Thursday, December 27, 2007

Four Score Of Wisdom

Have a great birthday Bernie!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blessings Upon You

There are so many things I could say, and so many ways I could say them...but it really all boils down this:

Amy and I wish you great blessings, and the ability to recognize and share them.

May you always know God is with you, that you never travel alone, and may Christ be reborn in your heart this day...and every day.

Merry Christmas!


Amy & Michael

Friday, December 21, 2007

Give 'Em The Chair

It's sort of like one of those robot vacuum cleaners...except it's a chair. I think it's still in the concept stage, but the idea is your local public library would have these chairs, which you'd "activate" with your library card. Then your chair-bot would follow you around ensuring you a place to sit while you browse the books.

What will they think of next? I mean going to the library is already soooo physically taxing...

Oh yeah, I want 3 or 4...."Chair Wars!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bandleading Bernie's Brigand Brigade

I apologize for not blogging lately, life is a little very hectic these days, but I figured I better write something since Amy is starting to get a little put off by the emails inquiring where to send the flowers from people assuming I died and they missed the funeral.

In addition to our now somewhat routine daily confusion, we're dealing with the mad rush to prepare for the holidays, a couple more unexpected deaths, friends in need, some work frustrations (most of which I've resolved by the way - it's easier to adopt the prevailing office attitude of not caring about common sense or quality then to continue to feel like I'm swimming upstream), and fiddling far too much with "Google gadgets" that always seem to need just a little more tinkering - I'm now convinced they're the tools of the devil. Foremost, we're also allegedly preparing for a rapidly approaching family cruise.

The cruise, in honor of my Father-in-law Bernie's 80th birthday, is going to be wonderful, but when I say "family" I mean virtually every member of our family - on Amy's side. Were it my side of the family this would be a snap, we could rent a dinghy and still have room for an ice chest and a handful of rubber ducks that would provide more than enough amusement.

This however is far different. It is a major affair that obviously includes Amy's parents, their kids, all but one of the grand kids, every one's spouse, spouse-to-be, and probable and/or potential spouse to a great-grandchild still in incubation mode.

Priscilla, my unbelievably resilient and patient Mother-in-law, is valiantly trying to get everybody (and it's a lot of people) "organized" for this extravaganza. "Organized" is not the first adjective that usually springs to mind when describing our clan of marauders. Simply taking on the task of attempting to shepherd this motley mix into the ocean while resisting the urge to succumb to the "lemming approach" speaks volumes as to her character...and quite possibly her sanity.

Priscilla will come out of this experience with even more stars for her heavenly crown, and/or a purple heart, and quite possibly as the winner of the first ever Carnival Cruise Line Betty Ford Clinic lifetime merit pass...assuming she survives the ordeal of course.

I'm not exaggerating. I mean when our family has our annual summer retreat in Ohio it doesn't usually include this many people at once and certainly doesn't require passports/coordinating airline schedules/hotel reservations/group excursion preferences, seating charts and making sure at least one cabin has padded walls for use in the event of an emergency by any number of our family members, myself certainly among them...heck there could be a line to get in.

During those summer reunions it's not uncommon for a discussion of where everyone wants to go to dinner to last hours...maybe days, I don't really know since I usually stealthily retreat to snag leftovers from the fridge fearing the collective indecision may only end when we all starve to death so it's every man for himself.

I suppose it's like an N/A meeting...except there's less smoking and the "N" stands for neurotic. Plus there's almost no anonymity...we usually know most every one's name, although occasionally it takes some of us "elder members" of the tribe a few tries to call our children by their names, rather than the names of their siblings or the family pet, depending upon our level of frustration, fear and or sleep deprivation.

Seriously, this is a huge undertaking and observing Priscilla "Cap'n" our crew via email, phone calls, postings to the family website and at times I suspect cattle prods, has resulted in me recently being startled awake on occasion by a recurring, and slightly disturbing, vision.

[STAGE INSTRUCTION: Gradually dim house-lights. "Twilight-Zone style music" fade up.]

In this "vision" our entire rag-tag troupe is boarding the ship while a slightly wild-eyed - but fashionably dressed - Priscilla is futilely trying to get every one's attention by shouting,"ARE YOU SURE YOU HAVE YOUR !*%$#@#*%^! 'FUN' PASSES?" Simultaneously she is interrogating a ship steward of some sort, but I am able to clearly hear only a small portion of that conversation:

[STAGE INSTRUCTION: Rapid music fade]

"Are you certain there are enough jackets on board for everyone?

"Why of course Ma'am, this is a state of the art cruise ship, we have more than enough life jackkaa."

"Not 'LIFE jackets silly! STRAIGHT jackets! I ordered two for everyone, figuring various members of the crew might be in need of them in order to convince the Captain it's safe to set sail! Now if a few double as life-preservers, well, that's a bonus... but believe me at this point life-saving is NOT a priority!"

"Aye Aye Ma'am! I'll go below to double check the cargo!"

Then the vision fades...with only a slight murmur still audible that took me a while to discern.

I'm fairly certain it's a spontaneous chorus of people asking,"We were supposed to bring our 'fun' passes?"

Ahoy mates! The first phase of our 2008 course has been charted!

Although I'm convinced that Priscilla's destination is eventually Sainthood.

"The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men - from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms
." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, December 10, 2007

Susan Gregory - Daniel Fast Expert

It's weird how search engines work. For the few remaining readers of this blog who have hung around a while you know that I still rank high in Google for what started out as an innocent post - actually a snide remark - about a certain fast food breakfast sandwich...don't even think I'm going to mention it again. I still get hate mail from people desperately craving the recipe and are sent here only to find I was joking...even after I actually posted a recipe.

Anyway, I also get a continual stream of visitors who come here seeking information about fasting, specifically the so called "Daniel Fast" because many years ago I adhered to a modified version of that "Daniel diet" as a spiritual discipline, and I also lost a lot of weight.

I still do fast, but I stopped blogging about specifics because a lot of folks apparently assumed I was some sort of expert...once again, Google determined my place in the digital social order without consulting me.

Most of those folks who contact me about the Daniel Fast are very nice, very genuine and very spiritual. The people who still email about "the breakfast sandwich I will not name" are apparently very hungry and a bit testy.

In any case, today I had a series of email exchanges with a writer named Susan Gregory who is far more of an expert on the Daniel Fast or Daniel Diet or whatever you wish to call it, than I ever will be or have ever been. In fact she's devoted an entire website to help people with information about the Daniel Fast. She asked if I might direct a link her way or mention her website should people contact me seeking information.

This request is like manna from above.

I really do like helping people on their various spiritual journeys but it has at times gotten to the point where large portions of church congregations were apparently dependent on me emailing them information on what foods were acceptable, which I found frightening. Then it got worse as I was drawn into some ongoing theological discussions about the origins of the Daniel Fast to the point where I felt way out of my depth...which didn't take a lot of effort on my part.

I ate sticks and berries and stuff...and I talked to God about what my true needs were in life. I didn't write a thesis on it or anything, I just blogged about my experiences.

Susan Gregory, the Daniel fast expert, even offered to allow me to post her email address...however I'm hesitant to do that, just because the Internet can be a weird place...take my word for it, one of the other phrases I still get a lot of visitors directed here by involves naked pictures of a member of the San Antonio Spurs, something I never wrote about much less posted - oddly enough, a lot of those folks come from France.

However I will gladly direct anyone and everyone seeking information on the Daniel Diet to Susan's website.

Don't say I didn't warn you Susan.

Now, if only I could get someone to lay claim to being the McGriddle recipe expert....DOH! I did it again!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

So Close

I'm barely awake...I have only read the front page of the newspaper and in a few minutes plan to go back out on the porch to leisurely read the rest before going to church. However on the second page of the newspaper is a story about how someone in northeast San Antonio won the thirty-million dollar lottery last night.

I don't play the lottery, but Amy will occasionally - usually to my muttered consternation. Yesterday, as were traveling across town to spend the afternoon with a friend, we stopped to get Amy a fountain drink (with extra extra ice) and she bought a scratch off lottery ticket. I stopped muttering when she revealed, "We won 20 bucks!"

"We" as defined in this situation does not necessarily mean I will share in that minor bounty...although I did get her to foot the bill for a "Blizzard" at Dairy Queen on the way home.

When she won the 20 bucks she also mentioned she had purchased a lottery ticket for last night's thirty-million dollar drawing. I will admit for many years it was our tradition to buy a lottery ticket in small towns because it always seemed like the winners we read about bought their tickets in some obscure little town.

Anyway, the thirty-million dollar winning ticket was purchased not in that small town on the outskirts of San Antonio where Amy bought "ours" but rather at a store in northeast San Antonio...on the nearest road of significance to our home.

It's about 5 or 6 miles from us, in an area we travel almost daily.

So it goes. The important thing is that it started my day with a laugh...and a memory of something I wrote many years ago, in pre-blog times - which I sent to family and then-friends. I've re-printed it below.

Remembering where your true treasures reside, that's a nice way to start a Sunday.



I have a lot of somewhat mundane duties in my job, for instance, each Thursday morning I must determine if there has been a winner in the Wednesday night lotto game and write the story accordingly. It's usually a two-line story, "Some one's rich in Houston!" or "You didn't get lucky last least not in lotto!” I've written that story once a week for years and years now.

If perchance there is a local winner, I play it up much bigger and we go out and talk to folks about what they would do with all that money. We also try to find the store that sold the winning ticket.

This morning I deduced that there had been a winner. I came to that conclusion by utilizing my seasoned journalistic skills; I took note of the Texas lottery billboard on loop 410 on my way into work, and noticed that the top prize had reverted back to 4 million from the 48 million the day previous.

When I got to the office I scoured around and determined there were actually two winning tickets sold, one was purchased in Addison near Dallas, and the other was sold in Balcones Heights. Coincidentally my office is in Balcones Heights, a suburb completely surrounded by San Antonio in which there are very few convenience stores. I was well pleased with this since it meant I could send out a reporter at 6 a.m. and have stories on the air right away because there was no travel time involved.

Did I mention there is a lotto pool at my office? Some employees kick in a shekel or two when the lottery prize gets up above 20 million dollars. We pool our money with fanciful dreams of having mutual retirement anniversaries. I confess I have succumbed to this temptation occasionally. There is some guilt involved, but it's offset by the stark fear that I could come into work one day and find everyone else rejoicing in their new found wealth. I would of course be glad for them, but I'd rather be glad WITH them, so I play along.

Even at two or three in the morning, the synapses within the gray matter under my hair occasionally fire off in a manner that result in me coming to some conclusions. This morning I was factoring that there are only a few convenience stores in Balcones Heights, my office is in Balcones Heights, there is a lotto pool in my office, and there is a convenience store next door.

I joked around with several co-workers, most of whom had opted not to play in the lotto pool and were kicking themselves. Then I went about my business without giving it much more thought. I did send out a reporter to do the usual story, and she reported back a short while later that she had found the store where the winning ticket was sold. The Diamond Shamrock next door to the radio station.

At that point a lot of folks in my office started getting spiritual, not necessarily in ways that would be pleasing to God I suspect.

I will admit I started doing calculations in my head...half of 48 million, cash value option works out to about 12 million, split between 31 people, deduct taxes...200 thousand dollars each????

I could get our fence fixed; pay off the cars, Joey and Lisa's college? No problem! God would get His share I promised!

The co-worker who runs the lotto pool arrived around 8:30, only to be swarmed by folks wanting to know if she had bought the tickets, where she had bought them, and if she had checked them.

Despite the fact this woman works for the largest out of home media corporation on earth and works in a building where there are 6 radio stations, she had not heard any news. She was oblivious to the story, and had not checked the tickets. They were locked in a safe in her office. That safe soon became the modern day version of a golden calf. We were all huddled around it praying.

Out came the tickets, and we started comparing our numbers with the now sacred ones that had appeared on ping-pong balls the night before. There's a 2! There's a 4!..... There’s a....uh...oh...hmmm.

We checked all the tickets, purchased at the store where the 24 million dollar ticket was sold, right next door to my office...and we came up empty. Not even 3 dollars.

I share this story for a couple of reasons. First, you don't hear many Sunday school teaching Baptist Deacon's telling their gambling stories. More importantly, however I think I've found the spiritual lesson in all this, and God didn't require any more of my brainpower than I'm obliged to use at work deducing if there's been a lotto winner.

When we finished going through all those losing tickets, I noticed something unusual. I was smiling. I wasn't really upset about not winning the money. I laughed it off easily.

The very first thing I thought about was how I wanted to share this story with people I loved.

I am far richer knowing all of you than I could ever be with any lotto prize.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.- Luke 12:34

Saturday, December 08, 2007

So Many, Too Many So So

So many things...

I sat in a small church on San Antonio's deep east side this morning and watched people cry. So many diverse people in such a small room, weeping and hugging and praying. So many people sharing, saying so many wonderful things about a ten year old boy, born with seemingly no future. So many words he must have wanted to say but couldn't, yet still he obviously profoundly affected so many.
I turned off the radio, saddened not by the recap of a speech a man had made, but by the fact that he had to make it all.

So many real issues, so many ambitions, so few spines.

I thought how so many people might have taken a real interest in our nation if the "so very many people" who claim themselves capable of leading our country had demanded to stand next to this one man, on this one day and say so few words in unison despite their differences on so many issues.

I thought what would the reaction have been if they had simply said, "If this is what politics has come to we want to stand in solidarity, so many with the same ambition but diverse ideas on this one day speaking clearly with one voice to state: Personal faith should and will always rise above politics, this speech should shame us. If we are to preach tolerance, we must practice it and honestly we believe the American people are educated enough to discern not only what defines a sincere faith, but also the constitutional separation between a President's responsibilities and that individual's personal relationship with God. We'd like to move the country forward toward far more relevant issues, and once this silly, sad and sidetracking speech is done, we hope you'll pay attention to all of us...because we have so many more important things to discuss."

So many day few statesmen.

After the funeral, we spent the afternoon and most of the evening with our friend whose wife died in late August, but who only now is really addressing the first stage of grief, having been robbed of that privilege in the immediate hours following his wife's death.

So many questions he much pain he displayed.

So many times I said, "You are supposed to feel this way...this is grief, this is loss, this is natural...this is death."

So many times, in so many different ways I tried to say, "Don't let anyone, including yourself, rob you of your heart, and your memories. Hang on, get through this...she will remain 'alive' inside you for so many more many good years. Survive this, surrender this pain, this anger...this gaping wound of sorrow."

So many times...I hear so much being said by those who say nothing, yet at the same time I see so many being touched by those about which so little has been said.

So much for this was good, I think very good.

Then again, maybe mine are just so many empty words.


In tribute to Griffin and Dallas.

Someday, so many will understand.

"'I am the way, the truth, and the life.' When we wrench that language loose from its moorings and use it to separate ourselves from our neighbors, we deform the good news of God in Christ. We turn the way of servanthood into a way of asserting our own dominance...The danger, when we do this, is that our insistence on Christ may make us less Christian." - Barbara Brown Taylor

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Life Interuptus

So how have you been?

I haven't written here in a while because quite honestly I wasn't sure what to write. Life has been sort of strange as of late with a variety of changes and sort of an ongoing swirl of uncertainty.

We spent the better part of the past few months investing a good part of our time, energy and prayer into a lot of other people's lives and now I'm wondering if we've been overlooking our own lives too much.

Quick recap - Some of you noticed that I removed a couple of posts about a man who said he was dying and living with some dear friends of ours. I won't go into details - apparently some of those details may show up in another venue - but the gist of the situation is that it was not what we were told. No one is dying, let's leave it at that, and really that's all I know since our realization of that fact resulted in our counsel being rejected. I suppose we'll leave that one to the power of God's timing.

Erik, who seemed to be doing wonderfully in the Salvation Army rehab center, suddenly left the program. He says he's dealing with a family situation, but has only communicated through some short email blurbs, and I know we can only help people who want help. We're not writing off that relationship but again there's only so much we can do.

My job is still my job and I really can't write about that, except to say it's been dominating my thoughts a lot lately.

Amy's health is still fragile, I worry a lot and realize my worrying only makes me less effective in all aspects of our lives.

So I guess I'm saying I sort of feel like I've been trudging through sludge lately, not making a lot of progress and am a little too prone to thinking about life instead of living life.

However, we're still here...

I'm praying that we're actually getting somewhere though.