Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Food for thought

From Mark Batterson's blog:
"Your baptism is your ordination into ministry."

"Ask the grandparents in your church: how many of you would lay down your life for your grandchildren? Every grandparent will raise their hand. Then ask them: how many of you would lay down your musical preferences for your grandchildren?"

"Sometimes God is more active in the world than he is in the church. Who's had more impact alleviating suffering in the world: your church or Bono?"

"When you're in incarnational mode you're always living on other people's terms."

Every Nintendo game ever made

I won't lie. This is incredible! Absolutely incredible! 670 original NES video games are being auctioned on E-bay right now.
Wow. What a flashback down memory lane.
The current bid is at only $30,600. That averages to a little over $45 a game but the package also includes a NES system, Power Glove, Power Pad, NES Advantage Contoller and more.
Here are some of my favorites from the list:
  • 2-in-1 Super Mario Bros / Duck Hunt
  • Bad News Baseball
  • Bases Loaded (I, II, III, IV)
  • Battletoads
  • Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers
  • Contra
  • Contra Force
  • Double Dragon (I, II, III)
  • Duck Tales
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Ghostbusters (I, II)
  • Major League Baseball
  • NES Play Action Football
  • NFL Football
  • Power Blade
  • RoboCop
  • Skate or Die
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
  • Tecmo World Wrestling
  • WrestleMania
  • WWF King of the Ring
  • WWF Wrestlemania Challenge
  • WWF Wrestlemania: Steel Cage Challenge
    I'm sure I could keep listing more games, but this is long enough. What about you? What are your favorite NES games?
  • What if corporate America went Web 2.0?

    Found this on the Church Marketing Lab on Flickr. Lots of great ideas there. Check it out if you haven't. Below is a look at what corporate America's logos might look like if they converted to Web 2.0.

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    11 days till Obama makes his announcement

    Barack Obama is planning to make an announcement regarding his 2008 plans on Feb. 10. I'm excited to see what goes down if he does in fact announce his presidency.
    If you haven't seen it, here's his video announcement from a few weeks ago.

    Or read a transcript.

    10 Tips for writing your book

    Brian Bailey from Fellowship Church in Dallas has several tips for writing your first, second or 100th book.
    I keep meaning to sit down and work on my first attempt at fiction but I just haven't been motivated. Maybe it will come later or maybe I'll move in a completely different direction. Either way, here are his pointers. Anyone else have any ideas? What book would you write if you had all the time in the world?
    Top 10 Steps to Writing a Better Book
    10. Get more exercise
    9. Allow time for editing and formatting
    8. Have a regular place to work
    7. Schedule rewards at each milestone
    6. Disable wireless for long stretches
    5. Write a small amount each day
    4. Set aside time for book busywork
    3. Develop one writing process and stick with it
    2. Print it out
    1. Schedule regular getaways to write
    Read the full post

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    British Muslims more political

    According to NPR a new study shows that young British Muslims are becoming more and more political.
    Click here to listen

    Monday, January 29, 2007

    Friends are friends forever

    The L21 gang got together at Power FM Sunday night for Rick's show, Powertalk.
    We had a good time hanging out and talking about friendship on the air.
    Give it a listen and hope you enjoy it like we did.

    Powertalk 01/28/07

    Reminder from my dad

    I talked with my parents briefly tonight and my dad reminded me of an important lesson...
    "Work like its all up to you and pray like it's all up to God."

    New songs on OrangeNoiseRadio

    We've got new tracks being added to OrangeNoiseRadio all the time, including the latest songs from Thaxton. The Midlothian based rocker's got some great music coming out on his next EP release.
    Check him out and our other top 10 requested songs (including a tie for the number six spot) at OrangeNoiseRadio.com. And be sure to click Submit Request on our website to request your favorite songs on OrangeNoiseRadio.

    1. Mirac - Take A Stand
    2. Need to Breathe - Shine On
    3. John David Webster - Made to Shine
    4. Thaxton - Best Of Me
    5. Weird Al Yankovic - White And Nerdy
    6. Dave Barnes - I Have and Always Will
    7. U2 - City of Blinding Lights
    7. TobyMac - Made To Love
    8. Spur58 - Sleepwalkers
    9. KJ-52 - Rock On
    10. Jack Johnson - Good People

    OrangeNoiseRadio::True Music
    Burnam Files House Bill 936 To Adjust the Minimum Wage for Inflation
    (Austin, TX) – Rep. Lon Burnam (D - Fort Worth) filed HB 936 that will adjust the Texas minimum wage for inflation based on the consumer price index today. This legislation follows on the heals of the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed legislation increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25 over the next two years.
    ʺThe federal government made the important first step in raising the minimum wage,ʺ said Rep. Burnam. ʺThe Texas Legislature needs to take the next step by linking the wage floor to inflation. The workers in this state cannot afford to wait years for lawmakers to raise the minimum wage. We need an automatic increase of the minimum wage tied to the cost of living.ʺ
    Burnamʹs legislation would cause the minimum wage floor to automatically adjust each
    year based on the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers as
    computed by the United States Department of Labor.
    Major opponents to the federal minimum wage increase cited the potential damage to
    businesses that are faced with a sudden wage hike. Because Representative Burnamʹs bill adjusts the wage floor each year based on inflation, this legislation will ensure that businesses are protected from sudden wage hikes in the future.
    ʺThis bill will eliminate the time spent legislating the minimum wage in the future,ʺ said Burnam. ʺIt gives Texas workers the dignity of a living wage without having to fight for increases during every legislative session. This is a practical and necessary solution to a problem that affects the working poor all across the state of Texas.ʺ
    Currently only the states of Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have laws that adjust the minimum wage annually according to measures of inflation.

    Gorge yourself in 2007

    From the February 2007 issue of Texas Monthly.
    Eating Myself Alive
    Jim Atkinson cures what ails us.
    I’M A BIG BELIEVER in New Year’s resolutions. Nine years ago I decided to quit smoking, and while it took me a few months, in March of 1998 I stamped out my last butt. At the same time, I resolved not to gain any weight after giving up nicotine—a more difficult challenge—and began exercising at least an hour a day. Nearly a decade later, I weigh the same thing. This year? I’m attacking my diet. And I’m not just referring to cutting out the fries. Healthy eating is proactive: It means consuming more of those foods whose properties prevent such life shorteners as heart disease and cancer. With the help of Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical dietetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, I’ve settled on ten things I’m going to gorge on in 2007. Try my plan yourself—and see how many years you can add to your life by eating more.
    Here are Jim's top 10 things to gourge on. Read more in this month's issue.
    1. Go upstream: salmon.
    2. A tomato a day keeps the Big C away.
    3. Synergy, baby: garlic.
    4. Brown power, part I: whole-grain pasta.
    5. Brown power, part II: whole-grain bread.
    6. The new mayo: avocado.
    7. Say yes to red meat.
    8. Pintos with that?
    9. Fig out.
    10. Room for dessert? Cave to cantaloupe.
    So, you may say, resolutions are good and well. But are there any caveats to this healthy feeding frenzy? Well, yes—two. The first is that I’ll still allow myself a cheeseburger or soft tacos once a week. It’s not that the human body can’t handle any cholesterol or fat; it just can’t take too much of it. The second is that, even if I falter at incorporating one or two of my ten foods here, I’m intent on, uh, staying the course. Because proactive eating is not just a year-long project—it’s a lifelong one.

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    Horse Sense: The History of Freedom in Christianity (Part II)

    St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), Italian scholastic philosopher, argued that, “A King who is unfaithful to his duty forfeits his claim to obedience. It is not rebellion to depose him, for he is himself a rebel whom the nation has a right to put down. But it is better to abridge his power, that he may be unable to abuse it. For this purpose, the whole nation ought to have a share in governing itself; … No government has a right to levy taxes beyond the limit determined by the people. All political authority is derived from popular suffrage, and all laws must be made by the people or their representatives. There is no security for us as long as we depend on the will of another man.” This language, according to Lord Acton, contains the earliest exposition of the Whig theory of revolution, and it was this theory as passed on and developed through English Whigs, which America would use to form the basis for its own revolutionary raison d’être.
    If we adjudge the march of freedom over the span of the entire Middle Ages, some 1,000 years from the fall of Rome, great good had certainly come about and what a difference it was from the Dark Ages that had initially followed collapse of empire. Representative government, which was nearly unknown to the ancients, was almost universal. The methods of election may have been crude, but the principle that no tax was lawful that was not granted by the class that paid it, that is, taxation was inseparable from representation, was recognized. Not a prince in the world, said Philip de Commines, can levy a penny without the consent of the people. Absolute power was deemed more intolerable and more criminal than slavery; and the right of insurrection was admitted and defined as a duty sanctified by religion. Ironically, religious influence on the state actually declined. Whereas, in the days when every state made the unity of faith its first care, it came to be thought that the rights of men, and the duties of neighbors and of rulers towards them varied according to their religion. Society certainly did not acknowledge the same obligations to a Turk or a Jew, a pagan or a heretic, or a devil worshipper, as to an orthodox Christian. When the ascendancy of religion grew weaker, this privilege of treating its enemies on exceptional principles was claimed by the state for its own benefit. The idea that the ends of government justify the means employed, was worked out systematically by the Italian statesman and writer on government, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527). Unfortunately, his political philosophy was accepted and studied by the ruling class in Europe and gave immense impulse to absolutism by silencing the consciences of religious kings. Kings resorted to wicked acts, treachery and murder in the name of political science, in order to further their statecraft and political agendas, and to dispatch rivals. What Lord Acton calls Machiavelli’s “studied philosophy of crime” and “thorough perversion of the moral sense” made good and bad kings look very much alike. The clergy, who had in so many ways served the cause of freedom during the prolonged strife against feudalism, were associated now with the interest of royalty. Initial attempts to reform the Church within failed, and its hierarchy united with the crown to oppose systems of divided power. It was this situation that gave rise and impetus to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Religious wars twixt Catholics and Protestants had as much to do with freedom as anything, and ultimately, the challenge posed by the Reformation not only stemmed the flood of absolutism in the state (eventually) but helped to reform the Catholic Church. But then I sweep much cruelty and excess under the rug as masses of people were involved on both sides, and masses of people tend to engender both cruelty and excess. For the belief that it is right to murder tyrants, first taught among Christians by John of Salisbury, the most distinguished English writer of the twelfth century, and confirmed by Roger Bacon, the most celebrated Englishman of the thirteenth, had acquired by the sixteenth century a jaded and fatal significance. Moreover, that men should understand governments do not exist by divine right, and that arbitrary government is the violation of divine right is good only so far as it goes. It gives little aid to progress or reform, because the mere resistance to tyranny implies no faculty of constructing a legal government in its place. If you substitute nothing else positive, then you trade one bad situation for another. The principles, which discriminate in politics between good and evil, and make states worthy to last, were not yet found. This required a few more innovations. In the meantime, after so many years of religious wars and assassination, strong monarchies prevailed. The church muffled its view that resistance to kings might be a religious duty. A sixteenth century preacher warned, “You will perish, not by invasion or war, but by your infernal liberties!”
    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. This piece largely abridged and condensed from an address by Lord Acton to the Bridgnorth Institute in England on 28 May 1877. Email: wes@wesriddle.com.

    Web to become primary vehicle for LA Times breaking news

    From Editor and Publisher:
    Speaking to hundreds of Los Angeles Times journalists in the newspaper's Harry Chandler auditorium this morning, editor James O'Shea outlined a bold plan to increase traffic and revenue from LATimes.com in the face of an increasingly difficult economic climate for newspaper publishers, and urged journalists to think of the Web site as the newspaper's primary vehicle for news.
    "We can't hide from the fact that smart competitors such as Google and Craigslist are stealing readers and advertisers from us through innovative strategies that are undermining the business model we've relied on for decades," said O'Shea, whose remarks were published in their entirety on the paper's Web site.
    "Currently we have a newspaper staff and an LATimes.com staff," he said. "No more. From now on, there are no two staffs, there is just one. And we will function as one. One of Russ's first jobs will be to help set up that newsroom."
    He said that LATimes.com would become the paper's "primary vehicle for breaking news 24 hours a day."
    I wonder how quickly other newspapers will take notice and start changing with the times.

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    'Sometimes you've just gotta cuss'

    It's been said by two very important women in my life that "sometimes you've just gotta cuss." So when that guy cuts you off in traffic, or your cell phone company over charges you, rather than yelling at the perpetrator, visit the Profane Game.
    See how many words you can think of in the one-minute time limit.

    YouTube to offer revenue sharing

    What a great idea:
    People who upload their own films to video-sharing website YouTube will soon get a share of the ad revenue.
    YouTube founder Chad Hurley confirmed to the BBC that his team was working on a revenue-sharing mechanism that would "reward creativity".
    The system would be rolled out in a couple of months, he said, and use a mixture of adverts, including short clips shown ahead of the actual film.
    YouTube has more than 70 million users a month and was recently bought by Google.
    Read more from the BBC

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    Sunday, January 28, 2007

    Getting to know her

    My amazing fiance Laurie has posted a bio about herself on her blog.
    Hope you enjoy it and get a better glimpse into why I love her so.

    Why I love Texas

    Where else in the world can you find a pond in someone's backyard that's built in the shape of their state/country?

    A county commissioner told me about this pond on Friday. Pretty cool if you ask me.
    It's in Ellis County south of Midlothian near the intersection of Matthews Rd and Armstrong Rd.
    I'm going to try and find out more about it later this week. I'll let you know if I do.

    An Army cup of tea

    My mate Thomas over in Scotland is a member of the local Salvation Army and they've put together a great way to connect with those around them.
    Church members were given two coffee mugs with a wafer and free trade tea bag. The mugs also come with a prayer card for receivers of the gift to respond with prayer needs to the church.
    As i understand it, members are encouraged to connect with a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker or whomever over a cup of tea.
    what better way to make a personal connection and promote the message of Christ.
    I wonder if churches could get the local Starbucks or another company to donate a "buy-one get-one free card for a coffee or tea. That might be a helpful push to get church goers to invite a friend or family member to spend time talking with them over a cup of coffee.
    Otherwise it would be super cool to do the same thing with a custom coffee mug.
    Get out and invite someone to coffee at your favorite local spot, or even into your own home. Show them the love of Christ in a real way.

    Friends of God

    We watched Alexandria Pelosi's documentary, "Friends of God" Thursday night on HBO. The Christian Wrestling Federation was featured for a full 1 min and 50 seconds. I thought it was a very fair portrayal.
    Sure I've read a number of comments online with people laughing at the idea. But they've been doing that for the last seven years.
    I believe our spot on the 56 minute documentary was the only one with an actual Gospel presentation. Pelosi said in an interview with the San Fransisco Chronicle that as a "lapsed Catholic" a number of evangelicals tried to convert her to Christianity off camera. I'm sure that was frustrating to her. What would you have done in her shoes or if she was doing a story on you?
    I also thought it was interesting that she said no one really made the connection about her and her mother (Nancy Pelosi) but once Jerry Falwell did he kicked her off his bus. Gotta enjoy that Christ-like love.

    More coverage:
    Americans United for Separation of Church and State
    ABC News

    Americans spend more time with their computer than spouse

    From Lifehacker:
    A recent "Cyber Stress" study shows that 65% of Americans spend more time on their computers than with their spouses. The study also found:
    The average consumer has experienced computer troubles eight times - about every four months - over the last three years.
    The average American is wasting 12 hours per month - the equivalent of half a weekend - due to problems with their home computer.
    And my personal favorite:
    A majority of Americans (52%) describe their most recent experience with a computer problem as one of anger, sadness or alienation.
    Oh, and don't let this poll make you late to dinner with your wife/hubby. — Gina Trapani
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    Walking the walk

    Churchmarketingsucks.com has released the results of their latest poll.
    According to the site's readers, walking the walk is the #1 means of church promotion.
    That even tops a give away a church recently did with Chipotle.
    The poll does underscore our constant refrain that Christians who do what they're supposed to do are the best marketing ever.
    How do we encourage folks at encounter our your church to do that?

    Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? - James 2:14-17

    Quote for the day

    We think evangelism is telling people what they need to know instead of getting them where they need to go.
    - Erwin McManus (Mosaic Church)

    via: Mark Batterson

    Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    Catholic church in UK fights gay adoption

    The head of the Catholic church in England threatens to close Catholic adoption agencies rather than comply with anti-discrimination laws which force children to be placed with gay couples. The Anglican Union also objects to the laws.
    According to NPR Tony Blair is caught in the middle between his Christian faith and his government's urging for anti-discrimination laws.
    Listen to the full story from NPR's Morning Edition

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Bill filed to study potential impact of global warming on Texas

    (Austin, TX)–Representative Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, filed legislation today to establish a global warming task force which will assess the economic and public health impacts of global warming on Texas. The bill was filed on the day when President Bush is expected to address global warming in his State of the Union address.
    "For too long, there has been a bogus debate on global warming fueled by junk science," said Rep. Burnam. "Now, that ‘debate’ is over. Just last week ExxonMobil admitted that global warming is a real threat and that greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide contribute to the problem. It’s time the state of Texas begins to make preparations to deal with the potential fallout from this very real crisis."
    2006 was the hottest year on record in the United States. The scientific community agrees that global warming poses significant risks and dangers yet the United States continues to be the number one emitter of carbon dioxide and Texas is the number one emitting state.
    “We have 600 miles of coastline in Texas. If temperatures rise enough that sea levels rise a foot or more, there could be a serious economic and health impact on the state,” said Burnam. “The state is like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. We need a plan to deal with this challenge.
    “At the same time, the reality of global warming provides excellent opportunities for businesses that innovate and create solutions to these problems. My bill directs the global warming task force to investigate and prepare for the worst while seeking opportunities for businesses that do the right thing.
    “I do hope, as it has been reported, that the President addresses global warming tonight. And I hope that the state of Texas will take the necessary steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for a carbon-constrained economy.”

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    Public domain photos

    Here's a mega collection of public domain photos that can be used for... well anything.
    They're in the public domain, use them for worship slides, message illustrations, newsletters, blogs, websites or whatever.

    Victim of theft gets purse back after sending text messages to thief

    Pan Aiying, a teacher from China, had her bag stolen recently. Inside the bag was approximately $630, a cellphone and other goods. Instead of doing the norm and contacting police, Aiying decided to start sending text messages to the thief.
    Maybe everyone should just change their phone's wallpaper to read "Please return if stolen."
    Read more

    Do conservative evangelicals regret justifying the Iraq war?

    The Baptist Standard has an interesting article about how some conservative evangelicals may be changing their stance on the war in Iraq - despite justifying it with a "just war theory" before the wary began.
    By Robert Marus - ABP Washington Bureau
    WASHINGTON (ABP)—As the number of American soldiers killed passes 3,000 and Congress debates President Bush’s latest strategy for winning the war, some Christians who supported invading Iraq in 2003 are wrestling with whether the invasion was a “just war” after all.
    While most progressive evangelicals, mainline Protestant leaders and the Roman Catholic Church opposed the war prior to the March 2003 invasion, many Baptists and other conservative evangelicals justified the war in Christian theological terms.
    “Military action against the Iraqi government would be a defensive action. ... The human cost of not taking (then-Iraqi dictator Saddam) Hussein out and removing his government as a producer, proliferator and proponent of the use of weapons of mass destruction means we can either pay now or we can pay a lot more later,” said Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics agency, in a Sept. 2002 article published by the denomination’s news service.
    Land later organized a group of prominent conservative evangelicals who signed an open letter arguing that the proposed Iraq invasion satisfied classic Christian theological criteria for justifying a war—often referred to as just war theory.
    The article references a letter by Chuck Colson who wrote argued that the classical definition of the Christian just war theory should be “stretched” to accommodate a new age in which terrorism and warfare are intertwined. He concluded that “out of love of neighbor, then, Christians can and should support a pre-emptive strike” on Iraq to prevent Iraqi-based or -funded attacks on the United States or its allies.
    David Gushee, a Southern Baptist ethicist and professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., was much more cautious about the war than many of his fellow evangelicals from its beginning.
    But Gusheee has turned increasingly against it in recent months. In a Dec. 11 column published by Associated Baptist Press, he cautioned his ideological cohorts.
    “The massive carnage in Iraq should serve as a permanent reminder to my fellow Christian conservatives that war is a moral-values issue,” he wrote.
    “Indeed, war is a sanctity-of-life issue. Every day’s body count in Iraq should drive this point home with greater and greater urgency. Every body that turns up with holes drilled in it, every head torn apart by gunshots, every soldier whose helicopter crashes and ends his life, every veteran who will spend the rest of his or her life with three or two or one or no limbs, is a human being of immeasurable worth, made in the image of God.”

    Online study tools

    After Brian’s message yesterday I went online to look for an online daily reading plan for the Bible.
    I found one at OneYearBibleOnline.com — which gives you a reading for every day of the year and you can pick from any number of versions including King Jimmy, NIV, The Message and others. What online tools/resources do you use to spur your faith?

    Create your own Simpsons character

    Get your mouse out and start clicking away to create your own Simpson character. I'm seeing a fun encounter animation/comic coming - sometime.

    Verse and Quote of the day

    No king succeeds with a big army alone, no warrior wins by brute strength. Horsepower is not the answer; no one gets by on muscle alone.
    Watch this: God's eye is on those who respect Him, the ones who are looking for his love. He's ready to come to their rescue in bad times; in lean times he keeps body and soul together.
    - Psalms 33:16-18

    Jesus took the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and pushed the definition of who is our neighbor, out, out, and still further out, until it reached to the ends of the earth and included all of humanity - all of God’s children.
    - Alvin Alexi Currier

    New Susan G Komen advertising

    The Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is launching a new advertising campaign this year for their 25th anniversary.
    The foundation will advertise with T-Shirts that say: "If you're going to stare at my breasts you could at least donate a dollar to save them."
    Funny. Will probably grab a lot of attention.
    Reminds me of a certain "treasure chest" T-Shirt. Ha. That's another story for another time.
    Ladies, would you wear the Komen shirt?

    Boost from big stores has religion books rising

    "There's no question American's love to read about the Almighty."
    From NPR's Morning Edition: Sales of books on religion have sold to a wider audience since the Sept. 11 attacks. Now major retailers are creating much more room for religious titles, and writers are taking notice.
    Why do you read religious titles? Is it because of "tribal dynamics," to know why you're faith is right, who the bad guys and good guys are, or why your world view is better than the others?
    With The Prayer of Jabez, The Left Behind Series and The Purpose Driven Life is showing big box sellers that religious books can sale.
    Wal-Mart doesn't see the secular/spiritual split - they simply see books that sale.
    It's an interesting listen, including mention of Jim Wallis' book.

    Listen to this story

    43 million

    Today is the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
    The case was argued Dec. 13, 1971, re-argued Oct. 11, 1972 and finally decided Jan. 22, 1973.
    The “right” to abortion has expanded in the decades since Roe. Many states now pay for abortions with taxpayer dollars. Thirteen states, plus DC, allow abortion at any point, right up to the day of birth. Ten states, plus DC, don’t even require that abortions be done by a doctor.
    Since 1973, an estimated 43 million abortions have taken place, creating a $400-million-per-year industry.
    In the time it took you to read this post, two more infants were torn from the wombs of their mothers and tossed into the trash.

    Sunday, January 21, 2007

    Horse Sense: The History of Freedom in Christianity (Part I)

    When Constantine the Great carried the seat of empire from Rome to Constantinople, he reputedly carried nails employed at the Crucifixion, which his mother was believed to have found in Jerusalem. Constantine, in adopting the Christian faith, had not intended to renounce his arbitrary power. Nevertheless by promoting Christianity, he surrendered some prerogative of former Caesars. Constantine was the acknowledged author of the liberty and superiority of the Church. He was appealed to as protector and guardian of its unity. He admitted the obligation, accepted the trust. His power was absolute within this altered context. Nevertheless, the Romans became aware of a race of men, who had not abdicated freedom—not even for revealed religion, or in response to the edicts of Constantine. Kings of barbarians did not preside at councils and were sometimes even elected and could be deposed. They were bound by oath to act in obedience to the general wish, and they enjoyed real authority only in war. The primitive Republicanism held fast to the collective supremacy of all free men, as well as to the concept of constituent authorities, a remote germ of parliamentary government. The first effect of Teutonic (Germanic) migration into the regions civilized by Rome was to throw back Europe five hundred years in terms of science and knowledge. The collapse of the Western empire, however, released Christianity to a new and wide-open horizon—namely, to the conversion of the barbarian peoples. Conversion in fact occurred at an amazing rate, chiefly brought about by barbarian kings who converted. Much knowledge would eventually make its comeback through schools of the clergy. New states established by invaders, out of the old Roman Empire and along its borders, came to regard the Church as something infinitely vaster, stronger, holier than earthly political authority. The states at first conferred spiritual authority on the Church, and the Church helped develop state frameworks for governments.
    The monarchies of the Goths in Spain and the Saxons in England had nobles, as well as the semblance of free institutions surrounding the throne, but these passed away fairly quickly. The people who prospered and overshadowed the rest were the Franks, who had no native nobility and whose succession to the Crown was guided by superstition. The system they developed to excess was the feudal system, which essentially made land the measure and the master of all things. The nations of the West lay between the competing tyrannies of local magnates and of absolute monarchs until another struggle challenged vassal and lord alike. When the progress of feudalism threatened the independence of the Church, by subjecting the prelates to personal dependence on kings, this ushered in a period of four hundred years of conflict to which we owe much of the rise of civil liberty. The towns of Italy and Germany would win their franchise, France got her states general, England her parliament; and as long as the conflict between Church and state rulers persisted, there was no rise of Divine Right of kings. The disposition existed to regard the crown as an estate descending under the law of real property in the family that possessed it. But the authority of religion, and especially of the papacy, was thrown to the side that denied the indefeasible title of kings. Except in France where the reigning house was above the law, oaths of fidelity to monarchs were conditional. That is, fealty to a ruler applied during his good behavior, i.e., so long as his actions were in conformity with the public law to which all monarchs were held subject. A sort of reverse doctrine of the Divine Right of the people was invoked to raise Edward III to the throne in England after it was used to depose his father. But the idea of the people raising up and pulling down princes, after obtaining the sanctions of religion, was made to stand on broader grounds than the Church and state, and strong enough to resist both. In the struggle between the house of Bruce and the house of Plantagenet for the possession of Scotland and Ireland, the English claim was backed by the censures of Rome. But the Irish and the Scots refused it; and the address in which the Scottish parliament informed the Pope of their resolution shows how firmly and exactly they held the doctrine of people’s sovereignty: “Divine Providence, the laws and customs of the country, which we will defend till death, and the choice of the people, have made him our King. If he should ever betray his principles, and consent that we should be subjects of the English king, then we shall treat him as an enemy, as the subverter of our rights and his own, and shall elect another in his place. We care not for glory or for wealth, but for that liberty which no true man will give up but with his life.”
    This expression of doctrine essentially crosses concepts found in the Republicanism of barbarian invaders of Rome with tenets of Christianity and illustrates how these merged and spread with the Gentile conversion after the fall of Rome during the Middle Ages. Similar expressions of doctrine were adopted in quarters of the Church itself and expounded by its leaders, the likes of whom included St. Thomas Aquinas.
    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. This piece largely abridged and condensed from an address by Lord Acton to the Bridgnorth Institute in England on 28 May 1877. Email: wes@wesriddle.com.

    CWF on HBO

    Didn't realize this till reading a recent review, but we met Nancy Pelosi's daughter a few months back (Pelosi is the recently elected Speaker of the House).
    Pelosi came and shot footage of the CWF for her documentary Friends of God, which airs on HBO Thursday night.
    It will be interesting to see what the documentary says about us.
    Review from TV Squad
    HBO's synopsis
    Kansas City Star report
    Look for the documentary to begin airing Thursday night 8 CST on HBO. Check your listings for more information.

    Late start benefits HS students

    From Poynter.org:
    The National Sleep Foundation has been saying for some time that it makes a lot of sense to start high school classes later in the morning -- not at 7 a.m., as is the case in many school districts nationwide. Now, some school districts are beginning to respond, and they are seeing good results. Some districts are even saving money by cutting bus runs.
    See it wasn't just me who was tired every morning. Apparently all high schoolers do better when they get to sleep in every morning. I say run the school day from 9 to 5. Any thoughts?

    Debunking Global Warming

    In Thursday's Daily Light:
    It is amazing that so many people believe global warming is real and is caused by humans. This myth has been largely promoted by the major media that gives much attention to those who support it and very little to those who debunk it.
    For example, in December, U.S. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma chaired a “Climate Change and the Media” meeting. He said that global warming is a hoax. The meeting received almost no major media attention.
    At this meeting, Dr. David Deming, a geophysicist at the University of Oklahoma, stated, “I was contacted by a reporter for National Public Radio. He offered to interview me, but only if I would state that the warming was due to human activity. When I refused to do so, he hung up on me.”

    Confederate Nugent

    This morning we ran a story on Ted Nugent's appearance at Gov. McDreamy's inaugural ball early this week.
    Nugent showed up wearing a cut-off T-Shirt with a Confederate flag on the back.
    Gary Bledsoe, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Texas, said the Confederate battle flag is never appropriate.
    “Whenever someone sports the Confederate battle flag, many Texans will be offended, and rightly so, because of what it symbolizes the enslavement of African-Americans and more recently the symbol of hate groups and terrorists,” Bledsoe said.
    Perry's spokesman Robert Black said the governor would never try to squelch anyone's freedom of speech.
    Locally, Ellis County Republican Chairman Rusty Ballard said he didn't have a problem with Nugent playing.
    “He believes in many of the conservative issues the Republican Party does," Ballard said. "I thought it was a great deal having him play. Nugent is a great supporter of the governor.”
    Ballard said he also had no issue with Nugent’s use of the Confederate battle flag.
    “The flag is a part of Texas’ history and it doesn’t represent what a lot of people have come to believe that it does,” Ballard said. “You can’t try to restrict people’s freedom of expression – especially artists. I don’t think there was any political statement being made, it was just typical Ted Nugent.”
    I don't have a problem of granting free speech as long as you're not going to harp on someone else's right to free speech when it offends you.
    Just this week I read about people getting up in arms when the F-word was shown on TV, or when Howard Stern says something offensive but if there are threats of the government censoring them they claim freedom of speech as well.
    Where do you draw the line? Can you draw the line and still grant freedom of speech?

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    The Bible Experience

    I'm all over this.

    The Bible Experience is a fully-dramatized and symphonic-orchestrated reading of the New Testament performed by an unprecedented ensemble of distinguished African-American actors such as Denzel Washington, Blair Underwood, Angela Bassett, Juanita Bynum, Shirley Caesar, Samuel L. Jackson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Kirk Franklin, Dule Hill and many more. Visit www.zondervan.com/TheBibleExperience or Inspiredby.com for more info.
    Also listen to the NPR story.

    War in Iraq - $1.2 TRILLION

    Yup, you read it right. It was announced this week that the war in Iraq has cost the U.S. taxpayers $1.2 Trillion a year.
    According to the Pentagon before the war began, the estimated cost for the war was in the neighborhood of $50 billion.
    David Leonhardt writes in the International Herald Tribune that Democratic staff members in Congress largely agreed with the estimate. Lawrence Lindsey, a White House economic adviser, was a bit more realistic, predicting that the cost could go as high as $200 billion, but President George W. Bush fired him in part for saying so.
    To put it into perspective, it would be like getting a $500 estimate for car repairs and then getting a bill for $120,000.
    But what is $1.2 Trillion? Let's write it out: $1,200,000,000,000 or 10 to the 12th power. That's 12 zeroes to the left of the decimal point. A trillion is a million million dollars.
    One trillion dollars would stretch nearly from the earth to the sun. It would take a military jet flying at the speed of sound, reeling out a roll of dollar bills behind it, 14 years before it reeled out one trillion dollar bills.
    Click here to see another visual image.
    Here's another thought, let's count to a billion. But first, let's see how long that will take. I can count pretty fast for a while. I mumble a little, like "sev-sen" for "seventy-seven." After a while (in the 100,000's), it takes me a lot longer than a second for each number. If it takes me a second for each number (which is a little unrealistic), then it would take me about 24 hours to count to 86,400. I can count to a million in less than half a month. It will take me more than 30 years to count to a billion (not a trillion mind you).
    At a minimum wage of $5.75, $1.2 trillion would pay the salaries of 100,334,448 Americans for a year.
    The National Cancer Institutes budget is $6 billion a year. $1.2 trillion would pay that budget for the next 200 years.
    On today's market a barrel of oil (42 U.S. gallons) costs $52. Not bad but think of all the oil you could purchase with $1.2 trillion - more than 23,076,923,076.
    It's estimated that the U.S. consumes roughly 20 million barrels a day. So with that knowledge, $1.2 trillion would purchase enough oil for the U.S. to survive on for 1,153 days or 3 years at the current rate of consumption.
    According to David Leonhardt, universal preschool would probably cost $50 billion a year. So would a treatment program for heart disease and diabetes.
    So that estimated $20 million for 20,000 additional troops in Iraq doesn't sound that bad now does it? How much is your protection worth?

    Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Build your family tree online

    You can now track your family tree and watch it grow online as your family adds to their tree/network.
    Geni has several impressive features, like collaborative family tree building and editing. If you add a new branch to your tree and include an email address, that person can visit your tree and build branches directly related to them. Geni is flash-based, so all of the tree-building is done dynamically with a really nice drag-drop-and-zoom interface for moving around your branches.

    Via Lifehacker

    Why do we wear suits?

    Luckily I don't have to wear a suit for work. I am asked to wear a collared shirt anytime I'm going out any public. Not a big deal, you have to wear that to play golf in many places.
    But suits? Mark Cuban feels their unnecessary as well.
    Someone had once told me that you wear to work what your customers wear to work. That seemed to make sense to me, so I followed it, and expected those who worked for me to follow it as well.
    After I sold MicroSolutions I decided that I never would wear a suit again. I was able to hold true to that while I was making a lot of money trading stocks for the next 5 years, but then Todd and I started AudioNet which would morph into Broadcast.com.
    With our new business, I decided that I would have to wear a suit, but would modify the rule so that I would only wear a suit when someone I was selling to was wearing a suit. If they were selling to me, I didn't care if they were wearing a tux. I was going to go comfortable and not wear a suit.
    When Broadcast.com was sold, the suit went out the window completely. I vowed to never wear one again other than weddings and funerals, and only then because it wasn't worth the hassle to deal with people asking why you didn't wear a suit. I'm certain the people getting married dint care, and I don't think anyone is going to be looking down at me wondering why I showed up at their funeral without a suit. Suits make no sense whatsoever.
    Cuban suggest employers give their employees a raise and let them come to work with no suits required. Thoughts, comments?

    Meteorologist - maybe the easiest job in the world

    Reid Slaughter at Frontburner suggests meteorologists may have the easiest job in the world. I think he's right.
    Consider the following: to be a TV weatherman,
    1. You do not have to have any knowledge or opinions of your own. All you do is wake up in the morning and log on here and download your forecast from the experts. Let your fancy graphics do the rest.
    2. You do not have to be good-looking, unless you're a woman (in which case it helps to be a smokin' hot babe).
    3. You certainly don't need much personality, or a good wardrobe.
    4. You get to be wrong ALL THE TIME and still keep your job.


    Cuban and the team he owns have created MavsWiki, an interactive site between the Mavericks and their fans, and akin to Wikipedia. It is the first such site in the NBA. Co-oool. Cuban says not only will fans be able to construct the Mavs' history, but they can "share their Mavs experiences with us and other fans."

    Via Frontburner

    What would a Wiki look like? What history and stories would people share about your church?


    From the local Fox affiliate this morning,"The Metroplex has become the Mess-O-Plex."

    Winter Blast Hits Ellis County

    Ismael Alfaro

    A severe winter blast cripples Ellis county bringing life as we know it to a pre-historic –like situation. Do not venture into this environment as roaming Mastodons have been spotted terrorizing the countryside.

    Gimp vs. Photoshop

    Blogger and commercial-prepress worker Philip McClure runs Photoshop by day and Gimp by night. Which is better? Read his comparison to find out.
    McClure comes to the main conclusion that because of its press capabilities (specifically CMYK and Pantone modes) Photoshop is a must for any professional printers/designers.
    But Gimp is the better choice for home users instead of pirating a copy of Photoshop.
    I've been using Gimp for my graphics program since my hard drive crashed in December and while it's taken some getting used to I've enjoyed it. Yes, it's not Photoshop which I have become extremely dependent upon over the years for countless applications and would love to be able to afford for my home computer - but I can still do good/decent work with it and its way better than Microsoft Paint.
    Here's a few banners I put together in a couple minutes with Gimp. I could have done more but I just needed a couple quickies to advertise OrangeNoiseRadio:

    Via Lifehacker

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    Perry looking for VPOTUS?

    According to a very reliable source, Perry has said quite profanely that he is not interested in the VP job in 2008. The AP also ran a story last week confirming that.
    But Vince over at Capital Annex is pretty certain Perry is thinking otherwise with his inauguration speech today.
    Pop Quiz time!
    Who said the following:
    Our greatest threat is no longer a Cold War enemy that advances a Godless ideology, but fanatics that kill the innocent and themselves in the name of a Higher Power. Rogue states and terror cells have made nuclear proliferation a greater threat, and leaders in Europe and Latin America have risen to power and popularity based on anti-American appeals.
    Was it: A. President Bush, B. Condoleeza Rice, C. Rick Perry, or D. John McCain?
    If you answered “A” you’re wrong. If you answered any letter other than “C” you are wrong.
    Yep, those words escaped the lips of Texas Governor Rick Perry today during his inauguration.
    The governor also addressed Sudan and AIDS in Africa and Asia. For that I applaud him for thinking globally. Not sure what the Governor of Texas can do other than raise awareness - but I'm all for anyone that wants to help the cause. Maybe he'll surprise us with a very bold initiative in the coming months.
    Vince continues:
    Even though he’s evidently actively campaigning for a Veep spot (wouldn’t Texas bloggers love that?), he evidently didn’t get the memo that Republicans don’t talk about the genocide in Sudan.
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Republican say that we ought to do something about genocide in Sudan. It’s interesting, because it shows that Perry is trying to (a) show people that, in spite of being an Aggie and former Agriculture Commissioner, he can think globally; and (b) he’s evidently advocating a—hold onto your chairs for this one—less isolationist foreign policy!
    You can bet Perry just got a big “check plus plus” on Rudy G’s “Possible Veep Candidates” scorecard, and a big red “x” on Senator McCain’s “Monitoring Sheet Of Conservative Tendencies Of Potential Vice Presidential Nominees.”
    It will be interesting to see what happens over the next several months. I heard on NPR today that Barak Obama plans to officially announce his campaign for POTUS in mid-February and it's almost a given that Hillary will announce very soon as well.

    You know it's cold when...

    5. You can see your breath while sitting at your office cubicle.
    4. Your money really is burning a whole in your pockets to keep you warm.
    3. The television meteorologists have been predicting the end of mankind for the last six nights.
    2. Republicans and Democrats are holding hands and gathering in small huddles with each other just to stay warm.
    1. You put your coat on at 7:55 a.m. before you leave for work and don't take it off again until you climb into bed at 11:30 p.m.

    Monday, January 15, 2007

    Ice storms?

    One bloggers opinion: Don’t get me started on how the “It’s Gonna Freeze! Get your portable radio and flashlights” mentality of television newscasts in markets where it rarely snows/sleets is nothing more than a conspiracy to drive people to the grocery stores to ramp up their profit margins so they can buy more TV commercials.
    - Vince Leibowitz

    50 most influential

    ChurchReport.com has released it's list of the 50 most influential Christians in America. I wonder how that's decided.
    Joel Osteen from Houston is number one.
    I still crack up when I see/think of the Texas Monthly cover with him on the front and "On the eighth day God created Joel Osteen"

    Re: What to do with the homeless

    Just an added verse reminder that I thought fit...

    I can't stand your religious meetings.
    I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
    I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals.
    I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making.
    I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?
    Do you know what I want?
    I want justice — oceans of it.
    I want fairness — rivers of it.
    That's what I want. That's all I want.
    Amos 5:21-24 (The Message)

    Thought for Monday

    Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
    Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.
    Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."
    Romans 12: 11-19 (The Message)

    Thanks for the reminder Thomas

    Horse Sense: Army Goes Rolling Along (Part II)

    George Friedman, writing for Strategic Forecasting, tells us “The Army is the heart of the matter,” i.e., of regaining freedom of action militarily and putting teeth back in American diplomacy. Today’s U.S. Army was designed in the 1990s, on the assumption that the need for extended combat operations was a thing of the past. Not only was the Army reduced in size, many key components of combat divisions and critical specialties, such as civil affairs, were shifted to the Army Reserve and National Guard. The administration’s expectation for Iraq was that there would be a buildup of forces for several months, a short, intense period of combat operations and a drawdown in forces from a pacified country. The 1990s force was designed just for these kinds of conflicts. The Reserve and National Guard components were mobilized to join and backfill for units deploying to the combat zone. By the end of the year, it was expected, the force would return to peacetime operations. Iraq didn’t work out that way. The drawdown never took place because major combat operations were followed by a major insurgency. The expectation of the administration was that the insurgency would be dealt with in a reasonable time, so the Army was not reconfigured for extended warfare. At any point, proposals for dealing with the fundamental problem—that the force was too small—were rejected, with the thinking that there was no need for a significant overhaul to deal with a problem that would be under control in a matter of months. This expectation turned into hope, the hope into dogma. Thus, the 1990s Army continued to fight a multi-year insurgency with a multidivisional force, while also fighting a second war in Afghanistan and having to stand by for the unexpected.
    Having learned from Vietnam that constantly rotating individuals into units for one-year tours undermines unit cohesion, the Army shifted to rotating entire divisions in and out of Iraq after roughly one year. Had the conflict ended in two years, it might have worked fine. But it now has been more than three years and divisions are doing their second tours, mobilizing Reserve and National Guard units as they go. Consider this example: The 1st Cavalry Division is embarked on its second tour to take control of the Baghdad region from the 4th Infantry Division. For the coming year, the 1st Cav is going to be locked down in Iraq, but the 4th ID will not be available for operations elsewhere. Upon arriving back in the United States, they will need to rest, repair and integrate new equipment and integrate new recruits to replace veterans leaving the Army. The 4th ID will not be available to deploy anywhere for many months. In effect, for every division in Iraq, one division is being overhauled. Add to this the weakness in the Reserves and National Guard, and you begin to appreciate the United States’ strategic challenge.
    Iraq is eating up U.S. geopolitical options by eating up the Army. This is the first major extended ground war the United States has fought in a century without dramatically increasing the size of the Army. World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam all brought massive increases in military size, mostly through conscription. The Bush administration did not view Iraq as a potentially multi-year, multi-divisional combat operation. It maintained the force roughly as it started, and now that force is headed towards broke. Indeed, the administration had come to the conclusion prior to the mid-term elections. In October, one sign of a strategy shift was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, long an opponent of expanding the Army’s budget, agreeing to allow the Army to plead its case directly for more money to Congress. In the past, Rumsfeld wanted the Army to find more efficient ways to run counterinsurgency operations, relying more on technology than manpower. That’s a good idea and might happen some day, but it didn’t happen for this war. It is now pretty late in the game to cut the Army loose for funding—plus, any new funding won’t impact the battlefield for a couple of years. But Rumsfeld’s move signaled recognition that a basic assumption up to this point was flawed, and this is where he leaves the nation and its Army at the end of his tenure. With its troops and equipment worn down by years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army needs to receive a spike in its share of the Pentagon’s budget request when it goes to Congress this year. Significantly, increases to the size of the Army made by Congress since 2001, amounting to 30,000 troops, have become a permanent fixture of the force. Beyond that, the Army is discussing internally whether it should expand by tens of thousands more. Pentagon officials are likely to seek $138 billion, compared to its $112 billion request last year. Army officials say the service was already $50 billion short in equipment when terrorists struck September 11, 2001. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan require $17 billion in extra spending for 2007 to repair and replace destroyed and worn out vehicles and equipment, and at least $13 billion additional spending for the next five years after that.
    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. This article condensed from an October 2006 STRATFOR Geopolitical Intelligence Report by George Friedman. Army budget figures are from Thom Shanker and David Cloud of the New York Times. Email: wes@wesriddle.com.

    What to do with the homeless?

    Anyone can tell you that the homeless population in America continues to grow. According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty there are currently 3.5 million homeless people in America right now. That includes between 4,000 and 14,000 in Dallas. Twenty to 30 percent of the homeless in America have jobs yet can't scrape together enough to pay for a place to live. I've read that nearly 1/3 of the homeless have slight to severe mental issues. Another 1/3 have chemical dependencies of some sort. The remaining simply fall on hard times and can't catch a break long enough to get them off the streets. A missed paycheck, a health crisis, or an unpaid bill pushes poor families over the edge into homelessness.
    So what is the answer to America's (and the world's) homeless population? Is there one? Jesus said that we will always have the poor with us. But does that mean homelessness and extreme poverty as well? Is there an answer to the problem?
    I just finished reading "Under the Overpass: A journey of Faith on the Streets of America" by Mike Yankoski.
    Yankoski and his friend Sam spent five months on the streets of Denver, Washington DC, Portland, San Fransisco, Phoenix and San Diego. They experienced being shunned by people everywhere, including people who were very open about their Christian faith -- even while sitting in churches.
    An ongoing struggle to find safety, a place to sleep, a bathroom and food becomes dehumanizing for anyone. One experience at a time, a person's sense of dignity and sense of self-worth gets stripped away. I don't know what the experience would be like for someone who has lived on the streets for thirty years.
    But I do know this: blithely allowing this terrible stripping to occur is a blot on the conscience of America and especially on the conscience of the church. If we as believers choose to forget that everyone -- even the shrunken soul lying in the doorway -- is made in the image of God, can we say that we know our Creator? If we respond to others based on their outward appearance, haven't we entirely missed the point of the Gospel? (emphasis added)
    Reading the book and ministering to the folks at Austin Street inspired me. The book made me rethink how I've treated everyone I see standing alongside the road looking destitute and looking for a handout.
    Every evening I drive to Laurie's there is someone standing at the corner of Ferguson and I-30 asking for help. I have to ask myself, am I doing right by giving this man or woman a handout? I feel guilty if I don't, yet at the time it's very easy to look away and pretend I'm busy on the phone or pretend I'm changing the radio station until the light changes green. Yet I don't really know that person's situation. I haven't taken the time to get out of my truck and share the love of Christ with them.
    Even if I do toss a few coins or dollars their way is that really sharing Christ with them? Would a tract be more "Christian-like?"
    I tend to believe that if a person asks for money, as a Christian I should be willing to help. After all Christ says, "To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously."
    If Christ says that about our enemies, how much better should we respond to our neighbors and the stranger on the street?
    Christ also tells the rich young ruler, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
    But then I have to consider, am I not also to be a good steward of my money?
    I've felt guilty the last week or so because I have three or four piles of clothes sitting in my hallway that need to go to the Austin Street Shelter. Because of other "priorities" I have not been in three weeks.
    There are clothes sitting there that can be used to keep someone warm that might not get into the shelter at night, or even as they're out and about during the day.
    Tonight on my way home, as a winter storm finally began to make it's presence felt in Dallas, I decided to meet my dad at Fuel City, at the intersection of Industrial and I-35.
    It's a nice bright convenience store with the best tacos in the state (according to Texas Monthly).
    Dad had worked all evening looking for icy roads in Dallas to sand. I decided I'd meet him after his shift to share a few tacos and a few minutes of conversation.
    I know the Fuel City area fairly well. Austin Street is less than two miles away. I stop their frequently and I'm never surprised when someone asks me for spare change so they can catch a bus, get some cough medicine, buy a taco or what not.
    Tonight was no different.
    As I sat in my truck I saw a man and a woman trying to keep warm near the entrance to the gas station.
    I felt guilty watching them shiver as I sat in my truck running the heater.
    I watched them as they asked other customers for change. The woman seemed to have somewhat sporadic behavior and I began to wonder which 1/3 of the homeless population she fit into.
    An Hispanic lady stopped at the taco stand and purchased several tacos for herself and for the woman begging outside.
    I watched as the woman took the taco(s) and then just sat them aside as she went asking for more money.
    "She's looking for a fix" I thought to myself. Just hoping to get a drink or a drug fix later tonight.
    Judging her I focused on the man. He was much more calm, less aggressive in asking.
    Finally my dad called and said he should arrive in 10-15 minutes.
    I got out of my truck and approached the window of the taco stand. The man spotted me right away. Like a tractor beam he approached and asked for money.
    "Couldn't get into a shelter tonight?" I asked.
    "No, the shelter costs $7," he replied.
    "They charge you for a bed on a night like this?"
    "Sure. Can I have some money?"
    "How bout I buy you a taco or two instead?" I asked him.
    "Yeah. Chicken - no onions," he told the lady at the window.
    I pulled out my money and paid $5 for four tacos. I had $1 remaining and he eyed it right away.
    I started to put the money back into my pocket and he asked me for it.
    I told him I had a pocket full of change I could give him and I did.
    He was grateful and then became somewhat frantic when several coins fell to the concrete sidewalk.
    He gathered them up again and then asked for my last dollar.
    "Come on. Give me the dollar so I can get into the shelter."
    "You really think you'll be able to get a bed this late at night?" I asked. He didn't respond.
    "You know if you go over to Austin Street they don't charge you for a bed." I was hoping I was right but knew at this late hour the shelter would be packed to the max.
    "Come on just give me the dollar."
    Something inside of me said, "Go ahead. Help him out."
    So I did. Moments later the tacos were ready. I handed him his two tacos and told him he should go to Austin Street next time and to stay warm.
    He shook my hand and said thanks.
    I walked back to my truck and watched him.
    He went back to the window and complained that he said "No onions."
    I don't believe they fixed his order but he turned around and began eating them as he asked another customer for money.
    He finished his tacos and threw the container away.
    I hoped I had done the right thing by giving him my last bit of cash.
    A few minutes later an announcement was made that the store would stop selling beer shortly. Five minutes till midnight, sounds right.
    The woman then approached the man and they talked briefly before walking away from the store.
    As I watched them they climbed into a car parked on the property and drove off several minutes later.
    "Wow. I guess I've been had," I thought. "Oh well. Lord please let my gift be a blessing to them somehow."
    Events like this have made so many in our country and our church skeptics of the homeless. They've turned what may have been at one time a very generous heart, into a cold, unthinkable, more than willing to pass you by attitude.
    But what should we as Christians do?
    Do we ignore the whole fruit basket because of one or two rotten apples? Or do we give generously and hope that it rubs off on someone?
    I feel like I've had this discussion numerous times in the last six months. Whether it's homelessness, illegal immigration, Abu Gray, Guantánamo Bay or anywhere else, people have their defense mechanisms turned on.
    Seth Woods writes, "We snicker at the lost and thank God that I'm saved."
    We all have our reasons for not reaching out. I have plenty myself.
    But I have to consider, who did Christ love? Who did Christ give forgiveness to when none was deserved? I know I'm one of those who have received His grace, His forgiveness and His mercy when none was deserved.
    Christ came to save the world not condemn it. Christ came for the very sinner who may have lied about what he was going to do with my $1 bill. Christ came for the illegal immigrant hoping to make a better life for himself or his family. Christ came for the terrorist spending his time in prison. Christ came for Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush.
    Christ came to love and share love and I believe he's called us to do the same.
    I still don't have the answers as to how this plays out in our day-to-day life. I don't know how this gives an answer to the homeless issues our country faces. I don't even know what this means for prisoners in Guantánamo -- but I know that I as a follow of Christ are called to love them.
    The last time we saw Henry was the day before we left San Fransisco for Phoenix as he was stumbling through the center of the park, talking frantically to himself, shaking his fists widely at the sky. All I could think about was the fact that Jesus spent time with people just like Henry. Jesus came to them, healed them, cast the demons out of them -- gave them life and peace.
    But here's the thing: Jesus expects us to reach out to Henrys too -- and He draws the expectation in the clearest of terms. How we treat people in this life will determine whether we hear "whatever you did for one of the least of these... you did for me" (Matthew 25:40) or "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me" Matthew 25:45).
    Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether Henry or the man who thinks he's Jesus are clinically diagnosed as mentally ill or spiritually described as demon possessed. Neither label gets us off the hook of what we are called to do and be in their lives.
    We are called to love, regardless of what the other individual has done. Two final quotes tonight before I end tonight and wrap myself in my warm, cozy bed.
    God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. - Bono
    I want to be like my Jesus -- but I'm not sure what that means. To be like You Jesus, cause You said to live like you and love like You -- and then You died for me. - Jeremy Camp

    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    Filter naughty words

    From Lifehacker:
    Firefox with Greasemonkey: Filter out the nastiness of the net with the Profanity Filter script for Greasemonkey.
    By default, the script scans every page you visit against a pre-defined list of naughty words, then replaces any matches with three little asterisks. To give it a try, I created my own vulgar little sentence, which the profanity filter turned into: "This *** is the ***. Every *** on the planet should install this ***." Pretty harmless, huh?
    Sorry for all of you still using IE. I don't know of anything that lets you do this. If anyone has a hack, feel free to correct me.
    Download Firefox
    Download the Firefox add-on

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    Cingular is now AT&T

    I have no idea why, I have a better understanding now after talking to a Cingular rep, but Cingular Wireless is now AT&T.

    1st Cingular bought out AT&T Wireless in Oct 2004. AT&T Wireless was a stand alone company not owned by AT&T.
    2nd AT&T bought out SBC and their mobile carrier, Cingular SBC bought out AT&T and dropped the SBC name and became AT&T, due to the world wide brand recognition and admiration
    3rd The new AT&T bought out Bell South, a partial owner in Cingular
    3rd4th After one owner goes away, Cingular changes its name to AT&T to clarify the connection between Cingular and AT&T

    Oh brother... I hope that all made sense. I guess if you've got the money to spend on re-marketing, go for it.
    Granted anytime you can gain market recognition and admiration you may as well do it.
    A Cingular PR rep told me the new branding of Cingular could take six months or more, similar to when SBC became AT&T.
    Cingular customers will see no difference in their service or how they pay their bill other than a new name.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Cruel. Inhuman. Degrades Us All.

    Close Guantánamo Bay.
    The detention of "enemy combatants" at the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba has now entered its fifth year. Hundreds of people of around 30 different nationalities remain held in effect in a legal black hole, many without access to any court, legal counsel or family visits.
    Many of them allege they have been subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Three detainees have died at the camp, after apparently committing suicide. Others have gone on prolonged hunger strikes, being kept alive only through painful force feeding measures.
    Guantanamo Bay is a symbol of injustice and abuse.
    Can someone tell me why it remains open, why these men are not given a trial and why it shouldn't be shut down?
    Five years Now! - No independent hearing; no family contact! Is This The American Way?
    By Khalid Al-Odah
    Consider this. Over the course of the past five years, America, the most powerful country on earth, overthrew Saddam Hussein, a ruthless dictator. And after Saddam’s fall from power in 2003, US forces captured him, and he was tried, convicted and executed.
    In those same five years, Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and Yasser Arafat have died. Kuwait’s beloved ruler, Sheik Jaber Alsabah has passed away and we have a new ruler, a new crown prince, a new prime minister and a new parliament.
    So much has happened in the past five years, and yet for my son Fawzi -- detained in Guantánamo Bay since January 11, 2002 -- time has stood still. Fawzi has spent his days in a 6.8ft x 8 ft cell, often in solitary confinement and denied all contact with his family. Even death row inmates in U.S. prisons are treated better than this. Fawzi’s treatment has irreparably scarred him and our family. And for what?
    Read more

    My boy is growing up

    Chad Crawford, who was "my son" one year for UMHB's Welcome Week is being featured on the Beatitudes Society.
    When we got to the summit, we could not believe what we saw there—an expansive panoramic view of the northern part of San Francisco Bay and an exquisite lodge where we could sit and catch our breaths. They even poured us water out of wine bottles with fancy green leaves inside! I knew I wasn’t in Texas anymore. It was a far cry from the extreme poverty we saw everyday on the streets of San Francisco—but geographically only a few miles away. I believe that there are people in my generation who want everyone to enjoy a better quality of life, who want to work to close the gap between the wealthy and the poor, who want to be better stewards of God’s creation. We believe that all of these visions are connected. Sometimes we have to take paths that haven’t been made yet, and sometimes we find roads that have been paved by those who have already been at it for decades, creating the society that my generation also wants.
    Read his full article
    He also has an ongoing blog.

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    Customize your Jag

    Photo by Scott Ableman

    Customize your Jaguar, or a friend's Jag with your favorite colored Post-It Notes.
    This practical joke has been seen world wide now with over 150,000 visits to the photos on Flickr.
    Click the photo to see more pics or read the story from ABC News.

    Proposed "intake center" for homeless looks scary

    Marni passed along an article regarding the homeless in Dallas and a proposed intake center for the city. It also focuses a lot on Austin Street where we go "almost every week." The article is from the Dallas Observer, March 2004.
    We need to back down and take a deep breath about this, all of us. I believe the mayor's motives are good, but she has also shown remarkable
    insensitivity. I don't think the real estate guys are even required to have
    good motives.
    You and I are required. This is a legitimately tough issue. But rendering
    human beings nameless and faceless, treating them all as round pegs to be
    shoved into identical round holes, loading them on buses and putting them in
    camps: You and I don't want to have any part of that.
    It's a great insight into some of the issues involved.

    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    Horse Sense: Army Goes Rolling Along (Part I)

    One of the lessons we should have learned over the last three years is the undiminished importance of ground forces, both having enough of them and for utilizing them effectively where they are needed. You can argue all day long about a lot of things, but when a large percentage of your ground forces are engaged, a nation’s options are limited elsewhere. George Friedman, writing for the Strategic Forecasting think tank, says North Korea and Russia have taken advantage of that fact with the U.S., and we know Iran has also done so—intentionally exacerbating our problems in Iraq, so they gain a freehand and advantage elsewhere. Ironically, when ground forces are engaged in large numbers, options are limited elsewhere, no matter how big your Navy and your Air Force are. These sister services are needed to support the land force; and further, boots on the ground are what matters at the end of the day. They determine who rules. If you embark to fundamentally remake another nation or society, you must rule and rule for a long time in order to accomplish your goals. You cannot, indeed must not cede sovereignty in short order after you’ve won it. If your goals are so all encompassing and comprehensive as to aim at erecting democratic institutions where there are none, to rebuild a military whom you have vanquished (twice), to make warring ethnic and sectarian factions live peaceably together, and to transform the Middle East by example—you cannot hope to do so on the cheap, in terms of the numbers of troops or the extreme level of force those troops will have to exert. Of course, your objectives may well come into question, as indeed they should, if you are given to self-analysis or to constructive reassessment.
    Historically, a standing army on our soil helped foment the American Revolution, even though we were part of the British Empire and British troops were “here to help.” Funny thing about them boots on the ground: if insufficient to quash all resistance, they virtually ensure the unity and persistence of violent opposition aimed at foreign occupiers and the removal of any political fence sitters. Taking a slightly different tack, boots on borders are what nations worry about too, unless you happen to be a very big McDemocracy, and boots on borders mean a lot of friendly undocumented guest workers coming in for ‘a better way of life.’ Be that as it may, most nations do care about borders. Borders define their space for who they are and where political, ethno-cultural and economic sovereignty lay. Borders define a lot of nations we like and many we don’t like. Hypothetically, if we were to put troops in a country bordering on some we dislike, with the express intent of remaking the one we’re in before proceeding across its borders to remake others too, we might be in for some complications and a surprise or two. All hypothetical, mind you: far be it from me to suggest decisions have consequences, or that foreign policy mistakes are possible, or that some international idealism is plain stupid. But if this were what you wanted to do, there’s really no way to do it without several hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions of troops, as well as a willingness to employ extreme violence, even to risk a broader war.
    Nations also recognize that an investment of troops by another nation is practically the most it can do. You don’t easily get them out, once men and women are stationed in a place and particularly where they are fighting for very long. The expense of sending, sustaining, reinforcing and rotating troop units is astronomical, the support network immense. Moreover, the impact on a homeland that sends troops is substantial, especially the longer its deployments go. For individuals and families involved, the experience is life changing; for the government it becomes consuming, to the point of setting aside important priorities and allowing serious economic and social problems to grow. For the life and direction of nations, wars involving deployment of troops are historic by their nature. Even when wars like that are necessary, they can never be said to be a good thing. There is death and devastation to be sure, but we are all conditioned to get past that relatively quickly—and some things are admittedly worth that much. But there are also the tragic and largely unknown opportunities lost, as well as the many negative unintended consequences.
    Thank God we do have an Army, however. If anyone seriously thinks we’d be free one day without one, then he doesn’t understand either the harsh reality behind international relations or the base drive and instincts attendant to human condition that give way only to force. But an Army is a terrible thing to squander. For the United States, the crucial problem is our freedom of action under the current circumstance, whether a freedom to respond or take the initiative to the enemy—the enemy we know or the one on the horizon. For all the early talk of preemption after 9/11, we’ve virtually given it up, because we’ve lost that ability with troops. Friedman again: “The military reality on the ground in Iraq severely constrains U.S. options around the world. That, in turn, constrains U.S. diplomacy. Diplomacy without even the distant possibility of military action is impotent…. Since the possibility of unilateral action by the United States also does not exist, neither North Korea nor Iran need take the diplomatic initiatives seriously. And they don’t…. Americans either must dramatically increase the capability of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps or else decrease their commitment in Iraq. If the United States does neither, its ability to control and influence events in other regions will decline.”
    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.

    Monday, January 08, 2007

    2007 Book Club

    I finished Wild at Heart this weekend. I must say, it was decent but not the show stopper I kept hearing about.
    I feel like I could have written the book - but I say that after hearing many people tell me about the book and probably read several reviews about it.
    It was good. It challenged me to live for me and the calling God has placed on my heart, not on other people's hearts. Not in a selfish way, but I should be living out the passions God's given to me.
    It also challenged me to consider taking more risks. Don't know what all that might entail at this point in my life but we'll see where God leads.
    I really started Wild at Heart in 2006, so any suggestions on if I should count it towards my 2007 goal? Maybe I'll chalk it up as 1/2 a book.
    I did pick up two other books at lunch.
    One that's been recommended several times and a second I just found on the shelf.
    I'm really looking foward to the second, Under the Overpass. I think I may end up reading it first.
    Here's a review from Publisher's Weekly:
    Yankoski's parents were right: It was crazy to live as a homeless person in six American cities for five months; fortunately, this crazy idea makes for quite a story. Yankoski, a Christian college student, challenges the reader to learn about faith, identify with the poor and find "more forgotten, ruined, beautiful people than we ever imagined existed, and more reason to hope in their redemption." The journey begins at a Denver rescue mission and ends on a California beach. Along the way, Yankoski and a friend learn the perils of poor hygiene and the secrets of panhandling. They meet unfortunates like Andrew, who squanders his musical talent to feed his drug habit, and hustlers like Jake, who gives the pair tips about how to look and sound more pitiful to get more money. Yankoski tends to moralize: "If we respond to others based on their outward appearance, haven't we entirely missed the point of the Gospel?" Still, the book features fine writing ("I awoke, rolled over and saw beads of sweat already forming on my arms. Saturday, early morning, Phoenix") and vivid stories, authentically revealing an underworld of need.
    The other book I picked up was Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.
    I've heard several people talk about it. Some have loved it. Others have hated it. I'm thinking I'll be closer to the first. But you never know.
    Anyone else read these books yet? Wild at Heart, Under the Overpass or Blue Like Jazz? What'd you think? How were you challenged.
    What books are you reading this year?

    Let Google find your cellphone

    Next time you've lost your cellphone, let Google maps help you find it.
    If you search for a business using Google maps, the site will offer to place the call for you. Type in your number and it will place a call to your cellphone or land line and then connect you to the business after you pick up.
    If you lose your cell phone, just use the service and then simply ignore the call from Google.
    It's a lot less embarrassing than admitting you've lost your cell phone and need someone to call it for you. From Google:
    There are two things that I really like about this. The business's phone number is automatically stored in your caller ID so you can easily call back in the future. And by checking the box to remember your phone number, you can make future calls from Google Maps with just two mouse clicks (and picking up your phone, of course).
    Via Lifehacker

    The power of visuals

    According to a multimedia prof in Florida, a graphic presentation showing the Cowboy's new stadium received 42,000 hits, compared to juts 20,000 for the print version.
    That's a huge difference for just five pics.
    How can we put that information into use in our churches?
    I think it shows how visually stimulated our current society is.
    If people can actually see what you're trying to tell them there's more chance they'll pay attention and retain it.

    Firefox is acting funny

    Firefox seems to acting very funny like.
    I type a word or two and then it will go back one space and start typing in the middle of the word I’ve already typed. Very weird.
    Appears to only happen in Firefox.
    Could it be a Firefox problem or a problem with the antivirus program I’m running right now?
    Here's what the above paragraph looked like without corrections.

    Fireox sees o be actinvery fu liek.
    I typ a wordr twoan t wilto back one space and star ting int eh midleof the word I've lready typed. Very weird
    Appears to only apen i Firefox.Could it b a Firefox prbem r a problem with the antivirus prgram Im running igh now?
    Hee's hat the above paragraph looked like ithout corrections.waa wrtr'oeoloenphhp.a dpyt lid o eynn gtmf

    CDs vs. downloads

    As I'm putting together more playlist material for OrangeNoiseRadio I'm starting to regret buying some of the countless downloads I've purchased over the last few years.
    For the most part they've all been WMA (Microsoft) files with a few files in Apple's native file format.
    I even made the switch from MP3 to WMA's for ripping my own CD's some time back.
    But the software we use for ONR only plays MP3s. So now I'm stuck having to re-find and re-rip all the songs I already ripped.
    And when my hard drive crashed last month I lost everything I had stored on it. No backups of all those songs.
    It's got me wondering if CDs are the better way to go, especially after reading a post from Lifehacker today.
    What about the rest of you? Have digital files replaced your love affair with CDs? Have you reconsidered re-igniting your first love? If only we could go back to the simpler (illegal) way of downloading all our music for free from Napster life might be so much easier. Ahh... the good ole' days.