Thursday, December 29, 2005

TT5: Favorite Comfort Foods

My cyber-pal, and fellow Cube Head, the Cubicle Reverend, filled with delicious eats from the holidays, posed the question of my top five favorite comfort foods. Always looking for an excuse to blog, I offer my reply:

1) Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Preferably with the PB & J mixed together before spreading onto the bread. Blackberry is my favorite jelly, and only crunchy pnut butter will do.

2) Spaghetti made by my wife. I don't know what she puts in it, but it is unrivaled.

3) Meatloaf made by my wife. There is no recipe to speak of, but it is a winner every time.

4) Pumpkin pie with a glob of Cool Whip (fat free of course). Ugh!

5) Blueberry Pop Tarts and a tall glass of milk. It is better after the kids are all in bed.

Anyone else wanna play?

2006 New Year's Resolutions

I know what you're thinking. I feel the same way, which is why I haven't made any resolutions since High School. I always break them, usually within the first week of January! However, I want this year to be different. I need this year to be different. So I am taking some personal initiative and setting some goals for the New Year. Call them goals; call them resolutions; call them a joke (for those who have known me awhile). Regardless, and without further ado, I present my resolutions:

1) Seek God daily. For many years this was a token answer. The "preacher" is supposed to say that. This year I am driven to know Him deeper. I really want to , and I really need to. Whatever the next level is, I want to get there.

2) Love my wife and kids more. By this I mean by my actions. I don't think I could love them more in my heart, but this year I want to show them more love by spending more quality time and sharing new experiences.

3) Lose 30 pounds and keep it off. I know, another pat resolution, but I really want to do this. I did it a couple years ago, and I know I can do it again. I felt better, slept better, and just had a better overall outlook when I was 30 pounds thinner.

4) Find a place of service in the ministry again. Or rather pray that one finds me. I really want to record some Christian jazz songs I have written, and see where it goes. I may preach again, who knows. Whatever comes, I am ready.

5) Become more financially independent. I didn't say wealthy. I just want to be able to pay the bills as they come in and maybe have some left over to save for vacation or something. Tracy and I really want to help others in need. We want to be the ones the church calls when there is a need, and be able to meet that need without hesitation. We do what we can now, but we want to do more.

6) I want to go to Las Vegas and see Barry Manilow's show. I have never been to Vegas, and I don't gamble (except while driving on I-26 toward Spartanburg!). But I have dreamed of visiting there and taking in the magic of the Vegas show scene. Who better to start with than Manilow?

7) This year I want to take my family to Wisconsin. My grandmother in her 90s, and she has never met my children, except through pictures. I haven't been home since 1994. I miss Madison very much, and I really miss my family there. I also want to make another jaunt to Seattle.

8) Have a more positive attitude, and be thankful for everything, good or bad. I am trying to learn to see every situation as an opportunity to grow in my faith without whining about it.

9) Laugh more. Laughter produces so many positive things, physically and mentally. I need to laugh more at myself. I can be pretty darn funny sometimes. I also want to enjoy life more this year than any year in the past! I am very blessed. Sure, there are bad times now and then, but when the smoke clears, I have a lot to enjoy and celebrate.

10) Spend more time with my friends. I have some of the best friends in the world, and I grow weary of seeing them only once a year. I'd like to see more of Rick, Lori, Jimmy & Teresa, Tim & Angela, and of course, James. No more excuses, lets just do it!

11) Last but not least, I want to wrestle again. Just one full match, just to prove to myself that I can do it. Maybe WFJ will give me a title shot. Todd Matrixx has one match in him, I believe. JD Justice, Dynamite Dave, and T-Money are going to have their hands full in 2006, that much is certain!

That wasn't so bad, was it? No pressure with these. I will do my best to keep and reach these goals and celebrate the small victories along the way.

Care to post yours?

Monday, December 26, 2005

6:30 am Christmas Morning

Ready, set, unwrap!

The Day After

Western commercialized Christmas is now over. The presents have all been opened. Soon the tree and all the trimmings will be packed away along with the warm memories of another great Christmas. My wife outdid herself. She put together the nicest Christmas I have ever had in my life.

Tomorrow it's back to work for me. I feel somewhat rested. I approach 2006 with great anticipation. 2005 was the most trying year of my life thus far. I learned that trying to be anyone or anything other than what you really are leads to deep depression. I am who I am, and that is all I am required or expected to be. I am called to minister the gospel. My calling, according to Romans 8, is irrevocable. My life has changed a lot over the last couple of years. What has not changed is that at the age of 16, God gave me a crystal clear calling to the gospel ministry. What form or shape it takes is not in my hands. Be it pastor, teacher, singer, wrestler, or all of the above, God has a perfect plan.

All I know at this moment is that I have been blessed with a life greater than I have ever deserved, and someone to share it with who is a better wife than I ever imagined existed. I also know that I have children who need me, and I them. And whether they know it or want to believe it, God's people need me too, and despite the hurt that many of them have caused me, I need them, too. Jesus died for the church, and He has called me to live for her, while dying to myself. It is a daily process. For me it is a moment-by-moment process. Yet it is the joy of living.

It staggers me when I think that had Jesus not been born, I'd have nothing to blog.

Friday, December 23, 2005

No more shopping!

I finally have all my shopping done. Each time I ventured out and was reminded of why I dread the commercialized holiday season. The angels proclaimed at the Lord's birth, "peace on earth and goodwill toward men." Ironically, Christmas shopping produces kind of an opposite attitude.

Christmas will soon come and go, then the year 2005.

This has been a year of growth for me. The Lord has stretched my faith beyond anything I have ever experienced. Each time I convince myself that God has left me out to dry, He proves me wrong. This year, though kicking and screaming most of the way, I have learned to totally trust in Him. Everything I have held to in my faith has been challenged, questioned, and called to the carpet.

One thing I have come away with so far, is that all that really matters, through all the smoke and mirrors, is Jesus. The child born in a manger came to do something that man nor his religion could do. This year, all of my doctrine has been stripped off of me and thrown to the ground as filthy rags. I have come to the bitter end of myself, my intellect, my compassion, my reason, and my education. All that remains is Jesus, in my heart, and in my life. Where we go from here is uncertain to me. He has it all mapped out. Grace really is amazing.

This has turned out to be a good Christmas after all. Not sure if I'll get everything I wanted or needed, but I got something I sure didn't expect: broken and spilled out, and ready to be molded for God's glory.

Like Charlie Brown, I have been reminded of the real meaning of Christmas, and the reason for my joy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Three Truths and A Lie

A day late as usual, yet never too late to answer a tag from the King of Coffee. Below are 4 statements; one is a lie. Guess which one.

1) I finally saw A Charlie Brown Christmas!
2) I once played golf with Max Baer, aka Jethro on the Beverly Hillbillies.
3) I was a minister for 15 years.
4) My wife is in the medical profession.

Check the comments to see which one was the lie.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Remembering a Dear Friend

WARNING: you may need a tissue.

Today is a difficult day for me personally. It was 5 years ago today that one of my best friends succumbed to a very tough battle with cancer. Brenda Smyth was a gem. She was one of those rare people that God puts in your life that you never forget. To me she was a great friend and a sister in the Lord.

When I was a Bible college student, Brenda and her husband, Randy were my on-campus neighbors. We all worked at the Ruby Reid Child Care Center on campus. We went out together. We took vacations together. We saw Titanic together. Randy and Brenda in no small way made the whole experience of Being a 30 year old college student enjoyable and meaningful. Brenda was my sounding board for many personal struggles.

Brenda was a woman of supernatural faith. To her, there was nothing that God couldn't do. Prayer was the driving force of her life. She brought it up in every statement, I'm sure. When she discovered that the battle with cancer she had already fought and won was back for round two, she became even more faith-driven. I never saw her discouraged or defeated. She was the terminally ill one, and yet she comforted and ministered to everyone around her all the time.

I was privileged to lead a prayer service for her at her church in Knoxville. There were tears all over the sanctuary, except in Brenda's eyes. On her face was absolute joy and peace. I will never forget that as long as I live. Then after the service, I watched her comfort the people who came to pray for HER. She was an amazing woman!

Despite all of our praying and believing on her behalf, she died peacefully in her sleep, beside her husband, 5 years ago today.

For a long time, I struggled with my faith because of her death. How could God allow such a beautiful spirit suffer from cancer, and then even with all our prayers, allow her to die, leaving a husband and three children? I asked such questions and had such doubts because my friend Randy lost his wife of 25 years. I was angry because her sons, Aaron and Jordan, would be growing up without their mother. I was angry because her daughter Tia, then in the most formative teenage years, was now without her mother and best friend. I was angry because I had lost a very dear friend.

I still struggle with it. The only "answer" I seem to get is that some people are just not long for this world. I think of others in Christendom who died way too soon...for me. Rich Mullins, Keith Green, Robert Perry (a friend), and of course, Brenda Kay Smyth.

When you think of it, none of us are really long for this world. I only hope that when my time comes, I will have touched people the way Brenda did.

Brenda, I miss you. I could have used your ear a couple years ago. I miss the friendship we had, and I miss your faith, which always seemed to inspire mine.

And for Randy, Aaron (now married), Tia (about to graduate college), and Jordan (starting college), I am praying for the comfort of Christ to carry you through another holiday season without your wife and mother. No one misses her more than you do, but those who knew her love and miss her with you.

At her funeral, a lady sang a song called, "If you could see me now." I believe that was her way of letting us know she was all right and that we would see her again.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Top 5 Christmas TV Traditions

There are five programs/movies that put me in the Yuletide spirit each and every year. Here they are, as always, in no particular order:

1) It's A Wonderful Life
2) Home Alone 1 & 2
3) Die Hard
4) Star Trek: Generations (Picard's Nexus experience is so Dickens-esque)
5) The Charlie Brown Christmas

Without these, it just ain't Christmas for me. Care to share yours?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Good friends, good times, good grief

I had an espcially nice evening last night. Tracy and I met up with two of my dearest friends, Jimmy and Teresa. It was the first time I had seen Teresa standing up in over a year. She had been bed-ridden since October of 2004. Back in April, we were told she wouldn't make it through the night due to several blood infections. Well, she did make it, and hopefully last night was the first of many more such visits and outings. Jimmy and Teresa are very special people.

Tonight, my honey and I will join Rick, Vicki, and Lori for dinner and and pre-Christmas gathering. Rick and Lori are two of my longtime friends. We were all in the same youth group growing up and I have to say those were some of the best times of my life. That we are all still close after all these years is such a blessing.

I believe I have missed Charlie Brown Christmas...again. Good grief! I need to give greater attention to my local listings.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Quotables to live by

Having been inadvertently tagged by the Cubicle Reverend, I am now tasked with providing a list of quotes which I live by and/or have meant a lot to me. So, here goes:

  1. "Then I guess you have two choices: get busy living or get busy dying." --Tim Robbins, The Shawshank Redemption
  2. "You gotta look out for number one, but don't step in number two." --Rodney Dangerfield, Back to School
  3. "Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it still has the longest line." --The Nature Boy, Ric Flair
  4. "God has hard-wired the universe to operate though prayer." Dr. David Jeremiah
  5. "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
  6. "Failure is not an option." Ed Harris, Apollo 13
  7. "Stupid is as stupid does." --Forrest Gump (this simple quote beckons to be heeded; I have certainly done some stupid things in my life)
  8. "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." --Don Corleone
  9. "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer." --Michael Corleone
  10. "Todd, you watch way too %$&#@ much TV." --My mother, during my formative years

Now, if you are reading this, you have been tagged. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Humor

New Year's Mayhem with a Message

December 31st, 7:00 pm, Lexington, SC at the Chapel of Redemption, WFJ is in the house! I know for certain that Matt Cruz will be defending his World Heavyweight title against the infamous T-Money. I also have it on good information that there might even be a special appearance by Todd Matrixx, who was sidelined in March of this year with a broken arm at the hands of Dynamite Dave and Hollywood Inc. Matrixx has not yet been medically cleared for in-ring action, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a little mayhem up his sleeve...

The Chapel of Redemption is located at 5181 Platt Springs Road in Lexington. Go to Mapquest for directions. The show will be finished by 9:00 pm, so you will still have plenty of time for other New Year's festivities.

I will post more as I hear more about what other superstars will be in Lexington on December 31st.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Welcome to the Blogosphere

My wife, Tracy has started blogging. Go and check her out and show some love. In addition to her blog, she can whip up some mean mashed potatoes! They are the hit of every family function.

You may read her blog, but the taters stay with me! :o)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sunday School Moments

Today our Sunday School class talked about Jesus. We are studying the "Doctrinal Tenets" of the Christian faith, that is to say, "What We Believe and Why." Today we looked at what the Bible says about Jesus, and somehow managed to encapsulate it into a 45 minute lesson.

We focused mainly on Jesus as Savior. 30 of the 45 minutes dwelled on the fact that we are saved FROM sin. Saved from sin, yes, but then what? I kept waiting and waiting for the "Saved TO" part. Being saved from sin, and as numerous people interjected, being "drawn to the cross," is not all there is. That is only half the gospel.

I believe we should be drawn to the cross first, and then over to the empty tomb, the other half of the gospel. A lot of men were crucified in the days of our Lord. Seeing Jesus only for His death makes Him no different than any other common criminal. Of all those who were crucified and died, only one rose again, Jesus.

Saved from sin should be followed with being saved to life. A life empowered by grace. A life where there is now no more condemnation. A life where God's wrath and judgement are no longer an issue. A life of joy and fruitful growth. A life where we don't HAVE TO please God by our works, but where we do good works because He is already pleased with us.

So many churches are full of people who came to the cross, but missed the empty tomb. The are powerlessly trying to get through life, doing the best they can, and hoping it's good enough to keep God from being angry at them. They are defeated, when in fact they are on the winning team.

God is still working this out in me. With the help of His word, the Holy Spirit, and a couple of caring friends, I am daily working out my salvation.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Time for a change

I cleaned up my blog a bit, added, deleted, and refurbished. Let me know what you think! More upgrades coming soon. I didn't realize a degree in Computer Science was needed to have a blog.

Rick, I will need some help with a few upgrades when you can make time. :o)

Thursday Top 5, Weekend Edition

My favorite long time cyber-pal, Rick, asked, "What are your Top Five Catch Phrases?" Here are mine, in random order, and a couple days after the fact:

1) Yo!
2) Wazzzaaaaap?
3) Duuude!
4) "That's no's a space station!"
5) "Read my lips...."

Honorable mention goes to The Cubicle Reverend for inspiration. Long live the 80s!

Friday, December 09, 2005

I've been tagged!

Tagged by Rick - Write 5 random facts about yourself, and then list the names of 5 people whom you in turn infect.

1) I have a collection of baseball, football and basketball cards dating back to the early 70s.
2) My mother has the Beatle's first album, in its original form, in good condition.
3) The original spelling of my last name was Wiik. It was changed to its current spelling in the 1860s. My ancestors were from Norway.
4) I ate Bruschetta at The Bistro last night.
5) I have seen Die Hard 122 times.

I tag Tracy, Jenna, Christi, James, and Jayuff

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Buddy Begins with "B"

The "B" Brian James and Me

One of my favorite WFJ wrestlers and a valued friend is known as the "B" Brian James. How I met this man is quite a story, which I am happy to share here.

One day I was reading my email, and I received one from Brian James, asking me to look at the WFJ website. I am on numerous pastor's lists and still receive emails from various ministries looking for support. I usually delete them (sorry). But I visited the WFJ website at his request and was amazed. What amazed me most was an invitation to participate. I emailed him right away. He called me and the rest is history.

I don't think either of us expected that I would botch a fall and break my arm.

The "B" Brian James is actually just a cool guy named Brian. He is a big guy with a huge heart. He only knows two things really well, Jesus and wrestling. He can talk for hours about either one. He has an amazing testimony, and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE in the WFJ locker room loves this man. In the photo above, Brian is receiving the award for "Most Christlike" at the WFJ Banquet this past July. He was surprised, nobody else was. The guy just oozes Christlikeness. He calls me at least weekly just to see how I'm doing. He actually calls just about everyone on the roster.

I expect great things from this young man; I am proud to call him friend.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Anticipation of a thing...

Tomorrow is my birthday. Last year, that was a statement of joy. Today, it is one of dread.

I know, I know, some of you will read this and say, "Hey 38 isn't that bad, dude." Some of you are even older and feel no sympathy for me whatsoever. That's ok.

The strange thing is that a birthday has never bothered me so much as this one. I have never been more depressed than I am this Christmas season, and I don't know why. The fact that Christmas music is playing and it is 74 degrees outside only heightens the doom and gloom for me.

I am going to try and put on a happy face for tomorrow. My kids are excited about my birthday, and I'm pretty sure my wife is. I am ready for the anticipation to pass and for the big day just be over and done.

On the other hand, I am thankful for 38 years. That is more than many of our Nation's Finest will ever have, and surely more than I deserve. I remember when my Dad turned 38. I didn't think he was old at all, and I sure don't feel old. I am a bit miffed that my Dad was more handsome and had no gray hair at 38, but I'll get over it. I am thankful that I still have a full head of hair. I could lose about 30 pounds, but other than that, I feel pretty good.

I apologize to my regular readers who usually come here to see what witty and sarcastic observations I will offer. The Church Signs have been a big hit. I'm glad. I just have a lot on my mind this holiday season, and the holidays themselves are barely on my mind at all. Thanksgiving was a nightmare, and I don't even want to think about Christmas.

Maybe we can enjoy some witty birthday observations tomorrow.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

More Church Signs

Now here is a sign I can deal with. This one is actually on a church sign next door to my work. People who do not regularly attend church, and people who do can surely be encouraged by this sign's message.

For a long time, I used to think God was mad at me. I even thought He was disgusted with me at one time.

Many times, we see God as a mean stepfather who is just waiting for us to mess up so he can strike us down. To be sure, the Bible does make reference to God's wrath, and even Jesus is depicted as angry when He cleared the temple. He wasn't angry just because He was in a bad mood; He was angry at the way His temple was being used for profit and financial gain (let's not even go there right now).

What the church and the unbelieving world need to see is God as a loving Father. One who invites us to crawl up in His lap and just sit while He holds us. The Bible depicts Him as "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in great kindness. Psalm 103:10 says that God has "not dealt with us according to our sin, nor punished us according to our iniquities." Why? Because He is gracious and merciful. His mercies are "new every morning." That means every day begins with a fresh supply of God's mercy, untainted by our failures of yesterday.

Might I add that all of the above exists because God chooses it to be that way. He is not angry at us. Now, don't go wild and get all sinned up because of this wonderful truth of God's grace. Grace is not license to sin, it is freedom to live.

For me this was a huge relief of many years of guilt and shame. I couldn't even pray, because I felt God was disgusted with me and couldn't even stand the sound of my voice. Quite the opposite, He can't wait for me to pray. In the same way I can't wait for my children to get home from school, God cannot wait for me to come to Him, only His love is immeasurably greater than my own.

He feels the same way about you. Don't take my word for it, ask Him.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Guilty Pleasures

Inspired by my close friend Rick, and cyber pal, The Cubicle Reverend, I have elected to participate in a survey.The topic is, "Top Ten Guilty Pleasures." I may actually have more than 10, but I'll try to keep it real. So, here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Professional Wrestling. Not just WWE though they are the Mecca of wrestling. I really prefer the old NWA back in the 80s. Ric Flair was in his prime, and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine was/is so cool. I have loved wrestling since I was 5 years old. Now my son enjoys it with me, though we change the channel when the Divas come out. Of course, my favorite wrestling is WFJ. Mayhem with a message!
  2. KISS will always be, in my opinion, the greatest rock band ever. These guys had it all, talent, charisma, and superior creativity. They are a regular in my CD player.
  3. The 3 Stooges are my favorite comic escape. How can you ever tire of those classic, timeless antics.
  4. Adam Sandler's movies. This guy is so funny and talented.
  5. All the John Hughes classics, Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science. Anthony Michael Hall was the consummate geek. I am pleased to see his acting career is still doing well and geek free.
  6. The music of Barry Manilow.
  7. The music of Hall and Oates. How can anyone ever tire of these two?
  8. John Boy and Billy Big Show every morning on Fox 102. For a bunch of self-proclaimed rednecks, these guys are really funny in an intellectual sort of way.
  9. Little House on the Prairie. With no father in the house growing up, I can honestly say I was "raised" by Charles Ingalls and his family. I learned values, honesty, and hard work from this show. I think I turned out OK, anyway. I watch it every night now with my children on TV Land.
  10. Doughnuts. I don't buy them, but if someone else buys them and offers them to me, I will not refuse. In my early 20s, I could scarf a dozen all by myself.

Well, there you have it, my top ten guilty pleasures. Say it with me, "BOOOR-ING!"

Thank you for playing.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

So long, November

I am in kind of a reflective mood today. December always does that to me. Last night I chatted with James for about an hour. I miss him terribly. I have friends here, to be sure, but a friendship like this only comes once in a lifetime.

December holds a lot of memories, too. Some good, some not.
  • My birthday is in December. Once I hit 30, I quit counting.
  • My first wife and I separated in December.
  • Two dear friends of mine passed away in December.
  • Then, of course, there's Christmas. Most people don't realize that Jesus was not actually born on December 25. Scholars believe it was actually around April.

I am sitting here at my desk, listening to the "Hurricane Hero," Harry Connick, Jr. sing Christmas songs, thinking about a lot of things. My eyes have actually teared up a couple of times. Just one of those reflective days.