Sunday, January 28, 2007

It could happen.

President George Bush, under pressure from the Iraq Study Group to open negotiations with Iran, today named a lead negotiator whom he said is already on the way to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Jack Bauer, a freelance intelligence contractor and former agent with the Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU), has been dispatched to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s office for a “diplomatic listening session” aimed at determining the best way to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and shipment of arms to terrorists in Iraq.

“For some reason, people like to talk to Jack Bauer,” said Mr. Bush. “He’s a straight-shooter, good at establishing mutual understanding and I think he and President Ahmadinejad will come to a rapid agreement on terms favorable to global peace and security.”

Although Iranian government officials said no negotiations with the U.S. had been scheduled, Mr. Bush described the talks as a “unilateral diplomatic initiative that will be under way before they know it.”


Saturday, January 27, 2007


If you could be successful at any career on earth, what would you do? Relax your brain a minute and humor me. I mean if you could have the talent to do anything at all and be the best at it, what would you do? President of the United States? Architect, engineer, movie star? I love that question! I think the answer tells something about a person but I am not sure exactly what. I just like to think about it. It makes one wonder why one would want such a career. Is it for the money, fame, power? Maybe you just want to have the most fun? Or maybe it is a combination of it all? There's nothing wrong with that, in fact, if all you wanted in you dream career was a lot of money or a lot of power there might be something wrong there. Even if all you wanted was a lot of fun, that might not be the best thing either. So probably your dream career should be a combination of money, fame, power and fun and probably several other things, too.

I have to admit that my dream job leans heavily to the "fun" side. Maybe it is because I have never had a lot of the other things and I do not know how much I would enjoy them. Money is nice but money is just a tool for happiness. I have never had any kind of fame but I can imagine some serious drawbacks and power would be nice but with power comes corruption and greed and who has time for all of that drama? Boys just want to have fun! Sure, my dream job is accompanied by some of that stuff but it also has other benefits such as self-expression and the ability to help others enjoy themselves as well. Also, as long as we are dreaming I would want my dream job to remain balanced and not become something that brings too much money, fame or power. That might be hard, though, if I were the best!

I remember going to see Garth Brooks in the height of his career at Reunion Arena back sometime in the nineties. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. It was incredible not so much because I was such a Garth Brooks fan but because of the whole experience. The entire stadium was filled to capacity. Not a person there was sitting down the whole show and everyone was singing along to every song as loud as they could. Garth was singing and performing like there was no tomorrow and I thought that must be the greatest feeling! He was telling stories with his music and the crowd was just so into it! They were eating out of the palm of his hand. That was when I knew. I knew...that was never going to happen to me. But I could dream about it!

Even years before that concert I think I was being prepared to have this dream. While I have always been a country music fan, the eighties were the golden years (of my life) for rock music. Not just any rock but especially for the heavy-metal hair bands. If you do not know what a hair band is just think about eighties rock for a second. Rock 'n rollers have always had long hair (part of the rebellion thing) but the eighties were the time to have really long, really "big" hair. It was great! Not that I ever had hair like that. By the time I could make that decision to have long hair, I started losing my hair. It was probably for the best. But I could dream!

When one thinks about eighties rock and the great bands of the era, several groups come to mind. Aerosmith, AC/DC, and ZZ Top are all ubiquitous choices for great eighties rock but the greatest, without a doubt...Van Halen!! Yeah, Dude, they rocked!! See, it's coming back to me and making me want to say "Dude"! Eddie and Alex Van Halen with Michael Anthony and of course, David Lee Roth. Yes, they were still good with Sammy Hagar doing vocals but Van Halen just was not the same without David Lee. The scratchy voice, the attitude, the outfits-what a character! Who has not sung along with Dave belting out "Jump" or "Panama" or played air drums along with " Eruption"? Dude, that's fun! I even used to try to do that spread-eagle jump thing that Roth used to do off of the stage. I never could pull it off like he did maybe because I was not wearing leather pants. But I could dream about it!

I have always loved to sing although I am not good at it. I do not know how to read music and I do not have the voice for it. But that is my dream career. No, I am not going on that stupid "American Idol" because I know I do not have the talent but I will continue to sing. We have an extremely talented musician at our church that leads our worship time every Sunday. I am very proud to call Mel my friend as he is awesome at everything musical. I am sure that he could go somewhere else and make a lot more money and have a lot more prestige than he does at our church but for whatever reason he and his wife choose to stay with us at Hulen Street Baptist. Sunday morning worship time is my favorite time of the week because not only does it not matter that I can't sing but I get to truly worship God in a way that I only get at that time. No, one does not have to be in church to worship but one would surely miss out on a very special time found when worshipping with friends and family who have come to speak to and hear from Holy God. Now I do not know that even Mel could do the spread-eagle jump off the stage wearing leather pants like David Lee Roth nor would I recommend that he try but I would rather be worshipping with Mel and the rest of my Hulen Street family than even seeing Roth do it. There is even talk of an upcoming reunion tour with the original Van Halen getting back together and that would be fun but you will definitely find me singing at my church every Sunday. I look forward to Heaven when I will have a perfect voice but until then I will just have to dream.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A visionary...

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

-Winston Churchill
May 13, 1940

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is it really necessary?

Are you spoiled? I am spoiled. I am very spoiled and I just recently found out just how spoiled I am. I just spent eight days in Managua, Nicaragua teaching English to some of the neatest people I have ever met. I went with some dear friends from my church led by Jody and Trisha Kennedy on a mission trip partly to teach English but mainly to make friends "for the sake of eternity" as my pastor says. It was an eye-opening trip in many ways including showing me what it means to live and live abundantly.

I have been on several trips with Jody to various places including Mexico, Germany, and several different prisons and every time I go I come back considerably more blessed than anybody I talked to while there and with an appreciation for the effort that Jody puts out to make it a success. I told Jody that I would go anywhere with him and if he said we needed to go to Mount Everest to teach the Sherpas English then I would go buy a coat. The real reason that we went to Nicaragua was to tell the people about Jesus but we offered an English class to make it worth it for them to come hear us. If one would think that to be sneaky or deceptive let me assure one that this was an incredibly professional English course that was well-planned and very informative. The people really learned English no matter what level of knowledge they had and we were trained to do it. And, yes, the people I taught now speak English like a redneck! I taught them "y'all" but "Git 'r Done" was difficult to explain!

Managua is the capital of Nicaragua and as such the residents are far better off financially than most of the rest of the country due to better job opportunities. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere next to Haiti, though, so "better off" ain't so great. Most of the people in town were fairly well-dressed but the houses were pathetic structures made from cinder blocks and corrugated tin. We stayed at the local baptist church and did not have time to go very far from there except for a couple of hours one day when we drove about an hour to visit the children's home outside of town. A family in our church provided Christmas stockings to all thirty-eight kids in the home and I wish you could have seen those kids' faces. It was worth the trip! If you have ever seen a prisoner or homeless person or anyone else who never gets a gift finally receive one you know that they do not open it right away. These kids would just walk around with their stockings unopened relishing the fact that they had a gift. It was very humbling. Humiliating might even be the better word.

At the church we slept on cots in non-air conditioned rooms with a couple of fans blowing. It was not too bad at night as it would drop to about seventy-five degrees overnight which is pretty good for sleeping. The mice, spiders, ants and flies seemed to like it! It did not take long for me to miss my bed back home that was filled with pillows, blankets, comforter and beautiful wife but I slept very soundly while there. During the day it would reach about ninety degrees which is not the hottest I have been but not very comfortable. You would think that a cold shower would feel good but they have no hot water anywhere and I remember the first shower I took there. I remember thinking that there was no way I could take showers all week without any hot water and I thought shaving would be impossible. I would love to be able to tell you that I finally started enjoying the cold water but that would not be correct.

In the eight days we were there we made many new friends and came to see many of them start a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. I will never forget the way that they were all always smiling and happy. It made me wonder about what it takes to be happy. As a Christian, I believe I know what it takes to have joy, but I am still trying to understand happiness. These people have very little in the way of material goods. They barely have the basics much less the affluence we enjoy in the United States. It made me realize that the vast majority of the "stuff" that I have is just really not necessary. It is not necessary to survive and it is not necessary for happiness. John 10:10 talks about having an abundant life. I realize now that it never says anything about air conditioning or hot water.

Nic Pics

Most of the group from Jody Kennedy International ready to eat some gallo pinto!

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This is one of the three English classes we taught. Danny and Donny are the other two guys from the U.S.

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This is Sadie and Nazareth. Sadie and I both just fell for her!

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This is Nazareth. I have never wanted to adopt a kid until I met her. Just precious!

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Just us kids.

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The cots on which we slept had mattresses made of rags.

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A house across from the church.

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Leaving the children's home.

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These are houses.

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Christmas stockings at the children's home.

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Sadie with kids from the children's home.

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This poor little child just walked up by herself outside the children's home. Breaks my heart every time I see it.

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You don't see many fat horses or dogs there.

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They make the ever-popular cinder blocks at this business.

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This is a typical scene.

"24" holes in my head

The fact that what I am about to write is considered blasphemy in many circles today just proves my overall point. Here goes: Fox Television's hit show "24" with Kiefer Sutherland is unwatchable. Yes, you read correctly. Unwatchable. I have tried. I really have. Can't do it. Am I the only one in the United States that has multiple brain cells and realizes that almost everything the hero Jack Bauer does is physically impossible? Am I missing something? Was Jack in a plane crash and the government spent six million dollars to make him bionic? Does he squeeze open an oversized can of spinach before each episode? Come on! OK, if you do not agree with me just watch the next episode and think to yourself, "Self, have I ever heard of anybody ever doing what Jack just did? Do I think I could do that even with extensive training? Wouldn't this show work better if it were animated?"

I am fully prepared to be scorned and shunned by neighbors and friends for these points of view and that is okay with me. If you like the show we probably do not have much in common anyhow. I am not saying that I am any better or smarter it's just that I like shows that are at least somewhat believable. I also like some shows that are not believable but they are all cartoons. When I watch the Simpsons I don't worry about Homer actually blowing up the Springfield nuclear plant. It is a stupid cartoon! Part of the reason why I would not watch The Da Vinci Code is because part of it is true and/or possible and part of it is completely fiction. If it were animated I might watch it because animation tells me that we're just having fun. Anything can happen to a cartoon character and it is okay. It is a stupid cartoon. But when Jack Bauer saves the world from terrorist nukes every episode with his MacGyver-like skills and then I have to hear about how great it was from everybody from my neighbor to Rush Limbaugh, for Pete's sake, sometimes I wish Jack would just shoot me 24 times! Oh, and anybody with seven names (Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland) can't be taken seriously!