Monday, November 24, 2008

This time it's personal...

On the recommendation of someone I respect, I started looking at the Relevant magazine's web site last month. I liked what I saw there so I splurged for the 2 year subscription for $20.00. (And I got some great music in the RELEVANT Digital Sampler Vol 02 that came with the 2 year sub.)

Well, earlier this week I got my first issue. I must say, it is very visually energetic. Sometimes the ads blend right in with the articles/content. But in a good way. The whole thing is really well put together.

But what I found to be even better is the content. Two columns stand out for me: "Pursuing Personal Revival" by Randy Bohlender and "Bus Stops and Missed Opportunities" by Adam Smith.

When I read "Bus Stops" I got that sorta uncomfortable, convicted feeling. You know the one you get when you see someone doing the right thing when you know you wouldn't have done it? Yeah that feeling. In his article, Smith describes being pulled, unwillingly, into someone else's stuff at a bus stop. He knows he should be willing to minister to these folks, but he just isn't feeling it. He pretty much phones it in and says
I hope the next time I'm offered the chance to show the love of Christ, I won't be so self-centered as to only recognize it in hindsight. In my attitude, if not my actions, I failed those kids on the bus. However, I know God continues to bring me in contact day after day with people who need to see His love.

So when our pastor started talking the next morning about "us and them thinking", it was like a lining up of "God stuff" for me. Mike got a laugh out of this joke but there is a lot of seriousness in it when you realize that it is really how most of us think:
A Senior Master Chief is on the deck of a ship with several of his sailors and he started quizzing them. He asked them "If one of you guys suddenly fell overboard into the sea, what would the rest of you do?" Very quickly they answered and said "Some would go immediately to sound the alarm and the rest would get a life ring to throw to the man overboard." The Chief nodded at their answer and then asked them another question, "OK. What would you do if an officer fell overboard?" At that point the sailors paused and thought for a moment before saying "Which officer is it?"

Fortunately, God doesn't make that distinction. He doesn't have a "worthy of salvation" and "unworthy of salvation" list. It is available for everyone. We've all gone over the edge and into the ocean. Sooner or later, we're going to drown, or attract sharks, or die of exposure if we stay out there.

But God has thrown a life saver out to each of us in Jesus Christ. All we have to do is reach for it and accept the gift.

For me, I have so much gratitude for this salvation, that I want to help others reach out to grab the life saver before they slip under. And these two articles in Relevant did a great job to remind me that the need and opportunities to do that are happening all around me. To people I know, people I don't know, people like me, people not like me, people that are "acceptable" by society's standards and people that are not.

I gotta stop judging which of these folks floating with me are "worth it." I need to think more like Kevin Costner's character, Ben Randall, in The Guardian as he explains things to young Jake Fischer:
Jake Fischer: When you can't save 'em all, how do you choose who lives?
Ben Randall: It's probably different for everybody Jake. Its kind of simple for me though. I just, I take the first one I come to and then I swim as fast and as hard as I can for as long as I can.

Time to start swimming....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reviewing Field of Blood

As I noted before, I'm in the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers program. And I just finished the first book I received from the publisher: Field of Blood by Eric Wilson. It is the first installment in the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy.

Field of Blood is a novel with Christian roots and background. There is Evil in the world and it takes the form of the vampire-like Collectors that live on blood and possess living beings (people, animals, insects, etc). The story focuses on a particular set of Collectors who have been waiting at Akeldama, the field of blood where Judas committed his suicide (Acts 1:18-19). Given special power because of the blood spilled at Akeldama, these Collectors set out across the Earth looking to bring about the final destruction of humankind.

It took me a little while to get in the swing of the book, I must admit. Wilson gives some historical background on the region but not on the characters. He instead lets the characters reveal themselves. It turns out to be a good way to develop the main characters and it gets me to start caring about Gina, the protagonist, and investing in the unfolding stories. So, I was really glad that I kept going through the initial pages to get to the real meat.

Speaking of Gina, Wilson does a great job of building her character through the book so that, when it reaches the climax, her thoughts and actions are completely appropriate. The rest of the major characters are developed just as expertly.

The book has a lot of Jewish and Christian reference: geography, history, belief, ritual, and theology. Wilson does a wonderful job of weaving this in to the story and it is completely relevant. It is not just hanging on to the edges awkwardly nor is it just introduced and pushed aside. The importance of the salvation given through Jesus Christ (called "the Nazarene" by the Collectors) is shown as important. It is also shown in a realistic light across the characters in the book. Some are sure of their salvation, some are beginning their journey, some do not believe at all. As the story unfolds, it is great to see how Wilson brings a character through the progression of distrust of religion on to a budding faith in Christ.

This book ends with some resolution of the storyline but it leaves things wide open for the next books in the trilogy. More mystery is unveiled just as some pieces are revealed. I am really looking forward to the next book: Haunt of Jackals. I just can't believe I have to wait almost a year for it!

If you like fantasy novels or even just a great story, go get Field of Blood by Eric Wilson. It'll be worth 400 pages of your time.

UPDATE: To find out more about the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, and see a cool video trailer for Field of Blood, go check out Eric's site for the books at

Per the recent FTC ruling, I am required to tell you that I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for publishing my review.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

16 Things

Thanks to the examples set by Steve and Janaki, I've got 16 things...

  • I am an only child.

  • I married a Jersey Girl who isn't anything like a Jersey Girl.

  • My first job was with my Dad making teeth (crowns and bridges).

  • I'm a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

  • I attended the University of South Carolina and Clemson University (graduated from Clemson).

  • I regularly drink coffee but I don't really like coffee.

  • My Mom and Dad are young as far as grandparents go.

  • My Dad has had the same job for 40 years and I have had 4 jobs in 15 years.

  • I love photography and graphic arts but I don't think I have much talent in these areas.

  • I am addicted to reading and am currently in progress on 4 separate books and 2 magazines.

  • I want to be better at sharing my faith but usually hesitate when the chance comes.

  • I once won a $10 gift certificate for being the fastest person to eat 5 saltine crackers and then whistle (it's harder than it sounds).

  • I also won a free pitcher of beer at Hooters because I was the first to name the hometown of KC and the Sunshine Band in a contest. (Hint: go here for the answer)

  • My first car was a 1967 Camaro SS/RS that needed a LOT of work.

  • My next car was a gold-ish 78 Toyota Celica hatchback that didn't need a key to start it.

  • I get bummed when I don't get many (any!) comments on my blog posts.

So now it's your turn... Put up your 16 things and leave me a comment to your post.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mondial? Mon dieux!

Ok. This was too cool to pass up. This has the potential to be a huge, glorious timesink.

Check out "so_many_a_second" over at It "shows mondial statistics on a human scale."

Here's a snapshot of what you will find there:

First thing I think of is a way to marry this with Did You Know/Shift Happens...


Book Review Bloggers

If you haven't heard of it yet, go check out Book Review Bloggers at Thomas Nelson. It is a pretty cool idea (and I know it isn't a new idea) to get the word out about your products. The other thing I like about it is "I can haz free books!"

Anyway, sometime soon, I wil publish my review of "Field of Blood" by Eric Wilson. It is the first book of the "Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy" (with Haunt of Jackals second in line).

I am right at half way through Field of Blood and am enjoying it. The blend of mystery and vampire genres drawn on a Jewish/Christian backdrop is done (so far) very well by Mr Wilson. He is intertwining story lines in such a way that you think you know where he is going at times and are completely clueless at others. Not clueless about the story but about what's around the next chapter. A good way of building up tension and suspense. I'm looking forward to how he plays it out: what will be "solved" in this book and what will be left open for the rest of the trilogy to close.

So, I should be done before too long and have the review here for you...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Positive Thank You

It's Tuesday again and I want to say "Thank You."

It is Veterans Day here in the US. Here's a little background on what Veterans Day is and how it came to be.
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. ”

So, on November 11th each year, we take time to remember and say thank you to those who have served, and those who still do serve, our country's armed services. Many of whom have put themselves in, and are currently in, harm's way to protect people that they do not and may never know. It kinda reminds me of another story of love and sacrifice...

So I want to take a moment to say "Thank You" to all of the veterans that have served and fought for this country and the people in it. Thank You to my friend Don who served years ago in the Navy and is proud today of the ultimate sacrifice that his son made in Iraq earlier this year. Thank You to my friend Randy who took the lessons he learned at West Point and the US Army in the 70's and became one of the finest leaders I know. Thank you to Tab who took care of a bunch of Marines out in the desert. Thank You to Michael M. for sacrificing so much time from his growing family to serve. Thank You to Brenden for his service in the US Army. Thank You to Bill for his 27 years in the Navy and his son Jeff who is serving in the Army in Iraq right now.

And Thank You to my Dad, Kenneth, for serving in the Army in Vietnam in the 60's and teaching me what it means to serve, sacrifice, and love.

We are all now and forever will be indebted and grateful to you and all veterans. Thank you for all you have done.

Father God, I thank you most of all today for creating in these veterans a heart for service and sacrifice. I thank you for the opportunity to know men and women like this and to be influenced by them. Lord, I thank you most of all for the sacrifice that you made for each and every one of us. For Jesus Christ on the cross sacrificed for our ultimate freedom. I rejoice today in your love and grace for us. May I always remember this sacrifice and praise you. In Christ I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cool technology. Also? Useful

The video below is a free 30 second clip that I made using Animoto. What is Animoto? I'm glad you asked. is a site/application that allows you to make video slideshows using pictures and music you choose. The engine inside Animoto, with very little prodding from you, "analyzes" the music and mixes the pictures and effects with the music to produce the video. With a free acount, you can make 30 second videos like the one here. Long videos are $3.00 USD and you can even download or order DVD quality copies of your videos.

So, side from the cool factor, what is there? Well, I think this tool can be very useful for lots of people. I'm specifically thinking about how we can use it in our church. We don't really have a media budget but have had more interest lately in how we could use it. Animoto provides an effective means of creating the content and a low-barrier-to-entry way of making it available. We're looking at creating a few slideshows as "bumpers" for some presentations coming up. I'll let you know how it goes.

How do you think you could use something like Animoto in your church or in your business?

(Hat tip: human3rror)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Positive Results

It's Tuesday and, even with all the election stuff going on, it's time to be positive.

I'd like to point out someone that I think is making quite a positive impact. I've "gotten to know" this fellow through blogging and Twitter but we've never met in person. That's still a little strange to me on some level, but I'm getting over it rather quickly...

Anyway, I follow John on Twitter and love reading both of his blogs: human3rror and ChurchCrunch.

John is so obviously passionate about doing God's work that you can't help but smile. The thing that really makes that great is the way he pours that passion into the things he has been gifted by God with. From what I know of John, he is very talented when it comes to web-based technology (esp. Web 2.0) and is constantly digging into (and even building) technology for the purpose of serving God, promoting God's kingdom, and building up the Body.

If you are interested in technology, passionate people, examples of practical Christianity, and the like: go follow John on Twitter, read his blog, and join the conversation with some comments.

John's passion has inspired me of late to try to bring more of my gifts and talents to bear for the purpose of building up the Church and spreading the Gospel. I'm off to a slow start but I think I'm starting to make some progress.

So, thanks John. Keep doing what you are doing. You're reaching a lot farther than you might see.

Monday, November 3, 2008

But I like the color blue

It took a little longer than expected but I now know what color I am. Reading the rest of NCD's The 3 Colors of Ministry and taking The Three-Color Gift Test didn't actually take long. It was more about a few other things going on this weekend.

Once I finally got around to opening the book again, it went pretty quick. Here's the basic info on how the gift test works:
* 180 questions where you rate on a scale of 0 - 4
* 30 questions that someone else that knows you rates 0 - 4
* Some basic math to get 2 scores for each gift category
* A couple of charts so you can translate scores into category ranks
* Discovery of your potential 3 - 5 Manifest (active) gifts and 3 - 5 Latent (inactive) gifts
* Reading descriptions about each of the gifts (30 in all)

It probably took me around 15 minutes to go through the 180 questions, scoring, and ranking. If you need to find someone to answer the other 30 questions, it could take you longer. (I had folks at the house that were willing to help me out.)

So, the results?

Manifest gifts:
1. Giving
2. Wisdom
3. Shepherding
4. Knowledge
5. Service

Latent gifts:
1. Evangelism
2. Helps
3. Discernment
4. Mercy
5. Leadership

(I did 5 gifts in each area because of how they grouped.)

Once you have your gift list, there is a small chart that has each gift according to color. Once I ranked mine, I found out that I have way heavy in Green and Red gifts with only one gift in Blue. And it was a latent gift.

As you can recall from the picture at the right, that puts me pretty heavy in the "Creator" and "Jesus" areas and leaves me out of the "Spirit" section. According to the book, I've got wisdom and commitment, but little power.

So, from here, I'll be reading up on what the book has to say about the gifts I've identified as my potentials here. After that, I'll be back to round out the review of the book and let you know what else will come out of this process.