Sunday, December 31, 2006

Getting Established

2 Chronicles 12:1 ESV
(1) When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.

I read this today and it hit me right between the eyes. Lately I feel my heart wandering away from the sure foundation of Christ. I've found myself sorely tempted by the internet. I've found myself nibbling on more food than usual. I know that much of this is because of the stress of Amanda being brought down by this pregnancy. I can't imagine how I would do if she were on bed rest!

Yesterday I felt my heart shift. I feel a much deeper peace now than I have in a long time. I've had this come and go before, so I want to make sure that this lasts. I just know that if I keep trying to do so much on my own strength I am bound to fall back into sin. God has shown me glimpses of it all year. In fact, I would say that 2006 was my worst year for purity since I came to Setting Captives Free. I suspect that starting seminary has much to do with it. I also think that overextending myself has something to do with it as well.

As I look at my schedule for today, I see the following things that need to get done:
  1. Do my review of Philippians since I memorized it
  2. Review my memorization of James, Ephesians, and both Peters
  3. Review my Greek vocabulary
  4. Do the weekly bank download into MS Money
  5. Read at least 150 pages of a book in preparation for my class that starts Wednesday
I realize that these things are not that big of a deal, but they add up. More and more I see the need for some whitespace. I wonder if my lack of it is part of the problem I have in my life.

I'm not a big one for New Year's Resolutions, but December 31 certainly is a natural time for introspection. What I see is a need for a little more space in my life. Ironic that I come to this realization just before embarking on an incredibly busy time with this upcoming class. If seminary is something I should do (I think it is) then it is also something that I need to make space for. I'm not sure what will give, but it's something that I think requires some prayer. I'd appreciate any petitions you can bring before God for me.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Perils of Being Skinny

I did a little inventory today with the weight tracker I must use weekly. At this time in 2002 I weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 192 pounds. This morning I weighed 166 and that is up from 164.5 last week. Part of the gain has to be from recovering from my stomach bug and part has to be from having a little too much at Christmas. Nevertheless, I consider myself freed from the bondage I once had to food and laziness. It feels good.

But not today in my office. Why not? It's freezing in here. I have a coworker who has less body fat than me and he too is very cold. We think we might have discovered the thermostat for our area in an adjoining conference room. If that thermostat does indeed control the temperature in our area then we are going to be in trouble any time there is a meeting with very many people. This is especially true since so many of our associates struggle with maintaining a healthy weight.

Being cold almost makes me miss my fat. But not quite.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

From Poser to Player

I spent the last few weeks practicing some Christmas carols for the guitar. I didn't get too fancy, but I did practice playing arpeggiated chords for "What Child is This?" and "Silent Night". I also could strum "The First Noel" and "Angels We Have Heard on High". I played these on Christmas Eve and it went pretty well, though I did stumble a bit with the fingerstyle pieces. I got really ambitious and brought the 6-string over to Bill and Tiffany's house on Christmas Day and we sang carols there too. At the request of the family we also did "O Little Town of Bethlehem".

It was fun actually playing for people. While it wasn't perfect, my playing was good enough to keep everything together and I enjoyed it. I also learned that playing for people gets the heart racing just a little bit. I wasn't exactly nervous, but I realized that I couldn't just stop in the middle and recollect myself if I had to. I had to just keep on going. It's one of those performance things where you realize that you can't take it back as you're doing it. But it was a lot of fun.

I felt good carrying my guitar back in from the car. In the past I would take my guitar somewhere, but I felt like it was kind of a joke. While I don't think that I'm going to have any professional musicians breaking down my door, I do feel like I can play well enough to strum and sing some carols or maybe some hymns around the campfire. It feels like I've accomplished something in the 3 years I've spent fooling around with the thing. And that feels good.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I apologize for not blogging more lately. I've been quite busy with school, ministry, family, and work. I've got a bunch of things to write about, but this is something that's been on my mind lately:

We want holiness, but we don't want to give anything up.

We want to lose weight, but we don't want to eat less or exercise more.

We want purity, but we don't want to change what we watch or how we look at women.

We want to have more money, but we don't want to save more and spend less.

We want to spend more time with our families, but we don't want to give up our hobbies or time spent at work.

We want to be good parents, but we don't want to be lesser employees as a result.

We want to be good witnesses for the gospel, but we don't want to take the time to serve and connect with others.

Just about all of these have described me or currently describe me. It goes with being human, I guess. I keep looking in Scripture for the promise that life will be easy. I know that the yoke is easy and the burden is light, but it's still a hard row to hoe.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Like a Snow Day

Our phone rang shortly before 4:00 AM today. Now this is pretty disquieting for just about anyone. Our parents are all around 60 now and are of varying degrees of healthiness, so you wonder if you're going to hear about some medical calamity. Or, as is normally the case, it could be my company's 24 hour command center trying to reach me for something.

You know you're in trouble when the call starts with "I know you're not on call, but..." They were very apologetic about calling me and were clearly desperate because the normal people were not responsive. Since I claim that James 4:17 is an important verse to me (So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him this is sin) I figured I'd better do the right thing and see what was going on. It was a bit confusing, as usual, and it ended up that we were trying to get a file from someone that doesn't have after-hours support. There was nothing for me to do.

So here I was wide-awake at 4:20 AM. My alarm normally goes off at 4:45 AM, so I figured that I'd just stay up. I took care of some emails so that I would give the appearance of working hard. I feel like that gives me a mental start to my day, even if I don't work continuously from that point on (I am blogging now, after all). I made sure Amanda was not stirred by the alarm and then went about my normal morning business.

The cool thing is that, although my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM, I rarely get up right then. I usually spend 5-15 minutes contemplating my sleepiness and the comparative warmth of the bed against the chill of the room. But this time I was up and at 'em. I had worked out and showered by 7:00 AM. I got Lily up and we had breakfast. I then made some eggs for Amanda. My rhythm was then officially off.

This all reminds me a little bit of snow days. I can remember the bliss of getting up early and then learning that we didn't have to go to school that day. Amanda tells me that she used to go back to bed. I have a vivid memory of a high school snow day where I was playing video games at around 7:30 AM. I guess this is my personality as a morning person. I like to get that early jump on the day.

It seems that the power is out in our building...again. We had a brief outage this week and today they had maintenance planned to fix whatever got damaged in the previous outage. It was supposed to be just a brief blip. I guess that blip is getting bigger.

Remember the game "Blip" that was like a small desktop Pong/air hockey? You had three keys and had to hit the appropriate button as the light came to your side. Failure to stop it would be a goal for your opponent. Cool stuff with LEDs.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Last Friday we finished an office reorg. I now have a cube that is in direct sight of the main hallway, so I've started calling my cube "the fishbowl". I had to orient it in an unorthodox way so that my monitor could not be seen from the hall. Everything is much more open now and it feels like things are louder.

To counteract this and some of my coworker's more annoying mannerisms I've started bringing my new iPod shuffle to work. I sit and listen to John Williams and Piotr Tomasziewski tickle nylon strings. I may have to resort to the music I used in college when my bedroom was right next to the living room and I had to study while my roommates watched sports. Either way, I find that I like having the audio distraction of the music.

What's strange is that I'm starting to become what I've always disliked in some of my other music-listening coworkers. I found myself using our instant messaging system to try to reach a coworker in the next cube. I did this because I didn't want to go to the trouble of hitting the pause button on my iPod and taking the earbud headphones out. Now I'm using my old traditional headphones so I don't have the earbud excuse, but I find that I'm still loathe to stop in the middle of a piece if I don't have to.

I know many others have written about this, but I really am starting to see just how isolated technology makes us. I don't hear as much of what's going on around me, but that's OK. But now it's changing the way I connect with people. That's something I supposedly want to do so I can fulfill the Great Commission. And, as someone who wants to go into ministry, I should want to make those kinds of connections with people.

It gives me pause, even if my iPod doesn't.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Great Service

I spent my birthday yesterday running errands. One that I kind of dreaded was going to the post office for our annual shipment of gifts to various parts of the country. I've found that any trip to the post office in December is bound to take a long time. I went to the one that allows you to do self-service parcel shipment in the hopes that my boxes would fit in the slot (they did) and that I could get the holiday snowflake stamps in the vending machine (I could). Imagine my surprise when I found a woman in a cheery red holiday Post Office sweatshirt assisting postal patrons in their parcel posting. She helpfully marked out the barcodes on my recycled boxes and helped me place the postage stamp in the right place. I was just blown away by this. In fact, I need to send a nice note to our Postmaster about this because I was so happily surprised. It was also nice that they had a desk going in the lobby for some simple tasks like buying stamps. This helped with the line a little bit.

I also received outstanding service at my local ACE Hardware, but that's no surprise. Every time I go to ACE for something like a washer or a nut I wonder why I ever bother with Lowe's. Lowe's may only be 3 minutes from my house, but the service at ACE makes it worth driving 4 times farther.

Finally, I got some great service from the Firehouse Subs corporate offices. I'm a member of their ecrew and am supposed to receive a free sub every year for my birthday. In fact, I planned my meals around that free sub. I didn't get the email at first, so I called and inquired about it. They took care of me.

I can't help but wonder if there is some connection to the fact that I did go to the Post Office to start with. I did it sort of begrudgingly because I really wanted to sit in the basement and play a couple of games of NCAA Football '07 (I almost typed '97--that dates my video gaming days). Amanda was going to let me off the hook after I whined a little bit about it. But I just had to take pity on her because she feels so consistently wretched with this pregnancy.

I think this all goes to show that we need to listen to that "still small voice" that speaks to Christians. And I am again reminded of what I think may be my life verse for marriage in James 4:17 - So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Troy Smith

As I got up this morning I remembered that I still wasn't absolutely sure about who won the Heisman Trophy. As expected, Troy Smith won in a landslide. In fact, he had a larger percentage of first place votes than anyone in history and only OJ Simpson won by a larger margin.

The incredible thing about this is that Troy Smith came to OSU as a pretty angry teen. His position was listed simply as "athlete". I read a bio about his pre-OSU days and it wasn't pretty. He and his sister got taken away from his mom when he was 9 and he was raised by foster parents for 4 years. His foster dad helped him quite a bit. His mom got her act together and there was reunification, but it took some time for them to gel as a family.

Skip ahead to 2004 when Smith showed potential (first time beating Michigan, for example), but then got caught taking money from a booster. He sat out the Alamo Bowl and the first game of the 2005 season. He beat Michigan again, shredded the Notre Dame defense in the Fiesta Bowl, and has won every game this year. He capped his season with a 4 TD performance against Michigan's highly-touted defense.

While I don't want to write a ton about OSU football, the amazing thing was his speech. He first gave all the credit to God. He didn't go so far as to mention Jesus, but it's hard to imagine how anyone could be that close to Jim Tressel and not have a saving faith in Christ. When he plays and when he gives interviews you can clearly see the "peace that surpasses all understanding".

This is the kind of thing that makes me want to go into full-time ministry. It's not to prove the validity of the 5 points of Calvinism. It's not to argue for or against the continuation of spiritual gifts. It's not to have a solid understanding of what the Kenosis is all about. All these things are good to know and someone in vocational ministry should probably have opinions about them, but it's ultimately got to be about watching the gospel transform lives. To see a young man go from troubled teen with no position on the team (basically a piece of athletic meat) to the best quarterback and player in the nation is very striking. Yes, people do get it together in other ways. But I suspect Troy Smith's transformation is one that will last. And that's what it's all about.

Soli Deio Gloria

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Working for Treats

I got to go to a seminar at Microsoft in RTP today. I planned on it being a total boondoggle. I knew that I'd get breakfast and lunch. I also knew that I was getting a free iPod for it, though just a 512 MB shuffle. Still, that's better than the crappy one I have now and it means that I can return the one I got for Christmas and get something else.

The strange thing is that the seminar was somewhat riveting. I normally am pretty passive when it comes to the technology that we use. I just sit back and do what I'm told. But I've spent so much time working with a competitive product that I actually have an opinion about this one. I liked what I saw, but I doubt that we'll spend all the money it will take to change. That's too bad. The good news is that I plan to enjoy my iPod.

The other cool thing is that I got to meet local basketball sort-of-hero Serge Zwicker. He played on the UNC championship team that beat Michigan. I had to shake his enormous hand in gratitude for him beating Michigan. It's also pretty wild to stand next to someone who is 7' 2". It's kind of cool that he's in the IT world now. I suspect that if people remember Alvin Battle for winning the 1983 championship with State as a 7th or 8th man they will remember this guy who actually spent some time in the NBA. Must get tiresome to answer questions about playing all the time though.

As I type this I have Lily playing next to me in the basement. She's got some running dialog going with Pooh Bear and a little people horse. She didn't want to nap, so she's with me while Amanda does nap. It's pretty fun to see.

Overall, it's been a good day thus far.

Cross Purposes

Tuesday's battles in cyberspace were interesting for me. It's one of the few times that I participated in discussions at blogs of people I don't know. It really opened up my eyes to what is going on out there. I guess it shouldn't be any big surprise at how much pain is out there in the world. After all, that's what Jesus came for. John 4 makes it clear that the woman at the well was chasing something that she found when she met Jesus.

But what is my proper response to some of this pain? I read a blog about someone who associates Christmas with being trapped in a burning apartment and spending the holidays in the burn unit of a hospital. First, I just want to hug this person and tell her that things can be OK. I guess it's good that she likes her therapist and that the anxiety meds are helping. But they're just band-aids on the deeper problem. How bold should I be in sharing the gospel? I'm afraid that it will come off as saying, "It's great that you feel better, but it's all a sham."

I just don't know where the line is between graciousness and boldly sharing the truth, so I wimp out. As I write this it makes me even sadder. This is something I'm going to have to spend some time ruminating upon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Office Calamities

I can't help but share this email that I just got:

Due to a coffee-making mishap, this coffee station is out of commission until building maintenance can properly clean up the area. Please watch your step near the vending machines as well, floor may be slippery. Thanks and sorry for the inconvenience. I'll let you know when it's back up and running.

Sorry for all the posts today, but this looks like something straight out of a Douglas Adams book. I have images of boiling hot coffee spewing out of the top of the filter. Or perhaps a full pot of coffee spontaneously exploded. Maybe it turned into a pot of petunias on the way down to the floor.

Fighting in Cyberspace

I've just spent the last 30 minutes or so reading a big battle in the blogosphere about homosexuality and Christ. I'm not going to link to it because it is so disturbing. On one hand you have a woman who is open about living in a homosexual lifestyle and calls herself a Christian. On the other you have a woman who was delivered from the homosexual lifestyle, but then is proud of her husband for "ripping Deb to shreds" in his radio show.

This debate represents everything that is wrong about both sides of this issue. One side cherry picks the Bible and reads it very liberally. It figures that Christ loved sinners, so it's OK if we sin. And after all, isn't the command against lust? And since I'm in a monogamous relationship it's OK. The other side comes across like the "God hates fags" crowd. This just sickens me too.

When I read the Bible I see a message of love and acceptance for all sinners. But I also see a message of repentance. Both sides seem to miss half of the equation. I can handle the side that reads Scripture very liberally as I know how darkened my understanding was when I lived in habitual sin. But the side that focuses just on wrath is much worse because they should know better. To me, neither side is "getting it".

Now are they saved? That's not for me to say. But my instinct would be to say no on both sides. Given the rhetoric, it looks like they either both are or they both aren't.

Ephesians 4:1-7 ESV
(1) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
(2) with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
(3) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(4) There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--
(5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
(6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(7) But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Paying my Dues

"Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts." -- Gerald O'Hara in Gone With the Wind

I just finished paying my property taxes. There are a few things I don't understand about this process. The first is why the tax bill is due in September, but I get more than a 3 month grace period before the country starts collecting interest on it. I take advantage of that by waiting until December to pay. I could pay just before the deadline in January, but in 2000 I started paying my property taxes the year before so that I could get a tax break when I file my federal taxes. Now if I were to wait I'd have to pay more federal taxes in 2007, but I suppose I could pay less in 2008.

The other thing is something a friend pointed out to me a few years ago. I don't really own my land. I think that the O'Haras did own Tara. The Wilkes owned Twelve Oaks. But I don't really own the property here at 116 E. Skyhawk Dr. in Cary. Wake County will come and seize this property if I don't pay my taxes, so how can I really say that I own it?

Mind you, I am not fundamentally against property taxes. It does provide a way to tax the more fortunate more heavily than the less. I'm all for supporting schools (though I wish that this latest bond measure hadn't passed as I don't think it will be effective), libraries, etc. But I think it's kind of a secret scam the government pulled on us by effectively abusing eminent domain.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Missing the Sunshine

This is the first time in 8 years that I miss living in Florida. That includes the time we had the bad ice storm here in Raleigh. The reason is because for the first time in history my alma mater will play against the University of Florida. After listening to Gator fans for 3 years I would love to be there for this as I've got to think that OSU will roll over them. But, people thought the same thing about Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

I suppose it must be just as hard for people who move to Ohio, and central Ohio in particular. OSU fans can be extremely obnoxious. What we call "rich tradition" others may call obsessive behavior. What we call "passion" others may call obnoxious. But I guess that's what sports can be all about. It seems like something you don't want to do halfway.

Again, I am reminded of how much worship goes into sports. Where's the face painting for church on Sundays? Where are the tailgate parties? Where is the passion to talk about it with others?