Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Pool Hall – Eight Ball Pool & Snooker, Colombo Sri Lanka

February 15, 2023

This place is difficult to find, at least by Western sensibilities. There’s no sign outside (that I could see) and it’s located in a narrow building in a crowded neighborhood just east of the chaotic Pettah market area in Colombo. If (like me) you’re using Google Maps as a guide to find places like this, beware there are two listings with the words Eight Ball in the title, shown on the same street just a block apart. The one further south appears to be the real one. Can’t vouch for the other one. Were it not for a very committed tuk-tuk driver, I wouldn’t have found it.

I climbed to the third floor of the building with nothing but a printed paper pointing upwards that had been torn in half but still taped to a wall for my guide. My tuk-tuk driver followed right behind me, clearly uncertain as to the wisdom of this venture. There was one table available and I was directed to take it. To say this place is rustic would be very accurate and perhaps an overselling of the place. Three somewhat threadbare eight-foot tables in an unairconditioned room. No snacks or drinks or anything. Definitely a very local crowd, and probably skewing towards early high school age for the majority of them.

I started racking the balls and was immediately approached by a great hulk of a man. With sign language and a bare minimum of words that are somewhat universal in the world of pool it was apparent he wanted to play me. I have no illusions that Caucasians were rare in this establishment, and certainly not ones with a laptop bag dropped in the corner. It would be difficult to accurately convey how very different I was from everything and everyone in this room even if I claimed that I was the only one with green skin, six arms and giant, shrimp-like antennae sprouting from my head. I might as well have had those attributes, but they were hardly necessary.

I agreed to shoot, wary a bit of what I was getting into. He didn’t make any indication he wanted to play for money which I was grateful for. Money complicates everything and in some situations such complications aren’t simply unnecessary they’re unwise. So I racked the balls, indicated he could break, and we were off.

I assumed from the immediacy of his challenge that he was probably the house pro, and his shooting confirmed this pretty quickly. A smooth, fluid stroke, good confidence in the use of power, and a good eye for leaving himself with his next shot. He ran out five of his seven balls before missing. Not having shot for a week or more and being nervous about being in a new place, I missed my shot and he sank one more ball before missing. I dropped a couple of balls but missed and left him another shot. He was down to the eight ball but didn’t have a good shot on it. On my turn I ran the rest of my balls, had a long shot on the eight and missed, leaving him with the easy winning shot.

We racked again and this time the situation was reversed. I made some good plays early on and beat him while he still had two balls on the table. We agreed to play one more. By this time the mental aspect of the game had kicked in. I had overcome my jitters while my victory in the second game clearly had rattled his. In the third game I was shooting on the eight ball while he still had three balls on the table. I wasn’t making those three balls easy on him and they were still standing when I dropped the eight ball.

I thanked him and he asked where I was from. He agreed to a photo which in part due to my remaining nervousness is a bit blurry. But a good reminder nonetheless about how a shared love of something as simple as the game of pool can build bridges where language and culture and economics fail.

Pool Hall – Cue Club of Wisconsin

July 27, 2021

With a name like the Cue Club of Wisconsin, I have big expectations.

Not named after a person. Or even a city. This place claims to be the place to shoot pool for an entire state. That’s a lot to shoulder for a pool hall. I had to check it out.

Their web site heavily features their food, which is pretty decent by bar standards. I had to try their Friday fish lunch and it was definitely acceptable as far as fried fish goes. Their website next highlights their indoor bocce ball courts, and true enough, there are two long strips of artificial turf down the center of the main room where they apparently play bocce ball. There are only a few pictures of the actual pool tables. You know. Because it’s the Cue Club of Wisconsin, after all. They do have a few tables.

The place is a little tricky to find initially as it’s behind a couple of other strip malls off of Grandview Boulevard just south of I-94. If you keep an eye out for the sign and follow the small road back you’ll find it though.

Olhausens, primarily. A few nice 9-foot Diamonds. There aren’t many pictures of the tables on the web site and some of them seem to be outdated, from before the installation of the bocce courts.

But don’t misunderstand. There are also dartboards. A shuffleboard. Cornhole accoutrements. There is far more to this place than billiards. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s a good thing or not.

I was able to stop in twice – once on a Friday afternoon when there wasn’t much of anyone there except the lunch rush, which was fair. I tried to get a game going with one guy but he was on his way out. C’est la vie. I stopped again Sunday night and there were even fewer people there. In fact, they closed early, and in consideration of this, gifted me with a free drink coupon for the next time I stop by. Not sure when that will be – probably a couple of years from now at the least. But the thought was nice. I was also able to purchase a t-shirt that’s very nice looking.

This is definitely a worthwhile place to shoot. I’m not sure what it’s like when they have darts and cornhole and bocce ball all going at the same time. I assume they have pool leagues as well. But it’s definitely the only real pool hall in the area and worth checking out if you have the time.

Book Review: Objections Overruled

January 12, 2021

Objections Overruled: Answering Arguments Against Christianity

I don’t remember where I received this book. It’s published by Issues, Etc., a Christian radio program. But I couldn’t find a way to order this book either through Amazon or the Issues, Etc. web site.

The book is a concise, direct apologetic work refuting common assertions made by non-Christians or non-theists as reasons the Biblical witness is false. Each of the ten essays is less than ten pages in length and is authored by capable, qualified authors and experts in various fields related to the Christian faith. All but two have Ph.Ds and one of the two that doesn’t is a candidate to receive one. The essays address assertions such as Religions are all saying the same thing, Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead, there is no extra-Biblical evidence for Jesus, Jesus never claimed to be God, the Bible isn’t a reliable historical document, miracles don’t happen, Christianity is anti-science, Christianity has been bad for non-Christians, a loving God couldn’t allow evil and suffering and God condoned war and killing in the Old Testament. Each of these are relevant assertions commonly placed in the public arena as though they are true and irrefutable. These essays demonstrate very clearly that refutations do exist and are more than reasonable.

I’ve met or studied under several of these authors in various capacities (such as the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights, held annually in Strasbourg, France). The essays here are to the point and provide clear and logical argumentation. The writing is accessible and not overly academic, clearly intended as practical help to Christians who increasingly are characterized in our society and culture as ignorant, foolish, or dangerous.

I’d recommend this highly as a resource except I’m not sure how you would get a copy of it!

The Holy Spirit Is Faithful

February 21, 2020

As we approach Transfiguration Sunday, I’ve struggled this week to figure out what to preach.  Of course we can preach straight doctrine about the two natures of Christ, but how is this made relevant to my congregation?  How can I help make what happens on an obscure Galilean hilltop 2000 years ago relevant to men and women in the 21st century dealing with their own issues?

I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide me each week in preparing a sermon.  Some  weeks the ideas flow easily, and others are more of a struggle.  Sometimes I don’t feel sure until Sunday morning.  Sometimes I’m not sure even when I’m in the pulpit, or as I come out of it.  But I trust He will give me words to say, that  He won’t leave his people bereft.

But sometimes his promptings come from unexpected quarters.  As I spent time this morning with a young man I’m mentoring in his recovery from drug addiction, what should he bring up in conversation but the Transfiguration?  What are the odds of that?!

And from that conversation came the basis for my approach for the sermon Sunday.  A little counter-intuitive, perhaps, but no less important than Jesus in his blinding glory.

Thank you, Lord.

Why the Old Testament?

February 17, 2020

Why do we have the Old Testament in Scripture?  Or for that matter, why 2000 years of pre-history, 2000 years of history and narrative and genealogy?  Why didn’t God just send Jesus immediately?  Why is the Old Testament in sweeping grandeur and confusion necessary?

It  might sound like a silly question but it’s hardly intended as such, and it’s hardly a new question.  Since at least the early third century serious Christians like Marcion have suggested we could do without the Old Testament.  Many others have thought the same thing since, despite the Church’s insistence that we should keep those Scriptures firmly in place.

I read an article about this in a theological journal recently (starting on pages 24-25).  The author lists ten reasons why he thinks the Old Testament is crucial to Christians today:

  1. The Old Testament grounds us in the physicality of our existence in creation as creatures
  2. It reaffirms physicality, as opposed to the Greek demeaning of the physical in favor of the spiritual and non-material
  3. The Old Testament provides us with an understanding of who God is
  4. The Old Testament prepares for and fleshes  out the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  5. The Old Testament helps us to understand the Holy Spirit
  6. The Old Testament forces us to face the scandal of particularity – the reality that God does not have to operate by democratic principles but rather is free to work in very particular and specific ways, and through very particular and specific people
  7. The Old Testament helps contextualize us in terms of our role in God’s plan of salvation
  8. The Old Testament provides further evidence of God working in a sacramental  way – through physical means
  9. The Old Testament helps protect us from an understanding of the life of faith that is centered almost exclusively in the here and now, the present
  10. The Old Testament is able to treat certain sub-themes of the life of faith that might otherwise be lost

All good points.

I’ll humbly add my 11th to this list.

The Old Testament stands as solid evidence that Satan lies.  Just as he lied to Adam and Eve he lies to us and teaches us to lie to ourselves.  Specifically, he lies to us in leading us to believe sin really isn’t as big an issue as Scripture thinks it is, and that if we just had a bit of help, we could fix it ourselves.  That we might not actually need a savior.

I mean, really.  If we could just get rid of all the bad apples – start off with the very best of us, the most upstanding, the holiest, the godliest, the most righteous – we could be ok.  We could make a fresh start and everything would be just fine.  Oh wait, that was already tried, with Noah.  It didn’t work out so well after all.  Hmmm.

Well, if we just had God present in our midst.  Palpable.  Tangible.  Visible.  If He would just show himself and prove his reality through his presence, we’d straighten up and fly right, no doubt.  Certainly that would be enough to ensure we lived the way we should, in harmony with one another and in grateful obedience to our Creator.  Then everything would be just fine. Oh, wait, that was already tried, with the Israelites in the wilderness.  It didn’t work out so well after all, and not only that, we tend to try and blame God as being harsh and smite-y.  Hmmm.

Well, if God would just put all his people in one place, all the people who love him and know him, all together in one big place.  A country.  And not just any country, but a country with a government hand-picked by God.  A government based upon God’s Word and rule.  A government dedicated to making sure the people of God could live their lives out in faithfulness and obedience.  Then everything would be just fine.  Oh wait, that was tried with the monarchy and the nation of Israel. It didn’t work out so well.  Hmmmm.

Well, if God would just send Jesus back to us, so we could be with him.  Live with him.  Work with him.  Listen to him preach and teach.  Watch him heal the sick – maybe even have him heal some of our own sicknesses.  Watch him drive out demons and command the wind and the waves.  Well certainly then, that’s all we need.  Then  we would understand and not have to be so confused about everything.  Then everything would be just fine.  Oh wait, that was done also, and his disciples were confused throughout his entire ministry and up to and after his death.

Not until the resurrection of the incarnate Son of God did his disciples begin to understand.  Not until they had already been saved did they really begin to comprehend just how deeply and completely they needed a Savior.  Needed to be saved.  That no amount of right conditions could ever substitute for the God who would die to save his creation.  Who would die for us at our worst so that we could have the promise and hope of being our best.

Scripture – Old and New Testaments – gives us so many things, but one of the things I rarely hear discussed is that gift of experience.  A  reminder that we aren’t as smart as we think we are, let alone as good as we like to imagine.  A reminder that we need nothing less than a Savior, and God has provided nothing less than that in his Son, Jesus.

So keep reading the Old Testament.  There are at least eleven good reasons to do so.  What would you add as number 12?




January 8, 2020

I’m often critical of the pervasiveness of technology in our culture today.  I’ll likely remain critical.  But I would be dishonest and remiss if I weren’t to also say that I’m grateful.

I’ve been tinkering with computers to one degree or another for close to 40  years now, and I can only say I’m so very, very, very,  very, very grateful for how easy it is to get a system setup and running these days compared to way back when.  I just set up a brand new PC in about 20 minutes.  That includes opening the box and unpacking it.  Granted, with this ease comes a lesser degree of control, but frankly, 99% of people using computers don’t need or even want the level of control we used to have to have in terms of installing drivers and this and that and the other.  In 20 minutes my system  is configured (mostly on its own) and connected to the Internet.  I’m already downloading and installing the additional freeware I want to use.

It’s amazing, and I’m grateful.

But still, get off your smartphones people!


Church in a Box

October 29, 2019

So you want to start a church?  Easy-peesy!  Just order Church in a Box!

It will cost you anywhere between $20,000 and $100,000, depending on how big a church you’re starting, but they’ll provide you with everything you need (materials-wise, not personnel!) to do so.  Banners.  Audio/video equipment.  Coffee.  You name it, it’s included.

Assuming you have a venue, the people to do all of these things, and someone capable of preaching and teaching, what a cool way of one-stop shopping!



Schrödinger’s Meth-Head

July 21, 2019

Almost exactly a year ago I created a Schrödinger’s Meth-Head situation that is still ongoing.

Schrödinger is  famous for a thought experiment involving a cat in a sealed steel box with a bit of radioactive material inside along with a hammer and a small glass vial of hydrogen cyanide.  If a single atom of the radioactive material decayed, it would trigger a mechanism that would drop the hammer, shatter the vial, and the cat would die from the poisonous gas.  On the other hand, if no atom decayed, the cat would remain alive.   There was no way to know the status of the cat without opening the steel box.  The cat effectively would remain both dead and alive simultaneously (effectively) until somebody could verify the status.

I have no idea what happened to that young woman.  I still pray and like to think she got on the bus and did the right thing.  Nothing in my experience with recovering addicts in the last year leads me to think this is very likely.  But I can pray it is.  That she’s in recovery, getting the help she needs, moving on with her life.

I’m undecided as to whether I like this status of not knowing.  It is what it is.  And ultimately, regardless of whether she made it home or not, I can pray that her life is better today than it was a year ago when our paths crossed.

So I do.

A Political Day

January 17, 2019

I guess this will be a day for political posts.

First up, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially classified those who are uncertain about the efficacy or safety of vaccinations as one of the top ten threats to global health in 2019.

They’re not going after anti-vaxxers or those who are hard-core opposed to vaccinations.  Even those who are hesitant are a risk.  Those who are less than certain, or may be concerned only about certain vaccinations while they’re fine with others.  No, there must be no doubt, no misgivings, no reluctance, no hesitancy.  The report officially defines this term to mean the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines.  That’s a pretty broad classification.  I take it to mean that the person who doesn’t want to get the annual flu shot or is uncertain about a recently released vaccine is treated as the same sort of threat as the person who doesn’t believe the small pox vaccine was effective.

An advisory group to the WHO identified complacency, inconvenience, and uncertainty as some of many reasons why people might resist or oppose vaccinations.  I’m sure those are some of the causes.  But the WHO finds these causes – or any cause – insufficient and uncredible.

Despite all-too-recent examples that sometimes the public is deliberately misinformed about things, putting their health at risk (Tuskogee, anyone?).  Despite the insistence of state laws that make vaccines mandatory and provide no means for the public to give consent to or even be informed about what vaccines are included.  Despite a dearth of long-term studies on many of the vaccines already available and those still in development.  Despite even just a common sense sort of concern about what gets put into your body and why.

Nobody must question the powers that be – doctors, researchers, policy-makers – none  of them are to be questioned and are to be trusted implicitly and without any means or expectation of transparency.  Those who criticize religious people for blind faith ought to be a more critical of the faith being demanded by secular authorities as well!  Religion can’t compel  faith, but the rule of law can and increasingly does compel people to cede authority over their bodies to bureaucrats and scientists, well-meaning or otherwise.



Into a New Year

January 14, 2019

I’m not sad to see 2018 go.  I have no guarantees that this year – or even today – will be any better or easier, but at least symbolically I’m not sad to see 2018 in the rear view mirror.  Writing has been difficult.  Self-disclosure has felt dangerous and pointless.

But with the passing of the year is the reminder that years are not bottomless.  We only get so many of these spans of time and none of us are certain how many are allotted to us.  I don’t say this in an attitude of despair because I am convinced that new and better things await beyond the handful of years we are given.  It’s simply a reality to live with.

Someone said something I read in the not too distant past and, while the author and the context are lost to me, the gist of it remained.  Here and now, in this handful of years we call our lifetime, we possess one thing that we will not have in the eternity that awaits those who put their faith and trust in God the Father Creator, God the Son Redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit Sanctifier – the ability to live our lives out in faith.

In eternity we will know.  The mystery and uncertainty will be gone.  The Triune God will be an omnipresent reality we cannot ignore even if we are never able to fully comprehend him.  But here and now, in however long we have to live, we live by faith.  Certain of things unseen.  Hopeful in something intangible.  Not without reason, not without evidence, but still in faith.  I have the opportunity not simply to teach or dictate that faith to my children and everyone else in my life, but to demonstrate it.  To show what it looks like in the decisions I make because of my faith.  In the forgiveness I will need to ask for repeatedly because not all of my decisions are good and helpful.  And in the trust and confidence that my repentance is heard, forgiveness is already given, grace is here and now and not simply there and then.

Today, while we may still call it today, we live by faith.  Welcome, 2019.