Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Careful What you ask!

Image source: rvs.findthebest.com

My late grandparents spent a great deal of their retirement years pulling and Airstream travel trailer and exploring the United States. My grandfather told the story that on one of their many trips across the country, he and my grandmother got into a bit of an argument over the pronunciation of the town they were passing through.

After a spirited argument with no signs of resolution or compromise in the immediate future, they elected to stop for breakfast at a fast food restaurant. When the college-age guy behind the counter offered to take their order, my grandfather saw an opportunity to resolve their argument over the pronunciation of the town's name. So, he said to the guy behind the counter, "Hey, how about solving an argument for us. Tell us how to pronounce where we are and say it real slow." The guy behind the counter shrugged his shoulders, leaned over the counter and slowly said, "Bur-ger King."

I remember several years ago recognizing the high level of impatience that I possess. So, I began praying, "God, give me patience." In my mind, I thought that patience could be granted much like when I would call my Dad from college and say, "Hey, there is a retreat next weekend, can I have $75 to go." If he found the cause worthy, a week later a check would arrive. But it seems that is not how one acquires patience. Apparently, one does not wake up one morning suddenly feeling more patient than ever before in their life. No, to develop patience, one must learn patience.

So, my continued prayer requests for patience was met with me finding myself in more situations where I did not control everything and things did not happen at the pace that I thought they should. It was a very uncomfortable time, and I did not enjoy it a bit. I do not know if I developed more patience. But, I do know that I learned to be a bit more careful when I ask for something. I now contemplate on what might be the results of the request.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Do you Know the Legend of the Christmas Moose?

I originally published this story here on my blog three Christmases ago. It seems to get a bit more popular every year. So if you are not familiar with the legend, here it is:
The Legend of the Christmas Moose

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: The Usurper - Cliff Ball

Book Review: The Usurper - Cliff Ball (Fiction, Thriller, Political Intrigue)

The KGB plots the demise of the United States with various schemes of planned childbirths, planting operatives as college presidents, professors, newspaper editors, and politicians. Some are willing participants while some are blackmailed.

The author ties real events in America's history into this fictional tale to make the reader feel a connection to the story. Conspiracies run rampant through the story line. Every terrorist action has an underlying purpose tied to the KGB's ultimate goal.

The story is believable and kept my attention from start to finish.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Book Review: The Dream Giver - Bruce Wilkinson

Are you living your dream or just living life? Do you look forward every morning to getting up and going into your job or are you just doing what you have to do to pay the bills?

This book starts with a parable - the story of Ordinary who is a Nobody living in the land of Familiar. One day, Ordinary decides to walk off his Usual Job, break out of his Comfort Zone, and pursue his Big Dream. He has to battle Bullies and Giants before he can thrive in the Land of Promise.

Beyond the parable, Wilkinson discusses how to identify and embrace your own Big Dream, what you need to do to break through your own Comfort Zone, how to deal with Border Bullies, and what it takes to defeat the Giants in your path.

I found this book very encouraging and motivating. Many of us complain about our jobs and continue to question our career paths, but very few stop to question what we were created for and what dream have we been carrying around for years.

Discontented? Not feeling like you are living up to your potential? Maybe you need to discover what your Big Dream is. I strongly recommend reading this book. It's only 160 pages and an easy read.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Go-Kart

One of the greatest things to enter my world prior to obtaining my driver's license was a used go-kart.

My folks had a yard that was big enough to turn some laps in the bag yard as long as you paid close enough attention to dodge the pine trees and our German Shepherd.

Image source: en.wikipedia.org

It was that go-kart that with my Dad's tutelage taught me a healthy respect for the coil on a two-cycle engine. Yeah, Pop always had a sense of humor, and it tickled him to see me get shocked.

One street over from our family home was the remains of the abandoned high school football field. The grand stands and goal posts were gone, but what remained was a flat wide asphalt oval course that circled the old playing field. That asphalt oval made a perfect go-kart track. On the occasional Saturday, my Dad would allow us to ride the go-kart over there and turn some laps around the old field.

One such Saturday, I rode over to the old field and met some neighborhood kids that also had a go-kart and soon a race was  started. The two go-karts seemed equally matched, so getting an advantage was challenging. Finally on the third lap, I dove to the inside of the asphalt track to get the advantage through the turn. Suddenly I saw a foreboding image in my line of sight - a huge fire ant hill.

Image source: www.antweb.org

With no time to change course, The belly pan of the go-kart sliced the top of the mound off hurling three-quarters of the mound of fire ants onto me and the go-kart. Suddenly fire ants were up both my pant legs. Both of my legs become a stinging inferno.

I slammed on the brakes, killed the ignition, and hopped of the go-kart. Abandoning all modesty for self-preservation, I kicked off my tennis shoes, unbuckled my belt, and shed my Levis in front of God and half of the neighborhood kids. Kicking, screaming, twitching, I am sure I looked like a combination of someone dancing the "Icky Shuffle" and having a seizure all at the same time.

Because my Dad was so overcome with the humor of the sight, he could do nothing to help me as he was paralyzed with laughter and tears. I eventually was able to rid myself of all of the stinging/biting devils, beat my Levis against a pine tree to get all of the fire ants out of them, and was able to put back on my pants and ride home.

image source: www.aboutpest.com

I lost that race that day, but gave it no second thought. It took a few weeks to live down the jokes at school about my pantless dancing. I learned to watch carefully for fire ant hills when riding go-karts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Summer of 16

I turned 16 years old in the fall of my sophomore year in High School. A few months prior to the big day, my grandfather drove down from Southern Indiana with a six year old Chevrolet El Camino. It was maroon with a white vinyl top and hub caps. Not the cool El Caminos that you saw at the beach, but I was very grateful to have something other than my mom's car to drive. My brother had turned 18 that Summer, so I could drive to school if he rode with me.

For some unknown reason, he was willing to do it. My first day driving to school did not go so well. As we were preparing to leave, I saw a kid from my class out front of the school in the u-shaped driveway. With my brother's prodding, I pulled up to talk to the kid who began talking trash about my newly acquired ride. He ended his comments by daring me to spin a tire.

Like a foolish kid with something to prove, I took the challenge. I stood on the throttle and spun a tire around the U-shaped drive and out onto the street in front of the school. As we sped past the school, I looked over my shoulder to see the kid's expression. But what I saw instead was the towering figure of the school Principal standing in the arched doorway of the school motionlessly watching my show. A sense of impending doom sank over me.

The next day at school, nothing out of the ordinary seemed to happen. That is until 6th period, the final class of the day, metal shop. Ten minutes into the class, the door opened and in walked the Principal. He spoke briefly to the instructor and a couple of students. He then coolly turned to make his way to the door when he stopped beside me and said, "I guess we probably need to talk. Why don't you stop by my office after class." And then without another word, he walked out the door.

My instructor was kind enough to let me go on to the office without having to sit through the rest of class and percolate with the fear of what was my fate. I made my way to the Principal's office. He greeted me and invited me to have a seat. He quickly made his point and concluded that if he ever saw me do something like that again, he would call the city police and let them handle it. Being a know-it-all teenager, my immediate thought was, "like they would do anything". I promised that I would not repeat my performance and thanked him for not taking any further action on the situation.

I was genuinely grateful that he had not called my Dad as I knew I would have gotten licks with a belt and probably had my keys to the El Camino yanked.

I managed to get through the rest of the school year without any major issues related to driving. I got my driver's license the Saturday after my birthday and began driving to school on my own and enjoying the freedom.

As Summer approached, I had dreams of spending the Summer going where I wanted and hanging out with friends. The first Sunday night of the Summer, I left Sunday night's Church service and stopped in the city parking lot to chat with some friends. When the conversation concluded, I remembered I needed to pick up a dish my Mom had sent to Church with me for youth group. So I drove to the end of the parking lot to turn into the alley that led to the Church parking lot. As I turned, I drove through a small bit of sand and barely spun a tire. It was not anything up to my standard for lighting a tire up. It was a small chirp that I thought nothing more about. Halfway down the alley, I suddenly see blue lights in my mirror.

I turned into the Church parking lot and met a very short city cop with an attitude that exceeded his small statue. He quickly informed me that he had been on top of one of the buildings downtown observing the parking lot with binoculars and had observed me spinning tires.

He had me follow him to the City Police station where I called my Dad. Needless to say, he was less than pleased with the situation. The cop wrote me the first traffic ticket of my life, and my Dad told me to drive straight home, pull my car into the backyard, and hang my set of keys up in the kitchen.

When Dad got home, he told me I was grounded from driving for the entire Summer. Just shoot me. He told me I could borrow his bicycle for anywhere I wanted to go.

So, Monday, I got up and wanted to go to the American Legion swimming pool to hang out with my friends. So, swallowing my pride, I grabbed Dad's bike and headed down the street feeling sorry for myself and how humiliating it was to be back on a bicycle.

I did not think for a minute about the fact that Dad's bicycle had long street fenders as opposed to the short fenders the bike I had ridden to elementary and middle school. My only thoughts were how bad the summer would suck not getting to drive. Halfway down our street, I kicked the pedals, yanked the handle bars and stood the bike up in a wheelie like I had done hundreds of times on my old bike. But as I did, the long back fender grabbed the asphalt and I was unloaded before I could think another thought. Clad in a bathing suit and a t-shirt, the asphalt opened both knees and forearms.

I carefully pedalled my bruised ego and bloody body back to the house to clean up by abrasions. My Mom greeted me at the door with minimal sympathy and helped me clean myself up.

It was a tough summer, but I had a lot of opportunity to mature some of my thinking.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Advantages of Living in a Small Town

From time to time someone asks what were the best parts of growing up in a small town. While there are several things that come to mind whenever I ponder that question, one story always replays in my mind.

While in high school, my Mom had bought a Yamaha Champ 50cc scooter. Because it was 50ccs, a motorcycle license was not required to operate the scooter on public streets.

My Dad had ridden a Harley 125 when he was in high school, and the scooter had got him to thinking. He decided he would like to get his motorcycle endorsement on his driver's license in case he ever decided to buy another motorcycle.

In our little Southwest Georgia town, the State Patrol came to the city court house once a month for driver's exams. Otherwise you drove 30 miles to the State Patrol post for exams. Dad elected to wait until the day the Troopers came to town. He rode the Champ to the court house and took the written test. Although the troopers had computerized testing a the State Patrol post, when they came out to the local court house, it was literally a written test - pencil and paper. Dad completed his written exam and gave it to the trooper. The trooper reviewed it and announced he had passed.

Dad then requested to take the riding portion of the exam. The Trooper asked if he had something to ride for the exam. Dad said he did and it was parked outside. So they walked out and he pointed to the Champ. The Trooper looked at the little scooter and said, "You want to take the motorcycle riding exam on that?" Dad said he did. The Trooper scratched his head a second and then said "OK. Here is how this is gonna work. If you can ride that thing to the corner and back without falling off, you pass." Dad rode to the corner, made a long slow U-turn, and rode back. The Trooper walked inside and completed his paperwork. Dad has had a motorcycle endorsement on his drivers license ever since.

This was a very different experience to the exam I was subjected to in Atlanta 30 years later. There are some advantages to living in a small town.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Driver's Test

The Saturday morning after I turned 16, I drove my Dad to the State Patrol post in Albany (pronounced Aww Benny) to take my driving test. After waiting for several nervous minutes, a mountain of a man in a trooper's uniform and Smokey bear hat walked out carrying a clipboard and a Styrofoam cup of coffee. He paused, looked around and called my name. I could feel my heart race.

We crawled in my El Camino. He set a cup of coffee on the dash, pulled his hat down to his nose and said, "lets go". I looked over at him and said, "Not until you fasten your seat belt." Seat belts were not mandatory in those days, but they were in my automobile. He grumbled, fumbled around, found the seat belt, fastened it, and pulled his hat back down. I started the car, and the trooper explained the rules, "Spill my coffee and you flunk." No pressure.

He directed me out onto the four-lane highway then to a turn lane to change directions. I drove south carefully maintaining my speed and lane position until he directed me to make a turn on a side road and a few more turns. He raised his hat briefly, pointed to a house and said, "That's my house".

A few more turns, back onto the four-lane highway, and we returned to the State Patrol post. I carefully pulled to the curb and shut off the ignition. I could feel my pulse racing. Not a drop of coffee spilled. I had signalled all my turns, stopped at all of the stop signs, had not exceeded the posted speed limits, and parked between the white lines.

The trooper raised his hat, sipped his coffee, and began scribbling on his clipboard. He quietly unbuckled his seat belt and got out. I got out and followed him. He stopped in front of my Dad and said, "He passed". he tore a card off his clipboard, handed it to me, and told me to carry it inside to have my license made.

After 30 years, I do not remember the trooper's name or exactly which house was his, but I still remember the route we took for the exam and how relieved I was that I had not spilled that cup of coffee.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Book Review: Our Last Great Hope

Our Last Great Hope - Awakening the Great Commission
By Ronnie Floyd

Ronnie Floyd describes the Great Commission, Jesus command to the 11 remaining disciples found in Matthew 28:16-20 as Our Last Great Hope.

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

Floyd challenges the reader to perform nine actions: face the truth about yourself, awaken the church, accept the urgency, transform our families, capture our communities, talk Jesus daily, desire it deeply, evaluate everything financially, and act now.

I found the book difficult to read from cover to cover as it did not hold my attention for long periods of time. I found myself reading it, setting it down for weeks at a time, and then picking it up and reading some more. What kept me picking it back up and delving back into it time and time again was the fact that I believe the message of the book is timely and valid. I just personally found it difficult to continue reading from cover to cover.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Review: Terror by Night

Terror by Night by Terry Caffey and James H. Pence

What do you do when everything that matters to you is taken away?

If you believe in God, is your faith shaken when tragedy strikes? Do you question God? Do you turn your back and run as far from God as you can? Do you question if he even exist?

Terror by Night is the true story of Terry Caffey and his journey after his wife and two sons were brutally murdered, his home was burned to the ground, and his daughter was implicated in the crime and imprisoned. Before the brutal attack on his family, Caffey had felt he was called to the ministry. He did not know if he was going to be a preacher or an evangelist, but he was about to be ordained. But then in the middle of the night, someone attacks his family and everything is shattered. It is the story of his struggle to recover from the injuries he sustained in the attack and his mental, emotional, and spiritual struggles to resume his life. Caffey's story reads like a modern day version of Job. Everything he owned is gone. His family is gone. He feels isolated, abandoned, and alone.

It is a heart-wrenching story to read, but it is very inspiring to see how he responded in the face of total despair.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Peanut Gravel

It was a beautiful Fall day in rural South Georgia 1975. My brother and I had gotten out of school and were peddling our bicycles home like we did everyday. In 1975, we did not have to wear helmets to ride a bicycle or knee pads or any safety gear. The cool fall weather made the bicycle ride more enjoyable.

After crossing the highway that led out of town to Cairo, my brother looked at me and put down the challenge, "Lets race!" That was all I needed to hear. I stood up on the pedals and began pumping my legs as hard as I could. We were side by side as we approached the corner. I shot for the inside of the turn to get the advantage. As we righted the bikes out of the corner, I was flying and had him by just a bit.

The local peanut processing plant in town had machinery that separated peanuts from rocks. The plant would pile these small rocks at the edge of their property and offer them to the public for free. Many of our neighbors took advantage of this generous offer and used these peanut rocks for their driveways. As I came racing down the edge of the street, the tires of my bicycle hit some of these peanut rocks that had scattered from a driveway into the edge of the street. The bicycle jerked, and I wrestled trying to regain balance and control. But it was not happening. I went down with a thud sliding on the course rock imbedded asphalt and the loose peanut rocks scattered on it.

The palms of my hands burned from the scraping they took and my chin hurt. I began spitting rocks and blood trying to clean out my mouth. A kid from our school had walked out to get the mail from their family's mailbox just as I crashed at the end of their driveway. He looked me over and suggested to my brother, "You probably need to get him home."

My brother helped me up and had a terrified look on his face. I got back on my bicycle to complete the remaining 150 yards home with blood dripping from my chin. My brother took off riding as fast as he could screaming at the top of his lungs for my Mom. When I rode into our driveway, my brother and Mom were standing in the driveway to inspect my injuries.

Mom took a quick look and reported I had a puncture below my bottom lip that needed stitches. She gave me a wash cloth to control the bleeding and loaded us into her car for a trip to the local clinic.

Our family Doctor shook his head as I described the events leading up to the rocks tearing a hole in my chin. He described what had to be done calmly as he began administering several shots into my chin to deaden the area so he could sew it up. Once done he advised that I could not eat anything for the next seven days. I could drink with a straw being careful to keep liquid away from the stitches.

My mind raced to what this meant. The school fall festival was that weekend with Carmel Apples, desserts, and all kinds of great candy. And now, I would be having none of it - a devestating revelation to a 12 year old.

The next several days were filled with every food imaginable being blended into a pulp the consistentcy of broth and consumed with a straw from a glass. Those seven days seemed like months. One of the happiest memories of that school year was the painful experience of having those stitches removed and knowing I could eat whole food that night for dinner.

I remember this episode in my childhood every time I crawl on a motorcycle. It sits in the back of my memory reminding me to carefully watch the roadway for loose gravel and other debris that could disturb the delicate balance of traction and control.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Book Review: If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska
by Heather Lende

Heather Lende is a wife, mother and obituary writer for the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska a town of 2,500 situated 90 miles north of Juneau - a town without a stoplight (even a flashing yellow) and practically inaccessible if the ferry is out and the weather too bad for six-seater air service.

She tells the story of living in Haines firsthand with vivid descriptions of the town's characters: the tattooed Presbyterian pastor, the ZZ Top bearded sewer plant manager who rides a motorcycle, the one-legged female gold miner, and the Roy Orbison-impersonator school principal.

The story varies from the humorous anecdotes of the daily interactions among the town people to the sinking of a family fishing boat and the loss of a young man at sea. Mixed in with all of the stories are her vivid word pictures of the moose, the seals, the bears, the mountain goats, and the mountains and glaciers that paint the Alaskan landscape.

This is a enjoyable read and very hard to put down once you start reading it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: The Principle of the Path - Andy Stanley

A lot of times in life, we wonder why despite our good intentions and our efforts at working hard, we end up in situations with relationships, jobs, and finances that we never wanted. Nobody sits around and says, "when I grow up I want to have a failed marriage and have a debt load so high that I have to work three jobs to keep from losing my house." So, how is it that if we have positive goals and dreams that we end up so far away from what we wanted if we had really good intentions?

If we could step back a few years in our lives, wouldn't we make a couple decisions a little different now that we know how they panned out? I know I certainly would.

In his book, The Principle of the Path, Andy Stanley suggests that our destinations are a result of the path we are travelling on, not our good intentions. and despite how hard we might be praying, if we are headed in the wrong direction, nothing but a change of direction is going to right the situation.
He relates a story of taking off on an unopened road that was under construction and speeding away into the night. Fortunately, someone saw him zoom by and run him down and stopped him before he launched into a swamp where the road construction had not completed a bridge. Without someone who had been down the road that knew it abruptly ended, he would have ended in a swamp.

He goes on to suggest that it might be in our best interest to seek out someone that has been through life a little ahead of us and seek their advice on life impacting decisions. If we want to have a good marriage, maybe we should seek out an older couple that seem to have the kind of relationship we would like to have and pick their brains. If we want financial or career success, maybe we should seek out an older person that has achieved what we would like to achieve and obtain their advice.

Why don't we do that naturally? Pride? Too much self-confidence to admit what we don't know?

This is a very thought provoking book. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to make wiser decisions.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

House Dedication - Sara Wilson Family

One of the most rewarding experiences of working on a Habitat for Humanity home build is returning for the dedication when the homeowner receives the keys to their completed home. We have been fortunate to participate in several over the last years, and it always brings us great joy to celebrate with the homeowner and their family.

Today was another of those opportunities. Sara Wilson, a domestic violence survivor, and single mother of two received the keys to her new home this morning - the end of a very long journey for Sara and her two precious little girls.

Sara has toiled along side of all of the construction volunteers since the first day of the build as well as working on the construction of other Habitat homes over the last several months. Today was a celebration of the culmination of all of that hard work.

If the impact of being able to provide a decent place to live does not ring true to you when you are attending one of these dedications, all you have to do is look at the children playing on the playground equipment in the yard (donated by Habitat supporters) and it begins to make sense.

As a new homeowner, Sara now has a zero interest mortgage and a well built, dependable home.

Sara works as a Victim Advocate at Family Haven, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. The very shelter where several years ago, she sought assistance and support.

We feel blessed to have been able to be apart of the construction of Sara's home and what it means to the future of her family.

Habitat For Humanity article on Sara Wilson

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

In a Texas State of Mind

For Labor Day, we decided to see the sites of Austin, Texas, the Live Music Capitol of the World.

When we checked into the hotel, we quickly realized that Cabela's was just across the parking lot. So, we spent several hours wandering around inside checking out all of the clothing, camping equipment, fishing gear, and guns as well as the enormous collection of stuffed animals and the impressive aquarium.

Of course, eating was on our itinerary, and we found plenty of good places for it. Including the Salt Lick for BBQ.

And if we are gonna eat Texas BBQ, I gotta have some brisket.

Of course, Tex-Mex was also on our menu and Chuy's was awesome.

We ventured North to Round Rock and took a look at Dell's impressive sprawling campus.

And of course, we loaded up on University of Texas Longhorn gear!

Sunday, we visited Northpoint Church in Cedar Park, TX which is a strategic partner of our church here in Atlanta.

All good things must come to an end, Monday rolled around and it was time to hit the airport and head back to Atlanta. At one of the airport coffee shops, I was reminded this was really Texas, as the coffee shop was selling Shiner Boch and Lonestar.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Boot Camp

Earlier this Summer, I began volunteering as a small group leader in Transit, the middle school program at Browns Bridge Church. For the sixth graders, Transit holds a weekend camp called "Boot Camp" to kick things off after school starts to help create community in the small groups. This is a huge experience for these rising 6th graders as for many, it is their first camp experience on their own.

Sporting my new boot camp haircut #transitbootcamp on Twitpic
I elected to implement a special haircut for the Boot Camp weekend.

The response this year was huge, around 200 6th graders signed up, so five buses were waiting at send-off to shuttle us to the FFA campground near Covington, GA. After everyone got signed in, there were tons of Pizza waiting for the kids before we hit the highway.

Bus load of 6th graders hyped up on pizza and coke...1hr ride... on Twitpic
The buses were electric with the kids chattering and activity on the highway.

Once we arrived at the camp, everyone got introduced to two characters that would be camp leaders for the weekend, Sgt. Peppers and Col. Sanders. The campers were divided up into companies and provided a company flag. Our camp leaders informed the campers that there would be a competition for the prized "golden helmet".

A late night Worship was held with high energy music and singing followed by an engaging talk. After meeting with our small group to discuss the evening's message, we finally hit the bunks around midnight. Of course, the boys were wound up and had not intentions of sleeping. The last boy finally quit talking around 4am.

We were awakened to an air horn around 8am and the Saturday began with a trip to the Mess Hall.

Morning worship #transitbootcamp on Twitpic

Saturday was a blur of quiet time, Worship, more thought provoking talks, small group time, and team competitions that included events like Dodge Ball in the rain, kick ball with wading pool bases (and a slip-in-slide going into home plate's pool), finding gummy worms in a mixing bowl full of Cheerios (no hands!), and seeing how many kids good get in a canoe before it sank. A pool competition saw events like swimming relay (in an army jacket), alligator (the inflatable float kind) wrestling, and small group leader belly-flops.

Here is a video from Worship. Yes, these are 6th graders worshipping.

Saturday night's Worship and message was highlighted by the best presentation of the Gospel that I have ever heard. The campers were challenged with having a Faith of their own. One of the boys in our group decided to accept Jesus as his personal Saviour and small group time saw the boys ready to really share on what they heard and what ti meant to them.

Sunday started early with the boys cleaning up the cabin and packing their bags. Lots of help was needed returning the cabin to cleanliness and getting sleeping bags rolled back up. A final Worship experience, and then we were back on the buses headed home. It was very apparent that the kids were as worn out as the leaders as the noise level was significantly lower on the trip back.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Never Beyond a Second Chance: Scandalous Grace and Insane Forgiveness

Who Deserves a Second Chance?

If you are anything like me, you have struggled with forgiving the folks in life that have abused you, taken advantage of you, hurt you, have regularly offended you, speaks poorly of you, hurts your family members or someone close to you.

Some folks seem more worthy of my forgiveness than others. So, my natural tendency is to forgive the ones that are worthy of forgiveness and not the rest. That seems justifiable and logical. Seems fair enough, right? There is not any real need to forgive someone that is down right evil and has no desire to change their actions, right?

In 2006, a very tragic thing occurred in Nickel Mines, PA. Charles Roberts, the local milk truck delivery man, stormed into a one-room school house and began shooting. He shot ten young girls, killing five, and then killed himself. The families of the Amish school girls were devastated. We can barely imagine their grief.

If anyone had a reason to withhold forgiveness, it certainly would seem the Amish families of Nickel Mines had as much justification as anyone. How did they respond? They refused to degrade his character. Half of the people that attended his funeral were Amish including the parents who had just buried the children a few days prior. Amish families visited the shooter's widow and carried her meals and flowers, and they contributed to a fund for her family. When asked about their views, the Amish explained that if the shooter had lived, they would have wanted him locked up - not out of revenge, but for the safety of other children.

A book has been written about the shooting and the Amish response - Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher.

Are the Amish right? Are they setting an example for the rest of the world that we should be taking to heart? Are we allowed to pick and choose who we forgive? Are we obligated to give grace if we accept God's grace in our lives?

The Bible has a couple of things to say on the issue:

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." - Luke 6:37

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." - Matthew 6:14-15

People of the Second Chance(POTSC) is launching the NEVER BEYOND Poster Series: 25 posters representing well known historical, current and fictional characters who are believed to have harmed society. This campaign consists of digital and print posters and the full collection will eventually be displayed as a touring art exhibit.

The campaign draws out themes of forgiveness, grace and what a pathway to a second chance looks like.

The image at the top of this post is the first of their 25 poster series. Do you recognize the image? It is Casey Anthony. You may recall she was accused of murdering her two year old daughter, Caylee and was found not guilty. Casey Anthony ABC News Article

Could you give Casey Anthony a second chance? Would the Amish families in Nickels Mine, PA? As a Christian, are we called to give her a second chance?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Book Review: Rumors of God - Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson

In a life filled with tension and stress, the promises we read in the Bible seem to be far different that what we experience day to day. Are the promises true? Are the things we read in the Bible just simply rumors of God or are they truths that we can actually experience in our own lives? Is God real? Is He still moving in the lives of those who call out to Him? Do you fell like your life leaves you wanting more? Is there really a "new life" in Jesus like the old television preachers used to talk about? Do you feel jaded by the church? Are you cynical about the power of God in the current day and age?

The authors, Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson, discuss the rumors we have all heard about God, but we fail to see in the world around us. Rumors like justice, hope, freedom, love, community, abundant life, generosity, another life, an unimagined future, and commitment. They invite us to find those rumors are all around us everyday and provide numerous real life stories of everyday people who have found them. They manage to take scriptures we have heard all our lives and even forced to memorize and show them truly at work in today's world.

This book is encouraging to read in a world that constantly seems to bombard us with discouragement.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Gear

Last weekend I headed up to Dahlonega to Riders Hill to do some shopping for some riding boots. I have always ridden in steel-toe work boots, but while we were in Venezuela, I really became interested in purposely designed riding boots. Because the weather was hot, sunny, and clear, Riders Hill's parking lot was packed with every kind of bike that one could imagine.

After trying on a couple of pair and checking out features, I selected a pair of Alpinestars Ridge boots. I also have been giving some serious thought to a Hi-Viz riding jacket to increase the visibility during my 42 mile daily commute. Anything to help the cage drivers with their cellphones embedded into the side of their skulls see the guy on the Harley with three headlights. They had a First Gear Mesh-Tex mesh Hi-Viz jacket in extra large, but they were sold out of the size I needed - Large. But they quickly offered to order one for me as he had three other orders for the day for the same jacket.

Thursday I checked with them and the jacket was in, so I began the calculations in my head. If I left work at 3:30pm and could keep my speed, I could reach Riders Hill before they closed at 5pm. But with Atlanta traffic, it would be close.

I left work and immediately began encountering all kinds of traffic obstacles. I began to employ Dan Bateman avoidance measures and began slicing through traffic. 42 miles into the 65 mile ride to Riders Hill, I noted that I would also be pushing the absolute limits of the range for the amount of fuel I had. So, despite my time crunch, I dove into the gas station and burned some precious time and income purchasing some $4.00 a gallon 92 octane gasoline.

Back on the road, I now had 23 miles of Ga HWY 9, an old two lane twisting blacktop. And to my chagrin, more traffic wanting to drive 15 mile an hour slower than the speed limit and no passing zones. About five miles South of Dawsonville, it began to rain. And then it began to pour. Marvelous. The rain drops were huge and coming down at a pelting rate. For several minutes it felt like they could cut my cheeks. North of Dawsonville the rain quit and instantly the humidity began to rise.

Finally, I reached the city limits of Dahlonega where I would have to maneuver through 4 stoplights before heading North to Riders Hill. And would you know it everyone wanted to pull out of intersections in front of me and drive 10 mile an hour slower than the posted speed limit - Grand.

After what seemed to take forever, I arrived at Riders Hill and the gate was still open. As I rode up the inclined driveway, I could see the "Open" light still lit. I parked and crawled off Rosie and checked my watch - 5:05pm, darn it! But the door was still unlocked. The staff was more than happy to hook me up with my new Hi-Viz jacket making the trip worthwhile.

After making the ride home, I started taking off my riding gear when the snap on one sleeve cuff of my new jacket came apart. I sent an email to First Gear late Friday afternoon explaining my predicament. Within an hour I had a very pleasant response offering to fix the issue for free.

First thing Monday morning, I received an UPS prepaid shipping tag and a RMA in my email for returning the jacket to the folks at First Gear. So, while a bit dismayed I had an issue day one with my new jacket, I have to say I am delighted with how quickly First Gear has responded to make amends.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What the Heck is Planking?

                                               Photo source:Bensayin.com
Ok, so I'm not 20 years old any more and I do not keep up with the latest fads. So when we were checking in with our airline for our flight out of Atlanta to kick off our mission trip at like 5am, I see this younger team member, Andrew Kim, lying face down on the tile floor. And, as any curious casual observer might inquire, I asked, "What the heck is he doing on the floor?"

"Planking" I was told. Um, OK. What the heck is planking?

According to Wikipedia, "The lying down game (also known as planking,[1] or face downs) is an activity, popular in various parts of the world, consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the Internet is an integral part of the game.[2] Players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play.[2] The location should also be as public as possible, and as many people as possible should be involved."

Apparently, this has been a popular activity since around 1994. Who knew?

So, of course my next question was, did he consider the amount of feet and shoe soles that had crossed the floor of the Atlanta airport? ICK.

But, it quickly became amusing to watch where he would be planking next as the trip progressed.

And before long, planking was catching on with other team members.

I am betting the cleanliness of the airport parking lot ran a close second to this I-beam in the parking deck of the shopping mall in Venezuela.

And it has continued to other countries once our team's mission was complete. One of our other team members, Amanda Rodriguez was off travelling to another country and posted this plank.

She said she had to ask a total stranger in Spanish to taker her picture. After trying to explain planking in Spanish, she finally said, "Quit asking questions and take the picture!"

Wiki goes on to show other examples:

And of course, there is lots of planking on Youtube: