Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Only Logical Decision

2008 has been an interesting year for the Heartsill family!

In February, my wife and I had a baby--Evan. If you care to see pictures of him, just click on the link in the righthand column. Warning, don't look if you don't want to see a cute baby! I have no doubt that Evan has changed our lives, and has brought much, much joy to us.

Also, gas prices have hit an all time high! I don't think any of us saw it coming, at least not to the extent we have. In our area, gas has leveled out (for this week) at about $3.80 a gallon. I know many readers will laugh at how low that is! I understand. However, for me, that is still high! Very high.

During 2008, as our family has grown, we've come to realize that our house and yard is just too small for our growing family. With a little boy, we know that before long, he will need extra space to play. He'll want to ride his bike, run around the yard, and do all kinds of things that boys do. Those days will be here before we know it. And we want to be ready for that!

Also, my wife continues to work about 20 miles from our house. When gas was lower, that distance hit our pocketbook, but not like it is right now. She's tried carpooling, but that didn't work well. We've tried to make sure the car is running good, tired are inflated properly, and we change the oil and have it checked regularly. Still, gas is killing our bottom line. And, there's not hope of it getting better any time soon.

So, after a lot of prayer and discussion, we've decided to place our home on the market. We don't enter the housing market without hesitation. We've seen the reports on TV about the housing market. We've seen what interest rates are doing. We've seen the collapse of some of the riskier loans that were given out in recent years.

However, the time seems right for us. We've prayed about it. We've talked for hours about what to do. We've cleaned the house, checked ever inch of the house to make sure everything is working right, and we've interviewed a realtor. They've given us some good news about house prices and sales in our area. They've given us hope that our home should do well in the Birmingham market. I guess time will tell.

So, until it sells, I suppose we'll be living in a musuem or at least it will seem that way. We'll have to dust, clean, make sure the beds are made, and dirty diapers are out of the house. While we try to do that now, you know how day to day life is. But now, with a sign in the yard, we'll need to do better.

If you know someone looking for house in Chelsea, Alabama, email me! We'll be fair in our price, just like we hope the person making the offer will be fair to us! We aren't looking to get rich, just to move and be a little more comfortable all the way around.

Whether you know someone or not who is looking to move, we'd appreciate you keeping us in your prayers! Please pray that we will make the right decision. Please pray that if this decision is God's will, that we will know, and until we know for sure, that we will be patient, resting in Him!

That's the only way our home will sell, I know that. Then again, what better plan is there for the home to sell!

Well, I need to quit blogging for now. I'm sure there's something that needs to be cleaned, put in a new place, or just needs a little attention.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Thankful for Alabama: No Aliens Here

Did you see the news release out of Denver, Colorado?

I must say, for the first time in a long time, I am actually glad to be a resident of Alabama and not somewhere out west.

Here's the report: A man wants Denver city voters to set up a commission to prepare for visits from space aliens, and he plans to release a videotape Friday that convinced him there is life on other planets.

The man's name is Jeff Peckman. Mr. Peckman proposes an 18-member Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. He said his footage shows 4-foot-tall gray aliens.

Peckman continued: "You could see them blink as they looked in a window and panned a room." David Broadwell, an assistant city attorney, asked Peckman if he was really serious. (Do you understand just how understated that question is?)

Seven high school students from Littleton watched the hearing, wearing tin foil hats they had seen in "Signs," the M. Night Shyamalan movie about aliens.

Now, the story only gets better. Mr. Peckman makes his living selling a new technology he says reduces "the chaos of electromagnetic fields," (does that really surprise you?) Peckman says that UFOs landed in Los Angeles and have hovered near the White House. He said he's never seen an alien himself. (What?)

Peckman needs to gather 4,000 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot. Even if he fails, Peckman said, the effort will educate people about the existence of aliens.

From Me: Folks, there are crazy people everywhere. Yes, I mean that, everywhere! Alabama certainly has her share of crazy people. Just watch the evening news from anywhere in the nation. When you see interviews with people from this great state, they all seem the same. The women have bathrobes on and curlers in their hair. The men have a huge lump of chewing tobacco in their cheek and their front two teeth are missing. You know, I've lived in Alabama for many years, and I've never seen women like that nor men like that.

But, as crazy as the people of Alabama can be, Mr. Peckman takes the cake! Aliens? Aliens landing in Los Angeles, hovering near the White House, standing four foot tall? I can hardly wait for the video to come out! How about you?

There is good news here! At least Mr. Peckman doesn't live in California. After seeing their decision to allow gay marriages, encouraging the discussion of the Green Movement, and some of the craziest politicians to ever see daylight in America, I have no doubt that if he lived in California, he would already have 4,000 signatures, heck, he would probably have 4 million signatures! And by now, it would have become law, a commission elected, and a declaration that all of America should get with the program and follow California's actions!

Sure makes Alabama look much better!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jesus is Lord!

A story came out this week from Wellington, New Zealand. Two New Zealand pilots ran out of fuel in a microlight airplane during their flight. Immediately, they offered prayers and were able to make an emergency landing in a field—coming to rest right next to a sign reading, "Jesus is Lord."

Grant Stubbs and Owen Wilson (not the actor) were flying up the valley of Pelorus Sound when their engine spluttered, coughed, and died. "My friend and I are both Christians so our immediate reaction in a life-threatening situation was to ask for God's help," Stubbs told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Stubb's said he prayed during the ill-fated flight Sunday that the tiny craft would get over the top of a ridge and that they would find a landing site that was not too steep—or in the nearby sea. Wilson said that the pair would have been in deep trouble if the fuel had run out five minutes earlier.

"If it had to run out, that was the place to be," he said. "There was an instantaneous answer to prayer as we crossed the ridge and there was an airfield—I didn't know it existed till then."

After Wilson glided the powerless craft to a landing on the grassy strip, the pair noticed they were beside a 20-foot-tall sign that read, "Jesus is Lord — The Bible."

"When we saw that, we started laughing," Stubbs said.

I can imagine that God was also laughing, don't you think? I can envision Him sitting on his throne, doing God-things, knowing that these two pilots were about to be in trouble, and would need His help. I can envision His heart of love reaching down to those two pilot and guiding their plane to an area (unknown to them) that they could land their plane. Then, in a humorous moment, God adds a special little touch to their safe landing, a "Jesus is Lord" sign!

God having a sense of humor?

Of course!

The New Testament reminds us of Jesus' story about the log in a person's eye, as compared to a piece of sawdust in another person's eye. I have no doubt that Jesus had a great sense of humor! After all, He did call out tax collectors and fishermen to be His disciples!

And, He has called each of us! I won't comment on His calling to you, but I know the humor in His calling me! I am completely unworthy. I am completely fallen. I do not deserve His hand upon me. Yet, in His wisdom, He has chosen to use me for His work.

So, while I often find humor in how God calls us and how He choses to act, I am thankful that God takes an role in my daily life. I am thankful He loves me enough to overlook my shortcomings to what potential I have.

Thank You Lord! Thank You for calling me! Thank You for loving me! Thank You for having a sense of humor!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Oprah Slide

Fox News online ran the following article yesterday:

"Has Oprah's golden touch lost its magic?
"Ratings for 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' and circulation of the talk queen's magazine, 'O,' are suffering steep declines, indications that her core audience—white women 35-54—may be disatisfied with some of her recent forays into political activism.

"Nielsen Media Research reports Winfrey's talk show has fallen nearly 7 percent this year, its third straight year of decline. Meanwhile, Audit Bureau of Circulation figures show her magazine slipping more than 10 percent in three years.

"Winfrey's endorsement of Barack Obama may be behind some of the decline in her core, many of whom continue to back Hillary Clinton.

'Not too long ago, she was like the pope,' Janice Peck, an associate professor of mass communication at the University of Colorado, told the New York Times, citing criticism of her Obama support on message boards at

'There are a lot of her fans who are not Democrats or who support Hillary Clinton who feel betrayed,' Peck told the newspaper."

FROM ME: While I have no doubt that some of the decline in Oprah's ratings can be attributed to her support for Mr. Obama, I also have no doubt that some of her decline can be attributed to her "New Earth" movement she has started. Oprah continues, or so it seems to me, to move more and more away from center and from any traditional values as taught in the Bible. Now, from an outward appearance, she is starting her own religious group, with devoted followers from around the world.

I've never been a huge Oprah fan, I will admit that. I'm usually still at work when she comes on in the afternoon. But, even if I were not working, I don't think I would watch her program. I don't need the latest self-help tools she promotes, or to buy the latest book that has hit a nerve with her, or to go on the hottest diet to ever come along (come on Oprah, that is a stretch for you, isn't it?), or to learn the ins and outs of the newest religion to touch your inner soul.

The Word of God was written thousands of years ago. It was true then, it's still true today. There's really no reason to turn any where else, but to God.

As Oprah searches for answers, that would be the first one I would offer to her, if she were to come asking.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Free Falling

A report has been published this morning about a French skydiver's failed hopes of setting a new free-fall record. His hopes didn't end because he backed out, became too afraid to jump, or even that he ran out of money.

So, why did the record fail? Simple. The helium balloon Michel Fournier was going to use to soar to the stratosphere detached from the capsule he was going to use to jump from 130,000 feet, about 25 miles high, and took off without him!

The balloon was reported to have cost at least $200,000 and Fournier was said to have already exhausted his finances.

Fournier hoped to break the record for the fastest and longest free fall, the highest parachute jump and the highest balloon flight. He also hopes to bring back data that will help astronauts and others survive in the highest of altitudes. It was expected to take Fournier 15 minutes just to come down, screaming through thin air at about 900 mph—1.7 times the speed of sound — smashing through the sound barrier, shock waves buffeting his body, before finally deploying his chute about 6,000 yards above the prairie wheat fields.

Did you read that? He was going to fall through the air at 900 mph!!! Then, he was going to deploy his parachute at 6,000 yards above the ground.

Could it be that the balloon taking off without him was just God's way of protecting someone too crazy to take care of themself? And, knowing that Mr. Fournier has depleted his money, he can't attempt the same crazy event any time soon!

I don't know about you, but I get dizzy taking off and landing while in an airplane! I can't even begin to fathom dropping from 130,000 feet above the earth, going 900 mph, and then being sane enough to pull the rip-cord and landing safely!

How about you? Sound like something you want to try any time soon?

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Great Adventure

On April 28, I began a new adventure.

Adventures are sometimes fun, sometimes challenging, sometimes difficult. Some adventures are remembered fondly, others are not.

In total truth, the adventure I have been on has been a little fun, challenging, and difficult. But, every moment of the adventure will be remembered fondly for the rest of my life.

Let me give you a brief history of what led to this great adventure. On February 4, at 3:43 PM, my wife and I had a baby (that's his picture to the right). If you really want to see pictures, just click on the Our Son link under my favorite places to visit.

At that time, I took off two weeks from work. That was a smart decision. As with most newborns, Evan didn't really sleep very much. He was up every two hours, ready to be fed and changed. Sometimes, he was just up for no apparent reason.

My wife and I were physically and mentally exhausted in no time. So, we took turns getting up with him and trying to sleep whenever and wherever we could. I think we passed a few times in the hallway from our bedroom to his bedroom, but those days are mostly a blurr. We did journal those days, writing little notes about what we did for Evan, how long we were up, and even leaving little love notes to each other. At some point, we need to re-read those notes, to see if they even make sense and to remember those challenging days.

After those first two weeks, I had to go back to work. I will admit to you, that was one of the most difficult days of my life. For the first time in my life, I didn't really want to go to work. Please don't misunderstand, I do love my work and I find good fulfillment in what I do. However, compared to raising my son, work pales in comparison. But, there was no choice. Go back to work.

My wife is a school teacher. Due to their generous leave plans, she was able to take off an additional 10 weeks with Evan. I will admit, I was more than jealous that she could do that! By the time I got home in the afternoon until he went to bed, those were hours that was way too short. But, I tried to take advantage of them, spending as much time with him as possible. There was also the 8:00 PM, 10:00 PM, midnight, 2:00 AM, 4:00 AM, and 6:00 AM feedings. I did get to see him at many of those times as well, normally for 30 minutes at a time. But, to be honest, those were not always the most enjoyable of times--or peaceful moments.

Then, at the end of April, my wife had to go back to work. Her leave was up. And, she really wanted to finish out the school year with her school children. We decided that we really did not want to put Evan into childcare so soon. So, the choice was made, I would take paternity leave.

Keep in mind, I have never taken much leave from work. Thankfully, God has given me good health. I am rarely sick. As a matter of fact, I've probably not taken a sick leave day in 20 years. Yes, I am blessed with good health.

So, taking a month off was a shock to my system. Would things fall apart at work without me? Would they need my expert advice and not have me to turn to? Would my boss come to the conclusion that she needed me to be there for an emergency? Would the world fall apart because I was not at work?

Well, who cares! Truthfully, when compared to spending time with Evan, changing his diapers, feeding him, rocking him to sleep, and comforting him with he frets, work simply doesn't appear on my radar screen! Yes, I value my job (especially if you are from my office and reading this). But, work doesn't even come close in comparison to how important these last four weeks have been!

As with most great adventures, reality comes back to bite you.

On Tuesday, I will be returning to work. Am I excited about that? Sure. On one level, yes, I am ready to go back to work, to get back into the mix, and to make whatever contributions God has for me to make. On another level, I will never be ready to go back to work! Never! And I do mean never. I can't really fathom all of the moments I will miss in Evan's life. I can't imagine the smiles I will never see and the joy in his face that I will miss. Just thinking about those things breaks my heart. I will miss the sweet innocent face he has when he wakes up from his naps. I will miss the smile he gives when I first go to wake him up every morning. And, I will miss seeing him splashing in his bath tub.

The good news is that school is now out in Alabama. So, my wife is off work and she will be taking care of Evan during the summer. She is so excited about it! And who can blame her! For the next two and one half months, she will have the greatest and most important adventure of her life.

I'm jealous.

I really am!

I sure hope the people at work will understand that I might be distracted at work. I don't think I will be able to rush right back in and hit the ground running at full steam. My heart and mind will still be at home, with my wife and little boy.

I just hope, in some small way, he'll remember the days we spent together. While I am smart enough to know that he will never remember those days, I have no doubt that I will always remember them.

So Evan, treasure the moments with your Mommy. She'll take good care of you. She'll love you as much as I did during Daddy Daycare. Just don't expect her to do things the way I did!

After all, she really doesn't like the mohawk hair do I've been known to give you!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pray for the Steven Curtis Chapman Family

In a tragic accident, Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter, Maria, was killed this week. Please keep the entire Chapman family in your prayers.
For more information, please click here.

No Need to Apply

Yesterday, I wrote about the inadequate officials who currently run the state government in Alabama. The state representatives and senators have just finished their most recent session. Please notice that I said "finished." I did not use the word "completed." Because, by most evaluations, there was absolutely nothing completed in their work.
Nothing. Nada. Zero. And you would have thought that this group would have some incentive to do a good job. After all, it was only last year that they approved a 62% pay raise for themselves! Of course, this increase was for themselves, not on behalf of the people who elected them--it was for themselves! I'm not sure if you were to add up all the pay raises I've ever received it would add up to 62%.
This year, our representatives and senators were feeling generous again, dishing out pay raises to other elected officials. This year, their "chosen" target was the salary for the mayor of Birmingham. They decided that his salary of $88,000 wasn't enough, so they raised it by $40,000 annually. I wonder, how many people in Alabama live off of less than $40,000, much less ever see a raise like that! That is, unless you are a friend of the mayor who is promoted from cutting city grass to head of the department, and goes from making $30,000 or so to over $110,000 a year!
It was these same senators and representatives that failed to pass a law reducing the sales tax on food sold in Alabama. How could they pass this tax savings, obviously we have to pay for the mayor of Birmingham to get his raise, and who knows, maybe the senators and representatives will see fit to raise their salaries again. The fine people of Alabama don't need the tax savings. Maybe, we'll just cut back on our food purchases or on the gasoline for our cars.
Our wonderfully elected officials also decided that it was not to the citizens of Alabama advantage to pass a law that prohibited smoking in public places and work environments. No, that wouldn't benefit the health of the people in our state. It was such a bad idea that the bill died without even a vote in Montgomery.
Then, on the final day on Goat Hill, the senators and representatives effectively killed the education budget for the next year. It seems that there was a gap of $25 million dollars standing in the way of our children. The colleges and universities were to be cut 11% in their budget, the K-12 schools were to be cut 2% in their budgets. Well, the powers that be in the state of Alabama decided those numbers were totally unacceptable. So, they allowed the education bill to die, again without even voting on it.
What happens now that the bill has died? Well, several things now happen. First, a special session will need to be called by the governor. The wonderful people of Alabama will reward our senators and representatives with an additional $350,000-500,000 to carry out the work they were supposed to do in their regular session. Question for you: Did your Mama reward your bad behavior by increasing your allowance or did she spank your bottom? The answer is really simple isn't, well, to everyone outside Montgomery!
Then, since the education budget wasn't approved, now all non-tenured teachers and staff face the possibility of receiving pink slips from the state of Alabama. You read that right. They will basically be fired, that is, until a budget is approved. They will be fired until June, July, August, September...or later, whenever the senators and representatives get around to doing their job, deciding on a budget, and getting it signed by the governor. But, forgive me, wasn't that what they were supposed to do the first time around?
Today, I decided to take my complaints to the men and women who represent my family and to the elected leadership in both the senate and house. I also contacted both the democrat and republican parties, to express my frustration and disappointment with their inaction.
Their reaction? Well, out of the nearly dozen people I wrote, only two people had the courage to respond. Two out of twelve! And, to make matters worse, one of those who responded basically answered by saying that the problem was with the other branch of government. It was not his place of service, they had done their job. The "others" were guilty of doing nothing!
We exchanged several emails, and I will admit that we had a good conversation. Finally, the person asked me an amazing question. He asked, "What would you suggest that I do?" Wow, what a question. I paused for a moment to make sure how I wanted to respond to his question. Here's what I replied:
"If I were to give a suggestion, as you asked, I would encourage you to take the lead on getting something accomplished on these issues ASAP. Work with the senate, the governor's office, and all involved to bring resolution to the issues at hand. I think, from a state perspective and from a political perspective, our citizens are looking for a leader to bring hope and resolution. I would encourage you to be that leader. As you do, you will hear those famous church words...'The people will rise up and called you blessed!'
I believe that! The state of Alabama needs a leader. The state of Alabama needs a man or woman to step up to the plate for the people, to put aside their party, to put aside the lobbying pressure, to put aside what will get them re-elected. We need a leader. We need someone to stand up, to do the right thing, to vote with conviction, to speak frankly and honestly, and to take the consequences that come.
Where are those men and women? Well, if the responses or should I say lack of responses to my email are an indication, there aren't many of those leaders in Alabama. At least not yet! However, as I told the two people who did have the courage to email back to me, I believe the day is coming when the people have had enough of this kind of foolishness. The day is coming when the people will say enough is enough and vote them all out of office.
I believe that day is now.
So, I'm watching. I'm waiting. And, I'm praying that men and women will put aside every other question and put our citizens first. I can support that type of person. And I will.
All others need not apply for my vote or support!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Successful Edit

Over the weekend, President George Bush was interviewed by NBC News. A part of his interview included comments he had made while in Israel. Many in the US interpreted his comments as a direct reaction/insult to Barack Obama's comments about meeting with the president of Iran.

Interestingly, when NBC News ran the interview on Sunday and Monday nights, the editors chose to delete parts of the President's comments. The White House called NBC News and complained about the edits. The White House asked for the network to replay the interview, as it took place. NBC News refused to do so, telling the audience that if they wanted to see the entire interview, they should go to their network's Web site and see it there. Seems like a strange request to me--news can't be played on a network, but on a Web site only?

For the last 6 1/2 years, I have been an editor. For the first 20 years of my career, I served as a pastor. Then, a change in careers came and I became an editor for a non-profit Christian publishing company.

Editing is an interesting business. I've learned that words can certainly be twisted from the original intent of the author. Words can be changed, sentences can be rearranged, an emphasis can be placed on certain phrases--giving a meaning the author never intended.

So, what's an editor to do? Well, I can only speak for myself. I don't know (I have some opinions on why NBC News did what they did) why certain editors twist words, sentences, and phrases. I personally don't think that is the right thing to do. To me, it becomes a matter of integrity--the integrity of the editor and the news staff.

But, in truth, isn't so much of life about integrity?

A politician's votes often come down to whether or not his/her integrity prohibits him/her from accepting payoffs from lobbyists. A doctor determines what procedures he/she will perform based on his/her integrity and value system. A minister avoids certain situations that could hurt his intergity and witness in the church and community.

My mother often said to me, "Tell the truth and you'll never have to worry about what lie to tell next." Good advice, don't you think? Tell the truth. Live by that truth. Hold firm to the truth.

Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Again, good advice.

I would challenge all of us wordsmiths to know the truth, tell the truth, and to live free. By living in the truth, you never have to spend your time looking over your shoulder to see who is watching or coming after you!

News media, stop twisting the words to fit your own agenda! As voters, we are smart enough to decide for ourselves what the truth is--we don't need you editing the truth to fit your view of truth.

Monday, May 19, 2008

No Gratitude

LAS VEGAS (From Fox News) — Kenny Chesney won entertainer of the year for a fourth straight time, then promptly took issue with the way the Academy of Country music awarded the honor: through fan votes.

For the first time in the show's 43 years, the top prize — traditionally decided by ACM members — was determined Sunday through online voting. With the win, Chesney ties Garth Brooks and trails only Alabama, which won five in a row.

Chesney said immediately backstage that he thought fans should be included, just not by voting for the show's most important award.

"The entertainer of the year trophy is supposed to represent heart and passion and an amazing amount of sacrifice, commitment and focus," he said. "That's the way Garth won it four times, that's the way I won it, that's the way (George) Strait won it, Reba (McEntire), Alabama all those years. That's what it's supposed to represent."

He said his complaint is directed at the industry, not the fans — and that the method amounted to "complete disrespect" of the artists, saying the academy turned the award "into a sweepstakes to see who can push people's buttons the hardest on the Internet."

FROM STEVE--So, let me get this right. Mr. Chesney wins Entertainer of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. Great accomplishment. Sounds like a night to celebrate, smile, and enjoy. But, as soon as he wins the award, he complains on how he was chosen.

Does that not sound ungratiful to anyone but me?

I suppose, if Mr. Chesney doesn't want to be voted on by the fans and if he disagrees with the way the process is handled, couldn't he simply ask that his name not be included in the nomination process. Then, a performer who would accept the award with grace and humility could be awarded the special award.

That sounds more like an entertainer I would want to support and be proud of.

Couldn't Mr. Chesney have said what Carrie Underwood did after winning her award: "I know I don't deserve it, but I'll take it," Underwood said. "Fans got me everything I have, and I owe everything to you."

That's the way I see you. How about you?

Stopping to Pray

China stood still. Sirens wailed. Citizens mourned tens of thousands of earthquake victims in the country's deadliest disaster in a generation.

An estimated 1.3 billion citizens came to a halt for three minutes at 2:28 p.m. (1:28 a.m. CT)—exactly one week after the magnitude 7.9 quake hit central China. Chinese officials fear as many as 50,000 people may have died in the earthquake and the aftershocks that have continued over the last week.

Just today, I heard that as many as 200 aid workers and rescuers have died in a mudslide as they were trying to locate people buried in the earthquake. The devastation simply continues to get worse.

I commend the Chinese people for stopping to remember those who have lost their lives. I commend them for praying.

I would encourage all believers to pray for the continued search effort. Pray for the safety of those searching. Pray for miracles of people being found alive. Pray for the government to be open to people of faith coming in to help. Pray for God's name to be praised during this time of trial and turmoil. Pray for redemption of millions of souls who have never heard the name of Jesus in China. May God's name be lifted, praised, and honored!

Romans 8:28 comes to mind at this point: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV)."

Read that verse carefully. It never says that only good things happen to those God loves. The Bible clearly tells us that. Read the story of Moses, David, Paul, even Jesus. Bad things do happen to good people. Bad things happen to really good people! But, that's not the point of Romans 8:28. Even when bad things happen, God still works. Even when bad things happen, God is still on His throne! He never fails. He never falters. He never forgets!

When the earthquake happened, where was God?

Simple. God was in the same place He has always been--on His throne. He will work through this event as He does in all events. He will work His miracles among the Chinese people.

May today's prayers be the beginning of that work!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Gas Prices and Alternatives

President George Bush is in Riyady, Saudi Arabia today. He is meeting with Saudi Arabia's leaders. One item on their meeting agenda is to talk about oil production and gasoline costs. The president is asking King Abdullah for greater production to help halt rising gas prices in the United States.

Unfortunately, Saudi officials are sticking to their position that they already are meeting demand.

When President Bush met Abdullah in January, the president also asked Saudi Arabia to raise production to ease high prices at the pump. But he got a chilly response to that plea. The kingdom said it would increase production only when the market justified it, and that production levels appeared normal.

Well, as of noon central time, oil prices have climbed to a new high, above $127 a barrel. At the gas pump, gas prices rose to a national average of $3.78 per gallon, according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Wow! Who would have ever thought we would see this day! I am getting old, I realize that, but when I am tempted to say, "When I was a kid, gasoline was $.25 a gallon!" I realize just how old I must sound! Yet, as a boy, my first paying job was cutting grass for my neighborhood. I had a pretty good deal worked out. My dad furnished the lawn mower and I paid for the gas from my business profits. In those days, I only charged a couple of dollars a yard, max. But, when gas cost only $.25 I was making a good profit. I could cut several yards on a single tank of gas, and it took several tanks to equal a gallon of gas.

Now, gas is over $3.70 a gallon. The last time I filled up my car, it costs $53. That's a single fill-up!

I don't have the answers to this problem. In my part of the world, public transportation isn't an option. You see, even though I live 10 miles from a major city, and there are 1.7 million people in our region, there is NO regional transit system. We have no trains, no light rail, no buses, no commuter lots, etc. So, we depend upon our cars, trucks, and SUVs to get everywhere.

For nearly seven years, I lived in Northern Virginia, only about 30 miles from downtown Washington, DC. Mass transit was a way of life there. We had commuter lots, trains, light rail, even carpool systems operated on the Internet. Most people I knew commuted to work using one of these systems.

My favorite commuting system though was something I had never heard of before moving to the area and I've never heard of it since. Many people commute to DC by "Slugging" to work. Ever heard of it? Don't be ashamed to admit if you haven't. As I said, I had never heard of it either.

Slugging is an interesting way to commute. Slugs, don't you love what they call themselves, go to commuter lots and wait in line for people to stop and ask if they need a ride to a certain part of DC. You see, in Northern Virginia, the fastest way to get to work, by car, is in the HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicle). Cars must carry at least three people in the car to use the HOV lanes. These lanes can mean getting to work in 30 minutes compared to 1 1/2 hours. So, if you normally had three people in your carpool, yet someone was out sick or on vacation, what could you do to use the HOV lanes? Well, some very smart person came up with the idea of slugging to work. These people literally stand around, in line, waiting for someone to drive up (someone they have never seen before and probably will never see again), offer to give them a ride to whatever part of DC, they get in, ride to work (free) and the others get to use the HOV lane, saving time to work! In the afternoon, they reverse the process, and catch a free ride back home.

What happens if they don't get picked up? Simple. Most of them carry a bus token, and at a certain point, they get on the bus and ride it to work. Most of the people I knew never had to use the bus token! They found rides every day!

I doubt such a system would work in Alabama. I'm not sure I want to get into a car with someone I've never met before. That just doesn't seem to be a logical (nor safe) idea to me.

So, I guess I will just continue to fill up my gas tank each week, watching the dial spin faster and faster, and my costs going up and up. Oh well, I really didn't need that gallon of milk or medical checkup.

But, let's not talk about the price of a gallon of milk...that's a whole different story. Thank goodness, I really don't like milk!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My First Chuckle

Yesterday was a long day for our son. My daughter had to have surgery, meaning that we had to place our son with a babysitter. I know parents do this all the time; however, this was the first time for us to do this with our son.

Well, after getting home, Daddy, Mommy, and Evan got in the floor to play. After a few minutes, I began throwing the ball at my son (well, truthfully, hitting him with it--it was very soft!). Evan thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen and began chuckling! This was his very first laugh!

Somehow, I have to learn to laugh like this!

The Rest of the Story

Christopher Nguyen is a survivor. Do you know who Christopher is and what makes him special? That question will test your knowledge of current events!

Well, Christopher is one of six Oklahoma City children who survived the Murrah Federal Building bombing 13 years ago, and he is the first to graduate from high school. He graduates this week.

Nineteen other children perished that day inside America's Kids Child Development Center in downtown Oklahoma City. The final death toll in the building reached 168.

Today, Christopher is a popular straight "A" student at Bishop McGuinness High School and plans to attend the University of Oklahoma this fall.

Christopher said, "I try to avoid thinking about it in some ways, but obviously on the anniversary, April 19th, I think about it pretty much all day."

While we tend to focus on negative news in American news media, I am thankful to hear a positive story, one of success, hope, and what some might even call a miracle. A young preschooler was nearly killed in an act of terrorism, grows us without too much psychological damage from what took place, studies, learns all he can, becomes a straight "A" student, and now plans to go off to college.

How many times do we take the negative things in life and turn them into something positive? How often do we look for the good in life rather than dwelling on the bad? I know, it's difficult to do at times. The glass is definitely half empty rather than half full. I know the feeling. You do too, right? After we have been beaten down time and time again, after our boss has chewed us out for the fifth time in the day, after our spouse screamed at us for the third time before breakfast, it's tough to keep a positive attitude, to see the brighter side of life, and to remain optimistic!

Yet, so much of life is determined by how we view life, how we interpret the events that come into our daily journey.

May I challenge you today to find the positive in life, rather than focusing on the negative? May I challenge you to tune out the negative press media, the negative words of friends, family, peers, and bosses? May I challenge you to find the touches of God in what comes your way today? While you can't always change the curves you are thrown in a given day, you can definitely change how you handle those curves!

As you do, I have no doubt that you will see your spirits soar, your attitude improve, and your joy return!

That, my friends, is a far greater way to live! Happy graduate day Christopher! May this event be only the first of many positive events to come in your life!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Heart Goes Out

I didn't know the man. I never met him. I don't think I had even read about him. To be honest, I had never even heard of him until yesterday. But, for various reasons, my heart was touched by what took place earlier this week. It's amazing how a tragedy can do that.

By now, you've seen the news stories about the death of Florida pastor Forrest Pollack. He and his son were flying to an engagement in Texas when their small plane crashed. Both were killed in the crash.

A man and his 13-year-old dying is sad. It is heartbreaking. It is difficult to explain. It is hard to make sense of it.

Forrest left behind a wife, five children, other family members, and a church that now is pastorless.

I suppose I relate to this story on many levels. First of all, for twenty years, I was a pastor. I know how I felt when a beloved church member died. My heart was torn, even broken, as I said goodbye to wonderful believers in Jesus Christ. Some of the saddest days in my ministry were those where I stood over a casket at the cemetary and watched as the workers lowered the casket into the grave. I know in the days ahead, the Pollack family will find themselves at a cemetary, saying goodbyes, shedding many, many tears. For that reason I hurt. I hurt knowing the pain death causes--whether that death is "expected" or not.

I also hurt because I too am a father. Just today my daughter had knee surgery. Some months back she injured her knee, which led to her surgery today. It was hard watching the nurses roll her out of the room into surgery. I would have done anything to be the one going into that room, instead of her. However, I couldn't take her place. I hurt for Mrs. Pollack, as she grieves, not only over the loss of her husband but also her child. We all believe that we should never have to bury our child. We are supposed to go first. We are older. We have lived life. We never anticipate the death of a child, especially our own. For that reason, I hurt for the Pollack family today.

I also hurt because a church is pastorless today. Oh, I know it is a large church and they have multiple staff members. Eventually, they will call another pastor and God will bless his ministry into the future. I know that. But, today, the church family is hurting. They have lost a friend, a mentor, a teacher, a scholar, a leader, a pastor. The relationship between a pastor and his church family is one of the most special relationships the world can ever imagine. That is especially true when the pastor loves the people and the people love him. From all indications, Pastor Pollack was loved and he loved his people. For that reason, I hurt for Forrest's church family, as they deal with grief.

While the news of their death was not joyful, the end of the story is--Pastor Forrest Pollack and his son Preston are not lost! We know where they are today! They are with God, walking His golden streets, enjoying their eternity with the Heavenly Father.

So, you see, the plane crash, as terrible as it was and is, the death of a pastor and his son as tragic and hard to swallow as it is, all of that is not the end. You see, the glorious truth of the word of God is that when we belong to God, when we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we belong to God, we are His. And, when the time of death comes, whether it is at 13, 44, or 104, those numbers matter not. What matters is that we are His and He immediately ushers us into our new home!

So, today, I hurt for the Pollack family and their church. However, I also rejoice today in knowing the end was not the end! The end of their life on earth was the beginning of their eternity with God in heaven.

Thank You Lord for this blessed assurance!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prayer Request Update

Word has now come in that Pastor Forrest Pollack's plane has been found. Both he and his son were killed in the crash.

Now, our prayers turn toward his wife, his five other children, and his church family.

May God bless you all during this difficult time.

Please Pray

Please be in prayer today for the family of Forrest Pollack. Forrest is the pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida. He and his 13 year old son went missing while flying his own plane to a conference.

Updates are being provided at the church's Web site:

What in the World is Going On?

What a weekend and first part of the week we have had. In the midwest and south, we've once again endured tornados and storms. Living in Alabama for much of my life has meant a constant swirling of tornados through the years. This year has seemed worse than normal, and the count sure verifies that thinking. Nearly two dozen people were killed in the tornados. Our prayers go out to the families who lost loved one and material possessions.

Then, on Monday, the massive earthquake in China. The earthquake has now claimed more than 10,000 lives. What a heartbreaking tradegy! Relief efforts are slowed by not being able to reach the area hardest hit. People are still buried under rubble, aid is slowly moving toward the people in need. We can pray that relief efforts will move more quickly, and that thousands of lives can still be saved.

A normal question at a time like this is this one: "Where was God when all of this was happening?" Or, "Why did God not stop it?"

I don't have all of the answers, but I do know this beyond a shadow of doubt--God is right where He has always been. God is on His throne, loving His creation and His created ones.

While many of us haven't experience an earthquake or a tornado, many of us suffer other types of loss. Some of us are suffering with cancer, joblessness, divorce, and countless other problems. Where is God? Why does He not stop these from happening?

God is soverign. God is in control. God makes the decisions, not us! God ulitimately knows what is best for us, we don't. While we may be well educated and smart, we cannot possibly know everything we need, or even what the future holds. Only God knows our future. Only God knows what will happen in the next second. Not us. We are not God.

So, even though we may not understand why things happen or why God allows them, we cannot doubt that God is in control and He will do what is ultimately best for us. "Best" as determined by His will, not "best" as determined by our limited view.

May God bless you in whatever struggle you find yourself in today. May He grant you His wisdom, strength, and hope.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Every Day Positive Thinking

Listen to these words of wisdom. Would be good words for all of us to live by, especially as believers in Jesus Christ!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Who's Looking Forward to Getting Old?

Two older couples, who had been friends for years, were spending the evening together. While they were taking a break from their card game, the wives went into the kitchen, while the two men stayed in the den talking. One man said, “Joe, you played a great game of cards tonight. I usually have to remind you what cards have been played, but tonight I didn’t have to. How come?”

Joe said, “I went to memory school.” His friend asked, “Really? I could use something like that. What’s the name of the school?” Joe thought for a minute and said, “Let me see. Umm . . . uh . . . what do you call that flower that’s red, with thorns on the stem, and women love getting them at Valentine’s Day?” His friend said, “A rose.” Joe said, “Yeah, that’s it.” Then he turned toward the kitchen and yelled, “Hey, Rose! What was the name of that memory school I went to?”

Isn’t it sad as we get older how quickly our memory seems to fade? We forget dates, names, places we have been, birthdays, where our car keys are, and even to take our medicine.

Someone offered this David Letterman style list of the Top Ten Ways to Know You Are Growing Old:

1. Everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work.
2. You have a party and the neighbors don’t even realize it.
3. You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.
4. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
5. Your little black book contains a lot of phone numbers but they all end in M.D.
6. You finally get it all together and then you can’t remember where you put it.
7. Your pacemaker opens the garage door whenever you see a pretty lady go by.
8. You try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks and discover you aren’t wearing any.
9. The gleam in your eye is just the sun reflecting on your bifocals.
10. You wake up looking like your driver’s license picture.

I don't care who you are, that's funny! Well, at least until I look in the mirror and realize that I am beginning to resemble those remarks!

So, who's laughing now?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Random Wednesday Thoughts

I'm sitting here early this morning, trying to determine what I want to write. What else is new for a writer, a person who loves words, and a person who often goes through the "valley of no words." Know the feeling?

If you write often, sure you do. Just because you have a passion for writing or love words doesn't mean that the words will come easily nor quickly. I've found that the words eventually do come. Most of the time after prayer and further thought. Much further thought!

I've read through a number of blogs this morning. Every morning, I read through 8 or 10 blogs that I have marked as favorites. They are not favorites because I agree with everything they write or idea they espouse. They are favorites because they seem to touch upon many hot-button issues that I care about.

At times, when I read those blogs, I come away angry. At other times, I come away frustrated. And then at other times, I come away with more questions than I have answers. So, why read them? Why waste my time getting angry? Why read what I may or may not agree with?

Well, I suppose I continue to read those blogs because they challenge me. Those blogs challenge me to think. To think about my personal position on the subject at hand.

And, in all honesty, challenges are good. Challenges cause growth. Challenges allow me to formulate a response. Sometimes I find myself commenting on these blogs sites. Well, sometimes. Most of the time, I just comment to myself! You see, I've learned fairly quickly that as soon as you comment, someone comes back and condemns your words, thoughts, or ideas. I don't know whether they truly disagree with me, hate disagreements, or simply think such negative feedback from them is what is expected.

So, what I do is read, think, challenge myself. And, in rare situations, I actually press the "publish comments" button. Rarely.

I hope as you visit this site, that you will feel encouraged, knowing that you can feel free to comment at will, and knowing that comments will be accepted without judgment or condemning.

I don't know how easy this process will be for me--you see, I do take my words personally and with great passion. However, as I grow and as you challenge me to grow, I hope we will begin a dialogue that will help both of us to be stronger in our walk with the Lord.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Mother's Day to Remember

I’m the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side of the family. For many years, there were six of us grandsons. We were spread out by about two years each. We had such fun when we were together at my grandparents’ house. Then, when I was 18 or so, my aunt had a girl. Having a girl thrown into the mix was a new dynamic for our entire family. No one knew how to relate to a baby girl. I always felt fortunate that I was an adult by the time she came along, if 18 can be considered an adult.

I’ll never forget one visit to my grandparents’ house. It was Mother’s Day. I was 15 years old. After our big family lunch, the boys made their way outside. We began playing hide-and-go-seek and other games. Finally, we wound up playing baseball. My cousins had a plastic bat we could use, my brother had a real baseball, and we all had gloves. So, we started taking batting practice. My brother could throw the ball extremely hard. So, we elected him to be the pitcher. I was the catcher and my cousins started batting.

After we had been playing for a while, my oldest cousin came up to bat. My brother wound up and threw the ball as hard as he could. My cousin swung the plastic bat with all of his might. As he swung, the bat wasn’t able to withstand the force of the ball and bent in the middle, causing the ball to curve upwards. As the catcher, I was fully prepared to catch the ball where my brother was throwing it, but I was not prepared to catch the ball when it curved upwards. The ball missed the top of my glove and hit me squarely between the eyes, directly on the top of my nose.

I immediately went falling over backwards and in a matter of seconds was covered in blood. My nose began to swell, my eyes began to swell, my head hurt worse than I’d ever felt it before. Well, two blackened eyes, a concussion, and a broken nose later, I was on my way to the emergency room to repair the damage caused by an errant ball curving the wrong direction.

It is amazing how quickly fun can turn serious, how quickly a good time can become an emergency; how quickly smiles turn to pain.

It's also amazing how quickly a discussion between friends can become heated; how quickly a debate turns negative.

I didn't like my broken nose, not one bit. I also don't like the negative spirit I often find on blogs, in churches, in sermons, and among those of us in Christian circles. Let's put aside the negative. Let's put aside the arguments. Let's find what we can agree on, not on what separates us.

To me, that's a better way to blog, to preach, to worship, and simply to live.

On this blog, I will do my best to be positive, to share the good in life. As you have questions, comments, or even ideas about write about, please let me know. I'd love to begin a positive dialogue with you.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

You are Adopted! NOT!

Yesterday, I shared a story with you from my teenager years as I delivered newspapers.

Let me share with you another story today. Again on this day, my brother and I were feuding about something—I can’t really remember what the issue was at the time. All I remember is that I had had just about all I could take of my brother that day.

Finally, in total frustration, I said to him, “You do realize that you are adopted, don’t you?” The look on his face was priceless. I think it was a mixture of confusion, doubt, and concern all rolled into one. Well, I knew I had him penned against the ropes at that point. So, I continued, “Yeah, have you ever noticed how Mom and Dad don’t have as many pictures of you as they do of me? They’ve never figured out how to tell you that you are adopted, so I figured I should go ahead and be the one to tell you.”

Remember, at the time, I was 16 years old. I was frustrated at my brother. And, before you think my crime went unpunished, let’s just say when he told my parents what I had informed him of, my Dad didn’t let anything go unpunished. I never told my brother that again.

I shared this story once in a sermon in a church I was serving. After the worship service, a deacon and his wife came up to me, with a huge grin on their faces. The woman spoke, “You know, we had six children. I believe every one of our children made a point of telling the one younger than them the same story about being adopted and using the lack of photographs as proof.”

So, I had to ask, “Why is it that parents take less and less photographs of the children who come along after the oldest one.” I loved their answer, “Well, with the first one, it is all new. There’s a level of excitement and enthusiasm. You can’t take enough pictures. But then the next one and the next one comes along. But this time, you are tired. Bone tired. Plus, you’ve taken just about every kind of picture you can take! What’s left to photograph?”

If you visit my son's blog, you will see tons of pictures of him. I fully understand taking pictures of children and can tell you, it only gets worse as every day goes by. Now with digital cameras, the amount of pictures are limitless!

Warning, don't visit his site until you love adorable baby pictures! Okay, you've been warned.