Almost Mom's Taco Soup

Saturday, December 19, 2009
My first blog post in a long time is... a recipe? Yup. That's how good it is!

My roommate recently started making this, and it was so awesome I had to have a try at it. This is the recipe that I came up with. It is amazingly flavorful, and it makes a huge pot's worth. Also, I just found out that it is quite good cold, and I am sure that this recipe could be modified to make a nice cold bean dip.

Almost Mom's Taco Soup

(Note: The "Mom" in the title is not my mother, she is my roommate's mother. She created the original recipe, and this is my take on it. For the original recipe, see the bottom of this post.)

1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 pat of butter
1 lb of ground sausage
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of black beans
2 cans of pinto beans
2 cans of corn
2 cans of Rotel diced tomatoes (of course I get the Hot variety)
2 packages of taco seasoning
1 package of ranch dressing mix
5 cups of water
salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste

Dice the onion as fine as you can, and saute it with the clove of garlic in a pat of butter. (You minced the garlic, right? Good, because throwing it in the pan whole would be strange.) When the onion is good and brown, throw in the sausage and heat until fully cooked. Drain (if needed).

Drain the beans and corn. (I don't rinse them so that they keep some of their sauce with them, but feel free to rinse if you like.) Put the rest of the ingredients in the pan (beans, corn, tomatoes, taco seasoning, ranch mix, and water). Season with salt, pepper, and lots of cayenne pepper.

Bring everything to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Enjoy with corn chips and sour cream. (Most normal people would also enjoy it with corn bread, but I am not normal as I don't like corn bread.)


PS: For those new to my blog, check out my other recipes:
Almost Grandma's Chex Mix
Almost Kelling Family Minestrone Soup
Matthew's Cheesy Sausage and Rice
(Almost) Kelling Family Doritos Salad

PPS: Here is the original recipe, if you would rather try that version:

Mom's Taco Soup

I pour all the beans into the collander, rinse them, and let them drain.
Add whatever beans you want---just try for four cans.

3/4 pound lean ground beef
4 of any combination of pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, red, northern
1 or 2 cans (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes-- see what looks good.
1 can corn, drained (or use frozen)
1 onion, finely diced
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix or homemade
1 (1 ounce) package ranch dressing mix

Brown beef and add onion.
Add taco seasoning.
Add beans, corn, diced tomatoes and a bit of water.
Add taco mix and ranch dressing.
Let simmer for a few minutes and serve!

An update...

Sunday, October 11, 2009
For everyone following me on Twitter or Facebook: welcome to my blog!

For a while now I have joined my Twitter and Facebook page so that everything I say on Twitter gets forwarded to Facebook. But the more I explore both mediums I realize that each has a different group of friends for me: Twitter has mostly church techie people that I know or that follow me, and Facebook has more of my personal friends / people I know face to face.

So I have decided to stop forwarding ALL of my Twitter chat to Facebook. I will now segregate the two; personal posts I will put on Facebook, and church-related posts will be on Twitter. Sure, there will be a bit of bleed over, but in general this is the way I am going to try to keep it.

Of note: I do still have a way to directly post something from Twitter to Facebook. If I add the hashtag "#fb" to the end of a tweet, it will also update my Facebook status. So, if anyone sees "#fb" in any of my posts, just know that this means it is going to Twitter AND Facebook.

So, if there is anyone out there that follows me on Twitter but wants to know my personal side (of if you play Farmville), befriend me on Facebook. If you are my friend on Facebook but also want to see my techie side, follow me on Twitter. If you don't follow me at either place and have been refreshing my blog every day in hopes of me posting an update... then give me a call, we need to talk.

In all seriousness, I want to apologize to those people that follow my blog. I never intentionally stopped posting here, I just found a better and easier way of communicating on the internet (Facebook and Twitter). I simply haven't felt the need to update my blog when most people follow me on the FB or the TW. So really, if you don't follow me at either of those places, please do, because obviously you won't be seeing much of me online if you don't!


"Just like a Star"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Just like a star, if seen from afar,
My friends keep me company.

But fly more near and you will see, I fear,
That I am as alone as can be.

~Matthew Kelling

(Note: I wrote this almost exactly a year ago, August 26th, 2009.)

Oh Dear!

Saturday, August 22, 2009
Oh Dear, I hit a Deer! The lesson I learned from hitting a 6 point buck

The night of Thursday, August 20th, 2009, I was driving from Waco, Texas (where I was doing a job), to Bryan, Texas, to hang out with my best friend and throw his wife a surprise birthday party.

It was 2:30 AM and I was just getting to Bryan as I made the exit from Highway 6 to Texas Avenue (as per the directions from Google). As I made the exit I was decelerating (but I was still going a good 55 MPH) when I saw a deer appear on the left shoulder of the road.

My first thought was: "Oh cool, a deer on the side of the road." But I quickly saw that the deer was not standing still, he was headed for the middle of the road, and my thoughts quickly went to "I am going to hit this deer!"

I instantly reacted and did two things: I hit the breaks, and I hit the horn. I have no idea if hitting the horn scared the deer at all, but it didn't matter: there was no way I was going to miss it. As the deer ran across the road, the passenger side of my front grill hit it in it's rear quarters. I quickly brought my Jeep to a rest on the right side shoulder, and I turned on the hazard light and turned off the engine. I could hear large amounts of liquids draining from my engine, and I instantly knew I would not be driving away from this spot tonight.

I got out and surveyed the damage (link to photo). As you can see, the right side grill, lights, and bumper were gone, and my radiator had sprung a leak. I walked back and quickly found that there were pieces (some large and some small) all over the road. After getting the big pieces out of the road, I called my best friend to come pick me up (he lives only a few miles away).

(While the above photo link is open to the public, if you are a friend (or a friend of a friend) of mine on Facebook, you can check out my album with 23 photos here.)

While I was waiting for my friend, a truck pulled over and two college age guys came out to help. After saying "Wow, that's f#*&ed up!" like 20 times, they helped me push my Jeep further off of the road for safety. (At one point one of the guys threw a drink can into the grass. After they left, I stepped on it and fount it was a beer can... And I think it was the driver's drink!)

Anywho, they left, and after a short wait an NAPA delivery truck pulled over to a stop to see if I needed help right as my friend arrived on site. We all surveyed the damage, and the NAPA guy left. I then called Geico Emergency Services (I have tow insurance), and after joking around for a while with the guy on the phone, he told me that a tow truck would be there in 45 minutes.

On a side note: I have been very pleased with my Geico services. Everyone that I have talked to is very cheery, very nice, and very thorough. So far, they have an A+ rating from me!

The guy in the tow truck finally showed up, picked up my Jeep, and we were able to go home. Less than two hours after I ended the life of a poor deer, I was in my friend's home getting ready for bed. The next day (Friday) I called claims at Geico, within two hours a guy was looking at my Jeep, and a few hours later it was towed to a body shop. Later in the day my dad and step-mom drove in from Brenham (45 minutes away) and let me borrow his truck (it used to be mine). It is now my main mode of transportation until my Jeep if fixed.

[That is the end of the detailed account of what happened. Now begins my philosophical response to the situation.]

In the 24 hours since the accident, my mind keeps coming back to one thought: "What could I have done differently?" It is not reasonable to say that I could have taken a different route into town, because I had no idea that a deer would be lurking on that exit, just waiting for me to swing by. My timing, my route, my meeting with the deer was completely uncontrollable and inevitable; there was nothing I could do to change that.

But could I have acted differently once I saw the deer? At first (a few minutes after the accident) I thought "If only I had swerved, I might have missed it." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized: I was going 55 MPH at the time, and if I had swerved, there is a good chance that I would have swerved onto the shoulder, lost control of the vehicle, careened into the median, and started to barrel-roll... at FIFTY MILES PER HOUR! When you look at it that way, I will take my chances with hitting the deer!

So the more I think about it, the more I realize that there is absolutely nothing that I could have done to prevent me from hitting the deer. And to be honest, it is bugging me. It is in fact bugging me more than the $500 coming out of my pocket to cover the deductible. The thing that is bugging me the most is: I was not in control of this situation. Not to say that I lost control of my vehicle or that I was not in a good mind at the time, there is simply nothing that I could have done to make the situation any better.

And this is perturbing me! I like to be in control of everything that goes on in my life! I like to know what is going on, and when and where, and how things are going to happen. I control what I eat, when and where I go places, when I go to sleep and when I wake up, what I wear throughout the day, how I spend my money, even how often I brush my teeth. My life is the perfect example of a control freak living a controlling life. And I am not alone: most people are in full control of their lives. It is human (and very American) to be in control of one's life at all times.

But at 2:30 AM on August 20th, 2009, I no longer had control of my life. For that one instant, there was absolutely nothing that I could do to improve my life.

For whatever reason, if it be God or Satan or "nature" or just plain luck, I was destined to hit a deer that night. But, once you accept that I was going to hit a deer, things went amazingly well for me. I have insurance, so past my deductible everything is covered. While the car was beat up, there wasn't major damage to it. And most of all, I walked away from the accident perfectly healthy and safe.

But, for every thing that went perfect that night, there were ten things that could have gone wrong. I could have lost control of my vehicle. My airbags could have deployed, causing further damage and causing me to lose control of my Jeep. It could have been raining, causing not only the accident to be worse, but then I would have had to deal with a busted up car in the rain. I could have been in the middle of nowhere, instead of 5 miles from my destination. I could have had a passenger in the car. I could have hit the deer with the center of my car, causing the deer to flip up and crash into the windshield.

I could have died.

Of all of the things that could have gone wrong (past me hitting the deer), none of them happened. NONE! And they all refrained from happening with no help from me controlling my life! Every single thing that didn't happen was a gift from God! Every possible outcome outside of what happened would have been worse, and God saw that and created the situation to be the best outcome for me.

Romans 8:28 says And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. While I believe that this verse is often quoted for selfish reasons (IE: God will bless me simply because I am a Christian), I am absolutely certain that this verse describes how God worked in my life that night.

The night of August 20th, God worked for my good. He watched over me, he protected me, he loved me. And this is all absolutely separate from anything I could do. God knew that his plan was best for me, and while I couldn't see it at the time (and I quite possibly still don't), I know that God is working for my good. And while the worst feeling I have about this event is still "I was not in control", it is instantly covered with a feeling of "That's OK, God was in control".

So if I had to sum what I learned from this event in one sentence it is this: Sometimes we have to lose control so that God can show us that he is in control.


I hit a deer

Friday, August 21, 2009
I hit a deer.

Yup. At 2:30 this morning, going 55 MPH, I hit a deer just outside of Bryan, TX.

I am perfectly fine, the airbags didn't even go off (which kinda makes me sad), but Jackie had to be towed away as the radiator was shot. (I am soooo thankful I paid an extra $1 per month for towing insurance!)

It is now 4:30 AM, and I need to get my sleep, but I will leave you with this:

Photo of the scene


New Texas Law

Monday, August 17, 2009
For all of my Texas friends out there, here is a warning: House Bill 537 goes into effect September 1st.

Why should you care? Because it says that every person in a vehicle, no matter the age of the person or their location in the vehicle, MUST wear a seat belt at all times. That's right, you have to buckle up even if you are in the back seat.

More info: link



Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Here, for no real reason, and in no particular order, is a list of the podcasts that I subscribe to. For your convience, links to the original site and to iTunes are included.

Church Tech
Church Tech Talk (iTunes): A bunch of guys sit around and talk about church tech. They often get off topic (sometimes to a fault), but this relaxed atmosphere is part of what makes them endearing.
Creative Synergy (iTunes): This podcast only has 6 episodes and it hasn't been updated in nearly two years, but it is still a must-listen for church tech guys.
Faith Tools (iTunes): This is my latest addition to my podcast collection. I am slowly catching up to the current episodes, but it is turning out to be a great resource for church tech help, tips, and tricks.

Other Tech
MacBreak (iTunes): This video podcast shows great tips and how-tos for Mac people. They also have a wide range of sub-categories, including "MacBreak Dev" (for developers), "MacBreak Work", and "MacBreak Tech".
MacBreak Weekly (iTunes): MacBreak Weekly is an audio podcast all about Macs. If you like Macs, you have to listen!
This Week in Tech (iTunes): Simply the best tech podcast ever.

New Release Tuesday (iTunes): NRT is a weekly podcast featuring releases from Christian artists that are coming out that week. They have a great mix of popular artists and new artists.
Tooth & Nail (iTunes): Tooth & Nail is a Christian recording company, and their podcast features new music from their artists. Great stuff to listen to, but if you don't like death metal, stay away from their "Solid State" editions.

What podcasts do you listen to?


Family or Church?

Friday, August 07, 2009
Recently I have been surrounded with people that have two main draws in their life: family and ministry (IE: they work for a church). This has made me ask the question: Which comes first, family or God?

My first "Sunday School" answer is "Both. Putting your family first is a form of putting God first." But it isn't always that easy.

Say you are a senior pastor with a wife, two-point-four kids, and a dog. It takes a lot of energy to be a husband/father (or so I have been told), but it also takes a lot of energy to be a senior pastor. Let's say that you have been working all week on a project at the church, and it comes late in the week and you realize that you have not spent enough time preparing your sermon (and not by choice, you simply haven't had the time). Do you prepare the sermon, or do you go home to your family which you haven't seen all week?

Does the answer change with who you are? IE: If you are the choir director, is the answer different? The technical director. A choir member?

To ask the broad question: If you aren't employed by a church but you are just Joe the Plumber, do you put God or your family first?

Just a thought provoker this week.


Wave Wash

Saturday, July 25, 2009
Instead of telling you guys the story about what happened Thursday and how upset I was about it, I thought I would just post the letter I wrote to the company and let you read it yourself. Link

Any feedback before I mail it?


Your greatest sin...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
“Your greatest sin is not the abortion that you’ve asked forgiveness for, or the adultery or whatever is that you did in your life in a past that you’re ashamed of that keeps hounding you. Your greatest sin is not that. Your greatest sin is not believing God’s word when God says you’re forgiven. Your greatest sin is unbelief. You want to repent of something, friend? Stop repenting of sins that you’ve already repented of, and repent of your unbelief!”
~ By Rich Nathan, as quoted on the House of Heroes song "Voices"


Off we go!

Friday, July 03, 2009
Well, here we are. I have been meaning to type up a post for my blog, just so that I can say that I wrote a blog post. I don't know why I haven't written in over a month, but that is just how things go. (It probably has something to do with me posting on Twitter now... follow me here.)

Anywho, I just wanted to give you a quick update on my life. I am still working at all 25 of my jobs, so I am keeping busy. The big news of the week: I am going on a cruise! That's right, in four hours I am flying out to Florida to take sail on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the East Caribbean. I am going with a bunch of my cousins, my sister, and my grandmother. We are going to have a blast.

So any way, this is just a public statement that I will be out of hand for a week... no e-mails, no phone calls, no blog posts, and no twitters (unless I send some from my cell phone...).

Anywho, I hope that everyone has a great week, and enjoy the Texas summer as much as you can!



Wednesday, May 27, 2009
As lightening flashes over somber planes,
          as dawn breaks,
My soul crashes against the shore,
          my soul awakes.

My heart cries out for answers
                              for peace
                              for hope
oh God                   for love.
                    All I get is love...
          and hope...
and peace...

Answers elude me, same as the questions.
          As certain as I am about this,
                    I doubt.

Life crashes, flashes, breaks, dies.
The same my soul, but doesn't die.

The promise, the certainty, the God of all
I beg, I plead, I push, I claw
                    won't let go,
          won't leave me,
won't break.

          The light shines in the darkness,
     but I do not understand it;
it overcomes me.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009
My Things to Do list (in no particular order):
clean my room
clean the house
mow the lawn
study the Bible
get the "Blue" DVD done
finish my To Do list
do the dishes
pick excursions for the cruise
learn how to write iPhone programs
start working on my To Do list
wash clothes
take care of the puppy
think about starting to work on my To Do list...

*sigh* if only the list weren't so long...


Good Eats!

Friday, May 22, 2009
Out of 210 "Good Eats" episodes (including three specials), I have 142 on my hard drive (including the first), and my collection is growing!

Oh, and they have all been recorded via my DVR, there are no downloads in that collection.



Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I just found out that an amazing friend from middle school, Kellie Shehan, took her own life over the weekend. She was an amazing spirit full of joy, but also full of great sadness. Please pray for her family and those that knew her.

Her obituary: link



Saturday, May 16, 2009
I just spent 11 hours in the sound booth at church cleaning it from top to bottom... I will do a full write up with lots of pics tomorrow.

EDIT: Here is the link to the post.



Friday, May 15, 2009
Good morning!

Well, I hoped it would be. I went to bed slightly early last night, trying to get a good night's rest. But then I couldn't fall asleep right away, so it didn't help. Plus, it didn't help that this morning I got two phone calls, a roommate that wonders in and out of the house for an hour, and a dog that needs to go out, and in, and scratch scratch, and lick lick... Oh well, I am awake now.

Oh, and lesson learned: using a set of store-bought hair clippers upside down gives you a shorter haircut than you wanted... plus it just looks bad.



A few weeks ago my sister posted a satellite view of our grandmother's house.

I just found, thanks to Google Earth, a satellite view of her house from 1995, complete with full orchard and the road going directly to the tank:

(click for full size)




Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I am frustrated at lots of things today... I am just having a bad day. I am sad.

Then I read my second to last post... that makes me slightly happier.



Tuesday, May 05, 2009
According to Google Analytics, visits are down on this blog 46.21%. Hmm, think if I posted more it would go back up?


Isaiah 12

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation....

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.

Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.

~Isaiah 12



Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Since April 13th (15 days ago), 152 people have died from the "Swine Flu" (all in Mexico). The media is calling this an epidemic.

Let's put that into perspective. In that same amount of time (15 days), there have been about 49560 abortions in America alone. That's just under fifty thousand!

152 ... 50,000

Which is the epidemic again?



Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Granted, I am writing this at 4:30 AM, so I am at my worst, but this will just show out my true emotions (and I guess my bad English).

I am really tired of my sleep schedule. My job at Swagit keeps me up late: usually Monday nights I get home around 1 or 2 AM, but sometimes there are nights like tonight where at 4:30 I am looking at at least another hour, probably two, plus an hour drive home (don't worry, I am plenty awake... I will stop and get donuts on the way). Tuesday nights I tend to have the same hours as Monday nights, but I sleep at work, so that saves me an hour drive home. Wednesday I am up early ("early" = 10 AM) and I work through 5 PM at which point I drive to Bible Study (or more recently I just drive home because I feel so bad).

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I sleep until noon then stumble through the day. Sunday I am up at 7 AM for church, and I am awake all day for that.

See, the problem is not the late hours. I don't mind the 4, 5, or 6 AM drives home... that is, I wouldn't mind it if I could guarantee 8 hours of sleep. But that won't work because I have things I need to get to in the morning. For example, I have a staff meeting to go to tomorrow at 1 PM. 1 PM sounds late for most people, but think about it this way: the meeting is 8.5 hours from now. Minus 1 more hour of work tonight (that is being optimistic), a 1 hour drive home, and 20 minutes in the morning to drive to church, I am at 6 hours of sleep. And that doesn't count the time it takes me to get to sleep at night, the fact that I was planning on going to the post office in the morning to get my passport (I am now thinking about doing it later in the day), OR the fact that I was going to have a meeting with a guy before the meeting.

Not only is it that I can't get 8 hours of sleep at night, it is that I can't keep a constant sleep schedule. Because I have church early Sunday morning, I can't keep an all-nights-sleep schedule, it is constantly changing, constantly throwing my body for a loop.

I want to be clear, I am not speaking against Swagit here. I love this job, it pays well enough, and it takes care of the bills. (In fact it is these late nights that really pad my pay check.) Heck, I even have plenty of down time to write out a long blog post. But I find myself wishing I didn't have this job, simply so that I could get my sanity back.

I just wish there were a clear answer, a better way to do this. If only Swagit wasn't a night job, if only I didn't have to be awake in only a few hours... if only... if only life were easy. Wouldn't that be nice?

Then again, I look at some people who have to fight life so much more than I do, and I see how blessed I am, even with all of my "if only"s.

Please pray that God helps me through these physically tough days.



Monday, April 06, 2009
I am working on a text document that would be the answer to the question "If you could give one sermon in your life what would it be?" The working title is:

My Challenge to all Americans: my first and only sermon
The Castration of America: how the church has failed American Men
Pornography, Lust, and Masturbation: three words you will never hear your pastor say

(and no, that is not three working titles, the above would be the title)

If you could give one sermon in your life, what would it be?



Wednesday, April 01, 2009
I know I haven't posted here a lot recently, but that is because I have been very busy. I have been posting some on the AUMC AV blog because that is what my day is full of, and I have been posting a lot on Twitter. I post so much on Twitter because it is easy and fast, much easier and faster than writing out a blog post. So remember to catch me on Twitter, and I will try to post here more often!



Monday, March 30, 2009
Please be praying for our pastor Kory Knott. From an all church e-mail: "Kory is hedging towards a relapse of pneumonia. He asks for your prayers of healing."

He is really sick and is taking a week off. Please be praying for his health and for a healthy return, as this coming Sunday is the first service in our new building and I know that he would be crushed if he weren't able to be there.


OK fine...

Saturday, March 28, 2009
OK fine, here it is:

Day 0: Packing
Saturday 14th, at 11:50 PM

I am getting ready to go on the mission trip. We are leaving in T-6 hours, and I still haven't packed, and there is a few things I have left to do. But what the hey, I still consider myself a college kid, I should be used to this kind of lifestyle!

For family members: I am bringing my cell phone with me, but I will keep it off all day and just check messages at night. Please only leave a message if it is an emergency!

Oh, and I just got news that we will have access to wireless internet at our hotel, so I am bringing my laptop and I plan to use my blog for the purpose it was intended: an online diary! Every day I will post and talk about what happened in the day! I hope this works out!


PS: I hope that they have some good looking ladies there, and if they do I hope I don't do anything rash!

Day 1: Driving
Sunday, the 15th, 9 PMish

What a great day!

This morning we finally left just after 8 AM (we were supposed to leave at 6, but the busses showed up late and one gal forgot her luggage at home so we drove all of the busses to her house... what a bad idea!). The bus ride was close to ten hours (the bathrooms on the charter bus help keep the time shorter, but they do drive under the speed limit). We watched some movies on the way up (Cars, Transformers, and Dumbo of all things), and we played card games and sang songs... what you would expect a bunch of college kids on a road trip would do.

We got here, barely had time to bring our stuff to our hotel rooms (nice place, we are staying at a Hilton, I hear they gave us huge reduced rates because Memphis isn't the Spring Break capital of the world and the manager likes what we stand for). Like I was saying, we just had time to drop off our stuff and run to the first night of the conference. They had some speaker up there, I don't remember his name, but he gave a stirring sermon about how we are to be missionaries to the world, but also to our local community. Somehow he made the point "Even Jesus always preached to his local community", although I don't know how he worked that in. And it is cool, because this conference has churches from all around America, both high school and college groups are here, so it is neat to meet people who are from afar.

Anywho, I am off. It has been a full day, we got back early because we have an early start tomorrow, but I can tell you I am loving this wireless internet! I just hope my leader doesn't find out I brought my laptop!


Day 2: Gleaning
Monday, the 16th, 2009 at 10:30

Today started out early, 5:30 to be exact. And I mean, we left the hotel at 5:30, so we were awake long before that. We all jumped into our team vans (we dropped the charter busses for team vans during the week) and went, of all places, to a farm! Our group split up, half went to load sweet potatoes onto pallets, the other half gleaned the sweet potatoes. I was in the gleaning group.

Gleaning (if you don't know) is simply sorting the good sweet potatoes from the bad. So you have a large box (think of the large crates you see in the produce section with watermelons and beans) full of freshly picked sweet potatoes, and we empty the box and either throw them in the good pile, which is a large bag that gets shipped somewhere, or the bad pile, which is another large box.

But how is this helping the homeless, you ask? The entire operation is a non-prof, and all of the sweet potatoes were donated (it is not cost efficient for the farmers to glean them themselves because there are a lot of bad ones in these batches). So all of these sweet potatoes go to homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

Lunch was (thankfully not sweet potatoes) handmade sandwiches from a local shop, and they came with bags of chips and drinks. The sandwiches were good, but the chips and drinks... I never thought I would fall in love with a brand of potato chip, but I want to know where they make these so I can buy some and bring them back (note to self: they are called Jones Potato Chips), and the drink was amazing, it was an orange drink, but it wasn't orange juice and it wasn't orange soda, it was between the two. It had the natural orange flavor of OJ but it wasn't overly sweet like a soda, it was almost an orangeade (which are good themselves).

After lunch we went back to the conference, "The Rising". Today they made clear why they are calling it "The Rising", they are calling high school and college kids to rise up and minister to those around them. It is all about how to minister, not by going door to door and not by "preaching the gospel at the top of your lungs", it is all about going to where people are, helping them, and then sharing how your life was changed. Some pretty cool stuff.

Tonight we broke out into small groups, and they wanted to mix things up, so no small group had two people from the same church. Anywho, one girl in my small group stood out. I don't say this often, but DANG, she is HOT! I mean, she is the nicest looking woman that I have ever met. If I didn't believe in love at first sight before, I do now! lol

Anywho, I didn't catch her name, but I will definitely be looking for her tomorrow!

Well, they are calling for lights out, and it is now after 11, so I am off.


Day 3: Cute
Tuesday 17, 11:00

I can't talk for long tonight, I have to head for the shower and get some sleep, but while my roommate is in the shower I have a moment to keep my promise to type out a blog every day.

Today we cleaned up a very old cemetery that was overgrown. We cut lots of weeds and hauled off branches, I am still sore (it feels good to be sore sometimes!).

After lunch we went back to the church for more conference. I got very lucky and the first thing we did was get back into small groups, and they asked us to get back in the SAME small group! Yea for me! I found out her name is CJ, to which I commented "Like the girl in 'The West Wing'", and she kinda blushed and pushed it off, so I did to.

After the small group and the sermon for the afternoon the entire conference had dinner together, which was different. Of course I tracked CJ down and sat next to her. I never considered myself a flirt, but I was today! She talked about how she grew up in Utah and went to the same school that Elizabeth Smart went to (remember her, she was kidnapped a few years ago). She didn't know Elizabeth directly, but it shook up the community.

Anywho, Joel is out of the shower, so I have to go. ttfn! (for mom: "Ta ta for now!")


Day 4: Squashed
Wednesday 18th, some time after 11

Today was a handful! We stared off the morning serving breakfast at a soup kitchen, we then prepared and served lunch, then it was back to the church for the Red Revolution (another name for the conference).

Funny thing: on the way back from the soup kitchen (we had walked because it was close), I almost got ran over! The group was lagging behind me, and I wanted some exercise so I went on ahead, I had a little green walking light, I even looked both ways, but out of nowhere here comes this white Chevy truck (was it Rhonda's sister?) peeling down the road and it nearly hit me. Thankfully I didn't die, but I will be more careful next time! I call it funny, I didn't think it was funny at the time, but one day I will!

Anywho, after the sermon this evening I was once again able to hang out with CJ! I found out why she was ashamed when I brought up "The West Wing" yesterday, because her name is Claudia Jean Craig, just like the woman on the show! They totally took her name!

But then she dropped another bombshell on me. Apparently she could tell I was into her, and she wanted me to know something going forward. She said that while she is here with a Baptist church, she is actually Mormon. Her mom made her come on the mission trip with a college group that she isn't a part of, they just brought her along.

So I am at a cross roads, I am struggling. I feel pretty adamant that the Mormons are wrong, but she is such an amazing person. I mean, is it wrong to date a Mormon? Do I try to persuade her from her ways? Then again, I am getting ahead of myself because she lives in New Mexico, but have I said that she is amazingly cute?

Oh well, I will sleep on it. Who knows, she may not like me. But I will tell you this: I am NOT going to get married in a Mormon temple!


Day 5: sleepy
Thursday, the 19th, 2009

Long day, very tired, built a wheelchair ramp and painted it gray (don't ask), ate lunch, more small groups and sermons. Talked to CJ about her religion, and she made some good points. Night.


Day 6: Mormons
Friday the 20th (one week after Friday the 13th!) just before noon

Well, I thought a lot about what CJ said as I tried to sleep last night. And I can't say that I am a Mormon yet, but I will say that she made some good points.

Just as we believe the Bible was breathed to life through men (a lot through Paul in the NT), the Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was led by God. God led him to the location of the tablets and God breathed meaning into Smith to make the right translation.

There is also historical proof that Jesus came to the Americas during that time period, there are paintings and sculptures. The Mormon faith is established through many elders and has been around for a long time, it has an established base of may believers, so it can't all be wrong, right?!?

So I am not going to be running off to get "Mormon Baptized" just yet, but it has my gears turning. I thought I had blocked out Orson Scott Card's attempt to indoctrinate me, but I guess I didn't.

Anywho, everyone is packing up, we are checking out of the hotel this afternoon and driving back through the night. We should be back in Denton by tomorrow morning, see you then!


EDIT: 5 PM: OK, I did it. I took the plunge... wow, what a pun. CJ talked me into it, and after lunch we snuck away from the group to a Mormon Temple and I was baptized. CJ and I have fallen madly in love with each other, so we are going to leave the rest of the group, drive to Las Vegas, and get married at a drive through Mormon Temple they have down there. Yup, I am eloping!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Actually, yes I am.

I have to say: this whole thing was a sham. If this were an MTV reality show, Ashton Kutcher would be here right now shouting "You just got PUNK'D!"

In fact, I won't have access to the internet while I am in Memphis, I am writing all of this before I leave and it will be posted on a schedule. I thought I would do something that I don't normally do and pull a prank, a nice big juicy prank. I can't wait to read the e-mails I got from Stephen re: dating a Mormon. =: >

So everything you have read about on this blog since Sunday you can forget. Tomorrow morning there will be a post that will point out how I came up with all of this, and it will give a few clues that you may have had that would let you see through my sham.


Day 7: Truth

(Note that the name of this post is "Truth", you can be assured that the previous posts were all a prank, but this post is all TRUE!)

Wow, that was fun. I started writing all of these posts just after midnight (IE: we are leaving in six hours, and I haven't packed, so I sit down and write all of this out!) and it is now just before two, so it took me about two hours to pull off this prank. I sincerely hope that no one was upset or offended at any point in this prank, it was designed to be harmless and fun, so if you were upset or offended, I am sorry. I also don't want to be offensive to the Mormon community. I think that Mormons are wrong, but I don't mean to be disrespectful to you.

Here is a journal that will tell you about how I came up with this prank, feel free to follow along with the original posts:

Day 0: The first paragraph here is entirely true. We were leaving in six hours, I hadn’t packed, and the “few things I have left to do” is to write these posts! The second paragraph is made up. I added the “PS” about good looking ladies to help throw some suspicion in there. I was worried that if I didn’t do anything like that, then the prank would be taken too seriously, but with a line like that some people would figure it out a little sooner, IE: that line was to make the prank more fun and less offensive... although I don’t know if it worked.

Day 1: I made up the story about going to the girl’s house to get her things. I picked the movies “Transformers” and “Dumbo” because last summer I did a job where I showed those two movies at a Home Owner’s Association event. “Cars” I threw in there because I thought it would be a movie a group of college kids would watch on a bus. The rest of the post was made up because I thought it was fun. (However, the part about the conference being made of high school and college groups from around America is true.)

Day 2: Gleaning sweet potatoes. That is actually something that we did last year in Washington DC, and as they say, all lies have a kernel of truth in them! So the story is actually personally correct, just the wrong year. The lunch story I stole from our Hawaii trip (Sara should remember it, it is from our canoe trip). The rest I made up.

Day 3: The cemetery bit is true. As I understand it, one thing we will do this week is clean up an overgrown cemetery. I got CJ’s name from the show The West Wing. CJ Craig was the White House Press Secretary, then she became the Chief of Staff. If you have ever seen The West Wing, this may have tipped you off (remember I just finished watching all 7 seasons?). I threw out the Elizabeth Smart story just to throw some detail in. In fact, I was personally in Utah when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, my dad and I were there on a job at the time, and I remember watching all of the news coverage.

Day 4: The “almost getting run over” story was a throwback to middle school when I went to Washington DC the first time. I had a reputation for not waiting for the whole group before I walked across the street, so there was this inside joke about me getting run over.

Day 5: The gray wheelchair ramp came from our days at UMARMY which was the mission trip we went to when we were kids. We built a lot of ramps, and we could only paint it white or gray, unless they supplied the paint.

Day 6: The fun day! The day I get to come clean! I don’t feel like doing research about Mormonism, so I am making this all up! The “historical proof” I made up. And I sure HOPE there isn’t a drive through Mormon Temple in Las Vegas!

Day 7: And here we are. I was able to pull off this prank due to the fact that you can future date posts in Blogger and they will post when you tell them to. Thanks Blogger!

Well I am off, it is now 2:20 AM, we are leaving in less than four hours and I STILL HAVEN't PACKED! Don't all great trips start this way?


That other site...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Sorry I haven't been posting as much, but I have been over at my other blog: AUMC AV Blog. As we make the move to the new church (about 10 days away now from our first Sunday service in there), I am posting more and more at the other blog. So check up with me there!


"You just got PUNK'D!"

Saturday, March 21, 2009
OK, so here's the deal. The night before I left for Memphis I had a great idea: "It would be fun to write up some blog posts before I leave about how the week gets progressively strange and set it up so that the posts get posted while I am gone... that would be fun!"

So I did just that. At midnight the night before we left (AKA: we were leaving in 6 hours) I sat down and wrote out 8 blog posts and post-dated them so that they would come out during the week. Truth is: I made up the post about me bringing my laptop to write the posts, it was all written before I left! The stories about us driving up, the gleaning of the potatoes, and cleaning out the cemetery were all made up.

But like the saying goes, even the biggest lies have a kernel of truth. The gleaning story is based on our trip last year to Washington DC in which I did glean sweet potatoes, and the cleaning of the cemetery we did do this week (I knew we were going to do it, so I wrote it into the post).

The backbone of the story, the part that was going to be most absurd, was how I was going to meet this girl named CJ (who turns out to be Mormon, which Mother somehow guessed) and fall madly in love with her. By the end (Friday) the story culminated in "CJ and I have fallen madly in love with each other, so we are going to leave the rest of the group, drive to Las Vegas, and get married at a drive through Mormon Temple they have down there. Yup, I am eloping!" At that point I came out and revealed that it was all a prank, and I explained how everything worked. I even had a separate post about how I came up with all of the wild stories.

So all of this was typed out and organized in about two hours the morning before we left. While on the trip the posts posted right on schedule, everything was working just as planned. But as the days went by, I kept worrying about the prank, I kept worrying that it was too much, that it was over the top. Then, Wednesday night we had a great worship session, and I kept worrying about the posts, and I thought: "If I can't get it out of my head, maybe this is a sign, a *nudge nudge* from the Holy Spirit saying that it needs to stop". So that night I went to the hotel lobby where there were some computers and I stopped the posts that were scheduled to come out. In fact, I stopped Wednesday night's post 10 minutes before it was scheduled to come out.

So I stopped the prank not because I thought that there was anything specifically wrong with it, I just felt like I should. It may just be one of those "I don't see how it subtracts glory from God, but it doesn't add glory to God, so is it worth it?"

I still have all of the text, and I will probably post it all soon, but I just wanted to let you know that that is the reason that I deleted the posts. It was all a sham, a prank, and I wanted to set the record straight.



I am home safe, I am off to nap, more news later.


Colossians 3:1-17

Saturday, March 14, 2009
Yes, this is only my second post in March... who knew I would go into a blog-writing slump? Or should I blame it on me being on Twitter now?

But I digress, on to the point of this post:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

~Colossians 3:1-17


How the church has failed America

Tuesday, March 03, 2009
(I am rather sleep deprived right now and my mind kinda hurts, so if I ramble, forgive me... but I think this post will be worth your time to read.)

Recently my struggles with lust have increased. I continually feel bombarded with temptations and attacks, and I can't always say I am successful in fending them off.

Because of this I have been struggling with a somewhat related religious paradox: How is it that I can be a Christian and still sin so much? I know that being a Christian doesn't mean I stop sinning; I understand that Christians sin. But how could it be that when I struggle with something and fail, over and over, how could God still forgive me? Am I a bad Christian if my temptations win over me?

Last night I was thinking about this, and I sat down to read my Bible (as I do every night). My Bible Book Marker (the obligatory ribbon attached to all Bibles) was on Romans 4 (where we were studying in Bible study), so I started reading that chapter. Here is what Paul says at the end of the chapter:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. ~Romans 4:18-25

Wow, that is a lot of deep theology. Let's break that down:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

Before this, Paul is talking about how Abraham was saved not because of his works or because of his circumcision, but because of his faith in God. God told him "Count the stars... that is how many children you will have." Abraham couldn't have a child with Sara, yet his faith did not fail. He "in hope believed and so became the father of many nations", IE: "Abraham had a faith in God so strong, and God delivered his promises."

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead.

This is the part that stirs me! Abraham's body was "as good as dead" (not meaning that he was feeble and frail at an old age, it means that he was too old to father a child). Just as Abraham's body was dead, so my body is dead in sin. I struggle with sin every day, every hour, every minute. And I don't mean that as a hyperbole, I regularly have temptations surround me every minute of the day. And because I sometimes fall to these temptations, my body is dead in sin. So, should I give up hope? Has all of my struggling been in vein? Abraham's body was dead, so let's see what he did:

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Abraham said "Here are the facts: a) God made a promise and b) God is powerful enough to fulfill his promise. So why should my faith waver?" It even says that his faith was strengthened because the older he got, the more power God would need to fulfill the promise.

Shouldn't I (we) have the same attitude? Yes, I am dead in sin, and just like the frog trying to get out of the well, for every two feet forward I move, I move back a foot... but that just shows how powerful God is! He has promised that he will forgive me for my actions. This doesn't mean I can go out and sin as much as I want, but as long as I am moving forward two steps, God has promised to forgive me the step I fall back.

In a completely related rant: Our churches have failed us.

I fully believe that the "American Church", IE: the institution that is the church as a whole, has failed young men in America. It has dropped the ball, it has fallen short, it has utterly failed us. Let me explain...

One of the most important things for a Christian to do is to have accountability. In our world of constant sin and temptations, it is extremely important for Christians to have an outside opinion on what they are doing, to steer them down the right path, to pray for them and to help them in times of need. Accountability partners don't have to be called "accountability partners", they just need to be a good friend to the person. And it doesn't have to be a person, it could be a small group, or a church that is always looking out for it's congregants.

But the accountability idea only works if the partner knows what is going on in your life. If your friend doesn't know you are struggling, how are they supposed to help?

And this is how the church has failed us: Churches have decided not to talk about issues such as masturbation, pornography, and lust. Simply by not talking about it, they have made masturbation and pornography taboo to talk about, even (especially) among Christians. It was hard for me to come out about my pornography addiction, and even harder to type the post about masturbation... BUT IT SHOULDN'T BE HARD! These are issues that should be talked about open and freely. Yes, the topic should be handled with care, but it shouldn't be something that you have to whisper in a dark room.

If Christians had an open attitude about masturbation and pornography, then they would share their struggles with their accountability partners (IE: friends, small groups, pastors...), and the partners would help as the person struggled. If, ten years ago, someone knew about my pornography addiction and they held me accountable, then I wouldn't have struggled with it for so long, I would have felt compelled to stop. And as I try to find answers to the masturbation question, the biggest struggle is the taboo barrier, IE: it is just hard to sit down with a pastor and ask them "So, what is your opinion on masturbation?" Another example: the other night at small group we broke up into guys and girls, and I asked the guys to be praying for me as I struggled with something, and even though I had talked openly about masturbation here on my blog, I couldn't bring myself to come out and say the issue I was struggling with. I resulted in sending them an e-mail later with a link to my blog.

If the church would speak out against sexual sin openly, then young men wouldn't be falling to this sin every day. Online pornography is the FASTEST growing addiction in America, and the church has done NOTHING about it! When will the church realize that they have failed every young man in America by ignoring the biggest sin in their lives? Sadly, not soon enough...


A great night...

Thursday, February 26, 2009
I had a great night tonight!

After small group an even smaller group of us went out and hung out at IHOP for a few hours to celebrate Sara's birthday. After that the ladies left and us guys stayed and chatted for a while. On the way home I rocked out to some great music...

The worst part of a great night is that it has to end... the other bad part is that I got home after 2 and I wasn't able to buy some Boones Farm Wine like I had wanted to... oh well, I will have to wait for another day to start drinking.



Thursday, February 19, 2009
I just got word that our pastor, Kory Knott, has come down with pneumonia. He has missed two out of the last three weeks and will probably miss a few more weeks. Please be praying for him and our church for healing and understanding.


Where did I go?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
My template is not working right... I think my mom messed with it so that I would have to change it back...

EDIT: OK, that fixed it... I don't know what I did, but it is fixed.


Fighting Demons

Monday, February 16, 2009
Apparently my powers of self-restraint are not as good as I once thought... and fighting this addiction is proving to be hard.

No, I haven't slipped off the bandwagon yet, but I keep getting close. Please pray for me while I fight these demons that just won't let go.



Saturday, February 14, 2009
I was thinking about turning on advertisements in my blog. It means I would make money (how much, I don't know), but it would cheapen my blog to see ads in the sidebar... what do you think? Would you mind, or should I keep them off?


The Attack of the beards...

Friday, February 13, 2009

So Joaquin Phoenix was on David Letterman last night (YouTube link) and he was supporting a chin 'fro. That got me to thinking...

So either Joaquin Phoenix just got out of the Marines, or Hurley just quit his acting job and is pursuing a career in pop music.

You decide.


The "M" Word (yes, I stole that title)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
So this post is tough for me. This is something that I have had on the back of my mind for many years now but I have only recently (the last 24 hours) spent a decent amount of time thinking about it and researching it. (In comparison, when I came out about my pornography addiction in my post "'It is Finished'", I had thought specifically word-for-word [joke-for-joke] what I would say for at least a week before I wrote it, and even then I waited five days to actually post it.) This post is also tough to write about because not only is it a controversial issue, it is extremely taboo. Christians will do ANYTHING to not talk about The "M" Word.

Note: Due to something that I recently read (I will get to that later), and my firm belief that these subjects should NOT be taboo or secretive, I will from now on speak of the topic openly. No more euphemisms or beating around the bush, I am going to speak my mind as it is. So note that this topic is not for sensitive ears, but I will try to keep this PG-13 topic as PG as possible. And I know that there will be some people that say I went too far, that I said too much, that I made this too personal. Well, you may be right, but this is the level of frankness that is needed to solve this issue (or at least to try to understand it). So feel free to close this browser window at any time, no one is forcing you to read about my personal life.

EDIT: After reading over the entire post, I realize that it is indeed very personal and it probably shouldn't be the topic of public debate. (Public not being the same as open... it should be a topic of open debate, but possibly not a topic for public debate.) In fact, I understand that I probably shouldn't be posting this. But I categorically refuse to be silent about these topics that are ruining people's lives. If Christians (especially pastors) were vocal about these issues, there would be much less of a problem. So, be doubled warned: personal information is ahead. Oh, and know that I have tried to make this post as gender-neutral friendly as possible, even though with the topic it can be rather hard to do so.

Moving on...

The subject I am reluctant to name is masturbation. Recently I had a great talk with a friend as we shared our testimonies. As I alluded to in my "It is Finished" post, I no longer give my testimony without explaining my pornography addiction, which has directly shaped my spiritual life for the past two years. So it makes sense to share it along with the rest of my testimony.

As our conversation was coming to a close, he asked me: "Have you ever read the book Porn-Again Christian?" I said no, and we explained it was a book by pastor Mark Driscoll that was so controversial he cannot find a publisher to publish it. (They don't have to read much past the book's subtitle: "A frank discussion on pornography and masturbation".) Because he could not find a publisher, Driscoll has published the book under a Creative Commons license, which means you have permission to download a copy of the book for free, print it yourself, and share it as you see fit. Go here to read the book online (has hyperlinks for the bible verses, which is nice), download a copy to print, or order a self-published version of the book ($5.64).

Anywho, my friend gave me a copy of the printed out version of the book, and I went home and read most of it it in two hours (it is only 50 pages long). One of the things that sets this book apart is that it lives up to it's subtitle. The language is very frank, often using phrases that are often suited for the locker room. I think that he did this because he doesn't want to be a snuffy professor, an educated theologian, an essay writer. He wants to be "one of the guys", he wants to make a personal connection by using slang. The talk isn't trashy, it isn't perverted, it is just open and frank. It was in this idea that I write this post. Yes, this post is personal and taboo, but all of it is true, and none of it is spoken to get a rise out of you.

But getting back to the book: it starts off with the theoretical (IE: why we are to fear the Lord, and what that has to do with this topic), and then goes to the practical (what stuff is and isn't a sin). For me, most of it was "ya, ya, I know that already", but one of the chapters rekindled a problem that I have been trying to solve.

See, even though I gave up my pornography addiction about five years ago, I have continued to be involved with masturbation. In the past I have done a little research and found some good arguments for and against the topic, but nothing solid, nothing that tipped the scale either way. So since then I have continued this practice without solving for myself the theological side of it. I just thought "as long as I don't lust, it isn't a sin."

But now I am revisiting the topic. For me, there are two questions to answer:
1) Is masturbation inherently a sin or unnatural?
2) If it isn't a sin/unnatural, is it OK to do it as long as you don't lust?

For the first question, most arguments saying it is a sin center around the idea that sex is intended to be done with a partner, not alone. This argument says that "[sexual pleasure] should be for bonding between a man and his wife." (link)

My main rebuttal to this is best put by Mark Driscoll: "Though the practice is as old as the Scriptures, the Bible's silence on the matter should cause us to avoid calling something a sin that God does not." (Page 20) In other words: "Don't put words in God's mouth calling it a sin when he doesn't." In this instance, Mark Driscoll says that "we must examine the issue" and decide for ourselves. This is not an argument that says "The Bible doesn't say it is a sin, therefore it is not a sin," the argument says "the Bible doesn't say, let's figure it out ourselves." (And that is what this post is for.)

My other rebuttal to masturbation = sin is admittedly selfish: "But I want what is mine," meaning: if I have the tools to get something done, and I enjoy doing it, then why not do it? And what about if I never get married? Even Paul says "It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am" (link). And what about homosexuals, who aren't allowed (by religious law) to receive their gratification the way that they want to, and it wouldn't be very biblical for a homosexual to marry simply to have sex, IE: marry without love... are homosexuals bound to live their lives without having an orgasm? (Then again, this logic is flawed: having an orgasm isn't a right, it is a gift from God that not everyone will experience.)

So in the end, I am not convinced that masturbation = sin. I see plenty of evidence for the idea that sex is for married folk, but I see a lack of evidence when talking about self-gratification.

So if masturbation isn't a sin, is it OK to do it if you don't lust? Actually the real question is: is it possible to masturbate without lusting? For a long time I thought I could (and I thought I was), but now that I look back, I am not so sure. John Piper so eloquently said "I cannot imagine sexual orgasm in the loins without sexual image in the mind." (link) The more I go through life, the more I see things his way. I am starting to see that I was only kidding myself when I said I wasn't lusting these last five years. In reality, as Piper said, it is downright near impossible to masturbate without thinking any sexual thoughts.

I will put it another way. A few months ago I posted about the similarities of lust addiction and alcohol addiction. At the time I was thinking about how similar the two addictions are. I would start by thinking "just as a recovering alcoholic can never have a drink again, so a person recovering from a lust addiction can never lust again." I then took it to the next level thinking "recovering alcoholics shouldn't even enter a bar for the rest of their lives as to not tempt themselves..." But so then shouldn't a person recovering from a lust addiction never masturbate again as to not tempt themselves? Why do something that brings me anywhere near the evil that invaded my life for 10 years?

So I agree with Driskoll when he says "It is most certainly possible that a man could masturbate without violating these simple biblical principles, but [it is] highly unlikely." (Page 21)

Moving from the theology to the practical... (This is where it gets rather personal... as I said, I am going to be as honest and open as possible [or as Driscoll called it "frank"], so this section might be TMI.)

In thinking about if I should stop or not, I asked myself: "If you say you aren't lusting, then why are you doing it?" I don't think I do it out of compulsion, meaning I don't do it for no reason. It does have benefits to it. I often use it as a way to relax, a way to unwind. The sexual tension that builds up makes my entire body tense. Seeing as I don't always want to be tense, I want to be able to find something that relaxes me.

Most people (including me) find hot showers to be something that relaxes their tense muscles (to clarify: a hot shower doesn't relieve sexual tension, it relieves tense muscles). To not masturbate would be like for the rest of your life you can only take cold showers. And I don't mean "Oh, the hot water heater is broken" kind of cold, I mean "I have been working at UPS in 30 degree temperature outside for 8 hours, and I get home and all I want to do is warm up and relax with a nice warm shower... what? THERE IS NO HOT WATER?!?!?!?" (sadly, this is a true story) If I were to find something that would be a good substitute to help relieve my sexual tension, then I could make a switch, but so far I haven't found that type of release any other way.

But this is a catch-22. As Mark Driscoll puts it:

...[M]asturbating does temporarily relieve sexual urges and frustrations, but also causes greater and more frequent biological urges for additional ejaculations. Practically, as the body emits semen it then quickly produces more so that supply can keep up with demand. So, a man who masturbates to ejaculation will find himself masturbating with increasing frequency as his body continues to demand more frequent relief, thus negating his original goal of masturbating to relieve sexual frustration. (Page 21, 22)

But moving past the sexual release, it is the best feeling that my body receives. Even before the orgasm, the sensation is pleasurable (foreplay is more than for "getting in the mood"). To not receive that pleasure would be like telling me when I was a kid "no more back scratches from mommy." Oh the humanity! But seriously: that would suck!

Our bodies are built to receive pleasure when certain parts of our bodies are stimulated. (Getting back into the theology...) God designed our bodies to always receive this pleasure, not just when we are married. He might want us to only feel it when we are married, but the opportunity for the physical pleasure is always there... is that proof that we can enjoy this pleasure by ourselves, or is this an example of something that we have to give up for the glory of God?

And I will say, when I would outright lust (IE: look at pornography), I knew it was wrong. There was something (IE: the holy spirit) inside of me SCREAMING that it was wrong. With masturbation, there is some guilt that I have, but it is very small, just a whisper compared to the screaming before. But just as over time your ears will grow more accustomed to hearing a whisper, and thus it sounds louder, so this feeling of guilt (or is it a fear that I am doing something wrong?) has not grown louder, but more audible. Is this the third arm of the trinity speaking to me telling me to stop, is it just my religious side getting worried about things that shouldn't be worried about, or is the guilt that I feel not about the masturbation but about the lust that goes along with it?

So where are we? After 2025+ words and 4 hours of writing and researching [now over 3000 words and an additional 2+ hours of editing], what have we decided? To put it most bluntly: parts of me would be fine giving up masturbation (the part that feels the guilt and shame of breaking my 5-year-old promise to God), but other parts would crave that release (such as the muscles that I can already feeling tense up). To put it another way (this is the first time I am thinking of it in these terms): my spirit says to stop, but my body wants to keep doing it. When you put it THAT way it sounds like an easy decision. (Maybe I should have just put that sentence at the top of this post and gotten over it...)

What are your thoughts? I know that the majority of readers here are married, and I want a married person's opinion for a single guy like me. What should I do, what questions do I need to ask, what answers do I need to look for, where do I go from here? Feel free to leave a reply below (anonymously if you want to) or send me an e-mail with your thoughts. Calling on the phone also works, but talking out loud about such topics is still rather awkward. But however it may be, give me your input, and as always please continue to pray for me as I search out God's truth.

EDIT: So after I wrote the above post I thought about it some more while trying to fall asleep, and I made a random connection: I was thinking how much my life is like Jonah's. Jonah was determined to defy God's orders, so he tried to sail as far away as he could. But God wouldn't be undermined so easily, go God sent a storm to derail Jonah... think about it, God used a huge natural disaster to get one person to go where he wanted. Next God used a large fish to transport Jonah to where he needed to go. After Jonah preached his message to the Ninevites, his faith wavered again, and God sent a plant to shelter Jonah, and finally God sent a worm to kill the plant to teach Jonah one final lesson.

God went from a natural disaster to a large fish to a plant to a worm, all to get the attention of a single man. In our lives, doesn't God work from big to small? Doesn't he get the log out of our own eye before he tries to get the splinter out? (I know, that metaphor doesn't really fit, but it works.) Doesn't it make sense that God would say "Matthew, first we are going to take care of your lust problem... I know that you will continue to sin through masturbation, but there are bigger problems in your life, we will address that issue later."

The more I think about it, the more I soul search, the more I think: God is now addressing the issue.

To sum it all up, I feel a calling from God to stop masturbating. I don't think that it is inherently a sin, but it is not something that I should be doing because of my past lusting problems. Please pray for me while I struggle with the spiritual decision and the physical withdrawal.


PS: My boss said that as long as I am working on this post at work I have to do what he says. (He only knows I am writing a long post, he doesn't know what it is about.) So, here you go Bryan: "Just call me muffins!" (don't ask)

PPS: You know, if I were to find myself a wife this entire issue would be moot... or at least more moot.

PPPS: Final word count (including this post script): 3068

A teaser...

There has been something that has troubled me for a long time, but I have only recently made an effort to address the issue. I just wrote out a 2250 word essay on this topic, and I would post it, but I like to read over all of my posts before I post them to edit them, make sure the spelling/grammar is correct, and make sure it flows like I intended it to. But seeing at it is 3:40 AM, and I have to be awake in 6 hours, and I am already tired as it is, I am going to push off posting it until I have had time to read over it. I might have some down time during work tomorrow, but you never know...

Until then, I thought I would add one last teaser: the title of the post is: The "M" Word (yes, I stole that title)


More on weather...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Just to let people know I have started to post on my Twitter feed:

For those that don't know what Twitter is (IE: mother): it is kinda a mini blog. It is limited to 140 letters, so it has to be short. It is more of "what I am doing right now" type of things where a blog is longer form.

My latest post: I am here at work in Plano and the tornado sirens are going off... I think I am going to go cower in the shower.

Actually, I think I am going to go outside and enjoy the storm blowing in (as work permits it of course... oh, and don't worry, the sirens have turned off by now).



I am really enjoying the weather this week.

It is cool, it is breezy... some people don't like it because there is always cloud cover, but I kinda enjoy that too: it helps keep it cool and breezy!

So while others keep scoffing about the rain and clouds, it just gives me reason to open my windows!



Monday, February 02, 2009
The Dave Ramsey side of me says "you should deliver pizza to help pay off your debt." And that side makes a lot of sense... as it is I am currently working less than 30 hours a week and most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays I have nothing scheduled... well those are the busy pizza nights!

Should I consider this as an option, or am I just completely plastered from the wine I had tonight?

The other part of me says "Just go try it for a few weeks... if you don't like it, you can quit... and you will still have beaten Stephen's record for shortest job ever."

Another part of me says "Go back to work at Chick-fil-A... at least you know the work there."

I bet you didn't know I had so many parts to me...



Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Someone in my family has often told me "You are blessed, and you deserve it," but I respectfully disagree.

The covenant (promise) that God made with us through Jesus is simple: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-26) That is to say, the promise between me and God is simple: I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I have made him the Lord of my life, and in return God will forgive my sins (which Jesus paid for). Yes, there is much more to it than that, but that is the Matthew's Quick Bible Translation version.

At it's core, it is as simple as "believe and you will be saved." You don't have to physically DO anything to be saved. You don't have to volunteer at soup kitchens once a month, or go to church every Sunday morning, or read your Bible on a regular basis, or even tithe, "for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis mine)

So why do I do the things listed above, like volunteer, go to church, and tithe? There is nothing in the covenant that says I have to, so why do it? It is because I want to. I have made Jesus the Lord of my life, which means that my only desire is to advance the kingdom. (I never did like the phrase "advance the kingdom", it always sounded churchy to me, but it best describes what I mean.) I want to glorify Jesus and God, I want to bring others to know the happiness that I know, so I focus my life on glorifying God. But I do these things with no strings attached. I don't do them so that God will give me blessings, I don't do them so that God listens to my prayers, and I don't do it so that I can get into heaven. I do it because I want to.

Similarly, there is no fine print in the covenant that says that God has to bless my life. No where in the promise does it say that God will make my life easy, or that the more I believe the more money I will have. (This is called the "Prosperity Gospel", and it is preached by many well-known Evangelical pastors and televangelists such as Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson.) This view is simply not biblical, as for every verse you can show me that supports it, I can show you two that argue against it. (The page linked to above has good for and against Bible verses.)

So if God doesn't have to bless my life, why does he? Because he wants to. He desires for my life to be amazing and blessed. But there is no guarantee of this, there is no promise that God will bless me.

This is the beauty of the relationship between me and God. We don't HAVE to do anything for each other outside of the covenant. Remember, the covenant simply says that I will always make him Lord of my life, and He will forgive me of my sins. Outside of that, everything that we do for each other is a gift, a voluntary blessing on the other.

On a side note: this argument could also be made for marriage. Too often people get married with conditions, for example: "I will love you as long as you love me and show your love to me." That sounds innocent, but the "show your love to me" is really a condition. It means "I will love you as long as you do things for me, as long as you cook for me and rub my feet at the end of a hard day." One person will often do things voluntarily out of love (say, give flowers), but when they do it they expect the other person to give something back. So the other person will do what is expected (a good foot rub, maybe), but then they expect something else back. (I will stop this story at the foot rubbing.)

The problem is that when things are done because it is expected, it is no longer done due to love. Love is not based on conditions or requirements, it is free from all small print. Instead of expecting a spouse to bring you flowers once a week, show true love and be grateful the few times that they do. And do things out of love, voluntarily, not because it is expected of you.

Back to the earlier topic: Just as I work for God because of my love for him and just as he blesses my life because he loves me, we don't do these things out of condition, we work free from any obligation. So no, I don't deserve to be blessed by God. I have spit in his face and gone against his will many times over, I have broken his laws and broken his heart, why do I deserve anything but for him to adhere to the strict letter of our contract? I don't deserve to be given anything except forgiveness. But he does bless me, many times over, because he loves me and he wants me to lead a joyful life.

So while Stephen picks apart the theology of this post, remember that God loves you and he doesn't bless you because of anything you have done or because you deserve it, but because he loves you and he freely shows this love with his blessings.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~1 Corinthians 13



Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I feel like screaming... we have been watching the commercials for SIX MONTHS about the upcoming TV transition to digital, and now the date is being pushed back ANOTHER four months...

Do they really think that people are going to suddenly rise out of their arm chairs and leap for the chance to plug in a digital tuner? Does this prove that 6 months of daily advertising that the transition is coming didn't work? Or is this just some political ploy? Tune in at 10 for these answers, and a look at your 10view Forecast... that is, only if you have the right box plugged into your TV.


A great day...

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Last week I was stressful for me. I was working on a video for church that had many problems, most of which were out of my control. I finished the video but wasn't crazy about the quality, both of the video I shot (it was grainy) and some video that was shot remotely, in California. But I did the best I could with what I had, including using some amazing music from Russel Martin called "Angelise", which I have recommended before. On top of that, I wasn't going to run the service, and with a specialized DVD I made for playing two videos with a pause in the middle, and seeing as I always get worried when a volunteer runs the service, I was stressed out big time.

So this morning I got to sleep in, and I went to the late service. I rarely go to AUMC when I am not running a service (something that I am trying to change), so I am not used to sitting in the pews for an hour. It is amazing how different a service is when you aren't running it. And the volunteer (David) did a great job, both overall during the entire service, and during the confusing video portion. I don't know why I ever worry about my volunteers, they always do amazing!

And the response to the video was amazing! I have never had so many people stop me and tell me how great the video was. God was able to use my talents, the talents of others for writing the script, the people in California that worked on it, God was even able to use the technical difficulties that we had last week to make it better this week. I realized that all of the stress was A) pointless, because God had it in his hands, and B) worth it, because in my service alone I saw five people crying during the video, and I was sitting in the second row, and the only people I could see were the choir! Kory (our pastor) said that he even cried the second service, even though he knew what was coming.

In thinking about writing this, I remembered the "memory verse" that Kory gave the congregation to memorize today: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." ~Romans 8:28

It always amazes me how God continues to work in our lives. Thanks for your prayers and support last week when I asked for prayers; God obviously heard your prayers, and he answered them.



Thursday, January 22, 2009
So, seeing as I moved, I had to come up with a new route to follow when I go running. Here it is:

Apparently, I can't draw a straight line (unlike at my last place).

Oh, and Wall-E was actually really good... no kidding, I thought it was great! I laughed at a lot of it (just like most Pixar movies), and the "environmental message" wasn't that bad.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009
So I just watched Wall-E, and all I have to say is: O. M. G.! The story, the humor, the graphics, the love interest between an old robot and a new robot... just wow!

I will be surprised if it doesn't win Oscar for Best Movie of the CENTRY! (Behind "Crash", that is...)

OK, I will admit, I lied... I haven't seen it yet, I just said the above to make Stephen angry (he never did like it when people disagreed with him). But I am about to sit down and watch it, so wish me luck?


Almost Grandma's Chex Mix

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
So, my grandmother makes some amazing Chex Mix... she cooks up a bunch and keeps them stored in the freezer in gallon zip top bags. Over Christmas I asked her for the recipe, and she looked it up out of some old dusty Church Fundraiser cook book (aren't those the best!), and she gave it to me. In the book it is listed as "1/2 batch".

But this "1/2 batch" calls for 8 boxes of cereal of various kinds. I wanted to make some of the chex mix, but 8 boxes is a bit much, so I had my recipe program print up a "1/2 batch" (of the 1/2 batch) recipe... that is to say, I made 1/4 of a "batch".

Here are the results:

Ya, it made A LOT! Enough for several parties. I figure it cost about $25 for everything.

Anywho, while the mix is cooling on the stove, I thought I would post the recipe that I used... that is my 1/4 batch recipe, not the recipe that I got from my grandmother (which you can get from her if you ask).

Almost Grandma's Chex Mix:
1 box corn chex
1 box rice chex
1 box Cheerios
1 box Kix
2 cans (4 cups each) mixed nuts
slightly less than 1 bag of pretzel sticks, broken into 1 inch peaces (I didn't use the whole bag)
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon onion powder (I couldn't find onion salt)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (keeps it pretty spicy, should keep my brother away from it)
1 bottle (10 oz) worcestershire sauce
about 8 oz butter (to note, the original recipe used less worcestershire sauce and more butter, but I rounded up to a bottle of sauce and rounded down to what was left in the tub of butter)

Melt the butter, sauce, and seasonings together and sprinkle over the chex mix. Bake at 200 or 250 for "several hours", IE: 2-3 hours



Saturday, January 17, 2009
I am annoyed-gry tonight... which is, of course, somewhere between annoyed and angry. Someone asked me to do a project, and I have been doing everything I can to get this project done, but the party who wants it done has been dragging their feet and creating roadblocks for me.

I am trying to sympathize with the problems that they are having, but their actions are causing half of the problems in the first place, and now I am put in a spot that I don't want to be in.

Please pray with me that this project will end well, and that my reaction to this project is God centered.



Friday, January 16, 2009
So I am not usually a fan of random Web videos, and this one starts off thinking "this is going to be lame", but ten seconds later I was laughing very hard... Even mom may like this!?!

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.



Thursday, January 15, 2009
It is 27 degrees outside, 60 degrees inside, and I just made piƱa coladas.

=: >



Thursday, January 08, 2009
This is simply egregious: Adult Entertainment Industry Wants a Bailout

I am just warning you now that if the US government gives a dime to the adult industry I will be moving to New Zealand... or Canada, at least. This is an industry that SHOULD die out, so DON'T keep it afloat! I can just see the next headline: "Drug runners petition Congress for a bailout because it is harder to cross the border these days."




"It is impossible to be held accountable for something that is kept a secret." ~Me



Wednesday, January 07, 2009
I am listening to Dave Ramsey talk about goals and resolutions (who isn't this time of year?). He was talking about how important it is to write down your goals. Then he said:

"Goals that are not written down are wishes... they're dreams." ~ Dave Ramsey

How true that is!

What are your goals for 2009? Have you written them down?



Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Here is the recipe for Almost Kelling Family Minestrone Soup:

1 pound of ground sausage
2 cans of Progresso Minestrone Soup
1 can of Rotel Tomatoes (get the spicy level you want)
1 can of beans of your choice, preferably black or kidney
1/2 can (or 1 small can) of corn

Brown the sausage, drain. To the sausage add all other ingredients, bring to a boil then lower the tempature and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve with a bread product (such as crackers, chips, or tortillas) and a dollop of sour creme on top.

This is a great recipe... the only problem is that the noodles from the can of soup get overcooked... but then again, I like slightly undercooked (IE: "al dente") noodles. Enjoy!



Great news! Scientists just recalculated the size of the Milky Way, and we are bigger than we thought!

This is great because we should always be re-evaluating science! I get excited every time we up and change the fundamentals of how we understand the universe. Lets look at some great examples of the past:

() Making one of the planets not a planet any more (R.I.P. Pluto)
() Realizing that the earth isn't flat, and the sun (and stars) don't rotate around us
() After proving that "life" (AKA: proteins) could be made from the "primordial soup" of earth, realizing that the mixture of gasses was wrong (mainly it had oxygen where the early Earth had none)
() Suddenly realizing that our calculations were off and that our galaxy has 50% more mass than it did yesterday

We should make these changes more often! How about we say that Proxima Centauri is no longer the closest star to the sun? (BTW, contrary to popular belief, Alpha Centauri isn't the closest star to the sun, Alpha Centauri is a star system.) I like the idea of the Earth having three moons... science, can you take care of that? Ohh, why don't we fix "global warming" by shrinking the sun a bit, would 10% do the trick?

*sigh* This has always been one of my main complaints about "science": it is always changing. What we call "truth" now will most certainly change in a few hundred years, so why even try to keep up with it?

But doesn't religion do the same thing? Just as the world around us never changes, just our understanding of it, God never changes, just our understanding of him. God is constant, but we are constantly reevaluating our understanding of him, always trying to draw closer to his truth. I guess the thing that makes me so mad about science changing is that they always claim that "What I just came up with today is true" where they should be saying "These are my findings, this is my understanding of what I see." To contrast, the core of my religion has always been "There is a constant God out there, I am simply trying to find his truth."

I guess the two are much more alike than I thought.