Thursday, March 29, 2007

Copper Clappers: Classic

Alliteration, adroitly applied, always adds amusement amid average activities. Adieu!


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blessed

Lil'er Euphrony at one monthToday, our new son turns one month old. Besides being truly blessed with my beautiful wife, this little boy, and his big sister, we have been blessed in many ways this month. Little Euphrony has had no problems so far with having a new baby in the house. She loves him so much; we have more problems trying to get her to give him some space and not smother him than anything else. She wants to hold her little bro, leans over to give him hugs and kisses on the forehead constantly, and wants to help with everything - including changing his diapers. (Hearing her help to sooth Lil'er E during a diaper change by singing "Grace Flows Down" (Christy Nockels) to him absolutely melts my heart.) We worried that she might act out and become jealous of the attention he gets that we once solely lavished on her; this has yet to happen. She may act like a three-year old girl, but that is normal; she loves her brother and seems to understand the needs he has and how mom and dad must respond to him.

Lil'E swingingOur family has been blessed with food. I mean, a lot of food. We have not had to cook since Lil'er Euphrony was born; not once. We have had people bringing us food every other day for a month now, and we still have people bringing food for the next week or so. It is absolutely amazing how much this has helped us out, freeing up time that might be spent in the kitchen or having to run get something and allowing us to relax and spend more time together as a family. To everyone who has brought food: thank you, from our whole family, for your love and care for us right now. My only complaint about the food is that it is too good. These people brought their "A" game, and we've eaten more good, rich food than we usually do. I won't confess what the scales say, but they are a showing a little higher number than before Lil'er E was born. How's that for a complaint?

I had mentioned that I was pretty sick shortly after Lil'er E was born. I was basically out of the game for four days, conveniently the first four days we were home alone with no family to help us. A few days after I was getting better, my father forwarded this note from a preacher in northern Ghana (my dad has spent a great deal of time there doing mission work):

My Good Elder, this is to brother Jason: may he get better each day, may the Lord put upon him the balm of gilead. More than expected, his recovery shall be amazing. He will get well soon.

This is to Elijah: As it pleases the Lord to protect him up to the day he was born, so shall it please Him to keep him in the shelter of his love now and forever more.

My Good elder, it is really not easy at the time a child is been born your are faced with such challenges. All will be well.
Reading this note, from someone I've never met or talked to, really touched me. That someone half a world away, who knows little to nothing about me or my family, cares this much about us is amazing and a testament to the heart of Christ that is found in His body.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOne more thing that I find myself, personally, having been blessed with is God's working on my heart. I posted recently about my struggles in my walk with Jehovah. While I find that I still struggle in the areas I detailed then (and likely will for a while, as I work to grow) God showed me this past weekend that He has continued to work on my heart to mold me into His image. He has just been doing it in ways that I had yet to recognize until now. I've always boasted about Mrs. Euphrony and her soft heart and care for the lives of other people. This is, honestly, something which was never strong in my heart; to me, compassion seemed to be more conceptual than something to be acted out. Mrs. E has always encouraged and taught me in this, with her loving heart, and brought me to righteous actions that I may never have become part of before. But now, after a brief encounter this weekend, I find that Jehovah has worked on my heart - through Mrs. E and others - to soften it to the needs and plight of others. He is making me kinder, more compassionate and generous, and I had not realized it until now. My life may be a struggle to walk in His word and in faith, but while I struggle in one area I find that He is blessing me with faithful growth in another. That encouragement in yet another blessing from God this past month.

It's been an interesting month, full of fun and joy and struggles and work. But we have been truly blessed.

Tags:
, , , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 23, 2007

Music Spotlight: Nate Sallie Ruined for Ordinary

Nate SallieI discovered the music of Nate Sallie about four years ago, shortly after his debut album Inside Out was released. I liked what I heard then, and have kept tabs looking for follow-up work. It's been four years, and apparently quite a journey, but Nate has now released his sophomore project Ruined for Ordinary, available March 20th on the Curb Records label. From what I've heard thus far, I like this one, too.

Ruined for OrdinaryHere is what Nate has to say about himself and what lead to this album on his website bio:

I've been ruined for an ordinary life; ruined for an average existence; ruined for an everyday, run-of-the-mill mundane lifestyle… ruined for business as usual. From the moment I experienced the life-changing power of God's love—an overwhelming flood of mercy, grace, joy and the peace of the Lord that passes all understanding—there was no going back. There would be no returning to good when great had been found.

In the fall of 2004 I lost my life. It was the best thing that has ever happened to me! For so long I had been living in my own strength and making things happen with my own might. I strove for excellence and was driven. I lived by the letter of the law and moved through the motions with the best of them. I was catering to the Old Covenant without knowing or understanding what it meant to live under grace, through faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I had come to Christ at a young age and was baptized with the Holy Spirit at a youth camp a few years later. The power of the Holy Spirit had been real and relevant at that point and had taken hold of my life in a powerful way. But I let go and wandered off over time, leaving it a distant memory. It became a monumental time in my past, and a cherished experience, but it was no more than that.
----------
As the Holy Spirit began to infiltrate and permeate my every thought and action, I became relentless in my hunger and thirst for righteousness. It was no longer I who lived, but Christ and the Holy Spirit who lived in me. The old man began to be stripped away and the new man was being birthed. I put away what I was born to do and stepped into what I was born-again to do. I had been apprehended by Christ Himself, and I was now living a lifestyle of unbroken fellowship and communion.
----------
For the first time in years I could see clearly. Words, sentences, phrases, and Scriptures poured out of me at such a rapid rate I couldn't keep up. Songs began to well-up and burst the banks of my soul. It was all I could do to contain myself. I wanted to sing, dance, shout, and let everyone in on this new life. My wife and I rejoiced in the Lord and what He had done. We rejoiced in His redeeming power and unparalleled ability to repair, restore, and rebuild that which had been broken, beaten, and bruised. He had handed me the gift of life— not just life, but abundant life!

Inside OutStylistically, I think he's made a few changes. While Inside Out was mostly guitar driven, punkish rock aimed at a younger audience, the music on Ruined for Ordinary is more piano based (he is a classically trained pianist) and more introspective. (I've read that when Inside Out was made, he was basically in a period of his life when he was running away from the piano, but he has since rediscovered his love for it.) What is also obvious is his change in appearance (as evident from comparison of the album covers). What has not changed is the passion that comes across in his music - Nate loves to sing and is full of joy when singing these songs - and the quality of the music. He's not the top musician out there, but he is a good musician and he writes good lyrics and songs I like to hear. God has been sharpening His tool, and the work on Ruined is, I think, better than Inside Out - more mature, deeper. Listening to Ruined for Ordinary, you hear someone who is not compromising either the quality of his music or the import of the message he puts in the songs.

I have not found any free downloads of Nate's music (a shame) and his YouTube exposure is limited (also a shame). But you can hear some samples of his music on iTunes (I recommend "
Breakthrough" and "Holy Spirit") or though his website (it is a Flash sight, so I cannot give direct links, but look under "Media!"). Also, a video of "Breakthrough" from Ruined for Ordinary can be seen in Windows or QuickTime. A video for "Inside Out", from his first album, can be found here (Windows only).

P.S. If anyone at Curb happens to read this, I would love to do a more complete review of the whole album, if only someone would provide me with a copy of it (hint, hint, wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean?).

Tags:
, , , , , ,

My work is trying to kill me

Or, more accurately, the facilities staff seems to be trying to kill me. You may think me crazy (you may have already thought me crazy), but I'm convinced that it is true. They're out to get me, and there's no stopping this cabal of cleaners. The attack is two-pronged, one blunt and one more subtle. The first, and most obvious, attempt on my life is through insidious use of the A/C system: they're trying to freeze me solid!

Frozen SolidNow, you may think this delusional paranoia on the part of ol' Euph. To be honest, I thought nothing of it at first. With large buildings, you just have to run the A/C year-round. Even in the winter, there is so much heat generated from people and computers and other items that requires some degree of cooling of the building. So, when it was regularly 55oF at my desk and in my lab, I just figured they were having trouble getting good control of the system. But that was from the winter of 2003: the sub-60 temps are maintained spring, summer, fall, and winter and I am left in a constant state of mild hypothermia. The insidious part is that it's not that cold in other labs or at other people's cubicles. They're out to get me!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAnd now, just this week, they have launched the second prong of their evil scheme. It started so innocently, when they changed the air fresheners in the bathrooms around the building. A seemingly normal act, but with murderous intent! This scent, perhaps best described as "powder fresh", is like kryptonite to me. They know, as I've mentioned here before, that scents and perfumes cause an allergic reaction. So now, when I innocently enter the restroom, within seconds I:

  • feel my throat constricting
  • my sinuses start to swell, so that I feel they might just squeeze out my nostril at any moment
  • feel the onset of a migraine headache
  • my head gets a little fuzzy, like being a little drunk but not fun at all
I am now left with a terrible decision. Do I brave the maddening redolence of the bathroom? Or, do I simply not go all day long? There is the choice: death through anaphylactic shock or death through renal failure. I'm certainly doomed. Farewell, cruel world, thou hast wounded me too much.

So, if you don't hear from me for a while, you will know that flowers need to be sent to Mrs. Euphrony and to look for the obituary of a Houston rheologist whose passing could be described only as untimely and inexplicable.

Tags:
, , , , , , ,

Monday, March 19, 2007

Damage (Over)Done

(My apologies to Shaun Groves for this gross (mis)appropriation of the title of one of his great songs.)

I'm no stranger to auto accidents, unfortunately. Add Friday afternoon to the long list of dings my various cars have suffered. I'm not really a bad driver, and most of the accidents are not my fault, but that never makes dealing with them any easier. Especially when it comes to working out insurance disputes. As accidents go, though, this one tops my list for "best overall outcome" (at least, thus far).

Euphrony's carHere are the details: I was driving home, minding my own business, when approaching a green light I observe an emergency vehicle with lights and sirens entering the intersection from the cross street. Naturally, I slow to a stop and allow the emergency vehicle to pass through the intersection; the person behind me, though, did not see or hear the sirens, did not see my brake lights, and rear-ended me. He was a nice, older gentleman, who was very responsible about the whole thing. There was a cop trying to pass us both, on his way to the same accident the first car was going to, and witnessed our fender bender. (With the choice of responding to this minor accident or proceeding to the other, a fatality crash, he chose the easy job and stuck with us.) My car was drivable, with the rear bumper mostly removed but not interfering with driving, and so after the paperwork I drove on home. The other car had a bit of front-end damage, was leaking assorted necessary fluids, and was towed. About 90-minutes after getting home, I get a call from the other guy's insurance (wow! he'd already called it in!) and we got the repairs for my car set up (I'm taking it in today). This, for me, is a first: not having to hound the other guy's insurance to get my car fixed!

This is kind of nice, in a bizarre way, as this damage was on top of other, more minor, damage to my rear bumper. About 18-months ago, actually just a few days before Hurricane Rita hit and forced the Euphrony's to take a 16.5-hour trip to Dallas (normally 4 hours), I was rear-ended by a lady, denting up the back bumper but only creating cosmetic damage. I got her insurance, but did not insist on police on the scene. It was about 10 days later when I was finally able to talk with her insurance, only to find that she gave me a canceled policy, a home phone number that was canceled a few days later, and a cell phone number for her husband that was also soon canceled. Seeing as how trying to pursue this would probably end up costing me more out of pocket than the damage would reduce the value of the car, I eventually let it drop. But now, with the major damage quite literally on top of the minor damage, it will all get repaired. And, at the same time, I'm going to get a ding out of my door that my neighbor put there by backing out of her driveway into my car (she'll pay for that, not the guy who rear-ended me). But wait, there's more! These repairs will not begin to touch the matching pair of dents on either corner of my front bumper, left there by careless parkers in two parking lots. I did say that I've had my share of accidents, didn't I? All in the day of a Houston driver.

Are you accident prone? Does your car insurer love you or hate you? Got a good accident story, or a bad one? Feel free to share them here.

Tags:
, , , , ,

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Confessional: Finding My Voice

Weekend before last, Mrs. E and I went to see Amazing Grace (with Lil'er E in tow, he slept the whole time). One quote from William Wilberforce, early in the movie, hit home personally to me. Wilberforce, who they say was a good singer in college, is worn down from his constant struggles and says that he has lost his voice and can no longer sing like he once did. This hit me, because I feel much the same way right now.

When Little Euphrony was born, I would sing to her constantly to sooth her - singing while I changed diapers, while I rocked her, while I walked with her, all of the time. And the songs I would sing were invariably those I knew best, songs of the church about Christ and God and what they have done for us. Now, with Lil'er E here, I find that the songs do not come. I try to will myself to sing, but the songs and their words seem to elude me. My voice is weak, faltering as I try to sing. Instead of confidence and passion, I find that there is hesitation in my voice. Where has this come from?

I think that I have found myself, much like Wilberforce, caught up so much in the doing of things, filling in the picture of life, that I am no longer amazed by the simple and individual brushstrokes. I have been active in so many things lately; things at work, traveling and trying to get out of travel, papers and projects; preparing for our new son, getting a new room ready for Lil'E so I can get the nursery ready for Lil'er E (still not done); the birth of my son, the exhaustion that comes with a new child, the viral infection I'm just getting over that the whole family has caught. My mind runs a thousand different paths, thinking about what I need to do, what I want to do, lingering on cherished thoughts of my wife, my daughter, my son. I find myself in retreat of serious thought too often; from little things like flippant answers to my wife's serious questions to larger issues like meaningful Bible study, I don't want to think, just do. And the more I do (not at once, as one keeping busy, but over time as this has built) the more shallow it all feels.

My personal Bible study is, honestly, nonexistent at the moment. Meaningful Bible study has, it seems, been gone for some months (looking at my journal reveals the truth in this more readily than my words can - it's nearly empty). We have been involved in a workbook series with out church small group, to which I have given little real attention. My sister-in-law attempted to engage the whole family in another study at the start of the year, one which Mrs. E and I had done before; never cracked the book, totally abandoned it and the commitment I made to at least try. (I'm sorry, Carrie, no excuses here. I truly appreciate what you were and are trying to do in drawing your family together in study.) Unsurprisingly, my personal prayer time has also been abysmal of late - how is it that I can be actively praying for my family, my new son and wife in the birth process, and yet still feel that I leave most of myself out of my conversation with God?

Is it any wonder that my voice seems gone? Is it any wonder that the songs of God are absent from my life, when I have made so much of my life only brushing with Jehovah, overlapping with rather than enveloped by Him?

The Sunday morning after we went to see Amazing Grace, I was reminded of two verses that only drove home even more that point.

19"The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. 20"You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed.
Ex 34:19-20 (NASB, emphasis added)

However, the king said to Araunah, "No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
2 Samuel 24:24 (NASB, emphasis added)
These reminded me of how empty my worship has been, done by rote and not by heart, and that I am coming before Jehovah empty-handed. With hands empty, how can I offer anything, much less offer of myself sacrificially as David reminds us we must. I know that worship is our offering to God, but when the offering costs me nothing does it amount to more than empty words? When I started this blog, in my third post, I firmly stated "I want this blog to be about doing something for Christ. I may be the one writing it, but I want it to be uplifting and encouraging, perhaps thought provoking and, above all, beyond me. I am not starting a blog just to post new pictures of my daughter." And yet I feel that, more and more, this blog is more about me and less about Him.

Where do I go from here? For me, right now, I see that I need several things to change in my life, in my heart, to bring me back to where I desire to be.
  1. Prayer. Real, honest, conversational, journaled and spontaneous, revealing prayer. This is about getting to know my old friend, my Savior and Creator, again and recapturing the awe and mystery of Him in my heart.
  2. Study. Opening the Word of God, to see where He speaks to me and guides me through scripture. For me, good study does not come through reading the good words of others (commentaries, workbooks, blog conversations) but in my purposeful devotion of time in His Words.
  3. Sing Praise. As a boxer does not enter the ring without first sparring many times, and as a runner does not take the track without first studying the course, I must prepare myself for this act of worship that I desire but seem to lack right now. If the words elude me, then I must study them. When the song is not only on my heart but also in my mind, then I believe confidence will fill my voice and, with these, the passion and joy of sing them anew.
  4. Renew my purpose and gifts in Christ. Several years ago, in a time of prayer, I felt God's revelation of where He had touched me and my life to primarily work for Him. These three things were in prayer, a passion for His Word, and in singing His praise. And yet, these are the exact areas where I have stumbled most. I must remember God's seed, planted in me, and the talents which He calls me to use for Him.
  5. Fasting. As soon as I am fully recovered from this bug that's worn me down, I will spend time fasting. Fasting is amazing in how it works to remove even more than the food you give up, stripping you down to your need for God above yourself. I need this, to return to Him with fasting and contrition.
    12"Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; 13And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.
    Joel 2:12-13 (NASB)
What I ask from you is your prayer for me, for renewal, and for passion to be mated again with the intellectual pursuit of God in my life. I would also ask for suggestions in where to restart my studies. This is where I always seem to struggle in starting, deciding what to start with. Is there a verse, chapter, or book in the Bible that has captivated you? Suggest a few of these and I will start into them. I'm going to work on posting something weekly about the passages I am working through, both for myself and for whoever reads this.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I'm so blue . . .

I am sick as a dog. I don't have the flu, but I do have one of the flu's kissin' cousins - just about as bad. I ache, I shiver, but I cannot seem to sleep. And so my mind runs amok. Scary. Here's what I have mulled over today.

I have discovered, after my last post on Dora the Explorer, that lots of people google for Dora info. These bored googlers have been visiting my sight in droves, wondering why Dora found religion. I've had visitors from New Hampshire, France, Dubai, and Israel. Since Dora is the second most popular Nick character, behind Blue's Clues, I guess that if I blog about both in the same post I could - just possibly - take over the world. (Cue evil laugh and "Pinky and the Brain" theme song.)

Since I can do nothing today (except maybe infect my whole family) Mrs. E has taken off with Lil'er E and gone shopping. I sit at home, so bored out of my wits that I am actually watching, nay, enjoying watching
this. That's right, it is the ultimate combination of sand sculpting and demolition: Sand Blasters 2007! In this competition, aired on the Travel Channel, 16 teams compete to build the best sand sculpture over two days. But, over these two days, five of the teams will have their work blown up and be forced to start over from scratch. Here's a YouTube clip of the excitement.


Enjoy my illness-induced boredom with me. Please. I'm going crazy here.

Tags:
, , , , , ,

Monday, March 05, 2007

REPORT: Dora gets religion

Dora the ExplorerSPRING, TX (EP) - Popular children's star and toy, Dora Marquez, better known as Dora the Explorer from her wildly popular series of televised adventures, has apparently had a spiritual experience. Reports indicate that the child icon, while in the midst of play with Little Euphrony, was overcome with the Holy Spirit and gave her life to Jesus. Conflicting stories may arise, as no actual confession of faith was heard from her lips; however, Lil'E assures all that this was entirely Dora's willing decision and was not forced upon her. Lil'E presided over the baptism. To be sure it took, Lil'E accommodated Dora by actually baptizing her twice. Indications are strong that Lil'E also believed Dora's baby brother and sister, twins delivered in a television special in 2005, also desired to be baptized. With issues of infant baptism arising, it was decided that their turn would be delayed until they could speak and decide for themselves.

Attempts were made to contact SeƱora Marquez for verification of this news. Her agent replied "Dora has nothing to say about this matter, preferring to focus her public life on dancing, exploring, and finding a way to get her "friend" Map to not send her through Hades' gates in route to every destination."

© 2007 The Euphrony Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Unless it amuses you to do so. I don't really mind, just remember me when you do.

Tags:
, , , ,

Thursday, March 01, 2007

You may address me as "Milord"

As another addition to the "get to know me" series, here I detail why it is you should all bow in my presence (a simple, respectful, bow - no groveling, please) and address me as "milord".

King EuphronyMy uncle (mother's brother) has done extensive genealogical research on our family tree, and what he has found is interesting. For example, it would seem that I am a direct descendent, through my mother's father, of Francis Scott Key. That's right, the Francis Scott Key, author of the poem that is sung as the national anthem of the United States of America. This also makes me related to such notables as Dana Key, Christian rocker and one-time head of Ardent Records, F. Scott Fitzgerald (very famous author), Thomas Hunt Morgan (who was awarded the first Nobel prize for genetic research, before Watson and Crick described the DNA molecule), and the American fashion designer and socialite Pauline de Rothschild. I am, of course, too humble to try calling in favors based on these wonderful but distant relations. (Okay, I admit it. I've never met any of them. Are you happy?)

King Johnny EnglishBut, the reason for the respectful "milord" is that one of Francis Scott Key's ancestors seems to be the errant daughter of an English king, who ran off with an Irishman vocally opposed to the king's treatment of Ireland at that time. This, then, puts me somewhere in line for the throne of England! However, as about half of northern Europe would have to die off before I came to the top of the list, a simple nod and the above affectation will suffice.

To point out a closer relative of relative fame, I can mention my cousin
Kristin Key. She is a comedian who recently appeared on NBC's Last Comic Standing. I think she's funny, though her lifestyle choices in general have upset the family. Here is a clip of her from Last Comic Standing.


Tags: , , , , , , ,