Tuesday, January 31, 2023


All my words fall short
I got nothing new
How could I express
All my gratitude?

I could sing these songs
As I often do
But every song must end
And You never do

So I throw up my hands
And praise You again and again
'Cause all that I have is a hallelujah
And I know it's not much
But I've nothing else fit for a King
Except for a heart singing hallelujah

I've got one response
I've got just one move
With my arm stretched wide
I will worship You

So come on, my soul
Oh, don't you get shy on me
Lift up your song
'Cause you've got a lion inside of those lungs
Get up and praise the Lord

Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord

So I throw up my hands
Praise You again and again
'Cause all that I have is a hallelujah
And I know it's not much
But I've nothing else fit for a King
Except for a heart singing hallelujah

Our church has been working through a series on joy this January, focusing on how to have lasting joy in our lives.  And though it was just a small mention in the last service, to me, one of the most impactful ways to maintain joy is through expressions of gratitude.  Truly remembering all you have to be grateful for.  

Think about it.  It's hard to stay down when you are consistently reminded about how many things bring you joy.  How much you have in your life.  How often we should be thankful.

And if I really start to think about it, I have a lot of reasons to be joyful.

I am thankful to be alive.  I am thankful to have the job that I do.  I am thankful to be in Brownsburg.  To have the rental home that we do.  To be a part of the church that we are.  To get to sing on its praise team.  To sing with the Cummins Diversity choir.

I am thankful for my wife.  I am thankful for my children.  I am thankful for the family life we have created.  I'm thankful for where our life is heading.

I'm thankful that I'm generally healthy.  I'm thankful that my family is as well.  I'm thankful for the time I get to spend with them.  I'm thankful that I get to work from home and the flexibility that affords.

I'm thankful for my small group.  I'm thankful for my extended family.  I'm thankful for my friends.

Yes, there are days that drag.  There are days that are tough to get out of bed.  There are days that I am ready for them to end and to start again.

But, generally, I have a lot of reasons to be thankful and I should be exhibiting joy for how grateful I am.  I have a lot of reasons to be joyful, and it is a good exercise to list them all and truly remember.  After all, thankfulness is part of the call on our lives.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thank you for your amazing power and work in our lives, thank you for your goodness and for your blessings over us.  Thank you that your Word teaches us the power of gratitude.  May we always remember it.  Thank you that you are able to bring hope through even the toughest of times, strengthening us for your purposes.  Thank you that you are always with us and will never leave us.  Forgive us for when we don't thank you enough, for who you are, for all that you do, for all that you've given.  Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you afresh.  Renew our spirits, fill us with your peace and joy.  We love you and we need you, this day and every day.  We give you praise and thanks, for You alone are worthy! 
In Jesus' Name, 

Friday, January 27, 2023

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It commemorates the tragedy of the Holocaust, remembering the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jews, 8.7 million Slavs, 1.8 million ethnic Poles, 220,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, 312,000 Serb civilians, 1,900 Jehovah's Witnesses, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime.  Honoring the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, 1945 and the end of the Holocaust.

We remember and commemorate these events so that we never forget them.  So that we learn from them, for that is the purpose of history.  For us to be able to look back and see the events that led to such events and to be able to recognize them as they occur around us.

"The International Day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is thus a day on which we must reassert our commitment to human rights [...]

We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history.  We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today's world.  And we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the United Nations stands."

Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, January 19, 2008

The learning of history, the application, is sadly where we are falling down.  It's part of a bigger discussion of how we learn history, how we teach history.  Another big question for a future blog.  But on this topic, we can see the evidence around us of our failure as a society to completely grasp the lessons of the Holocaust.

Anti-semitism, though not at its highest levels, remains relatively high.  In the European Union, 89% of respondents that had identified as Jewish indicated that anti-Semitism had increased over the last five years in their country.  Further, 40% of respondents feared a physical anti-Semitic attack.

In the United States, the Anti Defamation League found that there had been 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, slightly down from 2017, but still at a historically high level.  The New York Police Department has said that there have been more anti-Jewish incidents in the city in 2019 than all other crimes added together.

There are bright spots, reflecting a willingness, an eagerness to learn and to not forget.  The University of Southern California's Shoah Foundation features more than 52,000 Holocaust testimonies that are frequently accessed.  The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum had more than 1.6 million visitors in 2018, 93% of which were non-Jewish.

We still have a long way to go, though.  Only 11 states require that Holocaust history be taught in school.  This is reflected in the gaps in education of the current generation.  Among millennials, 66% of them could not identify Auschwitz, 22% of them could not confirm hearing of the Holocaust.  If you want an excellent film on why this is important, watch Denial, a historical film based on Deborah Lipstadt's work and case against noted Holocaust denier David Irving.

It seems history is more important to us than ever before.  If only we would listen.  May we never forget and may we ever be vigilant.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Vaya Con Dios, Fiesta!

Today we say goodbye to what has been my car.  A 2011 Ford Fiesta.  Purchased in late 2010, it's seen us through a lot.  12 years; 300,000 miles put on it.  

This was my commuting car.  Because it was a more fuel efficient car, it was picked as the one to commute from Wills Point to Tyler and then Wills Point to Richardson.  Selected to put on a 100 miles a day.  It used little gas, it got good miles per gallon, so it made the most sense.  And we decided to keep it to run it into the ground.

The car has been through a lot.  100 miles a day was just the start.  It made a lot of trips to Buna and Austin.  It made a trip into New Orleans and made exactly one drive into Indiana (which we were not sure that it would do).  

It's been driven through a hailstorm and still shows signs of the damage.  That one destroyed the windshield, which was replaced, but many dents and dings remain.  

The check engine light has been on forever for a non-serious issue.  The tachometer hasn't worked in years.  The fuel gauge is unreliable.  The boot doesn't open.  The passenger rear door is will not stay shut and is held closed with tie downs.  The batteries keep dying and draining.  

Now, it has finally given up.  The engine started smoking and will not turn now. 

And there's no way, we're going to pour any money in this one. It's served its purpose and it's time to say goodbye.

Almost 300,000 miles was a good run.

I'm thankful for each of them and will be looking forward to what the next car will be and bring.  We'll be waiting on that one a bit, and can make do with the one car for now.  But before the end of the year, it will be exciting to see what's new.

So, vaya con dios, Ford Fiesta.  You've served us well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

90 Seconds to Midnight

The Doomsday Clock has been moved closer to midnight.  We are now at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been.  The clock was moved forward 10 seconds on Tuesday, largely due to Russia's threats of nuclear escalation in its invasion of Ukraine.  

Created in 1947 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the clock does not definitively measure existential crises, but rather it is designed to foster communications about serious threats to humanity.  Originally this focused on nuclear destruction, but in 2007 it was updated to include climate change.  The farthest away from midnight was in 1991 at 17 minutes away.   As stated above, we are now at the closest we have ever been.

Perhaps it is just a larger reflection of society, but there is a general pessimism in the air and it's not uniquely an American sensation.  There is a lot of hopelessness out there right now and I'm not exactly sure how to combat it.

Are we as believers doing an effective job of conveying hope?  Or have we given up?  Are we just burying our heads in the sand, waiting for heaven?  Or worse, are we the ones that are the most hopeless, giving up on our country, our world and viewing them the most pessimistically of all?

We have to change this.  We as believers should be in the business of hope.  It should be overflowing out of us (Romans 15:13).  It is a fruit of the spirit that should be evident in our lives.  We should be spreading hope because we have hope in Jesus.  And not just a hope for the future, for heaven, but also a hope for today.

Can we focus on spreading that? Can we focus on spreading hope?

Let's move the clock back.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12

Monday, January 23, 2023


"Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow
It won't be long before we'll all be there with snow
Snow, snow, I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow
Snow, I long to clear a path and lift a spade of snow
Snow, oh, to see a great big man entirely made of snow, snow

Where it's snowing, all winter through
That's where I want to be
Snowball throwing, that's what I'll do
How I'm longing to ski, through the snow

Those glistening houses that seem to be built of snow
Snow, oh, to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow
What is Christmas with no snow
No white Christmas with no snow, snow

I'll soon be there with snow, I'll wash my hair with snow
And with a spade of snow, I'll build a man that's made of snow
I'd love to stay up with you but I recommend a little shuteye
Go to sleep and dream of snow, snow, snow, snow"

I don't think I will ever get tired of this.  

The magic of waking up and the entire world being changed.  Covered in a blanket of white.  The newness and freshness that it represents. The wonder it brings.

They tell me that I will tire of snow.  That it will get routine and monotonous, but I just can't see it.  

I'm still as excited as a new kid when this happens.  I'm just as bad as the kids, throwing open the windows and letting everyone know it is snowing or has snowed.  

The picture above represents the first real snow of the year, which we woke up to yesterday morning.  It held on until after lunch, as long in the day as it could last, but the temperature just keeps coming up enough above freezing to make it melt.  You can only see a few traces that anything happened today.

Wednesday we'll be getting our first real winter storm.  This could bring us up to 9 inches of snow, lasting well into Thursday.    That will be a lot of fun.  That's where it really covers the ground and lets us sled on the big hill across from the school.

I'm still waiting for the solid month or so where temperatures stay just at or below freezing to keep it around for awhile.  It's happened in both 2021 and 2022, and we'll look forward to it this late winter.

And I think I'll look forward to it every year. 

It's still magical - and I hope it remains so.

"The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued."
Dust of Snow, Robert Frost, Miscellaneous Early Poems,  1920

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Lunar New Year 2023


Xin Nian Kuai Le

Today marks the start of the Lunar New Year.  Derived from the Chinese New Year, it is celebrated in China, as well as neighboring Asian countries like Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Tibet, and Mongolia.  

This year is the Year of the Rabbit, the fourth of the twelve year cycle.  

As with our western new year, while our celebrations may look a little different this year, I hope that this lunar cycle ahead is a joyful and prosperous one for you and yours.  Things here are already shaping up to be a celebratory year ahead.  Lots of milestones to observe. 

Happy New Year!

Congratulations and be prosperous! May your happiness and longevity be complete!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Why I Love My Work - Every Employee Every Community Hours

It's been a while since I've had a Why I Love My Work entry, but today was a good reminder to make one.  I started this series because wanted to write about the things I love about my work.  Reminders of the positive, the blessings we have in life, the things to be truly grateful for.  And there are many, many reasons why I love what I do right now and the company that I work for.  Here I'd like to focus on one benefit of working for such a large company.

One of these benefits is the community oriented focus the company can have.  At Level 2, I previously headed the charitable giving initiative, running the nomination process within the company, so that employees could nominate worthy causes for grant funding awarded annually.

At Cummins, the focus is more on direct involvement.  While the company does make substantial financial donations, they also work to enable every employee to be able to volunteer and donate their time in their community.  One such way is through EEEC hours or Every Employee Every Community hours.  Put succinctly, the company allows and encourages and enables every employee to do four hours of community service each year on the clock during their working hours.

This means you can and are encouraged to find a place to volunteer and it will be factored in as a part of your day.  It's not something you have to find time for in your off time.  And Cummins also has a list of organizations and opportunities to partner with.  

Today, I took part in a volunteer organization I've taken part in for the past two years, teaching technology literacy to fifth graders at a local elementary school. We teach editing a presentation using copy, paste, rotate, and resize.  Creating a folder and moving documents within it.  Internet safety.  Making screen shots and snippets.  Using spreadsheets and other computer tools.

The past two years were virtual and this year we finally got to get back in the classroom.  It went so much smoother.  We were able to keep their attention and get them all involved in working through the practice steps.  

It was truly a wonderful experience and I'm glad to be a part of it.  I'm glad Cummins provides me this opportunity - because otherwise, I don't know if I would have found it.  I don't know that I would have chosen it for myself if it wasn't presented as an option through the company. 

It's something small, at least in terms of all the work I do for Cummins.  But I am ever grateful for it.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Why I Love My Church - Small Groups

This Sunday, our church will be promoting joining small groups for the upcoming semester.  Our small groups, focus on home Bible studies, fellowship, and community.  We do not have traditional Sunday School for ages beyond youth, so Small Groups are our primary resource for deeper biblical teaching and for deeper connections among the members.  Particularly in a church the size of ours.

It's an embodiment of the early church in Acts, chapter 2.

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with the awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

                                                                                                                                                      Acts 2:42-47

A place where we seek to abide daily, devote relationally, live authentically, and admonish biblically.

Small group bible studies hold a special place for Jamie and me.  We met at our community group in Austin.  We both had sought community in connection with the Austin Stone and had ended up in the same central Austin community group.  Since then, we have sought home Bible study in each church that we have attended since. We've led them in Wills Point and started leading one very quickly here in Brownsburg.

There's something special about studying in someone's home.  About gathering together, breaking bread and eating together, sharing in each other's lives.  Crying together.  Laughing together. Praying together.  Living together.

About taking our faith outside of the church and remembering that it carries with us each and every day, and in every location that we inhabit.

These are the people in our circle.  When we are hurting, we we struggle, they are who we reach out to.  And we've been through a lot with this small group.  We've shared and grown in great leaps with them.

We look forward to the new year.  We have room for one or two new couples, so, we are looking forward to getting to know the new members of our group.  To continuing to grow together with the continuing members.

If you're not in a small group, if you are not connecting with a small group of people to grow in your faith and in your life, why not?  What opportunities exist for you in your community?

If you are in the Brownsburg area and would like to find a church to connect and grow with, and would like to learn more about Connection Pointe Christian Church, you can find out more here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Willy Nilly Silly Old Bear

Today commemorates Winnie the Pooh Day, celebrating the birthday of author A. A. Milne.  Born January 18, 1882, Milne a playwright and author by trade, became internationally famous for the stories celebrating his son Christopher Robin and his playmates from the Hundred Acre Wood.  And though Milne and Christopher Robin may have felt trapped by the success of Winnie the Pooh, there is no doubt that these stories have delighted children of all ages for nearly a century.

In celebration of the day, I thought I would share my favorite wisdom from the silly old bear.

"People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day."

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."

"Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo."

"And really, it wasn't much good having anything exciting like floods, if you couldn't share them with somebody."

"You're braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think."

So, enjoy a pot of honey and enjoy a day with friends, in celebration of the one and only Winnie the Pooh.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2023

Today we set aside to recognize the contributions of a man to the cause of equality.  A recognition of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to non-violent protest, equality, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

An ordained Baptist minister, you can see the inspiration he drew from the commands to love the Lord your God above all, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love your enemies.  His call for non-violence from Jesus' instruction to turn the other cheek.

He serves as a reminder to us that we are all derived from one creator; that there is "neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  We could add to that list that there is neither black nor white.  

And he reminds us that our founding documents declare that "all men are created equal" and it is our job to hold our country to that truth.  

"All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on."


"There can be no gain saying of the fact that our nation has brought the world to an awe inspiring threshold of the future. We've built machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. We have built gargantuan bridges to span the seas and gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. And through our spaceships we have penetrated oceanic depths and through our airplanes we have dwarfed distance and placed time in chains. This really is a dazzling picture of America's scientific and technological progress. But in spite of this something basic is missing. In spite of all of our scientific and technological progress we suffer from a kind of poverty of the spirit that stands in glaring contrast to all of our material abundance. This is the dilemma facing our nation and this is the dilemma to which we as clergymen and laymen must address ourselves. Henry David Thoreau said once something that still applies. In a very interesting dictum he talked about improved means to an unimproved end. This is a tragedy that somewhere along the way as a nation we have allowed the mean by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. And consequently we suffer from a spiritual and moral lag that must be redeemed if we are going to survive and maintain a moral stance.


And the words of Jesus are still applicable. What does it profit a generation, what does it profit a nation to own the whole world of means televisions, electric lights and automobiles and lose in the end the soul. The words of Jesus are still true in another sense. Man can not live by the bread of colored televisions alone but by every word, the word of justice, the word of love, the word of truth, every word that procedeth out of the mouth of God. And the problem is that all too many people in power are trying to get America to live on the wrong thing. And this is why we are moving in the wrong direction. This war is playing havoc with our domestic destinies for all of these reasons. We are fighting two wars today.


And so I say we need your support and we expect it as we move on into this area and I want to thank you for the support that so many of you have continually given. As we were marching today, some 5,000 strong, I thought about Selma because I could look around and see so many who have marched with us in Selma, and from Selma to Montgomery. And we are still marching and we are still moving. And I give you my commitment today that I plan to continue. Someone said to me not long ago, it was a member of the press, 'Dr. King, since you face so many criticisms and since you are going to hurt the budget of your organization, don't you feel that you should kind of change and fall in line with the Administration's policy. Aren't you hurting the civil rights movement and people who once respected you may lose respect for you because you're involved in this controversial issue in taking the stand against the war.' And I had to look with a deep understanding of why he raised the question and with no bitterness in my heart and say to that man, "I'm sorry sir, but you don't know me. I'm not a consensus leader.  I don't determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or by taking....  Nor do I determine what is right and wrong by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion."  Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.  On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right."

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Proper Sense of Priorities, February 6, 1968

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

What good does it do us, what does it profit us today to remember the man, to post quotes from his life, if we are not actively working towards change?  Are we honoring his legacy if we pretend his struggle existed only in the past?

Since 1994, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been recognized as a day for service.  The only federal holiday to be a day on, not a day off, reflecting our responsibility to each other.  This Martin Luther King, Jr. day, may we be active supporters in the cause of justice, of mercy.  May we be taking positions because our conscience tells us that it is right.  May we truly be in service to all.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Father-Son Weekend

A light post today, for I'm out and about on a Father-Son Weekend with Jude.  We've been looking forward to this for a while now and are finally getting to it.  Jamie and Avalyn had a girl's weekend year before last, and Jude and I have been trying to plan a quick getaway for the guys.  

We've headed out to Evansville, IN and Metropolis, IL.  We're going to go see the Superman statue and museum and otherwise going to just enjoy the time together.  It will be a weekend focused on him, planning things I know he will like and looking forward to just listening to what he has to say.

I know as the years pass, things will change, but right now, I'm rebelling in McDonalds and Gattitown, in the Superman museum and the zoo, and in being a kid again.  To see the world through his eyes.

As I've said before, time is our most precious resource, and I'm determined to make the most of it.


these tears of joy, 
are for the first time that i saw you 
my beatiful baby boy, 
i never thought this love i would find, 
for what i feel for you is so deep inside, 
when i see your face i see mine, 
when i look into your eyes i can see the sun shine, 
no matter how hard times may get, 
just remember that im here for you dont ever forget, 
for you are my heart my strenght my all, 

when ever you need me just give me a call, 
for i will always be here for you until the end, 
because im more than just a father im also your friend

Jose Murguia,  2009

Friday, January 13, 2023

Friday the 13th

Hope you don't have triskaidekaphobia.

I especially hope you don't have paraskevidekatriaphobia.

For today is Friday the 13th.

The origins of why today is considered unlikely aren't exactly clear.  It combines some superstitions around the number 13 and Fridays.  Superstition around both isn't really combined until the 19th century in France.  The first mention seems to be an 1834 play entitled Les Finesses des Gribouilles, in which a character describes all his misfortunes as stemming from his birth on Friday the 13th.  The spread of the fear may even stem from a 1907 novel entitled Friday, the 13th in which an unscrupulous businessman causes a market crash on that day.

Whatever the cause of the superstition, it has had surprising effects on our society.  According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17–21 million people in the United States alone are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history.  Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed.  It has been estimated that $800–900 million is lost in business on this day.

Ultimately, though, it is just another day.  It can happen up to three times every year, whenever a month begins on a Sunday.  It will continue to occur as long as we can measure time and continue to use this calendar.  There are two this year; there will be two next year.  It can and will come and go just like any other day.

Hopefully, it is a normal day for you and it brings you no trepidation.  If it does, on this winter day, it's a good one to curl up, relax, and sleep if off until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

I Get Along Without You Very Well

Last night I got to practice with the Cummins Diversity Choir.  It's so great to participate in choral singing again.  We've been able to practice since last summer and have been able to perform at the Ethnic Expo in Columbus last fall.  I've written before about how much I enjoy this group and the sentiment remains the same.  

We're currently preparing for a Black History Month event at the Indy office, and are working through several pieces.  One piece is one of my favorite songs that I've ever performed.  

I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes), by Hoagie Carmichael

Written in 1939, the song is a haunting exercise in the bravado of love and loss.  Carmichael based the lyrics on a poem by Jane Brown Thompson, and the main melodic theme on the Fantaisie-Impromptu in C Sharp minor, Op 66, by Frederic Chopin.  The singer tells of how well they are able to get along without their last love.  Of course they can.  Except when soft rain falls, to hear their name, or when someone's laugh is the same.  And especially not in spring.

I first was exposed to this song as a Brightleaf Scholar in 2000.  It was one of the most beautiful and touching songs we sang as a group, accentuated with very tight vocal harmonies and surprising lines for each vocal part.  It remains one of my all time favorite songs.

And on a rainy day like today, I'd like to share it with you all.  Below, find one of my favorite performances of it.  Diana Krall's version from her album, The Look of Love.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Universal Studios ... Texas?

Universal Studios Parks and Resorts just dropped a very interesting and surprising piece of news today.  Apparently, the company will be building a regional, family theme park in Frisco, Texas.  They have acquired around 100 acres to build the theme park and hotel.  The park will be east of the Dallas North Tollway and North of Panther Creek Parkway.  The park is expected to focus on the company's Dreamworks properties - Trolls, Shrek, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon, Jurassic Park Camp Cretaceous, etc.

This marks the beginning of Universal's regional entertainment offerings.  They also announced a year round haunt attraction space in Las Vegas, spinning out of their popular annual Halloween Horror Nights.  This is a space that expands them out of competition with the destination parks and entertainment like Disney, but also into competition with the Six Flags corporation and other smaller local amusement parks. Disney has tried to enter regional entertainment before, but never to this degree.  Their attempts focused more on a Dave and Busters arcade or VR like approach with DisneyQuest and the ESPNZone, as opposed to the full amusement park offering described here.

This will definitely be something to watch.  While we will still be several years out from park opening, Universal doesn't often drag their feet.  Their third park in Florida will be completed in 2025 and is coming along well at this point.  I would expect to see construction soon in this area, or at least some signs of progress (dirt moving, site prep, etc.)

Hopefully this marks the start of a great expansion in this regional space.  I'd love to see Disney and have even a few suggestions for them if they'd like to take a look.  

Interesting times, for sure.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Comics and Congress, Part II

Every time I think nerd culture has hit a peak, we hit another high.   File this in the things I just learned column...

I've written before on the connection between Congress and comic books.  Now I've learned that the Library of Congress has the largest publicly available comic book collection in America.  And one thing it can be used for elected officials to use comic books to be sworn in on.

This year, Congressman-Elect Robert Garcia is using a pristine copy of Superman #1 (1939) as part of a stack of documents that represent the values of his life.  The Constitution, family pictures, and Superman #1.

We've had touches before of.  Obama was a self-proclaimed comic reader, particularly an avid collector of Spider-man and Conan the Barbarian.  But that was always an exception.  A rarity.    Now, as the age of our representatives gets lower/as more Generation X-Millenials become elected officials, the connection to deep fandoms will become more common place.

That's a long way from the Wertham hearings.

In many ways, Superman is the perfect comic for this purpose.  Superman's motto is Truth, Justice, and the American Way.  His story relays the ultimate American immigrant success story, which was an inspiration to Garcia, an immigrant himself.  Like America, Superman represents an ideal we are all trying to live up to - the ultimate good guy, protector of the weak and downtrodden, paragon of virtue, and big blue boy scout.  The musical even puts the Boy Scout motto to song.  

"On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

If only all Congressmen would strive for that.

Monday, January 9, 2023

TCM Remembers 2022

A bit of a look back today. As a classic film fan and lover of old Hollywood, this type of memorial strikes a chord. TCM always puts together a classy memorial reel, providing the most comprehensive look at the loss that film suffered in the past year.

This past years list included legends and personal favorites. While their presence will be missed, their contribution lives on.  

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Good-By and Keep Cold

 As I continue reading through the collected works of Robert Frost, a bit of Frost for this cold January day.

Good-By and Keep Cold

"This saying good-by on the verge of the dark
And cold to an orchard so young in the bark,
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don't want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don't want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don't want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn't be idle to call,
I'd summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don't want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard's the worse for the winteriest storm,
But one thing about it, it mustn't get warm.
'How often already you've had to be told
Keep cold, young orchard.  Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.'
I have to be gone for a season or so;
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nurtured, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an ax -
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And share in an orchard's arboreal plight,
When slowly (and nobody comes with a ight!)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod;
But something has to be left to God."

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Yuletide, A Summary

It's interesting how we set a couple of chapters of the Bible aside to really only teach them once a year.  We set aside everything to do with the birth of Jesus and reserve it for December.  As if that were the only time we could learn from it.  

It's odd, because we wouldn't recommend someone reading through the Bible in a year, or whatever period of time, set aside Matthew 2 and Luke 1-2 for December.  Rather we would recommend they read it and study it when they come to it. For context and for understanding.

In that spirit, I've collected all of the posts that have focused on the birth of Jesus and the religious celebration around it into this summary post.  It can serve as a reference point for me to jump back to and expand as the years progress and hopefully will prove useful to others as well.

May we not leave the power, the joy and wonder of the incarnation of the Holy Christ to one season a year.


The Nativity

The Twelve Days of Christmas (An Overview)

Ephiphany, or Three Kings Day

Friday, January 6, 2023

Epiphany 2022


"A manifestation of a divine or supernatural being; a moment of sudden revelation or insight."

Today marks Epiphany, or Three Kings Day.  Twelfth Night has ended, and the magi have arrived.  A celebration of the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and the physical manifestation of Christ to the gentiles.

After today, the twelve days of Christmas are over and we enter Carnival.  King Cake season.  A celebration in preparation of the coming fast.

I think the Biblical account of the Magi provides us a blueprint for how to approach this new year with the appropriate viewpoint.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written:

'"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel."'

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed (They rejoiced with exceeding great joy).  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."

What would it look like if we started the year with exceeding great joy, celebrating our encounter with the Messiah?  If we brought Him the best gifts we can, that reflect His character.  Gold celebrated His kingship, frankincense celebrated His deity, and myrrh celebrated His death.  What would we bring, what aspect of His character would we celebrate?

That's our call in this season, in this new year.  To rejoice with exceeding great joy.

There is also a warning in this passage.  When the Magi question the leadership of Israel, it's clear that all the priests and scribes know what to look for, where the Messiah will be born.  They have all the knowledge necessary to go and find him.  But the Magi are the only ones who do.  You would think some of those scribes would be curious enough to go and see if this is finally it, if the Messiah has arrived.  But none leave their routine.  None leave their pattern or comfort.  

Don't get so stuck in your routine that you miss the miraculous around you.

Go forth, celebrate the season.  Let's start the year with joy.  And may we carry that spirit forward throughout the year.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Twelfth Day of Christmas 2022

Twelfth Night

Tonight marks the end of Christmastide. The Ghost of Christmas Present lives through midnight this evening, so may the spirit of the season still be with you.  Tonight we feast.  The decorations have all been left up, the lights are all on.  We gather together to spread merriment and cheer.  

It's a time to eat king cakes and rum cakes, and to drink wassail.  It's also a time for the upending of the normal.  Where the Lord of Misrule enjoys one last night of his reign, calling for songs, entertainment, and plays.  Servants often dressed up as their masters, men as women and so forth.

It's this atmosphere Shakespeare captured in Twelfth Night, or What You Will.  A comedy of errors and misunderstanding.  Of mistaken identities.  It's a celebration of love and joy and a fitting end to this holiday season. 

"If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet south,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity 10
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.

I pray this Christmastide has been a joyous season for you, that these Twelve Days of Christmas has been full of love and laughter, of exceeding great joy, and this new year has started well for you.  May it continue in the days ahead.  

"Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year."

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The Eleventh Day of Christmas 2022

Elizabeth Ann Seton

"Elizabeth Ann Seton is a saint. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is an American. All of us say this with special joy and with the intention of honoring the land and the nation from which she sprang forth as the first flower in the calendar of the saints. Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American! Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage."

Pope Paul VI, September 14, 1975

For the eleventh day of Christmas, we honor the first person born in the United States to be canonized as a saint, Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton.  This is the most recent celebration added to the twelve days of Christmas, marking the anniversary of her death.  

Seton was a Catholic religious sister and educator, born August 28, 1774.  Though married early in life, she was widowed by the age of twenty-nine, and from there turned to Catholicism and charitable work.  She would go on to open the first Catholic girls' school in the nation and the first congregation of religious sisters in America. This religious congregation was dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. This was the first congregation of religious sisters founded in the United States, and its school was the first free Catholic school in America.  This led her to be remembered as the founder of America's parochial school system, and earned her the title "Mother Seton."

Her modest work would spread to great affect.  From her initial congregation, six separate religious congregations across the United States and Canada can trace their origins.  Her name has been honored on hospitals, schools, and churches across the country.  Seton Healthcare in Austin comes from Seton Infirmary founded by her Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, the first hospital west of the Mississippi River.

Her last words to her Sisters were "Be children of the Church."

That is good advice for us today. 

And what does being the Church look like?

It means we are known for our love.

It means we loose the bonds of wickedness, we let the oppressed go free, we break every yoke.

It means we give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, cloth the naked, look after the sick, and visit the imprisoned.

It means we do what is right, we love mercy, and live humbly before God.

May that spirit carry us into this new year.

May we be children of the Church.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The Tenth Day of Christmas 2022

 The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus."

Luke 1:31

"But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel'

(which means, God with us)."

Matthew 1:20-21

"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."

Luke 2:19-21

"That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth."
Philippians 2:10

"For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
Romans 10:13

Though often celebrated on January 1, or the Eighth Day of Christmas, today marks a celebration of the Holy Name of Jesus.

And what a name worth celebrating.

Jesus is derived from the Greek name Ἰησοῦς, a form of the Hebrew Yeshua or Joshua, meaning Yahweh saves, is salvation, is a saving-cry, is my help.

That Jesus is born is the good news of Christmas.  That our salvation is born.  That God saves.  And that He is Emmanuel. God is with us.  God cares for us.  Our God saves.

Names matter in Hebrew culture. When a parent gives a child a name, the parent is giving the child a connection to previous generations.  The parent is also making a statement about their hope for who their child will become.  In this way, the name carries with it some identity for the child.  This is why it was so striking that the angel would tell Mary what the child's name would be.  He was asserting God's parentage and identifying the child for the world.  

Our God saves indeed.  He is worthy to be praised.

It's in His very name.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There's just something about that name. 
Master, Savior, Jesus,
Like the fragrance after the rain.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there's something about that name.

Monday, January 2, 2023

The Ninth Day of Christmas 2022

Saint Basil the Great

It’s the beginning of the month, beginning of the year

High incense tree

Beginning of my good year
Church with the Holy Seat

It’s the beginning of our Christ
Saint and spiritual
He got out to walk on earth
And to welcome us

St. Basil is coming from Caesaria

And doesn’t want to deal with us
May you long live, my lady

He holds an icon and a piece of paper
With the picture of Christ our Savior
A piece of paper and a quill

Please look at me, the young man

Today, in many traditions, marks the Feast of St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, an influential Byzantine bishop from the mid-300s.  Basil was an influential theologian in the early church, marked by his care for the poor and underprivileged.  Though Basil was born into wealth, he gave away all of his possessions to the poor, the underprivileged, those in need, and children, forgoing luxury for the creation of the communal monastic life.

Because of his care for the needy, Basil in certain traditions even becomes the Santa Claus like figure of Christmastide.  In Greece, on January 1, it is Saint Basil who brings gifts to children on Saint Basil's Day.  On St Basil's Day vasilopita, a rich bread baked with a coin inside, is served, mimicking the actions of Basil as a bishop, wanting to distribute money to the poor and commissioning some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins.

We talk a lot in Christmas about how it is a season of giving.  And we do see some evidence of that fact.  Nearly one third of all annual giving in the United States are made in December, with ten percent of all annual giving occurring in three days before New Year.  

But there is still a bit of a disconnect.  While we gave $309.66 billion in individual donations throughout 2019, we spent $707 billion in retail sales between November 1 and December 31, 2018 alone.  

And we're at a time when the need is as great as ever.  The latest data from the census indicates that roughly 13.4% of America is below the poverty line.  This means that 42.5 million Americans live below the poverty line.  Keep in mind, the United States poverty line is around $12,880 for individuals, $26,500 for a family of four.  If you expand the criteria for those below, at, or near the poverty line, it can account for nearly half of all Americans.  The amount of people living paycheck to paycheck, remains incredibly high.  Meaning most families are just one sickness, one emergency, one inconvenience, one accident away from losing everything.

In the spirit of Saint Basil, perhaps we remember our calling.

"Is this not the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Isaiah 58:6-7

Saint Basil was at the center of many important theological debates and is known as the Doctor of the Church because of his influence on our understanding of the trinity and the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  But, we celebrate him because of his charity.  We recognize him because of his practical and lived out faith.  His writings confirm that our duty is to each other.  

He served the Lord by serving the least of these.

May we go and do likewise.

“Prayer is a request for what is good, offered by the devout of God. But we do not restrict this request simply to what is stated in words… We should not express our prayer merely in syllables, but the power of prayer should be expressed in the moral attitude of our soul and in the virtuous actions that extend throughout our life…  This is how you pray continually — not by offering prayer in words, but by joining yourself to God through your whole way of life, so that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer.”

Sunday, January 1, 2023

The Eighth Day of Christmas 2022

New Year's Day

Welcome to 2023.  An opportunity to start a new chapter, a new story, a new verse.  

It seems we are all in want of that lately.  We want to shake off 2022 and all it brought and move back into brighter times.  There's no reason a new start should limited to today alone, but the day and the occasion does make for a good transition.

In this season of resolutions, I pray you make them and work towards them.  If nothing else, to try something new and different.  Something you've always wanted to do.  Be bold.  Be daring.  Shoot for the moon.  Be wild and ambitious.  But most of all be kind.  If it's one thing I've observed and wished for my life, it is that we need more kindness in the world, especially now.  Pure, unadulterated kindness.  To view the whole world as our neighborhood.  I hope to be a part of that change.

"Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness."  William Shakespeare

If we should keep anything of 2022, it should be a reminder that human connection is absolutely necessary.  We've seen how our time with our immediate families could be strengthened through time together.  We've longed for the ability to connect with friends, with family, with others around us that we've missed through these months.  We recognize that kindness, that friendship is a warmth shared between us.  

In year's past, I've shared a poem with thoughts and hopes for the new year ahead.  This year is no different, and the poem shared is a new one of hope from America's young poet laureate, Amanda Gorman.

“New Day’s Lyric”

May this be the day
We come together.

Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.
Tethered by this year of yearning,
We are learning
That though we weren’t ready for this,
We have been readied by it.
We steadily vow that no matter
How we are weighed down,
We must always pave a way forward.

This hope is our door, our portal.
Even if we never get back to normal,
Someday we can venture beyond it,
To leave the known and take the first steps.
So let us not return to what was normal,
But reach toward what is next.

What was cursed, we will cure.
What was plagued, we will prove pure.
Where we tend to argue, we will try to agree,
Those fortunes we forswore, now the future we foresee,
Where we weren’t aware, we’re now awake;
Those moments we missed
Are now these moments we make,
The moments we meet,
And our hearts, once all together beaten,
Now all together beat.

Come, look up with kindness yet,
For even solace can be sourced from sorrow.
We remember, not just for the sake of yesterday,
But to take on tomorrow.

We heed this old spirit,
In a new day’s lyric,
In our hearts, we hear it:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
Be bold, sang Time this year,
Be bold, sang Time,
For when you honor yesterday,
Tomorrow ye will find.
Know what we’ve fought
Need not be forgot nor for none.
It defines us, binds us as one,
Come over, join this day just begun.
For wherever we come together,
We will forever overcome.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot...
We'll drink a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Happy New Year!  To 2023!