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Steven S. Billings

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Hi!  Welcome to my weblog.  Thanks for stopping by.  If the mood strikes you, drop me a line and let me know you were here.

Monday, July 31, 2006

PAIN IN THE . . .

Neck.  And then some.  Yikes!  I don't know what I did for certain, but my neck and shoulder have been really smarting for a couple of weeks now.  After two adjustments and HoH sessions, it finally took ice packs and Capzasin patches to calm down the raging aching.  Still sore, I can at least turn my head without wincing (too much).

The second half of last week made my head spin.  (Maybe that's why my neck is sore!)  Wednesday was a very full day at the office.  Jean, et al, really worked hard, as did I, getting VBS stuff ready, as well as the monthly newsletter.  Long day!

Thursday was busy as usual, though I did squeeze in a visit at John Casablancas to say "hi" to my friends there.  Friday was mixing day at the studio.  We worked all day on the first mix of "Puzzle Master."  It's a very good first mix, but there will be some adjustments, as usual.

Saturday I did my best to help friends Greg and Robin pack the truck for their move to Grand Rapids.  I fear I wasn't much help considering the condition of my neck and shoulder, but I did what I could.  It's a pleasure this week to have Greg staying at my place while he readies their condo for sale.

2:31 am edt

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

QUIET, BUSY DAY

A quiet day yesterday, but a busy one.  Wrote my Sermon for Sunday, prepared the Propers and the Prayers.  Ran a bunch of errands, including returning the leaky air-mattress (again) and getting a new mouse for the laptop.  Then went to one of my favorite stores: Bed, Bath & Beyond.  There I got a new coffee maker (Cuisinart), a new wall clock for my bedroom, and an air-bed, so I can offer any visiting guests something better than my couch.  It's kind-of expensive, but is really cool.  I also bought new contour rugs for my bathrooms.

In the afternoon I prepared a bunch of things to get in the mail today.  More stuff to get ready to ship today.  I also made some needed phone calls and prepared the VBS post-cards, which I'll print out tomorrow and get those mailed.

No T@2 today, but I am very much looking forward to getting my weekly adjustment.

10:33 am edt

Saturday, July 22, 2006

WHICH JESUS?

Seems a lot of people these days claim to worship Jesus, but some have very strange views of who it is they're worshiping.  Oh, they're willing to accept a Jesus that is loving and kind and never demanded a thing of His disciples and don't seem to be a bit interested in the Jesus who drove the money-changers out of the temple with a bullwhip.  They accept a Jesus who taught good moral values, but deny that He multiplied bread and fish to feed thousands, miraculously healed the sick and even raised the dead.  Others aren't willing to accept that He really taught anything.  They say that He never asked anyone to believe anything, seeming to forget the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 & 7, His Sermon on the Plain in Luke, or His many, many parables and other sermons, all of which teach fundamental principles about Himself and His kingdom.  They decry doctrine or even the exclusivity of the Christian faith, either neglecting Jesus' own claim to be the only path to the Father, or denying that He ever made such a claim.

My question is: Which Jesus do you believe in?  Because they can't all be the same.  Either you believe the things taught about Him in Holy Scripture or you don't, and if you do, you certainly worship a different Jesus than if you don't.  I mean, Jesus either comes to us bodily in His Holy Supper or He doesn't.  It can't be both ways.  Jesus is either the Son of God and Son of Man, both human and divine as the Scriptures claim, or He isn't.  Either He taught and encouraged the teaching of doctrine or He didn't.  In short, you either accept the biblical Christ or you don't.

Of course, if you believe that the Bible is purely derivative, owing to "more ancient" literature (a claim which is entirely spurious and without any verifiable evidence whatsoever), then you will obviously have a skewed perspective on everything contained therein.  But the bottom line is this: People who hold such conflicting views of the Savior cannot possibly be worshiping the same Christ.

Now, it goes without saying that you can believe whatever you want.  If you want to suck all the reality out of the Scriptures, deny their claims of divine inspiration and disavow any of their authoritative character, nobody's stopping you.  You can construct your own reality about who you would rather Jesus have been.  So far, it's still a free country and you're allowed to do that.  You can buy into any bizarre, left-field opinion and scoff at everything the Church has believed, taught and confessed for millennia.  But what you can't do is shove it down my throat and ask me to swallow!

For the record, I believe in the Christ of the Bible.  In fact, I believe the whole Bible.  Every word of it.  Not that I've been asked, mind you.  What is important to me doesn't seem to matter to some.  They're too busy telling me what matters to them.

Far be it from me to tell you what you can or cannot believe.  But were you ever to ask me, I'd be happy to suggest that you keep your bloody heresy to yourself.

5:08 am edt

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

CHASTITY

Ok, I'll admit, I love it.  Chastity, that is.  Oh, I hate the celibacy part.  After being married for more than 20 years, it's a bit of an adjustment, to say the least.  But as far as chastity goes, I think you have to understand that it involves much more than sexual intimacy.  Though Webster's primary definition states that chastity is "abstention from unlawful sexual intercourse," it goes on to define chastity as "purity in conduct and intention."

Now, on the one hand, what this means is, though you may abstain from sexual activity, you may not be chaste, for true chastity includes purity of "intention" as well as "conduct."  Jesus pointed out that "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28).  So, besides the crass fornicator, who either engages in pre-marital or extra-marital affairs, there is the business of "affairs of the heart," in which the offender is just as guilty as one who literally cheats on his wife.

But before we go propping our noses toward the sky and say: "What awful cads such scoundrels are" (and indeed they are!), let us entertain the question: "Who on earth has never had a lustful thought?"  Would that I could vigorously launch my hand into the air and shout: "Meeeeeee!"  But, alas, I am ... human.  Yes, a mere mortal, and subject to the common temptations of man.  I am ashamed to say that my heart is not always chaste.  God forgive me.

Forgiveness, by the way, is essential for true chastity.  It begins with seeking and receiving God's forgiveness through the grace and mercy of Christ, and includes intentionally applying that forgiveness to ourselves.  So often we accept that God has forgiven us, but we hesitate to forgive ourselves.  The devil uses this to great advantage.  By assisting us in our feelings of failure and encouraging us to wallow in our guilt, Satan deprives us of the ability to live in the freedom and joy that is God's intention for us, which compounds the problem this way: If you feel like scum, you're bound to act like it.  In other words, if you view yourself as unchaste and adulterous, you are likely to reason that there is no hope for rising above your sorry condition, and therefore you must act in a way consistent with your self-image, which multiplies your burden of guilt by heaping more bad memories upon the ever-increasing and seemingly insurmountable stack that you're already lugging around with you through life.  Forgiveness of self, which is fundamentally built on the forgiveness won by Christ at the cross and freely offered to you by grace through faith, is the key to unlocking the chains of bondage to sin, and thereby restoring a true sense of chastity.

Though chastity is a virtue scoffed-at in our day, it is something that liberates us from fear and guilt, for it helps to define us, giving us a clearer path to follow.  Remember, it was for our great joy that God gave the 6th Commandment.  But the command itself will never empower us to live chaste lives.  For true chastity, indeed all true virtue, flows from the gospel, which pours upon us God's love and forgiveness, and this is the only thing that can -- and will! -- restore true holiness by washing us clean in the blood of Jesus and making us whiter than snow (Psa. 51:7).

11:06 am edt

Saturday, July 15, 2006

SUPER SUPERMAN (3X=3D)

Superman Returns

It was the third time I've seen it.  Once by myself at Emagine, once with Jim and Nathaniel in New York, but this time it was at the IMAX theater at the Henry Ford, which means that this time it larger than life and in 3-D!!  And ... WOW!

I should mention that only about 20 minutes of the film are in 3-D (four scenes: the flashback to Clark's childhood, the airplane rescue, the rescue at sea, and the final flying sequence), but what a wonderful experience!  What's more amazing to me is that this film was not shot in 3-D; rather, the 2-D sequences were re-processed for 3-D.  I don't know how it works, but it works very well.  The one limitation of this process that I noticed, however, is that, while films shot in 3-D have the ability to make images appear to project into the audience, the three dimensions in this film only extend backward, behind the screen, so-to-speak, not in front of it.

There seems to be a bit of controversy over this film in general.  Some have argued that there is a laxity in morals on two counts: 1) that Lois Lane is cohabitating with her fiancee; and 2) that Superman has fathered a child out of wedlock.  Of course, the second criticism should really be applied to Superman II instead of this film, for it was in that film that he and Lois conceived young Jason.  To counter this particular criticism, some have insisted that they were married in a ceremony in the Fortress of Solitude.

Another point of contention is what appears to be a backing-away from the long-standing patriotism connected with Superman.  Whereas Superman previously stood for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, in this film it is: "Truth, Justice ... all that stuff."

My response to all of this turmoil over the film is: It's a movie about a comic book character.  Get a grip.

As a fan of the first two films (Superman III and IV were hardly worth watching.  Number III with Richard Pryor was just way too silly, while Superman IV was a classic example of how absurd it can be when Hollywood decides to get preachy), I preferred Gene Hackman's portrayal of Lex Luthor, which maintained a comic sense about the character.  He was evil -- we knew that -- but he was also funny.  He took himself too seriously, and nobody was really convinced that he was the criminal genious that he thought he was.  Kevin Spacey's portrayal, while brilliantly played, is much darker.  He's not funny; he's not supposed to be.  He is, in fact, quite frightening.  When he says at the end of the film that he would trade every drop of Kitty's blood for a quart of gasoline, one gets the distinct impression that this is not hyperbole.

Brandon Routh's interpretation of both the Man of Steel and his alter-ego Clark Kent, seems to be an homage to Chrstopher Reeve, which, I suppose is to be expected, though it would be rewarding, I think, to reach beyond this if another film is planned.

It was also a nice touch to include Noel Neill (Lois Lane in The Adventures of Superman TV series in the 1950s) as Gertrude Vanderworth (the "old woman" whom Lex "swindles" out of her money) and Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen in the same TV series), who plays Bo the Bartender.

All-in-all, I like Superman Returns, and hope that this is the beginning of a new series of sequals.  A much better revival than Batman Begins.

10:54 am edt

Thursday, July 13, 2006

BACK IN THE SADDLE

Finally starting to feel like I'm back in the swing of things.  Busy day yesterday.  Full day at the office, working on going through my HUGE stack of mail, burning shut-in CDs, tying-up loose ends for VBS, making/returning phones calls, etc.  Thrown into the mix were running to CompUSA to pick up a new desktop computer for the office, as the old one is truly ancient by today's standards (6 years old!).  While there, I also retrieved my old laptop which had been sent out for repairs.  Good news, bad news on that.  Bad news: no new motherboard.  Good news: didn't lose a thing in terms of data, so files that I feared were lost forever are still intact.  Yay!

Greg stopped by the office after work and we went and saw "Pirates" with Jean.  He seemed to be a bit more impressed with the film than either Jean or myself.  It was action-packed, to be sure, but perhaps a bit too much for my taste.  Could have benefitted from some more extended "quiet" scenes to enhance the emotional drama.  It reminded me of the comparison between "Raiders" and "Temple."  Too much action actually detracts from the impact of the action scenes.

HoH today with V.  Then a trip to the T-shirt place to order VBS shirts.  Shots this afternoon.  Who knows what the rest of the day will hold.

8:14 am edt

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN

After a lovely week with my dear family in New York, Jim and I had lunch in a diner in Queens before heading to Laguardia (we both had the crab-salad sandwich - yum!).  I was a bit antsy because I was unable to secure a seat assignment online, so I wanted to get there in plenty of time to ensure I had a spot on the flight.

After hugs and farewells, I hobbled my way through check-in (I had a gout flare-up that started on Sunday, but is just about cleared-up now), and made my way to the gate, where I obtained my seating assignment - 3A - which meant I would have a seat all to myself.  Yay!

Despite a few hitches in getting off on time, we departed the gate at about 3:45.  It was a beautiful day for flying!  But as our fuselage was thrust into the heavens, I found my mind hearkening back to those I left behind, and there was a touch of melancholy.  I do love and miss them so.

The clouds below us were billowy puffs of electric brilliance, so well-defined that I thought we might stop and rest awhile.  With Quincy Jones, Chuck Mangione, Avalon and Rick Wakeman dancing in my ears, it was the kind of moment one could easily be caught-up in.  I imagined Moses and Elijah appearing with our Savior and I myself offering to build tabernacles.

But our cabin-in-the-clouds hurled itself onward toward a safe and ever-so-gentle landing.  Home.  Is there ever so welcome a place?

I wonder ... when finally I travel through the clouds for the last time, when carried upon the wind by the trumpet call of God, how bright shall the heavenly mists appear to me then, being lit not by the face of the sun, but of the Son of God?  And as I am drawn to my Redeemer, shall I give a fleeting thought as to what I leave behind?  Or shall I banish every cognition save that of my safe and gentle landing -- by the pure grace and mercy of God -- in my eternal home?

Indeed, for I shall soon be home.

Ah, yes.  Home!  Is there ever so welcome a place?

10:15 am edt

Sunday, July 9, 2006

QUIET AFTERNOONS

Have had some wonderfully quiet and relaxing days.  The weather has been mild and it has been great just kicking back and vegging-out.

Finished a book I have been reading.  Will write a review of it for my blog in a few days.  Enjoyed it a great deal.

We've watched some great old movies.  Saw "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" last night, "McClintock" this morning and "Anastasia" this afternoon.  I love old movies!

Heading home tomorrow.  It's been a good trip.

5:11 pm edt

Friday, July 7, 2006

A NIGHT AT THE METS

A Night at Shea

It started out as a sort-of spur-of-the-moment idea.  Jim had suggested a "brothers night out" for us, and when he got home from the office, I recommended a Mets game.  He liked the idea, and even added the notion that we take Nathaniel along with us.  Cool!

So I jumped on the Web and ordered a 3-set of tickets.  And I got a really great deal on them.  Or so it seemed at the time!  Shortly I was told that we had to travel to Manhattan to pick them up.  Okay, Jim lives in Garden City, Long Island.  It's an hour to Manhattan.  Game time is 7:10, and it's now 4:30.

By 6:00 the tickets have been obained, so off we head to Shea Stadium (back on Long Island).  We make it there in good time and make our way to the appropriate gate.  However ...

The tickets are bad -- void.  Yikes!  Now I discover why the "dealer" gave me an "emergency contact number."  I called him and he had "one of his guys" call me right back.  I felt like I was making a drug deal arranging to meet him by the Newsday stand to make the swap.  Eek.

New tickets in hand, we passed through the gate with no problem, and proceeded to our excellent seats, where we enjoyed ballpark hot dogs, sodas, and even ice cream.  Oh ... the game was good too!  The Mets won!  Yay!!

All things considered, it was a memorable evening which I shall treasure for years to come: My brother, my favorite 9-year-old nephew, and myself spending a night at the ballpark.  It doesn't get much better than that.

9:30 am edt

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

SAGAMORE HILL

Sagamore Hill

We spent part of the day yesterday at Sagamore Hill, the home of Theodore Roosevelt.  We toured the home, saw a Rough Riders equestrian demonstration, met "T.R.", and heard a great band playing classic Sousa.  It was hot and humid, but quite enjoyable.

9:21 am edt

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

ONE YEAR AGO

Last year about this time we were at my mom's house waiting for the men from the funeral home to come and take her body.  She had been dead for about an hour.  I had been in to see her about 9:45, but when my Aunt Gloria went in to check on her about 15 minutes later, she had gone.

So, today is a bit melancholy, but also joyful, knowing that Mom is celebrating her first anniverary in heaven, rejoined with Dad and all the faithful who have gone before us.

I'm blessed to be sharing this time with my brother Jim and his family, who have recently moved to Garden City, New York.  I'm thankful for the opportunity and grateful for their wonderful hospitality.

11:14 am edt

Saturday, July 1, 2006

COOL NEW STUFF!

Another great session in the studio yesterday.  We spent five hours adding stuff to "The Puzzle Master" that I didn't even imagine in its original conception.  But how fun it was to create as we went!  Just wait 'til you hear the result!

Speaking of which, I've begun posting samples of the finished studio versions of my songs on the "Music & Me" page.  I hope you get a chance to click over there and check them out.  Let me know what you think!

3:13 pm edt

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For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21)

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