Thursday, January 31, 2008

Did I Read That Right?

Jesse Jackson criticized Major League Baseball on Thursday for sending investigators to the hometowns of umpires to ask neighbors questions that include whether the ump belongs to the Ku Klux Klan.

"Major League Baseball has done a disservice to its progressive social history by equating southern whites with white supremacists," Jackson said in a statement. "I am surprised the professional league which helped change social attitudes in all sports leagues about segregation, by championing Jackie Robinson, would make such a destructive move."

Now I have seen it all.

Update On The Web Page

Well, I am nearly done with my internet education - at least the "bachelor's degree!" I have about 5 more modules to finish on CSS and hopefully I will be able to figure out what I am doing enough to actually build MY web page.

I must say that I have been learning a lot. Perhaps you have noticed some of the formatting changes that I have been making to the blog here. Well, you probably didn't notice them. Most are pretty subtle, but I am finding the blog a good place to practice both my HTML and CSS.

Yesterday I downloaded some weather extensions to use on my Joomla site. Hopefully they won't be too hard to figure out or configure. I am really starting to chomp at the bit as I see the end of the tunnel on the "classroom" phase of this endeavor. Soon the real learning will begin.

Overall, I have found the tutorials at the World Wide Web Consortium to be very helpful, but I must say that not all of the creators of the tutorials are equally skilled. It has been more evident in the tutorials for CSS. Most of them give you the syntax fine, but not all of the creators do a good job of explaining all of the details or the rationale behind some of the things that they are showing you. (Tip: if you decide to check out the tutorials, make sure that you click through to the examples. Some of them contain information that you don't get anywhere else on the website.)

I have found Elizabeth Castro's book HTML, XHTML, & CSS: Sixth Edition helpful in understanding rationale in using some of the different elements and techniques. It hasn't proven the most helpful to me to learn the languages (it isn't hands on enough for that) but it has been invaluable in helping me to understand what is in the world of website design versus what should be (at least according to the w3 group) in the world of website design. I am confident that it will also prove (along with my notes from the tutorials) to be a very useful reference.

Hopefully, the next time I update you on my progress, I will be finished with the tutorials and looking for extensions to make my webzine a reality.

Quote Of The Day

President Calvin Coolidge
"It is not in violence and crime that our greatest danger lies. These evils are so perfectly apparent that they very quickly arouse the moral power of the people for their suppression. A far more serious danger lurks in the shirking of those responsibilities of citizenship, where the evil may not be so noticeable but is more insidious and likely to be more devastating."

"We live in a republic. A vital principle of that form of government is representation. More and more as our population increases it becomes necessary for the people to express their will through their duly chosen delegates. If we are to maintain the principle that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, if we are to have any measure of self-government, if the voice of the people is to rule, if representatives are truly to reflect the popular will, it is altogether necessary that in each election there should be a fairly full participation by all the qualified voters."

— Calvin Coolidge, April 19, 1926 from his speech to the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, DC.


I dare say that the first danger is a direct result of falling prey to the second. Even though many are disillusioned with the Congress and with the candidates for the Presidency, this is no time to shrink back from our duty as citizens of the United States to be engaged in the democratic process.

As I have mentioned here, I am utterly amazed that the leaders in Congress can be so totally impotent on anything that is remotely important. Because it is an election year with a "lame-duck" President Congress sits on its hands.

I am furious that Congress needs a week's vacation for every minor National Holiday that comes along - longer for the more widely celebrated ones. If our country's business was run the way that the Congress is our economy would look more like Somalia's than that of one of the world's economic leaders.

But what can I do?

There are two things that I can do. The first is the most powerful. I can pray. I can pray for God to strengthen and encourage those who are in Washington as statesmen, looking to build our country up. I can intercede for the Lord to expose those who are only in Washington to line their pockets and stroke their egos. I can implore the Creator to uncover the corruption, immorality, and duplicity of the ungodly who have risen to power. I can petition the Almighty to remove those in our government whose hearts continually run toward evil. And I can ask the hand of Providence to put godly men in the place of those that He removes.

I can also educate myself, educate others, and vote. What a tremendous privilege we have in this nation to determine as a people who will govern us. Yes, it is God who makes the ultimate decision - this is why prayer is so important - but He graciously allows us to have a voice.

Don't give up out of frustration. We have a responsibility to act.

As President Coolidge said later in his speech:

"The perilous aspect of this situation lies in as insidiousness. With the broadening of popular powers, the direct election of practically all public officials, and the direct nomination of most of them, there is no opportunity for an expression of the public will except at the ballot box. It is perfectly evident that all those who have selfish interests will go to the polls and will be active and energetic in securing support for their proposals and their candidates. The average voter supports what he believes to be the public interest. Unless they appear on election day that interest will go UNREPRESENTED." (Emphases mine.)

We cannot afford to give tacit approval to "those who have selfish interests." They would sell America to the highest bidder - to her destruction. We must stay involved.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

YES!!!

John Edwards is calling it quits in his bid for President.

Edwards planned to announce his campaign was ending with his wife and three children at his side. Then he planned to work with Habitat for Humanity at the volunteer-fueled rebuilding project Musicians' Village, the adviser said.

With that, Edwards' campaign will end the way it began 13 months ago—with the candidate pitching in to rebuild lives in a city still ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Edwards embraced New Orleans as a glaring symbol of what he described as a Washington that didn't hear the cries of the downtrodden.

So it has ended - at least until the convention. I'll be shocked if he doesn't try to get on as someone's running mate. I personally think that he and Jimmy Carter ought to stick to Habitat for Humanity. I'd think more highly of them if they did.

One other thing that the article pointed out (albeit quite subtly) was that Edwards ran as a moderate Southern Democrat last time, but noted that this time he was much more liberal "progressive":

Edwards burst out of the starting gate with a flurry of progressive policy ideas—he was the first to offer a plan for universal health care, the first to call on Congress to pull funding for the war, and he led the charge that lobbyists have too much power in Washington and need to be reigned in.

The ideas were all bold and new for Edwards personally as well, making him a different candidate than the moderate Southerner who ran in 2004 while still in his first Senate term. But the themes were eventually adopted by other Democratic presidential candidates—and even a Republican, Mitt Romney, echoed the call for an end to special interest politics in Washington.

I would like to point to two things that this very generous reporter has said. First of all, was the statement that Edwards was "a different candidate than the moderate Southerner who ran in 2004." This is true. His campaign was much different this time. He ran on the moderate Southern Democrat platform his first time out of the gate, but it also shows his duplicity, because at the same time that he was running as a "moderate Southerner" he was racking up a scorecard in the Senate as the nation's second most liberal Senator - second only to Senator Kerry. That means that he was MORE liberal than Senator Clinton or Senator Kennedy. Try to get your brain around that one.

Secondly, and using this last statement as a springboard, I would like to point out that these thoughts were not "new" to Edwards at all. Remember he was the second most liberal Senator in the Senate in his one term in office. It is a rare thing for people to change - even with great will power. The ideas and habits that we have don't radically change (barring someone getting transformed by the power of Jesus Christ) in 40 years let alone 4 years. Edwards' change of message came because he felt that it was politically expedient.

I bear Senator Edwards no ill will. He is a very nice person. He has graciously responded to some of my more blistering communications with his office when he was Senator. But I absolutely don't want him representing me in government ever again, and so I am glad that he is, for the moment, out of the race.

I hope that he will go home and enjoy the time that he has remaining with his wife and continue helping the people in the Gulf to rebuild their lives.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Need Some Information About John McCain?

“I seek the nomination of our Party, because I am as confident today as I was when I first entered public life as a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution that the principles of the Republican Party – our confidence in the good sense and resourcefulness of free people – are always in America’s best interests. In war and peace, in good times and challenging ones, we have always known that the first responsibility of government is to keep this country safe from its enemies, and the American people free of a heavy-handed government that spends too much of their money, and tries to do for them what they are better able to do for themselves. We want government to do its job, not your job; to do it better and to do it with less of your money; to defend our nation’s security wisely and effectively, because the cost of our defense is so dear to us; to respect our values because they are the true source of our strength; to enforce the rule of law that is the first defense of freedom; to keep the promises it makes ot us and not make promises it will not keep. We believe government should do only those things we cannot do individually, and then get out of the way so that the most industrious, ingenious, and enterprising people in the world can do what they have always done: build an even greater country than the one they inherited.”
- John McCain

Well, it would seem that the list of presidential candidates is growing smaller and smaller by the day. By the time the primaries hit here in NC it will probably be a moot point. One of the candidates that I have been considering is John McCain, but I haven't done so confidently. He has done some things in recent years that I have strenuously disagreed with, the McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill being right at the top of the list. He has also not been terribly popular with the NRA.

As it has become evident that Senator McCain has managed to survive his campaign's near collapse earlier last year I realize that I need to do some research on him, but just haven't been terribly motivated to do so yet. Tonight I found an article written in his support by Michael Medved. I found it helpful, though I am not ready to put full confidence in it. I hope that you will find it informative too.

Amen, Cal

Cal Thomas has written a scathing review of the Republican Party's behavior over the past 8 years that is spot on. I couldn't say it better, Cal. This is why Republicans are running for cover. It all probably began when they betrayed their promise in the Contract With America to institute term limits. Now Republicans are acting more like Democrats than any time I can remember. They are more concerned about job security than they are about any guiding principle or standard. If they keep serving themselves in this way they will destroy the party.

Some Good Resources

If you are like me, you are constantly inundated with requests from everyone under the sun for money to help some worthy cause or another. It is impossible to give to each and every one of these requests - and invariably a donation is welcomed by another hand out for more. No doubt there are many worthy causes and the need in our world is great. So how does someone choose a good charity? How do you know who the crooks are? How can you find out whether someone is a good or poor steward of the monies that they collect?

Charles Colson has written an article over at Townhall.com that exposes a couple of crooked organizations that are exploiting our righteous sympathies for injured soldiers to make themselves rich. He also identifies some good web resources to help identify good charities. I hope that you will take the time to check out this article and these websites as you are choosing where to make your charitable contributions.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It Would Suit Me Just Fine

Michael Reagan wrote an interesting article that suggested that Newt Gingrich might enter the presidential race as a dark horse candidate at the convention. I hope he is right. His article argues that most of the conservative Republican base are dissatisfied with the choices that they are being presented for the presidential nomination.

All of a sudden you've got this Republican primary coming down to McCain, Romney, and Ron Paul. With all this uncertainty, just where can a conservative go? All of a sudden radio talk-show hosts, who reflect the opinions of grass-roots conservative voters, are all over the lot, hammering on Rudy, hammering on Romney, hammering on McCain, and hammering on Paul.

Listening to them you get an idea who they want or don't want. They don't like McCain. Most probably they support either Huckabee or Romney. Although they think Rudy is gone, he could come back however, if he wins in Florida next Tuesday.

If Huckabee is finished, I think they go to Romney, who is somewhat more conservative than the rest. At any rate, conservatives could be faced with backing either McCain, or Romney, or Huckabee or even Rudy.

Or they could end up backing none of them.

This option is exactly the one Rush Limbaugh suggested on his show recently. Frankly, I have heard from many of the folks that I have talked to or whose blogs I have read that are so disillusioned that they are actually considering not voting at all.

I personally believe that this would be great foolishness on the part of the Christian community and the conservatives. Sometimes you are presented with nothing but bad choices. I personally would prefer to choose the least bad of those bad choices. I think that it is irresponsible to do otherwise.

But what if there were another option that 'miraculously' appeared at the last minute? What if a true conservative with well-thought-out solutions to the challenges facing America were to come onto the scene? Reagan thinks that just might happen with Gingrich.

Well, who recently has come out with a new book? Who's doing all the shows talking about his new book? Who is advocating common sense solutions to the most pressing problems America faces?

Newt Gingrich, that's who. He was out of the race for a long time; he toyed with the idea of running until Fred Thompson entered the race; and then he more or less pulled back.

Why Newt? Ask yourself why Ronald Reagan won. He won because he was able to excite a group of people in America that the liberal wing of the Republican Party has never excited – the grass roots.

Newt Gingrich is the last Republican to do that — to reach out to the grass roots, to all those conservative Republicans and Reagan Democrats. Remember, it was Newt who engineered the miraculous Republican take-over of Congress in 1994 — something that was deemed impossible two years after Bill Clinton won the White House. …

If Newt throws his hat in the ring he knows that in the blink of an eye he's got the grass roots behind him.

Well, one thing is certain. Nobody is out there actually providing well-thought-out solutions besides Newt. Everyone else is all blah, blah, blah, rhetoric, rhetoric, pontificate, pontificate, obfuscate, blah. After reading Newt's Winning the Future I am convinced that this is a man who has thought about our nation's situation thoroughly and intelligently. He has identified our greatest threats and has presented some very logical, common sense solutions to these sticky problems.

The only problem is that Newt denies having any interest in the Presidency. According to an article at Newsmax:

Gingrich also reacted to a recent column by pundit Michael Reagan, in which Reagan said he would support Gingrich for the GOP nomination if the process were deadlocked and the choice had to be brokered at the GOP convention.

“I was very flattered by Mike Reagan’s comments, he’s a terrific guy,” Gingrich said. “I think we’re going to pick a nominee in the next few weeks, and I think it will be one of the guys currently running.”

Gingrich left open the possibility that he would accept an offer to run as vice president, however. “I would feel compelled to consider it,” he told Newsmax. “But it would depend on what the platform was, and what the agreement was about relative roles. But I certainly would not turn it down out of hand.”

Well, let me say this, Mr. Gingrich: as far as I'm concerned Mr. Reagan is right. If your name was on the ballot I would unreservedly give you my support. I wouldn't say that about anyone currently campaigning.

Update:
I just found this in an article with CNN.:

The radical realist (Newt Gingrich) who defied conventional wisdom 12 years ago by stealing the House out from under the noses of entrenched Democrats now plans a surprise attack for the presidency. "I'm going to tell you something, and whether or not it's plausible given the world you come out of is your problem," he tells Fortune. "I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen." So he's running, only without yet formally saying so.

The article is pretty old, but all I can say is, "I hope they are right."

State Of The Union

I watched the President's State of the Union Address this evening. I thought that he did a pretty good job. I wish that he had addressed the Congress with such fire every year that he spoke there. I think that we would have been much better off had he vetoed a few more bills along the way. We'll see if he vetoes any more in the coming 12 months. At least he looked like he was having fun.

The only things that I really disagreed with him on was the whole "global warming" hoax and his conviction that it is possible to have a peacefully co-existent "Palestine" and Israel. I was watching the speech with an educator who is not happy with the "No child left behind" mandate too.

Most of the teachers that I have talked to are not happy with No Child Left Behind. I would like to know what their problems are with the program and know what they think that it would take to fix it. My personal feeling is that public education is so radically broken that it can't be fixed without starting over from scratch - but that isn't likely to happen. There are too many commies bureaucrats involved in the schools and in government, and bureaucracies are good at one thing and one thing only - providing life support to failed bureaucracies.

The thing that always gets me about the State Of The Union address is the hypocrisy of the assembled law makers. Half of these people rail against the President as if he were the devil incarnate, and yet there they are giving him two five-minute-long standing ovations before he had even said a word. Fox News reported before the President entered the chamber that Nancy Pelosi said that she wouldn't be sad to see the President go at all, and there the two-faced thing was smiling and greeting the President as if he were a long-lost friend. I hope all of the left-wing voters were watching to see which of the Democrats were clapping about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I detest that kind of duplicity.

I didn't watch the Democratic rebuttal. I never do that any more because it just pisses me off. I am so sick of people whose only response is to gainsay anything that the President says. I am sick of the self-serving attitudes of so many people in politics. I am sick of the willingness to serve the party at all costs to the destruction of our country. So many of the people in Washington - both Democrats and Republicans - are nothing but greedy, power-hungry, selfish slugs who think about nothing but what it will take to get re-elected and gain control of the Congress and the White House and maybe how to score with the cute intern that works in their office. I'd love to see the slate wiped clean of every politician that operates this way. They are destroying this country that I have always loved so dearly.

I am still extremely annoyed with the Congress. They continue to waste time on stupid things like global warming and performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports, and cannot seem to manage to deal with the things that the American people have put them there to do.

They are not willing to make the hard decisions about immigration, social security, tax reform, border security, and health care that must be made, but they'll try to throw Barry Bonds in jail for using steroids. This is why their approval rating is the lowest in history. It is why the Republicans lost control of the House and the Senate - not angst over the war. The Republican's base was so disgusted and disillusioned with their inability to get the job done when they had been handed the White House, the House Of Representatives, and the Senate that they stayed away in droves during the last elections. If something doesn't change, it is likely to happen this November too, but that is a rant for another post.

So to wrap up, good job, Mr. President, and thank you.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Hearty Thank You

To my good friend, DP, thank you very much for your hospitality this evening. The steak and the ribs were awesome, playing Wii was fun, and the fellowship with the guys was the best part. Thank you for helping to make that a possibility. (Also thank K, C, and B for being willing to open their home to a bunch of old college buddies!)

DP has set the bar pretty high, but any other readers that want to treat me to a home-cooked dinner, just let me know so that I can get you on my calendar! (After reading about how good TC's cooking is over at LifeSong, I may have to actively try to make that a reality!) Who knows, I may even return the favor!

There is nothing like getting together with old friends. (Oh, and by the way, C, your comment about how none of your dad's friends are old earned you some major brownie points with me, Chief! I always knew you were one sharp cookie!) It is hard to imagine that you can get together with people that you haven't seen in years and still be able to talk and cut up just like you did back in college. Heaven will be like this. I hope everyone has friends like mine!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Stop the Stupidity!


I found this new career opportunity online today. Global Warming is going to make Y2K look like a legitimate threat! If you think that you got fleeced for Y2K you ain't seen nothing yet!

If you want to wallow sideways in the public trough here is the perfect opportunity for you. (What do you think Al Gore is doing? I'll bet he is beating these salary levels too.):

Carbon coach
Reducing contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, or the carbon footprint, is one huge step toward sustainability, but few guidelines exist for how companies gunning to be green should proceed. Carbon coaches offer this essential information. In addition to calculating carbon footprints and offering advice for offsetting them, carbon coaches help companies fit sustainability into their overall mission. Their services range from providing branding strategy for "green" product launches to advising companies on their relationships with NGOs....

Few guidelines exist, indeed. In fact I read an article today about how the UN is now saying that bio-fuels will cause more trouble than they will mitigate, but I will get to that in a moment. Back to the article at hand.

Most carbon coaches work at consulting firms, where they command salaries ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 for entry-level positions and $60,000 to $100,000 for mid-level positions.

Sadly, folks working for not-for-profit companies aren't going to make that much. "Non-profit organization salaries aren't as high; an entry-level carbon coach with a master's degree can expect a salary of $30,000 to $50,000." Well, it's for the children, though, right? Just like John Edwards' compassionate legal work for all of those poor children, right? It WAS for them, wasn't it? But then why did he take HALF of the rewards in legal fees? But I digress...

In another "What the crap?..." story, check out this headline from across the pond:

A British bus company has apologized to a girl who is led around on a leash by her boyfriend and describes herself as a human pet after one of its drivers threw her off a bus. Tasha Maltby, 19, told British newspapers she was the "pet" of her 25-year-old fiancĂ© Dani Graves….

WHAT?!!! Yes, I read that right.

Maltby -- who lives on state benefits and got engaged in November -- said her choice of lifestyle might seem unusual but was harmless.

"I am a pet," she told the Daily Mail. "I generally act animal-like and I lead a really easy life. I don't cook or clean and I don't go anywhere without Dani. It might seem strange but it makes us both happy. It's my culture and my choice. It isn't hurting anyone."

Well, can't say that I could see that happening here... the very suggestion that a woman wear a leash would end up sending a fellow to the dentist for a new set of teeth with most of the women I know. People are weird.

So back to the UN article I was talking about earlier. I find it hilarious (in an infuriating sort of way) that the UN is backpedaling on its claim that bio-fuel will be the great messiah of our poor, little, carbon-polluted world.

...Regan Suzuki of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization acknowledged that biofuels are better for the environment than fossil fuels and boost energy security for many countries. However, she said those benefits must be weighed against the pitfalls — many of which are just now emerging as countries convert millions of acres to palm oil, sugar cane and other crops used to make biofuels.

...Foremost among the concerns is increased competition for agricultural land, which Suzuki warned has already caused a rise in corn prices in the United States and Mexico and could lead to food shortages in developing countries.
Is anyone besides me not surprised that no one stopped to think about the possible negative effects of this policy? Politicians never do. Just like the stupid bill that was passed by the geniuses in Washington that outlawed incandescent light bulbs - while favoring fluorescent bulbs that contain heavy metals and other serious toxins. I stopped needing someone to wipe my nose about 34 years ago, thank you very much.

Here's a shock for you: I am totally in favor of the development of alternative / renewable fuel sources. I suspect that I just surprised some of my more loyal readers with that statement. Why am I in favor of the development of alternative fuels and new technologies? Do you think that it is because I am concerned one iota about global warming? NOT A CHANCE.

The reason that I support bio-fuel development is because (based on my own reading) it looks like a relatively small farm could produce enough ethanol to allow a family to cut its dependence on oil severely if not completely. I am sick of the oil companies and commodity traders and the local gas stations charging as much for their product as they can without starting a riot.

They know that there is no competition for their product. They have a captive market. Americans can't just stop driving cars. The public transportation infrastructure does not exist on a large scale and the structure of our communities is not conducive to public transportation. Big oil knows that they have us between a rock and a hard place. The development of bio-fuel technology gives me the chance to produce my own fuel and stick it to the man. Viva la revolucion!

Anyway, this new "concern" by the UN is a big smoke screen in my opinion. They are already looking for a graceful way to escape the corner they have put themselves in by buying into the Chicken Littles' dire predictions and drinking the loonies' Kool Aid. See, it will cost all of the big wheels in the UN too much profit if petroleum goes away. They can't have that, but in the meantime they will line their pockets with ummm, spend waste trillions of dollars (yes, Virginia, that is trillion with a "t") until everyone figures out that the sun still keeps coming up in the morning and realizes that all this climate change is a bunch of hooey. (Then they'll blame Al Gore for it all, but he'll shift the blame to President Bush somehow.)

Come QUICKLY, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Then Tell Me Why I Haven't Been Warm All Day Long...

"Climate change is occurring far more rapidly than even the worst predictions of the UN's Nobel Prize-winning scientific panel on climate change, Al Gore said on Thursday."

What a boob.

Update On the Wal-Mart Bomb Incident

Well, since no one got blown up yesterday, there was almost no coverage of "the rest of the story" on the bomb threat at the Kannapolis Wal-Mart. However, I finally did manage to find an article in today's Salisbury Post that rounded out the details.

It turns out that the two men arrested for the incident were trying to carry a tool box into the store when they were stopped and told that they would have to leave it at the Customer Support desk. When asked what was in the toolbox one of the men replied, "a bomb."

Not the smartest response in our post 9/11 world. Especially when you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest and when your companion has crack cocaine in his pocket. Now it becomes even clearer why a "C" is considered "average." Very, very, scary.

When I saw the two men's pictures in the news article, I realized that I had actually seen them in the store when I was there. They had walked right past me and my niece before we got ready to leave.

The article estimated that there were about 200 people in the store. That was a pretty gross underestimation. If there were 10 people in the store there were 400. I have often wondered where they all come from. It seems that nobody in my area has a day job. The parking lot at Wal-Mart and Jake Alexander Boulevard are always packed with cars all day long.

So, the long and the short of it is that my brush with excitement yesterday was all over someone being a smart Aleck. The moral of the story is: if you look like a thug, have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, and have crack cocaine in your pocket, it is probably not a good idea to make a false bomb report. It turns out that is a felony too. (Makes you wonder what he would have been charged with if it really HAD been a bomb.)

"Now you know the REST of the story. Good DAY!"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Not Your Every Day Occurrence

Today I was at the Wal-Mart off of Dale Earnhardt Boulevard in Kannapolis getting my some new frames for my glasses and helping my niece spend her Tooth Fairy money. As we were headed to the check out area, someone told us that they were evacuating the store.

Now frankly, it would have been easy to not believe the the lady that was telling us to do this. It wasn't even clear that she was a Wal-Mart employee; she was just saying it conversationally. There was no announcement or anything over the PA system in the store.

Well, we went ahead and left our merchandise at the front of the store and got the heck out of Dodge. A lot of people were just milling around the front of the store, and one of the stylists working in the hair salon wasn't even aware that they were evacuating.

When we got outside, one fire truck was arriving, but it really wasn't clear what was going on. We asked one guy in the parking lot if he was coming or going so that we could let him know that it was no use going in the store. He told us that it was a bomb threat and that he had seen the guy that brought it in.

Well, how is that for freaky? My niece was a little scared, but we were able to show her how God had helped us by getting us out of the store safely.

WBTV, out of Charlotte, has a report about the event on their website. It turns out that no bomb was found, but the police have two men in custody for questioning.

Anyway, looking back on the event makes me think that the store wasn't ready for this kind of event. There were a lot of things that just didn't seem to be handled well. Of course, there are a lot of things that I don't know.

I wonder if the store had somehow confined the suspects before they began evacuating the store? It seems to me that if they hadn't, the suspects may have figured out that they had been discovered when the store started emptying of people and potentially detonated up the bomb (which doesn't appear to have existed in the first place) or just melted into the crowd and out of the store in the midst of the evacuation. It would also seem reasonable that Wal-Mart employees would have been moving people away from the building. Sometimes people are kind of dumb.

This event makes me realize just how easy it would be for someone to perpetrate this kind of activity for real. We really take a lot for granted in this country - especially God's protection. I, for one, am glad that I have so little to tell of this story. How differently things could have ended up.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I, Too, Have A Dream

Today is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. If you know anything of his story you have surely heard an excerpt from his wonderfully moving "I Have A Dream" speech.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood....

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today....

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

...And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

In no way do I want to detract from the injustices that are still seen between the races in America. Racism by anyone is a blight upon this country and a sin for which we must repent. There is, however, another greater evil that I want to address this evening that impacts all Americans and disproportionately effects black Americans - abortion.

Abortion is the greatest evil present in our society. It is worse than corruption. It is worse than greed. It is worse than racism. It is worse than perversion. It is worse than war.

Abortion is bankrupting our nation. It has spelled the doom of Social Security. Since its inception in 1973, abortion has wiped out more than the equivalent of the combined populations of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Delaware, and the District Of Columbia. More than four in every ten pregnancies have been aborted since 1973. The percentage is even higher in minority populations.

Abortion - for whatever reason - is the legally sanctioned murder of the innocent. According to the Bible, this sin makes God VERY angry.

During Jehoiakim’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the land of Judah. Jehoiakim surrendered and paid him tribute for three years but then rebelled. Then the Lord sent bands of Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite, and Ammonite raiders against Judah to destroy it, just as the Lord had promised through his prophets. These disasters happened to Judah because of the Lord’s command. He had decided to banish Judah from his presence because of the many sins of Manasseh, who had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. The Lord would not forgive this.
2 Kings 24:1-4


There are six things the Lord hates — no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family. Proverbs 6:16-19
The following chart graphically helps to put into perspective the toll that abortion has taken on our country. Each mark represents 25,000 killed. I used this graphic in a post earlier this year. I have added the estimated number of additional marks for the aborted lives of 2007 in red at the appropriate place.

The Revolutionary War: (25,324) !

The Civil War: (498,332) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

World War I: (116,708) !!!!!

World War II: (407,316) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Korean War: (54,246) !!

Vietnam War: (58,655) !!

Global War On Terror: (7,500) .

War On The Unborn (In The United States): (47,500,000+) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Where is the outrage? Where are the protests? Why aren't there people storming the Capitol Building in Washington and the Supreme Court because of this blood bath? You who decry the 'injustice' of the Global War On Terror, those of you who think that the toll of this war has been too great, those of you who declare the President to be a liar when you distort the truth about abortion; HOW DARE YOU BE SILENT over the injustice of abortion! Hypocrites!

I HATE abortion. I have a dream that one day the womb will not be the most dangerous place to be in America. I have a dream that the American people will no longer tolerate the murder of its citizens before they have even had the opportunity to breathe in the sweet air of liberty. I have a dream that one day the hearts of the fathers will be turned towards their sons and daughters, and that lives and relationships will not be sacrificed on the bloody altar of convenience. I have a dream that those who promote this great evil will repent with profusion of tears and contrition of heart or will be crushed by the hand of the Lord.

There is a choice. God has done something that is utterly amazing - He has offered pardon for even this great sin. But this pardon will not allow you to continue murdering the unborn. You can repent - you can utterly reject your sin - and turn to God for forgiveness, and in His mercy He will forgive you. Sadly, there are those who will not repent. They will mock at this warning and will continue in their sin and one day hell will open its maw to greedily receive them for an eternity of torment - a torment that makes the worst that humans can dish out look like a Sunday picnic. After reading of these horrors, I wouldn't wish them on my greatest enemy, but they will be justly earned by those who refuse God's gracious offer of clemency. Please cry out for mercy before it is too late!

It is time for the marks to stop being added to this list. Consider very carefully each candidate's position on abortion as you are voting this year. Hold them to account for their complicity with abortion and reward those who are working to bring it to an end in our land. Pray that abortion will end soon. It can't end too soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chicken And Dumplins

It has been a snowy day here in lovely China Grove. It started about 1:00 this afternoon and as far as I know it is still at it. The only problem is that it has been above 32° all day. So, instead of having about 8 inches of snow we have maybe 2 inches. The fun will come when we finally dip below freezing tonight. All of that wetness on the roads will want to freeze. Should be interesting heading to church tomorrow morning.

So with our church only having 3 remaining Sundays, I needed to plan to take something to our Sunday evening gathering. I thought about making a pound cake, but I only had one full stick of butter. That would have meant driving to the grocery store, and I vetoed that idea.

What this weather called for was comfort food. And what greater comfort food is there than chicken and dumplings? And what is better than wanting to prepare something that you already have all of the ingredients for? So chicken and dumplings won out.

However, I do wish that I had gone on and gotten the butter and made the cake now. I am really starting to get cabin fever! I haven't seen another human face to face all day. On top of that, I just got an email from the pastor saying that we are going to have pizza at tomorrow night's gathering. <Sigh> Oh well!

Since I don't have the heart to torment my good friend G who reads this blog regularly, and since I can't think of a good way to ship him a container of homemade chicken and dumplings, I have decided to tell you how to make them.

I got the foundation of this recipe from my Grandmother before she passed away. But like a lot of good, Southern recipes most of the measures were pretty general. Unfortunately, I don't think that I will be able to do much better here, but I have a pretty good idea of what I did.

Grandma's Chicken & Dumplings


Ingredients


1 Chicken (Cut up. Leave the skin on.)
2 Bay leaves
1 T Italian Seasoning (Usually contains oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil)
1 clove garlic cut in two
1 t dehydrated onion (You could use fresh. I was feeling lazy. Use about ¼ medium onion finely diced.)
5 black pepper corns
Salt to taste (I started with 1½ t, but I ended up adding about 3 t total)
2 c plain white flour

Method

1) Put the chicken in a stock pot. Cover with water. Add the bay leaves, Italian seasoning, garlic, onion, pepper corns, and salt. Cook on medium heat until the chicken comes off the bone easily.

2) Remove the chicken from the stock. Remove the bay leaves. Remove skin from chicken and remove the chicken from the bone. Tear the meat into bite sized pieces and return to the stock. Let it cook until the stock has a nice, light golden color. Make sure that the broth is adequately seasoned. Remove about 3 cups of stock from the pot and set aside.

3) Take ½ c of the flour and mix by hand it in a bowl with just enough of the stock to make it stick together in a ball. Use as few strokes as possible. Overworking it will make the dough tough. Sprinkle flour on your work area and turn the dough ball out onto the flour. Sprinkle flour on the dough and roll out as thin as you possibly can. The thinner the better. Cut the dough into 1 inch squares.

4) Turn up the heat under the stock pot until it is gently boiling. Slowly add the dumplings, gently stirring them into the boiling stock.

5) Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have used all of the flour. Return any remaining stock to the pot. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook. If you have a crock pot put them in there on the lowest setting.

You could probably eat them within 30 minutes if you just can't wait, but chicken and dumplings get better as they cook. The longer that you can give them the better. Keep an eye on the moisture level and add water as needed. I usually prepare them the day before I plan to eat them.

I hope that this recipe works out OK for you. Chicken and dumplings is one of those things that takes a little practice. If it doesn't go just perfect the first time, don't give up. Even when they aren't the best, they are still pretty good! Thanks for reading.

UPDATE:
I tasted them at about 1 hour, and I frankly couldn't imagine them tasting any better. Hope yours turn out well!

TIP:
Chicken and Dumplings don't really reheat well in the microwave. It changes the taste. They do much better if you slowly warm them back up on the stove top (just be careful to keep them from scorching) or in the oven.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gideons Getting the Cold Shoulder In Many Hotels

It would seem that many hotels are giving the Gideons a taste of the religious discrimination displayed by Target Corporation against the Salvation Army.

According to an article that I read today HERE on the Presidential Prayer Team website:

(A) growing number of hotels are opting not to allow the placement of Gideon Bibles, according to an article in Newsweek magazine.

"In the rooms of Manhattan's trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests can enjoy an eclectic selection of underground music, iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs and even the living company of a complimentary goldfish. But, alas, the word of God is nowhere to be found," the article begins.

Such hotels say society is evolving and a younger, hipper generation has no interest in the Bible. They also say they would have to cater to a variety of belief systems and could not single out Christianity.


Does anyone else smell horse manure? Or is it bull? Maybe it is chicken.... Come on, people, can you not come up with a better excuse than that?

I hope that if these "younger, hipper" guests have no interest in the Bible they have the good sense not to read it. And from what I have been reading, the clientèle isn't getting any younger.

And it isn't like these Bibles are costing the hotels anything. The Gideons put them there for free. Perhaps if the representatives of the other belief systems feel left out they might be willing to pony up some free literature like the Gideons do. The Mormons do it in the Marriott Hotels. And it isn't like there are all that many other belief systems out there with holy writings. You can double up the Jews and Christians - you wouldn't even need an extra book. That only leaves the Muslims, the Hindus and the Buddhists.

The hotels can't claim that there isn't enough room either. I have never been in a hotel room that didn't have an overabundance of drawers.

Sad to say it, but this is probably the best way to handle this situation: The next time that you are staying in a hotel, check to see if there is a Gideon Bible. If there isn't, call the front desk and ask to speak to the manager. Tell them you cannot find the Gideon Bible in your room. If they say that they don't allow that, then tell them that you will need to check out immediately and will expect a full refund because they are not respecting your needs as a guest. Conversely, if there is a Gideon Bible present, make sure to contact the manager and let him know just how much you appreciate them allowing the Gideons to place a Bible there. Make a really big deal out of it. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I have heard dozens of stories about lives that were saved by Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms. It is short-sighted at best to prevent their placement. Why is it that everyone is threatened by a Bible? If you don't pick it up, it certainly has no chance of changing you. If you read it and don't believe it, it is merely words. And it isn't like lost folks would be giving anything up by believing the Bible anyway, because the basic message of the Bible is, "Hey, buddy, you're holding on to a sack of dog crap. Put that down so you can have a real treasure beyond your wildest dreams." Too often people prefer their bag of dog crap.

North Carolina Soldier Earns The Silver Star


Just two days before Christmas 2006, then-Chief Warrant Officer 3 James B. Herring, 46, was leading a five-vehicle patrol near Baquabah, Iraq, searching for a Sunni-Arab insurgent cell responsible for assaults on Coalition Forces, when they were attacked. His heroic efforts saved the lives of 23 American and Iraqi men and earned him the Silver Star.

On December 23, 2006, CW3 Herring, a North Carolina National Guardsman, was the Detachment Commander for Operational Detachment Alpha 2084, Special Operations Task Force – North and was serving as the Ground Force Commander of the mission.
As he led his force down the narrow streets of the nearby village of Tahrir, they were fired upon by three insurgents with machine guns. As they moved forward, Sgt. Broughton Aragon, the gunner on Herring’s Humvee, was able to kill the first three insurgents, only to face 20 more pouring over a concrete wall less than 30 feet away.

Click Here To Read the Rest Of The Story

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 2...

Yesterday I gave you my initial response to the news that "my" church is closing down. I really didn't get to react to things because I had to do some work with my dad. We talked about it, but I didn't have the chance to emotionally deal with it.

Things were kind of that way when my Grandfather died. I really just wanted to lie down for a while and mourn, but I really didn't get that chance. Someone called me just a few minutes after I had lain down on the day he died. Their call was an encouragement and strengthened me, but interrupted the opportunity to mourn a little bit.

Today I got my chance to mourn the decision to close my church. Perhaps in a way I mourned my Grandfather too. I really wasn't productive at all and spent probably 4 hours just sleeping it off. (I don't mean alcohol - it never entered into the picture.)

When I woke up, I got the chance to talk to a friend about things, and I had an email from another friend, and a comment from a friend about this situation. All were beneficial in helping me to get my mind around some of the possibilities that exist around the edges of the paradigm that I was using to evaluate this event.

Later this afternoon I got to talk to other friends and was encouraged by their responses and insights. It was nice that some of my thoughts had been echoed in their minds.

In the midst of my afternoon I was able to spend time with my niece and we were able to have dinner together at Burger King. It was a special time. I really enjoyed being able to do that with her.

When I took her home I was able to talk to my sister, who is also a member of our church. Her comments helped me too. And I have finished my evening off with input from my pastor and several other friends.

In the end I have had some suggestions of things that God may be orchestrating as a result of this very unpleasant situation. I have seen courage in my church family that has encouraged me very much. I have discovered that some of my brothers and sisters are warriors in sheep's clothing.

I still don't have enough information to make a final decision about how I will move forward. I will be spending time with another family from our church tomorrow night which will give me an opportunity to hear what they are thinking. There are 3 other people beyond that that I really want to talk to before I start making any further plans.

The next three weeks I am planning to have a "Greatest Hits" celebration during our worship. I'll be calling folks in the church to get their five favorite songs that we do as I am putting our list together. At least we will be going out with some good music!

So that is all for now. I need to get some sleep so that I can be productive tomorrow to make up for today's period of mourning. I am sure that as things develop you'll be able to read about it here - at least what I'm willing to share! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Well, Crap.

They pulled the plug on my cool little church. I'm not really happy about it at all. Is God in control? Yes. Am I glad Jesus saved me? Of course. Will this cause me to be an enemy of society? No way, eh? (Quick, which movie am I alluding to?) No more than usual anyway... ;->

So what now? I am extremely unhappy being put in the position of having to find a church. I have a friend who has lived here since college and he still is looking for a church. (We're pushing 15 years or better outside of the wonderful never never land of college...)

There are always options. I have already been invited back to my parents' church. Perhaps I could round up the core folks who are game and keep meeting under a new banner and new denomination or none. I could take a couple months off. There are too many variables to be able to come to a good decision right now.

I got the news this morning. My pastor called to let me know. We'll meet for 3 more weeks. Then no mas... I was really hoping that they would give us at least 6 more months. I really think that we would have seen a turn had we been given just a little more time.

Here comes the real question - the one I have been dealing with all day. The one that has been securely locked into the closet in the back of my mind several times, but keeps escaping... the question is, "Why should this change anything about my mission to this area? Why should it change the mission of any of our core members?"

Forgive me a Faulkneresque moment. See, the mission that has been solidifying for our little church is this:

Our purpose here is to go beyond the comfort and security of our own homes and our congregation and begin to make connections with our neighbors, learning to be friends and good neighbors. In doing these things we will begin to have more and more opportunities to show our neighbors – the oikos* that God has given us – the goodness and beauty of our Lord.

*Oikos is a Greek word that roughly means 'one's sphere of influence.' Or at least that's how I'm using it!

We had been making moves to see this mission be carried out, but the mission crystallized too late, and we ran out of runway before it even began to bear any fruit.

So back to the question at hand. And of course the answer is that it should not change our mission at all. Whether we are a church or whether we are members of another body or whether we aren't gathering to worship anywhere, this mission shouldn't change.

The reason that I have confined this question to quarters is that it would be so easy for an introvert like me to say, "Well, that's too bad. We were going to reach out to our community, but no point now since there isn't any church to bring them to." I could easily return to the comfort and security of my little cocoon (Who am I kidding? Mine is pretty dang big!) and let my neighbors and my town continue on down the pathway to hell.

Well, when you put it like that.... DANG! I don't want folks to go to hell. It makes it kind of hard to pout when you say it that way. <sigh>

But there are so many times when I feel like I am stuck in pre-Lucy Narnia: always winter, never Christmas... Always expected to do the right thing when the reward is left way out there somewhere. That's the way this feels.

It was hard enough beating my will into submission to get on board with the church's mission to reach out. At least when it was the church's mission I could count on a group to be there to encourage me when I was feeling insecure about reaching out. The dissolution of the church doesn't necessarily end that, but let's face it, without some structure and organization it is going to be a WHOLE lot more difficult to fulfill the mission and a WHOLE lot easier to just not bother. Now it has to be MY mission. Frankly, I'm not sure I am up to it.

Do I know that I should be glad about all of this and say, "Yay! Change is fun. Change is good. God is in control! Something better is bound to be coming!" Sure I do. My flesh has just vetoed that response for the moment. I'm sure God will eventually get my head screwed on straight. Until then, I'll probably vent a little bit.

So there you go. This is what I have been dealing with today. Hey, if you can't be transparent with billions of people all over the world, who can you be transparent with? At least I got to play with power tools in my dad's wood shop today. Back to computer stuff tomorrow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

God Is Good

2007 was a pretty rough year. I spent a lot of it like Elijah, waiting for ravens to come with my provision. As I have crossed into 2008, things haven't changed much to speak of, although God is still sending ravens (figuratively, that is.)

One of the keys that I have been working on for the past 12 months or so is that God is faithful and trustworthy. He won't allow us to go under. I have seen His provision for me over the past months time and time again. Why is it, I wonder, that even after His consistent support I can still become fearful about how my needs will be met? Foolish, foolish, foolish heart!

I can honestly say that I am getting better at dealing with the stress of this lesson, but every so often, I have to run back to Him for grace to overcome the nagging fear. Still, I don't guess there is anything wrong with getting grace. He told us to do it:

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
- Hebrews 4:16

I just think that it is awesome that God has given us a tool to use to help us live holy lives. I call it "grace grenades." Perhaps you are familiar with the armor of God passage that is found in Ephesians 6:10-18? Well, I have found that "grace grenades" complete the ensemble. Sadly, I do not have time to elucidate on this topic tonight. Perhaps I will be able to revisit it in detail soon.

The bottom line is - GOD IS GOOD. He has proven Himself to me many, many times.

Thanks, God!

A Long Day Can Lead To Random Thoughts

It has been a pretty long day. I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep, so I went ahead and got up. It kind of reminds me of that old Army commercial that ran back in the 80's I think. The slogan said something like "Army. We get more done before 7:00 than most people do all day." Of course there is a reason for this - they got up a lot earlier than anyone else too!

I think that I have probably mentioned that I am helping with a church plant here in Salisbury. We got some negative news yesterday at church. One of our oversight committees has recommended that we pack up and call it quits. Fortunately I already knew about this before I got to church yesterday morning. Last night the majority of our core group met at the Pastor's house for a meal and to discuss the morning's news. I was very pleased that to a person everyone wanted to keep going. No one felt like we had finished our course here in this area.

Another committee was meeting tonight to discuss the recommendation of the first. The big difference is that this committee has the authority to act on their recommendation. One of the things that I did this morning was write a letter to the committee to let them know how I feel about the situation. Hopefully, we will have a positive outcome. I still haven't heard yet.

The rest of the day was spent pretty much working on tutorials and reading. There is so much information out there. I have all but finished the HTML tutorials and will be beginning CSS tutorials probably on Wednesday. After I have finished them I will take another swing at developing my website.

Tonight was Jazz Band practice. We were all off tonight. My guitar sounded pretty awful, but I am not sure if it was only because I was playing it. I think it needs a tension rod adjustment. It is really buzzy right now. I wish I knew a REALLY good luthier around here. When I used to live in Greensboro there was one who was very skilled and I was on his wait list, but never heard from him. (I have heard that one day he just shut things down, packed up, and moved out of town. Strange, but then that is the way those artistic types can be.) Still, I need to practice WAY more than I do right now - especially soloing.

I got to see a clip of one of Obama's speeches. That guy can speak - and he can work a crowd. Of course, so can John Edwards. The problem is that John Edwards is full of crap. Obama has bought into some pretty off-the-wall things like global warming. The thing is he is running this nice guy campaign. This is the same ploy that Edwards used to win the Senate seat in NC so long ago. It was just an act for him, and he used it to distract from his extreme left position on everything. I don't think that Obama is any different.

I have also moved deeper in Look Homeward, Angel. I am still of the opinion that Wolfe could write circles around Faulkner. There are some pretty tragic characters in the story. I always hate to watch a train wreck, but I am enjoying other elements of his style and his insights into Appalachian (Ap-puh-LATCH-un) culture. Though I have never lived there yet, that culture is very much a part of who I am. If I have anything to do with it I'll spend my last days there.

So there you go, the full gamut from religion to literature. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Not Quite Ready

I have been putting off this post a little bit. I realized last night that today's post would push the tribute to my Grandfather off of the front page. I guess I wasn't quite ready to do that. I can't say that I have been mourning all that much since the day he died, but I have already begun to miss him. I think the first time that it really hit me was last Sunday as I was driving to church. I was thinking about what I would do for lunch and realized that he wouldn't be at my parents' home - ever again. It is strange.

Every time I drive by his house in the afternoon I still half expect to see him and my Grandmother sitting on one of their swings on top of the hill at the end of their house enjoying each other and being outside - even though it has probably been 7 or 8 years since they did that the last time. I expect that they are doing something like that now.

Have you ever stopped to try to imagine what heaven must be like? I don't do a very good job of it. The descriptions that I read in the scriptures are too hard for me to fathom. What does an emerald rainbow look like? How can a creature covered in eyes not look freaky? Do you ever wonder if you will get tired of worshiping God all of the time? The human mind is just too small to comprehend eternity. I wonder if we will do the same kinds of things that we enjoy now. I hope that C. S. Lewis' imagination of heaven from the Chronicles of Narnia is accurate. Heaven in his description was all of the things that we loved on earth only more real. Mountains and rivers and oceans and sunsets and forests - all unspoiled, as they were meant to be.

I have never read anyone's version of Utopia that sounded like a place that I would like to be. I read Thomas More's Utopia back in college and thought it sounded hellish. John Lennon's version in Imagine sounds pretty crappy too. Its a pretty song with damnable lyrics. I guess we really aren't meant to understand it on this side. We really have to take it on faith that God in His goodness is bringing us to something far better than we could dream of in our most wonderful dreams.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Greens A' Cookin'

Tonight I have been cooking a pot of greens. I didn't get my greens on New Years' Day. Instead we had cabbage. I reckon it will work as well as the greens, but I still missed the greens.

I have been sampling them as the night has worn on. They are pretty good. I bought a pound of turnip greens and a pound of mustard greens. They smelled so good when I was cutting them up that I had to try them. I was surprised. They taste pretty good raw too. Might end up in a wintry salad some day. It had an almost arugula flavor to it. With a lemon vinaigrette? Hmmm..... But I digress.

If you have never cooked greens before you would be amazed by how much they cook down. I knew that they would reduce as they cooked, but I never would have dreamed that a half a pot would render down to less than ¼. I am pretty sure what I'm having for supper tomorrow: greens, corn bread, baked sweet potato and some black-eyed peas. Mmmmm. I don't guess it sounds (or gets for that matter) any more Southern than that.

Think it sounds gross? That's alright - just leaves more for me!

For the First Time Ever...

I have just begun reading Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel. I am not even 20 pages into it and I'm already hooked. Dang! This guy could write.

I am actually torn between reading for general effect and reading for full comprehension. I think that I will read it faster for the general effect. Later I can come back to it and revisit. This is a book that I believe that I can read and enjoy more than once. I can't believe that I have never been required to read Wolfe in all my years of education. Even in my Southern Writers class we read Faulkner instead - FAULKNER!

It took me years just to read Faulkner and understand him - I was afflicted with him as a senior in High School too. Why is it that people always believe the most twisted perverse things about the South? It is because of the likes of William Faulkner and Erskine Caldwell. Thank God I didn't have to read Tobacco Road. I saw it for the first time last year at the Triad Stage in Greensboro (who, by the way, do a great job with their productions) and was utterly appalled. It was the most revolting thing I have ever seen called art. Caldwell had a chip on his shoulder and the South has been paying for it since.

OK, I'm calm again. I actually can see why Faulkner's writing has been praised. He captured - at least in Absalom, Absalom, the way Southern people tell stories. I just wish that his characters hadn't been so bizarre. If you've never read Faulkner before, there is a trick to it. See, when Faulkner wrote he would often insert parenthetical ideas that could literally last for PAGES before finishing the original sentence. The effect was something like this: (Forgive me, I'm a bit out of practice. I could do it perfectly in college.)

Salisbury was (Can't you remember that time that we went down to O.O. Rufty's General store? You know that time when the radiator hose busted there on East Innes Street. There we all were trying to get that blamed thing off the truck with everyone and his brother standing around gawkin' at us. Don't you remember how Uncle Jim burned his hand on the steam? I'll never forget how they used to have the buckets of seed right there in the walkway between the display cases as you entered the door. I always thought the pink corn was neat and liked the feel of it slipping through my fingers before my dad made me put it down on account of the poison that had been put on it to keep the birds from eating it.

That store was a veritable wonderland inside. They had things in there that must have been there since the store was opened just after the Civil War. There were farm implements and notions, old toys, hardware, clothing, doo dads, and thingamabobs, tools, housewares, fertilizer and all manner of other fascinating treasure. And in the air hung a pungent, earthy smell. I guess it came from the dirt that was ground into the hard wood floors and the farm chemicals.

Of course my favorite part was the drink coolers that they had there just inside the front door - you know, the big square chests that slid open at the top and contained bottled drinks. Not the kind of drinks they have now in the plastic bottles; glass bottles with metal bottle caps that didn't twist off. There was a bottle opener right on the front of the cooler. We always drank it right there so we didn't have to pay the 10¢ bottle deposit. Somehow a drink tasted better drinking it there in the lobby of O. O. Rufty's.

Thank goodness they had that radiator hose too. We'd a been in a fix if they hadn't. We were able to get the truck fixed and back home before supper.) a lot different when I was growing up there. Everything was a lot more laid back and slower paced. Everybody knew everyone....
That was typical of most everything that I ever read of Faulkner's with the exception that the characters are fairly normal and no one is doing anything scandalous in the back room. By the time you get to the end of the sentence that started four paragraphs ago you have completely forgotten what was being said.

The secret to reading Faulkner is to read until you get to a parenthesis and then skip on down to the end of the parenthetical phrase. Read the rest of the original sentence and then go back and finish the stuff in between. Get used to doing it. You won't read far without needing to. Sometimes it seemed like he even put parentheses inside of parentheses! The thing about it, though, is that if you listen to Southerners telling a story that's generally the way they do it.

I suppose that it is a little early in my reading of the story to be extolling Wolfe over Faulkner - only 20 pages in and one of the main characters turns out to be an alcoholic. But there is something different in the portrayal so far - something different in the presentation. It is being done respectfully, I guess. It isn't the South that is making him this way. It is his own generational demons that are driving him. I am truly shocked that I am already engaged with this book. I am already empathizing with the characters. I think this is going to be a very enjoyable read.

Monday, January 07, 2008

An Interesting Discussion

I was at jazz band practice tonight. When we got done, somehow we started talking about evolution. The general consensus was that it takes far more faith to believe that all of the things that we see came from one great pot of primordial stew.

I recently engaged a debate about evolution on a friend's blog. Unfortunately, I didn't get to finish my thoughts in the conflict. I had pondered my responses, but was distracted from posting them due to all of the drama surrounding the holidays. Others had joined the fray before I got back to my opponent's comments, and I have never gotten back to have my final say.

One thing did come of having others say many of the things that I could have said. My suspicions were confirmed. It is sadly predictable the responses that you get in such a discussion. And it is clear that my opponent wasn't interested in changing his mind. The odd thing to me is that he had invested so much energy into reading articles that refuted his position. Why bother reading the opposition's notes if you aren't interested in changing your mind?

Evolutionists always have to try to set the table to their benefit. They want peer reviewed articles to back up intelligent design claims when the scientific community has made such an animal nearly impossible to acquire. Scientific method cannot prove or disprove the existence of God - a non-corporal being. The hypothesis, "God created everything that we see," cannot be tested. There are no videos of the event and no one knows the way to God's house - if it exists. (It does, by the way.)

They also want to mock at the scientific problems, or, as my opponent called them "Intelligent design talking points," associated with evolution, such as the problem posed by Newton's 4th law of thermodynamics. Mockery does not resolve the problem or show how the "talking point" is flawed. If the law of entropy states that a system moves towards greater disorder instead of greater order, then how can evolution - which asserts that from a big disordered puddle of cosmic goo organized life spontaneously emerged - be true? Do we then opt to believe a scientific theory over a scientific law? Certainly not! Evolutionists are the ones who want science on their side - put up or shut up! Evolutionists also cannot answer some of the problems with the fossil record. They cannot, for example explain how some fossils have been found spanning several strata of the record.

I am sure that a discussion of the statistical improbability of the simultaneous, spontaneous eruption of the complexity of life and matter that we have just on planet earth would win no concession either. Yet to me the very complexity of even the simplest virus is astounding. Everything in all of creation is infinitely detailed and complex. We continually discover more and more complexities on both a micro and a macro scale. New technologies are revealing deeper and deeper layers that have never been discovered before.

Statistically speaking, for such complexity to have spontaneously developed in even one species would have been so infinitesimally probable as to be deemed impossible. How much more so for the diversity of species that we find on planet Earth? Shouldn't there be a gradual filling of the fossil record for each kingdom? Yet how is it that the record shows an instantaneous diversity of plants and animals? And for it to have occurred so many times on one planet would seem to indicate that it should have happened on the other planets in our solar system. Certainly at least one life form would have evolved on each of these planets if it happened so readily here!

I also know that it would be of absolutely no benefit to point to the Bible as proof of Intelligent Design. For someone who doesn't believe in a Creator, the Creator's Book will carry no authority - at least not for now. The Bible makes some claims about how life came about on this planet. It also makes claims about how all of the other things that we observe around us came into being. The Bible tells us that God created all of it for His pleasure and that it was good.

I have known Christians who are avowed evolutionists, and I have known Christians on the other end of the spectrum who take the Bible at face value regarding the Creation account and literally believe its claims about the creation. I am pretty firmly established with the latter view. (I know you are all shocked.) Most of the Christians I know fit somewhere along that spectrum. But I have never known any Christians who would claim that evolution occurred without any Divine involvement.

It seems to me that most of the folks who buy into evolution lock, stock, and barrel are the folks who really hope there isn't a God. They don't want to believe in God, so they have to erect an anti-theology to support that hope. I find it interesting to note that many of the same people who promote evolution and its partner, secular humanism, are distressed when the sinful actions endorsed by these philosophies lead to negative consequences. I am even more perplexed by their stubborn insistence that they will not believe in God or endorse any exercise that purports the existence of God - even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The Bible tells us in Romans 1:

But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

The Bible says that the evidence of the Creator is hardwired into the creation. How sad that some refuse to see it. Isn't it telling that "Global Warming" and the famines, drought, pestilence, severe weather, and earthquakes supposedly brought on by it are being blamed on man's use of carbon-based fuels and incandescent light bulbs (which our Congress has scheduled to be outlawed in 7 years) instead of man's sin? Funny how "primitive" people seem to know when God is mad and how "sophisticated" people don't.

As I have been reading in Genesis lately I have noticed something that I never did before: when Adam and Eve sinned they weren't afraid because they had broken their covenant with God. They were afraid because they were naked. They totally didn't get the point. It is pretty clear that we're no different today - we're blaming ourselves for "Global Warming" when what we're really guilty of is worshiping something other than the one, true God. In the religion of secular humanism, that god is man.

Another thing that I have learned in my recent reading is that sin has a predictable life cycle in a society. From the time that sin takes root in the society to the point that it bears its full fruit of death can take hundreds of years, but, just as surely as a dropped object will fall earthward, sin will bear that fruit if repentance does not come. I frankly believe that all of this talk about "Global Warming" is hogwash designed to line the pockets of a few well-placed liars and extortionists. However, if any of their data proves true, I believe that we are merely witnessing the ripening of the fruit of our sin - not the result of driving to work.

It is likely that in the debate between evolution and creation that someone is wrong. If he is wrong, the person who believes in creation suffers little loss other than the loss of a little pride. However, if when God shows up one day to prove the creationist right, the evolutionist may pay dearly for his miscalculation.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Easy Shepherd's Pie

The shepherd's pie turned out so well last night that I thought I'd share the recipe. This is not haute cuisine by any stretch of the imagination - just good, old fashioned comfort food. And it's easy too, which counts for something.

Jonathan's Shepherd's Pie

Ingredients

2/3 lb ground beef
1/2 c chopped onion
3 T Lea & Perrins ® Worcestershire Sauce
1 can Veg-All ® mixed vegetables
1 c Full-bodied red wine (I used a Yellow-Tail ® Cabernet Sauvignon, but a Merlot would do nicely too.)
1 can Campbell's ® Cream of Mushroom Soup
Salt to taste
3 c Idaho Spuds® prepared according to the directions (dry measure)
3 T Duke's ® Mayonnaise

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a skillet, brown the hamburger and onion. Drain off any excess grease. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the wine, and the mixed vegetables with the juice. Let the liquid cook down a bit. Add the soup and mix well. Salt to your taste. Let it simmer a little bit. Pour into a deep baking dish. Prepare the potatoes according to the directions, add the mayonnaise and mix well. Top the hamburger mixture with the potatoes and bake for 1 hour. If the potatoes aren't golden brown at the end of the hour turn on the broiler and let it brown for a couple minutes. (But keep a close eye on them - they will brown quickly under the broiler!) That's all there is to it.

Serves 4-6 (depending on appetite)

Of course you can substitute freshly cooked vegetables (carrots, green beans, peas, potatoes, celery), fresh mashed potatoes, and brands other than the ones mentioned in this recipe. I expect that fresh would make a difference in the taste, but for the time and energy involved in preparing this dish I think it tastes pretty darn good.

I would avoid substituting a salad dressing like Miracle Whip ® if (heaven help you) you can't get Duke's ® mayonnaise where you live. Hellmann's ® would be a much better substitute. I don't think that French's ® Worcestershire Sauce would be a good substitution either. It tastes completely different than the Lea & Perrin's ® version. You could also leave out the wine, but you will end up with a completely different taste.

I hope you enjoy it. It passed the 6-year-old niece test! If you try it, let me know how it goes with your family.

Updated March 27, 2008:
I have modified the recipe based on my experience with it. I have found that it works MUCH better to put the wine in before the soup and let the liquid cook down a little bit. It will shorten the preparation time considerably and make it a lot less messy.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Still Learning

I haven't commented in a little while about how things are going with the website design. I must say that I am happy with the progress that I am making - with the exception that I wish I could do it a little faster. I am becoming more and more proficient with HTML which has been very rewarding. I have been progressing through the tutorials pretty well, although I have taken a little bit of a sabbatical from them to gain some practical experience. I have been helping a friend to develop her website and have been creating some HTML forms for it. I hope that we will be able to publish the site early next week, and I'll give you an address where you can check it out.

Today I am fighting off a cold that has been passed around my family now for weeks. I think that I am still winning, but it is taking a lot of my energy reserves to fight. Hopefully, I'll have the energy and the ability to sing at church tomorrow morning.

Tonight I am heading over to my sister's house to have dinner with her family. I hope they like what I have made. I've made a shepherd's pie. I think that it will be good. I'll report back on it later.

Next week I plan to hit the tutorials again hard. Hopefully I can finish the advanced HTML tutorials and move on into the CSS tutorials. If I can do that I should have most of the tools that I need to begin modifying the Joomla site in earnest. I think that I have figured out enough now to begin collecting the components that I will need for the site. Then I can begin to modify the skin to make it look the way I want it to. I suspect that somewhere along the line I will also have to pick up the JavaScript stuff and the SQL. The good news is that each of these skills that I add will increase my marketability.

I have had some responses to my resume and a good friend has let a lot of his friends know that I am looking, which has turned up some good leads. We'll see if they materialize into anything. I used to think that I knew the direction that God was taking me, but now I really have no idea. I still want to go to seminary, but I don't know if I am cut out to be a vocational pastor. There are a couple of elements to the job description that I am not sure that I am comfortable with - like the deathwatch. Not a job that I think that I would like to do - especially if the person dying isn't saved. And I can't imagine trying to do a funeral for a lost person. What comfort can you offer the family? They most certainly AREN'T in a better place. How dreadful. The only thing that you can do is point the way to salvation - but how do you do that without reminding the family of the terrible consequences that their loved one is facing even at that moment? How tragic.

By contrast, I went to a very positive funeral yesterday. It was for a brother in Christ - a friend of my church - who died. It was very uplifting and encouraging. As I have gotten older, I would much rather go to a good funeral than a great wedding. So often with weddings, that is the happiest moment of the relationship. Cynical, I know, but all too often true. At least with the funeral for a Christian it is only the very beginning of their eternal bliss - something that we can't even begin to comprehend on this side of eternity.

I haven't been paying much attention to the political scene lately - bigger fish to fry, but I was a bit surprised by the outcome of the primary the other day. I didn't expect Huckabee to win by such a large margin, and I didn't expect the 3-way split between the Democratic front runners. I REALLY didn't expect Edwards to do so well and for Hillary to finish 3rd. Looks like it is going to be an interesting lead up to November. I would really hate for John Edwards to win the nomination. He is too good a liar. I think he even believes his own lies. I guess it is a necessary skill for trial lawyers.

Well, I guess that is all for now. I need to go and finish up my shepherd's pie. I'm supposed to be over at her house at 6:00. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Update:

The shepherd's pie turned out very well! It was a big hit.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

So Long 2007...

AND GOOD RIDDANCE!

2007 is finally gone. THANK GOD. It was one of the roughest years of my life and will not shed any tears to see it finally past. I don't know what it is about years ending in 7 but I haven't had a very good track record with them: 1977, 1987, 1997, and 2007 have all been terrible years. I'm not going to say that things couldn't get worse in 2008, but they would have to try pretty darn hard.

I'm sorry I have been gone so long. With the holidays and my Grandfather's sickness and death, it has been a hectic time and I just haven't felt much like writing. The other blog that I have been managing has lain dormant since December 13. I feel terrible about it, but some things just can't be helped. Hopefully the coming days will bring stronger motivation to write again.

There have been some good things that have happened during the holidays. I was able to take a trip to the mountains fishing last weekend and caught another very nice fish. I got to spend time with family, and once again, I have seen God's hand of provision on my behalf. 2007 was certainly a year that saw much of that. In 2008 I hope to move from the place of waiting for the ravens to the place of abundance. The locusts devoured much last year, and it will take abundance to undo the work that they have done to my house. (Speaking metaphorically.)

Still, I am glad that the holidays are finished. I don't think that my body could take much more of the rich foods that the holidays bring, and I am ready to see things sink back into a greater sense of normalcy. Of course, the stores are already putting out Valentine's Day junk.

We sure have some stupid holidays in this country - New Year's Day and Valentine's Day topping the list. I have never seen the point of either of them. Sure enough, I'm glad for the day off on New Year's Day, but it is a day of no meaning for me. Valentine's Day is extortion day.

Men are expected to buy overpriced flowers, candies, etc and take their significant other out to a swanky dinner. How sincere can it be, knowing that you will be in trouble if you don't participate? Why not send the roses and go out to dinner on the 15th when it will be easy to get a reservation and everything will cost half as much? Can anyone honestly attest that flowers given on Valentine's Day are as special or appreciated as flowers given on April 3rd? But I digress. So far I have been fortunate to not be obliged to perform on February 14.

I don't look forward to the nonsense of the political campaigns of the coming months, but in most other ways I am looking forward to this year optimistically. Hopefully it will be a year of breaking out of the leanness of '07 and moving forward into the promise of '08.

Happy New Year.