Man In The Mirror

the following video was found while doing a spontaneous youtube search after seeing this song performed (rather poorly in my very untalented opinion) on american idol. i think it takes a lot to carry such a powerful song.

"if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change"...

some of us are still looking for our niche, our way to make the permanent change in this world. so often we see something (such as a youtube video) and get inspired...but is that real, lasting inspiration, is it holy discontent, or is it just a temporary awe of images? "no message could have been any clearer"... i pray that clarity will show it's face soon.

click here for the link to phlebotomic


Drought (A Conversation) Part II

Click here for part I of this conversation.

jeff – 1:15 pm
: so, is it safe to say that for some reason, Americans think we are 'owed' something? that if we are without, it's someone else's job to provide for us? this could be the case today in respect to the american economy. people think that since money is scarce (relatively speaking) that they deserve someone else to help them out.

the following thought always makes me feel like an old man wearing suspenders and velco shoes, but here it goes anyway. i often think that americans as a whole have forgotten what working hard for something is like (myself definately included). i can think back to when i was younger and playing a team sport or even younger and constructing some sort of mess in the dirt and leaves in the back yard...it was hard work...but i always assumed that i was going to do it. i very rarely complained about it, and never asked for help back then. i saw a goal and focused on it... i dont think i am the only person who feels this way...so what happened? what changed when i (we) stopped digging in the dirt and starting click buttons for a living?

as to your question as to why do we revert...i think in some silly, psychological, infantile manner, those things are comfort. the change is only temporary, and temporary 'change' doesn't really breed change at all, it breeds a temporary diversion.

on the subject of drought as it relates to water...i drive home everyday, and i see an untouched landscape near my home. it is covered with cedar and mesquite trees, brush and rock. then i pull into the neighborhood, and what do i see? none of that. i see half dead grass and the occassional oak tree in the front yards of people. i see water run off from sprinkler systems that just recently sprouted to life and the colorful blooms of flowers better designed for the climates of new england than south texas. needless to say, i think we missed it. we move out to the middle of the sticks, only to plow down the sticks and plant the same trees as those planted years ago in inner-city neighborhoods 75 years ago. its comfort. i look out in the distance in our back yard (which we rent, not own) and i see brush-lined hilltops in the distance. i focus closer, right over our 6-foot high wood fence and what do i see, a fenced-in retention pond filled with concrete barriers and a dirt lined floor. its comfort.

kyle – 1:26 pm: the detention pond outside of your backyard is a good example of our current mindset.

somewhere along the way, folks realized that adding impervious cover to the fabric of a city worsened flooding. less water soaks into the ground, more runs through parking lots and into swollen creeks.

rather than slowing the rate at which we pave paradise to put up more parking lots, it just meant that now we would sprawl a little further out because every development needed extra acreage for their detention pond. the added sprawl then exacerbates flooding by taking the impervious world further into the territory that once served as natural flood control. in placing a band-aid on one issue, we opened the wound larger on another.

for the sake of our suburban independence and western-determinism (i will live wherever i want to – everyone else be damned…), we ended up creating more problems that now look for solutions. but at least we don’t live in the city with the poor people.

jeff – 3:33 pm: as katy said humorously (but rather perfectly) after seeing a deer get demolished by a large truck while trying to cross a highway of an until recently rural area, "we're taking over their land!" it is very much a western mindset that we take the old adage "if we put our minds to it, we can accomplish anything" and add our own twist to it, never really caring what the cost will be, only the narrow minded end result.

a few years ago i got to take a trip to las vegas. during that time, we took a day tour of the hoover dam. i must admit, that was a very impressive and daunting structure, and we enjoyed the dam tour very much. one thing that humored me though was seeing the declining water level against the rock from lake mead above the dam. a major reason for the construction of this massive slab of concrete was to create electricity for a huge chunk of california, and in the process, a lake was formed. this lake has continued to provide water to the entire las vegas valley for years. the city was virtually born thanks to a construction project. now (or at least until last year) the city is growing at record numbers, and the lake level is quickly and steadily declining. they are increasing the population of a city so much, that a million plus people may someday be without a drinking source. an oasis in the desert...or a mirage? and the list of these instances goes on, i'm sure. if memory serves me correctly, i seem to remember hearing that el paso is running out of water as well.

and hey, katy and i are poor...we hope to be living in the city by august! do you know of any gated communities in the area?

kyle – 3:46 pm
: well, we are known consumers. if we live up to that moniker, then i suppose we should be depleting all of our resources. self-fulfilling prophecy.

the metaphor translates spiritually, by the way. if we are simply consumers of spirituality, we end up thirsty and wandering lost in our self-made desert.

what we need, both culturally and spiritually, is an identity shift. instead of being consumers, we need to be stewards. we need to be responsible keepers of the place we inhabit and of the legacy we claim.

jeff – 4:25 pm
: yes, we are known consumers. funny, i was thinking earlier that i really want to build and maintain a garden...be a producer. i would like to bear fruit, but alas, i'm a renter! perhaps that tangible illustration is a look deeper into the spiritual fruit that is being produced.

i've always loved the parable of the sower, and i've often wondered which seed i would be. i know which one i'd like to be, but liking and actually being can be two different stories.

luke 8: 14-15 reads: "the seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

am i choked by life's worries and riches, or do i retain the word and bear fruit? but in order to bear fruit, one requires water, for a drought would most certainly kill off most any form of life.

perhaps a drought is never desired, but sometimes it's necessary in order to show what is necessity. the trick is cutting off that which is not required, in order to focus more attention on that which produces, that which is intrinsically good.

final thougths?

kyle – 4:35 pm: drought reveals. conflict clarifies.

jeff – 4:53 pm: conversation leads to clarity, openness and trust. performance will surely follow.

"the thing about performance is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities" -sydney smith, 18th century english essayist


so, there you have it, one topic, one days work. if you're still reading this, first off, thanks! but also, what are your thoughts on drought, or any of the subjects randomly addressed in these two posts?


Drought (A Conversation) Part I

today, while listening to some people at work talk about their gardens, dead tress, and rain clouds (amongst many other nonsensical things), the topic of drought came up. that word got me to thinking...what are my thoughts about drought, both in the physical lack of rain sense, and other forms, such as being in a spiritual drought. i decided to pose the idea and my thoughts to kyle. below is part I of our emailed banter. enjoy!

jeff - 10:36 am: drought changes climates...it changes people’s way of thinking. just as when gas prices rose incredibly last year, it changed peoples mindset on suv's, mass transit, etc. i think that a couple year drought would be good for a mindshift, from low flow toilets, the re-thinking of chopping down acres of trees for urban sprawl, to xerioscaping. it will get people out of their comfort zone, which is typically a good thing.

kyle – 10:52 am: hardships are great drivers of efficiencies.

jeff – 11:11 am: first off, can i just say that i love the vagueness of your statements!

so, we are inefficient because we have no stimulant to realize the inefficiency? or we are aware of the inefficiency, but as long as there's a surpus of something, why bother to make a change?

i would say that drought brings about better awareness. we are without, we are lacking that which we need, desire, etc. to steal a song title line from the 80's hair metal band cinderalla, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

when does the risk outweigh the reward? or does it? just as some (we know who you are, matt) take joy in seeing the collapse of the global economy, stock market, housing and banking industry, etc., when does the joy end and fear begin? When does it becomes personal? when it finally takes a hold of you? when it comes to drought (of any kind: rain, spiritual, etc.), when does the risk outweigh anything else? what about the poor planners?

kyle – 11:42 am: we are inefficient because we can get away with it. we are aware, but unaffected by it.

let me use an example from my time living in south africa. most homes (including ALL new homes by government mandate) featured solar powered water heaters.

why? because in a country with frequent power shortages (and outages) people wanted to at least be able to take a warm shower or bathe their kids. so, in addition to complaining about the power problems (which is generally where americans stop), south africans began to take matters into their own hands to circumvent the power grid. they installed solar panels on their rooftops so that their bathwater would be warm. light a candle, add some bubbles, and enjoy the latest round of blackouts. the government then noticed and saw what a huge power savings and grid-relief that the solar panels provided and made the installation of such panels mandatory.

it is precisely because of the lack of dependable electricity that the south african people decided to become more efficient. they were affected. so they made change. they could care less about being green. they just wanted a hot shower.

to put it another way, paraphrasing a well-known saying: “necessity is the mother of all invention.”

the curious thing to me is why we (americans) tend to revert to old habits as soon as the bottleneck subsides. in san antonio, why don’t we have water rationing all the time. we live in a drought-sensitive area with blistering summers and a limited and somewhat mysterious water source. so, about every other year we have mandatory water rationing when the rains fail. why not just conserve all the time so we don’t have to freak out every july? this is one of the few places where government can help to regulate our stupidity and greed.

with gas prices back under $2, the same argument could play out over hybrid car sales (down), aversion to public transportation (up), sprawl (growing), and urban infrastructure (decaying).

so why do we revert? what in us abhors efficiency? is it our western-determinism? is it our abundance blinding us?

part II coming soon



lately, the word 'obedience' has been running through my head constantly. naturally, this really got me to wondering, am i being obedient to God? sure, i may give money to the church, charities or organizations, but is it given out of obligation or out of obidence. perhaps i go out of my way for someone, but again, is it due to outside pressure and forces, or due solely to my obidence to Him. why do i read the word everyday, because i'm suppose to, or because in doing so i am being obedient?

i was doing some google searching earlier on several different topics and i stumbled upon what is written below. do you agree with what it says...and if so, are you doing your best to adhere to it?

"how important is obedience to God in my daily walk?

obedience to God is very important in your Christian growth. no one in this life will ever become sufficiently sanctified to the point where they are always obeying the law, but we can honor and maintain obedience to God by pondering on, or meditating on, the words of Jesus. the term "to ponder" means to weigh in the mind, to think or reflect, especially quietly and deeply. to ponder on something is like meditation which implies a definite focusing of one's thoughts on something in order to understand it deeply. the author of Proverbs 14:15 makes a good point: "a simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps."

the greatest commandment is to love God by keeping His commandments. matthew 22:36-38 says, "'teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?' Jesus replied: 'love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' this is the first and greatest commandment.'"

you ask, "how important is obedience to God?" in the gospel of john, obedience to God is underscored time and time again. john 14:15 says, "if you love me, you will obey what i command."

the great commandments are reiterated in matthew 22:36-40 which says, "'teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?' Jesus replied: '"love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." this is the first and greatest commandment. and the second is like it: "love your neighbor as yourself." all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.'"

jesus is very concerned about us and He wants us to do more than participate in good works, He wants us to believe in Him. He wants us to come up higher and be "like" Him. when we are being obedient to God, we are doing just that: knowing Him, loving Him, and having a personal, intimate relationship with Him. to do this, we must be attentive to God's laws. this is not an option, because you can't have an intimate relationship with Jesus and trample on the words He taught. being obedient to God is not the same as sticking to the speed limit because you get a fine if you disobey. obedience to God is living God's word because you want to and enjoy being filled with the love of Jesus.

we must believe in Jesus, we must have faith in Him, and we must trust Him! calling ourselves a Christian on its own won't do. following the commandments step wise won't do. reading the Bible diligently won't do. we have to take the word into our hearts. when we make the transition from calling ourselves a good Christian to being someone who is having a deep personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, then we can have the highest of joys, the deepest of peace, and receive the fullest measure of God's love and power each and every day of our lives.

we need to enter into God's rest and be less concerned with worrying about what else we could do to make Jesus love us more. hebrews 4:10 says, "for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his." it would be invaluable if you were to spend time reading God's Word and ponder on one aspect as you walk. step into the scene, imagine what it might have been like to be there, create Jesus in your mind, feel the love, and experience a deep intimate relationship with the Lord.

that is the essence of obedience to God.


Energy: In Photos

here is my post for the week on our group blog: phlebotomic. this weeks topic was energy... click here for the link... hope you enjoy. please, leave your comments, thoughts, reasons you liked it, explainations for hating it, gratitude from the illiterates, etc.

hey, bernard madoff reads it...shouldn't you!?


Semi-Permanent Thoughts (Of Semi-Consciousness and Potentially Broken Links)

* why is it that i can remember vivid stories and events that happened in my life regarding these songs: pearl jam - alive, gin blossoms - hey jealousy, r.e.m. - everybody hurts, and live - lightening crashes; all of which occured well over 10 years ago, but i can't recall if i remembered to turn off the coffee pot this morning?

* most frustrating thing: people who don't use their blinkers while driving

* and speaking of driving, am i the only person that gets nervous whenever i look in my rearview mirror and there is a cop driving directly behind me? do you think the nervousness could have anything to do with the unpaid speeding ticket i got in a nearby city over 8 years ago?

* why is it when the local news airs segments showing people having special charities and programs deliver toys to their homes for their children around Christmas time because they are too poor to afford gifts, or when a news reporter is interviewing a family looking for government bailout money to avoid foreclosure on their home, it never seems to fail that the families don't think to hide the 52" plasma screen tv and wii that the kids are playing before allowing the camera crews in? i don't have a 52" tv or wii, can i get some money too?

* if i was the owner of a tape measure manufacturing company, i'd allow my employees to change the increments on the tape dimensions once a year on april 1st. i think it would be funny if they were just a bit off, not enough to easily catch, but on a long measurement, it would be a significant difference. that wouldn't cause any serious construction problems, would it!?

* i have a new favorite song. it is by josh turner. the song is called 'the way he was raised'. click here for the lyrics. sorry, couldn't find a video.

* no random thoughts blog would be complete without a random link: click here for a link to catholic purgatory.

* and how about a random photo....enjoy!


Jesus and The Mason Jar

i came across this blog the other day that i wanted to share it...yet another reason that God is a spurs fan! for those of you who have followed the san antonio spurs with any regularity over the past 10 years or so, you know that they have had a strong Christian presence, namely from avery johnson and david robinson. but i'm guessing you haven't heard much in the Jesus department since their retirements...well, wait no more. click here to read from a related blog 48 minutes of hell...and be sure to cheer on the mason jar, roger mason jr.

also, i tried adding a picture of the mason jar, but apparently blogger doesn't like me this morning...so if you're wondering what he looks like, click here.


Valentine's - Revisited

i decided to repost a blog i wrote last year at this time. one that really reminds me of what true, selfless love is all about. so, as you're out running around, buying your $50 roses, boxes of overpriced chocolate and fighting for the last parking spot at every restaurant in town, i hope that you'll remember this story...which actually dates back to november 1st of 2007. click here to read the love...


In The Ghetto

i know this may just be a song...and it was written/recorded/performed many, many years ago, but isn't the message still true today? "are we too blind to see, do we simply turn our heads and look the other way" is this true of us? is this true of me? it's funny what flipping through radio stations in the car during a lunch break can do to a person. one minute i'm daydreaming while listening to the eagles sing take it easy, the next i'm pondering all the frustrations i see and encounter in life, and i start to question what i'm actually doing to be the remedy. how am i being the helping hand? hey, i guess 50,000,000 elvis fans can't be wrong...

as the snow flies
on a cold and gray chicago mornin'
a poor little baby child is born
in the ghetto
and his mama cries
'cause if there's one thing that she don't need
it's another hungry mouth to feed
in the ghetto

people, don't you understand
the child needs a helping hand
or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day
take a look at you and me,
are we too blind to see,
do we simply turn our heads
and look the other way

well the world turns
and a hungry little boy with a runny nose
plays in the street as the cold wind blows
in the ghetto

and his hunger burns
so he starts to roam the streets at night
and he learns how to steal and he learns how to fight
in the ghetto

then one night in desperation
a young man breaks away
ee buys a gun, steals a car,
tries to run, but he don't get far
and his mama cries

as a crowd gathers 'round an angry young man
face down on the street with a gun in his hand
in the ghetto

as her young man dies,
on a cold and gray chicago mornin',
another little baby child is born
in the ghetto


Cutest Dog Contest

i'm sure some of you are caught up in westminster kennel club dog show excitement that is happening this week... and how could you not be? odd looking dogs, slightly uncomfortable comments from the announcers, selfishly hoping that one of the dogs has to 'relieve itself' on the green carpet, etc.

well, check out the photo above...is that not the cutest dog you've ever seen!? yep, that's right, that's duncan...our dog! well, since i know you all agree with me, and you all think that duncan is in fact the cutest dog, then you'd love to click here and vote for him in the cutest dog contest on mysa.com! i believe his photo is on page 5...and you can vote once a day, so feel free to occupy 2 minutes of your time everyday as you're sitting at work waiting for lunch!

also, don't forget to check out the six-word memoirs: on love and heartbreak. click here.

Six-Word Memoirs: On Love and Heartbreak

seeing as it's almost valentine's day, i thought i'd at least throw out a spark of love, even if it is just spawned from commercialism at it's finest. i recently came across a magazine that was entirely dedicated to the idea of summing up your love life in six-word phrases. the concept sounded a bit difficult and far-fetched, until i read through some examples. below are a few that entertained my perhaps smaller than average adult male brain, along with one that i wrote (can you guess which one?). i was pleased to see that these phrases, or 'memoirs'; as their called, did not focus solely on love, but also the pain that it can cause. i think for so many of us, for all the great memories we may have, an equal amount of people may be able to recall a painful love at a moments notice. here are a few examples, and mine...enjoy!

"he sees the me i don't"
"for the children, i remain his"
"i finally threw away his toothbrush"
"our prison visitations were surprisingly romantic"
"red-eye. him window. me aisle. love"
"if i get chlamydia, blame myspace"
"will government ever let us marry"
"i dated wrong. i married right"
"not him again! said my mother"
"silently suffered his facial hair experiments"
"three marriages. two divorces. ba .333"
"what do you want for dinner"
"if only he wasn't a Republican"
"tried men. tried women. like cats"
"leap of faith. Sh*t, no parachute"
"inevitably, his obituary didn't mention me"
"we "I do" -ed. Then he didn't"
"two marriages. the wrong one died"
"best family ever. thank you, match.com"
"marriage, children, empty nest: Now what"

what's your six-word love/heartbreak memoir? come on, you know you can think of at least one! click on the comments section right below this and leave yours there. check back later to see what others had to write!


Salt Marsh Diary

"at the bend in the river a flock of mallards is dozing in tall grass that is winter-bleached and battered by snow, by wind, by high water. worn thin, there is little cover in it but it is all the mallards have and must make do. in these river narrows, in the tie-downs of the straights and shallows, their only true refuge is day sleep. the pulse drops, the body stops except for the low breath and the least heat it needs to keep on living. even the sun is cold. and the mallards hold.

they are an average flock, these mallards. still as the ice grounded to the bank. closest are four drakes, laid up with their bills tucked to the crook at the back of their necks. positioned this way their heads are a virtual black so dark it is not a color but a gap. sensing my presence the drakes, in consort, look up. and a curious thing. that gap fills with an iridescence, so brilliant, reminiscent more of a scarab's shell than the soft hue of feathers.

it is the angle between the shafts. heads bent, the feathers spread. light falls straight in and vanishes. only when the drakes unfurl themselves do the feathers relax and close and the full green flash of plumage, bright as a lighthouse, beacons forth. the object of all this stands between them, a single hen, invisible as an afterthought. movement reveals her and (now that she is standing) so do her very orange feet. the color is a sign that breeding is imminent, though the choosing is not yet complete. it is for her the drakes risk themselves this way and hide as best they can when they sleep. for the need runs deep and the mallards stay.

i want to lie down beside them there on the spongy bank, nestle my face into the warm hollows of their wings and feel the pulse and listen to them breathe. but i must leave. not out of fear nor because i am riven by the frigid air and not because i want to. i am comforted here. as if i belong here. as i am sure we used to before we knew what we know and wish we did not."

this was written by mark seth lender, and i stumbled upon it yesterday evening while flipping radio stations. the first thing that struck me was the beauty with which it was written; and subsequently spoken; along with the detailed imagery and realistic language used. it really was a work of beauty…until the reader spoke the final line: “as i am sure we used to before we knew what we know and wish we did not.” that’s when the wheels started to spin in my head, and it became more than just a literary work. what do we know now? what do we wish we did not know? i’m sure we all have very different answers to that one…i know i can think of a few. what do you know now that you wish you did not?

transcript courtesy of living on earth on pri, public radio international.


Graffiti: Illegal, or Art?

living in san antonio, i think most of us are used to seeing graffiti sprayed upon walls of old buildings, overpasses, street signs and fences. and i'm going to speak out of generalities right now and say that i assume most people would rather not have to look at it... most people see it as an eye-sore and a form of vandalism. but what about those cases when graffiti is allowed, when it's encouraged, when people get paid good money to display their artistic talents with the aid of an aersol can? what then? what changes?

take for instance, this example (click here). now, normally you wouldn't find 800 year old castles covered in spray painted images, but that's exactly what happened at kelburn castle in scotland. what are your thoughts now? art, or an abomination?



today, kyle and i walked from his house to the alamo, and back. it was 8.5 miles. it was fun. i'd do it again. below are a few photos from our adventure.

you know, it's funny how many things you see when you walk that you completely overlook when you're flying by in your car. everyone should walk more often and take a look around. in fact, there's even a web site dedicated to showing potential homebuyers the walkability of their future neighborhoods...how easily accessible the home is to certain things like grocery stores, restaurants, schools and parks. click here for the website. my house rates as a 31 out of 100...car-dependent. how nice would it be to live somewhere that was convinent, not car-dependent? i will know that joy soon enough, i hope. check out how walkable your home is, and enjoy the photos.

our first stop: shag the salon

for those of you wondering, you're in luck; yes, it is for rent! i bet the walkability of this place is off the charts!

oh yeah, our future's in good hands

gotta love the crane. where there's a crane, there's something going UP!

long legs, or short shins?

our meal fit for a king. gotta love gm steakhouse across from alamo plaza. how many places can you get a steak, baked potato, toast, salad and iced tea for $5.99? that's what i thought.

inside the men's restroom at gm steakhouse. what is it? a cigarette machine? a paper towel dispenser? a monument to efficiency?

why do you have to cross a barbed wire gate in order to take piano lessons?

kyle thought it would be funny to drop 1000 ping pong balls from this overpass during rush hour traffic. ladies and gentelmen, a church elder!

i'm not sure what's worse: this ladies matching blue suit / hat combo, or the fact that she took this 'professional' picture with her dog. i don't care what she's selling, i'll take 2!

nothing really clever to say here, i just like train tracks.

oh sweet, the newly designed 1974 peugeot 205 gti's are in!

isn't it great to see creatures in their natural habitat?!

cool crest...world's finest minature golf

donkey...with wagon

donkey...without wagon



i am a son, a husband, a friend and a dog owner.

society would say i am an architect.
the church would tell you i am a Christ follower

i am a former womanizing, selfish, insecure alcoholic.
i am changed.

some might say i am a leader, funny, immature, a follower, entertaining, obnoxious, calm, irrational, patient, steady, a success, content, cheap, a great friend, a failure, giving, someone who left them behind.

i say i have been all of these things.

i am excited too see what the future holds.

i am sometimes afraid of failure. afraid that i will fail as a husband, as a provider and someday as a father. i am sometimes afraid that the urge to taste another drink again becomes more than i can bear. i am hopeful that these fears never subside.

i am sometimes forgetful that God will provide the strength for me. i am sometimes too self-reliant.

i am eager for what today may bring.



so, i fixed the toilet in our bathroom yesterday… for the past month or so, there’s been a minor defect with it. it started leaking water out of the reservoir into the bowl at a very slow but steady pace. over time, that trickle increased until finally we had to physically turn off the water at its wall connection after every use, to avoid a hefty water bill. well, as you can imagine, this created quite an annoyance. i had fixed the problem of the water leaking, but it wasn’t a permanent or ideal solution.

finally last night, i had enough of the hassle, so i went down to the local home improvement superstore and purchased the $3.67 replace part. an hour later, the problem was fixed, the toilet was working up to desired standards and i once again had a very happy wife (between you and me, i think she found my extraordinary plumbing skills very attractive).

isn’t it funny how simple things we take for granted in our everyday routines suddenly become an obstacle when they don’t meet our desires and expectations? isn’t it also funny that it took me over a month to purchase a $3 part to remedy the situation. but hey, like i said, i fixed the toilet in our bathroom yesterday…