Monday, July 21, 2014

Top 8 Vacation Wins

We had a great family vacation this summer, filled with winning.  Here are the top eight "wins" from the 2014 Altic family vacation.

8. Chevy Suburban
You want to take 7 people on a 3,400 mile road trip?  I don't think we would have even tried it except that we had the Suburban, probably the nicest vehicle we've ever owned.  It's comfortable, it's reliable, it had a built-in video player to help the kids endure the "great" plains.  With the addition of our neighbor's cargo rack and a friend's cargo bag, it was the best vehicle ever.
7. Crazy Horse Monument
This was always an "optional" part of the trip after an overnight stay in Deadwood, SD.  It turns out, it was quite a bit better than I had been told.  The statue, even in its unfinished state, is tremendous to behold and the American Indian museum on site is excellent.  If you have any interest in Native American culture and artifacts, the museum itself is probably worth the drive.

6. Teenage Travelers
Long drives with little kids are difficult.  The under-10 crowd gets tired and grumpy and doesn't understand why we're not "there yet."  But teenagers (and pre-teens) are fun traveling companions.  Brennan (13) and Tanner (12) kept us entertained with their wit and were a constant help in a thousand little ways.  What a wonderful treat to rediscover how much you enjoy your kids.

5. Mount Rushmore Ice Cream
We were told by a friend the best ice cream in the country is served in the shadow of a bunch of statues somewhere in South Dakota.  That is correct.

4. Devil's Tower
Another "optional" part of our trip that we decided to indulge in.  This bizarre-looking mountain ranked surprisingly high on my kids' list of favorite activities.  It's a beautiful park with a delightful little walk on a paved path that circles the mountain, winding among the boulders and trees.  I think it helped that I had the older boys watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind before the trip, so they were looking for UFO's too.

3. Extended Family
There's a reason that a family of seven doesn't take a lot of vacations – after food and lodging and admission, it's just too expensive.  But this trip had a lot of help from extended family, for which we are so grateful.  We were able to stop and spend a night at my uncle's house in Westcliffe, Colorado.  Then three nights at my Aunt's house in Monte Vista (with the two older boys staying with another uncle in Alamosa).  Then a beautiful dinner with Shannon's sister and brother in Grand Junction.  The first half of the trip was filled with love and hospitality. 

2. On budgetWe were prepared to do this trip under our own power but thanks to the generous hospitality of our extended family, we were way ahead of budget.  That changed the second half the trip from the "bare bones budget version" to the "let's drive over here and see this and buy the kids a treat" version.  When we pulled back into our Kansas City driveway, we were $5 under budget without having to tap any "reserves" but we had the best possible version of the trip.

1. Yellowstone
I just didn't have a clear idea of what Yellowstone really was.  Geysers?  Sure.  Bison, elk, and moose?  Of course.  But the overwhelming beauty and diversity…  I didn't know there would be so many geysers.  I didn't know parts of the park were so mountainous.  I had no idea that the lake was so beautiful.  The whole place was mesmerizing.

Random Thoughts 7/21/14

  • I was stunned when I asked my Sunday School class, comprised of two dozen adults of various ages and backgrounds, and only one person (other than my wife and me) had seen the movie Citizen Kane. This is arguably the best movie ever made and has been readily available for 70 years.  It's #1 or #2 on virtually every list of great films.  I'm afraid to admit that I live in a world where people have watched nine seasons of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" but have not seen Citizen Kane!
  • We took a family vacation last month that was both enjoyable and refreshing.  We drove 3400 miles through Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota.  I'll blog more about that separately. 
  • We are new subscribers to Netflix and I'm so impressed.  There's certainly an ocean of stuff on there I have zero interest in but there's one particular item I've really enjoyed.  The compete 11-season series of "Cheers."  My mom and I used to watch "Cheers" reruns together every night when I was in high school.  It's one of the funniest shows ever on television and now I can watch them all again at my convenience.  
  • Along the same lines, the one thing I would add to Netflix:  "M*A*S*H"
  • My wife has lost her wallet twice in the last two weeks.  Both times she got it back and both times she didn't lose a single penny.  God is good and, even when she's unusually absent-minded, Shannon is blessed.
  • While I was gone on vacation, KU basketball star Andrew Wiggins was drafted first overall in the NBA draft and teammate Joel Imbiid was drafted third.  This is huge publicity for the program but things got even more interesting after that.  The Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted Wiggins, then signed hometown hero and best player on the planet, LeBron James.  If Wiggins plays alongside James, that means he'll almost certainly be in the NBA playoffs every year from the beginning of his career.  I say "if," because there's a chance that Wiggins may be traded from Cleveland to Minnesota to help James build the team he wants.
  • One more Cleveland Cavaliers note:  Cleveland apparently contacted KU coach Bill Self about the coaching job there.  Now Cleveland may not have formally offered him the job, or Self may have turned it down, we don't know, but Self could have potentially gone to the NBA with his star player, Wiggins, and then ended up "coaching" LeBron James.  This would be most coaches' definition of a dream job.  If Self had the forethought to see those pieces coming together, was actually offered the job, and still turned it down… then that proves that Self is committed long-term to Kansas.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Camp Devotion - I Am Second

“He Must Become Greater"
by Jared Altic

Who was the greatest man who has ever lived (excluding Jesus)?  According to Jesus, it was John the Baptist.  Jesus said, “among those born of women, no one is greater than John," (Luke 7:28).

That’s an amazing endorsement.  And John pretty much deserved it.  He was a prophet and preacher like Elijah in a time when no one had seen a prophet from God in four hundred years.  John the Baptist was a gifted speaker and interesting personality that attracted and mesmerized Jews and Romans, traditionalists and liberals, soldiers and civilians.  Everyone went to hear him preach; he was kind of amazing.

But while John was doing his ministry out in the countryside, Jesus began his preaching also.  The crowds began to leave John and go over to Jesus.  Even some of John’s personal students left him to become disciples of Jesus.  Imagine a student today transferring to a rival school, mid-semester.  What would people think?!

But when asked about this, John answered, “The One who comes from Heaven is above all,” speaking of Jesus as greater than himself.  Then he said it directly, "He must become greater; I must become less”  (John 3:30).

Why would a great person step down from center stage?  We live in a world that says you simply must attract attention.  Be the fastest, the smartest, the most beautiful, the funniest.  Win, win, win.  Don’t be average because you’ll be forgotten.  You have to stand out and distinguish yourself; if you don’t promote you, no one else will.

But John understood what we seldom do.  Our value doesn’t come from being in first place.  Success doesn’t mean having the most money or the most trophies.  The real winners are the ones who trust in Jesus Christ.  John the Baptist said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them,” (John 3:36).

If I’m going to have real success or achieve anything meaningful, it begins with allowing myself to take a backseat to the One who truly deserves praise and honor.  Compared to him, I’m nothing.  Without him, I’m nothing.

Read: John 3:22-36; 1Thessalonians 4:11; Romans 12:3
Pray:  Ask God to show you what it means to be humble in today’s world.  Thank him for the work of Jesus Christ which saves us.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dreamliner Aerobatics

Camp Devotion - Forgiveness

“It’s Not Okay"
by Jared Altic

The stranger in front of me passes through the door and accidentally lets it close in my face.  They catch sight of me and apologize, “Oh, I’m sorry!"

"It’s okay,” I quickly reply.

And it is.  They didn’t mean to shut me out.  I wasn’t hurt by it in any way.  It was polite of them to apologize and it was polite of me to dismiss it easily.  It really was “okay.”  

Sometimes, however, we say “it’s okay” when it’s not okay at all.  Suppose someone apologizes for stealing from you or telling a lie about you.  You want to be polite and you respond with "it’s okay.”  But it’s wrong to steal or lie and their action may have really hurt you.  Their apology may be something you’ve wanted badly ever since the original wrongdoing occurred.  But when we dismiss their apology with “it’s okay” we are saying that their action was not inherently wrong and that no one was hurt by it.  We are assuring them of something we don’t actually feel.  It may be polite but it’s not true.

When someone does wrong to us and apologizes, we need to say “I forgive you.”  We can say it politely and mean it sincerely but sins have to be forgiven, not merely dismissed.  When we are the guilty party, God doesn’t just sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen.  God doesn’t look at our lies and lust, our greed and destructiveness and say, “It’s okay.”  No, he paid the price to fix the problem through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  When we repent and turn to God, feeling remorse for our wrongs, God forgives our sin.  He solves the problem; he doesn’t pretend that it didn’t exist in the first place.

Read:  Matthew 6:14; Acts 13:38; Luke 17:4; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13

Pray:  Help me to truly forgive those who have sinned against me.  Help me to recognize the seriousness and damage caused by sinful behavior.  Please forgive my sins as I’ve forgiven those who have sinned against me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Random Thoughts 7/16/14

  • Does anyone still play poker?  I haven't played in a couple years, but only because other things crowded in and took over.  We had a weekly poker night at my house, never gambling any money but keeping track of everyone's performance on a spreadsheet.  We had over a hundred different people come to our house to play from about 2006 to 2010-ish before the regular game died out.  I know that the No-Limit Hold-em game is past its heyday but I'd like to get that home game going again.
  • Speaking of poker, this year's World Series of Poker has concluded.  The professionals proved yet again that poker isn't a game of mere luck.  Phil Ivey won his 10th bracelet, Ted Forrest won his 6th, and 2009 champion Joe Cada won his second bracelet.  Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, Layne Flack, Jeff Lisandro, and Todd Brunson all made (multiple) final tables.
  • I meant to post the devotions I wrote for church camp this summer.  In fact, I thought that I already did.  I'll post both of them later today or maybe tomorrow.
  • The MacBook Pro which I use at work and home is easily the best computer I've ever owned.  I've had it for about three and half years and it's still going strong, no problems, no issues.  I still expect that someday, I'll transition from a laptop to a tablet, but that day hasn't come yet.
  • This is me not talking about politics.  If you don't have anything nice to say…