Tuesday, November 30, 2004


this is an audio post - click to play

All Good Cheesy Things

  • Yahoo! News - Reports Have Jennings Losing in 'Jeopardy'
    It had to happen sooner or later.

  • After-Coffee Mints?

    Eeww... and for the most part, they taste about right - as far as I'm willing to try.

    Read & Discuss

    FYI - We're wrapping up the current RamblingReader discussion, and getting ready for the next book: LIFE TOGETHER by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I've enjoyed reading "together", but hope there's more interaction and participation going forward with this classic through the holidays. I'm also in the middle of three or four other books, so having the list and the semi-discipline of having to post questions/comments is helpful to at least finish this one.

    Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign-up if you're interested in joining in.

    Monday, November 29, 2004

    Studying Oceanography

    Son: "Why do you think I need to study oceanography, dad?"
    Dad: "Because your math grade is below C-level, son."

    When I was in school, I was the smart one - saying that as modestly as I can. My brother isn't stupid, wasn't back then either, but I always felt like more was expected out of me (and this'll probably spur a post on his blog, too). My parents never pressured me to make straight-As, just to do my best and they would come. I graduated top-ten in my high school class, got 1370 on my SATs, went to college on what amounted to a full scholarship - really, without doing my best, without exerting that much effort. College then kicked my hiney - I got my first Ds for final grades by my sophomore year, and it was downhill from there. I graduated with a respectable 2.68 gpa, or something like that - and I knew personally that it was not my best. I didn't work that hard, did a bunch of things half-hearted and last-minute, and it started to show as time went on. My study habits sucked, and when I found that I could get by and not necessarily have to show up for class, I could always find (pool) something (student center) else (movies) to (daytime TV) do.

    So today, my son has brought home a D on a math test. If I ever slacked off on anything, it wasn't math. If anything, I grew into one of those weird right/left brain people, doing about equal on the verbal and math sides of standardized testing. But math - I mean, I'm a programmer, doing math and logic and statistics all the time. Never mind that I can't balance my checkbook or that I pulled out of Econ-101 before pulling an F. I still aced most of my math courses, and expect that my son and daughter.... will do their best.

    I'm not going to pressure him - not yet anyway. But I do hope that we help him this week - massive 15-page packet of stuff to do for homework because of the low score - to figure out what's important, and that laziness is no excuse. Hopefully he'll learn in third grade what I (hopefully) figured out in college. And hopefully it'll mean something - good study habits stay with you a long long time.

    Jesus' Faith

    this is an audio post - click to play

    In Search Of Good Christmas Music

    It is officially time for me to start listening to christmas music. Music is a big part of my life in general, but at this time of year in particular I enjoy the different styles and genres that make up christmas music. Big choruses & orchestrations and small voiced ballads - I'm all over it.

    My favorite song, whatever rendition/cover I hear, is "Carol Of The Bells". With what I've got at home I can make a whole CD of nothing but that song - with real bell choirs or with huge guitar riffs. I've also been a fan of Amy Grant's christmas CDs over the years, and the 4Him christmas album was really good. I've got some celtic christmas, country christmas, Mannheim Steamroller, Veggie Tales christmas - and it's just starting for me.

    In past years, I've pulled out the music too soon and gotten burned out before mid-December. This year, I've paced myself, starting *after* Thanksgiving and hopefully delaying the okay-I'm-really-tired-of-Rudolph-songs feeling that comes in about a month. I'm looking for some new CDs - at least some mp3s to download & burn. Maybe some swing or ska or neo-jazz stuff. Any suggestions?

    Sunday, November 28, 2004

    When Friends Blog

    I need to take a moment to give props to a few friends who are taking up blogging, trying to get into this addiction habit hobby that has given so many of us so many sleepless nights much stress much joy:
  • Caryn - finally she writes!
  • James - finally he lets Caryn use the keyboard!
  • Russ - Methodists in Texas now have a voice, or at least someone who can swing the guitar solo
  • Bert - blogging for ministry and retail success

    And here is one post I found today:
  • Nicholas - I'm in just the right mood for this post to be hilarious

  • Sabbath

    Let me start this post by saying that I've pretty much always enjoyed Sundays. At the same time, they've never really been a "sabbath", a day of rest, for me. For the past few years, we've been busy with church - setting-up and teaching and making copies and prepping and doing powerpoint and serving and whatever else the job description covered. Granted that Sunday afternoons have been pretty clear and easy with no evening services for the same amount of time. But I've just never really given thought to Sundays being that overall day of rest that replaced Saturday on the Christian calendar.

    Today, for the most part, has been a restful day. We woke up this morning feeling blaah physically - my throat was dry, full of cotton, and my wife is dealing with cramping and body aches. We decided to stay in today, not go to church, and rest up for the return to work and school tomorrow. We actually had "church" in our living room - we took the time to "teach" from 1 Corinthians 13, talking with the kids about what real love looks like, how we display it in our motives and actions. Very nice discussion - it's wonderfully fun listening to a 7-yr-old read the word of God.

    We did a light housecleaning and headed to my folks' house for lunch. Again, just restful - finishing up leftovers, watching some football, cracking on my brother. Afterwards, a little more housecleaning and I worked in the front yard a bit - getting ready for some friends to stop by on their way home to Georgia. Bert & Christie (hope I'm spelling the right - you never know with these multi-dialect names) were a blast, bringing their boys in for a pitstop on the way back home.

    All that... and snowmen are taking over in the living room. It's beginning to look alot like an invasion. In a good way.

    Saturday, November 27, 2004


    Originally uploaded by rickramble.
    New camera phones, meaning photos from the road posting to the blog. I hope. Using Flickr to post to my Blogger site. I hope. This is a non-phone photo of T-boy, vegging out Thursday after Thanksgiving lunch.

    Wonderful Time Of The Year

  • CNN.com - Couple points Grinchly finger at neighbors - Nov 26, 2004
    That's right, boys and girls. When someone gets offended at you or your Christmas lawn displays, it's okay to get offended at them in return, and then it's considered an honor to offend them again, this time in a much more pointed (pun intended) and degrading way.

  • The State | 11/27/2004 | "This is more about the event than the savings ..." — a shopping adventure on both sides of the counter
    I'm not real big on shopping the day after Thanksgiving, but waiting 'til that last day before Christmas has become a tradition for me. Walking into a mall on Christmas Eve, having all the sales girls at Bath & Body Works feel pity on you for waiting so long, or getting better service at Handpicked because they know it's almost over and the sales staff is feeling the much better from their store party still going on in the back of the shop.

  • Friday, November 26, 2004

    The Day After

    That's right. It's 6:15am, and my wife has just left with my mom to go shopping. Wal-Mart. Target. Circuit City. Bless their little hearts.

    Photo Friday: Prosperity

    Lots of food, fun with family - it doesn't get much better than this.

    Thursday, November 25, 2004

    Very Grateful

    We are stuffed full - turkey and ham and corn and stuffing and peas and green beans and on and on and on. Next: leftovers. And then there's the football - second game starting, meaning that a nap should come around somewhere in here soon. I'm grateful for family, for being able to spend time together and enjoy each other.

    The past year has been full, to say the least. I don't know that I would've guessed we'd be settling into a new church, or that we'd be making new friends under the circumstances of hurt and betrayal and renewal and all that. Relationships require hard work, and are still very fragile things. The fire of hurt and misunderstanding can tear them down or strengthen them - jury's still out on which way we're going right now. If there's anything I miss right now, it's old friends. I don't know that I would change anything, except of course the pain, the way things happened. But we don't always control fate, coincidence and providence, do we? But I'm grateful for the pleasure of relationships, old and new, and for the people who have danced through our lives.

    What has all this done to me personally? It's made me more introspective, less "out there", more prone to keep quiet instead of blurting out the sarcastic remark or silly commentary. Others might not agree - but I notice that I keep to myself more these days. What I lack in confidence, I hope I've gained in self-control. I ponder things deeply these days, something that was probably a character flaw in the past, that hopefully is turning into a plus heading forward. I want more of my meditation, more of my pensiveness, to be towards God, His ways and His purposes in creation and the world/culture around me. I don't think I laugh as much, but when I do I mean it more - if that makes sense. I also find that I'm more judgmental towards others, more pessimistic about the future than I have known myself to be in the past. But I think that I'm grateful for the opportunity to go through life changes and still trust the Spirit's guiding hand, to at least look for it and grasp in faith for the next step, the next door, the next opportunity to watch His grace in action.

    I'm grateful for those who read here, who pray, who interact however quickly or invisibly through this site. Thanks, and may your Thanksgiving be full, too

    Wednesday, November 24, 2004

    Family Night

    Since we hung out with old buddies last night - and I mean "old" in the best possible way, honest - and since the kids hung out with Grandma & Grampa while we went to play, tonight we decided to get two extra tickets for the ballgame and bring them along. USC vs. Winthrop, with one of Vicki's former students on the opposing team's starting line-up. It was our daughter's first basketball game: I was hoping the pomp and video and music and cheerleaders and Cocky would keep her interested enough so we could watch the game. She was very good, enjoying all that and the Dippin Dots, too. And for our 9-yr-old son, this was old news - he starts his second year of rec center b-ball next week. Anyway, we had a really good time - and the Gamecocks won, 62-52. Sweet.

    When Old Friends Get Together...

    ... the stories never stop, do they? Neither do the pictures. Lori invited us over to the new house, which we sufficiently and efficiently blessed and trashed, in that order. We've been friends for a long time, and even after extended absences and living thousands of miles or just blocks away from each other - it's amazing how one group of folks can get back into one room and have things slowly fall back into place.

    Lot's of fun - wonder if we'll be invited back. Hint. Hint.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004

    Click Through

    My brother's blog - show him some love. Youth ministers need all the props and the encouragement they can get. So if you click through, read his mind (only the pretty parts get published), and then share his URL with your own youth minister, too - aight?

    Gratuitous Sports Post

    There's s great deal of sports schtuff going on in Columbia, SC these days, and around the country for that matter. Since things are all tangled up in the top news soundbites each evening, I'll take my turn to just spout off a few worthless opinions, if that's alright with you.
    • I think Couch Holtz has class, but over the course of time he expected more out of his players than they were able or trained to give. He said it in the conferences yesterday, that when they come out of summer practice they're tough and hungry; but somehow by the time November comes around there's no heart. What's the diff? The players have to want it more than the coaches, and when school starts and the schedule gets tough they've got ot do that much more to stay focused and competitive. Wasn't happening, and that's sad.
    • I think Coach Spurrier will bring that focus to USC. He's on my list of least-liked coaches, but he's not at the top. By all accounts, he has integrity and authenticity, for better or worse - and while that plays out as arrogance to your opponents, for the home team it might be fun. And if he can keep a fire lit under the team during the entire season, and if he can make halftime adjustments that separate good teams from great teams - then that's just gravy for me.
    • Fighting in competitive sports is idiotic and uncalled for. Whether we're talking about the Pacers charing the stands in Detroit last Friday, or we're shaking our heads at the brawl betweent USC & Clemson Saturday - it was not pretty, not sane, not professional, not a good thing. There was no justification, and I think the universities have done the right thing - even if it's the expensive thing in breaking contracts, etc - in declining any bowl invitations as punishment for the teams and as a sign to the nation (I hope) that this kind of thing can't be normalized and mainstreamed.
    • I think both teams, since there is no bowl game now, should be bussed to Hilton Head New Years weekend to watch bowl games together, play volleyball on the beach, enjoy some team-building games with each other, singing Kum Ba Ya around the campfire on the beach. Can't we all just get along?
    I'll be watching the news conferences and highlights every night on SportsCenter, and I'll be rooting for the Gamecocks heading into the upcoming basketball season and beyond. Meanwhile, we'll explain to our kids that bad things happen when stupid people act stupidly.

    Sleepless In SC

    Well, I hope everyone is settled down and at least moving forward through this day. Last night was just plain nutty. I think our daughter fell asleep okay - let her stay up a little later to see something on television, then off to bed where she falls asleep just like me: hitting the pillow and snoring.

    Our son, on the other hand, "gets bored" and is often unable to sleep. Usually this means that he'll fall asleep by 10:30pm or so, but not last night. We were still getting some things together for today (last day @ school before Thanksgiving holiday, tonight's dinner party with friends), so Vicki and I were moving pretty late. I found a video form high school that we need to take over tonight, and when I put it in to make sure the tape would still play - here comes the boy, still awake, "I just need to go to the bathroom", looking like he's tired and sleepy but that he'd not been to sleep just yet.

    He came out of the restroom and I let him watch a few of the clips on the video, hoping that might calm him, center him, knock him out. I don't think it worked. Vicki said she found him still reading after midnight, and this morning we're not even sure he slept at all. I'm "on call" from the school - if buddy-ro can't participate or gets out of sorts for drowsiness, I'll be trekking back across town to get him and put him down for a wee bit of a nap. Ya think?

    Meanwhile, we'll also be doing things this extended weekend to help him sleep on his own. I'm thinking Lawrence Welk reruns and Teletubbies videos. Or maybe just warm milk and me reading a good book in my slow and steady monotone voice that works with Vicki every time. I have a tough time empathizing, because I'm usually asleep before fully settling into the pillow. But he'll need some training in this area.

    Conversational highlight on this matter:
    SON: Dad, I had trouble sleeping because of your snoring.
    ME: Don't know what you mean - I slept right through it.

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    Retiring In Style

    We're going to miss you, Coach. Thanks for what you've done - and hopefully we'll build on it to make you proud.


    Something to ponder on my Monday morning commute...
    There are people that seem to have something. People who are humble and speak about you like you're real. God: too many people speak about you like you're a 1950s family value.
    [from 47, linked via heretical orthodoxy]

    Sunday, November 21, 2004

    Puzzle Piece

    this is an audio post - click to play


    Are we too mature?

    I don't ask this question loosely, and I'm not asking it sarcastically. I know that if we were to discuss this matter, most of us would argue that we all still have much to learn, that we're growing, that we are mere babes when it comes to knowing anything about Christ or the Kingdom. So I don't think I'm talking about the mental/philosophical question: "do we already know everything?"

    Instead, I'm asking how our level of maturity actually plays out in our day-to-day lives. While mentally we might understand there's much to learn, we as Christians live each day as if we already have all the answers. I can spin it religiously with "Jesus is the Answer," and since I know Jesus I have all of my answers and *your* answers, too - making it sound like I've got a lock on the ultimate theory of life, the universe and everything (isn't it still "42"?). Usually, in this frame of mind/understanding, we are unteachable and unable to grasp conflicting information. Anything that goes completely against the grain is rejected outright; the only "new stuff" that passes is what looks vaguely familiar already, or has a different spin on something we already understand.

    Case in point: most people know the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). They've heard a few sermons on the passage. There might be notes in the margins of their bibles, telling of the younger son's "coming to his senses" and the father's open arms as he runs home to be a worker in the household. There are notes about the older brother, how he represents the pharisaical outlook of the religious leaders, and how his bitterness probably means he's just jealous that the younger brother got to have fun first. Most people already have all of this figured out, right? Or at least, they've got the major principles down because they've heard most of this before.

    Now, can you see something that might be "new", something that's blatant in the story, that fits into the context of the three parables (all of Luke 15), but that no one has ever taught you before. As the Spirit leads, bring out this new truth - like how the prodigal son was just lavishly reflecting a portion of the lavish character of his prodigal father, or how the older brother is a son who's enslaved in his mind while the younger brother comes as a slave and is welcomed back as a son, or maybe how the presence of a fattened calf meant that the father fully expected to have something worth celebrating soon, etc etc etc - and watch everyone suddenly get more mature. We'll listen; We'll take notes. We'll nod and shout "amen", and we'll shake our heads and say "ouch". And when it's all over, we'll be more mature for having heard and understood - while not having to apply any of it to our actual lives. We've listened, but we haven't allowed ourselves to be taught, to be changed, to be challenged, to be transformed.

    In most cases, the subconscious thought that "we're getting it"... actually becomes a hindrance and obstacle to getting it for real in our lives. Our "maturity" reveals our lack of maturity, and our lives go on day after day, week after week unchanged and ineffective.

    Just me rambling... me hoping that I'm getting it, meaningfully.

    [first written july 2003, 1j13 email list]

    Saturday, November 20, 2004

    Say What You Want About Hollywood

    Yahoo! News - Entertainment Photos - AP - "Actor Stephen Baldwin (news), center right, talks about Jesus Christ as extreme skateboarder Tim Byrne, center left, listens along as with other skateboarders Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004, in Ocean City, Md."

    That's just cool. Get his brothers on board and we'll have a new movement going on.

    Saturday Plans

    It's time for THE GAME.

    [todd bennett, the state]

    South Carolina at Clemson, 12noon. Beating the Tigers would be really sweet: better bowl bid, send Coach Holtz out with a win, get the program looking that much more positive towards the future with incoming Coach Steve Spurrier.

    Ten minutes to gametime. Just PLAY this year, alright?!?

    UPDATE, Post-Game: ... or not.
    Clemson 29, USC 7 - and Lou Holtz is still a great, flying coach.

    [Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.
    (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)]

    Friday, November 19, 2004

    With Arms Folded For Warmth

    "So my dear brothers and sisters, stand strong. Do not let anything change you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted."
    -- 1 Cor. 15:58, NCV
    The night started uneventfully enough, I guess. We were just sitting around the room, belly-aching about why the football team wasn't winning, or why the weather was cruddy, or what junk our bosses or professors had been dishing out this week. I was sitting in the recliner my folks had donated from Flintstone times. Alex was sprawled on the couch, staring at the ceiling instead of anyone's eyes in this mish-mash conversation. Jenny was in front of the PC, chatting with some guy in Saskatchewan about the deeper philosophical meanings behind Canadian League football rules. Mitch was in the other chair, just absently staring out the window at the gray clouds floating across the horizon, chilly with drizzle, rushing to fill every warm void with a solid chill.

    "So what am I going to do, man?" Alex said, mainly to nobody, since none of us were really listening right then. It had been one of those lulls in conversation that happens from time to time -- you know, when there's nothing to say on the old topic, nothing to start a new one, and everyone's kind of at that point where they're somewhere between being anxious about what's coming next and just being really happy and fulfilled, among friends, without words garbling the communication.

    "What are you going to do about what?" Jenny asked, not looking away from her chat screen, not stopping the typing, effectively carrying on two completely different conversations at the same time (girl thing?).

    "About my girlfriend?" Alex had been having problems with his latest "conquest," because this time, unlike all the other times, his eyes were dead giveaways to the effect she was having on him. "She's so perfect, I mean, in every way, you know? But there's this church thing... what's up with that?"

    I chimed in. "Ditch her, big guy. She might be the right one, but that churchy thing never works in the real world. If you can't change her, let her fly."

    Jenny's turn: "How rude. She's got her beliefs, and you've got yours. You might want to look at hers, but hold tight to yours I always say." (How could she talk and type that fast at the same type?!?) "I went to church, too, and I didn't turn out too bad, did I?"

    Sarcastic silence inserted here.

    "Well, DID I? Oh you morons," she slapped out, emotionally assaulting us.

    Alex ignored the onslaught. "She's not pushy or anything. I mean, physical relations are out of the question, you know, but it doesn't matter as much about that to me. Not this time. It's like when we talk about life and the cosmos and junk, she's so sure in herself. Or in God. And she's not like those guys on campus who preach about hell and damnation -- she's comfortable about not necessarily having all the answers, not knowing all there is to know. It's a, um... peace, I guess. A hope that this is only getting better."

    By this time in his unplanned soliloquy, we were all mesmerized: Jenny stopped typing, I stopped clicking the remote, Mitch... well he still stared out the window. "She's so firm, and strong. And I've got to tell you, as much of a turn-on that is, it's more... thrilling?... that she lives out this sense of adventure that's appealing... and... well it's different."

    I looked at Jenny; she was smiling in an odd way, like she was wrestling with happy thoughts dancing in her head. "I wish I had that," she said quietly, to no one in particular, and to everyone in the room maybe, and I think she might've been typing that in the IM, too. I didn't say anything, just nodding my head, flipping the channels again, thinking about my own search for adventure, hope... sense of belonging, love, peace.

    Mitch was still staring out the window, watching the weather go by, folding his arms again for warmth.

    [i originally wrote this in 1998, part of an email list, sharing my thoughts on how we impact others with just being real, asking real questions, seeking real relationship with a very real God... still cool when i saw it again today]

    Passenger-Side Delivery Room

    Way to go, Statedog. Congrats to you and your wife, Mrs. Statedog. Those women will keep you on your toes - guaranteed.


    Photo Friday: Patterns

    Our girl-child enjoys taking photograps of her puppies. Here they are frolicking on our bed, playing only as stuffed inanimate puppies can. Aren't they cute?

    Thursday, November 18, 2004

    Leaving The 99

    The shepherd came back to his land after a good day in town, buying and selling and laughing at the marketplace. He looked all over for the boy, a hired hand, one of his cousin's boys, who'd been left to watch over the sheep for the duration of the trip. He knew "sheep-sitting" wasn't all that much fun to a young man, but it would pay well, and the sheep practically took care of themselves as long as they didn't wander off. He spotted the teen over by the barn, asleep on a couple of bales of hay. Everything looked fine, no big deal.

    Walking over to him, waking him up, looking to get a report on what had been happening in the wonderful world of sheepdom. The boy mumbled something about losing a sheep, just one, over by the water hole. He wasn't sure where the lamb wondered off, but that he wanted to make sure the other sheep were okay. He'd walked them back to the pastures by the barns, counting them to make sure only one had been lost. Ninety-nine were here, with one missing. He was really really sorry, but he'd kept that others from leaving, right?

    The shepherd was frantic - resolved and under control, but anxiously counting all the remaining sheep, trying to place which of the lambs had bounded off. All of them were there, except... yes, the big one, the lamb with a little extra energy, always getting in trouble for getting too far into the watering hole, or too far towards the cliff's edge over at the ravine. That one was a trouble-maker, but he'd always listened to the shepherd, always come back to the group, always found a way to make his master proud.

    "Why didn't you go find that lost sheep, son?", he asked the boy, knowing the answer before it was offered.
    "I didn't want to lose any more, and it was just one lamb, so I figured it wasn't as big of a deal as one of the rams or ewes over there."

    "Son, the sheep will stay together pretty much - but if one wanders off, you've got to go find him. Go on - I understand, but next time you've got to stay on top of things, especially that one that jumped away." He paid the young man, who's head hung low and dejected before the shepherd.

    "What are you going to do?" he asked the shepherd.
    "I'm going to find that sheep."
    "Do you want me to watch the 99?"
    "Honestly, I think they'll be okay. They stay where they start chewing, and it takes alot for any single one to leave the flock that's standing still. No, I think they'll be fine - but I need to go find that one that's lost."

    He turned from the young man, inwardly fuming but also understanding what the boy didn't: that the sheep would respond to his voice, that they knew who really loved them, that this one in particular would hear his voice and would hopefully come rejoin the flock.

    He left the ninety-nine, and pressed into the wilderness to find the lost sheep. What the boy didn't understand is that a hired hand didn't really know the sheep and wasn't really known by them, that he didn't really care as much, didn't really have anything invested in the flock. And the owner, the shepherd, the father to this flock - he would give anything and everything to find that one lost sheep.

    Win One For Lou!

  • Spurrier headed to South Carolina, announcement next week - Thursday, 11/18/04
    I hope something comes of all the distraction and cover-up and hokey denials. And I hope that this fires up the Gamecocks to do it right this weekend and repay Clemson for the 63-17 whipping last year.

    I'm not a Spurrier fan, but he's not as caustic as other coaches I don't like. If he comes to USC and wins, all the better. It could be fun around here if recruits get wind of the change and start altering decisions. Woo hoo.

    But first things first. Win the game Saturday. Ok?

  • SI.com - NCAA Football - Report: Spurrier agrees in principle to coach South Carolina - Thursday November 18, 2004 11:55AM
  • SI.com - Writers - Stewart Mandel: Spurrier could help S.C., but for how long? - Thursday November 18, 2004 12:19PM

  • Falling Stars

  • The Leonid Meteor Shower 2004: Modest Peak Expected Nov. 16-19
    I'm hoping that we'll be able to catch some of this early tomorrow morning. I set an alarm for 4am today - didn't happen, but the sky is very dark and trying again tomorrow, when some of the "experts" say that the peak will be, might prove productive. If I see a few, I'll be waking up my little girl, our astronomer, to throw on some blankets and watch with me. We'll keep folks posted...

  • Wednesday, November 17, 2004


  • CNN.com - L.A. registrar: Spears' marriage official - Nov 17, 2004
    Good thing. Had me worried.

  • Only Wednesday?!?

    There was a point in time yesterday when I would've swore it was Thursday, and that today would be Friday. That's just crazy talk, because now it's NOT Friday, and I've got three more full days counting today before the weekend. I hate it when that happens.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004


    A time to search and a time to lose.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
    A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
    - Eccl. 3:6
    We were at small group tonight, and I read the whole "time to do this and time to do that" passage from Ecclesiastes 3. When I got to verse 6, I stumbled a bit before going on to the next verses. Here's he way the bolded phrases diagrammed in my head:

  • a time to search - there is a time, a passage of minutes/days, that needs to be searched, to be pondered, to be meditated upon; there's got to be some time for meditation, but there also might need to be some time that can be pondered again, "searching" it for God's meaning and purposes

  • a time to lose - not just having a time period where we experience loss, but actually knowing there is a time that we need to let go of... or at least not hold onto so tightly, like bitterness or arrogance, that we can lay aside

  • a time to keep - same idea, only with the intentionality of keeping this time, cherishing in our hearts what God is doing around us

  • a time to throw away - purposefully releasing the times in life that would serve to hinder us, to kill our dreams and destroy our relationships

    Diagram these phrases, and "time" is the direct object of the verb. At least, that's the way I saw it tonight. Search that time. Keep that time. Throw away that time. Feel free to lose that time. I thought it was pretty cool.

  • Who Defines "Reality"?

    Just something I'm thinking about today. I'll be attending our small group this evening, so I'm going back over last week's notes this morning. One of the questions was: "Read Genesis 1:1-27 - How do you see God creating order out of chaos in the account of creation? What do you learn about the character of God in this passage?" (Getting A Grip, Bill Hybels).

    I don't recall the discussion over that question last week, but my thoughts are full this morning: in the Creation, God defined reality. Or, He redefined reality - whichever the case might be. By putting things in proper order and in proper perspective, He determined and decided what this reality would be, how it would work, and its ultimate end and destiny. Same thing happens on a much smaller, much less glorious scale in "reality TV", where the cameras catch snippets of moments on film and the producers get to arrange and rearrange "reality" to suit their whims and build ratings. God took the chaos of the before-time moment, and spoke reality as He wanted it to be into existence.

    It appears that the nature of God is to bring intentional direction to what previously had no direction, to start something that wasn't even moving before, to push with purpose a system that was useless and undefined before He walks into the space surrounding. That's the God we seek, and my chaos is nothing compared to what He has planned and foreseen through it. He's not surprised, nor is He doubtful of the outcome - He already knows, and He's already prepping me to move in the way that will most suit His reality, His intentions. That's incredible, isn't it? God not only cares, but He's doing something about it towards some good and perfect and glorious outcome.

    If our view of reality is chaos, or if our perspective if a wreck from our mistakes, the hurts and betrayals of life - then we need Him to redefine reality again. We've got to let go of anything we discover is wrong, and grab on tightly to what's right - no matter the pain or cost. He defines and molds and reinforces "reality" - and He alone is capable of making it worth being real.

    P.S. - In related reality, it's baby-day (soon, hopefully - update anyone?!?) for Statedog.com. Show 'em some love, and send Huggies.

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    Top Ten Christian Pick-Up Lines

    [don't laugh - I won over my wife with #6]

    10. "I hear there's going to be a love offering tonight."

    9. "Just looking at you makes me feel all ecumenical."

    8. "Before tonight, I never believed in predestination."

    7. "I'm pretty flexible, I don't think a woman should be submissive on the first date."

    6. "You know, I'm really into relationship evangelism."

    5. "You have the body of Amy Grant, and the soul of Mother Teresa." (Don't get this confused!)

    4. "What do you think Paul meant when he said, 'greet everyone with a holy kiss'?"

    3. "I don't see it myself, but people tell me I look like Michael W. Smith."

    2. "Did I tell you that my great-uncle was a personal friend of C.S. Lewis?"

    And the #1 Christian Pick-Up Line is... "I just don't feel called to celibacy."

    (By David Ellis Dickerson - TheDoor Magazine)


    God's grace :: This morning's chill :: Smell of coffee :: My wife :: Afternoon naps :: XM radio :: Good books :: Our children :: New friends :: Faithfulness :: Travel mugs :: Old friends :: Starbucks Christmas Blend :: Family laughter :: Old videos :: Comfy sweatshirts :: Ben & Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Chunk :: Christmas music :: Morning naps :: Romans 8 :: SFO :: Readers

    Sunday, November 14, 2004

    "Damascus Moment"

    This morning's message at church, continuing a theme on "thankfulness", was about how to respond to life's "Damascus Moment". In Acts 9, Paul has one such moment on the way to, well, Damascus. He's doing the best he knows, serving God and ministering as he's been trained - even if that "training" and "mentoring" is in pursuing and killing the band of rebels that were falling in line with the Jesus-followers. When God knocks him off his horse, it's to tell Paul that he's been wrong - that what he's learned about the Father and the meaning of life has been a sham, and that there is a much better Way.

    Sometimes, if I close my eyes really hard, I can be Paul, falling on my hiney, hearing that I've gotten wrong to this point, and that there's a better Way. With my eyes closed that hard, I'm not starting churches. I'm not writing the New Testament. But I am on my bottom, and I am learning a new Way. I'm prayerful that God is not through with me yet, that His Way is higher and more sure than where we've to this point, and that He is not only orchestrating His purposes in His sovereignty, but that He's also preparing me and equipping me to participate in that grand adventure. All that, sitting on my butt, knocked off my horse - not heading to Damascus anymore.

    How does "thankfulness" fit into this? I am thankful for my Damascus Moment. Just now, not knowing what's coming, I am thankful that Jesus cared enough to show up, knock me off my pride, and rearrange my future. That's pretty cool... if I shut my eyes real hard.

    Saturday, November 13, 2004

    Evangelical Coalition

    FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Falwell Forms Evangelical Coalition - RICHMOND, Va. — Seeking to take advantage of the momentum from an election where moral values proved important to voters, the Rev. Jerry Falwell (search) announced Tuesday he has formed a new coalition to guide an "evangelical revolution."

    The cynic is me is having a hard time seeing where this coalition would be a good thing. The pragmatist in me is wondering if it's even necessary. The skeptic inside is judging Falwell harshly on his motives. The hungry in me is looking for a cookie to go with my evening coffee.

    [linked via every tomorrow]


    There's a good bit that can be said for the wealth or lack of good Christian fiction these days. For me, I want to read a book with spiritual, challenging qualities that doesn't have to stick to steretypes and jargon to be called a "Christian book". The Assignment, by Mark Andrew Olsen (2004, Bethany House Publishers), is a good example of a good book that relies on its story and characters rather than on sermonettes and churchy cliche'.

    I want to be very careful to not be a spoiler here - there are some twists and turns starting fairly early on that served to pull me in when I wasn't that interested. The constant back and forth through time, while not confusing, was a bit much in the opening chapters. But then the twists kick in: for whom are the priests looking in an abandoned Nazi death camp field? Why does it seem that the bishop is possessed by evil instead of exorcising it? Why does the young Stephen, seminarian and hopeful pastoral candidate, get selected to join a hush-hush rumored legendary sect of monks who have been charged with protecting the catacon, the human comoponent of The Restrainer mentioned in 2 Thessalonians? How does Nora fit in, a Harvard student putting off her psychology dissertation to investigate her own mugging by terrorists and the constant tragedy and blessing being visited on her family for generations? And who is this "Restrainer", someone charged by God to never die and to forever "restrain the Enemy"?

    Those are just a few of the questions that lead deep into the heart of a story that does a fine job of being part Highlander, part This Present Darkness and part Thomas Merton. And here's where I have really enjoyed this book. It goes deep into the recesses of "what if?" and comes out with something plausible in both scripture and in real human relationships. The monastic meditative qualities of the participants, taken into account with the action and increasing danger, have been a strong pull for me. When I read fiction, I want to be entertained - and Olsen does a fine job of entertaining me, the casual reader. But I also like to be challenged spiritually, to be intrigued as the characters grow and discover things about themselves and God. On that level, this novel really works.

    Friday, November 12, 2004

    Weekend Plans

    I like the way I think this weekend is "scheduled" out: busy enough, but still with enough rest & relaxation time, too.
  • BBQ Fundraiser tonight, eat @ Mom & Dad's
  • NC Roadtrip in the morning with Trace - didn't need to
  • Birthday Party @ park for Cammi's friend tomorrow
  • Make time to FINISH The Assignment [gettin' really good!]
  • Make time to watch Mystic River some time, too
  • Church Sunday morning
  • Grampa's b'day party Sunday afternoon
  • Football, Football, Football
  • Nap Time - always time for a nap Saturday between games, Sunday before Extreme Home Makeover
  • I'm sure I've forgotten something - that thing goes *here*, with no time to spare

  • Focus

    "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
    - Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:27

    "What I want instead is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High. Trust Me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give Me glory."
    - God, Psalm 50:14-15
    Just really continuing on the thought that we don't take some things seriously enough... Who am I to say that someone else is slacking off? Part of me wants to start full-on with the new church, new service opps, doing yardwork and housework and fix-it jobs. Another part of me thinks that first part is nuts, and another part of me is asleep, having found a warm cozy place in the midst of this cloudy foggy moist chilly day.

    Just got back from lunch, drive-thru and quiet time in my car. Sometimes I think too much, while at others I don't think at all. I was somewhere in between, listening to the talking sports heads on the XM, alternately praying, thinking about the weekend, the past few weeks, meetings next week, all the people I miss and those I'm meeting and getting to know. All that, and I wish the fries had been crispier, you know? Anyway, rambling like this is sometimes the only way I can make sense out of what's usually nonsense. I enjoyed the breeze, the light rain that started, the squirrels getting ready for winter, the leaves falling on the hood of my CRV.

    I thought back to the two verses above: make sure I don't disqualify myself, and really really give thanks to God while fulfilling my vows and living out the kingdom-life. That's it. Do it, and don't screw it up. Focus on the "do it" - let the "don't screw it up" take care of itself by living thankfully and graciously. Something like that, before getting out of my car, whispering a prayer of thanks to the Lord for giving me the foresight to grab my umbrella, and heading back inside.

    Cultural Cartwheel Cops

  • CNN.com - Student suspended for handstands, cartwheels - Nov 11, 2004: "'Contact sports, apparently, are fine. But this one is so dangerous it requires the cartwheel cops,' Faegre said."

    I'm in a weird frame of mind where this kind of story is funny. We take some things so seriously in this culture, and other things we don't take near serious enough. We're tolerant, as long as you agree with us. We're generous, as long as you do what we say with the financial assistance being offered. We forgive, as long as we feel you've gotten you've suffered enough. We get mad at last year's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, and no one raised near the stink over all the "male enhancement" commercials running through the whole game. I think we miss the forest *and* the trees sometimes. Too often, we just don't get it... and we end up "stifling the cartwheels" of creativity, generosity and diversity. But that's just me.

  • "Family"

    Photo Friday: Family

    My little girl snapped this before breakfast this morning. We're all just glad it's Friday, and that we're going to have fun with family this weekend. Our fridge is pretty full of photos, but there's always room for more.

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    Outspoken & Heroic

  • CNN.com - The outspoken Bill Cosby - Nov 11, 2004
    When you can face the crowd of your friends and family and call something wrong simply because it's wrong - that's heroic.

  • Blahg

    I'm feeling kinda blah - so I guess this is a blahg post. I'm tired, need more sleep, need more time with my family and for making new friends & relationships. Everything seems to be happening so fast, and at the same time it's moving so slowly, too. Probably nothing that can't be licked with a good night's sleep, a weekend sleeping in a little. I usually don't stay in this state of blah for very long, so I'm not concerned. Just... Blah.

    The holidays are coming, and we've got plans pretty solidified for Thanksgiving week. Then there's Christmas - pulling out my holiday tunes, shopping online early and at the malls late, making & drinking coffee (Starbucks Christmas Blend rocks). I'm not sure what our week will look like after Christmas - I'm taking off from 12/24 thru 01/03 - but I'm sure we'll try to head to the beach or the mountains, see relatives in NC, and just play play play all day. It's a fun time of year - sweater weather, chili & fixin's and a warm fire. That's enough to get me out of the blah right there just about.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    Much Ado About Lou

  • CNNSI.com - Spurrier wants to return to college ranks
  • The State | 11/10/2004 | USC checks on Spurrier's interest
  • The State | 11/10/2004 | Spurrier does not squelch USC rumors
  • WIStv.com Columbia, SC: Rumors over future of Coach Lou Holtz at USC continue

  • Tuesday, November 09, 2004

    Brrrrrr - & Liking It

    39F right now.

    Anyone who knows me knows that I am "hot-natured" - meaning that I am the wrong person to ask, "is it hot in here?" Most of the time, yes, it is. Living in South Carolina means that we get to have pretty temperate summers and fairly mild winters - to me, that means not getting much above 95F in August and not getting too much snow in January. In the meantime, autumn is my favorite time of year, with winter close behind, because it's finally getting a little chilly.

    I'll be wearing a sweatshirt to work tomorrow. I'll be feeling the nip in the air without a jacket, staying warm enough but letting the chill work it's way in a little. I love this weather - coffee, maybe a fire tomorrow evening, a good book or movie, chili or soup for dinner, warm blankets at bedtime.

    It's the most wonderful time of the year.

    "Get A Grip"

    We had a very nice evening at Mellow Mushroom tonight. Vicki & I attended the first meeting of a new downtown small group, getting involved a little deeper in the inner workings and connectedness of Seacoast Irmo. One couple's from Blythewood, one's from the north side of downtown, we're from Cayce on the southeast side and I forget where the other couple's driving in from. All that to say this is a pretty central location for everyone.

    We're going to be using a book study: "Getting A Grip" by Bill Hybels, part of the Willow Creek Interactions study series. I've gone through one or two of those before, and I'm looking forward to reading and studying this together. Who doesn't need reinforcement in gaining a little control over his schedule, finances, spiritual growth, etc?

    Thanks to those of you who've written or IM'd your well-wishes for us tonight. We liked the people - very personable and welcoming, and I think the group will stretch each other on lots of fronts. There are differences to be sure, but those things can enhance, rather then detract from, the experience. I shared that I had no real expectations beyond just getting to know people. In that limited aspect, I'm good with what's going on, and any group dynamic that also allows us to grow in Christ should be a good thing, too.

    Sunday, November 07, 2004

    Getting Wet

    I don't want to be doing this. I won't lie - I wish the events of the last couple of months had gone differently, that I hadn't made the mistake of sending the hurtful email that launched us on the journey towards "a new church home". But here we are, two and a half months later, about to attend church this morning, the "newcomers" group for lunch, and a new small group kicking off Tuesday night. I don't want to be doing this - but I am doing this, and I will do it with all my heart, with all my gusto. We need to plug in. We need friends & community to encourage us, to connect with, to grow in Christ together.

    Don't get me wrong. This morning is the first time I feel like we're diving in and really getting wet in some new thing. I'm looking forward to today's plans, even as I look backward. There's an "ancient-future anchor" there (Len Sweet concept, if I can credit that properly, looking to the past as a tool to move into the future), a solid foundation built up over the years that will forever be a part of who I am and who I am to become. I'm excited to get to hear "the story" as it's flowed through the church's people, and I'm ready to share our story and how we think we're intersecting at this point in time. I think I'm ready for a small group, even if I'm not ready to get much more involved than that right now. I don't want to ... I appreciate that anonymity right now, and I want to go slowly, getting involved bit by bit, letting it take form rather than making something unrealistic or unnecessary shape according to my feelings or perceptions.

    Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago: "Why do I need to find a church home?" I told him he didn't - but that the lack of a community of faith will be a hindrance to really growing & maturing in Christ. We're going to connect something new this morning, for better or worse, and it feels good. The right thing to do.

    Saturday, November 06, 2004

    Lazy Saturday

    It's hard to get kick-started today to do anything more than the minimum. Not that there's nothing to do, just that it's a better day to *not do* than to *do*. Last night was the finale of the school play, so my wife's first day afteris usually a rest day for us. On top of that, she's catching the cold I've nurtured this past week, so giving her a place to nap and heal and recuperate is a high priority. We'll be busy tomorrow with church and its aftermath, and for now getting through the laundry I've allowed to accumulate and getting kids bathed and bedded down will be top chores before bed.

    I've tried reading a bit today, too. I posted to the email discussion list, and I'll put up something on the next chapter tomorrow. I'm also in the middle of three other books that I'd like to finish soon - I'm focusing on one at a time, trying to finish a couple of them to review here. I'm getting into the fiction work right now: The Assignment. It's got a kind of "Da Vinci Code" feel to it, and once I got used to the back and forth time shifts I'm actually enjoying it. The second book I want to review is Out Of The Question, Len Sweet - I got pulled in by the intro one night sitting in Books-A-Million waiting for a friend. There's just something about sitting in a bookstore, sipping a hazelnut latte, looking up occasionally for a familiar face, looking back down at the page that's full of words that are just stretching you further that comfortable... Looking forward to that one, too.

    Might also try to watch a movie tonight - if Vicki feels up to it after some soup for supper. There's nothing other than football on TV (and after USC came back to beat Arkansas, I might be football'ed out for today), so we might do some popcorn or some coffee & cookies and settle on the couch for the evening. Like I said, lazy Saturday - made just for doing what needs to be done, putting off what can wait, and relaxing, recuperating and just being together.


    Friday, November 05, 2004

    Incredibles Incredible

    I'm trying to think of what else we've seen this year before making a statement that The Incredibles is the best movie of the year so far. It works on alot of levels, and it's not just that it's funny for kids and for 'rents - it's just a really good story. Say what you want about Shrek and Shark Tale - this movie is the best animated film of the year, and will be in my top five for sure. Go see this movie. Often.

    What I liked about it was that family is huge - even, and especially maybe, for superheroes. After holding the kids back for so long, Mom & Dad have to let the kids have fun with the super powers, using them or getting killed. That's huge - trusting your kids to do the right thing, relying on each other to live through catastrophe. Doing the right thing for the right reasons and growing as a family together while doing it - that is awesome, and it doesn't get shared in the theaters nearly enough.

    As I look back on a year with highpoints like Jersey Girl and Walking Tall and Raising Helen - all strong films in their own right, I'm sure - I just have to say that this movie might get better the next time I see it. And trust me - I already have a spot for the DVD. Did I say that I liked this movie?

    The Great Divide

    We don't like each other. I think that's one of the biggest problems with America today - we just don't like each other. Inside our churches, we love each other, but don't really like the people we're to whom we're connected. For whatever reason, we're duplicitous: thinking we can show Christian love while really not enjoying the people in our lives. I might pray for you, or I might take a bullet for you in a desperate moment of danger - but I probably won't invite you over to dinner because that's just a little too much, and it's not really called for is it? I mean, to be "Christian-enough" I just need to smile and shake your hand from time to time, right?

    The measure of love that a Christian is supposed to live up to is that we like each other, enjoy being together, in the midst of being a loving and gracious community of disciples together. "They will know you by your love for one another" is the standard we need to be striving for. Perhaps the reason the world does not want what we as Christians are pushing is that they do not see this "love for one another" that should be defining us.

    Do you like me? Do you really like me?

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    Quiz Me

    You are Cyclops of the X-men!

    You are strong headed and very course-driven! When
    you get into it, nothing can stop you!A devoted
    man by heart, and very passionate by choice.
    you Rock!

    Which of the X-men do you resemble most?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    I'm Ross Gellar from Friends!

    Take the Friends Quiz here.

    created by stomps.


    What Castmember Of Smallville Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    flash: you're so fast you take the words out of my
    mouth. and you seem to have a relatively stable
    marriage as well!

    Which Justice League (comic) Character are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    You are Spider-Man!

    What Marvel Superhero are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    ... okay, that's enough...

    Busy, Long & Sickly Week

    We've only got a couple of days left in what is usually the longest week of the semester: Play Week. My wife the Drama Teacher has her production tonight and tomorrow night, and we've had rehearsal every other night this week along with the addition of election day and this nasty head/chest cold. Just makes the week longer than normal, but not necessarily more stressful. The kids have been super - they're learning that Mommy's got her things to do and that we are in a position to help her have a great time, rather than adding to the stress levels by acting out or being whiney (actually, I'm the whiney one, but that's another story).

    Hopefully we'll relax this weekend, watch a movie, watch some football, sleep a few naps and take a few siestas. Aaaahhhh, feels good already.

    P.S. - Does anyone else using I.E. have a problem loading this page? The sidebar is skewing, but not with Firefox - not sure where the problem is. Grrr..

    P.P.S. - Nevermind - fixed it.

    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    The "M"-word Is The "U"-word

    Now that the election is over and President Bush has been elected, the majority of Americans voting have given the administration something it's wanted since the election of 2000: the "M"-word, a "M"andate. But it's not necessarily a mandate to continue on in the status quo. I hope the occasion is a time to discover a mandate for the "U"-word, "U"nity. We need someone to end the divisiveness, to end the demonizing of opposing ideas and viewpoints, to really bring people together in meaningful ways.

    We are Americans, together.

    Tuesday, November 02, 2004


    No problems. No hang-ups, no fraud. Long lines, though, and some short tempers attached to loud mouths. Other than that, no fuss & no worries.

    Now, we pray as Christians, standing behind whomever wins to promote kingdom-life in this world & in this culture (thanks, Greg!).

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    Why I Am Not Persuaded

  • good article on "The Other Side" from Doug Pagitt
  • "Seven Considerations" - John Hay, Jr.
  • "For Whom Would Jesus Vote?" - Christianity Today editorial

    I'd like to thank anyone/everyone who's been commenting to the last post today. Honestly, I see your respective points - and I honestly think most of you see mine, even if you agree that it's too idealistic or pollyanna-ish on my part. But someone's gotta start somewhere to hold up a higher standard. No, Jesus isn't the only person who'd fit "my criteria" - but what if He were? Would it be that bad to hold out for a more suitable "king"? We have settled for what's out there way too long. In many ways, we sell out for party and religion.

    For those of you arguing that Bush is more pro-life and should therefore be my choice, "even if it saves one life" - I'd encourage you to read this post from SojoMail. It's not the only piece of information and criticism that I've found that has said abortion rates have gone up under this republican administration. Again, this is just one of the things that has turned me off of the incumbent. I've got a problem using it as an issue and then not really following through on the promises made, implied or inferred.

    My prediction: Bush and it's not close, or Kerry and it's very close. I think we'll know sooner rather than later, but neither one is impressing me as someone who can bring some unity back to this nation's people.