Friday, December 30, 2005

Did You Want To See This?

Want to see why you couldn't be an air traffic controller?

Click here

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Leg, There's The Rub

Our dog only uses three legs.

Periodically over the past year or so, Winston - our increasingly special needs dog - has occasionally started to hobble, holding his right hind leg up as he walks. On previous occasions I've attributed this essentially to sloth...I figured his foot fell asleep since that's how he spends the bulk of his time and energies...sleeping.

Usually after a few days he'll start using the leg more and then, although he's always been klutzy, he's back to normal...or as normal as he ever gets.

For the past several weeks though he's continued to be a tri-pod...albeit a happy little tri-pod.

Winston is a dog that can be manhandled. In fact he loves to be rubbed, scratched, rolled on his back...let's face it, he enjoys abuse. I've checked that leg, pulled it, rubbed it, bent it like a Gumby...and the only response from Winston has been reminiscent of the line from Oliver, "Please Sir, might I have more?"

So then Amy and I figured it's a hip issue. I've picked him up, pushed him down, rolled him over, tugged, and twisted his hind quarters and the response? You guessed it...complete contentment.

The other morning Lee, apparently oblivious to our numerous conversations about Winston's wobble, suddenly took notice of it and screamed for Amy who came running only to give Lee the less than satisifying answer of, "Oh. You're just noticing that? We've been trying to figure out that one for a while."

It's not like we're being mean...if the dog exhibited pain in any way we'd be rushing him out the door like a life insurance salesman and taking him to the Vet...but Winston doesn't seem bothered at all. I mean he couldn't care less. Not a whimper...not a whine. This is a dog that howls when the wind changes direction...but the lack of use of his his leg is apparently of no consequence to him.

We'll of course take him to our veterinarian...the dogs are overdue for their shots anyway.

I'm equally certain our local animal doctor will be able to run a gazillion tests costing us a gazillion dollars.

I'm only worried that the tests will reveal something I've suspected all along.

We've spent the past few weeks pampering a dog who really likes a good massage.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My Father's House

It's a running gag at our church that I have been plagued by piles.

Since before we built our first building it seems there has always been a pile of something - dirt, crushed granite, mulch, pebbles, tree limbs, and or rocks - stacked in a prominent place on the property. Oftentimes the makers of these piles plan to remove them right away...but time intervenes...things get in the way and eventually people simply get used to driving up to the church and seeing a stack of lumber or some other pile of debris. In truth, most folks don't seem bothered by it and I suppose that's a good thing to a degree, but it usually bugs me. I have been known to move piles, throw away piles, shovel piles and shift piles to at least get them out of view.

My friend Ben, who also takes pride in the church landscape, once said to me as we hauled away a pile of something, "These folks who put this here may have had good intentions...but this is Our Father's house!"

I thought about that today as I read about the church near Houston which is giving away a house on New Year's Eve to boost attendance. Is that really why they're doing it?

The article says,"At Saturday's service, 20 names will be selected at random and placed with 100 others chosen from services throughout the year. Twelve finalists symbolizing the 12 apostles will be selected."

I couldn't help but think they've mistaken the Gospel for a game show. The Pastor says he knows some people will criticize but it will "show people that serving God is fun!"

I'm one of those weird folks who actually believes serving God is fun...but I don't really see God too clearly in stunts.

I'm not even opposed to gambling...I've been known to wager (not win but wager) on a rare trip to Las Vegas. I've even bet (bet not won) on the horses that run at a track less than a mile from our home.

But...a house lottery...inside a church...with 12 finalists representing the Apostles?

Someone hand me a shovel.

This is Our Father's house!

Monday, December 26, 2005

You're Not Listening

You're not up this morning listening to the radio...don't worry, I don't take it personally...but some of us have to get up and pretend that people are listening to the radio today. I'm one of those people. I came into work for a few hours to write stuff that some other poor schmoe will have to read over and over and over again until some real news breaks the malls open.

In case you got all caught up in the spirit of Christmas and actually missed important news over the past few days let me give you a recap on a couple of stories of mild...well, that are completely trivial.

First off, Jesus Christ is now walking the streets of New York. He could be driving for all I know, but a judge on Friday granted a guy named Jose Luis Espinal permission to legally change his name to Jesus Christ - effective immediately. Mr. Christ...said he had to seek the legal name change because...well, because he believes he is Jesus Christ, but no one else does. He's hoping with the name change he can get his driver's license, electric bill, American Express card, and the like to bear witness for him. Who would have thought when Christ returned we'd require two forms of I.D.?

This other story is not related I'm sure but while Jesus may be in New York...the "Nun Bun" is on the run in Nashville. The "Nun Bun" had its 15 minutes of fame about 10 years ago when the owner of a coffee house claimed a cinnamon roll in his shop looked like the now deceased Mother Teresa.

This was apparently not so much an act of thievery as one of liberation. Mother Teresa at one point wrote to the coffee shop owner asking that he not capitalize on her image...real or imagined. To his credit the guy did stop selling t-shirts, mugs, and prayer cards featuring the cinnanun. He did however keep the shellac-covered pastry in his shop and the burglar who waltz off with it didn't take anything else.

The owner is convinced the nun bun won't show up on eBay...he thinks the bun bandit will destroy it.

Sacrilege is a two way street I crummy as that may be.

You can go back to sleep now.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Child Is Born

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:8-14

Merry Christmas...May God bless each of you as He has so deeply blessed us.

Michael & Amy

Saturday, December 24, 2005

If Santa Shows Up I Hope He's Had His Shots

T'was the morning before Christmas...and the coffee is perking. I'm wide awake because Lee is working.

Sorry, I have no poetry in me yet. Lee had to be at work at 6:45 so I got up to drive her.

I spent much of the past two days in bed. Amy is still recovering and I have a lingering cold that seems to wipe me out by mid, bring on the DVD's.

Christmas for the most part has come and gone although we'll attend Christmas services tomorrow.

Lee and the kids are going to visit the couple who brought them here in Athens, Texas next weekend so we'll usher in the New Year without our adopted family. We (thanks to RLP readers) bought them bus tickets for part of the journey. It will give them some time to visit and be away from San Antonio...and will give Amy and I some time together. We'll be reunited in the New Year and hopefully get moving on helping the Gomez family become independent...our goal for 2006.

Right now though, my goal is coffee.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Strangers Among Us

We had our Christmas on Wednesday, since Amy has surgery today and it was the only day all our kids could be here to grab their loot. It was still perhaps the best Christmas I have experienced in years as we were able to see genuine joy and appreciation from our Gomez family contigent.

They helped remind us all that this is a season of "giving."

Amy and I received one gift which we will especially cherish...a hand-drawn book by Ana,whose art talents are admittedly raw, but pure. Her emotions are genuinely innocent and true. The book needs no further explanation from me.

Although Ana's book was a gift for me and Amy and meant to convey her appreciation, there are a lot people we can thank for helping us provide comfort to the Gomez family. We can also thank Ana, her Mom and brothers for giving us something beyond value...a reminder that when we become so bold as to imagine we know God's think we "see" and "understand" how He is using us...He is, as always, teaching us. is giving that we receive it is in pardoning that we are
pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Three Wise Rodents

Today was Christmas at our house, for reasons that don't need to be repeated. It was wonderful. Amy prepared a delightful meal. The giving spirit exceeded the level of selfishness for the most part.

By far the most delightful gift Amy & I received was a hand drawn book from Ana. I can't do it justice now but will share it over the next day or two I promise.

Right now I only wanted to share a little silliness sent to me by a dear friend and member of our little band of believers.

I thought I had seen about every possible tacky manger scene...but I must admit I have overlooked the Three Wise Ferrets all these years, which I might add has given me something else for which to be thankful.

Note the "Wise Ferret" closest to the baby Jesus ferret - is that a box of raisins?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christianity On The Edge

John and I went to a Spurs game the other night. The Spurs eked out a win over the Sacremento Kings. It was a good time...although the game was closer than the Spurs should have allowed. While there I noticed the tattoo on the arm of Kings point guard Mike Bibby.

While doing a little research I found a quote from Bibby explaining the tattoo, "I'm a religious person and I wanted a cross". That seems straightforward enough.

My nephew Matt has a tattoo of a cross too.

When I was growing up, people with tattoos were usually people with regrets...and/or prison records. It's changed now...I have dear friends with tattoos...Amy occasionally threatens to get one. So far I've been able to talk/threaten her off the edge of that decision.

Anyway...I was thinking about how Christianity has changed. How folks with tattoos aren't drunken sailors, some times they can be good Christians and even use their tattoos to declare their faith. Christianity has an "edge" to it these days.

I read an article about that exact thing. Christian "heavy metal" concerts...churches organizing "cool" youth events...etc. I don't really have a problem with that either. Christ uses lots of tools to get our's what we do with it once He has us that is of larger concern.

Being a "cool" Christian...proclaiming our faith with tattoos or soapbox sermons...that is not for me to judge. I too came to Christ through the less than conventional route, although I avoided the tattoo parlor along the way.

Maybe churches do need to "be cool." Maybe we need tattoo artists, Woodstock-like concerts, and maybe we all need to lighten up about this "God thing" so people won't be driven away.


But some day the heavy metal and all the noise has to stop. The crowds have to disappear.

I believe that as we travel along an honest journey of faith eventually a heavy silence has to set in and then it's only you and God.

We can spend our time focusing on the "emerging church" and debating whether "organized religion" - which seems like a misnomer to me - is "doing it right." Those debates are fine I suppose...but in all honesty, the true "edgy" Christians I know don't worry about those things at all.

They're not flashy. They're not loud. They often don't stand out in the crowd, in fact most of the time they're exactly the opposite.

They're quiet...they're listening...sometimes they're on their knees.

Those folks are the people whom I pray to be more like every day. They're more concerned with having a relationship with God...with worshipping Him than with anything else.

We might not see them as easily, but they see Christ.

There's nothing blocking your view...when you're really on the edge.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Naughty Nicks Unleashed!

It had to happen.

The line becomes blurred between a bad b-movie and reality.

Yes...I'm talking about: "When Santas Go Bad!"

What I find intriguing is the story says there were some 40 soused dressed in bright red suits, with white beards, etc....and all but three got away?

Did they slip past the road blocks by blending in with other Santas?

Why were there 40 men dressed as Santa Claus together in one spot anyway?

Who spiked the eggnog?

Did the reindeer plot the getaway?

Inquiring minds demand answers!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Decompressing Christmas

It's not a pleasant job...reporting the body count. Some people say it's unnecessary and only deflates our national pride, but I am a reporter and the's all around me.

I'm reporting from the front and my only agenda is to make sure you're not taken in by the hot air...the images you see may appear innocent...but they are mere mirages of the season of miracles. Do not put your trust in them...They are ineffective blowhards who are limp and risk leaving you deflated.

It's easy to be fooled - they start off sweet enough...cute inflatable Christmas decorations. Adorable air-filled Santas.

Perhaps a puffy polar bear...
The folks down the street from us have a snowman surrounded by Winnie The Pooh and a gargantuan soldier-like snow creature.

But they only mesmerize for a closely and you will see: these seemingly innocuous emblems of the season are temporary at best...these are in fact fallen idols.

As painful as this may be to hear - Santa and his posse are sadly sagging.

There's no way to avert our eyes from the reality...we're surrounded by deflated deities of crass Christmas commercialism.

They're everywhere! Our neighborhood is cluttered with - dare I say - the corpses of Claus!

Lee and I drove down our street and I swear we counted seven or eight Jolly Ol' Elves who now resembled the ill fated Wicked Witch of the West. I'm sure they too would have screamed,"Help me, I'm melting" but they lacked even the one last breath of a death rattle.

So sad. A silent passing...a whisper...a hiss...before being reduced to rubberized rubbish.

I fear I can only stand back...document the decay...

and wonder how long it will be before Christmas is sponsored by Cialis.

Jingle Pig

When do you know you have too much time on your hands? When you set up a website with 30 different versions of Jingle bells.

Sure you've heard dogs bark it...cats meow it...but this guy even has pigs grunting it.

Ho Ho Hog!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

All I Want For Christmas I Already Have

Where did the week go? I could throw out the excuse of being overwhelmed by the Christmas season, but I haven't even been inside a mall and don't really have a lot of shopping to do.

In truth, life has been excessively peaceful lately, although that's likely to change. We're moving up Christmas at our house to the 21st for a variety of reasons including having all our kids here - plus one of their friends - and Amy not being in recovery from her medical procedure which will take place on the 22nd. Joey and his "friend" have landed dream gigs drawing caricatures on a cruise ship (I hope they bring enough silver, grey and blue markers) but will be "at sea" on Christmas day.

This afternoon Amy and I will go out for a little shopping and as bizarre and uncharacteristic as it sounds I'm actually looking forward to it....a feeling I'm sure I'll get over quickly.

With Ana and Lee out of class we aren't on the transportation roller coaster either but I think I'm going to have to chalk up my recent lag in writing to far more obvious reasons: I'm lazy and the fifth season of West Wing came out on DVD. Erin got us hooked blame her...hooked on West Wing that is, laziness I mastered long ago.

Amy and I have high expectations for a spirit filled Christmas with our blended extended family. John and Ana are in for some surprises which are going to bring them joy, not due to any extravagance on our parts...due to their Mom's love. Lee admits she spoils her kids - although don't get me wrong they don't act spoiled at all - but with what they've been through this year Lee's certainly not going to hear anything about frugality from us. Lee has taken a temporary job working as a sales clerk in a department store - somewhere I wouldn't go without a shotgun, flashlight and combat pay - for the holidays to earn money and she's working hard. Maintaining her composure amid frantic demanding Christmas shoppers speaks again to her astonishing ability to roll with the circumstances.

We've really fallen into a fairly comfortable routine...which I suppose also helps provide me the opportunity for sloth.

I'm not going to look for any further explanation or excuse. Quite the opposite actually.

Christmas is early this year.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Can We Talk?

There is a lovely young couple in our church with two young daughters. The oldest child, Anna is four or five years old now. Anna (note to RLP readers - yes, that Anna) speaks German and her younger sister is learning to speak German as well. They speak English too, but their Mom is fluent in German and their Dad speaks the language well too. Whenever their mother is speaking to them - in private - she makes a habit to speak German and the kids have simply picked up the language. What a wonderful gift these young parents are bestowing upon their kids.

This afternoon, Amy and Lee drove to Seguin...a town 30 or 40 miles away. I've mentioned before that Seguin is home to the world's largest pecan...well really a pecan shaped chunk of concrete, but I suppose the World's Largest Pecan title is not something a lot of communities are wrestling Seguin has clear unchallenged bragging rights.

Despite the pecan attraction, Amy and Lee's mission focused on another task...fetching Lee's husband Jose. While Lee and her kids have been in San Antonio, Jose chose to find separate living Seguin. Who knows...maybe the pecan was a factor.

Jose seems nice enough...very polite...although I haven't been able to have a conversation of any depth with him. Jose doesn't speak English.
Lee speaks Spanish so she translates almost every conversation for him.

For the record, it would be easy to assume Lee and her kids are African-American, but they are not. Jose is from El Salvador...Lee's roots are primarily Cuban. Their kids were all born and raised in New Orleans. The kids don't speak Spanish...not a lick. Let me reiterate that - Jose has three children (from this marriage) with whom he does not share a common language. He doesn't speak to them often and for any meaningful conversation they literally need a translator.

The kids have never known any other way. Their dad has always been someone with whom they really couldn't talk with directly. He hasn't ever learned to speak the language of his children nor to teach them his native tongue.

That barrier is not the lone reason for the estrangement Jose has with his children but it's certainly a contributing factor. A huge one as far as I'm concerned. I must admit Jose's odd relationship with his kids and their obvious apathy toward him has gnawed at my thoughts all day.

What it would be like to have children but be unable, or worse yet unwilling, to work to find a way to share yourself with them...share your wisdom...your worries...your love.

Jose and Lee have three children and his relationship is essentially the same with all three. It's virtually non-existent...and it's sad.

But as I said...I don't really know Jose.
Maybe he wishes it were different.

Maybe he wishes he had reached out to his kids from the moment they were put on this earth. Maybe he regrets that he didn't find simple ways to convey his thoughts. Simple ways - that hurtled all language barriers - to let them know he desired a deep and abiding relationship with them...above all things.

Fathers are so important.

Their lessons can shape our lives so profoundly.

Jose is a religious man...I don't see how he has overlooked this concept.

I do see one thing - how very grateful I am that Our Father has spent eternity reaching out to me. Teaching me the universal language of love.
I am so grateful Our Father took the time to speak my language.

Mine Eyes Have Seen...

I'm gaining new perspective on all sorts of stuff these days...some good...some not so good.

First off, I might as well get this out right away - Amy's medical tests came back. The call came Thursday during a very hectic time when I was trying to coordinate several family projects and Amy was feeling especially crappy. I was about to walk out the door with Lee and Ana but when I bopped into the bedroom to kiss Amy goodbye...she was on the phone...crying. The news wasn't good.

I'm not going to go into details - it's a female thing - it's about as personal as you can get. The situation is disconcerting but not life threatening. It will involve a small procedure but no hospitals...

It obviously wasn't the result for which we had hoped.

Still this is a clear diagnosis. The treatment options and expectations are also easily understandable. Considering we've spent a few years now dealing with medical vagaries, surgeries which accomplished little or nothing, and even stuff that seemingly worsened Amy's health...I can see this situation in a different light. At least we know what we're dealing with and we'll deal with it together. Thank you in advance for your prayers.

I'm also getting a new perspective of the world of the impoverished. I'm not talking folks in third world countries; I'm talking about people right here - in my house - and what they have to go through to simply get by. From bus schedules that are ludicrous or non-existent to petty bureaucrats who all give you different answers and then act indignant when you ask for clarity...It's a world I have not witnessed first hand before.

I was completely exasperated the other day when I picked up Lee from an agency that has given her and me three or four different answers to the same question and still no real help. Exasperated might be putting it mildly...I was furious and frustrated and I was only seeking information - Lee was the one who needs these bureaucrats to actually help her. As I fumed and blustered while driving home I looked over at Lee and she was completely calm. She looked at me and said, "Michael, it's like this everywhere when you're asking for government help." This wasn't a new perspective for her...she's lived it...and long ago stopped letting it frustrate her.

It wasn't a view of the world I really appreciated seeing...but I suppose sometimes you have to peer into the darkness to see the light.

This is another view of the world I have these days:

That's a Google map of where people who read my blog are located. It's fascinating to me...I apparently have no appeal to anyone in Wyoming.

I've decided not to let that get me down, especially since I noticed that Gann has nominated me again for his annual Christian blog awards.

I find it amazing that an obviously intelligent, well-read, good-looking, not easily bribed guy in the Philippines can find my writings interesting or amusing.

Actually I'm stunned he found my blog at one in Idaho has yet...Kansas fact it doesn't look like I've got any fans in Nebraska. Not one reader in North or South Dakota?

I need to work on my farm humor.

Later today I will get a view of something entirely different - actually someone.

Jose Gomez is coming to visit. I haven't written anything about Jose because I've never met him. He's Lee's husband. He's Michael, Ana, and John's father...and he's been a no show since day one of the Main-Gomez clan blending forces. I've resisted writing about Jose for a number of reasons but you can probably guess that the familial relationship is a bit strained. When he's here, I want to treat Mr. Gomez with the respect he deserves.

I'm going to have pray about that one though.

That's going to require perspective...a lot of perspective.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Something Nutty This Way Comes

Okay, I've let this stuff build up too long...time to get some of it out.

I mean it's almost Christmas and I haven't mentioned how folks in Austria celebrate this time of year.

They dress up like this:

And like this:

I'm not kidding. I don't really understand it all but the little devil looking guys accompany St. Nick through town and swat kids (and apparently anyone who doesn't get out of the way) with brooms on their rumps.

Anyone else missing Burl Ives about now?

It's sort of confusing but somehow St. Nicklaus is involved and kids get little treats at the end of the event.

Speaking of treats...did you see what the Pope got?

Yes, Pope Benedict was given a steering wheel the other day. The head of Ferrari gave it to him. It's even inscribed:"The steering wheel of the Formula 1 World Champion to His Holiness Benedict XVI, the driver of Christianity."

Where do you suppose the Pope puts stuff like that? I mean it presumably doesn't exactly fit the decor of the Vatican?

It's not like he needs it in the Popemobile?

Oh well...maybe he'll make it into a lamp or something.

In any case it allowed me to lighten things up around here a bit. If you want to lighten things up...and you have a high speed here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Pictures Promised

Just a quick note - as promised when I wrote the entry about the Gomez family's dog April - I augmented that post today with some pictures. This is the link.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No Sleep Tonight

Amy and I are currently in bed playing with our Christmas toys....

I'll wait while you get your mind out of the gutter.

That's better.

We splurged - a little - and scrimped a lot and now both own laptop computers. We purchased them early because the rebate deals were too good to pass up and we can justify them - probably even write them off our taxes - if we squint a little. They're not top of the line computers but they're functional. So now my wife and I are in bed...watching TV...and surfing the net. Things are really heating up too...

We have an electric blanket. Shame on you.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Egg Shells, Emotion & Exxageration

This is not going to be the lightest of posts I suspect...for that you can blame Hope. I'm only kidding - about the blaming Hope part - not about this likely being a bit more introspective than I normally care to be here. I write on the fly but I can tell which way I'm heading.

Hope left a comment recently saying essentially that she thinks some of my posts reflect an "emotional and physical weariness" especially since the Gomez clan has taken roost in our home - this is without a doubt a dead-on conclusion. She also said she suspected I was masking some of the burden of sacrifice and this too hit home.

It is not easy.

No one said it would be.

When people at my office complain to me about work I have been known to say, "That's why they call it work...if we all enjoyed it they'd call it sex."

They still hate work, but usually they laugh.

No one said it would be easy...and it has been hard, harder than we expected - at times.

At times it is hard to find our place, our purpose, and our peace. Quiet is often a luxury in our home and there is a temptation to retreat in ways that are unhealthy - mentally and physically. I have been guilty of both, but I suspect this hopefully momentary delving into the dark may be a step in the right direction.

Don't let the minor become monumental - that is my first rule of sanity and we have tight roped along it lately some times without success.

Amy and I have allowed little things to become big things on occasion. We have both exaggerated situations and made some decisions based on the emotion of the moment which we regret and which in truth made our lives only more difficult. Yet I know with a certainty that can not be challenged that we shall recover from those moments...for that's all that they were - "moments." I have been blessed to know both love and grace in portions so undeserved that I am even bold enough to expect more.

God is with us.

We are not alone. We have shared the minutiae of the balancing act of trying to co-exist with the Gomez family while trying to lift them to independence with our church leaders. We have help - spiritual, physical and financial but it is still hard.

Sprinkle in a dose of worry into the mix and you'll be better able to sample our daily diet.

We are still awaiting results of some of Amy's medical tests...we expect the hours spent keeping those fears and worries at bay to amount to a complete waste of our time...we have hope...but we've still given aid and comfort to the fear.

So we tiptoe.

We tiptoe around emotional egg shells.

No, I don't share all the disappointments and emotional shifts here, nor do I share every wondrous moment and there are many.

I hope my reluctance to outline so many details is not because I want to put the best face on our situation - although I'm not big on reading people's whinings foremost my own. Rather I hope this is a season I am going through and the setbacks, the frustrations and exasperations are temporary. Perhaps it is an illusion but I'd at least like to believe what I write is less ethereal and the distant horizon of passing time will better reflect reality.

So I am perhaps quieter these days...but these days will pass.

There is indeed forfeiture involved in sacrifice, but there is also purpose.

It is to that purpose that Amy and I find ourselves clinging a lot these days and oftentimes we feel like we are barely hanging on...but I am still convinced one day we will suddenly stop tip toeing about the fragile and instead begin to frolic.

One day soon we will look down upon the eggshells…and we will dance.

Oh That's What That Button Does!

For a while there I was thinking - yes, I know that's a rarity - that I was not provoking any reaction at all...even with my as of late, limited postings.

Ya see there's this little button in Blogger which I noticed the other day that says, "Moderate comments." I thought that would be a dandy idea, assuming it would allow me to delete anything offensive (although I really don't get offensive comments - and no I'm not seeking any) or spam comments of which I get a few.

What I didn't know was that if you "Moderate Comments" you have to um...moderate comments...before they publish.

I don't have time to sort my laundry much less go through each comment and give "permission" for it to I turned that feature off this morning. Lo and Behold! Comments have burst forth!

Sorry I didn't respond previously, I wasn't ignoring you...I was worried you were ignoring me.

Reminder to self: eggshells...I want to write about eggshells.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Up & Crawling

Apparently I bollixed my computer worse than I imagined, but Amy has manage to restore my critical stuff - like my ability to pay creditors and see how much money we don't have in the bank. It's going to take a while to get everything else going. I love this little blog editing software - wbloggar - which I have used for some time but now I've discovered images I embed with this program "disappear" when you bring them up via a permalink or through the archive. I detest writing in Blogger itself...and none of this matters to anyone but me.

I'm vowing to set aside time to write...but it's coming after my vow to set aside time for Amy and for the needs of the Gomez family. To tell you the honest truth the only reason I'm writing this is to see if the settings on this little editor are correct.

As an apology of sorts I'll turn you on to two sites I've found interesting lately.

The first is which every Geek looking for a bargain should check out daily.

The other is One Red Paper Clip.

He's a blogger whose been trading up from one red paper clip on his way to a house...and he's well on his way.

That's all for now...time for vow #1.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

April, Ingrid & Mountaintop Miracles

April was a dog.
Ingrid is an Internet user in Belgium.
Katrina was a hurricane.

April belonged to the Gomez family...Lee says she was really Michael and Ana's dog. She grew up with them but she grew old as Michael and Ana grew from children to young adults. Dogs do that...they grow old faster than we do.

When Lee and her children were literally washed out of their Midcity New Orleans house by Katrina the Hurricane, April and Kiki - the family's other dog - were left behind. Ana was certain they had her journal she wrote, "...the dogs were in the back room...April and Kiki...they did not make it.


Ana's words stung...the hopelessness...the helplessness.

Ingrid lives in Belgium, far away from New Orleans. To my knowledge she has never been to the United States, but she shared something with the Gomez clan...a sense of helplessness. She wanted to do something for the victims of Katrina so Ingrid has spent hours and hours of her time on the Internet looking at pictures of lost pets/found pets and then trying to locate their owners.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Ingrid. The first email I ever received from her...or from Belgium for that matter. Attached was a fuzzy picture and a politely worded message saying essentially she had run across a picture of a found dog with a rabies tag and the tag led the dog's current caretakers to believe the dog might have belonged to someone in New Orleans named Lee Gomez. Doing a search over the Internet she was led to my blog, she read the Gomez family story and said, "I know the family thinks both dogs drown but could this dog be April?"

I showed the picture to Lee.

April was alive!

The discovery brought great joy and some consternation to our household.

April was not only alive, she had somehow escaped Katrina and New Orleans and had made it to Arizona to a Humane Society shelter! With Ingrid's help, I put Lee in touch with the folks caring for April. Despite having heartworms and being nearly 12 years old, April was doing okay and a woman at the shelter had "fallen in love" with her. They were pampering her a plenty.

Reuniting April with her family was a dream, but we weren't sure it would be a reality. We have three dogs...April was old and sick. Getting her back here could be done but whether she'd survive the heartworm treatment she'd have to have was questionable. We were frankly unsure how to proceed, but in the interim the woman in Arizona was gladly caring for her and promised to continue doing so until we figured things out.

She was also taking April on great adventures. One adventure took her to the top of a mountain...another day she spent visiting with a tame cougar! April was exploring worlds she certainly never knew existed and she was in loving hands.

Yesterday April died.

She was old and sick and her heart gave out. No one expected her to live through Katrina, she had long been given up for dead, but somehow she survived...somehow she was taken in by gentle people filled with love, and somehow a woman in Belgium managed to find Lee Gomez via my blog to let her know.

It was sad and it was joyous.

Lee was devastated as was April's caretaker in Arizona. April was old...April was sick - it was a miracle she lived through Katrina at all - but that didn't lessen the sadness.

When Ana and I spoke about April she said, "It's like in the movies where someone knows they're dying but before they go they get to take this great see things they never thought they'd see...."

And she was was like that...the trip of a the end of her lifetime.

From New Orleans, to Belgium, to Arizona, to blogs...this is where miracles are at play.

I believe in miracles.

Sometimes miracles have sad endings...but I think they're miracles still.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Write Time

I'm in the middle of a computer rebuild...which is to say Amy is rebuilding my computer. The computer has been sort of limping along for a month or two with various hiccups, multiple Microsoft personality disorder and we knew it was time...for a new hard drive....a fresh start.

I haven't had time to write much lately...I considered for a while if it was time to simply pull the plug on the blog, but I don't think I'm there yet. I'm going to let it limp along for a while yet.
Maybe I'll get a fresh start too.

One reason I haven't written too much is that my life revolves so much around the Gomez family these days and I don't want to invade their privacy...I haven't decided on where the dividing line is yet between their lives and my thoughts.

I've found keeping my mouth shut is a wise approach when put in that situation.

I could write today about a little miracle of hope which has unfortunately become a major source of sorrow, but there are boundaries and the sorrow has not been fully shared, so that story will have to wait.

I suppose I'll know when it's the right time.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

It's All Relative

On my side of our family -in the traditional sense - I don’t really have much family.

Since Amy and I have been married, the Thanksgiving holiday has always been reserved for my side of our family which amounts to an eclectic bunch of folks most of whom I'm not related to by blood in any manner no matter how far up the family tree you climb.

My Aunt Kathy is the heart and soul of this bunch of misfits and fit-givers, and although she's my Aunt, technically I'm not related to her either. Kathy's ex-husband was my mother's half-brother - my Uncle - a man with whom I rarely if ever communicate. My Uncle and I never did have much in common and we've both allowed time to widen that gap to a point that really amounts to a one sided Christmas card relationship – Amy and I buy a lot of Christmas cards…mailing them is something we’ve yet to master.

Kathy is my surrogate mother and has been since I was 14 years old. I suppose I treat her like too many sons treat their Moms...I don't call often, certainly I don't visit enough and I take her for granted far too much. Yet Kathy forgives me…like most mothers do I suppose.

It's confusing even for me to keep up with but in simplified terms my side of our family is a non-traditional gaggle of friends, friends of friends, and folks who somehow got in the door but no one really remembers how. The only time I normally see any of them is on Thanksgiving.

This year was the first of the past three that Amy and I have been able to make it to Dallas for this gathering of "kinda cousins" and it was joyous...and sad. Some members of the bunch have passed away, others are in too poor of health to travel, and still others couldn't be with us for reasons of their own making.

We were determined to be there although Amy was sick the entire trip and she felt horrible about being sick. As a result, she was drained from the emotional beating she was giving herself on top of being feverish, and generally miserable.

Our first night in Dallas, I was physically sick - personally I think Braums poisoned me but Amy says I caught her bug - whatever it was I felt like...well there are several words that come to mind all of which may be literally correct but none would be polite to use. Suffice it to say one of the things I was most thankful for Wednesday night was the little wrapper across the toilet seat in our hotel bathroom.

The Gomez family members say they liked Dallas, but Amy and I didn't have the time or energy to do a lot of things we had hoped to do with them which I'm sure added to the general awkwardness they felt of being in a strange town amid strange people... not to mention the even stranger noises emanating from the bathroom down the hall in our hotel.

Everyone was out of sorts in one fashion or another.

In terms of food, Thanksgiving went was not an issue. No one went away hungry...

Yet I know Lee, John and Ana still felt somewhat ill at ease. They didn’t know that it's normal for people on my side of the family to feel a little out of place. We're an odd knotted tangle of humankind leaning on each other like there's nothing unusual about it at all.

Quirky as it may be, I am thankful to have Kathy and all my "kinda cousins" as well as a place to call "home" in Dallas. I'm thankful that Amy and I were able to give John the birthday present we had hoped - thanks to my quasi-cousin Michelle.

Michelle and I took John and Michelle's son to watch the Cowboys/Denver game at Texas stadium. John is not particularly loquacious on the best of days and amid the strange surroundings in Dallas he didn't exactly open up. When Amy and I told him about his birthday present he sort of shrugged it off which I confess initially surprised and disappointed us. I know I expected more…but now I realize that was because I wasn’t seeing the situation through John’s eyes. I was deciphering his behavior and seeming lack of enthusiasm from my perspective – the wise old man who already has quirky, inexplicable situations all figured out…except for this one.

The only time John said anything indicating he was appreciative of the gift was after we had already arrived at the game. We were trudging up the 84 miles or so of ramp-ways to our seats at Texas stadium. During that trek - from which I'm still sore by the way - John mumbled, "You know going to a real NFL game is probably the best birthday present a boy could ask for..."

It was John's way of expressing both thanks and awe...and I almost missed it because of pride and the fact that I was breathing so hard due to a lack of oxygen at the stadium's highest level.

John didn't react the way we expected initially because John had no point of reference from which to react. This was all unfamiliar territory to him: Dallas, my weird collection of family, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with unrelated folks who call themselves family, and then being surprised by tickets to a real NFL game – his first - all on his birthday.

Truthfully, Lee and Ana were in much the same boat. They didn’t come to the game, but they were unsure how to act in unfamiliar surroundings, unsure who everyone was and how I was connected to them, unsure of almost everything. So they were quiet and kept to themselves more than usual. This is also something I think Amy and I nearly misinterpreted.

God didn’t have to kick me in the butt to help me figure it out...instead He used His usual tactic: He gave me time...He was patient.

Weaving along the back corridors of Texas yesterday as we drove home we admired the small valleys filled with trees bursting with color as they prepare to drop their leaves for winter. At one point Lee said, ”I really liked this Thanksgiving…but I think the best part was the driving.”

The driving was her favorite part. Five pretty much full grown people crammed quasi-comfortably in one car, journeying together, laughing, napping, and playing road games while admiring the beauty of God's was during that time that Lee felt we were “a family” of sorts. An odd quirky little family, but family nonetheless.

It made perfect sense to me.

Today I realized this is how I am too often in my relationship with Christ. I don't know how to act.

I had a Pastor once who was fond of saying, "When people first get saved they should be locked up for 3 years until they settle down." He was only kidding...I think...but his point is well taken. I have seen a lot of newly born again folks who could easily be mistaken for escapees from the nearest nut hatch.

It’s easy to feel out of place in my relationship with God, like I don't really belong. I've seen Christians change radically in all sorts of "outward" ways from the clothes they wear to peppering their conversations with every "churchy" word imaginable, but inside I suspect many of them feel undeserving of a place at the table…like they’re not family...not blood relations.

I know I have felt that way and it’s understandable because it’s true.

I don't deserve to be there. I don't deserve to be surrounded by loving people who care about me and whom I call “family” even though we're not related.

For a very long time I didn’t know how to say, "Thank You" to God. I had no reference point.

Technically, I don’t spend Thanksgiving with “blood relatives.” Lee, Ana and John are not blood kin to Amy and me in any way...if you look at things that way.

However how you look at things is all relative.

This mixed up bunch of oft-times confused travelers with whom I journey through life toward a destiny with God are part of my family. They are in fact my closest relations.

We are blood kin.

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Revelations 12:11

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Miss Me?

I suppose I should write something huh?

Blogging hasn't been on the top of my list lately. It's taken a back seat to fear and frustration as well as general fatigue.

However if I don't write something tonight I won't be able to until the weekend since - God willing - we're actually going to pack everyone up in the car and head for the Dallas area tomorrow morning. We haven't been able to make this trip the past two years because of Amy's health.

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving if Amy wasn't sick...and that holiday tradition is going to continue. In a few minutes, I'm taking her to a nearby "Doc In The Box" because it appears she has come down with strep. In truth, that's such a minor thing compared to year's past we're not even going to worry about it - but I want her to get on some antibiotics pronto so she'll regain enough strength to go shopping Friday before dawn like an insane person. You don't want to be around Amy is she misses the post Thanksgiving sales...I could show you scars. traditions.

Thursday - besides being Thanksgiving - is also John's 14th birthday. I think I've mentioned before that 14 is the age which I've found to be the hardest in dealing with kids. My kids, your kids...anyone's 14 they start to want to assert their independence and become frustrated by reality: they're still kids and don't have any indepedence.

John is pumped up about the trip although he is doing his best to appear moody and disinterested. This is also a character trait that blooms at age 14. My plan is to keep the kids up late tonight...leave early tomorrow and hopefully they'll sleep most of the way to Dallas.

For several weeks, I have been trying to finagle a certain birthday gift for John calling in all my markers, begging, tossing about the phrase "poor 14 year old Katrina evacuee" with abandon and I've discovered one thing: I have no juice whatsoever.

However a young woman who is technically related to me in some obscure fashion and who has a son about John's age, came through today which I think is going to make John's birthday a little extra special and a lot more bearable than taking him 300 miles north to visit people he doesn't know.

I'd reveal more about the gift, but John is fooling around behind me as I type. Although the odds of him actually reading something without the threat of torture are highly remote, I don't want to take the chance of him finding out too soon. Suffice it to say it's a gift that can only be redeemed in the Dallas area on Thanksgiving day. That should be clue enough for any budding Sherlock Holmes out there.

We have much to be thankful for this year. Amy may be a little under the weather now, and there are still some medical tests lurking ahead which are frightening if we dwell on them, but in general Amy's health is better than its been for a long time and we're hopeful once the wheels of the medical bureaucracy start to creep along we'll receive some reassurance that all is well. Until then we pray...and distract each other.

This week was a little more chaotic than usual but we've enlisted the aid of several church members to help the Gomez family members develop and stick to a plan which will lead to their independence eventually. Amy and I and even our three dogs are fairly easy to get along with, but a place of their own is...well is still a place of their own.

Anyway, no profundity here...several folks have written me with concern because I haven't posted a lot lately. Thank you for that, I appreicate your prayers and concerns, but rest assured we're doing fine.

We hit a few potholes in recent days...but that's all they are...bumps in the road.

The road is still there and Amy and I are locked arm in arm as we walk forward.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

" I Can't Hold 'Er Cap'n!"

There are days when the world makes more sense to me than other days. Today is one of those days when I have to squint my eyes and cock my head for things to look like they're not all akimbo - which I might add is a word that always makes me and Amy laugh.

Days when you hear pshrinks recommend sending a cop-killer to Wal-Mart - for "therapy"- as the holiday shopping season begins...well, I must admit I had to close one eye and twist my head almost completely around to see the logic of that.

Okay, in truth I still don't see it but I could be on the wrong medication.

Luckily there were meatier issues to take my mind off of that the hopping debate over what to call kangaroo meat to get more people to eat it. The Kangaroo Raisers Association or whatever says if cows can be called "beef" and pigs "pork" than kangaroos should have a more palatable name too. They've already determined that "Skippy" would be a bad doubt averting a lawsuit from Mattel the first time someone said, "Hey Mate! Toss another Skippy on the Barbie!"

Speaking of skippers, you did hear about James Doohan's ashes - you know "Scotty" from the original Star Trek? The story about how his cremated carcass crumbs were grounded due to an engineering snafu...well, that seemed to put the world back in perspective for me...if I squint just right..

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Jesus Is A Gas

I'm sure this story is all over the blogosphere by now...rather than link to it I'll simply reprint it without the express written permission of the Associated Press.

AUBURN, Calif. (AP) -- Jesus saves -- at the gas pump? Two rival California congregations are feuding over a cheap gas promotion. Leaders of the New Life Christian Church offered discounts on gas worth about 50 cents a gallon.

Pastor Bill Jenkins says the idea is to show God is interested in everyday issues. But members of the Church of the Divide in Grass Valley protested Sunday outside the New Life services. They counter the gas discount is a marketing gimmick that cheapens religion.
The protesters carried signs reading: "Jesus cares more about your sin and burning in hell than gas prices."


First off I wouldn't be surprised to learn this was all a hoax - New Life vs The Church of the Divide?

In any case, in radio having cheap gas giveaways or other attempts to get free news coverage is called "stunting" and I suppose the term applies here as well. Occasionally in big markets radio stations will actually try to sabotage the stunting events of their competition.

I've never heard of churches doing it though...however if the "Church of the Divide" wishes its ministry to be centered on revealing "gimmicks" used by churches the field is certainly wide open...that is if the congregants can ignore those little voices in their heads saying, "Hello pot...kettle're black!"

What I really find fascinating is that this is apparently unabashed "competitive Christianity." I mean wouldn't you give almost anything to have listened in on the "battle plan" conversation that took place at the church that opted to use guerilla warfare tactics against another church?

Competition Christians. .. I think this is a market we have really ignored.

There's got to be a reality TV series or movie in this somewhere...

Maybe a game show would be better...

This of course leads us to the larger philosophical question: Can Jesus have gas pains?

That's rhetorical by the need only look around to see the answer.

We are a silly bunch sometimes...thank God for grace.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Seeing Rage

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" - Matthew 25:40

I raged at God today...the Creator of all the Universe.

Yes, we had words, for many reasons but primarily because the past week has been a tough one in our home.

Tonight there will be a "prayer walk" on our church land, the second of such exercises and I understand the first was very good. I won't take part because of my odd sleep schedule and because I walk our church grounds in prayer more than most - although I am often pushing a lawn mower or some other piece of lawn equipment, I am always in prayer or conversation with God.

There is nary a nook on the land where I have not prayed to God, sang to God, or raged at God.

I suspect of the members of our congregation, only Gordon knows the land more deeply.

When I heard tonight another prayer walk was scheduled my foremost thought was, "I need to get up here with the mower after church so people can walk more easily. To discover the land's treasures. They will walk and pray tonight... made easier because this afternoon I will rage."

Gordon was out today so Tim was preaching and it so happens he was preaching on that very chapter of Matthew. A passage I have heard and said more often in the past month than any scripture I can ever remember.

Tim was excellent discussing the obvious connotations of finding God in ourselves as well as in the least among us while also exploring the verse in context which poses a dichotomy - God with and within us and those around us, but also a God who is removed from us - on a throne ready to leave those who passed by the needy in this life to "eternal punishment" with the swipe of His hand.

As I marched behind the lawnmower being pelted with debris I wanted to swipe back.

So I raged.

I raged at God because we are waiting for more medical test results and doctor's explanations of them which is terrifying Amy and me. In truth they will likely amount to nothing, but we don't need the stress...not now when we are being so "noble" and all by opening our home to a "Katrina" family.

I raged at God today because even though we cherish the Gomez family, they are high maintenance and at times that too can get to me and I am ashamed.

I raged at God today because this morning I wrenched my back - spare me the lecture about the foolishness of doing yard-work afterwards...I was careful and I needed to rage.

I raged at God today because yesterday, my middle brother, Derek, turned 50 years old. In a phone call to him I found out our eldest brother, Stan, who "disowned" me prior to the last Presidential election had in fact New York...because he wanted "to be in a blue state."
Take note, he had been living Austin, Texas which is not exactly a bastion of conservatism. He never even sent us a change of address card.

So I raged at God while chopping down brittle knee-deep grass in the summer heat of the South Texas "fall."

Our two small church buildings are housed on a fraction of the over 5 acres of land the church owns. The land is populated with majestic oaks, wild persimmon, gorgeous mountain laurels...and dreams. Sometimes, right in time for Lent, the mountain laurel bloom with such abundance to bring a tear to even the most hard hearted.

But sometimes our dreams are forgotten too.

There is also plenty of ugly brush country scrub and prickly pear cactus so pernicious is seems like it was planted by Satan himself. You can cut it down, try to burn it, tear it from the ground...but it will return.

Additionally the grasses grow wild and in 6 years or so we've succeeded in truly taming only a small area of the property.

Often times I will cut down a tall patch of grass and find an animal carcass. Yes, there is death on our church land too.

And of course rocks. Every inch of the ground is covered in limestone, which if you pick up and discard will only allow another rock to pop to the surface.

I thought about these things and raged at God.

"Why is life so tough so often? What did we do to deserve such stress? Are we not 'lambs' instead 'goats' in the mind of God?"

I was in the middle of my rage and my mowing...cutting down the straw-like grasses that grow along the Farm to Market road upon which our church sits, when I saw it - a 20 dollar bill.

It was faded and appeared to have been trapped in the weedy gnarl that can quickly ensnare anything flicked from a passing car or blown out a car window or pickup bed. I have found many items in that patch of grass...but never before cold hard cash.

I bent down and snatched the 20 as my mind screamed, "AHA! There that shows you Lord! You can beat me down with stress and aggravation, but sometimes I still get the prize!"

It was as if God had become sick in listening to me rage and tossed a twenty to the ground to silence me.

Still, for the record, I was up 20 bucks and when I called Amy to tell her I was coming home I mentioned that fact.

Her response?

"You found it! I lost 20 dollars in the church parking lot last weekend!"

I had absolutely no reason to doubt her.

That's when I realized it.

My relationship with God is not too different than my relationship with our church land.
At times all I will see is the beauty and grace of the other times all I will see are the harsh things, the hard things...even the dead things. At times I will dream of the potential, and at other times I will fear the dreams will whither.

Within all of such are still God's blessings given to me without question or merit.

I merely have the duty to see them.