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.

1/31/07

Surprise random link of the week...

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

1/24/07

Surprise random link of the week...

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

1/16/07

Daniel Negreanu...

Everything I post lately is either a quote from someone else or a link to someone else's writing. Oh well, I guess I just don't have many original thoughts to offer lately.

I've mentioned before my attraction to poker. It's a fun and challenging game to play or think about. I enjoy both playing with friends (not for money) and watching the pros play on TV (for LOADS of money). That said, there is obviously a TON of moral/ethical baggage associated with gambling. That's why I don't have any permanent links to any poker sites (certainly not gambling sites), blogs, or discussion boards. They're out there, so if someone wants to find them, they can, but I don't need to facilitate it.

Anyway, my favorite poker player, Daniel Negreanu, is a Christian. He was my favorite player before I knew he was a Christian, but it's kind of interesting/cool that he is. I've read some interviews that he's done, and apparently he was a pro card player before he became a Christian. Since then he has simply tried to apply the Gospel to his life. His apologetic for being a professional "gambler" isn't very sophisticated (what he does isn't really gambling, anymore than a top pro golfer is a gambler by having his paycheck determined by his performance in the tournaments he enters, it's the people playing against Daniel who are gambling, because they're not as good as he is, generally speaking, but then he's involved with them in a contest where winning money is the measure of success, which is only part of why the whole poker/gambling issue is such a gray, messy area). But he's a poker player, not a theologian. At the same time, he and all of us who follow Christ need to allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate into our innermost places and challenge whatever idols we allow to remain on their altars. Maybe it's wrong for a Christian to be a professional poker player, but it's also wrong for me to be a Christian and do many of the things I do and the same goes for us all. In no way does that mean Christians, who recognize their own faults, thereby lose the right to call their brothers and sisters to repentance. It means rather that you and I need to seek the Lord to remove the planks in our own eyes before we try to perform LASIK on our brother.

All of these thoughts I offer as preface to an article by Negreanu. What I like about the article is that it is just the poured-out heart of a regular Christian who recognizes the brokenness in his life that he needs the Lord to repair, even though it is coming from someone whose lifestyle and world are in another galaxy from what most of us reading this blog surely know. I can sympathize with Negreanu who says, "I feel like in many ways that my personal relationship with God has faded and it kills me to admit that." And later, "God is important to me. My life is better when I make God the center of it...I just can't be happy unless I feel like I'm at a good place with God." I've had the same thoughts countless times. What I need to remember in those times, and what I wish I could remind this brother, is that in Christ, we are always at a good place with God. Our personal relationship with God cannot fade because it is not dependent upon our effort, commitment, obedience, morality, or discipline. Instead, as Paul wrote, it is God "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began." (2 Timothy 1:9) Our initial salvation was not dependent upon our works; our ongoing salvation is not dependent upon our works; and our final and ultimate salvation will not be dependent upon our works, because our salvation calling was according to God's purpose and grace, and given before time began, and thus before we had time to do anything right or screw anything up.

This was supposed to be a short post and a link, but it's turning into a sermon. One final note: Negreanu writes in his article with references to "God," always with that generic term, and I don't think he ever even uses the name of Jesus. If you are concerned about such things, you will have to take it from me that, as far as I can tell, Negreanu believes in the one, true, living, God, the God of the Bible, taught by the historic Christian church, and thus he is by synecdoche referring to Jesus.

1/15/07

Frederica Mathewes-Green...

Here's a link to part of a Q&A that's in the new issue of Relevant magazine. (As far as I can tell, the whole Q&A isn't available online at the Relevant.com site.) The A's come from Frederica Mathewes-Green, someone whose writing I like and whose Christian perspective I respect, even if it differs from mine at various points.

To whet your appetite, here's a quote from one of her responses:

[M]uch of what Islam hates about America are things that Christians ought to likewise resist: gluttonous consumption, recreational shopping, celebrity culture, trashing of the environment, the trivializing of sex, the sexualizing of children, the killing of unborn children, artificializing women’s bodies, depriving boys and men of a coherent and worthy identity, jingoism, any belief that being “American” takes precedence over membership in the body of Christ.

That's a pretty powerful challenge. The trick, I guess, is to figure out how to offer America a vision for a better society and a better way of life, rather than to simply decry the moral decline in America and express a wish to return to "the good ol' days." A good start would be for individual Christians to witness to their neighbors, with word and deed, the love of Christ in the Gospel, so that when any one or group of us speaks to the wider culture we have earned a hearing. Lord have mercy, and help us [read:me]!

MLK vs. SNL...

I don't know if anyone watches Saturday Night Live anymore. This season has actually had a few really great, off-the-wall skits. Unfortunately, those skits have been islands in the midst of a sea of mediocrity. Even the "Weekend Update" segments have been generally poor. It used to be that even if a week's episode was lame, Suzanne and I would still stay up for the fake news. But it's pretty much not worth the effort anymore.

Well, one of the bright spots was the first "Laser Cats" digital short (which actually might have been from last season--I can't remember). "Laser Cats 2" made its debut this weekend, and it was a classic. Its view of the future is rather different from Dr. King's, which I linked to in my previous post. And if I had to choose between them, I'd certainly choose a world of racial peace and justice, and freedom from oppression for all people, over a world where mutant cats shooting lasers are the ultimate weapon. But, wouldn't it be great if we could realize both visions?

p.s. It's been SNL's policy for a while not to allow any of its content to be posted on YouTube. People still do, but most of it gets removed pretty quickly. I have to ask: How dumb are they? I understand that there are copyright issues involved, but for a show like SNL, YouTube is the greatest medium of free publicity that they could ask for. People are mostly only going to post the good stuff, which might trick people into thinking that their show is worth watching. The link up above is to the NBC.com SNL videos site, on which you can find the skit. I'm posting a YouTube video below, but it will probably be removed pretty soon. The original "Laser Cats" has been removed from YouTube.


the dream...

Here's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech (well, one of them), in full.


Or you read the full text here.

1/12/07

TBR challenge 2007...

This challenge is related to my tolle lege plan for 2007, but is more specific. The idea is to read one book in each month of 2007 from your "To Be Read" (TBR) pile, and they should be books that have been on hold in TBR status for at least 6 months. I found out about this challenge here, and you can find out how to join in here. Suzanne has already committed to joining, and I'll post her list when she gives it to me. My list is below. It would be fun if a bunch of people I know decide to do this. If you join, leave your list in the comments or just put in a link to your blog post.

1.) Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies, by J.N.D. Kelly (completed: 01/30/07)
2.) Far as the Curse is Found, by Michael Williams
3.) Baudolino, by Umberto Eco
4.) Longing to Know, by Esther Meek
5.) City of God, by St. Augustine
6.) On Literature, by Umberto Eco
7.) Story as Torah, by Gordon Wenham (completed: 02/27/07)
8.) Narrative Art in the Bible, by Shimon Bar-Efrat
9.) Ancient-Future Faith, by Robert Webber
10.) The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
11.) Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris (completed: 03/23/07)
12.) The Lord's Service, by Jeffrey Meyers

Update: Suzanne's list is below:
1. From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler / E. L. Konigsburg (completed: 01/16/07)
2. Baudolino / Umberto Eco
3. The chocolate war / Robert Cormie
4. Rebecca / Daphne du Maurier
5. The Greek coffin mystery / Ellery Queen
6. Gulliver's travels / Jonathan Swift
7. The Perfect murder : five great mystery writers create the perfect crime / Jack Hitt
8. Dandelion wine / Ray Bradbury
9. Silver pigs / Lindsey Davis
10. Death of a mystery writer / Robert Barnard
11. Three men in a boat, to say nothing of the dog!/ Jerome K. Jerome
12. Vanity fair / William Makepeace Thackery

Here is my alternative list. I'm a little nervous about Vanity Fair. An 800 page novel without a hero might be a little too intense for me. If so, here are my back ups:

1. We have always lived in the castle / Shirley Jackson (completed: 02/17/07)
2. Girl sleuth : Nancy Drew and the women who created her / Melanie Rehak

1/11/07

another quote...

I guess I'm into quotes lately. Here's one of the best monologues ever given in a movie. It's from Say Anything, when Lloyd Dobler responds to his date's father who asks about his "plans for the future."


You mean like career? Uh, I don't know. I've, I've thought about this quite a bit sir, and I'd have to say considering what's waiting out there for me, I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or... process anything sold, bought or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed, you know, as a career I don't want to do that. So, uh, my father's in the army, he wants me to join, but I can't work for that corporation, so what I've been doing lately is kickboxing, which is really a, uh, new sport, but I think it's got a good future. As far as career longevity goes, I don't really know, because, you know, you can't really tell. Your training sticks as a fighter, you know, but it's no good, you know, you have to be great, but I can't really tell if I'm great until I've had a couple of pro fights. But I haven't been knocked out yet. I don't know, I can't figure it all out tonight sir, I'm going to hang with your daughter.

Thanks to SimplyScripts, where you can get whole movie scripts.

1/10/07

Surprise random link of the week...

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

p.s. This is my 200th post on the blog.

1/9/07

two quotes...

by Basil the Great (330-379), bishop of Caesarea, in what is now Turkey:

"One cannot see the Father without the Spirit! It would be like living in a house at night when the lamps are extinguished; one's eyes would be darkened and could not exercise their function. Unable to distinguish the value of objects, one might very well treat gold as if it were iron. It is the same with the spiritual world; it is impossible to maintain a life of holiness without the Spirit."

"Hunting truth is no easy task; we must look everywhere for its tracks. Learning truth is like learning a trade; apprentices grow in experience little by little, provided they do not despise any opportunity to increase their knowledge. If a man spurns fundamental elements as insignificant trifles, he will never embrace the fullness of wisdom."

1/7/07

still catching up...

Dang it...can't sleep. Oh well, that gives me a chance to finish my story about last weekend.

Actually, it all started a few days before Christmas. We had received our Christmas gift from my dad in the mail, which was a generous monetary sum, with the stipulation that we do something enjoyable with it. I was wondering what to do with the money, while I also happened to be cleaning the bathroom and listening to sports radio. They began discussing the upcoming (at the time) college football bowl games. Someone was talking about how many of the bowls were worried about attendance this year, and it was mentioned that even my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers, who probably have the best travelling fans in college football, were having trouble selling all of their tickets. That's when it hit me--would it be possible to make a hasty, crazy, spontaneous decision to travel to Dallas, Texas to attend the Cotton Bowl? I mentioned the thought to Suzanne, and I was suprised by her rather quick and enthusiastic response--we should go for it.

First, I checked the Husker ticket website, and indeed there were tickets available. Then I priced flying vs. driving; driving was the easy winner. Then I remembered that I have a good friend whose parents live in Dallas. One phone call later and we had a free place to stay in Dallas. That call saved us probably $75 to $150 and helped us be a little more certain we were making the right decision. So, in the span of about 1 hour, we went from having no New Year's Eve plans, to having a road trip a week away.

Our most difficult decision was whether to take Gracie or not. The ticket website was very clear that every person, no matter the age, must have a ticket to enter the stadium. I was not going to buy a ticket for her. Suzanne was sure they would let her in if we had her in her baby-sling, but I was skeptical. Then I remembered that our drive home over Thanksgiving took about 2 extra hours each way with the baby in the car, and we almost literally didn't have that kind of time to spare on this trip. In the end, we decided to leave her with our friend Erika. We knew she would be in good hands, and looking back it was definitely the right decision. But it was still weird looking in the backseat sometimes during the drive and not seeing her in her carseat.

The Cotton Bowl with Nebraska vs. Auburn was on Monday, January 1. Since I was being ordained as an elder in church on Sunday, December 31, that wasn't a week we could just skip the service. So, we had to leave on Sunday after church. And we planned to return to St. Louis directly after the game, so we'd spend one night in our friend's parents' house in Dallas. A quick but action-packed trip.

So, we left as soon after church on Sunday as we could, and the first leg of the trip went quite well. We packed some sandwich material so we wouldn't have to spend as much on fast food. We had our CD's (and our favorite radio station, 93.3 f.m., stayed tuned in for over 100 miles outside of town) and an audio collection of Mark Twain's "lesser known" short stories.

But, a road trip with me driving is always an adventure. I inherited a gene from my mom that gives me the potential to get lost or take the wrong road when going anywhere. Once, on a trip from Lincoln, Nebraska to Springfield, Missouri, I took the route that goes through Joplin, Missouri. If you're not familiar with Missouri geography, let's just say that's not an efficient route. Now, for many reasons, I'm not a big fan of Oklahoma. What kind of state has signs along the interstate that say, "Do not drive into smoke"? What are we supposed to do if we encounter smoke? And why is the state potentially covered in smoke in the first place? This trip did nothing to improve my impression of Sooner country. (Why would you give your state a mascot of people who were cheaters and thieves? Why indeed.)

As the interstate took us into Tulsa, my directions from Google maps indicated that I would need to take a series of turnpikes in order to get on the highway south to Dallas. Well, by the time I was halfway through Tulsa, I figured I probably missed them. By the time I was on the far side of the city, I knew I had. So, I stopped at a gas station, asked for directions, and looked at a map. (Of course, I had forgotten to bring my road atlas. As you will see, forgetting will be a theme for this trip.) Some folks at the station gave me directions, and I took them, but we still didn't feel right about it. So, at about 8:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve, we called my wife's parents and asked them to look on a map for us. It turned out that I had found my way back to the right road, but there was a crucial turn up ahead that I had to make in order to avoid taking "the long way."

Do I even need to say whether I made that turn? Of course, I missed it. If my life was a t.v. show, you'd turn it off because the protagonist is so often made out to be unbelievably stupid. Basically, instead of taking the nice, 4 lane, divided highway, with 75 m.p.h. speed limits, we were on the rough, 2 lane, no shoulder, winding through the most desolate parts of Oklahoma, take your life in your hands when you pass an oncoming semi, "highway," with 65 m.p.h. speed limits except when you go through a podunk town where the limit is 25. I was driving white-knuckled pretty much the whole time on that road. But eventually it spit us out onto the highway we were supposed to be on. And we made it to Dallas without further incident, arriving at the house at about 11:56 p.m., just in time for a New Year's smooch. Oh yeah, I should add that we saw a shooting star, which was cool, especially since both Suzanne and I happened to see it.

The next day, or I guess technically, later that day, we got up early and headed out to the Cotton Bowl Stadium. It was colder than we expected it to be in Dallas, but we had just enough clothes to layer up so we wouldn't freeze (and it warmed up a bit later). As we pulled up to the stadium, I realized that I forgot batteries for our camera, which is why I have no visual evidence of this trip for you. I thought I was being very responsible by charging the batteries for our camera the night before we left. But then I left the charger in the wall so it got me nowhere. Then we spent a good 20 minutes walking a circle and a half around the stadium looking for the "will call" window. It turned out that the "will call" window at the Cotton Bowl, unlike every other stadium in the world, is not a window in the stadium itself, but is a small hut set up across from one of the main gates, and it is clearly marked by an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper with "will call" written in about size 16 font.

As we were making our way to our seats, I realized that I also forgot my binoculars. Fortunately, I didn't need them as much as I usually do. Our seats were the best I've ever had at a football game since attending my last high school game. They were on the 25 yard line and although they said "row 14," I counted and we were only 9 rows from the front. It was a totally sweet view. The game was great, and generally well played, but sadly the Huskers lost due largely to only a couple of key errors.

Trying to get out of the Cotton Bowl was a nightmare. First, I took us the wrong way so that instead of turning left and walking about 10% of the stadium circumference, I turned us right and walked 90% of it. Then, as we followed the very large banners that hung on a fence with very large letters that read "exit to all parking" we began to notice that the crowd was bottlenecking. Then we came to a dead stop and there started to be rumors in the crowd that you couldn't get through that way. Almost everyone, including us, thought that couldn't be right. So, we fought our way to the front, only to find out that the only way marked "exit to all parking" was not an exit at all. Eventually we got to our car, where we proceeded to wait another 45 minutes before any other cars started to move. I've been to busy stadiums and concert venues before, but that Cotton Bowl was ridiculous. It was really poorly managed. What is more surprising is how lame the stadium is. Up until about 10 or maybe 15 years ago, the Cotton Bowl was one of the most prestigious bowl games. Even now, it is among the best of the second tier games. But the stadium is very hum-drum.

Okay, the ride home...pretty uneventful. We ate at Chili's on our way out of Dallas. I took all the right roads on the way home. At one point, I made a near-miraculous swerve to avoid hitting a dear head-on at 75 m.p.h. The only thing I might mention is the last 2 hours. If you've made it this far reading this tediously detailed and long, long, long description of our trip, and you're wondering if it will ever end, then you have an idea how we felt. Those last two hours were brutal. We were both exhausted. We would basically spend 24 out of 36 hours in the car. It was very late at night. We weren't getting a good radio signal, we were bored with our CD's, and Mark Twain's "lesser known" short stories are lesser known for a reason.

But, we made it home. We got to see Gracie again that morning. And Suzanne was back at work that afternoon. Actually, so was I, since I was able to get another transcription assignment for the Covenant Worldwide project. Thus, we were ready to get caught back up in our usual routine. It was a very good trip, lots of fun, and we're glad we went. But we were glad to be home too.

Sometimes at the end of these long posts I draw some sort of spiritual lesson from the events, or offer a moral to the story. I think if there is a moral to this story, it is:
spontenaity is good...but don't forget a map and batteries.

1/3/07

Surprise random link of the week...

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

1/2/07

catching up...

I was so busy last week that I never had the chance to blog about many things that I wanted to. First, we had a great Christmas weekend. On Christmas eve, we celebrated with some good friends here is St. Louis--eating good food, drinking good drink, and playing one of the most rousing games of Scattergories that I've played in a long time. There were enough people that we had to play as partners, and since I had Suzanne as a partner, we won. Suzanne always wins at Scattergories. People always expect that I will be good at the game (and I'm okay) since I was an English major and I'm good at Scrabble and so forth, but Suzanne could go pro.

On Christmas day Suzanne and I spent the day at home, with just one another and Gracie. We ate some more food and we watched 3 movies. The movies were The Muppet Christmas Carrol, Wordplay, and Thank You for Smoking. Muppet Christmas is a holiday classic that we always watch this time of year; Wordplay was an enjoyable documentary; and Thank You for Smoking was good, but maybe not as good as I was hoping. I should say that was also watched Little Miss Sunshine earlier in the weekend, and that was an outstanding movie, one of the best I've seen in a long time. Besides being funny and clever and having some great performances, the movie really has an insight into some of the struggles that we face in our culture of performance and self-centeredness. The characters in the movie are, at the same time, exaggerated and very real. It's definitely worth checking out.

For the rest of the week I went on a cleaning/organizing rampage throughout our house. We have two massive bookcase, one large bookcase, and one medium bookcase in our house. Since each of them was overflowing with books, Suzanne had determined that some of the ones least likely to be used needed to be boxed up and sent to the basement. I hated to get rid of any of them, but I managed to fill three boxes that I could part with. Then I set about organizing books into categories and reshelving them neatly. Now, we still have four bookcases packed to the gills, but at least they look neater. I also worked on clearing out my desk drawers, sorting through some boxes of old papers, and otherwise trying to organize part of our lives. Believe me, that's a tall order.

This past weekend was even busier than the previous. On Saturday, we went to Caleb's concert, which was very good and a lot of fun. A pretty good crowd showed up, many of them people we knew, but some new faces too. Gracie slept through the whole thing in her carseat, and Suzanne and I played Scrabble on our Travel-Scrabble board. While Suzanne may be a pro at Scattergories, I have the edge at Scrabble, so I was able to pull off the victory.

Sunday was a big day for a couple of reasons. First, at church that day, I had the honor to be ordained as a ruling elder of our congregation at Memorial Presbyterian Church. I'm still kind of in awe of the whole turn of events, which is why I haven't written about it yet. In short, I was nominated by a representative group of the congregation to stand for election as elder; I accepted the nomination; I was then elected by the congregation to serve as an elder. It is a position of spiritual leadership and service. When I was ordained, my brother elders laid their hands on me as they prayed for me. Someone pointed out that there is a line of men laying their hands on other men that stretches back to Jesus, who laid His hands on His apostles. That's pretty neat. But it is far greater that God the Holy Spirit has made each believer in Christ His own temple, and dwells in them with power. When I believed the Gospel, I found such freedom in life, and I began to understand what an honor it is to live as a child of the Father. I hope to help the people of Memorial--and all people--understand that freedom and honor as well. Four other men began a term of service as elders with me, one man newly ordained like me, and three others who had served before and were now returning to serve a new term. Our Senior Pastor, George Stulac, gave us a charge in the service, as we stood in front of the congragation, facing the table with the elements of the Lord's Supper. First, he charged us to remember that we were from the congregation, to remember to serve them and advocate for them and lead and shepherd them. Then, he charged us to remember Christ, represented before us in the Lord's Supper, to remember that He has given Himself for us and that He ever offers Himself to supply what grace we need to fulfill our calling.

I'll write more about being an elder in the future, but that wasn't the only big happening over the weekend. More to come...

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."