Sunday, December 21, 2008

Demotivators 2009 Calendar

I always enjoy the humor from the folks at Demotivators (actually, Despair). They produce a yearly calendar that you can customize yourself with all sorts of dates, and you can have your pick of which Demotivator to use for each month. Goofy website called Think Geek has their own Demotivators calendar, and I thought their list for the calendar was worth sharing (each phrase is accompanied by a corresponding pic that makes it even funnier):

January - Government. If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.
February- Propaganda. What lies behind us and lies before us are small matters compared to what lies right to our faces.
March - Blogging. Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.
April - Customer Disservice. Because we're not satisfied until you're not satisfied.
May - Tradition. Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
June - Procrastination. Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.
July - Opportunity. I am Dr. Adewole Aremu- a director with the Union Bank of Nigeria in Lagos - and I wish to speak to you most urgently about a matter regarding the sum of $39,000,000 US Dollars...
August - Hope. May not be warranted at this point.
September - Sanity. Minds are like parachutes. Just because you've lost yours doesn't mean you can borrow mine.
October - Give up. At some point, hanging in there just makes you look like an even bigger loser.
November - Meetings. None of us is as dumb as all of us.
December - Corruption. I want either less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Humbled & Speechless

This past Sunday night, my wife and I were treated to an incredible evening of reflection, stories, laughter, and tears as our congregation we've served for 16 years had a good-bye reception. Let me first say that I enjoy a good pat on the back as much as anyone. But over-doing the thank-yous and kudos is borderline uncomfortable for me. Sure its nice and I don't want to diminish it, but I've never been a "much ado about me" kind of person. I know people who are....and I don't particularly care for that sort of mentality. So I resist it.

But this is a little different. I can't tell you how great it feels to know you're respected and valued, and that your efforts over some span of time made some sort of difference. I supposed that's a big part of why I got into this 'business' from the get-go.

To say that they pulled out all the stops would be an understatement. Many of the funny things that were done were full of insider jokes that wouldn't make sense here without a lot of explanation. But they put together a program that they hoped would last 45 minutes, and it finished around 1 hour and 45 minutes, with a dessert reception to follow. It was and is all very humbling, and I can't tell you how blessed my family has been to have been a part of such a wonderful community of believers. If you read this and you were involved in some way - wrote one of the letters we received, helped plan the evening, were part of a video or testimony, helped with the very cool scrapbook that was assembled, or were one of the many in the crowd who just showed up - I can't thank you enough. I only hope I can mirror your heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all you've done for me as Vicki and I have "grown up" in your presence.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I Wish I Had Known Nick Nischan

From the title, I assume you know from the outset that I never actually met Nick Nischan. His family arrived at my alma mater just after I graduated, and I only casually met his dad on random visits back to the university. But where the title of my thoughts tonight might mislead a bit is that I feel like I know Nick Nischan, especially after the events of the past few days.

Nick's funeral celebration was this afternoon in a crowded church of family and friends. His battle with brain cancer for the past 6 years of his life has been well documented in this little corner of the the world, though his influence has gone far beyond Eastern Kentucky.

For the past several years before I arrived back at my alma mater to assume employment, I had heard about this kid named Nick. What set him apart was not that he was dealing with a sickness that was robbing him of being, in a physical sense anyway, what any 13-year-old boy wanted to be. But words that I had always heard were "courageous," "inspirational," "brave."

After the events of the past few days, I can only assume that was all true. As I sat through the funeral - which was actually more of a celebration service - I heard those descriptive words used over & over again by the several who spoke at the service. I can't imagine the funeral service for one of my own children. But to actually get up and speak.....remarkable. And yet, both Dad & Mom took their turn. I wish I could script out for you their words....it was beautiful, well-said, and very touching. I'm beginning to sense that this remarkable little boy was one of those "apples that didn't fall far from the tree" as they say. Nick's mom, Tammy, is a prolific blogger, and has been documenting this 6-year journey at http://www.tammynischan.blogspot.com/and it wouldn't surprise me if she posts the manuscripts of both her talk and Tim's. If you get a chance to read some of her posts, it won't be a waste of your time.

The service itself was as unique as the life it commemorated. The four-piece band did an instrumental version of Audio Adrenaline's 'Big House' as a prelude. I didn't put two and two together at first. But if you know the song, the lyrics refer to the "big, big house, with lots & lots of room...with a big, big yard, where we can play football." Nick was a huge football fan, and reference was made later in the service to Nick playing football in that big, big yard at his father's house. I don't know if the Audio A guys ever dreamed that song, or any of theirs, would be used at a funeral. But it was perfect. In fact, it was used as an invitation song at the end. Again, this won't show up in any handbook on how to perform a funeral (neither would the video tribute to Nick sent from Chuck Norris!). But Nick's life was celebrated tonight much like it was lived. Full of life. Taking advantage of every opportunity and every moment. Pointing to Jesus all along the way.

Click the picture of Nick for a very good article written by our college president about Nick and his family's journey.

I never knew Nick Nischan. But in a whole lot of ways, I feel like I know him now. I just wonder if any of us will leave a legacy after we're gone like this 13-year-old inspirational young man.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Got Leftovers?

Here's a suggestion for what to do with any leftover Thanksgiving grub....


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Larry's Top 10 Favorite Christmas CD's Top 5

I gave my best take on numbers 6 through 10 yesterday, and now for the top 5 (thanks for the suggestions and or nods from several of you thorough email, facebook, etc. ) BTW, if you blog at all, you know that comments are like a drug...you can never get enough. So please feel free to leave your thoughts. And now for the Top 5 Christmas CD's in Larry's Collection as determined solely by him:

#5 - A Very Sentimental Warm & Cozy Family Christmas

OK, stop everything – go right now to your local Family Christian Store, or for some of you, find someone who knows what that is first, then go find one. Go to the bargain bin or the rack of one million Christmas CD’s and get this for cheap. You will be pleasantly surprised! It’s been out for a few years, but I still see it in the mix, exclusive only to Family Christian Stores. Most of the artists are Christian artists. But these versions of the songs (and lets face it, most Christmas CD’s are just cover tunes, right?) are very fresh, and the whole CD has sort of a jazz vibe. I like it a bunch. I made a playlist a couple of years back of background music for the onslaught of Christmas parties we tend to be involved in, and I kept grabbing songs off this disk. Very creative version of 'God Rest Ye' by Salvador. Good tunes, certainly not run-of-the-mill stuff. Trust me, this CD is a diamond in the rough you will be glad to have.
#4 - Amy Grant

She probably had one of the earliest Christmas recordings I owned. Since then she had a newer release entitled Home for Christmas (with 'Grown-Up Christmas List' AND 'Breath of Heaven,' two huge songs), and I think now has an even newer CD. Heck, she'll probably go Keith Green on us and keep releasing Christmas CD's long after she's dead (very obscure joke there....let me know if you get that.) Nevertheless, I couldn’t leave that Tennessee Christmas cassette tape and the 2nd offering she had off the list. (OK, so she surrounds herself with great writers….shouldn’t we all?) Both were good. So much Christmas music is just cover tunes with a tweak. Amy Grant, to her credit, always had a new, fresh song that crept off the disk and stood out. She has this smooth, comforting voice that is perfect for the Christmas genre. Her songs have played in the background for many Christmas gatherings in our house, and our celebrations wouldn't be the same w/out her music.
#3 - Mannheim Steamroller

I was first introduced to these folks back in the 80’s while in college. One summer, a couple of guys sort of “house sat” a home for one of our professors. He had an amazing stereo, and an even more amazing collection of Steamroller albums. Our only condition of living in his house for the summer was to keep our hands off the stereo. OK, so that didn’t work. And the chances are good that Louie might read this, so I’m busted! However, that was my first exposure to Mannheim Steamroller. Very interesting, unique, and experimental music. Steamroller has been around a while. Most people probably think they only do Christmas stuff, but they have a huge catalog of music (actually, get on their mailing list...their actual print catalog is quite unique, and you can even get like an $89 wooden steamroller for those of you w/money to burn....just don't burn the wooden steamroller). Their Christmas music is sonically in a league of its own. Those Trans-Siberian folks are popular right now, but outside of the Mad Russian Christmas song, I don’t care too much for them. Mannheim steamrolls the competition (sorry, a Dave Macanally moment for my Indy friends who watch the news…), and their first two CD’s are must-own discs for any music fan. But stick with the first two, maybe the third one too. Happened upon a new release from last year, I think….can you say “jumped the shark?” After begging with the Wal-Mart clerk, she actually let me return it! But their early Christmas stuff "is gold, Jerry. It's gold."
#2 - An Evening In December, Vol. I & II

OK, so I expect very few to actually own this, and even less to agree that it belongs as high as number 2. I'll preface this by saying that I am a marginal vocalist. You won't find me singing much in public, though I can blend in with a group, a choir, etc. Something about this collection of songs makes me wish I could sing! I remember in college, our school did what was in those days called Madrigals, now the Feast of Christmas. It was the first time I had heard such professional acapella music with such blends & harmonies, and I was a wannabe, never a part of it. (OK, so I did wear tights and a 16th century little skimpy outfit and play one of those 4-foot trumpets, but that was the closest I got to being a part of it!) Not sure when I came across these recordings, but it was somewhere in that time period in college. I have cassette tapes still, though you can get downloads from Amazon (I used my pepsi points to get the entire first release on mp3). The harmonies, the arrangements, and the guest vocals from the likes of Russ Taff, Wayne Watson and others make these songs special. Main artists on both releases are First Call, who started out as a studio background group, then started to do their own thing (think a slightly less jazzy Manhattan Transfer). I believe these both go back to the early 80's, but to me they're pretty timeless arrangements that real musicians and music lovers can't help but enjoy and appreciate.

And the #1 Selection in Larry's Top 10 Christmas CD's:

#1 - A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Is there any more comforting sound than this jazz instrumental CD? I don’t even really know what to say about it. It’s just the ultimate in cool and great musicianship. Such great expressiveness. I’m a marginal musician at best, but music like this makes me wish I could sit down and play something – anything – just to play along with these guys. Of course, they make it sound so easy. I now have 3 kids, all of whom enjoy good music and are perhaps aspring musicians themselves. On more than one occassion, I've had to retrieve my copy of this CD from their clutches. So this isn't just good stuff for kids of the 80's. Good music is good music, and I'm thrilled that my kids actually like something that I like! If you don’t have much in the way of Christmas music, and you only had $10 or so to spend in your holiday budget for something (I can’t believe I’m going to say it…here it comes…) as meanial as music, get this CD. And get ready to groove. It helps if you're somewhere that you can play it loud, too.






Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Larry's Top 10 Favorite Christmas CD's 'Bottom 5'

I happen to be a fairly avid collector of Christmas music. It’s actually quite sad and borderline wrong, sort of in an ugly, rich American kind of way. But its one of my many vices, and a guilty pleasure. Truth is, I’ve always had my ways to get CD’s at affordable prices, often free (and always legal!), and usually pick a couple up the week following Christmas at 75% off. So there.

My usual golden rule is to not allow any Christmas music to be played in my hearing until Thanksgiving is officially over. This year, in the spirit of John Kerry, I’ve flip-flopped a bit on that stance, and have busted out the Christmas tunes. Plus, driving from KY to IN every weekend gives me some time to do a lot of listening. I decided it was high time to put together my Top 10 list of favorite Christmas CD’s. I've always wanted to, just never had the time. Not that I have the time now, but after a few days of reviewing, refreshing my memory, and sorting through the cheese, I think I have arrived at concensus. Feel free to disagree, submit your own, etc. When possible, I’ll give a link so you can snag these great yuletide tunes for you own collection. Before I get started, a couple of disclaimers:

FIRST, A large number of these are Christian artists. Nothing wrong with that, but remember...I get them cheap and/or free, and I get what I can. If I could get my hands on a bargain-bin version of Hanson's "Snowed In", I would add it to the collection. OK, bad example. Would rather have my wisdom teeth re-installed and re-removed than own anything Hanson. So keep that in mind.

SECOND, Though some of these are classics, I didn't go the Bing Crosby route, or anyone from that particular era. It's not that I don't like any of that - I'm as big a fan of Holiday Inn and White Christmas et al as the next person (notice I didn't say "the next guy"), I just don't listen to it too much. Gene Autry singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was great when I was 6, but I've moved on. You're allowed to like it, and I'm allowed to listen to stuff that's good. So here goes……

THIRD, Some of these are actually more than one CD. Took some editorial liberties, but I will try to mention which of the 'set' is my actual fave. So buckle your mistletoe....here we go.
#10 - Handel’s Messiah – A Soulful Celebration

It’s no secret that I’m white. Very white. OK, so I don’t clap on 1 and 3, but I’m pretty white. I think that’s why I’ve always liked this CD. It’s kind of the ‘anti-me.’ The title might give it away a bit. Of course, its a take on Handel's Messiah that's flat-out soulful. I believe its produced by Quincy Jones, and features artists like Stevie Wonder, Take 6, Al Jarreau, and others. And a couple of black choirs that just throw down. Assuming 'throwing down' is a good thing. Anyway, if you're familiar with Handel's Messiah, you should really enjoy these renditions. If you're not familiar with The Messiah, you should be! Every Valley is a favorite. I particularly enjoy the instrumental & experiemental opening track entitled "A Partial History of Black Music." But one of my all-time favorite tunes is the culmination of the disc, which I think would make Handel smile. When the rip into "The Hallelujah Chorus," I just have to crank it up. That song needs to be very loud when its played. the only thing possibly better than listening to this over & over would be to hear it live. It's terrific. You can get it on Amazon.

#9 - Blues For The Child


Not sure how many people actually own this - its fairly obscure. I discovered it several years after its release and had to grab it on eBay. Some of this is conjecture on my part, but I believe the guy behind this project was a blues musician named Lanny Cordola. It was released in the early 90’s and slid under my radar. Happened to hear Chris Lizotte do a song one year at an event and asked him if it was recorded, and he told me it was on this project (actually, not sure the song I asked him about was actually on this, but he has 2 other cuts). If you know Chris and his music, the phrase “and the mountains in reply echo back their glorious strain” in his "Angels We Have Heard On High" track are vintage Lizotte. Very cool bluesy/jazzy version of Silent Night with some unknown female vocalist, and an instrumental guitar/dobro/mandolin rendition of "What Child Is This" that stays on my current Christmas tune playlist. Also a technically beautiful guitar version of "The Christmas Song." If you can find this CD, its good and worth the hunt.

#8 - Happy Christmas Volumes 1-4

This is actually 4 cd's. Sue me. The folks at Tooth ‘n Nail records, home to a host of eclectic bands, released these over a number of successive years. There are lots of highlights throughout the collection (not sure if they put out more of 4 of these), but they’re quite fun. My favorite from the collection is Happy Christmas Vol. 2. Includes Sixpence None The Richer doing "The Grinch" (that song had to have been written with Leigh Nash in mind), and another band that I know nothing about named Viva Voce doing their ‘airy techno’ version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." When they kick in at the turn, it always makes me smile. (Sort of like that chick from Flyleaf in that first song they had that was popular called "I'm So Sick" where she screams. Makes me smile and hit replay). Several great cuts on each of these volumes from Relient K, Switchfoot, Supertones, and a host of bands that you may or may not know. Fairly fresh & fun. The Sarah Masen song, "Heaven's Got A Baby" on Vol. 3 is another personal favorite.

#7 - Merry Christmas from Doc Severinson and The Tonight Show Orchestra

Another absolute gem from the early 90’s. First, for many of you, Doc Severinson was (is?) a fabulous trumpet player, and a big band leader. Before Leno and his “copy the funny stuff from Letterman’s show” routine, Doc led the band for the show, and occasionally they toured and recorded (never got to see them in person, but would have loved that chance). I’m an old-school ‘band’ guy, and have enjoyed that a good bit with my kids and their musical pursuits. So I do love a good big band sound. This Christmas CD is full of wonderful big-band arrangements that just fill the room. Great orchestration and plenty of jazz influence. Plenty here to appreciate for both musician and listener both. Not a bad song on the disc, and its easy to find on ebay, Amazon, et al.


#6 - The Blind Boys of Alabama – ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’

I like this because its just different than the same-old. There’s just something cool about the music these guys produce (their release with Ben Harper is another fave of mine). Granted, this is the kind of thing you either really like or really don’t care for at all. Joining them are a host of guest vocalists like Harry Connick Jr., Tom Waits, Chrissie Hynde, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, George Clinton and others. Favorite tracks include the title cut, and ‘Last Month of the Year.’ Another one of those CD's that sounds better as loud as you can get it. A real Christmas gem, though one that's a little polarizing at my house (I think I'm the only one who likes & appreciates it)


So there it is for now....numbers 10 through 6. Will post my top 5 tomorrow. But I can't end this post without this next piece of Christmas cheer.....

The CD that I can’t believe I actually own:

Yo! Ho Ho – Various Christian Rap Artists

I wish I was kidding. But I’m not. Apparently in 1990, this was necessary. Wait, I was there….and this was never necessary! But it happened, and somehow I have it in my collection. Before I get into the absurdity of it all, here is some of the brilliant copy from the back of the jewel case:
“So here’s the deal. It’s Christmas and Rap is happenin’. YO! HO HO! is in your face. You have always wondered what Christmas would be with a hip M.C. Well, here it is…YO! HO HO! Features your favorite Christian rappers comin’ correct for Christmas. Chill out – rap it up!”

I can’t imagine that anyone connected to his product is actually proud to be forever embedded on this disk. From the title track by DC Talk, to "Drummer Boy" by E.T.W., to the unforgettable "Mary Had A Little Lamb" by M.C. Ge Gee (I wonder if that name fits on his Shoney’s nametag…EDIT....OK, apparently M.C. Ge Gee is actually a girl...), this is truly a collectors item. I almost put it on ebay, but then realized that it was too valuable to let out of my sight!

Here’s some lyrical content from "Drummer Boy" by E.T.W. (I believe that stood for End Time Warriors, if you’re taking notes at home:
“A little drummer boy back in the day,

came to the stable where Jesus lay

He saw a big star a shinin’, three wise men in line

Bearing fresh gifts, and busting fresh rhymes”

I wish I was making that up, because its amazingly funny now. I guess in 1990, it was a fresh as a Bel Air prince.

Really, I don’t know if you could ever find a copy of this….but its worth a laugh. Or better yet, take the $ you would spend on this glorified coaster and send it to World Vision or the charity of your choice. The artists on this project will be eternally grateful that you didn't listen to this embarrassing piece of anecdotal trivia that's part of an unending stream of garbage put out by Christians in the name of entertainment back in the day. It got better....but mostly because it couldn't get much worse! There is one of these currently on ebay...better bust a move and get over there. And while you're at it, throw your hands in the air like you just don't care.
UPDATE: I've been following a CD of YO! HO HO! on Ebay, and it just ended at $23.50. That's pretty good cash for a CD. Really good for a really lousy CD. May have to put my copy out there for the masses...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Final Newsletter Article

Just submitted my final article for our church newsletter. I've officially been gone since Oct. 1st, but still there every Sunday till we move after Christmas. So here's my last go at saying farewell...

It seems like it all started just yesterday. Fresh off of a 3-year ministry in Ohio and just starting a family, you invited us to come and ‘grow up’ in your midst. I can honestly say that those first few months of getting settled in Anderson back in 1992 seemed like we were planting roots. So much seemed right about the spot where Vicki and I had landed, even though leaving such good friends in our previous ministry was hard. The heritage of youth ministry that we were inheriting was at times intimidating, but the high bar of expectation was also refreshing. It turned out to be exactly what was needed for us, and those years are full of memories that will never fade. To this day, nothing beats being a small part in the transformation of the life of a kid. Those who linked arms with us throughout those years and did so with such longevity and energy know exactly what I’m talking about. Nothing beats it.

I can’t say enough about the people at Bethany. Such a diverse group that really only God could orchestrate. Some of you have been there your entire lives, while some have just shown up along the way. But so many are attracted to something about this place. It’s no secret that we’re not perfect. In fact, that’s one of the things I appreciate so much about Bethany. Not that we’re flawed, but that we’re willing to admit it! Only when we own up to the fact that we’re not clicking on all cylinders will we ever find solutions. Yet in spite of our imperfection, there’s some sort of cosmic magnetism (I just made that up…not bad…) that pulls us together in a way that’s unique and at times awe-inspiring. I’ve often had a press-box view of how God has worked through so many of you to do tremendous kingdom-building things. I was privileged to sit back, take notes, and learn from you. For that I will be forever grateful.

Personally, the way you took such good care of our family is a reflection of your heart. You’ve fixed our cars, sharpened our mower blades, changed our diapers, baby sat, played with and taught our kids, left anonymous gifts, raked our leaves, and so many other things – both small and large – that have shown us what it means to live as a family of believers who take care of each other. Not to mention that some of you let us dress you up in the most ridiculous outfits and perform in ways that would be humiliating to the average person. Good thing you folks aren’t average!

Bethany will always have a spot in our hearts. Vicki and I have spent 16 of our almost 20 years of marriage with you. Our kids became followers of Jesus in your midst, and I had the thrill of baptizing each of them at Bethany. You gave us a long leash to do, try, experiment, and sometimes pull the plug on some programs or traditions that just weren’t working like they may have at one time. That’s never easy, but often its necessary. And so, so many of you have been such valiant servants through the myriad of changes that have happened in the past 16 years. I’ll never forget your example, and your willingness to do whatever is necessary – even when it’s not exactly your cup of tea – to see the Church move forward and continue to reach people and lift up Jesus.

In 16 years, I’ve submitted something like 194 Bugle articles, give or take. Truth is, not a one of them has been by the deadline. Apparently, that’s not one of my gifts. This one is no exception…it’s one minute past midnight, just after the day it was due. The Bugle folks would expect no less! But this one wasn’t as much about procrastination or forgetfulness. It’s the hardest one to do, because it’s the last one. But please know that this new season of ministry for our family is exciting and unique, and we’re only adequate for the task because of the last 16 years of both you and God molding and shaping us. We commit to staying on the potter’s wheel. And we trust that you will too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rob Harris Is My Friend

Rob is one of my friends from college. For the past bunch of years, he's been the worship minister at a church just outside Nash-vegas, Franklin TN to be specific. Rob is a great talent, and leads a mean worship service. We've used a number of the worship tunes he's penned at our church in Anderson (and I think we even reported them to CCLI...). Lately, Rob has spent a good bit of time writing. I'll preface this by saying I'm not a country music fan. In fact, I make fun of it often....and can't we all agree that there's plenty there to make fun of?? (Sadly, as I travel around the area of my new residence....lets just say the seek button on the radio seems to only find country stations).

Anyway, I do enjoy Rob's songs. Many of them make me feel like I should be at Texas Roadhouse eating peanuts and waiting on my onion blossom. You can check out a bunch of his songs here at this site, or at his myspace music page here. A few that are my faves: "Three Months & A Winnebago," "Too Far Gone," and his rendition of (with Joey Martin on vocals....reminds me a bit of Julie Miller) Freebird. (these songs are Rob's originals that he wrote, but with studio vocals....at least I think that's accurate). Check him out, and listen for one of his songs to eventually hit the radio...and if it does, tell me. I probably won't be listening - but the CD that contains a Rob Harris penned tune will be the first...and perhaps only....country CD I purchase!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tough Economic Times / McCain on Leno

Times are tough all over, not just here in the US. Yesterday, the Chinese government laid off the entire second grade!

(OK, so I borrowed that from Leno last night...)

Speaking of Leno, did anyone else watch John McCain on there? He was great. Even if you didn't vote for him, he's hard not to like. Very engaging, funny, and no one...I mean no one... loves this country more than him. The story he told at the end about the cell mate and the homemade American flag was beautiful & touching. If you can find the interview on YouTube or at NBC.com, its worth your time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lars And The Real Girl

I took a chance on this film, having overheard a conversation somewhere (not sure where exactly) and having a boring evening alone. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatment! What a great film. I can't really divulge the premise...many of you would write this off if I gave you a summary. But a very good film that is quirky to be sure, but full of great stuff. To see how this community of people loves & accepts this guy who obviously is working through an issue is not only touching, but very much refelective of the heart of Christ. Do yourself a favor...rent it, watch it, and see what I mean!

UPDATE: Watched it again this weekend with my wife (kept telling her she would love it...and I was right!), and was able to purchase a cheap previously-viewed copy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Finding Middle Ground

OK, so I've discovered Facebook. Really quite fun - have connected with friends from HS, College, and kids from youth group days gone by. Sat with Facebook on the laptop while I watched the election returns, and was somewhat amazed by what I was seeing happen. Not the outcome of the election itself - I had a strong sense that it would go the way it did. But the reaction of my Facebook friends. It seems my friends fall into 2 categories:
  1. "The Sky is falling! Rip our garments, put ashes on our head, get on our knees and cry out to Jehovah God to not let this guy become president!!!"
  2. "This is perhaps the most unbelievable, history-making night of my life."

I sat watching the comments people were making...and all I could think was "really?" I had my share of problems with both perspectives. First, I just don't think .... at least in my lifetime .... that the Oval Office has made that much impact on our world and particularly on my life (well, the current guy had a little to do with us being in a war that is built upon some shaky rationale, and how can we not blame the gas price 'surge' on him?), and I just don't think Obama can be all that bad. Though there are some moral issues I disagree with on his position (and Johnny Mac's, too), there are some aspects of his platform that are interesting, and we'll see what happens.

However, some were reacting as if the Messiah himself had descended from on high. Not sure I get that, either. He has no experience and is unproven. But, he sounds & looks good. Is that a reason to vote for him? And the average age of those making the "this is the most amazing night of my entire life" comments? About 25. Not that a 25-year-old has nothing to say or no opinion...but there's going to be a lot of amazing moments in your life to come. An unproven entity with a lot to prove becoming president? History, yes. Improbable, certainly. But until the guy actually does something, let's hold off on Messiah (well, let's not go there...regardless)

Three observations I have about the whole deal....just my thoughts for what they're worth....

  1. God is still on the throne. Here in beautiful KY, the sun was really bright the next morning.
  2. Chuck Colson said some time ago that "Jesus isn't coming back on Air Force One." He of course was criticizing the billions of dollars the Religious Right was spending to get the 'right' people in office. We, the people of God, have substituted our mandate to be salt & light and to permeate the culture by living the Kingdom....with the notion that morality in our country should be legislated by elected officials. I believe we need Christians in politics...and dentistry...and law....and running libraries....etc. God's people, when they have risen up throughout history, have made mountains move. With or without elected or appointed officials.
  3. And lastly, I need to spend some time hanging with friends of different perspectives. Not to sway them or be swayed, but to understand better where folks who think like them are coming from. Most of my friends, on Facebook anyway, are on the far right. A few who weren't afraid to wave their Obama support. And in defense of those folks, they happen to be very intelligent, thoughtful Christians who are doing some great things for the kingdom (I know...for some on the Right, that's hard to understand).

All that to say that I think we can use a deep breath, thank God that He hasn't abandoned us, pray for those in charge, and get busy being His followers.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Great Shark Catch of 2008

Took a couple of my kids to see the new Indy Jones movie the night before we left the beach (my second viewing). Trevor and Vicki stayed behind, and while walking along the beach before nightfall, came across 4-5 small sharks, laying dead on the beach. Not sure if they washed up in the tide, were left by a fisherman who caught them (hey, I hope they catch 'em all....those little guys grow up to be big guys!), or what. Neverthless, we now have a story to tell...an actual fish tale...

It's So On....


We returned home from vacation to a house surrounded by branches from the storms for the week, high grass from all the rain, and this lovely scene. Seems a wacko squirrel is having its way on the patio furniture cushions in both my yard and our neighbor's porch.
Upon further examination, it appears he's going up into a grove of trees that are between my house and my neighbors; there is a trail of cotton all up through the trees. Let the games begin. Little squirrel, you will not have the last word.....
Not happy, to say the least. Looks like we'll be having some fried squirrel very soon.....

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What Is the What

Took a chance on a book I saw at Borders that looked interesting, though not sure how much of a "beach read" it might prove to be. It's called What Is the What by Dave Eggers. "Separated from his family, Valentino Achak Deng becomes a refugee in war-ravaged southern Sudan. His travels bring him in contact with enemy soldiers, with liberation rebels, with hyenas and lions, with disease and starvation, and with deadly murahaleen (militias on horseback)—the same sort who currently terrorize Darfur. Based closely on actual experiences, What Is the What is heartrending and astonishing, filled with adventure, suspense, tragedy and, finally, triumph."


This has turned out to be a fascinating story, one in which I knew little about. Very eye-opening and educational, and highly recommended. Amazing read.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Ahh, The Ocean

I love the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Specifically the little area called Emerald Isle. A few pics of our vacation destination. Love having that big, God-created ocean right outside the door!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Worth The Wait


For some reason, the wife and I have taken in a more-than-usual amount of movies in the past couple of weeks. We don't go to the "big screen" all that often, but a few movies or series seem to warrant a trip to the theater. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and the Narnia (all in the series of each) are such great stories, and wonderful escapism. Add to that the Indiana Jones series. At the age my kids are, we can enjoy most of these together. We don't exactly enjoy paying the high price for a family of 5 to go. Regardless, closed my eyes at the ticket window and saw the newest (and probably last) movie this weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of fun, lots of action, vintage Indy.

The Story of Stuff

You need some time, like 20 minutes. But this is a fascinating little video called The Story of Stuff. Very interesting, and something we all should see & understand. Check it out at http://www.storyofstuff.com/ (Thanks to Troy for passing this along!)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Obama's Uphill Battle

First off, I'm not promoting any one candidate over another. There are things I like about a couple of them, and really liked one of the guys who bowed out a few months back. But I do believe in a fair fight, and from the looks of signs like this one that pop up at many campaign rallys, it seems we still have a long way to go in our country.

In my home state of Kentucky, I was not surprised in the least that Clinton crushed Obama in the recent primary. Outside of a few larger areas (Lexington, Louisville), its easy to live a "diversity-free" existence. I spent the first 21-ish years of my life in one of 2 towns in KY, and the only person(s) of color I knew during that time were exchange students from Zimbabwe during college.

I've heard lots of stories from the past. One such story happened in 1919, when all of the blacks in my home town were gathered up, placed on a train, and shipped out of town. Somewhere out there is a documentary about this event. But many years later in the mid-80's, the effects of that event were still evident. There were no blacks in or around our town. None. I know, there are lots of possible reasons for that. It wasn't exactly an area that lots of people were looking to move into in the first place. In fact, a lot of us were hoping to spread our wings and fly somewhere else (and many of my friends did). But I think there was a general vibe that those of color were not welcome. I never heard it said, or saw it in action. But I did hear comments. Stories that made me scratch my head and wonder what's wrong with people.

So I'm not surprised Obama had a poor showing in Kentucky. I don't think my experience is different from most of the state. I just thought we were closer to moving past that. Voting (or not voting) for someone because of their politics is one thing. Because of their skin color (or gender, for that matter) is quite another.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A New Book, A New Artist

Been reading a pretty interesting book. It's entitled "11 Indispensable Relationships You Gotta Have" by Leonard Sweet. Sor far, really enjoying it. The idea behind the book is that our Christian journey is as important as our destination. So influential 'partners' as we travel along are important to our success at this Christian life thing. It's sort of an iron-sharpens-iron approach, and good to ask as I read: do I have a person that does this in my life, and am I able to in turn do this in the life of another? Very good thusfar; had the occassion to hears Sweet in person last fall, and he rolled out 6 of the 11. Glad to have stumbled across this book.

Speaking of stumbling across stuff, happened to find a new artist who showed up on the most popular purchase list at http://www.independentbands.com/ (his CD is out of stock there at the moment), but followed a link to his MySpace music page, and really like his stuff. His name is Jeff Johnson. Actually contacted him, to see if he might come through Indiana anytime. I believe he's from Texas or somewhere out west. Anyway, give him a listen. He does a cover of 'Inside Out' from Hillsong United that's very cool. (Saw somewhere on some site that he was actually on American Idol, perhaps even the first season. Didn't know that or remember him, but I do like the sound of what he's doing currently...)


Tragic Day

I've long been a fan of Steven Curtis Chapman, and highly admire & respect not only his tremendous songwriting, but his humble spirit and personality. Just an amazing talent. His recent push regarding international adoption is very cool, having adopted on more than one occassion himself.

Which makes the news of the last two days that much more hard to swallow. His teenage son tragically struck & killed their 5-year-old daughter from China in the driveway of their home. I can't imagine. I think these sorts of things hit you much harder when you're a father, too. My heart goes out to the Chapman family. His music has ministered to so many over the years, including me. I hope the prayers & thoughts of the masses are felt & evident in this terrible time. You can read more about the story from this Nashville area newspaper.

Monday, May 19, 2008

When You Call To Get Your Computer Fixed...

Called customer support lately? Tried to get service to fix your computer, or anything else? Chances are you're getting someone in India. Here are a couple of actual pics from India, which should make you feel confident about the level of tech support you're getting.....


Everything That's Wrong With Politics

"Each of the Coburn Seven counts himself pro-life. If a bill came to the Senate floor that would save millions of unborn children, one assumes that pro-life members would push to improve it, accept a few necessary compromises and then enthusiastically support the legislation. It is difficult to imagine why pro-life legislation involving millions of Africans should be viewed differently. "

- Author, columnist, and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, criticizing Senators Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Jeff Sessions, Saxby Chambliss, David Vitter, Jim Bunning, Richard Burr--Republicans who have signed a hold letter preventing action on the reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). (Source: The Washington Post )

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Movies

Last night, I wanted to see what all the fuss was concerning The Golden Compass. So we blew a buck on it from the neighborhood McD's RedBox, our new rental friend, and gave it a whirl.

Really? People were worried about this movie? First of all, it just wasn't that good. I'm not just saying that to solidify my moral compass (pun intended), but I thought the movie just was kinda bland. The ending of the film couldn't have been more "here comes the sequel", much more than many where we all knew sequels were imimnent.

I remember the countless email forwards warning that this film was going to send our children's faith foundation into a tailspin dive that would surely land them in the clutches of Satan himself. Well, sorry. It just isn't good enough to do that. If you didn't know that the author Pullman was an athiest and was taking intentional shots at the Catholic church, well, you wouldn't know that from the movie. Compass won't drag anyone into athiesm, just like Harry Potter won't raise up a generation of wizards.

As luck would have it, our George Bush check arrived recently, so we could afford the once a year journey to the local Cinema 10 to take in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Talk about night & day. Where Compass was weak (cheesy CGI, bad acting, not that great a story), Caspian kept me on the edge of my seat (along with paying for a family of 5 to go to the movies!) I thought the first Chronicles was good, though there was some cheese. None here with Caspian. Excellently done. Of course, the religious symbolism was of special interest to me, but I think the movie is good even if you're unaware. I found Caspian to be an excellent upgrade from the first movie, and that bodes well for the remainder of the series (next up: Dawn Treader, in May of 2010).

A couple of interesting footnotes. Compass and Wardrobe cost the same to make: roughly 180 million. Wardrobe brought in 291 million, plus another 450 million abroad. That's a lot of Turkish Delight. Compass, on the other hand, did 70 million in the US, and 301 abroad. But talk of sequels has gone away, and the New Line studio was recently folded into Warner Brothers. Pullman might want to stick to books. Did the Christian 'boycott' cause Compass to fail? Not sure, but having seen it, I assume the critics didn't like it. It just wasn't good.

(Interesting article about these two from Time Magazine, where I got my stats in the previous paragraph - here's the link)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Interesting thought from Anne Lamott, fantastic writer & one of my faves...

I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We're here to
know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle
of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to
dance, to sing, to play. You don't have time to carry grudges; you don't have
time to cling to the need to be right.
- author Anne Lamott, in a recent
interview. (Source: The Washington Times)

Shane Claiborne quote

Came across this quote from Shane Claiborne, autor of Jesus for President and The Irresistible Revolution. The quote is from the latter...

"As my teacher Tony Campolo used to ask, 'Even if there were no heaven and
there were no hell, would you still follow Jesus? Would you follow him for the
life, joy, and fulfillment he gives you right now?' I am more and more convinced
each day that I would. Don't get me wrong. I'm excited about the afterlife. We
are going to party like there's no tomorrow (umm, and there won't be). And yet I
am convinced that Jesus came not just to prepare us to die but to teach us how
to live."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Showstoppers


My son plays bass for the band that backs up both of the show choirs for our highschool. Both groups are very good, and its kind of a big deal. They head off to Florida for the big competition called Showstoppers, and they spend a few days at the Disney resort, get a park pass to all the parks, etc. Fun times. Before the groups leave for the trip, you're "strongly advised" to make a sign for your kid that shows your support. Most of them say stuff like "Ashley, You Go Girl! Knock 'em Dead @ Showstoppers!" That sort of thing. We've decided to be subsversively humorous in our approach to these departure tributes. So here is our sign. I predict it will be the favorite sign of the bunch.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What's Next for Mike Huckabee?

I didn't think Huckabee had much of a chance, but there were some things about him I liked. This article from Soujouners and Jim Wallis was interesting. In many ways, he's more appealing that those who remain in the November race. Check out the article....

What's Next for Mike Huckabee?
Get a free issue of Sojourners
Tuesday evening, John McCain clinched the Republican nomination for president, and Mike Huckabee, the last remaining contender, conceded defeat. Huckabee's campaign, and the failure of the Religious Right to support him, has been one of the most interesting and puzzling stories of this primary season.

While Huckabee is certainly a social conservative, he refused to toe the line on a number of issues. And that is more evidence for why I say the monologue of the Religious Right has ended and the evangelical agenda has broadened.

In the Republican YouTube debate, the candidates were asked if they believed every word of the Bible. Huckabee said that while some of the Bible was allegorical, we needed to take much of it much more seriously than we do - such the words of Jesus that say, "As you have done to the least of these you have done to me." This is not the text that most conservatives quote when asked about the authority of the Bible.

In an interview with Reuters in January, Huckabee spoke about the broadening evangelical agenda:
Unquestionably there is a maturing that is going on within the evangelical
movement. It doesn't mean that evangelicals are any less concerned about
traditional families and the sanctity of life. It just means that they also
realize that we have real responsibility in areas like disease and hunger and
poverty and that these are issues that people of faith have to address
.

And when conservative columnists such as Robert Novak attacked Huckabee for not being a "real conservative," this is precisely what they meant.

When Huckabee was governor of Arkansas, he advocated spending money on poor people - behavior that is offensive to the economically conservative wing of the Republican Party. While Huckabee is a consistent social conservative, he is considered suspect by the party's economic conservatives who, of course, don't support spending any money on overcoming poverty.

Huckabee disagrees with them.

On immigration, in that same debate, there was an all-out attack on "illegal aliens" who became the new scapegoat, the new "other," for many of the Republican candidates - and the preferred way to energize their primary base. Except for the acknowledgement from John McCain that "these are God's children too," every Republican candidate preceded to demagogue the issue, beating up on undocumented immigrants for crass political gain.

But then Mike Huckabee spoke. He agreed that our borders need to be protected and enforced (I do too), but then defended his support for a failed bill in Arkansas to give scholarships to exceptional students - including undocumented children. He said he didn't want to punish children for their parents' illegal actions because "that's not what we typically do in this country." This educational plan, he said, was intended to bring people from illegal to legal status. He continued, saying that he had received a good education; but if he hadn't, "I wouldn't be standing on this stage; I might be picking lettuce; I might be a person who needed government support." Then he said, "In all due respect, we're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did." Although he later moved more to the right in the heat of the primaries, that response remains.

Is that ultimately why the leaders of the Religious Right didn't support Mike Huckabee until late in the primary season? Is it because many on the Religious Right are really more committed to economic conservatism than social conservatism? Have religious conservatives gotten so used to their access to power that are they afraid to risk standing for principle over pragmatism?

Huckabee was the most consistent social conservative Republican in the race - he won a straw poll at the FRC Values Voters Summit this winter - yet most of the leaders of the Religious Right never rallied around him. But the evangelical base did, keeping him in the race until this week.

Now that he is out of the race, what's next for Huckabee? The conservative Washington Times said that Huckabee is at the forefront of an evangelical revival, and quoted his former communications director as saying
He has become the leader of a new generation of Christian conservative voters.
... There is nobody else you can identify outside of Mike Huckabee as a leading
person to take on that role, really in a new era where evangelicals care about a
lot of things like the environment and working with the poor.

And, as former Bush staffer David Kuo wrote in The Washington Post,
That there's now a pitched battle for the soul of the religious right is a
horrifying thought to Republican leaders long familiar with the old religious
right, a hierarchical group dominated by larger-than-life figures who'd anointed
themselves Jesus's political representatives. But that movement is withering at
the top and in revolt at the grass-roots. ...
What's new is how widespread social justice issues are in the evangelical world. Leading New Testament theologian N.T. Wright, a conservative, says that the greatest moral issue today is not abortion but the economic inequality between the U.S. and Europe and the developing world.
So, stay tuned. We haven't heard the last from Mike Huckabee.

Friday, February 22, 2008

NFL Allows Church Groups to show Super Bowl

This just in from ESPN.com....

The NFL will allow church groups to show the Super Bowl on large-screen televisions, reversing a policy that drew criticism from elected officials.

In a letter to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will no longer object to "live showings -- regardless of screen size -- of the Super Bowl" by religious organizations, The Washington Post reported.

An earlier story in The Post about church groups canceling Super Bowl parties over fear of legal action by the NFL led to protest by some lawmakers and conservative leaders.

At the center of the issue is an NFL policy which holds that organizations showing public viewings of its games on televisions larger than 55 inches violate the league's copyright. Sports bars are exempt from the policy, but last year, the NFL sent letters to two church groups, advising them of the rule, according to The Post.

In its letter to Hatch, the NFL said it would not object to big-screen viewings in churches as long as they are free and held on premises that the church uses on a "routine and customary" basis, according to the report.

Hatch said in a prepared statement that he was grateful that the NFL made the exception.
"Many families want to enjoy the Super Bowl in a group atmosphere -- but obviously aren't going to take their kids to a sports bar," he said, according to The Post.

Steve Holley, executive pastor of Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Va., which canceled its big-screen Super Bowl party this year over the policy, was also pleased by the change.

"[The NFL] decided to set aside profit for community spirit," Holley said, according to The Post. "I'm encouraged by that."

THIS IS COOL; HERE'S A FEW PICS FROM OUR PARTY THIS YEAR. WE HAD 75 OR SO FROM THE VARIOUS HOMELESS SHELTERS IN TOWN COME AND PARTICIPATE! OH, AND NOTICE THE TOM BRADY PINATA...ALSO KNOWN AS THE "TOMNATA"


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Most Redeeming Films of 2007


I like movies, I just don't go that often. Busy, its expensive, etc. But we do rent from time to time, and occassionally there is a good movie that comes along. Anyway, Christianity Today has a list of their Most Redeeming Films of 2007. I've seen one...the cartoon rat that cooks. The rest I'll get around to via rentals. If you're interested, click here to see their list and a short synopsis of each film.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008


The writer's strike is finally over, and some of the most creative stuff happening in the entertainment industry can now resume production. I know everyone doesn't get the humor in The Office, but its one of my favorites, and I'm looking forward to the next episode (which isn't until April). Pretty clever stuff. If you're not into it, its worth giving it a chance for a few weeks...maybe it will grow on you. Or maybe not. As for me, I'm in withdrawal and can't wait!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jeff Coffin with HS Jazz Honors Band




OK, so this guy is awesome. Cool that the young Marshall lad is playing bass right behind him. Kid playing the alternate sax part is from the same school (this is an honors jazz band made up of kids from several schools; they only practiced a little Friday night and a little Saturday morning.) Coffin plays with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and has played sax with anyone who's anyone in music. Very, very cool. (try a youtube search for him and find some very cool clips - he's kinda famous for playing 2 saxes at a time...video coming soon)

If you have time, watch this video, with Bela Fleck and bassist extraordinaire Victor Wooten - Coffin does the double sax thing for a bit toward the end.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What if...

Top ten ways the Bible would be different if it were written by
college students

1.Last Supper would have been eaten the next morning - cold.
2.The Ten Commandments are actually only five, double-spaced, and written in a large font.
3.New edition every two years in order to limit reselling.
4.Forbidden fruit would have been eaten because it wasn't cafeteria food.
5.Paul's letter to the Romans becomes Paul's e-mail to abuse@romans.gov.
6.Reason Cain killed Abel: They were roommates.
7.The place where the end of the world occurs: Finals, not Armageddon.
8.Out go the mules, in come the mountain bikes
9.Reason why Moses and followers walked in desert for 40 years: They didn't want to ask directions and look like freshers.
10.Instead of God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, He would have put it off until the night before it was due and then pulled an all-nighter.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Free Hugs

OK, so I'm a little behind. This has been around for a bit, but I just came across it. Made me smile. Hope it does you too...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obama Interview

Christianity Today has an interview with Democratic Presidential Candiate Barak Obama. I know for some of you, that is an oxymoron to have him or anyone with a (D) next to their name in Christianity anything. I know because I get the emails, particularly about Obama, extolling his so-called affiliation with Islam. I know because well-intentioned people who believe everything that's forwarded 57 times and lands in their inbox come strutting in to the church copier to mass distribute the email to everyone in their Sunday School class. (They also believe that Bill Gates is going to let them in on part of his fortune if they just forward that email to 29 of their closest friends, and some have probably given their bank account numbers to an exiled queen in Nigeria because she wanted to deposit 25 million into their bank account.) NEVER MIND THAT THE ENTIRE THING IS UNTRUE! Man, are we really that dumb to not look into things like that before taking them as gospel? In the mean time, here's a guy who seems to be a little plugged in the The Gospel, and he's thrown under the bus by most because a) there's a D next to his name, b) bogus emails say he's a Muslim, and c) we don't care much for his stance on abortion.

When is the last time we had someone in office whose stance on abortion was in line with "all things evangelical" and who, oh, I don't know.... managed to do something about it? I don't particularly agree with everything that any of these remaining candidates think or believe, but I think its time Christians start looking past the 2 pet issues we always put at the top of the list: abortion & gay marriage, and start looking at the scads & scads of Biblical mandates that we're ignoring and just voting for whomever Dobson or Schaffly or Wildmon tell us to vote for. Who knows, perhaps changing the culture in which we live might just change the mind of someone who is making a decision about the future of their unborn baby. (But that's another topic...Obama hits that indirectly in the Abortion question in the interview)

Having said that, I am in NO WAY endorsing Obama. Just thought the interview was worth passing along. Draw whatever conclusions you want to draw about him.

(Me? I'm writing in Jesus for president this time around!)

Cheese, anyone?

OK, so you have to think a little to find the humor/irony/point in this cartoon. But its there, nonetheless. Not sure where I got this, but its a guy who comes up with daily/weekly cartoons that are kinda different. If I can remember his name, I'll post a link to his site. Just in case the above compilation of cheese makes you curious. The "Worship Music" above is in reference to the new, modern stuff coming out that may seem like, well, cheese. Interesting...whether you agree or not!

Traffic Buster


Can you imagine seeing the cars get out of this guy's way??

Step 1: tie balloons to car
Step 2: drive eratically
Step 3: watch people freak out
Step 4: call Jack Baur

(thanks to www.ysmarko.com)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Son, Wizard of Marimba

From the recent solo & ensemble contest for JH kids....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Expelled: The Movie

I've been hearing a bit about this upcoming movie, and just came across the video trailer after reading about the film on YS Marko's blog. Here's what he had to say about the film:
"I’m so intrigued by this movie coming out in the spring, called expelled (full title is expelled: no intelligence allowed). I’d heard something about it in passing from a co-worker, but didn’t really know anything about it. But I just clicked through on a banner ad on another site (wow, a banner ad click through!), and learned more about it. And now i’m fascinated.

The movie is a documentary about the bias and discrimination in the scientific community (and supported by media, education and other industries) against anyone who isn’t a die-hard 100% darwinian. And here’s where it gets interesting: ben stein is making the movie. Yes, Ben Stein as in “win Ben Stein’s money” and Ferris Buelier’s Day Off (”anyone? anyone? bueller?”) and a hundred other disparate contexts.
Try this: you hear there’s a documentary being made about credible scientists who want to ask questions and explore ideas about intelligent design, and how they’re being blacklisted by the scientific community. Who do you assume is making the movie?


Really, when i’d heard about it (with NO details at the time), I assumed it was a b-grade or c-grade Christian documentary, full of whininess, fear, martyr complex, hyperbole and shoddy fiat platitudes. but it’s Ben Stein! NOT focus on the family! Ha!
here’s the trailer — TOTALLY worth watching. And the home page (featuring Ben Stein in an angus young ac/dc school outfit).

Let’s all agree to watch this thing when it comes out!"

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Butter Faith


This made me laugh. If you've ever eaten any of that stuff, you may say to yourself "I can't believe people actually buy this stuff & ingest it!" But I couldn't put a picture of butter on here w/out mentioning my favorite butter related song....



Monday, January 21, 2008

Open Letter To the NFL

In case you missed it, last year during the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, churches all across the country were hit with the realization that the Super Bowl parties we've been having for, well, as long as the Super Bowl has existed, were in violation of all sorts of NFL/Nielson/Copyright policies. It's no secret that the entire thing comes down to money. The very nice lady who did call me back from the NFL legal department suggests that it all comes down to those pesky Nielson numbers. They have no way of adequately accounting for the numbers of folks who watch their product in churches & other establishments around the country. Those final numbers are the carrot that allows them to get millions of $ per thirty second commercial each Super Bowl. It allows the NFL and the networks to keep their product free on TV while still making an enormous amount of jack from Frito Lay, Pepsi, Budwiser et al. (I guess they don't make nearly enough of those millions, since they created their own network and charge their customers even more to get to see those games...but that's a different arguement).

Well, we have a little "Big Game" party for the homeless. Oh, one of the many stipulations is you are NOT allowed to call it by its actual name. Really, I'm not making that up. We plan to play by the rules, including screen size, not charging (we weren't anyway...come on, they're homeless folks!), etc. But my hope is that the folks at the NFL, Nielson, and whoever else it takes would get together and find a simple way to manage this. Even though they don't want to look like the bad guy in all of this, they do. A couple of interesting articles from last season's fiasco worth reading are :
here
here
and here (this article gives some pretty reasonable solutions, too!)

Below is my letter (which incidently did get a follow-up phone call from a very nice lady from the NFL)

To whom it may concern at the National Football League,

We were met with a great deal of surprise regarding the story that hit the front page of the Indianapolis Star last season regarding church Super Bowl parties, along with a flurry of reports on all evening news telecasts in the Indianapolis area. We were equally surprised that there was any problem with getting people together to enjoy the big game, especially since for most of us in central Indiana, this was the first time we’ve ever had the thrill of "our team" making that game.
I certainly understand your efforts to protect your product and to also protect fans from ticket & merchandise fraud, etc. But I do hope you might reconsider your regulations regarding churches gathering to watch the game on a screen big enough to handle a group of people that might not fit into the average living room, as well as families that want to enjoy the game with a large group and aren’t interested in the bar scene that many enjoy.

For the third year in a row, we plan to invite the homeless from our community to our facility for their evening meal (the shelters are planning to give their kitchen crews the night off), and the chance to enjoy the game and all of the snacks and fun that go with the typical big game gathering. In the last two years, we averaged over 70 homeless men, women & children that climbed in our vans and came out to participate. Last year, to fit within the guidelines that emerged about a week prior to the game, we were forced to 'punt' and have 2 parties at 2 locations so that screen size would be appropriate. It turned out fine, but was an enormous adjustment and not the event we hoped it would be.

I’m sure you are aware that these parties have gone on since the big game was started. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever watched the game at home. For those of us (most Americans) who can never afford to get to one of these games in person, getting together with others and rooting for a team is the next best thing. I know that in youth groups & churches all across America, plans are being made for families of all ages to get together and cheer on their team and enjoy the spectacle that is the commercial breaks.

For the homeless folks we want to serve, their options are even less, as you would probably expect. Most may have a marginal interest in the game, but many do not. These aren't folks who are going to show up in Nielson ratings at any level. They are, however, looking for something to do, a place that’s warm, and food to eat. Our intent isn’t to preach, charge admission, or violate any of the NFL’s policy. We just want to offer food & football to the 80 or so homeless in our community. I’m asking for you to please consider these suggestions:
  1. We would like to continue with our plans to host our local homeless community. There will be approx. 30 or so volunteers here, mixing in with the 70-80 homeless guests, having conversation, popcorn, pizza, etc. We would like to project the game onto a larger screen, since 100 or so people couldn’t possibly gather around the 27-inch TVs we have. So I’m seeking permission to do our party as planned.
  2. I’m also asking that you consider working together with some churches to develop a fully-sanctioned church/NFL event. We’re all well-intentioned, have every desire to be law abiding, and many churches are in a quandry at the moment about how to proceed.
  3. I would also hope you would sit down with a few of us, find out what really goes on at these parties and how we do them, and see that we’re not hurting your product. In fact, most parties are decked out in NFL merchandise, team jerseys, etc. I would even like to invite someone to join us for our event and see how tastefully it is done.
  4. Have other options been explored? Perhaps a downloadable form to give details about a gathering, with numbers & ages of people present? Might that somehow satisfy the Nielson component? How about selling a licensing fee? We’ve done this before with certain movies, like The Passion of the Christ for instance, where they made available a fairly inexpensive license that allowed us a one-time large screen showing of the film. I believe the cost was a sliding scale, based on audience size.

Again, we have every desire to do what’s right, and we hope that you will find a way to partner with the many, many churches that have the ability and desire to pull their people together to celebrate & enjoy this terrific annual event. The entire thing was disappointing last year to many of us; of course it did help that our local team became Super Bowl champions.

Please consider these suggestions along with the many I'm sure you're received from countless other churches & non-profit groups just looking to enjoy your product and enjoy one another.

Top 25 Inspirational Poster Wish-List

(From the folks at www.StrangeCosmos.com)

TOP 25 SAYINGS WE'D LIKE TO SEE ON THOSE OFFICE INSPIRATIONAL POSTERS

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

Doing a job RIGHT the first time gets the job done. Doing the job WRONG fourteen times gives you job security.

Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings, they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

We put the "k" in "kwality."

If something doesn't feel right, you're not feeling the right thing.

Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity.

A person who smiles in the face of adversity...probably has a scapegoat.

If you can stay calm, while all around you is chaos...then you probably haven't completely understood the situation.

Plagiarism saves time.

If at first you don't succeed, try management.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can avoid altogether.

TEAMWORK...means never having to take all the blame yourself.

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups.

We waste time, so you don't have to.

Hang in there, retirement is only thirty years away!

Go the extra mile. It makes your boss look like an incompetent slacker.

A snooze button is a poor substitute for no alarm clock at all.

When the going gets tough, the tough take a coffee break.

INDECISION is the key to FLEXIBILITY.

Succeed in spite of management.

Aim Low, Reach Your Goals, Avoid Disappointment.

We waste more time by 8:00 in the morning than other companies do all day.

You pretend to work, and we'll pretend to pay you.

Work: It isn't just for sleeping anymore.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

First of all, this is not the normal type of book I normally choose to read. Not that I'm against reading outside of my normal genre of interest, I just don't have (or make) the time. But I read a review somewhere about this book called Three Cups of Tea, and when I stumbled across it at the bookstore, decided to take a chance on it. To say I'm glad I did is an understatement.

There's a lot to say about the book, but perhaps checking out the co-writer's take from the book introduction is best. Greg Mortenson is an amazing guy, and what he's accomplished in Pakistan and Afghanistan is remarkable. I HIGHLY recommend this book. I didn't realize it had been out for over a year, and is apparently one of those word-of-mouth wonders. Currently, its #3 on the New York Times. You'll learn a lot, and be inspired. One person really can change the world. Read the short intro found here, and watch the video interview from the Today show. And get the book (currently, Waldenbooks/Borders has it in the Buy 1, get 1 half price section).