I’m Not Home Yet

I recently discovered this folk band called The Gray Havens (thanks to Tim Challies), who borrow a lot from C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien for their lyrics. The above song titled Far Kingdom really struck me as I remembered the Pevensie children along with Eustace Scrubb riding on the Dawn Treader to the end of the ocean towards a “far kingdom,” the kingdom of Aslan.

Continue reading I’m Not Home Yet

My Reading List for 2015

One of my resolutions for this year is to read 25 books. According to Goodreads, I read 18 books last year so 25 should be attainable, especially considering I have some friends who read well over 100 books each year. In order to have a plan of attack, I compiled a list that I’d like to work on. The list ended up being longer than 25 (51 to be exact), but it gives me a framework from which to choose.

I also recognize that the books I choose to read may change. I’ve actually already modified the list a couple of times because I picked up a new book and wanted to add it. So without further ado, my (potential) reading list for 2015, organized in some fashion.

Continue reading My Reading List for 2015

2015 New Year’s Resolutions

Looking Back

2014 has been a milestone year in my life. God sovereignly transformed my life sometime around Easter in the biggest way possible… He saved me from my own self-righteousness and unbelief. What I had previously thought was the Christian life, was really a false sense of hope and a works-based religion. You can read about that in My Personal Testimony.

Consistent with being a “new man”, my desires have changed radically this year. I spend a lot of my free time reading about Theology or watching sermons online. I have endeavored to “catch up” on the meat of Christian faith that I have missed out on, and it has been good. I have read God’s Word more consistently and with more fervor than ever in my life. I am truly thankful to my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ for this year.

A Different Kind of Resolution

My wife read an article about closing out the year writing letters to Jesus and placing them in your stockings before packing them away for the year. We thought it would be a good tradition to try out, so we all wrote letters of resolution to Jesus. In that letter I wrote my sincere commitments to serve and know Christ. It included overall statements, such as the desire to serve God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. I also wrote practical things, such as continuing my daily time of reading the Bible, praying and studying.

So my public New Year’s Resolutions this year look more like changes in habit that I would like to implement in my life.

1) Write at least 100 words per day

Writing has helped me over the past year, not only in organization, but in handling stress, keeping track of ideas and being able to look back and remember days past. This is actually an easy target which is intentional. Forming the habit is the hard part. Once that is set, you can expand on it more easily. I have kept a journal pretty consistently for the past year and my journal writing will be included in the 100 words per day. It will also include blog posts and any other recreational writing I might embark upon.

2) Run the Pensacola Marathon

This is pretty straightforward. I thought about setting a goal of miles per week or something of that nature. However, setting a goal of running in a marathon has the benefit of requiring weekly training. I have the past year off from most running, so now it is time to get back out on the streets!

3) Finish memorizing the book of Ephesians

I meet with a men’s group on a sometimes weekly basis to read God’s Word (we started in Ephesians) and pray for one another. During that time I decided it would be cool to try to memorize Ephesians. I’ve done the first one and a half chapters (probably a little rusty right now), but I’d like to finish the whole book. It is only six chapters so it shouldn’t be impossible to accomplish. The benefits of this are huge! We are called as Christians to meditate on God’s Word, day and night. It is much easier to do when you actually know His Word. Ephesians is also extremely dense Theologically, so I’ll be getting a lot of “bang for the buck.”

4) Get out of debt (finally)

We really fell off the bandwagon of becoming debt free this year. I really hate that. So this year, we are really going to do it!

5) Read 25 Books

I’ve really enjoyed reading this year and so I wanted to set some goals for myself. According to Goodreads I read a measly 14 books this year. I have a friend that reads about a hundred books a year, so I should be able to crank out 25. To keep on track I’m looking at two books per month plus the Bible, which I’m reading over the entire year.

Happy New Year

Well, I hope you and your families have had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s break. Now… get back to work!

Personal Parable: Repentance

1) to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right
2) to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
3) to change one’s mind

“Repent.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 May 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repent.

An Interaction With My Son

This morning my son and I were involved in what you might call horseplay. He knows that I am ticklish and so he likes to tickle me. I, of course, am (for the time) much larger than my son and so usually turn the tables quickly and tickle him into submission. This continued until the playing became a bit too rambunctious; it was beginning to bother other members of the family. My son tends to take things too far, which I wanted to prevent.

Instead of demanding an end of the playing, I tried gently letting my son know that we were going to far. He continued the attack. I let him know that I was much larger and stronger, that he could not win this battle and so should submit. I let him know that the consequences of not yielding would be the ultimate tickle torture far beyond his comfort level and ability to cope. He persisted.

Being a man of my word, I chased him to his bedroom, held him down and tickled him until he pleaded for relief in desperation. I let him go and what happened next was no surprise to me; he has reacted similarly in the past. He became angry with me. He took a feeble swipe at me. It wasn’t a real attempt to harm me; he knows better. He also issued a verbal accusation / insult at me.

Looking up at my face, he knew that he had just “stepped over the line”. He retreated to his bed and covered his face yelling, “I’m sorry!” He knew what he’d done was wrong. His reaction in anger towards me, his father, was dishonoring and unbiblical. I reminded him of these things and told him that he should think about the words he’d said, about his reaction and why he reacted in such a manner. When he was ready to lay his anger aside, he was welcome to come out of his room.

He did come out after a while. I was sitting on the couch reading and he sat at the other end of couch, not daring to look at me. He kept his eyes downcast and covered himself with a blanket. “I’m sorry, Daddy.” (quietly)

“I know son, and I forgive you. I love you.” With that I pulled him over to me and wrapped my arm around him, holding him close to me.

“Do you know why I love you, son?” I asked. “No” he replied.

“Because you are my son. And do you know why I like you?” He shook his head no.

“Because you are so very much like me.”

Our Father in Heaven

Afterwards I thought how similar this encounter was to the way in which we interact with our heavenly Father. God tells us in His Word how we are to behave, what we should do and not do. (Matthew 22:34-40, Romans 12:1-2, James 1:22, Ephesians 4:17) It is very clear where “the line is” for God’s children. However, we often persist in disobedience. God reveals His holiness, His transcendent nature… God is BIG! He is able to overpower us without contest. Yet we persist in doing wrong. God’s Word tells us the consequence of our sin. (Romans 6:23, Isaiah 59:2)

Eventually, we reap the consequences of wrongdoing. It may seem fun for a time, until it is not. Sin often gives us pleasure, but it NEVER results in true happiness or joy. Similar to the way my son reacted, we often become angry with God and call Him names. “How could He allow this in our lives!? It’s not fair!” We retreat from God and attempt to cover our sinfulness. Sin leads to guilt and separation.

Our Father uncovers our sin and invites us to repentance and reconciliation. We must go to Him with a contrite heart and with humility, confessing our sin and asking forgiveness. When we do, the Father “is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) There is reconciliation both with the Father and the family of God.

Finally, God loves us more than we can fathom. We are His children (if indeed we are). I thought it would be presumptuous of me to indicate that it is good for my son to be like me. I am, after all, a wretched sinner. Then I thought how awesome it would be to hear my heavenly Father tell me that I am just like Him. We are called to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1) to “be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

Are you playing with sin today? Are you comfortable with the ways of the world? If so, I would urge you to “make every effort to confirm your calling and election.” (2 Peter 1:10) That includes repenting of those sins in your life that you have allowed to grow until they are comfortable. Flee from sin and bow to the Father asking for forgiveness.

In Closing

My son does not read my blogs, however, many who read this blog are close to our family. I would ask of you not to reveal that I have blogged this encounter to my son. It would most likely embarrass him.

Finally, I should probably pray and ask God to reveal whether or not I have exasperated my son? (Ephesians 6:4) God bless, and thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Compfight cc

Teach Your Children Well

I just finished listening to a FREE audio series by Alistair Begg on the Truth For Life website, called Teach Your Children Well. For all you parents out there, I would highly recommend giving this a listen. There are four parts, each being 26 minutes long, and all well worth it. I’ve provided links to each of the four messages below.

  1. Teach Your Children Well (Part 1 of 4)
  2. Teach Your Children Well (Part 2 of 4)
  3. Teach Your Children Well (Part 3 of 4)
  4. Teach Your Children Well (Part 4 of 4)

You can also subscribe to their podcast and get them that way. Plus, you’ll have easy access to all their future (and past) messages from iTunes or your iOS device.

Photo Credit: Lotus Carroll via Compfight cc

18 Years: Remembering Our Honeymoon

My beautiful bride and I were wed on May 18, 1996. It is hard to fathom this reality, but we have been married for 18 years this day. It has been a journey filled with many stories, one of which I would like to share, a story from the very beginning.

Aubrey and I honeymooned in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It really is a beautiful area and we both loved the mountains. We still sometimes reminisce about the bed and breakfast we stayed at. It sat on the side of a mountain and had floor to ceiling windows with which to enjoy the views.

What better way to immerse ourselves into this beautiful, mountainous wonderland than to take a guided mountain tour… on horseback? Sounded like a good idea. So we found a place that offered this experience and arrived with much anticipation. The tour group was small and intimate, perfect! It was just the two of us and our guide. How romantic.

The guide, being “the guide”, was the first in line, followed by Aubrey. I brought up the caboose. It seemed a fitting arrangement to me: keep the cherished bride within the pack and protect her at all costs. Manly, protective, chivalrous. That was the theory, at least in my head.

Very soon I realized the folly. My horse was malfunctioning. I think they gave me a broken one. I don’t know much about horses, but they’d given us a short lesson on what to do in various situations and how to handle the beasts. I was assured that these horses were well trained and would just follow the group. Wrong!

My horse was more interested in eating flowers and grasses on the mountainside than staying with the group. In fact, it tried climbing up the mountain with me on its back! It rubbed up against rocks as if trying to wipe me off like a bug. Try as I might to impose my will upon this beast, it would not yield. I eventually gave up since my efforts to keep it in line only caused it to turn and bite at me.

So, my young, innocent, fetching wife, my prize, my joy… enjoyed a tour of the mountains with a strapping young mountain man. Meanwhile I, the skinny musician who’d lived at home until our wedding, watched Aubrey laughing and chatting with our guide from a distance and only when they stopped to allow my horse to catch up. How romantic.

We arrived safely back at the start, the only injury being my manhood. I remember being quite steamed about the whole situation; I’m not sure how well I covered it. We did have a good honeymoon overall and this mountain tour certainly gave me a memory that I will never forget.

It is no surprise that I have no love for horses to this day.

Happy Anniversary to my best friend, to the love of my life! To my partner, my helper, my mate for life, my cherished and treasured gift from God above. I love you, Aubrey.

How Fast We Fall

I slammed on the brakes and threw the minivan into park. In moments I was kneeling on the side of the road holding onto the guard rail as I would a life preserver. My only thought was, “Oh God, I’m going to pass out and crap on myself. What is my poor wife going to do?”

WARNING: This post contains personal information of a “bodily functions” nature, so proceed with caution.

The Fall

That’s how the story starts. It was the end of a long drive to Atlanta, GA on Thursday night; the beginning of another chapter in my gastrointestinal woes.

A mere fifteen minutes away from my sister’s house, I turned the minivan around to head back to some stores and restaurants that we’d passed. My gut cramped and screamed at me to get to a bathroom. I’ve dealt with diarrhea on the road before, but this was different. When the buzzing in my ears and the white noise started creeping into my field of vision, I knew I needed to not be driving.

Eventually, I got back into the van and Aubrey drove me to a drug store about a mile away. She had to guide me into the store and to the bathroom because my vision was so bad. I could barely remain standing or walk straight. Not half an hour earlier I was perfectly fine.

One extremely long bowel movement later, I regained enough composure to clean myself up and get back to the van. We made it to my sister’s house where I immediately made the first of many visits to my new best friend; the toilet. What a way to end a road trip.

Sleepless in Georgia

Oh, what a night. There was no position to be had which produced even a semblance of comfort that night. I spent about a third of the night in the bathroom.

I couldn’t really pass all that much, but felt a strong need to be in the bathroom. What I did pass was liquid.

Trip to the E.R.

The next morning, Aubrey and the kids were getting ready to go on our planned activity and the reason for this trip. We were scheduled to attend a Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament with our home school group (Classical Conversations).

My first bathroom break of the new day provided much horror. I discovered that what I had been passing was blood. Just blood.

I told Aubrey and she was as concerned as I was. She cancelled our trip and took me to an urgent care center nearby.

Diagnosis… PAIN!

The doctor was very nice. His diagnosis was a minor case of diverticulitis.

I’ve never passed blood before and the volume that I was passing was, to be honest, terrifying. So I was expecting that they’d want me admitted to the hospital or something. I’m not saying I was disappointed, but what I was going through didn’t feel very “minor”.

He prescribed some medication (an antibiotic and something to reduce acid) and said I should start feeling better in a few days. So that’s it?

Oh wait. He did say that I should get a colonoscopy when I returned home. That’s certainly something to look forward to.

Reflections

It is amazing that such a little thing can completely incapacitate us. I was completely fine one minute and then I was desperately clinging to consciousness on the side of the road. All because of a “minor” malfunction of my intestines.

I’m not sure why I’ve had to endure the problems with my digestion over the past year. I do know, however, that it reminds me of how fragile this life is. That doesn’t scare me… not completely. My hope is not in anything this world has to offer. It’s not in the strength of my mind or my body. It’s not even in my family or relationships. My hope is in Jesus Christ and the knowledge that my name is written forever in the Book of Life.

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What Is Important?

During a recent sermon, my pastor talked about life priorities and the correlation (or lack thereof) of time and energy spent doing things. This struck a chord with me because I have been contemplating this very idea for some time now. I often find, especially at the turn of the New Year, that people (myself included) spend time deciding what their priorities are. They write these down into a list and label the list as their New Year’s Resolutions. And yes, I have done this for a number of years. Finally they (we) go about their happy lives doing exactly what they did the previous year.

The Great Discrepancy

You see, when I make out my New Year’s Resolutions, I decide what I want my priorities to be. I’m trying to tell myself that these are the things that are important to me and as such I will resolve myself to doing them (or not doing them as the case may be) this year. However, after the luster of that list wears thin, I tend to regress back into the old way of life. I say that I want to get into better shape, but I only go to the gym regularly during the first couple of months of the year. I say that I want to get closer to God, but how much time do I spend reading His word? I say that I want a better marriage, but how much actual, measurable effort am I expending to make that happen? I find in myself that there is a great discrepancy between what I want to be a priority in my life and what my life actions say are the real priorities in my life.

What To Do?

Well, they say that knowledge is half the battle. You need to know what your priorities are. At least, what you want your priorities to be. Fortunately, if you’ve made some New Year’s Resolutions, then you have mostly done this part. For me, I was holding off on writing my list out until I decided what direction I was going to take. Was I going to do the same old resolutions again, or at least attempt to approach this differently. I decided different was good.

If knowledge is half the battle, then I think perhaps the other half is action. You have to do something in order to make progress. This is where most of us go astray. We start out by doing the right things (January gym visits) and then slowly migrate towards doing the easier things, the things that are more fun or the things that life demands of us. I believe that by combining our knowledge of what is important with a well structured plan of action we may be able to make positive changes towards living our lives in an appropriately prioritized way. Below is my four part plan of attack.

1) Making the List

Building your priority list should be the first, well… priority. I am a visual thinker, so I like to use mind mapping when I can. Mind Meister is a website which you can use (FREE of charge) to start getting into mind mapping. If that sort of thing isn’t your bag (baby), then plain old text lists will do just fine.

Start by coming up with a few large priority areas. For my list I chose God, family and career. These areas are intentionally broad and allow you to organize your priorities. If you start filling in your list and one of these areas is much larger than the others (i.e. career), then that may be a flag that your priorities need some adjustment… maybe. Here is an example that I created.

PriorityMindMap_01

Underneath each of these areas, define what is a priority. What is important? For example, under the God area I decided that getting to know more about God is a priority. After you’ve completed this second tier or level, this becomes your “priority list”.

PriorityMindMap_02

Now that you know what your priorities are, you can take action. Well, maybe not yet. You still need to know what action to take. For each of the priorities, come up with one, two, a dozen actions that will help you make progress towards that goal or priority. For example, in my list I have a priority of Improve My Marriage. What action(s) can I take to show that it is indeed a priority to me? I put Date My Wife as an action item. This allows my wife and I to get away from the kids (not that we don’t like our kids), to change scenery, to talk about life, reconnect with each other and generally goes a long way to improving our marriage. Writing this down helps me to remember it throughout the year.

PriorityMindMap_03

Here is the list in “list” form to demonstrate that mind mapping is not necessary:

  • God
    • Know God Better
      • Read the Bible (daily)
      • Study the Bible for life application
      • Spend time in prayer (daily)
    • Serve God
  • Family
    • Improve My Marriage
      • Date my wife
      • Education: read books, watch videos, go to events, etc. Do things which will lead to a better understanding of what makes a great marriage.
    • Be a Better Parent
  • Career
    • Self Improvement / Marketability
      • Finish earning my degree
      • Technical blogging in my field
    • Work With Excellence

This isn’t a complete list, but should demonstrate the concept.

2) Planning the List

Now comes the action, right!? Almost, but not quite. We need to have a plan of action, know what action to take, before we can move in the right direction. I suggest having daily planning sessions during which you review the list you’ve written out. This could be in the evening, planning your next day or could be a “first thing in the morning” ritual to be prepared for the current day. Start by cross referencing your existing schedule to see if there are any intersections with your priority list. I have a job, like many people, so obviously my schedule is highly likely to include a lot of stuff that falls under my Career area. Beyond that, however, identify some actions from your priority list that may fit into your day and schedule them. One of my priorities is to Know God Better and one of the actions for that is to Read the Bible (daily). I should schedule a time during this day to sit down and read my Bible. If you proactively plan your day out and fill it with things that you say are a priority, then your priorities won’t fall into the trash bin of lost New Year’s Resolutions.

3) Living the List

Ready, set, go! Now you have a plan of action and a schedule to achieve it. Try to stick to your schedule. Eliminate unnecessary distractions. Behave as if the priorities on your list, the actions that you’ve scheduled, are actually a priority to you. If they are important to you, then you should want to do them. Fight against all of the senseless things that life throws at you to prevent you from achieving your goals. Now, if something comes up which is important (i.e. medical emergencies) then by all means give them the appropriate attention they deserve. There is a plethora of information out there to teach you how to do this, so I will not attempt to here. Besides, I’m not actually all that great at it myself. This article is largely for my own benefit. :)

4) Measuring the List

Finally, we need some way to measure whether or not we are making steps towards our goal, that we are actually living our life according to the priorities that we have established. Review the actions that you took throughout the day. Did you complete everything on your schedule? Did you succumb to distraction? How do you feel about what you accomplished this day? I have started keeping a journal, as has been suggested by many before me. I highly recommend it, if for no other purpose than to keep track of what you are doing throughout the day. You could even combine the measuring session with the planning session. Start by reviewing your day and then use the information you’ve gleaned to plan your next day.

Daily review is good, but I think you should also take it another step. Once a month take some time to review what you’ve accomplished. This larger scale review may help you to identify if you are straying from the path. It may also indicate that you need to adjust your original priority list, which is perfectly fine. This is, after all, your list. Finally, if you’ve followed this pattern for an entire year, you should have a ton of data at the end of the year to decide if you’ve correctly prioritized your year.

Well, as I mentioned above, this article is for me too. I haven’t actually achieved priority list nirvana, but I would like to. Starting now. Good luck to you and your list making. Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you have any additions or suggestions for improvement? Thanks for reading.

Pensacola Marathon 2013 Wrap Up

This past weekend on Sunday, November 10, 2013 I ran in the Pensacola Marathon. My wife, Aubrey, also participated in her very first half marathon. We had a great time and it was, for the most part, a great day. Aubrey finished her race well and with a very decent time. I however, well, where to begin? I think a definition is the right way to start.

DNF (Did Not Finish)
In racing Did Not Finish (DNF) denotes a participant who does not finish a given race, either because of a mechanical failure, injury, or involvement in an accident.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Did_Not_Finish

No, I did not finish the race. More on that later.

Good Start

The Pensacola Marathon course follows along with the half marathon runners in the beginning. It is not until about the 6 mile mark that the full marathon runners split off. This was great and enabled me to begin the race with Aubrey and another friend of ours who was also running the half. We all felt great for that first 6 miles, as far as I could tell. We held conversation, though short and to the point, and were for the most part happy and smiling. The views of the sun coming up over the water are always a pleasant site to take your mind off of running. There’s also the fact that 2,700 people were running, so there is plenty to keep your mind distracted.

When we reached the 6 mile split off point, Aubrey and I stopped and said a quick goodbye. Spirits were high and I was certain that I would see her at the end. My course took me up a side access street by the Pensacola Airport and then onto Spanish Trail. We ran all the way up to Aletheia Christian Academy and then made our way back to Summit Blvd. It was at this point that I knew I was working. My feet had been hurting for a while until I ignored them enough for my brain to get the point and stop screaming at me. My legs were also beginning to hurt. Ah… this is the marathon running I remember!

Crash and Burn

So somewhere around 16 to 17 miles my body started shutting down. My legs were in full cramp and scream mode from my hips all the way to my little piggies. I stopped a couple of times and sat on the side of the road massaging my legs and stretching. I’d been through this before so I figured I could get through it with a little break and some perseverance. I just needed to keep moving. By this time I was almost up to 12th Avenue. As I approached the intersection of 12th and Bayou I knew I was probably in trouble. I was getting really dizzy and nauseated. I’d felt like this before too, and it ended with a trip to the hospital. I pushed on past the intersection but that was as far as I could go. I didn’t see any first aid stations in sight and I felt like I was either going to vomit or pass out… or both.

I sat down and pulled out my phone. I knew Aubrey had already finished. We have apps on our phones (MapMyRun) that let us track each other and which notify us when the other is done working out (running). I sent her two messages: “I’m done” and “First Assembly”. She quickly called me up and verified that I was finished with the race and was requesting a pickup. I walked over to First Assembly church, found a decent shady spot out in the parking lot and sat down. Aubrey arrived soon thereafter and took me home to recover.

Looking Back

So why couldn’t I finish the race? There are a couple of contributing factors that I can think of. First, my pace was a little quicker than I’d planned on. I was holding just over a 10 minute mile for the 16 miles that I was actually running. I’d planned on more of a 12 minute mile. It was warmer than I would have liked that day, which isn’t surprising considering past experiences with this race. There’s also my training; I hurt my left foot right before the peak of my training schedule and was forced to lay off of running for a little over two weeks. So, was it one of these? Was it all of them? Was it something I’m not thinking of? I have no idea, nor am I going to dwell on trying to figure it out. There are a myriad of factors that go into preparing for and running well in an endurance race.

Looking Forward

What I am going to focus on is what is next? Yes, I definitely will be running more marathons. My son said that the Pensacola Marathon is cursed for me. I completed my first marathon in this race, but it ended with an ambulance ride to the hospital. This time I didn’t finish. All I have to say about that is, watch out 2014! All I can do is continue to run, live healthy and try my best. We also have the Pensacola Double Bridge run coming up (15k) and there are several half marathons in this area at the first of the year. Now that Aubrey is broken in on long distance running, I’m really looking forward to running more of these with her. That’s the best scenery I could ask for.

2013 New Year’s Resolutions

Bilbo-The-Hobbit

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring)

I thought it appropriate to use this image and quote taken from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring) and the recent release of the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for my New Year’s Resolution post. My wife, kids and I went to see the movie together and thoroughly enjoyed it. Anyway, each year has the potential to hold something new, perhaps something adventurous. While I don’t particularly feel that it will at the moment, the future is unknown and as Bilbo stated, “there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Continue reading 2013 New Year’s Resolutions