About Me

My photo
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.

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.