Life Is Good

This post began life as something very different than what it turned out to be. I had initially set out to write a somewhat angry post about how boring my life is and how frustrating it is that nothing exciting ever happens to me. But God decided this past weekend to show me that I really have nothing to complain about, and so instead of writing a blog post where I complain about how much my life sucks, I’m going to instead praise God for making my life so awesome. Funny how that happens, huh?

Let’s start with the little things. I have clothes to wear, enough food to eat, and a roof over my head. That may not necessarily seem like much, but there are unfortunately a lot of people out there who don’t have some or all of those things, and the fact that I have all of the basic necessities of life is a big deal, and something that I definitely praise the Lord for.

Then there are things that may not be necessities, but they are still very important. These are things that may not be required for physical survival, but certainly help when it comes to mental and emotional wellbeing. These are the relationships I have with friends and family. I have a beautiful and wonderful wife, two fantastic children, amazing parents, almost bearable in-laws (just kidding – my in-laws are wonderful too), great friends, and innumerable other family members who do nothing but add blessings to my life. When I think about all the people who love me, there’s nothing I can do but sit back in awe and praise God.

As if providing for all of my physical, mental and emotional needs weren’t enough, God has provided for all of my wants as well. I have hundreds of movies, books and video games. I have access to virtually all of the music I could ever want. (Zune Pass, if you were wondering. I’m no pirate.) I have a Wii, an XBox 360, a Playstation 3, a DS, a PSP, 3 Zunes, a high definition TV, a netbook, and my wife and mother-in-law just bought me an iPod Touch for Christmas (which is what caused me to change this blog post from one where I complain about everything to one where I praise God for everything. Really, how can you complain about anything when your wife just randomly buys you a $300 toy?). I have everything I need, and I have everything I want. What possible reason could I have for complaining?

And yet, that doesn’t even remotely cover all of the blessings that God has given me. Everything that I have mentioned so far is as nothing compared to the greatest of all the blessings that I have been given. You see, I don’t deserve any of this. I have been blessed more richly than I could even imagine, and yet I still was planning to write an essay about how much my life sucked and post it on the internet for all the world to see. I don’t deserve any of this. To put it frankly, I am a sinner. But not only has God given me everything I want and everything I need, he has gone above and beyond that, and he has made me sinless as well.

Now, sin is of course something that nobody really wants to talk about. People like to think that there’s nothing wrong with them, that they are basically good people. Unfortunately that’s just not true. But my goal here is not to preach at you. I simply want to talk about how I am aware that I, personally, am a sinner, and how I have confidence that God was wiped the slate clean, so to speak.

I don’t intend to air any dirty laundry in public here. I think the example I just gave is probably sufficient to illustrate my sinfulness. Think about it. What would you think if you had a friend, and you had given that friend food, clothing, and a place to live? What if you had arranged for that friend to meet the girl of his dreams, given him two beautiful children, and had surrounded him with many other wonderful people to love him? And what if you had gone even further, and had bought that friend virtually everything his heart desired, whether he needed it or not? What would you think if that friend then said to you “Ya know, my life is boring and it kinda sucks”? Wouldn’t you be offended? Wouldn’t you, in fact, be shocked and appalled at the insensitivity and ungratefulness of your friend? Would you want to give anything else to that person? Would you die to save that person’s life after that? Would you sacrifice your own beloved son’s life for that person?

That’s what God did for me. Even though I’m an ungrateful wretch who doesn’t deserve even a speck of the blessings that God has given me, he sacrificed his son for me. He saved my life. He set me free from prison. He has prepared a place for me to live with him in paradise for all eternity. It is a blessing so great, that even if it was all he ever did for me, it would be far more than enough.

I have nothing to complain about. Even if I think I have something to complain about, I’m wrong. I am truly and richly blessed. Praise the Lord.

It wasn’t until after I started writing this essay that I realized how timely it is. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the annual holiday where we Americans remind ourselves of how good we have it by eating everything that’s not nailed down. I would urge you, whether you’re an American or not, to take time to reflect on your blessings. I don’t know what they are. I know I have it good compared to most people in the world. You may have to really think long and hard to come up with any blessings. But try. Remember how you’ve been blessed, even if it’s not very much at all. And I pray that you would come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, the source of all good things in the universe. And may he indeed richly bless each and every one of you.

Windows Phone Is Ruining My Life

I have a bit of an obsessive personality. Plus, I’m not a very patient person. So when something new and shiny comes out that I’m interested in owning, it makes my life very difficult. Because I want it NOW, and because I can’t seem to think about anything else.

Unfortunately, Microsoft just released something both new and shiny, and I want it, and so my thoughts are consumed with it, and that means you have to be subjected to a rambling blog post about it, because I can’t seem to think about anything else right now.

This new shiny thing is a mobile operating system called Windows Phone 7. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound very exciting. But trust me, it is. It’s kind of like Christmas and my birthday wrapped up together in cake. It’s difficult to explain what’s so wonderful about it, and I don’t really want this post to turn into an advertisement, so just go here and find out more about it yourself.

In any case, my wife is thoroughly sick of hearing me talk about Windows Phone, so I’m going to ramble about it on my blog instead, and then maybe I can get some of these thoughts out of my system. So here we go.

First, some facts. There are currently three Windows Phones available in the US. On AT&T, you can get the Samsung Focus and the HTC Surround, and T-Mobile has the HTC HD7. Two more have been announced, and should be available before the end of the year. One is the LG Quantum, which will be an AT&T phone, and the other is the Dell Venue Pro, which may or may not be on T-Mobile.

Microsoft has pretty strict minimum hardware requirements for Windows Phones, so there isn’t much of a difference between each phone. But there are a few differences. For example, every phone has to have a screen with an 800 x 480 resolution. However, the Samsung Focus and the Dell Venue Pro both have a Super AMOLED screen, which provides a much more impressive image than the LCD screens that the other three phones have. So that’s kind of important to me.

Also, the LG Quantum and the Dell Venue Pro have physical keyboards, while the other three do not. And the HTC Surround has surround sound speakers. Which are not all that impressive, apparently. I have not yet been able to see any of these devices in person yet, so everything I’m talking about here is information I’ve gotten from other sources.

My dilemma is really twofold. First of all, I need to figure out how I’m going to get one of these things. Secondly, I need to figure out which one I’m going to get.

Obviously the first problem is more important. Cell phones are strange things. They don’t really cost all that much – as long as you sign a two year contract with a service provider. And those service plans? Yeah, they cost a lot. And if you don’t get a service plan? Yeah, then the phones cost a lot a lot.

For example, I could get an HTC Surround or an LG Quantum from Amazon for a grand total of… one penny. Not bad, huh? Oh, but then I have to basically sign my life away to AT&T. The cheapest service plan costs $55 a month. That includes a whopping 450 minutes, no text messages, and only 200 MB of data. Oh, and by the way, AT&T does not provide any service where I live. So I’d be paying $55 a month for a service that I cannot use. Not to mention that the Samsung Focus is the phone I really want, but it is currently out of stock.

The situation with T-Mobile is both worse and better. There is only one phone available on T-Mobile right now, the HTC HD7. It’s not quite as nice as the other phones and it costs $150 on Amazon right now. But T-Mobile at least has the option to only pay for data, and not get a voice plan. Which would be good, cause I never talk to anyone on the phone anyway. Oh but wait… T-Mobile doesn’t offer service in my area either.

So it’s really kind of pointless for me to get one of these phones with a service plan. Fortunately, it is possible to buy them without a service plan. (What would be the point of this, you ask? Well, I’d basically be using it as a handheld computer anyway. They do have Wi-Fi, so I could still connect to the internet that way, plus I hardly ever leave the house anyway.) Unfortunately, they cost around $500. For that much money, I could get a halfway decent laptop.

So what do I do? Buy a phone for a penny, but get saddled for two years with an exorbitant fee for a service I can’t use? Or save up and spend $500 next year for a phone with no service?

Of course, once I figure out how I’m going to get a phone, I need to figure out what phone to get. They all have their pros and cons. The Samsung Focus is the one that I was interested in at first. It’s the thinnest, and it has the best screen and the best camera, but it only has half the RAM and storage space of the other phones, plus it has no physical keyboard, which is something I think I would like to have.

I think the one I really want is the Dell Venue Pro. It’s got an awesome Super AMOLED screen like the Samsung Focus, and it’s got 16 GB of storage, plus it’s got a physical keyboard. It’s not actually available yet, so I don’t know anything about the camera, but it still seems like the one I want. So I guess that’s not really that big of a problem.

In any case, I have no money right now, so I guess I just need to be patient and see what happens. Maybe Microsoft will release something like an iPod Touch – a device that runs the Windows Phone OS but isn’t actually a phone. That way I don’t have to worry about a two-year contract, plus it probably will be quite a bit cheaper than an actual phone. Now, I just have to wait. Yay.

My Life Is Uninteresting

I have come to the realization that I live a boring life. This fact hit me the other day when I was reading my favorite blog, Hyperbole and a Half. (By the way, please go there and make her more famous, but be warned that she’s not afraid of “the f-word” – although I don’t think she’s used it as much lately.) The girl who writes that blog tells these stories from her life that are some of the most absolutely hilarious things I’ve ever read. She apparently also attracts enough visitors that she actually makes money off of her writing. Which boggles my mind.

So I thought to myself, maybe I should start writing about crazy stories from my life too. Then maybe, just maybe, I would be as popular as her and I too could make money from my blog. But then I realized… I don’t really have any crazy stories from my past. I have, in fact, lived a pretty boring life.

This puts me in a pretty unenviable position. See, nobody reads my blog. In fact, unless you are my mother or possibly my wife, you’re not even reading my blog. I believe my last post, which I felt was one of the best and funniest things I’ve written so far, has gotten a grand total of 5 views. That’s really not very many. And I’m not really sure what I could write about that would improve my visibility in the blogoverse.

Part of the problem, though, is that I have no idea how to promote myself or my blog. I don’t really know how to get the word out. It could be that I really am writing spectacular stuff. It’s just that nobody knows about it, because I’m kind of off in my own little corner of the internet, quietly doing my thing.

I wonder what popular bloggers do to promote their work? Do they spend a lot of time commenting on other people’s blogs and linking back to their own? Do they spend time on message boards and chat rooms and stuff, telling people all about all the great blog posts they write? Or do they just have lots of friends who read it and then the friends tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on and so forth?

I certainly hope it’s not the first option. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to shamelessly promote myself in that fashion. I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with internet forums in the past, as well. I tend to have pretty thin skin when it comes to harsh criticism, and the internet can be a really harsh place indeed. Somebody once told me that I was an idiot just because I liked a certain character in a certain video game. And that’s pretty mild compared to some of the insults I’ve seen directed at other people, and for things just as meaningless.

Actually, that kind of makes me wonder if I really want this blog to be well known after all. I mean, I like (positive) attention, and I’d love to be able to make a living off of this blog, but I don’t know how well I’d handle it if people tore into me and called me naughty words for really trivial things, like not using a comma in the right place, or being a big fan of Final Fantasy XIII.

It’s not that I have a problem with criticism in general. If you, as a reader of this blog, have a legitimate problem with something I do, I want to know. I won’t promise that I’ll change it, but I will promise to take your suggestion seriously, and if I don’t want to implement it, I also promise to tell you exactly why. But I really don’t have a stomach for the sort of mindless flaming that goes on all over the internet. I almost think I’d rather continue to toil in obscurity as opposed to attracting the attention of trolls.

In any case, all this worrying about flaming trolls is probably just me trying to reassure myself that it’s okay that nobody reads my blog. After all, I still have no idea how to promote myself or my blog, and even if I did, I probably don’t have the time or the energy to commit myself to it anyway. I basically need to just be content with having my little blog and not worrying about whether anyone reads it or not. After all, the goal of life is not to become rich and famous. It is to live for the praise and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is something that the Lord has really been impressing upon me lately, this idea of being content with what I have. For example, in the past few days I have become obsessed (or more obsessed than usual, anyway) with the idea of getting a smartphone. All of my thoughts lately seem to be consumed with schemes involving coming up with $500 so I can buy a Samsung Focus. I find that I continually need to calm myself down and pray that I stop worrying and just enjoy the blessings I already have.

It is hard though. I keep thinking that if I had a real job that made real money, and I wasn’t just a stay-at-home dad, it would be easy for me to come up with $500 and get that wonderful little gadget with the 4″ Super AMOLED screen and the 5 megapixel camera with HD video recording and the this, that, and the other thing. But I know that God has put me here for a reason. And I know that I am doing exactly what God wants me to do with my life. And I know that if he wants me to own a Samsung Focus, then I will own a Samsung Focus. And if he doesn’t want me to own one, I won’t. And that is okay.

So in conclusion, I am not famous, and I am (mostly) okay with that. Also, tell your friends about my blog!

Somebody Is Stalking Me

I have a most perplexing dilemma. Allow me to set the stage for you. Every week, on Tuesday, I put my garbage can full of garbage at the end of my driveway, and a garbage truck comes and takes the garbage away and leaves behind the empty garbage can. Usually I pick up the garbage can that day or the next day and put it in front of the steps leading to the side door of my house. Then I put more garbage in it, and the cycle continues.

Unless I leave the empty garbage can at the end of my driveway until Thursday.

If I do that, the garbage can disappears.

Perplexing, you say? I couldn’t agree with you more. But I’m not done yet.

The first time this happened, I passed it off as somebody wanting a garbage can but not wanting to have to pay for it. Irritating, but whatever. Garbage cans aren’t that expensive. Unfortunately, I can’t remember when this happened, but it was probably a couple of years ago.

Then, sometime later, it happened again. Once again, I just assumed that somebody was being cheap and our can seemed like a good fit.

Two weeks ago, it happened for the third time. This time, I began to get a little suspicious. When I took my son to school, I made sure to look at all my neighbors’ driveways,  and I saw plenty of garbage cans just laying around. Somebody was stealing ours, and not anyone else’s. Strange.

Someone suggested that our garbage cans were being stolen because we had nice ones with wheels and such. So I decided to try an experiment. The garbage can we had left over is pretty much the worst garbage can you could imagine. It’s made of cheap, flimsy plastic. It has no wheels. It’s not particularly big, so it doesn’t hold very much trash, which is a problem if you produce a lot of trash. It also has no handles, so when it’s full of garbage, it’s very difficult to manuever. I figured that if somebody was stealing our garbage can because they wanted a nice one, then they’d give this one a wide berth. Not to mention that they’d just taken our can the week before.

So after the garbage men emptied it and left it at the end of my driveway, I deliberately left it there. I even took the lid so it would be as unappealing as possible. Tuesday went by and it was still there. Wednesday went by, and it was still there. But on Thursday morning, it was gone.

Apparently somebody is deliberately waiting until Thursday to see if we leave our garbage can out that long, and if we do, they snatch it. This does not seem to be rational behavior to me. Clearly the quality of the garbage can doesn’t matter. That very same Thursday when my crappy can was stolen, there were plenty of nice, big cans with wheels and handles at the ends of various driveways on my street.

This situation makes me want to experiment. I am tempted to buy a new garbage can, leave it out all day Tuesday, and most of the day Wednesday, and then bring it in on Wednesday night. Then, after Thursday has passed, on Friday morning I will again put the garbage can at the end of my driveway. Will it be stolen? Or will it be left alone since it wasn’t there on Thursday? It would almost be worth potentially sacrificing a garbage can to find out.

The most logical thing to do, of course, would be to put a hidden camera at the end of my driveway and leave a garbage can out on Wednesday night as bait. Then I would have videographic evidence of the culprit, which would be awesome. Because I can’t quite fathom who would be doing this to us.

I do have a hunch, but I have absolutely no evidence to back up my hunch. Nor do I want to name names in a public forum such as this, because I wouldn’t want to be accused of slander. Let’s just say this person is not exactly a rational individual. Hence the reason why I would suspect him or her of this not exactly rational act.

As I may have mentioned before, my wife is a teacher. The kids in her class are fascinated by our predicament. They have suggested various solutions, some that are more feasible, some that are less. One kid suggested that we set up a pulley so we can reel the garbage can back up to it’s home in front of the stairs without actually leaving the house. Nice idea, but probably too complicated to actually pull off.

Other ideas included loaning us a dog to scare off the garbage can thief and setting up a hidden camera, which I already mentioned. At least one kid actually offered to come and hide in the bushes all night so they could see who the thief is. This idea in particular resonates with me. Perhaps I’ll actually be the one to do it.

Like I said, I have a hunch about who is doing this, and this hunch involves a certain mentally imbalanced person of whom I am aware. It has also been suggested to me that perhaps someone is doing this as a prank. Kind of a strange prank, though. I mean, what would really be the point of stealing somebody’s garbage can every Thursday? Not much of a prank, if you ask me.

In any case, I bought a new garbage can. And it cost $12.50. So I’m probably not going to do any experimenting with it. Because having to spend $12.50 on a new garbage can every week could get expensive. I’m just going to make sure that I bring it in right away every Tuesday. And the crazy garbage can thief, whoever he or she may be, is just going to have to get used to not stealing our garbage can. Sucks to be them.