Monday, April 30, 2007

Grading the Draft

All of the experts have given their opinions: Opinions on college players who have never played a single down. Estimations that ignore opportunity, motivation, injuries and other circumstances. Guesses that are long on speculation and short on actual data. So even though much can be said about the NFL Draft, little can be known. Here's what the Chiefs did:

1 Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU (6-2, 217);
2 Turk McBride, DT, Tennessee (6-4, 276);
3 Tank Tyler, DT, North Carolina State (6-2, 323);
5 Kolby Smith, RB, Louisville (5-11, 215);
5 Justin Medlock, K, UCLA (6-0, 201);
6 Herb Taylor, T, TCU (6-4, 296);
7 Michael Allan, TE, Whitworth (WA) (6-6, 251)

We do know that the Chiefs, a team that hasn't had a wide receiver lead the team in receptions since Andre Rison (1997), picked a big receiver in the 1st round. We also know the Chiefs drafted the highest rated kicker in the draft, Justin Medlock of UCLA, a Div III tight end, and two defensive linemen named Tank and Turk. We also know the Chiefs didn't trade Trent Green or Larry Johnson or fill current needs on the offensive line or future needs in the defensive backfield.

Time will tell.

So here's a look at the Chief's picks from last year.

1 Hali, Tamba DE 6-3 275 Penn State
Started every game and had 58 tackles, 8 sacks, and an interception as a rookie starter.
2 Pollard, Bernard SS 6-2 223 Purdue
Played 16 games but never started and only had 10 tackles.
3 Croyle, Brodie QB 6-3 204 Alabama
He only threw seven passes his rookie year, but will get a chance to start this year.
5 Maxey, Marcus CB 6-2 197 Miami (Fla.)
Only 2 game appearances, cut, re-signed and barely on the team.
6 Stallings, Tre' G 6-3 315 Mississippi
Eli Manning's college left tackle, didn't play in '06 but is currently playing in NFL Europa.
6 Webb, Jeff WR 6-2 201 San Diego State
10 game appearances, no starts, three catches, but lots of potential for next year.
7 Page, Jarrad SS 6-0 220 UCLA
35 tackles, 3 interceptions, and a sack in his rookie year. The pleasant surprise of this draft class.

The Quotable Tanner Riley 4/30/07

We took the boys to McDonald's last night for Elijah's birthday party. Tanner was playing in the play area when some bigger kids squished him into a corner. He was crying and came down to report to us, "They smashed me and I couldn't breathe and they almost broke my skeleton!"

Bless his heart, this kid says the strangest things.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Random Thoughts 4/27/07

  • The Chiefs have their work cut out for them in the draft Saturday. So say it with me: "We are NOT one player away." They need as many long term prospects as possible: offensive and defensive linemen, wide receivers and defensive backs. Almost any position on the team could use a long term investment. Unfortunately, true rebuilding means trading away the old faithful. So say goodbye to Dante Hall (traded to Rams), Trent Green (to be traded to Dolphins?), Will Shields (retirement), and Sammy Knight (cut) among others. Though the Chiefs deny it, the Packers have supposedly offered their 1st and 4th pick for Larry Johnson with four other teams interested, which would be an excellent move if the Chiefs can get a little more than that. Why get rid of Johnson, perhaps the best runner in the league? Because the Chiefs are not likely to get their act together while Johnson is still in his prime, especially with a reduced offensive line, while running back may be the easiest position to replace.
  • We're surviving without Mom, barely. She went to Joplin to a Women's Retreat at Ozark Christian College, leaving her five men home alone. We haven't gone crazy yet, but we are climbing the walls.
  • Poor Nathan Fillion. He's my favorite unsuccessful actor ever. Every time he gets a starring role the show gets canceled, including his most recent effort, Drive, which Fox canceled yesterday after just four episodes. It wasn't even that bad of a show, but right now reality shows make more money than dramas and dramas stick to the basic lawyer, doctor, cop formulas or don't survive. How depressing and monotonous, especially for those of us who like good drama.
  • We received a free magazine, unsolicited, in the mail yesterday. It was obviously a random thing because instead of a magazine about ministry or homeschooling or cooking or science or something we actually care about, it was… well, not a good fit. We received Imbibe magazine, the "ultimate guide to liquid culture." Though full of fascinating reviews of wineries and recipes for cocktails, I'm just not the "sophisticated lush" type of person. In fact, I'm more your fundamentalist teetotaler type of person. Nevertheless, I think I'll hang on to the magazine, it'll make for a good prank to leave it on my mom's coffee table before guests from church come over.

Out of a Lineup (Answers)

The correct answers are:
1. Eli
2. Graham
3. Tanner
4. Brennan
5. Eli
6. Graham
7. Tanner
8. Tanner
9. Brennan
10. Tanner

  • We thought Brennan had the most distinctive look at this age (he still looks more like his mom than the other boys).
  • Elijah stands out mostly because of his darker hair and eyes, while the other three all have blue eyes and strawberry-blond hair. This same coloring has prompted strangers to ask if Brennan and Tanner were twins.
  • Tanner, Eli, and Graham all have a similar look to them. We thought that some pictures were almost indistinguishable except for the clothes, background, and other clues.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I felt ill when I heard the Senate Majority Leader say repeatedly and enthusiastically that "the war is lost." Senator Reid has ignored the Bush administration's new general (approved of unanimously by this same Senate) and the new strategy that is only three-fifths deployed yet already showing positive signs. The Democrats don't care, nostalgic for Vietnam, they're pining away for defeat.

I am flustered at how disingenuous the Democrats are about the strategy in Iraq. The Democrats supported the war until public opinion turned – something that says more about our media and culture than the actual war. The Democrats demanded a surge of troops and change in strategy until it actually happened. Now, to make political hay, they've flip-flopped and prematurely declared defeat.

I was horrified that the Senate approved a bill today, filled with pork for things unrelated to the war that sets a date for withdrawal regardless of whether things are improving on the ground. Guaranteed to be vetoed, it plays games with the lives of our soldiers and the people of Iraq. This bill insists on and attempts to guarantee defeat.

I had always thought of myself as someone who could vote for either party, based on the issue of the day. But after this, I'd be ashamed to vote for short-sighted defeatists, political opportunists that would play games with our troops' lives and throw away the lives of Iraqis.

If Iraq collapses, which it will without our support, the regimes of Iran and Syria will be strengthened. The fundamentalists across the Middle East will be emboldened. It will come back to haunt us.

On CNN, interviewer Dana Bash asked, "Gen.Petraeus is coming to the Hill to report on and make it clear to you that there is progress going on in Iraq and that the surge is working. Will you believe him if he says that?"

Senator Reid, who once championed the advice of generals when it benefited him, answered, "No, I don’t believe him because its not happening."

How sickening.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Out of a Lineup

How well do you know my kids?

Shannon made a slide show, numbered one through ten, of our boys between 10 and 15 months of age. Can you identify the boy in each one? Make your list and put it in the comments. We'll see how you do. With the photos cropped like this and no clues, I was only 8 for 10.

Culture War Communicator

I finally finished Bill O'Reilly's latest book, Culture Warrior. I really appreciate his stand on a number of issues but I probably won't spend time reading another one.

O'Reilly's arguments have never seemed that formidable to me. I often agree with his radio show and TV show but nevertheless they seem to lack the careful thought and articulation that many of these topics deserve. Poor Bill comes off as a blowhard… even when he's right.

This book is the same way. He's saying the right thing and it needs to be said, but I feel like his writings aren't as well crafted as they ought to be. In fact they read more like transcriptions of what he may have spoken verbally. If he took this shortcut, it would explain a lot, writing requires a lot more thought and craftsmanship than speaking. The only thing Bill O'Reilly does that I consistently think is insightful and thought provoking is his "Talking Points," a short monologue that must be written out in advance.

Here's the best part of his book (p.206), the words to live by for those fighting the culture war:
  • Keep your promises.
  • Focus on other people, not yourself.
  • See the world the way it is, not the way you want it to be.
  • Understand and respect Judeo-Christian philosophy.
  • Respect the nobility of America.
  • Allow yourself to make fact-based judgments.
  • Respect and defend private property.
  • Develop mental toughness.
  • Defend the weak and vulnerable.
  • Engage the secular-progressive opposition in a straight-forward and honest manner.

Good stuff, O'Reilly. Not original or particularly well said, but good nevertheless.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Nerd Watching

Here we find the nerds in their natural state… watching a documentary. Some nerds have been observed nearly hibernating, their biological functions slowed, so that all available energy can be focused on consuming knowledge.

A Brief History of Wasting Time

The first generation of video game consoles came out in the mid-70's, about the same time I arrived. Most of these systems I've never heard of and had a small menu of games hard wired into them. Pong was about as complicated as it got.

• 2nd Generation (1977-1983) - Atari 2600
My earliest video game experience goes back to the Atari and similar systems. My older cousin, Bret, and a few families we knew were playing games like Pong, Kaboom, Pitfall, and Pole Position, which drew me in like a moth to the flame. Near the end of this period, our family bought an Atari 2600 and I cut my teeth on games like Realsports Volleyball, Combat, and Pac-Man.

The Atari was one of the first to use programs written on ROM chips encased in plastic cartridges. It ran at the blazing speed of 1.2 MHz with 128 bytes of RAM.

• 3rd Generation (1985-1989) - Nintendo
Just a few years later, Dustin and I received a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Absolutely everyone was playing Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt (the one game I remember Dad actually playing). This is the system that Dustin and I spent the most time on together as he was in grade school and I was in junior high. To this day I can still hum the music, find the hidden secrets and remember the cheat codes to dozens of games (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start). I can remember which friends owned which games and the first kid at school to beat Super Mario Bros. (Thanks for the help, Tyson W.) My favorite games were Double Dragon, Excitebike, Contra, Tecmo Bowl, Punch-Out, Double Dribble, Bionic Commando, and the little-known and under-appreciated Jackal.

The Nintendo still used plastic cartridges but introduced the multi-button controller and special controllers like the Zapper light gun. It sported an 8-bit processor with 2kB of RAM.

• 4th Generation (1989-1996) - Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis
At some point (maybe eighth grade?) a Super Nintendo replaced our beloved original. Though distracted by high school, sports and a cute redhead, my favorite game was Super Mario Kart, which is also the first game at which I remember Dustin being as good or better than me. We also played Madden NFL, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, and Ninja Gaiden. This became more Dustin's console than mine as I left for college and left console gaming behind for a couple of years.

These home video games consoles were 16-bit with 128 kB of RAM and began to catch up to what we played in the arcades, robbing the luster from these hangouts.

• 5th Generation (1994-1999) - Playstation, Nintendo 64
While in college I skipped the first Playstation almost entirely. Dustin had one while he was in High School and spent an inordinate amount of time playing Tomb Raider. He's still a solid Sony guy today. When I got married I did occasionally borrow or rent a Playstation to play Myst or C&C Red Alert. But our first purchase as adults was a Nintendo 64. The 64 was probably my favorite system of all time. I loved the controllers, the games, and the memories of being young, married, in college and playing Tetris 64 or StarFox 64 with up to four players. We also enjoyed games like GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, the Legend of Zelda, and Rainbow Six.

The Playstation was only 32-bit but used CD-ROMs, allowing a massive amount of game information to be stored. The Nintendo 64 was, you guessed it, 64-bit but was limited by the plastic cartridges Nintendo insisted on using. The 64 could be upgraded from 2 MB to 4 MB of RAM and both systems used additional plug-in memory cards to save games.

• 6th gen (1998-2005) - Playstation 2, Game Cube, Xbox
When the kids arrived (2000), we put the video games away because Brennan liked to chew on the cords. Dustin upgraded his Playstation to a Playstation 2 and we've been playing the latest Madden Football every year since. Though Dustin has owned several games, when I've borrowed the PS2 I limited myself to renting a few of the 8,500 titles available worldwide. I like strategy, war, and sports games while Dustin seems to gravitate more toward the racing games and first person shooters.

The PS2 has a 128-bit processor and 32 MB of RAM and the games came on DVDs. At $300 I couldn't bring myself to buy one, though they cost less than half of that now.

• 7th Generation (2005-present) - Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
I've had very little experience with these new consoles. They are powerful and expensive ($600), and frankly I'd rather have another home computer for the money that could be invested in these things. In fact some people figure home computers and mobile gaming to replace the traditional game console. I don't know if that will happen, but none of the new systems are selling like the companies had hoped. Until the cost comes down, my kids will stay on the family computer.

Monday, April 23, 2007

35,000 Hits

We passed 35,000 hits today. Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting on my posts.

I'm particularly flattered that Adam G. put a link to my blog from his own. Thanks Adam, that's one of the first times a website has had a permanent link to me. I hope you get lots of traffic!

You may have noticed that my visitor counters have outlived their trial period and that the free versions are ugly on purpose. It was neat to see people from 20 countries visit in a single two week period but to renew the nice version of the counters costs $20 per year and I haven't committed to having a "blogging budget" for what has been cost free up to this point. We'll see.

The Quotable Tanner Riley (4/23/07)

Tanner is such a card. He came downstairs last night after bedtime to file a complaint about Brennan. "Brennan is tooting and making me awake. It's making me sick!" I think he means he was fed up with it, as Brennan was making underarm noises and wouldn't let Tanner sleep. And nobody requires more sleep than Tanner.

Tanner has been using this meaning of the work "sick" a lot lately. If he doesn't want to do something he says he's sick. If he's tired of being in the car, he thinks that means he's car-sick. Recently he's discovered that he can be church-sick, play-sick, and even home-sick. Yesterday during my sermon he groaned and told his mother he was preach-sick. There's a lot of that going around.

Yet Tanner, even when in a complaining mood, is still a sweet little boy. Here's a recent picture of him hugging his baby brother Graham.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pave the Rain Forest

Earth Day Trivia:

The first April 22 Earth Day was in 1970, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin. Considering that radical environmentalism (as opposed to conservation or stewardship) is little more than a means to implement socialism, that makes a lot of sense – even if it is a coincidence.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Random Thoughts 4/20/07

  • The actor Jon Voight gets it. Do you?
  • The next season of Survivor (season 15) will be Survivor: China. Check out Survivor Maps for the latest rumors and detailed info on Survivor locations.
  • According to a recent study, the F-22A Raptor is worth its weight in gold (or caviar)… literally. Caviar costs about $6000 per kilogram. At $177 million per plane, the Raptor comes in at more than twice that, over $12,000 per kg. But when you add developmental costs, the Raptor costs $339 million per plane, increasing the cost to over $23,000 per kg, while gold sells at about $18,700 per kg. That means it would be significantly cheaper to buy a block of gold of the same weight, than an F-22A. Of course the block of gold can't shoot down a Mig. It's also noteworthy that the F-22A costs about the same as a C-17 cargo plane, the President's helicopter Marine One, or a Boeing 777 commercial airliner. Aircraft are expensive, the F-22A is just famous for it.
  • We have a work day at the Church Camp tomorrow, painting one of the buildings inside and out. We need everyone to help if they can; the more the merrier. We leave at 7 in the morning and will return in the early afternoon for the wedding here at church.
  • One of the greatest difficulties our wounded soldiers and marines endure is bureaucracy. It used to be that wounded troops sent back home were still a part of their deployed unit, which meant paperwork would have to go through a unit still in the combat zone. Then they started transferring the wounded to local active or reserve units and that helped some. Now the Marines are forming two "Wounded Warrior Regiments" to which wounded marines are transferred and all of their administrative needs can be taken care of. Hopefully this solves the problem and doesn't create new ones (like getting transferred back to the original unit).
  • The founder of Wikipedia said that the social networking site, MySpace, "hurts my eyes" and predicted its demise in a few years. I'm not a fan of MySpace and I agree that it's kind of choppy and not too user friendly. But I'll bet that if MySpace does go away, that something just like it will take its place. A lot of folks overlook the problems MySpace has because they can't get enough of what it offers them: social networking and the chance to express yourself.
  • How in the world is the PlayStation 2 (introduced in 2000) outselling Nintendo's Wii, the XBox 360, and the PlayStation 3? In March the game console sold over a quarter million units, twice as many as the new PS3, and more than any of the seventh generation game consoles. I wouldn't mind buying the boys a video game console but I can't afford the new ones and figured the old ones to be on their way to obsolescence. Maybe not.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Baby Zeke

This touching story about the Weatherford family ran in the KC Star this week. It's a must read that speaks to the sanctity of life and the love of parents for their children.

The story, Zeke's Gift, is here; read it first. When you're done, please don't miss the links to the other related material, especially the audio photo gallery.

[Thanks Sue D. for the heads up]

The Church Fathers

An old college classmate, Adam G., started a new blog and on it he posted one of those personality "tests" where you answer a short quiz and it gives you a label and a supposed description of your personality. Usually these things have all the accuracy and insight of a Chinese restaurant place mat, relying on vague generalities and flattery to win you over. However, this one I liked.

You’re St. Justin Martyr!

You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

This description is fairly close to how I see myself. I wouldn't have necessarily made the connection to Justin Martyr but I certainly feel the rest of it is applicable – or at least I'd like it to be. The part about God guiding history to prepare for Christ is something I feel strongly about. And I am finding "seeds of Word" in unexpected places such a movies, pagan culture, and all levels of human relationship/conflict. Our God designed this universe and his fingerprints are all over it. Finally there's nothing I feel more passionate about than explaining the Faith.

Admittedly the quiz will probably fail if the user doesn't know Church history fairly well. But I thought it was the first time in a long time that a test singled out specific traits that I recognize. The last time that happened might have been the Myers-Briggs test, which labeled me INTJ.

Pointing to the Answer

It's a common lament among ministers that we feel so inadequate for the task at hand. One fellow minister recently wrote on his blog that, in spite of having plenty of theological answers, he didn't feel equipped to help the kids in his youth group with the difficult trials they were experiencing. They have practical problems that are not easily solved by a sermon on some point of theology. Bible college and seminary can prepare you to interpret scripture but it doesn't always feel like you're prepared for the actual pain and crises you encounter in ministry.

Knowing exactly how that feels, I decided to write him a note of encouragement. I hope this reaches everyone who is in ministry and needs a shot in the arm.

Take cheer, you may be more prepared than you realize. All of those questions Ozark prepared you to answer include "why do bad things happen" and "what did God ever do about it." Perhaps the two most important and relevant questions ever asked. I know that seems a bit esoteric but you have answers in a world of confusion and that makes you an anchor to those kids.

I've been in ministry in for 13 years and I know how hopeless some people's situations can be. But we have to realize that we're not there to fix their problems; there's only One who can fix their problems. Our job is to keep pointing those kids to Him. You'll have no idea until later how effective that actually was.

You're already doing the most important thing you can. Those kids see you and have hope. Hope that there there are answers in this world. Hope that they can be loved unconditionally. Hope that a life of purpose with stability, love, and fulfillment exists in this world. Hope that there is a life other than one bound up in sin. You and your wife may represent the only example of these things that some of these kids will see and that will have a profound impact on them.

Just trust that it can. Trust that He can.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Culture of Death

You may have heard that the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in support of a ban on partial birth abortions. Considering that this barbaric practice amounts to little more than infanticide, you'd think that the news would be well received. Check that, you'd think the vote would be 9-0 and the news would be received with thanksgiving.

But no. Not only was the ban only barely upheld, the Democrats were disgusted with it.

Hilary said, "It is precisely this erosion of our constitutional rights that I warned against when I opposed the nominations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito." Since when does the constitution give us the right to suck the brain out of a viable child who'd been 90% delivered from his mother's womb? I mean really! You're murdering a child here and the health of the mother is almost never in issue in these cases. And even when it is, does that justify a brutal murder? And if you think it does, I dare you read a description of the procedure.

Obama said, "I strongly disagree," and Edwards echoed, "I could not disagree [with the ruling] more strongly." Justice Ginsberg called it "alarming" while Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry entities were similarly upset at the restriction.

I just can't understand how calloused, narrow-minded, and morally challenged a person must be to ignore the unique individual destroyed in an abortion. To allow it or even promote it promotes a culture of death where life is devalued. Brutally kill a baby in the womb, euthanize the ill and the elderly, turn your back on the suffering of Sudanese, Rwandans, and Iraqis – each example is a symptom of a sick culture.

And so are school shootings.

In the wake of the massacre at Virginia Tech, people have blamed gun laws, southern culture, video games, movies, social dynamics and everything else on why 32 students and professors were murdered. But why is no one pointing the finger at Planned Parenthood and Dr. Kevorkian as well as Quentin Tarantino?

Help the Oppressed

Here's an excerpt of an article by Rocco DiPippo, a journalist who has been in Baghdad for the last seven months. Please read the whole article, but make sure you don't miss this part:

…It is indeed time for the Left to prove, through action, that it is truly concerned for the welfare of the oppressed. And there is no better way for it to accomplish that than by putting aside its vile hatred of the President, and supporting the soldiers and the policy makers who are trying to bring peace and stability to the Iraqi people, a people who for forty years, have truly been oppressed. The new Iraq security plan implemented by President Bush is helping end that oppression. And since the Left long ago anointed itself the champion of the oppressed, it makes sense for it support that plan, instead of trying to subvert it.

With that in mind, I ask… the Democratic leadership, the "social justice" crowd, the human rights groups, the UN leadership, the mainstream media and anyone else trumpeting concern for oppressed peoples, to put aside their pathological hatred of President Bush and their unfair criticisms of the US Military long enough to view the Iraq situation as a simple matter of human rights - as a battle between shockingly evil oppressors and the liberators of the oppressed.

I ask Democratic Party leaders to put hatred aside long enough to pretend that it is their sons and their daughters, their wives and their children who are being harassed, tortured, maimed and killed by oppressors here in Iraq. Please realize that if you Democrats get your early withdrawal, the torturers and murderers will control Iraq. And emboldened by that victory, and in possession of Iraq's substantial resources, it will only be a matter of time before those hunters of humans -- the beheaders, the torturers of women and children, the suicide bombers and the hyper-religious fanatics - bring death to your own cities and towns and streets.

Then, you and your loved ones will have paid a dear price for your unending hatred of one man, your naked self indulgence, your utter, rank hypocrisy and your unquenchable thirst for power.

By the Same Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has written another book, the Children of Húrin, which was published this week. Not bad, considering that Tolkien passed away in 1973.

Actually Tolkien has had several books published posthumously, edited by his youngest son, Christopher Tolkien, from his voluminous notes and drafts that rarely saw the light of day while the author was still alive. Christopher Tolkien, now in his eighties, has spent 30 years putting the pieces of the puzzle together and has finished another legendary tale.

The Children of Húrin represents Tolkien's first work on Middle Earth, dating back to when he was recovering from World War 1 in 1918. Having read excerpts of the story of Húrin and his descendants already published in other volumes, I'm eager to read this as well. I'm a huge Rings fan and love the additional material available from Tolkien's notes; I have ten Tolkien books on my shelf already. Altogether it creates this massive collection of interrelated myths, a fantasy history of the ancient world. It's a masterpiece of English literature.

I really want my boys to read these books (at minimum the Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy) as they get older. The stories promote virtues such as courage and duty and commitment. Young men ought to have tales like these ringing in their hearts.

The Magnificent Seven Samurai

I recently had the opportunity to watch an uncut version of Seven Samurai (1954), total running time about three and half hours. I knew it was considered a classic, but I had no idea how good a fifty year old, black and white, subtitled, Japanese movie could be. It was really good!

I was also surprised at how familiar it was. It turns out that every action movie for the last five decades has been ripping off this classic piece of cinema. Not even counting the American remake, The Magnificent Seven (1960), the ripoffs include everything from Ocean's Eleven (1960) to A Bug's Life (1998) to Three Amigos (1986). Seven Samurai practically invented the reluctant hero character, the forbidden love of a hero for the peasant girl, the townspeople hiring heroes to help fight off bandits, the scene where a long line of bad guys crests a hill on horses, assembling a team of heroes for a mission, the slow motion death scene, panning battle scenes, the introduction of a hero through his performing an unrelated feat, the farm boy turned hero, and the one-by-one elimination of heroes as they battle the enemy.

We've seen these elements in movies like the Dirty Dozen (1967), Unforgiven (1992), the Guns of Navarone (1961), Star Wars (1977), Predator (1987), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and just about every other western, action and adventure movie made since the 1950's. Some movies purposely style a scene or a line of dialog in reference to Seven Samurai, while others do it inadvertently because this has become the conventional approach to making action movies. Either way, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Seven Samurai is rated in the Top 10 movies of all time by IMDB.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dead Man Walking

Just when I was starting to like Titans QB Vince Young, his agent announces that the young passer will grace the cover of next year's Madden Football video game.

Enter the Madden Cover Curse.

The cover of that video game is one of the better known curses in sports right now. Every year, for nine years in a row, the player featured on the cover has had an injury or setback that hampered his play.

Now Vince Young is up against the curse. It won't be easy, second-year quarterbacks are known to struggle anyway, but I could understand why a player would avoid this "honor." And I don't really believe in curses!

Happy Birthday Dad

Today is my dad's 60th birthday. We spent the afternoon with him Sunday and had a cake for him, though no family get-together can adequately express how much we love him.

Dad has been the ideal grandfather for my boys and a loving father (in-law) for my wife. He's a lot like my maternal grandfather, Grandpa Clark, whom I believe Dad has emulated in several ways. Because of my Dad, my boys see:
  • an incredible servant.
  • the finest example of selflessness.
  • the epitome of the Protestant work ethic.
  • a loving grandfather, who plays with them and knows each of them personally.
  • their grandfather in worship and at work in the church.
  • the faithfulness in a long lasting marriage (going on 40 years).
  • the respect of their father for his father.
Dad, we love you.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Listen to These Guys

Here's a short video that's worth watching. It's the soldiers actually in Iraq talking about Iraq. Maybe we ought to hear what they have to say about it. They would seem to be the experts on the subject.

Random Thoughts 4/16/07

  • I was in Winchester recently, the town where I grew up and I couldn't make myself drive by the old house. It's just too sad how run-down that place has become.
  • Nike has an advertising campaign featuring the NFL rookies who will be drafted later this month. The ads picture these athletes standing together in Nike athletic apparel and a few things stood out to me: 1) Adrian Peterson is HUGE! Peterson, a running back from Oklahoma, is the biggest looking player in the picture even though some of the others are five inches taller and 80 pounds heavier. 2) The oldest looking player is the 19 year old. DT Amobi Okoye looks like he's in his mid-twenties even though he's the youngest draft prospect ever, having graduated from college while still a teenager. 3) The second biggest-looking guy is the wide receiver, Calvin Johnson. 4) Marshawn Lynch is scary looking – and I mean like serial killer scary. Surely that's not the look he's going for.
  • Pravda (the actual Russian newspaper, not my pet name for the KC Star) reports that Don Imus was fired because he was about to reveal the secret connection between 9/11 and the Bush Administration. The White House supposedly orchestrated the outrage and subsequent firing of Imus over his rude remarks. Hmm… that means Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Rutgers University, Oprah, CBS radio, et al. are in the pocket of the Bushies! Welcome to the tinfoil hat club, Pravda.
  • Increasing numbers of doctors in the UK are refusing to perform abortions. There are 190,000 abortions in Britain every year, paid for the by the state, and permitted in some cases through the ninth month. But if more doctors refuse to comply, abortions will be harder to come by. Even more important, a doctor saying that a fetus is a person carries a lot of weight with most people.
  • The Chiefs' Will Shields, perhaps one of the top five offensive linemen in NFL history, retired today. He'll leave a gaping hole (a first for him) that will be hard for the Chiefs to fill.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Is That Grace?

Brennan asked meekly from the back of the van, "Mom, is that grace?" He was referring to the candy she had bought the boys while in the convenience store. The boys had previously been in trouble for their bad behavior.

"Yes, Brennan, that's exactly what that was, grace."

A few months earlier, Shannon had the boys at the same gas station dealing with the same bad behavior. She held three frozen slushies (and their attention) in her hands as she explained that grace was getting what we don't deserve.

Little did we know how closely they were listening.

Standing with the Groundlings

Shannon and I used to go to the movies nearly every week when we were first married. But now that we have kids, once every six months is about all we can muster. It also hurts that when we were first married, a movie was only $5.50 and the "dollar" theater had just bumped up the cost of a ticket to $1.50.

Last night we went to the theater for a cool $9 each. The older boys were with Grandma and Grandpa playing in the global warming snow and the younger boys were with Aunt Sonya and Uncle Craig. So we had a narrow window of time to grab a bite, visit the loan officer, and watch a movie.

The time constraints limited us to Will Ferrell's Blades of Glory (2007). It's a 90-minute, forehead slapping, groan-inducing type of movie. In fact, IMDB's (Internet Movie Database) list of keywords for this movie is as follows: Person On Fire, Cowboy Hat, Vomit, Figure Skating, Hit in Crotch, Bad Haircut.

Yeah, that's about right.

If only Dr. Zhivago (1965) or Schindler's List (1993) had had a few more hits to the crotch to make it more watchable! Just think what Citizen Kane (1941) could have been with more vomiting! If only!

To atone for my proletarian ways, I went out today with a friend from church and got tickets for the New Theatre Restaurant. That's right, a live performance at a place where they spell "theatre" like the British do. How hoity-toity is that? You even have to dress up (a little)!

However, while we were out last night rubbing elbows with the great unwashed, I couldn't help but see several trailers and posters of movies I really want to see this summer: Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Spiderman 3, Transformers, Ratatouille, Harry Potter 5, Bourne 3, etc. All high-brow, sophisticated stuff, no doubt! How hopeless am I?

[A shiny nickel to whomever identifies the reference of this post's title.]

Friday, April 13, 2007

Random Thoughts 4/13/07

  • It's supposed to snow Saturday morning. Snow. On April 14. Good grief.
  • Brennan and Tanner finally went to the dentist this week and did well (all things considered). We want them to go more often but that's hard to do without the right insurance. We have a really good dentist that we like and want to continue with him, it's just a matter of money.
  • NFL Europa starts this weekend though I probably won't watch. Every year I try to take note of players from local schools and Chiefs prospects that play in Europe because every now and again you get a Kurt Warner or an Adam Vinatieri out of that league. The Chiefs have several players there this year including former Jayhawk LB Nick Reid. The NFL is hoping to transform NFL Europa from a developmental league into something more: they've changed the name, moved the offices to Germany, promoted the teams and players more in Europe, and plan to expand. The NFL seems particularly popular in Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Japan. All of those countries produce players that compete with American players in NFL Europa.
  • Today is my day off, my first real day off in eleven days. We have big plans… to do nothing! Ahhh… If we didn't have the flexibility and support that we do, the stress of ministry would be the end of me.
  • The. worst. recruiting. videos. ever. Fortunately it's for the Japanese Navy. To see a bizarre mix of a Broadway production number and the Power Rangers, click here.
  • I've really enjoyed checking out the visitor tracking each time I get on the blog. I wish I had installed that two years ago! I'm especially amazed at the foreign traffic.
  • What percentage of the Army/Marine Corps has volunteered or re-enlisted since 9/11? I've heard several ignorant remarks lately insinuating that soldiers are being tricked into longer deployments and such (remember some people can only think in terms of victimization). It's all kind of insulting to think these guys didn't know exactly what they were volunteering for. God bless them.
  • Kansas Jayhawk basketball player Julian Wright is going pro after his second season. Oh well. The experts seem to think his stock is at its zenith so he's not going to get a better deal than this. Who knows? He may really excel at the next level. I hope so. It's just that I hold college basketball in much higher esteem than the NBA and hate to see a player leave unnecessarily. On the other hand, the Jayhawks had no seniors graduating so a player or two going pro does create some room on the roster. KU had two McDonald's All-Americans coming off the bench this last year.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pointing Fingers

Jason Whitlock, a sports writer for the KC Star, writes an article sums up the racial issue currently at play because of Don Imus' crude jokes about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

Whitlock writes:
"Thank you, Don Imus. You’ve given us (black people) an excuse to avoid our real problem.

"You’ve given Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson another opportunity to pretend that the old fight, which is now the safe and lucrative fight, is still the most important fight in our push for true economic and social equality.

"You’ve given Vivian Stringer and Rutgers the chance to hold a nationally televised recruiting celebration expertly disguised as a news conference to respond to your poor attempt at humor.

"Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred…

"… In the grand scheme, Don Imus is no threat to us in general and no threat to black women in particular. If his words are so powerful and so destructive and must be rebuked so forcefully, then what should we do about the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?"

Whitlock makes the point powerfully that the worst threat to black people is the element of black culture that tears itself down.

"No. We all know where the real battleground is. We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show. There’s no money and lots of danger in that battle, so Jesse and Al are going to sit it out."

Make sure you read the whole article here. It's short, well written, and a must read.

34,000 Hits

We passed 34,000 hits this morning. That's a 1000 hits in the last 9 days, a little above average. Thanks so much for reading. God bless.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Who's Da Man? Part 4

I appreciate the information a reader recently posted about the issues with local preacher Jerry Johnston. [Thanks for writing!] I especially appreciated his tone and his call for prayer for this congregation.

I have been following this little drama with some interest, as I have friends that are former members of Jerry's flock. They left for a host of reasons, among them the financial transparency issues documented in the KC Star article.

Following the plethora of message board postings and blogs, there appears to be a large number of former members and staff that have left for a host of reasons other than financial transparency.

Since the Star articles, the leadership at FFC has chosen to remove most of their archived sermon videos, further restrict access to the church leadership and restrict access to the live web-streaming to registered individuals only. The weekend before Easter, they passed out a small booklet of 'financial disclosure' that was a very inept attempt to explain how things are managed at FFC. Still, if a member asks to see the budget, they are denied.

The most obvious solution for Jerry is to simply open the books to an honest and independent audit and make those results known to his congregation. He has chosen, instead, to 'circle the wagons', to use the words of a current FFC member.

I am not sure where all of this is heading. There have been suggestions of criminal investigations and the like. At this point, however, I think is it important that we keep the congregation at First Family in our prayers.

My desire would also be for FFC to just open the books. Whatever embarrassing missteps exist can be overcome and put behind them; it's not worth sacrificing an entire congregation for one person, no matter who they are. I also hope this episode encourages churches and ministers to rethink how they do business. Accountability for these celebrity preachers is a must or they'll do far more harm than good.

I'll post again if and when any news develops.

Heads Up

Here is the replacement for the HUD (Head Up Display) to be used in the new F-35 fighter. It's the HMDS (Helmet Mounted Display System).

The F-35 is the first fighter to be built without a HUD in decades. Even the new F-22 Raptor uses a HUD, a plate of glass in the front of the cockpit on which is displayed basic flight and targeting information so that the pilot doesn't have to look down while flying.

Now the pilot doesn't even have to look forward. He can look in any direction and the information will be displayed inside his helmet. He can even look through his own plane to target an enemy he couldn't see otherwise, like x-ray vision. The vertical takeoff version of the F-35 thus allows the pilot to see through the bottom of his plane as he descends to land.

This is the stuff of science fiction. And aviation nuts are loving it!

Theology for Dummies

I caught the end of a local radio show Monday evening, talking about religion. As usual, the hosts came to a battle of wits unarmed. But then the guest experts, some type of ministers I think, were saying that Hell doesn't exist.

I almost drove off the road.

I'm glad I didn't hear the whole program or I would have lost it completely. As a rule, I don't call radio shows. Why try to make a point in fifteen seconds, only to be talked over, misinterpreted, and cut off? I would go on radio if I could be in the studio, but otherwise it's not a level playing field for the exchange of ideas.

But I almost called in. These liberal theology jokers are not speaking for me or for most of historical Christianity when they say that heaven and hell are a state of being here on earth. I wanted to tell the listeners that these guys don't represent Biblical doctrine.

This hogwash is a result of a naturalistic (anti-supernatural) bent that has perverted the Bible's message. It discounts everything from Creation to prophecy, from miracles (up to and including the Resurrection) to the afterlife.

I wanted to call in and ask these charlatans:
  • Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?
  • Do you believe that Jesus walked on water or raised the dead back to life?
  • Do you believe the first several chapters of Genesis records actual events (Creation and the Flood)?
  • Do you believe that Jesus died to pay for the sins of humanity?
  • Do you believe the books of the Bible are written by the authors the Church claims?
  • Do you believe Jesus provides the only path to God?
  • Do you agree with most (any?) of the historical doctrinal positions of the Church?

And then I wanted to sit back and hear them admit: "No, not really."

In a nutshell, while Biblical doctrine puts the emphasis on the spiritual and the hereafter, liberal theology, which almost always discounts anything supernatural, puts almost all of its eggs the "here and now" basket. Under that system, social justice and personal enlightenment outweigh forgiveness of sins. Punishment for sin becomes a moot point, because God has become the limp-wristed unjust god of passivity who has no working answer for evil in the world. Jesus didn't die to pay that ransom, he just died to be a good moral example. God isn't God, he's a helpless by-stander. What a pitiful sentiment.

Liberal theology, in short, is a cancer that turns well meaning Christians into empty-headed religious hobbyists. I'm not even sure how (or why) they call themselves Christians.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What a Loser (23 weeks)

Though I've stayed with my diet almost half a year, my weight loss had plateaued in the 30-35 pound range for almost three months. Now it's finally starting to move again.

As of today, I'm down 43 pounds (maybe more if I had weighed before lunch instead of afterwards).

Unfortunately after my three month stall, my original goal is no longer realistic, as I would need to start losing almost four pounds a week for the next two months. My new goal is 55 pounds by June 1. That's only five pounds a month, which should be doable. At that pace I should be able to reach 75 pounds by October 4, my 31st birthday and a few weeks shy of the anniversary of my doctor visit last year.

I already feel great and getting past this slump has me excited again. I'm finally noticing that my clothes feel loose and I definitely can't wear my pants without a belt anymore. I'm still not getting to the YMCA near often enough, but I am playing basketball with the old guys down at the Bonner Springs community center every Tuesday at noon.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Me Too!

Here's an excellent version of Emo Phillips' "Me Too" routine. It's better developed than the short version I posted earlier, and you've just got to hear the bizarre, sing-song, way he talks.

Odd behavior aside, this guy has to have been in church enough to know how close to home this hits and appreciate how funny this could be. The fragmentation and overwrought disagreements in the Protestant church (which franchise?) is a painful and embarrassing blemish on the Church. The Bible's authority and Christ's love could have solved many a dispute, but personalities and power struggles have interfered with anything that abstract. The Church is supposed to be known by its love and instead it's marked by its sectarianism.

If You Don't Tick Like I Tick…

…you're a heretic.

My favorite Emo Phillips joke (I know, I know, there are so many) is also my favorite religious joke. I first heard this joke in the mid-nineties while in Bible College and even repeated my version of it a sermon or two. As with any good humor, there's always a kernel of truth.

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: "Stop. Don't do it."

"Why shouldn't I?" he asked.

"Well, there's so much to live for!"

"Like what?"

"Are you religious?"

He said, "Yes."

I said, "Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?"


"Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?"


"Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"


"Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

"Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

"Reformed Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said: "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915."

I said: "Die, heretic scum," and pushed him off.

A Hardy Species

I've discovered an important botanical truth. Dandelions are immune to freezes.

Despite the late date, we've had three or four freezes in a row (thanks Al Gore), setting records for low temps and the coldest April Easter ever. What was recently green on my property: my trees, flowers, bushes, lawn, etc. is now black and shriveled.

All except the dandelions, which are a vibrant yellow (except for those that are already going to seed). It's hardly fair.

Not Missing Many Meals

Peter King, of Sports Illustrated, had this to say today about dining in Kansas City.

"In the span of a day, last Wednesday in Kansas City, I had a barbequed turkey sandwich (Gates Barbeque) and barbequed pork (Arthur Bryant's Barbeque). First of all, barbequed meat done right is better than Ruth's Chris sirloin. Secondly, the Gates turkey had a slight edge. Superb sauce. I'm not saying Kansas City is Boston or Seattle on my list of top cities, but I am saying if I lived there, barbeque would be lunch and dinner 14 times a week. Or more."

Thanks for the props; the other day I had an Arthur Bryant's barbecued beef "sandwich," and by sandwich I mean a couple of slices of bread buried by a small mountain of beef, dripping in barbecue sauce. That's good stuff.

Kansas City's barbecue is one of the cultural pillars in this town. I just hate if someone visits KC and doesn't get the chance to try it. My neighbor, who barbecues at contests every year, invited me to return this May to his family's annual barbecue feast at the Great American Barbecue. We attended last year with the boys and really enjoyed the food and the activities, which included concerts, a kids play area and balloon rally.

These are the balloons we saw last year. A uniquely KC region/Midwest kind of balloon rally I'd say.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sunrise Devotion

Our congregation is having a sunrise service tomorrow – an invigorating half hour of worship and a short devotion at 7:00am. We decided that a sermon (typical running time: 35 minutes) was a bit much for that hour of the morning, so I'm keeping it short and sweet.

Here's a rough draft outline for those of you who don't get up at that hour:

Several ancient pagan traditions involve meeting at sunrise on the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. It the day on which the hours of sunlight surpasses the hours of darkness and many ancient cultures celebrated this with festivals and worship to various gods. They celebrated the victory of the sun over the darkness and the cold death of winter.

In modern times, the newspapers, magazines, and the internet are all flooded with naysayers. Skeptics of Christianity gleefully write the same old articles exclaiming, "Look, Christians are unwittingly practicing pagan traditions. Christianity is nothing new and nothing distinct!"

Not so much. First of all, you'll notice that today is not the first day of spring. It's the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Second, Christians aren't up at dawn today to celebrate the cyclical victory of the sun over darkness, which will only last for the next six months. Instead, Christianity is celebrating the historical victory of the SON over death, which will last forever.

This isn't borrowed pieces of hodgepodge, but a complete and fulfilled system which was predicted thousands of years before it came to pass. Cheap imitations and knockoffs have come and gone, both before and after Christ, but all were mere shadows compared to the real thing.

To see the sunrise is merely a reminder of the most important historical event to happen in human history, the Resurrection of the Savior who paid the ransom for our sins.

We're following the service with breakfast, so we'll see how focused everyone is with the smell of food wafting through the room!

Tracking Visitors, Part 2

How interesting to see a the places from which people are reading my blog. A single hit from anywhere on the globe doesn't surprise me (Zlín, Czech Republic) but repeat visits from far away towns do pique my curiosity.

For instance, who's reading from Minneapolis? I know a couple of people from there (or with connections there) but I didn't figure any of them to be reading my ramblings. Thanks for checking in.

And who's in Joplin reading my blog? I'm sure it's someone (or several someones) I know; I lived there for six years. But I'm always kind of surprised that someone is keeping up with my blog.

And who's dropping by from Moffat, Colorado? It's not a very big town, in fact I think I drove through it this summer (might of blinked, so I'm not sure), but it's likely somebody with connections to my family in the Alamosa area (or maybe through Sean). So whoever you are, hi!

Speaking of Sean, I also picked up a hit from Aruba and another from Florida that both seem to have linked from his blog, Jungle Aviator (he obviously gets all the cool international traffic). Thanks for the link, Sean; there's no way I would have gotten those hits otherwise. But I am going to take credit for the hits you've received from Ft. Leavenworth. That's almost for sure one of my readers. I hope they enjoy your great pictures.

Friday, April 06, 2007


It's been a bad week for the Big 12. Billy Gillispie left Texas A&M for Kentucky the day after Bob Huggins left K-State for West Virginia.

Especially painful was K-State's basketball coach, Bob Huggins, who quit after just one year to take the job at his alma mater. There are all kinds of mixed reactions around here but most of the K-State folks are taking it pretty hard. The local radio stations have made every Ned Beatty joke they can and played every John Denver song there is to play. It's a bitter pill to take.

You might assume, that as a KU fan, I'm enjoying this. I'm not. I feel bad for K-State and think Huggins was really wrong to leave. You don't make a commitment and then bail on it so soon. If Huggins knew he might leave so easily he shouldn't have made the promises he made. He told the folks at K-State what they wanted to hear. Now he's left the school in a lurch and he betrayed those players. Doing the right thing often means honoring your commitments above your own selfish desires.

It's not fair and K-State shouldn't have to pretend that it is.

Father-Daughter Talk

A famous quote, often misattributed to Winston Churchill, says, "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain."

This story not only illustrates that philosophical conversion but also points out another harsh reality that people often miss: "Fair doesn't always mean equal." We want to think that "fairness" (by which we mean justice) is defined as equal treatment, but in the real world, we know something to be fair when we see appropriate treatment, whether it's equal or not.

[I found this over at Victoria Taft; thanks go to Jim R. for the heads up.]

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat,and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words, redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened then asked, 'How is your friend Audrey doing?' She replied, 'Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.'

Her father asked her, 'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend Audrey, who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.'

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, 'That's a crazy idea. How would that be fair? I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work. Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!'

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, 'Welcome to the Republican Party.'

Of Boaters and Balloonists

Here's a funny little story that clarifies a fine philosophical distinction between political parties. It made me chuckle.

[I found this over at Victoria Taft, thanks go to Jim R. for the heads up.]

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below.

She shouted to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above a ground elevation of 2346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.

She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be a Republican."

"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The man smiled and responded, "You must be a Democrat."

"I am," replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You've risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met but, somehow, now it's my fault."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Now Serving No. 33333

So who's going to be hit number 33,333? I'm going to be watching the counter closely tonight and tomorrow, but if you're the one make sure you comment here and tell us about it.

Just watch, it'll be one of my relatives that read regularly but never comment. That's right, I know who you are!

Tracking Visitors

I've temporarily added a few bells and whistles to my blog. These little widgets show what city and what country viewers are from, which makes for some interesting discoveries. I immediately had a hit from Massachusetts and later, one from Minnesota. My instinct is to ask, "who do I know in Minneapolis?" But I also got a hit today from Zlín in the Czech Republic, so I'm guessing some of these hits are fairly random.

I don't know if I'll keep these little gadgets, but they are interesting.


Brennan is loosing teeth at a pretty steady rate now. I pulled the third tooth from the bottom front, so I'm not really sure how he'll bite anything but I suppose he'll manage.

He's been walking around pushing those loose teeth out to a 90º angle with his tongue, which is just gross enough to make a squeamish person flinch with disgust. But when Mom or Dad want to actually touch the thing, Brennan will clamp his mouth shut, recoil and let his knees buckle. He admits that pulling a loose tooth doesn't normally hurt but he terrified of bleeding… that and the strange torments of his mother.

While talking to Brennan about whether the tooth was ready to come out, he said, "No, Mom tied a string to it and pulled so hard the string broke. It really hurt a lot."

"What? Is that true?"


Oh good grief. Like we need to traumatize the boy. God gave us fingers and, when necessary, Dentists. The last thing we need is a Rube Goldberg-type tooth pulling contraption.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Random Thoughts 4/4/07

  • Is the West supposed to thank Iran for releasing the hostages that it kidnapped in the first place? How does that work? I guess I don't get it. But I did hear a funny mispronunciation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's name: "My mood, I'm in a Jihad." How appropriate.
  • I have found some great books for cheap at the L&V Outlet in Leavenworth. It's amazing what you can find in a store like that if you're willing to dig for it. But be ready to dig, not only are the books double shelved (not that uncommon at a used or damaged book store) but they are literally piled on the floor. It's like a treasure hunt!
  • It might snow tomorrow, it's April by the way. Can you sue Al Gore for false advertising?
  • We're having our first Sunrise Service at church this Easter. That's church at 7am! Fortunately it's followed by breakfast at 7:30 and regular services at the more wholesome hour of 9:00.
  • We have really enjoyed the Dave Ramsey financial peace classes at church. We'll probably offer those again in the Fall, if not sooner, though that decision hasn't been made yet. Both of teachers have done a great job and most of the students have survived all the way to the end of the 13 weeks. I'd highly recommend this program for any church to use.
  • The student paper of the local community college printed an obscene cartoon that used the "f" word. There are some folks around here that are absolutely pitching a fit, and rightly so, with talk of a petition and other action. I find it hard to believe that the adults overseeing this thing couldn't have stopped it, though there is a disclaimer in the masthead saying that the students are solely responsible for the content of the paper. Besides why would I expect a public education institution to take a stand on a moral issue? That would be silly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Who's Da Man? Part 3

I've been catching some grief for writing about Jerry Johnston. He's a very popular preacher on television and radio who's been under some scrutiny this last month by the local newspaper. Nothing earth shattering or even necessarily illegal, but largely just a lack of being above board and transparent with his congregation.

My bottom line is that he's probably a sincere and well-intentioned minister (I've never met him) but obviously he is caught up in a way of doing church, where the preacher is essentially his own boss, that lends itself to problems. Even members of his church who defend him vigorously "wish some things were handled differently." To me, this is mostly a matter of wisdom vs. culture/pragmatism.

I wrote about this topic before I really knew anything about Johnston (to me he was just another mega-church pastor whose name would pop up from time to time). If you're upset with me, please go back and read this original post; it accurately conveys how I feel on the subject of personality-centric ministries.

I'd also encourage you to read what I wrote after I discovered that Johnston had been indicted in these newspaper hit pieces over the very issue I had written about that same day. It spells out my desire to see ministers act out of humility, even if it's less effective pragmatically.

Lastly, some think it's inappropriate to criticize fellow church leaders in public. I understand the valid and noteworthy concern there. But the need to keep church leaders publicly accountable for how they conduct themselves is a Biblical principle (Gal 2; Ezek 34; Jer 23 - a sampling of rebukes of leadership that get written down for posterity). If we Christians don't show that we're most concerned with integrity and trustworthiness, then what will the unsaved world think? Cover-up? Scandal? Why feed their paranoia?

As I wrote above, this is matter of wisdom vs. culture and pragmatism. It works to have the preacher be the CEO and benevolent dictator and people like it! But no matter how benevolent he is, he's still human. If the preacher isn't accountable, it's only a matter of time before he abuses his position. We ought to recognize this and change things to protect our church leaders from these pitfalls. Carrying their water and excusing their excesses because they're "gifted" and "successful," is what led to embarrassing episodes with Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, Peter Popoff, Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn, Jim Whittington, etc. etc.

These men don't need to be protected from scrutiny, they need to be protected from temptation. Are we doing that with the way we run the Lord's Church?

33,000 Hits

We passed 33,000 hits sometime last night. Thanks a lot for reading.

I've been busy with other responsibilities and haven't posted a lot this week but I do have several incomplete posts that will eventually see the light the day (I hope).

I've also been working with a new writing program called Scrivener, which I intend to use with several projects that have never gone beyond the idea stage. Shannon and I both intend to write more in coming years and this little program might be a valuable asset.

Random Thoughts 4/3/07

  • We've put in two afternoons of hard yard work; today was supposed to be the last real warm day before global warming gives us an April freeze [insert eye roll here].
  • Tanner, who's always stayed away from bicycles, has begun riding (with training wheels). This is a big step for him and I'm glad he stepped right up and cleared that hurdle.
  • April Fool's Day got me a couple of times (I'm kind of gullible in some ways). One family came in to church with a third family member on crutches (I already knew about the first two). Of course the young man was putting us on and in spite of the odds against three members of one family having three leg injuries at the same time, I believed he was really hurt. I also fell for several smaller pranks through the day that I just wasn't savvy enough to catch.
  • While playing cards Sunday night, I correctly folded pocket aces against an all-in bet on the turn. The other guy had three nines. Unfortunately good lay downs don't win you anything (respect?), you just lose a little more slowly.
  • Graham is almost walking. Almost.
  • Our church's MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group had their auction last Friday and raised $5000! That's incredible! What a great job those ladies did.
  • Brennan lost another tooth Sunday and a third one is close. I've pulled both of them so far and they come out much easier than I would have expected. Brennan isn't even certain that I've actually done it until I show him the tooth.
  • Tanner's front teeth are getting a little better but the final word hasn't been given yet. Hopefully he'll not have to have them pulled.

Sweet 16 Champion 2007

Congratulations, Zach B., on officially winning our Sweet 16 game. He scored 434 points to seal 1st place with Justin D. trailing just behind with 427 points. Zach, you've just won the satisfaction of a job well done!

I came in dead last with only 360 points. Thanks a lot Wisconsin and Texas! Not only did these teams exit early, but I had Florida ranked way too low (the lowest of anybody in the game). I just didn't figure them to repeat… oh well. I had Ohio State ranked 2nd (winning 5 games) and SIU to win 2 games and that was pretty much the only thing I got right. It got ugly after that.

To see the final stats, click here.

Thanks for playing guys. Come back next year!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

All About Church

Here's today's sermon notes, for any of you early risers:

Top Ten Truths the Preacher wishes People knew about Church:

The Nature of the Church
  • It's a group plan, get used to it. Nobody gets to fly solo. (1Cor 12:12-27)
  • It's not my church, it's the Lord's church. Don't forget whose name really belongs on the sign out front, Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:30)
  • The Church's closest parallel in this world is the family. (Gal 6:9,10)
  • Wise, fatherly Elders make all the difference. (1Tim 3:1-7)

The People of the Church
  • Believe it or not, these are the folks who get to go to Heaven. It's like the bumper sticker says, "we're not perfect, just forgiven." (Col 3:13)
  • Numbers matter, sort of. Because we're counting family members, and ultimately the people who are saved, we count the people. But we're driven by faithfulness not numbers. (Acts 2:41; 4:4)
  • Church membership should matter the most to you. Because God made us to do good works, we should desire to work in and through the Church. (Eph 2:10)

The Purpose of the Church
  • Worship, and church in general, isn't really for you. It's all for the glory of God. (1Pet 4:10,11)
  • Church has a cumulative effect. Church is where you learn (patience, forgiveness, reconciliation, etc) over time. (Gal. 6:9,10)
  • The Believers could hum hymns in a hay barn, but the unchurched will not. And lost people are a priority to us because they're a priority to the Lord. (Luke 15:7; 19:10)