Friday, January 30, 2009

The Superbowl I've been waiting for!!!

Right now at 1:40pm on the Friday before the Superbowl I admit that I have absolutely no clue who the two teams are for this Sunday. Nope - have no idea. To be honest, don't care. I usually just eat and watch the commercials anyways.

However, like a Bears or Cubs fan at the beginning of the season saying, "Maybe this year," I've always hoped for one specific Superbowl appearance. And this year - the hope is becoming a reality (which no Bears or Cubs fan can say)!!! The man, THE BOSS, is playing halftime! Bruce!!!

The last time I looked forward to the halftime show was when U2 played, and there hasn't been a better halftime show since in my opinion. Every year though as the show was going at our youth group party I would lean over to my friend Paul Valente and say, "Bruce needs to do this - it would be awesome." It would rock and there would be no wardrobe malfunctions.

And this year it is happening! Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, playing Superbowl XLIII. Can't wait - can't wait!

Check this out from yahoo: ARTICLE

And I just found out he'll be at the United Center on May 12th! Whoo Hoo!!

What teams are playing again this Sunday?


Thursday, January 29, 2009


It's come up twice this week in two different conversations; talking about the claim that is made sometimes that "If God were really there then He wouldn't allow evil to take place in the world."

Behind that sentence is normally a lot of hurt, a lot of anger, or a combination of both. There may also be confusion as well. Those feelings are real, and they need to be embraced and worked through.

Along with this though, I think the reality of the claim needs to be addressed.

It is basically saying that the presence of evil in the world proves God doesn't exist, because if He did then he would stop the evil. OK...let's say God doesn't exist. For the sake of argument, I'll go along with it. God doesn't exist.

Then...where does the evil come from?

I can't say that God doesn't exist and then blame Him for something. Either He exists or He doesn't, and if I say that He doesn't then He's off the hook for all of the evil.

So...where does the evil come from?

Humanity is the only other potential responsible party hanging around; and we do so with our hands in our pockets, looking around trying not to make eye-contact, whistling, with a "who me?" look on our face.

We choose wrongs, we treat others horribly, yes...we escort evil into the human race.

So the presence of evil in the world does not mean that God does not exist. But that then begs another question: Why would He allow people to freely choose to do evil acts?

But that's for another blog posting...

Friday, January 23, 2009

CPR & Inauguration

Last night Jeannette & I took a CPR class geared toward children & infants. There was no certification, but apparently the information was the same. I was impressed with how simple of a process everything was. The American Heart Association does a great job with the training class, called "Friends and Family," and we had a really good teacher. The thing we talked about on the way home was why more people don't learn something that is both so simple and so important. Busyness is obvious - as it was our excuse for the two years we've put off doing it since we first learned about the class. Or maybe just not realizing the ease and necessity. In my opinion it was worth the time (one 3hr class). Hope I'll never have to use, but I understand how to now if necessary.

Tuesday I watched the inauguration from my office at Moody. The connection through CNN/Facebook was rather inconsistent, and MSNBC wasn't a whole lot better. For Obama's speech it was pretty clear, but did get jumpy once or twice. I need to rewatch it before I make any comment in regards to the content of what he said. What I did appreciate was the overwhelming sense of hope that was present in the day. Not 100% obviously, as seen in some of the obnoxious Facebook statuses. But there was definitly a sense of hope and possibility in the day, something not present in quite awhile. And I think that was a good thing, a needed thing. I'm going to try and watch the speech again this weekend so as to be able to soak it in.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gall Bladders

I haven't had internet since Thursday, so this is the first chance I've been able to be here. My mom ended up having surgery on Thursday to have her gall bladder removed. This was supposed to happen on Friday. I was on the phone with her Thursday morning while she was in the hospital and she said, "I have to let you go, my doctor just walked in." My sister called me 20 minutes later to say that they were taking her in to surgery within the next couple hours. So, I made it out to Indiana and was there before she went in. All went great. They were going to do a biopsy on her liver, but the surgeon said that when he saw it that the liver looked perfect so there was no reason to do it. The high liver enzymes, the back pain, and the stones were all being attributed to the gall bladder. So, she's all good. At home recouping. Thanks to those who have prayed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Authentic Rollercoaster

I have two main personal desires I want to focus on this year: to know what it means to be truly in love with Jesus and to be authentic. I'm going to write about the in love with Jesus thing tomorrow.

Mentioning a desire for authenticity isn't to say there is a wish to replace something counterfeit. At the heart of it is a desire to be real with people about how I'm doing and what is going on in my head/heart. As a leader there is a responsibility that I have to be an example to people, but I don't feel that means being fake in what I'm experiencing in life. Sometimes it seems like REM's song "Shiny Happy People" was written about church leaders. Not that I want to rewrite it as "Gloomy Depressed People", nor do I want to celebrate negative things or even go as far as embracing some type of wrong. I just want to be real in what I'm going through. That's an authenticity I don't think I've seen enough of in others nor have I shown myself.

So in an effort to be authentic: the last few days have been an emotional roller coaster for me.

Sunday was anger - someone made me so mad, seeing straight was difficult for the rest of the night. Had to go for a walk because I didn't want to take it out on Jeannette or Baylee.

was disappointment & frustration - having to rely on seemingly unreliable matters.

was slight fear & sadness - got a call that my mom was going into the E.R. because of intense pain in her back. The short version of everything with her is that she has to have her gall bladder taken out. Understanding that it is a routine thing is one thing, but when I first heard the whole situation it freaked me out. I was pretty upset on the way home from our 20's group.

Of course these weren't three separate, individual days - they were three dominoes that fell over into one another, making a large blob of black.

The three days weren't 100% horrible. Jeannette, Baylee, and I had a great visit with my mom in Indiana Monday night (not knowing what was coming Tuesday). Had a great first day of class at Moody Tuesday morning, a great meeting with AL & Grace in the afternoon, and a great 20's group Tuesday night. It wasn't all gloom.

But...the gloom cloud hovered; seemingly just over my shoulder throughout all the three days.

One thing I realized today is that throughout these days and emotions I've been going through, I never dove into my journal. That's where I have focused time with God, and that would have brought healthy perspective to things. Not going there was Dumb on my part.

Today (Wed) was better though. Waking up at 6am sucked - but that's when Baylee was up. Not wanting her to fall back asleep - I got up with her and we played for three hours straight. That ended with both of sleeping in the chair for an hour, our heads touching as I held her to my chest. When I woke up from that nap I said to myself..."Yeah, things will all be OK."

It's like when Elijah was ready to kill himself - God didn't give him "the answer," direction, or a lecture on why he wasn't being a good example. He made him eat something and go to bed.

I hadn't eaten anything yet - but 3hrs of play and a good nap with Baylee did the trick.

When I get ticked, let-down, or just plain down - I know I need to stop and get focused. Journal and let it out to Him. If I don't the black cloud just never leaves, and that just makes the rest of the day (week) even worse.

Yeah, so that's been my week so far.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Looking forward to Ignite 2009

I'm really looking forward to Ignite this year. For the new-to-New Life or the non-New Life'er, Ignite is New Life's annual one-day training conference for our church. Throughout the day there are various sessions and work-shops helping people to be better prepared for serving in ministry. We mention every Sunday that New Life has 12 locations throughout the Chicagoland area, but there's an amazing spiritual depth that we get to participate in when people from all 12 locations come together for one purpose: how can we together be better for Jesus and our city? Last year's Ignite was the first large event I'd attended for the church. I remember calling Jeannette on the way home to say, "this is the church we need to be a part of." It's a time for us to celebrate, it's a time for us to become better at what we do, and it's a time for us to expand the vision in our hearts for Chicago.

If you can be at Ignite then you need to be at Ignite! Mark down the date!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Best of 2008: Movies

It's hard to remember movies over a year's time. I went to Wikipedia to see what movies came out in 2008. First thing I realized is that there are a lot of movies that I want to see that I still haven't yet (James Bond, Horton, Yes Man, etc). But after a little searching, here are my worst, honorable mentions, and Top 10 of 2008:

10,000 BC
Jeannette liked it, but I didn't. The story was just kinda lame and the CGI at times was equally lame.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
To be fair, we watched this on DVD without 3-D glasses. It may have been a little better in the full 3D experience, but the movie experience I had was a little ridiculous at times.

Honorable Mention:
Jumper - Thought it was going to be lame simply because Hayden Christensen was in it - but it ended up being enjoyable.
Cloverfield - I thought this was going to be so lame, but a lot of the teens were talking about it so I rented it. Very creative, well done. The Blair Witch meets Godzilla is the most accurate description I heard about it.
Leatherheads - Movie got bad reviews but I really liked it. Very funny.
Baby Mama - Big Tina Fey fan here, so I was looking forward to this. Thought it would have been a little funnier, but it definitely had some funny parts.
Hellboy II. - Went into this with low expectations, simply because sequels can be bad. But thanks to Guillermo del Toro it was very good!

Top Ten:
10. Star Wars - the Clone Wars - Yes, I'm biased, get over it. It was funny, well done, and great.

9. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - No where near as bad as some people made it out to be. Every time I heard someone say, "It was so unrealistic" I wanted to ask "Did you not see the other 3 movies?"

8. Kung-Fu Panda - absolutely hilarious. Great story & animation.

7. Rambo - I really hoped this wasn't going to be a dud, and in my opinion it wasn't. Rather violent at times, in a first 10min of Saving Private Ryan kind of way, but I thought it was a good story.

6. Wanted - Just saw this on DVD. The epitome of an action-focused "guy flick"

5. Be Kind Rewind - Probably most underrated and misunderstood movie of the year. Because of Jack Black being in it I think people expected something that the movie wasn't. Though it was funny, it wasn't meant to be a slap-stick funny. GREAT story. To me it was a beautiful movie.

4. The Incredible Hulk - The way talk was leading up to this movie, I apparently am one of the only ones who liked the Hulk movie that came out a few years ago. Regardless, this one was better. As much as I like Ed Norton, I didn't think he would be good a Bruce Banner. But, I was wrong.

3. Iron Man - I knew this movie would be good, but I didn't expect it to be as good as it was. If the Dark Knight hadn't come out it would have been the superhero movie of the year.

2. Seven Pounds - I saw this on New Year's Eve with Jeannette. Again, not understanding the bad reviews. Beautiful story of redemption and trying to make things right.

1. The Dark Knight & Wall-E - Yes, a tie for the best. I don't have to choose one, it's my blog. A friend of mine texted me when he was done seeing the Dark Knight to tell me what he thought of it. His text said, "One word: epic" And, I think that sums it up. The depth of Wall-E is hard to put words around, as far as its art, story, and excellence. Both of these movies set a benchmark as to how movies should be made in the future.

And now I wait for Transformers 2 to come out.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Best of 2008: Music

Because of audiobooks, I don't listen to music as often as I used to. But that doesn't mean music is absent. Looking over my Zune collection at albums that have come out this year, these are my top ten audio enjoyments of the year (I'm not going to write reviews on all of them like I did books. Just a few comments.):

10. Peter Gabriel - "Down to Earth" (single from the Wall-E soundtrack)
It's the song that plays during the final credits and is proof enough the Gabriel needs to put out another album - with all the songs being as awesome as this one.

9. Juno soundtrack
Was the first time I'd ever heard of Kimya Dawson and The Moldy Peaches. Fun, acoustic stuff.

8. Sanctus Real - We Need Each Other
The band that showed me Christian music wasn't dead. I think The Face of Love album is a little better, but this one is still very good.

7. Jack Johnson - Sleep Through Static
I need to listen to this a little more, but Jack is one of my favorites. Love the first single.

6. Metallica - Death Magnet
OK, I confess, I grew up listening to metal - still enjoy some metal. I'll also admit though that other than the song "One" and a few songs off the Black album, I never really got into Metallica. I really liked the documentary for the filming of St. Anger (though I only liked 2 songs on the album) and started listening to them. I like this album because it just sounds like an hour long jam-session - a very good jam session.

5. R.E.M. - Accelerate
I bought this a couple weeks ago because Amazon had it on sale for $5. I love it because it's good to hear just a good old rock 'n roll album. Great guitar sound and Michael Stipe sounds great as usual.

4. Radiohead - In Rainbows
Another recent purchase. Never listened to them but got this one because some friends had been talking good about it. LOVE the sound. Very different, but very innovative. Been listening to this and the R.E.M. album probably more than anything the last couple weeks.

3 Chris Tomlin - Hello Love
"God of this City" - enough reason for this to be great.

2. John Mellencamp - Life Death Love & Freedom
This a great folk album, a really dark album, from one of the most under-rated artists ever. "Longest Days" is probably one of my favorite songs of the year simply because it lyrically captures how I was feelings for quite awhile.

1. Coldplay - Viva la Vida
By far my favorite of the year. Was highly anticipating this album and they did not disappoint me. "Lovers in Japan" and "Viva la Vida" are just amazing songs, followed behind by the rest of the great track list. I only wish I could have seen them again in concert when they came to Chicago this time around.

That's what I've put into my Zune this year. In 2009 I'll be highly anticipating new projects by Springsteen, U2, and Green Day. Not sure who else is putting new stuff out next year, but those three pretty much overshadow anyone else anyway.

Didn't go to many concerts this past year. Couldn't afford it.

Best concert moment: Springsteen in Milwaukee.
When the man plays for over 4 hours straight - and the whole 4 hours is rockin, you can't get a whole lot better.

Worst concert moment: Smashing Pumpkin in Chicago.
I don't think I was ever that excited to see a show. I don't think I was ever so unhappy walking out of one. Horrible set list, that pretty much sums it all up. Still my favorite band, but not too sure I'll go see them live again.

And that's music in 2008.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Best of 2008: books & authors

Every year I try to discover a new author whose books I've never read - hopefully finding one that I'll want to read everything they've ever written or will have written. I don't always find such a writer - but this year I actually found two: Neil Gaiman & Brandon Sanderson.

I read Brandon Sanderson's Elantris because he was chosen to complete the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan's passing. If this guy is to be entrusted with that - I want to see what he's done. Elantris was one of the most imaginative pieces of fantasy literature I've read in a long time. Truly amazing in my option. I just started his Mistborn triology and though only a short ways in am still impressed with his story telling, and look forward to reading both the final WOT book and anything else Mr. Sanderson writes.

Neil Gaiman is a truly gifted writer. I read American Gods first. It took me a little bit to get into it, but that was because of my busyness in life at that time and lack of focus then anything with the story. It was a great story though. The next two I read from, Anansi Boys & The Graveyard Book blew me away and I want to read everything this guy has written now. Great, great author!

Specific books. I read a ton of fiction this year - I think probably because of everything going on in my life I didn't want to have a heavy academic diet this year. Read a lot of books that were part of series: The Alvin Miller series by O.S. Card (first 3 amazing, last 3 kinda blah), The Twighlight series by Stephanie Meyer (loved it), Brisinger by Christoper Paolini (superb), and then other single books here or there were also continuations of series (Ender in Exhile was a surprise both in that it came out and that it was fantastic).

I didn't read many books that I didn't care for. On the Road by Jack Kerouac wasn't a bad book - it just wasn't as good as I was hoping. Decent, but I guess I'm just not beat enough for it. The only bad book I read this year was The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson. OK idea - but just a DUMB book. I was really disappointed.

In addition to the series books I mentioned above, most of which were great reads, some other great books from my 2008 list which stood out are: Duma Key by Stephen King (outside of the Dark Tower books, one of this best this decade), UnChristian by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons (if you claim to be a Christian you must read this book), Adam by Ted Dekker (one of his better books in awhile I think. More depth to the characters), and I am Legend by Richard Matheson.

But, after 48 books over 365 days, here are my top 5 of the year:

#5 - Your Heart Belongs To Me, by Dean Koontz

I've been somewhat disappointed by Koontz last few books, but this one hit me to the core. It was actually convicting in different ways. He broke from his normal formula/outline for this one and the story hits to the heart.

#4 - Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead

Recommended this book my Josh Weaver & Alex McNeil - the boys didn't do me wrong. This book had everything: adventure, spirituality, redemption, fighting - total guy book. I resonated with the main character's spiritual plight - and was encouraged by how it ended.

#3 - The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

One of my "I've give it a try" books this year was one of my favorite. The two themes in this book that really hit me in the heart were 1) how the ripples of one decision can go into not only the rest of our life but the lives of those most important to us, and 2) how secrets can ruin a family. A tad slow to get going - I thought it was an amazing story.

#2 - Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

I purposely waited to read this book - didn't want to jump on the band wagon. But, I needed to read this book when I did. I appreciated at an incredible depth this guy's journey and his insights and his ideas. I'm going to blog more in the next couple days about this book, so I won't get into things here - only will say this: I want to fall in love with Jesus again.

#1 - Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I wrote in my review of this book that it is unfortunate that most people won't read it because of its size. What a story, what a depth, what a history, what a book! It is one of the best novels I've ever read!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Books read in 2008

Going into 2004 I decided I was for once going to fulfill a realistic New Year's resolution. People can't keep New Year's resolutions normally because the ones they make couldn't be kept by anyone. "I'm going to exercise everyday." Well what happens when you get sick? Sounds like a good one until reality hits. I wanted to make a resolution that was realistic to accomplish but one that would also stretch me. "I'm going to exercise once a month" obviously can be accomplished - but who the heck cares?

So my NYR that year was to read 50 books over the course of the year. To keep track I wrote down the titles and authors. By year's end I had 49 read. Failed - but how close can you get? So I tried the same the next year. Number of books read in 2005: 54. Yes, I have made and kept a NYR in my lifetime.

Since then I've unofficially tried to hit 50 books a year. This year I only read 48. In my defense - which is me comforting myself - one of the books I read was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which has around 1800 pages. I think that makes up for falling two short.

I thought it was beneficial to be able to look back and see the list of books I had read over the year. It helps for having something to look at when someone asks you for a book recommendation. So I've kept track of all of the books I've read since then, making a new list every year. So, here is my list of read books in 2008:

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany ~ John Irving
2. Seventh Son ~ Orson Scott Card
3. Crown of Swords ~ Robert Jordan
4. Elantris ~ Brandon Sanderson
5. Duma Key ~ Stephen King
6. The Appeal ~ John Grisham
7. American Gods ~ Neil Gaiman
8. The Emergent Manifesto of Hope ~ Doug Pagitt & Tony Jones
9. Dune Messiah ~ Frank Herbert
10. Red Prophet ~ Orson Scott Card
11. Sex God ~ Rob Bell
12. Apprentice Alvin ~ Orson Scott Card
13. Alvin Journeyman ~ Orson Scott Card
14. Heartfire ~ Orson Scott Card
15. The Crystal City ~ Orson Scott Card
16. 7th Heaven ~ James Patterson
17. Odd Hours ~ Dean Koontz
18. Twilight ~ Stephanie Meyer
19. Les Miserables ~ Victor Hugo
20. New Moon ~ Stephanie Meyer
21. Eclipse ~ Stephanie Meyer
22. The Shack ~ William Young
23. Communicating for Change ~ Andy Stanley
24. First Blood ~ David Morrell
25. The Dangerous Days of Daniel X ~ James Patterson
26. Anansi Boys ~ Neil Gaiman
27. Fight Club ~ Chuck Palahniuk
28. No Country for Old Men ~ Cormac McCarthy
29. UnChristian ~ David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons
30. Adam ~ Ted Dekker
31. How to Speak to Youth…and Keep Them Awake at the Same Time ~ Ken Davis
32. The Godfather Returns ~ Mark Winegardner
33. Breaking Dawn ~ Stephanie Meyer
34. I am Legend ~ Richard Matheson
35. Brisinger ~ Christopher Paolini
36. Black Sunday ~ Thomas Harris
37. A Lion Among Men ~ Gregory Maquire
38. The Subtle Knife ~ Philip Pullman
39. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter ~ Kim Edwards
40. Cross Country ~ James Patterson
41. On the Road ~ Jack Kerouac
42. Ender in Exile ~ Orson Scott Card
43. The Great Gatsby ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
44. Byzantium ~ Stephen Lawhead
45. Your Heart Belongs to Me ~ Dean Koontz
46. Wishful Drinking ~ Carrie Fisher
47. The Graveyard Book ~ Neil Gaiman
48. Blue Like Jazz ~ Donald Miller

Over the next couple days I'm going to comment on what my favorites (and not so favorites) were. I'm also going to think through my favorite music & movies from the year.

I'm not going to make any comments on the list or things for 2009 today though. It helps me to stretch out forward-looking-thinking.

I will say this though...Blue Like Jazz was a good book to end the year on. I needed to read it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


About 10 minutes left in the first day of the New Year.

Didn't really have an answer for Jeannette today when she asked me if I was going to make any resolutions or goals for this year. "Eat healthier" was the lame answer that came out.

But now I think I have a better answer, which I'll have to share with her tomorrow because she's in bed right now. Here's my personal goals:

- Read 60 books
- Re-develop a habit of journaling
- Develop a habit of regular blogging
- Do an in-depth study of Leviticus
- Develop a habit of regular exercise
- Hang out with people more often; especially family
- Oh...and eat better

I wanted to say to blog daily, but I know that's cliche, lame, and somewhat unrealistic.

And I'm cutting this short because I have 2min left in the day and I want to get it in on Jan 1st. I'll have to think through other goals and put them down later.