Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Does anyone even do stand up comedy anymore?

So, I was trying out my act with a couple of friends tonight. I'm not really sure that stand up comedy is a good choice of a new career path. I mean, unless you are a late night host (or Ellen Degeneres), does anyone do stand up anymore? And, I mean, I really don't want a whole TV show or anything.

I really think they may have been laughing because I was laughing. More laughing than I have done in a while. And to think we were out celebrating my unemployment. I know, weird!

My brain is now fuzzy weird - probably because I need sleep - so I'm not sure where I was going to take this blog. Maybe tomorrow I will share our Dollar Tree discussion. Now that was funny!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ugly blanket update

Today has been a bit of a frustrating day, so I'm going to share updates of the ugly blanket.

Day 4 came purple and yellow:


Day 5:


Day 6: I started with the neon orange that gave me fits because it was a different weight. I didn't get very far.


Day 7: Partly because of the orange and partly because Paige and I were doing other things, I didn't get very far.


I actually took a day off to do job applications before Day 8


Monday, February 27, 2012

Hit the wall

I have to admit to hitting a bit of a blogging wall. I know you've noticed less book posting, and I know there are some people who are happy about that. (Although, I do plan to catch up on more reviews soon.) And that's not just because of my job transition.

I think after taking the time to complain about the application process via blog that I only got two done yesterday. One submitted online and one delivered to a human resources office today. I have other leads I'm working on as well, which are very encouraging.

I'm more mellow and relaxed than I've been in some time despite the fact there is an insect of some variety in this room that randomly buzzes. And as it start buzzing more frequently, my irritation grows.

Oh, I can tell you about how on Saturday, my parents (the people who act older than their age) convinced Paige and I go to a 50's music show in Grand Prairie. Thank goodness they only wanted to see the opening act because to stay any longer would be torture. It was easier for us to say yes than say no to the begging. I don't know why they must always try to talk me into such things. They know that I don't enjoy it. And yet...

At least I got some chicken and dumplins at Cracker Barrel out of it.

And here's the really exciting bit of info. I may get to meet Jenny's Yankee Pinhead on Wednesday. That indeed is something to look forward to!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

No one does this for the fun of it

Yesterday, I intended on focusing on job applications. I entertained Paige instead. I intended to work on them this afternoon after my nap. I slept more instead.

Working on job applications is not fun. While I believe I have talent in promoting other people, promoting myself is something I have always found difficult. Is there anyone out there that actually enjoys this process?

On top of it just not being fun, my computer recognizes my printer, sort of, and doesn't want to scan files to the computer. Therefore, it took extra steps to get my transcripts scanned. Then, it wanted to put the last page first when I made a PDF and would not let me rearrange. Then the PDF form that you filled out would not save, you had to print. If you printed as a PDF, it altered some of the date information. And they want everything in one PDF if you email it. No wonder the first choices were to bring it by in person or mail it. I think I will drop it by.

Let's see if I can write a baseball related blog post so that I can apply for a social media internship that will get me into Ranger games this season. That would be fun!

Friday, February 24, 2012

What do I say to that?

As frazzled as my brain currently is - just a long day - I'm so glad it's the weekend. I finally got in my last set of Weekly Summary Reports that have been the root of my hatred of Fridays for years. And I do mean hatred of Fridays for years.

For those of you who may be just tuning in, due to the economy, cutbacks, and a restructure, my last day at the job I've had one month shy of 10 years is Wednesday.

I've not told many people that I work with about this myself unless they caught a comment on Facebook within the last two weeks (such as "Please pray for my job search").  The main reaction is, "what are you going to do?"

"Find a job."

I've had a few moments this week, even in response to people within the office, where I've just said, "I'm not sure what I am supposed to say to that."

The few people that I've said anything to are due to things coming up like, "do you have to know today?"

Well, yeah, if I'm going to ever know, I need to know today.

I called one program, not with the intention of really saying anything, when they say, "don't call me until after next Wednesday."

Well, you don't have to worry about that. I instead graciously answered that I'll need to have someone else call them back about it and explain next Wednesday is my last day.

"Why you?"

Now, how am I supposed to answer that? I actually had a comment more interesting than that today that left m bumbling for a response.

One very well meaning person who caught my prayer request on the first day, and Googled my home phone number to call me has asked me every few days how the job search is going. Nothing against him, but it's really none of his business and is kind of discouraging to get the question every few days - at least it will be soon.

Searching for a job can be a full time job. It's not necessarily easy when you have a full time job. After all, I had to do the great search for college transcripts to go with one job application I need to work on this weekend. I haven't needed my transcripts in 12 years. That's not to say that I haven't been searching and networking because I have. It's just going to be a focus of the weekend.

So, anyway, that's where I'm am at the moment. I'm not in a panic. I'm pretty mellow. I'm working on my comedy act. (or not) I'm crocheting. I'm thankful I didn't buy a house...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A reality show unreality

Here's my train of thought today. If you've ever watched one show on TLC, you know how they love crossovers.

19 Kids and Counting on Say Yes to the Dress


Cake Boss on Say Yes to the Dress


What not to Wear on Say Yes to the Dress


Jon and Kate Plus 8 (before it was minus Jon) on Say Yes to the Dress (other than me, who hasn't said yes to a dress?)


Say Yes to the Dress on What Not to Wear


Say Yes to the Dress on Cake Boss


Cake Boss on 19 Kids and Counting


What Not to Wear on Cake Boss


Cake Boss on New York Ink


All American Muslim on New York Ink


(How have the Sister Wives not been on anything? They need to make an appearance on What Not to Wear. Have you seen how badly they all dress?)

Even non-TLC shows join in...

Dancing with the Stars on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta


One of the choreographers of So You Think You Can Dress even was told What Not to Wear. 


But, you know what is really missing? 19 Kids and Counting on New York Ink. The next time the Duggars go up to the Today Show to make an announcement, Jim Bob or Michelle can get the geographic coordinates of the conception locales of their children tattooed on their arm like Angelina Jolie. Or if you can only put the coordinates for a certain area of Arkansas on your arm so many times, Michelle can still be like Angelina, but instead of "Billy Bob" she can go with "Jim Bob."

Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bill Cosby's Ugly Blanket

So, I've started my crochet project. In an attempt to be funky and unique, my project is being affectionately called "Bill Cosby's Ugly Blanket." It actually might be really awesome when I finish with it.

In fact, I may have a contest to give it away. People who read blogs love free stuff from what I have seen. I somehow doubt any of you will want it.

Here's after 30 minutes on the first day:


 And here's after a few hours on day two:


On day three, we have this:


And now, I need to get off the computer and get some time in so that I can do something on day four.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Preview Chris Fabry's Not in the Heart

Thank you to everyone who took part in today's tour!


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!


You never know when I might play a wild card on you!






Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings – The B&B Media Group – for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


As a child, Chris Fabry wrote stories, songs and poems. The creative process invigorated him. He may not have been a fast reader, but the words on the page had a deep effect. So he vowed that if he ever had the chance to write, he would take it.


After high school, Fabry attended and graduated from the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. After graduation, Fabry and his wife felt a desire for biblical education, so his pastor suggested they check out Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. At Moody, Fabry met Jerry Jenkins who learned of his desire to write and encouraged him to pursue his dream. In 1998, Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye hired him to write Left Behind: The Kids series. He wrote 35 books in that series over the next six years. He later collaborated with Jenkins on the Red Rock Mysteries series and The Wormling series, and in 2008 he worked solo on the NASCAR-based RPM series.


Since then he has published four novels for adults: Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven and his newest novel, Not in the Heart. Each of his first three books was nominated for a Christy Award in the Contemporary Standalone Category, winning in 2009 for Dogwood and in 2011 for Almost Heaven. In addition to his fiction work, Fabry also collaborated on two best-selling football biographies with Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. Altogether, Fabry has published more than 70 books for children and adults.


Fabry’s other passion is broadcasting. As part of the DECCA program in high school, he worked at WNST Radio in Milton, WV. During his senior year at Marshall University, he worked for WSAZ-TV as a weekend reporter. In 1985, he began hosting Open Line, a national call-in show which he hosted until 1997. In 1993, he began a six-year stint as co-host of Mornings with Greg and Chris on WMBI in Chicago. Then in May of 2008 he began Chris Fabry Live! which received the 2008 Talk Personality of the Year Award from the National Religious Broadcasters. He can also be heard daily on Love Worth Finding, featuring the teaching of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers.


Chris and his wife of almost 30 years, Andrea, are the parents of nine children.




Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




Truman Wiley used to report news stories from around the world, but now the most troubling headlines are his own. He’s out of work, out of touch with his family, out of his home. But nothing dogs him more than his son’s failing heart.


With mounting hospital bills and Truman’s penchant for gambling his savings, the situation seems hopeless . . . until his estranged wife throws him a lifeline—the chance to write the story of a death row inmate, a man convicted of murder who wants to donate his heart to Truman’s son.


As the execution clock ticks down, Truman uncovers disturbing evidence that points to a different killer. For his son to live, must an innocent man die? Truman’s investigation draws him down a path that will change his life, his family, and the destinies of two men forever.






Product Details:
List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414348614
ISBN-13: 978-1414348612



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




30 days before execution

The trouble with my wife began when she needed Jesus and I needed a cat. Life can be that way. That’s part of the reason I was on Sanibel Island in the cottage I had always dreamed of owning and she was in Tallahassee tending to the sick son of our youth. But it’s more complicated. There was more troubling me than religion or people who think problems can be solved with a leap of faith.


Said cottage was a tiny house that seems to be the rage among those who believe we are warming the planet with each exhale. I didn’t buy it because of that, but I recycle my Coors Light cans. My little contribution to the cause. Lately it’s been a hefty contribution. There was one bedroom in the back and a little bathroom, a walk-through kitchen, and a living area that I used as an office. Murrow usually sat in the window looking out at the beach with as much interest as I have in paying both of my mortgages. It’s not that I don’t want to pay. I can’t.


I was on the bed, surfing news sites, fueling the ache about my lack of direction and lack of a job. The satellite TV company disconnected me a few months ago, so I got my news online from the unprotected network of a neighbor who can’t encrypt his wireless router.


I could see the downsizing coming in every area of the conglomerate media company. I knew it would hit the newsroom, but I always thought when the music stopped, I would have a chair. What I got was severance, a pat on the back, and a shelf full of awards I stuffed into a suitcase that sat in the attic of a cottage I couldn’t afford.


I closed my laptop and told Murrow I’d be back, as if she cared, and walked barefoot out the front door and down the long, wooden stairway to the beach. I bought this cottage for these long, head-clearing walks. The sound of the waves crashing against doubts and fears. The smell of the ocean and its salty cycle of life and death.


A mom and a dad dressed in white strolled along the beach with two kids who squealed every time the water came close.


I walked the other way.


The phone rang as I passed a dead seagull. Not a good omen.


“Tru, it’s me.”


The woman of my dreams. The woman of my nightmares. Everything good and bad about my life. The “I do” that “I didn’t.”


“Ellen. What’s up?”


“How are you?” She said it with a measure of compassion, as if she weren’t holding back years of boiling anger. As if she didn’t have something else she wanted to ask me and wasn’t just setting the stage for the coup de grâce.


“I’m good. Just taking a walk on the beach.”


Wish you weren’t here. Wish you weren’t still in my head. Wish you hadn’t called. Wish the last twenty years were something I could bury in the sand. What were you thinking marrying a guy like me? My life is a sand castle and my days are wind and water.


“Hear anything back yet? Any offers?”


“There’s nothing plural about my job prospects. Not even singular. I did hear from the Fox station in Des Moines yesterday. They went with somebody with longer hair and bigger lungs.”


She spoke with a wry smile. “It’s only a matter of time; you know that.”


“Right. It’s always been a matter of time, hasn’t it?”


She let the irony hang there between us, and I could picture her in her wedding dress and without it. Then the first time we met in the university newsroom, big glasses and frilly blouse. Hair that smelled like the ocean and felt like silk. A sharp wit, infectious laugh, and the tenacity of a bloodhound on every story she covered. I thought we were always going to be on the same page, but somehow I kept chasing headlines and she moved to the Life section.


“I have something that might interest you,” she said.


“How old is she?” I’m not always a smart aleck with the people I love. When I’m asleep, they tell me I don’t say much of anything.


“It’s not a she. It’s a he with a pretty good story. A great story. A life changer.”


“Not into guys.”


She sighed and plowed ahead. “Have you heard of Terrelle Conley?”


That was like asking a history major if she’d ever heard of Alexis de Tocqueville. “I know he’s facing the needle.”


“Right. Next month.”


“Wonder what his last meal will be. How do they choose that anyway? Shrimp and steak or lobster 
bisque? Macaroni and cheese? How can you enjoy a meal knowing you only have hours left? Or what movie to watch? What would you choose?”


“I know his wife, Oleta. She wants somebody to write the story from his perspective. The whole family does.”


I laughed. “In thirty days or less.”


“They’ve scraped up some money. Not much, but it could probably help.”


“How much is ‘probably’?”


“I don’t know exactly, but I was thinking you could call Gina and find out if—”


“I’m not with Gina or the agency anymore. She dropped me. Said it was a hard decision on their part. I guess they took a vote.”


“I’m sorry.”


“Just another bump in the literary highway. I don’t think writing is my thing, anyway.” I said it halfheartedly, coaxing some kind of compliment.


“You’re a great writer,” she obliged. “You haven’t had as many opportunities lately, but . . .”


“I haven’t had any politicians who want to be president or sports stars who’ve been accused of steroids approach me in a few years. That’s what you mean,” I said. “Where did you meet Olatha?”


“Oleta. I met her at church.”


Groan. How did I know that was coming?


I paused at a sand castle that had been constructed with several five-gallon buckets. Towels and chairs had been abandoned for the moment. Water filled the moat, and I heard laughter from a bungalow perched like a lighthouse above. A couple in love.


“You must have some idea of how much.”


“A few thousand. We didn’t talk about that. The important thing . . . it’s not just an opportunity for you. It’s for Aiden.”


“Now you’re really getting cryptic. You want to back up?”


“Terrelle’s wife is in a study group with me. She’s known about Aiden’s condition for years. Always asks for updates. Terrelle came up with the idea—he wants to be a donor. A second chance for Aiden.”


I should have been doing cartwheels. Our eighteen-year-old son could get a new lease on life? Instead, I was skeptical, like any good journalist. “Ellen, there’s no chance. Do you know how long something like that would take?”


“It’s been in process for a while.”


“Why didn’t you tell me?”


“You haven’t exactly been available.”


“The prison system, the authorities, they’ll never let this—”


“The governor is taking it seriously. I’ve heard he’s working with the legislature. It’s not a done deal, but there’s a chance.”


The governor. The hair rose on the back of my neck.


“Ellen, there’s some law firm in Tallahassee salivating at all the appeals and counterappeals that are going to happen. This is less than a long shot.”


“Yeah, but right now it’s looking like a pretty good long shot.” There was emotion in her voice and for the first time I noticed noise in the background.


“Where are you?”


She swallowed hard and I imagined her wiping away a tear. My wife has had plenty of practice.


“At the hospital again,” she said. “ICU.”


I cursed under my breath and away from the phone. Not just because of all the hospital bills I knew were coming my way, but also because this was my son. I’ll be honest—the bills were the first thing I thought of, but picturing him hooked up to tubes and needles again crushed me.


“How is he?”


“Not good. They’re monitoring him. Same story.”


“How long have you been there?”


“Since late last night. He was having trouble breathing. Lots of pain. He asks about you.”


Guilt. She had to get that in there, didn’t she?


“Tell him to hang in there, okay?”


“Come see him. It would mean so much.”


“Yeah. I will.” I said it fast, though I knew I’d have to launder all the cat hair from my clothes because Aiden’s deathly allergic to cats just like I’m allergic to the inside of the death chamber.


Someone spoke over the intercom near her and the sound took me back to those first days when I wasn’t as scared of hospitals. Back then I could watch a movie or a TV show with a medical setting. Now I can’t even watch the TV promos. My chest gets tight and the smell of alcohol and Betadine and the shape of needles invades, mingling with the cries of a young child in pain and another memory of a man on a gurney.


We discovered Aiden’s heart malady by accident. Ellen was into natural food, natural medicine, whole-grain seaweed sandwiches and eggs that came from free-range chickens who had bedtime stories read to them each night before they settled into their nests. Natural childbirth with a midwife. All that stuff. She was convinced antibiotics were the forbidden fruit, so she didn’t run to the HMO every time our kids were sick. But something told her to take Abby in for some chest congestion she couldn’t get rid of. Aiden was with her, and on a lark the doctor placed the stethoscope on his chest.


Ellen cried when she tried to explain the look on the woman’s face. They’d missed it when he was born.
That sent us on a crash course of congenital heart defects and a series of surgeries and treatments that would change our lives. Ellen hates hospitals as much as I do, but you do what you must for your kids.
“Terrelle has the same blood type,” Ellen said. “He’s about the same size as Aiden, maybe a little smaller, which is good.”


“Ellen, you know this is not going to happen, right? There are so many hoops and holes. They don’t let doctors execute people.”


“There are guidelines, but they don’t have a problem harvesting organs from an already-deceased donor.”
“Anybody who’s pro-life will howl. I thought you were pro-life.”


“I am, but this is something Terrelle wants.”


“Doesn’t matter. They harvest organs from prisoners in China, but we’re not in China.” Though you 
wouldn’t know it by shopping at Walmart.


“I know all that. But I also know my son is going to die. And Terrelle and his wife want something good to come out of their tragedy. They asked if you would write his story. I got to thinking that maybe . . .”
She broke a little and hearing her cry felt like some lonely prayer drifting away and hitting the empty shores of heaven. Not that I believe there is one, but you know, metaphorically speaking.


“You were thinking what?” I said.


“Maybe all of this is not really for Aiden. Maybe all we’ve been through in the last eighteen years is for somebody else. If they deny Terrelle’s request and Aiden doesn’t make it, maybe writing this story will make a difference for someone down the road.”


Her altruism was more than I could handle. “Look, I don’t care about all the people with sick kids. I don’t care about prisoners who want to make up for their crimes. I don’t care about protesters or the politicians who’ve found a wedge issue. I just want my son to live. Is that asking too much?”
The emotion surprised me and I noticed the family in white had changed direction but now quickly herded their children away from me.


It was Ellen’s turn to sound collected. “Do you have time to work on something like that in the next thirty days? It would at least pay a few bills.”


“If they’re trying to get a stay of execution, they need to go straight to the press. Forget a book deal, forget a magazine exposé—it’s already too late. Get somebody at one of the local stations to pick it up and run with it—”


“Tru, they don’t want a stay. He wants to give his heart to Aiden. And somebody has to get the story down before it’s over. No matter how it goes, this will make a great story.”


I was already mulling titles in my head. A Heart from Death Row. Change of Heart. Pitter-Pat. Life in Vein. Aorta Made a Better Choice.


She continued, “They know your history. What you’ve seen. How you’re against the death penalty and why. For all your faults, Tru, you’re the best reporter I’ve ever known. You get to the heart of the story like nobody else. I think you should consider it.”


The Heart of the Story. Another good title. I could tell she was buttering me up. I love being buttered up by lovely women. But I hate the complications of life with beautiful women.


“I don’t write evangelical tracts.”


“Why are you so stubborn?” she whisper-screamed at me. Her voice had an echo like she had moved 
into the bathroom or stairwell. “Why do you have to look at this as some kind of spiritual conspiracy against you instead of a gift? This is being handed to you on a platter. Don’t push it away. I don’t care if you agree with them about God. You didn’t agree with every sports figure or politician.”


“The only way I know how to do this job is to ferret out the truth and tell it. Flat out. The way I see it. And if you’re expecting me to throw in the third verse of a hymn every other chapter and quote the Gospel of Terrelle, I can’t do that. Call somebody from the Christian right.”


“Tru, it’s because of who you are and how you tell the story that they want you. Just talk with her. Let her explain. If you don’t like the situation, they’ll go somewhere else. But they have to act quickly.”


The sun was coming down behind me and the wind picked up off the water. I could smell the first hint of an impending storm. Or maybe I forgot my deodorant.


“I’ll think about it.”


I hadn’t been gone that long, but as I walked up the stairs, I heard a vehicle pulling away from the house. The taillights had disappeared into the distance by the time I made it to my front door.


Murrow was still in the window, looking down on me with that superior look. Humans are such a waste of oxygen, she seemed to say. Maybe she was right. Maybe we are a waste of oxygen and the best thing would be for us to be wiped from the planet. But something inside said that wasn’t true. Something inside pushed me to keep moving, like an ant dragging a piece of grass along the sidewalk until a strong wind blows it away. The ant picks up another and starts over. I get exhausted just watching them.


On the front door was a legal document stating that whereby and forthwith said mortgage company had begun said process with an intent to foreclose and otherwise vacate said occupant’s tail onto the street to wit and wheretofore so help them God, amen. I had received several such letters in the mail, filing them carefully, hoping the rising tide of foreclosures would save my little cottage until I got a new job.
I ripped the notice down and used it to wipe the sand from my feet. And then a thought struck. A horrible, no-good, bad thought. The newspaper. They published my name with each intent to foreclose. That meant others would know where I was. Others, as in people I owed. Bad people.


Another car passed, slowly. Tinted windows. A low rumble of expensive metal and fuel.


I hurried to the back of the little house and pulled out every suitcase I could find and stowed everything of value. Books. Pictures of me with newsmakers. Cloudy memories of trips abroad, war zones, interviews with generals and dignitaries who went on to fame or perished in motorcades that didn’t make it through IEDs.


It was hard not to sit and absorb the memories, but the passing car gave urgency. I jammed every journal and notebook in with the pictures, then put one suitcase with clothes in the trunk of my car and took the rest on my shoulder down the sandy path to the Grahams’ house. Sweet people. He retired from the Air Force and they moved for the sun and salty air. Both should have died long ago from arthritis and other maladies, but they were out walking the beach every day like two faithful dogs, paw in paw.


Jack and Millie were on the front porch, and I asked if I could borrow some space in their garage for a suitcase or two. “I need to take a trip. Someone new will be living in my house.”


“Relatives coming?”


“No, someone from the Bank of America wants it.”


Millie struggled to get out of her rocker and stood by a white column near the front door. “If you need help, Truman, we’d be glad to.”


Jack nodded and the gesture almost brought tears to my eyes. “How much are you short?” he said.


“Just a spot in the garage is all I need.”


“What about your cat?” Millie said.


“Murrow’s going with me.”


“If we can do anything at all . . . ,” Jack’s voice trailed.


“I appreciate it. I appreciate both of you. Thanks for your kindness.”


“We pray for Aiden every day,” Millie said.


The garage was spotless. Everything hanging up or neatly placed on shelves. I should have joined the Air Force. In the back I found an empty space near some gardening tools. I shook Jack’s hand gently and gave Millie a hug. I only turned and looked at them once as I walked back to the house. They stood like sentinels, the fading light of the sun casting a golden glow around them and their house.


When Murrow saw the cat carrier, she bolted under the sofa and I threatened to sell her to the local Chinese restaurant. An open can of StarKist and my tender, compassionate voice helped coax her into the carrier, and we were off.


I texted my wife: Will call your friend tomorrow. Can I use Abby’s room?


The phone buzzed in my shirt pocket as I drove along the causeway into darkening clouds. Key under frog. No cats. The next text gave Oleta’s number and a short message. You were made for this story.
Maybe she was right. Maybe I was the one for this job. One loser telling the story of his kindred spirit. I sure didn’t have anything better to do. But with the window down and my hand out, being pushed back by the cool air, it felt less like the start of a new chapter and more like the end of one.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My career planning post overshadowed by billing stupidity

Tonight's blog post was going to leave you with a simple idea to contemplate. I think my next career is stand-up comedy.

However, at the moment I need medication to cool my annoyance at AT&T. Do you ever notice that if you ever change any service you are sure to be screwed out of your hard earned money?

Last month, I changed from AT&T DSL to UVerse. I have to pay in equipment charges, but was going to get a  good first year deal to make it worth it. I get my bill on Saturday, and have to talk to someone online to fix the rate to what it was supposed to be. The rate on my bill was 2-3 times more what I signed up for. That and they charge you a month in advance vs. the internet service I was on, so the bill was even more than expected.

Plus, all my billing was combined. They couldn't combine online.

Today, I get home and call to combine. They can't combine because of some technicality, but at least I had the sweetest guy taking care of me who was American.

Three hours later, I get my bill that was combined. I can't access my account because what used to be combine is showing up in portions. I get a chat person to help me with getting into my account.

I look at my bill, and I'm getting charged for the old internet plan on this bill. No one at this time of day can help me, so I have to get back on the phone tomorrow to get that charge taken off.

Of course, this is not a good time to have bills much more than they are supposed to be. They'll probably want to credit me in April instead of me not paying as much in March.

In case you didn't catch all of that, I have two way-more-than-they-should-be AT&T bills for the month of March. Two calls and two chat sessions with AT&T, the most frustrating people on earth to deal with.

And I'm no longer to talk about my career move to stand-up comedy.

What company do you hate dealing with?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Adventures from the church parking lot

I find that some of the most interesting conversations that I have occur in the church parking lot. Maybe it's where the best gossip is told. Maybe it's the people I'm talking to. Maybe it's just coincidence.

I'll use the "blog names" of the people involved, not because I'm protecting any identities, but because you'll recognize them from the Timmy the Fly stories.

After church, I was talking to Rebekah (which is really hilarious that I call her this - at least in my mind - because she has a sister named this and it kind of annoys her to be called her sister's name in the "call me every child in the family roll call" and her name is Biblical anyway). When we walked out, we were talking to Esther and her mother Leah. I don't remember exactly what we were talking about that got to this, but Leah asks if I ever worked for the Rangers because she thought I had. I only wish. My dream job would be in the PR/media offices of the Texas Rangers. (I'll tag them with a label in case they have someone that looks at everything being said about them, and want to hire me.)

I made the comment that I could get a job selling nachos, but didn't want to climb the third deck selling peanuts. Rebekah comments that she always thinks the beer vendors are going to fall down up there hauling their tubs around.

Yes, we could have been talking peanuts, Coke, water, Lemon Chills, or ice cream, but beer vendors were picked out.

Leah says, "it's just drunk firemen that fall."

"And they train in safety," Esther adds with a laugh.

Now, I got after them for being tacky as we all admit that it was never said that the guy that fell out of the stands had been drinking.

I conceded, "it's a good possibility. After all, 90% of all men who are at the ballpark have been drinking."

At this point, the preacher walks up. We were standing by his van, after all.

"90%? That sounds like an awfully high percentage," he comments. He admits to only going to two Ranger games in his life, so I think this makes all of the rest of us experts in comparison.

So there, on the church parking lot, we're talking about how much money is spent in beer sales, how many each man normally drinks, the concept of a season beer pass and micro-chipping to keep track of your annual pass (which you have to be drunk and stupid to submit to). None of us drink, and Leah really wondered why the four of us women really were such experts in all this and discussing it anyway.

Add to the fact that two elders passed by where we were talking during this conversation.

I asked one of the elder's wives if she ever found out if her son had a secret girlfriend as the subject did change to less controversial subjects once they walked up. Her son Rueben is in the Army Special Forces. She said, "The divorce rate for special forces is like 90%."

"Watch out - don't claim 90% of anything with Samson around. He'll refute you," I warned.

After our discussion came to a close, and we all went our own ways, but Rebekah and an interesting Fly update. This was also in regards to the new singles ministry.

Although 90% of the time people involved may perceive it that way, a singles ministry is not all about the love connection. Jacob, the deacon in charge, is not the deacon of match making. The Fly needs to recognize that right off. (Side note: He's all in an uproar that no one wants to date him, so he won't likely show up to any activities. Of course, he also doesn't remember asking anyone out, so I don't know how he remembers no one wants to go out with him.)

Here's another interesting stat for you. 90% of these conversations happen on Sunday nights with the other 10% coming on Wednesdays.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

More little pieces

I realized after I posted last night, while goofing around on Pinterest, that I am going to sometime in the future melt crayons. I've mentioned before that I never wanted to do that until looking at Pinterest.

Also, I'm going start playing Canasta online again. I used to play in online tournaments. I know, really lame. I finally got a couple of games in today after finally getting Java to run right.

I sure didn't get much else done today. I didn't do anything job-hunt-related. That's probably not so good. I can do some of that tomorrow. It's the weekend after all. No one is going to be looking at resumes on a Saturday, right?

I took a nap after going to the grocery store today. That's how exhausting going to the grocery store is.

I just realized that Paige didn't call me back this afternoon. When I talked to her this morning, she was on the way to somewhere (Dallas, I presume) to go shopping. Normally not a shopper, she had some Christmas money, and she planned to spend it all at Hobby Lobby. A girl after my own heart if there ever was one! She said she would call to tell me what all she bought, but I haven't heard from her. I'll have to check with her tomorrow.

For someone who slept until 10:30 (me!), I sure am sleepy right now. It might have something to do with not going to sleep until after 2 AM because I was up on Facebook and Pinterest last night like I had anything compelling that I was looking at. And I could have written a post for this blog tonight earlier in the day.

I'm going to fall asleep blogging like Eutychus did in the Bible lesson for tomorrow morning I was working on earlier. I admit that I often don't get the connection this material is getting at, but tomorrow's lesson is on respect and reference in worship. To me, the two sets of scripture for the lesson don't really go together. And the workbook rambles more than I do about whether Eutychus was being disrespectful by falling asleep.

Personally, I never really thought it was a disrespect thing as much as it was midnight and he fell asleep. Or why he was in a window that he could fall out of. Or just the fact that Paul was able to raise him from the dead.

I think the better example is to tell the children they should not be writing notes to me during worship service. Especially ones to their teacher that say, "I hope you recover soon from your psychoticness."

But then again, that's just me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The little pieces of the puzzle

I really have no idea where life is going to lead me starting March 1, but I'm ready for it. I don't know if I'll end up getting a job in Corsicana or elsewhere. Whether I'll work in the same industry or something completely different, I haven't a clue.

What I do know is that I am going to do somethings differently.

  • Unless I end up with a job that has some kind of bizarre schedule, I will take weekends and work will be done during work hours.
  • I'm going to strengthen my backbone in general and work on my boundaries. 
  • I am going to read more for fun. And possibly take advantage of the review programs that are out there like the reviewers who have been asking for books from me. 
  • I'm going to get out the blanket I started crocheting almost two years ago for one baby. I didn't give myself enough time to work on it before he was born and decided I was going to end up giving it to someone else a few months later (and still didn't get much more of it done). Now, 18 months later, I'm going to pick it up again. I've had the urge to crochet lately. I know, strange.
  • I'm going to get my origami book and fold some paper. I find this strangely relaxing.
  • Take my camera out somewhere and do some photography.
  • Maybe even get out my art supplies and see if I can still draw.
  • I'm going to catch up doing the laundry, fold towels and hang up clothes. 
  • I'm going to actually cook meals instead of whatever it is I've been doing lately. 
  • I'm going to work on my writing skills. 
  • I'm going to make more plans with friends.
  • If I had the money put away, I'd go to Disney World because I deserve it!
I may even get started on some of these things this weekend. I do need to do some resume sending/job applying this weekend too. I need to gather some things for a potential lead. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome to the neighborhood

Last night, I shared that the man who lived in the building next door had died around Christmas. I don't know my neighbors, and people move in and out of rental property so often, especially in these duplexes I live in. By far, I've lived here the longest. Longer than the other 7 units put together. While I didn't know what happened, I did notice it was empty.

Tonight when I came home later than I should have from the office, all things considered, there were 5 cars out front and several in the back. I guess they are having a moving in party tonight. Either the neighbors or a cat had triggered the motion light before I drove up. I noticed a cat.

I've noticed cats a lot lately. They show up every few months. During mating season. Last night one was growling like a lion or something unlike any cat noise I have ever heard. I think that's the main reason that I don't like cats... Their sounds.

The motion light does not light the back porch. When I stepped onto the porch. I heard a cat that I could not see run off.

I screamed. Realizing how many people were within 20 feet next door, I decided to yell, "stupid cat." This is so they would know why I was screaming.

Now, I am sure the new neighbors wonder about me.

Speaking of neighbors, the yahoos that live next door were banging around as usual, and I meant to got see if anything fell off the wall. I may not want to know.

No, this blog has no point tonight. It's just a ridiculous ramble. But then again, that's why you read this blog, right? ;)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Maybe that wasn't what I thought it was

Tonight, I'm just not sure what to blog about, but I'm not breaking my string. I guess I'll share my gross story of the day.

I stepped out of the office to take a call from my mom because my reception was not good inside. Once I finished the call, this guy I know was talking up a blue streak. He lived next door to me for a period of time with this older guy, but I never knew what the deal was. It wasn't that kind of thing if you're thinking, "uh, Audra, two guys living together."

Anyway. Tim says, "Did you hear about Les that lived next door to you?"

"No."

"He died in his pajamas in his bed. It was 7 days before anyone found him. Did you smell anything?"

So, maybe when I was complaining about my house smelling like sewer it wasn't. I mean, this neighbor was next door. His room was probably 15 feet from my front door. End of gross story of the day.

I don't know, maybe even grosser than that was that he was asking about Amanda. I don't mean Amanda's gross, I mean that he's wanting to talk to her. So not a fit. I tried so hard (and succeeded) not to laugh as he is asking, "who's that tall blond girl? Is she married? Does she have a boyfriend." Aside from the fact that this guy is pushing 50 though he tries to act 20-something and the fact that Amanda is 28, uh, yeah, no. Definitely got my best laugh of the day.

I think he's going to come over tomorrow. Oh, that is something to look forward to!

Ok, no more time to blog. I have to go watch Revenge and fill out job applications during commercials. Always something to do!

Then, have to watch the rest of Survivor that I just got started watching. I'm pulling for the girl who caught the two chickens. I'm amazed she snatched the second one while still holding on to the first one. Girl power!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Was today Valentine's Day?

Oh yeah, I guess today was Valentine's Day. I didn't notice. My day consisted of no chocolate, no flowers, no adoring man, so therefore no special date. Well, if the three white chocolate pretzels that were left in the package count, I guess I did have chocolate, but I'm not sure they do count.

For some reason, who knows why, public school week came early this year and it was my designated day to go have lunch with Peyton and Paige. When I was in school, you might have a parent come one day, on the day that was assigned to your grade. Since Paige is the oldest, she has made it a tradition that someone different comes each day to bring them lunch and take them to the book fair.

Spoiled?

I do think a number of their friends do have multiple guests though not every day. The teachers and their friends might go into shock if "Baqbaq" did not make an appearance each year though.

Paige called last night, "Peyton wants to know what you are bringing her for lunch tomorrow." Yeah, right, Paige doesn't every call on Peyton's behalf.

"A bean burrito and Nachos Bel Grande."

"Good, that's what she wanted."

"Yes, I figured as much. It's what I always bring her. Who takes care of her?"

"You do."

"Uh, huh."

"And what do I want, hmmm."

"A 6 inch turkey on white, toasted. Nothing else."

"That sounds good."

"Uh, huh, and who takes care of you?"

"Well, you do, but how do you know us so well?"

"That would be because you are my might as well be mines."

"Yeah, we might as well be."

Spoiled? Yes. Who else is going to go through both Subway and Taco Bell on the way to the school? Probably no one. Here's another question for you. Have you EVER gone to Subway to get meat and bread only? So help me, you should have heard the tone of voice coming from the Subway employee that took my order. "Nothing else? You don't want any cheese or anything?" As if it was an insult to her personally or something.

Well, let me tell you this... they sure don't charge you any less to leave off the cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, bell pepper, salt, pepper, oil and vinegar I would have put on my sandwich had I ordered one for myself.

And yes, at Taco Bell, I ordered the bean burrito minus onions for Peyton. That's really the only thing she's picky about.

Peyton has gotten into reading, thank goodness, so was chomping at the bit for the book fair. "I only got to get one book yesterday because Daddy said that my grandparents and aunt could buy me more books."

The one bad thing about not having any children - being able to tell them their uncle could get them something. Oh wait, I don't think he'd be super uncle to my kids.

Paige's grade had a musical performance playing the recorders (some kind of horns or giant kazoos or something). In her pre-teen angst, Paige did not play and you could tell she was just sucking on the end of it instead of blowing her notes. Don't know what is up with her, but she said she was glad I came today because she didn't want anyone else seeing her.

Her friend have in past years gotten in trouble for all sitting with her when I come, but no one seemed to care today. Tori walked up with her, and Chloe asked if she could come sit with us. I'm not sure where the 4th member of their best friends circle was. I didn't think about it until later. They are a fun bunch. We sang "My Heart's a Stereo" probably like a bunch of fools if anyone could hear us. I have to give Chloe credit, she had the rap down.

Paige was stubbornly saying that she didn't want anything at the book fair except a sock monkey sticker, but I convinced her to get a book. Have I said that I really don't know what her deal is lately?

At least I got my Valentine's hugs and kisses and "I love yous" from the two people in my life that really matter. So from that perspective, it was a good Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The great backlog of book reviews

One thing that I will become better at in the coming days is posting about the books that I have read. I am way, way, way behind on posting on some of my reads. I begged the publisher and got an Advance Reader's Copy of this one, and the publication date was August 2, 2011. Audra's a bad blogger. That's why she doesn't ask for a lot of review copies. She recognizes that she would be getting posting reminders like the ones she sends out on a regular basis. With the changes that I am going to make in the coming weeks, being a better reviewer is going to be one of them. 

Water's Edge

By Robert Whitlow

About the book:


Sometimes small towns hold the biggest secrets.

Ambitious young attorney Tom Crane is about to become a partner in a high-profile Atlanta law firm. But first he must clear one final matter from his docket—the closing of his deceased father's law practice in his hometown of Bethel, Georgia. Killed in a mysterious boating accident, John Crane didn't appear to leave his son anything except the hassle of wrapping up loose ends.

But instead of celebrating his promotion, Tom finds himself packing up his office, having suddenly been "consolidated." To add insult to injury, that same night his girlfriend breaks up with him . . . by letter.

Returning to Bethel with no sense of his future and no faith to fall back on, Tom just wants to settle his father's final affairs and get back to Atlanta. But then he runs into an unexpected roadblock—two million dollars of unclaimed money stashed in a secret bank account. And evidence that his father's death may not have been accidental. Worse still, a trail of data suggests his father played a role in an international fraud operation.


Tom follows the money into a tangled web of lies, theft, and betrayal. Along the way, he meets a woman who is as beguiling as she is beautiful. And her interest in the outcome of the case is just as high as his. She challenges Tom's assumptions . . . and his faith. Now he has to decide who he can trust—and how far a father's love can reach.

My review: 


Here's the thing... I should have posted the review closer to the time that I read the book. My memory isn't that bad. Well, it sort of is. I remember the story, but can't really remember really strongly what I thought about it. I've read every Robert Whitlow book, and there are some that I've enjoyed more than others.

Sidetracked moment... I just realized that reflected in the water is the skyline of Atlanta. Or it's supposed to be Atlanta because of where the story is set. But I've been to Atlanta and it doesn't really look like Atlanta. Never mind. I just never payed attention to the cover close enough to notice.

Water's Edge was a little slow, and I didn't like it as much as the Tides of Truth series because I liked the characters in those books.

The one thing about all Whitlow books is that I'm not really into the charismatic, sometimes prophetic, character in each book. I'm just not so sure about that part. But, if you are into legal thrillers, I do recommend checking out Robert Whitlow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Help Wanted

Tonight, I ask for your help. Here are a few of my questions for you. I've casually, for lack of a better term, searched for jobs over the past few years, but not so aggressively.  I'd like to get your feedback about what's worked best for you.

  • In your latest job searches, what websites were the most useful for you? 
  • Did you pursue your job through Monster? 
  • How about Career Builder? 
  • Any hints for making the most of Linked In? 
  • Have you tried BeKnown through Facebook and Monster?
  • How useful is the BranchOut application in Facebook?
  • Have you used any resume services that send out your resume for you? 
  • If you have used any services, what are dos/don'ts? Which do you recommend?
With the current economy, lots of people are looking for jobs, and the jobs are few. I'm sure many of you have searched for a job recently, or someone close to you. I hope the discussion here will be of help to those searching. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Worst hostess ever

If there were an award for the worst hostess ever, I could possibly be nominated by my friends. For the second time within a week, I have uninvited friends to my house, calling off a party.

I know you were anxiously awaiting stories from a group of 7 single women having an anti-Valentine's party, but if you want to read stories about that, I'm sorry to say that you will have to find another blog somewhere. I do have to say that I bet it would not be as funny as mine would have been.

This week, I am not feeling up to it in a different way. I found out yesterday that for the first time in ten years that I have to find another job. Not looking for the sake of a change, but will not have a paycheck three weeks from now. The economy hits everyone sooner or later.

I couldn't bring myself to the thought of cleaning house, cooking and entertaining right now. While I know all of my friends would be of great support, it may have been more support that I could handle at once. Between just being in a shocked state of mind and my neck and shoulders hurting, I didn't get much sleep. I imagine by party time that I may be half asleep. Except Jenny and I are going to go see Channing Tatum as an alternative and I cannot sleep through that.

If you know of any job leads, please let me know, and if you think about it, a prayer about the situation sure wouldn't hurt. I would appreciate it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How broken is your life?

Thank you to everyone who took part in today's tour!


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!


You never know when I might play a wild card on you!






Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Genesis Publishing Group (November 22, 2011)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Carl Kerby is president and founder of Reasons for Hope (rforh.com), founded in 2011 as a response to a calling from God to proclaim the authority and authenticity of the Bible. He was previously a founding board member at Answers in Genesis for ten years and served there for over fifteen years. Before that he worked as an air-traffic controller at O’Hare International Airport. Kerby’s love for Jesus fuels a passion to engage the minds and hearts of youth and adults so that they can know the truth of God’s Word. He is a sought-after speaker both in the United States and abroad. Yet his most cherished accomplishment is his 29-year marriage to his wife, Masami, and his roles as father to his children, Alisa and Carl, Jr., and as grandfather to Trey.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Life is not always picture-perfect, and sometimes it is difficult to see God’s plan or purpose—especially during difficult times. Reasons for Hope: In the Mosaic of Your Life, by sought-after speaker Carl Kerby, researches the many aspects of faith that will encourage everyone looking for hope in today’s troubling times. With humor and passion, Carl answers questions about suffering, evolution, relativism, faith and more, strengthening his readers and equipping them to offer true hope to a broken world.


“In a mosaic, the artist arranges pieces of cut or broken stones or tiles to create a decorative pattern. We may struggle to grasp the overall design of a mosaic when we’re looking at the individual pieces up close, because what we see looks like a piece of junk, broken and useless. But when we step back far enough to view the entire mosaic, we get a new perspective, and we see the intricate beauty of the finished masterpiece. That enables us to grasp the original intent of the artist,” explains Carl Kerby. Reasons for Hope chronicles Carl’s rocky start as the son of a professional wrestler and takes readers from his difficult teen years and his military career to his stressful responsibility as an air-traffic controller at one of the nation’s busiest airports and ultimately to his ministry calling as a speaker. Carl reveals how God has created a beautiful mosaic from the broken pieces of his life, held together by the saving grace of the cross of Jesus Christ. As readers join in Carl’s journey, they will come to understand how the bigger picture of their own lives reveals a unique and beautiful mosaic.


Using his dynamic and infectious passion, Carl reveals God’s hand throughout his life, from childhood to adulthood, from unbelief to belief. No matter what the circumstances, God gathers up the broken pieces of life and forms them into something beautiful, all according to His purpose and plan. Carl’s story will not only give reasons for hope but will also encourage readers to share their only true hope, Jesus Christ. Readers will walk away knowing that the broken pieces of their lives are used by God to make beautiful and useful vessels for His work




Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Genesis Publishing Group (November 22, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1933591099
ISBN-13: 978-1933591094





AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




Rocks, Stones, Boulders and Mosaics

Craig DeMartino had no clue that his life would change forever when he set out for Colorado’s Rocky Mountains on July 21, 2002. A rock climber, Craig was doing what he loved best as he scaled the heights of the Sundance Buttress in Rocky Mountain National Park. Little did he know that the harrowing climb would be the last time he would plant both feet on a mountain.

After a tragic instant of miscommunication, Craig tum bled off the rocky cliff and plummeted nine stories to an almost certain death. Freefalling at over sixty miles per hour, he crashed onto the mountain floor—feet first. His boots exploded upon impact, and his feet and ankles were shattered. A powerful shockwave moved up his body, breaking his back and fracturing his neck. The fall also punctured a lung and tore a shoulder. After being evacuated to the hospital, Craig remained unconscious as the doctors advised his family that he had less than an hour to live.

But God had a different plan for Craig. Through a series of miraculous events, Craig survived his one-hundred-foot fall.

Although Craig didn’t conquer the mountain by rock climbing, he did conquer the “rock” of difficulties that he faced after the accident, including the amputation of his right leg eighteen months later. Following his miraculous survival, and during his challenging recovery, he discovered a renewed relationship with Jesus Christ, which led to a passion for testifying of God’s wondrous power in his life. He’s even proven the overcoming power of God by the strength and perseverance he exhibited when he became the first amputee to climb the 3,000-foot face of El Capitan in Yosemite on June 5, 2006, just six weeks shy of the four-year anniversary of the accident.

No doubt, Craig’s fall from the cliff was traumatic. But he recognized that his “rendezvous” with the rocks below was not an unforeseen accident in God’s eyes, and that how he responded to his predicament would change the entire course of his life.

“I think that’s how God works in our lives—there are no accidents, only things that work for the good of the kingdom,” Craig writes. “I think that’s the key to my attitude in general, that I know God uses everything that happens to me to further the kingdom. That on even the really bad days, and I have a lot of them, He is using the things I do, and you do, to make an impact somewhere. Even when I don’t think that’s happening, it is, and I usually see it down the road in ways I never could have imagined.”

I believe God knew Craig would suffer that fall, and He is the one who gave him the fortitude to survive the rocky ordeal. Because of that experience, Craig now encourages others to live their lives centered on Christ.

All of us, like Craig, face challenges in our lives. How we deal with those challenges is what this book is all about. Do we use the stones, rocks and boulders of life to build a strong foundation or are we crushed by their weight?



As I look back over the years, I can clearly see the stumbling stones and crushing rocks that were problems and obstacles in my life. But I can also see how God used them for His plan and purpose in my life—to build a foundation that has brought me to the place and person I am today. I grew up with an extremely unusual background as the son of a professional wrestler. Professional wrestling is a world that few know much about, and I’ll be sharing the realities of that lifestyle, giving you a glimpse of that world, in the following chapters. My path has been a rocky one—struggling with a difficult childhood, dropping out of high school, even being homeless at one point. Some of the “boulders” in my life were disadvantages, but most of them were just difficult situations in which I made very poor choices. But you know what? None of those boulders surprised God. In fact, when I remember the negative experiences and failures from my past, I cling to this passage of Scripture:

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. (Psalm 40:2)

And that “rock” is Jesus. This verse reminds me that I’m not the man that I used to be; God has created a new heart and new mind within me. He lifted me out of the mess that I was in and placed me on solid ground. My brothers and sisters in Christ, He’s done the same for you!

THE BEAUTY OF MOSAICS

To me, a mosaic is such a fitting illustration of the way God can take the broken pieces of our lives and create something beautiful from them. My life has been filled with boulders and broken stones. Yet God, in His grace, has put those stones together in a mosaic to make me into a useful vessel for His use. I was privileged to serve for sixteen years with the ministry Answers in Genesis (AiG), teaching people that God’s Word is true from the very first verse. In January 2011, with the help of some great friends, I founded a new ministry named Reasons for Hope, as a part of my desire to equip Christians to offer reasons for their spiritual hope to lost and dying people. That hope comes only from salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. I never would have imagined how my life would turn out, but God, the Grand Designer, has pieced together the good as well as the broken pieces of my life into an amazing mosaic.

The term “mosaic” also has another meaning. The “Mosaic Generation” describes the group of young people born between 1984 and 2002. Sometimes called Millennials, Generation Y, Echo Boom, or Generation Next, they are the newest of the five generations coexisting in society today. The others are the Baby Busters/Generation X (born 1965–1983); the Baby Boomers (1946–1964); the Builders (1927–1945); and the Seniors (1926 and prior; sometimes called Traditionalists or Matures).

Unfortunately, the meaning of “mosaic” used for this emerging generation is far different from mine. Instead of emphasizing how beauty can come from broken pieces, it seems they almost embrace the brokenness as normal.

Maybe more than any other generation today, those in the Mosaic Generation need to hear God’s truth. Let me share with you some of the characteristics that are used to describe these Mosaics (so-called because of their multifaceted, eclectic lifestyles). First, they’re “plugged in” to all types of technology and media. According to author David Kinnaman, Mosaics spend up to eight and a half hours every day using technology and media, often using two or three types simultaneously (such as listening to music while using the computer). In addition, Mosaics desire fresh, stimulating experiences and love to express their individuality. Twenty-five percent of Mosaics have posted personalized content online, including stories, videos, blogs, artwork, or photos of themselves. More importantly, those in the Mosaic Generation are nonlinear thinkers who are comfortable with contradiction and are morally pragmatic (“I’ll do whatever works”).

For Mosaics, this philosophy of moral pragmatism typically is expressed in the following statements:

What is right for you may not be right for me.

I do what I think is best, not what anyone else thinks is best.

You are the only one who can determine what is right and what is wrong.

There is no absolute truth.

Hopefully, if you have a biblical background, you can see immediately that these statements are at odds with Scripture. The Bible is clear that all of us have God’s moral law (the Ten Commandments) written on our hearts to tell us what is right and what is wrong and to convict us of sin. The apostle Paul states in Romans 2:15 that men have “the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness...” The Bible also tells us that God’s Word is absolutely true and is our standard for living. The psalmist writes, “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth” (Psalm 33:4), and “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Surprisingly, only 6 percent of Mosaic teens who consider themselves to be “born again” have a biblical worldview (meaning that they believe in absolute truth, that the Bible is God’s Word, that “Satan is real,” “Jesus never sinned,” and a handful of similar orthodox beliefs). That means the other 94 percent adhere in some way to a philosophy of moral pragmatism. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do as far as sharing the gospel with this generation.

However, the Mosaic Generation has many positive qualities, too. Mosaics have a joyful and positive outlook on life, and they long for personal connection and powerful experiences. They consider religion and spirituality to be a positive dimension of life, and they want to experience God’s truth by building authentic relationships with other people who have faith in God. Most Mosaics agree with the statement that they are “looking for a few good friends.” I would say that’s true for most everyone in our culture today.

As we encounter those in the Mosaic Generation, we can follow Paul’s approach in reaching the lost. He tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Paul never compromised his message or watered down the truth of the gospel, but boldly proclaimed, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . .” (Romans 1:16). He was always faithful in proclaiming saving grace, so when Paul spoke of becoming “all things to all men,” he was talking about trying to relate to the lost in the best way he could in order to reach them with the gospel. He tried to understand who they were, and be kind and courteous in his approach to witness to them. For example, to those who are “weak” in the knowledge of the Lord and the gospel, Paul “became as weak,” meaning he met them at their level of knowledge and added to their understanding by proclaiming Christ to them. To those who don’t believe in absolute truth, we can start by addressing their current beliefs and then help them see their need for the One who is Truth.

That’s what I want to help you do in this book: to help you become “all things to all men.” No matter which generations you and I may be in, we need to speak the truth of the gospel in love, be patient and understanding, and show people the need for Jesus Christ and His Word. The gospel must always be the primary focus of our message, but we can support our proclamation of the gospel with our personal testimony as well. We can share with people how God has worked in our lives. By sharing our testimonies we can often connect to others in a deeper way and help them to come to an understanding of the reasons for hope found only in Jesus Christ.

READY TO SHARE

On my travels I often have the opportunity to meet fascinating people who need the gospel. One of the most memorable was a professor I met while speaking in Kentucky. He teaches global warming at a university in England, and his sister (who is a Christian) had invited him to come with her to hear me speak.

After my talk, he and I had a dynamic discussion about the topics I had addressed, including the theory of global warming. He disagreed with me on quite a few points, but I was open to his ideas and questions. We had a good time dialoguing back and forth and challenging each other to provide evidence for our positions.

One influential person I had mentioned in my talk that day was Richard Dawkins, an anti-Christian activist and one of the strongest proponents of the theory of evolution and the “New Atheism” movement. I have never met Dawkins personally, but from what I have seen in interviews, he is an angry man. He hates Christians, and he seems to “have it out” for the Christian community and anyone who believes in God, creation, or intelligent design. To give you an example, consider the titles of some of the books Dawkins has penned:

The God Delusion

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

Everything You Know About God is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion (contributor)

As I prepared to leave, this British professor told me, “You know, you’re not what I expected!”

I laughed and said, “I could take that a couple of ways. What do you mean?”

He told me, “I expected you to be angry and want to argue with me because I don’t agree with you.”

“I don’t hate you because you don’t think like I do,” I replied. “In fact, I spent many years believing the same things that you do. But God doesn’t tell us to fight or argue. He just tells us to be ready to share with others the reason for our hope. So that’s what I do!”

I continued, “When I see people harboring so much anger and hatred toward others who are supposedly so ‘stupid’ and ‘uninformed,’ I just don’t understand it. Think about Richard Dawkins. Why is he so angry? If he truly believes Christians are so stupid, he should feel sorry for us. For example, if someone walked up to me and told me that he believed the moon was made of green cheese, and he was totally sincere, would I get angry and fight with him or call him names? No way. I’d pat him on the back and say, ‘I love you, brother, but you may want to go get some help!’ The fact that Richard Dawkins is so angry shows me that the Holy Spirit is working on him. I’m praying for him. I still believe there is hope for him!”

I told the professor that I had really enjoyed meeting him and discussing science and Scripture with him. We shook hands and parted ways. I prayed that he would consider the truths I had shared with him.

About three months later, I received an email from this same professor. He said, “Carl, you won’t believe this, but I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior the Sunday after I met you!” but I was thrilled to hear it.

His email continued: “You know what else? What really got me was what you shared about Richard Dawkins. You didn’t know this, but not long before I heard you speak, I had actually posted this on my Facebook page: ‘Richard Dawkins is God.’ ”

I was blown away by this man’s testimony. Only the living God can take someone from believing “Richard Dawkins is God” to proclaiming “Jesus Christ is Lord”! This man’s Christian sister had been witnessing to him and praying for him for years. I’m sure God heard her prayers and prepared his heart to be receptive to the gospel that day.

I’m humbled and awed that God allows you and me to play a small role in helping people like this man realize that God’s Word is true and that it is our standard for living. The apostle Paul wrote that we are to cast “down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,” and that we are to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). God has the power and the will to tear down any argument or speculation that opposes the truth of His Word. I believe that’s what happened that day. The stumbling stones that had been in place for years in this man’s life were removed when he simply heard the truth spoken in love.

JOSHUA AND THE MEMORIAL STONES

The concept of mosaics really begins to take shape as we consider the purpose of memorial stones in Scripture. The Bible contains powerful examples of stone memorials that people built to help them remember how God had worked in their lives.

Let’s start by focusing on the life of Joshua. This biblical leader was my type of guy; he knew how to get things done! Remember, as the Israelites anticipated entering the Promised



Land, Moses sent twelve men to spy on the land of Canaan and report back with their findings (Numbers 13). Joshua was one of those twelve men. Despite the fact that the cities were well fortified and it seemed impossible for the Israelites to overcome the Canaanites, Joshua and Caleb were ready to go for it. In Numbers 14 we read Joshua and Caleb’s response: “If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.” Of the twelve men, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who maintained a faith that God would lead them into the land He had promised. Based on the report of the other ten, Israel did not enter the Promised Land and instead was consigned to wander forty years in the wilderness until the nonbelieving generation had passed away.

After the forty years of wandering, Joshua assumed the leadership of the Israelites following Moses’ death, and led them into the land. Joshua faced fierce battles, leadership struggles, and (of course) plenty of grumbling and complaining from the Israelite people. But he had earned the great privilege of leading God’s people into the Promised Land and he remained faithful to God through it all.

One of my favorite Bible passages contains the Lord’s powerful words to Joshua:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

During the time of Joshua’s leadership, the Lord commanded His people to use stones to serve as memorials. These memorials commemorated times when God performed miracles and showered grace upon His people even though they didn’t deserve it (which, after all, is the definition of grace!). In Joshua 4, God told the Israelites that these memorials would serve as a sign to them and that when their children would ask, “What do these stones mean to you?” they would recount how God had miraculously provided. In a way, these assembled stones were similar to mosaics, creating a picture to remind each generation of God’s faithfulness and provision.

The Israelites enjoyed gathering together to celebrate special feasts and festivals, just like we do at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But they didn’t celebrate just because it was fun. God commanded them to build memorials so that they would never forget His mercy and grace and to celebrate His goodness and faithfulness to them. He wanted the Israelites to remember all the ways that He had worked in their lives in the past.

I believe the same is true today. We should use the “stones” of hardships in our lives as reminders of what God has done for us, sharing them with the current generation so that they will be able to share with future generations the “stones” from their lives.

Chapter 3 of the book of Joshua records how God miraculously enabled His people to cross the Jordan River on dry land. He wanted to build up the Israelites’ faith and courage to show them that He would give them victory in battle over their enemies. Joshua said to the Israelites:

“Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God. By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” (Joshua 3:9–13)

In the following verses, we discover something surprising about the Jordan River: it is at flood stage all through the harvest. Yet here’s what happened:

. . . as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan. (Joshua 3:15–17)

Does this ring a bell? It reminds me of the time when God worked a miracle and enabled Moses to lead over two million Israelites across the Red Sea on dry ground as they escaped from slavery in Egypt. Now, God was showing His people that He was still in control by performing a similar miracle under the leadership of Joshua. (By the way, aren’t we glad that He’s still in control today?)

I love what happens next; now we’re getting to the “memorial stones” section. As a reminder to the current and future generations of what a great thing God had done for His people, God commanded Joshua to build a memorial. Twelve men (one from each tribe) went to the riverbed, and each removed one stone. They carried these stones to where they camped on the western side of the Jordan and piled them up as a memorial.

In addition, God commanded Joshua to build a second memorial—a pile of stones right in the middle of the Jordan River! Joshua picked up stones and carried them to the place where the ark of the covenant was still stationed and “set up twelve stones” in the midst of the riverbed (Joshua 4:9). (Why would God tell Joshua to set stones in the middle of the river, since they would quickly be covered when the water started to flow again? See the sidebar for the amazing answer.)

The Jordan crossing was an amazing miracle of God, a sign to His people that He was the One who led them into the land. This miracle was to give them faith that He would also lead them into battle against the Canaanites and that He would empower them to possess the land (Joshua 3:9–13). The stone memorial on the riverbank testified to His faithfulness and served as a reminder to them and future generations that only God is their deliverer and their source of strength. The stones “cry out” the message to every generation that God is steadfast in His promises to deliver and bless His people.



Remember that throughout the Old Testament, God provided signs to his people to reveal Himself, His plans, and especially the promise of a coming Messiah. The book of Joshua begins with the people preparing to enter the Promised Land, their God-given inheritance. They are not led by Moses, who represents the Law, but by Joshua, an Old Testament picture and foreshadow of our Savior, who is the only way to our inheritance.

We read in Joshua 3:17 that the ark stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while the people passed through untouched by the waters of the Jordan. Often in the Bible we see where water serves as a symbol of the wrath or judgment of God: the Flood (Genesis 6:17; Hebrews 11:7); the Red Sea drowning of the Egyptians (Exodus 14:28; Hebrews 11:29); Jonah going under the waters (Jonah 1; 2:3). Even the word “Jordan” implies judgment. A. W. Pink breaks the word into two Hebrew roots: jor or yar, which is literally “spread,” and dan, which means “judging” (Genesis 30:6). Others define it as yar-dane, meaning “descender.” Baptism, where the person is immersed in water and risen to new life by the power of Christ, is also a picture of the old man being judged by God, dying to self, and being saved by Christ. Jesus’ followers are commissioned to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17), and the Psalms confirm our being taken out from the waters:

He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. (Psalm 18:16)



Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink; let me be delivered from those who hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the floodwater overflow me, nor let the deep swallow me up; and let not the pit shut its mouth on me. (Psalm 69:14,15)

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,” let Israel now say—“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul; then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.” (Psalm 124:1–5)

“I will pour out My wrath on them like water.” (Hosea 5:10)

In Joshua 4, God instructed the twelve men (one from each tribe) to take a stone from the middle of the dry riverbed to build a memorial on the west bank of the Jordan. These stones came from the place that pictures death, the miry bottom of a riverbed. They had been buried beneath the waters, the picture of wrath and judgment. The “ark of the LORD,” which is a picture of Christ (in both construction and in being the place where God dwelled among His people) stood in the midst of the Jordan, allowing these stones to be brought up out of the waters (death) to create a memorial of deliverance (redemption). Remember, this was done “that this may be a sign among you . . .” (Joshua 4:6).

We read in Joshua 4:9 that it was Joshua, not the twelve, who was told to “set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.” This is a picture of the unredeemed, those who die in their sin, who are buried in death by the righteous judgment of God—“and they are there to this day” (Joshua 4:9). What a frightening thought and a reminder to all of us to be bold in sharing the saving grace of the gospel.

The twelve stones taken out from the Jordan depths and placed on dry ground “where they lodged” (Joshua 4:8) symbolize those who were redeemed by Christ (the ark) and came out from under the judgment of God (the waters) to new life in the Promised Land (inheritance of life in Christ). And remember that the people crossed over the Jordan at the time of Passover! This was at the “time of harvest” (Joshua 3:15), “on the tenth day of the first month” (Joshua 4:19). This is a beautiful picture of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

The Joshua 4 memorial also reminds us of a future promise given in Isaiah 43:2, where God says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.” Notice that promise says “when,” not “if.” We all know that in this life trials will come our way, and we must always remember that He promises to be with us, to deliver us, to set our feet on solid ground. Remember the verse:

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. (Psalm 40:2)