Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blond Whisper

The other day I talked with a long-time colleague of mine at work. I guess that I have known him for nearly 20 years now. There were several stretches where we worked quite closely together on a day-by-day basis. However, our most recent interaction had a lasting impact on me. It left me kind of stupefied and uneasy.

The imprint of this man that is burned into my mind is one who always used to be at the center of the action. Involved, curious, bright, and active. Shoot from the hip and then slay the room with a timely joke and a boisterous laugh. He was once a pretty close friend and mentor. I remember many times where I stopped by his office just to shoot the breeze or to ease some built-up frustration. We had a professional falling out about five years ago and I don't see him all that much any more.

In our brief chat the other day, I noticed that he had changed noticeably in appearance and mien. It was such a stark difference from my internal image of him that it really threw me. His once thick and flowing blond shag of hair was more white than gray. His face and neck were covered in deep creases and wrinkles. It was like a wave of old age had just washed over him from stem to stern in just the briefest of times. Even beyond his looks, his personality was nearly unrecognizable. No laughter. No jokes. No broad smile. No more leading the band in revelry, more like playing out the string. I think that I was so deeply affected as I kind of saw myself in him, just projected onto a screen from the future and I realized that it is not so far off.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I have a networked printer in my office at work. That means that anybody on the computer network can, in principle, submit something to this printer and it will dutifully hum and whir for a few moments before rolling out the freshly inked paper to its output tray. However, this printer is my own personal property and nobody knows that it exists. Thus it never should respond to the commands of anyone but me. In all of its years of existence, it has only gone about its work for me.

The other morning I was hard at work in my office. Toiling away well before the sun even thought about poking its head about the horizon. Apart from one or two service vehicles, mine was the only car in the parking lot. Suddenly my printer woke itself from its sleep mode, hummed to life, and started to process a print job. Curious, as I had not submitted anything to its queue. A single page turned out and I went over and picked up the sheet. In the upper left corner of the page, one word appeared, all in capital letters, HELP.

A plaintive cry for assistance from beyond? A lonely morning Beatles fan? I could not say. I thought it best to quickly reach over and toggle the power switch. One can never be too careful with the possibilities that abound when facing possible otherworldly fans of 1960s music.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Endless Knot

The final book in the Song of Albion trilogy by Stephen Lawhead is The Endless Knot. This conclusion to the epic tale picks up where The Silver Hand left off. American student Lewis Gillies, now Llew, high king of Albion, has seemingly finished what he knew had to be done. He began then to prepare himself to return to his own world and his own time. Yet Albion still called to him so deeply that he just could not bring himself to leave. Finally, peace in the land, joy in the people, and a wonderful new bride, Goewyn. Ultimately we learn that the calling to stay was not just selfish greed on Tlew's part. Albion was in grave danger, and only the high king could vanquish the impending enemy.

Just as a blessed peace seemed to flow over the land, Llew's new wife is abducted by an unknown enemy. He vows to find her even to the ends of the world, and to give his life if he must. Llew and his faithful friend and bard Tegid, develop a sense of what has happened to her and journey to a far-off land across the oceans from Albion. This land is steeped in lifelessness and cursed by every foul Celtic demon ever conjured up. Slowly Llew and his faithful brothers-in-arms make their way across the land to the seat of the enemy's power. Yet when the forces of evil believe that they can savor their wicked gains and can throw back their heads in smug laughter, their destruction is imminent. The ending left me in tears, but it ended as it had to end. A price had to be paid for the sin and for the corruption, a dear price to save both worlds and restore the required balance.

Reading the Song of Albion trilogy was just a wonderful adventure for me and I am grateful to the input from fellow blogger Ricky Anderson for turning me onto Stephen Lawhead. I have more of Lawhead works in my reading queue already.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I have admitted on more than one occasion that I kind of have the musical tastes of a 14 year old girl. ... Wow, when I type these words and look at them on the monitor, they really do just kind of sit there. I would bet that even now, as you read them, you are laughing and pointing at me. Somehow you think yourself more sophisticated than me, you fancy yourself more manly and verile, even if you are actually a woman. Then you continue to laugh all the more because I just used the word "fancy". Heck, I don't blame you. While you bang your head to bands such as Rancid Maggots, Festering Chest Wound, and Eating Shrapnel, I sing along to Backstreet Boys. But the other day after I finished exercising, I looked at the musical playlist that I had selected to accompany me and could admit, perhaps for the first time ever, that I was not ashamed or embarrassed with the list of songs that I had just listened to.
  • Ship of Fools - Robert Plant
  • Invincible - Pat Benatar
  • Lost! - Coldplay
  • One Light Burning - Richie Sambora
  • Magnificent - U2
  • Changes - Yes
  • No Smoke Without a Fire - Bad Company
  • Easy Lover - Philip Bailey & Phil Collins
  • Walking in the Underground - Pat Benatar
  • Celebrate Youth - Rick Springfield
Now of course none of these songs have the insouciant charm of anything in the catalog of Rancid Maggots, but few artists can make this claim anyway. So, am I giving myself too much credit here?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trick of Time

Long ago I had a good friend that I worked with for about four or five years. We hung out after work and enjoyed ourselves with a few laughs, a few beers, and a few games of darts or pool on many an occasion. At the time we were both in graduate school. We eventually finished our work and moved on to new positions, ready and eager to face the next stages of our lives. From time to time we crossed paths at various conferences and gatherings and always made time to grab a lunch or dinner together to catch up. Then a stretch developed where I did not see him for quite a few years.

One day at work, I was coming into my building just as a small group of visitors was leaving. My old friend was part of this group. As I was holding the door we made eye contact as he said thanks, yet no recognition dawned in his eyes. He did not register who I was. As he was involved in shop talk, I did not chase him down to say hello. I figured that, perhaps, he would stop by my office when he got a chance or that I might encounter him again in the hallway. But I did not see him again during his visit.

Another several years have gone by now since that incident and I have not seen my old friend in the interim. However, just a few days ago, essentially the same scenario played itself out again. I was entering into a building at work and passed my old friend. Yet when he showed no signs of recognition again, I let the moment go. I could tell that I was not being snubbed or ignored. I guess it was just a trick of time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Silver Hand

The second book in the Song of Albion trilogy by Stephen Lawhead is The Silver Hand. At the end of the first book, The Paradise War, the noble and revered king of the ancient Celtic land of Prydain was murdered just as his people were celebrating a great victory over the forces of darkness. Our two modern-day students, Lewis Gillies and Simon Rawnson, have followed very different paths after finding their way through the cairn that linked the two worlds together. Lewis has followed the path of righteousness and light, while Simon has embraced treachery and darkness. In a sense, this battle of the forces of good and evil and the divide between the two worlds are the main threads that bind this wonderful tale together.

Prince Meldron, who has fallen under the spell of Simon as his main advisor, has slowly and methodically wrested power and sovereignty that did not belong to him. He has raped the land and the people in his quest to take over all of Albion. The shine of the once beautiful jewel of the Otherworld has been sullied beyond measure by this greedy, power-hungry dog and his blood-thirsty, vile war band.

Lewis was named king of Prydain by the chief bard Tegid just after the king was murdered. However, Celtic tradition mandates that the king must be without defect to rule the land. In an attempt to take what is not his, Prince Meldron cuts off Lewis's hand. He also takes Tegid's eyesight with a flash of his sword. He then sets Lewis and Tegid adrift on the open seas in a small boat. Yet our heroes somehow survive and begin to unite the decimated peoples of the land. Slowly they build up their company and their holdings, all in accord with an ancient prophesy. The story ends with Meldron's deserved destruction. Simon's demise also seems complete. Yet the story is not over as the rift between the Otherworld realm and our world has not been understood. There is grave danger ahead. Now onto the last book in the trilogy, The Endless Knot.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Midst of a Miracle

As I have gone through the transition from the end of the old year to the start of the new, I have spent some time recently just kind of meditating on the path of my life over the past decade, thinking about the upheavals and course changes that have come from both the shores of positive and negative turns. As you wade through the happenings of the day-to-day, your perspective can be a bit askew from the bigger scale picture. Dealing with everything that tries to lay claim to your attention, living and surviving down in the muck and mire, you can really miss some pretty important developments and happenings in your life. Certainly, such is the case with me. I have been a part of what I would consider to be miracles, but have never appreciated them or even recognized them. Wow, caught in the midst of a miracle and not even noticing. I find this to be a pretty amazing and surreal concept. I thought I would share one example today.

For nearly 10 years I lived in Ohio. I had a great job and was living life according to my plan. However, one day out of nowhere, I was overrun in a season of personal strife, and it was clear that I could not stay a moment longer. I made a call to a colleague of mine that I worked with in Virginia and told him that I was coming there to live and needed a job. The position materialized seemingly instantaneously and my work life and career progressed without the slightest hiccup. However, given all the personal crap that I was going through at the time, I never prayed about any of this. It's not that I took any of it for granted or was puffed up in my own pride, it's that I was just numb to so many things. The individual trees outgrew the forest.

However, when all of this went down 6 years ago, the senior position that I now occupy did not exist. On top of that, the budgets here were tight and there was a hiring freeze in place. The fact that I was hired essentially immediately after my job request is no trivial detail. I believe that I really was part of a miracle and that the Lord moved on my behalf to put me where I needed to be. I was in the midst of a miracle and I never recognized this until recently.

Friday, January 20, 2012


A friend of mine has shared with me a number of times how special it is to take his young daughter to some of the places that he frequented as a child. He has oftentimes used the word surreal to describe these encounters. Something dream-like, unreal, fantastic. I get the sense that these times move in slow motion for him as he watches his child experience some of the same things that he did at her age. As he remembers his own emotions from back in the day, he carefully observes his daughter for how she will react. Picturing this in my mind, it warms me and I think I can appreciate how special these experiences are to both of them.

In my own way, over the past year I too have helped my daughter experience something that I very much enjoyed in my youth. Perhaps it is not as fantastic as taking her to physical places from my childhood, but I enjoy it immensely nonetheless. With the DVD release of the cartoons that I watched and enjoyed as a kid, I can share these memories with my daughter. This year we have been watching Looney Tunes, Bullwinkle and Rocky, and Underdog. My daughter has embraced these shows as well and it has become one of the ways that we relax and laugh together. Sort of a cel-ebration if you will.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Paradise War

I have just taken my first step on what I expect to be a wonderful journey, The Song of Albion trilogy by Stephen Lawhead. The set begins with The Paradise War. In modern day Britain we meet Lewis Gillies, an American graduate student enrolled at Oxford. Lewis is bright, hard-working, and serious about his studies. His roommate, Simon Rawnson, is bright in his own right, but he has wealth and title and cannot really be bothered to push himself. One morning Simon reads a story in the paper of a Scottish farmer who came across an extinct ox known as an aurochs. On a whim, he decides to go off on a road trip to check it out, with Lewis in tow.

After Simon and Lewis talk to the farmer, they find an ancient stone and earth monument in a nearby field. Simon crawls into an opening in this cairn and mysteriously vanishes. Lewis, at a loss of what to do, returns to Oxford where he is found by the eccentric Professor Nettleton who helps him to understand that the cairn is actually a portal to a parallel world. The appearance of the aurochs and several other beasties from that world is actually a sign of a critical problem with the bridge between the two worlds that puts both in grave danger. Lewis and the professor return to the cairn and Lewis follows the path Simon took into the other world, Albion.

Albion is an ancient Celtic land of warring tribal factions. Lewis finds Simon, who has joined the local ruling clan. Though Lewis and Simon have only been apart a few weeks, it seems that Simon has lived and thrived in Albion for years. Lewis joins the clan and goes off for several years of training. When he and his bard guide Tegid return, they find the king's holdings have been destroyed by an ancient evil force that is set to destroy Albion, and also threatens our world as well. Lewis and Tegid help to thwart this demonic plague, but along the way, they stumble across a plot to betray all that Albion holds dear, a plot that seemingly includes Simon. Now, on to the second volume in the trilogy, The Silver Hand.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Warp and Woof

"The days are made on a loom whereof the warp and woof are past and future time." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever gone through a season where the days and weeks seemed to pass by in an instant? Somehow you did everything you normally do - you got up at the usual time, you did your thing at work, you spent time with your family, and yet nothing stands out. No thread of significance remains. In a blink and a whir, life races by in a flash, and you are left to shake your head and wonder where the time went.

In the act of carrying out tasks commonplace in nature, sometimes we can complete them, and then later not be certain if we even undertook them at all. Perhaps it was a question of whether you fed the pets or watered the plants or got the mail. It's a curious thing when our own actions are elusive to us. Yet that is exactly the nature of our minds when it comes to any rote chore or when we are simply enduring the usual. We drift into autopilot as we operate the treadles and the shuttle passes back and forth across the frame, tapping out its hypnotic and rhythmic beat. In the blink of an eye, a full bolt of cloth has been produced and we have no recollection of how it came to be. It is only when something out of the ordinary happens or when we pause to disrupt the flow of the same-old same-old, that we begin to take notice of the marks along the path. Then we can finally begin to revel in the beauty of God's creation around us. We can have a moment where we are fully present, and feel those sensations of contentedness and satisfaction and joy. Only then is time restored to a much more pleasing pace and we can clearly see the road that we are on.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Truth Seeker

I am a truth seeker. A paladin of an ancient sect sworn to uncover and preserve all that humanity has buried over the years. A smith of the light who has been reared to push the heat from the furnace to its fiery limits such that the dross may be separated from the elemental gold that it had contaminated and obscured.

I am a truth seeker. A learned scholar with a wall-full of parchment, trained to unlock the secrets of the universe from the scale of galaxies to the scale of the sub-microscopic. A scientist of the light who has pledged to pursue fact with honor and integrity, trained to form final judgments only after every eventuality has been carefully investigated and considered.

I am a truth seeker, and yet ...

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ... For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 14-15, 18-20)

Yet, I am still a truth seeker, looking to separate from within myself the wheat from the ever-present chaff.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Circle Maker

Pastor Mark Batterson has become one of my favorite authors and I have thoroughly enjoyed each book that he has written thus far. In fact, I semi-regularly follow his blog and circle the date of his next book release on my calendar once it is announced. Such was the case with his most recent effort called The Circle Maker. The book is subtitled, Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears. I know what you are thinking, just what the world needs, another book about the right way to pray so that we get what we want out of our god. Name it. Claim it.

But I think the concepts and teachings within this book are worth considering deeply. I suspect that they have personally given the crops in my life the opportunity to bear fruit in a season where the land seemed barren. There are several statements that Batterson made that struck me with wisdom:
  • Who you become is determined by how you pray.
  • Prayer is a litmus test of faith. Do you trust God even when you don't get what you prayed for?
  • When prayers go unanswered, we must choose to believe that God has a better plan.
  • Praying starts with discerning what God wants and what God wills. Until His soverign will becomes your sanctified wish, your prayer life will be unplugged from its power supply.
I have enjoyed reading Batterson's blog and seeing how his experiences throughout the year end up as lessons in his writing. Not only does he share his victories and successes, but also his disappointments and failures. I sense that while he is a driven pastor of a quickly growing church, he has a humble, giving, and Godly spirit. He also has a talent for being relatable and is a good story teller. While I found a few minor things in this book that I took issue with, I got past them easily enough and I still highly recommend this book and fully appreciate the intent behind it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Zoom In

I keep a small prayer booklet on my desk. Each day I like to list a few folks that I want to pray for because they are going through something big or because I thought of them or because they are in the news or because I miss them or because they have played an important role in my life. The first person that I list each day is my daughter. It really is an automatic for me to pray over her and requires absolutely no thought or scratching of my head. However, one of the reasons that I started my prayer book was specifically to get into a mode where I purposefully and intentionally think beyond myself. I feel it important to regularly recognize others and lift them up in prayer.

I have found that most days it is easy for me to list a couple of folks whose names have alighted upon my mind. However, I have also noticed that when I am going through a funk, a bit of melancholia, or when something is bothering me, that I really struggle to find names to include on my list. It seems like I am so taken with me and my issues that I develop a sort of spiritual writer's block. Try as I might to think of someone, anyone to list, my mind is a barren wasteland. I have zoomed in upon myself to such a degree that it seems nothing else is able to enter my field of view. However, instead of heaping further coals upon my head by beating myself up, I have been trying to lift my myopia up in prayer. I ask humbly for the Lord to open my eyes and my heart and to use me.

... in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The final volume in the Paradise series trilogy is called Sinner and represents for me, the final chapter in Ted Dekker's Books of History Chronicles. This suite of novels includes the Circle series, the Paradise series, the Lost Books series, and several lone titles like House, Skin, and Immanuel's Veins. It has been quite a ride and I have very much enjoyed the story lines and the characters that have been a part of this grand undertaking.

In Sinner, the story focuses on the three surviving students from Project Showdown, Billy, Darcy, and Johnny. All are in their mid-twenties and as a result of writing in the books of history, they have developed supernatural powers. Johnny, as we learned in Saint, had a sort of telekinetic talent that ultimately transformed into heightened vision. Billy could read people's minds. Darcy had great power with her voice to affect the actions of people around her.

The backdrop of the story is a time where tolerance became the big push for humanity. In an effort to control a rising tide of hate speech, which was resulting in lynchings across the country, Billy and Darcy helped to change the constitution to curb freedom of speech. However, this change also severely curbed religious freedom. It made speaking the gospel a federal offense. Preaching Christianity became a form of hate speech. However, behind this movement to dim the light and promote darkness lay the true antagonist of this series, Marsuvees Black, who Billy had originally created when he was a young boy by writing in the books of history. Black is the very personification of evil. The final battle between light and dark all comes back to the small town of Paradise, Colorado.

This story is the most contrived of the trilogy. It too often seemed to drift, with major themes touched on, but never really fully developed or brought to satisfactory conclusion. The biggest issue is the ending. After the dust from the final showdown settled, the "heroes" had seemingly achieved nothing and decided to accept being silenced and to look out for themselves. From a certain perspective, the forces of darkness seemed to have won a great victory.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Let's play a little morality game. Maybe this will be a pretty easy exercise for you. You can consider what I have to say and then walk away with a clean conscience. However, maybe it will give you pause and cause you to reflect a bit as you read today's headlines and pass judgment on the actions of others.

What would you do?
  • You see an emaciated child slip a candy bar from the grocery store into his pocket when he thinks nobody is watching. What about if it were a well-dressed child in designer clothes?
  • You observe a down-and-out homeless person steal something from the back of someone's pick up truck.
  • You witness a coworker taking some office supplies from the supply cabinet and slip them into her purse. What if you knew that she was about to default on her mortgage?
  • You find that your boss has cheated on the monthly accounts to save his job. What if he cheated to save your job?
  • You learn that your boss has taken advantage of a low-level co-worker.
I don't know about you, but with each question that I considered, the answer should have been black and white, but I found myself couching my thinking in various shades of gray. But I have read news story after news story where people were burned in effigy for reacting just like I may have reacted or hesitated just as I may have hesitated in a real-world morality situation. Meanwhile all of the reactionaries and pundits wag their fingers and play the role of Mother Superior.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Power of Garlic

My friend Rob is a preacher-man. He wrote a piece on his blog entitled "You've Got More Power Than You Realize". I recently pondered this title deeply as I choked and gagged the other afternoon. Perhaps I should attempt to explain myself here a bit lest you get the wrong impression.

I had an early afternoon meeting the other day, just past lunch time. The meeting took place in a fairly large conference room that measured about 50 ft across (that is 15800.26 meters for you foreigners). The meeting had just gotten underway when a straggler entered the room and made his way to an empty seat on the far side of the room from me. His foul, rancid lunch food breath filled up the room with an almost visible haze. I could not find clean air and my eyes started to water and burn. The meeting chairman decided to close the doors to the room so that we would not disturb those who had offices across the hall. This did not allow for any air circulation. Due to the number of folks in the room giving off their body heat, the temperature in the room began to escalate. This caused some sort of chemical reaction with the room funk that kicked the garlicky cloud into overdrive. It was like a punch in the gut. I doubled over wheezing and gagging. I thought to myself, "That dude has a lot more power than he realizes". I'm then smiled smugly to myself just before I passed out because I likely was the only one who fully grasped the true meaning of Rob's post.

Monday, January 9, 2012


The second book in the "Paradise" series by author Ted Dekker is entitled Saint, which follows 15 years after Showdown. The story begins following the bizarre training of a 25 year old man named Carl Strople. Carl has been completely brainwashed by scientists within an entity known as The X Group, who have been working to make him into the ultimate assassin. While their techniques are unconventional and inhumane, the skill of their elite squad is unmatched. However, Carl turns out to be more than just a good shot, he can direct the flight of a bullet over a distance of nearly 2 miles to knock a fly out of the air. Actually this is just the tip of his true powers.

Carl's first mission is to travel from Hungary to the U.S. to kill the Iranian defense minister. At the last minute his orders are changed and he is instead told to kill the president. The X Group is involved in an intricate plot to destroy Israel and re-map the Middle East. Although his mind has been reprogrammed, Carl senses that something is terribly wrong with this plan. However, to disobey will cause his handlers to terminate him with a small device implanted into his brain. So, Carl shoots the president through the chest, but ensures that he does not die. It is then that The X Group sends their top man, one Dale Crompton, to clean up the mess that has developed and complete the mission, leaving absolutely no loose ends.

At this point we start to find out who Carl and Dale really are, as well as their links to Project Showdown and the Books of History. The story is really all about the ongoing battle of good vs. evil. Of course, evil knows its nature through and through. However, the interesting twist in this story is that good was not self-aware and did not appreciate its role and its power until the last moment. An engaging story that was a fun and a light read (and only required me to suspend belief along a couple of Dekker's threads). Now, on to the last volume in the series, Sinner.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Taking Stock

As another year has just come to a close, it is fully appropriate to spend a few moments looking back to take stock of where you have been and what you have done. Was it a good year, one lived well and marked by hard work that made a difference or notably filled with joy and overall happiness? Perhaps it is appropriate to hand out a few grades that will show where you have done well and where you have fallen short, what you can count as victories and what you should count as defeats. I thought I would share what came to mind as I considered this for the past year.

  • Health - My overall health this year has been great. This is listed as a victory because I have been committed to exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and a reasonable control of my diet.
  • Raising my daughter - While there are always areas of my daughter's life where I wish I had more impact or influence, I know that I have given all of myself to her.
  • Progress at work - I am satisfied with my performance at work. I approach it consistently with a good attitude and give of myself and my talents.
  • House upkeep - Historically I have been quite lazy about home repairs and general upkeep. This past year I was purposeful about staying on top of things, whether it was working in the yard or home repairs.
  • Hobbies - I was purposeful about my blogging this past year and am pleased with what I produced. I also really enjoyed my time with the books that I read. I ensured that my hobbies were enjoyable and did not become a chore.

  • Volunteering - For the past few years I volunteered at my church. This past year I did very little because it did not fit my schedule and my heart. As I result I have noticed that my church isn't as much my church any more.
  • Making friends - I tried to make some friends during the year, but things did not go as I had hoped. I find that the further I drift from relationships, the less I am motivated to even try.
  • Finding a special someone - I had done some serious "sun stand still" type praying that I would meet someone this past year to share my life with. I am still setting a table for one.
  • Losing regrets - My life is often ruled by the winds of regret. I had hoped to gain some measure of control this past year. I had very little success.
  • Church group - After struggling to fit into a church small group in 2010, I tried again to find a group in 2011. It started off pretty well I thought, but then I self destructed several months in and needed to step back.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Growing Hearts

Each year the place where I work hosts a group of underprivileged children from the local area during the holidays to give them a grand Christmas party. A chance for them to feel like the center of attention, to have a fuss made over them through an afternoon of laughter and fun activities and tasty snacks. During the first few weeks of December, distribution boxes for Toys for Tots are set out around site and folks are called upon to donate. For a while now I have made it part of my ritual to buy two nice toys, one for a little boy and one for a little girl, to add to the pile. It is actually kind of heartwarming to walk past the drop-off points and see them brimming with neat stuff for the kids.

The organizers of the event also have a tradition to supply some number of bicycles for the kids. This year was no different. For most youngsters, getting a new bike is one of the greatest things ever. It is all the more of a rush when they get something like this out of the blue. Something that not only will let their imaginations soar to new heights, but also will grow their hearts. You know what an unbelievable blessing it is by the squeals of the children and the happy tears streaming down the parent's faces.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


For most of last year, I was fully immersed in the fantasy worlds created by Ted Dekker. This includes his wonderful Circle series books, Black, Red, White, and Green, his Lost series books, Chosen, Infidel, Renegade, Chaos, Lunatic, and Elyon, and his book Skin. These 11 books are all part and parcel of the same family, with different books tackling different story arcs and segments and tangents. Now I am continuing my reading in this series with the final phase of books called the Paradise trilogy. The first Paradise series book is entitled Showdown. Oh boy did Dekker keep me on edge the whole time. This was just good old fashioned story telling. Of course, it was all the more enjoyable for me because I already knew quite a bit about the antagonist in this story and some of the plot elements from some of the other books above.

This book tells the story of Project Showdown, a massive venture funded by an ex-Harvard professor to study good vs. evil and how it develops in children fully sheltered from the influences of the outside world. Three dozen children, consisting of orphaned and unwanted babies, are brought to a special monastery outside the small mountain town of Paradise, Colorado. Here they are raised by monks in a manner to foster love. However, there is more to the existence of this monastery than initially meets the eye. It is actually a library for the lost books of history that hold untold power for both good and evil.

Meanwhile, in the town of Paradise, some powerful force has taken over the minds of the residents. The once peaceful town of working-class folks become mindless puppets in the hands of a strange and powerful monk named Marsuvees Black. Yet while Black is ultimately seen to be the figurehead of evil, he is actually controlled by another. Just when evil seems ready to triumph, two young boys risk all they have and lean on grace and hope to restore light to the world. Now, onward to the next book in the series, Saint.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Black Box Lesson

If you have ever watched the cartoon South Park, it is fairly common after all of the hijinks have ensued and the carnage has been wrought, for Stan Marsh to stand up and begin a soliloquy with the words, "You know what, I learned something today ...". So I decided to channel Stan today to tell you about a lesson that I learned that was kind of amusing but also taught an important life lesson.

I work at a facility that carefully checks all people driving on and off the site. In order for me to enter, I must scan my personnel badge in front of a black box on a guard house. When I do this, my photograph and job clearance authorizations show up on a computer screen. A guard then verifies that everything is in order and then pushes a button to activate the swing arm that allows me access to drive through.

The black box is about a foot square, with a light in the upper corner that turns from red to green when my badge is scanned. For some reason, I thought that this light was actually the optical scanner. For several years I had trouble getting the scanner to register my badge as I flopped it around in front of the light. This always caused me to grumble and complain and carry on. However, I finally came to understand that the light in the corner of the black box is just an LED. The sensitive scanner is actually in the middle of the black box. So, it turned out that I was having troubles because I was scanning my badge incorrectly.

So, what's the lesson? Well, when things don't go our way and it affects us negatively, it could be because it's our own fault! Huh, imagine that.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

Yesterday marked the start of a new year as everyone is, no doubt, aware. Some did not give this day a second thought, just another in life's string. The only difference was that it required a calendar page be turned, but otherwise, all went on as any other Sunday. But as for me, I took a few moments to celebrate the biggest blessing my life has known, the birthday of my wonderful daughter.

As I wrote last year at this time, my daughter was embarking on her first year as a teenager. Through prayer and luck and forces beyond my vision, we both survived this year reasonably well. My daughter plowed ahead growing up too fast for me to keep up with, and I followed behind pointlessly muttering, "Wait", to no avail. But yesterday I celebrated with joy my daughter and our relationship for all that it has been thus far. I stand ready with her to face and embrace the new year ahead. Happy, happy birthday.

Oh, and happy new year to my online friends. See you in the blogosphere in the days and weeks and months ahead. Blessings to you all and glad tidings.