Please take time today to thank the Lord for the many blessings He has provided. Thank your family for all that they’ve done for you, and thank your friends for their friendship. Take time to reminisce over particularly good times in your life. Enjoy the people around you, or fondly remember those who are no longer around. If you have the ability, do something nice for someone else; you’ll make an even better memory for next Thanksgiving.
Finally, resist the urge to catalog failures and shortcomings, and by all means - leave politics in the dumpster inferno where it currently resides. Who wants a dumpster fire at the dinner table, anyway?
I wish each of you a happy, relaxing, and joyous Thanksgiving!
Memorial Day is one day a year when we should put ourselves in this boy’s shoes for a moment. Look at his face - really look, with an open heart and perceiving eyes. He doesn’t need a red number on a calendar to remember his loss. He sums up the range of Memorial Day emotions perfectly; defiant and strong, yet mourning. This is what this day is about. Our nation was bought at great effort, and great price, by the blood of our fellow countrymen, and continues to require those who have given their lives in her defense.
So - happy Memorial Day*. May God bless America.
(* I know there are those who take issue with the phrase “Happy Memorial Day”. If we can call Good Friday good because of sacrifice made on our behalf, I think we can also let our gratitude for these sacrifices lead us to be happy. I certainly don’t think that those we honor today would want us moping around; take time for reflection and gratitude, then enjoy the freedom they earned for you.)
Today marked the end of my wife Michelle’s four-year leadership of the base homeschool group. Our family’s journey with homeschooling is nearing the end of its seventh year, but when we arrived here, we had about a month’s experience. The base homeschool group provided playmates for our children, and support for Michelle, as the majority of the homeschooling duties fell to her.
Three years in, the group had shrunk to just a few families, and Michelle stepped up to assume the presidency of the group. Her first year, the group grew by a few families. However, in her second year, there was a huge influx homeschooling families, and the majority of those were families who were new to homeschooling. During that year, she spent lots of time talking with individual people about homeschooling, while managing the calendar for field trips, parties, and other social occasions. Not all the families were new, though, and as she transitioned to her third year, she restructured the group and set up “coordinators” who were responsible for various aspects of the group’s activities. This divided the work, and allowed people to be even more effective; some of the field trips involved nearly 50 kids! Her title changed from “President” to “Group Coordinator,” and freeing her from the party and field trip planning allowed her to focus on helping new families get oriented, as well as sharing information on curriculum and relevant legal information with the group. This coordinator style of leadership proved its value as the third year transitioned to the fourth, the group continued to grow, and nothing fell through the cracks.
Oh, by the way - while doing all this, she is also currently homeschooling a 10th grader, an 8th grader, and a 3rd grader.
Michelle, you have done an absolutely amazing job. You’ve not only educated our children well, you have worked countless hours to help other families exercise their right to educate their children the way they see fit. If there is anyone more deserving of an end-of-tour medal than you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them. I’m proud of the leadership you provided for the past four years, and I’m very proud to be your husband.
This is the first or last post of our “2012 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous” series. 2012 wasn’t all bad; let’s take a look at how.
The London Olympics
London got a third turn to host the modern Olympic Games in 2012, and they did an outstanding job. The facilities were all first-rate. The opening and closing ceremonies both set new high bars, being spectacular without being cheesy. Security was also successful, with no violence or terrorist acts being committed during the games. Of course, seeing USA sitting atop the medal board at the end was an added bonus.
The only thing about the games that I would change would be the coverage. I’m not going into full #NBCfail mode, but they should have found a way to televise the games as they occurred, while still preserving their prime time “here’s what we think you want to see” coverage. Rio lines up with the US, so that shouldn’t be an issue as much; evening events can be broadcast live if they wanted.
Eat Mor Hate Chicken
In July, Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy, son of founder S. Truett Cathy, mentioned in a Baptist Press interview that the chain was supportive of the traditional definition of marriage. Judging from the reaction, you’d have thought that he had just introduced the new spicy sodomite sandwich! There were calls for all sorts of punitive actions against Chick-Fil-A, from boycotts to denying future permits. They also were attacked for giving charitable donations to “hate groups.”* So why is this on the good list?
This is here because of what happened next. A groundswell of support arose for the purveyors of fine non-cow products, culminating in “Chick-Fil-A Day,” where every single restaurant had lines around the block as people came out to show their support. The protests two days later paled in comparison to the outpouring of support for the stand the Cathy family was willing to take. Meanwhile, many in the gay community “came out” (sorry, couldn’t help it) in support of the restaurant, citing its employees’ respect for every customer, and others spoke highly of the environment as an employee. Chick-Fil-A fought back against the “you donate to hate groups” charge, and the official boycott effort went by the wayside.
In a year where “same-sex marriage” won at the ballot box, and religious groups failed to get the government to amend “health care” requirements that violate their religion, Chick-Fil-A was a nice bright spot of support for traditional marriage and the right of business people to share their beliefs.
* Just a note, activists – if you call Focus on the Family a hate group, you really should educate yourself, and close your mouth so you don’t completely destroy your credibility when you figure out how things actually are and start making sense.
Mark it down - 2012 proved that the mainstream media now makes no attempt at objective reporting. From the debate moderators, to the selective coverage of the party conventions, to the complete dearth of investigative reporting on Bengahzi, it’s like they just quit trying. When comedians other than Jay Leno are writing jokes about you, you’ve become a parody of yourself; and, when Jon “I can cuss, 'cause I’m edgy, but they can’t broadcast it” Stewart makes more sense than you do, you are an embarrassment to the craft. But, these two facts have become so self-evident that even the American people can’t miss it.
The bias is not the “good” part, but sunlight is the best disinfectant; the exposure of it (and embracing of it) is why this lands on the good list. Some journalists are starting to get it. While Jake Tapper (of ABC News in 2012, of CNN this year) has been the fairest MSMer for a while, this year saw many reporters, including CNN’s Anderson Cooper, asking tough questions and refusing to allow dodging. Special recognition also goes to Univisión for their debate questions; the English-language moderators could learn from you.
Maybe we’re almost to the point where liberals will actually see why criticizing “Faux News” with supporting links from The Huffington Post and Mother Jones aren’t that convincing. And there lies the rub; you shouldn’t restrict your reading to either “side.” Read the editorials with which you disagree, as well as the ones you like. Compare story selection among several news sources, and if there is a story missing, find out why. We have the tools now to easily do it, which may be the best part of all of this. You can be as informed as you want to be.
This past year was a great year for our family. In January, February, and March, we were able to do quite a bit of snow skiing. I and my two oldest sons conquered several black diamond runs and couple of double-blacks; I learned the trick to moguls (ski the tops, not the groove in between them); and even my 7 year old found blue and a couple of black diamond runs he could do. We’re looking forward to more of that in the next few months, as our favorite ski area is ready!
In September, we were finally able to take a family cruise where one of our stops was letting our sons swim with stingrays in Grand Cayman. Michelle and I had done that back in 2006, and wanted them to experience it. We also visited Jamaica, where we had a surprisingly good time, and I celebrated my 39th birthday in Cozumel, Mexico. We got to cruise with the same couple with whom we cruised in 2006, and they also brought their family; it was great to spend time with them.
When we got back, we prepared to move. After living on a military base for nearly 10 years straight, we now have a place to live off base. Great friends here in Albuquerque got transferred overseas, and we are able to live in their house. It was a great blessing; we had begun to outgrow our current house. It is definitely nice to have a separation between “work” and “home” now; plus, now I’m not the guy who lives on base, who gets the calls to do stuff “because you’re already there.” Win-win!
Finally, in November and early December, our family was able to participate in Hoffmantown Church’s production of The Story, a dramatic musical presentation of the Christmas story, starting with creation and ending with the resurrection. We had never done anything like it; we usually were not around for it. But, since we were, we signed up. It was amazing! At the first rehearsal, I was not quite sure it was all going to come together, but each time, things got smoother, and by the time our final dress rehearsal came, we were ready. There were 450+ volunteers who worked, and over 6,500 people saw it. We are really looking forward to next year.
Of course, the 2013 production of The Story is still 11 months away; there’s a lot of 2013 between now and then. I hope that I have much trouble narrowing down the few things to include in this post next year. Happy New Year!
Today is the first day for the 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Personal Revival and National Renewal. That’s a pretty long title, so I’ll just call it 40/40 from here on out. I just got through praying over the first day, and I’m really excited about how this is going to change me. (No, I don’t have any inside knowledge - I just know that God’s plan is better than mine every time. I’ve also been through the entire guide, so I know what’s coming up!)
40/40 is praying for either 40 days or 40 hours prior to our national election. While it is timed to coincide with the election, and voting is the focus of a few of the days, the main focus of this prayer vigil is personal revival. Though originated by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the vigil is non-denominational; if you’re a Christian, you likely won’t find any of these suggested prayers running counter to your beliefs. Finally, this is a non-partisan thing; no matter what letter would be in parentheses after your name, if you’re a Christian, this is for you.
So, how can you join in? Well, a PDF copy of the guide (in both English and Spanish) can be downloaded from the ERLC’s official 40/40 prayer site. You can visit this page each day; the prayer guides will be in the sidebar. If you want a daily site in Spanish, visit PrayerTracker and change the language to Spanish. Finally, if you have a WordPress blog, and you want to have the prayer guides in your sidebar, you can search for the “40/40 Prayer Vigil” plug-in and install it however you normally install plug-ins.
Happy Anniversary to the lady who, sixteen years ago, made me the luckiest man in the world. Whenever I think back to our wedding day, I smile, and not just because of the crazy things my friends did. (I still wonder if they ever got all that bird seed out of the carpet in that room…) We’ve shared lots of good times, and even seen the rare bad times bring us even closer as we walked through them together. I love you very, very much, and am looking forward to spending many more years at your side.
Hey, guess what, babe - our marriage is old enough to drive now!
(As I type this, it is my anniversary where my wife is, but not quite my anniversary where I am. This is a first for us, celebrating on two different continents. While I also hope this is our last year in this position, I am very grateful to God for allowing us to celebrate the last 16 May 11ths together. I’m also grateful to her Dad for giving her this opportunity to see a part of the world she hasn’t seen before, and for raising his little girl into the wonderful woman she is today.)
This is the last (or first, depending on how you’re reading it) part of the series “2011 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.”
Evil’s Class of 2011
2011 was a good year for tyrants to breathe their last. Osama bin Laden, head of al-Qaeda and mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrors attacks, was killed in a daring raid on May 2nd. Muammar Gaddafi, the long-time leader of Lybia, was captured and killed October 20th. Then, a week before Christmas, Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean dictator, breathed his last. These three men did very little to soothe pain and suffering in this world, choosing rather to inflict it in an attempt to maintain their power and control. As of today, none of these three men control anything - in my book, that’s a very good thing. (Even better would be a change in direction, though that’s looking doubtful at this point, except possibly in Libya.)
Contrary to popular opinion, you can make value judgments about these nations (or, in al-Qaeda’s case, their organization). Man has a God-given yearning to be free, both physically and spiritually. God also made it plain in His Word that choosing Him is a personal decision - it must be made in one’s heart, not forced by government at the point of a gun. Regimes can try to control behavior, but they cannot change hearts. These leaders used violence and oppression to try to conquer the hearts of their citizens, rationalized in many cases via religion; the God of the Bible wants us to surrender our hearts to Him voluntarily. These leaders worked against Him, and they are gone.
While the Cain Train’s derailment made the “bad” list, one positive to come out of his campaign was his 9-9-9 plan. This plan scraps all existing tax code, and replaces it with a 9% income tax, a 9% national sales tax, and a 9% corporate income tax. This plan is the first time a poll-leading presidential candidate has proposed such a massive overhaul of the tax system, and the only plan apart from the FairTax (which Mr. Cain also supports) that eliminates the ridiculous spaghetti of our tax code - spaghetti with a compliance price tag in the millions. While there was the expected knee-jerk reaction from the usual sources (“What? You mean POOR PEOPLE would have to pay 9% on THEIR INCOME, TOO?!?!”), Cain’s analysis showed that this would bring in about the same amount of revenue. Combine that with the vast simplification of the tax code, thus eliminating much of the compliance and enforcement expense, and you’ve got something that just might work.
I realize Cain’s analysis is that of someone running for office, but it does mesh with the analysis done by those that espouse the FairTax. 9-9-9 provides the most level of playing grounds - if you make $10,000, you’d owe $900; if you make $100,000, you’d owe $9,000; if you make $10,000,000, you’d owe $900,000. Corporations, although merely voluntary associations of individuals, are taxed at this rate as well. The national sales tax, balanced with reduced compliance cost to the businesses that would be collecting it, is nearly break-even. This would encourage growth without punishing success.
I can’t remember where I read it, but it’s almost like some people are obsessed with making sure everyone has their “fair share” of the pie. Others see the pie and ask “Hey, why don’t we just get a few more of those?” 9-9-9 clearly falls into the latter camp. Basing economic policy on “It’s not fair that he has more than me” is poor; there’s a reason we teach children not to look at life that way. Instead, we should compare our poor to the poor of other nations, and realize that even the “poor” in this country are better off than the average citizen in many other nations.
I hope that, the next time an alternative tax is pitched, we can have a rational discussion about it. In fact, the FairTax is proposed nearly every year - if you read about it and like it, just let your Congress-critter know.
A Full Trip Through the Bible
Inspired by my Christmas gift from my family in 2010, I searched the web for reading plans and found this one, which looked very interesting. I started a Facebook group and asked if any of my friends would like to join me on this journey, and 22 others joined me; I even made a few new friends along the way. Each day I would post the reading for that particular day, and we could use the group to share, discuss, or encourage one another. There were times I got behind (it happens), and when I posted an encouragement to the group, others were there with me. We weren’t judging each other, we were simply encouraging one another - as Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
The pace was quick, and although I enjoyed it and was blessed by it, I believe 2012 will see me taking it a bit slower. I did flag several verses as I was reading through, and those are the places I’ll start digging in and digesting what’s there.
So, there you have it. As in previous years, while I had to cut off the lists for the bad and the ridiculous, those all happened externally. I could have filled the list for this post with solely personal things. This tells me that I serve a God Who blesses me, no matter what sort of bad or ridiculous stuff goes on around me. I believe more good is on its way in 2012, and some of it might not even be just for me. :)
From me and my family, to you and yours - have a truly blessed Christmas!
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11(ESV)
Christmas 2011 happens to fall on a Sunday. This has led to a number of churches moving their services to Saturday in lieu of Sunday, and a number of other churches loudly proclaiming that, of all days, worshiping Christ is something that should and will happen on schedule. One would think that this would be the end of it; however, some (not all) people on both sides seem to be invoking the “more spiritual” argument in defense of their schedules. This bothers me, and I believe both sides are causing harm with this argument, turning the focus from Christ (the reason for the season) to man’s actions.
Let’s take the rearrangers. The primary motivation I’ve heard for churches modifying their usual schedule is so that families can maintain their Christmas morning traditions. Having a church service requires “work” for more than just the Pastor; for a 10am service, people may need to be there as early as 8am to prepare the facilities, and may require people as as late as 12:30pm to close everything up once the hour-long service is over. Adjusting the schedule frees all these people from these obligations. God’s presence is not limited to the walls of a church building, and as the second-biggest celebration on the church calendar, moving a service is not contrary to Scripture. The meeting is still happening, so these people are not violating Hebrews 10:25, which says:
…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25(ESV)
On the other side, we have the people who feel, of all days of the year, the celebration of the birth of the One we worship is the last day they would consider not meeting. They see it as an opportunity - Christmas only falls on Sunday once every 6 years (depending on how leap years fall), and this year is one of those lucky years. Worshiping on the Lord’s Day and Christmas at the same time? Awesome! They see the worship of God as preeminent, not subject to rearranging at the whim of man’s schedules.
Neither of these positions violates any Scripture I can find. And, let me be clear, I believe that “right with God” Christians can hold either of these views. It is not the views, it is the “holier than thou” arguments I’m hearing made in defense of these views. The thing is, we as mere humans cannot possibly know enough to make value judgments about either of these views. Motivation and heart are the key items here. Jesus made it clear that good works from a wrong heart are worthless.
On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.” Matthew 7:22-23(ESV)
If those who are rearranging are doing it out of selfishness, they are wrong. If those who are keeping their schedule are doing it out of moral superiority, they are wrong. Those who are looking down on either of these groups is also wrong. The focus should be Christ, not man’s performance.
This weekend, worship Christ, the newborn King. Do it Saturday, do it Sunday, maybe even do it both days (that’s our family’s plan). Focus on Him, not on others. Then, after this weekend, continue. Worshiping Christ should be a daily occurrence in our lives.
Fifteen years ago today, there was a ceremony in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where a beautiful young woman and a (hmm… clean?) young man became husband and wife. That young man was me, and the beautiful young woman was my bride Michelle. The vows we took were not remarkable; in fact, we discussed it and decided to use traditional vows, which were (to the best of my memory)…
I, Daniel, take you, Michelle, to be my lawfully wedded wife; to have and to hold from this day forward; for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health; I promise to love, honor, and cherish you, as long as we both shall live.
Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with these vows, although it’s a shame that “for richer” part hasn’t kicked in yet. However, I didn’t have a clue as to the amazing journey that these few words would start. On this occasion, in front of God and these assembled witnesses (that’s you, Internet), I would like to offer some additional vows.
I will gladly remain your husband for the rest of my days. You truly complete me; where I'm weak, you're strong, and where you're weak, I'm strong. As we've shared our life together, I have learned to love you more deeply than I ever thought possible. Through each challenge, standing with you has made us stronger, and together we've fought down every one. I cannot remember my life before you, and I do not want to imagine my life without you. You are a blessing from God to me on a daily basis; yes, even in those things I may not want to hear, you love me enough to tell me what I need to hear. You believed I could become more than I was, and you inspire me to become better than I am. I am forever in your debt for the love you have shown to me, and I hope that I can return at least a portion of that to you in the years to come. I love you, and will always love you, as long as I may live.