Friday, December 22, 2006

...and to all a goodnight

Christmas is here again. Wow, where did this year go?! So much has happened this year. By far the best thing was Carlos and Jeremiah coming home in January. These two little guys have changed our lives in so many ways – most of them good. Carlos has grown from a somewhat shy little boy who spoke no English to an EXTREMELY extraverted 5 year-old who will talk your ear off (mostly in the form of a question). Although he has his share of “orneriness,” he is such a thoughtful boy who looks out for his mommy and little brother. His “love language” is definitely giving things to people. He seems to always have a surprise for me when I get home in the form of a card that he had made, complete with envelope, or wanting to give me one of his toys as a special surprise. If I forget to take something with me to work one day, he’ll re-gift it the next day.

Watching Jeremiah learn new things is a constant source of joy for me. Perhaps one of my favorite things was when he learned about dogs. Anytime he sees one, hears one, or thinks he sees or hears one, he’ll look at me, point in the direction of said dog, (imaginary or otherwise) and make his barking sounds, which sounds something like “Oooo, oooo.” He is constantly wanting to do whatever Carlos is doing. If Carlos is racing around the house with his truck, Jeremiah wants to as well. If Carlos is reading, Jeremiah wants to read. And even when he’s in trouble, he sometimes gets this silly, goofy grin that makes it really hard (not impossible!) to enforce discipline.

My wonderful wife is as beautiful as ever. She is the best wife, mommy and friend in the world. Even though the switch in full-time jobs has been challenging at times, she has been so great at adapting to mommy-hood. She is an excellent teacher with Carlos, helping him to learn his letters and numbers. I really don’t know how she finds time to do all the stuff she does. I love you, sweetheart!

I was going to blog about the stupidity that invariably accompanies this time of year (such as the so-called “war on Christmas”), but I think we hear enough of that from the talking heads. So instead I leave you with this:

Merry Christmas to all!!*


Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great – not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere – and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Christmas Music

I like Christmas music probably about as much as your average guy does. I’m not the kind of person that wants to start playing it while everyone is setting up their stuff for Halloween and stop playing when we celebrate Memorial Day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but in my opinion, there’s only so many different arrangements you can do (and listen to!) of Silver Bells, Silent Night & Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. These get real old, real quick. My wife would probably call me a scrooge for this, but I’m glad that all radio stations don’t play Christmas music 24-7 during the month of December.

There is one exception, however – the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. If there was a radio station that played nothing but TSO year round, I would have it preset to my #1 station on my truck radio. Now, before you think that there is some hope for me after all, be warned that TSO is not exactly what you would call traditional. TSO is similar to the Mannheim Steamroller. Except on steroids. TSO is what you would get if you crossed Metalica and Nat King Cole. But even then, their style is as varied as it is non-traditional.

For example, in the beautifully stirring Christmas Canon (, you have a simple orchestral piece set to Pachabel’s Canon accompanied by a children’s choir. If you can watch the video or listen to this piece without being touched, perhaps you should check your pulse.

Compare that with their "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" ( ) arrangement (my absolute favorite of theirs) and you’re probably left wondering if this is the same group. But even in this ramped up version of two beloved Christmas hymns, you are still left almost breathless at the beauty of the music. Even if the musicians didn’t intend on conveying this thought, in listening to this piece I’m left with the impression that perhaps in Heaven it wasn’t a “Silent Night” on that Christmas evening, but one of majestic triumph and celebration as the pivotal point of all history comes to fruition in the birth of Jesus Christ. As I listen to the song, I imagine the shepherds out in the fields, listening as the angel of God proclaims “I bring you good news” with eager anticipation of when the entire angelic chorus will join him in singing “Glory to God in the Highest!!” The song then reverts back at the end to the shepherds immediately after the sky turns dark again, the excitement still there, but focusing once more on a bunch of lowly shepherds filled with nervous curiosity and brimming with the desire to go find the Messiah.

They have so many other original scores and arrangements of traditional songs too that run the entire spectrum of style. So if you’re into non-traditionally traditional music, you’ve got to check out the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006


If I haven't mentioned yet how much auditors annoy me, let me just say - THEY ANNOY ME! There. I've said it. Part of my frustration is that, being from an accounting background, I can understand the need to have an explanation for everything and need to show that the numbers match what we say they match. This means, of course, that I go over my work with a fine tooth comb before handing it over to them to review. I take great pride on being able to give them exactly what they need. So when the auditor comes into my office with, "I have a problem," and what she really means is "YOU have a problem, I want to find exactly what it is and how to fix it. I've just spent the past 45 minutes trying to find a discrepancy that, as it turns out, is non-existent. The problem was in her calculations. Grrr.

And so it goes. Breath in, breath out.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Another day, another blog

This week marks the return of the auditor!! [insert creepy music here] Part of my responsibilities at the newspaper is being the point person for our annual circulation audit. This is my first time going through an audit in this position and seeing as I’ve only been in this position about 2 months, I’m a little nervous. But so far so good, which means the worst is yet to come. I’ll just be glad when it’s over.

Okay, book review time again. Late last year, I picked up Ted Dekker’s Black, book one of the Circle Trilogy. Suffice it to say that I was hooked and had completed Black in about a 48-hour time frame. I was given the other two, Red and White, for Christmas and made short work of them. I highly recommend these books to pretty much everyone.

So recently, I picked up another one of Dekker’s books called Showdown. [Warning!! Possible spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them at a minimum.] It was a good read, albeit definitely not as good as the Circle Trilogy. Dekker has a pretty good grasp on the art of allegory, in my non-professional opinion. In Showdown, you have the classic struggle of good versus evil, but Dekker has a way of mixing it up a little bit. The story centers around two locations mysteriously interwoven– a town called Paradise (oddly enough) and a monastery in the mountains where a special project has been under way for the past 12 or so years. Half-way through the book, Dekker introduces a key element that anyone who has read the Circle Trilogy will recognize immediately. (As a side note, if you’ve not read the Circle Trilogy, read them before you read Showdown.) In the end, there is an allegorical element of redemption and a very stirring portrayal of just a tiny bit of the agony that must have ripped the heavens when God willingly sacrificed his Son, Jesus.

The other main take-away from this book that I had was the graphic depiction of the blackness of the sin nature. As the actions and thoughts of the townspeople rapidly degenerate, through the first half of the book it appears that they really have no control over what they do, but are seemingly under the power of a hallucinogen. However, it is later revealed that while there is some outside influence, all the choices made by the townspeople (even down to the seemingly untouchable minister!) are completely their own, and almost without exception everyone chooses the wrong, all the while thinking they have been “freed.” That’s a pretty good description of the sin nature, in my opinion.

Overall, it was a pretty good read.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

My sons understanding blows me away yet again

Tonight, something special happened. Each evening ever since we were united with Carlos and Jeremiah, we've read a section from our children’s Bible, which includes illustrative pictures. Carlos would quite often ask me to read about the one that had a small picture of Jesus on the cross, but I would always tell him that we had to read other things first (we are reading from beginning to end). Well, tonight we finally got to the chapter that told about Jesus death on the cross and Carlos was listening intently. After we finished, I asked him if he understood what we read and if he knew why Jesus died. He replied, “Because people do sins.” When I asked him what sins were, he said “Disobeying.” I helped to clarify a little bit with him that sins were bad things that everyone did – Carlos, Jeremiah, Mama, Papa, Abuela Oma – everyone! He pointed to the picture and asked, “God disobey?” “No, in fact, he is the only person who has never, ever disobeyed and sinned.” Carlos: “Why castigar (punished)?” Me: “What if when Carlos disobeyed, Mama and Papa punished Jeremiah instead? Would that be very fair?” At this, Carlos got this look in his eyes that seemed to say “Hey, that’s not right!” He shook his head and said that he should be punished. “Well, even though Jesus never, ever did anything wrong, God punished him for our sins. He did this because God loves us very much and He knew that if He punished us, we would need to be punished forever and ever.”

This seemed to satisfy Carlos and then it was time to pray. What happened next surprised me very much. In his broken English, Carlos prayed: “Thank you God for this day. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for dying on the cross and no punish us. Please help Carlos and Jeremiah and Mama and Papa and Abuela Oma and everyone to always obey. Thank you God for love. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Okay, WOW! As I prayed after him, I couldn’t help the tears in my eyes (and even now as I type, they’ve returned!) Jesus said we should come to Him with simple, child-like faith. I’ve never really and fully understood what that meant until tonight when Carlos prayed. I pray that his understanding and faith will only continue to grow through and even in spite of my poor examples and teaching.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Date Night!

Woo-hoo! Sarah and I got to go out on a date this evening ON OUR OWN for the first time in a while. We have sort of an arrangement with another couple in our church to trade off babysitting for one another so that the other can go out for the evening. So far, it's worked pretty good! We've created a "date jar" where we've put some different ideas on a piece of paper and draw one out whenever we have a date. This way it keeps things interesting and not just the same old dinner and a movie routine. This evening we went to Thunder Valley (our local go-kart track) and raced a couple of times. And, I must admit, Sarah beat me fair and square. And she says I drive fast?! Afterward, we went to Brusters and got some ice cream then talked while sitting on the back of my truck. It was so nice to be able to have a conversation without having to interject "Carlos, please don't interrupt when Mommy and Pappi are talking" or "Jeremiah, stop howling and eat your food."

It's actually pretty cool that we were able to go out this evening because on this date 7 years ago, Sarah and I went on our first date (out in the "real" world, that is - ie., not at PCC). Wow, I can't believe it's been that long ago. Even though I moved to Roanoke for her, it's hard to believe that it actually worked! Oh me of little faith. Sarah, I love you very much!! Happy 7-year Real-date-not-including-PCC-dates Anniversary! (Okay, that was corny, but who cares when you're in love, right?) Stay tuned for more blogging this week.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Here we go!!

Since I’m relatively new to this whole blogging thing, I don’t guarantee anything exciting, earth-shattering or deeply philosophical. Every now and then I might have a book review or share a news article or whatever. And even if nobody’s reading this, it won’t be the first time I’ve talked to myself. So here goes.

While getting ready for work this morning, I noticed it was unusually warmer than it should have been in the house considering the A/C had been running. I felt the vent and sure enough, there was lukewarm air coming out. Not exactly what you want to find out during the hottest part of the summer. Fortunately, we were able to have a repairman come that afternoon and fix it. Sarah and the boys breathed a sigh of relief for that one!

All this week, our church has been having VBS. Sarah is teaching a class and Carlos is going as well. Both seem to enjoy it, but Sarah is definitely looking forward to the end of the week. Believe me, so am I! It’s just been Jeremiah and me in the evenings since Sunday. Although this has been a pretty good father/son bonding time. Not quite sure what he thinks about it all, but he seems to enjoy having his daddy all to himself!

I’ve just recently finished two books – one fiction and one non-fiction. (Yes, I have the bad habit of reading more than one book at a time.) The non-fiction book was Surprised By Joy by C. S. Lewis, and I must say I came away rather disappointed. I’ve heard a lot that Lewis is a great writer, interesting to read, etc., ad nausem, so I purchased two volumes containing eight of his books. I finished Pilgrim’s Regress a few months ago and actually enjoyed that one. Surprised By Joy on the other hand was rather difficult to wade through. Lewis has (and even admits in one book) a rather bad habit of assuming the reader knows exactly what Lewis is talking about, whether the subject be French, Latin, philosophy, or Norse mythology. All through the book, he is trying to convey his lifelong search for Joy by chronicling his journey through philosophies in an autobiographical sort of way. On the one hand, you could almost throw out the entire book except for the last two chapters and still get the idea. On the other, however, I wonder if the point would be made if Lewis hadn’t wrote about all the other worldviews he went through to arrive at Christianity.

Lewis very rightly states “There was no doubt that Joy was a desire….But a desire is turned not to itself but to its object. Not only that, but it owes all its character to its object.” Our joy as Christians should be found or rather culminated in God, and to seek after God is to seek Joy itself! Yet even though Lewis hints at this, he doesn’t really directly make this point entirely clear, even in his closing paragraph where he states: “But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian…. [Joy] was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer.” Overall, he seems obsessed not with defining Joy or how it relates us to God, but painstakingly detailing his intellectual pursuits. I would rate the book a 4 out of 10 and probably never read it again.

Wow, that was a long first blog! Hopefully if you’re still reading this, you haven’t fallen asleep. I’ll blog more later on the other book I read of one of my favorite authors, Ted Dekker.