20101228

The Way of Walking with Christ - based on a work of Miyamoto Musashi

16) While it’s different with military equipment, do not be fond of material things.
As we serve our Lord Jesus we are not in this for the pursuit of material things.  If an item is of no use in the pursuit, display, and/or spread of the gospel it is a superfluous.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound [2] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.  Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and [3] we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:3-10, ESV)

In this example Musashi is of course coming from a professional soldier's point of view.  When he speaks of military equipment is it things needed in the pursuit of his profession, his purpose in life.  We as Christians ultimately need nothing.  For when Jesus sent out His disciples these were His instructions:
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  And he said to them, Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. [1]  And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart."(Luke 9:1-4, ESV)
Anything extra is a distraction and a hindrance in your pursuit of God and your service to Him. 

20101227

Microfiction Monday - 20101227

Welcome to Microfiction Monday, 
where a picture paints 140 characters, or even fewer. 


"Joe, I'm tellin' ya, this is where they wanted us to wait.  Somethin' about perchin' in a Pear Tree or some such."


* 
Your Turn!  
*

About Microfiction Monday
Microfiction means the shortest of short stories. Think Aesop's fables, comic strips, or even jokes: complete stories that can be told in under a minute. For this game, the limit is a tweetable 140 characters or fewer. 
Hate counting letters and spaces? Try Design 215's character counter, which will count for you as you type. Microsoft Word will count for you too, of course, as part of its word count feature under the 'Review' tab.
Photos will be from my own archives; illustrations are from Dover Publications' free clipart sample newsletter.

And finally, why 140? A whole new fiction market has arisen via mobile phone texting and Twitter, who limits 'tweets' to 140 characters including spaces and punctuation. It's fast, it's fiction, it's fun. 

I joined this meme thread from a fellow parent dealing with an Autistic child: Susan @ Stony River: a writing life

20101224

Warm ramblings of a festive kind

What a year... i still have a few blog posts in me before i flip the calendar, but... it has been a long crazy year for me.  Someone... other than me, because i will either forget to do it, or lose the piece of paper, write down where you are, what you are doing, and where you think the year will go... then, around Christmas time... pull it back and and see how much is the same and how close you are.  Speaking of which, i knew the Panthers weren't going to go to the playoffs next season, i knew that Julius Peppers would be gone, but i never dreamed i would be rooting for them to LOSE their next two games!  I never thought they would be 2-12 at this point.  Denver and Cincinnati are still their closest contenders for the #1 overall draft pick in April, but the Steelers (who the Panthers play on Thursday night) need to lock up their division, and they are probably still smarting from their loss last weekend... so that will mean the Panthers will get to pay.  Now, New Orleans is still pretty close to snatching the Division from the Atlanta Falcons so the Monday night game on the 29th should be pretty good.  I have to say that i am rooting for the Saints in this one because if the Falcons lose on Monday night, they will play HARD in the final game on the 2nd and take it out on the Panthers... again.  Now, no one knows what the future holds in regards to the NFL or next years draft... but... i am catching Luck fever (Andrew Luck out of Stanford)...  this season is shot... but i can dream of a brighter season next year.  GO PANTHERS!  At least my teams in Blood Bowl continue to win... usually.

Speaking of Christmas time... some people prefer the more politically correct term, Winter Festival.  Well, over at MouseHunt on Facebook, they are having a pretty extensive Winter Festival event.  It has been a blast.  A lot of new event mice (two of which are pictured here), as well as new treasures that can be used to collect and/or obtain a new trap.  The developers of this game have made it a very enjoyable game to play over time, and i am looking forward to continue my march towards Zugzwang's Tower.  One of my favorite things in this years "Festival event" has been the Scrooge Mouse and his three companions... the Mice of Winter Past, Present and Future.  A Christmas Carol - the one with Patrick Stewart - is my all time favorite Christmas movie.

I have no idea on how to bridge from A Christmas Carol to the movie TRON: Legacy, but here i go anyway.  This past week Disney released a long anticipated sequel from their (depending on who you listen to) flop of 1982 titled, you guessed it - TRON.  However, that rough first edition into a world within a computer has spawned a very loyal following.  One of them being me.  I was careful to reign in my anticipation while watching and reading news tidbits leading up to last Friday.  When i finally had the opportunity to get to the theater and see it this past Sunday i did indeed love it.  The story line was somewhat predictable and the acting was not great, but it was better than a lot of science fiction movies have been in the past.  What i loved the most was the concept, and the visuals of the movie over all.  I enjoyed the 3d as it was not over the top, but was present in most shots.  It also didn't go out of the way to throw things "at" the audience.  I would really like to go and see it in the theater at least once more, and really want it when it comes out on Blu-Ray next year.  8)  Movies like TRON and The Matrix just really fascinate me.  One thing i was not over all pleased with with the overt Buddhist references.  But that is the Christian part of me.  I am a big proponent of "balance in all things", but only when it comes to life in general.  In regards to good and evil, there is no doubt - good must (and will) win out over all.  Christ is first and foremost, while i work hard to balance my life, when it comes to the things of God and His Son... there can be but one "balance"... Christ full on, no room for anything else.  "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5 ESV)  One thing this movie did get me to thing about was preconceived notions.  Most of the reviews that gave the movie a less than stellar review seem to stem from the movie not living up to the hype.  It seems that the more eagerly hyped the movie, the more it fails to live up to the expectations.  There are few critics out there that i really trust to give an actual unbiased review.  For many years i have worked hard to get myself to think in a completely neutral way - to set aside any bias i might have.  I am not perfect in this, but i do feel it helps me see things more clearly.  It helps me step away from something, look at it from various angles, and appreciate something for what it is.  It also helps me better evaluate something through "God lenses"... not that i am God because i am NOT, but for me to put on what God has revealed to me so far in my life, and then size up whatever i am looking at by what He has revealed to me.  For example, i can appreciate the graphics and enjoy the story line better because i have not prejudged what it should be, and then also ensure i am not being led astray down a path that may lead away from God and what He has for me.

As i am spinning back up to begin writing some short stories again, and along the lines of thinking about sin, etc. i was reminded of one of the things that draws me to the Eldar within Games Workshops universe.  It is a theme that actually runs through each of the genres (fantasy/science fiction).  The Elves within the GW genres have essentially taken a logical path for a race that lives for thousands of years.  The Elves allowed themselves to explore each of the various aspects of life to extremes.  Meditation, art, love, etc., are all explored in minutia.   The depths of depravity within the human heart are incredible, now imagine a sentient race that lives ten to twenty times as long (at least) as that of a human being.  The explorations of the things of depravity have led to schisms within the race, led to civil wars, etc.  So, while elves are generally viewed as being graceful and generally good if not indifferent, they are also capable of exploring the depths of depravity... which i do not even want to think about how far down that road one could go... i am pretty sure this is why our sin has effected death and limited the number of our days in the real world.  While i admire the mythical stories and history of pretty much all things elvish, this is one area that truly brings a revulsion.  Not because it is in the background material, but because i can see that in my own heart. I am somewhat appreciative of the lengths that those who have not fallen into darkness to pursue the evil veins of exploration.  It is interesting to me on how they steel themselves and use a firm mentor/student type of relationship within their society to help keep such passions in check.  Here, on Earth (in real life), we have the Holy Spirit to help guide and mentor us. This Christmas i am grateful for a God that took the time to reach out to me.  A God who wants to mentor me, who wants to help me avoid pursuing paths of evil and debauchery, a God who wants to bring me unto Himself and present me with the very best of life.  A life spent with Him for all eternity.

20101221

The Way of Walking with Christ - based on a work of Miyamoto Musashi

15) Do not fast so that it affects you physically.
Fasting is an excellent part of spiritual discipline.  What Musashi speaks to here is as you fast your body begins to weaken.  In context this would mean that you will lose strength, energy, coordination, and even mental processing will be diminished.  As a samurai for Christ you must feed your soul, feed that relationship, that connection with your Lord.  While Jesus fasted (an example would be when He went into the wilderness for 40 days), He spent time connecting with His Heavenly Father.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus [4] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,  but one thing is necessary. [5] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)
But we cannot fast from doing either.  Our on going sanctification process includes doing:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)

20101220

Microfiction Monday - 20101220


Welcome to Microfiction Monday, 
where a picture paints 140 characters, or even fewer. 


"Did you tell them about the bread crumbs?" Hansel asked?

Gretel look perplexed , "I thought you did."

They walked on in silence, the two waifs lingering behind.


* 
Your Turn!  
*

About Microfiction Monday
Microfiction means the shortest of short stories. Think Aesop's fables, comic strips, or even jokes: complete stories that can be told in under a minute. For this game, the limit is a tweetable 140 characters or fewer. 
Hate counting letters and spaces? Try Design 215's character counter, which will count for you as you type. Microsoft Word will count for you too, of course, as part of its word count feature under the 'Review' tab.
Photos will be from my own archives; illustrations are from Dover Publications' free clipart sample newsletter.

And finally, why 140? A whole new fiction market has arisen via mobile phone texting and Twitter, who limits 'tweets' to 140 characters including spaces and punctuation. It's fast, it's fiction, it's fun. 

I joined this meme thread from a fellow parent dealing with an Autistic child: Susan @ Stony River: a writing life

20101215

The Way of Walking with Christ - based on a work of Miyamoto Musashi

14) Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation. 
Do not allow sentimentality to inhibit your forward pursuit of God. Within this world things will not last forever. 
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust [5] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV)
Mankind places too high a priority on personal possessions.  Value is seen in how elegant, or how 'historic' something is.  As a samurai in the service of the Lord of all we must place a perspective of just how temporary the things of this world truly are.

When the focus becomes things, or traditions, above the gospel of Christ and/or the Word of God, we are in danger of making the "main thing" a "lesser" thing.  Once down that path it can become a slippery slope.  Many a cult has taken a kernel of truth, a select sliver of scripture or some artifact (some real, some not), and used it to pull some away from the Gospel of Christ.

While things passed on from generation to generation are good reminders of the where we have come from, we do not live in the past.  We cannot allow the past to distract us from where God is taking us.

20101214

Football Follies

I am not entirely sure if any of those who stumble across this minor blog are fans of the American National Football League known as the NFL.  If you are, and you follow it in the least bit amount, you are probably aware of the leagues worst team right now...  The Carolina Panthers. Or as i like to refer to them when they are playing this poorly, the Carolina Kittens.  Even when the Panthers went 1-15 in the 2001 season, i had hope for their improvement.  This year... not so much.  Perhaps it's the depression i have been fighting lately, but i am beginning to think that they are destined to sink into the depths of the other perpetually bad teams of the other "Big Cat" teams.  You know them as the Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals.  That's not all fair though... the other "Jaguar" family team, the Jacksonville Jaguars and brother 1995 expansion team (Panthers are a form of Jaguar, if you look closely you can see blacker spots on them), have been routinely decent.  I believe their overall historical record is > 50% win/loss.  As of this post, the Panthers have the inside track on locking in the #1 overall draft pick in the 2011 draft.  The only other team that is a serious challenger for this is of course, the Cincinnati Bengals.  Let's take a look at both teams up coming games shall we:

Carolina:
Dec 19 Arizona(4-9)
Dec 23 @ Pittsburgh (10-3)
Jan 02 @ Atlanta (11-2)

Cincinnati:
Dec 19 Cleveland (5-8)
Dec 26 San Diego (7-6)
Jan 02 Baltimore (8-4)<

If Carolina loses out, they have the lock.  In the event of a tie, the #1 pick will go to the Cincinnati Bengals as they had the "easier" (based on the overall win/loss record of their opponents) schedule.  Now, some of this may come down to teams like Atlanta and Pittsburgh resting some of their starters in order to prepare for the play-offs, but... then again... Pittsburgh has the Ravens breathing down their neck, and Atlanta has the Saints...  Ah, such is life.  8)  I am still a fan of the Carolina Panthers though.  Maybe it will make it a little bit easier to get a pair of tickets for a home game in Charlotte next season.

For fun, i have been playing Games Workshops computer version of American Football (Blood Bowl).  This was created and distributed by a company called Cyanide Studios.  It is essentially a Fantasy, turn based, version of the game.  It was originally made by GW as a table top game.  I have four teams currently that i rotate between depending upon my mood.  I have the Redleg Boomers, a human team that i have loosely based the theme around my days as an Artilleryman (aka Redleg); the Floundering Chefs, my Halfling team; the Boneyard Boyz, and undead team (skeleton warriors have always fascinated me for some reason); and last but not least, the Sylvan Strykers, a Wood Elf team.  Each team has their strengths and weaknesses, so i play each team depending on my mood.  The Humans are an "all around" team.  They don't excel in anyone area, but then they are not really deficient in any one area either.  The Halflings are not really great in any area... they are a team that rules where put together for on a whim.  They are in the game for fun and humor, not really to win.  The undead team is a highly durable team, but they struggle with doing anything really fancifully. The Wood Elves are my first go to team... they are Elves after all.   In the game there are 4 Elven teams.  The Woode Elves, the High Elves, the Dark Elves, and the plain old Elves.  I had originally started with the regular elves, but the cheerleaders are drawn up in really skimpy outfits... so i deleted that file and started over.  The High Elves are too snooty, and the Dark Elves are en evil team and... the undead are close enough that i didn't want to play a second one.  Ironically, the team with the best record is my Halfling team!

Ok... this will be meaningless drivel for most... but... when writing... i was told sometimes it is best to just sit down and start writing whatever comes to mind... LOL

20101210

Getting back on the bicycle

Because no one i know (well) actually rides a horse... and well, i know i don't so... the title seemed more appropriate this way.

I know my posting of late has been somewhat lackadaisical, and i am not real happy with that.  So many good Microfiction Monday sources, a few Haiku poems (some of which i have shared), new story line ideas, thoughts on the Carolina Kitte... i mean Panthers, real world happenings, MouseHunt/Blood Bowl/ etc. So, instead of trying to catch everything up all at once... i will just ramble (yea, different, i know ) and work through them as them come back to mind.

Where to begin... i have mentioned this before but i will do so again... if for nothing else to help myself work through it.  I have really been struggling with depression lately.  I have never been able to "get it".  Meaning, i am not able to understand how or why people get depressed.  I am even more confused as to why i am getting depressed.  I am not taking any sort of superiority train of thought here.  On many levels depression is a selfish thing.  The mind gets locked on to me/myself/I.  All of the things that are not right in my life.  Why am I not able to _____?  Etc. The thoughts get turned inward and not outward.  Even when thinking about others, more often than not (at least in my experience) it is how whatever is going on with the other person and how it affects me. The causes can be multifaceted.  Some may be poor mental choices.  The things one dwells on.  In others it is a side affect of medication or injury.  Some can be chemical, that is imbalances within the construct of the body's systems.  All of them are treatable, and none of them should be ignored.  To tell oneself to just "shake it off", or to advise someone who is experiencing it to just "get over it" is unhelpful at best, and devastating at its worst.  Depression is something that is like a whirlpool.  The process slow and almost imperceptible in the beginning, but as it progresses it picks up speed and gets tighter and tighter as it pulls you down.  The longer one does nothing about the predicament the harder it takes hold and the harder it is to escape... especially without outside assistance.  I am not entirely sure how long i struggled with it before i finally sought some help.  One person says that they noticed a "cyclical" pattern as long as two years ago.  For me the "trigger" that pushed it over the edge of manageability was when my beloved went back to work.  I grew up, for the most part, with a single mother who was rarely at home.  This left me and my brother alone to pretty much fend for ourselves.  As a young man i steeled myself to the task.  It was what it was.  I did the best i could to do the chores around the house, feed me and my brother (and he pitched in some too, it was not all me), i remember learning to do laundry and make mac & cheese.  But when my beloved went to work and she was not always home i began to have an overwhelming sense of abandonment. I felt like i was losing her and there was nothing i could do about it.  The fact was, there was nothing my beloved was doing intentionally to make me feel this way.  As a matter of fact, she bent over backwards to assure me, to comfort me, to let me know that she was indeed my beloved.  For her, this job was in many ways a "life saver" for her too.  It has renewed her sense of purpose now that our three darlings are older.  It has been one of the better things to come along for her.  What was hard was i know all this... and yet i could not change the way my own body reacted.  I would pray (and still do), and i would "preach" to myself these facts, but i just couldn't shake the bodily reactions and mental thought pathways.  I knew i was not thinking clearly, and my attempts to talk with my beloved were causing her distress.  One of our long time friends, who is also a friend of ours, also reached out to me... but for a variety of reasons i did not feel that was a good idea.  I finally reached out to a Christian man whom i respected, and who was also a licensed therapist.  While he felt it better to not counsel me himself, he did get me with another man of God who was very helpful.  For me, my dose of Strattera not only has helped me with my ADD, but it has helped with my rounds of depression.  I can tell i am still struggling with the "cycles" now and again, but just like me working out my own sanctification day by day, i am working to stay "on top of" my own depression - day-by-day.  If you, or someone you know, struggles with depression and implore you to seek help.  Do NOT try and go it alone.  Seek God in all that you do, but also allow Him to work through others in your life.

Going on about ten months ago i began to feel a persistent ache in my right shoulder.  I've had a "clicking" and "twinge"in both shoulders for a long, long time, but it was never pervasive enough for me to worry about it.  At first it was a distraction during the day... an annoyance.  Then it started causing me to lose sleep.  Finally i went to an orthopedist.  He followed the insurance steps and we did the X-rays, and then an MRI where he found a "small" tear in a place that was hard to get an exact picture of the extent (i thought MRI's could get all that...).  He then sent me for 6 weeks of physical therapy.  For a variety of reasons, i waited until November (almost seven months) before i started it.  I am now 5 weeks into it, with only my last session (the therapist's evaluation) and then then consult back with the Orthopedist... is it good when my shoulders still ache, and the therapist grimaces while i am performing my exercises?  I know the workouts - both at the office and the ones i do at home - have been giving me headaches, and causing knots in my shoulders and lower neck region.  I am getting nervous.  Everything i hear about the surgery of getting this fixed sound really painful and involved.  But... if it takes away the constant ache... i will go through it.

One good side affect of me getting some help with my depression is the renewed interest to pick up the "pen" again to write again.  The next chapter is going to be rewritten from my original script, but... i am just glad to be wanting to write again.

Ok, well, i have rambled on for enough today... i will pick this up some more soon.

20101206


Welcome to Microfiction Monday, 
where a picture paints 140 characters, or even fewer. 


"It is appointed unto man..." the man solemnly thought.  "Still, it's nice to finally find my ancestors resting place."  With that he began cleaning the old place up.


* 
Your Turn!  
*

About Microfiction Monday
Microfiction means the shortest of short stories. Think Aesop's fables, comic strips, or even jokes: complete stories that can be told in under a minute. For this game, the limit is a tweetable 140 characters or fewer. 
Hate counting letters and spaces? Try Design 215's character counter, which will count for you as you type. Microsoft Word will count for you too, of course, as part of its word count feature under the 'Review' tab.
Photos will be from my own archives; illustrations are from Dover Publications' free clipart sample newsletter.

And finally, why 140? A whole new fiction market has arisen via mobile phone texting and Twitter, who limits 'tweets' to 140 characters including spaces and punctuation. It's fast, it's fiction, it's fun. 

I joined this meme thread from a fellow parent dealing with an Autistic child: Susan @ Stony River: a writing life

20101123

wind shifting Southward
ghosts from ruins across the sea
upon the rock firm


20101118

Rambling for rambling sake

I am entering the 3rd week of physical therapy for an old Army injury.  Actually a pair of old Army injuries.  Set the way back machine for the summer of 1987.  A young Private was both selected and prideful enough to put on a show for some visiting dignitary whom he will never meet in person.  His section of 3 soldiers had been chosen to perform a dismounted air-mobile deployment, implementation of, redeployment of a TOW Anti-Tank Missile system.  My memory fails to remember just how heavy that system is overall, but the distributed load is quite considerable since there are only 3 men in the Anti-Tank section - and that is at 100% strength (at the time).  The LZ was in the middle of an open field that a Gopher colony had set up.  After tripping TWICE on the way to the setup site (breaking his rucksack frame in the process), the engagement of the fictitious enemy tank tank was a complete success.  The re-deployment of the missile system went a little slower (thankfully), but back at the bird the young private, in his haste, attempts to man-handle not one 60+ pound piece of equipment, but two of them, into the troop area of the helo, one in each hand.  I tore something in both shoulders.  When i went to the medics the next day i could not lift either arm above my waist.  The promptly provided me with military strength ibuprofen, game me a light duty slip and sent me on my way.  Fast forward to about a year or so ago, and my shoulders had started screaming enough for me to go see a doctor about it.  An MRI later shows a tear in an awkward location.  The orthopedist prescribes 6 weeks of Physical Therapy to see if that will 'fix' the issue (or at least strengthen the surrounding muscles to provide some relief.  I waiting about six more months because of switching employers and the new insurance policy has a pretty large deductible.  Now that the deductible has been met i've been doing the PT and it is really uncomfortable.  There are muscle tie-ins that i had never been truly aware of.  From the first session i have been getting some incredible base of the skull headaches, but i am motivated to put my best effort forward.  Anything to avoid having the surgery. The doc said that it is in such a location, and of such a nature. that he will have to cut the rest of the muscle away, and then reattach it.  And of course after that... PT will have to start all over again.  So, for now... i communicate what is going on with the Physical Therapist (who keeps asking me when my follow up appointment is), and performing the exercises the PT has for me.  Where did i put those 500mg Tylenol Tablets?

Alise over at "Big Mama's Blog" has been doing an inspiring series on depression.  While i feel like i am in a "good place" in regards to my recent round of depression, it is always good to keep it in mind moving forward.

Speaking of depression, the Carolina Kittens have dropped to 1-8 for this season.  I am still a Carolina Panthers fan, but i have resigned myself to the fact that they just aren't that good this year.  I am not sure why it is that they seem unable to knit two winning seasons back to back.  One year they have an injury bug, another they just can't seem to catch a break, some seasons are rebuilding years as players age or are forced to retire do to injury.  Then there are years like this year when it just seems impossible to get enough of the acts together to put together a winning game effort. 

I was finally able to complete my download of  BB: Legends Edition.  Some really nice improvements over the first push of the game.  The 20 different teams, plus the story mode play is very nice.  Not to mention all of the extra angles (game mechanics)  that can be played that where not there before.  I created a new Wood Elf team, and a new Halfling team just for fun.  I was going to do straight up Elves, but the cheerleaders were dressed to skimpy in my opinion.  My new Halfling team (which are nearly impossible to win with any regularity with) are called the Floundering Chefs.  8)  I've also started a Story-mode 'Assistant Coach'... supposedly you can work your way up and create your own team and play against some of the "Veteran" teams from the background... we'll see.

MouseHunt has been even more fun of late.  In late October the developers of the game at HitGrab created a Halloween event.  There was a special temporary area where you could get a special cheese.  They did up special drawings of some of the mice in costumes, and some 'event' mice.  If you were able to collect all three, and purchased a set of blueprints, it was possible to craft a limited edition trap.  An interesting event to say the least.  This month they are having a "King's Giveaway" event, where you try and attract special "prize" mice that drop credits which can in turn be used to purchase "fun" non-game-affecting items.  I did have a 'hit' by a Leprechaun mouse, but i failed to catch the little guy.  I only need one more of the Prize mice to complete my collection for this event.  The upper two are returning special mice... and EXTREMELY RARE.  from what i can tell though... you just have to get lucky to catch any one of these mice so... next month there will be a Christmas event... but i do not know anything about that one yet.

20101116

The Way of Walking with Christ - based on a work of Miyamoto Musashi

13) Do not have a liking for delicious food for yourself.
The book of Daniel has an excellent example of this.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.  And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”  Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,  “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”  So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.  At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.(Daniel 1:8-16, ESV)
I am sure many people are familiar with the adage, "why does bad food always taste so good".  Athletes know that when they go out to eat at fast food restaurants their performance suffers.  God's word outlines many dietary recommendations. When the Holy Spirit comes to live within us our bodies, for however long God sees fit for us to inhabit them, become a temple unto the Lord.  We should take every measure to provide good nutrition to our bodies, and not become gluttons.

It is a slippery slope when one gets a taste (if you will) of something "delicious".  Humans have an incredible ability to become addicted to things.  Thomas Jonathon Jackson (aka "Stonewall" Jackson) knew this well.  Most of his adult life he struggled with "dyspepsia", today it might be known as acid reflux disease, but he followed a strict diet so as to avoid, if at all possible, his stomach issues.  Once he got a taste of Whiskey and from that point on made a point to never drink it again.  His reasoning?  That he liked it too much and he knew that he would then consume it to excess if he allowed himself.  The same is true with food as well.

You need to eat to live, but you should not live to eat.  It is important to eat a balanced and healthy diet.

20101110

Rambling Wednesday

You know things are bad when the title of the articles in the paper after a game are, "Titanic's captain says he didn't build boat", and "It's like watching mascots fight".  Wow.  Now, i have not had a chance to watch my Panthers live yet, and since none of their games (except the 1st meeting against the Saints) have been close, they've not even been on NFL Replay (that i am aware of), so i a cannot speak to how they look.  Is their heart in it?  Are they even trying?  I have no idea, but when the Head Coach, and even some of the players, are beginning to vocalize their disappointment with the front office... not a good scenario.  I am hoping to make a trip down to Charlotte to catch a game next season.  I am pretty sure this boat will not get turned around next season either, but maybe i can at least get tickets at a good price from somewhere.
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Related to football, sort...   recently Cynide games recently released an updated computer version of a fantasy version of American football.  It is based on the table top game by Games Workshop.  The first iteration of the game came out about a year and half ago with only 8 of the plethora of teams originally available in the tabletop form.  This updated version has 20 of the teams.  From Humans to Elves (three different kinds), to Halflings, and Orcs.  I purchased the game on-line as it is only available via download at this time.  2.88GB worth of compressed files!  And when i went to install it, nearly 40% of the files were corrupted!  *sigh*  Such is life.  I will look to find another 3 or 4 hours where i can make a second download attempt another day.

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Not too long ago my Beloved encouraged me to get a "smart phone" to help me keep track of our now even more diverse schedule now that she is back to work.  It has been an immense help.  Since it is a phone running the "Android" platform it is tied into Google quite a bit, which is fine by me.  I know Windows is releasing their own version of the Smart Phone here soon, but they are now the 3rd... behind iPhone (Apple) and Android (Google).  Judging by how well my PC works both at work and home... i am NOT going to be jumping on the Microsoft bandwagon anytime soon when it comes to Smart-phones.  These little devices are essentially little computers that can make phone calls, stream movies, text, surf the web, e-mail, in some cases video call... if it were not for Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas... 8)  But... it can be played on a PS3...  Back to the phones though, the "smart-phone" can be an amazing tool.  Able to download directions to find where the nearest Steakhouse or bookstore is, need to kill some time at the airport - download and watch a movie.  What about researching a paper for a class... no problem, bring up the web browser and Google it.  Oh wait, i need to keep track of how many calories i am eating... no problem, download an 'App'.  Way too cool if you ask me.  The way of the standalone Personal computer is going by the way side.  My new phone not only can do all those things above, but i can also get an adapter cable and connect it to a TV and play the movie on a much bigger screen - or do all of those other things.  Oh, and i almost forgot... MUSIC!  You can download and stream your favorite music, or audio books, or conferences, or sermons!  Simply amazing... i am pretty sure the thing that is hanging on my hip is more powerful (in raw computing power, not running programs perhaps) than what NASA had, and filled up ROOMS, to get the men on the moon.  Some day... look up the history of computers... it will amaze you.

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Recently, even before my recent 'adventures', i knew i needed to pursue my prayer life more passionately.  More sincerely.  But i was not really sure how to do it honestly, and not as some means of religious observance as i am prone to do.  "Ambition gets you started, but habit keeps you moving."  Too often i lead in with my heart, and i jump to pursue some "worthwhile" goal, only to not have the head to maintain the tempo and pursuit.  And this is true in most areas of my life.  'Coincidentally' Gunny recently posted a blog entry regarding prayer, and then Desiring God also had a very timely blog.  I love to pray, but over time my personal fears have hampered my own prayers.  At first it was just my public prayers, but over time it crept into my personal private ones as well.  For me, i began to worry if i was praying more for what others might think, or because this is what i really hoped for.  What a fine line the balance between effort and grace.  Effort to affect grace is vain and worthless, grace affect effort is holy and a glory to God.  It is so hard to maintain the right perspective and source of effort.

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Weather vane spinning
Thunder and Lightning in sync
By His hand, balance

20101109

The Way of Walking with Christ - based on a work of Miyamoto Musashi

12) Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  (Luke 9:57-58, ESV)
Miyamoto Musashi wrote 'The Way of the Warrior' and Book of Five Rings, he was a man who lived his entire life in pursuit of perfecting his skills as a samurai.  Instead of setting down roots in any one place he picked up and moved on when he felt he had learned everything that he could where he was at the time.  Our Lord Jesus also never had a place to call His own once He embarked upon His time of ministry.  He was about spreading the Word and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  Both men (and i am not relating these two examples as equals) pursued their purpose in life with nothing to hold them back.  When one has a home it tethers one to a location and makes it more difficult to move from region to region as needed.  Jesus advised a rich young ruler, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21, ESV)

To be unfettered in this life to freely and perfectly follow Jesus, possessions are responsibilities that are detracting from the eternal.  But before a reader goes out and sells everything without thought i would also remind you that Paul followed up in 1 Corinthians 7 with:
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.  Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.  For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.  Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a slave [3] when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.)  For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ.  You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brothers, [4] in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.  (17-24, ESV)
So, where you find yourself on the path of following God "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness".

20101102

The Way of Walking with Christ - based on a work of Miyamoto Musashi

11) Do not have preferences.
Unless you are a member of one of the original tribes of Israel, your place within God's plan of redemption does not include you as an original recipient.  That does not mean; however, that His plan does not include you (or me).  I submit two sections of Scripture for your contemplation:
And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”  But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”  Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. [5] (Matthew 15:22-28, ESV)
And
When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.  And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant [3] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’  And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’  And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’  So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’  And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’  And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. (Luke 14:15-23, ESV)
The Gospel of Christ is not limited to the Tribes of Israel, but it is made clear that they were the chosen ones to be among the first. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16, ESV)  It is not up to us as to who can come unto God (for an illustration i encourage you to read the Book of Jonah).  We are instrumental in either "seeding", or "reaping", but how the Word grows is up to Him.

We were each ones sinners, in direct opposition to God, and yet He reached down and pulled us out of our condition to call us friend.  If God is presenting you with an opportunity to minister, you need to minister.  
The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour [2] to pray.  And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance  and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.  In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.  And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”  And the voice came to him again a second time, What God has made clean, do not call common.  This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate  and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there.  And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.  Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.”  And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?”  And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”  So he invited them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him.  And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.  When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.  But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”  And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered.  And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.  So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, [3] and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing  and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.  Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’  So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” (Acts 10:9-33, ESV Emphasis mine)

We were all sinners, in direct opposition to God, when He reached down and pulled us out of our retched condition to call us friend.  God does not see our skin color, hear our spoken language, consider our clothes or place where we sleep.  He does not consider our hangups, our preferences, or even our "good deeds".  He sees a man, or a woman, who is in need of His Son and the propitiatory sacrifice Jesus did on our behalf, and He takes action.  So should we when called upon.

20101101

I can't believe i am doing this...

I know i am several hours too late, and i also know how much i REALLY like Facebook, but a good friend of mine brought this cause to my attention.  It is called "Glabal Communications Shutdown for Autism".  It is a call to ask people to not use Facebook or Twitter for a whole day on November 1st to raise awareness, and hopefully money for research etc., for Autism Worldwide.  I can't believe i jumped and logged off of Facebook so fast... i can already feel the withdrawal symptoms...   Let's face it, i could use a little time away from Facebook anyway.   I added the HTML widget there to the left.  No, a little higher, just above my profile stuff.  If you click on the image it will take you to a Global fund raiser page.  Do with that what you will good reader.

OK, now on to my regularly (un)scheduled programing.  Yesterday was Reformation Day, although it is more commonly referred to as Halloween.  Reformation Day is not an attempt to protest all things Halloween, it is a day remembered as the day Martin Luther began what is known as the Protestant/Reformation movement.  I am not talking strictly about the denomination here.  I have several friends who are Catholic, and i am not celebrating this day as an "anti-Catholic" remembrance.  But for me, a Protestant (meaning i am a non-Catholic Christian), it is a day to celebrate.  Protestants do not have "it all right" either, so. 

Speaking of Halloween, an excellent article in regards to Christians and the "holiday" can be found on the Grace to You website.  It is titled Christians and Halloween. It touches on the Pagan origins of the day, as well as how the church 'adopted' it to try and counter the influences.  For me, the closing paragraph does an excellent job of summing up:
Ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish both of those things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's a message that is holy, set apart from the world; it's a message that is the very mercy of a forgiving God. What better time of the year is there to share such a message than Halloween?
Just because the Carolina Panthers are sucking dirt right now, and in serious contention for the #1 overall pick in April of 2011, does not mean i won't mention them in my blog any more.   It may mean that i do not have a whole lot to say though.  I do admire Steve Smith's stepping up and admitting he played poorly.  I admire a stand up man, and Steve Smith is that and more.  #89 and #4 are placed right up there with #51 (Sam Mills) in regards to the Hall of Honor for the Panthers, in my opinion.  While the Panthers may occupy the cellar of the National Football League, they are my team and i will remain a faithful fanatical.  Go Panthers!

20101029

Where to go, where to go

What a crazy week or so.  I say, "or so" because the days sort of all blur together recently. I am not railing against this, even though it is not my preferred life style, just acknowledging that this is something i am getting used to.  With my Beloved working i have been trying to keep up with the things she used to do.  This is not an every day thing, which in a way makes it harder for me.  Fortunately my Beloved encouraged me to get my first "smart" phone - an HTC EVO.  I really like this phone, but the relevant part here is that i am able to use a calendar and notepad app to help me keep track of who/what/when/where and sometimes even the how.  While i am still working on dealing with the anxiety and probable depression, it seems like it has been getting easier.  I have met with a counselor twice now.  While i sometimes struggle with feeling like i am somehow failing because i need to do this (see someone to help me through this time of transition), i also recognize that i do indeed need to do this.  Maybe not for very long, but for now.  The verse (in addition to some Bible study material that was shared) for this week was Isaiah 26:3-4:
You (God) keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.  (ESV)
Every once in a while a co-worker and i head to Panera Bread for lunch.  Man i really enjoy that place.  I usually get the tune sandwhich on whole grain, plus a whole grain bread-thing.  Oh, and a large ice tea.  There is something about their ice tea that it just plain outstanding.  I can see why so many people like going there.

Recently a cousin shared a link to a "new" blog that is there to help parents of children with Aspergers, aptly titled "My Aspergers Child".  There is a lot of good information to be had there.  I encourage anyone who works with, has a family member, is a parent of, even one yourself, to visit this blog.

Last, but not least, for my ramblingness today, i will touch on MouseHunt once more.  For me, the Halloween special event was pretty decent, despite me not being a Halloween-kind-of-guy.  Some interesting event mice, and a new trap called the Pumpkin Pmmeler.  Not one i will use very often because i already have what i consider to be a better Shadow-type trap, butfun to keep in a collection none-the-less.  I even went through the event a second time to get a second copy of the pieces parts so i can eventually construct the "Cackle Lantern" trap - which as far as i can tell, is the most powerful Shadow-trap thus far.  However, that thing will take a LONG time to be able to construct just in the sheer number of points and money it takes.  On a similar vein, i managed to assemble all of the parts i need for the best Physical, non-limited edition, trap - the RhinoBot, but when i went to assemble it... not "experienced" enough.  *sigh*  So, i am back to Tribal Isles (where i have just recently assembled the Ancient Spear trap... making me itch for Tier V back at the King's Gauntlet).  My Beloved does not quite understand my facination with this game... and i am not so sure i could explain it either.  Oh well... back to the hunt!

20101027

Random one sixth of a dozen - 20101027

Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee is getting burned out, and i can't say that i am surprised.  it is hard work coming up with twelve fresh questions each and every week.  And on top of that, making each question interesting and not a repeat of one that has gone before.  I am not entirely sure, but there may be a grass roots effort to band together and help share the load of this meme.  If interested, surf over there and post a comment stating as much.

Due to Linda's dilema, she has only posted two questions for this week:

1. What scares you the most,  A) Physically and B) Emotionally? Why does it scare you, and how do you cope? ~To be honest, things that scare me are not things i normally dwell on. Physically i have a thing for falling.  I love to rappel, but then i know i am connected to a rope and i have "control".  But there is just something about falling that turns my stomach.  I also seem to have trouble with trying to help others who are injured.  Especially if i have time to think on it.  I can take an x-acto knife to my own body to cut out a deep splinter, but just using tweezers on someone else to do the same thing.  Emotionally, while i am still exploring this with a counselor, it would seem that i have issues with abandonment. I am not a very verbal communicator.  While i have had a few people tell me that i write well, when i am face to face not so much.  So, this makes me all the more grateful for the handful of friends i do have, especially IRL (i really like all of my cyber friends, but it's not entirely the same, sorry :) ).  They are a gift from God which i could not measure in a thousand years.



2. What comes to mind when you read the phrase, "Nothing gold can stay?" ~ It brought to mind tales of ancient civilizations ransacking some conquered neighbor.  To be honest, i am not sure what this means. 

That sums things up for this week... maybe i will have to go back to Wicked Wednesdays, but only time will tell.

20101026

The Way of Walking with Christ - based on a work of Miyamoto Musashi

10) Have no heart for approaching the path of love.
I will jump quickly to what Paul says on the matter:
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. (1 Corinthians 7:8, ESV)
What Miyamoto Musashi is talking about here is strictly from the point of view of having a completely devoted life to pursuing "The Way".  As a Christian samurai "The Way" is not the pursuit of Bushido, but the pursuit of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I can speak from personal experience on this one.  I have been married to a wonderful woman for over seventeen years, and i am very grateful to God for her in my life.  God uses this woman, and our children, in my life to help me grow.  However, my focus is not continually upon the Lord now that i am married.  I need to make sure that i am providing for her and our children.  The cares of the world creep up much more frequently because i cannot just dismiss this or that concern.  But, when one is single, it is much easier to focus solely on God.  You can think less of yourself and be more readily available.  Sort of like when Jesus sent out the seventy two.  (Luke 10)  He instructed them, "Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road." (Luke 10:4, ESV)  Ever try and travel with a baby?  You practically double your load. Now having said all this, not everyone is called to be single.
But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:9, ESV)
Being married does not eliminate you from being able to serve the Lord, but you need to understand that it is a restraint and your focus of learning and conforming is different than that of an unmarried/uninhibited follower of Christ.  If you are married, stay married, but if you are not... consider remaining single.  The whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 7 is an excellent illustration of God's instructions to us in this regard.

20101025

Misc. Ramblings, yet again

MouseHunt is putting on a little Halloween "special" event.  To help change things up for those who play the game, a few times a year the Developers of the game throw "special events".  Themes seem to be Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Chinese New Year and to celebrate the game's "Birthday" too.  Maybe even "normal" New Year stuff too, but i am not sure.  Anyway, they've also redone some of the pictures of the "normal" mice they have, plus opened up a seasonal special area: Haunted Territories.  I particularly like the cyborg-like event mice that are there.  Variety is the spice of life.

Speaking about Halloween.  I have never been a big fan of Halloween.  I take that back... i had a phase in my early ten years where i tried to embrace it, but in the back of mind it was creepy and unsettling.  As i've gotten older i have come to feel that Halloween is not something that should be embraced.  It has the feel of the glorification of death and evil things.  It has the feel of the attempt to make such things "normal", accepted, even admired to a degree.  Please do not misunderstand what i am saying, i am not judging or condemning those who embrace and enjoy this holiday.  It is not my place to do either.  I am only sharing my opinion on the matter.  The blog of a Pastor in Plano, TX, Gunny, had an excellent post regarding his thoughts on the matter.  It would seem that he and i are in the minority.

I had my first visit with a counselor last week.  It was a good visit, and i am very grateful that he was  Christian.  To be honest i was, and am, very nervous about my faith and beliefs being trivialized or discarded. Not that i have ever experienced that first hand, but it was a concern of mine.  We prayed before hand, and then since it was my first visit, we pretty much covered the basics, etc.  This is not a diagnosis, but it would seem i am struggling with "abandonment anxiety" probably stemming from my childhood.  I have a follow up visit scheduled for this week, and plan to continue for at least the short term.  In the interim he encouraged me to exercise (or get back in the habit) and to meditate on Philippians 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)
While this is a "Duh!" moment, he reminded me to also meditate on how much, and how far, God has brought me.  And it has been helpful.  I have many friends who have mentioned that very thing has been an encouragement to them.  If for them... why not me?  8)

I am going to wrap this chaotic post up by saying that... i have lost my Flair image files!  I have no idea where i misplaced them... so... i will be working on rebuilding my image library once more.  I still LOVE the Flair app on Facebook and still skim through the pieces of flair, and i am still creating pieces to share.  As of the writing of this post i have over 6,400 flair points, just shy of 900 pieces of flair (no duplicates that i am currently aware of), and i have created over 225 pieces.  I hope to rectify this problem soon so i can begin to give my posts some color once more.