Saturday, December 27, 2014

Top 5 Books of 2014

I didn’t read a whole lot of books this year. Not as many as previous years at least. Looks like I'll end the year with 36 books under my belt. Hope to do better in 2015
I’ve been busier than usual, that coupled with a slew of new podcasts to listen to I just haven’t read a whole lot.

It is December and It wouldn’t be the same without a list of my favorite books of the year.  Some of these books were not written or released this year. I did however read them in their entirety this year so that counts for me.

Number 5 is the Skin Collector. It’s a Lincoln Rhyme novel by Jeffery Deaver.  Jeffery Deaver has a way of writing twists that always blow my mind. The first book I read by Mr Deaver was also in the Lincoln Rhyme series. Lincoln Ryhme is a quadriplegic crime scene investigator. Along with his iron will, & razor sharp mind he is accompanied by New York Detective Amelia Sachs his partner and girlfriend as they solve crimes using the most minute detail.
The Skin Collector is just another in a series of great novels by Mr Deaver.

Number 4 is a Good Marriage by Stephen King.  A good marriage finds Darcy Anderson wife of Bob Anderson for 27 years going to the garage to find batteries and instead discovering a box filled with women’s drivers licenses and other sundry souvenirs. It turns out her husband was a serial killer before they met. He stopped because of her.
Should she turn him in and ruin their life. The life of their kids?
Should she keep it quiet and sleep every night next to a monster. It’s a great book and I strongly encourage you to read it.

Number 3 the Martian by David Weir. Soon to be a major motion picture staring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott. Mr Scott of course is a master of isolation horror as proved by the 1979 american horror classic Alien.
The book the Martian is at times claustrophobic in its telling of a man accidentally presumed dead and left behind during a mission to Mars.  As the tale unfolds the main character Mark Watney must bring together all his resources and ingenuity to survive long enough for a rescue mission to find him. That is if he can even find a way to let them know he survived.

Number 2 The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. This book was the foundation of a series we did at church and it is an amazing work of apologetics. I own the audiobook, & the paperback. If I could make it required reading for teens and young adults I would.

Number 1 is Ready Player One and usually I would not include a book i read so recently but it was so fantastic of a read I find myself thinking about it quite often.
It is a very witty book, filled with eighties pop culture trivia. It has recently been optioned as a movie as well and I have no idea how they will pull it off with all the rights needed in order to get the trivia correct.
Part Last Star Fighter part the Wizard this book is phenomenal beginning to end.

Here is the publishers book description….

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
   But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

I read a few stinkers this year too. I loved the Maze Runner but the subsequent sequels left a lot to be desired and kind of spoiled the franchise for me.

I tried a few non fiction books that just didn’t take off for me. Just because you love someones sermons doesn’t mean you'll like a book length version of it.

Honorable Mentions as far as books go include….

Personal, by Lee Child. This is another Jack Reacher novel. I have read every book in the series thus far and find each one as good or better than the last. He has never let me down. Personal is no exception.

Greater by Steven Furtick. Greater is a walk thru the life of Elisha and was written to help the reader better understand the mind of Elisha. Elisha was a prophet that wanted more, he knew he wanted more and he received it from God. Greater is a reminder that we all should seek more from our relationship with Christ.

A walk among the Tombstones. I originally bought this book because I wanted to see the movie and it didn’t come to town. Turned out to be a really great book. Might have even made my top five if the other books in the series were not as terrible as they were.  It was another case of bad books ruining a series for me. To the point i sincerely doubt I pick up another book by Mr Block.

Well there you have it. Not a super captivating read I’m sure but I feel like I need to do this every year.
I felt safe doing to now because against everyones suggestions I started the Divergent series and probably won’t be able to read anything else before next Wednesday.
I know the Divergent series won’t make it on my list even if the first book was pretty good because I have heard nothing but terrible things about the 3rd book. One friend said it made her so made she stopped reading for some time and another said she cried and cried after finishing the series and that the 3rd book ruined her on the series. Still feel like I need to finish.

At your service
Alan

Friday, December 26, 2014

My Top 5 Movies of 2014

December means end of the year lists. Its December 26 and I thought I’d go ahead and write a little about my favorite movies of 2014.

This year as with every year I watched a lot of movies but when I was going back thru them I found it not possible to have a top 10 this year.  I didn’t like 10 moves well enough to call them favorite.

I only see myself seeing one more movie before the end of the year and that is Unbroken which I will see Monday night at 6:40. It might end up being in my top 5 but I never trust my judgement right after seeing a film. If its good at all I might just lump it in because it was so recent and I'm sure it is going to be emotional.

As far as Box office goes the top 10 movies of 2014 were

1) Guardians of the Galaxy
2) The Hunger Games MockingJay part 1
3) Captain America the Winter Soldier
4) The Lego Movie
5) Transformers Age of Extinction
6) Maleficent
7) X-men Days of Future Past
8) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
9) The Amazing Spiderman 2
10) Godzilla 

So here is my list. There isn’t much overlap.

My number 5 movie was Gone Girl. The book was my favorite last year and the twist is so amazing that I have to let others know.  This is a Fincher movie and as with all of his films it is a hard R.  I try to avoid movies that are this rough but I just couldn’t this time.  It was definitely a brilliant adaptation of a great book.  Even if you know the twist its still a turn that makes your breath catch.
I know several people that hate Ben Affleck and avoid his movies. I however after seeing the town was pretty sure he is in the top 3 best living actor/directors. Argo cinched that for me. Now that he is also Batman its a sure thing. 

Number 4 is the Equalizer. This movie based on an eighties tv show was an absolute blast to watch. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, who’s previous films include Shooter and Olympus has fallen both solid action films. It comes as no surprise that the action is fast paced and plentiful.
Denzel is pitch perfect as Robert McCall an ex-black ops agent that faked his own death to live a normal life.
The language is again a little rough in this film and I kinda feel bad that 3 of my top 5 are rated R. Something I didn’t see happening

Number 3 is Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on the Marvel comic that I could never get into as a kid. Granted the first few times I came in contact with the GotG it was a totally different lineup. Even the current lineup is borderline unreadable in comic form. They even had Iron Man in the first story arc of the most recent iteration to draw in readers and it was abysmal at best.
The movie however was everything the comic isn’t. James Gunn, the director did a bang up job of meshing those characters together in a way that didn’t seem forced. Unlike the latest X-men movie that I felt tried too hard to shoe horn characters in.
Guardians was a sweeping space opera the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the original Star Wars Trilogy.

Number 2 is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  This was in my opinion the best comic book movie of this year.
Marvel still manages to put together a movie that not only tells a great story but furthers the overall story arc of Phase 2.  
With not only a great character arc for the Captain but a satisfying arc for Nick Fury and Black Widow.
What makes this movie better to me than other Comic Book movies of the year is rewatchability.
Amazing Spider-man 2 was absolutely awful. X-Men: Days of Future Past would have flopped without the Wolverine. The best scene in the movie involves a mutant that was only included as a slap in the face to Marvel. I’m speaking of the QuickSilver scene. That character is one of the few characters that can be used by both Fox and Marvel Studios. The fact that Quicksilver was used so sparsely tends to lead me to believe that the rumor was true and Fox wanted to get Peter Maximoff on screen before the release of Marvel’s Avengers Age of Ultron next May.
I had heard originally that Nightcrawler (played by Alan Cummings) was going to be the hero of that scene which makes sense what with mr Singer cramming so many characters from his original 2 X-men movies. 
While I will always see an X-men movie in theatres I find this return to the original trilogy a big mistake on Fox’s part. I can only imagine how terrible Next years Fantastic Four is going to be.

My number 1 movie of this year is John Wick.  I loved that movie. Absolutely loved it. The action was mesmerizing. The story was fun and almost light hearted. The fact that it was a revenge story and the act that initiated the revenge was the murder of a dog made the violence to come almost comedic in its unrelenting pounding.
Keanu Reeves is a great action star that doesn’t do enough of this type of film. I can’t wait for it to appear on digital download so I can add it to my library and share it with others. Especially Linda. Thats what kept things like the most recent Planet of the Apes movie out of my top 5. It was a great film but not one I wanted to share with Lin.
To me that is a sign of a great movie.  A movie that I want to share with other even if that means i have to watch it a half a dozen times myself.


Honorable mentions: 
Edge of Tomorrow. It was just barely edged out by Gone Girl to make my top 5.  
If you haven’t seen it do yourself a favor and go get a copy.  Think Groundhog Day with machine Guns
The Lego Movie. By far my favorite animated film this year. 
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was also a great film but not one to really share,

The worst movie I saw this year was 47 Ronin. This was 2 hours of nothing. There was zero progress made by the hero. Capped off by a terrible ending that assured this film the title of worst of 2014.  Even the company of James and Kelly did not soothe the irritation this film caused.

Well there you have it. Those were my favorite theatrical release films of 2014.

At your service

Alan  






Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Blessing I'd Like to Share

What do you say to and about people that care so much about others that they would dip into their time and their finances this Christmas Season to help out a family who was in need.

I don’t want to give specifics for the family’s sake.  Just know that there was a family that were going to have a terrible Christmas.

I got a call, a teen had asked for prayer for the situation and within 2 days members of the church. Who had just been asked to pray have donated their time, a little bit of money and a lot of love to make this Christmas a good Christmas. One that won’t be remembered for poor choices and empty seats at the Christmas dinner. but will be remembered for the Light that  shone in the darkness.  A light that was sparked by a call. Then nursed to a flame by the help and love of others.

To those of you that helped that family in this time of confusion, chaos and darkness I say thank you. Thank you from me, from that family that probably doesn’t know how to thank you and from Jesus.  Who I have no doubt will thank you himself one day for your heart and your willing ness to be his hands.

I have been moved to tears several times over the last 3 days.  Some by the plight of the family, by the generosity of those I have long called my friends and the surprising kindness of a few strangers.

in 36 years, I have never been a part of a group that cares as much about people as I am now.
I’ve been in plenty of groups that care about the others in that group. Or that care about people of similar beliefs but never a place like LifePoint.
There were only a few people that knew about the situation, I have no doubt if I had posted it on Facebook there would have been an un-surfable wave of love and generosity 

Thank you for the extremely humbling gift your service to others has given to me this Christmas.  Thank you for the Christmas you provided for the family in need.  For your love with lack of judgement, and conditions. 
Thank you for letting me be a part of this gift. Thank you for letting me serve both with you and for you.

at your service

Merry Christmas


Alan

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's Been A Long December....Updated

still there is reason to believe that this year year will be better than the last.  

That is a line from the Counting Crows song Long December and I think about it every year about this time.  I know its only the 16th but I am winding down for the year.


Work is at a near stand still due to Christmas and New Year.  I have one assignment and its a spec job and its been my experience that those are the lowest paying jobs in my particular field.


I'm getting my tax papers ready for January.


I made the decision yesterday to start 2015 off in a good place by getting us "squared".  Had a few surprise expenses the last few months. Seems like when it rains it pours or in my case poors.

After sitting here for a while and thinking about it. I decided to get caught up on everything. Put the Myers even for the new year.

That seemed like a good idea at the time and I'm positive I'll thank myself for it over the next few months. Still it's nerve wracking to be down in the double digits with a family of 5 with the next paycheck (Linda's or mine) so far off.


it makes for a pretty tough possibly scary last couple weeks of December and first week or so of January but it felt important to me.


Update: So today Linda had a flat and we are super tight on money as discussed earlier. It turned out to be unrepairable so we had to but a new tire. It was a mess. So that took a pretty good chunk for the cheapest tire. Means we are gonna have to cut corners somewhere else.

Sometimes when you are working hard and doing everything you can for the Kingdom. When you are at your busiest things still just go wrong.
Often times for me it is when I feel like I am making spiritual headway. I don't know if it is attacks by the enemy or just a run of bad luck. 
Just because you are a believer things aren't always gonna work out. Sometimes you have those months when you only have $20 in the bank. Or everyone gets sick, or the cars both break down. Just because you believe and trust in Jesus doesn't promise you the good life.
Sometimes even when He reigns it pours

I'm not worried (I'm a little worried now), Tithe and offering was the very first thing I paid. After that I am confident God has this. 

It's been an incredibly blessed year.  Back in Feb I stepped in to help out at church while Graham tended to some business for his family.

I've been volunteering roughly 2 hours a day Mon-Thurs at church ever since. Granted I've missed a few days for various reasons, sickness and freelance work being on the vanguard of that list.
Still it's been amazing to get to sit in with Graham, Jeremy and Pastor Kelly nearly everyday. To see the sheer number of people our church helps in the course of a week is staggering.
I'm staggered by the dedication of our leaders. The ones that are there everyday and the ones who aren't. The ones that work a full day/week and still manage to participate in 2 and 3 services now gladly.

I went to C3 in Texas again this year for the first anniversary of my rededication. I got to help lead a group of teens to New Mexico. We helped a family build a home.


I got to teach our k-3rd graders and got to know them better than just a high five on Sunday mornings. I had the honor of seeing some of them give their life to Christ and be baptised.


I watched in awe as God blew the doors off some teen events.  I got to listen to teens hearts and pray with them.


I was allowed to serve another Easter at the Eggstravagnza, one more Back to Church Sunday under the belt too.


I took a step with 4 other guys towards becoming better Christians/Fathers/Leaders/Ministers in order to better serve.


This was a year at the plow and I couldn't be more thankful for it. Or more thankful for those that allow me to serve.


Service is where the rubber met the road for me.  When being a Christian went from being potential to kinetic.


There is still so much to do and volunteers are always needed maybe this next year is the one where you get more involved. 

"He said to his disciples, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Mt 9:37

My prayers for 2015 is that I serve more. Pray more and grow as a father, husband and minister.   
When I talk about being a minister I'm not talking ordination or pastoring.
The word minister comes from the Latin ministrare which means to serve, be of service, administer, attend, wait on.

That sums up my hope and goal for myself and for you. That we all become better ministers in whatever path God has set before us. Make no mistake though, He has set a path.


At your service


Alan






Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas List 2014

That time of year where no matter how emphatic I am that I don't want anyone to get me anything for Christmas there are a few family members and friends that will no doubt feel like they really need to.

To that end I am putting together this list. Here are a few things I need or want.  I am adding an Amazon link to them but you can find most of them at a local department or book store

Gift cards are always good
iTunes and Amazon are the best in my opinion.

If you are looking for clothing then I am still an XXL

My brother and sister in law got me a hoodie last year that I LOVE. Its a zip up hoodie like these...

http://www.amazon.com/ecko-unltd-Spinner-Fulll-XX-Large/dp/B00D09DM7Q/ref=sr_1_40?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1417989974&sr=1-40&keywords=zip+up+hoodie

http://www.amazon.com/Burnside-Maverick-Zip-Up-Hoodie-Large/dp/B00KTD81E0/ref=sr_1_6?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1417989974&sr=1-6&keywords=zip+up+hoodie

http://www.amazon.com/Hurley-Fleece-Jacket-Black-Medium/dp/B00I1LSURK/ref=sr_1_8?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1417989974&sr=1-8&keywords=zip+up+hoodie
Please no solid colors keep it to patterns and print

Shirts in patterns as well like these

http://www.amazon.com/Levis-Sleeve-Woven-Bronze-X-Large/dp/B00NXNOMBE/ref=sr_1_10?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1417990497&sr=1-10&keywords=mens+long+sleeve+button+shirts

http://www.amazon.com/U-S-Polo-Assn-Classic-X-Large/dp/B00KT35VVG/ref=sr_1_13?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1417990497&sr=1-13&keywords=mens+long+sleeve+button+shirts

Moleskin Sketchbooks

http://www.amazon.com/Moleskine-Sketchbook-Large-Classic-Notebooks/dp/8883701151/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1417990813&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=moleskin+sketchbooks
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=todd+mcfarlane&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Atodd+mcfarlane

http://www.amazon.com/Graphic-Ink-Comics-Frank-Quitely/dp/1401248403/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417990931&sr=1-1&keywords=frank+quitely

So there you have it. Please don't feel like you need to get me anything but if you must at least you have an idea