Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Debt That All Men Pay

The sad fact is, one day, all of us will leave this world and the life we have in it. I recently came across an interesting way to be ushered out.

If you have ever faced the death of a loved one, you know that many of the expenses involved can be shocking and ridiculous.

A group of Trappist Monks from the New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa, came to the realization that they could help with this and help meet their values of engaging in manual labor and supporting themselves financially. In 1999, they began the Trappist Caskets Company, providing elegant handmade caskets at wholesale prices.

Much of the wood they use is from their sustainable 1200 acre forest and they also manage a fund to help families that lose a child purchase a casket.

The model I like is the premium shaped oak casket, pictured above, priced at $2500. Diane, who is much more frugal than I, and has always wondered why no-one is ever offered a simple pine box, was pleased to see the simple pine rectangular casket pictured below. Price, $1000.

I know it seems a bit morbid to pre-select a casket and I do not plan on dying anytime soon, but I am convinced that the death thing is not something anyone can put off forever. Oh, and If I end up in a different casket than the one I mentioned above, I really won't mind. I do have strong opinions about where I am buried, but I will tell you about that later.

Trappist Caskets

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Courageous Review (Re-post)

Here is a re-post of the review I did in June of the upcoming movie Courageous. It is in theaters this Friday.

On Thursday, Diane and I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the new Sherwood Pictures movie, "Courageous".

This movie, set to be released in September of this year, is from the creators of the movies "Fireproof" and "Facing the Giants". For those of you unfamiliar with these movies, they are produced by a Church in Georgia that believed they could reach the world from where they were. The result of this idea was Sherwood Pictures.

The last film, 'Fireproof" starred Kirk Cameron and focused on a firefighter trying to "fireproof" his failing marriage. This movie focused on cops and being a "courageous" father.

I enjoyed this movie, thought it was great that I got to be in on a special pre-screening and I thought the message was powerful and effectively presented. And, as a special treat, one of the main actors from the movie, Robert Amaya, joined us for the screening.

Since this is a review, I will throw out some criticisms of the movie first, since I am sure everyone wants to know what they are. Here ya go.

Cop Stuff
Since I am a Law Enforcement Officer, it is probably a little easier for me to be bothered by the cop stuff than other people might be. But there were a few things that rubbed me wrong. You will be happy to know that I decided to set them aside and enjoy the show, so I might have missed some things that would bug other cops. But here are a few:

-The officers decided to barge into a house while looking for two guys with warrants. This was questionable and quite possibly a fourth amendment violation, since it was unclear whose house they were entering.

-One of the deputies had his finger on the trigger at one point when they were clearing the house. this is a big no no, because it lends itself to what is called a sympathetic response. When the other hand squeezes a door knob or a loud noise is heard, the trigger finger can, unconsciously, squeeze off a round. The other cop was very good about having his finger indexed along the side of the gun.

- While they are clearing the house, another "rookie" deputy stands around like a dolt that doesn't realize they re looking for dangerous felons and is subsequently taken by surprise.

- None of these guys wear vests. I know (all too well) that it is hotter and you don't look as good on film, but if these guys really want to be good dads,they would have a better chance of being one if they weren't lung punched in a shootout.

- I did learn a new technique, called the "slingshot". When you are chasing someone on foot in your car, and then it is time for the passenger to jump out and start running after the guy you are chasing, you yell, "Slingshot!" If your partner is a veteran, he will know that when you put your car into a side-slide, he should jump out and use the momentum of the slide to help "slingshot" him into the bad guy. Even though I am a driving instructor, I have never learned this cool move. Maybe if I was a driving/foot chasing instructor.

Other Stuff
- The movie had a plethora of heavy themes. At times it seemed a bit much. The themes included Gangs, Drugs, Death of a Child, Job loss, Spending time with kids, Ethical and Moral failure, Making up for past mistakes, the Need for salvation and more.

-It was also very emotional. Dealing with the themes above all came with a very high emotional price. I know that many will say it was powerful, and it was. But, it was a little hard to keep facing one deep emotional issue after the next. If you don't usually cry at movies, or weddings, or graduations, or sporting events, or funerals, be ready to find yourself shedding a few tears. If you are a crier already, you will be done.

Ok, that is enough of the criticism. Here is some things that I liked, and maybe you will too.

The Good Stuff
- I appreciate that they are not afraid to release a major motion picture that portrays believers in a positive light, and shows them having major issues, and major mistakes, to deal with.

- They do a good job of bringing to light the fact that many of the woes we have in society have a good deal to do with children growing up without Dad.

- The acting is not so bad. Those of you that did not like Fireproof because of the acting or their brand of humor may have the same issues with this one. But they are constantly improving in their craft and, while they might be a bit over the top at times, they do a good job of making the characters believable and natural.

- They have some genuinely funny scenes. You gotta love that.

- It is not populated by just a bunch of white people. While they don't go out of their way to make sure every ethnic group is properly and politically correctly represented, they do show that their really is diversity in the ethnicity of believers.

- The message for Fathers (And parents in general) is powerful and made an impact on me as a Father. This movie really will change lives.

- I like a movie that has cops as the heroes. Sure, everyone loves firemen. They have the best show muscles, they help out everyone and they have all that cool gear and equipment. They may not look as good in calendars, but I am partial to cops.

This movie hits the screen on September 30th. In spite of my criticisms, I would definitely recommend you grab a group of friends and check it out. It will challenge you to be a better Dad, better parent, better person in general. And this can have an incredible effect on your life and the life of those around you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Misery to Ministry

For people of faith, I heard from Steven Furtick today that God wants to use our misery to give us an opportunity to serve others.

What are some things that have made you miserable?

- Loss of a job
- Loss of Loved ones
- Seeing the Marriages of people you
care about crumble
- Seeing others starve
- Knowing that children are growing up
with no family

These things that make you miserable are the very areas where you can serve others.

What are some things that make me miserable?

When I think about it, many of them revolve around our decision to come here.

- The weather in the summer is harsh and miserable( ....;>]), so no-one ever seems to go outside.

- We left behind some of the best friends we have ever had and we have had difficulty making good friends here.

- I went from being the head of a successful organization that got to regularly spend time with the leaders of that organization and the leaders in the community to being the unknown low end of the organization I am with now.

- Our family no longer gets the support that comes from the position I had before, in terms of friendship, care and thoughts and prayers.

Perhaps in your eyes, our struggles seem petty. And maybe compared to yours, they are. But, they have been difficult for us.

Instead of being bitter, we are called to help others that are struggling in these areas.

To me, that has meant:
- Seeking to spend more time with my family, so they know that I am there for them, even when others are far away.
- Taking on the challenge of being a Chaplain to help others I work with with some of the unique challenges of the lifestyle our work demands.

And, I still need to discover where some of these other struggles will take me.

Where is it that you have been miserable? Can you embrace that misery and use it to bring some hope to someone else?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Old neighborhood

Photo guide for this post:

The First Picture: Bill's awesome trees, that provide shade (and leaves) for the neighborhood.

The Second Picture: Sal's Christmas Tree.

The Third Picture: Part of our former front porch

Last Monday, since we were in town to celebrate the anniversary of the Church, we stopped by the old neighborhood.

True to form, the neighbors came out to chat. It was almost as if we hadn't left. Almost.

The only one we didn't see, that we usually do, was Sal. Sadly, Sal's wife passed away this last year, so maybe he doesn't come out as much as he used to. I don't think I ever saw Sal's wife, but I heard she was made some excellent Italian dishes from Paul, who lives right next door.

We used to see Sal most every day, because he would come down to let us know that we needed to get rid of the Mulberry tree in our front yard and put in a "Christmas" Tree, like the one he had. Sal had lived in this neighborhood for at least 40 years and he was sick of raking up leaves from everyone else's trees. A "Christmas" tree is green all year long and never drops it's leaves into the neighbor's yard.

He especially doesn't like Bill's trees. Bill has two gorgeous gigantic Sycamore trees that always shaded the neighborhood from the hot afternoon sun. We loved them. They also tended to drop leaves all over the neighborhood. This drove Sal crazy.

Sal was so happy when we had a couple of guys chop down our Mulberry tree one day. His joy turned to sorrow when he caught us planting a Maple tree in the same spot. what we should have done, he told us, was put a Christmas tree, like he has, in our yard.

We miss the old neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Property taxes are out again. They are higher this year, since our values are going down.

In Celebration of this, I decided to re-post last years celebration of property taxes going up as our home values plummet.

Notice that last year they went down ever so slightly. this year, since our home values went down even more, the taxes went up.

Here is that post:

Yesterday we got our bill (or statement or whatever they call it) for our property taxes in the mail from the County Assessors office.

According to however they decide property values, the value of our house went down about twenty nine thousand dollars from last year. This resulted in a reduction of our property taxes by about twenty nine dollars.

I would have to look at the numbers again to get the exact figures for this, but by extrapolating these numbers, I realized that if my house was condemned as a radioactive, zombie-infested pit that was completely destroyed and the Assessor decided the value was $0, I would still owe about $1,200 every year in property taxes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Warrior Faith

Next project concept:

A book about how warrior's can continue to survive and thrive in their spiritual lives in times of peace and war.

Including chapters on a philosophy of combat and killing, dealing with the aftermath of life and death situations, fitness and nutrition, finding focus in life, applying your warrior mindset to civilized society, finding spiritual support and strength and more.

Ok, it is in the concept phase (not the marketing phase where I actually make it sound like something you would want to read), but it sounds like fun.

In the meantime, I am enjoying cool river breezes, ocean waves and old friends in California.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guys I am learning from these days.

I have been privileged in the past to get some of my post school Churchy type learning from some guys that I think are some of the world's best teachers. And no, none of them taught me to write phrases like post-school-churchy-type-learning.

Now, through the wonders of modern technology, I can continue learning from some of the same guys I have learned from face to face in the past.

Here are the ones I have been listening to lately, from their respective Churches:

Northcoast Church
I studied leadership and group stuff from Larry Osborne of this Church. Now, I prefer listening to Chris Brown, pictured above. He is a teaching Pastor at Northcoast with the same ministry/leadership philosophies. I just think he is more fun to listen to.

Newsong Church
This multi-site Church, with it's original campus in Irvine, is led by Dave Gibbons. When I first met him, he told the fascinating story of being one of the few Asian/Caucasian-American kids at an unusual college that told him he had to decide if he was going to date Asian girls or Caucasian girls. Ever since then, I have enjoyed his honest look at what it means to live a life of faith.

Book of Life Church

I hear they stick their services online, but with this one, the technology that allows me to listen in is my automobile that drives me to the services. The Pastor, Steve, has been a friend since I did an "internship" with him after I graduated from school and he is one of the best guys I know at exposing what the bible says in a way that is both interesting and practical.