blog, a book study on A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren, and have read the following books:

  • A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren
  • Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck
  • Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church by D.A. Carson


PC vs Mac

The title of this blog, when looking at it in print, brings the game Pac-Man to mind. Not that PacMAn has anything to do with this blog. I'm just saying.

I have been a PC user most of my life. My earliest memory of using a computer was in second grade at Eugene Field Elementary, here in Springfield. The year was 1986. I learned the ins and outs of DOS and then LogoWriter. The years went by but my computer experience never strayed from the PC.

Then came a day many more years down the road when Apple started making fun of PCs in their advertisements making the assumption that Macs were not only more advanced but also more stylish, more laid back, cooler, more popular, etc. While I did find the ads humorous mostly, I also resented Apple for their conceited campaign, much like you would if a chess geek was heckling one of your math club buddies.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Due to God's good graces, I was able to purchase a Mac off Craigslist from a guy who had bought it new many moons ago. Inside all the well-kept boxes & packaging I found the original invoice from the store with the guy's name on it. He had sold me the entire setup for $30 even though he had paid $3,400 for it! Eeeek!

It's really pretty, aesthetically speaking. It's easy to install software on, and I was really impressed with the simplicity of installing hardware. I installed 4 sticks of RAM, a PCI card that added USB 2.0, and a bluetooth adapter. Of course, the RAM doesn't need a driver, but the latter two would have needed drivers to function properly on a PC. But, when I booted up the Mac it was already using them without a hitch, no drivers necessary.

So, I can see why Mac users like their machines. I don't have enough experience yet with the running of programs to be able to say anything on the subject except that I hear that programs work like they're supposed to without the issues that sometimes plague PCs.

However, so far, my official position takes sides with PCs. The biggest reason is price. Last week, my motherboard got fried mysteriously in my best PC. It was about three years old and had been part of a barebones kit that I bought for somewhere around $130. The kit included the processor, motherboard, case, fan, and power supply. I found a new motherboard on TigerDirect that will allow me to reuse everything and just swap out the old for the new. I won't go into detail, but it's way better than the one that fried and it's only $50.

You just can't do that with a Mac. Parts are very expensive. For example, a replacement motherboard for a G5 Mac that would be similar, yet not quite equivalent, to my computer would cost a whopping $430.

But price isn't the only reason. There are tons more programs available, it seems, for a PC that aren't even available in a Mac compatible format. Mac users may argue with me on this point citing the PC emulator that allows a Mac to run PC programs. But, what does that say for Macs that they would want to emulate a PC?

I will concede that Macs are better quality both in their hardware and software than your average PC. I've had my fair share of issues with PCs. But to be fair, those problems were largely due to my inexperience and naivete. I've learned much over the years, some the hard way. For example, I bought a barebones kit from TigerDirect once that sounded great and was nice and cheap. I had been using a Pentium II 350 Mhz Gateway up to that point, but I was ready, or so I thought, to get into editing more than just the occasional photo. I wanted to edit home movies. So, I got the computer up and running, but it crashed the first time when ripping a CD. It did it again later doing the same thing. I realized that I had some bad RAM and it wasn't dumping the memory properly so it would just get full and then >poof<. New RAM solved the problem. Later, though, I had the same issue when rendering video. I bought some more RAM, at that point thinking that it would solve it, but it didn't. I got really frustrated because this new computer was an AMD 2 Ghz processor and I had 2 GB of RAM. This thing should be able to fly! Upon searching out forums on the subject, I found my answer: Front Side Bus. The FSB was only 100 Mhz. The guy on the forum explained it by saying, "You have an awesome processor that's like 20 semi trucks driving side by side on a 20-lane highway, but to get to the RAM and back the 20-lane highway bottlenecks at your front side bus down to a 1-lane bridge."

I didn't know what front side bus was. TigerDirect had plainly made it known on their site that it was only 100 Mhz, I just didn't know what that meant at the time. You can't just replace your front side bus, either. It's built into your motherboard. All you can do is get a new motherboard, which I did. But, that was the one that just fried. Oh well, it was a great motherboard for 3 years. And I have a better one coming.

Through my mistakes and searching, I now have an amazing collection of programs that work flawlessly. I have hardware that runs all those programs super fast and simultaneously. I have all this and I still haven't spent as much combined in the last 11 years of owning computers as I would have spent on one Mac that would have been long ago obsolete.

Negativity Scene


Would you agree that you are unhappy? Would the word 'content' ever come to mind when asked to describe yourself? The reason that I ask is because I see a lot of negativity where I work. It's pretty rampant in most workplaces really. But, the workplace isn't the only place, by any means. It just stands out in my own little corner of the world.

It seems as if almost everywhere I go, I see and hear people complaining about anything and everything. It's their job, or spouse, or kids, or family, or bills, or commitments, or school, or one of a thousand other things. What do you talk about with people? What do you focus on?

It's funny. Have you ever noticed that when you're driving and you look off to one side or the other that you subconsciously turn the wheel ever so slightly in the same direction? It's a matter of focus. Our focus leads our direction. This point of truth can be illustrated in countless ways, really. Having been through extensive leadership training throughout the years I also learned that people are many times more likely to accomplish the goals that they set for themselves rather than the ones set for them.

The Bible tells the story of Peter walking out onto the water going out to Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33). Peter was able to walk on water just like Jesus until he took his focus off of Jesus and placed it on the storm and the waves. The passage specifically says that he saw the storm and was afraid. He put his focus on something negative and began to fall into the water in which he was focusing. Like Peter, we live out the reality of what we spend our time focusing on. In other words, we reach the goals that we set for ourselves.

If you think about and talk to others about all the things that you struggle with, you will always struggle with whatever you do. You will find a struggle regardless of the situation. Also, if you focus on your sickness, you'll eventually be perpetually sick. Every ache will be exaggerated into some pain that you will self-diagnose to be the worst possible ailment. Or, if you feel like somebody did you wrong over something and you spend your time focusing your thoughts and feelings towards it you will eventually start to feel victimized over other situations. Next thing you know, you're living life as a victim. You've decided it.

It's ironic, I suppose, to realize that these things happen because you are successful. You focused on something and you obtained it. You set some goals and you successfully hit your targets. Unfortunately, you were looking at negative targets.

I speak for myself, too, here. I'm not immune to losing sight of what I should be focused on. Far from it, really. But, we need to realize the destructive and constructive power of our focus if we intend to change how we think. Every time we start to think about something that's depressing, vengeful, hateful, worrisome, etc. we need to recognize it for what it is: negative thoughts that lead to negative outcomes. And, then we need to replace those thoughts with positive thinking, admirable goals, good memories, etc. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Thanking God for being able to do whatever you are doing at the moment does wonders for your feelings about your current task. Sometimes we just need to slow ourselves down, slow our thinking down, stop thinking about all the things that we could be doing and just be thankful for what you are doing. Be thankful for the health you do have even if it's not perfect. This sounds cheesy but, you cannot change the past nor obtain it again. Likewise, the future will always be outside your grasp. We own nothing in this world, not even time. We cannot make any more of it and we cannot retain any of it. It's God's gift to us what little time we are allowed to experience. That is why it is called 'the present'. We could all stand to be a lot more grateful, don't you think?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Makes Good Point


On Thursday, Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, gave a speech at the UN. Amongst his many topics, was the attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001. Reportedly, a bunch of government officials walked out during the speech including the US Representatives. So, I see that many didn't agree with him, nor did they want to hear anymore on that subject or any other. President Obama has already given a statement, condemning Ahmadinejad for his "inexcusable" statements.

Despite what people may think of me for saying this, I have to agree with him about what he said concerning 9/11. He listed three different theories of who was responsible for the attacks. In a nutshell they are: some foreign terrorists did it (our government's official version), our own government did it, and lastly that foreign terrorists did it but our government saw them coming and took advantage of the situation.

The UN Representatives for the United States walked out during the second theory. Many other country's representatives left, as well. One reporter called what Ahmadinejad said "vile conspiracy theories" and, of course, Obama was acting very offended as if Ahmadinejad was insinuating that Obama himself had orchestrated the whole thing.

But, everyone is missing the point here due to our preconceptions of the man giving the speech. I don't agree with most of what Ahmadinejad said, but the things he said concerning 9/11 were right on. He only called a spade a spade and mentioned that there are multiple accounts for what happened that day, evidence that points to people other than the officially accused, and questions that have not been answered nor had honest attempts of aptly answering them by our government. He further suggests that the UN put together a fact finding team, to answer these questions.

If you think about it, he's properly using a democratic process. The US government has had 9 years to find and provide answers to the obvious 'who', 'why', and 'how' questions. Instead, it only took them hours to point a finger. Despite the ridiculous amount of new evidence that would implicate more involvement from others, this finger has never stopped pointing at the initial suspects and has turned a deaf ear to any suggestion that the event had co-conspirators other than those already named.

This deaf ear, continues today with the walkout of our government at the mere mention of theories that have been sparked, not by Ahmadinejad, but by unanswered questions and intentional government cover-ups.

Ahmadinejad's reason for bringing up 9/11 was to point out that the United States government's leading of the UN in bringing punishment to Iran for their "lack of transparency" surrounding their nuclear program couldn't be more ironic. It might be difficult to find a better example of the pot calling the kettle black.

How can I relate the two, you might ask? The United States used 9/11 as a springboard to invade two countries, and completely overthrow the government of one of them. Several thousand people did die on 9/11, but several hundred thousand have died in the United States' mission to avenge the supposed responsible parties. The United States' military force driven by a government that needs no solid evidence to choose a target is, in and of itself, a weapon of mass destruction. However, the US government feels no need to further investigate nor answer any questions. On the contrary, they get upset and leave just by the mere mention of the subject. Which only leaves us to believe that they're avoiding discussion on the subject because there is something to hide.

Volition


Around a week ago, I followed a link posted by a friend on facebook to a short film. Somewhere it had said, "preview the movie." So, I thought it would be a normal movie preview and be a couple of minutes long. It turned out to be 15 minutes long. It wasn't a movie preview. It was a short film. It's called Volition.

It was very powerful. I recommend that everyone watch it. I was so moved by it, in fact, that I didn't hesitate in purchasing a copy.

Later that evening, I received a personal e-mail from a couple thanking me for purchasing the movie and supporting their cause. The movie arrived at the end of last week and we've already watched it again. The movie was professionally packaged complete with artwork. The packaging to ship the movie to me, on the other hand, was a simple bubble mailer that had both my and the return addresses hand-written. It's neat that we bought a movie straight from the people who made it rather than some large corporation that only sold it for another corporation.

On the DVD were some bonus features that included the original promotional video advertising a video contest. Apparently, Volition was one of the finalists in the 2008 contest. The prizes consisted of dollar amounts to go out to the finalists to go towards their next film. It was really awesome. Also in the bonus features were the 10 movie trailers for the 10 finalists of 2008.

What an awesome concept! It's called the Doorpost Film Project. Their website can be found here. But, most importantly, the short film ,Volition, can be be viewed for free right here. Watch it!

9/11 Conspiracy?


After writing the last blog, Jodi and I watched the movie World Trade Center starring Nicholas Cage. It was, of course, a sad movie. Even more so since we remember watching these events as they unfolded on our TV screens nine years ago.

Remembering all that took place that day and the days that immediately followed, one finds oneself in the eye of a storm of emotions, thoughts, and unanswered questions. 'Who', 'why', and 'how' being the ones in the forefront.

Not long after the event, we were given answers to those questions. A foreign religious extremist group of radicals was the 'who.' Their extreme religious beliefs were the 'why.' And, a simple story of terrorists among us exploiting a weakness was the 'how.' So, mystery solved, right? Isn't that what really happened? I know that I bought it without question. At least in the first few weeks, anyway. However, as the weeks turned into months, all kinds of questions were raised. One being the locked up secrecy in which they hauled off, quarantined, and then sold for scrap the wreckage of the World Trade Center buildings. What purpose could secrecy about the evidence serve? The world saw the buildings come down. We were all given a fairly good explanation as to why they came down. Why would the government go to the extra effort of hiding the material from everyone? Unless, of course, leaving the material out for anyone to see might reveal something they don't want us to know. Hmm...

Other questions started arising that led me to start searching for answers on the Internet. It didn't take long to find several web pages and YouTube videos that not only were asking similar questions but were also presenting evidence that I had either not yet been made aware of or I had not thoughtfully considered.

My initial thoughts were of doubt. Less doubt about what I had been led to believe along with the rest of America, but more towards what these "conspiracy theorists" were trying to get me to think. No one could have done this. No one could be that evil. No one could have kept the truth quiet and hidden. It's too complex to have been pulled off without getting caught.

But, am I right? Why would I believe that a bunch of radical Muslim extremists living in the mountains of Afghanistan are that cunning, evil, and capable? Because it's easier to believe that some Muslims are that evil? Because to believe that I've been deceived would be a blow to my intellect? My pride? Because, I think that everything is hunky-dory here in the 50 states? Because the news said so? What, exactly?

A great documentary to watch on this subject is called Loose Change. At the end of this very well put together, informative, and unfortunately appalling film the narrator made a statement that really struck me. He said, "You will either have an emotional response to this information or a logical one."

What do you think? Would you be in support of a criminal investigation over the disaster? Would you agree that there is, at minimum, enough evidence and motive to implicate others' involvement so much that a new investigation would seem called for?

Where Were You?


It was Tuesday. I was 22 years old. I was taking a week off of work using "vacation" hours that I had just acquired the previous Friday, the second anniversary of my hire date at Springfield Remanufacturing. I hadn't gone anywhere. An actual vacation, as people define them here in the U.S., wasn't in the budget for me, but I was thoroughly enjoying my time off of work just hanging around the house with Jacob, then only 19 months old.

We left our home, just out of town, around 2:00 in the afternoon to get a few things at Walmart. Along the way, I drove past two gas station both of which had lines of cars stretching out into the streets. I found it odd, for sure, but didn't think too much of it until after I left a hectic Walmart and saw the same lines at other gas stations, as well.

I thought that maybe I should find out what was going on. I switched the car stereo from CD to radio and heard a lot of talk. I only picked up clues, but couldn't figure out exactly what they were talking about. I switched the station twice to find the same talk again and again. The stations were broadcasting the same thing. I heard, "war", "attack on American soil", and "death toll well into the thousands."

When I got home, I scrambled to find the TV antenna that was still packed away despite having lived at the house for over three months. I've never been much of a TV watcher. After hooking up the antenna, I sat and watched the footage for hours.

Alan Jackson wrote a song less than two months after the disaster. That song asked a simple question that has an answer almost everyone in the United States remembers very clearly: "Where were you?" So, where were you when you got the news?

Choices


In the last blog, I left off talking about how much God really does in this world. There are plenty of people who profess to believe in God and also believe that God created everything, but that He doesn't really concern Himself in our everyday lives. This is commonly referred to as God the clockmaker. This is where it is believed that God created everything, set up rules of how it should run, set it in motion, and then went on vacation where He continues to reside leaving us to handle all matters ourselves in a completely unabated environment.

Some may say that it's illogical to say that God made something happen or stopped something from happening when there is a logical explanation for the occurrence. So, for my argument I will use logic. After all, illogical arguments are just... well... illogical.

So, for purposes of argument, I'm going to ask you to use a little imagination. There. Ready? Okay. Imagine that you are God. You decided to create mankind. But, you want to do something that you've never done before. You want to create something like yourself. See, you're God. You have free will to do whatever you want. You've created lots of things, but this is a first for you. So how do you create something eternal that has free will, all the while it being designed for a relationship with you? You're going to have to set up some rules to limit yourself. Even though you can do anything and are limitless by nature you're going to have to change that at least in relation to this new creation.

For example, you could easily make man love you. Or could you? Is it love if it is not a choice? What sort of relationship would that be? You could easily make man mind you by putting it in an environment that he couldn't mess up. But, without the choice to mess up, is there really free will? Okay, so scratch all that. For free will to be present there must be a choice. You designed them for relationship with you but they'll need to be able to choose not to have one if free will is to be a factor here. So, you create a huge planet of almost infinite variety all of which you deem good. Then, you make one lonely tree that you deem bad and instruct them not to eat from it. This is their choice.

Despite the mathematical odds against doing so, they ate from it. Now things get slightly more complicated. You are good, perfect, righteous and that has tremendous power. Now, man is bad, imperfect, sinful and cannot be in your presence. Just as light and darkness cannot coexist because light displaces darkness, neither can you and man stand face to face. Good thing that you had a plan for all this.

So you sacrifice a part of yourself to pay for what man did, ultimately punishing yourself to buy back what man sold and to reconcile your relationship with them. Now, man has it all. You've given them a complete record of the facts that you made them, you love them, you made a way for them, and all they have to do is believe that you are telling the truth. See, man didn't believe. They questioned what you told them, disbelieving who and what you are.

Okay, back to our discussion. Your beliefs change your actions. Also, your actions reveal what you truly believe. For example, you believe that dollars have a value, so you want more and you protect what you have. Belief creates action. Another example would be that you pay your federal income though neither you nor anyone you know has ever seen the law that requires you to pay them (there's another blog coming that explains why I know this to be true). You pay them because you believe that you will be in violation of the law if you don't. Action shows what you truly believe.

If you truly believe something then your actions will show it. You may be asking yourself the age-old questions right now. "If God is everything that the Bible says about him, if He truly does play a huge role in our lives and the world around us, then how come I never see Him? Why does He work in mysterious ways? How come He doesn't just show up and make it obvious?"

Let me attempt at answering these. His ways are mysterious because, simply put, He must always allow room for you not to believe. If He came and knocked on your door, all your faith would be gone the instant you locked eyes with Him. You cannot have faith in that which you also have material proof. Faith is belief without material proof. Also, upon seeing Him you would lose your free will to choose not to believe in Him. Once you knew beyond a reasonable doubt, or unreasonable for that matter, that God existed you could never go back to unbelief. Therefore, your free will would have been taken away by such an encounter. The very existence of all the talk of faith in the Bible is to say that God Himself is unseen. All we see of Him is what He does.

In order for there to be any chance of us having free will, He must remain hidden to such obviousness. He must reveal Himself to us in ways that there is at least a small possibility where one could think that it was not Him. This way, in case you want to exercise your God-given free will, you can do so. It's all a choice.

I told about my wrist getting healed in the last blog. I could have just thought that it was about time that it healed and that it did it on its own. I could have thought that it was just a coincidence that it healed while I was having it prayed for. Or, I could claim that I'm just really losing it and getting mixed up with all this God mumbo jumbo and I believed in the healing so much that my body healed psychosomatically. Mind over matter, right? But regardless of all the explanations that I could have come up with to make it a normal thing to have happened, I'm believing that God healed me. To me, it makes more sense anyway. It's the most logical explanation.

You may be asking, "Why do we have to choose to love Him then? Why does He punish us if we don't?" I'm not God and I can't answer for Him, however I imagine that He doesn't want you with Him in heaven for all eternity if, in fact, you don't really want to be with Him. I'm sure you can relate. You wouldn't be roommates with someone who doesn't like you and didn't want to be your roommate in the first place. Now add eternity to that scenario.

Forget for a second all of how you've pictured both heaven and hell to look like. Just realize that the simple truth is that heaven is eternity with God and hell is eternity without Him. We choose by our chosen beliefs and our subsequent actions whether we want to be with Him or not. And, regardless of your decision, He will respect that decision. That's what giving someone a choice is all about.

"...choose this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

Kansas City Trip

In the last blog I talked about Wilderness Outcry, but that wasn't the only thing that I did on my vacation. We also were able to go to Kansas City and stay with the Imes' for three nights. We had a blast. We really miss having them closer, but they are in a good place and so it's just a bittersweet thing, I suppose.

Among the various items on our play-it-by-ear agenda was playing some serious spades. Even though Mike and I lost to the ladies, it was extremely close and a great nail-biter finish. Good job, girls. You deserved it. I'd like to fins another spades couple because I miss playing the game. Not that the Imes' can be replaced, but surely some couple can fill our need to play between trips to Kansas City.

A nice little bonus was that I got to watch several World Cup games in high definition on a big screen which was amazing! I'm glad that they didn't mind putting up with my sudden sports fanaticism. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I watched several more World Cup games, but HD big screens really do make watching something a better experience.

One of the nights they bought us dinner at Cinzetti's. It's my new favorite restaurant of all time. Too bad the only locations are Denver and Overland Park! It's the only all-you-can-eat authentic Italian food restaurant I've ever heard of. Not just authentic Italian, but GREAT Italian, GOURMET Italian! Everything I had was delicious. I recommend highly.

Also, while we were in town, we went to IHOP (International House of Prayer). IT was an experience that everyone around here needs to come check out. The Sunday morning service was good, but not near as hopping as the Saturday night worship. Hundreds of youth filled the place, many of which were being trained as leaders. There were several people healed including two people with past sports injuries that permanently damaged their rotator cuffs. One was a 20 year-old guy who was the quarterback for his high school football team until the injury took him out of the game. The other was a girl. Both got back full rotation without pain.

I got healed, too. I had had a bad wrist for about two and a half months. One morning, I woke up about 30 minutes before my alarm was to go off. To keep it from waking up anybody else I turned over on my left side so that I was facing it and could shut it off quickly when I woke back up. I don't normally sleep on my left side. When I woke the second time, as my alarm went off, my wrist and neck were really hurting me. The neck pain eventually went away that day, but the wrist never let up. If I put any weight on it, it would snap. I say 'snap' because it wasn't a nice, relieving 'pop' like you might think. It would snap and really hurt. I didn't and still don't know what was wrong with it.

To keep the story as short as possible, I'll just skip to the teenager coming up to me to ask me if he could pray for me. I said, "sure." His prayer was short and afterwards he asked how it felt. I had to admit that it did feel a little better. I couldn't get it to snap anymore, but the pain was still there. I told him so and he asked to pray again. After that prayer it felt even better but still not gone, by any means. So he asked to pray one last time. While he prayed and even after he stopped I felt as if my wrist were wet and a fan was blowing on it. It just felt cool, exposed maybe. I don't know. But, the pain was completely gone. I didn't find any hint of the injury no matter what I did with it. It was awesome!

It's now been two months and I've had no pain come back. It never snapped again after that night either. A thought did come to mind, though, roughly a week after IHOP. I thought, "Maybe it just finally healed on it's own." Upon thinking about that thought, I immediately said out loud, "No, that's not it. Thank you, God, for healing me."

This little thought exchange brought together some recent teachings I've heard and read as well as some revelations I've had while reading the Bible. I realized that people tend to explain away everything that God does. They explain it in a way that it makes sense to them how it happened without God's involvement. Those same people may argue that God was never involved on these matters and that maybe I should stop attributing things to God that can be otherwise explained.

Hmm... sounds like my next blog.

Wilderness Outcry


It's actually been a long time coming for me to write this blog. I've been pretty busy with life and have not set aside time to write a blog at all for several months. The sporadic few that have somewhat filled the black hole have been ones that I wrote when I should have been sleeping (sort of like right now). But, nonetheless, it's time to break this "no time" excuse and just knuckle down and write.

Back in June, I took a week off of work. Since I haven't been at DEI long enough to have acquired vacation time, all I got was time off without pay. But, I was thankful for that since they could have declined my request altogether. The reason I asked off in the first place was for an event called Wilderness Outcry in Poplar Bluff, MO. It was a call to all Christians regardless of denomination to come together for worship and prayer. Jodi and I both felt that we needed to go. We prayed that DEI would let me off and God came through and made it happen.

Originally, we planned to stay the whole week but our plans changed. We, like most everyone else, found out through Facebook that they were canceling the event due to a lack of funding to pay for all that they were planning. We were told that most of the things that needed rented and paid for would need to be paid for up front. But, since there wasn't a huge organization with a bankroll running things, the result was a canceled event.

However, the landowners, whose property was being used for the event also were the ones with the original vision and heart for the whole thing. So, they put together a website, Moriah Ranch, that they used to say that their land would still be open for camping, worship, prayer, etc. They promised portable toilets but couldn't really say what all would be available. But, they were hoping that people would still come. We were excited still and thought that it was actually a good thing. Some of the events that were planned that were no longer going to take place seemed a bit out of the original vision anyway.

As the days grew closer and closer to the event, people who previously had voiced that they were going or who wanted to go started to back out one by one. We, too, were tempted just to call it off, but we couldn't shake the feeling that God was calling us to go. Our hearts were already set for it and there was no backing out at that point.

It turned out to be much more than I expected. I have no idea how many people were there. It was a lot, but nowhere remotely near as many that could have been accommodated by that land. It turned out that according to those who registered and signed in 38 states and 6 countries were represented. Almost all who were there came from somewhere far away. I felt almost a little guilty that we only traveled 3 hours to get there. The worship was awesome! The quality of the musicians was pretty much just average, I'd say. But, the Spirit was moving and it was truly being felt by everyone. We had some interesting conversations and met some cool people.

The only tough part was the intense heat during the day and the swarms of hungry mosquitoes at night. After worship was over, we went back to our camp to enjoy some eating, hanging out together and what should be the most fun part of a camping trip. However, we pretty much left our food to the mosquitoes while running into our tent to seek shelter from the bloodsuckers. We spent the next hour or two attempting to sleep while killing a mosquito every few seconds. The twenty seconds or so that the door to the tent was open seemed to let in about 40 of the little vampires. We survived it, though.

On the way back home, we stopped at the Current River in Van Buren, MO. The river is fed by Big Spring so it is super clear. There are parts of it that are 20 feet deep but you can stand on a rock ledge and see the bottom with incredible detail like the water isn't even there. All of us swam for about an hour or so. It was a lot of fun and it was satisfactorily cooling enough for us to release all the heat that we had been soaking up for the duration of our camp.

One of the coolest parts to the trip came later. We had prayed that God make it possible for us to go to Wilderness Outcry both in the sense of getting off work and financially. When it came to going, no extra money came, but we had enough to stretch and make the trip. The difficult part would come the Friday after my week off for there would be no paycheck for me that day. Then, that Friday came and I got handed the usual envelope which normally contains a paycheck. I immediately thought, "Oh, yeah. I'll still get a pay stub showing that I didn't work any hours." I didn't even look in the envelope until I got in the truck after work. To my amazement, there was a check inside. I looked at the stub to see where the mistake had been made, but I found no mistake. It turns out that the company decided to pay out a bonus, in which I was not made aware. And, it was decided that it would be that Friday that they would pay it out on, the one week that I would receive no compensation. Isn't God good? We asked and we received. Simple as that.

Pizza Delivery Tip #4


Pizza Delivery Tip #4 - Choose Your Friends Wisely

You never know when your friends may turn on you. Especially when they're broke and they know that you have a job that requires you to carry around a significant amount of cash.

I delivered pizzas for almost two years right out of high school. Most of my friends at the time were ones that I had been running around with for years. Still, there were others that even though I was around a lot, I must admit that I didn't really know all that well. All of them were loyal friends and would've done whatever they could to help me out, but never underestimate what friends lacking morals might do.

I was hanging out with some friends one night after work and was let in on the fact that at one time in the not-so-distant past they had conspired to wait until the end of my shift out back behind the store. When I came out with one of the last deliveries of the night, the plan was to knock me over the head with something and take off with my bank bag. They were really proud of themselves, it seemed, that they had "thought it out" so well. They weren't planning on hurting me too badly, and I would wind up with half the takings, but only after all the police statements and such. See, they wanted to pay me for my trouble, but they didn't want me to know anything about it so that I could honestly tell the police all that I knew about the attackers and not have to lie. This way, I was told, it's completely foolproof.

After they revealed to me their once-upon-a-time-but-never-did plans, I informed them that the "money" that a pizza deliverer carries around with them is mostly in the form of checks, then signed credit card receipts, and finally cash. The first two wouldn't have done any of them any good, and they would've been very disappointed to learn that their "cut" wasn't much more than enough to buy a couple of pizzas with. Furthermore, upon getting my "cut" for the head injury I received, I would have proceeded to beat the tar out of them.

So, beware that your life-long friends may at times just see you as a target for some easy money rather than the pal you've always been to them. It might be a good idea to print up some "Friend Applications" so that you can interview potential friends, have permission to run background checks on them, sift through their school records ,and thoroughly pelt their listed references with every question you can think of.

In reality, though, we choose our friends based off of stipulations other than relational safety. Relationships of all kinds can be hazardous. But, people need people. So, despite the danger, we continue to be a relational creation. It does pay, however, to choose who you relate with, lest you find yourself getting knocked out by your friends who are looking to make all of you a few bucks.

5th Anniversary

This year's anniversary was our fifth! My mom took the kids so Jodi and I could run off to Branson for the weekend. It was a lot of fun hanging out with my girl all weekend with almost nothing on the agenda.

It was also a very successful weekend. Many weeks ago (not sure how many) Jodi's mom sent her a picture of a tall lady statue that was clearly from the same maker as the tall lady statue that Jodi bought at a yard sale a long time ago. Jodi wanted it, so we decided that we'd look for it while in Branson. Long story made short, we found it. Jodi had painted the one that she bought years ago. This one has its original paint on it still and looks good.

At the same flea market, I found (in a basket of random old photography stuff) a 58mm polarizing filter for my camera lenses. I have wanted one of these for a while, but have failed to buy one until now. They're not real expensive or anything, but with shipping and everything I've just never made that commitment. There was no price on it so I asked the owners of the store and they called the owners of the booth who relayed back to me that they wanted $2.50 for it. SOLD! I love it. It really cuts out the glare in outdoor photos.

We ate a lot of good food over the weekend including panini sandwiches with iced mocha cappuccinos at Big Cedar Resort. We also ordered some yummy dishes from the White River Fish House on the Landing with which we started with an Alligator Tail appetizer. We also were able to sit and do some relaxing with some good ol' HGTV. We love that channel and rarely get to see it.

A nice ending to our weekend was when Jodi defied what she was told and decided to go out on a limb anyway and try to sell some of the jewelry that her and Tara had been making. She casually brought it up to the Accessories buyer for Apricot Lane and the girl immediately bought 18 rings from Jodi! AANNDD, they discussed becoming a supplier of these rings for both the store on the Landing and the one in the mall in Springfield. I'm so proud of her!

So, great weekend! We missed a bunch of things going on, but we had a pretty good excuse and I wouldn't trade quality time with my wife for anything. Love you, baby!

Spanish Fat Lady's a-Singin'


With 64 games in 31 days, I've been busy. Too busy, in fact, to write a blog, just in case you've been wondering what happened to me. However, yesterday concluded the 2010 FIFA World Cup with Spain winning the golden trophy. I enjoyed this year's games, but I think overall it will be remembered as the World Cup with all the surprise game results. There were many upsets and it was truly a tournament for the underdogs.

While I usually root for the underdog in a game, I couldn't this time. My World Cup teams were chosen long ago. They are the US, Italy, and Germany teams. This year, I added Ghana to the mix since we have an emotional attachment to the country.

The USA did fairly well, in my opinion. But, their wins seemed to be a little sloppy. I long for the day to watch the US team play against the big boys in such a manner that no one can sneer and say that they were just lucky. But, I didn't feel that their World Cup performance really lived up to that standard.

Italy just blew it. What a disappointment! They came in last place in their group! What more is there to say?

The Germans did fantastic! They were typical Germany football: mathematical, fast, precise, with a strong defense. I loved watching them play, but due to having a stupid job, I missed their loss in the semi-finals. I heard that Spain dominated the game which I find hard to believe, but I'll find out for certain when I watch the game later. Still, Germany put on a great performance. It was exciting to watch their games for there was rarely a dull moment. They even won third place with a whirlwind of thrills.

Ghana did very well. They made me proud until they beat the US. I could have done without that, but whatever. My heart really goes out to them the way they were taken out of the tournament. If you haven't seen it, you should check it out on YouTube. No doubt, it's on there. In short, a Uruguay defender standing on the goal line purposefully used his hands to block the ball from entering the goal. He was ejected with a red card for it which puts him out the next game as well. I have to give the guy a lot of credit, though. He made a lightning quick decision to sacrifice his own playing time and reputation by deliberately breaking a rule for the greater good of team and country. That decision gave them a chance to win the game where they most certainly would have lost. And, they did well to make that chance turn into a victory. Hopefully, Ghana will be able to forgive Uruguay for pretty much stealing their chances from them.

I was disappointed that Africa didn't do better. Only Ghana made it out of group play. For the first World Cup being hosted on the continent, I was hoping that Africa could see some major victories. Alas, they'll have to be happy with how far Ghana made it.

I really enjoyed the World Cup, though, as a whole. I liked seeing my family get into it with me. I'll miss it. Today, I go back to being a non-sports fan. There's always the next World Cup to look forward to. Only 47 months to go!

1979 Celeb Guessing Game


I did this a couple years ago for my 29th birthday. I thought that it was kind of fun to see who all in the celebrity world is about my age. At 29, most of the celebrities still looked like they could pass as teenagers. Maybe not so much at 31?

This year, I only found 6 celebrities. One, of which, isn't even alive anymore. I wanted to get all new famous people without repeating any from the last game. The problem with that was that after these six they started becoming very obscure. I didn't recognize anyone else, in fact, with the exception of the young blonde girl from the movie Jurassic Park. Although, I doubt anyone else would have recognized her. I didn't until after I saw what all she had been in on IMDB.com.

So, good luck. Oh, by the way. The name of the game is easy. Name all the celebrities. Be the first to do so and leave them all in a blog comment and you'll receive honorable mention in an upcoming blog, bragging rights for a whole year, and you get to choose my next blog topic! Exciting, isn't it? And, as always, click on the picture to make it larger (in case my audience is getting older like me and needs it bigger to see anything).

Science vs. Christianity?


Since I was a young teenager, around 14 or 15, I think, I gave deep thought to the apparent incompatibility between the modern science that I had been learning in school as well as seeing taught on public broadcasting shows and the sometimes contrasting things that I was hearing and being taught at church. My mind would wander for hours sometimes attempting to make sense out of what all I was being taught. During this time, I would sometimes ask questions to different people. This, in most cases, led to further confusion. I would receive answers that only proved that the person attempting to answer didn't really know the answer themselves. I even would get the pat answers from fellow Christians sometimes like, "Well, you just have to have faith." These are non-answers anyway; just a way to get out of answering the question.

I don't have anything against the answers I received or the people I received them from, but I much would have rather preferred an 'I don't know' or maybe a referral to someone who might know in place of some of the responses I got. I actually got lovingly reprimanded once, I think. It was explained to me that I shouldn't spend so much time and energy in seeking knowledge since most people aren't won to Christ from being shown knowledge anyway but rather by being shown love. I won't argue with that. I believe that it's true, even. But, what about the few that remain that aren't moved by love? Could it be said that the majority moved by love is the '99' and that the ones that have questions they cannot let go of might be the '1'? I believe that God calls us to help those who are struggling with the same issues that we once struggled with. And, I can remember being plagued with unanswered questions. I've since found satisfactory answers to those questions and I can't help but want to help others who are battling with that. A simple answer sometimes is the only thing holding some people back.

Since then, I have spent much time reading books on the subjects, talking with others, watching videos about it, listening to my pastors, and searching the Bible. What I've found is that there is only a thin layer of false information out there that a lot of people have just accepted as truth. Their pursuit of knowledge has stopped in its tracks upon receiving this information. It's as if once they heard it, they thought nothing else needed to be learned on the subject. And, furthermore, they've assumed that since what they know supposedly makes a strong argument against the existence of God, then they don't have to give any consideration to any arguments that support God's existence. They just stand on their few little arguments and they feel untouchable by the oceans of evidence for God's existence surrounding them on every side.

I am currently reading Lee Strobel's A Case for Faith. I'm not quite half way through it, but I love it and have been very excited by the clarity given to the answers for many of the arguments that people unfortunately rely on. I believe that, just like me, when people's unchallenged rebuttals get answered with a satisfactory amount of convincing evidence they become ready to accept what previously they had resisted by tooth and nail.

One of the recent arguments that was made in this book by one of the many scholars Lee interviews pointed out some irony in the process of most people's belief systems. I found it kind of funny, sort of sad, but mostly insightful. I put my own twist on his point, though, and came up with a hypothetical scenario to demonstrate it.

Imagine that you are lounging in your back yard on your day off. All of a sudden, what appears to be a boom box falls from the sky, bounces off your trampoline, and then lands in your hammock almost unscathed. You get out of your chair and walk over to check it out. You see speakers, dials, buttons, switches, but no brand name of any kind. You also notice that it doesn't have a CD tray or a cassette player. You start wondering if it's a boom box at all or if it's equipment that fell off a plane or something. Then, it strikes you that it must be a satellite radio or some bluetooth controlled stereo that you know nothing about. You are a little strapped for cash and your personal ethics (we're still imagining a hypothetical here) include the motto 'Finders-Keepers' so you go down to your local pawn shop that buys high-end electronics, but they don't want to buy it because they say it's homemade. So, you snatch it back up, take it back home and open it up. It takes you a while because the screws were threaded the opposite way which makes you wonder why the ones who made it would do that. Once open, you see that there is writing on different looking circuit boards and metal plates and things. But, clearly, this thing was made overseas somewhere because you don't recognize what language it is. It's apparent that it is a language, but you've never seen letters or symbols like that before. So, after a short trip to Stanford, you walk in a meeting of linguistics experts and present a small group of them the metal plates with the strange writing. The group of experts that you show the plates to immediately become intrigued and place them under a camera that projects their image on the big screen. One by one, every one who had been talking in small groups become silent as they notice what is up on the screen. A room full of some of the most intelligent and learned scholars in the world on the subject of languages both antiquated as well as current cannot tell you what language it is. You go back home and it occurs to you that it could be an extra-terrestrial's boom box. After laughing it up at that absurd thought, you're startled to see a flying saucer come screaming out of the sky and become implanted in your lawn. You go over and tour the UFO, not laughing this time, and you see all types of controls that have the same writing you found inside the boom box. The ship is empty. Maybe the pilot bailed?

Now, do you believe in extra-terrestrial intelligence? After all, here is your proof, right? Or is someone playing a very expensive joke on you? You don't know any pranksters with that large of a bankroll, do you?

My point is this: Almost everyone would believe in extra-terrestrials if alien technology fell in their lap. A lot of people would think it to be lunacy to deny their existence after the arrival of such evidence. Many people believe that they exist even now without all that "proof". Still, there are those who would blame it on the government. It must have been NASA, right? I'll admit that thinking it's our or some other country's government is more logical than aliens' involvement.

We believe it for all the evidence. Given the right amount of compelling evidence we'll believe in what the evidence logically points to. But, no matter who you think is responsible for making the evidence, you can at least agree that it was made. It didn't become assembled by mere chance. Rocket ships don't build themselves. That would be absurd. The mathematical chances of that happening are probably one in some number with more zeros than I want to count. Some of you devil's-advocate-loving rebels out there may be saying, "But it is possible no matter how small the probability." But, that argument reminds me of Jim Carrey's character in the movie Dumb & Dumber. He was asking the girl what the chances were that they could wind up as a couple. He asked something like, "Is it something like 1 in 10?" to which she replied, "No, more like 1 in 5 billion." Then, instead of accepting that number as zero like we all know that he should have, he excitedly says, "So, you're saying there's a chance." Yeah, so which one was he again? Dumb or Dumber?

All it takes to prove the existence of intelligence is the presence of evidence that is so complex that the probability of it happening by chance is virtually zero. We live every moment of every day rightfully assuming that the objects around didn't materialize from happenstance, but rather were designed by intelligence, built by intelligence, marketed by intelligence, shipped, purchased, etc. You get the idea.

All around us is evidence of a Creator. The "natural" world is so full of evidence of design that it leaves a virtual zero for the probability of any other possibility. Every living thing has DNA in it, a written blueprint of and all the work instructions for a microscopic manufacturing process that the cells use to function at tremendous speed and efficiency that we see nowhere else in nature. DNA is the most complex written language we have ever seen in human history. It only consists of four "letters" but one DNA strand is so incredibly long that it has more information packed in it than the Encyclopedia Brittanica. This is no less written information from an intelligence or evidence of design that the boom box or spacecraft is.

It goes on from there. The level of fine tuning of multiple factors such as our distance from the sun, earth's magnetic field, our solar system's position in the galaxy, the speed of earth's orbit,.the tilt of earth's axis, etc. could not have been achieved by mere chance. Again, it is so ridiculously improbable that it is virtually impossible.

I can see, I suppose, why Charles Darwin came up with what he did. The nineteenth-century information that he had at the time was child's play in comparison to the amount of knowledge we have ascertained from all the scientific discoveries since then. This is true of every science, astronomy, biology, physics, archeology, medicine, just to name a few. Aside from that, we have sciences now that didn't even exist in his day. Modern technology has allowed us to look further into space and deeper inside living cells. Archeology has unearthed countless new fossils, written accounts, and other evidence that fails to support evolution and Darwin's idea of the origin of life while lending support to the biblical account of historic events.

So, I ask you, if you do not believe in God, what information do you believe? Where did that information come from? What ideas have you accepted as truth? How open are you, intellectually, to the possibility that the information you have or the conclusions that you have come to do not hold up to the reality of any truth, scientifically, spiritually, or otherwise? The real intellectual crime is to stop learning, stop being open to new ideas and studies, stop listening. Christians get accused of this all the time, ironically by those who are closed-minded themselves. While I will concede that some Christians are closed-minded and have given a bad name to Christianity, the same can be said of any group of people including atheists, non-church-goers, and agnostics. So, it's hardly an argument at all, but rather a moot point. The truth about most Christians I know or have observed is that they go to church to learn more. They go to have their own thoughts, beliefs, and priorities challenged. The Bible says that David was after God's own heart. But, David wasn't perfect. Where David went right was that he asked God to test his thoughts and to test his heart. He invites God to set him straight where he had it wrong. This is what most of us do when we attend church and search the scriptures and read books and pray and meditate on His word, etc. We're doing everything but stopping our quest for the truth and a better understanding of it.

So, to conclude quite possibly the longest blog I have ever written, I would like to challenge you, the reader, to search your own beliefs and thoughts. None of us our perfect. In what categories of knowledge have you stopped learning and accepting challenges? What information do you have that you think you need no more understanding on? And now ask yourself where that information came from? From friends? Teachers, authors, your parents? People, though, right? Should any of that information from people be accepted at face value, without strong evidence to back it up? What is your evidence?

Don't stop searching. Don't stop learning and testing what you already "know."

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