boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.



A few days ago, I was talking with my friend and fellow blogger Lou about comments. Not just random everyday comments like, "Boy, the weather's nice today." Or, "I think I'll have peanut butter and jelly for lunch." Rather, I mean comments on blogs. We both agreed that we wish people commented more often in response to our posts. We have the feeling that people are checking in on what we have to say, and we both wished that we could hear what they have to say. I myself am something of a serial commenter. I comment regularly on the blogs I regularly visit, and I even comment on random blogs when I'm surfing. Sometimes my comments are longer, more detailed, and better thought out than my own blog posts are. I think that's because the hardest part of blogging for me is coming up with ideas. When someone gives me a topic, I can usually b.s. on it for as long as necessary. So, that's been my m.o. with blog commenting.

I know that for some, refraining from commenting is a personality thing. It's just not your style. I can respect that--though, I'd still like to hear from you when you do get itchy typing fingers. For others, you just don't find my posts inspiring or interesting enough to comment upon. Believe me: I sympathize with you! But maybe for some of you, you hold back because you don't believe you have a worthwhile contribution on the topic. To you I say, that's completely beside the point! I rarely have a worthwhile contribution on any topic, and I've had my own blog for almost a year. Heck, the subtitle/description of my blog warns that all you will find here is "fruitless discussion and uninformed commentary". So, join in the conversation. Maybe you can practice here, hone your skills, and then take your blog-commenting prowess to more fruitful pastures.

For further professional instruction, check out this fun article about how you can develop the four techniques of blog commenting. While much of it is obviously tongue-in-cheek, maybe it will provide some inspiration for you.

p.s. I don't mean to intimidate. You are welcome to check in as frequently or infrequently as you like, even if you never intend to make a single comment.


one man's junk...

I'm something of a pack rat. My wife cannot understand why I'm compelled to keep old, seemingly inconsequential junk. I don't understand it myself. Sometimes I'll have a fear that if I get rid of something, I may want it later and then I'll regret not having it. More often, I form strong emotional attachment to things based on where I got them or some event or person associated with them. For some reason, this happens quite often with clothes. I have all kinds of ratty old clothes that my wife is itching to get rid of, but which I won't let go. Maybe it's not 'spiritual' to have that kind of emotional investment in material possessions. But, it's not like I would save them in a fire instead of my wife or something. And, my connection is usually more with the emotional association than with the object. So, question #1: What do you have that you would be sad if you lost?

And that question leads me to the thought I had which originally led me to write this post. Since we're moving in about a month, we've started packing, but of course we're finding plenty of ways to get sidetracked as we box stuff up. One way my wife got sidetracked was to sort through some old pictures for a new picture frame she got. She created a nice 'national parks' themed frame. In one of the pictures--I think from our honeymoon--I'm wearing a Notre Dame hat that certainly fits into the category described above. In fact, it is probably the example par excellence.

I bought the hat in the 3rd grade from my friend Rick Magni for $3.75. We--the hat and I, not Rick and I--have been through a lot of life together. When my best friend in junior high school, Michael Nolan, and I used to play tennis together every day, all day, during the summers, I always wore the hat. He had a tennis court just down the street from his house, so we would play all morning, have lunch at his house, then play again until dinner. During our lunch break, we would both put our soaking-wet-with-sweat hats in his freezer while we ate, so they would be nice and cold when we resumed. For many reasons, that sounds disgusting to me now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Later during high school, I was a cross-country and track runner. I wore that hat to every single practice, and I never washed it during the seasons. By the time the district meets rolled around for each sport, that hat could probably do a few laps of the track on its own. Then during college, I spent a lot of time in Colorado on family vacations and a few trips with friends. I was wearing the hat each of four times I hiked to the peaks of 14,000 ft. mountains. On top of all that, I've had a lifelong devotion to Notre Dame (thanks Dad!), both its athletics and academics. No matter what the state of affairs is with Notre Dame's teams or whatever, that hat was always a testimony to my longevity as a fan.

Unfortunately, I have no more recent memories to write about. I no longer have that hat. I lost it. I don't know how or where. And I can't even pinpoint when. I can't remember if I've had it since we moved to St. Louis four and a half years ago or not. I actually think about the hat more often than when I have occasion to see a picture of myself wearing it. I wish I still had it and I could still wear it. I mean, it's not like in a movie; I'm not sitting on a bench at the end of a pier staring into the distance with a single tear dripping down my cheek. I just want my hat back. Some of those memories and stories are a little less real because I can't see or point to the hat as a memento. Thus I ask you question #2: Is there anything you've lost that you wish you had back?

While this is a bit of an obvious attempt to generate more comments than usual, I am also really curious what some of you might have to say. I think there are some potentially interesting and peculiar responses out there.


Surprise random link of the week...

This week's link isn't really a link. I was looking around for another SNL clip when I came across this older classic. I can't believe I'd never seen it before! Have fun:


uninteresting and unimportant update...

I'm working at the Bread Co. today, and the chair I'm sitting in is exceedingly comfortable. The seat part is padded, and the back has a little give to it, so I can rock back and forth a bit. How nice!

When I was in college, I took a history of philosophy class. I remember the prof. explaining Plato's principle of universal forms this way: there are many different kinds of chairs in the world--different shapes, sizes, made of different materials, different colors, and different levels of comfort. But, all actual chairs in the world are only reflections of "the Chair" which exists in the realm of ideas, which is the exemplar for all, which is perfect--it's the "universal form" of "chair-ness". (Well, it went something like that.)

Anyway, this chair must be pretty dang close to that one.


Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!


Valentine thoughts...

I don't mind Valentine's Day, probably because I have someone to spend it with. We don't really make a big deal about the day (I think we're going to "celebrate" it this weekend). And I do think it's kind of a phony holiday. It's not worth all the fretting and frustration and heartache that many people (single, married, and in-between) experience because of cultural pressures imposed upon them. It is good, though, I guess, that since I don't consistently express my value and appreciation of and joy in my wife, there are opportunities at various times--birthdays, anniversaries, holidays (even phony ones)--to be prodded to make such an expression.

Years ago, I promised to write my wife a poem. That's one of many promises I've failed to live up to so far. If I was able to write something close to worthy of her, maybe it would be something like Shakespeare's Sonnet #75:

So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-season'd showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found.
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then better'd that the world may see my pleasure:
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight
Save what is had, or must from you be took.
Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.

knock, knock...

I haven't been able to come up with a good Dick Cheney / Aaron Burr joke yet. Anybody got one?


what a Friend...

Jeremy Huggins wrote a nice reflection on 2 Timothy 4:9-18 over at Catapult magazine. In it he emphasizes (along with Paul) the value/necessity of relationships in the church in the life of a Christian. He began the piece remembering a recurrent fantasy from youth in which he would run away to a life of solitude. I had those too. Mine were spurred by reading My Side of the Mountain in about 5th grade. It's a story about a kid--close to the age I was when I read it--who did run away and was able to live in nature and have all kinds of adventures. I thought that would be totally cool. Then, as a burgeoning adolescent, I read some of Heny David Thoreau and the experiences he had when he "went out into the woods, to live deliberately". (Confession: I've probably read fewer than 5 full pages of Thoreau, but I think the guys in the movie Dead Poet's Society read him, and I've watched that a few dozen times.) All that to say--I've had similar fantasies. But Jeremy asks a good question:

I often think that The Lone Ranger must have been awfully lonely. He had a traveling companion, but one who thought this pale-face’s ways were strange. Behind the romanticism of being mysterious and unknown, did the Lone Ranger (what was his name?) ever wish he was the Communal Ranger? Was he always alone, and so never knew what non-lone life was like? Or was it really all it was cracked up to be?

I never wanted to run away because I really wanted to be alone. It was more that being with other people can be dang hard. Even now, when I entertain those running-away fantasies, my wife always comes with me. We get along pretty well most of the time. But I don't think that's what Jeremy, or Paul, or Christ, have in mind when they encourage me to live in community. Trouble is, I usually don't want to put in the work it takes to develop and sustain meaningful relationships with others. Heck, I don't put enough effort into my marriage relationship and we live together. How am I supposed to develop connections, comradarie, and trust with other people who have competing interests and time commitments, just like I do? But more problematic for me personally, I've just had so many experiences of losing important relationships, not through unresolved conflicts, but rather through the course of life. People grow apart, people move away, people just get busy. And when I experience that pain of lost relationships, it makes me all the more hesitant to pursue new ones.

I won't rehash all of Jeremy's argument; you can read it yourself. But I am convinced by it. And, I am truly thankful that Jesus is the "friend who never disappoints". That doesn't always mean all to me that it should--I'm not a spiritual superstar. But, the great grace of it is that it's true whether I'm recognizing it or not.


so little faith...

When we decided to pursue becoming foster parents, we had to get a bit more responsible. One such bit was to finally put up a smoke detector after living in our house for over four years. Sure, it's a good thing to have a smoke detector, but combine that with the fact that our oven doesn't have an exhaust fan and it becomes very annoying to cook a frozen pizza for dinner, as I did the other night. Wihout fail, when we've cooked a pizza over the past few months, the smoke alarm has sounded and I've had to press the "hush" button. But even in "hush" mode, a high-pitched beep goes off about every 30 seconds for seven minutes and then, if the smoke hasn't cleared, the full alarm restarts.

Our dogs hate the smoke alarm. Whenever it starts, they look for a place to hide and start shaking and give us the most pitiful looks that implore us to make the evil sound stop. Our older dog Ari is especially a 'fraidy-cat, and it seems that she's also too smart for her own good. After I put my Totino's Party Pizza in the oven, I sat down for some blogsurfing as I waited for my dinner to cook. Immediately, Ari curled up in my lap and started shaking. Now, we try not to have the heat on too high in the winter, but it wasn't that cold in our house. For several minutes, I couldn't figure out what her problem was. I kept petting her and reassuring her and even tried to get her to play with one of her favorite toys--all to no avail. You can see her above trying to hide behind (or on top of) my wife's head. As soon as I got up to check on the pizza progress, it hit me what was going on: Ari had experienced enough smoke alarms to know that they always follow my pulling a thin red box out of the freezer, unwrapping a round disk, and setting it on the oven rack. It was funny and pitiful at the same time when I realized the connection our poor pup had made.

Of course, it's no good trying to explain to Ari that the smoke alarm poses no real threat or danger to her. (Four years in our house and she still doesn't understand much English.) And all my reassuring gestures and comforting words made litte impact. Even though I've always care for and protected her, she couldn't get past her perception of her circumstances. She sensed a threat and she was consumed with reacting to it. I'm not much different. Despite all the provision, protection, and promises I have received from God throughout my life, they all go out my mental window when I'm faced with a distressing situation. Oh, maybe not every time, but too often anyway. I know intellectually that my Heavenly Father who gave His one and only Son for me will also deliver on every other promise He has made. But in the moment, it is often more likely that I will be consumed with the dread of physical/emotional/spiritual pain than with trust in the faithfulness of my Lord. Yet as similar as I am with my dog Ari, there's something I could learn from her. When she was frightened, she didn't try to put on a bold face and stick it out, she came to me for comfort and protection. Too often, I try to solve my own issues or I simply give in to dispair about my troubles. Instead I ought to flee to Him who has real comfort and protection to provide. I ought to admit my brokenness and seek restoration and wholeness from the only One who can give them. He's promised He's ready and willing to do so.


Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!


so far so good...

We are on our way to buying our first house. It is a 97 year old house in South St. Louis and we love it. It has been updated on the inside, but it still retains its "old" character--especially in the wood floors, trim, and doors, which are all original and unpainted. One of the best things is the huge, fenced-in back yard. Having any kind of yard is a premium in the city, but the house is on a double lot so the yard is really spacious. It will be a great place for dogs and kids (and adults) to play. We also love the neighborhood. Like the other neighborhoods in South St. Louis, "Dutchtown" is old, has a lot of history, and is very diverse. The demographics indicate that it has almost exactly a 50% white population. This is great because once our family grows with foster, adopted, and biological children, that will probably be the demographics of our house. I'm looking forward to meeting the folks in the neighborhood who are probably different from me and have different perspectives on the world. Yet, we are all people, made in God's image, and I also look forward to learning how to love them and join in the work God is already doing through them and among them.

The building inspection was Monday morning and it went really well. Assuming things continue to go well, we close on March 14. We're really excited to settle into "our house".

The entryway viewed from the living room.

The dining room with doors leading--from left to right, respectively--to a closet, the master bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom. We like bold colors...but the orange in the dinging room and blue in the master bedroom have to go!

The kitchen is a nice space.

The back porch gets a lot of sun.

A two car garage and some of the back yard.

...I messed up the pictures of the living room because of the sun coming through the windows, so you wouldn't see anything if I posted the picture. It's pretty big too--about the same size as the dining room. Perfect for having people over to watch and discuss interesting movies.

That's about it. I'll keep y'all updated as the process progresses.


some links...

I thought this was funny.

And this too (for NFL fans).

And, not so funny (I hope) is the launch of "Covenant Worldwide", which is an effort of Covenant Theological Seminary, from which I graduated, to provide high-quality, seminary level teaching to anyone with access to the internet--for free. Almonst twenty classes are currently available as mp3 audio files. The goal is to combine the availability of audio lectures with that of written transcriptions, as well as more reader-friendly versions of the transcriptions for those who don't have connections that facilitate the downloading of the large audio files. And eventually, the transcriptions will be translated into several different languages besides English.

My interest in this project is not merely due to the fact that Covenant is an alma mater of mine. I've been working with this project for the past several months. I've been editing the transcriptions for the class "God & His Word" (the only one with transcriptions so far). The first five lectures are complete and posted, and hopefully the remaining lectures will be finished over the next several weeks. So, if you check out the site linked above and download the .pfd files for the "God & His Word" lectures, that's my work you're seeing. It's been a slow, painstaking process, but I think I've really benefited from it. It's like taking the class over again for free--and REALLY paying attention this time!

I'm also excited because I think it is a really fitting endeavor for a seminary that is committed to the worldwide proclamation of the truth of the Gospel to offer this kind of information for free. Now, this kind of deep, sometimes technical, theological investigation and contemplation isn't for everybody, and it doesn't need to be. But, I expect that the demand for it far exceeds the number who are able to leave their current occupations/homes and move to St. Louis to obtain a degree, or even those who are able to utilize the seminary's formal extension program over the Web.

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."