Archive for the ‘Hobbies’ Category

No Microwave

July 15, 2016

We don’t own a microwave, so will somebody else please try this for me and let me know if it really works or not?  It sounds (and I assume smells) amazing!  I gotta believe this would help my dogs fetch better, though I doubt they’re going to return it to me.


Opening Up

July 8, 2014

Here’s a great post from my friend Sarah.  It hits on a variety of issues that it’s good to remember many (if not most or all) people deal with at one level or another.

Perception.  Sarah posits the question as to whether or not she (and the rest of us) tailor our online social media personas to highlight our best moments and minimize our normal moments.   Facebook seems to show that we do, and blogging isn’t much different.  If you only know me from my online presence, you know a fair amount about me, but you don’t know the whole enchilada, as it were.  Relationship – that buzzword of the digital age – is about more than one-way broadcasting of our noblest thoughts, our cherished victories.  Relationship is about getting to know us on our off days. Keeping up with someone on Facebook isn’t the same as relationship.  It’s more akin to digital voyeurism and exhibitionism.  There are great dangers in mistaking the thrills of peeking in on people’s lives or revealing snippets of our own for actual relationship and engagement.

Standards.  We’re awash in photos and blogs and status updates and Pinterest shares about ideal, perfect, gorgeous lives.  Children who are always well-scrubbed and well-behaved.  Homes that are unfathomably gorgeous and apparently devoid of any form of life, human or dust-related.  It’s easy to assume – based on the little that we share with one another – that life should be one constant happy-hour party.  It should be joyous and carefree and easy and simple and beautiful and perfect.

How many people do you know with lives like that?  How many homes have you been in that match that?  How many children have you met that are like that all the time?  Come on, man.  Let’s be real.  

As a homeschooling family my wife is often particularly concerned about the state of our house, particularly because she spends a lot of time there.  But there’s also a ton to do each day in teaching and cooking and relationships.  It’s easy to assume that our house must be the dirtiest in the whole of our home-schooling community.  Yet on those rare occasions where she is able to see other people’s homes, she usually comes away relieved.  They’re human, too.  They have piles.  Not all of those piles are clean.  They’re human.

In that recognition and relief relationships can be built and strengthened.  Our vulnerabilities and shortcomings can also be powerful building blocks for real, actual, relationships.  But we have to be willing to be vulnerable, to take that first step, and to risk the possibility of being judged.

Ministry.  Ministry rarely happens on a schedule.  Outside of Sunday worship, I don’t know and can’t predict when the meaningful moments of connection will occur in a given week.  

What holds you back from ministry?  Not the guilt-ministry that we’re so often force-fed.  The ministry of feeding orphans or becoming a full-time missionary – neither of which are bad things in and of themselves and both of which are necessary aspects of Christian community, but neither of which are the only, best, or necessarily your form of ministry.  Just as hospitality may not be your form of ministry, even though it’s Sarah’s.

What are you good at, and why aren’t you doing it?  What way do you best serve your neighbor and create the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the middle of it?  Anybody that knows Sarah would know that hospitality and food and atmosphere are right up her alley.  Yet fear of inferiority and judgment may have kept her from putting those gifts to work.  What gifts are you afraid of putting to work?  

Remember that this isn’t just about you and I.  We can psychoanalyze and muse and self-examine all we want for answers to the above questions.  Those tools may be helpful.  But they also ignore the fact that Christians believe we have an enemy who wants to keep us ineffective and bottled up.  He might do that with a dirty bathroom or piles of clothing.  He might do that with feelings of inferiority.  

Don’t let him keep your gifts bottled up!




Road Trip

May 19, 2014

I may have to see this.  Soon.

If my kids discover this, it might have to be very soon.

Butterfly Update

March 29, 2014

We now have two chrysalis’ and nearly a third.  The kids report seeing one of the tiny new caterpillars, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Apparently it takes 9-14 days for butterflies to emerge from the cocoon, so sometime in the next few days or week, we’ll have butterflies to release!  

New fact learned – the chyrsalis is not something the butterflies spin around themselves, rather, it is what emerges from beneath their last skin shedding!  Fascinating!

Spending Time

March 25, 2014

A brief update on some of the ways I’ve been spending and wasting time.  I’m not necessarily proud.  I’m never gonna get some of those hours back….

First in film.  A few restless nights over the past couple of weeks have found me disappointed by and large in my continuing capacity to choose lousy films.
Idiots and Angels – I remember discovering Bill Plympton’s animation in college.  It’s very stylistic and compelling.  This was an entire movie of it, and while it was at times visually stunning, the storyline itself was unfortunately inadequate to the task.  It follows the misadventures of the thoroughly dishonorable and unlikable anti-hero, Angel.  There is no speaking or intelligible dialogue in the entire film, so I wouldn’t have known that was his name if not for IMDB.  Angel finds noble sentiments stirring in his body – against his will.  While it’s a faintly curious visualization of this, the story is very inadequate and uncompelling.  You won’t like Angel, either at the beginning or the end of the movie, though you’ll be pretty sure that something is supposed to have happened to him so that he is likable.  If you can figure it out more, please fill me in.
America’s Sweethearts – This is a fairly shallow romantic comedy, and while there is plenty of acting firepower in the house, they’re all mostly on cruise control playing their most common stereotypes.  The deliriously gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones is the pampered screen diva.  John Cusak is the bewildered guy with the heart of gold.  Billy Crystal is the fast-talking wise-guy, also with a heart of gold, and Julia Roberts is the sweet wallflower with a heart of gold.  You know what’s going to happen pretty much in the first 20 minutes or so of the film, and you won’t be surprised.  While there are a few humorous moments, most of this is quite forgettable, which is a shame.  Some profanity.  
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – I loved the trailers I saw for this film.  The idea seemed fresh and full of potential.  Unfortunately, like many action films the emphasis is on special effects rather than story line or characters.  Nobody in this story is original, and you can pretty much read the ending a mile off.  There are a few cute moments, but overall it prefers to catch your attention with fairly graphic violence and computer graphics.  The characters have a lot of potential, and while I think the actors & actresses were capable of delivering a compelling performance, they weren’t given anything to work with.  There is some pointless nudity in here, along with profanity.
The Final Cut – Robin Williams does a great job with dark characters, and the setup on this movie is fantastic.  In the indeterminate future, apparently in a parallel universe, people can have a biological implant that stores every second of their life’s audio and visual experiences.  Upon death the implant can be removed, edited, and played back for a remembry service.  Robin Williams is the best in the business, but finds himself in the center of a complicated effort to undermine the entire industry by activists looking to exploit the damaging details of one of the technology’s inner-circle members.
It’s a fantastic premise, and the story is laid out rather well.  But it goes nowhere.  There are pointless encounters and relationships.  Pointless resolutions to lifelong hauntings.  By the time the movie shifts into overdrive to wrap up, you’re left wondering what the point was, and why none of the obvious dots were connected in a way to bring closure.  Once again, more emphasis on character development and storyline could have made this a fantastic movie.  Some profanity.
How about books?
There’s really only one that I’ve finished recently, a gift from a colleague of mine that I finally got around to reading, George MacDonald’s The Curate’s Awakening.  My colleague is a huge fan of MacDonald, who might be known to some readers today because C.S. Lewis considered him his theological and literary father.  
Unfortunately, I’ve never been a fan of 19th century literature on the whole.  I can deal with Dickens and Poe, but most of it leaves me bored.  While this book wasn’t that boring, the emphasis is clearly on providing the opportunity for theological dialogue and reflection among the characters.  The characters are all interesting enough on their own, but it’s all so stiff and formal and forced.  There are two more books in the series, and I don’t think I’ll continue on to them.  MacDonald isn’t a bad writer, and his theological observations and insights are very good, it’s just that he’s not my literary cup of tea.

Parenting as Hobby

January 4, 2014

Yet another broad-side at marriage as it has been historically understood by just about every culture at every time on earth.  Legal guardianship of a child is now essentially a hobby.  A judge recently ruled that two unrelated friends (not married, not intending to marry, not dating, not anything other than close friends) are able to both be listed as the parent of a child that they together adopted from Africa.

The intention is to raise the child in two separate households with two unrelated groups of relatives.  This isn’t seen as a difficult necessity, as it is with divorce, rather it’s the goal.  And of course, as these good friends date and are involved with other people, the child will be introduced to perhaps multiple other ‘moms and dads’, eventually (ironically perhaps, hopefully?) having another mom and dad if both the child’s current parents marries.  
Which raises an interesting question about their future spouses.  I wonder how thrilled they will be at the idea of playing second fiddle to another parental figure?  It often seems to provide challenges when the parental figure is an ex-spouse.  I wonder how it will be when the other figure is just a close friend?  I imagine this will be a formative issue in who each of these parents is able to date.  Can they transfer their parental rights if they cease to be good friends and a better friend comes along?  
And what happens if they get married, and the spouse(s) decide to sue for the right to be listed as parents as well?  What if they then attempt to get custody, in the event the relationship doesn’t last?
Ahhh, but that’s all hypothetical, you say.  What really matters is that the friends are really committed to this child.  Nobody knows whether a married couple will stay together either – the risks are exactly the same.
No, they aren’t.  Or more depressingly, perhaps they are – now.
When marriage was the institution permitted and charged with raising children, because it was obvious biologically and socially that this is how things are supposed to work, the expectation was that the family should stay together to provide the maximum supportive environment for the child.  For many years this included familial, social (and perhaps political) pressure (and/or support) to parents to stay together.  That’s why marriage has historically been such a clearly demarcated and separated institution.  There is nothing else like it.  Others might fulfill aspects or functions of a marital relationship (sexual relations, raising a child, etc.) but these duties were only and always viewed as of far secondary appropriateness (at best).  And all of these aspects and functions were seen to be integral to the process of creating an environment that was best for the child.
Now, since marriage is being destroyed as this historical, biological, and social institution, and instead turned into an arbitrary arrangement about the happiness and whims of the adults rather than about the expectation of raising future citizens, all of this is jumbled further.  The next step is logical – to have multiple friends or acquaintances or strangers be granted parental rights to a child, each person contributing their particular gift or preferred role.  One might be very nurturing.  Another might be very good at field trips.  Another might be good at potty training.  Another might provide the funding (or zip code) necessary for access to good schools.  Raising a child becomes a consortium effort based not on the child but on the parents.  
Frankly, I think this opens the door for children who are corporately sponsored.  Corporations can ask for parental rights for orphans, and then require the children to become walking billboards for the company’s products and services.  Silly, you say?  What is philosophically different between that and having unrelated, unmarried people raising a child as a hobby, as something they feel like doing together regardless of the complications that it will pose for the child?  Isn’t the child in this case a walking billboard for these two people’s insistence that they ought to be able to do what they like, even when another life is directly at stake?  
All of which pales against the other possibility this continues to open the door to – the insistence that it is not parents (married, gay, or otherwise) who are best fit to raise a child, but rather the State.  
Marriage is no longer about children.  It’s about us.  And if children come along as part of it – or are intended from the start as part of it – more and more they are testimonies not to the sacrificial love of complementary parents that are both necessary to raise a well-rounded child, but rather testimonies to the social stances and sexual preferences and trendy definitions of their parents.  Every bit as much as buying hipster glasses when you can see fine.  Children continue on their march to being accessories ultimately raised as statements about their parents, rather than with their own interests at the forefront.  
And, just so I’m not misunderstood, this isn’t about whether the friends involved in this case are good people.  I trust they are.  In fact, I pray they are.  Their desire to raise a child is commendable.  But they are misguided, I believe.  As is the judge who decided that this would be a good thing for the child in the long run, rather than right now while the child is young.  As is our culture that continues to insist that marriage is first and foremost about the people involved – regardless of how many of them or their gender.  

I Can’t Drive 55

October 31, 2013

…so I can empathize with Sammy Hagar.  But I can’t drive 155 either.  Well, I suppose in my current vehicle, I could, but age and common sense and a variety of other factors practically ensures that I never will.  

Those factors don’t appear to be at play for this guy.  Impressive.  Truly impressive.
And, of course, um, reprehensible.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Oh, the Humanists

September 10, 2013

Our local Humanist Society placed a full page insert in the local newspaper recently, seeking to attract like-minded people.  They have a list of qualities that, if the reader has, might lead them to consider joining the group.  Three that I find interesting and on the verge of contradictory or at least great irony:

  • Do I favor reason and logic over blind faith and irrational belief systems?
  • Do I get turned off by hate speech, irrational prejudices, cruelty, religious bigotry and political hubris?
  • Do I tolerate diverse religious beliefs in other people, but hold firmly to my own convictions?
The part I find particularly humorous is that they park in our parking lot for their meetings.  They meet next door at a senior living facility, which in turn rents access to a good chunk of our parking lot.  Fortunately, our “blind faith and irrational belief systems” are not so outrageous as to blind us to the “reason and logic” of this rental arrangement.

Stepping Out.

January 9, 2013

I’m doing something somewhat crazy tonight, which was preceded by a somewhat crazy thing I did a few days ago.  I’m pretty sure that alcohol wasn’t involved in that initial crazy act, and I know it isn’t involved with tonight’s craziness.  For some reason, that’s not nearly as comforting as it ought to be.

A few days ago I placed an ad on Craigslist, seeking people who wanted to get together to make music.  Not to perform.  Not to hold court.  Not to specifically teach or learn in a classroom setting, but people who wanted to put their musical or vocal skills to work in making music with other people, just for the joy of that process.
It’s something I’ve been mulling over for years, but it seemed like I was going to have to figure it out on my own, because I don’t know anyone that has a similar interest.  
To my surprise, I received a few responses.  One was a musician type.  A few were just short notes of affirmation.  And one response was from a guy who sounds like me (though probably more musically talented).  He plays guitar.  We exchanged a few e-mails fleshing out a bit more the philosophy behind why we’re getting together and what we think we’re capable of doing.  He directed me to an Internet group of local folks formed last summer for the same purpose, but which hasn’t really done anything.  
And tonight he’s coming over to my house to play.  He sounds like a nice guy, but I’ll admit to being nervous.  Nervous because I have no idea what he’s really like.  Nervous because I’m really a poor guitar player and I’ll be trying to play along with someone better than me.  But it’s a nervousness I’m willing to deal with.  I pray that God will work in this encounter, and that it will turn into a regular event that other people might become interested in as well.  A chance to meet people and see how those relationships develop.  
I believe that this is a wonderful way that Christians can build relationships outside their existing network of friends & family.  Figure out what you enjoy doing and find others to do it with.  Trust that in that process, God is present.  Pray for his presence & guidance.  Don’t assume that you need to hand out a Bible or even talk about God or pray with these people.  Get to know them.  Let them get to know you.  And be praying privately that the Holy Spirit will give you the opportunity to share about Jesus Christ and his presence in your life.  
We can have all the evangelism programs in the world, but community starts with wanting to be with other people.  Christian community starts with understanding that the God who created you created these other people as well and loves them deeply enough to die for them, which means that you can and should love them as well.  Simply for that reason alone at first.  Pray for the chance to plant seeds and I believe you’ll have those opportunities.  But you don’t need to plant the seeds with a nail gun or anything.  Just pray and allow the relationship to grow in God’s guidance.  
I hope that’s what happens tonight with this guy, and with whatever other guys and gals might get involved with this down the line.  Guys and gals I would probably never have met if I hadn’t been slightly crazy.  That is slightly more comforting!  
What kind of an ad would you post on Craigslist?  

Cross Cultural

August 22, 2012

My work (and my interests) call me into very different cultures within the geographical scope of my city and county.  While traditionally cross-cultural has been a term largely dealing with ethnic cultural differences, my cross cultural experiences are not determined on the basis of ethnicity.  Much attention has been placed on how America as a melting pot (traditionally) or a collection of independent cultural traditions (more recently) not only fosters cross cultural interactions it is almost synonymous with the idea.  What I hear less frequently is talk about cross cultural experiences that are not defined by ethnicity or differences in geographical heritage, but just very different groups of people that may share a common ethnicity and genealogical background.

Each week I work in the jail, teaching Christian basics to 18 or so men ranging in age from probably 18 to 60.  They span a diverse set of ethnic backgrounds, to be sure.  But my cross-cultural experience with them is not determined by their ethnicity, but by the jail culture.  They are part of it.  i am not.  Some of them are new to it but they are still more versed in the culture than I am.  Yet I am called to bring the Gospel to these people across the cultural boundary of incarceration that separates them from me.  Aiding me in this is the fact that most of these men are not solely part of jail culture.  They have participated in aspects of my non-incarcerated culture, whereas my participation in the jail culture is highly artificial and regulated compared to theirs.  We can communicate mostly because they share more of my culture and are therefore able to understand me.  I continue to learn their culture so that I can communicate more effectively.
But part of the human aspect of cross-cultural work is the desire for acceptance.  The desire for belonging.  It is this desire that keeps many people from engaging in cross-cultural experiences at all – the idea of feeling on the outside is terrifying and depressing.  It’s much more gratifying to remain ensconced in a culture where one’s place has been defined and that definition is an agreeable one.  To take on an undefined -or negatively defined – definition in a different culture is inherently unappealing.  Nobody likes to feel like the outsider.
Necessarily those moments of belonging are fleeting at best, at least initially.  I love moments in the jail where we can all laugh at something together because it is a moment of cross-cultural acceptance and unity.  Similar to those moments when I can see that someone has gotten the idea I’m trying to get across and is now processing it either internally or out loud in questions and discussion.  
One of my other cross cultural areas is the bar pool league I play in each week.  I started that two years ago, took a year off, and returned to it over the summer.  For me it’s too often a guilty pleasure.  I feel as though it can’t really be considered part of my job because I enjoy it – though it could easily be said to be missional!   Also, it takes time away from my family, and when more and more of my time is absorbed with work, time away from family is painful.  But I love pool, and it places me in the midst of people that I wouldn’t otherwise be spending time with most likely.  It seems like an ideal meeting place for my vocation and my hobby.  
That being said, it’s a cross-cultural experience.  It might not seem so initially though.  My team mates are all more or less caucasian American men, roughly my age or a bit younger.  We speak the same language, we all go to work each day.  Yet we’re very different – or at least appear to be so.  We are separated by educational levels, likely by economic levels, by the fact that many of them have been born and raised and still live in the same small town whereas I have moved around a little bit.  There are differences in terms of bar culture and what is considered appropriate and acceptable in terms of intoxication and other forms of relaxation.  We look as though we’d have more in common than I would with my congregants, many of whom are approaching twice my age.  Yet I’m more comfortable with the latter than the former.  We share more of the same value systems, beliefs, and cultural baggage.
I feel out of place with the guys in the pool league.  We’re friendly with one another.  There’s a shared respect.  But there’s always the feeling that I don’t really belong there.  Were it not for my skills in playing pool, I have no doubt that I would likely be the first one to be cut from the team if another person that they knew better wanted to join.  We spend several hours together every week, and yet even after months of shooting together, I still feel like an outsider.  Some of that is my introverted nature.  Much of it has to do with putting myself in another culture and having to endure the fish-out-of-water feeling for however long it takes to acclimate and be more deeply accepted.
Last night was a moment of elation and exception though – an evening where, for a few moments, I seemed to really be accepted as part of the ‘guys’.  We were playing our next-to-last match of the summer season.  We were playing the top rated team in our division, on their home turf.  Our team is strong – arguably the strongest it has been in years – but we’re not overly consistent.  We have dropped from second place to fifth in the division.  Personally I’ve dropped from being in the top 10 in our division to being in the top 20 (just barely!).  So to say the odds were against us last night was an understatement.
It was a tightly fought match.  Our team relies on raw shooting skills.  Theirs relies mainly on the ability to position the cue ball well – to deny their opponents solid shots and play ‘safe’.  They play a much more technically proficient game than we do, in part because on any given evening, one or more of our players is more than just a little buzzed.  Sometimes that has a calming, leveling effect on their play.  Sometimes not.  
I won my first two games, the first of which was the first game of the night and helped set a tone for our team.  The second came late in the second round and brought us back even after we had slipped a game behind.  I won not because I dominated my opponents but because they both made critical errors late in the game that I capitalized on for the win.
My last game of the evening was the second to last game of the night.  We were leading 7-6, and if I won my game, we won the evening.  I was playing a younger guy on their team who had a hot head and a cold, calculating eye.  He was very good at trying to deny his opponent a shot rather than take a riskier shot himself.  I should have beat him, but I wasn’t thinking clearly and missed on the second to last ball.  Then I fouled after he played a safety on me.  That put the score at 7-7.  
Our last guy was on the ropes for a fair part of the game, but he came up with a fantastic play at the end that threw their guy off his game.  We won – miraculously.  There was much celebration, to say the least.  Much whooping and hollering and back-slapping and near hugs and fist bumps and general exclamations of what an amazing evening it had been.  There was a celebratory round of shots at the bar next door (since the bar we were playing in only served beer), and then eventually the gradual goodbyes for the night.  For a few moments we were all together, sharing an experience that transcended our differences.  
It felt good.  Rea
good.  I can understand how people can pursue that feeling of belonging even when it requires them to do and be things that are not healthy for them.  I can well understand the temptation to take a hit or hit the bottle more heavily and regularly, for the sake of blending in better and being accepted.  There are moments when my refusal to do so gets the glance that reminds me that I’m not one of them.  And yet I have to figure out how to maintain the right responses for me while not judging them for their responses, so that eventually, as I hopefully become more accepted as one of them, I have the ability to share more than just a few games of pool each week.  
I’m beginning to understand the tenacity that missionaries in foreign ethnic cultures must have.  The patience to build relationships.  To not push too hard, too quickly.  To seek ways of becoming more in tune with the culture.  Learning ways that they can be accepted without sacrificing who they are in the process, without being swallowed and consumed by the other culture.  It’s an amazing vocation they have been given.  
But I believe that it is a vocation that more of us can have.  Not by moving to a foreign culture, per se.  But by being willing to suffer the embarrassment and the awkwardness of not fitting in. By being willing to be with people and in environments that are different from ours.  Not with the goal of becoming someone different (at least not completely), but with the goal of sharing the love of Christ in that culture and environment.   It is slow work, many times, but not without moments of joy and transcendence.