Friday, February 28, 2014

Children of the Mind

The final volume in Orson Scott Card's Ender Quartet is entitled Children of the Mind. This story continues from the edge of the cliff where Xenocide left off. A fleet of starships has been ordered by the Starways Congress to destroy the planet Lusitania. Lusitania is unique in the galaxy due to the fact that it contains the only surviving sentient species known by humanity, the pig-like race known as the Pequininos. The human colony of Milagré was considered in rebellion against the 100 colonized worlds when it was found to have interacted far too closely with the piggies, against the strict rules established to control them. The situation was further exascerbated when it was discovered that Lusitania was home to a highly adaptible virus that is deadly to humanity. If the piggies ever attained the technology for star flight, they would spread the virus and the survival of humanity would be in jeopardy.

Against this backdrop, the protagonist Andrew "Ender" Wiggin has established a colony of buggers, a race that he supposedly eradicated some 3000 years ago after they had attacked Earth. However, the last hive queen drew him in with a sort of telepathic connection. Once he found her, he searched from world to world to find a suitable place for her to be situated. That place turned out to be Lusitania. If the human fleet of starships were to destroy Lusitania, it would be responsible for the xenocide of the only two sentient species that it had encountered.

Card explores the human condition with great depth of understanding as he develops the plot from the point of view of the congress in protecting humanity and of the humans, piggies, and buggers on Lusitania. The fleet is eventually stopped and Lusitania is saved, and the story arcs and conflicts are brought to resolution. But Card never approaches his writing with trite platitudes, banal dialog, or simple answers. In addition he has a knack for making the reader think and weigh important issues as they are brought along with the story. A very well developed series of books that I enjoyed. I thank my online friend Ricky for bringing this series to my attention. I will next move on to the related series of books known as the Shadow Saga.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


The third book in the Ender quartet by Orson Scott Card is entitled Xenocide and continues just where the second book Speaker for the Dead left off. Most of the story takes place on the colony planet of Lusitania. This planet is one of the hundred or so worlds where human outposts have been established. What makes Lusitania of particular note is that it is home to a sentient species known as Pequeninos. The piggies, as they are known due to their resemblance to the Earth creature, are actually the second sentient species encountered by man. The first being the insect-like race known as the buggers that Andrew "Ender" Wiggin eradicated some 3000 years ago. The Buggers had drawn first blood with humanity and we were determined to protect ourselves from what we believed was their imminent invasion. It wasn't until after our attack on their homeworld that Ender had come to understand that they were a peaceful species and their intent was never to harm us. With this aspect of our past firmly etched in history, Starways Congress established a number of very strict rules on how the Lusitania scientists could interact with the piggies. However, the scientists disregarded the rules and the piggies gained access to technology and dreams beyond their evolution.

The main story arcs of this long tale were focused on the escalating tensions amongst the piggies and between the piggies and the humans. In addition, Ender, unbeknownst to Congress, has helped to re-establish a small bugger colony on the planet from the cocoon of the last surviving hive queen. Apart from the tense inter-species dynamics, the Lusitania scientists are trying to deal with the presence of a highly engineered and potentially intelligent virus that is part of every living thing on the planet. However, this virus is fatal to humans due to its adaptability. The scientists on Lusitania, who have come to accept the piggies as equals, are mired in a seemingly intractable situation when they learn that the virus on the planet is an essential part of the life cycle of the planet's inhabitants, and without it they cannot survive. However, the piggies are now intent on colonizing other planets just like humanity. Yet if the virus ever leaves Lusitania, it will become impossible to contain. Because of the threat, Congress has sent a fleet of warships to destroy the planet entirely. Will humanity learn nothing from its past history of xenocide and wipe out another sentient race? Can Ender broker a peace between the piggies and the colonists, and also find a way to prevent the fleet of warships from carrying out their mission? The key to bringing peace and dealing with the virus may lie with the hive queen herself, but time is short and the stakes are high. A very entertaining and considered story that was well written. Now onto the last book in the Ender series, Children of the Mind.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Observations 46

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.
  • There is a new store in my area called Tapestry Solutions. Actually, I wasn't aware that I had any tapestry problems.
  • The other morning I woke up with a splinter in my finger that I am certain was not there when I went to bed. What gives?
  • One of my standard barbs is to call someone a "bed wetter". I was chatting with a co-worker the other day when I jokingly referred to one of the other guys as a real bed wetter. He then said, "Oh not me, I'm a bed pooper." Perhaps that is worse.
  • Why do they make junky little putt-putt cars with a rear spoiler option?
  • I looked up from my desk and noticed the man across the hall eating his banana way too vigorously.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Quick Hits 15

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.

Just before you go to bed, you look out your bedroom window at your deck now covered in several inches of snow. A perfect, unsullied landscape. When you wake up, you take another look out that same window and see evidence of footsteps that come up to your window. Clearly from the pattern of these prints, someone was there for an extended period of time looking in. How high does this register on your creepy factor?

What do you think?

Monday, February 24, 2014


A common phrase that people use to describe their faith is "spiritual but not religious". I have never until recently stopped to really consider this turn of phrase. I think that there are lots of ways this expression could be taken. A few that come to mind include:
  • They believe that some supernatural force was responsible for creating the universe and all living creatures within it, but they do not really understand the who, when, how, what, or why.
  • They believe in the golden rule which they assume is really what all man-made religions are all about.
  • They sense that all of the life around them was not created by accident, that there must have been a creator, but they do not believe in a creator who wants a personal relationship with them.
  • They cannot find any way to make sense of all the disparate and contradictory religions, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddist, ..., so they feel they cannot embrace any single one, but somehow feel that there must be a kernel of truth in there somewhere.
  • They believe in the God of the Bible but have chosen to set Him aside.
I could go on listing things, but the last item on my list above really gives me pause. What an absolutely scary thought with even scarier implications. The Bible says that everyone of us will be subject to His judgment upon our deaths. Those who are separated from Him will spend all of eternity in hell. There is no other possible outcome, no get out of jail free card.

Yet, how often do I, who call myself a Christian, set God aside because I am focused on myself? How easily the smallest thing can cause me to forget about Him and think only of myself. Often it seems I am neiher spiritual nor religious.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Speaker for the Dead

The second book in the Ender series by Orson Scott Card is entitled Speaker for the Dead. This book is a continuation of the story begun with Ender's Game. There we met Andrew "Ender" Wiggin who was bred to be a great military leader to help humanity fend off an alien invasion. Ultimately Ender grew into the role that our military had hoped for, and by the age of 12 he had completely eradicated the so-called "Bugger" threat. The story ended when we came to understood that Ender had no knowledge that he was utterly destroying an intelligent, compassionate, and highly advanced civilization. In fact, humanity acted as it did because it felt a threat to its continued existence but had very little knowledge on who its perceived enemy was. As a result of this, Ender and his sister Valentine, traveled from world to world. Ender grew into a role called a "speaker for the dead", whose central purpose was initially to educate humanity on the Bugger race and how we had completely misunderstood their intentions. Eventually Ender became a speaker for whoever called upon him. His role was not to deliver a praise-filled eulogy covered with dull platitudes, but to deliver the truth about who a person was in contrast to who they were perceived to be.

This part of the story is completely different than Ender's Game with essentially a completely new cast of characters. The story mostly takes place on a distant world called Lusitania, which was set up as a Catholic colony. On this world is a sentient group of creatures referred to as "piggies". Strict scientific protocols have been established for the humans to interact with the piggies and learn all they can about them without poisoning their development or evolution. When two of the scientists of the observing team are killed by the piggies, humanity seems once again all too eager to jump to conclusions about the alien's intentions. This is the moment that Ender arrives on the scene and forms a bridge between humanity and the piggies, and the two sides come to understand and appreciate each other for who they are. However, the human leadership observing Lusitania from the surrounding worlds has already set into motion a plan to remove all humans from Lusitania in the firm belief that our presence has set the piggies up to threaten humanity. Will another alien race be exterminated by bias and misunderstanding? These questions will be answered in the third book in the series, Xenocide.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ender's Game

My online friend Ricky ("Mr. Anderson") Anderson strongly recommended that I tackle the Ender series by author Orson Scott Card. There are more than a dozen books in this series, but the first four books are widely considered as science fiction classics. Although I had never heard of this author or this series before, Ricky is a reliable source and I added it to my list. The first book in the series, which was recently released as a major motion picture, is called Ender's Game. This book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction in 1985. So, with all of this, what was this story all about?

Well, the story takes place in Earth's distant future. The Earth has been attacked by an alien race and dealt a serious blow. After the first attack, all nations came together to push the development of sophisticated starships capable of interstellar travel. These ships were outfitted with deadly armament that somehow led us to defeat the invaders under the direction of one Mazer Rackham. Nobody seems to fully understand how our forces were able to pull this off, especially given the advanced technology and superior numbers of the invader's army. Yet it happened and Earth has been preparing itself for several generations for the next wave. Our intelligence has made it clear that the victory that was achieved was only over an exploratory force.

Part of Earth's military planning has been the genetic breeding of military leaders. The training of these future commanders and officers begins with boys and girls at the age of 8 or 10 years old. That is when we meet up with the story's protagonist, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin. Ender is taken from his family at 6 years old and sent to battle school. From the start, the school's leadership has been watching over Ender for some time. It is clear that they believe that he has all of the necessary characteristics to be the commander of the Earth's military forces in the next great battle with the invaders. Ender, although only 6 years old and quite small in stature, quickly rises to the top of all of the training tests. There is nobody who is his equal. Yet he is utterly alone and manipulated by the school's leadership at every turn. He is not some innocent little boy, but the future leader of humanity's last, best hope for survival.

A riveting tale with well developed characters, especially Ender and his siblings. The story ends very cleverly when Ender ends up on one of the alien worlds and we come to understand what drove them to attack Earth in the first place. Well done. Now onto the second part of the story in Speaker for the Dead.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


For the past several years my daughter has been trying to convince me to do a bit of redecorating in our house. To her the white walls and honey-brown wood trim in our living room looked dated and tired. *B-O-R-I-N-G* She wanted the room that we spend most of our time in to be more inviting and to have a touch of our own. While I understood her point of view, my mind always thought about the expenses involved and the possibility of mistakes and accidents leading to even bigger headaches. In truth, I really did not mind the look of our living room and just decided to leave things well enough alone. However, I think the real reason for my cold response to her request was that I was just scared about taking on such a large project.

This past summer my daughter asked again about a living room makeover. I asked her to tell me more about what she had in mind. She then proceeded to relay to me her vision for the color scheme, for the accent walls, and for several faux finishing techniques. I could tell that she had really thought about what she wanted in detail. I loved listening to her creative thoughts and the passion with which she spoke. After we had come to agreement on how to proceed, we headed to our local home improvement store and picked up our supplies. Given the amount of work involved, we decided that we would go slowly and try to just relax and enjoy the process. She knew that if we moved too far too fast, that I would get nervous and frustrated. In fact, the project ended up taking about 4 or 5 months to complete. I was pleased that my daughter didn't lose her enthusiasm for the work once it got started, and I think we both ended up learning more about each other and growing closer together as we tackled this sizable effort together as a team.

The living room makeover was completed several months ago and my daughter remarked just the other day how happy she is with how everything turned out. I too am pleased and will not be so reluctant to try other new things with her in the future. Perhaps that is the best outcome of all.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Observations 45

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.
  • There is a church in my town with a wishing well in front of the building. Somehow to me that seems like it is sending the wrong message.
  • "Theology teaches us what ends are desirable and what means are lawful, while Politics teaches us what means are effective." C.S. Lewis, 1945.
  • I got into the elevator on the ground floor of a two-story building at work and a lady got on just after me. She then said to me, "Two please." Hmmm, where else could we go?
  • There is a growing trend in this country that I find quite alarming. It seems that more and more people do not understand the difference between a yeti and a sasquatch.
  • The other day I was greeted far too enthusiastically by a complete stranger.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hope Floats

Hope Floats is the name of a 1998 movie, but those words popped into my head when I decided to write this post. I have lived quite a few years under a dark cloud. An opaque suspension of self-doubt, of negativity, of loneliness, and, as time marched on, of hopelessness. A single man with few friends and a sparse record of attracting the fairer sex. Since my divorce some years ago, I have dated only two women and both of those "relationships" were brief. As a self-protection mechanism, I figured it best not to even think about women and dating. It just wasn't part of my life. For whatever reason, there is something about me that does not draw people in. I decided to let it go and wallow in my singleness.

At the end of last year my pastor suggested that I try to meet women through online dating. I can tell you that this is definitely not my thing. It somehow reeks of desperation, however, from any objective point of view, I fit all the nominal descriptions of desperate. Starting in early January I found someone who interested me and I contacted her. Shortly afterwards she agreed to meet me for coffee. I felt comfortable with her and there was a nice flirty sense in the air. Over the next three weeks we went out to dinner, went to a movie, went for walks, and watched movies at her house snuggling together on the couch. Each time we got together we talked easily, we laughed, and we looked ever so glancingly toward the future. Then, for reasons that I don't understand, she unexpectedly told me that she didn't want to see me again. This was, to be sure, a blow to me mentally and physically. It made me want to run back to my all too familiar wallow.

My pastor told me to focus on the fact that I took a step outside of my usual ways and found some adventure. Instead of a defeat, this should be looked upon as a victory. In thinking about his counsel, I realized that I did learn a few things. First, I realized that I like doing life with someone else so much better than being alone. This lesson perhaps is the most important reason to try again and not to give up. I also learned that I have not forgotten how to laugh or to give of myself. Finally, for someone who was certain that hope for a happy and satisfying future were dead, it is amazing how quickly a tiny sliver of hope floats the perception of life up into the stratosphere. Let's face it, being dumped by someone is never a good feeling. However, because this was my first attempt at dating in many years, perhaps my experience should be viewed as a good opportunity to work off the rust and clear out the cobwebs from my approach so that I am better ready to impress Miss Right when she comes along.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Amber Spyglass

The final novel in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy is entitled The Amber Spyglass. The story continues on directly from the point in the story at the end of the second volume, The Subtle Knife. As the story begins, 12 year old Lyra has been kidnapped by her mother Marisa Coulter, who has been consistently marked by her evil nature and her self-serving ways. Yet now we slowly begin to see a change in her heart. She has kidnapped her daughter to keep her away from those who would do her harm, including the leadership of the church. Lyra has been marked for death due to an old prophesy that she is the new Eve. If the church can kill her before she is tempted, they believe they can eliminate the stain of original sin from all of humanity. Just when the competing forces of the church and her father Lord Asriel converge on her location, her fellow traveler Will arrives and rescues Lyra by taking her into another world using the portal-opening knife. There they are led to believe that they need to journey to the world of the dead for Lyra to make amends to her friend Roger and for Will to visit with his father. However, once there, the impact they have benefits every being that has ever existed.

At Lyra and Will follow their destinies, the multiverse and all of the Earth equivalents are in turmoil. Windows between the different worlds have been opened allowing physical creatures, spirits, and energy fields to pass through. At the same time there is an ongoing battle between the heavenly Authority, those loyal to the one who calls himself God, and the forces led by Lord Asriel. The story is a bit dark and blasphemous as God and his heaven are nothing like religion has proclaimed. In fact, while we had come to see Lord Asriel as a power-hungry megalomaniac, there are very good reasons why legions of angels have joined his war against the established heavenly authority. Nobody is turning out to be who we thought.

Ultimately, the story is about the beautiful relationship between Lyra and Will and how their love begins to heal the brokenness of all of creation. However, balance in the universe can only be properly restored when all of the windows between the different Earth worlds from the multiverse are sealed and each creature is returned to the world from which they came. Unfortunately, Lyra and Will are not from the same world and they need to fall back on strength that they did not think they possessed to make the hard but necessary choices that will lead to restoration. In truth, there were so many story arcs ongoing, Pullman struggled to come to the finish line here. While the plot line involving the main protagonists was basically sewn up, several others that were developed at length were essentially set aside without the necessary closure. Also the scene with the tempting of Eve, was so subtle and unambiguous, it left me perplexed as to how this amounted to any sort of temptation for Lyra. However, I still found this trilogy entertaining and enjoyable. I also think that it will give you something to think about if you are a person of faith.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Companionable Silence

I wrote a piece nearly two years ago entitled Sound of Silence about the different types of feelings and emotions that can be communicated among people through the silence between them. Recently my thoughts once again traveled down that same road, sparked by folks that I encounter who seem to feel that any moment of silence between people is awkward and needs to be filled with a cacophony of words. Perhaps the silence makes them feel that their relationships are in doubt. Maybe it is just nervous energy or boredom. It could even be just an aspect of their personality that equates stillness with wasted time. Yet sometimes it seems that the very intrusion of their words at any prolonged period of quiet, actually serves to erode the tranquility and calm of the moment. Their voice seems like a rock abruptly thrown into a calm pond, disturbing the peace of the still surface.

Some of my favorite times with my daughter occur when we are together, enjoying each other's company without a single utterance disturbing the contented peace of our time together. She playing her video game on the couch as I am sitting on the floor next to her reading my book. We each draw pleasure from the presence of the other and in that moment, that is all that we need. I have heard the term companionable silence used to describe such moments. I think that expression really tells the story. A time when words would be an intrusion, would destroy the tenderness of the moment. Silence can be a strong indicator of comfort, peace, trust, and satisfaction with another.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Quick Hits 14

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.

The lyrics of the song The Wrong Side of Heaven by the group Five Finger Death Punch begin, "I spoke to God today, and she said that she's ashamed". Do you find references to God as a woman offensive?

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


I have made it a bit of a tradition here on this site to commemorate my longevity at every 100th post. Today is post number 1500, MD, one thousand five hundred, 10111011100, 5DC. Can you feel the excitement and electricity in the air? ... Well, me neither, but the size of my oeuvre is certainty impressive, and everyone knows that sheer, choking volume beats quality every time. To everyone who stops by to visit, I thank you. The gift of your time and attention makes me feel all warm and tingly inside, or else that is a signal that my Depends brand adult undergarment has reached its capacity. I will see you at the next mandatory celebration when the blogometer hits 1600. Don't miss the festivities!

Monday, February 10, 2014

First Date

A couple at the next table is out on what is clearly their first date. He holds the chair out for her, their eyes dart nervously and expectantly across each other, and the air is filled with bursts of nervous laughter. She wears a dress that likely hasn't seen the outside of her closet in years. He wears his dress pants, crisp seam freshly ironed, along with his best shirt. After they order their food, I catch whispers and echoes of their conversation, now finding its pace. Several times I notice them, their fingers touching across the table as they find something new to attract them to each other. Just before the waiter comes to take away their plates, he abruptly stops in mid-sentence with a distracted air and remarks as much to himself as his date, "Dang you sure are pretty." She blushes, coy smile, but the reddening of her cheeks betrays her appreciation of the moment. Soon enough they pay their bill and are on their way. As they go past my table hand-in-hand, I notice that they are in no hurry, fully satisfied to linger in each other's presence.

I hope that they both recognize and appreciate this very unique and special time in their relationship. Soon enough the pretty dress will revert to sweat pants and the sharp outfit will once again become blue jeans and a t-shirt. The dreamy looks across the table at each other will disappear into the more customary, ho-hum looks of the every day. Perhaps his attitude of awe at the beautiful woman at his side will persist. Maybe she will never tire of looking in his eyes, her very paradigm of Prince Charming in the flesh. However, I know that these tingly feelings will subside unless both sides consistently recognize that love is an action verb. Pastor Craig Groeschel has an apt statement, "If you want want few people have, you have to do what few people are willing to do."

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Subtle Knife

The second volume in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy is entitled The Subtle Knife. This story picks up immeditely where the first volume, The Golden Compass, left off. The story has introduced us to a 12 year old girl named Lyra Belacqua, who prophesy has foretold is bound for greatness in bringing about the ultimate destiny of mankind. Yet Lyra is completely ignorant of any of this. She lives on an Earth-like world in a time equivalent to our world some several hundred years ago. She was once content to roam the grounds of Jordan College in England, where the elders were left in charge of this apparent noble-born orphan. At the end of The Golden Compass, we were left with the mysteries of something called dust that has either terrified or enraptured many people of power and to portals to other universes that had been opened by one Lord Asriel, who it turns out is Lyra's father. We come to see that Asriel is a power hungry megalomaniac, but the purposes for his research and his ceaseless drive are still unclear. Is it possible that there is something more altruistic in his nature? Lyra's mother, the beautiful and evil Mrs. Coulter, is equally as driven as Asriel, but she is content to suck the world dry and throw it out when she is done.

This story is a nice piece of writing. Like many a good sequel writer, Pullman further develops the settings and the characters that he has already introduced, but he also brings in new characters and allows them to play a significant role in quite an organic manner. In this story, we meet a boy named Will who is Lyra's age. His father, an expert explorer, disappeared when Will was an infant. His mother, who seems to be delusional, is quite often helpless. Yet in her few moments of lucidity, she tells Will that he is destined to pick up his father's mantle. We also learn that some men are determined to find some old papers that Will's father left behind. Soon it is clear that these papers contain information on the location of a portal to another world. Will meets up with Lyra and the adventure unfolds as their respective destinies entwine and lay out before them. The key seems to be a knife that can open portals between worlds, but this is only the beginning of what this knife can do. It seems that it also has the powers to bring supernatural beings to their knees, but the question is, to what purpose?. The adventure comes to a conclusion in the third volume, The Amber Spyglass, that I will dive into next.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gilligan's Island

My church is presently in a sermon series entitled "Seven Sins That Will Kill You Dead", where each week we are hearing a discussion of one of what are commonly known as the seven deadly sins. Pride, anger, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony, and greed. An important part of the sermons is a discussion of how to recognize and combat each of these sins in our lives. My pastor explained that the original design of preparing this list of sins, which actually are not called the seven deadly sins in scripture, was twofold:
  1. To help people learn the Bible
  2. To help people become introspective
Just after the series began, something happened that I knew was not a coincide, namely, Russell Johnson died. For those who are so young as to make me physically ill, Mr. Johnson played the "Professor" on Gilligan's Island. He was the one who came up with the ideas to get the shipwreck survivors off the uncharted desert isle through the use of coconuts and shards of bamboo, only to have Gilligan mess everything up. Then the Skipper hit Gilligan with his cap playfully and the whole cycle started anew. In a news piece I learned that the creator of Gilligan's Island, Sherwood Schwartz (who also created The Brady Bunch), purposefully crafted the characters of the seven stranded castaways such that each had a direct relationship to one of the seven deadly sins. I had a bit of trouble finding a unique assignment of sin to castaway, but what I came up with looks like:
  • The Professor - Pride
  • Mary Ann - Envy
  • Ginger - Lust
  • Mr. Howell - Gluttony
  • Mrs. Howell - Greed
  • Skipper - Anger
  • Gilligan - Sloth
I felt certain after I had spent several weeks doing this research on the folks aboard the S.S. Minnow and watching countless reruns of the old episodes on TV Land, that this was really the goal of my pastor all along. Also, to be clear, I do not have any evidence to link this sermon series to the death of Russell Johnson.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Quick Hits 13

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.

Does love mean that we do what is in the best interest of someone or does love mean that we do what they ask of us?

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Love Worth Giving

I was in the library the other evening while my daughter looked for a book for a homework assignment. While I waited I decided to go pick out a book for my devotional time. I had a few moments, so I puttered about the "spirituality" section. Maybe because it had been a long day and I didn't want to think about my selection too hard, I gravitated to the books by Max Lucado. I have read more than a dozen of his books. Most are kind of vanilla, shallow, and ultimately forgettable, but I have two of his books on my list of favorites. One is He Chose the Nails and the other is On the Anvil. Well now I have a third, namely his work A Love Worth Giving. This book was beautifully written and came along at a very important time for me personally. Perhaps that is why is resonated with me so strongly.

The book contains 16 chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of love as expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Of course, according to 1 John 4:19, "We love, because He first loved us." And His love, if we let it, can fill each of us and leave us with a love worth giving. I recommend this book as a great addition to your devotional time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Meet Market

For nearly ten years I was a professor at a major university. One of my service obligations was to act as the chairman of the Graduate Admissions Committee for my department. In that position I was responsible for reviewing all of the applications for admission into our graduate school program. Each year I had to select 20 to 25 of the most promising applicants from the 300 or 400 submissions that were received. Each prospective student was represented by a manila folder containing information that reflected their entire life's work to that point. Page after page of transcripts, standardized test scores, application forms, admissions essays, research work, and plans for their future. Because my time to review each folder was limited and because I had learned what to look for to select the best prospective students, I could make a reasonably accurate judgment of an applicant in about 2 to 3 minutes. It was kind of a daunting and surreal process deciding a person's fate based on years and years of their work in just a few minutes of my time. One pile of haves, another pile of have nots.

Recently I had a flashback to those days as the committee chairman. My pastor recommended that I consider using an online dating site to meet women. On most of these sites each person is represented by a photograph and a few bullet points summarizing who they are and what they are looking for. At the bottom of each screen you can click on a button that says I am interested or No thanks. With most of the women who were suggested that matched my profile, I was clicking on the No thanks button within 2 to 3 seconds. I was placing a person's entire life into my pile of haves or have nots after the merest of consideration. Initially I figured that this was not unreasonable given that my time is finite and I have a lifetime of experience in knowing what I prefer. Yet for someone already prone to judging people and dismissing them too quickly, this process was only reinforcing an already negative trait in me.