Saturday, December 30, 2006

You're In My Thoughts

A while ago, we received an email giving us well wishes from some atheist friends of Amanda's. They closed it by stating:

"Your family is in my thoughts."

I appreciate that and all, but then on second thought who gives a crap. I know that may sound mean, but honestly what good does that do me? That's like going into a restaurant and on your way in telling a homeless guy out front that "I'll skip dessert for you." Nice gesture though it may be, it certainly doesn't help him in any way.

As a Christian, when I tell someone "you're in my prayers", there's a whole lot more to it than just saying that I'm thinking about you. The purpose of that statement is to let them know that I am praying to God and taking action for them. I'm actually doing something in an attempt to help their situation. To continue on with the homeless guy metaphor, I'm actually throwing him some change, or maybe even some big bills, depending on how God answers my prayer.

To all atheists, for future reference: I don't mind if you don't believe in God - that's between you and Him. But please don't try to mimic and modify Christian statements, well wishes, songs, traditions, etc. by adding your own dumb godless twist to it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

O Christmas Tree

I was thinking about the lyrics to that song today. I wouldn't exactly call it idolatry, but isn't it a little odd to sing songs to an inanimate object, praising its beauty?

I was also thinking that there really aren't all that many songs written to inanimate objects, at least that I can recall. The only other ones I can think of are about cars, and they don't sing to the cars, just about them, unless it's a metaphor for something else (sex perhaps).

The lyrics to O Christmas Tree are written below:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so verdant!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

For every year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

Christmas Blues

I think this happens pretty much every year. The after-Christmas morning blues. I'm not sure exactly what causes it, but my theories are as follows:
  1. The unwrapping experience is never quite as exiting or fulfilling as you hoped.
  2. Having time to myself to chill and just hang out is unusual for me, and I sometimes don't know what to do with the time. Usually, I do chores or try to get stuff done, but I don't want to go that route on Christmas day.
  3. I have heard athletes experience a bout of depression after finishing with a significant goal, such as winning a championship or the Olympics. Similarly, after all of the effort, time, and stress put into the specific goal (Christmas preparation), maybe I'm lacking direction momentarily after my previous goal was actually accomplished.
  4. Except for going to stores for gifts and groceries, we've been cooped up in our house for a couple of days. Getting out to do something (besides just a walk) sounds like it would be nice.
My visiting relatives seem to be a little on the downward side emotionally too, but they are also away from home and perhaps getting sick of being a guest in someone else's house. So does anyone/everyone else experience this, or is it just me and/or my household?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Away In a Manger (unanswered prayers)

Recently, there have been several important things (to me anyway) that I have been praying about, and it seems to me that they have all gone either unanswered by God and/or flat out rejected.

Through the years, I think my faith in the power of prayer has slowly but continually grown. I have heard many incredible stories about answered prayers and I have seen God answer some of mine as well. However, I have also encountered people and heard stories of God not answering prayers, some of them pretty dramatic and disappointing. Until recently though, I have been able to apply logic to their difficulties, saying or thinking "God has a plan. He did with Job, and David, and Paul while they were suffering. And He did with so many others. We're not deserving of God's blessings or attention to begin with, so we should simply be grateful for any prayers that He does answer or grant to us."

Well, now that I'm facing situations that I've been pretty concerned about, I have been fairly dedicated both to pray about them myself and to have others pray for me. I have also been trying to be more disciplined in spending time with God (see previous post). So aren't all of my efforts and prayers supposed to work, or at least help matters? I can list the reasons why answering these prayers would be beneficial to me, my family, and even my church. Why would God want me to waste my time, money, and efforts with these things? I would love to use my resources better, in ways that would seem to please God more, like by helping my neighbors with things, or by doing more at church. I just don't have the ability now with all of this other stuff going on.

Recently, when I was reading Lucas' baby Bible to him, I came across the Christmas story. Even though we have a nativity and our neighbor even has one lit up on his lawn across the street, for some reason looking at this picture (on the right) made me realize something different.

Mary and Joseph probably were praying very hard for their circumstances to improve. On the night of Jesus' birth they had been traveling over a very long journey, Mary was very pregnant, and they couldn't even find a place to sleep for the night. For some reason, for the first time I could picture them going from inn to inn, getting more and more frustrated, until agonizingly proclaiming "Come on God, we're carrying your son for crying out loud. Why won't you help us? Why won't you answer our prayers?!" But God had a plan, and perhaps unfortunately for Mary and Joseph, it didn't include a posh hotel with room service. But it's fortunate for us, because we have a setting at Christmas of our almighty God humbling himself. Not only to become human, but to start off life in a barn-type setting. Born amongst the hay and laid to rest in an animal trough. It's a scene that is unlike any other. It's oddly unique, beautiful, peaceful and poetic. The words and music to the song Silent Night just resonates in my mind when I gaze at or picture the nativity. God did have a plan, and I know that He does for me and my circumstances too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

MMA Fans Rejoice!

Two of my favorite MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters are coming to the states!!

Quinton Jackson (picture on left) is an incredibly powerful slugger and slammer in the ring. He has previously beaten the current UFC light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Outside the ring, he has a charismatic persona and is a ghetto mouth thug (I saw videos of him back then) turned devoted Christian (in 2004).

Mirko Filopovich (picture on right) is a heavyweight kickboxer-turned-mixed martial artist from Croatia. His primary style is of course striking, and his most famous move is an powerful left high kick.

Well, both were recently acquired by the UFC. While I have watched both of them fight for PrideFC (an MMA organization in Japan), I have a hard time justifying the expensive pay-per-view in order to watch the events. The UFC, however, is broadcast at numerous local bars where all I have to pay for is drinks and food (if necessary). So I will finally get to see them hopefully sweep through the ranks of the UFC on their way to the top of their weight classes!

On a slightly different note, has anyone heard of "Iron" Mike Zambidis? If not, then check out this awesome highlight video of the Greek kickboxer. At only 5'6" tall, the man is incredibly fast, effective and powerful. Quite impressive indeed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Oh the Horror!!

A new movie is coming out this Christmas, called Black Christmas. My atheist co-worker said that he thought it was tasteless and knowing that I am an outspoken Christian, asked if it outraged me.

I know it offends many other Christians, but I had to be honest in saying that I really don't care. While a scary movie on Christmas isn't my cup of tea, why should I care if it's the way some people want to spend their evening? If people want to go watch a scary movie on Christmas then that's up to them. It doesn't affect me or my belief at all.

What would outrage me about it is if the movie has a character that's portrayed as a Christian, but he's a psycho who quotes Bible verses while he's slashing people's throats. Or what about movies of other genres that have characters in them who are Christians, but they're obviously stupid, crazy, incredibly annoying, or even harmful to the main character's plight. And I would venture to say that in most mainstream movies Christians are portrayed that way. Now that's offensive to me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Definitely NOT Sexy

A recent Reuters article reported that Italy is banning skinny models. The picture on the right is from the article.

How on earth did it get to the point that the government needs to intervene to prevent these girls from harming their own health in order to succeed in the modeling industry?

I guess what I'm really asking is how did being so skinny even enable them to succeed? Because in order to succeed I would think that the public that's viewing them would need to actually find them attractive. So then, do the majority of people really find these bag of antlers (a term often used in FARK) attractive?

Back in my dating days, when I actually had girl friends, the majority of them said that they generally prefer a man's body that's athletic and fit over either a big beefcake bodybuilder or a skinny waif of a man.

I would think the same would generally be true with men and their preferences with the female physique. It certainly is for me anyway. Fleshy and fit, curvy yet muscular. Not the kind of curves that are undefined and flabby flesh. Nor skinny and bony, lacking curves altogether.

So why does the modeling industry continually prefer and promote the nasty, shapeless, eating disorder females that have bodies resembling little girls at best and skeletons at worst?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Past , Present, and Future Flicks

A couple of weeks ago my co-workers and I were talking about western themed movies, so at their advice I rented Silverado. The cast was stellar, and while I didn't think it was quite as good as Tombstone or Unforgiven, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Those were definitely the days of manly men, guns, bar fights, etc. In all honesty, the violence and lawlessness of the time period was probably a little overkill, literally. But it's still fun to occasionally go back in time to the days of horses, firearms, heroes, chivalry, and majestic scenery. Now, I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet, but I'm guessing that it just might be the exception to the rule.

One of my good friends recently rented Superman Returns. I haven't seen it yet myself, but after reading his review/commentary about it, I'm not so sure that I want to bother with it. Check out what Brian wrote here.

Has anyone heard about the new movie coming out called RedLine? If not, then check out the trailer here. I don't know how good the plot will be, but any movie that has all of the supercars that are shown in the trailer driving at the peak of their limits will be well worth the price of admission to me. The cars are much better and the plot can't be much worse than The Fast and The Furious series, and I enjoyed those two movies quite a bit.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

THIS Is Undoubtedly My Worst Nightmare

I realized it this morning. The loss of a child. No, I don't mean the death of a child - although that would be incredibly horrible. I mean losing a child, having them kidnapped, abducted, or missing in some way.

In my dream I was at an unknown mall with my family. We all went into a clothing store of some sort that had a long hallway on each side of a walled-in middle section. Amanda went down one side with Emily, while I walked down another. Lucas was walking around just behind me. I wasn't watching him directly, more out of the corner of my eye. A store employee then started guiding several boys that were the same size and appearance as Lucas to follow the direction that I was going. Of course, I assumed that Lucas was one of them. After only a few steps (maybe halfway) down this hallway, I looked back to try to figure out which one of them was my son. I soon realized to my horror that none of them were. I traced back through the store and outside the entrance, calling and looking for him while I walked, but there was no sign of him.

Something inside me knew he was gone. Lucas is extra cute, sweet and innocent. If some wacko wanted a little boy to steal, he would no doubt want my son. With each step away from the entrance of the store, my anguish grew exponentially.

Now, I'm pretty stable emotionally. I don't consider this example a good thing, but I didn't even cry at my dad's funeral, although I did come close quite a few times. I've been through my share of challenges in life and generally I don't rattle too easily. But at that moment, now knowing where my son was or what could possibly be happening to him. Thinking of him being away from his family and really scared. Pondering the possibility that I have no idea whether I will find him and when or if I will see him again. I freakin' lost it, right there in the middle of the mall. I was basically a useless driveling fool that may never fully function in society again, at least until I can reestablish contact with my little kiddo.

And then I woke up. As I stated in a previous post, I've been trying to be more deliberate about my schedule lately, which includes getting up at 6am to spend time with God before getting ready for work. Well, I went to bed last night later than I wanted to, so I didn't set my alarm to get up early. When I woke up from the dream though I looked at the clock - 5:57am. So was that God's wake up call to me, albeit a harsh one? I would be surprised if it was my circadian rhythm, since I have only actually woken up at 6am for a few staggered days since starting this schedule.

I took it at face value, got up from bed, went downstairs to spend time with God, and included praying for everyone who has lost a child and for the children that have been abducted. Also, for right or wrong, I prayed for the death of those that would do such a horrific thing as to steal a child, or at least for whatever justice God would be willing to dish out to them.

The Terrible T-Shirt

As promised in the previous post, here is the t-shirt that caused all the conflict. OK, granted, at least the wearer of the shirt is promoting Jesus to some extent, but my impression is that it's intent is primarily to recognize and appreciate Mary, the mother of Jesus.

It seems kind of ironic that it was only last week that I was involved in a typed exchange with an anonymous individual through the comments on my wife's blog (
see here) about Catholicism. But I really didn't realize just how important Mary is to Catholics. In fact, I completely forgot about it, until Eric mentioned it in his comments after mine. I certainly wouldn't have said they place her in the same category as Jesus, but judging from the t-shirt above, it's way too close for comfort.

From an earthly perspective, if someone knows my mom, does that mean they know me? The phrases "like mother, like daughter" or better yet "like father, like son" would certainly be applicable, but "like mother, like son?". I don't think of that as normally applicable. It's certainly not the case with my mom and me. Now, "like father, like son" does make a whole lot of sense in regards to Jesus.

From a Biblical perspective though, we really don't know all that much about Mary, and do we really care? She was simply a vessel for God to use. If there was no Mary, then God certainly could have found someone else to birth His child. Or better yet, He would have just created her - oh wait, He did create her. He's God!! So that "No Mary, No Jesus" part of it just makes no sense at all. The only necessary part of the Mary and Jesus equation was God, who caused it all to happen as it did.

Mary was an important person to be sure, just as Moses, David, Joseph, Samuel, Isaac, and so many others in the Bible were important. Why not pray to all of them, or wear T-shirts that say kNOw Moses, kNOw God? Wait, I think I know - because it's blasphemy! Sure, Mary was highly favored (Luke 1:28, 30), but she was human. As Eric said on my wife's blog, just because she was a virgin doesn't mean she was perfect.

Not only that, but Jesus seemed to make the point that Mary wasn't any more special to him, spiritually speaking, than you (if you're a Christian) or me. In Matthew 12, Mark 3, Luke 8, and he ignored his earthly family in favor of those who were willing to follow Him. For example:

Matthew 12:46 - 50 (NIV)
46While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."[g]

48He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" 49Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

One point that the fellow wearing the shirt said that threw me off was that asking Mary to pray to Jesus for you is just like me asking a fellow Christian to pray for me about something. That makes some sense, except for the fact that she's dead!! And I would never ask another person to pray for me to avoiding praying for it myself, only in addition to me praying directly to God about it. Nor would I pray to that person after they die!! I can't tell you exactly what happens between when we die and when Christ returns, but I do know that God wants us to pray to and worship Him only while we're here on earth, not other imperfect people who have passed on from here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

In Truth, the Text is Tougher Than the Tongue

A gentleman was wearing a t-shirt with a religious slogan on the front of it at our friends' daughter's 1-year birthday party. I just couldn't resist asking him about it. But the point of asking him really wasn't because I didn't understand it, it was because I didn't agree with it. So he and I got into a slightly heated discussion about it. He made some points that I've never heard before, so I didn't defend myself (or my faith for that matter) as good as I could/should have. I wouldn't say I got beat, but I wouldn't say I won either. Maybe it was a stalemate, and as easy an argument as that topic should be to rebuke, I'd call that a loss on my end.

But then again, I'm not a very good arguer. In fact, I would venture to say that I'm kinda lousy at it. I'm not quick witted enough, and I tend to get either too defensive or too offensive, or both. Writing is different though, I can take my sweet time to generate a response, and I'm analytical enough to usually come up with a pretty good one. I can mull the whole idea of the argument and ponder the particular points with much better clarity and less abrasiveness. Plus there's the whole backspace key that comes in handy.

But the friends' house we were at are Atheists, and I don't know if I set a very good example. I've argued for Christianity with the female half of this couple before, and we have also invited them to church with us several times. But they always refuse and I probably did more harm than good in our discussion. I'm somewhat surprised (and delighted I might add) they have stayed friends with us actually. I hope I didn't make an ass out of myself at their party though, like I just have to argue with everyone I come across about religion.

But maybe that 's not completely inaccurate. I have a burning passion for the truth. The more I learn of it, the more protective I am. If someone is stepping on that truth, then I really just want to shove them off of it (verbally, not physically) and defend it. I'm a bit of a fighter, on the outside and the inside. I'd rather get my ass kicked than to shy away in fear of getting licked, or for fear of offending someone for that matter. The biggest regrets I have in life are a) when I have hurt someone unnecessarily (emotionally, physically, etc) and b) the moments that I was afraid and let that fear get the best of me, when I shied away from a battle or an opportunity and acted like a coward, and believe me there are plenty of them.

If I can only learn how to debate/argue/discuss without getting too emotionally involved in the discussion, then I'd be much, much more effective. I'm working on it though, and at least I think I can say that I'm better than I used to be. Probably by the time I die, I'll be a mighty verbal warrior. For now though, I'll do my best to type it out as often as possible.

Oh, and the actual t-shirt will be the topic of my next post.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Deciding to be Deliberate with Discipline

Lately, I have been frustrated with my lack of discipline in just about all areas of taking care of myself. Even though the desire is there, I have been too busy (work, the kids, etc), too tired, or too distracted to accomplish certain tasks - primarily exercise, spending time with God, and getting enough sleep.

For most of my adult life I have been fairly self-motivated. But at this stage now, I think the only way I am going to get these things done is to be much more deliberate with my time. So for the first time ever, I'm going to try to set an actual dedicated schedule for myself, which will be as follows:

Go to bed at 11:00 pm.

Get up at 6:00 am.

Go downstairs, start the coffee, spend some time with God (reading Bible, praying, etc.)

Get ready for work, leave by 7:30 am, get there by 8:00 am.

Since my company uses the 9/80 schedule, I'll work until 6:00 pm, then get home by 6:30 pm. NOTE: Working a little extra on some days will compensate for the days that I exercise.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Letting Go

In early September, my wife and I moved into a much bigger house. We prayed about it and thought long and hard about the numbers associated with the purchase and the financing. The price was spectacular (a really God deal) so we did our best to make it happen. And with a lot of time and effort, the financing worked out and we were able to purchase it. That being said, there was one big variable that still has yet to be resolved - selling our old house.

Yes, we still own our previous house as well as the new one. So now we have expensive California-sized mortgage payments on both houses. We have some money set aside to help with the transition, but it's a finite amount, and with every passing month more of it gets thrown away to the mortgages and the sale price ticks lower and lower in an attempt to keep up with the downward moving market. Right now, after the realtor's fees we will get exactly what we originally paid for it. The situation is serious enough that we could end up in great financial difficulty or even ruin if too much time passes without selling it. In addition, I'm doing all I can to keep up, fix up, and even spruce up the old house while it's still on the market, which adds more stress because of the additional time that it requires of my already busy schedule.

All of that to say that it has (obviously) been a great stress to me, and for the last couple of months it has been always present in the back of my mind. I have been praying about it regularly, but still no sale and therefore no less stress. But recently (this weekend?), I finally feel somewhat at ease about it. Here's why:
  1. Amanda and I made this choice based on all of the data we had at the time, and I still think that based on that information it was a good decision. To confirm it, everyone whom we told the price and details of the new house purchase to agreed that it was a spectacular deal and said that they would take it if we didn't already. So even though it was a risky move, I don't believe it was foolish.
  2. God is in control. Even if we end up completely screwed, I will have peace knowing that we did the best we could, but ultimately it's in God's hands.
I could end up like Job, with nothing left to my name and sores all over my body, but as long as I did the best that I could to prevent it through my actions and my prayers, then I did my part. The rest is up to God and His will. If the worst case scenario materializes then I will obviously be unhappy about it, but I will still do my best to have as good an attitude as I can muster and to be as content (see previous post) as I can.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Consequences for Constantly Complaining?

NOTE: This blog was actually started on November 10.

My daughter can sure be fussy sometimes. Earlier today, she had one of her inconsolable moments. No matter what I did or how I tried to make her happy, she would complain (which varied from angry grunting, to all out crying). Eventually I realized that trying to make her happy wasn't helping, so I'll just put her in her chair and let her cry until she falls asleep. I thought "Why would I want to be with you or hold you when all you do is complain? I can just put you down and leave you alone. Your pissy attitude doesn't change either way, but my life is a little easier through the act of separating myself from you."

OK, this may be a stretch, but could God ever feel that way about me? Especially when there are pressing problems that have yet to be resolved, I can definitely be a compulsive and/or continuous complainer. I have so many blessings and God has so obviously been present in my life and has answered so many of my prayers. Even still though, my tendency when communicating with God is mostly to complain, make requests, or to express dissatisfaction. In other words, often times my attitude really sucks, especially when things aren't necessarily going great.

I know God is perfect, and therefore infinitely more patient than myself. But if all I do is complain no matter what He does for me or gives me, will He be less desiring of my company and/or less likely to help me out or answer my prayers in the future? I can't really think of any Bible verses to either support or refute the idea, but from my meager human perspective, it doesn't sound illogical or totally unreasonable.

I want to have a good attitude and be appreciative to God for the many blessings I have been given, not dwell on and whine about the things that I don't have. Sure I have problems and things to complain and moan about, but I live a pretty damned good life by most of the world's standards.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't ask for anything either. I would just like to improve my attitude and be content as Paul was, in all circumstances.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Congratulations to George St. Pierre, the new welterweight UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) champion. Saturday evening "Rush" displaced Matt Hughes, who possessed that title for the better part of the last 4 or 5 years. Oddly enough, at the previous UFC event (#64), Rich Franklin in the middleweight (< 185 lb) division was also dethroned after holding the belt for over a year.

It was probably about 13 years ago or so that I started watching the Ultimate Fighting Competition. My friend Shawn and I would rent them on VHS, then eat two PB&J's and a big glass of milk each while watching them. It was a tradition of sorts. Back then there were little or no rules, no weight classes, and some of the participants were little more than bar brawlers, and hardly anyone knew about it.

The event itself has come a long way since those early days, and now I know that the UFC is actually part of a much larger sport called mixed martial arts (MMA). Today it's sanctioned by numerous state's athletic commissions, there are clearly defined rules and weight classes, and the participants have been training for the better part of their lives in multiple martial arts disciplines. And thanks in no small part to The Ultimate Fighter reality series on SpikeTV, the UFC event has grown fairly popular here in the U.S. Maybe there's hope for the manliness of America's men after all.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Worlds Apart

Conversation with my brother from Sunday evening when I called him on the phone:

Steve: "Michael!"

Me: "Hey brotha! How's it going?"

Steve: "Good. I just got in a fight downtown and I'm being held"

Me: "Wait, what?"

Steve: "They know dad and Uncle Larry though (both cops in Orlando for 20+ years), so it's all good. Can I call you back in a little while?"

Wow, how different our worlds are. My brother is 11 years younger than me, in college and single. I love the stage of life that I'm in and certainly don't wish to return to my college days (Engineering was a tough major that left way too little time for fun), but there is still a small part of me that is somewhat jealous of him. Not of the non-married aspect of his life, but of living life a little more dangerously.

I remember going to clubs and walking around downtown with friends, or even with Amanda when we were dating, and feeling a little on edge. It felt like anything could happen. You might bump shoulders with some punk walking the other way and exchange challenging stares with him. Someone might act or say something inappropriate to Amanda. We could walk down an alley where the risk is there to get jumped or mugged. Any number of bad things could happen, and to some extent I liked that feeling, and maybe miss it a bit.

Life is full of so many responsibilities and challenges now. It's certainly not boring, but it definitely feels much safer. Also, there are so many reasons now not to get in trouble or risk getting injured or killed. Steady job, family and kids, and all that.

Well, at least I periodically go to a seedy bar to watch UFC events. It's not much, but it's something.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Possibly Promoting the Power of Plural Prayer?

NOTE: I started writing this on 11/3.

My daughter Emily has regularly been extremely fussy in the evenings. She usually has about a 2 hour stretch each night where she cries or fusses (not quite a cry, just ticked off grunts). If you switch holding positions, she might be comfortable/consoled for a few minutes before it starts right back up again. Sometimes these episodes start at 9pm, sometimes at midnight.

Well, when you're shuffling her from up on your shoulder, to lying in your arms, to sitting on your knee, to whatever the hell other position you can think of. Then trying to pace the room (movement sometimes helps) and/or bounce her a little bit (but not too hard, despite your frustrated instincts). Making the shusshing sound too, hoping she doesn't wake up her brother who has been having a hard time getting to sleep lately (teething perhaps?). And if it's one of her late shifts, then you're thinking about how damned tired you are now, and how tomorrow work will suck so incredibly bad because you'll be tired beyond what even the strongest coffee can remedy, while still trying to be productive.

Of course, I've been praying through those moments, for patience and for wisdom to know what the problem with Emily is and how to best take care of it, and/or for God to heal her if something is causing her physical discomfort, or to help her to feel emotionally comforted if that's the problem. But nothing obvious has really resulted from these individual prayers.

But the first time Amanda and I prayed together over Emily, she slept pretty soundly and for a slightly longer duration. This occurred for several evenings - no results from individual efforts, but improvements when we pray together.

So, is the problem just too big to be solved by an individual effort? The Bible definitely identifies some situations that require more spiritual effort than others (Mark 9:28-29). It also seems to indicate the the amount of power that God grants you is directly related to the degree of your faith (Matthew 17:16-20, many others). Or is it just that God is trying to teach us and guide us to act more as a team and pray together, especially for our children?

Update: In the days since this blog entry was started, we have started making a habit out of praying for our children together before putting them to sleep. For that outcome alone, I guess I'm grateful for the struggle.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What A Difference One More Makes

Today Amanda had a baby shower to attend in the afternoon, as well as time scheduled in the evening to get coffee with another woman from church. In both instances I watched the kids, and both times Emily cried for most of the time with me not able to figure out how to console her. In addition to that, I was trying to deal with Lucas crying because he couldn't sleep (first for a nap, then for the night).

After Amanda got home from her coffee time, I washed the dishes while she nursed Emily. It was at that moment that I recalled how it used to be when there was only Lucas to watch. If Amanda had something that she wanted to do or somewhere to go, I would lean back and say with confidence "Sure, go ahead. I'll be fine. No problem at all. Knock yourself out." I was the master dad, an expert without equals. As soon as Lucas was born, I could handle him all by myself, all day long too if I had to. I just needed his momma to provide the nourishment that only she could.

Now I've had both kids by myself a bit though, and Emily is much more challenging than I remember Lucas being. I also have to be concerned when she's crying that she'll wake Lucas up too. And it's pretty damned tough when they both need you at once. Who do you take care of first? Someone's going to have to be crying, maybe even darned near screaming while you handle the needs of the other child.

The next time Amanda asks if I could watch the kids while she goes off and does whatever, I can picture myself whimpering "don't leave me". It's much, much harder with two kids.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Other Side of the Scale

On the other end of the spectrum from the previous post titled "What Were We Thinking" is a recent conversation that I was having with some co-workers. One of them brought up Hugh Hefner's (the founder of Playboy) age, and the fact that he still has numerous women on his arm and walks around in his bath robe.

I recently saw a picture of him in the news with three women at his side, and as I recalled this image during the discussion, my initial thoughts were not of admiration or envy, but more accurately of pity. I must admit though that I was actually a little surprised at this. Shouldn't I be jealous? I mean, I can certainly appreciate the attractive appearance of his arm decor. But I couldn't deny that in all actuality, I think a man who is 80 years old and still living the life of a 20 something or 30 something man is kinda, no really pathetic.

Basically, from all outward appearances he lives life primarily to fulfill his flesh. His whole existence (or at least the way it's portrayed) centers completely around lust. Sure, there is a worldly flesh part of me that finds his lifestyle appealing. But I know that ultimately I would never be satisfied with such a simple and meaningless life.

I'm not saying that my thoughts are always 100% pure, or that they never stray from the focus of my wife. But I can say that it is my intention for that to be the case. In other words, I hope to grow and actually mature as I get older. I aspire to overcome my flesh and sinfulness, to be first and foremost a good husband and father. Heck, maybe even a great one.

So thank you Hugh for your inspiration, for demonstrating what I absolutely don't want to be.

Just for the fun of it, I thought of some other immature celebrity life-long bachelor retards: Billy Bob Thornton, Jack Nicholson, George Clooney

Here are some cool, family-oriented, long-term married celebrity men: L.L. Cool J, Will Smith, Mel Gibson, Sting, Tom Hanks, Tim McGraw

What Were We Thinking Again?

Now that we have a newborn and a toddler, there have been more moments that ever before when I remember with great longing the way our lives used to be before children. I miss the freedom to travel, to eat out, to relax, even to simply go see a movie. I miss staying out late because we didn't have any reason to be home (such as putting the kids to bed), and because we could sleep in on the weekends. I miss feeling well rested from actually getting a good night's sleep, going running together, working out at the gym together, and hitting the occasional nude beach together. I miss the financial benefit of both of us having decent careers and the associated dual income.

Back in the day - on vacation in Tennessee.

But Lucas has the most precious smile and the brightest brown eyes I have ever seen. He makes my mouth and my heart smile in ways that I would have never known, that only your own child can show you. His readiness to dance, and act silly demolishes my adult tendencies to be overly restrained and concerned about what others think of me. He makes me feel manly in a whole different way, as a father who now has the responsibility of not only protecting and caring for someone else, but also setting the example of what being a man is all about. And the importance of this is so potently evident as he is already watching and mimicking my every action.

Emily is still at that early stage where she's certainly cute, and I cherish the occasional smile I get while I'm holding her. But she can be so darned fussy and difficult, more than I ever remember Lucas being. And as small as she is, that voice can pierce your soul like nails on a chalkboard.

Whatever the pros and cons may be, it's too late to turn back now. So I guess we'll have to continue growing, learning, and maturing. Not to mention depending on God to grant us wisdom, grace, and patience, as we definitely have been praying for these things more since becoming parents.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One of the Worst Things to Happen to a Man

I came across this picture and caption on the USA Today homepage. I cannot imagine the way this man feels at the time this picture was taken.

Although it breaks my heart to see/read, it also helps me to appreciate how blessed I am and how easy my life is, in comparison to so many others in the world.

Note: if you can't read the text next to the picture, then make sure you are viewing it full size. You may have to click on it again once the picture is in your browser window.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Asking Manly Questions

Why make a blog about manliness, or why am I talking about this silly topic so much? As men, who cares how many guns we have, who we can beat up, how fast our car is, etc? Are these things really what makes a man, or do they just demonstrate immaturity? As a Christian, shouldn't I abandon some of these traits and/or passions in favor of focusing on Christ and His message of what many/most would argue promotes passivity? Is being strong and aggressive and trying my best to stay that way contrary to basic Christian doctrine? What about listening to loud music? Does that promote anger and conflict, even if the message is supportive of Christianity?

The answers that I can come up with will be the subject of another blog, but what do you readers (all 1 or 2 people, maybe 3) think the answers to some/all of these questions are?

Quick thoughts about this blog

This background is boring and lame. I really need to change it someday soon.

Thus far, my blogs are ridiculously long. I hope they don't bore and/or intimidate all of the 2-3 people (if I'm lucky) in the world that see my blog and considers whether or not to actually read it. Unfortunately the lengthiness will probably continue, because once I have a thought/idea in my head I mull it around and ponder all of the angles until the topic is completely exhausted.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Clarifications, Corrections, Contrary, and Confirmation

After giving my introduction some further thought, I realized a few things that could use some further clarification, a correction that needs to be made, some things about me that are contrary to my proclamation of manliness, and also some additional traits that can probably be considered manly that previously went unmentioned.


  1. Although it may seem like it, I'm really not bragging about myself. I'm simply observing that I prefer to participate in what I consider to be manly hobbies, and demonstrate manly characteristics to the extent of very few other Christian men. I don't think that it makes me better than anyone else, it just means that I can find very few friends which share these same pastimes and interests, and if I do then they are very rarely Christians.
  2. There are several professional mixed martial arts fighters that profess to be Christians, and I would guess them to be quite manly, since they make their living out of beating up their competition. Here are a few of the more popular ones:
    Rich Franklin
    Vitor Belfort
    Diego Sanchez
    Quinton Jackson
    Randy Couture
    Matt Hughes
    Ron Waterman
    However, since I don't actually know them personally, they don't count. Not to mention that fighting may be the only significant aspect of their manliness for all I know.

OK, I'm not the most manly Christian man that I know after all. I thought of a couple others that may possibly surpass me. I would say though that I'm one of the manliest Christian men that I know. I'm at least in the top 3-5, and I know a lot of people.

Admittedly, there are some aspects of my life that lack the level of manliness that you would expect from someone titling his blog as such.
  1. I am not the best performer when it comes to sports. Not only that, but I'm not a big fan of watching or following them much either. People who knew me in grade school are probably laughing their aoff because I was just plain horrible at sports when I was younger. However, as my strength and confidence has improved with age, thankfully so has my athletic ability. So I don't completely suck anymore, but I'm not super impressive either.

  2. I could use a few more pounds of muscle. I'm in pretty good shape, especially for my age. But at 175 lbs a bit more beefcake would help to enhance the manly image.

I thought of a couple additional traits that could further confirm the idea behind the introduction.

  1. Hairiness: I'm fairly hairy. Not to the extent of having excessive back or shoulder hair, but I can typically grow a beard in few days and I have a decent layer of chest hair. Yes, I know this is something that cannot be controlled (except for removing it via laser perhaps), but all other things being equal, smooth hairless skin is definitely more feminine than having a respectable (but not excessive) amount of body and facial hair.

  2. Handyman: I mentioned in the introduction that I did a lot of work on my own cars, but thought I should expand that a little more to include house work. I can fix most anything. Of course, there are moments when the time required to fix it is more than I want to spend, or special tools are needed that I don't have or want to buy, etc. Usually though, I adopt my dad's philosophy that I'm as smart or smarter than the average repair man, so if they can do the job, then surely I can too.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

An Opportunity That Knocks Once in a Lifetime

A couple of Fridays ago (10/6) I was home from work helping my wife after the birth of our second child, when my wife got a phone call from a good friend and neighbor a couple of doors down. She said that their 18 month old daughter had locked herself in a bedroom, they were getting panicky about it, and could I maybe come help?

I rushed over to find that there was a doorknob with a key lock (instead of the kind that you can poke a hanger into to open) on the interior bedroom door, and their little girl had accidentally locked it from the inside. Tammy (the neighbor) and her friend Sharon had already tried slipping and/or forcing various objects between the door frame to pry/force it open. I tried doing the same thing for a short while, until finally Tammy decided to grab a saw to try and cut around the door knob. The reasons were that a locksmith would take too long and cost too much, and the fire department probably would break down the door anyway, so it made sense to just go ahead and destroy the door.

Now, when I was younger, my dad put his fist through an interior bedroom door in a fit of rage. And ever since then I have wondered if I would be physically able to perform the same feat. Theoretically it wouldn't be too hard - I am fairly strong, have pretty good punching technique, and have put my fist through drywall before (in my own fit of rage when I was a teenager), and interior doors are two layers of fairly thin wood. But still, it's one thing to think you can and another to actually do it.

So I told them to stand back and then I let my right fist fly. One punch - crack! I didn't go through, but the door cracked, and flexed a lot more than I would hope, which makes it a lot harder to break. The top of the door was able to bend a good 2 -3 inches into the room, when pressed hard enough. Blood on my knuckes - well, I'm used to that from punching the heavy bag without gloves more times than I can count - so no big deal. Second punch - crack! Same thing. I grabbed the cracked door and pulled a piece of wood away. Lo and behold, right behind my point of impact was a nice strip of styrofoam that held the two sides together for stability. So it was stabilizing the wood, absorbing some of the shock, and preventing me from going straight through like I hoped to. One or two inches to the right this time - smash!! Right through.

Reached in through the door, turned the knob. Hero for the day. Now I'm wondering about it no more, I have some groovy cuts on my knuckles, and it was a pretty good rush too. Great manly moment. And to think my dad actually got paid to have moments like this as a cop.

Oh - and one more thing - several people wondered why I didn't want to kick the door in instead of punch through it. The reason is because first of all the door would fling inward where it could have hit the little girl, and secondly because it would have ruined the whole door frame, instead of just the door, which would be a whole lot more work and cost for my friend to replace it. I wouldn't mind giving it another try some day though, next time with better projecting of my punch. I should be able to go straight through with one solid motion, with or without the styrofoam.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

He's More Important Than Just Crap Time

My life is insanely busy right now with 1 toddler, 1 newborn, 1 new house (with boxes to unpack and childproofing to accomplish), a car that is leaking 60% of it's compression through the exhaust valve(s) in cylinder 6 and needs new brakes (including rotors), etc. So about the only time I make to read the Bible is on the toilet. And even then I sometimes read the newspaper or Popular Mechanics magazine instead.

Well, last night I was reading the Bible on the toilet and I had an interesting thought. What if Lucas were all grown up with his busy life, and I were to say to him "Son, we never get to spend any time together anymore." to which he responded "Well dad, I'm really busy, but if you want to come into the bathroom while I'm taking a crap, then I'd be happy to hang out with you then."?

I'm pretty sure I would feel pretty insulted and disrespected, and at the very least I would kindly tell him, "No thanks, let me know when you can squeeze me into your regular schedule." Maybe I'd even say or at least think to myself "After all I've done for you, that's all the time I can get from you, is your crap time?"

I really need to make more time to spend with God, the one whom not only grants me with all of the blessings in my life, but genuinely desires to spend time with little insignificant me.
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