Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas in Mexico: The Children

Our main mission in Mexico was to pack and distribute food bags as well as Christmas gifts. What I like to think of as our secondary mission was to simply spend time with the people.

During our free time Sunday night we sat around in a circle and sort of debriefed. One of the observations made by several people was how much fun it was to spend time with the children in the neighborhood.

One of our first tasks was to make breakfast for the kids Saturday morning. We woke up to no electricity in the dorm, which wasn't that big of a deal. We just had to improvise (like Todd making sausage on the grill). Somewhere around 8 a.m. the kids from the neighborhood started rolling into the dorm. The table was soon filled and they started singing songs together. Then we got to bring each of them a plate of pancakes and sausage (see Katie and Brant serving above).

Following breakfast, we had some free time to get to know the kids a little bit. We learned a lot of names and played with them out in the street and at the park.

The park was made up of a huge baseball field (that's where David is playing soccer with some girls above), a basketball court and some playground equipment. There's dirt, glass and trash everywhere but it appears the people appreciate it because the paint applied by a NMC Student Impact team two years ago is still in good shape.

Whether it was football or soccer, the kids from the neighborhood couldn't get enough of just playing with us and our kids.

The streets were the main area where we interacted with the kids. Traffic was very light and the dirt roads made for a perfect playground. In the picture above you can see David playing with Kenya (and an empty Tecate can) in a sandy area near our dorm. For them it was just like a huge sandbox.

On Monday we prepared a dinner for many of the volunteers at the churches in the area. Part of the preparation was handmade placemats that you can see the girls working on above. They were so eager to help and do whatever they could just to be with us. It was really fun.

My kids have talked a lot about the kids they met in Mexico - especially Hanah. She really wants to go back next year so she can see her friend Alondra (the one farthest to the right in the picture above).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Mexico: The Team

Our team was made up of 16 people from Nappanee Missionary Church and two from New Life Fellowship. We had only two meetings before leaving for Mexico and neither meeting included every member of the team. So, we needed to get to know each other on the fly. It turns out that wasn't a problem. We had good team chemistry the whole time. Everyone was flexible and willing to do whatever it took to accomplish our mission.

I was especially impacted by two members of the team:

Jack Lengacher, and his wife Shelly, were our team leaders. I knew Jack before this trip, but not well. He lives near us in the summers and I had worked with him on some projects at church, but that's about it.

During the process of getting ready for the trip, I was feeling pretty unsure about how our kids were going to handle everything. I was also concerned about how the adults on the team would feel about our two young children.

My concerns were put to rest before we even left the ground. Jack, one other member and my family had to leave on Thursday. The rest of the team didn't come until Friday - just one of the realities of traveling during the holidays. So, we arrived at O'Hare with plenty of time to spare before our flight. We had already eaten dinner and had about an hour before we could start boarding. We had packed the kids' backpacks full of stuff to keep them busy during times just like this and so they started spreading toys and coloring books all over the airport floor.

Then something happened that let me know my children were not going to be considered an annoyance by anybody: My son, David, asked Jack to color with him. Without hesitation, Jack got down on the floor and started coloring with David (see picture above). I'm sure for Jack it was no big deal, but for me it meant a great deal.

After spending four days in the same room at the dorm (and giving him the nickname Pastor Skunk) David felt very comfortable with Jack. He even spent much of the bus ride home from the airport on Jack's lap planning a sleepover next summer!

Beyond the way they welcomed us and our children, Jack and Shelly provided our entire team with great leadership. They made sure we knew what to expect, what the schedule was and what was expected of us. They led by example through cooking, cleaning, serving and never acting like any question was a bother. It was great to get to know them (and their daughter, Katie, who was also on the trip) better and know that we've got some new friends to hang out with next summer!

Brant Nine was the other team member who left with us on Friday. I knew who Brant was from going to Senior High Camp last summer and working with Sr. High this school year, but I didn't know him personally. Brant was the starting quarterback for NorthWood this past football season and it's easy to tell he's considered a leader among the students at our church.

That's what I knew about Brant before this trip.

It didn't take me long to learn that there's much more to this kid. Yes, he's a leader - without question. And, yes, he was his team's quarterback. But those two things don't define him, at least in my mind.

Here's what impacted me most about Brant: His love for other people - all people - and his willingness to endure uncomfortable situations and pain to achieve something great.

It didn't take our kids long to realize what an awesome guy Brant is either. They were quickly comfortable with him. There's another picture from the airport where my daughter, Hanah, is sharing a set of headphones with Brant while he plays the only kids' songs he has on his iPod. During our first day in Mexico, while we were waiting for the rest of the team to arrive, Brant went with my kids and me to the park and showed us around. He bought us bottles of Coke and spent time entertaining the kids.

Throughout the trip, it became clear to me that Brant is a very compassionate guy. He absolutely loves the people in Mexico, but he also loves the people he's with everyday at home. He wants the best for everyone and he doesn't mind sharing what's on his mind and in his heart - even when it causes him to be vulnerable.

I'm excited for Brant to finish out his senior year at NorthWood and then go on to Bethel College, where he's majoring in Elementary Education and minoring in Youth Ministry. Both of those fields seem perfect for him!

Mexico slideshow

Here's a slideshow of my photos from our trip to Mexico. In the coming days, I'm going to pull several of these photos out and share a story or something special about each one. Enjoy!

NFL Pick 'Em Week 16 Results

Craig made some good calls this week (i.e. Chicago over Minnesota) and regained a two-game advantage. One more week left in the regular season and then we pick the playoffs!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

NFL Pick 'Em Week 15 Results

Dan Erickson keeps inching closer to Craig. He's only one game back now!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Big Week

This week is going to be a bit of a departure from our normal pre-Christmas preparations. Usually we spend the week before Christmas getting gifts ready, making cookies and other sugar-loaded treats and planning our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day travels.

This year, though, we're doing a different kind of preparation. Starting tonight, we're packing our bags for a trip to Mexico. We leave Thursday evening as part of a Nappanee Missionary Church Global Impact Team that will spread some Christmas cheer to our ministry partners in the Juarez area. We'll hand out food bags, Christmas gifts, prepare a Christmas dinner for 70+ people and share with several churches during our five days south of the border.

Katie, Hanah, David and I are all very excited. As parents, we can't think of a better way to teach our kids the value of giving and serving others. We hope this will teach us all how much better it is to give than receive.

Another significant event kicked off this week. It's really only significant to us, but I thought I'd share it with you. After seven years of driving a 1998 Mercury Villager minivan, we finally put it out of its misery and bought a new van. Our Villager was a true blessing to us. We bought it shortly after our daughter was born in 2002 and we've never had major problems with it. It's been through seven years of child transportation, a drive to Kentucky and back, an accident that the insurance company deemed a total loss, a one-day disc golf marathon with six guys in tow and countless trips between our house and those of our families who all live about an hour away. We put about 80,000 miles on it and it still runs great. But, there were enough little things starting to go wrong that we thought it was a good time to upgrade.

What we found as a replacement is a 2004 Toyota Sienna. It's a really nice van and from everything I've read it's one of the highest-rated vehicles you can buy. So, we're hoping for at least as good of results as we had with the Villager ... maybe even better!

God has been good to us this Christmas season. We've received many blessings and we're very thankful.

NFL Pick 'Em Week 14 Results

It looks like the playoffs are going to be significant, after all! Only two games separate Craig and Dan Erickson now. I'm in a distant third.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 13 results

Things are getting interesting at the top of the leaderboard. A strong 13-3 week by Dan Erickson, combined with a 9-7 showing from Craig Helfrich led to a 3-game lead for Craig with three weeks left in the regular season followed by the playoffs.

Here's how Week 13 went down and a look at everyone's records:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 13

Uh Oh! A couple guys failed to send me their picks. I guess if they send them to me by the end of the day Friday they will still count, except for the Jets-Bills game, of course!

Anyway, here's how I see Week 13:

NY Jets over Bills: I can't see any reason to get excited about the Bills' win last week. Plus, the Jets were tough earlier in the year. I think they win this one.

Philadelphia over Atlanta: My first instinct was to go the other way on this one, but then I remembered I need to start taking some chances. This one isn't a big reach, but it turns out some of the leaders picked Atlanta, so at least it gives me a chance to gain some ground.

Chicago over St. Louis: The Bears are not good, but they're still good enough to beat the Rams right? Right?

Cincinnati over Detroit: The Bengals should run wild in this one.

Pittsburgh over Oakland: Who knows with the Steelers anymore? I mean, I still give them the benefit of the doubt, but I'm starting to wonder.

Tennessee over Indianapolis: This is a popular upset pick, but apparently nobody else in this challenge is looking for an upset pick because I'm the only one who picked the Titans. I think they've got a shot. Not a very good one, but a shot. Like I said, I need to take some chances.

Denver over Kansas City: KC is just not good. I don't think Denver's as good as they looked earlier in the season either.

New England over Miami: The Patriots have a history of stinking it up against the Dolphins, so I might pay for this one.

New Orleans over Washington: The Redskins have a good defense, but the Saints have a REALLY good offense!

Carolina over Tampa Bay: I learned my lesson. Never pick the Panthers ... except against a really bad team like the Bucs.

Houston over Jacksonville: The Texans are still on the verge of being a really good team ... but they've been there for a long time.

San Diego over Cleveland: Ummm, do I need to explain myself here?

Dallas over NY Giants: I don't know. I figured most people would pick the G-men, so I went the other way.

San Francisco over Seattle: The Niners are also on the verge. I like the Alex Smith-Vernon Davis-Frank Gore-Michael Crabtree combination. Seems like a good core of talent to build around. (Yes, I used the word talent in reference to Alex Smith)

Arizona over Minnesota: Again, another chance here. I really hope Kurt Warner plays, because I don't think the Cardinals have a chance without him. But if he plays, this could be a really fun game to watch.

Green Bay over Baltimore: This is me going with my heart to make a risky pick. The group is just about split on this one, so it may or may not work out for me. Either way, I hope the Packers win.

The Best of the Decade

I'm sort of stealing an idea from Derry here, but as long as I provide plenty of links to his blog he won't mind.

I wanted to come up with a clever name for this decade to put in the title, but it turns out I'm not all that witty. I did find a website with a long discussion of what the decade should be called here. My personal favorites were ... the Aughts, the Double-Ohs and the Preteens.

However you name it, this past decade has definitely been one to remember (or forget, depending on your perspective). I'm sure it's that way with any given 10-year period of time, but this particular decade has been EXTREMELY significant for me because of the stages of life I went through.

So, here are my best of each year of the Aughts:

By far, without a doubt, the best thing I did in 2000 was get married to Katie Malkewicz. We had a long, sometimes rocky, dating relationship that started in September of 1996. After a break during the summer of 1997 we both decided we were ready to commit to each other for good and it has been an incredible relationship ever since. Our good friends Derry and Janelle were married three weeks before us and we were all in each other's weddings. That was a lot of fun too. Katie and I went to Key West for our honeymoon - a trip we would never have been able to afford without some very generous gifts from family members. While Key West is not a location we are likely to revisit, the time together was amazing and a perfect way to start our lives together.

The first year of marriage was great, and an awesome learning experience. Katie was still in school at Bethel College and I was working full-time at the Niles Daily Star. My schedule there was unique because I worked in the office from 8-11:30 a.m. and then was off until I had to cover sports events in the evening. Since Katie didn't have to be at Bethel all day every day, it gave us lots of chances to be together during the day. Most of the time we would eat lunch and then take a long afternoon nap. We also used that time to do work around the house or exercise together. We actually ran in our first 5K race together that year. We ran in a 5K in LaPorte in September and Katie struggled to finish, which was unusual. Well, we found out a few weeks later that she was pregnant with our first child, which leads me to ...

Our daughter Hanah was born three days after our second anniversary (May 30). We were both completely unprepared for the amount of change that little girl brought to our lives. I remember not really going out unless we absolutely had to for about six months. We wanted to keep her safe and healthy. We didn't know babies are actually very durable and can withstand a lot of things we thought would really damage her. Despite our worries and uncertainties, it was an amazing first year with our daughter. Obviously, our world revolved around her. We learned a lot about babies and about each other.

As we began to settle into our new roles as father and mother, Katie and I also began to settle into our roles as husband and wife. I feel like we hit sort of a sweet spot during this time and this year was very comfortable. I began to think about my future employment opportunities and decided it was time to move on. The only problem was there were no jobs to be had for me this year.

As the job search continued, finally some doors started to open. I nearly landed a job with Ave Maria Press that would have actually placed me in the Notre Dame Sports Information office. After that near miss, I applied for a position at the South Bend Tribune and, in July, left the Daily Star to become a page designer at the Tribune. Before that move, however, Katie and I discovered that we were expecting another child. This one, like Hanah, was completely unexpected. In fact, we thought we were taking measures to avoid pregnancy. However, God had other plans for us and we began to prepare to become the parents of two children. During the pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed a problem with our baby's kidneys. They were not functioning properly and the doctors weren't sure why. Through prayer and talking with each other, we decided to name our baby David. We saw a parallel between the small physical stature and youth of King David and our son's possible kidney dysfunction. We also wanted to see our son overcome the things that were working against him to become a man after God's own heart and do great things. Our son David was born on October 9. There were no signs of the kidney problems and he has never had a problem since that time.

We welcomed the new year with a daughter going on 3 and a nearly 3-month-old son. Unfortunately, the new year also included a severe downturn in the health of Katie's grandfather. We spent much of the early part of that year at her grandparents' house as he spent his last days in the place where he felt most comfortable. I'll never forget eating a meal of corned beef and cabbage that St. Patrick's Day after Ross Eminger went home to be with Jesus. We told Hanah that her great-grandpa went to heaven. A few days later, as we prepared to go to the viewing and told Hanah that we were going to see grandpa, as we approached the viewing room she said, "Is this heaven?"

2005 also held another job change for me. I stayed at the South Bend Tribune, but moved into the Sports Department to become the lead sports designer. Further changes came our way later that year when we pursued and accepted a position with Bethel College. We became the caretakers at Bethel's Retreat Center on Dewart Lake in Syracuse, Ind., in September. The move forced us to leave a great group of friends in Niles, but God soon brought us another solid group in our new location.

Our first winter at the lake was kind of rough for us. I was commuting to the South Bend Tribune (an hour away) four nights a week. The winter weather made the drive quite an adventure at times. The weather also brought down three trees on the Retreat Center property that I had to clean up. That made for some long, busy, exhausting days. But the weather soon cleared and we got to enjoy our first summer at Dewart Lake. It was great to spend time outside in the sun and fishing on the lake. That summer we also started attending Nappanee Missionary Church where we were reunited with Derry and Janelle. In addition, a full-time graphic designer position came open at the church and I looked into it. I started working at NMC on Halloween that year.

Another long winter at the lake gave way to spring and we were able to take our first family vacation. We went to Orlando for a week. It was the first time our children (Then 4 and 2) flew in an airplane and went to Disney World. They loved both experiences and it was a great time for our whole family.

Shortly after our vacation we found out that my grandmother's health had taken a turn for the worse. She was already in pretty bad shape, but now it looked like the days were numbered. I had the fortunate chance to see her the night she died on May 22. I wrote about my grandmother here. There are not many people who I would have no hesitation about giving them this title, but my grandmother truly was a saint.

Later that year we were blessed with some great opportunities to gain some new friendships. Our neighbors at the lake, the Yoders, became a huge part of our lives. They served as mentors and friends to Katie and me and their kids became a huge part of our kids' lives. We both played on a co-ed softball team with friends from church and Katie got involved with student ministries at church. She attended summer camp and led a freshman small group in the fall.

Another vacation marks this year in my memory. Katie, the kids and I joined my parents and my sister on a 12-day trip to San Diego to visit my grandparents. We spent lots of time with them as well as my dad's half-brother and his family and my good friend Chuck. We went to the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, a Padres game and Hollywood. It was a trip I'll never forget.

In the fall of this year Katie began homeschooling Hanah. It had its ups and downs, but overall we've been very happy with that decision. Hanah loves being at home. She's a quick learner - a bit easily distracted - but homeschooling seems to be a good fit for her.

One other thing I'll always remember about 2008 is the incredible crash of the economy. I'll remember it because of the way it effected the people I love. Whether it was lost jobs, reduced income or just a sense of hopelessness, we all felt the hit. It definitely changed our perspective and served as a wake-up call to many of us to re-prioritize our lives.

This year started off pretty poorly in my opinion. A few days after celebrating the new year (which was a blast with our friends Marty & Mindy) my dad called and told me that my grandfather, his father, had died. This was unexpected and came as quite a shock. My grandpa, who was not my biological grandfather, had done much to influence our family and establish a sense of honor, responsibility and heroism in it. You can read my thoughts about him here.

Things didn't get much better in February when Derry suddenly lost his father in a car accident. I was surprised how hard that loss hit me - probably because I knew how much Derry was hurting and I appreciated his dad so much.

As we all dealt with those losses and the new economic reality we were living in, God was preparing to change our hearts as well. I like to say Derry set me up because he always used to ask me when I was going to get involved with student ministries (he's the Sr. High Pastor at NMC) and I would always respond by saying I just didn't think I was ready. Well, he gave me the book Season of Life early that year and it definitely changed things for me. It convinced me it was time to get involved with something that wasn't all about me. Katie and I decided to go to Summer Camp and even more changes came my way. I received a very specific call from God, jumped into the Kids In Need effort at NMC and committed to lead a small group of freshman guys this school year.

Our kids are at a really fun stage of life (not that their whole lives haven't been fun) where they are becoming quite independent, but still want our attention much of the time. They love to read books, draw, play games and wrestle. They love to visit friends and play with their kids. They are even becoming able to focus on things outside of themselves. In an effort to foster that shift, all four of us are going to be part of NMC's Global Impact Team to Juarez, Mexico, from December 17-22. The mission of the team is to pack and deliver Christmas gift boxes to needy families in the greater Juarez area. It falls right in line with our Kids In Need focus and the priorities we are trying to teach our children.

So, there you have it. The story of my life in the Preteens (2000-2009).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 12 Results

Standings after 12 weeks:

1. Craig Helfrich 127-49
2. Dan Erickson 120-56
3. Tim Emmons 119-57
4. Dan Weiss 118-58
5. Rodney Jernas 115-61
6. Kevin Edwards 114-62
7. Geoff Cocanower 113-63
8. Derry Prenkert 110-66
9. Jason Thompson 109-67
10. Preston Edwards 108-68
(tie) Jeff Simpson 108-68

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 11 results

Craig continues to lead, but the gap is getting smaller. At 113-47, Craig is six games ahead of Tim Emmons and seven ahead of Dan Erickson and me. Rodney Jernas and Kevin Edwards are tied for fifth place at 103-57. Derry Prenkert is alone in seventh and Geoff Cocanower is by himself in eighth. Jeff Simpson, Jason Thompson and Preston Edwards are holding the last three places, respectively.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 11

Every week I can't believe it's this late in the season already. Week 11 holds some very interesting matchups and playoff spots are starting to be won and lost. Here's my picks:

Miami at Carolina - No Ronnie Brown means the Dolphins can't run the Wildcat the way they have been all season. Carolina is looking better each week.

Washington at Dallas - After losing to my Packers last week, I think the Cowboys rebound at home.

Cleveland at Detroit - This is another one of those "who cares?" games. Seriously, is anybody going to watch this one? Games like this are tough to pick, though.

San Francisco at Green Bay - After last week I was tempted to pick the 49ers this week, actually hoping for another Green Bay win. But as a fan, I can't do it. I thought the offense was going to be the Packers' strength this season, but it's starting to look more and more like they're going to have to rely on the defense to win tough games. After abusing an experienced Tony Romo last week, they should be able to mess with Alex Smith a little bit this week too.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City - No way the Steelers lose this one. I just can't see a scenario that leads to a Chiefs' win.

Atlanta at NY Giants - This was a really tough pick for me. Both teams need this one badly - the Giants (5-4) can still win their division while the Falcons (5-4) need every win they can get to try to get a Wild Card spot.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay - The Saints have a legitimate shot to go undefeated in the regular season. This week's a Brees (sorry, I had to do it) and a Week 12 game at home against New England may be the last really tough challenge. They also have to take care of business Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Carolina the rest of the way.

Buffalo at Jacksonville - Things are really bad in Buffalo. Not quite as bad as Cleveland, but really bad.

Indianapolis at Baltimore - Normally I would pick Baltimore in this one, but I'm not picking against the Colts the rest of the way. I think they're THAT GOOD.

Seattle at Minnesota - As easy as it is to dislike Brett Favre, it's hard to deny how great things are working out in Minnesota. They're fun to watch, too.

Arizona at St. Louis - The Cardinals are looking like Super Bowl contenders once again. Of course, that's contingent on getting breaks at the right time and a healthy Anquan Boldin. As much abuse as their running game has taken, I actually think it's shaping up nicely. Wells and Hightower aren't a bad combination.

NY Jets at New England - The Jets seem to be in a slump while the Patriots look like things are really clicking, especially on offense. Look for Bill Belichcik to show why everyone considered him a genius before last week's debacle.

Cincinnati at Oakland - OK, I'm convinced. The Bengals are for real. Sweeping the Ravens and the Steelers earns respect. Oakland hasn't done anything to earn anybody's respect.

San Diego at Denver - This is more of a vote against the Broncos than for the Chargers. I just think Denver's weaknesses are being exposed and now that Kyle Orton is injured, they're even weaker.

Philadelphia at Chicago - Man, what happened to the Bears?

Tennessee at Houston - This one is slightly out on a limb. Trailing by 8 games at this point in the season calls for taking some chances. This isn't a big reach, but I'm the only one who picked the Titans. As long as Chris Johnson is healthy, I feel comfortable taking chances on the Titans!

Monday, November 16, 2009

LIVING differently

It's been awhile since I've written anything of significance on the old blog. It's mostly been NFL Pick 'Em updates. I've been really busy at work and haven't had much time to stop and process a lot of the stuff that's happening.

Now, don't get your hopes up because what I'm about to write may still not be very significant. But it was for me, so I hope it's beneficial to you.

As most of you know, Katie and I have gotten involved with Student Ministries at NMC this past summer and school year. One of the things that everyone involved with Student Ministries at NMC has heard about is the Kids In Need focus. Katie and I are leading Small Groups and have helped with some Kids In Need planning sessions. So, we're invested.

This past weekend was a big one for the Kids In Need effort. Starting with the Silent Auction and the 5KIN on Saturday, continuing with Derry's message Sunday morning and the Baby Walk Sunday night.

Katie and I were to be heavily involved with several of these events. I was going to run the 5KIN and shoot some video while doing so. Both of us were going to share how Kids In Need has impacted us as part of Derry's message and we both wanted to go to the Baby Walk.

On top of all that, Katie was hosting a 24-hour women's retreat called Refresh at the lake.

Well, plans changed.

Our two kids came down with something resembling Croup, starting Thursday night. It's nothing new to our family; it seems like we fight through Croup at leas a couple times each fall/winter. But this affliction was especially inconvenient considering all we had going on.

We planned to have our kids spend the night with their grandparents Saturday night and most of the day Sunday. As Friday night progressed, however, it became apparent that neither of them was well enough to go anywhere, let alone spend the night away from home.

Now, this is the significant part for me: One of the things I was going to talk about during Derry's message was how I've learned that kids right here in our area sometimes don't even have parents that care about them. It's impacted me and I never want my kids to think I don't care about them.

The grandparents were still more than willing to help out with the kids this weekend. They even offered to come to our house and sit with them, make some chicken noodle soup and comfort them. But something inside of me knew that was not a good plan. Something told me it was my job - even though Katie was gone at the retreat - to care for my children.

I tried to fight it. I was tempted to let the grandparents take the kids, even though they didn't want to go and weren't up to it. After all, I had a very good reason for doing it. I had important things to do (5KIN, work around the house and Derry's message).

But then I was reminded that there are kids in my own community who don't even have parents, let alone parents that are willing to take care of them when they're sick. So, I knew it was time for me to let go of what I wanted to do and embrace my role as daddy to those two sick kids.

Once I let go of my agenda, things went incredibly well. I had so much fun with my kids and it was wonderful being the one to comfort them and help them get healthy. We had a great time together and I think they realized that daddy was pretty good at taking care of them.

I don't write this to brag on myself, but to remind myself that it's not about me. The plans I had were for some very significant things, but what I ended up doing was much more significant. I want to always make the right choice, especially when my kids are involved.

I love them. I hope they feel and understand that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 10

Here's my take on Week 10:

San Francisco over Chicago - Mike Singletary comes back to Soldier Field and beats up on his old team.
New Orleans over St. Louis - The line on this one should be 30.
Miami over Tampa Bay - Yes, the Bucs beat the Packers last week, but the Dolphins will win this battle of Florida.
Minnesota over Detroit - The line on this one should be 35.
NY Jets over Jacksonville - Coming off a bye, the Jets get back to their early-season form.
Tennessee over Buffalo - Look out Bills! You got nobody that can catch Chris Johnson!
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati - Steelers bring some sanity back to the AFC North.
Denver over Washington - Broncos are still a good team even though it's been a rough couple weeks for them. Washington is still a bad team.
Atlanta over Carolina - This pick is mainly because I just can't bring myself to believe in the Panthers.
Kansas City over Oakland - Who cares?
Arizona over Seattle - The Cardinals look like they're kind of settling into a rhythm.
Dallas over Green Bay - This pains me to pick against the Packers for the first time this season, but I have to admit that they've got problems - namely the offensive line.
Philadelphia over San Diego - I don't feel good about picking either team here.
Indianapolis over New England - Great game! I give the edge to Indy because it's at home and it's a primetime game.
Baltimore over Cleveland - Ugghhh. That's the sound I make everytime I hear or think about the Browns.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 9 results

Well, we had a bit of a problem last week. As you can see above, there's three guys with yellow letters below their names. Those three did not turn in their picks last week. In order to keep them in the game, they were given a record one game worse than the worse record of those who turned in their picks. So Geoff, Preston and Jason each received a record of 5-8 for Week 9.

Of course, Craig is still in the lead at 92-37. Tim Emmons has taken over second place at 87-42 while I am tied with Dan Erickson for third at 85-44. Derry has made a nice comeback to move into fifth all by himself at 84-45.

As a group, our overall record is 907-512, which is a .639 correct pick percentage. I think we can do better!

Friday, November 6, 2009

So Pretty

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 8

I don't have much time to elaborate on these picks because it's almost 5 and I need to get out of here! As you can see, Jason Thompson's picks didn't make it in for this week. He's on vacation so I'll forgive him.

As for me:
Houston over Buffalo - I really like the Texans. I keep saying that, but it's all I got for picking this game this way!
Chicago over Cleveland - Cleveland is really bad. Just trade one of your quarterbacks already!!!!!!!
Dallas over Seattle - Wouldn't be surprised if I'm wrong here.
Detroit over St. Louis - Two really bad teams. Detroit's at home.
Baltimore over Denver - Somebody's got to beat them eventually and it might as well be the Ravens with the game played in Baltimore.
Indy over San Francisco - I like the Niners but the Colts are just too good.
Miami over NY Jets - This is mainly because I like the Wildcat offense so much.
NY Giants over Philly - Can't see the Giants losing three in a row.
Jacksonville over Tennessee - Will Tennessee be better or worse with Vince Young?
San Diego over Oakland - LaDainian Tomlinson crushes Oakland and just because he's 30 doesn't mean that changes.
Arizona over Carolina - I like the Cardinals more and more every time I watch them.
Green Bay over Minnesota - Obviously the game of the week for me. I don't feel great about my Packers so far and this game is no different. But I do feel that if the Green Bay offensive line can buy Aaron Rodgers a little time the Packers have a good chance. At the very least they've got to give up fewer sacks this time around.
New Orleans over Atlanta - Saints are really good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 7 Results

Week 7 belonged to Dan Erickson as he finished with an 11-2 record, moving him into a tie for second place with Geoff Cocanower and myself, all at 69-34. Craig is holding fast to the No. 1 spot at 77-26.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 7

Week 7 already? It's hard to believe, but here we go:

Green Bay over Cleveland - This was a very easy pick because the Browns are really bad. Plus, you know I love me some Packers!

San Diego over Kansas City - The Chiefs are bad. The Bolts are not bad. Easy pick.

Indianapolis over St. Louis - The Colts may be the best team in the NFL (yes, I just said that) and the Rams may be the worst.

Pittsburgh over Minnesota - GREAT GAME! Tough pick. But the Vikings cannot stay undefeated forever, right? I hope Troy Polamalu is back for the Steelers and picks off Brett Favre.

New England over Tampa Bay - This game is in London, not that it really matters. I think last week's pummeling of the Titans may be a sign of things to come from the Patriots, so I like them to win big this week.

Houston over San Francisco - Really good game. Two teams who are really close to being really really good, but can't seem to get over the hump. Tough pick, but Houston is at home, so that's why I picked the Texans.

Carolina over Buffalo - I can't think of a game involving either of these two teams that I would want to watch.

NY Jets over Oakland - If the Jets are really a good team, they'll rebound from two straight losses against this really bad Raiders team.

Atlanta over Dallas - This one is at Dallas, so it wouldn't surprise me if the Cowboys won, but I think the Falcons are really good.

Cincinnati over Chicago - This was a tough call for me, but the game is at Cincinnati and since the Bengals lost last week to Houston, I think there's some motivation to win this one. Plus I could see Cedric Benson really taking it to his old team.

New Orleans over Miami - Even the Wildcat offense isn't enough for the Fish to beat another team vying for the title of best team in the NFL.

NY Giants over Arizona - The G Men are not a great pass defense, but they're going to put enough pressure on Kurt Warner to keep him in check.

Philadelphia over Washington - This is a pretty bad MNF game, but it's still a division rivalry I guess. The Eagles lost to Oakland last week and are probably going to take out their frustrations on the Redskins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pictures from the last 21 hours

This praying mantis showed up outside the office next to mine just before lunch.

I was just about to pull out of the driveway this morning when I glanced out over the lake and saw this.

After work yesterday I went to see Tim Berkey and check his progress on his car. This guy has put in lots of work and the end is almost in sight!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 6 Results

Rodney Jernas turned in the best performance of Week 6 with a record of 9-5. With that, he climbs into a tie for third place with me (at 59-31) behind Craig Helfrich (67-23) and Geoff Cocanower (60-30). It was a rough week for everybody - nobody saw the Raiders beating Philly, only one picked Buffalo and only two picked Houston to beat Cincinnati.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday evenings

Katie and I have gotten involved with Student Ministries at NMC. As part of that, we each have our own Small Groups that we are leading. I am working with a group of freshmen boys that meets Wednesday nights. Katie's group is junior girls and they meet Sunday nights from 6-8 p.m.

This has been a bit of an adjustment for us just because of the additional items on our weekly schedule. But it has been pretty rough on our kids because it means mommy is gone every Sunday night. She doesn't get home until after they are in bed.

The last few weeks, however, have been a lot of fun for the kids and me. Last week we went to a concert at Grace College. This week we spent time outside riding bikes, playing basketball, playing tag and enjoying a campfire with roasted marshmallows. Here's some pictures:

Friday, October 16, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 10

Here we go again! Week 6 is almost here and the NFL Pick 'Em challenge rolls on. Craig Helfrich has a large lead (5 games) but it's a long season and nobody (not even Preston Edwards - 13 games back) is out of it yet.

So, here's how my Week 6 picks happened:

Cincinnati over Houston - This was a very tough call for me. I find myself rooting for Houston a lot - probably because I spent a lot of money on Andre Johnson in an auction draft. But it's hard to deny what the Bengals have accomplished so far this year.

Green Bay over Detroit - I'm probably going to pick Green Bay every week of the season because I'm a fan, but this week was a no-brainer. I think Detroit is on the right track, but a long way from winning at Lambeau.

Baltimore over Minnesota - This was a very tough call. In the end it came down to not believing the Ravens could lose three games in a row. I think they're too good. But I also think the Vikings are good, so this could be a great game.

New Orleans over NY Giants - I pick these games early in the week, usually Monday or Tuesday. So I'm not sure why I went this way. Maybe it's just because the Saints are at home ... I don't know.

Pittsburgh over Cleveland - The only thing I wasn't sure about on this one is whether to start Hines Ward. I hope he gets in the end zone this week.

Carolina over Tampa Bay - If my kids do something really bad this weekend, the punishment will be making them watch this game.

Washington over Kansas City - Wait, a better punishment would be making them watch this game.

Jacksonville over St. Louis - After getting pounded by Seattle last week, this is just what the Jags need.

Arizona over Seattle - Does anybody know what to make of the Seahawks? I think the Cardinals are tough to pick against when facing mediocre teams. They've just got too many weapons.

Philadelphia over Oakland - The best part of this game may be getting to watch Michael Vick play in mop-up time.

New England over Tennessee - This is scary because Tennessee has got to win a game eventually. It's probably not going to happen this week, though.

NY Jets over Buffalo - I have a feeling the Jets put a whooping on the Bills this week after losing to Miami last week.

Atlanta over Chicago - I'm glad this one's the late game because it should be a great one. I won't be surprised, or even that disappointed, if I'm wrong here.

San Diego over Denver - I will probably regret this one, but Denver's not going undefeated and this is a big divisional game for the Chargers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 5 Results

Well, it was another crazy week in the NFL. Would we expect anything less?

In the NFL Pick 'Em challenge, leader Craig Helfrich did not win the week but did well enough to maintain a comfortable lead. He's at 59-17 and the only competitor with less than 20 losses. Geoff Cocanower remains in second place at 54-22 while I am tied with Tim Emmons and Dan Erickson for third place at 51-25.

Congratulations to Kevin Edwards, Rodney Jernas and Derry Prenkert for 11-3 records in week 5. It took some gutsy calls to do that well (i.e. Cincinnati and Miami).

Friday, October 9, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 5

Well, we're back at it for Week 5 of the NFL season. Is it really Week 5 already?

This week's schedule of games is not very exciting. Unlike last week, there's not really any MUST-SEE games, especially since the Packers aren't playing!!!

Anyway, here's my explanation for why I picked the way I did:

Buffalo over Cleveland - This is not going well for Eric Mangini. Winless, and now you trade away your best receiver (even with a bad case of the drops, he's the Browns' best option). Sadly, I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. Hopefully the Browns will have the guts to trade either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson away and get some value in return.
Dallas over Kansas City - KC is bad. Dallas lost last week and is probably mad about it.
Minnesota over St. Louis - After watching the Vikings last week, I'm convinced. They are for real. The Minnesota pass rush is really good (Green Bay's poor offensive line made them look phenomenal) and the Vikings have a really diverse offense as well. They're fun to watch.
NY Giants over Oakland - Watch for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to run wild against the Raiders.
Philly over Tampa Bay - Philly's a good team that's getting it's superstar quarterback back from an injury. Deshawn Jackson is shaping up to be everything he was expected to be coming out of college. And look out for the Wildcat!!!!
Pittsburgh over Detroit - Detroit is getting better for sure, but not enough to beat the reigning champions. If Troy Polamalu is back the Lions are really in trouble!
Carolina over Washington - Two very disappointing teams. What a terrible game this is.
Baltimore over Cincinnati - I bet Ray Lewis is mad after losing last week, especially when his team gets penalized for bumping into Tom Brady. Watch out Carson Palmer - you've got more than a little bump coming your way this week!
San Francisco over Atlanta - I like the Niners a lot. This is probably the best game of the week and a tough one to pick. If the Niners win this, they are in really good shape to win their division.
Jacksonville over Seattle - The Jags might just be finding their chemistry.
Arizona over Houston - This was another tough pick and this would probably be a fun game to watch. I like the Cardinals to have a big week coming off a bye.
New England over Denver - This one would be fun to watch just because it's Josh McDaniels with his undefeated team facing his old team that's still trying to separate themselves from the pack.
Indianapolis over Tennessee - OK, last week when the Titans got slammed by the Jags I told Derry that it didn't matter who they played this week I was picking against them. Turns out it was the easiest pick of the week. Now watch the Titans pull off the amazing upset and prove me wrong!
NY Jets over Miami - Big game in the division, but that's about it. The Jets look like Super Bowl contenders and the Dolphins look like last year was a fluke. I bet Braylon Edwards catches a TD in this game ... just a hunch!

Happy Birthday to my best buddy!

Today is my son David's fifth birthday! I cannot believe he's five already.

Over the past year David and I have become really great buddies. We do a lot together. He rides with me while I mow. He helps me pick up leaves and sticks. We play football, baseball and basketball together. We build all kinds of stuff with Legos and Lincoln Logs.

Lately, David has gotten really excited about Spiderman, as you'll see in the pictures below.

David is an incredible blessing in my life and I am very thankful for him.

Happy Birthday buddy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 4 Results

Well, Craig continues to separate himself from the pack with a 12-2 performance in Week 4. He's now 49-13 overall, well ahead of Geoff Cocanower, who's all alone in second place at 45-17. I am alone in third at 43-19 then there's a three-way tie for fourth between Tim Emmons, Dan Erickson and Jeff Simpson - all at 42-2.

Craig has a commanding lead, but it's a long season and it only takes a couple bad weeks to bring him back to the pack!

Friday, October 2, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 4

Last week was a pretty good one for the whole group. We averaged 11 correct picks. Things are tight at the top and there are some tough picks this week.

Here's why I picked the way I did:

Chicago over Detroit - The Bears are rolling pretty well and I think it's way too early to predict a Lions' winning streak.

Cincinnati over Cleveland - I'm worried about this one only because everyone picked the Bengals. But it's hard to pick Cleveland with as bad as they've played.

Indianapolis over Seattle - While I think the Colts play better on the road, they're too good to get beat at home by Seattle.

NY Giants over Kansas City - The Chiefs are bad.

Baltimore over New England - In my mind this is the game of the week. And the best part is it could be an offensive shootout. I think both teams are strong on offense and the Ravens are probably better on defense. I'm wacko for Flacco!

Washington over Tampa Bay - This was a tough one just because it's hard to figure out which team is worse.

Tennessee over Jacksonville - The Titans have to win this week, right? There's no way this team goes 0-4, right? Right? Please!

Houston over Oakland - I like the Texans. They are fun to watch. Oakland has a quarterback who weighs nearly 300 pounds. That's not very fun to watch.

New Orleans over NY Jets - I believe in the Jets' defense, but not against the Saints' offense.

Miami over Buffalo - T.O.'s destruction of the Bills continues.

San Francisco over St. Louis - The 49ers are on the verge of something special. The defense is really good. Neither of those statements applies to the Rams.

Dallas over Denver - Even if Marion Barber and Felix Jones don't play, I think the Cowboys are better than Denver.

Pittsburgh over San Diego - This is another great game. It's at Pittsburgh and that's probably the biggest factor in my pick.

Green Bay over Minnesota - I'm one of only two that picked the Packers, but I'm looking at it as an opportunity to gain some ground. I really think this game is an even matchup, so I had to go with my heart.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let the Countdown Begin!

Only ...

2 days until my father turns 60 years old!

3 days until I get to spend an entire weekend alone with my wife!

6 days until the Packers get to play against Brett Favre on Monday Night Football!

7 days until I get to spend the day golfing with my dad here!

10 days until my son turns 5 years old!

Lots of fun stuff I'm really looking forward to.

NFL Pick 'Em Week 3 Results

As you can see, it was a better week for the contestants overall. That's not to say there weren't some disappointments, but on average we did much better than we did in Week 2.

Craig had another strong week (13-3) and holds a two-game lead over Geoff. Jeff Simpson is alone in third place while Tim Emmons and I are tied for fourth.

Not surprisingly, the most common incorrect pick this week was the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game. Also surprisingly, five people correctly picked the Detroit-Washington game.

Friday, September 25, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 3

Didn't do so well last week (8-8) but still in sixth place, only three games back. So, here's why I picked the way I did this week:

Detroit over Washington: This is me out on a limb. Last week I said the Lions would have to win a game before I picked them, but I didn't know how badly the Redskins would start. Since it's in Detroit I'm going to say Detroit ends its losing streak.

Green Bay over St. Louis: I think I've made it clear that I'm a Packers fan, but even if I wasn't, I'd still pick the Packers this week because the Rams are really bad. Also, losing to two bad teams in a row is just more than I could handle as a Packers fan.

Minnesota over San Francisco: I still am not sold on the Vikings, but it's hard to pick against Brett Favre winning his first home game with Minnesota. I would not be surprised, however, if the 49ers come in and shut the Vikings down.

New England over Atlanta: I still live in a world where the Patriots don't lose two games in a row. Maybe I'm living in the past.

Tennessee over NY Jets: I still cannot believe the Titans are 0-2 and cannot pick them to go 0-3. Logic tells me the Jets are going to win, but my gut tells me this is a letdown for the Jets after beating the Patriots last week.

Philly over Kansas City: Good team vs. bad team - simple as that.

NY Giants over Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers start Byron Leftwich at QB. Need I say more?

Baltimore over Cleveland: I love the Ravens! They have a really good defense, a strong offense and they're playing against a team that has neither of those.

Houston over Jacksonville: Watching Houston against Tennessee last week was really fun (especially since I have Chris Johnson and Andre Johnson on the same fantasy team). I was very impressed with the Texans' passing game. And that Mario Williams guy at defensive end is turning out to be a pretty wise decision as the No. 1 pick in his draft (over Reggie Bush).

New Orleans over Buffalo: The Saints just score too many points. I don't think I can name one defensive player for the Saints.

Chicago over Seattle: Does beating Pittsburgh make the Bears for real? I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure a Seneca Wallace-led Seahawks team isn't good enough to beat them. By the way, how about that Johnny Knox kid?

San Diego over Miami: Unless the Wildcat gets 'em!

Pittsburgh over Cincinnati: NO WAY the Bengals win two in a row and the Steelers lose two in a row!

Oakland over Denver: I don't believe in the Broncos. I don't believe in the Raiders either, but somebody's got to win.

Indianapolis over Arizona: This is going to be a really fun Sunday night game! With all the passing that is sure to happen, it might be a really long game too. Fantasy-wise, I need big games from Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Tim Hightower ... reality-wise, it's probably not going to happen.

Dallas over Carolina: Am I the only one who is starting to turn against the Cowboys? Still, I cannot pick a team starting Jake Delhomme at QB!

El Bandido

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Drive to Remember

Warning: The contents of this post are very random.

I just got back from a drive to Goshen and here's some things I saw while driving, and my subsequent thoughts:

  • A couple guys working with chain saws. My thought: Why is my stomach feeling all queasy?
  • A man with no shirt riding his lawn mower and holding a bottle of beer. My thoughts: I wonder if that was part of his dream? I wonder if that is part of the American dream? (Not sure why I thought that)
  • A truck spraying a new white line on State Road 19, followed by a truck with a flashing sign that said, "Wet paint," "Stay off line," followed by a garbage truck that was consistently moving over to the line and spreading the wet paint through the southbound lane. My thoughts: Can he not read? Does he not care? Is he unable to control his truck? Is he having fun?
I told you it was really random.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Me vs. Chain Saw

Saturday was supposed to be a heavy work day. We planned to take down a couple trees at my grandmother-in-law's house in Mishawaka. Then I was supposed to go home and spend the afternoon mowing at our house.

Well, things didn't go according to plan.

Shortly after dropping a small tree I was working with a chain saw chopping up the limbs. I got a little too confident and grabbed a branch with my left hand while using the saw to cut a small twig off the side of the branch. As I cut the twig something made the saw bounce back and it bumped my left index finger. I was wearing gloves and thought it just ripped my gloves. But then I looked closer and noticed some blood. I quickly removed the glove and saw the damage. My finger looked pretty mangled and I ran inside to rinse it off and get it wrapped up. It didn't take long to decide that I needed to go to the emergency room.

The doctor said he couldn't stitch the wound because the cut was too jagged. So he covered it with some strips, put it in a splint and bandaged it. I have to wear the splint for 7-10 days so I don't bend the knuckle and reopen the wound.

So, I am fine. It could easily have been a lot worse. I learned a lesson: Never get too confident when working with powerful equipment; Accidents can happen very quickly; Always wear the proper safety equipment; Be thankful for every day and your health as long as you have it.

Thanks to everybody who has asked how I'm doing. I appreciate the concern. Unless there are any complications, this will likely be my only post on this subject. Hope this answered all your questions.

NFL Pick 'Em Week 2 Final

Nobody had as good a week as Craig had in Week 1, but Geoff Cocanower made a serious move by going 12-4. Craig is still in the lead at 24-8, Cocanower and Jeff Simpson are tied for second at 23-9, Preston Edwards and Tim Emmons are tied for fourth at 22-10 and I am alone in fifth at 21-11.

I have to make a public apology to all those who picked the Bears. I was wrong.

Friday, September 18, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 2

That handy little graphic above spells out all the necessary information for Week 2 of the NFL Pick 'Em challenge, but I'm going to go into a little more detail on my picks for this week.

Atlanta over Carolina: Mostly, this is a home-field pick, but I also cannot fathom picking a team quarterbacked by Jake Delhomme to win.

Minnesota over Detroit: I was a bit surprised at how easily the Vikings handled the Browns last week and, while I'm still not convinced that Minnesota is really good, the Lions are not going to be much of a match for them this week. The Lions will have to win a game before I pick them.

Green Bay over Cincinnati: I wrote on Facebook the other day how I am enjoying having a team to cheer for this season, but there's a sense of nervousness that I didn't expect. This game has me very nervous, mostly because everyone in the challenge picked the Packers. But I really liked a lot of what I saw from Green Bay last week, especially on defense.

Tennessee over Houston: As much as I think Houston is a team on the verge of being really good, I can't see the Titans losing at home after getting beat last week.

Kansas City over Oakland: This is one of those games where you wish you didn't have to choose a winner. Oakland's defense is probably better, but Kansas City's offense is probably more potent. This is a home-field advantage pick.

New England over NY Jets: Here's another one I don't feel real confident about. The Patriots usually step up in big games, especially when Tom Brady is in the game, so that's how I made this choice.

New Orleans over Philly: The ONLY reason I didn't agonize over this decision is because Donovan McNabb is not playing for the Eagles. The Saints are fun to watch and hard to stop.

Washington over St. Louis: The Rams are just bad and I think Washington would have a shot at winning any other division of the NFC.

Jacksonville over Arizona: Another tough one to pick because I really like Arizona. I also think the Jags are pretty good and won't take a second consecutive loss, especially on their home field.

Buffalo over Tampa Bay: Hopefully the Bills don't deflate after such a gutsy performance against the Patriots last week. Who plays for Tampa?

Seattle over San Francisco: A slight underdog heading into this game, I have a feeling that the Seahawks are in for another good season if they can stay healthy. I also like the 49ers, but Seattle's defense is pretty solid.

Pittsburgh over Chicago: I cannot believe three people in the challenge picked the Bears here. I mean, the Steelers took care of business, albeit in overtime, last week against a good Titans team. Jay Cutler threw four interceptions last week and Brian Urlacher is out for the season. What about this makes you think the Bears will win?

Baltimore over San Diego: If I had to choose an AFC team to cheer for right now, it would be the Ravens. I also like the Chargers so this was a tough pick. I am very impressed with Joe Flacco and the Baltimore defense is always stingy.

Denver over Cleveland: The Browns' pathetic showing last week made this an easy pick.

Dallas over NY Giants: The ONLY reason I felt safe picking the Cowboys is because the game is in Dallas.

Indianapolis over Miami: Just playing the odds here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's a choice

This is me forcing myself to write. I keep saying I want to do it, but then I don't do it. So, here I am writing even when I don't feel like it.

That's sometimes how I feel about a lot of things. I have to force myself. Exercise, for example, never really feels like a fun thing to do. But since it's good for me, I should probably force myself to do it. Resisting temptation is never the easy way out. If it was, it wouldn't be called temptation. But forcing myself to resist is always the best choice.

Last night, Geoff Cocanower brought a strong message to the students of NMC Senior High out of I John 3:16.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Geoff talked about true friendship and true community among brothers and sisters in Christ. I have several guys I consider brothers, but I'm not convinced we're living in true community. I mean, would we really lay down our lives for each other? DO we lay down our lives for each others?

Here's what I realized: It's a choice.

Yep, simple as that. I can choose to be a true friend and lay my life down for whoever I want. Anytime I want to do it. It's not the easy way out and it's not the most appealing thing in the world, but if I claim to love someone it's the best choice. Obviously I would lay down my life for my family and I live in true community and friendship with them, but how many others are there? How many should there be?

I know we're not called to go it alone in this life and that includes more than my family. I need brothers! Guys who will lay down their lives for me and who I'm ready to lay my life down for.

So now I've got to force myself to do it. It's a choice.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 1 Final

As most of the competitors predicted, the Patriots and Chargers won last night, giving Craig Helfrich the lead with a 14-2 record. To only miss two games on the opening week of the NFL season is pretty impressive. Three players - Preston Edwards, Dan Erickson and myself - are just one game behind and Jeff Simpson is two games back.

Here's the final standings after the first week of games:

Monday, September 14, 2009

NFL Pick 'Em Week 1

Prior to tonight's two Monday Night Football games, here's where the field stands:

You may have to click on the picture to make it big enough to read.
Craig is the leader in the clubhouse and will win Week 1 because everybody that's close to him picked the same two teams as he did in tonight's games.
Some interesting trends: Everybody picked correctly in the Dallas-Tampa Bay game and the NY Giants-Washington game. Only one picked against the Colts and only two picked the 49ers.
I'll update and post the final Week 1 results tomorrow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2009 NFL Pick 'Em

Last year, three of my friends and I started picking NFL games halfway through the season. This year, there's a few more participants and we're going to pick all the way through the regular season and postseason.

Each week I'll try to list the games with the lines (just for fun, of course) and then each person's winners.

So, here's the first week of NFL games:
Tennessee (+6.5) at Pittsburgh
Miami (+4) at Atlanta
Denver (+4) at Cincinnati
Minnesota (-4.5) at Cleveland
Jacksonville (+7) at Indianapolis
Detroit (+13.5) at New Orleans
Dallas (-6) at Tampa Bay
Philadelphia (-2.5) at Carolina
Kansas City (+13.5) at Baltimore
NY Jets (+5) at Houston
Washington (+6.5) at NY Giants
San Francisco (+6) at Arizona
St. Louis (+8.5) at Seattle
Chicago (+3.5) at Green Bay
Buffalo (+11) at New England
San Diego (-9) at Oakland

Now, here's the picks:

Dan Weiss
New Orleans
NY Giants
Green Bay
New England
San Diego

Craig Helfrich
New Orleans
NY Jets
NY Giants
Green Bay
New England
San Diego

Kevin Edwards
NY Jets
NY Giants
St. Louis
San Diego

Geoff Cocanower
New Orleans
Kansas City
NY Jets
NY Giants
San Francisco
New England
San Diego

Tim Emmons
New Orleans
NY Giants
New England
San Diego

Dan Erickson
New Orleans
NY Giants
Green Bay
New England
San Diego

Jason Thompson
New Orleans
NY Giants
New England
San Diego

Jeff Simpson
New Orleans
NY Jets
NY Giants
New England
San Diego

Derry Prenkert
New Orleans
NY Giants

Rodney Jernas
NY Giants
St. Louis
New England
San Diego

Preston Edwards
New Orleans
NY Giants
San Francisco
St Louis
New England
San Diego