Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Three day weekend

I love three day weekends and this weekend was no exception. I was able to golf twice and although I shot a terrible score in may last round, it was still fun and nice to be out in the warm weather. I also took my first boat ride of the summer yesterday with my family and floated around on a raft in my parent's lake. Last night however I was feeling the effects of the sun as my forehead was bright red.

But perhaps the best part of the weekend was the free time to catch up around the house. I was finally able to clean and do the dishes and put away my laundry. I finally had reason to get my summer clothes out and put away my sweaters. I also got caught up on some paperwork and paid the bills. Heck I even paid my taxes finally. It feels good to be done with all those chores and so now I can relax by reading or playing poker on-line without feeling guilty.

One update on my hunt for a new church. I went to St. Gerard's catholic church this weekend. As I wrote a couple posts ago, I was tired of going alone and so when my friend Ryan offered to go with me to his church, I jumped at the opportunity. The service was nice but I still get a little confused by much of it. I also sensed that a healthy portion of the people there were just going through the motions. I shouldn't pass judgment and frankly I think the same can be said for any number of churches including protestant ones.

The homily was very good as it was on Jesus' ascension. The priest talked about how the disciples were looking into the sky waiting while the angel told them to stop looking up and start spreading the word. He also mentioned that Jesus believed and entrusted them to spread his word and how Jesus bestows that same level of belief and confidence on us. I find myself often doubting that God could place that kind of responsibility on me because I know my own limitations. But then I think I God sees my potential and talents while I tend to give them short change. The priest's words were good words for me to hear this week.

Next Sunday I am headed to Northpointe church with a couple friends of mine from Faith Church. Her brother goes there and they are going to see him and invited me along. So it looks like I will have company again which a very a good thing.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Golden Harvest

This morning after church I was hungry and since I have no food at my house I decided to go out for breakfast. I was going to go to IHOP but then I remembered this little place in Old Town called Golden Harvest. The Golden Harvest is fun, quaint and very small. It's also very local and the kind of place where people know each other. That is all except for me because I have only been there once before.

When I got there it was packed and the only place to sit was at the counter. I ordered the turkey and swiss omelete and I had to wait quite a while for it. The wait was especially difficult because I was so close to the griddle that I could see, smell and taste everybody elses food cooking. Thankfully I had a book with me to help pass the time.

The decor at the golden harvest is what some may call ecelctic. You know, dukes of hazzard pictures, a talking Pee Wee Herman doll staring out at you, pictures from coloring books that I assume young patrons worked on while waiting for their food. It's sort of a whimiscal garage sale motif. The other diners fit the decor well and are also a little bit artsy.

When I finally got my food it was fantastic although know an hour later it is not sitting all that well. It might be from the peppers and onions but at the time it was worth it. The coffee was a little on the folgers side for my taste but overall it was a really good breakfast. I would recommend going to the Golden Harvest next time you are in Lansing and looking for breakfast but make sure you bring plenty of cash because they do not take credit cards.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Looking for a church

Sorry for my extended hiatus but my computer crashed recently and then when I got it back from the repair shop I was swamped and haven't been able to write. Which is too bad because I had a lot of good material I could have covered but now none of it seems very timely. So instead of covering topics in the news I am going to give a little personal update.

Some of you have known that I have been a little restless recenlty and that I have been looking for a change. This restlessness has been on display in most of the areas of my life but particularly with my church. That is why I have decided to leave Faith Church and look for a new church here in Lansing. This has not been an easy choice to make but probably one that is long overdue actually. I noticed over the past year that my involvement and service at the church was on a precipitous decline and that I wasn't able to buy into the direction the church is going. This is not to critique the church or its leadership who I am sure are pursuing what God has called them to do. In fact, I expect that Faith Church will continue to flourish and grow over the next couple years. It's just that I have come to the conclusion that one can outgrow a church, even a healthy church and that is what has happened to me. I love Faith Church and have made some great friends and done a lot of good work there but it is simply time for me to move on and do something new.

Let me tell that looking for a new church is quite difficult. And unlike West Michigan, Lansing's choices are fairly limited. So far I have been to two non-denominational churches, one vineyard, one Christian reform and the other Wesleyan church here in town. So far I haven't quite found my fit yet. Although, it does take more than visiting one service to truly know if the church is the right one. What I like least about my search is going by myself. When I first moved to Lansing I had my roommate Craig that I could go with and also my Kristie and so we could go and compare notes and talk about the church. This time around I am going alone and I have no one to discuss and debrief with.

One observation I have made is that most of the services are well planned and programmed but kind of sterile. It seems like all the churches follow a similar formula and I am looking for a different formula. I don't know exactly what that looks like but I haven't found it yet. My main goal in my next church is finding community. And by that I don't mean some greet your neighbor for 5 minutes during the service but real relationships. I have learned that I perform much better when I am surrounded by like minded people who can spur me on and encourage me.

I hope to have that network of relationships at my new church but so far it's not looking too likely. I am amazed at how unfriendly some of these churches are. If I wasn't already a Christian I would be turned off by the lack of hospitality at some of these places. Not all of them are that bad but at one of them nobody said one word to me and I had to go out of my way to ask the usher for a program and he looked inconvenienced when I asked him. I don't plan on going back to that church.

So this week I am still debating what church to check out. It's either going to be one of the larger seeker friendly types or try an African American church near my house. It will probably depend on my mood when I wake up as to which one I will pick. Pray for me as I make this decision. It was really difficult to leave Faith but I know that I could not stay any longer and expect to grow. Hopefully, I can quickly find a new place where I can grow.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Derby Day

Even though I know very little about Horse Racing I still enjoy watching the Kentucky Derby and putting a few dollars down on a horse or two. This year's field of 20 is a tough group to pick from and given my lack of knowledge I typically choose horses that are good at closing and hope the speed horses burn out from starting too fast. The advantage of this wagering gives me hope all through the race so that even if my horse starts out near the back I know that he will eventually make his move. When I pick the speed horses I get all excited when they get out to the early lead and then I am crushed as horse after horse passes them in the backstretch.

The Favorites this year are Lawyer Ron, Brother Derek and Barbaro. All three are very good horses who have been on a roll lately. The problem with betting the favorites is that they seldom win the Derby. The Derby is a unique race because of its length and the size of the field and I think this disrupts a lot of the favorite horses. Of the three I like Brother Derek the best.

The trendy value picks are Point Determined, Sinister Minister, Bob and John, Sweet Northern Saint and AP Warrior. This means that these are good horses who have a chance to win but you get better odds on your money. I also like to play these types of horses but I might stay away from this group this year. The only horse I like in this group is Sweet Northern Saint. Supposedly he has had the best week of training of all the horses in the race.

The surprise winners could include Jazil, Steppenwolfer, Showing Up, Cause to Believe and Storm Treasure. This is the group with the closers that I like and I will probably pick one of them to show and include them in my trifecta. Doing that is a nice way to increase the value of the trifecta bet. I fully expect Jazil to be the best of this bunch as long as he can stay close enough to the leader and stay out of traffic.

This year's longshots are Keyed Entry, Sharp Humor, Private Vow, Bluegrass Cat, Deputy Glitters, Seaside Retreat and Flashy Bull. These are all bad horses and the only one I like is Seaside Retreat but that is simply because of the name.

Without further ado here are my top 3 picks:

Sweet northern Saint
Brother Derek

Good luck this year and remember the good thing about horse racing is that anybody can pick the winners and you don't need to know anything about the sport. All you have to do is pick the horse you like and cheer wildly for two and a half minutes.

Current Odds as of noon Saturday.


Keyed Entry

Sinister Minister

Point Determined

Showing Up

Bob and John


Sharp Humor

A.P. Warrior


Private Vow

Bluegrass Cat

Deputy Glitters

Seaside Retreat

Cause to Believe

Lawyer Ron

Brother Derek

Storm Treasure

Flashy Bull

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Christian Nation?

Today is the national day of prayer and all across the country millions will gather to pray for our nation. This year the event has gotten me thinking about the religious status of our country. A couple weeks ago, I was watching CSPAN and a guy named Kevin Phillips was on discussing his new book in which he fears that the Republicans are being taken over by the far Christian right with the goal of turning America into a modern day theocracy. While I don't fully agree with him on this point I do think there is some element of truth in his argument.

Over the past 20 years, millions of Christians have become more active in politics and this is a very good thing. Abortion was the initial driving force and lately the battle against gay marriage rallies Christians of all denominations to the polls. We need Christians to be involved in Government and especially to engage in holding back the advancing cultural mudslide that is taking place in our country. This rises from the idea that if America's elects leaders who are Christians and right on the social issues then our country would be more Christian. I do not agree with this premise. Electing Christians should not be the goal in itself but it should be the by-product of a truly Christian electorate. Let's look at the facts. We have a Christian president who is the most outspoken president we have had regarding his faith in Jesus. Furthermore, we have a US congress that has more pro-life, pro family members than we have had in the past. Yet, when I look around our society is no more Christian than it was 12 years ago when the Democrats controlled Congress and Clinton was President. Conversely you could make a strong case that we are less Christian than before we elected Bush.

It appears our political victories were just that. Political victories. They didn't advance the spread of the gospel but instead advanced political agendas and there is a big distinction to be made between the two. I wonder if our efforts have been somewhat misguided. Have we become so wrapped up in politics that we have put our hope in a worldly institution rather than in the supernatural Christ? I fear many Christians would prefer winning elections as a way of advancing the Christian faith more than traditional evangelism and service.

So if politics is not the answer than what really does make us a Christian nation? In a recent poll over 80 percent of Americans call themselves Christians. This high number astounds me because I didn't think that many Americans could agree on any one thing in particular let alone religion. The answer for this large number lies in the details as we see that although we have so many self proclaimed Christians, that term means different things to different people. Leave out the fact that Christians don't agree on a lot of issues, what's even more startling is that a majority of Christian Americans don't attend church regularly and can't even name more than 4 of the 10 commandments. I always assumed even non-Christians could name more than 4 of the commandments just by recalling which ones they had broken. This general lack of knowledge and commitment leads me to question if we can be called a Christian nation just because most people choose to label themselves Christian.

At that heart of my question is what truly defines Christianity. What are the barometers that measure one's true faith in Jesus. I am going to begin compiling a list of characteristics and traits that one would assume Christians possess if they are truly committed to following Jesus. I am then going to see how we as a nation measure up compared to other religious and secular nations in regard to these characteristics. I am interested to see where we stand and if we deserve the title of a Christian nation. If you have suggestions for what characteristics I should use, I am open to ideas.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Grading the draft

I managed to watch the entire first round of the draft and while I love the draft it was tough to stay awake for all 6 hours of it. It especially rough after Pittsburgh traded up and I had no one to cheer for until the Lions pick in the second round. What's funny is that I watched it with my friend Aaron and his family but I think he could have cared less while the rest of us were trying to guess which player would come off the board next. Anyways here are my initial thoughts on the winners and losers of the draft:


Matt Leinart - yes he fell to number 10 and that probably cost him 20 million dollars but he goes to a team loaded with offensive talent and he won't be thrust into the starting position right away. He also has a great QB coach in Dennis Green so I suspect Leinert will be very successful and might actually turn the Cardinals into a winner someday.

The Jets - They did the smart thing and refused the temptation to mortgage their draft for Bush and instead chose the two best offensive linemen and also got a good QB to groom for the future. I suspect that the Jets are a team on the rise with their new leadership.

The Eagles - Similar to the Jets, they were able to fill key holes with quality players. Getting Winston Justice in the second round was a steal. And Bunkley would be the next Warren Sapp but without the mouth. Look for this team to rebound this year.

Ohio St - They had 5 players taken in the first round and 7 taken the first day. It is obvious that this team was loaded with talent and the future looks bright for the buckeyes.

Losers -

Houston - I still have no idea why they chose Williams over Bush. They took a guy that nobody had even heard of three months ago and wasn't even the player of the year in his conference over the most dynamic player to come out of college in a decade. It's decisions like this that get GM's fired and nobody in Houston will be sad with he is fired. This draft pick will go down as the worst since taking Mandarich over Barry Sanders.

Lendale White - I really thought he was the real deal but apparently his lackluster attitude and rumored drug use turned off a lot of teams. And while I usually put more stock in how a player played during the season than how he acts off the field I do understand why he fell. He was facing the biggest job interviews and he failed to take them seriously enough to get into shape. If he doesn't take that seriously when millions are on the line how seriously will he take practice?

Bad Characters- White was not the only one to fall this year because of character issues. It seemed like their were several players that had first round talent but 7th round character and finally the NFL teams decided to avoid these pitfalls early. I am surprised and pleased because how many times can teams get burned by suspensions, trials and types of distractions. Maybe this will be a wakeup call for the younger athletes to stay out of trouble.

The Lions - When your best two QB's are a perennial backup and an Arizona cast off you can't have that much confidence in you're passing game even if Martz is now the coach. So why the heck did they pass up a franchise QB for an undersized linebacker with a history of concussions? It's mistakes like this that keep Detroit from ever being a legitimate football team.

Michigan- How far has the program fallen that no players are chosen on the first day and only three altogether. For years the problem with Carr was that he didn't get enough out of his talent. Well apparently, he doesn't even have talent anymore. How many more years of mediocrity can Michigan afford before they decide to hire a better coach.