Tuesday, September 30, 2008

'Nuff Said...


Tuesday's A+ Award of the Day

Today’s A+ Award goes to Olga Murray. Olga is 83 years old and lives in Nepal.

Many years ago, Olga Murray had a big plan. She had been volunteering in Nepal for several years when she found out that in a nearby area, poor farmers would sell their daughters as slaves to wealthier families at the cost of $35-$75. The families of the would-be slaves felt they had no alternative–without selling their daughters, they might starve or worse yet, die.

Olga Murray knew she had to come up with a solution quickly. As she looked around the country, she recognized the importance of pork in the communities. She quickly realized that a pig could easily fetch the amount of money that the families needed to survive.

In 1989, Olga began going door to door, offering the poor family free piglets in exchange for keeping their daughters safe and at home. In addition, she offered to pay for the girl’s education. Out of 37 Nepalese families she approached, 32 took the offer.

Now, 19 years later, Olga Murray and her organization have continued their offer. As a result, more than 3,000 girls have been given the opportunity to remain at home with their families as well as flourishing in a solid educational program.

Som Paneru, Olga’s business partner said, “The local schools are full of former kamlaris (girl slaves) and the size of the classrooms are swollen, and girls are outnumbering boys. We’ve already built over 35 new classrooms, but the need is still not fully met.”

Olga said, “At rallies, or on the radio, the grown women promise out loud that their little sisters will never, ever go through what they did, and that’s when you start to cry.”

The chances are slim to none that Olga Murray will read this blog! That doesn’t matter! Olga Murray deserves the A+ Award for the Day!

And, I think all of us who do read these words need to take a few minutes to search our souls for what contributions we are making to improve our world.

A+ Olga Murray. A+.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Drumroll Please...

Last Thursday, I asked our readers to share which blogs they must read each day. You know the ones. The ones you can’t miss, if you do, your day just isn’t complete.

I wasn’t surprised by most of the blogs, some of which I read every day as well. A few of the blogs I had never heard of.

Take a moment if you have time and check out these blogs that came highly recommended from fellow readers of this blog:

www.ragamuffinsoul.com

www.flowerdust.net

http://swerve.lifechurch.tv/

www.texasinafrica.blogspot.com/

www.kevinbussey.com/

www.rickboyne.com

http://www.outsidethebox.blogspot.com/

http://withoutwax.tv/

www.bernardshuford.com

Do you have any further recommendations? I’m always looking for new sites, especially those that mean a lot to you.

And, don’t forget to click on the sites on my blogroll. In my opinion, those are some of the best on the Net!

Monday's A+ Award of the Day



Attorney Willie Gary of Fort Pierce, Florida, gets the A+ Award of the Day.

And, by association, all lawyers get a pass today on the telling of any lawyer jokes! This is only a one-day pass though! Tomorrow, they will be fair game again! :)

Last Wednesday, Willie Gary and radio station X102.3 teamed up to give away thousands of gallons of free fuel to motorists. Cars snaked through the parking lot and out onto the street in front of the WalMart where the gas was given away.

Gary originally planned to give away 102 vouchers for gas, but ended up passing out more than 400!

It took several hours to get everyone through the line and off with their full tanks.

Mr. Gary said, “Just to help someone get gas to go to work, go pick up the kids or take the kids to school, and I have people saying to me, ‘I’ll be able to get my kids out of school tomorrow,’” Gary said. “You know it makes you feel good.”

Gary’s firm pumped 2,162 gallons of regular unleaded gas, worth more than $10,000.

What a great, positive, encouraging story! A+ Mr. Gary, A+

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More to Life than Complaining

Claudia Mitchell was living a fairly normal life. In 2004, Claudia was an average college student. However, all of that changed when she had a motorcycle accident that left her disabled.

After the accident, doctors raced to reattach her arm but the operation proved to be unsuccessful. The doctors then provided a prosthetic arm in its place. Mitchell unfortunately had a great deal of adjustment difficulty. So, basically, the prosthetic arm was simply impossible for her to manage.

“It just sat on the shelf. It didn’t do anything,” said Mitchell.

That’s when Claudia read about a new, experimental nerve surgery developed by Dr. Todd Kuiken entitled “targeted reinnervation.” A robotic arm was to be implanted on her body—not controlled by her shoulder but by her thoughts.

Claudia immediately volunteered for the experimental procedure. The doctors took severed and dormant nerves in her shoulder and put them under a muscle in her chest. So, now when Claudia wants her arm to move, she puts the thought in her head first. This signal travels from her brain to the muscle in her chest. The chest muscle contracts and “lets tiny bits of electricity out.” These electric signals then go to an internal computer that decodes them and tells the artificial arm what to do—all in an instant!

“I have what I call my ‘eureka moments,’” Claudia said. “My stunned ‘I can’t believe I just did that’ moments. There are a lot of daily tasks that people don’t even think about being able to do that I can [do] now.”

Well, if I had any thoughts of complaining today, those thoughts are going to be put to some better use! Maybe I’ll get my lazy self up and get outside for the afternoon. Maybe I’ll go exercise. Maybe I’ll spend more time with my family today.

Who knows what all I’ll do today. One thing for sure, when I remember this story, complaining won’t be one of those things!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lips Only for You



When it comes to smooching, Kirk Cameron only has lips for his wife.

The former star of the TV sitcom “Growing Pains” refused to kiss the actress who played his wife in his new movie “Fireproof,” he told the “Today” show this past Monday.

“I have a commitment not to kiss any other woman,” he told the morning show. So his real wife, actress Chelsea Noble, was the body double for the onscreen kiss.

“So when I’m kissing my wife, we’re actually husband and wife honoring marriage behind the scenes,” Cameron told “Today.”

The former child star became an evangelical Christian at 17 and is involved in The Way of the Master ministries.

What a positive message! What a great attitude to have about “his job” that could often involve kissing other women. His practice could help save some other Hollywood marriages! Remember the Brad Pitt story?

Lips only for his wife. Great testimony Kirk! It’s almost amazing this is newsworthy stuff, but then again, it is about the movie business!

Friday, September 26, 2008

To Do or To Don't, That is the Question

My wife and I have a busy weekend coming up this weekend.

Tomorrow night, we will be attending her high school reunion. She's somewhat excited about going--not completely, but trying to put on a good face about it. She hasn't seen most of these folks since she graduated!

Me? Well, I won't know anyone there but her. So, I'm sure I'll be the guy sitting over in the corner, with my diet coke or cup of coffee, smiling as people walk by, knowing that they will be thinking: "Who is this guy? Did he graduate with us? I don't remember him!"

Because of the busyness we know is coming, I've been updating my list. You know the list? Many of us create them. We create a list of all the things we need to do. Mow the grass. Run to WalMart. Get gas. Go to church. Trim the hedges. Cookout. Catch up on my reading. Etc. Etc. Etc.

So, I've been working on my list for this weekend. Here's what it looks like before I start.



Since this list is so helpful, I've been thinking about using another such list (the one below):



Be honest for a moment. Which of these lists get most of your time? Which list causes you the most heartburn and stress? Which one do you focus on more? I'll not ask you to tell me what the top "To Do" or "To Don't" would be on your list. But, think about it. Think hard.

In case you are curious (and I know you are), the top "To Do" item on my list is this: Spend as much time with my wife and son as possible.

My top "To Don't"? Don't waste time being negative!

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

In honor of those with comb overs...Happy Friday!



For many years, I had a comb over, not a beard comb over mind you, but a regular comb over. You know what I'm talking about, the parting of the hair just above the ear and combing it over the top. Yes, I know that everyone else but me knew that I was bald. Yes, it was that obvious. But, I was in a major state of denial, to be honest. I guess it was the generation I grew up in. Hair was important! Baldness was not good! Hair was good. Just look at the big hair bands of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. How many bald drummers did you see? Nada. Bald lead singers? Zip. Bald guitarists? None.

Every time I see the commerical above, I laugh. While I was never tempted to comb over my beard, I was certainly tempted to try many other ways to hide the baldness. Finally, the reality hit me--admit it. Get over the vanity. Be bald. Celebrate how God made me. You don't have hair on top, quit trying to pretend you do! In simple words: Stop pretending.

In the end, that's a pretty good way to live your life. Just be who you are. Bald. Hair. Short. Tall. A little overweight. Blue eyed. Green eyes. Black hair. Curls or straight. Left handed or right handed.

Now, don't take this post to mean that you shouldn't exercise. Or eat right. Or take care of yourself physically. That would be shortsighted on your part. Or my part, if that's how I lived my life. It's one thing to take care of yourself so you are healthy. It's something completely different to pretend you are something you aren't.

My words of wisdom for today? Simple. Be yourself. Stop hiding behind whatever mask you've been hiding behind. Stop pretending to be someone you aren't.

What's keeping you today from being the person God made you to be? Is it something inside you? Or, is it something you've imposed upon yourself?

So, what's your comb over?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday's Question of the Day



Besides this blog (of course), what blog is your favorite one to read every day? I'm talking about the one that if you don't read it, your day wouldn't be complete.

Wanted: Stress Ball; Needed Immediately



This week has been a challenging week. I won’t bore you with all of the details. Those don’t matter and most of you won’t care about the details anyway.

I know that some of you accidently came to this page—maybe you hit “Next Blog” at the top of your own blog site and you landed here! Today is your lucky day! Others of you visit my blog more regularly and you’ve come to expect a news story or relevant illustration from today’s world or maybe even a photograph of my son. None of that today. Still others of you are searching for the title: “Go to church or the devil will get you!” or “The World’s Largest Hamburger.” Yes, I’ve blogged about both of those subjects, just not today.

Let’s just say that today, you get the privilege of reading about a challenge that I am going through. I’ll do my best to keep the conversation (from this side) short and to the point.

My major challenge this week came on Monday when a co-worker of mine resigned from my team. Her departure will mean more work for several of us on our team. We will have to pick up her duties, field the questions that normally go her way, and plan for a transition that could run from six weeks to a year. Who knows at this point how long it will take to fill her position. That’s the nature of publishing. Jobs are hard to come by and qualified people to fill open jobs are even harder to find.

I don’t like challenges like this! I really don’t.

I’m not being selfish and thinking only of the extra work I will be called upon to do. I’m not afraid of extra work. I’ll do my fair share of it. Usually without complaining. Is this complaining?

What I really do hate is getting to know people and then watching as they leave. In a work environment like mine, you get to know people pretty well. We are a small company, so personalities are known, habits and hobbies, likes and dislikes, goals and dreams, hurts and pleasures—all known. All of those things are generally fair game in our work place. We know just about everyone’s comings and goings. That can be good. It can be bad. Right now, I’m seeing the bad. Someone I have invested much time and energy in is leaving.

Now, I’m happy for her. She will be moving to another area of our company, doing something that she very much enjoys and hopes to grow in. That’s good. I’m happy for that. But still. It leaves a hole in our work area. That’s bad.

You ever have days like that? If you allowed your selfish nature to come out, you would simply scream out in pain, frustration, or anxiety about what is happening around you. You feel out of control, unbalanced. You may not even know what step to take next. The road ahead is simply too dark to judge.

A life verse from Scripture that I’ve always followed is found in the Gospel of John. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

At this point, I don’t know all of the truth God is putting before me—I’m still searching for His truth in many ways. I’m searching for answers and ways to overcome doubt and fear. I wish I knew more. I wish I had the answers.

But, today, those answers and His truth seem to be eluding me. I’m seeking. Eventually, I’ll find it. Hopefully today.

If not today, then tomorrow.

If not then, as He desires.

Until then, got a stress ball I can borrow? Maybe two?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is Seeing Believing?


He appears only at night. And always at the same spot: the caravan park fence opposite Shelly Brooks’ cafe in Port Germein township, South Australia. In fact, Shelly was the first person to see him, in 2000.

“I sort of sat there with my husband opposite me and said, ‘Jesus Christ’, and he said, ‘What’s the matter now?’ and I said, ‘Jesus Christ’,” explained Shelly. When Mr Brooks turned round, he saw Jesus Christ for himself, in a shadow cast on the fence by a streetlight and the branch of a tree.

Local resident Sue Perovic said: “It stands out as plain as the nose on your face. He’s got a crown of thorns and the beard and very, very piercing eyes.”

As hundreds of people booked into the caravan park and waited till dark each night to see the image, the local council, sensing a tourist boom, delayed the annual trimming of the tree casting the shadow.

At least Jesus seems to be good for tourism in Australia! Now, if we could only get Him to spend some time in Alabama, maybe our economy would be better.

I could have claimed that the shadow of Jesus was on my backyard fence, of the house that I currently have on the market! Would that help you in deciding to purchase my home from me?

Thoughts?

What You Talking About Willis?



Say it ain’t so! Sorry, can’t do that. If you can believe the news media, it is so.

Gary Coleman [Diff'rent Strokes fame] has been sued by a man who claims the actor punched him and ran into him with his truck in a Payson (Utah) bowling alley parking lot, causing knee, back, and neck injuries.

Colt Rushton, 24, of Spanish Fork, says he and Coleman got into an argument September 6, after he began taking pictures of the “Diff'rent Strokes” actor with a cell phone. [Now, if my name is Colt, do I really want it known that I was beat up by little Gary Coleman? Seriously!]

Coleman, who is now 40 years old [How can that be true?], was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and disorderly conduct in Payson City Justice Court. A court clerk said Thursday there had been no notification that Coleman is represented by a lawyer.

In the civil lawsuit, filed Wednesday in 4th District Court, Rushton’s account of the confrontation said Coleman’s bodyguard, Paul Rohbock, told Rushton he would have to pay $20 per picture if he continued taking photos. [Probably a good idea—since Mr. Coleman has had such serious financial struggles in recent years.]

Rushton’s attorney, Dustin Lance, said Rushton stopped taking pictures, but when he later saw Coleman sitting in his truck close to the steering wheel, he thought it was funny and took another picture. [Well, Mr. Rushton, have you seen just how short Gary Coleman is? How else is he to reach the gas pedal?]

The lawsuit contends Rushton was attacked from behind by Rohbock or Coleman’s wife, Shannon Price [that’s bad form on her part, and Gary’s part—letting your wife do your fighting], and that his cell phone was taken away. The lawsuit also contends Coleman punched Rushton in the chest several times. [Have you seen Gary Coleman? Is Colt short? Or, does Gary Coleman take a two-foot ladder wherever he goes? After all, how did Gary Coleman reach Colt Rushton’s chest?]

You know, I don’t really mean to make fun of the situation, Colt Rushton, or even Gary Coleman. But come on folks, this is funny! I can’t really picture Gary Coleman going after someone—but again, he has had a troubled past and all kinds of legal and financial issues. So, I guess the charges could prove to be true.

How sad.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Do You See?

Take a moment, look at the picture below. What do you see?

Are you sure?



Now, scroll down a little. Let me tell you what you really see.




This is an optical illusion. The picture isn't moving. These are sometimes called anamolus motion illusions. Because although the image isn't moving at all--it really isn't animated at all--it looks like it's moving like crazy.

What Constitutes a Church?



A Pennsylvania couple is fighting to maintain “a church” they run from a Huntingdon Township home. The problem with their fight is that local government officials say their “church” is really a raunchy swingers club where single men have to pay for access but women come for free.

John and Kim Ondrik say they worship nature at the Church for Spiritual Humanism. But midnight mass at the Spiritual Palace is on hold as the Rev. John and his wife fight for a variance to continue practicing their “religion” in a residential area just outside of Pittsburgh.

Opponents of his church, including neighbors and North Huntingdon Township officials, say what’s really behind those closed doors is a club called the “Swinger’s Palace.”

Township commissioner Richard Gray said it’s been an open secret that a swingers club has operated out of the two-story house since the 1970s, but they finally have the evidence to shut it down. [Are you concerned that it took 35+ years for them to gather enough evidence? Are you kidding me? What did it take for the government to do something—a disgruntled “swinger”?]

Gray said the dispute is not about church or sex—it’s about having a business operating in a residentially zoned area. “The mere fact that they were charging a mandatory fee to get in, in my opinion, would constitute a business,” he said.

An attorney representing John Ondrik said that members in the private church give a donation and aren’t charged to get inside the midnight masses, which typically take place on Friday and Saturday nights. [This might be further proof that what they are doing isn’t church—do any of know anyone who goes to church at midnight, on both Friday and Saturday nights?]

A law professor also weighed in on the matter: “You have a right to run a church in a residential area not because of your free exercise rights under the Constitution, but simply because churches are not primarily commercial,” said Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesne University.
Ledewitz said the Ondriks might have a case if they can convince authorities they’re sincere about their religion and that they truly believe in their church.

This is an interesting case. Most of us attend or serve in churches that are located in neighborhoods. Many newer neighborhoods even include churches in the design of their new subdivisions. So, from that perspective, I don’t have a leg to stand on to complain about this issue.

However, if the evidence shows that more is going on than worship, then I’d have a problem. While I don’t support a swinger’s palace, no matter its location, a business has no place in a local neighborhood. If it is proven that this “church” is nothing more than a business, then they should be shut down or moved to another location.

What do you think?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Create A Caption



Let's all play along. Here's a picture of my son taken last Friday. Give it your best shot. What caption would you give to the photo?

Here Kitty Kitty

What most of us have known to be true, is on trial to be proved.

We should never be fooled by the pretty red bow that our cat is wearing. We should never be fooled by the soft purring sounds they make as we rub them.

Or so says notorious “self-defense” cat killer Joseph Petcka. Mr. Petcka took the witness stand in Manhattan last Thursday and described his victim—Norman, the orange house tabby—as a raging, rearing, growling banshee.

Petcka told jurors that Norman, his girlfriend'’ little kitty, brought on his own demise by attacking twice—maybe three times—that night in March 2007.

The tall, dashing, out-of-work actor spoke so dramatically about little Norman’s angry “stance”—and about how the cat “lunged” and “reared” and “threw me on my butt”—that for 90 minutes of testimony, it was almost possible to forget that Norman was fully declawed and weighed only 7 3/4 pounds. Did you read that? This man-killer weights less than 8 pounds and is totally declawed!

Mr. Petcka said, “Norman came and lunged at me, throwing me on my butt by the coffee table. I went down with my hands down toward Norman, and Norman reared around and bit into my hand, into my thumb area. I was screaming, ‘Uhhh! Norman! Get off of me! Uhhh’”

Now, let’s not lose site of this fact: Mr. Petcka, who is 37-years-old, and is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound former Mets minor league pitcher.

I’m sorry. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but something sounds wrong with this story. I know cats have sharp teeth, I understand that. But, did this former minor league baseball player really have no other option but to kill the cat?

Seems to me that he could have just walked away. I’m pretty sure that would have made a better impression on his girlfriend. I don’t know that I know many pet owners who would just accept you killing their animal like this.

Then again, maybe the cat was a Yankee fan!




Sunday, September 21, 2008

Searching for the Meaning of Worship



What is the state of worship today? What is the state of worship at your church? How about with you personally?

For too many people, worship has been captured by a tourist mind set. Let me explain that. For these people, worship is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. We go as convenient, by our schedule, according to what fits our needs, desires, and wants. We simply “tour” what takes place.

For others, worship is just a weekly jaunt to church—no real meaning to it, just more of a ritual, something you have to do. It’s Sunday, you are supposed to be in church. If you aren’t, the devil will get you!

For others, worship means an occasional visit to a special service—Easter, Christmas, a holiday celebration, a special musical, etc. You know, large crowds, unfamiliar faces coming to soak up the specialness of the moment and season.

Some people, with a bent for Christian entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies, and conferences. These people go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so, somehow, expand their otherwise humdrum lives.

Isn’t it sad that we will try anything—until something else comes along?

Do any of those descriptions of worship describe your attitude toward worship? Your church’s attitudes?

A look at the original language of the Bible and the origin of the word in English helps us understand the meaning of worship. The primary Hebrew word for worship is Shachah—which means “to depress, i.e. prostrate (in homage to royalty or God): bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.”

There are three Greek words that describe worship. First, Proskuneo—meaning “to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand, to fawn or crouch to, homage (do reverence to, adore): worship.” That word occurs 59 times in the New Testament. It originally carried with it the idea of subjects falling down to kiss the ground before a king or kiss their feet.

Secondly, Sebomai—“to reverence, hold in awe.” This word is used 10 times in the New Testament.

Thirdly, Latreuo—“to render religious service of homage.” This word is used 21 times in the New Testament.

The word in the English language literally means to ascribe worth to something.

As you think about going to a service of worship today, whether you have yet to go or already been, do those words describe what you anticipate taking place or what took place? Or, was the activity of a worship service just that, an activity?

I hope you will spend some time in thinking about the genuine meaning of worship, both individually and corporately. I will be praying for you as you do.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Way to Go Bama!



Not braggin'...but it wasn't even close!

Alabama--49
Arkansas--14

Meeting with a Crazy Man



Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the United States presidential candidates to a debate when he is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly next week.

“I am ready for a debate with the U.S. presidential candidates over global issues in the presence of the media at the U.N. headquarters,” Ahmadinejad said at a press conference in Tehran. “I have no plans in my schedule to meet with U.S. politicians.” (As if U.S. politicians would really want to meet with him. Do you think they’ll be lining up to visit?)

“Last year, I said I was ready to meet with [President George W.] Bush. But now he is at the end of his term and [a meeting] will not impact our relations and future,” Ahmadinejad said.

So, do you think Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain will agree to meet with the crazy president of Iran?

My bets are no. Even though Obama has promised that he would negotiate with leaders of other countries with whom the U.S. has strained relations.

I guess time will tell.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Can Anyone Relate?

I'll let this video speak for itself! Can you relate?

Ever Get Tired Just Thinking About Something?



The following story makes me tired. Literally, it does.

A Vermont man who is planning to ride in a 508-mile bicycle race in California is taking the long way to the starting line. He’s riding his bicycle to California. From Vermont. I told you, I’m tired after reading those words. How about you?

Joe Desena, 39, left Monday from Vermont on his 3,000-mile trip west, which is expected to take about two weeks. His goal is to be in the field on October 4 for the Furnace Creek 508, which goes from Santa Clarita, California., to Twentynine Palms. Desena, who has participated in dozens of adventure races, triathlons, and ultramarathons, says there’s no better way to get in shape for the race than to bike across country.

Wow! I’m impressed with his training. I’m not sure he needs to get into much better shape, but then again, I’m not a cyclist. I’m sure my blogger buddy Bill can weigh in on the discussion. But, if it takes him 14 days to ride from Vermont to California, that will be an average of 214 miles a day. Folks, that’s a long ways to drive a day, much less pedal a bicycle.

Do you ever see yourself setting out on an adventure such as this?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday's Question of the Day



Back by popular demand (well, Camey at least asked about it!), here's Thursday's Question of the Day:

God grants you five minutes to stand before Him in heaven. You can ask Him two questions, and only two questions. You can thank Him later for salvation and grace. For now, you get two questions. What would you ask?

Realigning Priorities



I love sports. I love playing sports. I love watching sports.

In my younger days, my brother and I played every sport imaginable in our back yard or front yard. We played baseball in the spring and summer, football in the fall, and basketball in the winter (remember, being from south Alabama, my exposure to “Yankee” sports like hockey was non-existent. And who in the world ever created Lacrosse? My mother would never let my brother and me run around with sticks in our hands!

Anyway, we played some type of game almost 365 days a year. As I got older, I played some intramural football in college. I’ve played pick-up basketball games for years with various friends. I’ve played church league softball. As I said, I love sports.

Now, as I get older and the demand for me to play is no longer there, I’ve come to learn that my playing days are over (well, demand may have been too strong a word to put there—not sure there was ever a demand for me to play—but since this is my blog, I’ll leave it!)

So, now I watch sports. I’ll watch baseball, football, basketball. I’ll even watch tennis and golf if nothing else is on. Truth be told, I’d probably watch a competition where men (or women for that matter) threw manhole covers across the room! Did I say that I love sports?

But, out of respect and love for my wife, I limit my sports watching. I’ll try to scope out a game or two that I’d like to watch over the weekend, and limit my watching to that game or games. If my beloved University of Alabama is playing (as they are this weekend) I know I want to see them. If there is another great game scheduled for the weekend, I’ll at least try to work that one into my agenda for the weekend. Other than that, I try to let the rest of it go.

But, it is hard to do. It really is. I love to watch sports. Not sure why that is so engrained in me, but it is. I never watched sports on TV as a kid, then again, there weren’t many games shown on TV in those days, or at least I don’t remember there being that many.

I think what it comes down to is the fact that I simply love to watch people competing. I like the thrill of victory and despise the agony of defeat. I love to watch athletics giving their best on the field, leaving everything there for the game’s sake. I love watching people use their God-given strengths in sports, and I guess I am just a little jealous that God didn’t bless me with those same skills and abilities.

So, this Saturday, at 11:30 AM CDT, I’ll be watching the University of Alabama play the razorbacks from Arkansas. I’ll be pulling for my team, screaming at the top of my lungs for them to win!

Then again, if my wife needs me to do something for her or if she’d rather not be a “football widow” for the afternoon, I’ll probably just skip the game and read about it in Sunday’s paper. If we buy a Sunday paper.

After all, in 10 years who will care if Alabama wins or loses? Well, of course, there will be some in our fair state who will, but don’t count me in with that number. There are more important things than college football, or professional football, or tennis, or baseball.

Sure, I love sports. But, I love other things more.

How about you?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's Time to Pay Up!



The headline was sensational, to say the least: Hey Feds, It’s Time to Pay Up. The headline sure got my attention. Did it grab yours?

It seems that the Internal Revenue Service is trying to collect billions of dollars in late taxes from nearly half a million federal employees. Documents obtained by WTOP radio through the Freedom of Information Act show the federal employees and retirees did not pay more than $3.5 billion in taxes owed last year.

The agency with the most delinquent employees was the U.S. Postal Service. Nearly 4.2 percent of its 747,000 workers are delinquent. The Executive Office of the President, which includes the White House, has 58 employees who did not pay more than $319,000. More than 1,000 Capitol Hill workers are on the list. About 152,000 of the delinquent federal workers have entered into payment plans.

The IRS would not provide comparable data for the general population.

At first read, I wanted to get angry. How dare government workers, whose salaries are paid through my tax dollars, not pay their fair share in taxes? How dare they skip out on paying their bills? How dare they think they can get away with this?

That was my first reaction.

Then, I calmed down and began to think it through a little more. In my honest opinion (IMHO), this is nothing more than the national media once again trying to incite the people against a few delinquent American citizens who happen to work for the federal government. Take a quick look around your church, school, neighborhood—or heck, your own family. How many people do you know who owe back taxes? Well, I know that’s not a subject to talk about around our Wednesday night church suppers, but I guarantee you that dozens and dozens of people around us each day owe back taxes. Where’s the news media on that one? Where’s the search to see what the general population owes? The IRS won’t tell you? Why not go after them with the Freedom of Information Act? Why not wait to publish your story until you have ALL of the facts and not just the ones that make your point of embarrassing the people who work for our government? Why not tell us, if you want to be fair, how many government employees we currently have in America, and since you included retirees in that number, tell us how many retirees we have in our country. What percentage of current, former, and retired government employees are we talking about here? Maybe, if you did your homework, you might also tell us how many people in the news media are late on paying their taxes? That would be an interesting study!

I suppose if the news media waited until they had all of the facts and could compare apples to apples, then it probably wouldn’t be as good a story and wouldn’t sell as many papers or ads or influence as many people as their sensational headline did today.

I know we have problems in America. I’m not blind to that. However, I am becoming more and more convinced everyday that the leading problem in our country is a biased news media that thinks their actions are above review. I, for one, don’t hold them nearly as high in esteem as they probably think I do—or should!

Stories like this cause my opinion of the news media to drop even lower! You think the President and members of Congress score low in opinion polls? Let’s see where the national and local media rank. I am sure, it won’t be very high.

Let's see if they will ask that question!

Everybody Has an Opinion

Let’s file this one under the category of: I’d Like to Know Your Opinion.

I’ll do my best from sharing my opinion, at least right away. But, read the following news story and tell me your thoughts.

The story comes from Pittsburg, PA. (Bill, your favorite town.) Pittsburg City police wrote nearly 200 disorderly conduct citations over a 32-month period for swearing, obscene gestures, and other acts deemed disrespectful.

After filing a Right to Know request, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found 188 such citations. “Nobody likes to get sworn at, but you can’t make it a crime,” said Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Pennsylvania.

The ACLU’s request came in connection with a federal lawsuit involving David Hackbart, who was cited after allegedly making an obscene gesture at another driver, and then at a police sergeant. In a recent court filing, the city said the citation was not for Hackbart’s gestures, but because he was blocking traffic.

Walczak told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the city had initially claimed it had only one disorderly conduct citation involving rude remarks to police or other people over that period. Walczak said officers were wrong to cite a woman who said, “I’m a (expletive deleted) passenger,” during a traffic stop; a woman who was “swearing profanities to a companion in front of the Girl Scouts”; and a man who “engaged in loud noise, racial slurs, and pig remarks.”

Okay, there you go. You make the call. Where the police correct or out of hand? Is the ACLU taking this matter too far or to the logical conclusion?

Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two, Four, Six, Eight, Who Do We Appreciate?



A 33-year-old woman stole her daughter’s identity to attend high school and join the cheerleading squad, according to a criminal complaint filed against the woman.

Wendy Brown, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, faces a felony identity theft charge after enrolling in Ashwaubenon (what a name for a school or town) High School as her 15-year-old daughter, who lives in Nevada with Brown’s mother.

According to the complaint, Brown wanted to get her high school degree and become a cheerleader because she didn’t have a childhood and wanted to regain a part of her life that she’d missed.

May I say, it is commendable to want to get your high school degree, it really is, but to pretend to be your own 15-year-old daughter and actually go back to school. Has she never heard of a GED? Then, again, I guess the GED doesn’t have a cheerleading program! Maybe the GED program doesn’t have a very good mascot or good school colors!

Brown allegedly attended cheerleading practices before school started, received a cheerleader’s locker and went to a pool party at the cheerleading coach’s house.
The $134.50 check Brown gave to the cheerleading coach for her uniform bounced, the complaint said. Bouncing checks—not good.

A high school employee, Kim Demeny, told authorities that the woman, posing as the teen, seemed very timid. Demeny said she told her she was not good at math and even cried when she talked about moving from Pahrump Valley High School in Nevada. Demeny said she looked older than a student but had the demeanor of a high school girl.
A school liaison officer started investigating after Brown only attended the first day of classes last week, the complaint said. Hmmm, not a good start to getting your education! How serious could she have been about getting an education?

Assistant Principal Dirk Ribbins later learned Brown’s daughter was enrolled at Pahrump Valley High School. Ribbins also spoke with Brown’s mother, who told him she had custody of the girl. She said Brown has a history of identity theft crimes, the complaint said.

Brown made her first court appearance Friday by video conference. The judge set bond at $8,000. If convicted, she could face up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Up until the next to last paragraph, I actually felt sorry for Ms. Brown. She apparently had a hard life growing up, and if I am decent at math, must have had her daughter at the age of 18. But, I’ve known many people who’ve had a hard life growing up and had babies way too young. But to learn that she’s been convicted of identity theft before, well, that tells me not to feel so sorry for this woman—just to know that this time, it was her daughter she took advantage of. I wonder how long it might be before she does the same to her own mother!

What’s your opinion of all of this?



Can You Hear Me?



The adorable picture above is our dog, Peanut. Peanut is a mixed breed dog. We were told that she is a mix between a Chihuahua and a Dachschund. I don't know whether or not that is true. Peanut is long like a Dachschund and she is short like a Chihuahua. We got Peanut from a rescue organization. I'm not sure I want to know what she was rescued from. Some things, you just don't want to know. Understand?

Anyway, Peanut is the smartest dog I've ever had. She knows how to sit, roll over, play dead, shake hands, etc. She also knows more words than any dog I've ever known. I've read the average dog "knows" 200 words or less. Peanut sure seems to know more than that.

But, as smart as she is, I've never taught her what may be the most important lesson she needs to know. I read an article over the weekend about what took place in Phoenix, Arizona. Buddy is a trained German shepherd who saved his owner’s life by dialing 911 when he began having a seizure.

In listening to the recorded 911 call, Buddy is heard whimpering and barking after the somewhat confused dispatcher answers the phone and repeatedly asks if the caller needs help.

“Hello, this is 911. Hello ... Can you hear me? Is there somebody there you can give the phone to,” says the dispatcher, Chris Scott. Buddy barks loudly when police arrive about three minutes after the call is placed. An officer asks Buddy’s owner, Joe Stalnaker, if he’s OK. Stalnaker coughs, and the call ends.

Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said Stalnaker spent two days in the hospital following the seizure and has recovered. “It’s pretty incredible,” Clark said. “Even the veteran dispatchers—they haven’t heard of anything like this.”

Clark said police are dispatched whenever 911 is called, but that Stalnaker’s address was flagged in Scottsdale’s system with the fact that an assistance dog dials 911 when the owner cannot. He said Buddy made two other 911 calls when Stalnaker was having seizures, the first last August. He said Stalnaker's seizures are the result of a head injury he sustained about 10 years ago during a training exercise in the U.S. military.

Clark said Stalnaker adopted Buddy when he was eight weeks old and trained him to get the phone if he began to have seizure symptoms. Buddy, now 18 months old, also is trained to press programmed buttons until a 911 operator is on the line, Clark said.

He said Stalnaker got Buddy through Michigan-based Paws with a Cause, which trains assistance dogs nationwide for people with disabilities.

Now, that would be good for Peanut to know. That’s more than a trick or something to show off to guests who come over. This feat could save my life!

But, I do have a question, how do I train her to do this without actually getting the police on the phone and at my door?

So, what’s the best trick you’ve ever taught your pet? I know many of you aren’t pet owners and this post won’t make much sense to you. That’s okay. But for the others, share your favorite story.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Price of Integrity



A judge who gets it!

And guess what, it’s a New York judge who got it right.

Apparently, an owner of an upscale Manhattan restaurant filed a lawsuit against a supermodel over a damaged designer umbrella said to be worth $5,000. Yes, a restaurant owner owned a $5,000 umbrella—let that settle in first. Then, he loaned out the $5,000 umbrella. Then, when it was damaged, he sued for one million dollars. Yes, one million dollars!

That’s when the judge got it right! New York State Supreme Court Justice Joan. A. Madden threw out the lawsuit, calling motions filed by the attorney on behalf of Nello Balan a “waste of judicial resources.” She then fined Balan’s attorney $500 for filing a frivolous claim.

Good for her! I hope sure she makes sure the attorney pays every penny of that $500.

Balan sued supermodel Le Call for $1 million, claiming that he lent her a Jean-Paul Gaultier-designed umbrella—and that she returned it to him in two pieces.

Balan claimed emotional distress and said that the model had intentionally damaged the umbrella.

Emotional distress over an umbrella? Did he really claim that! Yes! He did!

You know, I don’t own much that is worth $5,000 or more, much less an umbrella! And, if I did, I don’t think I’d be using the umbrella, much less loaning it out!

At what point does something become of great enough value to you that you would sue over it being damaged? Would you sue someone over damaging your property?

Share you thoughts!

Fast and Furious

Friday morning, on my way to work, I did something I normally don't do--I stopped and filled up with gas. I was getting low, but I usually like to wait until the weekend to fill up. Don't why that's my normal schedule, but it is. I guess I just like to have a full tank to start the work week.

So, I stopped, and paid $3.51 a gallon, for the cheap grade of gas. Not a great prices, but it was $.02 cheaper than the next lowest price.

On the way home after lunch, I drove past the very same gas station where I had filled up 7 hours earlier. In seven hours, gas prices had risen to $3.95 a gallon. Did you read that? Gas has risen $.44 in 7 hours! I was shocked!

Little did I know how much more shock I would experience over the weekend. By Saturday morning, gas was selling for $4.19 a gallon, again for the cheaper gas.

And, it continues to go up! And up! And up!

My wife heard on the radio on the way home Friday afternoon that gas could go to $5.00 - $6.00 a gallon...all because of Hurricane Ike.

Now, I fully understand that 25% of our gas refineries are located in Texas and Louisiana, I can appreciate that. However, at the time gas rose $.44 in 7 hours, the hurricane had not hit yet, and no gasoline had arrived in Birmingham from Texas. I can understand why gas prices would go up the next week or so, I really can. However, I am really struggling with the obvious gas gouging that is going on!

You cannot convince me that someone isn't making a killing off of us with gas! Again, remember, the hurricane hadn't hit on Friday. No gas has been refined on Friday or Saturday that made its way to Birmingham--all we were seeing were managers and companies raising rates--all because they could! And, this was on the day that the a barrel of oil dropped to $100 a barrel on futures.

Saturday afternoon, we went in my wife's car to Sam's Wholesale Club. We must have passed a dozen gas stations before we got there. We saw prices in the $4.19 - $4.25 range. Then, miracle of miracles, we found a station selling the cheap stuff at $3.83 a gallon. Who thought I'd ever be happy to pay $3.83 a gallon!

I filled up. I was proud to fill up, paying $.32 a gallon more than I had paid the day before. A man next to me was filling his truck and 5 or 6 five-gallon gas containers. The mid-grade and the highest grades of gas were out at this particular station.

Looks like rough and expensive days are ahead. All because of a hurricane named Ike. Who likes Ike!

What are gas prices doing in your part of the world? Seen prices rising or staying the same? I think your answers will either remind me that we don't have it that bad...or it will aggreviate me more on the gouging that is going on!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Putting First Things First

God is the first priority of the church.

Not people.

Not ministry.

Not growth.

Not success.

Not buildings.

God alone must hold absolute priority in the church.

In your church.

In my church.

But, I wonder, is that true? Will that be true today as we gather today for worship in the four-walled buildings we call a church building? Or, will other things garner first place in what we do? Will the focus be on the pastor? On music? On candles, stained glass, organs, pianos? On projection screens, bands, choirs, hymnals? Our small group class? Our friends? Our family?

Unfortunately, the standard found in the Bible, of God being the priority in worship, doesn’t always receive much attention in our people-centered, growth-dominated, success-oriented American church today.

From our preaching, our meeting together, our writing, our lifestyle, our conversations, and everything else we do, it often appears that today’s church is preoccupied with other matters. Unfortunately, God doesn’t always hold priority for us nor our church.

How shameful is that!
The priority of God is not an option in Scripture. The priority of God cannot be anything but the very heart of a Christ follower and today’s church. If our church expects to be all that it is intended to be, God must be first. If our church is to accomplish its great mission in the world, God must be priority. If our church is to be salt and light, it must recover the priority of God.

Listen. The greatest need we have today is not to do what we’ve always done in worship. Nor is the greatest need to create something that has never been tried before. Our church’s greatest need today is to make God priority of our worship and our entire life.

So, where does the priority of God rank for you? Your church? Your friends?



Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bald, Beautiful, and Hired!


[Note, not my actual bald head!]

Well, I’ve finally found a second job that won’t cut into my primary job!

I’ve decided to fly to New Zealand and take them up on their job opening.

It seems that New Zealand needs bald men!

Air New Zealand is offering to pay bald travelers to stand in lines in three airports—while wearing temporary tattoos on the back of their heads so the displays can be seen by people lining up behind them.

The airline will pay $660 for each walking billboard, a company official said.

The tattoos will promote a new system that is meant to reduce check-in waiting times.

Air New Zealand marketing manager Steve Bayliss described the campaign as “a bit of fun.”

“It’s a tattoo on the back of someone’s head, so they have to have their head shaved or be bald already,” he told National Radio on Wednesday. “It will be an advantage for them to be bald already.”

The tattoos would fade or wash off after about two weeks, he said.

So, if you don’t hear much from me over the next couple of weeks, you’ll understand. I’ll be in New Zealand, walking around the airport, showing off my bald head!

Any one want to go with me?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday's Question of the Day


What did you promise on 9/11 that you would do differently, and have kept that promise?

Was Obama Flip in His Answer?



I want to ask a question, not really trying to stir the pot in any way, and not trying to make this blog political; however, in this election year in particular, I think we will continue to see situations like this, and I’d really like to know how you handle it.

Here’s the situation. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama acknowledged this past Sunday that he was probably too flip when he said it was “above my pay grade” to answer a question about when is a baby entitled to human rights.

You remember the setting. Senator Obama gave his answer last month at a nationally televised religious forum sponsored by Rick Warren at his church in Orange County, California.

Asked on ABC’s “This Week,” whether the “above my pay grade” answer was too flip, Obama said: “Probably....What I intended to say is that, as a Christian, I have a lot of humility about understanding when does the soul enter into ... It’s a pretty tough question. And so, all I meant to communicate was that I don’t presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions.”

So, here’s my dilemma. Which answer should I believe? Was his answer to Rick Warren his real answer? Or, was his answer on “This Week” more genuine? Or, was his answer this week simply the one framed by his handlers and advisors?

I’m seriously struggling to understand this. I’m not interested in bashing Senator Obama or his campaign. But, as a Christian, how do I make heads or tails of his initial response vs. this response?

Or, even if I remove being a Christian from the equation, how do I understand this as a voting citizen?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday's Question of the Day



Where were you on 9/11/2001? What were you doing when you first heard?

Memories of a 9/11 Volunteer



9/11.

A day that changed America.

A day that changed my life forever.

There have always been those days. You know the ones. The ones that change history or that change your life or both. 9/11 is one of those days in my journey through this world.

On September 11, 2001, I was serving as a pastor in a small town in south Alabama (or LA as we like to call it—Lower Alabama). I was also serving as a chaplain/firefighter for our volunteer fire department. We had a great fire department. We had wonderful men and women who were committed to helping our community in any way possible.

The day had barely started in our office when a friend called to ask if I had seen the news. Of course, I hadn’t. I was at work and we didn’t have a TV in the office. I turned on the Internet and thought it strange how long it took for my favorite news site to load. After a minute or so, I understood why. A large photo of the first tower took up the screen. Within minutes, the second tower was hit, then the Pentagon, then the crash in Pennsylvania.

All of that was happening in New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. Trust me when I say that more than miles separated my small town from those locations. Our people were simply country folks. Good people, just vastly removed from the large city and acts of terrorism.

After 20 minutes or so after the second tower was hit, my fire department pager activated. We were told to come to the station, prepare the trucks, and wait for further instruction. That was a strange request—one I had never heard before. I rushed to the fire station and was greeted by a dozen or so other volunteers. We waited for our assistant chief to arrive. When he did, the town’s police chief also came. They had news for us. The President had ordered the immediate landing of all commercial aircraft. All aircraft were to land safely, but quickly.

That was the problem. There was one plane in our region that couldn’t be accounted for. We were activated because we provided protection for a small airfield about five miles from our station. We were activated to be ready for a potential crash as had taken place in Pennsylvania. No one knew, in that moment, what would happen the next moment.

Within a short period of time, the plane was located, and it landed in Atlanta. We thought our duty would be finished, but no, that was not to be the case. We were needed to help at several area businesses and schools. Remember what it was like on 9/11? We were all panicked over what might happen next. Were there more planes? More terrorists? More attacks on the way?

I was assigned to protect the local high school. The school was in lockdown, as you can imagine. I monitored the doors and the hallway, watching for anything suspicious going on. Of course, nothing happened. Well, frightened parents did rush to the school to check out their children. Children did cry. I stood watch. And I cried.

Life changed after that. America stopped to worship and attend church. At least for a few days, maybe a week or so. Then, it was back to normal for so many.

James 4:14 is one of my life verses. James wrote, “Life is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away forever.”

9/11 brought the truth of that verse to life for me.

What are your memories of 9/11?

If you have blogged about it today and would rather link us to your site, please feel free to do so. If you’d like to cut and paste what you’ve written, that’s fine to.

As you have a moment, please share your thoughts about this day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seeing Isn't Always Believing

Since Sarah Palin's recent nomination to the Republican Vice-President role, I've seen several photos circulating the Internet of her. Some very flattering. Others, well not so much. Most of the photos have been photoshopped to place her in the worse possible light. I have no doubt that there are many photos of Obama and Biden floating around as well, I just haven't seen them.

Well, today, I received the latest photo of Sarah Palin, standing next to a bar, in a very short outfit, next to a glass of wine. In the email, a designer friend of mine was copied as well.

It would seem that he might have too much time on his hands. See below.



Be kind. If you can. Heck, after seeing this picture, many of you will do what Heidi says regularly about some of my food stories: "It made her throw up in her mouth!"

I know the feeling!

Wednesday's Question of the Day


Anyone can name their favorite places to go: the beach, church, home, work. But, where is your favorite third place to go?

Striving for Mobility



It's really hard to believe but this little fella is already seven months old! Evan was born on February 4, 2008.

Over these last seven months, my wife and I have watched in amazement as he has grown. From the little baby that was totally helpless for the first few weeks to the little boy that will probably be crawling by the end of this week, he is making steady progress toward mobility.

Mobility is an interesting concept and desire. The vast majority of us want to move forward in life, to grab life by the horns and pull ourselves up a little higher. It seems most of us are always reaching for the next rung on the ladder.

Maybe that desire for mobility and moving forward starts even before we are born. I know when we first thought my wife might be pregnant, we could hardly wait to confirm it. For a couple of days, we watched for signs (morning sickness, backache, etc.), not really realizing that we were too early for those things. Then, we purchased the "at home pregnancy kit" and the kit said, "Not Pregnant." Relief or disappointment? We didn't know. What we failed to do was read the fine print--the "at home" tests only work after so many days or weeks of pregnancy! When my wife did show "signs" of being pregnant, we took the test again. This time--PREGNANT! Relief or disappointment? More like scared out of our mind! But, we moved forward.

We moved forward with doctor visits, telling family and friends, and getting the room ready for our baby. We moved forward with clothes, paint choices, and even decorations for the room. We moved forward working on names and lists of who to call when he would finally arrive.

Now, it's Evan's turn to move forward, to strive for mobility. His scooting is just the beginning. Before long, he'll be up on all fours, crawling around the house. Then, he'll pull up for the first time and take his first steps. All of those days will happen before we know it. Mobility.

Then, Evan will be off to school, playing with friends in the neighborhood, and in no time, he'll be learning to drive. Mobility.

As you can tell, Evan's latest developmental milestone has caused me to wax eloquent about the days ahead. I really am glad that he is gaining mobility. I'm thrilled as I watch him scoot across the floor--sometimes on his belly, sometimes on his back. I'm thrilled to watch him as he wants to hold his bottle and feed himself with his spoon. I really do want him to grow and mature and be mobile. I promise you I do. But, I also know how much I love holding that little boy, feeling his head rest against my neck, and knowing that he trusts me with everything.

I wonder sometimes if God looks down at us from heaven with the same kinds of desires that parents have. Does He see us where we are, knowing where we could be, and then pushes us forward? Are there times He holds us back? Are there times He has to let us fall and skin our knees?

What about you today? Is God pushing you a little too hard? Or, is He having to hold you back until it's time for you to move forward? Skinned your knees or elbows lately?

I'd love to hear about your journey today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Who Needs Fiction When Life is Like This!



This story is just in from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. A 54-year-old man says his obsessive-compulsive disorder drove him to eat 23,000 Big Macs in 36 years.

Fifty-four-year-old Don Gorske says he hit the milestone last month, continuing a pleasurable obsession that began May 17, 1972 when he got his first car.

Gorske has kept every burger receipt in a box. He says he was always fascinated with numbers, and watching McDonald’s track its number of customers motivated him to track his own consumption.

The only day he skipped a Big Mac was the day his mother died, to respect her request.

The correctional-institution employee says he doesn’t care when people call his Big Mac obsession crazy. He says he’s in love with the burgers, which are the highlights of his days.

Folks, I have nothing to add to this. Sometimes, the story just says it all!

Tuesday's Question of the Day


When was the last time you used a pay phone? Have you ever used a pay phone? Do you even know what a pay phone is?

A Double Standard



The news really breaks my heart at times.

The recent story out of Pakistan is one example. Apparently, a 17-year-old Pakistani girl who had been forced to marry a 45-year-old when she was only nine was reportedly killed by her parents.

The news article rightly called it “murder.” This murder has intensified despair among human rights workers in Pakistan over a recent spate of “honor killings,” in which two women and three teenage school girls were buried alive in Baluchistan Province because they wanted to marry the men of their choice. Imagine, wanting to have the right to marry whomever you wanted.

Saira Nusrat Bibi was successfully fighting a legal battle to have her marriage annulled. As she left court in the Punjabi city of Sahiwal, she was surrounded by a group of men reportedly sent by her parents, and shot in front of police. Did the police just stand and watch?

The Baluchistan case was made even worse by an attempt by a member of the country’s national parliament, Senator Israr Ullah Zehri, to defend them.”

I hope that breaks your heart as well. Unfortunately, we live in a world where women and girls are often treated as second class citizens, at best. In some cultures, animals have more rights than women. How wrong is that!

I know, in our country, things seem better, at least on the surface. But, dig deep, if you dare.

Young girls being sold into prostitution by their parents in our own country. Women entering into the world of adult films and adult entertainment. Women working the same job as men, yet making less than the man makes for the same work. Women being held to a double standard when it comes to work and raising their children. Women often handling the majority of responsibilities in their local church, yet being made to feel guilty because “women shouldn’t lead in the church.”

I don’t talk much about politics on this blog—there are plenty of other blogs and Web sites dedicated to that, if you want to participate in those discussions. But, let me say this word about Gov. Sarah Palin. I find it quite ironic that one of the knocks against her by the media and her opponents is that she can’t possibly balance her career in government and her family. What? Has that same argument been said about Sen. Obama, the father of two small girls? If it has, I haven’t seen it! What a double standard.

Women are gifted by God, just as men are gifted by God. While I am still growing in what I believe the Bible teaches about women in ministry, I fully believe that I have little right to question what God does or who God calls. I am no where close to being God or being perfect like Him. So, how dare me question what He does or how He acts.

This election has already proven to be interesting. I’ll really be watching to see how many more double standards will surface before the first Tuesday in November. I have little doubt that it will be many, many more! And, I'll be watching to see where the double standards come from.

Tell me what you think.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday's Question of the Day



Take a moment to think about yourself. What words come to mind that describe who you are?

You've Been Benched!

Here's a really cool idea for your church youth, men, women, or even children! There really is no end to the possibilities here!



Benched from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

Pop Pop Fizz Fizz


A man nicknamed “Humble Bob” stuffed himself with 11.5 pounds of a local specialty called chili-spaghetti in only about 10 minutes to claim victory in a Labor Day holiday eating contest.

Bob Shoudt won $2,500 at the inaugural Skyline Chili Spaghetti eat-off Monday at Kings Island amusement park.

“Humble Bob” dashed to an early lead, sucking down more than two pounds in less than a minute. Shoudt, of Philadelphia, is ranked No. 5 by the International Federation of Competitive Eating. He beat the federation’s top-ranked competitive eater, Joey Chestnut. Chestnut won this year’s July 4 hot dog-eating contest at New York's Coney Island.

I’ve eaten at Skyline Chili, not the one at Kings Island amusement park, but another location. Folks, I didn’t enjoy the spaghetti/chili combination. I love spaghetti. I like chili. But, together and smothered under cheese, is just too much.

I can only imagine what kind of night “Humble Bob” must have had. Then again, I’d rather not think about it!

Have you tried chili spaghetti? If so, tell me your opinion.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I'm Wondering About Worship Today


I wonder about many things. Like, why do we call a penny a penny? Where did that name come from? And, oh, why should we never end a sentence with a preposition? Where did that rule come from? I think I know the answer—some 11th grade English teacher! And, for all of you English teachers, if you don’t know how to spell a word, how in the heck are you going to look it up in a dictionary? That one has always troubled me!

But, today, I’m wondering about worship. Especially, I am thinking about the difference we could make if we prayed for what took place on this special day.

I wonder what would happen if Christ followers would be in such awe of God’s power, authority, love, wisdom, and grace that they truly worshiped Him today. Deuteronomy 10:17, 20 says, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes . . . Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.”

I wonder what would happen if Christ followers would pray that everyone present in worship will know Jesus Christ as Savior and will grow to know Him better and better. 1 Corinthians 2:2 says, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

I wonder what would happen if Christ followers would pray that the Word of God will be declared with clarity, boldness, love, and power. Ephesians 6:19–20 says, “Pray, also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I’ll fearlessly make known the mysteries of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

I wonder what would happen if Christ followers would pray that no distractions will keep God’s people from focusing on Him and being fully open to the blessings He wants to bring into their lives. Colossians 4:3 says, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”

I wonder what would happen if Christ followers would pray that all worship leaders—preacher/teacher, instrumentalists, vocalists, sound technicians, ushers, and greeters—will rely on and be used of the Lord. 1 Timothy 2:1–2 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

And finally, I wonder what would happen if Christ followers would pray that worshipers will apply the biblical truths and principles they hear and be encouraged, uplifted, challenged, and rebuked. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

I pray you will experience these six things today…and every Sunday as you gather for worship!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Start Them Out Young

Even at 7 months and 2 days old, Evan is smart enough to know what color to dress in and what team to cheer on--Crimson and the University of Alabama.

We are working on his first words being these:

ROLL TIDE ROLL!

Real Men Do Cry

Here's the warning for today. Go ahead and grab a tissue. You'll need it as you watch this video.



Mark Shultz is one of my wife's favorite artist. This song is powerful.

Today, I pray for all Mark's out there who have been given up for adoption. I pray for all of the moms of children like Mark, who for various reasons have chosen to give them up for adoption. You are in my prayers.

While your sacrifice was great, thank you for giving life to your child and making a difference in our world through them!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday's Question of the Day



What words come to mind when you first think about God?

How Does It Feel?

Okay, this post today comes with instructions. It is very important that you follow these instructions. If you don't, the post may not make much sense! (Hey! No snide remarks about whether or not any of my posts make sense!)

Okay...watch...enjoy...then, read the rest of the post.



Now, why have you watch that video? Am I a secret Bob Dylan fan?

While I am not a huge Dylan fan there is a spiritual truth to be found in that song.

Guitarist Al Kooper, known for organizing Blood, Sweat, and Tears and discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd (now, there's a great band!), showed up hoping to play guitar for Dylan's recording session. But, another guitarist had been chosen, so Kooper was banished to the sound/production booth by the superior skills of Michael Bloomfield.

Kooper refused to just sit and do nothing. He wanted in on the recording session. So, quietly, he made his way back into the studio and sad down at the vacant organ bench in the corner. When Dylan began recording the song, Kooper threw into the mix of sounds some organ chords that he made up on the spot. If you listen carefully to the song, you will notice how these chords are stutter-stepped into the sound. That's because Kooper didn't know how to play the organ. He wasn't even sure what chords he was playing until he heard them.

When the producer realized what Kooper was up to, he ordered him back into the sound booth. But Dylan was caught up in the moment. For him the recording was more free play than planned execution. He heard a rare sound being born with the mix of cymbals, organ, and guitar. And he famously shouted over the confusion: "Turn the organ up!"

Here's the application. This should give all of us something to consider as we approach Sunday.

Ralph L. Lewis has studied the 125 incidents where Jesus encountered people in the New Testament. Of those 125 times, roughly 54% of those encounters are initiated by His hearers! Instead of standing up and proclaiming the message He wanted the people to hear, He responded to His audience's questions, objects, doubts. He allowed and welcomed their involvement.

I wonder, can the same be said of our preaching, worship, and teaching today? Are we telling them what we think they need to hear or are we listening to what they us they need?

Powerful message. All from a Dylan song.

Now. For those who didn't follow the instructions, now would be a good time to go back and listen to the video. Listen to the organ. Remember what happened. Learn how it applies to your work for the King.

If you did follow the instructions, you might want to listen to the video again anyway. This time, focus on the organ and how it was a response to the moment and not scripted movement.

Sure make the song make sense! And worship, for that matter!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thursday's Question of the Day



How many Christians do you know whose lives demonstrate holy boldness? What does that quality look like?

And the Winner Is...


Well, the presidential election is officially over (oh, if that could only be true—I’m so very tired of this three-year election process we’ve had this time around! And, I can only imagine that the next election cycle will start up sometime after November 4, 2008).

But, the good news is that both candidates can and should just call it a day and go on home. The race is over!

This news was verified this past end in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It seems that John McCain sped to the finish while Barack Obama was reluctant to leave the starting point.

The contest? Another primary? A general election? No. Nothing of the sort. This time, it was a race between two giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches! One named John McCain, the other name Barack Obama.

The roach race was part of the New Jersey Pest Management Association’s annual clinic and trade show. Organizers likened the race’s prediction success to that of Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day.

Seems to me, if I were a giant hissing Madagascar cockroach, that I’d have a lot less interest in racing another cockroach in a mock presidential election and be more concerned about the pest management companies present at the meeting!

Maybe the winning cockroach was promised not to be terminated! Or is that exterminated?

I’ll stop there and not make any political commentary on how the same kind of incentives might help in the real presidential contest.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Old What's His Name


I am a numbers person. Always have been. Probably always will be. I like to track numbers. I like to study numbers. I like to see how things change from week to week, month to month, and year to year. Call it weird wiring if you want to. But, that’s how I’m wired.

One of the blogs that I enjoy reading belongs to Heidi. From time to time, Heidi shares a little about who visits her blog, how often, etc. I was very proud that in a recent month, the most referrers to her blog came from my blog! Well, since I enjoy reading her blog so much that may not really have been such an honor—many of those referrers were probably from me personally!

Anyway, I decided to check my site (for the first time since I started it on April 26). What I found was interesting, at least for a numbers geek. All of these numbers are as of yesterday, just in case you are keeping track!

I have had 1,143 comments shared on my site! I am appreciative for each and every comment made. I really am. To be honest, I’ve come to think of many of the commentors as friends—isn’t that weird!

The most commented upon post was about my son—The Smallest Brave—on July 23. I received 35 comments that day.

The second most commented upon post was the one I wrote about the house that burned down, leaving an image of “the Virgin Mary” on the wall (August 25). That post received 24 comments.

The third most commented upon post was a tie—Paging Dr. Smith (July 22) and the BBQ Song (August 29)—they both had 23 comments.

The words that brought the most people to my site? Well, I was shocked! “The Most Expensive Hamburger in the World!” People, apparently, around the world care about that kind of thing.

86.45% of people visiting my site come from the US. 5.63% come from Canada—I think they all came to read my continuing saga about the found feet in British Columbia.

The people who visit my site most often come from Alabama, Texas, then Florida.
The most referrals to date: Well, my blogger buddy Bill!

And, to keep everything in perspective, my Technorati ranking currently is 597,370. I guess that’s not too bad considering how many blogs are out there and the fact that I’ve only been blogging since late April. But, man, do I have a long way to go to reach number 1. I don’t think I’ll ever break the 500,000 rank! But, who cares! I just write to write and to offer a few thoughts on the day.

Okay, enough numbers for one day, if there is such a thing. I don’t want to bore the few people who regularly check out my blog—whether on purpose or simply by hitting “Next Blog” at the top of Blogspot.com!

Wednesday's Question of the Day



What was it about God that first drew you to Him?

What is it about God that keeps you coming back to Him for more?

Is It Good News or Bad News?


Hi. I’m Steve and I’m a news junkie!

I’ll admit it.

For many, many years, I enjoyed reading my morning newspaper. I would read it cover-to-cover and catch up on the events from around the world. Reading the paper was normally the first thing I had to do every day.

However, with the advent of the Internet, I no longer subscribe to a local newspaper (maybe an editor shouldn’t admit that!). Now, I get my news from online. I find myself reading MSNBC, Foxs News, CNN for my national and international news. I like to read AL.com to find out what is happening around Alabama, and in particular, around Birmingham. I read countless other Web sites each week, keeping up with the news, both the serious kind and the funny kind.

So much of what I read online breaks my heart. The news is just downright sad. Just this morning, I read the story of a teenager being shot and killed after egging a car. I read the story of a firefighting plane that crashed, killing three on board. I saw the story of a Jacksonville Jaguar football player who was shot outside an apartment complex.

News like that goes on and on.

So, why read it? Why keep up with what’s going on in the world, both near and far? Well, for me the answer is really simple. I don’t think God wants me to bury my head in the sand, pretending everything is fine, not keeping pace with what takes place in society. It was Billy Graham, perhaps the best evangelist since the Apostle Paul, who described his preaching as having a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. I can envision that if Billy Graham were just starting out today, he’d edit that statement slightly by saying that he had a laptop in one hand and his Bible in the other.

To stay relevant with what is happening in the world, I read. I read books. I read magazines. I read blogs. I read online.

Do I get discouraged? Sure, all the time! But, if I stopped reading, I’d miss out on great stories like the waitress in Illinois that received a $1,000 tip for her service. I would miss out on how a balloonist survived a 9,000 foot fall in South Carolina. And, I would miss how the Jerry Lewis telethon raised over $65 million (a new record) for MDA research.

So, is the news pitcher half full or half empty? I guess it all depends on how you read the notches on the glass. Or in my case, the news on the screen.