Thursday, June 30, 2005

What is Your Theological Worldview?

Interesting quiz -- not sure what it means at this point. But if you're interested in taking it too, the link below will get you there.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan






Neo orthodox




Classical Liberal


Reformed Evangelical


Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Our Generation's Biggest Paradox

The Today Show had a spot this morning about how effective we've become in caring for premature children -- those born only weighing one-two pounds, and sometimes even less. They even had a large group of parents and children on the show, showing how healthy they were in later years.

Our generation's biggest paradox has to be that on the one had we invest incredible amounts of effort and money to nourish premature infants -- putting a huge value on their lives -- while at the same time spending incredible amounts of money and having a huge infrastructure to provide abortions to moms who don't value the lives they are carrying. And to a large extent, many of the same people who are strong advocates of abortion are equally strong advocates of doing everything possible to provide healthy lives to premies.

I'm at a total loss to understand how we as a society can value one life so much and another so little.

My only way of beginning to understand it is that in both cases it's mostly about the adults involved and what they want -- and less about the babies.
  • The desire to have children is very strong -- and to get what we want, we are willing to spend whatever it takes to become pregnant and to nourish that life.
  • On the other hand, an unwanted pregnancy is an interruption in our plans at the least, and potentially life-altering, and if we don't want that, we want a way out. In fact, the primary argument for abortion seems to be, "The woman should have a choice."
I admit that I come down on the side of heroic measures to preserve and nourish life. Even while recognizing that even that means that it's more about me and what I want.

How do we move from the mindset "It's all about me and what I want" to the mindset "It's all about God and it's all about others?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

iTunes 4.9 and Podcast Support Released

You can now download the new version of iTunes (free). The major change is that it supports subscribing to podcasts, including many from commercial radio stations, and having them automatically downloaded to your iPod. You will also need to download a software update for your iPod.

Feedburner, a service that I use to convert my feed to RSS2, also announced that they will support adding all the new tags Apple requires to help make it easier for those of us who use blogs such as Blogger for our podcasts.

So as soon as Feedburner gets this support up, you should be able to subscribe to my podcasts directly in iTunes.

Abston Church of Christ

Here are some more photos of a "church of Christ." Actually, this one is built of Legos, with Lego people as members and staff. Enjoy!

The Purpose of Our Lives

I've discovered The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (link below), and I'm using it to help structure my daily worship times.

This morning's concluding prayer reads:

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do, direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen."

While it's not new, our culture teaches us that our goal should be fulfilling our purpose -- doing our thing. What a stark contrast to understand the teaching of God -- that our lives are to be about fulfilling His purpose. It seems so counterintuitive to so many of us.

As a life coach, one of my focuses is to help people understand what they are good at, and to help them find purpose and fulfillment in their lives. One of the things that is most interesting in helping people in this area is helping them discover that fulfillment doesn't come from doing what you're good at focused on self -- but rather doing what you're good at focused on others when that focus is in concert with His purpose.

All of us need God to direct us to the fulfilling our His purpose -- otherwise we get lost in ourselves.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Corrugated Church of Christ

I was looking at blogs which have "church of Christ" in the text using Technorati and came across a photo entitled "Corrugated Church of Christ." It's definitely worth looking at!

Podcast Progress Report

I keep looking at statistics on downloads to try to get a picture of the effectiveness of my podcasting efforts. There are some problems with my website statistics service, but here's what I've been able to figure out.

Total downloads (website statistics) have increased each week:
  • 5/21 -5/28: 20
  • 5/28-6/5: 205
  • 6/5-6/12: 253
  • 6/12-6/19: 479
  • 6/19-6/26" 492

This last week (6/19 - 6/26), Drawn2Jesus had a total of 265 downloads while Retire2Serve had a total of 227 downloads.

The new podcasts for the week had the highest number of downloads for the week:
  • D2J 6/20: 56
  • R2S 6/20: 59
  • D2J 6/23: 55
  • R2S 6/22: 35
Total downloads for particular podcasts tend to rise with time. The 6/6 and 6/9 D2J podcasts have totals of 116 and 119 downloads while the 5/30 and 6/7 R2S podcasts have totals of 98 and 78. (When I switched to a more detailed stats package, I apparently lost some early data.)

The other way I have to look at statistics is through Feedburner. It provides the number of downloads through the syndication feed on a daily basis -- i.e. when someone has subscribed through iPodder or some other aggregator and it hits the Feedburner RSS feed to download mp3 files. So looking at that on a weekly basis, here are the results (Date range; D2J, R2S, Total):
  • 5/21-5/28: 56, 45, 101
  • 5/28-6/5 : 76 , 66 , 142
  • 6/5-6/12 : 83, 67, 150
  • 6/12-6/19: 104, 76, 180
  • 6/19-6/26: 89, 88, 177
These numbers do not indicate whether one file or all files were downloaded -- the aggregators give people a choice of downloading only the last podcast or catching up on all of them.

So, looking at all of this, I'm somewhat encouraged. People are finding and listening to the podcasts, and the number of people listening weekly appears to be increasing, whether they are getting the podcasts through subscriptions or going directly to the blogs and listening from there.

I'll keep watching the numbers to give me feedback on how this experiment is working.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Numbering Our Days

I've begun using The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle to help me structure daily devotional time. It has prayers and readings for morning, noon, evening, and bedtime -- a practice reaching back to Jewish practice before and during Christ's time on earth. I've included a link to the book below if you would like more information.

I was struck by part of the mornings reading -- a passage from Psalms 90:2. "So teach us to number our days that we might apply our hearts to wisdom."

Numbering our days is not something we like to think about. We know they are limited, but we like to proceed with life as if they were un-numbered. The problem with that is that we tend to focus on what's urgent or what the moment calls us to do. Instead of focusing on what's important. On what really matters.

How different would our lives be if we lived in recognition that our days are numbered -- and let that awareness govern what we did and how we do it? We'd spend more time serving, more time in worship and meditation, and more time with those we love most.

It's insightful that the Psalmist says "Teach us to number." It's not natural to do so. A serious illness, a tragic accident, or some other unexpected event is often part of the teaching. We have to learn one way or another that we are mortal -- that our days are limited. Life's not a video game where when you get killed you can just press "start over." How are you learning to number your days?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

My New Blog on Retirement Living

I'm playing with a new blog -- calling it Retirement Living. The basic idea is to report ideas from newsfeeds, sometimes with commentary, about retirement living. It's an area of great interest to me both personally and professionally as a life coach working with retirees. It's still early in it's experiement phase, but take a look and give me some feedback.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Walking with Jenny

I'm back to walking every day, and trying to walk somewhere rather than keeping up with the treadmill. Jenny the dog is in one of her phases where she's put on a few pounds and doesn't want to be too active, so I've decided that she should walk with me.

So yesterday, I put her on the leash and we headed out. When I walk at home, the route is to walk to the corner which is about 4 blocks away and back a couple of times. Jenny was pretty excited about this new adventure, and checked out all the yards and driveways along the way to the corner. On the way back, she did some of the same, but I noticed that she was mostly headed straight down the sidewalk.

To my surprise, when we got back to the house and I was ready to turn around and head back, Jenny wouldn't budge. She'd had all the walking she wanted. I thought she might be thirsty, so we went in to let her drink. She took a sip or two and promptly went and laid down under one of the chairs by the kitchen table. That's pretty much Jenny for I'm not doing anything for a while except take a nap. So I went back out and finished my walk. Sure enough, when I returned, she was still under the chair.

We just repeated the same scene this morning. To the corner and back, not budging, a sip of water, and plopping down under the chair. Guess if I want Jenny to walk further with me, we'll just have to go further before I let her get back home! And I keep thinking that I'm smarter than she is...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Comfortable at Being Himself

Sometimes you look and listen to someone and are struck by how comfortable they seem at being themselves. James Taylor was on the Today Show this morning, and he just looks and sounds like someone who is comfortable in his own skin. His music is smooth and seemingly effortless. His clothes looked comfortable -- no obvious attempt to make a statement. He did have his Stetson on, but it was just plain. And when he responded to questions, it was relaxed and absent of pretense.

Maybe I'm attracted to someone who appears so comfortable with who they are because sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I'm too concerned about trying to make other people like me, so I'm overly conscious about what I wear and what I say and what I do. In those times, I'm not comfortable. And I suspect that others see it and hear it.

At the same time it's a balancing thing. The desire that's built into us that wants to please others has many positive benefits. In fact, our ability to live and work with each other is highly dependent on it. So part of our humanity is struggling with the balance.

Maybe part of the attraction of Heaven is that you're just who you are and that's okay.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Where you live defines who you are.

That's what the sign says in the Sugar Land Mall. It's an ad for an upscale housing development. It got me to thinking because I didn't like the message. In a sense it's true -- we do judge people by where they live. If they live in an upscale neighborhood, we tend to think highly of them. If they live in the hood, we may not have as high opinions of them. We all know that there is something wrong with that, but we have bought into the notion that where you live defines who you are. I'm trying to get over that. I know there are some rascals living in River Oaks in Houston -- they've been in courtrooms and the national headlines. I know there are some great people living in the Third Ward. I've met some of them.

For more of my thoughts on this, you may want to listen to today's Retire2Serve Podcast.

And if you're in a listening mood, I talked about "Kings and Kingdoms" on today's Drawn2Jesus Podcast.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Coaching About Organizing

It's amazing how often as a coach you end up coaching someone around an issue that's all too familiar to you. It happened again yesterday. I was working with a client who is struggling a little with personal organization. He's a collector -- he keeps everything because someday it might be useful, or it's just too good to toss or otherwise get rid of. And he doesn't enjoy organizing -- there's too much else to do that's more fun. The problem is, all the horizontal surfaces around him are filled with stacks of stuff, and often he can't find what he wants. He enjoys having everything organized and in it's place -- he just doesn't particularly enjoy taking the time and effort to make it that way. That sounds very familiar to me, because I'm a lot like that. I was totally able to relate to my client.

But I was also able to help him devise a plan to get started changing his situation. It's interesting that most of the time we know pretty well how to fix what it is about us that is bothersome -- we just need encouragement. His plan is to begin sorting through stuff with the goal of getting rid of a lot of it. Then he plans to organize what's left and assign a place for it. He and I both realize that we'll never be neat freaks, but there is a level of organization that we need to feel good about ourselves and function well.

And, my conscience has made me pledge to do some tossing and organizing myself -- even though there are so many other things I want to do that seem to be more fun!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Conversation with a First Grade Mentor

Yesterday was the Texaco Retiree Luncheon, and since I've taken on the role of Asst. Secretary, I had to be there early to get some things ready. We finished early, so I had time to visit with some of the others who have service roles in the organization.

One conversation was with Eleanor, who during the school year serves as a volunteer mentor at the elementary school near her home. Every morning she spends an hour at the school helping two children with reading. She has different children each day, so all together she works with 10 children, working with each child every week. For many of the children, English is a second language. For others there may be a learning disability.

Eleanor told me about a couple of the children -- about how they had improved in their reading and how excited they were when they passed their tests. She was especially proud of one girl she helped who had dislexia. Eleanor's daughter had dislexia, so she had some experience in helping. With Eleanor's help and encouragement, the girl was able to improve her reading skills and be on grade level. You could tell from the sparkle in her eyes how much that meant to Eleanor.

She also told me that she was always trying to get other retirees to mentor, but that she hadn't been successful. Eleanor thinks fear of the unknown is a big factor. She said that her friends ask her all kinds of questions about how she does it -- like her mentoring is some sort of super-human effort. She said that she keeps explaining that it's not -- it's just being there and spending time with the children reading. Still she has a hard time convincing others.

She did tell me about a neighbor who also mentors at the school. But he likes to work with fifth graders, and math is his thing. Eleanor says she could never do math mentoring, so it's good that people with different interests and abilities agree to mentor. And she indicated that's there's a comradship between her and her neighbor. They see each other in the neighborhood, and always wave.

Serving has taken on an important life role for Eleanor. It was fun seeing her excitement, sense of purpose, and satisfaction from this role she's taken on. It's sad that so many others have not found this joy in retirement -- for themselves, and for those who would be the beneficiaries of their serving.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Manipulated by Jenny Dog

This weekend I discovered that Jenny Dog had figured out a new way to manipulate me. She is very clever. Sometimes I'm a little slow. Just being honest.

She knows that when she goes over to the back door and acts like she wants to go out, that I'll get up out of my chair and open the door for her. She had put that together with the knowledge that when I get up, that I may go and get her a rawhide -- her favorite joy on earth. And she knows that if I don't get up out of the chair, that she's not getting a rawhide. So lately, she has been working overtime to get me to get up and let her outside, with the knowledge that when she comes back in that I am already up and may make the trip to the kitchen to get her a rawhide. Last night it reached the point where I finally understood. Every few minutes she wanted to go outside. Sometimes she would even go to the edge of the porch before coming back in and heading for the kitchen.

Her new game obviously worked well enough for her to think she had it figured out. So when I would just go back and sit down instead of going to the kitchen, she would just go back to the door to go outside again. She must have thought that I had forgotten the new trick she had taught me. So last night was an interesting time of letting Jenny out and then back in and me sitting down in the chair over and over again. I'm not sure she's figured it out yet, but we'll see.

It makes me wonder -- if it's that easy for Jenny Dog to figure out how to manipulate me to get what she wants, then how susceptible am I to being manipulated by others?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Giving Bad News

Last week was one of those weeks when Sara was involved again and again in giving bad news to patients. Several new people had come in for consultations in her clinic, and they had no hope to offer. I guess it's just one of those statistical things -- during some periods of time, it seems that everyone that comes looking for help is someone you can't help. Of course, that is balanced by those periods when people come in who have been given no hope by others, and other eyes and experience are able to offer hope, even healing. That's just the reality of working in a cancer center.

Weeks like this last one are hard on Sara. Giving people bad news can never be easy. Many of us would find it impossible to do on a regular basis. But it occurs to me that it's the price for being able to deliver incredibly good news to someone who's been told there is no hope, which Sara also gets to do. Those of us who don't know the depths of having to deliver bad news can't know the heights of being able to deliver amazingly good news.

For Sara and her colleagues, I hope that this is a week where the statistics play catch up, and that the news they have to deliver is good.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Apple To Make Subscribing to Podcasts Easier

Having recently started producing a couple of podcasts (Drawn2Jesus and Retire2Serve), the announcement this week by Apple that they are building podcast subscription into iTunes is exciting news. The details are in Steve Jobs' keynote which is available at

The new release of iTunes coming out at the end of July will allow you to find podcasts of interest and subscribe to them directly in iTunes, all in a very transparent way. By subscribing, you will automatically have new programs downloaded into iTunes and then loaded on your iPod to listen to whenever you want. Basically, it lowers the barrier to listening by not having to use another program to do that for you.

The other thing that is exciting is that Apple appears to be adding functionality that will allow the inclusion of art with the podcasts, and allow that art to change during the podcast. Exactly how that works is yet to be released.

There are currently about 8000 podcasts. Over 6000 of these are produced by amateurs like me, and the rest are being done by radio stations and commercial enterprises. Some estimate that a year from now there will be 80,000 podcasts available.

The new iTunes functionality will go a long way toward moving podcasting into the mainstream.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Increasing My Memory

You're probably hoping that I've found a way to increase my personal memory. Sorry.

But I did have to find a solution to the memory crunch on my laptop. It's a several-year old ThinkPad T30 with a 20 Gbyte Hard Drive. And it was down to only a little over 1 Gbyte of free space. Needless to say, it wasn't running very well.

So I ended up picking up a WD Passport portable hard drive with 40 Gbytes of storage that plugs into a USB port. And then I had to buy a PCMCIA USB 2.o card so that I could get the higher transfer rate, because the ThinkPad is old enough to only have USB 1.1 (40 times slower than USB 2.0). And of course, I bought one of the cheaper cards and then had to return it and get an expensive one that would actually work with the WD.

After I moved some stuff to the WD Passport, I decided to defragment the hard drive. Guess it hadn't been done before, because nearly all of the files on the drive were fragmented. Needless to say, it had to run nearly all night to get the job done, but the result was more free space. So now the machine runs a lot better.

Just relating all of this to let others know that there are solutions other than buying a new machine. And that cleaning up the hard drive occasionally is a good idea.

Now if there were just something as straightforward that I could do about my brain...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A Celebration Feast

Last night we enjoyed a celebration feast with our friends Lewis and Elaine. Lewis, one of the BMC layoff casualties of a month ago, begins his new job Wednesday. His story about the steps involved in getting this new job is one that those of us who are believers easily see the hand of God in. So it was only fitting that we spend time in celebrating.

The venue for the feast was the Swinging Door -- a pecan-smoked barbecue place you have to plan on visiting because it's out in the country. But when you walk through the door, you know you've made a good decision -- the aroma is amazing.

Since it was a feast, we had the family style all you can eat dinner. Beef, ribs, links, turkey, chicken, along with beans, potato salad, cole slaw, and bread. I knew immediately that I would overeat, and be sorry later. But maybe that's what a feast is about. And to top it off, there was blackberry (and a bite or two of peach) cobbler covered in ice cream.

While the food is hard to forget, the highlight of the feast was Lewis telling the story, and the big smile on his face and the sparkle in his eyes as he told it. It's good to celebrate what God has done!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Podcast Results to Date

I've been interested to see what results I'm getting from the two podcasts I started a few weeks ago -- Drawn2Jesus and Retire2Serve.

I have two ways to look at how many people are listening.
  1. Feedburner provides some statistics. Feedburner is the web service that converts the feeds to RSS so that people can subscribe. It tracks the total hits to the RSS feed, and it also tracks requests for the feed, which converts into downloads. So it gives an idea of how many people are subscribing. It also counts click-throughs to the blog if someone goes to find more information or a link. From Feedburner, it appears that about 30 folks have so far subscribed to each. One episode of retire2serve had 16 clickthroughs.
  2. The website I use to host the mp3 audio files also provides statistics, including the number of times the mp3's have been downloaded. The most popular one has been downloaded nearly 200 times.
The retire2serve website where I host the podcast files has received over 1000 hits in about three weeks. Not bad for a new site.

And the really interesting thing is that Google and other search engines picked up on the site and on the podcasts quickly. Because the podcasts are listed on a number of podcast directories, and because Google hits them regularly, Google tends to draw a lot of attention to a website.

So, from an early perspective, it appears that some folks have found the podcasts and are listening, and that the website is getting quite a bit of traffic. We'll see how that works out over time.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

I've now joined Eloise and Sara as fans of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series of novels. I just finished In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, sixth in the series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith.

All are set in Africa, and do a wonderful job of giving a flavor of the culture and civilization. Smith is good at creating likable characters and sucking you into their lives so that you keep turning pages. Part of the allure of his characters is their strong morality and their kindness toward others. Novels that have great stories and a moral to go with them.

Makes me regret not having picked up on the series before the first five went to Uganda with the missionaries! Now I may have to go the library and check them out.

Here's a link to the book at Amazon: