Saturday, December 31, 2005

Say Cheese

Here's a few pics from this Christmas:

The grandkids gather as Grandma reads a story. Pictured are (back row) Hannah, Kelby, and Cora, and (front row) Grace, Tanner, and Brennan. Elijah was off toddling about somewhere. The whole "storytime" idea went a lot better than I had anticipated. In fact, I thought it would be a complete disaster. But look at them, they were actually interested. Way to go Grandma!

"Cheeeeese!" We get three distinct reactions to the camera with our boys. Brennan will pose himself with little or no instruction and stand for pictures as long as your batteries will last. He's photogenic and he knows it. Ever ready to pose for a distinguished portrait, Brennan takes this very seriously and is always eager to see the results.

Tanner is painfully self-conscious when having his picture taken. If left to think about it he'll tense up and thus the best pictures of him are always the ones that are snapped immediately. When you count, the pressure gets to him and he tries to force his smile by moving his face around one muscle at a time. It looks like he's smelling something foul or he's planning his escape, as someone does when they hear something offensive or frightening but feel that the only safe thing to do is to smile politely.

Elijah loves the camera almost as much as Brennan. He wants to get in the middle of the picture and he repeatedly says "cheese" until the flash goes off. In fact he'll start saying cheese as soon as he sees the camera and he's saying it in the picture above. Of the dozens of pictures we have where Elijah has his teeth bared, they all capture him saying "cheese."

Next year we'll have Graham in there too. We're looking forward to new family pictures as previous versions have not really had the whole family. Next Christmas all six of us will pose for a picture… each in our own way, of course.

Locked In

We had our lock-in at the church last night. It went really well with some 70 kids or more (about 80-85 people overall). We had a concert, a 3-on-3 tourney, movies, video games, board games, food, ultimate frisbee, and lots of other stuff going on. I made it until about 3:30am before I went home to sleep. Jay-rod and our youth sponsors did a great job.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Random Thoughts 12/30/05

  • For those of you scoring at home, I officially passed 300 posts this week.
  • Would you believe that it is illegal to throw snowballs in Topeka? The mayor is hoping to strike the law from the books and prevent overcrowding the prisons with wayward children. Read the article here.
  • Uncle Sam wants you… to invade Canada! There's actually a website promoting this idea (tongue-in-cheek I think) and selling t-shirts with that very slogan! They site says, "the surrender will come quickly, they're French after all!" In reality, the U.S. did have a plan to invade Canada called War Plan Crimson, which was drawn up in the 1930's. It was part of a plan to fight the British (War Plan Red), assuming that they would want to invade the East Coast. We would respond by capturing Canada and Jamaica, which would become a permanent part of the U.S. These plans were de-classified in the 1970's and it seriously offended many Canadians (wonder why?). Some of our neighbors to the North are still leary about Ft. Drum, NY and Ft. Lewis, WA, two of our largest military bases near the Canadian border, but the Pentagon does not comment on current contingency plans.
  • We have a lock-in tonight at the church for the youth group. I'm not going to try to go all night; that's why we hired Jay-rod!
  • Have you jumped the couch lately? "Jump the couch" is the Dictionary of American Slang's 2005 Slang of the Year and means to exhibit strange or frenetic behavior. It refers to when Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch like a deranged monkey. Nothing says love like public buffoonery. Personally I liked the Army's teasing nickname for rear-echelon troops who don't do any fighting, "Fobbit" From FOB (Forward Operating Base), it means someone afraid to leave base. Past wars had nicknames for these guys that can't be repeated in polite company, so this is a huge improvement.
  • It looks like the Saints will be back in New Orleans next year. I guess that's good for Louisiana but I feel like the NFL missed an opportunity to put a team in Los Angeles, which is a stated goal they have. Who are they going to move now? The NFL says they won't expand, so the team has to come from somewhere. Everything else being equal they ought to move the Vikings to LA. That would be the second purple and yellow team from Minnesota that makes no sense whatsoever in Los Angeles (the other being the Lakers). Then you can move the Vikings to the NFC West (with Seattle, Arizona, and San Fran) and move St. Louis to the NFC North (with Green Bay, Detroit, and Chicago). Think about it! It's perfect.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Long Time…

We had a visit today from an old friend we haven't seen in a couple years. Bryan C. and his wife came by for lunch and we had a chance to catch up on things this afternoon. It was really great to see them since they live in Oklahoma and as ministers, neither one of us have a lot of weekends off. Shannon and I sure love to entertain, I just wish more old friends had the time to drop by.

Random Thoughts 12/29/05

  • 5500 hits! Thanks for reading my blog. God bless you in the new year.
  • Guess who is running for governor next year in Pennsylvania? Lynn Swann, former Pittsburgh Steeler and NFL Hall-of-Famer. His website is and his formal announcement is coming up next week. I've heard Mr. Swann give political speeches and commentary and I've never been anything but impressed. I really hope he wins. Read a brief bio of him here.
  • There may have been a brief attack of common sense. According to a recent poll, 64% of Americans believe the NSA should be able to use wiretaps to listen to phone calls. When you're talking about hostile operatives who are trying to harm Americans… uh, yeah, go ahead and wiretap them. It's not like you're talking about Watergate (which is completely unacceptable), this is war. And the President has the Constitutional right (and responsibility) to do this. Most people understand this.
  • I'm finishing up the Chronicles of Narnia (I'm just about to start the seventh and final book). I'll post some thoughts about it next month.
  • FOX News has been doing several reports this last week about the decline of Christianity in Europe. Churches are empty and being sold. Europeans are militantly secular, openly jeering anything religious. Muslims, mostly non-integrated to European society, are increasing at alarming rates. But it's not just the decline of Christianity, it's the decline of Europe. Consider the low birth rates and the legalization (and promotion) of abortion, euthanasia, and suicide pills, and we may see the eclipse of white, Christian Europeans in our lifetime. Some European countries have such low birthrates that they are rapidly shrinking (mighty Russia may shrink to less than 25 million people in 100 years -- about equal to the population of the New York Metropolitan Area). Nearly all Eurpean nations are below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman (that means they're not replacing themselves). In the U.S., New England has a low, European-like replacement birthrate, but the rest of the country is well above what's necessary (I'm doing my part) and we have significant immigration to boot. While Europe shrinks, America grows.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

You Light Up My Life

This Christmas was supposedly the year of the widescreen tv and the iPod. But I'm finding myself fascinated with an invention that's been around for forty years, LED lights. The gift I received at church (meaning the gift I stole from someone during the latter stages of the game we played) was an LED flashlight. It's really cool; it runs on AA batteries and is extremely powerful. I couldn't be more pleased with it. Then yesterday I went and got a little reading light that clips to a book. It has two little LED lights and will probably last just about forever. Both gadgets emit a bright, cool bluish-white light. Neat-o.

As far as a new television is concerned, I can't bring myself to pay $1500 bucks or more for a tv. We have a tv that works, so until they switch over to digital broadcast in a few years, I'm going to wait. Hopefully I can wait even longer than that.

And I love our little iPod. Sure, it's not as flashy as some of these new video iPods but I like it for long car rides with the kids and for mowing the yard and exercising. It backs up my hard drive and I listen to some podcasts on it; I'm pretty content with it.

I would be ok with going a few more years before buying anymore expensive gadgets. I like the ones I have… unless of course they come out with an iPod with LED lights… hmmm…

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I'm Back

Whew, the holidays were busy but we had a lot of fun. With all of the family activities, I actually went long spans (ok, hours) without reading the news or blogging or checking my email! See, I can quit any time I want to! *facial tick*

But fortunately I'm back reading, studying, emailing, and blogging during each of the little breaks in my day. I'll report on how the boys' Christmas went and comment on what's going on in the world in upcoming posts. I have some good pictures.

God bless and thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Random Christmas Eve Thoughts

  • I went to see Craig before his foot surgery Friday. I walked in the surgery center and told the nurse I was looking for Craig and that I was his minister. She leaves to check on them and tells Sonya and Craig, "There's a guy here looking for you. He says he's your minister but he looks like a bouncer." Well… uh… that's a first. Usually, people only protest that I'm too young. Maybe I need to smile more.
  • We're opening presents today with the boys. Brennan and Tanner are pretty excited but Elijah doesn't seem to get it yet. I made a little five-day countdown calendar for the boys and we've been crossing out each day until Christmas. That helped focus them a little on the idea that Christmas is a particular day and not just whenever it's snowy outside.
  • Dustin got to go to the Chiefs game today. It's 45 degrees and raining; hope he has fun.
  • We have the Christmas Eve "Carols and Candlelight" tonight and church tomorrow (with the gift exchange during Sunday School). My in-laws are coming over after church for presents and enchiladas and we're doing my family's Christmas on Monday. With all the visiting, gift opening, and eating, I may not do a lot of blogging during that time, but you never know.
  • I heard that all the major retail stores have finally been pressured into saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays". I wonder if we've really gained anything? Businesses are still just trying to turn a profit (and what do you expect?) and now Christians have bullied a lot of secular people during the season of peace and joy. Did that help the cause of evangelism? Does the non-religious Jewish store clerk who is forced to say Merry Christmas against her will now more inclined toward Christ or less so? As a minister, I'm not sure all this fuss was worth it. Oh, well.
  • Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy your family and your church family! Wear a warm sweater and eat good food. Play a board game and take a good nap. Don't worry about the stuff but enjoy the relationships. God bless!

What Wall?

The supposed wall of seperation between church and state may be rapidly crumbling. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the ACLU's oft-referenced wall isn't there! Read this article on the recent ruling. We have been heading toward a point where anything Judeo-Christian would have been banned as oppressive, prejudiced, and culturally insensitive. Now, maybe the tide has turned.

There's also an interesting little article by Grant Swank on the subject of separtation of church and state.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Rarely Early, Never Late

There are not words to express how thankful I am for the way that God supplies our every need. We were in a bit of a pinch, or at least we would have been very soon, and though we had not said a word to anyone (pride?), the Lord delivered, literally to our front door. For those of you who were involved in being a blessing to us, thank you.

There is a saying that God is rarely early, never late, always on time.

Amen. May I always trust Him and His timing.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Update

We had a full school bus when we went caroling on Tuesday night; ages ranged from 18 months to 80+ years. It went really well and we finished back at the church with cookies and hot chocolate. Several folks mentioned that they were glad our church still does that sort of thing. I'm glad too; it's the stuff that makes memories.

We had about 120 people at our kids program Wednesday night. Thanks to everyone who helped (Shannon was one of the key folks) and thank you parents for working with your kids. I was really impressed with how much those little guys memorized. It was awesome! Good job Mr. Anderson.

Saturday evening at 7pm is our "Carols and Candlelight." Please bring your family and friends. We'll have lots of singing and, you guessed it, candles! No heavy sermons or tedious ceremonies this time; it should be very "user friendly" for those not that comfortable with church.

Sunday we'll have our worship service as usual, though there will be some minor adjustments for the holiday. At Sunday School the adult classes are having a gift exchange. Remember, bring something you would want to take home yourself, and please keep it at $10 or less.

Merry Christmas and thank you for making your church family part of your celebrations.

John Steuart Curry

Most people, if they've ever heard of John Steuart Curry at all, know him from his murals that he painted in the Kansas Capital Building in Topeka, specifically the one with John Brown holding a rifle and a bible. But Curry, who was a native of Jefferson County, Ks, had other famous paintings as well. A few of my favorites follow:

Baptism in Kansas was the painting that made Curry famous. It represents the influence of the Church in depression era Kansas. Since the artist is local and the subject matter appropriate, I'd love to find a place in the church somewhere to hang a print of this. It just seems like the kind of thing any church in NE Kansas would have, though I've never seen it.

Return of Private Davis from the Argonne is a painting that Curry spent years working on. It represents Curry's recollection of the funeral of a World War 1 soldier in Winchester, Ks. Because of my military leanings and the location of the scene (my hometown), this is the one work of which I'd really like to own a print for my home or office.

Line Storm is probably the first John Steuart Curry painting I can remember and has had the strongest impact on me. A print of this eerie painting was hung in the doctor's office in Winchester where it stared at me while I waited for my sports physical each year, but I believe it's now hanging in a private home. The color of it is so strange that it evokes the same queer feeling you get when a real afternoon storm in Kansas casts a greenish pall over everything.

Tornado In Kansas is said to represent an actual farm a few miles from Winchester where Curry lived and where his relatives still live today. My brother had a classmate that grew up there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pro Bowl

The NFL released the rosters for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii next February. Knowing that this is not always the most accurate barometer of who had the best year, there were still some surprises in the list.
  • First and foremost, the NFC quarterbacks. Matt Hasselbeck is a good choice, but Jake Delhomme and Mike Vick?! Good grief! What were the other choices? In contrast, the AFC is represented by Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, and some guy named Peyton Manning. That's a night and day difference.
  • What's wrong with Reggie Wayne, Joey Galloway or Anquan Boldin? Are they not popular enough?
  • WR Koren Robinson, who was suspended from the NFL and cut from the Seahawks because of his substance abuse problems, is on the list. He went to the Vikings and scored a few dramatic touchdowns, so he'll be rewarded with a trip to Hawaii as a return man.
  • Lorenzo Neal finally made it to another Pro Bowl! It helps when NFL Films does an entire show about how good you are. Sorry T. Rich.
  • For the second year in a row, both Ronde and Tiki Barber will go to the Pro Bowl. They are the only set of brothers going this year (Eli Manning was not selected).
  • No one from the Titans, Packers, or 49ers are going (and only one from the Eagles), but no Cleveland Browns were picked either, in spite of having a fairly decent defensive team.
  • The Chiefs have 0 defensive players going this year but they have five offensive players going, including three offensive linemen.

A Fair Perspective

John Scales, over at Strategy Page, wrote an article re-examining the context of the invasion of Iraq. I thought it was especially fair and even-handed. We quickly forget circumstances and important factors after they are no longer at hand. His article starts:
Better than two years [almost three] after the US-led coalition invaded Iraq, defeated its government, and set up a new one, there is widespread disagreement within the US about whether it should have been done and almost universal opposition if not condemnation overseas. Unfortunately, much of the argument between those who supported and those who opposed has been couched in emotional terms, informed by partisan politics, or based on pre-existing prejudices. What is lacking is an unbiased look at the situation as it was in 2002 and at the real alternatives available then.
Read the rest by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Graham Cam

We had a doctor's appointment early this morning to have a sonogram done of Graham. He's doing great and there are no signs of anatomical abnormalities. He's due about April 14 or so.

His brothers were not terribly impressed with what they saw on the screen and Tanner asked if Graham was going to come out now. They were all disappointed but we bought them off with donuts. We're all eager to see him for real and our hearts are set at ease knowing that he's ok.

A Caroling We Go

We went caroling this evening. We had a bus full of folks that went to the homes of some of our elderly folks and it seemed to go really well. Brennan and Tanner played in the snow weaving a web of little tracks through the snow in each yard. Elijah got fed up with the bus ride after about an hour. He wasn't real keen on getting on and off and on again. Next year we may see the two older boys go with Dad while the younger two stay home with Mom.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Random Thoughts 12/19/05

  • I voluntarily exiled myself to the couch last night. There are rumors that I may snore just a little, maybe once or twice per night (I've never heard it myself). But I wanted my wife, who has a severe case of pregnancy, to get a good night's rest. It wasn't bad and I was quite cozy, at least until Eli (not quite two years old) woke me up with a slobbery head butt (it was supposed to be a kiss) and a poke in the eye (look Mom, I found Daddy!).
  • The President has seen a noticeable uptick in his approval ratings today. A successful election last week in Iraq and some very clear speeches (three in as many days) and people are realizing that a lot of the criticism of President Bush has just been uninformed people venting some hate. He has a plan and always has had one. And more importantly it's working and at an historic pace. News flash: the President is not greatest evil out there.
  • I've got my gift for the Sunday School party we're having Christmas morning. And yes, it has a Jayhawk on it! Remember, $10 or less and make it something you would want to go home with yourself.
  • Hornets, Penguins and Magic, oh my! There's a good chance that Kansas City will get an NHL or NBA team in a few years. The Penguins (hockey) and the Magic (basketball) are both unhappy in their current cities. The New Orleans Hornets are in a rough situation and may move (make note that our new Arena Football team is actually the old New Orleans team moved and renamed). The 18,500 seat Sprint Center opens in the fall of '07.
  • The NFL's Saints may have played their last game in the state of Louisiana. The Saints players made note of this possibility after the game Sunday and the NFL, which has been saying all the right things up to this point, actually makes a decision in January. Considering that the NFL has said that it will not expand beyond 32 teams in the forseeable future but also claims it will put a team in LA within a few years, there does seem to be a strong possibility that the Saints will move. I kinda hope that they do. Nothing against New Orleans, but there were several strikes against that city before it got flattened by Katrina.
  • Don't forget caroling Tuesday night at 6pm.
  • Ok, I'm starting to think this Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahma-what's-his-face, might be working for the CIA. Last week he said the Jewish Holocaust was a myth and now he's just declared western-style music illegal in Iran; is this guy trying to start a revolution? The ban ought to go over really well with the millions of Iranians under 30 who have DVD players and iPods. The average age there is 24. Talk about a leader alienating both his own people and foreign countries. Good grief.

Baghdad Boil

Ok, here's something I didn't know much about until this evening, the so-called "Baghdad Boil." It's actually called leishmaniasis and can be potentially very serious. It's caused by the bite of a sand fly found in the Middle East and has affected many hundreds of US service members.

Here is a brief explanation from the Mayo Clinic, but what I saw tonight didn't look nearly as bad as the picture on that page or any of the other examples I found on the internet.

This is an article about the condition as it affected the first few rotations of troops home from Iraq by early 2004.

This page is from the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USCHPPM) and has several informative links on the subject. If you're a wiki-nerd like me, here's the direct link to wikipedia article on leishmaniasis.

Please pray for our men and women who have these nasty sores on their hands and faces. It's painful, takes a long time to heal, and, in the case of one version of disease, can be very serious.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Casing the Brigade Colors

The new Arena Football team in Kansas City, the Brigade, revealed their new uniforms Friday. My first thought: Carolina Panthers. Hey it could be worse.

The Brigade starts playing early next year and I've heard that arena football games are a blast to watch live. It would be a pretty cool event, especially for the youth group or something.


I've enjoyed reading Paul Lukas' articles about sports uniforms called "Uni Watch" (look on or He notices a lot of the trends, historical details, and little details about uniforms that I've always noticed too. For example, here's a bit about what the referees wear in the NFL:
In 1941 the league switched to baseball caps and, interestingly, a color-coded system of vertically striped jerseys: The referee's stripes were black and white while the head linesman wore red and white, the umpire wore orange and white, and the field judge donned green and white. Everyone went to the standard black-white design in 1945, the same year officials began wearing uniform numbers, and the league's basic officiating uni has remained relatively constant since then.

I think it's interesting how teams put their outfits together and how some teams never change their look while other teams follow whatever is the latest fad. I appreciate the teams that are more conservative and traditional (Chiefs, Colts, and Packers) and I like the reasonably retro look (Giants, Jets or the powder-blue Chargers). I'm not a big fan of uniforms that are designed by shoe companies (Broncos) or the all black look (Jags, Ravens, Falcons, Saints). In fact, it's usually a bad idea to match your dark colored jersey with the same color pants (are you listening Eagles and Seahawks?).

But who gets my vote for the "Stevie Wonder Ugliest NFL Uniform of the Year" award? (Drum roll please…)

And the Stevie goes to… the Cincinnati Bengals.

Yuck. Nice team, but the uniforms… c'mon. Really now… make it stop. The whole thing is a bit much, but somebody was asleep at the wheel when it came to the sides of this uniform. I mean look at it. Can you say train wreck?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Random Thoughts 12/17/05

  • There are two ways to view President Bush: He's either an honest man in a difficult situation getting little or no help, or he's a corrupt and reckless man that has played out his own nefarious agenda. Naturally about half of everybody was assuming the worst this week when they heard that the President was spying on Americans. Here is President Bush's reponse Saturday morning, you decide for yourself if this is part of his "evil plan."
  • We're getting another good snowstorm; poor Tanner. We are going to have his party this evening, but now we're not sure anyone can make it.
  • Shannon was having a pretty rough day yesterday and so we stayed in last night, missing the surprise birthday party of a good friend. I know it was the right decision for Shannon's health, but the party would have been more enjoyable. You see we decided to watch the War of the Worlds remake, which was probably not as good as the original movie version. WARNING: Spoilers below (highlight with your curser to read)

First of all the underground thing was a dumb idea. These huge machines were underground this whole time and we never noticed them? Why put them there in the first place? If the aliens had the ability to put them there a million years ago, why not just take over the planet then? It just doesn't make sense. Second, what was with the machines sucking human blood and then spraying it everywhere? Besides being ghastly, it didn't make a lot of sense. Were the people being used as fuel or food or something? And if they were, why did the aliens kill a billion people in the first few days? Isn't that destroying a their fuel source? Why wouldn't they be more careful about capturing or even farming humans if they need them for some reason. Hasn't Spielberg ever seen the sci-fi series V? At least that made some sense.

  • Speaking of Tanner's birthday party, it's pretty telling when you say it begins during the second half of the Chiefs' game and people balk at that. Nice. Heaven forbid we interrupt a football game for Tanner! Grrrr…
  • The snow is getting worse as I write this. I hope it doesn't dramatically affect worship tomorrow. We have some of our college kids who are home for Christmas and will be part of the worship team tomorrow. And after hearing them practice, I know nobody would want to miss it.
  • If only every American had to take economics 101. Here are ten economic myths from 2005 that the mainstream media likes to promote. Some of these are common sense if people would just understand some basic principles of economics and some history.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Taming Tanner

It will be Tanner's birthday Sunday; he'll be four. We'll have a party, mostly family, Saturday evening and he'll have a number of extra treats and favors from Mom and Dad for the next several days. Not that it'll be easy…

Tanner is a complicated kid. He has a real built-in stubbornnesss that has been there since infancy. The other night I was talking quietly with him and he began to cry and say, "Daddy, I want to be bad. But I don't want to be bad, I want to be good." I knew what he was trying to say. There's a fire in him to resist, to kick against the goads (a reference to an ox kicking against a sharp prod). In contrast, his older brother, Brennan, has always wanted reconciliation, eagerly seeking company and wanting everything to be ok. Tanner, however, will often go off by himself and as time passes he'll only grow more upset. He'll dig in his heels just for the sake of resisting and will lash out for no obvious reason. He just gets foul sometimes.

That said, at other times he's our most sensitive child. He's deeply concerned for animals and can be very loving. He's usually a happy, soft-spoken little boy who loves stuffed animals and can show great generosity. If only he were like that all of the time.

I've determined in my heart to take a different tack with him. Where Brennan would be sent to his room (letting a guilty conscience thoroughly work him over), Tanner needs to be addressed persistently, forcing him to communicate his feelings and talk things through. He wants to be left alone, to brood and fester, and I won't let that happen. We love him and he knows how to be good. It's just that his first inclination is to oppose anyone and everything.

I've put a lot of thought and prayer into this and, though I don't have every answer, I'm certain of some things:
  • Children are complex and changing (growing). There are principles that will always be true but the application of them will have nuances that are difficult to discern.
  • A good deal of personality is there at birth. Having three (almost four) children, all boys, and all close together, the variety I see in personality and temperament is otherwise inexplicable.
  • We are all subject to a fallen nature. I see beautiful tendencies in my children. But I also see ugliness and cruelty, selfishness and conceit. I never had to sit down and teach them to lie, but I'll spend the rest of my life teaching them to be honest.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Santa Humor

Christmas at Church

In leiu of ranting about churches that are shying away from "competing" with Christmas, I'll note what Wyandotte County CC has on the schedule this Christmas season.

We are encouraging our members to be at church as much as possible around Christmas. In fact, I made the guarantee last week that if you choose to spend time with your church family and worship God that it won't ruin your holiday. And after church, you should still have about 12 or 14 hours of Christmas to open your presents (not counting Boxing Day).

Starting Tuesday the 20th, we're going caroling at 6pm. We'll meet at the church and take a bus to go caroling for an hour or two and then return to the Jones' house for hot chocalate and such.

Wednesday, the 21st, we have Wednesday Family Night. Everyone bring sandwiches for yourselves as we won't be having our normal meal. At 7pm we'll have a short children's program.

Saturday, the 24th, we'll have a Christmas Eve Service of Carols and Candlelight. This is the event we're hoping people will invite their families and neighbors to attend. There won't be a communion service this year or sermon, just lots of Christmas music.

Sunday, the 25th, we'll have Church at 9am with a special service, in light of the holiday. Then in the adult Sunday School classes we'll have a gift exchange. It'll be a fun white elephant exchange, the only rules are 1. Keep it to $10 or less and 2. Make sure it's a gift you would want to take home yourself.

Merry Christmas.

Also the Youth Group has an "Almost New Year's Eve" Lock-in on Friday the 30th. Isn't that New Year's Eve Eve?

Election Coverage

  • I'm praying for the election in Iraq Thursday and I hope you are too. This will be the real thing, with real democratically elected officials taking real positions in a real functioning representative government… absolutely historic and a profound success (especially in less than three years… fast!!!). If you don't (or won't) see that, you need to ask yourself why. Why are you so skeptical and cynical about such a great thing? Why can't you rejoice for such an obviously good. And what does that say about you?
  • I guess even a blind squirrel can find a nut. In spite of the constant haranging by some politicians and the evening news about how bad things are, the Washington Post published this letter from a Marine officer, which argues for optimism and confidence in the mission in Iraq. It's worth a read. It's also polar opposite of most the Post's coverage of Iraq just this week. Which begs the question: Why isn't the whole newspaper categorized as Opinion/Editorial?
  • Rush Limbaugh played a recording today of an Iraqi woman who had voted saying, "If anyone does not appreciate what America has done, and President Bush… let them go to hell!" So, ma'am, how do you really feel? I'll bet you don't hear her quote on the evening news tonight.
  • How many years will it be before everyone realizes that President Bush might deserve a Nobel Peace Prize?
    Think about it for a moment. Do you want peace in the Middle East? A free and democratic Iraq will be "an anchor" for a better Middle East for decades to come. Look at what's happening in Lebanon and other Arab countries that are trying democracy for the first time. If we can just stick with it, Bush's influence on Iraq will change the world and make history like we've not seen in over 60 years.
    Actually the Nobel Peace Prize is a joke and has been for over a hundred years. The list of awardees reads like a list of diplomatic failures-in-waiting. They have a nasty habit of giving the award to the brokers of peace treaties that fail within a few years (like the Dawes plan that helped cause World War 2). Several awards have been given for Middle East Peace (and peace in Africa, East Timor, Eastern Europe, North Korea, etc.) that has turned out to be non-existant. Good grief, they gave one to Yasser Arafat, an obvious terrorist, and Jimmy Carter, who didn't actually accomplish anything, and they nominated Adolf Hitler for the award in 1939! But will Ronald Reagan (for defeating communism) or George W. Bush (for creating democracy where everyone said it was impossible) ever be recognized? Probably not.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It Burns

I was reading the website of a Londoner who posted the following quote:

I fell in to a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down
and the flames went higher.
And it burns, burns, burns,
the ring of fire - the ring of fire.

Johnny Cash, on curry.

That made me laugh.

Monday, December 12, 2005

In the Works

I'm working on a number of projects: book and movie reviews, requests for comments on certain topics, reports on research and such.

It's hard to say what I'll end up blogging on. Some times I want to express myself and other times I exercise discretion. But if you have any requests for information or things you'd like to see, let me know.

Thanks again for reading this stuff. I appreciate it.

You Know You're Raising Boys…

You know you're raising boys…
  • when sanitizing the toilet is one of the chief household chores above cooking and laundry.
  • when you overhear: "Boys, go put on clean underwear." "Why Mom? Where are we going?"
  • when you have to remind them not to stand on the back of the sofa while watching tv.
  • when you have to rescue the cat from being beaten with plastic swords.
  • when you can correctly name 25 or more trains from the Island of Sodor (that's Thomas and friends for the uninitiated).
  • when you replace mini-blinds more often than light bulbs.
  • when you have to say, "Put that down right now, it's dead! Yucky! No!"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Random Thoughts 12/10/05

  • 5000 hits! Hurrah! That's one thousand hits in just the last month. At this pace, 7000 hits by mid-February is certainly possible. Thanks for reading, everybody!
  • By the way, does anybody actually "hurrah" anymore? Everyone I know says "yeah," "yay," or "alright." The only time I ever hear "hurrah" is in Civil War movies and on BBC America. Update: After a little research I discovered that the word has evolved through the years from huzzah to hurrah to hooray. Now you can finally sleep at night.
  • We've gone to the movies twice in the last month (not our normal pace) and both times we have run into people we know. It's kind of cool to go where everybody knows your name… and they're always glad you came… Sorry, got distracted there for a minute. Anyway, it's great to always be running into friendly and familiar faces. KCK is really feeling like home.
  • A nice middle aged woman approached Shannon and the boys and me in the Chinese restaurant we always go to. Elijah had beef and broccoli up to his elbows, Brennan was dissecting fortune cookies and Tanner was loudly slurping his soup. Half expecting her to express pity for a beleaguered young mother and maybe even get on to me for "causing all of this," I was surprised when she said how impressed she was with our family and what well behaved, beautiful children we had. She said other stuff but I was in such a state of shock I had trouble hearing her.
  • Speaking of Shannon, her hip problem is getting bad. Even though she has some days with no pain at all, most days are pretty bad and the evenings are especially rough. Please be praying that these last three months go quickly before Graham gets here.
  • My cat has a ridiculous obsession with cotton gloves. You know, the little stretchy ones that kids wear? Well, she likes to carry them in her mouth and she wants you to play fetch with her. You throw the glove and she runs and retrieves it like a dog. Even if it's three in the morning, she'll whine and cry until you throw the glove. So every night I have to find all the little gloves and put them away so the cat won't be tempted.
  • Elijah has become a hat wearer. We have a blue winter hat that he likes to wear around the house. The problem is that the hat has ear flaps and he wears one in front and one in back. It's pretty cute, watching him tilt his head waaaay back so he can see where he's going.
  • I may blog on this later but what is with all of these churches canceling Sunday services on Christmas Day? I'm sorry but I don't get that. If it's so sacred to us as Christians that the Wal-Mart greeter says "Merry Christmas," why isn't it holy-day enough to be at church? And if you say it's just a secular holiday, then why skip church? I just don't get it.
  • And why is it so offensive if a business says "Happy Holidays?" The other day I walked out of a convenience store and the clerk hollered "Happy holidays!" as I left. My first (sarcastic) thought was, "the nerve of that anti-Christian, hate-spewin', beer-drinkin', tobacco-usin', democrat-votin', Harry Potter-readin', pagan bigot! I oughta slash her tires – teach her not to worship the baby Jesus!" *sigh…* Actually, I grew up saying "Happy Holidays" and all I meant was Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years. No anti-Christian prejudice here. But maybe I've been offending people for years and not realizing it. Oh well, Happy Hanukkuh!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reflections on Narnia, Part 3

Part 1, click here
Part 2, click here

We went to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at the theater this afternoon. It was really good but that's to be expected considering the source material. We saw it at the super, huge, giant screen at the new Legends theater down the road from us; that's a really big screen!

I enjoyed the movie but there were some minor issues. There were a few things that were dear to me in the book that were re-interpreted for the movie. It wasn't done poorly – just different than how my mind's eye pictured it. I don't think the director and I were on the same page when it came to what parts were meaningful and what parts were less so. That's kind of disappointing because Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was on exactly the same page as me. Watching the Lord of the Rings was watching my imagination come to life. Watching the Wardrobe, I kept saying, "Oh, that's not how I pictured it… but ok."

This minor nitpick aside, the movie was very good. Watch the movie, read the book. But don't necessarily let younger grade school kids do either quite yet. It's a little scary and intense in parts.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Let it Snow

We had our first snow of the year and, wow, did it ever snow! It snowed all day Wednesday and into the night. When we woke up this morning we had just shy of a foot of snow with knee-deep drifts (most years we only get one or two good snows of just a few inches each time). We've had single digit temps the last two days, which is unusual for KC in December, but it's supposed to warm up in the next few days. Either way it looks like we won't be grilling anytime soon.

The boys wanted to play in the snow so we bundled them up in layers and let them "help" Daddy shovel the snow. Poor Elijah didn't understand how something that looked so fun could be so miserable. He only lasted a few minutes on his two attempts, while his brothers lasted about half an hour. But after falling down a few times, Eli had had enough.

Brennan spent his time kicking snow back onto the freshly shoveled sidewalk and he made several snow angels. Tanner just sat down and ate snow for thirty minutes. I actually found myself on the porch swing, basking in the morning sun and watching the squirrels in the neighbor's yard.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Remember Pearl Harbor

Today is December 7, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. More than 2400 Americans were killed in the attack in 1941, bringing the United States into World War Two. Perhaps as many as 62 million people died during the war, including about 1 out of every 7 Soviet citizens (over 25 million) and over 400,000 Americans.

To be fair, Japan has recently made it possible to extend their support in Iraq by as much as another year. Japan has hundreds of troops serving in Iraq.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Reflections on Narnia, Part 2

I'm currently working my way through the third book in the Chronicles of Narnia. I've decided to follow C.S. Lewis' own suggestion to read them in chronological order instead of the order in which they were written.

The only problem is that it takes me a couple days to read each book, depending on spare time and other responsibilities. Shannon however can read them in just one or two sittings. I really would like to stay ahead of her, afterall they are my books and I prefer to be have dibs on them before the spine gets creased and the pages feathered. Besides she passed me today and began asking questions about parts of The Horse and His Boy that I've not gotten to yet!

[rubs chin while scheming] What I need is to distract her with something while I build up a lead… maybe I can leave a Harry Potter book in her path… those things are like phone books… yeah! That will keep her busy!


I'd really like to see the movie when it comes out this Friday, but it's hard to say when we'll find the time to actually do that. But if we could see it on the big screen at our new theater, that would be pretty cool.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Throwing Santa Under the Bus

What's a parent to do with Santa?

Shannon and I have had a long-standing opinion that we would not encourage the belief in Santa Claus among our boys. But that's easier said than done.

The idea was that we didn't want to put ourselves in the position of lying to our kids. We could imagine the eventual conversation: "Well, son, you caught us. Santa was big fat lie. But all of that God stuff, well… that's real." We didn't want any doubts about our trustworthiness or any crushing blows of disillusionment either.

Not that we avoid Santa Claus. Not at all. We have Rudolf stuffed toys and watch the Christmas specials on TV. We love Santa at our house. We just understand that he's pretend, like Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo, and CNN.

And I feel very strongly about kids having stories that stir their imaginations and create wonder and awe. But I also feel strongly about not telling them that a strange, fat old man is going to sneak into our house at night, that he keeps a list with our names on it, and that he knows if we're sleeping or awake. In that light, Santa's only half a step away from being some kind of stalker and we tell our boys to stay away from people like that. With Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and other night time visitors, it's a wonder we get our kids to go to bed at all!

The hitch is that all the children our boys know do believe in Santa. They think Santa is real and have proof in the presents marked "From Santa" and the confirmation from their parents. This time of year the conversation amongst four-year-olds is all about Santa. I don't want my kids to ruin other kids' fantasies and I'm more than a little worried that my boys will be way too informative. We're also put in an awkward spot when we have to explain why other adults might say Santa is real.

"Well, son… Grandma has a problem telling the truth sometimes… at least when she's talking to kids."

Yikes. It might be easier just to lie to them.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


We had a wonderful dinner tonight at church. We called it Deipnon (Dape-non), which is Greek for banquet. We invited folks to an elegant, candlelight (at most tables), dinner with a 30-piece orchestra playing. It was really nice!

Each host came and decorated their own table before the event and some were really extravagant with the finest silver and china and long candles. Other tables were bright and festive (again with candles). Our table… not so much. My wife and mother decorated our table with my grandmother's dark red dinnerware but when the lights were dimmed, we were left in the dark. Sitting at the only table without candles, I considered canvassing the room to find a cigarrette lighter but eventually our eyes adjusted enough to distinguish the plates from the table covering. By using our fingers we could find the food, so not everything was lost.

Mom, of course was oblivious to this. She had already enjoyed her 1.5 bites of food before the lights went out and our complaints were lost on her as she "zoned" during a stirring "Jingle Bells" medley. Now during Bach, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky she was talking ninety miles a minute, but roll out "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and the rest of us are hanging mid-sentence until the song is over.

Nevertheless, it was a great dinner and the Henry's and Knight's did a fantastic job putting it together. I can't wait until next year.

If only I could've found my fork.

Update: Ok, I confess my view of this may have been a little skewed. I was just bitter about the candles. ;-)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Reflections on Narnia, Part 1

I've begun reading the Chronicles of Narnia (I'd previously read a couple of the books in grade school and hardly remember them) and so I'll be blogging about them in coming months.


Here's an article from USAToday about the upcoming movie.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a beloved children's book about four British schoolchildren who pass through a wardrobe into a magic land where a witch has made it always winter and never Christmas. There they meet Aslan, the lion of the title, who offers his own life to the witch to atone for the treachery of one of the siblings.

On Dec. 9, a $150 million movie version will open nationwide, reigniting an old debate: Is the world created by British author C.S. Lewis a rip-roaring piece of fantasy — or a fairy tale suffused with Christian imagery?

The answer is both, and that raises a related question: Can Disney succeed by selling the movie on two tracks — as a sort of cross between The Lord of the Rings and The Passion of the Christ? If so, TheChronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe figures to be a holiday blockbuster.

…continued here.

[Thanks to Jarod Anderson for pointing out the article.]

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Quick Hits 12/1/05

It's the Same One We've Had All Along

Here's a good, short article about the President's plan for Iraq. It points out the obvious, that the "new" plan is the same plan we've always had. And that's not necessarily bad.

The President of the United States, responding to criticism about a lack of strategy in Iraq, recently spelled out the U.S. strategy in a speech at the Naval Academy. The strategy was simple. Help train police and soldiers of the elected government. As more police and troops become available, fewer American troops will be needed to deal with rebellious minority Sunni Arabs. Eventually, American troops will be gone entirely. What's strange about this is that it has been the strategy since before Iraq was even invaded in early 2003. In fact, this has been American strategy for over a century. Such a strategy was successfully pursued in the Philippines and Cuba a century ago, and in many other places since; so what's going on here? Politics is going on here. It was in the interest of the President's opponents for it to appear that there was no strategy. It was in the interest of the media to go along with this "there is no strategy" charade, as it made for spectacular headlines, and breathless stories of a president mired in controversy and lost…

continue reading…