Friday, December 31, 2010

Awkward New Year

Folks, we have a interesting decision ahead of us and only hours to make up our minds. What are we going to call the coming year? Will we say two thousand and eleven? Will we say twenty-eleven? Will we simply call it Steve?

I have been at a loss since the year two thousand on what to call the times we are living in. My childhood was simple. We just said the 80's or 90's. What do you call the 00's anyway? But now we are entering into the pre-teens of this milennia and its time we make a change don't you think? Something that proves we are a bit more grown up. Two thousand and eleven reminds me of writing a check and that is so 90's and out-dated! Oh and don't even get in front of me with a checkbook in hand trying to pay for your groceries.  I will tackle you, drag you down to your local banking branch, make you get a Visa Debit Card, teach you how to use it, sock you in the eye, then take you back to the store and let you pay for your items and it WILL STILL be faster than having let you write that check. But never mind writing out the year...its long and awkward to say as well. One risks being tongue tied halfway through and that's if our A.D.D. doesn't kick in first and make us forget what we were talking about in the first place.

Twenty-eleven is an ok way to go but it's borrowing too heavily from twenty-ten and we want to show progression and growth here don't we? So I am hereby suggesting and (yes I must admit I got the idea from another source) that we just call it Eleven.  In some ways it will be a throw-back to the days when we would just say '86 or '92.  But like all good fads and styles, good things come back around.  Let's face it...we've spent ten years into this new milennia and its about time we stop having to remind ourselves that the 90's are over.  So join with me in our pre-teen, Jusin-Bierber loving, pimply-faced, voice-cracking, not-so-grown-up-but-no-longer-a-child, awkward-and-socially-challenged phase of time...and just call it eleven with me!

Who's in???

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Theological Battleship

Atheists and Christians seem to be at a stalemate. Or at least in my personal experience of sharing my faith online, it seems that way. Both sides articulate their world view and both offer their arguments for consideration. Whether you stumble upon an exchange that has stooped to pot-shots and name calling or on a great, respectable debate…you eventually see the stalemate.

This is not to say that atheists never convert to Christianity or that theists haven’t lost faith in their religious beliefs. Actually both happen, the latter much to my dismay and sadness. The brick wall in question is with the discussion itself.

Christians, like me, argue with as much reason and proof as we can despite the false claims that there isn’t any. But there comes a point of realization where we let go of that and urge our audience to do as Scripture commands by just taking that leap of faith. God does not bow to our demands for Him to show up or prove Himself. Therefore we must approach Him as He has instructed…faithfully. Not blind faith mind you but faith nonetheless.

The atheist cries foul! “We will not take this leap until evidence is shown by which we can determine the leap worth taking.” And there’s the rub. What is required by God in order that He reveal Himself to the individual is rejected by the individual until God moves first. And round and round we go.

As frustrating and exhausting as these discussions can be, I do enjoy them. I love that I have an opportunity to witness and share my faith and the Gospel with others. And many an atheist is out to challenge every belief I hold to. The way I look at it is…at one time I had huge doubts, questions, and a skeptical attitude. Had I not received the answers I was looking for, who knows what path I might have wondered down?

But I am not so far removed from my previous world view that I cannot step back and remember my own struggles with Christianity. And I have a good enough sense of humor to poke fun at both sides. That is exactly what my brother, Jon and I did this morning in the following video. I will caution you that some of the back and forth may not make much sense unless you are privy to theological debates. Other parts are quite obvious and self explanatory. In either case, enjoy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Evil Toymakers!

So I Googled the words "toy packaging nightmare" and found the image adorning this page.  It seems I am not alone nor am I crazy in coming to the conclusion that children's toys are harder to open than Fort Knox.  Five years!  I've spent five years helping my children open the Birthday, Christmas, and random acts of kindness Gifts.  You would think in this amount of time I might have developed a finely tuned technique or at least callouses on my hands to prevent all the small cuts...which really don't hurt until I need to wash my hands, which is actually a lot...IT HURTS!

If you are like me, it takes an average of twenty full minutes to open a simple toy for your child.  And in that time you have lots of time to think about the people that manufacture, ship, and ultimately sell these precious little FRUSTRATINGBOOBYTRAPSFROMHELL!  Excuse me, I must've slipped on the keyboard and I am too exhausted from opening FRUSTRATINGBOOBYTRAPSFROMHELL to hit the backspace button.  Anyway...back to the thinking.  While removing all the tape, unwinding all the WIRE, cutting all the invisible, plastic (but stretchy) bindings, and otherwise ripping all the packaging to shreds but somehow trying not tear the actual toys apart I let my thoughts wander.  I ask myself questions like:

Who makes these toys?

Where do they live?

Can I barrow your car and will you provide me with an reliable alibi?


Theory 1 - This stuff must somehow protect the toys and allow for less damage in the shipping process. Sounds reasonable.  But I'm not buying it.  There are plenty of shipping materials these days that cushion merchandise gently despite the UPS guy kicking it down the ramps of planes, trucks, and Hub containers.  I know...I used to work for them and kicking was standard practice...or was that just me?

Theory 2 - This is an anti-theft measure.  If this theory is true, then I cannot argue.  The amount of time and effort it would take in order to get a simple GI Joe or Barbie free in order to make a run for it would render me an exhausted, bloody heap in the middle of the toy isle before I could even fathom of a mad dash toward the exit.  And ultimately I don't buy this theory either.  Most toys have a device taped to the inside of the box that will set off the exit alarm in the event you choose to steal it OR if you have a checker who forgets to deactivate it as they ring you up.  We also have an ENTIRE loss prevention team monitoring a camera system ready to tackle you at first hint of suspicious, theft-like behavior. 

Conclusion - So with all the time I've had to think this over the only feasible conclusion one can come to is that toy manufacturers are evil, parent hating, retired secret agents formally assigned to the water-boarding division of the interrogation unit with ties to Al' Quieda.

Now please excuse me while I wipe down my bloody keyboard and start opening Michael's second present.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Distracted Much?

A few years back I wrote a blog post on what an awesome evening I had when the power went out. Everything was quiet. No television, radio, or electronic vibration. No telephone service, computer games, or Internet podcasts. Rachael and I actually had to entertain ourselves and figure out how to do life for a few hours unplugged. At first we were both annoyed and fearful of boredom.  But soon we took stock of our situation and realized how nice it actually was to share in one another's full attention.

I learned a valuable lesson that night that I have not forgotten but have failed to fully implement.  If you are anything like us, you are quite "plugged in".  Perhaps to an unhealthy level.  In my situation I spend my entire work day on email, the Internet, in our software database, on the VOiP phone system, or my cell phone.  You might think upon driving home I would happily set aside all electronic gadgets and take a breather.  Yet most often I sit in front of a television or I play on my iPhone or I check Facebook, or I change my Fantasy Football roster just one more time.  When television is boring, the Wii takes center stage.  When that gets old we might play computer games or watch some funny YouTube videos.

Don't get me wrong, there are some advantages to the high tech world we live in.  In fact, some of the time I DO spend with my kids is playing these very games or teaching them how to use the aforementioned computer.  Facebook in some ways keeps us connected to friends and family.  In fact I have reconnected with several that live out of state or that I had not seen for years and lost track of.  Like anything, I believe some type of balance needs to be obtained.  So where do we draw the lines?

For a while I tried an experiment in my home that had some decent results. I would come home and put my iPhone away and intentionally not pick it up until after the kids were asleep. No checking email, no Words with Friends, no App hunting, no Angry Birds, no checking on Status Updates...nothing. It was harder than I expected. Without even thinking there were several times where I would just instinctively reach for my phone or have the urge to check my inbox. But in holding to my resolve I spend several evenings really engaged with the kids, playing, laughing, and really connecting.

When is the last time you turned everything off and went "unplugged"?  Do you sit down as a family and eat meals together?  Do venture outside while the kids run around playing with the neighborhood children?  Are you reading a good book?  Do you and your spouse get the chance to talk with one another about anything other than the next bill that is due or what's going on with the kids?  Do you play catch with your son or have tea parties with your daughter? 

To illustrate my point even further, here is a short video I put together.  In it I read a brief article that was quite convicting for me.  I pray that it blesses you and encourages you to find that balance in your homes!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reindeer Poop

Yes I know this is the second post in a row with some variation of toilet humor.  On one hand I feel obligated to apologize.  I am sorry.  On the other, you should just know that my sense of humor is largely based on this topic and has not matured much since third grade.  In this case we have a photo of Rachael's latest Chex Mix creation.  Not having an official name for it, we brainstormed and came up with Reindeer Poop.  My third grade humor is very much appreciated by our five year olds'...what can I say?  I need to take full advantage of this because quite soon I will be found out as a dork and get an "eye rolling" instead of a laugh.

So the name of our new dessert got me to thinking about the time of year and the secular myths surrounding Christmas.  A Reindeer, after all goes with Santa, elves, and jingle bells...not the birth of Jesus. So I begin asking myself why as a Christian do I even entertain such secular mythology?  How does this glorify Christ, if at all?  Why do Christians in America celebrate TWO different stories with our children, one of which we know is a lie?  This internal dialog is not new for me. I've asked myself questions like this since the twins were first born and I am looking forward to a day when we can just celebrate Christ and not think all that much about Santa. 

I have very fond memories of the Santa storyline.  The tree all lit up, the excitement of hanging stockings, and putting out cookies.  Hardly being able to sleep but knowing that he would not come and give me presents until I was dreaming of sugar plumbs.  (What are sugar plumbs anyway?)  And even when I discovered the truth of the mythology, it was fun helping my parents continue to keep the story alive for my brother.  In many ways my parenting style is a direct result of my desire to give my children the same awesomeness that my childhood contained.  As such, they don't have a clue about my dogmatic desires to crush Santa beneath my boot.  Instead they are (at least at this point) fully immersed in the story of Jesus birth AND Santa's workshop.  And I bet you can guess which story line is a bit more exciting for them thus far??

So...what are your thoughts?  How do you maintain balance in your home?  Do you toss the Reindeer Poop aside or grab a bowl and merrily consume your fill?  There will come a day when the mythology of fairies, bunnies, and elves is discovered. I just don't want to provide any temptation to throw out "The Baby" with the secular bathwater when that time comes..

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Disservice?

So this is one of those posts where I need some advice. I realize to some degree we are all more comfortable at home. Willing to let the hair down and the top button of our jeans loose. We do things in the comfort of our own homes that don’t translate well into REAL life. I am quite certain a list of items just popped into your head making the list I was about to give you…unnecessary.

I was raised by a very prim and proper mother. If I was not acting prim, I better be acting proper…and vice versa or both at the same time. Bathroom humor and flatulent-loving fun for instance just didn’t exist. Boogers were to be picked using tissue paper. Private parts were to be called by their scientific names. And any and all bleeding not requiring immediate medical attention must be done in the garage or outside so as to keep the carpets clean.

Mom…if you are reading this (and why wouldn’t you be, I always was your favorite) I am not complaining. Just pointing out factual information so as to lay a foundation for this blog post. Now I have to stop talking to you directly because I am alienating all of the rest of my readers. Yes, I know my only other readers are dad and my wife but cut me some slack, I need their advice.

Anyway…where was I? Ah yes, please fast forward to modern day. Perhaps in direct rebellion to my upbringing our home does not function like the one I was raised in. I took meticulous notes of all the things I would change when I was finally in charge. And though I have violated over 75% of those promises to myself I have managed to have a home in which carefree flatulent based fun is welcome and had by all…except Rachael. That’s what she told me to say anyway.

So here is the concern. As I laugh hysterically when my kids let one fly, loud and proud at the dinner table just after offering me their pointer finger to be pulled so as to help them launch said air biscuit I let images of their near future enter my mind. I imagine my daughter for instance spending the night for the first time at a slumber party or perhaps even later in life when she is eating dinner with her first boyfriend and his family. Suddenly she decides to belch like a truck driver or offer her finger to be pulled by his little sister. And upon doing so, she notices the horrified faces, wondering why no one is laughing or offering their own explosive sounds; it occurs to her. "Oh…this game isn’t played over here!"

I am sure that there will be a time and day where we explain social etiquette's finer nuances and how some behaviors are only appropriate in certain settings. Until then, I need to work with them a bit more on how to make the armpit fart sound. They don’t quite grasp the technique and air exchange ratio to the leverage applied. I am teaching a class on it tonight.

Present your critiques and advice of this child rearing disservice in the comment section OR make confessions as to how you’ve done a disservice to your offspring!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Atheists! Why Evangelize?

Every year around this time most Americans are exposed to some type of negative reaction to Christmas. Whether its the secular cry to call it Happy Holidays or a Billboard spouting atheist propaganda...we have become conditioned to expect some push back as we celebrate the birth of our proclaimed Savior. Perhaps I am only now more aware of it than in years past BUT it seems that this push back is growing stronger, more vocal, and directed. It's as if the voice of atheism isn't just crying foul for the ways in which our beliefs violate their world view.  NO! It seems that they actually WANT to change your mind.  It's no longer enough to take prayer out of should just stop praying all together.

And it's this new attitude that puzzles me.  I might understand why a staunch atheist would take offense to my proselytizing and take time out of his/her day to try and set me straight.  However, it is quite another thing to spend time, effort, and money seeking out believer's in attempt to "de-convert" them.  Yet that is exactly what is going on by my estimation.  These efforts hit the newsstands during Christmas but spend any time on YouTube proclaiming Christ and you will find out that its a year-round effort. 

I would be a hypocrite if I didn't make ANY allowances for people with alternative beliefs to attempt a sales pitch in my direction.  So when Mormon's come knocking, I will engage them a bit.  When Muslim's speak of Allah, I will kindly dialog and move on.  It is consistent with a theistic world view to share faith tenants since so much is riding on your earthly decisions and eternal rewards and/or consequences are at stake.  So the reason for my confusion over the atheist attempts is NOT because I CANNOT allow for equal opportunity proselytizing but rather because I see NO reason within their world view to do so.  Their world view screams "Live & Let Live" because tomorrow we die.  The Scripture verse that goes well with this is found in 1 Corinthians 15:29-32 as Paul make the point:  IF he is wrong about these things he is preaching, we might as well have a big party and live our lives without concern.  After all life is fleeting and the mark we make is but a flash in the pan of human history.  I ask you why anyone with this world view would care that me and my family serve the Lord?

I stumbled across a talk given by Dinesh D'Souza.  In it he covers much of the various issues that divide believer from unbeliever but in his conclusion he offers a hypothesis as to why the atheist takes it upon him or herself to evangelize.  The entire talk can be found here if you are interested and can spare 50 minutes.  But the portion that goes best with this post is contained in the 10 minute video below by yours truly:

Monday, December 06, 2010

It's A Goy!

Prayer Request: As of the date of this post our family has suffered from one kind of illness or another for the past three weeks. Both of my kids have had the stomach bug and yesterday Rachael fell victim to it as well. All of us have also been exchanging colds which are especially difficult for Michael as it requires several breathing treatments per day to get him healthy again and avoid severe bronchitis.

In Training? I am starting to think God might be preparing me mentally and physically for a newborn in the house again. The twins, who are almost five years old, have been uncharacteristically waking up in the middle of the night with issues ranging from a bad dream, to illness, to just needing to visit the bathroom. Never (since they were infants to age 2) have the woken me up so frequently for such a consistent length of time. I have prayerfully asked God to forgo the training, if that’s His intent with this, as I would much rather the sleep…BUT His will be done, not my own!

What’s Up with The Title? It’s just a combo name of “boy” and “girl”. We could have just as well used the title, It’s a Birl, but I didn’t like that one as much. Essentially my wife and I are keeping the baby’s gender under wraps for now.

Why Keep This Secret? We have already met with resistance from a couple of friends/family that really do not like our idea of keeping the gender of our baby a secret. But believe it or not this is not a clever scheme where we derive any joy out of frustrating you. Instead we are trying to have fun with being able to surprise everyone on Christmas. Rachael and I have always required fertility treatments in order to get pregnant in the first place. We’ve never had the joy of “surprising” family and friends because the process we undergo is so extensive that everyone ends up finding out what we are up to. So forgive us for this selfish indulgence if you will and consider this a Christmas gift as we reveal our baby’s gender to you at that time.

In the meantime, please enjoy Episode 1 of this climactic saga…

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Good without God?

Last night as my wife and I were watching the local news, a particular story caught our attention. It seems that a group of atheists in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex have purchased ad space on a busline with the intention of delivering this message:

“Millions of Americans are GOOD WITHOUT GOD.”

Never mind for a moment that your God-given conscience is very mechanism by which a person can distinguish right from wrong in the first place and the irony that this phrase is loaded with. At best and more accurately the claim might best be put:

“Millions of Americans choose to use their God-given moral compass BUT reject a relationship with Him.”

Not as catchy…I know! I doubt they will be hiring me anytime soon to write for them. I digress however because the point of this particular post is to examine the reactions that my wife and I experienced.

I was a bit floored, no doubt. Blatant rejection of God doesn’t sit well with me. I see a direct relationship between the blessings this country experiences to the number of faithful in its population. I don’t think there is any coincidence that our blessings are much fewer these days (and continuing to decline) and the number of atheists is on a huge rise. God created us as free-will agents. As such He willingly allows us to go our own way and removes Himself from the equation. Things are not very pretty when this happens. The entire history of Israel illustrates my point.

My wife’s reaction was a bit more horrified than mine. I forget sometimes that my experiences on YouTube are not the norm for most people. For now, I am grateful to STILL be able to say that. However I see a not-so-distant-day when this will become commonplace.

Here are just two recent examples of the insanity that comes my way on a daily basis:

1. An atheist named Thuderf00t created a video where he shared footage of Jupiter making its way across our nighttime skyline. For once he didn’t really add any commentary about Christians or his disdain for theistic leanings. He simply shared his footage and made very scientific observations of his experience. In the comment section beneath this video I see the following:

I did not respond to BlameRepublicans because his blood tasting set off some discernment alarms that perhaps he isn't such a stable person. However, previous to his hatred and bloody comments he seems to believe that somehow Christian's can (a) keep you from viewing the midnight sky (b) do not personally persue knowledge or value intellectual endeavors and (c) thusly we we do our best to prevent others from getting edu-ma-cated. Code red...he's on to us!!

2. A Christian friend of mine (ChristioferL on YouTube) made a video expressing his confusion over how it is that an atheist can reject what he deems to be an obvious spiritual component in their lives. Again…in the comment section we find the following insanity:

Granted these are just two atheists out of the Millions that the ad campaign boasts of. However, these kinds of comments are far from the exceptions.

Your thoughts?