Seeking that elusive relationship with God

I’ve just finished reading The Furious Longing of GodThe Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning by Brennan Manning, where he states:

The seldom-stated truth is that many of us have a longing for God and an aversion to God. Some of us seek Him and flee Him at the same time. We may scrupulously observe the Ten Commandments and rarely miss church on a Sunday morning, but a love affair with Jesus is just not our cup of tea.

This is my first exposure to Manning, a prolific author who would probably describe himself as a man obsessed with the love of God. In his  introduction, he describes the numerous books he has written as variations on this captivating theme, one that I must sadly confess has never featured prominently in my own studies, reflections, or teaching until the past two or three years.

Those of us who embrace a Reformed soteriology (doctrine of salvation) have many mind-boggling themes competing for our attention: the covenants of grace and works, the absolute sovereignty of God, predestination, providence, and what we often call the doctrines of grace (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints). We could insist that, since all of these themes are deeply rooted in the love of God, every aspect of a Calvinistic worldview inherently proclaims God’s love, but I’m afraid that would be putting too positive a spin on the reality.

Perhaps I’ve missed something along the way, because I can remember vigorous theological discussions on whether Calvinists could legitimately say to non-Christian people, “God loves you.” Many of us find ourselves squirming in our theological seats because the Reformed “system” only makes room for God’s love toward the elect, those whom He has chosen to save from the foundation of the world. So we feel very uncomfortable expressing God’s love to just anyone. In our minds, the “elect” are few in number compared with the overwhelming mass of humanity who are traveling the broad road that leads to eternal destruction. God does not love the non-elect, our theological system tells us; in fact, He will forever and ever pour out unimaginable punishment and suffering on these “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22, ESV).

This perspective of God has made it very difficult for me to fathom what Brennan Manning means by “a love affair with Jesus,” even though I consider myself to be a recipient of God’s grace and a follower of Jesus Christ. And yet I think back to the garden of Eden, prior to Adam and Eve’s trespass, where the first human couple walked with and enjoyed unhindered fellowship with the Triune God. The Bible gives us virtually no information about their daily relationship with God or how long before sin entered and tainted the perfection of Eden’s paradise, but surely they enjoyed an intimacy with their Creator that would stagger our imagination.

A more fully developed portrait of God dwelling with men can be seen in the life and ministry of Jesus, who held nothing back when He said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9, ESV). Think about that. Daily interaction, shared experiences (meals, parties, festivals, funerals, frightening episodes on the sea), times of hushed reverence and exuberant laughter, teaching in the context of life, sadness, disappointment, suffering and the full range of human emotion must have characterized the Savior’s life as he walked this earth with his disciples. While we may not know how Adam and Eve interacted with God prior to the Fall, we have been given an even greater vision of daily life in/with God through the Lord Jesus Christ in his three-year ministry in the towns and villages of Palestine.

I hunger for that. I long to know God’s grace more fully in the ordinary routines of life, outside what many people would describe as the religious component of their life…the weekly church-going activities where we tick the obligatory boxes and hope God sees our sacrifice. We participate in the holy rituals that have been handed down through the centuries because we want to know Him, and yet those activities often leave us feeling empty and wondering if God can be known in these ways.

At the same time, we’re not sure what we would do if God really showed up on Sunday. How would we know? Does the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Does the pace and intensity of our “praise and worship” increase when God’s in the house? Do we sense a special anointing on the pastor’s sermon? Should we stand, sit, or fall prostrate on the floor? And what if God doesn’t show up in most church services week after week? What does a “worship service” feel like when it’s devoid of His presence? You see, I’m not sure we can tell the difference; in fact, I don’t think we really want to know, because of our deep-seated aversion to God. We want to be God’s people, but we’d rather the Almighty keep His distance, like the Israelites of old feared hearing the voice of God.

Should our relationship with God (I speak here of the triune fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit) resemble anything of the faint glimpses we see in Eden or the more robust images of first century Palestine? Do we look to the Puritan era or modern movements like the emerging church? If our religious rituals seem empty and unfulfilling, should they be jettisoned as relics of the past that have little or nothing to do with a daily experience of His presence? Or should we dive deeper into ancient patterns, like the neo-monastics or those seeking God in a more formal liturgy of worship? More young Christians seem to be doing this, praying the “daily office” and observing the orthodox holy days like monks in an ancient monastery, exchanging their middle-of-the-road evangelicalism for a more high church, smells and bells liturgy.

At this point, pursuing various styles and approaches to “church” (I hesitate to even use the word in this way) seems quite ludicrous unless they lead me to know God more intimately on a day-to-day basis. Christ died for me! I want what Paul prayed for the Ephesians: that I would have the strength to comprehend the dimensions of Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge. I want to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18–19). And I don’t think experiencing these realities is dependent on what we do when we gather with other believers, whether informally over coffee or in a more structured Bible study group. The fullness and the reality should already be present within us, shouldn’t it? We take that with us everywhere we go, so that the fragrance of Christ may permeate every place, sacred or secular, our feet take us.

Grandpa Elliott & Susan Boyle: The Gobsmacked Effect

Until this week, I had never heard of Grandpa Elliott or Susan Boyle, but their names are quickly becoming well known through the internet’s social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook. The two musicians are unrelated: Grandpa Elliott is a jazz/blues street musician from New Orleans and Susan Boyle is a native of Scotland and a participant in Britain’s Got Talent, a reality television show in the United Kingdom.

Last weekend, I watched the following music video produced by Playing for Change, a network of musicians and artists who want to bring peace, inspiration, and connection through a collaborative, multimedia effort that stretches across the entire planet. As they raise funds and awareness, Playing for Change hopes to build music and art schools in impoverished communities, so they can teach young people to share their music with others and connect with other such schools around the world. Their website describes the vision:

Traveling across four continents over three years with cameras and a mobile recording studio, Mark Johnson and Jonathan Walls embarked on a search for musical inspiration. What they discovered on their journey was the power music has to connect the world together. Chronicled in the feature-length documentary, Playing for Change: Peace Through Music, is a journey that starts in the city streets of America and Europe and heads to South African townships and the Himalayan Mountains….Throughout the film, musicians from different locations that have never met each other join together to recreate songs such as “One Love” and “Stand by Me,” further demonstrating the power of music to connect and inspire people around the world.

The music video “Stand by Me” begins with Roger Ridley, a street musician from Santa Monica, California, who launches into a laid-back rendition of the song with simply an acoustic guitar. But hold on tight because Ridley’s brought friends, thanks to the wonders of high-tech digital music and video production. A New Orleans blues and jazz singer, Grandpa Elliott, takes the first verse of the song:

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me.

A third musician, Washboard Chaz, also from New Orleans, brings his unique instrumentation into the mix and all three buskers are digitally joined together for the chorus. It gets better! At the onset of verse two, the music goes transatlantic with the amazing vocals of Clarence Bekker, standing in a side alley of Amsterdam, Netherlands; however, a group of drummers from the Twin Eagle Drum Group in Zuni, New Mexico, set a driving pace with their Native American drums. Okay, here’s the video:

All I have to say is…the video accomplished exactly what it’s founders intended! I found myself inspired, even to the point of tears, as I embraced the impact of what was taking place right before my eyes: virtually unknown street performers who, if we’re honest, we wouldn’t give a second thought. Recognizing the technical hurdles and the behind-the-scenes planning that must have been poured into this project, I was simply and utterly blown away by the amazing performance of this rag-tag group of nobodies, especially Grandpa Elliott who featured quite prominently and cut loose with a really cool harmonica solo.

Then yesterday my wife called me upstairs to watch the video of Susan Boyle, a 47-year-old unemployed Scottish woman who entered the Britain’s Got Talent competition because, in her words, “I’ve always wanted to perform in front of a large audience.” Susan admits, “I’ve never been married. I’ve never been kissed. Shame, but it’s not an advert!” As of this moment, nearly thirteen million people have viewed the following video in only four days, not to mention the millions who have watched several other versions floating around cyberspace:

Miss Boyle attempted to walk off-stage when the song ended, but the judges quickly called her back to hear their comments. One of the judges, Amanda Holden, summed up everything I was feeling during Susan’s solo:

I am so thrilled because I know that everybody was against you. I honestly think that we were all being very cynical and I think that’s the biggest wake-up call ever. And I just want to say that it was a complete privilege listening to that.

You would have to be brain-dead to watch the above television clip without having your heart stirred, perhaps needing a box of tissues on hand. I’ve begun thinking about these two seemingly unrelated videos, featuring Grandpa Elliott and Susan Boyle, and asking myself, “What can I learn from this?”

Why do such things stir us so? Many people willingly pay exorbitant prices for tickets to see top talent such as Sir Elton John or U2 or Lady GaGa, often forming long lines at the ticket office, camping out for days in advance to avoid the disappointment of a sell-out. But when you go to an event like that, you expect a great performance. It’s what the professionals do, isn’t it? And we love them for it.

But we’re not normally tuned into watching nobodies perform, unless it’s to make fun and have a laugh. If they are truly talented, we reason, then they would already be at the top of the charts. Since they’re not, they must be rubbish. So it might be worth taking a chance and listening to thirty seconds before changing channels or looking for another form of entertainment, but what if we get totally blown away by the unexpected? To borrow a phrase from Susan Boyle, I was gobsmacked…completely and utterly astounded, overwhelmed, beyond amazement, rendered speechless.

People are now searching the internet to buy Grandpa Elliott’s music on CD—some might even be willing to buy his stuff on 8-track tape if it existed—because of one brief appearance in a collaborative effort by Playing for Change. Unfortunately, Grandpa Elliott doesn’t have an agent or a record label or a public relations manager. He’s been playing jazz and blues on the streets of New Orleans for the past fifty years, an “undiscovered” talent that most passersby probably wrote off as another homeless bum who could have been a good singer if he had not thrown his life away on booze or drugs.

Susan Boyle has been living in obscurity in a small Scottish village, enjoying a simple life and singing in her church choir, until now. The reality of what’s happened could change everything for Miss Boyle and Grandpa Elliott; and unfortunately it may take away as much as it gives them in notoriety and fame.

Christian Historical Fiction: Used Books for Sale in UK

Just a quick notice that my wife has decided to sell much of her personal library, primarily consisting of historical fiction written by Christian authors like Gilbert Morris, Catherine Palmer, Lori Wick, Beverly Lewis and others. We’re trying to lighten our load of personal belongings before moving back to the USA within the next 60 days or so.

I once poked fun at the idea of “Christian fiction” from my ivory tower of professional, theological, and clergical (yes, it’s really a word) non-fiction world until I realized how much gratuitous sex and immorality was dumped, like so much garbage, in the genre of historical fiction. So if you’re looking for some great literary adventures that you can read aloud to your family, please have a browse through these listings on my Amazon Marketplace storefront (2ManyGoodBooks). Since we live in the UK, these books are only available through and most of them cannot be shipped outside the UK.

Following Jesus Into the Unknown

In less than sixty days, I plan to be back to the United States after spending five years in the United Kingdom (UK) as an independent missionary and I have no plans to return to my previous life as a lifetime, died-in-the-wool Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) loyalist. I’m not going back as a church planting strategist…not as an SBC pastor or church planter…and not even as a member of an SBC church.

And it has nothing to do with my previous employment and experience in denominational life, in spite of what some may think. Yes, I have been hurt and disappointed and wrongfully treated, but then who hasn’t? As the saying goes, “Join the club!” You cannot be engaged in meaningful ministry without making yourself vulnerable to misunderstanding and there’s often nothing you can do to defend yourself.

This may come as a shock to many life-long friends and family, but I believe God is leading me to follow Jesus into places where no one else is going and in ways that few evangelicals may understand, much less engage in. That may sound like I’m putting myself on a pedestal, but I honestly don’t mean to do that. Living and serving in the completely secular culture of the UK has radically altered my priorities and assumptions about what it means to follow Jesus, something that previously seemed so easy to do within the utopian Christian bubble of “come and see” evangelical churchianity. For those who may be avid readers, the following books have shaped my thinking and plans for future ministry. <A HREF=”” mce_HREF=””> Widgets</A>
While it may seem that American evangelicals have completely penetrated the middle class culture of the Deep South, I can remember being startled that only 10% of the population in the traditionally “Bible Belt” counties of western Florida attend an evangelical church. The SBC represents the largest single grouping with approximately 5% attending their weekly services on a regular basis; and I would be willing to guess that the numbers have declined even more over the past five years.

I love Bill Easum’s open remarks in Unfreezing Moves: Following Jesus into the Mission Field:

Faithful congregations follow Jesus into the mission field to make disciples who make a difference in the world. Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) describes the heart and soul of any authentic Christian community of faith, because it is Jesus’ Last Will and Testament. Faithful congregations intentionally go out from the congregational mission post to make disciples; congregations that omit this purpose are unfaithful. No individual, congregation, or denomination is excused from this mandate, because disciple-making is the reason the Church exists. Take disciple-making away and our congregations have no justification for existence.

In the closing story to St. Luke’s Gospel, as well as throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we encounter a series of “road stories.”…In every instance Christianity is depicted as a movement away from the center of religious institutional, professional life into the fringes of the mission field.

Once again, God asks Christians the question: “Will you follow me again into the mission field?” If we wish to be faithful and claim the future for Jesus, we must quit trying to save our institutions and be willing to follow Jesus into the mission field, even if it means abandoning or sacrificing our institutions. The basic purpose of Christianity is to be with Jesus on the mission field. Every faithful hero in the New Testament joined Jesus on the mission field. The purpose of Christianity has nothing to do with health or growth.

So consider this a brief update of where I’m heading for the immediate future. While I do have some specific plans in mind, it’s going to take some time to get reoriented to American life, including getting settled into new employment and a host of other things. I’ll keep you posted as details unfold, so that you can either pray for God’s provision and/or for my sanity—not sure which is the most pressing issue right now. The future is exciting! We can always look forward to life when we’re learning to rest in God’s love and mercy.

September 11: The Continuing Nightmare

Last night we watched a documentary on Sky AnytimeTV (on demand) entitled, 102 Minutes That Changed America, that was assembled from video footage from over 100 people who experienced the horrors of September 11, 2001, in New York City. Without any narration, the events unfolded from the perspective of the eyewitnesses who captured an amazing sense of the emotion and drama and disbelief. You can watch some of the footage on the History Channel’s website.

While doing a little more research on 9/11 this evening, I ran across the YouTube trailer (below) concerning an upcoming documentary on the serious health problems being experienced by thousands of ordinary people who voluntarily took time off to help in the search, rescue, and clean-up at Ground Zero. Quite a few of my co-workers (from the Florida Baptist Convention) drove to New York City as part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief effort. Their compassion for the victims translated into actions that may eventually threaten their own lives. The documentary, Three Weeks in September, will air sometime this Summer 2009. Here’s the video:

At the risk of being labeled a kook and a weirdo, I have watched a number of documentaries that question the official story behind the events of 9/11 and I think there are a lot of unanswered questions, perhaps of the same magnitude as those that should have been asked of the German government as it carried out the systematic slaughter of six million Jews. We often wonder, don’t we, why the good and honest people who lived under Hitler’s regime did not question their government’s actions? A growing number of Americans are joining The 9/11 Truth Movement, a grassroots collective that seeks to shed light on what really happened. Part of their stated mission is:

To expose the official lies and cover-up surrounding the events of September 11th, 2001 in a way that inspires the people to overcome denial and understand the truth; namely, that elements within the US government and covert policy apparatus must have orchestrated or participated in the execution of the attacks for these to have happened in the way that they did.

I have never believed that an airliner crashed into the Pentagon or into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Why? There’s no recognizable debris at either site that remotely resembles a large passenger plane: no landing gear, no engines, and no remnants of the fuselage or its contents, especially seats, bodies, and luggage. Look at the photographs and you will not find any evidence of a commercial airliner, just a large crater in a remote rural location and a relatively small hole in the side of the Pentagon. So we’re just supposed to believe the official story in spite of these glaring anomalies?

The separate incidents above cast suspicion on the World Trade Center (WTC) attacks as well, in my opinion. How did those towers simply collapse perfectly into their own foundations at near-freefall speeds that experts have declared to be virtually impossible without the aid of controlled demolition charges? And how else would the leaseholder, Larry Silverstein, of Building 7, also part of the WTC campus, know to have this third building rigged with explosives so he could give the “pull” order at 5:20 pm, seven hours after WTC 1 collapsed? I didn’t even know about the mysterious collapse of Building 7, but it would have taken a team of demolition experts several weeks to prepare a 47-story building for a precision “pull” (as Silverstein himself called it during a later PBS documentary).

As a nation, one day we may deeply regret our collective naiveté and trust of our elected leaders concerning this national tragedy. I’m not sure our generation can handle the truth of what really happened on September 11, 2001, as I think about the consequences it would bring. But I do believe that The 9/11 Truth Movement has the right idea when that time comes:

To seek justice and redress for those wronged on September 11th, or as a result of the events, beginning with complete disclosure of all records and evidence; reversal of all domestic and foreign policies following from the false premises of the official story; and full accountability for any and all individuals inside and outside the US government involved in the attacks who engaged in crimes of commission, facilitation, complicity, gross negligence, cover-up or obstruction of justice after the fact.

New diesel smart car gets 85 mpg in UK

New 85 mpg Smart Car

smart fortwo cdi coupe begins shipping in March 2009

I saw a television ad last night, while watching Jack Bauer save the world, about a new diesel smart car being offered that gets an estimated 85.6 mpg combined city/highway driving. That’s incredible! You can check the details on smart’s UK site for this vehicle that has begun shipping this month (March 2009).

Strange thing, though. The manufacturer’s site for a similar model—gasoline, not diesel—in the United States only boasts 33 mpg (city)/41 mpg (highway): an economical car, but nothing to jump up and down over. At $13,905 USD for the entry level coupe, it’s also relatively inexpensive, but not enough to tempt most Americans into its tiny (but extremely safe) cabin. One can purchase a Toyota Yaris for $12,205 that gets an impressive 29/36 mpg or a Honda Civic Coupe for $15,305 with a fuel economy of 25/36 mpg.

The TV spot for the UK smart car can be viewed HERE: just click on “Fuel Economy” after the brief intro clip. It shows the driver at the petrol pump on a snowy winter day, then fast-forwards at high speed—the impression of hundreds of cars filling their tanks—until Spring when the smart car appears once again at the pumps. Clever!

The million dollar question is: Why does the American version, even though it’s not the more fuel-efficient diesel engine, get such pitiful gas mileage compared to the UK version? Unless I’m missing something, it’s a puzzler considering the overall fuel efficiency of most British cars versus their American counterparts, manufactured by the same automakers. Do I smell a rat? I mean, really, what’s going on here?

Reformed evangelical books for sale

Reformed Books for Sale in the UKJust a quick note to my friends and readers in the United Kingdom or the European Union. Since we are moving back to the United States within the next 90 days, I have decided to liquidate most of the books—nearly 1,000 volumes—in my ministry library. Some are already listed in my Amazon Marketplace Storefront (2manygoodbooks) and I hope to get hundreds more listed by the weekend.

I would characterize this library as conservative and evangelical, with most commentators and theologians writing from a Reformed perspective. I am disposing of all my language helps, dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, apologetics, biographies, church history, and theology; however, I am keeping some of the more contemporary stuff in the areas of missions, evangelism, church planting, and devotional.

Why am I selling my library? Well, it’s a great way to lighten the load and contribute to the cost of shipping our personal belongings via sea freight. And I use Logos Bible Software for Mac for most of my serious research, with over 300 reference works on my computer system now.

A couple of caveats:

  • If you would like to arrange a visit, please contact me through the comment section (it sends an e-mail directly to my inbox) and let me know. The prices you see on Amazon are relatively firm, but it’s always nice to see what you’re buying in advance, plus I can sell direct and de-list the item from Amazon’s inventory, saving you the cost of shipping (£2.75 per book).
  • Those who might be interested in purchasing multiple volumes should also get in touch as soon as possible. I would be happy to combine the shipping or allow you to collect the books personally, thus saving a lot of money (perhaps 20% versus ordering single volumes from Amazon).
  • Are you looking to buy the entire library? At the moment, I don’t have an estimated total for the titles that are being sold, but please let me know if that’s what you’re thinking. I would love to see the whole library go to one person, but within hours of posting the first 50 books on Amazon, I have begun receiving orders.
  • Books that remain unsold will be donated to the Wales Evangelical School of Theology library in Bridgend, a great theological college not far from us.

Due to the cost and the complexity of shipping books to North America, I have decided to limit these books to the UK and Europe.

If everyone else jumped off the bridge…

For those who find William P. Young’s fictional book, The Shack, disturbing or offensive, I would ask you to browse this list of recent comments on the author’s blog and ask, “How can God touch the hearts of people all over the world with a book that I believe is theologically flawed, biblically inaccurate, or completely heretical?”

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you may be tempted to respond like my dad when I would beg to do something all my friends were doing: “Well, if everyone jumped off the bridge, would you jump, too?” I may have used that line a few times with my own four children. But remember the words of Scripture that “in an abundance of counselors, there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, ESV). And right now, I would say the overwhelming response from fellow believers (not heretics) all over the world is amazingly positive. So I’m just encouraging you to think again, to put aside any rigid theological constructs you might embrace and simply read The Shack with a fresh pair of eyes, asking God to reveal Himself to you through the fictional story of William Paul Young.


One reader, Doni Brinkman, left the following comment:

I just got off the phone with my father after he finished The Shack (I asked him to read it after I did so we could discuss it). My father is also a Pastor. He was raised in a culture steep [sic] with legalism but it was never prominent in his heart. In fact, he is the most gracious man I have ever known and has always encouraged me to err on the side of grace. By nature, I tend to attract to legalism—grace is far harder for me to grasp though I cannot blame my precious family for this. Because of this, The Shack shook me up in many ways though I was so deeply moved by it. I wanted dad to read it as a “double” check. Verdict is in. He is buying more copies to distribute. I end this post unstumbled and touching the Son at Calvary.

Is it possible? Have you ever considered yourself to be attracted to legalism by nature and, conversely, offended by the lavish, unfathomable grace of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I know that’s the natural tendency of my own heart and mind, having been raised under “hellfire and damnation” preaching in the Deep South, then soaked in Reformed theology until completely pickled (well, almost). Those times when the Spirit of God has moved over my soul in powerful times of refreshing…well, I must admit that I’ve sometimes reacted with embarrassment or suspicion that I was just going soft, so to speak.

One brother, Larry McGarr, put it this way


This book, like Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ, is the most powerful revelation of God’s love that I’ve encountered… except for those times He spoke to me and gave me peace beyond understanding. I’m going back through The Shack with a highlighter and am letting God speak to my heart about His love and His will for my life.

The Shack edifies scripture, but doesn’t compromise it. While the Bible can sometimes seem sterile, The Shack reveals God’s love and wisdom in ways I can comprehend. True, the book is but a pale shadow of an indescribable God; but God truly is using this book to inspire and to communicate His love for every one of us.

I’m not afraid to admit that I wept through The Shack, so much so that I would read it alone so my wife and family wouldn’t see the tears and hear the loud, convusive sobbing that often overwhelmed me in certain passages of the book. And though I’ve read the book half a dozen times, I still find myself moved to tears and deep humility when I read specific conversations that take place between the main character and the three manifestations of the Trinity. It has done something in my own heart and soul that I really can’t explain; and the tangible results have been a deepening relationship with my dear Father in heaven, the Lord Jesus, and the incomprehensible Holy Spirit.

So I do hope you’ll read through some of the comments on Paul Young’s blog…the unsolicited outpouring of joy and thanksgiving from our spiritual family scattered to the four ends of the earth. These brothers and sisters—and myself included—believe that God is using a small paperback book to bring healing, understanding, and even salvation to those who might be seeking the type of loving father they’ve never known before.


Is Amazon promoting an Apple TV killer?

Apple TV: Starts at $229

My primary Christmas gift this past year was an Apple TV, a small box that plugs into a high-definition television (HDTV) and lets you stream your own content (video, family photographs, and anything in your iTune library) from any computer on your home network or use the internet to watch YouTube, audio and video podcasts, and access downloadable movies for sale or rent through your iTunes account. Interestingly, I’ve never been much of a television-watcher, but my wife thinks I’ve become absolutely obsessed with the new HDTV and the Apple TV device. There’s just so much to watch and explore, especially podcasts and YouTube videos!

Roku Digital Video Player: $99

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Amazon just announced a $99.00 digital video player from Roku that offers very similar performance and gives you wireless access to 40,000 video titles from their massive online library. This looks really cool at a price that just kills AppleTV’s $229.00 box. Since a lot of Amazon’s library is only available to U.S. residents, I’m wondering if the Roku player will be sold internationally. By the way, Apple’s iTunes claims to have “thousands of movies available for purchase,” but I seriously doubt their inflated estimates: I would put it in the hundreds, not thousands.

If anyone gets their hands on one of these units, I would love to hear what you think about it. It plays in high definition and, according to the ad copy, it works on older analog televisions, which is something Apple doesn’t offer (most people don’t realize this until they get their Apple TV home, like me).

New Look!

Well, it’s been quite awhile since I freshened up the old blog’s exterior, so I decided to do a major overhaul using a really cool template, “Streamline,” from the guys at StudioPress. I’ll be tweaking things for the next several weeks, but I hope you like the new design. As you can see, it’s set up for Google Adsense and different sized widgets for a lot of flexibility in the sidebars. The amazing thing is this: it runs on the WordPress platform that I’ve been using for three years now.

If you click on the text link above (or the banner below) and like what you see, I may be able to save you 25% off the sticker price PLUS I get a referral fee. Leave a comment and I can tell you where to find a discount code (as long as it remains valid).