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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My iBuffalo

Appearantly everything starts with "i" now. Great cross promotion for the iPod, so I thought I'd jump on too.

My birthday, which was 2 weeks ago, but I haven't given any blog space to, was in all honesty the best I've had in a long time, if not ever had.

I woke up, ate cookies for breakfast, cookies for lunch and then my favorite meal for supper. I asked God for a job on my birthday, and in short that's what I got.

I also got an iPod and a water buffalo; the only other two things I wanted for my birthday.
I got an iPod Nano 4GB. Very cool. I love it. I also got the Monster car player so I listen while I cruise to work.

Then to frost my cake, my sister and her husband got me a water buffalo. I mentioned the idea here. I'm so excited about it, because I've always wanted to say "I got a water buffalo for my birthday" and now I can! Plus it is pretty cool that some family in India will now have the ability to survive on their own entrepreneurial endeavors. I'm all about self-sufficiency.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cliffhangers Part 4 of 4

[on a side note, I'm not sure why these are starting to sound more and more like a novel and less and less like my writing, but it's fun to write and I hope fun to read]

"Nine months, maybe a year ago", I began "I began to think about leaving. Then about six months ago, I got pretty serious about looking and a month ago things got very serious. I have been offered a job and I accepted it. They want me to start the first week of January, so my last day in the office here will be December 28th."

Looking back, I'm not sure why I was so anxious about this meeting. I anticipated my hands shaking and my voice trembling, but soon realized I didn't need to be as worked up about it as I let myself get, so I realxed and enjoyed the rest of the conversation.

My boss was pretty cool about it all. No yelling, screaming or throwing chairs occurred. He decided he'd wait 2 Sundays to tell the congregation. That plan got changed when we found out my son Jacob had been telling everyone at school. So we upped the date and told everyone this weekend.

Things have been flying by ever since. We are signing papers on a contract on one of our rental houses Monday. We have a sign going in our yard today to sell our house where we live. We have had 2 people within the church ask about buying our other rental property here in town. I can't believe how fast things are happening.

In the words of my child hood influence:
"I love it when a plan comes together."

Thanks Hannibal!

So to sum it all up - no more cliffhangers.

  • My last day here is December 28th
  • We drive out to Colorado Springs the 29th and get there the 30th
  • We stay with Deann's parents until our house here sells
  • I start Jan 3rd at UCCS, but will actually spend that first week in Denver with the SBDC for training.
  • My job will be assisting people get financing for start up or expansion of small businesses and also helping them find contracts with big businesses. A lot of what I do will be networking myself and my clients.
  • The program should be the 2nd biggest in the state, but currently is the smallest of around 14. Big challenges, but big opportunities too.

Turning the Other Cheek

I'm taking a quick break from all my recent lifes events to bring you this.

I've seen some pretty wild things in all my years of attending, volunteering, and working in a church. I've seen a guy in a 3 piece suit pace the sanctuary mumbling about nuculear holocost. I've seen a lady bring a bunny rabbit to the platform wrapped like a baby so it could be prayed for, then trip as she ran up the stairs and cry as the ushers drug her off. But this is something beyond what I've seen.

Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty of Victory in Tulsa, Oklahoma had hands laid on him, and I don't mean in a spiritual / healing sort of way.

Here's the link to the clip that ran on Fox News.
Here's the response by Pastor Daugherty, which has been running very slow.

Thanks to my friend Matt Crowl for the links.

Later I'll catch you all up on life, including
The end of last weeks cliffhanger
My waterbuffalo
My ipod
The big announcement to the church that I'm resigning

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cliffhangers Part 3

***Congratulations to my good friend Dan "Danzo" VanWinkle for solving the mystery of Cliffhanger Part 2. Google skills galore!***

"This job is yours contingent upon your references checking out." Venkat's voice, clouded in his thick middle-eastern accent, stated.
"That shouldn't be a problem", I said. I just had an FBI background check a year ago to become the chaplain at the Sherriff's department, and before that when I worked with federal grant money."
"That's good", he smiled. "I'd like you to attend several meetings today. "Is your schedule clear?"
"Yes." I eagerly answered, ready to become a company man.
"Very good." And Venkat began to give directions and times to my meetings.

I walked out and met my ride. My wife, brother in-law, his wife and my wife's step mom all were piled in the SUV. I climbed in and was grateful the heater was running. One thing I learned about Colorado Springs is that the weather changes quick, but it changes back just as quick. It was now beginning to snow and clouds were filling the late morning sky.

I began to think about the job, the changes and the adventure that the next months would bring. The job was one I was familiar with. In fact the old addage of it's not what you know but who proved to mean jack in this case. I tried networking my butt off to get even an interview, and while I had some nice conversations with old friends and friends of friends, oddly enough I found this job on the internet. Maybe what you know has something to do with it... or maybe I'm just fortunate.

My new job is going to start the first week in January. I'll finish here on December 28th. I'm going to be working for UCCS (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) and the SBDC (Small Business Development Center). It will be almost exactly like the job I had in Tulsa working for the Native American Business Development Center, only I won't be required to limit services to only Native Americans and other minority groups. Well, that and roughtly a 40% increase in pay, 22 days vacation, 15 sick days, 10 holidays and I'm back to having my weekends off. Did I mention a retirement plan where I invest 5% and they give 10%?

The rest of my time in Colorado Springs was spent visiting with my wife's family and looking for houses with a realtor, who honest to God is the exact duplicate (doppelganger) of Joe Rogan.

(the actual Joe, not my realtor)

I even asked him if anyone ever told him he looked like Joe, he said "I wondered when you were going to ask. I get that all the time. I even got asked for an autograph last week." he laughed. If I ever had a need for a camera... which I left at the house. DOH! Next time I'll geta pic with him for this blog.

Things were working out quick, fast and in a hurry. My only hold up was how to break the news back home in Pleasantville. How would my boss take the news? I could see it going well, fair or just plain bad. I mentally played out every move, counter move and counter-counter move of the conversation. I've seen and heard about resignations from churches going horribly wrong and I had concern that I would be one of those horror stories that's whispered about around the water cooler of churches across America.

Then yesterday, I walked in to his office for our bi-monthly meeting, sat down in the chair and reached for air as I prepared to recite my resignation speech to him. My chest tightened and I tried to control my nerves. But the question kept banging through my head, "How was he going to react."

Come back next time for Part 4 of Cliffhangers.

Cliffhangers Part 2

Wednesday night I slept horribly. Part because I was in a different bed, part because of all of the days events, but mostly because of my 7:00am meeting. I was worried I'd miss my alarm, or just oversleep. I woke up at least once an hour and finally for good about 4:45am. My alarm was set for 5:45, but the anxiety must have been too much.

I showered, dressed and got in the car. Driving in Colorado Springs is a treat. Everywhere you go, you can see Pikes Peak. The song, America the Beautiful - "purple mountains majesty..." was written from the top of Pikes Peak. The amazing view of the mountains must have been what the song writer was thinking of when he scribed the words. This picture doesn't quite capture the intensity of the view, but it helps.

I arrived in the parking lot, and the brisk morning air was crisp and smelled fantastic. I walked to the building I was instructed to go into, and announced my arrival to the receptionist. Kathleen, her name made obvious by the plaque on her desk, told me to have a seat and she'd let them know. I waited for a short bit, then was instructed to follow a middle aged, middle-eastern man introducing himself as Venkat to the room. I walked in and was greeted by 7 individuals who seated me at the head of the table and began to interrogate me for 30 minutes. Then I was given the opportunity to prove my interrogation skills and was allowed to question the 7 individuals. My questioning must have been more than adequate because after only a few minutes Venkat cut me off and said, "We'll need to finish this questioning another time, can you come back later?" "Yes", I replied "When?" We agreed on 11:00am.

Returning back at 11:00 sharp, I found myself one on one with Venkat. Questions asked and answered for 15 minutes. He then said, "Matt, I want to offer you a job... contingent upon successful completion of one thing"

I sat in the chair wondering what was the one thing going to be. What could it be? First a phone interview via conference call, then an in person interview in front of a panel of potential colleagues. What else could there be that I would have to do to prove myself worthy of this job? Did I even want the job? Could I accept the responsibilities which would be drastically different than my present job?

These questions and more answered next time on Cliffhangers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cliff Hangers Part 1

I love TV shows that have huge cliff hangers. Lost and Alias are two perfect examples. The problem with cliff hangers is they sometimes leave you disappointed, but you never feel disappointed while waiting. You feel tense, anxious and eager to see what happens next, but never disappointed. So, I'm going to give you the most exhilarating series of events that have occurred in the last week of my life.

Last Wednesday, I arrived at work at about the normal time. Nothing special that day accept I was planning on leaving a little early to make it to Chicago so I could fly out to Colorado Springs to see my wife's family. Deann and I were going out to be with her mother who is having back surgery today. While in Colorado Springs, a side venture became available; a secondary objective for our trip. A secret mission so to speak. So, the day wasn't entirely normal. I was anxious about undertaking this secret mission and accomplishing it with perfection.

All of the excitement of my mission was ended when I was told there is someone on the phone from the Burlington Police department who needs to talk to a pastor right away. Our senior pastor was away on a trip, so I defaulted and took the call. The police on the phone is never good, but there are many varying degrees of bad. Bad level one is A church member of yours got busted for public intox and asked for a pastor. Bad level two is, there's been an accident and they need a pastor. Bad level 3 is someone died, and Bad level 4... Well let's just say as I picked up the phone I had no idea how to respond when I was told that Kathi Mertens, a long-time member of our church was dead and they are investigating it as a homicide. Details of her death here. I scramble into action, send one pastor to be with the husband at the crime scene and another to be with the family at the house. The office work stops as we all contemplate murder.

Just 90 short minutes later, I wrap up the last of my work and head to Chicago where I board my plane headed for Colorado Springs, CO. The entire flight, my thoughts are on two things. Kathi Mertens and my 7:00am rendezvous the next morning. What would happen? How would I react? Would I be able to complete the mission I was on? Would I be eliminated?

Tune in tomorrow for the next episode of Matt's Life.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Last 2 days In Bullet Points

  • I got a call from the Burlington Police Department Chaplain
  • Someone in our church was murdered
  • I left for Chicago 2 hours later
  • I ate horrible airport food
  • I flew to Colorado Springs
  • I got 4 1/2 hours sleep
  • I ***Censored***
  • I ***Censored***
  • I remembered how much I love the mountains
  • I got an offer to buy one of our rental houses that's for sale
  • I have total peace about my counter offer
  • I talked to my two boys on the phone
  • I miss my boys
  • I spent time with my mother in law, brother in law and sister in law
  • I played guitar until my fingers hurt (they still hurt)
  • My life has been too wild to blog anything more than bullet points
***I'll fill in the blanks of the censored parts no later than Wednesday. I can't speak of it now***

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Strengthening Your Marriage with Halo: Part 3

Reason 3: It keeps your husband off of drugs

As a pastor, I’ve seen my share of couples come in to my office for counseling when their marriage is swirling in the bottom of the toilet like that last chunk that just won’t quite go down. My job is to get out the plunger and rubber gloves and pull their marriage out of the crapper. One of the worst marriage difficulties I saw was when one was on drugs. Drugs are obviously horrible. They lead to abuse, neglect and pretty much stupidity in all imaginable forms.

When playing video games it is widely held that endorphins are released into the brain. One reason why women don’t understand why men want to play video games is because women don’t have the amount of endorphins released that men do. Men are more visually stimulated hence a larger reaction.

These endorphins are a powerful drug, but it is a natural drug occurring in the brain and is healthy for men, where as illegal drugs (i.e. meth, cocaine, heroine) are not healthy.

This healthy, natural drug that is released in men’s brains can be channeled in many useful ways. If you ask your husband to hang out with you and your mother instead of watching football, or playing Halo, he will be trained to bring natural relief from hanging out with your mother according to this article which says “Just thinking that a medicine will relieve pain is enough to prompt the brain to release its own natural painkillers, and soothe painful sensations…” So if it is a painful situation to spend time with your mother in law, video games can alleviate that pain.

Wikipedia states “they [endorphins] resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a sense of well being” It also makes the statement that “Research has also shown that video game playing can release endorphins.”

Drugs are often turned to as a form of escape. The person using is trying to avoid thinking about some painful situation and turn to a harmful substance to accomplish this. However, because video games can naturally release opiates (a natural version of heroine) one can conclude that playing Halo puts a man in a better state of well being and replaces any need to offset pain with illegal drugs like heroine.

Of course all things in moderation. Women, click this link to have some ammunition to convince your husband it's time to quit for the night. Men, click the same link to have a goal to shoot for. You might even say to yourelf, "I know I can play 60 hours without dying. I'm going to set the record."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Strengthening Your Marriage with Halo: Part 2

Reason 2: It improves hand eye coordination

Women, most women that is (I’m generalizing a bit) like physical touch and affection. Not sex, but physical touch. Women like to hold hands for instance where as men are usually less touchy feely. Again a generalization I know, but it makes my point work better.

Men are not the best at this. Men usually think, “She’s holding my hand… she wants me, let’s run upstairs to bed!” Women usually think, “This is nice, we haven’t just held hands for a long time without him wanting to run upstairs and have sex.”

So how does Halo help with this? It’s simple. Men really want to be good at the little things like holding hands, but… we’re men, so we aren’t. Halo helps hand eye coordination. This article here states “…many well-loved play activities help fine tune hand-eye coordination--like building a sand castle, dressing a doll, and even playing video games.”

Why do men need better hand eye coordination? Because we are so terrible at things like holding hands improving hand eye coordination would ensure that when a man finally does reach out to hold hands with his wife, he won’t miss her hand, even it she is swinging it as she walks.

Of course physical touch is only one of Dr. Chapman’s 5 love languages, (physical touch, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and words of affirmation) and hand eye coordination comes into play on more than just physical touch. It helps with gifts too. A husband works hard for money, and yet never seems to have enough. Things may be tight and yet he desires to show his wife the love she deserves through the love language that fuels her. Well, this article states “A new study has demonstrated that some of the skills needed to perform laparoscopic surgery are similar to those used when playing video games.”

So, obviously playing Halo increases your chances of becoming a laparoscopic surgeon. I can only imagine how much they make and what kind of gifts you can buy on their salary.

Now if your love language isn’t physical touch or gifts, maybe it’s words of affirmation. Men are absolutely horrible at noticing subtle changes like their wives got their hair cut, or they have on a new outfit. But according to this article playing video games like Halo will help them. “It is certainly good training for people in situations where they need to detect things in their visual environment at any time in any location…” And when they notice your new hair or new outfit, they will certainly be prompt at fueling you with a comment like “Wow honey, I love what you’ve done with your hair. It really brings out the beauty of your face.”

Halo can be the pump that delivers fuel to your love tank.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Time Out to Set the Record Straight

This recent posting about Halo, and ones to come has evidently stirred up some feelings among my readers. I often assume that everyone knows my sense of humor and can tell when I’m joking. However, I am frequently reminded that this is not the case. This may be one of those reminders.

Please understand that while the articles linked to are real, my opinions stated are not. I am in no way condoning spending more time with your X-Box (or even your friend’s X-Box) than with your wife. Nor am I suggesting that I am perfect and all of these reasons are tried and tested in my marriage.

In all honesty, Halo has caused many arguments in my marriage and I am at fault for 99.99% of them. I don’t know what the other 0.01% is, but if I think long enough, I’m sure I can make something up.

Seriously, (implying that the previous statement was a joke) Halo is fun to play, and I am grateful that my wife is gracious enough to agree to my playing from time to time (implying that she doesn’t “let” me like a parent would let a child, but rather she agrees to a mutual decision we make together). But I do recognize that it puts stress on a marriage if not done with moderation, which is my weakness with almost everything. I struggle with moderately playing Halo.

So allow me to set the record straight.

  • Do I like Halo? Yes
  • Does my wife? No
  • Do we agree on playing Halo? Not always
  • Do we work through our differences? Always
  • Does it build our marriage? Not yet – unless you count working through difficulties as building
  • Does it hurt our marriage? Halo doesn’t, my actions do.
  • Does she still love me? It was her idea to play on my birthday, so I must say yes.
  • Do I still love her? Even if she asked me never to play again, a definite YES.

Hopefully that gives light to what I say and will continue to say. Women, don’t boycott me this week. Pick my arguments apart and tell me why I’m wrong, if you think you can. You probably can’t, but try anyway. (that’s not a joke)

Strengthening Your Marriage with Halo

In my last post, Ted requested some advice. I, being full of advice, decided it was time to help a brother out and share my secrets of how playing Halo can actually strengthen a marriage. I am devoting an entire week to why Halo strengthens marriages.

These posts will be full of outside links supporting my reasons. So, for those of you who are non clickers endulge me and at least skim the articles.

For those of you not aware of what Halo is, click here for a brief description. If you are really into wanting to learn about it, watch the video review. Long, but very in depth.

Reasons Why Playing Halo Helps Strengthen Marriages [part 1]:

Absence makes the heart grow fonder
This old, but true idiom bears the relevance of this entire discussion. Women are hesitant to let their husbands play Halo. They feel threatened somehow that men are replacing their wives with this game. Their feeling in this matter, while usually ungrounded, are however their feeling and feelings can't be argued with, only supported or changed. This is an attempt to support those feelings while changing them.

In all seriousness guys, how many of you would honestly say, "I would rather hold my X-Box controller all night, every night for the rest of my life in exchange for never holding my wife again." Even with unshaved legs it's no contest. Am I right? The rumble in the controller is nothing compared to the soft touch of a woman.

The key here is for women to realize that after spending several hours away from our wives, we love to come to them and express our love. We've missed them and we want to spend time with them. In a parallel scenario, imagine a husband has a 2 day work trip. Upon returing home, usually the only thing he wants to do is spend time with his wife. This is the exact same thing that happens after playing Halo. Men are more fond of their wives at this point assuming his wife is happy to see him too.

From what I've observed, read about and listen to others talk, this seems to be one of the major problems Halo poses to marriages. Women, feeling inferior to it, become defensive and then lash out when husbands finish playing. This does nothing but drive a wedge between the relationship. Men, you must understand that your wife has been absent from you also, and she is now fonder of you too, so you must devote the time to communicate to her and listen to her. Women, this is a great time to ask about how the game was. Show an interest and watch what happens to your man as he tells you all about his adventures of the evening. After the shock wears off that you've just asked him about it, better yet even know something about it (hint: ask him if he likes the newbie combo or the grenade and battle rifle combo better) you will be amazed at how nurturing he becomes to your needs.

Understand that this is a process. Like anything that strengthens a marriage, you will run across some rocky places before you find smooth ground. Both need to be patient and remember a stronger marriage takes work. If it didn't, everyone's marriage would be strong. My wife and I have certainly had some rocky places concerning Halo, but in the end our marriage has grown as we've learned to overcome our differences, spend more quality time together and communicate more openly. I can honestly say I love her more now than I did before I started playing Halo.

The most important thing to remember is
Men: Halo is a great hobby, but is not your wife.
Women: Halo is a stupid video game you will never understand, but in the end, your husband will come back to you being more fond of you.

This great article has the following points: (I adapted them for Halo)

Absence makes the heart grow fonder when:

  1. Both members of the couple are committed to the commitment
  2. Both members keep their partners visible to the people around them - as well as to themselves
  3. The arrangement meets the needs of both people
  4. The arrangement is within each partner's physical "intimacy zone"
  5. Focus on Halo when playing and on each other when you are together

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I turned 32. It's been a good 32 years. I have pretty much everything I could ever ask for, and as frustrated as I get with certain aspects of life, I really can't complain.

For my special day I had peanut butter cookies for breakfast, then I'm going to the rec-center to play basket ball at 11:30. At 4:30 I have a wedding rehearsal to go to. (not mine - a couple I'm marrying tomorrow) Then at 5:30 I'm skipping the rehearsal dinner and coming home to one of my favorite meals. Chicken and rice, green beans almondine and carrot cake birthday cake. Dan, one of my friends is coming over for dinner and Steve, another friend is getting back in town around 6:30 and we will be playing X-box live until our eyes are blood shot.

I can't wain until next year when I turn 13!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Big Gift - Small Character

A recent posting from Betsy, and then an exchange of emails with her got me thinking about the various falls we've seen people of religious importance take.

Jimmy Swaggart - sex
Jim Bakker - sex
Jerry Fallwell - diarrhea of the mouth
Pat Robertson - ditto

Those are the 4 biggest. But, don't we all know the lesser known people who never made it nationally, but did make in locally? The local pastor who embezzled money, or had an affair with the board member's wife. 20-20 never pics up the story, maybe even the local news never gets wind of it, but people know.

A comment was made as I discussed such scandals with co-workers. The comment was "things like this (scandals) happen when your gifting is bigger than your character."

A great comment I thought. Each of these 4 men are obviously gifted. Whether or not you like their gift, you at least have to admit, you don't become nationally known without being gifted. But when your character isn't as big as your gift, or more likely when your gift is rapidly accelerated beyond your character people often stumble.

Moral of the story... Spend less time developing your gift and more time developing your character.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Supernatural

I was walking out of parent teacher conferences Friday when my cel phone rang. I answered it and it was Jeremy, a guy from church. His dad had a heart attack about 2 weeks ago and medically was improving, but still not out of the woods. In Jeremy's calm voice he said, Dad sat down in his chair, quit breathing and they did CPR and took him to the hospital. I jump into action mode to make sure everyone who needs to know has been called. Later Friday I found out that Jeremy's dad, Dave, died Friday morning. They never revived him.

Dave was a great guy. He talked a lot, not only loved God, but served him continually, and was a little rough around the edges, but was for a fact a decent human being.

Some rather odd, or not so odd things (depending on your beliefs and experiences) have been happening since Dave's death. First, one of Dave's sisters has a dream that Dave was sitting in his chair and 3 men dressed in shining clothes came to get him and he went with them peacefully. Stress of the situation and so on, okay maybe, but when I learned that 18 years earlier Dave had been told by God that when 3 men come to get him, he should go with them. Well Dave thought they were going to be 3 business men and told some people about it. His sister never knew about what God told her brother, but Dave did die peacefully in his chair.

Second, a guy who sings in the church choir looks out while singing the first song on Sunday morning and sees Dave walk in the sanctuary, dressed in shining clothes. The guy starts crying and freaking out. The choir members can't figure out what's going on with him. After they get him in the hallway and calmed down, he explains that he saw Dave walk in, go to his usual seat in the front left, stand there and smile. Then he gave a big thumbs up and said everything is all right. Then he saw Dave turn and walk out of the sanctuary, going through the wall - not the door.

Kind of freaky and certainly makes you ask lots of questions, like what if and why. Good thing I believe in the supernatural, or I could be pretty freaked out.

One thing I seriously want is to be able to see into the supernatural realm. Kind of an Elisha and his servant sort of thing. It's weird. the church seems to be shying away from supernatural so we don't offend people, but people seem to be fascinated by it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sweet Little Grandma

About 2 years ago, we made our work email addresses very public. It was part of the "we're a technology church" push I was making back then. The upside - I got useful feedback from people. The downside - I get about half a dozen forwards a day. I hate forwards.

Like most I don't enjoy, much less even read the forwards. I did my usual myth busting on people at first and that seemed to trim down on the amount I got, but as most things cycle, so does this. Now I am getting urban legend chain mail from sweet little grandmas.

I got this one today.

>>>> >Subject: Gang initiation-please read
>> >READ THIS!!! It is signed by the River Hills Mall in Mankato as a warning. Police officers working with the DARE program have issued this warning:
If you are driving after dark and see and on-coming car with no headlights on, DO NOT FLASH YOUR LIGHTS AT THEM This is a common Bloods member "initiation game" that goes like this:
The new gang member under initiation drives along with no headlights, and the first car to flash their headlights at him is now his "target.". He is now required to turn around and chase that car, then shoot and kill every individual in the vehicle in order to complete his initiation requirements...

You get the idea - and you've probably heard it before. If not, send it to me about a dozen times. I love getting junk mail forwarded to me.

Here's the link that busts the myth.