Thursday, December 27, 2007


Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

Captivating is the complimentary book for women to the book Wild at Heart for men by John Eldredge. In it the Eldredges describe the things that every woman longs for: to reveal beauty, to be romanced, and to be a part of a great adventure. They dig down to examine things like why little girls like to twirl around and play dress up. Another component is the discussion of relationships and how women are very much relationally oriented and many times define their well being by how their relationships are going. These may include relationships with friends, a husband/significant other, those they act as a mother to (whether their own children or other people), or their relationships as a daughter.

The Eldredges describe how vital it is that a woman develops foremost her relationship with God and fills up the desires of their heart with Him rather than seeking it from other relationships whether those be their husband, children, parents, or friends. Ultimately, they must get those heart desires answered by The Bridegroom.

Throughout the book, they use examples from both the Bible and popular movies/books. Some may be uncomfortable with the large number of examples from fiction vis a vis strictly Biblical examples. My feeling was that some of the examples from fictional stories may help the reader gain a perspective on femininity from stories they enjoy outside of the Bible.

I was not able to personally identify with some of the components of the book but believe it would be a good read for any female to gain a greater understanding of the desires of her heart or men who want a glimpse into how women work.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Excelsis Deo

Have you ever been singing "Angels We Have Heard On High" and gotten to the chorus of "Glooooooooooooooooria in Excelsis Deo" and wondered what the heck is Excelsis Deo? The Wisdom of Dre has researched this very question and found it to correspond to the Latin phrase "Glory to God in the highest." A literal translation of excelsis indicates lofty, high, elevated. Some more modern renditions of the song such as that played at Pleasant Valley Baptist on Sunday include a tag in the song that goes: "Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the highest." So next time you sing this carol, you'll know the meaning of that quirky little phrase about excelsis.

The Christmas Candle

The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado

This nice little novella by Lucado is a tale about a small community in Victorian rural England. Every 25 years just before Christmas an amazing event occurs where for several generations past an angel appears in a candlemaker's shop touches a candle which lights then is extinguished after briefly lighting up. The first candlemaker who encountered this was terrified and astonished but after giving the candle to a needy person and instructing her to pray when lighting the candle the woman's prayer for financial provision was miraculously answered. Other such miracles occurred every quarter century.

Due to a mix up when the angel visits in the year of the story, the candlemaker isn't sure which candle is "the one" and has to give out multiple candles to various people in need. The result is people engaging in prayer and consequently receiving God's blessing though they didn't actually receive the miracle candle. It is a good lesson for the community in remembering the ultimate source of power and not to worship the miracle candle.

As mentioned, this is a nice little story which can be read in one sitting and has a feeling to it similar to Lucado's children's story "You Are Special." It's definitely not heavy on biblical theology and can focus a bit much on the importance of the angel rather than Christ as the reason for the season but would be fun to read as a bed time story to a child.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner

This autobiographical story of Chris Gardner chronicles his impoverished upbringing in Milwaukee, homelessness in San Francisco, and ultimate rise to riches through sheer determination and hard work.

Gardner's childhood was wracked with the violence and abuse of a step father who routinely verbally and physically abused their family. He found some solace in learning through reading books at the library. He ran with various crowds as a youth and generally stayed out of trouble.

After finishing high school, he went on to enlist in the Navy having heard exciting stories from his uncle of traveling overseas. However, the majority of his time in the Navy was spent as a medic stationed at a Marine military base in the States. Through his solid work as a medic he was introduced to a leading surgeon who opened a research clinic in San Francisco and asked Gardner to join him there.

He helped with the surgeon's research and was respected as a very knowledgeable expert in training medical interns on surgical techniques. He eventually married and after prodding from his wife sought higher pay through a medical sales job. After several years of marriage he had an affair which resulted in the birth of his son and breakup of his marriage. He continued the sales job for a short period of time until meeting a stockbroker with a nice car and decided to change careers.

The internship offered a very low stipend and he was forced to live out of motels, homeless shelters, and sometimes sleep on trains or public restrooms. His tenacity at the internship as well as commitment to study resulted in passing the securities examine required to be a stockbroker and ultimate hiring at Dean Witter.

He then went on to build a portfolio of business first in San Francisco then working on Wall Street. Currently he owns his own investment company based out of Chicago and has a net worth estimated upwards of $60 million.

I first read the book and then saw the movie and though the book offered a good story of honest hard work the movie in this case had a better feel good aspect to it. The movie covers only about a third of the book and focuses on the positive elements of Gardner's relationship with his son and pure determination in reaching his goals. The book in contrast incorporates a generous amount of profanity and detailed descriptions of his promiscuous behavior. While overall I would recommend the book as a good read, a cautionary note should be kept in mind regarding the "adult" elements of the book.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala

Cymbala's book more than anything is a call to prayer and earnest seeking of God. As a young man in the early 1970s he began pastoring the fledgling Brooklyn Tabernacle having had no formal training. Through his own brokenness and seeking God, he came to understand that God would bless the ministry and continue to bring people for them to minister to and introduce to Jesus if they would truly seek Him and not rely on their own devices or abilities.

As a result, the Tabernacle saw a great deal of growth and tremendous Christian ministry opportunities were opened to reach out to the people of Brooklyn and New York City as a whole. From the very beginning they made the cornerstone of their church the Tuesday evening prayer service during which they called to God and sought Him. Many extraordinary events occurred as a result and continue to happen today.

People who were once very closed towards Jesus come to true repentance and a real relationship with Him through this ministry. The Tuesday evening prayer ministry is so important that Cymbala will not accept speaking engagements if they keep him away from the prayer meeting more than one prayer meeting at in a row.
As a result of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and direct them through seeking Him in prayer, they see lots of really cool stuff that could in no way be scripted.

Prayer is also an integral part of their Grammy award winning choir ministry with the weekly rehearsal incorporating at least 30 minutes of prayer to the practice.

Far from being a feel good type of book, Cymbala challenges the reader and today's churches to truly come before God and passionately seek Him in prayer and study of the Bible. He mentions various trends and how some churches try to cater to popular culture and make things cool and hip and while those things aren't bad in and of themselves, he emphasizes that it is a mistake to promote these flashy programs and neglect the ministry of prayer. Contrastingly, he points to the early church "These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer..." Acts 1:14 When believers and the church are in constant communion with God, He tends to work more actively and mightily.

I highly recommend this book as a reminder on the importance of prayer as well as a good high level overview of the history of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Les Miserables- Liberty High School

Wednesday, November 21st a picture I took at the Liberty High School production of Les Miserables was published in the Liberty Neighborhood News section of the Kansas City Star. Brad Daugherty whom I went to the Philippines on a mission trip with played the lead role of Jean ValJean and did an outstanding job. Here are a couple pictures of the event.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday Haiku

Wednesday afternoon
past the middle of the week
only 2 more days

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Google 411

Google now has a service which provides information to the user by dialing 1-800-GOOG-411. It functions similarly to the traditional 411 informational line but is free. Simply dial the number, and say the business name, type of business, city/state and Google will automatically connect your phone call. You can also have a directions sent to your phone which works best if you have internet access on the phone. All that is necessary for this feature is to say "map it."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Quiet Strength

Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy

Dungy's memoir describes his life including personal elements, football, and faith. Leading the Colts to a Super Bowl victory during the 06-07 season was simply a stop along the path for him. He continuously emphasizes throughout the book that while he enjoys football tremendously that it is ultimately just a game. He gives credit to his siblings performing long term important roles such one who is a nurse in a correctional facility as well as one who is a perinatologist and helps women through pregnancies.

Dungy grew up playing football and basketball in various places throughout Michigan with 3 siblings and parents who were both educators. He went on to play football at the University of Minnesota where he attained great success. After graduating, he played several seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers. During his time with the Steelers, he became the last player to both intercept a pass and throw an interception in a game when he came in as the 4th string backup quarterback, his normal position being defensive back.

After retirement, he began his coaching career first with the University of Minnesota then being called back to the NFL as a coach with the Steelers. He eventually became the defensive coordinator with the Steelers before moving on to the Kansas City Chiefs as a defensive backs coach. Following his tenure with Kansas City, he moved on to a defensive coordinator position with the Minnesota Vikings before his first head coach job in 1996 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He truly built a team and community support while with Tampa Bay. They went from arguably one of the worst franchises in the NFL to a league leader during his time there. After his time with the Bucs ended, he went on to the Indianapolis Colts where he won his first Super Bowl.

Outside of football, Dungy is very involved with community organizations including
Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, the Boys and Girls Club, Prison Crusade Ministry, and Family First. He is very upfront and open about his faith and does not hide his walk with Christ. He has 5 children and encourages his players and coaches in spending time with their families as well.

During the 2005 season, one of his sons committed suicide and both the Tampa Bay and Indianapolis communities rallied around their family to really support and lift them up during this difficult time. Dungy's composure and decision to carry on coaching football following this tragedy was arrived at through prayer and his close walk with God.

All throughout the book he provides great examples of leadership, character, wisdom, and overall outlook on life. It's the type of book that could be used at the collegiate level for lessons on management and leading a team. I highly recommend Quiet Strength to the football fan as well as anyone interested in a great book about an all around quality guy.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know here.
Also posted at

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lambert's "Home of the Throwed Roll"

In Ozark, Missouri on my way back from the Arkansas hiking trip, I stopped for dinner at Lambert's "Home of the Throwed Roll." It has a basic feel similar to a Cracker Barrel with a less commercial and more down home feel to it. The parking lot is enormous and people come from all over. At 5pm on a Saturday when I stopped, there was an hour and 40 minute wait. They allowed me to go ahead since I was by myself but this attests to the restaurant's popularity.

The concept is that you order your food then it is all you can eat with various wait staff carrying "pass arounds" such as black eyed peas, fried okra, hashbrowns, as well as the famous "throwed rolls" with molasses. Indeed, they have a guy walking around throwing rolls to any and all who are in need of said nourishment. I personally ate about 3 or 4 pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, 4 rolls, black eyed peas, and fried okra. It was a great experience which I highly recommend to anyone passing through either the Ozark or Sykes, Missouri locations or the Foley, Alabama location. I'm also officially mad at anyone who knew about this fine establishment and didn't convince me to try it out earlier. ;-)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pictures in Kansas City Star

For those of you who live in Liberty and get the Kansas City Star, check out the Wednesday November 6 edition in the Liberty Neighborhood News section. A couple pictures I took at the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church costume party Oct. 31 will be on page 5.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hiking in Arkansas

A couple weekends ago, I drove down to Arkansas (about a 5 hour trip from Kansas City) to go hiking and check out the fall colors. Once crossing the border of Arkansas, there was a marked increase in the quantity of roadkill as well as encountering a church about every 2 miles. It felt a lot like home. ;-) This was my first venture into Arkansas and it reminded me a lot of North Georgia, East Tennessee, and North Carolina with the mountains, winding roads, and beautiful scenery.

Thankfully, I stopped at a national forest ranger station to get a couple maps and better directions to the trailhead. I would never have found it without their help. The first trail I went on was titled Hawksbill Crag and to get there, one had to take an unmarked dirt road with an incline and terrain making 4x4 capabilities highly desirable. The Altima persevered though and after about 6 miles of dirt road, I arrived at the trailhead. Interestingly, people actually live up there in houses. It's very beautiful but seems like traveling the bumpy road would get tiresome after a while.

When I arrived it was about 4:45 in the afternoon so I quickly hit the trail while there was still daylight. Hawksbill Crag is about 1.5 miles from the trailhead and juts out over an incredible view of which description and pictures can't accurately depict the breath taking view's majesty. I spent some time just admiring the view, taking pictures, and praying a bit.

With rapidly fading sunlight, I headed back towards the trailhead to grab my tent and set up camp. I didn't budget quite enough time to get out of the woods in the light and had accidentally forgotten a flashlight. This was cause for consternation and I became a bit anxious when momentarily losing the trail. I said a quick prayer, backtracked and found the trail again. Thankfully, God allowed a cloudless night with bright moonlight which helped in lighting the way back.

Setting up camp in the dark can be a bit challenging but I eventually got everything set up. The temperature was very moderate so I took my sleeping bag outside and watched the stars for a while. Living in the city limits the view of stars so I always appreciate getting out in the quiet and checking out the majestic view God created. It was a good time of talking with him about life and just enjoying His creation.

The next morning, I hopped back in the car and drove to a spot called Hemmed In Hollow where the major attraction was a 180 foot waterfall. On the way down, I stopped to check out Wild Vic's cabin about a mile down the trail. It amazes me that people were ever able to find or decide to setup housing arrangements that far back into the woods. The scenery was once again terrific with the occasional glimpse of a bluff or the valley leading down to the Buffalo River.

After around a 3 mile hike down, I arrived at the "Waterfall." Unfortunately, due to the dryness in the area the falls were much more along the lines of a trickle than a booming waterfall. Interestingly though, was that since the trickle had to fall about 180 feet and the wind was blowing, it had a bit of an effect like a sprinkler moving water from one side of the bottom to the other.

I then went and checked out the Buffalo River which was also way down in water flow. A local person I met there indicated that normally around this time, people are able to canoe down the river. I'm sure this area would be even more beautiful in the spring time when rain has been more frequent and the waterfall, streams, and river are flowing more freely. Incidentally, there was a fair number of people riding horses either on the trail or in the surrounding area. All told, total hiking distance was about 10 miles.

On the drive back to KC before leaving Arkansas, I let out a big Arkansas soouueeeie coming down a hill. It's just one of those joie de vivre things that you have to do sometimes after experiencing such magnificent scenery and mountain air. In the song "Indescribable," Chris Tomlin sings "from the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring" The colors were on great display.

There was a few random cacti on the trail as well. Who knew a cactus would grow in Arkansas?

Monday, October 29, 2007


1984 by George Orwell

This classic story of Orwell's imagined future in 1984 written during the 1950s is a stark warning against totalitarian systems of government. In the story the government is headed by a shadowy figure titled Big Brother. This popular reference to "the man" or other monitoring organization originates in this story. The basic concept is that the ruling party monitors all aspects of a person's life through telescreens, microphones, and an elaborate spy system, among others. They create their own history and destroy all accounts which differ from their account of history.

They also invent a language called Newspeak which could be a reference to using politically correct language. Newspeak is structured to comply solely with the political philosophies of the Party and is intended to make thought which occurs contrary to this philosophy impossible. If someone tries to make claims to the contrary or engage in discussions that oppose the party it is considered "crimethink" and the person is taken away to be "fixed."

If current events or philosophies change, a complex system of forgery and reworking is in place to rewrite history so that Big Brother always makes accurate predictions, the economy is always better than it was in the past and things appear to be great on paper. In reality, people barely subsist, disease and crime is common, and life in general is much worse compared to life prior to the Revolution which occurred in the 1950s-60s in conjunction with wide spread
nuclear war. Old copies of books and newspapers are burned to eliminate any hard
copy of actual history.

There is no reality but that which the Party and Big Brother espouse. If you think outside or remember something different from the stated reality, you are considered delusional and in a minority of one. Those who persist in the belief that Big Brother is wrong, are arrested and systematically tortured and brainwashed to the point where they begin accepting the Big Brother philosophy and reality as truth.

The main character works for the Party but has doubts as to the positive benefits of the Party and its philosophy. He feels repressed and seeks out ways to fight against this overwhelming power. The first part of the book walks through his growing realization of the continuous brainwashing and creation of reality which can change at the drop of a hat.

The 2nd part adds very little to the overall plot and really could be skipped without much loss in value. It additionally contains a gratuitous amount of promiscuous behavior which serves little purpose other than an appeal to the prurient interest.

The last part of the book describes in detail the arrest, torture, and brainwashing of the protagonist. He has many logical arguments and perspectives which would likely occur to the reader fighting against the philosophy of Big Brother. This helps to make believable his eventual conversion to belief that Big Brother is good and right regardless of the reader's perspective grounded in the reality of today's thought.

1984 is quite thought provoking and serves as a good reminder that any political party or dictator with absolute power is dangerous and measures should be taken to avoid movement towards this type of system.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Serendipitous Music

This evening, while dropping some books off at the library, I learned of a classical music event put on by the Kansas City Symphony which was occurring this evening. They had a string quartet with 2 violins, a viola, and cello. It was entirely free and of top quality. The order was Spring and Autumn by Vivaldi, Salut d'Amour by Elgar, "And this is my beloved from Kismet by Borodin, Edelweiss from "The Sound of Music," the Waltz from "Serenade for Strings" by Tchaikovsky, Hobo's Blues by Simon & Grappelli, Junk Food Blues by John Whitney, and the Overture and Hallelujah chorus from Handel's "The Messiah."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Righteousness of God or the Anger of Man

I was reading the book of James recently and chapter 1 verses 19-20 popped out at me. The verses read, "My dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." My natural human inclination is not to take circumstances that do not seem fair and equitable in a calm and peaceful manner. It is more likely that I jump to the thought of "that's not fair" and come up with 47 reasons as to why and how the other side is wrong.

God's been showing me that while this type of reaction may be the natural one, it is not of Him. It's one of those my-own-power-and-not-His type of things. There is such a thing as a righteous and holy anger and times that are appropriate for this but so many times we experience anger that have undertones of selfishness. Whether we're right or not is not the point. Instead we should focus our reactions, words, and expressions on surrendering to Him and His view on the importance of things. Put very simply, what's eternal and what's temporary?

There are numerous examples throughout the Bible of people who got done wrong but instead of dwelling on the circumstances they chose to make the best of things and bring honor to God through their actions. Jesus, David, Job, Paul, and Daniel are prominent figures who experienced such persecution. By choosing to direct their focus on God rather than the unfair situation, they remained in communion with God and did not allow others to rob them of their ultimate joy and relationship with Him.

As I face the world and the stuff of the world, I can choose "the righteous life that God desires" or the anger of man. I'm thinking God's got the better option.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Written primarily while Bunyan was in prison for preaching outside of the Church of England during the late 1600s, this allegory marks the steps of a character named Christian through a journey to the Celestial City (Heaven). Disgusted by his life of carnality in his home town, Christian sets off on a journey prompted by talking with a man named Evangelist. He goes through a variety of struggles and eventually arrives at the cross where Christ takes his burden away.

He then continues on his journey and has to fight an apocalyptic dragon known as Apollyon who wants him to return to his former life then attempts to kill him. Christian uses the sword of the Spirit (aka the Bible) to combat the dragon and continues on his journey. He also goes through the valley of the shadow of death.

A friend that he meets along the way is named Faithful and travels with him a while until they reach the town of Vanity Fair. It is here where their steadfastness and commitment to their faith and striving for the Celestial City causes an uproar amongst the citizens of the city. Christian and Faithful are imprisoned and then Faithful is burned at the stake sending him on to the presence of Christ early.

Christian escapes and continues in his journey while picking up another companion named Hopeful. They encounter people such as Flatterer who leads them astray, the giant Despair, Atheist, and countless other such characters who's actions are described by their names.

Eventually, Christian and Hopeful arrive in the Celestial City and are welcomed in by the King. As I read this passage, it made me think of finishing a race in which the crowd is lining the passageway and cheering the runners on to the finish. It was a neat mental picture of coming home to Heaven having finished the race.

The book provides good insight as to both the Christian life as well as that of people in the world and the various struggles, encounters, and types of people one comes into contact with throughout life. At times, the book was heavy on philosophy and could have used a bit more action rather than long discourse. Though I believe I've seen children's versions of this story, this original version was certainly written for the advanced high school or college level student.

If you found this review helpful please let Amazon know at this link.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Well, I made my first sales on eBay. All told with shipping, postage, and gas spent driving to the post office, I may have netted out a profit of a few dollars. However, it did provide for a good learning experience and gave me a better idea of how to do things if I sell something in the future. I also sold a DVD on eBay's partner site

In some ways I like better. An item can be listed indefinitely and an insertion fee is not required. With eBay the item is only listed for 1 week and you pay a minimum of $0.20 as an insertion fee plus a host of other small fees if you use gallery pictures or take advantage of other options.

When the actual sale occurs, eBay is a bit cheaper charging a commission of around 5% of the final sales price. charges around 15% so is a bit steeper from that standpoint.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Fair Tax Book

The FairTax Book by Neal Boortz and John Linder

In this book, Boortz and Linder discuss the abolishment of the income tax. Under this system, wages would not be taxed at all. As an alternative to raise revenue for the government, they propose a national sales tax. The goal is revenue neutral so that same amount of revenue would be collected to run the government.

This would allow the individual to choose when they paid tax. So those who save and invest money rather than spending all of it, would come out much better.

The proposed sales tax rate would be around 23%. While this may sound high, one should keep in mind that no tax would have been withheld from his or her paycheck. For example, say that the average household income for America which is approximately $40,000 a year were not taxed. This would mean the Joneses get to take home all $40,000 of that hard earned income. As it stands today, they are probably only taking home around $32,000 assuming a 20% income tax rate and not considering state, Social Security, or Medicare taxes.

As a component of the national sales tax, they propose that a certain poverty level determination of say $10,000 which would be considered the bare minimum for a person to survive on and each person would receive a "prebate" of $2,300 per year paid in monthly installments. This would significantly help those on the low end of the income spectrum and actually result in additional money to spend on essentials such as food, clothing, and housing. It would also avoid the potential disparities which could occur with a food exemption if the wealthy purchased steak and lobster or other such expensive food items.

Additionally, it would take many of the inefficiencies out of the current system in that each time there is a touch on producing a good or service, income tax is charged. For example, when you buy a loaf of bread, the business who produced the seeds, the farmer who grew the wheat, the mill, the bakery, the trucking company, and the grocery store all pay income tax on their portion of the bread production. By taking the income tax away, the loaf of bread would subsequently be much cheaper (estimated around 25%) from the reduction of built in income tax for a product. (This assumes that businesses will not pay income tax. There would be many rules set up to prevent people setting up "businesses" to evade taxes.)

The Fair Tax also has the benefit of helping prevent tax evasion. Under the current system, there are millions upon millions of dollars of unreported income every year which are not taxed. This could occur in anything from illegal trades such as selling drugs on the street to the legal trades of wait staff or any industry in which cash is used to pay for goods or services but not reported. Every time these dollars were spent by the individuals, however, they would be taxed so this revenue which is currently lost would be collected.

It would additionally get rid of the estimated $265 billion spent annually to comply with the tax code. This is not to mention the 100s of thousands of hours that would be freed up to engage in more productive and enjoyable pursuits.

Economists estimate that in the first year of its implementation the economy would grow by 10.5%. Foreign companies would also have incentive to build factories in the U.S. to take advantage of the eliminated inherent cost included as mentioned in the bread example.

I think that this is a really great idea and hope that it is implemented one day. To learn more about it and see if your congressperson supports it or not, go to Now, go email your representatives and senators right now to voice your support. Do it. :-)

If you found this review helpful please let Amazon know at this link.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Armitage Family Pictures

Here are a few pictures from a photo session with the Armitage family.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Financial Peace

Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey

I've read Financial Peace a couple times before but this time was in conjunction with going through Financial Peace University. Both the book and the course have some great information on personal finance.

The driving principles behind Ramsey's philosophy are live on a budget, pay off debt as quick as possible, build an emergency fund, and get rich slow through diversified investments rather than trying get rich quick schemes.

He describes 7 baby steps (a phrase borrowed from the movie "What About Bob?") to financial peace. The first is to go crazy to build up a $1,000 emergency fund. This will allow you to take care of true emergencies while getting out of debt. (Things like going out to eat, new clothes for school, Christmas presents, etc. would not qualify as emergencies.) This emergency fund also allows you to cut up credit cards and never use them again. Since funds are available to cover unexpected expenses credit cards are no longer necessary. (And yes you can purchase anything online, rent a car, or book a hotel with a debit card. Anything you can do with a credit card can be done with a debit card)

He quotes studies by Dunn & Bradstreet indicating that consumers purchase 12-18% more when using a credit card versus using cash. Having to look Uncle Benjamin, Abraham, George, and Andrew in the eye and tell them that they'll being going to live with someone else is an emotional experience and has an ouch factor to it that swiping a card just doesn't have. McDonald's has also done studies indicating the people paying with credit cards end up buying around 30% more than those paying with cash. So yeah, even for those paying off their card every month and getting "skymiles" or "1% cash back," you likely bought 12 to 18% more by using that credit card. Hope you enjoy the "free flight."

The second baby step is to list all debts from smallest to largest and pay minimums on all except the smallest one regardless of interest rate. Once the smallest one is paid off you would roll that money into the second smallest one and so forth. The concept is referred to as a debt snowball.

Mathematically it might seem more advantageous to pay the highest interest card first and on paper this is accurate. However, personal finance is 80% behavior and only 20% head knowledge. When you start seeing the traction and progress you're making you get excited and more focused "gazelle intense" and start really attacking the debts which result in getting out of debt quicker.

Ramsey encourages selling so much stuff the kids start hiding 'cause they think they're next and naming the dog "eBay." Picking up extra side jobs whether that be delivering pizzas, cutting grass, babysitting, cleaning houses or some other hobby which generates money is also encouraged. He also advocates paying only cash for cars not only to stay out of debt but also to avoid the beating in value you take when driving the car 10 feet off the lot.

After paying off all consumer debt not including the house if a home is owned, baby step number 3 is increasing the emergency fund to 3-6 months of expenses. This emergency fund should be placed in something that's extremely safe such as a money market or savings account. One good reason to have this amount of an emergency fund is in cases of losing a job you would have a solid 3 to 6 months to look for one without the pressure of paying bills with no income.

After building the emergency fund to 3-6 months of expenses, you then move on to baby step 4 which is investing in a retirement plan through work if they match a percentage of your contribution and then through a Roth IRA. If there is no matching from the employer in a 401k, 403b, or TSP, you would start with the Roth IRA which grows tax free. Using mutual funds with solid 10 year track records is a great diversified investment strategy for a retirement account. One would also want to spread money around to various mutual funds such as a growth & income fund, an aggressive fund, an international fund, and a value or balanced fund. The goal is to invest 15% of a paycheck into retirement.

You then move on to baby step 5 which is funding education for children. This can be done through a couple different tax defered accounts such as an Education Savings Account (ESA) or a 529 plan. Only after building up retirement should one start on the kids college. Kids can get scholarships and work to help pay for college but retirement is not something that should be put on hold. You really don't want to be eating dog food in retirement.

After all 5 of these steps are in order, you would then pay everything else down on the house as quick as possible.

Once the home is free and clear, you win and have true financial peace. At this point, you invest in 100% paid for real estate as well as continuing to invest in solid mutual funds. You can now live the life you've worked so hard for and give lots of money away.

I highly recommend this book and the Financial Peace University class to anyone. Even those who already know a good bit about personal finance can benefit from them.

This review also posted at Amazon

For additional articles I've written on personal finance topics, see the following links.
Who Can Set Up Roth IRAs
Choosing Mutual Funds for Your 401k
Why Tax Refunds Are Bad
Emergency Reserves for Later
The Importance of a Solid Financial Team

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Ahoy and avast me maties. It be Talk Like A Pirate Day. Aye 'tis indeed. Be sure ta say Arrrrr!! at least once.

For more pirate fun check out

and these Youtube videos
"I'm a Pirate" song
Talk Like a Pirate Day: The Five A's"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Guitar at the Plaza

Last Friday evening, I went down to the Plaza and sang and played guitar on the sidewalk beside one of the fountains. I received $5.86 in tips. :-) Standing in one place for an hour you see lots of interesting people.

During college, I used to go downtown and play on the sidewalk as well. I used it as a ministry opportunity in talking with the homeless, drunk, as well as Christians and various other people. It was neat in that God would usually bring someone along during an evening that He allowed me to minister to in some way. During one semester I made about $140 which I gave to the Baptist Student Union's summer missions program. It was lots of fun!

Monday, September 17, 2007

In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day

In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

This unusual title comes from a Bible verse in 2 Samuel 23:20-21 which says, "There was also Beniah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heoic deeds, which included killing two of Moab's mightiest warriors. Another time he chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it. Another time, armed only with a club, he killed a great Egyptian warrior who was armed with a spear. Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with it."

So basically, Beniah was the freaking man. He was the type of guy you'd want on your side going into battle. He became the head of the bodygaurd for King David and eventually became the comander of the army of Israel under King Solomon.

The book is based around this passage and goes on to expand and describe how seemingly difficult circumstances which one might initially shy away from or avoid can turn out for great good if faced head on.

Batterson describes a number of modern day lion chasers whom he has known such as a Georgetown lawyer who stopped practicing law to make a film about human trafficking in Uganda, a tenured professor who quit his post and started a dot com company, a college graduate who moved to the Marshall Islands to teach English, and an executive at Microsoft who gave up millions of dollars in stock options to start a church. Batterson himself is a lion chaser in that he moved to Washington D.C. to plant a church in the heart of D.C. on Capitol Hill which meets at a movie theatre in Union Station.

There are all kinds of logical reason not to do certain things but sometimes we need to have some guts and just go for it. God doesn't call us to a life of mediocrity but wants great things to happen through His work in us. Many times these things don't seem to make sense in our finite understanding but God is working so that He will be glorified if we're willing to step out in faith.

A great scene from the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" illustrates this concept as well. Jones is faced with a great chasm which is impossible to jump across but realizes it is a step of faith. When he takes a step out into thin air despite what his eyes see in the great depth below, he then finds firm ground and is able to walk across the chasm.

Of course there are times to be practical and follow common sense as well. One should not simply jump into something just because it sounds fun or exciting. It should be thought out and prayed about. God has a tendency to confirm direction towards lion chasing opportunities.

A quality quote from Mark Twain also illustrates this mentality. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Throughout the book Batterson helps motivate the reader and give them the chutzpah to go tackle tough tasks and chase lions. I recommend it for anyone who might be hestitating about something in life or who needs a little extra encouragement in seeking out and going after goals in life.

This review is also viewable at Amazon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) Prevention and Treatment

Iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome can be a painful and frustrating injury common in runners. Pain usually resides in the outside of the knee and sometimes in the hip. The IT band is a ligament which runs from the hip down to the knee and is used to stabilize the knee and hip and surrounding muscles. If this ligament becomes inflamed, as mentioned previously, it can result in pain on the outside of the knee or hip.

The most common cause of Iliotibial band syndrome is over use through an increase in exercise and more specifically running. To help prevent this injury one should begin an exercise program slowly and gradually add mileage. Experts recommend no more than a 10% increase in mileage from week to week. Another quick thing to check is the condition of your running shoes. If the shoes are worn out, they will no longer provide adequate support and protection. The rule of thumb is that a pair of shoes will last 300-500 miles.

Stretching areas surrounding the IT Band are important to keep things loose. An IT Band specific stretch can be done by crossing one leg in front of the other and leaning into the hip of the back leg. So if the left leg is in front, the torso would lean to the left and consequently stretch the IT Band on the right leg. The stretch will be felt in the hip and slightly on the outside of the knee if performed properly.

Another way to stretch out the IT Band and the surrounding muscles is using a foam roller. To use it, lay on your side, put the foam rollerunderneath then slowly roll your leg along it. It may be tender and possibly a bit painful especially if the IT Band is significantly inflamed. Try to do 10 rolls per leg and repeat at least on a daily basis. Over time you'll notice increased mobility and reduced tightness. A foam roller is a great investment towards recovery and is available from Amazon for just $25.

Strengthening exercises are also beneficial. A specific strengthening exercise for the IT Band is laying on one's side, lifting the top leg, and holding for a second or two. This helps build strength in the areas surrounding the IT Band. In addition to this exercise, other good core exercises to perform would be lifting the bottom leg to strengthen the groin muscles. Leg raises while laying on the back will strengthen the quadriceps muscles. Of course crunches and back extensions are also important in any good core strengthening program. A large number of repetitions is not necessary and the whole routine can be completed in less than 5 minutes.

If the runner feels swelling or more specific pain occurring in the knee or hip areas, he or she should ice the area for 15-20 minutes. This should be followed by a period of allowing the skin to warm back up to room temperature then can be repeated. One can also use an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen to help reduce swelling but should not rely on this solution long term. Massage can also be beneficial in some cases.

The best way to reduce pain and eventually return to full speed is to rest with no running. Low impact activities as walking, bicycling, or an elliptical machine can be pursued as alternatives to help maintain fitness in the interim. If the person has access to a pool, a good exercise in addition to swimming is pool running. This can be conducted either in a shallow part of the pool with feet touching the ground or if a flotation belt is available can be performed in the deep end. Aerobic benefits can be obtained as well as utilizing running specific muscles in pool running.

Rest can be frustrating to those who are used to exercising regularly but will ultimately help the runner to get back to the activity they love more quickly.

This article is also posted at Helium.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Smithville Lake Sunset

Here is a picture I took of the sunset at Smithville lake on Labor Day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Street Lawyer

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

In this novel by Grisham, the protagonist is an attorney who has a violent encounter with a homeless person. This sparks him to investigate the facts behind this man and how he lived. Through a series of events, he begins volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. He is eventual persuaded by a lawyer with a legal clinic to leave his lucrative position at a silk stocking law firm in Washington D.C. to work with the homeless and their legal needs.

Added drama throughout the story was a discovery that his former employer was involved in an illegal housing eviction of a number of impoverished people who were kicked out on the cold wintry streets of D.C. This resulted in one family's untimely demise. Through investigation, he and his colleagues at the legal clinic pursue a law suit against his former law firm to bring justice and media attention to the plight of the homeless of D.C.

I read the whole book in one day and while it's not the best Grisham book I've read, it was certainly entertaining and a quality read.

This review is also posted at Amazon.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Favorite Vocalists

Below are a few of my favorite vocalists.

Mac Powell (lead singer of Third Day): He's got a great southern roots folksy sounding voice
Louie Armstrong: "What A Wonderful World" in my mind epitomizes that mixture of ballad/Jazz/Blues singer with thick vocals
Michael Tait: his voice has a pure melodic sound with the ability to let loose on higher notes
George Straight: classic country singing
Fred Johnson: this is a man at the church I grew up in who's got one of those deep bass voices that one enjoys listening to. When I grow up, I'm going to sing like him :-)

Alison Krauss: her voice has a pure and haunting sound to it that gets down to your core.
Norah Jones: great jazz/blues sound, the type you can sit by a fire and listen to while reading a book
Emily Herod: one of my favorite church singers, she brings energetic melodies and gives a vivacity and life to a song.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Close by to where I live, there is a field that had some beautiful sunflowers a month ago. I took the opportunity to enjoy them along with the butterflies and bees. They actually point towards the sun as their name implies.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Kiyosaki describes the lessons that his two dads taught him about money and its management. To clarify, he had one biological dad and the other was the father of his friend. One of them was highly educated with multiple advanced degrees, the other had an 8th grade education. One was very wealthy, the other regularly struggled with money. Counter-intuitively, the sides were changed on who was wealthy and who was poor. The dad with the 8th grade education, was a wealthy entrepreneur who owned businesses such as restaurants, a construction company and other business ventures. His educated dad spent the majority of life working with very little to show for it.

The first portion of the book is written as a story from the viewpoint of Kiyosaki as a 9 year old kid who learned financial lessons from his rich dad. He performed a number of jobs for him and learned many aspects of business by observing the management, accounting, sales, legal and other aspects. The style of this section was similar to the way The Wealthy Barber was structured in that it teaches financial lessons through narrative style.

A good point Kiyosaki makes is that a house is not an asset though it may be listed this way traditionally. The costs associated with a house such as utilities, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance pull away cash flow. He instead defines an asset as a resource that produces cash. A house actually could be in this category if fully paid for and used as a rental property. (To clarify Kiyosaki does not necessarily recommend buying real estate only with cash. He endorses obtaining financing and taking on debt) I personally think Dave Ramsey's thoughts on this subject of paying cash for investment real estate are more accurate and help to take into account the risk associated with debt.

Other assets could be mutual funds or stocks that generate cash flow as well as intellectual property such as books or music which produce royalties. A business that one owns but doesn't need to be actively involved in the work would also be considered an asset by his definition.

The point he makes is that many people put money into things which do not help to build their wealth and instead cause negative cash flow in some instances through expenses associated with them.

Kiyosaki also promotes a person being creative and figuring out ways to make money in scenarios which might not on the surface look like an opportunity. An example he gives of this is when he worked in a gas station as a kid for very low wages, they sold comic books which were thrown away if not sold by the time the comic salesman returned with the new comics. He collected all of these comics and started a comic book library which charged 10 cents for two hours worth of reading. This allowed kids in the neighborhood to read more comics for the same price that just one would cost. By looking around and finding ways to make money, he identified this opportunity and created a profitable situation.

This philosophy of the book is good in encouraging the building of assets which will continue to increase cash flow as well as the entrepreneurial spirit. One area I do not agree with is the risk level taken on through debt to enable the purchase of real estate. Overall, the book has some good lessons to be gleaned.

This article is also posted at .

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

The Tipping Point is a concept which Gladwell describes as a sort of point of no return or the point after which an epidemic will explode. This could be an epidemic from a pathology standpoint such as an influenza epidemic or something more benign such as the popularity of an ipod or a book such as Harry Potter gaining enormous popularity. These epidemics usually start out in small numbers and may gradually increase until the point of exponential growth.

He proposes that three types of people are necessary to start an epidemic and help push it to the tipping point. These are the maven, connector, and salesperson. The maven is the type of person who knows lots about lots of things and is interested in helping others by informing them of points of interest or providing useful information. I'm not 100% certain but think that I may fall in this category.

The connector is someone who knows lots and lots of people, much more than the average person. This is the type of person who seems to know people where ever they go and generally has great contacts all over the place in numerous areas and walks of life. They are commonly involved in multiple pursuits which provide access to this wide network. I believe my friends Mandy and Sharla fall into this category.

The salesperson is one of those people who can sell ice to an Eskimo and generally are very persuasive, engaging, and charismatic. My friend Kevin and cousin Heath fit this category.

To clarify, not everyone will fall into one of these categories.

A classic example of the connector is Paul Revere. The reason he was so successful in spreading the word that the red coats were coming was that he had a vast network of friends and acquaintances. He was a member of many societies and likely new the key leaders in the various towns along the way. This enabled him to quickly spread the word and allowed for the colonists to react and prepare for battle. In contrast to Revere, William Dawes also set out on a similar route but those along the route he followed were few in comparison with the network of people who responded along Revere's route. Dawes simply didn't have nearly the connections in towns along his path that Revere did along his.

When a maven or two, a few connectors, and several salesman latch on to an idea or new product, it has the potential to explode in popularity. If we look at the example of the ipod, we can hypothesize as to how this works. MP3 players were on the market and available prior to the introduction of the ipod. The ipod took the concept and improved upon the design and functionality of the mp3 player. Somewhere a maven (perhaps a music connoisseur) noticed that Apple had a good thing going on with this new music player. They told several people and even showed them how to use it. Either they directly talked with a connector or someone they talked with did. Thus the connector then new about the existence of the ipod tried it out and told their broad network about the ipod exposing a large quantity of people to it. A salesperson whether employed by Apple or just someone of a salesperson mentality caught on to it and really sold the benefits and attributes of how great and awesome ipods were. The three of these people or types of people thus started a revolution in the music player industry.

Another concept Gladwell discusses in the book is the factor of "stickiness" in an idea or product. In other words, how likely are people to remember the product or idea or have it maintain their attention. A couple of examples he presents are the educational shows Sesame Street and Blues Clues which do extensive research on what is interesting to children and what holds their attention. This is critical to them in better educating their target audience. The examples and discussion is fairly fascinating and if nothing else, I recommend those with young children or who interact with them to read this section.

Gladwell also presents the marketing parabola which presents the cycle of product adoption as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, late adopters, and laggards. These categories are generally in normal standard deviations of adoption.

Overall the book presented some very interesting information but tend to become tedious at parts. The reader might do well to skim at parts and focus on the maven, connector, salesperson as well as the stickiness chapters.

Review also posted at and

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Go Dawgs in Korea

Proof that the Dawgs are an international power.

Monday, August 13, 2007


The other day after filling up my gas tank, I reset the odometer settings such as MPG, total miles, total time, and average speed. I also tried resetting the temperature but was unsuccessful.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Josh & Emily's Wedding

Here are some pictures from my friends Josh and Emily's wedding. I thought it was a really neat ceremony incorporating worship throughout.

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Herod

1st Dance

Best Man's Speech

Cutting the (cup)Cake

Emily and Dad

Billy and Ellie

Wedding Cake



More pictures are available by following this link.
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