This time of year is usually my favorite as we transition to the days leading up to Christmas. The days are cooler, the “holiday spirit” begins to fill the air, and there is an anticipation of Christmas and what the new year will bring. This last week I spent time reflecting on what I have been most thankful for this year and I also looked forward to today, Sunday, which is the first day of Advent.
One of my thankful reflections was for my friend Kyle and for the two of us writing and producing a series of Advent songs, along with his talented and gracious wife Cynthia. Often, I am very critical of my own work, but I decided I would listen back through these songs during the week and I surprised myself as I listened to them. In my reflection time while listening, I was so grateful for how Kyle and I had crafted these songs and how they created a space to prepare for and walk though the season of Advent.
Most importantly, though, I wanted to share this music with you in the hope that it would increase your expectation and anticipation this Advent season of new and fresh things to come as you prepare for Christmas and the new year!
It’s my birthday (and the birthday of several friends, too)! So, I thought I would write a little birthday post to do something a little bit different. It is always fun to receive gifts, whether it is your birthday or not. I am not always good at coming up with good gifts to give and let’s face it, gift giving can be be hit or miss. While I am not expecting, nor even really asking, for any of these things, I wanted to put together a small list of gifts I would appreciate that (for the most part) “give back” to the gift giver, if not others as well!
1. Hugs. Pretty hard to not get a hug back if you give one…unless the person has a rather large personal bubble and/or does not like to be touched. But really, who does not like to receive a hug?
2. Music. I just so happen to have an album that can be downloaded from several places. Pretty much a shameless plug right here, but think about it. You gift me with a download/purchase and I give you ten gifts back in music! It just seems so win-win.
3. Apple gifts cards. I am a pretty big fan of Apple products. I am not really sure how this one gives back yet…
4. Donate to a charity or sponsor a child through Compassion International on behalf of the one celebrating a birthday. By far, this is the one I would encourage. There are so many people around the world who do not have a chance to truly celebrate a birthday or even reach many birthdays. I believe there is so much to celebrate in life and every child should have the chance to celebrate a birthday. If you were to pick any of the options to give for my birthday, this would be the gift that would give the most and mean so much to myself and others.
As a friend said in conversation not too long ago, “A gift well received is a gift in itself.” So, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the birthday wishes! May today be a blessing and a very merry unbirthday to you!
I do not write a whole lot on my blog very often (as is easily seen by the lack of posts here), but I thought I would put up this bit of free verse. It has been bouncing around in my head for a couple days now.
They say home is where the heart is:
Tonight I’m more than fifteen hundred miles from it.
Trying to get back with every step I take.
Maybe a couple more and I’ll finally make it.
Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Peace.
Thanks Peoria Police for harassing a law-abiding citizen twice in 5 days for driving…oh wait…I wasn’t driving recklessly? I wasn’t speeding? I used my signals properly and turned properly while obeying all traffic signals, you say? Really appreciate you pulling me over then. Glad you could make my 4 minute drive home turn into 20 minutes.
Do not misunderstand me here. I have great respect for what police do to serve and protect. They often lay their life on the line in difficult situations. However, when I spend my day driving around town nearly being rear-ended, side-swiped, or T-boned several times and seeing multitudes of people not using their signals, driving recklessly, and even driving the wrong way down a left hand turn lane that is enclosed by medians on both sides, I sometimes wonder how well the day to day tasks of this job are being accomplished. I understand that sometimes there are not enough people/resources to cover everything and no one is perfect, but in these same 4 days I have witnessed an officer paying more attention to his smart phone rather than monitoring traffic and another officer blatantly ignore a civil traffic violation because the person was not really speeding.
Maybe it is just me, though.
May blessings and protection be upon those called to serve and protect, but may you also discern wisely how to really serve and protect.
Why don’t our vehicles get better gas mileage? Don’t we have the intelligence and technology to increase the gas milage of the vehicles we drive? I have pondered these questions for a long time and, as gas prices have risen fairly sharply over the last decade compared to gas mileage in vehicles, I am sure there are others beginning to ask the same questions. Hopefully, automakers begin to feel this pressure more, rather than just getting bailouts for inefficient products, after the public hears about a Junior High group that created a vehicle which gets roughly 350 mpg on average. You can read the story here: Junior High Kids Make 353 MPG Vehicle.
Now, I certainly realize there are a number of factors in play here ranging from the physical vehicle and the physics of the project all the way to economics. However, I really do not think it is too much to start questioning what auto makers are doing with their resources if Jr. High kids can create far more efficient vehicles.
Over 30 years ago, former President Jimmy Carter pursued greater efficiency and tried to help the down-turned auto industry, but when the industry began seeing profits again (and due to reversals from the Regan administration), the pursuit of efficiency seemingly went out the window. I tried finding the Act that Carter signed (Pub. L. 96-425, Oct. 10, 1980, 94 Stat. 1821), but was unable to do so, unfortunately. You can read Jimmy Carter’s statement on signing the Automobile Efficiency Act of 1980 and this blog article contrasting energy crises (which may or may not be biased) to think about all of this and form your own opinion. As for me, I think the automotive and fuel industries have some improvement to do.
I would like to hear your opinions on the matter, so what do think?
As I woke up Sunday and saw the disparity between my alarm clock and my cell phone, I realized Daylight Saving Time had once again messed with time zones. Now, to be honest, I was tipped off the night before as I started seeing updates through social media and hearing quips on the radio, so it was not too much of a surprise to me. In a few seconds, I adjusted my clock settings on my phone and everything was right with the world again; simply because I live an intelligent part of the world (at least when it comes to keeping time). So, here are a few of my thoughts on Daylight Saving Time:
1. People argue for instating a permanent Daylight Saving Time so there would be “more daylight” throughout the winter months. If we want more daylight in the evening during summer, then how about simply getting up earlier. Who made it a rule that the “work day” must be 8am or 9am to 5pm for professionals? I am sure it would be a small adjustment to begin with, but why not make the “work day” start and end earlier? (I am not making this statement lightly, as I am not much of a natural morning person.) It would have the same affect in the long run without having to changes clocks or live permanently on a false time.
2. It is an antiquated process. It was originally started during World War I in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electricity. Again, I am pretty sure we have become at least a little more efficient about producing and using our energy.
3. The United States has had a spotty history with it being instated, then repealed, only to be reinstated, and then left in a confusing mess to be cleaned up later. I think we were fine before Daylight Saving Time came along and I think we can be fine without it now.
4. Instead of putting so much time and energy into this antiquated system, how about using this time and energy to find ways of doing things more effectively and efficiently? After all, the United States spreads across six time zones, so would it not be easier to coordinate things time-wise if all the time zones stayed consistent?
5. It is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings Time. There is no “s” on the end of Saving. Daylight Saving Time should be obliterated simply on the basis that most people can not say the term correctly.
Well, it is now time to bring this entry to an end. May all of your time keeping be merry!
I never thought life would feel quite this offset; strangely shifted. This Passover, this Holy Week, has been a deeper experience than years past. On Maundy Thursday, April 1st, I learned that Connor Redd, whom I had led and taught when he was a youth and had watched grow into a vibrant young man, had died. He was only 20 years old.
At first, with it being April Fool’s Day, I did not know whether to believe it or not. It seemed too unreal and almost still does. My friend Emily, who knew Connor well, remarked as we were talking Saturday evening, “I keep waiting for someone to jump out and say ‘April Fools’” and I felt the same way. As the hours passed from first hearing that Thursday afternoon, the bitter reality sunk deeper into my bleeding heart with so many unanswered questions lingering in the air. The world had lost someone incredibly special.
Connor was an amazing guy who had a truly vibrant spirit and wonderful resilience. He was an intelligent young man, a fantastic athlete, and a natural leader. It seems to me that from the moment I met him when he was a child to the last moment I saw him, he was almost always smiling. It seemed almost impossible for him to do anything other than smile and perhaps the best thing about his smile was that it was contagious. It was almost impossible to do anything but smile and laugh when Connor was around. He loved to joke around, have fun, and laugh with those around him. He was one of those people who naturally brightened a room just by being in it.
Needless to say, I am devastated and heart broken by this tragedy. Walking through the events of remembrance during this Holy Week with this loss so fresh has brought ever greater contemplation of what Jesus and his disciples went through in the last hours of his life. The Maundy Thursday service that is celebrated commemorates and focuses most specifically on the meal shared by Jesus and his disciples, the foot washing, praying in the garden, the arrest and trial, the beating, and the crucifixion. I wonder what specific thoughts were going through the minds of the disciples from that Thursday night to those early morning hours on Sunday before discovering the resurrection. Their feelings of sorrow, loss of direction, confusion, and despair must have cut incredibly deep. Men whom had walked so intimately with a leader, teacher, mentor, and friend for three years found themselves trying to figure out what happens now; wondering how to move forward.
I have often found myself wondering what I am doing with my life and if I am making the most of the days I am blessed with. I wonder if I am making good choices for my future and to live a full, healthy life experiencing everything it has to offer. Connor was doing this without a doubt and the character he embodied that lived life to the fullest is inspirational, to say the least. His life shines as a light to remind us that every day is a blessing that should be lived fully with love and joy. While I may falter some days, Connor has inspired me to pursue this love and joy every day I am blessed with while reaching for my dreams. He did when he was younger and he will continue to when I am older.
It took me several days to get to that point and, in more ways than not, I am still struggling with a lot of this situation. The last several days have been quite rough for me, as I am sure they have been for those who know Connor, especially his family. I have traveled through this Holy Week experiencing two deaths that made each other exponentially real. However, the one was the student, not the teacher, with his life ending at such a young age. Despite all the odds, I longed for that resurrection of the body that happened so long ago to happen again; to bring the parallel to fruition. This was only briefly reinforced Saturday night when I attended the ‘Watch Night of the Resurrection’ service at my church and the congregation recited the last line of the Nicene Creed which reads, “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and life of the world to come. Amen.” My faith in Connor’s bodily resurrection was slowly being chipped away, but I had begun to see that a resurrection was still taking place and transforming perspectives similar to the bodily resurrection of Christ.
This Easter morning came with a flood of tears as I envisioned Connor being welcomed home and embraced by God. From the last line of the sermon this morning, the words of the resurrected Christ spoken as he first appears to the disciples reverberate through my mind, “Peace be with you.” It is this peace through Christ that I am trying to find solace within as I see Connor being resurrected through the memories in our hearts and minds and raised to new life everlasting with our heavenly Father. The change in perspective that I have had comes from trying to focus on the wonderful years Connor had and the days I was blessed to spend time hanging out with him. He will live on in my heart until the day I die, and undoubtedly in the hearts of his family and everyone else who knows him. I will hopefully see this all around amazing young man again, face to face, in the presence of our God. I place this hope in the hands of my loving and gracious God.
Connor, I know you are in the loving arms of our God now. We miss you so much and look forward to the day we will see you again. You will always be in our hearts. Love you, buddy.
I pray for love, peace, hope, and comfort for Connor’s family, friends, and the lives of those he touched. God of love and comfort, be present in these difficult days and pour out your abundant healing upon this deep wound. We pray that you would provide us with strength in these days. We give you great praise and thanksgiving for every breath you gave to Connor, that we were able to be blessed by his wonderful presence and share in the years of his life. All of these things we pray to You through the power and majesty of Christ; to You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; One God. Amen.
With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman
I hope this song can provide some peace and healing to those struggling with Connor’s passing.