We had a nice Christmas with family this year. Christmas Eve was spent with our side; Christmas day with Eric's side. Ann and I bought each other some games (see the Ticket to Ride review below; others to follow). I also got a number of books (3 on evangelism, Adinirum Judson's biography, and 1 on leadership by MacArthur) and the final Lord of the Rings DVD. It was nice to spend time with family, especially since our opportunities to do this will be limited soon.

Live Nativity

Every year my father's church runs a live nativity scene just before Christmas. We took the kids over last week and played a small part. Can you find all four of us in this picture?

Bethel Baptist Church (Hampton, VA)

The Kristo

Here's a neat use of Flash technology to tell people who Jesus is. Take a look:

The Kristo

Ticket To Ride

We picked up a new board game called "Ticket To Ride." It's a train game where you lay down trains to complete tracks from one US city to another. It's a pretty easy game, involves a lot of luck, and moves quickly. Everyone who has played it has liked it. It's a good game for families and friends both.

Ticket To Ride review


At our church when a child turns five years old they join their parents in the worship service. So as Jacen's now five, he's in there with us every Sunday morning. We're trying to teach him to sing the praise and worship songs with us, but that's been going slow. But the last couple weeks, his reading really improved, even to the point where he can read the words on the overhead as we sing them. Now he can read and sing with us.

So on Sunday Jacen's singing along, and like any five-year-old boy he's singing heartily. He's not on key, he sings too fast, and he has no rhythm. But as the three of us were singing together, it occurred to me that this is what worship is -- it's a family coming together to praise God. As bad as it must have sounded to the people in front of us, I bet God was pleased.

Liberty Baptist Church


Now it really feels like we are moving. The majority of our possessions are either given away or packed up in boxes. It's still a bit surreal; one of these days it's going to hit me that we're leaving this house in less than two weeks. I realized earlier that I've lived in this house for 6 years, which is longer than any other house I've ever lived in (my father was in the Air Force, so we moved every 3 years or so). Still, we're looking forward to moving in with Dad for a couple months and then moving on to seminary. The best is yet to come!


In my class on evangelism, Dr. Reid gave some advice on finding accountability partners. He said we need to find three types of people to be accountable with:

1) A Paul - someone who is more spiritual and mature than we are, so we have someone to answer to

2) A Barnabus - someone who is an encourager, so we have someone who will believe in us

3) A Timothy - someone who who looks up to us, so we have someone to pour our life into

I like this! Guys especially, let me encourage you to find an accountability group.


Thought #1: Last year our Pastor, Danny Forshee, preached a message wherein he said Baptists are known more for what we're against than what we're for. We're against homosexuality, against premarital sex, against abortion, and so on. Now he's not saying it's wrong to be against those things, for the Bible says that each is sin against a holy God. But he saying that we should be for things, particularly for loving people. Sometimes we should love on people just because we can.

Thought #2: In Philippians 1:3-5, Paul said:

I thank my God...for your fellowship in the gospel...

Fellowship is the Greek word "koinonia," and it means working together to do something; in this case, the church at Philippi was working together with Paul to share the Good News.

Put them together: So our class created a Koinonia Team, whose job it is to love on people and share the Gospel at the same time. Last night we went to a local neighborhood and gave out 50 bags of bean soup mix. They contained instructions for making the soup and a Gospel tract. How different would it be if the people who are our church were known for how we simply loved people?

John 3:16  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

No Going Back

Today we signed a contract on our house. If everything goes as planned, we'll be moving out at the end of October. For the first time it feels like we are matching our words of commitment to God with our deeds. For the record: God is good; all the time. We got more than we asked for, and God gave us His peace. How real Philippians 4:6-7 have been to us this past 2 weeks:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


The DVDs for my first classes -- Basic Evangelism and Baptist History -- arrived yesterday. I guess that means life now goes from just really busy to incredibly busy. Despite the demands on my time, I'm really looking forward to these classes, particularly the Evangelism class. I know I don't do a very good job sharing my faith with others, and I want to do better. I listened to the first Evangelism lecture last night, and Dr. Reid had a great quote -- our passion for witnessing comes out of our love for Christ. The logical conclusion to this assertion is that few disciples of Christ (myself included) love Him much. God give me a love for you, a love that will tell others about You!


I got to go to Hawaii on a business trip. Yes, I managed to squeeze in a little sight-seeing; no, I didn't get to take Ann. We never had peace about her coming along. At first we just thought it was because it was so expensive. Now we know it's because God was helping us save our money for seminary. God is good. Look at the menu on the left or click here:

Hawaii Trip

I'm full

Dad came over for dinner last night. As we were nearly done, Jacen asked for another BBQ brisket sandwich (ask Ann for the recipe, 'cause it's delicious!). Dad told Jacen to save some room for ice cream, as he was taking us out to Dairy Queen for dessert. Jacen smiled real big and said "I'm full!" (Related note to self: don't let the kids get Dilly Bars when it's warm out; they make way too much mess.)

Adultery Prevention

Allan Blume, Senior Pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, NC, spoke in our church last Sunday about moral purity. He mentioned one study that caught my attention: someone surveyed 400-some Christian men who had committed adultery. They found that all had these four things in common: 1) they were not participating in an accountability group, 2) they were not have a regular time of Bible reading and prayer, 3) they were counseling women, and 4) and they thought something like this could never happen to them.

Hey guys, have you got all four of these areas covered?

2 Samuel 11


"On behalf of Southeastern's Faculty, I am happy to inform you that your application for admission has been approved..." Woohoo! I'm in.


No more training wheels

We were out taking a family walk last week when I saw a kid younger than Jacen riding a bike without training wheels. It was more than I could take. The next day I took the training wheels off of Jacen's bike and began to teach my boy how to ride a bike. After one session, I was pretty much certain I had made a colossal mistake. After five sessions, he was riding on his own. God gave me Jacen to teach me patience.

Salesman of the quarter?

As we expect to be downsizing sometime in the next few months, Ann decided to hold a garage sale to get rid of our extra stuff. I've decided that attics are actually evil things to have -- they allow you to accumulate all kinds of stuff that you should really give away or sell.

The kids wanted to do something, so Ann made some cookies and zucchini bread for them to sell. $7 in a 2 hours ain't bad.

Reasons for believing

Many people are looking for God, but have some tough questions they want answered first. "Can I know for certain that God exists? How do I know if the Bible is totally trustworthy? Was Jesus God or just a good teacher?" Answering these kinds of questions is known as apologetics. In his book "Reasons for Believing," Frank Harber does a great job answering these questions and others like them. If you're looking for God, I highly recommend this book. If you have friends that are looking for God, buy a copy of the book and give it to them.


Full-time service

God has been working on our hearts for a while, and a couple weeks ago Ann and I surrendered our lives to full-time Christian service. I will take a couple seminary classes online in the fall, and then if God doesn't call us in another direction, I will go full-time in the spring. I am currently enrolling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. I will be pursuing a Masters of Divinity, a pretty common degree for people going into ministry. Although it will be hard to leave our family and church home, we know God has great plans in store for us.

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."


I've been flocked

Somebody flocked my yard for my birthday today. When I went out to jog this morning, I found my front yard full of these little, pink flamingoes. Apparently it's a rather strange type of fundraiser for a missions trip at our church. Anyhow, to whomever flocked me, thank you!

John Hooper

I'm reading through the book The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs. I'm not sure why I've never read it before, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it now. It's an encouragement, and I highly recommend it. I've just finished the life and death of John Hooper. Have you ever wondered what the epitat on your tombstone will say? Here's how Foxe summed up Hooper's life -- "He was earnest in his doctrine, eloquent in his speech, perfect in the Scriptures, and untiring in his efforts." Wow, what an example! That's what I want to be said about me.

Emmy's Three!

Time continues to fly. Emmy turned three last Saturday, and we had a big birthday party for her in the backyard. Lots of friends, food, games, and presents. Maybe everything is slower the first time, but it seems to me that Emmy is growing up quicker than Jacen did.


In our house the heater and air conditioner are in one big unit located behind our house. The original unit was about 14 years old and at the end of its expected life, so we saved up and bought a new one. It's a monster, but I think we got it just in time as it's been warm already this spring. If you live in the area and need a new system, I know a great company to buy one from.


I have a 35 gallon fish tank at work. When we moved office buildings last fall, the fish didn't survive the move. I've been wanting for a while to try an African cichlid tank, so I'm working on that now. I've done quite a bit of reading online (how did we survive before Google and the internet?) and finally settled on two species: labidochromis caeruleus (aka yellow lab cichlid) and pseudotropheus socolofi (aka powder blue cichlid). Both are fairly small and non-aggressive, at least for cichlids. There are from Lake Malawi in Africa, and they like a lot of hiding places in the tank. While in DC this week, I picked up a couple synthetic stumps with lots of hidie-holes. Damages? $100 for the pair. Ouch. But it really fills up the tank and looks nice.


A few weeks ago we went to Karen and Eric's to chop down some small gumball trees. Dad orchestrated the whole thing, and Eric and I put in all the labor. :-) Despite a couple tense moments, everything worked out well.

Pop-up Blocker

Uncle Johnny -- There are a number of pop-up blockers out there, but I prefer to use the Google Toolbar. It works well, it's free, it's stable, and it includes a really easy way to search the web with my favorite search engine -- Google. To install the Toolbar, go to the link below and follow the instructions on the screen.

Google Toolbar


When I was in Colorado Springs last week, a co-worker and I went to several gaming stores in town. At one really nice one downtown, I found a game I had been looking for -- Attika. It's set in the time of the Greek city-states, and the goal is to either build your entire city or build enough to connect two shrines. The game has been elements similar to Settlers of Catan, so if you like that game, you'll probably like Attika. It plays well with 2, 3, and 4, as there is no trading element to the game.

Boardgamegeek's Info on Attika


I was in Colorado Springs last week for a business trip, so while in the neighborhood I took a day off to go skiing. Some guys from the MITRE office took me to Breck and showed me around. What a blast! Way better than Snowshoe, hands down. There were so many more runs, and the runs were much longer. Plus they had a bunch of ungroomed stuff way on the top of the bottom, which was really hard but a blast to ski through. Of course at 12,000 feet I was gasping for breath much of the time, but it was all worth it. Hopefully I can find a way to go next year.

Info on Breckenridge

Building my own computer

I'm in the process of building my own desktop again, the third one I've built. I have never had so many problems! First the BIOS was set for an 8X AGP video card, so my 4X card wouldn't work. I had to borrow an old PCI video card just to get to the BIOS. Then I couldn't get the BIOS to see my 40 GB hard drive. I finally had to borrow a drive with a newer interface, and then the BIOS was happy. (Thanks, Allen, for swapping hard drives with me!) Finally, while installing Windows, I kept getting Blue Screens of Death. After talking with MWave's tech support (where I bought the motherboard, processor, and memory), I think I have a bad stick of RAM. When I took one out, everything works fine. Anyhow, I now have my new computer up, and I'm in the process of installing the software. Whew!

Spring has sprung

Ah, the flowers are blooming! I love this time of year. The daffodils are blooming and the hyacinths and anemone have started as well. God's creation is a magnificent testimony to His creative power and artistry.

The Passion

Ann and I saw the movie today, so I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts on it.

The bad: The only part of the movie I didn't like was extra emphasis it placed upon Mary, the mother of Jesus. In one scene she supernaturally knows where Jesus is, and John repeatedly refers to her as Mother with a capital 'M' (oddly enough, Jesus still refers to her as woman with a lowercase 'w'). This emphasis is consistent with the Roman Catholic church's teachings of Mary, claiming she is sinless and a mediator between man and a wrathful Jesus. This view is heretical. Although Mary trusted God and most likely understood who her Son was, Mary was still a sinner like the rest of us. Nothing in the Bible suggests that she was without sin; she needed the salvation her Son provided, just as all humanity does. Furthermore Mary is never depicted as a mediator in the Bible; that role is expressly given to Jesus, who mediates on our behalf before God.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

The unecessary: A Satan character appears in various scenes, motivating various characters to sin and generally making sure things are going his way. Although I have no doubt that Satan worked mightily to accomplish the death of Christ, thinking to thwart God's plan, the portrayal of him in the movie was not strictly necessary and a bit theatrical for my tastes.

The good: By and large the movie was good. It was Scripturally accurate. It used flashbacks well to recall various points in Christ's life and teaching. It placed a high emphasis on how Jesus related to people; He was always interested in people, even while dying. The scourging, the crown of thorns, and the crucifixion were all done very well. [Too well done, perhaps; be careful taking small children to the movie.]

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. What was my personal response to this movie? In the class I am teaching at my church, we are studying Philippians 2, which describes the descent of Christ, the steps He went through that led Him to the cross. As I watched this movie and cried, I could not help but thank God for the love I saw demonstrated before my eyes -- Jesus died for me. Here are two quotes from commentator Gordon Fee on this passage:

"What is thus being urged upon the Philippians is not a new view of Jesus, but a reinforcement, on the basis of Paul's view of the crucifixion that in the cross God's true character, his outlandish, lavish expression of love, was fully manifested."

"Here is where the one who as 'equal with God' has most fully revealed the truth about God: that God is love and that his love expresses itself in self-sacrifice - cruel, humiliating death on a cross - for the sake of those he love."

So what response could someone have who is not a disciple of Jesus Christ? Can they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus just from watching this movie? The movie is certainly not a study of systematic theology or soteriology; it did not end with someone telling the Roman's road. Despite this, yes, I think someone could be saved. In the flashbacks to the Last Supper, Jesus makes two key statements.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Matthew 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

I believe this verses are sufficient for someone to understand that they need to be saved, why Jesus died on the cross, and perhaps how to be saved. At the very least it should cause people to ask more questions, which is an opportunity for additional explanation from the Bible.

Would you like more information on why Jesus died? First, read this:

God's Plan

Then call me or email me at james @


Whenever I'm in DC, I try to stop by one of my favorite gaming stores to pick up a new game to play. I found Guillotine on sale, so I picked it up. It's a card game, and Ann and I figured out how to play in less than 5 minutes. It's not a really difficult strategy game, certainly simpler than Settlers or Carcassonne. Nearly all the rules are on the cards, so there's very little to remember. We played it several times and enjoyed it immensely. It played well with 2 and 3 players; we'll try with 5 tonight. If you're looking for a simple game for those times you don't want to think too hard, Guillotine's a good choice.

Guillotine Game Review

PS: Uh, I know you're not going to believe this, but I didn't really plan it so that my review of Guillotine came in the same post where the picture is of me chopping firewood. Honestly.

PT Cruiser

I had a business meeting in DC last week, so I rented a car from National at the airport. One of the cars available was a PT Cruiser, and since I had never driven one before, I took it. On the outside, the car is kinda neat. It's got a distinctive, retroish sorta look. But the inside left me wanting. It was surprisingly not comfortable. It was square, it was boring, and it didn't have much room. And it was way underpowered. Maybe this was the super-cheap version for rental companies, but the engine was pitiful compared to the normal mid-size cars I rent. Wimpy. Anyhow, cool to look at, but I wouldn't buy one myself.


I took Jacen skiing on Snowshoe in West Virginia last week. We drove there Wed afternoon (did you know a 6 hour trip takes 7 hours with a 5 year old?). I put him in ski school Thurs morning, while I attempted to remember how to ski. When I came back, he could get up on the skis and go down the hill, but he couldn't stop or steer. I decided more schooling was in order, so I paid for ski school for Thurs afternoon and Fri morning. I hit the black diamonds Thurs afternoon, then went to pick him up. He could sorta stop, but not real well, and he still couldn't go where he wanted. I dropped him off one last time Fri morning, while I tried a few jumps on their terrain park (I'm lousy at jumping). When I got back, he was much improved. After 3 trips with me down the bunny slopes, he could mostly stop and mostly steer. Good enough -- we headed off to the greens. What a blast! For the first few trips, he held onto one of my ski poles while he worked on his stopping (we used to call this snow-plowing; they call it making the pizza wedge in his school). Then I turned him loose, trying to get him to zigzag down the mountain. He could do it, but most of the time he wanted to point his skis south, go fast, and then crash. I rewarded his crashes by stopping hard and showering him with snow. He loved it! It was really a lot of fun to ski with Jacen. A few more years of ski school and I'm sure he'll be better than I am. This will become an annual event.

Next stop -- Breck in March.

New Room

I painted two weekends ago, and last weekend Emmy's new furniture came. It does fill up the room, but it fills it vertically, giving Emmy 12 drawers and 6 shelves -- space she needs in her small bedroom. The furniture is from Trendwood; it's not real fancy, but it's solid. Grandpa Garriss came over to help take down the ceiling fan and replace it with a simple light. The fan was too close to her bed, and we thought it was a safety hazard. There's still a little bit more work to do, but it's mostly done.

Admit it. You are jealous of the green walls, aren't you?

Small World

One member of my ABF class (ABF stands for Adult Bible Fellowship; it's what we call Sunday School in my church) printed nice-looking business cards for our class and gave them to all the members. The idea is to use them as a tool to invite people to church and to our class. One day last week, my wife got a phone call. Someone had found a briefcase with a Bible in it, but there was no indication who they belonged to. The only clue was one of these business cards for our class, so the lady called asking if we were missing a briefcase and Bible. It wasn't ours, so Ann sent an email to our class, expecting it belonged to one of our members. On Sunday, we found out the truth. A member of our class found them in road two Sundays ago. It looked like someone had put them on top of their car and drove off. So she collected the briefcase and Bible, put the business card inside, and then put them back politely near the edge of the road the following week. We still don't know whose stuff this is, but if you're missing a briefcase...

Multiplayer Fun

What do you get when you mixes 4 XBoxes, 4 TVs, 4 copies of Halo, 10 controllers, 65 feet of network cables, 1 router, and 10 not-entirely-sane people pumped up on pizza, chips, and soda? You get 7 hours of multiplayer fun! I invited friends from work, church, and the neighborhood bring their XBoxes over last night and have some fun. And did we ever! It was super simple to connect everything together; you certainly didn't need to be a network engineer. We put 2 in the living room and 2 in Jacen's room, then ran cables down the hall. This allowed us to play 5-on-5 team games like capture the flag. We started around 6pm and finally quit around 1am. We'll have to do this again.

Good Help

To help break up all the green in Emmy's room, I'm painting a small bookshelf white to match the trim. Jacen and Emmy decided they wanted to help, so I found a way to get them involved.

Brighter Is Better

We've been wanting to redecorate Emmy's room for a while in a ladybug pattern, as "ladybug" is my pet name for her. The holdup has been finding the right furniture to buy. Most kid's furniture is just cheap junk, or it costs over a $1,000. We finally found a Trendwood set, very similar to what we got for Jacen's room. So that meant it was time to paint, which is what I did this weekend. You can get a sense of the color we chose from the picture below.

Blue Screen of Death

I've been getting blue screens for quite a while on my desktop computer, an Athlon 1400. I tried a number of things, but couldn't get it to stop. I suspected that my memory had gone bad, but I didn't want to spend $150 on more memory to swap it out and test it. A friend recommended that I try some memory testing software, so I found a free one called Memtest86 on the Net. I used Easy CD Creator to burn the ISO image, popped it into my desktop, and turned it on. It started running the tests, and sure enough it found over 640,000 errors. I have two DIMMs, so I re-ran the tests one at a time. One of them had the errors; the other did not. I left the good one in, and the computer hasn't blue screened for a couple days. Very handy software.

Memtest86 homepage
ISO images suitable for creating a bootable Memtest86 CDROM

Learning To Pray

"Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep..." Did you learn that prayer as a kid? Would it surprise you that I have no intention of teaching it to my kids? Prayer is not reciting canned quotes. Prayer is talking to a very personal God. I want my kids to learn to pray by talking to God, and I want them to learn by following my example. So when we pray together at night, we talk to God. Jacen has been praying like this for some time, but Emmy has just started in the last week. It's so wonderful to hear her thanking God for her Mommy and Daddy and Jacen and her ladybug bed and so on. She even prays for Grandpa.

Learning to Read

Ann is homeschooling Jacen, using A Beka's K-5 (5 year old kindergarten) material. Because I'm at work during the day, I don't get to experience a lot of this process. This week Ann started something new. She gave me one of Jacen's practice books and told me to let Jacen read to me -- a wonderful idea! I get to see the fruits of their labor and get involved in my son's education (something I think every father should do, especially for their sons). We were reading words like jump and help and belt. My son is really starting to understand the phonics. It's a pleasure to see the lights coming on in his head.

A Beka Books

Puerto Rico

We had some friends over Sunday evening, and I got my first chance to play the game Puerto Rico. It was pretty much what I had expected, based upon the reviews I had read. It was more complicated than Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne. The interaction among a players, a strength of these other two, was noticably less in Puerto Rico. That's not to say there was none. In the game, each player builds a small empire in the developing island. Different roles, such as the mayor or the craftsman, allow you to build different parts of your empire. The role you select helps you, but it also helps your opponent. We spent most of the game just figuring out the rules, so I have no real sense of strategy yet or how fun the game is. Certainly it will take longer to play than Settlers or Carc and will require more thinking, but time will tell if it is as fun as they are.

Pictures and reviews
Game rules

Pictures from JCPennys

Ok, we got a number of pictures of Jasen and Emmy done at JCPennys recently. I'll be posting a few of them online.

Testing w.bloggar

Ok, I downloaded and installed w.bloggar to see if it's any better than running through the Blogger default web browser interface. This is my first test to see.

Emmy Is Cute Today

Well today Emmy ate many waffles.

Test from Google Bar

I'm not really sure what happens when I use this, so here we go...

Adding a photo

Ok, this family blog is more about pictures than words, so can I add a photo easily?

Another Test

Ok, the first time I tried to post something using Blogger, it didn't show up on my website. Here's my second attempt.