Monday, January 31, 2011

Lesson Learned...AGAIN

If you are like me and I hope you are not...life's lessons have to be learned over and over again. Repetition is the only method by which I seem to be able to retain knowledge. And just when I think I've finally mastered a topic, I tend to invite yet another lesson that proves otherwise. Captain Obvious has nothing on me!

This particular discovery is fairly forgivable for forgetting though (please take note of the awesome alliteration that you just read).  After all this lesson, unlike most, is counter-intuitive.  Most times I learn something and think to myself, "Duh...why didn't that concept just come naturally to me?  It makes sense!"  That is simply not the case with this one.  To prove it to you here it is: 

Discouragement should encourage you!

Tadaaa!  Did you like that one?  No...you are confused. Ok, let me clarify.  As a Christian you will often encounter all types of discouragement in your walk.  You may be on fire for a particular area of ministry only to later wonder why you signed up.  You may decide to sleep in one Sunday only to realize three Sunday's have passes since you've eagerly woken up on time to catch the service.  Discouragement will enter into your life and take what used to be an energetic disposition and flip it on its heels.  I bet you didn't know dispositions could be flipped or had heels.  I digress.

My blog and YouTube channels are prime examples of this concept.  I've been doing this since 2006 with varying degrees of success and interest from viewers/readers.  This is something I dearly love to do and feel very cut out for.  It is a way that I can share my faith with a local, regional, or even global audience without the travel, expense, and time away from my family.  Yet many, many times in the past and even once fairly recently (before launching the Living Out Loud project) I have been discouraged about this method of ministry to the point of coming VERY close to deleting my accounts. 

If we let this kind of discouragement meet its logical end, we will disengage and quit.  And if the particular ministry that you are involved with relies heavily on you...that too will suffer and possibly die on the vine.  If we instead stop, realize that our negative attitudes might actually be the enemy trying to usurp our efforts, and then hone the energy that this realization generates...our efforts will not only continue but will start to thrive in very abundant ways.

I invite you to watch as I share the details of this recent, re-learned lesson, and think about the areas of your life that this may apply to:

Special Thanks to: American Wayne from YouTube




Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo Friday Frenzy - 03

Category: Pac Man


Intructions: Vote on your favorite photo of these four in the top left margin of this page. You have from Friday (today) until Monday morning to cast your vote.

Lights Display



Yard Art

Pac Burger



Pac Cakes


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crazy Quirks

Let's face it...we all have odd behaviors, quirks, and pet peeves.  We don't normally notice our own until its pointed out by someone who has the pleasure of cohabitation with us.  I became aware of a few of my quirks when first living out on my own and having roommates.  But nothing has opened my eyes more to how silly we can be than getting married.  A life-long commitment to a person gives you ample time to observe one another.  We do things for one another and we do things that drive each other nuts.  Sometimes we mean to and other times its just force of habit.

In my marriage, I cherish our quirks.  They make me laugh most times and we get a kick out of harassing each other when caught performing said behaviors.  In talking to several of our married friends we've discovered that this is a very common experience. 

My wife is the queen of organization.  As such, she leans toward an OCD behavior model in keeping things straight.  I am very laid back for the most part.  But somewhere in my brains wiring, I have discovered a few things that drive me mad.  I cannot be certain but I theorize in my case that I picked this stuff up while growing up.  Between being raised in a particular environment, modelling much of what our parents do and teach, plus discovering who we are as individuals...our preferences get shaped.

There comes a point where this sculpting process sets.  We are no longer very pliable and easily molded.  And that is where the fun ensues.  I decided yesterday to do a hidden camera experiment in my house to illustrate exactly what I am talking about.  While I am partly picking on my wife here, I hope its clear that I really DO cherish everything about her...quirks and all.  She is my Proverbs 31 wife and I love her more than words can adequately express!  But just so I am fair and balanced there will be a confessional at the end of this video where I bring out a few issues of my own.

So now its your turn...give up the goods!  What are some of your strange quirks?




Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Straws

Whoever coined the phrase, "That's the last straw!" was onto something.  The last three days or so have been difficult to say the least and amazingly stressful to say the worst.  But when I stop and think about each individual item in this heap of madness, weighing me down...they seem rather insignificant.  The truth is, they are minor as singular events, circumstances, and pressures.  Added together they form a load that really puts one (specifically me) to the test.  "The last straw" implies many other straws collected here first.  "The last straw" implies we've reached maximum capacity...no more straws allowed.  One more straw, no matter how small and insignificant will cause the load to come crashing down.


Scripture talks about trials and testing in many places.  But I've always equated such verses with real human struggle, spiritual warfare, and having to take monumental stands for the Kingdom.  Surely we need not apply such verses to difficulty in finances, child rearing, insomnia, bad moods, day to day bickering, and personal strife...can we?  Well there may be a time in the not-so-distant future when a more glorious mountain requires a good show of me but until then, these heaps of straw are still worthy of the same treatment.  You don't take down Everest on your first outing.  There were many small hilltops summited before embarking to reach such peaks. 


And what is the use wondering about the awesome victories of our faith when we cannot even seem to conquer the small, daily hills?  Furthermore, I don't like the testing...do you?  I know I am supposed to consider it pure joy (James 1:2-4) but I still need some work in that area.  Ok...I need LOTS of work in that area.  I am doing pretty well when these heaps of straw reach capacity and I still manage to be a decent human being to those around me.  I am doing even better when I can take a few moments AWAY from the oh-poor-me syndrome, step outside of the circumstance, and share a blog post on the topic with you.


Baby steps...


So!  How has your day been going?



Friday, January 21, 2011

Photo Friday Frenzy - 02

Category: Snow

Intructions: Vote on your favorite photo of these four in the top left margin of this page. You have from Friday (today) until Monday morning to cast your vote.
Mom's not going to like this!

Where's PacMan...er,umm...PostMan?
Snow Fall

Jabba The Snow-Hut


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snowy Days

Exclusive Interview!!

It took me quite some time and several attempts with their agent to get this scheduled...BUT it finally happened!  Yes, Michael and Mackenzie granted me an interview and held NOTHING back.  All the intimate details of their lives in Edge-land are exposed and delivered for your viewing pleasure. 

Everything you always wanted to know...


How did they survive the Dallas Blizzard of 2011?


What are their TRUE feelings about their mother's pregnancy?


Did the demise of their snowman require counselling?


The answers to these questions and SO MUCH MORE await your viewing pleasure:




Monday, January 17, 2011

Media Hype

The days of journalistic integrity and impartiality are LONG gone.  I suppose it was inevitable.  Somewhere along the line it was bound to be discovered that opinions get ratings...facts mostly get yawns.  And the more opinionated one is, the more ratings are generated.  Why?  Because two kinds of people listen to an opinionated person.  His fans and his enemies.  It seems both camps cannot get enough.  Its exactly the phenomenon that allowed the Howard Stern's and Rush Limbaugh's of this world to catapult to the top of their markets.  We have entire news networks dedicated to reporting our daily events with their own opinionated "spin".  Ask anyone and they'll tell you CNN is left leaning and Fox news is right. 

You would think that this climate would at least generate some truth, some of the time.  Or at least allow you to decipher fact from opinion.  Yet it seems the most common result is the continuing polarization of our citizens against one another.  Whether its politics, religion, or your local sports team...you are never without others who share and OPPOSE your point of view.  So we cheer our team and boo our enemy.  We march for our rights and protest our neighbor.  We say "hook'em horns"...wait...I got sidetracked there!

Perhaps I am expecting too much when I think the weather report should at least be accurate and "spin-free"!  Yet more often than not, especially in the Dallas area, weather is forecast incorrectly OR the CURRENT CONDITIONS are severely exaggerated!  Forecasting error, I can forgive...although its very annoying how often this happens given our technological advances.  But when you cannot truthfully report the current condition of things, I have a BIG problem.  How difficult is it to look at your surroundings and then tell others what you see?

Sunday, January 9th we had three to four inches of snow fall.  It was enough that me and the kids built a snowman (more about that in the next post).  Had I believed ANY of the morning news on January 10th, I might have stayed at home and not dared to traverse to work.  But alas, I have lived here long enough to know that our local media reports that which gets a reaction, not what is actually happening.  So I filmed a minute or so of my commute just to prove a point.  Enjoy!

*** The radio voice is just a humorous re-enactment of the types of things that were being said that morning on the tv news. ***




Friday, January 14, 2011

Photo Friday Frenzy - 01

Category: Star Wars

Instructions: Vote on your favorite photo of these three in the top left margin of this page. You have from Friday (today) until Monday morning to cast your vote.




Yoda Pancake



Vader-Paint
 

Pet At-At
 

 


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Angry Much?

We live in a world that coined and often court orders "Anger Management".  Such a judgement might come your way if you choose to express your anger in traffic by way of "Road Rage."  There is a reason our schools have metal detectors and security guards.  We are an angry bunch.  I am no exception.  My personality lends well to passionate and intense moments.  They might be positive passions that help me achieve goals, take care of my family, or show love to a friend in need.  They can also be negative passions that cause me to lash out, become easily irritable, or insensed with outrage (ask any call center in America about this and they will verify it for you).  Yes, this is a sin struggle from birth it seems.  And thankfully, God has done much in the way of transforming me in this area.  But I will be the first to admit...He ain't done with me yet.

Scripture has something very interesting and eye-opening to say about anger.  "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." Eph 4:26  Did you notice that the actual "anger" isn't the sin?  Jesus himself expressed righteous anger as he overturned the merchant tables in the temple and rebuked them for turning a holy place into a retail store.  So the scriptural warning is that we be careful with our anger.  God knows that we are, in those moments, feeling a very intense emotion that is very difficult to harness in a positive or productive way.  Odds are, your fiercest anger WILL turn into sin as you lash out at people in your path.  Another warning from Scripture is how rapidly we let ourselves dive into anger.  Be SLOW to anger and QUICK to listen is the rule.  And in Proverbs we see that Whoever is SLOW to anger has great understanding, but he who has a quick temper exalts folly.

So when a Christian YouTube friend of mine (spikesofgrace) came into town and asked me to collaborate on a video about anger, I gladly jumped at the chance.  He happens to be in town working for The Power Team, producing promotional videos for their ministry.  But he took some time to visit with me over lunch and work on the skit below.  As you watch the output of our combined efforts, I would like to challenge you to give God your sin struggles.  Let Him transform you by the renewing of your mind.  And if anger is not your particular struggle or issue, then take this opportunity to work on the issues that are by giving them over to God.  He is the potter and we are the clay.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

The Wreck

I had the craziest commute to work this morning. With No Ordinary Family fresh on my mind from last nights episode, the irony that I would witness an event like this and subsequentially act ‘heroically’ is not lost on me.

There I was merging onto I-35 headed south from the Denton area. My commute is about 15 to 20 miles and can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on who or what is in the way on any given day. As I merged, coffee cup in hand, sipping slowly to avoid that burnt toungue…traffic starts to speed up. I whisper, “Thank God” thinking this will hopefully be one of those twenty minute days.

Just as I am getting onto the bridge at Lewisville Lake a car from the left lane swerves across the center lane, where I am located, and across the right lane, bursting through the concrete barrier and into the water. I had slammed on my brakes to avoid getting sideswiped and I now found myself taking deep breaths with heart pounding hard and rapidly. Did I just see what I think I saw? That kind of stuff ONLY happens in the movies, right?

I followed suit with many other lucky cars that dodged this out-of-control-truck and and moved to the emergency lane with flashers on. Still in a bit of shock, it finally hit me that a vehicle containing real people went into the water. I ran a few car lengths back almost tripping on some of the broken concrete and looked over the edge. The lake must not have been very deep by the bridge because the majority of the truck’s cabin was still above water with the front right corner submerged.

There was no movement from the truck but two passengers were easily identifiable through the shattered back window. Everyone was on their cell phones, presumably dialing 911 for help when I heard a faint moan coming from the truck. I ran what seemed like a ½ mile to the end of the bridge and went around the concrete barrier, working my way down the embankment toward the vehicle. I was not sure what I would actually do if my trek was successful but who could just sit and wait for police?

My journey ended at the waters edge and the truck was a good distance out of my reach. It was either get wet, make a running leap, or just sit on the bank like a dummy after making such efforts to get this far. I elected for a running leap. Since the truck was nose down, I tried to land on the tailgate but fell short just a bit, instead grabbing onto the tire, letting my feet plunge into the murky water. I managed to hook my left leg over the side and pulled myself into the back. Creeaaak! The truck moved as my weight added stress to the already precariously positioned vehicle. I began to think my delusions of grandeur were going to make things worse rather than better.

As quickly as the shifting began, it subsided and I regained my sense of balance. Keeping my feet to the side of the window, so as to not go through the cracked glass, I bent down and opened the sliding panel a few inches. I asked loudly if everyone was alright. A boy’s voice said, “I think I am but I don’t know about daddy. He started acting crazy on the highway and kept shaking. Then he just rolled his eyes back and went to sleep. He still won’t wake up.”

“Ok…help is on its way but here is what I want you to do. Cover your eyes so I can break out this section of glass and pull you out.”

“But what about my dad?”

“We will get him too but you are first.”

Seth, as I later found out, covered his eyes as his side of the truck began to slowly slide deeper into the muddy water. Being too short for his legs to touch the floorboard, the water had not yet started to cover him up. He and his dad were just hanging, face forward, caught by their safety belts. I put my soaked foot through the glass and managed to make a child sized hole to pull him through. The tricky part was unfastening his belt. I held onto his left arm absorbing the weight off of the device as he pushed the release button with his right hand.

Before long we were back on the bridge and rescue workers were pulling Seth’s dad out. As they finally put him on a stretcher and began loading him into an ambulance, the EMS Technician told us that it looks like this guy had a seizure of some kind. Seth ran to the ambulance just as his dad’s feet were clearing the entryway and asked, “Is he going to be ok?”

As the EMS worker grabbed the door to pull it close he said, “I don’t know son but I did save 15% on my car insurance simply by calling Gieco. A fifteen minute call could save you that much or more. Get a free rate quote, view your account and pay online.”



It is getting much harder to fool you. In fact, this probably did not get all of you. For more Gieco fun from the past click here and here.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Subjective Evidence

On YouTube I have made a mistake that I aim to remedy. The demand of my skeptics is that I supply reason and evidence for my faith in accordance with their rules. It seems an understandable request and I have done my best for several years now to comply. Yet much of the fingerprint that God leaves on my life is contained in my day to day walk with Him. Knowing that the Atheist finds any personal stories of this kind to be subjective, I have in some ways, chosen not to tell very many.

This is where I have entered into error. Our personal testimonies, whether about our initial conversion, or just about how God is working in our lives today are some of the most powerful stories we have…subjective or not. And so long as people find me credible in every other walk of life, why not share personal encounters of the super-natural and expect to be taken seriously? Sure, it does open up a door by which the critics can then accuse you of being out of touch with reality or just down right delusional. But I am not out to win popularity contests. Nor am I looking for a reputation that is revered by a fallen world.

This is not to say that arguing logic, reason, and Christian apologetics is a worthless pursuit. I plan to continue and improve in that vein as well. But when God reaches into the fabric of my life and does something as obvious as He did just yesterday, it seems only pertinent that I share that AND give Him the proper glory. The Holy Spirit works with believers like this all of the time. I think He works with the unbeliever as well but mostly in the calling of such a person to come to Christ. I urge you to answer that call if you haven’t already!

In the meantime, please view the following video testimony about yesterday’s events and be sure to leave your commentary:




Monday, January 03, 2011

A Sober Reminder

I just started reading a book titled A Hole in our Gospel. I am just a preface and one chapter in but believe the point of the attention grabbing title has already been well framed. If you are like me…Christian and actively trying to share your faith with others, the last thing you want to be told is that there is something wrong with the very Gospel you are presenting. And thankfully this author does no such thing. Instead he reminds us that Jesus asked more of us than just accepting Him and then going about our former lives. He asks that we clothe the naked, feed the poor, and to be His hands and feet to this fallen world. Richard Stearn's tone is mostly directed at we, the abundantly blessed American Christians, that tend to be isolated from the poverty and pain-stricken masses of the world. And we rightly deserve the reminder by my estimation.

Just today I had a gentleman name Michael Chu visit me in my staffing office. He did not have an appointment so I began instructing him on how to get set up with us and talked briefly about the kinds of jobs we may have available. He made mention of having lived here before and that he just recently moved back. So I asked a simple question.

“Where did you go and what brought you back?”

In my line of work it is not unusual to ask a simple question only to then get a life-story told to you. Depending on how Christ-like I am acting at the time, my reactions range from eye-rolling-get-to-the-point-gestures to sincere interest. This time I was sincerely interested and humbled as Mr. Chu explained how he was from China and that he had returned home briefly to try and find a wife and raise a family. Various failures and personal realizations led him back to America and specifically Dallas, Texas.

One particular issue he has with China is their education system. Upon moving here in his youth he could not believe that we had free schooling, free text books, free lunch, and even a bus that comes to pick us up and take us to receive this education. It would boggle his mind when a fellow student decided to drop out. In China they first have to take an entrance exam just to get into primary, middle, and high school. He didn’t say so but I must assume this means a failing test grade equates to no-entry and therefore no education at that level. He went on to explain that his family had to pay for him to go to school and that they also had to pay for transportation, food, and textbooks. Most of his textbooks were $300 each and written in English.

He and four other students and their families would order a book from America as a shared expense, receive it in the mail, make Xerox copies of each page, and then sell the book to a less fortunate student for 50% off. Once he had his make-shift book of copies, he then had to painstakingly translate the English to Chinese so that he could be sure that his answers and calculations were correct. And of course he had several books to go along with the number of classes so this process was multiplied depending on his course-load.

It’s no wonder that this man was so horrified at the idea that an American student with all his blessings and luxuries would even consider tossing that aside by dropping out. Mr. Chu concluded by saying, “This is the same guy that would later try to claim that he just never had an opportunity. How dare him!”

I must say, “Amen Mr. Chu. Amen.”

So between this unforeseen, walk-in visit and my book I am certain that my Americanized Christianity will be quite challenged. I recognize that I am blessed and that my education is not something to take for granted. But I wonder how many things I DO take for granted that will come to the forefront and be exposed as I continue to read? I actually welcome the experience and will most likely share with you again as I further gain perspective.