Sunday, October 30, 2005

Falling Back

It's nice to have a good night's sleep, get up early, make a pot of coffee... Of course, we'll still probably be scrambling to make it to church on time in two hours. But that one night doesn't seem to be a good trade off for going off of Daylight Savings Time and losing, it seems, that extra hour we have of light every night just when the days are getting that much shorter. There's nothing like getting to work when it's dark, and leaving when it's dark. I'll just have to be that much better at making sure I take some time out for lunch during the day.


Took my daughter to the new Wallace and Grommit movie yesterday. About two-thirds of the way through the film, when Julianna was saying, "This movie is taking a long time," I was starting to think that it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. But it completely redeemed itself with the final 15 minutes which was completely worthy of a Wallace and Grommit film. I'll have my stop-motion fix for awhile, especially if I get to see Corpse Bride this week.


Technology: You can't live with it, you can't live without it.

-Earlier this week, the power supply on our home computer went out. I hope that's what it was since we're buying a new one from eBay which should be here in the next few days. We can access the internet through other computers, but all our pictures are on there, our budget spreadsheet, everything important. I hope the hard drive's intact. I was just thinking a couple weeks ago that we needed to back it up but hadn't done anything about it. Maybe this is a good reminder.
-This morning the batteries were dead in the digital camera. I couldn't take a picture of the cool Batman sucker I picked up at Cracker Barrel yesterday. What's cool about it is not the sucker part, but the fact that there's a working Bat Symbol that you can shine out of the base. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait to put it into the Museum until I get a halfway decent set of AAs. The most frustrating thing is that I bought a few "Energizer Gold" batteries yesterday at Target and I think I left them at the checkout (there's $2 down the drain). Also, the set of brand new regular Energizer batteries we just bought didn't have enough juice to take a single picture. I hope our camera's not on the blink, too.
-Then this morning, MusicMatch Jukebox wouldn't play the Zoe CD I put in. Sure, Windows Media Player worked just fine, but I'd rather use MusicMatch than another Microsoft product.

The more we rely on technology, it seems, the more annoyances it causes when we don't have it. It's funny how our problems are all relative and seem so much bigger the more time passes from real disasters and we, once more, get bogged down in our own lives.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Variety of Moods

I can't stand it when people are incompetent. My wife constantly reminds me, "There's no incompetence in heaven." Sometimes that's a little comforting. I know that sounds judgmental and (a little) arrogant, but you know what I'm talking about - when someone around you does something so completely stupid because they're just not paying attention to what they're doing, or because they don't care, or...they're incompetent. This weekend, we were leaving the hospital the afternoon after my niece was born and we were driving out of the parking garage. It costs $1 to get out - there's a little machine just inside a gate that takes your dollar then lifts up the gate and lets you out. So I tried to put a dollar in, but it wouldn't work. No matter how I turned it or straightened it or crumpled it, the stupid machine wouldn't take my dollar. Then I heard the lady in the car behind me yell, "The gate's already up!" Oh. Oops. They must not leave the gate down during the day on the weekend. I think I hate it most when I'm incompetent.

I used the word serendipitously in an e-mail yesterday. It made me happy. (I looked it up later to make sure the word existed and I used it right.)

I was excited today when a friend at work gave me a small bag of antelope jerky. It saddened me to realize that I have no self-control when I ate the whole thing in about half an hour.

Why doesn't Alabama have any in-between weather? Last week the highs were near 90 degrees. This week the highs are around 60. A few days in the 70s would be nice.

Last week I saw a Cadillac pickup truck. Why do you buy a Cadillac pickup truck? Who's going to haul something in a Cadillac pickup truck? I just don't see the point. Today I saw a Cadillac station wagon. For some reason that just seemed inherently wrong.

Continuing with the theme that God gave us our gifts and talents to use for His glory, I was listening to the local Christian radio station - 88.1, WAY FM - and they were giving away a children's DVD. I normally don't try to be the "8th caller" or whatever, but I still had the phone number in my cell from last week when I tried to win tickets to a concert my wife and brother and sister-in-law talked about going to anyway, so I thought, I'll call for my 3-year-old daughter. When I heard the ringing, I got nervous and almost hung up (I knew I'd say something stupid if I got on the radio) - then I heard "you're the 8th caller!" So I said the obligatory stupid things and they took my name and I stopped by the radio station during lunch and picked up the Veggie Tales movie, Lord of the Beans. It was about using our gifts, not for ourselves, but for others. I think I'm beginning to get the picture.

Quote of the Day
Don't condemn others, and God won't condemn you. God will be as hard on you as you are on others! He will treat you exactly as you treat them.
-Jesus, in the famous Sermon on the Mount

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Who is in the details?

My niece was born this morning. She looks likes like her Daddy, but we're hoping she sheds that pretty fast. Ha. She really is a beautiful little girl, and we're thankful, along with her Mommy and Daddy that everything went well with little Ella.

It's easy (for me anyway) to see God in the big and obvious things. In the births, in that amazing worship service, in that sweet old lady that you know that would give anybody anything. Even in sunsets and starry skies. It's not always easy to remember to see God in the little things. In that dandelion that keeps creeping up in the yard; in that annoying man downtown who's always walking around asking for a handout; in that baby after she's 6 months old, keeping you up at night; in whatever work God has blessed your hands with to keep busy. Or in something as simple as the ability to write. Sometimes (rarely) when I sit in silence, I can realize that these things are gifts from God. That everything we have we owe to Him. That our talents and abilities are God-given, and in using them we can express His glory.

Sometimes God gives little hints to remind us of these things. That
blog about how creative pursuits can reflect our spirituality; that song that keeps playing (at the oddest times) over and over and over on the radio, asking "What's your story?"; that girl who talked about giving life to her thoughts, feelings, and experiences; that book that tells you that you have a story To Be Told.

It's amazing how good we've become at roping things off - putting each thing in our life in it's discrete little box where it doesn't have to affect anything else. I have my Home Life, my Work Life, my Social Life, my Church Life. It's amazing how we are so good at compartmentalizing the different parts of our existence (kind of like how this blog is starting to sound like a bunch of unrelated paragraphs). On my commute home, I stop my Work Life and start my Home Life. Sunday night, I stop my Church Life and start my Work Life. Friday night, I stop my Work Life and start my Social Life. When I read about how the followers of Jesus lived 2000 years ago, I start to believe they didn't live like this. Their passion filled every compartment of their life; it overflowed into everything they knew. I think we miss that today. I don't know if that's our American culture privatizing each little part of our lives, or our modern existence rationalizing a place for everything and everything in its place.

Basically, we forget that God is everywhere. We should see him in our Home Life, our Social Life, our Work Life, and yes, where we often fail to bring him - our Church life.

In this, God has helped me, little by little, to remember that He isn't a part of my life. He is what my life is about. This is one of the things this little bit of writing has done for me. Helped me to think about God more; helped me to be more cognizant of Him as I go through my daily activities.

So I have two things in the forefront of my mind to be thankful for today: what God has taught me through my writing, and for a new beautiful baby girl brought into the world.

Quote of the Day the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you're at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates.
-Moses, relating the words of God to His people

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hi. My name is Jim...

...and I'm a merchandising junkie.

I don't know what it is...I'm not a sucker for advertising. But slap that Bat Symbol on a pile of dirt, and I'm there. Not so much any'll be amazed at how bringing a child into this world curtails the purchasing of unnecessary material goods. But, I'm still a sucker for tie-ins. Particularly if they're bat-related. You've already seen the cereal. Now here's my soup. And, to be honest, I was a little (just a little) bit disappointed when I found out my 3-year-old got to eat it.

I thought this was one of the coolest send-aways I've seen in a while (from Crispix, with two UPC symbols and $6.99). It's an R2-D2 dome that doubles as a cereal bowl. The mini lego AT-AT is in the foreground for comparison. The diameter of the bowl is nearly 9 inches. Now that's what I call a cereal bowl. You can't really see it, but when you push down on the bowl, a red light flashes in the base while it makes R2-D2 sounds. That's just plain cool.

And of course, I can't get enough at the store, so what did I carve in my pumpkin this year? I'm so ashamed...(ok, maybe I'm not).

Old School. No kit. No pattern.
Just a pencil and the knife from the silverware drawer.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


A couple months ago, I told my wife I was going to single-handedly bring back memory verses. You know, kind of how Brian Setzer single-handedly brought back swing music? Remember when we were kids and had to memorize a verse from the Bible each week for Sunday School? Yeah, I barely remember it, too, but I'm wondering why it's not done any more. It was before I was supposed to teach our Sunday morning class that I had this wonderful revelation. Well, I have failed to single-handedly bring back memorization of parts of the Bible for two reasons. One, I'm not the only one pondering this line of thought. And two, I failed to mention it during any of the four weeks that I taught class in the month of September.

I think there's a lot of value to memorization, and I'm sad to see it's decline over the last 20 years (at least from what I have seen in my experience). I think, spiritually, anyway, it's more a means to an end than an end in itself. I remember scripture memorization in college (Freed-Hardeman University). I didn't see the point then (and, in a way, still don't - is it such a great idea to cram 20 verses of I Kings in your head on a Thursday morning just so you can write it down 10 minutes later on a piece of paper, get an “A” and forget it by Thursday afternoon?).

Obviously, there's a higher purpose. I think the real power of memorization is when we can hide the Word in our hearts permanently. If we can hold on to that scripture, not just memorize it for a day, week or month, but truly hide it away in our hearts, it’s there; we can access it any time for prayer, for meditation, for evangelism. Knowing Psalm 23 can give you comfort. Bringing to mind Phillipians 4:13 can give us strength when we need it most. I've already "re-memorized" the 23rd Psalm, and I've decided that I also need to memorize Psalm 51. These are daily habits that can have great power in our lives. And apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so. In an odd string of degrees of separation, tonight I was reading Edward Fudge's graceEmail Family Notes (dated September 23) in which he quoted Greg Newton. Following the link to Greg Newton's blog (Travelers), I connected to another blog from Greg's - Frank Bellizi's. In Frank's last blog, on October 12 (and on the 10th), Frank had written a little bit about memorization, and linked to a rather interesting article titled In Defense of Memorization. Which brought me back to some thoughts I had written down sometime toward the end of August.

It always fascinates me how God works. Take a look at that's spectrum is a bit broader than mine, but it's interesting reading nonetheless.

Quote of the Day
Then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
-The Preacher (from Ecclesiastes)

Coming Out of the Fog

I was pretty excited to be laid up all weekend - I think I had the flu. What I thought was a cold on Friday turned into a cold with fever on Saturday. I don't know if the self-diagnosis holds, but that's my story...

Some things I got to do while (mostly) laying around:

  • Well, before I realized I was really sick, I went to the pumpkin patch with the family. Oops; hope I didn't get anyone sick.
  • Missed going to the UNA homecoming game Saturday night. I'm not big on sports, but I've never been to a live college football game, so I thought it'd be fun. Maybe next time.
  • Slept.
  • Finally watched a couple of episodes of Numbers, but, even though I'm a math geek, wasn't overly impressed.
  • Got halfway through the new Harry Potter book.
  • Watched the Shaq blockbuster Steel. Wrote my first comic book movie review since watching Sin City. (OK, by the time I got around to writing the review, I was sitting up and feeling better).
  • Looked forward, with fondness, to going to work Monday morning. (Maybe that's a stretch.)

Not a very exciting weekend, but I am definitely praising God for helping me to pick up with my writing. I think it's what is going to help me keep my sanity.

Quote of the day
You're not going're going sane in a crazy world!
-The Tick, The Tick vs. The Idea Men

Thursday, October 13, 2005

That Literally Begs the Question: Is Literacy Dead?

When people use words or phrases incorrectly, it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. I practically feel the hairs rising on the back of my neck. I don’t have that much of an issue with grammar – I think I’ve grown out of that. Do you use ain’t? Do you put the preposition at the end of the sentence? Do you use who when you should be using whom? These things don’t bother me…heck, I can’t keep that last one straight most of the time. Recently, though, I’ve noticed a few trends when we communicate with each other. And they really bother me. Why? I don’t know, but I think it’s because we’re trying to communicate! How are we supposed to communicate with each other, when people don’t know what they’re talking about?

For example, lately, I've been hearing people use the term "begging the question" in reference to suggesting or raising a question: The fact that so many people use poor grammar begs the question: are our schools doing their job? I began to get this weird nagging in the back of my mind that became a little louder each time I heard the phrase used that way. An uncomfortable feeling, telling me, “no…that’s not right.”

So I looked it up, and remembered from my college Logic classes – that’s not what “begging the question” means. Begging the question is a logical fallacy (a flaw in a logical argument). Like ad hominem (“attack the man” – where you respond to an argument, not by attacking the argument, but the person making it – see many political debates), or hasty generalization (where you make assumptions on an entire population based on a small group; a lot of prejudice and racism comes from this one). Begging the question is when you assume the conclusion in your premise. (Stay with me on this, it’s important.) For example, if I were to say, “You shouldn’t judge people by the way they talk because you’re not supposed to do that,” then in my premise (you’re not supposed to judge people), I am assuming my conclusion to be true (you shouldn’t judge people). In other words, you shouldn’t judge people, because you shouldn’t judge people. Whew. I just had to get that out. [Note: if you are a logic geek like me and want further reading, you could probably just google “beg the question”, but here are some interesting links anyway: World Wide Words and The Mavens’ Word of the Day (both treatments of the same topic, but more in depth).]

And what’s up with people using the word literally wrong? I received an e-mail today that talked about thousands of people that are “literally spread across the Huntsville area map.” I couldn’t get out of my head this giant map, a huge butter knife and…well, I’ll just stop there. A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a software class, and the instructor told us (as we were nearing the end of the day), “We’re literally sliding into home plate.” I’m glad I didn’t get any dirt on my khakis. It’s bad enough that people are using phrases to mean something they never did, but to use a word when they mean it’s opposite? It’s apparent that in both cases, they wanted to emphasize the figurative language, but couldn’t they have just used the word “really?” Maybe that’s just the new definition of literally…

*This blog blogged with MS Word.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What's in God's wallet?

I passed by a church this morning in Muscle Shoals - the one on the corner of 6th St. and Wilson Dam Rd. (I don't remember what it's called) and I see this sign on their marquee:


I thought about that for awhile, and it really started to bother me. What kind of message is that? A message of conditional love?


I know they didn't mean that, but who is the sign for? Do people really think about what they are putting up when they try to find something cute to put on their church marquee? Do they really consider that they are sharing a message with everyone who doesn't know Jesus?

If you put the cute sayings on your church marquee, please, please, consider your audience.

Quote of the Day
God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change.
-Peter, in his first letter (that we have recorded)
What does that have to do with the price of gas in America?
A tale of two gas stations.

So, right after Katrina hit, and people further south in Alabama were worried about their lives and homes, up here in northern AL, we were worried about important stuff like gas prices. (Funny where we put our priorities.) Anyway, right about the time gas prices went up about $1 overnight, I was searching for a gas station whose prices hadn't gone up yet (I drive an hour and a half one way to work, so I go through a tank in about three days). I found this little place on the edge of Town Creek, AL that still had gas for $2.47, which was pretty exciting because I hadn't seen a place for less than $2.70 all morning. So I got in the shortest line behind an elderly gentleman in a white pickup truck and waited .

And waited.

And waited.

While it took everyone else about 3 or 4 minutes to pump, pay, and drive off, it must have taken him at least 10. So, hoping that the price would hold, and nervous like I had 4 cups of coffee (I just get tense sometimes), I finally got to the pump when he pulled away. The price was still $2.47. I put the nozzle in my tank and let out the breath I was holding when it still didn't change. I squeezed the nozzle, and...nothing.

Of course, when I went in to ask why it wouldn't work, I received the answer I knew was coming. I would have to wait - she was increasing the prices. I almost left on priniciple, but I needed gas so I paid my $2.74 without a smile, and left, vowing to never go back. I wasn't rude, but I wasn't very nice, so if I had it to do over again - I'd pray real hard.

But today I was given a better story. Running on fumes, I pulled into a gas station in Decatur, ready to pay my $2.75 (pretty good - $.12 less than the place I almost stopped at in Muscle Shoals a few miles back). But this woman comes running out, and I'm thinking, "Now what? I'm not going to be able to use my debit card and I don't have any cash." Yeah, I'm a positive thinker. She ran out and asked me to wait a few minutes because they're in the middle of dropping the gas prices. So I waited a few minutes, paid my $2.69 a gallon at the pump, went inside and thanked her and went on my merry way.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Breakfast with The Batman

My wife is awesome. We stopped by the store on the way home from church the other night and I told her to get me some cereal. My reply to her "what kind?" was "surprise me." So, she came out of the store with this...Nothing like Batman-shaped chocolate crunchies for breakfast. It's not as sweet as I imagined (not as sweet as, say, Cocoa Puffs or Cocoa Pebbles), but it's pretty good.

When we were in Franklin, TN Friday (going to the ZOE conference), we stopped by Target (of course, because we don't have one of those in Florence). Anyway, I saw some band-aids on sale. These weren't just any band-aids, however, these were Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages in an 85th Anniversary Collector's Edition Collectible Tin. They had four tins...I was tempted to get the coolest one with the blue on it, but there was only one and it had a slight dent. It was then that I had the epiphany - Who cares?! They're band-aids! Does anyone really need a band-aid collectible tin? Ah...swept up in the tide of consumerism.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

It takes all kinds...

What an emotionally exhausting weekend. I've just come from ZOE Conference in Nashville (follow the link if you want to read about it - it's a worship conference whose theme this year was being "missional" - spending more time reaching out to the world, loving, sharing Jesus). So emotionally exhausting, in fact, that I spent the last 45 minutes of the trip home in a bad mood after an innocuous comment from my wife. What I first thought was my wife being insensitive, I later realized was me being overly sensitive.

I sometimes get frustrated with the lot God has given me personality-wise, but then I realize he has given us all gifts that we are to use for Him. (Through a Sunday night Bible study in the book of Ecclesiastes, God is letting me know just how logical it is for me to be trying to figure out what He does right and wrong.) I'm overly sensitive when it comes to criticism, particularly when it comes from someone as close to me as my spouse. But, I also tend to be sensitive to people's feelings, which, I guess, can help me reach out to others.
One of the most important lessons I learned this weekend was at Otter Creek Church this morning. Tim Woodruff, minister at Otter Creek, was talking about the importance of having elders who were safe and comfortable and elders who had a vision and would step out and take risks. The body of Jesus needs everyone, and God has given us different gifts and talents and personalities for a reason. Sometimes I forget that and am quick to judge personalities that don't mesh with mine, or personalities that don't always seem (to me) to fit into God's plan (such as being hypersensitive to the comments of others). Then God reminds me that there may be other times these personalities fit into His will (such as being sensitive to what people might be feeling).

Once again, the breadth of offerings at the conference this year was quite wide - different things will appeal to different people with different gifts, talents, and interests. The most amazing thing, I think, though, was that they all touched me somehow. To be honest, that's quite unusual for me; normally, I understand that different people will relate to different things and different speakers; and there usually are a few that (while rolling my eyes) I realize will probably relate to someone (else). Almost to my chagrine, there was nothing like that this year. From the worship and praise, to Mike Cope's speaking, to Jeff Walling's creative presentation of Matthew's account of the life of Jesus, to the dramatization of the women in the genealogy of Jesus, to the experimental mission lab I took part in (that story for a later day). Every different thing, intended to touch different people in different ways, all reached out to me creating this spiritual high that I think I crashed from on the way home this afternoon, thinking about going back to life, and work, and everything else...

Quote of the Day
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
-Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Batman and eBay

I've been eyeing this cool Batman gumball machine for a number of years now, but since I first thought about getting one, the WB Studio Stores went out of business and the prices skyrocketed. It looks like prices have finally levelled out to about where they were back then (though I recently found one of these at a web-store for about $80). So, I finally broke down and picked this one up on eBay for under $30 with shipping (see the pic from the auction to the left). It's pretty sturdy - the globe is glass and the base is metal. I can't wait to find some Batman gumballs to put in it...