Friday, January 29, 2010

Behind the technology curve - Part 1

I admit that I've gotten behind the curve relative to technology but this is a new tech toy that I think I can handle.

The iPad - watch more funny videos

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm a sucker for little kids

Last night, I got to hold and rock a newborn little boy who was just 6 hours old. On Sunday, I got to play with my nephew's son who is just 17 months old.  I just love little kids  . . . until they grow up and become obnoxious teenagers!

Once you've had your own kids, you're no longer traumatized by having a baby spit-up on you, you can change a stinky diaper without gagging, and you can bandage a bobo with the skill of a M.A.S.H. surgeon.  There's just something about having that experience under your belt that makes spending time with children so enjoyable.  I realized that even with all of my rookie parent  mistakes, my two sons survived and have turned out well, if I do say so myself.  (Of course, that may be due more to the influence of their mother than their father.) In any event, I'm free to enjoy other children knowing that I'm not likely to permanently damage them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

"In the world but not of the world"

In my free-lance writing career, I'm working on an article right now that I have under contract to a Christian retail trade magazine on the topic of identifying lost revenue streams and recovering that revenue for your business.  Sounds fascinating, right?  OK, maybe not to everyone but if you're a retailer fighting to keep your head above water today, it might just be an interesting read that would help you stay in business. 

The struggle that I'm having with it is that much of what I'm talking about in this article is counter-intuitive to my own nature.  I'm not highly motivated by making money (that might explain why I'm not weathy) but I am highly motivated by giving.  Consequently, trying to advise people on how to squeeze the most revenue out of their business to keep it viable in a fiercely competitive economic climate presents some challenges for me.  On one hand, retailers need access to every legitimate tool that can help them remain viable through this economic downturn and in a world that is changing at a rapid pace.  On the other hand, Christian retailers, are also called to be a source of light in a world that is growing ever dim.  How can a  failed Christian retailer provide light?  It's the classic, "In the world but not of the world" dilemma. 

How do you handle the dilemma of remaining viable in this world while living a life not characterized of this world?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Living dangerously

You've just gotta admire this lady's spunk!  Assuming that's her own birthday cake, I figure she's earned the right to live dangerously and have a smoke.  Who knows?  Maybe that's how she made it to be 100?

I, on the other hand, live life pretty safely.  I don't skydive, cliff dive, bungee jump, swim with sharks, race cars, smoke, drink, take drugs  . . . OK, you get the picture.  I live a life without a ton of risks.  I eat too much and I eat the wrong things but that's pretty much the extent of my risk-taking.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Miracles continue in Haiti

 A husband refuses to give up hope.  He waits at the site of the bank in Port-au-Prince where his wife worked hoping that she will be found alive.  After six days in the dark, buried in the rubble, the woman is rescued.  She praises God and sings.  Who says miracles don't happen anymore?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hope in Haiti

This is why I'm compelled to support the relief efforts in Haiti. 
Hope lives!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Praying for safety

As aid flows in to the victims of the Haitian earthquake, it's unfortunate but inevitable that getting those supplies from the airport to where they are most needed is slower and more difficult than any of the aid workers or we would like it to be.  The obstacles that these heroes are facing are enormous.  Frustrated Haitian victims have responded poorly, at times becoming violent against one another and against aid workers today.  It's important that we pray for the safety of those who are there to help.  It's also important that we focus on the good being done and not become distracted by the logistical problems.  The people on the ground there are well aware of the problems and are working tirelessly in difficult circumstances to correct them.  The last thing these men and women need are a bunch of "armchair quarterbacks" back home complaining about the shortcomings of the heroic job that they are doing. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Helping those who are already serving in Haiti

Several months ago, I wrote about Jim Caple, a friend of mine, and his experience ministering to the poor in Haiti here.  Jim tells me that the mission with which he works in Haiti is located north of the area affected by the earthquake this week but that they expect a large number of refugees to descend on them in the coming days and will be severely under-resourced to meet those needs.  There are many fine international agencies providing much-needed aid to the Haitians right now but there are also ministries that have been serving these people long before this week and will be serving them long after.  I hope that, like me, you will also considering supporting these 2 smaller ministries that have long had a heart for the people of Haiti and have been serving them faithfully.  Their established relationships may open doors not open to some of the other relief agencies now also at work there.  Here are links to these 2  worthy ministries: 

Missionary Flights International

Grace Mission

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Who? Me?

Take a walk around your house right now.  Flip on a light switch, adjust the thermostat, open your refrigerator and see what's inside.  Open your kitchen cabinets and take a look at the food that you have on hand and the utensils that you have to cook with.  Turn on your stove.  Pour yourself a glass of clean water.  Meander back to your bedroom and look at the bed where you slept last night and then open your closet to see what clothes you have to choose from.  Go to your bathroom and turn on the shower and flush the toilet.  Now imagine that you didn't have any of these things and that you have no means by which to acquire them.  Welcome to Haiti this morning!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The people of Haiti need our help

The people of Haiti experienced a catastrophic earthquake yesterday and need our help.  Click either of these links and join me in supporting the relief efforts there (I made contributions to both of them today):

Monday, January 11, 2010

Smells only slightly better than the odor that you're trying to mask

Since launching my freelance writing career and working from home, I've focused more of my attention on cutting the cost of our living expenses.  Some things came very easy, such as virtually eliminating my clothing expense (I can work in whatever ratty old clothes that I already own) or cutting my auto expense by 80% or more (a zero mile commute to work saves a lot of money!) This newly found frugality is most obvious in my grocery shopping, a chore that I took over from my wife when I made the career shift.  I've become virtually immune to allure of advertisers and focus on value when I shop but I also try to keep a balance by consistently buying fresh produce.  I carefully compare brands and prices and try to make wise choices, although I've long preached the gospel of " lowest price does not necessarily equal best value."

A few weeks back I had an unusually long shopping list and decided go to the local Dollar Tree store to see how many items on the list could be bought there before going to my regular grocery store.  I bought as many of the items on my list as I could and then compared similar items in the grocery store with the $1 items I'd bought at Dollar Tree.  While all of them proved to be less expensive, some of them were a better value than others.  I learned that certain brands of household cleaners are worth the price differential but sometimes the price of the higher quality product just can't be justified.  As an example, I'm sold on a particular brand of dish washing liquid and have never found another that works as well.  I'm willing to pay more for this product because it's worth the price. The worst value I found at Dollar Tree was a bathroom air freshener product.  It claimed to be a nice citrus scent (my favorite) and was, of course, only $1.  Compared to the price of the major brands found at grocery stores, this was a bargain and worth a try, right?  WRONG!  To label this product citrus scented was misleading, to say the least.  It's should have been described as "Only slightly better than the smell that you're trying to mask" (BTW that's the sanitized version of what I really called it).

Friday, January 8, 2010

I should know better . . .

I should know better than to weigh-in on a political discussion, especially one that involves the debate on health care reform.   I'm wondering if I can install some sort of application on my computer that prevents me from doing that or at least delays any comment that I may offer for 24 hours so that I give myself one more chance to back out.  I have long had concerns about the health care industry in our country and believed that it needed serious reform.   There have been times that my views have earned me the ire of friends in that industry and I've learned to take a deep breath and count to ten before engaging in that discussion face-to-face.  Unfortunately, the internet presents another temptation to engage in conversation when I should stay out of it. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Finally getting the hang of it

After four months, I think I may finally be getting the hang of this freelance writing thing.  Over the weekend, I pitched a couple of story ideas to the Director of Publications of a magazine for which I had previously written.  I got an e-mail back from her expressing interest in both ideas and requesting a synopsis of each.  I sent those to her, she commissioned both stories, and inquired about me writing an additional story on another topic that she had been mulling over.  By the end of the day, I had one contract in hand and the contracts for two other stories will be sent next week.  A second magazine in which I have a story this month also contacted me this week requesting another article for an upcoming issue.  Looks like I'm finally getting busy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years - a book review

Don Miller's latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, is one of those rare works where, chapter after chapter, the story just gets better. His subtitle, What I Learned While Editing My Life, is a good description of the framework of the book once the reader begins to understand what he means by that.  This book is actually born out of his experience of collaborating with two experienced screenwriters in writing the screenplay to one of Miller's earlier works, Blue Like Jazz.  In doing so, he learned that his story would not simply translate on the big screen in a way that would hold a viewers interest but would require editing to accomplish that.  In making those editorial adjustments to create a good story, he learns some things about his own life and the elements required to make our own real lives a good story.