Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bell on Wheels

From the Chris Bell campaign:
We’re busy packing right now here at the Bell Campaign, getting ready to hit the road tomorrow morning for the statewide bus tour we’re calling “Bell on Wheels.”For a brief moment we thought of naming it the “We’re Way More Prouder of Texas Tour” or the “Rolling Slick Rick Retirement Rallyrama 2006,” but in the end, cooler, more PR-savvy heads prevailed. So Bell on Wheels we’ll be, and we're coming to a town near you...

Reasons for leaving the church

Lifeway and Churchrelevance share these results on why people leave the church in the first place:

59% of those who left the church did so because of “changes in life situation.”
— 19% “simply got too busy to attend church.”
— 17% said “family/home responsibilities prevented church attendance.”
— Other reasons explained were moving too far from the church, work situation and divorce or separation.
37% leave because of “disenchantment with pastor/church.”
— 17% said church members “seemed hypocritical” and “were judgmental of others.”
— 12% said “the church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement.”
80% of the formerly churched do not have a strong belief in God, which the study indicated may account for their higher priorities of work and family over church.
42% said they are “Christian, but not particularly devout.”
24% consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.”
19% said they are “a devout Christian with a strong belief in God.”
16% of those who left the church said nobody contacted them after they left.
16% said nobody seemed to care that they left.
14% said the church was not helping them develop spiritually.
14% said they stopped believing in organized religion.
10% confessed to wavering on Christianity.
6% said they were wavering on belief in God.

Reaching the unchurched

Despite our history of being a "Christian nation," more and more people are leaving the church and joining the unchurched. Churchrelevance.com reports on a new LifeWay report that investigates why people leave and come back to church.

The Probability
62% of the formerly churched adults said they are open to the idea of attending church regularly again, but not actively looking.
28% said they are unlikely to consider regularly attending church in the foreseeable future.
6% said they would prefer to resume attending regularly in the same church they had attended.
4% said they are actively looking for a different church to attend regularly.
The average formerly churched adult has not attended regularly for 14 years.

The Catalyst
58% said they simply felt that it was time to return to the church.
41% said a friend or acquaintance invited them.
35% said they would return if they knew there were people there like them.
31% felt that God was calling them to visit the church.
25% said they would resume if their children asked them to go with them to church.
25% said they would go if an adult family member invited them.

The Motivation
(For the large majority who were self-motivated to return to church)
46% said it was to bring them closer to God.
32% want to be around those with similar values.
31% want to make friends.
30% want to make a difference of help others in their community.

How does your church reach out to the unchurched? If not, why not?

How evangelicals fell for Bush

The New Republic has an interesting review of "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction" By David Kuo
"Tempting Faith" is the story of how David Kuo, an unassuming if ambitious young man, discovered the wonder-filled joy flowing from devotion to a force more powerful than himself. I don't mean that he found God, although Kuo, by his own account, first encountered Jesus in high school. When Kuo tells us how he got "hooked," the object of his reverence lived not in Nazareth, but in Austin. "He seemed not just charming, but weighty, seductive yet pure, likeable but mysterious," he writes of his first meeting with then-governor George W. Bush. "I couldn't tell whether his disclosures were private revelations to someone he liked or just part of a pitch to someone he might need. I didn't much care. I loved him."
Neither theological brilliance nor grace-earning humility on the governor's part caused Kuo to succumb. It was all about the bottle. "Watching him, I couldn't miss the evidence of the former drunk, the lost soul who had fallen to his knees sobbing before God; the sinner who had become God's own." For Kuo, being a Christian means sharing your journey. "When Christians like me share the stories of how we came to believe in Jesus and what his presence means in our lives," he writes, "it is called a testimony. It is deeply personal, deeply intimate, and shared with fellow Christians as well as with those we hope are open to accepting Jesus." Bush's testimony--how he lost his way, how Billy Graham pointed him in the right direction--established his sincerity. My goodness, Kuo goes on, you just had to see the man when his path crossed with that of an addict. "Any swagger disappeared. Something softer and perhaps more genuine took its place. He listened to each story and nodded. He seemed more like a counselor than a politician. When this happened--just a few times I was around--he didn't hurry and didn't rush. It was one of the more Christ-like things I have ever seen a powerful man do." This is Noonanism with a born-again face. For Kuo, Karl Rove is "nice" and has "a soft heart," Karen Hughes is filled with "sensitivity," and even Dick Cheney has "a surprising jocularity." Surprising, indeed.

Unleash your creative spirit

Church Relevance has a good entry today on finding your creative spirit/genius:
Four Ways to Unleash Your Creative Genius
We all possess the ability to be creative. Often a little creativity is all that is needed to make a sermon stick or an advertisement memorable. To get your creative juices flowing, consider these 4 tips published by USA Today two months ago:

  • Explore an unfamiliar area of knowledge. For example, people who use a lot of math on the job should sign up for a painting class.
  • Spend time each day thinking. Don’t censor your thoughts, but allow your mind to go freely to a problem and see what kinds of solutions or ideas surface.
  • Practice the art of paying attention. Look for and really observe a person, an object or something in your daily commute that you hadn’t really noticed before. Try describing or drawing that object in a journal or sketchbook.
  • Use your imagination. Spend time each day imagining a different world. What would it look like? What would you do there?

    Creativity is about exposing yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking and learning how to harness the key principles your diverse knowledge to improve something. It is important that ministers never stop learning and never stop improving.
  • DMN to launch new website

    Word on the street is that the DMN will launch a new website on Thursday. I would guess the other Belo sites will follow shortly since they are highly integrated with each other.

    See you at the polls

    According to Gomer Jeffers at the DMN, Chris Bell was in Fort Worth a couple days ago for a unique photo opportunity. He was supposed to give a little old lady a ride to the polls.
    For some reason, Bell was unable to pick up the woman at her apartment. So instead of giving her a ride, he met her at the polling place for early voting.
    "Come on, man. Picking up a voter is a basic principle in any get-out-the vote campaign," Jeffers said. "Did you at least give her gas money?"
    I wonder if they botched photo op changed the woman's vote.
    With less than a week left before the election, who are you voting for?

    Happy Birthday

    Happy Birthday to Texas Gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, 62 today and U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr., 45 today.

    How to write a press release

    This goes to polliticians, churches, organizations or anyone who wants to get publicity for an event, occassion or campaign.
    CMS has a quick summary of how to write a press release for you.
    As a former newspaper editor and current reporter I can agree with this whole heartidly. I think every church needs to be sending out press releases on their events and there needs to be someone who is knowledable about how to do it.
    It's not brain surgery. Anyone can do it, just follow these simple guidelines:
  • Just the Facts, Ma'am
  • Put the Most Important Information First
  • Use Short Sentences and Paragraphs
  • Always Use Active Voice
  • Avoid Jargon and Cliches
  • Proofread, Proofreed, Proufread
    For a complete description of these steps read the post.
  • Guide to freelance

    From Lifehacker:
    Freelance web designer Phil Gyford has compiled a thorough guide to freelancing, covering everything from marketing yourself to dealing with distractions. Although some of the information is tailored to programmers, much of it is worthwhile reading for anyone thinking of taking the freelance leap.
    I'm all about freelancing. I'd like to do more of it - hint, hint. I'd love to be able to do enough that that's all I did, but we haven't gotten there yet. Hopefully that day will come some day, I guess I better read the guide to find out how.

    Quote for the day

    From Sojourners:
    The Psalms defy our notions of profane and sacred, proving that everything we feel, witness, do unto others, and have done to us is acceptable subject matter for conversing with the Divine. They invite us to bring every part of ourselves into our houses of worship. If we omit expressions of faith lost, of rage, of disdain, and of the desire for revenge, we leave parts of ourselves at the door.
    - Kari Jo Verhulst

    Monday, October 30, 2006

    Marriage advice

    Over the last few weeks I've heard more and more advice for marriage, especially leading up to the engagment Saturday and now even more so now.
    I think the best advice so far is, "Always remember, 'Yes dear.'"
    But this just came from Mike and I think it's worth sharing as well:
    Dating process:
    6 weeks : I love U, I love U, I love U.
    6 months : Of course I love U.
    6 years : GOD, if I didn't love U, then why the hell did I propose?

    Back from Work:
    6 weeks : Honey, I'm home.
    6 months : BACK!!
    6 years : What did your mom cook for us today??

    6 weeks : Honey, I really hope you liked the ring.
    6 months : I bought you a painting; it would fit the motif in the living room.
    6 years : Here's the money. Buy yourself something.

    Phone Ringing:
    6 weeks : Baby, somebody wants you on the phone.
    6 months : Here, for you.
    6 years : PHONE RINGING.

    6 weeks : I never knew food could taste so good!
    6 months : What are we having for dinner tonight?
    6 years : AGAIN!!!!

    6 weeks : Honey muffin, don't you worry, I'll never hold this against you.
    6 months : Watch out! Don't do it again.
    6 years : What's not to understand about what I just said??

    New Dress:
    6 weeks : Oh my God, you look like an angel in that dress.
    6 months : You bought a new dress again???
    6 years : How much did THAT cost me?

    Planning for Vacations:
    6 weeks : How do 2 weeks in Vienna or anywhere you please sound??
    6 months : What's so bad about going to Istanbul on a charter plane?
    6 years : Travel? What's so bad about staying home???

    6 weeks : Baby, what would you like us to watch tonight?
    6 months : I like this movie.
    6 years : I'm going to watch ESPN, if you're not in the mood, go to bed, I can stay up by myself.
    Feel free to insert your marriage advice by clicking the comment button below.

    Build a secret bookshelf door

    If you've always wanted a hidden room, passage or just a cool door that opens from your bookshelf, Lifehacker has shared a link giving instructions for building one.

    Perry's Smoke Stack Love World Tour coming to Waxahachie

    From the DMN: Stan Marks of Phoenix signs a petition for Katie Allred, 11, and Katie Bates, 12, of Midlothian in support of the Rick Perry's Smoke Stack Love World Tour protest.

    Downwinders at Risk will be sending their 12 by 16 foot "Gov. McDreamy smooching a smoke stack" float to Waxahachie today.
    The group is planning to arrive in downtown Waxahachie between 4:30 and 5 and will circle the courthouse half-a-dozen times.

    Why should a church blog?

    Cory Miller at ChurchCommunicationsPro.com suggests churches and pastors need a goal and reason to blog.
    So I thought it would be fun to open these questions up to everyone.
    Besides, “Well the media guy said we should, ” why do you think your church needs a blog? Or does it? What should be the goal of our blog? Do you blog or comment on blogs? Why or why not? How can blogs help us encounter God and encounter those around us?

    Horse Sense: The Pope and Islam: If the Shoe Fits

    On September 12th, Pope Benedict XVI lobbed a political grenade. He was delivering a lecture on “Faith, Reason and the University” at the University of Regensburg in Germany. In the course of that lecture, he quoted a long citation (about 15 percent of the text), which served as the entry point to the rest of the talk about faith and reason, and about the un-reasonability of violence when it comes to spreading faith. As such, it was not a casual reference. The citation almost immediately sparked protests, some violent throughout the Muslim world such as we have not seen, since Muslims took offense at Danish cartoons back in 2005. That previous incident is enough to convince most observers the Pope should have known what he was doing and indeed, almost certainly did. Moreover, he could have chosen dozens of citations about faith and reason that did not involve Islam. According to George Friedman, the Pope essentially chose his remarks to strengthen his political base and legitimize a stronger response to anti-Catholic rhetoric coming out of Muslim countries. He also probably counted on the response to illustrate his more substantive points: that Christianity is indeed more aligned with rationality than Islam; and implicitly, if violence is a rejection of reason, then Islam may wear the shoe.
    Besides political impact and implication, the actual citation is worth attention. It is from a conversation circa 1391, between the Byzantine emperor Manuel II, Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, as well as potential truth contained in both religions. The emperor is the source of the incendiary quotation, claiming in his conversation with the Persian that Mohammed contributed nothing new to knowledge of God, but rather introduced evil through a command to spread the faith he preached by the sword. The emperor goes on to say violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul, and that God is not pleased by blood; and whosoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence or threats.
    Now there are a lot of ways to take this whole conversation—the one between the emperor and the Persian, as well as the one between Pope Benedict and his audience, including a large audience outside of the lecture hall. The Byzantine emperor is from a Greek philosophical tradition, which makes his statements self-evident concerning God and Reason and concerning violence and its incompatibility with both. To the Persian, however, God is altogether more transcendent, and the linkages in the argument do not necessarily follow. On the other hand, the Persian might very well counter with Sura 2,256, which reads: ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ (Actually, the emperor points this inconsistency out about Islam in the same conversation, noting that Mohammed recurred to violence more over time, the more powerful he became). For those outside the university setting in which the Pope spoke, we could join several larger debates—for instance, many Christians might take issue with, or at least qualify the Pope’s comments concerning Christianity and Reason, given that the Age of Reason or Enlightenment led not only to the development of faith-based, ordered liberty, but also arguably, to modern secular humanism and to eventual loss of faith particularly in Europe. From my own perspective, I should think it just as reasonable to ignore the Pope’s comments altogether, to chalk them up to provocative intellectual discussion at a university, and okay, maybe to some red meat thrown to political partisans. At some level, however, man’s imperfect universal eye detracts from the political process and from free discourse, even the expression inherent and appropriate to cultural contexts and to any integral system. Being generally consistent is one thing, but audiences differ and methods of persuasion differ with each. Communication to any given audience is not only about words, but also about expressions and sentiment. Languages differ and so do dialects; so does humor and just about everything else the farther apart you go. The context of a speech is not only textual but in time and place and person. Hence not every media moment is going to withstand the delimited exposure to every man, woman and child on the planet. Twenty years from now, it may not even stand in the same location or with the same people. Freedom of speech has to be left alone, as it were, country to country at least; and mature people in the West certainly understand the Pope has to be able to speak to Catholics, without Jews and Protestants taking to the streets whenever they think they hear something insulting. Moreover, a Texan should be able to speak to other Texans, and a Virginian to his home crowd, without caring whether everyone in India or Bangladesh agrees or whether someone watching CNN from some other community takes offense. There is after all such a thing as nobody else’s business, or at least minding yours!
    Now Muslims of various sects can of course join in with debates too. They could choose to argue the various, albeit mixed injunctions they have towards peace and tolerance. Perhaps they might choose to justify violence in a narrow context, who knows? Point being: they must choose the rationalist aspects out of their faith, in order to disprove the Pope’s implicit point. They can ignore all such arcane quotes, as a reasonable approach that I have suggested, or they can try their luck at reasoned argument and assertion. In so doing, they may yet lift their faith out of the hands of intellectual midgets, extremists and deviants amongst them who, as President Bush says, have hijacked a great religion. Muslims must choose reason and rational argument, in order to show themselves capable of civil disagreement, as well as peaceful coexistence both in and with free societies. Demonstrations in the street and violent outbursts over every little thing won’t meet a 14th century emperor’s challenge or criticism, any more than it will the 21st century’s imperative for harmony between billions of adherents to different faiths, all living, learning and seeking spiritual fulfillment in the midst of unprecedented globalization.
    Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. Email: wes@wesriddle.com

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Love this photo

    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    Yup, another one from Saturday morning.

    Maybe its her smile

    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    I think its her smile

    The engagement couple and team

    The engagement couple and team
    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    Aaron, Jen (future maid of honor), Laurie, Jonathan, Matt (future best man) snap a shot after the adventurous morning.

    The ring

    The ring
    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    Laurie's ring was worn by both her grandmother and great-grandmother.

    She said yes!

    She said yes!
    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    Yup. I'm excited!

    She said "Yes!"

    BTW, did I tell you? She said, "Yes!"
    I popped the question yesterday at White Rock Lake in Dallas.
    She had no clue it was coming... at least not as soon as it did.
    I think she was feeling she'd be lucky if it came by New Years. Ha.
    But I have never been more excited in my life!
    We'll wed on April 28, 2007 in Mesquite, Texas at our parent's church (where Laurie grew up).
    We'll have a video and photos online later tonight...
    Or if you're lucky, the video has been approved by Youtube and you can watch it here...

    Seriously. I'm getting married. What a great God we serve.
    I would have never guessed it in a million years. That's probably why I signed a one year contract for my apartment on July 1, seven days before I met Laurie.

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    Re: Mr Way Too Liberal for Texas Guy

    The Bell campaign said they were unconcerned about the new Perry ad as it points to Bell as the anti-Perry.
    “We hope he runs more ads identifying us as the candidate he’s scared of,” Bell’s campaign manager Jason Stanford said. “Chris Bell is the anti-Perry, and with two-thirds of voters itching to fire Rick Perry, that’s a great position to be in.”
    The Bell campaign also released a new radio ad of their own this week, featuring former President Bill Clinton.
    In the ad, Clinton says Perry has had his chance as governor.
    “We need a positive change,” Clinton said. “So on election day, be a good citizen, exercise your right to vote and vote for Democrat Chris Bell for governor.”
    The ad is also available online at: www.chrisbell.com/files/Clinton_radio_ad.mp3.

    The Wondrous Cross

    I'm listening to Thomas' mix for Headphonaught's Store on Orange Noise this week. He found an amazing version of The Wondrous Cross.
    Just read the words. Good stuff.

    When I survey the wondrous cross
    On which the Prince of glory died,
    My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.

    Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the death of Christ my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to His blood.

    See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

    His dying crimson, like a robe,
    Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
    Then I am dead to all the globe,
    And all the globe is dead to me.

    Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

    Five things every nurse should remember

    As a disclaimer, I know I have several friends that are nurses and I'm told my sister was an amazing nurse. But after spending two full days and one night at a local hospital this week, I thought I'd share a few things all the other nurses should remember.

    5. We can hear you partying at the nurses station at 3 in the morning.
    4. Remember there's a white board in the room for you to write your name on. Just because the name of the nurse three shifts ago is on there, doesn't mean you can't erase it and put yours on it.
    3. Close the door behind you. If a door's been shut all night long and you walk in to do something, the chances are VERY HIGH that the folks in the room may want the door closed even after you leave.
    2. Don't promise what you can't deliver. If you know you're going to have to OK something by the doctor or you know you can't change a bandage, don't promise the patient you're going to do it.
    1. Listen. If a patient tells you they are in pain or can't breathe, it might be a good idea to listen and take note and do something about it.

    Laurie Post Op Interviews

    Laurie Post Op Interviews

    Laurie and I talk about our adventures at Baylor Hospital after her operations this week.

    New prayer mix

    Thomas has a new mix for Orange Noise.
    He recorded it for a time of prayer and decided to share it for his weekly radio mix.
    You can listen to his show online at 9 p.m. CST tonight or 4 p.m. CST on Saturday.
    Aaron's radio mix airs at 8 p.m. CST tonight and 3 p.m. CST on Saturday.

    Click here to listen to Orange Noise 24/7.

    Thoughts for the day

    From Sojourners:
    Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
    - Jeremiah 17:7-8

    Imagine a world where the representatives of the greatest military power on earth are humbled by an unarmed healer from the backwaters of Galilee. If you can imagine this kind of world, you possess...an imagination ready to discern the reign of heaven.
    - Stanley Saunders

    Mr Way too Liberal for Texas Guy

    As a follow up to the "Mr Way too Proud of Texas Guy" from Budweiser, the Rick Perry campaign is about to drop a new radio ad against Chris Bell. It goes to show you that the Republican campaign has a sense of humor too.
    It is absolutely hilarious.
    I may have to vote for Perry just for releasing this ad.
    Click here to listen...
    According to "insiders" the radio ad drop this afternoon on the air.

    Cancel your church service to do service

    This is AWESOME! From CMS:
    This is what church is supposed to be.
    Gateway Community Church in South Riding, Va. had "The Big Event" on Sunday, October 15. Instead of a typical Sunday morning worship service, the congregation went out and did volunteer work for 61 area homes. One member even blogged about the experience.
    The event included business sponsors, a web site and balloons and yard signs to mark the "winners"--the homes that received the free work. While all those extras help maximize the impact of the event, I just love the simple idea.

    What should I blog about?

    I hear people tell me all the time that they don't know what they'd blog about.
    Everyone has something interesting to say.
    There are 1 million stories in the naked city every night - or so they say.
    But the key is to write about what you're passionate about.
    I love doing a random check over at technorati or other sites to see what keywords pop up in my blog posts.
    You can see right away what I write the most about and by reading my blog you can probably tell very easily what my passions are. I write about thigns I'm passionate about.
    If you're passionate about your pets, write about your pets. If you're passionate about your job, write about your job. If you're passionate about health care or politics or your church or your God, write about it.
    ChurchCommunicationsPro has started a new series for pastors who need to be bloging.
    It's got some great pointers for "the rest of us" as well.
    Some of the posts include:
  • How to Get Blogging in About Four Steps, Five Minutes [See below]
  • Why I Suggest Pastors Use Blogger.com
  • Blog Your Passsion, First and Foremost
  • 10 Topic Ideas for Blogging Pastors
  • Blogging as the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling
  • How to Read a Blog ... for Pastors
  • Make a Blog Posting Schedule
  • How to Write a Blog Post ... for Pastors: 6 Ideas
  • The Best Blog Posts ... Are Often Lists
  • Writing Effective Headlines, or Post Titles
    The site also has 5 questions with 44 different blogging pastors that are each great reads.
    Check it out and pass it along to your pastor. It will be well worth it.
  • Thursday, October 26, 2006

    God is faithful

    From a good old friend:
    I can't think of an adequate title...

    As I sit here at the computer, I am looking at my calculator. It says "59.34." Yep, that's what I was doing an hour or two ago...balancing our checkbook. And yes, that's what the balance came up being.
    Why am I even telling you this? My pride is telling me to shut up and not talk about what little money we have in the checking account because 1) People may think it's pretty pathetic, 2) I might be pitied as a charity case or 3) people may think we have spent all of it frivolously. Well, Pride, you're just gonna have to sit down and shut up for a minute because I have something to say.
    For the past several months (since May) we have been having really big financial difficulties. It all started when I had to go to the chiropractor for my headaches. Our insurance deductible hadn't been met, so every visit, test, therapy, etc. had to be fully paid for by us. That put us far enough in a hole where we had to put our regular bills on credit cards to be able to pay the medical stuff. So, since then it has been kind of like a snowball effect, with even more medical bills for my husband and then even more for my recent surgery. Needless to say, it was a bit frustrating, especially to my dear husband.
    In most homes (Christian ones, too) the husband sees himself as the provider (even if he may not come out and say it), so when financial difficulties come, they tend to shoulder all of the burden and worry. Well, this past week at our church, we had revival. Our revival preacher brought out a good point one evening when he said that the husband is NOT the provider of the home--God is. So if there are financial problems, look to your Provider. I kinda nudged my hubby when he said that because I knew he was worried about it--he's not the type to ever say anything, though. So, we just kept on praying like we always have that God would provide for us.
    It hasn't been easy, really, and I'm sure a lot of you understand what I mean. We NEVER go out to eat. I go to the grocery store once a week and get all we need for me to cook every night. I don't mind cooking, but it gets a bit old sometimes :). We are the epitome of "penny-pinchers." We have been very wise with our money (such as it is!).
    Philip told me that he prayed yesterday morning that God would send us a check for $1500 to get us out from under the medical bill debt so we could start paying down the credit card debt. He looked in the mail yesterday and there was no check. He prayed again this morning that God would please put the check in the mail.
    He had to go to Wal-Mart today to get diapers. Our oldest, Annika, has grown out of all of her Fall/Winter clothes and so while there he knew he had to get her some clothes to wear. So, he got her a few outfits and shirts and added up what we had left in the checking account and what he was about to spend. He got to the checkout and had to decide whether or not to put it on a credit card or trust God and just pay for it out of the checking account. He decided to trust God and just go ahead and pay it out of the checking account. He got into the car and realized that we only had about $50 in our checking account (which I had just punched in a few minutes before he went to Walmart) and the reality of that coupled with all the debt began to really bother him. The whole way home, he was almost in tears because of the financial strain, but he just kept thinking, "I am going to just trust the Lord." All the way home, he was so hoping that check he had prayed for would be there. He pulled into the drive way and checked our mail box. No check.
    He walked down to church's mailbox and checked it. In it was two checks from Central Baptist in Dunn, NC--one for the church and one for our family! The check for our family covered all the debt we needed to pay. The really amazing thing that I told Philip later was that the mailman had delivered our mail to the house earlier because there was a package and she asked if me if I wanted the church mail too. I said yes, so she gave me all the mail. But yet, somehow that check was sitting there in the church's mail box!
    Philip came to where the girls and I were outside playing he was crying. I didn't know what was going on, but then once he showed me, we just cried together--amazed at God's faithfulness!
    I just had to share this because I know there may be people struggling with things like this and God's promises will come true if you trust Him. He definitely deserves the glory and I am so glad that I can write this so many people will see what and awesome and personal God He is!

    Get your ladders ready

    President Bush signed legislation today to build a fence along our border.
    Seriously? A fence? The Great Wall of China didn't keep the Mongolian's out. The Berlin Wall didn't really keep anyone out of East or West Germany. Why the heck is a fence going to keep Mexican's out?
    Sen. Bill Frist writes about it:
    I just left the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, critical legislation that authorizes at least 700 miles of two-layered fencing along our southwest border.
    The American people demand action to stem the tide of illegal immigration and Republicans have responded by dramatically increasing physical barriers … by adding 3,736 new Border Patrol agents … by building 9,150 new detention beds … by hiring 1,373 detention personnel … by ending catch-and-release … and by more than quadrupling spending on border and immigration enforcement over the last five years.
    Although I’m leaving the Senate in fulfillment of the pledge I made 12 years ago, I’ll be fighting to ensure that every inch of the fence authorized today is funding fully and constructed promptly … and so should my fellow conservatives throughout America. And I’ll be fighting for better interior enforcement of our immigration laws. We simply must provide tamper proof, biometric identification cards that will enable employers to hire only legal workers. And we must authorize strict penalties for those employers who willingly defy our immigration laws.
    Securing our borders is not an insurmountable problem. But it is a problem that House and Senate Democrat leadership – who voted against the Secure Fence Act – irresponsibly ignore.
    The American people demanded action? So we built a fence? Really? Do we really think a 700 foot on a 2,000 foot border is going to make a difference?
    Lone Star Times says its a good move. I think its ridonkulous.
    From CNN:
    President Bush will sign the Secure Fence Act into law Thursday at a public ceremony in the White House Roosevelt Room, reversing his earlier decision to withhold the pomp and circumstance.
    House Republicans demanded the formal proceedings for public relations purposes, claiming this fence is a major accomplishment for Congress ahead of our November midterm elections.
    I'm not sure how tall this "double layered" fence will be, but I think I'll got to Mexico and sell ladders one-foot taller than the fence and make loads of money.

    USA Today just discovered U2 Eurcharist

    USA Today "finally" had a story on the U2 Eucharists going on around the country. I'm pretty certain I read the first story about these services sometime last year.

    Vote: ONE.org's new TV Spot


    ONE.org's new TV Spot asks millions of American voters to help fight global AIDS and extreme poverty. Add your support at http://www.ONE.org

    The PSA brings together Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Don Cheadle, New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, singer songwriter Toby Keith, Alfre Woodard, journalist Nick Clooney, faith leaders Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Charles E. Blake, Democratic and Republican Strategists Mike McCurry and Jack Oliver and Shayne Moore, a stay-at-home Mom and ONE supporter from Wheaton, Illinois.

    Re: Update on Laurie

    Just got word from Laurie that she is safe and sound at home.
    After waiting (forever) for their paperwork for discharge her and her mom stopped by to grab some lunch and drop off her prescription and she's now at home.
    Thanks again for your prayers.

    James Werner on immigration

    From Werner's website:
    Immigration and Texas Border Security
    Libertarians have always held a view of immigration that favors the "free movement of free peoples". Economists today have now clearly shown that global trade is indispensable for the prosperity of both America and for the emerging economies of the world. Just as capital and goods must be free to travel to those places where they can be put to best use, so should human beings have that right.
    As Governor of Texas, I will work with my fellow governors to lobby the federal government for more rational and humane immigration policies. As the Libertarian Governor of Texas, I will, of course, oppose any and all government aid or handouts to new immigrants--whether federal, state, or local.
    To be clear, I am the only pro-immigrant candidate for Governor of Texas. My position is that anyone who wishes to come to the United States and work should be allowed to do so--with the exception of known criminals, or individuals with ties to criminal or terrorist organizations. I do not distinguish between those who are currently working here, and those who merely wish to do so.
    Will such a proposal ever be accepted? Perhaps not today--and possibly not five years from now. But when we finally do adopt an open border policy with respect to workers, and a "no-public-assistance" policy we will see an era of prosperity that is unimaginable in the world today.
    If our nation is based on free markets, respect for property, and the rule of law, anyone with a good idea, a strong back, and the will to give his children a better life will want to come here. And the petty tyrants of the world can be left to preside over empty empires of misery. History proves that we will prosper mightily by accepting new workers and citizens from around the globe.

    James Werner on abortion

    I've been talking about James Werner, Libertarian candidate for Texas Governor with more and more people. Folks are interested but don't know much about him (thanks MSM). I asked him about his thoughts on abortion since that's a big deal to a lot of people. Here's his answer:
    My personal opinion is that abortion is a great tragedy--and it causes me much pain to consider it.
    Unfortunately, the great philosophers, theologians, and thinkers of our day cannot agree among themselves at what exact moment human life begins. Obviously, there is no consensus among Americans about this either.
    So it is with sadness that I have come to the conclusion that government must not interfere in this very troubling personal decision. It has to be up to the woman and her partner.
    Having said that, there are reasonable restrictions that I could support. For example, pretty much everyone agrees that a random decision to abort an 8 or 9-month fetus is not acceptable.
    This is ultimately a very difficult area for Libertarians. We value the individual right to life and liberty above all else--so we struggle mightily with the question of life itself...
    I'm planning to reprint my stories on each of the candidates within the next week or so (all except Strayhorn who's campaign hasn't gotten with me at all.)

    Holy smokes this is funny

    From The Church You Know.
    Hat tip to CMS for the tip.

    Sen. Barack Obama on faith

    Sojourners has a cover story by Sen. Barack Obama this month. The story is an excert from a speech from which was delivered at the Sojourners/Call to Renewal-sponsored Pentecost conference in June 2006. The whole transcript can be found at www.sojo.net/obama This is an interesting read from a possible presidental candidate in 2008. (emphasis mine).

    These are my thought's exactly: "I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."

    One Nation ... Under God?
    Democracy demands that religious Americans translate their concerns into universal values - and that secularists make room for faith and morality.
    by Sen. Barack Obama

    I’d like to look at the connection between religion and politics and offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often-bitter arguments that we’ve been seeing over the last several years. We can raise up the religious call to address poverty and environmental stewardship all we want, but it won’t have an impact unless we tackle head-on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America—a debate we’ve been having in this country for the last 30 years over the role of religion in politics.
    For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest “gap” in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don’t. Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about the issues of abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design.
    Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that—regardless of our personal beliefs—constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word “Christian” describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.
    Such strategies of avoidance may work for progressives in some circumstances. But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people, and I think it’s time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.
    If we’re going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. Ninety percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than in evolution. This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that’s deeper than that, a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.
    Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds—dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets—and they’re coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough. They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They’re looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, that they are not just destined to travel down that long highway toward nothingness.
    I SPEAK WITH SOME experience on this matter. It wasn’t until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma. I was working with churches, and the Christians who I worked with recognized themselves in me. They saw that I knew their Book and that I shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me remained removed, detached, that I was an observer in their midst. In time, I came to realize that something was missing as well—that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart and alone.
    As the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn not just to work with the church, but to be in the church. For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. In its historical struggles for freedom and human rights, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world, as a source of hope.
    Perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship—the grounding of faith in struggle—that the church offered me a second insight. You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away—because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.
    It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to God’s will and dedicated myself to discovering God’s truth.
    That’s a path that has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans—evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at certain turning points in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives their beliefs and their values.
    That is why, if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at—to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own—then as progressives we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse. Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome—others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.
    In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.
    More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. If we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice. Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to “the judgments of the Lord,” or King’s “I Have a Dream” speech without references to “all of God’s children.” Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.
    Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting “preachy” may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems. After all, the problems of poverty, racism, the uninsured, and the unemployed are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect 10-point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness—in the imperfections of humanity.
    Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we’ve got a moral problem. There’s a hole in that young man’s heart—a hole that the government alone cannot fix.
    I AM NOT SUGGESTING that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology—that can be dangerous. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. Some politicians come and clap—off rhythm—to the choir. We don’t need that. In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they’re something they’re not.
    What I am suggesting is this: Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King—indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history—were not only motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
    Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of “thou” and not just “I,” resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.
    Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine such as Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, are wielding their enormous influence to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists such as our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality. Across the country, individual churches are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
    The question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It’s going to take a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed.
    I ALSO WANT to look at what conservative leaders need to do, some truths they need to acknowledge. For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the forebears of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religion, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.
    Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
    And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount—a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?
    Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.
    This is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy-making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.
    Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion. But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation—context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase “under God.” I didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats.
    We all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide. They’re tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.
    Many Americans are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words, those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.
    I have a hope for America that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come.

    Update on Laurie

    Besides starting her own blog this morning, Laurie should be heading home ASAP.
    The doctor gave her an OK for discharge around 9 a.m. and the last call I got was they are still waiting on paperwork.
    She's feeling a good deal better, especially now that she's had some pain pills and the aneurism was stopped during her operation last night.
    The doctor said full recovery will take six weeks or so, but she can go back to work on Monday or Tuesday of next week.
    Thank God for His protection and watchful eye. Pray that her recovery and healing goes quickly and easily.
    Thanks again for all your prayers!

    Voting God's politics

    Sojourners has produced a free guide for the upcoming elections.
    Don't forget, election day is Tues. Nov. 7.

    Elections provide critical opportunities to exercise both our civic duty as citizens and religious duty as Christians to put our faith into action. We pray that you will join with us over the next two weeks by engaging your friends, family, colleagues, and church in a broader values conversation!
    Imagine the impact we could have in highlighting and uplifting a hopeful set of Christian values in this election season if each of you personally downloaded, printed, and distributed five free copies of "Voting God's Politics: An Issues Guide for Christians." With five guides each we could reach 1 million voters with a biblically centered set of principles and values that we believe every Christian should consider in the context of this election...
    Because we know that you are active in your faith community, we wanted to let you know about what we hope will be a powerful tool for educating and mobilizing Christians in this midterm election. And we need your help to make sure this free resource is available to as many voters as possible.
    What is this issues guide? It is a brochure that outlines the seven themes we believe Christians should consider in Election 2006:

    1. Compassion and economic justice
    2. Peace and restraint of violence
    3. A consistent ethic of life
    4. Racial justice
    5. Human rights, dignity, and gender justice
    6. Strengthen families and renew culture
    7. Good stewardship of God’s creation

    The guide also includes "10 Things You Can Do Before the Election," handy suggestions for those who are looking to put their values into action.
    Click here to download the guide and toolkit. I wonder if someone across the pond can check it out and see if it would be useful there as well.

    Re: Five bloggers

    We can mark one person off my list for wishful bloggers.
    Laurie has started her own blog! Amazing.
    Seriously. It's either a really bad influence on my part or I think it might be the influence of her pain pills, but either way her blog is out there in cyberspace as we speak.
    So you better not let her slip by without you commenting on it.
    I'm looking forward to her daily commentary on working as an RT in a Children's Hospital.
    And of course I'm sure she'll use it to get back at me for anytime I might have embarrased her on my blog ;-).

    I love you Laurie and welcome to "the dark side."


    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Update on Laurie

    First off, thank you all for your prayers.
    Laurie had her procedure yesterday. It didn't go as planned. They couldn't get the PVC (issue with her heart) to replicate enough during the surgery to see what part of her heart was actually causing the problems. So they didn't do anything to her heart during surgery. They will change her medicine and hope that makes a difference.
    Pray that God will do amazing things and heal her heart despite the outcome of the surgery.
    After surgery she was in her room by 2 p.m. (surgery started around 8:45 a.m.) but was in much more pain than expected.
    There was also some swelling in her leg where the catheters were put in.
    With the pain and swelling the doctor agreed it was best to leave her over night.
    She had some rough spots during the night but was able to get some sleep.
    She was sick to her stomach for a while which we assume led the nurses to not giving her anymore pain medicine.
    She went from 7:30 p.m. till now without any pain meds other than a couple Tylenol early this morning.
    This morning he examined her and she had a sonogram which showed a leak in her artery. The aneurysm was causing the pain and swelling and the doctor said something would need to be done for sure.
    We finally met with the vascular specialist who suggested a procedure which inserts a drug (with a needle) near the leak and causes the blood to clot immediately around the leak.
    He can do the procedure without anesthesia but recommended she use anesthesia because of her current pain and tenderness near the aneurysm.
    He arranged the procedure to take place at 4 p.m. today here at Baylor.
    So she'll have the procedure and then hopefully head home tomorrow to start recovery.
    She should still be able to go back to work early next week.
    Thanks again for all your prayers we all apreaciate everything.
    She's a real trooper and her amazing smile's only left her face when she's actually asleep.

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Prayer request

    Just wanted to pass along a prayer request tonight. Laurie will be going in tomorrow morning to Baylor Hospital for an ablation on her heart, to correct continuing problems with arrhythmia.
    Please pray that the doctors hands are skilled and steady and that this procedure will correct any and all issues and will be the last time she has to worry about her heart again.
    Thank you all in advance!

    Re: Neutralize office noise

    The program ChatterBlocker is cool and fun - but you can get the same effect with a little more variety with some good ambient music that can be downloaded from multiple sources off the web, or purchased at your local iTunes or Music Store

    Now here's an odd tool

    Here's a real interesting tool.
    Find out what celebrities you look like.
    Here's my results:

    And here's Laurie's results:

    Any comments?

    Neutralize office noise

    A new tool called ChatterBlocker (for Windows) works to neutralize sounds around you in the office, airport or anywhere else to increse your productivity.
    Introducting ChatterBlocker, the PC software that uses digital audio technology to mask the sound of speech and other distractions so you can stay focused in any environment.
    ChatterBlocker does not use noise-cancellation. Instead it masks unwanted conversations with a soothing blend of nature sounds, music and background chatter.
    The goal is to render speech less intelligible, because intelligible speech is often the most distracting sound in the workplace.
    ChatterBlocker also offers mindfulness meditation tracks intended to increase concentration, reduce distractibility and minimize the stress response to office noise.
    Use ChatterBlocker to tune out disruptions and increase concentration at the office, airports, cafes, or anywhere.
    The software doesn't use noise cancellation - which wouldn't work over regular speakers. The software doesn't also work just by adding more noise, instead:
    Our goal is not to stop noise by adding more noise. The goal is to render speech less intelligible, because intelligible speech tends to be the most distracting sound in the workplace. If we can understand the conversations around us, our minds tend to lock onto those conversations and we lose track of our own thoughts.
    ChatterBlocker doesn’t “stop” noise — it reduces the intelligibility of nearby conversations to make them less distracting. This is done using auditory masking, the same psychoacoustic phenomenon exploited by MP3 and related compression algorithms.
    Intelligible speech is hidden behind similar, but less distracting sounds. The result isn’t silence but a relaxing murmur. The effect is similar to lying on a crowded beach, where faraway voices mingle with the sounds of the surf to lull you into a state of relaxation. This state allows you to calm the body and focus the mind.
    You can download a 60 minute trial or pay $40 for the license.
    Tip of the hat to Lifehacker

    Caption this

    He used to be so much bigger
    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    Laurie at the State Fair - caption this....

    Just in case...

    In case you heard otherwise...

    The report of my demise has been greatly exaggerated

    Orange Noise

    Why aren't you listening yet?
    It's getting better and better - don't miss out.Coming tonight at 10 p.m. (CST):
    Livin It: Unusual Suspects is an in-depth look at faith in America today told through the personal stories of:
    Stephen Baldwin, Actor – Hollywood success couldn’t bring him lasting fulfillment – following Christ did.
    Chynna Phillips, Musician – She grew up with every temptation money could buy but found happiness in Christ alone.
    Christian Hosoi, Skater – Destined for greatness, this skateboarding icon wound up in prison, where Jesus set him free.
    Luis Palau, Evangelist – Losing his father to an illness at age 10, Luis Palau survived poverty and the loss of his childhood to become one of the most respected communicators today.

    Send your comments and thoughts: orangenoise (at) one21media (dot) com

    Five blogers I'd (still) love to read more from

    5. Rick Reynolds
    4. Mike McIlvain
    3. Michael Robinson
    2. Walker
    1. My dad

    and not yet bloggers - but I'd love to read blogs by:

    5. Dollye
    4. My sister Kara
    3. My mom
    2. Drew Grisham
    1. Laurie

    Horse Sense: Faith and Freedom Revisited (Part III)

    The Christian message is one that seeks liberation from arbitrary power, as well as the flourishing of personal holiness in the context of cultural, political, and economic freedom. From time to time, Christians have erred by supporting a fusion or overly cozy relations between Church and State. For instance, quite a few Catholics up until the turn of the twentieth century were looking to restore temporal political power to the Pope. The trouble here is less that the Church or Christians will corrupt the State; the greatest danger is that the Church and Christianity will compromise their mission for the sake of preferential treatment from the State. This point was explicitly made in the sermons of the American colonial period and early Republic and helped give rise to a multiplicity of Christian denominations and a “separation” between church and state, which agreed to the strictly limited scope of the State—leaving the particulars of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and most of civil society besides, to the interplay of faith and freedom. Protestant and Catholic doctrine have both derived rights of the Church and family against the State, such that, there are theoretic grounds that morally justify active resistance and even revolution under some circumstances. This was an aspect we saw brilliantly carried out in the Papacy of the late Pope John Paul II against communism, as well as right wing dictatorships.
    Indeed, I submit that it is faith that holds the center from political extremes. Just as freedom facilitates peaceful pursuit of spiritual purpose, faith lays the foundation and reinforces the institutions that make human freedom possible. Therefore faith and freedom are not only entwined, they are symbiotic: the human family is nurtured and flourishes where the two give each other mutual advantage. Freedom without faith devolves into license and leads to violence and chaos; it is characterized by the aimless walks of confused people, whose noblest ambition is as consumer. Faith without freedom leads to an oppressive and joyless life, mistaking form for sincerity and control for volition of the heart. Both ways enrich a moneyed or priestly caste; whereas, ‘Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ Faith holds the center from political extremes and preserves liberty from the socialism of the left and the fascism of the right.
    A problem occurs whenever politicians, right or left, begin to perceive the State as the central organizing principle of society; whenever they begin to view public (as opposed to private) institutions, as the most essential means by which all good things are protected and advanced; and worse, whenever they begin to adore their Leader too much. Faith is needed now, as it always is, to bolster freedom. Not the misnamed faith of prideful men who desire power and privilege, but the humble faith in followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who would render unto Caesar what is his, and claim forcefully the prerogatives of the Church, family, States and communities. It is the faith—and also the strength and courage—of freemen we need, and a renaissance of the American political tradition. According to which, man is, in part an economic and an animal creature; but he is also recognized to be a spiritual creature. Further, spiritual needs and spiritual desires constitute the superior side of man’s nature, even taking precedence over economic wants. American political tradition looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as a primary concern of political philosophy; the economic and spiritual aspects of man’s nature are intertwined along with faith and freedom, but man’s freedom is endangered if he is dependent for his economic needs on the State. What has set the American tradition apart from others, what maintains the essential nexus of faith and freedom, in which ordered liberty can flourish, is the rejection of that very first principle of totalitarianism: that the State is competent to do all things and is limited in what it actually does only by the will of those who control the State.
    This rejection is in concord with the Constitution, which is foremost, an instrument for limiting the functions of government—written as it were, by men who held a Christian worldview and understood liberty and understood that a righteous people could make of our country a ‘Shining City on a Hill’ that cannot be hid, which would serve as an example (not a crusade) to the whole world. The Founding Fathers had a considered and thoughtful reason for endorsing the principle of limited government, and Americans have generally subscribed to this reason and to the Constitution as the fairest solution devised. It is because government represents power in the hands of some men to control and regulate the lives of other men—and historically, government has proven to be the most common agent thwarting man’s liberty whenever and wherever power becomes delimited. As Lord Acton put it, power tends to corrupt most men, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The legitimate functions of government are conducive to freedom: maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing obstacles to the free interchange of goods. Unrestricted government, however, becomes an instrument for restricting freedom and for subjugating or enslaving the people. Freedom depends on effective restraints against the accumulation of power in a single authority. Where faith is strong among the people, it serves as the single most effectual restraint on government. So faith is helped by freedom to worship and to live according to one’s light, but freedom is maintained through faith and the virtue of a faithful people.
    Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. Email: wes@wesriddle.com

    New music Monday

    Add to your music collection, fast, easy and legal.
    Visit: http://www.archive.org/details/netlabels for tons of Creative Commons licensed music.

    Powered by melon rinds

    From CNET:
    University of California, Davis wants to light the world with old melon rinds.
    The university will show off an experimental facility next week that takes wilted lettuce, fish heads and other leftover food bits and turns it into biogas, a combination of natural gas and carbon dioxide. Separating the CO2 leaves commercial grade natural gas.
    The technology, called an anaerobic phased solids digester, has been licensed from the university and adapted for commercial use by Onsite Power Systems. In the digester, microbes eat the garbage and give off valuable gases.
    Researchers in Texas are also working on utilizing cow manure for energy sources.
    Each ton of broccoli spears, cantaloupe rinds and fish bones should produce enough energy on average to power and heat 10 California homes.
    Bring it on.

    Google Earth adds election helps

    From Lifehacker:
    Mapping software Google Earth now has 2 new layers available: a U.S. Election Guide and Congressional Districts layer.
    Enable the new layers within Google Earth (free to download, Mac or Windows), and see 436 Congressional districts outlined on the map throughout the U. S. of A., plus election information with candidate names, parties and links to register to vote.
    Click the link for more info.

    Downtown Dallas destroyed by leaf blower

    From Frontburner:
    Bryan Berg spent much of the State Fair of Texas creating an impressive replica of downtown Dallas out of playing cards. Then he used a leafblower to take it all down. There's video here.

    Let me enter your world - but stay out of mine

    Last night an odd thing occurred to me.
    Yesterday afternoon, Laurie and I joined several friends from Encounter in downtown Dallas at the Austin Street Shelter.
    We went and brought crackers and some small gifts like socks and toothbrushes, etc.
    It was great to have an opportunity to serve and share with the men and women waiting outside the homeless shelter.
    I had no problem talking with the men and women outside the shelter. I had a good time talking with Wayne, Frank and Steve (I hope my memory is right there). I also had no problem talking with people on the streets in Nigeria.
    But then last night, Laurie and I went to a Missions Banquet at our parent's church.
    Having just come back from Nigeria for two weeks, I have a new found respect for missions and the sacrifices they make.
    We had a good time and afterwards we went to the store to pick up a few items.
    When we went to check out we noticed the one cashier at his register was standing there with the light to his lane out.
    We weren't sure if it was open or closed.
    The cashier went on and on and on talking about how the light switch was missing.
    It annoyed me. I wanted to pay for our groceries and leave and not be bothered by someone chatting about a missing light switch.
    I didn't care.
    I was in my world, my element and didn't want to be bothered.
    But as I walked out of the store I thought, "Why is it that I can talk to someone at length on the streets of downtown Dallas or Jos, Nigeria, but if a cashier at Kroger's wants to talk to me I get annoyed? Why is it that I can barge into someone else's world and talk freely, but if they try to interrupt what's going on in my world I get annoyed or frustrated?"
    I pray that God continues to give me a heart for His people - whether that's in Jos, Nigeria, downtown Dallas or at a Kroger's in Garland, Texas.
    Anyone else ever feel the same way?

    Barack Obama considering run for president

    Illinois Sen. Barack Obama looks like he may throw some competition in the ring against NY Sen. Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential election.
    From the AP:
    Illinois senator Barack Obama, one of the Democrats' rising stars, said yesterday he was considering a 2008 presidential run, a move that would present Hillary Clinton with a formidable rival for the party's nomination.
    For months, the first-term senator had ruled out running for the White House, even while giving all appearances of interest in the race.
    But he said yesterday he had reconsidered "given the responses that I have been getting over the last several months".
    Asked on NBC television's Meet the Press program if it was fair to say he is thinking about running in 2008, he answered: "It's fair, yes."
    I'd love to see Obama and J.C. Watts square off.

    Saturday, October 21, 2006

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Ben takes a photo of himself everyday

    Ben takes a photo of himself everyday

    The best parody of taking a photo of yourself everyday - funny stuff

    Jonathan and Laurie at the State Fair

    Jonathan and Laurie at the State Fair

    More video footage from the fair. Laurie had a great time feeding the animals at the Children's Medical Center Animal Farm.

    $4 Drugs

    In case you missed the news, Wal-Mart has extended their $4 generic drug plan to Texas. The new pricing went into effect for 314 generic drugs in Texas yesterday.
    The cost for the drugs is a flat $4, regardless of insurance, Medicaid or other health care plans.
    So far, Target is the only pharmacy that has agreed to match price with Wal-Mart.

    See the entire list of discounted drugs.

    Laurie and I at the Fair

    Laurie and I at the Fair

    Laurie and enjoyed some good jazz at the State Fair of Texas last night. I'm definitely enjoying my new Pure Digital Camera. Thanks Rob!

    Google profits doubled

    Hope you're still holding on to that Google stock.
    From the BBC:
    Internet search giant Google has confirmed its ongoing market domination by announcing that its third quarter profits have almost doubled.
    During the three months until the end of September, its net income was $733m (£390m), a 92% increase on the $381m it made in the same time last year.
    With advertising sales soaring, Google's revenues rose 70% from a year ago to $2.7bn.
    The figures comes a week after Google bought YouTube for $1.65bn.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    Speaking in tongues banned by baptists

    Capital Annex shares that the Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth has now banned the promotion of anyone who practices "speaking in tongues."
    Funny that the Baptists are banning what the apostle Paul allowed.
    From Vince:
    Considering I can't even speak Spanish after taking two years of it in high school, I'm sure I'm not a good candidate for speaking in tongues. I have witnessed people speaking in tongues before though. About 15 years ago I went to church with a friend who was Pentacostal. In addition to witnessing people "drunk in the Holy Spirit," and seeing a woman jump over a pew, I saw and heard people speak in tongues. While it is an interesting sight, I think it's more interesting that Texas psychoconservative Baptists have decided that speaking in tongues is simply too "out there."
    Looks like a lot of interpreters will have to look for other work now.

    Re: Intelligent Design

    I meant to post this yesterday but it slipped my mind.
    This is Libertarian candidate James Werner's response to the question of teaching intelligent design in our state's schools.
    I prefer school choice--allowing parents to escape government schools and send their kids to institutions that best represent their beliefs.
    As long as children are forced to attend government schools, however, intelligent design should not be taught in science class. It is not a testable hypothesis, and therefore not appropriate for the science classroom.

    Love this song

    Third Day's Offering, performed by the encounter band

    Magnificent Holy Father
    I stand in awe of all I see
    Of all the things You have created
    But still You choose to think of me
    Who am I that You should suffer
    Your very life to set me free
    The only thing that I can give You
    Is the life You gave to me

    This is my offering, dear Lord
    This is my offering to You, God
    And I will give You my life
    For it's all I have to give
    Because You gave Your life for me

    I stand before You at this alter
    So many have given You more
    I may not have much I can offer
    Yet what I have is truly Yours

    This is my offering...

    Timothy in Jos, Nigeria

    Timothy in Jos, Nigeria

    Here's some footage I shot with Timothy from the Transition House in Jos

    Apple v Google

    Mark Cuban continues discussion on the new Google and Youtube venture and how it will affect companies like Apple:
    While we all wonder what the content companies will do going forward with Google and Youtube, you have to wonder what Apple is thinking and how they will respond.
    They have to be sitting their with eyes wide open as they watch 3 of the major record labels sign some sort of deal with Gootube that rewards them with 4k shares of stock each, worth more than 15mm dollars that from appearances will allow Gootube to offer music videos for free from the Gootube site
    I've discussed before that people expect free content on the web. They don't mind waiting for an ad as long as the content is free. And most people will pay a minimal price for content that's ad free.
    So it will be interesting to see where Google goes with Youtube and their other ventures.
    Their ad network is their cash cow. I wonder if they'll ever offer subscriptions or pay services for people to skip over their ads.

    The Houston Chronicle endorses Strayhorn

    From the Independent Grandma for Texas campaign:
    the Houston Chronicle, Chris Bell’s hometown newspaper, has just issued a strong endorsement for Carole Keeton Strayhorn for governor. “Only Carole Keeton Strayhorn,” the newspaper says, “has the experience and savvy to win election to the governorship and then use the office to improve public education and change the course of Texas for the better.”
    The article can be viewed online here.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Bush is drinking again! (Late Late Show)

    Craig Ferguson thinks President Bush might be drinking again.

    U2 hosting lyric contest

    U2 is hosting a scavenger hunt, and it’s a far cry from the kind you played as a sticky-fingered child. Bono and his merry Irish men are hosting a lyric hunt that will feature a grand prize of an all-expense-paid trip to see U2’s Vertigo tour, featuring openers Pearl Jam, at the Aloha Stadium in Honolulu — and it will be held online via websites around the world, including exclusively Dose.ca in Canada.
    Banners featuring lyric excerpts from tracks on the band’s forthcoming U218 Singles, a best-of compilation, will be posted on various international websites, which fans must locate after reading clues posted on U2.com. Each excerpt will have one highlighted letter, and once fans collect all the letters, they can use them to answer a question posted on U2.com. Those who answer correctly will be eligible to enter to win the grand prize.
    The great hunt begins on Monday and will run until Nov. 6.
    U218 Singles will be released Nov. 21 and features songs spanning the band’s massive career, from Boy (1980) to How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004). The disc will also include two new tracks recorded at legendary Abbey Road Studios in London: “The Saints Are Coming,” featuring political punks Green Day, and a yet-to-be-titled track.

    Have more fun when you search

    My new favorite blog, Lifehacker.com gave a tidbit on a new search engine called MsDewey.com. Forget asking Jeeves. MsDewey has personality, spunk and sass.
    Definitly marketed to the male market. I better stick with Google to stay out of trouble.

    Google to use solar energy

    Google has announced plans to install 9,200 solar cells — capable of powering 1,000 average California homes at their California headquarters to power 30 percent of the company's energy needs.
    I applaud them.
    Outsiders estimate the solar cells will cost nearly $10 million to install, but should pay for themselves within the next 5-10 years.
    We talked about solar power while we were in Nigeria.
    The national electric company is so up and down that there's no real reliable energy source unless you can afford a large generator yourself.
    I'm hoping to do more research and see if solar power might be a viable alternative for some of the boys homes or ministries there.
    With as little electricity as they use, it may be a worthwhile investment.
    Who knows.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Intelligent design

    The DMN ran a short feature today comparing the Texas gubernatorial candidates and their beliefs on intelligent design.
    All but one candidate said they didn't agree with teaching intelligent design in the classroom.
    Kinky said teaching intelligent design wasn't intelligent.
    Only Perry took the stand and said he supported teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.
    I'm hoping to hear back from Libertarian candidate James Werner in the next day or so on his viewpoint.
    His side is pretty much non-existent from the MSM.
    I haven't heard or seen mention of him in anything the DMN has done since June or July.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Just hangin

    Just hangin
    Originally uploaded by Jdblundell.

    Maybe it's her face, no makeup at all
    As she tells me she's not beautiful
    Maybe it's her hair, soft golden and wind blown
    As we drive through the streets of town
    It could be all these things
    But I think it's her smile
    Maybe it's her laugh when she throws back and sighs
    Or her eyebrows when I do something stupid
    Maybe it's her smell, the lotion she wears
    Or how my hands smell like country pear for days
    You know it could be all these things
    But I think mostly it is her smile
    Cause I love to see her smile back at me
    And I know she is happy
    Maybe it's her touch, the feel of her hands
    When she puts her tiny fingers in mine
    Maybe it's her eyes gently searching my soul
    Still nothing stirs me like when I see those lips roll
    and I see her smile
    Cause I love to see her smile back at me
    And I know she is happy
    - Stephen Speaks