Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my blog friends. Here is our picture from our Christmas card. May the love of Christ shine on all my blog readers.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Heart and Money, Part 3

On Wednesday Nov. 29, ABC's 20/20 aired an incredibly episode that surprised me and uplifted me. The news article really blew some myths out of the water. Below are some excerpts from two ABC news story that made up the broadcast.
Are Americans Cheap? Or Charitable? by John Stossel and Gena Binkley
Do you give? Or are you cheap? I keep hearing that "Americans are cheap."

"Yes," they say. Former President Carter recently said the rich states "don't give a damn" about people in poor countries. U2 singer Bono says, "It's the crumbs off our tables that we offer these countries."

Crumbs because many other countries, such as Norway, Portugal and Japan, give a larger share of their wealth to needy countries. The United States gave out $20 billion in foreign aid last year, but as a percentage of our wealth, we rank 21st out of the 22 major donor countries.

Actress Angelina Jolie is horrified by it. "It's disgusting. It really is disgusting," she said. "I think most American people, you know, really do think we give more. And I know that they would if they could understand how little they give and how much more we can afford to give, absolutely, without even noticing it."

But wait a second. … When talking aid, why just talk about what the government gives? America is anything but cheap.

Carol Adelman at the Hudson Institute has studied how much Americans give privately in foreign aid. She says it's a myth that Americans are stingy. Adelman published her findings in the institute's "Index of Global Philanthropy," which found that while the U.S. government gave about $20 billion in foreign aid in 2004, privately, Americans gave $24.2 billion.

After the tsunami two years ago, the U.S. government pledged approximately $900 million to relief efforts, but American individuals gave $2 billion in food, clothing and cash.

The fact that most of America's charitable gifts come from volunteers, not government, demonstrates that Americans are different from people in every other country. "No other country comes close," said Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. Brooks studies charitable giving and has a new book, "Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide."

"Americans per capita individually give about three and a half times more money per year, than the French per capita. … Seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians."

"The fact is, that Americans give on a different scale than anybody else in the world."

Thank goodness we do because charity does it better. I notice the difference on my way to work because in my neighborhood, the men in blue — that's what they call themselves — clean the streets.

They're not volunteers. It turns out that they're former street people. … Ex-alcoholics and drug addicts. The Doe Fund, a private charity, puts them to work while they try to teach them to be responsible and to stay clean. One year after entering the program, most of the men in blue are drug-free and employed. That's twice the success rate of other shelters in the city.

Regardless of what our government does, Americans are anything but cheap. Americans gave $260 billion away in charity last year — that's about $900 per person.

Who Gives and Who Doesn't? by John Stossel and Kristina Kendall
But just who is doing the giving? Three quarters of American families donate to charity, giving $1,800 each, on average. Of course, if three quarters give, that means that one quarter don't give at all. So what distinguishes those who give from those who don't?

We assume the rich give more than the middle class, the middle class more than the poor. I've heard liberals care more about the less fortunate, so we assume they give more than conservatives do. Are these assumptions truth, or myth?

It turns out that this idea that liberals give more…is a myth. Arthur Brooks, the author of "Who Really Cares," says that "when you look at the data, it turns out the conservatives give about 30 percent more." He adds, "And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money."

And he says the differences in giving goes beyond money, pointing out that conservatives are 18 percent more likely to donate blood. He says this difference is not about politics, but about the different way conservatives and liberals view government.

"You find that people who believe it's the government's job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away," Brooks says. In fact, people who disagree with the statement, "The government has a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves," are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.

Rich vs. Poor
The second myth is that the people with the most money are the most generous. But while the rich do give more in overall dollars, according to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, people at the lower end of the income scale give almost 30 percent more of their income.

Many researchers told us lower income people give more because they think they are more likely to need charity or know someone who needs charity.

Workers at the meat packing plant where Lau works make on average around $35,000, yet the Sioux Falls United Way says it gets more contributions of over $500 from employees here than anywhere else.

And what about the middle class? Well, while middle-income Americans are generous compared to people in other countries, compared to the rich and the working poor, they give less. "The two most generous groups in America are the rich and the working poor," says Brooks. "The middle class give the least."

The Church Connection
Finally, the single biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable is their religious participation.

Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money: four times as much. And Arthur Brooks told me that giving goes beyond their own religious organization: "Actually, the truth is that they're giving to more than their churches," he says. "The religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly non-religious charities."

The article describes a test in San Franscisco and Sioux Falls. The article ends teasing you to watch the show to see how the test turned out. Well, Sioux Falls blew away San Francisco in charitable giving.

There some really good details and anecdotes in the articles, I hope you read them. I was pleasantly surprised and my spirit boosted.

What questions and comments do these articles raise from you dear readers?

Dr. Lee Camp Injustice

I plan on cancelling my subscription to The Tennessean today. I am completely disgusted with how they have just dropped the whole issue like it never happened once their grievious error was revealed.

Below is an email letter that sent to the Tennessean reporter who misquoted Lee Camp badly in the Nov. 29 artcle, Christians must 'let go' some beliefs for sake of peace, theologian says. I copied several editors at the Tennessean as well. This is a link to Lee's rebuttal in today's Tennessean.

When I read your article of Wed. 11/29/2006 quoting Lee Camp, I was aghast knowing that all hell was going to break loose on Dr. Camp. I count Lee as a friend, a mentor, and I feel I understand his beliefs well.

Your isolated quotes were a severe misrepresentation of Dr. Camp's beliefs and his actual statements at the conference. A wise woman counseled me "not to ascribe to malevolence what may be ascribed to ignorance." However, your article had the appearance of sensationalism rather than just bad reporting.

I feel the manner in which you represented Dr. Camp was irresponsible journalism. It is also part of a growing trend of bad reporting and sensationalism I have witnessed in the Tennessean. There seems to be an eroding concern for contextual accuracy and more concern on creating controversy in order to make money. Unfortunately, the article may have done just that. The Tennessean management may be ecstatic over the firestorm.

This type of reporting only undermines your readers' trust. I am very skeptical of anything I read in the paper based on the discrepancies between what was reported and of which I had personal knowledge involving several stories over the years. Don't you think anyone you try to interview from this point on will be wary of your methods and intentions? Does this not make your job more difficult?

Although the Tennessean allowed Dr. Camp to reply, it does not undo the damaging spirit of your article nor the change the method of reporting.

I am a Nashville native and via my parents' subscriptions and my own subscription, I have been reading the Tennessean for most of my 44 years. This may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. I am seriously considering dropping my subscription.

I believe the Tennessean and yourself owe a public apology to Dr. Camp and to Lipscomb University--on the front page. Allowing Dr. Camp a rebuttal is not an apology for irresponsible journalism.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Discipleship v. Santa Claus

Children have an incredible knack of getting to the heart of a matter via their innocence and naivete. A recent exchange between my wife and our 6 year old daughter, who has a sweet, giving heart, provided a stark example of this.

We buy few toys for our daughter, but being the only young child on both sides of the family, birthday and holidays amass more than she can use despite our exhortations to relatives to go extremely light. My wife was cleaning out toys, games, etc. that are cluttering up our house and that our daughter rarely plays with. The idea was to give them away. As is natural with a child, Maria did not want to part with things once she saw them, not selfishly, but they suddenly held new interest. Below is a paraphrase of the interchange.

But momma, I don't want to give that away (repeat multiple times).

Well honey, you don't use these very often and you have more than you need. We can give these to poor children who won't get much, if anything, for Christmas.

You mean Santa Claus doesn't visit poor children? (First, sobering moment!)

Well...honey...er...yes...but they might not get as much as you do. (Hagrid quote at this point: "Ooops, I shouldna oughta sad dat)

But why? Santa brings me four or five things. Do they only get one? (Second sobering moment)

Please bear in mind that my wife was busy in the task, was not attempting to analyze nuance of any of her words, nor attempting to anticipate the probing mind of a young child. She did not see the turn of conversation coming.

There are many explanations a parent could concoct, especially in hindsight. The best of which might be to say Santa and Christ want us to have the their spirit and help Santa at Christmas. However, it does not matter what explanation you use, it does not address the underlying issue.

The young child has recognized an inequality created by man that cannot be reconciled with man's benevolent icons. And the result is a loss of innocence. I was very tempted to tell her the truth about Christmas and Santa Claus, running the risk that she become a pariah among her classmates and the children's ministry as she blasts the unholy news.

But this does not solve the problem. When she discovers that this is not a Santa Claus issue, her immediate leap will be to ask why does God let poor people suffer.

The interchange shows the dilemmas Christians create by combining secular idealism and Christianity (the spirit of Santa Claus, celebration of Christmas combined with Christ). We create paradoxes, as if our faith did not have enough to deal with.

It also is an inevitable occurance of having the innocence of a child who loves God slowly chipped away as they confront a broken world. This is one of the toughest challenges parents face, and we make it harder on ourselves with the idealic myths we have created and perpetuate.

Any insight from my readers is greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Heart and Money, Part 1 & 2

Part 2: The following excerpt is from an article in Saturday's Tennessean and originally from the Nov. 18, 2006 Los Angeles Times entitled "Study finds what money can buy you: a sting, selfish outlook" by Karen Kaplan. The article is directly related to our discussion. Independent, non-religion based research is proving what God and Christ have been trying to tell us from day one.
A team of psychologists has discovered why money can't buy happiness. Pictures of dollar bills, fantasies of wealth and even wads of Monopoly money arouse feelings of self-sufficiency that result in selfish and often antisocial behavior, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science.

All it took to discourage college students from contributing to a University Student Fund were 15 short phrases such as "a high-paying salary." Those primed by money-related phrases donated an average of 77 cents, compared with $1.34 for students exposed to neutral phrases like "it is cold outside."

"The mere presence of money changes people," said Kathleen Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study. [Researchers] theorized that even subtle reminders of money would inspire people to be self-reliant — and to expect such behavior from others. A series of nine experiments confirmed their hypothesis. For example, students who played Monopoly and then were asked to envision a future with great wealth picked up fewer dropped pencils for a fellow student than those who were asked to contemplate a hand-to-mouth existence.

"Money changes people's motivations," said coauthor Nicole Mead, a psychology graduate student at Florida State University. "They are less focused on other people. In this sense, money can be a barrier to social intimacy."

Could it actually be that scripture is indeed a little bit more than man-made literature? Uummm.

Part 1:
Nov 17: I have posted an addendum to for clarification purposes. See the end.

I have been dealing with a few issues as a member of our church's leadership that have sparked the thoughts I share today.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:19-20.

I believe many Christians today misinterpret Matthew 6:19-20 to mean we are to be responsible stewards our fiscal and physical resources. This is true in its simplest form. Taken a little further, it is a warning about riches. My study Bible has this comment: “The dangers of riches are often mentioned in the NT, but nowhere are they condemned in and of themselves. What Jesus condemns here is greed and hoarding of money.”

Even my study Bible provides the hint of an escape clause concerning material possessions. The ever-present, human qualifiers of “but” and “however” that allows us to skirt the hard issues about which Jesus spoke.

I feel the standard interpretations completely ignore verse 21.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I am not a scholar of scripture and language, but it seems to me that Matthew 6:19-24 is speaking about heart matters not about God's material resources bestowed upon us. If our hearts are with God, then where material wealth ends are up will take care of itself. We will put it where He needs it.

[22]The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. [23]But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
[24]No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Interestingly, my Bible capitalizes the word Money (I look forward to your comments on this JMG). I feel strongly that materialism is one of the greatest threats against today's Christian. Too many of us are unknowingly practicing idolatry. If we love each other, then we will hold each other accountable on this issue, because the effect is not on church budgets, it is on the individual soul.

A common sentiment when you get into this area is, "I really resent church leadership wrapping money and the heart together just to increase contributions."

I do not think we should be ashamed of wrapping of money and heart together. Jesus did and he showed that the two have profound impact on each other. This is not about increasing collections; it is about challenging each other on where our hearts truly dwell. This is a tough question, which frankly many are afraid to address head-on because of what the question might reveal.

I know these are sensitive, complex, and serious issues. That is exactly what Christianity is: sensitive, complex, and ultimately serious.

Nov 17 addendum:
My beef is that we are not meeting budget with contributions will the median wealth in our congregations is astounding. My concern is that if everyone tithed, churches would have so much money to put into service it would not be funny. Just everyone giving 5% would likely blow church budgets right out of the water.

At the same time, there are areas of church spending that I feel need major attitude shifts. I want church leaderships (me included, being part of a leadership) to look very hard at their spending weeding out unnecessary expenses, self-serving expenses, and finding efficiences where ever we can.

But, the purpose is not to reduce budgets. The purpose would be to support agressive budgets in which the majority of dollars went directly to Kingdom work: ministries to the hurting in our congregation; ministries to strengthen and edify our spiritual being for Kingdom service; and most importantly, major external service (not evangelizing) to the world--both the local community and missions.

If churches do not do the above, what is our purpose? Where do our hearts truly lie? We must let the churches' external actions evangelize, not our words to our little social clubs inside our elaborate walls.

What are your thoughts dear readers?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I am posting this for JMG's enjoyment, and hopefully the rest of you. Check out her post for this week to understand the reference.

This one is JMG's extra credit for doing the assignment ahead of schedule and being verbo....I mean exceeding the 300 word minimum.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Kingdom Come & Vote For Me

Two simple posts for your enjoyment this week. If they spark any thoughts, please share.

by Robert Lamm

Vote for me, vote for me
I want the nomination for the Presidency
Vote for me, vote for me
If I am elected, this is how it will be.

I'll cut your tax in half
I'll make the Russians laugh
I'll feed the hungry people everywhere.
I'll bring the railroads back
New trains and new track
From Waikiki to old Delaware.

Vote for me, vote for me
I want the nomination for the Presidency
Vote for me, vote for me
If I am elected, this is how it will be.

I'll give Detroit one year
New cars that run on beer
Or anything except gasoline.
I'm looking to the sun
More power for everyone
And the cleanest sky that you've ever seen.

I'm not going to kid you, there's a lot to do
Little can I promise, it's really up to you
But if we all work together
And I think we can
And if you want some new ideas
Then I'm your man.

Vote for me, vote for me
I want the nomination for the Presidency
Vote for me, vote for me
If I am elected, this is how it will be.

I'll work for global peace
And the sweet release
Of the love and human kindness in us all.
I would give all I've got
You just give me a shot
Somehow, I know that I can win the fall.

Some things never seem to change. The above song is from Chicago 11, Sept. 1977.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What Life Legacy Would I Want?

FYI: New Post at MD

Amongst several blogs including this one (Mere Discipleship Blog, Tangled Weblog, Jettybetty, Phil's, Amy's), we have had continued discussion about the meaning of real discipleship and challenging ourselves on what that means in our lives. The excerpts from the article below illuminate clearly the attributes of a modern day disciple.

Excerpts from Party puts Cokesbury on mission for charity by Kevin Cowan Oct. 24, 2006, www.knoxnews.com
A lavish party and the work of a deceased church member have inspired Cokesbury United Methodist Church. The West Knoxville church has set a goal to raise $100,000 for the Red Bird Mission in Beverly, Ky. The organization provides spiritual, educational, health and community outreach ministries to the needy in a three-county region in the Appalachians.

Dr. G. Steven Sallee, senior pastor, read the Oct. 2 News Sentinel article "My Super Sweet 15," which chronicled an over-the-top birthday party thrown for a Farragut teen. The bash was inspired by MTV's series "My Super Sweet 16," which goes behind the scenes of six-figure parties for wealthy teens.

"I came home from church and I read that story," Sallee said. "At 2 o'clock that same afternoon, I went back to church to conduct a funeral for a member." The member was Rachel Noble, 81, of Knoxville. She and her husband, Walter Noble, "responded to a need in Red Bird," Sallee said, "and ministered to some of the poorest people in Appalachia for 35 years."

According to government statistics, Beverly's Clay County is the poorest county in Kentucky, with a per-capita income of $9,626. About 40% of the county's residents live below the poverty line. Also, 50% of Clay County residents older than 25 are not high school graduates.

At Red Bird, Rachel Noble was a nurse, Sallee said, and her husband carried "coal to the school and worked at some of the churches." It bothered the pastor that Rachel Noble "spent 35 years helping others and that it was going to be unnoticed," he said, "and that this little 15-year-old girl had gotten all of this notoriety for all of this money spent for a birthday party."

So Sallee came up with the idea to begin a series of sermons, "The Cure for the Common Life." The first cure introduced to the congregation was "finding a cause." As part of the sermon delivered Oct. 8, Sallee retold the story of the birthday party and shared the story of Rachel Noble's life.

"Spontaneously in the sermon, I said I think we should raise $100,000 to take to the Red Bird Mission in Rachel Noble's name," Sallee recalled. "As soon as I announced it, the entire congregation started applauding." As he sang the service's final song, "People started coming down the aisle putting checks in my pockets," Sallee said. "I reached into my pockets and there was about $12,000 or $13,000 in checks."

In the days after the message, money has continued to be donated, even by those who may have needed help themselves. "There was this woman dressed shabbily," Sallee remembered. "She said, 'That sermon has changed the way I look at life. I can't afford it, but I want you have this.' It was a check for $100."

Cokesbury is about at the $46,000 mark, Sallee said Monday. The pastor hopes to reach the goal by Oct.31 and present the check to Red Bird Nov. 5 during a service at the church. If more than $100,000 is raised, Sallee said Cokesbury wants to donate the excess to Second Harvest, a local food bank.

To make a donation, mail checks (payable to Cokesbury for Red Bird Mission) to Cokesbury United Methodist Church, 9908 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37922. To find out more about Red Bird Mission, go to www.rbmission.org.

Now that is the legacy of a disciple. As I was reading the article, I realized that Mrs. Noble was the mother of one of my bosses. The effort will be getting a check from me.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Freedom and Where Do You Go to Get Away

Below are the lyrics to three songs from King's X most recent CD Ogre Tones, two of which I used as a discussion tool in our college life group last night. I post the lyrics here to see what response they generate from the blog world. The two songs I used in life group were Freedom and Get Away. If the songs spur some thoughts, please post them.

No one should be made to feel...ALONE!

No one should be made to feel rejected, and to feel the pain
No one should be made to feel unwanted, and to feel the hate
Sticks and stones, breaking bones
Names and words they hurt you...effecting everything

No one should be made to feel alone...nobody...nobody should
No one should be made to feel alone...alone...alone

No one should be made to feel their heart break, and to feel unloved
No one should be made to feel they're ugly, and to feel ashamed
Sticks and stones, breaking bones
Names and words they hurt you...effecting everything

No one should be made to feel alone...nobody...nobody should
No one should be made to feel alone...alone...to feel alone
No one should be made to feel alone...nobody...nobody should
No one should be made to feel alone...alone...to feel alone


Freedom, to have two mothers and all be men
Freedom, to terminate Jay Phebus if he don't fit in
Freedom, to kiss my brother right on the lips
Freedom, to make my own concoction and take a sip
What a trip.... blame it all on God

Freedom... Freedom... Freedom... Freedom...

Freedom, to pay for a killer to have TV
Freedom, to get elected and set my own salary
Freedom, to go out and join the KKK
Freedom, to get in trouble for everything that I say
What a day.... blame it all on God

Freedom... Freedom... Freedom... Freedom...

Freedom, to scam everybody and make a buck
Freedom, to get your credit card number and press my luck
Freedom, cut down the forest, make new disease
Freedom, and throw everything we got into the seas!
And would you please... blame it all on God, we can blame it on God!

Freedom... Freedom... Freedom... Freedom...

Get Away
Hey God, I watched the news tonight, why are your people so f&%$ing mean?
Hey God, that kid was locked up for 3 years, why do the innocent suffer?

Where do you go....to get away....away

Hey God, they say your perfect and in control, and I am falling apart
Hey God, the god of so many names, but who can I blame, what the hell are you thinking

Where do you go...to get away...away
Where do you go...to get away...away

We're standing here and we're couting our fears ... Abraham
Live in a desert, there's nothing there ... Abraham

Where do you go...to get away...away
Where do you go...to get away...away

What feelings and thoughts do these lyrics arise in you?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Would I? Could I? Hard Kingdom Questions

Ever since I read Lee Camp's Mere Discipleship, I have been awakened to a better understanding of the Gospel of Christ and it has raised to the surface many concerns in my heart about myself that probably lurk in all of our hearts if we are honest. Recently, JMG posted some questions and thoughts in a post at Musings From the Chariot that forced me to articulate my internal wrestlings. I post my self concern because I need input? I need to hear some of your thoughts on the matter.

Attempting to live the life Jesus preached, to do what the disciples did, would turn the majority of Christians' lives completely upside down--immediately. I am scared that I am not getting the true message and not truly doing what Jesus called me to do as a disciple. Yet I don't quit my job and go out to serve the poor or be a missionary anywhere. I don't radically change my lifestyle, drop my nets, and live a life of direct service to the Kingdom.

This realization is very hard on me. I am concerned but I don't change my life. I don't mean I am not constantly becoming a better person because I do see myself progressing to better discipleship, but I have not made any radical changes and frankly I am afraid too. I am a spiritual coward.

I think what bothers me the most is not whether I try to serve the Kingdom through my current life or give it all up and dedicate myself to some mission. What bothers me is when I ask myself, "would I do it? Am I willing to do it--give it all up?"

God may not ask me to serve in such a fashion? He may leave it up to me to decide. He may want me to serve through my job and my career. I certainly have talents in those areas. But it is the question and contemplation on the answer that hurts. Am I selfless enough to sacrifice all for my Savior and His Kingdom? I am supposed to be willing. But would I really do it?

I firmly believe, know in my heart, that I could sacrifice my life to not denounce God and Christ as Lord. But would I completely give up my way of life to live a hard one? Do I have that much courage? Even further, would I do it voluntarily, without the Lord directing me to do so? Do I have that much conviction?

I am not confident of my answer to these last questions. Based on imperical data of my life, the answer is no. If the answer is no, am I really a disciple?

Does anyone else feel this way? What are your thoughts on the matter? I am truly troubled by this topic.

Monday, September 18, 2006


My job has become very time demanding and I have many commitments outside that are taking the place of blog time. I miss being able to write, but I have to make choices. I apologize for the infrequency, or some may wish to thank me for it.

So today a quick post. Red and Rover is my favorite comic strip. I love the sentiment, the feelings it stirs, the positive and uplifting messages. This was a recent strip that I think speaks volumes. I hope you like it.

Anyone think this might have some application in our church communities?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Two Tags and My Own Invention: Rev 1.

I don't do tags, but I did like these two and since my friends tagged me, I do not want to alienate the few that I have. So today I catch up on two recent tags and decided to do my own as well. Rev 1: I modified my desert island albums.

From JMG: Share 5 weird things about myself:
1. Mayonnaise makes me cringe. I find it absolutely disgusting and repulsive.

2. I have converted from being a southern protestant, conservative Republican but still have no affinity for liberal, Democratic politics. I am a man without a party. I think I will vote non-incumbent. Still very much southern and still protestant by default.

3. I was in a rock band in high school and college but did not have long hair, drink alcohol, or do drugs. But after college did grow long hair.

4. I am 44 years old and I have never tried any kind of illegal or recreational drug (except alcohol)--not even one little toke and I still have no interest. But I don't care that others have. I also was a virgin when I got married (I like to joke that it was not necessarily my choice).

5. I have a very deep faith and conviction for Christian discipleship, but I don't typically enjoy reading non-fiction Christian works other than the Bible. I don't object to them, just not the stuff I enjoy reading.

From Phil: Book tag
One book that changed your life: This is very difficult. There are two that truly changed my thought process and my behavior. Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming and Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp.

One book that you have read more than once: Quite a few. But the one I could read over and over is the 5 book Gap series by Stephen R. Donaldson. Deep human study and complex political intrigue all set in outer space by a writer with an incredible command of the English language. Doesn't get any better.

One book you want on a desert island: I have seen this one with the statement, "except the Bible." I would choose the Bible if I had to pick only one. But if except the Bible, I would cheat and take the 5 book Gap series above. If I could not cheat, I would use a technicality to take Lord of the Rings because it was originally intended to be one big book.

One book that made you laugh: A Nasty Bit of Rough by David Feherty. Not only made me laugh, but embarrassingly hard in public.

One book that made you cry: Night by Elie Wiesel. I wept bitterly, multiple times. This book ripped my soul apart and made me ask hard questions of God for which I still have no answers. I can cry just thinking about it.

One book you wish had been written: That's Why by the Holy Spirit. Or, I Was Wrong and I Am Sorry by W.

One book you wish had never been written: Night by Elie Wiesel. I wish it wouldn't have been written because it wouldn't have happened. But it did.

One book you are currently reading: See my blog, left side menu.

One book you have been meaning to read: Atlas Shrugged or Anthem by Ayn Rand. I keep hearing about them and what to check it out for myself.

My Own Album/CD tag
One album/CD that had profound impact on you: Yessongs by Yes. Blew me away. I had never heard anything like this in my life and it had great influence on me.

The 5 album/CD's you would want on a desert island: Yes Yessongs, Chicago Live at Carnegie Hall, Stravinsky Firebird Suite, Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti, The Beatles White Album (replaced Holst Planets)

Your ultimate feel good album/CD: Frampton Comes Alive

One song that makes you cry: "Awaken" by Yes from Going For the One. The beauty, majesty, spirituality, and imagery is amazing (~15 min song). The building to majestic crescendo at the end wells up tears of emotion that are not sad, just so much positive emotion it is hard to contain.

Your all time favorite song: "Awaken" or "Hey Jude."

An album/CD you wish had never been cut: Hot Streets by Chicago. This was the transition from their eclectic rock/jazz/pop style into Top 40 pop. If you want an amazing but sad contrast, listen to Chicago Transit Authority (1st album) and Hot Streets. CTA was hard rock-jazz-fusion, Hot Streets not. The catalyst for the transition was the death of their original guitar player Terry Kath (Jimi Hendrix praised him highly).

An album/CD you wish had been cut: My first one.

Last album/CD you bought: Joe Bonamassa You and Me. Joe's 6th CD debut was #1 on Billboard's Blues category. This kid is unbelievable. Joe is no one's clone, very original, but will remind you of Stevie Ray, Hendrix, Albert King, B.B. King and Jimmy Page.

Oops, I just ordered Bob Nyswonger's first solo album Deposition while writing this post. The Bears' bassist.

5 other Album/CD's your sure your friends haven't heard, but should: Extreme III Sides to Every Story, King's X Out of the Silent Planet, Chicago II, Joe Bonamassa Had To Cry Today, The Bears Car Caught Fire

Whoever wants to do the Album/CD tag, your it. Please leave a comment and link to your blog if you do the tag. Feel free to comment even if you don't do the tag.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

By What Method?

I borrow the title phrase from W. Edwards Deming. Jettybetty asked a great question in the discussion in my previous post "The Weapon of Truth". You will find the context of the post beneficial in understanding her question. She asked, "Tony, what positive things do you think, as Christians, we should do as Americans that feel this way right now?"

Great question! Put your money where your mouth is Mr. Arnold. Although this was not her sentiment, it is the way I challenged myself. Here are some thoughts:

1. Practice love and reconciliation in every area of our lives: marriage, work, church, discussions with others, interaction with people at malls, restaurants, anywhere.

What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you say. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. Live Christ, preach Christ, and let Him change people. Then be willing to accept that some won't follow. Don't waste our energies trying to legislate morality and coerce conversion. Don't waste time and energy fighting the symptoms of problems, address the root cause.

Preach the Gospel at all times, but only use words when necessary. -- Saint Francis of Assisi

3. Be a servant.

Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for them. -- great American psychiatrist and author Karl Menninger shortly before his death at age 97 when asked what he would recommend to a person about to suffer a nervous breakdown.

4. Remove patriotism from our Christianity. Put God first. Stop confusing and mixing patriotism and Christianity. We are Christians first, servants second, and Americans third. I love my country and support it, but we cannot do the following as Christians:

a) We cannot feel that God favors any nation over another, especially the United States. Christianity and its good news are universal. Christ saved us ~1800 years before the United States came to be.

b) Do not blindly support our country in the areas that you think it is wrong. Toleration of or silence on wrong behaviors and methods is being a traitor to truth and therefore a detriment to the good of others. I can support my country while disagreeing with parts of it. Our founding fathers might even say it is my duty to dissent when my morality is challenged. They did.

5. Become less and less materialistic. This is a process. Eliminate one thing, get used to living without it, and then tackle another.

6. Challenge war and violence as a problem solving method. I am tempted to say an offensive war or action, but will stick with the former. When you are involved in a discussion about a war, or the Middle East situation, or any other similar conflict, throw out the question, "so how can either side justify killing children?"

When rationalization and dancing around the question begin, continue to ask and stress it. It may not lead to an answer, but you will see the tone of the discussion shift and you will watch people slow down and start thinking. I have tried this multiple times and it is amazing the effect. No one is comfortable saying that a few children killed is a price worth paying. If we can just get ourselves to starting thinking and instead of reacting (proactive v. reactive). Christianity is a proactive lifestyle.

7. Don't confuse willingness to sacrifice your own life with the willingness to sacrifice the lives of others.

8. Spend time in prayer everyday including a large portion of silence and listening as part of the prayer routine. This will allow the Holy Spirit to direct us in the above. This is probably the most important and effective suggestion in this list.

How do you dear readers feel about the question and the list? What are your suggestions for illuminating truth and perpetrating a better way?

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Weapon of Truth

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. -- Prov. 4:18-19

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. -- Jesus Christ, John 3:20-21

In response to my It Better End Soon post, Jettybetty brought to my attention a recent article in Newsweek. In the article, the author makes this statement concerning U.S. action against the Iranian nuclear threat:

All options have dangers and drawbacks. But inaction might bring the harshest verdict of history: they knew much, and they did nothing.

What if our actions against threats were, instead of military or covert, truth and light? What if we used our intelligence community and the information it generates for world education rather than military or covert purposes? What if we disseminated the information openly with no spin and no bias, willing to show our own faults inthe process? An Amber Alert for peace.

Where then would the evil and violent hide? How then would they couch their motives and intentions in validity? Where then would the world majority sentiment lie if their purposes and actions were seen clearly and left unbiased by the retalitory actions of others?

Jesus, Gandhi, and MLK used this weapon and in the process robbed their enemies of credibility. Those against them had to stand in the light and show themselves completely for what they were because the victims stood firm in truth. These men stood firm in public, saying, "if you attack us, you will do so in the light where all can see and judge for themselves what is right and what is wrong."

Such actions stripped those in the wrong of their power leaving no room for false validity generated by retaliation. Those that choose to side with the wrong could not hide in clouded arguments and accustions. Even silence on the issue was revealed as weakness and complicity.

Truth and light are the most powerful weapon because they are God's weapon.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. ... And the God of peace will be with you. -- Paul, Phillipians 4:8, 9

If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -- Jesus Christ, John 8:31-32

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It Better End Soon

(Robert Lamm/Walter Parazaider/Terry Kath)

[1st movement]
Can't stand it no more
The people dying
Crying for help for so many years
But nobody hears
Better end soon my friend
It better end soon my friend

Can't take it no more
The people hating
Hurting their brothers
They don't understand
They can't understand
Better end soon my friend
It better end soon

[2nd Movement - Flute Solo]
[3rd Movement - Guitar Solo]

[4th Movement - Preach (studio album)]
Hey, everybody, won't you just look around
Can't anybody see?
Just what's going down
Can't you take the time?
Just to feel, just to feel what is real
If you do, then you'll see that we got a raw deal
They're killing everybody
I wish it weren't true

They say we got to make war or the economy will fall
But if we don't stop, we won't be around no more
They're ruining this world, for you and me
The big heads of state
Won't let us be free
They made the rules once, but it didn't work out
Now we must try again, before they kill us off

No more dying! No more killing
No more dying! No more fighting
We don't want to die, no, we don't want to die
Please let's change it all; Please let's make it all
Good for the present, and better for the future
Let's just love one another, let's show peace for each other

We can make it happen; Let's just make it happen
We can change this world, please let's change this world
Please let's make it happen for our children, for our womenChange the world
Please make it happen
Come on! Come on! Please, come on!
It's up to me. It's up to you.
So let's do it now, yeah, do it now
[end of Preach]

Can't stand it no more
The people cheating; burning each other
They know it ain't right. How can it be right?
Better end soon my friend
It better end soon my friend

[4th Movement - Preach (live album)]
Oh yeah
You know what we've been saying
You know what we've been praying
You know what's going down

Oh come on
Let's spread it around
We got to stop it
We got to make it right - got to
We got to end all fighting - gotta
We got to end it tonight

It can't be done just because I'm gonna sing a song
Everybody must have love and peace just flow

It's got to grow from a little spark
It's got to burn higher
But it must start
If we want to have the whole world right
We got to put up a fight
But a peaceful fight
Can't go around killing - and contradicting ourselves
We gotta do it right - within the system

Please understand what I say
Everybody understand what I say
End this war as fast as we can
End this war, end this war, end all wars
Forever more, c'mon, c'mon, please, please
We gotta do it so that the world will live
You know all you gotta do is give - of yourself
Give of your heart - give of your soul
Please let's go! Do it, do it, do it

It Better End Soon from Chicago II, Jan. 1970
Preach -- Live Album from Chicago at Carnegie Hall, April 1971

We just never listen do we? Mankind has been trying violence and killing as a problem solving method since Cain killed Able and our problems are still with us. When will we realize this method just doesn't work. Don't believe me, look at the empirical evidence.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Building Authority: The Greatest Leader Ever

Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must first be the servant...If you choose to lead, you must serve -- Jesus Christ

I am piecing my way through a book given to me by the CEO of the company for which I work. He annually gives his executive staff a book to read, and he was kind enough to give me a copy of this year's book because he knew I would be interested in the subject.

The book is The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principles: How To Become A Servant Leader by James C. Hunter, copyright 2004, published by Crown Business, ISBN:I-4000-5334-X. Below are some powerful excerpts from Chapter 3: On Building Authority.

I have studied mystics and sages from the past and present in my search to uncover the true essence of leadership. Then one day it dawned on me that I should look at what Jesus had to say about leadership. If leadership is about influence, which we know it is, I challenge anyone to name a human being in the history of the world who has had more influence than this one man. Name one who even comes close.

H.G. Wells...atheist, was a harsh critic of Christianity, yet once remarked, "I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as an historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history."

Napoleon Bonaparte put it this way: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love, and at this hour, millions would die for him."

In the book of Matthew...Jesus makes His difinitive statement about leadership [see top of post]. If you cannot grasp the difference between power and authority, you will never understand the point Jesus was trying to make. He did not possess traditional power. Jesus was talking about leading with authority. Legitimate leadership, influence, is built upon serving, sacrificing, and seeking the greatest good of those being led. Influence must be earned.

In my previous work, I detail several examples of great world leaders who had no power but operated from a position of authority and accomplished things that changed the world. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa. Influence, legitimate leadership, is built upon service and sacrifice.

It is simply the "Law of the Harvest"--that is, you reap what you sow. You sow service and sacrifice; you extend yourselves for others and seek their greatest good; you will build influence with them.

...when I mention these great leaders from the past, I sometimes get outburts like, "What am I supposed to do, die for my people like Jesus? Go on a hunger fast like Gandhi? Find some lepers in our cafeteria to help like Mother Teresa? I'm just a supervisor at Sears, for goodness' sake. Give me a break!"

My response..."I use dramtic examples from history to get people's attention. The good news is that anytime we extend ourselves, sacrifice, and serve others, we build authority and thereby influence.

Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this truth: "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve...You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

When we are dedicated to identifying and meeting the legitimate needs of others, we will often be put into a position of having to make sacrifices. We may have to sacrifice our ego, our lust for power, our pride, and other self-interests for the greater good. We may have to sacrifice our need to be liked, our bad habits of avoiding conflict, our desire to have all of the answers, to look good, to always be right. ... When we extend ourselves for others, we will be rejected, underappreciated, and even taken advantage of at times. Indeed, we will have to sacrifice and subordinate anything that gets in the way of doing the right thing with and for people.

Anne Frank...said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

Friday, July 21, 2006

$ Obscenity

Obscenity: 1. the state or quality of being obscene.
Obscene: 1. offensive to one's feelings, or to pervailing notions, of modesty or decency; 2. disgusting; repulsive
--Webster's New World Dictionary

In today's Tennessean there is an article on Tennessee U.S. Senate candidate Bob Corker's $1.745 million contribution of his own money to his campaign (Corker gives almost $2M to campaign). The article states that it is unlikely Corker will be able to treat this as a loan and repay himself from political contributions.

The rest of this post is done under the following assumptions: 1) Corker will not be repaid directly from his campaign funds, thus this is an expense for him. 2) Because these large personal donations are common, the statements herein are not made in regards to Mr. Corker personally but apply to all candidates in general terms .

These large donations just seem obscene to me and are disgusting and repulsive in their implications. Bear with me please. A U.S. Senator makes $165,200 per year and has a term of six years. Using a 28% tax rate on the cash flows, I present a summary analysis of his senatorial cash flows below. Any revenue from endeavors already in place when elected are not relevant to the analysis, only income derived directly from being a senator is pertinent:

** The candidate earns a -14% return on the $1.745M investment if his only senatorial revenue is from his senate salary (read negative 14%).

** To breakeven (0% return), the candidate must derive an additional $125,608 per year benefit from being a senator beyond his $165K salary.

** To earn an 8% return on his $1.745M investment, the candidate must derive and additional $212,206 per year benefit from being senator beyond his $165K salary.
(8% is a reasonable expected return on an investment; general rule is long term returns are: Bonds ~8%, stocks ~12%)

The implications? We are either electing candidates who have little financial sense (good evidence for this actually), or we are electing candidates who know the financial reward for spending millions is worth the risk. And, that financial reward has to come from some source other than their senate salary that is direct result of being a senator. Thus impying a less than forthright revenue stream.

If a candidate claims to be making such a financial sacrifice to serve his country, his constituents, etc., then the candidate is at best misguided and at worst dishonest. If one wants to serve, then there are much more efficient and beneficial uses of their millions. They would do more service donating to homeless shelters, children's foundations, the arts, hospitals, churches, United Way--pick one. Millions of dollars to any charity has to be better than spending the same to get elected.

Now some candidates, Bill Frist for example, can afford to spend millions as a donation to serve without affecting his other charitable outflow and without being bothered by the negative return. The question in this case is can such an independently wealthy candidate truly represent his constituency? He or she certainly has little in common with the majority. Certainly little in common with me, that is for sure.

Now I am faced with the problem of who do I elect? Someone has to serve. I think I would lean toward the candidate who is not willing to spend beyond reason to land a $165K job. But there are so many other questions one could grill me on based on my statements here.

Bottom line for me, at present, is that spending millions upon millions across this country just to get a few humans elected seems like a obscene waste of God given resources that could be better used elsewhere. It reinforces my growing disgust with politices.

What are your opinions?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Peaceable Kingdom (rev. 1)

(rev 1 in green)

With all the news coming from the Middle East and North Korea; with all my thoughts on discipleship; with Phil's class on The Kingdom; and with my reading of Night by Elie Wiesel, I can't get the lyrics of a song out of my head. I love the song and the group, but lyrics are haunting me for other reasons. So I share them and look forward to the ideas and comments they put in your head. Please post any thoughts they elicit.

Peaceable Kingdom
from Vapor Trails by Rush
Lyrics Neil Peart, Music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson

A waive toward the clearing the sky

All this time we're talking and sharing our rational view
A billion other voices are spreading other news
All this time we're living and trying to understand
Why a billion other choices are making their demands

Talk of a peaceable kingdom
Talk of a time without fear
The ones we wish would listen
Are never going to hear

Justice against the hanged man
Knight of Wands against the hour
Swords against the kingdom
Time against the tower

All this time we're shuffling and laying out all our cards
While a billion other dealers are slipping past our guards
All this time we're hoping and praying we all might learn
While a billion other teachers are teaching them how to burn

Dream of a peaceable kingdom
Dream of a time without war
The ones we wish would hear us
Have heard it all before

A wave toward the clearing sky
A wave toward the clearing sky

The hermit against the lovers
Or the devil against the fool
Swords against the kingdom
The wheel against the rules

All this time we're burning like bonfires in the dark
A billion other blazes are shooting off their sparks
Every spark a drifting ember of desire
To fall upon the earth and spark another fire

A homeward angel on the fly
A wave toward the clearing sky


I pray every night with my child and then dream of the Peaceable Kingdom . . . "your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven . . . deliver us from the evil one."

Or how about this: I have seen the evil one, and it is us!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Numbers 35:33 and Atonement

Lee Camp recently taught a class at Otter Creek on Atonement called Why Did Christ (Live and) Die? (follow link for podcast) The main purpose of the class was to examine the question in the light of historical and cultural biases to see how they have shaped our understanding of the Cross today.

I ran across an email I had sent to Lee, not asking for his direct response in email but to see if the questions below had merit and application to the class. The specific questions were never really addressed as we constantly stayed behind Lee's original schedule due to class discussions.

So I post my questions here to draw out some discussion and hopefully get some illumination or answers.

First, I was reading Numbers this morning and read this: 35:33 "Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it."

Is there a historical perspective that says the Creator is the only one who can atone for man's evilness because the Creator allowed evil as choice in His creation and is the ultimate cause of "bloodshed" and therefore only God could redeem man?

Second, C.S. Lewis stated something similiar but from a different angle: that the only one with no need for the sacrifice could make the perfect sacrifice. Only Christ, who had no need for redemption could be the perfect redeemer. Was this original to Lewis or did it derive from other historical perspectives?

Friday, June 23, 2006

For Crichton

It is a sad day for the Arnold family. I am writing this while waiting for a vet appointment this morning. I have to put our wonderful family Labrador Retriever, Crichton, down this morning.

Crichton is 13 years old and arthritis and Cushing's disease have taken too much a toll on her. She is just the best dog. We got her right after Anita and I got married and moved to Montgomery, AL. She and Anita were best pals. Until Maria was born, Crichton was Anita's companion when I was gone. Crichton offered a very special ministry to Anita during my 2.5 years in grad school at night while working full time.

Crichton loved to chase golf balls that Anita would hit in the yard. When Anita became pregnant with Maria, quitting work to be a full time mom, they would hit balls everyday rain or shine until the time when Crichton just couldn't do it anymore which started a couple of years ago.

Anita is very upset and Maria is so sweet and mature about this. "Mommy, it is alright. She will feel so much better now. She will get to be a puppy again in heaven and play with Tess." Tess was a Labrador stray that we adopted just before Maria was born and had to put to sleep last year due to health issues.

Right now I feel like both the father and the son in The Yearling.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Too Many Ways To Fall

I promised to get back to my original blog purpose which was sharing thoughts on discipleship and sometimes relaying external stimulus that inspires or speaks to me. Unfortunately, I have been in a period of little inspiration in regards to my blog theme. Compounding this is I have been very busy with work, church, and personal projects that focus my thoughts and reflections into those areas. I have had no lack of inspiration or thoughts, just not in the vein of this blog.

So, in order to assuage the blog drought I will use one of my crutches. I will post the lyrics to a song that jumped back into my attention. The song is from one my favorite CD's, Arc Angels by Arc Angels. I hope you enjoy the lyrics and I hope they spawn some comments or reflections from the readers who have not abandoned me.

Too Many Ways To Fall
(Charlie Sexton, Tonio K., Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon)

A mother has her baby boys and a father doesn't call
And from this saddening parody
Someone will have to crawl
Yes crawl through all the dark memories
Everyone and all

'Cause there's just one way that you can stand
Too many ways to fall

All we have is here and now
Tomorrow may not come true
There's a million people who walk this ground
Who might steal your wish from you
A million people maybe not
A human one at all

There's just one way that we can stand
Too many ways to fall

Well they might be on the fire escape
They might be down the hall
They might be watching every move you make
Through the pinhole in the wall
They're sworn to their duty
And they stand so proud and tall
They say it's nothing personal
It's just a job that's all

The mother says now baby boy
You're gonna have to choose
There's good and evil, love and greed
And they're all inside of you
And just as sure as gravity
No one escapes the law

'Cause there's just one way that we can stand
Too many ways to fall

So when you wake up in the bushes
Passed out on the lawn
And suddenly it dawns on you
That mother wasn't wrong
It all comes back like déjà vu
You just can't help but recall

'Cause there's just one way that we can stand
Too many ways to fall

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Don Quixote Tilts His Windmill: TSA Part II

I have deviated from my original intention for this blog with a few non-faith and non-inspirational posts lately. I plan for today's post to be the last of these deviations for a while.

Regular readers may remember a post (rant) back in January concerning my being listed on the TSA Watch List, and my attempts to be removed from the list. Over a year ago, I found out my name had been added to the TSA Watch List which makes flying a royal pain in the posterior. At the time of the post I had just mailed a select distribution list an intense letter venting my concerns and frustrations about the List. I sent the letter to the TSA Ombudsman, TN Senators, TN Congresspersons, the White House, and Vice President Cheney. I received no response from the following: TSA Ombudsman, TN Congresspersons outside of my district, the White House, and the Vice President.

I did receive a response from the offices of my direct congressperson and the offices of Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bill Frist. Each requested additional info in order to help me. The Senators had someone call me directly from their offices. The first to respond was Ms. Jackson from Senator Alexander's Nashville office. She was polite and patient and seemed genuinely concerned about resolving the issue.

I provided the background and additional information she requested. In mid-February, I received a letter from the TSA stating that they had re-evaluated my records and decided a correction was warranted. I received this letter from Senator Alexander a few weeks later along with a copy of the TSA's letter to me:
Dear Anthony,

The Transportation Security Administration has responded to my inquiry on your behalf, and I have enclosed a copy of the response for your review. If you need any additional information, please call [Ms.] Jackson at [xxx-xxx-xxxx]. I hope my office was able to provide some assistance in this matter, but please don't hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any further concerns.


Despite the positive response, I was skeptical. The TSA letter contained this wonderful little caveat:
TSA cannot ensure that your travel will always be delay free as this redress process does not affect other standard screening procedures in place at the security checkpoint. For example, an individual may be selected by TSA for enhanced screening in order to resolve a walk-through metal detector alarm, because of random selection, or based on certain non-identity based factors reflected in reservation information. Additionally this process may not eliminate the need to go to the ticket counter in order to obtain a boarding pass.

This last statement in bold was the main problem I was attempting to solve. It was that part of the process that made flying, especially on Southwest, cumbersome. In addition, it was that part of Homeland Security that was undermining the millions of dollars spent by the airlines to unclog the check-in process via kiosks and on-line boarding passes. (BTW, Southwest's recent announcement that they are seriously evaluating a move toward seat assignments is their attempt to solve the problem that the TSA has created for their customers).

Based on this caveat, I did not immediately respond with thanks to the Senator's office nor post my results here. I wanted to see if I was truly free of the tyranny of the TSA based on the results of my next flight.

Several weeks ago I had my first flight since the TSA redress, and it was on Southwest. In an even better test of the resolution, I was riding to my destination with someone already driving and booking a one-way ticket back. In today's security laden environment, one-way tickets are to be avoided if possible--a true red flag.

The great news is that I was able to print my boarding pass 24 hours in advance using on-line access at my hotel. Further, I had no problems with security at the airport despite forgetting to remove my laptop and having to have my carry-on personally inspected (way to go dumb-dumb).

Funny thing is that my security issue seems resolved, but on this one-way, direct flight Southwest lost my check-in bag. Southwest has never lost anything of mine before. I was irritated at first, but upon quick reflection, I didn't care. This Don Quixote was celebrating the slaying of his first windmill!

P.S. Use your Senators and Congressperson. They are in office to serve and the system does work, although not always efficiently. I am proud that Senator Alexander is a Tennessean and Vanderbilt alumnus. I voted for him in every election for any office, and I will continue to do so. Here is the thank you letter I just sent to Sen. Alexander:
Dear Senator Alexander,

I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for your help in resolving my listing on the TSA watch list. Please also accept my apologies for the delay in thanking you as the TSA responded positively in March. ... I decided to wait until I flew again to determine the exact nature of the TSA's re-evaluation.

To my great relief I was able to print my boarding pass electronically. Moreover, this particular business trip was a one-way flight and I assume under tighter scrutiny in the system. I am also grateful to [Ms.] Jackson in your Nashville office for her diligence and attention. I have thanked her personally, but wanted you to be aware of her attention to your constituents. Again, thank you for your personal attention in this matter and also for all the service you provide to our great state of Tennessee and to our nation.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Language Soapbox Part II

I just had to post a recent experience related to me by a blogging cohort. I am not providing identifying information to semi-protect this person's anonymity. To my friend, if you wish me to remove this post, just email me or comment me to do so, and I will remove the post.

Actual experience of a friend:
This is one of my current rants--for so many reasons. I recently called a customer service center for student loans and never got an explanation of what was going on. I could not understand the *english* they were speaking (accent was horrible) and they could not understand me. I had the call escalated 3 times--and finally asked where they were. They were in Jamaica. When I asked to be transferred to headquarters in the US (after about 1:45 hours on the phone)--the person in Utica, NY took care of my problem in less than 5 minutes! Is is good customer service to get your customers so frustrated?

Then, my REAL issue with all of this is my own office--we are under scope--and I suppose will all loose our jobs so that someone in the Phillipines can do our jobs. Is it really cheaper when the people you are trying to help are totally frustrated?

Excellent example of the problem and some other effects we might not consider.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Language Soapbox

Please forgive me for using my blog to get on a soapbox today, but if I do not I am going to explode with frustration.

The forth coming comments having nothing to do with the current immigration debate or any racial or cultural bias. It has everything to do with common sense, business sense, and putting your customer first.

If you are going to develop and sell a complicated software product, and you are going to market that product almost exclusively to an English speaking nation, and your business is incorporated in that same English speaking nation, I firmly believe you should ensure that your customer support network strictly adhere to the following policy:

1. Personnel must be able to speak and understand English fluently.
2. Personnel must be able to read and write in the English language at least at a high school level.
3. Personnel must not assume they understand the customer's problem or a have solution before the customer is finished with a sentence.

Furthermore, I do not believe that I am being an arrogant American when I say that I should not have to be fluent in Indian or any other accent or language when buying a complicated software product developed and sold by an American company.

I don't want to be rude to other cultures that I enjoy and appreciate, but when I cannot communicate with anyone over a period of days involving online chat, emails, and telephone calls, who has even the most rudimentary ability to communicate in English, I get very frustrated and angry.

Say what you will, but I feel reasonable in my expectations of the products I purchased. If I were in India and bought an Indian product, I would not expect the company support staff to handle English well. I would assume that I have to find a way to converse with them in their language.

Excuse me now as I must go and dispose of all the hair I have pulled out.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bitter Sweet Weekend

I am out of town this week on business so a very short post before I leave. It was a bitter sweet weekend for me. Mostly sweet though.

On Friday evening, my daughter, Maria, and I watched the Vanderbilt baseball team beat UK. The winner of this weekend series would lead the SEC east. We had great seats, 2nd row right behind the plate compliments of Ingram Industries. However, Vandy lost Saturday's and Sunday's games. But they are still in the hunt and have great chance of making the College World Series. They barely missed last year. There were a lot of pro scouts there watching our sophomore pitcher David Price, arguably the best pitcher in college baseball. Two scouts from the Arizona Diamondbacks sat next to us (World Series rings are very, very big). They were very nice and let Maria use the radar gun to track Price's pitches. When she was doing it, he pitched 3 consecutive pitches at 93 mph! They want to sign him this year. I hope he stays. They say Price will get $2-3 million just for signing his name to a contract. This is separate from the actual contract amount which will be very large.

Vanderbilt quarterback and this year's SEC Player of the Year, Jay Culter, was picked 11th in the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. This is a great place for him. Can you imagine being 23 years old and about to sign a contract for $10s of millions? Jay is a great guy and very down to earth. Many experts thought he was the best quaterback for the pro game in the draft this year.

Saturday night I saw one my guitar heros and one the greatest players in the world, Steve Howe. Unfortunately, his almost entirely acoustic set was at the Exit/In and would have been so much better at TPAC or some comparable venue. The setting did not lend itself to his beautiful style but nonetheless it was an incredible show. Steve Howe is the guitar player for Yes but has issued a large number of solo albums. He can play any style on any stringed instrument.

The most bitter sweet moment this weekend was last night. We had our last college life group. My wife and I have hosted a college life group for Otter Creek in our home for the last 4 years. Anita fixes them a meal each Sunday evening, ~3 times per mo. We grew very close and 6 of our college kids, as Maria calls them, have been with us for all 4 years and are graduating this weekend.

We had a wonderful time together sharing, singing, praying, and reflecting. These students brought the Holy Spirit into our house each week and provided an example for Maria that only God could provide us. I will miss the deep studies we have had that surpassed any adult life group I have ever been in (and I have been in some really good ones). Most of all we will miss them as our family. They leaned on us and we leaned on them. One of the young men has become my closest friend.

As I write to you how much Anita and I love these young men and women of God, I am shedding tears. Please pray for their lives, that God will lead and protect them. They are as spiritually mature as any group I have ever known and my family will always have a small hole without them in it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sobering Glimpse into Pergatory and God's Mercy

I was toying with a couple of blog ideas for this week, one being how I have seen the blog world used as a tool for Christian ministry and spiritual growth. I was going to write about several blog friends I have formed (see my links) in which our spiritual dialogue and debate has benefitted us all, and use the example of us starting the Mere Discipleship Discussion blog which has led to the podcast of Lee Camp's Sunday AM class at Otter Creek.

Well this morning I received an email that committed me to such a post. However I am going to focus on one single situation that touches my heart to the point of tears. For my blog friends, if you question whether your blogging is serving the Kingdom, I hope today's post convinces you that God will use you. Here are excerpts from communications with the mother of Pergatory Penman.

Tony, I am the mother of Jeffrey Wallace, purgatorypenman. Thank you so much for the CD that you sent. You've gotten it back, I'm sure. They are not allowed to have electronic machines, contrary to the gossip that permeates our society which details instances of inmates having cell phones, TV's, etc. I guess that right only exists in the federal facilities where Martha Stewart and Michael Milken spent time. Thank you for allowing others to view his gifts by directing them to his blog. I truly believe God has a purpose for him in this life yet.

I really would appreciate your writing to Jeffrey. We set up the blog for my son even though, of course, he does not have access to a computer and cannot view his own writing nor make comments to others in real time. He sends the articles to me; I transcribe them to the blog; then, I print them out, along with any comments that might be left there, and send them to him. This way, he is participating in everything about the blog.

He begged me to set it up because it seemed a good way to disseminate information about his situation to the world--to tell his story. Under the subject matter of Christian Analysis and Discussion, I found your blog and others of the same ilk, leaving comments and asking for communication. God was leading me that evening because those people whom you directed to Jeffrey's blog have helped so much to raise his morale. And, of course, the things you have said have meant so much. It is my plan to publish some of my son's articles in either a devotional booklet or some similar publication. Your comment started me thinking along those lines.

My son has always been very religious but has waxed and waned in his walk with God over the years. His faith is very simplistic--isn't that what Jesus called for? He really thinks that God intervenes directly in the lives of His children, and circumstances have often proved his belief. [However], at intervals, he [feels] depression and despair--a function of the place in which he finds himself.

[Jeffrey] is very intelligent, and ... it is such a pleasure to discuss and analyze important subjects with him. This was true even when he was very young. I loved to go on automobile trips with him because they would give us a lot of time to converse. He is constantly pointing my thinking into new directions that I would never have thought of on my own (especially in the realm of spirituality) and I consider myself to be fairly intelligent. I knew he would have something to contribute to interaction among people searching for Biblical knowledge. That is why I contacted you and your friends through your blogs.

I am a retired educator from Memphis who has moved to the country [in] Tn. I bought 101/2 acres and moved up here just before Jeffrey's tragedy happened. It is necessary for me to drive to Florida every three months, at least--more often for special occasions. Much of my time is taken up with writing to officials in the Florida DOC, Jeb Bush, my Congressman John Tanner, Senator Frist, and anyone else who might be able to resolve whatever situation is critical at the moment for my son. I, also, do some freelance writing, garden, sing with groups at church, teach a SS class, do other church work, and even substitute teach at times. My son's situation is, of course, the number one priority for me these days.

May I please ask you again to write to him? It was so nice of you to send the CD. Sometimes, things like that can be directed to the facility's library. Otherwise, any books or periodicals must come from the publisher or well-known booksellers. I send many through Barnes and Nobel where I can order Online.

Please pray for Jeffrey and for all our family members who must live with this situation every day and still try to function effectively in our complicated society of today. Thank you again for being a real Christian and giving some of your time to reading Jeffrey's blog and making thoughtful comments. You have definitely been an answer to my prayers. It is good to make your acquaintance.

[Ms.] Wallace

I am constantly astounded by the exuberant thanks people express for acts I and others have done that seem so miniscule, so trivial. I often don't feel as if I did anything and yet it seems so important to them. I say this not to call attention to myself, but to call attention of to how God uses the smallest of actions, words, and gestures to make an impact in the lives of others--mustard seeds. Every now and then we actually get to hear or see that impact. How many unknown situations are you being used in by God? On the opposite side, our negatives actions must have equal impact and we never know how we have hurt someone.

I encourage those that read this blog to pray continually for Jeffrey and his family and to read and comment on his blog at Pergutory Penman. On his blog is his address. I encourage you to write him a note. The most occassional contact can sustain a soul.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Nashville Reminiscing and Trivia Answer

First, the results of the trivia: 3rd place Jettybetty w/ 1 star; 2nd place Amanda w/ 2.5 stars (the half is for the Madonna remix fact); 1 st place SistaSmiff with 4 stars.

Answer: "the day the music died" was from Don Mclean's American Pie written about the day the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens (La Bamba) were killed in a plane crash.

Nashville Reminiscing
Thanks to Brittney of Nashville is Talking for linking me the other day. My 15 seconds of blog fame! Reading through some of the comments at Nashville is Talking leads me to this quick post today.

Nashville is so different from my child and teenage years. There are many good changes, but so many things I miss.

I miss:
  • KDF Rock--Nashville airwaves have never been the same since.
  • The old Tennessee Theatre downtown (saw Cheap Trick on the Dream Police Tour there--awesome)
  • The Belle Meade Theatre
  • Opryland (like we needed another mall--more traffic thank you very much)
  • Having the run of Radnor Lake natural area because it wasn't a trendy hiking place.
  • Jim Coursey's Barbecue -- the best ever and the greatest sauce known to man, and corn cakes that were like Manna.
  • Low Property Taxes !!!!
  • Carmen's family restaurant at Hwy 70/100 split. Some of the best Italian food ever--the pizza was gourmet before gourmet pizza became a marketing buzz word.
  • Kids could run free in their neighborhoods without fear.
  • Seeing Sara Cannon smiling and laughing with anyone at H.G. Hills, the post office, etc in Green Hills (Minnie Pearl)
  • H.G. Hills
  • Walter Nipper's Nashville Sporting Goods downtown store. It was to kids and sports what Phillips Toy Mart was to kids and toys. (correction: still there, but I miss going; will have to visit.)
  • No lines at the Pancake Pantry

If you want a great list of wonderful things that are no longer visit Nashville Memories.

Some things that are better:

  • The return of the Ryman as a main venue.
  • Rivitalization of Lower Broadway
  • Coffee Houses
  • No more Ray Blanton (but his legacy lives on in the state legislature it seems)
  • TPAC and now the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Classic Rocker Memory Test

Okay, based on some dialogue from my previous post I decided to post a non-serious blog this week. If you think you have an answer to the question posed at the end of the commentary (confession) below, post your answer without reading other comments first, that way you don't cheat.

JMG felt old because music from the late 80's is put in the classic genre by some. Well how do you think I feel? I actually remember when WKDA-AM added WKDA-FM rock (1972) later to become KDF 103 The Rock (1976), the best rock station in the south if not east of the Mississippi. Carl P. Mayfield was the long time DJ for this hard rock station. Did anyone have a Trans AM with the big black and yellow KDF sticker on the back window? Or a guitar case or music equipment with that sticker? Here is a history link for this great station: KDF History.

I also remember when KDF switched formats from hard rock to classic rock and now it is a country station. All those Carl P characters you country people know came from his KDF Rock days.

Among Nashville rockers, the day the music died was when KDF went country.
OK...that should test the old folks. What song is the bold phrase from and to what did it refer in that song? If you know the artist, you get bonus kudos for being old but still have a great memory...for meaningless minutae.

Have fun.


Monday, March 27, 2006

The House You Live In

As I was driving to St. Louis from Nashville last week, I was listening to some music that I had not listened to in a long time. One of the songs really spoke to me that morning and related to the simplicity of Christian discipleship. It is the simple things about discipleship that we gloss over that have the greatest impact. Much too often we gloss over them and tackle the theologically tough issues because it is actually easier to debate unclear points than to execute the simple and clear points. I hope you find the song as refreshing as I did.

The House You Live In
Go first in the world, go forth with your fears
Remember a price must be paid
Be always too soon, be never too fast
At the time when all bets must be laid
Beware of the darkness, be kind to your children
Remember the woman who waits
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate

When you're caught by the gale and you're full under sail
Beware of the dangers below
And the song that you sing should not be too sad
And be sure not to sing it too slow
Be calm in the face of all common disgraces
And know what they're doing it for
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your door

When you're out on the road and feeling quite lost
Consider the burden of fame
And he who is wise will not criticize
When other men fail at the game
Beware of strange faces and dark dingy places
Be careful while bending the law
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your door

When you're down in the dumps and not ready to deal
Decide what it is that you need
Is it money or love, is it learning to live
Or is it the mouth you must feed
Be known as a man who will always be candid
On questions that do not relate
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate
Gordon Lightfoot from Summertime Dream 1976

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Salvation and Looking to the Cross

As Christians, we often hear or say look to the Cross of Christ for our salvation. This is almost always said meaning that it was Jesus' sacrifice, death, and resurrection that has saved us. This statement references the act of God giving of Himself through the Son and the act of the Son in regards to mankind's salvation.

But what about mankind's role in salvation? What are the mechanism from our side that are needed to fulfill our personal salvation? Ah...here we have much debate.

"It is grace alone--the actions of God."

"No, not grace alone. You also have to believe that Christ was the Son, that He was from God. You have to belief in the death and resurrection."

"And there must also be repentance by man."

"Yes, but there must also be baptism."

"What form must this baptism take? Immersion, sprinkling, do they all count?

"How you live your life afterwards surely cannot be ignored!" And the debates continue on.

Today while reading in Luke 23, I was struck by verses, 39-43, one of those light-bulb moments that sets the mind racing. Reading these verses, I pondered if we could turn to the Cross in a much more literal sense for insight into the debate above.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." 42 The he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

In this example we have confession: we are guilty and getting what we deserve. We have belief in Christ: ...come into your kingdom. In this instance this was enough for salvation. So can we look to the Cross for insight on this topic?

What are your thoughts readers?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Understanding Scripture Discussion

The comments on my last post ended with a discussion about understanding and accepting scripture that I feel was left hanging. This is a critical issue for any Christian. So, I post excerpts from the last few comments to spur further discussion. Intricately involved in this issue is faith, which was also a discussion point in the last post. I will start off with a definition of faith that I penned in a journal entry.

Faith: that part of our belief that supercedes facts, contradictions, doctrine, law, and emotion--that part beyond anything knowable. -- Tony Arnold, 9/21/2003

Now let me seque into the discussion of understanding scripture, keeping the above comment on faith as a back drop.

Brent wrote: My conclusion (as well as that of many other Christians) is that the texts which we have today are a compilation of interpretive writings. What I mean is this: Those who wrote the originals were not "inspired" miraculously so that people 2,000 years later would know the truth of the events during the time of Jesus. The Gospels are a collection of writings which present the early Christian traditions that existed at that time (30-90 years later). The Gospels are not recorded history, but history interpreted. Scholars now surmise that many early Christian writings are forever lost. . . . It is not surprising that Constantine was sick of all the schisms in Christianity and decided to call the first council to get everyone on the same page. Unfortunately it was too late. By the 4th century too much damage to the various Jesus traditions had been done.This isn't DaVinci code stuff here. This is information that historians have discovered over the last 2 centuries (expecially the last 20 years).

Phil asked: Brent, if what you say is true, does that keep Scripture from being something that can and/or should be followed?

Brent wrote: To view scripture as something to live by or follow is fine as far as I'm concerned. However, when selected ancient writings are classified as Scripture ... and deified so that individuals can claim to "know the Truth," those followers will be exclusive, judgmental, arrogant, and condescending toward the rest of the blind world. In my opinion, that is not the love of Christ. It is triumphalism.

Phil asked: So how do you [we] decide which parts of Scripture are worth following and which aren't?

Brent answered: The best answer seems to be through the collective community. This is the best (in my opinion) but more difficult approach. Personalities clash and opinions differ across spectrums ofinterpretation. ... I must add that I don't think that the Bible is something that can be figured out. An open-minded community shouldn't set out on a mission to decide which books of the Bible to keep or throw away, which Gospel is the most accurate or who's interpretation of a passage is the best. No. It may be healthier for the community (local as well as worldwide) to simply take a humble position and learn from one another instead of pointing fingers of condemnation at dissenters. If this isn't done, Bishop Spong may be correct - Christianity may die.

Please do not mistake a link for your investigation purpose as an endorsement or denouncement of any one person or viewpoint. These are very real issues being wrestled with in the Christian community and each Christian needs to have a firm understanding of their belief and faith.

The only comment I will make at this time is that I am completely confident that Christianity won't die. Christ already died in order to defeat death and He rose again. Christianity cannot die for this very reason. Now, that comment may spark enough discussion within itself. So weigh in everyone--on faith, on scriptural authority, and/or on the viability of Christianity.