Friday, December 31, 2004

Favorite Books of 2004

I don't have a top ten list, though I finished a good many books this year. I'll be reading some of the unfinished ones as the new year starts, but for now these are the books that really touched and challenged me - they ate my lunch on many fronts.

  • Uprising, Erwin McManus
  • a Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren
  • Out Of The Question, Into The Mystery, Len Sweet
  • Searching For God Knows What, Donald Miller
  • New Way To Be Human, Charlie Peacock-Ashworth
  • Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis
  • The Assignment, Mark Andrew Olsen

    Books I started that I'll finish next year:
  • Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
  • Revolutionary Communicator, Erik Lokkesmoe & Jedd Medefind
  • Perpetua, Amy Rachel Peterson
  • The Life of Pi, Yann Martel
  • The Dilbert Principles, Scott Adams

  • "Best Of 2004"

    Photo Friday: Best of 2004

    This was my entry for "Tranquility" back in the summer, taken one morning before getting ready for school, life, the real world, struggles, disappointments, laughter, accomplishments.

    Thursday, December 30, 2004

    Top Movies of 2004

    Almost in a particular order:

  • The Passion Of The Christ
  • The Incredibles
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • 50 First Dates
  • The Perfect Score
  • The Butterfly Effect
  • Ocean's Twelve
  • Miracle

    I don't usually go to movies as an escapist event. Rather, I like being challenged by a story, pulled into good/witty dialogue and blasted away by meaningful action sequences. I have a weird sense of humor, and finding a good match in the movies is hard sometimes. On top of that, we don't get to many "big-kid-movies" (non-animated features), so my list might be shorter than some.

  • Looking Ahead

    I've had a couple of comments and have read a couple of other blog posts concerning a "looking ahead" as well as looking back. The year that has been 2004 is almost over, and 2005 is a couple of days away. I've come a long way - emotionally, relationally, professionally, spiritually - in the past year, and I want to dwell on the positives, learn from the negatives, and move into the new timespan with a refreshed and empowered attitude. If that's alright with you.

  • In the area of personal and spiritual discipline, I need to make the time each day to just be alone, be quiet and listen to what God's saying. I need to use a devotional - got a couple around the house that are really good, and there's always Chambers' UTMOST/HIGHEST to challenge the bejeebers out of me. And I need to journal more, maybe here or on paper, what's going through my life.

  • At work, I need to be less distracted, more focused on doing good work for our customers and the company. That's probably a "well, duh", but I want my work ethic to be above reproach, to be the person who's learning and growing and doing what needs to be done.

  • At church, I sense that we need to get more involved. I've been "lazy" for awhile now, not volunteering and not really serving. But I miss being a part of the machinery of doing church, and I want to develop further as a leader and as a follower. I don't know what "more involved" will look like, and I'm not putting a timeline on it right now, but that's a "resolution" I need to follow-through on with the pastors and leaders.

  • I want to write a book. Novel, prose, essays - I don't know. But if I never say "this is the year", then it'll never happen. Why would I want to write? Because I think I've got something to say, and because I want people to know I'm not as loopy as I might appear in life's schtuff. I have found kindred spirits, and I've been encouraged by many people - I want to pass that encouragement along to anyone else struggling to find place and definition as things all around change beyond our control. Is that too much to ask?

  • At home, I really want to be there for my family. Less TV, more quiet time. More books, more family movie nights, more family game nights. More date nights, more mornings free for mommy. I want that to be a priority for me as the Dad.

  • And physically - I need to be in shape, or at least in better shape, to attempt any of the above. Fewer drive-thru stops, more sit-down dinners and more bag lunches. More walking (no excuses!), more stairs. No goal to shoot for - just lose weight and get some conditioning going on.

  • Wednesday, December 29, 2004

    Winter Nap

    Hibernation seems like such a good thing about now. I'm sleeping so heavily at night, waking up way too early, and by this time in the afternoon I just need a comfy couch and some background noise to doze off and catch some ZZZs. It'll be tough when I go back to work next week - but I'm taking advantage of the vacation time to indulge in some light afternoon nappage.

    Vicki's been busy the past two days doing some rearranging in the kids' rooms, and she's tired. I've been helping a little, working a little, fighting a cold a little, and I'm on the tired side of things, too. Perfect climate and circumstance for a little siesta, if you ask me.

    Something deeply profound and spiritual about a decent afternoon nap. Trust me on this.

    Tuesday, December 28, 2004

    Looking Back

    2004 Wrap-up [thanks, Jae]

    1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before?
    Look for a new church

    2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
    I think I resoluted to read only books I'd bought and started and not finished. I made it through April or so

    3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
    Yes, Scott & Andrea

    4. Did anyone close to you die?
    I don't think so

    5. What countries did you visit?
    Stayed here, unless you count Puerto Rico

    6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?
    Quiet time, solitude - make more time in my schedule to just shut the heck up, you know?

    7. What date from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    Last week of August - going to San Juan, PR after all the stuff/fallout at our old church (remember the date better from that first trip, rather than exact date - I'm not sure why)

    8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    Hmmm... tough one; might have to come back, let historians figure that one out

    9. What was your biggest failure?
    Blowing up relationships over my own doctrinal biases - just not worth it, but moving on in the aftermath

    10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
    Pesky cold still lingering off/on since September, but nothing major

    11. What was the best thing you bought?
    HDtv, after-Christmas sale last year - sweet

    12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
    Parents who sold their kids' Christmas presents on eBay last week for being snotty & disobedient

    13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
    Snotty kids from #12, Michael Jackson, Janet & Justin, Dan Rather, Ashlee Simpson

    14. Where did most of your money go?
    Out the window

    15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
    Three "really"s? I don't get that excited about much... - but was really looking forward to LOTR:ROTK Extended Edition for Christmas

    16. What song will always remind you of 2004?
    "Dare You To Move", Switchfoot

    17. Compared to this time last year, are you: happier or sadder?
    Sadder, probably

    18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
    Talked with friends about concerns, even if they weren't "getting it" at the time - effort would've been worth it in the long run
    *honorable mention: walking in the neighborhood, more sleep/rest

    19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

    20. How will you be spending Christmas?
    With family

    20. How will you be spending New Years?
    With family, maybe friends

    22. Did you fall in love in 2004?
    Every day :)

    23. How many one-night stands?
    None, or every day with the same person - whichever answer fits a happily married & infatuated-with-his-wife gentleman

    24. What was your favorite TV program?

    25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
    Hate is totally the wrong word. I might be disappointed in some folks, but I'd like to think that we could work through the hiccups and pick right back up again

    26. What was the best book you read?
    UPRISING, Erwin McManus

    27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
    Maroon 5

    28. What did you want and get?
    MP3 player - LOTR:ROTK and SPIDER-MAN 2 dvds

    30. What was your favorite film of this year?

    31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    We were on vacation I think - @ Stone Mountain, GA - 36 yrs old

    32. What one thing that would have made your year?
    From close friends: "Rick, I want to really understand what you're talking about; or at least join you figuring it out together"

    33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?
    Navy & black - rebel whenever you can

    34. What kept you sane?
    Nothing, evidently

    35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    Tom Welling as Clark Kent on Smallville - that's a tough role with tough human and superhuman qualities, and I get the feeling from his portrayal that we're supposed to wrestle with the same stuff no matter what planet we're from

    36. What political issue stirred you the most?
    Why "same sex marriage" and "abortion" are the only issues worth being considered as "moral" - and why poverty, war, education and welfare are not considered moral issues

    37. Who did you miss?
    Old friends from CWO

    38. Who was the best new person you met?
    New friends in small group from Seacoast

    39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004.
    Things suck sometimes, but God is trying to give us His perspective, and there's hope and direction there, too

    40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
    Welcome to the fallout
    Welcome to resistance
    The tension is here
    The tension is here
    Between who you are and who you could be
    Between how it is and how it should be

    I dare you to move
    I dare you to move
    I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
    I dare you to move
    I dare you to move
    Like today never happened
    Today never happened

    - "Dare You To Move", Switchfoot

    Monday, December 27, 2004

    Conflict @ Christmas

    A New Force - Philip Yancey

    In the birth stories of Luke and Matthew, only one person seems to grasp the mysterious nature of what God has set in motion: the old man Simeon, who recognized the baby as the Messiah, instinctively understood that conflict would surely follow. "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against..." he said, and then made the prediction that a sword would pierce Mary's own soul. Somehow Simeon sensed that though on the surface little had changed - the autocrat Herod still ruled, Roman troops were still stringing up patriots, Jerusalem still overflowed with beggars - underneath everything had changed. A new force had arrived to undermine the world's powers.

    [Source: Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas - Bruderhof Daily Dig]

    Christmas Presents

    Wow. Christmas is "over" - but its aftermath lives on, doesn't it? We will be cleaning up the house one room at a time (reclaiming the kitchen first thing Monday morning), and start putting things where they can be best used/displayed. I got a lot of great gifts - not bragging, just really thankful I have people around me who know me, you know?

  • Sandisk Digital Audio - really sweet gift from my lovely wife, who's lucky to have my attention now that I've ripped forty songs onto this little thing
  • Mock Turtles - Love shirts that stay tight on my neck, and these are really nice, look great, good colors for work or whatever
  • Pullovers - Again, sweet - and go well with the turtles
  • Henleys - Again, .... oh never mind
  • Incredibles for Gamecube
  • New PJs - Warm and comfy and oh-so-decorative at bedtime
  • Spider-Man 2 & LOTR:ROTK - very nice
  • Coffee Pot & Grinder - Wow, who would've thought a new pot would make a difference. Vicki's already said "wow, I really like this new pot" five or six times. Sipping brew right now, looking for a good home to which Ol' Faithful can retire.
  • How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2 - Bono can't count, but who cares?
  • New watch, lots of candy & toys, other stuf I'm sure I'm forgetting

    Thanks - and merry ho ho ho to everyone.

  • Sunday, December 26, 2004

    Review: a Generous Orthodoxy

    I have been reading Brian McLaren's books for quite a while. There was a time in my life when my evangelical maintstream spiritual upbringing was being challenged culturally, by studies in "postmodernism", the "emerging church", and the personal feeling of lack in what I was reading/seeing across the church; and spiritually, by the Holy Spirit, discovering gifts of the Spirit, seeing prayer and grace and mercy in new and life-changing light. McLaren was one of the authors to spoke to this transitional period in my life: where the mental aspects and the supernatural aspects were going a little haywire.

    I have found that I am still very much in such a place, and now there is a Generous Orthodoxy (copyright 2004, Youth Specialties, Youth Specialties Books) from Pastor Brian. Reading McLaren's prose is like having a conversation with a friend - for me, it's very much like sitting at a Starbucks, watching the people go by, asking questions and getting questions back in response. There is nothing easy in a conversation like this, except the caramel macchiato I would use in the silent pauses as I think about what this "friend" has just said.

    I am challenged to live out, personally and individualistically he might say, the "missional" purpose of Christianity. After taking time to describe "the Seven Jesuses" (flannel board Jesus, personal Jesus, political Jesus all the way to pacifist Jesus and liberation Jesus), and after asking the very pointed questions of whether or not Jesus would even label Himself as a "Christian" in today's use and overuse of the term, McLaren starts to take a both/and approach to Christianity that has been intriguing to me from those first word vs. truth times in my own life. And he starts be saying that the church is to be missional, with a progression for the "mission statement" being something like this:
  • 'more Christians and better Christians' - most folks would agree that this is a noble calling for the local body today
  • 'to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ'
  • 'to be abd make disciples of Jesus Christ in authentic community'
  • 'to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ in authentic community for the good of the world'
    - aGO, pp. 106-107
  • It is the idea that we are to be a blessing to Christians and to no-Christians that sets this book apart for me. I don't know that I've ever read, let alone considered, that there is an equal calling to be a blessing to believers and to non-believers. It leads to this statement a few pages later:
    "One of my mentors once said to me, 'Remember, in a pluralistic world, a religion is valued based on the benefits it brings to its nonadherents.' This surprised me, and I thought about it for days [as this I have, too!!!]. Many people think the opposite of what my mentor said: that religions offer benefits to the adherents and catastrophic threats for nonadherents. This offer/threat combination motivates people, the assume, to become adherents out of fear of catastrophe and desire for benefits. I think that the missional way is better: the gospel brings blessing to all, adherents and nonadherents alike. For example, if Jesus sends people into the world to love and serve their neighbors, their neighbors benefit, and so do the people sent by Jesus, since it is better to give than to receive." (p. 111)
    For the rest of the book, these statements on the church being both/and in regards to blessing others makes that much more sense. For McLaren, being an little-"e"vangelical means having good news for everybody, not following a particular socio-political agenda. Being post/protestant means being more "pro"-"testifying" in a positive way than "protesting" against the evils that surrounds us, allowing us to speak and to live the way Jesus models. Being liberal/conservative (I consider myself either conservatively liberal or liberally conservative, take your pick) means recognizing the problems and the positives of both "sides" and living in a way thats "for the good of the world" more than my one viewpoint or political bent. Being mystical/poetic has the idea that we will grab onto the mysteries of life, doing our best to share in the music of storytelling and in the poetry of living the thing out on this planet - moreso than using doctrine and memorization to define out lives together.

    He spends another chapter on "why I am biblical". One of the shortcomings I've seen in the postmodern church fad/movement is the tendency to rationalize and deconstruct Jesus and the scriptures out of the picture. It's really really comforting to know that someone cherishes the Bible enough to preach it - all of it, not just those passages and verses that support one doctrine above another. Prooftexting might be the downfall of the modern church; getting rid of the Bible as a response to lax Bible application would be the undoing of the next generation. We need to get into the Bible, and we need to let the Bible get into us in a way that, again, is "for the good of the world". I hope we'll spend less time arguing about the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture, and more time sitting over latte's at Starbucks talking about how the scriptures are really transforming our daily patterns of living.

    After going through a few more sets of terms/definitions of his Christian life to this point, I am drawn again to "depressed-yet hopeful" and to "unfinished". By no means is McLaren trying to write the leading doctrinal thesis on orthodoxy and the only way to be a "new kind of Christian" - instead, he's sharing that there are still questions, that there are still doubts, and that God is still there in the midst of it with us in all mystery and grace. I am also often depressed-yet-hopful when I follow the current conversations in USAmerican churches and circles today. And I realize I and we are as yet unfinished, if only because there is so much still to learn about ourselves and about our Lord.

    Christmas Memories

    I've got a little time this morning to blog blog blog. Don't know what I did to deserve the quiet time, but I'm not complaining. We're "iced in" right now. Most churches have cancelled morning services as a band of ice/sleet/show has moved across the middle of the state. It looks cold and nasty outside, so I was already planning to enjoy "church in the living room". We'll have some clean-up time down here in a bit, and we'll play inside all morning, waiting for the ice to melt off.

    Thanks to the folks who've commented over the weekend, and to those on my siderbar list who've shared some of their Christmas memories. It's a hoot to find that other people are experiencing Christmas differently, and yet we're all the same in terms of excitement and accident and family and children.
  • Caryn wrote about yuletide spaghetti and Christmas lights
  • Jen & Jon have taken in a stray since there's "room in the inn" for now
  • Myles reminds us that the online world can wait
  • Joy posted on her dad's birthday and dogs and German chocolate cake
  • Sarah said "merry Christmas" in a burst of sentimentality
  • Mike posted last week's Christmas sermon
  • Sara hooks-up wirelessly from the lodge - I wish!
  • David posted a Christmas story - good stuff there
  • Bekah writes of Christmas in the Triangle
  • Donna shares the fun & frivolity of "another one gone"
  • Jae sparks on Jesus coming to serve - that's amazing

    Quiet time over, but that's not a bad thing. Gotta make coffee, clean our living room sanctuary, and get ready for Karaoke time. Merry post-Christmas, y'all.

  • Saturday, December 25, 2004

    Gotta Do Whatcha Gotta Do

  • - Newspaper: Naughty kids lose gifts to eBay - Dec 25, 2004
    I'm right there with you, Father. Stay one step ahead, and if they think they've got the upper hand and can keep disobeying and manipulating - then it's time for drastic measures. I pray that next Christmas will be better - heck, that this next week will be better behavior-wise than it's been for this family.

    Our little girl goes "oooo-eeeewww, it burns! it burns!" every time she see my wife and I kiss under the mistletoe. She doesn't understand right now how lucky she is to have parents who love each other and who don't mind who knows. She'll be thankful one day, just like the kids above, for parents who for some brief shining moment "get it".

  • Christmas Morning Coffee

    Well, I've done it again - beat everyone else in the house in getting up. 7am, and not many creatures are stirring in this house. I can remember 5am mornings when I was growing up, and I guess the excitement of watching for what Santa has deposited in the living room just has not worn off yet. I'm still just a big ol' toys-r-us kid. I took a quick shower (congested, and want to look purdy for those Christmas morning photos, right?!?), let the dawg out, and started a pot of coffee. My job here is done - it's up to the children to wake up, read the Christmas story together upstairs, and then make our way down to the loot the gifts left with love.

    Friday, December 24, 2004

    Bum Rap For Santa

  • - 'Santa saturation' in Lapland? - Dec 24, 2004
    The problem is that Santa, just like everything else in our capitalistic and materialistic culture, has been co-opted by travel agencies and advertising firms. Yes, Christmas is about Jesus and His life and death and resurrection and the model of kingdom-living He came to reveal. But it's also too often about merchandising and brand placement.

    I'd like to see Santa be given more of a place of honor, as someone who gives of himself with no real call for attention but who's instead focused on the smiles and gratitude of his gifts' recipients. I'd like for Jesus to be the main reason for the fun and family and friends gathering right now. I'd like to see giving, not the attached buying, be the focal point of celebrating Jesus' entry into history. Is that too much to ask for Christmas?

    And an iPod.

  • Thursday, December 23, 2004


    For me, Christmas is often a time for deep reflection. I'm big on using the week between December 25th and January 1st to evaluate the year, to pray, to reconcile, to make plans and set vision for what might be coming in the new year. This year is no exception - just a little more hurt, a little more regret than I'm used to.

  • I am thankful for family - it's been a really good year to get to know my brother a little better, to use him as a sounding board for my venting and to let him be straight up and tell me what I need to hear. Our parents have been there for us in this transtion time, too - and even with the problems that come with family members, there's a sense that we're not in this alone, you know? I want to pass that on to our children: that we love each other, that we respect each other, and that we want to urge each other towards greater things. Family does stuff like that.

  • I remember fondly Christmases and winters past, when we went skiing or skidding on the snow-covered roads, or staff Christmas parties while watching the news, or carolling and getting yelled at for waking folks up: "I'll call the cops! Y'all get out of here!" It's been a long time since I had one of "those" conversations, the kind that's deeper than either of you imagine, filled with more questions than answers, more mystery than fact. I used to dream more - I'm finding that I'm not full of dreams, not full of the confidence I once had. Might be a good thing, but cynicism isn't the best replacement character trait for hopefulness, is it?

  • I'm really grateful for new friends, even as old friends seem that much more dear, too. We've gotten involved with some really good people who are really seeking after Christ and living their lives accordingly. Of course it's taking time, and it should, to really feel a part of it all. But the people are making the transition and continuing journey that much easier and more rewarding.

  • I'm finding it very very comforting that God forgives, and discovering fresh and new that this character trait is passed on to us towards others in Jesus Christ. Because God came - because Christmas is more meaningful than the sentimentality, and it's real and full of evil and ulitmate good - we are forgiven and can in turn forgive others. There is always another chance to do the right thing, another opportunity with God to make things right. I can only appreciate that in screwing up and in making messes. But it holds true, and we can sleep at night with clear consciences before Him because of the obedience and sacrifice and life-well-lived by our Lord.

  • Last Minute Shopping

  • - Chia: The ultimate cult holiday gift - Dec 23, 2004
    Anyone still looking for stocking stuffers for me? Hmmmmm? Just thought I'd check.

  • 'Twas The Night Before...

    ... the night before the night before Christmas, and all through the house - I'm blogging because everyone else is asleep as they should be and I'm an idiot for sitting in front of the PC so long after the nightly news went off. Actually, I was noticing that this site took a decidedly unpleasant tone with a few recent posts, and I think I wanted to address what some might construe as negativity. On the contrary - if I've learned anything this year it's that the negative and painful and unfortunate events in our lives are the things that mature us, that give life favor, that make things interesting from time to time. There's an article at on putting King Herod back into Christmas - I think that's a good idea, putting evil and failing humanity back into the story.

    Honestly though, I'm really starting to feel joyous and Christmas-y. Maybe it's the shopping, or the songs, or the plethora of great parking spaces at work. Not sure, but it feels wonderful, doesn't it?

    Wednesday, December 22, 2004

    Deck The Halls

    Here's a new, meaningful Christmas card.

    Christmas In Chiapas

  • Peacemakers Guide - The Martyrs of Acteal
    Today I think I understand a little better. They are by no means a weak and defenseless group, though they may have been seen that way by their attackers. A group like this, armed only with love and truth, is the most dangerous and threatening to defenders of the status quo, because it more effectively unmasks their injustice.
    On this day seven years ago, forty-five men, women, and children were slaughtered while praying for peace.

  • Tuesday, December 21, 2004


    Christmas Feelings

    It's cold here in the chilly south, dipping into the teens tonight and possibly, not probably but possibly, leaning towards a "whitened" Christmas, with a 30% chance of flurries Friday night and Saturday. Tonight I'm up doing some research for work - hmmmmm, manuals - after our Christmas Lights Drive.

    I think it'll be a new tradition, piling everyone into the Family Truckster to mosey around town and look at houses decorated for the season. We headed for Irmo first, driving through Saluda Shoals and the light show there - really nice, not expensive, and full of color and fun displays. Then we went across the lake, left onto Corley Mill Rd. past Riverbend Church and onto Hope Ferry Rd - another great road with lots of sparkling displays. The setup on Oak Drive was nice - I really like the old-fashioned non-flashy white lights - and then we went to Hummingbird Dr further in towards town. Last stop was the display at Cayce City Hall, and a couple of cul de sacs here in our own neighborhod.

    Along with the lights, we listened to Christmas music (Jim Brickman's Peace and Chris Rice's Christmas Living Room Sessions) and to the Gamecocks finally pulling out a win over East Carolina. Ho Ho Ho.

    I can really get into the slow jazz style of Christmas music, just being quiet and letting the lights and the chilly weather work through me. Finally, it's beginning to feel a little bit like Christmas.

    Monday, December 20, 2004

    Monday Madness

    Here's some fodder for my own brand of Monday Madness:

    1. From Becky... How did you learn about computers? Were you self taught?
    Self-taught mostly. My dad bought us a TI machine back when Atari was getting popular. My brother and I would play the cartridge games, and I would type in BASIC programs on the fly from magazines. We would save them on cassette - didn't have the optional floppy drive yet. I took classes in high school, majored in comp-sci in college, and here I am today - blogging.

    2. From Tom... What is your favorite color and why is it your favorite color?
    Navy Blue - and I'm not sure why. I like the darker spectrum, like hunter green, garnet red, etc, but navy is my favorite.

    3. From Olivia... What one thing going on in the world right now, has the most effect on you personally?
    Personally... hmm. Church stuff, mostly, probably. Where is the "emergent church" going, how will I be a part of our new church situation here - things like that.

    4. From Barb... If you were going to develop your own meme, what kind would you create?
    Actually thought about that the other day. I'd to a three question theme question each week, change themes around culture and schtuff.

    5. From Sherle... Why do you enjoy answering memes?
    I don't do it often. The only one's I've been regular on have been the defunct Friday5 and currently on PhotoFriday. I like to look up a new one from time to time (like this one) and use it to fill space on my site. Thanks, btw!

    6. From Teresa... What is your wildest dream?
    Wildest? Probably involves explosives, a few elves, and ketchup - but I don't want to go into the details.

    7. From Mz. Em... Why do you answer these questions?
    Because it's what we do - we're question-askers and question-answerers, aren't we? I think it's called "conversation".

    First "Best Of 2004" Article

    Here's the first article I've seen that's decent and funny and includes most of what I'd include:, "Get This: Best Entertainment In 2004", Matthew Paul Turner.

    Sunday, December 19, 2004

    Short Week

    It's almost 11pm Sunday, and I've got to go to work tomorrow. But my wife & kids are off, ready to start their winter break. For me, it's basically a week when there's no drop-off at school - meaning that I still want to get up "on time" in the morning, get out maybe a bit earlier than normal, and stop at Starbucks on the way to the office. I'm working through Thursday, have Friday and the whole next week off, and am looking forward to my own break then. For now, there's a lot to get done in a short holiday-cramped time period. Sounds like a good reason to stop at the coffeeshop, don't you think?

    Okay Okay I'll Go...

    I really don't want to go to church this morning. I feel like I've slept with my mouth open all night - it's full of that cottony yucky dry taste/feeling that doesn't complement my headache, runny nose and slightly upset tummy. So I'm up before anyone else, letting the dawg out, surfing my blogroll to see what's been going on in the lives of real people, trying to talk myself into going to church.

    Did I mention that I don't feel like it this morning? I've got a sermon on tape from Jack Hayford about how their new church discovered an extra amount of sickness in children on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. Sure statistically there will be people getting sick every day of the week, but it seemed to spike on the weekend, keeping young families home and away from the fellowship of the body. What's up with that? So now, when I don't want to go to church, I know it's probably a good time to check myself, make sure I'm not falling into that same trap, make myself go since it's obviously important enough to some diabolical extraneous force to want me to stay home.

    So I read this morning how Erica is really being challenged and changed in her understanding and life - I know that, am living that, and can't get excited enough to get my lazy carcass to church? And then I read about how annoyed Messy Christian is for having to miss church this morning - I was going to stay home and feel bad, and she wanted to go so bad and couldn't.

    Most of the time, I'm a dolt. Deceptively slow, unable to "get it". But I get it this morning, and I'm getting up to fix breakfast, make coffee (maybe that's the problem - duh!), and get ready for experiencing church & life this morning.

    Saturday, December 18, 2004

    Holiday Saturday

    Isn't it inconceivable to think that Christmas is just one week away? I've still got to work this week, but Vicki & the kids are off, and I can only imagine the frivolity and adventure that will ensue. We're staying relatively busy today, with a good many things on my rambling mind:

  • Lemony Snickets: A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Wonderful film. There is no happy ending, and the rather bland and grey world will do little to remove any holiday blah you might be experiencing. But it's really a well-produced adventure, and I'm looking forward to getting into the books. Both of our kids were into the story, and that speaks volumes for something that I thought would be (1) scary and/or (2) boring for them. What did I like? I think I like the thought, planted in the form of story, that not everything works out, the there are "unfortunate events" that can turn our worlds upside down without notice. Real life works more like this: bad things happen, and you find joy together, somehow, anyway, as you work together to move through to what might possibly the next bad crisis thing. It's the "together" part is huge rather than the circumstance - can't you tell? Jim Carrey was perfectly devilish, and the kids were brilliant, too.

  • Christmas Cards - Everyone must've had the same idea: send the holiday cards on Friday 12/17. We received some wonderful cards this afternoon, highlighted creatively by LeDayne & Tom's Yearly Top Ten List (Vicki enjoyed the story of their vacation evacuation with Hurricane Alex) and by James' and Caryn's photo of their daughter coloring an angel (Hallmark needs you desperately). It's really really good to open the mailbox and get cards from our friends, old & new - hopeful bridges from where we've been to where we're going together (there's that "together" thing again - notice?).

  • Basketball Practice - We've got to work on "under the basket!" and "keep your arms up!" if Tbird is ever going to be a lottery pick. He's having fun, growing so tall, and learning that natural coordination and talent are hard work.

  • Starbucks - I picked up my brother for a Starbucks run this morning. I love the smell of fresh macchiato in the morning. I also enjoyed the very very quiet & peaceful time I had this morning at home (waking up at 6pm after falling asleep in the living room chair last night at 10pm) and then for a little time waiting on my brother. Reading time, XM time - and then a macch, too? Sweet.

  • Got an email from a friend who knew I'd be impressed. Thanks, Carlos - this is perfect. Again, sweet.

  • Friday, December 17, 2004

    Crappy Gift?

    You Are Socks!

    Cozy and warm... but easily lost.
    You make a good puppet.

    [thanks, consistentlychili!]

    Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas

    For you, it's all about sharing times with family.
    Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.

    Silent Night

    My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
    My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
    Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
    'Till then I walk alone

    - "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams", Green Day
    Not feeling lonely, honest - but right now I like the few moments of "alone time" I'm able to get. My mind wanders, wonders about the things going on around us. And I'm waiting for what's next while ambling through what's "now". Feeling the burden of loneliness at Christmas is a bad thing - but being alone, not so much. I enjoy the people, the laughter of the children and even most of the stress of the whole occasion. But I also like to find time to be silent, drink it in, look around and listen.

    Still "Challanges"

  • Yahoo! News - Top Stories Photos - Reuters
    Where's Dan Quayle when you need him?

  • Tacky

    Photo Friday: Tacky

    Senior photos, 1986, ruffles, ginormous bow ties - enough said?

    [apologies, not that any one person was tacky - it was a collective, wasn't it?]

    Thursday, December 16, 2004

    Theater Thursday

    I found today's meme online, and movies are right up my alley. I'll have my own best/worst of lists after Christmas, but this one will be a good starter for all that.

    1) Which movie do you think was THE BEST of 2004? The worst?
    Best: toss up between The Passion Of The Christ and The Incredibles - not a good year for movies
    Worst: The Village - really disappointed, didn't live up to hype for me

    2) If you were handing out the Oscar's this year, who would pick as Best Actor and Actress. Name the actor/actress and the film.
    Jim Caviezel, The Passion - but it won't happen. The best scenes for me were Jesus looking into the eyes/hearts of people, and I thought that role was extremely well portrayed in the midst of the gore. And I'm not just saying that as a religious nut - I thought he did a wonderful job.
    Bryce Dallas Howard - while The Village wasn't all that, she was the best part of the movie by far. I think she'll get lost in the Oscar hype though.

    3) The category is 'best film of 2004'. There are 5 nominees. What 5 movies would be on your list.
    The Incredibles
    The Passion
    Spanglish (I hope!)
    The Perfect Score
    Lemony Snicket (I hope!)

    BONUS) Is there a moving coming out in the upcoming year that you're excited to see? If so, what is it?
    Charlie & The Chocolate Factory


    Long long day, but I can't complain. After getting back from the field trip, I was able to work a few hours, help make cookies, doze/snore sitting up in a chair (my wife hates that, by the way), and help with bath time. Now everyone else is asleep, and the coffee and extra "nap" is keeping me up a bit longer than expected. That's okay - I appreciate the quiet right now. The only sounds are the hum of the cpu and the heat that's on downstairs, and the strange voice I keep ignoring that's going "coffee now! coffee now!"... bizarre.

    I'm looking forward to the weekend, and to Christmas. Hard to imagine that it's now less than ten days away. Most of my pre-Christmas-Eve shopping is done; all I need to do is wrap some stuff so it can be "hidden" under the tree. I'm getting into Christmas music, streaming and MP3s and XM, mostly. I hope we'll get a chance this weekend to look at lights - probably driving around Sunday night after a special church service with my brother and sis-in-law singing, then going around the countryside to the usual light displays. I'm looking forward to Christmas Eve at Seacoast, too - sitting in the theater singing carols and seeing the kids sing, too; and then coming back to that theater to see Fat Albert sometime Christmas Day will be a hoot. Might take the family to see Lemony Snicket (careful - two URLs there) Saturday - we've seen a lot of good pub on that one. And I want to see Spanglish over this holiday break, too, which might be the movie to finally "convert" my wife into an Adam Sandler-fan (we'll see).

    Bedtime. Plenty of time tomorrow and after to get out the Christmas cards (mostly addressed, just in need of stamps and labels), to rake the leaves, to finish the shopping.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2004

    Human Gyroscope

    We had a good time this morning at Fort Discovery in Augusta, GA. Lots of hands-on science stuff, lots of third graders. Here's (hopefully - click the photo below) a video clip of the human gyro - didn't think he would get into that, but T loved it. There are also a few photos at our fotopage.

    this is a video post - click to play

    Tuesday, December 14, 2004

    Good, Thanks

    Short encouraging Q&A exchange with the campus pastor Sunday morning at church, real brief before service:
    Q: "how are you?"
    Me: "good, thanks"
    Q: "bet you're a little less stressed this time of year than last, huh?"
    Me: "yeah, come to think of it..."

    Christmas was hectic in the past: not real stressful for me being on staff at our old church, but it was a bit more hectic on church days/evenings. I didn't have alot of added responsibility, so I'm not really complaining. But this year, I don't really have anything extra - and yeah, it feels pretty good. I miss teaching, leading small groups. But it's good to be free from the responsibility for a time.

    Monday, December 13, 2004

    I (Heart) The 80s

    Monday Madness [thanks, Russell!]:

    1. Top Three favorite 80's song - Shout by Tears for Fears, I Want To Know What Love Is by Foreigner, Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins
    2. Top Three favorite 80's movie - Ferris Beullers Day Off, Secret Of My Success, Breakfast Club
    3. Top Three favorite 80's TV show - Family Ties, Silver Spoons, Dukes of Hazzard
    4. Favorite 80's sports figure - Joe Montana, Magic & Bird
    5. Favorite 80's historical moment - "I am in control." - Alexander Haig
    6. Favorite 80's memory - All-niters for senior AP english projects/papers
    7. Favorite 80's fashion trend - Flipped up collars
    6. Biggest regret of the 80's - Dan Quayle

    Delayed Gratification

    Waiting for God - Henri Nouwen
    - Source: Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas [Bruderhof Daily Dig]

    Waiting is not a very popular attitude. In fact, most people consider it a waste of time. Perhaps this is because our culture is basically saying, "Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don't just sit there and wait!" For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something.

    In our particular historical situation, waiting is even more difficult because we are so fearful. One of the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us is fear. People are afraid - afraid of inner feelings, afraid of other people, and also afraid of the future. And fearful people have a hard time waiting.
    I walked down the aisles in the toy section, looking for something in particular: a model to build with my son. Some cool car, or plane, or spacecraft - even something sci-fi would be okay. Just looking for a model - build together, do it right, patience 'til it's done, display it proudly. I think we'll start with a snap-together car, maybe something a little more detailed with glue. then maybe another one that's a little more involved, a little more difficult. I want this to be one Christmas present that's got the lesson "delayed gratification is a good thing" behind it.

    T-boy has a table that'll work just right for the project, and if it can stretch out a few days it'll be better than rushing to get it done in one evening. I just want to leave something from this Christmas that's not Spongebob, not Gamecube, not DVD or Nickelodeon related... something that will take time... that will go on display... that will show him what some work and creativity can do around here.

    Sunday, December 12, 2004

    Who's There?

    It's not often that I get up this much earlier than everyone else in this house. It's 7am, and I've been up since 6:30am - had to let the dawg out. I sat down to see if was reporting anything new (not); checked my gmail for anything important (not); started a pot of Starbucks' Christmas Blend (makes the world taste good); and now blogging the whole thing for anyone else up this early.

    I wanted to take a post to ask "who's there?" - I write this blog for me, and that anyone else finds it remotely interesting is beyond me. But there are a few folks who cycle by from time to time - mind leaving a comment and saying HI?

    "Who are you, and why are you here?" (Thanks again, Adm. Stockdale).

    Would love to know who the faceless masses are - both of you. I used to work at a small AM Christian radio station here in town, and I know there were at least four people paying attention to me every Sunday afternoon. One of them was my boss; another was my then-future-wife, looking for a good time to interrupt and bring Sandy's Super Slaw dogs to the outpost. Getting a phone call from a listener was a treat, and comments make the blogosphere go 'round.

    Thanks & peace to your Sunday. Coffee's ready.

    Saturday, December 11, 2004


    Anyone else like Christmas Word Puzzles (thanks, W.I.T.!)?

    Density, Destiny

    Lorraine Baines: Wait a minute, don't I know you from somewhere?
    George McFly: Yes. Yes. I'm George, George McFly. I'm your density. I mean... your destiny.
    [back to the future, 1985]
    I must be dense. When I posted the photo of the two bridges yesterday (my wife shot it the weekend after Thanksgiving in Charleston), I didn't even make a casual reference to the old bridge/new bridge thing. That is so much like my life, a really good metaphor for where I've been and where we're headed. There's another shot unposted of the hole that remains in the new bridge, and perhaps that's a good picture, too, of what life looks like around here.
    "...the more one respects Jesus, the more one must be brokenhearted, embarassed, furious, or some combination thereof when one considers what we Christians have done with Jesus. That's certainly true when it comes to calling Jesus Lord, something we Christians do a lot, often without the foggiest idea of what we mean. Has He become (I shudder to ask this) less our Lord and more our Mascot?"
    - Brian McLaren, a Generous Orthodoxy, p. 80
    I'm making plans now to go back when the new bridge is done, before the old bridge goes away, to take an appropriate "looking back in time" kind of photo. Probably let my wife take that one, too, appreciating the beauty and necessity of the old bridge while taking advantage of the new.

    Justice League

    Which member of the JLA are you?

    Green Lantern

    With the Green Lantern corps destroyed the last Oa power ring made it's way to Earth to the unsupecting artist Kyle Rayner. Able to create anything his mind imagines the ring lacks the weakness to the color yellow and the 24 hour time limit which makes Kyle the one true Green Lantern.

    Personality Test Results

    Click Here to Take This Quiz
    Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.
    [thanks chris!]

    Friday, December 10, 2004


    Photo Friday: Abandoned

    Ghost town on the new bridge over the Cooper River in Charleston, SC - not much work going on for a rainy Saturday...

    "Famous Cat Quotes"

    It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time... DOGS, on the other hand, with them all you have to do is flick your wrist and they run off looking for some stupid tennis ball."
    - Bucky, Get Fuzzy daily desk calendar, 12/09/2004

    Two slugs slithered on a yellow wood
    And sorry I could not trample both,
    Being one trampler. Long I stood
    And looked them down as fierce as I could
    To where they sat in the undergrowth...

    I will be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere sitting upon a fence:
    Two slugs slithered on a yellow wood
    And I -- I ate the slug less tramplged by,
    And that has made all the difference.
    - Bucky, Get Fuzzy daily desk calendar, 12/10/2004

    Thursday, December 09, 2004

    Truth & Relationships

    this is an audio post - click to play

    [hit a rough cell spot on the drive in - apologies!]

    Vitamin C

    I don't normally bother with getting a flu shot, but I did think about it more this year with the shortage of shots in this country. So I actually thought I would do a good job, starting last week, of getting more vitamin C. We got one of those huge fundraising boxes of tangelos. I took a basket to work (I think there's another basketful to take with me this morning), and I've been eating them at a pretty good clip. I've also been getting OJ instead of Diet Coke in the machine at work. So I've been doing a fair job of making sure my body is getting more illness-combatting vitamin C.

    And then I got a cold. Sometime Sunday morning, just a scratchy throat and puffy eyes, and now a cough that's been annoying all week. I don't understand. Sure the weather is funky - got to 75F yesterday, only 60F today - but this cold bug that's always "going around" should've been nipped by the citrus, I hoped.

    UPDATE 2:36pm - Well, it's 75F, not 60F, and wearing a sweatshirt today was a bad idea. Cough cough cough.

    Wednesday, December 08, 2004

    Reflective, Not Reflexive

    One of the things brought out in Out Of The Question... is that the love relationship God desires with us is to be "reflective, not simply reflexive", that this is the kind of relationship we want with our children, the kind of obedience we want them to have. Do I obey God out of duty - have to - or out of relationship - want to? Can I count on my kids to follow what we say because they have to, or because they want to?

    So I'm reading the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, noticing, as Sweet wrote, that there's no recorded interaction between father and son after the momentous occasion of the sacrifice, the obedience, the salvation, the place name "the Lord Will Provide" being attached to the hill itself. On into chapter 24, Abraham sends his servant instead of talking directly to Isaac, and a suitable spouse is found - but the father is no part of the union, even as Rebekah is now able to comfort Isaac in the loss of his mom (24:67). Then Abraham died, too - leaving everything to Isaac, but also giving gifts to the children of his concubines and sending them away (25:1-5).... wait, there were more kids?!? There was Ishmael and there was Isaac - and then there were more children like Ishmael? What happened? Did he fall back into disobedience, doing the same thing as before and thinking it was still somehow "God's will"? In this "new way of reading" the story, it looks like Abraham dropped the ball - he's estranged from his son, loses his wife, sleeps around *again*, and dies. He's honored among the people of the countryside (Gen. 23), but he's seemingly miserable in his homelife.

    I want my children to be reflective of my relationship with God, reflective of my relationship with themselves, not just reflexive and instinctual in reacting to my commands/demands. When I call them to calm down this evening, will their kneejerk reaction be to freeze in fear of daddy's wrath, or will they simmer down because inside they know it's pleasing to me? That's what I'm seeing right now as the diff between reflexive and reflective - I want them to know me, not just listen to what I say, or just follow my guidelines. Actually, listening to what I say would be a great start most of the time. But I've got to re-evaluate my emphasis on listening: "did you hear me? what did I say?"... make a change over to "did you get my point? do you know why I asked?"Maybe I need to give them room to argue and to work it out in relationship, being careful to watch for defiance but also giving a little slack from time to time, just like God did to Moses, to Abraham, to others in the scriptures.

    Abraham's actions were still filled with profound faith. The Hebrews 11 passage on his faithfulness gives him some vindication, so I'm not going to fall completely off the wagon and say he's not a good guy anymore - and I don't think Len Sweet is either. It's just that, like Moses going too far and not being able to enter the Promised Land, and like David not being in the right place and falling into adultery and murder - well, Abraham might've had this as a dark instance in his life that messed up his closest relationships to family and to the Father from that point on. One would think that the crisis would draw people closer together... but sometimes it tears us apart.

    Beginning To Look Alot Like... What?

  • I saw Santa driving a dump truck on I-20 East this morning. Normally wouldn't be a big deal, I suppose, but isn't it a little late in the season to be hanging on to the summr job?
  • I heard "Last Christmas" by WHAM! on my XM - not good.
  • It's 52F here this morning, working towards a high of 75F. Brrrr. Turning the A/C on in our house last night was nuts.

    Well, at least I saw the penultimate Christmas scene last night. Linus' recitation of Luke 2 always does it for me.

  • Tuesday, December 07, 2004

    Winter Yet?

    I know that we're almost two weeks away from the official start of winter. I know that we live in a very mild & temperate part of the country, and that one of the reasons we choose to live here is that it doesn't get too cold and doesn't snow too much here. But can someone tell me why it has to be SEVENTY DEGREES FAHRENHEIT at 9:17pm at the end of the first week of December?!?

    Monday, December 06, 2004


    I first became acquainted with Leonard Sweet with one of his first collections of essays, Cup Of Coffee at the Sweet Cafe'. Each chapter was something I needed to read, needed to hear - encouraging and inspiring, probably doing much to get me digging into the Word, into the Kingdom more and more. I've read more from Sweet: the Soul Tsunami Trilogy, Dusk Into Dawn in e-book, and bits and pieces of others. But it seemed like he was re-phrasing things I'd read before; like earlier books didn't get his point across, so re-publishing with a new cover and different font might help in some regard. I don't want to sell short what he's already written, trust me. There's depth in each book, and each one is challenging to me. It just sort of felt old after a few pieces written the same way.

    This book, Out Of The Question, Into The Mystery (copyright 2004, Leonard Sweet - published by Waterbrook Press), was the first "new" Len Sweet book for me since Cup Of Coffee... and it really did a number on me. In my personal life, I've been going through a journey of re-discovery, re-invention perhaps of who I am in Christ and who we are together in community in Christ. So opening a book that starts by saying we've got most of the intellectual pieces all put in place, but that somewhere along the line we missed the real relationship God is desiring with each of us individually and all of us collectively - that rings so true with me right now.

    Dallas Willard, in Divine Conspiracy, has forever changed the way I'll read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. And now I can probably thank Len Sweet that I'll never look at Abraham in quite the same way, either. Sweet looks at Abraham's "calling" to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22 - while the patriarch passed the true/false portion of "will you obey God no matter what?", he might've failed the essay question that deals more with the relationship he was supposed to be growing in with God. Not to be a spoiler, but I had never noticed that God never speaks to Abraham again after this encounter - what happened to close the door on the friendship that looked so promising? Questions like that can be asked, need to be wrestled with, should be used to mess us up a bit and make us uncomfortable about our own relationship with the Divine...

    And that's Sweet's biggest gift to me: making me think, making me question. As I said before, this is the first time I've had "new Sweet questions" in quite some time. I'm finding out, as life goes on, that truth is tightly entwined with relationship, and to have further study and challenge coming from this book has been a great trip.

    "Biblical faith is not about living a moral life. That's religion. Biblical faith is not about living the "good life". That's capitalism. Biblical faith is about living the GodLife. An abundant life with the living God is living in a GodLife relationship. / Obedience, in the biblical sense, is not "doing what you are told". Obedience is living relationally, even "indivisibly", with the Holy One so that we honor, uphold, receive, and follow all that God is and all that God is calling us to become. Biblical obedience means living in the light of who God is as much as in submission to what God says. That's obedience in relationship.... Faith and obedience are found in listening to God, questioning God, being challenged by God, and challenging God." (pp. 59, 61)

    "Thus, truth is a lived relationship, not a set of rules for living or a list of views about the divine. Truth is not certainty, nor is it doubt - both of which reject Christ, Instead, it is mystery. When we choose life, to look outside outselves, we are left with the mystery of choosing Christ. And in choosing Christ we choose that which is Real but unprovable, that which is Truth but far more than objective fact. Jesus doesn't offer us the key to living. Jesus is the key to living." (p. 69)


    Feeling yucky today. Not a bad day to rest and get better from this cold-flu-body-ache-thing, since I'm supposed to pick up the kids from school this afternoon anyway. We'll be going to Vicki's mom's to put up her tree this evening, and after that I'm looking for a decent bedtime. Meanwhile, I've napped this morning, gotten bogged down in really bad daytime (ask me about the apparent lip-sync on GMA this morning - hope it wasn't but it looked outta sorts), and just fixed a pot of coffee for my afternoon (really good on my throat, trust me).

    Sunday, December 05, 2004

    Lost to "Clemzen" Again

  • The State | 12/05/2004 | Postgame: Clemson 63, USC 62 OT

    Free throws. It's all about the free throws. But at least there was some positive news from The Colonial Center at halftime:
      A brutal first half of basketball received a jolt at intermission when new South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier was introduced... “There’s a football game going on right now in the Georgia Dome, the SEC championship,” Spurrier said. “It was always my favorite game of the year. Our goal is that some year when that game is over, everybody in garnet and black is going to be hugging and high-fiving.” - The State, 12/04
    p.s. - What's up with nobody being able to pronounce "CLEM-sun" correctly. I'm definitely not a Tiger fan, but had to listen to Barry Booker on the FoxSports announcing crew just keep talking about how "CLEM-zen" was playing as an NCAA bubble team (I get bugged about "Wimble-Ton" instead of "Wimble-Dun", too).

  • Saturday, December 04, 2004

    Decking The Halls

    We're putting up our Christmas tree tonite - and tomorrow or Monday we'll work on the outside decorations (not hiring someone to do the work I'm supposed to be doing - no way! - part of Christmas to get out and just do it, right?!?). My wife went with my mom this afternoon and picked out a gorgeous Boston fir.

    I'll post photos to the fotopage, and running commentary of the evening, as we go on.

  • 5:52pm - Heading outside to finish the sidewalk and bring in the leafblower. Then, supper (I'm thinking pizza maybe?) and tree time. What movie to watch while decking the halls? ELF, perhaps? Probably USC/Clemson basketball @ 7:30 - ho ho ho!

  • 8:46pm - Putting on the lights is my favorite part, and I'm pretty good at it if I might say so myself. But it's tedious work - getting them all out, checking the strands, running squirrels out of the tree. Whew.

  • 9:13pm - The kids are in bed, the lights are on, and it's all over for that part 'cept the adjusting. Gotta fill in those dark blank spots, but when the ornaments and the angel make it onto the tree, all those holes will close in. I like the look of a white light tree, some running lights to add a little twinkle to the mix. Beginning to look a lot like... well, you know.

  • Decorating

    This weekend, we're going to hopefully finish our holiday decorating. My wife has already started a little here and there (snowmen have invaded the major living areas of our home), but there's still a tree to put up. And of course, there's the streetside display. Our home is three stories high, with twelve windows facing the street and the front yard. In years past, our major decorations have been candles and greenery in each of the 12 windows, the tree flickering through the front living room windows, and perhaps a lone tree (neighborhood design) planted clser to the road. This year, there's no plan to put the tree out by the street, and I'm not sure if my wife wants to do the greenery in the windows or not (the windows are a bear to open, but this would be the day to do it). And we're adding to our outdoor display: two spiral light trees, one at each front corner of the house, because our kids have asked for a little more decoration.

    I'm no Scrooge, but I'm also not energetic enough for a Clark Griswald Christmas. I think it'll look nice, and I'm glad the kids are interested in making our home look festive. Driving around, looking at Christmas lights is one of our favorite pastimes in December, and adding their house to the list of lights will be fun, I'm sure.

    Found this article online on the Christmas Spirit portrayed in Christmas Vacation. I appreciate the movies of Christmas, though I really can't get into It's A Wonderful Life that much. Here's my must-see list for this year's celebration:
  • Christmas Vacation
  • A Christmas Story
  • Die Hard
  • The Santa Clause
  • Sernedipity
  • The Toy That Saved Christmas

  • Friday, December 03, 2004

    In His Chair

    He just wanted to sit down, at home, in his chair.

    The rain had been falling all day. The chill in the air begged for a fireplace, a thick quilt, a cup of hazelnut coffee and a thick book. But Michael couldn't read, not tonight. His mind was a million miles away, and right hear screaming at him at the same time. The loneliness was more pronounced, the silence more deafening.

    It was Christmas Eve.

    Last year, the holiday season was filled with laughter and joy. Last year, the family had all gotten together at Mom and Dad's, filling it with children and grandchildren, the pitter-patter of little and not-so-little feet everywhere. Last year, they reminisced and ate and sang and ate and chuckled and ate and on and on. Last year, Christmas was great. This year, it sucked. This year, Mom died in July, a lump that had gone unnoticed going out of control. This year, Dad just wasn't the same, dealing with his own demons of loneliness and grief. This year, Michael hadn't talked to his brother since the funeral, never knowing what to say anyway. This year, his sister and her family had been transferred to California, packing up the kids and the dog in September for a better position in the company. This year...

    The phone rang. "Hello?"
    "Yeah. Um, doing anything?"
    "Not really."
    "I wanted to go to church tonight. Just... seems right somehow. Could you, um... come give me a lift?"
    "Sure, Dad. No problem. I'll be by in fifteen minutes or so."
    "We're not in a hurry, so take your time, ok?"
    "Oh, no bother, Dad. I've been wanting to come over today anyway, you know?"
    "Yeah... I know. See you in a bit."

    Michael closed the glass doors on the fireplace as he stood, his knees cracking from his bad posture. He stretched, and headed for the closet by the door. He reached for his coat, the long coat... given to him last Christmas... from his Mom and Dad. He stepped outside, a sudden gust of wind and cold drizzle hitting his face as he turned to make sure the door was locked. He smiled, and was thankful for the warmth of his coat.

    [first blogged 12/2002 - (c)me, all rights reserved]


    Photo Friday: Reflections II

    ... from this morning's commute.

    Thursday, December 02, 2004

    Christmas Changes...

    It's really hard to explain what I'm feeling most of the time. Like right now - this afternoon an old friend from our old church called me at the office, part of our lives for so many years. I'm thankful for her and her husband's friendship, having sent a thank-you card this week to say so. She said it was funny, had thought about us this week, too, and wanted to say "thank you" from them to us, too. But things won't be the same, will they? It's sad - I tried so hard to hold together the submission and loyalty and faithfulness, and when it backfired on me and all went kaput - everything changed.

    I see God's hand, and I know He's not only faithful to use our lives purposefully, but that He is also the Grand Maestro behind the scenes, orchestrating "coincidences" and happenstance to His desired plans. There's too many such instances here to be written off and ignored. And yet it still hurts, maybe more a throbbing thing than a piercing thing over time. The dull ache of knowing that I betrayed a friend, that I lost friends, that we are making new friends when old friends are still feeling the pain, too... I'm not getting all self-pity in this again, promise (check me though, ok?). But it's Christmas - and we're doing Christmas cards - and I really don't want to leave anyone off the list... Not really sure what the list looks like though, you know?

    'Tis the season... for melancholy, remembrances, thankfulness and regret mixed together. Makes us human, remembering and still moving on. Real forgiveness isn't a one time thing, but happens each time that thing pops back to mind. I hope that as I pop back to mind, forgiveness flows still.


    I lingered for a long time in front of my car, staring at the grill, the front bumper... the tag. It's been there for a few years. Looks nice, the white and blue rectangle standing out a bit against the black of the vehicle. I've had people stop me, ask me questions about it, about what it meant, where things happened. One evening about a month ago, "Steve" saw me in a drive-thru - came over to say Hi, to tell the others he wasn't doing so hot, to let them know he needed prayer, deliverance. I told him I'd pass it along - I think I left a message on voicemail that night. Anyway, I hope its been good advertising, made someone somewhere just toodling around town pause a moment to consider its message.

    I bent down, unscrewing each of the four bolts, knowing that this was just one more thing taking me from a previous lifetime, forward into the one still to come, the one still building. Its been awhile since I added this particular accessory, and it should hurt a bit, drag on a bit in removing it from my bumper. I've waited a long long time. Taking my time with the bolts now seemed appropriate.

    After it came off - easier than I thought/hoped it would - I hovered again, noticing how blank the front of my car was now. When you take something away, maybe you should feel its absence a bit, not rush to fill in the hole with any little thing right away, you know? Anyway, I do have a new plate, a replacement for this one-more-part of the journey. It's not as meaningful, probably - not as unique, pushing football and basketball more than relationships and healing. But again, it'll look alright on the black bumper of my black CRV.

    Going to leave it blank for awhile, though. Easier to remove than it should've been, replacing that old tag. Harsher than it needed to be, too.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004


    At small group last night, the suggestion was made to read another book starting in January. Our fearless leader said something along the lines of, "I've read it already, and I agree with about 95% of what the author wrote." I shared that I'm not a big fan of this author, but that I'm open to reading together, and that I'm curious what the 5% disagreeable parts were. She replied, "Well, I think it would be good to read something where maybe we don't all already agree. That way we can learn together, learn from each other, stretch a bit - right?"

    I'm all about that.

    I'm also listening to the sermon from Sunday. Guest speaker Chris Hodges makes one of his points with this statement (paraphrased): Question the acceptance of popular thinking... more than just looking for new ideas, it's about leaving behind the old bad ideas that have been holding us back.

    That, too.

    Red Ribbon

  • Yahoo! News - AIDS Day Is Observed Around the Globe
    If there is anywhere the church has dropped the ball culturally - and yet where, perhaps, the church is still doing more than other agencies - it's the response to the AIDS crisis. Today is World AIDS Day, and I hope that we as Christians will pray for healing physically and emotionally; that we'll pray for transformation in lifestyles; and that we'll pray for the dismantling of prejudices and worldviews that interfere with our ability to just see the victims of AIDS as people in need, people worth loving, people with something to offer, too. This is one of those "moral issues" - how do we treat people? what is life worth? - that needs to be addressed.

  • Hands

    this is an audio post - click to play