Monday, November 27, 2006

Thankful and content

Precious Little EuphronyIn the aftermath of this busy holiday, I can truly say that I am both thankful and content.

Thanksgiving Spread
Content with a belly full of good food. Content with an extended family that I can appreciate and enjoy, even when their daily lives are contrary to what I believe to be righteous living.
Thanksgiving Spread
Thankful for the time I have been able to spend with Mrs. Euphrony and Little Euphrony. Thankful that I have them to spend time with. Thankful that Mrs. Euphrony is feeling better this week (her allergies have been killing her and, being pregnant, their is little she can take to help). Thankful that I have a wife who loves and appreciates me, and a daughter who craves my time and gives the biggest squeezy hugs.

Content in the plans that God has laid out for the rest of the year. Content that everything will be ready when Baby Euphrony arrives in around 14 weeks.

Silly Little EuphronyThankful that my beautiful wife is brave enough and strong enough to go through the arduous journey that is pregnancy. Thankful for the joy and fun I see in my daughters eyes. Thankful for the gentle, compassionate hearts of these women who so fill my thoughts and my life.

Content that I will likely never be famous, but hoping to be remembered as a loving husband and father. Content that the differences I make will not be en masse. Content that I can touch one persons life, and then another.

Thankful that God shows me, on occasion, a life that I have touched. Thankful that God reminds me constantly of those whose lives He desires for me to touch.

Content that I may never transcend the thorns in my flesh, or find faith a simple matter. Thankful that I see in my daughter the birth of a faith, planted by her mother and I and faithful teachers at church and her preschool; faith that brings her to get out her nativity set and place them thusly ("Look, they're all looking at the Baby!")
Little People Nativity

Very thankful. Very content. I think I can endure a little longer with these reminders and blessings from God.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pop Quiz

Would you rather . . .

  1. At a restaurant, have a table that rocks back and forth because the legs aren't level -OR- a chair that does the same thing?

  2. Have a bionic eye -OR- ear?

  3. Be somebody's pet cat -OR- somebody's pet dog?

  4. Be forced to share your bedroom with and elk -OR- to share your bathroom with a man with strange skin problems?

  5. Spend 3 weeks in a lifeboat with a person who talks incessantly about his or her medical problems -OR- with somebody who has a chronic wet, hacking cough?

  6. If you had a second head, have it facing the same way with full movement -OR- havin it facing backwards fixed in place, unable to move?

  7. Be trapped in a cave of hungry vampire bats -OR- put a large jar full of bees into your pants?

  8. As a man, have a terribly bad fluorescent orange dandruff -OR- have your sweat smell like Chanel No. 5 perfume?

Would You Rather . . . Board Game(All questions courtesy of the Would You Rather . . .? board game.)

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Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm annoyed

Okay, I got hit with three of my pet peeves all within a half-hour time span this morning. I can handle one at a time, though Mrs. Euphrony would likely hear about it later in the day. She would politely listen to me rant and then gently remind me that I've stood on the same soap box so many times that my shoe prints have worn a rut into the top. Had it been a mere two things, I may well have survived. But three in so short a time span warrants a blog post.

Here they are, in order of occurrence:

  1. School Zone Speeders:
    Really, is it so time-saving that you must drive at twice the posted speed limit for a school zone over that long stretch of maybe 200 yards? Come on, people, it will add a possible 20-seconds to your commute to work if you slow down just enough to not blindly run over a kid that is just trying to get to school. I drive by three schools on my way to work, and within a block or two of four other schools. I am slowed down much more, on average, by the train tracks I go over than by the school zone. Let's keep our kids a little safer, shall we?
    And, where on earth are the cops that are supposed to stop these reckless drivers? My mom got a ticket for speeding through a school zone in Abilene a few years ago: the kicker is that the school had been closed, after much public debate, about six months before she got the ticket. They had never taken down the school zone signs, or stopped the lights, and the cop acknowledged that everyone knew there was no longer an active school there; but, the posted limit is the posted limit and she got a ticket. (She was able to argue it down with the judge to a normal fine instead of a school zone fine. Some sanity was found.) The moral of the story: cops seem to be able to police the inactive school zones, but not the active ones.

  2. Chris Tomlin radio:
    It's not that I dislike Chris Tomlin's music, or worship music in general, but he has become the poster boy for the praise and worship genre. Still, do we have to have Chris Tomlin played every third song on KSBJ? Really? And of the two in between, at least one is a worship song from another artist. I love to worship Jehovah, I love to sing and I love songs that you can sing along with. But I need much more than to be told in every way possible that Jesus loves me and the God is magnificent. I know this and I have known this for decades. There are those who need to hear this, who may not really know God's love, but they also need to hear more that that.
    It's like having a painting of a beautiful scene in nature and being shown only a sliver of the blue sky. Was that the sky, or water? What does the rest look like? You don't know from that sliver of a glimpse. Or it's like a warm hug from a loved one. Feels great, doesn't it? But after ten minutes you start to feel a little uncomfortable, a little smothered or claustrophobic. You know there's a lot more to your relationship than just a big, unending hug buts it's lost from sight. In short, like the music but hate the repetitiveness. (Disclaimer: I actually have major problems in general with any Top 40-style radio station. By their very nature, they play songs to death, and for someone like myself who likes a very broad scope of music and musical styles this is annoying. Personally, I listen to my CDs (on shuffle) a lot, or listen on-line to half a dozen radio stations from around the country to get different regional perspectives, or listen to something like Yahoo! Music to get more variety in what I hear.)

  3. Perfume strong enough to kill:
    Why, oh why, do some people insist and persist in donning enough perfume or cologne to justify classification of their bodies under OSHA guidelines for topic materials? As I walk in to work this morning, strolling down the long hall to my desk, I am assaulted by the maleficent odor. No person is in sight, or had been as I approached the trail, so this was a scent so heavy that no blood hound was needed to track the offender. This would only be a slight annoyance to me if not for the fact that I am extremely sensitive to scents; sitting next to a person wearing moderate amounts of perfume or cologne will likely trigger a migraine headache that will last for hours. What I smelled in the hallway today, with no person left in sight, was strong enough to choke a dog. I proceeded with alacrity past the danger zone. No headache has ensued, but the need to rant surpassed all others.
Okay, I feel a little better now. And Mrs. Euphrony doesn't have to listen to the same-old gripes for the umpteenth time. I'm stepping down off the soap box, now. It's available for someone else to use.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Music Spotlight: King's Singers

The King's SingersI recently posted on this blog describing a CD I had put together for Mrs. Euphrony to play for our daughter in the womb, and of the follow-up CD that I was assembling for our son. One of the groups that I included on both CDs is the King's Singers - a vocal group from England who sings just about every style of music made (from 16th century madrigals to more modern "madrigals" from the likes of Randy Newman, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys). I've loved listening to their music for nearly two full decades, and the songs "The Oak and the Ash" (on Little Euphrony's CD) and "You are the New Day" (on Baby Euphrony's CD) are among my favorites.

Well, it would seem that they are watching. One of the current line-up, Christopher Gabbitas (a baritone), found my blog and commented on the post. He also informed me that the King's Singers would be in my area this week - in Houston on Tuesday, November 14th and in College Station on the 16th. I couldn't make it to the Houston show, but last night I drove by myself to College Station after work to go see their performance on the Texas A&M campus. (A BIG thank you goes to Mrs. Euphrony for her understanding and encouraging me to go up and see this concert. I love you so much!) The crowd was very receptive; in fact, there was a group of girls in front of me (college-age) who could only be described as positively giddy with excitement at being there last night. Being a man, and having never been giddy in my life, I was only reminded of how much older than these young ladies I actually am.

The evening's performance was divided into two distinct parts. In the first half, before intermission, they sang the majority of the songs from their Fall 2006 album Landscape & Time. It is a beautiful collection of pieces from mostly modern composers and featuring the works of Cyrillus Kreek, an Estonian composer of the early 20th century. The audience sat rapt as we listened to their voices paint pictures and guide us through this selection evocative of landscapes from around the world.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe second half, after the intermission, was begun with the performance of "Timepiece". This is an allegorical tale of the fall of man in the garden, caused not by Eve and Adam partaking in the forbidden fruit but rather by the wristwatch Adam wore and the discord it caused. It culminates in God, frustrated, crying out "Stop!" and the universe obeying His word, thus restoring peace to the garden. That seems to be the only set song for after intermission, with the songs following being chosen specific for each night. They sang songs from The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Harry Connick, Jr., and others. In general, this section of the performance was much lighter in tone, and the audience was drawn into the music with laughter and joy at the obvious fun they were having on stage. As an encore, they offered up "You are the New Day" (thank you, Chris, for remembering me!); while all the songs before this had been well received and enjoyed, there was an audible gasp and smattering of applause on the opening chords of this song, obviously a favorite of many. Following this, they remained on stage for a question and answer session and then stood to sign the CD's they knew we were all purchasing. A very enjoyable evening, indeed.

Here is a video, from around 1996, of the King's Singers performing "The Gift" (a traditional Shaker song that most people will recognize).


Having a very busy schedule, they are now off to a couple more performances in the U.S.A. before leaving in a week's time for an Asian tour and then back to the U.K. for Christmas. If you get a chance in the future, make time to go see this wonderful group. You will not be disappointed.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hope beyond all hope

Hope City LimitsAstute readers of this blog may have noticed that several of my conversations lately have been sprinkled with the mention of hope. This was both unintentional (in that this is simply where my thoughts have been led of late) and intentional (in that I included them purposefully). Hope is something we cling to as followers of Christ, without which we despair and are left adrift. But hope is also something which we must find, and with which we guard ourselves. Paul, in Ephesians, encourages us to put on the "helmet of salvation" (Ephesians 6:17); but he is a little more specific in his description to the Thessalonians:

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NIV)
Paul again refers to the helmet of salvation, but speaks of it as our hope in salvation that we put on. And we can learn, I think, from how Paul tells us to protect ourselves with this hope: as a helmet. The helmet protects the head; hope is something that must be grasped mentally. When we set our minds, focused on the hope of our salvation, then our entire outlook is changed. But when that hope is lost in our minds, these are the times when we find turmoil and struggle with our faith. It is, in essence, a positive feedback loop (okay, I am an engineer, so I'm allowed to talk this way): faith builds our basis for hope and, in turn, our hope supports our faith.

The Spirit of God is our counselor, our comforter. The Spirit speaks to us constantly of the hope we find in Christ, of the hope we hold in our salvation. Sara Groves sings of this in her song "When it was Over":

There is a love that never fails
There is a healing that always prevails
There is a hope that whispers a vow
A promise to stay while we're working it out
So come with your love and wash over us

The hope we hold in Jehovah's faithfulness to us can be a phenomenal influence and support in our lives. To simply know that our Lord - who Was, and Is, and Is To Come - stands beside each of us and desires only the greatest for our lives can turn our mourning into dancing, our tumult into peace, our sorrow into joy. Jeremiah held onto this hope; in the worst time of his life, as he saw the fulfillment of all the prophecies he had laid against Judah, he wrote:
21This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I have hope in Him."
Lamentations 3:21-24 (NASB)
Beyond HopeIf Jeremiah can sit in exile in Egypt and remember that, even in this, Jehovah is faithful and loving and find hope, then what holds us back from clinging to hope?

Are you finding hope in your day to day walk? Do you hold on to hope, wearing it like a helmet? Has your life seemingly drown out any hope you have known? Is there something in particular that brings hope to your life?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Am I crazy?

Okay, don't answer that question. But I've loved this song for years.

Squirrel Nut Zippers: "Hell"

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That'll be nice

I read today that Apple is teaming up with Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United to "deliver the first seamless integration between iPod® and in-flight entertainment systems". Planes - mostly the long haul, trans-continental ones - will begin being refitting in 2007, allowing the iPod® to be powered and charged through seat connections. Additionally, if the seat has a video monitor the connections will allow playback of videos on the seat back display. You can read more here.

For those on long flights (I'll be on one to Norway in December and one to Brazil in January) this will be great. The biggest problems with air travel for the modern, electronically equipped passenger is the lack of power connections in both the airport and on the plane. I've been at the airport too many times this year, watching my batteries go dead for lack of someplace to recharge them (I even got into an arguement with someone else needing to charge over the use of one of the rare outlets I found). I hope the trend continues to spread.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Prayer Requests

We found out last night that an old friend of ours, Connie, has cancer. This is the same Connie of Joel and Connie, under my prayer list on the right, who are trying to adopt a second child. Connie has been through a lot over the last few years. Around eight years ago her kidney's completely shut down on her. After a few years she was able to get a kidney transplant from a cousin; but, because she only has one functioning kidney, she cannot have children of her own. After a bit of work, they were able to adopt a boy. Now, they have been trying for the last two years to adopt again, with heartbreak after heartbreak (multiple times they have had the birthmother back out after the baby was born). And now, they have found out the she has cancer. She had surgery last week, removing her natural (non-functioning) kidney and her appendix. She will have to go back in a month for another surgery where they will have to remove a little bit of her colon. They think it is pretty well contained, but with all she's already been through with her kidneys this is pretty hard on them. Please pray that all continues to go well with containing the cancer, and please pray that their quest to adopt another child is blessed.

Also on the prayer list on the left are Mike and Kesha. Mike has been in ICU for a month, now, and was doing better - almost ready to leave the hospital and go into rehab. He has had a major setback yesterday and today, and was close to death. He is back to square one. What he is struggling with has, we're told, a 60% survival rate - not great, but not terrible, and the doctors still have hope for him. Please be praying that he regains strength and for his wife, Kesha, and their four-year old daughter.

I love my wife!

Yes, that's right, I love my wife. The latest evidence of her love for me, which I freely reciprocate, is in this coming weekend's activities. We had nothing planned for this weekend; maybe just a little work around the house to get ready for hosting Thanksgiving and for the coming baby. Then my brother informed me that he had an extra ticket to Sunday's MLS Cup final between my hometown Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution. Without even having to beg or plead, Mrs. Euphrony suggested that I go, and we can all visit family for the weekend in Dallas to boot.

MLS CupNow that's love: she's letting me put off honey-dos to go and watch a game I hadn't even planned on going to. How did I get to be so lucky? I'm not always the greatest husband, but I have a wife who puts up with me and still is this thoughtful. Let me tell you, she's got a great Christmas present coming.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Peregrination of the soul

I've mentioned before that I like, as Mrs. Euphrony describes it, "talkie" music. There's a reason for this, and it is akin to why I also prefer movies or stories that follow a man's journey. Case and point is the fact that, every February 2nd, I watch Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. Besides starring a generally funny guy, I like this movie because it chronicles the change of a man from a self-centered, egotistic lout to a caring, selfless, likable man. Like Solomon, he finds that he can spend his days (or, in the movie, one day over and over) in search of fun and pleasure; but this vanity leaves him empty, hollow, suicidal. It is only after his resignation to the fact that life is bigger than him that he actually begins to grow, to change, to see others and not himself.

O, BrotherI love this kind of story, which tells of the pilgrimage of a man. I guess, for me, I care a lot less about where you are than where you are going. I can tell from times in my own life that, though I was on a spiritual or physical mountaintop, I was on a slip-n-slide to hell. I was going the wrong way, from strength in God to weakness in myself. So I want to know how a man is growing, not what have you done but what are you doing. This is how I measure my own life - awards on the shelf are meaningless, past glories; what prize am I striving for today? If I cannot name that prize, that thing I work towards, then I know I'm in trouble.

John Donne wrote about the pilgrimage of man. I mentioned in my last post that I am reading his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions; along with it I am reading Death's Duel, which was the last sermon Donne preached, just a few days before his own death. It seemed that Donne almost knew he was about to die: along with preaching Death's Duel, generally regarded as a personal eulogy, he also sat for a painting of himself in a shroud (e.g. in funereal garb) which was completed at the same time. So, with his eulogy and obituary picture completed, he died. He was obsessed with death, and obsessed with the journey and transition of man.

In domo Patris, in my Father's house, in heaven, there are many mansions;(John 14:2) but here, upon earth, the Son of man hath not where to lay his head,(Matt. 8:20) saith he himself. Nonne terram dedit filiis hominum? How then hath God given this earth to the sons of men? He hath given them earth for their materials to be made of earth, and he hath given them earth for their grave and sepulchre, to return and resolve to earth, but not for their possession. Here we have no continuing city,(Heb. 13:14) nay, no cottage that continues, nay, no persons, no bodies, that continue. Whatsoever moved Saint Jerome to call the journeys of the Israelites in the wilderness,(Exod. 17:1) mansions; the word (the word is nasang) signifies but a journey, but a peregrination. Even the Israel of God hath no mansions, but journeys, pilgrimages in this life. By what measure did Jacob measure his life to Pharaoh? The days of the years of my pilgrimage. (Gen. 47:9) And though the apostle would not say morimur, that whilst we are in the body we are dead, yet he says, perigrinamur, whilst we are in the body we are but in a pilgrimage, and we are absent from the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6)
from Death's Duel by John Donne
The passage he mentions in 2 Corinthians is one that holds a very familiar mantra to all who know Christ, but the encompassing words (to which Donne also makes reference) we do not know as well, I think.
6Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (NASB)
Paul does describe, as Donne states, not a death apart from God but a pilgrimage to meet Him. Our peregrination is in faith, the unseen; not in the things we perceive with the senses and intelligence of the flesh, but with spiritual eyes, spiritual discernment, guided by the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). But the essence, the basis, of what Paul tells us is that we journey and not stagnate. Our great sorrow is that, while wearing this robe of flesh, we are apart from Jehovah; but the great hope we cling to, that gives us courage to partake in this pilgrimage and not turn aside, is the hope that when we shuffle off this mortal coil we will find our home with Him in the eternal Kingdom.

Where has your journey been taking you? For myself, I almost feel of late as though I've been wandering in the desert, going in circles. It is a circle I need to break out of, but it gets to be just a little too comfortable and I find myself looking back and not ahead. I'm trying to fix my eyes on the hope I have, to give that hope to others. I will travel along.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Tagged!

Be sure to read all the way to the end to see if you’ve been tagged!

Here we go:

  1. Three things that scare me:
    • Unsecured heights
    • Something happening to my family
    • That's it

  2. Three people who make me laugh:
    • Bill Cosby
    • Mrs. Euphrony
    • Little Euphrony

  3. Three things I hate the most:
    • Impatient drivers
    • Egocentric people
    • Inconsiderate actions

  4. Three things I don’t understand:
    • How people can gleek intentionally
    • Why some people care so much about personal power
    • Adults who were so much perfume/cologne that I can track them by scent ten minutes after they walked through an area (teenagers who do this, I can understand)

  5. Three things I’m doing right now:
    • Avoiding other work
    • Reading John Donne's Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions
    • Studying the yield stress, thixotropic, and slip natures of drilling fluids

  6. Three things I want to do before I die:
    • Visit Australia
    • See my children grow up
    • Know more of God

  7. Three things I can do:
    • Math in my head (thank you, Number Sense)
    • Give a speech without being nervous
    • Talk to just about anyone on some subject of interest to them

  8. Three ways to describe my personality:
    • Proud
    • Patient
    • Reserved

  9. Three things I can’t do:
    • Roll my tongue
    • Sleep late
    • Dance

  10. Three things I think you should listen to:
    • Sara Groves "When it was Over", from her Add to the Beauty album
    • Prolonged, intentional silence
    • Hope

  11. Three things you should never listen to:
    • Convenient lies/half-truths
    • Someone acting out of fear
    • People who say Christianity requires you to check your brain at the door, that it does not involve thought

  12. Three things I’d like to learn:
    • More patience
    • How to relate to my children when they are teenagers
    • Languages

  13. Three favorite foods:
    • Thai
    • Mexican
    • Stews

  14. Three beverages I drink regularly:
    • Sonic Route 44 Diet Coke
    • Water
    • Hot teas

  15. Three shows I watched as a kid:
    • Superfriends
    • Scooby Doo
    • Bugs Bunny cartoons

  16. Three people I’m tagging (to do this):

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Safe arms

I remember as a child of about five or six going with my family on vacation to California. We did the whole movie studio tour and Disney experience. This vacation was memorable for several reasons. First, we had a second gas tank installed on our van and, in the middle of the Arizona desert, we tried for the first time to engage it - unsuccessfully. You get the idea of what trouble that means. We also, on this trip, were driving through some mountains and got in the middle of a rock slide (by rocks, I mean some were as big as the van and by slide I mean they were falling on the road all around us as we zigged and zagged our way through).

Disneyland Space MountainBut the most memorable event of this trip occurred at Disney Land. I wanted to do things with my dad. I wanted to be a big boy. I wanted to ride a roller coaster with dad. I wanted to ride Space Mountain. So we go get in line, waiting forever while I become more and more excited. Then the moment comes; we are at the head of the line. We are getting into the car, sitting side by side. The guy working there walks by to make sure we're all seated. The safety bar rolls back into place . . .

And stops a good foot short of my chest. Immediately, the cars started moving. My dad sees that, as it stood, I would be ejected without restraint somewhere in the first turn or loop. There is no chance for me to get off, no where I can go, so he does the only thing he can think to do - he reaches his arm across me and grabs hold of the outer shell of the car beside me, using his own arm as an impromptu safety bar. Obviously, since I am writing this, I made it through safely. My dad's knuckles were bone-white by the end of the ride, but he held me safe.

I learned a lesson that day, one that has not passed from me. My father wants to hold me safe. He'll let me do some things that he knows I probably shouldn't, but he is there to hold on to me and ensure that I come out the other side. Dad is about to turn 70 next month, and I've grown a lot since then. He can't do as much for me as he once did, and lives 350 miles away in Abilene. The lesson still stands, though, because I have a Father who has never left me, and whom I can never outgrow.

It gives me hope to know that my Father in heaven has arms waiting and willing to hold me safe.

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