Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock ... Just a little while until everything changes, until nothing changes.

Tick-tock, tick-tick-tick ... We may never be the same, yet we remain as we were.

Tick-tock, tock ... The slate is wiped clean, but it is the same blackboard and the same chalk.

New Year's Eve seems to be one of those celebrations that adults just adore. A chance to stay up late, drink too much alcohol, and act like boisterous children. But I think that having fun and celebrating whatever comes your way is a great way to approach life, provided that you do so responsibly and respectfully.

I have never been one to be a great participant in the festivities. After my college days were over, my body has always shut down well before midnight. That's O.K., I still wish you well. I pray for blessings for you in the new year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Resolutions 2013

Each year at the end of December I sit down and ponder a set of New Year's resolutions. While this may label me cliché, my considerations in this area have served me well. Reflections on who we are, where we have been, and where we are going, I think are necessary to give us some direction so that we don't move through life following Brownian motion. While some may be satisfied ping-ponging around in a random fashion from season to season, I find my best strategy is to define a set of goals or boundary conditions before I set out. I want to recognize what I want and what areas of my life need my time and attention.

It is only natural that as I plot my course for the upcoming year, I take a hard look back at the preceeding year to see how well I achieved the goals that I laid out. Today I share with you my findings. Certainly baring myself in this manner will allow you to see into me more deeply than I am comfortable, but maybe someone will get something out of this that will make this worthwhile. You will note that I tend to trip and fall more than I succeed. That does not necessarily indicate defeat. If I give my best or even a reasonable effort and fail, I can still live with that failure. It is the failures due to my own laziness or ineptness that frustrate me and pull me down. Anyway, here is my list of 2013 resolutions with a brief commentary for each item.
  • To go out on at least two dates - Once again it was a date-less year. However, I did take a friend's advice and planted a few seeds. Who knows what will germinate and bloom in the future?
  • To exercise the whole year - I did very well with my exercising throughout the year. The only days I missed were due to sickness and when my machine broke and I had to wait for replacement parts.
  • To consistently take smaller portions on my dinner plate - I failed completely on this and I lacked discipline from start to finish.
  • To make several new friends - I was feeling like this had been a complete failure until my pastor started inviting me pretty regularly to meet over coffee. Also I am working to develop a friendship with a couple at my church and had them over to dinner late in the year.
  • To grow closer to my daughter - I do not feel like I was especially successful here. Part of the issue as our children age is that they are, by design, growing more and more independent. I always feel like I am struggling to let go of the young child that I knew. Also it does not help that she lives only part of the time with me. Being apart so often does not lead to depth in a relationship.
  • To embrace adventure and living to a higher degree - I would say that I failed almost completely in this area. As I get older, I find that I am becoming more and more satisfied to hide out at home after work.
  • To find some degree of happiness and peace - I think that I healed a bit this year in part due to the passage of time when the emotions and the memories naturally dissipate, but also due to a more concerted effort of focusing less on myself. I still have a long way to go before I can claim anything sustainable, but maybe there has been some progress.
Now I will prepare my list of resolutions for 2014 and plan to give my best effort to be successful on each. Win, lose, or draw, the key is to keep trying.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Best Books of 2013

This year I have read 72 books and have come across some that really captivated me. In fact, looking back over my list, I can say that there wasn't a turkey among them. I have been on so many adventures through the pages that I have turned. So, as is my tradition at the end of each year, I wanted to share my list of the top 10 "books" for this year in no particular order. Note that I use "books" because I typically count a series by an author as one entry.
  • A Song of Fire and Ice series (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons), George R.R. Martin
  • Odd Thomas series (Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, Brother Odd, Odd Apocalypse, Odd Interlude, Deeply Odd), Dean Koontz
  • The Brothers Karamozov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Dancing Priest series (Dancing Priest, A Light Shining), Glynn Young
  • The Rabbit Angstrom series (Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, Rabbit at Rest), John Updike
  • His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), Philip Pullman
  • The Books of Mortals (Sovereign), Ted Dekker
  • The Pilgrim's Regress, C.S. Lewis
  • Licks of Love, John Updike
  • The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike
I have already started to pick out some books for the first part of 2014. If you have any suggestions, send them along and I will check them out. I keep my list of reads current on my Shelfari page.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Blog Recap 2013

It has become my tradition at the end of each year to look back over my posts for the past 12 months and pick out my 10 favorites. Actually, most often the posts that I choose to put on these lists are not so much the best composed from a technical standpoint, but the most memorable to me. Something silly that gave me a laugh when I desperately needed one or allowed me to explore a topic that was uncomfortable or forced me to take a risk that I might otherwise not have or gave me an opportunity to capture a memory so that it didn't get away entirely.

I began this blog back in 2008 when I felt that I was at the end of my line. Back in those days I wrote chiefly for myself. Blogging was an activity that allowed me to put my mind to something that helped to dispel the darkness. Today, I hope that something of what I have to say might somehow help others. Maybe I give you a chuckle or express something that helps you to better understand yourself. My greatest hope is that every once in a while I can, in some small way, help to heal someone and bring some measure of resolve to give it a go for one more day.

So, without further ado, here is my top 10 list of my own blogs (in no particular order) for 2013.
  • Inside - Outside (Dec. 11) - About being on the outside and looking in.
  • Silver Frame (Nov. 26) - A tribute to my daughter and missing the younger version of her.
  • A Tisket a Tasket (Oct. 10) - A gift that still gives.
  • Rolls and Drones (Oct. 9) - An apology to a friend insulted.
  • One Last Hug (Sep. 26) - About embracing the present before it becomes the past.
  • Starry Sky (Sep. 18) - Feeling small and finding a way through.
  • Interview (Jun. 24) - A sit down with my friend Kai.
  • Terminus (May 30) - A final goodbye to a piece of my heart.
  • Replay (May 13) - The blessed memories in the mess.
  • Nightmares (Jan. 10) - About losing sleep over things are out of your control.
I hope that you found some value here and thanks for supporting me through this site. I so appreciate the visitors. See you in the 2014 recap.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

I hope that everyone, young, old, and in between, finds a reason to smile today. Oh, not just a nervous smile or an obligatory smile, but a smile that arises up from the very depths of your spirit that you could not contain if you tried. Merry Christmas to everyone. May God keep you and bless you. I also take today to give thanks for all of my online friends and look forward to growing our relationship in the coming year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve 2013

When we consider the eve before any important moment, it can often lead to feelings of panic or unease. There always seems to be so much to do and so little time left before the deadline. In the case of Christmas Eve, so many folks find themselves in a tizzy with far too many items remaining to check off their "to-do" lists. Wrapping presents, preparing the house for tomorrow's company, preparing baked goods, making sure that everything is in place for the big Christmas feast, and worrying and fretting over every little detail and potential issue (real or imagined). I pray that you find some time to get away by yourself and find the peace that eludes you. Furthermore, I pray that you all remember to celebrate with joy the birth of Jesus and reflect on what He ultimately sacrificed for you. Blessings to all of my online friends.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Observations 41

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • Presently there are no less than 4 of the stick-type erasers sitting on my desk. Hmmm, I wonder if this is trying to tell me something.
  • Nelson Mandela passed away recently. One of his basis statements was, "No one is born hating." Another was, "If they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love."
  • I ordered take-out at a restaurant the other day and when I got home and opened the bag, I found a jackpot wad of napkins. The stack was more than 4 inches high. Really, I only need one or two and I am good.
  • I just read that at this year's Super Bowl game, tailgating (or cooking out and drinking beer in the parking lot) will not be permitted as it has been for all previous Super Bowls. Football fans are responding with hate and vitriol, yet this game will be played in New York City in February. Is sitting outside nibbling snacks and drinking a cool beverage in such conditions a good time for anyone?
  • A group of six folks went out to play in the Nevada snow and did not come back. After more than 48 hours in frigid conditions, hope was dwindling that they would survive. They were found alive and in pretty good shape considering their ordeal. Finally a news story about a positive development in our world.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Love Licks

Having completed reading the four novels in author John Updike's "Rabbit Angstrom" series, I was eager to read the final entry in this series, a novella included in his 2001 book Licks of Love called Rabbit Remembered (which was worth the price of admission all by itself). This book contains, in addition to the novella, a dozen short stories covering a number of different themes (including a parting story in his Henry Bech series). It was an enjoyable read that allowed me to get a broader sense of the author and his approach. If you are a fan already or you are interested in testing his work out before committing yourself to a full novel, this is a great place to start.

The short stories included:
  • The Women Who Got Away: The story of a social clique who all slept around with each other. Trying to be casual and hip, but it all lead to hurt and some perspective.
  • Lunch Hour: Remembrances of coming of age through seeing people at a 40th year high school reunion.
  • New York Girl: The rise and fall of an adulterous affair.
  • My Father on the Verge of Disgrace: The reflections by a man of his father as he came of age. Dad transformed from hero to average Joe doing what he could.
  • The Cats: A son visits his mother's farm after her death and has to deal with a herd of cats. This connects him to his mother again.
  • Oliver's Evolution: A short piece on the evolution of an awkward, sickly boy into a responsible man.
  • Natural Color: About the freedom of a brief affair but the imprisoning after effects.
  • Licks of Love in the Heart of the Cold War: An American banjo player's view of the world on a goodwill trip to Russia.
  • His Oueve: A final short story regarding Updike's alter ego, Henry Bech. Once last chance to say hello and then a final goodbye.
  • How Was It, Really?: A man in his late 60s looks back on a life devoid of memories as he never allowed himself to be present in the moment.
  • Scenes From the Fifties: A man reflects back on a moment from his youth when he was not yet worldly.
  • Metamorphosis: An odd relationship between a patient and his plastic surgeon.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quick Hits 11

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

I will be dating myself with today's question, especially if you are familiar with the Fox lawyer-filled "dramedy" Ally McBeal that aired from 1997 to 2002. We have several unisex bathrooms at the place where I work. How do you feel about this? Could you use a stall next to a person of the opposite sex?

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Grind My Gears 35

Sometimes the doings of nature really get stuck in my craw. Now I don't for a moment have any idea what a craw actually is, but if you were to look in mine, I have no doubt that it would be brimming with doings. It seems like nature has it in for me. We are late into fall and at this time of year there is barely enough daylight to last the duration of an old Manilow song. Interestingly enough, this is also the time of year when nature causes the trees to shed their leaves like a diseased poodle. This shedding does not happen conveniently all at once, but over the course of several months. Given the aforementioned length of day issue, it is impossible to do any yardwork during the week when I, unlike nature, have to go to an actual job and work for a living. On the weekends when I am available to work in the yard, nature conveniently sits a nasty, bloated rain cloud above my property that incessantly pours down its waste water. The sky is perfectly cloudless up until midnight on Friday and once again at first light on Monday morning. Meanwhile, the leaves pile up and the glares on my neighbor's faces as they watch me drive down the road get nastier and more contorted. Nature really grinds my gears.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Action Word

There is a couple from my church that I have come to know over the last year or so. In this time we have had several dinners together. I have been over to their house a couple of times and they have been over to my house a couple of times. However, I am certainly not part of their inner circle. Our relationship has not reached a level that they would even think to contact me if they were met with some major trouble in their lives. So while I am not simply another frequency in the background noise of their lives, neither am I included on their phone's speed dial.

Recently I had these folks over to my house and they shared with me the news that they were expecting their first child. The next day I sent them am email to let them know that if there was anything that I could do during the next six months or so before their little one's arrival, to let me know. I think that normally this is where such exchanges end. Such offerings are typically tossed out and accepted at the level of a "congratulations" or a "I'm happy for you". Simple pleasantries and platitudes. Even though my offer to help was genuine, because of the level of our relationship, I expected that it would be received and disappear quickly into the aether.

However, I was quickly taken up on my offer in a most unexpected way. I was asked specifically to pray for them at their upcoming doctor's appointments. While some may regard this request as trivial or unimportant, it did not strike me that way at all. When I ask someone to pray for me, I do not make such requests lightly. In fact, such requests find me at my most vulnerable. Prayer requests are not simply to be received passively. Prayer is an action word and can often be one of the most important things that we can do for another.

Monday, December 16, 2013

iTunes Latest - 15

Back in December of 2011, I finally discovered iTunes on my Mac. This service has really helped me to reconnect with my love of music. One of the things that I really like about music is that so often a given song has a strong association with a time or with a moment in my life. So, I thought that I would share my latest five downloads and a bit about my history with each song.
  • Misled - Kool and the Gang (1984) - I had never been a fan of this band, but their 1984 release Emergency caught my attention immediately as this was a very good pop record. This song marked the time shortly after I had graduated from high school and was off on my own in college. It definitely takes my mind back to that time listening to my stereo in my dorm room or wandering around campus with my Walkman. Oh that wicked temptress and her siren's song. Even today it still holds up as just a tight piece of work.
  • Oh My Heart - R.E.M. (2011) - I am a big fan of this band, from Eponymous where I first started to like them to Around the Sun where their star had clearly faded with time. This song is from their final album and is really nothing more than a rehash of some of their other songs like Driver 8 and Houston, but it still has a vibe that makes me sing along.
  • ÜBerlin - R.E.M. (2011) - Another song from their final album Collapse Into Now that has an All the Way to Reno sense to it. It is about being surrounded by countless others but being totally overwhelmed and feeling alone. Only when we reach out for connection is the spell broken.
  • Le Bel Age - Pat Benatar (1985) - The album Seven the Hard Way marks the last Benatar album where she was considered musically relevant. After this she was no longer embraced in the mainstream. However, this song was and is a gem that I think stands up with time. I have this album on cassette and hearing this song takes me back to my time in college in upstate New York. I am of the opinion that this lady is extremely talented and boy can she sing. Le Bel Age holds out hope that the old dark ways can be buried and that the future will shine.
  • Rock and a Hard Place - Rolling Stones (1989) - I have never been a particularly big fan of the Rolling Stones, but this song from the album Steel Wheels has an edge to it that always lifted me up. A prototypical rock and roll song with electric guitars, background groans and utterances, and Jagger doing what he always does, belting it out with panache and energy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bech at Bay

The final novel in John Updike's trilogy on Henry Bech is entitled Bech at Bay. In the first novel, Bech: A Book, we were introduced to author Henry Bech - mid-40s, apathetically Jewish, smugly indolent. A man whose body of work includes four novels, one of which has become a classic of its time. In Bech is Back, we meet up with Henry a decade further on. Bech marries for the first time in his life, and after doing little more than coasting on his reputation for some 15 years, writes a book to spite his wife. The book becomes a best seller and Bech's wife divorces him for sleeping with her sister. In the 2008 novel Bech at Bay, following the established pattern, we meet up with Bech another decade later.

This story is not so much about the trials and moods and pressures of being a writer as were the previous two, but more about what it is like to, in some sense, suffer a literary career. The praise that comes along seems completely overshadowed by the envy and criticism. It is about the paralyzing effect of your own track record and the worry about your place in history. This is played out against his taking a lover some 50 years his junior, his almost campy night avenger persona to silence those who he felt effectively silenced him, and about his being awarded the biggest honor in literature only because of political maneuvering amongst the award committee.

Regardless, Bech is still Bech. He never rides too high or sinks too low. He is so much more content to coast along, living his life one scene at a time, sensing himself "as if he were an experiment whose chemicals were about to be washed down the drain." This trilogy served to allow Updike to express his frustrations and distaste and anxiety with what he personally experienced as a writer in the public eye, sometimes subtle, sometimes thinly veiled, sometimes overt. A definitely worthwhile read.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Observations 40

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd was recently fined $50,000 for spilling his beverage on the court at a basketball game. Oh, and he did this because he was out of time-outs and needed to stop game play so that he could huddle with his team and draw up a play for them to run. I think he should be given a league-mandated sippy cup so that this type of miscue won't happen again in the future. Oh, and his team ended up losing that game.
  • I just came out of a high-level committee meeting where we were trying to define a set of software rules for our group to obey. After an unproductive hour where consensus could not be found, the chairman remarked with both frustration and bemusement that we had a meeting of five people and we had 10 decidedly different opinions because everyone had changed their minds at least once.
  • I just read a CNN report that driverless cars are coming soon. Do you think your boss would accept that you were late to work because your car left without you?
  • In the men's bathroom at work, an anonymous stranger put a jar of a fragrant oil on the sink with a poofy label of "white peach and bergamot". Now the place smells like some kind of spring-time orchard instead of a moldy cesspool. This isn't the way that it's supposed to be. Who would do such a thing?
  • Have you ever followed another driver for some distance, through turn after turn, and never once do they use their turn signal, when they suddenly make a turn and use it? I wonder if it just occurred to them to follow the rules of the road or the blinker activation was a malfunction.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Inside - Outside

All of my life I have had trouble fitting in and finding my place. Most of the time I sit on the outside looking in at everyone else living and loving and laughing, wishing with all of my heart and soul that I could be there too. Yet it just hasn't happened and I am running out of time. Sometimes being one of the crowd can bring you down and take away or diminish what it is that makes you special. But there is another side to this. That "crowd" is made up of folks ready to share a meal, a laugh, a conversation, or to walk with you through life.

When I look at other guys, so many of them seem to be laboring to maintain a crafted image of who they want others to see them as. Maybe this helps them to gain acceptance, to fit in on the inside. However, I have never had any measure of success playing that game and I just don't have it in me to even try. Thus I tend to face the world with all of my idiosyncrasies, annoying habits, child-like tendencies, and goofy sense of humor, come what may. If erecting a false facade around me is what it takes to allow me in, I know that I will forever remain on the outside.

In writing this blog for so many years now, anyone who has stopped by regularly has pretty much seen most everything that makes me up, a couple of paragraphs at a time. I have nothing to hide including the following statements of truth:
  • I often cry at children's movies. I can remember uncontrollable tears at the end of Toy Story 3, Epic, and Brave among others.
  • I have not been with a woman in nearly five years even though I have had the opportunity.
  • I sing to myself when I am feeling blue.
  • I like the Backstreet Boys and even have Hanson's mmmBop on my iTunes list.
  • I haven't had a close friend in years. I have come to understand that my troubles in this area are, for the most part, not with them but with me. I can be a rather strong cup of tea.
  • Every relationship that I have been in with a woman has ended in heartbreak. Every single failure was due to my shortcomings and weaknesses.
Does stating these truths make me any less of a man or make clear why I am where I am in life? Who's to say, but I don't think it matters. I am where I am. I am who I am. I will continue to work to improve myself and, despite my issues, I still hope that someday soon I will find my way on the inside so that I might be able to help bring others inside with me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Buzz Words

Buzz words are frequently created that sweep across the nation and tend to get folks hot and bothered. Action committees are formed, laws are passed, people are shown the error of their ways, and society gradually makes changes. The current hot topic buzz word is "bullying". When I was a kid, what is now termed bullying, was viewed as a natural method to toughen kids up, to help them develop the skills to be able to stand up for themselves. Now even the slightest hint or allegation of bullying can bring an entire organization to their knees.

A few years ago, the buzz word du jour was "profiling". Profiling refers to using the nominal characteristics of a group of people to make generalizations about an individual. Typically this was based on ethnic stereotypes. Profiling as a practice bubbled up into the national consciousness when law enforcement was found to be systematically targeting minorities for investigation of possible criminal activity. However, profiling is a more general action of acting toward someone based on our preconcieved notions and biases.

As much as I wish that I could pretend that I don't profile others, I must confess that this is a constant struggle with me.
  • I tend to avert my eyes when passing by a homeless person on the street.
  • I become more aware of my surroundings when I am in the presence of minorities.
  • I can be dismissive toward those who are not particularly intelligent.
  • I have been known to be disrespectful toward unattractive females.
  • I draw conclusions about others because of how they dress.
It is easy to consider that my thoughts are not that big of a deal, to dismiss my bigotry and judgments as not hurting anyone else. However, I have seen more than a few instances where even when I didn't say a thing, my opinions were still transmitted to those around me and noticeably affected their behavior and attitude toward another. It's almost like my cloud of buzzing negativity infected them.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Quick Hits 10

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

A baby is born with severe mental retardation. There is no hope that this child will ever become self-aware and will spend most of its existence bedridden. It turns out that this baby has a defective heart and liver, both of which will fail in the near term. With organs for transplant so limited in availability, does it make any sense to allow this baby to receive these transplants?

What do you think?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bech is Back

The second entry in John Updike's trilogy on his alter ego Henry Bech is entitled Bech is Back. In the first entry, Bech: A Book, we were introduced to author Henry Bech, who was simply drifting along through life, a decade passing since he had last found his muse. His reputation was built upon his first published work, which became a well-read classic. He had then written three more books, none of which had garnered any positive criticism or any modicum of commercial success. Whether it was the struggle of creativity, the tedious nature of the writing game, or the frustration of further tarnishing his legacy, Bech had become content to simply drift into middle age, coasting on his reputation and earning a living by touring the world on various speaking engagements. After a time, Bech simply became resigned to who he was and what he had become.

Bech felt that he had been cast by life into a role it amused him to not quite fill.

In Bech is Back, Bech at 50 faces a moment of dissatisfaction with his lot and makes the rash decision to get married to his lover. Bea does not represent someone to whom he is particularly compatible, but she is a choice that represents to him stability. Once married, Bech gives up his Manhattan apartment and moves into his wife's suburban home. When she begins to nag at him to write again, he begrudgingly takes up penning his next book, the ghost of which has been drifting in his mind for some years. He took up writing again not because he felt particularly stirred in this direction, he did it more to spite his wife. When his new book is finished, he is more than taken aback when it becomes a best seller. Just as his book has thrust him back into the limelight more than 20 years since he was the next great thing, some impulse within him, for reasons that even Bech likely couldn't pinpoint, leads him to sleep with his wife's sister, who happens to be one of his old lovers. His wife then divorces him and Bech is back to where he started. Bech is back to being single, drifting, and doing whatever it was that he was doing before, hoping that he can just finish out his life without having to give anymore of himself.

Now onto the final book in the trilogy, Bech at Bay.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I was listening to the radio on my way into work the other morning. I don't remember what the topic of discussion was about, but I do remember that a lady called the show to share her wisdom. She claimed that fleas can jump 600 yards in one bound. Immediately the host of the show saw this as folly and pointed it out, but the lady continued to argue that this statement was indeed a fact because she had heard it on a T.V. show. She was convinced of her source and vehemently defended what she saw as an unassailable fact. The show host then quickly checked on the internet and found that this distance was more like 6 inches. The "fact" that she embraced so deeply, was wrong by an astounding factor of 3600. She was not only wrong, but she almost could not have been more wrong. This led me to wonder how often do we hold a deep belief based on such obviously flawed logic?

Part of the inspiration for this post came to me from a Bible verse my pastor has been talking about recently:

Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 1 Peter 3:15

Personally I worry that I will do more harm than good to the name of Jesus if I have not carefully considered the Bible in full detail. That includes studying it carefully through complete readings of multiple versions from Genesis to Revelation, from studying multiple Bible-study expositions, from meeting and talking about it with others to deepen and broaden my understanding and to develop the necessary defenses to give an accurate account of what I know. If someone asks me about the God that I worship or presses me on what I know about Jesus and I argue that a flea can jump 600 yards in a single bound, I will not only quickly be seen to be spouting nonsense, but I will diminish the name of the Lord.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


According to the laws of nature, I have lived my life subject to the standard measure of time evolution, where an utterance of One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi lasts for the exact same duration now as it did at any point in my past. According to W.A.S.T.E (the Wacky Assembly of Scientist-Type Egg-heads), the second (or the "Mississippi") is officially defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of Cesium 133. Well from my experience, while this definition may have had some validity when I was a much younger person biding my time during games of hide-and-seek, it seems now that I am an oldster, time is flying by at an incredibly accelerated rate.

One recent evening when I was brushing my teeth, I looked in the mirror and my regular me was scowling back at me as it usually does. Then when I woke up in the morning, the above image was as plain as day. What happened? Well, it turns out that I have reached the age when my eyes have decided that they have had enough of doing their job in a convenient open-up-and-work operational mode. Now I have worn standard eyeglasses for the past 25 years or so, however, in the past year I have come to understand that standard eyeglasses no longer will work with my eyes. I now require bifocals and in order to actually be able to see, I had to actually buy a set of them. If you didn't realize it, bifocals only come in one frame style, such as you might see on one Albus Dumbledore. When you try them on in the store, the clerks cannot help but to speak to you at an incredibly elevated volume and offer to pre-chew your food. Now that I wear bifocals and, hence, clearly fit the standard definition of an oldster, those pesky Boy Scouts are always trying to help usher me across busy intersections, naturally believing that I am quite helpless. Also, I cannot help but to yell out at the neighborhood children to stay off my lawn.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What We Talk About

The latest book by Rob Bell is entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About God. For those of you who don't follow Bell, he used to be the pastor at Mars Hill Church in Michigan. He became the paradigm of the young, hip church leader who used books and videos to share his vision and his message. However, at some point along the way, Bell began to struggle with his faith and wrote a very worrisome book called Love Wins where he made a number of assertions questioning the existence of God and whether he was just a human construct. Wrestling with his doubts and struggles in such a public way must have been absolutely horrific for him. He ultimately left the church that he had founded and moved to California to find himself in the entertainment industry. Many even raised the possibility that we had heard the last of Bell given his downward spiral. However, just a few years after the dust from Love Wins settled, Bell has come back with his new book. A book written from a place of peace, perspective, self-assurance, and strength. Here we find a book written in the usual Bell pseudo-poetic, reflective style, but also with a bit more humor and a bit more true prose.

I must say that I didn't truly appreciate what Bell's main message was in writing this book until I reached the very last sentence of the epilogue. However, before I get there, I thought it appropriate to include a line from one online reviewer who wrote " ... [this book] challenges conventional notions of God as an otherworldly divine being set apart from humanity, opposed to science and insistent on a conservative interpretation of the Bible." In fact, Bell states:

To elevate abstract doctrines and dogmas over living, breathing, embodied experiences of God's love and grace, then, is going in the wrong direction. It's taking flesh and turning it back into words.

In other words, Bell's whole message is that God is likely to be more clearly perceived during moments when we are living life and interacting with those around us. Instead of God only coming into our consciousness during the times when we go to church and are beaten over the head with some deep sounding sermon about God and the doctrines of the church, once we relax and keep our eyes open to what is going on around us every day in every place, we can then begin to see God everywhere. It is this observation that Bell uses to conclude this book. A nice, reflective, approachable work that I recommend.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Quick Hits 9

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

Christian folks tend to hold a lot of deep-seated views about what sort of man they will support as their pastor. Could you fully support a pastor who is divorced? What about one whose wife is an athiest?

What do you think?