Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Give Her a Hand, Part 2

Shannon went to the doctor again for her hand and he said it's not a third degree burn. She may have burnt off some nerve endings but he expects the tissue to heal without a skin graft. It looks a little gross with the the burn gel gooped on it but it looked a lot worse before it was treated. By all accounts it is not as severe or as deep as it first appeared and has already improved quite a bit.

Random Thoughts 5/31/06

  • Our 10th Wedding Anniversary is tomorrow. If you're interested in metrics, that's one cat, two ministries, three Macs, four kids, four homes, half a dozen VCRs, eight cars, and 3652 days.
  • Texas has increased the daytime speed limit in some areas to 80 MPH, the fastest posted speed limit in the nation. Having taken several trips across Texas, I'm in favor of anything that will make that go faster.
  • The boys can't stay away from their new swingset. They've discovered hundreds of ways to jump and fall off of it that the manufacturer never intended.
  • 14,000 Hits. How cool is that? I'm thinking about redesigning the site later this summer, just to change things up a bit. I'm looking at templates, color palettes, stock photos and layout ideas. We'll see what I come up with, but it'll have to wait until after church camp and VBS and all of that.
  • My new laptop is still on backorder. I had to call and confirm my order today and they couldn't give me a specific delivery date. It's a popular computer. I just hope I get it before I leave for church camp. That said, the 2GB in memory chips arrived in the mail yesterday. They're just waiting for a home.
  • I've always thought that the feeling we ministers get when we're worn down and out of sorts and physically depleted was called "being in a funk." It turns out that a "funk" is actually defined as a state of paralyzing fear. So the term I guess I'm looking for is a "malaise." Hmmm, that's better.
  • Tanner was complaining the other day because Brennan "trickted on" him. They were playing Go Fish and when Tanner asked for a certain card, Brennan would lie and say "Go Fish." Brennan thought it was brilliant. Mom and Dad thought it was cheating! Tanner just got frustrated, saying, "I don't wanna play anymore, Bwemin! I wanna go to da livin' room and dance." (the radio was playing music in the other room) Tanner sure makes us laugh a lot.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reasonable People?

How do you find the bad guy in a movie? He's the one who sneers at the native people and, frothing at the mouth, calls them "savages." I saw this the other day while the boys were watching Pocahontas. The evil, narrowminded Englishman thought the Native Americans were savages. He wasn't an enlightened fellow.

But do people who appear evil just need to be understood? Maybe we should have spent more time getting to know Adolf and Saddam? Or are there groups of people who are truly savage? Are there cultures which accept and encourage evil? History tells us there are. I've always been a student of history and recently have been reading about places like Little Big Horn, Isandlwana, and Tenochtitlan. I don't think I realized that there were groups outside of Western Civilization who were really that different, that unreasonable. They murder, cannibalize, sodomize, abuse, oppress, steal, and destroy. They give no quarter, respect no life, and have no desire to "be understanding." They are not misunderstood and they are not noble.

Are they still people? Of course. Are all people fallen and sinful, no matter where they come from? Of course. But you better not expect to be able to reason with just anyone. Some people and some groups are so bent toward evil and destruction that they are just not going to show you mercy. Islamic terrorists spring to mind.

But surely the terrorists are an isolated few amongst many millions of open-minded, free and liberal thinking muslims, right? I'd like to think so but I don't know. Look at these pictures of British Muslims protesting in London. This isn't civil or reasonable.

I hope this is the tiny minority… but the more history I study the more cynical I become about what groups of people can think and do and accept.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

This memorial day weekend I was wondering if any ancestor of mine ever made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

The Altic family does not have a long history of military service (that I know of). For years, my ancestors were Mennonite (kind of like the Amish), and thus mostly pacifist. However my uncle was in Vietnam and his son (my cousin) was in the first Gulf War. But other than that I'm not aware of any significant military service, let alone any risk of combat, in my family line.

Internet searches for more distant relatives show a small return for Altic, Altice, and Altig family members who are registered with the Nationial Cemetary Administration's Grave Locator. This includes veterans of World War 2, Korea, and Vietnam, all of whom survived wartime service, including a Confederate Civil War soldier, George Altic, who lived until 1931 (75 years ago next week).

DATE OF BIRTH: 08/07/1847
DATE OF DEATH: 06/06/1931
4569 N MEXICO RD PERU, IN 46970
(765) 985-3261

So there have been a few Altic's who have served over the years but none that have been killed in combat. But I did find this grave marker from World War 1 in Indiana.

As in most wars, it's more likely Russell died of disease than hostile fire (of note is the innocuous phrase "Died in France") but that doesn't diminish the sacrifice he and his family made. I also found a court document that awards a pension to Temperance Altic, the widow of Abram Altic, a Civil War Veteran from Franklyn County, Virginia, who was wounded in the War. [I'll try to post that document later.]

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

I had the good pleasure this weekend to see two young men who were in my youth group a few years ago. Young people can change a lot that first year away from home (and not always for the better) but this encounter was pleasing beyond words.

The first is Bryan B., who is training to be a Navy corpsman with the Marines (a corpsman is like an Army medic). He'll be with the 7th Marine Regiment in Twentynine Palms. The 7th Marines plans to deploy to Iraq this fall.

The other is Cordell H. He has just finished his second year at the US Military Academy at West Point where he's studying engineering. You can perceive in that young man a profound sense of prowess and competency in all areas mental, physical, and ethical.

Military culture is not always a good thing for young men, but sometimes it instills the most noble of qualities – those qualities of duty and honor that might otherwise vanish in a jaded and self-centered world.

Give Her a Hand

Shannon burnt her hand Sunday afternoon while cooking. She was adjusting the brisket in the oven and pulled her hand up against the upper heating element. It stuck and she ripped it loose, leaving a nasty burn between her thumb and wrist, with a small area the shape of the heating element that is severely damaged.

After hurting herself, she went to the Urgent Care down the road and they said she may yet need a skin graft, if indeed it is a 3rd degree burn. The skin will have to come off her backside which has already been a source of teasing from the family.

Be praying for her; it hurts pretty bad (except for the dead parts).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Most Capable Woman I Know

Look what Shannon built today!

I've been incredibly busy lately and unavailable but that doesn't slow Shannon down. She takes all four kids by herself to Wal-Mart or the doctor or to the YMCA or wherever. The washing machine breaks – she fixes it. A swing set needs to be assembled – she does it. This is all with four boys: 6, 4, 2, and a nursing infant. As I'm typing this I'm overcome with the aroma of the homemade rub she applied to a brisket that is cooking overnight. Tomorrow, we'll have all of my family over and the house will be spotless and homemade dinner rolls will be fresh and hot out of the oven. And after dinner she'll probably beat us at cards! She's pretty much incredible.

Meanwhile, I taught Tanner to do this:

Friday, May 26, 2006

Chiefs Concern

Here's a rundown on Kansas City Chiefs news for those of you interested:

  • You could probably name the Head Coach (Herm Edwards) but can you name the Offensive Coordinator? The man making the calls on offense will be Mike Solari, the long term offensive line coach. He says there won't be much in the way of change, keeping the same offense the Chiefs have been running for awhile now.
  • Priest Holmes might be placed on the Phisically Unable to Perform (PUP) list this summer, giving Holmes as long as possible to determine if he is going to be able to play. There is a real good chance that Holmes will play very little, if at all, considering how good Larry Johnson is.
  • The Chiefs withdrew their request for a Superbowl in 2015. The team didn't get the rolling roof it wanted and without a climate controlled stadium there is little chance the NFL would go to a cold weather site for the mid-winter Superbowl.
  • The Chiefs are looking to sign former offensive tackle bad boy turned tight end Kyle Turley. A former first round pick with the Saints and Rams, Turley sat out the last few seasons with back trouble. But after losing some weight and feeling better, Turley could be serve as a third tackle or backup left tackle if he puts some weight back on.
  • DE Tamba Hali, the Chiefs first pick worked with the first team in mini camp. He seems to be very impressive.
  • For the first time in a long time (when was it that Rich Gannon left?) I feel optimistic about our backup QBs. Two young guys, Brodie Croyle and Casey Printers, are showing some signs of life. Croyle, the rookie, is probably more polished and capable, while Printers is the more physically gifted of the two. I'd love to see both of these guys make the squad and continue their development.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Random Thoughts 5/24/06

  • Shannon fixed our washing machine the other day. It was leaking water all over the floor and so she took it apart, found the problem, looked up the part on the internet, ordered it, and then fixed the washer when the part arrived via UPS. Yeah, she's awesome.
  • According to the news, 1-in-3 people discuss American Idol at work. As fun as that show is, I'll be happy to take a six month break from Paula Abdul's blathering, unwavering, and universal affirmations. She seems absolutely unable to bear a negative remark directed at anyone from anyone, no matter how true and deserving it may be. How insecure is that?
  • Before you just assume that Global Warming is true and that people are causing it, read this brief article in the Opinion Journal. Just because it doesn't snow as much as when you were a kid doesn't mean it won't be like that again in 50 years. These things are probably cyclical as near as we can tell.
  • Brennan and Tanner are playing Slap-Jack but it's not going so well. Brennan (almost 6) is too fast and too competitive. Tanner (4 and a half) isn't very competitive but hates losing 100% of the time. So Tanner cheats; he looks at his card first to see if it's a jack. But he has no poker face, so while he's looking at it, Brennan reads Tanner's reaction (picture squinty eyes and tongue sticking out the side of his mouth) and still beats him. A meltdown ensues. Brennan can't tolerate a loss and Tanner can't tolerate never winning, so they're at an impasse.
  • The Iraqis, having recently formed an official, democratically elected government, have put out a schedule this week that calls for the takeover of security operations in Iraq within 18 months. That doesn't mean there won't be Americans there at all but it is another example of really good news that isn't getting reported on the evening news.
  • When Vicente Fox, the President of Mexico, says that a border wall/fence won't help the problem, whose problem is he talking about? Not only does it help Mexico for it's poorest people to go across the border and send money back home, but Mexico as a nation is more "racist" and restrictive in its own immigration laws than the USA could ever be. What a hypocrite Fox is! Mexico is institutionally corrupt, xenophobic, and deaf to the needs of its own citizens. Take the log out of your own eye, Vicente.

Graham on the Prowl

Graham, after a slow start (born premature, 8 days in the hospital with pneumonia, and as thin as any child we've had), is beginning to really thrive. He sleeps a little longer at night now, is gaining weight, and starting to show some personality. He's so bright eyed and alert, I've taken to calling him my little prairie dog, as he is always peeking over his mother's shoulder scanning the horizon (for predators? brothers?).

He's also the most red-headed of our four boys up to this point. Tanner's hair lightened dramatically in his first year and Brennan's actually got a little less red (though both boys are thoroughly strawberry-blonde during the summer months). But Graham, at least at this stage, has red hair. Mom couldn't be more happy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Geektopia… Almost

I ordered my MacBook and I'm thrilled. It's loaded, comparable to a Dell notebook I found with the exact same processor and memory and similar features (and fair trade offs also: I get a built-in camera, superior quality, design and support, while the Dell has a larger screen and a superior graphics card for gaming). But the Dell costs $2600 while my Mac is less than $1300 and came with a $75 rebate, no taxes and no shipping fees.

I couldn't be more pleased.

Lots of folks (the ones who don't use Macs) just assume that Macs are a niche product and overly expensive. But I think I saved money for the amount of computer that I'm getting. And I fully expect it to last me 4-6 years with few if any problems. Nevertheless, I was surprised to discover that Consumer Reports agrees. I know that I'm biased, but their last report listed a Mac laptop as the first "quick pick." That's kind of cool.

And it's not like I'm isolated by incompatibility like Mac users were some 15 years ago. I use Microsoft Word, Firefox, Warcraft 3, Powerpoint, Excel, iTunes, etc. while seamlessly networking with Windows computers, printers, cameras and everything else. If you're not convinced, just glance through this page.

I'm one happy Mac geek right now. Except for one thing…

It'll take two weeks to get my laptop because demand is so high. :-(

Monday, May 22, 2006

Theological Small Talk

Here's a bit of correspondance about the Trinity and the Nature of Christ I thought I'd share. I get a lot of questions from folks in the congregation and sometimes the answers are worth putting out there for others to chew on as well.

Here's part of the letter:

The Trinity (and more importantly the nature of Christ) is probably one of the hardest ideas to grasp in all of Christianity. Who is Jesus? Simple answers are usually simplistic and sometimes heretical. Why? Because you have to match what Jesus said about himself and what Jesus said was complicated.

Jesus said he was God, not "a" god or "like" God, but the everlasting God. He said that he and the father are one and if you've seen him you've seen the Father. He said referred to himself as the "I Am" of the Old Testament.

Jesus also distinguished himself from the Father and the Holy Spirit and repeatedly demonstrated that he was fully human.

See what I mean by complicated? And it's not new or limited to Jehovah's Witnesses. The Earliest theological debates in the Church go back to efforts to explain simply who Jesus was. Do you make him all God and not human - wrong. Do you make him all human and not fully God - wrong. Every simple answer fails to match what is taught (but never spelled out for us) in the New Testament.

The official answer from the church to this dilemma is that Jesus is 100% human and 100% God. That doesn't add up, true, but miracles don't usually "add up" in a way that we can understand. Nevertheless, it's easy to understand why Jesus must be both fully God and fully man. Mankind owes a debt to God and only a human can pay that debt. But the debt is infinite, so only God can pay it. The only solution? The payer must miraculously have both natures - God and Human. This is the Incarnation.

As for the Trinity. There is but one God - all of the Bible, front to back, testifies to this. But God is perfect in and of himself. He's not even alone. He has community, love, submission, and all aspects of pure relationship as part of who he is naturally. So although is God has one nature (God), he has three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Most metaphors used to explain this break down because there are are not three different manifestations of God or three different hats that he wears. There are three simultaneous, eternally existing, interacting persons who are of one nature and make up one entity.

As difficult as this is, it matches the evidence and testimony of scripture perfectly.

Other explanations have purposely mistranslated and misinterpreted the Bible to justify their simpler explanations - as the JW's do to John chapter 1. Any first year Greek student is taught how to catch these schemes.

Orthodoxy has rested upon this difficult but scripturally accurate and theologically sound understanding for 2000 years against every kind of assault and argument.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Random Thoughts 5/21/06

  • Iraq finally formed a new permanent government Saturday! Shouldn't that be big news? It's a huge victory by anyone's standards. Remember, these groups were not supposed to be able to get along. Some American politicians (I'll give you a hint: the group starts with a "d" and rhymes with democrats) were saying just recently that Iraq ought to break up into semi-autonomous states because they would never be able to form a unity coalition government. Well, look what happened! As this government gets on its feet and its new military matures, our troops can begin to come home – victorious!
  • It looks like the Da Vinci code is making some real money. With as much as a $77 million opening weekend (estimated), that puts it among the top movies all time. Oh, well. I still don't feel like it's that big of a threat, it's so far out in left field.
  • You're keeping up with NFL news right? It is May afterall. The Chiefs cut Jerome Woods last week, re-signed our kicker, and failed to land QB Joey Harrington, who went to the Dolphins. Kansas City's offseason performance in the free agent market has been pretty feeble. Apparently, the young players on defense don't need that much help. Uh, ok.
  • I checked with my "sources" and there will be a Sam's Club at Village West (the shopping area down the street from us). That's really cool. It's a 30-minute drive to get to one now and I've been told that Sam's has already purchased the land. I also talked to someone "in the know" who said that Edwardsville is getting ready to jump in and develop the land south of the race track. One rumor put television studios and backlots moving from California to Kansas City but I think that sounds a little far-fetched.
  • Have you caught any White House press briefings this last week? Tony Snow is the new press secretary for the President and he's really good. He's interesting and articulate, funny and compelling, exactly what this President has needed for years now. So why did it take so long?
  • Here's a stat for you: 1 out of 10 Mexican citizens are living illegally in the United States.
  • According to a recent survey, Wichita has the cheapest average gas price (self serve unleaded) in the whole country at a mere $2.59 per gallon. San Diego is the highest at $3.40.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

United 93's Impact

We went to see the somber and gut-wrenching United 93 at the theater yesterday afternoon. It was a profound experience that everyone should have to go through – as a civic duty. This is the kind of movie that every senior in high school should have to watch in order to graduate. It's not entertaining or fun, it's just necessary.

The movie follows the passengers, highjackers, crew, and air traffic controllers through the morning of September 11. It's incredibly fair, showing the highjackers as sophisticated but nervous, the passengers as brave but traumatized, and the controllers as capable but confused. This movie is not special effects laden and it's not been Hollywood-ized with extra bells and whistles. No big name stars, no silly sub-plots, no left wing politics, no comedic relief. The emotion is built up fairly early, stays there, and actually begins to let up as the inevitable nears.

The movie has been limited to fewer screens in its release, giving it only a modest profit. It may only be in theaters for a few more weeks, so though you may sit there so stunned you won't want to eat your $8 popcorn, it's still worth seeing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

MacBook Ahead

The board gave final approval last night on my purchase of a MacBook computer. I'll do some final shopping around and pull the trigger early next week.

For me, it's a relatively easy decision – I'll split the difference between cost and features and take the middle of three options. But a lot of folks are enamored by the matte-black finish on the top option (the lower end and middle are both white). Rob Griffiths, of MacWorld, writes about the debate raging in his head:

Logic: Look, the mid-range white one is $200 cheaper. Sure, the hard drive’s a little smaller, but—$200! That’ll more than pay for your 1GB RAM upgrade right there.
Emotion: Ooooh. Look at that gorgeous matte-black finish!
Logic: Ignore him. $200 will buy, what, at least a couple tanks of gas. OK, more than that, but man, is it expensive or what?
Emotion: Did you notice that matte-black finish?
Logic: See, Mr. Repetitive’s only got one thing to say. Fine, if you don't want to save the $200, take it and buy that $199 PlayStation 2 bundle you saw at Costco last weekend. The white one will work out just fine for you.
Emotion: Oh, look, every side is that same nice matte black finish!
Logic: Aren’t you tired of listening to his blather yet? White will be cooler when the machine gets warm. Every other Mac product you own is white or silver. You haven’t even filled a 40GB laptop drive yet, why do you need 80GB?
Emotion: Did I mention how nice this matte black finish looks?

Griffiths took the black, high end version. I'll take the white, almost-high end version. It helps to not have emotion to start with.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Present Debacle

Victor Davis Hanson has written a scathing op-ed, not about the current war, but about World War 2, written as if it were one of today's pundits living in 1945. How would they attack America's efforts and use their mistakes against them?

It's quite a read, especially if you know a little bit the history. Here's a sample:

May 21, 1945 — After the debacles of February and March at Iwo Jima, and now the ongoing quagmire on Okinawa, we are asked to accept recent losses that are reaching 20,000 dead brave American soldiers and yet another 50,000 wounded in these near criminally incompetent campaigns euphemistically dubbed “island hopping.”

Meanwhile, we are no closer to victory over Japan. Instead, we are hearing of secret plans of invasion of the Japanese mainland slated for 1946 or even 1947 that may well make Okinawa seem like a cake walk and cost us a million casualties and perhaps involve a half-century of occupation. The extent of the current Kamikaze threat, once written off as the work of a “bunch of dead-enders,” was totally unforeseen, even though such suicidal zealots are in the process of inflicting the worst casualties on the U.S. Navy in its entire history.

Worse still, our sources in the intelligence community speak of a billion-dollar boondoggle now underway in the American southwest. This improbable “super-weapon” (with the patently absurd name “Manhattan Project” — in the midst of a desert no less!) promises in one fell swoop to erase our mistakes and give us instant deliverance from our blunders — no concern, of course, for the thousands of innocents who would be vaporized if such a monstrous fantasy bomb were ever actually to work.

Continue reading by clicking here.

The President's Speech

I've now heard President Bush described as conservative, liberal, and moderate in regard to his speech on illegal immigration. Seems that few people are happy but most still agree that something needs to be done. For clarity's sake, here's the outline of President Bush's speech Monday.
  • First, the United States must secure its borders.
  • Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program.
  • Third, we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire.
  • Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here.
  • Fifth, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one nation out of many peoples.

I thought the best paragraph in the speech was the following:

I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law. What I have just described is not amnesty. It is a way for those who have broken the law to pay their debt to society, and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.

I thought the worst part was about worker programs – it smacks of an endorsement for a permanent underclass. Instead of a worker program, why not increase the number of legal immigrants? If they want to be here, welcome them in to stay. But if they want to take one of our job opportunities but they're going to send that money away to another country… uh, I'm not so sure about that.

We'll see.

The New MacBook

What do I like about the new Macbook I hope to get soon?

  • Above all, it's a Mac. That means quality and user friendly, as well as cutting edge design. This computer will likely last a long time.
  • I agree with Dustin, the magsafe power plug which can be safely jerked out by toddlers is a huge plus to a dad of four little boys.
  • I like the built in camera. I played with one at a store awhile back, very cool.
  • Duel-core 2 GHz processor running the rock-solid Unix based OS X! **twists imaginery throttle and makes revving engine noises.**
  • The small size. This laptop is compact and light weight. The trend in laptops right now is bigger and bigger, including the brand new 19 inch, 16 pound, $4500 Alienware windows machine. What's the point? My portable computer will be a sleek 13.3 inch, 5 pound, $1300 Mac.
  • The new touchpad has some cool features, like two finger scrolling and and a two finger option-click. If you're not using a mouse this is the next best thing.
  • All wireless out of the box. This will be my first computer with built in wireless networking and bluetooth.

I Will Survive, Finale

How frustrating is that?

The final four came down to Terry, Cirie, Aras, and Danielle. Cirie, the most likeable, went out on a tie breaker, which is too bad. The only honest player left, Terry, was pushed out by the two backstabbing twenty-somethings. Cest la vie.

This left Aras and Danielle. Unlikeable or lazy. Manipulative or untrustworthy. Insincere or undeserving. What a choice! The jury had to pick the lesser of two evils and later admitted that they would have voted for Terry if he was an option.

Oh, and Aras, if someone says pick a number between 1 and 1 million. The correct answer is always 500,000, not 4! If you pick four, your opponent picks 5 and has 999,995 numbers that are closer to them than you. Duh.

Aras, the yoga instructor who still lives with his parents, did have a moment of karma in the final episode. Though he claimed to play with integrity, he repeatedly lied and undercut the other players. After making the final two, he slips on the rocks, dropping the celebritory wine glass, which breaks, cutting his hand and leaving a shard of glass in his back. How appropriate, now he's truly stabbed every player in the back.

Before next season, I'm going to read a new book, Socrates Meets Machiavelli by Peter Kreeft. It's a critical examination of the dog-eat-dog, the-ends-justify-the-means type of behavior that many Survivor players adopt in an attempt to win. But not everyone does this. In this season only a few people actually had to lie or betray someone (although that did include the top two).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My Next Laptop

Hopefully I have finally laid eyes on my next computer.

My current laptop (the original Firewire iBook) is nearing it's sixth birthday. Since it's manufacture I've preached over 500 sermons, had four children, lived in three different homes, read several dozen books, and grown a goatee. The old gray mare has upgraded memory but has never had or needed virus protection software and never had any serious downtime. Though it runs all day every day and is certainly slowing down, it hasn't crashed and needed to restart in well over a year. The screen does have a green line running through it for about four years now, but I don't even notice anymore. The biggest concern is power – not memory or speed but actual electricity. The batteries are all but kaput and the power cord is failing. Soon I won't be able to turn it on without a replacement power cord and adapter that isn't made anymore.

So I've been waiting patiently for a new Macintosh laptop. And today Apple announced the new MacBook. I'm looking at the midrange model and hoping to make this one last four to six years as well (a lot of laptops only last half of that before they become obsolete).

No Thanks, I'm on Duty

I went to get the mail at the church today and what do I find in our mailbox?

A six pack of Bacardi Silver (some sort of malt beverage or rum or something) was sitting empty next to our mail. The bottles were empty but that didn't stop me from bringing them in and placing them on the desk of our associate minister, Jay-rod. Hee-hee.

Unfortunately, he spotted me and the open containers were relegated to the trash can. But I wonder what kind of angst people are working out when they throw beer bottles on our property and stash Bacardi in our mailbox? Oh, well. I'll just keep picking it up and praying that those emotions eventually drive them into the arms of our Lord.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dan Brown's Book Debunked

I spoke at Centropolis Christian Church Sunday night and it seemed to go really well. It was a small crowd in a small church but those who were there were engaged and enthusiastic and that makes all the difference.

It's funny, but after lecturing and answering questions as quickly as I could go, there were still several areas of the book that had hardly been touched at all. There's just so much material worth talking about and so many corrections that need to be made. It's probably too much material handle in one sitting but not a worthy enough topic (the book and it's conspiracies, I mean) to warrant multiple classes.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Disecting Da Vinci

I have my first Da Vinci Code seminar tomorrow evening in Centropolis, Ks.

The only problem is that there is simply too much material for anyone to digest in one sitting. There are so many historical and factual errors that a person can get overwhelmed keeping track of it. Dan Brown, the author, just didn't do quality research into his subject material but instead took the lazy way out of depending on a couple of other authors for his information. He makes such elementary mistakes at times one could almost be embarrassed for him.

I also find it amusing that the rebuttals for this book/movie have been written by such different groups. Evangelicals, Catholics, liberal theologians, and secular humanists have all denounced The Da Vinci Code for being riddled with errors and misinformation. When do you ever see those groups on the same side of an argument?

The real issue is the question of how big an issue this needs to be. Do you overreact and call for a ban, burn the books, and throw a fit? Do you just ignore it as a bunch of meaningless pap (my initial reaction)? The right approach is probably in the middle. Yes, it's a paper tiger but it is also defamatory and potentially misleading. More than anything, it's an opportunity to teach the true history of the Church and her beliefs.

Honoring One of the Saints

We laid to rest our dear friend and sister in Christ, Marge, on Friday. I had the honor of officiating the funeral and graveside services. This service was noteworthy to me for several reasons.
  • It was the first funeral in our new building, as most funerals are held at the funeral home nowadays. I was also happy to work again with Larry, my predecessor, and to see some folks who knew Marge but no longer attend our church.
  • It was a rare opportunity to see a full police motorcycle escort. Marge's son is a motorcycle cop and his unit did an impressive job with precision, formation riding and traffic control on the way to the cemetary. It's quite a showing and a powerful way to honor someone.
  • It's the first time my brother, Dustin, sang at a funeral. He performed two songs at Marge's request.
  • The funeral director hunted me down afterward and asked if I would be willing to be on call for other funerals when the family doesn't have a minister. He said that he is regularly horrified at the kinds of things that clergy say during funeral services – unhelpful, undoctrinal, and untrue platitudes devoid of substance. I told him I'd be glad to help if I could. My only qualm is that funerals done correctly have hours invested in the family in the days preceding the actual service.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Which Do You Want First?

All of the following are items not getting a lot of press in the main stream media.

Good news:
Some experts think gas prices may go down as much as 75 cents by the end of summer. Combine this possibility with the incredibly good economic news recently and some people may actually run out of things to complain about. … nah.

A brigade of 3500 US soldiers is not being sent to Iraq as planned. It seems that the President's plan of slowly replacing our troops with Iraqis as we win may actually be working (and would you believe there are still "cut and run" folks out there?). Meanwhile Iraq has announced that it's new unified government is finally being formed. Score another one for constitutional democracy.

Bad news:
Many people would consider Iranian President Ahmadinejad's letter to President Bush a positive sign. It is, after all, the first direct communication between the two governments in 27 years. But many of these positive assessments are ignoring that Ahmadinejad is a religious zealot and that this letter, probably a "Da'wa," is actually a shot across the bow. A Da'wa is a form of muslim evangelism, basically saying, "We can get along if you'd just convert to Islam." The implication is that if you don't, violence will ensue.

Ahmadinejad reportedly spoke at a theological school the day after sending the letter and told the students to prepare to "rule the world." This guy really believes the end is coming and his role is to destroy the Jewish state and the infidels. Yikes.

13,000 Hits

I've had about 50 or 60 hits per day for the last month or so (55.5 to be exact). That's down from last fall but still twice what I was getting the first six months that this blog was running.

I can't describe how amused (and flattered) I am when someone says they saw something on my blog – you read my blog?! How cool is that? I've always worked under the assumption that only my family is obligated to check in here but I'm really thankful for everyone else, too.

Thanks so much for reading and thanks for your feedback.

By the way, both Dustin and Jay-rod figured out the title of my Da Vinci Code post. "Lines Worn Bad," other than being bad grammar, can also be unscrambled to form "Dan Brown Lies." Anagrams are a recurring puzzle in the book, yet neither of these guys had read the book yet when they figured it out. Good job!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Kansas City Smart

Kansas City is #6 on the list of Kiplinger's 50 Smart Places to Live.

What we loved: Pryde's Old Westport, a city landmark that sells kitchen gadgets, utensils and homemade pies. The ghostly diorama at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Talk about a split personality. On the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro area, you get big houses, terrific schools, kid-friendly streets and enough soccer fields to smother Rhode Island. On the Missouri side, including the city proper, you'll find world-class museums, a booming arts district, historic buildings and a $3-billion downtown renewal. Even the local passion for ribs splits down the middle: You're either a fan of Gates Bar-B-Q or Arthur Bryant's.

Kansas City offers something for everyone, at prices that coast-dwellers can only dream of. Young families often seek out Overland Park, Kan., a sprawling suburb where kids walk to school, bike in packs and generally rule the neighborhood. There, a four-bedroom house in a subdivision with a pool starts at about $250,000.

Young professionals and empty nesters gravitate to downtown lofts near the city's jazz clubs and hotels; those spaces start at about $150,000 and run into the millions. In Brookside, on the Missouri side, buyers can score a stately house on a tree-shaded street for less than $300,000.

Kansas City has its drawbacks on either side of the line, including low achievement-test scores in the city's Missouri schools and a flava-free atmosphere in some of the Kansas 'burbs. But states that otherwise compete with each other like rival high schools both take pride in the first-class collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the juicy steaks at the Plaza III, and the wide boulevards, ubiquitous fountains, tangy barbecue, raspy blues and smoky jazz that add up to greatness in this larger-than-life city.

I'm pretty pleased with living in Kansas City (rural KCK). I have a big yard on a quiet street but in just five to twenty minutes I can get to shopping districts, theaters (movie and live), major sports, museums and historical sites, and most importantly: Arthur Bryant's BBQ.

The only real drawbacks are the lack of major university in town (if you don't count KU Med and UMKC) and the weather – it's always either cold and wet or hot and muggy with occasional tornados. Oh well, no place is perfect.

Making of a Legend

We love walking around at the new shopping center, The Legends. Half of the time we don't go into a single store, but there are fountains and statues and monuments and interesting walkways and rest places. It's really nice.

Here's Brennan, Tanner, and Elijah standing on a small mound outside the bookstore. In the background, other than Bob Evans, is the grand stand and press boxes of Kansas Speedway about a mile away.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sudden Loss

One of the ladies in our church passed away suddenly last night. She had the same heart condition that killed actor John Ritter. Undergoing emergency heart surgery yesterday evening, the doctors repaired the damage but were unable to restart her heart. Marge went home to be with the Lord shortly after 1am this morning.

Further information will be forthcoming as I meet with the family this afternoon.

UPDATE: The visitation will be at Porter's Funeral Home on Minnesota, Thursday from 6-8. The funeral will be at the church, Friday at 10am.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Go Brigade?

We saw our first Arena Football game the other night. Dad, Dustin, Jay-rod, and I got (nearly free) endzone tickets and watched the game in person Saturday evening. As advertised, Arena Football is much more exciting in person than on TV.

The Brigade, one of the worst teams in its league, lost horribly but it was still fun to watch. They do a lot to involve the crowd and give away all kinds of stuff free. We were seated behind the net so our view was somewhat obstructed but other than that, the seats and the experience were really worthwhile.

Eddie Kennison of the Chiefs sat down in front of us with his wife and kids and passed us several times in the aisle. We also saw Will Shields of the Chiefs and Danni Boatwright of Survivor fame.

Kemper Arena was cleaner and nicer than I've ever seen it before. The seats behind me were broken but other than that, things were nice. Nevertheless, I'm eager to see the new state-of-the-art Sprint Center that's being built downtown.

I really only have one minor gripe. The Brigade have great colors (light blue, black, and silver), logo (a flying B-2 bomber), theme (they bomb the opponent into submission), etc. But why the name "Brigade?" Isn't that kind of Army-ish? The Air Force's B-2 Spirits are part of the 509th Bomb Wing, the same group that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. There are so many informed choices here that the team could have gone with, like "Wing," "Squadron," "Bombers," "Spirit," "Stealth," etc. Who signed off on the "Brigade?"

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Random Thoughts 5/6/06

  • Brennan apparently asked the little redhead at church to marry him. He's five. I think I'll push for a very long engagement.
  • Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo and I hardly heard a peep about it. We had "cheesy enchilada chicken helper" last night to celebrate. I do wonder if there's slightly less enthusiasm about Mexico because of the whole immigration thing. But I say set your differences with Mexico aside and remember the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo: beating the French!
  • Boys fall down… a lot. We have a house full of skinned knees and scuffed elbows right now with band-aids becoming a hot commodity in the Altic home. You have to wonder, with four boys, how many broken bones and lasting scars (physical not emotional) we'll have over the years.
  • I wouldn't call myself a libertarian but we do cross paths a lot. If the only conservative libertarian you know is Bill O'Reilly, but you think he's a loudmouth (and he is), try the thinking man's libertarian, John Stossel. Read some of his articles at or check out his new book. Stossel's switch from consumer advocate to conservative commentator came with a big dose of optimism. Instead of telling you that the sky is falling and giving you cancer, Stossel decided that there were positive stories out there too. Why not point out the good and how things can be even better, instead of always fear mongering? I agree.
  • It's amusing how next to impossible it is to get a few families together for a meal. We've been planning a certain get together with just four families and we're already on our fourth or fifth date now.
  • I'm going to my first Arena League football game tonight. It sounds pretty cool even if Kansas City, one of the worst teams, is playing one of the best. It's just too bad that it's at Kemper Arena, Kansas City's "Porcelain Bowl." When the new state-of-the-art Sprint Center opens next year, events like this will really be something.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I Will Survive, Episode 12

**Spoiler Warning**
Do not read this post if you haven't yet seen this week's episode of Survivor.

…you've been warned!

Shane and his crazy behavior is gone.

But I was shocked to meet the real Shane Powers in his live interview. He was intelligent, articulate, honest and likeable. Instead of flawed, I'd describe him as likeably eccentric? You'd hardly know it was the same person.

So who was that on the island? Shane blamed his uncontrolled behavior on the intense nicotine withdrawal with virtually no fluids to flush his system. And I think I believe him! He said he was constantly apologizing to the others because he knew he was out of control emotionally. Chewing a piece of gum, a very healthy looking Shane explained how he truly regretted going into a game where he would have to hurt other people's feelings and how proud he was that he didn't have to betray a single person. Shane may have won the integrity award hands down this season, and I hadn't even noticed.

The reason he didn't flop to Terry was because he had given his word, yet, at the same time, his alliance of Aras, Danielle, and Cirie were lying to his face. Shane said, "Cirie and Aras lied profusely."

Who did Shane respect the most? While noting that he was initially close to Aras, Shane said Terry was most admirable and emphasized that the former fighter pilot was "a very good man." He praised Terry both as a person and as a player.

This begs the question, what does this say about the Shane's knowledge of the rest of the game? Shane gleefully noted that the "the final two will be real fun!" and "my role on the jury will be quite memorable." This really throws me for a curve. I've been anticipating Aras and one of the girls shutting out Terry from the final two and Shane hinted that Aras was one of the final two. But Shane didn't talk that way about Danielle or Cirie and his praise of Terry makes it sound like we're looking at an all male final two, with Shane's vote going to Terry.

Maybe Terry has a chance after all. That's a lot of reading between the lines, but I'm second guessing what I thought I knew.

Random Observations:
  • The final four survivors happen to represent each of the original four tribes but Terry's the only one I could have predicted from the beginning.
  • Survivor 13 will be on the Aitutaki Atoll of the Southern Cook Islands (halfway between American Somoa and Tahiti) in the South Pacific. Remember Captain Bligh and "Mutiny on the Bounty?" What if tribemembers could choose to mutiny in some way? Maybe they could go form another tribe on a neutral site, a kind of pre-merge merge maybe? Or a self-induced exile of sorts, maybe never to return to that tribe? I'm not sure how that would work, but they'd be amiss to not to have some kind of mutiny theme.
  • I think it's cool that Cirie is doing so well, but I'm disappointed by her dishonesty and manipulation. The very skills it takes to really "work" this game are pretty unappealing when on display. I just couldn't do what she's doing (reason #153 why I'll never win Survivor).

Da Vinci's Done

I finished The Da Vinci Code last night. It started with a factually incorrect "fact page," runs Christianity through the mud for 454 pages, and ends with the main character kneeling in prayer to the goddess. I didn't really enjoy it so much.

Here's some thoughts:
  • If organized religion is such a scam, what makes ancient goddess worship so great?
  • Christianity is not actually chauvinist (Gal. 3:28), but goddess worship is distinctly feminist. Why is that prejudice ok?
  • The plot was interesting (especially if you like scavenger hunts and riddles and such) but I'd only rate it at the same level as a decent TV show. It's no classic; it's a little predictable and very self-indulgent. But most people think it's a good airplane or beach book. So if you're stuck with nothing else to do with your time, then it can pass the time in an exciting and clever way. I personally felt that the positives were offset by my frustration.
  • Let's say the Catholic Church wanted to suppress some damaging secret, how would they actually pull that off? I don't think they're capable! Otherwise they could have stopped Luther, Wycliffe, the Anabaptists, and Dan Brown.
  • It's going to be hard to to discuss this material in a "family safe" way. The book has multiple adult themes like pagan sex rites, phallic symbols, and sexual innuendo.
  • Are we forgetting the Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox Church? Why would they buy into the cover up that Rome was inventing and promoting? How does that make sense?
  • It seems that the typical conspiracy theorist has never known a coincidence. But as Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
  • How cynical do you have to be to assume that every minister, priest, elder, and bishop that ever lived was either foolishly uninformed or criminally manipulative?

I'll be at Centropolis Christian Church to present a seminar on the Da Vinci Code at 6pm Sunday, May 14. I'll also be preaching on the topic at Wyandotte County Christian Church on June 4 and teaching a class at Mission Lake Christian Camp on the subject later this summer.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

When Perverts Gossip

Well, now I know more about goddess worship and sexual rituals than I ever wanted to know.

I'm about 360 pages into The Da Vinci Code… shoot me now; put me out of my misery. There's a character that's introduced about halfway through the book that is the "expert." Yet almost every point he makes is wrong in some way. Just flat out, demonstrably, not even in the right ballpark wrong. Amazing.

I'm fairly confident that any first year Bible College student could take the premise of this book apart without even trying. Amidst the book's skeptical cynicism and smug elitism, it has managed to be factually wrong on dozens of points. No wonder there are so many books refuting this novel, it's too easy! The only difficulty is where do I begin when giving a one hour seminar or a 35 minute sermon?

That said, I can imagine people who are bitter against the church and looking for ammo that would cling to this novel wholeheartedly. Oh well.

Clue to the previous post: it is a word jumble.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lines Worn Bad

I'm about 230 pages into The Da Vinci Code.


I was asked to do a seminar on the topic at another church on May 14. I'm a history nut with a degree in theology, so I feel well informed on this kind of thing, but I hadn't read the novel. Well, once I was asked to do the seminar and my Elders then asked me to preach on the topic, my only choice was to read the rag that created all the hubub.

My initial impressions?
  • I'm glad I borrowed a copy. I wouldn't want to have paid $24.95 for something this lite.
  • I don't think most people realize the book advocates goddess worship.
  • It smacks of smug liberalism. Anybody sophisticated and elite is not a Christian, while all the Christians are either simple (the brainwashed) or sinister (the brainwashers). No one could possibly be a sincere and informed believer because Christianity is just a big chauvinist scam.
  • The short chapters (some don't even take an entire page) are a gimmick that I liked at first but now I'm getting irritated. It's almost guaranteed that any question that gets asked won't get answered for another three chapters: "Cream or sugar?" *end of chapter* (Three chapters later) "Should I ask for sugar?" *end of chapter* (Two chapters later) "Cream!"
  • Page one is a "Fact" page that contains almost no facts. It goes down hill from there.
I'll write more when I finish this thing and do some more research.

A big shiny nickel to whomever can explain the title of this post.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Random Thoughts 5/2/06

  • I have a friend who took a nasty bite on the ear from a dog. That's not such a big deal except that the dog was a dachshund. I imagine that's a rare wound.
  • 12,500 hits. Thanks for reading.
  • For those of you scoring at home, Elijah is now 2 years old. He is officially terrible.
  • Apple has some new commercials available at; these ads are really witty.
  • Three years ago yesterday, the President landed on an aircraft carrier and gave a speech beneath a banner that read "Mission Accomplished." The main stream media went out of its way to point this out, basking in the cruel irony. But remember the context: that carrier was returning home. It's mission was accomplished. The President said that major combat operations were over. They were. There was no additional territory to capture and no enemy units to manuever against. The fact that a long term, low intensity insurgency was brewing doesn't negate this. What President Bush said was both accrurate and appropriate.
  • My sister interviewed for and was offered the job as the director of a crisis pregnancy center. She has accepted the position.
  • Why don't they teach economics 101 anymore? I hear absurd things being said about gas prices that just don't line up with reality, so I thought I'd offer a brief primer on the topic: Oil companies don't set gas prices, the market does. The only way to lower the price in a free market is to have more supply (drill and refine more oil) or less demand (use less fuel). Taking a day off from buying gas or buying in smaller quantities doesn't work if you still drive the same amount. Half a dozen big oil companies is not a monopoly and they do compete with one another. Oil companies don't make as much money on their investment as many businesses; oil exploration, drilling, tankers, offshore rigs, pipelines, and taxes are expensive.
  • Should the Saints' first draft pick, Reggie Bush, be allowed to wear #5? The NFL says running backs may only wear numbers between 20 and 49; only kickers and QBs can wear 5. Edgerrin James petitioned to wear #5 when he was drafted and was turned down.
  • Speaking of jersey numbers, here's a trivia question. There are only two teams (not counting expansion teams since 1995) that have no retired numbers that are off limits to current players. Which teams are they? [highlight the section below to reveal the answer]

    The Cowboys and Raiders

    The Chiefs, on the other hand, have eight retired jerseys: Jan Stenerud, 3; Len Dawson, 16; Abner Haynes, 28; Stone Johnson, 33; Mack Lee Hill, 36; Willie Lanier, 63; Bobby Bell, 78; Buck Buchanan, 86. Only the 49ers, Bears, and Giants have more retired numbers.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hug a Communist

It's May Day, so if you're not out protesting for the rights (?) of illegal aliens, send your labor union a thank you note for all they've accomplished since 1886… oh, wait… nevermind. Or you could watch On the Waterfront to fully appreciate what organized labor did to pass the time after child labor abolishment, eight hour days, weekends, and minimum wage went into effect 75 to 150 years ago.

The Industrial Workers of the World wants national borders abolished, or at least the borders of the United States, to undermine American capitalists. You have to admit, if you take away our unique American culture, law, order, freedom and prosperity, the U.S. does become a lot less attractive as a destination.

So happy May Day. Remember, if illegal aliens, corrupt politicians, communists, anarchists, and the Mafia are all for it, how it can it be wrong?

Post Draft Thoughts

  • KU had none of its players get drafted, the only Big 12 school to be so snubbed. Some Jayhawks did sign as rookie free agents after the draft, however. CB Charles Gordon (who left school early – oops) signed with the Vikings, DE Charlton Keith signed with the Browns, and KU all-time receptions leader, Mark Simmons, signed with the Chargers. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, LB Nick Reid, signed with the Chiefs.
  • Kansas State tackle Jeromey Clary was drafted by San Diego in the sixth round. Missouri QB turned WR, Brad Smith, was drafted by the Jets in the fourth.
  • The Broncos did well again this year, drafting QB Jay Cutler in the first round and trading for WR Javon Walker with their second.
  • The Cardinals also did well, drafting QB Matt Leinart to back up Kurt Warner after already adding RB Edgerrin James to a strong stable of receivers. The Cards also drafted a USC offensive lineman in the second and 6-8 tight end from Georgia in the third. Not bad.
  • I'd be a little leary if I was a Titans fan. Their first two picks were Vince "At least I got my name right on the Wonderlic" Young and Lendale "It's hard work to be this lazy" White. Lots of raw talent here but lots of potential problems, too.
  • Marcus Vick, the little brother of Mike Vick who was kicked out of Virginia Tech, was not drafted by the NFL. Hehehe.