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 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?

Back from the Bon Voyage

Karen and I got back into town on Thursday from our cruise vacation to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. So for those who care, I thought I'd give a brief and random overview of our trip along with some commentary and criticisms along the way.

This was our first cruise experience, and we both had no idea what to expect. We flew out early Friday morning from Birmingham to Atlanta then on to Ft. Lauderdale FL. to our port. We took a taxi from the airport to the boat, and arrived just two hours before our 5 pm set departure. The traveling to and from went as smooth as silk (which I was particularly happy about...I did all the booking and planning for this trip, so I felt as though if anything went wrong, I would be held responsible....more by me probably than by Karen).

So we arrived at the port...and I gotta say this huge. I mean just's amazing that something that big can float. So anyway, we arrive and discover that there are nearly 2500 people on our boat...and after a little bit of wondering around we discovered that 95% of those people were, and would be for the rest of the trip, around the two 9th deck pools. We got there, and people were everywhere. It was crazy!

Now for those of you who have never cruised before, there are some things you need to know. First, everything in the price of the trip is included. Room, food, room service, and most drinks. The only things not included are sodas and alcohol. Everything you buy is bought using what they called a SeaPass card. Basically it is like a credit card that you use on the ship, then everything you bought throughout the trip is then charged to your real credit card.

Anyway our first order of business was to get our unlimited Coke card for the price of $30. This way we would be able to drink all the cokes we could stand...and we did!! However, the drink of choice on the ship was not sir. It was any manner of fermented grapes, hops, or worms (I really don't know what they ferment honestly). Now here I must say that I am not universally opposed to alcohol. I WISH that the Bible would say clearly that alcohol is WRONG, but it doesn't. So I've really tried to change my judgemental attitude toward alcohol and the moderate consumption of it. But moderation did not exist on board our ship. It was flowing...and offered at every turn! Don't get me wrong, through the course of the trip we did not experience any lewdness or drunken inappropriateness of any kind (drunkenness, yes....inappropriateness...not so much....except for that one lady who Karen just had to point out, that had a thong about inappropriate....and I mean why is it that the people who have the most to cover, decide to cover it the least!?!?!). Anyway, I did kinda get tired of the smell, and the people who offered it, and when I turned it down, wanted to know why I wasn't "putting any booze in my cruise." Then, of course, there were those friendly "Hey, How are yous" that turned into much longer conversation due to intoxication. It's surprising how long a story can go on when one has had a little alcohol...all the while I'm thinking, "Geez if my breath smelled that badly I'd really want someone to say something about it!!!"

Aside from the alcohol, which was very present and weird to be around in such extreme fashion, there were some really great things about the cruise. The food was great, the ship was amazing inside...with all the intricacies that you'd have to just see for yourself, our room was nice, the food was fantastic, the entertainment was high quality, the food was really tasty, the service was outstanding, there was lots of things to do, we saw some of the most beautiful colored water I've ever seen, and did I mention how good the food was. That's right people, food 24-7. Nonstop buffet, an all day ice cream machine, wonderful fancy dinners...I mean the food was mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I ate a lot!! But, Karen and I used the stairs in the ship all but 2 times in our traversing the 11 decks of the ship, so all the gaining of the poundage was canceled out.

Karen and I played Bingo one night. It was our only shot and gambling....and we came close to winning...I suppose being a B-14 and a B-9 away from winning is close. We also enjoyed...or rather suffered through some karaoke. I really wanted to sing, but the list was too full, and I didn't want to embarrass Karen with my best impression of either Prince or Michael Jackson (I had it narrowed down to "Kiss" or "Billy Jean"...but alas, no such luck in singing). I went to karaoke really hoping everybody would be bad...otherwise, whats the point right??!!? Well the first and the last people were pretty good, but the other 5-6 did not disappoint!! The were dreadfully bad and wonderful all the same. We weren't making fun at them, we were laughing with them. Honestly, that was the one time I actually enjoyed having drunk people around...they are pretty funny at karaoke!

One other observation that I mentioned above...our servers were amazing! We had the best waitress and assistant waiter throughout the week...they were really great and catered to our every whim! Our stateroom attendant was great as well...she was like our maid for the week and left us the coolest towel animals! We looked forward to seeing what critter it would be each night. The entire cruise staff was a diverse group. There were some 60+ countries represented and they all spoke English with their thick accents. It was really great to be around people from such differing backgrounds and cultures. Makes you wonder why the whole world can't just get along like that.

Karen and I did one shore excursion as the are called in the cruising world. I really wanted to snorkel, as I had never done it. So Karen and I decided to do it in Cozumel. What we didn't take into account was the fact that a) there was a boat ride (notice boat...not ship) to the place where we would snorkel, which happened to be in the wide open ocean and b)that fact that we were the OCEAN! We did see some pretty neat things....a huge grouper, a way-cool reef, and some other pretty fish. What we also almost saw was our lunch! Yep, about 45 minutes into our being beaten by waves and the other 30 people in our group who couldn't figure out that in the vast amount of ocean, we didn't have to snorkel ON TOP OF EACH OTHER, Karen and I both, around the same time began to feel a little less than ideal. So we decided to go back to our boat....which seemed to be a good idea. But getting back on a boat with waves crashing and sick stomachs is harder than it seemed. Needless to say, we at that point did our own stunts, wound up on the boat with 3 huge bruises to show for it...all on Karen's legs (see pictures below). We had a long ride back to the ship..and a the rest of the day was spent with us walking as though we had indeed partaken in the aforementioned fermented beverages!

All in all, we had a really good time on our cruise. We did get to relax a good bit, sleep in a lot, and enjoy some time away. It was a great way to celebrate Karen's graduation, and I had a great time being with her. Amazing how much fun the two of us can have together! We did discover a couple of things about ourselves, the main thing being that we aren't as adventurous as we'd like to think was seen by our snorkeling disaster..I mean adventure. And we decided that our next vacation will be in a mountain cabin, surrounded be trees and shade, and consisting of 2 rocking chairs, some books, and lots of nothing!

After a couple of long, tying years, a river of tears, and countless hours of studying, testing, precepting, and clinical work....she finally did it! On Thursday May 8, 2008 at approximately 8 pm, Karen became a college graduate and an official Registered Nurse. I can't imagine what a huge load off her shoulders this accomplishment is (though I can say that a similar, not nearly as heavy load as been removed from my shoulders!!)

So Thursday was quite a special day. Both of our families came into town and we ate a really great brunch that Karen prepared for us (seems like the little lady ought not have to fix the brunch for her own graduation day...which means I probably should have prepared it....but we wanted it to be edible.) Then, that afternoon prior to graduation she had a pinning ceremony, whereby she got pinned, and got to light candle out of the end of a genie lamp (you'd really have to see it I suppose). Finally we wrapped up the day with the graduation ceremony...which was quite typical of most graduations....long and arduous. However, at the end of the night, Karen had a diploma in hand, and the title RN following her name. So it was worth it all. I am so incredibly proud of my wife. She worked so hard and accomplished something that I can say with all confidence I myself could not have done!

Now we are waiting to hear back from the testing agency to find out when she can take her board exams...and then she will officially be able to practice. In celebration of this tremendous achievement, Karen and I will be setting sail, literally, on Saturday for a cruise to Mexico and Grand Cayman. We are really excited about getting away and sailing the open seas....we think....though the prospect of getting sea sick kinda sticks in the back of our's to praying that doesn't happen! So in honor of Karen's graduation, I'd like to make a top ten list of things you are guaranteed to hear, see, feel, or experience at a graduation from any school in Alabama.

1. A country song - we didn't hear one a graduation per se, but we did hear one at the pinning ceremony! In fact we heard two. And yes, they were part of the program.

2. Bad grammar - verbiage people....verbiage! You no's were. I was, you were. Come on!

3. Snuff, dip, or chewing tobacco of some description - at least when I saw it, it was in the bathroom, but this guy was spitting a huge wad into the was really nasty! Then there was the girls who had big chaws in they jaws.......

4. Someone singing along with the aforementioned country song - most likely it will be off key, so just get ready. But it is bound to happen that the country song is somebodies favorite song, such that they can't resist singing along....badly...and loudly!

5. Camouflage - yep....I suspect that any black tie affair in Alabama will be marred by at least one camo hat, shirt, or neck tie (and no, I am not joking)

6. An overuse of the short "i" - Nice, sprite, right, light, tight, ect. All with a short i. Unfortunately, it's quite contagious!

7. Made up words - again not so much at the graduation, but at the pinning ceremony the head of the nursing department, a doctor no less, used the word "drownded".

8. Cowboy boots - apparently these are the only approved dress shoes of Alabama. If only we had gotten THAT memo!

9. Your cousin - everybody in Alabama is related. So at any given graduation you are likely to see at least one cousin.

10. Awwww maaan - I'm not trying to pick on the way people talk in Alabama.....ok yes I am! This phrase is used to communicate excitement, sadness, disbelief, disappointment, or indifference.

In short, everyone should go to at least one Alabama graduation in their lifetime.....or not!

The Campaign

On my way to school this morning, I had an interesting thought that has led me to pursue some very significant and intentional action. I'm not sure what made me think about this major... idea, but whatever it was has given me a spark quite different than anything I've experienced. So I've decided to embark on a little campaign of my own. That's right I'm gonna make a change in this world. I'm gonna get something done. I'm gonna use what little influence I have to make a difference. I WILL LEAVE MY FINGERPRINT ON THIS WORLD! So what is this campaign for proposed change? Allow me to explain!

You see I was in my truck, it was about 6:30AM (which will probably explain a lot) and I was riding through the great Alabama metropolis of Douglas (which will also explain a lot). I saw a road sign of to the right with a certain number on it. The number was 13...pronounced thirt-teen or thir-teen. My mind began to churn with thoughts about this number. Of course 13 could be considered unlucky, but in this situation that superstition bares no significance. From 13 I began to think of other numbers. And then the question a lightening bolt from the sky. Why is it that the number 13 starts the set of teen numbers (you know 13-19)? What happened to 11 and 12...pronounced eee-leven and twelve? I mean, who made this rule, or designated this representation of numerical quantity?

So my campaign? It is to change the numbers of 11 and 12 to be included in the teen-number family. I will lead a charge to see these numbers join the ranks of those 7 that come after it. I propose that 11 become known as....drum roll please........ unoteen (uno taking from the Latin word for one - UNO), and I propose that 12 officially become twelveteen. Now I realize that many of you are asking why I didn't go with something more creative for the number formerly known as twelve, like dos-teen, duceteen, doubleteen or even pair-o-teen. However, twelveteen encapsulates the full meaning and measure of the number twelveteen sounds cool.

The next question that I am sure you are asking about this proposed name for these two very significant and completely under-appreciated numbers is "will the numerical representation of 11 and 12 change as well?" I understand that if Prince can change is name to an unpronounceable symbol, then a newly pronounced number should be able to at least change their physical form. However, the answer is no they will not change their shape or physical image. 11 and 12, in numerical form have always and will continue to possess the adequate demeanor to communicate all that they stand for. It was only the vernacular and vocabulary used to identify these numbers that have fallen woefully short. In other words, until now our verbalization of 11 and 12 (now understood as unoteen and twelveteen) have been at best misleading and at worst disgraceful.

Finally, I realize that the burning question now plaguing your collective minds is will 11 and 12 now have more value than higher numbers, thus requiring them to be moved to a higher quantity representation. In other words should our numerals now be, for example..... 100, 101, 102, unoteen, twelveteen, 103. While this seems like a logical conclusion, given the new found importance and respect that these numbers now garner, the answer is fortunately a resounding NO. While 11 and 12 (hopefully by now you are reading those as unoteen and twelveteen, but if not I'll continue to remind you) deserve repayment for their countless years of misrepresentation, they are still surprisingly humble, and agreed to keep their current quantity-measuring value and place in our numerical order, provided that they receive an official apology from the entire English speaking world and from the other numbers in the teen family. Receiving these apologies will be the starting point for the campaign trail.

So what's the next step? Well this campaign will not come without a price. First I need a group of people willing to jump on board and give their time and energy to seeing this change come about. Do I want you to sign a petition. No? Well I might.....not now though.....but much more....the change will only take place through repetition, education, and intention. First, you can issue your official apology to the numbers 11 and 12 as soon as possible. We must lead by example, and every apology is one step closer to the reconciliation we are hoping for.

I also need you to begin to use the right terminology for 11 and 12 in every day life. How you may ask? Well I am glad that you did in fact ask, so let me give you a few examples.

If you are, for example, measuring a group of people for a superior about how many attended a meeting, you'll want to say "Oh there were probably unoteen to twelveteen people there I suppose." (If there were, in reality 50 people, still you must use the aforementioned's part of the price we must pay). If someone asks you what time it is, you should reply either "It is unoteen to twelveteen minutes til insert hour here" or "It is about unoteen to twelveteen minutes since the last time you asked me" or "why don't you spend unoteen or twelveteen dollars and buy a stinking watch and stop asking me what time it is...geez your IQ must be like unoteen or twelveteen." Using these new names twice in a sentence will help to phase in the change, and will also score you extra points! For a final example, perhaps if you get stopped by a police officer who claims you were speeding, you should defend yourself by saying "I thought I could go untoteen to twelveteen miles over the speed limit before I would get a ticket."

Hopefully those examples will help you as join in this campaign. Further information can be found at the website

So join with me, faithful blog readers, to ensure that 11 and 12 get their proper respect! LONG LIVE UNOTEEN AND TWELVETEEN!

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