Hawaii 2010

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Moleskine' year three

Bloggers love Moleskine', you hear folks bragging about them all the time. My first try was a small planner that was....too small. Last year I had the week at a glance and the ink was so pale I almost went blind trying to read it. This year they must have read my mind because the ink is darker, and the larger five by 8 is handy for me. I have the week at a glance on the left with a blank page for notes on the right.

The way my week goes I just have three or four things to do each day so I do not need an hourly type planner. I use it also for a bit of a diary, food record, and expense tracker. I wish I were the kind of guy who could use something electronic. I had a palm pilot that I lost within six months. When I misplace my planner I can go without it for too long. I also love the writing pads and use them for recording ideas.

Happy and Blessed New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

He loves his Harley

Jim is not your normal Harley rider, he is an engineer, a father of 9 children, and a lover of God. He owns a 15 passenger van for major driving, an Aveo for ferrying his kids to work and meetings, and this is his work transportation and major hobby

He really enjoys riding this thing, he takes long rides on Saturdays with the local Harley riders Christian fellowship, he keeps it clean and shiny. I did not personally care for the high rider handle bars but Jim swears they are comfortable and safe, although a few local policeman have pulled him over to disagree.

Every kid in America dreams of owning a motorcycle, its a way of life for my good buddy, and I hope and pray for his safety while he lives out his passion.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday night delight

Almost half the year we go to Floridino's Italian Restaurant to enjoy the large special. It ranks right up there with the best pizza I have ever eaten. The sausage, perreroni, veggies, just the right moisture, not dry but hold together if you decide to lift it. Always delivered hot. Click the photo and you will feel like going out for pizza.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Retro Cool

Watched The Polar Express 3D with the grandkids. It works pretty well. Same issues as in the 50s and 60s and Disney world, a bit of eyestrain and the need to work at not focusing on any image while watching the screen to see the depth. I did not, in honesty make it through the movie, but it had more to do with the corny story and odd animation of the Polar Express that the special effects.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


My wife talked me into going to the Mall on the fourth largest shopping day of the year, and seeing the Movie Australia. We had to park a 20 minute walk away. The crowds were enormous. I watched people for a long time and marveled at the diversity of humanity, every age, shape, size and ethnic origin passed by my perch.
Several observations. 1]Teens are very needy of approval, and they dress oddly to identify with each other. 2]As a nation we are getting fatter 3] guys wearing their pants halfway down their rear ends looks stupid 4]We are a nation that dresses very informally 5] Families are beautiful. Fathers who love and protect their kids, and moms who are so caring and thoughtful at the mall impress me.6] Most people are trying to enjoy life and being at the mall with friends is a big time for fun.
7] Since I left my phone at home and lost Laura, I was very lonely and isolated waiting for her.

I saw Ice T, the former gangsta rapper and present TV actor and his entourage/family. Folks were grabbing their cameras and cell phones to take pictures. I had to ask who he was.

Australia started slowly, but finally grabbed me. It was a nice mixture of history and story interwoven with messages of unity and hope and of course, three deserving heroic characters finding and protecting each other. Great Scenery, great action, longish but enjoyable, and the bad guy gets it in the end. The historic use of the original release of The Wizard of Oz and its proximity to Pearl Harbor were stunning.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Big or Small

I had the Christmas spirit big time this year....less Scroogish than in years past, due largely to daily infusions of beautiful Christmas music. This year I added Josh Groban and Faith Hill Christmas Albums to join the hall of fame I alread own. Bing Crosy, Nat King Cole, Manheim Steamroller, Micheal W Smith, Celine Dion, etc. A large selection of Celtic Christmas albums as well.

I have often marked generational change by the observation that the car radio brought most of the folks my age accessibility and the growth of radio followed the mobility we gained from autos. I have never lost my love of music. I have a boom box like the one caracatured above sitting in my office and have owned many tiny transitor radios in my life. But the Ipod has given me portability, flexibility, choosability, and expandability. I am totally sold on the idea, not to mention books on tape, video sermons, podcasts and my one portable movie, "The Princess Bride" Its...inconceivable.....!

Don't judge us for this, but we have three Ipod players, all Altec Lansings....not Bose lest you think we are too wasteful and extravangant. Lauras Classroom, home and my office. The Ipod goes in my manpurse, camera bag, and boom......music.

One regret, a long constant presence of tinnitus that competes with my listening pleasure. Any one got a cure?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Time Flies, Till it Stops

There is a cemetary across from my neighborhood. It has what has to be one of the worlds largest Sun Dials. I went in today to meditate for a few moments, and take a few photos. I was coming out of the chapel one day and met one of my parishioners from the church I used to serve visiting her husbands crypt in the wall out front. Today I noticed that she had joined him there last June, at the age of 86.

I wish each of you a Merry Christmas as I take tomorrow off from posting with a reminder that time is a gift, each moment a reality to be cherished. Those silent graves testify to lives lived, memories shared, and an end to their journey in this flesh. I watched as an attractive young blond sat in front of a marker in the Veterans Section. It was her grandparents grave. I checked....hoping she was not a widow of our current war.

I plucked some grass from John Washingtons grave. He and I sat next to each other in the Choir until he died almost three years ago. I inherited his inability to organize my choir music. We would be singing for two minutes before John could open his music. He gave his life to the Army, education, and to his love for music. As the only black man in the choir he often teased us white folks for our lack of rhythm. I am thankful his cemetary is not John's final resting place, but around a table fellowshipping with the redeemed. Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Simple Christmas

I like our simple decorations, and the simpler Christmas we are having as a result of being careful with our money this year. I loved having all my Christmas songs on a playlist. I love paying more attention to Advent and the Christian calendar this year. I love believing Christmas peace is a declaration, not an offer. I love my two little lights in the windows that flicker like candles, my faith flickers but God's love and light is steady and strong.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Widely published in a Christmas letter

When your photography becomes useful to a friend, the satisfaction is real. Ray and Harriet are proud of their new second home and wanted friends and family to see it. The 18 degree wide angle was so great for capturing the view from their back yard.
I took enough for them to chose the light and view they liked, and their daughter took the image from their computer and had them printed with a view of the front of the home as well. You friends from elsewhere can see why we enjoy living in Sun Lakes and those with golf course views are so pleased. I live on a cul-de-sac and have a view of every single sunrise directly out my bedroom sliding door. That's enough for me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The World is shrinking

One of our missionary friends spent two days with us. Reynato was in the states to help with a family wedding and touch base with other former teens of his twenty years of youth ministry. He has spent time in Brooklyn, Chicago and LA. Last evening he was speaking to his wife face to face using Yahoo and I was struck at the vast changes that the world has undergone.

Sitting in my office in Sun Lakes with a Philipino raised speaking English and chatting with his wife in their native lanquage on Yahoo video chat. He mentioned how connected the immigrants from the Phillapines are and how many come here to earn enough money to help their extended family back home. He also spoke of the immediate effects of the downturn on their small manufacting and assembly plants.

He loves his island, his people and working with the teens in his country. I hope to visit there some day and see his world firsthand.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thoughts on Money and Madoff

Bernard L. Madoff was a Jewish Investor in NYC. His life and lifestyle with mulitmillionaire friends seeking to protect and advance the excess money they earned is something I cannot fathom or imagine. If I had all my financial eggs in his basket I am wondering how I would feel to know my future had been stolen in terms of money.

Weeks ago, I had my own frustrations out with a sermon that referenced an old song I learned in college. "Theres a dead skunk in the middle of the road.....stinken' to high heaven....". A lot of people must have had their conscience yelling at them when this whole thing got rocky. I wonder exactly when Madoff went from well respected money manager to crook and thief. Did he lie to himself, or just not care? I have always wondered about the compensation to stock brokers and investors. They make us 7 to 12 percent and they make millions each year? How does that work?

Money is power, they say. Lack of money will be a new teacher for so many in this period of our national life. My heart breaks for the charities and non profits affected by this loss. There are so many illusions in life. Things we think will keep us safe and secure have become vapor. We are all waiting and watching to see how this will play out in the year ahead. I told my friend Jim that I am glad he has a three acre back yard in Queen Creek. I asked if I could plant a 40x40 garden so we can have vegetables to eat. A sharecropper??? Lord, teach me my lessons. Deepen my hunger for things that cannot be seen but are real...for the Living God...and for our daily bread....and for the true spirit of Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A lovely homemade gift

Its a permanent Christmas present from a parent of a student of Laura's. A glass building block with lights inserted and wrapped like a gift. Kitty loves it and has not left its side this evening.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can't You Feel it, Say I Do!

Laura and I watched our new DVD of Mama Mia tonight. We loved the play and the movie experience. When you grow up listening to ABBA hits as a background to your own life and then they do something so colorful and human and uplifting and fun as this, it is wonderful to own it at home. The story line is about a single mom, and it is quite charming how the songs ABBA composed and sang over their career fit so well into this fantasy. A girl finding her father, a woman finding lost love, and my favorite star...that enchanting Greek Island. The Winner takes it all. Next time through we play the sing a long option.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A really neat gift

They call it the Mississippi Saxaphone, a soulful, jazzy, bluesy sound from a harmonic folk instrument. I love folk instruments. Playing my fipple flutes is a daily joy even if it is only a tune or a moment. So I bought a How to Play Harmonica CD and Book from a book outlet. My only regret is that I struggle with every instrument I have ever played to get past mediocrity. Its still fun. For me, garages are for keeping your cars and extra junk, and too provide a great hollow sound chamber for playing your instruments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Big and Complete Gospel...in Christ

The Apostle Paul's use of the Adam/Christ connection in Romans runs counter to our Western individual way of thinking. Most of the Christian world has rejected or severely modified the bondage of man's will and replaced it with a free will that over emphasizes man's decision making capacity and minimizes Christ drawing us to the Father.

Paul was so convinced of this link that it became the principle motivation for our ministry of reconciliation. II Cor. 5:14 "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." This inclusive language enables us to minister to broken people without the evangelistic pressure we feel is necessary for us to be faithful.
No wonder we get such phoney and shallow decisions and such pride and exclusionary ministry.

Christmas and Easter Faith are the same

Oddly, the good news that sets men free often entangles them in an old covenant paradigm as they begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Because God loved you when you were a sinner, you receive Him and the power of transformation. Then, instead of passing the love to other sinners, you begin to dispise them for their bondage and believe they are cut off from God's love because they behave badly. Spiritual pride begins to repel those whom God desires to attract. The good news becomes only an offer and God's tranforming presence becomes your badge of achievement. For you, God loves those who love Him, which is exactly the thing Jesus came to reverse in the gospel.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Settled in my heart and sort of in my mind

The Internet Monk is a blog I enjoy. A lifelong frustrated Southern Baptist, his wife of 30 years has converted to Catholicism. It has been difficult for him, as he has shared with his blogging audience. He recently mentioned that most Catholics just accept the teachings of the church without much questioning. They have a massive catechism that lays out the church position on all major and minor issues of faith and life.

Protestants on the other hand have inherited a varied set of tensions which one is left to accept or refine if he or she is so inclined. This fluid structure of theology leads to diversity and dissagreeent, but to the possibility that their are better ways to tell the story of the gospel to our generation.

Being of inquisitive mind, I have tested all things and held fast to that which is true, at least to the degree that I am able to discern. All the things that need balanced between law and gospel, justice and mercy, time and eternity...are juxtiposing nicely. Some tensions and unanswered questions obviously will remain, but I love walking in love and living in a spirit of reconciliation. This place is a place of peace....hope I can live here for a while.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Communion is a by product of observation

Last evening after a night out with friends I attached the camera to the tripod to try to lasso the moon. It was the fullest of the year and I waited as the clouds were too thick for an appearance. I took some reflections of lights around my street and walk a few streets I normally drive without thinking. Though I failed to get a good shot I slipped into a quiet peace as I observed God's consistent infrastructure. The clouds lit by the moon and the moon playing dress up with the clouds was so beautiful. The earth is full of His glory. The Heavens declare His handiwork.

Friday, December 12, 2008


I laughed, and joined in the celebration, but there was an uneasy feeling that I am trying to discern. Am I just being a fuddy duddy or was the huge presentation doing more to enculturate the church to make it acceptable to unbelievers?

It took 18 years but I finally took 56 friends to the Christmas Extravaganza at Phoenix First Assembly of God last evening. It was their 29th year. Human Christmas tree, lasar lights, shadow posing, camels, tiger, zebra, elephant, 40 person full orchestra, singing, dancing, rap, hip hop dancing, Miley Cyrus and Jonas brothers clones, six flying angels at a time, comedy, many many dancing children, two high flying sheet climbing acrobatic performers, an offering and an altar call, a story to hold it all together, an loud and unruly rabble of people filling the huge auditorium. When worship becomes entertainment we begin to have problems. I forgot to mention flying beds, drum solos with the drummer suspended halway to the ceiling, tons of dry ice effects, dogs doing tricks, .....and me.....a little bewildered at the cast of 600 and the 1500 it takes to put this on.....and the pinnacle of attractional theology making me wander if anyone will want to come sing hymns and hear preaching after all this??????????

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Books that blessed

Two recent books have expanded my understanding of the Gospel. Kevin Beck has written This Book Will Change Your World, about the worldview of transmillenial theology. Very excellent. A fellow Seminary grad named Baxter Kruger wrote The Great Dance, about Trinitarian Theology. I met Kevin this summer and felt a deep kinship to his understanding of the gospel and life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This family has it completely covered

This is an example of a secular themed Christmas decorated home not far from us. There is even a full sized dancing and singing Santa in the driveway. The tree at the top is new this year. Its truly amazing to see and I make no judgments on the motivations of folks to undertake this level of entertainment. Click on the picture to enjoy the detail. My new camera did an awesome job of catching these images.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Shannon is now nine

We enjoyed two days celebrating Shannons birthday. We watched Prince Caspian, collected the last six state quarters from friends, enjoyed the Chandler Symphony Christmas concert featuring the Christmas portion of Handels Messiah. I am so moved by the music of Europe three centuries ago. What level of beauty they reached in the praise of God! I am also impressed by the level of composing talent in this mostly volunteer orchestra, and the talented musicians who learn so much music each year and play for the joy of performing. Our Worship service was especially blessed with great music and a Signing performance of Silent Night. Shannon used her Birthday money for a journal, a cross necklace,and the classic of my youth, the Etch A Sketch. I loved mine.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My sixth annual Sun Lakes Golf Tournament was Thursday. It is fun to play a scramble with friends, each person is able to make an occasional contribution and no one can sink the team. We were a par machine with enough birdies to win until we fell apart at the end.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Telephoto means stepping back

I promise not to make this a photo hobby blog but this is my new toy and I share things that happen to me every day. I checked out the luggability factor on the zoom lense that came with my kit. Having a zoom changes the way you approach photography. The picture above in the kids play area was taken from 25 ft, versus the 5 ft you would use to take a regular shot. It allows eves dropping for shots like this cute kiddo. It was heavy to carry but not too bad with the comfortable next strap.

I also purchased UV lenses to protect the glass, and had the information screen protected with a plastic film that is being used to protect IPods and phone screens.
The Mall was crowded with shoppers, I am sure most have scaled down the cost of gifts to be careful, but folks here in the East Valley are buying things, and that is good.

I watched a show tonight about the Reagan elections and it sounded like a tape of the same rhetoric we heard the last two years, taxes, national defense, economic stimulus ideas. This is life, we face challenges. Many of those who will gather for church tommorow were young when Pearl Harbor changed the world, some still living responded to the call as young men and women. I salute them and the way our nation responded to that challenge.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Golf was bad, beauty was good

I brought my new Canon Digital SLR to the golf course to continue my learning curve and just took a few shots. This was the first with the longer zoom lense. I love the focus points that tell you what areas of the picture will be sharp. The great thing about the hobby is that you start looking to compose pictures with your free moments, you think angles, light, texture, color. I wish I had thought more about how to score in golf. Just Kidding. It was another beautiful day in Arizona.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stepping up a Digital Step

I have owned three digital cameras since film died. The first was a 200 dollar 3 megapixel Gateway. Three years ago I purchased a Konica/Minolta 6 megapixel digital zoom, and my enjoyment of photography has risen to the point where I carry my camera bag as a man purse, with my medicine and testing kit and extra pens and notebook. I take 2000 pictures a year or there about.

Today I got my third, an early Christmas gift, a Canon 12 megapixel digital slr called the EOS XSi This hobby is ramped up for me, and I get a kick out of recording the church events as well. It has two zooms, and although it is still called entry level, this camera has serious capacity. Time will tell if my photography takes a step up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Billy with the voice

I am sure you have seen Billy, the dude with the dark dyed beard who hawks various products on TV. He has this high loud, extremely irritating tone and voice that grates against my nerves and causes me to look for the remote. I wander if sales by irritation is part of the pitch.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December in the Desert

High 70s today, people walking and playing golf. It takes a little work to get in the Christmas mood here. I had several years where I just was tired of Christmas, but once again, placing our fifteen Christmas Albums on the IPod and shuffling through them helps so much. I have Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole for golden oldies, Manhiem Steam Roller and some awesome classical for instrumental, and I love Celin Dion, Josh Groban, Faith Hill for the pop stars doing Christmas, and Micheal W Smith, Edens Bridge, Twila Paris for the Christian artists, with a sprikle of Celtic Christmas with the Chieftans and other various artists.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Feasting without mirrors

This year our smallish family was minus one son, who celebrated with friends in NYC. We also took a hammer, carefully, to the wall to wall mirror that came with our 1989 ranch type home. Laura thought it dated the home. Now its gone and the room does feel cosier.

We enjoyed Turkey and Corn bread dressing, homemade apple sauce, broccoli and raisen salad, shoe peg corn, and yams covered with pecans. Delicious, and a quiet afternoon with discussion and a nap.