Thursday, November 29, 2007

Parents, speak out!

The following video poignantly tells of the dangers our kids are facing from what is perhaps one of the most underestimated diseases in the nation. Parents, we must be informed of what endangers our kids and help save them from this dreadful disease. Watch and learn.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Book Review - Wild At Heart

In the past couple of months, I’ve gotten into listening to books on CD on my way to and from work. I figured that since I’ve got a 20 minute or so drive, I might as well use the time to listen to books. I’ve also discovered a great online source for audio books at where they have a free book available for download every month. I’ve downloaded a couple and need to burn them onto a CD so I can listen to them.

While we were visiting my sister, her husband Doug lent me the audio version of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Having just finished it, I thought I would share a review of the book. Again, thanks to Doug for lending me this book. I’ll mail it back to you shortly!

To be honest, I was a little disappointed although I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. From the very beginning, Eldredge seems to be painting a caricature of what a true “man” that comes hauntingly close to how Hollywood wants us to view men as – rugged, square-jawed, outdoorsy types that live to clock out at 5 and have their trucks in 4-wheel drive by 5:15 on some backwoods trail. In fact, many of Eldredge’s examples of “true” men come from such movies as Braveheart and Gladiator. It is apparent that Eldredge enjoys the outdoors and who can fault him for that? The danger is when he equates a necessity of enjoying all these things to how much of a “wild man” a guy really is. He even goes so far as to say that a true man can’t really like being inside at a desk all day, but should be longing to get outside. If he does, something’s wrong with him and he needs to reclaim his manhood by getting wild (outdoors). And this is the premise that Eldredge seems to base his entire thesis on – a man must be wild, adventuresome and ready for a fight in order to be a man. This is backed up with many examples including one where he advises his son who is being picked on to punch the bully in the face as hard as he can. This apparently was designed to make his son feel enabled and manly and have the freedom to fight back, despite the fact that we are to follow Christ’s teaching of turning the other cheek. (Eldredge defends his actions by saying many in the church misinterpret this passage, but never says how or why.)

There are two particular errors (among many) in the book that I want to hit on. The first is the noticeable absence of hardly any Scripture given to support Eldredge’s many false presumptions, and the Scripture that is quoted is so twisted out of context as to make it say something that does not ring true. Instead, Eldredge relies heavily on psychological analyses that fall short of correctly mirroring any Scriptural teaching. Don’t get me wrong on this point. I believe that there is a great use for psychology and we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. But the danger comes when we replace Scripture with the psychology and try to make it sound Biblical.

The second and perhaps most disturbing error in the book is Eldredge’s claim that, in trying to support his view that God loves adventure, God is a risk-taker and even an “immense risk-taker.” To hear Eldredge’s view of the death of Christ, you would think the crucifixion was completely unplanned and God showed up just in the nick of time to set everything straight. “God lets the mob kill Jesus, bury him…then he shows up.” Although he tries to add a disclaimer that he isn’t a proponent of Open Theism, he apes Open Theism’s teachings quite well. Risk by definition involves some aspect of the unknown and to say that God takes risks is to say that He doesn’t know the outcome of certain things.

I do believe that today’s culture emasculates men in wanting to be in touch with their softer side and perhaps Eldredge was trying to fight against that. But instead what he ends up doing is going to the other end of the Hollywood extreme in idolizing he-men. In the end, Eldredge’s answer to regaining masculinity seems to be to get in touch with our inner caveman. While there were a few good points made, they are so few and far between as to not make reading (or listening to) the book worthwhile. If I were to rate it out of 5, it would be a 1.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bah Humbug?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…


And so begins another festive season of retailers gleefully opening their doors at the most ungodly hours of the night - at least, the owners are, I’m not so sure about the employees. Holiday tunes waft over the intercoms, bright lights spring up all over, and parking lots fill with those selling Christmas trees.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Christmas. Really, I do. Especially since our children came along, the joy of the season has increased. But amid all the wrapping papers, sappy music, food, food and more food, I have to wonder if something has been lost. I mean, think about. We’re not even past Thanksgiving (I refuse to call it Turkey Day)– a day traditionally set aside to give thanks for our many blessings – and already our senses are being bombarded with ploys to help us expand our ever increasing pile of stuff. You can ask my wife – I hate being asked what I want for Christmas. I haven’t delved deep enough into my psyche to determine if it’s simply because I don’t want to bother thinking of something or if it’s some sort of semi-conscious rebellion against materialism. I’m inclined to think it’s more of the former than the latter.

Or perhaps it’s something a little more personal. Christmas should be a time of celebrating God’s gift to us – His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet every year, we’re faced more and more with the stark reality that the true meaning of Christmas is being swallowed up in the buying and the giving. Where it gets personal is the realization that what I am seeing played out in the economics of it all is the reflection of my heart during the entire year. Oh sure, I might go through the motions of “remembering the reason for the season” as it were, but in all honestly, is Christmas time the only true time that I really stop to ponder the Gift or the Giver and how I should be affected? Perhaps all the yuletide buying, giving, receiving, eating, traveling, sleeping, working, planning, and general running around simply show us a condensed version of what Christ sees in us all year long. I’m so busy with the stuff of life that I relegate Christ to an afterthought instead of celebrating HIM as life itself.

This year, instead of getting all crotchety about the trappings of the season, the season should cause some inward reflection and repentance on my own busyness of the year and my forgetting the gift I have in Christ.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Go West, Young Man!

Last week, I had the opportunity to fly to Denver, CO for a business-related training session, and we decided to make a family vacation out of it. So eeeeaaaarrrrly on Thursday morning (11/9), we packed the kiddos in the van and drove down to Greensboro. Even though it was so early, Carlos & Jeremiah were so excited and wound up to be going on a trip. They were really quite funny to listen to. We flew from Greensboro to Memphis and then on to Denver, picked up a rental van and then drove a couple hours down to Colorado Springs to stay with my sister Michelle, and her family for a few days. We also got to see Sarah’s brother, Lee and spend the day with him too.

We had a great time staying with Michelle and got to do a little sight seeing. We went to Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole (actually at the foot of Pike’s Peak), Focus on the Family headquarters, and the Garden of the Gods. I think Michelle was trying for the Mom-of-the-year award at Santa's workshop. Kaitlyn wanted so much to go on one of those rides that goes up and around rather fast. Michelle, being the sucker wonderful mom that she is, agreed. I don't think I've ever seen a greener Michelle! It was funny to watch Carlos and Kaitlyn because they are so much alike that I don't think they quite know what to do with each other. But they did get along quite well. At Focus on the Family, they had a kid's area with some puppets that you could play with. I love using puppets and so was right at home using them. For some reason, the kids decided to attack the puppet I was using, Jeremiah especially. I had managed to get most of the kids to stop beating on the poor old "man" but Jeremiah just wouldn't stop. So finally, I took the puppets arm and swung it so that it tapped Jeremiah on his chest. Oh, the look on Jeremiah's face was priceless - a look that said "hey! why did you do that?!" Needless to say, he stopped beating the puppet.

We had beautiful weather during the entire trip and really enjoyed the visit. If you ever go to Colorado Springs and only have time for one sight seeing trip, I would definitely recommend the Garden of the Gods. Talk about an excellent showcase of God’s creation!! We all did a little bit of “rock climbing” (used in the loosest sense of the word) and took lots of pictures, some of which can be found on Sarah's blog. Oh, and we even got to see a BNSF freight train as we drove down I-25. Sarah humored me and took a couple of pictures as we drove by it, but they didn't turn out so well.

Then it was back up to Denver on Sunday evening so I could attend the training on Monday and Tuesday. I was pretty excited about this, not only to get a better understanding of the software program I was being trained on, but also because I got to ride the train into Denver both mornings! Woo-hoo! If ever they decide to build a light-rail system between Rocky Mount and Roanoke, I’d definitely use the train to go to work. No driving or dealing with traffic or finding a parking space – just 30 minutes of relaxation, reading, and watching the scenery. I could definitely get used to this mode of transportation.

Both days, my training ended significantly earlier than I thought it would and so we were all able to go to the Denver Aquarium and the Denver Zoo. The Aquarium was ok, although definitely overpriced. But the Denver Zoo was very fun, with lots of different animals and even a 3-week old baby giraffe. I think Carlos had a hard time coming to grips with something that was a baby, yet was also bigger than he was.

Driving back to the airport, I was really stressing out because our rental van was almost out of gas. (The line was actually just below the “Empty” mark.) When I had rented the van, I opted to purchase a tank of gas from Alamo instead of having to fill it up before returning. In order to get the most out of the deal, we needed to bring it back with as little fuel as possible – and let me tell you, we did exactly that!! One word of advice here though – if you ever need to rent a car, don’t get the fuel option. It’s much cheaper to have to fill it up yourself than to pay what they tell you is a price lower than outside gas stations charge. Although the price was pretty comparable to what gas stations would charge, where they get you is charging for a higher fuel capacity than the vehicle actually contains. For example, we rented a minivan that had a 20 gallon tank, but they charged for a 25 gallon tank, saying this was the average for this type of vehicle. Now, most vans I’ve researched have only a 20 gallon tank, so I’d like to know what minivan has tank that is larger than 25 gallons (since their estimate is an average). Anyway, just a side note.

Overall it was an excellent trip. The kids did really well on all flights. Carlos & Jeremiah loved to look out the window and watch the goings on while we were on the ground (wasn’t too exciting once we were airborne). But like all vacations, the best part was coming home.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More miscellaneous oddities

1. I’ve always wanted to be in a professional stage production.
2. I have made at least 6 cross-country driving trips, including going from Cheyenne, WY to Pensacola, FL, and Dallas, TX to Roanoke, VA.
3. My last three pairs of dress shoes have been of the exact same brand (as Sarah pointed out, “If the shoe fits….!”)
4. My first job was in the cleaning department at college.
5. I love to iron clothes (this is not related to #4)
6. My college friends gave me the same nickname that my Dad’s buddies gave him while he was in the Air Force.
7. Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays the best Christmas music ever. (see my previous post )
8. I like trains
9. No really, I do. :)
10. The same doctor that took my appendix out also took Sarah’s appendix out – over 15 years ago!
11. Very rarely will I drink hot drinks such as tea, coffee or even hot chocolate. It’s against my religion. (just kidding on that last one – please don’t hurt me, Mark!)