Monday, May 28, 2007

Working through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has been a little slower going than first expected. There are the obvious hang ups (the business of life, moving nearly one thousand miles, starting a new job, etc). Then, there’s also the not so obvious hang up of definition (i.e. translating from English back to Greek for a more inclusive understanding of what I’m reading when I read it).

There’s been a lot of good in taking the time for definition, however, as it has reminded me of how I do take words for granted rather than dwelling on their inherent and implicit meanings. In addition, it reminds me of how some words (maybe in their over usage or flippant understandings?) have lost the significance, breadth, and depth on me (i.e., reading over a text and glossing over what it’s really saying all for the sake of “just reading”).

In the very act of translation, we may lose some of the force of what was originally said. Being the case, I will put out the caveat that we are not to mistrust a translation simply because it is a translation. In the vein of Christianity, we can believe that though we may not (at first) understand the intricacies of meanings behind the words we are reading, we can still yet trust that the Holy Spirit is real and that He will enlighten, penetrate, and correct our hearts and misguidance to the end that Christ is made more beautiful in and through our lives.

A little sharing regarding three verses in the Beatitudes (and hopefully, a reprieve from my “How To’s”).

Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Generally speaking, I would have seen this as “Blessed are those who really desire holiness because God will give them satisfaction.” Honestly, in breaking apart these words I was kind of blown away. Spiros (the main resource I use in my translation as I can’t yet understand or read Greek) gives some great insight. First, “Those who hunger” is altogether one phrase and is more correctly identified as “Those who starve, are famished; to metaphorically hunger for something other than literal food.

As a middle class American, it is hard to understand the impetus that starvation is for action to someone who is starving. The implication is that Christ is not speaking of mere desire, but of a deeply seated and desperate desire (hunger) for righteousness. The implication is that when one is starving for something, there’s not a whole lot that can avert the pains of starvation apart from satisfaction.

So the Holy Spirit reminds me, “You aren’t starving for righteousness, but you should.”

Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Matthew 5:7 is the only verse that uses this sense of merciful (eleēmōn) to reference believers in the New Testament of the Bible (according to Spiros). It means compassionate, benevolently merciful involving thought and action and is generally relegated in speaking of God’s mercy to us. As such, mercy is much more than giving a sandwich to the homeless person who asks you for extra change. Mercy, as defined, is a planned and intentional action for the benefit and well being of others when there is a recognized need (i.e. compassion). Therein, it is much more than “I forgive you.”

Matthew 5:12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus tells us that we are blessed when we are persecuted for his sake (see the preceding verse 11). If (or when) we are persecuted for His sake, the translation of verse 12 could be elaborated upon by saying “Joy to you! Be glad in an exuberant and absurd way!”

I don’t think that it is something that I can quite understand, because when I feel wronged I am not prone to turn the other cheek and rest in quiet faith. Instead, my actions will more often dictate that I simply don’t trust that God has a plan for the situations I am placed in and that there is more truth in chaos rather than in a God who has a perfect and exacting plan for my life. In essence, it’s easier to know what the truth is than it is to believe the truth.

Sometimes hope comes with the knowledge that I’m wrong, however.

I can hope in a Christ that speaks the Beatitudes so that I might be drawn to Him and changed through His power rather than a Christ that speaks and says, “Now do this, or else.” The same grace that opens my heart to see this Jesus is the same grace that allows me to accept the broken world around me and to not expect the very thing that it is unable to produce apart from God’s grace: righteousness. When I drive through the streets of my broken city, I can lament with those who are not part of my family in the knowledge that in and of myself, I am lacking too. In the vein of that knowledge, I can also (from the depths of my own iniquity) point to one who is better than us, but who became like us so that we could be better than ourselves.

In short, the Beatitudes remind us that we suck. But they also remind us that there is a God who came to us to save us, that there is a transcendent hope beyond what we consider as tangible, and that there is a completion to be fulfilled by a God who sacrificed Himself and was resurrected to give us real life. They remind us that Jesus is about the building of His kingdom and that we have the privilege and unspeakable joy (rejoicing in persecution…) to be a part of that work.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Different times call for different men

There was another note about the truck. 2 Days ago, I was checking my Amex balance online and noticed that Penske had tacked another $100.10 onto my bill. I called (this time, calm) and they said they would take care of it. Sure enough, I see a credit on my balance today for the amount.

All do say, different situations have called for different attitudes. Some of you may have read my bit (or, maybe even talked to me) and thought, "Geez, you really shouldn't have lost it like that." The truth of the matter is that if I had not, I wouldn't have been in Philly the next day to buy our house - which is strange. It was not, in fact, until I exploded at the front desk that they even afforded me the option to talk to someone who could actually and honestly do anything about me getting switched.

Of course, this same method wouldn't work in an issue regarding weather (Jason may attest to this?) as the weather is out of the airlines' controls.

Crew issues are not.

Regarding Penske, the process was pretty smooth overall (shouldn't it, I probably spent a total of 5-6 hours waiting for 3 separate tow trucks). But what would have happened if I wouldn't have called?

The question too, is whether or not the gospel affords me the freedom to become angry as I did at the airport. I've even had others tell me that I should write NWA to get further compensated (maybe the same with Penske?) - does the gospel of Christ allow me to do that when I've been compensated for what I purchased (in the one case - airfare; in the other case - transportation of my home to Philadelphia).

In those cases, how am I to view the sovereignty of God? In a practical sense, the sovereignty of my God is something that I don't know if I've really believed as evidenced by practice.

The ethics and cognizance of it all is something entirely different than anything else...what do you think?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I have been chosen to suffer for your sake...

For anyone who’s wondering – the move was successful (not so successful that the name of this Blog will be renamed "Twilleydelphia" or "Twilley in Philly," much to the chagrin of some).

For anyone who placed wagers on whether or not the move had any snags, it is time to cash in.

How to: Moving the Twilley’s to Philly

1. Rent a 22’ diesel driven Penske truck online 4 weeks in advance (you save 10% booking online).
2. If you don’t have a AAA card, purchase one; you save an additional 12% or something with AAA.
3. Include a dolly in your rental (+$17.60).
4. Include 2 dozen furniture pads in your rental (+$26.40).
5. Make sure that you don’t take of any days before you move – i.e. move on the day exactly after the last day at your current workplace.
6. Pick up your rental on the day before your actual move.
7. Drop the rental off at your house and kiss your wife goodbye for the day.
8. Go to work.
9. Begin feeling a funny feeling in your stomach and take hold of one of the worst headaches you’ve ever had.
10. Leave work to purchase a Gatorade (because you think that you may be dehydrated – which might be why you’re sick) and a car wash (because you like to move in style). Drive back to work.

11. As soon as you park your car, open the door quickly and throw up.
12. Go back into the office, finish something you think is important, and tell your manager that you think it’s time for you to leave.
13. Dole out well wishes to many in your office.
14. Go home.
15. Assume the fetal position on your bed because your stomach still hurts and take a nap.
16. Wake up 2 hours later.
17. Purchase Little Caesar’s Pizza for the friends who agreed to help you move (you promised pizza and drinks, remember?).
18. Pack your truck in about 2 hours.
19. Thank everyone for coming and then sleep on an air mattress (which was quite comfy).
20. Take more time than you expected to in preparing to leave. Realize that you are hitting the road 1.5 hours later than desired.

21. While on the road, receive a phone call from your wife telling you that she is tired and is going to pull off at the next exit to take a nap. Offer to pull of with her and listen to her threaten you that if you do, she will just keep driving (because Penske trucks have governors and are necessarily built for speed). Agree that you will keep driving.
22. Pull off when you finally need fuel and realize that ¼ of a tank of diesel in a 22’ Penske truck = $45.00
23. Have Jason Harmon (the super friend [not that other friends aren’t super] who is driving your personal truck to Philly) tell you that your left turn signal is not working – this is after 200 miles of driving on the open highway.
24. Receive a phone call from your wife – she has taken a nap, gotten back on the interstate, and has already passed you.
25. Drive to your midway point: Bristol, VA, and enjoy family time that evening and the entire next day.
26. Day three of the actual move, leave Bristol to drive to Philadelphia – over 900 miles away. Your wife will drive ahead of you with your Mother in law – they’ll clean your new home before you get there.
27. About 1/3 of the way there, pull off the road due to the fact that your truck is telling you that you need oil.
28. Check your oil.
29. Realize that you actually don’t need oil.
30. Take relief and continue on.

31. Drive around Washington D.C. on the I-495 bypass.
32. Commence Penske Truck Break Down Sequence…While driving in the middle lane of traffic…On a 4 lane interstate…packed with cars.
33. Turn on your right turn signal (remember, that’s the one that works).
34. Wonder if your turn signal works, as no one will let you over.
35. Have Jason pull into the right lane to stop traffic so you can pull over to the median.
36. Call Penske’s 24 Emergency Roadside assist and trust them when they tell you that someone will be out to tow you in an hour. They will ask if there is water and oil in the truck. Say yes.
37. An hour and 15 minutes later, call back and ask why no one is there. Have the Penske person tell you (rather rudely) that the tow truck is tied up and will be there in 45 minutes. They will ask if there is water and oil in the truck. Say yes.
38. Mention that this is, in fact, 2 hours and not one. Hang up.
39. 50 minutes late, call back and ask why no one is there. Have the Penske person tell you that this doesn’t usually happen. They will ask if there is water and oil in the truck. Say yes. Have them tell you that a truck will be there in 30 minutes.
40. Wait 30 minutes.

41. Begin praying with Jason that a truck will arrive soon.
42. Open your eyes to see that the truck is arriving even as the words are leaving your mouth.
43. Listen to the tow truck driver tell you that he can’t fix the truck.
44. Listen to the tow truck driver call Penske. He will tell them “Yes, there is water and oil in the truck. No, I don’t have time to take them to Philly, but I‘ll call someone else to do it.”
45. Watch him strap a 22’ Penske truck to a large diesel tow truck.
46. Get left behind as he speeds off.
47. Drive erratically through DC/Baltimore traffic trying to catch up.
48. Watch as he drops off your truck on the side of the road and leave much more quickly than he came.
49. 30 minutes later, meet your new truck driver – he is much cooler than the last.
50. Arrive in Philly in less than 2 hours because the tow driver is hauling boo-tay.

Now, here’s the deal. I had the driver drop the truck off about 2 miles away from my new home – the truck would drive, but only short distances. The apparent problem was that the computer on the truck was malfunctioning. I found out later that this happens “often” with Penske trucks (this from an actual Penske worker). I intend on writing a letter to the company. The trucks computer actually stalled the truck no less than 10 times over the course of those 2 miles.

After unloading the truck, I tried driving it back to where I was picked up. I finally got so sick of it that I pulled off to the side of the road. They told me, “Yeah, can you wait with the truck for an hour? We’ll have a truck out by then.” I told them, “Sure.” I then left the truck to drive Jason around the city knowing that there was no way they’d be there in an hour.

When all was said and done, we were in bed by about 1:30 am or so…after waking up at 6:30 am the previous morning and driving 900 miles.

The Lord, apparently, has chosen me to suffer these things to make you laugh (and I’m sure, for some deeper spiritual reason).

I'll add pictures when I'm not being blocked by a public library firewall...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Number 50...

Yes, this is my 50th post.

Part of the joy in moving (even beyond the joy of flying to move) is hooking up utilities. It's funny to think than a "utility" in our day and age may find itself in the form of high speed Internet - especially so when your wife needs it to make her wages. All to say, I was using a third part vendor to purchase Comcast High Speed Internet today and decided to utilize the "live chat," which would more properly be entitled "live shat," as you well see.

Also, as your reading, know that there was a lot of laughter on my end while writing with "Carolina," - i.e., if I sound frustrated, for once I'm actually not.

I am, however, frustrated at the fact that when I checked the third party website and Comcast's website, I was assured that Comcast serviced my area. When I called Comcast, they told me that they don't.

My response "That's strange, because your website says that you do."
"I'm sorry sir, you purchased this through a third party's website and we can't guarantee the information they provide."
"I understand that, but I'm talking about your website - I looked it up at"
"Oh, well...we don't have service for that area, I'm sorry."

So, now I search for a high speed provider. Enjoy the following:

Chat InformationPlease wait for a site operator to respond.
Chat InformationYou are now chatting with 'Carolina'
you: Carolina, how long would it take for someone to come out and hook up our high speed Internet service?
Carolina: Hello.
Carolina: Welcome. How can I help you today?
Carolina: Let me go ahead and check the promotion that is available for you in your area. May I have the address and zip code where the installation will take place?
you: 1427 S Chadwick St, 19146
Carolina: I just need to gather some information. First, are you a current Comcast Cable TV customer?
you: No.
Carolina: I'm sorry for the delay. I'll be right with you.
you: ok.
Carolina: I will be right with you.
you: Alright...
Carolina: Comcast
Carolina: High-Speed Internet $33 per month for 6 months
Carolina: Get Comcast High-Speed Internet for $33 per month for 6 months!
Carolina: High-Speed Internet
Carolina: Order today and also get (after mail-in rebate):
Carolina: Get a FREE Motorola ® Cable Modem
Carolina: $100 High-Speed Internet Cash Back
Carolina: This is the plan that I can offer you
you: Well. That's great, but that's not what I asked Carolina.
you: Do you know what I asked?
you: Am I "chatting" with an authentically live person?
Carolina: after we are done with this order, you will need to contact customer service to schedule installation.
Carolina: Let’s go ahead and get you started so you can start enjoying the benefits of high speed internet today! Completing the order with me in this chat will ensure your order be placed accurately, and will actually allow for an easier installation process. Once I complete your order I will give you the instructions to make sure you obtain all the promotions available to you today. May I have your first and last name?
Carolina: Install Phone Number
Carolina: Daytime Contact Phone Number
Carolina: E-mail Address
you: Well, thanks. It took me as long to find it on our website as it did for you to answer my question.
you: I'm already ordering it on your website. Thanks anyways!
Carolina: I can go ahead and complete your order through this chat window. Completing the order with me in this chat will ensure that your order be placed accurately. Once we complete the order I will give you the instructions to make sure you obtain all of the promotions available to you today.
Carolina: ‘I can sign you up, so we can track rebates
you: Are you telling me that I can be sure that my order will be placed accurately on your website?
Carolina: Yes
you: Or rather...can't be sure?
Carolina: We can also track the rebates as well
Carolina: If you sign up on your own we will not have a record of your order confirmation
you: What's the difference between me ordering this from you now and ordering it over your website?
you: So you won't send me an order confirmation over your website?
you: This is bizarre...
Carolina: Yes, you will still receive one but if you ever need the rebates or any information from your order we can track it down through a history chat
you: So you're telling me that this service is unlike the modern technology used by other businesses and that the only way I will be able to ensure that my order is taken and that my rebate has been sent is by ordering through you...right now?
Carolina: NO, you will still be able to get your rebates and your order, but if you ever need to retrieve your actual order we can do it through a history chat
you: Why would I need to retrieve my actual order through history chat? Won't my receipt verify my order?
Carolina: Because most of customers always come back to retrieve dates to fill out the rebate forms and also get the rebates forms again because they lose them or misplace them
Carolina: I can place an online order for you. It's secure and very simple. That way I can make sure that all the information needed to get your order placed is correct, so there are no delays! It takes just a couple of minutes and all information is secure.
you: Wouldn't it be more secure if I didn't share my credit card information? Won't my receipts verify dates? I don't understand why this is a problem for "most of customers." Can you ensure that I am not giving you incorrect information?
Carolina: All I will need from you today to secure this online only promotion is your First and Last Name, Telephone Number and E-mail Address, no payment information is required to get started.
you: While I appreciate the offer, Carolina, I did state earlier that I've already started placing my order through your website...
Carolina: Placing your order with me will also allow for an easier installation process
you: What? That's absurd! How can you make it easier just by having me place the order through you?
Carolina: Thank you for waiting. I'll be with you in just a moment.
Carolina: Is there anything else I can help you with?
you: what about my last question?
Carolina: Because I will provide you with the steps to setup installation
you: Whoa're telling me that I don't get the steps to setup installation unless I order through you???!!!
Carolina: Is there anything else I can help you with?
you: what about my last question?
Carolina: Please call 1-877-220-3549 for any further questions
Carolina: Is there anything else I can help you with?
you: Wait. Why are you asking if there is anything else you can help me with when you just gave a toll free number to call for "further questions?" Is there no sincerity in the processes for business anymore?
Carolina: I will be right with you.
Carolina: I'm sorry for the delay. I'll be right with you.
Carolina: Thank you for waiting. I'll be with you in just a moment.
Carolina: I will be right with you.
you: Tell me lies tell me sweet little lies.
Carolina: Thank you for visiting and allowing me to assist you. Have a great day!
Chat InformationChat session has been terminated by the site operator.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

How To: Flying to Philadelphia to Close on Your First House

On the front end: The last "How To," post seemed to be a smash hit. I just want to let you know though, there's no spiritual lesson (yet) with this one.

1. Find a suitable home four weeks before moving to Philadelphia.
2. Set a closing date one week before your move date.
3. Make sure you're scheduled to work the weekend after your closing date.
4. Set an airline reservation through Northwest Airlines because
  • They are the cheapest you can find @ $208 per ticket (which you think is an outstanding deal)
  • They are part of the Skyteam Alliance and you can accrue Skymiles (Delta) by flying with NWA.
  • You can fly out the day before closing (and spend the night in Philadelphia) and return to Birmingham the same day as closing (remember, you have to work on Saturday)
5. Book your hotel room through because
  • you always find super deals through their "Name your own price" feature
  • if anything happens to hinder your flight, your stay is nonrefundable - (you are confident that neither weather nor ineptitude will stand in your way).
6. Decide to also book a rental car through for the reasons listed above and for reason 3. You're a middle class American who needs to strut his independence by driving his own car rather than utilizing public transport (which would be cheaper, cleaner, and probably faster).
7. Go to work the same day you fly out and remember to tell your manager you're leaving early to purchase your first home.
8. Check in online...that same morning...from work...
9. Think: Things are going so smoothly!

10. Arrive at Birmingham "International" Airport (BHM) 2 hours before takeoff (to satisfy your wife's request).
11. Walk straight through security to your assigned gate - you only have 2 carryons and a printed boarding pass (remember - DO NOT check the departure or arrival monitors as it can only waste your time).
12. Walk to your gate and marvel at how empty your departure gate is.
13. Walk to the gate desk, cock your head, and stare in a funny way at the message in blazing red LED that just informed you that your flight has been "Canceled."
14. Listen to the elderly couple sitting at the gate affirm that your flight has been canceled, and ask "Really?" in utter disbelief.
15. Walk to the North West Airlines ticket counter and keep your cool for the 45 minute wait to get to the desk agent (be sure to start the stop watch on your Timex).
16. Kick yourself for always getting into the slow line...always.
17. Be sure to listen to everything the people around you are saying - especially the loud cocky guy behind you who says "This is the third time they've done this this year - the same exact flight every time."
18. Listen to the gate agent in another line tell another person that all seats have been taken on all airlines for the evening and her advice to call customer service through one of their desk phones as they will most certainly reach customer service at a greater rate of speed than your own phone.
19. Arrive at your ticketing agent's station at the desk - explain that this is a desperate situation because you need to be in the actual city of Philadelphia by 10:00 AM, which means you need to be at the Airport in the morning no later than 9:00 AM, but would prefer some finagling to get you out of the airport tonight.

20. Listen to her explanation that there are no more flights available. Keep your cool.
21. Inform her that you will drive to Atlanta or Huntsville to make it to Philadelphia that evening.
22. Wait to the side for 1/2 hour and keep your cool while she calls the NWA central ticketing office to try to work something out - spend your time people watching and calling your wife to tell her of this occurrence, reassuring her that surely they will put you on a partner airline.
23. Look back at a smiling agent who informs you that they have you set to fly out of Atlanta on a Delta flight that same evening and then returning to Birmingham the next day.
24. Ask, "So are you going to pay for the time and gas that it will take me to drive to Atlanta to pick up my truck when I return?" and expect the obvious answer. No.
25. Ask, "Can you ask the agent on the phone to give me a return flight to Atlanta?"
26. Wait 10 minutes. Keep your cool.
27. Answer from the agent: "Well, um, when we set up a reservation like um 300 miles away or more, um we can't book it over the phone, um, for you. But we have a flight tomorrow that can have you in Philadelphia by noon."
28. Say, "I don't think you understand."
29. Answer: "No, sire, I understand."

30. Lose your cool.
31. Make a scene, attracting the stares of gate agents on either side of NWA as well as arousing the visual fear of the three elderly women behind you (make sure to flail your arms and yell at this point."
32. Ask: "So, is Northwest going to pay for my home in Philadelphia since I'll obviously be missing my closing?"
33. Obvious answer: "Of course not sir."
34. Agree: "Of course not...why was this flight cancelled?"
35. Answer: "Crew issues" (i.e. not having the right amount of crew for this size of plane).
36. Make the following logical points (in an audibly irate tone - so that everyone within the immediate vicinity can hear):
  • I bought this ticket to fly out tonight because I need to be in Philadelphia tomorrow. (yes sir)
  • I understand that this is the third time this has happened this year with the same issue. (yes sir, but it's not my fault)
  • I understand that this is not your fault, but you are working in the capacity of a representative of this airline, and if this is the third time this has happened with a crew issue, then it is Northwest's responsibility. (yes sir)
  • What is northwest doing to stop this? (I don't know sir)
  • Nothing. Exactly. Considering that I purchased this ticket to specifically fly to Philadelphia tonight, I expect that Northwest owes me a flight to Philadelphia tonight. (yes sir)
  • I understand that you can have me there tomorrow by noon, but noon is too late (*there were actually no flights from Birmingham that would have me there any earlier on Delta or Continental either). (yes sir)
  • So how are we going to get me there tonight?
37. "Well sir, you can dial this number."
38. Realize that she is writing the exact number that the other agent told another passenger would take forever to get an answer. Realize she's just trying to get you away from the gate. Become further incensed.
39. Yell, "I know that I'll never get an answer on that line, and yet, you're giving it to me. She (be sure to point to the other agent) told another passenger that very thing and that these phones at the gate work faster. Why would you have me call that line knowing this?"

40. Answer: "Then use one of these phones sir."
41. Talk to Scott on the phone. Explain your situation. Relax with satisfaction that Scott is now setting you up with a ticket through US Airways - because they can do that over the phone (but they can't do that by walking two desks over).
42. Apologize to the desk agent. Apologize to the three elderly women (they're answer: "I'm so angry that I wish I could do the same thing.").
43. Have the gumption to ask for the inconvenience voucher they've been giving everyone else at the desk (because it was never actually offered to you).
44. With satisfaction, watch the resignation in the desk agent's face as she gives you one.
45. Walk to US Air to get your ticket.
46. Although 2 hours later than previously expected, still arrive at PHL (Philadelphia's Airport).

Trust me, there is more to this (i.e. lessons learned, getting to the hotel - another story entirely) but for the sake of time and space, I'm ending it here - I'll try to update within the next two days...