Monday, June 30, 2008

The Wide World of ...?

Many people would complete the title of this post with the word "Sports." Of course they would be referring to the ABC sports program that came on every Saturday afternoon for at least two decades. The show gave us the phrase "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." as well as the infamous footage of the the skier losing it and painfully crashing to the ground.

But I'm was not thinking about sports when I decided on the title. When I looked back on the month of June I realized what I have done and where I have been over the last 30 days. That review made me realize that I have become fully involved in a " The wide world of ministry."

Here's a list of the ministries God allowed me to be a part of in June alone:
  • Vacation Bible School as a teacher
  • The church music ministry as a soloist and part of the Sunday Morning Praise Team
  • Ventriloquism performances at the public library and in an evening service at church
  • Leading a mid week Bible study & prayer service for the adults members at church
  • Serving as a chaperon for teenagers over night at church before they left for youth camp
  • Being a member the church nominating committee & selecting those who will help in planning our new building
  • Teaching Children's Church on Sunday morning
  • Creating the announcement slide show each week for the church Sunday morning worship service

I don't write those to pat myself on the back for being involved at church. Those works are worth nothing unless I do them out of obedience to and to the glory of God. I have to admit that list is a very wide variety of ministries for a 30 day period. I enjoy doing all of it. Children, teenagers, and adults; I seem to be able to teach and communicate with all age groups on one level or another.

I know that ventriloquism is the one thing that God wants me to focus on in regard to future ministry. I know he wants me to be a ventriloquist. I am excited about that because it is something I love doing. But after reviewing the month I realize that He also has a wide variety of other things for me to do as well.

Believe it or not this realization has a connection to my trying to decide whether or not to have surgery to lose weight. There's no worth to the realization of the fact that God wants me to participate in a "wide world of ministry" if my willful sinful behavior of overeating continues to keep me from being physically able to do those ministries. See the connection? I do.

Once again God has taught me a lesson that will help find the right path to serving him.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Teaching The Children Again

Today at church for the first time in 3 months I taught Children's Church. There were 16 children and I had 4 of my best workers helping me.

The Bible lesson came from the gospel of Luke. It was about the sick woman who gets healed when she touches Jesus' robe. The games and craft centered on tassels because in Jesus' days the people wore tassels at the bottom of their robes.

We played a "toss the tassel" game, sang songs about praising God all the time, and made a coloring craft with pictures of Jesus and the sick woman and a real tassel taped between them.

The session ended with visit from the children's favorite puppet, Cecil the Turtle. He helped me review the lesson with the kids.

To me it felt like the session went really quickly. The hour just flew by. I am going to teach again next week. After being a little burned out from teaching nearly every week I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the preparation and teaching. Its a real blessing to me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Serious Seminar

Today I did something I never thought I would do. I went to a seminar discussing Bariatric surgery; which is more commonly known as gastric by pass surgery. I'm not looking to undergo surgery any time soon but I am interested in a permanent resolution to being over weight. I've tried a lot of diets and had some success but none have helped me reach my goal weight, get me healthy, or keep the weight off.

Bariatric Surgery consists of 4 types of procedure but I was only interested in learning about 1 of them. I pretty much know about gastric by pass because my sister had it back in February. She seems to be doing well losing weight and is very happy that she did it. I know that's not the way for me to go.

The only procedure I would ever consider having is the lap band surgery. This operations consists of the insertion of a small plastic band around the top of your stomach which when tightened creates a small pouch at the top of your stomach. This drastically limits the amount of food it takes to feel full and quells your hunger. Other than creation of the pouch the digestion process remains normal. It can be done lapariscopicly through small incisions in the abdomen, the band can be adjusted without any further surgery, or can be removed if it needs to be.

The lap band is the way I would go. Right now it seems that this may be my only alternative for any improvement in my physical condition. Medically I am considered "Morbidly Obese" ( I hate those words). Bariatric Surgery is the only proven permanent solution to effective weight loss.

In Thursday's post (Back to the Land of The Living) I mentioned that I will have to make a decision on what kind of action to take to improve my limited and degrading ability to be physically active. This condition and pain in my back and knees are direct results of being overweight.

God has been telling me for a few months now that my current physical condition and eating habits are sinful behaviors. They keep me from getting closer to Him and limit my ability to do things in the way he wants to use me.

I am at a crossroads in my life. I need to improve my physical condition to be able to be happy in the years I've got left. Most importantly I need to be physically able to answer God when he calls me to do things for him.

I haven't made a decision but it looks like the options are limited. I have no faith in any other weight loss alternative. However the path of lap band surgery will be long, difficult, and require a definite commitment to drastic changes in my life. I need to be able to be sure that this is the path God wants me to take and that He will help me through it. The window of time to choose my path is closing rather quickly. Please pray for me as I make that decision.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The End of An Era

The title of this post refers to my decision to give up on something that has been part of my life for over 40 years. Think of some of the best Christmas presents you were ever given. One of the best things my parents ever gave me was a statistics based dice baseball game called Strat-o-matic baseball.

I got the game for Christmas when I was a sophomore in high school. The game used 3 dice, cards for each individual players, and the science of probability to allow you to play your own baseball games.

I completed my first 6 team league in 1977. The 1976 Cincinnati Reds were the champions of The Interleague Baseball Conference.
Over the next 40 years I continued to play Strat-o-matic (or "SOM" for short). I would create leagues and play a few games then get bored and start another one. A lot of time I would start a league and then I wouldn't have the time to play.
I kept statistics for each hitter, pitcher and team. I started out keeping them on index cards. Over the years I used Excel spreadsheets to calculate them. I learned most of what I know about Excel I learned while designing stat sheets for my SOM leagues.

When I moved to Bowling Green my SOM game came with me. During the first 3 years once again the game was my faithful companion. It helped me get through the time I had to wait until Paula and I could finally be together and get married. I can't even begin to express how much a part of my life Stratomatic baseball has been.

A couple of years ago when God really started working in my life I realized that the time it took to play was time better spent on other things not so self indulgent. The last time I played was in 2006.

Now here's the "end of an era" part of it. I have a friend named Joe who lives in New Jersey. He's one of my friends who has faithfully shared the love of Stratomatic baseball with me over the years. He still plays.

I still own over 100 individual teams (made up of 20 hitters and pitchers cards each) which until today were sitting in my closet. Today I got them out and put them in a box to mail to Joe. While I still have the passion for playing my life has grown to a point where it's just not a priority anymore.

God has put a higher calling on my time. I write that with much humility and awe. I am so honored and blessed to be called into his service that I can't ever express it. I am so glad that He has brought me to the point in my life where I am ready to answer His call and invest my life in things to glorify him.

Now I'm not completely removing Stratomatic from my life. I still have the basic game, minus the players cards, in my closet. However it's just for memory purposes only. I also have rectangular wooden box that was made especially to hold my game and all it's pieces. My sister-in-law gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago so I'll always make sure I keep it.

So to the Stratomatic baseball game I say "thank you." So today may be the end of an era; but I know that with that end comes some new and exciting things as I yield to God plans for my life. I can't wait to see what they will be.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Back To The Land of The Living

I woke up this morning with my back feeling better than it has in a couple of weeks. I decided that since I was off my medication for 24 hours and feeling a little more human than zombie I’d try to go to town and get some errands done. I had a list of things I wanted to and I got them all done.

First I mailed 4 boxes of stuff to James in Iraq. He wanted some things from GNC to help him with his weight training. He also has a new pair of sneakers sent here so we packed them and sent them too.

I also paid our house insurance, bought some tassels at a fabric store (I’m using them as part of a craft when I teach Children’s Church this Sunday), made a bank withdrawal and deposit, and went birthday shopping for my wife’s birthday.

Now that last one may not seem like a big deal but anyone who is married knows that it is. Of course my wife doesn’t seem to make a big deal out her birthday although she has a right to.

Now I have only been married 5 years but I really have difficulty thinking of gifts to get her. She really doesn’t ask for much. Last weekend I thought of a gift that she has never asked for but might like. I can’t tell you what it is now but I will come next week after I give it to her. I had to do a lot of walking around while I was shopping for her gift. It really wore me out. I am going to have to do something about my limited ability to be physically active. But that’s another post for another day.

Of course while I was in town, I had to go spend an hour or so talking with my friend Brent. We always talk about thing that have to do with being a Christian, the Bible, today’s culture, and politics. We really enjoy our conversations and the time usually gets away from us.

After I returned from town I went to church to practice with our musical praise team. We spend an hour each week singing together and getting ready for Sunday’s service. I was very tired and didn’t feel much like practicing. I like going though because my wife goes with me and she enjoys it.

Back at home I did some household chores like take out the trash, feed the dogs, clean up after the cat and that sort of thing. With my wife in bed trying to catch up on some sleep she lost last week I’m just sitting here writing this post. The kingdom is quiet.

I am thankful that my back is better. I can still feel the effects of the medication and probably will for the next few days. I don’t like having to take the pills that make me sleep most of the day and then make me feel like a zombie when I am awake. I’m going to have to start getting my back stronger. But like I said that’s another post for another day. For now it’s great to be back in the land of the living again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I've Been On The "DL"

About 2 weeks ago I woke up from an mid afternoon nap with the left side of my back hurting. Somehow I had pulled a muscle. I tried to put heat on it overnight but it didn't seem to get better. After this past Sunday I realized my back wasn't getting any better.

Regrettably I decided that I had to do what I usually do when my back is hurting this long. I had to take myself out of "the game", go on the disabled list (or "DL" for short) and just rest for a couple of days. I have been taking muscle relaxers and a pain pills for the past 2 days. I am quite a bit better now but still in some pain.

Over the last 2 days because of the pills I must have slept most of the day. The medicines just knock me out. My wife says when it comes to medications that make you sleepy I'm a "lightweight".

I feel good enough to get back into doing things again. Tomorrow I'm going to try and get some errands run and work on some things here at the house. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I was down and out for a couple of days which is why there hasn't been any posts since Sunday. I'll get back to writing on a regular basis when I feel better.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My First Duet

Okay blog readers I know it's been a few days since my last post. I've had a busy week but it didn't have much in it that I could blog about. However tonight was quite an evening for me at church.

Our evening service at church was "song night." This meant that anyone who wanted to could get up and sing a song. It could be any song: a hymn, a modern gospel song, a Sunday School song or Worship chorus.

My wife, Paula, sang a song that she's been wanting to sing for a while called "If You Want Me To." Although she has an accompaniment CD for it, she didn't have it with her so she sang without music. She did a wonderful job. Hearing her sing is always treat for me. I love her singing.

Next it was my turn to sing. I decided to sing with one of my puppets, Sherman. You see a year ago one of our church members challenged me try and have me and my puppet sing at the same time. He thought he was being a wise guy. I told him I considered it a challenge and would work on it. It took a year or so but I finally got up the courage to try it. So with the help of some prerecorded material and the help of the people in the sound booth tonight I sang a ventriloquist duet. The puppet I used was an old man golfer named "Sherman" (pictured at the right).

The jokes and the song were enjoyed by the congregation and the performance is another step in my development as a ventriloquist. I took a video of the performance but it the file was too big to be published on this blog.

I'm not anywhere as good as I want to be but I'm learning with every performance. God is really good to me. He gives me these wonderful opportunities to develope my talent. I'm very thankful for those chances.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

America's Newest Little Sweetheart

Last evening for lack of anything else on television (500 channels and nothing to watch) my wife and I decided to watch the season opening show of NBC's America's Got Talent. Am I glad we did. On that show was one of the most darling, brave and talented little 4 year old girls I've ever seen.

Kaitlyn Maher, a little girl who "just turned 4", gave a singing performance that would be difficult for someone 10 times her age to top. When judge Sharon Ozborne asked her where she was from she emphatically declared "I'm from America" in her very sweet voice. That voice went on to sing the song "Somewhere Out There" from the movie "An American Tail." Her voice, confidence, composure and that slight little head tilt brought the audience to their feet and tears to both my wife and my eyes.

As many of you know I teach 4, 5 & 6 year old children at my church and I've met several very sweet and charming children in my classroom. However this little girl is blessed with a sweetness only God can give.
I don't want to go on too much but she was so adorable that I have to recommend you go look at the partial clip of her performance on NBC's website. Just go to, click on "shows" at the top of the page. When the list of shows comes up alphabetically choose "America's Got Talent" The video of Kaitlyn's performance is listed among the other contestants. Don't waste your time with anyone else (except perhaps Neil Boyd, who may go on to win it all) they all pale in comparison to the 4 year old.

Kaitlyn was given a unanimous "yes" by the judges and advances to the next round of the "America's Got Talent" competition in Las Vegas. She's the youngest contestant to make it this far. She's so sweet and talented that she may go pretty far in the competition. My only thought is I'm glad I'm not the person who may some day in the future have to tell this sweetie she is going home. As far as I'm concern she may be just one of many remaining contestants on "America's Got Talent" but she's the front runner for the title of "America's Newest Little Sweetheart."

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Parade of Bad Judges

The cartoon you see to the left of this post is one that was published as part of a contest in Parade Magazine about a month ago. The contest asked readers to send in their best caption for the cartoon. The winner would get a framed copy signed by the artist. In addition the winner's caption would be published in Parade Magazine.

To me it looked like in the cartoon Batman was the one speaking. There was only one thing that could have been the topic of conversation between Batman and Superman while sitting at a bar.
I sent in the caption: "His name was Robin. How was I to know he couldn't fly?" I thought it was a very very funny line. One of the funniest I've written in a long time. My wife agreed.

Yesterday when I get the Sunday paper the winning caption was published. It wasn't my caption. That wouldn't bother me so much if the winning caption was anywhere close to being as funny as mine. The winning caption: "You're waiting for Wonder Woman? I'm waiting for Wonder Woman? Does that seem funnier to you than mine?

Perhaps there was some problem with my submission when I sent it in online through the magazine's website. Maybe it never got there. Maybe the publishers of Parade and or judges of the contest just don't have a sharp sense of humor. After all they continue to publish Howard Huge cartoons. Okay, the dog is really big and he eats a lot; enough already. It's not funny after the first hundred cartoons.

Perhaps it's just sour grapes for me. But I don't think the contest judges at Parade Magazine would know a good joke if they tripped over the punchline. But I'm not bitter. Congratulations to the winner a guy in Arizona. Hope he doesn't hang up his prize expecting dinner guest to do a spit take when they read the winning entry. Or maybe that's what will happen when he hosts the dinner party he promised the Parade Magazine staff.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Memory In The Distance: A Father's Day Tribute To My Dad

I live in a small southern Kentucky town that has a railroad track running through it. The crossing is about ½ mile from my house and I can hear the train whistles from inside my house whenever one comes through town. Every time I hear a train’s whistle, be it night or day, it reminds me of someone whom I loved very much: my dad.

You see dad loved trains. Back when I still lived at home with my parents our house was also close to a train track. Every time the train would come by if Dad was home he’d go to the window and see what kind of engine was pulling the line of freight cars. He’d just stand there and watch with wonder and admiration.

One of my most memorable father/son trips I ever took with my dad was to Altoona, Pennsylvania to see one of the great engineering feats of the industrial age, a famous section of railroad track called “Horseshoe Curve.”

Model railroading was Dad’s life long hobby. He spent his entire life collecting and customizing model trains. There were quite a few birthdays, Christmas mornings and Father’s Days when he opened a gift box delighted to find a new model engine or box car kit for his railroad.

To relax in the evenings if he wasn’t working on his trains or planning out the layout he hoped to some day build he was shuffling through the boxes of past issues of Model Railroader’s magazines. Perhaps his life’s most prized possession (other than his family) he would carefully take each magazine out of it’s place, look through it and then return it to the box full of other issues; which of course was organized in chronological order.

When he and mom bought their house dad was excited because he planned on building his model railroad in the basement. Initially he had the time to work on it and made pretty good progress. But obligations to work, family and involvement with his church limited his leisure time. Pretty soon Dad’s railroad platform became a dusty reminder of the hobby he loved but no longer had time to work on.

Finally, after my youngest sister got married and moved out of the house in 1989, her empty bedroom became the place for dad to start building his railroad all over again. He created an entirely new set of plans with bridges, loops and over passes. He was going to build a model railroad that, once completed, was not only fun to watch run but was a challenge to run.

He developed a color scheme and logo for his fleet of engines and cabooses. Adding these required repainting, and putting decals on all the cars and engines. Although he didn’t have much more leisure time than he had before dad spent every minute he could working on the railroad.
In 1997 he finally got the track mounted and part of it elevated so the 3 loops would run above and below each other. He connected the initial electrical wiring to a central control board and put the cars on the track.

Although it was far from completed and still crude looking it was a running model railroad layout. To my dad it might as well have been the Orient Express. He was so proud of it. He continued to spend as much time as he could working on it because he wanted to finish it. The “train room” became the place where dad and his 2 year old grandson, Bobby the third, spent a lot of time together.

Later that year Dad was diagnosed with malignant tumors in his brain and lung. He started Chemotherapy and radiation treatments which quickly took his strength. He didn’t have the energy to work on his trains anymore.

In August 1999 when Dad went to be with The Lord his model railroad remained unfinished. The picture at the beginning of this post is how he left it.

Now this may seem like a very sad story to write about on Father’s Day. However telling it makes me smile. The smile comes from the thought of how happy Dad was when he got to spend time with his trains.

His model railroad platform is now set up in the basement of my sister’s house. I’m not sure if it still works but its there as a memorial to dad. I have an engine and a box car from his collection that I hope to one day get mounted and put on display in my living room.

His family was the delight of my dad’s heart and continues to be a large part of his legacy. He lives on in each and every one of us. He lived a life of faithfulness in marriage to my mother and in service to His Lord Jesus Christ. For me those are the most important parts of his legacy. As I struggle to live my life for The Lord I look to his example for guidance.

As I said Dad is with God on this Father’s Day. I’m sure he no longer cares or even gives thought to model railroads, music, television shows or any of the things he enjoyed in his life here because today he is in paradise.

With tomorrow being Father’s Day I sure do miss him but I hold onto the hope of seeing him again one day when I too will go to be with The Lord. Until then I have a lifetime of memories of my dad that remind me of who he was and I have a hope because, through the Grace of Jesus Christ, he is eternally with God. Both of those things come rushing back into my mind every time I hear the sound of a train whistle in the distance.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Peggy!

Today is my sister, Peggy's birthday. I have already called her on the phone and told her "happy birthday" but I wanted to post it on my blog as well.

In the past I have tried to explain to Peggy what her an influence she has been on me. I don't know if I've done a good job of it but I've tried. She is one of the biggest reasons I know so much about music from the 60's. When I was a youngster (under age 10) it was the records and albums she played on her record player that familiarized me with the pop music of the day. I spent a lot of time looking through the red and white striped boxes that contained her 45 record collection memorizing the names of the songs and the artists. To this day when hear the song "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups from 1964 I get a mental picture of the Red Bird record label.

Her musical taste was very eclectic. She listened to Top 40 artists such as the Beatles, Herman's Hermits, Paul & Paula, Diane Renay, Connie Francis and a whole lot more. She also liked country singers like Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. I can still sing songs from each of their greatest hits album word for word.

While other people had influence on me and my taste in music as I grew up; I consider my sister, Peggy, at the top of the list. My love and appreciation of the music that she introduced to me is a gift that I will never lose. I'm grateful for that gift. Thanks Peg.

Even as an adult Peggy continues to inspire me. She has grown and accomplished so much over the last few years. For almost 3 years now she has been dedicated to eating right and losing weight in an effort to become healthy. When I think about the long road I have to travel to get to that end myself I more convinced that it is possible because of what my sister has accomplished.

Today she continues to make herself a better person. In the first week of May she had surgery to replace her right knee. It was a tough and painful ordeal for her. She struggled and expressed regret the first days after the operation. Still she kept on doing her exercises and going to physical therapy. She's getting better every day. Her decision to even have the surgery is a testimony to her determination to be happier and healthier. She inspires me.

So there you have some of the things about my sister Peggy that I like to brag about. The fact that she loves and cares about me and has been there for me every day of my life is what makes her a wonderful sister. I'm blessed to have her in my life.

Happy Birthday Peggy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rewind Recovery Project

Back in the days when I worked as a party DJ I aspired to one day be a famous radio DJ. I used to write and record a music program I called “Rock & Roll Rewind.” The programs featured songs about specific subjects, artists or time periods. It was basically a creative outlet for me and nothing else. I put my knowledge of pop music and novelty songs together with my record collection and taped quite a few programs.

Secretly I used to hope that a radio station program director would somehow hear one of my tapes and want to put them on the air. I dreamed of one day being known as the Rewind Guy. Thanks to AOL since 1997 and to this day I’m associated with that name through my email address.

I recorded “R&R Rewind” on cassette tapes because at the time recordable CDs didn’t exist. As music and recording formats have changed and advanced over the last 10 years tapes have become old technology. The cassettes are starting to age and break down. For the past several years I’ve wanted to convert them to CDs but didn’t have the set up to do.

Recently while preparing to sing at church I had my friend Jake, the sound technician at the church, dub an accompaniment tape onto a CD. I used it to rehearse my song. After I sang on May 25 I didn’t give the song or the dubbed CD any further thought.

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend I started thinking about the very personal Rewind tape I had made about music that reminded me of my dad. I made it back in 2000 the year after he died.

It was only after thinking about listening to the tape again that my mind made a connection. The set up I have been looking for to convert my Rewind tapes to CD is in the sound booth at my church. If I could use it I would have the means to make my Rewind tapes into Rewind CDs.

Now I’ve got to check with the pastor to make sure it will be okay to go to the church and do this. I’m sure he won’t have a problem with it. Jake, is going to show me what I have to do to set the sound board up for recording.

So after years of worrying about losing them because of the deterioration the tapes I’m going to be able to restore my Rewind shows. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. Those shows were not only my creative outlet they were my passion for nearly a decade. It will be great to save them after all this time being resigned to eventually losing them.

And that my friend is the Rewind Recovery Project

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Guidelines for Comments & Email

Although I have been doing a lot of writing on this blog I am still relatively new to how blogs work. When I originally created this blog I did it by taking educated guesses about its set up. Blog Spot has a pretty good “help center” that I used to get things the way I wanted them to be but things were exactly right.

On April 28 I posted an entry that asked everyone to “please leave a message” if they read something they liked or wanted to add to a post. Since that post only 1 comment has been posted on any of my entries. That comment was from my future daughter-in-law who, compared to me, is a Blogging expert. Somehow she figured out how to post a comment.

In my May 30 post I mentioned that I was feeling a bit better about my blog because people were telling me that they were reading it; but they could not leave a comment.

Well after looking around at the settings on my blog I have cleared the way for this blog to become an avenue of communication between my readers and me.

Starting today if you want to leave a comment just click on the link at the end of the post that shows the number of comments already posted. This will take you to a page where you can enter a comment in the area on the right side. All comments already entered will show on the left. You can type your comment and then go down the right side of the page and click on the “Name/URL” button. You simply enter your name in place provided (don’t worry about filling in the “URL” part its optional). If you want to there’s even a space where you can email your comments directly to me. Once you’re finished with your comment and name you can click “Publish your comment” tab at the bottom to add it to the post. Eureka! You’ve added a comment.

Also if you want to email me something other than your comment you can do that by going back to the main blog page and clicking on “view my complete profile” link. It’s on the left under my picture. Once you’re in the profile you’ll see a “Contact” section with a link to my email address. Click on “email” and automatically a template with my email address should pop up.

There you have what should I hope is a clear explanation about how to leave a comment about or email me regarding any past or future posts.

I’m excited because I am looking forward to this blog being catalyst for correspondence and dialogue between my family and friends. So bring on the comments. God Bless.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Reading Bug Performance

Today was the day I've been practicing for for the last 2 weeks. It was the day of my performance at our town library. According to the words on the flier they distributed for publicity I was the "premier performer" at the kickoff festival for the summer reading program. It was my job to entertain the children while encouraging them to "catch the reading bug."
There were between 50 & 75 children there and about a dozen adults. It was by far the biggest audience I've had for any of my 3 library performances so far.
I premiered a new character by the name of Schnozz. (at the right with the orange hair) He's from a South Pacific island named Proboscus. He greeted the children with a phrase in his native language which means "The bigger the nose the better you smell." He told a knock knock joke which got a lot of laughs.
My wife took some great pictures and I will use them in the near future when I start doing some self promotion. Everyone seemed to enjoy visiting with Schnozz and the other puppet I used, Cecil the turtle.
This appearance brings to a close a string of 6 ventriloquist performances in 8 days. I plan to continue to write material and practice it everyday to get better. Because of the response I've gotten from younger children I may start looking to find work at birthday parties. I'll let you know what happens with that effort.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Teaching Vacation Bible School

This year I was presented with the opportunity to
teach a class during our church's annual Vacation Bible School. It was held this past week, Monday through Friday for 3 hours plus lunch time.

I was the lead teacher for the 4 & 5 year old class. While that last sentence may have sent chills down your spine let me assure you that was not the case for me. I have been teaching this age group for a year in Children's church. I looked forward to being with them for a week.

Because I had never had the chance to participate in VBS since I've been attending our church I only knew about it from what I had heard. Let me tell you ministering the gospel to an average of 115 children (that's the entire VBS not just my class) is a logistical dragon that was tamed nicely by this year's first time director and her staff.

Moving about 5 groups of children, whose ages ranged from 2 to 12 years of age, to 7 different activities during the session was a wonderful logistical juggling act that for the most part worked well all week long. The lunch time when every one was in the fellowship hall at the same time was a little chaotic. However overall everyone did a great job to keep things moving.

Now let me tell you about my group of youngsters. I had an average of 15 children each day. They were the most well behaved group of children I have ever taught. We had a couple skinned knees and one little boy got an upset stomach after getting over heated during recreation. There were a couple of little girls who cried for their mom every day but overall things went smooth.

The place where my children really shined was in the classroom during Bible Lesson time. For me that 45 to 60 minutes of each day was a special time. I had the honor of teaching those wonderful little people myself. One of the best things was the way the boys & girls responded to the use of my new turtle and owl puppets in the course of the lesson. I used Eugene, the owl, to teach the children the week's memory verse and Cecil, the turtle, to ask review questions.

Also present in our "beach hut" was our resident decorative monkey named Oscar. He helped me teach the children the point of each day's lesson. He hung around the dry erase board on the wall. Each day the children would "call" him by singing a song to a calypso beat and alternately touching their hand to the opposite elbow. They sang these words" Once there was a monkey named Oscar. Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!

A group picture of my class is at the top of this post. As you can see I had a couple of adult helpers. I couldn't have managed the children without their help. I give them my thanks.

On Sunday night the VBS closing ceremonies were held at our church. My class and all the other children sang 3 songs for their parents, grand parents, families, and friends. The teachers talked about the highlights of their classes for the week and gave accolades to all the staff and supporters. Afterwards everyone went down to the church fellowship hall for supper of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and cookies. About 300 people were served.

Although it physically and emotionally really tired me out each day I really enjoyed teaching VBS for the first time. I have made several suggestions on how to make VBS even better next year. I only pray that I will have the opportunity to participate again in 2009.

Requesting Prayer For James

I know there's a standing request on this blog to pray for our son, James, while he's on active duty in Baghdad. However today I would like to request that you especially remember him in your prayers.

This afternoon just after we got home from church James called us. It was about 8:30 PM Sunday evening in Baghdad. I answered the phone. He sounded very tired and slightly emotional. I asked him how he was doing and he told me that he had had a "rough day." Knowing that he's not supposed to give details over the phone I offered some questioning suggestions about just what his "rough day" involved. He assured me that he was okay and no one in his platoon was hurt. Then he told me "things had happened today that will stay with me the rest of my life"

I told him that from what I had seen and heard about experiences of other soldiers not only in Iraq but in other wars everyone has life changing experiences. I told him we understood and would always be there to support him.

After talking with me for a while he talked with Paula. I didn't hear the details of their conversation. From what Paula told me he shared the same sentiments regarding his "rough day" with him.

I realize there are a lot of things that could happen over there so I'm not going to begin to let my mind wander through the emotional minefield of speculation about what happened to James today. All I know is that from the inflection and emotional stress in his voice he has been profoundly affected by it.

So if you are reading this post the day it's posted or within a week or so after please pray some extra special prayers for our son. He's at the start of a very long and tough journey over there. As always, but especially today, I pray that God will be with him, protect, comfort, and draw near to him. Please join us and take the time today to pray for James. God Bless You for your prayers.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ant Colony Architect

Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

Last evening my wife and I watched 45 minutes of an hour long National Geographic program about ants.

Although we didn’t know who they were it was pretty evident that the scientists whose experiments they were featuring took ants very seriously. Although we didn’t get the whole story or setting for the program what we saw and heard was very interesting; especially one particular phrase in the narrative voice over.

Showed and discussed was the great network of communication that happens within a colony of ants. They presented evidence of contact through broadcast vibrations and trailblazing chemical secretions to superior food sources by food gathering ants. These foraging hunters would pave food supply paths for the entire colony to use. Even if the highways were destroyed the ants quickly reestablished them. Hauling and collection of food continued over riding the interruption.

They showed ants using sap from trees as a type of antibacterial agent to keep the colony safe from disease. Some colonies even created their own special type of fungus to keep their members and dwellings healthy and thriving; especially the young.

As each minute of the show unfolded I quickly realized that there is a whole lot more to ants than I had ever imagined. The intricacies and social structure of their neighborhoods were just absolutely amazing. Even the narration took great strides in using words strong enough to convince the viewer that the actions and behaviors of the ant seemed far more advanced than should be possible for any creature of its size or intellect.

At about the halfway point of the show it changed directions. The scientists changed their focus from behavior toward discovering details about an underground structure inhabitited by a colony of ants. This wasn’t a rare species of ants located deep in the jungles of Africa or Australia. Judging from the surrounding geography that it was somewhere in the West or Southwestern portion of the United States. It was a large colony with a system of dirt hills, ant-made ducts and vents that both supplied oxygen to and vented carbon dioxide from the underground insect city.

The first step in this investigation was to pour nearly 10 tons of concrete down the vents until the colony was completely flooded and filled (a moment of silence for the ants, please). They waited until the mixture had time to set and dry then began excavating. I don’t recall the exact details of the size of what they finally uncovered but it was a massive structure. The narrator stated that the construction of the colony infrastructure was, for the ants, proportionally equivalent to the building of the Great Wall of China.

Now I have written all of that to put the spotlight on one phrase that was used in the narration. When the concrete version of the colony interior was initially shown by the camera the narrator used a phrase that made a great impression on me. While I can’t quote it word for word I can paraphrase it in a way that is true to the phrase and will effectively get my point across.

Again as the camera panned the structure and switched to different shots of this massive insect residence the narrator used the phrase “As though designed by a master architect the interior of the colony is a system of efficient and interlocking pods and tunnels.” He then went on to add that there was no ‘master architect.” it was the collective instincts and efforts of the ants that had constructed this colony.

Now given the position of the National Geographic Society and the scientific community it features in its documentaries; I believe that it is safe to say that this program had an evolutionary undertone. However even with that underlining evolution theology behind it those responsible for getting this program on the air could not help but allude to, and at the very least introduce an outward wondering about, the presence an intelligent designer in the world of these ants.

This tells me that God is so great, mighty and powerful even those who adamantly and purposely set out to deny His existence cannot prevent His Glory from being discovered in the evidence of His creation.

While this late night program may have been just another documentary for most of the people who watched it; for me it was just another reassurance of my faith in the creator, sustainer and redeemer of this world, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Listening To My Daily Bread

This has been an extra busy and tiring week for me because I am teaching VBS at my church. Although I have already written one post about VBS I'm planning on writing a summary of the weeks events after the closing ceremonies are held this coming Sunday night. Check back early next week for that post.

However I didn't want to wait until next week to submit my next post. So I'm going share with you something I try to do everyday and that is listen to some type of biblical based preaching on the radio or the computer. I can't tell you the number of new things and lessons I've learn in regard to growing as a Christian from listening to these programs.

I have XM Radio in my car and nearly all the time have the channel set to the channel 170 the Family Talk station. About 80% of the station's program is biblical preaching or teaching of some kind. If you have XM I highly recommend it.

I'd now like to countdown for you a list of my favorite preaching programs I have listened to on the computer over the last year. Although this list is in a countdown format you really can't go wrong listening to any of them. They all teach sound biblical principals and theology. (Switch to James Earl Jones voice in your head) If you will listen; you will grow. Its just a matter of your taste in styles and formats and subjects. Here's my list:

8. Money Life: This is a radio show that is presented by Crown Financial Ministries. I wrote about Crown Financial earlier this week. The host is Chuck Bently. It is a program that deals the same subjects and principals that the Bible Study does. If you're interested in learning about being a good steward with your money and your life this is a good program for you. You can connect to this program on the web at Crown Financial Ministries

7. Focus on The Family: This is probably the best known program of all those on my list. Dr. James Dobson is a nationally known Christian broadcaster and leader. His daily radio show is an uplifting cutting edge program that's sure to touch and strengthen you. The link for this program is

6. Mark Dever: This minister of the gospel does not preach on a daily radio show although he has appeared on several of the broadcasts on this list. Mark Dever is the author of a couple of great books that I've read over the past 6 months. He's a dynamic writer and speaker. If you want to hear a very intense and in depth study of God's Word I recommend listening to Mark Dever. His sermons can be found at:

5. Turning Point: This radio broadcast comes on XM Radio and can be heard on the web. The preacher is David Jeremiah. He's a very insightful preacher who profoundly interprets and teaches God's Word in his messages. This program can be heard at There is also a Turning Point TV program but you'll have to "check your local listings" as they say.

4. Grace To You: I first became aware of the excellent preaching of John MacArthur through my associate pastor at church. Having listened to several of Rev. MacArthur's sermons on CD I decided to check out his podcast. A 4 part message on the parable of the Prodigal Son won me over for good. Just like Mark Dever, John MacArthur is a "tell it like it is" preacher who is a great communicator and is not afraid to deliver the truth found in the Biblical text: No matter what it says. Listen to him at Just click on the "Grace To You" link.

3. The Bible Answer Man: Hank Hanegraaff is better known as "The Bible Answer Man." He is the president of the Christian Research Institute, an author of many books, and has a daily broadcast on XM radio as well as the web. At first I didn't like Hanegraff because his doctrinal views were a lot different than what I believed at the time I started listening. Over the last couple of years I have discovered exactly what the Bible really says. Now I understand and agree with most of what "The Bible Answer Man" has to say. You can find his daily broadcast at

2. The Albert Mohler Program: At 4PM central time on XM radio channel 176 you can hear Dr. Mohler's program. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Kentucky. His program is the most news/issue/culture driven program than any other listed here (even Focus on the Family). The first 10 minutes of each program is a news digest with top news stories of the day reported with commentary. This is the one broadcast that makes me think about issues that effect me as a Christian. It's probably the only place I can hear about these issues from a Christian perspective. If you enjoy current events and thought provoking discussion of how Christians can apply Biblical principals to today's topics this is the broadcast for you. Get this daily podcast at:

1. Truth For Life: I've been listening to this program nearly everyday for 2 years. I can truthfully say that I've learned more and been inspired to search the scriptures by Alistar Beggs' teachings than any media preacher in my life. I value this broadcast so much in my Christian walk that at one time I chose to stay on an earlier work shift just so I could still listen to it on my way to work. A pastor in a non denominational church in Cleveland Ohio, the Scottish born Begg is by far my favorite radio preacher. I can almost guarantee that you'll be blessed by him as well. You can listen to him at: .

So there you have the 8 sources from which I get my daily bread by way of either the radio or the computer. I do hope you try one or all of them on for size. With the quality of preaching contained collectively in all 8 of my selections I'm sure you'll find one that feeds your soul and helps you grow; at least that's my prayer for you. I do apologize for the length of the list but at least its more useful than a list of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes...which is still to come by the way.
God Bless.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A VBS Debut

Yesterday Vacation Bible School for 2008 began at my church. A tropical vacation to a place called "Outriggers Island" is the theme. I am happy to be able to announce that Cecil, the Axtel turtle puppet I bought in April, made his debut during the Bible lesson on Monday.

I started his performance by having him peek out from his shell a couple of times. The children giggled and pointed drawing my attention to his behavior.

I used Cecil to ask the children review questions about our lesson. They eagerly answered him. Soon they were asking him questions. Even though none of them had to do with the lesson their curiosity showed their "buy in" to the puppet as a character.

I am going to use Cecil and perhaps Eugene, the owl I also bought in April, during this week to help entertain and teach the children. I must admit although I am only using him in my small classroom the children's reactions to Cecil gives me a concert hall full of confidence.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Crowning Achievement

Last evening was the end of a very interesting journey for my wife and me. We attended that last of a 10 lesson biblical financial study. Its purpose is to teach God’s principals for handling money and possessions. The study is published and sponsored by a group called Crown Financial Ministries. I recommend it to anyone who wants to be spiritually responsible with the gifts that God has given them in their lives.

This was not an easy study for us to go through. In fact I would have to confess we didn’t take full advantage of the recommendations or organizing tools that were taught. However we now know about them and are agreed to make it our goal to institute them into our lives making us better stewards of our gifts.

If I had to sum up the study in one word I would have to say “Stewardship.” It is not a study just about money. The scriptures and lessons point more toward developing an attitude of discipleship in your relationship with Jesus Christ than anything else. An avenue of that attitude is the scriptural use of your finances.

Now while I am admitting that my wife and I weren’t ideal students in regard to this study we did get some wonderful things from it. We learned to discuss and share our views on finances. We developed a “teamwork” attitude in monitoring and planning our spending. We also became very comfortable studying God’s word together; sharing our thoughts on how it applies to our lives. We often approached the same issues from different perspectives. This is a great way to not only know more about your marriage partner but learn from them as well.

In addition, we discovered the size of our credit card debt. That realization was a real eye opener in terms of the need for changes in our finances and lifestyle. We immediately took three positive steps to resolve this issue. First, we stopped charging anything to our credit cards. Second, we developed a focused and accelerated pay back plan that was within our budget. Third, we became very aware of the difference between the things we really need as opposed to the things we want.

While I shouldn't’t be surprised the most amazing thing about our participation in this Crown Financial study is how much it helped us with real life events that happened over the course of the time we took the study. God really showed his care and concern for us by leading us to this course. Here are some of the things that came our way over the 3 months we were involved in the study.

My wife received her salary bonus. While this was a real blessing; the way we applied it to our financial needs was directly affected by what we learned. We distributed it to places where it will meet our future needs than better than it would have had we decided to use it on some of the things we felt we “deserved.” We applied the same planning and saving principals to both our tax refund and our economic stimulus rebate.

Car issues also came up. The price of gas steadily increased. It now hovers around $4 a gallon as I write this post. Paula’s Oldsmobile developed an electrical system problem that made it unreliable and the air conditioning system needed its second recharge in the last 2 years. Thankfully, God provided solutions for dealing with these issues. My consumption of gasoline dropped because I was not driving 60 miles a day to work. Paula decided to park the Oldsmobile and start driving the Saturn LS. Its the car that our son, James, had been using for the last 4 years. We will get the Oldsmobile fixed eventually when it’s more financially feasible.

Losing my job in April was potentially a life shaking event but after only a few days of anxiety, thanks to our recent financial evaluation, we realized that things were financially stable for us. Everything was going to be okay. We could relax about the next few month. God had provided for us.

The approval of my unemployment claim assured us of a temporary income that would help us keep paying our bills. My time off gave me a chance to do some things around our home that needed some attention. It also gave me a chance to arrange my ventriloquist practice area (see some of my previous posts for details). I have also had the chance to do some volunteer work both at church and at the local library.

During the 2 months I’ve been home both Paula and I have considered the possibility that God is leading me toward a more unconventional career path. Perhaps that means earning money on just a part time basis, working from home, and or getting paid for my ventriloquism.

For me, without a doubt the most faith building event that occurred during the course of our involvement in the Crown Financial Bible Study was God bringing me the opportunity to get my Axtel puppets. Please go back and read my April 25 post for my testimony about God working this out for me.

So there you have some of the things that have happened to us during the time of our involvement in the study. Again, let me assure you that without the principals and scriptures we learned from the study, along with God’s guidance, our actions and emotions would have been quite different. But those principals are much more to us than just a lifeboat in a sea of temporary problems. They are insights into God’s love and caring for us that are now anchored in our hearts and minds.

God has set up rules for how we handle our money. The reasons for these money handling principals are that money effects every avenue of our lives; most importantly our relationships with Jesus Christ and with other people. Also if we handle money according to the Bible we will be good stewards of all God has given us. We will be able to give much more of our finances, time, and efforts to spread the gospel to people who are lost and dying without the saving Grace of Christ.

If I have whet your appetite about this Crown Financial Ministries Bible Study you can get more information on their website: Our prayer is that the study will be as much of a life changing experience for you as it has been for us.