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How it went

The tickets.

Okay, so I didn’t follow-up right away.

The trip to Boston was a success. Sammy and I flew out of Tampa and arrived at Logan International early Tuesday evening. On the plane Sammy thought he noticed former Red Sox catcher, Jason Varitek, on our flight. Sure enough, it was, and Sammy got his picture with Varitek once we got off the plane. (Confession: we saw Varitek stop in the restroom, so we waited until he came out before we approached for a photo op.)

Jason Varitek with Sammy.

We chose to travel the city and suburbs by mass transit rather than rent a car. That turned out to be a good choice. The T, as the subway is known, is good. Boston’s system, MTBA, seems to be well run. Since we were traveling during a cool fall week, we wouldn’t be experiencing the heat and sweat that might be present during the summer.

After traveling by train and bus for over an hour via the MTBA, we arrived at our hotel in the suburb of Wakefield. It was an older Clarion Inn. Parts of hotel had been updated, but we weren’t staying in those parts.

Some of the fall color we saw on the trip

There wasn’t much around our hotel in the way of restaurants or entertainment. We walked about ¾ of a mile to a little indoor mall that had a Fuddrucker’s.

After dinner we watched television in our less-than-modern room.

The next morning we travelled back to the city and spent the day sightseeing and shopping. (Shopping the way guys do, for souvenirs and stuff.)

We saw a replica of the Cheers bar and got a picture of Sammy in front of it. (He was born on the same day the finale of the series aired. And, no, he is not named after the fictional bartender of that series.)

In front of “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name, especially if it’s Sammy.

We followed part of the Freedom Trail and saw some of the historic landmarks. We ate pizza for lunch at Reginas Pizzeria, established 1926. Smallest public restroom I think I’ve ever been in.

We went to Fanuel Hall, the Old North Church, and Boston Common.

Then it was time for the main event.

We had delayed going to Fenway, because we didn’t want to get there too early. We didn’t know how much there was to see around the ballpark. If we had known, we probably would have gone sooner. Outside the stadium, along the first base side, the entire street is actually part of being “inside.” The opposite side of the street is all souvenir shops that ticket holders can spend time perusing.

We made it inside well before game time. Sammy stayed at our seats while I roamed the stadium and took some pictures. Fans were allowed to go pretty much anywhere before game time, so I went down to the box seats by the field, where I was close to the hundreds of media people doing pre-game interviews. I saw our pal, Jason Varitek.

The pre game was good and so was the game. The home crowd was very excited by a good start and the game wasn’t really close, but the crowd stayed excited and loud from first pitch until the last.

I got a good video clip of David Ortiz getting robbed of a home run by Carlos Beltran. Later, Ortiz would hit one way too deep to bring back.

Our view. Big Papi at the bat. 2013 World Series, Game 1.

Sammy and I got near an exit for the last few pitches, and when the 8-1 game finally ended, we rushed out to get ahead of the rush.

We would spend the night in the airport, waiting for our 5:30 a.m. flight back to Tampa.

It was a good trip.

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World Serious

That’s a lame title for this post, but seriously…

In case you didn’t see it on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, I WON TICKETS TO THE WORLD SERIES!

That’s the headline and good news in the story. The not-so-good-news is that I ONLY won tickets to get into one game. I didn’t win transportation to get there. I didn’t win tickets to more than one game. I didn’t win hotel accommodations or any other special perks. Of course, winning tickets and getting there are two very different things. We don’t even know who will be in the World Series. As of this writing it will either be Boston or Detroit from the American League and St. Louis or Los Angeles from the National League.

But let’s stick with the headline – I WON TICKETS TO THE STINKING WORLD SERIES!

It was a Twitter contest run by Major League Baseball. I was randomly selected from everyone else that was trying to win the tickets at the same time. The promotion was in conjunction with Pepsi and called, Locktober.IMG_0144

But again – tickets to where? Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles or St. Louis. As a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, it would be great if they were to come back from their 3-2 hole and beat Boston. However, I’ve never been to Boston, so that would be nice, too. And Fenway Park is historic. Dodger Stadium and Chavez Ravine are iconic as well, but Los Angeles is a long way away. I’ve been to the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis, but not the new Busch Stadium.

The agent for MLB contacted me and asked which game I’d like to go to, so I said Game One. The World Series is a best 4-out-of-7, so picking one of the first 4 games only makes sense – you don’t even know if there will be a game 5, 6, or 7.

The first two games are in the American League city and the next 3 are in the National League city. I figured that the most excitement is probably at Game One, and going to Detroit or Boston would be good.

Game one is Wednesday, October 23. And we won’t know if it’s Detroit or Boston until this Saturday or Sunday, October 19 or 20.

Airline flights are expensive. The only relatively cheap flights are out of Fort Lauderdale – 2.5 hours away. But driving isn’t much of an option, with the closest city – Detroit – over 20 hours away. And that doesn’t factor in possible hotel, car rental, food…

Tickets? Yes, two. And, no, I’m not taking you – my son, Sammy, will go with me. If we go. But if we don’t go, I can’t sell them or transfer them.

Eeesh. Who knew winning something would be so difficult?

But I WON TICKETS TO THE WORLD SERIES!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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27

Happy Anniversary to us!IMG_2559

Trudi and I celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary today and we are both very thankful for how God has blessed us, our marriage, our home, our family…all in spite of us.

Human nature being the way it is, we all tend to look at things we’re not part of in one of two ways – skeptically or idealistically. When we’re skeptical, we imagine all sorts of horrible secrets and dreadful things that are kept inside. We are usually skeptical (or perhaps it’s fearful) when what we’re looking at is ugly or unattractive. For instance, the old dilapidated house with weeds growing everywhere. What’s inside? Rats, criminals, ghosts…we imagine all sorts of things. It’s the “Haunted House” syndrome. The same is true of people we find unattractive. We can imagine them to be dumb, mean, or evil. But if we  were actually inside, we might find a completely different reality.

At the other end of the spectrum is our tendency to be idealistic. When we’re outside something that looks attractive, we imagine perfection on the inside. This would be the “Grass is always greener” syndrome. We might look at a shiny sports car and imagine how perfect it would be to own it. We look at the beautiful yard and freshly painted house and imagine a luxurious palace inside. We look at a relationship, see the smiling faces, and imagine 24 hour/day bliss.

Being on the pastoral staff of Faith Assembly for over 23 years, and teaching a class on relationships* for over 5 years makes Trudi and I very visible, and it would be easy for people to look at us either skeptically or idealistically. Let me assure you, either one of those views would be wrong.

We have made and still make mistakes. I won’t tell you what they are, and I won’t speak for Trudi on this point, but I fail – oh, let’s call it what it really is – I sin far too often. I act selfishly and pridefully and disobediently. It hurts the relationships I have, the relationships I have lost, and the relationships I that I should have but don’t have because of me.

There is no need to look at us idealistically. Of course, there’s no need to look skeptically, either.

We are greatly blessed. Trudi and I became friends first, all those years ago, and we have remained friends ever since. We joined as husband and wife and our friendship became intimate. That intimacy changed and deepened our relationship beyond the boundaries of best friends into a sharing and partnership that only a marriage built on a relationship with Jesus Christ can provide.

Despite our own weaknesses and failures, we always know that the grace and mercy of Christ leads us to forgive and move forward. We have been blessed with four amazing children. Again, we wish we parented perfectly and know that we don’t. But God faithfully helps us and blesses us anyway.

In fact, because of God’s provision and the hope He gives, if someone chose to look at us idealistically, they wouldn’t be far off. Trudi is an amazing woman and it has been my privilege to be her mate for these 27 years. We laugh a lot. We share. We still learn new things about each other. (I even learned something new about her today.) We both are committed to the success of our relationship with God and with each other.

I’m thankful for these 27 years and hope for many, many more.

* Wiilationships – every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. in the choir room. You’re welcome to join us, whether you are single, married, young or old.

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A history of 71o1, part 3

Quick quiz: name the first host of 71o1.

That would be me.

Sometime very late in February 2011 – unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly what day – I set out to shoot the very first test episode for 71o1. To this point I hadn’t discussed my ideas with anyone, and I wanted to see what my ideas would look like before I went public with it. I also wanted to see what the technical challenges really were.

To make the editing quick and simple I was going to use the handheld camcorder to film. (I say film and will continue to say film, even though that’s anachronistic. I think most people understand what I mean when I say, “I’m going to film this,” that wouldn’t understand if I said, “I’m going to digitize this.”)

Another issue I hadn’t resolved was where I would film. I chose our church’s youth room for it’s openness and lighting. The LED lighting system seemed like it would provide a clean, even light for filming. The room is out of the way and seemed to be a good place for future filming.

The reality was that the youth room’s lighting was only somewhat adequate. The sound of the room turned out to be a problem because of the high volume of the room’s air conditioning. Another problem was finding a specific spot to shoot from that would provide a good background.

71o1ScreenShotTestShot1.png
First test

Two test shoots were done. The first was posted on March 1, 2011 and was the same basic form as most of our first 400 shows have been – 1, give the date and name of the show, 2, short video bumper with show logo, 3, short bits of the news ending with “this is 71o1.” The very first test also included something that is a regular feature of 71o1 and actually predates the show – the Faith Builder.

The second test shoot was made and posted nine days later. It was the second test that included the very first “outtake”. It wasn’t really an outtake, but rather a silly pre-planned tag. However, it reinforced to me that these videos would need something funny to draw some interest.

The test shoots revealed several important things. First, the youth room wasn’t going to work as a studio. Even if I figured out the lighting system, the room’s air conditioning system was too loud. Secondly, the camcorder wasn’t going to work either. It just wasn’t that good of a camera and almost gave a fish-eye view. It also didn’t have XLR inputs that would allow us to use good microphones.

I knew we could work these issues out. It would just take time.

71o1 went on the back burner and would stay there for over a year. The reason it would take so long wasn’t the technical issues, monetary issues, or even time issues. It was simply that I hadn’t told anyone about this and had not fully committed to doing it.

In early 2012, my senior pastor, Phil Goss, began pushing the idea of having video announcements in our services. There is a group of people that meet weekly to bring brainstorm with Pastor Goss about the services and sermons. During our discussions the video announcement idea was mentioned and the others talked about who might be the hosts for such a thing. Their idea was that it be younger people, to give a younger identity to the church. I didn’t enter any of the discussion, because I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t ready to commit to it yet. I also wasn’t crazy about the idea of having younger people be the hosts – I wanted to host!

Over the next few months, however, I reluctantly came to agree with the thinking of using people younger than myself as hosts. I also internally committed to producing the show as I had been envisioning it. And I decided that rather than shooting in HD, as I had intended doing since the beginning, I would shoot in SD. This would allow me to use the bigger JVC camera and output directly to my computer using the Firewire connection on the camera. It would also reduce video rendering times.

I had purchased a small Chroma Pop background from Digital Juice to use as a green screen. I also had acquired a number of Digital Juice backgrounds over the last few years. I decided to use our former sanctuary, now known as the Chapel, as our studio. For the very first official shoot, I would use the stage lighting in the chapel.

I had previously used the Chapel as a studio for filming an anniversary video for the church in 2008 and for small groups videos in 2011 and 2012.

The last piece of the puzzle was figuring out who would serve as host for 71o1. Or hosts.

[Next: We begin]

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A history of 71o1, part 2

In July 2006 I began my very first podcast, The Church Drama Podcast. (Someday I need to tell you that story.) It was a five-person podcast, done with both audio and video versions. Through the process of producing that podcast I learned about RSS feeds, how to develop a website using WordPress, and some of the challenges associated with podcasts, video, and audio production. Though I started by using a WordPress.com site, I quickly changed to a self-hosted solution using GoDaddy. I know, I know…but it was the cheapest solution I could find at the time.

The CDP was recorded weekly – most of the time – and gained a decent following. It was a lot of work and it depended on the availability of the podcast panel of myself, and the four other regulars of the show – Mary-Jane, Steve, Trish, and the Lovely Trudi. We had a lot of fun, but it’s amazing that we were able to continue the show for as long as we did with the twin monsters of schedule and scripts fighting us the entire time.

In September 2006 I began my first solo podcast, The Bible Quiz Podcast. By then I was thoroughly enamored with the idea of podcasts and I wanted to try my hand at producing a show that didn’t depend on anyone else showing up. I also wanted to try a different method in producing a podcast. Instead of using a self-hosted WordPress site, I went to Libsyn.

In the next few years I would start a few more podcasts, Wiilationships, Pastor Goss Sunday School Class, and Sunday Morning. Each of these gave me more experience in developing a regular audio podcast, but until 71o1, the CDP was still the only video podcast I attempted.

The whole idea of doing church video announcements everyday came because of podcasts, and I knew that if I attempted it, it would be as a podcast. Doing audio and video as a podcast adds an additional avenue for distribution. Potential viewers can find your show through your website, through iTunes, or any podcast app. They have the option of having the show delivered automatically through the podcast feed.

I wanted a robust hosting solution for the show. I didn’t want bandwidth to be a problem. We use Dreamhost as our internet provider, and they’ve been great. They offer free hosting for 501(c)3 non-profits. They also offer “unlimited” bandwidth and “unlimited” storage. But we all know there are hidden limitations. And I didn’t want to run into a problem down the road.

I had used Libsyn previously with the Bible Quiz Podcast because of the guarantee of unlimited bandwidth, but Libsyn isn’t a very friendly place to host, and they can end up being pretty pricey.

The solution was Vimeo. Vimeo Plus offers 5 gb of uploading per week at a very reasonable price. (I think it was even cheaper when I signed up.) I created the 71o1 channel in our church account, then created the 71o1 website that would show the daily videos. However, for reasons that take more writing than I care to do, I had to create a sub-site on 71o1 that would host the podcast version of the show.

By February 2011 I had worked out many of the details on doing the new video announcement show. I had decided on the name 71o1 – with a small letter “o” instead of the number zero – after checking the internet and discovering that an all-numeric 7101.com was already taken. I felt it was important that the show have a short, easy-to-remember name and associated website. “Seventy-one oh one dot com” seemed to fit.

I set a target date of March 1st for a test of the process – writing, filming, editing, posting. How would it work in real life? Was this something we could make work daily? Could we do it in 71 seconds or less? There was only one way to know for sure.

[Next: First and second tests]

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A history of 71o1

71o1 is a project that has been public for 11 months, but was in development for about a year before the first show.

If you haven’t ever seen it, 71o1 is the name of our church video announcements. It takes its name from our church address, 71o1 Bayshore Road. It also references one of the two unique features of our announcements – that each video is 71 seconds or less. Originally I planned to advertise it as 71.01 seconds or less, but we simplified it.

The other key feature, and the one which I think really sets it apart from every other church announcement package on the planet, is that we do a new video everyday. Every. Day. More about that in a minute.

There is an exception for each of those features. The exception to the 71 second rule is that videos that are seen during church services (the Sunday and Wednesday evening editions) are most always longer.

The exception to the everyday rule is more an addition than an exception, because on Wednesdays there are two videos. In our first eleven months we have done over 370 shows.

Back in 2011, I first began thinking about how I would do our church video announcements. I knew they needed to be interesting, concise, and visually attractive. My first hurdle was equipment. I had acquired a little HD handheld camcorder, and I thought it would be the easiest way to go. Our other camera option was a large JVC professional-grade HD(ish) camera. We had used the JVC mainly to record Scrooge and other projects around the church. The problem was that it uses DV tapes. Yes, tapes. Very 2003. This meant a long time capturing the video and getting it ready to edit.

The little HD camcorder would solve this problem. It has an SD card slot, so you can record directly to disk. I figured HD would be the best format, too.

As I thought about the project, I realized that I wanted to do something more than a simple church video announcement thing. Church video announcements were becoming more and more common. I wanted uncommon. I wanted a hook, something no one else was doing.

No one is doing announcements everyday. That’s ridiculous. Not only is it hard to come up with new announcements everyday, but the time demands of editing the video would be unworkable.

But I knew everyday was the thing to do. I started thinking about one minute as the goal. Announcements in one minute or less. This comes from my familiarity with a couple of podcasts, The One Minute Tip from John Chambers and GeekBeat.TV with Cali Lewis.

The One Minute Tip is something I would hear from time-to-time on Adam Christianson’s Maccast. (I love the Maccast. It’s the first podcast I ever listened to, and the podcast that got me started podcasting. I still listen weekly.) Chambers would send in special Maccast One Minute Tips, and they were concise and to the point, yet they always carried a lot of information.

I’ve heard, seen, and been part of much longer podcasts. The first panel-type podcast I ever heard was the Simply Youth Ministry Podcast by Doug Fields and friends. (It actually didn’t have a name when I listened to it, but it belonged to SYM at the time. It is now Youth Ministry Garage.) They were always more than an hour, and I thought they were great. Adam’s Maccast, TWIT’s This Week in Tech and MacBreak Weekly are also long shows that I have enjoyed.

But for daily use, the shorter the better. This leads us to the other podcast I watched regularly from the first show – Cali Lewis’s GeekBeatTV. Back in the day it had a different name (GeekBrief), but the idea was the same – a show everyday, short, with usually a funny little outtake at the end.

I never cared much for the outtakes. And in time, I’ve fallen away from watching the show. But it was an inspiration, because it proved that everyday was a doable thing.

Since then I’ve become a regular listener to another daily show, MacOSKen from Ken Ray. It reinforces the idea that news everyday can be done, as long as you throw a little humor into it. MacOSKen is the inspiration for another podcast idea I have that still remains on the back burner. (Someday, perhaps.)

Time to go to bed. I’ll finish this later…

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Feeling drained

Here’s a tip: if your bathtub has a hole in it, the water isn’t really going down the drain.

That seems fairly obvious doesn’t it? I didn’t think it was so obvious. The hole in our bathtub was right by the drain, so I was thinking that maybe the water was just going into the pipe from the side.

Hindsight is not only 20/20, it’s about 1000% smarter. In reality, the only way for the water to go down the drain is for it to go DOWN THE DRAIN. To think otherwise is…stupid. Really, really stupid.

Not only has water been leaving our tub in the wrong direction, but the other day someone closed the drain. For several days, no water was going down the drain. None. This while six people were using this one tub for all their showers.

{sigh}

We’re hoping the carpet and pad in both adjacent bedrooms will be dry in the next day or so.

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The pitcher’s view

I’ve been playing Tuesday night, co-ed, slo-pitch softball with a great team of people.

They let me pitch, which I like very much.

When I was younger I played the outfield. I liked that very much, too, but now that I’m older, I’m also slower and I don’t do as well running around out there.

Pitching is better, because I’m involved on every pitch on defense. Even better, I’m in control of every pitch – even when my control isn’t that good. I like being in control. (Analyze that at your own leisure.)

Tonight was our last game of the regular season. We have already clinched second place and we were playing the first place team, who also had already guaranteed their spot. However, they were undefeated, and we could keep them from a perfect season. So there was incentive to do well.

We did. The final score was 15-13, which was really closer than it needed to be. We were in control for most of the game.

As I said, it’s slo-pitch (yes, I think the slo without the w is the way it’s supposed to be), which means the pitcher basically lobs the ball in for the batters to hit. The pitcher is supposed to have much less effect on the game than in fast-pitch or baseball. I like to think I have more effect than I probably do.

The bad effects are when I walk people. If you walk guys in our league, they get two bases, because we bat boy-girl-boy-girl and they don’t want you walking a guy to pitch to a girl. And when you walk a girl…well, that’s usually giving up a better chance for an out. Tonight I had a few walks. I didn’t feel as bad about it, because the opposing pitcher had a lot of walks.

The home plate umpire had a very rigid and small strike zone. He wasn’t giving much deep and he was calling the inside corner (for a righthand batter) very tight. That was because he was set up on that corner. He wasn’t calling the outside part of the plate nearly as closely, and I got a few calls on that side.

The good effects are when I throw strikes and throw pitches in a way that I imagine messes with hitters. For instance, when I throw with maximum arc to the pitch, hitters have to be patient and wait for the ball, attacking solidly at just the right point. When I’m throwing right, my pitches also tend to curve a bit. On a good night they will break four-to-six inches.

Tonight the wind was blowing from right field to left field, which was taking most of the curve out of my pitches. However, I found that I could throw just off the outside corner – all the hitters were right-handed tonight – and the wind would carry the pitch over the plate. In addition, not all my natural curve would be taken off the ball. So, at the last second, the pitches would tail away from the hitter. This made several hitters reach for pitches, mostly popping them up.

I like to imagine I was making it tough on the other hitters. However, as a hitter I rarely think that the opposing pitcher has anything to do with how well I’m hitting. I either hit the ball well, or I don’t. Which means that the other team probably doesn’t think I have near the effect on the game, good or bad, that I imagine I do. (Maybe another good place to analyze.)

So, as I said in the last post, these are the kind of things that I want to get out of my head. I know in normal conversation they are not very interesting…and on a blog they aren’t that interesting either.

But thanks for reading to the end anyway. 🙂

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More stream in the ThoughtStream

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know I’ve probably said it before. But, really, I mean it this time.

It’s time to do a little more on the blog.

I was thinking tonight how there are things I think that I’d like to talk about…but to do so would be only interesting to me. You’ll see. I’m telling the truth. I’m not saying such things will be interesting to read, either. It’s just that I can say it here, feel like I’m heard, and won’t have to actually bore anyone with the gory details.

And if you accidentally are interested in any of the musings, bonus.

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NUMB3RS…counted out for now

For reasons which I’d rather not explain right now, I have removed the links to the NUMB3RS section of my website and put that particular domain in maintenance mode. What this means is: 1) I have not deleted it, 2) It is not available right now, and, 3) It will be back.

There is no timetable for its return, however.

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Trouble with SB [update]

I like Starbucks.

med_starbucksI like their coffee. It’s not for everyone, as it tends to be a bit stronger than other coffees. I like the medium brews in the morning, like Kenya or Guatemala Antigua. The bolder beans — such as Sumatra — are my afternoon choice. My all-time favorite is Ethopian Sidamo.

I like the Starbucks vibe as well. Cool, relaxed. The baristas are always friendly and try to accommodate you in any way they can. If you stick around and enjoy the comfy couches or chairs, you can enjoy the free wifi and hipster music.

It was after experiencing a French press at Starbucks that I got one of my own. And a grinder. And I began purchasing bags of whole beans — Starbucks, of course — so I could have it at home.

Like many, we joke about St.Arbucks and how much we like to go there.

In 2007 I registered my first gift card with Starbucks. At some point I got a gold card (cue angel music). Eventually I got the iPhone SB app and kept track of my purchases through the app, so I didn’t have to carry the actual gold card. My gold card was good for tiny perks and savings, nothing big. My gold status remained intact until last month.

You would think after 5 years I would know how the gold card and rewards worked. I didn’t.

I always thought that the rewards were based on how much your purchased. You know, for every so many $, you receive a star. (Starbucks rewards are based on a star system. So many stars earn you a free drink. You have to earn enough stars to retain your gold card status.)

My understanding of the reward system was incorrect. It doesn’t matter how much you purchase, just how often. Every purchase earns a star, whether you buy a $15 bag of coffee or a $2 tiny cup of coffee.

In the past, whenever you earned enough reward for a free drink, a delightful post card would arrive in the mail, showing your reward and the expiration date of the reward. At some point, this system changed. In October I received a notice on my phone that I had earned a free drink. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because I expected the customary postcard in the mail to remind me. It never came. Then in November, I remembered — ooh! I have a free drink! Unfortunately, the reward had already expired.

It was about that time that I happened to notice that my time to achieve the required level to retain my gold card status was running out.

I live far enough away from the nearest store, and the drinks are expensive enough, that I didn’t worry about it. Well, I thought, if I don’t make it by the deadline, no big deal. I still have enough stars that regaining my gold card won’t take that long.

Wrong again. Once the deadline passed, not only was I demoted to a “green card” (Really? Now I’m not even a full citizen?), but I lost all my accumulated stars as well. Back to 0.

Grrr.

Bad policy, SB.

I like Starbucks, but, as I said, it’s expensive. Over $2 for a not-very-grande coffee? McDonalds is currently $1 for any size. And I don’t have to have a gold card for free refills.

TCP-Starsucks

And, no, it’s not always the best tasting coffee. Sidamo is still #1, but if I could get a bag of McDonalds coffee, I’d be very happy. Dunkin Donuts brand is good as a change-up.

All the fancy drinks? They’re good, but special occasion only for me. Not only expensive, but fattening, too. (Plus, I now have my own frappe-maker at home.)

Will I be going back to SB? Sure. Hopefully Christmas will bring some gift cards (hint), and I still have a small balance on my gol—er, green card.

But will I go out of my way to go there? No.

St. Arbucks? Hardly. Not after I got excommunicated.

[UPDATE, December 18, 5:10 p.m.

Before I posted the story above, I sent an email to Starbucks customer service. In part, here is their response…

Greetings Tim!

We’re delighted you contacted us. I apologize this wasn’t made very clear when we made the change. We have had plenty of people having the same problem. I hope it turns out to be a positive change that works out better for you.

I did re add your missed reward. Please allow 24 hours for it to show up and keep in mind it will expire after 30 days if not used.

Some of our customers ask the baristas to make separate orders so the can acquire more stars at once.

If 30 purchases are not made within one year of turning gold, your stars will expire and the status of your account will reset. On November 22nd, 2012 your historical star count reset to zero. I reviewed your account and you were at 27 stars on November 21st. I went ahead and reinstated your gold account as a one time customer service gesture. As of now your new Gold membership date has changed, so you will have to acquire 30 stars by December 16, 2013…

The customer service representative went on to explain some of the changes that have been made to their program, both the positives (lowering the amount of stars needed for a reward drink and including both drinks and food as a reward) and the negatives (the elimination of free syrups, etc.).

The bottom line for me is this: I’m gold again! Even more importantly, a very large company showed exemplary customer service for a problem which wasn’t really their fault.

Well done, Starbucks.

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The Vow

I get it.

You’re cool and trendy and not bound by silly traditional legalism. Fiction is fictional and art challenges your mind and pushing the limits is what helps you grow. When your parents were your age, holiness meant no fun, and the Bible was God’s Holy Rulebook.

You’re serious about worship and want God’s best for your life and you know that God is centered on relationship, not on rules. You want your expressions of worship to be genuine, you want your life to reflect His truth, and you know that God promised to set us free, not constrict us with empty traditions and hollow obedience to outdated restrictions.

I get that.

Could we agree that laying out a bunch of rules to define how life should work is too simplistic? The Pharisees and teachers of religious law found that out. Ten rules became twenty rules became a hundred rules to become six hundred and thirteen rules. Governments find that out all the time. The Constitution needed a Bill of Rights which needed clarification by courts and amendments and – you get it, right?

Even if you do keep it to one or two rules, there will always be questions the rules can’t answer. Rules can’t define how life works.

However, a lack of rules doesn’t equal freedom either. Take away all the rules, and – well, that’s impossible. Life will always contain rules at some point, whether it’s the rule about not worshiping any other God, or the rule about objects that aren’t moving not moving until something moves them.¹

What I’m getting at is this – life isn’t all about rules, therefore, being a follower of Christ and living a life that honors God isn’t all about rules either. Just as importantly, living in the freedom that Jesus provides doesn’t mean that there aren’t some rules involved. There are. Our freedom has boundaries and limits. Moreover, those boundaries and limits aren’t Enemy-produced, joy-killers, designed to rob us of our Rights as Children of the King. The boundaries and limits of our freedom are good, healthy, and helpful to us.

The point is…

There’s this movie.² It’s popular. By all accounts it’s a good movie. The original story is based on a true account of a Christian couple and God’s principles of faithfulness, fidelity, honor, and true love.

But the movie adds some things and takes away others. Among the things it adds is language that is objectionable to me. According to the website Movieguide.org, the language is “heavy.” For that reason, it is not a movie I am comfortable going to, nor is it something I will allow my 15-year-old daughter to see.³

The point is…

She sees your tweets. She hears you talking about seeing that same movie. You’re even going with a group of friends. Her friends.

Why are you so hung up about swearing? She hears it all the time, right? Don’t you think your legalism is more harmful than words that have been selectively labeled as “obscene”? Isn’t seeing a great, inspiring story worth it?

Obviously, we have different convictions. I’m not asking you to change yours. I only want to remind you that freedom isn’t easy. Every choice has a price. And the vows we make before God – they really are important.

[hr]

¹[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”10″ size_format=”px”]What I’m cleverly trying to say is that laws of God and laws of nature will still be present whether we want them to be or not. Jump out of an airplane and you will still have to deal with the law of gravity, no matter how free you feel.[/typography]

²[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”10″ size_format=”px”]This  movie is The Vow, but the specifics don’t matter. There will always be a movie, television show, book, song, or some other thing that isn’t  particularly healthy for us. We can justify partaking of it in many ways. We could also find many unhealthy things about it. The conflict remains.[/typography]

³[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”10″ size_format=”px”]Ironically, it is another movie that inspires me to make this decision. Specifically, it’s the dad in the movie Courageous, telling his daughter that he is responsible for his daughter’s heart. The health and safety of my daughter’s heart, mind, body, and soul are important to me, important enough for boundaries and limits designed to encourage growth and limit harm.[/typography]

[twitter style=”horizontal” source=”TimMcDaniel” text=”You’re going to another great movie, and you’re tweeting about it. I get it.” float=”left” use_post_url=”true”] [fbshare type=”button”]

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ThoughtStream

Off Target

Wish there was audio to this.

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ThoughtStream

Lightning in a Cloud by a Moon

Nothing funny. Nothing even all that interesting. Except it was beautiful in person. A full moon with a thunderstorm – at a distance. The thunderstorm was about 60 miles away, but all we could see was the top and the lightning that was dancing around inside of it.

It was intriguing, but the iPhone camera at a distance doesn’t really do it justice.

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ThoughtStream

The deal

After a growing sense that my clothes weren’t fitting correctly – and an increasing view of myself in the mirror – I decided to challenge myself for the month of June.

I called it The Deal, as in, I’m going to make a deal with myself. The Deal was this: no desserts, no between meal eating, no extra bread (sandwiches were okay, but no roll or garlic bread with the spaghetti), and whenever I was asked to go for a walk – an evening habit with the females of the house – I had to go.

It was NOT an all-out diet, otherwise I would have limited my portions a little more.

The only time I broke the deal was one night when it really looked like it would storm at any moment and I refused to walk. (It didn’t storm.)

The hardest part of the deal was the walking. I enjoy the company and time with my girls. I just dislike the actual walking.

The Deal began on June 1st and officially ended at midnight on June 30th. The picture shows my start and end weights. I celebrated on July 1st by having French toast for breakfast, but the only other thing I’ve eaten that I wouldn’t have eaten during June was a chocolate chip cookie.

Now…time to make your own Deal.

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