Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dewart Lake at Dusk

As I mentioned in the previous post, I brought the church's new camera home to get some practice in, but wasn't able to get outside until it was almost dark. Still, there's some pretty awesome sights around the Bethel Retreat Center. We're going to miss it whenever I time there is up!

Buzz Cuts - Part 4

The new camera for the church arrived Monday. I took it home last night to get some practice in and ran across this scene on our front deck:

I love that because it let me know David has been playing hard all day. He loves to get dirty, make truck noises, smash into things and hit stuff. (I'm working to correct that last one!)

He Came Bearing Gifts

As I was working at my desk yesterday, I got a visit from someone I've never met face to face before. In fact, the only communication the two of us have ever had was a comment he left on my blog.

Who was it?

Jon Andrews walked into my office carrying an ice cold Diet Mountain Dew. He offered it to me, saying, "I'm going to win."

Jon's lack of familiarity with me showed up right away because I replied, "Good thing I don't like Diet Mountain Dew."

He replied, "Where's Simpson?" knowing Jeff likes Diet Mt. Dew.

Then he walked across the building to our pop machine, purchased a cold can of regular Mt. Dew and brought it back to my office. I regifted it to Derry.

Apparently, Jon not only has too much time on his hands, I may ask him for a loan next time I'm in financial trouble. He bought Mt. Dew for three of the Mountain Dew Challenge contestants yesterday!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mountain Dew Challenge - Part Deux Day 1

This is it. The Mountain Dew Challenge - Part Deux has officially started.

Even though Derry declined, we have a great field of competitors who are sure to put up a good fight. Hopefully, we will all last a long time and it will be a great benefit to our health.

The last time I took part in a challenge like this, I lost 10 pounds after just 41 days. I sure hope that happens again!

Anyway, check the counter at the top right of the page to see how many days we've successfully avoided the yellow elixir (and other similar beverages).

That's the kind of guy I am

As I was looking through color themes on Kuler, I found one called Jeans and Brown Shirt and I thought, that fits me. Well, not necessarily brown, but I do love to wear jeans and t-shirts.

So, the new colors on my header are from that theme.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mountain Dew Challenge - Part Deux Update 4

I may not be able to post this weekend, so I just want to make sure we're all clear on the rules and who's in the challenge.

First, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time Monday morning, you will not be allowed to consume pop of any kind. There are no sabbaticals or breaks of any kind. If you drink pop for any reason, you're disqualified. Also, you are responsible for reporting yourself when/if you are disqualified.
I will install a counter on my blog (if any competitors want me to send you a copy, just let me know!) so you can keep track of how many days we've gone pop-free.

Now, here's the list of competitors I have compiled:

Dan Weiss

and ... Derry says he will make his decision by Sunday (notice I didn't link to him -- he just wants the site traffic)

So, good luck everyone! I hope you're in it for the long haul!

Derry ...

Did you forget about this picture?

Mustache May Inspiration

Derry offered up a few examples of mustaches here, and below you'll see three fairly famous mustaches that you could try to emulate if you join Mustache May!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Colors

It just hit me that I forgot to change the color theme on my header this week. So, here you go. This one's called l8er sk8er.

Did I ever tell you about the time I broke my arm on a halfpipe?

(to be continued ...)

Princess Diaries - I Can't Believe She's Going to be 6!

Here's the start of another new series. This one's about my daughter and it's called Princess Diaries because, well, she's a princess. And, right now, I wouldn't have it any other way. As she gets older, she may need to be broken of it.

Hanah turns 6 on May 30 and I'm going to try to use the 35 days I have between now and then to share some stories about her and to write some things I hope she'll read later in life and learn from them.

Today's post, however, is about how I cannot believe she's going to be 6. Seriously, what happened to the last 5 years?

Here's one indication of how old Hanah is getting and how she's not a "little" girl any more. She now has a sign on her doorway, in her own handwriting, that reads, "Ask Hanah Before You Come In Her Room." Can you believe that? Just so you know, I still don't ask before going in her room - but I probably will start in a few years!

Here's a picture of Hanah walking with her aunt Kim and Grandpa Weiss last weekend. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but the way she is walking almost made me cry. She is becoming so independent, so able to do things without me or her mom, so grown up. I don't know how a walk can show all those things, but it did.

I hope you enjoy the Princess Diaries!

Looking Forward to May

I can't believe it is almost May and yet I'm so excited for May because there's a lot of awesome stuff happening in May. Then, in June, we're going on vacation and I'm thrilled about that too!

I've already told you about the Mountain Dew Challenge - Part Deux and Mustache May, but here's a list of some of the other great stuff coming up in May, by date:

1 - First Softball game of the season.
1 - Mustache growing begins
3 - First Serve Saturday at Prairie Camp. I'll be taking pictures of this event (hopefully on the new camera I ordered for the church!)
3 - Tyrus Graverson's birthday party
4 - Volunteer Appreciation Night (another event I'll be photographing)
6 - Derry and Janelle's 8th anniversary
11- Mother's Day (and I've got a great surprise for my wife)
25 - Derry preaches with a mustache
27 - My 8th anniversary
30 - Hanah's birthday
31 - Last day of mustache growing


A long time ago, I told you about Bethel College's decision to sell the property where we live. Since that time, everything has been completely up in the air and we've had no idea when our time at the lake would be over.

We found out yesterday that the potential buyer plans to close sometime in early August, meaning we will have at least one more summer there!

That's a huge blessing for us. Not only do we get to live on a lake for another summer, but we get to spend time with the best neighbors in the world - the Yoders - for another summer!

Mustache May

While the Mountain Dew Challenge - Part Deux remains my top priority, there's another challenge about to begin that I have decided to take part in.

Mustache May was concocted by a couple senior guys here at NMC - Eby and Griggs. Those guys are always coming up with some crazy event or slogan or joke and Mustache May is just the latest.

You can get a full explanation of this challenge at Derry's Blog sometime today, but here's the basics: Beginning May 1 all participants must start growing a mustache and not shave until June 1. A mustache is defined as facial hair that has a disconnect below the mouth, so that may lead to some very interesting mustaches. Also, participants are allowed to grow a full beard until May 14, but then must trim it down to a mustace for the rest of the month.

So, I've decided to join the movement, but with great trepidation. The thought of growing a mustache takes me back to some dark days. You see, the last time I set out to grow just a mustache, this is what it looked like:

Some of you are shocked by that picture. Some of you are thinking I looked pretty awesome. Some of you just laughed. I understand all of those reactions. Just keep in mind that it was spring of 1994 and I was 17 years old.

This challenge also gives me some anxiety because my facial hair isn't all that impressive, as you can read about here and see another picture here.

I will not be mastered by my fear, however. I will conquer it and grow a mustache to be proud of!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Buzz Cuts - Part 3

I wasn't able to talk David into getting an actual buzz cut, but he did sit still long enough for a trim. So, he and I are both sporting new haircuts this morning.

As you can see, David didn't trust me with the clippers so he thought he should wear his safety goggles.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Who Turned the Sprinklers On?

Today during our staff meeting, Pastor Terry Bley made us get into groups we don't normally sit with and then asked us to each tell the story of our relationship with Christ.

As I began to talk about my story, I started sharing how my dad's decision to quit drinking has totally changed my life. All of a sudden, I couldn't hold in the tears any more. I had to stop talking for a while to gather myself and then I had to share a lighter story to really pull myself together and make myself laugh.

Here's the story, in case you don't know it. My dad grew up without any real Christian influence. He began drinking probably in high school and that was his lifestyle even through the time he married my mom and my sister and I were born.

One of my earliest memories is going with my mom, while I was still in my pajamas, to pick up my dad from jail after he had been arrested for drunk driving.

Just last year he told me how he saw me walk in with my mom and made the decision that he was going to change. He said seeing me helped him come to that decision.

Shortly after that we started going to church and my dad was quickly saved. He hasn't had a drink since that time - probably close to 28 years.

So, as I was telling that story I think it really struck me what an incredible thing God did for my dad, and our family. He took all those years of mistakes and sin and forgave them, wiping them away and giving us a fresh start. And all my dad had to do was run to him.

It also struck me how I have that same opportunity today. As I look at my son I sometimes think about all my bad habits and struggles with sin that I don't want to pass on to him. And I know that all I have to do is run to my Heavenly Father and he will forgive me and wipe those sins away, giving my family a fresh start.

I am so thankful for my Father in Heaven and my Dad here on earth!

And even though I wept like a baby today, I gained a new appreciation for both of them.

MD Challenge - Part Deux Update 3

I talked with Derry today about the Challenge and he seems like he's about ready to crumble under the pressure and step in the ring. So, if you feel a need to challenge him this week - don't hesitate!

Dan asked about sabbaticals from the challenge and I'm beginning to think he's not fully committed to it.

No, Dan, there are no sabbaticals once the challenge starts. I just wanted to give Rob a chance to prepare since he committed to the challenge while on vacation. Once it starts, it's no pop at all no matter what fun event you are taking part in. I suppose you could have a mint julip when you go to the Derby!

Monday, April 21, 2008

MD Challenge - Part Deux Update 2

Wow! The weekend yielded several more challengers for the Mountain Dew Challenge - Part Deux. As of right now, we have 5 competitors, but there's still time to join!

In addition to Jeff and I, Rob Henschen, Jon Andrews and Dan Erickson have decided to enter the ring. We're still waiting to hear from Derry Prenkert!

For those that have joined, and for anyone considering joining, here are the rules:
1. It's called the Mountain Dew Challenge, but that's not totally accurate. I call it that because Mountain Dew is my nemesis, but the challenge includes any pop. Jeff struggles with Wild Cherry Pepsi and some people struggle with other pops, like Big Red (can you even buy that any more?). So, the challenge is to abstain from any pop.
2. There really aren't any more rules.

The whole challenge is based on the honors system, so each competitor is accountable for reporting his failure, whenever that occurs.

The first Mountain Dew Challenge lasted 41 days, so be prepared for at least a month of abstinence if you want to win!

One more thing: Since Rob is on vacation we'll wait until next Monday to start. So, you've got a week to load up, or start weening yourself!

Beautiful Children

I just wanted to remind all of you how cute my kids are!

Experience Beats Energy

Saturday was a fun day because the kids and I got to watch my wife play volleyball. Her women's team, which normally only plays in Chicago, played a pair of matches against the Bethel College team Saturday in Mishawaka.

I am so proud of my wife and her teammates. They swept the first match 3-0 and then beat Bethel 3-2 in the second match.

Katie's team is made up of former Bethel players ranging in age from about 26-34. Two of them are pregnant. Two others have 5 children between them.

So, it's pretty impressive for that team to not just compete with, but beat a team of current college players - a team that won a national tournament last season.

To be fair, some of the players on my wife's team are some of the best players Bethel ever had. Julia Reininga, who is now the coach at Bethel, was an NCCAA and NAIA All-American. Katie, Lisa (Davis) DeJesus and April (Allison) Russell were all part of the first team in Bethel history to make the NAIA National Tournament. Lisa and Katie were also Indiana All-Stars in High School.

Yes, I am bragging. I'm incredibly proud of my wife and the fact that she's still playing volleyball at a high level.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mt. Dew Challenge - Part Deux Update

At this point, it looks like the Mt. Dew Challenge - Part Deux is going to be a rematch between Jeff and me. But, it is still open for any other challengers!

As it was last time, this will not just be a Mt. Dew Challenge, but it will include all pop.

I don't know your drinking habits all that well, but here are a few people who might consider joining us:




Those are just a few who could put up a good fight. Know of any others?

Buzz Cuts - Part 2

I haven't been able to talk David into the buzz cuts yet. He keeps saying, "Tomorrow." I don't know where he gets that from.

I've also got some opposition to the cuts because my wife doesn't want a couple of shaved heads in our next family picture, which we plan on having taken in the next few weeks. So, for now, actually getting buzz cuts is postponed.

Don't worry though, that doesn't mean I can't think of other fun stuff to do with David - which, by the way, is the point of this series.

If we get the chance this weekend, maybe even tonight, David and I are going to mow some grass together. He loves to ride on the tractor. He usually falls asleep if I let him ride too long and then I'm stuck trying to steer with one hand and hold him upright with the other. He's only 3 but the kid is getting heavy so my arm usually falls asleep then I have to stop and carry him inside.

I know it sounds like it could be kind of a hassle, but I love it! It's the best way I know of to mow grass.

Mt. Dew Challenge - Part Deux?

I have come to the realization in the last few weeks that my rate of Mountain Dew consumption has reached an unhealthy level. I've also started reading a book recommended by my wife that claims incredible benefits to drinking 1-2 quarts of water each day.

The only problem with all this information is that I don't think I have the will power to stop drinking Mt. Dew on my own. However, the challenge that I had with Jeff Simpson turned out quite well. I went more than 40 days without a Dew and lost 10 pounds in the process.

So, I'm opening this up to anyone who is interested - the Mountain Dew Challenge - Part Deux. Anyone want to join me in this effort to rid my body of the sugar-coated toxins found in this Yellow elixir?

Let me know!
(By the way, did you notice my first color theme? I call it Dan's MD Fix.)

Rediscovering Old Skills

My first job out of college was as the Sports Editor at the Niles Daily Star in Niles, Michigan.

That really meant I was a one-man sports department for a small daily local newspaper.

It was a great opportunity to get experience in many different areas, including writing, editing, layout, design and photography.

I had never done any real photography before taking that job and I was fortunate to have a great photographer working at the Daily Star when I got there. Elizabeth Conley taught me everything I know about professional photography and I fell in love with it. I mostly shot local sports events as well as some Notre Dame football and basketball games.

The first professional camera I used was a Nikon N90 - yep, a film camera. It wasn't until at least 2001 that the Daily Star invested in a couple Nikon D100s and leaped into the digital photography era.

Since leaving the Star in 2004 I haven't had the opportunity to do much photography, except on a few occasions here at NMC. Janelle Prenkert has been kind enough to lend me her camera so I could shoot different events.

Well, I recently proposed to some leaders here that we should invest in a good digital camera so we can do a better job of capturing the people and events at NMC. They agreed and have given me the green light to purchase a camera for church use.

The Canon Digital Rebel XT shown here is the one I'm leaning toward, but not for sure yet. Whatever camera I get, I am so excited to rediscover photography with it. There's a lot of opportunities to shoot events, gatherings and people here at NMC and I hope I can make the church's investment worth it!

Did You Feel It?

There was an earthquake early this morning in Illinois that registered a 5.4 on the richter scale and I felt it.

I don't remember ever feeling an earthquake before, even though I know we've had them. So, this was a first for me. It's pretty cool to experience something for the first time at age 31.

So, did you feel it? What did you think?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Softball Season

Last night was the official start of softball season, at least for me. We had our first practice of the season, which always includes some hilarity as we all try to remember how to throw, catch and hit after the long off season.

My arm felt good at the start of the night, but by the end it felt more like Jello. I felt pretty good about my fielding. But, I'm an outfielder so all I had to do was catch fly balls and gather in slow grounders.

What I was most pleased with was my hitting. I started out last season as a very inconsistent hitter who could occasionally sneak a grounder past the infielders for a hit. Then, for whatever reason, I got in a groove and began to really hit the ball hard in the air. I hit a handful of home runs, including one grand slam.

I didn't know what to expect at practice last night. Would it be another year of struggling, then awakening, or would I be able to pick up where I left off last year?

The first pitch came in perfect, thanks to Marty, and I nailed it. It didn't clear the fence, but it did clear all the people who were shagging balls in the outfield, so that was a good sign. I hit a few more deep ones and finally put one out of the park, so hopefully last night wasn't a fluke and I will be able to keep that rhythm throughout the season.

I hope this doesn't sound like me bragging. I'm really not trying to do that, I'm just as shocked as most of you probably are that I can hit a ball over the fence and I'm excited about it. I shared here about how my life may have been different had I chosen to pursue baseball past my freshman year of high school. Now, softball is the closest I can get to playing baseball again, and it feels good to have some success again.

So, please bear with me as I write about softball throughout the season and please don't think I'm bragging. I'm sure I'll have plenty of chances to do some pretty hardcore self-deprecating as the season goes on!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring is Here!

When my kids beg to go outside in just their pajamas - I know spring is here.

When my kids will gladly eat all their vegetables if it means they can go outside to play - I know spring is here.

When the mud puddles in our driveway become my son's new favorite playground - I know spring is here.

When I notice spots of dirt all over my daughter's forehead as I'm brushing her teeth before bed - I know spring his here.

When grilling out requires putting on a sweatshirt - I know spring is here.

When grilling out with a sweatshirt on is something I look forward to - I know spring is here.

When it's almost freezing one day and almost warm enough for shorts the next - I know spring is here.

When everything and everyone starts to come to life again - I know spring is here.

Is This Cheating?

This is my 157th post, now I only need 43 in the next 30 days to reach 200 in my first year of blogging.

Sorry, I promise to never waste your time like this again.

Monday, April 14, 2008

No Intelligence Allowed

Ben Stein (Beuller, Beuller, Beuller) has a new documentary film coming out this Friday. From what I can tell he sheds light on the scientific community's angst toward those who suggest the possibility of intelligent design, or those who question Darwinism.

Check it out here.

Another New Header?

Well, sort of.

I'm going to put in a new color theme every week, just because I think it keeps it fresh.

Speaking of fresh, this new color theme from Kuler is called freshaliciousness.

Eventually, I hope to get to the point where I start creating my own color themes and begin using those in my header. For now, enjoy the ones I'm finding from others!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Reason for Discipline

If you've been reading my posts on the different disciplines addressed in Celebration of Discipline and wondered, "What's the point?" this is for you.

As I began the chapter on Submission, author Richard J. Foster gave what I believe could be the thesis for the whole book. Here it is:

Every Discipline has its corresponding freedom. ... The purpose of the
Disciplines is freedom. Our aim is the freedom, not the Discipline. The moment
we make the Discipline our central focus, we turn it into law and lose the
corresponding freedom.

The Disciplines are for the purpose of realizing a greater good. In and of
themselves they are of no value whatever. They have value only as a means of
setting us before God so that he can give us the liberation we seek.

Now that I think about it, this is a pretty good explanation of religion in general. Religion by itself has no value, but when it is viewed as a means to freedom through God and Jesus, then its value is immeasurable!

The Discipline of Submission

As Dan and I continue to plow through Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster, I've finally come to a chapter where I feel like I'm doing OK - but just OK, not great.

Here's the best way I can wrap up Foster's definition and position on submission:

Do you know the liberation that comes from giving up your rights? It means you
are set free from the seething anger and bitterness you feel when someone
doesn't act toward you the way you think they should.

The only reason I can say I'm doing OK in this area is because I've had the trait passed on to me by my mother. My mom is the last person to force her own agenda or needs on anyone. Unless it becomes a matter of safety for her or someone she loves, my mom will always relent her will to somebody else.

The trouble I have with submission is that, while it comes somewhat naturally to me, it is SO opposed to the culture we live in. Some who read the previous paragraph about my mom probably had a very negative reaction. I understand that reaction because even as I was writing it I was asking myself questions like, "Is it really a good thing to let others dictate my agenda?" or "Is it really a good thing to always relent my will to others?"

The culture we live in has become so "Me First" that submission to others seems incredibly weak - to the point of being pitiable.

But Foster explains how Jesus went against the cultural norms of His day, as did the disciples and Paul. They served people far below them in social standing. Paul, by telling slaves and wives to submit to their masters and husbands, recognized the difference between being subservient and submissive. Often subservience is/was forced upon people, but submission is a choice.

Foster also points out that submission has its limits, and that's why I said my mom would almost always relent to others. Submission reaches its limit when it becomes destructive.

It them becomes a denial of the law of love as taught by Jesus and is an
affront to genuine Biblical submission (Matt. 5, 6, and 7 and especially

As he does throughout the book, Foster gives some practical points on submission. Here are the 7 entities to whom we ought to be submissive:
1. God
2. Scripture
3. Our Family
4. Our neighbors and those we meet in the course of our daily lives
5. The believing community
6. The broken and despised
7. The world

Take a few minutes and think about what it might mean in your life to submit to all of the above. For me, numbers 6 & 7 seemed the most challenging. Looks like I've got some work to do if I'm going to move beyond just OK!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Vacation Planning

We're 55 days away from our trip to Southern California and we need to start thinking about a vacation budget (sometimes being an adult stinks).

As I was doing some research today, I realized just how important a budget will be. With all there is to do in the San Diego and Los Angeles area, it would be easy to spend a fortune. Since we don't have a fortune to spend, we're going to have to make some tough decisions.

I'm going to list some possible excursions along with their prices and you let me know what you think the best values are (if you can really call them values at these prices).

Sea World ($59 adults/$49 kids)

Wild Animal Park ($34 adults/$24 kids)

Lego Land ($60 adults/$20 kids)

Knott's Berry Farm ($50 adults/$20 kids)

Disney Land ($66 adults/$56 kids)

I did not list the San Diego Zoo because we've decided that's one we are definitely going to do. While you're thinking about the prices, remember that we'll have to pay for two adults and two kids.

One more think I didn't list is a San Diego Padres game. I was worried about the prices of this, but I found out today that the Padres have an afternoon game against the Mets while we're there. Also, it's a 2-for-1 day, and if we sit in the right field bleachers ($10 a seat) there's a "beach" for the kids to play in. So, that's on the must-do list.

Here's a picture of Petco Park - I'm very excited. I hope Johan Santana is pitching for the Mets that day!

Buzz Cuts

Here's another series I'd like to start. It's called Buzz Cuts because one of the things my son, David, and I do together is get buzz cuts each spring, as seen above.
I'm having a little trouble talking him into it this year - I think he wants to keep his hair longer. Usually, it's just a one-time thing where we cut our hair once in the spring and then let it grow out again. I just need to figure out how to convince him that his hair will grow back quickly.
David is 3 years old. He was born on October 9, 2004, and our lives have never been the same.
His older sister Hanah, who will turn 6 on May 30, had to make the biggest adjustment upon his arrival, but we all have had to restructure our lives to accommodate this little guy. I don't mean this in a bad way because I would never want to go back to life without him.
David is very impulsive, very outspoken, very enthusiastic and very fun to be with.
In the past few months I have decided and made an effort to try to do more things with him, just the two of us. We've done some fishing and worked on some projects together, but I want to keep it up.
So, I'm going to try to use this series as a way of sharing our experiences, but also as a way of reminding me to think of things I can do with my son.

Daily Design #1

Introducing a new series: Daily Design

Since I spend most days designing things, I'm going to share them with you. Hopefully, you'll feel free to give me your honest feedback because that would be very helpful to me. Trust me, I will not be offended if you tell me you don't like something. Also, I will try hard not to get a big head if you tell me you like something.

So, to kick things off, here's an announcement slide for a class here at NMC. I used a color theme from Kuler called iridescent hot. Let me know what you think!
*Edit: By the way, GI 101 is a class designed to introduce NMC's Global Impact (missions) ministry to anyone interested in being part of a Global Impact team.

Much Kuler

Did you notice the new blog header? Well, I've found this website called Kuler that basically allows people to put together color themes and share them. Since I'm very bad at combining colors, but need to do it on a regular basis for my job, this site has been a real help to me.

The color theme on the left of my blog header is called 28X Detroit Retro, but I'm not sure why.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

5 Things I Want My Kids to Know ...

Rob tagged me, so here it goes: My list of the five things I want my kids to know before they grow up.

1. I want them to know Jesus.
2. I want them to know I'll always love them, no matter what.
3. I want them to know I'll always love their mother, no matter what.
4. I want them to know they can talk to me about anything - ANYTHING.
5. I want them to know how to serve others.

By the way, I wholeheartedly agree with all of Rob's list.

So, now I need to tag five other people:
(The trick to this is tagging five people who I know for sure will read it!)

1. Derry Prenkert
2. Chris Knight
3. Dan Erickson
4. Rachel Campagnoli
5. Janelle Prenkert

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Discipline of Study


That's my big takeaway from this chapter of Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster.

Although I was a decent student, I've always been lousy at studying. I think it's because studying is kind of a big-picture activity and I'm much too task-oriented for that. I'd much rather work on a project than study - and I feel like I learn much more that way, too.

That being said, I recognize the importance of study - especially when referring to studying the Bible.

So, here's a few highlights from this chapter:

Good feelings will not free us. Ecstatic expressions will not free us. Getting
"high on Jesus" will not free us. Without a knowledge of the truth, we will not
be free.

Four steps to study:
1. Repetition
2. Concentration
3. Comprehension
4. Reflection

Concentration is a hard one for me, and I know why:

We live in a culture that does not value concentration. Distraction is the order
of the day.

I love at the end of the chapter when Foster talks about studying what's going on around us. He calls this the study of nonverbal "books." He points out the importance of asking questions. Get ready for some that will make you think, if you're willing to take the time to really consider them.

Let's learn to ask questions. What are the assets and liabilities of a
technological society? What has the fast-food industry done to the tradition of
a family gathering for dinner? Why do we find it difficult in our culture to
have time to develop relationships? Is Western individualism beneficial or
destructive? What in our culture is in harmony with the gospel and what is at
odds with it?

Picking up the Pace?

Back on February 4 I reached the 100-post milestone. In that post I sort of challenged myself to keep up the 1-post-per-day pace I had been on so I could reach 200 posts in my first year of blogging. Needless to say, I haven't kept up that pace.

This is my 146th post, which means I have to post 54 times in the next 35 days, or about 1.5 times a day, to reach 200 by May 15.

Why is this goal worth worrying about? I've got a few answeres to that question:

1. The more I blog, the more I process things internally. I don't usually just post something without thinking through it first. I believe that's a good thing.

2. The more I blog, the more creative I become. I'm not sure why, but it seems to be playing out that way.

3. The more I blog, the more I talk to my wife. That may sound silly, but if you've been married more than a year, you know the conversation can become quite dull or even nonexistent at times - especially if you've got kids. But when I blog, I like to share what I'm writing about with my wife since she doesn't spend very much time online.

So, how do I pick up the pace and start posting more than once a day? I've been trying to study frequent bloggers like Rob and Derry to see how they do it.

It seems like Rob relies heavily on series - such as Funny Picture Friday, Chazown '08 and his daily Bible reading. Derry definitely dabbles in series, but most of his posts come out of significant moments - whether it's something he sees on TV, at a movie or on the street. Both of these guys provide a good mix of profound and fluff - which is good because too much of either would make their blogs tiresome.

I'm going to try to implement their techniques over the next 35 days and see if it helps me reach my goal. So, stay tuned!

One last thing - here's a couple series ideas I'm thinking about:
1. Ways to get Derry to link to my blog
2. Ways to get Rob to link to my blog
3. 2-for-1: Two separate posts on the same topic (just kidding)
4. Vacation planning
5. Princess Diaries: Hanah's thoughts on life
6. Buzz cuts: Things I do with my son
7. Bucket list: Things I want to do before I die

Let me know which of these seems most intriguing to you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How Did You Get Here?

I've noticed Rob has linked to my blog a couple times recently, which helps me get over the single-digit visitors hump. So, thanks Rob!

That got me thinking about just how much of a jump Rob's links gives me each day, so I checked out my statcounter account, which I usually only do a couple times a month. As I was strolling through the different analyses statcounter gives me, I decided to see what keywords people had searched for and landed at my blog.

There weren't too many that were out of the ordinary, except this one:

worship my butt

Huh???? Somebody actually did a search for that phrase? Why?

NMC Bracketology Final Standings

Last night's game not only held the fate of two teams, but two players in the NMC Bracketology tournament challenge. If Memphis had won, Rodney Jernas would have been crowned. But since Kansas pulled off the incredible upset, Craig Helfrich walks away with the title. Congratulations!!!

Here's a few pictures of Craig celebrating his victory. At NMC Bracketology, we make a big deal over the winner. He even got to cut down the net and was given a trophy!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Conversation with Tiger Woods

I am fascinated with athletes like Michael Jordan, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods because they are a category unto themselves. No other basketball players fit in the Michael Jordan category, and the same is true with Federer and Woods.

I watched a video called "Sunday Conversation with Tiger Woods" on today and was again fascinated. There's a lot of talk about other people, which is interesting, but the part that really pulled me in was when Woods talks about himself and the way he views things. His drive to be better is amazing, and I think that's what sets him and those other guys apart. I would love to have a work ethic half as strong as him.

If you've got the time, watch it here.

A Different Perspective

This past weekend my wife and I were discussing swimsuits. We were talking about getting our 5-year-old daughter Hanah a new swimsuit soon because summer is on the way and we've got a vacation to California planned at the beginning of June.

Apparently Hanah told my wife she wanted a 2-piece swimsuit this year and my wife's immediate response was "no." Hanah countered with this question, "Why do you get to wear one?"

Ever been in that spot?

I think Katie (my wife) changed the subject or something because that's all I heard about the story, but it was enough to start a conversation between Katie and I about why we have certain standards for the kids, but not necessarily for us.

The most fair solution to this dilemma would be for Katie to get a one-piece swimsuit or to allow Hanah to wear a 2-piece, but it's not really that simple, is it?

With our kids getting older and becoming more and more independent, we are going to have to figure out what our standards are going to be and stick with it, even if it means adjusting how we behave/act/dress/eat/treat others.

I've been thinking about these things a lot lately and came to the realization that I've got a pretty clear picture of how I want my kids to turn out when they're grown up, and I know it doesn't really look much like me. That's a hard thing to deal with.

This is the perspective I've been seeing things from lately: Would I want my son/daughter doing what I'm about to do?

It's kind of the "What Would Jesus Do?" or "If Jesus was sitting right beside you ..." mentality, but from a parents' point of view.

Kids are the ultimate copycats, right? If you have kids or have spent much time around kids you know they will do exactly what you do because they look up to you. So, I'm starting to realize that I have to walk the talk with my children. They don't care what I tell them to do if I don't do it myself.

I know this is no new revelation, but for me it is going to require a major change in perspective. I want it to affect every decision I make, every word I say, every step I take.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What I'm Reading/Will Be Watching

I started reading Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis Sunday night. This is probably the third or fourth time I've read it. My original idea was to read it to refresh my memory so when I go watch the movie sometime after it comes out on May 16 I'll be able to compare the two.

C.S. Lewis is probably my favorite author of all time. I love both his fiction and his non-fiction - maybe moreso the non-fiction. My all-time favorite by Lewis is The Screwtape Letters.

The last few books I've read have been the kind where you read a chapter then you have to take a couple days to process them in your head and heart. So, it has been a nice change of pace to let myself just get lost in the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in the land of Narnia.

Here's something my friend Dan wrote to me about his thoughts on the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

I reread The lion the witch & the wardrobe right before that movie came out,
and the one thing that really stuck in my mind was how peaceful the book was
compared to the movie. Not that there wasn’t adventure or tension in the book,
but it didn’t dwell on those parts like the movie does. If I remember right, and
entire half hour battle in the movie may have been summarized in the book as “a
great battle” and then it moved on. I don’t know if I’m trying to make a point
with any of this, but it seemed to jump out at me.
I think he's right. The movie was much more violent than the book, but that's probably to be expected. By the looks of the trailer, Prince Caspian will be more of the same. And I don't necessarily a bad thing, although it may mean having to wait a few more years before I can let my kids watch the movie. But, I plan on starting to read the books to Hanah, who turns 6 in less than 2 months, very soon.

Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Confession Time

Have I ever mentioned how much I appreciate blogs? I mean it, there is some really amazing stuff to be learned if you just take a few minutes to read other people's thoughts.

I guess a more appropriate way to put it is that I really appreciate bloggers - especially the ones who are willing to share their experiences and lessons learned. I read a post from Rob today that totally made me get tears in my eyes.

As soon as I read the title and saw a picture of his daughter I knew it was going to hit me pretty hard. See, his daughter is 5. I, too, have a 5-year-old daughter and it's been hitting me pretty hard lately how fast she is growing up.

The strangest things will make me stop and take notice of what a beautiful "big" girl she's becoming. Things like Derry asking for advice about road tripping with a 5-month-old baby. I can't even remember when my daughter was 5 months old! That was more than 5 years ago!

There are times when I watch her coloring a picture or really concentrating on something and I realize that nearly 6 years (her birthday is May 30) have gone by and it's all been a blur.

Rob mentioned dating his children and that's something my wife and I have talked about a lot lately. We spent some time with Mark & Cindi Lantz the other night and they mentioned what a great relationship Mark has with their daughter Kalyn, who is everything I want my daughter to be when she grows up. She knows without a doubt that her dad loves her and thinks she is precious. I want my daughter to feel the same way about me.

Here's where the confession part comes in. I hope you won't think less of me after reading this, but if you do I guess I deserve it.

There are times when I think of my kids as an inconvenience.
There are times when I am bothered by my kids wanting my attention.
There are times when my kids take a back seat to television or some other unimportant activity.

I'm sorry.

I know all of those things seem very selfish and pathetic, and I am ashamed to admit them. But, the reason I'm admitting them is so that you can help me do better.

I never want to let anything come before my kids. I never want to put my own convenience or comfort in the way of my relationship with them.

I always want them to know they are important, precious and pleasing to me. I want them to know I love them and adore them. I want them to know I think they're the greatest kids in the world. I want to take advantage of the many chances I have to spend quality time with them and invest in their lives.

Aside from my wife, there is no relationship that is more important to me. There is no greater calling on my life than to be a great husband and dad.

If you see me, please ask me how much time I've spent investing in my kids lately. Ask me how many "dates" I've taken my kids on lately. Ask me how many times I've hugged them and told them I love them lately. Just keep me accountable. I am selfish, but I also want to overcome my selfishness to be everything my kids want me to be. So, will you help me?