Monday, January 30, 2012

My Morning Pick-Me-Up

Most mornings, if you catch me early enough, you will find me with a can of “Red Bull” in my hand. It’s my morning habit.

Most of my church members do a double-take on Sunday mornings. Some mistakenly think I’m drinking a beer.


Explaining that it’s my morning “pick-me-up” doesn’t really help. Many eye the can suspiciously, assuming there must be “some” alcohol in that funny little can.

Again… really?!?

Oh, it’s okay for them to start their morning off with a cup of coffee… or three! Coffee has been a legitimate morning drug of choice for decades. Almost every business you go into today offers a free cup of coffee. They call it hospitality.

Okay, except maybe Starbucks. A coffee there costs three times as much as a Red Bull.

Even churches are expected to have a pot of coffee ready before the first member passes through the doorway. And it had better be good, or they’ll go over to the Baptists!

Which is why I don’t make the coffee at church. I can’t afford to lose any more members!

Some mega-churches even have coffee bars to rival Starbucks, complete with professional baristas to interpret your coffee blabber and translate it into an over-blown cup o’ joe.

But when I walk down the hallway with a little silver-and-blue can in my hand, people recoil in horror! Women faint! Men grab their children and shield their eyes! There is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate… a little.

But I like Red Bull. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t drink it.

In that little 8.3 oz. can I get all the caffeine (and calories) of a 12 oz. Coke. I also get taurine – whatever that is – without all the carbonation, which makes me belch.

And unlike most coffee drinkers I know, I limit myself to only one. “All things in moderation.”

Okay, I buy the 16 oz. size when I go to district meetings. Still, only one.

But as I said, I don’t really know what taurine is, so I’m not sure I want to put that much inside of me.

     “Also known as 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, taurine was originally isolated from bull bile in 1827. Now made synthetically, it is the magical elixir said to bring out the kitesurfing extremophile in any Web-surfing nerd. Taurine's actual effects, while not as drastic as the hype, are pretty wide-ranging, even from the amount found in a single can: Not only is it an inhibitory neurotransmitter (in some cases acting as a mild sedative) and an age-defying antioxidant, it even has the potential to steady irregular heartbeats.”

The good thing about Red Bull is that, in addition to a morning pick-me-up, my daily habit also sponsors professional sports teams and extreme sport athletes – from snow-boarders to sky divers to air racers.

What did Juan Valdez and his little donkey ever do?

But here is my point: I could drink a whole bottle of tequila throughout the sermon if I put it in one of those fancy Styrofoam coffee cups, and no one would blink an eye. And to just hold a "grande" Starbucks cup, they would think I'm "hip".

But drink a small energy drink straight from the can, and… Oh My God!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Welcome to the 21st century!

Last week I bought an iPad2.

Since then, I have embrace "the Cloud".

My calendar, now provided by Google, can be viewed on my office computer, my home laptop, my iPhone, and my iPad.

In fact, wherever I go, I have my complete calendar before me. No more, "I'll have to check my calendar and get back to you." It's all right there!

And thanks to "" - which a techie friend in Memphis turned me on to - even my documents can be accessed wherever I go... computers, iPad, iPhone. I can edit a sermon at Back Yard Burger just as easily as I can write it in my office!

It's like, wherever I go, my entire office goes with me!

Wait a minute.

Do I want that?

Do I really want that much access?

Somebody... Anybody!... How do I turn this thing off?!?

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK Jr. Day

So, today was a holiday. A day off. The office was closed. I was free to do whatever I wanted.

I wish.

On Saturday, I spent the afternoon painting the bathroom. It will need a second coat. But Monday is a holiday, I reassured myself. We'll get 'er done!

Sunday morning I woke up wishing someone would chop my head off. The headache was excruciating! It was accompanied by some serious sinus drainage and stomach turmoil that only made me want to hurl the contents of my stomach. No such luck!

Too much information?

Anyway, I soldiered through two morning worship services and an afternoon funeral. But I didn’t know if I was contagious, so I stayed away from people as best I could.

Painting was also out of the question.

Which means that today, on my day off – a holiday, remember? – I drove into town to make hospital visits at two hospitals. The three patients, at two different hospitals, were each in serious condition; I hadn’t seen them since Saturday. I made the visits, comforted the families, prayed.

My second agenda, while I was in town, was to buy an iPad2.

You see, I am almost finished reading the biography of the recently-deceased Steve Jobs, and it has made me a true believer. I have turned in my membership card to the Luddites (Google it if you don’t know!) and my goal this year is to completely embrace emerging technology.

Which means I’ve got a steep learning curve to overcome.

I will eventually invest in the iPhone 4S, but since my iPhone 3 still works, I decided to start with a Tablet.

I have looked at the iPad at Best Buy on several occasions. And I have walked away. It seemed to be just a larger iPhone, and I didn’t see that it could do anything I couldn’t do with some other electronic device I owned.

On occasion, I even invited/begged salespersons to “sell me” on the iPad, and they couldn’t.

But today, my goal was to buy an iPad, so I returned to Best Buy.

Unlike previous visits, they seemed short-handed today.

It was a holiday, after all.

When more people are free to shop.

After quite some time of gazing dreamily at the display models, an employee finally stopped and asked if he could help me. He didn’t know much about the iPad – he confessed he didn’t have one – but after some baseless “research”, he determined that it couldn’t do what I needed it to do.

Another employee with a Justin Bieber haircut had told me the same back in December. Hmmmm.

This time, the employee directed me toward the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, which, he said, ran on Android and would be more compatible with Microsoft Office documents.

Because, y’know, Apple doesn’t play well with others!

After playing with the Galaxy for another 20 minutes, I decided it would probably be okay. Not the same as the iPad – which functions like my iPhone – but close enough that I felt I could operate it. But I didn’t like the white case.

Picky, I know, but another one of my resolutions for this year – besides making decisions more quickly – was that I was not going to settle for less than what I really wanted.

So I went to Office Depot.

Is it okay that I mention these stores by name?

There, I specifically asked for an employee who knew about Tablets. The guy who showed up to “help” was in charge of the “Computer” section of the store, but didn’t know much specifically about tablets.

So, over the next 20 minutes, we learned together.

And I liked the Toshiba “Thrive” Tablet.

Which was a good thing, since it was the only Tablet they still had on display.

Apparently, Christmas had been good for Tablet sales.

Like the Galaxy, it runs on Android. I was okay with that. And it had a slot for an SD card, a USB port, and other connections (which Jobs refused to allow on the iPad). And I loved the feel of the rubberized case.

So I said, “My plan for today was to buy a Tablet; so get me one.”

To which the helpful employee replied – and keep in mind, we had been talking for about 20 minutes at this point – “Let me see if we have any of these in stock.”

You guessed it. Nope.

“But there should be a truck coming in any day now…”

So I came home empty-handed.

Later, I phoned a friend. He says the iPad2 really will work for what I need.

I’m still not sure.

So much for my New Year’s resolutions.


And that’s what I did on my day off.

Painting the bathroom will have to wait.

ADDENDUM: As of January 20, I became the proud owner of an iPad2.

Yes, I know. I changed my mind again.

But I found an employee at Best Buy (another Bierber-wannabe) who actually knew what he was talking about; in fact, he was working on becoming Apple-certified! He told me everything I needed to know!

And, since I've already loaded up my iPhone with music, I won't have to recreate my digital music library! (Actually, that was the argument that tipped the scale.)

That was Steve Jobs' plan all along. Devious!

Now I've just got to figure out what to do with the darned thing!

And the bathroom project is finished too. Looks great!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Voyage Continues!

Twenty-four years ago today, the First Mate and I officially set sail on a life-long voyage!

And they said it wouldn’t last!

Okay, nobody really said that…

…except maybe her father… and the other couples at “Engaged Encounter”... and a few of my friends.

Truth be told, we really tied the knot in May of the year before at Knott’s Berry Farm. In fact, we still have the “plumb fake” “Hitchin’ License” signed by a plumb fake “Judge Roy Bean”, which we proudly display on our bedroom wall. And in a jewelry box (still packed away somewhere) are two horseshoe-nail rings that were included in the $5 purchase price.

The jewelry stores say the engagement ring should equal 3-month’s salary. That was about right for us in 1987.

But being family-oriented as we are, for the sake of family and friends we repeated our vows in a church ceremony eight months later.

The Captain looked debonair in his grey morning coat and striped ascot, and the First Mate was simply breath-taking in her mother’s ivory and pearl wedding gown.

And we both looked incredibly young!

We still have a magnum of champagne from the wedding reception, saving it for some unspecified “special occasion” in the future. Like the couple, I’m sure the champagne still as bubbly today as it was back then!

Any of my wine-drinking friends want to weigh in on that one?

Anyway, it’s been quite a journey, these past 24 years. It has not always been clear skies and smooth seas, but we’ve weathered both the good times and the bad times… together. Through it all, we’ve had each other’s back. There’s no one I’d rather be sailing with.

And the journey is not over yet. There are many seas yet to sail, many ports yet to pillage.

In June we dropped anchor in our 5th port. I’m still preaching, but in a different pulpit with different challenges. Arrrrgh!

And the First Mate has settled into yet another new and fulfilling job. She is much more adaptable than either of us would have guessed 24 years ago!

I appreciate that!

And, she can still “shiver me timber”!

I appreciate that too!

Too much information???

So tonight, we celebrate! And what a celebration it will be!

To paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow, “Why is the wine always gone?!?”

Next year there will probably be a party, with plenty of pillaging and plundering for everyone. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll be invited to join the crew.

Until then, just celebrate with us wherever you are. Lift a glass of ale and shout a hearty “Good Health!” and “Fair Winds!” to a couple of young pirates in love.

That would be us.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Yes, It's Over!

Yesterday (January 6th) was Epiphany, the day we traditionally celebrate the arrival of the magi, foreign dignitaries who paid homage to the newborn Jesus.

Epiphany is a special day that most Christians overlook. Whereas the visitation of the shepherds to the manger emphasize Jesus' ministry to the poor and marginalized, the inclusion of the story of the magi in the gospel suggests the global nature of Jesus' ministry.

But enough preaching. This is supposed to be a rant!

I really wanted to add the word "Finally!" to today's title, but I decided that might make some think that I don't like Christmas.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Who doesn't like a holiday season based on the magical words, "What didja git me?!?"

But seriously, for too many people, Christmas started on (even before!) Thanksgiving Day. That means we had to endure 44 days of Christmas this year!

Forty-four days of shopping. Forty-four days of Santas sitting enthroned in mall displays. Forty-four days of the same four Christmas carols played over and over and over again.

By the way, when it comes to Christmas carols - why can't celebrities just sing it without all the extra ear-splitting vocal modulations and gyrations? I swear, I heard a rendition of "What Child Is This?" that sounded as if it was being sung by Mary as she was giving birth!

Actually, some will argue with me that there were not 44 days of Christmas. There were only 31 days between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve.

And while that count is accurate, that is not Christmas! The season of Advent - the time of preparation for the arrival of the Messiah - begins on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Christmas actually begins December 25th and is celebrated through January 6th.

Thus, the Twelve Days of Christmas.

No, really. The song is about the twelve days AFTER Christmas day.

Look it up.

Go ahead. I'll wait...

Retailers want us to jump ahead and shop and spend so that they will have a merry Christmas.

And we get caught up in the hype. The decorations go up, the carols start playing, the shopping begins way too early.

This year I received my first Christmas Card in the mail a week before Thanksgiving!

I put mine in the mailbox on December 24th.

The problem with this rush (at least for me) is that I grow tired of all the decorations, and absolutely sick of the Christmas muzak, by the time Christmas day arrives!

Bah, Humbug!

And I realize at that point that the 12 Days of Christmas are yet to come!

But most people miss that part of the season.

I've known families who traditionally take down the Christmas tree and decorations on December 25th.

"Merry Christmas! Now go home!"

Upon our return from California on January 2nd, I was truly surprised to hear Christmas Carols still being played overhead at the Wendy's restaurant in Nashville where we stopped for lunch.

I once proposed a special Epiphany worship service to a church I was serving. I have successfully pushed through Ash Wednesday services, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. But Epiphany?


So, unlike most of the rest of the country, today we are taking down our Christmas decorations, hauling box after box up into the attic until next year.

Yes, Christmas is over!