Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Shift Adjustment Takes Some Time

As I mentioned in my last post I started a new full time work shift last week. Also wrote that I knew working those longer and different hours would take some adjustment. Little did I know that it would take almost a week.

For the first few days after I started the 3:30 to Midnight shift at my job I found myself sleeping about 2 hours later than I had been before. This is a no brainer since I am going to bed 2-3 hours later than I had been. What really surprised me was how tired I was even after I woke up. I had no energy at all. I was sleepy all day.

The other thing that bothered me was the limited amount of time I got to spend with my wife. If I woke up during the time she was getting ready for work we would have a few minutes to spend together and talk. During the day our only contact was over the phone. When I got home from work she was already in bed. This was very lonely for me at first. I had really gotten used to spending a lot more time with her over the past year.

Also, prior to going full time I had gotten myself into a habit of accomplishing a list of activities and chores before I went to work or when I got home. Remember I was getting home about 9PM when I worked during the week so I had some time to get some thing done before hitting the hay. I had grown to like the sense of accomplishment as I crossed items off my daily "to do" list with regularity. Going back to full time work on the middle shift changed that.

The overwhelming lethargy during the first few days at home kept me from getting anything done. When I got home from work around 12:30 or 1AM I only wanted to relax before going to bed. I ended each day with something I've come to despise; a feeling that I hadn't gotten anything done that day.

I decided to credit this lack of energy to the way my body and mind were going to react to the new shift. I had to give myself a little bit of time before my internal clock would make the adjustment. That change was also aided by the fact that this past weekend I had 2 days off in a row. I allowed myself to catch up on some sleep and basically took it easy the entire 2 days. I also reconnected with my wife one my life's greatest treasures.

The only things I did this weekend were: On Saturday I went to the church to gather some materials for the people who were going to teach Children's Church in March. On Sunday I went to the Sunday morning church service and went and had dinner with my family at my sister in laws house.

Now it's Wednesday and so far this week I've started to get back to my positive habits. I've washed some dishes and laundry, ran some errands here in my little town; paid some bills and up dated some of our financial records, and did some grocery shopping. Today on my day off I went to the church and recorded another of my Rewind programs from tape to CD . Nothing very spectacular but at least they were accomplishments.

I believe I'm well on my way to getting back it the habit of getting things done again. Of course the fact that I'm doing things now has to adjust to making sure that I'm doing the right things. Studying God's word; praying; writing and practicing my ventriloquism; exercising on a daily basis seem to be the most important things I need to start doing as my top priorities every day.

I know this has been a very self absorbed post with nothing but writing about me and things that are really no big deal to anyone but me. But hey its what's on my mind because it's been happening in my life.

I do want to mention that this past Monday was my nephew, Bobby's 17th birthday. I called him up and talked to him on his birthday but I really wish I could have been there to celebrate more. One of the things I miss the most about living away from my family in PA is not being able to be a part of my niece, nephew and great nieces & nephew's lives like I was with their parents. As I've told my best friend, Brent, on several occasions; I'm probably not a very good father but I've always been a great uncle.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another "Catch Up" Post

A very busy and eventful weekend and early beginning of the week has kept me from posting between last Friday and today. However it's time to write one of my "catch up" posts to bring you up to date on what's happening in my life.

Magic Meeting
A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a man named Steve, who works for the same company as my wife. He told me that he had seen my ventriloquism poster in a local school supply store. He asked me if I'd be interested in meeting with him and a couple of his magician friends to share some stories and experiences.

Last Thursday evening I went to a local pizza buffet restaurant and met with Steve, Frank and Ricky for the first time. It was an very enjoyable couple of hours. It was fun to finally connect with other people who are performers similar to what I aspire to be.

We talked and got to know each other over dinner. As I tend to do when I'm excited I talked a bit too much and told some silly jokes; but I enjoyed sharing with them about ventriloquist. Steve performed a few magic tricks and gave me some magician trade magazines to look at.

I had a great time. I've been wanting to connect with people I have had some things in common with for a quite a while. They may be a bit unusual to most people but to me they are have the potential to become the friends I've been looking for.

Going to Get James
This past Sunday morning about 6AM I drove up Interstate 65 to Louisville to the Kentucky Air National Guard base. I was there to pick up our son, James, as he arrived home from his mission in Iraq. I was the only member of our immediate family who was able to go. Paula had several commitments at church that she couldn't get out of. My son, Michael, and my sister in law, Theresa, were both sick. So it was up to me to get him. His fiance, Brandi, drove up to Louisville with her mom and her niece. I met them there.

The entire 223rd Military Police division was arriving that morning. Hundreds of family members and friends were transported by bus from the nearby UPS employees parking lot to a hanger on the air force base where the troops would arrive.

The service men were arriving from Fort Dix on 2 planes. James came in on the first. The arrival of both planes, and the short ceremony took about 2 1/2 hours. After that James was released from his active duty and soon he, Brandi, and I were in the car on the way home.

The experience of the arrival ceremony was unique. Inside that hanger was a group of people who were a real cross section of the people of Kentucky. There were grandparents, wives, children of all ages, girlfriends, and all other types of family members waiting for the return of their loved ones. It was really a clear illustration of just how much the military is part of our American life. I will remember it for quite a while.

Once we got back home I took James to the church so he could be reunited with his mom. Paula was at a church choir workshop and luncheon. It was wonderful to see her run to hug him when we got there. That moment made getting up early that morning worth it.

Going to get James was a part of a very long weekend for me. Between 9AM Saturday and Midnight Sunday night I only got 4 1/2 hours sleep. It was difficult and I was tired by the time I got home from work on Sunday night but I'm glad I went and got him.

Starting Full Time Schedule
Monday night I "officially" started working my full time hours schedule at ShopNBC. There were some things about working the extra 4 hours on a weeknight that I wasn't expecting. I had to go to a different place in the warehouse to work from 8:30 until Midnight. The area where I worked those hours is even a farther walk from the front of the building than the call center where I have worked since I started. That may not seem like a big deal but having to walk farther than I was used to was something that I wasn't happy about. As it turns out it probably won't be that bad once I get used to it.

Up until now on the weekends , the only times I've worked until 12 since I started the job, I stayed in the call center the entire time. In addition to changing venues while working the last portion of my full time hours I have had additional work given to me as well. The area where I work at the end of the night now is back by the jewelry vault area. Because there's not that many calls for orders at that time of the night I'll be required to do some of the preparation work with some of the jewelry. For instance, Monday night when I wasn't on the phone I had to put adhesive Mylar tags on rings that were to be sold. The tags are put on the rings which cost $450 or more as a means of preventing their return after they have been worn. If the tag is removed the ring is not returnable.

Anyway I've now returned to the world of full time work. I know that these new hours (3:30 to 12) are going to take some time to get used to. I know this because this past weekend I worked until 12 both nights. I didn't get to see much of my wife at all. I know there is going to be a period of both physical and emotional adjustment. However I am thankful to God that I have a 40 hour a week job again. Right now I don't understand the reason for having THIS job or THESE hours but I'm sure it is all part of His Will for my life. I will do my best to be patient and continue looking for what He wants me to do as life goes on.

So there you have an update of what's been going on with me since last Friday. Again I'll continue to keep blogging as often as I can. Its just a matter of having the time and things to write about. Thanks for reading my blog. God Bless You.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Angel's Anniversary

I should have written this post yesterday but I figured what I had to say in yesterday's post was much more important. But what I have to write about today is about someone who is very special to me.

Yesterday, February 12, 2009 was an special anniversary. It was the 4th anniversary of the day our family adopted our 2nd dog, Angel.

The day we went to pick her up at the humane society in Hardensburg, KY is a day I'll always remember. At the time we adopted her, Angel was supposed to be the responsibility of our son, James. I had agreed to get the dog because he wanted one that he could play with. Our first dog, Dory wasn't very playful. In addition James pet lizard, a blue tongued skink that he got with his Christmas money, died after he had it less than 2 weeks.

Anyway at the time I found myself with a very passive attitude toward the adoption of our 2nd dog. My agreement and "buy in" to the adoption was the beginning and end of my commitment toward this second pet. James said he was going to take care of this new puppy. But because he was a teenager at the time, that arrangement didn't last very long at all.

During the first few days with her it became quite evident that the time and patience needed to housebreak and train Angel was something James wasn't ready for or interested in. Paula took on most of the responsibility because I had a "I didn't sign up for this" attitude toward the puppy. I was very impatient with her and got frustrated very easily.

I grew to love our new little Angel. I mean how can you not love a puppy that's as cute as she was (see picture at the top of this post) Therefore I eventually took on more of the responsibility of taking care of her.

Over the years I have become who does most of the feeding, bathing, and caring for her. This past year, while I was at home because of being unemployed, my place as Angel's "pack leader" grew even stronger. Although she's a family pet; she's really my dog now.

It's hard to believe that 4 years have past and that little puppy grew to be the size she is now (more than 60 pounds). Nevertheless I love her. She's the most devoted and loving pet I've ever had. She's a blessing to have in my life and I couldn't imagine living in this house without her. I'm so glad I agreed to make her a part of our family 4 years ago yesterday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Discovering" Romans Chapter 6

The other day while I was at the church converting one of my "Rewind" programs from tape to CD I picked up the Bible looking for a passage to read. I was led to the book of Romans and started reading chapter 6. The "Romans Road" is a set of verses used to present the gospel to non-believers. Verse 23 of this chapter is a key part of that "road" because it contrasts the consequences of sin and the treasure available through Jesus. So the last verse of Romans 6 is very familiar to me.

Truthfully I can't remember ever having read the rest of the chapter before Tuesday. I'm sure I have but upon reading it this time the words "jumped" off the page and touched my soul in a way that assures it will be part of me from now on.

In Romans 6 the apostle Paul writes about something that's been on my mind for a while now: turning away from sin. This recurring spiritual truth has been presented in many of the books I've read and sermons I've listened to over the last year or so. The preachers and authors have presented turning away from sinful behavior in your life through a study of verses and examples from throughout the Bible. For me, the books "Respectable Sins" and "The Gospel According To Jesus" are the two resources that impressed it's importance the most.

When I read Romans 6 I was so awed just how clearly and concisely Paul explains the need and reasons for a Christian to turn from sin. It explains in no uncertain terms the spiritual work that has been done by Jesus Christ that frees us from our bonds to the slavery of sin. It also explains the fact that when one truly believes in Christ to the point of salvation it should mean a "quickening" in our lives or a complete turn around away from a servitude to sin to being indentured to righteous living.

It's very popular in the church today, even the church where I'm a deacon, for the leadership to present and support a gospel where by just praying the "sinner's prayer" and getting baptised you're "in" with God and your path to heaven is certain. While those acts are part of becoming a Christian there's more to a true conversion to Christ. True faith involves a change of heart. Becoming a "NEW CREATURE" and turning away from the things served while dead in sin. A new life in Christ means a severance with the "old man" or the natural state of depravity inherent in our human spirit.

Of course what I'm explaining is written about by Paul throughout the New Testament. Most importantly it was written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and is God's message to us. Just let me let the chapter speak for itself. I've added it to the end of this post.

Please take the time to read it for yourself a couple of times. Digest the verses and the spiritual truths they convey. Upon reading them I immediately realized the utmost importance of applying them to my life. I prayed once again for God to help me, through His Spirit, to turn from serving sin as my master and to bond myself to His righteousness purchased for me through His son, Jesus Christ. I pray you will do the same.

Dead to Sin, Alive to God
1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Slaves to Righteousness
15What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hurray! He's Back In The USA

Just want to take the time to let everyone know that our son, James, who has been in Iraq since last April is now back home in the good Old USA. He called his mother this morning just after his plane landed at Fort Dix army base in New Jersey. The exact time for his return to Kentucky isn't set yet. But just knowing that he's back in the country is an answer to prayer. "Thank You" to everyone for your prayers for his protection. Paula & I give all the thanks and glory to God for keeping him safe during his service on foreign soil. We look forward to hugging him and having him driving us crazy again soon.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Starting A New Phase of My Job

After 2 weeks of classroom training today at 3:30 I will start working the full scope of the job I was hired to do. Up until I started class on January 26 I was only taking orders over the phone. When I go to work today I will start working in the customer service department.

That means in addition to taking orders I'll be answering calls from customers with questions about returns, refunds and other problems. From what I've heard from some of my coworkers already taking these calls some of the customers can be pretty nasty. But I'm not really too concerned about that. My experience as a cell phone service supervisor and medical claims representative will have prepared and equipped me to handle this job better than those who are doing it for the first time.

Not only does getting into this next phase of my job change what I'm doing while at work; it also changes my schedule. On some Saturdays and Sundays I will have to work noon to 8:30 instead of starting at 3:30. For example today I work 3:30 to midnight and tomorrow I have to be back at work by noon on Sunday.

In addition, all 2nd shift call center workers were told this week that there's a possiiblity that those who are now part time hours can move up to full time if they so choose. That will mean working an 8 hour 3:30 to midnight shif 5 days out of the week. But it will mean getting 40 hours a week again.

For my wife and I, the 2nd shift hours will mean a change in our lifestyle in regard to the amount of time we get to spend together but it will return our household income to the level it was before I lost my job last April. That will help us reach some of our financial goals that we have set for this year.

So things are changing in a positive way at my job. There are aspects of it that I wish were different. I wish I didn't have to work weekends or could consistantly have 2 days off in a row. That only happens once in my schedule for the next 4 weeks.

Just as I wrote the other day I have to remember that God is in control and I must take advantages of the opportunites given to me with a thankful heart. It's not easy sometimes but I'm learning.

POST UPDATE: 10:02 PM- I worked my first day as a customer service representative. I was nervous and a bit confused. Overall I believe I did a pretty good job. I was prepared to work until midnight but much to my surprise the call center closed at 8:30. I got to come home early and spend some time with my wife. This will change the complextion of the weekend at least a little bit.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Get Away" Day

Based on what he said the last time I talked to him on the phone today is the day my son, James, is leaving Iraq and starting his long journey home. He'll be in Kuwait for a couple of days and then it's back to Fort Dix in New Jersey. He should be back home in Kentucky in 2 weeks. Please pray for God's continued protection as he makes his way back home.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Battle of "Needs" VS "Wants"

One of the things I learned while taking the Crown Financial Bible study course last year was the importance of discerning the differences between "needs" and "wants" in my life and prioritizing them. It was an easy concept to learn intellectually but putting it into practice is still a "work in progress". Self discipline is the agent by which the principal is implemented. I'm not a very disciplined person in a lot of areas of my life. I have been asking God through the Holy Spirit to give me the strength to be as disciplined as I need to be.

The reason I have brought up the "needs" vs "wants" thing a year after first learning it is that it is still an on going battle in my life. Over the last 3 days I have found myself with a spirit of ingratitude for the needs God has met in my life. The circumstances in which they are being met doesn't allow me to have some of my "wants." The "needs" I'm talking about are those fulfilled by once again having a job to go every day. The financial security and all the assurances and intangibles that go with having a job are a blessing, especially in these tough economic times. I truly am thankful to The Lord for giving me a job that , while not a perfect fit, works for me in so many ways.

However there are certain circumstances of my job (working 2nd shift hours and weekends) that won't allow me to do some of the things I want to which are happening over the next week or so. I won't be able to audition for the job as the public address announcer for the minor league baseball team coming to town because I have to work at the time of the auditions. Being a baseball announcer has been a dream of mine for a long time. I know I could never be a sportscaster but I've always felt I could do the job of the stadium PA announcer. Now that the chance has come along I'm not able to take advantage of it. Even if I could audition I wouldn't be able to take the job. The games are played during the hours I would have to be at my ShopNBC job.

Today I received a brochure in the mail for the Vent Haven ventriloquism convention happening in July. This 4 day event is a wonderful opportunity for learning about ventriloquism and improving my skills. Because the Christian puppet festival I went to last year has been cancelled for this year; I would really like to go to the Vent Haven Convention. But because I don't have won't have any personal or vacation time allowing me to take time off from my job during the first year I won't be able to go.

Not being able to take advantage of these opportunities, like I "want" to, creates an attitude of disdain for the obligation I have toward my job. What that translates into is a rebellious heart in regard to God and His sovereignty over my life. He has not allowed circumstances in my life that enables me to audition or go to the convention. That means one of two things: They are not part of God's will for me or he doesn't want them to happen now. I should accept the circumstances God has created in my life and, at the very least, be thankful that He has seen to my most important need in my life; a job.

What I'm trying to say is that sometimes what we want for ourselves is not what God wants for us and vice versa. I must continue to acknowledge that God Loves me and is in complete control of what happens in my life. As His child purchased by Christ through His death on the cross I must submit myself to His Lordship over my life.

The state of "want" is probably one of the, if not THE, most powerful aspect of my sinful nature. If I want something badly enough, and I don't control that desire, I will devote my time, money and effort toward getting it. My obsessive desire with going back to Disney World a couple of years ago was evidence of that.

Some of the strongest forces in us as humans have their foundation in "want"; overeating, lust and greed are the ones that immediately come to mind. But there's one important thing I must remember as part of my faith and belief that God is in sovereign control of my life. If there is something in my life that God wants me to do,, be, or somewhere he wants me to go He will provide the means to openly and honestly achieve it. And this without compromising the principles of righteousness he's established in His word.

In other words God will always open the way for the achievement of His will in my life. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by my own selfish "wants" and I forget that. My prayer to the Holy Spirit is that He will keep showing me the truth of this in my life and keep my mind and heart close to it. So that even in a moment or period of sinful selfishness I can quickly bring myself back to the truth of God's Love and control over my life; thus reconnecting with the standing of my faith in Christ.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Lesson From The Ice Storm

As I mentioned in last Wednesday’s post our area was hit by an ice storm early last week. In our county we were lucky. There were some areas that experienced several days without power but for the most part things got back to normal over the weekend. What is most notable for me about the effects of the ice storm is the damage done to the trees.

There are limbs and parts of trees down all over the place. Just on our street alone (which is less than ¼ mile long) there has to be at least a dozen trees with major damage. If you drove around the area and didn’t know what had caused the damage you would be convinced that an extremely severe thunderstorm or even a tornado had come through and reeked havoc. But it was all caused by an ice storm.

I thought about the degree of violence that’s part of a tornado or severe thunderstorm verses the lack of violence in an ice storm. The ice came with the calmness of a simple rainfall. Drop by drop it fell onto the trees, wires and utility poles. There was no big surge of precipitation or giant wave of water from the sky. One at a time the drops landed and froze on all surfaces; building up to a degree that the tree limbs could no longer hold the weight of the ice. CRACK! The branches fell, the poles split in half, and the wires came down. Leaving the same devastation as would a violent thunderstorm.

This got me to thinking about how this occurrence in nature parallels the effects of sin on our lives. Generally whenever we as Christians hear about sin from the preacher or read about it in God’s word we think of it as something big like; murder, adultery, stealing, drug abuse, alcoholism or any of the other “big ones” that come to mind when you think of the word “sin.”

But just like the drops of freezing rain that fell on the trees, “small sins” or the ones we habitually commit every day build up on our souls and cause a burden in our lives. They separate us from God and keep us from obeying him and submitting to His will. One day that burden becomes too much to bear and we experience devastating consequences. This doesn’t happen with any quick overtaking of a large storm of sin in our lives. It happens subtlety and in a very deceptive manner. If I may borrow from one of Jesus’ illustrations: we as branches experience a “build up” of sin and the burden causes us to be torn away from the vine.

As I go along in my day to day life I want to turn away from anything that will keep me from being connected to “The Vine”, Jesus Christ. I want to repent and turn away from any “ice storms” of sin. It is my prayer that you too would join me in committing to be vigilant in watching our lives for the build up of “freezing rain” of sin. Turn away from all sin from which we have been redeemed. Let us never take God’s grace for granted by not paying attention to the effects of sin on our lives.