Friday, December 28, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
I work for a manufacturing company that designs and build shell-and-tube heat exchangers which are used primarily in oil refineries. The company has been in business since the early 70's, with several employees still working there from day one (I've been there almost 20 years). Over the years, as the company has prospered, the principles/share holders (of which I am one) have shared a portion of the year's profits with the employees in the form of a Christmas bonus.
This year was an exceptional year--in fact, we recorded record sales and profits...so in appreciation of the shop's hard work and in celebration of the year's exceptional profits--management gave away $1 MILLION to approximately 110 shop employees! The bonus pool was distributed based on an employee's tenure and base pay. Several individuals walked out the door that day with a bonus check in excess of $20k! It was really a fun day to watch and hear the expressions on those people's faces. They had no idea a bonus of this size was coming.
I spoke with one man that has been with the company long enough his bonus, well, let's just say: It was REALLY good! I walked into his office right after he had called his wife with the news. "Keith," he said, "my wife is STILL bawling. This is the best Christmas bonus I've EVER gotten in my life! If you took ALL of the bonuses I've gotten from every place I've worked...it wouldn't equal THIS!!!" I heard comments like that all day. People had received a bonus (gift) that was beyond anything they could have imagined.
Tomorrow is Christmas- the day we celebrate God's greatest gift to mankind. He is undeserved, we are unworthy, He is holy, we are not, He is The Savior, we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior. Jesus is the REAL "indescribalbe gift" given to man. On this day, praise Him, worship, Him, give thanks to Him for being the gift beyond anything we could imagine.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! -- 2 Corinthians 9:15
Monday, December 17, 2007
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood. (John 1:3-5)
Last week at this time, we were running around looking for generators, chain saws, groceries, and gasoline because our area had been hit by an ice storm. We were without electricity for four days; there are some STILL without power a week later. Yards are littered with broken limbs of trees that could not hold the weight of the ice. Two weeks before Christmas, our lives were disrupted by cold and darkness as people scrambled to find someway to heat and light their homes.
Darkness is an interesting thing, especially in town. All of a sudden, we were able to see STARS in the night sky. The moon seemed to be more in focus and clearer. The air felt more "crisp" and there was an eerie quiet in the surrounding neighborhoods. There was a sort of "peace" within the darkness, and yet, we struggled to avoid it. We wanted LIGHT! We found lots of ways to "create" it. Flashlights, candles, oil lamps, gas logs, wood fireplaces, lamps plugged into generators...but there never seemed to be enough light to overcome the darkness.
Our world is a lot like that--we don't like the darkness of life, so we look for all kinds of ways to bring light, i.e. joy, peace, happiness, into our lives...but none of that really satisfies. In a lost and dying world, there is only ONE True Light that can illuminate our lives...Jesus Christ, the One whose birth we celebrate this December 25th. Sadly, many will miss "the Light." They will look for light/happiness everywhere but where it can be found.
Jesus came to earth as a baby, to become the Lamb that would be slain for the sins of men. He came to be "The Light."
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by "MrsMama". View her Flickr site here.
Friday, December 14, 2007
NOTE: I know there are a few people from the Michigan/Minnesota area, as well as Canada that read this blog. This is probably nothing for you; I admit it--we are "winter wussies" down here.
Sunday-Dec 10 - A winter storm moved into our area (Tulsa OK) this morning. Throughout the day, it rained and sleeted. Because the ground was fairly warm, the roads stayed passable, but we began to see ice building up on the trees, bushes, etc. People began losing power early Sunday (we did not) and by the end of the evening, there were large areas of town without power. North of us, the storm was worse and would continue to worsen.
We went to church and then, like everyone else, drove around looking for a grocery store that had power. We bought what we figured we would need for a couple of days and headed home in a steady, freezing rain. We still had power that evening when we went to bed.
Monday-Dec 11 - I woke up this morning around 2:00 AM to the sound of tree branches breaking. One major limb of the river birch in our front yard was lying near the front door. I could hear branches breaking throughout the neighborhood; things were not looking good. I went back to bed, but was awakened around 6:00 AM to DEAD SILENCE! That could only mean one thing: we had lost power. Turning on the emergency radio, I discovered we were definitely not alone-most of our county and several to the north were seeing massive outages. By the time the storm ended that day, over 600,000 would be without electricity.
Throughout the day, we listened and watched as trees all around us gave way to the weight of the ice. Both of the trees in our front yard are nearly stripped of their branches. Our neighborhood looks like a "war zone." Authorities are saying power may not be restored in some places until after Christmas! I've never seen anything like this. We have no electricity, no fireplace or woodburning stove, and our cooktop is electric—we cannot cook indoors--we do have an outdoor gas grill--and we have NO heat. Actually, it's not that bad in the house right now, but if this lasts like they say it will, we are going to be in trouble. We charcoaled hamburgers this evening and ate by candlelight. Not a five-star dining experience, but hot food nonetheless.
Tuesday-Dec 12 – No electricity again today. The temperature in the house is—supposedly—62 degrees F. It feels cooler than that, but I'm sure that's just knowing there's NO HEAT. I checked several places in town for a generator—none to be found, but promises of "new shipments" abound. The problem is you have to either put your name on a list and be there when the generators show up or just happen to luck upon a delivery being made. Each place I checked regarding getting my name on a list, they had already allotted the number of generators they hoped to receive.
Dana's parents called (we have cell and land line phone service of all things; you can't cook with that or heat a home, though) and invited us to come to their house for supper (or dinner, depending on what part of the country you live in). They don't have electricity either, but they do have a gas log fireplace and a gas cooktop. A hot meal sounded great, so we loaded up and went to the in-laws for a few hours. They live only eight miles north, but it was AMAZING how much more severe the storm was there! We returned home and slept at our house; it's getting cooler--thermostat doesn't go below 60 degrees, but I can tell. I've got to start thinking about what happens if this continues.
Wednesday-Dec 13 - Still no electricity. We've seen crews from our local power company, as well as from Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas that have come to help with the massive outages. We are now hearing that power may not be restored in some areas until after Christmas. The problem is that many areas have overhead powerlines and many of the poles have broken due to the weight of the accumulating ice. The good news is that the ice/rain has slowed significantly. Temperatures are hovering around mid-30's during the day and low-30's to high 20's at night. We've made use of that situation by putting all of our perishables out on the back porch. Thank God for "natural refrigeration."
Some of the restaurants in town have gotten electricity, so they are doing a BOOMING business. The Taco Bueno near us has had traffic lined up for days. McDonalds and a couple of other fast-food joints also had power in some form by the second day. I went by Braum's this morning and picked up a sack of sausage biscuits and a couple of cups of coffee (The coffee had been sitting there a while, but it was hot. No complaints)
I called around again looking for a generator; NONE in town or surrounding area. Thumbing through the phone book, I noticed the name of a locally owned lumber yard (Pixley Lumber) in Claremore- about 20-25 miles east of us. I had heard that they had not received near the devistation we had, so I called thinking: (1) maybe they haven't had the run on chain saws (those are rare, too) and generators we have had and (2) hopefully no one or few have thought to call them. Praise God! They had 120 generators they had just received that morning. An hour later, they had one less.
I got the central heat up and running, dragged several extension cords through the house and we were set! HEAT! I can eat a lot of cold Pop Tarts® as long as I'm warm. We also had cable TV of all things. Now we just need a way to cook. We returned to Dana's parents' this evening. She has two sisters living in the area, so we all got together and the girls cooked three-way chili. Good stuff on a c-o-l-d night.
Thursday-Dec 14 - A warm night thanks to the generator. We ran the generator all last evening until we went to bed, then shut it down. I didn't like the idea of "broadcasting" throughout the night to the entire neighborhood and any potential thieves: "Hey, there's a generator over here!" I got up this morning, fired up the heat and made coffee--first fresh coffee in days. Dana and I set out looking for an electric hot plate. We split up--divide and conquer--and a few hours later, we were the proud owners of a two-burner hot plate. Generator + hot plate = home cooked meal tonight.
It's been really interesting to notice some of the things people buy during a power outage. The obvious items: generators, candles, oil lamps (the sign in the picture says they're "temporarily out"), flashlights, etc. If you really want to see something interesting, be there when a store wheels out a new shipment of WHATEVER! People will buy pretty much anything in quantity if they think there's a limited inventory. Really, what do you do with a dozen flashlights?! I also noticed that people buy a lot of beer during a power outage/ice storm. Human anti-freeze?
I went back to Dana's parent's and hooked up their central heat this morning. Her Dad was able to buy a generator by getting up at the crack of dawn and standing in line. A couple of people didn't show up for generators they had "signed up" for-- "must be present to win."
I grilled pork chops on the outdoor grill while Dana made mashed potatoes and corn on the hot plate. Not really "roughing it," but it was actually kinda fun. Around 7:00 PM, the "miracle" happened: after four days, the electricity came back on!!! We spent the next hour putting the house back in order and stowing away the "survival gear."
Watching the weather this evening, they are predicting SNOW Friday and Saturday anywhere from one to six inches. Temps remain in the 20's and low 30's.
Postscript: Officials are saying this morning (Friday) that 328,500 are still without power. Our neighborhood has been checking on each other; yesterday several of us got out and began cutting up the downed trees. Most of the wood was snatched up for firewood--God provides even in a disaster.
Oklahoma has been declared a disaster area by President Bush. Supposedly that gives us some type of assistance from FEMA. We'll see.
You can see more pics of the storm here.
Some final thoughts:
- God is good, all the time. Even though we didn't have heat, etc. for a while, we DID have a roof over our heads and food. He even provided things like generators when we needed them.
- I am grateful for men and women that work tirelessly for power companies during times like these.
- I saw a LOT of good/kind acts--neighbors helping neighbors, people being patient in long lines, etc.
- I saw greed and price gouging. Also heard about low-lifes that had no problem taking advantage of the situation in numerous ways.
- I learned some things about some people in particular. No details here, but suffice it to say, I didn't like what I saw.
- As a family, we really enjoyed the time together: no TV, no outside distractions. We played cards, talked and simply enjoyed each other's company. Not that we weren't doing any of those things, but I hope they continue beyond the "storm."
flickr: Friday Photo Group
Sunday, December 09, 2007
It's been raining/sleeting all day long. The high temp was mid-20s, so everything is coated with ice. They cancelled Sunday School this morning, but had Worship Service. They cancelled Evening Worship and all other church activites for the next two days, since the forecast is for continued rain/sleet/winter storms.
We have a tree in our front yard that will probably come down due to the ice/weight. There are LOTS of trees all around town and especially north of us that have seen a lot of damage as well.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
We (human beings) are an interesting lot--especially when it comes to our vocabulary. We/they combine some of the strangest words to express ourselves (profanity and the like). Take the phrase: "It's colder than h*** out there!" Does that really make sense? And yet, people understand exactly what you're talking about. It's not just cold...it's REALLY cold. How did inserting that one word make that comment more understandable or imply a more sever degree of "coldness?"
Even more interesting, is how disengenuious we can be in our converstations. Think about some of the possible responses to these questions/statements:
- Does this dress make me look fat?
- Do you think she's pretty? (Men, don't answer this one if your wife asks)
- Have you read [fill in book title here] or seen [fill in movie title here]? I loved it!
- Does my hair look OK like this?
- What do you think about or how do you feel about so-and-so?
I'm thinking about words and honesty here because of a blog I was reading yesterday. A fairly civil "debate" suddenly turned ugly when one commentor wrote (in response to a previous statement) something like: "With all due respect..." and then proceeded to tear into the guy like a monkey on a cupcake! As I read the post, I thought, "This guy is showing absolutely NO respect! In fact, it's obviuos that was never his intention." When someone begins a sentence/statment with "with all due respect," you can pretty much bet you're not going to get any--respect. Same thing goes for...
To be honest...Red flag!!! Most of the time, the sub-title to this statement should be: "Normally when I talk to you, I'm lying, but TODAY, I'm telling you the truth." Maybe we should approach this from the opposite angle and just say: "Well, to bald-face lie to you..."
Bless his/her heart...Let's face it. Most of the time this phrase is used, it's because we've just ripped someone apart and we're trying to recover the conversation or at least end on a high note. Years ago, I worked with a guy that was in his 50's and still lived with his mother. She called him every day at work, and ever day they would get into some kind of argument on the phone. They'd raise their voices (you could hear her on the other end) and within minutes he'd be slamming the phone into its cradle. EVERY TIME he hung up on his mom, he'd exclaim: "That b**ch!" Followed by: "Bless her heart." I guess that made it alright.
No offense, but...RIGHT! A conversation that starts out like this IS going to offend you. That's a fact.
In my humble opinion...Actually, I am NOT humble about my opinion. I believe I am right, that I am the absolute authority on this subject, and you are a blithering idiot!
With all due respect and to be perfectly honest, this is my humble opinion. Bless your hearts.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
It should be obvious by now to anyone that reads this blog that I enjoy a good debate. Some people may say I just like to argue. I have been known to be "snarky," or a little smart-aleck. There have been occasions I have been nice and cordial in my interactions with others. I admit that I have been wrong on occasions. I believe I am right about some things.
Any way, one of the blogs I read has basically set itself up to refute other blogs (this one in particular) they disagree with. They also tend to use words that I would have a hard time working into everyday conversation. Today's post was interesting to say the least:
I offer this without much comment, understanding that many will see irony in posting it here.In his anti-[N.T.]Wright book¹, Piper says:Faithful Christians do not love controversy; they love peace. They love their brothers and sisters who disagree with them. They long for a common mind for the cause of Christ. But for this very reason they are bound by their conscience and by the Word of God to try to persuade the church concerning the fullness of the truth and beauty of God’s Word (31-32).
I simply don’t believe that most polemicists² love their opponents in any way, desire peace or want a common mind. They want and need to fight. I think they have a psychological need to right, and will divide from anyone in order to establish that game and win it. They redefine love and discipleship so that arguing and the various tools for winning arguments become “loving.” This may not be true for all, but it’s true enough to make Piper’s statement absurd in many cases.
So, I guess it's everybody else that "wants and needs to fight"...but not them. Everyone else has a "psychological need to [be] right"...but not them. They "love their opponents...desire peace [and] want a common mind"...but everybody else doesn't. (I think their "common mind" is like saying "Teamwork equals everyone doing what I say") OK. Now I know the rules. And just in case you find any of this hard to believe, just check out the thread that ensued from today's post. It's pretty pathetic--like watching a couple of junior high girls standing around slapping each other!
Speaking of pathetic, I passed this sign today while I was out running some errands. Makes you wonder about our public education system.