Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's a Zoo Out There

Shannon and I took the boys to the zoo today (I'm on "vacation" this week). Reluctantly we settled for the Kansas City Zoo, not wanting to drive too far. We've been to the Kansas City Zoo in past years and generally been unimpressed, especially when compared to Omaha's zoo. KC's zoo has been second rate and outdated and, above all, way too spread out (there's nothing like a ten minute hike between exhibits).

But we were so pleased with our visit today! First off we were prepared with good shoes, sunscreen, a water jug, snacks, and a good stroller for Graham. When we arrived we were blessed with a cool breeze and occasional clouds to keep the late July heat to a minimum. And our masterstroke was when we bought passes for unlimited rides on the train, tram, and boat, which greatly reduced the walking and gave us needed breaks and a pleasant diversion for the boys.

But the single biggest difference this year in contrast to past years was the zoo itself–they've remodeled! We kept finding exhibits that had been modified and improved. A dozen times we said, "I don't remember it being this nice," or, "I don't remember this part at all." They added a much needed shortcut in the middle of the park and made several changes, one of which was a hit with our little boys–the discovery barn, a remodeled barn full of cute fuzzies, interactive play areas, and an artificial tree to climb outside. The boys didn't want to leave.

Overall, it was a much improved experience, especially for the prepared family. So much so that we intend to buy a season pass next year.

Here's Brennan, Tanner, and Elijah on the train at the zoo. They're wearing their school uniforms.

Graham enjoyed the train as well, cooing and pointing a lot. He did fairly well for being off-schedule and missing his nap.

It's amazing how close you can get to some of the animals. The boys encountered several strange species.

Most impressive was the access to the kangaroos. To our stunned surprise, they're basically roaming free in one part of the park. Eli was convinced he could go nap in the shade with them.

We found beautiful things in trees…

…including this cute little critter, still clutching his admittance ticket.

Tanner is in the climbing stage and was swinging from the branches all day. All of the boys clamored over the whole zoo and still couldn't get enough.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gen. Petraeus is Winning

The good news out of Iraq is getting hard to ignore (unless you're Sen. Reid). General Petraeus is turning the tide in the battle for Iraq. He's finding a way that works and even dyed-in-the-wool Democrats are beginning to recognize it.

Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack are two such pundits who wrote this article for the New York Times. In the article they note the difficulties but nevertheless advocate hanging on in Iraq because of all the good trends they see.

They say in part, "Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms… The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference."

Make sure you read the who article here.

A Bad Day to Fly

This has been a bad weekend for the aviation community with multiple deadly incidents.
  • Burt Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, suffered an explosion killing three and seriously injuring three while testing a rocket engine Thursday. Rutan's Spaceship One is the first private spacecraft flown into space and will likely be the first commercial spacecraft.
  • Two news helicopters collided Friday over Phoenix, killing 4. They were filming a car chase.
  • Two vintage P-51s at Oshkosh collided Friday, leaving one pilot dead.
  • Jim Leroy, an award-winning stunt pilot, was killed in his biplane at the Dayton Air Show, Saturday. Leroy's teammate, Jurgis Kairys, barely survives a crash in a different plane 7 hours later.
  • A Russian cargo plane, an Antonov An-12, crashed on takeoff Sunday from a Moscow airport, killing all seven on board.
  • I also read that a Russian Mi-8 helicopter crashed this weekend but I couldn't find independent verification of this.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm

I'll be out of the office all this next week. I'm not sure that will affect my blogging at all but if you're trying to reach me during the day I may be out in the yard, watching a movie, or gallivanting around town with the family.

We're not planning to travel anywhere; I'm just going to stay home and catch up on all the stuff that needs to get done. When I come back on August 6, I have a major event on my calendar every few days for the rest of the month.

And then the Summer is over and things get really busy!

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Bad Influence of Harry Potter, Part 2

I received a great question by email today:

But I have a question for you about your blog... when you talked about Harry Potter. I don't understand your argument that it's ok to read Harry Potter books because it's not "real witchcraft or real spells. It's all made up and nearly all children grasp this." If the bible tells us that witchcraft and sorcery are sins, why would those things be ok in pretend form as entertainment? (Even though Harry Potter is using his powers for good.) It seems to me like that would be the same as saying that it's ok for kids to read books with sex scenes or bad language in them... because it's not real sex or real kids using bad language.

Great question. Let me clarify the distinction I'm making. It's not that Harry Potter is fictional but that the magic portrayed is fictional.

Sex, violence, drugs, etc. are all real and their use in a fictional setting can have a negative influence on young readers. That would be a fictional story is portraying real things.

But the magic in Harry Potter is a fictional story portraying unreal things, things of fantasy. The "sorcery" found in Harry Potter is not real sorcery; but just the silly imaginings of an author. If Harry Potter was a story about kids learning true things about the occult, filled with demonic activity and antipathy toward Christ, and set in the our real world, this would be another issue entirely.

Sprinting to the New Arena

Kansas City's new 18,500 seat arena, the Sprint Center, is opening in 75 days and they just recently announced the first event to be held there is…

…drum roll please…

…an Elton John concert!


So right now we have Arena Football and Elton John. Hmm… that's not exactly what we were hoping for. Deals with teams from the NBA and NHL have apparently fallen through. The most stunning news came from the Seattle SuperSonics owner, Clay Bennett, saying that if he relocated his team he would move to Oklahoma City and not KC. Ouch!

Oh, we also get four shows of Disney on Ice. You can't leave that out.

Long term though, we have the CBE Classic and the Big 12 Championship Tournament (three out of the next four years). KU will play a home game against Ohio in the Sprint Center on December 15. The NHL may yet expand to KC and the NBA still has a few teams that may relocate. But if AEG can't deliver either professional hockey or basketball or both, a lot of folks in KC are going to be disappointed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another Good Read 7/26/07

I've gone and done it again! I started reading two more books before I've finished the dozen that I'm already working on. What's wrong with me? I have nine books here beside my chair at home, half of them with bookmarks in them, and a stack twice as large on my desk at work. Though I've finished a couple of books just this week, which feels good, I'll need to buckle down to bring my stacks under control.

  • I found a copy of Ben-Hur (the book not the movie) for only four dollars at the Christian Book & Gift store in Olathe. Ben Hur (1880) was the best selling American novel for 56 years, until Gone With the Wind (1936), and was written by former Civil War general Lew Wallace.
  • Here's another dispatch from Michael Yon, called "Bird's Eye View." If you didn't catch "7 Rules: 1 Oath" make sure you do. If you're going to speak intelligibly about what's happening on the ground in the battle for Iraq, Yon is a good source to start with.
  • Speaking of Iraq, Ralph Peters tells it how it is in the New York Post, no holds barred. It's a fairly good summary of the big picture just in case you've been distracted by Lindsay Lohan or Mike Vick. As usual, Peters isn't shy about calling a spade a spade. Senator Lindsey Graham, who doesn't always see so clearly, writes a pretty good summary himself here.
  • Finally, Victor Davis Hanson puts the "withdrawal" (read: retreat, rout, fleeing from the enemy) in an historical context. If you want to understand the ramifications you have to understand the history. What's unnerving is that some people do understand the detrimental effects this would have on our country… and want to proceed anyway.
  • Brennan and Tanner are still getting a chapter of Narnia every night and they love it. The Magician's Nephew is probably my least favorite volume but they're eating it up (wait until they get to The Horse and His Boy or The Last Battle). I'm especially surprised at Tanner's interest at only five-years-old, but the discussion of the unfolding plot has become a daily topic of conversation between the boys and me.

Disappointed Rider

So I'm working my way through the AFI's Top 100 Movies (the 2007 list). I noted earlier that I had seen only 55 of the top 100 films, so in the last five weeks I've watched another half a dozen classics and enjoyed most of them. Most surprising was Annie Hall (1977), a surprisingly witty if not slightly disturbing Woody Allen film that I was sure I would hate. I also really enjoyed Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). I even watched my first feature length silent film, Sunrise (1927).

But I finally watched one that I detested from the disgusting opening scene to the final eye-rolling close. Easy Rider (1969), #84 on AFI's list, was a my first true disappointment. Not only was the drug-saturated content reprehensible, but I was let down by the acting (is it method acting if you're smoking real marijuana on screen?). Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson staggered through the movie which largely consisted of riding motorcycles in a drug-induced stupor through beautiful scenery to the tunes of the 1960's. They stop occasionally to smoke dope, talk to hippies, sell cocaine, complain about "the man," and take LSD.

Hmm, some movie.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Bad Influence of Harry Potter

I thought I'd summarize some of my thoughts about Harry Potter, since I've been getting some good questions (read comments here) about it, both online and off.

1. Many of the shrill warnings come from those with something to gain. I've seen the books and heard the speakers who profit from warning church-goers of nonexistent threats, who then echo these fears without further investigation. Ignorance and fear often go hand in hand. For years now I've been asking the opinion of Christians who have actually given the books a fair reading and almost universally they respond, "what's the big deal?"

2. Harry Potter is not a Christian work but it's not amoral either. In art you can find redeeming qualities in even the most surprising places; anywhere you find justice, virtue, or beauty you find a testimony to the creator, whether the author intended it or not. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

3. Harry Potter is silly make-believe, a childish fantasy. Put simply, it's not real. A child who imitates Harry Potter mimics the imaginations of a British author… and that's it. They are not introduced to real witchcraft or real spells. It's all made up and nearly all children grasp this.

4. There are more serious concerns for Christian parents than Harry Potter. There are truly corrupting influences from a godless culture that will actually pull your children away from the Lord. Our schools inculcate our children in a godless naturalistic philosophy which must be countered before it erodes their faith. Our pop culture promotes a careless and personally destructive hedonism, which trains our sons and daughters in wanton sensuality. These are real threats. They destroy lives and faith every day. Here are the real threats.

In short, I'm not personally a fan of Harry Potter but I don't have a problem with it either. My boys may read it when they're older but I've got a long list of better books to offer them first. And if they do read it, it'll be far less harmful than many of the things they're potentially exposed to in a given day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Patton Chimes In

Here's a great remix of the famous George C. Scott as Patton speech before the American flag. But instead of World War 2 he's talking about the Long War on Terror and the Battle in Iraq. See the video here on youtube, but be warned: there is a little bit of soldier language.

It's a stirring speech. But the real Patton, though more profane, must have been less compelling. I remember my grandfather's often-told story of sneaking out of the front ranks during a Patton speech so that he could use the restroom. This version of the speech, however, is worth enduring.

On a separate note: I've decided that I'm going to stop calling it the "War in Iraq." What's happening in Iraq might more appropriately be called a theater of battle or even an area of operations. Victory or surrender there will not end the long conflict with Islamic fascism. And since the parties involved and the consequences extend far beyond the borders of Iraq, and since the same conflict is being fought in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere, I'm going to do my best to refer to it as the Battle for Iraq, or the Iraqi theater.

I believe history will confirm this.

41,000 Hits

Hey thanks for reading! We passed 41,000 hits this afternoon.

Some may wonder why a personal blog with minimal traffic would trumpet each milestone like I do here. The answer: it helps me track my stats to lay down a post on a certain date. It's like writing down my mileage.

So thanks for indulging me and thanks again for reading.

Monday, July 23, 2007


What would Shannon and I look like as cartoons? Specifically, what would we look like if we were characters on the Simpsons? Perhaps something like this:

The options were a bit limited but it was still kind of fun. Try it at Simpsonsmovie.com.

Story Time

I've begun reading The Chronicles of Narnia to Brennan (almost 7) and Tanner (5 and a half). This is the first routine story time that we've done with the kids, besides little picture books that are done and over in five minutes.

Brennan and Tanner both eagerly crawl up on my lap as I read to them one chapter per sitting. We started volume 1, The Magician's Nephew, last Saturday night and read the first chapter which ends in Polly's disappearance. We read chapter two yesterday afternoon before company came over and will read chapter three before bed tonight. It will take two or three weeks to get through each book or about four months to read the whole series. I know that the boys are young, but I think Brennan and Tanner are just old enough to handle the intensity of the story, especially with me reading it to them.

And I wouldn't trade this time with them for anything.

I want my boys to love to read. I recently bought them The Dangerous Book for Boys, which is a book I hope they go back to again and again during their grade school years. As they get older I hope they move on to other great books which I'm setting aside for them.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Front of the Line

I went to Wal-Mart last night and was shocked to see hundreds of people lined up for the Harry Potter book; one 40-year-old guy said he'd left his mom's basement five hours earlier to join the line. There were a number of people dressed for the occasion, wearing Hogwarts school colors or a Harry Potter scar penciled on their oily foreheads. It seemed like an unusually intelligent crowd, like the studio audience for Jeopardy! or the contestants at the school science fair, but it was an awkward crowd too. They shifted uncomfortably as they stood in line, uniformly disheveled with an almost European approach to personal hygiene.

The line was also segregated by brightly colored wristbands, so I went to the front of the line to ask for one. Upon arrival I presented my receipt showing that I had pre-ordered the book to which the clerk looked at me and said, "You don't need a wristband, you can be first in line." Several who had invested their whole evening stared at me in disbelief.

So there I was in the front of the line as they counted down to midnight, ready to be handed one of the very first copies of the final Harry Potter book. As the seconds drew down, I heard multiple people behind me point at me and say, "Avada Kedavra," whatever that means. But as midnight came I received my copy of the book and went along my merry way, with only a fleeting thought of selling it for a profit to someone stuck in the back of the line.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Feeling Faint

I'm enrolled in a clinical study to test a new flu vaccine that could potentially work for several years instead of only one year. As part of the test I have to make repeated trips to have my health tested, including several blood tests.

And there's the problem.

I hate needles. The feeling of a needle under my skin is excruciatingly intolerable. It makes me squirm like fingernails on a chalk board (or should, the chalk board thing doesn't actually bother me). Well, today the nurse missed three times and left my arm a bruised and bloody mess. For me that meant the all-time worst experience I've ever had having my blood drawn: sweating, woozy and lightheaded–the closest I've ever come to passing out.

And I only have to back another dozen times. Ugh.

It's Not Mine, Really

I'm going to Wal-Mart tonight to stand in line for the final Harry Potter book. But if you see me there, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is not for me. Really. It's for a friend… yeah, that's it. I've got this friend, see, that reads those books as soon as they come out and I've stood in line each year at midnight to buy my friend each Harry Potter book.

Why, you might ask, is a Preacher buying this demonic tome? Because even though I don't read these books myself (remember the friend?), it's important to be alert to this kind of cultural phenomenon. This book will be read by millions of children and adults and will certainly be turned into a blockbuster movie in a few years. It's themes and plots will become a point of reference for a generations to come.

I also have a healthy respect for the fantasy genre, not heeding the wild-eyed charges made by some alarmists. Is Harry Potter a Christian work? Of course not, I don't expect it to be. But it's also not completely amoral. In the grand scheme of things, Harry Potter is not much different than Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, or the average Disney movie: familiar good guys fight the dastardly bad guys while we cheer them on.

There are worse things.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Another Good Read 7/19/07

Here's a sampling of the good readin' I've come across in recent weeks:

  • Yet another gripping read from Michael Yon, the Ernie Pyle of our day. This particular dispatch is called "Superman," though it's worth reading everything Yon writes. I can't wait until all of this material is compiled in book form some day.
  • The Blogging Church by Brian Bailey. This was a good little book on blogging in ministry–the whats, whys, and hows. Unless the Elders guide us to do otherwise, I'll probably start a church blog in coming months, to add one more tool to the church's communication toolbox.
  • I finally watched Kevin Willmott's CSA: The Confederate States of America (2004). It's an alternate history "mockumentary" detailing the 140 years of American history after the South wins the Civil War and institutionalizes slavery. Willmott is from Kansas and is currently a professor at KU. The film is both funny and frightening, but I prefer the more detailed alternate history of Harry Turtledove's "Timeline - 191."
More later, I've got a busy day today…

Big 12 Football 2007

The preseason poll is out for the 2007 Big 12 football season, with first place votes in parentheses.

1. Missouri (16)
2. Nebraska (8)
3. Kansas State
4. Kansas
5. Colorado
6. Iowa State

1. Texas (16)
2. Oklahoma (7)
3. Texas A&M (1)
4. Oklahoma State
5. Texas Tech
6. Baylor

This will make it that much easier to root against Mizzou (like I needed a reason!) and I understand why Nebraska is second in the north, but I long for the day when Kansas and Kansas State are #1 and #2. How great would that be?

On a related note, may I suggest we banish Baylor from the Big 12? Baylor is a great school, but it's not in the same league as the rest of the Big 12 (and that's saying something). Baylor (enrollment 14,000) is the only school with fewer than 20,000 students (although K-State and Nebraska are close) and is the only private school in the conference, and is the whipping boy of Big 12 athletics. If only Baylor could be replaced by Arkansas, Houston, UTEP, North Texas, or even TCU (another small, private Christian school with a better sports tradition). If a case was made for each of the above teams, I think Baylor would be the fifth or sixth most convincing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Being Offensive

Here's a great article titled, "How to Disagree and Persuade without being Offensive." It's a six-step guide to how not to tick off people.

It's a good, quick little read with some great advice; in fact, I'm not sure I've seen it all in one place like this. Some of the material is the same as what they teach in counseling classes:
  • your ears will never get you in trouble
  • keep an open body posture to communicate openness
  • nod to communicate understanding
  • let the other side finish
There's a lot more, so click on over and check it out.


We went to see Oklahoma! last night with some friends from church, Cecil and Gale R. The musical was performed at the New Theatre Restaurant, so we had a five-star meal and then a superb off-broadway performance.

Even if you've not seen Oklahoma! live on stage, you probably know the tunes. One of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classics, most of us can hum along with songs like "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" and "Oklahoma," but there's another half dozen songs that you might recognize from pop culture references over the last sixty years. The show is laugh-out-loud funny, but it also has some serious drama to carry it through the two hour performance.

We had a delightful evening.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Successful Bush Presidency?

Just because I know this'll tweak the haters, let's look at a completely serious proposition (and one that I agree with).

William Kristol writes: "I suppose I'll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush's presidency will probably be a successful one…"

What is Kristol's argument? 1) Security at home, 2) A Strong Economy, and 3) Increasing success in Iraq. Go read the whole article here at the Washington Post.

I'm increasingly confident that, when President Bush is gone and the virulent hatred of him slips into our collective memory, the President's actions and motivations will measured in a different light. Mistakes? Sure. Evil intentions? No. In fact, history may even judge him to have more noble and idealistic intentions, even if they're not realized, than any president since Lincoln. And Lincoln was hated in his day as well.

Random Thoughs 7/16/07

  • IHOP is buying Applebee's, a Kansas City based restaurant chain, for about $2 billion. Applebee's has been my favorite "lower-end" sit down restaurant for several years. A couple can eat there for $25 or $30, which wouldn't even pay for my steak the Hereford House. There are also 18 Applebee's restaurants within 25 miles of where I live, so there's always one nearby.
  • Heroes is back on TV September 24. Sci-fi geeks, hang on just another two months.
  • I've been eying the Nintendo Wii for several months now. I used to be an ardent video gamer, but between my ministry and family I've hardly touched a video game in two years. But my boys are getting old enough to play games like this and I've been eagerly anticipating the family video game experience, Mom, Dad, and boys all together. The Wii might be just the system…
  • For those of you waiting for the beginning of football season, we are putting together the sixth season of our Fantasy Football League right now. Keep the evenings of Monday, August 20 and Monday August 27 open on your calendar as potential draft dates. More information will be forthcoming.
  • Our puppy, Sophie, is growing fast. She came to us four weeks ago weighing just 4 pounds. She's already closing in on 8 pounds. Some of you have asked about her name, we named her Anna Sophia Rose: Anna Sophia is a name that we've loved for years and might have used if we'd had a girl instead of four boys. But Tanner wanted to name the dog (his first suggestion was Tanner, after himself). So we allowed him to give her a middle name and he immediately came up with Rose, which we thought was pretty good.
  • Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, Where the wav-in wheat can sure smell sweet When the wind comes right behind the rain! We're looking forward to going tomorrow night to see Oklahoma! with some friends from church. They're both from Oklahoma and so they already know the words. That comes in handy at a musical where Oklahomans in the audience might actually stand up and sing along. It'll be fun.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Getting Everything Wrong about Iraq

Noted historian Victor Davis Hanson takes the New York Times to task in this article from City Journal. He separates the facts from the hysteria (and defeatist propaganda) about Iraq, and I've always found him to be exceptionally rational and fair, especially for a Democrat from California.

Hanson starts out, "On July 8, the New York Times ran an historic editorial entitled “The Road Home,” demanding an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. It is rare that an editorial gets almost everything wrong, but “The Road Home” pulls it off. Consider, point by point, its confused—and immoral—defeatism…"

Is the war lost? Was it a lost cause to start with? Examine carefully what Professor Hanson says and decide if what we normally hear in the media and from our politicians is fair analysis or fact-twisting propaganda.

We may yet lose this war, but historians from future generations will scratch their heads at how we lost our nerve and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, mortgaging their future for our present.

Get Off the Phone

Here's a little reminder to not use your phone while driving.

A few weeks ago in New York, five highschool cheerleaders were killed in a car wreck. It was recently discovered that the 17-year-old girl who was driving was sending and receiving text messages at the time she swerved into oncoming traffic and hit a truck head on.

I don't really text message much at all, but some people live by it, and almost everybody takes and receives calls while driving. It's been proven that driving distracted (like talking on the phone) can be worse than driving drunk or sleepy.

I fear that the iPhone, perhaps the coolest gadget to come out in the last five years, will contribute to this problem. The iPhone does away with the standard physical buttons, which can be used by touch, and replaces them with an image on a cool touch-screen, thus requiring a driver to take their eyes off the road to answer the phone.

And how would you like to be the caller that causes someone else to get into a fatal accident?

In the Phog

Sports Illustrated ranked KU's Allen Fieldhouse the 10th best college sports venue in the country. The Top Ten considered all sports (even rowing) and included four football stadiums, three basketball arenas, a hockey arena, a baseball stadium, and the Charles River (again with the rowing). The Jayhawks' basketball home was the only Big 12 venue.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Not so Superstitious

Since this is Friday the 13th, when some $800 million of business will be lost and some 17 million people affected by fear, I figured I'd ask a question: what's the difference between being a creature of habit and being superstitious? Is taking comfort in routine really any different than carrying a good luck charm?

If you know me at all, you know that I'm not remotely superstitious. If fact, I abhor any kind of superstition to the point that I don't even accept the existence of luck. I'll go out of my way to walk under ladders, break mirrors, spill salt, etc., etc., just to spite the notion that those things matter at all.

Playing cards convinced me that luck doesn't exist. I've seen that one card out of 52 turn over when you need it but I've also seen the 51 times that it didn't. Runs of "bad luck" and "good luck" even out over time according to mathematical laws. Anybody who seems lucky just hasn't played long enough.

But that doesn't stop me from taking comfort in a number of silly routines I do each day. I'm really bad about doing the same things over and over again if I find them to work once. The same meals, same clothes, same routines, etc. Is that a superstition or just pragmatism?

The distinction is in the definition of superstition: "an… unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences…" The key is whether you have an unjustified belief in a cause and effect relationship between two unrelated events. Getting a good night's sleep before a big exam may be a routine but it isn't a superstition because the two things have a legitimate connection. Your lucky socks, however, are not a legitimate factor.

As I understand it, apart from God's intervention, the world operates according to a basic set of rules. Cause and effect is a pretty straightforward thing and many events are truly just random. So each time you flip a coin there's a fifty-fifty chance of getting heads, completely independent of whether or not you're wearing your lucky socks. And it doesn't matter if you've just flipped 10 heads in a row, the next flip is 50/50.

And though I believe God answers prayer, I don't subscribe to the idea of a capricious tit-for-tat kind of God who is constantly punishing or rewarding my behavior moment to moment. It's not very Biblical or reasonable.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Church Camp in 15 Hours

We took the family (and Mike) to church camp yesterday. Shannon gave her testimony in the morning, I played some hand golf, the kids and dog played hard all day, and I preached at chapel that evening. It was a good day but a long day.

The camp was running at near capacity with about 100 campers and 25 on staff. It great to see so many kids there after a couple of years of low attendance. Shannon spoke to a full chapel and gave her testimony about growing up at that camp and the difference it made in her life.

I played three rounds of hand golf after lunch, which is significantly harder in July when the grass is dry. After making improvements to the course, we were all eager to jump in and give it a try. My first round I had my first hole-in-one (on the par 3 third hole)! But I followed it up with three bogeys and finished the round at a mediocre 2-over par. I came back and played again finishing at 3-under and played a third time, finishing at a very satisfactory 5-under. Below is a shot of Jay-rod on the fourth hole.

The kids and the dog ran themselves ragged all morning and afternoon. Several young kids were there (children of the staff) and our boys loved having so many friends there to play with. But Sophie drew the most attention from kids, adults, and campers.

After supper came chapel, where I had the opportunity to preach. And after chapel the whole camp went for a late evening swim at the swim park in Hiawatha. By 9pm or so the family was utterly exhausted, so we began the long trip home. Brennan, Tanner, Eli, Graham, and Sophie slept pretty hard after a long day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Off to Camp, Again

I'm off to camp. It's my day off, so naturally we're driving to camp so I can preach tonight. We're taking the kids, the dog, and the Mike (my friend from church who broke his leg the other night).

I'll blog late tonight or tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Quiet 'Round Here

I've had an incredibly busy week already (it's only Tuesday?!), but with all the busyness it seems especially quiet here in the office.

Why is it so quiet? Jay-rod and one of our Elders is at church camp all week. Another Elder is visiting the mission field in Mexico this week. Add those guys to the other church leaders who are out of town on vacation and such and it gets real lonely real quick.

Fortunately I haven't had much time to sit down and think about it. I've had multiple counseling and calling appointments every day and my only day off, tomorrow, I'll put in a 14 hour day helping at church camp.

Gotta go.

Monday, July 09, 2007

NACC: Photos

Here's some photos of the North American Christian Convention, which was held in Kansas City last week.

Here's a shot of one half of the exhibit hall (the half with the eating area). The convention center was so large that it's hard to get many long-distance perspective shots like this.

Here's a shot from the other end looking back (with Lincoln (Ill.) Christian College and Seminary in the foreground). Almost every type of missionary, Bible College, Church planting organization, and ministry was represented here. Resources of every kind are available and it's a great opportunity to see and learn about different ministries happening locally and around the world.

Here's my friend and college roommate, Nathan, at his booth explaining the ins and outs of his ministry. Narrow Roads Ranch Ministries ministers to children through horsemanship and dog training. How neat is that?

Here are four boys I happen to know hanging out with some dinosaurs. Brennan especially was impressed at the sight of these large fossils and I appreciated the number of scientists who attended the convention, led workshops and seminars, and spoke about their faith. I was also exceedingly pleased with the children's portion of the convention. My boys were each split up when we placed them in the child care for four and half hours and they loved it!

It was also a good to see missionaries and people you don't get to see very often. Pictured above is Dr. Ronald Rife and his wife Doris, who have worked for several years in Ghana, Africa. They are the parents of our friend Pam, who goes to our church.

B-17, Nine-O-Nine and 787

I was expecting to see a beautiful plane yesterday with the internationally televised rollout of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. But I was treated to a firsthand sighting of another wonder of aviation.

I was visiting the hilltop home of some folks from church Sunday afternoon, when suddenly I heard a low flying aircraft above us. I looked up and saw a rare sight: a vintage World War 2 bomber flying low and slow almost directly over us. I immediately recognized it as the four-engine B-17. As it passed over I noted that 1) it was a painted in green camouflage as B-17s were camouflaged through 1943 but not late in the war, 2) it had a chin mounted machine gun turret, the easiest way to distinguish the model, a B-17G, 3) it had a "triangle A" on the tail which means it belonged in 8th Air Force, 1st Bomb Wing (hence the triangle). I later found out that "triangle A" was the same Bomb Group (the 91st) as the famous B-17F, the Memphis Belle.

These clues were enough to lead me to the Nine-O-Nine (pictured below), one of the few remaining B-17s still flying today and in Kansas City for the weekend.

This Nine-O-Nine is actually a different B-17G, restored to look like the original Nine-O-Nine, which was cut up for scrap after the war.

40,000 Hits

We passed 40,000 hits this morning. Thanks for reading!

Please leave your comments and let me know you're out there.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


I mentioned earlier several books that I'd like to read, let me add one to the list:

Alister McGrath's The Dawkins Delusion: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine

Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, has long been one of the more vicious critics of religion and creation theory in recent years, making it a personal goal to make atheists out of religious people. His most recent book, The God Delusion (2006), he calls the "culmination" of his campaign against religion.

But Dawkins has some issues: He's prejudiced against Christianity and organized religion, in part because of his own experience. He was raised nominally Anglican but struggled with his faith throughout his childhood. Ultimately, he latched on to secular humanism as understood through the theory of evolution.
He's fairly ignorant of Christian doctrine and has expressed a disinterest in learning any of the details; his mind is already made up. And he's defensive. Like most naturalistic philosophers who make a career based on refuting moral teaching, I'll bet he probably isn't keen on the idea of moral absolutes.

But what convinced Dawkins to turn from religion to naturalism (which is still a religious view by the way)? Listen to what he told Bill Moyers a couple of years ago in an interview, "among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know." When Moyers later asked, "Is evolution a theory, not a fact?", Dawkins replied, "Evolution has been observed. It's just that it hasn't been observed while it's happening." Dawkins went on to say, "It is rather like a detective coming on a murder after the scene. And you… the detective hasn't actually seen the murder take place, of course. But what you do see is a massive clue ...Circumstantial evidence, but masses of circumstantial evidence. Huge quantities of circumstantial evidence."

So without observing any actual evidence, Dawkins is nevertheless certain that his interpretation (one where God does not exist) must be true. In my line of work we call that faith.

Sweet Dreams: the 787

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, the newest and highest tech passenger aircraft, will be rolled out tomorrow afternoon.

The Dreamliner carries a modest 200-250 passengers, but travels an impressive 8000 miles at Mach 0.85 using 20% less fuel. It's the first commercial composite aircraft, made from materials lighter and stronger than aluminum. It's also the first airliner with a completely new aesthetic and passenger experience with vaulted ceilings, dynamic, color-shifting internal lighting (to simulate day and night, mitigating jet lag), new larger windows (with electronic tinting instead of window shades), and better cabin climate than any other aircraft (cleaner air, higher air pressure, more humidity = less airsickness).

To watch short webisodes about the features of this cool new aircraft, click here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

NACC: Plays Well With Others

Are Christians good customers?

I asked the lady behind the counter at the Starbucks how people were treating her. She was located right next to the main entrance and nearly everyone would have had the opportunity to buy a three dollar coffee from her.

She said that the convention-goers had been pleasant and tipping well. [You tip for coffee? After paying three bucks? I've got a tip for you…]

So I asked her who are the worst customers at conventions and special events. I was expecting some kind of professional convention, maybe doctors, or lawyers, or lawyers who sue doctors, or something like that. Her answer? The moms of youth volleyball players, hands down. She said they are bitter, high strung, complaining, and rude. Those moms are the worst.

I hope none of those moms were also at the Christian Convention.

NACC: Books

I had the chance to improve my library and my book shopping list at the North American Christian Convention this week.

Here are a few of the books that I bought:
•The Blogging Church, by Brian Bailey
•Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
•Tactics: Securing the Victory in Every Young Man's Battle, by Fred Stoeker

Some of the books newly added to my to-buy list include:
•The Rest of God, by Mark Buchanan
•The Present Future, by Reggie McNeal
•The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
•Making Room for Life, by Randy Frazee
•Leading with Love, by Alexander Strauch

Now when will I get the time to actually read these books?

Time to Get a New Watch

My wristwatch died again. It had stopped a couple of times and now it's kaput.

For most of my adult life, I've worn a simple little Timex Expedition analog wristwatch with a cheap nylon or canvas strap. I don't like expensive watches and can't wear watches with metal bands (they pull the hair out of my arm). But those cheap watches only last so long before a battery needs to be replaced or they corrode and literally just fall apart (which happened to me with a previous wristwatch).

So now I'm looking at replacing the battery (again?) in this watch or replacing it. Or should I perhaps just use my cell phone, now that I carry one around all the time? The cell phone always has the right time but there are instances when a wristwatch is less conspicuous.

Downtown KC

I had my camera with me while walking in downtown Kansas City.

This was the view Thursday afternoon of the 630-ft One Kansas City Place building. What a beautiful day!

We walked from Union Station to Crown Center with the boys and this was the view back toward downtown. The tall buildings are the Kansas City Power and Light building, One Kansas City Place, and the Town Pavilion. You can also see one of the Bartle Hall Pylons at the Convention Center on the far left.

Here's a shot in the other direction, from East of Union Station, looking South at the Liberty Memorial, which is the national World War 1 memorial and museum.

Here's Shannon and the boys walking through Union Station. There was too much glare from the afternoon sun for the pictures to turn out, but it's an impressive place to walk through.

And here's Brennan and Tanner at Crown Center where we ate at Fritz's. Those boys are just precious.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Clean Blogging

For the near absence of anything approaching profane language, and relatively little smoking, my blog has been rated G.

For some reason that surprised me, but I'll take it.

No Smoking Please

I drove my car over to the Kansas City Convention Center in downtown KC for the North American Christian Convention. No problem there.

But on the way back home I noticed that my eyes felt dry and itchy. And then I smelled smoke and burning plastic. And then I could see little streams of white smoke pouring out of the crevices of my steering column. And the longer I drove the more the smoke began to accumulate inside the car.

That's not right.

My blinker lever has been broken for a while but now it's begun smoking. What's next? If I get in the car tomorrow and my steering column has a back tattoo or a nose ring, I'm going to be soooo disappointed; she's only 14!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Blog You Later

All kinds of things are going on, enough that I won't be able to blog much the next few days.
  • The NACC is this week and I'm figuring out when I can be there and when I need to be back here.
  • Cowboy Smith, of Show-Me Christian Youth Home fame, is staying at our place this week.
  • Church camp is coming up again next week. We have 17 kids and half a dozen adults from our church going to next week's camp (that's a lot for us).
  • One of our Elders, Joe S., from our church is going to Mexico Saturday. He'll spend a week there working with the missionaries and local churches in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.
  • Happy July 4th. Take a moment to reflect on what that really means.
  • I'm working through a pile of books, but I just found another that I'd like to get: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming by Christopher C. Horner. I heard an interview on the radio with this guy and absolutely loved it, but since I just placed an order for some other books, I probably won't buy this one for quite awhile. But who knows, maybe I'll find it used or something.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Consider the Source, Part 2

If you've been following the conversation, Rick the Mouseherder continued his smear against Lt. Pete Hegseth's service to our country and I offered a few of my thoughts, on this topic and others, in the comment section of my earlier article.

But I didn't stop there, I also decided to contact Mr. Hegseth and invite him to read my blog where he was impugned. He did and was polite enough to write back. In part he said:

…Sourcewatch is very good at providing instant—and erroneous—ammunition to angry lefties.

Yes, I am conservative. Yes, I am in the National Guard. And yes, outside of any political affiliation I have, I believe in our country’s mission in Iraq. And I find it interesting that Rick claims that I only “fooled around in the Army.” Far from being forced to go to Iraq, I volunteered. In fact, in 2005 I fought for 6 weeks to get from the National Guard to Active Duty for a year so I could deploy with the 101st Airborne to Iraq. For all intents and purposes, I scratched and clawed my way to Iraq, eager to join the fight. I also volunteered knowing that I would be an infantry platoon leader for the first 6 months. That meant leading 40 men during combat missions and patrols in hostile territory. If that’s Rick’s idea of “fooling around,” then he needs to get a better hobby. In addition, I volunteered to become a Civil-Military Operations officer for the battalion as well, which entailed almost daily patrols into the heart of Samarra, meeting with rival factions and putting great trust in Iraqi allies. And today I’m still in the National Guard, which could mean another deployment.

Rick needs to do his research, rather than regurgitating the partisan banter the folks on Sourcewatch love to spread…
Thank you Mr. Hegseth for your service and your patience with people who slander you behind your back.

Mr. Hegseth suggested (and I do too) that everyone read the most recent Michael Yon report. This is what we're fighting against.

Random Thoughts 7/2/07

  • An old favorite of mine, the A-10 Warthog, is getting a serious upgrade. The A-10C PE (precision engagement) will see the old 'Hogs get new wings, new radios, new avionics and targeting systems, etc., extending the useful life of the 1970's vintage A-10 well into the 21st century. I find it fascinating that one of the most useful aircraft in the Long War is one of the oldest, slowest, and cheapest airframes in the arsenal. Hmmm…
  • We've discovered that the puppy responds well to bacon-flavored doggy treats. So does our three year old. They look and smell like bacon-flavored beef jerky, which Elijah thought tasted pretty good when he sampled it. Shannon yelled at him, "Lijy, honey, no! That's food for the puppy!" To which he insisted, "it good."
  • I'm still trying to figure out when I can get away to the North American Christian Convention which starts tomorrow. The NACC has several events I would be interested in but I'm limited in the time I have and the degree to which I'm willing to spend any of the church's money. I'm torn. I am excited, however, to play host to my old college roommate during the convention. He'll be at booth 311 if you'd like to meet him.
  • I've got to stop wanting an iPhone. The inner-geek must be contained!
  • The last 150 or so F-14 Tomcats are being chopped up in the desert right now. It's important that these planes (or their parts) do not end up on the international black market, but it is kind of sad that there will soon be no flying F-14s. Aircraft dating back to World War 1 have been acquired by private groups and restored to flying condition for air shows and such. But even at 35 years old, the F-14 is too high tech to be exposed to prying eyes. Soon we'll only have museum displays and memories.

What a Loser (8 months)

I've been stuck at the 35-40 pounds-lost plateau for several months now but I have received some good news. Last week I went in for a physical and passed with flying colors. I pretty much got the full workup, blood work, EKG, and all the incidentals, and at every step they said things looked perfect. This pleased (surprised?) me to no end because I'm still pretty heavy, probably quite a bit heavier than I look. But to get a clean bill of health was a real encouragement.

I still don't eat pizza, fried chicken, and sugar pop like I used to (I had a slice and a half of pepperoni last night–only the third or fourth time I've had pizza in the last eight months). My diet has been the biggest factor in my weight loss (I still don't exercise as regularly as I'd like).

I took the physical to gain acceptance into a clinical trial of a new flu vaccine. If I'm accepted I'll be monitoring my health more closely than I ever have and I'm hoping that attention to detail will jump start my continued weight loss.