Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Faith Over Frivolity

I just read an article in USA Today about how last year's Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow was not nominated for the PlayboyAll-American team because the person responsible for nominating him knew that Tim's Christian beliefs would prohibit him from participating in the event.
"I've been working with Tim since his first day here and I know his
priorities and his family," Assistant Sports Information Director Zack
Higbee said. "He has that trust in me to make the decision."

The article then briefly mentions Tim's mission trips that he takes yearly...

Aside from being a great story and a positive piece of news, this story grabbed my attention because it wasn't Tim who declined the nomination but someone with whom he interacted with. Through his relationship, speach and actions with this person they knew what his beliefs are and stood up for his beliefs for him. I have no idea if Mr. Higbee is a Christian or not, but it says a lot about Tim Tebow's living out of his faith in word and deed that this man would know not only what Tim's beliefs are but how Tim would respond to the situation because of them.

It causes me to pause a moment and wonder if those around me would know what my beliefs are and how I would respond to such a situation...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Music - Healer

I discovered this song early last week and loved it immediately.
About halfway through it I caught a glimpse of what looked like an oxygen tube hanging from the lead singer's face. Within seconds this moment of worship, captured on film from a stage in Australia, became an incredible image for me.

The man who wrote the song, Mike Guglielmucci, was in the process of battling cancer and was having a serious bad spell and yet, here he was singing to God about what he believed. It's an incredible witness to the glory and power of God.

I have posted the lyrics below the videos.

You can watch the videos below or visit Mike's MySpace page to hear the original album version.

You can also visit the Integrity music "Healer" page for the live audio version of the song.

"Healer" from the Hillsongs "This Is Our God" video:

Story Behind The Above Video:

Lyrics of "Healer" by Mike Guglielmucci (Planetshakers)
You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease

I trust in You
I trust in You

I believe You're my Healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You're my Portion
I believe You're more than enough for me
Jesus You're all I need

My Healer, You're my Healer

Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dark Knight Versus Transformers

Lisa and I made it out to see The Dark Knight last night. As we were approaching the theater, I recognized a young man I know from the college group standing outside. We talked briefly before entering the theater and something he said struck me as funny.

"They say that the Dark Knight is even bigger than Transformers! Can you believe that!?!!"

He was talking about ticket sales, but the thought occurred to me that for him this was a huge statement. It never occurred to me that Transformers might be a movie to be compared to and referenced as something being beyond incredible. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it for the popcorn-summer-blockbuster that it was, but it didn't really do anything extraordinary in my book. In fact, I thought it was too long and drawn out...

Meanwhile, back in the theater, we sat through the obligatory 20 minutes of previews. The Watchmen looks like it could be really big (espeically if you are into comics, which I am not)and Terminator: Salvation has Christian Bale in it, so it should do well with the Batman crowd. The new Disney movie Bolt doesn't look like something I want to pay full price to see - Redbox maybe.

I found The Dark Knight to be entertaining and a much better plot than Batman Begins. The reviews that raved about not only Ledger's performance but the rest of the cast are correct. This movie is filled with some brilliantly acted scenes and there aren't many that don't add something to the story.

However, there were a few things in the movie that I found quite annoying. Batman, being a man in a high tech suit, should not be able to bend and break guns into pieces with his bare hands. Also, for being a highly educated, highly intelligent, high society businessman, it appears that when Bruce Wayne dons the Batsuit he can no longer speak clearly or in fluent sentances. I understand the "need" to disguise his voice while being the Caped Crusader, but it was quite annoying to try and interpret some of what he was saying. The rate at which certain characters from the series have been killed is startling and makes me wonder who will be next...

Overall, I enjoyed the film and would watch it again without hesitation. It did not seem to drag at any point for too long and I found some of the issues presented in the movie to cause me to think about them for a few moments. If you haven't seen it yet and have the time and money to spare, you most likely won't hate this movie.

I found this video this morning and it cracked me up!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The News is not Unbiased

I don't watch all of the news on television much anymore, mainly because I am not around at the right time to sit down and devote 30 minutes to it. However, I usually catch the top stories on the local or national news almost every day. I find it absolutely amazing how much coverage Barak Obama is getting at the moment. He seems to be the focus of at least one segment in almost any newscast and is all over the magazine rack.

This article by Glenn Beck captures some of my thoughts on the issue.

According to the Tyndall Report, a service that monitors the three network
news broadcasts, ABC, NBC, and CBS have spent a total of 114 of their national
airtime minutes covering Obama since June. They've spent 48 minutes on his
Republican rival, Sen. John McCain.

The disparity between the amount of coverage each is receiving is quite ridiculous and Beck proposes a possible reason for it:

We've become a country that continually chooses the sizzle over the steak.
McCain may not get my vote, but he gets my admiration for at least offering
some substance and new ideas when he speaks. Obama, meanwhile, is like the
rock star who's realized that he can just scream unintelligible words into
the microphone between songs, and the entire stadium will still scream. When
your fans already love you, there's no reason to risk it by offering
anything that might be controversial. Remember the Dixie Chicks?

As candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain are ironically a lot like
the way the media treats them: Obama is the glitzy magazine cover that screams
for people to buy the issue, and McCain is the fact-filled article buried inside
that makes you glad you did.

I don't think it is too hard to figure out that Obama is a more polished speaker and has amazing presentation skills on stage. Given the fact that our current President can hardly get through a sentence without butchering a word or stumbling through a phrase, it is understandable that people are attracted to such an orator. It's not necessarily that McCain cannot provide a decent speech in front of people, it's just that he isn't cool and he doesn't seem to attempt to be that way.

Obama is younger, more polished and black.

McCain is older, less refined and white.

It's a pretty interesting election this time around, as two men with so many differences also seem to share quite a few policy ideas in common. I believe that the Democrats have the race to lose and that the Republicans have to hope for a major gaffe or twist in the race to help them gain whatever ground they can. McCain's stance on the war and how he goes about talking about it doesn't help him either way.

Meanwhile Barak Obama will continue to travel the world and the country and the media will make sure they keep his face plastered all over the place.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Politics of Love

I just finished reading an article from the June 1st New York Times entitled "Taking Their Faith, but Not Their Politics, to the People". The main focus of the article is around The Journey Church in St. Louis and how there appears to be a progressive movement in evangelical circles to question the status quo in American Christianity. Here are some parts that I found most interesting:

They say they are tired of the culture wars. They say they do not want the test of their faith to be the fight against gay rights. They say they want to broaden the traditional evangelical anti-abortion agenda to include care for the poor, the environment, immigrants and people with H.I.V., according to experts on younger evangelicals and the young people themselves.
I am not sure if I qualify as a younger person or not, but I agree with this statement.

None of that means younger evangelicals have abandoned the core tenets of their faith, including a belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus and the literal truth of the Bible. They think abortion and homosexuality are sins.

And so far, there is no clear evidence that supporting a broader social agenda has led young evangelicals to defect from the Republican Party in great numbers, as many liberals have predicted.
I do not believe that my core tenets of the faith have changed, but I have become more and more convinced that the Church should be providing a lot of the so-called "services" that the government currently thinks is its job. If the body of Christ did the work Christ called us to do, then there wouldn't be a need for certain government sponsored programs. So while I am more empathetic to the plight of other people, I cannot say that my political ideals have changed that much. I believe that in most cases that my political stance has become more firm due in part to what I perceive as the reality of the Church not living up to what we are called to be in our world.

“The easy thing is to fight, but the hard thing is to put your gloves down and work together towards a common cause,” said the Rev. Scott Thomas, director of the Acts 29 Network, which helps pastors start churches. “Our generation would like to put our gloves down. We don’t want to be out there picketing. We want to be out there serving.”
This is absolutely where I am at in my thoughts and feelings at the moment. If we put down our signs and take the energy we might use to scream at people entering an abortion clinic and actually love on people as Christ commands us to, then the world might find that we have something better to offer - something completely different. In doing that work of love, we would impact our world much more than any law will ever be able to accomplish. If we love people as they in this moment and not as who we want them to be, then we could show them that there is a better Life to be obtained and a deeper Love than we can offer. That is attractive and cause more people to reconsider abortion than any sign I might hold will.

This is not to say that I do not have an opinion regarding political and social issues and that I do not feel there are things I should attempt to get passed in the legislative arena. It's just that I realize that even if petitions and amendments don't get enacted or struck down how I want them to, this alone is not a factor in how I should treat anyone. You may have a completely different stance on Roe vs Wade, but I am still called to love you through my actions, conversation and life.

To state it more clearly, I believe that my faith should impact my political positions and decisions but I do not think that anyone else's political or social stance should impact how I show them my faith through love.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kitchen Remodel Project Step #1 Completed

Lisa and I met with the owner of Siegler's Custom Kitchens again last night and finalized our plans by selecting our handles and molding for above the cabinets. We hope to have him out to the house by the end of this week to do the official measurements and then we can expect delivery of our cabinets, countertops and sink within 6 weeks.

This of course means that we need to begin the work in the kitchen that needs to be completed before the cabinets arrive. I am hoping to begin tearing up the linoleum flooring this weekend and hope that it isn't as bad as I think it will be. We have those 12 inch linoleum tiles in our kitchem, which makes me think that underneath that is probably an older linoleum sheet (or two ro three). Once we get all of the linoleum removed we will need to replace some of the subfloor as it currently is soft in places. After securing the new subfloor we will need to make sure it is a level surface for the tile that will then need to be laid. However, in order to lay the tile on the new subfloor we will need to remove our current floor cabinets and stove and fridge.

Does this sound like a lot of work to anyone else?

Oh, and did I mention that we also want to remove part of the walls that separate the kitchen from the living room as well?

We are hoping to have the entire kitchen project completed by the end of August, assuming the cabinets arrive before then. I hope to be able to provide photos of our projectas it takes shape...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How Do You Find...

This takes 10 seconds and it is worth it.

Go to Google and type in "How do I find Chuck Norris" then hit the I'm Feeling Lucky button...

You're welcome!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kitchen Remodel Takes Shape

Lisa and I went to a kitchen remodelling place yesterday where we talked with the owner about our project. He took all of our measurements, placed them into the computer and within minutes we had the beginning of a new kitchen design. After several iterations, we were happy with the proposed layout. Choosing the cabinets we wanted took a bit longer, but in time we chose several to have the man price for us. As he was crunching the numbers, we began looking at countertops.

As soon as he told us the prices, we knew which cabinets we would be getting. Suprisingly, it was the "more expensive" line and the exact model we had originally wanted. Since our kitchen is relatively small, the cost difference between the basic line and the model we chose is relatively negligible. Having chosen our cabinets, we were able to hone in on what type of countertop we wanted. In a matter of minutes that issue was resolved and we were beginning to get a picture of what our new kitchen might look like.

We brought the sample cabinet face home to stare at in our current kitchen over the weekend. Unless something drastic happens and we find an amazing deal somewhere else, we will probably go back in early next week and place our order. We found this place through a man that one of our friends from church recommended. So he's recommended by a recommended man I guess... :) That has to count for something...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Podcast - Dave Ramsey

Since I got my iPod, I have thoroughly enjoyed not only being able to listen to music at work and at home, but also the podcasts that I have discovered and subscribed to. Now I get to listen to other stuff that is automatically updated to my iPod when something new has been uploaded and I don't have to do any work for it.

I listen to Dave Ramsey's 1 hour podcast almost every day at work. I was turned on to Ramsey by Lisa's uncle, who spent years working for Edward Jones and recommended DR when I was talking with him about finances. I read one of Rasmey's books and have had several friends complete his Financial Peace University course through our church.

While Ramsey can come across sometimes as being fanatical about his approach to finances, his theory behind it all is solid and I believe worth listening to. He talks frequently about his "Baby Steps" to financial freedom and I have listed them below for future reference. The idea is to step at the top of the list and work your way through it to the end, where you will be completely debt free.

If you haven't read any of Ramsey's articles or books, I would encourage you to do so. If you have an iPod, you might want to consider subscribing to his podcast. It's common sense talk about finances and it is real world examples given by callers that help you learn from other people's mistakes and how they recovered from them.

Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps
1.) $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
2.) Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
3.) 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
4.) Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
5.) College funding for children
6.) Pay off home early
7.) Build wealth and give!
8.) Invest in mutual funds and real estate

For the Love of Blogs

I've rediscovered my love of blogs, but not in the way I once enjoyed them.

There was time when I would follow several blogs at a time and comment on them as I felt the desire. They were personal blogs, political blogs, sports blogs - I was reading a lot of what other people were saying about all sorts of things and I was contributing to them in some small way.

For the time being, I am going to begin to use this space to track some of my thoughts about some blogs I have been following for several weeks as well as to bookmark certain things that I might want to refer back to in the future.

I can't promise that anything I write might be good or worth reading, but it will help me as I attempt to thing through things and dwell on them if I write them out.

You've been warned...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Brail Family Reunion 2008

Lisa and I spent the weekend in Dearborn, Michigan for the annual Brail family reunion. Over a month ago we looked online and found some airline tickets that were only about $30 more than what we estimated it would cost to drive to the Detroit area and back. Since that time the cost of gas has gone up quite a bit and the cost between the two was either basically equal or cheaper to fly. Flying up and back saved us an estimated 18 hours of drive time, which allowed us to spend almost an entire extra day with family, which was great. So we flew out Friday morning with a brief stop in Chicago and arrived at the house by 10:30am.

Friday was spent talking, playing games and basically hanging out with each other and getting reaquainted. Later in the evening, the fmaily threw Lisa and I a baby shower. We were overwhelmed by the amount of gifts that our family presented to us and fully understand and recognize that their love for us and our unborn child were only slighty reflected through their generosity. We received numerous onesies and tops, toys and books, a swing and our stroller. By the time the day was over, Lisa and I were exhausted, yet really happy when we crawled into bed at around midnight. (I suppose that getting up at 4am the day after going to bed at 10:30pm the night before might have had something to do with it.)

Saturday morning had people going all sorts of different places. There was quite a large group that was headed out for 9 holes of golf, but since I have never played golf and have no real desire to start such an expensive hobby anytime soon, I opted out of that adventure. Lisa's aunt had visited the Henry Ford Estate the day before and we had talked about going with Lisa's mother on Saturday and by the time this group was preparing to leave, there was a handful of women going.

While they were all getting ready to go, Lisa's father and I were sitting in the living room together. Originally, a large group of the family had planned on going to Greenfield Village on Friday, but that had evidently fallen apart. Lisa's parents had planned on going by themselves on Saturday, but Lisa's mother wanted to go with the ladies to the estate instead. Faced with the prospect of sitting at the nearly deserted house all morning and not necessarily wanting to go to the estate with all the ladies, I was more than willing to go with Lisa's father to the village. I was interested in seeing it before we went on the trip, so this proved an easy decision to make after I consulted with Lisa about it.

Lisa's father and I arrived at Greenfield Village with impending rain clouds overhead and entered for free thanks to her aunt and uncle who have season passes that can get two people in for free on each visit. After perusing the pamphlet and map that we received upon entrance, we made our way toward the Thomas Edison Menlo Park complex. As we stopped in at the Wright brother's cycle shop it started to drizzle. We arrived at the first building of the complex just in time, as it started to rain heavily. We took our time investigating the many different aspects of this electric production facility and discussed the hazards and hardship of working in that environment at that time. We dodged raindrops from one building to the next as we made our way through the complex. While most of these buildings are actually reproductions of the originals, there has been great attention paid to room layout, accessories and building location to ensure that it accurately reflects the original location.

After the Menlo complex, we made our way to some of the historic homes that have been moved to the village. Our first stop on the house tour was the home of writer and famous dictionary creator Noah Webster. Right next door to the Webster house was that of Robert Frost. It was interesting to see where these people lived and how they lived and makes me appreciate the life that I live. All of the comforts of my modern home easily put to shame any of the adornments and plush items that any of these people had in their houses. It makes me appreciate what God has blessed me with and makes me thankful for the time I live in.

We made our way back to the hotel relatively dry, having experienced small places of history and the company of one another. Saturday afternoon the entire family went to Tiger Stadium, where we watched the Tigers lose to the Twins, but had an enjoyable time none-the-less. The stadium reminded me a lot of the new Busch stadium, just without the upper deck overlooking some of the outfield and fewer seats behind the outfield wall. It seems like all the "newer" ballparks that try to look "older" all look a lot alike, which is kind of ironic. I mean, the "newer" parks don't have the weird angles and different configurations of the older stadiums that give them some of their charm and the "newer" stadiums have the same aesthetic feeling to them and similar playing fields.

Sundayw e had a service in the backyard for church, where our host family led the music and presented our message. Lisa's uncle spoke about leadership and how everybody in the family has a leadership role of some form or another. Whether that role be within just our family, out in the community or in the business world, we are all called to live our lives so that they reflect Christ. This is extremely important when we consider our leadership roles and understand how our decisions, actions and words can impact and change people; either they will be drawn closer to God or repelled farther away from Him.

As we returned on our flight back to St. Louis I reflected on the trip and thanked God for the family He has blessed me with. He has allowed me to become part of a family that loves and respects each other and is striving to follow God's will in their lives. I am blessed because I enjoy their company and do not dread family reunions but actually look forward to them. Through the many conversations I have had over the past 3 years I have been challenged, encouraged and taught many things from the Word of God through these wonderful people. I understand that not everyone gets along with their in-laws and I know that a lot of people cannot stand their extended family. I am blessed to be able to say that neither of those statements is true in my case.

God has given me a family to grow up in that loves Him and each other and then, in His perfect time, He allowed me to meet my wife and become part of her family that does the same. I look forward to the day when I can introduce our child to both sides of our family, where I know that members are already praying for and loving the three of us as a family and where we will be able to learn more about God together in their presence.