Monthly Archives: September 2009

Toll Roads|Better for everyone, Part 1

txtag

There are quite a few people who might disagree with me on this, but toll roads are better for everyone. Most of those people live in Austin which is the last of the major Texas cities to jump on the toll road bandwagon, but in the end will likely have the most toll roads per capita of any of the Texas cities.

How are toll roads better for everyone? The next few days I’ll tackle a few of the myths in an attempt to inform people about toll roads. I’m a transportation engineer, so I do have a stake in this fight which may be seen as a bias, but I’m not making any of this stuff up, this is my understanding of the situation.

There are three common misunderstandings regarding toll roads.

Myth # 1: It’s Double Taxation! I’m paying twice for a road!

The first myth is double taxation, that you are paying twice to use the road. That’s assuming the gas tax pays for the toll road, which it doesn’t. Even the TxDOT-run toll roads are funded by large loans from banks and grants from the federal government. They don’t come out of either the state or federal tax. The toll you pay is to pay back the financing money and interest required for construction and pays for maintenance. It has nothing to do with the gas tax.

Your gas tax was designed and intended to pay for free TxDOT roadways, which are Interstates, State Highways, some FM and RM roads. It doesn’t always play out like that as it is often used for other agencies at the state which continues to decrease the amount for roads. The gas tax in Texas totals to 38.4 cents/gallon of gasoline, which includes 18.4 cpg to the federal government and 20 cpg to the state. It hasn’t changed since 1991 despite rising prices of construction.

Your county property tax assists the county in paying for county roadways and a portion of the sales tax collected within the city limits pays for city public works and roadways. State sales tax is 8.25 cents on the dollar, the state collects that sales tax and then remits 2 cents of it back to Austin. 1 cent to the city, 1 cent to Capital Metro to ruin public transportation (sarcasm).

So the common idea that Toll Roads are double taxation and you are paying twice just isn’t a reality. The money actually goes into the roadway itself and additional roads and is more guaranteed to improve transportation locally in the long run than the gas tax itself.

Come back tomorrow for more…

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iPhone Pictures

In July we made the plunge into the iPhone generation and have  enjoyed it immensely. Amber takes some amazing pictures of the family with her iPhone. Here are few she has captured.

Eli loves the pool and this picture shows his best superman pose as he jumps in the baby pool. Awesome!

Eli belly flop

For Eli’s Birthday, we blew up a bunch of balloons and placed them outside his door. He loved them.

eli balloon

Over Labor Day Weekend, we drove to Georgetown to see my Aunt Gladys’ house and had dinner at Monument Cafe. Here’s a picture of me and the boys outside the cafe.

gtown 2

Chick-Fil-A Wear a Cow Costume Day – Check out Calvin.

calvin cow costume

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TASCC College Ministry|Freshman @theAustinStone

college-blog-bannerThe College Ministry at The Austin Stone Community Church is starting something new for freshman ministry this year. We’re calling it Freshman @theAustinStone and it’s a 6-week transition process within a freshman missional community where we discuss the essentials of Christian faith and how it plays out in the context of Christian community and on their campus.

We’re starting this Wednesday, Sept. 16th @ 8PM on UT’s campus in Burdine 106. Freshman will be organized into their future missional community and the night will consist of worship, 15-20 minutes of teaching and then discussion within missional community regarding the topic of the night.

We’ll be dealing with 6 issues that focus on Gospel, Community, & Mission and answering the essential questions of what it means to believe in Christ and how we are supposed to live as Christians.

Week 1: The Gospel: What is the Gospel?

The very thing that make someone a Christian is often the most difficult for Christians to really understand. Often it is assumed that people know and understand the gospel, but this week will lay a foundation and establish a biblical understanding of the gospel as the power of God for salvation of all men.

Week 2: Gospel Repentance: What is sin & how do I deal with it?

The 1st of Martin Luther’s 95 thesis is “all of life is repentance” which comes from an understanding that the root of all sin is idolatry. This week will focus on identifying the roots of sin in our life and appropriately understanding the idea of repentance through the gospel.

Week 3: Gospel Living v. Religion: Parable of the Prodigal Son

The most famous parable, the parable of the prodigal son, actually reveals that you can be far from God both while living solely for the pleasures of this world and by living a religious life focused solely on morality.

Week 4: Gospel-Led Community: What is true Gospel-Centered Christian Community?

The gospel calls people individually, but calls them to be a part of a community of believers. This collection of individuals is then transformed to live sacrificially for each other and the context they have been placed. This week will examine what a true gospel-centered Christian community looks like.

Week 5: Gospel-Led Mission: What do you mean by mission?

Often the term mission can be accomplished out of a sense of duty or responsibility as opposed to it being a result of valuing the gospel above all else. This results in treating people at projects to be improved upon instead of simply caring for all people that they might know joy, peace, and truth. This week we’ll evaluate our motivations for social justice & evangelism & we will discuss how this is most effectively accomplished when do this together as a community.

Week 6: Gospel-Led Commissioning

Really it’s just a commissioning (Christianese for sending them out), but I wanted to see if I could put “Gospel-Led” in front of each week. It will be a night of prayer, worship, and sending them out as groups.

 

Our prayer and hope is that this unites the freshman with a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ so that their community and this campus is changed as they are changed.

Please pray for us and these freshman.

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College Football Fantasy League

My best friends & I back in 1997 started a college football fantasy league amongst ourselves. We were sophomores in high school and way ahead of our time. It was a 4-man league that expanded to a 5-man league in 2001 where it will likely remain.

My best friend Mike kept track of the scores on a beautiful excel spreadsheet outfitted with each team with their colors. In 1998 they made me take a test over which teams were in each conference because they knew I was pretty ignorant when it came to college football at the time which led to me not winning the league until a few years ago.

And we now have a trophy, which I refuse to post a picture of until it resides in my house, which means it may never appear on this blog, but alas, it is a football on top of a block that has plaques with our name and the year we won it. It’s ridiculously awesome and I have the perfect spot for it in our house…

Each team has 2 QB’s, 3 RB’s, 3 WR’s, 2 Defense/Sp. Teams, 2 Kickers, every player plays each week and the scores are cumulative. You can only trade 1 player each week. And games against I-AA (FCS) opponents don’t count.

We’ve limited the players to 5 of the 6 BCS conferences, the Big East isn’t included because it’s terrible. Last year we implemented a weighted lottery system for the 1st pick and this year we balanced the lottery out so as not to reward individuals who decide to tank the season in hopes for a No. 1 pick, not that I would ever do anything like that…

We always have a live draft, this year held in Houston at Nick’s Sports Bar. It’s always a blast fit with recounting terrible selections from the past and lamenting the fate of our beloved Aggies (one of our friends graduated from UT, so we usually have to endure hearing how great they are…). And we continue to track it via an outstanding excel spreadsheet.

I held the No. 1 pick this year and despite my Aggie former student status, I had to select Colt McCoy, the QB for the Horns. The rest of my drafted team is below, I’ve already made one trade indicated below.

QBs

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas

Todd Reesing, QB, Kansas

RBs

Jahvid Best, RB, California

Michael Smith, RB, Arkansas

Derrick Washington, RB, Missouri – traded for Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

WRs

Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas

Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU

Defense/Special Teams

Virginia Tech Defense

Oklahoma Defense

Kickers

Alex Henery, K, Nebraska

Philip Welch, K, Wisconsin

After week 1, I’m already in 4th, which is highly disappointing. I’ll keep you updated throughout the season because I know you’re anxious to follow my fantasy sports life.

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The Ramirez’s Sudan Benefit Night

sudan

Jonathon and Lauren Ramirez are friends of ours from the Austin Stone Community Church. Later this month, they will be headed to the Sudan as missionaries.

You are invited to join them this Friday, September 11th, as we raise awareness about the country of Sudan and support the call of Jonathan and Lauren Ramirez to the Didinga people. The night will highlight the call on Jonathan and Lauren, the town of Nagishot, the country of Sudan, missions opportunities, photography, music by Aaron Ivey and Aaron Peace, and more… all to benefit Jonathan and Lauren as they prepare to depart on Sepetmber 22nd as long term missionaries in Nagishot, South Sudan.

This event will be held at Dominican Joe’s in downtown Austin from 7pm-11pm.

ramirez 1

They recently wrote a brief history about God’s direction of them to the Sudan.

Armed with wide eyes and a desire to learn more about worldwide injustice, Jonathan Ramirez made his first trip to Sudan in the Spring of 2006. He had found an American missionary who knew about a Sudanese pastor and his wife that were church planting in the remote hills of Southern Sudan among the Didinga tribe. Told to bring a tent and a head lamp, Jonathan trekked to Sudan to meet pastor William Laku and his pioneering wife, Eunice. The purity of the land and the people captured Jonathan’s heart as he witnessed God’s Spirit moving among a people group that had been ravaged by 50 years of civil war. He knew the only reason he wanted to come home was to get married before returning to the Didinga long term. So, he boldly wrote an email home to Lauren declaring his intentions to marry her and serve in Sudan as missionaries. The two were married in November 2006 and took a belated honeymoon to East Africa in the Spring of 2007 so that Lauren could see the land she would one day call home. 

The past three years have been an important time for the Ramirez’s as they have established their marriage, found a sending church community in Austin, joined the Africa Inland Mission long term team, attended missionary training and raised support. They had the privilege of leading a team to Sudan last summer in order to reproduce themselves as advocates for Sudan back in the States and cast a vision to friends and family for the future. A new home and new family await them among the Didinga tribe as they look forward to serving alongside of William and Eunice Laku as church planters in South Sudan.

For more on the event, click here.

For more information on Jonathan and Lauren, check out their blog.

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Austin Stone on Campus

ASOC

Tonight kicks off the college ministry for the Austin Stone Community Church. Our kickoff is Austin Stone on Campus, where we take an Austin Stone worship service to campus and launch our Missional Communities (Christianese for small groups that love Jesus, each other, and their campus/city). This marks the beginning of the 5th year in college ministry for me at the Stone.

I’ve seen it change dramatically as God has changed our church to be a church that is for the city, a church that cares about the success of Austin, its universities and everyone who lives here.

If you’ve ever wondered what college ministry looks like at the Austin Stone and what it is exactly we do here, then let me outline our structure.

Missional Communities

This year we will launch around 35 missional communities at Austin Stone on Campus, with about 1/3 of them as freshman missional communities. These are all student-led groups with around 8-20 students in each group.

Some of them have a particular mission or service area in mind, like the UT Pom, St. John’s Neighborhood, Reagan High School, etc. while others will be working towards identifying their mission throughout the year.

Freshman at The Austin Stone

For 6 weeks after Austin Stone on Campus, we will be meeting with all the freshman together before they launch into gender-specific groups for the remainder of the year.

These 6 weeks will focus on assisting them in transitioning into college as they make faith decisions on their own and get acclimated into our church and college life.

Coaches

This is the name we give our leaders of leaders. They are typically graduates who express a desire to mentor, disciple, and equip college students to lead their missional communities on campus. I meet with them bi-weekly as we discuss together the vision of the Austin Stone and how that contextually applies to the campuses in Austin.

College Leadership Team

This year our leadership team changes as my good friend Todd Engstrom transitions into a new role on staff as Pastor of Missional Communities to utilize his gifts to implement the current & future vision of the church.

Tyler David has stepped up to handle all the day-to-day operations for the college ministry on staff while planning and strategizing for what the future holds for the college ministry. He spends the majority of his time working with our three interns, Scott Frazier, Jackie Markovich, & Tammie Beassie who are absolutely amazing and really gifted students at UT. They make college ministry happen and make it excellent.

My role is to focus on leadership development with our leaders and coaches, basically serving as an area pastor for the college ministry caring for the coaches so they can care for the leaders.

Tonight – Austin Stone on Campus – 7pm @ Hogg Auditorium

Tonight around 1,200 college students will fill Hogg Auditorium on UT’s campus to worship Jesus and be challenged to care for their campus.

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