Dec 14, 2010

Does Our Giving Have Strings Attached? - An Evaluation of Christmas Gifts

I saw a sign at a coffee shop today that said Think Like Santa, Be Like Santa.  It got me thinking about what that would look like. Now, I know that their point was for me to buy the stuff on the display and then to give it to other people, but it made me think about it deeper as the day went on.

In the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town we are told to be good, not pout, and even not to cry.  Why? Well, the easy answer is to keep kids out of their parent's hair by giving them an incentive to do good, but the real answer separates Santa Claus from the true meaning of Christmas.  Don't get me wrong I am not a Santa-Basher.  I understand the validity of giving gifts.  After all God gave us Jesus, the Wisemen gave Jesus gifts, and gift giving can honor the entire tradition.  What differs is why we are giving.  Is it because they are good to us, or because we love them?  Is Christmas a time for legalistic strings attached giving, or selfless love expecting nothing in return?

Before Jesus came we were under the law (a system of dos and do nots).  This system allowed people to see that we could never be good enough without God's direct intervention.  This is what Christmas is all about.  Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  God did not give us a gift because we had been good, but because we had been bad.  

We were God's enemies without his gift.  Romans 5:10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.  The good news is that God does not hate his enemies like people do, but instead  he has love for them.   Matthew 5:44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  And his love is the very message of Christmas (John 3:16). 

This Christmas let us remember that he sees us when we're sleeping, he knows when we're awake, he knows when we are bad or good and he loved us enough to give us the gift of eternal life anyway!  Now that is the Christmas spirit.  Would you give your enemy a gift for Christmas?   Think about it, God did it and it changed the world.  

Luke 6:32-35
“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.

What would change if we lived that way?  Would it change you, your enemy, or would it change the world by mirroring what God desires for humanity?

Dec 10, 2010

A Useless Facebook Quiz

I usually hate these things but I am in a weird mood, so I did one on Facebook for about 25 friends who are mainly family.   I thought rather than tagging everyone one at a time I would post the quiz as a blog.  Now you will see all of the inner workings of my mind (or at least some of them).  I am not posting the instructions so you will not be asked to continue the posts but you can answer any of the questions in the comment section.

And now we begin the worst blog you will ever read -

1. What time did you get up this morning?
Oh, well I was off today and exhausted so sometime after 10 (don't judge me)

2. How do you like your steak?
Medium well done (no mooing allowed)

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Tangled (hey, it was for my little girl)

4. What is your favorite TV show?
The Middle, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Office, Clone Wars

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Where I am now, Troutman, NC (if I wanted to be somewhere else I would be)

6. What did you have for breakfast?
Honey Nut Cheerios with a banana and some OJ

7. What is your favorite cuisine?
American (seriously, a burger, ribs, steak, fried chicken that's where its at) also Italian

8. What foods do you dislike?
Anything with Mayonnaise 

9. Favorite Place to Eat?
 Texas Inn, What-a-Burger, Kat's Patch (anything that is a hole in the wall joint)

10. Favorite dressing?
Raspberry Walnut (or nothing)

11. Your favorite thing to wear?
Jeans and a Star Wars T-Shirt (also my Jedi robe but shh that's a secret)

12. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
Australia, Italy, Skywalker Ranch, San Diego Comic Con, England, Ireland

13. Where would you want to retire?
I do not want to retire, but if my health forces me too, then somewhere with a mountain view.

14. Favorite time of day?
Night - bedtime stories, then time for Debbie and me to veg out and unwind

15. Where were you born?

16. What is your favorite sport to watch?
    None unless I have to and then it is high school basketball or Major League Baseball.

17. Person you expect to tag you back first?
Whoever is the most bored

18. Who are you most curious about their response?
       I am very curious to see if anyone responds

19. Who tagged you?
      my brother Israel and cousin Byron

20. Are you a morning person or a night person?

21. Do you have any pets?
   yes, a dog, turtle, and a fish

22. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share?
   I am writing a book and my nose hair has doubled

23. What did you want to be when you were little?
  A geologist or an archaeologist (yeah, I know I'm a geek)

24. What is your best childhood memory?
Playing outside until dark, building forts, playing baseball etc.

25. Are you a cat or dog person?

26. Been in a car accident?
Yes, my fault, their fault, the weather's fault.  The only injuries have been from the airbag (I hate those things)

27. Any pet peeves?
   LEGALISM! also cell phones in the theater      See my complete list on an earlier blog

 28. Favorite Pizza Toppings?
   All veggies, pineapple,  and bacon

29. Favorite Flower?
 Saliva May Nights, and Daisies

30. Favorite ice cream? 
 Breyer's Sara Lee Strawberry Cheesecake

31. Favorite fast food restaurant?
   Taco Bell, BoJangles

32. From whom did you get your last email?
      Allstate *yawn*

33. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
      Not a fan of credit cards, or maxing them out, but I do like Comic shops, thrift stores, and flea markets (love to find nostalgic stuff and great deals)

34. What are you listening to right now?
   94.1 KLove and MXPX- On the Cover II

35. What is your favorite color?
Black, Brown, and green

36. How many tattoos do you have?
      none (yet)

Nov 22, 2010

The Next Three Days

This past weekend there were millions of people lined up to see the new Harry Potter movie.  Where was I?  I was seeing The Next Three Days along with eight other people who happened to be in the theater on Saturday night.  I went home afterwards and read some reviews to see if I could find out where the crowds were.  The critics attacked it as too slow and not enough action.

I think what they mean is not enough "action".  The action we have grown accustomed to is over the top CGI explosions and unrealistic fight scenes.  The Next Three Days was a well acted, realistic nail biter of a movie.  It is a mix between John Q. and Taken.  If you are looking for a movie that could actually happen- a romantic action flick with a lot of drama and a feel good vibe about the triumph of the human spirit, then The Next Three Days is for you.

The only drawback is that Liam Neeson only does a short 5 minute cameo, when the trailor made him seem like a main character.  It does not matter though because Russell Crowe carries the film.

It was a breath of fresh air after the far fetched action movies that have come out this year.  If I still had the money I spent to see movies like Predators and The Expendables I could go back several more times to see The Next Three Days.  My advise:  Ignore the critics on this one.

Nov 11, 2010

Dealing With Frustration and Pain

My wife Debbie wrote this article as a devotional for some teen girls she mentors.  It spoke to me so I thought I would pass it on to the Randumblog community. 


This is a BIG issue for me and something I struggle with on a daily basis!!!!!.... I know that everyone deals with this no matter what age and season of life you are in!

Being a Christian does not mean that our lives will be easy or that everything will just be handed to us on a silver platter. The Bible tells us in John 16:33 "that in this world we will have trials". Most of us have positive expectations for the future. But what if life is not as we had hoped it would be? How do we manage the unexpected, and the not-so-desirable turn of events? The answer is simple, but not easy....God has NOT given us a way out, but a way through! He has not only told us, but has shown us how we can have victory through the trials and temptations of this life.

John 16:33 "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” 

In this verse Jesus is talking to his disciples and basically telling them that their life is NOT going to be easy. In fact most of them would end up being brutally killed for their faith. WE will also have troubles, frustrations, and sorrow.  It is a natural part of this life. However, Jesus goes on to say, don't be upset about this, for I have overcome the world.  Jesus was telling them this before his death. He didn't say I WILL overcome the world, but I HAVE already overcome it. I believe this means that in this life will go through things that are not pleasant, but Jesus did too. However, he overcame it by his response to it. He did not sin. I believe he is letting us know that when we go through these tough times, e understands, because he has been through it, but we can also choose not to do wrong. We can choose to have the right attitude, not blame others, not give up by giving into the lies of this world. 

"God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute." Oswalt Chambers 

I know for my own life, frustration is a daily thing. In this world, bad things will happen, they may be small or even great. Things that we think that we cannot overcome, but God will give us the strength. He does not take it away or give us an escape. But he has provided a way through it. 

We can have victory through tough times, but we must be reading the Bible, worshiping and praying, staying connected with others that share our faith, and staying free from sin through the power of God's forgiveness. 

God said, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace," He tells us that we can rest in the fact that all we endure is working out for good whether we can see it or not! I know that I have used this example before but it always helps me to see this more practically. Have you ever seen a cross stitch? The little brown wooden circle with fabric stretched through it. There are lots of threads of many different colors used to make a picture on the fabric. Well underneath there are all these strings hanging down, a knotted mess. This is what we see in our lives. Like we are underneath this thing and we have no idea how something so messed up is going to look. However, God is looking down at the top, he sees how each thread, each color is making a beautiful picture! this is our life...we are messed up, we have all these trials and things that come through everyday life, but we cannot see the big picture. God is using these threads to make us into something more beautiful!

Here are some other verses that I thought might would help you press on through daily trouble we may face. I encourage you to read them and study them more on your own.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to share.

Job 23:10
“But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
James 1:12 
"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
1 Peter 1:7
"so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Nov 10, 2010

What are Your Pet Peeves?

Everyone has pet peeves.  Here are a few of mine.

-email forwards
-dogs that lick 
-when people confuse Star Trek with Star Wars (Argh!)
-finding only one sock per pair after a wash
-partisan politics
-being late for anything
-cell phones in a theater
-talking during the national anthem
-tele-evangelists (for the most part)
-local news (Charlotte)
-skinny jeans
-a slow wi-fi connection
-being at an event where only tea is served (and I have to ask for water)
-an empty soda at a restaurant
-emissions inspections on cars
-bad grammar

What are your pet peeves?

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Nov 2, 2010

The Election is Over! I Hope it Starts a Gridlock!

Well, it is no secret that I am an independent voter. One may wonder why I am excited about the Republicans taking control of the house. The reason is that it balances the power.

When President Bush had a majority in the house and senate the republicans went on a spending spree. This spree was echoed and built upon by President Obama and his Senate and House democratic majority. The simple fact is that new plans cost money. Whoever is in charge will spend, spend, spend, regardless of political affiliation. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Democrats want government to do more for us, which requires more taxes while republicans call for tax breaks without necessarily cutting spending. To cut taxes, we must first cut spending, programs, funding and agencies. That is right, I said agencies. I would cut the cord on the IRS, NEA and many others.

The truth is the government that acts least, acts best. This is why I love a gridlocked government. I say vote for the party in congress that is not in the White House no matter who happens to be in power. Sure nothing new will get done, but then again, what do we really NEED the government to do that the private sector cannot come up with through supply and demand?

While we're at it, let's stop trying to legislate social and moral change. Let it start with us. Let us love our spouses more than ourselves, teach our children to work hard and to give back from what they have earned. It is not the government's responsibility to care for the poor. It is ours. I would much rather give freely than to have my money taken and redistributed.

Yes, gridlock is the answer. Maybe in the next two years government spending will begin to drop slightly. Hey, I can hope can't I? Remember that if families ran their financial lives like the federal government then there would be no America. Can you imagine deciding what you want to spend and then approaching your employer and demand to be paid that amount? It would be absurd! We have to see what we make and only spend that amount in order to be responsible. This is not the way government works.

To those who lament on both sides tonight that neither side has control, I would like to remind them that it is better that two idiots fight with their fists than one climb the tower with a machine gun. Divided power is less power for each party and that is good for everyone.

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Oct 20, 2010

A Recipe from Randumblog?

I did some experimenting over the last few days. I tried a caramel frappuccino from three different places. Those places were Caribou Coffee, Starbucks and McDonald's. They all taste pretty good even though my favorite is still from Joe Muggs.

I have been pumping the baristas for information about how they make each of these drinks for weeks. They of course cannot reveal their base since they have no idea what is in it.

When we bought a dual blade 1000 watt blender a year ago I tried several recipes found online. We kept running back to coffee shops for the "real" thing. I have taken the best of each and have come up with a recipe that I believe has beaten them all. I am not selfish so I shall share this with you.

If you are in my youth group and have had a sample the past two weeks, I need to tell you that I used only water as the liquid base. I had to do that for a large group to save money. The whipped cream will be better if you make it yourself from whisking heavy whipping cream.

My Caramel Frappe Recipe
(makes enough for two)

Place all of the following in a blender:

2 cups of ice
2 oz of half and half
6 oz of skim milk
4 oz of water
1 & 1/2 tbsp of sugar
6 tbsp of Hills Bros (sold in BJ's type stores in a 40oz can) french Vanilla Cappuccino mix (or any french vanilla instant coffee)
7 pumps of Caramel syrup from Caribou Coffee (it is thinner and richer than store bought and can be bought with a pump)

blend on high for 45 seconds (longer if using ice tray cubes)

top with whipped cream and Hershey's or Smuckers caramel syrup (the thin syrup doesn't work as a topping

don't forget the straw

Wow! It is good. I just had one before writing this, and after reading what is in it I am glad I do not know the nutrition facts. Let me know how it comes out. It takes me less than 3 minutes from start to finish now. We enjoy one everyday in the evening for a fraction of the store price.

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Oct 19, 2010

Parenting in Style

I am the type of guy who mutes commercials or changes the channel completely during breaks. Terrible commercials are the bane of my television watching experience. I may have called Geico for a cheaper rate on my car insurance years ago if it were not for their lame ads, and don't even get me started on Capital One.

Some of the most meaningless advertisements are from car companies. To listen to them, one would gather that every car is the most favored by buyers, has the best milage, and more storage space than any competitor.

It is really hard to see any of the actors in television commercials as real. The acting is almost always sub-par. Although I cannot stand most of the advertisements on TV, I am quite fond of the commercials during the Super Bowl. In fact I would rather watch them over the game itself.

If a company wants my attention then they need to spend their money on a great script. The video that I am featuring below does just that. It is an ad for the Toyota Sienna that spends more time talking about parenting than pushing this particular mini-van. The result is that if I had a choice of mini-van currently on the market, the Sienna rises to the top of the list. All of this and I know nothing about the van itself. I can, however, see a real family owning one. Great job Toyota.

Here is the video (the lyrics are below in case you want to do some karaoke after watching):

This one goes out to all you minivan families out there.
Sienna SE…in the house.
Where my mother/fathers at?
Where my kids at?

Where my kids at?
Where my kids at?
Where my kids at?
Where my kids at?
Where my kids at?

No, seriously honeywhere are the kids?
They’re right there, see?
Oh, cool beans.

I roll hard through the streets and the cul-de-sacs,
Proud parent of an honor roll student, Jack.
I got a swing in the front, a tree house in the back,
My #1 Dad mug says, Yeah, Im the Mack.

I’m the world’s best nurse when my kids get sick,
I make a mean gel-mold, I perfected my tricks,
Back when I used to party as a college chick.
Now I’m cruising to their playdates lookin’ all slick…

In my Swagger Wagon,
Yeah, the Swagger Wagon,
It’s the Swagger Wagon,
I got the pride in my ride.
In my Swagger Wagon,
Yeah, the Swagger Wagon,
It’s the Swagger Wagon.


Check it…

I love hangin’ with my daughter sippin’ tea, keep my pinky up,
All the drawings on my fridge sport an A+.
I’m an awesome parent, (Right!) and it’s apparent, (True!)
And in this house there’s no mother/father swearin’.

Straight owning bake sales with my cupcake skills,
I’m better with the money, so I handle the bills,
And I always buy in bulk, ain’t afraid of no spills.
Every Mother’s Day proves…I’m kind of a big deal.

Daughter: Mommy, I need to go potty.

Bring the beat back, ’cause, yo, I got more to say,
You know I’m always front and center at the school play.
I kiss their boo-boos, clean doggie doo-doos,
Cut the crust off of PB&Js, chill the Yoo-hoos.


Singin’ “Farmer in the Dell” in perfect harmony,
When I’m rollin’ with my posse in the HOV.
We rock the SE, not an SUV,
And it’s true, if I were you, I’d be jealous of me…

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Oct 13, 2010

Bridging: A Shift in Spiritual Thinking

I am asked quite often by others for prayer. Usually I respond by saying, "I'll be praying for you". Now don't get me wrong, I am very intent on actually bringing these requests before God, but life sometimes gets in the way. Distractions detract from our spiritual life and its impact on others.

My pastor shared a statistic this past Sunday. Married couples that pray together (not meals) at least twice a week only have a 1% chance of divorce. Wow! When we consider that the divorce rate is flirting with 50%, that is quite a drop.

I suspect this is not just true of marriages. People everywhere need this bridge of prayer in their life. It forms a relational connection that says I care and have a vested interest in your personal well being. Some friends and I recently sat down with about 10 youth pastors individually. What we found was that when we would ask how we could pray for them that they were taken back. It had been up to 3 months since some of them had had anyone pray for them in their presence. If this happens in ministry then it surely is an epidemic in the Christian and secular worlds.

Jesus said that where two or three are gathered he will be with them. Are we taking some of the effectiveness of our prayers away by hearing needs and waiting to pray for them in private? We need to change! We need to build bridges spiritually with anyone who may have a need. I can SHOW I care by praying WITH my spouse, friends, and anyone who expresses hurt. Our marriages will be stronger, people will be encouraged and God will move.

Let's make a shift in spiritual thinking. The need until prayer time needs to be about three seconds. Three seconds from the time we have actively listened to a concern before we are taking that need before our Father together. Be a part of the mind shift and build a bridge with someone today.

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Oct 9, 2010

How Important is Facebook?

Just how important is Facebook to our everyday lives? It seems that everyone from preteens to grandmas are using the social media giant. We can interact with current friends and family as well as reconnect with old friends.

It is that reconnecting that causes me to question how we use the social platform. There are statistics that say that more and more marriages are dissolving due to these retro-sexual flames from the past. The studies range from 20 to 23 percent of those getting divorced.

Another problem is the millions of dollars people are willing to spend on items that due not exist. How sucked in does one have to be to pay real money for virtual cash to buy nonexistent merchandise. I was in Target the other day and even saw $15 gift cards to use on Facebook (a "free" site). Last time I checked we are still in a recession. There are still people going to bed without food in their bellies in the very communities in which we live. All the while there are real people playing games like Farmville and using real cash (at times) to tear down barns to build bigger barns. This sounds strangely reminiscent of a parable told by Jesus.

The bottom line is that Facebook can be an escape. It can be a place to conduct illicit relationships that you have no business pursuing, a platform for viewing or spouting gossip, or a financial drain for an emotional escapist. Hearing all of these things should plant seeds of caution and concern. Caution should range from sharing your password with your spouse to canceling your page altogether. Do not let something as trivial as a website destroy your relationship with your spouse.

I will not assume that everyone reading this blog believes the same as me when it comes to spirituality, but to those that do we have a duty. We should view Facebook as a mission field. A chance for others to see Jesus lived out through us. Not an escape or something to do in our spare time like "chewin' the fat" at a high school reunion. We need to be intentional in our encouragement, careful in our chatting and personal messaging, and all out purposeful in why we are here. The world may not be beating down your churches door to get in, but it has rolled out a red carpet for virtual missionaries who are willing to show Christ's love to people where they are at. Let's decide to work strategically to partner with God in what he wants to do on Facebook.

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Sep 29, 2010

Star Wars in 3D, its Finally Official!

Lucasfilm announced yesterday that they would be re-releasing all six Star Wars films in 3D. The proposed date will be in 2012 and all signs point to February. This has long been rumored and discussed among fans, but now it is finally going to happen. I have never been a fan of 3D movies. Avatar's affects were good, but then there was the Clash of the Titan's and Alice in Wonderland debacles.

I would be excited if Star Wars reentered the Theater in 2D or even with no picture as a digitally converted version of the radio dramas. Industrial Light and Magic is overseeing the project and has said they will take their time to do the job right.

It turns out that 2012 will not be the end of the world, but rather a dawning of an era where there are 3D films that actually have a great original story (sorry Dances with Wolves, ahem, I mean Avatar). I can't wait to see: the Death Star trench run, pod-races, lightsaber duels, asteroid fields, light-speed, the Rancor, and the Millennium Falcon in 3D.

If you have never seen any of the films, this would be a great time to give them a chance. Star Wars never had the chance to be released with the modern ticket prices and inflated 3D prices that propelled Avatar, The Dark Knight, and The Titanic past the greatest film of all time. I say it is time to reclaim the top spot. I myself will see it at least three times.

Now we can start crossing our fingers for 3D releases of Braveheart, The Matrix, and Fifth Element. I would much rather see great movies come back to the theater (3D or not), than new movies that are weak in story and rely on 3D alone for special effects.

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Sep 23, 2010

Has God Been Removed from Declaration of Independence?

Wow! I am shocked! I just saw a video that I had to watch twice. President Obama spoke to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 33rd Annual Award Gala on September 17. In his speech he quoted from the Declaration of Independence. The only difference was that he omitted the words "their Creator" in his speech. Could it have been an accident? I doubt it, because he was using a teleprompter.

I am not bashing our President. In fact I pray for him a whole lot. I am just pointing out how offensive the mere mention of the Christian God has become. Watch the video below. Let me know what you think of his decision to take God out.

Sep 9, 2010

Would Jesus Burn the Koran?

People everywhere (including this blogger) were outraged this week to hear the plans of Terry Jones, a pastor of a small church in Gainesville Florida. He stated that he and his followers would be burning the Koran on the 9th anniversary of 9/11. Muslims around the world have been protesting and even threatening violence. I even heard one man say on CNN that muslims everywhere would kill Americans if the Koran was burned. They have already burning straw men with Terry Jones' face along with the American flag. Hold the phone people. Is this the peaceful religion of Islam that they keep telling us about?

Am I for the burning? Absolutely NOT! I believe that pastor's everywhere should stand up and speak out against it. In fact they are. Rick Warren and others have condemned this hateful and shameful act. Does that make the news? Of course not!

Should our government stop a citizen from expressing his right to free speech or put pressure on him to stop? No, they should not! Muslim leaders around the world have been trying to persuade our President to stop him from acting. I am sorry but that is not our President's place. It is also not his place to speak up for the rights of those building the New York mosque that is billed as insensitive by Americans at large. Just as one week later, to speak out against a different brand of insensitivity when free speech is concerned is not his place either. This my friends, may be considered hypocritical, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Since I know nothing of the pressure he must be under to speak out on these issues.

The good news is that earlier today Terry Jones did a press conference to say that it was postponed. The bad news is that he later said that it may be on again. I think the publicity has gone to his head. His 15 minutes of fame should have been over by now.

The big question on everyone's mind is What Would Jesus Do? Well for starters he would LOVE his enemies. So if burning an object that "your enemies" consider sacred is a loving act, then go right ahead. If it is not however, then stop saying you represent our God! We should show our faith by our love.

I hate how one bigoted extremist gets so much press. We should react different than the world or even other religions. One example that comes to mind is when Comedy Central planned to have Mohammed in a bear costume in an episode of South Park they received death threats from Muslims. They decided to censor the program. Now they plan to release a cartoon called JC, which will openly make fun of Jesus Christ and Christianity. What should we do? Nothing. Let's take the high road. Let others see our love rather than our hate. Remember, "Love your enemies, and do good to those who despitefully use you".

I hope Terry Jones and his small ragtag band of followers do truly call off their charade. I hope Muslims see that Christians everywhere are against this type of act. I am not against it because of fear, but because it is un-Christlike in the highest since of the word.

Sep 7, 2010

The New York Mosque

There are sides being drawn across the country. The building of a Muslim Cultural Center which will house a mosque near the ground zero site has started quite a few conversations. Some are civil and some are heated. I have stayed relatively clear of the controversy, but I do have a few things that I would like to point out.

First of all it is NEVER the government's role to impede or interfere with ANY religious group unless they are breaking the law. The Islamic community behind this project is going through the proper legal channels to get things done. We should not be asking our government to interfere with religious freedom.

With that being said, we as Americans also have a few other freedoms. We have freedom of speech and can voice our displeasure over the location of this mosque in hopes that the group involved will decide to move to improve relations with the rest of the country. We may also peaceably assemble in front of it and any other mosque that we choose. Let's remember that we may only do so peaceably and one bad apple can ruin that for the rest of us.

Secondly, this is the same building that was hit by landing gear that fell off of one of the planes. This may be a total coincidence, but I find it extremely interesting that a building directly affected in 9/11 would be chosen. I think it shows poor taste and insensitivity.

Thirdly, I have a good friend who just returned from New York who said that the mosque and ground zero can both be seen from the corner of Park Place and West Broadway. This brings new light to the whole two blocks away argument. This alone tells me that it is a poorly chosen spot.

Lastly, my friend was with a group that decided to take pictures of the Muslim cultural center. A man immediately came out and took pictures of them. When they asked him what the pictures were for he said, "We take pictures of anyone protesting." They quickly let him know that they were not protesting to which he responded, "We still have your picture." One of my friend's group responded, "We have yours too." The Muslim man was not rude or threatening, but one may find the whole situation a little strange.

This Saturday when we look back at the tragedy of 9/11 let us remember the fallen and be angry again, but in a healthy way. In our anger however, we should not let it lead to hate. Remember, "Fear is a path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering" --Yoda.

Aug 30, 2010

"Let There Be Darkness"

Well, summer has been a blur. I have been extremely busy, to say the least. My writing seemed to taper off in June some time. Or did it? I am actually working on writing my first book ever entitled "Let There Be Darkness". I would love some preliminary feedback from my favorite group of readers on the planet. That would be you!

So here is the skinny on the whole thing. There is a popular view that a gap of time exists between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. In this view another creation may have existed before this one. This is neither provable or disprovable due to the fact that we were not there to observe it. My book will be based on the assumption that there was a previous creation (which is not my personal belief. In it the angels were once human and those who rebelled were doomed to walk bodiless in spirit form during our time, the faithful ones became angels. I will deal with the rebellion that took place as well as the war that led to the end of the first creation. Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer will be central characters as well as a host(no pun intended) of others.

I am aware that it may be controversial to some. Please keep in mind that it is fiction (a what if story). Consider it Biblical fan fiction. My book will be written about a writer named Marcus who is in the midst of writing the fictional story of the first fall. He will have many conversations with friends about the theological implications of the fictional work. This will take place every few chapters.

I am going to let you read an unedited sample of a random piece of the book that takes place near the beginning before the final rebellion or fall of Lucifer. Please let me know what you think. It is only a brief piece, so that the plot is not given away. I will give you one spoiler to the passage below. Lucifer is the sitting judge over Quarhum.

Sample piece to "Let There Be Darkness":

     Yet another murder last night. This makes the third in a week in Quarhum. People murmur about cutting the city off from the rest of society. The Justice Council has ordered a full investigation.  

     Sanhalo arrived with Rafael in Quarhum to the sound of pottery breaking and the scent of dung and death. People scurried to a small wooden structure and ran off carrying what appeared to be trash.                             
     He looked on for a moment before grabbing the nearest man’s arm.
     “What news of the deceased, friend?”
     The wide-eyed little man shook his arm violently in an attempt to pull away from the lawman’s grip.      
     “Take your hand off me! Who do you thinks you be?”
     Sanhalo found the people of Quarhum amusing, their conversations proving their reputation among the surrounding populaces as intellectually inferior.
     Sanhalo could tell Rafael, his physician companion, had heard enough. The doctor bent to stare into the man’s eyes.
     “This is Sanhalo, your constable, so I suggest you show some respect.” 
     “I ain’t gots no constable! The law don’t work ‘round here.”           
     “This is true,” Sanhalo said, tightening his grip. “If the law worked, we would not need people like me. Now kindly direct me to the deceased, and we will let you be on your way.” 
     Still clutching the loot, the man gestured toward the wood structure. Sanhalo released him and turned towards the building. 
     “You should have taken him in for stealing from the dead,” Rafael said, grinning.
     “We have more pressing matters.”
     The home of the deceased was so small compared to the buildings on either side of it that it looked as if a goat had been flanked by two bears. 
     Sanhalo stooped to enter.
     “Watch your head, big guy,” Rafael said.           
     Blood spatters covered the walls of the empty one-room shack.  The locals had cleaned this place out in a hurry except for the body and a few blood stained items. 
     “What’s the call?” Sanhalo said.
     “I’m going out on a limb here, but I’d guess dead.”      
     “Wow, you are good. But seriously Doc, when is this madness going to end?” 
     “His name is Keik,” the doctor said, leafing through parchments beside the body. 
     “And how do we know that?” Sanhalo said.
     Rafael handed Sanhalo a blood-spattered document bearing the death mark given to anyone who had committed a sin worthy of death. Sanhalo noticed that the part listing the crime had been torn off. He rolled up the parchment and tucked it in his belt.
     “Let’s get someone in here to clean up this mess.”

Jun 25, 2010

The BP Oil Crisis

I have been pondering the BP oil crisis for quite sometime now. Trying to think of exactly what I can add to the conversation. Then I read my dad's blog on the topic and felt as though my mind had been read. You may say, "Like father like son", to which I would add, "Have you ever met the two of us"? Nevertheless his sentiments are mine. The entry below is completely my dad's from his blog: A Time For Truth. If you enjoy his writing I have a link to his blog below the article. The opinions expressed in the rest of his articles do not necessarily reflect the views or writings of Randumblog, but the one writing them has helped shape me into the man I am today. I love you Dad.


No Leadership

Oil continues to gush into the USA Gulf Coast area, fouling everything it touches. Death and Destruction are visible on every side. Now for over 60 days the onslaught has continued and one must wonder how much longer before it can be stopped. A look at the US government response is eye opening. The main actions taken are lot of hot air and getting lawyers involved to see who can be held accountable along with possible criminal charges. The offers from other nations willing to help are ignored or just refused. Blaming BP for the problem and strong arming them into setting up a fund to pay damage claims run by the government seems to be the priority. Now nothing wrong with making sure damages are taken care of BUT the focus needs to be an all hands on deck approach in working to stop the oil from continuing to flow before it starts to cause damage to other nations and destroy the ocean's eco system for years to come. The sad thing is that the US government encouraged the deep water drilling with no viable data in how to handle a ruptured pipe problem at such a depth. Now we have the problem and no workable plan to fix it in a reasonable time frame. No leadership from Washington DC, and BP without the power and resources needed to fix it before it became a major problem. The one time a problem is large enough to actually need our government to step in to coordinate the containment and clean up effort and all we get is talk about paying for damages and who should be blamed. There is a time for everything and now is the time for action to stop the flow of oil and after that has happened THEN it will be time for blame, investigations, liability, and paying for the damages. If the government cannot answer the bell for this issue how can it be trusted to run the health care system effectively for over 300 million people. That is another nightmare waiting to happen. We vote in those who have not only had no experience in the real world, but no clue as to how to lead in a critical time. Is it any wonder why excuses seem to be the rule of the day by those who are blinded by their ideology even while walking in darkness. Interesting times are upon us indeed.

My Dad's Blog: A Time For Truth

Jun 24, 2010

Toy Story 3--Official Review

I was not looking forward to seeing Toy Story 3 when I first heard it was coming out. I thought "Oh No! they are going to kill a great movie series". I always hate when a sequel stinks so bad that they sour the movie(s) before it.

One example was Meet the Fockers, which was so terrible that I don't really have any desire to watch Meet the Parents anymore. Before "Fockers" was released I counted Meet the Parents as one of my favorite romantic comedy movies. Did you know they are actually making a third movie? Well they are not getting any money from me.

. . . Rabbit Trail . . .

Let's get back to Toy Story 3. When I saw the trailer I thought, give me a break, Andy is in college and still has all of his toys from his toddler years (Etch, Mr. Spell, Wheezy etc.). Then I saw the movie. Boy was I wrong!

--Spoiler Alert--

Most of the toys have already been sold or thrown out. This includes Bo Peep (sniffle). The three remaining soldiers decide to parachute out of the window rather than facing the trash can. It is emotional from the get go. The toys reminisce about their glory days when Andy played with them and even try to get his attention by hiding his phone.

I almost fell apart completely at the end. I fought a lump in my throat so big that to give in I would have been audibly annoying to others around me. Meanwhile the tear faucets were on with every adult in the theater (and very few kids). The emotional subject matter is above them in much the same way as the first 5 minutes of Up.

I think that it should have received a PG rating rather than a G. --Major Spoiler Alert-- The scenes with the freaky Big Baby (who my kids loved), the incinerator that threatened their lives, and the part where Lotso is fastened to the truck are definitely not scenes for a G movie.

If Toy Story had been a newer movie and not the CGI pioneer that it was then I would say Toy Story 3 was the best of the Trilogy. It has Toy Story 2 beat by a long shot (since it never explains how Woody doesn't know about Woody's Roundup or being and "old family toy"). I especially enjoyed the Return of the Jedi like scene where Big Baby tosses Lotso into the dumpster. Ken is also a new hilarious plus to this film.

I am not a fan of the Day and Night Pixar short at the beginning. The message of diversity was okay but the focus on living it up by lusting after girls or running to Vegas was also not G content. It was by far the worst of the shorts that Pixar has made.

This movie is definitely worth seeing. We saw it in 2D and it was awesome! I think the 3D craze is overrated and over-inflates and misrepresents where a movie lands on the highest grossing film list (i.e. Avatar). See it how you want, but make sure to see it. It is the best movie so far this year.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the Monkey RULES!

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Jun 8, 2010

A Former Prequel Basher Speaks Out!

I am unashamedly a Star Wars fan. Usually the only difference between others my age and myself is that I like all of the Star Wars saga. I will admit that when Episode 1 was released I was quick to be a prequel basher (not knowing how it would all tie up in the end). However, now 11 years, 3 movies, and two "official"(the Samari Jack version is not canon) Clone Wars seasons later I have become quite the fan. Now, as a recovering prequel hater, I have a few corrections to add to the logic of prequel bashing. Note: If you are one of my regular readers, but not a Star Wars fan then this blog will read like gibberish. You may stop reading now if that is you.

Well let's get started with Qui Gon's training of Obi-Wan. Yoda did instruct (not train) Obi Wan as he did all younglings. Qui Gon had to be there to learn the path to immortality because Darth Vader did not seem to know what Obi Wan meant by "Strike me down and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine".

There are those who would keep Yoda on the sidelines as an Orko like character. How can Yoda train Jedi in all areas when those areas include swordsmanship if he is not capable of fighting himself? He is feeble in the prequels (walks with a cane) but when he relies on the force he can do greater things.

Midi-Chlorians are necessary to answer the question of why the force is strong in Luke's family. He told Leia that his Father, he, even she had it. She heard his cry in Bespin and answered when even Obi Wan did not. Somehow it is hereditary, but only the use of it not the force itself.

Contrary to popular belief, the expanded universe books are not canon. The clone army does not have to be evil cloned Jedi army. Lucas cannot be expected to bend his story around more than a hundred books. The Clone army as a secret army is a great plot because Sidious is behind the separatists who hate Palpatine (they don't know its him) and he is behind the clones as a means to start a war that weakens the Jedi to the point where he can destroy them and declare martial law.

The plot is so much deeper than the original plot where Ewoks defeat the Empire with rocks or that a concentrated laser blast can destroy a planet in a few seconds. I almost forgot to mention that Han gets frozen with his arms tied to his sides but once frozen his hands are up. You've also got the remark by Obi Wan about the Jawas deaths by saying "Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise..." when they clearly have terrible aim in all 3 movies.

Can we also answer how Luke's torpedos do a 90 degree turn to blow up the death star? Why were the controls for the Rancor's metal door inside the enclosure? When did Luke learn to use his light saber? What about how many times the Millennium Falcon rolls over in space with the unseatbelted passengers standing behind Han and Chewie without a scratch.

Prequel bashers say the dialogue of the battle droids is silly but what of C3POs comic relief or chewbacca's 3 different sounds being understood by Han as a complete language. The fact that a droid army almost took over helps to explains why C3PO and R2D2 were not admitted into the cantina and were referred to as "their kind".

Bashers also love to hate Jar Jar Binks. Jar Jar and Qui Gon's interaction is the prequel's version of Han and C3PO's relationship. They are the only ones in the movie annoyed by these characters and everyone else is sympathetic.

Let's not forget the fact that Leia's home planet is destroyed and ten minutes later and for the rest of the trilogy she is fine and content not to mention it. At least Anakin is torn up about his mother's death.

The true and only missing link between the trilogies is why Leia says that she remembers her mother as beautiful. Unless this plays into something the Force allowed. Since it goes unanswered we will have to assume that it is indeed a gap in continuity.

The bottom line is that we like the magic of what we have grown up with. Kids today prefer the prequels and accuse the original trilogy of being to slow. There are some who are brainwashed by older fans into liking the originals better. My children however do not fall into that category even though I do.

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Jun 7, 2010

My Take on Illegal Immigration

There has been an awful lot of talk about immigration lately and I have been asked by several of you to weigh in on the matter. Right out of the gate I want to remind everyone that unless we are Native Americans, then immigration has played a role in our families coming to this great land. Legal Immigration has been and always will be healthy for this country.

It is illegal immigration that poses many problems. These problems are amplified by multiculturalism and political correctness. We are becoming a country with no real sense of itself or of what it is to be an American. Don't get me wrong--I am not against being proud of ones roots, but our political system and business world should not have to accommodate every cultural background. People come here for opportunities. This is a package deal. The opportunities are great because the country is great.

Cultural nostalgia is one thing, but let's not forget that there are existing cultural practices that actually encourage the poverty of nations that people may be fleeing from. One such practice would be India's sacred cows. Cows walk the street protected from slaughter even while there are people dying of starvation. Make no mistake about it--a country's successes are directly attached to its culture.

There has been a lot of negative press lately for Arizona. I for one am proud of Arizona for saying enough is enough. Our federal government is in charge of immigration policy and Arizona is simply a state that is trying to uphold that law. What we should be complaining about is the growing number of "sanctuary" cities who have adopted ordinances banning police from asking people about their immigration status. These cities include: Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Detroit, Jersey City, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Aurora, Colorado, Baltimore, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Portland, Maine, and Senath, Missouri. These cities are effecting their own immigration policies that are opposed to congress and are in violation of the U.S. Constitution which gives states and localities the freedom to pass laws in areas that are not express powers given to the federal government.

The largest problem is not the illegal immigrants themselves, but those behind their reason for coming. Businesses will pay a wage slightly higher than one can make for the same job in Mexico. Higher wages are the draw for illegals to enter the country. We need to spray some Round Up on this problem to get at its root. Businesses should be able to provide proof of legal status for all employees. When found to have hired an illegal immigrant the fine should be so large that the business would almost fold completely. After several businesses close others will see that cheap labor is not as inexpensive as it used to be. While we are at it, we can fine banks that give accounts and mortgages to illegal immigrants.

We must continue to realize that this is not a racial issue. This is a matter of law. This great social experiment called "America" will fail if not based on the rule of law. My hope for America is that we will continue to have people from all over the globe want to live here so much that they will follow proper legal channels to come here.