Saturday, January 31, 2009

5 Years Of Dory

Today is a special anniversary for us. It was 5 years ago that we added the first canine member, Dory, to our family. Believe it or not I was very much against getting a dog. James had been asking for one for a long time so after some convincing I agreed. This was with the condition that James would take most of the responsibility of taking care of it. Of course that job eventually fell to me.

Having just been through the family bonding experience of a Disney World vacation I figured getting a dog would be another step toward becoming a truly blended family. I agreed to adopt a dog from the local animal shelter.

Paula had found a small beagle puppy on the Humane Society's website but when she went to the facility it had been adopted. She then saw "Queenie" a former stray up for adoption. She was female and estimated to be about 8 months old. The dog had been brought to the kennel after someone from passing through the area who found her wandering around without a collar on. We adopted her and renamed her "Dory" after one of my favorite characters from the Disney movie "Finding Nemo."

At first life with Dory was a time of a challenge. The most difficult issue was her constant wander lust. Initially Dory wasn't sure she liked living with her new family. Despite having a fence around our backyard; Dory managed to find her way through it and making her escape.

One Sunday morning, about two weeks after we had her, she got out and was about 100 yards from our house when I spotted her. I yelled for her to come back to me but she ran the other way. I only had on my house shoes but I had to go after her. She crossed the road and headed through a wide open farmer's field. The field was rough and muddy because of the winter weather. I tried my best to catch up with Dory but she was getting farther away. Every time I called her she would walk a bit faster. Although I kept after her I was sure she would soon be a dot on the horizon and gone for good. That's when things changed. Suddenly she stopped and proceeded to "answer the call of nature." She was in no position to run so I started going a bit faster. I managed to catch up to her and get a hold of her collar. If she hadn't stopped I would have never caught her.

Even after she decided that she liked living with us. Dory would always make her way out of the fence for self delegated times of wandering around the neighborhood. I would have to find her, catch her and bring her back into the house.
A couple of times she got out I wasn't able to find her. Eventually though she came back home. She would bark at the front door. When I yelled at her for getting out of the yard she would always get this "who me?" grin on her face. Now she does it every time she get caught doing something she knows she's not supposed to be doing. One time she came back home carrying an entire rack of skinned deer ribs she had stolen from some one's yard. I don't know where she got'em but I'm glad she didn't get caught taking them. Around here something like that could get a dog shot.

The other most memorable moment of Dory's first year with us, for me, was in September. I had cleaned her crate and laundered her bedding. I had put the bedding on top of her crate after it was dry until I was ready to reassemble the crate and put her in it for the night. When it came time to go to bed I found Dory in the dog room laying on her bedding on top of the crate. It was one of the funniest and sweetest things I'd ever seen a dog do. I quickly took a picture. That picture and my other favorite Dory picture is at the top of this post.

Yes, it's been 5 years of life with Dory. I think she's spent about 4 of it just lying around sleeping in the living room or in her crate. The rest of it she's spent looking for food. Sleep and food are Dory's 2 favorite things. I believe our 2nd dog, Angel, comes in a close 3rd and going for a walk 4th.
While she's been some trouble and caused some very stressful moments I wouldn't have lived the past 5 years without her. She is a joy and pleasure she brings to my life is unmeasurable. I love getting her to do the tricks I taught her and the affection she shows me every time I walk in the door. I love my Dory and so does everyone else in our family. Happy Anniversary Dory Elizabeth Havens.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ten Things

Other than a short post about my wife’s out patient surgery almost two weeks have gone by since I’ve written anything about what’s happening with me. In order to catch up I’ve devised a list of 10 things that I would have posted about had I been writing. Here they are in chronological order:

Doing The Cross Trick
Lest you should think I’m being disrespectful to Christ or the gospel I’m referring to a very effective object lesson I demonstrated as part of the children’s sermon a couple of Sundays ago at church.

I first saw this demonstration during one of the evening gatherings at I-fest last July. The trick involves iodine, used to represent “pure sin” poured into a glass of clear water which represents our souls before sin. I used a gold plastic cross (with a chemical powder hidden in some small holes in the back of it) to stir up the water full of “pure sin.” The water becomes clear symbolizing what Christ’s work on the cross does for us if we believe in him and repent.

The children were fascinated by the demonstration. The children’s sermon was also enhanced when a 3 year old little girl named “Shelby” stood up and recited from memory John 3:16. I now know the effectiveness of this illusion and will use it at every opportunity in the future.

Local Church Burns Down
January 20, 2009 will be remembered in history as the day that the first African American President of the United States took the oath of office. But for me and the members of Pleasant View Baptist Church that day will be remembered as the day their church burned down.

Pleasant View is the church that I wrote about in my December 27, 2008 “Catching Up” post. It’s hard to believe that less than a month after I experienced such a blessed time in that building that it’s now gone. The fire was caused by a defective furnace. The church plans on rebuilding. Because of how that church blessed me last month I plan on doing something to help them with their new building. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do but I will do something.

Change In Work Schedule
My job at ShopNBC is going very well but there is going to be a change. As a matter of fact the change has already started. As of this past Monday I’ve started training to expand my job from “order capture” to customer service. This means in addition to taking orders I’ll be handling customer’s complaints. There’s no doubt that I will have little free time while at work once I get back on the phones. From what I’ve seen and heard from my coworkers already doing this job you stay pretty busy, the customers are rather rude, and it’s pretty stressful. I hope my experience with customers in the past help me handle the job better than some of my coworkers.

Also after 2 weeks of training I will start working a “permanent” 4 week schedule. I’ll write more about that once it begins.

Rapid Reading In January
In the first month of the year I’ve once again caught the reading bug. Due to a combination of free time at work and a high interest in the subjects of the books I managed to read 5 books this month. I read 2 books by my favorite preacher, John MacArthur, Steve Martin’s autobiography, and the first 2 books of the “Oz” series by L. Frank Baum.
With the change in my job I don’t anticipate keeping up that pace but I definitely have gotten back into the habit of reading again. I’m going to do my best to keep it up.

“Lost” Is Back!
It’s been nearly 9 months since the 4th season finale of my favorite prime time series aired last May. After the long absence last Wednesday ABC’s Lost, made it’s 5th season debut.
If you are not a fan of this show I can’t begin to explain the complex continuous story line of the show. Just let me tell you that it has intriguing characters, adventure, mystery, and time travel; all things that I really like in any from of entertainment.
I can’t get enough of this show. I wish a new episode aired every night of the week. There are reruns on cable every day so I guess I’ll have to be happy with that in between Wednesdays when I get to see a new episode.

Future Ventriloquism Shows
After not doing getting any immediate results from the posters I distributed advertising my ventriloquism I was a bit discouraged. But this past week I got a call from a teacher at a local elementary school. I've been booked to do a 30 minute show at a rally being held just before the kids start 2 weeks of testing this spring I'm excited and have already started planning what I'm going to be doing.

In addition to getting hired for my first paid vent job I've also scheduled my first ministry appearance of the year as well. On March 2 I'm going to do a vent show for the "Mom Time" group at my church. I've been "dropping" in on their meetings every so often for the past 3 or 4 months. They are very friendly to me and I know there are people there who like my ventriloquism so it will be an easy gig.

Magician’s Connection

For some time now one of my biggest concerns about bing a ventriloquist is being the only one I know if in the area. For months I've been praying to find a way to somehow connect with other vents or other people who perform for a living, such as magicians.

The answer to that prayer came last weekend. I received a call from a guy, named Steve, who is a part time magician. As a matter of fact his full time job is with the same company my wife works for. When he called he told me that he saw my advertising poster in a local Teacher's supply store. He said although he's a magician mostly he's interested in ventriloquism. He invited me to go with him and a couple of his friends to a meeting of local magicians down in Nashville next month.
I told him I'm interested in going. I hope this turns out to be the connection I've been looking for.

Paula Goes Back To Work
After having 5 days off because of hand surgery my wife went back to work this past Monday. She's healing well and has started getting the use of her finger back. The doctor told her that she is developing scar tissue and needs to do some physical therapy to prevent it. She starts that next week.

Ice Storm Makes A Mess
On Monday night into Tuesday morning our area experienced an ice storm. Our town was close to the ice/rain line of the storm. Everything but the roads were covered with at least 1/2 inch of ice by the time we woke up Tuesday morning.
There were limbs down off the trees all over the place. A rather large limb fell off a tree in our front yard and landed on Paula's car. The end of the branch hit the top of her driver's side door causing a couple of dents and some chipped paint. A couple inches closer and it would have taken out the driver's side window.
About 7AM Tuesday the ice turned to rain. Although there was a lot of precipitation it remained rain until early Wednesday morning. The storm left our town blanketed in about an inch of powdered snow .
The area to the west and north of us got the storm a lot worse than we did. There were widespread power outages and the schools were closed for the rest of the week. There are a lot of people living in shelters or with other family members because of having no heat. People from our church are still without power as I write this. Please pray for those effected by this storm.

James Mission Nearly Over
I've saved the best news for last. As of this week James' mission in Iraq is over. He's now just biding his time as he waits for the military to transfer and transport his unit back to the good old USA. He'll spend a couple of weeks at Fort Dix in New Jersey before he can come back to us. But as of now he should be home by February 13th. Continue to pray for him and for those young men and women who replaced his unit.

So there are my 10 things to catch you up on what's going on with me since the middle of the month. I hope it wasn't too long or boring. If nothing else this post has gotten me back into the habit of writing again. Till next time, God Bless.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Disney Days" Deleted

On January 16 when I started writing posts about the 5th anniversary of our family trip to Disney World I was very excited about the opportunity. It's place in my past and the reflection that came with the 5-year anniversary suddenly became very important to me. Thinking and writing about Disney World had returned to a place of priority in my life that it hadn't held in a couple of years.

To make a long story short, about 2 years ago a decision by the Disney corporation to allow same sex couples to have the same "wedding celebrations" at Disney world as male/female couples really made me question my interests in "all things Disney." I decided that because of that policy I wasn't going to invest any more of my life or money in anything to do with Disney World. Making that decision to step away from such a strong interest in Disney helped me gain perspective. I realized just how much of my life and money was vested in my futile Disney endeavors. Getting away from Disney allowed other more important things to take their place in my life; especially ministry and spiritual growth.

Having explained that I didn't see any conflict in my decision to write about our Disney vacation
on this blog because of the occasion of the 5th anniversary. What made it seem all the more appropriate was that I was looking for lasting and important lessons from my experiences in "The World." But after writing about the 3rd day I realized that the time and effort I was taking and the importance I was putting on the daily reviews was returning Disney to the wrong place in my life.

So to make a long post even longer I just wanted to let my readers know that I didn't forget to write about the other 4 days of our Disney vacation. I just examined my decision to write the about it and decided that even a short series of posts brought me back to a mindset that I didn't want to get into again. It got my focus off of what is happening in my life now and what God wants me to be doing and wants me to teach me. As a believer that's not the way for me to go.

So in my next post I'll do my best to catch up on some of the (what I consider) exciting things that have been happening in my life this past week or so. I look forward to sharing with you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day Surgery

Just wanted to write a short post to let everyone know about the results of my wife's out patient hand surgery yesterday.

Wednesday morning about 7:30AM Paula underwent minor outpatient surgery for her "trigger finger" condition on the index finger of her left hand. The procedure only took about 30 minutes. The preparation (including filling out detailed information by computer, an EKG and blood tests) took about twice that long as did the recovery from the anethestia.

The operation was a success. Paula is now home resting for the next 5 days with the decreasing help of pain medication. She'll be slowly increasing the use of her hand and moving her fingers as the days pass. A full recovery is expected. She should be back to work keying numbers into spreadsheets by next week.

We send praises and prayers of thankfulness to the Lord Our God for watching over Paula during the proceedure. We are grateful for his guidence of the hands of the surgeon and providing the caring skilled people who saw to her health and well being throughout her brief stay at the hospital.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Disney Week Day 3 MGM Studios

Day 3 Highlights
This day was probably the best day of our vacation for our family up to this point.

We treated ourselves and slept in until 8AM on the 3rd day of our Disney Vacation. The theme park chosen for the day was one Paula, Michael and I were really looking forward to visiting: Disney MGM Studios. The park is filled with attractions and restaurants themed by all things Hollywood including movies and television both of those entertainment medias are favorites of all 4 of us.

Just as Cinderella's Castle serves as a hub for the Magic Kingdom; a giant version of the hat Mickey Mouse wore in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice portion of the movie Fantasia was the hub of this park.

We spent a fun and full day at MGM studios. We ate at the 50's Prime Time Cafe; saw the Muppets 3D and Indiana Jones Stunt shows and did a whole lot more. The highlight of the day, and one of the top 5 for the entire trip, for me was going to the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Play It!" attraction. It took place in a studio that looks exactly like the one in New York where the real game show is taped.

Everyone who gets into the attraction gets the chance throughout the 30 minutes of the show to qualify to be in the "Hot Seat" to play the game. The ultimate prize was not $ million but a Disney Cruise. I stayed for 2 of the games. The rest of the family only stayed for one. During the 2nd show I came than 10 seconds away from qualifying to get in the "Hot Seat"; but I didn't. I was so frustrated that I came so close. I vowed to go back and try again when we returned to "The Studios" 2 days later but I didn't. Nevertheless it was a wonderful experience.

The day ended in a memorable way as well. Back at our resort Michael, James, and I went swimming. The night temperature had fallen into the low 50's but the pool was heated. We played underwater retrieval games with a glowing plastic ice cube that Michael had gotten at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. It was a special time for me with my sons. Also unforgettable for me was the very cold walk from the pool back to my room. Even though it was only about 50 yards to the room it was a walk of misery. The stiffness of my ankles and soreness of my legs from all the walking, over the past 3 days, only allowed me to take baby steps. It was very uncomfortable and cold. I'll always remember that journey.

When I Look Back On It Now...
I can't really draw any dynamic spiritual truth from this day of our dream vacation. The only thing I can point out is that at this point in the week we were all very tired. Paula and I were physically stiff and sore. Nevertheless we kept on going and continued to enjoy our time together.

The "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" experience was truly "once in a lifetime." A little over a year after our visit the attraction closed for good. The studio where it once played is just about to open as an "American Idol" themed attraction.

To sum it all up even though we didn't really enjoy the 50's Prime Time Cafe experience the day at MGM Studios was a day where the entire family enjoyed themselves. We spent most of the day together and had a great time. So much so that we chose to return to "The Studios" again on Day 5.

With visits to the 2 of the theme parks under our belts at the end of Day 3 we set our sights on going to the others. With Epcot on our agenda for the next day I went to sleep that night with the thought: "Today "The Movies"...Tomorrow "The World".

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Disney Week Day 2: Magic Kingdom Moments

The 2nd day of our Disney World vacation was our first chance to visit a theme park. We started off with the most popular of the 4, The Magic Kingdom.

In the morning, after having breakfast at our resort, as we began the 20 minute bus ride to the park it was raining. We hadn't brought any rain gear with us so we weren't going to get very far without getting wet. The nasty weather kind of dampened (no pun intended) my excitement about finally getting to "The Kingdom."

After we got off the bus it was still raining but with a little more intensity. As we stood under the cover of the bus stop area I was certain my family would balk at the idea of going into the park while it was raining. I was completely wrong. I was certain that our plans for the entire day were ruined. I was ready to admit being defeated by the precipitation. My family, however, kept their spirits up and stated that they wanted to keep going. With their encouragement we marched down the soggy path to the front gate of The Magic Kingdom.

Some of the attractions we saw that day were: Pirates of the Caribbean (got there so early in the day we were able to walk right on to it); The Enchanted Tiki Room; The Haunted Mansion; The Hall of Presidents; Mickey's Philharmagic; Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin; Space Mountain (just me); and The Carousel of Progress.
The highlights of the day for me were: getting my picture taken with Baloo, the bear from The Jungle Book; the breakfast buffet at the Chrystal Palace restaurant; Paula getting her picture taken with Eeyore; Paula & I getting our picture taken with Mickey & Minnie at the Hall of Presidents; Also Paula and I getting our pictures taken in front of the "Partners Statue"; and "Wishes" the closing fireworks display presented around Cinderella's Castle.

When I Look Back On It Now...
As I read my recollection from my "Disney Days" book about our day in "The Kingdom" I couldn't really make any really profound interpretation of the events and apply them to my spiritual growth today. But I did see an example of the need for me to always be a part of a group relationship. What I mean is that morning when it was raining so badly, there at the bus stop just outside the park I was ready to give up and go back to the resort. Despite being so excited about finally living out another aspect of my dream vacation I was already defeated. But Paula; Michael; and James, my family, we very supportive and encouraging. Their enthusiasm and determination to have a good time that day supported me in my weakness.

Having that kind of family support is essential in a Christian's life. Not because it helped me decide to go to the theme park that day; but having that kind of support from a family in everyday life helps me or anyone keep going during difficult times in life. That's true of your relationship with your spouse, sons, daughters or any family member. If you're blessed enough to have a close, supportive family treasure it. It's a valuable treasure.

Spiritually speaking; fellow Christians, church members and everyone else you are connected with through your fellowship with Jesus Christ are your spiritual family as well. You need them for support. You can use their strength when you are weak or going thought difficult times in your walk with Christ. It is your responsibility to support them as well.

"Partners" is a statue that stands in the courtyard in front of Cinderella's Castle. That's a picture of it at the top of this post. The picture taken of Paula and I in front of "Partners" was symbolic to me meaning that the "once upon a time" portion of our personal "love story " was completed and the "happily ever after" part of our lives together could begin.

The reason it was so symbolic to me was because Paula and I first met each other by communicating over the computer. Of course a key part of a computer is a "mouse" A portion of the inscription on the "Partners" statue states something that Walt Disney wanted everyone who worked for him to remember: "...It all started with a mouse". So the phrase Disney used to keep things in perspective was the same one that will always remind me of my wife, Paula, and the beginning of our Love.

Finally, I want to write about the "Wishes" fireworks show. The show was really wonderful and observing the the spectators enjoying its splendor was worth the price of admission in and of itself. However for me while watching that fireworks show I mentally stood back and did two things. I appreciated that, just like the vacation as a whole, the was a symbolic importance to the 4 of us watching that fireworks show as a family. It was a special moment.

Also watching the show I couldn't help but think of my Dad and how much I missed him. I thought about him because I knew in my heart that had he been able to be there with me it would have meant as much to him as it did to me.

So there you have my remembrances from our day at the Magic Kingdom. Not really any lessons so profoundly spiritual as those from the first day but some small bit of application to the Christian life along with some life long memories that have to do with my marriage and my family.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Disney Week: Day 1-A Slow Start

Just One More Thing...
I want to begin this post by once again explaining why I'm writing about "Disney Week" and how I'm going to try an make it relevant to my life today. When I write about our trip to Disney I'm sure it's going to seem like I'm making a big deal out of nothing. Like I'm making a big life experience out of a simple vacation. Well it was a big deal for me. Not only was it was a fulfillment of the dream to go to Disney World but it was part of an even bigger dream. That bigger dream was marrying Paula and the four of us (Paula, Michael, James, and me) becoming a family. A trip to "Disney" was a key element in that transformation.

Also the trip took place about 2 months before I decided to start going to the church where I am now a deacon. Following God really wasn't even a part of my life at the time of our vacation. So when I add a spiritual meaning to the accounts of our trip, please realize that there was nothing spiritual about the trip itself. I see the spiritual application to my experiences because of the change of heart and perspective that God has given me over the last 5 years. I see everything in my life through the lens of how I can better serve God and follow Jesus Christ. Now let's get back to "Disney Week"

The first day of our Disney World Vacation in 2004 we got up at 5:30 in the morning. We stopped at the Waffle House in town for breakfast and arrived at the Nashville airport in plenty of time to catch our flight to Orlando.

Once we were at our Disney World Resort our experience got off to a slow start. Our travel agent had not made our reservations correctly. Instead of our a pair of connecting rooms in the same building next to each other we were booked into different in two separate buildings. In addition, once we got to our rooms Paula realized that she had not packed the power cord to the medical equipment she uses at night. Also while playing a football video game in the resort arcade I lost my wedding ring. It wasn't a great way to start off our "dream vacation."

However, the room situation was taken care of to our satisfaction, I found my ring, and we had the part Paula needed delivered to us a couple of days later. After eating dinner at our resorts featured restaurant we put our bad beginning behind us and spent the rest of the evening at Downtown Disney. We had a good time at DisneyQuest and did some shopping and lots of looking around.

James insisted on ending the day with a swim in the resort pool. About 1AM I went to bed happy and thrilled that, even though it started out on the wrong foot, I was going to wake up the next day for my first full day at Walt Disney World.

When I look back on it now...
As I mentioned I had spent the better part of 2 years planning out the details of our Disney World trip. When we left our home I had a pocket full of lined index cards with 7 days worth of agendas and plans intended to get the maximum out of the time we were there.

The 3 things that happened when we got there. The room reservation problem, the lost wedding ring incident, and not having something that greatly helpe Paula's ability to rest at night, were problems that weren't or couldn't possibly have been anticipated. Nevertheless the stress that they caused didn't keep us, as a family, from taking hold of the fact that we had the opportunity and the goal to enjoy our vacation. We went to Downtown Disney and had a great time on our first night because that was our goal.

As a Christian I must realize that not everything I try to do for God or every effort I make to grow spiritually is going to go smoothly. Things happen. Some of them are in my control and some are not. But God is completely soverign and everything is within His control. The key is to make certain I'm doing my best to follow God's will for my life. If problems occur I must deal with them, set them aside or grow from them, while continuing to follow God's leading. Hebrews 12:1 says:.. let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. That essentially means that I need to keep our eyes on the real purpose of my life as one of God's elect.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Phillipians 3:14 "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." That calling is a call to repentance, obedience, good works and holiness. As a true believer I must continually recognize the sins in my life and turn away from them, obey God's commands, put my faith in to action through my behavior and press on to be a servant, like Jesus Christ. I should strive to live my life according to God's word in order to someday stand before him and receive the prize of everlasting life. That's my goal.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Disney Week" Begins

Five years ago today my family and I were preparing to take our very first family vacation together. We were going to see "The Mouse" at Walt Disney World. We would leave early the next morning, Saturday January 17, 2004 for the Nashville airport. The picture to the right shows my 2 sons sitting at the airport gate waiting to leave.

For nearly a year I had been planning this once in a lifetime vacation so that it would special. Little did I know how special our 7 days in "The World" would actually be.

Ever since we returned back home and to this day I have treasured the memories from that trip. I even created a nearly 200 page book preserving the pictures and memories of that wonderful week.

I have paid homage to that week in South Florida by designating January 17-23 each year since as "Disney Week." During that time I relive, recall and reflect on the actual trip, the effect it had on me, and the changes in my life since that trip.

Over the next week I will be posting memories and recollections about our trip and the changes that have taken place since that time. I know it's awful self indulgent but I don't mean it to be egotistical. I use "Disney Week" as a benchmark to take inventory of my life in comparison to where I was in January 2004 and who I am today. I pray that you will find it interesting; at the very least entertaining, and perhaps even a bit inspiring. Get ready because starting tomorrow: It's Disney Week!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Work Hours Require Better Focus

As of this past Monday, and for the foreseeable future, my work hours have increased. Prior to the start of this week I was working a schedule of 20-25 hours. Now for the next 4 weeks I'm scheduled for 25-31 hours. These hours are 2nd shift hours. They begin at 3:30 in the afternoon and usually last until 8:3oPM. They also include the weekends when I work until midnight. These are not the full time hours like I was working last year at this time. But after 9 months of having more free time than I knew what to do with the increased hours and their place in the day have made me realize that I've got to have a change in attitude and actions if I want to get anything done around the house and in my life outside of my job.

What I mean is that I no longer have a unlimited time to do things at home or for myself during the day. I'm not complaining but this change in lifestyle has opened my eyes in regard to the sinful pattern of neglect I had allowed myself to get into in regard to my time. Now I realized the that I was being lazy for quite a while but didn't take any measures to get out of it. I want both my wife and God to know that I am deeply sorry for my lazy behavior.

Since April of last year in my mind it really didn't matter if I decided to sit and watch the Game Show Network instead of doing the dishes or writing checks to pay our bills or practicing ventriloquism. I could do it later or tomorrow or later in the week. Now with 7 to 10 hours cut out of my day because of work my time is limited. This means I need to rethink my priorities. I have to put forth an effort to get the important things done. That means more time working on things and less time for leisure.

For me this means making a daily "to do" list and a disciplined effort to accomplishing all of it or as much as possible. Some of the things that will be on that list on a daily basis for sure are: daily bible reading; prayer; listening to my online gospel programs; cleaning the house; and walking or exercise of some kind.

So now that I've realized the change I have to make I need to make it. So far this week I've done a pretty good job of it. I haven't been able to get everything I have wanted to do done. But when it comes time to go to work each day I do feel a sense of accomplishment. That's a whole lot better than the feeling that I've wasted the whole day doing nothing. I'm also sure it pleases God and Paula as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Taking The First Step Toward 2009 Goals

Two weeks into the year it may seem a little late to write a post about my goals for 2009 . After all a lot of people who made resolutions at the start of the year have already broken them.

What prompts me to write about goals for the year is taking the initial steps taken in accomplishing 2 of them over the past week.

Last Friday I took a couple of hours out of the day to get back to transferring my Rock & Roll Rewind shows from tape to CD. I now have 8 programs reformatted and still have 27 to go. Although it's been a goal for a while I want to make 2009 the year I finish what I call my "Rewind Reclamation Project". I will do that by committing to recording 1 program a week.

The other goal I began to work on is a goal that both Paula and I have set for ourselves this year: repair, restoration, and reorganization of our home. This goal has quite a few aspects to it. We probably won't be able to accomplish it completely in 2009. Nevertheless we want to actively work on it.

Step 1 in achieving that goal happened last Sunday. We spent the day working on rearranging our bedroom in preparation for setting up our new HD flat screen TV. In order to make the new TV easier to watch as we are relaxing we moved my dresser to a different position. We place it across the far left corner of the room. Monday I set up the TV and we watched it before falling asleep that night. This is just a small step in our "year of the house" project but it is a step nonetheless.

So "fixing up the house", and the "Rewind Project" are two goals I've set for myself this year. Some of the others include: A continued improvement of our finances by reducing our credit card debt, selling items on Ebay and applying the profits to the credit cards.

In the areas of health my biggest goals are to finally have my lap band surgery and support Paula as she has gastric by pass surgery. In addition I want to exercise (aka walking) at least every other day this year. This will all result in dramatic weight loss and better health.

Spiritually, I want to grow closer to being the Christian God wants me to be. I want to honor God with my life and my deeds. There are so many aspects to that goal. The primary one in my life now, which I anticipate will continue this year, is continued recognition of sin in my life, through the work of the Holy Spirit, and repentance from all ungodly things.

Also I want to become better at talking with other Christians about the gospel and the growth of life as a Christian. I want to make the first thing I ask a fellow believer when I see them to be "What's God doing in your life?" and instead of "Did you see that baseball game on TV last week?"

I've read and learned so much about what it means to belong to Jesus Christ during 2008. I need to be able to use that knowledge to teach, encourage and bless my Christian brothers and sisters.

So there you have it, my goals for 2009. Now that they're written on this blog if I am to be a man of Godly character I'm committed to working and achieving them. Please pray for me as I set out this year to do just that.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Classic Musical Limits "Oz" Potential

Earlier this week I began reading the classic book "The Wizard Of Oz" by Frank L. Baum. I hadn't read it since 2000 and it's one of the books I enjoy reading over and over again. As I read about Dorothy and her adventures on the way to the Emerald City I couldn't help but visualize some of scenes I was reading as they were depicted in the classic 1939 MGM film. Doing that made me realize that the movie and it's popularity over the years has done a great disservice to the book on which it was based. Here's what I mean.

Ever since the first Harry Potter movie hit the screen, fantasy/adventure movies have become very popular; not only with kids but with adults as well. The "Potter" films and the 3 Lord of The Rings films have been the most successful. But the "Chronicles of Narnia" series has had 2 successful releases and there have been other lesser successful films such as "The Golden Compass" made that were based on fantasy adventure stories written mostly for children.

I'm sure Hollywood is chomping at the bit for literary source material that will translate in a popular way to the big screen. The success of the "Twilight" movie is testimony to that. Having said that I present to you my case for "The Wizard of Oz" book series.

Yes, I said "series." Although not many people realize it, after "The Wizard Of Oz", Frank Baum wrote 13 other books about the magical land. In them he introduces Dorothy to other enemies beside wicked witches and introduces a plethora of strange characters who would only be found in Oz. There is one problem with Hollywood deciding to make more movies about Oz: the popular 1939 film.

Although there are some very dark elements to the movie (did the flying monkeys or the green faced wicked witch scare you when you first saw them) for the most part it's a very light hearted film with a soundtrack as carefree and and whimsical as any that have ever come out of Hollywood. That "all's well that ends well" ending emphasizing the fact that "there's no place like home" ties a happy little bow around the lovable movie package generations of Americans think of when "The Wizard of Oz" is brought to mind.

I have read all the books, at least once, and believe they would provide wonderful material for a potentially successful film franchise. The expansion of the main characters from the first book along with the unique characteristics and aspects of others introduced in subsequent story lines would be enough to keep the plots and visual presentation fresh for several films. However I believe the American public would be hard pressed to accept any "Oz" movie that's not a musical or takes itself the least bit seriously.

Now I know that "Oz" has not been totally ignored by the world of performing arts over the years. The story has been told in several genres. "The Wiz" and "Wicked" on Broadway and in 2008 a miniseries called "Tin Man" aired on the Sifi Channel. My wife enjoyed "Tin Man" and she even has the DVD. But to be honest the series just vaguely resembles the Oz created by Frank Baum. There have been many other versions of "The Wizard of Oz" produced, including one starring the Muppets, but I'm not going to take the time to try and mention them all.

In 1954 Walt Disney, a long time fan of the Oz stories, purchased the rights to 11 Oz stories to be used as the basis for a Disney movie. But in 1958 the idea of making the film was tabled by Disney himself. In 1985, 18 years after Disney's death and a few years before Baum's books would become public domain, Walt Disney Pictures released a movie called "Return To Oz." The film contained elements of Baum's 2nd & 3rd Oz books but included characters from nearly all of them. The film received mixed critical reviews and only finished 7th at the box office it's opening weekend. Ultimately it only made just over $11 million dollars in its domestic release. It's production budget was nearly $25 million. A "PG" rated non musical Oz sequel which was not suitable for small children failed.

Once again let me state that recent Hollywood history indicates that fantasy/adventure stories written for children can serve well as basis for films that appeal to an audience with a wide range of demographics. I believe the Oz stories could still be successful at the box office. As an fan of Baum's books I would love to see them played out on the big screen. Nevertheless I don't believe that idea is still alive in the movie making community. My main point of this entire post is that the main reason for this happened back in 1939 when for the very first time Victor Fleming yelled "action" and Judy Garland as Dorothy and her dog "Toto" took their first musical steps in order to "Follow The Yellow Brick Road."

Friday, January 9, 2009

James Starts Making His Way Home

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written an update about my son, James, and his tour of duty in the Middle East. Other than the fact that his deployment kept him from being home for Christmas for the first time ever not much out of the ordinary has happened with him since his visit back in October.

However with the turn of the calendar to 2009 there is some initial action within his unit that will eventually lead to his return home. As family members have been communicating with him, by way of the computer, this past week we found out that James has already packed up a lot of his belongings to be sent back to Fort Dix, New Jersey. That’s where he’ll be stationed briefly once he’s back in the states.

Of course as most people know the military, especially the army, isn’t exactly quick when it comes to doing anything; especially returning troops from a war zone. So while James won’t be back in the good old USA in the next week or two. He probably will be in Jersey by Valentine’s Day and back with us a couple of weeks later.

That may seem like a slow return but he’s already been back in the Middle East over 3 months so another 4 weeks or so should go rather quickly.

So there you have an update on our soldier. James, Paula, and I would like to thank each and every one of you for your prayers of support and for the cards, gifts, and packages you’ve sent to James. Our concern for his welfare has been the utmost thing on our hearts for close to 9 months now. Your prayers have helped bless us with the gift of his safety. Thank You.

I’ll do my best to keep you updated and informed on his progress as he arrives home in just a few weeks.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Yearbook Project Revival

Back in 2007 I made the decision that as a Christian I needed to start spending my life doing things that mattered and were less self-centered than my yearbook projects.

Now those of you who have never seen one of my yearbooks let me explain. It's a 6 inch 3 ring binder filled with pages of autobiographical stories, photographs, and pictures of things that happened to me during a specific year. I also created a "soundtrack" CD which had up to 2 dozen songs on it. The songs were reminiscent or symbolic of incidents recalled in the yearbook. My completed yearbooks cover 2001-2004. There's also a Disney yearbook with details about our week-long trip to Walt Disney World in January 2004. They are very detailed and usually took about a year or more to complete.

As I said some time around the middle of June 2007, I realized that God had some important things He wanted me to to do. As I soon discovered teaching Children's Church and performing ventriloquism were just two of them. I had to set priorities with the use of my time and abilities. I decided that my Yearbook projects should be at the bottom of the list and that they "didn't make the cut." My 2004 yearbook was my last completed project.

However I did continue taking pictures of people, places, and events that were special in my life. I always felt compelled to do so but a little frustrated that I had nothing to do with them but store them on my computer or print them out and put them in a dull photo album.

Just last week I believe I found the answer to my "picture" problem. The answer begins with the Christmas present my oldest son gave to his mom (my wife): A photo memory book. The book is a cloth bound album of reprinted pictures taken at his wedding last October. It's really nice. When I asked him where he got it he told me it came from Wal-mart. He up loaded pictures onto their photography website, created and customised the book, had it delivered to the local store. Hearing that I experienced a "Eureka!" moment.

I visited the Wal-Mart website and looked at the types of picture books that can be created. What I had found was an answer that would allow me to put my pictures into more accessible format and feed my on-going desire to preserve the memories of each year. I can do them both with the creation of a relatively inexpensive product from Wal-Mart.

I have started working on my 2005 "Pictures of the Year" book and I should be finished by the end of next week. It really doesn't take that much time but I have to make sure it's organized and formatted the way I want it to be before I finally order it.

Don't worry I have this all in perspective. My new Yearbook projects aren't going to suddenly move back to the top of my priority list. I will continue to put my best efforts into the things that are in direct obedience to what I know God wants for my life. In addition creating the books will take less time than before because they involve just a fraction of the material I used to put in my yearbooks.

So there you have the first thing I'm really excited about in 2009: the revival of my Yearbook project but in a different form. I'll let you know when I get the 2005 version completed. Wait, I probably won't have to let you know. I'll more than likely have it with me sometime when I see you and I'll come up to you and ask you if you'd like to see it. You'll say "yes" because know I've at least made you somewhat curious.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Life Changing Book

It took me over 3 months to read this book; from October 08 until January 3, 2009. Not because it's an exceptionally long book; I just got out of the habit of reading on a regular basis. Nevertheless, it’s probably the best Bible teaching book I’ve ever read. John MacArthur uses the words and parables of Jesus, found throughout the 4 gospels, to expound in detail about the cost, process, requirements, and consequences of believing in Jesus Christ for God’s true salvation.

I’m not going to go into specifics about the book because I would end up writing pages and pages myself. Let me just say that this book has changed in my mind the truth of the gospel from what I thought it was to what Christ says it is. That's the ultimate truth.

The overall theme of the book is the doctrine of “Lordship Salvation” verses, what MacArthur calls, the “easy” gospel preached in most churches today. To put it briefly Christ’s answer to all who come to him seeking salvation (and some who he seeks out as well) is a demand for repentance, obedience, and submission to Him as Lord of their life.

The chapters that expound in detail the meaning of Christ’s parable are enlightening in regard to the believer’s relationship with God and His Kingdom.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to discover what it truly means to be “saved” and just how a Christian is required to live their lives, according to Jesus.

While it took me a relatively long time to read this book I am certain that I will read it again. I would love to lead a small group study group through this book or at least be part of one.

Again, if you want to learn what being a Christian is all about read “The Gospel According To Jesus.”

Sunday, January 4, 2009

“Mr. Smith” Comes To My House

Yesterday morning I was blessed by a visit from one of my fellow church members. We’ll call him “Mr. Smith.” Those of you who go to my church will know who I’m talking about. He and another church member got involved in the local missions ministry of our church last year. They became the “hands on” guys when it came to blessing people who needed repairs made to their homes.

During the holiday season I asked for his help in doing some odd jobs around my house. The most important one at the time was cleaning the leaves out of my gutters. I’m not physically able to do the job myself and the last guy I got to help me, my son, James, is now in Iraq.

Over the course of the last month two other jobs came up as well. The gutter on the back right hand side of my house came down in the rainy and windy weather. Half of it was hanging down to the ground. The other job was a souvenir left by Gavin, our puppy. During his adventures in our back yard the pup actually pulled off a section of the plywood from the outside of our back storage building. This created a good 3ft by 2 ft hole in the side of it.

When I talked to “Mr. Smith” he told me that he would be happy to come over and do what needed to be done if I could wait until after the holidays. I thanked him and agreed to get in touch with after the first of the year. I had planned on talking to him today at church. However, true to his word, he arrived at my house Saturday morning about 11AM.

He even brought his own ladder. I supplied the garbage bags for the leaves and a hammer to help put the gutter back in place. After less than an hour he had finished the both jobs involving the gutters. The misplaced spouts were back in place and the leaves had been removed.

I showed him the hole in the storage building and he told me the best way he thought it could be repaired. Ironically he told us that when he was a teenager he had helped his father, who was a contractor; build one of the two storage buildings in back of our house. He couldn’t remember which one.

I thanked him and offered to pay him for doing the jobs. Graciously he refused but my wife and I agreed that we’ll find some way to express our appreciation in the near future. Perhaps a donation to the local missions ministry and taking his family out to lunch will be what we do.

I’ve been praying for quite a while someone who I could ask to come and do some of the small repair jobs that I can’t do. What I didn’t realize was that he was right in front of me all the time. I just had to reach out and ask. I’m thankful to God for what he’s done in “Mr. Smith’s” life which has given him a spirit and heart of service. I’m also thankful to Mr. Smith for coming to my house and putting my gutters back in place.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year & A Movie

Happy New Year to Everyone. I trust that you had a safe and enjoyable New Year's Eve celebration. My wife and I spend the evening playing cards in our church fellowship hall. I got to be partners with our church's new associate pastor in a game called "Hand & Foot". It's a version of the card game Canasta.

New Year's day we spent the afternoon with Paula's side of the family at her nephew's house. He invited us to supper. We had Hoppin John's soup made with black-eyed peas, sausage, and rice. They also served boiled cabbage and smoked sausage. Both are traditional New Year's day dishes. We had a nice time with them.

Today, the 2nd day of 2009, I went to the movies with my son, Michael. We went to see a movie that came out back in November but I had been putting off seeing until today: Disney's Bolt. We went and saw the 3D version.

I LOVED THIS MOVIE!!! The 3D effects were cool but not overwhelming. The computer animation was outstanding. It was so good, in fact that at times I was preoccupied with the visual aspect of the film and missed some of the dialog. The story is very good and engaging. It also has great characters and character development. It gets just a little slow in the middle but there again the marvelous animation helps you through it. I haven't enjoyed a Disney animated movie so much since 'The Incredibles." I would gladly pay to see this movie again.

There you have my first post of 2009. I wrote 154 posts in 2009 and it is my goal to write more than that this year. That shouldn't be difficult since I didn't start until April of 07. This January 2nd post give me a head start already.