It’s the Boring Things in Life

I did something today which I hadn’t done for a very long time. Months in fact.

I went to get groceries with my mom.

We took some of the little folks, but it really was enjoyable to just walk around collecting items for the new year’s eve party we will have at home. Walking and collecting food, I was reminded of a quote by Russel in “Up”

“My dad made it sound so easy. He’s really good at camping, and how to make fire from rocks and stuff. He used to come to all my sweat lodge meetings. And afterwards, we’d go get ice cream at Fenton’s. I always get chocolate and he gets butter brickle. Then we sit on this one curb right outside, and I’d count all the blue cars and he counts all the red ones, and whoever gets the most, wins.
I like that curb.
It might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.”

That bit from UP could be one of the most profound scenes Pixar has made. We see Russel’s dad take an ordinary event. A “boy scout” gathering, and turn it into something special. It wasn’t big, frivolous, or expensive. It was, as Russel put it, boring. He didn’t like that curb because he got ice cream, because of the game he played, or even because he had gone to the sweat lodge meetings.

He remembered the boring stuff because of his dad. I think it shows it doesn’t really matter how you spend time with family or kids, but the fact you do spend time with them. That’s what makes the boring stuff memorable.

And in my personal opinion, that is something worth pursuing.

Advertisements

Taxes Don’t Make People Poor

Kinda laxed off the past few days. Oops.

Everywhere you turn, you hear about the “Fiscal Cliff this” the “Fiscal Cliff That”. America is going to end if the Fiscal cliff isn’t avoided. On and on and on it goes…

I’m going to dip into a little economic rhetoric tonight, because I believe so many people have lost focus in how free market economies work. As much as media wants you to believe, the government does not (yet) control the American Economy.

The consumer’s confidence does.

Let me say that again.

The American Consumer. You and I control the economy in America. What we spend ultimately determines the demand, which in turns affects production, which in turn affects business, which in turn employs us… Because we spend money.

Now, I know that is really dumbed down. I realize there are tons of factors which affect overall economic success and failure. I know regulations of government affect businesses. Interest rates, lending powers, and more. But the core concept is the fact the consumer invests his money into the economy, not withhold it based on fear. I believe we are seeing this today, specifically the Fiscal cliff. People say taxes will go up. And yes, they will. The Bush tax cuts will go away and we will have to pay a greater percentage to the government.

The solution however is not to spend less so we pay less taxes, but the opposite. We need to make and spend more money, and not be concerned about the percentage the government will get. We set that amount aside, and use what remains. That is the solution to a booming and growing economy. Making less so the government gets less hurts yourself, not the government.

So that’s why I say taxes don’t make you poor. You will be taxed regardless of the amount of income you have, so why not try and make as much income as possible instead of trying to stay below a certain line to avoid other taxes. That is not making money work for you, that is you working for money.

What makes people poor is spending money they don’t have, not saving, and trying to avoid extra income so they don’t have to pay more taxes. Taxes will always be around. Unlike england, America is a capitalistic society, we have the ability to make money. Yes right now it is difficult because of the lack of confidence. But there are jobs out there and sole proprietorships are incredibly easy to start.

It starts with a desire to work and make money. Then a desire to spend that money, simply keeping in mind the tax rate, and setting aside funds as needed for that rate.

My thoughts on the matter… How about yours?

The Blessing of a Good Friend

I was able to meet with one of my best friends this evening. We had supper to catch up, and then went to see the hobbit.

I was reminded how much of a blessing it is to have good friends in which you can trust. Don’t take your friends for granted ever. :)

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”

 ~C.S. Lewis~

How my Christmas was spent

Kinda self-centered post, but I thought I’d share with you how my Christmas day went.

   Anyone with little siblings or kids knows that feeling of being drug out of bed early in the morning to open presents. I think you officially are old when you desire to get more sleep, and wait to open presents at a more reasonable hour. Regardless, we all were up quite early and opened presents in turn first thing in the morning. It was quite enjoyable to see mom and dad’s reactions when they discovered I got them gifts this year… We go in a circle, not a mad all at once dash. Makes for better pictures and more relaxing atmosphere. :)

   Then we ate cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Not just any cinnamon rolls mind you, but homemade, scratch made, cooked to perfection cinnamon rolls with coffee icing. Delicious does not even begin to describe the flakey, gooey, sweet cinnamony goodness we indulged in this morning.

   Things took an unexpected turn after breakfast. We had family over to celebrate with us, and they needed a ride back to Tennessee. So, since a blizzard was blowing in, dad decided to take them back before lunch. I decided to ride with him… So I spent the rest of christmas in the car. Dad and I had some awesome conversations on the way back after dropping them off. It was different, but very fun to be able to just talk for four hours without distractions.

So overall, it was an excellent day. Spent time with family in the morning, then got to talk with dad in the car. It was relaxing for sure.

While I gave a few gifts to my siblings and parents, they gifted me with some pretty incredible stuff. Every year it seems we try to out do each other in giving the best gift…
They won this year.

That is a Nikon 1 V1. I did tons of research on compact cameras, wanting DSLR quality without the size of the camera or bulk of lenses, and this is the result. I played with this all day and have to say I am nothing short of amazed at the quality of pics this thing takes. As you can tell in these, my coolpix is dying, hence the subpar pics above. Sand got in it when we went to Australia… and it is on its last leg.
To say I was shocked when I received this, would be a huge understatement.
In addition, I also received these items… (taken with my new camera. :) Still trying to get the hang of it…)

Some of these gifts came from some good friends as well. Yes, that is a cookbook. And yes, I’m stoked about it. ;)
Every single movie Humphrey Bogart has starred in during his career. Plus, replicated movie posters! Those are going on the wall. 
I’ve wanted the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook for a while now. Making this pizza is the first thing on my list. 

Now, I’ve told you how my day went… I’d love to hear about yours. :)

Movie Review: Braveheart

Freedom.

That’s something the Scotts don’t have. They are ruled by corrupt Nobles, who act in the interests of self and pay homage to the king of England, Edward Longshanks. In reward, Longshanks gives them land, with the condition they pay taxes on the piece of property. The Nobles profit, and commoners starve, and so the cycle repeats over and over…

Until one day, when a solider tries to take advantage of his wife, William Wallace stands for it no longer. With bloody vengeance and passion he kills every solider in his town, and takes the life of the noble who treated his wife unjustly.

And so William starts down a path to free Scotland from the King’s tyrannical rule. The King reacts by sending an army of immense proportions to quell this rebellion. William and his men are ready to fight for the freedom of Scotland. No matter what the cost.

And it costs them dearly.

Things I Liked
One opening line in the movie, and is referenced over and over, is this:

“I know you can fight, but it is our wits that make us men.”

I appreciated the view shown, that being able to shoot, out-lift, or fight better than others does not make one a man. It is the wits and heart which show true manhood, and in many instances we see scottish men do so. They outsmart the enemy, are fiercely loyal to their cause, die for one another, and comfort each other.

William Wallace embodies several fine traits, he is full of conviction and passion for his cause. Sadly, it is for the wrong reasons, but we can learn and observe it. I was reminded and asked myself “Am I that passionate for Christ?” He is uncompromising in his values, and doesn’t succumb to bribery like the nobles. He makes many sacrifices for what he believes, and leads others in a manner of compassion and consideration. He is a servant leader, putting others before himself.

Things I didn’t Like
I want to warn you, the content below, while I attempt to put it as tastefully as possible, is still revolting. Read with caution, if at all. I summarize everything in the closing thoughts, so if you don’t want nitty gritty… Skip this. I also reveal quite a bit of plot, but nothing which gives away the ending.

This movie was full of sin, filth, and gruesome things. I was actually quite shocked that so many people recommended this with all the junk in here… I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt they forgot the bad stuff due to it being so bad…

First, the sexual content. William loves a girl in his home village, and without her father’s permission, begins to court her. Over the course of time, they get married in secret. The reason for this is the nobles have been given “Right to the bride’s bed”, and any newlywed would be taken by the noble that same night. In addition, the father does not agree to the marriage.
The wedding night, the camera shows full nudity, waist up, of both William and his new wife kissing. The shot lasts for a few seconds… but it was long enough to see what you could wish to unsee. William also has an adulterous affair with a woman for one night. Only kissing is shown there, but much is implied. William does not make honorable choices when it comes to women, which diminished his character quite a bit.
Before a battle, all the scottish soldiers reveal themselves to the opposing army. We see nothing there, but soon after they decide to moon the English army too. Many shots of the Scottish’s derrières are shown. I lost count of how many comments with innuendo or crude humor were made. There were dozens.

Next, The body count in this movie rivals any movie I have ever seen. An alternate title of this movie could have been “How many different ways can we kill scottish and english soliders?” There is no way I can list them all… Men are battered, stabbed, slit, crushed, pummeled, disemboweled, amputated, beheaded, shot with arrows, thrown out of building, impaled, trampled… To name a few. Blood flows freely from the wounds inflicted from the swords and maces. The camera never looks away until the damage has been shown to the fullest.
One particularly disturbing scene, a woman’s neck is slit by a lord, and the camera watches her die as the blood again, flows freely.
Another man is drawn and quartered in torture, then it is implied he is castrated as means of inflicting more pain.
Dead corpses get as much screen time as live ones. One shot shows a barn full of men, women, and children who have been hanged. Another shot shows dead men with deep and bloody wounds. The aftermaths of battle show the ground red with blood, dying men cry out, and we see a few “mercy killings”.
Another scene is a solider tries to rape a woman. She fights back and gets away before the damage is done, but we see her slapped and kicked. The man doesn’t fare much better though, as he is bitten, clawed, and slapped.

Profanities are many, pretty much all of em really. God’s name is not taken in vain from where I can remember though.

There are many crude jokes and humour regarding bodily functions, or lack thereof.

Closing Thoughts
This movie is rated “R” for intense and graphic violence and sexual content. Indeed, this movie had both.
Why would I watch it then? To be honest many friends and adults, whose opinions I hold in high regard, recommended this movie. They said it was full of courage, the willingness to stand up against what was wrong, and full of other heroic virtues. I expected an honorable movie with a hero worthy of merit.

To say I was disappointed, would be a horrid understatement.

Braveheart is a movie of conviction. The conviction of William Wallace to never back down, to never compromise on values, and to live a life not afraid of death….
All in the name of freedom.
On the worldly surface this looks great, while taking notes during the movie though, I saw the conviction throughout the entire film being misplaced. William’s conviction is not rooted in honoring Christ, but avenging those he loves and to be free from England. He prays to God not because he loves Him, but because he needs something from Him in order to fulfill his quest. That misplaced conviction led me never to fully root for Wallace.
We can take this idea though, and apply it to our Christian faith. We are to live free in Christ, no longer enslaved by sin and the desire to do and partake of evil things. We are to live uncompromising lives, never flinching of backing down from our loyalty to God and Christ. We are know what we believe and why we believe it, then act on those convictions.

The contrast is clear, when man puts his whole into a country and others first, the results are lacking and empty.
We see that in this movie. We know from history the Scotts achieved freedom, but for what purpose? Not to be able to worship God as they saw fit, but to live better lives.

When you get down to it, this movie shows a man full of worldly passion for country and self, and will do anything he believes necessary to achieve it, deceptively shrouded in the guise and word of “Freedom” by the filmakers.

Couple this worldly and self serving motives with the unneeded few seconds of waist up nudity, an adulterous affair, the intensely revolting violence, lack of biblical justification, and more…
I have come to the conclusion Braveheart does show a few commendable qualities, but hardly makes an impact in comparison to the filth and depravity shown.

Shhhh! I can’t hear the Quiet.

We live in a society of sensual stimulation and comfort. Every place you go there is music for our ears, colorful banners for our eyes, candles for our noses, and controlled climates for our bodies.

Out of all of these, I think hearing is one which is most ignored. While alone in the house today, it occurred to me to listen to the quiet.

Have you ever done that before? To turn off all music, radios, computers, etc, be still… and listen to the quiet? There are so many little background noises which we never notice, until we take a minute to hear them… Here is what I heard….

First, the breathing of our cat. It was slow, and light… until she sneezed.

Then, I heard the wind, birds, and occasional car outside. They were muffled, but always changing.

Then, I heard the hum of the refrigerator, low, but there.

The last thing I was able to hear, was something I had never heard before. The ticking of our kitchen clock. It is small, and I never knew it audibly ticked. But it does, and now that I have consciously listened to it, the clock provides a very nice beat to the house I never noticed before.

Praise the Lord for the sense of hearing. I know we are over saturated with noise these days, but try sitting and just listening to the quiet. You might be surprised at what you hear.

Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Why I hate going to the mall.

Today I went and got the last present for Christmas shopping of the year. It is so fun to purchase things simply to give them away to others. :)

However, this gift was at the mall.

I hate going to the mall, and here is why… (This is code for incoming negative/sarcastic rant. ;) )

1. The traffic. I don’t know what it is about mall parking lots, but it seems as soon as other drivers enter, they forget their driver’s ed training and year of experience. Not only did I get cut off twice,  but go honked at for stopping so I didn’t hit the “womantalkingonhercellphoneand didn’tlookbeforecrossingtheroadperson”. In addition to fighting the crazies, you have to find a spot to park. I think there is big money to be made with a mall valet service… just sayin.

2. The Crowds. If the people in their cars weren’t bad enough… did you know they are even worse out of the car and in the shopping center? They are. You essentially have three types of people.
First, the swiss. No, I don’t mean the nationality, I mean the people who have so many holes in them you’d think they were a fine cheese. Or at least they were going for a cheesy look. This species can be identified by the slouching posture against wall, captivation by smartphone screens, and general look of disgust of the world. They often travel in packs for protection.
The second group is the majority, the “American shopper”. This species is hard to identify based on looks, as they wear everything from pajamas to suits. There are several subspecies in this category, but most can be identified by the rushed/face pace walk, the general disregard for other beings in their area, and the general carrying of numerous packages. Don’t get in their way, because they won’t stop.
The third and final group is almost extinct, or hard to find because of the infrequency of visting the mall habitat. This is called the “Owl Shopper”. No, they don’t come out at night. Rather, these people avoid large shopping crowds whenever possible. They simply swoop in, grab their item of choice (after finding it through a friend of online), and quickly and silently leave the mall. Often more labor is put into getting to the gift than actually selecting it. They are often pushed around by the “American Shopper” Because of their inexperience in large shopping crowds.

3. The smell. I don’t know about you, but perfume, auti Jen’s Pretzels, the shoe store, and that… Abercrombie and Fitch smell… make me want to gag every-time I walk into the mall. By themselves, those smell are great. (Save for Abercrombie and fitch) But combined? Can I have a mask? Please?

I could go on, but so you don’t think I am completely insane, I’ll stop.

There is only one reason I’ll go to a mall save for presents…
That is Chick-Fil-a.

Goodnight and until tomorrow….

Austin

Turning a Normal Day into Something Abnormal

Ever have one of those days where you just have a nice, normal day in the midst of a crazy, abnormal life?

Yeah, me too.
That was today. :)

It was the standard routine of Go to work in the morning, Study all afternoon, and hang out with family in the evening.

But even a normal day… brings such abnormal occurrences. Praise God for that, because if everything did happen the same time after time… It would be a rather droll life.

For instance, at work, walk in like normal, tell my co-worker hey, and go sand on my car. Today though, I felt like I should go see how he was doing, call it a tug on my spirit. ;) So I asked him how he was doing, and turns out he had a really bad weekend. He is having issues with his wife, and needs a lot of prayer. The spirit really does lead when you listen, and it made a normal day at work a unique opportunity to minister to a fellow co-worker by listening and sharing scriptures as advice.

In studies, how can anything go abnormal in studies? I spent the majority of the day prepping for my final two DSSTs. Building outlines, collaborating resources, etc. Fairly standard. However, in the midst of planning for federal reserve effects on interest rates and values, I again felt a tug to go play with the little kids in the house. For some reason, I was listening a bit better than usual today. ;) So I took the little kids out and taught them how to throw a frisbee. It was so cool to see them try to learn what we consider a “simple” task.

I don’t want this post to look like a “Look at all the good stuff I did today” post, because “I” didn’t do any of that. Christ did it through me. If I hadn’t listened to the tug, I would have been selfish and worked on my car that extra 30 minutes, or gotten in an extra hour of studies.

I guess what I’m saying is even a normal day can be something special if you are open to Christ’s leading. I struggle with it everyday, and most of the time fail… but days like these, Christ helps me make choices not selfish, and the fruit is pretty cool.

So, I encourage you in those days of habits and schedules, make it something abnormally focused on Christ, instead of yourself, the results might surprise you.

Taking Comfort in… Motives?

I keep hearing on the news today more on the tragic shootings in Connecticut  I know it is not fun to dwell on, but there was one phrase repeated over and over that perked my curiosity and made me think.

“We do not yet know the killer’s motives, but will not rest until we have answers why this tragedy happened.”

Isn’t that a fascinating comment?
So many people today want to know why. “Why did he do what he did?” “It doesn’t make sense.” “It seems such a waste.” It is as if the why will provide the comfort people seek. As if knowing the man’s justification will somehow make it alright.

It brings to mind a quote from the movie “The Dark Knight”, regarding the motives of the sadistic killer “The Joker”.

I think Alfred hit upon a key idea in this small bit of dialogue regarding the condition of humanity. To often we think we can explain away depravity with a perceived motive. Because a motive is something which can be punished. Something which can be legislated. It makes sense out of something apparently senseless.
 
It provides man the illusion of control over the result of the crime, thereby making an illusion of safety.
That’s why these type of killings scare people so much. Because it shows the true condition of man’s heart, without any provocation or motives.  It shows humanity for what it truly is without Christ. A wicked, disgusting, and evil people. Of course, the scripture has answers for what happened. I mentioned a few days ago how all things work to God’s glory, and everything does. In addition, this verse comes to mind.
Jeremiah 17:9
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
We know this happened truly because of a heart issue. A heart which was turned upon self and not to God. What I find most tragic about this event and others like it, is this Truth is lost amidst the motives and earthly reasons for the crime. People miss the heart issue, which means it is just a matter of time before this happens again.  So we should pray the families and those affected find and take comfort in the Lord through this. Not through a legal explanation (and perhaps justification) of actions.
And to also say with humble thanksgiving to our Lord.
Save for the Grace of God go I.