Category Archives: Issues

How I Feel About Swear Words, Goshdarnit.

There is a fine balance, maybe even an art, between professional, appropriate language and emotional, culturally relevant vernacular that communicates with force and clarity. And, heck, sometimes swearing at inappropriate or odd times is funny, it just is!

Parental Advisory: Explicit Semantics!

I swear entirely too much. Most of the time it is when no one is around or when it is somewhat appropriate but totally shocking to hear from me so the attempt is at humor. And sometimes it is with my family when I am mad, frustrated or in a heated argument. When I am around people who I know don’t swear or don’t believe in it I check myself and when I am around people who do swear, I tend to swear more. I suppose it is a bit hypocritical.

I used to take the stand that swear words were totally wrong and unchristian. Although that is mostly true, there are many times in the Bible where a case can be made that the speaker is using the equivalent of swear words-yep, Jesus and Paul cussed! Or at least used very colorful language.

On one hand swear words have become a very common practice within the cultural vernacular. OMG and WTF are used with very little thought-I’m sure because they are abbreviations and the actual inappropriate swear word isn’t spelled out, and therefore much more acceptable. And on the other hand it is an indication that one needs to expand their vocabulary and improve their articulation skills. Some people swear because they just don’t know what better words to use. However, sometimes (on the third hand?) there isn’t a better word to use than an ugly, jarring swear word.

My friend Joe H. made up a swear word! That’s right, he created a brand new vocabulary word! Frell. He says that although some people may assume that it is a combination of a couple of different swear words or assume that he can’t make up his mind as to what swear word he is trying to get his brain to process, that it really doesn’t mean anything but sounds awesome! I mean what the frell?! yeah, I like it.

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It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a House

Y’know when you watch a movie and then you watch it again later and it takes on a new meaning?  I re-watched Fun with Dick and Jane:

An update of the 1977 comedy, Dick and Jane are living the good life. That is until Dick (Jim Carrey) loses his job shortly after getting a promotion that convinced his wife Jane (Téa Leoni) to quit her job. The money is gone, and the house ends up in foreclosure. Dick decides to turn to a hilarious life of crime to pay the bills with his lovely wife by his side. Then together they decide it’s time to steal back what Former CEO Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin) had stolen from them.

The first thing to go is their lawn-the sod gets repossessed.  The electricity gets shut off.  They bathe in the neighbor’s sprinkler system.  They downgrade to a POS compact car.  It was a really funny movie a couple of years ago.  Now it is an uncomfortably funny movie.  You don’t have to look too far to see the effects of the current financial crisis.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the financial crisis for a few months now.  Things are getting pretty rough.  I am in the telecom industry and work for a company that can fall apart at any moment.  And I am not alone.  I have many friends and former co-workers that are jobless.  A couple of my friends just got laid off.  A few years ago there were still jobs to be found…now it is somewhat different.

Most people, even though they live paycheck to paycheck, could survive for a few months.  But then they get hungry.  And cold.  Or hot.  And frustrated.  And depressed.  And finally desperate.  Desperate people do desperate things.

Think about it.  I mean really think about it.  What if…What if you lost your job.  Spouse loses theirs.  Interview after interview, resume after resume.  Can’t find a job.  Or worse yet the ONLY job you can find a $10.00-13.00/hr job.  Any job means no unemployment checks.  Or unemployment runs out.  No insurance.  $10.00 per hour times 40 hours a week times 2 (mom & dad) equals…about $40,000 a year.  That’s about 75% to 50% of what most of my friends at Embarq make in a year (with both working).  Could your family make it if you lost 25-50% of your income?  Even those jobs will fade when folks can’t afford to eat out or remodel or whatever.

One of my favorite radio programs, This American Life, on NPR, had an incredible episode a couple of months ago entitled, Bad Bank.  They talked about a hypothetical bank-the smallest in the world, it has the owner’s $10 and a guy’s $90-he earns 3% for storing his money.  Then the bank turns around and loans $100 to a gal at 6% for a doll house.  This is called a balance sheet.  $100 in the bank, $100 being loaned out.  The bank profits 3% interest right?  Except gal loses her job and can’t afford her doll house payments anymore.  Now the bank doesn’t have the guy’s $90 to give back.  The program stated that the top 3 banks in the US have a unbalanced balance sheet-if there was a run on those banks today they would fail.  The banks want the government to know this, but not the average person!  As a friend of mine pointed out, the FDIC insures deposits up to $100,000 right?  Correct, and who pays that?  The government, the taxpayers, you and I.  And so banks are using that argument-give us a bailout now where folks can keep their homes, or bail us out later when we crash and burn and folks are homeless.

I live on a street that is full of duplexes.  The short block has maybe 20-30 families on it.  If half of them lost their jobs to the point where they could not pay their rent/mortgage and got behind to the point where they were getting evicted…if that happened over the period of a few months they would easily get escorted off the property by the authorities-some would get deported.  And what would become of empty houses?  Where would homeless folks go?  Personally I have no family in the area.  I have no friends with extra houses in the back yard.  But what if that happened over the period of a couple of weeks?  And multiply that times the number of neighborhoods around the city.  It is a much different picture.  There would not be enough police to force folks off the properties.   There would be folks who refused to leave.  There would be desperation, theft, anger, violence.  Things could get way out of control very fast.  Evicting squatters would be at the bottom of the list and the least of anyone’s worries.

OK, here it is, here is the heart of my thoughts:  What is the role of the church in these financially stressful times?
Does the church encourage their congregation to uphold the law and keep the peace?  Will churches open their doors to people who are homeless?  Open soup kitchens and clothing pantries?  Offer transportation-carpools?  Treat people with dignity and respect?  Offer training?  Assistance?  Pull their monies together?  Help single moms?  Pay mortgages and rent?  Stock food pantries?  Pay for lights, gas, water, etc?  Or be in a similarly depressing state?  Will churches end up in foreclosures too?

One of my friends has been laid off-for a year.  He paid his bills with credit cards.   He is pretty upset that he did the responsible thing, went into debt and kept current and others are getting bailed out.  And what about those that took out loans that shouldn’t?  The ones that knew they could not afford it?  The ones that depended upon the banks to deny them the loans.  They should get bailed out?  Businesses should be rewarded for failing?  It doesn’t seem fair!  The responsible ones are getting punished.  That all sound reasonable…right up until you lose your job.  And you suddenly become one who shouldn’t have taken out a loan.  You become the irresponsible one.  You become the failure.  And you feel like you have no options.

I work with a guy at Home Depot (most likely a few guys like this), he has a wife and child.  He works full time and he still qualifies for federal assistance.  I mean he is doing things right!  And he still can’t make it!  He is still at poverty level.

Another friend points out that laws are man-made and that we should do what we need to do to take care of our families.  What does that mean?  Squatting?  Stealing?

Another points out that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  But I am afraid that this line of reasoning is “prosperity Gospel” and faulty.  The truth is that God will never let anything happen to us spiritually to cause us to fall from grace-to break our spirit.  I am afraid that money is another matter.  Food, shelter, clothing, transportation-not spiritually guaranteed!  Will my theology friends steer me straight?  Or back me up?

Another says let’s go, the rapture is coming, Big Daddy is gonna take us home.  However, history paints a different picture of suffering and poverty-Christians participate, and are not delivered from it.  The plague, the depression, wars, martyrs.  God’s people are continually delivered from their sins.  Just not from the pains of this world.

And I am sure the list can go on and on.  The economy isn’t really that bad…It is the worst ever.  Tax and spending is the answer or not the answer.  The President is too liberal.  The Republicans are vetoing everything.  But I don’t care about the President or our government or economists.  I care about the church.  What is the church gonna do?

Another one of my friends attends a church who wishes to move from a temporary setting (mobile church-they set up each week in a school or some sort of facility, then tear it all down and store it during the week) to an actual building.  The pastor is continually asking for money for this endeavor.  My friend asks if that is the responsible thing to do?  The pastor is encouraging folks not to get “distracted” by the environment around them.  My friend is a little uneasy about that.  He sees people around him having a rough time.  He doesn’t want them to become a distraction that gets ignored!  He is considering giving to a charity.

What happens when folks stop paying tithe?  Not because they don’t want to, or because they don’t have any money left after paying for food.  But what if they don’t have money.  Any money!  What if they don’t have food?  No place to live?  No gas to travel?

I know it is a depressing and bleak picture.  I hope it is all crazy talk.  On one hand I say that things will never get that bad.  On the other hand I see layoffs and low-paying jobs.

But…what if?  And what will Christ’s church do?  I hope pastors are paying attention.  I hope they are thinking about preparing for a possible crisis.  I hope Christians are thinking outside of their consumer society.  Outside of their immediate family-you might not think you have extra room…but your friends may be eying your garage or basement soon.  Heck, I might be eying your basement!

I would like to know what you think.

Here’s what I think I think:

The church has a real opportunity to be the church.  The real test will be to see Christians taking in other Christians (and non-Christians!).  Families!  Will churches open their doors to the poor?  The homeless?  The filthy?  The non-Christian?  I hope so.

Will Christians do the right thing?  I don’t know what I would do if I was facing eviction.  I don’t know where I would go or what I would do.  I have no family in the area.  I don’t know who I would feel remotely comfortable asking for a place to stay-for a family of 6.  Or a handout.  Or a ride to work.  I would really want to stay and become a squatter in my rented duplex-my landlords have a real nice house…until they need to downgrade to my place.  I hope I embrace legal and peaceful options.  I hope I remember who is my Father.  I hope I remember you, my friends and offer to help you.

Will Cristian landlords reduce rent?  Will Christian business owners take a decrease in pay?  Will Christians continue to sacrificially give?  Will Christian landlord evict families?  Well, these are difficult ones that have no easy answers.

I hope most of these questions will not have to be answered-especially by me.


PS:  Please send pics of your basement.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Although I did not blog a great deal this past year, I have been reading many blogs-mostly my friends’-that have challenged me and have helped me grow.  There are links to those blogs along the sides here, but a special thanks to Pastor Donnie, Pastor Monte Asbury, Joe Kumor, Joe Hays, Dave Brush & Bill Marty (also a shout out to Ben and Irene DeLong).

So here is a quick look back to 2008 and a possible peek at the future.

Looking Back at 2008

2008 was one of the fastest years for me.  It seemed to go by at light speed.  I am sure that working 2 jobs had a lot to do with it.  Minnie and the twins have been in drama classes and performances this past semester and that has also contributed to a very busy schedule.

Transportation was another issue that contributed to business as well as financial strain.  One minivan has had the engine replaced, the other had the transmission rebuilt and also had the head gasket replaced.  And now my minivan needs radiator work.  Fun times.  It is hard for us when we only have one vehicle.

It has been over a year since we entered into the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program.  My check is being garnished to pay off student loan debt, but the amount that is being garnished doesn’t even cover the interest.  Our church now offers online tithing, and we are taking advantage of that-It isn’t even a conscious choice, tithe just automatically gets taken out of our check.  So we are regularly tithing, we feel pretty good about this.

I finally signed up with Facebook this past spring, which is likely a reason for less blogging.  I had never done any of the social networking sites, so it was all new to me.  I have been able to reconnect with friends from college, high school and even elementary school.  I joined a group dedicated to the alumni of my old youth group-that has been especially fun.  I have been able to better stay in touch with close friends and have had some relationships strengthen.  On the down side I am addicted to a couple of the games-Mob Wars in particular.  Join my mob, feed my addiction.

Daycare has been a pretty jolting change this month.  All of our children have been with the same daycare provider-so for over 12 years we have been with the same babysitter.  Earlier this month without notice, our daycare provider announced that she is closing the daycare, is divorcing her husband, moving out of her house and moving in with her lesbian friends.  Not much more to say about that.  We found a new daycare and will start in a few days.

Looking Forward

I kinda agree with my friend Dave B about not going on and on about new year resolutions.  Now having said that, Minnie wanted a Wii Fit and I found one at the very last minute.  I feel fat.  I look fat.  Heck, I probably smell, and sound fat too.  I would really like to lose weight.  Maybe I will this year.  It would be a very healthy move.

Other than that I have no major issues that I wish to address.  Notice I didn’t say that I have no major issues.  I have lots of issues.  I just wish to ignore them.

But that isn’t totally true.  I mean I am at a pretty healthy spot in my life.  Physically, spiritually, economically, relationally and emotionally I am pretty good.  Same thing for the rest of my family.  Of course there is always room to grow, to love better, to worship without barriers, to serve more, to rest more, to eat better, etc.  And I think most of the time my family is progressing on that endless journey.  Joe Kumor is our small group pastor and that has been a very healthy thing for our family.  Love you guys-had a blast ringing in the year on New Years Eve!

Kaleb and Keegan turn 13 this month.  Teenagers.  Yeah, pretty big deal.  They have been practicing their teen attitudes for awhile now.  But overall they are great kids.  They are healthy, doing well in school and have pretty good attitudes most of the time.  They have great friends and they have a zeal for life.  Not to mention that they own the Nintendo Wii and DS Lite.  Love you guys!  Remember the XBOX 360 is mine, so be good or you won’t be able to play Guitar Hero World Tour any more.  Just sayin’.

Calvin turned 5 last month and Corbin turns 3 at the end of this month.  Everyone is growing up.

And that has been the biggest awakening of all during 2008 that I can take into 2009-I am getting older.  We are all getting older.  All my boys are growing up, becoming young boys and on their way to young men.  Kaleb and Keegan will never get that tree house I promised them if we ever bought a house.  Minnie (turns 40 this year) and I are approaching *GULP* MID-LIFE.   And that just seems weird.  Is half of my life really over?  Most likely.

So I suppose that it is time for a mid-life crises.  I am open to suggestions.


The Ups and Downs of Life

It seemed I was a mite of sediment
That waited for the bottom to ferment
So I could catch a bubble in ascent.
I rode up on one till the bubble burst,
And when that left me to sink back reversed
I was no worse off than I was at first.
I’d catch another bubble if I waited.
The thing was to get now and then elated.
—Robert Frost, In a Glass of Cider

The Flood of 2008

I received this vivid and emotional email from my very good friend, Dave Phares. Dave and I grew up together in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dave is now a pastor in Monticello, IA. My mom and step dad also live in Cedar Rapids-they are outside of the flood area. Thank you Dave for sending this out.


I was in downtown Cedar Rapids again yesterday. I’ve never seen anything like it in Iowa before. The other day I was talking to my wife about floods and I mentioned to her that I’m an Iowan, and this means I’m used to flooding and tornados every spring. But this is unreal. A town to the north was destroyed by a tornado. I heard it was a half-mile wide tornado. I didn’t believe the person at first, because we don’t have EF5’s in Iowa. We get little tornados that take a roof or two, and uproot a few trees here and there. Occasionally we’ll lose a couple of buildings. The half-mile wide variety tornados are pretty much reserved for Texas and Oklahoma. But sure enough, it was measured as an EF5. The strongest tornado in Iowa in over 30 years. Now the flood. A couple of weeks ago they were saying we might equal 1993. Then we heard that this might exceed 93 by two feet. Then, when it was supposed to crest on Wednesday at 24 feet (2 above 93) we got a storm (the same system that produced the tornado that killed the scouts, an EF3 they say). That storm hit the brakes over central to eastern Iowa and dumped on us for several hours. All of a sudden we were around 10 feet over the 93 level. All this is to say that things are strange this year.

Back to Cedar Rapids, for those of you who know the town, the water went from 10th street between Mercy Hospital and McKinley Middle School (my Junior High!) to the east, and to the foot of the hill that Kingston Stadium/Vets Memorial stadium sit on to the West. It took my parents house and went about 8 or 9 feet from the ground level. My sister’s house is dry, but she lives only about a half mile from the western edge of the flooding. This flood took out thousands of residences. The smell of the city reminds me of wet cats and dogs who’ve decided to take a roll in their own feces. The A&W on Ellis had sludge all around it, and sadly it had the worst smell I’ve encountered so far. You know it was sewage. Downtown is completely dark except where work crews have lights running via generators. Downtown is likely to be dead for a while. There is talk of the city and county government offices moving into Westdale mall. The city busses are taking up residence at Kingston stadium, the central police station has moved…everything is different. There is no lighted traffic control at all down there. Stop signs have been put up everywhere, and it takes considerably longer to get around. Red cross trucks are all over driving 10 miles an hour, passing out water to anyone who needs it. On Friday the whole town was at work cleaning out the ruined stuff in their houses. Almost everything the flood touched gets tossed. If you’ve ever been into the “bad” neighborhoods in any big city, you know what it looks like when someone’s been evicted: all their stuff sits on the street corner. Imagine that, but with a pile in front of every single building. Even the high rise buildings downtown.

I got to see my parents house on Friday. This isn’t the house we grew up in. It’s the place my parents bought two years ago; small but nice. There’s mold already growing on the kitchen cabinets. Every conceivable peice of wood is warped…the doors, the floors…everything. The carpet that was once a light grey is now dark brown. The whole thing has to be gutted. And that is the story for everyone in their neighborhood, and for everyone in around 4000 houses. Then there’s Iowa City, Waterloo, etc…everyone’s been hit.

But you know what is cool. On Friday I saw the whole town out working. Not a few industrious people, but the whole town. Think of the man hours it took to make those piles in front of the houses. On Friday afternoon there were thousands of people in every neighborhood cleaning up and patching things together. I love being an Iowan. I love being a midwesterner. We may be considered fly over country by those on the coasts, but in the hearts of these people is the same rugged determination that defined the early pioneers. No complaining that the government should do more. No whining about “why me?” Just elbow grease and determination. There ain’t no way the people are going to give up, they’re up for the fight. It was good to see.
-Dave Phares-

Derin Says: I just want to add that many folks who bought new houses in the past 10 years were told that they were way outside of the flood plain and they were not even given the opportunity to buy flood insurance-and now their houses are underwater. FEMA may be able to help some folks. I remember the flood of 93 pretty vividly. Water would pour in over engines and ruin them. People were replacing hot water heaters multiple times. Cattle and other farm animals died. Crops were ruined. My car got stuck in a foot of water (my stupidity to try to drive through it). Branches and trees were down daily. All kinds of flood water and none safe to drink. And on and on. It seemed to never quit raining. And this time it is much worse.

My friend Scott called me last week-another person I grew up with in Iowa. Even though Scott lives in St. Jo with his family, his mom still lives in Cedar Rapids-she’s OK. He told me that this has been quite an emotional experience for him.
Posted by Durk (without Dave’s formal permission)

Lost Luggage-When I Grow Up I want to Be an Adult

Our past has a sneaky way of catching up with us. The truth is we all have our own baggage that we would like to permanently misplace somewhere. Throw it out, burn it, leave it behind-lost forever. Most of us deny our past, forget it, pretend like it never happened and we move on. But we don’t move on. Because we don’t know how. We get stuck. Our past effects our today.

My good friend Irene had such an experience. I appreciate her honesty and I hope she embarks on a journey of healing. But it reminded me of my own journey and my own past.

My 4 year old had a very tough time waking up this morning. I didn’t just switch topics… It turns out that even though mom and dad sent him to bed, he didn’t actually go to bed or to sleep. Instead he was caught by my twins playing in his room with his toys with the light on pretty late! Of course HIS version of the story was that our twins barged into his room, turned the lights on and woke him up.

This is what children do: They make bad decisions, they suffer unknown consequences and then they angrily blame someone else later on. But, that’s what kids do! They don’t know any better. When Calvin realizes that it feels better to be awake and happy in the morning then he’ll make better decisions at night. Or he’ll understand that he is the reason why he is cranky and whiny. But today he is 4 and he just doesn’t get it. So it is the responsibility of someone older and wiser to guide him and help him make the right decisions. Someone safe.

What happens when the influence isn’t wiser or safe? What if another guides us in the wrong direction? What if an adult hurts us? Well, then we get a whole lot of 4 year old adults running around.

I have a past too. And so does my spouse. It is ugly stuff. Abuse, hurt, pain…unhealthiness. At one time we were adult children, running around making bad decisions that hurt ourselves and others. We blamed our past and we blamed others. Because we didn’t know how to make good decisions-we just didn’t know what that looked like. We just knew the screwed up past. We had an inkling that our past wasn’t the same past as most of our friends. We hoped that the present wasn’t how things were supposed to be. But we didn’t have the maturity to make the right decisions. We become a wounded adult child. We needed help. We needed another healthy influence to help us grow up. And to help us realize that we are responsible for the choices we make today.

So some of us seek help. I spent the first several years of my marriage in various Christian self-help groups. Christian 12-step programs, learning how to recognize the screwed upness of my present, learning how to set boundaries. Recognizing who caused the pain, identifying the unhealthiness in the past, understanding how it effects my present and finally recognizing that I am the only one to blame for my present. Recognizing my need for Christ and healthy friends. I found safety. I found people who were like me. I found healing. And I was able to break free of my past and be liberated.

I didn’t do it on my own, but I grew up somewhere along the line. I still have my past-I can’t erase it. It isn’t lost luggage. It isn’t stuck in a closet somewhere. But it is no longer the centerpiece of my life. And it no longer controls me. I have learned how to deal with it, to live with it. It is neatly packed and out of the way. Where it belongs. Where it won’t hurt me or others. I don’t have a need for it. Because it is dirty and trashy. But I understand it. I remember it when I need to. And most of all I learn from it. I recognize when I am doing something because of it. And I make a different decision. A healthy decision. And because of that damn dirty, filthy, sinful, painful, abusive, harmful past I am able to help others. I become a wounded healer. That is a miracle and it is grace and mercy all at the same time. Heck, now I am an adult among many 4 year olds! It seems absurd at times. I’m the healthy one! Healthier anyway…

Minnie and I are always keeping an eye out for those around us who are wounded and who we identify with and who might be looking to grow up. We’ve been there. We want to help. The truth is we aren’t the parent/adult that is needed in their lives. Christ is the only healthy adult that can truly transform and heal and restore one to healthiness. Fortunately Minnie and I know that Holy Father. And we would like to facilitate introductions.


A Great Time to be Alive-Cures for Cancer and Autism

I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate life and modern advancements in medicine. And God’s timing as well.

My friend Cliff has terminal cancer. It is this cancer that is in his chest. The doctors were talking about quality of life and not quantity of life. They were certain that cancer would eventually take his life. They had talked about surgery as a last resort-if Cliff became disabled or had trouble breathing etc. That was before.

Cliff went into surgery a couple of weeks ago-the cancer was pressing against his spine and he couldn’t walk. The surgery was successful. Cliff called me a couple of days after the surgery-he was winded-he was already walking with a walker! He asked me if he had told me that he has a new doctor. He had failed to mention that his old doctor lives a few houses down from another doctor; they shared notes and the new doctor took Cliff’s files with him on vacation and spent about 12 hours looking over the data. He came back and scheduled a consultation with Cliff. This new doctor believes that he can get ALL OF THE CANCER out of Cliff’s body. Amazing. There have been so many cool advances in medicine.

Another very cool advancement: When Cliff was researching his cancer a couple of years ago he discovered that a few doctors were using missle guidance systems to operate on cancer patients. The laser would move along with the patient’s breathing and movements as it targeted cancer! Pretty crazy.

If Cliff hadn’t gotten worse when he did his doctor may have never offered his records to another doctor who seemed to have the miraculous skills and knowledge to eradicate “terminal” cancer. That, my friends, is God’s timing.

Another modern development surrounds Autism. Autism has been in the news lately and rightfully so! The storeis don’t really tell you what is going on behind the scenes that are spawning the stories that you are seeing on TV and hearing on the radio. When children and military personnel receive vaccination shots mercury is used as a preservative. Most folks can naturally excrete the mercury from their system. But some cannot. Remember the Mad Hatter from Alice and Wonderland? The phrase, “Mad as a hatter”, was used many years ago to describe folks who hand-crafted hats. The manufacturing process contained mercury (in the tools I think), eventually these folks display symptoms of anger and madness! Why? Answer: mercury.

Mercury is NOT good for the body. Mercury surrounds nerves and blocks signals. The cool thing is that mercury does not damage the cells and nerves, it just holds them hostage! Most people have a natural ability to excrete mercury from their system. Others, it seems, may not excrete the mercury so easily-they get vaccinations and shots and the mercury settles in the brain and they then develop symptoms of Autism or OCD or mental illness. I do not think that vaccines and shots are preserved with mercury an longer.

So anyway some doctors are taking unprecedented and alternative approaches to helping folks who suffer with Autism and other symptoms such as OCD. The goal is to flush the mercury out of the body! Testing along with medicine, in some folks, has resulted in a HUGE reduction in the symptoms. Dan Marino’s son suffered from autism. He went through the expensive and lengthy process and now his son does not have any signs of autism. One of the bad things is that the process makes symptoms worse before they get better. But a possible cure for Autism-a very little known condition? AMAZING! Now the science is still out there, some folks go through the program and are still autistic. Autism is a very misunderstood condition. Some folks may have Autism “naturally”, while others may have it because their body does not naturally excrete mercury.

Here’s the real story that gets buried: You won’t see drug companies jumping on the bandwagon to offer these “detox” drugs to folks though. They don’t want to admit that their drugs that used mercury as a preservative were harmful in the first place! Can you imagine the money that the drug companies would lose? Well, you don’t have to imagine. Lawsuits have already been filed and won (or settled) by folks to have the big drug companies pay the $75,000 that it costs to go through the mercury detox programs. The programs last about a year. Which means an autistic child MAY be “cured” within a year. THAT is amazing! Extremely amazing.

I work with a gentleman who is going through the program with his daughter. He was in the military and suffers from OCD and his daughter has Autism. They are both pretty brilliant people. They understand that their behavior is not rational. But they don’t have a choice. Maybe advancements in modern medicine will offer a cure.


I Am With You Always-Jesus Action Figures

UPDATED POST:  The original website is here:   But the website seems to no longer work.  It seems that the manufacturer is selling these through and I have linked to them below:

I am Freedom–Biker Jesus

Biker Jesus Figurine
by Fishermen

I am Freedom–Biker Jesus

I am Spirit–Surfing Jesus

Jesus Action Figure Surfing “I am Spirit”
by Fishermen

I am Spirit–Surfer Jesus

I am Victory–Soccer Jesus

Jesus Soccer Action Figure ‘I Am Victory’
by Fishermen

I am Victory–Soccer Jesus

I am Peace-Camo

Jesus Action Figure Military Outfit I am Peace

I am Peace–Camo Jesus

I’d like to hear what YOU have to say about these Jesus action figures.


Blessed Beyond Grace and Giving Thanks

I used a new phrase in the past couple of weeks, “Blessed beyond Grace”. Now, I don’t know if I actually coined it, but I can’t consciously remember hearing it. And, quite frankly, I like the phrase a whole lot. At first read there is no such thing as being blessed outside of grace. But I mean it to say that I am blessed beyond Grace (capital G). Beyond salvation, beyond reconciliation, beyond forgiveness. I am blessed even though I have been made right with God and have a relationship through Jesus Christ. I am blessed even beyond that. God has chosen, for whatever reason (and let’s be accurate-out of grace) to bless me with many other things in addition to salvation (Grace). I hope that makes sense…God continues to pile on the goodness on top of salvation.

I was born in the richest nation in the world. I have clean running water that probably has fluoride for the teeth and minerals added for good health . I don’t merely live in shelter, but a 3-bedroom duplex with a garage and basement. And not out in the sticks or isolation or in the middle of a crowded ‘hood, but in wealthy, affluent, convenient Johnson County, KS. I have 4 Wal-Marts within 10 minutes of my house, like 20 within 20 minutes. Heck, 135th st has 2 Wal-Marts, a Sam’s Club, 3 Price Choppers, and at least 5 Mc Donald’s-all on one friggin’ street. (Is “friggin” a cuss word?)

I am not merely clothed, I have designer jeans, name brand underwear, new socks, a catalog-company shirt and a super warm fleece. And shoes. And that isn’t merely what I am wearing today, but my drawers and closets are full of nice clothing.

Shelter, clothing…FOOD. Yeah, fridge stocked with it, freezer in the basement, cupboards and pantry full of it. I am at least 50 pounds over weight.

Transportation, check. I have 2 minivans. That alone makes me wealthier than 92% of the world.

So, I guess what I am saying is that I have much to be thankful for and, that ultimately, I am blessed WAY beyond Grace. I have an awesome family. My wife loves me. I have 4 healthy boys. I have 2 wiener dogs (Dash & Izzy) that are mostly potty trained. I have a great job and so does my wife. I have an XBOX360 and a Wii. Ahh, blessed. I have friends who love me (or at least love to make fun of me). I am mostly healthy. I am somewhat intelligent and educated. I go to a great church with a great support system. I work with great people.

You can’t get much better than that.

Here is the Beechner family Christmas card 2007. Derin & Minnie are in the back. Then Keegan is on the right left and Kaleb on the left right, they will be 12 in mid January. Calvin will be 4 in mid December and Corbin will be 2 at the end of January.

Beechner Family Christmas Pic

Notice the sledding pics?

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Happy New Year,


Is the Church Failing Politically?

I posed this question to a fellow believer this weekend: If the American government is not restored religiously does this mean the Church has failed? Let me explain.

We were having a conversation about religion and politics. It was stated that America was founded on Christian principals and by Christian leaders. I agree. It was also stated that America needs to repent and to be restored to a Godly nation. I agree. So I clarified, I asked what the role of Christianity (or Christ) is in someone’s personal life? And we agreed to restore that individual to God-So that they can enter into a relationship with Christ.

What if that never happens in our American government? What if Christian leaders don’t make it into elected/appointed government leadership roles? The response I got was that then America would be worse off and stand in judgment! AGREED! At least in the spiritually. The response I got was that God would raise up Godly leaders. And once again it was re-stated that individuals need to reconcile to Christ and be saved. What if Godly leaders are not raised? Is that failure on God’s part? On the church’s? I think not. My friends thought differently.

Although I agree that individuals need to be reconciled, need to be saved, need to have the transformation that can only occur through Christ Jesus, what if that change never comes to fruition within American politics and leaderships? What if Christians constantly become the minority and pushed underground? The truth is that America is becoming secular and “turning away from God” I only put it in quotes because I am not so sure America was ever that Godly.

So I posed the question: If the American government is not restored religiously does this mean the Church has failed? Keep in mind that it is the role of the Christian to follow Christ-to help introduce individuals to Christ. It is the church’s role to change individuals! Not the government. Do I believe that Christians should not have a role in politics? NO! But I also do not believe that by not converting Congress that that somehow means failure on the part of the church.

Because take America out of the equation. What if we were Chinese or Middle Eastern or Russian? Would the calling that Christians have be any different? No. The culture would be different, the location would be different, our methods would be different-things would look different. But not the calling, not the Gospel message, not the task, not Christ.

And what happens over and over again to the church when it is given a taste of power? When Christianity was first legalized? When it gathered a military to fight against Jews and Muslims? When the Religious Right pulled the political puppet strings? Things were bad. People got hurt. People got lazy. Grace was cheapened. Religion was fashionable.

I think the day is coming when the American church will be restored to its “rightful” place: a position of humility. A position of persecution. A position of servanthood. Where Christianity is not popular, not worn like a badge of honor, not respected and where it is difficult to be a Christian. That day is already a reality for Christians in the Middle East, Russia, China, Muslim cultures, etc. And where is the church victorious? The church is growing in China and Russia. The Middle East is making martyrs out of Christians-heroes of the Christian faith. The blood of the saints is the seed of the church people! Lives are being transformed in the Middle East and in Muslim countries.

What say you?


11 Presidential Issues

Building on the last post ( I want to talk a bit about the 11 issies reflected in the 11 Questions from the survey.

Issue #1 Iraq: Question: What is your opinion on the war in Iraq? I can only assume that the 6 answers were a summary of all the candidates. I didn’t agree with any one answer, but I closest identified with: “We are going to be in Iraq for a long time, as a support force for the Iraqi government and forces.” I believe the US should should hunker down, and militarily keep peace, set up a permanent base and start to focus on rebuilding while we train their military and create a completely safe environment for the Iraqis to form their government. The killing HAS to stop-and that can only be done with an effective military/police presence (Iraqi and foreign). My preferred exit strategy: None, we set up shop just like Germany and Japan. And we support the government in the same way-let them become independent, but never out of our sight. Or we leave and watch the whole country fall apart-which is lose-lose for everyone. I selected “Very Important.”

Issue #2: Immigration: Question: What is your position on immigration in the United States? Again, I didn’t agree 100% with any one answer. And I think I choose a different answer each time. I am trying to find the Christian answer to this and not just the Republican answer. Security is the most important part of this one to me, the US needs to know who is coming here. A fence is a joke. I don’t believe in blanket amnesty, but I don’t think the answer is splitting up families and blanket deportation either. I don’t support government-funded welfare either, you can’t just come to this country and not work! I like the bill that was just presented extending amnesty to children who were dragged here by their family. I believe in stiff fines and penalties for employers. I think denying citizenship for children born here to illegals is insane and not to mention, illegal. So I guess I’ll pick ‘Tighten security first, but I also believe we should provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already here.” And pick 3rd out of most important.

Issue #3: Taxes: Question: Do you believe the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts should be made permanent? This is where my conservatism shines through. YES. Plain and simple. Importance: let’s make it a 2.

Issue #4: Stem-Cell Research: Question: Should federal funding of embryonic stem cell research be expanded? This is where my pro-life stance shines through…Nope, especially federally-funded. Now having said that there is stem cell research that does NOT include embryonic. I have no problems with that. I still have a problem with the federal government funding it. Importance? Eh, I don’t know. Is this a big deal? The short answer is that it depends. I’ll make it a 2.

Issue #5: Health Care: Question: Do you favor or oppose the concept of universal health care in America? A few months ago I would have opposed this. Today…I keep asking myself what is the compassionate thing to do? And I keep asking what is the best for those that simply can’t afford to pay for health care? And the reasonable answer is to favor universal health care. I don’t want my taxes raised because of it. Importance: Pretty high, 3.

Issue: 6: Abortion: Do you favor or oppose legalized abortion in the United States?  Of course I picked that I oppose legalized abortion.  Not much room for debate there.  However, the importance…I hope this isn’t news:  abortion is legal in the US.  And it would take some pretty huge legislation to change that.  As a Christian I believe that abortion is a modern, on-going holocaust.  However, the US is not a Christian nation!  It is secularizing at a pretty good clip.  So even though it is important to ME I don’t think abortion will significantly change in the near future-no matter what the president vbeleives.  Unless maybe if the Church steps up and becomes known for the place to have your baby in a safe environment that pays expenses and gives the child a good home.  I rated it as a 2.

Issue 7:  Social Security: Question:  Do you favor the concept of privatization of Social Security to any degree? Conservative me:  Yep.  Importance:  High, 4th (highest).  What to say.  I hope that I can take advantage of Social Security benefits when I retire.  I think I can invest money better than the US government.

Issue 8:  Line-Item Veto: Question:  Do you favor or oppose giving the president a “line-item” veto; that is, the ability to remove parts of a spending bill without needing to veto the entire bill? Yes I do and not that important, 2.  Sometimes less is more.  At least part of the bill would get passed without sneaky pork spending!

Issue #9:  Energy: Question:  Do you support federal assistance for the production of ethanol and/or biofuel as an alternative to oil? Yeah.  It is time to the US becomes more independent from foreign oil.  And I don;t think that the private market cares to step up.  So I think it is BEST for all in the US if the gov’t paid for it.  Importance:  Well, would we be in IRaq if we were like primitive South American countries that are independent from any foreign fuels?  No, Saddam would still be killing people.  So it is of the highest importance, 4.

Issue #10:  Marriage: Question:  Do you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman? Yawn.  This is an issue that detracts from other important issues.  Don’t mess with the federal Constitution, leave the issue up to states where the power belongs.  So oppose, importance, not very, I give it a 1.

Issue #11:  Death Penalty: Question:  Do you favor or oppose the use of the death penalty for certain crimes?  Let’s just say I am consistent, I don’t believe in killing unborn babies nor born grown-ups.  I know that the Bible allows for it.  I get it. Would Jesus go around killing?  No.  Another issue that tends to detract from starving people who can’t afford health care and can’t find paying jobs. Importance:  Well, more important than issue #10, 2.

Candidate:  Sam Brownback?  Yeah right.  Fred is like 10th!  But I have filled it out where he was like 3rd or 4th.  Anyway, I’m with Fred for now.  And YES, the results DID surprise me.

So here is MY criteria:  I will vote for a candidate that most alignes with the way I believe.  I won’t single out one issue.   I will also vote for a candidate that has a chance in hades to win.  A vote for a 3rd party is a vote for Clinton!  And that is simply bad news.  So let’s say it comes down to Hillary vs. Giuliani…I will vote Republican.


Which Presidential Candidate…

…Identifies most with issues important to you?

Check out this site to find out:

The results may surprise you.


PS Thanks to local radio station KMBZ for this link.

The Door’s Interview with Brian McLaren

I enjoyed this interview with Brian McLaren in the Wittenburg Door Magazine

It led me on a search for Brian McLaren’s thoughts on homosexuality:
I  found the comments VERY interesting too.

And that led me to this article by Mark Driscoll who is a critic of the Emergent movement and directly responds to the above article (which also led me to research what a “male lesbian” is):  And an apology at the end?  WAY COOL!

All I can say is wow.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


An Emerging Me is Changing My Life

I am recognizing that our culture is changing. We are moving from a modern culture [or have already moved] into a post-modern culture. And that means a whole lot of different things to different folks. So I am exploring what that means to me and to share links to friends and findings related to an emergent culture and to an emerging me.  I created a new page called EMERGING ME.  Primarily I am exploring this concept in relation to the emerging church, but I also want to recognize post-modernity in everyday life and in my American culture and the influences it has had on me and the world.  And future trends.

Unfortunately all of what I wrote and what I read is so vague and mysterious and (gulp) subjective.   I wish someone would just stand up and start pointing to all of the modern influences on my life and tell me what to change.  But even that concept is a modern one.  And it is how I got to where I am!  I have been told what THE ONLY biblical way of looking at the world is.  I have been given the picture of how God looks and how salvation works.  And I was told not to deviate from the plan!  I have been told what to do and what not to do.  Alcohol is bad, period.  And those that drink, well they are bad too, even my conservative, reformed brother in Christ.  Heck he smokes a pipe and cigars too!  And he likes Halloween!  How can he be a Christian?  How can he be saved?  And he is a 5-point Calvinist!  DON’T GET ME STARTED!  The TRUTH is that Dan IS a fellow follower of Christ.  He teaches me new things about what it means to be Christ-like all the time.  He IS my brother in Christ.

It used to be that theology was organic, it changed, not the tenants, not the Orthodoxy, but what that looked like in culture and what it looked like in relation to the latest issues.  It changed as it relates to politics, music, customs, etc.  And then it was defined, outlined, proven and solidified.  But guess what?  Culture changed, politics changed, music changed, customs changed and people changed.  God didn’t change, but our response to the Gospel and our relationship with Christ should always be changing.  What it means to be saved from our sins changes and to be reconciled with God changes.  Yes it does, YES it does! If nothing else it changes with our sins, it changes with our relationships!  But it also changes with our culture and with the changes of life.  Morphing, improving, growing, evolving.  And sometimes that demands theology and religion to change too.  God does not change.  But we change.  People change.

The way we learn has changed (scholastically and scientifically, the Internet and blogging).  What we are learning has changed (microbiology, modern medicine, space).  Transportation has changed drastically just over the past 100 years!  Commerce changed.   Technology changes drastically every few months.  And ALL of the effects our relationship with God and others.   No you say?  When is the last time you wrote a letter?  How about an email?  IM?  Big deal?  When is the last time what you said in an email was misinterpreted?  Letters used to be read differently than our casual emails.  We have instant ways of written communication that can intentionally and unintentionally hurt our friends, families and others.  And it can also build us up and encourage one another.

The reformation changed religion forever and for the better because the church needed to change.  The Holiness movement changed religion in the US and in England (sigh…for the better-mostly).

Likewise, I believe that the emergent conversation that is going on in this country will change religion and the church forever.  And believe me, the church needs to change.  The church needs to help the poor again.  The church needs to stand up for justice again.  The church needs to help people again (even gay people).  The church needs to be Christ again.   The church needs to stand for peace and reconciliation again.

I AM CHANGING.   I WILL CONTINUE TO CHANGE.  Even if it hurts.  Even if it is hard.  Even if the costs are high.  Even if I don’t want to.  But today I do want to change, I want to be a better person.


Reminders Change My Life

It is a shame, but I have to constantly be reminded of things that are pretty basic. Here is a short list:

  • Back up data (see a few posts ago)
  • I am a Christian first
  • War is bad

I am sure my wife has a much longer list.

I Am A Christian First

My Pastor Donnie recently reminded me of this and Monte’s blog reminded me again and re-enforced this idea. I have a tendency to be a Republican first. So instead of seeking a proper biblical or Christ-like response I look to Rush Limbaugh, the news and NPR BEFORE I look to the Bible, the church or to my brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is simply wrong. I am a follower of Christ FIRST and foremost. I just happen to be born in the US, so I am an American next and finally I align myself politically with many of the ideas of the Republican party-and that should be last on the list, or near last. That means I have to ask myself what would Jesus do? Or what is the right thing to do biblically? Or what is just? Or what is the least harmful response. Who is going to get hurt the most and why? And then ask questions regarding freedom, the US’s view of liberty and lastly, personal responsibility, private ownership and free trade and open commerce. I have failed to do this in the past. And for that I am sorry and I want to do better.  I want to change.

War is Bad, but Sometimes Justified

Although it is not always avoidable, war is bad. Killing people is bad. Stopping bad people from continuing to hurt and kill people is almost always the more right thing to do. It is just. it is right. And many times that looks like war. And sometimes it does not, sometimes there is diplomacy and embargoes and such. But war should be entered into cautiously, be very calculated and be decisive and short. So I have to ask those questions I was just telling myself to ask when talking about war. WWII was a war that, I believe, was justified entering into. Hitler=BAD, killing Jews=bad, attacking the US=bad, world domination=bad, stopping the Axis=good. Ending tyranny=good. Lives were sacrificed, but for a much greater good.

But what about the Iraq war? Well, I don’t have all the answers. I think many of the things that Saddam Hussein did to the people of Iraq were wrong. And so did a court from his country. He was tried and put to death. Saddam will not be hurting anyone else ever again. That is a good thing, it is a greater good. But invading Iraq? This war could have been avoided and should have been handled differently. Intelligence was bad, caution was thrown to the wind, calculations were inaccurate, planning was incomplete, and the war goes on and on with no decisive end in sight. I’d like to think that Bush’s intentions were good and that things have progressed badly. I am also not talking about “war on terror.” A declaration of war on atrocity and murder and oppression and evil is noble, justified and should be the goal of every country and every people-it is the greater good. All people of the world should be able to live in freedom and peace no matter their skin color, where they were born or what they believe.

But back to Iraq, OK, we did it, we are there, so now what? I don’t know. I think we should either gain control and establish peace and restoration or get the heck out. The first will take a whole lot more effort, people, and military might. I think dragging it out forever is NOT the answer and some of the rules of engagement are getting people on both sides killed. The latter will leave a country to fend for itself. And I believe that that will leave Iraq to be a breeding ground for hate groups like the Taliban and al Qeada to do what they have don in the past, initially come in, establish peace and appear to save the day and then make life miserable for the Muslim people, especially women and children.

This is change for me. Change is difficult, but it is good.


The Times are a Changin’ or maybe it is Just Me?

This past week has been a pretty big one for me. I will try to get it all out, but this week there have been a few changes in the way I think and look at life. Now I have to say that all these changes didn’t really occur overnight or in the course of a week. I have been learning over months and years.

My work laptop crashed last week. That allowed me to slow down a bit and read some blogs a bit! Where to start…for the past few years I have had a strong interest in the Emerging Church. It is a philosophical and theological and lots of other “icals”. And I ran across a website for Emergent Nazarenes. There was a really cool post there that asked folks to share ideas about ways one can cultivate humility in their lives. One of the comments was by Monte. Well I knew this just had to be Monte Asbury, a pastor friend from the Nazarene church I grew up in. And sure enough it was! Monte is still pastoring in Washington, IA. And he has a lot of insightful things to say. And so I began to read his blog.


Monte is one of those people that has a way of making huge impressions on you. Now I am sure if you ask Monte about me he will say that I was some kid that grew up in a church where he attended before he was a pastor.  (And actually he will be MUC kinder and he will remember more than I think!)  I am sure he knew who’s kid I was, but other than that I was some young kid and he was a married guy with children. He wasn’t a youth leader.  He also might remember that  I saw him again a few years ago at a Robbert Webber worship conference (I JUST discovered that Robert Webber died? OH MAN I’ll get back to that in a later post). We were both older. And he recommended a book to me: A New Kind of Christian. That was one of the best recommendations ever.

Monte Asbury had a HUGE impact on me when I was in high school. There was a gentlemen in our church that died of cancer. Bernie Herne. Bernie was a patron saint in our church. He was so Christ-like and holy. He was so cool, he was humble and gentle and loving. He is one of the folks that I identify with being sanctified and filled with the holy spirit. At the funeral many were quiet and mournful. Except for one. This one guy, he kept talking out load during parts of the service. Someone would talk about the life of Bernie and the love of Christ and this guy would proclaim, “yes” or “Amen”. And then someone sang a song and the message was that living here is alright and heaven must be cool too, but if they had chance to choose between the two they’d go home, to be with their Lord in heaven. AND THIS GUY, HE LOSES IT! He is shouting and almost hollering, “PRAISE GOD” and “AMEN.” I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. You see Bernie was at peace. He was home! He wasn’t in pain anymore. But more than that, he got to finally be in the presence of his Savior! He got to meet the Christ that he had faithfully served. I didn’t fully understand that. But Monte sure did. He got it. And it made him so happy to know that this guy who he called friend and brother finally went home where he belonged! Monte is another person who I think of when I think of what it means to be sanctified. That memory is burned into my mind. It was so powerful to me. Monte really understood something that I wanted to get. And not much has changed.

Look for more changes…


I Remember 9/11

It is September 11, 2007. What does NPR say about the significance of this day in history? That six years ago 2 jet liners “went off course.” And then they went on with the rest of the news…Umm, what?

In addition to the planes taking a wrong turn, they were hijacked,250px-national_park_service_9-11_statue_of_liberty_and_wtc_fire.jpg by terrorists and then purposefully flown into 2 different World Trade Center towers. And then they fell to the ground. And another plane crashed before it got to the Pentagon and penetrated the outer walls of the Pentagon. And finally the sacrificial take-down and crash of United Flight 93. A whole lot of people died that day. People from all over the world. Innocent people.

I guess those were minor details. Or boring.

America was attacked on September 11, 2001. I refuse to forget. I hope you won’t either. Heck, I can’t forget. I remember where I was…at work, watching the second plane hit and the towers fall. And then being glued to the TV for the next few weeks. One of the most terrifying images (and sounds) burned into my brain are of those that jumped from windows to their death. That still haunts me today.

I also remember who took responsibility-Bin Laden-who is the leader and founder of al-Qeada-who’s objectives include the end of foreign influence in Muslim countries and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate (Bin Laden’s ultimate intention?). This idea of caliphate is pretty huge. I invite you to read more about what Orson Scott Card has to say on this subject here-basically a caliph could unite the Muslim world and expand al-Qeada on a global scale-Islamic world domination. And believe me, uniting Muslims throughout the world whose primary intentions are to kill infidels…very bad.

I remember what countries were training terrorists (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, etc). I remember what country refused to follow UN resolutions (Iraq); many resolutions were dismissed. I remember that EVERYONE agreed that there were WMD, even former President Clinton-and that Husssein would not let inspectors look in all places to prove otherwise. I remember the atrocities that were occurring under a dictator (Saddam Hussein). I also remember the lives that have been lost, the soldiers that have made ultimate sacrifices, a war mismanaged and a war that must be won in a country that must not be overtaken by an Islamifaciast group like al-Qeada or the Taliban.

Or am I off course too?


I’m With Fred! Are You With Fred?


Music Video-"Jesus Christ" by the group BRAND NEW-

I don’t know if this is the original video or not-guessing not. It is what I found on youtube.

“Jesus Christ”

Jesus Christ, that’s a pretty face
The kind you’d find on someone that could save
If they don’t put me away
It’ll be a miracle

Do you believe you’re missing out?
That everything good is happening somewhere else
With nobody in your bed
The night is hard to get through

And I will die all alone
And when I arrive I won’t know anyone

Well, Jesus Christ, I’m alone again
So what did you do those three days you were dead?
Because this problem is gonna last
More than the weekend

Well, Jesus Christ I’m not scared to die
But I’m a little bit scared of what comes after
Do I get the gold chariot
Do I float through the ceiling

Do I divide and pull apart
Cause my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark
This ship went down in sight of land
And at the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands?

I know you’re coming in the night like a thief
But I’ve had some time alone to hone my lying technique
I know you think that I’m someone you can trust
But I’m scared I’ll get scared and I swear I’ll try to nail you back up

So do you think that we could work out a sign
So I’ll know it’s you and that it’s over so I won’t even try
I know you’re coming for the people like me
But we all got wood and nails
tongue tied in hate factories

We all got wood and nails
tongue tied in hate factories
We all got wood and nails
And we sleep inside of this machine

Finally my thoughts:
I think this song is a powerful look at how a secular world looks at death, Christ’s return and their own fearful and evil intentions. I like this song very much. It should speak VOLUMES to those that claim to follow Jesus Christ.


Kind of A Big Deal

It is kind of a big deal
The unconfirmed news that it has been the intent of JK Rowlings to write a complete (but not perfect) Gospel allegory with the Harry Potter series is kind of a big deal. At least to me. But I also think it will be with many, many others. And that may be understating it a whole lot. I mean this news elevates JK to be in the same categories as CS Lewis & JRR Tolkien! And that is pretty cool. It puts her in categories with pastors, evangelists, maybe the likes of Billy Graham! Maybe.

It also really strikes a cord with me on a weird level of…competitiveness. I mean it is like all of a sudden JK is sneakily bringing Christianity into super pop-culture! It really is like JK has tricked the world! She also tricked many ultra-judgmental and critical Christians. I don’t know why but that makes me happy. Really happy. It is like some sort of “win” for Christianity versus the secular (and versus the Christian misguided). And I am not too sure I should be happy about that.

I mean it is like handing out all this kind of uber delicious candy that tastes way too good to have any benefits and then it becomes addictive only to find out much later that it is incredibly healthy for you! It is like someone jumping from behind a corner and yelling “HA!, GOTHCA” It is like stealth Christianity. I don’t know what all of the witches are going to do with this knowledge. I doubt they will all suddenly convert and change their ways.

I felt something similar when the first CS Lewis Narnia movie, The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe was released. It was like tricking Evil Hollywood into making something that was of spiritual worth, something that was Holy, something that was for the good of Jesus Christ. It is like some sort of massive covert alter call!

But Christianity should never be sprung on someone, it should never be forced or coerced or manipulative. And many times well-meaning people do really dumb and counterproductive things.

Although I don’t think that is what is happening here with the Harry Potter series (nor do I think that is what happened with The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe). I think some could feel that way.

I am kind of a big deal

I don’t know how to put this…but…I’m kind of a big deal. I wrote to Ms. Abigail BeauSeigneur-the author of the article presenting her premise that the HP books are indeed JK Rowling’s creation of a Gospel allegory-and she wrote me back! In the email I invited her to read the rest of my thoughts on my blog. And she read it! That puts my readership up to like 5 people! Including me of course. If you would like to read the correspondence then click here:


Harry Potter and the Christian Allegory

No, it isn’t the title of book number 8. It is the latest talk about the Harry Potter series. First read this article shockingly entitled, Is Harry Potter the Son of God? An original editorial by Abigail BeauSeigneur:

I guess I should first start by saying that I am a pretty big fan of the Harry Potter series. I have read all of the books thus far, have watched all of the movies thus far, have heard the books on tape, own 4 of the 5 movies (the 5th is in theaters now) and I have been planning the next big Line Standing Event to stand in line this Friday for the final book release at midnight. And then I need to profess my status as a born-again believer and follower of Jesus Christ. I am a pretty conservative kind of Christian. I believe that the Bible contains the word of God and is perfect and inerrant as it relates to salvation and reconciliation to a relationship with God. (I chose my wording very carefully there.) I am a Christian and a fan of Harry Potter!

I have to tell you, my first thoughts of the article were pretty negative. I have just NEVER thought of the Harry Potter series as a Christian allegory. I have NEVER thought of Harry as a representation of Jesus Christ. I am hung up on these points. But after reading the article I have little doubt that JK Rowlings, the author of the Harry Potter series, indeed intends the Harry Potter series to be an allegory of the Gospel. And JK is pretty cool, although she seems to be pretty quiet about her personal beliefs she seems to be a professing Christian or at least an attender of church. And she does site Christian authors CS Lewis as being influential on her life and literature. I have no problems with her or the series in general.

Next let’s talk about allegory versus a story about good and evil. says, “John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (Bantam Classics) are allegories.” CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia is a Christian allegory. Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is another Christian allegory. However, a great and epic story of good triumphing over evil is JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I consider the LOTR books to be THE best fiction literature ever, period. And although there are many allegoric symbolisms, it is not a complete allegory. Instead it is a story where good triumphs over evil. Tolkien didn’t really like the idea of Christian allegory-he was tiffed at Lewis over the Narnia Chronicles.

My wife reminded me of the sermon series that our Pastor Donnie gave at Trinity Family, “The Gospel According to Harry Potter.” It has been a while, but she asked if Donnie actually called the series an allegory. I don’t remember, but I do know that he made comparisons, but in the end I always thought of the series as a story of good triumphing over evil, not as an allegory.

I suppose it is the unorthodox parallels and the character of Harry Potter that hangs me up the most. One crucial point in the essay, BeauSeigneur states that “Harry may also have the power to resurrect himself.” The comparison that the writer was making was to Voldermort (the bad guy in the HP series)-who had magical powers to ressurect himself. But the implication is a parallel to Christ. I do not believe that Christ raised himself from the dead, God ressurected Christ from death. Most Christians who have a beef with the HP series get hung up on the point of magic and dark arts and such. I don’t have a lot of issues with this, but it does speak to where the power comes from. I have always read that HP’s (and the rest of the characters) power or ability to perform magic comes from within themselves. There is no mention of an external power source or a higher being or a power higher than their own. And the power that Jesus had always came from someone higher than himself, from God the Father-it was God giving Christ the power to heal and perform miracles. It was as though Jesus set aside his God-power and let God work through him in his humanness.

Like I say, my biggest, hugest hangup is the comparison or the representation of Harry Potter to Jesus Christ. To coin a phrase, “Harry Potter, you are no Jesus Christ…” Harry is by no means a spotless lamb. He does not personify a sanctified individual. Instead he is fully human. A human with all of the proper characteristics of such, with a sinful nature and a desire to satisfy the self. Compare this to Aslan in the Narnia Chronicles. Aslan is the righteous kingly lion-kind, compassionate, perfect and righteous. And Aslan ultimately lays down his life for humanity. Harry makes bad decisions. He alienates his friends. He hurts people by his actions. He’s just no where close to a Good Person. I have never seen righteousness within him.

I suppose JK will site the Greatest Goodness as Love. Maybe Harry will become such a good person. And Harry will end up making choices that demonstrate love and then sacrifice himself so evil can be defeated. And then have the innate power to ressurect himself. But what is lacking in all of the story is the constant righteous one. If it isn’t blatantly God then it needs to be a transparent 100% righteous individual. One who is spotless and clean. I just don’t see that in Harry. Maybe Dumbledore, maybe.

The author of the editorial makes an argument for Harry being Holy and pure and righteous based on the things that he possesses (wand, mother’s blood, etc.). The argument presented puts Harry in a position of holiness rather than a character of righteousness. That is most interesting.

All of this does raise some interesting points. It is as though JK has sneakily slipped a very cool and popularly accepted allegory about (gulp) CHRISTIANITY into the mainstream media. Onto the top-sellers lists, into the hands of millions, into CHILDREN’S HANDS! And into Hollywood! How long did it take Tolkien and Lewis to be immortalized and worshiped in Hollywood? What will the fundamentalists and The Christian Right do with this new revelation?

I don’t know. I know that it would be pretty cool if JK Rowlings comes out publicly and admits that the Harry Potter series is indeed a Gospel allegory. I think it would be cool to see her in the spotlight pimping God! Pointing people to Christ and maybe even encouraging people to read the Bible.

Maybe JK Rowlings will finally be asked spiritual questions in a kind and non-threatening environment. Maybe her “Satan” status will be elevated to “sister” status. Will the fundamentalists and The Christian Right change their minds and finally shelf the Harry Potter series along side The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Ring trilogy?

Well, I am not even sure if I am ready to do that yet. I will wait to read the book and wait to hear from JK Rowlings. But the series will still be in the same room, along the same wall on the same set of shelves. Maybe just above the Left Behind series.

I’ll conclude with the last brilliant paragraph from Abigail BeauSeigneur’s editorial. It totally gives me chills, goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.

She [JK Rowlings] has told us where to look to find out what is coming in the final book – her Christianity. She has told us that it’s so easy a 10-year -old could figure it out.(249) The secret to Harry Potter is tied to Rowling’s Christianity. The master of the red herring has done it. She has tricked the entire world. What appears to be a book about witchcraft is a story about Jesus Christ.


Memorial Day 2007

Memorial Day holds unique significance to me because my father passed away on Memorial Day in 2005. He gave me life and loved me. And I miss him much.

In honor of Memorial Day I thought I’d post my thoughts from a few years ago.

I embarrassingly bought the pregnancy test. I read the positive results by email. Minnie was pregnant again! I tried not to tell anyone; that lasted about 5 minutes. When the doctor’s found two heartbeats for the first time I was elated. I thought “Twins again?! No problem!”

Minnie’s first pregnancy with our identical twin boys was full of potential complications: Bed rest in the hospital, delivering early admitted to the NICU. But in the end they turned out perfect. They are handfuls and ornery, but they are our pride and joy.

We thought that the next pregnancy would be a breeze, we thought, “How easy it will be to have only one child?” Minnie’s next two pregnancies ended tragically in miscarriages. The first hit us very hard; we tried to gain closure by having a memorial service. The second seemed easier.

I don’t know if it was the novelty of having twins again, that fact that Minnie and I were in a good place to plan for more kids, or just that Minnie and I were going to have babies in the house again. Whatever the reasons I really wanted these babies.

I prayed so hard as the doctor’s searched for the heartbeats again a few days later. “Please God, Please God…” Smaller babies. No heartbeats. Our babies died. Another miscarriage.

Minnie found comfort from friends. She found comfort in the Bible. She found comfort through songs.

For me, there are questions: Where is God?

I thought He was there with Kaleb & Keegan. I thought I saw his work. Does he give us gifts just to turn around and take them away? Was this really His will? What kind of God is that?

Where was God? Is He a God who put things in motion in the beginning and now just sits back? Where is the personal God I’ve grown up with? Is this really for the best? Will good come out of it? I don’t want “good,” I want the babies.

And I’m mad. I’m mad at God for not stepping into my life, and I’m mad that I am close enough to Him to get mad at Him. Maybe if I distance myself from him, He can’t hurt me; He can’t anger me…and I won’t hurt Him by getting mad at Him.

Then I am reminded of Jesus, who was fully man and fully God.

I’m reminded that Jesus prayed hard, he asked for the cup to be taken away. It wasn’t. I’m reminded that Jesus asked questions: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God didn’t forsake him. I’m reminded that Jesus grieved: “Jesus wept.”

In the end there are no answers. In the end it is just Jesus and me, pondering, asking, expecting answers. It is Jesus and me grieving. But the best part is is that it is Jesus and me.

“I really Wanted these babies” Written February 8th 2002 and read in worship at Christ Community Church shortly after. Thanks Pastor Dave for encouraging me to reflect and write.

Since this writing God has blessed my wife and I with 2 more healthy boys, Calvin Wesley and Corbin Riley, they join twins, Kaleb Nathaniel & Keegan Daniel.


Virginia Tech Tragedy-Revenge of the Nerds 2007?

I don’t know the motivations of the Virginia Tech shooter. I think it is a tragedy. I mourn with those that have lost friends and family and loved ones and offer my prayers.

It sounds like the shooter was disturbed, depressed, maybe shy and socially inept, bullied, angry and alienated.

I have been talking with folks this week about this horrible event. I heard one guy say that back when he was in school that they settled problems with fist fights-y’know, met after school and settle things like…well, like kids. I mentioned that I was never a popular kid in high school, not completely at the bottom of the social chain, but definitely deemed a social outcast along with the rest of my few friends. There were others that were ridiculed and made to feel much worse than me, but I was still way below the crowd of accepted folks. I got made fun of mostly because of my religious beliefs and the stands that I took on issues. I was a Jesus freak. I am still proud of that. I could have done many things differently, but I was radical about my faith.

I will quickly add that I had a support group outside of high school-namely my church youth group. I was pretty popular there. I will also quickly add that my college experiences were completely different than my high school experiences. I was cool within the crowd of friends that I had on campus. That crowd did not consist of the most popular folks on campus. My point is that I had awesome experiences outside of high school.

High school sucked. What kept me going in high school was a hope that I would fit in outside of high school. That I would be safe in my youth group and fit in at the religious college I planned to attend. So I kinda tolerated H.S. with the expectation that in the next life-experience I would be re-born into a different social class. And indeed that was the case.

I can relate to the feelings of social outcasts that release their rage on classmates. Like the kids in Columbine high school. And just maybe like the Virgina Tech shooter. I dreaded going to another day of H.S. classes. I hung out with the geeks and nerds and the socially inept. At times I hated the popular kids, the jocks and the rich kids and the popular kids-who were at the top of the food chain for no apparent reason. I hated it when the powerful picked on the weak. When a nerd was made fun of or physically harassed. There were times when I wanted justice. There were times that I would have loved to settle things after school. But I was the underdog. I was the weak. I could have never won in a fist fight! I could never had beaten anyone up! I could not have settled things on my own.

Things sure would have been different if I had something to make me strong. If I had just had something to put me on top. Something to strike fear in those bullies. If I had had something like…a gun.

Now don’t get me wrong, one of the big differences between the “kids of today” and the “kids back in my day” (a mere 15 years ago) is that I never dreamed of getting a gun. I would never had known where to go to get a gun! But I also had outs…I had a few close friends. I had a place to go to fit in. I had hope in a future. I never thought of a gun as an option!

But those options exist today. Today the nerds fight back. Today those that got pushed around push back. Today those that got laughed at in the past have the last laugh. And really, no one is innocent in high school. There were those that were your friends and those that bullied you and made fun of you. And the rest? They were the ones that sat back and did nothing. they never came to anyone’s defense. They never stood up and yelled STOP. They were just as guilty. They watched it all happen. They were just as guilty.

Part of me likes that. Part of me smiles at that revenge. Part of me agrees with that vigilante justice. Revenge of the Nerds for the 21st century-nerds with guns! Sounds like a video game. Kill the bullies! Part of me identifies with these guys. Part of me sees a hero.

Part of me. The part that I don’t like. The part of me that I left behind in high school. Or that went and grew up. Or that made it out OK.

The truth is that there are bullies and there are those that get bullied and then there are innocent folks just trying not to be one or the other. They are avoiding the bullies and avoiding the bullied.

My wife is reading a book right now by Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes. It is the story of a high school nerd who gets a gun and carries out his form of justice. It is a Columbine story from the shooter’s perspective. His brother made fun of him from day one; bullied him something fierce. Others join in. Not many take the time to get to know who he really is. You know the rest, maybe not all of the specifics. But the end. He snaps and kills.

As I watch the news and hear the reports people keep wanting to know why. The video that the gunman sent to NBC is being released and aired all over the airwaves. The shooter is getting his 15 minutes of fame the critics say. Don’t make him into a celebrity. But we are starting to find out why. The reporters look at the pics and say that he looked like he was trying to act like someone from the Matrix. Or trying to be a villain. That he must have been calculating and cold to mail a package inbetween shootings. He’s crazy, he’s vicious, he’s a mass murderer, he’s bad. They use terms like “quiet” and “loner”.

That is what the popular and “normal” people want to believe. It helps them feel better. They want to think that anyone who snaps like this is automatically evil. In all fairness he seems to have had mental issues. But maybe he is a product of his environment. Maybe he was pushed and pushed. Maybe terms like “quiet” and “loner” really mean “ignored” and “alienated”.

It is the popular kids and the bullies-not the bullied nerds-that make Napoleon Dynamite and think that it is funny. I watch the movie and am reminded all over again that high school really, really sucked. And don’t try to tell me that he is a hero at the end! No, a week later he is still the unpopular nerdy kid and everything goes back to the same old ways.

I want to stand up and yell! WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? YOU MADE THIS GUY! DUH! YOU DID THIS! You discarded him! You wrote him off! You pushed him around. You bullied him. Or worse, you ignored him altogether.

Only now is someone taking the time to get to know Cho. That’s his name, Cho Seung-Hui. No one cared what his name was before, but they know it now. Maybe not Cho, maybe his life was different. But nerds like him. The Columbine kids. At some point they are gonna fight back! They are gonna seek their revenge. And in their mind it is justice! It is righting the wrongs! It is standing up! It is the after school confrontation with a chance to actually come away from the fight as the winner and not the beaten.

Take away the hope and what do you get? Take away the view of a future and what remains? Take away the possibility of someone ever loving you and what are you left with? Emptiness. Despair. No happy ending. Maybe that is what drove Cho mad. I don’t know. We may never know.

I do know that his rage was misguided. That innocent people died-good people. And yet, for some bullied people a light bulb is going on.

I got my revenge. It is called a Wife and Kids. It is called a Real Life. But I could see that. I could imagine it. I was not short-sighted. I had hope.

What do nerds see? Erkel from Family Matters. Screech from Saved by the Bell. Cliff from Cheers. Millhouse and The Comic Book guy from the The Simpson’s. Maybe I am dating myself… Carl from Jimmy Neutron, the Emo Kids from Malcolm in the Middle. Kramer from Seinfeld. They see a future without a girlfriend. They see loneliness as a kid and it getting worse as an adult. A loser job. A loser life. I am not blaming TV! These shows merely mirror life.

So as I pray for the mourning I also pray for the ones that are thinking and a smile is starting to form on their lips. The ones that play their video games just a little differently-imagining the faces that they kill are ones that they know all too well, their bullies. I pray for the ones that are getting ideas. I pray for the ones that might be forming plans in the back of their heads. I pray for the ones who see a hero. It isn’t too late for them, their reality can be changed and improved.

I pray for the bullies. I pray for the bullied and I pray for the ones in the middle. I pray for healing. I pray for justice. I pray for change. I pray for understanding. I pray for hope. I pray for peace.


Fred Thompson for President

The older I get the more I like talk radio. Specifically, conservative AM talk radio. I tolerate NPR in the mornings, and then listen to AM 980 KMBZ on my way to work and when I can throughout the day with shows like Darla Jay, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilley. But just about every day I listen to KMBZ’s afternoon show on my way home. It is a local Kansas City talk show. First it was Russ Johnson then Jerry Agar and now Mike Shanin and Scott Parks are the hosts that fill the timeslot. They do a great job. I have also called in several times to give my opinions on different issues. I enjoy being on the radio, it is my personal claim to fame!

So I was disappointed when I tried to call in last week to comment on Fred Thompson. Although he hasn’t thrown his hat into the political ring for a Republican candidate he has said that he is seriously considering it. So I called in and was placed on hold while I practiced what I planned to say. But then they went on to a new topic and I got cut off.

Thankfully yesterday the topic came up again and I called in and was placed on hold but then got to speak my mind and I even won movie tickets-4 tickets to A Perfect Stranger! SWEET!

Fred Thompson (the links throughout relate to him) is the first potential Republican candidate that I am actually excited about! Not only in this race, but EVER! I love this guy! I had seen him before he became a regular on one of my favorite shows, Emmy Award-winning drama series Law & Order. Here is their bio. He plays a DA on TV. But I had seen him on C-SPAN or something as the politician that he is. This guy really is the next Ronald Reagan. He is smart, extremely articulate and straight forward in his answers and comments. And he is smooth in a genuine manner and he is calm as he speaks but you can still see the emotion on his face and in his voice.

He was actually on KMBZ just this morning and he answered every question, evaded nothing and was intelligent and articulate. Yeah, I like the guy.

Who is Fred Thompson? Many of you will know him from his political career or from the movies or from NBC’s popular Law & Order. He is over 60, and in his latest marriage he has a newborn baby boy and a 3-year old girl.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

Fred Dalton Thompson (born August 19, 1942) is an American lawyer, lobbyist, character actor and former Republican Senator from Tennessee (now a resident of McLean, Virginia)[1], who is considering a bid in the 2008 Presidential Election.
In addition to acting, Thompson is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. China Economic & Security Review Commission and a Visiting Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, researching national security and intelligence (Communist China, North Korea, and Russia.) Thompson is also signed as a public speaker with the Washington Speakers Bureau.[2]
Thompson is also a special program host and senior analyst for ABC News Radio and fills in for Paul Harvey.

So let’s talk about his qualifications. He knows the law. He was a lawyer. He was co-chief counsel for the Senate Watergate committee, that’s right. Richard Nixon-30 years ago. He was actually responsible for one of the questions that ultimately led to the downfall of Nixon. So even though he is a conservative Republican he ultimately respects the law. I don’t think he’ll jump on the Presidential bandwagon to break or skirt the law.

He knows Washington. He was a lobbyist in Washington DC for 18 years. He been part of campaigns to get others elected. He has been a senator.

He knows how to present himself. His acting career just kinda took off as he acted in a movie that was based on a real case where he was the lawyer-he played himself. Then of course other movies and TV followed. He has been an ABC political analyst.

So he has the experience. He has the knowledge. He has the charisma. And some say he has the looks. I think he looks like a father figure. He is so calm and expressive when he speaks. He even has a bit of a southern drawl when he talks! Basically he has the substance and he has the superficial qualities to make him a leader and winner!

One of the things that I find fairly unique and very refreshing is Thompson’s straight forward style. When asked his stand on abortion he immediately responds that he is against it. When asked about his opinion about gay marriage he firmly responds that he is against it. There is no “I am researching what to think about what my position should be” or changing the subject. So unlike Hillary Clinton you know where he stands on issues.

He has lost a child to drug abuse. That saddens me. I don’t know the details.

Although there are no known skeletons in his closet, he’s not entirely perfect. He has some flaws. He’s been divorced, but so have most of the other candidates. Dr. James Dobson says that Thompson needs to express what his faith is. Although that would be nice, I am more concerned with the issues of the office. There is a concern that he may not have the name recognition that is needed to win national elections. But who had heard of Clinton before he was President? Who had heard of Gore or even Bush (dad or son) before Reagan? Maybe I am paying attention more as I get older, I don’t know, but I have actually liked Fred Thompson for many years now. I watch him on L & O, but I really pay attention when I can catch him on C-SPAN or as an analyst on the radio.

A March poll even showed him ahead of Hillary Clinton for the 2008 presidential run! He hasn’t even said he is running!

The Republican Party needs a front runner. Romney was in the news today saying that he was a life-long hunter and then one of his aids clarified that he had been on 2 hunting trips in his lifetime. He became a NRA member just last year to get their vote. I do think his Mormon faith will be a definite show stopper for many Christians.

Giuliani-YAWN. Don’t get me wrong, he is a 9/11 hero and he’s done great things for NYC. But he is not conservative enough on the issues.

Then there’s who? Oh yeah, McCain…he too is moderate on many issues as well. He is a war hero. And he likes to buddy up with Democrats against Bush.

My fear is that the 2008 Presidential race will come down to an extreme liberal on the Democrat side with Hillary and Gore and a moderate on the Republican side…How boring! Many of the liberal Democrats I know claim that they won’t vote for Hillary saying that she is too liberal. Many Christians won’t vote for Romney. Nor will they vote for Giuliani being pro abortion and pro gay. And McCain is not conservative enough. The Republican Party needs Fred Thompson to throw his hat in the race. I hope he decides to run soon. This morning on the radio he said he was still considering it.

Fred Thompson is a traditional Republican-he’s Reaganesque. He has the experience and knowledge. I think he has the name recognition. I think he has the money. And I actually am looking forward to this guy running and being president. America needs Fred Thompson.



If You Never Had To Worry About Money EVER Again

It is really fun to dream about winning the lottery-to win 100s of millions of dollars.

My email and lunch buddy, Kevin, and I were talking on this subject. He asked me what the very first thing I’d do after I won that kind of money. OK, after you tell your wife and a few friends. We happened to be at lunch and so I told him that I’d go back to work to tell everyone and then politely get my stuff and quit-walk out to never work another day in my life. Kevin said he’d pack up his stuff and not tell anyone! In the past he’s said he’d just not go back, forget his stuff-hire someone else to collect it for him!

For some people it is hard to grasp what that much money can really do for them and others. Our other email buddy, Chris sent me this quote from a CNN article:

Daisy Buck of Bluff, Utah
I would quit my job and retire. Then, I would give some money to my children/grandchildren and to my family. Most of it would probably go to fixing my house, paying the bills, and just kicking back and enjoying life.

My friend then pointed out, “Just in case you didn’t get it, I’ll repeat it for you, ‘Most of it would probably go to fixing my house.'” Well Daisy Buck of Bluff, Utah, your house must be one heck of a fixer upper. I replied to his email and joked that I could pay up my rent for years. But folks don’t really understand how to think with that much money.

I was thinking along a different line…I’d build a house and furnish it with all new EVERYTHING. With the exception of some personal photos or some really meaningful personal stuff I would walk into my new house naked and empty handed ready to embrace the whole new life inside. I apologize for the mental picture.

Kevin and I continued talking about a woman that had won that had kept her job. I remarked that that was just plain irresponsible! I then went on to say that it would be cool to sit back and invest in people’s dreams, finance thier business endeavors or the like. But Kevin was quick with a chastise, you don’t need to invest with the purpose of making money…YOU HAVE MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER NEED! The question isn’t what would you do with all of that money, how would you spend it. No, the question is what would you do with your life! What would you do to impact the lives around you? What would you do for mankind? If you never had to worry about money EVER again what would you do? Where would you go?

It is kinda like an episode of the A-Team I saw on Tuesday January 14, 1986. Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock was the crazy character-the BEST character I might add. Well he was on Wheel of Fortune. Remember when you could go shopping as a winner on Wheel of Fortune? You’d buy 2-3 big things for thousands of dollars then go for the $150 lamp or $75 dog statue. But not Murdock! He bought 5-10 of the little things and then had enough to get one big thing! Pretty funny. I love the A-Team. (Sigh).

So for Kevin he’d just go fishin’! He’d go volunteer at a fly-fishing shop to learn the trade and go somewhere to be alone fishing! I am more extroverted so I would do things to include my friends. I said I’d buy a really nice suit to wear to some really nice restaurants. Kevin said he’d never wear a suit again! I said I’d hire a chef to make meals where I could lose weight.

And that is how it is for most of us. We’d pay off our bills. Or buy a house. Or buy a car. Or set up some trust funds. Or fix something up or restore something. But that is all piddly stuff! I mean a $1M dollar house plus extravagant $500,000 in bills plus a REALLY nice over-priced sports car…well that is still just under 1% of a $200M payout! PEANUTS! A drop in the bucket! I’ll be 35 this year. Let’s say I live to be 85, that’s 50 more years…200M divided by 50 years…that’s $4,000,000 a year…about $75,000 a week…that’s over $10,000 a day! And that is without any kind of investment whatsoever. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS A DAY!

Some folks would fly to different places. I’d buy a plane and learn how to fly it when my pilot wasn’t taking me to a show in New York or to a national park in California for a birthday bash with 1000 of my closest personal friends! Or for a snowball fight in Alaska! Some folks would buy a really nice house or fix up the one that they have, I’d build a housing complex where my family could live in an over-sized cul-de-sac of 4-5 houses that were connected by underground game rooms and pools and a really large banquet hall and maybe a theater or bowling alley…With a 5-story hotel off to the side where people could stay for free while visiting me! Yeah, now we’re talking. Some folks would buy a sports car; I’d go to a car dealership and get one of each with cash in hand, or cash in boxes.

I’d also do some cool stuff for my friends and family. I’d be creative in giving money away. I’d buy my kids a toy store. Maybe a video game store too. Heck maybe a train for the Thomas the Tank lover in my house complete with an engine, cars and a caboose on a 20-mile long track. I have a friend who really likes beer. I’d buy him a bar. Tell him that if he doesn’t want it he can sell it and do whatever with the money. My other co-worker is a pilot; I’d buy him a jet. I’d buy pocket PCs and laptops and maybe an Escalade for all of my friends!

I’d take Rush Limbaugh out for dinner. I’d play a video game against Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I’d hire author Orson Scott Card for a one-on-one lecture/Q & A about his books. I’d pay to eat at a fund-raiser to meet President Bush. I’d build a house with President Jimmy Carter. I’d donate money and time to that “Extreme Makover: Home Edition.” That darn show makes me cry every time!

I’d build a church for the church plant that I attend that currently meets in an elementary school’s cafeteria. I’d give $100 bills away for no reason at all. I’d spy on folks just to learn what extravagant gift they want for Christmas and leave it on their front porch.

I’d help the poor as much as I could. But that kinda goes back to the idea of financing dreams and investing in businesses. I’d do that, start new businesses or invest in companies. Not with the purpose of making more money, but to create jobs and to build a legacy for generations to come. Maybe create departments at those jobs to recruit the homeless, clean them up and give them a place to live to transition into the workplace. Give them hope.

What Sam Walton did for his family and for the rest of the world is pretty cool. He created jobs; his Wal-Mart brand is world-recognized. Look how Wal-Mart is driving down the prices of prescription drugs. Not to mention the community involvement and the money that they are able to give to charity. I know some folks hate Wal-Mart.

Then you read story after story of those that have spent all of their winnings and get sued or file for bankruptcy. How can that be? The first thing you should spend money on is a financial advisor!

Some folks go back to work to be around their friends and maybe work at what they love. Some people might go off and be alone never to be heard from again. Others would stay right where they are and fix things up. Others may invest to make more money. And still others will buy a whole lot of little things and maybe waste all of their money.

But a few will do something worth while. They’ll leave their mark on the world-and not merly for the sake of being remembered. They’ll be a good person. They’ll have enough money to be a human being and give back to mankind. Maybe that’d be me. Then again maybe I’d end up filing bankruptcy in a few years.

I’d learn how to ride a Harley. I’d buy minivans for all the moms at the local Mothers of Mulitples organization. I’d build a really freakin’ huge tree house that spanned a forrest! OK, maybe not.

What would you do? I’d love to hear from you.


I’m Not Cool (Anymore)-The Minivan Controversy

I have had many friends over the years vehemently refuse to buy a minivan. Folks with 3 plus kids. Folks that are intelligent. Folks that can’t fit their whole family in a car-so they drive 2 cars, to the same place! Families that scream minivan. Why? Because they think that minivans will make them turn from being cool to not being cool. And I also have had several friends with kids give up in defeat and buy a minivan and resolve to be not cool anymore.

OK, listen closely, here comes the truth: If you have kids you aren’t cool anymore. No you’re not! NO YOU’RE NOT!

If you are married you are not cool, well, OK, you are somewhat cool because you can pretend you are not married, and because you don’t have kids yet, but this is just a transition stage. And if you are married WITH children, well, no, you are not cool. Single parent? You are not cool. There’s also an age where you move from cool to not cool even if you are not married and don’t have kids, but that is just creepy and not the point of this entry.

I am not cool. I have a minivan; in fact I have two mini vans, a purple one and a white one. I drive the white one. I may not be cool, but I am still a guy. But let’s be clear on this. It is NOT the minivan that makes me not cool! It is the 4 children and a wife! It is my twins laughing at me and not with me. It is my 2-yr old son asking me if I have a penis too, in public. It is my 9-month old spitting up on my shirt! Minivans have nothing to do with it.

I had this conversation with a co-worker a few years ago and she went on and on about rollin’ up in her SUV with the bling, bling rims and blah, blah, blah. If you park your pimped out SUV then strut to the back door, open it and pop out a kid. Well, guess what? You might think that you are cool, but you aren’t!

If you roll up in a Lamborghini heads will turn. You can be in the scene from Mission Impossible III, with the Asian chick with the hair and the red dress and the Italian sports car. You drive up, heads turn. You park and eyes are glued to you and your car. You open the door and your long, naked leg hits the pavement while sticking out of your skimpy, sexy red dress-heads will turn and mouths will open. You walk sexily to the other side of the car and open the door and bend over-there will be gasps-maybe even applause! You come up holding your 9-month old baby boy…Heads will turn alright, THE OTHER WAY! The applause will halt and people will smile with embarrassment and disappointment and many will laugh and shake their heads! Why? Yep, not cool.

You can be a cool mom or a cool dad and even a cool wife and cool husband. And guess what? I am a very cool dad and a somewhat cool husband! And you know what? There is nothing in the world cooler than having your kids, and sometimes your wife, think you are cool!

Like my friend Jeff said today on this topic: “I guess you can’t be cool and responsible at the same time.” EXACTLY. You can be young and single and cool-you have the whole world before you. Or you can be married with children-not cool anymore.

But here is the thing: Being married with children, well, that is the world in your hands.  Holding your 9-month old after you have all the spit cleaned up and having him recognize you as Dad and then he smiles real big and laughs…that is cool.

That’s cool.


Israel vs. Hezbollah

If Hezbollah would lay down their weapons there would be peace. If Israel laid down their weapons there would be no Israel.

Just an interesting thought.


Where is the Church? My 1st Rant

I have been talking to my mom about the emerging church or the Emergent Conversation that is taking place in the Christian church around the world.  Google those phrases and check these out:

I don’t fully understand it, so I am not too sure how I can explain it.  I have read criticisms and I have read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren who is really at the forefront of this conversation (they do not like to be called a movement).  I also saw McLaren speak at a conference.  I do know this: The Christian church has dropped the ball.  Now I want to say that I am not ranting and raving against my mom.  I’m just ranting to the air.  I guess it is to the church, but to no one in particular.

The church has dropped the ball…and who is picking it up?  The government with their welfare programs that keep the poor just poor enough to not want to do anything about not being poor!  Who is picking it up?  Planned Parenthood slaughterhouses that get rich by pretending to love their victims, while still manageing to offer some sort of false hope.  Where is the church?  Encouraging the discrimination of gays and promoting war (KEEP READING…).  Why isn’t the church helping low-income families?  Why isn’t the church helping single-parent families?  Why isn’t the church helping the sick and poor?  Why isn’t the church promoting peace?  Why isn’t the church doing its job?  I don’t know, but I understand that the world has turned from the church that stopped offering hope and to the world that has nothing to offer.

So let me clarify a couple of my above statements.  I think homosexuality is a sin.  Thankfully it is the church’s job to help introduce the sinner to Christ-who forgives sins and transforms lives.  I think the winds of change in Iraq were the right thing to force.  But I am not blood-thirsty.  As I write this there has been a thwarted terrorist attack in Europe, Hezbollah is attacking Israel and Israel is defending themselves and I have not forgotten 9/11.  Tyranny and terrorism should be fought against.  HOWEVER, war should not be romanticized.  War is not good!  It is necessary at times.  Those times should be decisive and short.

I think part of the problem is that the church should be separate from a capitalistic culture.  Don’t get me wrong, capitalism has its place: in the economy!  Heck, I eBay, that is capitalism at its purest.  But the church should be a socialistic community of believers (within the church and within society).  The church should be a place where the members want to make more so they can give more away to those in need!  I remember thinking in college that the early church practiced socialism and that socialism could be a good American economy.  I was very wrong.  Bresee had it right or maybe it was Wesley, “Make all you can, save all you can and give all you can!”

It’s the church, THE CHURCH that should take care of people.  The church should love people.  The church should give away time and money and love.  The church needs do invest in people and not expect a financial return.

Where is the church when it comes to illegal immigration?  Should the church be on border patrol with guns?  Should the church be harboring fugitives and helping people break the law?  Is their another way?  Why isn’t the church offering to help immigrants come to The Land of Opportunity LEGALLY?  Because it involves, spending money and giving up time!  That kind of compassion used to be called sacrifice.  Christians are not so good at that anymore; they leave that up to Christ, they nail Christ back on the cross and tell Him to stay there.

I am not a supporter of separation of church and state, I think it is unconstitutional.  But it is happening everyday.  So Christians can choose to fight it or they choose to accept it.  I guess I do both.  I vote with my heart, but I also do not believe in legislating morality.  We no longer live in a Christian nation (if we ever really did), so once again Christians find themselves as the outsiders or the foreigners within their culture.  I think it is important to make that distinction.  The world does not understand Christianity!  It isn’t their job to pass Christian legislation or to believe the way we do!  The world does not follow Christ.  It is the job of the sinner to sin!  That is what they know!  That is what they understand.  But yet we Christians still operate like we are still in power.  But we aren’t.  And that’s OK; it is the way it has always been!  That is when Christianity does its best-when it is under fire!  It was Tertullian who said, “In the blood of the martyrs lies the seed of the Church!  ” I’m not saying that we should sit back and watch while Christianity gets outlawed, but I don’t think that it is always the church’s job to legislate morality.

I think homosexual marriage can put an end to the sacred institution of marriage and I also think that banning homosexual marriages alienates homosexuals from the church.  On one hand you have the world doing what the world does, sin!  On the other hand you have the church hurting a group of people.  It is a way for the church to discriminate against a community of lost people.  Christians don’t fight to outlaw couples who live together or protest against couples who get divorced for non-biblical reasons.  We don’t rally to outlaw affairs.  I mean what is the church doing about Rev.  Phelps and his band of haters; they protest at funerals!  AT FUNERALS!  I don’t know what the solution is, but what if the church fought with the homosexual for their freedom (to sin)?  Don’t you think that at some point they are going to take notice and build healthy relationships with folks that represent Christ?  And maybe learn what it means to live a life without sin?  Wow, how cool would that be?  I know, many of my friends don’t agree with me on this.  I am also not out there holding hands with the homosexuals as they march down the street.  But I struggle with voting to ban gay marriages and civil unions.

Take a slightly less controversial issue: Children with AIDS.  What if the church worked with AIDS stricken children the way Mother Teresa worked with those stricken with leprosy?  And why are Christians more apt to help children and kick sick adults to the curb?  Where is the church?  Campaigning for Republicans?  Trying to rebuild the Religious Right?  Trying to defend the actions of George Bush?  I’M GUILTY, right here, that’s been me.

I think I am winding down a bit…

Oh yeah, the Emerging Church… Well, it is all about what it means to be a Christian in a post-modern world.  How do you build the Kingdom of Christ when those that need to be transformed are no longer convinced by apologetics?  Post-modern people no longer respond to arguments.  Systematic theology tries to convince folks that Christianity is truth, that kind of method is a thing of the past.  People don’t want to be convinced, they want to see Christians living out an authentic life that actually means something to them.  They want to see it, they want to experience it.  They don’t want to hear sermons on prayer; they want to learn how to pray.  They don’t want to hear about the attributes of God, they want to experience the love of God.  It is very experiential which is very close to existentialism, but that is exactly where the unchurched, non-Christians are and they can’t be convinced or talked into something.  They want to see it.  They want Christians to live what they believe so that it makes a difference in their lives.

How do you present Christianity in a media-driven culture?  You present Christianity with media.  You present the e-Gospel.  It is the same ageless message, but presented in a modern way.  And not watered down, but in terminology that represents modern language.  Not catering to people that are seekers, but having a message that is presented in a way that the average person can understand.  Post-modern people communicate on a 6th-grade level, but are educated on a master’s level!  Use smaller words to describe the same message of hope.

How do you build a community of faith in a culture that longs to have community again?  Well, you participate in the community!

OK, I am almost done.

Finally, a word about justice.  Brian McLaren tells a great story that illustrates the difference between justice and mercy.  Say you are standing before Niagara Falls, just looking out into the water in awe.  Suddenly you see a person floating in the river, they are drowning, fighting for their life to get to shore before they go over the edge!  You panic, regain your composure, get some folks together and pull the guy out of the water to safety!  That is an act of mercy.  Say you see another person, you pull them out, and then another, and they seem to keep coming!  Again, pulling these drowning folks out of the water are acts of mercy.  But where is the justice?  Justice is when you walk up river and stop the guy that is pushing people into the freaking water!  STOP THAT GUY!

The church needs to practice justice & mercy.  But the church also needs to first stop pushing people in the water, and then they need to stand up against others that are doing the same.

OK, I feel better.


It’s Been Over A Year

It has been just over a year since I lost my dad. I was reminded about it just yesterday-a friend asked me how I was getting along since my dad’s passing-I told him that it was a year ago on Memorial Day. A whole year. The year where you experience all of “the firsts”. The first birthdays without dad/grandpa, first his birthday, then mine, then my wife, then my boys. The first holidays without a visit or a phone call-Independence Day, Labor Day weekend, Halloween (Dad would have liked the boys’ costumes and our Hallow Haunt business), Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, etc. We purchased a white mini van. Then there was the birth of Corbin Riley. Dad didn’t even know Minnie was pregnant. Corbin was baptized on Easter Sunday. And finally Memorial Day was here and gone. It has been over a year. And I have to say that it has been a…well, an awkward experience for me.

As most of my friends know (and some acquaintances), I am a pretty emotional guy. I cried when my kids were born (yes, all 4). I cry at movies and TV shows; I cry every time I watch that “Extreme Makover: House Edition”. I cry as I worship God. But I have not “emotionally” mourned my dad’s passing-I haven’t cried.

I can’t really tell you why I haven’t cried, why there is the absent of some emotional moment where I come to grips with the powers of the cosmos and the rhythm of life. But I know this: I loved my dad very much and I miss him very much.

My dad and I had a pretty close relationship. We got along great, always did. I loved to hear his stories. I think my dad was proud of me and loved my family. And I miss him. There’s hardly a day that goes by where I don’t have something reminding me that dad isn’t around anymore. Something to fix around the house, something to look at with the car, a family milestone to share, pictures to email, and the list goes on and on.

There was no funeral, no viewing, no ceremony, no memorial service, no gathering to just talk! And that is the way my dad wanted it, he wanted to be cremated and that’s it-no dwelling on the painful passing, just remembering the good times. And that’s what happened. There was a road trip-all the way to New Mexico to meet up with my Aunt (who dad was traveling with-they both had retired less than a year before his passing). Although it was a somber trip, for me anyway there was no journey involved, no formal opportunity to feel the pain and to process things. I say “for me” because I remember my wife and twins talking and crying. I just drove in silence. Not really thinking, not really processing. So I have had to find other ways to process life without dad.

I saw a counselor shortly afterwards. It helped. One of the big questions that he posed to me was did I feel that my father was proud of me. Although I had to think about it, I had to say yes. Yeah, dad was proud of me.

In some ways I have done better than my dad. He was a 6th-grade drop out and I completed college. He had had 2 marriages and I have worked pretty hard to build a happy marriage and to form a family. I have a good job. I have a good life. Dad was happy for me. He told me many times that he loved me. He would hug and kiss me and my family-he adored my children.

My dad was not a professing Christian-he did not claim to have a relationship with Christ and with God. That is also a source of pain. I have never looked to my dad as a source of spiritual guidance or direction. Now I know that my father could have had some sort of death-bed experience-he was not feeling well, had lain down and then had a heart attack that took his life-almost immediately. Maybe in his sleep. Maybe not. He did not seem to greatly suffer. I am thankful for that.

It would be comforting to know that my father had had a spiritual experience before he died. It would be immensely comforting to know that I would see my father again in the next life. But I can’t really hold onto that kind of hope. I know that was not true of the way my dad lived his life and I just don’t know that to be true in his passing. And that makes it more difficult to process; as far as I know, my dad really is gone. Most likely I’ll never see him again. And that is probably the most painful part of all.

It has been a year. Still no tears. Still no explanations as to why there have been no tears. I still miss my dad. But I am continuing to process things. Even with this writing.


Illegal Immigration-My Real Name is Mario

I want to weigh in on the whole illegal immigration debate, mostly because I caught myself affected by the current issue and then I caught myself emotionally caring about the issue. I know this is a little long, but please take time to read it, it is VERY timely.

I am a proud registered republican. I align most political issues accordingly. OK, not really, I really do think about the issues and the republican point of view aligns up with mine. Most of the time. I am also Christian, so I first try to analyze issues through the eyes of Christ. Sometimes those two points of view are at odds.

So my views on the whole illegal immigration issue: Let me first clarify that I am NOT talking about legal immigration, come one, come all-as long as you are coming legally. I think our borders should be secured and monitored (I don’t think a wall, fence, or trench is the answer-but instead a HUGE waste of money). I think illegal immigrants should NOT get a free pass nor be rewarded for breaking the law. I do think that illegal immigrants should be penalized and in many cases sent back home-deported.

HOWEVER, I think that when these illegal immigrants get back home they should be free to try again legally and at an affordable cost. Let me introduce you to one of my friends.

I used to live in an apartment. Around Christmas time a Mexican family moved in a couple of doors down. One of the first things that we noticed is that they didn’t have much for Christmas. Now I can’t remember how we came to that, but we just were not too sure they were gonna have presents and such for their 3 children. Since we had bought just about every Rescue Hero action figure known to man we took wrapped presents from under our tree and left them anonymously at the doorstep of our new neighbors. We also had a couch that we replaced and were also able to give that to our new neighbors. (A very valuable lesson that we were able to teach our children: ALWAYS BE WILLING TO GIVE.) These acts of kindness opened a door to allow us to become friends (another valuable lesson).

Before long we shared food, were fishing together and just developing relationships. We came to learn that they were from southern Texas and ultimately from Mexico. They had family on both sides of the border. And much of their family had migrated north to seek better lives. Ramiro (the father), was learning English; he was pretty good at it, but not very confident. He was a very hard worker and moved around from construction job-to-construction job trying to obtain a better wage. Mary (the mother), although Mexican in her ethnicity, was born in the US and knew how to read and write very well. Mary also worked at the cafeteria in the local school system. Mary, who is legal has worked and has paid taxes. Her children, who are all legal, have been able to attend public school. We all became pretty good friends.

It seemed like every weekend they would get together with the rest of their family and siesta! There was BBQ, children, music and partying. And holidays and birthdays were extra special! There were Piñatas full of candy; there was fireworks, and FOOD, FOOD, FOOD! They would always ask us over or send over a plate of delicious food.

Then one day Ramiro called me over, he said something in Spanish to his brother and then turned back to me. Now I could tell that he had been drinking a little bit and he was feeling pretty good. But he seemed adamant about communicating to me and wanted to make sure he got it right, so his brother was there to help. He told me that his name was not Ramiro. At first I just thought I had gotten it wrong all of this time! But then he admitted that he had lied to me. He said that his real name was Mario. He told me that he was in the US illegally and that he had lied because he did not know if he could trust me or not. But now he could trust me enough to tell me the truth, to tell me who he really was. Now I had heard that name here and there, and that may have been one of the reasons to confide in me, to reconcile any confusion I had, but I never really thought too much of it. That conversation had an emotional impact on me. Here was someone I had developed a friendship with and he was entrusting me with some pretty valuable info. He was confiding in me. Mario was putting his trust in me.

I have been able to have many serious conversations with Mario. Mario told me dreams of becoming a contractor within the construction industry; his dreams of owning a business and of making a fine living. He definitely had the drive and know-how. I told him one time about affordable housing in a neighborhood that had a few Mexican families in it. I’ll never forget his response: He did not want to live in a neighborhood where there were only Spanish-speaking people or where there was a Mexican culture; he wanted to live somewhere where his children would be encultured into an American culture, one where English was natural and where there was opportunity for his children to fit in and thus provide his children with more opportunities to make their lives better in the US. I also remember asking him why he didn’t just become legal. He replied that it was very expensive and that he was making more money than other legal immigrants (and residents) in his family, so where was the motivation?

When we moved away we tried to stay in touch, but I only got to really hang out a few times over the past few years. We have had baby boy #4 and they have had a 4th child, their first baby girl.

Mary contacted my wife a week or so ago. Her children were playing at a church next-door when they damaged the church sign. Mario went to the pastor and told him that he was very sorry and offered to repair or pay for any damage that his children may have caused. Instead of taking Mario up on the offer he called the authorities and they arrested Mario. He has been in jail for a few weeks now. He is waiting to face a hefty penalty or to be deported. So now my struggle is seeing a family torn apart. Mary can move to wherever Mario ends up. They can have a life and survive. But they want to be in the Land of Opportunity. They want to have a better life for their family.

I was relaying this story to a group of my church friends, and I found myself getting quite choked up. I don’t know what to do to help. Maybe my friends and I can come up with the money to pay the fine. Maybe I can help Mario get in contact with the right people to start the proper legalization process. Maybe my friends and I can get the money needed for Mario to become legal. If he is deported will he even be able to try to come here legally?

I know that there are lots of other “real” factors involved in this issue. The state of the US economy, US financial assistance to illegal immigrants (although Mario worked very hard to provide for his family, the rest of his family did receive financial assistance, LEGALLY qualifying), national security, and the list goes on and on. I also know that Mario should have come to the US legally. But he didn’t and he should have to answer to the law.

Even though I don’t know all of the answers, I am pretty sure the answer is not deporting my friend back to Mexico where he may not ever be able to pursue a better life in the US and where he may be separated from his family. I am pretty sure the answer is providing a cheap incentive for immigrants to be able to enter the US legally, and for them to be able to live normal lives.