Monday, November 28, 2005

Two quick and one eternal

Here’s a quick observation.  I just read a headline that stated that a recent study shows that almost half of the people diagnosed with cancer continue to keep smoking cigarettes even though tobacco substantially increases the risk of death.

I can tell you that I find that hard to understand.

I can also quickly tell you that I don’t now or have never smoked, except for one puff that I took from my grandfather’s Camel cigarette.  In fact, I took that puff in front of my parents, siblings and grandparents.  I was probably nine years old.  I immediately got sick from the one puff.  But the point is, I don’t smoke.  

But I do other things.  I don’t sleep like I should.  I don’t eat like I should.  It’s hard for me to stay away from work mentally.  And I’m probably in the worst physical condition in my life.  I’ve had one physical in 30 plus years.  It was a couple of years ago and the blood work showed that my cholesterol was over 200.  I was told to lose weight and come back in six months to get my blood work done again.   That was two years ago.  

I’m sure you find that hard to understand.  

Here are two quick thoughts:
It’s easy to be critical of people who struggle with stuff that isn’t a struggle for you.

And we all have stuff we have to deal with and we don’t.  

Here’s an eternal thought:
That’s why we need Jesus.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

HTD

Happy Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. We all have a lot to be thankful for.Top five things I'm thankful for aside from God, church, family and friends:
1. Health
2. Good books
3. Our new hot tub
4. A few days off from work
5. Spell check

I truly am a blessed person.

Oh, here's a diet tip from me to you. If you want to reduce your desire to overeat or even eat at all, go to christianchronicle.org. The picture there is scary, frightening and could possibly be the only photograph of "Big Foot" on a bad hair day. This photograph is not to be viewed by small children, people with circulatory concerns or people from states that begin with the letter "M". If the above warnings do not apply to you, then view at your own risk.
Trust me it was a frightening experience for me to look at that horrid picture.
I’ll be back blogging after the weekend. Eat early and often. And don’t forget to say thanks…

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Then and Now

I’m driving a rental car while one of ours in the body shop for repairs.  A deer can leave quite a dent in case you were wondering.  So while the car is in the shop for much of the month of November I’m driving a Toyota Corolla.  It’s costing our auto insurance (yes I did get a rental car rider on our policy less than six weeks ago!) less than 23 bucks a day for this luxury vehicle.

What’s amazing about this car, isn’t the car, it’s the guy that’s driving it.  I’m so put out that the Corolla doesn’t have power locks, power windows, power anything.  If you can believe this, I have to reach all 34 inches across the car to open the other door.  I have to lean back to manually (that word means, by hand in case you aren’t familiar with it) unlock the back doors, too.  And the windows, forget it.  I have to actually wind a handle around to get the window to go up and down.  There is no cruise control and the wipers only have one intermittent setting, not 34 different intermittent settings.  There’s no lumbar support and only one compartment in the console and no extra electrical outlets.  It doesn’t even have a compass in it.  

But of course, it does have a CD player.

Can you guess the first car that Jeanette and I bought 28 years ago when we first were married?  It was the car of our dreams.  It was a great car.  That’s right it was a Toyota Corolla.  It was the coolest car we could have ever hoped to own.  We bought and drove it for three years and sold it to a kid in the teen group at church for only $400 dollars less than we originally paid for it. The kid wrecked it in less than a month.  Our first Corolla doesn’t even compare to version I’m driving now.   This 2005 model is like a Rolls compared to that 1976 model.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to remember simpler times and being reminded of what makes a person truly happy.  (Plus Thanksgiving will mean only one more week until I get my car back from the body shop!)

Monday, November 21, 2005

News from the church front

News from the church front...

Yesterday, we had a scare. One of our more "senior members" had fallen into a condition that caused her family to become alarmed near the end of worship. Doctors were found, 911 was called; ambulances and paramedics arrived. The person was examined and fortunately sent home. As it turns out this person's health issue was not complicated. Here was the problem: they had fallen so sound asleep during my sermon, they couldn't be awakened.

I love my job.

Had a staff meeting this morning if you want to call it that. There was so much laughter and fun I'm not sure what was accomplished.

I love my job.

The FXCC Growth Options Team made a presentation yesterday. It was inspiring to see 182 FXCC people attend just a great presentation by such dedicated FXCC GO Team members.

I love my job.

I guy just walked into my office, out of a job, hungry and asking to wash windows to earn some money so he could buy food for his family. He left my office with the ability to to that because I belong to a church that provides money to help people in need.

I really love my job.

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kids, the Internet and Tech Turkeys

I spoke to a group of children today. It's always an interesting and exciting experience to speak to kids. My topic was timely, if not tired: Thanksgiving.

I started by asking the kids what their favorite Thanksgiving food was. Hands shot up and answers came flying:
mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, apple pie, pickles and chicken. Favorite Thanksgiving fare: pickles and chicken. . . I love kids.

Speaking of kids. Our son-in-law turns 25 tomorrow. Happy Birthday Dean. Oh yes, I am old.

I got an email today from a coed who matriculates at Notre Dame University. Evidently, she goes to the FXCC website regularly and listens to sermons. She wanted me to know how much our church meant to her while living in South Bend, Indiana. Wow, I'm thinking, this Internet thing may really catch on. What do you think?

Our youngest attends UVA and tomorrow they play their arch nemesis Virginia Tech in football. I'm predicting an upset. I'll be upset when Tech wins!

Enjoy your weekend and see you Sunday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

T minus eight

Thanksgiving is just about a week away. Time-0ff for turkey. I'm not a big fan of turkey. In fact, I could skip the turkey and eat everything else. But then I've heard about frying your turkey in peanut oil. It's supposed to be fantastic. But, we're having company this year so since we've never fried a turkey that might be a bit ambitious. But it sure looked good when Paula Dean did fried one of those gobblers up!

I'm more of a stuffing kind of guy. I like cornbread stuffing. Not this oysters stuffed in stuffing stuff. I also love pie and rolls and green bean casserole with those little friend onions and mashed potatoes and gravy (without those yucky giblets) and yams and cranberry relish and I've got to quit, now because I'm coming close to sinning.

When the kids were little the day after Thanksgiving we would drive to a tree farm and cut down our Christmas tree. When our youngest entered college we purchased an artificial tree. It's certainly easier to climb up into the attic rather than driving to West Virginia to find the perfect tree, but the attic doesn't serve hot apple cider.

And then it is time to put out the outdoor Christmas lights. I always enjoy how the lights look after they are put out. What I don't like is getting the old strands of lights out, plugging them in to test if they work. Seeing that they do in fact all work. Putting them out, plugging them in and having that strand not work. That does not make for a merry Bruce. Every year I threaten to just buy all new lights. But since we didn't get ours at Wall-mart back in July when they went on sale, there may not be any left.

But no matter what by the last Sunday of November we'll have gobbled down turkey, found a tree and enlightened our neighborhood. So in the words of my now 95 year old grandfather:
"If you get within a mile of our house, turn around."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

And the password is...Cheap Gas

For the next fourteen days every time I turn on my laptop, I will see a countdown as to how much longer my current password is valid. I will then have the question prompt, "Would you like to change your password now?"

"No I would not like to change my password now!" I typically wait until the last day and the last moment to change my password. I'm the same way when filling up the gas tank of my car. I wait until I'm driving on fumes until I fill up. Unlike simply being a procrastinator with my password, there are two legitimate reasons for my tank-filling-tardiness.

First, I hate filling up the tank. I get no kick from octane. I've never been one that likes to drive in, swipe my card, fill-r-up and drive off. This may surprise you, maybe even alarm you, but I've got a confession to make. Here it is: I've never bought beef jerky at a gas station. There I said it. I'm not a gas station junkie. I drive in and fill-r-up only when I absolutely have to.

Second, I put off filling up because I'm constantly willing to bet my "BP" that I can find a better price on gas. I'm always on the street playing my own "Shell" game for cheap gas. And guess what, I typically end up paying an extra 15 cents a gallon for my desire to play unleaded lotto. I admit it. I have an addiction to Texaco hold 'em. I know how much gas my car is "holding" but I hope that prices will "flop" lower. If they don't then I'll take the "turn" up "Fourth street" and if I don't find the price "flushed" down there, I'll drive "straight" up "Fifth street" right by "the river" hoping gas prices have been "paired" down.

I want to get high on cheap octane. I've got an obsession for underpriced unleaded. Trust me I'll stay "Mobil" until I can find gas on the cheap or until I'm strung out when I run out of what I've got.

I need help. So I'm sending out a the international signal for help for those with cheaper gas addiction:

Esso-S Esso-S Esso-S


I have got to get a life.
More tomorrow...

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Wizard of Oz

The movie "The Wizard of Oz" was on TBS this weekend. I can remember the first and only time I have sat through the entire movie. It was when I was an eight-year-old living in upstate New York. It was the around Thanksgiving or Christmas. (I think TWoO was a holiday TV staple back then). It was on a Sunday night and I was at home rather than at church because three of the Black family (myself included) had the mumps. So my mom made us dinner and we sat in front of the TV and watched the whole show.

That movie scared me silly.

I was petrified. I still have nightmares about the Wicked Witch of the West and dreading the chance of growing and becoming an adult munchkin. In fact, some of those munchkins looked like me, as an eight-year-old, with the mumps! (Well you can see why I still have nightmares about the munchkin thing!) I didn't much care for for anything in that movie as an eight-year-old.

And truthfully, it doesn't do much for me now. I've never been to Kansas and I'm not really sure after seeing TWoO that I would want to go back to Kansas even if it was my home.

I can also remember the first time I saw Gone with the Wind. Mom and Dad loaded up the kids and we drove 35 miles to another city to see it. I'll give my kid reaction in two words:

Hated it!

Now Mary Poppins, that was a movie! 'Just a spoonful of sugar..."

More tomorrow...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Men's Retreat

I went to the FXCC Men’s Retreat this weekend.  It was great.  I played golf with some church guys.  I won’t say anything about the golf except this:  we saw parts of Front Royal, Virginia that aren’t on the Chamber of Commerce tour map.  My new nickname is Bruce Brushhog!

The retreat was a great time of inspiration, friendship and fun.  Ken Dye did a great job as our speaker, Ed Cox and crew overfed us, the guys I got to hang out with were great and the worship times were inspirational.  Lane, Paul and Stan did a great job putting the weekend together.

One quick personal story:  Due to the snoring and potential for practical jokes, I typically sleep in my car at Men’s Retreats.  This year I did the same.  It didn’t work out too well, however.  I was cold, I couldn’t get comfortable and at 3:30 in the morning I needed to make, well, I needed to make a pit stop.  As I climbed out of the sleeping bag, to make the long cold walk, I reached out and opened the car door and set off the car alarm.  That’s right.  Under the big dipper, Northstar and all the galaxies of the universe, I set off my car alarm and couldn’t immediately find the key and figure out the right button to push to turn it off.  It was quite a sight.  I retreated to my car.

Fortunately it couldn’t be heard over the snoring.

Have a great Sunday.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Check in the mail

Sometimes when I go to the mail box I get a little nervous. Sometimes as I make that trek to the curb, I'm fearful that our mail receptacle might have turned into Pandora's box. I wonder is there any thing there from my favorite IRS agent? Or worse, a letter from the water department telling me that I haven't paid my bill and now I am going to have to shower with sand.

Today I was perfectly confident as I marched toward my mail. I reached in and sorted out the 23 applications to increase my credit, the half-inch-thick mailer with coupons to businesses I'll never visit and then I finally came to, not one, but two letters addressed to me from an insurance company with whom I had recently done business. I opened the first and read a half page letter telling me to fill out a form that they needed to have for future reference. I then read another included page of disclaimers about my information remaining private. I didn't see the form anywhere, even in the enclosed return envelop.

So I figured that the other look-a-like letter from the same company must contain the form. Nope. Inside the other envelop was the same half page letter urging me to fill out the much needed form, the full page of disclaimer information, the return envelop and zippo, no form.

Life is fun.

Actually instead of fear, I've been having lots of fun with the mail lately. Someone, (I'm guessing an FXCC member with lots of time on their hands) as a special present to me, signed me up for somewhere between 20 to 25 magazines. They went to the trouble to fill out the little "tear-out" cards included in magazines with my name and address and mailed them in. So in recent weeks I've received Rolling Stone, Pregnancy, Gun Times, The National Economist, Mustangs and Other Hot Fords, Wine Tasting, Shooting, SI, Runner's World, Backpacking, National Geographic, National Diplomacy, just to name a few.

It has been so much fun to call and talk with all the 800 operators who evidently weren't standing by their phones waiting for my call to cancel my subscriptions. But I did learn this (and I'm not making this up): filling out those little cards on behalf of someone else is a federal (you read that right) federal crime. You see it involves the mail, which eventually "the feds" take fairly seriously.

I talked to a guy yesterday as I canceled a "men's magazine" I hadn't subscribed to. In the course of our conversation I told him why I was canceling and he confirmed that what had been done to me was against the law. He went on to tell me of a man who was mad at a judge for finding him guilty. To get back at the judge "the man" signed the judge of for lots of "men's magazines." The judge didn't find it funny and hired a lawyer to go after the prankster. The lawyer is currently waiting to examine the handwriting on the card that was filled out. The guy I was talking to was mailing it to him. Again, no joke. In fact, the magazine operator is sending me a copy of the card filled out on my behalf. I'll be checking the handwriting in the blue books beginning this Sunday!

I kid. . . maybe.

So here's the deal, I'm getting magazines I didn't order and not getting "double" the forms I should be getting.

Welcome to life in the 21st century.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Cheap Forgiveness

Personally, when I do something wrong and it's pointed out to me, I like to say "I'm sorry." and then let's all move on and forget it. But life doesn't work that way.

Consequences continue. If you run a red light and hit an innocent car, you can say you're sorry, and the "victim" may immediately forgive you. But boy the consequences continue. In fact the consequences may prove to be helpful. You have to deal with "your victim"; the police, your insurance agent; their insurance agent; you will need to get an estimate of the damages; make an appointment to get your car fixed, get your car fixed; pay for a rental or bum a ride from others; go to court; pay the fine; have your insurance rates go up; and you have to listen to others say to you, "I told you that yellow means slow down and stop!"

God set things up so there are consequences that help remind us of fallout of selfishness; to influence us to not make the same mistake in the future and to show how necessary it is to rely on God in the first place.

So don't wish those consequences away. They are there for a purpose.

Being forgiven is one aspect of God's love. Dealing with consequences is simply another.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vote Early and Often

It's election day. I woke up this morning thinking about how fortunate I am to live in a place where we can have a change in government happen by a bunch of people driving to their local elementary or middle school. It takes Jeanette and I forty-five seconds to walk from our back door to our "polling place" (a local middle school). We don't have to drive or park. If there's no line we can vote during the commerical break! What a country. . .

There usually are several times during the year that I think about future sermon selection. Right now I'm thinking and praying about 2006 sermon series. One series that I will be doing will be on helping people discover their spiritual strengths and using them for God's glory. I really feel this critical to discipleship development. Plus there is a lot of new cutting edge material out on this important topic. Also, early in 06 I will deal with our congregational vision and future plans.

What seems important to you right now? What part of God's Word would you like to hear preached? Is there a passage? A book from the Bible? A topic that you feel needs to be addressed? I'm not making any promises, but I'd love to get your input.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Wow, what a weekend!


God cleaned up at Powerhouse this past weekend.  For those of you reading this who aren’t familiar with our every-other-year-teen-retreat called Powerhouse.  That’s just what it is.  Every other November we host a weekend for teens.  Jeff Walling comes and speaks, activities are planned, food is prepared and God is worshipped.  Typically 550 t0 650 come to the Friday night through Saturday night event.  Several hundred visitors stay over until Sunday morning and worship with us.

This year’s Powerhouse theme was as simple as it was profound: CLEAN.  The theme was based on 2 Corinthians 5:17 that says that in Jesus all people are made clean and are new.  

This weekend 22 young people gave their hearts and lives to Jesus and were baptized.  They are now truly CLEAN.  Check out FXCC.org to see pictures.  Added to the blessing of these new Christians, was the experience of seeing our worship center filled to overflowing by young people praising God and longing to learn more from Him. It was truly a great experience.  And don’t even get me started about worship yesterday morning.

Powerhouse 05 is just another reminder of what God can do in the lives of people who their hearts in His hand.  My heart goes out to the 200 plus FXCC members who allowed God to use them to make Powerhouse a clean sweep.

More tomorrow.  

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday: Feelings, Wo-o-o Feelings

I'm sore. Yesterday I played racquetball for an hour. During that hour, there were moments I wasn't sure I was going to live. In fact, I was so convinced that my demise was evident, during points I was making funeral arrangements.

Now don't get me wrong. Though it hurt, it made me "suck wind, when it was over I was exhausted, and though today can barely move, I still had a great time. It was great fun and I remember how much fun racquetball was every four hours today as I inhale Advil.

As I hobble around today I will get great comfort from the realization that today 76 years ago, my dad, was born. I have experienced many blessings in my life, two of the greatest being my parents. I grew up in a home where I was loved, accepted and valued. My dad showed me how to love God, love your wife, love your children, work hard and have lots of fun. Have a great birthday Dad. Your check is in the mail.

Today also begins FXCC's Powerhouse. For those of you unfamiliar with Powerhouse, every two years our church puts on a huge weekend event for teens. This weekend we will have 600 plus guests coming to listen about and learn from God. Jeff Walling will speak (is he an awesome speaker or what?); the worship will be inspirational; the small group interactions will hopefully make an eternal impact; and my prayer is that lots of young people will give their lives over to Jesus.

If you have a moment today pray for Powerhouse...

And maybe my back and my knees and my neck and my triceps and. . .

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Getting Educated

As I walked the thirty yards from my parking lot to the office, my cell phone rang. It was a co-worker informing me that I had a guest waiting for me. The "guest" is fellow who's been showing up once or twice a month at the office for the past ten or twelve years. He's a fellow who is 55 and homeless. He lives in shelters and struggles to keep a job. When he has a bicycle he rides it, when it pawns it for money he walks and rides the bus.

Today we got in my car for a ride to Kmart to purchase a room heater. Or so I thought. He had told me that the room he stays in is cold at night so he needed a heater. But when we arrived at the store, I was led to the Sporting Goods section and we looked at outdoor personal heaters. We picked one out and a couple of propane tanks and as we headed for to check out counter, I realized that a heater like this was designed to keep you warm sleeping outside or in a place where electricity might not be readily available.

I was immediately humbled and educated.

I try my best to manage me life. But I've never ridden a county bus much less depending on mass transit for my personal travel. I have no clue when, where or how buses run. I do have a bike, but it has sat perched in my garage for years without being ridden. If I walk anywhere it is typically a short distance. When it comes to food, I'd have to think hard to remember the last time I was truly hungry. And when it comes to slepp, we have four beds in our centrally heated and cooled home.

It wasn't until recently that I finally figured out how wrong I was about poverty. I'm not smart enough to be poor. I wouldn't last a week. I don't have the ingenuity or the will-power or the determination.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The more things change...

We had nine, count them nine, trick-or-treaters last night...
I ate all the leftover candy!

We started paying our electric bill by automatic on line payment...
They continued to overcharge us! (I'm calling this morning to get it figured out.)

We've learned recently that Fairfax County is no longer classified as "suburban" it is now considered "urban..." (There's no more land left.)
Deer can still run into your wife's car. (Everyone and everything is fine, except for our the increases to our auto insurance.)

I still have a hard time stepping on a scale....
Today, November 1 I am starting a diet.

Yep that's true. The weight loss begins today. I want you to hold me accountable. In the words of one of our FXCC members, I've been "pouring" myself into my clothes for quite a while now.

I'm not quite at my all-time high weight, but I can certainly see that weight (though I would probably have to bend over to see it!)

I can't understand my slow weight gain. I've eaten anything I want, I don't work out regularly and I sit on my seat all day long. How could this weight gain have happened?

Well I've lost it before. Before Kirstie Alley became a "fat actress" I lost 40 pounds on Jenny Craig. And then five years later I lost a bunch of weight on Weight Watchers. My goal this time is to simply get to the point where people come up and say, "Bruce, you look so thin. Have you been sick." When I look sickly, I'll know I'm at the right weight!

So here I go again. I'll be sucking on water bottles, eating handfuls of carrots and counting every morsel I put in my mouth for the next six months. And I will be sore for the month of November as I restart an exercise program that will include more than walking into McDonalds rather than just driving through.

I've been told that telling a few friends that you are beginning a diet is helpful. It gives you accountability. So to the two of you reading this, please keep me accountable. Ask me about how the carrots and skinless chicken breast taste and how sore my fat covered muscles are.

But I will warn you for the next three months, you may want to keep your distance from me if you are holding a turkey leg in your hand!

More tomorrow.