Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Being Competitive, Instead of Just Competing

I almost beat my boss (actually my boss' boss) in one of the sets of tennis that we played last Thursday. He's a pretty good player and very few people that he has played with have beat him, so it felt really good to give him a challenge. We've played maybe a half-dozen times before and it was definitely the closest I have come so far.

I have noticed several aspects of my game that have been steadily improving. My new racket has definitely helped too (picture on left).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Questions About How to Draw Closer

I haven't felt very close to God lately. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I guess I haven't felt much joy, peace, love, etc. in my heart. Thinking about this more led me to the following questions:

What causes me to feel closer to Him? What are the circumstances
in the past that have caused me to feel a greater spiritual presence?

  • After or while in the midst of receiving some kind of blessing? I am already very blessed with health, family, job (a recent raise), etc.
  • When things are more certain so that I don't feel so anxious about the future (job, house, etc)? Possibly, but I have previously felt close to God in other times of uncertainty.
  • When that there is less stress and conflict (with friends and/or family, purchases or business transactions, etc) in my life? There isn't too much right now, no more than usual at least.
  • When I have a greater influx of endorphins due to a greater exercise regimen? Possibly, although I did get a decent workout in on Tuesday.
  • When I'm spending more time with God? Well, in addition to church on Sunday I'm currently participating in a men's group on Tuesday nights and praying with a couple of co-workers on Thursday morning. I've also been praying with Amanda more than usual lately.
The only answer that I can conclude with some degree of confidence is that I'm not spending enough (or any for that matter) personal alone time with God. For example, hanging out with a group of your friends is good fellowship time, but spending one-on-one time with your best friend is an entirely different experience altogether. It's similar to the importance of making the time to date your spouse, even through life's busyness.

So I think I'm going to try to set aside more quality time with God. I have no idea when or how, but I just think it is of the utmost importance in order to gain that closeness that I feel like I have been missing lately.

One Persons' ____ is Another Persons' ____

Karin, our friend in Florida, gets super exited about a Chick-Fil-A opening up nearby and really bummed when they close (for remodeling or whatever). Sure Chick-Fil-A is good food, but I really get excited about AUTO ZONE!

Up until recently, I've had to resort to either trying to find what I need at a nearby Kragen Auto Parts or having to drive 7 miles to the nearest Auto Zone, where the staff are generally more knowledgeable, more professional, the store is better organized, they more likely to have the parts I need, have a great rental tool program, and give me a better overall grease monkey shopping experience.

I am happy to say though that an Auto Zone finally opened up nearby, within a mile or so of us! Now when I'm in the middle of a project (like my brakes a couple of weekends ago) I can get there and back in no time, allowing me minimal interruption when I forget about a part or realize that I need to rent a tool that I'm lacking.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What the Heck Happened to St. Patrick's Day?

In case you don't know the story (I didn't) - here it is, from a GodSpeaks devotional:

St. Patrick's Day was originally a special day that honored a man through whom the Lord did an incredible work. Around the year 390, Patrick was born into a Christian family in Britain. At age 16, his village was raided by the Celts and he was captured and taken to Ireland where he was sold as a slave to one of the tribal chiefs. He eventually escaped from his captors and returned to Britain. Years later, Patrick had a dream in which he saw Irish children begging him to bring the gospel to them. He took this as a sign of God's calling, and, in 432, he returned as an ambassador of Christ to the very land from which he had once escaped.

Little is known about what happened next, but, just a few years later, most of Ireland had converted to Christianity. Close to 300 churches were established and roughly 120,000 people had been baptized as Christians. This work had an ongoing impact as Ireland became the major center for the translation and preservation of Scripture. There's no telling how many souls were eternally affected as a result of the work that God did through Patrick. Consequently, the church in Ireland decided to set aside the day of his birth, March 17, by tradition, in honor of his service for the kingdom.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beyond A Desparate Measure

Honey, I love you dearly. But if you ever were to leave me, I would definitely not do this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mr. Hyde Begins To Rear His Ugly Head

Too much stress, and not enough exercise. That'll do it - I'm starting to get grumpy.

My two biggest weapons for combating excessive pressure in life is prayer and exercise. Sleep doesn't hurt either, but I'm so used to living without it (or a normal amount anyway) that it's definitely a distant third.

That being said, I have been less physically active since Emily's birth than probably at any other point in my life since I was 15. With two kids and two houses to take care of I haven't been able to figure out how to fit in regular time with God either. And the stress of potential impending financial doom is looming on the horizon from the house and car troubles during the last six months or so.

Unfortunately, my in-laws and also my wife's best friend probably got a glimpse of my grumpy side when they last visited. Sure, I can hide and stifle him for a while, but under the current circumstances he's definitely been more difficult than ever to conquer.

The good news is that when it comes to the kids, it's not a problem. I would even say that they're a great distraction from life's annoyances, especially when I'm spending quality time with them.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Free Things Stink!

Right before Christmas, we went caroling around our neighborhood with Amanda's family who was visiting and a couple friends of ours. One of the houses we sang at was trying to get rid of a 10 foot tall fake ficus tree. Well, fake trees aren't cheap and we have plenty of room in our new house to fill, so we gladly and gratefully took it off their hands. That is until we woke up the next morning and the room that we put it in (our rec room) smelled like a big ashtray!

So the old couple were stinky smokers! I guess it was so cold on that December evening that our noses were numb and we didn't even notice the rank smell that permeated from it. So now it's sitting on the side of our house, waiting for us to figure out a way to either unstink it or dispose of it.
Then last weekend we noticed an ad on Craigslist for a free twin mattress. We have been looking for one so we can set up a bed at our old house for staging. There's already a crib in the room, but we would much rather bring the crib over to our new house so Emily won't have to sleep in the pack-and-play any more.

We asked them ahead of time if they were smokers, and they assured us that they weren't. So I picked up the less than stellar looking mattress thinking "who cares if it's not something I would want to sleep on, as long as it retains it shape with a bedspread over it so we can use if for staging. I thought I might have noticed a slight aroma when I was roping it to the roof of our Escape, but I was already committed and maybe it was too faint to really notice.

When I got it home I left it in our garage for a day or two to be certain, and sure enough it reeks! I can't exactly pinpoint the smell, but it's sort of musty, maybe like B.O. or mildew.
For the stinky trifecta, the outside of my building at work smells like a fish factory! At first I thought it was a nearby restaurant and a strong breeze, until the smell continued for several days. Then I finally realized that it's the white flowers blooming on all of the numerous trees in front of the building. There are dozens of them, so it looks beautiful, but unfortunately their smell is pretty disgusting.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Why Bother Praying? (unanswered prayers part 2)

NOTE: I originally started this post at least a month ago. I decided that I'm going to go ahead and blog about all of my thoughts on the subject of unanswered prayers, especially while our old house is still on the market, despite all of our prayers and efforts.

What is the point of praying if it doesn't help? If God doesn't give us what we are asking for or provide clear answers to our questions, then why bother making the effort?

These questions entered my mind the other day. I feel like I have been trying pretty hard to do what pleases God. I've been praying about my problems (primarily with selling our old house, but other things too) and having faith about them. But it hasn't worked, despite our faith and despite our prayers and also the prayers of others for the cause. So why should I continue to pray for it, or anything else for that matter?

I had to ponder that for a minute before I came up more questions, which are "Well, why do I pray? Is it just to get the things that I want? To get my way and receive blessings? " Maybe so and perhaps that's the problem right there, or certainly a problem.

As a metaphor, if the only reason my grown children ever wanted to spend time with me was to hit me up for some cash, or to get help with something, I would find that to be seriously annoying. At some point I would maybe not even want to hear from them at all and possibly even cringe every time they called or stopped by.

The Bible makes it clear that it isn't wrong to ask for things, but I find that it's consuming most if not all of my prayers now. Maybe it has been for a long time. I think I really need to just listen and be content, not only with the things that I'm blessed with already, but more importantly to be happy that God even lets me pray to Him at all. That He actually wants to listen to me, spend time with me and that He gave me Jesus' sacrifice and the promise of salvation that accompanies it (once we repent and accept it of course). If He also wants to help me with my problems, well then that would be great too. But if not, then it's completely up to Him. Or if it's until a later date, then it's completely up to His timing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Effect Is Not Zero

I have told this story to a number of people, but reading this article about long-term mobile phone useage being linked to tumors reminded me about it again, so I figured I might as well post a blog about it.

I had a professor in graduate school whose research specialties were high frequency semiconductor devices and wireless communications, for which he had won various awards at UCF. Based on his lectures and discussions in class, he seemed to be not only a talented engineer, but also an interesting guy who was knowledgeable on a whole slew of topics, technical and otherwise.

He said that the studies of the effects of high frequency electromagnetic radiation (used in wireless communication) on human flesh is thus far inconclusive. But then he added " I can tell you this though: The effect is not zero. It's not zero."

He continued by stating that worrying about it will probably cause more harm from the stress than the actual microwaves will, and that he himself uses a cell phone and has a wireless network router in his home. But the point was well taken, at least from me.

So the above article isn't surprising to me, not only because of my professor, but also because it is reinforced by studies that were performed by the (soon to be nonexistent) Swedish National Institute for Working Life. One of their articles gives a summary of the biological effects of radio frequency waves at the cellular level (linked below), while another one (linked at the very bottom) chronicles the study of the effects on actual people (subjects, or specimens if you will) .

The articles:
Mobile phone use 'linked to tumour':

A comprehensive evaluation of the effects of RF electromagnetic radiation on biological cells:

The other study that chronicles the increased likelihood of tumors from prolonged cell phone usage:
counter stats