Thursday, December 31, 2009
As has been my habit, I had actually planned to review both the decade and the year each with a lengthy post about it's events and the effects they've had on my life. But over the last week I've decided against that. I am going to let the past be the past and to look forward to the future.
The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1 that Christians are to "run with patience the race that is before us" not focus on what is behind. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church tells us to run our "race" with the goal of obtaining "the prize". You can't do that if you are busy looking behind you. Therefore I'm going make it my goal to start looking more to the road ahead and less to what's behind. That doesn't mean I won't reminisce or try to find things that remind me of my past. That's just something I really enjoy. But I won't dwell on the past. I'm looking forward to the future.
Both this decade and this year have been the start of a new phase of life for me. I will always remember the work God has done in me over these times because those changes are now part of my life and my character.
I will say that I am proud of the 125 pounds I've lost this year and that I treasure the relationship and marriage Paula and I have cultivated over the last decade. I am also thankful that God has led me back into the fold of His Kingdom.
That's all I'm going to write about the past in this last post of the year. If you wish to do so, I invite you to review the 2009 posts on this blog and you'll get a better idea of what the year was like for me. I'm going to move forward and go for the trophy of giving glory to God. I will strive to accomplish this through obedience, service, and doing the work it takes to accomplish His will for my life. It is my prayer that your faith in Jesus Christ will lead you to do the same.
If you are not a born again believer in Jesus Christ it is my prayer that in the coming year that the Holy Spirit will drawl you closer to God, lead you to repentance from your sin, spark a belief in Jesus as your personal savior, and a new life of faith as a child of God.
Happy New Year. Be safe. and God Bless.
Monday, December 28, 2009
To tell you the truth I'm not sure what made me read this book. Before I started reading it I would have sworn under oath that I am not a Terry Fator fan. But I guess the things I had heard about his life, such as the his oppressive father and difficult childhood as well as my curiosity about his road to fame, is what led me to add it to my library. It was only out of curiosity and the fact that he's admired by other ventriloquists whom I admire that I read this book. It wasn't out of any desire I had to know his story for myself.
Now that seems strange because he's really lived the kind of dream and a life I would have wanted to live myself. He's an excellent ventriloquist; one of the best I've ever seen. His ability to imitate any singer he wants to is remarkable. He won a million dollars on a national television show, America's Got Talent, and it did it doing something he loves; something I love doing myself.
I have to admit now that the reason I am not a Terry Fator fan (or at least wasn't) was because I was jealous. That's right jealous. Seeing a vent with the degree of talent Fator has is very intimidating. He does things with his voice and music that I could only ever wish I could do. His national fame and continued success as a headliner in Las Vegas raised the common standard for what America thinks a ventriloquist should be. Knowing that no matter how hard I try I'll never be that good or live up to those expectations is very frustrating and discouraging.
And until I read this book I thought his talent was something that came easy to him. Now I realize he had to work hard and fame was a long time coming.
As I read this book I began to see that Fator and I have a lot in common. A lot of his history and influences are the same as mine. His life growing up was one of living in a religious household and attending church like mine. His early influences were drawn from listening and imitating comedians based on the stand up comedy albums he listened to. He even listened to some of the same comedians I did, Bill Cosby and Bill Dana as Jose Jemenez. His admiration for the Muppets is another thing we have in common.
Although I can't identify with the mental and physical abuse he lived through, all in the name of religion, at the hands of his father, I do know, first hand, what it's like to watch someone you care about suffer through a life of mental and emotional abuse by a father figure. The title of the book is a direct in-your-face question to his father, with whom he no longer as any contact, as well as a reciprocal one to those who doubted his talent along the road to success.
Fator discusses God, theology and religion a lot in this book. I really can't tell if he's a born again Christian because he never comes right out and writes that. He does have a strong faith but whether that's a saving faith in Jesus Christ, as I said, he never discusses. I have my own conclusions but I won't discuss them in this review.
As for Fator's path to fame and fortune it's a long and difficult one. He spent most of his life dreaming of being famous and doing his best to perfect his act and product for when he got there. He spent a great amount of years working in a very successful band which allowed him to develop his musical ability and impersonation skills. He didn't find the success he dreamed of until after he was 40 years old but then it went way beyond what he could ever imagine. This book is worth reading if only for that rags-to-riches story.
Now I am going to take away several things as from this book. First I'm going to get over my jealousy and realize that God has given me Terry's life as an example of His faithfulness if I am faithful. What I mean by that is this. I am going to have to be more diligent at working and practicing my ventriloquism. I am going to have to be more committed to my craft. I'm going to have to have put everything I have in my belief that this is what God wants me to do and that I will do it to His honor and glory even if it means little or no personal success for me.
One of the things Fator writes about throughout the book is always giving everything he has to his performances both on and off the stage. Over the course of his career he has performed for thousands of people in person and millions through network television. On the low end of the scale he has also performed for an audience of only a single 12 year old boy at some obscure county fair. In both cases he writes that his attitude and intention with his performance was to give them everything he has. I guess that's meant to be the message of this book for me. It's loud enough and clear enough I just have to acknowledge it.
I must take that message and apply it to my life. God has been practically yelling that that message to me for quite a while now. Terry Fator's story is just another shout out of the same message. It's up to me to respond to it. If I don't and I miss the opportunity God has given me to serve Him through ventriloquism I guess you could very appropriately ask me the question: "Who's The Dummy Now?"
Sunday, December 27, 2009
With 2010 on it's way I've started making my list of goals for the new year. I will share the entire list one day in January. Today I want to let you in on just one. My goal in 2010 is to be a better steward of my access to the Bible. This will help me grow in my relationship with Christ and be more obedient to God, the Father.
In the past I have not been very successful in actually studying the Bible on my own. As you can read in some of my '09 posts I have learned and grown, spiritually, from listening to sermons and reading books about the Bible. But I've not been very disciplined when it comes to reading the scriptures to discover it's truth for myself.
Like a lot of people probably do at this time of year, I thought about trying to read all the way through from Genesis to Revelation next year. But that would be only quantity not quality.Recently I listened to a sermon by Bible teacher, John MacArthur, in which he recommends a method for becoming familiar with God's word in order to be able to truly benefit from it.
At his suggestion I'm going to read through the New Testament one section at a time (about 5 chapters from one of the 27 books) and read it everyday for 30 days. This will make me very familiar with the text. This is very much like memorizing a song from the radio after you've heard it over and over again for a long time. It's learning by repetition.
This is a very long term project. According to MacArthur this method of familiarizing yourself with the text of the New Testament will take about 2 1/2 years. However he promises that it will be very effective in making the scriptures part of your life and being able to go deeper into the meaning of The Word. It's a very effective way to lay a foundation for studying the Bible and "hiding it's words my heart."
I invite anyone who wants to get closer to God to join me on this course through the New Testament. Because starting in 2010 my goal is to focus on God's Word.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Well another Christmas celebration has passed. For me, as I'm sure is the case for you, this year held a series of special events, traditions, memories, and a few extra calories. Here's a brief review of what I'll remember most about this Christmas.
For the first time since Paula and I were married we spent Christmas Eve by ourselves. Traditionally we'd spend the evening with our sons. But this year as the sun went down and the world began to "shut down" and settle into the Christmas hush my wife and I found ourselves with the privilege of spending, what I think is, one of the most romantic nights of the year with just the two of us.
Having spent the day at home, we decided to get out and go to see a movie. Knowing that most children and their parents were out visiting family and friends, or at home getting ready for Santa's visit I thought it might be a good time to go see the new Disney movie, The Princess and The Frog. Was I ever right. We had the theater to ourselves. That's right on Christmas eve my wife and I got to watch the latest animated feature from Disney in an exclusive private showing. Thanks Santa Claus.
On Christmas day, as has become the tradition, our family gathered at my sister-in-law's house. This year she only lives about 3 minutes from our house. We all arrived about 9:30 AM and began opening presents around 10. We took turn opening gifts.Among the gifts exchanged were a couple of Ipods (Paula and I gave one to each other), ITunes gift cards, DVD movies, Gift cards, Christmas ornaments, hand made glass sculptures, movie tickets, Christmas ornaments, candy and other stuff I can't recall right now.
Everyone was please with their presents. The only exception was a gift James opened. Paula bought their little dog, Bailey, a doggie Snuggie (one of those blankets with sleeves that you see on infomercials). The look on his face when he opened it was priceless. He wasn't very happy at the thought of his dog wearing it. Later in the day he would try it on her and she liked it. He didn't seem to mind it then. It actually kept her warm.
The last gift given was for Paula. Theresa had made a stained glass model of the Fruit of The Loom logo in a cherry wood base for her office. Its a very nice piece. Theresa did a great job with it.
After about 90 minutes of a very leisurely gift opening experience we ate a midday Christmas dinner. Theresa was a very gracious host and provided us with a wonderful lunch. There was ham, barbecue, chicken, corn, green beans, stuffing, and fresh baked rolls. There was more than enough food with plenty leftovers for the boys to take home.
Shortly after eating Brandi and James had to go visit with her family. Michael & Heather stayed a while longer before saying their "thank you"'s and "Good bye"s. Paula and I stayed and spent a couple more hours with "T" then headed home ourselves.
I called my family in Pennsylvania and spoke with my sisters and other family members. I really miss them on Christmas. I was happy to hear that they had and were having a wonderful day of giving and being together too. The only exception was that Jordan, the son of my niece Marci, was at home sick with a fever. Poor little guy. No one should be sick on Christmas. He had to stay home and open his presents. Nevertheless he later told his mom it was the best Christmas ever.
Later on in the afternoon James and Brandi came over to our house and stayed into the early evening. They played Paula's new Mario Brothers game for the Wii (a gift from Michael & Heather). It was funny watching the two newlyweds trying to work together as a team without much success. Before they left we watched a couple of episodes of the TV show "My Name is Earl" on DVD. Paula gave them to me for Christmas.
So those are my memories from Christmas 2009. Like most big events of the year now that it's over I have to mentally regroup and move on. This year I got a "jump start" with that because I had to go to work today. I had to get back to the normal routine at least for a couple of days.
I hope you enjoyed my Christmas story and that you and your family had a "good one" this year as well. Now it's onto New Year's day and a fresh start in 2010. Thanks for all the memories Christmas 2009. It was different but it was fun.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I know you probably don't have the time today or tomorrow to sit and listen to this sermon but I highly recommend that sometime during the next week you listen to it. It will really touch your heart and your life.
Monday, December 21, 2009
With 4 days left until Christmas I still have some shopping, wrapping and other things to do but that's not the important part of Christmas.
The gift of God's son, Jesus Christ, to all of us is the only lasting thing that's important about Christmas. But in His infinite wisdom and blessing God has allowed other aspects of the holiday to be enjoyable and special for all of us.
Here's the best picture I've taken all Christmas season in that it conveys one of those enjoyable aspects. It's a personification of a child's wonder; specifically the wonder of Santa Claus. The momentary gaze exchanged between St. Nick and this little girl can be summed up in so many ways. The look on her face is evidence that she is thinking 1000 things at the same time. They all come out a combination of amazement and faith.
Those are some of the same child like qualities we must have to be part of God's family. Jesus said we must become as a little child to be part of His Kingdom. Do you have the same feeling in your heart about Christ as this little girl, based on her expression, does about Santa?
I took this photograph at our annual "Dinner with Santa" event at my church. I took the picture myself but I didn't ask permission of the child's parents to use it here. I apologize if there's an issue with that.
My only intention in using it is to show this beautiful example of one of the aspects of the Christmas holiday season: A Child's Wonder At Christmas.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I Weigh Every Morning
Words by Ron Havens
(Sung to the tune of "Away In A Manger")
I weight every morning
I get on the scale
And pray my good habits
Will somehow prevail.
I plan out my menu
For the entire day
And wish for good numbers
when tomorrow I weigh.
It's protien and liquid
I take in each day
In hope to be liking
The things the scales say.
I've changed in my body
I've grown in my soul.
But I will be happy
When I've reached my goal.
Merry Christmas to all my blog readers, family, and friends. A special greeting to those who have had weight loss surgery and are struggling with their desire for food this holiday season. Hang in there. It's worth it.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
When I was a freshman in high school I was crazy about radio. My career plans were to go to college, get a communications degree, and become a famous radio DJ. It's all I wanted to do ever since I was 7 or 8 years old. I used to listen to a local station and impersonate my favorite personalities and commercial announcers on my tape recorder. It was just like the one pictured above.
During the Christmas season I recorded a commercial about local merchants using the Lawrence Welk version of "Sleigh Ride" as the back ground music, just like the one on the local station. I played it for my dad and he liked it. He was rather impressed that the commercial was totally different from the one on the radio because I wrote the copy myself.
Not too long after that my dad told me he had a surprise for me. He had grab my tape recorder and he took me to an office in downtown Easton. It was the office of design engineer, Gary Miller.
My dad knew him from his job but Mr. Miller also worked part time at the local radio station. The same station that ran the commercial I had parodied.
Very proudly we went into Mr. Miller's private office and dad had me play my commercial. He had asked Gary to listen to the tape and tell us what he thought. Other than some advice about the choice of words I used (He said not to use the word "jock" when referring to an athlete in regard to purchasing sporting goods) Mr. Miller was very encouraging or at least that's how I remember it. What I really remember is how proud and encouraging my dad was that day.
Gary Miller was a professional consultant to the civil engineering firm my dad worked for. It took a lot of initiative and a bit of humility for my dad to approach him about helping out his high school son in regard to his career interests.
Like I said, I don't remember much about the critique but to this day, over 30 years later, I remember how proud dad was that day. He really showed me how much he believed in and loved me.
Now I have never forgotten that incident. I think about it and the commercial every time I hear the song "Sleigh Ride" But it was this year for the first time in a long time that the memory came back to me in a very vivid way and I realized just what an act of love that was to me from my dad. It's a memory that will help me always remember my father's unconditional love for me. It's a wonderful memory, I choose to share with you today, to remember him on the day he would have been celebrating his birthday.
Friday, December 18, 2009
The game is played in a social or group setting; the more the merrier. The rules can vary depending on the group's choice but here's how it basically works. Each person brings a wrapped gift the cost if which is agreed upon by the group prior to the occasion. All the gifts are placed in a central location, usually under a tree if the gathering is at a home or on a table in a less intimate setting. Individual slips of paper consecutively numbered to equal to the number of participants are placed in a hat. Each participant picks a number.
Then starting with "1" each participant gets to choose which gift they want. The gift can be opened or stay wrapped depending on the rules agreed upon by the group. The person with the next number gets the choice of taking the gift from the first person or picking one out of the pile. The game then continues until all the gifts are chosen. This can take a while because people constantly take gifts from each other. There's a few more rules but that's the basis of the game.
Now this game really brings out the greediness in people. In the times I've played the game there have been people determined to get a specific item and will "steal" it as many times as they can and try to hold onto it for dear life.
This brings me to the experiment. I've had 2 occasions to try this experiment and it's paid off with a great finish and got a great reaction from the group.
Here's what you do. No matter the gift limit go to the store and buy a cheap picture album. You know the kind that you organize and display your family or vacation photos and force dinner guests to look at when they come over.
Then you go and buy a gift card of some kind (both times I did this I made it a Best Buy gift card) and doing the minimal amount of damage to the photo album's packaging place the gift card securely inside the back cover of the photo album; hidden from sight. No one will look at this gift and guess that it has more value than it seems.
Then you go to the party or gathering and watch the scene unfold as the cheapest item, or at least one of them, in the game, the photo album, gets passed around and "forced" on the the less than thrilled recipient.
Once the game is over get the crowds attention and tell them that you are the one who brought the photo album. No one is supposed to tell what they brought until the end of the game. Then you tell everyone that sometimes things are a lot more valuable than they look. You do your best "Monty Hall "Let's Make A Deal" impersonation as you reveal that the cheap gift's secret and show everyone that they could have had a valuable gift card. The person who seemingly "lost" the game actually ends up with a pretty good gift.
The reaction of the people that they've been the victim of a joke with an underlying message is wonderful. It really conveys to everyone one of the most important messages of the season. That sometimes the value of something or someone is not always in it's appearance or apparent quality.
The ultimate example of that is the life lived by Jesus Christ. And it all began with his humble and lowly birth on that very first Christmas night. So not only does the "Dirty Santa" trick an experiment in human psychology it's also a very good parable illustrating a spiritual truth taken directly from scripture.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Well I've reached a significant goal before Christmas. What goal you ask? My goal of being halfway between my presurgery weight and my goal weight. I wanted to get there by Christmas. I reached that halfway point this morning.
In only 163 days I've lost 118 pounds. That's half the total I want to lose. My surgeon has set a goal for me to lose 20 pounds more than that but I don't think I'll be able to get to nor be comfortable at his goal weight for me.
Reaching this goal means that both Paula and I are on the 2nd half of our weight loss efforts. This is yet another milestone on our ultimate goal of being healthy enabling us to, God willing, live a long life together.This picture was taken last Thursday before I went to my 5 month check up with Dr. Houston. I put it on my Facebook profile for a while and received some very nice complements. I thought I'd post it on the blog as well. Let me know what you think. I need all the encouragement I can get.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
There is now a bigger working area which was built and opened back in the spring. It is on the "second floor" of the warehouse and is about 3 times bigger than the original call center. There's also about 150 more employees.
Personally, I went from starting as a part time employee (between 24 & 32 hours a week) to full time in February. I also went from working a 3:30-12 midnight shift to a day shift of 8AM-4:15 PM. That happened in September.
I have worked with a lot of different people during the course of the year. Quite a few have left the job. As a matter of fact I think only 3 of my original training class, including me, are still there.
Doing the job itself has kept me aware of just how easily it is for a person to become caught up in gathering possessions. I know my job is to help people who want to buy things from the company. But the selfishness and the lust of wanting something so badly is something that I deal with every day, all day long. It's really sad the choices people will make between being able to buy basic life necessities (food and gas) and buying something they really don't need. I'm also amazed at the depth of debt and financial bondage people get themselves into just to own a watch or a piece of jewelry. It keeps me aware of what my obligation is in regard to my stewardship of what God has given me.
While at work, in between phone calls, I look around at the busy atmosphere of the call center and am amazed at the difference a year makes. The call center has grown so much in that time. I ask myself all the time: What recession?
It also turns my thoughts to not only the call center changes but the personal changes that have happened in the last year. Although I've not been completely content and happy with the circumstances of my job over the last year I am grateful to have a job and for the lessons God has taught me through it. He has changed my heart in regard my attitude toward work and just who I am working for. I may be employed by ShopNBC but I'm a servant of The Lord.
So as I start my 2nd year as a ShopNBC employee I look forward to the future based on the growth of the past. I've got a long way to go both physically and spiritually. I'm looking forward to a year from now when I can once again, pause, and evaluate the changes The Lord has worked over the course of yet another year.
Monday, December 14, 2009
To the left is a picture of the incident which appeared in the local newspaper. The smoke is coming out of the front bedroom. That room was mine just before I moved out in 1986. It was last used as my dad's train room until he got sick in 1999.
But then I began to think about the house and started remembering the time we spent there. I have a lot of memories from that house. 67 Brainard Street was a place that hosted some of the best days in the life of my family. Its where both my parents lived the last 20+ years of their lives. Its the place where time on this earth ended for both of them.
Owning that house was a dream come true for my parents. In late 1975, even before we were sure we were going to be able to buy the house, when the deal was still pending, we used to drive by it when we were in the area. We were all praying and hoping that the mortgage would be approved and we could move out of the housing project we lived in at that time. God came through for us. We moved into the house in the spring of 76.
Personally, I could fill a book with memories and stories about the 10 years I lived at 67 Brainard. Its where my cousin, Gary, and I got to live out our "dream" of living together for a few months in 1977. It's where, at age 15, I made my first attempt at being a ventriloquist. It's where I lived when I graduated high school and had my first "real" girlfriend. When I see in my mind's eye the typical Havens family Christmas decorating party that I spoke about in my Rewind Christmas #5 show that's the house I see.
Earlier I wrote that I wasn't very upset about the fact that the house caught on fire. That's because I said "good-bye" to that house back in May 2004. I went back to Jersey for a few days to help my family clean it out so it could be sold. I took some final pictures of the interior and by the time I left to come back home to Kentucky I had let go of any emotional attachment I had to the physical building itself but kept the memories.
Now by nature I am a "home body". I love being at home above any place else. But I now I have such a great life here in this house in Kentucky that the feelings which are connected to "Home" are wrapped around this house and the life I have with Paula. The important thing in this life is not where you live but what happens while you live there. Your relationships, your spiritual growth and your service to others. With apologies to Jimmy Stewart, for me right now, its a a wonderful life.
Before Jesus ascended into Heaven He told His disciples that His Father's house has many mansions. He's there right now preparing a place for us. He's promised to come back and take us to be with Him forever. Does this mean we'll actually live in a mansion in heaven? Well that's what Jesus said.
I've lived in 9 different residence over my first 49 years of life. But no matter how many homes I have had here on earth I will eventually be leaving them all behind. They will all be destroyed, one way or another. Heaven will be my permanent home. That means "I've got a mansion just over the hilltop". For me living for eternity with God will mean living out the ultimate definition of being "Home".
Sunday, December 13, 2009
So I've come to the conclusion that reviewing the decade of the 2000's, if I want to do at thorough job, is going to take at least the rest of the month if not more.
So I am going to ask you, my faithful blog reader, to allow me more time. I want to present my decade review in a organized entertaining way. I will shoot to post it sometime in January.
I have also decided that I'm not going to review the events of 2009 that I've already posted about. What I'll do is try and make my 2009 in review posts between now and the end of the year about things I haven't shared on RH Factors.
So there's the plan. Now that I've committed to it let's see if I can follow through.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
This was a return to radio broadcasting of dramas like those that were such a significant part of my parent's childhood. I appreciated those old radio shows because my mom & dad used to talk about them a lot and even listened to them on tape from time to time.
At the time 10 o'clock, the time the program came on the air, was my bed time. So I would listen to it 5 nights a week. I loved the drama and the mystery of each and every episode.
I even started writing and recording some of my own comic satire versions in my room on my cassette tape recorder. Instead of E. G Marshall, my host's name was F. S. Sheriff. That little play on words always made my dad laugh whenever I played my tapes for him.
One week during my 8th grade year my English class performed an abbreviated version of one of the Radio Mystery Theater's scripts that appeared in Scholastic magazine. It was called "Lost Dog". I was so familiar with the story that I got to play the role of the husband, the villain in the play.
The September after I graduated from high school I started working the graveyard shift at a local plastics factory. That's when portable headset radios had first become available. I bought one and used to listen to it during my shift. Although I didn't start work until 11:30PM Radio Mystery Theater came on as a rebroadcast at 2 or 3 in the morning. I used to listen to it then as well. It helped pass the time at a job that was very repetitive and boring.
On December 1982 Mystery Theater broadcast it's last program. I had stopped listening to it long before then because a lot of things changed in my life including my radio listening habits.
Last week I started thinking about the show again. I did a search of the Internet and once again it came through for me. I have found about 100 Mystery Theater programs in a down loadable MP3 format. Now I can transfer them to my phone MP3 player and listen to them in the car or when I go to bed. I know it's getting to be pretty common place but I've just found another aspect of my childhood that I can reconnect with anytime I want to. I love the Internet.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
It began with a drive to Nashville for a follow-up appointment with our bariatric surgeon, Dr. Houston. It was my 5 month check up and Paula's 6 month. We both got on the scale and doing very well on our weight loss progress. We spent a couple of minutes with Dr. Houston and the appointment was over.
Perhaps the most significant thing about the entire doctor visit was that we had to park on the 2nd floor of the hospital parking lot and walk to the office. This was a relatively easy walk that was very difficult just 5 months earlier.
After we left Dr. Houston's office we drove through Nashville to a store called "Trader Joes". Paula discovered this store on her last trip to Nashville with her sister. Its a grocery store but it has a lot of unusual food items and imported stuff. We found a very low carb bread, some low carb tortilla chips, and some other things that we can eat and stay within our dietary limits.
Upon our return home it was time to get ready for the 2 ventriloquist shows I had scheduled for the day. The first was a performance at the local library. I was being asked to perform as part of the kick off to the winter reading program. I used the back drop of the Christmas holiday to help my puppets, Lanoline the Lamb, Cecil the turtle and Ruben Nathaniel Young to show the kids how reading is a gift with unlimited possibilities.
This was a pretty good performance if I must say so myself. I practiced more than I ever have for any other show. My level of comfort while performing was very similar to the day care experience I had a few weeks ago. (see November 15 Post). A picture of me and Lanoline the elf is at the top of this post.
Later that evening I went to our church to perform at our annual "Dinner with Santa" event. This is perhaps the ultimate event for entertaining kids during the year. Because my time was limited I only used Lanoline and Cecil in this performance.
I didn't do as well this time mainly because I was tired from the long day I'd had up to that point. The children were very responsive and seemed to enjoy the performance but it wasn't my best.
With the conclusion of the event at church I headed back home to relax for the rest of the evening. About midnight I was in my bedroom getting ready to retire for the evening when my wife saw a spider webbing down from the ceiling light over our bed. She hollered for me to get it before it got to the mattress. My immediate reaction to her plea was to grab the web string and carry it across the hall to the bathroom and dispose of the arachnid.
Well the spider had a different idea. It made it's way back up the web, which was now wrapped around the fingers of my right hand. I closed my hand with the spider inside. That's when I felt it bite me on the inside of my ring finger. I reacted to the bite and dropped the spider losing it in the carpet.
I'd never been bitten by a spider before. In the south spider bites are quite common. Some can cause some serious problems especially if the spider is a recluse or a black widow. Neither of us got a good enough look at the spider to tell what it looked like or what kind it was. It was light colored so it wasn't a black widow but it could have been a recluse. We weren't sure.
The bite quickly became swollen and started to hurt. As quickly as my body reacted to the bite we both became concerned about what kind of spider had just bitten me. We decided to go to the emergency room at the local hospital and get it checked out. I was feeling okay overall it was just that my finger was swollen and hurting with a burning sensation.
By the time we got to the ER the swelling in the bite had gone down and only a small mark remained as evidence of the incident. Nevertheless I checked into the ER just in case I needed a shot of Benedryl to counter any possible allergic reaction.
When we got to the ER it was fairly quite. We sat down in the waiting room to wait for someone to see me. As we sat there more emergency cases came in. I could tell by looking at the patients that their cases were a lot more urgent than mine.
Knowing that ER cases are seen by degree of need and not on a first come first serve basis I realized that my wait was going to be longer and longer. With my finger feeling perfectly fine and both of us very tired from a long day at little after 1 AM I decided that I didn't want or need to wait around to be seen. I didn't need to take up the time of a doctor who could be helping someone else who really needed it. So we left.
On the way home we stopped by an all night drug store and got some liquid Benedryl. I took some before I went to bed just in case I had any kind of further reaction. I had none and slept very well till the next morning.
Finally, nearly 2 hours after we initially planned to be in bed, at a little after 2AM we finally got to the end of this very busy December day.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I can remember listening to my two Chipmunk Christmas albums on my room for hours at a time. This was back when I was in kindergaten or 1st grade.
When I mention the Chipmunks, most of you only think of one song, The Chipmunk Song. That's the one where Alvin says he wants a hula hoop and the trio plead "Please Christmas don't be late."
Let me assure you that Ross Bagdesarian (aka David Seville) and his 3 harmonizing rodents covered variety of holiday favorites on the two albums I am referring to. They include classics like: Jingle Bells, Here Comes Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and Silver Bells. Some of my favorites were: It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Over the River and through the woods, and the non-traditional Wonderful Day and Hang Up Your Stocking.
Even into my teen years I enjoyed Alvin, Simon, and Theodore during the holidays. Both my dad and I were Chipmunk fans. But the records wore out due to constant playing and lack of care. Eventually they were too scratched to be played or were broken and thrown away.
As an adult, each December, I longed to listen to my beloved Chipmunks sing their unique style of Christmas classics. But no matter what format I purchased, (cassette tapes at first and later on CDs) I could not reassemble the complete collection of songs on my original two albums. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never have them all again.
But this week that all changed. Once again missing my complete Chipmunk Christmas collection I searched the ITunes store on my computer. I compared the songs on the 2 Chipmunk Christmas albums I found online with the 2 CDs in my Christmas music collection. I downloaded the songs I didn't have.
I now had the two dozen plus songs of Chipmunk Christmas music collection back in my possession. You would think I would be satisfied at that point...but I wasn't.
It still bothered me that the songs were not in the same order as I remembered them. Trouble was I couldn't remember the exact order. You know how it is when you listen to an album or CD over and over. You get used to the order in which the songs play. You expect to hear them in that order all the time. I wanted to restore that order. I decided to turn to the Internet.
Fresh off the experience of finding a copy of yet another album I used to have as a kid on EBay (it was album of Disney songs by Mary Martin and the Do-Re-Mi Children's Choir) I decided to go there for some help with song order issue.
I looked on EBay to see if any Chipmunks albums were currently being auctioned. Luckily there were several. I looked for an ad where the seller showed detailed pictures of the album cover, especially the back. That's where the order of the songs would be listed. I was in luck. An auction offering both of the albums had the pictures I needed. I read the back of the cover from the pictures and rearranged my song order.
I now have my childhood Christmas music companions back and in the correct order. I'm glad to, once again, be able to enjoy a portion of my holiday season listening to Alvin and his brothers singing the music that returns me to my days of Christmas past. Musically speaking, all is well this Christmas.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Just like like a magician perform a variety of visual illusions with his hands, a ventriloquist can create a number sound illusions with his voice. He substitutes the sounds of several letter combinations (such as "th" or "pf") for other letters allowing his audience to mentally fill in the blanks for what they "think" they hear. The distant voice is an illusion created using the volume of the voice. It is creates a sound in such low volume that it "sounds" like the voice is coming from somewhere else. Thus fooling the audience into believing that the performers voice is not coming from his own mouth but from a distance object or place.
To create the distant voice the ventriloquist tightens his diaphragm and restricts the flow of air through his voice box. When he speaks the low volume voice sounds muffled and far away. It's a trick the doesn't come naturally but is something that has to be learned and practiced. It is also an aspect of ventriloquist's act that gains him admiration and notoriety. As a "vent", if you've mastered the advanced skill of the distant voice you have an entire new avenue available to you with which to entertain your audience.
Let's flash forward to a couple of days ago. While driving home from work I was practicing for my upcoming events when I thought about the distant voice. It came to my mind because I've been reading Terry Fator's book. He's the ventriloquist who won America's Got Talent's 2nd season. He wrote about using the distant voice as a young ventriloquist. That got me thinking about it again. Those thoughts made me realize just how long it had been since I gave up trying it. It was time to try again.
I tightened my gut as though I were picking up a box that is entirely too heavy to lift. (That's the how the instructional DVDs of ventriloquists Paul Winchell and Mark Wade describe the circumstances you need to emulate with your body and diaphragm in order to do the distant voice) I tried to speak with the distant voice letting a little amount of air through my vocal cords. Most of it was nothing but a small gasp but I did speak a phrase with the distant voice. Yes, I did the distant voice. I heard it. Not much but I heard it. It was the effect I have longed to do and I did it.
I realized when I tried to do it again that I still have to loose some girth in my midsection in order to be able to position my diaphragm correctly and without excessive strain or losing my breath. I may even have to work on firming up my ab muscles a bit as well. But there's potential there for success.
Now I have something to work toward. I see a hope that one of the unique effects that will add something and memorable to my ventriloquist act is within my reach. That encourages me to keep working at improving my vent skills.
Friday, December 4, 2009
All you have to know about me is that I own all the major Disney animated features on DVD (over 60 of them), receive a Disney World newsletter each week, download a weekly podcast devoted to the news and discussion things about Walt Disney World, and composed a 150 page book recounting m 2004 Disney World Vacation, to know that I've put a lot of my life into the Wonderful World of Disney.
It's been a couple of years since has God dealt with my putting Disney ahead of Him in my life. I know that sounds strange to be calling a fascination with something as "innocent" as Disney as sin but it was in my life. God brought me to point of change and then showed me the height to which I had elevated Disney in my life. I guess the repentance took some time but once I realized what I was guilty of I asked God to keep from every letting Disney hold that place in my life again.
I had no problem for the longest time because I had only a peripheral interest in Disney. My collection of Disney movies is complete and I have decided that cost of another week long vacation to visit Mickey & friends in Orlando is way too high. Paula and I have too many other, relatively less expensive, places we want to visit.
But my interest in Disney has picked up recently because of 3 things. I started reading the weekly newsletter from beginning to end again, downloaded the podcast to my MP3 player to listen to in the car. Both of those things were started up again as a result of a mention of the possibility of my son, Michael, and I making a 4 day weekend trip to "The World" in 2011 to celebrate his 30th birthday. Ironically I am the one who suggested the trip. The reason I did was because I knew that Michael would love going back to Disney World again. He and I are the only family members who would be interested in returning. My intention was to simply do something that I knew Michael would love. I didn't intend to open the door for the return of a temptation in my life.
The appeal of all things Disney and it's potential to captivate my time and energy is an easy portal for the sin of idolatry to gain a foothold. It's like dancing with the Devil. It's very dangerous.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Disney is the devil; not at all. In fact, Disney World is a testimony to the imagination and creative abilities of men instilled by God since creation. God has allowed places like Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and works of art such as Disney movies to exist for our pleasure. He's such a loving God. He knows how to bless His children.
However, in my sinful nature, there will always be the temptation to get lost in Disney and become obsessed. The Wonderful World of Disney can swallow up one's time, money, and heart. There are many people in this world to whom this has happened. But it shouldn't happen to a Christian.
I've already committed all of my life (including my heart, soul, money, and time) to Christ. He created them and owns them anyway so I have given them back to him. I can't be deceived by Satan into believing that I have the right or privilege to use those life assets for my own purposes and exclusively for my own pleasure. I belong to God.
Now if I can get to a place where I can prioritize my heart and life so as not to become sinful while enjoying Disney stuff then that's fine. But that's a dangerously thin line to walk. If I can manage my finances to where I can afford a 2011 trip to Disney World with my son after fulfilling God's commandment to give then perhaps we'll make the trip. But I must not allow myself to once again let Disney sit on the throne of my heart and be the center of my mind. That is a sinful violation of God's commandment to place no other gods before Him.
I'm not sure I can do that. If I can't avoid "the dance" then perhaps I'll just have to stop listening to the "music" .
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Of the 34 Rewind shows I recorded 5 of them are devoted to Christmas music. They focus on "the sounds of the season" and the traditions of Christmas time.
My sisters and their families really enjoy Christmas music. It's always been a key ingredient in their December celebrations. I also have several friends who like it as well.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I started copying Rewind Christmas CDs on my computer. Over the next week I created over 110 CDs for 7 different people. I mailed them to Pennsylvania and California on Thursday December 3rd. My friends and family in Pennsylvania received their packages on Saturday the 5th. Their arrival was perfect timing because it was the day both of my sisters were decorating their houses. My friend in California, Mary, got hers a few days later.
I know it might seem a little egotistical for me to send CDs with my voice introducing Christmas music to people as gifts but my only intention is to help make their holiday season more enjoyable. I prayed before I mailed each package that the CDs would bless everyone who hears them. If I could be there to play the music for them myself I would.
Sending the Rewind Christmas programs across the miles helps all of us to remember the holidays of our past and feel a bit closer in the present. This was affirmed by way of a comment my niece Marci wrote on my Facebook page: " (The CDs) bring a little of you here for Christmas!! " For me being with my family in Pennsylvania at Christmas, no matter the means, is a gift that's priceless.
While there will probably be a lot happening in the month of December that I'll be writing about several posts will be reminicing and reviewing both the year and the decade. As you can probably guess a lot of those posts will have to do with the changes in our lives due to getting married and our return to living our lives as Christians.
It's going to be a fun month to write. I hope you enjoy reading as well.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I've uploaded a short video at the bottom of this post. It's not professional video by any means. It's just to give you the idea of what the music box is like. It will provide an additional element to the whole "relaxing in the living room" scenario I mentioned earlier.
As time goes by and our lives improve I can see us becoming involved with life again. To be honest the reason we haven't decorated these past few years is because we didn't have the energy.
Over the past few months we've been able to change, arrange, and maintain our home closer to the ideal way we want it to be without it exhausting us. We'll never be asked to appear in "Good House Keeping" or "Home Beautiful". It's still a work in progress but it's getting better.
This gives us a little more confidence in ourselves and in our home. Decorating for Christmas will only increase that confidence. This may very well lead us to begin doing what we've felt led by God to do for a while now. Open up our home with the confidence and hospitality as a means of building relationships and ministering to Christian friends. That's a goal for 2010.
A big part of that is the return of Christmas.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The reason His blessings are noted more at Christmas is because people are paying more attention to Him. It's a more "spiritual" time of the year. People are more romantic at Christmas. That's when God and His blessings suddenly become visible and are romanticized for human purposes. Ironically the acknowledgement of God at this time of year is really sin of denial of his ultimate and constant power.
I want to relate to you the story of a small but genuine blessing God bestowed upon my sister, Shari, and my niece, Teejai, while shopping this holiday weekend. The details may not be completely accurate (I'm telling this second hand as it was told to me) but they are relative to the story's wonderful ending.
Teejai is 12 years old and a middle school student. This past weekend Shari took her shopping for a dress to wear to an upcoming school dance called "The Snow Ball."Anyone who has ever had a preteen or teenage daughter can probably identify with this situation. This expense is not one a parent normally anticipates at this time of the year.
Shari wanted the experience to be a pleasant one. But a limited budget and potential differing opinion's of the "right dress" threatened to make it otherwise. With only $30 to spend my sister feared the task would be a down right disaster. She cast her worries up to God in the form of a small prayer as they went into the first of ,potentially, many stores.
The mother-daughter team searched for a dress they both liked and found one rather quickly. It was $34. A little over budget but Shari had a 15% off coupon. That would make a difference.
However the style of the dress required an over-the-shoulder shrug. They found one for $12. If necessary, Shari could spend a little more than she initially wanted to. In addition to the dress, shoes were needed. A $19 pair was found on sale for $14.99. The ensemble needed an accent necklace which was $6. It was the perfect accessory.
As they headed to the checkout counter Shari did some calculations in her head. Their purchase would add up to more than double the original budget. Despite the hope of the 15% off coupon Shari would be spending more than she had anticipated. She didn't mind. She wanted Teejai look nice to go to the dance; but wasn't sure where the extra money to cover the cost was going to come from. We've all been there.
As the store clerk scanned their items, Shari again said a little prayer to The Lord as she gave the girl the coupon. The cashier spent, what seemed to be, an eternity looking over the coupon carefully. A fear of being told she couldn't use the coupon gripped Shari's mind. She just knew she was going to have to pay full price for everything; more than double her budget.
When the register total button was pushed the clerk announced that their total was $29 and some change. It was UNDER $30. How could that be? My sister questioned the total and the clerk told her that in addition to the 15% off with the coupon all items in the store were on sale; 40% off. That was an additional 40% off.
"Mom are you all right?" Teejai asked as she saw Shari's eyes well up with tears. Shari paid the bill realizing that God had given her her first blessing of the Christmas season. Worried about it from the start, for my sister, it turned out to be a shopping trip she will never forget.
I called my sister and asked her if I could post this shopping trip story and she told me "Yes". She said it was an awesome experience and "shows that God is involved every detail of our lives; even the small things.".
Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10 that God know the details of our lives down to the number of hairs on our heads. In Psalms 139:3 David directs his writings toward God: "You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways." God knows us and loves us so much that he pays attention to our every detail of our lives.
This shopping story is typical of the way God blesses His children in everyday life. As Romans 8:28 assures us: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. That's a frequently quoted verse but its familiarity doesn't effect it's degree of truth.
The shopping trip may not have been a life changing event but it did reflect and help make God's love real in the lives of my sister and my niece.
I pray that you will begin to pay more attention to and give thanks with a grateful heart the everyday blessing God brings to your life no matter the size. My goal is to do this a lot more myself; not only during the Christmas season but every day of the up coming year.
Friday, November 27, 2009
With today being "Black Friday" I was one of those who chose not to fight the crowds in search of a bargin. I didn't even get up early. For the first time since I can remember I slept past 7AM this morning.
At 11 o'clock I put on my sneakers and walked my dog, Angel, to her appointment at the vet's office. She wasn't sick just had to get a check up and get her nails cut.
It was the first time since I've been walking the dogs that it was just her and me. It was a fun time.
The main thing I wanted to find out at the vet was how much Angel weighs now. I got her to sit on the scale and was very happy with the results. She now weights 54 pounds. She's lost 3 pounds since her last visit in September. She's lost a total of 13 pounds since I started taking her to the vet here in town.
That means she's lost 19.4% of her body weight over the last 18 months. That's equal to me losing 45 pounds. Dr. Thomas told me that when he first came into the examination room he wasn't sure she was the same dog because she looked so different. He gave both Angel and me "a gold star" .
When got back home from the vet I saw my wife outside cleaning out the flowerbeds. She wants them to be clean and looking nice so we can put up our outside Christmas decorations and lights in a couple of days. She worked off and on from noon until about 4:30 when it got dark. She got most of the job done. She put in a great day's work filling almost half a dozen large trash bags with weeds, trimmings and leaves.
We then went out to our storage barn and got some of the outside Christmas decorations. Paula wants to put them up tomorrow while I'm at work. She's really in the decorating spirit.
I spent the rest of the afternoon working on my CD copying project (more about that in a future post), paying the last of the bills for November, and cleaning out and organizing the closet where I keep all my vent stuff.
We also rearranged our temporary television set up. We have our bedroom TV in the living room because the big screen Samsung needs repairs. A repairman isn't coming until next Thursday. We moved the temp TV from the back left corner of the living room so we can put up the Christmas tree. We also moved the bedroom DVD to the living room so we can begin the 2009 Ron Havens' Holiday Film Festival. I'll explain that in tomorrow's post. We spent the rest of the evening watching Christmas specials on DVD
Today was the last day of my end-of-the-year vacation from work. Over the last 9 days I've only had to work one. Tomorrow I start back to my regular schedule with Thursday & Fridays off. That won't too bad because of how the holidays fall.
I also have 5 more vacation days to take in the month of December. I have 2 of them approved and have requested the other 3. If I don't use them I'll lose them. That's not going to happen if I can help it.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
There is the usual list of things most commonly mentioned such as: family, friends, living in a country where we have so much freedom, having a job, ect.
While all of these things are important and are not diminished at all by the fact that they are most commonly mentioned when giving thanks. This year is different for me. In addition to the "common" list, I'm thankful for a few things that most people wouldn't mention.
I'm thankful for God's conviction through His word. Over the past year, through reading scripture and listening to bible based expository preaching, God has worked in my life and my heart has been changed. I have grown to where I can see God's perspective. I have learned that, as His child, it is my responsibility to obey what God tells me to do. I have learned that changing from my ways to God's ways is both an evidence of true faith in Christ and a process at the same time. The process which at most times is not easy or comfortable. But that's okay. I've come to a place in my life where being uncomfortable isn't necessarily a synonymous with being discontent.
I understand that if I am in a place where I'm not content its because The Holy Spirit is trying to move me to a place where I need to be. He is working on me; moving away me from sin and closer to God and His Holiness. My response to the Spirit's work in my life usually requires work on my part as well as a focused effort to change. That's not a problem for me any more though. I don't mind being on the spiritual "hot seat." As a matter of fact it's the only place I want to be. It means God and I are working together on my life. That's the part about which I am really thankful.
I am thankful that Love isn't always easy or convenient. It's a matter of self denial for the sake of taking on the attributes of God. When people in our lives who are not very easy to love that's when you have to look at them through the eyes of Loving God.
1st Corinthians 14, the "Love Chapter" of the Bible states that Love never seeks its own way. That's God's kind of love. As a man with a natural sinful nature the kind of love I am capable of on my own is a selfish kind of love. When people in our lives require more than that convenient commitment is when we either reject them or start loving them the way God does.
Of course, there are times when it is difficult and inconvenient for people in my life to show me love as well. At those times they don't have to show me the kind of unconditional love that God shows me. But I am thankful when they do.
I'm thankful for work and discipline. I've come to realize that as evidenced in His Word, God has ordained work as a good thing. There are several places in the Bible where God chastises the lazy man or a "man of sloth". Doing something is so much better than nothing. That's just the opposite of the attitude in today's world.
I have recently gained the perspective that my life is about accomplishing the work God wants me to do. Life is not about striving to be able to sit around and watch TV or otherwise be entertained. It's about doing what's important according to God's will for your life. That's where the blessing and sense of accomplishment is. I'm not saying that leisure time is not allowed. Just that it shouldn't be a goal obtained at the expense of neglecting the responsibility of work that is given to everyone by God. This is especially true for a Christian.
It's very easy to lend yourself to an attitude of "I deserve to do nothing". To keep yourself aimed toward accomplishing the work God commands us to do takes discipline. The daily practice of doing what "should" be done verses what we want to do it a difficult one to establish in one's life. It takes a consistent mindset of seeing the "big picture"; knowing what is your life is about and pushing yourself to do it; especially when you'd rather do something else. Again it comes from being able to see God's perspective and not just yours.
I've learned to do that to a degree. I'm not perfectly disciplined in my life; not by a long shot. But I am thankful that God has given me His perspective in a lot of areas of my life. He has shown me that doing the "work" reaps the "harvest". That's a lesson that hasn't been easy to teach me. But I am thankful He has at least put me on the path to that realization.
So those are the things I am thankful to God for on this national day of Thanksgiving. My prayer is that you and your family have a wonderful and blessed holiday as you gather together today. I look forward to the next 4 weeks as I once again get the opportunity to celebrate the birth of my savior, Jesus Christ, and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas.