Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Suffering Loss

 Before anyone panics (does anybody even read my blog anymore?), no this is not our house, nor have any loved ones passed on. The Lord has been very merciful to us. But I do feel like I just lost two weekends (and change) of my life, and it made me think of 1 Cor. 3:11-15, and I thought I should (finally) blog about it. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.  I've heard some use these scriptures to argue that everyone goes to Heaven, after spending some time in Purgatory, or something like that. I don't think that's it at all. Leading into this, Paul is talking about missionary work, and the wood, hay, and stubble are teachings or doctrines that missionaries add to the basics of the Gospel. I take that and extend it a little further, into other aspects of our lives. Unquestionably, The Great Commission applies to us all. After all, everything on this earth has an end, except for our own souls. What other lasting work can there be, beside leading a precious lost lamb to Jesus. He is the Good, nay, the Best Shepherd. Next to that, everything else we do is wood, hay, and stubble. But what about working to provide for our families? Is that stubble, too? Well, I would argue that being my family's sole bread winner enables us to raise and educate our son (in the nurture of the Lord) and blesses us with a financial abundance that we can pass on to others. My computer skills, though gained through a world largely made of wood, hay, and stubble, have been put to good use at our homeschooling co-op. Ultimately, as Brother Paul points out, God's fire will be the true test. And on that day, everything I've ever worked on that has not furthered His Kingdom will burn. I will surely regret seeing it go, as many have before me. But that Final Judgment seems so far away, that I'm not really concerned... until I see something I spent time, money, and energy on burn up right before my eyes. Case in point... Several years ago, my lovely wife and I made a little video, starring our son, in which he did everything backwards. We filmed him getting out of bed, eating, playing, and helping me garden, and then we used a video editing tool called Pinnacle to reverse all the footage. It was a real hit in her co-op class of 7-to-9-year-olds. No, that's not what I've watched burn. Please read on... A couple weeks ago, she asked if we could do a sequel, for another co-op class. "Sure!" I said. "It'll be even better than the original!" We planned all the scenes and then spent the better part of a weekend shooting. Then, I pulled a near-all-nighter with Adobe Premiere Elements 8, cutting footage, reversing it, slowing it down, and speeding it up. It was fun, and it gave me an excuse to get serious with this editing software, for the first time. I spent most Saturday finishing up the video portion and adding some funny songs for the soundtrack. Things played well in the editor's preview window, so, on Sunday, I decided to try rendering: no sound! "Must be the audio settings," I naively thought. I tried changing those, but to no avail. "Ah," sez I, "it says I should use AVI if I want to keep editing it in Premiere." That seemed to work, except now part of one of the songs would cut out at some random point and I would hear nothing until the start of the next song. HOW FRUSTRATING!!! No problem if the sound is natively part of the video, but playback of music brought in separately was majorly flakey. I fussed and mussed with it, until I finally produced a DVD-R. We sat down together around 7:00PM to watch it. The sound was fine, but to our horror, the bulk of the video was nauseatingly stuttery! It seemed like every frame was the result of two overlapped consecutive frames. It was nowhere near the quality of the older movie, which was filmed under similar light conditions and with the same camera! Oddly enough, the few parts in the movie that I left running forward looked just fine. There was something about the footage that was reversed and saved to AVI that Premiere could not handle. 7:00PM the night before Farrah's class, and I did not have a video I could present. Do I cut my losses and just have her show the old one, or do I resurrect our old computer that had Pinnacle on it and try doing the reversing on that? Never mind that (1) I already had to set up and tear down that computer once that day, for a different reason, and (2) I had had to re-install Pinnacle a few months ago, and the version on the disk had some major bugs that I no longer had the patches for. I decided, instead, to try a different approach using Premiere. Big mistake. Here's the burn... It was midnight by the time that I could see the fruits of my labors. Not only did I not fix the stutter, but the sound cut out about a minute into the video. AAAAAAUUUURRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!! Farrah ended up showing the kids the original video, with the only new content being a couple cool logos I made months ago, and I ended up feeling like I just wasted several days of my life. There is nothing salvageable from the new video, as nearly all my work was done on the suspect reverse footage, that did not exhibit stutter until it was saved to AVI or burned onto DVD. All I can do now is vent and hope that I've learned something valuable from the experience. Yes, yes I did: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:19-21).
But seriously, I got to ask you, dear reader, do you know of a decent video editing software for Windows that won't make me rip my hair out???

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Be Careful Little Eyes...

Happy New Year, dear Readers! This is by far the longest time that I've been away (only three posts on this blog in 2011), but I hope to be a bit more active in 2012. This is my primary ministry, after all. Before I get to the meat of this post, a few updates....

We've been very blessed this past year with health, great friendships, continuing work, good finances, a nice vacation, and achievements for all of us. I'll probably touch on some of these things in the coming months, but needless to say, blogging has not been among them much. For better or worse, I've let blogging slip below my radar, and I hope that I can improve on that this year, without sacrificing my other responsibilities.

So what's up with Halloween? Wasn't that like almost three months ago? I always do a Halloween post on this or one of my other blogs, mainly to showcase our pumpkin carving. So what if I'm a little behind? ;)

Our theme this time was the kids' song, "Be Careful Little Eyes". I totally did not have that song in mind when I felt inspired to carve a fancy eye on my pumpkin. Farrah immediately thought of the song and suggested she do the feet and Kylen do the hands.

Here is kylen working on his masterpiece. Farrah got a mixer-like attachment to my power drill, which worked very well at scraping out the pumpkin's insides.

Here I am, hard at work on my pumpkin. This was also the first year I successfully employed a Dremel tool to do the fine scraping work. I bought it last year, but did not have time to figure it out. Worked like a charm this time around!

Here is the final result. For several years now, we've been using an old set of C9 Christmas bulbs instead of candles. It keeps the pumpkins fresh longer and even allows us to use different colors. For examples of our past work, click on the "Halloween" tag in the tag cloud to the right.

Then, of course, there is the dressing up! Farrah wanted to be an elf archer (think: female version of Legolas, from "Lord of the Rings"), but we didn't feel like taking the trouble of attaching her pointy ears. Maybe next time. :) We went to Cabela's to pick out a bow, which was the perfect excuse to get one that would also suit Kylen. He loved his first experience with archery, and we spent hours in our unfinished basement, putting holes in stuff.

While looking for costumes at a local shop (boy, could I blog about the spiritual meaning behind the inappropriate costumes that permeate costume shops!), we saw the Street Fighter karate costume. Since that's my favorite game of all time, it was a no-brainer.

Kylen just wanted to be a black ninja (don't ask me why that's totally different from the white ninja costume he wore last year). We had fun fighting each other and laughing at Farrah trying to look threatening with her bow. CUTE thing!

Much of my time this year has been occupied with working on various utility programs. One such example is the sound player I wrote just for Halloween. Why couldn't I just use Windows Media Player, you ask? Because that would have been way too easy, of course! I placed speakers in our pumpkins, just outside our front door, and connected them to my laptop, so I could play the kids' song. I also had our web cam pointed at our front walk, so I could see when kids were coming up the steps and play some nifty little sayings having to do with eyes, hands, and feet.

Yes, I am a geek!

It was fun dressing up to greet the trick-or-treaters, but when things started dying down, we decided to take off the sweaty costumes. No sooner did we get our everyday duds back on, that Farrah's sister, whom we hadn't seen in a year, stopped by with her husband, kids, and LARGE neighbor family. It was fun seeing her two little boys in their Spiderman costumes; they've grown so much!

Finally, as a perfect finish to our evening, our dear friends, the McD's surprised us, wearing full chimney sweep duds (a la Bert from 1964's Mary Poppins). They sang a nice little tune and then joined us inside for fellowship and real-sugar Cokes, bottled in Mexico.

So what's the spiritual takeaway? Does there have to be one? When posting about Satan worshippers' favorite day, there better be one! As I've posted years ago, we completely avoid the scary elements and choose instead to use the day as an opportunity to dress up in fun costumes and try to focus the attention to Christ, instead. You can do this wherever you go, as long as you do not partake of the unclean thing. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. It's the only way to effectively witness.