New Adventures

I got out of town for a couple days. Got to visit some friends in Tyler, TX. I’d actually been plotting for several months to surprise him by setting up the visit with his wife. He was in a motorcycle accident several months ago and had his day in court. I thought he could use a little moral support. And actually he did really well, if the outcome wasn’t the best case scenario. I will say it is very interesting to watch people in a small municipal court. Let’s just say my bud was the most well dressed, mannered, and spoken person there.

But prior to that, together we went 4wheeling at this amazing place that has some 2000 acres just for that purpose. $20 and you can ride and mud and chill until your heart’s content. I’ve ridden an ATV a time or two, but certainly never like anything I did Thursday. And I can unequivocally say I have never been as dirty as I was at the end of the day (thanks largely to my friend dragging both me and his wife into a mud pit). It was great fun and a heck of an experience, one that I think we can all agree was not very typical for me! And that just may be why it was such a blast!




New Adventures

I Woke Up Today

I woke up today with such confusion and disappointment. Hardly effective words to describe my reaction to what is becoming a part of the daily news cycle in this country.

We say and sing “God Bless America”. All I’m asking is, didn’t He? Perhaps He did and we said “no thank you”. And now as the morality of our society goes, so too does our country. And Romans 1:28 prevails:

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

Now is the time for the Church to rise and unite in the Spirit of God, come out of our comforts and safety, seek to know God and to make Him known. The Church must push past the societal cries of intolerance and bigotry, accept the words of Jesus that we would be hated as a result, and humbly and lovingly live, speak, and lead the truth of 2 Chronicles 7:14:

‭“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

I Woke Up Today

Old Home Made New

In March, when it became clear that the Lord intended for me to stay in Little Rock–and believe me it was not from a lack of trying to find something else–I finally decided I needed to do some much needed renovations to my home.

First up came a project I really have needed to get done since converting to a gas stove, and this is an externally venting hood for my range. Any time I cook meat, it just fills the whole house with haze and smells like it for days. I had no idea who to call so I used USAA’s contractor services and got a company. Price seemed reasonable compared to a friend that had it done a few years back, so I went with it. Pleased with the end result and happy to say there’s no more lingering smoke or smell issues.

IMG_0352Fun story about this project. The original quote was really expensive so I sat down with the estimator and looked for ways to cut back. I told him I would buy my own hood and that I didn’t need an electrician–to the tune of $250 line item–to connect two wires. As I researched hoods, Home Depot had a sale on a nice one with lots of blowing power. If I was going to spend this much on the project, I wanted to make sure I got a good enough fan to do the job. They didn’t have one in store and to order it would cost $69 to have it shipped to the store. It’s some flat fee on all appliances. I said no thanks and went to Best Buy since they price match and don’t charge delivery. They ended up having one open box in store, so I got a $300 hood for about $130. Score!

Project number two took my attention outside. My house was built in the mid-1980’s. The siding was constructed of masonite, which is some compressed cardboard looking material. The deck, fence, and flower bed edging probably were done at the same time. Frankly, all of it was falling apart. I looked iIMG_0369nto new siding possibilities and all signs pointed to vinyl siding. Started asking folks for ideas of companies, got some quotes, and away we went. I ended up using a guy my pastor recommended. I was pretty nervous about him at first because his bid came in way under the others. But as I continued to talk to him, I learned he is a man of faith and that ought to count for something. For color, I inquired to plenty of friends and most picked the same one I was thinking without knowing which first. That was nice for my OCD indecisiveness. I didn’t think about it initially, but I also ended up with a new/better/lighter garage door which is really nice.

The guys came in early May and it took about a week. Enjoyed chatting with Bobby and Jason, and I simply cannot express how much I appreciate the great work they did. The transformation is incredible. I’m so proud of my house now. Just look at these before and after photos. No words.

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I also repainted my front door and shutters. This was all during the NHL playoffs and being a ravenous Dallas Stars fan, I found inspiration and chose “victory green”. Boy, did this color provide a nice pop! I also painted the concrete and electrical boxes around the exterior to match the siding.IMG_0400
Next came project three, which was unexpected. As this work was going on, one of the workers spotted a problem on the front of my roof. A really soft spot where a IMG_0418nail was sticking out. They sealed the hole but when I got up in the attic to say the lay of the land in that area, things turned real bad. This spot had been that way for a long while. Rotten, molded wood covered the whole area.IMG_0378

Fortunately, it had not gotten through to the ceiling. It was more of a seeping leak. Well, I hadn’t taken enough loan out to pay for a roof too, so I called up USAA and made a claim. After a week of stressing–shame on me, by the way–I got the confirmation that it was all deemed storm damage and they sent me a check. I used a family member of my siding guy. And really in the end, this just worked out great because I got a roof that matched my new siding tremendously.

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Got a little lucky in this experience too. I was quoted $3900 but after my deductible, I got $3500. So I asked how to reduce cost to this amount. He said I could go with a 20-year rated shingle instead of 30-year. After asking a few folks, I agreed to that. The day the shingles arrived–which by the way they use a very cool conveyer to lift the packs to the roof–I noticed the packaging said 30. I called my contractor. Didn’t ever know what happened but he told me I get a 30-year roof! Nice! I also had them install a couple of turbines, which is really nice for attic heat.

Moving into June, I came at last to the final project: rebuilding my deck. It was literally crumbling in places. Nails wouldn’t stay in. Beyond power washing. Part of the deck had a 10×10 covered area, but it was built very poorly. Flat roof with shingles. I tore it down and it came apart like paper. For this project, I enlisted the help of our amazing handyman team at my church, the Good Old Boys (or GOBs). They drew up the plans and lumber need. But I was asked to do the tear out myself. Yeah, I’m not all about the physical labor and after trying a couple boards I was kinda despairing how I’d do it. IMG_0503I asked the guys doing the roof if they’d like to earn some extra cash and what they’d charge to rip out and haul off. For a mere $350 the old deck was out. It took weeks for them to haul off the lumber and there was a point I thought they were going to stick me with it. One of the guys asked if he could have it to build some accessibility ramps for his disabled wife. I was happy to donate.

Early on a Saturday, five guys came over and set to work. Now me… hammers run from me in fear. So I was a go-for and duties as assigned guy. The frame was still in good shape. Deck boards got down that day. The old deck extended as a walkway around the side of my house to the front driveway. I opted not to rebuild this part, so I took a day off, bought some sod, and laid it out. While I was at, I got some extra for a large bare area in my front yard. I realized I’d need to add sprinkler heads to the side area, so that was another little expense. But to date, all the grass is thriving!

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The next Friday we–well they–got the rail and steps of the deck done. Let me tell you what champions these guys are. Not a one under 60 and hilarious to boot. I’m so pleased with the results.

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Unfortunately, I’m pretty tapped out at this point. I really want to rebuild the covered section–correctly this time–and screen it in. Would like to avoid Zika virus, don’t you know. And it’d be nice to let Naomi out without having to keep an eye on her. I asked one company what it would take, because this part was a little much for the GOBs to handle. They came back with an audacious $3500 quote. Yeah, no way. Absurd. So this little rebuild will have to wait. But we’ll see.

I feel like I have a brand new house. Before, it felt like one of the oldest looking ones in the neighborhood, but now I see it and smile. I’ve got a good home. I am blessed. I hope to use it, enjoy it, and maintain it in a God-honoring way.

Old Home Made New

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Is it cool if I kinda change gears for my blog and add hefty dose of fun cooking ideas? It seems I’ve taken to posting mainly biblical musings, with a few rambling posts over the years. But I sure do like sharing stuff like this too.

So without further ado, my first entry will be something super fun and quick to make those Pillsbury cinnamon rolls a little adventurous. Typically I’m going to shy away from pre-made, store-bought foodstuffs like this, but in this case I’m making an exception. Seriously, this could not be easier. You’ll need a waffle iron. Set it on the lowest heat setting and preheat as usual. You’ll probably want to spray it. Pop open the can of cinnamon rolls and place them on the iron. Out will come gorgeous wafflely cinnamon rolls. It doesn’t take long! My first batch was over done, which is why I recommend lowest setting. I scraped the icing out into a glass bowl and microwaved for 10 seconds, then poured them all over.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

The Making of a Smart Home

Warning: this is a geeky post. No secret I am a tech and gadget enthusiast. In recent years, a new category of tech has been emerging, dubbed the “internet of things”. Think smart devices in the home that can keep you connected.

Started out, these things were pretty few and far between, and what was there could not talk to each other in order to make a truly compatible “smart home”. Apple has taken some steps to integrate various devices in their HomeKit. Imagine just being able to tell your iPhone or Apple Watch something like “Hey Siri, goodnight” which results in your doors locking, garage door closing, lights turning off, and air turning down.IMG_0218

I have a few examples in my home. My first device was a Nest thermostat. It boats abilities such as sensing when you are away and home, which you can set different air temps for, but also making an automatic schedule based on your activity. And of course, you can control it from anywhere. Using Nest has greatly increased my energy efficiency. I used levelized billing and found a $10 decrease in the months after installing. That’s pretty significant.

IMG_0216My next purchase was a video doorbell called Ring. It’s wired in just like a regular doorbell. But now I can see and hear activity outside the front of my house. It will activate on motion based on zones I set up, and also I can answer the door from anywhere with video and audio. So I can see when my frequent Amazon packages are delivered and ward off those pesky solicitors. I even answered the door while I was in California last fall!

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Now I’ve connected up some smart light bulbs called Hue lights. They are led bulbs, lightstrips, and lamps all connected by a hub on your wifi network. Using an app on your phone, you can set all sorts of colorful scenes. I got a starter kit and one light strip just for fun. Installed the bulbs in my living room ceiling fan and the lightstrip behind my TV. IMG_0161Then one more bulb for my bedroom lamp. The goal was to be able to turn lights on if I wouldn’t be home until after dark. But beyond that, I’ve made some pretty fun scenes like sunrise and sunset for a gentle way to start and end the day, superhero for when I’m watching one of my favorite comic book shows, and Dallas Stars victory green for when I’m watching the game. I even have the lights blink when we score a goal! (Albeit it didn’t turn out near as fun because there is a good 3-4 minute delay.)

IMG_0209With the Hue lights, I can speak to my watch or phone and say “Living Room On” or “Set Sunset” and bam. Or “Set goodnight” to turn off the living room and turn on my lamp. Completely unnecessary but definitely fun. (One morning I tried to use the app to turn on my bedroom, before realizing only the lamp was a Hue bulb. So I had to get out of bed to turn on the lights with the wall switch like an animal.)

There’s an app called IFTTT–which stands for If This Then That–that tries to integrate these products that can’t, for now, talk to each other themselves. So for instance, I can make a recipe that says “If the Dallas Stars score a goal [monitored by my ESPN account], then blink my Hue lights”.  Or “If motion is detected on my Ring Doorbell, then turn my light blue.” Or even “If there is a tornado warning, flash my lights red (Star Trek style)”.

Many other things exist, like smart outlets that can be turned on and off remotely. WeMo is the most popular and reputable brand in that category. There’s smart door locks that can detect when you are nearby and unlock, but I’m not quite there yet on trusting something like that. Maybe a couple more generations. I’d really like a smart garage door opener that can detect when I’m close and open, then automatically check that it’s closed at a certain time. But I’m waiting for Apple HomeKit compatibility; there’s none yet.

All that to say, ever the climb when one’s hobby is tech, I’m looking to make a couple upgrades. I’d like to change to a different company for my thermostat. Not because there is anything wrong with Nest, but in order to integrate more tightly through Apple’s ecosystem. Nests are $250 new. I’ll part with mine for $125. Yes I’m now hocking my wares on my blog. I can help you install. And I promise it will end up paying for itself. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with my unit.

Likewise, I know a lot of people are interested in my video doorbell. Sound like something you’d like to try out? Well, I’ve been in contact with the company and am going to be helping them test in-development units, so I now have mine to sell. They are $200 new; I’ll sell mine for $100. And again, help you install. (The recording subscription is $30/year.) Can’t tell you the peace of mind this adds to my home’s security.

What a revolutionary time to live! It’s the early days for this to be sure, and many products aren’t without their early adoption risks. But that’s part of the fun to me, really! Helping to mature products like Nest and Ring. If you’d be interested in adding the Nest and/or Ring to your home, hit me up with any questions.

The Making of a Smart Home

Spiritual Growth Resources

At my small group, Compass, we recently took several weeks looking at hindrances to our spiritual growth. Our pastor needed a little break. He had us list several things that keep us from growing then announced he wanted each of us to take a category. That’s probably the neatest thing about this teaching ‘series’. We were leading each other from the Word! Made for some great, honest discussion. Too good to keep confined, in fact. So I asked a few of my friends to write up their session in the form of an article and I’m building some web pages on my church’s site. I hope they are useful to others in building good disciplines! Here’s the first couple that are live. More to come!

Bible Study Tools

Prayer & Fasting

Spiritual Growth Resources

Powerball

Just a very quick word about my feelings on lottery, in order to get them off my chest. Despite whatever good it may raise funds for, and that is considerably little, the whole force behind a lottery is pre-supposing that a majority of people will lose, and it is built on the backs of the poor who are drawn to it. (See what John Piper has to say about it: Seven Reasons Not to Play the Lottery). The Bible commands followers of Christ to care for those in need (James 1:27), not condone a practice that further burdens them by participating in it. There are also wisdom verses that caution against get-rich-quick choices (Proverbs 13:11), commands against the love of money (Matthew 6:24Hebrews 13:5, 1 Timothy 6:10), and warning of our accountability in stewarding our resources (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). We need to take our Lord’s commands seriously. Even if you pledge to give some percentage of winnings to the Church or for religious charity, the Scripture tells us God would not be honored by this because He is more concerned about our hearts (Hosea 6:6). So are you justifying purchasing just that one ticket like it’s no big deal? I’ll leave this quote I read today right here as a final thought:

15,499,173 Southern Baptist church members x $2 (cost of Powerball ticket)= $30,988,346 for IMB missions.

Powerball