Tuesday, October 30, 2012

That Guy

I’m finally that guy.
“Well,” I said to Darling as I walked into the living room from being outside. “I’m finally that guy.” I have to admit I was grinning from ear to ear.
She just looked up from the book she was reading on the iPad (shameless plug;it was the Kindle app). “What guy? The guy who finally published a book?”
I shook my head.
When we moved into this house I noticed that we were the old people on the block. Up and down the street are young families with small children.
“Ha!” I said to Darling right after we moved in. “I’m going to be the old guy on the corner yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.”
Let me be clear here. I didn’t yell at any kids to get off my lawn today. However…
I have to give you a little background. When we moved into this house our first month’s water bill was over $200. I’m thinking maybe I’m paying for catching up the bill or for some extreme water usage as we were making the needed repairs to move into the place. The bill certainly seemed too high, but I’ll let the first one slide. We also installed the new sprinkler system which was running every morning, so I was sure that made an adverse impact on the water bill (although it sure helped the front yard, where Darling erased the tree).
I turned off the automatic watering and we kept an eye on our water usage. The toilets were fixed (we still need to jiggle the little handles – I really miss the toilets from the other house). Our next water bill was still over $150.
“Absolutely no way.” I was annoyed. I did some calculations and figured we were using an average of 4.65 gallons of water per minute, every minute, every hour, every day for thirty-six days. “Just not possible.” Irate would be a mild term for what I was feeling.
We called the city and they explained that they were right and we were just consuming too much water. After much discussion they sent a guy out who essentially looked at the meter and told us the same thing.
I worked in the chemical industry for seventeen years, in the actual processing plant for over half that time, and I can tell you that meters do fail. The city guy was nice enough, and it didn’t seem worth discussing with him. “Well,” he said, “you’ll have to pay to have the meter calibrated. Or I can just track your usage and get back to you in about a month.” He paused and shuffled his feet. “I can’t do anything about the water you already used, though.” We agreed that I would pay the bill and that he would track the water usage.
The next month our bill was just a bit over a hundred dollars and we looked over the data. It all seemed pretty clear cut. We’re obviously water pigs, even though there are only two of us here and we were specifically watching our water usage.
In order to track the water usage the city guy either installed a meter or updated the one that is there. He showed me the little digital readout device in the water line right under this little black cover. It is a really nice device and very clear. I can use it to calibrate my water meter (and I’ll do it soon).
Here’s why I’m that guy. In the past number of weeks I’ve been checking the meter occasionally, checking the water flow, mostly just keeping an eye on it. I have noticed that the water meter cover is open quite often and that has baffled me. Today I caught the little culprit.

I noticed the cover was off the meter this morning and put it back firmly in place, shaking my head. As I was putting some mulch around the trees I noticed a little guy with the meter cover off in front of my neighbor’s house.
I stood up. “Hey!” I yelled. “What are you doing?”
That kid jumped about twelve feet into the air. I think he muttered “nothing.”
“Stay out of the meter. And don’t ever get into my meter cover. You hear me?”
The little guy just said something I guessed was an affirmative and grabbed his scooter, disappearing around the other side of a truck parked in the street. He didn’t go pedal up the street or down the street, but just stayed out of my line of sight. I went back to putting mulch around the tree. When I straightened up I saw the little guy moving at a fast clip around the corner at the far end of the block.
So now I’m that guy, the old man on the corner who yells at kids to stay off his property.
I feel really good about that.
The only problem is that the cover on the water meter is still lifted off every time I go check the mail. What's with that?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fiscal Cliff: Our First Published Book

Your first payroll check in January, 2013 will be two percent less. Actually, the amount the government takes out could be considerably more than that, but the 2% is practically assured. Did you know that? There’s more.

A few weeks ago Darling and I attended a prophecy conference where we heard the term “fiscal cliff” from Joel Rosenberg. I’d heard the term before, but hadn’t really considered what it meant to us.

Darling and I were concerned and started doing research. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of web sites that discuss the fiscal cliff, the inevitable financial crisis currently facing the United States. I read hundreds of these sites and compiled information from them. After a few dozen sites they started saying the same thing, repeated in different orders with a different emphasis (depending on the site).

I read dozens of other related sites, many of them I would consider “survivalist” sites. Some of the information was good, some of it was radical and what I considered extreme advice. If survivalists are right, then we have bigger worries than simply economic troubles (as bad as they are). I have a friend at work who is as close to a survivalist as I know. I told him that if our civilization collapses I’m moving in with him. He laughed and said he’d be heading for the hills in his truck with his guns and family. He planned to grow corn.

“Corn isn’t a good crop, buddy. You need something with more diversity.” I studied crops.

He looked sideways at me. “You don’t understand. You mash the corn, do a little distilling and then barter for whatever else you want.”

He’s obviously thought about this more than I have. I’d be growing squash.

We spoke with our friends and family about the “fiscal cliff” and they knew close to nothing about it. After reading about the impact this will have on the American Family, this concerned us greatly.

So we decided to write a book.

We spent last weekend collating all the information I gathered and creating the book. I spent a few days designing a cover and figuring out how to publish the e-book (I don’t think we’ll publish a printed version).

On Wednesday, after a steep learning curve, we put the book up on Amazon. The cover we finally used was not the one we started with, but it is a good cover. Amazon said the book would be available on the Amazon site within twelve hours, but it actually took until this morning (so about four days).

We originally posted the book for sale at $2.99, which gives us a bit over a dollar for each copy sold. After looking at other e-books, though, we dropped the price to $0.99, which will net us about thirty cents a copy. That change is not reflected on Amazon as of this writing.

We also enrolled the book in the KDP select program which will loan the book free of charge to Amazon Prime members and provide a few weeks of free distribution of the book (to increase “sales” - though if we are getting no profit, I’m not sure why we call it “sales”).

We don’t expect to make a lot of money on the book, but we are hoping that a lot of people read it. The Fiscal Cliff is real, people, and the economic consequences will be painful.

Be prepared. Buy our book Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff. (Pay the $2.99 if you want; that would be great! Or wait a bit and it will go to $0.99 and then probably free for a few weeks.)

In addition, if you have investments I ran across the only other book on the Fiscal Cliff that gives practical and usable advice for the average American. That one was $0.99 when I bought it, but might even be less now. It is called Fiscal Cliff Investing - Strategies for Investment Protection by John Marsland. I have already used the advice in John's book to modify some of my investments, and I'm watching them based on the criteria he proposes. Good stuff if you have any money in the stock market.

One final thing: after studying this, I’m sure we cannot avoid the fiscal cliff. It might be delayed by the government (and it should be), but it’s coming.

An update: Our book is now $0.99 and I found a way to make it free for five days every ninety days.
In the meantime, Amazon lets us have Authors' pages. You can see mine at amazon.com/author/vincentbernhardt or either of them by just clicking on the Author name. Cool, huh?

Let me know what you think I should have on my Author's page, or what Darling should put on hers. If you know me, send me an email; it not, just drop me a comment. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple™, You're Killing Me

Yeah, I'm drooling and if I had the money I'd run out and refresh my entire personal computer line. I'll just have to be satisfied with drool for a while.
I was talking to some of my buddies at work about the new line-up that Apple™ just announced.
One of the guys just looked at me. "Oh, you're one of those. Like my son. An Apple™ guy."
"Yeah," I said. "I used to be a hard-core PC guy; built them and everything. You know when I switched? When everything in my house got networked. I got tired of trying to keep all my computers linked to the home network without errors. It was too much maintenance. Then a buddy of mine said 'Hey, you should try a Mac.' I brought his into the house and it beeped at me, asking if I wanted it to connect to the network." He nods. He's seen the same thing, I'm sure. "Don't get me wrong," I said. "The Mac is still not a great gaming machine."
Maybe that changed today.
I warned Darling this day was coming about a week ago. "You know," I said, "Apple™ has some big announcements next Tuesday." She just smiled at me and went back to whatever she was doing on her iMac.
I expected to see a new iPad mini. They delivered a lot more.
The software news was cool, but that's not the story.
The new 13" MacBook Pro weighs 3.57 pounds and it's 20% thinner than the previous version, and it has a Retina display. Though it has no optical drive it has the MagSafe 2, Tunderbolt, two USB 3 ports, SD card and HDMI connectors (as well as the microphone and headphone jacks). It has a 720p FaceTime camera (as if I want anyone to see me that clearly), stereo speakers, dual mics and a backlit keyboard. With an Intel 2.5GHz dual core i5 chip or Ivy Bridge processor and Intel HD Graphics 4000, it still has a 7-hour battery life. (Usually Apple™ is pretty good about estimating battery life.) With 8GB RAM and 128 GB flash drive it costs $1699.
This means that the full Mac notebook family consists of the $999 11-inch MacBook Air, the $1199 13-inch MacBook Pro and the $1699 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, as well as the current 15 inch models, with and without Retina display ($1799 and $2199 respectively).
For comparison purposes, the 11-inch MacBook Air weighs 2.38 pounds and has an 11.6-inch display. The 13-inch MacBook Air weight 2.96 pound and has a 13.3-inch display, exactly the same size as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. They all have Intel HD Graphics 4000, although the Retina display laptops are reinforced with the NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics processor. The flash storage for the Air can be configured to equal the flash storage on the MacBook (the Retina MacBooks can have more flash: 768GB), but the MacBooks (non-Retiuna) now have a combined hard drive/solid-state drive with up to 1TB of storage on the hard drive.
That was a mouthful.
Then there's the new Mac Mini. I've always been fascinated by this little baby, thinking it might be just the thing to connect the television and use with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse from the couch. It is certainly beefed up enough now and the 2.5 GHz, dual core i5, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD version costs only $599 (which is still a lot of saved pocket change).
They added a new iMac. I cannot believe how very, very pretty this thing is. We have a sixth generation iMac that is a few years old. It doesn't take too much to tuck it under my arm and move it to another room if I need to. This new one makes ours look like an elephant. They say the display is 45% thinner, dropping the weight by eight pounds from what we have. I won't even go over the specs, but it comes in a 21.5-inch version (starting at $1299) and a 27-inch version (starting at $1799).
This comes with something they are calling a Fusion drive (warp speed, Mr. Scott!). It has a single volume combining the flash drive with the hard drive. (Did I misunderstand the information for the MacBooks? I thought they had that also, but smaller.) Apparently the iMac watches what you do and keeps the programs you use most on the flash drive so it works faster.
Didn't they just come out with a new iPad a few months ago? Fortunately I still have the Generation One iPad… So now they just announced the 4th generation iPad, which is faster, stronger and has the Lightning dock connector (ah-ha, so that's why they did that!).
AND they finally announced the new iPad mini, which seems anti-climactic since that's exactly what we expected. The size is what we expected (7.9-inch display) and the costs are what leaked over a week ago, which I think are a bit too high for Apple™ to snatch market share. Dollars are tough to come by lately, after all.
So when he shows the lineup of the iPad, there's not mention at all of the third generation iPad (the "new" iPad). The fourth generation iPad seems to simply drop in the place where the third used to be.
So the iPad mini will go for $329/$429/$529 for Wi-Fi. The iPad 2 is still available at $399. The Retina iPad runs $499/$599/$699 for Wi-Fi. I don't think the price differential is enough to make the mini a runaway best-seller, though.
I've been wrong before.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Pastor Ron Hindt covered the Beatitudes. I’ve read them many times before, but (as usual) Pastor Ron brought some clarity and revelation to the verses. He covered verses 5-12 today, and I missed last week at Calvary, so I didn’t hear what he had to say about verses 1-4. Here are the relevant verses though.

Matthew 5: 3-12 (NIV)

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 The word for Blessed can also be translated as “Oh, how happy” which is why you will sometimes get a preacher talking about the Beatitudes with “Oh, how happy are the poor in spirit,” but I don’t hear that very often.

The emphasis in the Beatitudes is on being instead of doing. (BE-attitudes, not DO-attitudes.) A Christian is someone who is something before he or she does something. This goes back to a lot of discussions I have had in the past where I spoke with people about core values and who they are, instead of just what they do. I’ve known many people who do good things, but they are not necessarily good people.

“Blessed are the merciful…” Pastor spoke about how we, as a society, seem to have abandoned mercy as a characteristic. Many of our most popular movies and novels center on the theme of revenge. In fact, there is a television series currently called “Revenge.” This hasn’t changed much since the days Jesus walked in the city of Jerusalem. The Romans considered mercy to be a weakness, not a virtue. In fact, they considered themselves merciful when they flogged someone with one less than the standard forty lashes (therefore, only thirty-nine). The fathers also had an interesting right during the birth of their children. If the child was unacceptable for any reason the father simply gave the “thumbs-down” and the infant was taken out and drowned. That seems extremely harsh to us, as civilized human beings.

I recall a time when I was in one of my graduate classes and the inevitable discussion of relative or absolute morality came up. I cannot think of any class where I had an ally for holding to the concept of absolute morality. In this one class the instructor final asked me “So where do we start, if morality is actually absolute instead of relative?” “Well,” I replied, “some things are pretty universal. Hammurabi’s laws and the Ten Commandments both give good guidelines that people hold to be valid. For instance, both say not to kill.” A woman in my class spoke up and said “Well, I wouldn’t kill a baby, but if a mother or father in Africa kills a child because they are the wrong sex or they can’t feed it, then who am I to say they are wrong?”

I’m sure my mouth dropped open and I said nothing else during that discussion. Most of the time, in my graduate classes, I was simply patronized as the barely literate, likeable and tolerated conservative who just had not yet advanced enough to realize the error of his ways.

As I said, Roman fathers had the right to condemn a new-born to death at birth. Though we see it as beastly (at least I hope most of us do) we should be aware that since 1975 over fifty-five million abortions have been performed in this country. That’s fifty-five million citizens of working age we do not have beside us in the workplace. From a government perspective, that’s fifty-five million taxable people we do not have on the rolls. How much would our government financial situation be different if these children were not aborted? Was there a researcher unborn who would have found a cure for cancer? A researcher unborn who might have solved the world’s energy problems? A politician unborn who was honest and upright? (Okay, that one is a stretch…)

The point is we don’t deem mercy to be as honorable as we think we do.

“…for they will receive mercy…” Pastor Ron pointed out that this is not reciprocity. We do not dispense mercy with the expectation what others will be merciful to us. In fact, we are merciful because we must be merciful. The mercy given to us is from God alone. Titus 3:5 specifically points out the mercy bestowed on us.

“Blessed are the pure in heart…” How many of us can truly make that claim? Pastor gave staggering statistics of people enslaved by immoral thoughts and actions. For instance, experts estimate that children between the ages of eight and eighteen are exposed to 93,000 sexual connotations on television in that ten year period. That’s probably true. You cannot watch television for an entire hour without seeing advertisements that use sex to sell their wares. The sad part is that they do it because sex sells. Think about the difference between television when you were young and now. It isn’t just the sex, it’s the violence and the language. I am distraught by the foul language used in otherwise potentially good movies. A recent movie we watched was “Loopers” and I liked the plot, but the language ruined it for me. Really, did they need to use the F-word throughout the film? “Oh, it makes it more realistic,” some argue. I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies to be entertained, not subjected to realism. I get enough reality in my day-to-day life. “There’s nothing wrong with bad language. It’s simply a word, and words are meaningless, except for what society uses as a label.” I’ve heard that one before too, but it doesn’t wash with me.

Pure in heart. That’s a tough one. Pastor said we should memorize the first six words of a bible verse. (Memorize? Really? I can’t memorize anything. That just doesn’t work for me… C’mon, get a grip. Six words should be easy for all of us.) 2Tim2:22 (and I love the address) “Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness…”

We cannot pursue righteousness and not flee youthful lusts, can we? Some Christians think they can. One of the more sad statistics Pastor gave us was that 53% of Christian men viewed on-line pornography. I can see how that happens; pornography is simply one click away while you are on a computer. Flee, indeed.

“… for they will see God.” Yes, this obviously refers to the future time when we are allowed to finally be in the presence of God. It also refers to now. Those with a pure heart (or striving for one, presumably) will see the actions of God in other people, in the church community and in the world. That’s a nice reward. One of my favorite (and scariest) prayers is “Lord, show me this through your eyes.” Don’t pray that lightly, though.

“Blessed are the peacemakers…” Peacemakers first get right with God, then they help others get right with God, then they help others get right with each other. I wish I was a better peacemaker. Most people are not really peacemakers, though. They are peace lovers. They are willing to accept peace on their terms. Think about that. “God, I’m willing to follow you if you…” “I’ll accept your apology if…” Again the Bible can pinpoint the cause of this pseudo peacemaker. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes,” say Prov 21:2 (NASB)

Rom 12:18 (part of the Romans 12 chapter that my two youngest memorized when they were younger) says “Whatsoever you do, so much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (I’m quoting that as I remember it, so bear with me on the exactness, please.) That’s one of my favorite verses. We are required to do whatever we can to be at peace, but we have to acknowledge that some people will never like us, never listen to us – never be at peace with us. Do what you can, but know when to move on.

“… for they will be called children of God” Pastor noted that this has nothing to do with salvation. Being a peacemaker means that others will recognize what you do, recognize (hopefully) that you are a child of God. Indeed, in my experience, people who are true peacemakers are rare enough that I often think they are not of this world. And I’m right.

Pastor pointed out the process of growth implied by the Beatitudes. You start at the first one and move toward being a peacemaker, each step a little harder than the previous.  

The poor in spirit realize they need salvation, something to fill that void in their heart and cry out to God, who freely gives them the gift of salvation. Knowing salvation, we recognize how we fall short and mourn for that, but are provided comfort in the knowledge that the Blood of the Savior Jesus cleansed us. Knowing that we have been given a great fit, we are humbled and meek (which is harnessed strength, not weakness) and we inherit the earth (okay, I missed last week, so I’m not sure about that one). At this point we hunger and thirst for more knowledge of God, and God provides that. Given mercy, we learn to extend mercy. We strive for a clean heart and see the fingerprints of God in His world and His people. We step up and become peacemakers, Ambassadors of God on this earth. I never thought of the Beatitudes in that light before.

And what is the reward for being diligent and pursing righteousness in a corrupt world? We are persecuted. And we are to rejoice in this persecution. Why? Because our reward is great in Heaven and we’re in good company, the company of the prophets and saints who came before us.

There are a few caveats here. Persecution has to be false. I recall a story of a guy who worked in a shoe store. During his break he would go read his Bible in the break room. Often he spent five or ten extra minutes during his break doing this. When his boss criticized him he pointed out that he was being persecuted for his faith. Nope. He was persecuted because he spent too much time on his break! Be clear on this; the persecution must be for the sake of God and false. As Pastor pointed out, many people are persecuted not because they are being faithful but because they are being obnoxious about their faith. There’s a big difference.

I wish I could end this message on a high note, but it’s a tough message. And the Beatitudes are only the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. There’s so much more to come!

God bless you all!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I thought I wrote about procrastination in my blog when I first started writing it. It was certainly a major topic on my list of potential posts. I guess I never got around to doing the post.
Around here the saying "If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done" is eerily accurate. As diligent as I am at work and even with my little project plans to manage some of my major tasks, the activities seem to expand to fill the allotted time. Inevitably as I approach my deadline there are one or two minor things that need to get wrapped up. Why is that?
There really is only one answer: procrastination.
A lot of people think that means I sit back and stare at the ceiling and put off doing my job, but it doesn't. What usually happens is that I procrastinate by doing work. Apparently a lot of people do exactly the same thing. Gretchen Rubin wrote an excellent article titled Working: One of the Most Dangerous Forms of Procrastination and it hit me right between the eyes.
I multi-task quite often. Sometimes I will get into a tunnel-vision state and accomplish a lot - a fantastic amount really - in a short period of time, but that honestly wears me out. I'll finish a bout of such activity and feel like a Berserker coming up for air. Most of the time, though, my job requires me to balance a number of different tasks, and that's okay. Over the years you simply learn to deal with them all as efficiently as you can, and I'm pretty good at it. I used to also be pretty good at what we called firefighting when I worked as an Engineer in the plants; urgent situations cropping up unexpectedly that needed to be resolved immediately, while still managing all the normal duties.
When I am on a short-term deadline to accomplish a goal I find myself procrastinating over the tasks I don't particularly relish and doing other job-related tasks instead. I still feel like I am accomplishing something worthwhile (and I am) but I'm not using Covey's Seven Habits effectively and putting first things first. I know I'm doing it and eventually force myself back on track, but it is such an easy way to distract myself. How shallow I am!
When we lived in Michigan, Mom got tickled by something she called a round tuit. She even put one on the refrigerator for a while. I'm not always the brightest bulb in the box; I had to ask her what it meant.
It meant that she was going to get around to it. Mom was funny that way.
I fully intend to get around to it, also, very soon.
Until then, I have a few more things on my desk to finish up quickly.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fight Cancer

I originally posted this directly on Google+ on February 27, 2012. Darling and I talked about them again last night while eating dinner. We will never know how it turned out for the young couple.
As my Darling wife left MD Anderson she encountered a very young couple sitting on a bench outside. They were obviously distraught. The young wife and mother was just told she probably has only a year to live. My wife stopped and talked to them, prayed with them and told me this through tears as she drove home. She told me their names, and I wrote them down.
We know a woman who was given three months to live over thirty years ago. Cancer did not emerge a victor in her life.
We know another young woman who died after only a few months of Cancer, long painful months where it slowly destroyed her body. We don't know why. She left a husband and young daughter behind.
We believe that PEOPLE can make a difference. Out there, somewhere, may be the person who can find the cure. Many, many hospitals like MD Anderson seek a cure for Cancer. I don't know what else to say, except to ask everyone to think about donating to fight Cancer.
We also believe in the power of prayer. Donate or not, believe or not, would you take a moment to pray, whatever your concept of it, that God, whatever your concept of Him, would reach a Mighty Healing Hand and lift this disease from this young woman.
Cancer is such a terrible disease. There is very little any of us can do to combat it directly. Most of us are not doctors, most doctors are not researchers, most researchers don't study cancer. Yet everywhere I turn, everyone I talk to is somehow directly affected by Cancer.
Miracles can happen. I pray they do, in so many ways.
And to you, if you read this, God bless you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mom, the Entrepreneur

Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group and a space pioneer, recently posted his first blog post on LinkedIn. The article lists his five top tips for starting a successful business. While I read them I thought of my Mom and many of the lessons she tried to teach her four boys.
Many people I know don't belong to LinkedIn. I do. I have a profile there instead of on Facebook. I used to think of LinkedIn as a professional Facebook, but it has changed over the years and become more social. I don't know when they started the blog posts, but if anyone has something interesting to say, it is Sir Richard Branson.
Here are his tips:
1. Listen more than you talk. Okay, my Mom used to tell us that one and it still applies. More than that, though, you have to learn from listening. Oh, that's the tidbit I might have missed!
2. Keep it simple. Wow, Mom used to tell us that also, usually when we were trying to find a good excuse for not doing our chores. (There was never a good excuse.) Sir Richard says to focus on the innovation, but keep it simple and positive.
3. Take pride in your work. Okay, Mom is three for three on this so far.
4. Have fun, success will follow. Mom missed this one, I think. Maybe she meant to tell us to have fun, but it got lost in translation or something. We heard "Work hard and succeed" and I don't think it is the same thing at all. I've noticed over my many decades that the people with the biggest success really seem to enjoy what they do.
5. Rip it up and start again. In other words, if it doesn't work, learn the lesson and move on to something else. Mom nailed that one, too, I think. At least I heard the "Pick yourself up" speech quite a few times growing up. Perhaps that's simply because I fell down so often.
Mom not only raised a family, she did start her own business and ran it successfully in the 1990s. It wasn't easy, it didn't make her rich, but it kept food on her table and a roof over her head in some tough years.
Thanks, Mom for all the lessons. I'm sorry I didn't listen better.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bonus Post - The Future

Unfortunately I was pretty sick with a migraine on Sunday, so I didn't go to either church. (I have to write down somewhere to avoid Schlotsky's regular sandwich; I'm pretty certain it was the culprit.) What this means to my regular readers (both of you!) is that I don't have a summary of Pastor Ron's sermon for you. Sorry.
Metropolis - considered the first Futurist film
However, Darling and I attended a Prophecy Conference on Saturday at Calvary and it was fascinating. I have a Master's Degree in Studies of the Future (really, I have the diploma that says so and everything), and I have always been interested in Prophecy - well, since Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth by Hal Lindsay came out in 1972. Maybe even before that, but I have a bad memory for those sort of things.
In getting my Master's I always wondered how Prophecy fits into the discipline of Studies of the Future. Over the years I've come to my own conclusions, and I guess that's what I was looking for in the conference - a disciplined approach to what is coming in the future - our Future, the Future of the USA - based on Bible Prophecy. I didn't get what I was looking for.
We did get some fascinating information, though, and I'll share most of it in future posts! Ha! I'll ponder some more how I can use my degree and combine it with Bible prophecy.
One little tidbit and then I'll let this go. There are over 1000 distinct prophecies in the Bible; individual statements that predict (yes, predict, a word we studiously avoid in Studies of the Future) future events. Apparently about half of them have already occurred, exactly as predicted.
For instance, we live in a time when it seems normal that the Nation of Israel exists and is the home of the Hebrew (Jewish) people. Yet even Bible scholars as late as the early 1940s dismissed the prophecy that God would restore the nation of Israel and bring His people back to their land from all corners of the Earth. Most Bible scholars thought the prophecy was simply rhetorical. The Jewish people were scattered, mostly dispossessed, all over the world. At the very best the prophecy must mean that Israel will be restored in a spiritual sense.
In 1948 the prophecy was fulfilled, exactly as the Bible stated.
Yes, I think there should be some way to combine the discipline of Futurists to Prophecy. From a Futurist perspective, it certainly is easier to pinpoint a Future if you know what is going to happen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Meditation: I'll think on it

I've read hundreds of articles on meditation, and they all concur that everyone should meditate. I confess, however, that I'm not too sure what meditation actually is. Most articles agree that it is being still and thinking about nothing. I never thought that was possible.
The other day, feeling badly and very, very tired, Darling gave me a bowl of soup. For a very long time I simply sat at the table and stared at the steam rising from the soup, thinking of … nothing.
Maybe meditating is possible. Amish (pronounced A-mee-sh) Shah wrote a short post on meditating that I can sum up. Maybe it will help you. It might help me.
He says to remember that meditating is easy, and if your thoughts are bouncing everywhere, then relax more and concentrate on what you're feeling. That's easy to say, but my mind bounces like a monkey on a trampoline.
Amish says to meditate every single day. He meditates two hours a day. That seems a lot to me.
Here are his techniques:
1. Focus on breathing - this is the standard breathe in/breathe out that we normally hear about
2. Focus on what you're feeling - sit or lie down and focus on your body, from toes to head. I did this when I was in college when I tried to do self-hypnosis. It did, in fact, help relax me back then. Wonder why I quit?
3. Focus and observe what you're actually doing - he sort of says to step outside your body and watch what you're doing. I don't know if I can do that, but it might be interesting to try.
I'll think on it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Followers Not Fans

I know everyone breathlessly awaits my recitation of Pastor Ron Hindt's Sunday lessons. (Just kidding. One of you do...) Pastor Ron's sermon on Sunday, September 30, 2012 focused on the last part of Matthew 4 and how Jesus was seeking followers, not fans.

Matthew 4:12-25 King James Version (KJV)

12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

Pastor's major point was that fans know all about Him, but don't know Him personally. We all know many people like that, and it requires a careful search of our own hearts to determine if we are followers or fans. A fan stands on the sidelines and cheers for Jesus. A follower gets in the game, gets to know Jesus by reading the Bible, by praying, by continually learning.

1) Outcast (12-17)
The land where Jesus settled was around the southern part of the Sea of Galilee. I've been there, and it is a beautiful place. I know that Jesus loved Jerusalem, but honestly if I have an option I'll take a small cottage on Galilee or somewhere along the Jordan River in the woods. The raw beauty of the area remains largely undisturbed today, and I wonder why. Only the city of Tiberias makes a major impact.
When we were there the water level was over twenty-five feet lower than normal. Since the Sea is the major source of water for all of Israel, this could become a problem.
The northern part of the Sea of Galilee is comprised of the areas of Zabulon and Nephthalim. These areas were considered lands of darkness because they were the portions most often attacked when Israel was invaded by foreign powers. Often, settlers from conquering nations would move in and inter-marry with the local people. Part of this area belonged to the Samaritans, the group of Jewish people claiming descent from Joseph and believing that they had the true, unaltered Abrahamic religion, which was corrupted into Judaism during the Babylonian exile. So when Jesus settled in Capernaum, home to Peter the Fisherman, he settled "next to darkness," thus fulfilling the prophecy.
Jesus preached the same message that John the Baptist preached and He preached it to everyone: Repent.

2) Outreach (18-22)
The Sea of Galilee is eight miles wide by thirteen miles long. There is high cliff (Mt. Arbel) on the west side where you can look down and see the entire Galilee area, including the Sea and Tiberias and (faintly) Capernaum to the south. When we stayed in Tiberias and the sun came up in the early morning, the sea was placid and looked like a lake of liquid gold, shining so brightly that I had to shade my eyes. Josephus says there were between two and three million people around the Sea and about 240 boats fishing there. Some people estimate that not many more than that live near the Sea today.
When Jesus called the fishermen, they left everything behind, even their livelihood. He was saying come spend time with me. That was how they qualified to become fishers of men - not seminary, not conferences, but time with Jesus. The new disciples left and followed him immediately, not a trivial thing to overlook. A fan would stand on the sidelines and see which team to root for before committing himself.
Pastor spoke some about John, chapter 6, where Jesus is starting his ministry at the Sea of Galilee and he had many fans, people who cheered Him on and would have tried to make Him king. Jesus said they came to Him because He fed them, but when He started talking about sacrifice "many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him." These disciples were fans; they stayed with Him when life was good, when He provided food and good tidings. They didn't want to stay with Him during the tough times coming or when they were confused by the message.

3) Outcome (23-25)
We finish the chapter noticing that Jesus did three things now in His ministry: Teaching, Preaching, and Healing. This is the correct priority. Many churches today focus on preaching, or healing, but that is in the wrong order.
Teaching has to come first.
I was fortunate Sunday that my youngest son came to Calvary with me. I wonder what he heard?


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Work as it should be

I just had a conversation with a co-worker that went like this.
"Hi," she said, smiling widely, "how are you, Vince?"
"Good." That is my standard reply. "How are you?"
"Awesome!" she said.
I looked at her directly and she mesmerized me with a grin. I had to smile. "You are awesome. I agree with you." I said.
"This place is so fun. And they pay me to be here."
The interesting thing is that this person is one of the most productive people we have in the area. Whenever I see her she has a smile on her face and a look of great contentment.
That's the way work should be for all of us. Awesome.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Doctor Mom

I'm a little sick. I have bronchitis. There's a short story that goes with that. I went to Dr G for a patch of skin he planned to fix. As I was going there Darling called me on the phone.
"Do you want me to go with you?"
I'm almost fifty-five years old. I don't need Darling to sit with me at the doctor's office and hold my hand. I almost said yes.
"No, I'm good. I can do this." I tried to sound convincing.
"Okay, but make sure they take your temperature, your pulse and your blood pressure. Oh, and make sure Dr G listens to your lungs."
"What? There's nothing wrong with my lungs! That's not even why I'm going in today."
"Just have him listen."
"Okay," I grumble.
The PA takes my pulse and blood pressure and I ask her to write them down for me to give to Darling. She smiles. Everyone there loves Darling. Darling spent a lot of time at the doctor's office during the dozen years she took care of her mother. The PA writes down my numbers and puts her initials on the piece of paper, handing it to me and smiling.
When Dr G comes in the room he looks at my left temple.
"Say, Doc. Darling says you should listen to my lungs."
He just looks at me and I shrug. "You won't hear anything, but she says you need to listen to them.
So he does. "You have a slight case of bronchitis," he says. "Don't tell your wife or she'll get a swelled head." We both grin at that. Darling is anything but prideful.
Of course Darling just smiled slightly when I told her I had bronchitis. "Yeah," she said, "I thought you might have that."
Dr G prescribed some medicines for my lungs. I didn't realize he prescribed two medicines, though, so I didn't start taking the antibiotic until three days ago, three days after he saw me.
I'm getting better. But I'm still sick…
… and tired (with kudos to Bill Cosby).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Last Airbender

Netflix™ is wonderful. Not good enough for me to own stock in it, but I certainly enjoy the service. As long as they have shows I want, Netflix is the way to watch.
As I've mentioned before, we watch a lot of television series, many of them already concluded. Some we watch to see if we want to watch the current series. Hell on Wheels, for instance, is a western series set during the years of building the railroad. I like westerns, so we watched the first season before deciding it wasn't worth continuing. Perhaps building the railroad was as dirty, gritty and evil as they portray, but if I watch something I'd like to see some redemption in the story. We didn't see that in the series, so we'll not continue with it. Along the same lines, we just couldn't get into The Walking Dead, a series about an apocalyptic world filled with zombies. I have a fascination with apocalyptic stories, though I'm not a big zombie fan. There might be some redemption in the series but it was, frankly, just too graphic. We tried Torchwood but just couldn't get into it, which is a bit odd, since I really like good science fiction. Maybe that's why I couldn't get into it. We still watch Farscape, but it's easy to lose interest and we've taken a break from that series. That's another nice thing about Netflix™; the shows are there when we want to see them.
The movie The Last Airbender was given poor reviews in the theaters. Darling and I had no preconceived notions and it was a fun movie. I read that the series was good, regardless of the simple fact that it is animated. I like a good story. The series didn't disappoint. We finished the first season and it coincided nicely with the movie. Because of the poor ratings for the movie, I don't think they'll make another one, but we'll watch the rest of the animated series on Netflix. It does help that it is served in short, twenty-four minute sections. I think the writing is pretty good, almost all episodes ending with a funny line or short scene. I like that a lot.
I won't say all the lessons are good ones. In one, the heroine steals a scroll. Granted, she steals it from Pirate thieves, but it is still stealing. In another, the Avatar makes up a story (lies) so that two tribes will stop feuding, a problem they've had for generations. Still, lying is lying. A good truth might have served them better. The Avatar is a reincarnated being; well, that just isn't going to happen.
Overall, the series is still entertaining and I can overlook some of the trivial because it is fiction. I don't pattern my life after a television show, and have no intention of making changes in my way of living because of a television series.
Ideally, I suppose the series would contain inspirational messages that would make me want to change my life for the better. It does have themes of loyalty, of sacrifice, of failure and repentance - things that are part of real life.
I don't know. The Last Airbender is a fun show with no bad words and no graphic violence. I can deal with that.