I Am With You Always-Jesus Action Figures

UPDATED POST:  The original website is here:  http://www.wearefishermen.com/home.html   But the website seems to no longer work.  It seems that the manufacturer is selling these through amazon.com. 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.



Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson


Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in
I am lost . . . I am helpless
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in . . . it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.


Where are you at in your walk?


Frozen in Grand Central Station – Video

[EDIT: “Improv”, not “Improve”…Thanks alot Bill (“Bill” should be read with just a bit of contempt)]

This, my friends is simply unbelievably cool! Check out this video of a group called Improve Everywhere.

You can see this video and its comments here and other videos from this group here.

My wife has been part of an improve group in the past. She is pretty darn good, but then so is the group headed by local middle school teacher, Jeff Yarnell. Jeff’s students have appeared at the New Theater Restaurant and other drama productions local and not-so-local.

I used to participate in church youth group musicals and dramas. That’s right, I acted and I sang. Now I wasn’t ready for American Idol or anything close, but I was alright. I can carry a tune and I can lie and make a fool of myself on stage pretty good. I miss it only slightly. But it was fun when I did it!

Ahhh…I used to be wild and crazy!

Please comment on the video-I’d love to hear your thoughts!


The Keech Club Penguin Blog

My twin’s wordpress blog has gotten 15,614 hits.  My site has gotten 2,438 hits.  Holy hits Batman!  I mean they’re 12!  But here is the big difference-they blog about Club Penguin.  I blog about debt and part-time jobs.  Another difference-they actually say something every few days, I haven’t had much to say for the past couple of months.  And that is because I haven’t actually had much to say, I haven’t had any glorious or profound thoughts.  I have been working.  And that is pretty much it.


Celebrate the Day That Christ was Born to Die

I love the Advent season. It is a season of anticipation. It is also a season of Christmas music. At the Home Depot they have been playing Christmas music since Black Friday.  I am about sick of it.  And I couldn’t figure it out at first…I mean yeah you hear the same song every 45 minutes, by a different artist, sung completely different, and sometimes, most depressingly, in a country style, but why do I have this urge to remove my eardrums out of my head with a utility knife?  And then it dawned on me:  None of the songs were actually about the birth of Christ!  They were all commercial Christmas music for the most part. Songs about winter and snow and lights and Christmas trees.  Trite and familiar and it is supposed to make people happy. It just pushes me closer to the postal edge.  I’ll give you a white Christmas in a winter wonderland…  Willie Nelson sings Christmas songs?  Brings shivers to my spine.

On a different note…(get it, on a different NOTE?  Because music is made up of notes?  And I’m talking about music…Yeah, pretty funny stuff!)

Ever since City On A Hill: Its Christmas Time came out I have been hooked. I hope you will check out the link and buy a copy of it, you will not be disappointed. It is Christmas worship pure and simple. There is one song in particular that cuts into my heart, it is an original song (new) and it is sung by Jars of Clay, but the lyrics just tear me up. It is talking about Mary: “…you gave birth to the death that would bring us to life.” Just insanely powerful. Jesus was born with one purpose: To die for our sins so that we may truly live.

The other series that I just can’t get enough of is BEC’s Happy Christmas volumes 1-4. There are many traditional songs that are sung traditionally and some that are sung with a rock edge. And some original stuff on it too. Here is my favorite song of the series by Reliant K. Click on the link to see the youtube video and hear the song.

Reliant K-I Celebrate the Day

Again, Christ came to this earth and was born to die so that one day I would pray that he would save my life. Wow. Incredible. Powerful. Simple and profound. It just makes me want to fall and worship the Christ Child and anticipate his return.

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Happy Christmas,


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,


Part-Time Jobs, Death of Dreams, Reality Bites

Where to start…there is so much I want to talk about…I have made many observations this past few weeks.

Observation:  If I work 30 hours at my new part-time job (Home Depot) then I will almost make enough money to pay half a payment for half of my total student loans.  Or another way of looking at it:  I will almost make enough money to make a payment on the interest on one loan.  I need about 4 more part-time jobs to make any difference.  Which sucks.  I am working a whole lot of hours for a whole little pay, spending way too much time away from home and family, making time sacrifices and I am sore and tired all the time.  I almost like the job itself and the people I work with.  But I am not so sure it is worth it.  I simply need to make more money.

Observation:  Dreams exist so that they can be killed and obliterated, only then can one start to accept reality and live their miserable life.  I see people every day who want to do more with their lives, become a lawyer, pastor, own their own business, etc.  These people are dreaming.  They are still 18 years old and have the lie in their heads that they can do whatever they want to do.  My case-in-point:  I saw a magazine last night at Home Depot, it had a dream house on the front cover.  I remember the days when Minnie and I would sit around and dream about the perfect house…wrap-around porch, verandas, gazebos…sigh.  Then it dawned on me:  I am never gonna have that.  I may never even be the owner of any house.  It is time to wake up.  I’m never gonna fulfill those dreams, no pastoring, no dream house.  No putting my kids through college.  No retirement.  No new cars.  No nice chrome, front-loading matching washer and dryer.  No big-screen, HD TV.  No refrigerator with the ice maker and the water dispenser that holds the milk on the door and has that extra door on the outside where you can just reach in and get juice or milk or a snack.  No white picket fence.  Although Home Depot sells most of that stuff.  I’ll work until I am dead.  I’ll have debt until I die.  The best that I can hope for is to teach my kids to not follow in my footsteps.

Kids…I keep telling myself that someday Kaleb and Keegan will grow up in a house, with a yard and a tree house.  Another dream.  They are growing up so fast.

OK, so I am a little depressed and feeling sorry for myself.  So what.  Reality bites.

Observation:  Debt still sucks.  I was talking to a friend this past weekend and he confided that he was not very happy with God and student loan debt (and other debt).  There was cussing involved between him and God.  I cuss about 2 dozen times a day to myself.  The really bad 4-letter words too.  I am angry and frustrated.  This student loan debt is doing more than killing dreams.  It is starting to consume me, starting to master me.  I hate the fact that I went to MNU to be a pastor.  I hate that I feel cheated and lied to by Christians.  I even consulted with a bankruptcy lawyer last week.  But there isn’t much they can do unless one is disabled or at the poverty level.  I am neither and am actually sad about it!  I hate that even though I am taking steps to better myself that they really don’t matter!  I mean really!

So let’s review…Mad at God…Conned into going to MNU…insanely high student-loan debt…2nd job meaningless…hope slowly dying…future looks bleak…Life sucks.  Yep, that sums it up.

And then I hear the angel in the other ear:  You have a great job.  You have a great family.  You are getting caught up in consumerism.  You got to play the XBOX360 this past weekend and kill people-that was so much fun, remember all the carnage and death?  That was fun right?  You’re just tired.  Slow down.  Take a breather.  Calm down.  It’ll be OK.

But reality still bites.  There still won’t be that “American Dream”.  And yeah that is the lie of a consumer-based culture.  But it is still a lie I want so desperately to be a part of.  I don’t want to work 2 jobs until I die.  I want my kids to have a better life than me.

Man, I am tired.


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 (http://www.wqad.com/Global/link.asp?L=259460) 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 Magazinehttp://www.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/mclaren.html

It led me on a search for Brian McLaren’s thoughts on homosexuality:  http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2006/01/brian_mclaren_o.html
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):  http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2006/01/brian_mclaren_o_2.html  And an apology at the end?  WAY COOL!

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


Rob Bell-Micro Econimics-The Door Interview

There was a great interview with Rob Bell in the Wittenburg Door Magazine. One of the things that I found most intriguing was this comment about Micro-finances.

clipped from www.wittenburgdoor.com
…there are huge things going on. Like micro-finance. I was in Rwanda—essentially you take someone in poverty and give them a couple of bucks so they can start a business. We met a woman who started a business, built a house, fed her family and her business was now self-sustaining and growing—on a $40 dollar loan. A Western church gave this woman forty bucks and look what she’s done. Economically speaking, that’s one of the hopes of the world right now. We have more money than we know what to do with. American churches have more concentration of wealth than any time in history in a world with massive poverty. But some are exploring with micro financing, working with ground churches and trying things that could help save our world.


I think it would be extremely cool to pay a few bucks and see someone start a business that could sustain their family, community and possibly country! Very exciting! Read the whole thing here: http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/rob_bell.html


Another sermon on giving and tithing…

Another Sunday where I feel like crap.  I want to give, I want to be obedient.  But we simply don’t have the money to pay tithe and our basic bills.  And I do mean BASIC BILLS.  Rent, daycare, electricity, natural gas, water, gasoline, groceries, phone, clothes…there is simply nothing left.  We are still a month behind on rent.  I paid our water bill on Thursday-about an hour before it would have been shut off-we still have a garnishment against my check.  And we are still behind and way, deep in debt.

We are in a season of financial difficulty and rebuilding.  I believe it is just for a time.  We are coming out of a very long season (10 plus years) where we made continuous bad decisions with our finances.  We were not good stewards with what had been given to us.  We repeatedly acted reactively and whimsical.  HOWEVER, NOW, we are planning, we have been following Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and we have been making and sticking to a budget.  We are making better decisions, we are pro-actively budgeting and paying bills on time and communicating with debtors.

So the real issue today is do I heed the words of my pastor and act in obedience.  Or do I continue with The Plan?  This financial plan that we have is in an “emergency” mode that addresses the basics.  The next phases will include giving, saving and getting out of debt.  I keep telling myself that by not giving now we will be in a better position later to give-to be obedient and faithful and consistent with tithe.

But today Pastor is pleading with us to be obedient-TODAY and to give.  The thing is we simply don’t have money to give.

And so it goes back and forth.  On one hand there is a plan that gives us peace and security-a plan that we are being faithful to.  A plan that we are confident will lead us to a place where we have a healthy balance with our finances-a place where we can happily and fairly easily pay tithe.  It is a plan that we have entered into with prayer, faith and obedience.  It is a good plan.  It is a plan that works.  It is proven.  And right now it includes the absence of a full tithe.
On the other hand is a blind leap of faith to be obedient in my relationship with God.   It involves sacrifice.

I keep telling myself that we were not obedient before, work the plan and then we can be obedient in the future.  But sacrifice is not supposed to be easy nor affordable.

I don’t know what the answer is.  Part of that obedience is simply choosing to NOT pay a bill that can lead to not having daycare, no electricity, no water, no phone, an angry (er) landlord, no heat, no a/c (hey this IS Kansas), no hot water, no water at all, no gas, and the list goes on and on.

I don’t subscribe to a “prosperity gospel”.  I don’t believe that if I give all of my money away that God will bless me with loads of money.  The truth is I can sacrifice a basic bill to pay tithe and then NOT have the money to pay that bill.  I am behind on daycare, but have been paying on time since on the plan.  I have had my electricity shut off more than once in the past year-in the cold winter and in the hot summer.  The water has been shut off.  The phone has been shut off.

And on that one hand we are vowing to pay our bills on time.  And on the other hand we are not paying a tithe to God.  Not today.  But soon.  And freely-in obedience and consistently and faithfully.


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…


One Definition of Insanity

…is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different or new result. If you go back to my very first post  you will read about my work laptop crashing. You will read about me vowing to back up data. Well, guess what? My work laptop crashed yesterday.

So the question is did I lose everything or did I learn my lesson the first time around and backed up my data? Well, I am not too sure that the data is completely irrecoverable. But that isn’t the point is it? I did purchase software that would back up data. I installed it and even configured it. But work has these limitations. You can’t save certain file types. You can’t back up Outlook when it is running. And the list goes on and on.

So the answer is I had very little backed up. But I am not doing everything the same…I am BEGGING my boss to have IT do EVERYTHING they can to get the data off my hd. Which may involve spending money.

I did take the first step to do things differently in the future. I am encouraging the boss to entertain different ideas of backing up data.

I am insane today. But maybe more sane tomorrow. Well, not tomorrow because I will be going crazy hoping that they can get the data off my laptop tomorrow. But maybe soon.


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?


Switching to WordPress

I am switching blog sites. For new posts go to: https://durkniblick.wordpress.com/


Timing is Everything

I remember talking to a co-worker that had worked in a financial aid office. She said to NOT wait to pay backDave RamseyDave Ramsey student loans! That they would wait, allow interest to accrue, apply fines and penalties and fees and wait some more. Then they would come after you with a vengeance. That was 7 years ago.

I remember the MidAmerica Nazarene University recruiters coming to my church, into my youth group, into my Sunday School class. I had felt called MNUto ministry, to preach, to pastor a church. But neither I nor my family could afford to pay for me to go to college. I had no idea how I would afford to go to my church college that would train me for ministry and prepare me for pastoring. But the recruiters had an answer: Financial Aid, student grants and student loans. That was 16 years ago.

Now my wife and I have 2 student loans that are about $100,000 apiece. I have never been able to enter into ministry for many reasons, one being that no church would ever be able to afford to employ me where I could pay the school loans back. I’ll never forget the speech that my church history professor gave my junior year of college. He said, “75% of all Nazarene churches are 75 people or les. So if you have more than $5000 in loans the average church won’t pay you enough to pay them back.” Thanks prof. Williams. Why didn’t YOU visit my youth group?

I remember filing for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy judge asked if I had a doctorate with that kind of student loans. “Nope,” I replied, “I went to a private, religious college.” The credit card debt went away, but student loans are not easily forgiven in bankruptcy so the loans did not go away. That has been well over 8 years ago.

Now, for some reason, the US Department of Education wants their money back…and they want it pretty bad. I may be a day away from having the US Dept of Education garnish my check, @15% of my disposable income per paycheck for the rest of my life. Interest will still accrue. And that is only for one of the two loans.

In addition, the state is currently garnishing my check and my wife’s check to the total of 25% per person, per check. It is for a medical bill. We won’t be able to pay rent this month. We both have pay day loans out. We have one maxed out credit card. I have 2 401K loans that I am repaying. As I write this, my bank account is negative.

Dave RamseyThe Sunday after the Student Loan collectors started talking to me my friend, Mike called me. It was just after church and he invited me to a Dave Ramsey class. Of course I said yes. Thanks Mike.

There are a few positives. I have a great family. I have 4 boys. I have a great job. So does my wife. I am taking steps in the right direction. My good friend Bill is acting as our financial counselor, he has been great to keep us focused and encouraged-he even paid for my wife and I to attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University classes. I have stopped my 401K contributions. No cable. No Internet. Of course it is because we owe them too. I plan to reduce the cell phone plans to the next plan down. We rent, but both of our minivans are paid for. I changed my tax exemptions to get more money back during the year instead of a refund The federal gov’t will take that anyway). I have been taking my lunch to work instead of eating out. One pay day loan is paid off. I have 1 401K loan that will be paid off by the end of the month. I won’t be giving to United Way next year. I have even applied for several part-time jobs and my wife has been taking extra duties on at her school-that will be extra money too. I have been in contact with the people I owe, trying to make a plan and trying to take control and be responsible.

And of course, I participated in my first Dave Ramsey class last night.



You’ve got to check this video out. I couldn’t find this exact one on youtube, but there are others from the same group.

Check this out: http://www.childdrowningprevention.com/index.html

Amazing or what? I can’t even do that. I watched it with my jaw slack and with my eyes popping out of my head.

I also could not have been the one to film it-I couldn’t have waited!


I Always Feel Outta Place…

…whenever I go to my kid’s school. Now let me explain. My wife is a teacher in a very affluent school district. One of the perks is that she gets to bring her (our) kids into the district to be educated. That is awesome and my children LOVE the other kids and teachers. The education is of the highest quality.

But these families live in million dollar homes. I rent a duplex. They travel in brand new SUVs, expensive minivans and fast shiny sport cars. I drive a cheap minivan. It is old and it is paid for.

Not one person or persons have made me feel bad. No one points and laughs. No one stares and no one gives funny looks. But I am still an outsider. I do not live or hang out in their neighborhoods. I do not shop or eat in the ssame tores that they do. I am not part of their community.

Except of course, all our children go to school together.

I can accept that most of the issues are in my head. That I have the problem and not “them”. But this does not make me feel any better.

And then to make things worse this year is the first year in a middle school. New school. New kids. New parents.

I hated jr. high and high school. I remember that awkward, weird age. I was a geek, an outsider. I STILL have nightmares about going to the wrong class or skipping class because I couldn’t figure out my schedule! STILL!

And this week was no freaking different! It was meet the teacher night and I was given a schedule to follow. You simply go where the schedule states right? Well problem #1. I have twins therefore I have 2 schedules. No one else had 2 schedules. They are similar, but not the same. So first I have to figure out which classes to attend. I finally just choose one of the schedules and stick with it. I chose the schedule that had a technology class instead of the drama class. Then of course I wandered around looking for the right place to go.

Problem #2. The schedule changes from day to day. So even within one of the schedules I still had to figure out what classes I am supposed to be going to-what “day” it is supossed to be for this one night meet the teachers crap. So wouldn’t ya know it. I walk into the technology class and it is normally at the same time that the music class is-the music class that I had just met the teacher of… So I looked like a goober going to a class where there was no meeting of the teacher…it was the period before. While I was in that stupid music class. And then I was late for the class I was supossed to be meeting another teacher at!

I still feel out of place in a middle school. Stupid meet the tachers night. Stupid schedule. Stupid school.


I Recieved a Frustrating Email Today…

…From a friend. First it didn’t have a title in the subject line…that is just a pet peeve of mine. I used to have a supervisor that didn’t even read emails without something in the subject line. But more importantly it was an email about God and finances. I have a strong faith in God and I’d like to be financially healthy. So I read on. Now it started off innocently enough…here read the beginning:

God is the biggest help in the World. I claim it for you – now claim it for
me. God has more than a thousand Ways to provide for us, that we know nothing
about. Here is your financial blessing! It’s a simple prayer, you got 30

Sure, I got 30 seconds…But then it goes on:

Don’t sleep on this…Someone recently read this for the first time and received exactly enough for a $0 balance on all credit cards. If you need a financial blessing, continue reading this e-mail.

It is at this point that I get VERY angry. I believe that God will provide all of my spiritual needs. But is He gonna pay off my bills? NO, he isn’t. Will He keep me from getting sued if I don’t pay my debt back? Nope. I don’t believe that is His responsibility. And then to talk about credit card debt? Don’t get me started!

God is not a cosmic ATM machine. He isn’t some magical money tree. And the thing is this email comes at a time when I am really struggling financially. The School Loan People really want their money. I think I went to the most freaking expensive school in the country, MNU. I don’t know if I can make the payment that they want or not. And there are always threats that go along with their request for repayment. But do I lay that on God? Well, maybe, but I still have a responsibility. I am still accountable for my own past choices

I believe that God cares about His creation. I believe that it is His desire that his people be blessed and live healthy lives. But is God gonna just let me do whatever I want, let me make bad descisions and then bail me out? No. I don’t believe that. I believe that God will honor my good intentions and my good stewardship with my finances. But God ain’t gonna make all the money I ever request fall out of the sky.


Now That’s a Funny Name!

I was following a truck to work this morning when I saw the name in the web address on the back…It took me a couple of seconds to actually read the name:

FRENCH GIRLYMAN? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Whew..that was pretty funny. It reminded me of Hans and Frans from SNL!

Girly Men Pumping Iron


Funny Nerdy Shirts


I love to Blog

I know, you would never guessed! But I love everything about blogging. I love the writing. Blogging has given me an avenue to vent, joke around, be creative, review, journal, and just ramble on and on. I love the recording aspect, the memorializing. I love the picture part of it, kinda a voyeuristic aspect and it allows you to share family pics with friends and family. I like the idea of having a presence on the web. Blogging is becoming a bit of a passion for me. As it has for millions!

In my pursuit of blogging I have run across some pretty cool stuff, photo sharing (I am not quite finished reviewing all of the photo sharing sites on my list), free space and new blogs.

The latest blog site that I have come across is wordpress.com. [I was blogging at blogger, I migrated to wordpress.] Check out keech17.wordpress.com and thewienerdogblog.wordpress.com.

I really like their blogging format, it is extremely intuitive and easy to use. I actually like it a tad bit better than blogger! I shall try to remain loyal. One of the things that the wordpress blog site can do that say this site cannot do: upload pictures. And their themes have a lot of options and customizations.

Like I mentioned, one of the limitations of blogger is the inability to upload pictures and files. I ran across another cool, but extremely simple web site that seems to not have too many restrictions on file storage- www.wikispaces.com. Check out Durk’s PPC software site. It is pretty simple and plain; not too many graphics or themes. But one very unique thing, you can create pages super quick and you can upload and link to files with ease and speed.

I have been trying to think of a way to use all of these cool websites with their unique services, storage, blog formats and various bells and whistles. I have been trying to think of them as tools at my disposal.

I plan on sticking with the photo sharing sites for a few reasons. They can hold a whole lot of pictures. It is a one-stop shop for organizing and backing up pictures. They allow you to put together some pretty cool shows and filmstrips and such. And then easily allow you to share. It makes sense to have one place to store all of our pictures.

I plan to use wikispaces.com for file sharing and if I need a link to a separate page-like what I did with the email correspondence and the PPC software. It makes sense to have one place to store files and host extra external pages.

I also decided to get the family involved.

Kaleb & Keegan created their Keech site; it is dedicated to their adventures with and cheats for Club Penguin.

I also started thewienerdogblog to have another blog to maintain! And of course to chisel out a spot on the web for our Dash and Izzy.

That pretty much covers everyone except for the wife. I am still working on her. She has concerns as to how she will be portrayed to current and prospective employers. Many employers will scour the internet searching for potential employee’s presences on the web.

This is a valid concern. But as long as one isn’t sharing inside secrets, dissing the boss or complaining about students by name, then you should be OK. And so should she.


I’m With Fred! Are You With Fred?


Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow about a week ago. So I thought it was time to give it my review.

I want to start out by saying that I thought it was a fantastic final chapter to a very entertaining series. It kept my attention and I enjoyed the story very much. There were many “loose ends” that were addressed at the end. I was just thinking yesterday that I would have liked to have known what happened to the house elf Kreatcher and maybe the plight of house elfs in general. But other than that most of my questions were answered. It definitely was an appropriate ending to the series.

So I liked the book and liked the series. But I am still hung up on the whole allegory thing. I still think it just might be JK Rowling’s intent for the series to be a complete Christian allegory. But it isn’t a perfect allegory by any stretch of the imagination.

There is a scene from CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where the Son of Adam and the Daughters of Eve are walking into Aslan’s camp. For me it was one of the first times that the allegory was staring me in the face. The younger brother, the other Son of Adam, had betrayed his family and was being held captive by the White Witch. The other 3 traveled to go see Aslan who might be able to help fight against the White Witch. And here they are entering the camp, walking through it to seek Aslan. And there are all of these other creatures, centaurs and such that they are walking by. It was very cool on the big screen. And then all of these creatures recognize that these three are human…and they do the most incredible thing-they bow, they offer respect! It was at that point that I lost it, I just started to cry, and not subtly, but in convulsions. I just kept thinking, “No, you don’t understand, stop! We don’t deserve that kind of honor and respect! You don’t know what kind of evil we are capable of.” And I thought of how heaven welcomes us in, these dirty, filthy, rotten sinners, they rejoice when we are gracously accepted by Christ.

And then there is the scene where Aslan lays slain. Suddenly his body disappears. The altar where he had laid is broken in two. Again the allegory smacks you upside the head. The curtain between the Holy of Holies and the priests ripped in two.

I have to say, there are no scenes in any of the Harry Potter books that scream out the allegory. There are things that happen and things that are said that can be taken in an alegorical manner, but nothing that is blatant. And for me that is most disappointing. I thought there may be something at the very end of the final chapter. But the death is nothing too special. There is no parallel of what happens to a Harry while he is dead. The “ressurection” is nothing special. And finally the victory is nothing special. Instead of the story representing the Gospel there are themes that are present: Harry conquers death, is a savior of humanity, overcomes evil with good, and is an example of a good person. In the end though I thought Harry was a pretty lame representation of Christ. I also thought that the author had a pretty good opportunty to create some pretty amazing final scenes that may be Gospel representations, just his reappearance alone could have defeated Voldermort. Maybe others could have been brought back to life. And as mentioned in the allegory editorial on mugglenet it would have been cool if the Veil of Death room had been destroyed or torn apart or whatever. And finally although there are “things worse than death” that was mentioned, nothing seemed to have come of it too much.

I want to state again that the book and the series are awesome stories! Just not that great of an alegory.


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.


Harry Potter Line Standing Time!

I like to think of myself as a professional line stander. And tonight is yet another line to add to my profession! The final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, book 7 goes on sale tonight at midnight. This is the 2nd HP book line that I have stood in. I am pretty excited. Not only because of the normal hype, but also because of the “extra” hype with the alleged allegory. I thought “alleged allegory” might sound like an alliteration. Sweet!

I actually have already stood in a Harry Potter line today. This morning at Border’s to get a bracelet that has a color (orange) and a number on it (36345-I assume I am was the 45th in line today), securing my place in line at the Potter Party tonight. There was a party of girls at the front of the line who had been there for 11 hours. ROCK ON, dedication! The line was about 70% female, I found that most interesting. The party starts at 9:00 PM. I shall be there right after I see the movie again in the IMAX theater! I will let you know how the movie and the book line goes later! And maybe even review the movie and book much later.


Update: There was no line for the movie, and it was most excellent in 3D! We journeyed over to the IHOP for some late dinner and then we walked over to the Borders. We were there about 9:00. And so was about half the country. My pastor and his wife were there; I have the coolest pastor in the world. Yes, it was PACKED! But because I had stood in line 12 hours earlier Bill and I were able to line up in the first line for the books to go on sale at midnight! This enabled me to take Bill home and slide into bed before 1:00 am! Some folks bought their copy and rushed to their car to start to read it. A couple of my friends had the book read by Sunday morning. I heard one story of a guy who had it finished in 13 hours-he stopped to eat twice. I found out that Borders closed around 3:00 am. Savvy shoppers who hate crowds were able to pick up a copy at Walmart or HyVee at midnight without any kind of wait. Some even had cupcakes set out, very nice touch. BUT, they missed out on the Potter Party! It was a super cool experience!

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: http://durkniblick.wikispaces.com/durkandabby


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: http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/editorials/edit-beauseigneura01.shtml

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. Dictionary.com 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.


Summer Vacaton 2007 (6 of 6)-Religion


There is a definite change in mood as you get closer to the East coast and as we got closer to Minnie’s fundamental family.

Between Kansas City and St. Louis there are dozens of adult book stores and adult clubs along the highway. That changes as you get farther east. The adult businesses were replaced with huge religious billboards that offered strange church-language messages-telling people that they were sinners and to repent and asking passerbyers if they knew where they would spend eternity. Sinners, repent and eternity. Old words that used to hold common meaning and now sound foreign and for some reason harsh. The world does not have a religious foundation like it used to. Culture changed dramatically. Christians haven’t changed that much over time.

Minnie’s family still hands out tracts to people. In my opinion billboards and tracts are an easy way for Christians to feel good about themselves without actually having to invest time and energy developing relationships with others. Then again so are looks and stares and judgments. I can’t dismiss them altogether, but I question their effectiveness. I can’t name one person that I know that was saved via a billboard or a tract. I do have friends who have accepted Christ as a result of other Christians who have become true friends to them. Offering acceptance, friendship and finally offering direction to a missing piece in their life.

But these antique religious messages also send a negative message, “CHANGE WHAT YOU ARE DOING”, but why? And change to what? There is no message of hope and no message to turn to a personal, intimate God who desires to relationship with mankind. It is a fundamental difference of what it means to be saved-of what salvation means. To these folks it is being saved from hell. To me it is being transformed so that we can enter into a relationship with God. One is positional and the other is relational. The first involves freedom from punishment and the latter involves a friendship that blossoms now and fully develops in another life-heaven.

Then there is the Amish and Mennonite country of the East-Pennsylvania Dutch country. First there is the names of the towns, cities and townships. Many are named after biblical words and names, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Emmaus, etc. But then it gets a little weird, Harmony, Fertility, Blue Ball, Puseyville, Lucky, Unionville, (I am NOT making this up!), Pillow, Fruitvill, West Middlesex. I thought there was a Chastity, PA, but I can’t find it now. What were these pious people thinking? OK, I know that some names hold much different meanings now than at one time…but come on! There is a bumper sticker that reads “In Pennsylvania Intercourse is just this side of Paradise” And it is geographically accurate. And those names all seem to clash with the visual (there is a town named Media)-horse and buggies and wool clothes and pastries and farmers markets and quilts and head-coverings and overalls and bikes for the progressive, and long beards and the black hats. We saw a horse and buggy that had been hit by a car. I do not know if anyone got hurt.


Like I mentioned before, The In-Laws are fundamental Independent Baptist. Which means they are first and foremost Christian-I consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. And then they are Calvinists (once saved, always saved) and then they are fundamentalists-which practically means that they have issues with those that don’t believe exactly as they do. I understand this, I attempt to have friendly, thought-provoking discussions, and finally agree to disagree, and most of the time we walk away still friends (or at least still related).

And there’s my cousins and my sister-in-law. Cousin Melanie married Josh. Melanie comes from a missionary family, she is a preacher’s kid-she grew up in South Africa. She has had some wild times in latter years, but she is now trying to lead a life that honors God. The rest of the family has high hopes for Josh. Now I wouldn’t label Josh as a pagan or anything, but he is not a professing Christian. I would label him as a seeker and I think that he might even want to accept it all blindly, but he just can’t. Why should he!? He seems to be analyzing and, well, seeking. And that is totally cool, I respect that very much. Sister-inLaw on the other hand just can’t wait for Josh to “make a decision” to follow Christ. It is this terminology and mindset that troubles me.

There are so many people out there just waiting for someone to say a prayer or to make a confession. To me those initial steps are crucial, but not the end all. For me it comes back to a relationship. At the essence it is a relationship with Christ, but the journey often involves relationships with those around us, friends, family etc. Fellow believers that offer advice, encouragement and most of all, an example.

It kinda starts with a warped view of Calvinism. John Calvin was a theologian and one of his core beliefs is “perserverence of the saints”. Which means that one cannot lose thier salvation, they just can’t wake up one day and not be saved-like they lost their keys or something. But is has also come to mean that one cannot willingly walk away from the faith. This is where we differ. I do not believe that anything or anyone else can steal our salvation away from us. But I do believe that we can leave it behind, we can walk away. It is though we walk beside Christ and as we pause (as we stumble, as we make bad disicions, as we hurt ourself and others) Christ continues. We can always ask for forgiveness and opt to catch up. But sometimes we don’t chose to catch back up, we camp out in our weakness and selfishness and often times lose sight completely and it is then that we need to re-establish our relationship with Christ-to be put back beside him again. It is the “inbetween” that folks aregue about. Where would one spend eternity if they are in that “out-of-sight” state. The state where they have done nothing to improve thier relationship with God and do things to hurt God. Sin is sin and it still separates us from God.

Apparently I am one who was hindering Josh from making his end-all dicision. I pointed out a shirt on the boardwalk at Ocean City, MD. It was a Harley-Davidson shirt and the back said, “If you can read this then the b*tch fell off.” I thought it was a pretty funny, I still do. It is just a shirt. It is pop culture. ANYWAY, Tammie let me have it via my wife. Apparently Josh said something to Tammie to question my salvation. And she was accusing me of preventing Josh from making that fateful decision. I am not so sure what Josh actually siad.

So Josh, sorry bud if I offended you, reall, forgive me. Even though Christians aren’t perfect some still have a sense of humor. Taste is another issue. I might not have much of the latter, but I like to laugh, a lot! And we could have a whole discussion on cussing and wholesome conversation. I always strive for wholesome conversation, but sometimes I cuss, it might be a bad habbit, but sometimes coming from someone like me, well it is out of place and adds to the funny! There are also those that cussed in the Bible, those that used very strong and curt words-cussing I do however, try to pay careful attention to who (whom?) my audiance is.

Tammie, I am sorry that it got back to you, but when Josh is ready to enter into a relationship with Christ I hope he has a full understanding of what he is getting into, at least that is what I see him looking for before he makes a dicision. There is nothing wrong with that. I just hope he doesn’t think that he has to surrender a life of fun and humor for a life of solomn boredom and family baggage. The Christian life is so full of LIFE and freedom and joy and fullfillment.


Summer Vacation 2007 (5 of 6)-Riding in Cars with Boys

All total we traveled 3000 miles. I must have filled up over 10 times! We stayed in 3 hotels. We went under mountains and through them and over them. We passed by fields, forests, lakes, an ocean, over bridges and through tunnels. All the while with four boys and a back-seat-driving wife! Minnie did something that she often does-something wonderful and magnificent and magical-she brought audio books along! SWEET!

We listened to 2 great books, Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen. And A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. we also listened to part of Culture Warrior by Bill O’Reilly, but since we did not finish I will save my review until another time-I will say I found what I heard extremely interesting and appreciative.

Water for elephants was about a man’s story in a circus in the 1930s in the midst of the Depression. It is told within a couple of years ago as he is much older. He starts out, “I am 90 or 93, I forget which…” It was a very touching story. It made me miss my dad. But it also made me thankful that he did not outlive his mind and body. It was also a story about life in a circus! It is a fairly new book and it was great, I highly recommend it. The ending was fantastic.

A 1000 Splendid Suns was also a great book. It journaled the life of 2 women who grew up in Afghanistan. It started in the mid 1970 and went to just a few years ago. Afghanistan, as it turns out, was peaceful and beautiful and radiant in the 1970s. Then the cold war hit smack dab in the middle and the U.S. gave the Afghanistan tribes weapons to fight off the Russians. Communism was established and land was taken away. The one thing that communism did bring to the region was a great importance on education and to have it equally to males and females. But women were allowed to learn and go to universities before this. Religion was downplayed and so was commerce. Once the Russians retreated the tribes were left with weapons and fought each other for power. Many people died at the hands of their own country men, but different tribes. There were fighters who tried to establish free elections, but they too were motivated by power and greed. Some tribes that had felt like they had been oppressed fought not for fair representation, but for total control. Then the Taliban came and everything went to hell. The Taliban proclaimed and enforce Sharia law. Women suddenly became worthless and oppressed. Women had to be covered in public by wearing burkas. They were never allowed to travel without a male escort and could not laugh in public or initiate conversation. Women were forbidden to work and attend schools. Hospitals were segregated. The character in the story was forced to attend a hospital with little electricity and ran only by women. They were not allowed anesthesia and the main character delivered a baby by cesarean with no pain medication whatsoever. A drought hit the region at the same time. Finally, Al Qaeda forced out the Taliban. I do not know how things went after that. There is actually a love story woven in and a relationship that strengthens between a young wife and an older wife married to the same abusive man. The few story lines take a bit to develop but are well worth the wait.

The Afghani book was written by an Afghan for Westerners. It showed how the people in general do not hate America, but have become oppressed and have been kept uneducated and taught to love war. It made me realize how little I know of the region, culture and history.

Since I am in review mode I will talk about Ratatouille which I saw with my family. Transformers was completely sold out. Disney’s Ratatouille was entertaining and the story was pretty good. The ending TOTALLY and completely sucked though. The multitude of rats running the kitchen was unbelievable and dumb. They spent all this time making us think that it is special and uncommon for a rat to interact with a human and to cook, then just expected us to think that it was OK for hundreds of rats to do the same, out goes special. It was like saying “Hey this is special and magical and now it is common life, no big deal.” The story with the food critic was pretty cool, I liked that-it was creative and fun-I liked the resolution. Then the very ending with the transitions that happen in the restaurant was just joltingly sudden and just disappointing. It was like they created a great script and built up to a great conflict then just wasn’t quite sure how to resolve and wrap things up-so they made a few wrong decisions…and it became boring and disappointing. I guess the theme came through: Anyone can cook. Yippy.


Summer Vacation 2007 (4 of 6)-Oceans of Fun

On the fifth of July we traveled to Ocean City, Maryland. We got there a little late but still had time to play in the ocean. Corbin hated the water. I think he was scared of the moving water and the crashing sounds-the water may have been too cold for him too. Kaleb & Keegan LOVED the water. Calvin warmed up to the ocean on day 2.

The Boardwalks has a whole host of beach shops, games and rides. Kaleb & Keegan and I rode on a few roller coasters and had a blast! We ate cotton candy. It was a beautiful evening, warm but not hot with a cool breeze.

That evening there were fireworks! They had been cancelled on the 4th Due to wind and they had also been cancelled in PA due to heavy rains! They were very beautiful at the ocean. The weather was perfect! Corbin hated the fireworks.

Day 2 at the beach was an adventure. Kaleb & Keegan had boogie boards and they got pretty good at it. Calvin was timid of the water but loved the wet sand and splashing along the “finish line” as he called it-where the ocean met the sand.

Sand…I learned that I hate it. It would not have been so bad, but I did not wear my swim trunks to the beach-neither did Minnie. I don’t know what I was thinking! I brought it to the beach, but there was no where to change! You were not allowed to change in the public bathroom! So I had jean shorts on and therefore only waded in the ocean. I also failed to put sunscreen on my legs-they got burned real good.

That evening we met up with Minnie’s cousin Melanie. Her husband met us later and we all had a nice visit. Melanie is trying to get into modeling and Josh is trying to get into the comic book business.

We found out after we returned home and attended church that our pastor and his wife had been to Ocean City on the 6th! We were all there at the same time! Pretty cool.


Summer Vacaton 2007 (3 of 6)-Family

Vacationing in Pennsylvania means visiting family! Specifically, The In-Laws.

Staying with tradition I cut my hair before we left Kansas City. The tradition started the first time my wife and I visited her family on their turf. I met them when they came here to Kansas when Minnie and I got married. My hair was long and my wife’s hair was short! My wife’s family are fundamental Independent Baptists and they did not like my long hair! So I cut it all off when I went to Bethlehem, PA for the first time. And this trip was no exception…I was WAAAY over due for a whacking anyway!

Breaking with tradition we stayed with Minnie’s sister Tammie instead of Minnie’s parents…Tammie, what to say about her? Well, I lover her. She is strong-willed and stubborn. She rebels against her mom and dad while ending up just like them! She works too much-work has become her identity and I fear that one day all the lack of sleep and stress will take its toll on her. I hope not. She’s wounded and she is struggling to live a healthy life, but then again so are most of us. We butt heads most of the time, but what I really want to show her or prove to her or persuade her of is that there is a whole world out there that is better than the one she places herself in, the one she hates and tolerates and escapes from and martyrs through. It isn’t MY world, but it is different and one that I have found by grace. But just the fact that I want it for her usually is the reason she won’t attempt it. Although she did say that if she could find 1 job that paid the same as her current 2 jobs that she’d consider moving out here! Hey, that is something!

Minnie’s parents are in a new house! It is away from their previous book-cased, row home, house and it actually has a yard! And a car port! And flowers and trees! And none of it is shared with the neighbors! SWEET!

Minnie’s aunts, Darene and Fran, haven’t changed much. They still live together in the same house with their dogs. A couple of new dogs and a couple less than before. They show their love by giving us all kinds of gifts that they have gotten over the years…backpacks and games and toys for the boys. An expensive telescope that we strapped to the roof to transport back to KC. Other nick knacks. And then the stuff that we just couldn’t fit and had to leave behind, exercise equipment and all kinds of really cool stuff.

The rest of her family offered things to take as well, food, a weed whacker, blankets and more exercise stuff…drinks and candy and…well, gifts that they lovingly lavish on Minnie and her family.

They all bide for Minnie’s time and attention. Tammie “won” the most by hosting us! And she was an awesome host and we felt very comfortable and taken care of! Tammie also traveled with us on much of our vacation. We had a great time visiting with her. Minnie has grown very close to her sister over the past years and Tammie loved getting to know the boys more. Minnie’s parents won a little bit by offering meals and a new house to visit and check out (new neighbors and a new yard and a new garage and a new basement), but I know her dad wanted to spend more time with Minnie-even though he got to hang out with us a the Knobels theme park, I am sure he would have liked to spend more time with just Minnie without everyone else. Minnie’s aunts won a little by offering stuff! They buy all of this stuff for us but we have to personally pick it up! They took us all to lunch one day-that was very nice. I think all of the children are a little overwhelming for them-the kids are messy and loud and Darene and Fran are quiet and have their routines.

Minnie is the prodigal daughter, the one that returns home every so often-not often enough. The one that made it out. The one that lives too darn far away! The one that married. The one that didn’t stay home. The one that went off and started her own family far away from the East. Just about the only one in her immediate family who is not bound to the rest of the family by physical location and emotion. That is a blessing and a curse, good and bad.

There is always running around trying to visit everyone and worrying about “equal time” and such is true on any family trip-Mine when I go back home to Iowa and Minnie’s as we traveled through Pennsylvania.

We got to see Minnie’s ailing grandparents. They seem to be doing well. We got to see Minnie’s best friend Kenda and her family-well most of her family. And we got to visit Minnie’s cousin Melanie and her husband in Ocean City, MD.

I love Minnie’s family, my family. And I love that they love Minnie and the rest of us.


Summer Vacaton 2007 (2 of 6)-Observations about the East

The East is cramped. Tiny 2-lane Turnpikes and highways. Pressed together row homes. Long, narrow alleys. Narrow, curvy roads through the mountains and valleys. Cars parked all along both sides of the curbs. The beach was crowded. Cramped.

The East is impatient and FAST. This I actually like! I like speed, I like to go fast. I wanna go, go go! But when you combine tight spaces with speed it can be disastrous. Fortunately, we had a safe trip-even when those motorcycles came out of freaking NOWHERE!

The East is beautiful. Driving under and through the mountains & valleys. Dancing around at the beach, and wading through the crashing raves. Driving by the forest, marshlands, rivers & bridges. Going to parks, through old Amish & Mennonite country, by corn fields & tobacco fields, farms, and country towns. Heck even the old abandoned steel factories in Allentown, PA were sadly rusty and beautiful.


Summer Vacation 2007 (1 of 6) – Vacation from My Vacation

Maybe it is transporting 6 people all across the East. Maybe it is 3000 miles I am putting on the rented Yukon. Maybe because I am not visiting my side of the family. Maybe it is the awful East coast driving in cramped space. Whatever the reason, I need a vacation from my vacation!

Now don’t get me wrong…it is great seeing family (even The In-Laws!). The mountains in PA & OH are a spectacular site. The beach at Ocean City, MD was powerful and soothing and neat. But it was rush to get there, rush to see everyone and rush to do everything once you are there and with family and friends!

Where is the relaxation! NO TIME!

My children and wife had the time of their life. I am VERY thankful for that.


Photo Sharing with Google & Yahoo

I am continuing my discussion of photo sharing sites. Photobucket is ad-driven. Shutterfly has less ads and allows you to order prints. Snapfish offers a personalized photo product line. Today’s photo sharing sites are sponsored by Google & Yahoo!

Flickr is associated with Yahoo and uses one’s Yahoo account info (login and password).

Wikipedia says this:

Flickr is a photo sharing website and web services suite, and an online community platform, which is generally considered an early example of a Web 2.0 application.

In addition to being a popular Web site for users to share personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers as a photo repository. Its popularity has been fueled by its innovative online community tools that allow photos to be tagged and browsed by folksonomic means.

Stats at a glance for http://www.flickr.com/:

  • Cost: Free with Yahoo ads, but limited bandwidth, limited archiving and the account disappears after 90 consecutive days of inactivity.
  • Upgrade: $24.95/yr to upgrade to a pro account and get pretty much unlimited everything and permanent archiving and ad-free browsing.
  • Storage: When you have a free Flickr account, you can upload 100MB worth of photos each calendar month. This is a bandwidth limit, and not an amount of space that you have on Flickr servers.
  • Software: Flickr (free download)
  • What sets this site apart: The ability to tag pictures with keywords and blog and photo integration.

is associated with Google and uses one’s Google account info (login and password).

Wikipedia says this:

Picasa is a computer application for organizing and editing digital photos. In July 2004, Google acquired Picasa from Idealab and began offering Picasa for free download.

For organizing photos, Picasa has file importing and tracking features, as well as tags and collections for further sorting. It also offers several basic photo editing functions, including color enhancement, red eye reduction and cropping. Other features include slide shows, printing and image timelines. Images can also be prepared for external use, such as for e-mailing or printing, by reducing file size and setting-up page layouts. There is also integration with online photo printing services.

Stats at a glance for http://picasaweb.google.com/:

  • Cost: Free with not too many ads but limited storage.
    Upgrade: 6.25 GB ($25 USD per year)
    25 GB ($100 USD per year)
    100 GB ($250 USD per year)
    250 GB ($500 USD per year)
  • Storage: 1GB of free storage.
  • Software: Picasa (free download)
  • What sets this site apart: The ability to tag pictures with keywords, Picasa’s web albums and simple photo editing.

Next time I will talk about Dotphoto. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo_sharing for more info on photo sharing.


Sprint Mogul (PPC6800) by HTC Officially Unveiled

Well, the phone I have been waiting for, nay, dreaming about was finally released this week. The next version of the PPC6700-my phone that I love so much-has finally been released. UTStarcom was bought by HTC and HTC has just released the Mogul.

Here is an initail review:


Of course I want one, heck I want 5! But for now I am reading up on it. I just can’t justify the $400. I also have a friend who got one for free. I hope to check his out. I hope I don’t kill him in the process and steal it. I liked him just fine until I found out that he got one for FREE! FOR FREE!?


Photo Sharing-Snapfish

I am continuing my discussion of photo sharing sites. Photobucket is ad-driven. Shutterfly has less ads and allows you to order prints. Today’s site steps it up again!

Snapfish is a web-based image sharing and print service currently owned by Hewlett-Packard which was launched in April 2000. As of 2006, Snapfish claims to have over 19 million members, and houses over 350 million unique digital pictures.

Once again snapfish ups the ante by allowing you to buy stuff with the pictures that you have uploaded to their site-your pictures on their stuff! Stuff like shirts, mugws and playing cards, just to name a few. Click here for a quick peek. Very cool!

Photo sharing sites are super user friendly. All of the photo sharing sites that I discuss have been incredibly easy to sign up with. They all offer very easy-to-use interfaces and all upload pictures at a very speedy rate. The difference is in the amount of space that they have to offer and what “extra” the sites have to offer, Photobucket offers video hosting, Shutterfly offers reprints and software. Snapfish also offers free Photo editing and organizing software-Snapfish Express PhotoShow.

Stats at a glance for http://www.snapfish.com/:

  • Cost: Free with ads for shutterfly services (less external ads)
  • Upgrade: none
  • Storage: unlimited
  • Software: Snapfish Express PhotoShow (free download)
  • What sets this site apart: The ability to oder products with your pictures on it.

Next time I will talk about Yahoo’s and Google’s photo sharing sites. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo_sharing for more info on photo sharing.


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.


Photo Sharing-Shutterfly.com

I am continuing my discussion of photo sharing sites. Like my friend Bill said in his comments about my last post: “You get what you pay for.” His reference to godaddy.com is pretty incredible price for web hosting. So while the “you get what you pay for” addage is mostly true, photo sharing sites today have much to offer for free! And then have even more to offer at a fair price.

My wife turned me on to Shutterfly when she decided to take a step into digital scrapbooking. Shutterfly, Inc. is a photo sharing website that was founded in 1999 by Netscape and Silicon Graphics founder James Clark. It provides a digital photo printing service to customers. In response to market changes in recent years, Shutterfly now offers other products, such as customized calendars and greeting cards. Shutterfly also offers a free download photo editor: http://www.shutterfly.com/studio/overviews.jsp

Here is their limit policy:

For our customers, we offer free, unlimited storage: we will let you store as
many pictures as you wish, with no fee to upload or store your pictures. All
pictures, whether uploaded digitally or from our 35mm film service, will be kept
in your account until you delete them yourself. (Please note that Shutterfly
reserves the right to modify this policy if necessary.)

We also offer a service called Shutterfly Pro Galleries, where you can sell prints online, naming your own price– with discounted printing provided by Shutterfly. For Pro Galleries, we offer hosted storage for an annual fee, with storage levels starting at 5 GB for the Pro plan and unlimited storage for the Premier plan. Please note that the storage limit is based upon the files posted to your galleries at a single
time. For more information, please see our Pro Galleries page at: http://www.shutterfly.com/progallery

Shutterfly does not currently have a maximum file size limit. We do encourage customers to keep image file sizes to within reason (usually under 10 megs, as there is no added benefit in terms of our printing with larger sizes).

The thing that sets Shutterfly apart from Photobucket (besides less ads!) is that Shutterfly allows you to order prints-You upload your digital pictures then merely order prints to be delivered by mail. Another VERY cool feature at shutterfly is that they have a very simple-to-use interface that allows you to create a photo album-a real-honest-to goodness book, one that you can hold in your hand! One of the presents I got this year was my very own photo album. Shuterfly allows you to choose the layout, pick your pics, create captions or even create a story line and then you submit an order and in a few days you get a bound book delivered to your doorstep. Pretty cool!

Here is a digital version of a book made for grandma: http://share.shutterfly.com/action/project/2AasWbZi4asWEv/landing

Stats at a glance for http://www.shutterfly.com/ :

  • Cost: Free with ads for shutterfly services (less external ads)
  • Upgrade: none
  • Storage: unlimited
  • Software: Shutterfly Studio (free download)
  • What sets this site apart: The ability to oder prints and other simple proiducts.

Next time I will talk about snapfish.com Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo_sharing for more info on photo sharing.


Photo Sharing-Photobucket.com

As I became more serious about selling on ebay I discovered that I could be much more creative using HTML code and that I could have as many pictures as I wanted in an auction or store item if the pictures were hosted somewhere else (off of ebay). So I began to sign up with myspace, msn spaces (now spaces.live) and the like (this blog site) only to find out that you could not store pictures at these site-in fact these sites depended on an outside site to host pictures. Some of those sites have changed thier policies and do allow you to store pics, but usually the space is limited. I was stumped for a bit. Those that pay to host a website know how valuable the storage space is-usually about $100/yr for about 500mb.

Then a myspace user told me about photobucket. Photobucket is simply a site where you can upload pictures and then share them with others-either by using a blog or a myspace site to display the pictures or by offering someone an address to where your photo is on the Photobucket site. This is called photosharing and it has become VERY popular on the internet.

The advantage of using a photosharing site is that you can host pictures online for free-think of it as free storage, free space. And most of these sites offer quite a bit of space-a GB or more! Another advantage is that you can use a single location to organize your pictures. You can usually create folders or albums. And then of course you can share your photos with loved ones and friends. To meet my goal I signed up with Photobucket and was able to put the location of those pictures into my ebay code and the pictures showed up in auctions and store items without having to pay an additional ebay fee! SWEET. Others sign up with a myspace or a blog site (such as this one, blogspot) and can display pictures.

Photo sharing sites may have much in common but they are not all ceated equal. Most of the free photosharing sites offer their free photosharing services because they sell ads on their website. Selling ads on websites have been around for a long time and is continuing to be very big business. Photobucket is a heavy with ads-and that is why they can offer their service for free. Most offer an upgraded service for a small fee-then you can get rid of the adds. All photo sharing sites offer some sort of interface for you to select pictures from your computer and then upload them to the photo sharing site. And all photo sharing sites offer methods of sharing your photos. Some sites stop there and others offer many additional pay services-such as ordering prints, creating a bound photo album, creating pretty cool digital displays, and even ordering stuff with your pictures on it. Pay-as in these extra services cost money, and that is another way the sites can offer their services for free. And many of their services are at a really great price!

Photobucket offers image hosting, free photo sharing and video sharing. Upload your photos, host your videos, and share them with friends and family. It was founded in 2003 by Alex Welch and Darren Crystal and received funding from Trinity Ventures. It is free to sign up, you get 1GB of space and are allowed 25GB of monthly bandwidth. Photobucket has 36 million registered users and adds 85,000 new users per day.

Most of the free photosharing sites offer their free service because they sell ads on their website. Selling ads on websites have been around for a longt time and is continuing to be very big business. Photobucket is a heavy with ads-and that is why they can offer their service for free.

Photobucket is the first site that was recommended to me. They allow you to not only upload pictures but also upload videos and movies. I actually have more than one photobucket account. Photobucket also offers some simple but cool ways to display your pics. My picture to the left is an exmple of a Photobucket stamp. Below are pictures of my minivan after a deer kicked its butt (notice the Kung-Fu-HIY YAH!). In my previous posts I have used Photobucket Strips.

Stats at a glance for http://www.photobucket.com/:

  • Cost: Free with lots of ads
  • Upgrade: $25 a year (no ads, more space a few more services)
  • Storage: 1GB of space
  • Software: none
  • What sets this site apart: Offers free video hosting

Next time I will talk about Shutterfly.com. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo_sharing for more info on photo sharing.


Ferris Wheel: The Scariest Ride of All!

At the end of every school year the MidAmerica Nazarene University region for the Nazarene denomination hosts Nazarene Night at Worlds of Fun. Worlds of Fun is an amusement theme park in Kansas City and the day holds special meanings as I get to reunite with old friends and catch up on their lives.

Last Friday was another Nazarene Night at Worlds of Fun. I took my 11-yr old twin boys. We love to ride roller coasters. The Mamba is an awesome ride! Unfortunately the Boomerang was closed. We got stuck and passed on the Fury of the Nile. It was a pretty darn good night. The boys had a blast.

As the evening started to come to a close I decided that it would be fun to ride the ferris wheel! WOF calls it the Skyliner. I know it is somewhat of a slow ride. But the line wasn’t too long and I thought it would be a nice pleasant ride.

I was wrong. Mistake #1 was opting to ride the scariest ride at the park.

There is always anticipation of the excitement you hope to have on the ride. Anticipation in a roller coaster line just adds to the thrills. We stood extra long in the Mamba ride so we could get the front car! Standing in the line for the Ferris Wheel we were fairly calm and relaxed. This was mistake number 2.

Hype in a roller coaster line might look like waiting until you are strapped in and commenting on how you hope the coaster doesn’t derail. Ha, ha. Funny. And the roller coaster only lasts for a couple of minutes. Hype on the ferris wheel consisted of looking at the signs that read “Do not rock cart.”

Something extra special about Nazarene Night at WOF is that the park hasn’t been open too many times in the season. So there are young teens still trying to figure out how to operate the rides. This always scares me just a little. What if Teen Operator makes the ride go a little too fast or puts the brakes on a little too soon? One thing that we noticed was that every other car on the wheel was empty. That was fine as our line wasn’t too long. But as we got closer to our turn the line got longer and the empty seats started to fill up. Keegan asked the operator why every other cart was empty and the reply was that the wheel needed to be balanced. We could see the operators trying to figure out which seats to fill as they filled all of the carts of the wheel.

Finally it was our turn to take a seat.

We sat in our ferris wheel cart and the bar latched in place. Keegan worriedly explained that he just heard the teen operators comment to each other as they tried to figure out which car to fill next, that the wheel would be impossible to control if it got off balanced. This was not what I wanted to hear. The wheel moved and more passengers got on.

With every stop the cart would shake just a little more violent than the time before. Kaleb & Keegan would scream louder each time. As our turn FINALLY came to get off the ferris wheel a girl in a cart behind us lost it. She started to scream that she wanted off. Thankfully Teen Operators understood and let her off.

As we exited the twins told anyone who would listen NOT to go on the ride. I saw a friend as we exited and I commented on the girl that lost it. My friend replied that the girl had been on the wheel for almost an hour!

I commented to another friend about our terrifying experience. He calmly replied that he couldn’t believe that I went on the ferris wheel! That it was the worst ride there!

This year’s scariest ride goes to the Skyliner, World’s of Fun’s ferris wheel. YIKES. Never again.


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.


Professional Line Stander

I like to think of myself as a professional Line Stander. What that means is that I have stood in many a line to get something I wanted-for long periods of time, in less than pleasant circumstances.

I started off innocent and as an amateur standing in simple lines such as a line for a movie’s opening day premier. I’ve stood in lines such as the last two Matrix Movies or for Harry Potter flicks. These lines take little preparation, you show up, buy a ticket, buy some popcorn and a drink, maybe some candy and then, well, then you stand in line. Or maybe you sit in line or fidget with both. You bring a buddy along and the time passes by and you have a great time. The most I have ever stood in line for a movie is about 3-4 hours. It was easy time spent and well worth it.

I have done most of my Line Standing with my good Line-Standing buddy Bill. Bill is the one who took me under his wing and slowly turned me from a newbie to a seasoned professional. Yeah, it is all his fault-I place the blame firmly on his shoulders.

He and I have stood in line for about a half a dozen movies. Then we stepped up and waited in line at a bookstore for the last Harry Potter book. We got there in the early evening and waited around until the book went on sale at midnight. Again, fun times. Long line, but relatively short wait.

Then the XBOX360 changed everything.

I must first mention that I am a HUGE eBay fan. I have bought on eBay for many, many years, but just in the last few years have I ventured out and sold things on eBay. I do OK, not great, not anywhere near a part-time job, but enough to keep me at it and keep me on the lookout for new things to sell.

I must also mention that Bill is a pretty huge gamer. He has a few gaming systems and a library of games. What can I say, he’s an adult kid. Bill had a problem-namely his wife-who did not want Bill spending $500 on another game system. But Bill is an adult kid! HE HAD TO HAVE THE SYSTEM. Bill also knew that many, many others would have to have the system too! He also thought that there would be many, many others who would look for a system on Ebay. So this is where I initially came in. The initial plan was for me to stand in line with Bill and I would buy a system that Bill could sell on Ebay possibly making enough money to pay for a system that Bill could keep.

At this point Bill had 2 problems, Penny-Pinching Wife and eBay-bitten friend-who was getting greedier by the second. So Bill and I modified the plan. Plan B: We’d stand in multiple lines to get multiple systems so that both of us could come out with a system that would be mostly paid for!

And that is what led me to stand in a line at a Wal-Mart for 10 hours. Then outside a Sears in 40 degree cold for 8 hours. And still another for more than 15 hours outside of a Best Buy. While it snow and sleeted. It was COLD. We came out of the lines with 3 systems each and sold the 2 systems for just about enough to cover all of the costs for all 3 systems plus games and controllers.

I suppose that in of itself made me a seasoned Line Stander. Then Bill and I did it all over again a year later-fall 2006 when we stood in line for about 36 hours for the PlayStation 3. And again for over 24 hours a couple of days later for the Nintendo Wii. For this venture I actually started to recruit followers. I invited my good friend and neighbor and partner in eBay, Clayton, to stand in line with me. And I even got my twin boys into the act! They hung out with me in both lines-and ended up buying their own units and making their own money! Skipping school for a day for the cause (they love me)! Both lines were inside a warm Wal-Mart (I am not an all-bad dad).

I turned around again with Bill and Clayton after that last Nintendo Wii line and stood in yet another line at a Target for about 8 hours (no twins, sent them to bed). We ended up with 8 Wiis to sell.

Finally Bill coaxed me again to stand in line with him for another Wii. At this point I truly am a professional. I am almost addicted-to the line, for the experience, for the thrill, to meet the people, to answer the question 503 times, “What are you in line for?” Because I am dumb. Call it what you want. And this time it was so that Bill could have one and then an extra for a family member.

So, if you’re counting…that is multiple movie lines, a book line, 3 XBOX360 lines, 1 PS3 Line & 3 Wii lines. Yep I am a professional Line Stander.

What’s next? The Next Harry Potter book and the next Harry Potter movie! SWEET. I can’t wait.



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.


Planes, Pains and Automobiles

Planes Right before Christmas my co-worker Anthony asked me if I wanted to eat BBQ for lunch. I love BBQ. I love lunch! I love BBQ for lunch! So of course I said yes! Then he said, “I ain’t driving.” Immediately I thought ok, he wants me to drive. Then he added, “So I hope you don’t get air sick!” Then I remembered he’s a pilot. SWEET! So I replied, “SWEET!” So he flew me out of the tiny airport on the other side of Gardner (not New Century) and we landed just outside of Paola and ate BBQ at their BBQ joint at the airport! It was really cool. It took about 20 mins to fly there and about 15 mins to fly back. Anthony borrows his friend’s Drummond Traveler. It has seating for 4 but only has a capacity of 600 pounds or about 2 people. It was truly amazing. Thank you very much Anthony!

Pains I had surgery for the first time a couple of weeks ago…double hernia surgery. I almost died that weekend. OK, that’s not true, but I sure felt like it. And I was tempted to end it all a few times. The surgery was on a Friday morning and I was in and out and fairly lucid and pain-free and in bed by 11:00. I say fairly lucid…I distinctly remember my wife and my 2 youngest boys coming in to see me, I was happy to see them and I greeted them and I got dressed and we left. I was really scared about saying something stupid after surgery and embarrassing myself, but nope, I remember Minnie and the boys coming in the room and everything afterwards and everything mostly clearly, I guess I told Minnie 3 or 4 times that my watch was in my shoe, she had taken it out of my shoe and had placed it on the table…but whatever right, I mean there may be some silliness, IT WAS SURGERY FOR GOODNESS SAKE! HA. Whew. Life is great. Until Minnie explained to me that that wasn’t the first time she had come into the room, that she just stepped out for whatever reason (whatever reason included taking the young ones with her…SHE WOULDN’T LEAVE THEM ALONE WITH ME? What?). And that I had said something stupid to embarrass myself when she was in the room earlier. Earlier? But you just came into the room…no earlier…great. Good times. So I can’t show my face around post op for a few years and my next surgery may have to be at a different hospital-so I can traumatize another group of innocent medical care personnel. I still can’t figure out why she let me believe that she was coming in to see me for the first time. Or why she told me at all! I mean I was pretty happy to see her and the boys…I guess for a second time.

OK, so I was home on bed rest and sleeping and still waking up from the surgery…Sometime shortly after that my body rebelled against me. And at some point I actually had to get up to go to the bathroom, yeah, well, that was a mistake, because I just had to do it again later! It took me about 10 mins to slide to the bathroom and then go and then crawl back to bed. But that really doesn’t even explain it, because first you have to sit up…and I just don’t know how I did that, then STAND up, and “stand up” may be overstating it a bit, I was on my feet and fighting the urge to pass out, but if you do that you just have to stand up again. “Sloped over” is a better term, grabbing the nightstand, dresser, walls, sink, tub…and then crying when you have to sink back into bed, but relieved until you remember that you actually have to LAY DOWN again…Yeah it was painful. Then my wife reminds me at every chance she gets that SHE had a c-section that she gave birth 3 times…yadda, yadda, blah, blah…We are not talking about HER! It was my first surgery and I have a whole new outlook when it comes to surgery and pain!

Well, it is amazing what a few days can do, I was feeling pretty good Sunday night with soreness, I was still moving slowly, but I actually walked downstairs! And I began to eat more. But the drugs were running out, the good drugs! The reality-altering drugs! So I cut back and ended up running a fever most of Sunday night. Monday was pretty good once I got up and moving, just a little sore, I got the chills again in the evening, why is it always the evening when you get the sickest? But I did get to play the best video game ever: Lego Star Wars. I mean you have Legos, and everything is made out of Legos and you have Star Wars! Legos AND Star Wars! Amazing. One can pass out just from thinking about it. I must have gnawed on my tongue during surgery because I have a very painful canker sore, that actually kept me awake! You know when you put your shoe on and the tongue slips down so you pull it out? Yeah I guess they could have done that when they intubated me.

Keegan discovered a mysterious lump in his armpit before Christmas. We took him to our family doctor right after Christmas and she was concerned but not worried. They did blood tests and CAT scans, but found nothing. They scheduled a surgical consultation for a few weeks later. Then he started to have blood in his urine. More blood work and another CAT scan. The diagnosis was constipation and no connection to lump. That seemed to get resolved. We finally had the surgical consultation last Thursday and the doctor agreed that it needed to come out and scheduled the surgery for the NEXT DAY! That was awesome timing. The surgery went just fine; it was Keegan’s first surgery. They biopsied the hard lump this past weekend and preliminary results are that the lump “doesn’t look like lymphoma” and its “most likely benign”. So it sounds like Keegan is going to be just fine. Praise God!

Automobiles I own two minivans, a white one and a purple one. First the white van broke down, it lost power and would not start. Then while that was in the shop I smacked into a deer with the purple van and damaged the front passenger corner. After 3 separate stays at the shop we spent $3000 on the white van, I think it is all fixed. We have not fixed the purple van yet.