Monday, January 31, 2005

Adding To The Fray

It's been one of those non-stop days. I got home from work knowing this was pay day which meant strike while the iron is hot and the checks aren't in terms of restocking our necessities. Amy and I spent the entire afternoon running hither and yon spending more than we should have but still being frugal, if that makes sense.

In between we dropped off an unused skateboard to a woman whose son's was broken by other kids, and arranged to pick up a box spring for what will likely be Erin's future bed (whoever turned me on to thank you) and we picked up two of the "three sisters" for our beloved Pastor and his wife, dragging the youngest, Lillian, along with us for part of the excursion.

We confused her a bit...well, a bit more than we usually do, by periodically breaking into choruses of "Mares Eat Oats & Does Eat Oats"...we were buying oat and wheat and other stuff in mass quantities now that Amy's bread baking mission has escalated into a near full time passion. I'm not sure Lillian ever really understood what we were doing, but she's a good sport and has had more than her share of practice with adults who don't always make sense.

In truth after all the driving, shopping, and lack of napping, topped off by dutifully recording all the spending for our records I'm frazzled and I'm not certain anything makes sense.

I do know Amy and I spent the day with each other, doing normal couple stuff.

To me, that's money and time well spent.

Plus if I stop writing this nonsense I'll still have a little extra time to bank on with her before I collapse.

This adds up to a fairly obvious conclusion.

See ya!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sunday Smells

My house if filled with a wonderful aroma this morning...this is worth noting since much of the time the general "eau de Main home" might best be described as "dog funk."

This morning there is no funk...simply the splendid smell of bread. Fresh bread. Warm freshly baked bread.

I mentioned before than Amy is baking bread to raise funds for some of our church members to work with orphans in Moldova. So she was baking away throughout the afternoon and well after I fell asleep last night. There are loaves of bread everywhere.

This is also our week to bring the all important donuts to church. Although not a biblical requirement for church service, among Baptists at least, donuts or some equivilent foods are considered necessary unspoken pre sermon sustenance.

Amy decided instead of donuts she'd bake muffins...several different varieties.

"God, if you're going to take me any time soon...this would be a good time because I feel like I've already got a foot in the door of Heaven, or at least a good portion of my not insignificant nose."

This is also Communion Sunday, so in the middle of all the loaves of wheat bread, oatmeal bread, and muffins of multiple varieties, sit several other loaves of bread. These are very simple but they stand out because Amy baked them with a small cross etched atop each one

I am barely awake yet I have already been blessed and fed in so many ways.

I know also there are many more blessings to come.

I love Sundays...

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Click And Knit

Looking for ways to give a little?

Deb is looking for "clicky" pens.
Katy needs knitters.

Hopefully I'm not contributing to Internet excess stories.

"Penned In..In PA"

"Knitted Knuts in KC"

Insanity And Christianity

Radio tends to attract outgoing people. The folks who really make it big are usually flamboyant extroverts.

I have no idea why I am in radio.

Following the funeral service yesterday, Amy and I went to the family's home for a short time. It turned out there were several folks there who listen to one of the radio stations for which I work. We talked a brief while and I tried to steer the conversation away from me. Don't get me wrong, I love meeting people who listen and enjoy what they hear - they keep me employed - but it's weird to be thought of as a "celebrity."

Amy is always very proud of me and doesn't do much to discourage such flattery; of course she also knows how to keep me humble.

In truth, I'm about as much of a celebrity in San Antonio as the ninth Baldwin brother is a celebrity in Hollywood. There are people I've worked with for 15 years who don't know who I am, so to meet someone who "recognizes my voice" or who can recite entire on air conversations I've had is a little disconcerting. I'm never sure what to say beyond thanking them for listening and answering questions about the mechanics of a particular show.

I think I've used this analogy before, but radio is not too distant from insanity. In truth I sit in a little padded booth and talk to myself...assuming someone is listening.

What's curious is I don't feel that way about God any more. I used to I think. I'd start out talking to God with thoughts like, "God if You're really out there..."

I don't do that anymore.

I talk to God all the time, while walking, driving, when I wake up and right before I go to sleep. Sometimes I talk out loud without giving it any thought at all. Yet I've never met Him. I certainly believe I've felt His touch quite often in my life, but I've never "seen" Him standing before me. He's certainly never answered me in a booming voice, although I believe I've heard Him.

I'm a big fan.

But I'm wondering if God is an introvert.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Chili On The Side

Side note: Gordon recently wrote about Amy's Cincinnati chili and I've taken note she's posted some recipes on her blog today.

Personally, I consider stuff that comes out of the kitchen like I do many things, little miracles.

Therefore I don't ask a lot questions about how Amy's meals are made, I simply enjoy the wonderment of it all

Mourning Has Broken

I got up early this morning... okay...earlier than usual... in hopes I can get my work done ahead of schedule and make it to a funeral of a dear friend's mother. It's apparently going to be a gloomy grey, cold and drizzly day.

I think that's maybe how it should be for graveside services...the very skies seem to mourn.

This is a time to grieve, but we will also celebrate a life well lived.

The rain will pass...the skies will clear.

We stand together as the body of Christ in good times and in bad.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fishy Business

" The people I do business with . . . if they talk too much about being good Christians, I doubt their sincerity."

That's a quote from a businessman in Waco talking about the controversial President of Baylor University, Dr. Robert Sloan, who has become a distraction for a lot of reasons. He's now been pushed out and made a "Chancellor" which is a glorified term for fundraiser.

I don't really have an opinion one way or another except, having a daughter who attends the school, I believe Baylor can use all the fundraisers it can get its hands on. It's the third most expensive university in the state.

It's that quote I've been wrestling with for the past few days.

I'm disturbed by it.

By its truth.

I suppose we all know people who have put the Ichthus symbol on their business cards or signs. I believe many are identifying themselves as followers of Christ and their motives for doing so are pure.

I do however know one local businessman who told me straight out he put the "Jesus fish" on his signs because he wanted to attract Christians as customers figuring they'd pay their bills. He eventually took down the fish with some dismay and told me "all it did was attract needy people who thought a fellow Christian would give them a discount."

Heaven forbid.

Some years ago, when computers were still new in the workplace, it was hard to find folks to handle basic computer and network maintenance and our company hired a guy who in retrospect sold them a bill of goods. As I, and others, became more familiar with computers we questioned some of his prices and decisions. After learning I was a Christian - and a fairly new one at that - this guy would invariably respond to me by quickly mentioning how he was a "Gideon." He would suddenly start calling me "brother" and sprinkle into our conversations a lot of "Jesus talk."

It worked too, at least for a while. It distracted me - I thought anyone who was a practicing Christian should be trusted.

It wasn't until later that I realized he wasn't a "practicing" Christian....he had graduated to the pros.

And he was a con.

So today I'm simply wondering where do we draw the line? When is a display of faith too much?

It's a tricky question.

I suppose I'll have to keep fishing around for the answer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Miracle Bread

As evening approached, the disciples came to Him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.
"Bring them here to me," He said.

Do you believe in miracles? Miracles like Jesus performed?

I do.

Amy is performing miracles today.

She is baking bread.

As a result children on the other side of the world might avoid a life of jail, or prostitution or early death.

Our little church is preparing to send a small contingent of folks to Moldova, the poorest nation in Europe. Here people are so poor they abandon their own children... children are too costly.

The lucky ones end up in orphanages until they reach legal age. A handful of brave Texas Baptists have been loving on these little children by traveling to remote orphanages with things like socks and hats...and open hearts all of which provide badly needed warmth. It's a small thing to do but we pray it will help these children grow up healthy, with some self esteem and maybe education enough to find their way through the mire of poverty in their country and avoid all too well worn paths of evil.

We pray most of all they see they have never been God.

I can hear Amy grinding wheat. She uses a machine that sounds like a 747 so almost everyone in the neighborhood can hear it, but they don't know she's baking miracle bread.

The bread will feed our friends who will buy loaves knowing the money will go to our Moldova missionaries, two of whom are teenagers who could never be prepared for the heartbreak they are about to witness, nor the joy they will experience by doing the very work of Christ.

Wheat ground in our kitchen...bread baked in our oven...will help transport caring Christians around the globe to a remote place where children are disposable and life is cruel beyond your darkest dreams.

Warm bread turned into hugs and comfort.

Yes, Amy is performing miracles today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Pie Eyed

My doctor said it was good to see me today and then asked where the rest of me's been a long time since I've been to a doctor's office for me. I've been blessed to be relatively healthy this past couple of years.

He hadn't seen me since my weight loss and was pleased that I chose a fairly conventional means of accomplishing it... eating less...exercising more.

He looked in my ears and up my nose...muttered something under his breath about a viral epidemic before loading me down with steroids. Now I'm jumpy as pie.

I know that makes no sense but one of my favorite bloggers uses colloquiums that end with "as pie" and I've always wanted to too.

My symptoms have all but disappeared....of course so has sleep. The house is clean though...well cleaner.

Clean as pie.

Nah, that didn't work either...I guess you can't borrow local color it has to be inherited or something.

I need sleep...I'm awake but I'm tired as pie.

If I Were Psychic I'd Be In Vegas...

The sluggishness set in yesterday afternoon, the runny nose and headache this morning...the coughing about 2 hours ago.

My doctor's appointment is 45 minutes away.
My boss - who still insists there's nothing a doctor can do -is toughing it out. We'll see who wins.

Everyone gripes about the cost of health insurance...not me. I think of it like going to Las Vegas. Amy goes into the hospital... we pay (or at least are supposed to pay... one day I'll get around to those bills) 5 percent or less...our insurance pays a gazillion dollars. If I could do that well at the horse track I'd be there every day.

I'll roll the dice on the doc today and hopefully stop the spread of the boss the meantime...wash your hands.

Monday, January 24, 2005


If I don't come down with a disease of foreign origin it will not be for the lack of trying by my boss. He went to France for a couple of days (don't get me started) and came back coughing...that turned into it's this sort of constant gagging honking harmony.

I try to tune out much of the world when I'm at work and have grown accustomed to having people screaming, carrying on conversations, and operating fax machines right behind me as I try to record newscasts but the non stop typhoid symphony is hard to ignore. I want to shield myself with an umbrella and a can of Lysol.

I have no idea what people hearing these newscasts think...maybe that they are being subjected to a not so subliminal message about the dangers of smoking.

I've worked when I've been sick out of necessity before...but we could have made it without my boss today and most of last week. I told him as much. I suggested he go to a doctor to which the response was, "It's only a cold...a doctor can't do anything for a cold."

I never noticed his medical degree before...

I suppose that will come in handy least he'll understand what I'm talking about when I call in sick.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Year Of Worship

When our kids were much younger we took them to a Chinese restaurant after church one Sunday. The restaurant had placemats indicating the various years of the Chinese calendar. There was the year of the tiger, the year of the snake and the like. My stepson Joey was reading along and came across one he didn't quite was a rooster, but the placemat didn't use the word rooster. The placemat referred to a male chicken by a common and perfectly acceptable word when used in context...unfortunately in the middle of a restaurant packed with post church service customers the loudly voiced question of an 11 year old asking, "What's a c**k?" raised any number of eyebrows, caused at least one egg drop soup spit-take and resulted in me suppressing the urge to crawl under the table. I recall uncomfortably explaining to Joey in as hushed tones as possible that the word he had spoken loud enough for apparently everyone in the restaurant to hear had two meanings, both of which one might argue belonged in a barnyard.

Amy and I didn't make any resolutions this year, but over the past few weeks we've agreed that 2005 will be our "Year of Worship." There are already issues arising at church which have proven distracting. Two longtime church members sudden decision to leave announced via a Friday night email created real problems for Amy since they were members of the music team expected to help lead worship today.

Additionally, we've changed our by-laws regarding the election of Deacons and Elders, a process started back in October, but now - a week before the election - there is confusion about what was approved which opened the door to additional delay and debate.

In the interim we will not have enough people in lay ministry positions to do some exciting work we had planned.

On top of that, our newly announced spiritual mentorship program may also be jeopardized since it was being organized by one of the members who decided to quit one week before he was to co-lead the initial instruction for the program.

It would be very easy to get distracted and disillusioned if not utterly dismayed by these developments.

But at least for Amy and me that's not going to happen.

We are determined to robe ourselves in the worship of God.

The music may not be perfect, but our hearts will be in the right place. Today, by the way, the music was beautiful because at the last minute Amy took it upon herself to contact Joe, a man we came to know over the past two years because he delivered Amy's medical supplies. He is a strong Christian whom we learned has been actively looking for a new church home. He also plays the piano and sings. He agreed to play during our service today and it was wonderfully uplifting.

He worshipped God with an ease of song which was contagious.

Joe and his family are still church shopping and I tend to doubt our church will prove to be the right fit for them, but for today it meshed and his gift to our congregation was a blessing.

I don't know if next week will be better or worse. I do know it will be different.

I also know we will still worship.

Our Deacon and Elder elections almost certainly will fall victim to further procrastination or politics, but our church will survive. That will only distract us from worshipping God if we allow it and we won't.

The mentorship program is bigger than one mortal individual and I have faith that its Christ-centered roots will take hold and bear fruit despite a few unexpected rocks in the soil.

This is the Year of Worship.

No uncomfortable explanations are necessary.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Way And The Fray

Early Christians didn't call themselves Christians...they were referred to as followers of "The Way." I don't know when that phrase faded from our vocabulary, but in many ways I wish it hadn't.

I was going to let the fray over the SpongeBob post fizzle out without further comment from me, but as I am often led to do, I started wrestling with the idea that there was a lesson in all this for me.

After reading all the comments - heck that's the most I've ever gotten on a post, easily beating out my last controversial musing on whether you should bend the pages of books - I felt compelled to say one or two things more.

First off, I am thankful for the passion of thought brought to the table here. I am a believer that we can not grow in Christ alone, we must grow in community...and sometimes members of that community disagree among themselves. That does not mean we are not still brothers and sisters in Christ. Quite the opposite actually. I think it's healthy and although in truth such spirited discussions are not likely to change many minds, I find it helpful if for no other reason than it forces me to peer into my personal mirror to make certain I know the man at whom I'm gazing.

I appreciate the efforts made to be respectful during this discussion and in that light I wanted to say to Liddy, "you're right." I used a poor choice of words. I have a close family member who is gay and who has worked with gay youth on a suicide hotline; I should have given more thought to my remark of "I'm not a fan of homosexuality." I was too flippant in trying to convey that I am not an advocate of the gay lifestyle. I know words can hurt, but that certainly wasn't my intent. I'm glad you called me on it.

As I was writing, Amy handed me an email from a long time member of our church who has struggled in his beliefs informing her that he was leaving the church. He didn't spell out why and I'm not certain he really knows, but his choice is very painful for us as I'm sure it will be for many others. It was also a lousy way to start the day. I have worshipped with this man for many years and I will miss him. Amy walked away in tears.

It brought me back to this recent dialog, what I think I have learned from it, and a reminder of what I believe is truly important.

I believe it takes discernment and honest study to understand what Christ wants from me. I know I can easily be led astray. I believe I must help others along the path and be certain I'm not so fixated on the road ahead that I overlook those people wondering if they're on the right road at all.

However foremost among my beliefs is that my focus must at all times be the worship of God.

I think I've been shown this week that I need to stay on that path, help those I can, but if I get embroiled in trying to change the minds of friends who believe their spiritual struggle is guiding them elsewhere, or people who think SpongeBob is a tool of evil, I risk losing direction and forgetting to worship all I do.

These other things are important, but my best and most heartfelt option to deal with them is through the worship of God.

When I do that - with an honest faith - I believe He will show me "The Way."

"I am the way and the truth and the life."

Friday, January 21, 2005

No Time For Ardents

I'm only now getting home after going to work at 2 a.m. and helping Amy deal with a computer emergency at one of her few remaining clients all day. I see yesterday's post drew a lot of response and that's wonderful. I enjoyed reading everyone's opinions and I'm thankful that folks felt comfortable enough to share them.

I actually thought what I wrote was relatively innocuous, but of course when I wrote it I didn't know Gordon was going to make a passing mention my blog today. One reference from Gordon easily doubles the number of bloggers who stop by here on any given day...even when he only writes about Amy's cooking.

I don't think I've ever written anything truly controversial here, except maybe in the very early days of the blog when I fancied myself some type of pundit. I got over that.

The discipline of writing every day allows me a wonderful luxury much the same as I have working in radio...what I say one day goes out into the ether and I don't really concern myself with it too long afterwards. Yesterday was yesterday.

Today my mind is on another topic. My completely inaccurate "hit counter" is likely going to reach a new milestone today or tomorrow: 50,000 visitors - a little ahead of schedule due to Gordon's mention no doubt.

That's kind of cool.

However right now the most dominant thought on my mind is that I want to spend the rest of this day relaxing with Amy.

That's kind of cool too.

And certainly a subject worthy of my passion.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Squeezing Satan Into Square Pants

Over the past day or so, I've been having a back and forth discussion with Laura Moncur who writes the blog Pick Me!

It started with the post I wrote about Rolling Stone rejecting an ad for a new Bible translation aimed at "young people" (by the way I despise the realization that I am now way outside of that demographic). Many of you may have missed the discussion since the dialog took place in the comments section, but you can go back and read through our banter if you like. Laura also wrote about it on her blog.

Before I read her offerings today, I was thinking about that discussion and how narrow minded Christians have despoiled so many ripe and fertile opportunities to truly share the love of Christ. Then I read an article in today's New York Times - I'm going to reprint a portion of it since the Times on line requires all that registration stuff with which you might not want to bother.



WASHINGTON -- On the heels of electoral victories to bar same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

In many circles, SpongeBob needs no introduction. He is popular among children and grownups as well who watch him cavorting under the sea on the Nickelodeon cartoon program that bears his name. In addition, he has become a camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick.

Now, Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside other children's television characters such as Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The video's makers, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools this spring to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity." He urged his allies to stand against it as part of a "spiritual battle" for the country.


SpongeBob SquarePants is being used as a tool of evil in a "spiritual battle" for our country?

This cartoon character!

How often must Christians get sucked into these "causes" before we learn to stop and think?

This by the way is not a new debate. I mentioned it in August of 2003 and those comments were based on a BBC article written in 2002!

I read the Times article and felt like sending Laura a white flag with a little note reading: "You win...we all lose."

How absolutely ironic it is that James Dobson is denouncing a video promoting tolerance.

I don't want to embark on a debate over homosexuality, but for the record, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality during His ministry ever...or at least not in any account recorded in the Bible. Never. Not once. There are two references in the New Testament that I know of, the most frequently cited and most damning is Romans 1: 18-29. That was written by Paul, not Jesus, and I personally believe it can be interpreted any number of ways - again none of which I wish to debate. I'm not a fan of homosexuality...I believe some gays are being used to further a political agenda which I find troubling, but to preach against tolerance? Huh? Where does that come from? The Jesus I know sought out the very people society didn't collectors. He seemed like a pretty tolerant guy to me.

I believe James Dobson has done some wonderful things. I know he was instrumental in influencing a dear friend of mine whom I pray that I will one day be one tenth as Christ-like. However I also believe that it's not my job to judge. I don't care what you think of homosexuality. I am not here to judge you...or homosexuals. I was freed from that burden by Christ.

When are we going to understand that we are "saved" not only from our sins, but also from having to judge anyone?

God wants us to worship Him...have a relationship with Him...not spend our time finding flaws in His other children.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in evil.

I believe satan is at work in this world. Really...I do.

I believe satan is responsible for great acts of horror that cause us to scream and tremble, but I also believe he uses devious subtleties as well.

Maybe it's a light bulb flickering during a church sermon that takes your mind away from the message being delivered from the pulpit, maybe it's a minor argument you had with your spouse or kids in the car on the way to church which you can't get out of your mind, maybe it's a ray of sunshine streaking through the church window that causes you to daydream instead of listen...or maybe it's pushing us to get our knickers in a knot over a cartoon character.

In that sense maybe James Dobson is right...SpongeBob SquarePants is a tool of satan....but only because we allow him to be.

Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of Your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name's sake. - Psalm 79-9

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Getting Traction

Our house exploded today and I am typing amid the debris.

Right before Erin moved in I cleared out Joey's old room for her and Amy and I (cough... Amy) decided this would provide us with a good opportunity to rearrange one or two other rooms (cough...every room in the house) as well.

Some folks donated furniture for Erin and other folks donated furniture to convert what was Amy's office (cough...war zone) into another bedroom. I don't want to get too specific in this post 9-11 world, but that's basically all the ingredients you need to make a bomb.

Our house exploded as we (cough...Amy) decided that all we ( needed to do was move at least two pieces of furniture from every bedroom into another bedroom and then do a complete makeover of our bedroom.

I was so excited at this prospect, I let the momentum build...for ten years or so and was perfectly willing to let the anticipation grow for another decade or two but we (cough...Amy) decided today was the day.

We (cough...Amy) took a slightly different tact than those trite TV makeover shows. We converted our bedroom from a chaotic mess to a style I like to call post modern nuclear holocaust.

Amy assures me that it's going to look really nice....eventually.

I'm looking forward to seeing it...although after carrying furniture up and down stairs all day I suspect my vantage point is going to be limited for a while.

Plus I seem to have developed a nasty cough.

Prayer Request

I'm asking you to say a small prayer this morning for two men...both bloggers.

"Fish" at "A Real Big Fish" and "Osray" at "I like being there."

Fish is a young man...Osray has a few more years on him. Both have had some heart related problems.

My motives are purely selfish. I don't have that many readers so I'd like them to stick around.

Seriously, both of these bloggers have been part of my journey and I'd kind of like to keeping walking alongside them for a good while to come. I don't want them racing ahead.

Will you pray with me?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Stone Cold Honesty

I read this article in USA Today and it got me thinking.

You can read the article for yourself and decide on Rolling Stone's motives for refusing to accept an ad for a new Bible translation aimed at younger people. Personally I don't think they're being honest, which is a dangerous course for a journalistic publication. To me the explanations, at least those offered in the USA Today story seem a bit watery but it's their magazine they have the right to turn down money, as I have the right not to give them mine.

I don't mind people making mistakes. I'd prefer they didn't, but since I make more than my share I sort of figure I'm getting the best end of the deal when it comes to forgiveness.

I must admit I need to learn to have more grace for folks who refuse to admit when they've erred.

It used to be something we expected from our children, part of the process of growing up.

"Not me!"
How many parents haven't heard that response upon discovering a broken family heirloom or a dent in their car door?

Now though it's really become part of our culture...a culture of denial. Worse yet, a culture where it's expected that people are too caught up in themselves to see the painfully obvious.

I had a co-worker once who deleted all of the audio files in the computer system we use for news. I know he did it because the files were there when I walked in the office door and he and I were the only people in the building. Ten minutes later the audio files weren't there. There was no power failure. No ghosts or demons slithered out of the ether. It was still only me and him in the building, and I hadn't touched the computers.

No other files disappeared, only the ones in the computer folder where he had been working. He denied erasing anything...repeatedly.

I won't go into specifics, but believe me there's no other way it could have happened. It had never happened before or since.

I was upset not only because I suddenly had no audio for a morning news block that was going to begin in two hours, and that he repeatedly lied to my face, but mostly because he obviously thought so little of my intelligence.

I didn't have time to debate the issue with him. I told him he was lying, that I knew it and that I could prove it if need be. He continued to deny my people I have worked side by side with for decades. Everyone he spoke to knew he was lying...except apparently him.

He left our radio station's employ a short time later.

Had that man - he was close to my age - been honest with me I could have worked with him, shown him how not to repeat the mistake and moved on. I might very well have covered for him, but he left me no choice. It still makes me sad thinking about it.

I remember when my stepson Joey was probably around 11 or 12 he got deeply embroiled in an exhaustive computer game and without asking permission began phoning a "hint line." He didn't realize that each call cost money and when the phone bill arrived his mother sent him out into the backyard where I was working - phone bill in hand - and told him he had to face me and confess what he had done.

I still remember how he trudged out with a hang dog look and tearfully admitted making the calls. He honestly thought he would only be charged one time, not for every call he made (and he made a bunch). He looked at me waiting to see my reaction already calculating in his head how long it would take to pay back the cost of the calls not to mention what type of torture I might inflict upon him.

I told him I was glad he was honest with me and not to worry about it anymore. I think he was surprised by my reaction. I don't recall if we even made him pay us back for the cost of the calls or gave him extra chores.

I remember he learned a lesson that day. I remember because I learned it too.

Maybe a lesson I need to be reminded of more often.'s there for the taking...and the giving.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. -1 John 1:9

Monday, January 17, 2005

More On Nail Man

I really have little to add beyond what's been said in the comments of the previous post, but I did want to show this photo.

I'm going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume this was an accident. No matter what, you have to classify this as something of a miracle. Somebody was trying to drive home a point.

What Were You Whining About Again?

Okay, before you start complaining about your morning aches and pains, take one moment to think about Patrick Lawler, a carpenter in Colorado who thought he had a tooth ache.

He went for six days trying to treat the "tooth ache" with ice cream before he went to the dentist complaining about the roof of his mouth being sore.

He didn't have a tooth ache...he had a 4 1/2 inch nail embedded in the roof of his mouth.

He apparently shot himself with a nail gun and didn't realize it. The nail literally went into his brain and nearly hit his eye.

Doctors pulled it out. He's going to be okay.

Get up and go to work.

You First

Ah, it's Monday...and what would Monday be without something to brighten our the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

What a little ray of sunshine these folks must be to be around.

"After you."

"No, after you...I insist."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

To Seek And Savor The Loss

"Loss leader" is a term used in retail when a store prices certain items at below the store's actual cost to get you in the door, in hopes you will buy other things. It's worked very well for Wal-Mart for example with toys. It's cheaper to buy toys at Wal-Mart than at some of the big toy stores. Wal-Mart figures if you come in to buy toys for your kids, you'll stay to buy clothes, dog food, toiletries, groceries, etc. Wal-Mart doesn't make a profit on the toys but the other items it sells you make up for that loss.

I certainly don't mean to compare God to Wal-Mart, although now that I think about it that might be an interesting rabbit trail to go down one day, but I woke up this morning thinking about loss leaders for Christ.

We don't have a lot of organized programs in our church; heck one might argue we don't have a lot of organization period. We have youth functions and Sunday school, but we're not that big of a church and our attempts in past years to formalize ways of outreach or involvement have not been overwhelmingly successful.

I was recently asked to receive a modicum of training for a mentoring program of sorts that we're going to attempt. I'm not certain of the specifics yet and I'm sure I'll write about it as I learn more, but my understanding is it's a spiritual buddy concept. Some folks in the church will be given a small amount of training and then be made available to develop a one on one spiritual relationship with another church member in hopes that will help both individuals grow. I was admittedly hesitant to volunteer or, as things usually work in our church, "be volunteered" until I thought more about my own journey.

I wasn't led to a true relationship with Christ through a program or even a particular church. There were a number of factors and people involved, not the least of which of course was Amy.

But before I met Amy I had been listening to a minister of a church in Austin whom we featured on a radio program. He seemed to cut through some of the clutter that had heretofore provided a convenient barrier between me and God. I listened, I liked what I heard and I ended up going to a used book store and finding a dusty old book he had written many years ago. I devoured that book and to this day it sits next to my bed because it still speaks to me on a number of different levels.

That minister's church grew and grew. Amy and I took the kids there once or twice many years ago. I enjoyed the service, but the church was not really for us, if for no other reason than it was 60 miles away.

Today that church is still thriving and that minister is still preaching but he's lost respect in my eyes. I have come to know some things about the inner workings of his church and about him personally which have tainted my viewpoint. I need not go into specifics.

I mentioned that minister only because I think that God used him as something of a loss leader to reach me.

That minister is a flawed man, as are we all. His stature in my eyes has fallen in recent years and I personally believe he has done some un-Christ-like things. Yet when I needed him, God used him and that got me to open the door.

The fact that in recent years that same preacher has been diminished in my eyes does not reflect on God.

In fact I'm now thinking God also used those very faults, and my awareness of them to remind me that the instruments God uses are not what are important. Tools will rust, or break. Tools can fail us. We may discover flaws within the people who opened the doors to our spiritual journeys.

The journey is still pure.

So I am looking forward to embarking on this spiritual mentoring program knowing full well that it could become a perfect example of the blind leading the blind.

I have learned not to confuse the tools with the Toolmaker.

He is working from a Master plan.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Silence Speaks*

I think this is my favorite time of the week when it works out like this.

I fell asleep fairly early last night (Erin's first introduction to my masterful ability to snore on the couch) and thus I woke up around 4 a.m. to the silence of the house.

Hot coffee, dogs content to sleep after a minimal amount of early morning acknowledgement, and no real agenda set yet for the day except perhaps to spend some time reading - catching up on blogs and the new Grisham novel. I'm certain when Amy gets moving she'll come up with more practical things we need to accomplish, but I've probably got several hours before there's any moment in the house beyond mine.

For the most part I lead a noisy life.

At home there is usually a TV on somewhere. The dogs bark, or howl or commit some doggie sin prompting us to bark or howl at them.

At work there is a constant barrage of people yammering at either each other or into microphones. I have police and fire scanners inches from my head blurting out non-stop information, which I've learned to run through filters in my brain listening only for key words that then mandate a response from me. One radio news network we use communicates with stations with what is called a "voice cue channel" which blares usually useless information from speakers above my head all the time. I fantasize of one day traveling to New York and finding that network guy who has interrupted my train of thought so often with completely obvious, valueless information like, "Stations! This is ABC News in New York. We'll have a newscast at the top of the hour."

It won't ever happen of course, but if I did make the trip I suspect I would end up behind a long line of radio people from around the globe who have also dreamt of tearing out that guy's tongue.

In truth, I have become good at tuning out most those distractions and doing my job amid the din. I've also become accustomed to dogs barking, TV and traffic sounds.

It's not the same as silence.

The only noise in the house at this moment is that of my fingers clicking away on the keyboard.

Mornings like this remind me that while I can muffle the pressing intrusions in life quite well with a buffer of faith and obstinance, it's only when it's truly quiet that I hear what's really important.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. - Psalm 23: 2-3

*This entry prompted a post on Amy's Blog

Friday, January 14, 2005

Random Clutter

I occasionally run across things that I think might make for blog fodder but invariably don't make the cut.

I'm clearing out some of that junk today.

For instance I never wrote about

This is a website that will send letters for you signed by God. Well, they're not actually signed by God, they're not signed by anyone, they're printed out on nice religious looking paper and the signature is printed too.

You can personalize your letters by sending someone a specific prayer if you like...

They don't charge a lot and their intentions - at least at first blush - seem to be sweet and pure.

I am grateful though that God doesn't really have to rely on the postal service to reach me.

I never wrote about the church in Cleveland, Tennessee that turned their Wednesday night service into something akin to Late Night with David Letterman.

I'm sure at some point I was prepared to make fun of it looks sort of fun.

Man, I'm getting old.
Sometimes I save statistics, facts or surveys I think I might be able to use. I was certain I would write about a Sears survey released last December which said 71 percent of men spend less time holiday shopping if their favorite football team is doing well: the better their team is doing, the less time they have to go shopping.

I never mentioned it.

If the survey had any validity at all Amy would be rolling in splendor this year considering how the Cowboys performed.

That's enough clutter clearing for today. I think I'll go put in a few miles around the neighborhood and clear my mind a bit too.

In A Hurry?

It's stories like this one that get my heart racing in the morning.

If these two get married they might consider rings made of match their feet.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Subway To Heaven

There is an evangelism outreach going on beneath the sidewalks of New York City.

A Pastor and several "shills" board subway cars and fake various antics, not the least of which is a fainting spell, to attract an audience and then they share the word of Christ with people hanging onto the straps. They call themselves Subway Evangelists and they've been doing it for years.

No one gets hurt. They claim to have had a great deal of success. So much so they've expanded to bus stops and other scenarios....elevators haven't paid off... the trip to the top is too short.

I love sending stories like this to folks who initially find them unbelievable but then wonder how many steps removed any of us are really from this when it comes to sharing the Gospel.

Painting by Daniel DeNapoli

Personally, I think it's a healthy and somewhat ironic reminder that oftentimes we look at others and laugh or judge their efforts...only to come back later...look below the surface...and see ourselves.

A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue- Proverbs 11:12

Causing Suffering For The Cause?

I'm not sure about this one.

I hope it doesn't mean I lack faith, but I've always tried to avoid pain..

"You what?"

"Um, I signed up to be tortured, well not really tortured, but you know put through pain, to demonstrate that my faith in You minimizes my agony."

"I love you for thinking so highly of Me, but in truth I figured out another way to minimize your agony."


"Yes, I gave you a brain."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Doing The Coincidence Shuffle

Moving in silent desperation
Keeping an eye on the holy land
A hypothetical destination
Say, who is this walking man?*

"We need to slow down and start taking care of each other more, not just as Christians but just as human beings."
- Don Vermilyea

My mind is wandering today, which now seems only appropriate.

As I was pulling into our driveway this morning I heard on the radio that every hour you spend walking you get back 15 fold. I don't know where that statistic came from or if it's true, however I found it an odd coincidence.

One of the things I started writing about yesterday, and then scrubbed, was walking. I wrote down a couple of things, but the idea didn't seem to be leading me anywhere so I abandoned it, figuring maybe it would gel another day.

Today is that day, although admittedly I'm still not exactly certain where I'm headed.

Back in July I mentioned that Tiffany, our eldest child, had given me a pedometer to use while walking. I've been using it religiously although a couple of months ago it dawned on me that it was sort of silly to reset it daily since I walk the same distance every day. So I have let it simply click off the miles for the past couple of months and every once in a while I'll glance at it to see how far I've walked since the last reset. I checked it today and it shows in the past two months or so I've walked a little over 169 miles.

I would be fairly impressed with that figure if I hadn't gone to work this morning and found a story about a man named
Don Vermilyea.

He was walking along a highway in San Antonio yesterday and someone called the radio station to ask what we knew about him. We didn't know anything so we went to find out.

This is what we learned - last year Don walked 4,732 miles.
The year before he walked 4,126...and in 2002 he meandered close to 4000.

He is a member of the church of the Brethren and is visiting like minded congregations all over the country...the hard way...on foot. He hopes to visit every congregation of his church in the country and figures he'll be 2012.

Yes, 2012. He's planning to walk every day, averaging about 22 miles per day, for the next seven years.

Our reporter did ask the question that's probably also rumbling toward your lips right about now: Why?

His response was, "The only reason I walk is for the Lord."

This isn't one of those deals where there's a van following behind him and he hops in at night to sleep, or where there are people all along the way offering him food and shelter. For the most part he doesn't have any idea where he's staying from one night to the next and he travels alone. So far this week he's slept in a drainage culvert (not a wise thing to do by the way, storms can rise up rather quickly around here) and a horse barn.

He's currently walking to Falfurrias, in deep South Texas.

I've been to Falfurrias. It was a number of years ago, but I went there to do a feature story about Don Jaramillo, a legendary "curandero" or healer whom a lot of people in this part of the world consider something of a saint.

It wasn't the most memorable was only a three hour drive, but there is not much between San Antonio and Falfurrias besides scrub brush and cactus. Don Jaramillo died in 1907, but there is a makeshift shrine to him on the outskirts of Falfurrias where people go to pray, to light candles, and to leave photographs of loved ones in need of healing.

The shrine is tended to by the operators of a gift shop, right inside the gates of a cemetery.

It's an unusual place.

It's 169 miles from San Antonio.

So today has been a day of strange coincidences.

I'm not sure what to think about them.

I also don't know what to think about people who feel compelled by God to embark on treks like Don Vermilyea. In truth I'm still somewhat puzzled by the people I met years ago who left their driver's licenses or photos of loved ones at a slightly tacky shrine to a curandero who died decades earlier.

I didn't know where I was going when I started writing today; I'm not sure Don Vermilyea knows where he's going either.

I can't get over the feeling though that we're both being led, and I suppose that's the most important thing.

One side note I can't resist: Don Vermilyea says so far he's found $910.27 in change along the highways he's walked.

More on Don Vermilyea
More on Don Jaramillo
* Walking Man by James Taylor

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Left Right Left

I seem to have come to a bump in the road this week in terms of writing. I sit down and start to dash something out and then don't like it, try to refine it, and often abandon it. I've been distracted and it's been difficult to refocus.

Amy told me last night, "You can't force it" and she's right, which is often the case - a quality which I adore about her....really.

So I'm not going to force it. Today I don't really have any profound thoughts. The weather is fabulous - 80 degrees and sunshine. I gave Erin a tour of the neighborhood so she won't get lost while walking or jogging. I mentioned that the key is to "always go left." With the exception of one right turn from our street, if you take every left turn onto streets that aren't dead ends, you can navigate our neighborhood fairly easily.

Amy is now cooking dinner the aroma of which is providing another distraction.

I think I'll go sit near the kitchen and watch her.

That'll teach her to be right.

Last Words

An interesting story from Orlando, Florida -

A Presbyterian minister collapsed and died at the pulpit after saying "And when I go to heaven..."

The Reverend Jack Arnold, who was 69 years old, was nearing the end of his sermon Sunday at Covenant Presbyterian Church when he grabbed the podium before falling to the floor.

Before collapsing, Arnold quoted the 18th-century Bible scholar John Wesley who said, "Until my work on this earth is done, I am immortal. But when my work for Christ is done ... I go to be with Jesus."

Monday, January 10, 2005

Smelly Stuff

(I started writing something completely different here today...then got sidetracked...and I think after reading this over I simply got lost...but I'm posting it anyway...because, well because I want to go to sleep).
The other day I was contemplating a bowl of some high protein cereal Amy had bought and rejected as "tasting like wood" and I gave the milk in the refrigerator a didn't smell quite right to me.

Amy on the other hand said it smelled fine.

I opted for a small amount of half and half instead, thus negating any health benefits of the cereal.

This morning I had been at the office for about 30 minutes when the phone rang and a man who said he was a local cab driver told me, "Every cabbie and cop in the city is looking for a missing taxi driver." He wanted me to broadcast the story on the news, telling me the driver had last radioed his dispatcher saying, "Help I'm being robbed!" and then no one heard from him again.

I asked a few questions but made no promises about running the story. I made a couple of follow up calls to police and to various creatures of the night I know and none could confirm the story so I decided it was better to sit on it, even though it was a possible such a crime could have fallen off the normal radar of my sources.

It's a decision I've made many times and in all honesty it is a little dangerous...because it could easily be mistaken for laziness which could result in unemployment.

I mentioned the facts as I knew them to a co-worker upon her arrival and asked her to follow it up later in the morning. She did and came back to my desk saying, "I think it's true!" She was concerned we had missed a story because of my judgment call, so we went over the facts and she told me after some prodding police were able to find a police report about a missing cab driver, but that the cab company itself would not confirm it to her.

The aroma was starting to become stronger to me. I've covered missing cab drivers before; in fact I've seen murdered cab drivers. It's been my experience that taxi companies act like mothers of lost children in times of distress - they wail loudly and seek help from every possible source - as well they should. I told the reporter the story was bogus and we wouldn't run it despite the police report. A short time later a panicked official from the cab company called to tell us it was a case of "miscommunication" with the driver. There was no one was missing.

Some years back, not long after the Columbine tragedy, I heard a scanner call of "shots fired" at a local elementary school. I was writing a newscast at the time and my boss heard the call on the scanner too. He rushed out the door to the scene. Two news organizations in the city (one television, one radio) went on the air immediately and announced the name of the school, and that 11 to 13 children had been wounded. That resulted in the school being swamped by manic parents and every phone line in my office ringing with calls from angry listeners asking why we weren't broadcasting the story.

I put nothing about the story on our air. I couldn't confirm any injuries or even a shooting...and I worried about the Columbine jitters. I also worried I was making the wrong call.

My boss arrived on the scene at almost the same time as EMS and quickly called me pleading that I NOT run any story because there was no shooting. A janitor driving to work thought somebody shot at him miles away as he was leaving home and when he got to the school he called police to report it. EMS units 8 - 11 and 8 -13 had been dispatched as a precaution. That is apparently what the other news organizations heard and mistook for a body count.

We did eventually have to run a story, simply to tell people there was no story with the exception of shoddy journalism.

Like every member of the media I've been accused of being biased. Unlike some whenever that accusation has been directed toward me I've always said, "Yes, I am." That's not a revelation I had or a defense I adopted, it was literally one of the first things I was taught in journalism 101 and it's an obvious truth.

I carry my biases with me everywhere - they taint my viewpoint on life. I am white. I am a Christian. A stepfather. A homeowner. I am a former drunk and drug abuser. All of these things give me a different perspective on life than you, and thus you and I may both look at the same event and see two different things.

I guess what I'm saying is you have to put everything to your own smell test...and maybe we should be doing that more often.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Up And Back

Sigh...I knew this was going to happen, I'm back to being number one on Google if you search for McGriddle recipe.
Speaking of being back...Amy has republished her blog. She's not exactly prolific yet, but I celebrate every step.

Sore Back, Sunday And Silence

Everyone's an editor -for whatever reason blogger is taking my posts but is not publishing them. So I've been silenced, at least on line.

I've always said I write for myself...I suppose now I'm proving that.

Erin moved in yesterday. I searched my memory for a time when I could move somewhere with all my needed possessions in my car and then I realized there never was a time in my life when I've done that.

I've carried some clunky furniture with me since I was 17, including the rather large desk my computer is sitting on now, an old newspaperman's desk...that old newspaperman was my father. There are other items as well that I have hauled with me for 30 years or more - every time I moved.

In a way I suppose that's been good, it's certainly discouraged me from moving a lot - you carry this old hardwood desk up a flight of stairs and the memory stays with you, well after the ibuprophen wears off.

I don't feel limited by my possessions and if push really came to shove I think Amy and I could grab a few photo albums, take a look back and walk away from almost everything else in this house without much problem.

In truth that should probably be our goal in life - not to acquire all the things we want...but to be able to leave everything behind gladly.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. - John 14:18

Saturday, January 08, 2005

God & Guts

He stopped me on my walk this afternoon, an older somewhat overweight guy who lives a mile or so away. Over the past 10 or 11 months I have strolled by him often as he puttered about in his front yard. He saw me coming and literally stepped out in front of my path so it was obvious he wanted to talk although we have never spoken before beyond a cursory wave as I strolled by. I stopped, took off my headphones and shook his hand.

He was blunt,"Okay, so how much weight have you lost?"

I told him 60 to 70 pounds and he said, "My neighbors were asking me, 'Hey, what's that guy's secret' so I told them I'd stop you and ask."

I pushed aside the thought that my depleted gut was really the topic of a neighborhood conversation, and answered his questions about diet and exercise as politely as possible.

He nodded and mumbled something like, "I need to start doing that." I encouraged him as best I could, wished him well and plodded off.

That's my ideal vision of evangelism.

I've mentioned before that I consider the most effective outreach for Christ not to be organized church programs, formulas or slogans. I have nothing against such things, it's simply been my experience that seeing people live their lives in a true Christ-like manner has proven to be the best form of witness.

When I see folks like that, true Christians whose focus is on worshipping God and keeping their lives Christ centered, I invariably see people who have a good perspective on the world -most of the time their kids are pretty good kids, very rarely do I hear them talking negatively about anything much less anyone. When I have seen those folks, quite often I've thought, "I want to be like them."

I don't have to rush out into the street to stop and ask them what the secret is though.

Walk the walk...that's the key.

Friday, January 07, 2005

No Writing Friday- Schwab Blog Plug

I don't have time to write today...maybe late tonight, we'll see.

I thought I'd simply put in a plug for The Schwab Blog.

This is an open source blog experiment started a while back for anyone who wants to blog but doesn't have a place or the time or the commitment quite yet for a blog all their own. It's also been used by bloggers who want to write something perhaps that is out of character for their own blog.

In other words it's open to everyone...not only to read, but to write.

It's all spelled out on the blog, but the username is - schwabwriter and the password is - freedom.

The only real rule is - keep it clean...but I might nice. If you want to be mean there are lots of places you can go. If that's your attitude you've probably already gotten the usual suggestions :)

I don't have time to write write something in my stead okay?

Oh go ahead.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

"F" Words

I have to make this fast. I have committed myself to a couple of things which I forgot. That means I barely have any time to write today and I likely won't have time at all on Friday. If so, don't freak.

However I wanted to let you know...I can't fix you. The church probably can't fix you either in fact. Don't get me wrong, it's a great place to set foot in, but you have to find your own path to free yourself from whatever you've been refusing to face.

I'm only being fair, not finding fault.

We've all got our fears. All of us are flawed.

Today I'm hoping you'll understand my focus.

If you do, you can forget that entire flaw finding, fault phooey and get back to the facts.

Our Father forgives and that's forever.

For until you fully understand that...being a Christian seems fairly futile.

"Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." - Luke 7:47

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Go In Peace

"Go in in in the arms that will hold you...
Go in in His love"

That's a lyric from a song by Billy's how our church members end our services almost every Sunday. We hold hands and sing those words.

I felt like doing that today as Amy and I left her surgeon's office, both of us teary eyed. Amy is still having some pain but she's doing great, and everyone is optimistic that she's going to keep growing stronger. Her doctor was thrilled with her progress and today's appointment ended with him saying something to the effect of, "Well, I'll see you in a month...then maybe we'll schedule another appointment for several months away...then, you know, I'll always want to keep tabs on you."

It was a watershed moment. One we have prayed for....for a very long time - the "all clear"- albeit a bit tentative still, from the doc.

We spent tonight at church, and Amy was the social butterfly that is her true nature. I went back to my true nature a bit as well, and sort of sat back and watched. It was very nice.

I'm going to sleep well Amy's arms....and God's.

"Go in in in the arms that will hold you...
Go in in His love"

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Warning! Read This And Waste Your Day!

This is my house.

click to enlarge

This is our church

Click to enlarge

This is Yankee Stadium


These images are from a service being offered by Google called "Keyhole" which lets you go anywhere on Earth and get a satellite view. It is least to play with for their free seven day trial.

For map geeks or world travelers it would be worth the 30 bucks a year to pay for it easily. You can not only find your house, or can locate coffee shops, Italian restaurants, churches, almost anything with the options provided.

The satellite images are dated. Our neighborhood doesn't reflect streets I walk every day, nor does the image of the church property show our new building, but it's still astounding.

I warn you again, if you download the trial will not get anything else done today and I will not be held responsible.

That's all the time I have today for blogging I have much more important things to do.

Let's see....hmmm maybe Paris.

The Google Bomb That Keeps On Giving

Dear Sir.

I am very upset at this posting. I am an avid McGriddle fan and I wanted to steal their recipe. Now, you lead me here, and don't even have a XXX XXXX recipe. I am so mad right now, I can't even express it here. All I want is a XXXXXXX McGriddle and I can't have one thanks to your XXX XXXX post! XXXXXX DIE!
angry mcgriddle fan

In all the time I've been blogging I've received two angry comments...both on the same topic: the recipe for McGriddle sandwiches.

You see it all started as a gag in August of 2003 I noticed that the top "search term" bringing people my blog was "McGriddle recipe." It's because I made a passing mention of how silly I thought the idea of McGriddle sandwich was in another post and somehow Google ranked my blog fairly high on the list. So, I took advantage of it and littered a post with references to McGriddles. It worked. For a while when you went to Google and typed in "McGriddle recipe" I was the number one selection. I'm still ranked 2nd and 3rd.

The sad thing is now that I've mentioned it in this post...I'm probably going to get even more hits from people looking for the recipe.

Hopefully they won't be from such hostile folks as the guy (I'm assuming that's from a guy) who left that comment today without the bad words X'd out.

I do believe this proves one thing - eat breakfast - it's the most important meal of the day.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Balancing Act

A number of years ago, there was a man in our church who would sit in Sunday school and whenever anyone mentioned their trials, pains or pitfalls he would reply, "Just offer it all up to God."

I mean every time someone opened their heart and let their sorrows spill forth he would reply, "Turn it over to God."

I thought he was going to be the first person to be strangled in Sunday school.

I was wrong. He eventually joined another church.

God will find a way.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Yes, I know that's how I ended yesterday's posting...but that hymn has been on my mind quite a bit lately in part because I've been thinking about balance.

Only a few weeks ago, Amy sang that hymn impromptu at the gravesite of our friend Barbara, who would be celebrating her birthday today...and yesterday we sang the same song in church. Barbara's husband stood across the aisle from me singing too.

Following services yesterday my stepson Joey mentioned how he realized as we were singing that sometimes what we need is not necessarily want we want, but God still has been faithful in providing those things for us too...even if those things are painful.

An astute observation for a 21 year old and I am aware that it presents further proof that he and I have no genetic link.

The idea that God not only allows pain but sometimes might even provide it is certainly not the popular image of God. God is love...not pain.


Please don't mistake what I'm saying. I am a believer that we must submit our burdens to God, but I'm given to believe also that God expects us to learn. I think there can indeed be a divine purpose to pain and suffering. I'm suggesting that oftentimes that purpose is to help us understand our own humanity and then God expects us to act upon it.

As I was walking earlier this evening I saw a couple of children and their parents outside - welcome to January in San Antonio our low tonight will be in the 60's - as the kids tried out the Razor scooters or bicycles they had received for Christmas. In each instance the children were wobbly and at times quite a bit out of control, but the parents stood steadfast giving them room to succeed...or fail.

I don't know anyone who ever learned to ride a bike without falling.

I believe God is like those parents on many occasions; foreseeing what's ahead for me, knowing it may indeed be painful, but also knowing it's the only and perhaps the most expedient way I will learn how to find balance in my life.

And when I find that balance I will be able to walk, run, or maybe I'll ride a bike or scooter at full speed into His waiting arms.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A Short Sunday Blog

I felt horrible this morning, slept poorly, Amy and I have both been battling a stomach bug, and I was miserable. I seriously considered passing on church but I couldn't for one reason - how often do you know you are going to see your prayers answered?

I have prayed long and hard for many months for Amy to be strong enough to lead singing. Not that she simply be able to muster the strength and barely make it through, but to be in charge and in control. Today she was - she sang, and I wept.

I think that's all I need to say today...

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Saturday, January 01, 2005


Here I'll call her Sharon, but that's not her real name. She teaches one of the children in our church how to ride horses, and one day that child asked her, "Where do you go to church?"

She didn't have an answer to satisfy herself much less that child, and has found herself at our church as a result. That's been a good thing. She, like I was not that long ago, was unchurched and curious. She attends Sunday school regularly, which is really a measure of spiritual intent in many ways. She asks questions without fear that people will laugh at her lack of knowledge because the people in the class have had or do have those same questions.

I mention Sharon on this New Years Day for only one reason: Amy doesn't deal with death well.

I suppose no one does, but those of us who experienced great loss early and often in our lives have found ways to stare at the inevitable grim prospect of losing loved ones out of only the corner of our eyes, so that our focus can be our lives...and living.

2004 was a hard year in terms of people dying and it ended in the worst of ways, with news that Steve Johnston, a long time friend of Amy's and a former minister at her home church in Ohio died suddenly during a New Year's Eve 5k run. He was only a year or two older than I am. Amy had lunch with his wife when she was in Ohio only a few months ago.

His death brought back the crush of fear that Amy carries with her that one day she will lose a parent, or me, or some close family member...something she has been blessed not to have experienced in her entire life. I've assured her I'm planning to stick around...most days she's in agreement with that plan. I've also reminded her that death is inevitable for us all and our faith is what we cling to in those hard times.

I had met Steve on a handful of occasions but certainly did not know him well, yet his death and my discussions with Amy today led me to thoughts of legacies.

Steve, to my knowledge, had never been to San Antonio. He had certainly never been to Covenant Baptist Church, nor met Gordon our Pastor...but, to the knowledge of neither, his legacy resides within both.

Over the course of helping our little church community grow we've had many a discussion and in the past few years Amy and I had been rather vocal about the need to change the way we handled adult Sunday school.

In addition to having a more self-led adult Sunday school class we laughingly refer to as the, "Cynics and Mystics", Amy and I and others saw a need for a more traditional bible study...with a teacher.

That's where I met Steve Johnston. He taught such a class at a church in Ohio. I'm usually of the mind to skip Sunday school when in Ohio but I went to Steve's class, because I enjoyed it. He was a great teacher. It was a fun class where I learned things about God and it was the example Amy and I used repeatedly when leaders of Covenant met to discuss our church.

As a result of those discussions, for the past couple of years Gordon has been teaching an adult Sunday school class. It's certainly not the same as Steve's, because it's Gordon teaching. Yet I've found, and I think Gordon has realized, that he has a true talent for such teaching and the people in his class are folks who weren't coming to Sunday school at all before. In my mind at least, it's been an unqualified success.

So there is Steve Johnston's legacy to me. A man I met maybe a half dozen times, but whose influence spread through Amy and I to San Antonio and changed the way we do Sunday school.

Now a woman named Sharon who would never have felt comfortable in Sunday school any place else perhaps is learning about God. She's being taught by a man with an honest yet questioning faith and is in the company of a community of seekers.

This is how God works. We don't often see it so plainly.

God bless you taught us well.