Friday, September 28, 2007

Minor Vehicle Repair

This is "new to us" truck we just got at the church. It is a 2002 V-6 Ford F150. We will use it for hauling stuff from Home Depot, hauling brush, picking up equipment, etc.

The previous owner installed custom tail lights, one of which was busted. Since we could not find a matching replacement, I bought factory replacements. Amanda was playing with the tools and was fascinated by the socket wrench, so I showed her how to use it to loosen the bolts to take off the tail light.

Next I showed her how to take the old cover off, unscrew the bulbs and how the new ones would screw in.

Amanda watched me do one and then she did the other one all by herself. She could literally change a tail light by herself now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

No Cat In The Hat Here

This is one of three baby bunnies we found in the yard yesterday. I scooped each one of them up in my hat and moved them to the bushes for safety so I could mow.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Baby Come Home!

Right after lunch on Wednesday, I took Brooke to the airport. She left for Kansas City for a children's leader conference Thursday-Saturday. My wife would claim it is because God loves her, but she has a friend who lives in KC that she was able to visit Saturday night through Monday. I say that because her friend was also able to get the tickets to the opening home game of the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. To hear Brooke talk, this was almost a religious experience!

So Brooke is coming home tomorrow. She caught a flight that would bring her home after Amanda gets out of school because she knew Amanda would want to go with me to pick her up. I'm glad Brooke enjoyed the conference and got to visit "heaven", but I am so very glad she is coming home tomorrow. I don't think I could make it much longer.

Whenever Mommy is going to be out of town (or at least gone for a night), it is always time to plan a Daddy/Daughter date night. We had one of those Saturday night, and it was fun. But I think when Mommy is gone, Amanda unwraps that string she has wrapped around her little finger (her Daddy), grabs both ends and gives it a tug just to see how loudly she can make it sing. Amanda hasn't been bad, but this weekend she seems to have been operating under the mistaken impression that the world revolves around her. I've tried to bring a little balance to her world view and I think we have come to an understanding.

Boy, the whole single parent thing is much more complicated than it looks from the outside! Every time I have several days alone with Amanda, I gain a new respect for single parents I know. No matter how well I organize my time, it seems I do not have time for everything that has to be done. Just the cooking alone is killing me! I hate to come right home from work and cook, but if I don't, the time just gets away from me and then it's late. And then today. There was nothing that felt easy to fix for lunch after Church, and I didn't want to take Amanda to McDonalds again. We had to run by the store to get milk anyway, so I grabbed some Chicken Helper to make Chicken Alfredo because Amanda thought that sounded good (if McDonalds was out). By the time we got home and I fixed it, it was after 2pm. I took Amanda over to a friend's at 5pm for dinner.

Between the little bit of cooking I have been doing, the one load of clothes I have done, the little bit of keeping up with Amanda's school work and running Amanda back and forth to spend-the-night parties, birthday shopping, etc, I am spent. OK, I'll admit it, I'm a wimp. It hasn't even been a week and I can't wait for Brooke to get back.

So these past few days have confirmed what I already knew...I need my wife! I'm glad she could get away, go to a good conference and then relax this weekend, but I'm counting the hours until I pick her up tomorrow night.

Baby, come home!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Biking and Geocaching

Brooke is out of town for a children's conference and Amanda went straight from school to a friend's house to spend the night. Could there be any more perfect time for geocaching? I started off biking an 11 cache series (I found 9 of them) along a trail in North Arlington (see map). Since I grabbed one earlier today (one I had not been able to find on two previous attempts), I needed just 5 more to make 15 for the day. It was getting dark by the time I got to the last one, but I found it and ended the day as a happy geocacher.

An Opportunity, an Honor...and Just Plain Fun

There is a couple at our church who has a son who is a Special Forces marine. He is on leave now and will be going back to Iraq (volunteered this time) for his third tour at the end of the month. I was told he was interested in taking his new Springfield XD40 (chambered in .45 ACP) to the range. Rather than just tell him where the range was, I volunteered to go shooting with him, and today was the day we went.

The whole time he was coming to pick me up, I kept telling myself, "Don't act like a little kid gawking at a super hero". That may sound silly, but I love to read about guys like this...let alone getting to spend time talking to him. If I wasn't called to ministry, and if I wasn't such a wimp, I would love to do what these guys do (I'm not afraid of what they do, I just know I would never survive the training!). He told me about a book titled No True Glory. He said it was a well-written and accurate book about the fighting he was a part of in Fallujah. You know I will be checking that book out from the library soon or heading over to Amazon if they don't have it!

We talked about a lot of stuff ranging from the false picture the US media gives of what is going on there, the progress being made there and attitudes of the soldiers there, to the kinds of weapons he trains with, to some of the stuff he had trained to do, to hanging upside down from a rope from a helicopter and shooting.

He told me his parents weren't too happy about him volunteering for his third tour in Iraq. He got blown up during his first tour (something about his intestines no longer being on his insides, I think!) and his mother getting the call and thinking that he had been killed. He said this will probably be his last tour, but he explained, "I get to blow up stuff, shoot cool guns and jump out of airplanes. I don't have to pay to do these things...I get paid to do it. It's like every guy's dream." If it didn't come with the possibility of getting your guts blown out (or worse), who could argue with that?

So hopefully I sounded interested in what he did and didn't sound like an idiot. What an awesome opportunity, and what an honor, to spend a couple hours with a guy like this who serves his country with honor, integrity and skill.

Geocaching Chance of a Lifetime?

Got an email from a friend today. Couldn't take advantage of the offer for a number of reasons, but wow, what an opportunity that would have been!

A quick question for you... Are you going to the HIP event in Plano this Sunday? We are coming up Saturday morning and caching along the way but will arrive at the hotel in Plano sometime Saturday afternoon or evening.

Before and after the Sunday event, we will cache as late as possible then the cool part.
We are caching with Team NAB Monday all day. We knew of them before our Nashville run and happened to run into them while going nuts in Nashville, ditched the rent car and went with them, GeoPirat, Cash & Kari and nashpredfan for the remainder of the day. They are very nice and calm people. Since then, we have kept up with them and they have suggested this cache adventure on Monday.

If you are not familiar with their cachemobile, you would not believe me if I told you everything in that van. First it is a Mercedes stand up van that holds probably 11 people. The thing is so awesome it even has a GPS repeater inside of it. Yes, a repeater so nobody will loose satellite lock while in it. This van falls just short of looking like Mission Control inside.

Anyway, they have invited us to cache with them Monday and have told me there are 3 seats open for other people. I guess they don't want too many people in it for this one.

If they have not given away the available seats yet, would you be interested in me checking into you getting a seat for the outing? We will probably get 85-100 finds. We are hoping for that amount anyway. Rhonda and I have a really tough goal before or on our 3rd year of caching and this will help. It should take us from 17th to 15th place in the Texas rankings if we can pull it off.

If you are interested, I will check into it and see if there are any available seats. It would be cool to see you again and to introduce you to one of the best known cachers in the USA.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What About Breakfast?

I woke up this morning at 6am and had to make a brief run to the restroom...which of course made the dogs feel they needed to do the same, so I let them outside. I considered staying up but decided the extra hour of sleep would feel good. The dogs and I crawled back in bed (Brooke left for KC for a conference, so she wasn't there).

It didn't take long to get back to sleep, and boy, that extra hour felt like two...actually, it was two! I woke up, feeling great, and rolled over to see how much time I had until my 7am alarm went off. As Gomer Pyle would have said, "Surprise, surprise, surprise" was 2 minutes until 8:00. The bell at Amanda's school rings at 8:20am.

I jumped out of bed, woke up Amanda and told her, "Punkin, it's 8 o'clock. We are supposed to be leaving for school right now. If you hurry, I think we can make it before the bell rings." Her response? "What about breakfast?" She had been awake all of 10 seconds, and that was on her mind already.

So the short version is, Amanda was dressed and had her hair combed and looking pretty by the time I was dressed and ready to leave. She ate a banana, we stopped by church to grab her notebook (we accidentally left it there yesterday), grabbed a granola bar out of my desk and got Amanda to school before the bell rang. I went back home, grabbed a shower, fixed her lunch and got it to her before morning snack time.

All of that excitement and a "funny" story to tell Mommy to boot!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Some Days Your Parents Make You Proud...

...this just isn't one of those days!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's That Love/Hate Relationship Again

Aaaggghhhhh! If you Google any of the major cell phone companies, you can find unhappy people...and Sprint is no exception. I was searching for this logo to use in my blog post and found out that Sprint has actually canceled contracts because people have spent too much time calling customer service! Who, in their right mind, would call Sprint customer service if it was not absolutely necessary (as in 'a necessary evil')?

After these past two days, I may be on their list. In the last two days, I have spent 2 hours and 45 minutes on the phone with customer service. You see, I just added a fifth line to my account so that my parents could switch from Cingular/AT&T to Sprint. I've got extra Family Plan minutes and they have no more contract with AT&T. They will be paying just $20/month for their two phones and I'll save minutes by being able to call them mobile-to-mobile. Seemed like a good idea for both of us. So the plan was to port their Cingular numbers over to my Sprint account and close their account. Sounds simple enough, right?

Let me make the LONG (2 hour, 45 minute) story short. There is an old saying, "It's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know." With Sprint, it's not WHAT you say, it's WHO you talk to. I talked to 2 people for a combined time of 2 hours this week (that does not count 30 minutes of hold time just to start the process!). There was a 'password' problem porting the numbers over to my account. I explained what I was trying to do, explained that AT&T already knew what was going on and explained all we need was for Sprint to 'do their thing'. After repeatedly being transferred to one non-native-English-speaker after another (2 hours, 2 phone calls), I was finally transferred to a nice lady who asked, once again, "How may I help you." When I explained how much time I had spent with customer service over the past two days, she seemed to take a genuine interest in solving my problem...and solve it she did. I am not exaggerating when I say 2 MINUTES after I explained what I was trying to do and what the problem was, she had it fixed! Both lines have been switched (when I call, I get Sprint voice mail), and now all I am waiting for is for the phones to be activated.

So my love/hate relationship with Sprint continues. One minute they are giving me two free phones and 600 more minutes for less money that I was paying before, and the next call they are reading from a script with a hard-to-understand accent seemingly not interested in helping me solve a problem.

If I lived in the country where the majority of Sprint customer service representatives appear to be from, I guess I would be happy knowing it is time for my cell phone karma to change for the better once more!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Please pause a moment, reflect back, and take the following multiple-choice test.

The events are actual events from history. They actually happened! Do you remember?

1. 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by
a. Superman
b. Jay Leno
c. Harry Potter
d. a Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40

2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:
a. Olga Corbett
b. Steve Prefontaine
c. Arnold Schwarzenegger
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

3. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:
a. Lost Norwegians
b. Elvis
c. A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

4. During the 1980's a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:
a. John Dillinger
b. The King of Sweden
c. The Boy Scouts
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

5. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:
a. A pizza delivery boy
b. Pee Wee Herman
c. Geraldo Rivera
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

6. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by:
a. The Smurfs
b. Davey Jones
c. The Little Mermaid
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

7. In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a US Navy diver trying to rescue passengers was murdered by:
a. Captain Kidd
b. Charles Lindberg
c. Mother Teresa
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

8. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by:
a. Scooby Doo
b. The Tooth Fairy
c. The Sundance Kid
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

9. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by:
a. Richard Simmons
b. Grandma Moses
c. Michael Jordan
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

10. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by:
a. Mr. Rogers
b. Hillary Clinton, to distract attention from Wild Bill's women problems
c. The World Wrestling Federation
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

11. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:
a. Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd
b. The Supreme Court of Florida
c. Mr. Bean
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

12. In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against:
a. Enron
b. The Lutheran Church
c. The NFL
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

13. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by:
a. Bonnie and Clyde
b. Captain Kangaroo
c. Billy Graham
d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

Nope,..........I really don't see a pattern here to justify profiling, do you?

So, to ensure we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile certain people. They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are members of the President's security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winning and former Governor Joe Foss, but leave Muslim Males between the ages 17 and 40 alone lest they be guilty of profiling.

As the writer of the award winning story "Forrest Gump! " so aptly put it, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Solomon Says...

When words abound, transgression is inevitable, but the one who restrains his words is wise. -- Proverbs 10:19

Monday, September 10, 2007

Perhaps a Better Title Would Be...

...I Reasoned Myself Away From God.

I eagerly began reading I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing faith through the eyes of an atheist's eyes about a week ago. You can read here how I found the book and the reviews I read if you did not catch my earlier blog post.

As I read the first part of the book, I thought I would be moving it to the "Good Reads" section along the right hand side of my blog, but then I got into the "critiques" of the churches Mr. Mehta (a.k.a "the Friendly Atheist") visited, and a knot just grew in my stomach.

The first part of the book was quite eye-opening and exactly what I had hoped it would introduction to Hemant Mehta, an explanation of the eBay auction that started this book, a brief history of what led him to be an atheist (a well thought out route) and a glimpse into what it is like to live as an atheist in America. He shared the "challenges" he and other atheists face living in a "Christian nation", the biases he has experienced and a description of how he feels most Christians perceive atheists.

Two thoughts crossed my mind as I read Mr. Mehta's life story (the little bit he shared in the book): 1) he is a person I would enjoy sitting down and talking with and 2) I firmly believe that had he been alive in Jesus' lifetime, he would have sought out Jesus to talk with him. Mr. Mehta seems like the most open-minded atheist I have read or conversed with on the Internet (granted, that is not a huge pool!).

But once he got into the real "purpose" of the book, to share his experiences, insights and thoughts after visiting at least 15 Christian churches, my hopes for the book were crushed. I was pretty sure, based on the fact that this book was touted on the Rant and Reason humanist blog I frequent, that the author was not converted after visiting these churches. But I hoped, obviously against reason, that the author's responses would be different than those of the few atheists/humanists I have chatted with online.

To say I hoped, against reason, is kinda ironic in this case because I believe "reason" or "logic" to be the atheist's "god". And that is what crushed me as I read about Mr. Mehta's visits to various churches. He did make a number of comments that were helpful in understanding the way a non-Christian who has never been in a church would perceive certain things that go on in a church. But much too often, he just missed the point because he funneled everything through the filter of reason and logic.

Please don't get me wrong...I believe my Christian faith to be very reasonable and logical, but the Bible plainly states: Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Those to come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6...and the verse from where I get the root off my email address). The Bible also says in Romans 8:5, For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.

Since I have taken so long to get to this point, I will leave you with just two examples of "missing the point" in this book. The first small example was when he was talking about the different forms or "moves" in Christian worship such as lifting one hand, lifting two hands, holding the hands over the heart, pointing toward heaven, hands raised but elbows to the side, etc. His observation: "were people trying to "out worship" those around them?" I suppose it is possible (I have seen some kooky Christians), but the comment also serves to show he has no understanding of a personal relationship with Christ that would draw one to raise hands in worship or hold one's hand over his/her heart.

The second, and last example I will share was his stressing of the physical to the exclusion of the spiritual (which is only "logical" to an atheist who does not believe in the supernatural). For instance, he stressed many times how he was impressed with churches that met real, physical needs (which we should do). However, he seemed to see no value at all in new churches being planted. His view was that resources should be used to feed people instead of build churches. Obviously the church should meet the physical needs of those we are trying to reach with the Gospel, but Mr. Mehta missed the point...we believe there is value in teaching someone about Christ and saving his/her soul from hell. While we should not preach without meeting needs, he thought the church would be better off meeting needs only. And there is no "logical" way to explain it to him.

I said the latter part of the book left a knot in my stomach. I say that because it was just a repeat of my limited interaction with atheists/humanists. There is no way to "debate somebody into heaven". And yet, those who have thought their way into atheism (that is, who have considered the options and found atheism to be the best answer), seem willing to accept nothing less. Mr. Mehta claims if he saw a miracle in person, that would be enough to cause him to convert to Christianity. Yet I believe everything he says in his book demonstrates that he would find some "natural" way to explain it and would find no need for faith.

And that is what puts a knot in my stomach. I had hoped to better understand people like the author of this book and those who write for Rant and Reason. I think I understand "their world" a little better, but I don't think I gained a thing to help reach them for Christ.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ashamed of the Flag

First it was Superman, and now GI Joe. Seems it is no longer politically correct to be pro- American. I guess if this keeps up, next thing we'll see is Uncle Sam wanting YOU to renounce your US citizenship and become a "citizen of the world".

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Global Warming Strikes Again!

I can't stand it! Yet another UNPROVEN claim about the "dangers" of "global warming". Headline reads "Global Warming MAY Raise Incidence of Heart Disease". By golly, guess I need to write an article entitled "Global Warming MAY Make You Rich" or "Global Warming MAY Improve Your Sex Life" or "Global Warming MAY Make You Live Longer". It seems you do not have to back up anything with facts when it comes to claims about global warming.

Monday, September 03, 2007

(Almost) Camping This Weekend

We almost went camping this weekend. Well, we sorta went camping this weekend. OK, what I mean is Amanda and I camped with my parents in their new camper on Friday night, Brooke came in the morning and had breakfast with us all, we went home, Sunday night Amanda camped with them again and Monday morning we all had breakfast together. So we camped, we just did a lot of other stuff in between. The picture above is Amanda in her "fort" on the top bunk bed in the camper.

The ultimate camping meal...hamburgers! What's that? Yes, you are correct...I think hamburgers are the best meal any time!!

We went to a nature talk about owls in the park on Friday night. In this picture, Amanda is either holding an invisible, one-legged owl or a display owl foot from the presentation.

Turtle Doctoring?

This is turtle #4, Gina. Before she came to us she had been hit by a car. The back part of her shell that is jointed and can close up her shell had been injured. This part protrudes downward and scrapes on the ground. She was scratched up and starting to bleed last week, so I cleaned the area, put antibiotic ointment on it and taped it for a few days to help keep it clean. Right now she is eating and walking around, so I guess she OK, although I suspect that part of her shell hurts. We are going to continue feeding her and keeping her wound clean. From there, we'll have to see what happens.

50...Say It Ain't So

Our church secretary and good friend Tammy Barch celebrated a "significant milestone birthday" this past weekend and we celebrated with her. Here are a few pictures from the party!

Daddy's Girl