Sunday, April 30, 2006

Attitude Makes the Difference

I had to laugh.

I got up a little early this morning to take care of a couple things before I went in to help out with church set up. At 0630 the phone rang calling me in to work. Yesterday they assured me they wouldn’t need me until after 1200 at the earliest. Go figure.

So it was a quick shower, coffee-up the travel mug, grab a snack, and off to the port. On the way I activated my contingency plan.

Now I’m a big fan of contingency plans. It bugs me when I get left hanging because someone else didn’t think ahead a little so I try not to do that to other folks. And since I knew I was first on call this weekend, I’d made arrangements to cover my church commitments, “just in case.”

Well it all worked out because I only had to make a couple of phone calls, and there was one slightly out of the way stop to drop off some stuff, and I still got to the ship before they were even ready for me. The whole thing went fairly smoothly.

The most stressful part was when the phone first rang. I forgot that the phones at work had been forwarded to my cell phone when I crawled out of bed. Normally I try to take my cell out of the bedroom in the mornings that the phones are on me so that, if it rings, it won’t wake Gorgeous up. I ran back to the other end of the house as soon as I heard it. But there is no way she was going to be able to sleep through that racket! Oops.

Anyway I got my work done and made it back to church about 20 minutes after service started, which was pretty good overall. At least I was able to help tear down and put some things away after service.

Then at lunch one of my friends said, “Man, it stinks that you had to go to work today.”

That’s when I laughed.

I told him he had it all wrong. “I never have to go to work. I get to go to work.”

You see I’ve been unemployed before and I remember what it was like to not be able to go to work. No one holds a gun to my head and says you must do this job now. It’s completely my choice.

I get a little frustrated with folks who chronically complain about their jobs. No I know that everyone has an off day from time to time. I’m not talking about that.

But the folks who seem to never have anything good to say about their job and who go on and on (and on and on and on) covering every detail of how absolutely horrible everything about their work place is, those people drive me nuts.

More often than not I’ll cut someone off in the middle of a rant like that and remind them that they live in America. If they don’t like their job, go out and find another one. No one is making them work where they are. They are free to leave and go somewhere else where they could maybe be happy.

Since I have been unemployed I understand what it takes to get a job. And, yes, I’ve done some things that weren’t so fun simply because I had bills to pay. You do what you have to do. But even then I didn’t complain (too loudly) about it. I knew that I was free to move on whenever I chose.

The truth is that the chronic complainers would probably still find something to complain about even if they switched jobs to one that had none of the problems they are whining about now. They really want to complain more than they want to do the hard work required to improve their situation.

Life’s too short to get sucked into that kind of thinking. Besides, no one wants to hear it.

Deal with it. Fix it. Or move on.

Your attitude makes the difference.

Of course I fully expect Gorgeous to remind me that I wrote this the next time I start feeling sorry for myself and go off on a rant. And she’ll be right, too.

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Its Official - I'm an S.O.B.

Well, I had a ship last night and didn’t get in very early. Since Friday is supposed to be date night with Gorgeous, we took in our weekly dose of Doctor Who compliments of TIVO and then turned in because I had to get up and head into work for a full day today.

This morning I got up a little early for a Saturday because I was off to work, fed the boys, and fired up the computer to check a couple things out before I headed in to the port. Checking my stats real quick on my way to perusing through my morning bloggage and I saw that Liz Strauss over at the Successful Blog not only linked back to me here (which is a treat in itself because we like links) but she actually had the audacity to call me out as an S.O.B.

I nearly spit my coffee on the keyboard.

But it’s not what you may be thinking. Liz highlights folks that she feels are Successful and Outstanding Bloggers (or SOB’s). Here’s her definition of an SOB:
They take the conversation to their readers, contribute great ideas, challenge us, make us better, and make our businesses stronger.
I thank every one of our SOBs for thinking what we say is worth passing on. Good conversation shared can only improve the blogging community.
So I’m celebrating my nice little honor by posting this official SOB logo here at CREEations.
Named Successful and Outstanding Blogger by the Successful Blog – They take the conversation to their readers, contribute great ideas, challenge us, make us better, and make our businesses stronger.
And thanks Liz for appreciating what I have to say here.

Although I have to admit, I feel a little like the Dad from A Christmas Story with my major award. Fortunately my major award is much better!

Enjoy!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Imagination Power

You ever walk into something and have your expectations overwhelmingly exceeded by the experience? I did just last night.

Gorgeous and I went to the Savannah Arts Academy for their first student film festival to support Emily who is a student there and one of the key members of our tech team at church. Now Gorgeous and I don’t have any kids, but I remember school plays and band concerts from when I was in high school. I remember them being the kinds of things that, if you didn’t have a connection with someone directly involved, you’d rather be somewhere else, anywhere else, maybe even the dentist.

Boy was I wrong. My first clue could have been that the school has its own Wikipedia entry. Or maybe I should have noticed when I walked up that I was a tad underdressed with my khaki’s and a polo shirt. The school did a great job making the kids feel honored and important, giving them the whole red-carpet treatment. It was nice, and fun, but I’m not about the hype. I go for substance, baby.

Well when the thing got started, the school had arranged the evening to be emceed by pairs of local news anchors from no less than three different stations. Cool. Then again, I’m not about the hype.

But when they started showing the film clips these kids put together I was completely blown away. The categories were commercials, public service announcements (PSA’s), and music videos. With the commercials and PSA’s the kids only had 30 second of film time to get a message across. And man did they deliver.

Some of the best work was in the PSA category. The imagination poured into the creative ways the kids told stories to get their message across was incredible. You could tell they were passionate about the causes they chose to represent. And the best of them had a hook at the end that either wrenched your heart or made you burst out laughing.

These kids may not have put together something as technically polished as what you see on TV (it was real close though), but I’m telling you the stories they told in those 30 second spots were more powerful than anything you see put together by the Ad Council. Someone there should get a copy of the DVD and take some lessons from these kids. Or maybe hire some of them.

What made their work so good?

Gorgeous and I were talking about that on the drive home last night. I think that the best ones were where the kids took a really ambitious idea and went for it. The higher they reached the better the results.

And then this morning I stumbled across an article this morning by Curt Rosengren called Finding your Infinity where he says
So many of us are obsessed with our limitations. It's almost as though we can see nothing but the reasons we can't do, or be, or achieve what we aspire to.
What if we flipped that on its head? What if, instead of our limitations, we focused on the amazing potential and possibility that stretches far beyond what we can see from where we stand in the moment?
Man, those are great questions. It is something Gorgeous and I both struggle with. It is so much easier for us to look at all the reasons why something can’t work rather than putting our energies into reasons and ways that it could work and work big.

It ties in with a question J.R.R. Tolkein, once asked C.S. Lewis (thanks to Mark Batterson)
Maybe lack of faith is really a failure of imagination?
Ooch!

Jesus put a high value on belief. He said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

What’s the take-away? Learn from the kids at Savannah Arts Academy.

Ask “How can I make that happen?” and stop worrying about why an idea might not work.

Use your imagination.

Exercise your flabby faith.

Change the world.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Warning: Your Internet is in Danger

What if BellSouth (or Comcast, or Verizon, or AT&T) decided to block your access to internet sites based on whether or not the owners of those sites were willing (or able) to pay each of them an access fee?

How would that change your access to information?

Do you maintain a web presence? A blog?

How much are you willing (or able) to pay so that everyone has access to your site?

Right now these companies make their money largely from subscribers like you and me tapping into their networks to access content. They don’t also charge people who provide content via other “connections” to get their contact through to you from the other side. Because the law says they can’t.

But that is in danger of changing. Soon.

If you use the internet at all you need to learn about this before it’s too late and you get locked out of content, or if you’re a blogger, you get locked out of potential readers.

Take another hypothetical: What if you live, say in Savannah like me, and you run a blog that is hosted on a computer somewhere on the West Coast. And what if neither you nor the company that owns the computers that host your blog are willing (or able) to pay your internet provider at your home for access through them.

You could find yourself in a position where you can’t even access your own web site!

If you think this doesn’t really matter to you because you don’t really use the internet all that much you are exactly wrong. Us little guys will be impacted the most if we loose Net Neutrality. The big companies like Amazon.com will simply ante up and pay the fees. The little people will be left out in the cold.

Get educated. Holler at Congress before it is too late!

Start with Randall Bowman’s great (non-technical) post Threat to the Net.

I first read about Net Neutrality on Liz Strauss’ Successful Blog post Net Neutrality is in Jepardy. Also see Do you trust Congress & AT&T to run the internet?

These posts have links to others where you can see all about this.

If we do nothing we will be the poorer for it in more ways than one.

Update: Visit SaveTheInternet.com for the complete round-up on this issue.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Important Visitor

We were told at the very end of the day yesterday that the President of our company will be at our office first thing today. Hello! It sure would have been nice to get a little advanced notice to spruce the place up a bit.

Oh, there are so many lessons in this situation. Here’s just a few:
Keep your space tidy. You never know who might be popping in for a visit. Having your desk (house, car, etc.) cluttered or dirty doesn’t put your best foot forward when you host the unexpected guest.

Communicate with your team. I’m sure the president’s flight wasn’t booked yesterday afternoon. Someone must have known he was coming but the information didn’t trickle down to the trenches until the last minute. People appreciate being in the loop, especially about unusual circumstances.

Be flexible. There are times when you just plain have to rearrange your day to accommodate the goings-on around you.

It is amazing the extra effort we often go through to accommodate an “important person”. In truth we should treat everyone as though they were important. Because the reality is people are very important.

Jesus gave us some great examples of this principle in action. He was chronically criticized by the cultural establishment for hanging out with the wrong crowd. “He’s a friend of sinners” was one of the slanders they used. Reading through the gospel accounts I see that even His disciples didn’t get it right away.

Over and over we see the disciples trying to “protect” Jesus so that He wouldn’t be “bothered” by some kids, or a sick person, or (gasp!) someone who was not Jewish. Jesus responded each time by making time for the culturally little people.

I think we could easily miss the take-away here. We could easily think that the “important people” don’t rate special treatment and we should just treat them just like everyone else. But that misses the point.

The real lesson is this: We should treat everyone just like we would treat the important people. Don’t lower your standards of treatment for the VIP’s in your effort to be “no respecter of persons”.

Rather raise your standards for how you value everyone else.

Jesus summed it up this way:
"Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” (Matt. 12:7)
Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Starting Conversations

Liz Strauss posted some great advice last night on her Successful Blog about Conversation Starters.

It’s a topic that is especially important in the business world where the ability to make new contacts can really make a difference. Gorgeous and I have been learning tons about conversing with folks and getting to know strangers better because of her business.

Gorgeous has always been a great conversationalist. Over the years we’ve been married I’ve come to call her my master interrogator because she finds out all kinds of obscure stuff about people she’s just met. And the best part is people love her because they never feel like their privacy was violated. (She could work for the CIA or something. I’m serious. She’s that good.)

Why don’t people feel Gorgeous is invading their privacy? Because she is genuinely interested in learning about people around her. In her case it’s not something she has to muster up. She just likes meeting new people.

But, outside the business world, why should we bother improving our conversation starting skills?

Well for starters it makes life more interesting. I am naturally an introvert. Until I get to know you, that is. After that you can’t shut me up. But very little freaks me out more than walking into a room of complete strangers. The way I’d cope with that was to become a wall flower, which only added to the freak-out factor the next time.

But when you choose to work at learning how to start conversations without being awkward it comes easier and gets less scary. Gorgeous and I make a game out of it now. “Guess what I learned about the new guy?”

The other thing is that you never know how you might connect with someone new unless you talk with them. Just last week I found a connection with a guy. But it only happened because I was genuinely interested in learning about him. Who knows what might come of that one day?

One last example of someone who is a master connector: Our pastor is one of the best conversation starters I know. You might think that that should come with the job. But most of the pastors I know tend to be at least a little introverted or, if they are outgoing, don’t really connect with folks.

But not so with our pastor. We have more folks coming to our campus because they had a conversation with him, which he started, than because of any other person. I’ve watched him “work his magic” and I am continually amazed. For him it just flows naturally. He mixes it up and doesn’t rely on any one technique to get a conversation started. But it flows out of his sincere interest in other people.

What’s the take away?

Get interested in other people.

Go out and start conversations. You never know who you might meet.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Train Tracks

We’ve got some train tracks near our house. There’s two sets actually. They are far enough away that you can ignore them pretty easily, but close enough that there is no problem hearing when a train comes by. They cross a road around the corner so the whistle is a give away. Sometimes when I’m outside and its quiet I can hear the bells on the crossing gate even before any train noise. If Gorgeous is around, I’ll try to impress her by saying, “Trains coming.”

I’m not sure she’s impressed. But its got me thinking. How often do I do things that really bring no other value to the table other than my attempt to impress someone?

There’s a passage in Proverbs that one translation says this way:
Pride first, then the crash, but humility is precursor to honor.
Ooch!

How many of us are approval addicts? Looking to find our value in the opinions of others?

How many times are we thinking of some impressive fact to throw into the conversation rather than listing to what the other person is saying?

Here’s another interesting thing about trying to impress others.

It can actually hurt our performance and hold us back.

How so? Well if we are comparing ourselves to others and what they are doing as our standard, simply doing better than them in order to impress someone may in fact be less than our best effort.

The bottom line is that we can only really find any kind of fulfilling significance from God, not in impressing other people. It kind of takes the pressure off. Can you imagine God ever being impressed by anything we were to do? So we don’t have to try.

And the good thing is God values us already. We don’t have to impress Him. He’s done the heavy lifting for us already.
God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He's set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much (Colossians 1:13)
Enjoy!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Encouragement

Dad called yesterday. We had a long talk. He’s my go-to guy on all things computer. I suppose I may put high expectations on him, but he sure does know a lot. He started programming computers back in the days of punch cards. I’m pushing 40 and I grew up with computers in the house since elementary school. By rights I should have gone into the industry somewhere.

But I was a rebellious child. I wanted to do my own thing, which is pretty much how I ended in the maritime industry.

So I pretty much pick Dad’s brain when I have any kind of computer related question. Although I may start tapping into my little brother soon. He’s studying computer science at R.I.T. I use the term little purely in reference to our age difference. We’re within a couple months of being 20 years apart, which is a bit weird I suppose, but the kid is way taller than I am. He’s in that small segment of the human race that actually can make me feel short.

I floated an idea for a new topic oriented blog that I have been kicking around to get Dad's take on it. I nearly didn’t mention it to him. We don’t see eye to eye on the whole religion topic and I’m thinking of writing about a Christian oriented theme.

But I’m glad I did. By the time I finished describing what I had in mind, Dad was telling me that I should get started writing it down because it sounded interesting and that way I could get started gathering material even before I was ready to launch the blog.

Talk about encouraging!

All I can say is Thanks for the thumbs up DAD!

It really means a lot.

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Food Frenzy

I had to run by the grocery store this evening. It’s not something I really like to do. My shopping skill level is very amateurish, especially compared to Gorgeous. Good thing for me she’ll be back tomorrow.
But it wasn’t soon enough to avert a grocery crisis big enough to force me out into the shopping night.

I was out of creamer.

First of all, let me be clear. When I say creamer I really mean half-and-half. It absolutely must be liquid at the very least. Gorgeous is, after all, from Wisconsin which we all know is the dairy state. (State Motto: Come smell our dairy-air!) Use of powdered creamer-like substances is considered blasphemy in our household.

Not that we had any of that on hand either.

Tomorrow, being Sunday, I’ll have to hit the ground running. There’s a lot of volunteering to be done to get our Savannah Campus up and running on Sundays. (God thing for us we’ve got a great team of people committed to make it happen.)

And that means coffee will need to be consumed. (mmm… coffee…) I can’t seem to get started most mornings without mass quantities of the warm stimulating beverage.

Anyway I had to go to the store. (Focus, Chris!)

The trouble is that I have a hang up with the name of the closest grocery store to our house. Piggly Wiggly is just too weird for me. Fortunately for us the one in our neighborhood is very nice. Besides the choice was them or Wal-mart, which should have been a no-brainer.

Except that the Wal-mart is right across the street from our local Backyard Burgers. And I was having a craving, don’t you know. With Gorgeous not around, I knew I could get the onions on it. I mean I could get them when she’s around, I suppose. But then she wouldn’t get within 10 feet of me. Not that I blame her even. So I figure what’s the point of having Gorgeous around if she isn’t around, if you know what I mean. I usually skip the onions.

I went to the Pig anyway. Then to BYB.

I was glad I did. As I was poking around, looking for something to go with the left over Reddi Wip in the fridge from last Sunday, I found that Breyers Ice Cream was 2 for 1. How cool is that?

Of course now I feel like a bloated tick. But it was mmm… oh, so good.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Free-For-All
Change is in the Air

You may have noticed some changes around here. We’ll work on going through what’s been updated here after a while.

Gorgeous is out in St. Luis with her companies national for the latter part of this week and into the weekend, which has given me an opportunity to stay up waaay too late and do some research on various things.

I am looking at taking the blogging thing to the next level. It would mean moving away from a (free) Blogger platform to something which would have to be paid for. Since Gorgeous keeps us honest with the budget, I will have to come up with a way to pay for my hobby. Wise woman, that Gorgeous.

That is why I’ve put some ads on the site. I’ll experiment some and see how it goes. I checked my account and I’ve made exactly one penny since last night. :o) At that rate, I’ll be able to afford to upgrade in about, oh, 10-15 years!

That’s OK. I’m learning a bunch about this whole blogging thing and it seems to be a good fit for me. Tomorrow after I get a good night’s sleep, We’ll get back to our regular postings.

The boys are getting a bit obnoxious because I’ve let myself get sucked into the computer screen here basically since Gorgeous got on that plane. I get the feeling that they may be anxious for her to get home. What do you think?



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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Connections

I met an interesting guy the other day. The conversation was strictly business until we happened to make a connection. It turns out we both went to the same college back in New York. Of course I graduated 15 years ahead of him… OK so it was a bit more than that even.

But that’s not my point.

You might think that, seeing as how our college is oriented toward the same fairly specialized industry that we work in, we’d both run into fellow alumni fairly regularly.

Trust me, we don’t.

For one thing our school is fairly small. And Savannah is a long ways from New York City, in more ways than one, if you know what I mean. There simply aren’t very many of us in town. In fact, I only know of two at the moment, which is one more than I knew about last week.

But that’s not my point either.

It often amazes me how one little passing comment can lead to a bond with someone that you don’t get most of the time. In this case I had previously dealt with someone else at his company so I naturally asked where the other person was (answer: promoted and relocated). A little more polite conversation with a fellow Yankee in the Deep South and up pops a bond out of nowhere.

Go figure.


Gorgeous is reading a book right now called, interestingly enough, Connecting by Larry Crabb. It must be good because she’s read big chunks of it to me. According to Amazon.com, Crabb wants us to
“adopt a groundbreaking, but biblical, approach to healing the deep wounds of the soul - an approach that centers around building intimate, healing mini-communities in our lives and churches.”
Now I’m all about healing the deep wounds of the soul and all that. But I don't see myself as that ambitious. Maybe its just that I would feel somewhat pretentious working toward something that monumental.

But I do know that I like it when I feel connected. Our church has a strong emphasis on small groups as well as our Sunday services. It is good to build those friendships, especially for folks like us who don’t live near their families. Connecting seems to make folks feel better and enjoy life more.

I’ve assured Gorgeous that I’ll read the book when she’s done.

In the mean time I’ll just appreciate connections that I find in unexpected places.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Avoiding Politics

The Slacker Manager has some good advice about avoiding office politics today. His condensed short version is “my plan basically boils down to being consistently authentic.”

I’ve got to say I pretty much agree with what he has to say on that score. I’ve never really been one much to bother with the whole office politics thing myself.

Which I suppose could be a little weird considering that I have been known to be a bit opinionated on the whole politics front. But having weighty discussions about who might be best to lead our country is really not the same thing, is it? Besides, I’m even throttling back on my political interests these days.

For me the whole national politics thing grew out of a need I had to be “right” and to “win” the debate. I guess you could say I’m changing on that score. I’m less concerned with being right than I am with getting to know folks anymore. I guess I am growing more interested in what other people have to say and less worried about making myself heard.

But as far as the whole office politics thing goes, I never really got sucked into that whole scene although I do know how to windge when I see the corporate office making decisions that seem out of touch with the field.

My approach to the whole office politics thing is similar in that I use what I call the Popeye approach to life. You know, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am and I ain’t no more!” (Sometimes it helps if you follow up the statement with a hearty “Ya-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-kah.”)

The Popeye approach has worked for me as a leadership principle too. Although it has created some conflict with from time to time with folks above me who wanted me to keep distant and maintain the dignity of my office, blah, blah, blah. I just take my beating from those kinds of bosses and keep on being me.

Like the Genie told Aladdin, “Beeee yourself.” It’s good advice. And not just where politics are concerned.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hospitality

Gorgeous and I had over 20 folks to the house for dinner Sunday afternoon. Now our house is not nearly big enough for that kind of affair, which made it a very cozy, casual shindig. Just the way we like it. I didn’t realize we could fit quite so many people around the coffee table!

The idea, according to Gorgeous was to let folks sit outside on the patio if they wanted. But something about it being nearly 90 degrees put the kibosh on that whole plan. Or maybe it was the gnats, I don’t know. Everyone stayed inside.

But the food was great. Josh brought his famous banana pudding (mmm…. pudding). And the highlight of the meal was Allison’s potato salad casserole dish stuff. I never did find out what she calls it, but we all agreed it was killer.

The whole thing got Gorgeous and I talking yesterday morning about how we are going to plan to have a bunch of folks over like that at least once a month. Maybe not on that scale, mind you, but we really like hanging out with folks. Unless you are intentional about stuff like that, it never seems to happen.

Then yesterday I read this great article by David Fitch about how the reality of life in our American suburbs is making the lost art of hospitality more difficult. In it he says,
Inviting someone over for dinner in the hostile suburbs is regularly considered pathological. Suburban people are either too busy, too self-protected, or too worried what your agenda might be to ever come over.
Gorgeous and I fully intended to get to know our neighbors when we moved into this house. Two years ago. The bottom line is it is kind of hard. And it is not because our neighbors are not great people. Its just that the tyranny of the urgent seems to always get in the way.

I think the rummage sale Gorgeous had last month may have turned the corner for us. Nothing like parading your junk out in the drive way to get the neighbors to stop by!

The bottom line is hospitality in our day and age seems to be pretty tough. The challenges Fitch points out in his article make sense as to the causes. But that doesn’t mean we can just roll over and forget about it.

Greg pointed out in our Easter message Sunday morning that Jesus was known for the value He placed on hospitality. Greg talked about the story from Luke 24 about the two guys who were dejected after seeing Jesus executed. They were walking along and didn’t realize that they were talking to that same Jesus who had come out of the grave. It wasn’t until they sat down to eat that they recognized Jesus for who He was.

If hospitality was such a high value for Jesus, I think it might be worth the effort for us too.

Besides, Gorgeous and I like to eat!

Enjoy!

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Everyone's a Critic

I was talking to a friend of mine last week and I explained to him that loyalty is a core value of mine. Perhaps it is left over from my time in the military, I don’t know.

But I noticed that someone came to my site after Googling our church with our pastor’s name and the word “criticism”. Makes me wonder what the Googler was looking for, eh?

Now I know Pastor Greg has a visible position as the leader of a large and growing unconventional church. He’s going to take some shots because of his visibility. I don’t know, he may even be used to it.

But it still corks me a little that some malcontent would be so hungry to find dirt and think I might provide it. And on Easter, no less!

But just in case that particular Googler comes back, let me say that I think Pastor Greg is a great guy and I’m glad he’s leading our church. I suspect that anyone looking for dirt on him is barking up the wrong tree.

Oh, yeah and I’d like to refer any other “Pharirazzi” who might stop by to this post here.

Enjoy!

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Yard Work

Nothing like waiting until it get up to 90 degrees to start working in the yard. What was I thinking?

Part of my problem is that I get some of the same feelings toward yard work that some folks feel about going to the dentist. In fact, I think I’d almost rather go to the dentist. At least their offices are usually air conditioned. With fewer gnats. And they usually numb you up a little before the unpleasantries start. Where else can you go and be expected to drool? And spitting is actually encouraged?

What should have taken me a couple of hours yesterday took pretty much all day. I’m sure my attitude had something to do with it. The mower needed gas. So did the gas can. I left them that way at the end of last season thinking it would be safer with fewer inflammables [now there’s a dumb word. Inflammable = flammable. Why have two words that mean the same thing? Shouldn’t inflammable mean not flammable? Dumb.] stored in the garage. But yesterday I was thinking I’d have to make a trip to Wal-mart to get some gas, and an air filter for the mower. And as long as I was going…

I did find a use for the self check-out lane, though. It is nice when you have a personal care item that might be awkward to have a checker scan.

So an hour and a half after I went outside I got to mowing. But since Gorgeous and I are having 20+ folks over for dinner tomorrow, it being Easter and all, I had to do the full monte, complete with the weed-eater & edger.

Which is where I encountered another challenge.

Since I’m not a big fan of yard work, I don’t have much interest in spending money on quality yard tools. I haven’t upgraded anything in years. They aren’t in the greatest shape. So it didn’t rock my harmony when the weed-eater didn’t work. A few seasons ago the extension cord pretty much melted to the handle of the thing. I scrapped the melted plastic off the contacts and put another end on the cord. And it worked great.

But not yesterday. The contacts must have corroded over the off season. (I can’t bring myself to call what we get here “winter”.) I scraped them off. Nothing.

No problem, I just thought that meant I was getting a by-week on the weed-eating but the edger didn’t work either. Nor did the blower. Hmm… Bad cord, right?

Nope. I took it apart and all the connections in the cord were still solid. Hmmm… Dead outlet? Quick check of the circuit breakers showed them all on. So what. I’ll just move the cord from the porch to the garage.

Nothing. Hmmmm… Let’s flip a bunch of the breakers and reset them just to be sure. I got the one’s marked “garage” as well as a few others that looked interesting.

Still nothing. Next I went into the office to get a lamp and started testing outlets all over the place. Everything worked except the ones outside and the ones in the garage. Just the ones I needed were dead and no breakers were tripped.

I was starting to get frustrated. Did I mention it was 90 degrees?

I found an outlet on the far side of the garage and took the lamp over to it. Dead.

BUT that one single outlet had a little breaker in it that was tripped. Who knew?

That whole thing only added about an hour and a half to my yard working pleasure. Good thing for me Gorgeous had a rummage sale a couple of weeks ago. That whole side of the garage had been piled high with junk she was unloading and I never would have found the problem.

I was eventually able to get it all done, much to the delight of my neighbors, I’m sure.

Today was spent designing and ordering some new business cards for Gorgeous and finishing a home improvement project that had dragged on way too long.

And tomorrow is Easter. Looking forward to having a house full.

Enjoy!

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Stringing Along

I stumbled across a quote this morning that got me thinking.
“The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.” – Patrick Young
It’s true, isn’t it? Weather guessers get paid, sometimes handsomely, with the expectation that they will be wrong a bunch of the time. Then add in the intentionally confusing code they use. I mean does a 30% chance of showers mean that there is a 30% chance that 100% of the area will get wet? Or are they saying that there is a 100% chance that 30% of the town is due for a soaking?

I think it means, “I can’t really tell you what is going to happen because I don’t really know. I mean come on, we’re talking about the weather, here. But since I’m getting paid to tell you something, I’ve gotta say that I’m guessing there might be some rain. But I’m not sure. So let’s call it 30% chance of showers.”

Really the weather guys just string us along because the weather happens to everyone. And since it happens to all of us, enough of us are wanting to plan our lives and possibly make contingencies for the weather that we’re willing tune in and hear their guess.

I don’t even bother tuning in. Gorgeous would dispute that, I know. When we had cable, I had this habit of putting on the Weather Channel with the volume down and cranking the stereo when she wasn’t around. She might even tell you it was my favorite channel. But in my case, what I’m doing is checking out the raw data. That’s why I like the Navy’s hurricane tracking site, lots of raw data. Between my maritime and aviation backgrounds, I know enough about weather to guess as well as the guys on TV.

Which isn’t saying much.

It makes you think, though. What other things string people along like that?

The lottery does. It pays out just enough to keep people buying tickets. And the grand lottery irony is that the bigger the promised payout, the more people rush in, even though their odds of winning go way down. The truth is you a higher chance of getting struck by lightning than you do winning the lottery. And the odds go way up if you happen to live in Florida!

Of getting hit by lightning, that is.

I can prove it. I know two people who have been struck by lightning, but I don’t know anyone who ever won the lottery. OK, so that’s not very scientific. But it works for me. (I also know someone who was bit by a shark, but hey, I lived in Florida for a big chunk of my life.)

But the big question is do I string people along like that? Are there areas in my life where I deliver the goods just often enough so that people can’t dismiss me outright, but not consistently enough to actually be trustworthy?

That is a hard question.

I think I’ll ponder it while I go out and cut the grass, finally. Oops. Speaking of not delivering the goods consistently, it sure didn’t take long to find one place in my life.

How many others do you suppose there are?

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Peacemakers - Part 8

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
– Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
I’ve spent some time digging in to see what all is behind the above verse so that I could better understand what Jesus meant by peacemakers and sons of God. I think it is time to wrap this up and come to some conclusions. But first a review:

Part 1 was an introduction. How did I get on this topic anyway?
Part 2 started looking at definitions of the word peace.
Part 3 talked about the Social aspects of peace and peacemaking
Part 4 looked at the Spiritual side of peace
Part 5 discussed what Spiritual peace actually looks like
Part 6 we found the source of Spiritual peace
Part 7 addressed the sons of God. Who are they?

We have been in a series about the beatitudes at our church and this past Sunday’s message was about this verse. And since we usually talk about the message in our small group, I’ve had some extra focus on the verse this week.

As I was reviewing the passage during our small group I noticed the order that Jesus put the beatitudes when he was speaking:

  • Those who realize their need for him
  • Those who morn
  • Those who are gentle and lowly
  • Those who are hungry and thirsty for justice
  • Those who are merciful
  • Those whose hearts are pure
  • Those who work for peace (i.e. the peacemakers)
  • Those who are persecuted because they live for God
To me it suddenly seemed like the natural progression of spiritual growth of the believer. No one comes to Christ unless they first realize their need for Him (listed first). And the only thing listed after peacemaking is persecution.

Perhaps the stereotypical judgmental Christian somehow gets hung up at the point where they are hungry and thirsty for justice. You know, the ones who rail against all the evils of the world and tend to stomp on people along the way. In their thirst for justice often there is a serious lack of mercy.

It also makes sense when we look at peacemaking more from the spiritual side than the social side. What is the source of spiritual peace? How do people become children of God? The answer to both questions is the same, through the person of Jesus Christ. So then peacemakers are people who introduce others to Jesus, plain and simple. We cheapen peacemaking and sell it short when we think of it exclusively in terms of our social relationships.

And here’s the most beautiful thing about it: When people are accept Jesus for who he is and come to see spiritual peace, there will be a natural improvement in the social peace around them because they will change from the inside as they take on the attributes that Jesus talked about in the beatitudes. It is not an either/or thing. But if we focus only on the social side of peace we may very well miss out on the opportunities around us to introduce people to Christ, and ultimately offering them true and lasting peace.

The John Piper article referred to in Part 1 points out that Jesus consistently avoided commentary on political issues and continually redirected those kind of questions back to the core personal issues of the people asking the questions. Piper addresses the question aren’t these personal issues insignificant compared to all the international issues that affect millions of people around the globe? Here’s his answer:
The answer is no, because the point of these personal issues in the Sermon on the Mount is to make crystal clear that every individual within the hearing of my voice must become a new creature if you are to have eternal life. You must have a new heart. Without a merciful, pure, peacemaking heart you cannot be called a son of God at the judgment day. And that is the truly weighty matter in the world today.

The episode with the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq recently got me looking at this in the first place. Based on what I’ve discovered through looking at all this, I’d say that they seem to be more merciful than peacemakers. They don’t want the enemies of the US and her allies to be hurt. That certainly doesn’t make them wrong by any means. Mercy is a tremendously good thing.

But their efforts seem to be more about stopping US & western military action than about bringing spiritual peace to people. And that seems to miss the mark what I’ve learned that working for peace to be all about.

Peace!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Takeaways from a Long Day's Work

Well I did the math after I woke up this afternoon. In a little over 50 hours I managed to get exactly 2 hours of sleep plus two cat-naps in the car of about a half our each. On paper going in it didn’t look like it would be that bad. But then, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, as they say…

Of course by the time I got home this morning, Gorgeous was getting ready to head off to Atlanta for some meetings and an overnight. I tried to stay up and chat with her but apparently I was babbling a little incoherently because she eventually stopped me with, “Chris. You really need to get some sleep now.” Ah, the wisdom of the fairer sex.

I did learn some good lessons from the whole experience, though

  • It is amazing what the human body can put up with
I’m a sucker for survival stories. Get caught in a blizzard on Mt. Everest? Lost in the Sahara desert? Find yourself behind enemy lines? Or maybe you got trapped out in the wilderness by yourself and had to cut off your own arm to survive? I could sit and listen for hours. It is fascinating what people do to survive. What is the difference that causes to someone who makes it through when others don’t?

My little work induces exercise on staying away is incredibly tiny compared to those stories. But going through things like that, even on a smaller scale, helps give you a measure of what you can do. It helps build your belief so that when you face the next challenge in your life, you have some perspective and are more able to conquer it.

  • One difficult person can really complicate things
Where to begin on this one? Well, on merchant ships, the Chief Officer is normally responsible for the cargo. Since most of my work involves issues with cargo, he’s the guy I usually have to deal with. And we see all kinds. They come from all over the world. The overwhelming majority are highly competent professionals who have a heavy responsibility and are used to getting things done.

But not last night. Last night I had to work with what a pastor friend of mine calls an “EGR” for “Extra Grace Required.” One of the fist things I noticed when I met him was that he absolutely stank of alcohol. Now I was willing to cut him some slack on that account because alcohol and seafaring has a long tradition behind it and the ship had been at anchor for a couple days before it came in. It is not uncommon for mariners to hit the bottle from time to time.

But it sure added to my frustration as he continued to make a sting of decisions that made all of our jobs harder. He was belligerent too, pretty much yelling and screaming at most of the crew, including the captain. At one point he even started in on me as if I was responsible for things taking so long. The bottom line is this guy basically single handedly turned a 24 hour job into a 36 hour job.

Then finally at the end of the operation he created a situation where I couldn’t realistically even do what we were hired to do.

I was not happy.

But it made me think. How many times do I complicate things for the people around me? Hopefully I’m never as bad as that guy was! But it is amazing how just one person who’s not pulling in the same direction of the rest of the team can wreak absolute havoc and keep the objectives from being met.

  • Pets are good value
I get the feeling that the boys knew I was zonked because Low Rider curled up beside me on the bed while I slept today and didn’t bug me at all. That’s unusual for him. Big cuteness points. Then, after I got up, Fat Boy came in for some lap time. Since it’s spring time, he’ shedding like crazy so I started brushing him. He started purring really loud and I could tell he was loving it. But I actually laughed out loud when he started drooling all over my shorts.

Somehow a good bout of uncontrollable drool seems to always signify contentment.

I think I’m going to take a nap, maybe even drool on my pillow…

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sleep Deprived Again

We had a great small group last night, mostly talking about the message a church which was about that verse in Matthew that I’ve been going on and on (and on and on and on) about.

Of course just when the discussion was getting the most interesting I had to leave to go to work. Nothing like being out on a marine terminal on the Savannah river until 2 in the morning to make you appreciate sleeping at night!

But that’s OK because I got called back out a little after 4. And this job is going to go like that straight through ‘til tomorrow morning sometime. Life in the maritime industry. Lovely.

So no heavy thinking for me today. And once again I apologize to the neighbors about the grass. (sorry!)

I’ll check in when I get some sleep.

Enjoy!

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Chazown is Here!

When I got home from work today there was a nice little box from Amazon.com waiting for me. Now you gotta understand, I’m a bit of a compulsive reader. I tend to read several books simultaneously. I think I drive Gorgeous a bit nuts with all the different books I leave scattered throughout the house. And I haven’t bought a new book for myself in a while. So indulge me as I savor the moment.

The first thing I noticed was that it definitely gets an A+ on the packaging, baby! The book is a soft cover book. But it comes in a semi-clear rigid plastic sleeve kind of like you might see a CD set come in. When I pulled the book out of the sleeve, I noticed that it seemed a little stiff for a soft cover. Turns out that’s because it came with a Limited Edition DVD which “contains 12 inspirational life clips.” That was a nice unexpected bonus, for sure.

The first four pages are packed with recommendations. Of course I read every one, couldn’t help myself. On the second page, I see a paragraph from my own pastor, Greg Surratt.
“Craig Groeschel and Life Church are on the ‘bleeding edge’ of what the church may look like in the not-too-distant future. I love their vision, passion, creativity, and willingness to share what they are learning. Craig is the kind of leader who creates enthusiastic followers of Christ who believe that the only limits are those of vision.”
That sounds like a pretty good endorsement to me.

The subtitle of the book is “A Different Way to See Your Life”. And inside the front cover is the question, “Are you living someone else’s dream for your life, or no dream at all?” Good question.

Now I’m not about the hype. I want substance, especially where books are concerned. I’ll let you if Chazown delivers.

But it may take a while. Flipping through I see there is a ton of questions to answer to get to the root of the unique personal vision for your life. I think I have some work to do.

Enjoy!

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Odds Ends

Had a conversation with a lady yesterday who’s fairly new to town. Said they came here from Fellowship Bible Church and first heard about our church here in Savannah online with a web search. Our campus is still pretty small so I think it is pretty cool that someone found us first online.





Our house is about ½ mile from not one, but two sets of railroad tracks. It is far enough away that it doesn’t shake things in the house (much). But it is close enough that there is no doubt when trains are going through. And we get a fair number of them too because both sets of tracks are fairly active. When we first moved in I was concerned that the passing trains might get annoying after a while. But after being here a couple of years they have become sort of a comfort sound that makes me feel at home. Funny, that.




Mark Batterson said they had a bit of a challenge this weekend. The theaters that they have church in Sunday mornings flooded with sewage Saturday night. That kind of makes some of the challenges we’ve had seem like small potatoes! Theater knee deep in popcorn because the cleaning crew didn’t show over night? Have to have church somewhere else because they are showing Narnia? The guys broke in because we were locked out? (“really officer, we’re a church. Honest.”) Well at least there isn’t sewage flowing through the theater!!!




Dilbert's Boss is up to his usual tricks today.




Tony Morgan was up to manly things this weekend.




Lastly, I want to formally apologize to my neighbors for not cutting the grass before it started to rain on Saturday. I promise I will level out the weeds tomorrow…

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Peacemakers - Part 7

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
– Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
In Part 6 I looked at where the peacemaker’s peace comes from. (Here are Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)

Today I’m going to take a look at the sons of God. Who was Jesus talking about and what does that mean to me?

The term sons of God (or son of God) is found through out the Bible. It is the title Satan used when he tempted Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” It is the very phrase that got the religious leaders in Jesus’ day in such a tizzy. At Jesus’ trial they said, “By our laws he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

My point is that when Jesus uses the phrase to talk about the peacemakers, it is not a throw away line. It is important to know what He means by it.

Someone with the title of son is in the family. It brings with it certain rights and responsibilities. Children have a unique relationship with their parents. And they can normally expect some sort of inheritance from their parents. There is really only two ways to become a member of the family. You are either born into the family or you can be adopted into the family.

By using the term sons of God (sometimes translated children of God) Jesus is saying that the peacemakers are part of Gods family. They have certain rights (and responsibilities) and can expect an inheritance from God.

So. Is peacemaking the way to become a son of God?

I think the answer is not so much. Let me explain.

When John is introducing Jesus in his account, he says the following:
“But to all who believed in him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan – this rebirth comes from God.” – John 1:12-13 (NLT)
Paul said it this way: “So you are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.”

The doorway to joining the family is through Jesus Christ. We have to believe in Jesus. We have to be careful not to gloss over what it means to have faith in Jesus. We saw earlier that Satan saw Jesus’ identity clearly but obviously the enemy didn’t accept Jesus for who he was. And he doesn’t want us to accept Jesus either. He’ll use whatever methods he can to keep us from accepting Jesus.

A small example: when I typed in that quote from John just now I mistakenly didn’t type in the phrase, “and accepted him”. I read the words in my Bible. I knew they were in the verse. Then I typed the passage in without the phrase. And I read it a couple times to check my typing. My mind saw the words correctly even though they weren’t there. Some might call that a coincidental blunder on my part.

They’d be wrong. The enemy will do everything he can to keep people from accepting Jesus for who he really is. He doesn’t want people to hear Jesus when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.”

There is only one way to become a son of God. Both the privileges and the responsibilities of being a part of God’s family are outrageous. And the way into His family is both incredibly easy and a very hard thing at the same time.

The easy part is that the only thing we have to do is believe in and accept Jesus for who he is. There’s no heavy lifting required on our part. Anyone can do it. There is no elitism or favoritism on this end.

The hard part of the equation is this: Believing and accepting Jesus is the only way into the family. Jesus said it is an extremely exclusive path. There are no alternate routes. No side tracks, shortcuts, or long ways. We can’t make our selves be good enough to make it. We can’t earn our place in the family. Even though we trick ourselves into believing we’re really OK, in the end everything we do, all our heavy lifting and sacrifice, will fall short. We still won’t be “in the family” short of believing in and accepting who Jesus is.

Jesus wasn’t saying that being a peacemaker doesn’t make you a son of God. Peacemaking results from sonship. One of the characteristics of the people in God’s family is that they should make “peace” in the world around them. This includes both Social and Spiritual peace.

Heavy stuff, I know. But hey, it’s Sunday. And today is the day we’ll hear the peacemaker message from the Be Attitude series we’re in at church. How cool is that?

Peace!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Shearing Day

Gorgeous is out of town. She and the other girls from our small group went down to Fernandina Beach, FL to overnight at a friend’s place. Our friends were out of town so Gorgeous got permission to have a slumber party at their place. It’s a little weird, I know, but our friends tend to be a trusting lot.

Well us guys got talking about the girl’s road trip and decided we should do something manly while they were gone. So we decided congregate at the biggest TV in the group, order pizzas and watch a manly flick. So after we gorged ourselves on Domino’s finest, extra meat, we had the “I don’t know, what do you want to watch” conversation. We eventually narrowed the field to Master and Commander and Serenity. We finally settled on Serenity because more of us had already seen the other flick. It didn’t much matter to me. I brought both finalists.

There’s just something about watching a good manly movie on a big screen with the surround sound really LOUD! The girls just don’t quite seem to appreciate the finer points of actually feeling the explosions rumble in your chest cavity as the sonic pressure squeezes your head until you try to go a little cross-eyed in an attempt to relieve the pressure. Oh, yeah!

I have to remind Gorgeous from time to time of the guy’s perspective: Things that go whoosh and boom are cool. Speed is good. Faster is better. She just shakes her head. Sometimes I get the feeling that her take on that whole thing is that I should just grow up. Can’t really argue much with that.

Anyway she’s out of town so I’m a little short on sleep because I have this tendency to stay up too late when she’s not around. Somehow there’s just not the same incentive to get in bed when she’s gone. Go figure.

And it’s shearing day.

I am way overdue for a hair cut. It’s not so much that my hair’s too long. But the (remarkably few, if I do say so myself) grey ones on the side start to get a little cocky if I don’t keep them in check. It wouldn’t do if I started to look “older.” Then people might actually start to get the idea that maybe I should grow up.

Oh, and I’m starting to get some sideways glances from my neighbors about the lawn. I think I may be the only one on the cul-de-sac that hasn’t cut it yet this season. So I guess I’ll have to brave the gnats and get that chore done today.

And while I’m out for shearing I’m going to swing by and join the Y. Since I’ve been married my shoulders have effectively fallen to my gut. Something must be done! Gotta hang on to my youth as long as possible you know.

Am I a little vain? Perhaps. But life’s too short to get on the express train to the old dirt nap, as my brother in law would say.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Why Men Hate Going to Church

Christianity Today just posted a great article about that David Murrow book in my Book Recommendations. Why Men Hate Going to Church by David MurrowThe bottom line is most men feel the same way about church as these guys feel about most Church Marketing.

And here's the grand irony: When our churches finally get a clue and change to become someplace where guys can know it's OK to be a guy, the women will dig it too. Murrow has the stats to back it up.

Get the book. Read it. Change your church.

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Going... Going... GONE!

Mark Batterson smaks another home run deeeeep over the center field wall in his post today Thou Shalt Offend Pharisees. A highlight:

Let's stop critcizing our differences and start celebrating originality and creativity. We must be orthodox in doctrine. But we ought to be unorthodox in practice. No one was more unorthodox than Jesus.
Keep the message, but get creative with the delivery and style. Mark coins a new phrase which is sure to catch on when he calls the church folks who attack different styles: "Pharirazzi". That word's a keeper for sure.

Here's another good point:

For the record, people tend to criticize when they feel convicted. It is the alternative to change. Nine times out of ten, criticism is a way of justifying our own issues and problems because criticism is a lot easier than change!

We were talking about that very topic on our way back from First Thursday last night. Criticism is soooo easy. Allowing other people to be different and finding solutions takes much, much more effort.

Anyway, lunch is almost over and I have to get back to work. Read the whole thing. The quote from Teddy Roosevelt alone is worth the mouse click!

Enjoy!

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The Peacemakers - Part 6

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
– Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
I’m exploring the verse above to work out what who Jesus was talking about that He described as “peacemakers” so that I can be more like them. So far I’ve looked a little at the term “peace” where I find it in the Bible to try to get a feel for what it really means.

(Here are Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)

I discovered that peace has a Social aspect and a Spiritual aspect. But where does real peace come from?

You want the short answer? It comes from God. (I know. That’s a “Duh!” statement.)

Fortunately for us Paul explains it pretty well. Go figure. Here’s what he has to say:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)


We access real peace by being real with God. It amazes me that the creator of the universe actually cares about little old me enough that He’s willing to bribe me to hang out with Him. You’d think it would be enough for me just to experience the awe and wonder of getting in the presence of the creator of all things, just to be in the presence of the ultimate power of space, time, and eternity.

But it’s not. I’m really more interested in being in hanging out with all my hassles and problems. To me they are more in my face, they seem more real, than something (or more correctly someone) as far off and mystical as God. I’d rather worry and stress about all the junk in my life than hang out with God. How pathetic!

It's a good thing for me that God knows all this so He has offered me a bribe. It basically boils down to this, “Hang out with Me, tell Me about all the icky painful and petty stuff going on in your life, and I will give you peace. I know staying peaceful during all that junk that’s going on won’t make much sense, but I promise it will be real.”

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Fortunately Paul goes on in the next couple of verses to explain how to access peace even more.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about thingsthat are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you have learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you. (NLT)

In my Bible next to that passage I wrote, “What we put in determines what comes out!” In my study notes it says, “Paul tells us to program our minds with thoughts that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.”

I’ve spent too much of my life believing that I have no control over my thoughts. Yet here is Paul telling me that I can and should control what I’m thinking about. I am to “Fix my thoughts” on positive helpful things. It is something I have control over. Why then don't I believe I can control my thoughts?

The first section we looked at shows us that God basically offers us a bribe to get us to hang out with him. In this piece of scripture Paul tells us that if we get a grip on our thoughts, if we program our minds with better programs than God will naturally want to hang out with us. The structure is: Do these things and the result is God will be with you.

Holy Smokes! This whole thing explains a lot.

In our country we’ve got whole churches that are filled with people who spend the vast majority of their mental energy thinking about how messed up things are and what is wrong with everything around them. They complain and try to fix things rather than bringing their concerns to God. Paul effectively says that God doesn’t even want to hang out with these churches.

No wonder our world is such a mess!

Now hear me on this: I’m not saying that our churches are all going to Hell because they don’t think right. That’s not my point at all.

Look at it like this: Do you have any relatives that really annoy you and you don’t like to spend time with? They are not first on your list of people to hang with. Maybe they aren’t on the list at all! Just because you don’t want to hang out with those challenging relatives doesn’t mean they are not part of your family.

I get the feeling the same principle applies here. God recognizes that Christian who spend their mental energy thinking about trash are still part of His family. But he mostly only hangs out with them only at family reunions, if you know what I mean.

Well I sure want to hang out more with God. I’m making a change starting now. It’s time for a garage sale! I’m going to take all the junk in my life and move it out to the drive way. I’m selling it to God. No, better yet I’ll give it to Him, no charge.

Then I’m going to get a grip on all the junk I’m used to thinking about. I am going to re-program my mind to think about good positive helpful stuff so that God will want to hang out with me.

Wanna join me? Give away all your junk too!

Peace!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Book Recommendations

Derek Brown put up a few book recommendations the other day. He’s got some good stuff there. I put together a few of my own that I’d recommend today. I wouldn’t necessarily call them all “must reads”. They’re just some that challenged me. (Some would argue that doesn’t take much!) So here they are in no particular order.

Epic by John Eldredge Epic by John Eldredge. Now I am a fan of most of his stuff. I have to admit that one of his most popular, Wild at Heart, didn’t speak to me as much as some others. But that’s only because I’m not much of an outdoorsy guy. My idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service.  In Epic, John helps us see that each of us were specially created to be the principle character in the epic story that is our lives. Unfortunately we’ve forgotten (or we were never told) how big the story is that we are a part of. We each have an important part to fulfill in the greatest story ever. It’s a pocket book so it is a good one for people who are not big readers. And it help you see a much bigger view of your own life.

Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow was first recommended to me by a buddy of mine that I often don’t agree with. I love him, in part, because he makes me think. So when he recommended this one, I though, “Sounds like another church bashing book to me.” Finally I think my buddy gave me a copy of it to get me to read it. Man am I glad he did! I kept saying to myself, “That’s exactly how I feel!” Murrow points out that in the typical church in America there are far more women than men. He’s right. Men are staying away from the church in droves. (As an aside, this is one area where I think our church, Seacoast excels. One of the first things I noticed about the church when I walked in was that there seemed to be a much higher percentage of men than I was used to in church.) But the best part is that Murrow doesn’t just point out a problem, even though he has tons of research and figures to back up his points. He goes on to give bunches of things that churches can do to help attract more men again. And the changes he suggests are pretty much all simple, real world things well in the reach of the smaller budget traditional churches. They aren’t gimmicky or trendy. This book really resonated with me. Everyone in leadership should read it. If we are going to reach our nation, we’ve got to get better at reaching our men.

Desiring God by John Piper I consider Desiring God by John Piper to be one of the modern classics of our faith. I can’t seem to find my copy at the moment. I might have loaned it to someone. But I remember that his thesis is this: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him for ever. We were made, and we feel our most fulfilled, when we are enjoying God. Some of you out there may think, “Duh!” But for me it was a pretty profound statement. And then the way Piper goes on to plumb the depths of what that all means really changed my walk with God for the better. “You mean life a Christian can be fun? Full of enjoyment?” Radical stuff considering most of our churches are filled with folks who look like they’ve been dipped in pickle juice!

Chazown by Craig Groeschel Based on recommendations from Mark Batterson (Is that a cool name or what?) over at Evotional.com I went ahead and ordered Chazown by Graig Groeschel. If this bit from the book description doesn’t get your juices flowing, I don’t know what can. ”Vision and Purpose: Dream It, Live It, Attain It Do you wake up each day motivated by knowing exactly why you were created? Guided by intention in every step? Enter: chazown.” I’m excited to get it and I’ll let you know what I think of it after I’m done with it.

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Check One More Off the List

I finally got the new portrait for Gorgeous’ site uploaded yesterday. (Scroll to the bottom of her "Home" page.) The old one was atrocious! It was taken by yours truly and was additional evidence that I am no photographer. We both hated it. Now everyone can see how truly gorgeous she is. Man did I marry up or what?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Changing Times

The time change seems to have sent our house a little off kilter. Yesterday Gorgeous missed an appointment, which I bear some of the responsibility for. I am the official clock changer in our family and I missed the clock in her car. Oops.

On the good side of the equation, the boys are out of the Dog House since the time change. For now. Low Rider must just be a daylight savings cat. Weird.

Gorgeous determined that it was Fat Boy who was having the aiming issues, which is a good thing too because Low Rider had nearly overdrawn his cuteness account. She calculates Fat Boy’s indiscretion was not accidental, which causes me some concern. But she doesn’t seem very worried about it.

Since Gorgeous is our resident cat whisperer, I’m all for going along with her take on things feline. Me, I just sort of notice the boys. Gorgeous trains them. I kid you not. I’ve seen it.

She started soon after we got Fat Boy. He had this tendency to spaz out when it was feeding time. He’s a bit food fixated, which pretty much explains his portly physique. One day after he knocked the food bowl out of her hand and broke it as she was feeding him, she decided to teach him to sit before he got fed.

I thought it was a futile, if admirable, project. I always figured cats were too dumb to be trained. Or was that too smart? I get confused. Anyway she did it and now Fat Boy is very patient and calm at feeding time. She’s done some other things with them, but you get the idea. She’s good. I’ll take her word on the whole Fat Boy aiming thing.

So the boys are out of the penalty box, but I seem to be part of a little sleep deprivation experiment this week. For some reason I keep waking up somewhere in the 0330 – 0400 range and having trouble getting back to sleep. Yesterday I gave up and got up at 0430 so that I wouldn’t wake Gorgeous up.

This morning I woke up and my newly accustomed time and I knew I had to get back to sleep. For one thing, my boss isn’t paying for a zombie, he expects me to actually work. Plus a couple of us are driving up to Charleston for their First Thursday service. We’ll be getting back a little late. Our campus here in Savannah is still a little small to logistically support a midweek evening service. (We’re getting close, though.)

It took me a while to get back to sleep. Every time I rolled over or adjusted, Low Rider would jump off the bed. I guess the idea of being crushed by an oversized man-person doesn’t much appeal to him. Every time he jumped off I expected him to start playing his favorite oh-dark-thirty game of wake-the-humans. But each time after I stopped moving he’d jump back on the bed and curl up by my knee and settle down.

I got the distinct impression that, if Low Rider had thumbs, he would have locked me in the back bedroom so that he could sleep the rest of the night undisturbed.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What's This?

OK. You may be wondering what that little thingy with the number is all about. I'll try to lay it out real easy-like for some of the less technical members of the class. (Hi Doug!)

Feeds

The link above is to my site “feed”. {We’re not talking food here, put down the cookie.}

A site feed is nothing more than a broadcast or notification that the site has been updated and what the new stuff is on it. I’m sure there is some amazing technology behind it, but I don’t care all that much. All I need to know to use the technology is that it works.

What do you do with a feed? {I said put the cookie down!} You subscribe to it.

But before you can subscribe to a feed you have to have a place to stick it. Computers are such structured little things. Unlike newspapers, you can’t just toss your feed anywhere (the driveway, the porch, under the sprinkler). You could think of it like needing a cable box to get TV reception. The signal (feed) is out there, but unless you have some place to stick it, it is kinda hard to enjoy.

So where do you stick it? This part is going to sound a little technical, but don’t be scared. What you need is something called a feed “aggregator.” That’s just a fancy word that I’m going to replace with the term “reader.”

There are several good feed readers out there with all kinds of different features. Me, I use Bloglines because it is on the web and I can go to the same place to get my feeds no matter what computer I am sitting at. Signing up with them is very easy. Even you can do it! Go ahead. Try.

If you are feeling frisky, you can check out what Wikipedia has to say about aggregators (I’m sorry I promised to call them readers). Also here is their aggregator list for more options if simple isn’t quite your cup of tea.

Once you have your feed reader set up then you can click on the feed links like the one I have above on web sites that you want to keep up with. {Would you believe those little icon graphic link thingies are called “chicklets”? I think there is a serious food fixation issue in the computer industry!} Then, every time a site you are interested in updates your reader will be notified right away.

Whenever it is convenient you can go to one place and read to your heart’s content without having to look through all those favorite bookmarks and stuff. It’s sort of like strapping on a feed bag, but with fewer cookies. And you don't have to waste all that time clicking through your favorites looking to see if they've gotten around to updating or not. Now you can get back to work, spend less time slacking on the internet and still not miss anything!

There you have it. So go ahead, subscribe to my feed. You know you want to. Besides, that way I won’t have to keep staring at that frustrating grammar irritant “1 Readers”. No, I'm not vain. Honest.


UPDATE: If you're still not sure about the whole RSS feed idea but want to get updates from me every day, you can subscribe via email by entering your address here:

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