Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Rise and Fall (and Rise?) of the Coffee Giant

Starbucks is circling the wagons, and even closed all their stores this week for a few hours to "re-train" employees on making drinks...

Starbucks Promises Customers Perfection: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

As a big fan of Starbucks, I think this could be a wake-up call for them to get back to what they do best. I have not bought into the thinking that Starbucks has declined because of too many stores. Maybe their stores have lacked some in strategic placement, but for the die hard Starbucks drinker, the Starbucks logo cannot be in too many places.

Has Starbucks lost something in the coffee-espresso business? A resounding "yes." It seems that many baristas do not really know enough about the coffee and espresso beverages they are serving. (Many also do know a great deal about their product, but it seems to be hit or miss in any given store.) I have also seen a lack of concern over the product being served. Part of this is apathy on the part of the employee. Part of this, I believe, is on the corporate level of trying to make more money with fewer employees per store.

I am certainly not a Starbucks exclusive kind of person. Here in Birmingham, though, there is relatively no competition to Starbucks. There are a few privately-owned places, only a couple of which I know to serve really good coffee and espresso (Cool Beans, OHenry's). In my experience, many of the other smaller operations do not have the brewing equipment or the quality coffee to compete with Starbucks. Some of the smaller operations create a neat environment, but for the person who enjoys great coffee, many are just lacking.

Starbucks may have just tipped the scales in the law of supply and demand, but it seems that the company has recognized that it really is their first line of products which has brought them to such heights and it is their first line of products to which they must return.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Ice Is Back

The ice is back

Global warming sceptics buoyed by record cold

Will Media Ignore Harsh Winter of 2008 to Preserve Global Warming Myth?

Number of ice scrapings performed in Birmingham, AL this winter: 2 (2 more than average.)

The Power of Quoted Scripture

Recently at lunch with a friend we noticed the following words which appeared to be Scripture posted outside a business:

"Go, do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you."

Out of curiosity we looked up the verse to find that it was the words of 2 Samuel 7.3. However, taking into consideration the actual meaning of these words in Scripture, the business certainly would not have been attempting to convey the overall meaning.

Just an ounce of investigation first of all showed that the words are those of Nathan the prophet being spoken to King David. Secondly, the words are in response to David's quest to build a house for the ark of God. Thirdly (and maybe most significantly), the affirmitve is completely reversed in the following verses when God speaks to David through Nathan stating that because of David's abundant bloodshed, he is not to be the one to build God's temple.

Religion News: Religious News and Headlines -

Religion News: Religious News and Headlines - - Survey shows that people are constantly migrating in their religious views with little conviction about absolute truth.

No surprises here, but the topic does bring up some interesting questions about the way we experience and use our religious freedom in this country.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


winkle, verb

I was unfamiliar with this little gem of a word until I stumbled across it this morning in D. A. Carson's For the Love of God (Vol. 2). Here is its context: "God has winkled out Job's hidden sins..."

The term is apparently an informal British term something like "to dig out." But the beauty in this word lies in the noun from which the verb seems to derive. As a noun, "winkle" refers to marine gastropods in general. Connection between noun and verb? The meat in these gastropods must be "winkled" out out the shell.

As for Job and God, you'll have to read Job 22-23 to see that it is Eliphaz's bad theology that supposes that God must be winkling out Job's hidden sin.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tennessee's Fulmer Responds to Criticism

I do not know what actually takes place behind the scenes in Tennessee football. I do know, however, what I desire in a coach and a program, and it is a program that is honorable off the field first and that performs well on the field, second.

Also, I am usually on the side of Phil Fulmer when he faces attacks. With that said, Fulmer's written response to a call for his firing is precisely what I desire to see in a head football coach. Is he right? I do not know. In light of the lack of character that has been displayed often in Knoxville and everywhere else by current and former Tennessee players, it is difficult to give Fulmer an A+. In the end, I am again on Fulmer's side, although the evidence for Tennessee's success in character building is about as strong as Kentucky's defense.

John Adams: UT Football Needs a Change at the Top

Phil Fulmer: Coach's First Job Is as Educator, Mentor

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Against Music - an interestingly helpful article on music in worship by Greg Gilbert.

"I’ve been amazed since becoming an elder in a local church just how dependent many Christians are on a certain style of music, or certain level of excellence in music. How many times have you heard someone say, for example, “I just can’t worship in that church.”? Or “I just don’t feel like I’m connecting with God there.”

(HT: Evangelical Outpost)

Church Economics in Birmingham

Churches need to become forces for economic revitalization, Birmingham minister says.

Maybe churches should also be responsible for building a dome in Birmingham...I wonder if has stumbled across that one?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How To Spend Your Tax Refund Check

Going to spend your tax refund on a big ticket item?

I've been surprised at the analysis going on by the media concerning how people will put the money to use that the government is supposedly sending to every tax payer. Reports (like this one) that people will use the money to pay bills or pay off credit cards have taken a negative spin on the way that people might use the money.

Does it matter? I say 'no' because people are going to spend money either way. The family that pays off their $1000 credit card bill is going to turn around and probably make more purchases on their credit card. The person who pays their mortgage - well, that gives them the freedom to buy something else. Putting it into savings? While the gov't doesn't want to suggest the savings approach, in the long run, if more people would save the money, the economy will be stronger as a result.

Side Note: To be honest, I would fall into the category that says the tax refund is premature and unnecessary for the current economy. What happens if things actually do get bad? However, I'm not planning to send mine back, assuming I get one. (If you work for the IRS and have time to read this, please know that I am fully appreciative.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lloyd-Jones and the Spiritual Life

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones writes about the tendency that some believers have to become discouraged because their Christian lives are not progressing at the pace they would like (in his book, Spiritual Depression.) Lloyd-Jones likens the need for maturity in this area to that of a child (I pictured a toddler) who takes off running out the door...but we know that the child cannot run very far.

Taking Lloyd-Jones' analogy a bit farther, compare the running of a seasoned, adult runner with the childish energy of the little toddler. If we did not know better, we might expect that the child would "outrun" the adult when we see the child's unbridled enthusiasm and effort. Yet, we all know that the average adult would surpass the child if not very quickly then at least soon in the race, even if the adult were only to walk.

The analogy is made to demonstrate that error in thinking that many Christians develop at some point in their lives, and which, if left alone, may dominate their thinking and be a constant source of discouragement. Consistency in growing in godliness is to be valued more than sudden spurts of spiritual excitement. Most people, however, can look back to some "spiritual high" that they experienced along the way and become discouraged that they have not subsequently encountered a comparable period in life. In reality, the individual's growth spiritually is better measured by his/her daily growth in God's Word and in prayer. These growths are usually immeasurable, but it is this type of growth which produces spiritual maturity.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Birmingham Churches Asked to Provide Internet

Recently as I searched for hotspots in Birmingham, my search brought up this article about the latest words of the quite wordy Birmingham mayor, Larry Langford.

As the article begins, you can probably tell where it goes from there.

"Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford wants churches to join him in making the city Internet ready. And he says it won't cost much to introduce the technology to the entire city and give school children access to the Internet."

Suprised? Not so much, but I thought it was supremely interesting especially in light of "Church City" here in Birmingham. Langford himself is probably a church attender, and I do not fault him for wanting churches to be his lengthy list of community centers.

The first part of this statement I agree with:

"The city needs to be WiFi ready," he said Wednesday. "The digital divide in this city is unacceptable."

The second, though, makes the issue seemingly a rich-poor divide, and one which the church is to tackle at that.

Life, Liberty, and an Internet Connection

Plainly, I have no problem with the city wanting to make WiFi available for every person. The article makes reference to the fact that Birmingham City Schools has purchased laptop computers for every 1st-8th grade student in the system. This purchase may be a good thing...time will tell. Also, having available internet access for everyone could be viewed positively, and there are obviously some opportunities which come with the internet. However, for most people their personal use of the internet in the home is primarily for social and recreational use - am I right? Internet is there along with cable TV and a Playstation 3, right?

Calling All Churches

The call for churches to be the agents of change is utterly off the mark. The article explains that the mayor met with area pastors to share his idea and to ask for their help. Too bad I didn't know this meeting was happening or I would have been there in a heartbeat. Talk about fun!

I would have gotten kicked out, though, for probably feeling the need to mention what the church is all about. The sad thing is that I am guessing there are numerous pastors and scores of people who think this is not only a great idea, but it's the kind of thing that more churches should be doing. Churches should exist to help create a better society - that's the apparent consensus!

The understanding of "church" has been so neutralized that providing an internet connection has become one of the best things imaginable by society. Even better, people could access the internet just by bearing near a church building and never have to enter. Perfect! Parking spaces labeled "Internet" could be set up right next to those labeled "Senior Saints."
WORDS is back.

The blog is returning to consistent action as there are a number of posts I am currently working on and will return also to posting quick links and other items as needed. The plan to continue has been in the works for about 4 weeks, but I wanted to wait and evaluate everything before I jumped just make sure I would be serious about writing and posting.

The categories here will remain mostly the same, though I have a desire to focus more on the Christian life and also attempt to keep up the local happenings in Birmingham as I was attempting previously. I do not plan to delve much into national politics, but my input may be necessary at some point.

LOST will also be fair game, but I am not a big TV watcher nor do I get to watch too many new releases on the big screen (funny, "big screen" refers to most peoples' home theater systems these days.)