12/29/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTY-SEVEN

Tip of the Day:


Never wear two left shoes if you have to make a whole bunch of right turns.

12/27/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTY-SIX

Tip of the Day:


While Acetone may be outlawed in Europe, here in America, it's still a perfectly safe way to remove unsightly scars and skin blemishes...as well as all sorts of automotive adhesives, some greases, oils, nail polish and paints. It also helps in refining cocaine. Hmmmm

12/26/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTY-FIVE

Tip of the Day:


If you can't hold a note when singing, then it's best to just sing as loud as you can. That way, people will think you are "special".

12/24/2006

SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS






The song is my favorite Christmas song. The video, as emotional and hopeless as any depicted, gives this season the contrast it usually lacks.

It is not my intention to sadden you on this Christmas Eve. But it is my hope that as Merry as our Christmas may be, that we will remember to bring hope out of it to all those who are suffering the deepest emotional pain a human being can imagine, and in some way, may it spur us on to search for, find, and administer healing to all in this world.

God Bless us all, every one of us.


John Lennon/Happy Christmas (War is Over)

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTY-FOUR

Tip of the Day:


Some are lawyers, some are doctors. Many are bankers, business men, and computer techies. But none of you have a town named after your profession like I do. Check out Carpentersville, Illinois, baby!

I have never heard of Lawyersville, or Bankersville, or Pschychiatristsville, or
Chiropractorsville, or ITville, or Politiciansville (what a horrid place that must be), or Candlestickmakersville, or Exterminatorsville, or Authorsville, or Baptistspreachersville, or Nunville, or Nurseville, or Doctorsville, or Gangstersville, or any other profession, except maybe Bakersville.

I guess my tip is, if you want the really prestigious jobs, you are going to have to be a carpenter or a baker.

12/23/2006

THINGS I'VE OBSERVED THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

It's almost Christmas! How did that happen?

As this "season" sprouts its wings to full length, I have observed several things in the process. Here they are:

1. My daughter and I did not do a Christmas tree this year. You know what? Christmas doesn't feel any different. I wonder if there is a lesson there...somewhere.
2. I still haven't learned how to wrap a guitar as a gift. "Here, Daughter. Bet you can't guess what this is."
3. It being Christmas, you'd think the dust bunnies would head south for the winter.
4. There are so many people in this world.

Yes, I finally noticed that. I admit; it took me a while.

6. I'm ready for Christmas, and I haven't even broken a sweat doing it. Why does everyone else seem so out of breath?
7. Walmart's parking lot isn't big enough.
8. It turns out the local Ice cream parlor's parking lot is too big. There's hardly anyone ever parked there. Go figure.
9. It's really hard to pack snowballs right now. The rain water just keeps slipping through your fingers.
10. Shopping at Pick n Save on the Saturday before Christmas isn't a good idea. I saw one guy roll his eyes up into his head a dozen times as he waited with two grocery carts in the aisle next to mine. He was behind an elderly lady who somehow had enough money left over for three grocery carts. How do you do that, anyway?
11. That noise on the roof isn't Santa. It's the Red Squirrel from hell, and he's cold. Won't you let him in for a while?
12. One of my neighbors is Clark Griswold. I usually think nothing of his decorations this time of year. However, as I was walking past the power pole next to his house, I noticed a strange humming sound coming from the transformer. Do you think I ought to tell him?
13. It's cool, because ever since Clark's Christmas lights came on, I haven't had to turn on a single light in my house.
14. I won't decorate this year. The grass is already green. What with Clark and his lights, and the green grass, how much more Christmas color could a fellow want? If I need any white, I'll just grow my hair out. I'm sure there's some white in there.
15. Should I take down my Easter decorations yet?
16. I know its Christmas, but my calendar says it's July 16th. Is this wishful thinking, or did Christmas start early this year?
17. My house is a big mess right now. So, in keeping with the season, I am giving myself the gift of a clean house. Now, if I can just find that phone book so I can call a maid in before Christmas day.
18. Does the word "Yuletide" remind anyone else of donkeys?
19. I tried to lasso a buck the other day. I wanted to tie him to my sleigh so I could drive to my parent's house using an alternate fuel. Damn! They're quick! The buck got away, and now he won't come near me. I'm thinking of using a doe decoy, though. How far should I have her bend over for the proper effect?
20. Last night, in preparation for the big Christmas holiday, we got four inches of rain. Excellent!

12/22/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTY-THREE

Tip of the Day:



Never wash your hands with Nitric acid unless it is absolutely necessary.

12/20/2006

POST REGURGITATION

It struck me today how long I have been at this blogging thing. I think my log-in button said there had been 469 posts since I first began? Is that right ? Being curious, I looked back to find my first ever post. (Don't worry, I won't post that ugly thing here, other than to say Bruce was the very first commenter here ever) It was on June 20, 2004. That means I have been in Bloggyland for two and one-half years, to the date. How time flies.

So, I asked myself, "What's the laziest way I can celebrate that, and share it with all of you?"

I think I found it. It's a post regurgitation, from the year 2004. It's called Sunday Evening Thoughts. I have not changed it one bit. My daughter is fourteen now, though she was twelve then. The list of rules still applies. Read on, and I hope you enjoy.


It’s Sunday evening, and it’s raining. What has this world done to my daughter?


I asked her if she wanted to go outside with me in the rain, and just play, run around like a bunch of nuts. You know what she did? She gave me that LOOK. You know the one. It’s the look that twelve year olds are famous for, and I have been getting it quite a bit lately.


It’s the look that asks, “Daddy, are you an idiot?” I love watching her grow up, but I’m not sure about this look. Did she learn it from me? I hope not!


And hey!!! I told her to stop growing up four years ago! What’s with this gross disobedience? Did she learn that from me as well? What punishments can I levy for this? I clearly told her, ”No more maturing, no more growing. From now on, you will be eight, forever.” What is this world coming to when our children misbehave like this?


Seriously, I am looking forward to the next few years, say four or five, with anticipation, and a very, very heavy dose of anxiety. Let’s see, she is twelve now…………..so in five years, she will be seventeen. Aaaaaagggghhhhh!!!!!!!!#@!@#!!


I have so much to look forward to, and so much to worry about. Take for instance, dating. My daughter isn’t going to date until she’s married. What’s that, you ask? “How can she get married if she doesn’t date?” Now you’re gettin’ it.


Okay, so I can’t keep her from dating, I know that. But this I also know; the poor chap who kisses her first will be beaten within an inch of his life, so he better wait until he asks her to marry him. Then, I might only pound him with my baseball bat a FEW times. We’ll see, it all depends on how I feel that day, because you never can tell, right?


Actually, none of that will PROBABLY happen, but I make no promises at this point. I just am really not looking forward to it all. I know how I was at seventeen. So she better steer clear of guys who are like I was. And I will be able to tell.


I will simply meet this fine upstanding youth at the door, ask him inside, and lay down the ground rules. Here they are, or at least a partial list:


1. Kissing is as far as you can go with my daughter.

2. Kissing is forbidden, so rule # 1 is really just built-in redundancy.

3. If you pick her up at 8:00 pm, she must be home at 8:15 pm, on the same day.

4. No driving is allowed, so rule # 3 is again, just built in redundancy.

5. If she says no to anything, and you disregard it, I will kill you.

6. If you go further than rule # 2, I will kill you.

7. If you think my daughter is a punching bag, run fast, because I’m one of those guys who LIKES hitting men who hit women.

8. Holding hands is allowed (hey! I’m not an ogre!), …………..so long as you wear surgical gloves.

9. Throw away the breath mints, or breath spray, you won’t be needing them tonight. Kindly see rule # 2.

10. Bow to me upon entering, and leaving, for I am king. : D


There is going to be a whole host of other rules, but for now, I have time, this will have to do.



Now, where’s that baseball bat?

12/19/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTY-TWO

Tip of the Day:

Just because the grass is greener on the other side doesn't mean it tastes better, too.

12/18/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTY-ONE

Tip of the Day:

All joking aside, I recommend driving with your eyes closed if you are prone to road rage. That way, you won't have to watch what everyone else is doing to piss you off while driving.

12/17/2006

THE BEST OF TIMES

Silence? Solitude? The quiet moments when realization of a path opens for the first time? When old paths finally end, and new ones begin?

What is this hope we have, when at once we suddenly understand that within us lies all of the power and knowledge we need, and the freedom to make use of it? And how do we come to this?

For each of us, it is different. I have tried solitude and silence, as well as passive meditation while working. I have tried walking, running, exercising, sleeping, dreaming, smoking, drinking, eating, screaming, laughing, talking and listening. Answers to my hardest questions have arrived while spending time doing each of these things. Answers have arrived while I was doing nothing.

So many of us have heard that in order to hear "the small quiet voice inside", we have to be silent enough to hear it. My experience is different. Silence works. So does talking. Working works, too. Each of the items I just listed above have at times, produced moments of intense clarity and understanding.

We may call these moments "Eureka!" moments. We may call them any old thing we like, but the thrill of the moment is the filling up of hope into an emptying cup. It is sometimes the moment before we run dry, and pass out from exhaustive searching. It can be the moment right before we are about to make a bad mistake. It can also be right after we have just arrived at a different "Eureka!" moment, and even greater clarity lies inside of our grasp.

Whatever the moment is called, whenever it comes, I have found that nothing works every time, for everyone; especially not for me. Within my experience, I have learned that everything can work, sometimes, and sometimes, nothing works ever.

Sometimes we just put too much pressure on the moment, and other times, not enough. Sometimes we fight the voice within, and other times we lean too much on some new piece of knowledge, and forget that we may already know what we need to know.

In whatever way we arrive at the "Eureka!", it has been my experience that it is different each time. I have striven to force that moment sometimes, and never have I been able to bring it about on my own. The recipe was never complete enough for me to pull "Eureka!" out of the oven of my brain without just the right amount of seasoning.

I am left in the knowledge that the greatest seasoning we can apply to the greatest moments of clarity in our lives is just to live and let these moments season by themselves. Sure, one "Eureka!" moment may come some day while I am in solitude. But there is a much greater chance, I think, that it will come whenever it comes, regardless of what I am doing at the moment. The only thing I have to do at that moment is to be alive to experience it.

This is life at its most patient; beginning to understand fully that all things are seasoned not by my effort and willfulness, but by events and circumstances that are for the most part beyond my control. I do what I can do. I am what I am, and I am who I am. This is life at its best.

These are the best of times.

12/16/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTY

Tip of the Day:

It's just plain silly to believe that a lite beer weighs less than a heavy beer.

12/15/2006

MOMENTUM

As I have been fairly active these last few weeks in attempting to rehabilitate my life from the devastation of divorce and bankruptcy several years ago, my most recent foray has been into the jungles of home mortgages.

I have lived in the same house for eleven years; the same house which once I owned, then lost in foreclosure, rented for the last five years, and now am trying to buy back again. It's not easy arranging financing with a bankruptcy and foreclosure in the past, two items, I might add, that were more or less forced upon me as the result of my divorce. That was an extremely large and difficult pill to swallow. Swallow it I did, and I have been chewing the cud of it for the last five plus years.

I made a decision, though, about a year ago, to not be a victim anymore. I may have been a victim in my divorce, and several bad things may have happened, but I decided last year to not let those things happen again if it were within my power. This process of arranging financing has tested the resolve of my decision to be a victim no longer. It would be so easy to just whine and give up, and tell myself, "This is just too hard". Four years ago, I would have given up.

The truth is, though, that I am sick of playing a victim. I am sick of living life by other people's rules, whims, and insensitivity's. I am long sick of believing I am at the mercy of others when it comes to things like this. Please understand, the easy path would be to simply stay a "victim"; it's such a handy excuse. At least that's how it seems.

But I just can't do it. I envision MORE. I envision fully being what I am made to be, and stretching the limits of even that. Playing the part of a victim destroys that vision utterly.

I asked myself in pity the other day, "How long am I going to have to pay for the mistakes of others?" What a silly question. The truth is, I don't have to pay, I simply have to decide to forge ahead, and leave the past behind. In essence, the past is not a wall in front of me, barring my way, although it is simpler to view it as such. Rather, the past is a wall behind me, protecting me from dwelling in it, and making the same mistakes over and over again. Everything in front of me is new; I haven't been here before, and isn't it all grand to behold?

It would be so easy to just stop the hard work of arranging financing to repurchase my home. At least that is what it looks like from behind the wall of the past. But I am not behind that wall anymore, and the clearness of my vision nowadays tells me that the lie is behind the wall; the lie that shouldn't be trusted, the lie that tells me to give up. It's a lie because giving up only seems easier. There is this incredible quantity called momentum, which is easily maintained once the initial inertia of standing still (quitting) is overcome.

It's all friction. That's all that it is, really. Overcoming friction when you are already moving is actually easier than stopping and giving up. A victim would do the hard work of stopping. That victim, however, lies dead and buried behind the wall of the past. He can't come out to play anymore.

12/14/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-NINE

Tip of the day:

Contrary to rumors, drinking Titebond Wood Glue is not a suitable substitute for eating an actual meal.

It's only about half as nutritious as real food.

12/13/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-EIGHT

Tip of the Day:

When setting a deadline for an important project, it's advisable to not put off every decision concerning it until after the deadline.

Just thought you should know that.

12/12/2006

IT'S GOING TO HAVE TO BE ENOUGH

Sometimes just getting through the day is going to have to be enough. So often, we hear people saying, "I have to do this" or "I have to do that". It gets even worse when we tell ourselves these things.

Why do we think we "have" to do anything beyond the absolutely essential? Why do we drive ourselves crazy with activity? Why, when we have a few moments to relax, do we sometimes find ourselves looking for something to do? Is it because we think that's what's expected of us? Is it because we expect that of ourselves?

There are truly some people in this world who must remain busy most of the time, such as single parents or people involved in a fight against starvation spending all day looking for ways to feed themselves and their family. But not everyone is in such dire need as this.

What's behind it? Do you know? Do you find yourself nodding your head as you read this, thinking, "Yeah, that's me. Why do I drive myself with so much activity?"

Just before I wrote this, I almost fell asleep on my couch relaxing. It was 6:00 pm! What a wonderful treat just to let go and be. What I have accomplished for this day is just going to have to be enough.

You ought to try it sometime. I think I will again later.

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-SEVEN

Tip of the Day:

Just because you can't hear the voices I hear doesn't mean they don't exist.

It really just means you're jealous.

12/11/2006

AM I ABLE TO CRAWL BACK INTO MY MOTHER'S WOMB?

I wonder what Jesus meant when He said, "You must be born again."?

Nicodemus wondered the same thing. But Nicodemus was a made man, how could he not know what Jesus meant? Was it possible that he didn't know the meaning exactly because he was a made man? Was it likely that everything Nicodemus "knew" about himself was false, because his original premise of God and His relationship with man was false?

"The foolish man built his house upon sand". (Somewhere in the bible)

"You must be born again".

How much did Nicodemus really know?

How much do I really know? Was I ever really myself, or have I been brought up to be someone else? Someone whose every thought and action was predicated on a lie?

This is no hit on my parents; they were the best. They forgave me so many times, even times when I couldn't forgive myself. They always loved me and my siblings, worked their asses off to keep good food (and I mean GOOD!) on the table, a good roof over our heads, and a good sense of confidence. In no way is this a slant on them.

But it is a slant on who I was, and why I wasn't me.

The fact is, I wasn't ever me, because I never knew how to be me; there was always some reason to be something different, something likable (or so I thought), something that others would accept. I never learned how to accept me, because I never knew I hadn't.

"You must be born again" begins to make some sense to me now. Start over, because what you knew, or what you thought you knew, was built on sand. All of your life, you believed God was, or could be angry with you. All of your life you spent measuring up to a God who never expected you to. All of your life, you spent earning something that could only be given. It's no wonder you didn't know that you didn't know who you were. You didn't know who you were because you believed you knew who you were, or at least believed you could find out.

You must be born again; start over. Throw away what you know about God and yourself, and rediscover the joy of living in His protection and love; the freedom He gives for us to live as we were born to live. You've never known what that was, because you've never known or been told that God wasn't angry with you, that He wouldn't get angry at you, and that His love depended only on His nature, and not yours.

But if you did know, then you know how fortunate you are to be embraced and included by our Father who embraces all that He has made.

Freedom lies in love, not in fear.

"Can a man crawl into his mother's womb and be born a second time?" (somewhere else in the bible)

Physically, it isn't necessary. But to be spiritually reborn, you have to begin at the beginning, and that can only happen by dying to yourself; to everything you have ever known. It is the final realization that indeed, a contaminated piece of soil spoils the entire well; a little bit of yeast can work through the entire dough. We can be wrong, and because we do not know, we can be entirely lost, and not know it.

Who can rescue us from this wicked state? Thank God, who sent His son to tell us the truth, and to show us the mighty and amazing life that is definite when you know God is pleased with you.

And He is pleased with you...


ALL OF YOU!!

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-SIX

Tip of the Day:

Don't antagonize an already angry elephant by telling him he's fat.

12/09/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-FIVE

Tip of the Day:

A lion's teeth don't really hurt all that much.

It's their breath that kills you.

12/08/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-FOUR

Tip of the Day:

Reading the bible backwards doesn't make sense.



Any questions?

12/06/2006

DO YOU HAVE THE FAITH THAT REDEEMS?

If there is one thing I know, it's that a perfect plan works. And because it's perfect, it always works, every time, for every one. It couldn't be perfect otherwise.

Imagine calling God a "loving God" who loves me so unconditionally that instead of demanding that I believe in Him, he gives me faith instead. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Call that same God "loving" when I turn around and tell the next person that he or she must believe in order to be redeemed. Continue to call Him "loving" as I tell that person that it isn't my faith, but the faith He gave to me that saves me, but still, "you have to believe to be redeemed".

Are you getting confused? I am.

It is true, however, that this is near to the way that Christians teach "unbelievers" about how to be redeemed. We may tell a man who doesn't believe that if he doesn't believe, God doesn't love him. We may tell that same man that once he believes, it wasn't his faith that redeemed him, but that the faith was a gift from God. Now are you confused?

Why bother telling someone to believe at all if all along, we know that this faith that redeems isn't from ourselves? What are we trying to pull? Yet many, many, many believers spend minutes to hours each day telling "unbelievers" exactly this.

"Oh, me? I believe! I know I'm redeemed. That's how much my God loves me. If you want to be redeemed too, you have to believe also."

Now does that sound like faith that isn't my own? Does that sound like I'm not boasting? Ephesians 2:8-9 is quoted widely amongst Christians, and is one of the verses they teach new believers as well as one they quote at "unbelievers".

Again, I ask the question, why do we bother telling anyone to believe, if what we believe is that our faith did not redeem us?

Or maybe you really don't believe that? Maybe you see the words, but you can't connect the dots? Maybe it all seems a bit cloudy and contradictory? I have news for you; it seems that way because it is cloudy and contradictory. You cannot claim to have saving faith, and claim to know you are redeemed because you believe, and yet claim also that the redeeming faith is not from you. If you know you are redeemed because you believe, then ipso facto, you believe you saved yourself because you "believed". I'm not even going to go into the fact that you don't know what kind of faith you have, if it is enough, what moment you had enough or the right type, or whether or not you have had doubts since. (I know you have, every Christian does)

It is clear to me that "redeeming" faith isn't something I came up with by myself. It took me a long time to come to that conclusion, but I kept bumping into the same contradiction you are running into; that if I believe therefore I am redeemed but I am redeemed only by faith that is not my own. The beginning of that contradiction makes redemption my choice. The end of that contradiction makes redemption decidedly not.

For what is belief? Is it my decision? Is that belief? My beliefs change with the wind along every topic and decision I have ever encountered. "Christian" belief, I have experienced, has been no different. Is my loving God only affected by that kind of fickle "belief"? Are you telling me that I control His love for me merely by saying "I believe......wait, now I don't believe"?

Is God tied to a yo yo somehow, that He is so affected by my ups and downs that one moment, I believe so strongly, and thus I am redeemed, and the next, I don't believe, but it still doesn't matter, because once redeemed always redeemed? You mean God is a prisoner of my belief?

I don't believe it anymore.

God is not my prisoner. He is not "waiting" for me, or anyone, to make up their minds about Jesus, and about redemption. He is not tapping His fingers on the nearest cloud impatiently, just hoping He is going to get to love me. Anywhere you read in our big black book, God loves first, God acts first, and man reacts to God.

Why would redemption be suddenly and totally different? I don't believe it.

This faith that is not our own so that we may not boast...tell me... do you have enough of it? You better hope you do, because if you don't, it's burn, baby, burn. If God is a prisoner of a decision you may or may not even make, of a decision you may never even have been presented with, then just about everyone you know is in big trouble.

If God is waiting on our "decision", how do you know that your decision is final? How do you know that some day, you won't curse God completely, and commit the "unforgivable sin"? Oh, you can predict the future, can you? You know exactly what is going to happen in your life? You know that you won't suffer tortures unspeakable (currently, thousands of Iraqis have suffered said tortures), and in a moment of weakness, completely deny God?

How do you know that God believes you? You could have been fooling yourself for many, many years. What if God doesn't believe your faith is genuine? If He doesn't, what recourse do you have?

How do you know that when you die, God is not going meet you and say, "Sorry, buddy, but you never really believed in me."? How do you know that your idea of "faith" and His idea of "faith" aren't two completely different things?

How do you know?

I'll tell you a secret. The secret is; you couldn't possibly know if your idea of faith and His idea of faith are the same thing. If you are a bible reading or studying Christian, you already know that your bible tells you exactly this. And if you believe what your bible tells you, then you know that you couldn't possibly know. For His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. You know where that verse comes from even better than I do.

What if he says to you on the day you die, "Buddy, you only said you believed because you got scared in Sunday School one day by all that talk about fire, and hell, and it all seemed like such a long time, being eternal and all, and it was all a bit scary, wasn't it?"

How do you know He won't?

I'll tell you another secret. The secret is, because your faith is not your own. It's the faith of Christ that was given to you; the same faith that was given to the entire world and everyone in it, because the world is clueless as to what kind of faith is "redeeming" faith, and so are you. So am I.

How do you know that you are redeemed? Because redemption doesn't, didn't, and can't ever, depend on you, or your faith. If it did, you couldn't possibly know whether your faith was legit.

So the question is, are you legit enough to quit? Are you legit enough now, to finally admit that you have no idea what kind of faith it takes to redeem? Are you legit enough to stop telling people that if they don't believe, they will burn in hell? Are you legit enough to claim that "your" faith, whatever that is, is not enough to save you?

Listen, if Christ died once for all sins, and Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, then a non-contradictory statement would have to be that he gave that redeeming faith to everyone whose sins he took away. Your bible tells you He took away all the world's sins.

Are you finally going to believe that?

I have another secret. The secret is, finally believing that is one of the keys to freedom; you know, the kind of freedom you have always longed for. The freedom to be yourself without hangups, the freedom to love your neighbor, to actually be tender towards them without worrying about what everyone else will think. The freedom to say you love them and mean it, and not be faking it.

Because man, when you finally believe that, the whole world is yours to love, and your heart has been waiting for so long to feel real love for people. I know, we talk about it in church like we should all automatically feel love for everyone, and when we don't, we beat ourselves up.

But you don't have to beat yourself up anymore, because love comes and lives with you when no man or woman is any longer your enemy; the tenants of hell. Now, they are all your brothers and sisters truly, each one related to you in ways that open up to you like never before. There is no hell to condemn them to, except the hell here on earth of rejection because they don't see things the way you do. That is the hell of Jesus' gospels. Hell exists where love does not.

You can pour love on the flames of hell right here and now. Are you going to finally believe that no one is rejected, and that everyone is included in the statement, "I did not come to condemn the world, but to save it."?

Read the rest of Ephesians chapter two from that perspective, and see what it sounds like now.

ANOTHER LAW ON THE BOOKS

New York City has done it. They accomplished that most important of all prohibitions, the banning of trans fats from all of their restaurants. Read about it here.

I guess if we try really hard, next we can ban breathing polluted air. And after that, we can ban baseball caps, Red Bull, Snickers bars, and String Cheese.

What a world.

12/05/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-THREE

Tip of the day:

When dining at a bachelor's house, don't bother asking him, "Where are the napkins?"

He's bound to tell you, "just wipe your hands on your pants", even if you are the pastor's wife.

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-TWO

Tip of the Day:

When wrestling alligators, always remember that it is much easier to wrestle one at a time.

Two could prove a bit troublesome.

FREEDOM, NOT WAR

I am a history reader. I grab as many books as I can find on history, and recently, I have been reading about World War Two as well as World War One. Without a doubt, the one thing that impacts me most about these wars is the suffering of the innocent, those whom no one could call combatants.

I shake my head and my heart as I read about atrocities committed against them; about death visiting the citizens of a simple small town or a farm in the countryside.

Then I shift my focus to the news for the last week or so, and I listen to a dozen talking heads, as they diligently argue whether the war in Iraq is a civil war or not.

We are arguing about what type of war is being fought in Iraq. Does it really matter what name you give the war? Has anything changed?

As far as I can see, innocents are being slaughtered, the poor and the downtrodden are made more so, and children are being exploited and killed. Fathers and Mothers leave for the day, and don't come home, ever again.

A fragile nation struggles towards some form of government, be it democracy or some other type. But beneath the surface lies the one thing that every soul longs for; freedom.

It doesn't matter if this is a civil war or not. It doesn't matter if democracy reigns or not. What the soul wants is freedom, and the war in Iraq is pitted against it.

What kind of a nation are we that we spend hundreds of hours arguing whether or not this war is a civil war or not? If we get the name right, does it mean that everything will turn out peaches and cream? I think decidedly not.

All of the intelligence and thoughtful conversations about what to call this war show one thing; we are committed to arguing about nothing, and thus, we are committed to accomplishing nothing in Iraq, and in any other place where we set our talking heads down upon.

Meanwhile, deep in the souls of the silent, the unheard from, the people who should be on the nightly news, freedom goes untalked about, hopes of a society where a man or woman can semi-determine their path is being lost.

I cry about this. I cry because it seems as if we haven't learned the lessons from the first two world wars.

12/04/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWENTY-ONE

Tip of the Day:


Never, ever, hide weapons of mass destruction in your own backyard. Bury them, instead, in one of your neighbor's.

12/03/2006

SNOW BLIND






I saw such beauty that I had to stop paying attention to the road, and start taking pictures.

On Friday, we experienced a small snowstorm, which began around seven o'clock in the morning, and subsided sometime early in the afternoon. I managed to experience more of the storm than most, having to drive eight miles or so to the end of the road I live on, several times, in the heaviest moments of the snowfall.

As I was driving, I enjoyed the silence that comes with a snowfall. That was about all I could enjoy of my drives as the roads were treacherous in every location.

One of my customers lives at the end of my road, and Friday was the day we had scheduled for me to begin installing their new kitchen. I worked for eight hours, keeping in mind all of the while that my large driveway was going to be full of snow when I got home. Snow blower notwithstanding, cleaning the snow from my driveway is never pleasant, because the wind seems to come from every direction at once. Have you ever breathed super-cooled snow? It can freeze your lungs in an instant.

But before I could arrive home, I once again drove the eight miles of forest road home. I love the road I live on; the scenery at just about any moment is enough to knock your socks off. But this day, I had a special treat. I drove that old forest road just after the snow had finished, just as the sun began peering through the clouds; just before the snow had a chance to fall from the branches and pine trees, but not before the roads had been plowed at least a little bit.

I saw such beauty that safety was forgotten for several minutes, as I pulled my camera from my console, turned it on, and began snapping pictures. I am sorry to say, the pictures are only a shadow of the actual beauty, because to see this beauty in all of its glory, you have to be there; you have to see it not only with your direct vision, but with your peripheral as well. To see all of the beauty, you have to look at it as it happens. A photo does a nice job of capturing a split moment, but the scene can never be captured by a camera the way your eye sees it.

I share with you a mere glimpse of the beauty I saw. Even as I look at these pictures, I find myself marvelling at this creation, in wonder at the God who uses color when he never had to, who paints scenes we will never forget, or never expected to see in the first place.

Be sure to click on the images for a larger picture. You can begin to see more beauty if you do. It's not like being there, but it's as close as I can bring you.

11/29/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER NINETEEN

Tip of the Day:


Prunes in the morning wipe a sour expression off of any face later in the day.

CRACKED RIBS?

I guess I have to admit it now. Last week, when I returned from my hunting trip, I jokingly made reference to the fact that you could get hurt falling twelve feet from a ladder.

It's true, you can. It happened to me. I had hoped by now I would feel better, but it is becoming clear that this process is going to be a slow one.

I bet you might be wondering what I injured? I'll make no secret of it anymore. I thought I had merely bruised my ribs when I fell, and expected a full recovery from that in a week. Well, it's been a week, and the recovery isn't happening. I am as sore in my ribs this morning as I was the day after I fell. What's more, there is an area that seems to be rather dented in on my ribs near the sternum. It is extremely painful to the touch and causes some pain during the day when I move and breath.

I am assuming that I have cracked ribs (rib as in singular?) and nothing more, because although there is an indentation and much pain, there is no displacement that I can feel. There is nothing medically to be done for cracked ribs as far as I know. I'll check Web MD just to make sure, but I have a feeling this is just going to take some more time.

If you are willing, maybe we could make this fun. We all have "home remedies" and "old wives' tales" we share that may or may not actually help injuries. If you have one, please share it here. If you do, I promise to do my best to try that remedy out (no matter how ridiculous it sounds), if not for healing then just for kicks.

Thank you.

11/28/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER EIGHTEEN

Tip of the day:

It's possible that "blind dating" does not mean you spend the entire date with your eyes closed.

WALKING WITH JUST A TEE SHIRT

I saw two young children yesterday walking home from somewhere, as it was getting dark. I almost didn't see them; they were dressed in dark clothes, and walking along the side of a fairly busy county highway in Two Rivers, WI. I was on my way to pick up my daughter from piano and voice lessons.

I was struck immediately by several thoughts. The first was, "Boy, they were hard to see. Don't they know to wear light clothes when walking outside in the dark?" But I also noticed that one of the boys was wearing only a tee shirt under his backpack. At this time of year, that is not very advisable. Yesterday, it was around forty degrees F. outside, and windy. There was also a dampness in the air.

The second-last thought that occured to me was that I should offer these two children a ride. Can you guess what the last thought was?

If you guessed that I didn't offer them a ride because I was worried that it might look as if I was a child predator by merely offering them a safe way home, then you are right on the mark. And rightly so, if these children have been taught by their parents, they would have refused such an offer. I myself have coached my daughter to do the same thing. After all, you just never know who is offering you a ride.

Isn't that a sad remark on our way of life?

I can't even offer a ride to two children who are walking on a country rode, one of them clearly not dressed for the weather? In fact, I don't even bother to ask, because I believe they know better than to accept a ride from a stranger? And this is right?

If this is right, then it is a very sad remark on our society indeed.

When does it become acceptable again to offer the ride, and for the children to accept? Do we have to wait until they are freezing? Does the temperature have to dip below zero with a windchill of minus twenty degrees F? At what point, in other words, is it again right to do what I consider to be the right thing to begin with?

There are very, scary creatures within our society; I know this. We have had our own evil perpetrated within ten miles of my house in the last year; a case that made national news.

But is this the mark we leave from our generation; that it's no longer acceptable to offer a friendly gesture, even a parental gesture, to children who don't even know enough to dress in light colors if they will be walking outside after dark?

My heart mourns for such a world, yet my mind has already been brainwashed into believing that things must be this way, because you just never know.

We are no longer a neighborhood nation. We are no longer a completely safe place to live, at least not for children.

I am ashamed that I didn't stop and ask; and yet I sit here as I type this, and I wonder; what else can I have done? Do you know? Is there any answer to this?

11/27/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER SEVENTEEN

Tip of the day:

Throwing a can of spray paint onto a roaring bonfire may be hazardous to your health.

Of course, sniffing the can of paint can be just as harmful, and it isn't nearly as much fun as watching one explode. (from a safe distance)

11/26/2006

IT STARTS AT HOME

Did you ever have the feeling that there was something you wanted to do, something big, but you had no idea what it was?

Okay, maybe you had ideas, but all of them were vague and undirected?

That's me, right now. I can't put my finger on it, although I think it has something to do with serving and helping government get the house in order. That's somewhat strange, yet fitting, because at this moment in my life, I am getting my own house in order. I guess if you want to serve others, and in this case, if you are going to be a part of some solution (whatever that may be), it's best to practice in your own house first.

Six and a half years ago, my wife left me for another man. Later the following year, after deciding to file for divorce, she also decided to file for bankruptcy, but not before she had spent the prior year abandoning the financial commitments that a husband and wife seem to accumulate over the years. I was left with every conceivable bill, gathered during a ten year marriage, utilizing two incomes to stay current. Obviously, I couldn't stay current, less one income and still with the same amounts to pay each and every month.

My attorney advised me to file for bankruptcy with my soon-to-be-former wife jointly, before the divorce was finalized. Otherwise, many of our creditors may have seized an opportunity to come after me had we allowed my former wife to file after the divorce. I am still not certain how that could have been possible, that a divorce settlement split right down the middle could turn into a divorce settlement that meant I still owed for every debt my former wife reneged on.

The day my wife left me was the hardest, longest day of my life. The day I had to sign for the bankruptcy settlement was the second, hardest, longest day of my life. I looked at myself as a failure; as someone who should have been able to make everything work, but somehow couldn't. It seemed as if the bankruptcy was the exclamation point on my failed marriage, as if someone were saying to me, "Bankrupt! That's what your marriage was from day one, and that's what you are now!"

It is almost five years since the morning I spent in the courthouse signing bankruptcy papers and nodding my head as I listened to the judge grant our petition. Inside I was dying, ashamed, alone. Outwardly I simply nodded, as if to say, "Yup. I deserve this."

I am a long way from those days, and quite a few bumps in the road have occured since. Last year, I had to buy a different truck, using a car loan I obtained at twenty-eight percent interest. Truly, the options available to someone with horrendous credit records are not favorable to a comeback, but comeback I have. Today, that loan is eighteen months old, and I am a mere six months from completing the terms of that loan, over a year early. When I received the money to buy that truck, I vowed to myself that there was only one way to beat a high interest loan; and that was to never give the bank a chance to collect on most of that interest by paying more and more towards the principal balance each month until the balance became too small for the high interest rate to have much of an effect. I am sure the bank was salivating over lending money at twenty-eight percent interest rates, seeing in me a man who was maybe so grateful to receive the money that he would never dream of defaulting. In that same man, they saw a person who probably couldn't afford the only way to beat a high interest loan. They were wrong. It was hard work, and hard to stay disciplined. But the goal was worth it.

Now I am trying to buy my house back. That, too, was lost in the divorce through foreclosure. But a strange thing happened on the way to moving out of the house. The fellow who bought my house stopped by one day and asked if I would like to stay here, to rent it from him. It took me about five seconds to say, "Yes! Thank you!" I had been dreading moving everything by myself; it was so daunting I actually told my best friend that I couldn't see beyond today, I couldn't see my way through it all.

You can imagine the types of loans I am being offered right now. Interest rates are high, and they are all ARM's. That's okay. I know the secret to ARM's; it's the same way I'll deal with every other greedy, money marketing banker. I will never give them a chance to collect on that type of interest. They may have a small profit for a few years, but once my credit rating is returned to where it belongs, I will obtain a new loan with a more favorable rate, and say goodbye to the high interest ARM with the balloon payment. During the time I have that loan, I will be paying extra money towards the principal balance, offsetting as much of the effect of the interest rate as possible.

So I am getting my house back, hopefully. I am getting my house in order. I don't know for certain what my other plans are, but I know that there is more I can be doing, and I feel as if I should be serving in some public venue. I am a citizen of a free country. I feel the desire to serve. Maybe I will learn much more in this process of setting my own house in order, maybe I will learn things that can be applied to a much bigger, more complex house.

I am a fairly straightforward man. I see many things in black and white, although I admit that when it comes to people and issues of the heart and soul, grey has become predominant most of the time. But I maintain that there is only one way to serve your town or county or state or country; humbly and with gratitude for the opportunity. That leaves no room for skulduggery or for backhanded politics. Whatever I decide on, be it volunteer work, or possibly elected work, I will apply many of the life lessons I have learned through the hard times of my life.

The biggest of those lessons? I give it to you free of charge; You are never without a hope in the world, and from every valley bottom, you can see the peaks that you are trying to reach. So long as the peaks are in sight, you can find a way to get to them.

I guess I am just fed up enough with the current political climate in our local and national government to try and do something about it in my own small way.

You know what they always say; it starts at home.

11/25/2006

SOMETIMES A QUIZ CAN BE FUN

Oh go ahead, take the quiz!! I did. Let's see your results in the comments section if you are willing.






What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
Philadelphia
The South
North Central
The West
Boston
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER SIXTEEN

Tip of the Day:

I don't recommend stapling your fingers shut if all you are trying to do is prove a point.

However, if there is some other, nobler purpose, then by all means.....

11/24/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER FIFTEEN

Tip of the day:


It is inadvisable to challenge a full grown Polar Bear to a wrestling match.

Unless you have home field advantage.

11/23/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER FOURTEEN

Tip of the day:

Owning a cell phone does not NECESSARILY make you cool.

It's only when you talk really, really loudly on your cell phone in Walmart so that everyone in the store knows you are talking on your cellphone that makes you cool.

Try to remember that.

11/22/2006

SALEM WITCH HUNTERS

I left this comment over at a friends blog, and I wondered if it was too harsh. But the truth is, I don't wonder all that much. Maybe I am becoming jaded, or maybe I am becoming myself. Maybe I am becoming that person who isn't afraid to speak his mind, and the person who doesn't care what everyone else thinks. I assure you, I think these thing anyway; why not just say them, and leave the chips fall where they may? Are you going to hate me for it?

Honestly, most of the time, I don't care. You can reem me out for these words, and I won't reem back. You are who you are, and we all need space to be just who we are. How else is this world going to be a better place to live than it was yesterday?



T"e truth is, just being ourselves in this world is a mountain of pain no matter who you are or what you think yourself to be. One thousand years from now, when people no longer believe in God, we'll see the same pain and hardship from people finally learning how to accept themselves for who and what they are. Our friend was fortunate enough to come to that point before death. So many don't. I applause him for that, but I don't applause him for killing his God to do it. The fact is, any of us can live in this world, be ourselves, and not let ourselves be controlled by something that never was. Image control runs rampant in this world. That's not a disease that only Christians can claim. Everyone I have met is knee deep in that disease, no matter what their beliefs.

Maybe this comment has been too hard, or too honest. But if you spend some time talking with people who don't believe in God, you'll find that their marriage to the image they portray is no different than any religious folk you've met.

You can spend your life blaming a group, or walking in denial, it's your choice. But the sooner we accept that EVERYBODY has issues they want to hide, the sooner we'll get off our high horse...the sooner we'll stop judging like a bunch of Salem witch hunters. "

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THIRTEEN

Tip of the day.

Never, ever, lean a sixteen foot ladder against a beam that is worn to the point of breaking. I learned the hard way on Monday, and fell about twelve feet.

Did you know it's possible to get injured falling from that height? Who woulda thunk?

11/17/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWELVE

Tip of the day:

If you are going to hunt deer during the gun hunt season, it's a good idea to bring along a gun.

I am off to the North Woods of Wisconsin for five glorious days of peace and Bambi bloodshed. I will be back on Wednesday, the 23rd.

I invite you all to leave your own tip of the day each day in the comments section, so we can make certain that all this good advice keeps flowing. The world is counting on you.

11/16/2006

TIP OF THE DAY N UMBER ELEVEN

Tip of the day:

If beer is the nectar of the gods, and I drink beer........

11/15/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TEN

Walk loudly and carry a small stick.

After all, carrying a big stick gets tiring. It's much easier to do a lot of shouting than to do all that manual labor.

I recommend shouting whenever you get the opportunity. It makes a good impression on whomever you are shouting at.

And if you can't make a big impression, at least you'll have made a dashing attempt at breaking their eardrums...so it wasn't really a total waste of breath after all.

11/14/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER NINE

Tip of the day:


Strapping a bundle of dynamite to your back so you can be "jet" propelled on roller skates like Wyl E. Coyote when he chases the Roadrunner doesn't really work.


Therefore, I don't recommend it.

11/13/2006

LEARNING TO LIVE IN A NEW HOUSE

One of the first things I noticed about my life when I began to realize the loss of fear that comes through Christ was the way my perspectives were changing. This is a process that could have gone unnoticed. It's such a simple thing really; how do I see other people?

That question used to be easy. Other people weren't me, and therefore, they, while being people, were subject to judgment on all the things I deemed necessary. This should begin to tell you something about what I thought of other people, but almost as importantly, what I thought of myself.

At first glance, my vast judgment of other people might lead one to believe I was outwardly judgmental, yet inwardly self-praising. That, however, was not my experience of it. My arrogance was not based on anything I could be proud of achieving; I used it more like a defense mechanism, to protect myself from what I really thought of myself.

Strange, isn't it?

Would you believe I was even more judgmental of myself than I was of others? That was part of my slavery; slavery to performance and slavery to self. The judging of others was merely an outworking of what I was doing to myself on the inside.

But as fear departed, as the sense of failure faded, I began to see a development in compassion towards others. When I use the word compassion, I am trying to define that trait within me that makes me similar, or bonded to, other people. We share comparable experience and comparable emotions. We are comrades in commonality.

As that sense of compassion grew, the need to judge others waned. Maybe you can understand what was happening within me. I was being remade. I was becoming a person who could come to terms with my mistakes. I was learning to un-dwell on the failures of my past, failures I had analyzed into vapors.

I was literally learning to live in a new house.

Tell me today that you are gay, or that you are a drug user or a porn addict, and instead of the past frothing from my lips, you might instead find me leaning my ear toward you as I listen to what you are living. It's not so easy to judge (although I am still capable of doing it) when you realize that you aren't judged. Things just don't seem to be so evil anymore.

I guess I can't really explain what it means to be free enough to accept failure within me. Those who knew me in the past may not have known that I struggled in beating myself up for my failures, because I am not sure I ever let too many people know that. It just wasn't part of the image I wanted to portray.

But now, I don't really care who knows how hard I was on myself for failures and lack of success. The truth is, none of it matters. I am free enough to succeed, and living in this new house, I know it won't crumble if I happen to install a brick that disintegrates.

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER EIGHT

Tip of the day:

It is considered bad etiquette to bend over and moon a charging grizzly bear.

11/12/2006

THIS IS AN AMAZING POST

You have got to head over to Bruce's blog to read this. It's called Religion Will Rob You of Your Life. It's simply amazing!

FREE ENOUGH TO BE ME

How do you become someone you never were to begin with?

When I walk into a church on a Sunday morning, one of the things I notice is that everyone is smiling, and everyone is dressed really nice. Everyone except for me.

I have the smiling part down, because I am naturally upbeat; I mean, I wake up that way, so it isn't hard for me to be smiling at just about any moment you will meet me. But if I walk into a church, I do so wearing some old sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and blue jeans, the very same type I work in.

But not everyone is upbeat, and as I stroll through the church, I begin to be bothered by the idea that someone here, possibly many someones, are faking it. This doesn't only happen in a church. It happens everywhere you go.

Everyone I meet is busy, and happy. They are so busy that they haven't had time to stay in touch with their friends, friends, they would admit, who make their lives more enjoyable. Did you catch the contradiction there?

If I am so busy that I don't have time to stay in touch with my friends, outside of my natural upbeat outlook, I am not going to remain "happy" for very long. If I am so busy that I am living without fulfilling a natural need; that of connecting with family and friends regularly, then it could seem impossible for me to remain happy for very long.

Recently, I had to stay away from this blog, for the most part, because I was sick, and so busy that at the end of the day, I was too tired to make connections with people who had come to mean a great deal to me. Although my demeanor was upbeat, inside, I was sinking. Worse than that, I found myself faking it.

I didn't like that one bit. I felt empty, because instead of filling up on life as it happens, I tried to create a mental picture of happiness despite bad circumstances that I couldn't uphold for very long. I had a choice. I could try to keep up the smile, and force myself to quiet the voice inside which was screaming for connection. Or, I could make changes.

Do you know how easy it seems to just maintain the status quo? I am not kidding you when I tell you that to just keep going without connecting with my friends, to keep working and keep busy and keep being too tired to write here seemed like the simplest answer. But that also meant that I would have to keep faking it, and there is something in my nature that just rebels against faking things. I can pull it off if I stay persistent, but the more I pull it off, the more rebellious I become inside; the more I desire reality. There becomes an urge to scream at the top of my lungs at the next person who asks me how I am doing, "I'm doing shitty! I don't like life right now! I'm not who I thought I was, I feel disconnected, and I don't even care that you don't have time to listen to me rave!"

In essence, I am screaming both to give attention to someone else, and receive likewise. Connectedness. This nation screams for it; the Internets success is the result of it. Without it, we fake it. Yet even on Sundays, when people "go to church", they feel the need to fake it. Instead of being real, instead of allowing themselves to be themselves, they put their makeup on and become someone they are not.

It seems easy to maintain this, it seems like the best plan, the only plan, because changing it means doing things in a way most of us never have. It means being the real me, who admittedly is very upbeat, but who gets sidetracked at times when life seems to be a hurricane of events, all of them outside of my control. It means letting loose emotionally, which is something that people are taught not to do from a very early age, especially in "church". In "church", it's time to smile and act as though the Lord has blessed you greatly. In "church", it's time to be someone you are not. Sadly, that someone we are not gets carried into daily life, and we drag him to the store, the gas station, the movies, the bar, to events and parties and every other moment we live.

There is what I would call a phenomenon taking place in America in this age. I have observed it and am shocked at its prevalence.

Did you know that over fifty percent of all adult Americans are, or have been under prescription for anxiety or depression related illness at some time in their life? I am one of the lucky ones; I have never been under that sort of prescription. Maybe this means the field of medicine has learned something about people's well-being, and the drug prescriptions are merely a way of providing a more fulfilling, normal life. I think for a few people, these prescriptions are absolutely necessary, but for the vast majority of people under these prescriptions, my observation is that they are an escape from reality; a way to trick the mind into believing that everything is okay, especially when everything is not okay. I think the drugs are a mask, or provide the means to make the masks we wear seem better somehow, more like reality.

You see, a person can't fake it for very long before his nature begins to rebel against the act he is putting on. One can carry on this deception forever, but not without grave consequences to the inner man. One can fool his friends, one can wow his contemporaries with his supposed wealth and success, and generate envy through making one's life seem better than everyone else's. Isn't that the kicker, to make things seem better, in some cases far better, than what they really are? To make our lives look attractive, so that others will believe we have it all together, that we have become what we dreamed we would when we were young? Because to admit failure, to admit that when we were young, we never dreamed of having three mortgages and two jobs, we never dreamed we would be so miserable, so lonely, so forgotten. We never once thought that life could be so hard, that our plans wouldn't work out the way we thought.

So we create the lie, that everything is okay, that we are happy, and that life is better than we imagined it could be as a child. We wear this mask because that is what is expected of us. Every so often, a few of us are fortunate enough to find just one or two people with whom we can confide the truth in. I have that one person, but so many people I know do not. For those people, the mask becomes the reality, even though the mask is nothing more than a well-written lie.

At some point, wearing that mask for so long is going to exact a price on our mental well-being. Medicine has the answer; give them a drug that will help them fake it. Many doctors prescribe these drugs without ever demanding that their patient receive psychological help. And if they do get psychological help, many of these patients are treated by people who themselves wear masks. There's not much help and advice being received from someone who doesn't know how to live with themselves to begin with. The cycle becomes more vicious.

The patients are told that there has to be a reason, or maybe a few reasons why they are so unhappy. They are told to recall memories that might have caused this depression, or this anxiety. In truth, some people do have memories that cause depression and anxiety. But over fifty percent of all adults? I doubt it.

I think the mask is to blame. I don't think that mask is created in church; it's just that church is where people polish it specially to make it look its best. I think that mask is created from everything we learn and observe in our society. If church is part of your society, then church is partly to blame.

The mask is slavery. It is slavery to an image we cannot achieve. We control our emotions, and hide our feelings, and sooner or later, the mask takes over...on the outside. Meanwhile, the inside, the inner man is dying, screaming for release and celebration. The inner man is crying for someone to care enough so that we can take off this mask and be real. Most of all, the inner man is crying for us to have the courage to be ourselves so we don't have to fake it anymore.

Why do we fake it? Because we are afraid that the real me isn't acceptable, isn't lovable, and most of all, isn't even likable. Paxil will help you feel that you are; so will Xanax. But those two drugs only create another mask, effectively hiding the real you, possibly forever.

Would you like to know the real you? Would you like to see that the real you is lovable, AND likable? Would you like to live without fear of judgment and doubt in yourself because things didn't work out the way you planned as a child? Would you like to stop looking for ways to escape a reality that just hurts too much?

I'll bet you thought I was going to say the answer is Jesus. He's not the answer, though. He provided the way to the answer, showed us how to get to where He was going, but He's not a drug that fixes masks that we have worn all of our lives. He is the Way. And I will tell you this: in my life, Jesus provided the door to the real me. After He made it clear that God is not angry with us, that each of us is acceptable just as we are, things began to clear up a bit. But to believe that God was still angry at those who didn't believe caused a desire for all sorts of mask making in me. I had to show everybody I believed, so much in fear was I over being one of those who didn't believe enough. I created a mask, and sometimes, I still wear it.

But once I realized that the fear of hell was gone, that God is not an angry, condemning God at all, the reasons I had for wearing my mask disappeared one by one. And if everyone were redeemed, if even the worst of all sinners for all time was redeemed to my Father, then what need was there anymore for fear in me? What need, literally, was there to wear a mask?

We wear masks to hide things; to hide our identity, to hide what we really look like, and to hide what we are ashamed of. But when there is no condemnation forthcoming, what need have I of shame any longer?

Once I realized how total the love of God is, I realized that freedom was within my grasp. Once I realized that God was not partial to anyone, but a lover of everyone, I realized that my mask had been hiding the real me all of my life. I had been trying to hide the real me not only from myself and others, but from God, as if He could be fooled. Upon the realization of His total love for all of us, even me, I began my life as a free man.

Jesus isn't the drug that's going to cure you. He is the way to freedom. He is just some person on the pages of a big, big book, but He is real when we realize that here was a man who never had to worry about what others thought of Him, and he especially never had to fear what His Father thought of Him. He knew the truth, and the truth sets us free.

The lie is that hell is real, that God is so petty that at some point, He just can't take us anymore, and none of us really knows when that is. The lie is that God is so small that the slightest mistake in our life angers Him. The lie is that He is only pleased when we are behaving, as if God sits on a yo yo string that is attached to our actions. The lie is that God requires us to believe in order for us to be redeemed.

I must tell you this; if my redemption rests on my faith, then I will burn in hell, because I don't have any faith. Sure, there are moments filled with the realization of how much God loves me, and how I know Jesus to be my friend and savior. But most of my time is spent doubting these days, and for those of you who know me, you also know that I have just removed a mask in saying that. Are you surprised?

There may come a day when I have a chemical imbalance, and the need for drugs to regain some balance within will be met. There is nothing wrong, so far as I can see, with curing medical conditions. But by and large, drugs like Paxil and Xanax only paint a thicker mask. If people only realized that there is now nothing to fear, and no reason to hide, I think most of the reasons for Paxil would disappear. I think every reason for us to wear masks would evaporate. I think for all of us, most our lives would be spent being just who we are, rather than trying to be someone we are not.

11/11/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER SEVEN

Tip of the day:


Although lighting a single branch of a pine tree on fire can be an awesomely spectacular thing, you probably shouldn't do it while in the midst of a forest of pine trees. I don't know why. I just thought I'd say that.

It sounds pretty good, though, doesn't it?

11/09/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER SIX

Tip of the day:


Do you know how when you stick your fingers into a moving fan belt on an automobile, oftentimes when you pull your fingers out, you're missing a couple?




Yeah...don't do that.

11/08/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER FIVE

Tip of the day:

Working blindfolded with a tablesaw may be hazardous to your health.

Talk amongst yourselves.

11/07/2006

THE ANCIENTS REVISITED

As my two readers already know, I have been working on remodeling an old hospital into a nursing home as well as an assisted living facility. The project is at a stage now where parts of the building are being occupied, and about twelve of the Assisted Living apartments are being lived in.

This means I get to see some of the tenants every day. I can't tell you how pleased I am about all of this. It's one thing to build something, and see people enjoy it. That part of my job is unique from many other jobs in that what I build is actually lived in and enjoyed for many years by people of all ages. But this project will be lived in and enjoyed by my favorite age group; the ancients. And that makes it even more special to me.

Not only that, but because we still have four or so months left until completion, I will be seeing many of these people on a daily basis. I already know several of them on a first name basis. People like Earl, who worked hard all of his life in a factory, saved his money and earned a good pension, and who has decided to rent the most expensive unit available at this point; not because he NEEDS the most expensive unit, only because he can. He feels comfortable with his late wealth, and he wants to splurge on himself a bit. You would be hard pressed to argue against his self-pampering if you knew him as I do. He is truly a wonderful ancient to be around, instantly accommodating and very hospitable.

Irene moved in several weeks ago. It was touch and go for Irene for a few weeks, but today, she is up and at 'em once again. Irene could have gone anywhere. She could have rented a floor of a Hilton Hotel, complete with nurse, had she so desired. But she chose Northland Lodge (the name of the place I am remodeling) because her daughter-in-law is the administrator of the nursing home, and Irene wanted to spend more time with her. Isn't that amazing?

Edith has a hard time seeing. She has Menacular degeneration in both eyes, and is all but blind as she wanders the halls. But she is trusting and friendly. If she gets lost, there is always someone around to help her find her way. The cutest thing about Edith is that when she is offered help, she takes the person's arm, holds onto it, and allows herself to be guided wherever she intended to go. I was honored to have Edith take my arm just last week, and we talked and talked as we found the place she had originally set out for. Imagine that! A carpenter getting to escort an sweet lady like Edith just because he happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Now I know there are many people who shy away from the ancients, for various reasons. For some, it might be too uncomfortable to be around age. For others, it's a lack of self-confidence, or something else entirely.

If you are someone who shies away from the ancients, don't be ashamed of it; you aren't alone. Maybe your view of them is skewed because of a bad experience, or maybe you just don't understand where they are coming from. Whatever the case may be, there is always hope. I would recommend everyone visiting nursing homes and assisted living facilities, or simply visiting Amelia who might live just down the road. You see, it's not so hard, once you realize that they are you twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years from now. And you are them, fifty, forty, thirty, or twenty years ago.

This world really is a small place, and people really are very much alike, even twenty-year-olds and eighty-five year olds have many things in common. But the one thing you can almost always get from an ancient is time. Our young friends are often simply too busy to be found. But the ancients, they are too wise to be too busy, and too smart to care that they aren't. They will almost always make time for you.

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER FOUR

Tip of the day:

If you are allergic to nuts, you probably shouldn't eat them.

Any questions?

11/06/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER THREE


Never...ever...touch the red button.








Why did you try to touch the red button?

Please explain yourself in the comments section.

11/05/2006

GOD, THE FRIENDLY SPIRIT

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Parakletos); that He will be with you forever." John 14:16

Have you ever felt discouraged, at a breaking point, or ready to just give up? I have many times, and it is at these times that I need encouragement.

Parakaleo, or, "to encourage", is a Greek word used in many places within the New Testament. It is broken down into several different definitions, the two most common being "urge" and "encourage". As you see in the verse above, I took the liberty to insert the Greek word for the Holy Spirit, Parakletos.

There are many different interpretations of this word Parakletos, but the one I find that best suits it is encourager, or urger. After all, you don't find parakaleo being used in the context of "counseling" even once anywhere in the New Testament. It just isn't there, yet modern interpretations of the word Parakletos most often attribute "Counselor" as the meaning.

Using the context in which Jesus was speaking to His disciples, I find His use of the word Parakletos to be very significant. After all, He was telling them He was leaving them for a short while, and they were in need of comfort and encouragement. Thus, the name for the Spirit of God which we know today was born; Parakletos, or, encourager.

That doesn't sound real close to "Angry God", or "Judgmental God", does it? In fact, it actually sounds like "friendly God", as in, Casper the friendly Ghost, or God, the friendly, Holy, Spirit.

Let's just drop the word "holy" for now, because we all know that God is holy. Besides, the way many Christians use the word "holy", it tends to sound awful unfriendly, and Jesus was implicit in His meaning; The Spirit is friendly and encouraging.

There was a time in my past, when all alone, with a gun at my side and a letter written, the only encouragement I was going to find was an end; or at least I thought. But from nowhere, encouragement came, and I lived. There was no one around to help me, no man, woman, or child. There was no priest, pastor, or elder; heck, the radio and TV weren't even on. How do you explain being suddenly encouraged to go on when there is no external source encouraging you?

Take a look at the first part of Parakletos. The Greek word para means "from" or "among, or "with". The friendly Spirit is so friendly, He lives with us, and is a voice encouraging us, within us. That agrees with my experience of all the times I have been encouraged without any external means of encouragement nearby.

I wonder...has it ever happened for you?

God, The Father...The Friendly Spirit. The encourager. He is sounding more and more like someone who wouldn't know anything at all about a hell as described by Christians. But if you need a friend, if you need encouragement, then God is your man. The Parakletos, the Friendly Spirit, is with us now, and with us forever, all of us; even if you say you don't believe.

11/04/2006

TIP OF THE DAY NUMBER TWO

Tip of the day

Always wait one half hour after eating before swimming...or something like that.

However, if you are on a boat that is sinking and you've just finished lunch only minutes ago, you are going to have to swim despite this excellent advice.

11/03/2006

GROSS TOESTIES

Do you remember the cereal Post Toasties? I believe they were something similar to Kellogg's Corn Flakes, only they were the Post brand of Corn Flakes. While driving home from Subway last night, my daughter and I began a tangent from a circular conversation that wound up spawning the idea for a new cereal. Our tangent also spawned about five solid minutes of laughter.

The conversation started while we were still inside of a Subway restaurant, awaiting our order. I placed an order for the new Blackened Steak Sub sandwich, while Ally ordered her turkey and whatever-else-she-wants-on-it-at the-moment sandwich. The server asked me if I would like my sub toasted, to which I answered, "yes".

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my daughter look towards my sandwich as it was being prepared, and make a face. It wasn't the kind of face you would even notice if you didn't know Ally well, but being her father, I have an insider's track into all of her faces and expressions, and this one shouted "eeeyeeww!" to me louder than if she had actually said it. To her credit, she held her tongue for the most part while we were inside of Subway. As we walked out the door, she mentioned that "Your sandwich is a gross toasty one".

I don't know why my mind works the way it does, but the words "gross toasty" reminded me of Post Toasties, which of course rhymes, which is possibly why the words "gross toasty" morphed into Gross Toasties during the time it took to walk out the Subway door to the point where I opened my truck door.

As soon as we were inside of my truck, I blurted out, "Eeyew! Gross Toasties!" Ally laughed, and from there, we were off to the tangent races. At some point, I told Ally about Post Toasties; what they were, and how her words "Gross toasty" reminded me of them. Then I mentioned that we could make a new cereal, called Gross Toasties, to which she gave her best "eeyew!" face yet. If you have never seen the face of a fourteen year old girl as she thinks "Eeyew!", rent one, and say something gross. I promise you, it will be the only moment you will ever see a fourteen year old girl not care what she looks like. The look is simply hilarious, almost as hilarious as the "My Daddy is an idiot" face, which is practiced by every fourteen year old girl because they want it to look just right.

You can imagine our conversation from that point on. Somehow, Gross Toasties became Gross Toes-ties, a cereal shaped like big toes, which incorporated a play on the word "gross", using the German definition for that word, meaning "big" or "large".

As we drove onward, the cereal began to take on even greater (or grosser) definition, changing from "gross" meaning big to "gross" meaning...well...gross, disgusting. Take your pick, the toes can be either gross or big; I'm not fussed over which language or meaning of the word "gross" we use. The implications are the same. Imagine a bowl filled with milk and crunchy corn flour and oat kibbles that look like big toes.

Imagine further if you will, and as we did while we were headed home, that these kibbles shaped like big toes also smell like feet, and are detailed to the point where toe nails are visible, and there is green and black in the place where the toe nail resides. The toe itself would be alternating tan or brown colored.

For a scrumptious addition using marshmallows colored like your favorite dirty socks, we introduced toe jam into the mix. Gross Toesties is not only healthy, but also tasty.

Of course any new cereal is going to require an aggressive advertising campaign, and for our initial commercials, we chose to use a British actor with a cockney accent, standing in front of a pyramid of Gross Toesties cereal boxes with children climbing all over him to get at the display. The actor stands silently for twenty seconds as the camera pans from the children to the pyramid, settling on a closeup of one cereal box, displaying a bowl of Gross Toesties flooded with milk, which has turned, amazingly enough, green. Superimposed over the bowl of cereal are the very words the British actor with a cockney accent is about to utter.

"Gross Toesties! Smells like feet...but they're good to eat!"

11/02/2006

BLAZING FAST

I have not been able to play in bloggyland for the last two days. My computer puked, you see.

I woke up on Wednesday morning, turned on my computer as usual, noticed that my little blue power light was struggling mightily, and my system wouldn't boot. I knew what this was, as I have experienced similar blasts in the past. My power supply unit was dying. "Someone please save him!" I cried, but to no avail.

I took my computer to the emergency room, where I proceeded to tell the disc doctor what was wrong. She claimed it could be my video card. I knew better.

$ 232 later, I have my computer back, and it is blazing fast. For a senior citizen (my computer is two and a half years old), my computer flies with the newborns, again.

I had the computer doctor add 516 megabytes of RAM. But the most important thing I did was to nuke Norton System Services, which includes a program called Norton "Go Back". That program is easily the most belligerent computer application I have ever encountered. My computer is in my bedroom, and even at three o'clock in the morning, I would wake up to find my computer accessing its hard drive, after being idle for five hours!

Now, I am back, and my computer pleases me again. I am sorry if you stopped by and saw no activity here. I expect to have a new post in place tomorrow incorporating a very funny event that took place in my life on Tuesday night, and which I had hoped to post on Wednesday evening.

In the meantime, may the God of computers bless you in ways He did not bless me in this week. Take care ALL.

You belong to a family of love, not a family of strife.