About Me

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I’m from New York but my driver’s license lists that my address is Ohio. My passport has a number of stamps in it. I’m the youngest of six, yet oldest son. I have a number after my initials, but not my name. I like music. I drink coffee at all times of the day. I am a follower of Jesus. I own my own business. I watch bonus features on DVD’s. For four months each year my wife and I are the same age. “I pledge allegiance to a country without borders, without politicians.” I am an ordained pastor. I’ve eaten raw horse meat. I’m fifteen inches taller than my wife, but I look up to her. I still prefer buying CDs to downloading music. I’m a night owl, who doesn’t mind getting up early. I like to shop, and my wife doesn’t. I like to play games. I moved to another country nine days after my wedding. I sometimes quote random lyrics. I believe in miracles. I prefer desktops to laptops. I like listening to audio books. I listen to hockey games on the internet. I have five sons. I'm living life mid sentence.

Friday, December 25, 2009

I Truly Have A Wonderful Life

Year after year working at the radio station I would watch It's A Wonderful Life on TV on Christmas day, while I was alone at work. Every year I felt sad as I watched the movie, feeling lonely and just plane sorry for myself. Then three years ago, while I was at work--alone--, my (then) fiance showed up at the radio station to surprise me. She had driven two hours to spend the evening with me. That evening we watched It's A Wonderful Life on TV on the large projector at the radio station, and I no longer felt sad or lonely.

Three years later, as I sit at home watching the movie, I can't help but smile. I truly have a wonderful life. I can relate with George Bailey in that I've worked jobs that I wouldn't wish on anyone, just to support my family, and I've had to make some sacrifices for the good of my family. But, like George, when I stop and evaluate my life I truly realize that God has given me a wonderful life.

Today I was able to spend time with my little family and that alone makes anything I've given up to be where I am well worth it. Seeing my beautiful wife's excitement about opening her Christmas gifts, and seeing my little boy enthusiastically play with his first box of Legos filled me with so much joy. There were sacrifices, and some of the blessings we have received this year made some of today's joys possible. I was able to sell an old prized baseball card I had held onto in order to buy my wife a Christmas gift, and we saved up a gift card that was given us for our son's birth to buy him the Legos. Do I ever wish that we lived on easy street and didn't face some of the struggles we do? Without doubt. But when all is said and done, I know that God has blessed me with so much, and like George Bailey I truly have been given a Wonderful Life.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Time Flies

Three years ago I asked a young lady to marry me, atop a mountain in Japan. Now that young lady and I are 2+ years into our marriage, and expecting baby #2.

I'm glad she said yes. :-)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In Need of Coffee and Conversation

There aren't too many things I really miss from my years of bachelor life. However I do miss getting together for coffee with friends. Sometimes the center of attention was the coffee, but usually it was the friendships and discussions.

While I am grateful for a godly wife that I can discuss theological issues with, sometimes I miss having male friends that I can get together to talk with. I have a few friends that I probably could talk about just about anything with, but now that we all have children it seems like an insurmountable task to try and find time to get together.

This evening I had a short chat online with an old friend. Our time chatting about politics and religion made me miss the past trips to coffee shops with friends. I miss talking U2 with the youth pastor at the church I attended after college, or politics with his predecessor. I miss talking about how the rubber meets the road in our Christian walk with both men, as well as a few others I would get together with. In all, I miss the caffeine and the iron sharpening iron.

Maybe someday I will once again be able to have good discussions about anything and everything with friends over a cup of coffee. One can hope at least.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The "Good Enough Revolution" and Christianity

Last week while flying to Georgia I took a magazine along with me to read in flight. One of the articles in the magazine was called “The Good Enough Revolution” and it talked about how for many people do not feel the need to buy/get the best product, but rather one that is “good enough.” They gave a few examples (small camcorder’s with lower quality point and shoot digital cameras, MP3 vs. Hi-Fi audio) about how people are trading quality for ease of use and cost. Instead of purchasing an HD camcorder or 12MP DSLR Camera, people purchase compact SD camcorders and tiny point and shoot cameras. In most cases, people realize they aren’t getting the best quality available to them, but they are willing to make that trade off for different reasons.

Here is part of the article from Wired Magazine:

Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford University, recently completed a six-year study of his students. Every year he asked new arrivals in his class to listen to the same musical excerpts played in a variety of digital formats—from standard MP3s to high-fidelity uncompressed files—and rate their preferences. Every year, he reports, more and more students preferred the sound of MP3s, particularly for rock music. They've grown accustomed to what Berger calls the percussive sizzle—aka distortion—found in compressed music. To them, that's what music is supposed to sound like.

What has happened with the MP3 format and other “good enough” technologies is that the qualities we value have simply changed. And the change is so profound that the old measures have almost lost their meaning. Call it the MP3 effect.


After reflecting on this article I started to think about how the “Good Enough Revolution” seems to be infiltrating Christianity. Instead of seeking the gold standard (“Be holy for I am holy”) we settle for mediocrity—which we believe costs us less. We don’t come right out and say we don’t want the best, but we say just that with our actions. We make the small compromises, or at least small in our opinions, and think that it won’t affect the way we live our lives in any significant ways.

There comes a point when we are likely to believe that stretching ourselves further is beneficial for the kingdom of God. Instead of only being able to do “X” we can now do “x y & z”. Much like a CD can only carry a dozen or so high quality songs, yet can carry a hundred or more MP3’s, we think we the trade-offs we are making are good. However, much like frequencies have to be nixed in MP3’s to shrink their size, something must be cut out in order for us to replace quality with quantity.

At first we may not notice much difference in the quality, but as time goes on the proof shows itself in the pudding. Just as a first generation MP3 may not have major noticeable flaws, the further you get away from the original (read: pure) recording, the more the flaws will begin to show. Or if we trade our rifle approach for a shotgun approach we may cover a wider area, but our accuracy and effectiveness suffers.

As we move from one generation to the next what philosophy are we passing on? Are we encouraging those that come behind us to pursue the gold standard, or are we saying –with our actions, if not our words—that “good enough” is,…well, “good enough”?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yesteryear

Last night I spent a couple hours going back through a different blog that I have had for the past four and a half years. I was searching for a particular post I put on that blog several years back but found myself continually stopping to read different post I had written. After reading a number of posts I started thinking, yet again, that I miss blogging. I miss sharing my thoughts and receiving feedback on them. I miss having something to say, and an audience to which I could say it. Not all of the enjoyment came from receiving feedback though. At times, simply having something to say and writing it was enough.

While I miss blogging, I'm not sure I will ever return to blogging in a manner like I once did. Major changes have occurred since the period of hard-core blogging. At that time I was single (read: unmarried) and now I am married. At that time I worked overnights, and had plenty of free time on my hands. Now I work during the day and don't have large amounts of time by myself. Back then I often didn't have a soundboard to share my hopes/dreams/fears/thoughts/ideas with, now I have a great wife who I can share all of the above with.

While I miss blogging the way I once did, I would not choose to return to the period of my life in which filled my "blogging years." Yes, there was some freedom that I no longer have, but there was also a lot of loneliness and heartache that went along with those years. And I wouldn't trade my wife and son for any of the freedom I may have had.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tommy Boy and Religion

Do you remember this song?

Give me that old time religion
give me that old time religion
Give me that old time religion
It's good enough for me


And do you remember this part of the movie Tommy Boy?

Tommy: Let's think about this for a sec, Ted, why would somebody put a guarantee on a box? Hmmm, very interesting.
Ted Nelson, Customer: Go on, I'm listening.
Tommy: Here's the way I see it, Ted. Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box 'cause he wants you to fell all warm and toasty inside.
Ted Nelson, Customer: Yeah, makes a man feel good.
Tommy: 'Course it does. Why shouldn't it? Ya figure you put that little box under your pillow at night, the Guarantee Fairy might come by and leave a quarter, am I right, Ted?
Ted Nelson, Customer: What's your point?
Tommy: The point is, how do you know the fairy isn't a crazy glue sniffer? "Building model airplanes" says the little fairy; well, we're not buying it. He sneaks into your house once, that's all it takes. The next thing you know, there's money missing off the dresser, and your daughter's knocked up. I seen it a hundred times.
Ted Nelson, Customer: But why do they put a guarantee on the box?
Tommy: Because they know all they sold ya was a guaranteed piece of shit. That's all it is, isn't it?

This evening, as I was sitting at my computer taking part in an online discussion, the song and movie quote above both came to mind. In the discussion I was taking part in, I wrote the following:

For years I accepted things as on the same level as the scriptures because pastors, professors, and other religious leaders said these statements. Don't drink, don't go to movies, don't listen to rock music (regardless of what the lyrics say), wear a suit and tie to church, don't run in the "church" sanctuary, etc.

Then it happened. I started to ask a question that children often ask: why? The more I questioned, and searched for answers in the Bible, not in repeated rhetoric, the more I learned about who God is, and the more I learned about His grace. Do I use this new-found Christian liberty as an excuse to sin? "God forbid" (Rom. 6:1ff).

The way I see it, the longer Christians hold on to man-made traditions and rules, and ignore the teachings of the NT, the more we will see people ignore the faith of their parents, and look for something that is truly real, not just something that they are told (by pastors, parents, and professors) is real.

...


My advise to all of us, myself included, is to continue to ask questions about why we do what we do, and find out if it is because we are following true biblical teachings, or if it is because we are following man's rules. (Note: not all man-made rules are bad, but we must remember they are not on the same level as the teachings of the scriptures).


When it comes to religion and following God, I don't want to just take what others say and follow that. I want to know what I'm being sold is the truth, and that it is coming from God. I don't want to hold on to my "old time religion" and say it's "good enough for me" simply because a pastor, religious leader or friend tells me that it's got a "guarantee stamped on it." Well, who put the guarantee on it, and what gave them the authority to make such a statement? I want to follow God, and not simply follow what man has to say. If man is saying what God's word truly says, great. But that is where I need to be diligent and not accept what they say as truth, simply because they have a Bible degree or stand behind a lectern.

The Apostle Paul hit the nail on the head when he told the Corinthians "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ"(I Cor. 11:1). The key thing that needs to be recognized in that verse is that we must know what it is like to truly follow Christ. Otherwise we won't know that those we are following are truly following Christ. And when we look at those who are following us, we need to make sure, like Paul, we are truly following Christ, so that we do not lead those behind us astray.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Am Loved

I can't think of words to express the great feeling it is to know that my little boy loves me. When he is hungry or tired there is no substitute for mommy, but other than that he loves being around or with me. For the past week or so I'll say goodbye when leaving for work, and he'll follow me to the door and cry when I leave. It's sad, in one sense, but it's also really touching that he wants to be around me. On the flip side, it's really cool when I get home from work and he'll come right over to me and giggle with excitement.

I know I am loved.

"I Want to Be Just Like You"
PC&D

He climbs in my lap for a goodnight hug
He calls me Dad and I call him Bub
With his faded old pillow and a bear named Pooh
He snuggles up close and says, "I want to be like you"
I tuck him in bed and I kiss him goodnight
Trippin' over the toys as I turn out the light
And I whisper a prayer that someday he'll see
He's got a father in God 'cause he's seen Jesus in me

Lord, I want to be just like You
'Cause he wants to be just like me
I want to be a holy example
For his innocent eyes to see
Help me be a living Bible, Lord
That my little boy can read
I want to be just like You
'Cause he wants to be like me

Got to admit I've got so far to go
Make so many mistakes and I'm sure that You know
Sometimes it seems no matter how hard I try
With all the pressures in life I just can't get it all right
But I'm trying so hard to learn from the best
Being patient and kind, filled with Your tenderness
'Cause I know that he'll learn from the things that he sees
And the Jesus he finds will be the Jesus in me
Right now from where he stands I may seem mighty tall
But it's only 'cause I'm learning from the best Father of them all

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Freeing Slaves, Physically and Spiritually

Tonight I watched a documentary on human trafficking and the sex trade--primarily in India. While the documentary pointed out how there are people, some ex-sex-slaves who are fighting the trafficking, hundreds or thousands of woman and children enter the sex-trade for every one that is rescued.

The name of the program I watched was "The Day My God Died." At least one of the workers who is working to free the girls said that the biggest goal she has in rescuing these girls is to let them live out their remaining days, since most are HIV/AIDS positive, with dignity. Yes, the girls, in most cases, do have their freedom back, but that doesn't go far enough. What about these girls souls? Is it enough to just heal the physical wounds, and leave these girls spiritually unchanged? I am not advocating being the hands and feet of God only as a means to win souls, in other words convert-and-run mentality, but to take care of their physical needs and leave the eternal part of these girls unchanged is, to me, unimaginable.

How does one deal with dealing with the physical/spiritual divide in such cases? After all, to ignore the physical/emotional needs would make us guilty of ignoring the physical/emotional needs of God himself (Matt. 25:31ff). But on the flip side, what does it profit a person, or may I say ex-sex-slave, if we give them the whole world, yet don't deal with their eternal soul?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Ups and Downs

Some days I'm "up" and other days I'm more "down." Today is more of a "down" day.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

May I Never...

...Forget that I am His, and He is mine.

...Neglect to be a "little Christ" to those around me.

...Stop loving my wife.

...Take each day for granted.

...Forget that God is sovereign.

...Pass up an opportunity to share the gospel message with someone.

...Stop praying for those around me.

...Live as if this life doesn't matter, even though this world is not my ultimate home.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Love Is Different Than You Think...

...it's never in a song, or on a TV screen.

As of today, I have been married for 633 days. And if you ask my wife, next week we will have been together (dating+engaged+married) for three years. If you had asked me before I met my wife what love was I wouldn't have really known. I had ideas, and on top of that I could have quoted chapter and verse of what love "is", but I wouldn't have really know through experience.

Then I met my wife. This isn't the part where I get all sappy, and say all the flowery rhetoric that we've all heard before. I'm not going to say much about it, actually. The love my wife has shown me didn't come from the butterfly-esque/feeling/emotions. She showed me what love is through her actions. She was kind, when she had every right to be angry. She forgave when she had every right to seek revenge. She chose to love me when I was unlovable. She made sacrifices to take care of her boys, and did so ahead of looking out for herself at times.

Today I have a better idea of what love is, because I have seen love in action. In the future, when I reflect on what love is, I am sure I will have even a better idea then I do now. I am glad that my wife and I are in this for the long run. Yes there are ups and downs, but as our lifelong fling continues, the number of opportunities to demonstrate love will grow as well. Each day we have together is a new opportunity to put love into action.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Time to Move On?

Am I being too sentimental? Is it time for me to move on, and make the call?

One may wonder what has brought about this bout of sentimentality, and what this call is that I am referring too. The call that I've contemplated making, but have yet to do, is to my cell phone carrier, and the call is in reference to changing my cell phone number. Twenty-two months ago I moved away from what had been my hometown for six years, and at that time I imagined that I'd move back there in a couple years. However, as the months and years pass I now realize that the chances of me moving back to my former stomping grounds is becoming less and less likely. Yet I still can't bring myself to make the call to switch the number.

Over the past seven plus years that I've had this cell phone number I have been a college student (and a college graduate), worked five or six different jobs, lived in eight apartments, and two countries, been through two relationships that ended, met and married the girl of my dreams, became a father, owned three different cars, attended a handful of different churches, as well as countless other changes. One of the few things that remained unchanged throughout this time period was my telephone number.

I've gone through a list of pros and cons of changing my number, and so far they haven't helped me determine what I should do. One side says that I should have a number that is a local call for those I live near, but the other side of me says that most of the people who call me do so from cell phones and so the whole long distance issue isn't really an issue. Another thought I have is how would I go about contacting everyone who may have my current number to update them with a new number? That thought alone is enough to bring on a headache.

So do I hold on to something that has been a consistent in my life, or do I move on? I guess I have a decision to make.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Dear Son

Recently I started writing a journal of sorts to my son. It's something that came to mind a while back, and so I started writing down my memories dating back to the day that I found out he existed. Someday I hope to share this journal with him.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Scenic Route

Throughout life I, like most men, have had tendencies towards being a checklist person. I come up with a list of the things I want to, or have to do and once I've accomplished them I cross them off.

When I was younger I said I wanted to go to college. Check. I wanted to work in radio. Check. I wanted to get married. Check. And I think you are starting to get the point. However, after spending some time thinking about it, I think the checklist mentality can be responsible for a lot of relational problems that people face. While only a fool would say on his wedding day that's he's accomplished another thing to check of his to do list, many walk away from the alter with a similar mentality.

A few days ago something came to mind. Relationships can be described in word pictures of a person driving a car. If a person is intent on only getting to their final destination, then they are likely to break the rules, and risk injury to both themselves and others to get to their destination. However, if one compares a relationship to taking a scenic route, they will see that sometimes the drive is what makes the relationship, not simply the destination.

If all I am looking for is to end my life married to the same person, then I can possibly do that. But as I've seen first hand, if the only thing keeping two people together is their opposition to divorce, they are in for one long and bumpy road. While a married couple taking the scenic route is also likely to encounter long sections of road, and rocky roads, the distance and bumps aren't likely to have as much damage because they are side-by-side with someone are growing with.

While someone looking to simply cross the finish line may deal with frustration when their partner repeats a story they have heard before, the person on the scenic route may relax, kick up their feet and enjoy the story once again.

When it comes to relationships in life, I'd rather take the scenic route then use the route only to serve my own desires. Along the way I may find that there are things I didn't know I would enjoy, and likely wouldn't have found out if I hadn't taken the time to smell the roses. At the end of the journey, what would you say is more important: total number of miles crossed, or the number of photo albums filled with the snapshots of wonderful times experienced on the scenic route?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lay Your Weapons Down

During a recent sermon at church, God started laying on my heard that I need to resolve some issues that have been left unresolved in the past. Some are with myself, and others involve others.

As I was listening to a new album I bought last week, I came across a song called Weapons. With a title like that, you never know what's in store. But as I listened to the lyrics I couldn't help but keep going back to the sermon I'd heard. The song talks about how bitterness and resentment and anger are all weapons, that wind up hurting oneself more than the people those emotions are aimed at. At one point in the song it says: Things we planted on the worst days of the year/Grew to fingers that rip at the joy/And set our backs against the wall/Lay your weapons down.../There are no enemies in front of you. Later on in the song it says this: Hallelujah, we can finally see/How the bitterness was bruising on our skin/We didn’t notice that grace had run so thin/Till we’re falling apart and the cracks in our hearts let the truth sink in.

It's time for me to stop picking at the scabbed over wounds in my life and stand up and take action. It's time to stop feeling pity for myself, and bitterness towards others and resolve to do what I can to resolve unresolved issues.

Here it goes.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

All or Nothing Music Reviews

There are a handful of musical acts that I would say I follow. While my music collection includes hundreds of artists, only a few have earned the classification of anything they put out I'll buy status.

Over the past month and a half two such artists have released albums, and as I typically do with elite artists, I looked up as many album reviews as I could find. One thing I found in common with the review of both of these albums is that no reviewer was willing to say anything negative about either band. Reviewers seemed to be tripping all over themselves and it seemed to be as if they expected to receive compensation for the positive reviews (ala Belkin).

In one sense I agree with much of what the reviewers were saying. However, I believe that giving too many albums 5 stars (think Ebert and Roeper "Two Thumbs Up") makes the rating system--for all intents and purposes--worthless. Five star albums are in many ways similar to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And many reviewers treat 5 stars like Ike Taylor treats once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback is infamous for once saying "you only get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so many times."

So how should reviewers handle ratings of top shelf artists? Should they be allowed to give any album from such an artist the highest rating, or should they rate them on a separate scale? One option that I see would be for the reviewer to state that they are using a so-and-so artist scale (insert artists name here), and then rate the new album by the standard of all of the artists previous work. While Norah Jones' Feels Like Home was a good album, and worthy of recognition, it was no Come Away With Me, and so this is one example of where a separate rating system could come into play. A reviewer could say something like "while the new album can stand its own with anything else that is also being put out by other artists/bands, it falls somewhere between (insert name of the artists greatest record) and (a weaker, although still good album by the artist).

I am probably not alone in my dislike of the review process, but until a new method is thought up, and put into play, I guess I will have to just continue to work my way through reviews--trying to read between the lines to see what the reviewer is really saying.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Finer Things

Digital Surround Sound

8 O'Clock Coffee

Dr. Marten Boots

DSLR Camera

Music Boxes

Grand Father Clocks

Music

DJarum Black

Moleskine journals

quality headphones

Flying first class (especially on international flights)

A coffee grinder at home

A quality cappuccino maker

Rice Krispy Treats

Raw horse meat (think Japan)

A glass of JD

Tempur-Pedic pillows

Quality cigars

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cleaning Off My Boots

At first it was an interest. Then it became a fascination. Over time it became an obsession. What was this obsession, you may ask? Politics. I knew who Rush Limbaugh was before I started high school, and was a ditto head from the time I first heard him. He, along with a few others, was why I wanted to get into radio. And the time I spent in radio capped the obsession phase of my life.

Then something happened in me. It was lyrics from a song, and a message even deeper that started this change in me. The lyrics go like this: I pledge allegiance to a country, without borders, without politicians. The message just about as direct, but more effective: (quoting Jesus) My kingdom is not of this realm.

If you had told me in the past that I'd find myself where I currently do, I wouldn't have believed you. Yet here I am.

This is not a change that I orchestrated. This is something bigger and smaller than I can truly grasp. It's a change of heart. And not just any change of heart, but one that the One who's kingdom of mentioned above brought about in me. Two things that have looped in my mind, since this change of heart started, are that elephant dung and donkey dung are still both dung. And that I, we, they gain nothing if they pass legislation yet leave hearts unchanged.

At the end of the day, the direction I find myself heading is to leave the dirty work to those who give blood and shovel elephant dung, and yet, while remaining in the world, be about my Father's business.

Where this road ends is something I don't know. I'm not the driver, just along for the ride.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Boy After His Daddy's Heart

Words cannot express the joy I've had, so far, being a daddy. My little guy is really developing into a little boy, and in many ways is no longer a baby. He has likes, dislikes, and if you mistake the two he'll be sure to let you know. This week I discovered one of his new likes--music boxes. He's a boy after his daddy's heart.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Writing for Reuel

Recently I started writing down thoughts for my son. Mostly little things, but things that he may be interested in reading some day. In the process of writing I was reminded of some of the little things, like what it felt like to feel him kick for the first time, or seeing how he responded to my voice minutes after his birth. My little guy is eight months old now, and yet it feels like he's already grown so much.

This last weekend my in-laws were out of town, my wife, son and I joined my wife's sister's family at my in-laws house. While the sisters were making dinner in the kitchen, my brother-in-law and myself were watching TV in the living room. Reuel was in the kitchen with his mommy, or at least I thought. As I was watching TV I saw something out of the corner of my eye and looked towards the stairs. Little Ray was crawling up the stairs, and by the time I got over to him he was on the 7th or 8th stair. My little boy is growing to be fearless, and that scares the crap out of me. When I saw him up the stairs my heart felt like it stopped. I could just imagine him falling backwards down the stairs. In one sense it scared me, and in another sense it was so cute to see my little, independent boy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Breather

This weekend I have a few days off of work. The restaurant is closed Saturday-Monday and so my wife and I are planning on catching up on rest and taking care of a few things we've been neglecting. Among other things we are going to clean the house, come up with a budget (since I now have a job), spend a little time with some of my in laws, and did I mention catch up on rest?!?! One thing I'm not looking forward to is giving up caffeine for the weekend. I've been drinking way too much coffee recently (went through 2.5 lbs of coffee beans at home, not counting what I drink away from home--over the past month) and so I'm going to try and let my body adjust to no caffeine for at least the weekend.

I've been thinking about a few things this week, and I came to the conclusion that I'm getting old. The fact that I'm getting old isn't because I'm 30, and turning 31 next month, but instead because my oldest sister is turning 40 this weekend. Forty isn't even that old, but I remember as a young child thinking my parents were really old when they turned 40 (I was 8 at the time). And now my sister is 40. How time flies.

Due to finances, this week we cut back our internet to a slower speed. Time Warner in our area has several different speeds, and so we cut it back to 1.5Mbps from 7Mbps. While the speed is good for downloading stuff, and still good for viewing webpages, I can no longer watch HD content online without it stopping to re-buffer. The higher internet costs $17 more a month.

The Sabres missed the playoffs for the second straight year. I'm bummed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Forgiveness And My Need For Counseling

My wife and I were talking tonight, and one thing we both have come to the conclusion is that we need to forgive people who have wronged us in the past. As an A.A. mentor would say, admission (or verbalizing it) is half the battle. However, simply saying that we need to forgive those who have wronged us is no where near half the struggle. Some of the people we talked about which we need to forgive have wronged us in ways that hurt deeply, and left emotional scars that have yet to heal. While we both acknowledged that we need to forgive these people, knowing what steps to take next are not so easy to figure out.

In a similar line of thought, I've been wondering for a while if Christian counseling would be a good thing for me. Not always, but sometimes my tendencies are to beat myself up over things in my life, even some that I have no control over. The rhetorical question on my mind right now is if I should pursue finding someone whom I can talk through these things with.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


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Wanting To Spend Time With Daddy

My son is almost eight months old, and every day he brings new joy into my life. I love watching him discover new things, and grow up before my very eyes.

From time to time when I am somewhere with my son I will call his name, but instead of coming to me he crawls away, or ignores my call. However, today as I was watching Reuel, I called him and he started crawling towards me. At first I thought he wanted me to hold his hands, so he could walk around, but instead he just wanted to be with me. He crawled across the room, and just put up his hands for me to pick him up. When I picked him up he smiled and just sat on my lap. After a bit, he fell asleep in my arms.

From the moment of his birth, Reuel has recognized my voice. At times he doesn't like to hear my voice, when I am trying to keep him from disobeying, but in most instances he enjoys hearing my voice, and when I walk into a room he's in his face lights up.

As I was holding my little "friend of God" today (Reuel is Hebrew for "friend of God") it hit me that I am often like Reuel when it comes to my Heavenly Father. Often times when He calls me I ignore His voice, and continue on doing what I want to do. But at times, when I heed His calling and go to Him, He comforts me and in His care I find true rest.

Reuel often makes me wonder why he ignores my voice, when I truly want what is best for him. I'm not going out of my way to curb his fun, but instead to help him be safe. In a similar way, I need to realize that the limits God places on us aren't to stop us for enjoying life, but rather to mold us into the perfect being He wants us to be.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Calling?

For a couple of years now I've considered going to seminary. I've loved studying theology for years now, and so seminary has lingered in my mind. But, I've never felt "called" into full time occupational ministry, such as the pastorate. Then again, maybe I have been.

Roughly a dozen years ago I heard someone say "If you can do anything other than full time (occupational) ministry, then do it." Their point was if you are fulfilled in life working a regular job, and living out your Christian faith--which we are all called to do--then God isn't truly calling you into occupational ministry. However, looking back, I haven't felt fulfilled in any of the fields of work I've taken on. And my desire to learn more about God, and to study theology has continued to grow. Could this be a way in which God is calling me to something else? Could this be a Psalm 37:4 experience in my life? It just might be.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Investments That Have Paid Off, or Cost Me

Over the years I’ve made a number of good investments, and probably a larger number of bad ones. Yesterday, as I was making a cappuccino, I was thinking back to some of the good investments I’ve made, and also about a few of the not-so-great ones. While these investments weren’t in the stock market, they were investments none the less.

The Winners:

One of the best investments I’ve ever made was deciding to go to the first college I went to. Over the two years I attended the school I learned so much, and what I learned still impacts my day-in, day-out life today. (Total Estimated Cost: Two years and $19,000)

On a similar vein, I would say a trip taken during my second year in college would make the list. In March 1998 I had the opportunity to go to Israel for more than a week, to tour the Holy Land. The trip opened my eyes in many ways, and started my interest in studying the Abrahamic Covenant (an interest that continues today). (Total Estimated Cost: $1,500)

In August 2006, three months after I started dating the woman I would marry, I started shopping for engagement rings. From a number of conversations we had had, I knew that the love of my life didn’t really like flashy jewelry, and so I set out to find something simple, yet elegant. After a few weeks, and about 30 stores later, I found the ring for her. It was a 1/3 ct. Canadia diamond in white gold. While the commitment I made, with the giving of this ring, is priceless, the price paid for the ring was well worth the price to see the surprise on her face when I pulled it out. (Total Estimated Value: $1,900)

Leading up to our wedding we weren’t sure what route to take when it came to wedding photography. After putting some thought into it, and talking to a good friend of mine, we opted to go with a non-traditional route. Instead of paying the $700-3,000 that we had seen listed for photographers, we opted to buy our own camera and ask my friend to take pictures for us. We realized this was a big risk, but it was a risk we were willing to take. At the end of the day, not only did we get great pictures, we also owned a very nice DSLR (Sony A100 with 18mm-200mm lens). (Total Camera/Accessories Cost: $1,200)

Before I leave the Sony A100 aside, I’d also like to point out that having moved to Japan, if I had stuck with a film camera I never would have taken the 6,000-8,000 pictures I did while living there. (Estimated Savings for Film and Processing of 7,000 pictures: $3913)

Back in 2001 I made a small investment that paid for itself quickly, and continues to pay dividends. This investment is the cappuccino maker I mentioned earlier. After receiving some gift money for my 23rd birthday, I decided to buy the cappuccino maker. The first dozen or so cappuccinos were flops, and over time I learned I’m a little more particular in regards to what coffee beans I’ll use to make my cappuccinos, but it’s undeniable that this investment was worth the upfront cost. Compared to the $3-$5 a cappuccino or caramel macchiato at Starbucks, owning my own cappuccino maker and paying around $0.15-$0.30 per cappuccino (for supplies) is well worth the cost. (Purchase Price: $109 or approximately $0.05 per drink made)

Before returning to college in 2001, after a two-plus year break, I purchased a pair of Dr. Martens. Prior to that point I was wearing out shoes rather quickly, and so I decided to spend a little bit of money and hopefully be able to use them for a little longer. Over the seven years that followed, I probably averaged wearing my Dr. Martens five days a week. I wore them to school, for leisure, to work and just about everywhere else. Prior to moving to Japan I purchased a new pair of Dr. Martens to replace my old ones, which by that time had very little traction left on them, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the old ones. I still have the old ones, and have worn them on a dozen or so occasions since returning from Japan. After I returned from Japan, I went back to visit the radio station I worked at out of college, and one of my former co-workers asked me where my Dr. Martens were. He joked that he’d seen me several mornings a week for the four-plus years I worked with him, and he’d never seen me wearing any other shoes. When all is said and done, I may have paid more for my first pair of Dr. Martens than any other pair of shoes I’ve bought, but they were worth the price. (Purchase Price: $99 or $0.05 cents per day I wore them)

The Losers:

Right out of college I got a job working in my field of study. A month after starting my job I decided that I wanted to buy a HDTV, and so I did. I researched them, looked at dozens of stores and finally decided to buy a 32” tube (as in not flat panel) HDTV. Over the five and a half years I’ve had the TV I’ve watched hundreds of hours of DVD’s on it, as well as cable TV (when I had it), and I’ve played hundreds of hours of video games. So, the question may be asked, why do I put this on the list of losers? Well, out of the hundreds, if not thousands of hours I’ve used my HDTV, I probably have only watched HD content for maybe 50 hours. And while standard definition signal looks good on the TV, I could have bought a SD 32” TV for probably $700-$800 less than what I paid for my TV. (Purchase Price with four year warranty: $1250)

Another loser among my investments covers a number of purchases over a number of years. As a result its total cost cannot be easily added, and so I will not put a dollar amount on it. These purchases were in the form of extended warranties. While not every extended warranty is a loser in my mind, in hind sight most are simply not worth the price. Two notable exceptions I would make are the warranties I got with my car, which added four years and 60,000 miles onto the manufactures warranty, and the four year accidental breakage warranty I purchased on our DSLR camera. I knew that we were going to Japan to live, and so I believe the cost was worth the repair bill if the camera would have been accidentally broken. But, in a dozen other cases, I was hooked into buying warranties on things such as hard drives, cell phones, printers, my HDTV and DVD players. Retailers can charge you up to 25%, or higher?!?!, for a warranty that in many cases doesn’t even cover things that tend to break down. On more than one occasion I have tried to have a product serviced under the extended warranty, only to be told that it would not be covered because the problem was a result of “normal wear.”

This first half of this one may get me in trouble with my wife. The next loser is books and DVDs. There are some books that I am glad I purchased, but most of the books I have bought I should have borrowed from a library. Years ago I wanted to build up a library of my own, and so I bought books that looked interesting. Most of the books I read, but looking back only a dozen or so were worth buying. Most of the books I have I could have gleamed what I could from them, and then returned them to the library. (Who knows, maybe my wife would agree with me after all). When it comes to DVDs, instead of spending the money I did to buy many of the DVDs I do, or have owned, I would have been better off paying $2-$4 to rent the movies each time I wanted to watch them. In only one or two movies case would I have spent more money paying such fees to rent the movie each time I wanted to see it, then I did by buying the film at a rate of $15-$20.

The last purchase I’m going to put into the category of losers is my car. I like my car, and it has served me very well. My car gets great mileage (35-39 MPG) and hasn’t had any major breakdowns over the 27 months I’ve had it. The reason I would put my car in the loser category is because I took out a loan to buy my car. Instead of buying a car I could afford, or even buying a slightly older car with smaller payments, I purchased a nice car and am still paying for it. In the past two years I’ve become more anti-debt, and as a result I would rather own an old car, and not have payments, than have a nice newer car and be locked into payments. In the future I hope to only buy cars with cash, and not have another car payment. (Total Cost of Car and Extended Warranty: $16,000 without interest)

Summary:

Looking back it’s easy to see some of the big winners and big losers in regards to time and money spent. But looking back I have an advantage that I didn’t have before—hindsight. My Dr. Martens could have worn out in 6 months, or my girlfriend could have rejected my proposal (by which time the ring was outside of the period in which I could have returned it), or our wedding photos could have been disastrous. While the winners listed above did turn out well, I realize that they just as easily could have been disasters, and could have made it on the losers list.

Something that has been beneficial for me in looking back at the purchases I’ve added to these lists is more of what I find in the losers list, rather than the winners one. The items on the second list were made more out of an attitude of entitlement than anything else. I owe it to myself to have a nice TV or a nice car, or a large DVD collection. I owe it to myself to have these things, even if I can’t afford them at this point and time. None of the items purchased are inherently bad, but rather it was my reasoning for buying most of them that make them losers as I look back. In several cases I traded a hope of future income for immediate pleasure.

Because of the way God made space and time I cannot go back and change the mistakes I have made in the past. However, if I am wise, I can use the lessons of the past to help me know what choices to make in the future.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Overanalyzing the Music

Yesterday I was listening to some of the podcast I have on my computer, and came across an episode of All Songs Considered from NPR. While I subscribe to the podcast, I haven’t had time in a while to just sit back and listen. So while working on a few things around the house I started listening. Half way through the show, the host of the program posed a question to his audience. His question was something like why do you like the musical artist you do.

This afternoon I watched a documentary on the state of music in America. “Before the Music Dies” interviews artist, former record label execs and others and tries to find out why so many genuine artists are out in the cold, while prefab artists are thriving—at least in regards to record sales and radio airplays.

Listening to, and watching these programs started the wheels of my head turning. Why do I listen to the artist I do, and what factors lead me to open up my wallet and invest my money, and time, in listening to the music I do. After thinking about the subject for a bit I came up with at least three reasons why I listen to the songs and artists I do.

One reason I listen to music is because the music appeals to my taste, or I find the music itself intriguing. As a teen my music appreciation was rather limited, but as the years have passed my music interest has been stretched. Where as a high school student the genres I listened to were rather limited, now I have a wide spectrum of genres that I enjoy listening to at times. One point that needs to be made is that even though I like jazz, for example, that does not mean all music that all jazz artists or songs are appealing to me. And sometimes the same song, sung by two different artists, can bring about different reactions on my part.

Another reason I like some of the music I like is because a song or artist has one or more memories attached to them in my mind. There are CDs that I can tell you exactly what date the album was released, or when I listened to it for the first time. Some CDs take me back to high school, college, or other stages in my life, and carry some level of sentimentality along with them. As time passes, there are certain songs and artists that lose their sentimentality, while other songs and artists are added to this category.

The third reason I listen to the music I do is because of the lyrics. There are some songs that tap into an emotion or feeling that I can identify with. Some artists have a way of saying what I wish I could say. At times I hear a song and can identify with what they are singing about, even if I had not been able to put my thoughts and feelings into words before that point. At other times, lyrics have been known to start the wheels of my head turning. As someone who tends to over think things, this can be a potential downside of music. However, in more cases than not, music that gets me thinking is a good thing.

In trying to determine what percentage of the music I listen to would fit in each of the three categories I listed I couldn’t think of how one would quantify them. But giving a guess, I would say that the first category (music that appeals to my taste, or is intriguing) would probably account for 25 percent, the second category (sentimentality, or a memory attached to the music) would probably account for 20 percent, and the third classification (lyrics that I can relate to, or that get me thinking) would probably account for more than half of the music I listen to.

There are some songs/albums that would fit into two or more of the above categories, while some music may be limited to just one. I can think of a few examples of songs that have memories attached to them, in which the songs don’t appeal to my musical tastes, and in which their lyrics don’t necessarily jump out at me.

So, why do you listen to the music you listen to? Care to share?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Clearer Vision

A few months ago I got a new pair of glasses. Leading up to that time I knew my eyes were changing, and the eye doctor told me that my new glasses should help. She told me that I could use them as much, or as little as I needed. At first I thought they would be only for reading, which was my primary complaint in the first place. But as time went on I have noticed that I am wearing them more and more. What first helped with reading now has improved my vision in other areas as well. I can still see, and even read without my glasses, but my vision isn't quite as clear.

This morning I woke up and started my day getting ready for work. I spent a little time reading e-mail, making coffee as well as other doing other things. After being up for an hour and a half it dawned on me that I didn't have my glasses on. The thought hadn't dawned on me that my vision wasn't what it should be. Instead I was just going about my day as best I thought I should. Then it hit me. I often forget to put on the armor of God, in the same way I forget to put on my glasses. I get up in the morning, and go about the day as if everything is ok. But what I often forget to do is to put on the armor of God. I seek to take on the battles of the day under my own power. And while sometimes I may not notice much of a difference, my vision is still affected.

Both my glasses and my Bible often are on my desk when I wake up in the morning. Something I need to do a better job of is remembering to put on my glasses, so that I can see things better, and pick up my Bible, so that I will see the things of God more clearly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

We're Rich

My wife and I have been going through a Bible study on finances at a local Methodist church. Each week we get together on Tuesday evening and we go through another chapter of a book that looks at what the Bible has to say about money, debt, savings, giving, etc.

This week as my wife and I were walking out to the car, she turned to me and said "You know, I think we may be the richest people here." Depending on how well you know my wife and I you may think that my wife was being arrogant in her statement. But if you consider the fact that we are a family of three, living on significantly less than what is considered poverty level then it may shed new light on her assessment. But what my wife was saying wasn't that we have the largest paychecks, or that we have the biggest house, nicest car or the best possessions.

What led my wife to her conclusion was the fact that while we currently are living on my income of $2.85 an hour, plus tips, for 20-30 hours a week, we have no credit card debt, and we aren't under the bondage of debt in the same way as most of the others in the class. Yes, I brought some debt into our marriage, but all of our remaining debt is interest free and is owed to family members. While owing family money carries it's own pressures, we don't have to worry about foreclosure and repossession calls. And while we do not have much money in the bank, we have never had a bill come due that God hasn't given us means to pay. Even during my 10 weeks of unemployment, with no income, every bill was paid, and God took care of our needs.

A number of years ago, before I was married, I brought home a good income. I was able to afford some of the nicer things in life, and spent my money chasing after happiness. Looking back at the last decade I'm amazed to see how much money I made in some years, compared to the small income I brought in last year. And yet, looking back, in years gone by, I never had enough money. I was never satisfied. And now, being responsible for a family of three, and bringing in less than half of what I have at different points in the past, I'm amazed at how blessed I am. Not only has God allowed our pennies to stretch well beyond what many would have thought they could, but God has also used other Christians to bless us so much.

God has brought me to the point where I can finally say that I agree with the Apostle Paul who taught that contentment is a matter of attitude, and not dependent on one's circumstances. I am not perfect, and I often find myself battling my old-nature and coveting things I don't need. But at the end of the day, when I'm honest with myself, I agree with my wife that we truly are rich.

Monday, March 23, 2009

World Traveler

Today I started off the day enjoying coffee in Washington, D.C. and this evening I'm enjoying a cappuccino in Kyoto, Japan. Between my caffeine fixes I didn't spend hours running around airports, or sitting in uncomfortable airplane seats. On the contrary I spent all day in smalltown Ohio, and enjoyed things like reading, talking with my wife, going for a walk with my son and talking on the phone.

While enjoying my coffee and cappuccino I was reminded of different friends, and different points and times in my life. In the fall of 2005 I visited my nation's Capital, and in 2006 a longtime friend presented me with a gift of a Washington D.C. Starbucks mug. She knew I collected the mugs, and when she came to Ohio to visit me she brought me the mug. Later that year, while visiting the love of my life in Japan, my fiancee gave me the gift of a mug from Kyoto. A year and a half later, several international flights later, I had the opportunity to visit Kyoto before departing Japan to return to the U.S.

Having had spent time in both Washington, D.C. and Kyoto, each time I pour myself a cup of coffee in the mugs from their city's I'm reminded not only of my time spent there, but also of those who gave me the gifts.

Tomorrow is another day that will be filled with other adventures. I may start off the day in Beijing, and see where I go from there.

Back to the Books

I enjoy reading. I really do. However, if there is anything else I can be doing, the alternative to reading wins about 99 percent of the time. Last week I decided that I'm going to make an effort to read more. With starting a part time job this week I'll have some things to do, but in addition I'll still have time on my hands that could be better spent than wasting time on things that don't really produce any benefits.

I've started to compile a list of books I want to read. I'm not sure if I'll get to all of them, or how many others will jump into the list, but right now I already know of a dozen or so books. Now, I need to find a way to get a few of them, since my library doesn't have them and I don't own them.

Here's my started list:

"There Really is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology" by Renald Showers (own and am re-reading on my own)

"Depating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views"
by Dave Hunt & James White (Own, and am reading and discussing with my wife)

"Dispensationalism" by Charles Ryrie (own)

"Biblical Preaching: The development and delivery of Expository Messages" by Haddon Robinson (own)

"Preaching & Teaching with Imagination" by Warren W. Wiersbe (own)

"Maranatha Our Lord, Come!: A Definitive study of the Rapture of the Church" by Showers (own)

"The Basis of the Premillennial Faith" by Ryrie (own)

"The Gospel According to Jesus" by John MacArthur (own)

"So Great Salvation" by Ryrie (on my Amazon.com wishlist) ((this book is a response to the doctrine taught in "The Gospel According to Jesus"))


"One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism"
by Ken Ham, Carl Wieland and Don Batten (own)

"Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist"
by John Piper (own)

"Institutes of the Christian Religion"
by John Calvin (Amazon wish list)

"St. Augustine's Confessions" by Augustine of Hippo (Amazon wish list)

"Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinist"
by Collin Hansen (Amazon wish list)

"The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented" by David Steele, et al (Amazon wish list)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Keep the Change

For years I collected change. Now I avoid it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Highs and Lows

Back in the late 90's I worked a job at a particular factory for a few months. It was a job I got through a temp-agency, and after ten weeks or so the assignment ended and I started a different job. One of the things that I remember about that job was at 5pm every Friday the one radio station my co-worker listened to would play the song "Closing Time" by Semisonic. The classic rock station played the song, since 5PM on Friday is when most businesses close.

One line in the song that has always stuck out to me. The line says that "every new beginning comes at some other beginning's end." While the line is simple in one sense, it carries a lot of depth to it in another. In one sense it's easy to have the "um,....yeah...that's obvious" attitude towards it, yet at the same time it's something we often overlook in our day in, day out lives.

I'm at one of those beginning/ending points in my life. For a number of years now God has been working in my life in the area of faith. In a sense, He keeps asking me if I truly trust Him. Then, with every turn, He takes away another crutch I've been leaning on, and repeats the question. While others around me may think, like little Glenn Cunningham, the setbacks in life are debilitating, God is asking me to run the race He's set out before me.

How will this race end? I don't know. My hope is that I will not grow weary "in well doing" and that I will "finish the course" and most importantly that I will have "kept the faith."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two Months and Counting

I'm finding it difficult not to get discouraged when day after day, application after application goes by. I tried to add up all of the jobs/companies I've contacted the other day and it was around 60, and so far I've only had one interview--which I haven't heard back from--and have only received word on three other applications that the position has been filled. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude, remembering that God knows how this will all end, but my frail, human nature sometimes gets the better of me and discouragement creeps in.

God has provide for my family each step of the way, and through the generosity of our church we haven't lacked anything. They have provided food, and on several occasions we have been given anonymous cash and gift card gifts. Things have been tight, but God has provided for our needs. Our church family has been such a blessing to us, and God has used them to help us during times of discouragement.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Father Abraham

Thursday night, as I was about to fall to sleep, I had a random thought go through my mind. At the time I started talking to my wife about the ethics of a fictional person writing a book while on unemployment. My question was, would it be unethical for said person to write a book, while looking for work, and sell the book they wrote later and make money? At first it was just a random thought, one among many that I often have. However, on Friday I started thinking about it. Why not? When I worked in Japan I started studying the Abrahamic Covenant, and I've thought about someday pursuing a Masters degree in Theology, or Old Testament studies, and even thought about writing a thesis on the Abrahamic Covenant. While I don't know if I would be able to write enough to make a good thesis, much less book, studying the subject would give me something more productive to do with my free time while out of work.

My recent interest in the Abrahamic Covenant came about while taking part in online discussions about the Jewish people, and Christians (a.k.a. "the church"). In the specific forum I was taking part in, many of the participants were of the belief that the church had replaced the Jews as God's chosen people. I, on the other hand, believe that while Christians are chosen of God, Israel remains, as God described them in the Old Testament, His "firstborn." Since I had a fair amount of free time at my job, I started studying the Old Testament and some of the New Testament to see what it said about Israel and the Church.

Since returning to the U.S. I haven't studied the subject more, mostly due to other things taking up my time, but I'm starting to think that now is the perfect time to pick up where I left off. If I am able to turn my studies into a thesis paper or something else that would be great. If my studies are only for my own benefit and never are read by others that would also be fine with me. Either way, I would be studying a subject I believe is interesting, and the time spent wouldn't be in vain.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Down

The last few days I've felt discouraged. In part it's due to having been out of work for two months now, and part of it is simply winter blues. In the past I've dealt with winter blues, but the last couple winters I hadn't. I know that God is still in control, and that "all things work together for good to those who trust Him" but at times I still lose my focus, and discouragement overtakes me. And in addition to all of that, I'm now out of coffee.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Original In An Unoriginal Way

There is nothing original in listing a collection of quotes from another, yet sometimes the most original thing one can do is admit that they cannot find the words to express their own thoughts. At moments like these, sometimes we need to rely on others to say what we cannot seem to say ourselves.

I am not, nor have ever been a poet. My wife dabbles in poetry, and of her talent I am jealous. I am also not a musician, and likely will never be one. Not being a lyricist or musician myself, I sometimes find myself dealing with jealousy of those who can paint pictures with their words; word pictures that speak volumes over the course of a few lines. Sometimes word pictures I hear impact me in a way that another will not be impacted, just as some word pictures are lost on me, while others feel touched by them.

Tonight nearly 30 years of U2 lyrics are the best I can do to sum up where my heart is, and where it wants to be.

Jesus, Jesus help me
I'm alone in this world
And a fucked up world it is too
Tell me, tell me the story
The one about eternity
And the way it's all gonna be

(Wake Up Dead Man)


Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy

(Until the End of the World)

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
And my shame
All my shame
You know I believe it

(I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking Fore)

...The rule has been disproved
The stone, it has been moved
The grave is now a grove
All debts are removed
...
Oh, can't you see what love has done
To every broken heart
Oh, can't you see what love has done
For every heart that cries
Oh, can't you see what love has done
Love left a window in the skies...

(Window In The Skies)

Once I knew there was a love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the lamb as white as snow

(White As Snow)

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes and make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt and make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul and make it sing, sing

(Yehweh)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Family, Coffee, Theology, U2 and Blogging

Having time on your hands can give you an opportunity to catch up on things you enjoy, but usually can't afford to spend time on. When I was working often was tired in the evenings, and days off were usually spent catching up on things that hadn't been attended to during the week. But now that I've been out of work for almost two months I've noticed that there are some things that I have enjoyed about unemployment. While there are different stresses added to life sans-paychecks, I've made the best of the time I've had and for that I have no regrets.

Family. For the first time in years I've been getting enough rest, and have enjoyed not having to set an alarm. After I'm up, and well rested, I've enjoyed taking part in activities that often were pushed to the wayside, due to more pressing duties. Money cannot replace the experience of not only being a father, but having your child want to spend time with you. In the past my son would come to me, but if my wife were around he'd fuss that he wanted to be with her. Now, having spent time with him in which I wasn't pressed by other responsibilities, he is content to be with either of his parents. It does an amazing thing to a father's heart to know that he is loved by his children, and that they want to spend time with him. In addition to spending time with my son, I've enjoyed being able to spend extra time with my wife. I've found myself enjoying a lot of the little things that I usually missed, due to having a dozen other things on my mind while at home. While taking time to "be still" can be beneficial to my spiritual life, I'm finding out more and more it can be beneficial to my marriage as well.

Coffee. While at work I often drink coffee, but don't have the opportunity to really enjoy coffee. As an old saying goes, "over the teeth and through the gums, watch out stomach here it comes" was often how I drank coffee. It was something that happened on the run, and usually was more of a necessity than a pleasure. Being at home I've made use of my cappuccino maker, which for the most part had been collecting dust, and have also enjoyed the daily routine of brewing one or more pots of coffee. In addition to testing several different styles of coffee I had in my cupboard, I've also discovered a new coffee that I have truly enjoyed. One thing I do miss, however, is enjoying coffee and conversations in the company of friends. In the past one of my favorite pastimes was going fore coffee, and enjoying great conversations with friends and acquaintances.

Theology. I have enjoyed studying theology for years, and have enjoyed the extra time I've had to do some reading. Some of my reading has been of the biographical type, while other has been historical and theological. In reading one particular theology book, I'm reminded of how much I enjoyed in depth study that I was able to do while living in Japan. In Japan I spent scores of hours studying the Abrahamic Covenant, and while the current book I'm reading has nothing to do with the Abrahamic Covenant, my desire to do in depth study was given a new spark. While I'm not sure if it's possible, I'd love to find a job that allows me the time to do the studying I enjoy.

U2. Much to the dismay of my wife I've spent a fair amount of time listening to U2 over the past few months. Near the end of last year I received a gift card for an online music store, and due to the gift card's expiration date I had to use the card rather quickly. In the final hours before the card expired I decided to work on completing my U2 catelogue. Before that time I had five or so U2 albums, but now I have a nearly complete collection of their studio albums in addition to a mix of rarities. There is something within U2's lyrics that I find encouraging. Their lyrics are full of life's ups and downs, hopes and dreams, spiritual victories and doubts. In addition to my current U2 music, I've also enjoyed previewing their newest album on their website.

Blogging. Time spent thinking, in addition to extra time on my hands has led to more blogging on my part. I enjoy putting some of my thoughts down in a form that can be reflected on at a later time. In essence, blogging for me is a way of capturing some of my thoughts before they fade away.

Nothing At All

I want to write, but don't know what to write about. At moments like this one I often find myself with a lot on my mind, but trying to put my head full of thoughts down in writing seems an impossible task. Some of the emotions that I feel inside are those of contentment, while others feel that I should be reaching out for more. I'm feeling loved, yet longing for something more. I'm realizing how blessed I am, and at the same time wishing for something I don't have. I am happy, yet for some reason feel sad.

At times in the past I'd have something clever to write, and would feel content about expressing my thoughts when at a later point I looked back at what I'd written. But my creativity has escaped me, and right now I feel like I'm left with not much more than a shell.

Beyond the clicking of the keys on the keyboard, and the occasional crying of my son, I'm left alone to hear the thoughts running in my head. Sometimes I wish my mind had a volume knob that I could turn down, giving myself a break from their endless cycle. When all is said and done the lyrics to a song keep looping in my head: But I know I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy tonight.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Growth In And Out Of The Sanctuary

Life happens. While growth happens in life, it often doesn’t happen to its fullest while facing the full bombardment that life can bring your way. A good recipe for growth is a mixture of life in the real world and life in a sanctuary. If one never retreats to a sanctuary they are not likely to see real growth in their life. But if one spends all their time in a sanctuary they are also not going to see real growth.

A sanctuary isn’t just a place of reprieve, but also a place of conditioning. A sanctuary may at times be a battlefield hospital, where one can receive the help they need for their wounds in an environment that usually is away from the front lines of the battle. While the medical staff you are surrounded by may have to cut with scalpels, the intent of their cut is to promote health. A sanctuary can also be a gym, where a soldier can lose he armor that protects them from outside attacks, and gives them a chance to condition their muscles to stimulate growth. If we depend on only the bulking up that takes place in battle we are likely to be knocked down by the first challenge that comes in our direction.

We must use our time in the sanctuary to prepare ourselves for battle, so that we will be ready to face the battles that come our way. While growth in the sanctuary doesn’t come without pain, being surrounded by our allies should help us prepare for the real battles. Our allies should be the ones that cautiously spot us in the weight room, making sure we aren’t trying to carry more of a load than we can handle, and they should also be those who skillfully use the scalpels to cut away the diseases that we have allowed to grow in us.

At times our sanctuaries seem to be just another front of life’s battles, we know that the wounds of our friends are to help us as we grow and move in the right direction.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Churches, Jobs and Dealing With the Politics

After graduating college I struggled to find a local church that I could connect with. My work schedule made it difficult for me to attend a number of services throughout the week, and when I was able to attend I didn't feel that I was really connecting with others around me. Sunday mornings weren't a time when I was joined together with other believers, and I didn't have others opening up to me so I could help them carry their burdens, and I had no one whom I could open up to for me to share my burdens with them. That period was a dark time for me, and during that time I wrote a blog entry entitled Starbucks Vs. The Church.

After a period of searching I was able to find a local body of believers where I was able to plug in and be involved in the lives around me. At times I was able to be of spiritual encouragement to those I worshiped with, and more often others were of spiritual encouragement to me.

Skipping ahead a couple of years I found myself in a different position, having moved to a foreign country with little to no options when it came to churches attend. Not only was I outside of a "Christian" environment, but I also was in a country where few people spoke the same language as me. Some Sunday mornings my wife and I would attend a small Christian church, but with the sermon being in a foreign language we got little to nothing out of the messages.

After returning to the U.S. my wife and I quickly got involved in her home church. While the denomination was new to me, I was able to get involved in working in the children's ministry, and was able to connect with others who were my age. For the first time in years, and in some senses the first time in my life I truly had a church family that I could call my home church. My church truly takes to heart the N.T. command to carry each others burdens, and on more than one occasion has helped my wife and I out, when we were in need. Unlike other times I've experienced helping hands, when it comes to those at my church I do not feel that their gifts are out of a sense of obligation, but instead out of love.

Here is where I face a dilemma. In the past I worked for a Christian organization, and part of me would like to return to work for that organization in the future. But that organization has a policy that includes prospective workers must be members of churches that share similar doctrinal background as the organization. If I were to return to work for that organization now I wouldn't have too much difficulty, because I never withdrew my membership from the church I attended when I previously worked there, but if I do not move back to the area of my former church soon I would like to join the church I've attended for the past 11 months.

While I do not hold to some of the doctrinal positions of those in my current church, for example I believe I am the only Calvinist there, it is a godly group of believers that I am able to worship and minister with. This week I read an article online which got me thinking about why I haven't joined my church. I'm inclined to think I should join the church and deal with any subsequent issues later.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mr. Ugly

Today my wife was finally able to meet some of my friends from N.Y. For the past 13 years I've known Dan and his wife, through working with him in the summer of 1996 and the summer of 2001 Dan and I became good friends. I still remember one of my first meetings with Dan, when a little child mispronounced his last name and called him "Mr. Ugly." While time and duties have limited our contact since 2001, I have enjoyed the times when we were able to catch up.

Over my 30 years I've only had a few friends like Dan, who I could be real with without having them look poorly on me as a result. While he may not agree with all the decisions I make in life and I may not agree with all of his decisions, I'm glad for his friendship. I need more men like Dan in my life.

Goodbye, Goodbye Home

Eight years ago last month I packed many of my belongings into my parents van and my parents drove me to Ohio, and I returned to college. After a two and a half year break from college I started back. Little did I know that January morning in 2001 that I was moving out of New York, not to return--except for short vacations.

Durring past trips back to my old stomping grounds I was hit with a sort of sentimentality, missing the place of my childhood. On a few occasions I even started looking for jobs in the Western New York area, and hoped deep down that I could return to the place that held so many memories for me. However as time moved on, the draw to return to Buffalo seemed to fade away.

Since ariving in Buffalo yesterday I have been struck that this is the first time that I've come to Buffalo as an outsider. No longer is this my home, but rather, for the first time, I am coming here as a visitor. While there are still things I love about this area, this area is no longer my home. And I'm ok with that. While my parents and two of my siblings still live in Western New York, I now realize that this area is not my home, but rather my home is where my family is. A city or state doesn't make a home. Nor do old hangouts. I've come to realize that I am more at home in the arms of my wife, and in the presence of my son, than I will ever be at any destination.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Family

Randy Mix Large



Tricia large



Reuel Mix Large



A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
~George Bernard Shaw~

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Woman of Influence...Version 2009

A couple years ago I began to think about a number of individuals who have had a profound impact on my life. After spending a little time thinking I came up with a list of five women who played a role in bringing me to the place I am today.

The first female to have a great impact on my life is was my math teacher from high school. Heading into her class my freshman year I already had a love for the subject but mathematics does not hold the answer to her influence over me. Though small in stature, she was a giant in the realms of education, both the kind that is found in textbooks and the kind that no curriculum can contain. On numerous occasions an entire class period passed by without any instruction in mathematics because something weighed heavy on my teacher’s heart, or on the heart of one of her students, and so she would preempt her academic plans for that day to address the matter of greater importance. As I look back at my high school years the greatest lesson I walked away learning was the importance of not missing the important things because we are too busy doing those things that are required.


The next woman that had an impact on me was a girl I dated when I was 21. At the time I dated this New Yorker I was working a decent paying job but the job was not very fulfilling. When many individuals around me encouraged me to be thankful for the great job I had, the girl I was dating encouraged me to pursue my dreams even if meant taking risks. Through her encouragement, I began perusing my dream of returning to school and eventually I went on to obtain my education as well as find my dream job. I am thankful that even though the advice I was given was not popular, someone was willing to encourage me to peruse my dreams, and through the encouragement I finally took the first step towards fulfilling my dreams.

As time moved on the next woman of impact came into my life. This west coast girl was unlike any of the friends I had had in the past. While she was fun to be around, her impact on me came from her willingness to risk personal rejection by opening herself up to share the deep, dark secrets of her soul with me. Some have said of me in the past that my life is often an open book, but this was the first time that someone was willing to become vulnerable with me by sharing things that we are often left to carry alone. By showing trust in me, our friendship was able to move past the realms of a casual acquaintance and eventually she became one of my closest friends. And in time, through her example, I was willing to confront issues that I had locked in the closet of my soul.

The fourth woman of note was a friend I met at college who helped me discover my true personality. For years I had grown accustom to giving people what they expected from me but this southern belle, through accepting me for who I was, helped me to embrace life and live it to the fullest as God had intended. Through her encouragement I finally moved outside of the safety of my own personal domain and was able to enjoy life and what it has to offer. At some point in each of our lives I believe we all need that someone who will help us enjoy life by giving us the encouragement to take part in the things that would not necessarily do on our own. In my case, once I overcame the limitations I had established for myself in my own mind, I was finally able to realize that there was a whole new world around me that was there for my enjoyment. Through my friend’s encouragement, I learned that I actually enjoyed many of the things that I had always shunned, and ultimately I learned how little I actually knew about my own self.

And the woman who has had the most impact on my life is the 5 foot tall woman that I never stop looking up to. My wife has taught me so much, and has loved me unconditionally through the easy and difficult times. Her encouragement has spurred me on spiritually, and her friendship has kept me sane in the difficult times we have faced over the past few years. She is the smartest woman I know, and is not willing to take things in stride, but continues to stretch herself mentally and spiritually. She’s a companion that most guys only dream about, and the one that I was lucky enough to find. I never dreamed that I’d find a woman who challenged me spiritually, mentally, encourage me to be the best version of myself, enjoy sports, like the same music I do, and at the end of the day ask me if I want to play a video game with her. My Love is the true pride and joy of my life. Not only is she an amazing, godly wife, but she’s also the best mother I’ve ever been around. God has truly blessed me through allowing me to cross paths with the greatest woman in the world. And for that I’m eternally grateful.

Spring Cleaning for the Soul

For the past four years this post has remained as a document on my computer. The document was labled "DO NOT OPEN." But, at last it's time to face my past and shed some light into the dark corners.

At first there is a thrill, a sense of accomplishment and above all the feeling that I got away with something that I shouldn’t have. You almost feel like you’ve conquered the world but the only problem is you can’t tell anyone about it. But, as you move past the first experience onto the second and beyond all the excitement fades as the shackles of addiction tighten their death grip.

I was around the age of 14 when the lures first began to appeal to me. It started off as swimsuit magazines and biker magazines in my local grocery store. They did not usually have any nudity and so they were not covered or in special wrapping and so as a young teen I had access to them. Then after revealing my interest in such material to a friend, I was shown my first pornographic magazine. It was the summer of 1993 and I had been spending a lot of time with an older friend when he showed me a Playboy magazine he had bought. At that point my innocence was gone. After that summer I lost a lot of my contact with the guy who showed me the magazine and for about five years I stayed away from pornography but allowed some lust to dwell in my mind.

Years later I was a twenty year old Bible college graduate when my next experience took place. It was typical fall afternoon in my hometown on the Saturday I went shopping to pick up one of my favorite artist’s new album. Little did I know that choices I was about to make would alter my life. After buying the CD I began the drive back home. I don’t recall if the thought was already in my mind or if it was during the drive that it came to mind but either way it set into motion a series of events that I would do almost anything to take back. I remember stopping at a gas station with intentions of browsing their magazines but the excitement, and fear, overcame me and so I quickly bought a candy bar or something and left without making any other purchases. But my curiosity had been peaked and I had already purposed in my heart to go through with my thoughts and so I made a second stop. My heart was pumping so hard that I am sure those around could hear it as I purchased my first issue of Playboy. It was the college girl’s edition for 1998. Once I was back in my car I took the magazine from its wrapper and made sure none of the post card advertisements inside fell in my parent’s car to leave a trace of what I had acquired. I was back on the road and headed towards home when I began to think that I couldn’t take the magazine into my parent’s house so I had to look at it and destroy it before I made it home. I remember stopping on a side street, in my hometown, and looking through the magazine for a few minutes and then continuing on until I made a second stop at a little gift shop. I sat in the parking lot flipping through the pages until a title of an article caught my eye. It was written by a pastor talking about the harms of pornography addiction (to this day I’m not sure why Playboy had the article in it). I read the entire article and felt very dirty and decided it was time to get rid of the magazine. I put the magazine inside of a plastic bag and threw it out in a garbage can outside of the deli and drove home. My guilt stayed with me for a little while but as time went on it began to fade.

Time slowly passed until my sister was given a computer that she brought home. After a little while we had the internet and it was only a matter of time until my curiosity got the best of me and I was looking up pictures of Pamela Anderson. The funny part is that I never found her all that attractive. Yet still I looked. At first I stayed away from any nudity, but then I gave into to nude pictures but only of females. As time went on soft-core pornography was losing its appeal I started searching for pictures of couples (male-female or female-female). I was working a few jobs at the time, and was getting next to no sleep, but it didn’t keep me from spending time online when I got home from work online fulfilling my desires.

In the spring of 1999 I was home alone as everyone else had gone out of town and I rented my first pornographic movie. It was soft-core, because I didn’t want to risk being seen at a real porn shop, so I got the movie from Blockbuster. I watched the movie almost two complete times that night after I got home from work and I watched part of it again the following day before returning it. By the time I rented the movie I was starting to admit that I had an addiction but I still was enamored by the whole secrecy and so I wasn’t willing to talk to anyone about it.

Skipping ahead a couple years, I started back to college and while I continued to have a problem with lust, my porn viewing had all but stopped. I had not stopped over a great awakening or out of moral concerns, but rather do to the fact I lived in a dorm, had no transportation and I was smart enough not to look at pornography on the schools computers. In the summer of 2001 I went back to New York for the summer. In the first month of the summer I quickly picked up where I had left off before and was spending an hour or more searching porn each day. After being home for a month, I started working with a Christian ministry for the summer and some sense of moral responsibility persuaded me not to look at porn during the weeks, but instead Friday and Saturday nights would have to suffice. I kept up with the pattern all summer long until it was time to return to school.

Living in an apartment off campus that fall gave me some opportunities for pornography but I did not have internet access and so I had to stick to the R-rated movies that the town library had. The occasional movies were all I had until I got a car in January of 2003. Other than the first Playboy I bought in 1998 and a few Penthouse magazines in New York, I had only stuck to free porn until the winter of 2003. Over the months that would follow I bought several Hustler magazines at a liquor store (I drove about 30 minutes away from where I lived so it would be less likely to be spotted).

In the fall of 2003 I moved into another apartment and my rollercoaster of pornography picked up momentum. That fall I bought a few more magazines, and for the first time I bought DVD’s. They were soft-core DVD’s, once again I did not want to risk being seen near an adult only store, and so I bought the most risqué videos I could find at a music and video store. In addition to the magazines and videos, my pornography viewing on the internet gained momentum and before I knew it I was looking at it for upwards of two hours a day. I was only working part time and my room mates were all in school so I had a lot of free time and I would lock my door and search and search.

When I moved in January of 2004 into my fourth apartment, I determined that I was going to change and for a month or two I did a fair job. In March I drove down to visit my sister in Alabama and on the trip down I passed several strip clubs and adult book stores and even though I did not stop they set my mind on breaking my commitment of staying away from internet porn and when I got back to Ohio. From the end of March through the summer I spent hundreds of hours viewing online pornography as well as watching R-rated soft-core porn movies from Blockbuster and another video store. What had started out as curiosity years earlier had spurned out of control and with no end in sight.

I cannot continue on with this addiction because I know it is not only ruining me but also a future marriage if I do get married. I do not want to carry this burden alone but so far I do not know who I can trust to share this load with. Someday soon I hope to find someone who will be willing to walk along side me and help me bring my personal life and my spiritual life back to where it should be and help me to realize that I do not need to be a slave to this any longer.

I wish I could say what I’d written described rock bottom, but I can’t. A few months later my viewing habits had spiraled out of control and I got to the point where I downloaded a hardcore porn movie from the web. That night God broke my heart. I don’t remember exactly how it happened but I remember that I started crying, while the movie was playing, and I turned it off. God showed me several things that night that started me on the road to recovery. He showed me that what was being shown was a cheap substitute of what He created as something special.


Looking back, nearly five years after I left off writing, I am dealing with mixed emotions. Now a married man, most of the time –with God’s help, I am able to keep my past lust problems under control. But there are times when my sin nature gets the best of me. Why do I risk what is real, my relationship with my God and my wife, for what is a cheap imitation? While God is helping me deal with past issues, and making me into the husband and father He wants me to be, I still have a lot of growing to do. At the end of the day I can’t help but recall the lyrics to a song I’ve grown to love: “I can never take a chance, of losing love to find romance.”

“Create in me a pure heart, oh God.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Letting Go

Thursday evening I was at home when I received a message from my sister about the Continental plane that had crashed, close to my parents home. Being the news junkie that I am I have read dozens of news reports on the crash, and have watched a number of newscast about the tragedy.

In watching the story unfold I learned about Beverly Eckert, the 9/11 widow who was aboard flight 3407. Ms. Eckert was heading to the Buffalo area to meet up with friends to celebrate what would have been her late husband's 58th birthday.

Nearly seven and a half years after Sean Rooney's death his widow was still holding birthday gatherings for him. A question that came to my mind was at what point does it become necessary to let go? While grieving is a healthy, and often necessary part of life, allowing yourself to hold on to the past can be unhealthy. To remember a lost one is one thing, but to hold on and not move on from a tragedy is letting the tragedy win, and is likely to leave those left behind continually feeling empty.

In life I believe it's important to have a healthy view of the past. A healthy view would include remembering the past, and using the lessons learned in the past to improve oneself as we live out our daily lives. Some time ago I heard a saying that goes like this: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But, on the flip side, if we spend too much time focusing on the past it becomes difficult to carry on in the present.

Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is a time to mourn, but there is also a time to dance. While mourning, and reflecting on the past is necessary, there must come a time when one moves on, and lets go of the things of the past and embraces the present and future.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What To Say

Today I was talking with my wife about how I should respond if my former employer, who laid me off, calls me back. Let me give a little background. Before I was laid off I made it clear to them that due to some decisions that had been made at the company I was looking elsewhere, and would only stay there as long as it took to find another job. That being said, if they do recall me after this layoff, asking me to return to work, do I eat humble pie and return as if nothing happened, or do I agree to only go back if I am not under the person they had placed me under, which had led to the problems we'd faced? I really don't know what to think. I'm hoping, and praying that I will find another job before they call me back, but if I don't, do I set my foot down, and risk being fired, or do I just look past the ethical issues and personality conflicts that led to my looking elsewhere in the first place? I guess time will tell.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Is Now The Time?

For the past few days I've been wondering about the pros and cons of returning to school at this point. I have thought about going back to school to get my masters, and possibly doctorate in Theology, and would love to teach theology at the university level. Part of me is wondering if this would be a good time to go back to school, since the job market is basically non-existent. Even though that would mean more debt, considering I still have debt from my undergraduate work, I'm wondering if it would be a wise use of my time. I need to put some serious thought and prayer into the issue, and see where things go from here.

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