Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Shopping

I guess it's about time for a new post. We are still alive, just busy. Do you think it's strange that I find Santas creepy? I hid from the one at the mall today. I also hid from the guy who tries to sell fingernail treatments. I didn't hide from Chic-Fil-A, where I got a free sandwich in exchange for a pint of my blood.

Eleanor's been Christmas shopping in her own way. She likes all the flyer's that come in the mail. She picked out a new camera from Radio Shack and some bananas from Kroger, all while on the phone--what a multitasker!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Advent Aegis

In the old days the church ordered it's life around the events of the gospels, the events of Christ's life. Some still do. One key time is the time of advent: the time we anticipate the coming of Christ, the incarnation of God in a little baby.

To remember Advent Melody and I will be contributing brief devotions to a another blog called Advent Aegis. In the old days (of our time at First Southern Magnet Cove) we contributed to a print version that Shane and Diane put together. This was still his doing, only we're going a bit digital this time as they're in Slovakia. Amy Sickle, another former FSBC Magnet Cover, will round out our team. So check it out and read along with us through the lectionary texts as we remember and anticipate what comes next.

Also you can navigate there by clicking the link to the right.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hay Ride

The much anticipated (at least by me) hay ride took place on Saturday. Some folks in our church have this amazing farm on the river. Every year they host a hay ride. Here is our gracious hostess, who made very good chicken and dumplings. Belle is the dog. Eleanor was so happy to play with Belle, but Belle wasn't so sure.

We went on a hay ride last year too, but Eleanor enjoyed this one much more (she slept through most of it last year). When we first got on the trailer, Eleanor carefully examined the boards and saw a crack wide enough to see the ground. She was still examining it when we started moving. She was much suprised and excited to go and was happy for most of the ride.

These are pictures of people riding on hay.

In other news, Eleanor slept over 13 hours last night and did not act as my alarm clock (as is her habit) this morning causing me to almost miss a breakfast appointment. She has learned to bark like a seal, hiss like a snake, and moo like a cow. Today she tried to cut her own toenails.

And last, but not least, we have a shameless plug for Eleanor's cuteness brought to you by EPR Team (Eleanor's Public Relations Team, that is).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

iBook Rehabilitation Unit: iFixit

A few weeks back, Melody's aunt, B, suffered a great loss: her hard drive on her G3 iBook failed. B is a writer by proffession and she has been using her iBook nigh daily since 2001. It was only a matter of time. Fortunately for a nominal fee she was able to salvage most of the data. However it was time to upgrade and she soon had a shiny new 13in. Intel Core Duo Powered MacBook with which to ply her trade.

Since we suffered a similar loss earlier in the year and had our hard drive replaced, I asked what was to become of the old G3 iBook. B replied that she supposed she would bring it to me to see what I could do with it. I had entertained notions of doing the hard drive replacement myself but when I waded into the internet walk-through tutorials for it I discovered that the hard drives in this generation of Mac laptops are not very easy to get to. So I payed CompUSA to do it for me. But now I had the chance to test my nerdish mettle. I was resolved. I would replace this hard drive myself.

I'll not bore you with all the tedious details but a few photos taken over the four hours it took to get it taken apart enough to get to the drive, replace the drive and put it all back together again. I couldn't have done it without the exceptional guide from iFixit.

I find it somewhat strange how much this sort of thing appeals to me. I suppose it's a sort of puzzle. I think it has more to do with the clearly defined goals and outcomes. The problems I deal with at work are anything but clearly defined. I think it's therapeutic to really fix something and know what you've done.

Voila! Two working iBooks. B's computer begins new life as a dedicated, portable music machine. Believe it or not this is the abbreviated pictorial version. For the full 4 hour process check out my Yahoo! Photos ablum in a few days.

And Eleanor is still cute. This morning she went over and pulled the Yoda hat from the shelf and had me put it on her. A cute and darling baby she is. Maybe she can use the laptop for college.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Everybody Poops

Eleanor has begun her gentle journey into using the potty. So far she has used her new little potty for a holder of books, a diaper, various toys, and finally pee and poop. Our first day of toilet learning went something like this (only in English):

If the video doesn't work for you on our site, you can click here to see it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Challenge from Tig

Here's a pic to grab your attention. I was Lincoln at the Hospital Halloween Web-Design Nerd Party. It was very "The Office".


So I have this nurse friend. She's got a blog and she's thrown the guantlett down with this challenge:

"Here are the rules:1. Grab the nearest book.2. Open the book to page 123.3. Find the fifth sentence.4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest!"

So here goes. I had to pass up the bible and a collection of kids poetry (the bible because that would just be too chaplainy and the poetry book because it hadn't 123 pages). So I admit this happens to be the last book I finished and one of my favorites from this year, and granted a little (pseudo-)intellectual sounding, but it literally was closest to match the description.

David Dark, The Gospel According to America: A Meditation on a God-Blessed, Christ-Haunted Idea.

"I hasten to add that there is probably a place for both and I'll try to describe the difference with a story of a viewing experience. There is a moving scene in "Patch Adams" (1998) in which Robin Williams's Hunter "Patch" Adams, a medical practitioner, has painstakingly arranged a dream come true for an elderly woman whose confinement to hospitals has, in recen years, obstructed her pursuit of happiness. She has long dreamt of swimming in a pool of noodles, "Patch" discovers, and as I sat in the dark theatre watching teh slow-motion sequence in which she finally has her fantasy fulfilled, I turned to my wife with tears in my eyes and said, "I hate this movie.

"Please understand, I didn't begrudge the woman her moment or wish that the tale (based on a true story) had never been told, but there was something in teh sequencing that felt a little like an insult, a way of cuing sentiment, and a pressing of certain heart buttons that had me feeling a little tricked."

Boy does Mr. Dark use his sentences. So there, consider the guantlett thrown down upon your blogs' toes.


We've had quote a few visits this month that you, our loyal readership, have missed out on. We'd like to share them with you.

First, we visited our alma mater for homecoming which, with the exception of a delightful conversation with Dr. Mr. Wink, was pretty dull I have to say. Still we had a bit of Chick-fillet on the grass for old times sake. It's considerably less relaxing with babies.

Next came a visit from our newest favorite cat who we don't own named "monkey." However we named him "Mittens," since he seems to have four white mittens. He's very amiable, kitteny and Eleanor delights in him. Sometimes he comes to visit, sitting in our 2nd story windows quite unexpectedly, much to Eleanor's surprise, and ours.

Not long after that we were visited by a strange trio from a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.

Cousin Jack came to play for a few brief but intense sessions. Eleanor really wanted into Jack's pillow fortress and once she finally made it in, Jack didn't want her to leave. I don't know if Jack ever grasped what we meant when we said, "Don't run Jack, the Chiropracter is downstairs." I can image any number of things such words might inspire in the mind of a five year old, none of them scarier than an actual chiropracter.

Then a man with very long hair and a beard came to visit. No, it wasn't Jesus. It was Josh. He and Molly and Cedar came to stay overnight and the babies had a blast reading "brownbear brownbear." You never know how someone is going to voice the various animals. I think that the way one reads the voice of the teacher is particularly telling about their personality, background and social stability.

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Soon, the fanx arrived and it was maximum baby action for a little over an hour.

We've all been enjoying Eleanor's new orange hoody. I thought she should eat an orange while wearing it for extra points. It just so happens that after a couple of visits with Mamaw Jones, we have several winter oranges which Eleanor loves. Despite all appearances below, the kid ate over half of the orange in the space of about five minutes.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Evil Lincoln

Have you seen this Lincoln? He was last seen with these two babies. They both seem to intuitively sense his unseemly manner and cannot meet his steely gaze.

He bears a chilling resemblance to this Lincoln, known to be evil.

Help us, Princess Leia, you're our only hope.


In case you hadn't already guessed, this unseemly Halloween post has been brought to you by Matt "Vampire Hunter" Lumpkin.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Matt and Eleanor

Tonight as I was cooking dinner Matt was playing with Eleanor. When I looked out the kitchen window, I saw that Matt on his skateboard and Eleanor in the back of Matt's truck beside her skateboard. Matt said that she never made the connection between what he was doing on his skateboard and her skateboard.

This video is from a couple of weeks ago. It's another example of Matt entertaining Eleanor. They have so much fun together.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Making Crayons

This morning Eleanor and I went to a couple of yard sales. All we found was an old school box of crayons, crayon bits, and a few other random school supplies. I paid ten cents for the whole thing. After sorting out all the crayons, which Eleanor helped with, I began peeling the wrappers off and sorting them by color. I broke the bigger pieces into smaller bits and put them in lined muffin cups.

I baked the crayons for 15 minutest at 200 degrees and this was the result:

After lunch, Eleanor and I went out on the deck to enjoy some nice cool fall air and color. She used her suprise box for a table and played with her crayons for quite some time.

I think she likes them. 'Twas a dime well spent.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Our Camera Came Home

After a nice vacation in Illionis, our camera came home with new parts that make it work again. As a celebration, I'm going to post pictures and two (yes, you read correctly: two) videos.

Saturday Matt, Eleanor and I went to Garvin Woodlands Gardens for some festivites. It was a beautiful day. Eleanor and I played outside while Matt went to a chapel dedication service. They have built a beautiful new wood and glass chapel nestled in the woods. While Eleanor wasn't impressed by the architecture, she was impressed by the grass, leaves, and waterfall.

Every Monday morning Eleanor and I go to the library for story time. It is usually great fun. After story time, I let Eleanor look at books. Today she was interested in Maurice Sendak's lesser known works.

And now for the promised videos. The first is from last week. Eleanor has begun her journey as in bipedalism. She still needs Dumbo's feather most of the time. Today she walked across the room with a toy screwdriver in one hand and a book in the other. If she realizes that what she's holding is not supporting her, she sits down and goes back to Jungle Book style crawling.

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This video is from tonight. Eleanor likes to put her toys in the tube for her bath. Tonight she found a more efficient method.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Austin: The Children's Museum

This chicken was Eleanor's favorite part of the children's museum. They had a special pen (literally) for babies and toddlers. This particular booth had a chicken, eggs (plastic), and a button Eleanor could press to hear various animal noises. You can see it slightly under her right hand. At one point, we left the pen. When we came back I set Eleanor down at another activity. She looked around, saw the chicken and headed straight back over there.

Eleanor also really liked this small slide.

Allison didn't.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Austin: Part Zoo

This is actually the San Antonio Zoo (an hour south of Austin). We went there on Saturday. It was a nice zoo, but oh soooo hot. They had a toddler house, where kids under five could explore and play. Eleanor really liked watching the bigger kids.

Here is Eleanor exploring a cave. There were large insects and fossils inside. She didn't seem to notice.

Did I mention it was hot? I bought a slushy-type drink thing. Eleanor insisted that I share, although from her face in this picture, you wouldn't think she liked it.

Eleanor and Allison had a blast playing together, that is as long as Eleanor was "gentle" and didn't steal Allison's pacifer.

I'll leave you with this super happy baby. Such a great kid.

Again, these pictures were taken by our gracious host Marci.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Austin: Part One

We left Thursday evening on a road trip to Austin, Texas with our friends Matt, Kim, and Allison. Matt and Matt went to Austin City Limits, three days of concerts. Kim and I entertained ourselves and the babies. On Friday night we went to see the largest urban bat colony in the world. Unfortunately, somehow we missed seeing the bats. These are pictures that our gracious host Marci took while we waited. I let Eleanor play on the ground, which she loved. She found some rocks and, realizing all the fun she was missing out on at ACL, put on her own rock show.

This is cute little Allison.

These photos were taken by Marci, as our camera is off being repaired.

Coming from the San Antonio Zoo, the Austin Children's Museum, and one CRAZY Flaming Lips concert.

Blogger has been misbehaving, which has caused a delay in posting this.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mmm. Yummy.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Devotion - Apocalypse

Devotion - Apocalypse

On my desk is a book called "Jerusalem Countdown." It is a
book that has this to say about itself: "Jerusalem Countdown is a
page-turning heart-stopper! Using my confidential sources in
Israel, information from military experts around the world, and
electrifying revelations from Bible prophecy, I will expose this
reality: unless the entire world-- including America, Israel, and
the Middles East--reaches soon a diplomatic and peaceful
solution to Iran's nuclear threat, Israel and America will be on a
nuclear collision course with Iran!"

I didn't add any extra exclamation points, those are in the original
text. The author goes on to say that he foresees a nuclear battle of
Armageddon on the horizon, and very soon. This will be how the
apocalypse, the end times, how the end of earth as we know it
will be played out. All it takes, he argues, is some careful reading
of the bible and some careful reading of the political situation in
the middle east to see this coming reality.

And I'll grant, he's not the only one who thinks this. During the
past six week campaign between the Hezballah militia and Israeli
forces in Lebanon, it has amazed me how many patients I
encounter who are eager to get a "preacher's" take on the end
times, how this is all going to play out, and how Israel bombing
the suburbs of Beirut where Hezballah members live among the
general population, (that is, those who were too poor or too weak
to evacuate) is going to effect Jesus' itenerary for returning with the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

In a disturbingly interesting development, one writer following
the conflict pointed to the similar beliefs about the end times held
by Iran's Muslim president, Mahmoud Amadenijad. It seems that
among certain Muslim groups there is a belief that a hidden
Imam, or leader, who disappeared hundreds of years ago will
eventually return and will stand upon the mount of olives with
Jesus and bring down the rule of God. It seems Christians are not
the only ones who have an idea about how the end shall come.

I have in my email box a group email from an acquaintance
warning about his experiences twenty or so years ago being
taken in by the end times schemes of one Hal Lindsey and
his book "The Late Great Planet Earth," in which he
predicted a similar nuclear apocalypse only this time it was
the Communist Russians who were the threat. All it took
was a careful reading of the bible and a careful reading of
the political situation in eastern Europe and Russia to see
the coming reality of the end of days. But his doomsday
came and went. The sound heard by thousands was not that
of a thunderous nuclear holocaust but a great sigh of
disillusionment escaping the lungs of college students,
seminarians and armchair scholars everywhere.

My acquaintance warned against following folks who had
times and seasons all mapped out. But he couldn't resist to
indulge in a little end times speculation about the current
middle-east conflict (along the lines of Jerusalem

Before that, there was a group in the church who felt that
God's kingdom come on earth and that, little by little, bit by
bit the community of humanity was rising, becoming more
godly, and it would eventually culminate in the end of this
age and the beginning of a new utopia crowned by Christ's
return. You see things were going so well, economies in
Europe and America were booming, progress and
modernization were spreading. All it took was a careful
reading of the bible and a careful reading of current events
to see this new coming reality. The horrors of World War I
and the unspeakable evil that eventually was uncovered by
World War II tended to throw doubt over this school of

But there's just something in us that wants to know how the
story is going to turn out. And part of that something is a
sneaking suspicion that we may just be the end of the line;
the last living souls who will see the end; see Christ's return,
be it Armageddon or utopia. I think it might have something to
do with the correlating fact that if we were to be the last ones, we
might just get out of this world without tasting death, the great

Jesus knew about our propensity for buying into end times
schemes this when he warned in Matthew ch. 24 about false
prophets who would predict when the end would come and fool
many in the "last days."

And yet, Jesus does tell us that the kingdom of God has come
near and scripture tells us we are living in the last days. So what
are we to do? We don't want to be duped by false prophets whose
"page-turning heart-stoppers" clog bookstores and late-night
religious info-mercials. And yet, central to being a Christian is
the confession that Jesus is coming again and will bring with him
a new Heaven and new Earth. How can we hold both of these
two seemingly contradictory concepts in our minds at the same

Ask any of our families next door with patients in the intensive
care units. Ask your grandmother when she's broken her hip in a
bad way and is facing weeks of physical therapy IF she is ever to
have a shot at walking again. Ask the mother of a child
diagnosed with a mental disability or Downs syndrome in utero
who decides to deliver their baby anyway. These people and
many others like them will tell you what it's like to hold in one
hand all the cold hard medical facts about the likelihood, or
unlikelihood of their loved one's recovery or survival and the
hope that they will beat the odds in the other. They know the
secret to surviving in these times of intense pressure, fear,
uncertainty; these times of not knowing how it is all going to turn
out is to hold reality in one hand and hope in the other. To hold
the gravity and weight of how bad it looks, how bad it really is in
one hand and an indomitable hope for the future, for fresh
possibilities we don't anticipate in the other.

I believe we have much more to learn from these people who are
fighting the battle of their lives to accept reality while clinging to
hope, than we do from many of these doomsayers who join
a long line of people, generations long who were mistaken
about being the last. Because, after all, there is only one
who knows the day and the hour of His second coming;
there is only one who knows how this hospital stay is going
to go, there is only one who knows the end of the story. So
to put it another way, we're all in the waiting room. We
don't lie to ourselves about how dark things are getting. But
we also don't let go of the hope that God may yet give just a
little more time.

So we continue living, holding onto what we can see with
one hand and allowing the One who sees so much more to
hold the other.

Lets pray.

[Play Pilgrim Travelers' "Jesus Hits Like An Atom Bomb"]

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Devotion - Living in the Fear

“The screams began at midnight.

I bolted to my feet, still in my sleeping bag. After an eight-mile, rain-drenched solo hike on a wilderness island in Lake Superior, I had reached the deserted campground at dusk. It was early in the season, cold and buggy. Most backpackers would wait until later in June to arrive, when the weather was more favorable and the mosquitoes weren't quite so ferocious. But I was hoping for quiet and solitude, away from cell phones, e-mail, and the demands of family life. After stripping off my soaked clothing and changing into dry longjohns, I heated hot water for coffee and ate some gorp, then fell into an exhausted rest.

Until the screaming.

I reached for my pocketknife and stumbled over my gear, peering out into the foggy dark. Now, it was quiet, the deep silence of wilderness. The only sound was my adrenaline-crazed heart, thumping loudly. Clutching my knife, I pulled my sleeping bag around me and convinced myself I had been dreaming. But in moments, the screams started again. Something wet trickled down my hand --in my terror, I had cut myself. Sucking the wound, I felt pure fear. And I realized I was helpless to do anything to alleviate it.”

These words are the opening paragraphs from a book review by a writer named Cindy Crosby. In that moment of "pure fear" as she calls it, she felt a powerlessness that we all fear; the realization that we are in the midst of something we have no control over. We are in deep and there is nothing we can do to get out. Most of us strive to avoid situations like this, but if we live long enough, we just might find ourselves in that kind of crippling fear.

Crosby goes on to quote another writer, Gerald May, about a similar experience he had, alone in a tent when a growling bear was brushing up against the canvas.

"For the first time in my life, I am experiencing pure fear," he writes. "I am completely present in it, in a place beyond all coping because there is nothing to do." When the bear leaves, he experiences overwhelming gratitude. "Fear like any other strong emotion, can make you exquisitely conscious of living, perfectly aware of being in the moment."

I especially like his phrasing, "in a place beyond all coping because there is nothing to do." Go into the ER waiting room and wait a few minutes and you will encounter people who are in this state. They have found their loved one not breathing, or collapsed, or burned or any other of a thousand scenarios and have done all there was to do by getting them to the hospital and now they sit, like the two campers described above with death rubbing like an angry bear, dangerously close to the thin fabric of their lives.

This kind of raw emotion is so intense, so searing and in many ways so foreign to us that often those experiencing it and those around them don't really know how handle it. In a culture with few acceptable outlets for so called "negative" emotions: fear, anger, frustration, sorrow it is hard to know what is normal and what one is "supposed" to do. We work so hard to "tame" our emotions that when they do pop up we sometimes miss what could be an opportunity to access a depth of life we often only scratch the surface of.

People in the hospital often talk about the way God "got their attention" by means of an accident or illness and the fear it brings. In that moment of stark reality facing the possibility of death or serious injury there is a vibrant, living energy that rises up and pierces through the cardboard mask the cardboard mask of being "fine" we so often wear. I don't think you have to necessarily say that God caused such and such a bad thing to come upon you just to teach you a lesson. But these moments when our terror has broken us out of complacency; out of our mindless marching through our daily routines; I think in these, our Father finds teachable moments. People have told me of things they have seen about their lives that they never had seen "until the accident." "I never knew how much I loved him until I almost lost him." "You never know what's really important in life until you face death." Many have said, and many other sentiments echoing the same truth that those moments of desperate fear crack open new insight into lives glazed over with the relentless monotony of daily pressures and stresses.

The God of scripture and the God I've seen at work in my life are about taking things that should never, by their own rights be able to work, be able to thrive, be able to grow and become good; taking them and like a master grape-grower, twisting, and bending them into something good, wholesome and beautiful. I think those moments of pure, living fear can be redeemed.

Not only can moments like these break down our normal barriers that keep us from seeing what is really important in life, but they can also remind us the value of being fully present. I've talked here before about the many ways we like to put up screens between ourselves and others; cell phones, computers, ipods, pda's, blackberry's all barriers to being really present in the here and now; really with who we're with. The screams that pierced Cindy Crosby's night set loose adrenaline and a heightened her senses. The bear by the tent made the other writer "perfectly aware of being in the moment." because all other possible future moments hinged upon the outcome of this one. If we could bring that presence into our everyday life, if we could harvest the way fear lets us dig deep into the here and now of life; If we could do that I think we could come a lot closer to living the sort of awake, un-anesthetized lives Jesus hinted at when he talked us having life and having it more abundantly; having an eternal kind of life; deep, rich and supremely real; not when we all get to heaven, but now in each blessed moment we're given.

The disciples got a hint at this after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus tells them to set out on a boat on the Lake at Galilee. They leave without him and a storm comes. Seasoned fishermen, a wild windy night on a reasonably small lake probably wouldn't instill in them the sort of fear we've been talking about. But that wasn't all there was going on that night.

In Matt. 14.24
"But by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. and early in the morning he, [Jesus] came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear."

Now they are in that moment, in that crippling, blinding, yet eye-opening fear.

"But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."

My prayer is that when we find ourselves in that moment, in that all encompassing terror that will sooner or later befall most of us that we will allow it to do what it is there to do: to open our eyes enough to really see. Not to linger in torturous despair, but to see through the living fear, to see the author of that life. To hear in that moment, over the screams, the growls, the howling waves, the voice of one we never expected to see there who says, "Take heart, it is I."

Let's pray.


"...and I've got really big hands." I'm sorry but the animated Jesus was just too good to not use. Hah!