15 March 2011

Need a 5-Minute Countdown Timer? Look No Further!

Update, 3/10/14: I have posted a better 5-minute countdown timer (requires PowerPoint with macros enabled). If that doesn't work for you, feel free to download the animated .gif described below.

I looked all over the Web for a simple five-minute timer that I could use to count down to the start of our church's Sunday service. After a great deal of fruitless Googling, I threw in the towel and decided to make my own.

This cost me a good amount of time and quite a bit of frustration to finish, so I would love if others could get some use out of it too! Follow this link, then right-click on the "Download" button and choose "Save As" to save the animation to your PC. You can then insert it into a Powerpoint or other slideshow as needed.

Here are the specs:
  • Transparent background
  • Black text
  • Arial font
  • 800 x 400 pixels
  • Counts down from five minutes (5 minutes)
  • Great to track time before the start of a service, class, or meeting; also useful for mid-meeting breaks
  • A little bit wobbly because I messed the alignment up on a few images (but not too noticeably, I hope)
I made this using the excellent open-source image editing program Paint.NET and a marvelous little freeware tool called UnFREEz, from the technowizards at WhitSoft Development. Tedious though this was to create, these two free tools made it go MUCH more smoothly.

I guess this is the place where I should insert the obligatory appeal for remuneration. So here goes: if you would like to show your appreciation for this countdown, please do something to help someone who is truly in need. God loves a cheerful giver, and I've already got everything I want. :-)

14 March 2011

When Dementia Strikes...

If I am blessed with a long enough life, it is not unreasonable to expect that my mind will start to go at some point. I must say I fear this possibility -- more tonight than ever.

I've seen enough Alzheimer's patients to know that it is not immediate. Nor is it linear. Nor is it predictable.

I imagine that when it comes, it will be like driving through a foggy West Virginia night, with the peaks all around shrouded in misty white cloaks. Sometimes the fog thickens; sometimes it clears. Sometimes you can see for miles; sometimes you can't even see the semi in the oncoming lane until it is almost too late (and then you realize you were staring down death's maw and your breath comes in cold, ragged gasps until you can force yourself to calm down).

The most frightening thing about it is that I will lose control of everything -- and particularly the strength of those sweet memories that have so much power over the mundane, soulkilling concerns of my life. For instance, my little boy, one year old and happy, curled up on my lap, cooing and playing with the tiny plastic spoon from which he tasted his first ice cream tonight. Or, again, the deep blue eyes of my beautiful lover, offering me solace after a long, frustrating day of having my will forcibly bent to conform to that of the machine in which I am a mere cog.

Those moments of warmth, comfort, and peace will be first dimmed, then lost, by the enveloping mist, when dementia strikes. And that is a loss I fear more than any earthly pain -- because without those memories, life will be much harder to make sense of.

Yet, even in the face of this possibility, I must, like Job, confess my Creator's supremacy: "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him..."

But also like Job, unless I become much more mature in the few years I have remaining on this terrestrial ball, I will also plead on my own behalf: "Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him."

Perhaps I will undergo the loss anyway. But I have faith that regardless of what may happen to me on this plane, if I hold fast to my true and lasting hope, the misty shroud will one day be swept away by a clean and everlasting Light. And to even glimpse such a Light, I would give my warmest, most comforting memories in a heartbeat.

04 March 2011


I have lately been reading a lot of other blogs, to the neglect of my own. One that I frequent pretty often is that of Jonathan Rogers, author of several books. Each week, he has an audience participation assignment. This week's was on Disney: "Let’s talk about Disney. Triumphs, disasters, amusing anecdotes, opinions supported and unsupported. We welcome them all."

Here's what I wrote. After I was done, I decided I would cross-post it here.

My only experience with Disneyworld was related more to the idea of the place than the place itself.

When I was about nine, I somehow got it into my head that I wanted to go to Disneyworld. And, as you know if you have ever been nine, I wanted it more than ANYONE has ever wanted ANYTHING.

(In retrospect, I’m not quite sure why I wanted to go. I don’t like roller coasters, and I’m not especially fond of crowds. I was probably just more susceptible to the magic of advertising at that age.)

The obstacles were as follows:
* We lived in Kansas
* We lived on the salary of an adjunct math instructor
* Mom and dad had seven kids at that time, with number eight on the way

When I told my father about my rather unrealistic desire, he told me we would see if we could make it happen. And that sweet man kept his word. I remember him getting on the phone with Disney to see if they had any discounts our group of nine could take advantage of. I remember him writing down estimates, adding up expenses, researching campgrounds, trying to massage the numbers into something that wouldn’t make us hemorrhage out an entire month’s pay.

He went through a lot of effort trying to fulfill the silly dreams of a little boy. So I knew when he sat down solemnly with me a week later that he had done his best.

“Son,” he said, “sometimes we just can’t get the things we want. When that happens, we just need to appreciate what we have.” He finished by giving me an enormous hug that conveyed more love than a dozen trips to Disneyworld ever could.

So I guess you could say that I have nothing but good memories of Disneyworld.