Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I resolute to stick to my resolutions...again.

How does this happen? New Years Eve television goes from classy to brassy.

Okay, I weigh more than I did this time last year. No, I didn't start the book I plan to write. Exercise more? Eat better? No and no.

Wait! I did learn more of a foreign language watching Handy Manny and Dora the Explorer with my 1 year old. But...does Spanish really count?

Why can't we keep resolutions? A better question is why do we bother making resolutions we know we aren't going to keep? Albert Einstein defined insanity as 'doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.' Sound familiar? I've got a pretty good feeling I'm not alone...breaking resolutions has become...cliché.

But not this year (don't roll your eyes at me!). This time I mean it. Absolutely. I'll wear my Lance Armstrong 'Be Strong' armband thingy to remind me. Don't give up. Stay the course. Winners never quit and so on.

Wow, resolutions really are cliché. I'd better go take my crazy pills now.

Happy New Years everyone. Be safe and God bless.

Monday, December 29, 2008

These things never happen to me....

I'm a Christmas-crime victim! That's right...I've been bamboozled, burned, preyed on...egad!

My lovely, thoughtful wife gave me a car stereo for Christmas this year. She's always dead on like that with gifts for me. I've fumbled around trying to rig my stock radio to take an input from my no avail. So, she saves me the aggrevation and gets me a Sony that accepts and controls not only my iPod, but also comes with a USB port on the front. I'm not sure what I'm plugging in there yet, but it'll be cool when I figure it out.

See how easy it is for guys to digress when talking about electronics. Anyway, I took my new stereo and car to an unnamed electronics store (initials CC) for installation Sunday morning before church. 'No problem,' they said, 'we'll put it right in for you.' My wife's premonition is also dead on when it comes to my preceived electronics installation skills and the actual facts of the matter, so she made sure installation was included. At this point, I'm pretty ecstatic knowing my Monday morning commute to work will be booming with Big Daddy Weave or maybe the latest podcast from the Economist (yeah right) straight from my iPod. Awesome! I have to admit, more than once during the sermon Sunday morning, my thoughts drifted to the new, blue glow of knobs and buttons akin to something on the main panel on the Space Shuttle Endeavor...

Houston: TC1, we need you to fade 4 clicks from rear to front speakers.
TC1: Roger that Houston.
Houston: TC1, we're detecting the db levels to be deficient lower tone volume. Could you adjust plus 4 to compensate?
TC1: Adjusting now Houston. Affirmative, that's much better here.
Houston: Roger that TC1. BDW is 5 by 5 by our board.

My excitement continued to build as we pushed through the masses and formalities of Sunday morning post-worship pleasantries. Time was wasting. I had a manual to read. Buttons to push...Get the kids honey, I'll meet you in the car!

But as we pulled into the parking lot of Circ...I mean the unnamed, fore-mentioned electronic store, I was greeted with the harrowing sight left by criminals who had pryed open my passenger side door with a crowbar to get inside. Shock and awe are only words I tell you...only words.

The technicians inside had little to no explanation. My car had only been outside for a little more than an hour according to them. The only thing missing...the new stereo's box that had THE OLD STEREO INSIDE... HA! You got nothing my friend! Nothing! In haste, the thief had left a gift card, change in my ashtray, my Bible (which I forgotten to get out for church), and the new stereo installed in the dash.

My commute this morning was filled with the smell of fresh ozone and sounds of melody streaming from my wonderful Christmas gift. It will be even more enjoyable when I get the 2 inch gaping hole fixed in the frame of the passenger side door that completely destroys the sound integrity of the cabin. Well, at least I know what riding in a stage coach must have sounded like.

Crook should have taken my Bible. I have several and it might have done him some good.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Joseph wasn't wearing Under Armour...

These guys didn't make the cut this year.

We completed a successful Live Nativity Drive Thru at church this past Sunday night. Although our main focus was bringing glory to God through our efforts, I want to add we had some real troopers this year. The weather took a nasty turn Saturday from mild and damp to windy and frigid. Temperatures plummeted into the upper teens by sundown with windchill in single digits. Ouch. Folks, it was cold in Tennessee!

A wonderful team effort brought everything together rather hastily on Saturday and Sunday afternoons after days of rain. We even managed a real miniature horse, playing a donkey, in the Mary and Joseph travelling scene. Academy Award winning stuff by Apple Jack.

There were 6 scenes in all with the grand finale being the manger scene (wow, am I a producer/director or what...genius!). Cookies and hot chocolate/coffee finished the tour for each car load with an invite to our candlelight service tonight and Sunday morning worship service. Several 'long-missing' church members driving through said they'd try to make it (eye roll).

The fellowship was tremendous, the experience a real blessing. Very few times did I even realize it was so cold. I don't deserve the gift God gave me over 2000 years ago. Shoot, I don't even deserve the church family he blesses me with today...but I'm most thankful for both.

BTW...there were no riots. We must have done something wrong...maybe next year.

Merry Christmas everyone...may God's smile fill your heart with warmth.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quite on the set people...I said quite!

So, I'm directing a live nativity play at our church this weekend. Thankfully, I live in a part of the country where we can still do those things without creating a riot scene in the least I hope.

I did read today that parents attending a school 'holiday' play in California received a real treat. It seems we can't mention Jesus, virgin birth, nativity, etc. in our schools in case someone take offense, but these parents sat and watched their kids dancing around dressed as trees singing, 'I'm getting so hot,' and 'the oceans are drying up,' and 'if we don't stop global warming, we will all die.'

Man...sorry I missed that.

Apparently, several people were actually outraged that the program had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with Christmas...excuse me...Holiday.

(It is taking me several minutes to write this next sentence because there's so much I would like to say)

Enjoy the video. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I can do anything you can do better...

"It's just until my stinkin' computer is fixed! I can't live without MySpace!"

At the risk of preaching to the choir, I want to point out how important it is to know who your children or grandchildren are socially networking with daily and in what media they are choosing to mingle. On cell phones, chat rooms, MySpace, Facebook, Skype or a number of other popular sites, kids are typing/texting their hearts out at a mind boggling rate.

Alexa, a website traffic tracking company, puts Facebook at #5 and MySpace at #7 in overall website traffic rankings. The two sites have enough members when combined to be the third largest country on the planet. That's right...China, India and then Facebook/MySpace. Needless to say, there are a lot of people...not all innocent kids by far mind you...interacting on the internet.

At first, I was going to be a hard-line antagonist of what my wife refers to as 'the dark side.' Protect the sanctity of my home. Futile. It's the equivalent of my parents trying to stop me when I was a teenager from listening to 'that hippie music' or letting my hair grow out a bit...Peter Brady style...


I guess, as parents, there are times we have to compromise with what our kids want to do, as long as certain principles are maintained. After all...'kids will be kids.' But there are a lot of bad, ugly things lurking around out on the web, right? Yes, but...

Okay! My solution to this particular problem was simple. First, education on all the popular social websites and second, play the game. The results have been very surprising. Side note: It is both easy and inexpensive to both keep your computer from surfing in naughty waters and know exactly where it has been surfing. If you want to be really intrusive, key loggers and screen shot programs are also very easy to obtain and you'll see EXACTLY what's being viewed, read and typed on your computer of installation. Personally, I think the risk of alienation by not showing some trust outweighs the return here...but hey, that's for you to decide. Sometimes, drastic measures are required. A quick Google search for 'website content filter' or 'spyware' will provide a plethora of options.

What I have discovered is an unexpected benefit from playing the game. I opened a MySpace under the premise with my daughter, 'you have one...I have one...and we will be friends.' A very short time later, her friends started inviting me to be their friends, then kids from church, then their friends and now I have well over 250 friends...mostly young people. This really ticks her off, but that wasn't the goal. I just wanted to monitor her activity from a comfortable distance. So, I put Jesus all over my profile page (keep up... remember, education) and made it my personal testimony site. I also use it to send quick words of encouragement to a young person if I know they are battling spiritually or even just to say 'hi.' (I might add it's a great way to share picture of the baby too).

In a nutshell, adults need to be internet savvy...especially if you have kids. Know the game. Know your adversary. Satan is using the internet. As Christians, we need to battle him wherever he's working. It's the best defense short of total lock down. But, come on... we're all smarter than any problem our kids might get into...right?

Now if I can figure out how to keep that long-haired boy from calling my daughter... wanting to go to church with us...wait...never mind.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I like Starbucks too...but I still can't afford it.

As stated yesterday, I've been in a chemically induced funk the past few days. Even though I really didn't quite feel up to task this morning, I managed to get out of bed, take the kids to school, and trek off to work (at least for a few hours). I typically have one pit stop going to work, and today was no exception. It's a fairly busy convenience store with an enormous fountain drink selection...44 ounces for 49 cents kinda thing.

Today, I'm standing in line with my stinking orange juice listening to my wife's voice echoing around in my head lecturing on about free radicals and vitamin C and drinking too much soda. Realizing the wait was much longer than usual, my focus went to the check out counter. Apparently the hold up was a card processing problem on a purchase. Credit card? No...a welfare benefit card. The PIN was causing some sort of problem. Now I'm really focused. I'm not quite sure why it chaps me so much to see government benefits being used in a convenience store, but my irk was reinforced by what I witnessed. One lady was buying a quart size energy drink on the card. When it finally processed, she passed the card back to another lady who bought a specialty coffee from the fountain section... a separate transaction. The clerk, who obviously knew both ladies, completed the sale and handed the card back.

Did I really just see that? Over $6 on a benefit card for two drinks? Please believe me when I say I'm not a hater. Sometimes, people get down on their luck and need a little help to the next opportunity. But this...this madness...has got to stop. You might say, 'what's the big deal, it's only 6 bucks?' Well, I'm convinced the spending I saw is the pattern of spending for a lot of government supported people. Frivolous spending is not an option at my house when money gets tight. Recently, our dryer broke, and we had to purchase another one. No problem, that's why we have a rainy day fund. But, compromises are made until the money is replaced in the fund, so we drastically cut back on eating out for over a month (drastically cut back = not at all).

Isn't a person on welfare in a constant state compromise? When gas was near $4 a gallon, our household budget saw compromises to make up for the additional expenses. When my oldest daughter needed braces...compromises were made. If you are on welfare, doesn't $6 for two drinks sound a little extravagant?

Of course, letting your friend use your benefit card is a completely different matter/problem, but I have too much to do right now to write on that subject. I'm behind on a few things at work because I've been sick.

Sure hope the $1.39 orange juice helps.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

He's down for the count...

Okay, I admit it. I'm a big baby when I'm sick. For the past several days, I've been surviving on Nyquil the way Elvis kept going for years on uppers and barbiturates. Nyquil Daytime...Nyquil Nighttime...Daytime...Nighttime. Someone at Vicks deserves a Nobel Prize, Peabody or something for coming up with the stuff.
So, in my hallucinate haze, I've determined men only need a few things to get by in most any situation. Of course, there's the proverbial roll of duct tape...created by God Himself. Although scholars often debate the actual timeline of its origin, I'm pretty sure the gray miracle appeared immediately after Eve who wanted something fixed upon her arrival in the garden. God knew men would forever more need help thus...duct tape (in Hebrew סֶרֶט, רְצוּעָה; טֵיְפּ).
Next would be a pocketknife. Just a few short lessons from Angus MacGyver can properly equip a man to prevail in any situations. Locked your keys in your car? No problem...pocket knife. Need to slice an apple for your holiday salad? Pocket knife. Got a nuclear bomb needing to be deactivated? Pocket knife. Attacked by ninja monkeys? Pocket knife. It's the 'need all-be all' of portable tools.
Rounding out the short list would be Nyquil...but I took another dose...just a short...bye for now. Honey, where's my blue blankie? Good night...everyone.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The dots are where I say they are...

Just a short Friday clip for your viewing enjoyment. I wish this guy had a would be a riot! "Leaving his soul...leaving his soul!"

Monday, December 1, 2008

We're number 1...wait...You're number 1...wait...

"Why'd you go saying that?"

Normally, I won't blog about the sermons I hear on's too akin to plagiarism for me. Don't get me wrong. I have a Pastor very gifted at always leaving me with something to chew on each Sunday. This past Sunday was Youth Sunday at the church I attend, so the message was delivered by our Youth Pastor, also a gifted man of God. As he began speaking on commitment to God and putting Him first in our lives, it immediately connected with a blog I had drafted a few weeks back but never finished. The Sunday message was so attuned to the blog subject, I was certain my task was to finish and share it today.

I work with a man from China. He has lived here for about 7 years and 2 graduate degrees. His English is broken (at best), and he will often wander into my office to discuss the subtleties of our difficult, indigenous language. Always pleasant and mannerly, we jokingly exchange innocent jabs at each other's culture, which has been a field day for me of late with all the tainted products China has been shipping to the U.S.

One day at lunch, I asked what he observed to be the biggest difference between life in China and life in the U.S. After pausing a moment, he said the priorities of the people in each culture were very different. In China, the State/Party is first, followed by your job, then your family and finally your belief system...if you happen to have one. He elaborated and gave examples in each category, and when it came to belief systems, explained that most Chinese are atheist. He too is an atheist.

I was very interested to hear his comparison. He said that people here put their belief in God first, family second, country next and job last in this particular listing. My initial reaction was a bit surprised. We work with about 22 people from a variety of beliefs (to include none), most not from Godly perspectives. 'God first?' I did consider that his entire 7 years had been spent in the Bible Belt, but his exposure was uncensored from many other sources. 'God first?' Really?

It was both natural and comfortable for me to agree with his assessment about our country and give examples from my own life. But in doing so, I felt... a conviction. That conviction multiplied yesterday during the morning message.

'Tony, Am I truly number 1 in your life?'
Father, I'm not sure that my life exemplifies what my co-worker attributed.
'But, I have commanded you so.'
Yes, I know, I know...but work is so busy, and the new baby and the, and my blog...yes, my blog is important work for You...
'Making fun of Liberals? Hippies in a van? Freedom Rock?'
Yeah, sorry about that one. But liberals...well they hate You! They need to be put in their place!
'Tony, I love liberals too.'
Even San...?
'Yes, especially San Fransisco liberals.'
Aw shoot, I guess that means I need to love them too...I mean...I guess.
'Only if I'm truly first in your life.'

My conviction didn't stop at making fun or talking harsh about liberals though. Is God truly first in my life? Am I committed to Him completely in all that I do? Do I set a daily example that gives God glory in the way that I conduct my life? Am I an effective witness for Christ and the sacrifice He made for all of mankind? Do I take time from each day to spend with God and only with Him?

Even though I try very hard to make God first, I'm afraid I don't like the real answers to those questions. Actually...I'm quite ashamed.

Stupid Youth Sundays...where was our regular Pastor anyway?! And, how can he just leave like that?!

'Does that really matter... Tony?
No. He steps on my toes too.

I'm starting commitment...right after lunch. Hey, how about Chinese take-out? No wait, aw man...I'm on a diet! Stupid diets!