Category Archives: Everything

What Happens at a Church Easter Egg Hunt?

Last Easter, Patrick Phillips of Patrick’s Place talked about the controversial question of Should Churches have Easter Egg Hunts? My church answers that question in the affirmative. But what happens at a church Easter Egg Hunt? I can’t tell you what happens at every church, but I will show you what happens at mine.

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My Church

Our church holds an Easter Egg Hunt the Saturday before Easter. Dozens of children and their parents show up. Most are families that call our church home, but others are friends, neighbors, people who live near the church, or people who happen to wander by that day.

We bring everyone, parents and kids, into the sanctuary. While the eggs are being hidden, one of our volunteers will read a story to the kids, something like Benjamin’s Box  or The Three Trees.

Both stories teach about the plan God has for the kid’s lives and share about the true meaning of Easter. The message is as much for the adults as it is for the kids.

The kids are broken up in three groups based on age and they are sent group by group, starting with the youngest, to hunt the eggs. The children who are waiting watch a movie, usually something like Veggie Tales. We give a prize to the kid who finds the most eggs and a special prize to the kid who finds a special golden egg.

After the hunt, we serve some light refreshments and send the now sugared up kids on their way.

We don’t give anyone a hard sell about our church or our programs. They can see we are a church, and we want them to initiate the conversation with questions rather than push our agenda. It’s more about showing them our hearts, planting a seed and opening a door. Maybe they see us interacting with our kids and our spouses and they see something they would like to have. Some of them come back on Easter Sunday, but some of the families we see on Saturday will never darken our doors again.

Good Idea?

Is it a good idea for a church to have an Easter Egg Hunt? Are we teaching our kids the wrong things?

The kids don’t know the first thing about fertility rituals or pagan traditions. To them, its just plastic eggs and candy, candy, candy.

In 1st Corinthians, Paul talks about ways that he tries to share the redemptive plan of Christ.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Isn’t having an Easter Egg hunt emulating what Paul said he did? To our culture, we become a little like our culture so as to win those in that culture (though we ourselves are not part of that culture, for we are not conformed to the pattern of this world, but are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom12:2)).

 

“Easter Eggs On Grass” image courtesy of [jannoon028] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How To Handle Baptism for Children?

A reader asked me a question about handling baptism for children.

(not my kid)

(not my kid)

Out of curiosity (you don’t have to answer), how did you handle baptism for the children?

I know families that say, Oh, well, we will let the children decide when they are old enough.

Next, I know families that baptize their babies in the belief that “they can’t decide! they’re children! If they don’t want to do their chores, we make them. So much more so when it comes to their souls.” Those children go through Confirmation when they are old enough, where they declare their vows for themselves.

Finally, I know families that believe that children cannot be baptized until they are old enough, but they must be so strictly trained that they (the children) worry about what happens if they die before they are old enough to be baptized into their church.

No one ever thinks about how much the parents wrestle with this decision, only with the children wrestling with it.

Thank you for your question!

My wife and I wrestled with this decision with our daughter. I’m sure when my 3 year old son is old enough we will wrestle with it again.

My daughter got baptized when she was 12 years old, but she started asking about being baptized around 8 or so. Both my wife and I were baptized before our 9th birthdays. I have often wondered how authentic my early conversion experience was, and I have rededicated my life to Christ on at least three other occasions. I still struggle with the decision to be baptized again.

What is baptism at its core?

It’s an outward sign of inward, spiritual change. It is declaring to the world that the person being baptized has chosen to be a follower of Christ.

Chosen.That’s was the key element to us. Our daughter had to be of an age where she could understand the decision she was making.

Let me qualify that in two ways.

  1. I’m not sure anyone truly understands what a decision to follow Christ will mean for their lives when they first come to faith. Grace and salvation are free, but they will cost you everything.
  2. I also don’t believe you have to have every point of doctrine completely understood when you get baptized. The Christian life is a journey. The Apostle Paul likened it an Olympic race.

Having given those caveats, what we needed to see from our daughter was an understanding of what she was doing.

  • She had to be able to explain to us and to our pastor that she understood the difference between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing.
  • She also had to admit that she sometimes did the wrong thing.
  • She had to clearly state her belief in the divinity of Christ (Jesus is the Son of God and Jesus is God).
  • She had to say with authority that she believed he died and came back to life three days later.
  • She had to explain to us what it meant to live the rest of life in the way God wanted her to. That she would study what he said in his word and do her best to obey it

It took a couple of years for my daughter to get to the point where we thought she understood her choice well enough to proceed. Most of her early interest was driven by seeing friends getting baptized. If you are on the fence, my advice would be to to err on the side of grace and allow them to be baptized.

Babies being baptized / Parents deciding for their kids

I don’t think anyone can decide on salvation for anyone else. God has no grandchildren. When we stand before God, we will do so either with Christ at our side or totally alone. Mom or Dad won’t be around.

Each person must come to a moment in their life when they decide to follow Christ or reject him. These are the moments where they are presented with the gospel and the Holy Spirit is tugging on their heart. They can accept, and become followers of Christ, or they can reject God.

We do dedicate babies and have dedicated both of our children, but baby dedication is much more about the parents dedicating themselves to teach their kids to love Jesus than it is about the baby.

What if they die before they are old enough to be baptized into their church

Every child comes to what is commonly referred to as the “age of accountability”. This usually happens somewhere between 10 and 14, sometimes earlier, and sometimes later. Certain medical disabilities may prevent someone from EVER reaching this age.

What happens to children who die before the age of accountability?

The story of David losing his infant child (2 Samuel 12) clearly shows they go to heaven. After the infant dies, David says, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” The context is clear that David wasn’t talking about seeing his child again in the grave, but about seeing the child in paradise/heaven.

What is someone dies after they are saved but before they baptized?

Baptism is not necessary to complete the transaction. The moment the person places their faith in Christ they are saved. The baptism is a outward sign of that inward change. But it is not strictly required as the Thief who was crucified next to Jesus shows.

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:40-43 NIV

If you are a parent struggling with this decision or know someone who is, this would be my advice.

  • Talk to her and see what her level of understanding is
  • Have her talk to a trusted elder / pastor / priest/ another adult
  • Continue to point her to a relationship even after she is baptized. Baptism is not the end of the journey, it is the beginning. We constantly strive to know Him more, and become more like Christ every day. It is likely she will come to a moment in early adult life where she rededicates herself to Christ and maybe even gets baptized again.

All of us, Skeptics, God seekers, and God followers are on a journey either closer to God or further away from Him. Encourage your kids every day to take one step closer.

Also remember, that as parents, it isn’t our job to ‘save’ our children. That job is always God’s alone. We have the responsibility (and may I call it a privilege) of guiding our kids towards faith. Fathers have a special responsibility. Our children’s conception of God the Father will be deeply influenced by their relationship with us, their earthly fathers. Pray for wisdom to teach your kids about God in a way they will understand. We can only do this with God’s help. He loves you (you are after all, His child) and He loves your kids.

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The Relationship Fractal

My friend Paul shared an observation with me recently and the more I grasp it the more I see it challenging everything in my relationship pyramid (better man, better husband, better father). As always, Paul’s outstanding teachings can be accessed on iTunes.

It starts with understanding the concept of a fractal. The best definition I’ve read of a fractal is a self-similar, repeating pattern.

Math, Science, Nature

Mathematicians illustrate with this with the Sierpinski Triangle. Wikipedia calles it “a mathematically generated pattern that can be reproducible at any magnification or reduction.” Exactly the definition of a fractal.

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They are all around us in nature. One example is lightning.

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The bolts are not random. They are governed by fractal equations and repeated on every branch.

From the world of agriculture, we have the brocolli sprout. Romanesco_Broccoli_detailTake a look at those spirals. Everyone is the same shape and proportion. Spirals have spirals in them. If we could zoom in, we would see the same spiral pattern repeated in the smaller spirals as we do with the larger ones.

Peacock is a beatiful example.Peacock_Milwaukee_County_Zoo

Rivers, creeks and trees are governmed by fractals.

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What is that a picture of? Maybe a tree? It’s actually the Baja River in California. Why does it look like a tree? It is because they are governed by the same fractal equations.

Sometimes shapes are repeated in completely unrelated parts of nature but governed by the same fractal equation. Things like the galaxy and the hurricane.

NGC_1232_galaxy named-hurricane-fran

 

This same pattern repetition is also observed when comparing brain cells and a nebula, or the natlius and the Milky Way.

Some fractals are so universal they repeat even within themselves. They look the same at virtually any scale as the Koch snowflake so beautifully represents.

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Fractals form the fabric of reality. It is almost as if an unseen reality is trying to make itself seen.

Body, Soul, Sprit

God himself is a fractal. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus said “he who has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is the perfect, self repeating pattern of the Father.

Our very composition represents another smaller fractal of God. We are made in His image, and we are also three part entities made up of Body, a Soul and a Spirit.

The Body is the easiest of the three to understand. It’s the one we can see (or probably don’t want to see). Our body is the vehicle we use to interact with the natural world. It uses the five senses to convey information to us and help us understand our enviroment.

Our soul in our inner being and sentience. It is the seat of emotions, and our thought life. It is from our soul that imagination springs. It is our soul where memories are stored. The soul speaks to us through our conscience. We know some things are wrong or right almost intriscially. C.S. Lewis surmised it was because our soul is connected to a greater, unseen reality.

The inputs of the both the Body and the Soul are intergrated and passed to the Spirit. The Spirit is our true selves. It is immortal. It is in our spirit that we find our faith. Hope wells up from the spirit. Prayer and worship must emmenate for the spirit. Jesus said we must worship Him in sprit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Relationship Fractals

What does all this have to do with being a better person, husband, or father? 

Philipians 2:5 says “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”

The life of Christ becomes a FRACTAL for our lives to REPEAT. – Paul Rienzo

Jesus is the fractal. We are smaller versions of Christ. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” Christ is the big fractal, we repeat it. Christ loves the church. We love our wives in the same manner, repeating the fractal.

Husbands are fractals of Jesus. Dads are fractals of Jesus.

The Bible puts forth a fractal shape, fractal “equations” (if we can use the word loosely) that tell us how to live our lives at every level. To follow Christ (to be a Christ One, a Christian) is to look to the principles of God and repeat them in every area of our lives.

This fractal has to echo throughout the entire relationship pyramid.

How do I become a better man and serve and love my fellow man better? Look at how God loves.

How do I love my wife better and become a better husband? Look at how Christ loves his Bride, the Church.

How do I love my kids better and become a better father? Look at how God the Father love me, his child.

 


Credit for helping to understand the Body, Soul, and Spirit comes from Dr. Clarence Larkin, “Rightly Dividing The Word

Image credits: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierpinski_triangle

http://geology.com/hurricanes/named-hurricane-fran.gif

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Peacock_Milwaukee_County_Zoo.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/NGC_1232_galaxy.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/Romanesco_Broccoli_detail_-_(2).jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_snowflake

 

 

Richard Sherman’s Failure

Are you nuts? Richard Sherman isn’t a failure. He’s a champion!Richard Sherman

This is true. But to get to that championship ending, Richard Sherman faced a moment where he had to realize he had failed.

By now, even those who don’t follow football know about Richard Sherman, the bombastic cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks. What most people don’t know is that Richard Sherman is a failure, and that his failure has the potential to teach us about finding our own calling and greatest gifts.

When Richard Sherman walked onto the campus of Stanford University as a freshman, it wasn’t to play cornerback. Sherman was recruited to play Wide Receiver. While he had a great freshman campaign, his sophomore season didn’t measure up. Then four games into his junior year, he suffered a devastating knee injury and was done for the year.

Coming off the injury, the Stanford team had plenty of talented receivers. Three wide receivers and two tight ends on that team would go on to play on Sundays including Doug Baldwin (now playing for Sherman’s Seahawks), Ryan Walen (now playing for the Bengals), Coby Fleener (now playing for the Colts), Griff Walen (also now with the Colts), Zack Ertz (now playing for the Eagles) and Chris Osuwu (now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

But the team lacked cornerbacks. The wide receiver skill set and the cornerback skill set are similiar. Sherman saw his opportunities and playing time at receiver dwindling, but he want to make a positive contribution to his team. He went to his coaches and volunteered to make the switch from receiver to cornerback.

First, he had to accept that his dream to be an elite, NFL level receiver had failed. He didn’t dwell on that. He didn’t mope or ask why. He saw one door closing and opted for another. It led to Sherman being an integral part of a Stanford team that would go on to lose only one of its thirteen games (a school record).

He flourished as a cornerback, and was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft by Seattle. He wasn’t satisfied. He kept working. He kept learning. He kept striving to improve in every facet of his game.

Today, he is considered by many to be the best cornerback in the NFL, and he is a Super Bowl champion.

Sometimes, realizing that we have failed at one dream, and letting that dream go, can give us the freedome to pursue another, even greater dream.

 

photo: Dec 30, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) celebrates on the field following a 20-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Kindle Fire: A Year Later & What I’d Do Differently

Last year about this time I was struggling with what tablet/ereader device to buy. I eventually settled on a Kindle Fire.

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The core question came down to spending the money on a device that would only read books, or spending a little more to get a device that would also play movies, music and games?

On the whole, it’s been wonderful to have a device that does all that. When I took a business trip, all I needed in my carry on bag was my Fire. I could watch TV1, read a book, or play a game. On the return trip, I was dog tired and not up for much reading. I turned on my Google Play Music app, leaned back (as much as possible in those seats) and enjoyed the flight home.

Fire as an eReader

I have loved being able to download a variety of ebooks during the year. Ebooks tends to be much more economical than print, and there were a few books that I could only get as an eBook, or books that had a free Kindle version.

One of the reasons I wanted a Kindle was that we were simply running out of space in our house. My wife and I both enjoy reading and as you might expect we have a bookshelf full of books in nearly every room in the house. Even our kids’ rooms have bookshelves (albeit smaller ones).

I’ve download a couple of books for my wife. She loves cozy mysteries, and is always looking for new authors. She loves Agatha Christy, Mary Roberts Rienhardt, Richard Castle and has recently gotten into a series by Joanne Fluke (that has GOT to be a pen name).

She’s not big on technology and wasn’t interested in the Fire, but I was hoping she would warm up to the idea once she had the Fire in the house. She has been reluctant to try the Fire as an ereader and she still prefers to get real paper books from the library or bookstore.

Glare

The biggest problem I’ve had with the Fire as an ereader has been glare. I thought since I read so much on my computer screen and on my phone that glare wouldn’t be a big problem. I could not have been more wrong. I tried to do some reading on our trip down to Florida this summer and it was nearly unusable. My wife tried to play one of her games and had to put a blanket over her head to see. Inside the house, its fine, but anywhere with natural light turns into a problem.

There’s an App for That, Maybe

One of the concerns with the Fire was Amazon’s App Store. It has a more limited selection than Google Play.

On the whole, I haven’t had much trouble with the Amazon app store. Most of the time, I’ve been able to find the app I want. There have been a half dozen instances where an app that was available on Google Play wasn’t available on Amazon. This is somewhat mitigated, in my mind, by the fact that Amazon offers one paid app for free per day. This is how I got Cutie Mini Monsters Counting Game, which quickly became my 3-year-olds favorite game on the Fire.

Sharing is Caring

Not long after I purchased the Fire, I accompanied my wife and kids to one of their doctors’ appointments. I brought along the Fire to read. My three-year-old got bored fast and started getting into all kinds of trouble. He saw me reading the Kindle and tried to climb in my lap. At first, I was reluctant. I wanted to read my book! But eventually it was clear that unless he was happy, nobody else woudl be. I downloaded an ABC game he had played on my Droid RAZR, and let him play. The game kept him relatively happy the rest of the visit. He now has several games on the Fire.

My wife and daughter both have their favorite games and my daughter loves using the Watch Disney Channel app and Tiny Death Star. My wife’s favorite it Word Wrench. I’m hoping that playing games is a first step to her using it as an eReader.

I do LOVE Kindle FreeTime. I setup a profile for each kid and control the apps, music and books they can see.

The downside of this sharing is the Fire has become more of a family device. When I go to read a book on it, I first have to find it, and then most likely plug it in to charge. I’m reluctant to take it to work to read a book on my lunch break because I know my kids or my wife might want to use it as well.

Conclusion

I don’t regret the getting the Fire. As a tablet, it does the job very well. The limited app store didn’t end up being much of an issue. I haven’t used Amazon Prime, nor have we watched any movies on it. I’d need someway to hook it up to the main TV or Laptop. 7″ screen seems a little small.

Regardless if I had bought the Fire or another 7″ tablet, it doesn’t function as well as an eReader as I had hoped. I still would like to have a dedicated eReader device (like the Paperwhite), and I will probably buy one soon.

 

image: Amazon.com

1Direct TV supplies Wi-Fi satellite TV on most Southwest flights

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Of Waffles and Spaghetti and Understanding Your Spouse

Early on in our marriage, my wife and I learned something that forever changed how we communicate and understand each other. The speakers who taught us, a couple that had been together for fifty plus years, presented an analogy that became the basis for our communication.

I realize there are some sweeping generalization and there are always exceptions to the rule, however; this has been such a powerful aid to my marriage that I want to share it.

Men are like waffles, and women are like spaghetti.

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Waffle

A waffle is made up of dozens of squares. Each square is its own little island and while some squares share borders, each is clearly distinct. Men have one big square in the middle, the sex square, that touches all the other squares. We are never more than one hop away from that square.

Men live lives of beautiful compartmentalization with little crossover. What happens in one square stays in that square. We don’t like to multitask. We don’t enjoy skipping from square to square to square. We go to one square and then move to another square. It’s why it’s such a bad idea to ask us for our opinion on dresses or drapes when we are watching the football game. We are in our football square. By the time we get back over to the ‘husband’ square, we’ve said something really inane. We don’t switch squares that fast, that easily or that well.

This compartmentalization can be a great asset to us. It allows us to really focus down, and helps us solve problems. By our nature, we are problem solvers. That’s actually a subject for another post altogether.

We tend to prefer boxes that make us feel powerful or successful. I think that’s why I keep running back to the gaming box when I struggle with writing. I’m good at gaming. It makes me feel successful (even if that success is largely illusionary, but my brain doesn’t care).
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Spaghetti

Women are this big plate of spaghetti. Noodles are all over the place, and everything is covered in sauce and cheese and spices. Nothing is distinct. It’s all just once big conglomeration.

Every topic and area of their lives overlays with all the others and what happens in one area can have an impact, good or bad, on all the others. I think it’s why women are better at multitasking than men (This is not just my opinion. The Mythbusters proved it).  It’s why you’ll be having a discussion with your wife about topic paying the bills and all of sudden she wants to talk about going over to your friends house. I want to stay in the square we were just in (especially if it’s that big square), but her noodles have overlapped.

When my wife wants to change subjects like this now, she will look at me and say “follow the noddle”. It’s a code phrase we developed to clue me in that I’m about to on a wild ride.

Where her noddles caused a major issue was in critical moments when I first come home from the day job. My wife would deluge me with a myriad of wildly varied topics. She’d jump for work to the kids to dinner to plans for the weekend.

Men don’t switch squares that fast, that easily or that well.

When my wife did that, I used to get annoyed, and angry. Then she would angry. It was a downhill spiral from there. Now she looks at me and says “Sorry, spaghetti.” I get it and we move on.

Application

Understanding the metaphor helped my wife understand that she needs to give me a little time to change topics. It helped me understand what’s happening when she shifts topics in the middle of a conversation or wants an opinion on which dress to wear when I’m watching football.

As our communication and our understanding of how the other person thought and felt improved, we fought less and enjoyed our time together more. Our relationship and our time together became a ‘success’ square. I wanted to be there more often.

Does this metaphor ring true of your own relationship? Would it help you and your spouse understand each other better?

 

I later learned the speakers had based their own analogy on a book written by Bill and Pam Ferrel called “Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti : Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences” (http://www.amazon.com/Men-Like-Waffles-Women-Spaghetti-Understanding/dp/0736919619 – Amazon link. Not an affiliate link.)

Spathetti image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 Waffle image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why I’m Not Making New Year’s Resolutions This Year

This is the time of year when people start thinking about and making New Year’s Resolutions. Three months later, most of them are broken, and the hope and excitement of New Year’s is traded in for discouragement and a sense of failure.

I’m not making New Year’s resolutions this year. Instead, I’m using this opportunity to set some goals for 2014.

Goal #1

Journal – 5 days a week

My journal will be a private place to write down thoughts, feelings, and struggles. It will be a place to record what I’m learning, and reading. It will not be published anywhere online and it won’t be intended for viewing by other than myself.

Goal #2

Read my Bible – 5 days a week

In a compromise to reality and to make this obtainable, I’m setting it at 5 times a week. I know it should be daily, but I also know I’m going to miss a day sometimes. I’ve come to dislike the whole ‘read the Bible in a year’ resolution you see this time of year. My friend, Paul, really helped me with that a couple of years ago. I would get so discouraged once I got behind that I would end up stopping all together.

As Paul so often does, he made an allusion to a popular movie, in this case, the 1990s classic “The Hunt for Red October”.  In the scene, the Russians are hunting for the Red October.MMDHUFO EC001

Captain Davenport: They’re pinging away with their active sonar like they’re looking for something, but nobody’s listening.

Jack Ryan: What do you mean?

Captain Davenport: Well, they’re moving at almost forty knots. At that speed, they could run right over my daughter’s stereo and not hear it.

Paul said I was doing the same thing trying to get through the Bible in a year.  I was moving so fast that I could fly right by what God was trying to tell me and completely miss it. He suggested I start with just a chapter, but that I stop as soon as I found something that spoke to me. If I didn’t find something in one chapter, go for two. Some nights I will read multiple chapters. Some nights, it will take just a verse or two.

It was completely freeing.

He also suggested that I start with the Gospel of John and go through the rest of the New Testament, and then circle around to the Old Testament.

This goes hand in hand with journaling. Part of what I will journal will be what I read that night and what I learned or how I was impacted by it.

Goal #3

Beta Readers for WIP

I want to have my current work-in-progress novel read by at least two beta readers. Part of this goal has already been accomplished as I have two people who have graciously agreed to be Beta Readers. The harder part is getting them a mostly finished product to read.

I don’t want to hand over my WIP until I know I’ve fixed the obvious problems I can see. I’ll need the beta readers to see the problems I didn’t catch.

Goal # 4

Write 5 days a week

I’m not going to count journaling as writing. This has got to be either some fiction work, or blogging. Accomplishing this goal will go a long way to accomplishing Goal #3.

Goal #5

Blog at least once per week

I know this doesn’t seem like an incredibly ambitious goal, however; I’ve gone long stretches over the past year without a post. Consistent posting is the #1 thing I can do to improve grow my audience for the blog.

Goal #6

Write at least two short stories for competitions

I’m saddened that Water Worlds will be the final Saucy Chronicles. Those stories were fun to work on and I learned so many lessons from the indebt critiques that Saucy Ink did. I do well when I have someone else holding me accountable. A competition deadline makes sense. Also, I’ll get some feedback on how I’m doing.

Goal #7

One-der-land

This will mark the fourth year in a row I have set my sights on One-der-land. One-der-land is an expression I picked up from my Mom to mean that your weight starts with the number 1. Basically, it means I’m trying to get under 200 pounds. I’ve promised myself a steak dinner if I get there (although that may not be the best reward).

Goal #8

Read 10 Books

Last year I read 6 books. Choose Omnibus (three books, but counting as one), Kingdom Come, Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay, Deceived, and Eli. It would be 8 books if I counted each Choose volume as one book. Only two of those (Kingdom Come, Eli) were really in the genre that I write most often. The others were outside of my genre. I need to read more, both in my genre and out of it.

 

Those are 8 goals I have for 2014. What about you? What goals have you set?

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Book Review: Choose Omnibus by Tami Moore


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Full discloser: I personally know both the author and editor of Choose Omnibus and count them among my friends. I paid full retail for the book and have received no compensation in any form from either the author or editor for my comments here.

 

Choose began as a webserial. I was not part of the site where it was hosted, and my first exposure to it was the Omnibus edition where all three Choose volumes are collected in one place. I read it like it was one large book.

Choose features an ensemble cast and each character is vividly described. In the early parts of the trilogy, some of the characters seem to be almost homages to other more famous characters. One character reminded me of Han Solo, while another reminded me of Data. The book follows the exploits of Remora Wingates Price and you can almost see the Leia inspired buns in her hair. Remora doesn’t actually have buns, but her attitude is straight Princess of Alderaan. But as the series continues, you see the characters become more and more complex with McCoy reaching almost Jack Sparrow levels of complexity by the end.

The story shifts perspective from character to character with almost every chapter. The reader never feels lost, and you really get to know each character from their own point of view. This sets up a set of satisfying and well-constructed set of climaxes before the major climax of the series.

In addition to the characters, the world building is a strength of Chose. This is a deep and wonderfully detailed world. Fans of Steampunk will feel right at home. You can tell Moore loves Steampunk and her passion comes out on every page. Moore never bores you with long histories or pages of exposition. All the backstory and world building is artfully crafted into each scene. The worlds of Choose breathe with an ambiance and atmosphere all their own. The Shonfra race was a favorite of mine. I want a Shonfra companion (with translator, natch!)

There are parts where the webserial origin still shows, and the characters tend to go off on tangents. Moore rides the line of whimsy too far in some cases. What may have been conceits for the readers of the website get lost on someone coming to Choose as a novel.

The part that bothered me the most was Moore’s choice of villain. I love the way she builds her villain up as a character, but there are aspects of her villians that left me very uncomfortable. This is more a personal quibble than a critism.

Overall, Choose was a tremendously fun read. The series ends with such a beautiful open ended conclusion. There is a rich story still to be told her. My biggest regret is that the author has stated there are no plans to revisit the world in the near future.

Choose receives my full recommendation. Read it, and love it.

Santa Claus : An Engineer’s Perspective

(A friend sent this around email a couple of years back. The original author is unknown.)

santa sliegh

Premise I

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau).

At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per house hold, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

Premise II

Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second — 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.

Premise III

The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the “flying” reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can’t be done with eight or even nine of them— Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

Premise IV

600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance — this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake.
The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g’s. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Conclusion

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he’s dead now.

The Rebuttal

This inquiry is based on the premise that there is only ONE Santa Claus. The calculations work out more realistically if you assume some form of parallel processing.

A thousand Santas (1 kilosanta) or a million (a megasanta) or more, working in parallel, could perform the same number of visits in the same allotted time with less advanced technology (and fewer vaporized reindeer).

Santa is NOT dead. He is distributed.

The Rebuttal of the Rebuttal

So *that’s* why we see a Santa on every street corner…

One question: who does the air traffic control for a megasanta? A million sleighs and 12 million reindeer occupy a significant amount of airspace. If we assume that each reindeer team, sleigh and Santa needs no more than 5 feet of vertical airspace (which, given that known species of reindeer with antlers are quite nearly five feet tall, leaves very little room for error), then a megasanta requires almost 947 *miles* of vertical airspace. This also disregards the fact that each Santa must make frequent landings. The airspace at chimney level will be in high demand and disproportionately crowded, particularly as Christmas-celebrating households tend to be densely clustered in the same geographic
areas. It seems likely that a megasanta, while perhaps avoiding vaporized reindeer, would suffer huge casualties from in-air collisions.

Even distributed, Santa *is* dead, or at least suffers heavy casualties.

philrobertson

Tolerance and Phil Robertson

philrobertsonAnyone who owns a blog is contractually obligated to write about Phil Robertson and the A&E dustup today. I’m going to post my thoughts. My friend, Paul, as usual, had a brilliant take on the issue but it is on his private Facebook page. I will not reprint it here without permission. As of the time I went to press with this I had not gotten a response. I very much hope to be able to post his thoughts soon.

In the unlikely event you are aware of the issue, Phil Robertson; one of the stars of A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty did an interview with GQ magazine. He made comments regarding many issues, including some frank admissions about his own past. But what got Twitter and the Internet going was when he talked about the hot button issue of homosexuality.

The Setup

As a football nut, I’ve watched countless interviews with players and coaches. They learn to look out for ‘setup questions’. These are questions where the reporter is trying to get a response, the more colorful or controversial the better. Sometimes the coach or player will even call the reporters hand by saying something to the effect of “I’m not taking that bait”.
A similar situation happened in the GQ interview with Robertson. He was given a setup question. Whether through lack of preparation or experience or in the vain belief he could state an opinion without consequences, he launched into his answer and gave GQ exactly what they were looking for.

I find it incredibly difficult to believe that A&E had no idea what the Robertson’s beliefs were. Their faith is part of their appeal. A&E had no problem riding the wave of popularity and ratings of a clearly Christian and conservative family. Yet as soon as their beliefs are publicly expressed, A&E runs away.

Look at all the talk, tweets, blogs, Facebook posts, etc. created over this issue. All of it is giving more advertising and signal boost to the GQ interview. GQ will sell far more magazines than they would have with more humdrum, politically correct answers. For the GQ reporter, mission accomplished!

Better Answer

As much as some will try to make Phil Robertson the victim in this, I don’t think he gave the best answer he could have.

The question that launched his controversial answer was relatively simple:

“What, in your mind, is sinful?”

He immediately goes to homosexuality, and basically made the statement that homosexuality was the root of all evil. While he tries to add some nonjudgmental dressing (“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell.”), by that point the damage is done.

I don’t know if I would have had the forethought and insight to come up with an answer like this in the moment, but after thinking about it, this is what I would have like to have said were I in that situation.

“Sin is anything that we say, do or think that violates God’s loving guidelines. It creates a wall of separation between us and the sinless God. The Bible says that we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. But it also says that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If you aren’t following Christ, and have no desire to follow God’s guidelines, then what sin is or isn’t really shouldn’t be a huge issue in your life. But if you do want to follow God’s guidelines and find the life full of meaning, purpose, joy and peace that comes from following them, then the first step is to submit your life to Christ. Tell him you know you are a sinner and that you want the forgiveness only he offers.”

There’s no need to go into specific sins that point.

Lack of Tolerance

I’m amazed by the lack of tolerance shown by people on both sides of the debate, but I guess I shouldn’t be. We’ve long since forgotten what tolerance really means. We simply try to destroy or silence those who disagree with us, regardless of which side of the debate we fall on. Boycott his restaurant – they don’t support homosexuality. Boycott that hardware store – they do support homosexuality. Don’t watch anything by this actress – she supports homosexuality. Fire that TV reality show actor – he doesn’t support homosexuality.

What we need is more Mike Rowe. Earlier this year, he appeared on the Glenn Beck show. Glen Beck is no stranger to controversy himself. This angered many of Mike Rowe’s fans.
I love the response Mike Row gave when challenged about appearing on show.

Do we agree on everything? Of course not. Am I “disappointed” by that fact? Not at all. The real question, … why are you?

To be clear, I’m not here to tell you what to think or whom to hate. Like everyone else, you’re free to pick your devils, choose your angels, and attach the horns and halos accordingly.

But the guts of your question – even without all the name-calling and acrimony – reveals the essence of what’s broken in our country. You want to know “how I can associate” with someone you don’t like? The short answer is, how can I not? How are we ever going to accomplish anything in this incredibly divisive time if we associate only with people that we don’t disagree with?

Mike

Emphasis added. The challenge that comes out of Phil Robertson’s comments is to find someone with whom you disagree and get to know them as a person. Find where you have common ground and them maybe it will be easier to see their point of view. You don’t have to change your mind or their mind, but maybe, we can get back to dialogue and seeing people beyond their talking points as real human beings.