Thursday, July 31, 2008

15 Years with my best friend

Today marks the day I married Shari, 15 years ago. Besides redemption for my sins in Christ, I count Shari as the greatest gift God has given me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reepicheep answers a plea for justice

As Don Vito Corleone was often approached for justice, so also Reepicheep has been appealed to...
Our esteemed youth pastor Brian Hough has been blogging about the mission trip to El Paso he and a team of Redeemer brothers and sisters are participating in. His blog entries have implied that our respected associate pastor, Nathan Currey, has been spending much of his time on his new fangled phone and taking unnecessary breaks.

Being a blogger who is fair and balanced, always interested in getting the whole truth in front of my readers, Pastor Nathan made a desperate plea for Reepicheep to set the record straight. You can see by the above pictures, the author of "The Graze" is the pot calling the kettle black!

Here's is Nathan's appeal to Reepicheep:

Dear Reepicheep,

I know you are aware of the smear campaign going on here in El Paso. My reputation is being slandered by lies and innuendo. I need a trusted blogger with a good reputation for fair minded and unbiased reporting. Here's some evidence to share with your readership. The truth. Can you please help?

Sincerely,Slandered in El Paso
Dear Slandered in El Paso,
I too have been a victim of Mr. Hough's photo shop exploitative escapades and the like. It hurts deeply, I know. Well, I have heard your cry for justice and will post these condemning pictures with great delight. When will Mr. Hough realize the damage his Paparazzi-like ways are doing to innocent victims like yourself? Hopefully these pictures of him loafing while sporting some strange "Elvis from the mid 70's meets Cheech or Chong look" will stop his future attacks! So, accept this justice as a gift on the occasion of my 15th wedding anniversary.
With justice for all,

What to do?

I have a serious dilemma. Nathan and I are moving in to "new" offices this week so I am spending most of the day transferring my stuff. I am carefully choosing where to put my various mounts and have come up against a challenge. My favorite mount is a deer butt. Yes, that's right, a deer butt. You can see me with my deer butt in the above picture (sorry about the light quality). It's a beauty for sure.

Some have ridiculed my deer butt. My wife doesn't like the butt. She thinks it makes me look like a redneck. My response is- I sort of am a a Yankee kind of way. So what? We have Nathan and Brian on staff to offset...well...we have Nathan on staff to offset my lack of polish and decorum, so I should just be myself, don't you think?

The deer butt must stay. Now, where to put it?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Law of Liberty

James 1:25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Scripture uses many terms to describe the Word of God, more specifically, the commands of God in the bible. James refers to God's Word in several ways also, the "Law of Liberty" is a description unique to him as he uses it twice in his sermonic letter (1:25 and 2:12). That's right, law that involves liberty.

When people think of God's Law or the "commands of God", it is not unusual for them to have a negative reaction. Liberty or freedom is not what comes to mind when people think of rules, laws, statutes, or commands. The law of God seems so daunting, so impossible to fulfill. Certainly a key purpose in the law of God is conviction of sin in order to turn us to Christ. Still, it would be a mistake to think of God's commands as solely convictive or condemning. As people who are "in Christ", we have had the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith and no longer stand condemned under the righteous standard of God. We stand before the righteous God with the merit of Christ, clothed in His righteousness, not our filthy rags. Instead of being depressed or despairing when we think of the many commands, statutes, and precepts of the Word of God, in Christ we can view them with delight just as David did in Psalm 119:97-99 (among other places)-

Oh how I love your law!It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers,for your testimonies are my meditation.

David understood a very important point- the Word of God and it's commands are a righteous reflection of who God is, not haphazard rules designed to trip us up. As people created in God's image, fallen then redeemed, living according to God's law will help us navigate life in a way that brings glory to God and joy to our souls. In a very real sense, the Word of God gives us freedom to be who we were intended to be. The Word of God shouldn't be seen as unnecessarily restrictive or as a mechanism to rob us of freedom. Instead it makes us free to obey and glorify God.

Think of it like this- a major league baseball pitcher has quite a few restrictions placed upon him. In the course of a normal season a team will only allow it's starting pitchers to pitch every 4 days. Further, he is restricted to approximately 100-110 pitches each game. Over the years sports medicine doctors and coaches have discovered this pattern to be most effective in enhancing and extending a pitcher's career. Throwing a ball 80-100 mph puts tremendous stress on the elbow and shoulder area. The body is able to handle such stress if it is limited. The body needs time to recuperate between each pitching episode (a game). A pitcher may feel ready to pitch after two days, however studies have shown it takes 72 hours for the arm to be fully ready to go again. In a bygone era of pitching it was not uncommon for guys to have their arms turn to rubber before they were 30. Since the newer practice of pitching every 4 days and limiting the pitch count, it's not unusual for guys to pitch well in to their late 30's with minimal loss of velocity and some even in to their 40's (Roger Clemens and his artificial enhancement not withstanding).

So, do modern day pitchers complain about how restrictive the guidelines are for them? Do they moan and groan that they are not allowed to pitch every night? No, of course not. They have realized the rules and guidelines have been made for their benefit. They are not restrictions so much as they are safeguards. Even more than safeguards, the rules preserve and promote their success.

We should see the statutes of the Lord in the same way. Obedience to God's Word safeguards, preserves, and promotes our well being for His glory. Commentator J.A. Motyer says it well- "True freedom is the opportunity and the ability to give expression to what we truly are. We are truly free when we live the life appropriate to those who are created in the image of God. The Law of God safeguards that liberty for us.”

May we share the sentiment of King David regarding God's commands-

Psalm 119:129-137 Your testimonies are wonderful;therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light;it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant,because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me,as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise,and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man's oppression,that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant,and teach me your statutes. My eyes shed streams of tears,because people do not keep your law. Righteous are you, O Lord,and right are your rules.

(there is an irony about the above picture and the pitching illustration I used here. Can anyone guess what it is?) UPDATE: See comments for the irony revelation

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tour de Dope

I used to greatly admire the Tour de France event and it's storied champions.

Now I think the event and the sport are a joke.

It has come down to the riders who finish in the top 10 or so getting tested for various banned performance enhancing substances and the one who is able to beat the tests gets the crown. Pretty pathetic. Congrats to Spain's Carlos Sastre- you have either won or fooled the drug testers, probably impossible to know which.

I'm not looking forward to the Olympics either. It's clear that athletes are way ahead of the various testing systems that are in place. It's all dirty any more.

Bah humbug.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Blanco is All Star game MVP

Blanco has done it again. He had a magnificent game earlier this week playing for the MLS all star team against West Ham United of the English Premier league.

In addition to this goal, he provided an incredible no-look back heel pass to Christian Gomez for the MLS all stars first goal.

The 35 year old Blanco rightly received the game MVP trophy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fish out of water

Is it just me or does Barack Obama look uncomfortable in his various meetings with foreign dignitaries in the middle east? He just doesn't look presidential to me. Sorry.

I don't know if John McCain can beat Obama, but I have a feeling these trips abroad won't boost Obama's popularity like he thinks they will. He looks remarkably inexperienced.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Look who's knocking at the door...again

I get an annual kick out of the naysayers dissing the New York Yankees. Every year a chorus of hecklers mocks their chances at making the playoffs, and virtually every year the Yanks prove the mockers wrong.

Admittedly I have been more concerned with our chances at a playoff berth this year than usual. Half our pitching staff is on the DL (heck, Carl Pavano has been on the DL for 3 years now!), Matsui is likely done for the year and Posada should probably just have the season-ending surgery he needs. Damon has even been out for a few weeks. A-Rod is embroiled in some Madonna scandal, and there's all sorts of hoopla about this being the last year in the old Yankee stadium. The Yanks have every reason to be down in the standings and out of the playoff hunt.

But alas, we are talking about the Yankees.

Here we are in late July and they stand just 3.5 games out of first place in a wicked tough division.

Face it Yankee haters- October is coming and the Yanks are very likely going to be alive and well. Another run at glory to come.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

I saw "Dark Knight" last night.

The build up to this latest Batman film was unparalleled due to the untimely death of Heath Ledger who played one of the main characters. But even without the passing of Ledger, this film promised to be good if it stayed in line with the first Batman movie (Batman Begins, 2005) of the Christopher Nolan variety.

The movie did not disappoint and Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker may well be one of the greatest villain performances in film history. Classic villains of films gone by have nothing on Heath Ledger's Joker. Margaret Hamilton (Witch in Wizard of Oz), Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs), James Earl Jones voice (Darth Vader in Star Wars saga), John Malkovich (Mitch Leary/In the Line of Fire), Dennis Hopper (Howard Payne in Speed), Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates in Psycho), Linda Blair (Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist), and the Shark (Jaws) are among the greatest villain portrayals. I believe Heath Ledger's Joker will be quickly added to this list.

Dark Knight is not for children or most teens. If a teenager is permitted to view it, I would suggest it be done with parents who have already viewed the movie and can preface before and debrief after. It's dark and violent, however not gratuitously so. It carries clear philosophical messages, most of which are explicitly post modern (conflicting presentation of the innate "goodness" of man, the situational ethic of vigilante justice, everyone has their unique standards, no one standard can be deemed absolutely right-it all depends on the particular situation, an extremely fine line between sanity and insanity, the seeming primacy of chance, what is a true "hero"? etc). Nevertheless, the movie is a cultural landmark that can evoke much good discussion for Christians. It will be the talk for some time to come, being conversant regarding such a phenomena can be a helpful witnessing tool for believers. I'm not in the practice of recommending films, so don't go run out and see it on my account. I'm just telling you what I think. It's always safest to wait for the DVD which allows for turning it off or fast forwarding. For what it's worth, I think the rash of postmodern-type films we are now witnessing presents a tremendous opportunity for the truth of Scripture to be applied to flawed and fallen thinking.

Obviously Ledger's death helped promote the popularity of the film and make it the number one weekend box office opener in American film history. Still, if Ledger had lived, the opening wouldn't have been as big, but I assure you his performance would have still gained the notice it deserves. Ledger was a so-called "method actor". He gets so in to this role it's scary. Some even suggest this depressive role contributed to his death (accidental overdose on an assortment of prescription meds). I don't see how the role could be played better- a true villainous masterpiece.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Recommended site

There are many informative websites on the internet, some of which I list on the sidebar. One site I think is worth checking daily is the "Pearcey Report". Click on and check it out.

Pearcey Report

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Not sure this is a good thing

We pastors at Redeemer have a business phone plan and our contract came up this month which means time to get new phones.

I think it's too much to say I'm a technophobe, rather I'm a utilitarian when it comes to technology. Pastors Nathan and Brian, my partners in pastoral ministry at Redeemer, on the other hand, are both infatuated with the latest and greatest electronic gadgets and computer capabilities. To be clear, Nathan gets excited about such things, Brian is down right crazy over them (can you say "OCD"?).

So our Sprint plan expired last week, Nathan and Brian go off to get us new phones on my day off (they knew I'd be a stick in the mud shopping at a gadget store). I returned to the office on Friday and was handed a box by an embarrassingly jubilant Pastor Brian. He is grinning ear to ear, itching to show me all the many capabilities of my new Palm "Treo" 800 (or some such number) phone. How do I tell him I think the thing is too big? How do I tell him I don't care about surfing the web on my phone? Should I tell him straight up that I like my old fashioned day planner better than using a "stylus" on a mini screen phone calendar doo-hickey? I just couldn't burst his bubble, he looked like a kid on Christmas morning. He sat at the table in my office smiling and pecking away on his new phone. Periodically he would cry out "This is awesome...check this out...I can't believe it can do this". Nathan unfortunately seems to have gotten a bum phone. He test called us and his voice was cracking up all over the place. He'll have to take his back. Poor guy, although I am VERY happy Brian didn't get the bum phone, I can't imagine what kind of depression he would sink to having gotten a taste of techno-paradise then have it yanked away until Monday.

I'm not sure if all the many capabilities of my new phone are a good thing. I can surf the web, check my email, blog, find out where the cheapest gas is, text Nathan and Brian encouraging messages, listen to music, check movie times and showings, sync my "outlook" calendar (which I don't use, again, I have an old-fashioned day planner), and do a host of other geeky, gadgety things. I will say this- it's been fun (and a little disturbing) watching Brian run around the office like Gollum with his precious.

I can even use this bulky thing to call people.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Together at last

I wish I had a large, quality print of the above colloquy at Marburg between Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther. As a way of educating our members and visitors I have been placing portraits of various Reformation figures in the main hall of our church.

This practice began when a new member of our church donated a print of a modern rendering of John Calvin. I began having other prints framed, the famous picture of the Westminster Assembly was the second to be placed, right near the coffee table. Most recently I put up three portraits over the drinking fountains- Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Knox.

I find the placement of Luther and Zwingli side by side a bit of an irony. I am sure they are enjoying great fellowship in Glory, however while on earth they had a bitter dispute. Schaff puts it this way:

"A dispute between Zwingli and Luther (and his German contemporaries) curtailed any attempt at unifying the parties. The parties managed to agree on 15 points of essential reform doctrine. There was only one point of dispute between the camps. The dispute revolved around the understanding of the Lord’s Supper. The Swiss did not agree with Luther’s doctrine of consubstantiation; they viewed the act of honoring the Lord’s Supper as a more symbolic act, not a literal changing of the substance of the elements. Some sources say that Luther harshly disagreed with the Swiss and called a halt to further fellowship, amid Zwingli’s great disappointment and attempt to unify the two camps in spite of this one doctrinal difference."

Of course, neither were exactly right on the matter they debated, see Calvin for that! Here we are some 500 years later and Luther and Zwingli grace "Reformation Hall" of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Together at last!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Proposed McDonald's Boycott?

I've never really participated in boycott's like the one proposed by the American Family Association targetting McDonald's. They are clear about the reason for the proposed boycott-

What the boycott of McDonald's IS NOT about
-This boycott is not about hiring homosexuals.
- It is not about homosexuals eating at McDonald's.
- It is not about how homosexual employees are treated.

What the boycott of McDonald's IS about
It is about McDonald's, as a corporation, refusing to remain neutral in the culture wars. McDonald's has chosen not to remain neutral but to give the full weight of their corporation to promoting the homosexual agenda, including homosexual marriage.

I rarely eat at McDonald's, but my kids love Chicken McNugget's and we'll pick up a bunch from time to time. I can almost throw a rock and hit a McDonald's restaurant close to my house. We see the golden arches regularly. Health reasons aside, should I boycott? Do such boycott's really work? What about boycotting all the other major corporations who promote a homosexual agenda? Where does it end?

I'm curious about the opinions of Reepicheep's astute and highly intelligent readership concerning this proposed boycott -Rick, you're only allowed a one paragraph response :) .

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Favre Drama

I used to be relatively obsessed with NFL football having grown up in Buffalo during the "golden years" of the Bills. Living in Kansas City has helped end that obsession, I really don't watch many games any more. Still, I enjoy observing the soap opera type situations professional athletes get themselves in to. Green Bay Packer legend Brett Favre is providing the latest entertainment.

After a very successful 2007 campaign, 38 year-old, long time Green Bay QB Brett Favre announced his retirement from football on March 3. Favre is considered one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history based on his most career NFL touchdown passes (442), most career NFL passing yards (61,655), most career pass completions (5,377), most career pass attempts (8,758), most career NFL interceptions thrown (288), most consecutive starts among NFL quarterbacks (253; 275 total starts including playoffs), most career victories as a starting quarterback (160) and his 1997 Superbowl victory. Personally, I would rank him the third greatest, behind Joe Montana and John Elway. Favre's 2007 season showed he can still play at a very high level. I was somewhat surprised he retired, but his reference to being burned out and the team's need to make some decisions with this year's draft made his retirement understandable, so on March 3 through tears, he seemed to make his retirement official.

Fast forward to this week, July of 2008. Now Brett wants to play again. He doesn't want to retire after all. It turns out he has been working out with a local High School team, he's in shape, throwing 50 yard passes on a rope and ready to go. Here's the problem- the coach of his long time team has informed him they have "moved on". Very simply, Green Bay accepted his retirement statement back in March and made draft choices in light of it, not to mention naming Aaron Rodgers as the new QB. Apparently Brett coming back would make things messy and awkward. Green Bay management really wishes Brett would just stay retired. Sensing his former team's lack of openness to his return, Favre has said there are basically a couple options- trade him or release him outright. There is an other option however, Green Bay could refuse to trade or release him and force him to be the back up QB, something they know his pride will not let him do. Basically Green Bay wants to lock him out. They don't want him to play for them, but they don't want him to play for another team either. Talk about the stuff of drama!

So what is the right thing? First, Brett Favre has every right to come back and play if he wants. He's totally free to do so. No one has the right to tell him he's too old or that he can't play in the NFL any more. At 38, a lesser Favre is still better than over half the existing starting QB's in the league, without a doubt. He has 1 or 2 good seasons left in him, provided he gets adequate protection. Second, Brett Favre is under contract with Green Bay should he decide to come back, therefore asking for an outright release is a bit presumptuous of him.

So, in light of these things, Green Bay should trade him. It's the right thing to do. The only other option is for Brett to swallow his pride and come back as the back up. Wouldn't that be great? Hall of Famer Brett Favre on the bench backing up Aaron Rodgers! Talk about adding to a tense drama! Rodgers isn't a better QB than Favre, nor will he ever be. The fans would mercilessly heckle the poor guy and the GB coaching staff in every situation where they think Favre would do better. Brett could just stand back on the sideline, collect his monster paycheck, and watch the drama unfold. It would be a very entertaining show in Green Bay.

As much as seeing Coach McCarthy squirm with Favre on the bench as a back up appeals to me, I am hoping the Packers simply trade him away. They shouldn't have to give him up via release, but they should let him play this season by way of a trade. It'll be fun to watch this drama unfold. By the way, the Buffalo Bills could sure use a more experienced QB.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Drill Here, Drill Now

I think Newt hits the nail on the head concerning a reasonable remedy for our current oil situation:

1. Tap our oil reserves immediately.
2. Drill here (in the U.S.). We have ALOT of oil in this country, plenty to get us well in to the future without the Middle East.
3. Develop alternative fuel sources in the mean time.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Horn Peak (13,428 ft)

My family and I just returned from a fabulous week at Horn Creek camp in Westcliffe, Colorado (just south of Colorado Springs). We took our vacation there last summer and couldn't wait to get back. We had the blessing of 4 other church families going this year as well.

Hiking is my favorite activity while at Horn Creek. The camp sits below Horn Peak, last year I vowed to get in good enough shape to climb it. I knew the challenge would be largely physical, however on the psychological side- I'm pretty scared of heights. On Tuesday of this past week, Shari and I climbed to the top. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Horn Peak is in the Sangre De Christo mountain range. While not a famed "14er", it's a very good challenge to climb. Here are some pictures of our journey below. The first is during the ascent through the Aspen trees.

After reaching treeline, the ascent is fast. Here we're trudging up the last section with grass. The last 1000 feet or so are rock. We're at 12,000 ft in this picture. That means 5 steps up, gasp for air, 5 more steps, etc. It took us 5 hours to climb 4500 feet from camp to the summit. The last 1000 feet took an hour and a half! I was glad to have been jogging in preparation, I would have surely keeled over otherwise.

In what can only be described as a "pentecostal moment" (for a Presbyterian anyways), I was about ready to find a way to quit (did I mention I'm scared of heights?) as we ascended the "false summit" (a peak just below the main peak), when I said to God- "Please Lord, don't let me quit now". Just then, a beautiful Mule Deer appeared just 25 yards in front of me. He stared at me as if to say- "come on wimp...get up this mountain". Obviously I cannot say for certain that God sent that Muley to motivate me, but the notion can't be completely ruled out either. It wasn't like a mangy dog showed up, it was a over 12,000 feet...well within bow range no less! I took it as a sign and gathered strength to get to the 12,600 ft. false peak.

Below is a picture of us resting on the false peak. Splendid view for sure. Shari is wearing the pink hat and I'm in the red warm up. I actually packed 4 shirts. I sweated like a pig up to treeline, then the temp dropped off dramatically and got pretty cool at the top.

Here's a good picture of Shari and I making our way from the false peak to the summit. Nothing but rock climbing for the last 800 feet.

Wow. Reaching the summit brings an indescribable feeling. Did I mention how I am scared of heights? God gave me special grace in this area as I felt pretty good psychologically.

Climbing Horn Peak was one of the hardest physical feats of my life. I have a new found respect for people who climb mountains on a regular basis. I can't think of too many activities that are more challenging.
For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,and declares to man what is his thought,who makes the morning darkness,and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name! (Amos 4:13)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vacation Preparation

The Brothers Felich fishin'

Jordan with one of his sunfish catches. He calls them "sunnies".

Nico with one of his little frogs. He'd prefer catching frogs and turtles over fishing.
AJ with his bass. It was a good sized fish, the picture doesn't show it well.

My Dad with his grandsons. Great fishing expedition.

I am generally high strung and therefore not too great at relaxing. Each year we take a family "vacation" for a week in the summer. We used to go back to Western New York to see my parents, but now they live 1.5 miles away, so we chose to go to Colorado for the first time last year. We had a great week so we decided to go back this year. We leave this Saturday.

While we had a wonderful experience last year, I found it hard to relax for the first couple days. I was stressed not having my cell phone or any ability to check my email, blog, etc. My mind would race at times, down time felt like I should be doing something work/ministry related. It's my fault, I know, but I'm just saying. By Wednesday of the week, I was starting to chill out and get in to actual vacation mode...but that meant less than 4 days of a relaxing vacation time.

So, in light of this relaxation dysfunction, I decided to use more vacation time and take off starting today (Wednesday) as a way of preparing to relax while in Colorado for the whole of next week. How's that for a brilliant plan? Now, I don't consider these days as genuine vacation time because as long as I am in town, I'll get calls, be tempted to check email, blog a bit, and still feel like I'm not on vacation, so I call these few days "vacation preparation". I'm sort of easing out of my usual lifestyle and in to the change of scenery and schedule that awaits in Colorado.

As today's vacation preparation activity I took my Dad and sons out to a friend's cattle pasture pond to fish. We had a blast. The boys caught something like 25 sunfish, two frogs, and a nice sized bass. Awesome boy stuff.