Small World

Somehow I don’t think this will be the last post with this title. It always amazes and delights us when we run into someone we know that either, a) knows someone we know, b) has lived/lives somewhere we have lived/live, or, c) all of the above.

We – Ray, John, Paul, and myself…four Bible Quiz guys – headed to The Gallery today for a round of golf. Paul rode along while the other three of us played.

The interesting thing was, while we were driving to the course, Ray started talking about his son. I’ve known his son for a long time, and I knew he had recently moved from his church in South Carolina to a church in Texas.

Before I finish that story, I need to add that my roommate here in Tucson, Josh Weber, recently moved to the Tampa area from Nashville. He attended Cornerstone A/G, where a guy named John McKinzie used to be on staff. John is now lead pastor at Hope Fellowship in Frisco, Texas.

And it wasn’t until today, when Ray mentioned again about his son that I made the connection. His son, Scott Berkey, is children’s pastor at Hope Fellowship, not only the home of John McKinzie, but the new home of another old friend – that I’ve mentioned in this blog – Mark Lunsford.

Small world, indeed.

{Picture is of Scott Berkey’s dad, Ray}

Colorado Wins


In Bible Quiz news – isn’t that why you read this blog in the first place? – Church at Briargate, from Colorado Springs, Colorado defeated Cedar Park A/G from Bothell, Washington to repeat as Teen Bible Quiz National Champions.

After each finishing regular competition at 17-2, they played off for the championship. Tied after 17 questions, Briargate clinched it with a correct answer on the 20th (and last) question of the match.

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I’ve Been Working…Really

I’m in Arizona for the Assemblies of God’s Teen Bible Quiz National Finals. I’m representing Peninsular Florida in my capacity as District Bible Quiz Coordinator. National Finals began with some preliminary activity on Sunday, then a qualifying day on Monday with nine rounds of quizzing. That has been followed by the main competition on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today is the last two rounds of quizzing, followed by playoffs and some individual and exhibition quizzing. My role in this has been to help officiate.

It has gone well, but there have been some long days. However, I have also been able to get in some golf.

Sunday afternoon, John Sullivan – from Houston – and I played at the Resort course here – a very nice and expensive, mountainous course. It was a lot of fun, but my game fell apart over the last 3/4 of the round. I think I shot about a 105 – after opening with two pars.

Yesterday, we traveled to north of the city to play at the Pines, a very nice, but cheap, course that is Arizona’s only quarry golf course. Up and down with lots of shots over ravines and gulleys.

It was a GREAT day. I shot an 81 – first time doing that in a very long time. And we played from the back tees.

I’m off to quizzing. And another round of golf tomorrow at the Gallery, where they play the Accenture Match Play Championship. We will be playing the south course, where they actually play the tournament.

You Never Know, part 2

The very long sad tale in my last post was leading towards a big finish…then I got sidetracked and never made the point I was headed for.

Which – before I get sidetracked again – was this…{drum roll}…you never know.

That’s it. “You never know.”

You think you know. You think you will know. You think that surely God would give you a hint, a sign, a feeling…something. Somehow, someway, with all the circumstantial evidence and bits of data, you think you would be able to predict, to piece together all the clues.

Have I completely lost you yet?

The whole departures/arrivals theme is fresh in my mind due to being on this current trip, plus other personal departures and arrivals that I have (and in some cases, have not) blogged about.

And, ever since the passing of my friend, Bob, this thought has percolated, finally taking shape this weekend – you never know.

I didn’t really know when – or if – any of my flights would depart. I didn’t know when they would arrive. I wasn’t in control of any of it.

That’s so true in so many ways in the departures and arrivals we experience in life.

People depart – and it’s not always in our control, no matter how much we wish it was.

I don’t have an ending for this…so I’ll stop now.

You Never Know

Here’s one for Pastor Goss’s Sunday school class.

Yesterday (the 6th), I left Fort Myers, headed for Tucson and the Assemblies of God Teen Bible Quiz National Finals.

The trouble began when I checked my luggage. I hadn’t paid attention to the weight, and my suitcase was 13 pounds too heavy. I also had a golf bag, so I had to open my luggage and try to redistribute some items from the suitcase to the golf bag. Kind of embarrassing to do all that right there, but at least there wasn’t a line behind me.

While I was trying to figure that out, the ticket agent said, “Mmm. I don’t think this is going to work. Your plane is running late and I don’t know if you’ll make your connection in Houston.” Turns out the weather in Houston was stormy, and ALOT of Continental flights were affected. My flight, scheduled for a 5:18pm departure, was going to be delayed by at least 2 hours.

To speed up my connection in Houston, which would be two concourses apart, the agent asked if I would like to move up…from my comfy exit-row-window seat to a middle seat in the front of coach – which would still give me room, but I hate the middle. But it would move me up 12 rows, so I took it.

Finally, I got the suitcase down to 48.5 pounds, which put the golf bag EXACTLY at 50 pounds, and off they went. And off I went to the gate.

On the way, I got the opportunity, for the very first time, to be selected for additional security screening. This trip was starting to gain too many negatives.

The plane from Houston came in, we boarded quickly, and it looked like we would get off in good time, with the computer estimating that we would be in Houston at 7:50 local time, one hour before my connection was to leave. There was also the possibility that my connection might be delayed, too. AND the woman that was supposed to be on the aisle moved to the middle – to be by her husband – so I had an aisle AND good leg room! Things were looking up!

We got ready for takeoff, the pilot gunned it down the runway…then lifted off the throttle…and we coasted…to the end…of…the…runway. Some warning lights had gone off in the cockpit, so they wanted to check it out. We taxied back to the gate, so the mechanic could inspect the plane. (The mechanic is the guy in the red.)

They told us that nothing was wrong with the plane – other than a secondary warning light going off when it wasn’t supposed to – but now we WERE delayed and didn’t leave Fort Myers until 8:18pm.

I completely missed my connection in Houston, waited in a very long line at customer service, received standby status on the 10:55pm flight and confirmed status on a 7am flight for this morning.

The 10:55 flight was delayed until 11:57, I DID get on, but my luggage didn’t. The plane didn’t take off until 12:20. After discovering in Phoenix that my luggage didn’t make it, I was given a complimentary travel kit with toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, deodorant, razor, etc. and I was off to Hertz to pick up my economy car.

Which the nice lady upgraded to standard with a free tank of gas. Nice. Impala. I arrived at my hotel and finally hit the pillow at 2:30am…local time…which made it 5:30am Fort Myers time.

This morning I went back to the airport, my luggage came in about 10 minutes after I got there, and I was happily on my way to Tucson.

So…I mentioned Pastor’s class. Why? Because his current topic is: Is it God? Is it Satan? Or is it just me?

I asked those questions a lot yesterday. I didn’t really answer them.

But I thank God for his blessings and hope to make wise decisions along the way.

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Thanks to you if you voted on the Web Site poll. Time is running out, so please vote before it’s too late. Thanks, again

Fireworks and Loud Music

Fireworks and loud music.

I’m sure that’s what every signer of the Declaration of Independence had in mind 231 years ago.

On the philosophical side of things – isn’t that the way it is with most things? No matter what the original purpose and intent of your actions, there are always unexpected consequences and tangents that are created later because of what happened.

Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving…I’m sure that everyone that first celebrated those events – from the early Christians to the Pilgrims and others – would be astounded on what happens on these holy-days. Likewise, many of the things we take for granted as being part of the Independence Day tradition weren’t even dreamed of back then. Hot dogs. Baseball. Lee Greenwood. Mall parking lots.

So, there we were last night – the 3rd, not the 4th of July – in the parking lot of the Miromar Outlet Mall, listenening – and sometimes trying not to listen – to very loud blues, jazz and rock ‘n roll by the Mambo Brothers Blues Band, waiting with thousands of other people for the fireworks. It was scheduled for “dusk” – which really meant 9:30pm.

<---Mr. Happy smiles for the camera.

It was a very good show, when it finally started. These are a couple of pictures from my iPhone.

After it was over, and we got back to the van – it was another 45 minutes getting out of the parking lot through the mass of cars. We were very glad we went. Another great family outing.

Happy 4th!

Below: Trudi, Shae and Sam put up with Dad, although Sam can’t figure out what I’m doing.

Cost Analysis

Remember when we used to take prayer requests in church – out loud?

Maybe you’re in a church that’s still small enough to do that. It’s been years since we have. Now, prayer requests are turned in via “Communication Cards”, then shared weekly via the “Prayer Sheet.” It’s efficient and I like it better – most of the time.

But I’ve noticed that it’s cut out an old favorite from the “Does anyone have a Testimony or a Prayer Request?” days. The unspoken prayer request. Someone always had one. And that invariably led to the pastor saying, “Does anyone else have an unspoken prayer request? Just raise your hand.”

We all knew that meant there was something serious, but personal, that you were praying about.

Tonight, my hand’s up. Can’t talk about it. Definitely can’t blog about it. I can only tell you it’s not about me or my family, it’s not deadly, but it is serious.

And it led me to this thought – happiness is expensive.

Many of our prayer requests have a similar goal – our own personal happiness. But that leads me to ask:
– in what areas of your life would you like to be happy?
– in what areas of your life could you be less than happy?
– how happy would you like to be?
– how will you know when you are genuinely happy?
– how long would you like to be happy?
– can anyone else be happy along with you, or is it only you that can be happy?

You can’t make everyone happy.

But it’s pretty easy to hurt a large number of people.

I’ve done that.

Sacrifice = personal pain + relational gain.
Selfishness = personal gain + relational pain.

What I’m trying to say is that the more I’ve acted like Jesus – in being selfless and sacrificing – it usually was pretty painful for me personally, but it improved my relationships 100%. Not just the relationships I cared about – ALL my relationships.

On the other hand, every time I’m selfish and focus on my own wants and desires – which is quite frequently – I’m able to achieve personal happiness, but my relationships suffer. Not just the relationships I don’t care about – ALL my relationships.

Trying to create my own happiness is a fairly expensive deal, usually exacting a very high relational price.

So, anyway, I’m praying, hopeful that this will end up like an unspoken prayer request did for a girl in our youth group many years ago, when she said, “I’ve got an unspoken praise report!”

Hello

Yesterday was a good day. Today might be even better.

Sam and I went with our friend, Gene, to Miami last night to see the Braves and Marlins. Sam and I are big Braves fans. Gene is a Yankees fan, but loves baseball. We had GREAT seats. (Section 142, Row 1, Seats 5-7). Gene gets the tickets, I drive and buy dinner.

The only drawback was that we had planned this months ago. As it turned out, this was also the day of the big iPhone release, I was seriously considered getting one, but then June 29th ended up being the release day, and I was going to a baseball game.

Oh, well. Baseball first.

The Braves hammered the Marlins, 12-3. We had a great time, getting back home just after midnight.

So, this morning I went out to see if there were iPhones left. At minimum I wanted to hold one in the store and try it out.

First stop – the AT&T store in Cape Coral. It is the closest to home. They were out. So, I crossed the bridge into Fort Myers and headed to the Fort Myers AT&T store.

Again, no luck.

I called Trudi (with an in-store iPhone, because I had inadvertently left my phone at home) and she offered to call the Apple Store in Coconut Point to see if they had any left.

While I was waiting, I was listening to a VERY disgruntled new iPhone customer complaining about not being able to sync to iTunes like he was supposed to, and the AT&T manager trying to explain that iTunes is Apple software and she has no way to help him with that.

I stood there remembering some of the negative posts I read before leaving the house, and wondered if it was even a good idea to get one yet.

But, in the end, I ended up going to the Apple Store, where the phones must have been plentiful. And, yes, I ended up purchasing this very expensive phone.

And, yes, it is very cool. The picture was taken with the phone’s camera. Not a great camera, but I wish I had had it at the ball game last night.

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Girls Night Out


Several factors were at work tonight.

– Sam and Shae are currently at Student Leadership 101 in Orlando.
– Big Bunco night at my house tonight for Trudi and her gang.
– A few weeks ago, we went to Pirates 3 and there was no sound for the first few minutes, so the theater gave everyone a free pass to another show.
– Summer and Sawyer (also known as Daisy and Petal) and I were homeless, looking for something to do.

Which is how we ended up at Evan Almighty.

I’ve heard this was an outreach film. In fact, at the Willow Conference there was Evan merchandise and “outreach” materials.

Yes, a pretty good version of God was in this, and thankfully, it wasn’t Steve Carrell. Despite the title, Morgan Freeman didn’t grant any supernatural powers to Evan. Morgan Freeman played it well and it was written well. My only objection was a reference to God being “in all things” – a very Buddhist view of things.

But I don’t see the real outreach potential of this, unless you’re evangelizing for the Sierra Club. Of course, when you start by equating the Creator to the Creation, I guess outreach becomes what you make it.

There were other good messages about “families sticking together” and Morgan-as-God’s assertion that “whatever I do, it’s because I love you.”

Apart from those good nuggets and some funny bits that made me laugh out loud, the movie was only so-so for me. It didn’t make me hate it or love it. But it is safe and enjoyable for the whole family, so I would recommend it. Especially if you have free passes.

Cool Idea

This video was shown (legally) at the Willow Arts Conference. The group is “Nickelback” and the song is “Savin’ Me.” Really cool. You might not like the style of music – although I do – but it has a thought-provoking message.


One of the first things I did when I got home from the conference was purchase this on iTunes.

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Picture from the Arts Conference


Finally got some pictures from Rich from our trip to the Willow Arts Conference in Chicago. This is the main lobby outside of the Willow Creek Community Church auditorium. Just another little church struggling to get by.

Mother Needs a New Dress


Shae and Sam returned this afternoon from Youth Camp, speaking high praise of the camp speaker, Jason Maupin. They seemed to have a great time. Hopefully the spiritual content was rich.

More remarkably, when I dropped them off Monday morning to board the bus, Shae handed me $40. “This is the ‘Mother-needs-a-new-dress Fund’.” Apparently, the four kids were disappointed that even though their mother got really nice jewelry for Mother’s Day, she didn’t get a dress. So, they each chipped in, and wanted me to go buy her a dress for this Sunday.

I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to. I wanted Trudi to have new clothes – I didn’t really want the kids to have to pay for it. I decided that it was a great thing for them to do.

But this week was busy. So I waited until today, and when they got back from camp, I took Shae to the store so she could pick out the dress.

Trudi loved it. She looks great in it.

We’ve got great kids.

Home Again


We arrived back in Fort Myers late last night after a good trip and good conference in Chicago. It got off to a rough start, because of my mistake.

Originally, our group was to include Ray, the guy who heads up our set construction for Scrooge. I had Ray scheduled for set building workshops at the Arts Conference. However, things changed for him, and he had to back out at the last minute.

So, we added Mark, our music pastor, to take his place. But AirTran wouldn’t let us simply change the name on the ticket – we had to cancel Ray’s ticket and purchase a ticket for Mark.

I had been through the process of purchasing a ticket for Mark twice before actually attempting to purchase – first, to check the price, and second, to re-check the price. On my third time through I was going to purchase, but something happened in the system and it gave me an error message. So, now it’s my fourth time through, I’ve picked the correct flights three times in a row, so I don’t look too closely at what I’m selecting. My time is running out and I need to get home to pack. Bang – I get the tickets, send Mark a copy of the confirmation and run to get my stuff so we can get to the airport.

When we get to the airport, Mark has to check one bag, and we all go to the gate to wait for our flight out of Fort Myers. That’s when Mark discovers that although we are all on the same flight to Atlanta, his flight to Chicago is TWO HOURS after ours. We are scheduled to arrive at 9:30pm – he’s not scheduled to arrive until midnight.

We didn’t have time to address it, because boarding began, so we figured we’d fix it in Atlanta. In Atlanta it just got worse.

That’s where we found out that once you check a bag, you can’t change flights. I should have remembered that from an episode of The Amazing Race.

Then delays started happening. Our flight got pushed back – but so did Mark’s.

In the end, we landed in Chicago about midnight. Rich and I took everyone to the hotel – about 50 minutes from the airport – then returned to the airport to pick up Mark, when his plane landed about 2am. We got in bed about 3am – 4am our time.

Thankfully, things improved from there.

I told my nephew, Luke, this story. This was his reaction.

Pier Pressure


Hello from the Windy City…although I haven’t felt much wind, but we did see the city tonight!

I’m here with Rich, Trish, MJ, Jon and Mark for the Willow Arts Conference. It’s been a good conference and I think everyone has enjoyed it. The conference began yesterday, we went to Willow’s New Community service last night, more conference today, but tonight was free.

So we took a very long ride into the city to find something to eat. One long traffic jam and many minutes later and we ended up at the Navy Pier. We ate at Joe’s Be-Bop Cafe & Jazz Emporium. We had a good time, laughed a lot, ate a lot, then headed back to the hotel for the night.

Tomorrow we end the conference, then fly back home. I hope to have some pictures posted in the next few days. (This one’s not mine…borrowed off the web.)