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Reflections on reflections....

Light pierces the darkness. But the darkness did not recognize it. -John 1:5

Have you ever tried to drive with your headlights off on a night when the moon is full directly overhead and there are no streetlights around, no clouds in the sky, and no other cars in sight? (note: this last detail remains the most important). It's amazing! There is entirely enough light to see details in the road, surrounding the road, and even to see some things within your car.

Why make this observation? Well first of all, because it is cool and reckless and chances are you wouldn't have known that had I not told you, and props to you for not trying. But secondly, to observe that reflected light can be super bright!

Before I proceed, allow me to clarify where all this is coming from: the night sky. It's black as we perceive it. Images from space show that space is just void nothingness and nothingness is perceived as darkness.

And yet there are thousands of hundreds of burning balls of gas, …

100 Pennies

I learned a lesson yesterday.
A valuable lesson.
Well, technically a lesson that would cost about $1.50, but some would say it was worth more than that.

Katie and I decided to sell our luxurious Buick Century in favor of something that we can grow into as a family a little more. Something with fewer miles, higher off the ground, and ready for a beating. We ended up landing a 2005 Ford Freestyle by the grace of God in our price range with only 28,000 miles. The God-timing of it all and the beauty of getting an offer on our car the same week led us to move on the Freestyle. The only hang-up was in selling the Buick.

I met with the buyer a couple days ago only to be reminded (as we were walking into the BMV) that the title needed to be in my name in order for me to sign it over. Doh! I drove home to Katie who was patiently putting two babies down for their afternoon naps and I quickly realized that signing the Buick over would have to wait until another day. So I set things up with the b…

Daniel vs Discipline--day 2

Today marks the first day I have neglected to run. In all fairness it was a snowy, wet, cold day and Katie had a stuffy nose. We have done a wonderful job staying regular with running every Tuesday and Thursday before getting started for the day and this was the first Tuesday absence. Not bad discipline, not bad. Thursday will host the first annual Friendsgiving Day Race, where we will meet at 8am and run for an hour and then meet back at the house for delicious breakfast foods. That should make up for the voided run today, methinks.

In other discipline news...

I used to always think that fasting was something you did when you felt led to fast. You fasted when you felt like there was a really important decision to make and you wanted God's guidance for it. Or maybe you fasted to tell God that you really meant something and wanted to show Him somehow. Those were the times I fasted--before getting engaged, before taking the job as worship leader, etc. But after having fasted for 3 d…

The cash experiment

This past week I heard a professor liken God to a bank teller. He said that God cannot stand to be any man's debtor and that when God pays back, He does so quickly and with interest.

Now, the analogy obviously has a major flaw in that money isn't ours to begin with but rather God has made us stewards of His money. But let's leave that thought alone for a bit.

Supposing that God gave me money to do with as I please and I chose to give some to Him, the analogy would apply that God refuses to be indebted to me. God returns my money with a sizeable interest rate. As a Swedish saying goes, "You shovel to God, God shovels to you; God just has a bigger shovel."

Well, as I was listening to this metaphor (which I believe to be true) I felt that God was prompting me to give some money to a single mother in my church. No single mother couldn't use extra cash and help around this time of year (a double negative!). I felt like God was telling me to use cash specifically a…

Busyness as usual....

The English language is full of weird sayings. "Business as usual," is one of them.

I mean, have you ever thought of it? Busy-ness as usual?
"Hey Fred! How's it going?"
Oh, you know, business as usual.

Implying that Fred is usually busy! We don't call our companies "money-makers" or "profit places", no, we call them "businesses." I work at a business place where I take pride in being busy. Sheesh!

Now don't get me wrong, it is a wonderful thing to have work and to keep busy while at work. No one would argue that work is a good thing and that people who are not diligent in their work don't deserve fair compensation (Prov. 22:29). But I don't think God intended for us to get SO caught up with busy-ness that we would name our work after it.

I think God calls us to work, and then rest, and then work, and then rest. God is not calling us to busyness--that is the Devil's calling. Satan would love to make us so busy th…

Every house should wear a hat.

Apparently they don't sell insulation in 24" rolls with backing on it. And apparently using a $35 nail gun for 6 hours will blow a seal. And apparently it takes 2 hours to put up 7 rows of insulation when you have to cut two foot sections to hold the insulation in place. And apparently insulating your entire attic automatically makes it the warmest room in the house.

But hey, every house should wear a hat.

Insulating your attic is supposed to be a project that pays for itself within the first winter you do it. After spending my off day crawling around on my knees in the dusty, glass filled, coal dust air attic of mine I have full confidence that the benefits will be worth the effort. After all, when you wear a hat, the hat helps trap the heat in your body. The same is supposed to apply to your feet but I don't see how that works with a house.


Daniel vs. Discipline --Day 1

I signed up to run the Flying Pig Marathon this past week. Several friends have cautioned that in order to be ready to start training, I need to be logging 9 miles or so weekly to prepare my body for the pounding it will receive this coming winter. I don't know about you, but when it comes to waking up 60 minutes earlier in order to exert 30 more minutes of cardiovascular activity that you wouldn't otherwise spend, I have a difficult time motivating myself to both make and follow-through with plans to put in that time. I know it would be good for me and I am well aware that 60 minutes isn't the difference between feeling rested or not if you are aware of your wake up time the night before. \

And yet I lack the discipline to roll out of bed and go do it. I keep telling myself, "I'll start training on Monday," or "after the time change," or "the first of November," and on and on the excuses go.

Well this morning I did it. Isaiah had a rough …

My son, aspire to be a statistician

I once had a dream of becoming famous. It was somewhere between the ages of 8-14 that I wanted to be a major league baseball player (well, let's be honest, I still have the dream). Of course I wanted to be a major leaguer because it would be cool to get paid to play baseball everyday, but I also liked the idea of being famous. People would know my name. They would want my autograph. Kids would try to be just like me. How cool would that life be?!

Well, as it turns out, I'm not alone.

A recent study surveying 3000 children ages 5-11 showed that "They want to become celebrities, pop or sports stars in particular, mostly by the model they see on television." 

What is that causes this generation of kids to want to aspire to celebrity status instead of establishing a well-renowned career as a doctor, teacher, or physician? Michael Smith wrote an article surveying three studies that all point to reality TV as a big fault to this generation's celebrity hype. 

The reality …

Is Music the Key to being a Successful Christian?

I was reading through an article shared by Rhonda Headley titled “Is Music the Key to Success?”, in which the author, Joanne Lipman, suggests that music making ­helps the average person become a higher achiever. Lipman says that music promotes such qualities as: collaboration, creativity, discipline and the capacity to reconcile conflicting ideas. “All are qualities notably absent from public life. Music may not make you a genius, or rich, or even a better person. But it helps train you to think differently, to process different points of view — and most important, to take pleasure in listening.”
Throughout the article Lipman makes a point of stating that practicing music on a regular basis—despite one’s own lack of talent on that instrument—can promote other areas of life skills. It is essential for wind instrumentalists to rehearse their discipline daily in order to keep up their embouchure much less their ability to play their instrument well. For a classically tra…

What Makes the Ending So Sad

Today's subject header brought to you by Lou Rawls. Check it out. Good music.

I just read a beautiful email by a friend of the family who was carefully wording the terrible end of the passing of the patriarch of the family. As I sat and prayed for the family I had several thoughts race through my brain. I need to pass this along the prayer chain and get everyone praying for this need. Everyone already has a need similar to this in their own network of friends/family. Everyone has other needs as well; what makes cancer such a terrible enemy? Particularly, what makes cancer such a terrible enemy to both Christians and non-Christians alike? 

I think I have come to a partial answer.

Everyone would agree that cancer is a terrible enemy because we have yet to find a successful foolproof way of battling it and winning every time. Happily there are many people who face the sickness of cancer and come out stronger and more full of life than ever before, but make no mistake--cancer is a ter…

Being a man is a dangerous thing...

Tony, my younger brother, turned 18 this week and I was privileged to attend his birthday party. I thought too late about what I could buy him for his birthday and had to resort to give him something of my own. It would be an easy enough task as I own lots of neat gadgets and things an 18 year-old would like to have. But I knew that I needed to give Tony something extra special--something of significance to mark his 18th birthday. Something to initiate him into manhood.

And that's when I thought of it. I have an awesome lightning bolt looking sword that I keep under my bed and it looks like it could do some serious damage to someone. Tony has seen it under my bed when we were roommates and I know he has always taken a fancy to it (as well he should). I also know that Tony can be impulsive and not think before he does something, so the thought of giving him a sword seemed like as bad an idea as it did good.

But that's when the thought came to me: being a man is a dangerous thi…

So I bought a minivan...

Inpulsive.

In one word, that is how I would describe my spending habits.

Mind you, for the most part, I don't have spending habits, as I usually stay at home and don't bother to go shopping. But when I spend money, it is usually not carefully thought out.

Am I over-generalizing? Yes. But still....

...I bought a minivan.

There is this delightful website called fasttrackauction.com and they have great deals on used items almost every week. I have had reasonable success winning auctions from there and reselling the items of Craigslist for a minor profit. Is it worth my time? Probably not. But it's pretty fun.
For instance, I bought a grandfather clock look-alike that was busted up (It was a gun case that looked like a grandfather clock). I made the necessary repairs and sold it for a small profit. Pretty cool!

Well, it's cool until you buy a minivan. Let's back our story up right there.
Last week I received the devastating news that my truck needs some $1654 in repair…

Eighth inning stretch....

So in follow-up, it would seem that all you need to do to get people to an event early, is have 8 Hall of Fame caliber former back-to-back World Series champion players plan on hosting a pre-game ceremony an hour beforehand. It turns out 2/3 of your attendees will arrive plenty early to be a part of that!

The Seventh Inning Stretch

Last night Katie and I got a chance to go to our beloved Reds stadium, Great American Ballpark. We enjoyed the best weather baseball could ask for while watching the Reds trounce the Cardinals--all in all, a great evening!

As tradition would have it, everyone stood and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" midway through the seventh inning--well, almost everyone. I was so enjoying the comfort of the light breeze and with how many homeruns the Reds had been hitting, I was quite stretched already and felt no need to join in with the masses of 21,000 people coarsely singing along with a Hammond's finest rendition of the beloved tune. But I felt quite out of place when I realized I was among the only patrons sitting. Even the elderly couple behind me had stood to jovially call out along with everyone else that it was "one, two, three strikes you're out!"

Yet I stood my ground. Or rather, sat it, as it were. I observed other patrons around me, some fully engrossed …

Secretly, Toys are meant to replace parents

There is an epidemic sweeping across America and it has devastating effects on our children.
The problem: over-stimulation.
The culprit: education.

That's right. In the name of educating our infants and toddlers, companies are marketing to parents that a particular toy engages the senses with "bright lights" and music, engages fine motor skills such as "pushing a button," and "Introduces baby to cause & effect relationships, problem solving, balance skills & more!" 

As Katie and I have seen presents given to Isaiah, or shopped for them ourselves, I have been overwhelmed with how many vibrant colors the toys come in, how many are battery powered, how many play obnoxiously long songs at unfortunate volumes (let's be honest, you can only stand to hear the same sequence of poorly pre-recorded midi songs so many times before something inside of you snaps), and cheaply manufactured parts.

I want to open my own lines of toys called "Stix&quo…

KetchingUp

Wow. So apparently I am just plain terrible at doing things incrementally.
-Thesis: I keep thinking it is easier to set aside a week or weekend and try to knock it out chunks at a time. Except that I never have chunks that big, nor do I care to fill them with thesis work. Little by little needs to be my motto.
-Working out: you don't just do a 2 hour workout session on Saturday and call yourself fit. I need to carve out 30 minutes a day to dedicate to keeping physically fit if I want to maintain good health.
-Spiritual discipline: isn't just something that happens on Sundays. I need to be in the Word by myself everyday as well as with my family everyday. Making God a priority should be easier then I make it.
-Writing a blog: all it takes is a little update periodically to be able to look back and see what's been going on and what I've been learning. But I can't do that if I don't write it down in a journal or public space like this. Blast me.

Well, in the meant…

I love to trim my bushes

There is nothing like a well manicured lawn with freshly shaped bushes. Clean flower beds and fresh lines in the grass cut at a diagonal. I've spent this past week weeding, trimming, and cutting and have one more long bed to weed and mulch. It will look so nice when it is done--like finally getting around to cleaning a bathroom, or brushing your teeth after two days of eating candy.

This morning I got a chance to go on a 2 1/2 hour bike ride with Mike and Joyce Flora and Art. We rode 20ish miles starting at 7am and wrapping up around 9:30. We rode downtown, uptown, through light rain, through heavy rain--it was a lot of fun. It is surprisingly empowering to ride a bike that far through familiar territory that you usually drive through. I may just start riding my bike to work (5 miles...uphill)

Beard Bros.

This most recent weekend I decided to test my mettle by mashing mightily with my brother-in-law Gregg. We signed up to compete in a sprint triathlon in Miamisburg, OH. The course consisted of canoeing 2.2 miles, running 3.1, and biking 10.6 miles. We had both been training individually and it seemed like we would be able to keep a pretty even pace with each other throughout each section of the race.

The 8am start time seemed pretty reasonable when we signed up. It seemed reasonable. That is, until we realized it was a 60 minute drive from either of our houses. Until we read the email that we should be there 60-90 minutes prior to the race start time in order to register, get our boat, and put our bikes on the racks. And until we realized that I would need to leave my house by about 5am to drive over to his house in order to make it on time.

And once we got there, we realized there are only 150 people signed up to compete in this thing anyways.

It turns out that we got there as the sun…

Hitting all the Seasons of life, one Week at a time

As I sit here experiencing post Independence Day depression (as if that were a thing), I am realizing what my last week consisted of, and it is shocking. Within the span of 6 days I experienced a birth, an adoption, a funeral, and a wedding. It seems as though I came upon many stages of monumental life activity all within the past week.

-Birth of young
My sister-in-law (Katie's brother DJ and Alyssa) gave birth naturally to a beautiful baby girl on Sunday morning. She is a real beauty and makes Isaiah's first cousin on the Ryan side of our family.

-Adoption of old
My sister and brother-in-law (Katie and Gregg) officially adopted Zahara, a 14 year old African. They celebrated the event at the courthouse with their whole family.

-Wedding of old
I got back in town from Tennessee just in time to play for Janet's wedding. Janet and Wayne are getting married after having lost both of their previous spouses. They are late in life and early in love with one another. It was a joyou…

Birthday surprises for everyone

I spent this past month challenging myself to love my wife better. There was a wonderful opportunity to do so too. This month, Katie turned 30 on the 30th, so I decided to give her a card each day and try to give her a gift each day as well (my natural love language is not giving gifts, so this would be a challenge, I knew).

The first week went very well. It was easy to write down the things I had meant to tell Katie all along and I was way overdue in paying her compliments. Gift ideas were also fairly easy, as long as I actually entered a store. As it turns out, I can be quite the little shopper as long as I am in a location where things are sold!

Week 2 also went fairly well. I had to start planning more creative gifts and extravagant ways of saying happy birthday. Most fell flat but a few were pretty clever!

On week 3 we were away at a week of CIY Move so I knew that I needed to plan ahead and pack cards and gifts ahead of time. I snuck them in my juggling bag (which I anticipated …

Distracted worshipper

The past two weeks I have spent at CIY Move, a high school conference designed to engage teens in a deeper walk with Christ. There have been some truly inspiring messages, worship moments, and devotional times and many teens have made commitments to Christ throughout both of these weeks. I love to be a part of things and learn what is "popular" among teen worship services and also to glean ideas from CIY. As I sit back and try to procure ideas, I find myself critiquing what they do more than I ought to. I have found that CIY does a great job at two things in particular:

1) Putting on a show.
Technically speaking, these guys pull out all the stops. It is a rock concert gone Jesus! Smart light fixtures, moving color washes, triplewide environmental projection, on stage props, and IMAG up-tight camera shots.

2) Not putting on a show.
All of the worship leaders do a great job of deflecting the cheers towards God after songs, speakers remain humble, and they make sure to put the …

From the mouths of babes...

Psalm 8:2 says, "Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger."
and Jesus quotes this verse during the triumphant entry in Matthew 21.
I have always liked the imagery of this verse--of kids giving God praise and of babies understanding an element of worship that adults don't get. 
But just this past couple days, I have listened to Isaiah start to talk. Well, talk might not be the best word to describe it. Babble isn't quite it either. He speaks in jibberish. Baby jargon that no one can make heads or tails of. He is just talking to talk. And I love it! I love to hear his voice babbling away because it reminds me that he is made in my likeness and he is learning to express himself through speech. 
And as I was listening to Isaiah "speak", I remembered Psalm 8. "From the lips of children and infants..." wait a minute! Infants can't even speak! If God is ordaining p…

Step by Step...

A couple weekends ago I committed to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) which marks the farthest run I have ever completed by a long stretch. It was a strangely telling experience of much of my personality and the process of completing the race taught me a lesson or two along the way. 
The telling part of my personality is that I do much better when I am in community with people than when I am by myself. In this case, I would not have finished the race in nearly the time I did (1:56:06) had I not been running with Brian who was coaching me the whole way and cheering me along with his presence. I think anyone who runs (or doesn't run) will gladly admit to you that running in community is much more enjoyable than running by yourself. I will testify to that.
There were several times I wanted to stop. Specifically at mile 8 and 10, I could feel my legs really starting to weary themselves with the monotony of the repetitious movement of the run. As my legs told my brain that they were t…

Some funny things

Since the creation of facebook and twitter, funny stories that occur throughout the day are lost in 120 character posts that are buried underneath themselves. The following are a few highlights of the past couple weeks:
-Today, I ran out of milk and only realized so after I boiled the mac and cheese. The logical thing to do? Just add water. The taste bud's response? Gross.
-Had a great conversation with Zach Steever about wood today.
-Took the top off of the MooMobile and found out that it looks like he is taking care of business, while taking care of business....

-Taught my son how to toss a ball. This one is not funny, but very sweet! :) -Aaaaaand, I'm sure there are more, but now it is time to finish preparing worship plans and get ready for tonight's softball game against Parkside #1

Following in the footsteps of your elders

I ran 11 miles this morning after being invited by Brian and Don to join them on the second leg of their training run this morning. This marks the longest run I have been on to date, and while it wasn't easy, it's amazing how I was able to stay with the pace we set out on when I knew that I had an experienced runner who was on my side, by my side, rooting me on.

Application? It is good to be in step with someone more experienced than yourself (perhaps in a mentor/mentee relationship) in order to push yourself further than you would be able to go alone.

'Nough said.

The socially acceptable sin

I recently read an article that addressed the idea of gluttony as sin. All too often we, as American Christians, find ourselves in a compromised situation where we have to say 'no' to our flesh even though the availability to indulge in greed is constantly bombarding us. The article's gist is that selfishness, lust, greed, and gluttony are all acceptable forms of sin in a North American context. No one bats an eye at things like obesity or excess material wealth but we will get bent out of shape over drinking, sex, or rock n roll.

I find myself daily struggling with this same pattern of selfish desires and greed and usually failing to it. Because amenities like food and comfort are readily available to me in my day-to-day life, it is difficult to turn them down. If I want more of "that thing", then I take it. I eat it. I wear it. I do it. It is easy to feed my addiction of comfort.

What's more, it is easy to think that I deserve it.

For instance, last night, …

FlyingPride Marathon

Let it never be said that God doesn't exist.
Nor that God doesn't have a sense of humor.
I found out both the hard way yesterday.

The short story:
I was planning on running the Flying Pig half-marathon and then going to church afterwards to lead worship. I had a big head about doing both and God said that I could only do one or the other.

The long story:
May 5th. Cinco de Mayo. The Flying Pig Marathon.

I signed up to run the half marathon for the Flying Pig back in January. It was $85 to register, which suddenly makes the race a big deal. Though a hefty amount, the registration fee was a justifiable cost on two accounts: 1) The money goes to charity, 2) What better way to motivate yourself to work out than to reserve a spot in a half marathon? This way, I don't buy a gym membership but my money is now an incentive to keep working out.

So I started training. It started by running a 5k in March and worked on getting my pace faster. Then I started running 4 miles the next wee…