Thursday, December 14, 2006

Quote of the Week

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society....

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Letter from Birmingham Jail" April 16, 1963

Is this still true today? How?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mexico Every Morning

Every morning when I drop my son off at school I am reminded of why we love living right where we are. Our son attends a public school in a community that must be around 90% Mexican. The program he attends at his school is a Spanish Immersion program that teaches in 80% Spanish and 20% English. In theory his class consists of 50% English Speakers and 50% Spanish but the reality is that only 4 kids in his class come from English only homes.
All this to say that everyday when I walk with my son to his class I am amused at how different his school is from most in this area. Instead of the kids filling the ball fields with American football games, the fields are filled with kids playing “futbol” (soccer). Instead of every kids arriving at school in brand new mini-vans and SUV’s, the majority of kids arrive walking with their mothers and grandmothers. Instead of English, all that can be heard is parents, students, and faculty conversing in Spanish. The styles of clothing clearly have a Latino flair and are obviously different than all other schools in the area.
We have actually had many people in this area ask why we don’t put our kids in a “nicer” school. How could we find a nicer school than this? Our kids learn two languages, they learn to exist within a culture different than their own, they learn that money and image are not the most important thing, and they don’t have to put up with the arrogant parents who believe that this world exists to serve them only. It is a little piece of paradise every morning and one that I wish all families could experience.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Quote of the Week

"There are two ways of renouncing the devil... and the difference is perhaps the deepest chasm in modern religion. One is to have horror of him because he is so far off; and the other is to have it because he is so near. And no virtue and vice are so much divided as those two virtues." - Chesterton from "The Secret of Flambeau"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Proposition 95- No More Jerks

Recently a friend told me about an experience she had at a local gym. She joined a Jazzersize class and was excited to get into better shape. On her first day the instructor pulled her aside to inform her about a "situation" they were dealing with in the class. The "situation" was that a college-aged girl who displayed some mild disability was "slowing the class down".

My friend was surprised to hear that this would be a problem and proceeded with the class and did not notice any problems arising with this mildly disabled girl. As time went on, the instructor continued to treat this girl poorly and eventually passed around a petition asking the girl to leave the class or only come with "proper supervision". One day this girl was unable to make it to class and the instructor happily pointed out the fact that the class would be better off that day. To the surprise of my friend, the people in the class cheered the absence of this disabled girl.

Being the mother of a disabled child, my friend was so offended by the appalling behavior of the people in the class that she never returned to that particular group of self-absorbed ladies.

Apparently the disabled girl continues to attend the class completely oblivious to the attitudes of the ladies in this class. But I wish that something could be done to open the eyes of these people. Have these grown women forgotten to mature beyond the petty behavior of 13 year olds? Do these grown women really believe that providing a place of acceptance and encouragement for a disabled girl is not a value they should hold? Do these ladies really believe that their disability of thinking they must be perfect is less annoying than someone who lives with physical or mental disabilities?

The sad thing about this group of ladies is that they probably represent a cross section of our culture that includes, teachers, government leaders, mothers, wives, and most frightening, Christians. I cannot even imagine the outrage that God must feel towards His people that treat others this way. Could it be that Christians who are this self-absorbed will one day hear Jesus say, "Depart from me... for I never knew you."

We cannot let this continue.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Corn Bread Caper

Last week my wife asked me to stop by the store and buy two things for dinner, canned corn and corn bread mix. Two items, that’s all I had to find. My wife had a certain level of confidence in my ability to successfully track down two items and bring them home… I knew better.

5:05 PM I arrived at the store and began walking the aisles.
5:08 PM I find the canned foods aisle and find the corn.
I didn’t realize all of the choices I would have to make to successfully choose a can of corn. I found sweet corn, creamed corn, no preservative corn, regular yellow corn, and a few other options of corn that I couldn’t see a good reason for. I made a choice based on the best criteria I knew… price.

5:09 PM With the cheapest can of corn in my hand I confidently headed off for my final item. 4 minutes into my adventure and I am already halfway to my goal.

5:18 PM I find myself returning down the same aisles that I already searched. I wander past other men staring blankly at a whole row of items that only confuse the male mind. I begin searching for an old lady who would certainly know where to find corn bread but all I can find are more confused looking men picking up items for their wives.

5:23 PM I am ready to give up. I walk to the front of the store with a can of cheap corn and ask the girl at the check out stand where I can find corn bread mix. She tells me aisle 7 or 8 so I return to the place I had already checked out several times just minutes before.

5:28 PM I find a 16 year old boy who is stocking shelves and ask in desperation if this store even carries corn bread mix. He turns around and points at the corn bread mix section and wishes me luck. I reach down and pick the first bag of mix I see and head off to the long lines of after-work shoppers.

5:35 PM I finally check out and head home. I arrive home and my wife already found a can of corn at home and it was too late to make the corn bread. She says, “thanks anyway” and we sit down to eat dinner.

I can find cereal, milk, meat, and drinks in the grocery store. Anything beyond that is too much to ask a man to accomplish. Maybe this is a lack of training or maybe I am just instinctively following the example of Bill Cosby. He says men purposefully mess things up so that their wives quit asking for help. I didn’t do this on purpose but I don’t think I will be asked to “pick up a few items after work” anytime soon.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quote of the Week

"All men thirst to confess their crimes more than tired beasts thirst for water; but they naturally object to confessing them while other people, who have also committed the same crimes, sit by and laugh at them." Chesterton 1908

What if those of us in the church allowed each other to be honest about struggles, fear, hopes, and dreams? What if we truly experienced a place where authenticity is assumed and fear of ridicule never existed?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Quote of the Week

"My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday." - Chesterton "New York Times" 2/11/1923

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Leave Pluto Alone

One of my favorite morning rituals is driving my two boys to school. I enjoy this time because each day brings new topics for discussion and new observations on the journey. This week the topic has been planets and the solar system. The basketball in the back seat is Jupiter, a tennis ball is earth, and a small “bouncy ball” serves as Mars. My youngest son used the tip of his finger to represent Pluto. I began to explain that Pluto was no longer a planet but when pressed I couldn’t explain why this happened.
My boys questioned the authority of the scientists who stripped this defenseless planet of its status overruled their decision. They literally rejected the notion that a planet could become “not a planet” and continued without giving it any further thought. Already my boys are learning to question and challenge assumptions. I hope this leads to a lifestyle that searches for truth and that is open to answers. I also don’t mind if they are strong enough to “stick to their guns”.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Blogging

Some wonder when they can expect me to post in this blog. I have tried a regular pattern so the readers (my wife and my mom) will know when to check back for new thoughts. But I found that trying to follow a regular pattern becomes forced and then the quality goes down. It is not that I don’t have things to post it is just that some posts require the right timing.

One writing professor I had in college told me to write everyday no matter what. I don’t write everyday but I certainly do write way more than anyone will ever see. I have writings titled, “laying in the grass”, “riding on buses”, “I don’t believe in atheists”, and “running is bad” to name just a few. Some of the writings unveil deeper insights into this world in which we live and others are simply random stories that are amusing to me.

The bottom line is that I look for inspiration everywhere and overlook nothing. When I write I hope to entertain, to challenge, or to help the reader’s struggle with insomnia. But I don’t want to be flippant about it. In the words of your beloved G.K. Chesterton, “I don’t have time to be flippant”. So keep coming back and you may find deep truth hidden in the lives of two young boys, or inspiration found in the flight of a hummingbird. The annoying bark of a neighbor’s dog may produce a story funny enough to brighten your day or a tale of driving in Los Angeles may make you realize your life is not so bad.

All of this is to say thank you for coming back to read my ramblings and for those of you who contribute with ramblings of your own. As I work to become a better writer I will continue to bring my thoughts and I am happy to have you along for the ride.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pumpkins and Pirates

Sometimes I just stare at my son and burst from an overwhelming sense of wonder and love. Somewhere behind the missing tooth and the unkempt hair lies a mind that has figured out what most have long forgotten. In that six-year-old mind, the discovery of real life booms. A life in which rules serve as basic principles more than rigid absolutes with no room for the unexpected. He has discovered that around every corner of this world, an adventure can still be found. He has not given up on the hope that if one looks long enough, new discoveries of old truths await.
It is no wonder why when Jesus was speaking of children he said, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. It is because Jesus wants those who believe it is possible to ride a pirate ship through lava in order to save a pumpkin from the Halloween monster. He wants those who believe it is possible and who don’t really care if they are the only ones convinced of this obvious possibility. Jesus knew that in the mind of a child, everything in life has a reason for existing but pure scientific answers fall short of the real truth. Jesus understood that with a child it is more likely that volcanoes exist because God thinks they look cool, not because of movement of matter beneath the surface.
Jesus must grow so tried of adults who have learned so many rules about the game of life that they actually forget how to play, or why to play in the first place. Certainly God is impressed with the minds that have looked high and low to discover the logical reasons for volcanoes. But the logical reasons for volcanoes don’t really answer, “Why do volcanoes exist”. The why question is asked by a child because he wants to know why these are a part of the story. Instead of volcanoes, why not make giant- lava spewing trees?
Lava is the logical choice of liquid when one wants to add an obstacle. Everyone knows that lava can keep the bad guys away and keep little boys in their beds at night. In the beautiful mind of a child, they still ask the right questions and search for the right answers. They still want to know how things work, but they are unafraid of answers that supercede our basic understanding.
In the mind of a six year old, the rules don’t have to make sense. They don’t have to be consistent or even serve a purpose. For a six year old, one can at any moment decide that all pillows are rocks and all blankets are invisibility cloaks. The next moment these vary pillows can become a tasty treat while hiding from a monster. It makes no difference in the mind of a child if things change. It makes no matter if logic can disprove a belief in the ability of the Pirates to succeed. In the beautiful mind of a child all things are possible because this world is big.
For a six year old, we have not had enough time shrinking the world in which he lives through our endless dogma about rules and principles. He hasn’t learned that dinosaurs are never coming back. He hasn’t had the misfortune of hearing that the stars are too far and too hot to visit. Even if he has been told, he doesn’t care because he will wear his “hot planet suit”. In this mind of a six year old, he can still believe in a God who also doesn’t care much for rules. It is still possible for God to take five loaves of bread to feed five thousand. For a six year old, killing a Giant with a rock is not illogical; it is the only logical way to kill a giant. In this mind, one must keep wood close because every rainstorm has the possibility of flooding the earth.
In our attempts to discover why things are, we loose the ability to see that things are. We find a way to explain what makes a rainbow and lose the wonder of this colorful image floating in mid air. We use a microscope to see the individual strands of DNA and forget to step back and see the spectacle of a human being. We look deep into lava and discover that it exists because of the internal temperature of the earth and forget how bizarre it is that the whole earth has not melted.
A God with such an imagination that he was willing to break His own rules has created this world. In making all mammals similar, he decided to make one with a duck’s bill, and that lays eggs. He made us believe that all things found in the sea must be fish until we looked closer and found whales. He made all flying creatures to be birds and then decided to make bats. One might argue that these creatures are evidence of an evolutionary process that links all living beings. I say they are evidence of a creator that still smiles when he hears tales of pirates and pumpkins. A creator that is bold enough to stick to a basic design that works well and then tweak it enough to remain amused.
Our great men of science attempt to use these irregularities to convince the dull minded that these inconsistencies disprove God. I say that these inconsistencies prove that our great men of science are dull and irregular.
I have decided to join my son on his boat. I have looked into this and am comfortable with the idea of saving the pumpkins. I am leaving the shores of the mundane and logical. I am sailing into the purple sunset on seas of lava. I am going to seek the truth and accept things not easily explained. I will believe that all things are possible in this world. I hereby acknowledge that in this world, there is more than what meets the eye. No longer will I stay on the shores of this great ocean waiting for it to make sense. I will fight monsters and save pumpkins. My captain will be a six year old with one front tooth.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Only when we claim the love of the crucified Christ with heartfelt conviction, the love that transcends all judgments, can we overcome all fear of judgment. When we have become completely free from the need to judge others, we will also become completely free from the fear of being judged... The experience of not having to judge cannot co-exist with the fear of being judged, and the experience of the non-judgmental love of the crucified Savior cannot co-exist with a need to judge others."
-Henry Nouwen "Here and Now"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Job for Idiots

The other day I was talking with a group of High School students in my church. One of them asked where I work and what I do. Another student quickly jumped to my defense and said something like, "He is your youth pastor (idiot)". She then responded by saying, "But you have your Master's Degree, why are you a youth pastor? I thought being a youth pastor was for stupid people."
I was actually flattered that she thought I was too smart to be a youth pastor... I think.
Some would say that this is a job only for fools. Some would say that this is a waste of time. Some would say that I could make more money and "be more successful" if I had a real job. Sometimes they might even be right.
The bottom line is that I like what I do, my family has a place to live and food to eat everyday, and every once in a while I see some change in a life that makes this worth while.
So here's to all the idiots out there who waste their time working with youth. Here's to all of us who wasted money on college and books. Here's to all of us who should be wasting our time as lawyers, and marketing directors. Here's to all of us idiots who have to go on snowboard and wakeboard trips for our job. Here's to all of us fools who travel the world as we lead the youth into new lands in an effort to teach service and sacrifice. Here's to all of us fools who can laugh and have fun with our jobs... who wear shorts to work... who are forced to stay in touch with technology... who drive church vans and buses... who bring kids to the beach for work... who go to all the football games... who know the principals at the local schools... who know the local detention center workers... who still like pizza and captain crunch... who still get in trouble with parents... who can leave work to see our own kids' school plays... who are known in our local coffee shops... who get to see students turn their lives around for the better... who live for something bigger than ourselves... who just aren't smart enough to do anything else!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Quote of the Week

To be struck by grace does not mean that we are simply making progress in our moral self-control, in our fight against special faults, and in our relationships to others. Moral progess may be a fruit of grace, but it is not grace itself.

Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life... grace strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us.

Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness and it is as though a voice were saying, "You are accepted. You are accepted by that which is greater than you... Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted."

If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed.

- Paul Tillich "The Shaking of the Foundations"

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Day is Like a Thousand Years

Two months ago I said I would return to posting some thoughts in a week. What I meant to say was four weeks. But what is time anyway? Jesus said that he would return soon. The early church thought that meant sometime during their lifetime. Jesus said the earth would show signs of the end before his return so every generation says Jesus will be back sometime during their life. The Bible predicts global economies, global conflicts, and centralized leadership. Christians in the 1900's and today interpret this to mean what is happening in the world are the final signs before Jesus' return. When Israel gets involved in conflict the world moves to the edge of its seat to see if this is the last straw before God breaks through and physically shows up on earth. Surely His return is "soon".
Peter explained to us that, "To God a day is like a thousand years", or in other words, God does not operate in our time zone. In God's perspective, the creation of the world and the end of the world happen at the same time. To us it is thousands (or maybe even billions) of years apart. His return is soon, but maybe not to us. Maybe when Jesus said, "I will come like a thief in the night", he really meant that you wouldn’t be able to figure out when. He didn't say, " I will come like a thief in the night sometime on Monday or Tuesday". He said you would be surprised. So the point is that we should be ready. But are we?
If Jesus came back today would we even welcome Him? Would he show up at church and find that we didn’t schedule time for him? Would we say that we could maybe fit him in between the skit and the offering song? Maybe Jesus will show up and some will say they have been “detoxing” from the church and since he actually demands our whole life they don’t really want to welcome him anyway. If Jesus showed up would we gladly quit all we are doing and sit at His feet or would we say that we need a little more time to get our lives in order?
The point is this. Jesus will return someday. And when He does return I am sure that most will find that we were wrong about a lot of things. Our interpretations of scripture, our insistence of how the “Church” should function, our beliefs about His priorities, and our judgments about “big sins” and “little sins”. The best thing we can do is to give up all the speculating, complaining, and judging and just rest in the fact that we are loved by God and allowed to love Him. Live as if you want to return the favor of a life of love lived in return, but never think you have it all figured out. You don’t. When you start feeling superior as if you have the definitive answers about God in your hands, just remember that a day to you is a completely different concept for God. His ways are not yours and His thoughts are not your thoughts.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

See you in a week

I know I told some of you to expect this week's Weekly Photo Quiz. I promise that I will get back to every Friday contest, but not this week. I will be gone for a week so check back next weekend.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I Killed the Tadpoles

Last week my wife and youngest son went to a park and caught a whole bucket full of tadpoles. They cared for the tadpoles for almost a week and they seemed to be surviving okay. The problem was that they were in a bucket that I use for mixing paints, drywall mud, or other things around the house. So, being the great father that I am, I set up a fish tank for the tad poles and made the transfer into their new and improved environment.

Within an hour of improving the lives of these tadpoles, all but two of them were dead and the others were on their way to heaven as well. So I did what any good parent/ husband would do. I went to that same park that night and, in the dark, I caught even more tadpoles and two frogs to add to the collection. My boys are completely satisfied with the fish tank/ frog aquarium now and so far all of the new tadpoles are flourishing.

Our only mishap so far was one of the frogs turned white yesterday. Apparently it had died sometime in the morning and turned white in the process. With one frog and 20 tadpoles remaining, I think we are doing alright. The lesson learned... if you have a family pet, make sure it is generic looking so if you kill it on accident you can find a replacement and no one will know. Obviously this is harder with real animals like dogs, but fish, frogs, turtles, mice, and cats are all perfectly replaceable.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Random Sampling

A little more than a year ago my wife and I wrote lists of things we want to do in life. (I have discussed these lists before so I won't go into detail here). As you know, my list is ridiculously long so I had to divide it into sections. I thought I would share a section here today. This list is constantly growing so this is subject to change...

FOOD EXPERIENCES
1. Eat Big Animals in Africa (So far I have tried elephant, all varieties of antelope, wildebeest, ostrich, and crocodile)
2. Eat lobster in Maine (Done)
3. Eat Sashimi in Japan (Not done in Japan yet)
4. Eat a Passover meal in Jerusalem (Not done)
5. Eat alligator in Florida (Done in New Orleans so it counts I guess)
6. Eat something crazy in Africa (Do grasshoppers count??? See picture here
7. Have a Beverage and bratwurst in Germany during Ocktoberfest (Done but not during the right festivities).
8. Bangers and Mash in smoky English Pub (Too many to count)
9. Creme Brule' and Crepes in Paris (Done with my wife!)
10. Cappucinno in Italy (Done in Venice on a canal during sunrise... pretty tough to beat that one)
11. Seafood in Boston (Best place for seafood I have ever found)
12. Kangaroo or something "Outbacky" in Australia (Not done)
13. Pickled Herring in Scandinavia (Actually having this in Minnesota is more than enough... Disregard)
14. Real tacos in Mexico (Hundreds so far... and still counting)
15. Sheep in New Zealand (Next year)

Many more food experiences have already been done or will be done but these are the cliche' ones that made the list. Any ideas that I should add?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Flinstone Brakes and Car Horns


The following is one of several entries from my travels to Uganda. Enjoy.

The first day in Uganda and I am enamored by the driving. From the airport where we arrived we had a 4 hour journey to the western part of the country in a hired taxi. I have had the privilege of seeing many different countries in the world and I have to say that Uganda ranks number one in the craziest drivers. They drive at high speeds, they don’t mind bumping other vehicles or people, and I am sure that they actually wear out their car horns during the course of the car’s life. Our driver maneuvered through traffic, he passed all slow moving vehicles, and he somehow managed to avoid all pedestrians and mo-ped drivers that flood the streets.

The only way to survive while riding in cars in Uganda is to just completely trust you driver. If you are the type of person who stresses with close calls and aggressive driving, you are better off sleeping through the ordeal. If you like to use what my brother and I like to call the “Flinstone Brakes” (you know, the imaginary brakes that passengers sometimes try to engage by slamming their feet on the car floor), then you will certainly be worn out from your journey in the car.

Based on what I observed, I have put together the following tips should you ever have the privilege of driving in Uganda. .

1. Drive fast. You won’t actually get anywhere in a timely fashion but the journey will be more pleasurable and the bumpy roads will seem more like amusement rides.
2. Use your horn. You must honk your horn when you see pedestrians or mo-peds, which are used as taxis. These people will then get out of the road so you don’t have to run them over.
3. Don’t slow down for people who ignore number 2. They have to learn the hard way.
4. Watch for random speed bumps. Even though you do not slow down for other people, you will find some large speed bumps in random villages. Slow down for these or you might leave your transmission behind.
5. Do not modify your driving on narrow, dirt roads. Just because you may be in a small car and you may find yourself on what looks like an off-roading course, rules 1-4 still apply.
6. Stop for fuel often but only put in 3-6 liters (or 1-2 gallons) at a time. I’m not sure why but just do it.
7. Leave your windows down even if it rains.
8. Keep a plastic bag in the car in case passengers get car sick (apparently all taxis do this).
9. Don’t worry about any traffic laws but always wear your seatbelt. The police are actually strict about the seatbelt.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Joy of Malaria Medicine

This week I will head to Uganda on a quick trip to set up some details for future projects. The thing about going to this part of Africa that I love (other than the traveling, the people, and the culture) is the malaria medicine.

My doctor always prescribes the medicine that is known to produce paranoia and intense vivid dreams. He says the side effects will actually help me be closer to normal. I actually think this is the only medicine my insurance will cover, but after taking these pills the first time, they are the ones I request. It takes about a week or two of taking them for the effects to begin, but when the dreams start coming it is well worth it.

I know this sounds like a strange thing to look forward to but I sleep so soundly that I rarely ever remember dreams. And for me, the more intense the dreamm, the better. Dreams where I fall from high places probably rank at the top for me and dreams where I am being chased come in a close second. So here's hoping for some intense vivid dreams!

Have a great week wherever you may be and I hope to return with reports of a great trip and some fun dreams.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Quote of the Week

"If a society requires excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it's an exalted activity, it will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy, neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water"
-John Gardner

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Thrill of the Unknown

I have a confession to make. In making this confession I will also be implicating my wife so consider this a confession on her behalf as well. I confess that I love the "Harry Potter" book series and movies. I think the books are very well written and although the movies miss large portions of the storyline, they are well done and adequately entertaining.

As I have been reading through the books I have told my wife that I think she would like them and she should try reading them. The problem is that she made a New Year's Resolution to finish scrapbooking our youngest son's first year as well as get caught up scrapbooking on our past few vacations. As part of her resolution, she said she would not get involved in any books until she completed these things. I am happy to say that she did complete most of our youngest son's baby book. Nevermind the fact that we had to make things up about him and choose pictures that may or may not accurately represent what was really happening the first year. (History is what those who write it down say it is.... right?)

Anyway, she pretty much completed our son's book but she finally gave in and decided to "just read the first book in the Harry Potter series". I'm not telling on her or anything but this morning I saw book six waiting to be returned to the library which means "just the first book" must mean something much more to her.

The point of this post is not to let you know that she went ahead and read all of the books already, but to tell you why she did. It is because she hates suspense. She actually reads the first chapter of a book, then the last chapter, then the first few paragraphs of all the other chapters, and then she reads the book in its proper order. She has to know how it ends before she can put herself through the process of hearing the entire story. It is like this for birthdays, Christmas, and even pregnancy. She wants to know what gifts are coming, what surprise is awaiting, and what that child will be like before he actually comes.

This completely ruins it for me. I don't want to know. I want to wait until the last minute before the big surprise. I loved getting to the end of Sixth Sense without knowing Bruce Willis is dead (sorry if you haven't seen that movie yet). I loved the shock I felt when I found out that Nemo really was still alive and that he would be reunited with his dad. I love going places without any idea of what might happen there. I love reading books and accepting each twist along the way.

I think that is also why I love things like skydiving, speed skiing, and other dangerous sports. I love the thrill of not being sure what the end will be. The greatest thrill in skydiving is those few seconds before you know your parachute will open successfully and that you will gracefully float to earth. The thrill of not being sure if you will live another moment is as good as it gets. This may seem twisted to some of you but I never claimed to be untwisted. I guess there really is no deep truth hidden in the words of this post but maybe some of this is what Jesus spoke about when he said, "Don't worry about tomorrow".

Ultimately, the unknown is everywhere and we often just have to accept it as it comes. For some of us that is the whole thrill of life, for the others I guess you have no other choice... sorry. (By the way, I haven't read book six yet so please don't tell me how it ends.)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Quote of the Week

Here is your "quote of the week", formely known as "G.K. Chesterton Mondays"...

"Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity" -G.K. Chesterton 1908

I don't really know what this means but it sounds profound.

Monday, April 03, 2006

G.K. Chesterton Mondays

"I believe what really happens in history is this; the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid." -ILN 1922

Beware of the Youth Pastor

I just came across this great article courtesy of my friend Perry (ex-youth pastor).
Violent Youth Pastor
I don't see what the big deal is. So a youth pastor basically beat down a kid and kicked him in the crotch. That sounds like a perfectly effective technique in Christian discipleship. If those students think they can defeat their youth pastor in a sport, the whole system will be thrown into chaos and the impact this guy can have on impressionable lives will be lost.

Normally I just leave my sarcasm as is, but lest some of you think I am serious about this and turn me into the police, I must say that this youth pastor is a nut. Of course any of us who work with students as teachers, principals, counselors, coaches, or pastors have days when we wouldn't mind "knocking some sense into our favorite students", but we never know if a kind comment or response is the only one that particular kid might ever get so we must use restraint. What helps me maintain composure is thinking of the need we all have to be accepted by someone and not put down in front of peers.... Also, I make sure that I never lose when competing, even if that means I have to cheat.

Monday, March 27, 2006

On the Final Four

I know that most people reading this don't actually care about sports but I couldn't resist. I am not even going to have the courtesy to explain the sports jargon in this post. I am just going to write as if you are all informed and can track with me.

This year's NCAA tournament has been great and it has sucked. Most of the games have come down to the last few seconds and many even into overtime. Tons of lower seeds have upset the higher seeds and have made great stories. The problem is that now that the final four is set, who really cares? LSU is a good story because they are from Louisiana and everyone still feels bad from Katrina but no one outside of LA care about this basketball team. George Mason is a good story because they are a number 11 seed that somehow made their way into the semi-finals but who even know where George Mason University is located? I think it is somewhere near D.C. but I will never need to know that again because they will never reach this level in sports again. Florida is a legitimate team to reach the final four and the only one I picked correctly, but their coach looks like a pretty boy who probably always got his way in life. He just has the look of a spoiled kid so I really don't want to see them win. UCLA is the only saving grace for this tournament and the reason is that they are a basketball school from an actual large market city. If it wasn't for UCLA I think the ratings for this upcoming weekend's games will reach an all time low.

So here's the story. I only picked 37 of the 63 games correctly. I picked UCONN to beat UW but I cheered for UW because that is where I got my undergrad degree. UW should have fouled UCONN and I think they would be in the Final Four.

Duke looked awful in the tournament and proved that having some of the best players means nothing in college.

Gonzaga should be in the Final Four but played like junior high students and panicked when they clearly had the game won. Adam Morrison is a great player but is one of the ugliest basketball players I have ever seen. That should help him though because ugly, white basketball players are usually good. (i.e. Larry Bird, Kevin McCale, Kurt Rambis, Jason Kidd [half-white])

I think this whole tournament should be played again and we will see four new teams reach the finals with a whole new set of stories. All in all, my brackets sucked but it was cool. That is the great thing about college basketball. It is a bunch of kids who love to play and who make it fun for us all to watch.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Shark Boy and God

Last Thursday my wife and boys headed to the Library to load up on books that never fail to induce a new “kick” for the month. Depending on what books they choose, our boys could come out of the Library as superheroes or Space Men. This week it happened to be books about astronauts so naturally my son informed me that he will be missing some school because he is going to the moon.

Anyway, this month they also came home with the movie Shark Boy and Lava Girl. We heard about the movie but had yet to see it so we really did not know what to expect. Friday night came, we ate our pizza, we popped our popcorn, and we settled in for movie night. From the opening scene when Shark Boy was separated from his father to be raised by sharks until the end when the Ice Princess saved the day by freezing Mr. Electricity, my boys were captivated. I don’t want to give the whole movie away because it is certain to be on your “I can’t wait to see this” list, so let me get to the point.

My son’s new hero is Shark Boy. In fact, his new identity is Shark Boy. Yesterday he told me that he was the king of the ocean and that he can feel his teeth getting sharper. He even lifted up his arms to show me where his gills were growing. (The great thing about our ribs is that they do look like shark’s gills under the skin).

I like living with Shark Boy. I like it because not only am I protected when I am near water, but also because it means that my boy is not giving into culture. He is not being discouraged by our public school system that values conformity over creativity. He is not discouraged by the fact that even though he is Shark Boy, he has to wake up and go to school and obey his parents. Living with Shark Boy shows me that there is more to this world than what meets the eye. And just because not everyone believes in Shark Boy doesn’t mean that he isn’t there.

I also like living with Shark Boy because that means that at some point during the day, I will have to give up my secret identity and morph into some super-hero that will assist in destroying Mr. Electricity and his “Plug-Hounds”. This allows me to get into my son’s world and it allows me to validate his being in that world. My wife and I talk about this often and we just really want our kids to live to the fullest. To live lives unrestricted by unnecessary boundaries and to have no shame in imagining and dreaming.

I also think this will help them some day when they really begin to understand what faith is all about. If they have been allowed to live by their rules and not the limiting rules of society, then they will be better prepared to stand alone in their beliefs. They will also be better prepared to believe in a God that isn’t confined by modern-day Western culture. Shark Boy and Lava Girl could do anything they wanted to do because they were in the world imagined by the main character, Max. Just like God can work things anyway He chooses because we are in the world that He created.

I don’t want to turn this into a lofty theology lesson, I just want to say thanks to my one- front tooth, 6 year old, Shark Boy.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Letting Go For Lent

Now that the season of Lent is upon us, Catholics and an increasing number of protestant Christians are releasing things in their lives for the sake of Christ (supposedly).

Here are things I am giving up for Lent....

1) I will not drink more than 2 cups of coffee and one mocha per day.
2) I will give up green beans (unless they are canned with tons of preservatives).
3) I will not go running for exercise (if I am chased by something threatening I will run up to a 1/4 mile before giving up).
4) I will not watch TV except ESPN, BBC World News, Cartoons with my kids, Movies, and British Sitcoms.
5) I will not sleep through the messages at church, especially not when I am teaching.
6) I will not drink Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.
7) I will not streak the outfield at the Angels home opener (no guarantee after that though).
8) I will not work any extra hours.
9) I will not put any money into savings (a real big change here).
10) I will not go surfing without a wet suit.

Well, this certainly looks like a formidable task but like many others who use this time to demonstrate their loyalty to Christ, I am willing to serve.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

You Think it's Bad in Washington

Around 7:00 AM on Tuesday morning of this week, Orange County was passing the 17 consecutive hours of measureable rainfall mark. I was sure we would see our streak soar into the 20's, but the sun came out and dashed our hopes of matching the hard fought record that our friends in Washington attained earlier this year. The forecast is for rain again sometime during the month of March so we will give it another go.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Tri-Athlete in a Twinkie Suit

Last year my wife and I wrote lists of things we would like to accomplish or see in our lifetime. As soon as we decided to do this I began writing furiously as the ideas and dreams flowed. Before long I had my list divided into 5 or 6 sub-lists of things to do. I have a section on foods I want to eat in different countries, I have people I want to meet, things I want to do, places I want to see, and specific experiences such as "Run with the bulls in Spain".

When I write a list like this I pretty much write it and then keep living life. When I see an opportunity to do one of the things on my list I will do it but I don't necessarily plan my life around my list. My wife, on the other hand is a bit more rigid when it comes to lists. If she writes something on a list a magical metamorphosis takes place and those ordinary words become a mandate from above. So if my wife writes something on her list, she begins organizing her life in a way that leads towards checking off the items on the list.

For example, my wife said she would like to complete a triathlon. So, she immediately found one to enter, bought books and magazines telling her how to prepare, and she trained hard all summer. Not only did she finish her triathlon, but she finished about an hour faster than she had hoped. A friend of ours who is a personal trainer came last year to watch and encourage her throughout the race and after the race she decided that she would compete in the triathlon this year. Then she began recruiting others and now has about 15 other people who said they will enter the race.

All of this has led me to add another thing on my "list for life". I now want to compete in a triathlon without ever training even one minute for it. At first I said I would compete and eat a box of Twinkies in the process... which I still might do. Then I said I wanted to run the final two legs of the race (Biking and running) in a Twinkie outfit. I don't even like Twinkies, I just think it would be hilarious to see a Twinkie passing up serious competitors as we approach the finish line. The problem with this idea is that it would only be funny if the Twinkie was one of the better athletes out there. I have daydreams of seeing a Twinkie happily running a joking with people as they agonize through the final stages. Or, maybe it would be funny if the Twinkie was crawling by the end all in an effort to finish the race. Either way, I think I will support my wife as a tri-athlete this year and join with her… and I’ll keep you posted of the Twinkie decision.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Happy Crossing Gaurd Lady

I just thought that I would let you know that Happy Crossing Gaurd Lady now blows me kisses each morning. As I said in Too Happy, this is how all scandalous relationships with 70 year olds begin.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Are We From Indiana?

Today was one of those perfect spring days when the sun seemed to come up extra early, the birds were outside the windows singing, and the chill from the night air vanished with the darkness. The forecast was for the temperatures to reach the 80's so I was pretty excited. It has been a brutal winter for us in Southern California. We have had 2.20 inches of rain since last July, the night time temperatures have been plunging into the lower 50's, and daytime temps have barely reach 70. As you can see, we are ready for the warmth of spring.

So today, we decided to take the family down to the beach to enjoy the day playing in the sand. During our grueling 8 mile journey towards the beach we began to realize that today would not work out as we had hoped. In the final 1/2 mile of the journey, the fog from the cold Pacific Ocean was so thick that we could barely see the water. But, we said we were going to the beach, so we journeyed ahead.

The beach was legitimately cold, the water was only 57 degrees, the wind was blowing, and the fog was dense. When I used to live in Washington state this would have been considered a fine summer day at the ocean, but I have long since been cleansed of that disillusion. The only people at the beach were surfers in their winter wet-suits, couples bundled in their winter coats enjoying a romantic walk, and my family in our board shorts and sandals. As my boys played in the sand and eventually in the frigid waves of the Pacific, I began to feel a little self-conscious. Days like these we usually only see tourists from places like Indiana playing in the water. You know, the people who traveled to California to go the beach and who were not going to let cold weather get in the way. These are also the people who think 60 degrees is warm for winter so why not play in the water.

Today we were the tourists. We were the ones that the locals were looking at and thinking, "they must be from Indiana". In fact, at one point a family dressed in winter coats, Disneyland hats (a tourist flag), and Virginia accents walked passed us with astonished looks in their eyes. Even the tourists thought we were nuts. Then I thought what the people from Indiana must think... having fun with family always trumps impressing the locals. It also didn't hurt that we did not see anyone we know.

Monday, January 30, 2006

G.K. Chesterton Mondays

"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man". - 1906

"It has been often said, very truly, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary."

"There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions." - 1906

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Everything That's on My Mind

Well, maybe not everything, but some things....

1. Congratulations Seahawks for making it to the Superbowl. If I didn't live up there at some point in my life I wouldn't care, but I did, so I will cheer for them.
2. My doctor friend told me that drinking 24 oz of coffee a day helps prevent Parkinson Disease and Alzheimer's. Since then I have been drinking more coffee and my mind feels sharp. My heart is exploding from all the stress but at least my mind is sharp.
3. I am currently reading the following books; Goblet of Fire, Demons (by Dostoevsky), Between Noon and Three (it sucks), Heretics, & Searching for God Knows What. I always have several going at once, this drives some people crazy but it works for me.
4. I think people give up on things too quickly... their churches, their jobs, relationships, goals, and dreams. People who stick through good times and bad are rare. It is better to be rare.
5. I like Springtime, which for us begins in about two weeks.
6. I'm going to Uganda in May which will be my third visit to Africa. I would have never imagined that I would have such great opportunities in one lifetime.
7. Quiero hablar espanol mas.
8. People take life too seriously. Most of the things we stress about really don't matter much in the end.
9. My friend is moving to Houston because houses are cheaper there. The only other good thing I know about Houston is that my cousin and his wife live there. He better get a nice house.
10. Zelim govoriti srbski-hrvatska.
11. I am excited for the Boston Red Sox this year, but as usual I don't like that the Yankees look real good.
12. I would like to ski more, play more basketball, surf more (if the water was warmer), and spend less time working.
13. To make #12 happen, I would like to win the lottery. (I have actually never bought a ticket, which I am told is really hurting my odds of winning.)

I know there was more I wanted to say but I got distracted.

Monday, January 23, 2006

G.K. Chesterton Mondays

Religious Theme Today

"The Christian Ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - What's Wrong With the World

"The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the 10 Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden." - London News 1920

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Too Happy?

Each morning I drop my son off at school and head off to work. When I leave the school I pass a crossing guard who is probably somewhere around 75 years old. But this elderly woman is not a typical crossing guard. As each car drives by, she waves and smiles. If the person in the car acknowledges her, they not only get a smile and a wave, but they get a "I'm pointing at you because we just connected". (In other words, she points at you as if to say, "thanks for returning the kind gesture back to me"). When I drive by, I make a point to give her the "wave, smile, AND the point" before she does. Now, when she sees my car in the distance I can see her preparing for a bigger "wave, smile, and point" than I can give. This morning while driving by I actually got a two-handed point and wave. I know what you are thinking, "this is exactly how all scandalous relationships with 75 year old women begin". But the truth is, I think it is nice to see someone who seems happy with life.
Happy-Crossing-Guard-Lady reminds me of another person I used to see early on in my marriage when I had to drive my wife to work. Each morning I would drive by this particular home for the elderly and an older woman would be sitting in her wheelchair waving at every car that passed by. Just like Happy-Crossing-Guard-Lady, this woman's whole body would tremble with joy if she received a smile and wave. I used to think that it was so nice to have someone trying to remind people to take some time to be nice just for a minute. I also used to wonder why so many people would drive right by without waving. For a while I actually believed that I was the only one who did wave and I realized that if I didn't drive by her each day and wave, she might not have another person respond with kindness. To be honest, this pressure of making this lady's day was a lot for me to bare.
Then one day I drove by and she was not there. The next day I drove by and she wasn't there but her wheelchair was. And near her wheel chair lay a bouquet of flowers. By the end of the week, this wheel chair was buried in flowers, balloons, and candles lit in this woman's honor. I took a day or two to get over the shock of losing this joyful friend, then I got over the shock of finding out I was not the only one who brought joy to her life, and then I had to face the reality that in this world, people like Happy-Crossing-guard-Lady and my friend in the wheelchair are rare.
Allow me to propose to you that we need more overly happy people like these. We need people like the owner of my local coffee shop who is so joyful that I am sure she drinks too much of her own product. We need people who are not fake, but who really want to be a little nicer to those around them. So next time you see someone wave at you, randomly say "hi" to you, or just give a smile and some eye contact, give it back. Catch yourself each time you get annoyed because someone seems "too happy" and just accept the fact that some people have their priorities in order. Oh yeah, and if you see Happy-Crossing-Guard-Lady, say "hi" but keep your distance, she is mine.

Monday, January 09, 2006

G.K. Chesterton Mondays

In an effort to simplify a little. I have decided to dedicate my Monday posts to some of my favorite quotes from G.K. Chesterton. My wife thinks I have an unhealthy love for his writings and I admit that I am guilty. So I will share some quotes and hope to win you over.

"An incovenience is an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an incovenience rightly considered."
- On Running after Ones Hat

Bonus Quote
"Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before." -Tremendous Trifles

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Is Jesus Illegal?

I often say that I wish Christianity was illegal in America because then His followers would have to become true followers. If claiming to be a follower risked imprisonment or even death, then maybe we all would get more serious about our faith or lack of faith. Just look at places like China where the number of people who are becoming Christians is greater than anywhere on earth. All of this in a place where it is illegal to speak the name of Christ.

Now, in Italy a court is accepting a case that will decide if it is illegal for churches to proclaim that Jesus existed. Although it will probably be a non-issue and there is no way that Italy would hold up a decision against Christ, it is interesting that someone is actually suing a priest for teaching about Jesus. He claims that this teaching is illegal because it is purposefully misleading others. Maybe this guy thought the "Da Vinci Code" was a non-fiction book but it is interesting that his case has made it as far as it has.
Is this just an isolated incident or could this be a step in the process of creating a culture where people are more opposed to the teachings of Jesus? If Christ's followers truly followed His example of love and service, would anyone want to oppose the teachings?

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/01/04/italy.jesus.reut/index.html

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

8 A.M. Budweiser

Today I want to share something that gives me great joy.
This great joy occurs because as living beings we tend to drift towards the routine. Even if we try to keep our lives spontaneous and fresh, we all fall into certain routines. I drive my son to school everyday before 8 A.M. On our drive, we listen to ESPN talk radio, we pass a donut store that always has the same dog tied up to the tree outside. We hit at least 10 red lights, we see the same "crossing guard" show up late to her position, and we park in front of the same house. This time with my son really does bring me joy, but at least once per week something happens that really gets my day started right.
Right across the street where I park, I often see an old man standing on his driveway drinking a Budweiser. I don't know why, but this always makes me laugh. Maybe because it is 8 A.M. and he is already drinking (or still drinking), maybe it is because he is a really old man, or maybe it makes me laugh because it is never a regular 12 oz. can but it is one of those 16 ouncers.
I know it is not funny that some people struggle with alcohol, and the effects of excessive drinking are not ones that are cause for humor. Please don't misunderstand that I even think this behavior is worthy of praise....
But, at least once a week I see "Old Man Budweiser" on his driveway and it makes me smile. I guess this is why I am what is wrong with the world.