Saturday, January 31, 2009

Zombie Attack

Austin, TX - Unsuspecting residents rose from theirs beds Thursday morning to find their town was over run by flesh rending, brain eating zombies. In an effort to stave off additional casualties, quick thinking Department of Transportation workers used portable road signs to warn rush hour commuters.

Ok, not really, but commuters did see this sign on their early morning drive earlier this month. It seems the "impenatrable security" of the sign was sliced and diced by a hacker. While endangering the safety of the motorists, this made me laugh when I first saw it. Cute.

I imagine most people ignored the sign, believing that there is no such thing as zombies. Wouldn't they have been surprised to show up at work and find a shuffling mob of undead. (Well maybe not if it was a Monday.) Note to emergency personel, don't use these signs in case of actual zombie attack. No one pays attention.

Friday, January 30, 2009

(n)ice


The lights are off and everyone is home. Earlier this week, due to the ice storm, the power was out at our house from noon until 5 am the following day. Tara and the boys off on another adventure. The boys were excited.

They fending off the imposing darkness with flashlight sabers and a lantern, while gathering around the heater, like a campfire. They colored and played. Snuggled tight in their sleeping bags they got to camp out in the loft.

It's easy sometimes when things happen to label it a problem and get discouraged. One man's problem is another man's adventure. I guess it's all in how you look at things.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Truth

Last month an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at then President George W. Bush. You probably saw it on the news, in a political satire or maybe even threw a shoe or two in the flash game online. Now it has spawned a sculpture.

The sofa sized sculpture was unveiled at a ceremony in Tikrit today. The artist said "It is not a political work", but the ode to the shoe hurler that accompanies the statue mentions "being able to tell the truth out loud."

Reading this article got me thinking about the things we say. Is this an example of telling "the" truth out loud, or our own interpretation of the truth? Sometimes we can be pretty quick to judge. Imagine if we all walked around and publicly shared our interpretation of the truth out loud. We would find ourselves like Jim Carrey in the movie "Liar, Liar."

Sure, we need to hear the truth and sometimes the truth hurts, but it's better received when shared in love and one-on-one. Sometimes, I think we just need to hold our tongues, and maybe our shoes, because it really does not add value.
Tell me, do you think we should always tell the truth?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Superheroes

In a recent copy of Rolling Stone there was an article on real life Superheroes. I am not talking about guys like Nick Vujisic, who over come their circumstances. There are over 200 people that actually dress up in spandex and patrol the streets at night, such as Phoenix, Arizona's Citizen Prime and Green Scorpion. There is an online registry where they join teams and share of their exploits.

The desire to be a superhero seems to be spreading globally, as the BBC reported a foiled home invasion. On New Years Eve, a man broke into the home of Torvald Alexander, in Edinburgh Scotland. Torvald was on his way out to a party when he came face to face with the intruder. To the man's surprise, Torvald was dressed as Thor. The man went back out the window, slid off the roof and ran away.

Personally, I think it is because we still have wait until next Monday for the premiere of the next installment of Heroes. No one tell my boys about this hero business, they already have enough of a superhero complex.

Sick

I smell. That is the first thing I notice. When you are sick, you get that sweet smell that makes your stomach turn. That's the last thing I want. I have had enough stomach turning for the day. So I medicate up and go back to bed.

Growing up I had a couple pets. Hobo, was my dog when I was really young. I even had a stuffed animal that looked like him. I barely remember. Then there was Gizmo, a stray day. Then Spuds, our cat, who we first met when we were camping at Philpot Lake. Somehow she crawled up into the undercarriage of the van and rode home with us. My dad found her under the hood, by the engine, the next day. Crazy.

Shortly after getting married, Tara and I got Miko (cat) from one of my real estate customers. He had found her in a woodpile, where a mother cat had left her litter. While living in Florida, she was attacked by an alligator. We could not find her. Two months later, she came home with scars from the leviathan's teeth running down her legs. She is still around today and watches over the boys at night like they are her children.

It was inevitable that the boys would want pets. Enter Webkinz, stuffed animals that you interact with online. Surrogate pets that you don't have to clean up after. You do have to feed them, build them a house, groom them... The boys love to play with them and on some level I think it teaches them responsibility.

Being away from home, where we don't have Internet, the boys ask me to log on and tell them how their pets are doing. Would you believe it, the other day, when I was checking on Cole's raccoon, he was sick. This sent the boys into mild panic. If the one online was sick, then the stuffed animal was sick. So while they cared for the stuffed animal, I was charged with checking the one online and nursing him back to health.

It's a computer program! I did it though. Because they care about it and because I care about them, I care about what they care about. A few days later Ra-coon (his name, a throwback to Thundercats) was feeling better. Maybe tomorrow, I will feel better.

When we care about someone, we care about what they care about. Jesus, teach us to care about the things that delight you and the things that break your heart. Teach us to care.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Life on the Poop Deck

Stepping onto the playground with the Kindergartners, you never really know what to expect. They come up with the most random games to play. For instance, "Animal Tag", where you must act like an animal until you are tagged. The most bizarre part, the ones that choose to be a cat and sit while grooming themselves. Would someone please tag them! I've got news for you, if you lay down and act like a snake, you will get tagged. But they don't care about winning, they just want to have fun.

Do you remember when life was about living in the moment, not about winning or losing?

This week I came prepared with my own zany game, "Poop Deck". I learned it hanging out with the Kid Kraze crew on Sundays. Imagine being on a ship...you have the top deck, the middle deck and the poop deck. When the particular deck is called you have to run to that area. If I say "hit the deck" you have to get down. If you are the last one to the base, you are out. It goes on until the last survivor is standing.

We started with about 10 kids playing in our little corner of the playground. As the giggles and laughter increased, so did our crew. Every once in a while someone would slip away and bring back a couple friends. After a couple rounds, we had 3 full kindergarten classes running from one corner of the blacktop to the other. No one wanted to be left out, no one wanted to miss a moment of the action.

It leaves me wondering, how can we harness that in our adult lives? A movement starts with one person deciding to do something different, to stand up for what is right, to make things better. It starts small, but grows bigger as people are attracted to your group. We saw that in the presidential campaign this year. We see it through Facebook. We see it in certain churches. We see it in groups like ONE.

Movements start with one person choosing to lead. Are you the one?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Unique Opportunities

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some; it’s in all, everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Nelson Mandela

Each of us has the unique opportunity to be who God created us to be. Some of us will embrace that, while others will spend their entire lives running away from it. We hide like Gideon in the pit, threshing our grain where even the wind can not reach. We look in the mirror and tell ourselves we can not do it, when really we fear what it may be like, if we did. We have heard it is lonely at the top, and it is, if you don't bring anyone along with you.

As we take small steps toward achieving our dreams, we touch lives that will forever be altered. It may be in a direct way as you help others see their potential. It may be someone watching from the wings, who decides to take a bold step toward their dreams. The greatest honor is that in our moments of greatness we can reflect back on the one that gave us that light in the first place.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Who's the Boss?

Kids say the darnedest things. This morning, I helped out as a coach in Kid Kraze, our elementary school environment @ WEC. We did this activity where the storyteller gave a job and the kids would give attributes of that person/job.

It started well, until we got to "Boss". If you are a boss and want to know what your employees think ask their kids. Without any coaxing, the responses were bossy, mean, commanding, don't pay you and pushy.

Chances are, they have never had a job, so where do these answers come from? Obviously they have either heard these adjectives used by those that have a boss or they have been conditioned to believe that way through television or some other stimuli.

That's horrible. I imagine that these impressions help job performance? They are your next employees, and this is what they expect. Imagine if they would have said leader, helped my dad/mom do great, challenging, exciting, motivator... How do we get there?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Park

Being a somewhat mild day today, we decided to get out to the park. Amazingly there was absolutely no one else there. We played soccer for a bit. Examined the animal tracks in the infield dirt of the baseball diamond, envisioning what mystical creatures may have left them.

Cole took off running at one point and we thought he was going to reinact a scene out of Forrest Gump. No matter how much we called he would not stop, which gave us a start. Winded from chasing him, I found him up the hill under a tree. He said he was looking for a place to rest. In a completely empty park, why he chose to run a quarter mile to a particular tree, I may never know.

B-I-N-G-O

PTA Bingo Night. When you rise victorious to take home the gold, or lie whimpering under the cafeteria table, clutching your ripped up Bingo cards. The lucky few would take home such treasures as free pizza or movie coupons, a "TV for Cats" DVD (mildly disturbing), costume jewelry, a water snake and much, much more.

The crowd was rather raucous, rivaling an NFL playoff game, moaning or yelling with each new ball called. I really did not think I would get into this as much as I did, but the closer I came to winning the higher the stakes became. Watching as they checked the winners cards to make sure they did not cheat, I only needed one more spot. Why won't he call my number? Are the fates against me?

Ok, really it's only Bingo, my life did not come crashing down around me when I did not win. But sometimes life feels like the Bingo game. For the most part everything is good, there is just one thing I still need. There is only one space left to be filled...maybe it's a desire to have a child, maybe it is achieving a certain position at work, maybe it's finishing college, getting married...you get my point.

The absence of that one thing can ruin everything else that is good. In my case, my desire to have my family with me. We still have yet to sell the house and for the foreseeable future don't see a way to fill that gap. At times, I feel desperately out of control, just wanting to "fix it." If I let it, I can let that one thing consume me. It can make life chaos.

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

Why is it that it is so hard to "not be anxious"? Maybe because I still want to be in control. I want the results and want them now. I want to feel like I have some say in how my life turns out. Which only leaves me anxious, without peace. Peace. Not a lack of concern, but real peace in the midst of the storm, knowing God is in control.

God. Help me find that peace.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lost in Translation


Seriously, what do you find inviting about this?

What makes this even funnier is they are across the street from the fire station. I am not sure if they are bashing the firemen or marketing to them...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nevermore



Snap. 1..2..3 steps. You are looking, looking. This is the moment of truth. Waiting, watching for just the right moment. Footsteps like bass drums, gnashing teeth and grasping hands. For a brief heartbeat a window opens, you let fly. As the ball rolls off your fingers, you notice something you did not see before. You reach, trying to draw the ball back to you through some mystical force. It calls back, like the Raven, "Nevermore...nevermore."

While the analogy may be football, I think we have all found ourselves making decisions and then wishing we could take them back. It could be something you said, something you did...the result is the same. Your mind starts to play tricks on you with "What if..." games, but you can not go back. All it becomes is mental anguish to play those games. Instead, you must ask "What's next?"

Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. -Og Mandino

My towel will be waving next weekend...Go Steelers!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stupid Human Tricks


Out at the land today, Stu Hodges (Lead Pastor @ WEC) and I noticed that our retention pond was frozen over. To set the scene, this pond is so big we had to put wave barriers in the pond, you can see one in the background. My first impression, the ice was thin. When Stu tossed a stick out onto the ice, it reassured me a bit. Our curiosity piqued, we decided to check it out.

How cool would it be to "walk on water", albeit in it's frozen form, at our new building. Putting one foot on and testing it with a little weight, there was minor cracking, but that could just be the ice settling. My courage increasing, I shifted my weight fully onto the ice. Spiderwebs ran out in all directions, and an eerie moaning beckoned me to the deep. At this point, Stu was laughing full on.

I may not be able to walk on water, but according to Stu, I may be able to walk on air, because of how high I jumped when everything started to fall apart underneath me.

Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always with the noblest motives.
~Oscar Wilde

Cups


The day was cool and crisp, a thin layer of snow created a patchwork quilt on the lawn. The crowd was gathered for one reason, to see the race. The racers came to their mark, determined, eyes forward. A little giggle interupted the silent intensity, and the competitors tookk off like...crippled giraffes. CLOP. CLOP. CLOP.

Needless to say, Cole was victorious. You try balancing 195 pounds on those flimsy cups, much less trying to walk, or run a race. But then again, we could all offer excuses on why we can not run the race.

You have a choice. You can throw in the towel, or you can use it to wipe the sweat off of your face. ~Gatorade

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

44

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

-an excerpt from Barack Obama's Inaugural Address

Driving down the road, I listened as our nation's 44th president was sworn into office and shared his opening address. If you want to read the entire speech you can find it online. These words spoke to me, about our part in what is to come. While we have elected a new President, we share his burden and responsibility. We can embrace that or we can bicker and moan and find our situation even more bleak four years from now. Today, if nothing else, we can celebrate a new hope that has embraced people that never before had that opportunity. Tomorrow, our our work begins in earnest.

Mr. President, you have my prayers.

Frequent Driver Miles

Over the last five months, I have put numerous miles on my car traveling back and forth from Yorktown to Lynchburg. At this point, I think I could probably do the drive with my eyes closed, but then I would miss out on curiosities along the way.

Tonight on I-64, I was trimming right along when out of nowhere comes a shopping cart. Luckily not in the road, just turned over on the side, as if something out of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. What made it weird is that the last exit I passed was over 3 miles back and the next exit was another 4 miles down the road. That does not even count the miles off the interstate to the closest grocery or big box store.

It set my mind to wandering how it got there...had someone absconded it from the local Walmart and took it joy riding down the side of the road, was it the refuse of some alien abduction dragged partway up in the tractor beam only to be released to fall amongst the roadside clutter, was there someone quivering in the weeds hoping I would not see them? I know one thing, there has to be an interesting story there.

Sometimes our lives become well worn paths, like the ones I have carved across Virginia. We find ourselves on autopilot, making the turns and arriving at our destination without even thinking about it or seeing whats going on around us. The people we pass in our travels every day are like the shopping cart, interesting stories waiting to be told, only for want of an ask. When we take the time to listen, in some small way, we become part of their story.

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. —Barry Lopez

Monday, January 19, 2009

Food for thought


Last weekend, my wife experimented with a recipe she found in a recent issue of Taste of Home. It turned out amazing! Fresh vegetables, chicken, cheese on toasted bread created a marvelous blend of taste and texture to please the palate. It looked great too. Which begs the question, does the way food is presented really make a big deal?

At Virginia Beach last week, we visited Crasby's on Atlantic Avenue for lunch. I had an amalgamation of burger and crab cake. (Far better than the tasteless steak we got the night before from a popular steakhouse.) On the side of each of our plates was a drizzle of sauce. It went with nothing we were eating, but added to the overall impression of the plate. Why?
Once we have sampled the fare, and found it acceptable, the presentation is quickly forgotten, as long as it was good. So really is it about our first impressions?

If our first impressions are so important in the foods we eat, what other areas of our lives does it make a difference?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cheese Saboteur

I did it. I am the malicious saboteur. If you had been at 7-Eleven last night, you would know that. Everyone that was there knew it.

Traveling back to Yorktown, last night, took what seemed like forever. No wanting to extend the endeavor, I waited until I arrived to get something to eat. Already late, I thought I would just grab something quick. I have not had nachos in a long time and the thought of gooey cheese and jalapenos was inspiring.

I pushed the button to dispense the cheese and nothing happened. I asked the attendant, who told me just to push the button, so I did again....until, "You broke it!" Followed by, "Give me the gloves, this guy has broke the machine and got cheese all over the inside!", just loud enough for those waiting in line in the next county to take notice. In case you did not hear, this guy broke the machine so if you want cheese or chili you will have to wait 30 minutes while we clean up his mess! (OK, not quite that bad, but close.)

Dejected I walked away, head down, avoiding the stones and Big Gulps thrown by the Pharisees.

It got me to thinking about communication and leadership. It becomes real easy to blame the user/employee/volunteer/customer for not getting it right. We can hide behind questions, like "how hard can it be?" We can write and enforce policy or systems, but if we have not communicated in a way that those we lead understand...it's not their fault, it's ours. We choose who "gets it" (and who does not) in how we communicate.

When we fail and blame them, we may save face in our own eyes, but we lose our influence in theirs.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Amore' Memoir

She caught my eye as she whisked in the door. Once caught, they could not turn away. I turned to the friend sitting next to me and said, "That is the girl I am going to marry." By the end of the night I had scribbled my number in orange pencil on the back of a receipt, in hope she would call. The rest is history, but that is how our fairy tale began.

Over the years I have tried my hand at poetry, actually her hand too, as I wrote a poem on her hand the first time I said "I love you." In a recent international poll, it was found that in most countries 20-30% could not remember the last time they told their spouse "I love you." The US was at 21%. That's sad.

So, let's have a little fun today. Stole this idea from the book Six Word Memoirs on Love & Heartache. Using six words, no more and no less, express your love of someone of something.

C'mon don't be shy...let's write poetry together. Mine will start the comments.

Hey Barack!

In the most recent Readers Digest there was an article that gave fellow statesmen and -women the opportunity to draft a memo to the president elect with advice on the important topics. A few stood out to me...

Talk but Also Listen...surround yourself with people that will complement you and those that will challenge you. Create partnerships not divisions.

Reread the Constitution...before you can uphold it, understand it. I have not read the Constitution since the 4th or 5th grade.

Act Justly and Walk Humbly...do what is right, not just what is politically expedient. Make mercy a passion. Always remember your position/relationship with God.

Remind Us What it Takes to Be Great...belief, sacrifice and hard work

A few other mentionables; Fight Extreme Poverty, Stop the Cycle of Debt, Reunite the Country, Commit to the Environment, Be Brutally Honest.

This coming week, we will inaugurate a new president, and while through his leadership things can be accomplished, why do we expect that the changing of position at the top will make a huge different? Is that the only "position of power"? Can we not bring change from the bottom, if we listen to our own advice, we seek to give the man at the top? Or by giving it to him, do relieve ourselves of the responsibility and ultimately the blame?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You call that a job?

Imagine waking up to a fresh island breeze, as the sun peaks through the blinds. You stroll the white sands or snorkel the Great Barrier reef. After lunch you post an update on your blog with a few pics for the envious people back home, as you twist your toes in the warm sand. Maybe you'll go exploring later, or maybe you'll just sit here and enjoy the island life a little while longer. The best part, you get paid to do this every day, a measly $105,000.

This is an actual job offered by Australia to boost tourism. The successful applicant "must be a good swimmer, excellent communicator and be able to speak and write English." They are touting this as the "best job in the world". So, what do you think? What would be your "best job in the world"?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Logan's Big Day

If you have ever had children, you know the feeling when you find out you are having your first child. After the sheer terror subsides, that is. You walk around with your chest puffed out, like you are on top of the world. Today is one of those days for me.

It all started a couple months ago around bedtime, when Logan started asking Tara some questions about God and Jesus. Why we go to church? Why we serve? What it means to be Jesus' friend forever? Why did Jesus have to die? After he exhausted his questions, he said it all sounds great but that was enough for now.

Driving home from school yesterday, Logan began questioning again, with pretty much the same result...sounds good, we'll talk later. We try to create a safe place with no pressure for the boys to ask questions and ultimately make their own decision. As Tara was putting him to bed, he told her he wanted Jesus to be his friend forever. They talked a bit more, prayed together and then called me to share the exciting news!
The reason my chest is swelled is not because of something I did, I was not even there at the time. I know God was working on him and Logan is surrounded by many people that love him and help him get to this point in life.

It is great to be a part of a church that partners with parents to create environments for kids to experience and learn about God's love in a way that is relevant to them. Thank you to everyone at Brentwood Church and Waters Edge Church . What a great day!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Polar Bear

Sitting around the dinner table tonight, with four good friends...Jake, Rob, Bill and Stu...in preparation for a challenge. The challenge, 3D Putt-Putt. The stakes...taking the Polar Bear plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.

I'll be honest, it was a little intimidating. It got even more so when going into the last hole I was only 1 stroke out of last place. Stu made an amazing comeback with two hole in 1 shots in the last three holes. I was the last to putt out and had a tough third shot.
So now we find ourselves standing on the beach, facing the ocean. The loser running valiantly toward the 43 degree splashdown. Good luck Bill!
Post script: I'll be honest, he took it like a man. No crying. No big deal. And he survived. Good show man!

Room with a View


I'm at the beach on a Director's Offsite, discussing the future plans for Waters Edge. Yesterday we took some individual time to evaluate our lives, where we have come from and where we find ourselves now.

It's been a while since I carved out the space in my day to do some self evaluation and recalibration. It's like checking the alignment on your car. It does not impede your ability to drive, so we don't think about it, until it's too late. Tire start to wear down and once a wear pattern has started it's hard to change.

Sometimes we get hung up in the evaluation and miss making it practical, by coming up with a plan. This is my favorite part, the dreaming and planning. I think it is my inner artist ready to fingerpaint creation.

It is important for us to take time away individually each year to get away and get real with ourselves and with our God. When was the last time you took a "retreat" to recalibrate?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Change for Lunch

Another highlight from hanging out with Logan at school was lunch. If you remember like I do, school cafeteria food ranks right above brussel sprouts and lima beans. There was one day in the 3rd grade when a lunch table cohort erecting the lost Incan tomb out of mushed peas. Better than eating them, right?

But, there was one meal that was coveted...pizza day! There is just something about those rectangle slices the kept me coming back. Friday being the only day I get a chance to eat with Logan, I have been on a year and a half journey toward pizza day. Last Friday the stars finally aligned and pizza was served on a Friday.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Rectangles have become trapezoids and the taste was just not the same as I remembered it from my childhood. I think we have all felt that way at some point in our lives, on some level we want things to stay the same. There is a certain comfort in the familiar.

In this day and age, change happens pretty quickly. Change and progress don't come easy, especially if the change affects us in a way we perceive as negative. How do you deal with change?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pirates

The seas raged around us. Cold wind cut through our clothes and brought stinging tears to our eyes. We held to the rigging, knowing if we fell in, we were doomed. Determined, we pressed on in search of the treasure. Nothing would get in our way.

Leaping from the safety of our ship, we landed on the planking, skittering quickly so as not to lose our balance. At the end of the dock, we traverse the obstacles and slid quietly past the building. Nearing the corner, we spied our quarry, the golden ball.

"Arggghh!", our pirate band screamed, rushing from cover with our swords drawn. Finally, the ball resting in our hands, we danced our pirate jig in celebration...until someone kicked the golden ball over the fence of the playground.

No one really cared, because now we had to sneak back passed the teachers perched on the bench to get to our ship. Off on another adventure...

I got to hang out with Logan's class on Friday. It's fun being a kid, even at 35. Stay young. Live adventurously.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baseball Socks

Without baseball, the world axis would tilt. Animals would bark and howl constantly. Citgo signs and subway trains would quit running. All sunrises and sunsets would be gray. Without baseball, all that we love might never be the same. ~Marty Schupak

To be good, you’ve got to have a lot of little boy in you. ~Roy Campanella, Brooklyn Dodgers

Spring is coming. The crack of the bat. The smell of fresh leather. Sitting by third base, seeing how big a mound of peanut shells you can amass. Making a fool out of yourself in the bat spin game between innings, just to win a prize. The slap of the ball as it hits the catchers glove. Baseball.

Cole is ready. The boys each got $10 for Christmas as a gift from a family member. Logan got superheroes. Cole got baseball socks. He wore them around all day on Friday, his sweatpants hiked up to his knees to show off the stripes. To school to have lunch with Logan, to the store and ultimately to bed. His tribute to the hope that is Spring, and baseball.

In Spring, everything is new. The slumbering death of winter is washed in new life. In baseball, there is hope, new dreams with a new season. If your team lost 80 games last year, that is forgotten, with opportunity to rise anew. Spring is coming.

And so it is in life.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. ~1 Peter 5: 10

Friday, January 9, 2009

Funeral for a Friend

Alas! poor Trane. I knew him, dear readers; a fellow of infinite blow, of most excellent heating; he hath warmed me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those temperatures that I will miss I know not how oft. Where be your freon now? your aux heat? your air? your flashes of readiness, that were wont to set the heat on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own air conditioning? quite broken? Now get yet to my living room chamber, and tell the repairman, let him put a new unit in, to this favor he must come; make it warm again. ~A really bad parody of Hamlet

Our heat pump died today. It dying gasps flooded the house with frigid air last night, then it passed. Because of efficiency improvements, we can not just replace the unit, but the whole system. The good news, we'll be more energy efficient and do our part for the environment. As far as bad news, well only about 5900 reasons why this is bad. And to think I kidded my wife about getting a kerosene heater for Christmas.

For the Tough Times

Look at the morning headlines today and you will see: Job losses stack up as recession deepens, Gaza attacks continue, Market falls. Chances are, you have had a loved one pass away in the last 10 years. I recently heard someone say, "You are either in a challenge, just coming out of a challenge or you better get ready, your challenge is coming." We all go through tough times, which cause us to ask tough questions.

When all that is good falls apart, what can good people do? -Psalm 11:3

It is a question we have all asked, in many different ways...where is God when it hurts? If God loves me, why does he let bad things happen? Will God always love me? With everything going on, who is in charge? How can anything good come from such sadness?

In his book, For the Tough Times, Max Lucado seeks to answer these questions and give direction on living through these times in our lives. It is a short book, a mere 79 pages, which makes it easy for anyone to read. With his simple style Lucado stirs in stories, scripture and truth in a book that anyone who finds themselves in a challenging time of life, should read.

I found encouragement in the chapter, Good Triumphant, that focused on how God can use challenges in life to accomplish great good. I found wisdom in the chapters, In the Silence God Speaks and In the Storm We Pray, about how sometimes we just need to shut up and listen in the midst of our trials and others we need to pray.

Reading Max Lucado is like sitting down with a friend over lunch; comfortable, easy, profound at times, but don't expect any surprises. I don't read Lucado for great scriptural depth or to learn biblical history, I would read him to find a companion.
The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord sits on his throne in heaven ~Psalm 11:4

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Showdown

I was hanging out at Barnes and Noble the other night, catching up on some light reading, when I started to overhear a conversation. It was unavoidable. The volume ebbed and flowed like the tide of waves, but the emotion was ever present.

"You want me to forget it all ever happened?"

"How do we just go back?"

"This man has more pictures of my kids than I do."

There are times in life when we all want to start over, or maybe just go back to pivotal decision, conversation or moment in our lives. Maybe not to change the moment, but we want life to return to the state it was before the moment. We want all the effects of that moment to be erased.

If we are the other party, the one that was hurt, betrayed, abandoned, this can be very hard. How do you trust again? If I forgive them, am I just letting them get away with it? Where is the justice?

They sat there for a long time. Words. Tears. Flailing arms. Sighs. In the end they hugged. But this was not really the end, maybe more like a new beginning. The hand of justice had been loosened around the throat of the offender enough for a conversation to begin. Will it ever return to the way it was, I don't know. I do know it is far from where it was, when I began to read this book.


Any thoughts on justice and forgiveness, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Starbucks Fuels...

Grande Pikes. Words that play my heart like a violin. Every morning, I look forward to a good cup of coffee. It helps me get my engine running, but now it seems it could get my car running as well.

Researchers at University of Nevada, Reno discovered that used coffee grounds can be successfully converted into biodiesel for automobiles. From what I hear, it even smells like coffee. You know if Starbucks gets a hold of this, they just might take over the world. Imagine everyone driving around, their cars producing sweet coffee aroma. The innocent passerby is instantly craving the dark nectar, when the green siren comes into view. They drink more coffee, produce more grounds, create more fuel. Ingenious.

No more 87 octane, I'll take a Venti tank of gas to go.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

WEC'd

As I was leaving from my first visit to the WEC office (5 months ago) I noticed that my car had been vandalized. My X-terra was polka-dotted with WEC magnets. I later learned that there was actually a term for what had happened to me, I had been WEC'd. I guess you could say, we have a little fun with new staff members.

Today Jake Miller, our new Director of Preschoolers and Kids, celebrated his first day in the office. If it happens to be your first day and someone hands you a helmet and sword to put on...do it at your own risk. Second, asking if we are going to blog about it....guaranteed.
Jake's a great guy. You can tell a lot about his character by the fact that he is a fellow Tarheel fan. Check out his blog, give him some love.

Benjamin Button

Yesterday, Rob and I took in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and I believe curious is the right word for it. It was long (3 hours) and did not keep it's momentum going enough. It did have it's endearing parts, which I'll get to in a minute, but to make it official - thumb to the side, wait for the Redbox. Know that there is quite a bit of sex and Brad Pitt's deriere...view at your own risk.

Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we do not take.
~Benjamin Button

I texted myself this quote. We are each given many different opportunities in life to do great good, or great evil, to take risk or play it safe or maybe just to be alive. The ones we embrace and the ones we exclude define who we are in person and in character.

Have I ever told you I have been struck by lightning seven times. Once, I was... ~An old man in the retirement home

This guy was funny. He would randomly show up and say the same thing, but each time he would give a different story to go along with it. Good comedy relief in what was a sad movie at times.

Benjamin's love interest in the movie was a ballet dancer. Seeing her dance made me think of my wife who was a dancer for many years. She is my graceful swan, leaving nary a ripple as she trims across the stage. Beautiful memories...

I'll leave you with a quote from the end that will not spoil the movie for you but give you something to chew on...

For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit... start whenever you want... you can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that stop you. I hope you feel things that you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. ~Benjamin Button

If you want more review, check out Rob's blog.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pearl Jam Diaries: Black

Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay, were laid spread out before me...

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a sun in somebody else's sky, but why, Why, why can't it be, can't it be mine.
~Pearl Jam, Black

I was reminded by a friend tonight that you really don't understand divorce until it is your relationship. I accept that and so I speak from first hand ignorance or maybe someone that has lost something important, in the past.

Infinite possibilities arise as what was once an intricate picture has been washed away to leave empty canvas, awaiting the artist brush. The only color that seems to drip aimless with each stroke is black. Even the most Innocent scenario becomes tattooed with memory. Seeing the thing or person that has been lost, in the eyes of those that you meet. Those that seek to give comfort or solace, rub like sandpaper across the exposed heart. The mantra in your head screams "why".

My heart breaks. I can not imagine ever losing my wife, my family. You have my compassion, my prayers. My first hope is that you work out your differences. My second hope is that you find new life, that new dreams bring vibrant colors to your pallet from which you paint. What may seem impossible to us, God can heal.

Pearl Jam Diaries: Daughter

Alone...listless....breakfast table in an otherwise empty room
~Pearl Jam, Daughter

Over the holidays I was slapped with a very harsh reality, when talking with several friends that are faced with divorce. Luckily, I have been blessed with an amazing wife for the last 12 years and God willing, until the day I die. Unfortunately, this does not insulate me from seeing kids, friends and hearts left in the wake of it's devastation. The sound of my heart breaking is deafening.

What causes two people that were madly in love, that have lived together, that have born children, to walk away. What make you feel alone when you are with the one you love, retreating to your own room to block out the noise that has become your relationship. That drives you to the arms of another to drive away the listlessness that has become your life. When did the excitement of new love, begin to tarnish like so much brass. When did a room that one held a family become so empty.

I have not been there. I do not know. It does not insulate me from the devastation. How do you make the pain stop.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dolphin

At any moment now I expect Greenpeace or other mar time conservation commandos to raid my house...

"Mom, there has been an accident, but I ran to the bathroom and washed the dolphin off." This is one of those things you don't expect to hear when you are sitting at the breakfast table enjoying your bacon and eggs. Especially considering we are located in Lynchburg, hours from any aquatic domain.

We found said dolphin, having bled out, on the bathroom counter. It's insides consisting of numerous white pellets, which I am sure are environmentally friendly, not.

Question One: How do they fit that many pellets into such a small piece of rubber? They had accumulated in small pools of water, all over the bathroom. It seems this was caused by my sons attempts to "wash the dolphin."

Question Two: What happened to his flipper? It's behind the trash can, of course. But if you are referring to how it was extracted from his body, everyone was pulling in different directions, something had to give. You get the picture.

I guess there goes our attempts at being an eco-friendly household.

The moral of this sad tale my dear friends; when you feel pulled in many directions, somethings going to give and when you try to just "clean it up" you will be left with a mess.

Public Service Message: No real dolphins were harmed in the creation of this blog.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

ADD: Prayer Confession

Like a cat running through a dog show, so is my prayer life. Honestly, there are times when it's really bad. I know this may shock some of you coming from someone who works for the church, throw your stones later. I feel pretty guilty about it, I really do want to have a great prayer life. I marvel at the prayer warriors, kneeling for hours, praying so fervently they are sweat soaked.

I think I have an ADD prayer life...I start with the best of intentions...Dear God, thank you for today and for my family and their health...when does Cole need to go back to the doctor? Did I pay that bill for the last trip? Trip...where are we going on vacation this year...how will we afford it...better start saving money now...oh yeah, I was praying...sorry God...

I have tried various books on prayer...Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is one of my favorites. Body Prayer by Doug Pagitt, um...interesting yoga style praying, that was fun until my wife walked in on me praying the reverse barking dog... A good friend of mine told me about "popcorn prayer". He and his wife lay in bed and just make short prayer statements, kinda like popping popcorn. This works great for ADD, but the thought of popcorn makes me hungry.

I have heard enough sermons on "praying without ceasing" to make me sick. I can't last 5 minutes...sometimes. It left me thinking I just need to sit there until I get it right.

What has helped me the most is realising that prayer is really all about communication. It is not about the form, or position, or the right words or really length. I try to pray short little prayers through out the day. As something gets brought to my mind, I'll drop God a mental email or try to jot it down in my notebook so I remember it later. There are times I can pray forever, there are others that it's like short attention span theatre.

The good news is that every time I call him, God's waiting, right there, even if it is a quick chat, or to tell him a joke I just heard, or sometimes when I need to shout, or cry, or say thank you. He's right there, waiting. Go ahead, talk to him.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Journey's End


I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious. ~Vince Lombardi

Today we arrived home from our holiday exodus, a whirlwind of family activity. Tired, ready for a nap. Sometimes, the holidays can feel like a fun park ride. The one you that for months you begged your parents to take you to, waited for in incessantly long lines with people that had not taken a shower in... You pull the bar down, nervously make unintelligible comments as you climb the first hill...and 30 seconds later are left wondering, "That's it?"

A few snapshots from our trip...Christmas at our house for the first time, coloring the big cardboard house the boys got for Christmas, Merry Christmas from the Bedford police, sneaking into Bristol Motor Speedway, Cole got pneumonia again (another trip to the hospital), playing with the boys, Starbucks with my wife, three friends in the midst of divorce, time with extended family (even the Duke fan), running from wolves New Years Eve, and being home. Many of these I blogged already, the rest are yet to come.

Don't let memories fade as you drift off into post-Holiday coma, share your stories. What is your favorite memory from this Holiday?

Rock Pile

"Dad, I need your help!"



"You can do it."



"No, I really need your help!"


There is a big pile of gravel by the family cemetery. The rain has washed it's slopes slick and steep, but that does not stop our young adventurers quest to conquer the peak. As they ascend, the gravel slide from beneath their feet, and Cole finds himself in a precarious predicament. He calls out, but I just encourage him as I know he can handle this feat. Shifting lower to the ground and using his hands he scrambles to the pinnacle. Standing atop, he beams with delight before descending with the grace of a snow boarder.

Sometimes, we find ourselves on losing ground, slipping closer to the edge, fearful we will not make it. We cry out, with seemingly no response from our Father...does that mean he is not there, watching, encouraging us, giving us the strength to tackle the obstacle set before us? That He is not smiling down as we overcome?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year No Limits



New Years Eve. For many of us we find ourselves at a family get together, watching a ball of light drop, giving the first kiss of the year to one we love, missing Dick Clark or playing charades. I have a theory that more charades gets played on New Years, maybe it is just my family.

For the last two years, we have rung in the New Year to ESPN. Yeah we watched the Carolina game (Go Heels!) but we flipped back and forth to the New Year's No Limits. It's the adrenaline junkie in me. Watching Robbie Maddison jump his bike more than 120 feet high and land on top of the 96-foot high replica of the Arc de Triomphe in front of Paris Las Vegas,then drop off the Arc and free fall 50 feet to a massive landing ramp. Oh yeah! Gimme more.

Being a risk voyeur, makes life pretty easy. We can live vicariously through other peoples experience and never put ourself at risk. Look at the meteoric rise of reality TV over the last 10 years. While I find this caution healthy in jumping off large buildings, too many of us carry it over into our relationships, our work environment,our faith...the list could go on. The point is, we can settle for the safety of mediocrity and fool ourselves into thinking we are living life to the full.

What risks are you being called to in the New Year?