Monday, April 30, 2007

Nothing terribly exciting.

Piqued your interest, didn't I?

1) ETL Update: I'm saddened not as many of you are into it this year, but were I honest, I'd admit that I kind of half-a...heartedly put out the effort this year. What can I tell you? It was a busy week. Too many moving parts, and none of them interesting enough to mention by name. However, I will accept your ETL lists through the next day or so. See? I'm a sport like that. And a great big THANK YOU to the hearty folks who've pitched in thusfar. Keen.

2) Highlight of the weekend: Meeting Tony, a first-time visitor to my Sunday School class this week, and then later finding out he's actually about to head to the NFL. Gives me a small reason to cheer for Indy. Check out this piece from the NYTimes about Tony. Seems like a great kid. Really polite, nice. Huge guy. Brawny. But mild-mannered and mellow-cool. So we're praying he does well for himself with the Colts.

3) Mic provides a great reminder that being in your 20's is actually pretty cool. I have to remind myself pretty regularly that that's true.

4) Some other interesting things:

5) Finally, some cool YouTube-ness:

"Earth Intruders," Bjork (on Saturday Night Live):

"Angels," Robbie Williams (featuring Joss Stone):

"Polkarama," a fan-made compilation based on Weird Al's latest polka masterpiece:

Friday, April 27, 2007

"ETL 2007" : Dave's Official List! (UPDATED HALL OF LAME!)

Here you go. My lame list for 2007:

1. Total Smallville addict. It's progressed into full-on addiction, despite the show being branded and marketed as a nighttime "soap opera." I'm on about a half-dozen fansites and related commentary sites, including one site that features fan-drawn three-panel comics. (For the record, last Thursday's episode was fantastic.)

2. Related: The new Smallville promotion is an online game that culls elements of the pre-existing fansite's code-breaking game. And when I found out about this, I was a little disappointed, because I felt like something we "real" fans had that was secret and special wasn't so special anymore.

3. I've come to appreciate Justin Timberlake as a legitimate musical artist. (Don't worry, I don't own any of his albums...yet.)

4. I signed up for Netflix three months ago for the expressed purpose of renting their 35 or so "Mystery Science Theater 3000" episodes. (Realization: They're not all gems. *shrug*) At this point, however, I've watched half of them, and my queue has still grown to about 100 titles (mainly due to series sets like The Prisoner, Cowboy Bebop, and Battlestar Galactica).

5. Last night, I held a Sunday School class event at my parents' house. It was Movie Night. The title viewed? "The Muppet Movie." (You already know how I feel about that film.)

6. Related: I've almost worn out my DVD set of the first season of The Muppet Show. Brilliant.

7. Update on the "being a rock star in a cover band" fantasy: it has only been enhanced by the advent of "Guitar Hero II." Now I'm able to play rock songs using very simple button combination, and totally feed off of the righteous ego boost that is video game crowd noise. I do the "lead guitar rock and roll" face when I play, throwing in little head bobs. Sometimes, I play standing up in my living room, and when I rock a song pretty well, at the end I'll throw up the rock horns. Yeah, I'm a dork.

8. I bought a "exercise ball" to exercise with. I currently use it as a video game chair.

9. I consider my dominance in Trivial Pursuit as a point of personal pride. Which is why it took all of my mature energies not to pout when I lost last night, and people started rubbing it in.

10. I'm a total word geek. Grammar, spelling, etymology, roots. It stems directly from being an English major. (Or vice versa.)

11. I don't have automatic locks on my car, so every time I get out of my car and start to walk away, I immediately turn around and go back and check that the door is locked. It's gotten to the point that if I'm with Will or my sister, as soon as my step slows, about fifteen feet away, they immediately say, "It's locked." I ask, "Are you sure?" They often respond, "I checked." Yeah, I'm neurotic.

12. It made my week this week when I found out that Weird Al Yankovic was coming back to town. I'm such a big fan. He's just a genius entertainer. I'm about to spend forty bucks or so on tickets to Al's show.

More to come...


Leann! (And then more!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Embrace the Lame" 2007: The Warm-up Post

This Saturday, April 28, 2007, marks the Third Annual International "Embrace the Lame" Day!

What is "Embrace the Lame" Day, you ask? Well, if you'll allow me to quote myself...
Well, basically what happened is that I caught myself trying to "front," as the kids say. There were things that I secretly enjoyed but never copped to, and would even make fun of in public, because they were/are seen as "lame" or uncool by my peers. Or so I thought. Finally, I had enough with it and decided there needed to be a day to say, "I like this, and I don't care if no one else does, or if anyone else wants to make fun of me for it."

And that's how it all began. Ah, the memories!

Anyway, the original ETL post is here. "ETL '06: The Show" can be found here.

And 2007 marks the third swing at the ol' "ETL" pin-yata. (I can't do the "enyay" stroke, so I typed the Anglicized version--cut me some slack, MAN.)

Last year we had 20 participants, and I just know that this year, we can recruit EVEN MORE! And for that, I need each and every one of YOU to accomplish.

SO, you bloggers, I'm sending out the call: Don't just take part in the ETL goodness alone. Post an ETL invitation on your site to invite your readers to take part in the fun. Make sure they link my page, and comment here too, so I can keep a tally of who is participating.

Lame is cool again, people. Believe it. Huey Lewis was right; it's hip to be square.


And now, to kick off the embraced lameness, a music video I absolutely love and can't get enough of, courtesy of the now-liberated-at-my-workplace YouTube:

Monday, April 23, 2007

Important Announcements!

Well, important to me, anyway.

1) I'm issuing an Important PBB Action Alert to all readers: You are all hereby compelled to begin watching the television program "Drive" faithfully from now on. The first three episodes are on the show's Myspace page. You may catch up there. The next broadcast airing is tonight at 7 p.m on the Fox network. The show's ratings last week were pretty bad, which is completely unjust because the program is pretty awesome. If you like fast cars racing recklessly, kidnappings and conspiracies, and twisty-turny plots, then this is your program. Plus, it stars Mal--I mean, Nathan Fillion! So all you Browncoats out there are honor-bound to watch.

I just don't want this show to be yet another well-written, interesting show this year that gets canned after 6 or 7 episodes. So get with the program, folks! Power to the people! Grassroots! We shall overcome!

2) "ETL" E.T.A. = 5 days and counting. More details to follow.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Update, Linky-Love, and Foreshadowing.

About Scotty: No decision yet. I'm leaning toward a few different options. I'm going to schedule an appointment with a friend on my church's pastoral staff, and talk over a few things with him. At the moment, I'm using all my interwebby-type skills to investigate transitional housing programs and possibilities here in town.

[RANT: It makes me angry that so few churches, especially high-profile megachurches, do practically nothing to directly benefit the homeless in any kind of concrete, longterm way. At best, they have "Feed the Homeless" events, as if they were friggin zoo animals or pigeons in the park. We have been given so much, yet we assume so little is expected of us.]

I have to tell you, I'm a little more hesitant to invite him to stay with me, due to stories like this. (You can call it fear, I'll call it caution; but this story's a reminder not to make any rash decisions.)

But one thing is clear, as I've told a few of you already: this situation has been given to me for a reason, and I'm going to see it through, one way or another.

Linky-Love: This stuff is neato.
  • Got three words for you: "Squirrel, rapping Wordsworth." [h-t: Alarm]
  • "So, she's like Google crossed with 'Subservient Chicken,' but, you know, hot." [h-t: PC]
  • Most of us don't realize the beauty or genius around us, even when it's staring us in the face. Case in point.
  • Nirvana, on a banjo. And it totally works. [PC]
  • My summer movie calendar keeps growing. This Cusack film looks like it could be this year's "Pursuit of Happyness." [h-t: manders]
  • This is just hilarious. Basically, a "Bugs Bunny vs. the Animator" for the computer age. [h-t: Ginge]
  • Cool: Letting celebrities blog about the NHL playoffs. Very Cool: Tom Cavanaugh from the brilliant-but-short-lived TV show "Ed" is one of the bloggers. Really Not Cool: Looks like his Senators are about to knock out my Penguins.
  • This article is pretty funny, unless you're one of those overly-tightly-wound PC types.
  • Any other lit-geeks up for a road/plane-trip? Because a Dickens theme park sounds AWESOME.
  • On a serious note: This series of Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographs made me choke up, and reminded me why I'm glad I work in the field of cancer research. [h-t: team pyro]
  • Music Videos I'm Currently Watching on Yahoo! Launch: "Jolene" by the White Stripes; Chris Cornell's cover of "Billie Jean"; "Portland, Oregon" by Loretta Lynn and Jack White; "Don't Wait" and "Stolen" by Dashboard Confessional; "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John; "Pictures of You (live in Berlin)" by The Cure; "Learn to Live with What You Are" by Ben Folds; "Wind it Up" and "Sound of Your Voice" by Barenaked Ladies; and Bowling For Soup's still-hilarious cover of "London Bridge." Repeated viewings/listenings of those 11 videos have kept me going this week.

Foreshadowing: (n.) 1. to represent, indicate, or typify beforehand. As in a warning, or hint, or clue of something about to happen.


ETL is coming... in 9 days.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What You're Missing Out On, and Why

Things I Had Planned on Posting About (with Links and Everything), but Now Have Neither the Time nor Energy to Address, and Really Cannot Promise to Return to at Some Later Date:

  • The tragic events at Virginia Tech
  • The militance of some Christian youth movements
  • The resolution of the Duke Lacrosse debacle (remember that?)
  • The fallout of the Don Imus firing (remember that too?)
  • The poor start to the Cubs' season

Things Currently Weighing Heavily on My Mind:

  • The appalling lack of easily-accessible housing services for the homeless in Houston.
  • What the best way to help Scotty is.
  • How to get out of my current work slump.
  • How to help people connect at church and in the community.
  • How to inspire Christians to care about service.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Crisis of Conscience

"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard."

Isaiah 58:6-8, ESV (emphasis added)

I'm afraid of reading the Bible sometimes, because I know that I will be held accountable to do what it says.

...Scotty called me today. He's looking for somewhere to stay, as he starts a new job. I told him that I'd "keep my ears open" and let him know if I find out about anything.

As I spoke to him, this Scripture above that I had used in my teaching on Sunday came back to my mind, loud and clear. And I became afraid.

I have to confess here, friends: times like these, I don't want to be a "doer of the Word." I'd much rather be a "hearer only."

Even bringing this up is scary; because now you'll know if (when) I don't follow through. You'll see plain where my heart is.

I really want you all to tell me that I don't have to share my house with this man. I want you to tell me that it would be too complicated. I want you to relieve my conscience. But I know that if you do, I'll not feel any better, and that any justification to let this man fend for himself will just sound like selfishness and fear.

I know what my mother would say if she knew I were even contemplating this. But I've already reached the point in my life where that voice has given way to another. To a Shepherd's voice.

I don't know what to do here. Or rather, I think I may know what to do, but I don't want to do what I know I probably should do. This may well be one of those moments where I demonstrate my goatyness, rather than my sheepyness.

But if there were ever a way to be a do-nothing goat without feeling utterly convicted about it, I need it right now.

Monday, April 16, 2007

An Open Letter to the Creator and Proprietor of "Perfect Blue Buildings," Containing Grievances Regarding Website Function and Content

Dear Sir:

We have been observing the goings on of your webpage for various lengths of time, though overall one could safely describe our surveillance as "for years." While there have been times that your content could have been referred to as "enjoyable" and "thought-provoking," recent months have not proven to be so enlightening.

The erratic nature of the website's most recent content behooves us to speak up, for the sake of those unwilling or unable to confront you on this subject.

Sir, we have reached the end of our patience, and are hereby demanding redress for the following issues:

1) Posting Irregularity. In the past, you could consistently be counted upon for at least two to three posts per business day. While we acknowledge the limitations of your current living situation vis a vis weekend posting, we had understood the workday verbosity to be an intentional compensation for that lack. However, in recent months, you have hardly been able to meet such undemanding standards. Some weeks, you barely post at all--one or two posts, mostly rambling and often merely cribbed from other sites. Then you typically post three or four times in a single day, igniting hope that you are returning to form, before once again slipping back into your now-typical slovenly, haphazard schedule. Take a lesson from your local newspaper, sir: regular writing produces regular readers. You have no doubt noticed that your once-boasted "readership" has withered away to a few scant repeat viewers. This is no accident, nor a coincidence. If you can't be counted upon to post multiple times every day, rain or shine, no matter what "work" you have scheduled, then you can no more expect your readers (who have equally busy, if not busier, lives) to check it as often.

2) Content Unpredictability. In the past, your website could be fairly well-depended-upon for containing the same types of posts: pop culture commentary, mixed with a fair helping of "confessional"-style posts that peeled back the layers and revealed your deep-seated emotional issues. While the content of these style choices may not have seemed to some to be the most enlightening, it was still comforting to rely upon your writing as a source of personal encouragement, albeit by comparison of one's emotional state to your own. However, it seems that lately you are unable to decide what format and style you most prefer. You bound back and forth willy-nilly among ludicrous fluff posts, scathing political commentary and partisan baiting, heavily-veiled personal comments, random linking, droning religous sermonating, and near-constant self-reflection. Day to day, it's hard to predict where the greased football of your literary whims will bounce. Where are the symbolically-obvious poems? The long and meandering screeds about being dateless? The deliciously self-loathing posts about how no one understands you? If we can't count on you to deliver for us the content we had come to expect, before being so recently disappointed, then we shall look for our entertainment elsewhere.

3) Feature Disappearance. Perhaps one of the most frustrating things of all is your lack of commitment to the "new features" introduced on your website. Whither "the PBB Cool Ten"? Why have you abandoned "Brown-Bag Poetry"? After two and a half entries, has "Shuffleblog" fallen to the wayside? Are you ever going to post pictures again? What about "Friday Fiction"? Are we to assume we'll never see another "Bible Redux"? (Our associate Gerard is especially despondent over this.) Will Louis Fielder never write a book or take full and undisputed possession of Taylor House? You have let us down, sir. Furthermore, you've left us in the lurch, teasing us with stories and poems and never coming through. I can only assume that your provocative "future post" title from last week will never be realized. While some features have been thankfully left behind (such as the regrettable and dreary "PBB Dead Letter Office") and others are so utterly tiresome in their smug self-satisfaction (like your many fake holidays and awards shows) that once a year is TOO often, the loss of these other items has left us disillusioned and vaguely annoyed. (Much as we are over the cancellation of "The Black Donnellys" and "October Road"--as I'm sure you can relate.) [Editor's Note: Quite.]

And now, beyond all this, we have noticed a recent trend of unsubstantiated authorial hubris. The self-referential quality of your website has been steadily increasing, and has reached such a point that we feel we can no longer keep silent.

Sir, we request--nay, we demand--that you desist from your current course of internet posting, and return to a more staid, predictable, and consumer-friendly format. We would venture to guarantee that your website traffic would resume, your comment boxes would remain full, and your ego will be sufficiently stroked.

Do not take this lightly, sir; for we do not take it so.

Most urgently and sincerely,

The Undersigned.

[Editor's Note: The names of the Complaintants have been redacted to protect their identities.]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another Intellectual Molotov from your Friendly Neighborhood Provocateur

Submitted for discussion (flaming):

"The inherent irony of Democratic/liberal-minded accusations of Republican fear-mongering is that such statements often create their own culture of fear, in which the object of their hatred and trepidation is not the boogeyman of terrorist attack and global Islamofascist jihad, but rather the equally frightening spectre of Christian theocracy, mass corporate enslavement, and the alleged elimination of basic American freedoms."


[Next Week: "Duke lacrosse, Don Imus, and Playing with a Full Deck of Race Cards."]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In Which Our Hero Takes a Quick Break from Yet Another Late Night at the Office to Make Yet Another Musical Confession (in the form of a letter)

Dear Bono, Edge, Adam, and Larry,

You know, I dearly love nearly the entirety of your musical catalogue, even your most commercial albums (unlike some people). I dig it. Seeing you in person was one of my favorite memories ever.

But I really, really hate the song "Miami." Loathe it. Quite possibly your worst song ever.

In fact, I'm pretty ambivalent about the whole "Pop" album. It has some great tracks, don't get me wrong--I love "If God Would Send His Angels" and "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" and even "Staring at the Sun," as meaningless as it sounds sometimes.

But "Miami"? "Mofo"? "The Playboy Mansion"? Ugh. Pass. Skip skip skip.

I understand what you were trying to do, and I won't say you weren't at least marginally successful at attacking the industry of shallow "cool" that pop music has become.

But the difference between topical art and lasting art is how it can be applied. (Get it? Topical? nevermind.) Like the recent film adaptation of "V for Vendetta." If it weren't so clearly grounded in the anti-Bush-Administration present, it would be a lasting and resonant work, like "1984."

Not that your "Pop" album was that chronologically grounded, save to your own journey as artists. But...I don't know. I just find myself not caring half of the time. Blame it on my advancing age. I'm bored with anti-establishment angst, even when tempered by self-loathing self-awareness. Been there, done that, got the protest sign.

Like I said, I love you guys. Really. You do good, good work. Your latest album totally worked for me. But I feel like I'd be hypocritical if I didn't get this off my chest.

"Pop" kinda sucks. And "Miami" sucks most of all.

Hope we can still be friends.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Poetry Corner: The Bitterness of Betrayed Love

though we have been
consistently oh-for-my-lifetime,
i patiently wait
to hear the good news of
a hoisted white flag, proudly waving
over Addison and Clark.
every March i pray for relief
as i root-root-root for the Cubbies
(how long, O Lord, to sing this song),
but forever we remain in this parched and
weary land, each disappointing season buried
with its brothers in Zeke's dry-bone valley.

today we lost another one to the Astros.
(how the haughty do gloat over our desolation,
oh Lord, and you do not avenge us.)
every april i forsake the frugality of hope
that the older and wiser and wearier heads afford.
for i remember the days of Ryno and Andre, the pure hitters.
i recount to each generation the stories of Banks and Santo.
and had i children and children's children, i would
rest them upon my knee and teach them to mourn
the foul ball, the close call, the five-outs-to-go bobble
by he-who-will-not-be-named.

every may i mourn with those who mourn,
the hurlers whose arms fail them.
(we have delivered mark and kerry over to
the Enemy in the hope that their souls may
be spared.)

every june i venture to hope
this year will be different than before,
before every august teaches me differently.

it's been three septembers since i had a reason
to cheer, save for the ruin of others.
(we are laid waste, we are desolate, we are
forsaken in this cold and windy land. our enemies
laugh at the errors and swinging strikeouts and
blown saves that beset us. deliver us.)

we lost to the Astros with the winning run at the plate.
there is no joy in Wrigleyville.
the children weep, the men grit their teeth and
squint their eyes against the harsh winds off the lake.
thousands wonder why they even bother watching
such a travesty.

what time is tomorrow's start again?

Monday, April 09, 2007

"Wake up, dead man."

"Jesus, Jesus help me / I'm alone in this world / And a [messed]-up world it is, too..."

The irony of quoting that lyric [single, obvious harsh profanity warning] on Easter Monday is not lost on me, but I feel like I want to shift the focus of it a little bit and discuss it for a minute, if you'll bear with me.

The original conceit of the song was that the singer was pleading with Jesus to "wake up" and fix the world, because it has become so broken and twisted that it isn't even recognizable. The plea is both reproachful and desperate, as if the singer is aware that he's bordering on a kind of blasphemy, but doesn't think any other method will gain the divine attention he craves. He keeps asking the "dead man" to wake up.

The truth that we Christians proclaim is that the "dead man" did in fact wake up. That's the message of this weekend. Jesus the Christ is alive and triumphant. Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!)

But the inevitable question (with echoes of the Psalmist) is: so why hasn't it seemed to make that much of a difference?

The singer writes about the disorder of the world, and his desire to rewind it back to the perfection (or at least the hope of goodness) that it once contained. In the second verse, he sings this: "Jesus, I'm waiting here, boss / I know you're looking out for us / But maybe your hands aren't free."

This strikes me a little bit. Who are the hands of Christ in the world right now?

The Church.

Over and over, Paul refers to the Church as Christ's "body." In Colossians, he calls Christ the head of this body.

I would submit, on this Easter Monday, that the Head is very much alive and always has been, but the Body in large part (at least, as it is evidenced in the West) has been playing dead for years, and it's giving people outside of the faith (or those who find themselves on its fringes, peering in) the wrong impression that the Man they sing about is in fact dead.

I've been wrestling with this deadness myself. I've been struggling to allow myself to be renewed, revived. I'm not sure that this weekend produced the miraculous revelation that one would hope on Resurrection Sunday, but I can tell you there are signs of life. Life in the midst of weariness and pain.

I still have some distance to gain before I'll claim to be fully alive. But I'm starting to regain some feeling in the places inside that felt dead. And all it took was breakfast with a man named Scotty.


Scotty is in his later years. Hard to guess for sure, since living out in the elements tends to age you prematurely. Probably in his late fifties to sixties.

Scotty is "temporarily" homeless. He's quick to emphasize that. He knows it's all about your mental perspective.

Scotty greets people with "Happy Resurrection Sunday." The clerk behind the counter stares at him blankly. Scotty tells me that he wants to make sure they don't get it twisted. That's why he also refers to "that other day" as "Jesus' birthday."

The knees of Scotty's jeans are shredded, splayed open like a disected frog in a freshman biology class. The skin of his knees is dry and cracked, spotted white in contrast to his dark skin.

Scotty matter-of-factly describes sleeping under an overpass, without complaint or blame. He assures me that forty-seven degrees is really not that bad, as long as the winds aren't too cold and the ground isn't too wet. He talks about his shoes getting soaked the day before (which was unfortunately cold, wet, and windy), and how socks that are air-dryed after getting puddle-wet usually dry hard and scratchy. But still, he smiles as he talks about sleeping in the Salvation Army the night before. They take good care of him.

Scotty says breakfast is the most important time to have a hot meal. He appreciates some of the churches who provide a hot lunch, but the Salvation Army only had cold cereal that morning. He needed something a little more.

Scotty limps to the booth where he dropped his garbage bag, takes off his coat and lays it atop. Then he reaches in and pulls out his Bible. It's a hardbound NIV, navy blue, and worn soft at the corners. It was the type of Bible you'd receive as an award for Scripture memorization or learning all the books in order. Its pages are wrinkled and used. Quite a few are underlined or highlighted.

Scotty tells how he normally goes to the fast-food restaurant further in-town, but they charge 15 cents more for a senior coffee. The difference between 27 cents and 42 cents is enough to make the bus trip.

Scotty prays over his breakfast, aloud and unashamed. Maybe he feels emboldened when my head bows also. He prays well, with phrases long familiar to one who grew up inside church walls.

Scotty butters his biscuit carefully. His hands tremble slightly as he pulls the cellophane off the molded pat of butter in its plastic container. He places the eggs and biscuit and sausage patty (better than the link he has gotten elsewhere, he remarks) on the overturned top cover of the styrofoam breakfast platter. He smiles at getting three pancakes instead of two. He pours a generous amount of syrup over the pancakes. "That's cuz they soak it up, see."

Scotty eats slowly, savoring. He talks about his life. He went to Prarie View A&M, "back in the day." He shrugs and says that now he's made to wander, that he's suffering the consequences of willful disobedience. He tosses out Scripture references for me to look up. We talk about Saul and Samuel, and the livestock Saul withheld and lied about. I retell the story, and comment a bit. He nods and chews, giving an occassional "yep." We talk about favorite passages and verses.

We discuss the breakdown of civility in society. How babies "are havin' babies." How the rudeness and impatience of one generation is instilled and magnified in the next. How there is no respect. I talk about my sisters, how I love them, how proud I am of them. I tell him about how my adopted sister has a half-brother who is destined for destruction, because he was raised by her immoral and thoughtless biological mother. He talks about seeing the same kinds of things. We both stew on the fate of the world.

It's nearly time to go. Scotty asks if he can get a ride to his church. He gathers up his things. He packs up the half of his breakfast he didn't eat and places it gently in his bag.

In the car, he receives a pair of clean, used socks with rejoicing. My heart is breaking.

We find the church. We pray together, and I hear a liquid glug-glug-glug that I hope is not Scotty. I see his coffee cup overturned in the floorboard and scold myself. Scotty grabs a handful of napkins and cleans it up immediately.

Scotty's hands are large, strong, calloused. He shakes firmly, not as one beaten down, but as one striving.

Scotty gives blessings, because that's all he can give. That's all he has left. The Word he's written in his heart, and the blessings he can speak with his lips.

Scotty went into the church. I went away rejoicing and repentant. I have so much. I'm such an ungrateful child. I have no perspective.

And a small part of me feels alive again.


[Unrelated medical update: the diagnosis from the doctor was occipital neuralgia, a fancy term for nerve pain in the back of my head. I'm on some anti-inflammatory medication to calm the nerve down, and it seems to be working. Your continued prayers are appreciated.]

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"May God's love be with you / Always..."

I'm not going to be here tomorrow. You'll have to muddle on without me. I trust you'll make it somehow.

I will be away at the doctor, looking for some way to dislodge the little man trying to carve out a mine shaft in the back of my skull with industrial drilling equipment.

Your prayers for proper diagnosis and quick recovery would be appreciated.

I'll try to finish a shuffleblog post I started earlier in the week, and post that later tonight before I go home. Once I log off here shortly, I need to put an honest hour or two of work in first.


Sunday is Easter, the most sacred of Christian holidays. You'd think that a writerly type such as myself would be working on a finely-crafted rumination on the meaning and importance of the day. You'd think that I would be preparing all week for such a powerful and potentially life-changing post.

If so, then you don't know me very well, do ya.

I'm unprepared for Easter. Not just blog-wise, either.

I have not taken the time to reflect much over the last month or two, let alone the past week. I've just been going, going, going. I got slowed down a bit by illness here or there, likely the result of poor diet + little rest + little exercise. I haven't been doing sabbath. I've just being going. Finally, this week, I realized that it's just time to stop. But I've forgotten how.

Last night, I had a moment of clarity, or at least, semi-transparency. I realized that the best descriptor for me right now is faded. My personality has been diluted to its most basic and ugly parts. I've been drained of life, in many ways. There is nothing vivid about me. Nothing striking. I'm washed-out and worn.

I told Amanda last night that I have come to the point where I just don't love people anymore. Sometimes I tolerate them. I'm indifferent toward people, at best. I'm impatient and derogatory, more often. I have no heart for the lost, or even for the "found." I know more about the lives of minor characters on television shows than I do about the people in the Bible study I lead (probably because I spend an hour a week listening to the TV characters, and 30-40 minutes a week talking at the people at church). I just don't care. I'm more satisfied to put my head down and plow through my own life doing my own thing. You leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone.

Of course, then there's Sunday, when I put on the "church" face and spout all the right talking points about being welcoming and loving people and making connections and reaching out. All the buzzwords floating around the Sunday School leadership right now. I'm reading all the books and attending all the meetings. I'm all about "connections" on Sunday. But Monday comes around, and I couldn't care less. I realized it this week, and it's bothered me ever since.

I read the apostle John's first letter last night, and was beaten up one side and down the other by it. I was told over and over that my love for God is demonstrated by my love for others. That the man who claims to love God but hates his brothers is a liar and doesn't even know God. That kind of stuff scares me. I know how fickle and flighty my love for people is. Can my love for God be the same way? (Short answer: yeah.)

The only comfort, the only assurance I have is that God's love for me is just the opposite. While my compassion for the sick and the hungry and the dying is always tempered by my unwillingness to do something, God's compassion for my sick heart and hungry soul and dying flesh is without end. And God showed it by his willingness to do something shocking and sacrificial: while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.

That's the first half of Easter: God demonstrates His love by redeeming the rebellious sinner.

The other half of Easter is this: As I am buried with Christ, so shall I be raised with him. The old is gone! The new has come! I am alive in Christ, and walk in new life.


Where did that life go? Why is that love not found in me now?

Something somewhere got blocked. I'm a dumb little branch who detached from the True Vine. I keep forgetting and relearning and forgetting: I'm never gonna be a vine. I'll always need His life to feed into mine.

Maybe the word for me isn't "indifferent" or "faded"--maybe it's "withered."

And the story of Easter is that, with the bodily resurrection of the Savior, even the most brittle of dried, dead branches can experience Spring again. And that's what I need. Renewal.

(I said I didn't prepare an Easter post; I didn't say I wouldn't try to wing it.)

...I started to end it there. To tie it up into a pretty little Easter message package, with a big pastel-colored bow. But I'm feeling a little too honest.

The fact is, I think I'm running from that renewal for some reason. Because renewal means that part of me will have to die. Robert Lewis calls this the "paradox principle"--you've gotta die to live. This is nothing new; it's practically the entire message of the New Testament.

I'm scared of dying. Physically, spiritually, emotionally. I'm scared of stepping out in faith. I'm scared that I'll never be brave enough to let another woman into my heart. Scared that I'll never really write a book, or that I'll finish a book and find out that I really don't have that much talent after all. Scared to actually give up the little things that make me happy and kill me slowly, like fast food and a sedentary lifestyle. Scared of giving my best and fullest effort at work and becoming a depressed and hopeless middle manager like my father, a brilliant and funny man for whom my heart breaks.

I'm scared of giving up something, even if I know in my head that I'm putting it in the hands of a Father-God who loves me and gives me good things in return.

Just fear of letting go and trusting. So many parts of my life feel like that silent Saturday for some reason. I keep find myself being pulled to bury the dead, but for some reason I'm unwilling to cling to what's alive.

No clean tie-ups here. No quick fixes. No tidy homilies. Just a hope that something in me gets resurrected. Re-created. Restored.


Three things jumping out of my reading that I'm still chewing on. Phrases that I'm carrying with me today:

"[Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful..."

"Fear has to do with punishment; whoever fears has not been perfected in love."

"Let love be genuine."

I may have more to say on this later. If I do, you'll be the first to know, I suppose.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"There's something wrong with this yogurt."

Happy Tuesday, friends and lovers. I trust the weekend treated you well. As for myself, I'm currently being abused by what was once thought to be stress headaches, but what I now realize is in fact a sinus infection, and a mean one at that. I'm currently trying to get in touch with my doctor to get some meds STAT.

And now with that bit of TMI is out of the way, let's get to business.

1) I'm a little late on this one, but it's worth mentioning. You've probably heard about the case of the "flying imams"--Muslim ministers who were escorted off an airplane because other passengers thought they were acting in a highly suspicious manner. In response, they have sued the airline, and now are trying to sue the anonymous passengers who alerted the flight crew to their behavior. This case against the "John Doe"s is taking on a life of its own. However, some commentators like Michelle Malkin are taking up the side of the John Doe's. Malkin wrote a John Doe manifesto, defending the position of anyone who feels the need to report suspicious activity.

While I am concerned with the possible "Chicken Little" effect that fear may produce in some folks, I have a little faith in the judgment of airline passengers to only speak out if there is a legitimate concern. Otherwise, we'd be hearing about this stuff happening every day on every flight. But I wholeheartedly oppose the silencing of the concerned for the sake of protecting the delicate sensibilities of the few. If I see something suspicious, I'm going to report it. I'm not going to take the law into my own hands and go all "Jack Bauer" on someone; that's not what's being advocated here. But we can't be so afraid to offend that we refuse to be vigilant.

So I'm going on record: I am John Doe. Sue me.

2) Tragically, it's stopped being surprising to hear when a high-profile minister gets caught up in an extramarital affair. Pastors all over the church are struggling with this issue, some successfully, others not. But the latest news I've heard hit a bit closer to home. He is an evangelist that I've recommended before, one whose teaching was an encouragement to me. He came to our church and spoke on a few different occasions while we were still looking for a new pastor. Some of the allegations are that the last time he met with his mistress was during the week he was speaking at my church here in town. As Wade Burleson notes, during one of the sermons, the evangelist talks about the anointing of God and the sin nature of man, and you could almost see a little into the struggle he was having inside himself.

I have to confess, when I heard that this happened while he was speaking at my church, my first feeling was one of betrayal. How could such a man, so guilty and deceitful, stand before my church family on that platform and hold the Word of God before us? But I caught myself in that thought. I remembered that I am that guilty and deceitful man. So are you. So is my new pastor. So was my old one. The names are different, the crimes may be different, but the sin and the deceit is the same. [Remember Matthew 5? Based on the words of Jesus, I'm an adulterer, too.]

As believers, we tend to subconsciously classify sins as being "really bad and ugly" and "sort of embarrassing and less ugly." Sexual sin, on the bad list. Jealousy, gossip, gluttony, on the not-so-bad list. We need to ditch our lists, church. All sin is all bad. It's all really ugly. Sin of all stripes should break our hearts in repentance and drive us closer to the God of grace and truth.

As for this evangelist, he needs prayer. He broke faith with his wife and those who trusted him to be a man of integrity. He has a long journey of hard restoration, if he chooses to be restored. (Some don't.) And if he repents of this sin, I think we have a duty to encourage him and help him return to fellowship. (I bolded those two statements, because forgiveness isn't cheap. It may be free, but it's not cheap. He must choose to walk in the light, which means turning his back on this pattern of deceit and betrayal. So don't get confused and say I'm giving him a free pass. I'm not; frankly, it's not my job to give any kind of passes.)

And in the meantime, I'm praying for self-understanding, so that when I see a brother broken and repentant of his sin and calling out for forgiveness, I can say not "There, but for the grace of God...", but simply, "There go I."

3) Well, that was pretty heavy. How about some quick hits from the world of pop culture? [h-t: pretty much assume anything not otherwise marked is from Pop Candy.]
  • I think this is freaking cool. Too bad there are few 7-11's anywhere near me. (Really, too bad in general--I'm a Slurpee FIEND.)
  • Manders sent me this. The title pretty much says it all.
  • I have to tell you, I'm pretty excited about Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd. It should be opening in December/January.
  • When I first heard this news, my immediate reaction was, "Ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease!"
  • Have I mentioned I'm excited about this film also?

4) Currently reading: "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke--Very good. I'm little more than a fifth of the way into it (it's roughly 1,000 pages), but I'm enjoying it immensely.
Just read: "Sex God" by Rob Bell--Interesting. I may post on this later. It's not what you'd expect.
Currently Watching: Last week's episodes of "The Black Donnellys" (very keen) and "October Road" (less keen but still fun).
Recently Watched: "Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes." Expect a post on this too.
Currently Listening: Muse, "Absolution."
Recently Listened to: Mark Driscoll's excellent sermon on March 20 called "Pain and Progress," out of Nehemiah chapter 4.
Currently Eating: Lunch.
Recently Eaten: Blueberry yogurt. (Thus the post title.)

[And if you can guess the movie the title is from, AND give me the next two lines, you win a blog-prize (to be determined later).]

Monday, April 02, 2007

PBB Cool Ten: Play Ball Edition (UPDATED)

9. Kick the Curse!
8. You can't quiet The Riot!
7. Fonzie!
6. Scarlos!
5. Barrett-a!
4. Thunder Matt!
3. ARam!
2. DLee for MVP!
1. Go Cubs!!!!!

UPDATE: Swiped from BHT, because it's too good not to post on this Day of Days: The Genesis Story of Baseball, courtesy of McSweeney's. It is "good," indeed.