Friday, September 30, 2011

Teach Your Children Well

My pastor tweeted some wise words the other day, "Just reviewed our school's family life education. Parents, talk to your kids before their teachers do. It's your job!"

Why do parent's avoid talking to their children about important aspects of life? Topics having to do with sexuality, relationships, inappropriate behavior, and drugs. No, I'm not alluding to those tear-filled diatribes after a bell has been wrung that can't be unwrung, nor those in-the-moment nagging reprimands. I'm referring to those deliberate and tender parent-child talks that outline firm boundaries, teach them and remind them of the values that you want them to embrace, and clarify misconceptions before they become set in granite. Sure these talks can be awkward, can make us feel vulnerable, and can completely take us out of our comfort zone. However, these moments are an important component of parenting, and while they are no guarantee that your children will make it through adolescence unscathed, I think they give them a better chance to recognize trouble and avoid it based on knowledge and truth.

In my house, having the "talk" with my daughter is not and was not meant to be a one time event. In fact, I have made it an annual occurrence linked to the start of the school year. In our last day together before she goes back to classes each year, I talk with her about a number of issues that I think she should be aware of and understand. Whether I am giving her new information or reminding her of things we have discussed before, I purposefully and intentionally set aside this time. Certainly my words and intentions aren't always understood and do not always penetrate as deeply as I would like, but she knows that I am trying my best to help her and to love her. Also, each time I talk to her, it makes it easier for me to enter into this type of discussion and makes it more likely that I will be heard in the future.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pebbles in the Stream

I have a small collection of stones and shells that sit on my bedside table. Little mementos from here and there. A red rock from the Rio Grande, a piece of coral from Hawaii, a smooth green stone given to me by my daughter because I like the color green, a fossilized clam shell from a walking path at work, and some stones and fragments gathered from walks with my daughter. Each represents a marker that tells of a special moment in my life. If you listen, each has a small tale to tell of a stop along my way.

These keepsakes mostly sit and collect dust, going ignored and unnoticed from day to day. However, every once in a while as I reach over them to turn on the lamp, a memory catches my eye and pulls me in. It is then that I will pick up one of the pieces and rub it between my fingers and linger for a moment or two. Just let the memories cascade through my mind and take me back.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Boneman's Daughters

I just finished reading the suspense thriller Boneman's Daughters by author Ted Dekker. This is the story of a U.S. military intelligence officer, Ryan Evans, who has abandoned his wife Celine and daughter Bethany to fulfill his duty to serve his country in Iraq. One day he is sent out into the field and is captured by a local operative whose goal is to get Ryan to denounce his country's occupation of Iraq for a propaganda film. The technique chosen to mentally break Ryan is macabre. Local children are brought into his presence and slowly tortured. After several children are killed in this manner, Ryan manages to overpower his captor and escape back to his unit. However, his brain is scrambled by what he has experienced. During his imprisonment he comes to the realization that he loves his wife and daughter beyond measure and must be reunited with them.

The military sends Ryan back to his home in Texas to recover. There we are introduced to the satanic Alvin Finch, aka "Boneman". A serial killer who has murdered seven young women by breaking their bones one by one. Ryan is accused of being the Boneman by the local DA who happens to be sleeping with Ryan's wife and who has helped to turn Ryan's daughter against him. In the end, Ryan and his daughter tearfully reconcile after a dramatic rescue and after they torch Boneman to cinders.

I have now read more than a dozen Dekker novels. Although I enjoyed reading this work, it was definitely on a considerably lower plane than all of the others. None of the characters was well developed. Ryan's wife Celine was a nasty witch with no redeeming qualities. His 16 year old daughter Bethany developed a mighty quick and implausible case of Stockholm Syndrome for the mass murderer. The DA and lead FBI agent were underwhelming stock characters. This read like a melodramatic first draft novel from a rookie author, not the crisp, fresh, and compelling work of a seasoned master.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blind Man

As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" John 9:1-2

This story from the New Testament of the Bible has always kind of poked at me. Jesus and His disciples were walking along the road when they happened upon a blind man. Instead of taking action of any kind with the poor and helpless outcast, such as comforting him or praying with him, Jesus's disciples engage in misguided, rhetorical theological debate. Some have even suggested that their dialog and exchange occurred within earshot of the man. This story has always rubbed at me, not because I am shaking my head at the disciples from my ivory pedestal, but because I would have been right there, taking part in the discussion. How can I say that?

The other day I was running an errand on my way home from work. I was just leaving the store and pulled up to the traffic light in the middle lane. There on the side of the road was a panhandler, a man shaking a tin for scratch from passersby. He wore a crude cardboard sign around his neck saying that he had lost everything, "Please help". Normally my instinct is to avoid even acknowledging these people, to stare straight at the road ahead of me. But this time, this time, I looked over and we made brief eye contact. He acknowledged me with a slight nod of his head. As I looked into his eyes, I saw a man, likely in his mid-30s, with a kind face and a mantle of dignity. There was an unmistakeable pain written across his face, but his jaw was set and he was doing what he needed to do to survive.

As the light turned green, I thought to myself what could possibly have happened to bring a man to the point of begging on the street. I wondered if he had brought this upon himself or if he just had some bad luck. As I sat analyzing and creating a story for him in my head, the passage about the blind man in John 9:1-2 came back to me and it became very personal in its meaning. I had taken the trajedy of this man's personal crisis and turned it into an academic exercise to pass the time on my drive home. But as I pulled into my driveway, I could still see his eyes and felt powerless. I that moment, I did what the disciples did not do for the blind man, I prayed. But I prayed for both of us.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Heavy Lifting

I think that Peter Griffin is one of the wisest men that I know. Whenever I face the tough questions in life, I turn to him to dispense his witty brand of sage advice. Advice forged in the fires of life. Take Peter's counsel regarding lifting heavy loads:

"The key is to put it all in your groin and your back, take your legs totally out of the equation. Lift with your lower back in a jerking, twisting motion."

I can still picture Peter's reaction in the scene when he tries to lift that car. Just watching him writhe on the ground in a jerking, twisting motion ... Anyway, I would bet that I have made you smile with this. You might even be saying to yourself, "Even a corn nugget knows to lift with your legs and to protect your back." In fact just the other day at work I took part in a safety lecture about proper lifting techniques. The most important rule, what experts might term, rule #1, is to get someone else to do the lifting.

So, anyhow, the very same evening as I had attended the safety lecture about lifting, I had to work out in the yard to remove a tree stump. After a good 30 minutes of concerted effort, I decided to put my glass of juice down and actually go outside and get started on the job. I then worked to completely tear up my lawn and finally had removed as many of the roots as I could see. I then was faced with a 100 lb stump blob to rip from the ground. So, I bent over at the waist and heaved and/or yanked with everything that I had. I then found myself writhing on the ground with a messed up back after following Peter's advice to the letter. This was definitely a case of life imitating art.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Insights on John

I have been working my way through Charles Swindoll's multi-volume exegesis of New Testament Insights. So far I have tackled three different studies, i). Romans, ii). 1&2 Timothy and Titus, and iii). James and 1&2 Peter. My plan upon completion of those works was to dive into Swindoll's study of the book of Revelations. However, after some consideration, I felt it more appropriate to work my way through the study, Insights on John. It somehow felt more appropriate to first read about the beginning times (Jesus's life on earth, His public ministry, His sacrificial death for our sins and salvation, His humanity, and His promise of the Holy Spirit) before reading about the end times (rapture of souls, judgment, Jesus's second coming, and the new heaven and earth).

The book of John, together with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are referred to as the gospels. Each provides a narrative of the life, death, and resurrection of the life of Jesus. John's gospel was believed to have been written in the period from 90 to 100 B.C. either by the apostle John or a community of students associated with him. This book does indeed have some links to stories and incidents contained in Matthew, Mark, and/or Luke, but also has a number of teachings and miracles that appear only in this account. It seems that one of the important aspects of the book of John is that it was written nearly 60 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. This allowed the author some time and perspective with which to view history. It also allowed the author to approach his subject without the raw emotion associated with writings linked closely to the events it describes.

Swindoll approaches the book with respect and integrity, along with his usual teaching style and perspective. This is a book to be savored and taken in short sections. Not something to be burned through in a few evenings. Now, I will move onto Swindoll's Insights on Revelation study. I very much look forward to studying this book of the Bible with a most trusted Sherpa.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Valleys (Obtuse)

A long December and there's reason to believe; Maybe this year will be better than the last ...
I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving -
Oh the days go by so fast.

I posted yesterday on the topic of life's low points in Valleys (Acute). Today I want to probe this a bit further from a slightly different point of view, a slightly different angle.

There is an old saying, you cannot know of a man's burdens until you walk a mile in his shoes. While all of us would likely tip our head in acknowledgement of this truth, I'm quite sure that the lion's share of us have not taken this statement fully to heart. I know with nary a doubt that I certainly have not. But just for a moment, think back to the last time that you passed through a deep valley in your life, where you were shouldering hurt and pain well beyond your capacity. You balanced on the thin line between rage and insanity, where but a gentle breeze rippled by a butterfly's wings in the wrong direction could have pushed you over the edge. In such a circumstance, how did you behave when in the presence of others? Were you your normal plucky self? Did you make conversation and flash your winning smile? Were you fully within your normal bounds? ... Of course not! You were likely unbearable to be around. Surly, rude, introverted, emotional, angry at everyone and everything. But likely you never announced to those in your world what you were going through.

In such moments when somebody treats your poorly, without regard to your feelings, do you ever consider that they are dealing with something onerous? That they have been pushed beyond their abilities, churning on the inside with thoughts and possibilities that they never could have imagined? Or do you, like I typically do, quickly label them a jerk and think wholly negative thoughts? Perhaps we should not be so quick to fire that gun chambered with insults and hatred. Perhaps we could try to respond in kindness or at least to hold our tongues. For you never know a man's burdens ... don't cause that breeze that sends someone over their edge.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Valleys (Acute)

... I have a smile stretched from ear to ear to see you walking down the road; we meet at the lights, I stare for a while; the world around us disappears ...

Today's post is a bit on the melancholy side. It's a post for all of us at one moment ... or another. It's a post for people who are hurting and struggling, yet must somehow deal with their issues at the same time they continue living. From my own window today I can view:
  • A man whose mother died after a long illness where there was hope for her recovery just a few weeks ago.
  • A man whose wife decided after many years of marriage that she wants to move on alone.
  • A woman who unexpectedly got pregnant and let that joy permeate her life before she lost the baby after she tripped and fell in her yard.
  • A patriarch, who for so long has taken care of everyone and been the family rock, suffered a debilitating stroke just a few years into his retirement.
All of us burn with the deep, unrelenting hurt associated with lost relationships. Unlucky, unfair, unexpected. You just want to scream to the heavens. Why me? Why them? Why? Yet so often the echoes of silence are deafening. Time and struggle are normally the only cures you hear pitched from the medicine man's wagon. Of course, those fancy bottles are brimming only with snake oil. Distance yourself from that siren's song. There is no real cure, only muting of the lowest lows. New and old activities to fill our mind to distract us from what we really wanted. Will there ever again be peace, equilibrium, self-confidence, and joy? Judging by today's shadows, the answer seems obvious. Yet I implore you to give it time. Deal with your situation with every resource at your disposal. Look up and out from time to time instead of always down and in. Perhaps you may then start to find your smile.

... oh and every time I'm close to you there's too much I
can't say; and you just walk away; and I forgot to tell you I love you.

(Part 1 of 2)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Do you know what mankind is capable of? The highest highs, the lowest lows. At once a saint and a sinner. What divides the two parts of our whole? What separates the average work-a-day Joe on the street from the serial killer or the terrorist? Perhaps demon possession or culture or upbringing or misplaced trust or brainwashing. These are questions and issues that are explored in Ted Dekker's thriller Thr3e. You might also say that the thread that ties this whole novel together is a bit of New Testament scripture from the book of Romans.

I do not understand what I do ... It is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me ... For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing.

The story begins when the sympathetic protagonist, Kevin Parsons, a 28 year old seminary student, gets a call while driving home in his car. A man who identifies himself as Slater tells him that he has 3 minutes to confess his sin to the world. If he should fail, the bomb attached to his car will be set off. He is also given a riddle to consider. This is just the first episode where Kevin is plagued by Slater, fails in understanding what this madman could be searching for, and an explosion follows in ever escalating fashion.

Along the way we are introduced to Kevin's life-long best friend, Samantha, a girl who once lived a few houses down from Kevin and who went on to study law enforcement and now works in the California Bureau of Investigations. We also meet the FBI agent assigned to this domestic terror case, Jennifer. As she digs to understand who Kevin is so that she can better understand Slater's motive, she comes to appreciate Kevin as a person. A simple, honest, unaffected man, perhaps even child-like in his naiviety. We also get a glimpse into Kevin's family, and the more we learn about them and their particular issues and pecularities, the more something about Slater just doesn't make complete sense. However, the logical inconsistencies only start to be fleshed out the more Slater's campaign evolves. Perhaps some folks used to reading thrillers and spotting clues, will understand how things will evolve as the story unfolds, but you won't fully appreciate the twist that sets this one apart until the end. Although the ending and wrap-up of this tale is a bit weak and could have been better developed, I still found this a fun read from start to finish.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Subtle - 2

subtle [suht-l] - fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand; requiring mental acuteness, penetration, or discernment.

This "subtle" blog series (see Subtle -1) is not about relationships between people. It is about our relationship with the most high God. I would maintain that my earlier statement about communication in relationships is a universal truth, namely that without good communication, any relationship is either doomed to failure or to be far less than it ultimately could be. I believe that this truth also applies with equal validity to our relationship with God. And here is my main point and my main issue. Too often I find the Lord's ways are far too subtle. He whispers to me in life's wind tunnel when I need Him to roar. He hints and nudges when I need him to erect monuments and to shove me full force. Too often I yearn for Him to show up and help me understand what I need to know in times of failure or sadness or regret or loneliness, and I just get static in that learning moment or that needing moment. If I went through that long, painful season, waded through all of that muck, shouldn't I have learned something out of all of it? Was there a point to all of that? Should I have done something or done something differently? Are you there or just prattle for the weak-minded and superstitious? Speak up if you expect me to hear you. Speak clearly if you want me to discern your will.

As I wrestle with thoughts like these, all of the junk twisting and turning in my head overwhelms me. A murmur quickly builds into a crescendo. Questions of how I live my life, who I think I am, and eternity billow up into the air like confetti shot from a cannon. Suddenly I cannot defend my faith or my direction. I wonder why God won't just speak to me in a way that I will understand. It doesn't have to be sky-writing or a lightning strike or a voice from heaven. But it has to be something that I am sure not to miss or misunderstand, ..., doesn't it? Or what's the point?

(Part 2 of 2)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Subtle - 1

subtle [suht-l] - fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand; requiring mental acuteness, penetration, or discernment.

I have been thinking about this post for a while now. In fact, I have been purposefully stalling when it comes to putting my thoughts on the page as I am more than a bit anxious and a bit trepidacious. My worry stems from the fact that I struggle mightily when it comes to very basic aspects of my faith. More than that, the topic is one that weighs heavily on me because I fear that there is something crucial to my life, its present condition and its ultimate value, that I am missing, that I do not appropriately understand. Because I have been so embroiled in my thoughts, I fear that I may not even be able to fully communicate what is on my mind.

Let me begin with an illustration that most anyone who has ever been in a relationship will appreciate. You come upon your partner only to find them extremely angry or hurt or put out by something that you either did or didn't do. You are taken completely by surprise by all of this. At once you are both concerned that your partner is upset and you instinctively want to console them, and they have forced you into a defense posture to protect yourself from the barrage that they have been stewing on and now have suddenly unleashed upon you. After you wade through all of the layers of emotion and venting and drama, all of the hurt and tears, you find out that you missed some subtle clue, something that your partner believed that they had made perfectly clear through a cryptic look or some form of telepathy.

I don't want to get into a whole Mars and Venus discussion, because this post isn't about the issues between the sexes. It is about clear, concise, unveiled communication. Language and other forms of personal exchange that both sides fully comprehend. Without good communication, it seems to me, any relationship is either doomed to failure or to be far less than it ultimately could be. Subtlety is one of those devices that is often used at great peril to a relationship. Whatever happened to frank, honest discussion? What about clearly stating your expectations, your desires, and your needs in a loving manner? Putting subtlety aside does not mean that communication has to become crass or hurtful or without feeling. It also has absolutely no reflection on the depth of the relationship.

(Part 1 of 2)

Thursday, September 15, 2011


In an offshoot of his Circle series, Ted Dekker gives us the six-volume Lost Books series. This set of adventures takes place in the nearly 15 years between his Circle series books Black and Red. This is a time when the evil Horde, worshippers of Teeleh, led by Qurong, and the remnant of the forest people, worshippers of Elyon, led by Thomas Hunter, face off in an ever-spiraling conflict.

The sixth and final book in the Lost Books series, Elyon, was co-authored by Ted Dekker and Kaci Hill. It follows on immediately after Lunatic. This part of the tale is the darkest and most intense. It shows the inherent evil within the heart of man and his lust for power, power that will eventually destroy. Yet that power is pursued all the same. In Elyon we follow the burgeoning but difficult relationship of the Horde general Marak and the albino Darsal. Qurong's general has long been deceived and will take a very long time to convince that he is loved by Elyon. Meanwhile, Johnis, who is possessed by the entity Shaeda, and his love Silvie, blindly march on to use the amulet to take control of the Shataiki legions. But the dark priest Sucrow uses his black magic and betrayal to seize control of the amulet. He then moves to wipe out the albino race and crown himself supreme leader of the Horde.

Along the way, Darsal takes every possible opportunity to try to bring some glimmer of recognition to both Johnis and Silvie of Elyon's love for them. However, their minds are nearly fully deceived as they have become Horde. They know not who they are. We also finally come to learn of Shaeda's purposes and who this half-breed siren really is. In the end, the purpose of everything that has happened along the way becomes clear. Everything has happened for a specific purpose. It is Elyon's love that ultimately triumphs and saves the world that had teetered on the precipice.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dog Person

The human mind is a fascinating thing. Somehow, some way, everything we witness in our existence is stored in that contraption. It has a way of recording sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and smells. But what I find equally amazing is that the full sensory landscape of what is recorded also synchronizes the memories to the appropriate age when we experienced them. In this manner, things from our childhood are stored away in our minds from the point of view of a child. Sometimes memories in me bubble to the surface due to a stimulus or trigger and I can be transported back to a very different place and time.

I was pondering on this recently when I was sharing a DVD series of cartoons from my youth with my daughter. The cartoon is called Dynomutt and consisted of about 20 episodes back in the mid-1970s. I remember that this was a fun cartoon that I thought my daughter would enjoy as well. However, viewing it now, the grown-up and mature part of me saw a cute concept, but with a pretty thin plot and cheesy dialog. However, the memories stored in my brain from the point of view of a 10-year-old boy, couldn't help but relish this experience and just savor every bit of the experience.

Flashing through the sky, he's a go-go guy!
Stronger than a train, with a so-so brain!
He's fearless, scareless, ..., a little too careless!
Dynomutt ... he's a go-go dog person!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


How many times has somebody or something outside of your control wreaked havoc in your life, only to leave you to deal with the aftermath? Out of nowhere, through no fault of your own, a major storm system unleashed its fury and rage upon you and moved on. In its wake there is upheaval, chaos, destruction, and pain. You are forced to consider your options. What will you do?

Cuss and spit and vent? All acid and vehemence.

Ignore the problem and just try to go on as best you can? Just let life weigh you down further.

Roll up your sleeves and do what has to be done to get your life back on track with integrity and grace?

Several weeks ago, a major hurricane passed directly over the area where I live. Irene, a category 2 storm with sustained winds at about 80 mph, accompanied by about a foot of rain. The scene looked like so many that we have all witnessed over the years. Houses and buildings badly shaken, people hurt, millions in property damage. All unwelcome. All undeserved. All very costly on so many levels.

Of course, over the years many of us have had to face the unwanted devastation wrought by life's storms. Likely some of the worst that we have weathered did not result from nature, but from people in our lives that we trusted and relied on. Likely many are dealing with these very storms are we speak or will at some point in the not too distant future. So, how are you going to respond given the options before you?

Monday, September 12, 2011


In an offshoot of his Circle series, Ted Dekker gives us the six-volume Lost Books series. This set of adventures takes place in the nearly 15 years between his Circle series books Black and Red. This is a time when the evil Horde, worshippers of Teeleh, led by Qurong, and the remnant of the forest people, worshippers of Elyon, led by Thomas Hunter, face off in an ever-spiraling conflict.

The fifth book in the Lost Books series, Lunatic, follows immediately after Chaos. This book is co-authored by Ted Dekker and Kaci Hill. As the story begins, our three remaining chosen ones, Johnis, Silvie, and Darsal, have just vanquished the vampire Alucard and are eager to return to their own time and their normal lives. However, they materialize five years after they had originally left. What is more worrisome is that they returned to the heart of their old forest home, which has since become a stronghold of the Horde. Darsal causes a distraction so that Johnis and Silvie can escape to find the healing water that they once needed to prevent the onset of the scabbing disease of the Horde. But Darsal is captured and thrown in prison. Here she learns that the albino's relationship with Elyon's water has changed from what she once knew. She must drown to save herself. She escapes from her prison and in a leap of faith, she follows Elyon's will. But just when she is about to make her escape back to her own people, Elyon tells her to go back to the Horde city and give herself to them in love. Here she meets the Horde general Marak and offers herself as his servant, however, a deeper relationship develops.

Meanwhile, Johnis and Silvie make their escape and are hiding on the outskirts of the forest looking for the water of Elyon. They do not know about the drowning and slowly begin to turn to Horde. However, a tempting siren named Shaeda calls to Johnis through his mind, urging for him to come to her. Her lure is too strong to resist. There is something exciting and dangerous about her. In Johnis's weakened mental state, she easily overpowers him to buy into a scheme to form an alliance with Qurong's dark priest Sucrow. He is to travel to the lair of one of Teeleh's Shataiki queens and retrieve an amulet that will give him power over the Shataiki legions. However, this Shaeda is no ally of Elyon and has her own nefarious plans for the amulet. The only thing that is keeping Johnis from giving himself wholly to Shaeda is Silvie who has not fallen under her powerful spell. As Lunatic comes to a close, the amulet is retrieved and brought to Marak. How this will end will be determined in the sixth and final book in the series, Elyon.

Friday, September 9, 2011


"How did the Sox do this weekend?"

"Well, we really sucked. We got the crap beat out of us. When the Yanks come into town this week, we better find our sticks or I will go crazy."

I have known plenty of folks over the years who closely follow one sports team or another with obvious passion. They know the player's names and stats, and they advertise their loyalties with t-shirts or caps emblazoned with their team's colors and logos. Most often they also tend to use the word "we" when speaking of the team and their performance. Somewhere along the way "them" became "we". A recreational activity, a light diversion, somehow became internalized and personalized. These fans watch and follow with such fervor and intensity that they feel they are somehow a vested part of the team, that their screaming and their antics somehow are an essential aspect of the team's success.

However, there is a thin line that can be crossed between an enjoyable hobby or pasttime, and over-the-top, fanatic, or rabid conduct. Just in the last year there have been several stomach-turning stories that have spilled across national headlines of people being beaten to within an inch of their lives or gunned down with murderous intent just because they wore the "wrong" jersey or cheered too loudly for "their" team. There is also far too thin a boundary between acceptable and healthy passions, and aggressive, animalistic, and criminal behavior.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Have you ever heard the expression, "Edweena, you're making a mountain out of a molehill!"? Yeah, likely not with this exact phraseology if your name isn't Edweena. However, I'm sure that you have come across this sentiment. Today I wish that I could use my genie powers and do the opposite, namely, turn a mountain into a molehill. Perhaps I could proceed by folding my arms across my chest and quickly nodding my head whilst sporting a snappy fez type hat. Maybe I could try to wiggle my nose in an endearing manner like Elizabeth Montgomery on Bewitched. I have got to do something, ..., anything.

This isn't some thought exercise that I am blathering on about here, this is the real world where the pavement hits the road or where there is a bush in my bird. To be clear, look at the photograph that I have added along with this post. It shows a huge mountain of topsoil that, for some crazy reason, I had delivered to my house and for which I paid good money. If you have discerning eyes and are not some kind of cretin, you should be able to see me sitting atop my mountain. I have zoomed in using close-up mode in the inset on the right. Yep, that's me sporting the crash helmet and the white velour jump suit. A mountain by its very definition.

Somehow, someway, I have set myself up to move this dirt to various areas of my yard that have been plagued by erosion. Yep, erosion, the geological process that normally takes millennia to affect the landscape, has somehow happened in a few-year time span in my yard and demands my attention. I have been cautioned by several local contractors that my house is in very real danger of falling into a giant sink hole that might ultimately take out the entire sub-division. I don't have to tell you that I am moist with fret. Please hold me!

But as I prepared for this post, I realized that there is an important Chinese proverb that I can share with you as you face whatever mountain stands before you in your life. Who knows, maybe this will somehow ease your burden and your anxiety to some small degree. A journey of a thousand miles begins with but one step. Sure, when we face our mountains, our first few steps nearly always seem tentative, pointless, ineffectual. However, after a short time, if you stay at it, you are nearly certain to be able to recognize some progress. Let this spur you into taking that next step, moving another wheelbarrow full of dirt, dealing with life another day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


In an offshoot of his Circle series, Ted Dekker gives us the six-volume Lost Books series. This set of adventures takes place in the nearly 15 years between his Circle series books Black and Red. This is a time when the evil Horde, worshippers of Teeleh, led by Qurong, and the remnant of the forest people, worshippers of Elyon, led by Thomas Hunter, face off in an ever-spiraling conflict.

The fourth book in the Lost Books series, Chaos, continues seamlessly where Renegade left off. In order to escape the evil Teeleh and his lieutenant Alucard, as well as the legions of blood-thirsty Shataiki minions, three of our four teenage protagonists (Johnis, Darsal, Silvie) and the tag-along child Karas, use the four lost books of history they have gathered to escape into present day earth circa 2033. Any continuity in thoughts and planning of our band of heroes is seemingly lost when Silvie and Johnis materialize on the outskirts of Las Vegas with no signs of Karas or Darsal. They are used to a fairly primitive life in their forest lands, and are totally ill-prepared to deal with the technology at hand. While trying to make their way to the city to find their comrades, they cause a major ruckus. However, this to-do helps Karas, who materialized in Las Vegas 10 years earlier along with Darsal, to find them. Karas and Darsal each worked separately following whatever leads they found to locate the three remaining lost books. Ultimately, it seems that Karas had made some progress, but Darsal was killed by the dark forces when she got too close to the truth.

However, present day earth is the true domain of Alucard. The purpose of his entire existence has been to gather the seven lost books. When they are brought together as foretold in prophesy, a portal to future earth will open to allow the legions of Shataiki to emerge and enslave all of humanity. With plans that have been carefully designed over several millenia, the clever Alucard uses his evil cunning and his assistant Miranda to outwit the heroes and steal the seven books. He then proceeds to open the portal and to call Teeleh's armies to come and do his bidding. At this moment when all seems lost, Alucard is betrayed by his assistant, who is actually Darsal, who had turned away from Elyon and her role as a chosen one when she lost her beloved Billos in Renegade. In the instant that she remembers who really saved her, the tide turns and Elyon's chosen defeat the forces of darkness. Now, onto the fifth book in the series, Lunatic.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cel Walls

Among the favorite activities that my daughter and I share together is watching old cartoons. We have a full cabinet of DVDs with cartoons like Tom and Jerry from the 1950s and 1960s, Scooby Doo from the 1960s and 1970s, Dyno-Mutt from the 1970s, Smurfs from the 1980s, and my favorite, Pinky and the Brain from the 1990s. However, the older cartoons from the days when they were hand-drawn have always sparked our most careful viewing. Not because we find these old shows overtly challenging from an intellectual standpoint, but because as these cartoons were churned out in a more mass-production mode, they tend to feature quite a few more mistakes. So, for us, the activity within the activity is to spot the errors, pause the video, and then to engage in discussion.

Usually the mistakes are logical in nature, where the cartoon makers, whose goal was to minimize the number of new cels that had to be drawn and colored, often tended to liberally re-use stock drawings that were already made and to splice them into the show. Often this results in characters showing up that in the previous scene or view were not present or characters changing size from scene to scene in relation to fixed background objects. We have seen some pretty egregious things over the years. Another type of issue is coloring mistakes, where some part of the background or the characters themselves are either not colored at all, or change colors from frame to frame. We have also made quite a nice collection of digital photographs of character parts and pieces that were not drawn at all. A few that I could quickly find have been sewn together in the accompanying photo from the old Scooby Doo cartoons. Enjoy.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Toil Period

Ahhh Labor Day. A day off from work for most folks. The last day of freedom for our children before school starts. The unofficial end of summer. House parties. Grilling hamburgers and hotdogs. Perhaps a last trip to the beach or a last dip in the pool before that old nip returns to the air and our autumnal visitor returns.

So, I hope that you have a wonderful and relaxing day. A day eased of pressures and expectations. Some time to unwind and enjoy yourself. Enjoy some laughter and find your smile. Even if summer went by too fast, or you didn't get to do anything or everything that you wanted, don't let this artificial "end of summer" sign-post bring you down. Don't let woulda, coulda, shoulda pull you down or pull you under. The past is past. Embrace this day, this day in front of you. Ahhh Labor Day.

Friday, September 2, 2011


In an offshoot of his Circle series, Ted Dekker gives us the six-volume Lost Books series. This set of adventures takes place in the nearly 15 years between his Circle series books Black and Red. This is a time when the evil Horde, worshippers of Teeleh, led by Qurong, and the remnant of the forest people, worshippers of Elyon, led by Thomas Hunter, face off in an ever-spiraling conflict.

The third book in the Lost Books series, Renegade, picks up immediately after Infidel leaves off. This book centers on the renegade Billos and his dark thirst for the power of the lost books of History. In Infidel he got just a brief taste of this power and he became of single-minded purpose to embrace that power more deeply. At the first opportunity, he ran off with the three books that he had helped to collect with Johnis, Darsal, and Silvie, and then used his blood to enter into the cover of the book. With that decision he vanished from the forests along with the books. Darsal is deeply in love with Billos, and she realizes that the only way to bring him back is to find another of the lost books. Darsal, accompanied by the sweet child Karas, then sets out on a dangerous journey to the lair of Alucard the vampire bat, lieutenant of Teeleh. Darsal suspects that Alucard has one of the lost books. Ultimately she is proven correct and strikes a deal with the evil creature. Upon rescuing Billos, she will return to him the book he provided as well as the three that Billos has. The escape clause from this deal is to substitute either her life or that of Billos.

Billos meets a mysterious man in the world that he is transported into. Marsuvees Black promises Billos power beyond his comprehension. The more Billos tastes that power, the darker his soul becomes. This world, which is designed to look like present day Earth, turns out to be a sort of virtual reality, a portal to help find the other three lost books. The quest of the chosen four, Johnis, Billos, Darsal, and Silvie, is to find all seven of Elyon's books of history. Ultimately, Darsal rescues Billos, but there is a showdown with Alucard. They cannot hand over the four books, their power is just too great. Billos agrees to sacrifice himself to Alucard. To avoid losing the books they have, the remaining cadre of the chosen, escape into the pages of the books and end up in present day earth. Now onto the fourth book in the series, Chaos.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


    Never take lightly that the rules of the game are dynamic ...

It is amusing how adolescent boys think they can see forever when it comes to attraction and interacting with adolescent girls, but in actuality, they can't see past the end of their "noses".

Somehow most people end up getting married. Somehow in the endless sea of humanity, most find someone that attracts them on multiple levels and they decide to make a committment. Of course, the statistics tell us that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. Of these folks, many will find love and marry again. Yet it is interesting how different the selection criteria are for men the second time around.

A few years pass after the divorce or the loss of a spouse and the dust settles. A new equilibrium is found. Likely an intricate pattern is deeply ingrained on his life. A few kids, a career, a mortgage and other debts, a circle of friends, and a particular lifestyle. There is also the important aspect of faith. All of this forms the backdrop for any future decisions on a potential spouse. Instead of a much simpler and decidedly naive list of criteria that were considered in the past, he now automatically considers income, education, faith, mothering abilities, debt levels, baggage, and a host of other things. I would strongly venture that none of these even rated a stray thought the first time around. Now they are the dominant filter through which he views potential attraction. - Omega

(Part 2 of 2)