Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Well I guess it's time for me to weigh in on the question of celebrating or participating in Halloween.

Personally, I've always chuckled at churches that offer a "Halloween Alternative" event. They usually call it something different like Harvest Festival, Fall Festival or some other seasonal name. But if it is on the 31st, kids will come in costume and expect and receive lots of candy. Many churches (Hopedale included) offer the community a safe and convenient environment for the kids to "Trick or Treat." Regardless of what you call it or what activities you have, if you have it on the 31st of October the public perception is that it is for Halloween.

For the religious fundamentalists that are opposed to participating in this pagan holiday, I say that we are only getting what we have asked for. When the Church moved the religious holiday (holy day) of All Saints Day to coincide with the Celtic New Year, they had to know that the traditions of one holiday would blend with the traditions of the other. We run into the same type of situations at Christmas time. Many of our traditions are rooted in pagan practices--including the time of year that we celebrate.

The Apostle Paul tells us that we should not be a stumbling block to others. Sometimes I think that our self-righteous arrogance is the biggest stumbling block that we throw out there. My suggestion is to have fun, love others, and live as you believe Jesus would.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Halloween--Did you know?

Having grown up in a Catholic home, I always associated Halloween with All Saints' Day. It turns out that I was only partially correct.

The actual origins of Halloween go back to a time several hundred years before the Catholic Church had an All Saints' Day. It wasn't until the mid 700's that Pope Gregory III moved the feast day to November 1.

2000 years ago, the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) was held. They celebrated their New Year on November 1. It was the end of the harvest, the days had grown short and it was time to begin anew. They believed that as one year ended and another began the world of the dead and the world of the living came close together. Sawhain was October 31. They believed that ghosts would return to the earth and blamed these nocturnal visitors for damages to their fields, homes and anything else that was worthy of blaming an unseen visitor for. The Druid priests used this time to consult the dead to make predictions for the coming year. They would build a huge fire. Animals were sacrificed to gain the attention of the spirit world. The priests would wear costumes of animal skins and tell fortunes. As the night ended, fire from the sacred bonfire was used to light the fires in the homes. This would bring good fortune to the home throughout the cold, dark winter.

Some believe that the Church moved the All Saints' Day date to November to place a similar feast day near the popular pagan holiday. The eve of All Saints' Day, or the Eve of All Hallows, or All Hallows' Eve, later became known simply as Halloween.

There is evidence that the dates may have at one time been spring dates, but it is generally held that the above festivals and feast days are the beginnings of our modern day Halloween.

So should churches and Christians participate in this holiday with pagan roots and ghoulish practices? I guess that's a matter for another post.


Too Much Regulation

In years past, our church has had a fall event called "Trunk or Treat." It provides a family friendly place to bring kids on Halloween. Members that choose to participate back their cars into a large circle in the parking lot. The trunks are opened and filled with candy for our guests. Many of the cars are decorated with prizes given to the best.

We have had a chili cook-off and pie baking contest and our guests have been able to agree or disagree with the judges picks by sampling for themselves (free of charge, of course). There is face painting, cotton candy, hot chocolate, coffee and corn dogs...all under the big tent.

This year's event will be minus two of the favorite activities...the chili cook-off and pie baking contests. It seems that the government has decided that these events can only take place if all of the cooking/baking/preparing is done at the church kitchen! The church kitchen has to meet health code standards because of the Wee Hope Daycare.

Now I know that there are other events taking place around the area that have not yet met with this governmental bureaucracy. More power to them. I also know that it's only a matter of time. Last May's Community Day was also restricted by not allowing us to use homemade cookies for desserts. I guess I'm a little confused about the standard being applied and why.

At the local farmer's market, you can bring in homemade products and sell them without any health restrictions. Let the buyer beware. At our church event, you cannot give that same products away for free--even if they are prepared by the same people in the same kitchens. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, cheerleaders, bands, etc. can have bake sales at the Wal-Mart entrance. What's the difference? If the government is truly looking out for the health and well being of our society, perhaps we can create a bureaucracy large enought to inspect all of our homes. (or at least sign a bill to provide health care for our poorer families!)

Am I just being cynical or is this a government agency that has too much power and too little to do? Or maybe I was just lookng forward to a bowl of chili and piece of pecan pie.

That's my rant for the day. Have a nice weekend.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Playing in the Kingdom

Wow! It has been a great weekend. On Saturday, Aaron and his girlfriend, Jenny stopped by to have dinner with us. It was a quick visit but we really enjoyed seeing them. Aaron has plans to come home next weekend because of a friend's invitation to do something. It will be Thanksgiving before we see Jenny again.

On Sunday morning, I was at Living Waters Community Church in Nixa MO. It was their Fall Festival Celebration. After a morning of praising God in song, we had a fun time with a little magic and sharing what the Bible says through the use of illusions. They were set up with food, fun and activities for the afternoon. It is always a privilege to be asked to come back to a church. The staff at Living Waters is great and I am sure that they are having an impact on the community around them.

For the Sunday evening service, I was at Southgate Baptist Church in Springfield MO. I was there to talk to them about what their role will be on Halloween night. That will be their annual Fall Festival and they expect 800-1000 guests to stop by for inflatable games, activities and lots of candy. I'll be sharing the gospel through magic and it will be up to them to find out if their guests have a church home, believe in God, what they think about heaven , hell, Jesus, salvation, etc. It will be their job to make their guests feel welcome and to encourage them to come back.

Again, a great honor to be asked back to Southgate. I have been there twice for Easter programs, once for a community/church picnic, several times for backyard Vacation Bible Schools and once for a Sunday School Class. They are always an excellent host.

Tomorrow, the work week begins anew. I am looking forward to hearing about blogger Bilbo's trip to Vegas. On Wednesday evening I'll be at Cedar Ridge Baptist Church to do a program for the kids. I'm looking forward to visiting with Pastor Mike and my friends down by the lake. Saturday will find me at Finley Crossings. Pastor David is another great pastoral friend and I'm excited about being asked to share in their Kingdom work.

I hope that your week will be as exciting.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Shooting Stars

This is a great weekend for looking upwards. The peak night for the Orionids Meteor Shower will be tomorrow night (Saturday night/Sunday morning). The best time for viewing will be after the moon sets sometime between 1 and 2 a.m. If you can find a dark area away from city lights, look eastward toward the constellation, Orion. This fall meteor shower comes when the Earth passes through the orbit of Halley's comet.

It has been 21 years since Halley's comet was within visible range of the Earth and will be another 55 years before it makes another appearance. The cosmic litter that is left in its orbit will streak through the Earth's atmosphere for anybody game enough to stay up (or get up) to watch. Peak times should yield around 25 per hour.

The order of God's universe always amazes me. I hope that you have a clear beautiful night for viewing the heavens.


"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"

A Psalm of David, King of Israel

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fear of Flying

You know, I really don't like this kind of post. At work, I tend to take on extra mid-shifts to keep away from the negative talk and away from the stupid things that management is always coming up with. I guess it's a way of guarding my overall attitude. However, as an active union member, I can't help but be exposed to some of the nonsense that seems to be running rampant in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during the Bush tenure in the White House.

If you've been reading any of the articles posted by past National Air Traffic Controller Association (NATCA) President and retired controller, John Carr on The Main Bang, you already know what I'm talking about. If you haven't read any of that stuff, reading this article may be enough to make you check the Amtrak (the unofficial airline of NATCA) schedule before taking your next trip. I'll tell you that I have known Kevin, Scott and Howard (three controllers interviewed for the article)for quite a number of years and have a lot of respect for them and their dedication to this once grand profession.

If you are planning a trip via the nation's airways anytime soon, check out this site before scheduling your flights. It's put out by NATCA and offers many tips on avoiding delays on your trip.

Sorry about the bummer post. Consider it to be information that's nice to know. I'll try to have something more uplifting real soon.

Eligible to retire in 4 yrs, 2 mos, 20 days.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Family Weekend

Well it's Sunday morning in a hotel room in Columbia MO. Chris and Hannah are still snoozing and I'm enjoying coffee and browsing blogs.

This weekend was the Family Weekend at Columbia College. Yesterday rained nearly all day. I don't know how things went on campus because after lunch we grabbed Aaron and went downtown, then the mall and spent the day as a family. It was really a great time.

During lunch, Dr. Terry Smith came by at sat at our table for a few minutes. Dr Smith is Executive Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs. Aaron, one of five Presidential Scholarship Winners, said it's pretty cool when the Dean knows you and calls you by name. Our conversation some how got around to politics and Dr. Smith told Aaron that he should take his poly-sci class next fall. It's an advanced class that Dr. Smith does in conjuction with a Presidential campaign and will require students to work on a candidates campaign.

We had a fun time visiting some stores downtown. Hannah bought a ring. At the mall, Aaron got a new pair of shoes (I told him he's like a girl with all of his shoes!) and so did Chris (get new shoes, not tell Aaron he's like a girl). We had Starbucks while at Barnes and Noble and managed to make it out with nary a single book purchased! Everybody found books they would like but said they already have too many to read!

We had a wonderful dinner at Macaroni Grill and finished the night back at the hotel with the girls reading and the guys watching baseball--just like home(but not as comfortable).

In a few minutes, we'll meet Aaron for brunch and then head home. It's good to see him growing up and developing into a great young man. I am so proud of him and Hannah. In spite of our bumblings as parents, they have turned out to be well adjusted young adults.

I hope that your weekend was a good as mine.


"If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is go to the state fair. Because five minutes at the fair, you'll be going, 'You know, we're alright. We're dang near royalty.' "

Jeff Foxworthy

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lol :)

My wife has a funny sense of humor. Last night she said, "What do you think it was like for the first person that laughed? How did they know that what they were laughing at was funny? and What was their reaction to the sound that they made?" Weird, huh?

Well it made me start thinking about how kids develop their own sense of humor and about how many different laughs there are. Why is it that some things appear to be funny to us and not to others? How much of it depends on our perspective and how much is just funny?

Picture a man about 6 ft tall (around 1.8 meters). He has a large forehead that is emphasized by a receding hairline. Now picture seeing him from a two year old's height. I was with Hannah in the church kitchen when this happened . She just started giggling. So I asked, "What's so funny?" She pointed right at the guy's head and said in a loud, giggling two year old voice, "Daddy, that man's head's too big!"

I'm sure that from her perspective, it was. Heck, I look the guy right in the eye and could say that he had a big head. But why was it funny?

When Aaron was only a few months old, he would sometimes pretend to be asleep when we came into his room in the morning. His eyes would be closed but there was this big smile on his face. If he wasn't smiling at first, he would be as soon as you said, "Aaron, time to wake up. I think he's still asleep. Should we let him sleep a little longer?" The more we would talk about "waking him" the harder he would pretend to be asleep with only that big smile to give him away. Again, how did he know that was funny?

And why is it funny when people are clumsy and hurt themselves? I remember once when a boss of mine walked right into a sliding glass door that he thought was open. Oh my gosh! It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Or the time that Hannah and I were out with the horses and the young gelding got out from under me. There I am lying flat on my back in the pasture with the wind knocked out of me when Hannah comes galloping up on her horse. At least she asked if I was all right before she started laughing!

And laughs can be funny, too. From little chuckles to all out guffaws. Some girlish giggles, some hearty ha ha ha's, some that snort when they laugh. There really is nothing like a good sustained laugh to clear the body, mind and spirit of what ever ails you. And laughing is contagious! I hope that you have the opportunity to laugh today. Make it cleansing laugh. Even if life has you down a bit, fight back with a good laugh.

And when you're finished, after you've caught your breath and regained your composure, come back here and tell me why you thought whatever you were laughing at was funny. I really want to know.


" The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."
Mark Twain

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fun for the Eyes

I love optical illusions. I find it so very interesting that our brain can so easily misinterpret what our eyes see. In the picture below, you can see a black and orange line that spirals through the geometric shapes of triangles and diamonds.

Actually, if you will follow the line with your finger, you will find that each is a complete circle. There is no spiral!

This is another fun picture. Squares A and B are the same shade of gray.

I know that you may have a more diffucult time believing me on this one. Right click on the image and save it to your computer. Then open the image with Paint or other similar program. Then just cut out a piece of one and move it to the other square. Or you can print the image and then cut or fold the paper to prove it to yourself. The contrast of light and dark created by the shadow fools our brains into believing that B is lighter than A.

And then there are those that can draw what is an impossible reality.

Have a great day...but don't always trust your eyes!


Payback Time

In the past year, I know of two wonderful older men that have attempted to commit suicide. One, I knew personally, the other is close to a friend of mine. Neither was successful in their attempt, although my friend had given up on life and living and slowly gave way to death. Both men were found by their wives, who intervened to save the lives of their husbands. Both were in their eighties. Both had led very active lives. Both had kids and grandkids that they loved, were proud of and lived relatively close by. Both were loved.

So why is it that these two men would try to take their own lives? I have to address this question because my own father is approaching mid seventies. If the answer lies in a generational philosophy, I need to know.

From what I have gathered from the families of both of these men, though they were once strong, capable and active men, they now felt useless. They were the ones that always took care of their families and now they were needing to be cared for. They were often frustrated that they could no longer do things by themselves and for themselves. They often refused to see their own inabilities or tried desparately to work through them in hopes that others would not see them. Somehow, growing old had become their greatest failure in life.

One man's attempt caught the family completely by surprise, the other--maybe not so much. Both have had an impact on me. So many older men have had their influence on my life. They have so much more to offer than what their physical bodies are able to do. They have a lifetime of experiences and wisdom to share with us. I think that we have forgotten the skills of storytelling and (more importantly) listening to stories. We have placed so much value on doing and so little on the wisdom of confronting life. We receive so much information today via the internet, cable TV, satellite radio, news posts via cell phones and pagers, that we have tuned out talking to people as a way of gathering information. It is a most inefficient way of transferring information and one for which we are unwilling to make the time. It is also the very best way of ascribing value to those that have lived life before us and forged the way for us to continue onward.

In a world where the lastest and greatest invention is obsolete in a matter of months, have we as a society set our older men and women on a self to collect dust as if they were as obsolete as a Pentium processor? Shame on us! King Solomon wrote in Proverbs that "The gray head is a crown of glory, if it is found in righteousness."

I would encourage you to call or visit your dad or grandfather--today. Do it as soon as you finish reading this short rant. Give them some of what is most valuable to you--your time; yourself. Honor them by listening--even if you've heard their stories before.

When we were kids, they held our hands and slowed down to walk with us at our speed. Now it's our turn to slow down and take life at their speed. We owe them so much. Certainly we can find a few moments each day to thank them for their contribution to life.


The glory of young men is their strength; and the beauty of old men is the gray head.
King Solomon, Proverbs 20:29

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Yard Work

While attacking my overgrown lawn this afternoon, I was thinking about the endless futility of yardwork. I remembered this story and thought that I'd share with you. I'd credit the author if I knew who wrote it. Enjoy. (the story, not the work!)


God: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature; what in the world is going on down there in the U.S.? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought, and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of color by now. All I see are patches of green.

St. Francis: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. They are called the Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it is so boring, it's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, bees or birds, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it has grown a little, they cut it....sometimes two times a week.

God: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now let me get this straight...they fertilize it to make it grow and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis: You aren't going to believe this Lord, but when the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves become compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

St. Francis: You'd better sit down, Lord. As soon as the leaves fall, the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No way! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

St. Francis: After throwing the leaves away, they go out and buy something called mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down the trees and grind them up to make mulch.

God: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore.

Saint Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

St. Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber," Lord. It's a really stupid movie about....

God: Never mind--I think I just heard the whole story from Saint Francis!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Playing the Game

I was reading It's a Numeric Life and got to thinking about the ultimatum game. There is no negotiating in this game, but we play similar games everyday.

I know that many of my readers live where haggling over prices on just about anything is practically a national sport. I really enjoy travelling where this is the case--just to play the game. I began teaching my son this game when he was just about five years old. We were at a garage sale and he saw a basketball that he wanted. It was four dollars. He asked me if I would loan him four dollars and said he would pay me back when we got home. I told him that I would only loan him two dollars. "But, Dad" he insisted, "the basketball is four dollars."

I told him that he would have to see if the lady would sell it to him for two dollars. I remember the look from this little boy. I know that he thought his dad was nuts and wasn't real sure about what I was telling him to do. But he took the two dollars and the basketball and asked the lady if she would sell him the ball for two dollars. She told him she would sell it for three. Aaron said that he only had two dollars but would see if he could get more from his dad. (I think he had already realized that he just saved a dollar!) I gave him two quarters and he made the deal for $2.50. Hannah has been a little harder to teach, you can tell when she really wants something so she doesn't always get the best price. Aaron knows that you can get the best price walking away from the deal. Hannah is learning. She did fairly well on our last trip to Mexico.

I've learned that you can still get deals in the US, usually just for the asking. My family knows that if we are travelling and looking for a hotel to spend the night, we probably won't be staying at the first place we stop. If it is past 9 pm, we both (the desk clerk and I) know that those empty rooms aren't going to get filled up and discounting the room so that I'll stay there is better than letting the room stay empty.

Once, we were going to my wife's family holiday gathering. Her sister had done some checking for local hotels and found the best rate/location at a hotel through I checked the priceline rate and then called the hotel direct to book the room just a couple of days in advance and asked for the rate. It was only a little higher than the internet rate. I said to the clerk, "Now if I check on the internet, I'm not going to find a cheaper rate, am I? Because if I do, I'll cancel this reservation and I'll find a different hotel to stay at." The rate I ended up with was much less than the priceline rate.

Cardinal baseball tickets are another "game" to be played. With Aaron along, you get no deals. He wants to be in the park when the gates open and watch batting practice and try to get a few autographs (he's got quite a few over the years). But if you can wait 'til the game is starting...BONUS! The last time I got a $42 ticket for $25 and only missed the first half inning! I've introduced the "game" to some of my friends that have begun to ask for the discounts and they are amazed and how often they can save a little cash. There are not many areas in the US that you can play this little game, so you have to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. If you've never tried it before, give it shot...ask the question, "Is that the best you can do?" if you live where you are always playing the game...I'm a bit jealous.

If you have a "game" venue that you'd like to share, please do. I'd love to play, too.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

From the Bookshelf

I want to share a couple of really good books with you today. The first is one that I am re-reading right now. I was looking for another book about card handling when I ran across this one and decided it would be worth re-reading. The Golden Rule of Schmoozing: The Authentic Practice of Treating Others Well by Aye Jaye.

Aye Jaye spent much of his career as Ronald McDonald. He has travelled the world as a good will ambassador and has entertained royalty and heads of state around the globe. His insights as to how people all over respond to genuine kindness will motivate you to treat everyone well. Schmoozing ought to be the handbook for building relationships and interacting with people in any situation.

The second book is Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz. This is a wonderful journal of Don Miller finding God. More than that, the book tells of how difficult we've made it for others to come to know the God of the Bible. If you've ever felt that you are alone in your search, in your doubts, in your quest for finding the Truth, then this book is for you. You will appreciate Miller's simple honest approach to sharing his faith rather than confronting others about theirs.

If you decide to read either of these books, let me know. If you can't get a hold of one or both of them, write me--I'd be glad to help out (although I can't promise you a signed copy of Schmoozing like mine!) I'd be interested to know how you feel about these books. I know you guys (and gals) are readers!