2008 Year in Words Awards

For my end of the year blog post, I wanted to post something unique and significant. This is the time of year where everybody is writing their "Best-Of" lists, talking about such topics as movies, music, books, and cultural happenings. So I am going to do my own year-end review....heretofore called the "Year in Words Awards" (or YIWA). So without further ado, my awards to the years best, worst, most unique, overused, and misunderstood words.

2008 Worst Word - Frienemy
Used countless times, especially on television, I think this word was first used by Paris Hilton...which gives even more credence to it's "Worst" award. It is a combination of both friend and enemy used to describe someone who either is a friend or an enemy, I can't discern which. This is the most nonsensical word ever! Either someone is a friend, or they or an enemy. I mean Tom wasn't both a friend AND an enemy of Jerry. He was simply an enemy. Similarly, Bears aren't a friend and enemy of picnicking park patrons! You get the idea. So congratulations Frienemy. You win by being a loser!

2008 Most Overused Word - Crisis
One need only to turn on the local news for 5 seconds to hear this word used multiple times. Everything is a crisis. There is the financial crisis, the housing crisis, the car company crisis, oil crisis, the crisis in the middle east, ad naseum. I'm not saying these things aren't real. I'm just saying we don't have to hear it over and over. So here's to you Crisis, for scaring the entire nation into an utter frenzy, freezing the housing market, destroying our economy, driving gas prices to an all-time high and eventually forcing us to drive imports!

2008 Best Foreign Language Word - Tov
This word means "good" in Hebrew. Other nominees included Hola (hello) and Bano (bathroom) from Spanish, shalom (peace) from Arabic, Je m'appelle (my name is) from French and lasagna (lasagna) from Italian. Ultimately the winner went to the only other language I currently use on a weekly basis, and that's only because of school.

2008 Most Maddening Word - Bailout
"I mismanaged my bank!" "Here, have some taxpayers cash!"
"I drove my car company in the ground!" "Here have some taxpayers cash!"
"I'm Barney Frank and I have a speech impediment. I think I'll take some taxpayer cash"
"I have consumer debt" "Here have some government cash that your children's children will have to pay back!"
I have a sneaky feeling bailouts are gonna come back to haunt us!

2008 Most Misused Word - Care
This word is most misused by Alabamians, particularly in the phrase "I don't CARE to." For instance, if I looked at Andy Alabamian and said "Man I sure could use some help doing this job that is too hard for me to do by myself" he most likely would look back at me and say "Well, I don't CARE to help you", which in ever other state in our great country means "I can't help you, you're on your own" But, alas in Alabama, that means "I WILL help you"! Who knew!?!? So, I'd like to give the award to CARE and I'd like to tack on that if it could exchange itself for MIND (as in "I don't mind helping you") it would make things a whole lot clearer for those of us not from Alabama!

2008 Best Monosyllabic Word - Hey
Now I know what your thinking, this word can also be used with two or three syllables, especially in the deep south, or when used in the joke "What does a gay horse eat?" (haaayyyyyy). But, this word SHOULD only be one syllable, and can be used in a variety of scenarios, like greeting someone, showing excitement when you receive a gift you like, or in telling someone to get their grubby hands off the last piece of cake that you already claimed!

2008 Best Multisyllable Word - Pseudoantidisestablishmentarianism
Apparently this word means "False opposition to the withdrawal of State supported church" but I'm sure you knew that already! Don't know that I've ever heard this word used in a sentence. I dare you to try in the comments section!!

2008 Best Hyphenated Word - Debt-Free
This word is the best for personal reasons. Though we didn't quite make it in 2008, Karen and I will make our LAST payment in January, and become totally debt free (except for the house!) 2009 is the year of NO PAYMENTS!!!!

2008 Most Meaningful Word - Sovereignty
This word constantly pops up in my life. It is a key attribute of God that is clearly seen over and over in scripture, and in my daily life. I can't seem to get passed it! I don't want to! Instead I am completely thankful for it! Left up to me, I'd wreck my own life...and yours too! So we can both be thankful that God is in complete control....all the time!

Finally, the most coveted YIWA category is......drum roll please......pppppprrrrrrrrrrr.........The Word of the Year (year..year..year).

2008 Word of the Year - Abysmal
Defined by Webster as "immeasurably low or wretched" one might find this word an odd choice for Word of the Year, what with its negative connotation. However, never has a word had such profound effect on the human language. Well, maybe not, but it was a small inside joke mid-year in the Evans family.

*So I was working on this a few days back in effort to post it by today. Well when I opened my browser today, there on the news section was a headline "Top 10 Words of 2008". So, regretably, my post isn't as unique as I thought it would be. However, my list is much different from theirs, so I get some creative points right?*
Happy New Year everyone! May 2009 be a great one for you all!

All The Family Secrets

Christmas 2008 has now officially come and gone! The day of and after Christmas always seem to be a bit depressing...always kind of a let down. All the preparation, planning, partying and other p-words make for the biggest celebration of the year. And it is quite a worthy celebration. But at the end of it all, it is hard to see it go.

This year was especially unique for us as we were in Alabama on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Karen worked both of those nights. However, we went home the weekend before Christmas, so we celebrated early. So Christmas Eve and day felt like other days for the most part. Karen worked while I slept, and I watched 4 movies and played video games while she slept.

We did have a great time at home this year, and I am very thankful for our families who rearranged their schedules so that we could all be together! This year more than ever I was reminded of what a great family I have. Each year I think I grow to respect and love my parents more and more. We have always had a great time together and still do. They are way too generous with us on Christmas. I love the fact that they go all out for this time of year. Every corner of the house is decorated, Mom's cooking is still out-of-this-world good, and you should just be a fly on the wall to see the stuff Dad puts in our "stockings" (which have now become these medium sized gift bags filled with individually wrapped goodies and necessities...though I gotta say, it's not too good when you put whoppers and Dove soap in the same bag....let's just put it this way, one of those items taste like the other...and I've not eaten soap in a while!). It's always good to be in the house with the folks, my sis and her hubby, and of course my wife.

I was also reminded this year of how thankful I am for my in-laws! It is unlike any other experience I've ever had, getting to know and love people who you aren't related to by blood, but who are just as much family now as your own family. My in-laws are really amazing people whom I love dearly. They shower us with gifts...again...too much. And the spread of goodies there this year probably tipped me over the 200 lb. range! The more I'm with her folks, I see where Karen gets a lot of her personality and ways of doing things. It's neat to pick out those traits...because much of what I love about her she gets from her mom or dad. They treat me like one of their own as well. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but I am very thankful that God, in his providence, saw fit to put Karen and I together, and that he allowed me to be a part of the Cleaveland family.

So that's the big secret! I have the greatest family in the world. Come to think of it, as much as I'd like to deny it sometimes (I don't know why) I have the greatest life in the world. I have a great job, an amazing wife, a wonderful family, and really nice house, everything I need and most anything I want, I have hope in Jesus Christ and have the most awesome privilege to serve him in his church, we have a crazy-yet-entertaining cat, Karen has a super nice job with people who have really invested in her and her future...I mean...seriously, the next time I complain someone should slap me..scratch that...punch me in the face..really hard!

I'll just close by saying that as 2008 comes to a close, I'm thankful. God has been abundantly good. He could snatch it all away and would still be more than worthy of praise. Come to think of it, he could have not done one other thing besides send Jesus and he would still be worthy of the highest praise. May his name be made great, may it be made known in all the world, and may it be lifted high in my life!

Update: The Christmas Play

Sorry it has been a while since I've last posted. My first reason is that I was too busy with the Christmas play to sit down and type. That reason quickly gave way to the fact that I then became too sick to type. So now I'm pretty much out of reasons not to post. I did want to give a quick update about the play, since I posted about it a while back.

Everything really went off without a hitch both nights. Except for one thing! I missed the entire first night and only got to watch the second night. That's right, as is a common theme for big events in my life, I got sick!

It all started LAST Saturday. My throat starting feeling scratchy and I felt the dreaded warning signs of a cold. So I started with Theraflu. Made it through Sunday Dec. 7th and took my last final on Monday the 8th. Monday wasn't a good day, so I did what is typically a last ditch effort for me. I called the doctor. Well Karen called the doctor...and got me an appointment for the next day. I told myself "now is no time to be a hero. Suck it up! Take the shot and get this over with so you can do all that you need to do."

You know how it is the week leading up to a big event. You have a personal time line of all the things you want to do...all the things that need your attention, the little details that need to be ironed out. Well I had that list. So I went to the doctor, took 2 shots, one in each cheek, got 3 prescriptions, and thought I'd be good. I even decided to suspend my agenda for Tuesday and Wednesday just to ensure that I'd get enough rest and be good for the weekend performances. Well Friday came and I was feeling better. So I went to dress rehearsal and everything went really well. We were prepared. However, that day my stomach didn't feel quite right. I couldn't eat much. I thought that the antibiotic I was taking was bothering my stomach.

Well, about 2 am Friday morning we discovered that it, in fact, was not my antibiotic, but apparently I had now added a nice little stomach bug to my list of ailments. Now, you have to know about me and vomiting. I don't do throwing up. I've literally thrown up once since I was like 10...and that was a couple of years ago (oddly enough, that was the night before we were headed on a youth retreat). I will do everything in my power not to throw up. For the most part. There is a time when it gets so overwhelming that I give in and want to throw up, but then I don't know how. I've suppressed the urge so often that I no longer know how to vomit. Anyway, so 2:30 Friday morning Karen and I are sitting in our tiny bathroom floor (she's such a great wife) waiting to see which happens first...I throw up or pass out. (consequently one of my biggest fears of the night was that I would pass out and then vomit, and choke on my own vomit....gross I know!) Well I finally get through the night, but Saturday I feel like....vomit. I couldn't do anything but sleep.

So I miss the entire performance Saturday. Sunday I'm supposed to lead worship, but that didn't happen either. I could get up, but not for long. By Sunday it was obvious I was not going to get to be a part of the play. That's right, since August we've been dreaming, planning, and preparing this wonderful Christmas event. And the weekend of it all, I can't be there.

Well, Sunday night, I decided that it would take death to keep me from at least seeing the play. So I got myself up, dressed, and down to the church just in time to see the team before they went on, spread my germs, and then sit and watch the play.

IT WAS AMAZING! The team did an awesome job. They presented with much conviction and passion. The band did a wonderful job on the songs they played. The desserts were tasty, and everything was decorated wonderfully.

At the end of it, I sat there just thankful. Thankful for the countless folks who had given up so much of their life to make this event so special! Thankful for my wonderful wife who, if I can say so, is the best thespian I know! Thankful for the ability to breath and live and hear and see. And thankful, really....I'm not just saying this....thankful for Jesus. The story told through the drama was strictly about our Savior. And I was reminded that all of the details and lights and food and tables and songs and parts and all the stuff......doesn't really matter when compared to the unsurpassed greatness of knowing Jesus Christ.

The Christmas play went great. But I pray that this Christmas you will be reminded, or perhaps for the first time get, that all that matters in this life is Jesus! Merry Christmas!

Let Us Eat Cake

I've been rather intrigued lately by a "friend" of mine on facebook. Without going into too much detail, this person has been outspoken (or is that outtyping?) about their conviction that Christians should withdraw themselves from "pagan" observances such as Halloween and Christmas. There have been several lenghty discussions on facebook between this person and other folks in the facebook community. I have yet to interject myself into these conversations, but they have provided for some interesting entertainment and have provoked much though. I may not agree with everything this person says or with many of the arguments presented there but these discussion have got me thinking.

So I'll ask you. Can we as Christians still be involved in holidays and observances such as Halloween, Christmas, and Easter and still "maintain a clear conscience before God and all people"? (Acts 24:16) I suspect that Halloween would be an easy on for most of us. No we shouldn't dress up as the Devil, or maybe even a ghost or vampire! No we shouldn't indulge ourselves in teeth-rotting candy! No we shouldn't make human or animal sacrifices to Satan! But is there anything really wrong with playing dress up and going to a trunk-or-treat or fall festival?

What about Christmas...with all the Santa Claus, presents, lights, and decorations? Can we involve ourselves in the so-called "pagan" side of Christmas whose origins are rooted at least in part in Nordic mythology and still honor God through the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Can the two co-exist?

Initially, my response is that there is nothing wrong with gift-giving. There is nothing wrong with decorating the house with lights, or putting up a Christmas tree. I think the underlying question is "what is the purpose"? In other words, I think what matters to God is the motivation of our actions. As the bible says "Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

Truth-be-told, I equate both Christmas and Easter as celebrations of God's work of redemption. The origins based in mythology or paganism is of little thought at these times of the year. I realize that even the name "Easter" is not a biblical term. But what I celebrate at this observance we call Easter is Jesus resurrection.

So how much does our semantics or vocabulary really matter to God? Are we holding hands with both God and the world by celebrating his death, burial and resurrection by calling it Easter? Are we watering down the truth of Immanuel, God in the flesh, but silmultaneously putting up Christmas trees, talking about Santa Claus, and giving gifts to friends and loved ones? Are we trying to have our cake and eat it too? (I've never really understood that saying....I mean if I got some cake...immma eat it too...that's a blog for another day!)

So I'd love to hear your thoughts!

It's actually kind of funny that on Nov. 20 of last year I wrote a similar article about my organizational woes. If you haven't already, you can read that here. Anyway, from that article you'll see that while I wish I had better time management, more structure, and better organizational skills, I also would like to embrace that fact that I am made the way I am made.
But you would think I would have learned my lesson by now!

You see it is nearing the Thanksgiving/Christmas season and I'm the midst of holiday music and program preparation. I love playing and leading Christmas music, and I enjoy trying to make our services special and unique during this season. But I have to be honest about it this year, I have stepped off in it, and don't know what I'm going to do. If you're not sure what it I speak of that I have stepped in, this is it.
That's right, I may have bitten off more than I can chew, may have dove into the deep in without my swimmies, may have cooked my goose, may have counted my pretty little chirping chickens before they hatch.

You see for the past three years for Christmas, our church has done something called "Christmas on Ivory". Basically it involves 3 grand pianos, 6 pianists, 12 songs, a children's and adult's choir, a full band, and a whole lot of talent. It really was a neat program that became a community event. Last year we probably had 800-950 people come through the doors for "Christmas on Ivory" (COI). The best part is that I was in charge of 2-3 songs. The rest was overseen by my amazingly talented piano player Amy.

But as with everything in life, all good things must come to an end. We decided that 3 years of the same thing was good, and that we would try something different. I say we.......ultimately it was my decision, but I did seek council (funny how when the hammer falls, it never falls on the wise council....only on the counseled!) Anyway, so we decided to do something a little different.

By July of this year, I had found our program for Christmas and was really excited to see it all come together! I thought surely this event would at least compare to COI! Well that was all fine and good until all the wheels started turning to pull this little shin-dig off. Perhaps I underestimated somewhere. I've got the food people in one corner, the actors in another, the band and musicians in another, the tech team in another, the set up and take down team in another, the construction team in another corner, the servers in another corner, and then of course I have the vendors for the lift we need and the mics we have to rent and the construction supplies and the paint and and and (for those of you keeping score, I've officially created at least an octagon..what with the corners and all)!!!!

"Why don't you delegate more?" you ask? Well I do and I have. In fact for every corner mentioned above I have a point person handling all of the details. The problem is that I have to know all those details in order to tell the point person how to make it happen. And truthfully everything is going relatively smoothly....as smoothly as it can when you put the fate of the Christmas program in the hands of 60 able-bodied volunteers. But as the date of the program draws closer, my sanity gets further and further away. At this very moment I am asking myself a grand series of questions.....like:

1) What have I done?

2) What if this is a flop?

3) Will this be a disappointment when compared to COI?

4) Will ol so-and-so remember his lines?

5) Wonder what's for dinner?

6) Did I make a huge mistake in letting ol such and such be in charge of that?

7) Is that a hippopotamus? I've always wanted one of those for Christmas!

We have successfully created a reputation that we need to maintain. And I feel as though I have successfully put the entire weight of that reputation on my back....carrying it around like a pack mule, just waiting to see how long of a journey I can take before my legs drop out from under me, and with it falls my great Christmas program and our church's reputation for the best Christmas gig in town.

My aversion to all things organizational have officially kicked in as I painfully try to keep my head above water in the pool of a Christmas production. I know, without a doubt that every volunteer will rise to the occasion, and pull off every task in their area with ease and excellence! I also know that this play is worth it. It is, after all, a joyous modern telling of the greatest story ever told. It involves a lot of people, a lot of work, and a lot of time. My life for the next 3 weeks will be completely wrapped up in getting this program off the ground. And at the end of the Christmas season, I will probably be totally exhausted.

But it will be worth it....right? If it flops, we'll just know not to do it next year right? One can learn, and learn by failing right?

My one nonnegotiable is that we do the Gospel justice by telling it faithfully, truthfully, artistically, and excellently. And if we do that, then all the work, sleepless nights, hours of rehearsals, and yes even the organization will all be worth it!

I thought it was bad last year when, on Halloween, I was in the grocery store and I heard Christmas music playing. Yes that's right, on Oct. 31st they switched their store music to Christmas music.

Well it's getting worse. This year I walked into a brand new Belk store in Macon, GA on Oct. 7 and they were putting up their Christmas decorations. Then just yesterday, I was flipping through the radio dial and found a station already playing non-stop Christmas music. IT'S NOT EVEN NOV. 15th.

You know the tragedy of starting Christmas so early is that Thanksgiving gets completely overlooked! I mean poor Thanksgiving. Sure it still gets a parade, but what is the highlight of that parade? Santa Claus! He steals the show at the end every year. Oh I know we still get together, eat entirely too much as a way of giving thanks! But where are all the thanksgiving decorations? The cornucopias of hope? Where are all the thanksgiving day songs? "I've never heard one" you say? Of course not, they all get edged out by the onslaught of Christmas music that is now flooding the airwaves 45 days before Christmas. And the day after thanksgiving, it's as if thanksgiving never happened, as people rush to their local mall and/or shopping center to get the hottest deals on....CHRISTMAS GIFTS!

Listen, I am all for celebrating Christmas. I mean, there is no better season, especially when we consider that what we are truly supposed to be celebrating is the birth of our savior....emmanuel...God with us! And I am all for celebrating that! There's nothing better to celebrate (except for perhaps Jesus death, burial, and Resurrection, which goes hand-in-hand with Christmas!) I am also all for giving thanks, and setting aside a day to do so! And then, after thanksgiving is over, and the calendar turns to December, we can focus our attention on Christmas. But could we please wait until Thanksgiving is over? Is that too much to ask?

I realize that I am a little late this year, but next year I intend to bring back to splendor of thanksgiving! That's right, I'm gonna celebrate Thanksgiving like it's 1999. I'm going to put up a Thanksgiving tree. I'm going to give people thanksgiving presents. I'm going to crank up some good old Thanksgiving music. And what about cornucopias? Their hope will spill with reckless abandon, filling every room! I think I will even put a candle inside a couple and put them in the windows. Ah yes, I can see it now, the house strung will all manner of Thanksgiving lights. Those blow up turkey's out in the front yard. A loud speaker triggered to go off as each car passes will play "We Gather Together" through the night!

So, good people of the blogosphere, let's join our proverbial hands together,unite as one, and stand together as we shout from the rooftops "Can't we wait just a month or two longer on the Christmas music and decorations, and uh, if you don't mind and it's not too much trouble, uh, celebrate thanksgiving and all first, I mean if that's ok with you and all."

2012 Presidential Nominee

I promise not to say a whole lot about the outcome of yesterday's election. It is what it is and there isn't a whole lot I can do about it now. And though I totally disagree with our new President on most key issues, life is going to continue to go on. Now, that's not to say we don't have some work to do. And by "we" I specifically mean Christians. Because of Obama's stance on certain issues, specifically abortion, we're going to have to stand up and actively engage in order to defend the defenseless. However, the world isn't going to fall completely apart (I'm not saying some pieces won't break off).

Anyway, I promised myself I wasn't going there....so let me stop. What I do want to do is go ahead and begin the campaign for the 2012 nominee. That's right, it's time to look ahead! I'd like to throw out there that it's time for change...already. Time for change from a president who hasn't even taken the oath of office!

On to the nominee. I'd put a party there, but I've found it nearly impossible to align myself with any political party ( which works out well in a two-party system) so I'll just say he's the 2012 Presidential nominee. So who am I talking about? Well I am glad you asked.

Before I spill all the beans, I bet there are some thoughts running through your head right now...thoughts like "Who could he be talking about? Could he be talking about himself? Wow Matt would be a GRRRRREEEAAAATTTTTT president he would be! Ewww...I should have written him in yesterday!" Unfortunately no, that is not who I am talking about. So I bet your next thought is "Oh I bet he is going to satirically postulate that we should campaign for Al Gore, given all the good his done with his global warming, oops I mean climate change scam." Nope! Wrong again.

Ok, not more stalling. Here we go. I'd like to see us, the American people, nominate Mr. Dave Ramsey for president.

Now if you've spent any time with me or Karen in the last 3 years, you've probably heard Dave Ramsey's name. But if you haven't you need to slide on over to www.daveramsey.com and check out his site. Next, go to Wal-Mart and pick up a book entitled "The Total Money Makeover". Then check your local radio stations to see if anyone carries Dave's daily radio show. Finally, you can always catch Dave on the Fox Business Network at something like 8pm EST/7pm CST.

Anyway, Dave is best known for his Financial Peace University which is hosted by numerous churches around the country each year. The bottom line is this guy has a common sense, good-old-fashioned-hard-work and savings plan to get people out of debt and stay out. His principles are based on God's word and they work. His plan has revolutionized the way Karen and I handle our money and approach finances altogether, and it has saved us from a world of hurt when it comes to overspending and debt.

Well, since this tumultuous year of the election, the housing crisis, and that ridiculous bailout, Dave has become a huge contributing voice to the media concerning politics and finances. What makes Dave so great is that he is a straight shooter who approaches everything with common sense, level-headedness and extreme positivity. In fact, when the dummies on Capital Hill were trying to pass the bailout, Dave had a plan devise on how to better serve our country in that particular situation (many of you received that plan from me via e-mail).

Well, what finally brought this all to a head for me was when I heard him on the radio today! He was simulcasting with a television show, and they were asking him about that state of the country and especially finances with the election of Obama. In all honesty, I felt like the question posed to Dave Ramsey was in such a way that he could have took off on a right-wing, political, Republican rant. Instead, with much poise and grace, Dave politely answered that each individual is responsible for his or her own finances and life in general. He brought back to light the fact of personal responsibility and accountability. It was refreshing. That along with his other plans would make him an ideal candidate. I don't know his foreign policy, or his stance on the definition of marriage, but I have a feeling that if his policies are like his financial plans, then they are biblical and common sense.

So there you have it. I suspect I ought to go ahead and get the ball rolling. Perhaps I should start by contacting Dave.

So who would you elect president if you could pick anybody?

Changing Colors

So I promised a format change, or at least a change in the look of my blog! Well, blogspot doesn't have a plethora of choices when it comes to templates, and I am not very creative. So once again I am just changing my colors. Truthfully, I'm not totally sold on the color choice, so don't be surprised if they change again in the near future. These will have to do for now.

Speaking of changing colors, I've noticed that the leaves are changing colors as well. I was marveling at the colors painted across the rolling hills that surround Lake Guntersville, when the thought hit me that leaves changing colors actually means those leaves are dying! It means that in a few short weeks, those particular leaves will fall from their limbs to the ground, and eventually return to the soil. So basically, the changing leaves that so beautifully dress the landscape are really just glorified compost! It was a bit of a depressing thought. However, it isn't so depressing when one realizes that new leaves will reappear in a few short months on those same limbs, changing the colors from winter brown to beautiful spring green.

The same is true with life. We go through different periods of growth, sometimes green and fruitful, and sometimes dry and barren. All the while God is grooming and shaping us, and reminding us that new life is ours through him. Brings a whole new meaning to regeneration right?

I feel like I can relate to the changing of the leaves at this point in my life. Sometimes I just feel a bit dry and fragile. I feel as though at any point a strong breeze is going to blow and knock me down for good. I can sense the cold winter approaching and I'm not excited about it. However, it is the promise of a spring to come, the promise of full life in Jesus Christ and one day perfection and completion with him in heaven for eternity that gives me hope. It reminds me that though in this world there are many troubles, hardships, and pain, I do not have to fear, for Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). And in the meantime, God is still patiently and passionately molding and shaping me. I'm really thankful for God's steady hand, for his trustworthiness, his sovereignty, and his reliability. When all around cracks and fades, He is faithful. So perhaps you can take heart with me, and see that fall leads to winter, and winter leads to spring!

...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-7

Setting the Record Straight

So maybe I jumped the gun a little! In my last post I said I was suspending my blog writing for an undetermined amount of time! Well I have to be honest and say that I was really just looking for a reaction, just trying to create a little buzz, just trying to stir the pot!

Truth-be-told I really like blogging and do it as much for myself as for anyone else (that's right I find myself quite entertaining!)It doesn't matter that not many folks read my blog! I enjoy writing and trying to spin a yarn in a creative fashion!

So, I am hereby lifting my self-imposed suspension and will continue blogging once again! A huge thanks goes to those of you who "begged" me not to stop (surprisingly they were the same folks who offered tag line suggestions....none of which I will be using). Be on the lookout for new posts, and perhaps a new design layout, when I get a chance!

The Results

One week ago today I started a contest for the new Shared Ignorance blog tag line! After receiving several entries (and by several I mean three) I have come to a conclusion and will announce the winner!

The conclusion! Three people read my blog!

The winner.....no one!

The few tag lines entered into the contest were negative, and quite frankly in poor taste! In fact, not only do I declare NO winner, I also declare the 3 of you who entered losers! And utter failures!

This is an outrage!

So with the results comes another announcement! I am hereby suspending my blogging until further notice! I figure if I am blogging for no one to read, then I shall stop blogging and leave no one nothing else to read (that's right you three, I am now attaching onto your "loser" status the "no one" clause!)

This decision to cease blogging comes not only on the heals of my failed contest (though I still contend that my blog, tag lines, and contest were far more successful than Mr. Smoak House) but also on a recent discovery that I'd like to leave you with.

It's been fun! God Bless!

I Was Robbed

For those of who who may not know, Josh over at The Smoak House (no link given because his site is currently down) held a contest a few weeks back, offering a cash prize and lots of candy (at least that's what I understood the prize to be) to the person who submitted the most clever tag line for his blog. You may be familiar with these taglines. You'll notice mine above, and how creative it is.

Anyone who has been a regular reader of my blog can surely attest to my creativity, whit, humor, and overall wiritng expertise. Well I submitted 10 entries (there was no limit stated in the contest rules) and was sure that at least one, if not all 10 would win. I mean, they were all so incredibly innovative that I thought for sure Josh would be unable to pass them up, I would be the grand prize winner, my name would go down in history as the greatest blog-tag-line-writer of all time, and I would forever be revered as a legend in my own time.

Well, the verdict is in and the contest winner has been declared....drum roll please......I DIDN'T WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know I know, shock and awe right!

That's right folks, I have been robbed of the title that was rightfully mine! And furthermore, rumor has it that he is giving the prize to his brother-in-law. Sounds suspicious I say! Now, before you get too worried about Josh (I can hear you all now asking "Is he out of his mind" "Has he had recent head trama" "Did Matt go crazy after not winning and harm Josh") let me assure you he is ok....well he may be crazy....but I haven't harmed him.....yet!

Instead, I've decided to take the high road. In effort to bring fairness back to all blog-tag-line-creation contests, I am now holding my own blog-tag-line contest! Here are the rules.

Submit at least one, but no more than 50 of the greatest blog tag-lines for Shared Ignorance in the comments section of this blog. Please be sure to include your name and e-mail address so that you can be contacted in the case that you win. Also there will be a small $100 entry fee that you can mail to me. Winners will recieve that honor of having their name alongside the winning blog tag line quote, and will recieve the priviledge of one honorary blog about them. They will also recieve a hardy standing ovation from yours truly and one free pass for a visit to Albertville, AL (gas, hotel, and other traveling fees are the responsibility of the prize winner)to visit me and Karen! All Josh and/or Joshua's are prohibited from participating in said contest.

Now I realize that some of you may be a bit confused as to what these tag lines are, so I've taken the liberty of applying my superior blog-tag-line creation skills to craft an example for you. They would look something like this:

The Smoak House: Not Worth Reading


The Smoak House: For Your Unenjoyment

and finally

The Smoak House: Hosting Unfair Competitions Daily

Of course, you'll want yours to be a bit more postiive. But hopefuly that will give you a jump start! So put on your thinking caps, warm up those fingers, and start your submissions! Contest winner will be announced in next week's blog!

Happy blog-tag-line writing!!

The Sky is Falling

Of course the sky is falling! It has been falling piece by piece ever since Adam and Eve ate what they weren't supposed to! But of course, that never really mattered to us until pieces started falling in our neck of the woods!

In case you haven't figured it out, this will be a small rant on America, the recent financial brouhaha, the morons on Capital Hill, and the UGA v. AL game. Ok well I'm not going to talk about the game....too painful!!

Without going into all the details, it is obvious that all is not well in the American economy. I realize that houses are being foreclosed on, some jobs are being lost, companies are being bought out and the price of gas continues to skyrocket (at least in places that are still able sell gas)! But seriously, let's not act all surprised. Houses are being foreclosed on because some idiots decided it was a good idea to give another idiot a loan for a house to a person who couldn't afford the house to begin with. Companies are being bought out because the idiot giving the loan now doesn't get his money back because the idiot who couldn't afford this house in the first place certainly can't afford it with a jacked-up interest rate. Gas prices continue to go up because we continue to use gas, driving anywhere and everywhere we please in our 10-to-the-gallon monster vehicles (yes I realize I drive a truck with a 350 V8).

All I'm saying is that this was completely bound to happen when we as Americans suffer from the debilitating diseases known as entitlement, materialism, and greed. We think we all deserve life's luxuries no matter how extravagant. We think we all deserve tons of stuff, no matter how insignificant. Meanwhile 2/3 of the world live on $2 a week, die from starvation and curable disease, and live in a 10' X 10' hut with 10 other families. I'm the first to say that America is a great country, I love my freedom, and I love my stuff. But we can't seriously continue to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world and indulge ourselves in our never-ending greed and think that everything will be perfectly fine.

So how do we react. We start pointing fingers, and then we beg the government to bail us out.....by raising our taxes. After all we deserve it! We're entitled not to suffer! Meanwhile to problem compounds until we are all left standing in bread lines blaming God for such terrible injustice!

I don't wish for America to plummet into utter oblivion! I don't like the thought that families will suffer because of this. I don't like the thought that our children's future is now being compromised. But we knew it was coming right? I'm not saying God is punishing us, but I do think He is right. If we were to compare biblical values, principles, and truth with America we would see great disparity...nay we would see that we are on polar opposite sides. And because of that God doesn't have to punish us. We are punishing ourselves, gorging ourselves on what we want with no price too great, all the while rejecting the very life that will fulfill us completely!

However, there is hope! I for one am confident that the sky will completely crumble on this world one day, America included! Yet, there is hope! Of course my hope doesn't rest in a governmental system or a $700 billion economic bail-out! It doesn't rest on how well I can pick myself up by my boot straps. It doesn't rest on the hope of a better tomorrow (perhaps there will be one, but I'm not inclined to say we deserve one). Our hope can only be in the fact that for those in Christ Jesus, this world is going to give way to another, one that is perfect, complete, whole, and without flaw. From the beginning of time, from the very first bite of the forbidden fruit, Jesus Christ was the only Hope of the world. He wasn't a part of the solution. He was and is THE ANSWER! And I don't mean that he will return your money to you 10 fold if you'll just tithe this coming Sunday. I don't mean that he will miraculously refinance your mortgage so that you can retain that over sized house. And I don't mean that he will continually replenish the gas inside your tank without you ever entering another gas station. I mean that he, through his grace and love shown completely by his death on the cross and his victory in his Resurrection will rescue us from the underlying cause of not only all of the world's pain, suffering, and injustice, but also from the eternal separation that we had from God because of our utter rebellion!

God is victorious over all through Christ Jesus and thus we can overcome! However, it requires complete rejection of the "American Way."

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"For whoever wants to save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:25-26

Big Game, Big Game

Just like last year, I have had someone give me FREE tickets to the UGA v. AL game in Athens on Saturday. I am pretty excited despite of the fact that it is a night game and I will probably arrive home mere hours before I have to lead worship at church (I'm guessing 4:30...we'll see), and despite the fact that Karen can't go with me. This is a really huge game that could define a great part of the season for both teams, and I am grateful that I didn't have to pay for the tickets, which are going for $400-$500 on ebay. It'll be a really fun time. And I'll make a memory or two. Then I will come back, another week will pass by, and the outcome of that game will no more effect the course of my life for the next 10 years than the man on the moon.

What is it about sporting events that gets us so excited? I suppose that is understating it for a vast majority of the people that will be there. I mean, folks will be crazy at the game, will have spent an insane amount of money on the tickets, souvenirs, pregame beer and other tailgating necessities, and then will spend 3 hours screaming their lungs out at a game over which they have no control and which will bring them nothing more than perhaps a good feeling and something to brag about at work on Monday. Meanwhile, people who care enough to watch at home will have the comfort of their living room and the luxury of a gazillion different camera angles from which to watch not only live play, but also replays of anything worth seeing a second time (or a third or tenth time, depending on the magnitude of said play). And for those of you in the upper-crust of society will perhaps have the game on DVR, which you can conveniently pause live television. I myself will be in section 604, row 6 seat 11. You may see me if they show footage of the blimp....I'll be just below it, or any low hovering clouds I suppose. Methinks I should probably bring some oxygen just in case.

Regardless, I am still pumped that I'll be at this game, realizing that at the end of it, I will have had a good time, been distracted from the toils of everyday life (even though mine are small and largely insignificant). So, having said that


The Name Game

So I got this from Josh over at The Smoak House...I laughed so much I had to do my own!

Your real name: Matthew

Gangsta name (1st three letters of your real name plus izzle, favorite ice cream & fav type of shoe): Matizzle Moosetracks Deizel

Native American name (fav color, fav animal): Red Dog

NASCAR name (1st names of grandfathers): Harold Clifford (gosh that's a good one!)

Dancer Name (fav perfume/scent, fav candy): Strawberry Twix

Soap Opera name (middle name, street you live on): Crawford Gethsemane (I do a lot of smell-the-fart acting...it's from Friends...Joey...you know!)

Star Wars name (1st 3 letters of middle name, 1st 2 letters of first name): Crama (Talk in weird sentences I do.)

TV Weather/Anchor name (5th grade teacher’s last name, major city that starts with same letter): Wiggins Washington (I can hear the announcer saying my name now!)

Spy name (fav season, fav flower): Summer Tulip (gee, am I am spy disguised as a girl?)

Cartoon name (fav fruit, article of clothing you are wearing now): Peach Pants

Hippie name (what you ate for breakfast, fav tree): Muffins Dogwood

Super Hero name (2nd fav color, fav drink): Blue Creamslush

Witness protection name (parents’ middle names): Clyde Lynn

Goth name (black, name of one of your pets): Black Howard

Movie Star name (1st pet’s name, 1st street name):Muffin Browning

Iraqi name (2nd letter of first name, 3rd letter of mom’s maiden name, 3rd letter of dad’s name, 1st letter of a sibling’s first name, last letter of mom’s first name): Aaysn (I suppose that is short for something?)

Rock Star name (1st pet, current car): Dog Silverado (Thank You Cleveland)

Wow....Josh's were much funnier than most of mine. I think I'm gonna keep the NASCAR name...that's classic for sure!! Now you should do yours!!

Since summer is officially coming to an end, I thought that I needed to stand by my word and give my final summer movie review of the movies that I viewed this summer that I said I would review after viewing.....them....this summer.... Yes I did go to the school of redundancy school. As a reminder, I will be giving a numerical rating based on the entertainment value, my recommendation value (10 being a must-see and 1 being SNOOZER), along with of course various information that I feel necessary or important.

The Dark Knight - I'll start with my favorite first. Oh man this movie was really great..so great that I saw it twice in the theater (add that up and it was like $50 worth of ticket) and intend to see it again when it comes out on home video! I've read tons of reviews from the Christian and non-Christian perspective...Christians trying to cram the movie into a Christian and theological box, comparing the Joker to the depravity inside us all, and Batman as a not-so-accurate portrayal of Christ (not that all that is a bad thing) and non-Christians raving about how amazing the special effects were, how scary the Joker was, and how a sequel will never compare given Heath Ledger's untimely death.

For my review, I'll say this movie was just amazing.....I'll even go so far as to say that it is in my top 3 movie's of all time (I said that to a group of seminary friends, to which one replied "Mary Poppins was a better movie." I wanted to Mary Pop-him in the face...but I refrained). It was dark, and a bit creepy at times, but it was a great show.

Entertainment Rating - 9.5

Recommendation Rating - 9

21 - I couldn't tell you any of the other actors in this movie besides Kevin Spacey, but that didn't matter. Though the movie got pretty bad reviews overall, and went rather quickly to the movie stores, it wasn't that bad. There was an unexpected twist at the end that didn't necessarily drop my jaw, but made the ending more interesting. The plot was a bit of a stretch, but overall it was entertaining. It's a good rainy-day-nothing-else-on-TV-let's-go-rent-a-movie type movie!

Entertainment Rating - 7

Recommendation Rating - 6

August Rush - I wasn't really thrilled with the prospect of watching this movie, but I am really glad I did. The movie kinda had a post-modern Annie feel to it. The acting was only OK (I love Irish accents and cute kid actors...in a non-creepy way) and the plot rather strange. But what made this movie stand out was the soundtrack. I'm not sure what it was, but this was the best musical soundtrack since....well come to think of it that is one of the only movies that I've ever thought "what a great soundtrack!" I don't know who did the arrangement, but it was great. The plot of the movie has a mystic, new age, post-modern slant that actually made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but overall it is worth seeing.

Entertainment Rating - 5

Recommendation Rating - 8.5 (for the music alone)

300 - So you won't hear me say this often, but this was the worst movie I think I've ever seen. It was all the rave for it's shot-all-in-a-studio-in-Hollywood approach and special effects, but honestly I wasn't impressed. Actually the effects, constant sepia-esq film color, and other such unusuals really just got on my nerves. Add that with the plot that could have been really cool but was used strictly to show a bunch of ridiculously ripped guys slicing and dicing each other in slow-motion and you've got yourself one pretty bad movie. It kinda reminded me of a bad...no...really bad Gladiator. Don't waste your time!

Entertainment Rating - 2

Recommendation Rating - 1

Tombstone - Yes this is an older movie. I think it came out in the early 90's, but I had not seen it in many years. It was on TV the other night so I decided to watch it. It is a good movie, really entertaining, and good story line. What did catch me off guard is how much special effects have evolved over the last 10-15 years, especially when Wyatt Earp pistol whipped some of the guys....it looked bad fake. Doc Holiday makes this movie with his humor and one-liners that everybody quotes to this day....they are a daisy because they do.

Entertainment Rating - 7

Recommendation Rating - 7

I feel confident I probably saw a couple of other movies that were so memorable I forgot to review them. These were the stand-outs in both good and bad ways! All in all, I'd say I like movies.....but if I were being really honest, they are probably a supreme waste of what is otherwise perfectly good time. Got any recommendations for some good time-wasters?

It's Not Fair!

Most of you who read this blog know that I am thankful that Karen and I live in Alabama. We live in a beautiful place where the cost of living is the close to the lowest in the country. Most everyone around here is nice enough, we feel safe, we have a wonderful home, nice yard, and we both have great jobs.

However, you also know that being from the great state of Georgia leaves me somewhat critical of Alabama. Sometimes it is without cause. But for the most part, my cynicism is legitimate. Need a case-in-point....of course you do...else what would be the point of this blog?

So a friend of Karen's told her that Huntsville was having the annual Northeast Alabama State Fair. Karen and I really love the fair, specifically the Perry Fair, also known as the Georgia National Fair. Living in middle Georgia, the Perry fair is a yearly tradition. So when we found out there was a fair in Huntsville, we were excited and decided on Sunday evening to make the 45 minute trip to check it out. As we drove closer to the fair grounds, we began looking for the rides. I'm not a big fair-ride rider (have you seen the people running those rides? Have you seen those rides? Have you seen the people throwing up after getting off of those rides?Yeah!)So we scanned the horizon looking for the pinnacle fair ride...the Ferris wheel. That would be the only ride I would ride.....although I had already decided in my mind I might would venture on one of the more tame rides if Karen wanted to.

Well, as it turns out, all of that decision making was deemed completely unnecessary.....as we neared the "fair" we realized that there was, in fact, no Ferris wheel. NO FERRIS WHEEL!! Any other time this would lead me to the conclusion that this event was not a fair at all. However, that was merely the first sign!

Despite the fact that there wasn't a Ferris wheel, we parked the car, paid our combined $12 entrance fee, and walked into the fair grounds. Since I do not like rides, I typically spend a good amount of time looking at exhibits, livestock, arts and crafts, sideshows, etc. I also spend a large amount of time deciding what I want to eat, and then eating it. The exhibits at this "fair" consisted of 3 churches with tents set up for sharing Jesus, and 1 psychic palm reader. Yes that is it! After the 4 steps through the exhibits we arrived at the "midway". Oh boy!

We walked around looking at the "rides" and then decided our first move should be to acquire some fair food. Mmmmmm....I love fair food. Sure it's fatty, greasy, and completely unhealthy....but man it tastes good....usually. Karen and I order a corn dog a piece and shared a coke. 2 bites into it, Karen's corn dog began to drip batter. Unfried batter. To top it off, the corn dog didn't even taste good.....HOW CAN YOU MESS UP A CORN DOG???? So 2 bites a piece in, and they were trash. After re-evaluating the overpriced, under-safe rides and in our better judgement deciding not to ride anything, we decided to get a funnel cake. I'm convinced you can't mess up a funnel cake....so this was the highlight of our "fair" experience!

We finished the funnel cake and walked out the gate, back to the car, and went to Target. We spent maybe a grand total of 20-25 minutes at this event they in Alabama call a fair, but what we Georgians would call a "waste-of-time"! What a disaster. It was awful. To top it off, and I say this humbly, but I am pretty sure we were one of the very few people there who weren't living right around the poverty level. I'm really not trying to be mean but everyone there (and surprisingly, there were tons of folks there) seemed to be spending their months check on the rides and carny games. It was rather sad.

So at the end of the day, Karen and I were left still wanting a high-quality fair experience. The good news is that my 10 year high school reunion is on Oct. 11, which is right about Perry Fair season, so perhaps we'll be able to go to it this year and experience the glorious fall seasaon goodness that is the Perry Fair! And for all you Georgia folks, perhaps we'll see you there!!

The Election Special

To answer your first question (which I am sure you are all asking) NO this post is not about Calvinism, or Reformed Theology, whichever you'd like to call it. It is, however, about the upcoming debaucle our entire country is in the throws of; that which we are calling an election. I have mentioned before that I am not really politcally inclined. I have my opinions about government, policy, and important issues. But I'm not the type to get involved in local or national politics. In fact, I didn't even vote in the last Presidental election (before you flog me for not exercising my American obligation, I was in the midst of a major move from Georgia to Alabama and did not get registered in time!). However, I just need to speak my peace about this election year, our country, and the prospect of a new President.

First of all, I am extremely tired of politicians. Not that we don't all do it at some time in our life, but man is it me or do the folks on Capital Hill ever do anything but talk out of both sides of their mouth. They say one thing, vote another, and then say they didn't do either. They do not represent the population, no matter what state they are from or for. I am sure there are some exceptions to the rule, but for the most part my perception is that politicians are money-hungry, power-mongering, good-for-nothing, puppetiers (or is that puppets? Can you say lobbiest? Sure! I knew that you could!) who do more harm than good. Furthermore, so many of them lack any personal integrity that even if they did say they stand for something worthwhile, their moral failures disqualify them from carrying any clout for that issue (Bill Clinton, John Edwards, et all!). I'm not trying to be judgemental. Sure we all have our faults. None of us are innocent. But there is such a thing as accountability, integrity, honor, and respect that American politicians seem to know nothing of, much less possess.

Consider all that with the fact that we are just about to elect the next leader of the free world, and we have some major issues on our hands. Perhaps what is worse is that we basically get two choices....two. That is two men to pick from for the over 303 million people that live in the United States alone. Oh sure, you can write in a vote...for yourself even. But let's be honest, there are two parties, two choices. And I don't know if you watch the news or listen to the radio, but our choices.....they're not so good. Barak "messiah" Obama, who for all intents and purposes is a Communist (he basically said China has it going on....need he say more?!?!? At least he's admiting it....it's the first step you know!) , and has now added Joe "Big Talker" Biden as his vice president vs. John "Incompetent" McCain, who for all intents and purposes is incompetent. Oh sure McCain said all the right things that we God-loving, right-wingers love to hear. But I am afraid all he was doing was saying what we God-loving, right-wingers want to hear (which for the record, I'm not sure Jesus would be a Republican! Gasp!) Given the two choices, I'll take....let's see.....Canada, Mexico, Jamaica anyone?!?!?!

In all honesty, I am extremely thankful for my freedom, and I think we live in the best country in the world. All governmental systems this side of heaven are flawed, and ours is no different. It's just that I think we are headed in the wrong direction. I know I personally do not feel like I will be represented by either of the two men running. However, I am left with a choice. Either I write in a vote for someone who I completely believe in.....which would basically be like not voting at all. Or I have to vote for McCain simply on the premise of trying to help keep Obama out of the White House if for no other reason than in an attempt to end this genocide we've disquised as a woman's "right" to choose (or as I like to call it, a woman's right to murder), which by the way, if you listen carefully, and give just a passing glance at his record, you'll see Obama is apparently all for genocide! (If you haven't already, check out how he voted on the "Born Alive" bill).

There is a silver lining here, which supersedes all the flaws and potential and impending failures of our government. Romans 13:1 says "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God."

Though things look grim, God is completely in control. Things may not go like we think they should in this world. In fact, the United States may crumble completely (don't say I didn't tell you so), but God is sovreign! In that, we have hope and complete assurance that better days are to come (though we may have to wait until we get to heaven!!)Take heart! For Christ-followers, it only gets better!

So I subsribe to a particular blog, written by a worship leader in New Mexico. I'm not sure how I even found his blog but I did...and he is the one who turned me on to the song Healer that I recommended in my last post.

Well, on that blog the guy posted today that the writer of Healer who professed to suffer from cancer was actually a fraud. He has now publically stated to his church and family that it was all a lie, and that he did not have cancer!

I just found out and am totally stunned....disappointed....hurt even. I'm trying to decide whether or not to even use that song anymore. It is still a powerful song. But one that is based on a lie? It's wierd. I feel so robbed...decieved.....it's really a shame!

The Song of the Day

Seldom do I come across something like this, but today I found a song that caused me to think about a couple of things in regards to music in general, and perhaps more specifically in regards to congregational worship music.

The first thought I had was that I liked this song on the first listen. I usually gravitate toward music that is a little less straight forward, and that usually takes a few listens to form an opinion about. I tend to enjoy a song to have layers that can be discovered after many plays. Don't get me wrong, there is merit in a good catchy tune, or a first-listen-winner-pop-song or what have you. But I like for music to be a bit more than just all the hype with no substance after several listens. In fact, most pop-songs that make it to radio get on my nerves after the second or third play.

However, today I heard a song that grabbed from the first listen, but for different reasons that just a catchy melody or a memorable line. The song is called Healer by Hillsong. It is on their newest record entitled "This is Our God". You can watch the song here . The guy you see reading the scripture wrote the song the day he received word that he had an aggressive form of cancer. After watching the youtube video of the story behind the song (which has been removed due to copyright regulations), the song just meant that much more. It has been an instant hit to me, not only because the music is great, or even because the lyrics are really amazing (the chorus really is), but because I got to see firsthand the heart behind the song.

This led me to my next thought. As a worship music leader, it is my responsibility to pick meaningful music for our congregation that exalts God and engages our congregation. However, I have to filter music through a biblical theology and through an understanding of the congregation that will be singing it so that the music accomplishes the goal it is intended to. I also like to pick music that is artistically credible. I would say I think that is one major criticism I have about modern praise and worship music. Chris Tomlin is great, and is a great worship leader. I even believe he sings some amazing songs about the character, greatness, wonder, and splendor of God. But lets be honest, his songs are far from artistic masterpieces. What they lack in that area though, they make up for in congregational accessibility (which is my main defense for singing many of his songs). But I think many times his songs, and many like it, lack to story behind them.

At this point, it would probably be helpful to let you know that I typically stay away from songs that focus on me, or talk about my problems, my singing, my commitment, and lean more toward songs that are about God, who he is, his loving-kindness, his holiness, etc. My rational is that our main purpose is to glorify and magnify God, so let's sing about him in the truth of his word. That is a point I believe in strongly and will not back down on.

However, many times those songs that we sing that are biblically sound, and often even straight from scripture seem as though they are missing something (not to say that scripture or God is lacking....hear me out for a moment). They may even come off as trite and repetitive. While I think that songs that display a solid theology and even teach about God should be more prevalent in worship, there must also be a healthy balance of songs from our individual situation and heart that we offer as a response to God. For instance, after hearing Healer the second or third time I thought for a minute that it was too me-focused. However, I then remembered that we have several people in our congregation who are battling cancer. I remembered that we have one or two families who have just recently lost a family member. We have people who's close family and friends are dealing with cancer and disease. And I knew the song would meet many of us right where we are as a congregation, and allow us to apply the words of that song as a praise from our heart to God.

I think there has to be a balance, because after all we are responded to God. Our dealings with God are in a relationship context. We talk to God, he talks to us (not audible most of the time, but through his Holy Spirit) we give to God, he gives to us (albeit our giving is quite disproportionate!) we show love to God and he shows love to us, and so on. While I agree completely that God is holy, indescribable, unattainable, etc., I also know that God became a man so that he COULD be attained, so that he could be grasped, so that we could be redeemed and have a relationship with him. So that being reality, then as we worship, I think it is completely appropriate that we address him within the context of the relationship.

For example, in my relationship with Karen, if all I were to do is tell her how great she is, how pretty she is, how I love her personality, and so on, that would make her feel good for a while, but the relationship would be lacking because I've not at any point let her in on who I am. All I've done is just showered her with words of praise. In order for our relationship to function properly, I must also let her in on my thoughts, dreams, ambitions, struggles, frustrations, and other feelings, all while keeping my priorities straight (not focusing too much on myself). While I realize the comparison is a bit inadequate, we must remember that God has shown deep interest in knowing our thoughts, both positive and negative. Thus, he commands us to pray, asks us to cast our burdens on him, and commands us to sing to him. So as we worship, I think we have to remember the context in which we address God, keeping Him in his rightful place high above ourselves, but also remembering that because of the high price of Jesus, we can interact with God in a humble, yet personal manner. I think that songs like Healer are altogether appropriate in a congregational worship gathering.

Ok, so this blog wasn't intended to be a theological defense for songs from a personal standpoint. It was really just intended to tell you to do yourself a favor and go listen the Healer.So do it!

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.Psalm 96:1-5


This will be a bit random, but I felt like I needed to update everyone on everything. I was actually trying to spruce up the page a bit. I read a good many blogs, and I'm always thinking that their layouts and gadgets and widgets and digits are better than mine. So I tried to make mine better, but have decided that I like mine plain, and I'll just change the colors from time to time! Enough of that!

This week I finished up a class I had taken in the summer. I had to do close to 80 pages worth of book reviews, reflections, and research papers. I turned in my 20 page final project yesterday with a huge sigh of relief only to realize that I start Fall semester on Monday! I've been going literally non-stop since January, as I have taken every winter, spring, and summer break workshop class that has been offered. Of course the workshops are only one week of class time, but they require 4-6 weeks of pre and post work assignments. I will continue to go to school non-stop until July in effort to wrap this school thing up....for now at least. I am set to technically graduate in May, though I will have one last class left in July.

Karen has been working night shift at the hospital for a solid 3 months now and things are going well I would say! She has some hard nights, and of course it is long hours, but I think she is an amazing nurse and she'll only get better! I also suspect that she won't work the hospital floor all of her life....at least I hope not! Things are good though, and she turned a whopping 25 yesterday!

Howard is as crazy as ever. I don't think she knows what to do now that somebody is in bed most all hours of the day...me at night, and Karen during the day. She seems to be confused...but then I don't think I've known Howard to ever not be confused!

In the near future I hope to post my second edition of summer movie reviews. I saw some really great ones (Dark Night anyone?!!??!) and a few bad ones (Mighty Ducks 2...it was on TV). And I saw some that I wanted to review but am having trouble remembering which ones that were at the present time. I suppose it wasn't a great movie if I can't remember seeing it huh??

Hope all is well with you, faithful blog readers!

Later on!

All That I Cannot Myself Say

A couple of months ago, I started a blog post in order to just kinda spill the way I was feeling about...things...life in general....my work within the church...my thoughts about church. I've been unsuccessful at finishing that post, because every time I tried to add to it or edit, it never really communicated what I wanted to say. It always seemed to come out too harsh, sarcastic, understated, unfair, selfish, or what have you.

So today I just grabbed a book off my shelf in my office that I've been meaning to read for a while but just haven't had the chance. So on a whim I grabbed the book and went to...well...the reading room. It was there that I read the paragraph that probably best describes my heart at this point in time. The excerpt is from the preface of the book Organic Church by Neil Cole. I can neither recommend or review the book as I have not yet read it, but based on the preface I am pretty excited....and somewhat afraid that given my present disposition. Perhaps I shouldn't read this book.

Anyway, on to the excerpt. Here is my heart wrapped up in a few short sentences.

"Many people are longing for a greater cause. They are no longer content with 'church as usual.' They read of the church in the New Testament, and their curiosity is piqued. The New Testament accounts are far removed from their experience every week. They hear contemporary stories of the church expanding rapidly in parts of China and India, and their hearts soar. Dare they dream for something more? 'Can I experience the same power?' they ask. 'Can God work here, in this place? Will the Kingdom of God unleash itself on an unsuspecting society such as the United States?'

I'd like to add to that, and clarify it...but I can't as yet.

What do you think?

New Music Review

So apparently I am in a blog-all-things-entertainment mood. I was just thinking that I've got three or four new records in the last couple of months and I have always felt an obligation to share in good music whenever I come across some. So I'd like to share briefly with you some good music you should buy.

The first record I'd like to recommend is the new The Myriad record entitled "With Arrows With Poise". If you ever run across MTV (why I do not know) then you've probably seen The Myriad. They are getting some commercial time from them, and rightfully so. I got the first The Myriad record and was really unimpressed. In fact I am not sure what drove me to pick up this sophomore release, but I am ever glad that I did. The album's music is unique, very well executed, and just a little bit dark. There are some definite nods to RadioHead and Coldplay (what band doesn't sound like Coldplay right.......more on that in a moment). The lyrics really shine on this record, as they are really thought-provoking, serious, and in a word -- redemptive. I'd like to think that if Christian music has to be a genre, then this album would be the benchmark for quality of lyrics and integrity of message and artistic integrity of the music!

I picked up the new Coldplay record, Viva La Vida, a couple of weeks ago. In so many ways this album is a typical Coldplay record while at the same time it is so not the typical Coldplay record. I would almost venture to say that Coldplay, realizing that now everybody sounds like Coldplay, attempted to, themselves, not sound like Coldplay. Of course in trying not to sound like themselves, they at times sound just like themselves, while at other times they only sound like themselves trying not to sound like themselves. There are 3-4 standout songs, but for the most part it moves a bit slow. I was kinda excited with the lyrical content, and still think there are some great lines, questions and ponderings. They seem to have a fascination with God, death, and the spiritual. However, Rolling Stone magazine spoiled the lyrics with there interview of lead singer Chris Martin, who doesn't yet know the God of the Bible unfortunately...may he come to know him soon!

My newest purchase was a band called Colour Revolt. I've just been exposed to them over the last couple of months and I am rather impressed, especially considering that these guys are from Mississippi! Plunder, Beg, and Curse is a quirky, loud, roller coaster of a record, going from quiet pretty melodies, to loud, distorted and repetitive screams...and not clean pseudo-metal type screaming, but primitive, visceral screaming...it's refreshing in a weird way. They are extremely artistic, and like The Myriad seemingly a bit dark, with more than just hints of redemption and salvation. Lyrically they are tops...really unique, creative, unusual, thought-provoking, and even humorous at times. They don't really sound like Coldplay that much, so that is nice!

I was going to review Hillsong United's record I Heart Revolution, but I am thinking perhaps I will not. I will recommend it, because it is a good worship record. I have my thoughts about some of the writing but I will spare you....other than to say there are several Coldplay comparisons that could be made.

Summer Movie Review: Part 1

As promised, I want to review a few movies (both in the theater and on DVD) that I have viewed over the first half of the summer. This post is labeled part 1, as there are a few other movies that I want to see in the near future, so perhaps by the end of the summer I will be able to post Part 2.

Now, before I begin my reviews, I would like to give you the criteria by which I will review the movies. My reason for this is because I often visit a christian movie review site called pluggedinonline. It is a decent site that kinda helps me decide whether or not to view particular movies. My only problem with the site is that if I took the advice of the pluggedin reviewers, I would never see a movie. Basically they use about 10-12 paragraphs to give their review, and only one of those paragraphs (and it's usually really short) is devoted to anything positive about the movie. They spend the other 9-11 paragraphs with profanity counts, body counts, and any other negative and oft-times snide comments about the movie. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate knowing the amount of profanity in a movie before I see it, but I also think there is more to a movie than the language used. I could go on and on, but I say all this to say that I would like my reviews to be more thorough and fair than that (hmmm...we could call it a thorough-fair review HA!). I view movies through the eyes of my faith, so I want take the good with the bad, and try to apply what I see to the depravity and redemption that is at war in our real world.

Ok, so I will rate the movie based on it's entertainment value (scale of 1 to 10, one being a snoozer and 10 being HOLY COW THAT WAS AWESOME), the quality of the various aspects of the movie (i.e. filming, graphics, script, character development, etc......no scale, just my thoughts), and I will give a recommendation value, based on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being a "must-see" and 1 being a "piece-of-hot-trash-never-to-be-seen". I am sure there will be other various and sundry items of consideration for the different movies. So without further ado, I give you SUMMER MOVIE REVIEW PART 1 (one...one...one....that's the echo in case you didn't catch it!)

1. Ironman - I officially started off the summer with this movie. It did not disappoint! I am a sucker for superhero movies to begin with, but this was a lot different than many other of those sometimes-unrealistic, based-in-comic-book-fantasy-world movies. It had a much more realistic plot...of course it was a bit far fetched, but it had the reality touch that some of these type movies miss. Good action, good plot, good music and I thought Robert Downey Jr. was superb (however, coincidentally, I always get him confused with Harry Conick Jr.) This movie had some good humor as well, brought by Downey Jr. (aka Tony Stark). All around, Iron Man was a great guy movie. There is already a release date set for Iron Man 2, so be sure to catch the first one.

Entertainment Rating - 8 -

Recommendation rating - 9

2. Batman Begins - I am a little behind in seeing this one, but better late than never for sure! This was a great movie, and I watched it to gear up for The Dark Knight due out next week. Again, they made Batman seem a little more realistic, a little more dark and conflicted, and a lot more cool...er. Man this movie was really great, and Christian Bale was stellar! I am really pumped about the Dark Knight.

Entertainment Rating - 9

Recommendation Rating - 9

3. Hulk - I have mentioned a little about this movie in my last post, but I thought I'd give it a rating just for fun. The best part of this movie was the end, and Edward Norton, if you like him, which made the nearly 2 hours of the rest of the movie worth it. But all in all, it was probably a renter at best.

Entertainment Rating - 6

Recommendation Rating - 4

4. Jumper - Tasted great, but was definitely less filling. Jumper was all of the hype and special effects with hardly any plot whatsoever. I'll say the effects were cool, and I feel confident there will be a sequel, but the movie didn't make a whole lot of sense. The tiny back story in the movie had major holes, and the lead role, played by Hayden Christensen was dreadfully weak.

Entertainment Rating - 6

Recommendation Rating - 2

5. The Bucket List - Much different than what I expected from the previews, the Bucket List was an irreverent look at two guys who have just found out they have 6 months to a year to live. While participating in all kind of skydiving, rocky mountain climbing, 2.7 seconds on a bull name fu-man-choo, there is some pretty heavy dialogue about life, death, God, faith, and forgiveness. Don't look for the movie to give you the answers to life, and certainly don't look for it to line up with Jesus, but it does make one think. I really appreciated that about this movie, is that it forces the viewer to ponder a side of humanity that many of us rarely dedicate much time to (except for say at funerals or whatnot). As I said, you'll have to wade through a bit of irreverence, but this one is a humorous and thought-provoking little gem.

Entertainment Rating - 6

Recommendation Rating - 7

6. The Great Debaters - Set in the midst of the great depression, this movie chronicles just a portion of the African-American struggle to be treated equally in our country. This movie is really about a huge stain in America's history, and the story needs to be told. The Great Debaters has little-to-no action per se, but there are some suspenseful moments, and the plot is really unique. There are a couple of sub-par performances by the supporting cast (man did Forest Whitaker butcher a southern accent or what!), but Denzel, who is known for quality movies did his usual good job. (except for Training Day, I'm not sure Denzel makes bad movies!!) While this movie is about events in our history, I think it is still an important message for our culture today. We still have huge strides that need to be made when it comes to equality, racism, and seeing EVERYONE as Imago Dei.

Entertainment Rating - 7 (hard to say that such a part of history is entertaining, but I am referring to the actual story, not the historical setting here!)

Recommendation Rating - 8

7. Juno So this is the strangest movie I've seen since Napolean Dynamite. Juno is a pseudo-indie flick that is quite crass, crude, rude, and offensive, while at the same time being quite real, honest, and bare. The music that litters the flick is delightfully obnoxious (indie-folk music at its best....or worst). I think this movie is important for people to see, because I think it is a strongly accurate portrayal of this generation. The main character is like one big shinning example of today's youth sentiment, outlook, faith, and vocabulary. And amongst the weirdness, there are some important questions and commentaries about abortion, parenting, marital faithfulness, and adolescence. Again, if you're looking for all the answers, or for something that lines up with the teachings of the Bible, this isn't it, and I would scarce say that Hollywood has the moral or spiritual compass to produce any such work. But if you'll allow yourself to see this movie through the eyes of Christian faith in comparison to post-modern thought, it will be quite revealing. Too much for a movie you say...perhaps...but perhaps not.

Entertainment Rating - 4 (I wasn't really entertained due to the content)

Recommendation Rating - 8

So that is all for now. Stay tuned for Summer Movie Review Part 2 in the near future. Until then, what are some good movies you've seen lately. Any thoughts about the above reviewed movies?

Monsters Need Oxygen Too!

So it's been a while since I last posted. The summer has been a bit busy, leaving me not a lot of time to sit and type. I'll try to get a little better about it, but I'm making no promises! So allow me to catch you up on all the randomness in my world.

Today is my birthday...another year goes down in the books for me being alive which is a good thing. I am now 28, and feel ok with saying I am in my late-twenties. It doesn't seem to be as big a deal as turning 27. Anyway, so for the celebration, Karen took me out to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Shogun, and I chowed down on some fried rice and steak. It was fantastic as usual and a special treat to eat there with my bride. She doesn't really like it, but she was a trooper today! She then took me to a movie. We went and saw The Hulk and I'll say it was a decent movie. I can't honestly say I really wanted to see the movie when I found out it was coming out, but someone told me it was good, and there was nothing else playing that I wanted to see. I did learn from the movie that you can shoot, throw cars, and even try to blow up a monster like the Hulk, but the real key to success in killing such a green, over-sized, vocabulary-challenged, science-project-gone-terribly-wrong freak superhuman is by strangulation. I suppose you'll need to see the movie for further clarification!

Karen also bought me a really great pedal to add to my guitar effects collection. For those of you guitar players, she bought me a Digitech Whammy. It makes cool octave sounds, and has some pitch shifting capabilities. It even has a setting called Divebomb for making those whammy bar, Ritchie Sambora, 80s sounds where you play a really high note and then bend the whammy bar to make it go to a really low note (Josh, you know what I'm talking about....oh yeah!!). Anyway, it was an awesome gift to go on my newly custom-built pedal board that Karen and I built a week ago. That's a blog post in and of itself, but long-story short, I'd been looking to purchase a pedal board and was finding them to cost $250-$300 so I made my own for the amazing price of $36, plus 2 hours of labor. It turned out great, and Karen did the hard work of covering the board with some vinyl fabric! I'm please with it, and even more pleased that I get to add a new pedal to it. Just 5-6 more pedals to go and I'm set!

Other randomness...for those of you who have not yet heard, Karen passed her state nursing board exams the first time and is now officially an RN. It's a huge load to have that test behind her, and now she is working and learning. She works night shift at Marshall North, a local hospital. It's taking some adjustment with the night shift, but things are going really well. She's a fantastic nurse! Plus she looks really hot in her scrubs!!

With Karen working at night, it gives me a chance to record some music, so that's been fun (though for the record I'd much have her around, but it's great that she works!). I've recorded one song and am considering sending it in for a songwriter's competition, but not sure I like it enough to send it in yet. It's funny, cause I've written songs that I really loved and thought they were good, and this one was that song back 4 or 5 years ago when I wrote it. I still like it, but not nearly as much. So we'll see what happens.

Ok I think that is all for now. As I said, I'll try to keep this blog a bit more current. Methinks I will post a summer movie review next, as I've seen some really good movies this summer, both old and new. I also have a post in the works about life, transition, and desire that I'll try to finish up and put on for your reading pleasure in the near future.

So stay tuned and be well!


I've been thinking a lot lately about people who in one way or another have made an impact of investment in my life. In each stage and in each formative circumstance in my journey thus far, I can look back and see God's hand at work and in that I can see that he used certain people in a significant way. Of course there are the obvious, and perhaps most important people, like my parents and now my wife, who contributed far more than any blog post could explain and do justice. Since this post is going to be a tribute to those who have left their fingerprint on my life, it is only appropriate that I begin by saying a huge and understated thank you to those folks....my parents for having me and teaching me and supporting me and loving me and bearing with me and guiding me....I could go on and on....and then to Karen for loving me, supporting me, putting up with me, and being a wondeful wife.

But, as I stated before, there is not enough time or space for me to really devote to them. Instead I want to just mention a few people who have especially been on my mind in the last few weeks; people whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude for making a lasting impression and life-changing investment in my life.

The first person I want to mention is my youth pastor. Growing up I really only had one full-time youth pastor, and he was only there a couple of years. Mostly, we just had a group of church members who made up one fantastic youth committee. But towards the end of my high school days we hired a full-time youth minister named Tim Powell. I can't remember his Wednesday night talks, his Sunday morning lessons, or much of anything he said....but he ministered to me in perhaps the best way....he just hung out with me. In the summer he would stay after church to shoot basketball with me on Wednesday nights...then he'd drive me home. He took me to a Georgia Tech football game one time. I recall especially one time that he took me with him to share Jesus with a guy in our youth group. He really modeled a Christian life for me! He also let me use my gifts (such as they were back then). He allowed me to lead our little group of students in songs on Wednesday before he taught. Those were my first expereinces in leading a group in worship (as best I knew how). I am very thankful for his investment that has helped to make me who I am today.

The second person I want to mention is a guy by the name of Dennis Rogers. Dennis led 2 trips to Jamaica that I was privileged to go on in the summers of 1995 and
1996. Dennis is one of the sweetest men I've ever met. He's really tall, and I recall that every handshake with Dennis turned into a hug...he's just a super guy. It was really amazing how God orchestrated the opportunity to go on these trips...and now I look back and see how those were some huge defining moments in my life. Dennis played a key part in that! I specifically remember a converstation with him, where I was explaining to him that I was dealing with God's call on my life. I was beginning to sense that God was calling me to ministry, but of course at that age didn't really know what that meant. So I was just telling Dennis that, and I remember his wisdom as he assured me that this mission trip would help me to further know and grow in that call. He was right, and I see the part that those mission experiences played in my spiritual journey and my walk with Jesus. I am very thankful for Dennis and the impact he made in my life.

The third person I want to mention was a guy I served under for four years. I was a youth ministry intern at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia with a guy named Matt Nelson. Funny how we met....I didn't know him from Adam, but a friend of mine gave him my name, he called me and the rest is history. Matt took a chance on me, as he had never heard me lead worship, but he asked me to come be the youth worship intern. It turned out that it was a great move, at least for me. I gained so much experience and learned tons from Matt. He is one of the most gifted men I know, and God really used him not only to teach me, but as a friend. To this day, he is one of the first people I call when I need advice or wise-counsel. He's also one of the main reasons that I am in Guntersville as it was his reccomendation to the pastor that God used to orchestrate my move here.

I could go on and on...and this is not even close to an exhaustive list. In every step along the way, God in his sovereignty has put people in my path who have made lasting impressions. I am so thankful for the way God uses friends and aquaintances to remind me of his faithfulness and his purposes.

So, who has left their fingerprints on your life?

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