rick & 1j13
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

As with the other lists, these are just the things that have come to mind. I figure that if I remember them here at the end of the year, they must've been big enough to impact me when they happened.

10. Laci Peterson Missing
During the last week of 2002, we were all watching as CNN broadcast every minute detail from Modesto, CA. A young woman missing, a baby to be born, a husband father wanting to find out what happened to his family - all of these things hit close to home for me as a husband and daddy, too.

9. Michael Jackson arrested on child molestation charges
My only fear is that there will be more and more stories of the weirdness going on at Neverland.

8. Rescue of Jessica Lynch and other POWs in Iraq
This story kept the silliness of Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera off the airwaves for a bit, didn't it?

7. Beginning of War on Iraq
Can you say "shock & awe"?

6. Capture of Sadaam
In my imagination, he's in the hole, watching Spongebob, singing loudly, and getting caught.

5. Laci Peterson's body found, husband charged with murder
Of all the stories, I hated this one the most. Dang it.

4. Rebounding/rebuilding economy
Isn't it funny how all of the layoffs and such, at least at my company and others in the service sector, have slowed down and folks are actually getting hired again? Isn't it funny how that's been taken away as a campaign issue?

3. Shuttle Columbia explodes
I remember where I was when I found out Challenger had blown up - at Airport High School, walking along the breezeway, hearing it from a friend and thinking he was nuts. I remember this one, too - watching from home on CNN as video of the pieces was shown over and over again.

2. Elizabeth Smart found alive
We'd been flooded with media stories of people, mainly young girls, being abducted and killed, or at least never found. This story gave hope - didn't it? - that life goes on, for better as well as in worse.

1. Ordination of homosexual bishop in Episcopal Church
There are so many different levels of impact here. I don't know that we'll see the downstream ramifications of this for a few years. I hope there can be some revival, conviction and repentance from both "sides" - and that the Kingdom of God is growing through it all.
CNN.com - Sick passenger had many doctors - Dec. 31, 2003

Timing is everything, isn't it?
The last day of 2003. Whew.

In my last entry of 2002, I was blogging from work after a very busy December. I haven't been on the road as much this season, but it has been a busy year. I've enjoyed the time off right now - worked last Tuesday 12/23 and I'm still out 'til Monday 01/05 - but we're spending the time that we're not getting over colds and sore throats doing alot of cleaning up around the house and such... Ok, my wife is doing alot of cleaning, but it's wearing me out just watching.

We're going to be fairly busy today I hope. Getting out of the house to run errands, taking my daughter to the doctor for her sore throat, stopping at Starbucks for a reload of Christmas Blend before it goes away, picking up an HD-converter for our new TV - woo hoo. We might check to see if friends have plans tonite or not - invite them over to play games, let the kids run around, toast in the new year. I just enjoy being out of the office and spending time together. I'm sure I'll look forward to being in the office next week - a vacation away from our vacation - but for now, I'm glad it's just Wednesday.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Brian McLaren - New Kind Of Christian Website

Just found this through some emails. Even Brian's "blogging" now - well, sort of.
USATODAY.com - Freewheeling 'bloggers' are rewriting rules of journalism

... that's what I'm talking about...

I don't know if I've even seen ten movies this year. In past years, I've been able to keep up with the latest "good movies" during the summer months when my wife and kids head off to the beach or mountains, but they mostly stayed home this year. Not that I'm complaining, of course - just that it put a damper on some of my movie-going rituals.

10. Matrix: Reloaded
Too muh action, too much dialogue (later found to be fairly meaningless in Revolutions), and not enough story. I would've liked this story better if it had been continued like the XMEN series - give a single plotline in each sequel, with an undercurrent that progresses the big picture. Great scenes and effects in both of these movies this year, but lame on most of the rest.

9. Spy Kids 3D: Game Over
Probably the last in the series unless it's renamed "Spy Teens". I thought it was cute, and the 3D-glasses didn't give us much of a headache. Surprise: I really thought Sylvester Stallone did a decent job as a maniacal villian.

8. Matrix: Revolutions
I wanted this one to be "higher ranked" - but as a finale for a trilogy it sucked. If it stood on its own as a story, maybe I would've had lower expectations. I spent a week going back over the dialogue in Reloaded so I wouldn't be in the dark with Revolutions - only to find that Revolutions had no decent dialogue and that you could've skipped the second one entirely. At least, it could've been one follow-up movie, not two.

7. Looney Tunes: Back In Action
My son and I caught this one during a wedding weekend for my wife and daughter. Great "guy" movie - I don't know if the girls would've liked it as much. But we enjoyed it. Pay attention to the little things around the screen and away from the main characters. There's lots of stuff thrown into the scenery and the dialogue that'll make you laugh and go "oh yeah".

6. Brother Bear
Good movie, good music, gotta love the moose... er mooses... meese?

5. Hulk
Bad reviews led me to walk into this one with very low expectations. But I thought it did a good job with the tension and the plotline balancing out the effects and computer animated Hulk.

4. X2
I thought this was a decent sequel, carrying it's own weight in the stand-alone plot, while still carrying the mythology through the series (Wolverine and Jane, Jane to Phoenix, showing "kids" in the school who figure prominently as heroes in the comic, etc). And Nightcrawler was Alan Cummings' greatest role since Floop.

3. Finding Nemo
This movie was just fun. I expected it to be pretty good, and was really surprised that it was *very* good. We have it on DVD now, and it's still funny listening to the banter between the fish. And being a dad, I know - I'd swim the ocean to find my children, too.

2. LOTR: Return of the King
This one will be number one on most people's lists. The only reason it wasn't for me: I knew the ending. Other than that, fantastic adventure - and finally wrapping up for us a three-year adventure (only took them "thirteen months to the day" to return to the Shire, didn't it?). Intense battle scenes - notice how the score would rise to a crescendo and then go silent to let you hear the crushing bones and chain mail? Way cool. And the story of course transcends all three films in the series, with the triumph of good over evil in the midst of real pain, suffering and loss.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean
This one was fun, story-driven, and twisty enough to keep me and everyone else interested. Johnny Depp shined, deserving of his Golden Globe nomination, and it was fun to see Orlando Bloom/Legolas using a sword instead of a bow & arrow.

Disclaimer - There have been a few movies I didn't get to see yet that would've probably made this list. Hopefully I'll see some of them before they leave theaters, or at least catch them on DVD:
  • Master & Commander
  • Bruce Almighty (got it in from Netflix right now)
  • The Last Samurai
  • Lost In Translation

    UPDATE: Good call, Joshua - can't believe I forgot about HOLES. Great movie there, too.

  • Monday, December 29, 2003

    Here's to "new beginnings" and fewer distractions, Sarge.

    These are "my" top ten books - not necessarily published this year, but read and finished this year, which is a big thing for me.

    10. enjoying God - S.J. Hill
    This one just has a poetic side to its prose that really drew me in. Nothing new, but the way it was written - yes, I know there's a ghost writer involved - still made me look at my own walk with God in a new, refreshing and more enjoyable way.

    9. The Story We Find Ourselves In - Brian McLaren
    In the sequel to NKOC, McLaren continues the "new christian adventure" for Dan and Neo. I liked it alot, moreso than some of the other folks on our email list. My only drawback was putting the events of 09/11/01 into the narrative - but that single event will probably have more longterm impact on "the emerging church" than any of us realize.

    8. Leadership - Rick Joyner
    Pastor Mike handed us this book, and I was pleasantly surprised. I'd read Joyner's stuff before, mostly prophetic pieces, and I liked them but I wasn't sure what to expect this time. I thought he wove stories of military leadership in with insights to good leadership today in a way that made sense and inspired.

    7. Into The Depths Of God - Calvin Miller
    I had started this book some time in 2002 I think, and it was one of the first I picked up to *finish* in 2003. He's got a good flow to his prose, too, and I was really impressed with the way the spiritual and the natural interact in his viewpoints.

    6. Hoot - Carl Hiaasen
    I am such a geek. This was the first novel I downloaded to my laptop, and I read the whole thing onscreen. Cool, huh? And the story was really good, too. I look forward to reading it - screen or page? hmmm... - with my kids in the next couple of summers or so. It might go over their heads right now, but would make a great afterschool special kind of flick.

    5. Four Souls - Sklar, Medefind, Peterson, Kronberg
    If you're interested in missions, you've got to read this book. Four college friends decide to travel for a year, spending meaningful time at destinations all over the planet, and being transformed in the process.

    4. With New Eyes - Margaret Becker
    I've always liked her music, but this glimpse into Maggie B's journal is probably one of the things that has kept me inspired in my own writing.

    3. Hey, Nostradamus - Douglas Coupland
    I fell into this story fairly quickly. Starting with high school at about the same timeframe I would've been there, then continuing through the changing narrator to "today" at about the same place along the age/timeline for me, this story just had alot to say on life, the perception of religion, the importance of relationships, etc.

    2. Bird By Bird - Anne Lamott
    Another one that I'd started earlier and finally finished in 2003. If you want to write, this one is the one to read first. It'll either talk you out of it, or it'll inspire you to keep trying. There's some hands-on kind of writing task things, but mostly it's just saying write write write and then write some more. Good stories from her own life - you can see how her style and characters have been shaped by life's stuff.

    1. Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller
    While the other books might not be in any real particular order, this one is definitely number one for the year. Again, nothing new, but I liked his style. Lots of life stories, but told in a way that drew me in, made them my own "memories". That's the mark of a good writer for me - make the story real enough to see myself interacting with the plotpoint. This one did it well.

    That's it. That's the list.
    Man. Nothing like a deep body cold to take away blogging time, huh? I won't call it "flu" - don't want to add to the media frenzy that wants an epidemic so bad. Let's just say that after about 15 hrs of sleep, I feel a little better. My headache's mostly gone, and the nausea has subsided. Just tired all over, body ache kinda thing still lingering. But the worst is over. My wife is so good - let me sleep, let me recuperate, even though she's got her own head/stomach cold thing going on. My turn if she needs to sleep today, but she's not up yet. She's supposed to be travelling to Asheville, NC, about three hours away, for a family funeral today. We'll see...

    Good weekend, wrapping up Christmas. I think we're just glad the holiday is over. Now it's time to take down the tree and try to simply enjoy each other with this week off before everyone heads back to work & school next week.

    Planning on doing some Top Ten Lists for 2003 this week (inspired by PoMoXian's list of Top Ten Stories of 2003 - good list there, too). I'll start later today - movies, books, events, etc. Would love some feedback, interaction on your blogs/sites, etc.
    Friday, December 26, 2003
    The Day After. Looks like christmas exploded all over our living room, dining room and in the kids' rooms. I got a few really nice gifts, and really appreciated the thoughtfulness of people, you know? I mean, we all get gifts where "it's the thought that counts" leads to "what were you thinking?!?" - but for the most part, I got some cool stuff:Great stuff from my wife, my kids and family and friends. Receiving well is as much a part of christmas as anything else. We're going to enjoy all this - until tomorrow, when the explosive aftermath must be cleaned up.
    Thursday, December 25, 2003
    Ho ho ho.

    Wonderful Christmas day. We got up early, but 7pm is way later than I thought we'd do. Basically, a DVD/CoffeePot/XMRadio holiday - not bad at all. The kids are od'd on presents - "are there any more?" - and I've threatened to have everything on eBay by tomorrow afternoon. But we've had fun with family, and the time of reading this morning was really sweet.

    Probably have more tomorrow, when I've come up with something more substantial than "look what I got!!!"...
    Wednesday, December 24, 2003
    Well, we're heading to bed a little earlier than last year. It's another good Christmas at the family homestead. I really enjoy the shopping, the family time, the smiles and "oh boy, this is the best Christmas ever" that escapes time to time from our children's mouths. Tomorrow morning, the goal is to sleep in late - that is, until at least 5am; anything later is a true gift. We're going to start upstairs, before coming down to presents and coffee (well, coffee might at least get turned on first, right?), by reading the Christmas story together. I've got it mapped out - first, Trace can read the passage from Isaiah 9, and then Cammi can read from Luke 2. Then I'll read from Revelation 1, all done from The Message. One of the things that's been going through my meditations: Christmas is much more than Santa and giving. Christmas gives room and place for Santa, not vice versa.

    Then - presents. Woo hoo.

    Merry Christmas, y'all
    NORAD Tracks Santa Website!

    He's in Peru already - time for all little boys and girls, or at least OUR boy and girl, to get to bed!

    ho ho ho
    Tuesday, December 23, 2003
    They'll market anything, won't they?
    CNN.com - 'Mr. Christmas' pulls plug on light display - Dec. 23, 2003

    "Partly, it was the pricey bills. But mostly, there just isn't enough Christmas spirit, the once-jolly Whipple said."

    Not enough *Holy* Spirit, maybe... not enough joy in Jesus... not enough folks seeking Christ above Nintendo and the latest deals down at the mall... aarrgghh. The light display didn't make it christmas. Christmas gave a reason for the light display, not the other way around.
    Whenever I think I've got some hangup with the sentimentality of Christmas, something comes to my inbox that really, for me, puts things into a way different perspective.It's more than the manger, but it's also more than "Jesus coming for me". It's about a revolution, an "undermining of the world's powers", a subversion of the rulership of darkness by the entrance of real Light. No matter what, it's always more... isn't it?
    CNN.com - ROTK McKellen: One of the iconic figures of my lifetime - Dec. 22, 2003I totally agree. I finally got to see LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING last night, and it was worth the wait. Worth the year between episodes, worth the extra DVD viewing time leading up to this, re-watching the first two installments. Worth the 3.5 hr viewing time (not quite worth all the dang *commercials*, though; those are really starting to bug me!)

    I can agree with critics who downplay the sentimental and sappy dialogue - but I also feel that this is the place for it. In the midst of war, imminent death, laying your life and heart on the line for the good of a cause worth fighting for - that's the moment for valor-inducing speeches and famous last words. The scenery was lush and fruitful, and all the dark places were invaded with light as the king returned to his throne and as the small & foolish things of Middle-Earth won out in the end.

    I look forward to re-reading the books. I'd read the first one and most of #2 when I was younger. Perhaps I can finish them this time, reading this summer with my son, passing on to him a love for adventure in film and in good books. This story will not be filmed again - it's now been done.
    Monday, December 22, 2003

    Ho ho ho with a whopper and fries to go.
    CNN.com - Martha Stewart: This Christmas 'saddest holiday ever' - Dec. 22, 2003

    The article ends with this:"Religious beliefs", lawsuits, pending charges, and happily breeding canaries - good thing Jesus still came into the godforsaken mess, huh?
    Really good day yesterday. Service was simple yesterday morning: our praise team's Christmas concert, "Feel The Joy", was wonderful. I really appreciated it, in spite of the pounding headache I carried all morning. I went straight home, as my lovely wife took care of the kids all afternoon, and took a lo-o-o-o-ong winter's nap. It worked - got rid of the headache, and we were ready for the Christmas party last night. Seeing our friends from church together outside the church building - that's cool, especially with no kids running around and worrying what they're getting into.

    This week, I want to have stories and conversations with my kids about Christmas. All of the cartoons and specials have a fairly common theme - getting rid of Santa means that Christmas is cancelled. Well, the last time I checked, Santa wasn't around for the first one - letting him sleep through this one won't tear apart the fabric of history. I want to do more with it than sentimentalize the holiday around a cutsie baby in a stinky stable, too - I want to help my children to begin thinking now about who Jesus really came for... He came for the Father. In forgiving sin, God's character trait of justice was incomplete - not punishing sin reveals a lack of holiness. Jesus came as a sacrifice - somehow, in perfect love, maybe only sacrificial mercy can balance out holy justice.

    Anyway, we celebrate as the "fringe benefits" of Jesus' gift to the Father. We might imitate that gift, thinking that we're giving as He has given to us. But we haven't died to complete God, and we haven't saved the human race from hellish extinction. Last time I checked, Santa hasn't done any of that either.
    Saturday, December 20, 2003
    TheOoze - Moving Beyond the Worship Service [Written by Justin Baeder]

    For me, this is a difficult article to read. Not because it steps on my toes or convicts me on a personal level, but because... well...

    Let me say up front that if you've never considered these thoughts, think about them now. How we put so much emphasis on the "worship service" in our church structures today, to the detriment of any other kinds of things the church might be about. And from the looks of things, this tendency to wrap everything around a solitary event hasn't helped much to make us more holy, more evangelistic, etc. If anything needs to change in our church lives it's the fixation on traditions for the sake of tradition - and Justin's right in that regard, that the "worship service" needs to be reprioritized, if not dismantled and re-constituted into something meaningful and effective.

    But.... there's no real alternative given. Not that he needs one, but it would be helpful to make the article more of a "this is what I evision" than a "Let me rant about what I see that's wrong." The generalization isn't necessary - many of the people reading TheOoze articles are no longer a part of churches, or they're finding new ways to change their churches, or they're leaving old established/crotchety old churches of some of these same issues. He's "preaching to the choir" in many respects - and we don't need that any more, do we?

    Check it out for yourself. My prayer is that it convicts the church to action, not to just sitting around and yapping more about the problem.
    Friday, December 19, 2003
    It's sleepover night at our house. There are three. little. kindergarten. girls. spending the night in my house. One of them belongs to me. The others add exponentially to the giggle/loudness factor of our home. It's after 10:30p, and I'm not sure if the current lull is because they're really tired, or if they're really just recharging for another run.

    I'm heading to Hickory, NC tomorrow morning - my aunt's father passed away this week, and I'm riding with my parents to attend the funeral. I know I'm not the only one who dislikes funerals, especially when I don't know anyone. But it's not something you attend selfishly, is it? I mean, if it's a friend or family member, you go for some kind of closure. If it's a friend's loss - you go to be supportive. I don't mind, really - and I'm actually honored to be able to go.

    Right now, I'm just hoping we can get to bed before midnight with some level of sanity remaining in the house, you know? Anything else tomorrow can take care of itself after a good night's sleep. Of course, it'll be my wife who'll need the extra sleep - I sleep way too hard to be bothered by giggling girls and their hijinks. But we'll make it through tonight and tomorrow and the rest of the busy weekend.

    UPDATE 11:00pm: how did we get from almost asleep to all. three. little. girls. standing and clapping and dancing?
  • Amazon.com: Toys & Games: A Christmas Story: 40" Leg Lamp

    Anyone looking for a last-minute gift, this is not on my list... but this is.
    This week's installment of the Friday V:

    1. List your five favorite beverages.
  • venti caramel macchiato
  • milk
  • ice water
  • diet vanilla coke (diet's not as sweet & syrupy)
  • sweet tea

    2. List your five favorite websites.
  • blogs4God
  • Relevant Magazine
  • CNN.com
  • ColaMovies
  • Netflix

    3. List your five favorite snack foods.
  • venti caramel macchiato (might not be a "food" for you...)
  • Ben & Jerry's Choc Chip Cookie Dough
  • Froot Loops
  • Tostito Rounds
  • M&Ms

    4. List your five favorite board and/or card games.
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Cranium
  • Uno
  • Spades
  • Monopoly

    5. List your five favorite computer and/or game system games.
    All for Gamecube:
  • NCAA 2003
  • Animal Crossings
  • Tiger Woods 2003
  • Backyard Football
  • Backyard Baseball
  • Thursday, December 18, 2003
    Dispatches from Outland - "Good Advice Department: Things NOT to do while watching The Return of the King."

    I'm going to see this one time, and then go back in a few weeks and try out #1 through #9...

    That's the "slogan" I'd like to see up on the sign at church after Christmas. The CWO tagline is "a healing place for a hurting world", and we take that seriously. But I like how those two words above say something to all of us: not just those in need of healing, but those of us going through the process, too.

    Of course there's the need to have our hurts healed, and the church is called to be a hospital of sorts, "healing hurts" for those in need. From the tiniest boo-boo to major life-threatening stuff, from divorce to suicide - we need healing and restoration in so many areas of our lives as individuals and as a community. We can only ignore pain, trouble, doom & gloom for so long. And yet too many times our churches are places where people feel beat up, judged unnecessarily, under-loved and under-appreciated.

    And there's also the need for a knowledge that real deep healing might really really hurt, that where we're going might have a higher price to pay than we're willing to shell out. As I get older, I find that there are fewer and fewer easy answers, and even fewer *cheap* ones. It hurts to forgive; it hurts to deal with your inner struggles; it hurts to lose a part of yourself, whatever the reason. Real healing really hurts - there's a message in there that needs to get out.

    At Christmas, my biggest problem with the "christmas spirit" is the need to use sentimentality to mask anyone's real hurts, real depressions, real struggles. Even if we talk about having deep sadness at Christmas, it's usually in hushed tones behind someone's back, or it's on a late night newscast feature story about depression on the rise each year during the holidays. We don't deal with issues through the year, and the amplification at Christmas is numbing to the senses.

    As Christians, can't we come alongside someone and just walk with them in integrity and genuineness this holiday season? Can't we bring healing, restoration and reconciliation in a real, deep, lasting manner? Can we love people and give of ourselves without expecting anything, except for God to work through that interaction as He loves others through us?

    ... isn't that at least a part of what Jesus did?
    Wednesday, December 17, 2003
    From RelevantMag/Slices:
    Just over a week left before Christmas, and I've still got a decent bit of shopping to do. I'm taking it upon myself to help the kids shop for each other, and then there's a couple of items I didn't order for my wife that I need to pick up at the mall. There's a little girl sleepover at my house this Friday - oh joy - so my son and I will do manly things after his basketball game: probably a rack of ribs and shopping for the mom & sister.

    Really looking forward to taking off for the holidays. I'm working tomorrow and next Mon/Tue, and the rest of the time I'm sleeping-late-thank-you-very-much. Bowl Season has started, so there's plenty of football to go around, and I've already mentioned to shopping. I need to get to Starbucks for some more Christmas blend - wondering if I should go ahead and stock up, or wait for an after-christmas sale that might never come.

    Not a bad day today. Finally getting chilly outside... Not a very verbose day either.
  • CNN.com - Enjoying the fellowship of the 'Rings' - Dec. 17, 2003

    It was special and for the next 12 hours I indulged my inner geek and allowed myself to be swept into a magical world where good and evil are clearly defined and there is a hero around every corner. / When it was all over, the audience roared its approval for the last time. Then, weary but thrilled, I walked to the parking lot and bid farewell to Middle-earth and to my fellow geeks.

    Sounds like my high school yearbook photos. Can't wait to entertain my inner geek this weekend.

  • CNN.com - Fugitive steer spared by slaughterhouse - Dec. 17, 2003

    "He put a face on food," she said. "Looking at hamburger meat wrapped in a cellophane package is not the same as looking at that face."

    Sounds like my high school yearbook photo. Anyway, I bet you see steaks on eBay within a week.
  • Tuesday, December 16, 2003
    local6.com - News - Bearded Saddam Doll For Sale Barely 24 Hours After Capture

    No, honey - that's not on anyone's list.
    Herald Sun: Saddam knocks Jesus off Time [16dec03]

    Just no respect for Jesus at Christmas.... tsk tsk tsk...
    I've got a "Tuesday Three" on the 1J13 Email List, and the questions this week are right up there in the ho ho ho spirit of things. If you're joining in, let us know in the comments - either your URL or your responses:

    1) What's your favorite Christmas song? Include a verse or two.
    Carol Of The Bells (instrumental versions are best) - I've got a dozen or so different covers/arrangements, but favorite is done with guitar on Stephen Curtis Chapman's Christmas CD

    2) What's your favorite Christmas movie? Include a quote/scene.
    A CHRISTMAS STORY - little brother, bundled up for winter weather, falls down: "I can't get up! I can't get up! Ralphieeeeeee! I can't get up!"
    ** Honorable Mentions: CHRISTMAS VACATION and DIE HARD

    3) What's your favorite Christmas special? Include a quote/scene.
    Claymation Christmas - the camels doing jazzed-up "We Three Kings" is classic, as well as the Walruses figure skating with the penguins, and the goofy bell and Quasimodo on "Carol Of The Bells"

    My mom got me an XM Satellite Radio for Christmas - and I got it installed early. We're all over it. My kids loved the RadioDisney feed - quietest morning drive we've had all year (too bad "Naked Mole Rap" came on as we were pulling into the school parking lot!). After that, I skimmed through some Christmas music channels before finding Bishop Harry Jackson preaching on Caleb's legacy. He was here at our Men's Conference a few weeks back - how cool is that? Before that, I listened to a bit of Crosby & Hope on the Old TIme Radio channel.

    Very nice.
    Monday, December 15, 2003
    You can add this to the long, long list of crimes that I'm sure is being compiled by international lawyers against Saddam: the pre-empting of last night's planned CHRISTMAS VACATION telecast on NBC by a special Dateline and L&O:Criminal Intent. Not very high on the list, but somewhere at the end when you're still just trying to make him look bad.
    Sunday, December 14, 2003
    CNN.com - U.S. officials: Low-tech intelligence led troops to Saddam - Dec. 14, 2003

    It's been one of those days: fairly quiet and relaxing on the homefront, and celebratory on the warfront. The first word I got of the capture of Saddam was sometime during this morning's bible study. It was in passing, overhearing another conversation, but I didn't have time to follow-up. Sunday mornings are about the anly time I don't tune into news at all, so when the word came as part of the morning's sermon that was the first real news I'd heard.

    Pastor Carlos, filling in for Pastor Mike who's golfing and spectating on the West Coast, said it: We don't understand what it means to be liberated from an oppressive regime. As Christians, we've been given a gift of freedom - from the devil, from ourselves. But we probably spend too much time dabbling back into the "oppression" to really experience true release. And that's sad. The people of Iraq tonight are free in a way they haven't experienced for decades - and it's a freedom that will no doubt take new forms over the coming weeks, for better or for worse. But right now, they know freedom.

    Do we?
    Saturday, December 13, 2003

    Ho ho ho - it's beginning to look alot like... well, you know. The stockings are hung by the chiney with care, in hopes that somebody will remember to put the fire out and water the tree before heading upstairs to bed.
    Friday, December 12, 2003
    Dead Santa

    I've had my doubts about Frosty for many many years....
    What did men do before there were malls? Did they go to five different stores all over town, or did they try to find everything at the local five-&-dime? 'Cause at Christmas, I'd much rather find everything for everyone in one gigantic place than have to get in and out of the car all over town.

    [NOTE: Items and stores are hidden from nosey people looking for hints this Christmas - sorry for any inconvenience. Thank you for your patience. - the Editor]
    I'll get some shopping time today at lunch and after work. No kids, no hassles - just me and a cheerful salesperson or two. I'm going shopping for a nice new ###### for my wife, maybe something that ###### #### from ###############, and a new ####### or two for ######. Oh, and can't forget something #### and ###### from ##########. We also need to buy a new digital camera to replace the one stolen a couple of weeks ago - that means I get to go to BestBuy, too - woo hoo (usually not allowed to go unsupervised).

    I've already picked up "daddy gifts" for the kids, so one more for Vicki and I'll be set on that front. I'm running out of Christmas Blend - oh the horror - so I'll have to make the obligatory stop at Starbucks - oh the horror. And then I need to wrap everything. I told the group last night that in light of my call to not be so selfish this Christmas, I'm going to wrap everything I give. Normally, I only wrap the things I didn't get a bag for. I hate wrapping presents, and I'm not very good at it. But the kids don't care, and my sweetie knows it's done in love (and that if it looks perfect, someone else did it!). So this year, I'm wrapping all of it - and praying while wrapping, thanking the Lord for the wonderful presents He's blessed me with in so many ways, and praying they'll enjoy the gift and see my heart for Christ.

    Ho Ho Ho
    FridayFive time, boys and girls....

    1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays?
    We don't get too much snow in the middle of SC, but I love it when it finally gets cold around here. Chilly breezes are the only things I can count on to drive the humidity away.

    2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect?
    My wife and I made a decision when we got married that we'd always have Christmas morning to ourselves. Just us and the kids, with no grandparents or relatives, just able to wake up and enjoy each other. Coffee and a fire helps, too.

    3. Do you do have any holiday traditions?
    Mostly in who we visit and when, and then what we'll eat. We'll do my mother-in-law's home Christmas Eve, then by ourselves Christmas morning before going to my mom & dad's for breakfast pizza and presents over there.

    4. Do you do anything to help the needy?
    Yes. But really looking to get out of rut of only doing that for holidays, you know?

    5. What one gift would you like for yourself?
    Thursday, December 11, 2003
    Geek Christmas Carols:

    if (weather(OUTSIDE)==*frightful
    && in(current.location)==so.delightful
    && !place_to_go(0))
    for (i=1;i++;i<4)
    I'm going to be speaking at CWO tonight, filling in for Pastor Mike while he's following Tiger Woods on the west coast. I appreciate every opportunity I get to stand there, sharing from my heart what God is saying to me, seeing if it also has an impact on those around me, getting affirmation oftentimes that we're all in the same boat...

    I'm going to start with the piece I posted last week on not buying myself "presents" before Christmas. In buying myself presents, I "rob" someone else of the joy of giving that present to me.

    What's a present? What's a "good present"? It's that thing one gives to another that shows thoughtfulness, love, knowledge of likes and desires. It's that surprising thing that maybe you didn't know you wanted, but when you open it - it's perfect. It inspires gratitude on multiple levels, and stands the test of time in various ways.

    I'm a difficult person to buy for - not only does one have to ask "would he like that?", but also "does he have it already?" I'd always buy the latest CD or DVD or book, and no one would know what I had or didn't have. And what might've been meaningful from someone else became to me just a thing.

    Somewhere in that rambling, I want this thought to ring true: It's more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and receiving a gift well is a blessing on the giver as well. Then we'll turn to that beloved Christmas story in scripture - Joshua 6 through 8 :).

    The people of Israel are given a wonderful present: LAND. In taking Jericho, everything was to be destroyed - nothing taken, nothing left behind. That was God's command, His call on what to do with this first city, the "first fruits" of Israel's move through the countryside. The next town was Ai. Scouts compared this much smaller town to the huge walls of Jericho and were underwhelmed: "We don't need more than a few thousand men to wipe this place off the map." They attacked - and were defeated. Why?

    Because it was Christmastime - and I went to BestBuy to get FINDING NEMO on DVD. And to Family Bookstore to get the newly released Caedmon's Call CD. And to Barnes & Noble to buy fourteen books in their up-and-coming authors sale.

    Why is this such a big deal? BECAUSE WE TEND TO THINK VERY VERY SELFISHLY. I could've gone to the store and gotten the DVD for another family, and I could've gotten that new CD for Pastor Mike, and I could've held off on the impulse book buying to save up for a special present for my wife. I went in thinking about my favorite people: me, myself and I - not God, not family and friends, not you.

    And Achan could've JUST OBEYED and "sacrificed" by helping in the utter destruction of Jericho, rather than keeping some of the forbidden booty for himself. He knew it was wrong - that's why he stashed the stuff, right? There was no question what the directive was - selfishness overcame obedience, just as that same fleshly thing rises up and overcomes us today.

    Again, why is this such a big deal? Because Christmas is coming for me. Friends and family will be giving me gifts, and I'll receive them with sincere appreciation and gladness anything-from-starbucks-is-fine-with-me. I am then free to GIVE FREELY TO THEM, NOT EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN. I'm taken care of, and if people don't give me anything, I'm still ok - because I've been freely given so much already (Matt 10:8).

    And in Joshua 6-8, Achan took something selfishly THAT WOULD'VE BEEN GIVEN FREELY at Ai. His sin thundered through all Israel. Think our sins don't effect the Body of Christ? They all acted self-centeredly, not consulting God on how to defeat Ai, but comparing it to Jericho and seeing that *they* had done so well there. But they were turned back, and felt abandoned. When God finally pointed out their sin - when He finally helped them root out the problem - when He was finally consulted on what to do - they routed Ai and WERE ALLOWED TO KEEP THE BOOTY. But it didn't do Achan any good since he was DEAD. All he had taken was all he was going to get.

    In thinking about ourselves, we shove God way down the list. We move others way down the list. And Jesus isn't lifted up; God isn't glorified and honored. And others don't come to feel the love of God through us, and they're cut off from the blessing of being able to share gifts. Not a very merry Christmas there.
    Wednesday, December 10, 2003
    My days are all screwed up this week. I stayed home sick Monday - headache from tension in back and sinuses in front on top of stomach mess - and studied for that final exam (got a 105, so a solid A for the Excellence In Evangelism course). Then Tuesday work and b-ball practice at night, today Wednesday with work and then the eKIDS Christmas Praise concert tonight, and tomorrow Thursday with work and then Thursday Evening stuff at CWO. It feels like Thursday, like a long week. But it also feels like Wednesday and there's so much week left. Whew. Doesn't make sense to me, either.

    Physically, I'm just plain sore. Still have that crick in my neck - all day long - and now there's just a soreness in my left knee. That's my plant foot when I make my cuts, so I probably won't be able to start this weekend. Dang.

    I'm teaching tomorrow night for Pastor Mike. Anyone in Columbia, SC - come on down @ 7pm. I'll post notes here sometime by the weekend, I'm sure - basically coming from the stance I did a few days ago on not buying myself something for Christmas. Not "the" Christmas story, but "my" Christmas story. Should be a hoot, huh?
    Tuesday, December 09, 2003
    I'm looking forward to seeing THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN, hopefully in the theaters but at least it's available on DVD now, too. I received the following advertising blurb in an email this afternoon:You know, this is the same thing that happens to me every year when I see CHRISTMAS VACATION again. This past weekend when it was on network TV, I noticed something that made me "giggle like a middle school girl" (my wife's description, not mine): just before "grace"/pledge of allegience in the Christmas family meal, everyone is putting their hands together to pray, except Eddie, who's doing his hands in the "look-in-the-church-see-all-the-people" thing.

    Another scene, something I'd never noticed, is just before Clark opens his "bonus" check. He tells everyone he's going to put in a pool, and then if there's enough left over he's flying everyone in to christen it. The daughter is really happy about the pool, but starts to shake her head and pout when hearing that *everyone* is coming back again.

    What a riot. But I digress...
    "...if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)--..." - 2 Peter 2:6-8 NIV

    I'd never particularly considered Lot "righteous" with all of the things going wrong in his life and by looking at the seemingly self-centered choices he made. But here he is vindicated somewhat but showing that the internal bent of his soul was towards godliness and away from the sinfulness around him. Matthew Henry's commentary on these verses has alot to say

    A friend from an email list asked some questions and I finally got around to posting my measly $.02:
    Monday, December 08, 2003
    Official Site: The Passion Of The Christ - A Mel Gibson Film - Official Movie Website - Icon Productions
    Sunday, December 07, 2003
    Only a Rumor - Søren Kierkegaard [Daily Dig, Bruderhof]

    Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem. They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him. Similarly we may be able to explain every article of our faith, yet remain spiritually motionless. The power that moved heaven and earth leaves us completely unmoved.

    What a contrast! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it spurred them to set out a long, hard journey. The scribes, meanwhile, were much better informed, much better versed. They had sat and studied the scriptures for years, like so many dons. But it didn't make any difference. Who had the more truth? Those who followed a rumor, or those who remained sitting, satisfied with all their knowledge?

    SI.com - NCAA Football - BCS race still up in the air - Sunday December 7, 2003 2:42AM

    I went to college to figure stuff like this out. But nope - not a clue.

    UPDATE: Sunday 12/7 6:44pm - Southern Cal is #1, and Oklahoma is playing LSU for the national championship. That's nuttier than that fruitcake you just mailed to Cousin Frannie.
    Saturday, December 06, 2003

    A few years ago, our minivan was broken into - my backpack was taken. Other than the replaceable credit cards and checkbook that were in the pocket (I carried it everywhere - don't you?), my bible was in there, too, and a case of 64+ CDs. More than ever before, I felt violated - what was in that bag, more than the monetary sum of its parts, was "me" as much as I could be defined outside my body. I got over it - but that was hugely disappointing and hurtful for me at the time.

    And it happened again last night. This time, it was my wife's car and her backpack (carries it as a purse - don't you?). This time, I don't think she "defines herself" by what was inside, but it's still a nutty and hurtful situation. Other than our digital camera, there wasn't much of value - if you don't count her credit cards, checkbook, and *her mom's* credit cards and stuff in there. So while she's driving to pick her mom up from the hospital (threw her hip out the other night, which is why her cards were in my wife's backpack), she's also got to start calling the bank for stop payments, the credit companies for help, etc.

    My son's first basketball game was last night. Very proud papa here, win or lose. Of course that's easy to say since they won, but he did get out there and do his best. Looking forward to him getting better, playing in the driveway. Score: Our Team 17 - Their Team 9. Woo hoo!
    Friday, December 05, 2003
    CNN.com - Trampled woman has history of claims against stores - Dec. 5, 2003

    I felt bad for her a few days ago. Now I think she probably owes WalMart a DVD. Too dang gullible, huh?
    I hope everyone's having a great holiday season so far, with all the Christmas shopping done, all the decorating done, all the plans made and reservations set. that way, if y'all are done - you can come to Columbia and help us!!!

    In the blogosphere - that portion of the 'net where geeks like me journal their thoughts online - there's a Friday ritual called the Friday Five. This week, Heather the owner needed to take the weekend off, leaving me with a gaping hole in my Friday posting. So I'll throw out a PseudoFridayFive here for our holiday weekend.

    peace on earth - rick

    1) what is the first christmas gift you remember getting as a child?
    2) how would you replace "five golden rings" in the 12 Days of Christmas with something that's valuable to you (and fits the meter of the song)
    3) what are you getting me for Christmas? (whoops - how did that get in there?)
    4) what was your favorite gift to give last year?
    5) do you remember/still own/still use any gifts from last year?

    Please let us know you're pseudo-fiving by leaving a comment with linkage to your answers/site, or post your answers straight up. Gracias.
    Thursday, December 04, 2003
    It's been a long week. I'm not sure if it's because of the long five-day holiday weekend before, or if I'm just feeling lazy as winter approaches. Maybe I need to hibernate. Somebody wake me up when it snows so I don't miss it.

    It's just felt long this week, with basketball practice starting and Christmas programs at church and all the plans still outstanding for the holidays. It's like wow-we've-about-three-weeks-'til-Christmas, and dang-we've-only-got-three-weeks-'til-Christmas.

    If you're like me (you're not, but pretend, ok?), you've got alot to get done before the holidays, while still leaving yourself enough to do during the holidays. That week right around Christmas will drag on and on, as people get slack and look forward to Christmas travels more than meeting this or that deadline in February. I'm taking a good bit of time off this year - 12/24 thru 01/02 - and I'm really looking forward to it. But the time leading up to that week and a half will be hurry-hurry-rush-rush-lazy around here.

    Here are some things I'd like to do well and often this Christmas:
  • take pictures - we just don't get enough photos through the year, and I think we're at a point with the digital cam and our PC that we can take more snapshots and do more with them without taking too much effort
  • watch "holiday classics" with kids - you can never get enough of the really good specials (and I'm already tired of the Nickelodeon versions, ok?!?)
  • watch "adult holiday classics" with my beloved - no, she doesn't always "get" Christmas Vacation, but I'd rather watch and giggle with her than anyone else; and there's nothing like the 24-hr A Christmas Story marathon to make Christmas Eve a real treat
  • get A Wish For Wings That Work for the kids and I; haven't seen it available on DVD yet, and not sure if it'll come on TV or not, but Opus' adventure at Christmas is really cool
    Blog Milestone - Visits incl. Reloads: 10018.

    Now, I know that probably 650 of those reloads are me. But it always amazes me that there are other people interested in what I have to say or write. It never surprises me when they read and never come back - but staying and reading again, that's just really challenging to me.

    I've written before: I write for me. That anyone else is reading is gravy, and it might color a little how I put things down onscreen. But really - thanks for all the gravy, y'all.
    Wednesday, December 03, 2003
    The State | 12/03/2003 | Houses, townhomes planned in Rosewood

    These plans are in process for the land right across the street from CWO. Pray. Often.
    Does anyone mind if I rant a bit? I mean, I'll get all the Scooge-iness out of my system (most of it anyways) before we really get into the holiday season. If it's ok with you, I'll rant and ramble a bit; if not, tough :)

    Around here, there were Christmas displays up in many stores before Halloween 10/31. With Thanksgiving gone, we're now full bore into the Christmas Shopping Season. Notice it's not the Holiday Season, or the Christmas Season - but the Shopping Season. Everything's about the shopping, and something really strange happens to people: they buy things, and then give those things to people. What's up with that? Being totally serious here. I'm not allowed to buy anything for myself right now. No music, no DVDs, no games, no books. Nothing. If I buy it for myself, then what will other people do if they were going to buy that thing for me? So I have a list of things I want but cannot buy. That's so un-captialistic! Anything I buy, I'm supposed to give away. And if I keep it, I'm hurting them by not allowing them the freedom to give something to me.

    Taking for myself is actually hurting someone else. Not denying myself (Mark 8:34) what I want actually denies another person the freedom to give.

    Whatever I might say against the commercialism of this time of year, there is such a spirit of giving, of personal sacrifice to benefit others. For all of our talk as christians about loving each other, we might even fall short in giving sacrificially at this time of the year. And in the midst of that, we show that we're not very good receivers, either (John 3:27). We'd rather give than receive, like I'd rather buy that thing for myself now then have to tell you "thank you" later. When we "share Jesus," we expect to close the deal, offering salvation and the grace of God - and that's a good thing. But are we shut off from being able to *receive* anything from people to whom we're always trying to *give* salvation?

    Maybe christians come across as pushy because we're not good at receiving. And in not receiving, maybe we discover that we're not the best givers, either (Acts 20:35).

    End of rant - thanks for playing.
    Tuesday, December 02, 2003
    My son has his first official basketball team practice tonight. Tomorrow night, practice #2. Friday night, first game. That's nuts. But we're excited that he's excited. Any time that your child does something physical or outside, instead of potato-ing in front of a TV or PC screen, and he says, "wow, I might like this better than video games" - jump on that. So he's learning how to dribble, how to shoot, and how to pass. And his first game is Friday night. No real concept of team and how to play the game. And his first game is Friday night.

    I'm more nervous than he is. Can you tell? 'Cause I want it to be fun for him. I feel like the coach is smart, capable of teaching him the fundamentals better than I can. And I'll follow behind him with drills in the driveway. But here's my conundrum - do I tell the grandparents or not? I know I should, I know I ought to - but I really don't want to. I don't want them in the stands yelling things at him, getting him off focus and stuff. But we probably will let everyone know - and I'll have to tell them to sit down and shut up, right?

    After practice, we're going to buy some new all-black hi-tops to complete his uniform. And then we'll go home - quick shower for him, and I'll let him stay up a little and watch college hoops on ESPN before bedtime.
    Gary @ blogs4God posted to his cache:Hmmmmmmm...

    Monday, December 01, 2003
    Rev. Magazine1103 - Ron Martoia: From Gladiator to Irritator

    Title like that, it's got to be good.

    [thanks for linking thru, Len!]
    The Opus interview

    Aaarrgghh - I missed the Sunday comics and Opus' second strip. But I found this interview quite enlightening.
    CNN.com - Ambitious plan on World AIDS Day - Dec. 1, 2003

    What would Jesus have us do...?

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