Archive for September, 2021

Reading Ramblings – October 3, 2021

September 26, 2021

Date: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 3, 2021

Texts: Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:1-13; Mark 10:2-16

Context: Life is a blessing from God. We do not own it, and we are mistaken when we believe we are free to arbitrarily create or end it on our terms. Disengaging life from the Creator is a dangerous path leading to unforeseen consequences both short and long term. We should rightfully leave life in our Lord’s hands, trusting in him rather than risking drifting away from him (Hebrews 2:2) into our own ideas and methodologies.

Genesis 2:18-25 – Although some prefer to read Genesis 1 & 2 as two separate accounts of creation, they needn’t be read in that way. Some read vs. 18-19 as out of order with the account of creation in Genesis 1, but this is not a necessary reading. God’s intent from the beginning was to have a suitable helper for Adam, and had already created the other creatures that were then brought to Adam prior to creating Eve. The relationship of man and woman as created by God is unlike any other relationship in all of creation, so that St. Paul can proclaim in Ephesians 5:32 that this is the profound mystery of human marriage – it echoes and reflects the relationship between Jesus and his Church. This passage declares the profound beauty in our created natures as male and female, and helps us look forward to when these natures will be restored to perfection individually and in relation to one another and our Creator.

Psalm 128 – The pilgrims move towards Jerusalem, lifting their spirits and passing the time with the citation of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134 & characterized by the word ascent in their opening lines). They are reminded in doing so of the blessings of God, blessings both already received and realized and those yet to come. These blessings are understood to be part of the covenantal relationship, the proper relationship between God and mankind described in Genesis 1&2. In our fallen state this relationship (and these blessings) are experienced in a limited and imperfect sense. In this sense, this psalm can be taken as prophetic – these are the blessings we look forward to in our Lord’s return and our resurrection to perfected life.

Hebrews 2:1-13– I think the passage is fine ending at verse 13 instead of continuing on to the end of the chapter as the lectionary provides the option for. The emphasis here is also on what we look forward to in our Lord’s return, a reality glimpsed by those privileged to see Jesus after his resurrection. Salvation has come, but salvation can be lost Paul clearly indicates at the start of this passage. Satan is always working to pry us away from our faith and trust in Christ and lead our hearts and minds after other things. Paul cites Psalm 8 as evidence of the glory that is rightfully ours and which has been lost in sin, but to which we will be restored through Christ. Paul emphasizes Jesus’ incarnate nature and work on our behalf, by which we are privileged to call our Lord and Savior our brother. We have much to look forward to!

Mark 10:2-16 – Is it too much to read the first verse!?!?! Good grief! For the careful reader, this verse has meaning and helps explain the context of the question posed to Jesus. The geographical context of the Jordan River and Judea should remind us of John the Baptist and his fate as detailed in Mark 6. John the Baptist was arrested and ultimately executed for his stance on marriage that angered Herod’s wife Herodias (who formerly was married to Herod’s brother). Now Jesus is posed a question on marriage and more specifically divorce, likely with the hope that Jesus would run afoul of Herodias as well and suffer a similar fate to John the Baptist!

Jesus’ words on marriage are challenging in a culture where divorce is presumed a right and option by most people – including Christians! But if the marriage relationship is an echo or image or foreshadowing of the revealed relationship between Christ and his Church, we should not be surprised that divorce is prohibited. What God has joined together should not be separated, including by the participants. Some are quick to argue that there are cases where divorce is necessary – in the cases of abuse or negligence. While we would acknowledge that our sinful human nature sometimes makes divorce inevitable or even necessary, this does not legitimize it in broader application. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 provides additional insight regarding when divorce is permissible – but even then it seems clear the hope and goal would be reconciliation and healing. A high view of marriage should be the goal of the Church, the congregation, and the married couple, and all levels of community from family and friends up through the congregation should be blessings and assets to married couples in helping them honor their marriage vows to one another and God.

Book Review: Crux, Mors, Inferni

September 22, 2021

Crux, Mors, Inferni: A Primer and Reader on the Descent of Christ by Samuel D. Renihan

I didn’t realize this was a self-published book. I’ll admit I’m biased to some extent, at least when looking for thorough, more scholarly books, against self-published titles under the assumption that if it was good enough, somebody would be publishing it other than the author. I realize that’s no longer necessarily true and the Internet provides many options in the realm of self-publication that only complicates the matter further.

That being said, after reading this I don’t feel the self-publication category suits this book and I’m curious why a publisher didn’t pick it up.

I found this book while looking for resources on The Apostles’ Creed. And of all the statements in the Creed, certainly the most confusing one is that Christ descended into hell. If I’ve heard or read a compelling discussion on this statement I don’t remember it. That’s not meant as criticism against my profs or Confirmation pastors, but perhaps a comment on my memory or, more likely, a comment on the confusion apt to surround this statement which is in turn based on 1 Peter 4:6 and somewhat on Ephesians 4:7-10.

Renihan does a good job with this topic, dividing the book into two main sections. In the first section he lays out the Biblical (and somewhat extra-Biblical) topography of creation – heaven, earth and hell as we typically talk about them. He then argues that the Biblical understanding leads logically and naturally to understanding a localized descent of Christ’s spirit into hell – not to suffer, not as part of his defeat, but as the turning point, the beginning of his glorification after his incarnate process of humiliation. Jesus goes to announce and confirm his victory over sin, death and Satan to the deepest recesses of Satan’s stronghold, and we should not interpret this descent as intending to give the dead a second chance at the Gospel (as is argued by the Mormons). In the second section he examines how Reformed theologians dealt with (or failed to deal with) the Creedal assertion of Christ’s descent into hell, often transforming it into a euphemism for death or burial or a spiritual suffering as opposed to an actual localized descent of Christ’s spirit.

I like his work and his argument. He is not exhaustive in his exegetical/Biblical examination. He picks and chooses and that’s probably a necessary evil. I don’t necessarily argue with the verses he opts to cite. However most of his argument rests on a single point that he substantiates mostly with references to Apocryphal writings rather than canonical Scriptures.

His basic thesis is that sheol is the destiny of all (prior to Christ’s death on the cross). It is the abode of the dead. But it is separated into three areas wherein the lowest two are intended for suffering and the upper third is a place of comfort and peace for the righteous dead, referred to as the bosom of Abraham in Luke 16. Renihan also supports this understanding with a reference to the three heavens (2 Corinthians 12), so there is a symmetry with three levels of heaven and three levels of hell, with the uppermost level of hell not a place of torment but rather of comfort – if not heavenly bliss. Jesus’ parable of Lazarus in Luke 16 depicts not the divide between heaven and hell, Renihan argues, but rather the divide between the upper portion of hell for the righteous dead, and the middle level of hell (for the wicked dead) and the lowest hell (for Satan and his demons).

It’s a compelling argument, I have to admit, but I’m still hesitant to embrace it completely. Though admittedly, by accepting it completely it certainly provides for a level of reasonable interpretation of otherwise difficult parts of Scripture. The only real exception to this is Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross – today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43). Renihan makes reference to this but frankly it’s one of the weaker aspects of his argument.

How does all of this matter?

Renihan argues for the Patristic understanding (as supported by Ephesians 4) that Christ descended into hell to demonstrate his victory over Satan and sin and death, in no small part by leading those spirits of the righteous dead out of the upper level of hell and into heaven. From that point on, those who die in faith in Christ do not descend into Abraham’s bosom, the highest region of hell, but rather their spirit goes directly to be with their Lord in heaven, a reality described in Revelation 6:9-11.

It’s the most thorough treatment of the descent of Christ into hell I’ve encountered to date, and has a lot to back it Scripturally as well as in historical Christian exegesis. But I’m still staying on the fence until I have the opportunity to read a bit further. I’m definitely open to good recommendations on the topic!

The second half (2/3?) of the book was of less interest to me, emphasizing how Reformed theologians and preachers dealt with this statement of the Creed while clearly finding an actual, localized descent of Christ’s spirit into hell untenable with their overall theology.

This is definitely a worthwhile read. His writing is very accessible and doesn’t presume advanced theological training or linguistic competency in Greek or Hebrew, though he references the Greek in several places and provides translation as well. Certainly worthwhile exploration on the topic!

Reading Ramblings – September 26, 2021

September 19, 2021

Date: Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost ~ September 26, 2021

Texts: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 104:27-35; James 5:(1-12)13-20; Mark 9:38-50

Context: I’m out of practice a bit, but hope to catch up a bit in the coming weeks! We’re still in Ordinary Time, so that’s something!

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 – Let me reiterate at the outset that I great dislike slicing and dicing sections of Scripture (or any written material, for that matter). Most often this is done to remove extraneous or unnecessary material (as it is here) and thus shrink down the overall reading and the time required for it. If you’re married to the idea that worship can’t be more than 60 minutes long, shortening the readings gives the preacher more time to preach. Circumstances dictate whether that’s a good thing or not. So here we don’t want to take the time to read about what manna was, we’re simply focused on the central conflict and why God had to provide it in the first place.

Ungratefulness, a theme related to the reading last week from James, is what’s at play here. But the greater story is God’s providence. The short memories and general ungratefulness of a people in a difficult transition from settled city life to long-term campers is secondary to the provision God extends. Provision not just in the physical manna to feed a perceived physical hunger, but further in his grace and mercy against a rather unattractively ungrateful people. Even Moses is perturbed by everything and his role in it, yet God remains calm in providing bread for his people’s temporal needs, just as He will provide the Bread of Life in his incarnate Son, Jesus the Christ, to provide for his people’s eternal needs.

Psalm 104: 27-35 – In line with God providing manna in the Old Testament reading, the psalm selection emphasizes creations’ dependence on the Creator. The first 27 verses of this psalm extol the works of God in creating and sustaining. He alone is the cause behind all the causes and effects in the created order. As such, creation looking to the Creator starting at verse 27 is only reasonable and logical. Here the verses deal not only with the physical needs of food and shelter, but emotional needs like fear and existential issues such as death. All of which culminates rightly in praise to God as the author of creation and the author of our faith and hope and salvation.

James 5:(1-12)13-20 – Prayer is the language of faith. Prayer is the appropriate response in all situations, though we tend to think of it more often when we’re in need or facing difficulties. Perhaps that’s why James leads off with such situations in this section starting at verse 13. But it’s great that second in the list is a reminder we can pray when we’re grateful and happy just as much as when we’re lacking and fearful! Verses 14-15 are interesting in this time of pandemic and sickness and fear. A wonderful reminder that healing ultimately comes from God, whether He chooses to dispense it miraculously by the Holy Spirit through prayer or equally miraculously through vaccines or other medical options.

Some Christians interpret these words as directive regarding what we are supposed to do – anoint with oil. Certainly anointing with oil has a rich and deep history in Scripture, but this is mainly because it was also cultural and historical. Oil was used not just as a beauty product but also as a balm for healing. As such, it can easily be argued that James is basically instructing the Church to provide necessary medical care as opposed to rejecting or refusing medical care as though these aren’t means by which God can sustain his creatures! James also provides a link between illness and sin, something few churches are willing to preach about!

Throughout this section the reminder is that while physical illness and need are real and valid things that prayer can be brought to bear on, our greater need is for the affliction that runs deeper in us and ultimately is the cause of all sickness and disease and brokenness in creation – sin. Ensuring that we don’t neglect the spiritual care of people while going overboard to treat their physical afflictions is certainly something the Church must remember at all times!

Mark 9:38-50 – The initial verses in this section are striking. Jesus does not demand his disciples stop others from using his name to perform miracles. These other people presumably are not committed followers of Jesus (not among the 120 or so that formed his extended discipling group beyond the 12). They would not be privy then, we can assume, to the fullest of his teaching. They might be running with just the barest of understanding of who Jesus is and what He is here for. There must be some level of actual faith at play, since demons could refute the mere name of Jesus (Acts 19:15), yet these people were missing so much for whatever reason! Yet Jesus insists they be allowed to continue their work. Their work is good as done in faith and in the name of Jesus.

What an interesting lesson might there be here to learn for our congregational or even denominational conflicts? To remember that as we have faith in Jesus we are considered his, even if we may be missing out on some beneficial doctrinal understanding. The Universal Church of believers spans far more corners of belief than we are likely to be comfortable with. And while this is not an excuse not to preach and teach the Gospel to the best of our ability, there is a comfort that comes from knowing that even when someone doesn’t necessarily understand all they could or should, they are still in Christ.

Book Review – A Brief History of Indonesia

September 17, 2021

A Brief History of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices & Tsunamis: The Incredible Story of Southeast Asia’s Largest Nation by Tim Hannigan

How many colons are you allowed to have in a book title? I feel like Hannigan has exceeded his limit but, then again, he’s published a book and I haven’t. So I’ll just be quiet.

This is an engaging overview of Indonesia’s history going back to its earliest speculative and archaeological roots. Hannigan writes in a very readable fashion and his style is not dry or boring. It’s history – and a lot of it! But it’s also an interesting read.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book is along the way he makes mention of key concepts that form important aspects of Indonesia’s past and current cultural identity and self-conceptions. By bookmarking these as I notice them, I hope to have good guidance on areas for future study. Ideas such as Majapahit (p.57) help me understand how past empires are called upon as current and future inspiration, similar to the semi-mythical Wali Songo, remembered as Muslim saints who helped bring Islam to Indonesia. Great food for future study and contemplation.

Because of the books’ broad scope Hannigan doesn’t spend too long in any one area. This helps the book move along quickly. I found the names of people and places to be difficult to keep track of and didn’t try overly hard. That will come in time and once we’re living there and better able to find and even visit some of these places. But the scope of the book helps me get a handle on how much history these islands hold, and how many different forces have attempted to shape, exploit or otherwise engage with these peoples.

Clocking in at just about 260 pages, and with a bibliography of sources to be used as a launch for further reading, this is a great and manageable history for those who enjoy history and are interested in the island nation of Indonesia.

Pool Hall – Hard Times ~ Sacramento, CA

September 16, 2021

There used to be another Hard Times located in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, they went out of business a few years ago. I thought there used to be one in San Francisco as well, but I might be mistaken about that. Which leaves Sacramento as the last surviving Hard Times. I show up here after a singularly disappointing experience at another pool hall in town a few minutes earlier. Certainly this has to be better, right?

You bet it does – and is!

It’s located on the northeast side of town at the intersection of Auburn Avenue and Garfield. In a strip mall that has seen better days. But I’m not here for exterior aesthetics. What matters with pool halls – as with many things in life – is what’s on the inside.

This is a true pool hall. Thirty-one high quality tables maintained in fantastic condition. Even though it was early afternoon there were at least six tables in use. Rates are good. They keep their house keys behind the counter and determine which one might work for you based on whether you prefer a light or heavy cue. The tips all appear to be in great condition. Balls are clean. Staff is courteous and professional. In addition to the general play area there’s a separate tournament room where several other people were playing.

This place is serious. Serious about pool, to be sure, but also serious about staying in business. Signs clearly indicate masks have to be worn anytime you leave the area immediately around your table. While I was there a woman was going around disinfecting and cleaning all the tables not in use. This means not just wiping down the hard surface but the cloth itself. All the employees were masked. They were also prompt and friendly. Not over-the-top, but respectful and quick about their business. They want you playing pool and they know you are there to shoot pool.

This place is owned by professional pool player Oscar Dominguez and that professionalism carries over into the entire place and atmosphere. Although there are dartboards and food available, pool is clearly the focus. No music stages (and unfortunately no full bar – just beer and wine). But it’s clear they aim to run a safe, friendly place for people of all skill levels who enjoy playing pool. This would definitely be my preferred place to shoot if I lived in the area though there are several other options I hope to briefly check out on my way back out of town on Monday.

Pool Hall – Corner Pocket Sports Bar ~ Sacramento, CA

September 16, 2021

I’m on a business trip to central north-central California. Marrying former parishioners. Visiting a congregation in Sonora. I’m grateful for the inexpensiveness of the flight from Phoenix to Sacramento (about $100 round trip!), but the timing of the rehearsal and wedding as well as the Sunday morning church visit mean that I have a fair amount of spare time. Flying in Thursday and back home Monday. Which means, of course, there’s time to hunt for pool halls.

I don’t like to write poor reviews of places. Being critical is easy (at least for me. Hmmm.). I’d much prefer to encourage and support small businesses who no doubt are struggling to survive than criticize a place for not being what I hoped it would be.

Case in point, Corner Pocket Sports Bar in northeast Sacramento near the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Antelope Road with an outside marquee encouraging people to support their local bar. Hear, hear! So even though it’s early (just after 11am) and they’ve only just opened, it works into my schedule to stop here on my way out of town towards more isolated (and beautiful!) environs.

It’s a big place. Taking up a somewhat wide ‘L’ shape at the end of a strip mall. As you enter the bar is on the right and an area with tables and a stage for musicians is on the left. Follow the bar around to your right. Go ahead – the bar keeps on going. This leads you to the pool tables. Quite a few of them as well. This is definitely intended to be a place to shoot pool, as opposed to a bar with just a single table idling away in a corner. Promising!

I go to the bar and wait for someone to come and ask me for a drink order or offer me a set of balls. Crickets. They’re laying down the rubber matting inside and around the bar after apparently having it and the floors cleaned the night before. The owner or some other sort of person with an air of authority oversees that personally. There’s a woman at the end of a bar wearing a tee-shirt for the bar – I assume she’s the bartender having a bite to eat before starting her shift in earnest. An older gentleman sits a few barstools away from her with a beer. He walked in just a few minutes before I did.

I wander around. Go back to the bar. Take a picture of the pool tables. Use the restroom. Nobody acknowledges I’m there, let alone asks me what I want. The tables are non-descript and the felt is stained and in pretty poor condition. There doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to play a few games in a place where they can’t be bothered to offer a drink or a set of pool balls or even recognize that I’m there. A few more minutes and I leave.

Support your local small businesses – even the bars. They need your support for sure. But to the folks running those places, it’s really bad business practice to ignore when someone walks into your place. I won’t be back here. Part of that is that I’m just passing through but a greater part of it is I dislike poor service since there’s generally no excuse for it. And considering this isn’t the only pool hall in town, that makes good service even more important!

Pool Hall – Kolby’s Corner Pocket ~ Tempe, AZ

September 15, 2021

I was still in the first half of my educational venture at Arizona State University when Kolby’s opened. Having become addicted to the pool tables in the Memorial Union on campus, I was excited about another option for playing pool, even as my interest in classes continued to wane.

There were other places to shoot pool back then. Rack & Cue was still in operation on Apache near McClintock, Cue & Brew had relocated to the location it still maintains on Southern & Broadway. But Kolby’s was by far the nicest and newest place to shoot. As it should, this lured the best players, and my early impressions of Kolby’s were that I was way out of my league. Rather than be embarrassed by my lower playing level, I just opted to avoid Kolby’s and shoot in less competitive places where people weren’t watching and comparing so much.

That avoidance has lasted the better part of 30 years, and I can count on probably two hands the number of times I’ve returned to shoot there. The location has never changed – a strip mall on the south side of University Drive just east of Dorsey Lane. It’s still one of the nicer places to shoot pool, although (as with us all) it’s showing it’s age. The tables are still good (Diamonds) and the felt is still kept in good shape. It remains a shooter’s pool hall with ongoing tournaments as well as league play. It offers beer and wine as well as a kitchen that can do a bit more than the typical fried bar food.

They have ten nine-foot tournament tables including Diamond and Brunswick brands. They have five seven-foot Diamond bar-box tables, and also one Joy Chinese Eight Ball table. Everything is kept in good condition. Staff is friendly enough and prices are reasonable.

When I stopped in the other evening I played for about an hour. I’ve enjoyed the practice I’ve gotten on nine-foot tables since relocating and joining a league that plays on the tournament-size tables. As such, I played fairly well. I noticed one guy wearing the jersey from the recent World Tournament in Las Vegas, and the play level of the people on the next table was definitely higher than mine. Still, I garnered at least two compliments for high-level bank shots I made in the process of just hitting the balls around.

I don’t feel out of my league here any more, though it still isn’t likely to become my preferred place to play since they only have beer and wine, neither of which I enjoy. It’s nice to know that in the last 30 years or so not only have I been able to further my education, but I’ve become a much better pool player!

Blogging Has Been Hard

September 9, 2021

Everyone goes through periods of writers’ block. Given the uncertainty this stage of life is for myself and my family, perhaps that’s even more understandable.

It’s frustrating, though.

The things I’m inclined to observe and write about have felt burdensome in light of how divisive and hurtful they’ve become in our culture. Rather than contribute towards that – even when attempting to be diplomatic rather than vitriolic – I’ve just opted to keep silent.

While we’ve been busy in preparing for the next stage of our journey – literally – in working abroad, most of that isn’t very exciting. Doctors’ visits, filling out forms, raising funding – none of that makes for very riveting reading by and large.

But I’m here. Busy. But here. Trying to write about things that are enjoyable and pleasant rather than divisive and irritating. Waiting for the writers’ block malaise to lift and have the urge to start writing more frequently. Until then, thanks for your patience.

Pool Hall – BCA World Pool Tournament ~ Las Vegas, NV

September 8, 2021

Since we’re planning to head overseas in the near future, it may not be possible for me to play in the BCA Pool League World Championships. I’ve been blessed to shoot in this tournament most of the last six years or so. Playing for a local BCA bar pool league qualified me, and I’ve enjoyed shooting both as part of a team as well as individually. Over the years I’ve competed in both 8-ball and 9-ball team events as well as individual 8-ball events. I decided early on that if we weren’t deployed yet, I would attend this event for perhaps the last time.

This year I didn’t have a team to play with. The one I’ve played with for the past decade has largely dissolved. One of the three core members moved to Las Vegas in early 2019. Then I moved this year. Our remaining core teammate has assembled another team to continue playing in the local league but there wasn’t enough interest in coming to Vegas to compete. So the two of us decided to head to Vegas separately and meet up with our buddy there.

All three of us competed in the individual 8-ball event. Dave and I played in the silver division – so named because of the skill level not because of our hair. Our buddy James played in the Bronze division – which he placed third in last year, completing his play just hours before Las Vegas was shut down by Covid.

We met up Friday night to watch a little of the professional player matches. The one we watched featured a young guy who is really an up-and-comer in the competitive pocket billiards world. Chris Robinson came out of Ventura, California, where I had the opportunity to play against him several years ago when he was still a minor and on the cusp of becoming old enough to start competing seriously. We shot at the only pool hall in Ventura – Stixx. At the time a former teammate of ours was giving Chris some tips on shooting. I seem to remember beating Chris, but most likely he wasn’t trying very hard and I got lucky! Now he’s in the spotlight playing with the big names in billiards.

Chris Robinson competing in Las Vegas, NV.

Saturday was a light day of play for me – just a couple of matches through the day. To my surprise, I won both matches, though they were nail-biter, come-from-behind-and-win-by-the-skin-of-my-teeth victories. That kept me in the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament. My buddy Dave was bumped to the loser bracket and was out of the tournament by the end of Saturday. James stayed in the winners’ bracket in his division through Saturday as well, though he had to play several more matches than I did.

The main tournament room at the Rio, Las Vegas. 110 tables plus close to 30 vendors.

Sunday started bright and early. Matches start as early as 9 am, which is really an extremely unpleasant hour for most pool players. I’ve argued for years the matches should start much later – noon at the earliest – and then play into the early morning hours if necessary. That would be a lot more natural and comfortable for the vast majority of the players! However nobody listens and we continue to start early. Of course, the 9am start is really not the beginning. I was up at 6am to get showered and start waking up. Then it was a drive to get a bite to eat and some hot tea on my way to the Rio, the casino just off the strip where the tournament has been held at least as long as I’ve been going. Arrive by 8am, finish breakfast and tea in the car before masking up and heading in to start warming up.

This is a huge event. Thousands of competitors from around the country and North America show up for it every year. The main tournament has 110 bar-sized (7’x3.5′) Diamond tables with Simonis felt. Around the perimeter of this room the vendors set up shop, selling all sorts of billiard related merchandise from cues to apparel and everything in between. Deals are usually good and over the years I’ve picked up a case as well as a variety of tools to keep my cue tips in good condition and shape.

Additionally there is another room for tournament play with another 70 or more tables in it. And another room with about the same number of tables set up for side tournaments. This is one of the big attractions of the event – mini-tournaments. For $10 or $20 or more you can enter a small tournament pretty much from 9am to midnight. You play against 3-4 other people and if you win you win money. Quick and easy and more than a few folks show up just to play in the minis rather than the main event!

I lost this early morning match and was bumped to the losers’ bracket. In some ways, this was a relief. I don’t consider myself to be as good a player as I ought to be and playing in the losers’ bracket took some pressure off. That’s good, because I proceeded to shoot pretty much non-stop until about 10pm that evening. Win after win after win. My first one was commanding and pretty. Most of the others weren’t as pretty or commanding, but a win’s a win.

My last match started about 9pm. By this point, I knew that I was in the money. That meant that even if I lost this match and was out of the tournament, I would still get some money from the tournament. And this was the first player I’d encountered who was close to being a buzzsaw – a term for a player who’s just orders of magnitude better than you are, and therefore cuts through you pretty easily. I made several stupid mistakes and handed him the win in three of the games. I managed to win one game, and he finished up the final two.

I was out. I was also exhausted. But I had made back my entry fee money for the event, which was a lot better than I expected to do. I also am now able to claim I’ve won money in tournament competition in Las Vegas in both teams as well as individual events. Out of the 350+ competitors in my division, I placed 33. That’s not a bad feeling!

London Bridge

September 1, 2021

It’s quiet at 7am on Sunday morning in Lake Havasu City. I drive down from the seemingly endless rows of houses towards the main drag through town that skirts the Colorado River where it bulges out into Lake Havasu. I’m seeking a cup of tea before the morning of commutes and preaching between two different parishes I’m visiting with a colleague in Kingman, AZ and Needles, CA.

I see the sign for the London Bridge.

Ah yes, the London Bridge. Brought over from England and set back up again in this strange little river town. Bought from the town of London in the late 60’s and carted over to Arizona as a tourist attraction. Who would have ever thought of such a thing?

But somebody did. Somebody in London thought of offering it for sale instead of demolishing it to make way for the new one that was needed. And a wealthy businessman in the US thought of buying it and setting it up again. And there it remains today, some 50-years later.

I’m not interested in seeing the Bridge. It’s enough to know it’s there. Enough to know that daring people were able to conceive of such an improbable venture and carry it to fruition. Enough to know that such intrepidness was possible in the not-so-distant past, even if such intrepidness seems very lacking today. Today when we’re too absorbed in our cell phones and binge-watching and can’t be bothered to be concerned about our eroding freedoms and new definitions of liberty.

It’s good to know the bridge is there. Anachronistic as it is both in terms of engineering as well as regulatory red tape. Good to think that perhaps there remain people willing and able to dream and dare and accomplish improbable things.