Welcome!

Welcome to the new site. Things look a little different, and not everything is in its final form, but I think you’ll already see some improvements.

Please note that while I was able to import all the posts from the old blog, I was not able to automatically import all of the comments. So if your comment to one of my previous posts is missing, I apologize.

Outage warning

This morning, I signed up with a new web host. My plan — har-de-har-har — is to try to get everything set up on the new host before I move the domain name over and cancel my old account. This would mean little if any interruption for you, the gentle reader. But I am well aware that such installations sometimes do not go as planned. If you find this site missing at any point in the next few days, please be patient.

The web page address will remain http://lakeneuron.com for the home page, and I am 90 percent sure it will still be http://lakeneuron.com/blog for the blog. The only reason I would change this is if I decide to start the blog on the home page. If I do that, I’ll try to put a referral page at lakeneuron.com/blog.

However, I’m not sure how my new blogging software handles RSS feeds. This could potentially cause some interruption for those of you who follow this blog through an aggregator or through a subscription service like Bloglet. If my new RSS feed is called something different than my old RSS feed, you may end up having to resubscribe. Drop by the site the old-fashioned way in a few days, and I’ll try to post any new instructions.

My purpose in moving is that my new web host supports the programming language PHP (which means it also supports the blogging software WordPress). I have wanted to move to more powerful blogging software and away from the blogging service Blogger, which has been increasingly cantankerous as of late. I also want to teach myself PHP.

When I mentioned PHP in an earlier post, my brother made a joke about “coming over to the dark side” which one of my other readers didn’t quite get. (“Why is PHP ‘the dark side’?”) I think my brother was just being irreverent, but I’m about to find out for sure.

I apologize for any inconvenience; I think this will be a better site in the long run.

Editing with 20/20 hindsight

I had already noticed, a few weeks ago, a couple of glaring errors in my Door piece that I was hoping someone had caught. They didn’t, and I have no one to blame but myself. At one place, I have a quote from someone who’s never identified. I had just mentioned “marketing consultants,” and I think I should have identified the quote as coming from one of the consultants, but I just say “he said.”

This is, of course, a fictional humor piece, so it’s not as if a real person is going to contact me and complain about being left unidentified. But it galls me as a writer.

I also had a completely wrong verb tense in one sentence — “become” instead of “became.”

Hindsight, of course, is always 20/20.

The new Door

Wittenburg DoorI got my contributing editor’s copies of the new Wittenburg Door today, and — as I’d hoped — my little humor piece about Christian retailing is in there. I’m also tickled that, after a few months of not listing the contributing editors on the masthead, they have gone back to doing so. (Call me vain if you want to.)

The issue includes an interview with “Left Behind” co-author Jerry Jenkins, which is sort of funny because my humor bit ends with a tasteless pun related to the “Left Behind” series.

It also includes an interview with the Door’s own senior editor Robert Darden about his new history of black gospel music, “People Get Ready.”

Most of what I’ve written for the Door over the past decade has been interviews; this is actually my first humor piece to see print in the magazine since 2002. I don’t know which pieces they’ll select for posting to the web site, but if mine is one of them I’ll put a link to it.

Rice

Sometimes, the best cooking is the simplest.

I had an onion left over — I bought it for something I made last week, but ended up not using it for some reason. So today, I set up my Kitchen Kettle — a non-stick electric cooker which I use pretty often — diced the onion and cooked it in light olive oil and a little salt to bring out the liquid. I intended to caramelize it but I got impatient and it was more golden than brown. I added a little cumin and paprika, then some of my homemade chicken stock (mentioned in one of my beer-can chicken posts) and some converted rice, using the proportions of liquid and rice from the directions on the rice. I cooked it until the rice was done. It was delicious. Not too spicy or flashy, but a wonderful lunch.

Why cumin and paprika? I have no idea. I love cumin, and think it goes well with caramelized onion, and I guess I thought the paprika would give the dish a little color.

Blogger

Another reason I want to leave Blogger is that it’s been acting a little strange lately — sluggish and what have you. There are times when it seems not to accept a post, and so you try again, and then you discover that you’ve posted duplicate copies of the same entry.

Anyway, someone left a nice anonymous comment on my post about the layspeaking dinner. But they apparently had a problem with Blogger, similar to the problems I’ve had posting, and as a result they left the same comment twice. I thought I would be helpful and delete one of the entries. It didn’t seem to work, so I tried deleting the other one. Then, I looked and both copies were gone. Luckily, I get e-mail notification whenever someone leaves a comment. I called up that e-mail, cut and pasted the comment, and then re-posted it myself, anonymously.

If you can decipher the above paragraph, you have an outstaning career ahead of you in tech support. Unfortunately, you may have to move to India.

WordPress, PHP, etc.

I am toying with the idea of changing web hosts.

My current web host doesn’t support PHP — at least not in the basic “home user” package I have now, and I think I can find a better deal than one of their business packages. I don’t have any experience with PHP, but my web designer brother recommended a good basic book and I’d like to be able to teach myself some of it. I would also — and this is more to the point — like to move to a blogging tool like WordPress or Movable Type rather than using Blogger. Blogger is an outstanding service, but using your own blogging software gives you flexibility that an external service like Blogger can’t match.

Do those of you with your own sites or blogs have any input? Has anyone used WordPress software or Total Choice Hosting as a web host?

The luckiest layspeaker

God has blessed me beyond my capacity to accept or understand. Sometimes, when I get overcome by self-pity and frustration, God just has to tap me on the shoulder and remind me of that fact.

Tonight, I attended the Murfreesboro District, United Methodist Church, Lay Speaker Dinner. This was the first such banquet, although the district wants to make it an annual event. For any readers from different traditions who may be unfamiliar with the term “lay speaker,” it refers to trained but non-ordained volunteers who are able to preach or serve in other capacities in the church — most notably, to fill the pulpit for a pastor who may be sick or on vacation. This was a dinner to which all of the district’s lay speakers had been invited, free of charge. (Spouses, pastors or other guests had to pay, however.)

The brochure announcing the event didn’t really say what the program for the dinner would be. I assumed, correctly, that there would be a guest speaker.

The guest speaker turned out to be C. Don Ladd, who has been active in the lay speaking ministry in the Nashville District and the Tennessee Conference as a whole. I was delighted at this. You see, when I took my first advanced layspeaking course — becoming, in the process, a “certified” lay speaker — I took it in the Nashville District, because I had a schedule conflict with the class in the Murfreesboro District. Don Ladd taught that class, and in the process he was an incredible blessing and inspiration to me.

I had e-mailed Don a couple of times in the intervening years, but I really didn’t think he would remember who I was. There’s no telling how many lay speakers he’s worked with over the years. And I look quite a bit different now than I did when I took the course — my thick hair is much shorter and I have a goatee. I figured it would be fun to go up and introduce myself after the program and see if he remembered me.

Don’s program tonight had to do with the three words found in the rim of the United Methodist Lay Speaking Ministries logo: “Caring,” “Communicating” and “Leading.”

When he got to “caring,” he startled me.

“I’m delighted to see that John Carney is here tonight,” he said. “I taught John in a lay speaking class several years back at Forest Hills UMC. John has demonstrated his caring by ministering to people in the streets of Africa. I have read all about John’s trips and I’ve prayed for him.”

Five minutes earlier, I didn’t think Don Ladd would even remember who I was, and now here he was holding me up as an example of caring. I was both thrilled and horrified — thrilled that he remembered me and horrified that he made what I’ve done sound like something more important than just a two-week mission trip.

I tried to think of where he would have heard about my Africa trip. He said I mentioned it in an e-mail, and I probably did, but I don’t recall it — and that’s not really where he got the details. He got the details from Mildred Bomar. Mrs. Bomar, a dear, sweet lady whom I have known since I was 10 years old, was one of my father’s parishoners when we first moved to Bedford County in 1972. Mrs. Bomar now lives in Nashville (or Brentwood) and is an active member of Forest Hills. She clipped out my first-person Kenya trip accounts from the Times-Gazette last September and shared them with Don Ladd.

And Don prayed for me.

And I never knew.

How many times this week have I moped about the demands of work, the frustrations of my finances, the feeling that I’m trapped in a rut? How many times this week have I acted like God had abandoned me? God has never abandoned me, or you, or anyone else, and I know that. But I still behave like a spoiled child.

Most of the time, I really don’t realize what a lucky man I am. Sometimes, God has to remind me.