Monday, December 29, 2008
We didn't have any travel issues and arrived only about twenty minutes late. We got to the hotel and were hungry for lunch, so we cruised the streets looking for somewhere to eat. Unlike the Northwest, people apparently take the Sabbath seriously and all the restaurants were closed. With one exception. And that is how we ended up eating in Hell's Kitchen. Of course Hell's Kitchen is open on the sabbath. I had a ridiculously good Bison burger.
About 1,800 people showed up for the conference, which is amazing. I gave my first talk last night and couldn't really see those back rows far off in the distance. I spoke about following Jesus and living a life where you are becoming like him.
We're having a good time. Krista and I had lunch today with four college guys and we talked about life, how to hear from God, and what it looks like to be transformed to be like Jesus... a really excellent conversation. Now we're gearing up to run to dinner with an old friend of Krista's. They were on summer project together years ago.
That's the little update for today. I speak again tomorrow night and then on the 31st.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Krista and I eavesdropped on a group of people from the twentieth century complain about the brave new world of the 21st century at the Portland airport this morning.
“The security took away my water,” said a woman on her way to Cancun. “It was a brand new bottle that wasn’t even open and now I have to pay three times as much for a bottle half the size.” Several people commiserated.
“I used to take the corporate jet," said a nearby man, somehow connecting this to the inconvenience of being deprived of bottled water. "And now they’re making all of us fly commercial. I had to go buy an iPod and an iPhone because I used to be able to watch movies on the jet and now I can’t.” He also liked to show off by making pronouncements like, “We’re going to be boarding any minute now.” He can tell this because his phone is also a clock!
Another excellent moment was when The Lady From The Past talked about her son’s health care. She has to have his permission to look at his medical forms, even though he’s only fifteen. She’s livid. She pays the bills. He’s a minor. She wants everyone on the plane to know about the insanity of our privacy laws. Her lawyer told her, “Just get him to write you a permission slip.”
Welcome to the 21st century fellow travelers from the far flung past, and we hope you enjoy your stay here with us here in the future.
* We had a "Bunny/Kitty party"... A invited over some friends from school and they all crawled around mewing and barking (?).
* Decorations had to rival the "unicorn" from Z's party this year, so I stayed up late with Krista's dad drawing, coloring and cutting out cartoon bunnies and pasting them up all over the house.
* We started with a family breakfast out with us and all the grandparents, followed by feverish house cleaning, followed by two hours of sugar-induced birthday mayhem.
* Once everything had settled down our neighbor Derek called... A had been telling him for days that her birthday was coming. He called and asked what one buys for a six-year-old girl. I suggested a candy bar or a stuffed animal. He showed up with a candy bar... and a drum set. The next hour or so was spent banging the drums as they were being set up. A told Krista last night, "I'm a rock star!"
A, Happy Birthday! We're so thankful for you, for your sweet, friendly way of interacting with the family. We're thankful for all the music you bring into the house with your constant singing, piano and I'm sure in the future drums. We're so proud that you've learned to read and that you are doing so well in Kindergarten and Awanas. Happy Birthday! I'm looking forward to seeing what you do as a six-year-old!
Saturday, December 27, 2008
My first feature article in Discipleship Journal is now available in the January/February 2009 issue. The name of the article is "Disarming Questions" and it's about ways to continue a positive conversation about God with people who are hostile to Christianity.
The editors at DJ are great and really excellent people to work with. If you get a chance to pick up the magazine I think you would enjoy it.
Friday, December 26, 2008
A: When all our friends and family came over to our house. WAIT! No, it was when Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins.
Me: That's very sweet, A. I meant your favorite Christmas moment from the last day or two.
A: Oh. Then it's when all our friends and family came over.
Me: Z, how about you? Favorite Christmas moment?
Z: When Mom said I could have two of her Breyer horses! And also when I got Dreamer (another Breyer horse).
Thursday, December 25, 2008
2007: What Christmas Means to Me
2006: The Christmas Hierarchy
2005: The Key to Christmas
BONUS: The Christmas-inspired moment that brought the Very First episode of Eavesdropping with Matt to the faithful minions here at BHR.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
They rejoice before you as people rejoice in the harvest,
As men rejoice when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered
The yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle, and every garment rolled in blood
Will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
Establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Here's an interesting article that asks the question, "Would Christmas have still come even if we had not sinned?"
It's worth a read.
And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not! For behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you" ye shall find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly with the angel appeared a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and good will toward humanity.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
"I think so," I said. I was buying a forty pound bag of water softening salt, because they had run out of regular rock salt. No one around here was ready for so much snow.
"When you're a kid," she said, "Snow is all about magic. You grow up and it's all about work."
Trying to get home was work. The cars spinning on the ice, the semis breaking every traffic rule to try to get onto the right street. Pileups and accidents slowed everything down. After five cycles at a light waiting for a left hand turn, but receiving nothing, I decided to head North and then double back on another road farther from the crowds of incompetent ice drivers.
As I moved up the street, I saw a left hand turn that looked familiar. The snow made it hard to tell if it was the street I thought it was... everything was uniform white, smooth and stretched out to more white smoothness. I took the turn.
A few minutes later everything looked familiar, but not quite right. The snow-covered houses could be any snow-covered houses. A field of sheep was on the right side, and I thought they should be on the left. I picked up a compass between the seats and held it up. I should be going West. But the compass didn't turn.
A dark wood crept up on the road, the snow like the caps of waves. As I went around a curve I heard a muffled thunder from the wood. The car slid on the ice, and I wrangled the car back on track. I stopped, the adrenalin and blood pounding through me, and turned off the car for a minute. I looked up, and emerging from the wood was a centaur, his hooves flinging up the snow. He stopped in front of the car, his chest heaving, his breath rising like clouds, his hair encased in ice and sweat. He looked at me with wide, golden eyes, then back to the woods. He motioned with his hand for me to follow, and trotted across the road and into the dark woods.
I had read enough as a child to know that this was the moment in which I could enter into some great adventure. A howling from the distance told me that something--or someone--was on his trail. I sat for a long time until the air in the car started to cool. Then I reached down and turned the key in the ignition. I had a driveway to shovel, and ice to melt on the walkway.
Around the curve, the street came out into a familiar road, and I made it home without any excitement.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Master Bargainer. The neighbor across the street paid twenty bucks to the same kids. Yup. Which brings us to the following rules: 1) Don't underestimate how little money it takes to motivate a teenager. 2) Being cheap is easier when you don't keep cash on hand.
The Fleet. Several of our neighbors own snowmobiles and four wheelers. This means that when they get home from work there is a great deal of snow-spurting four wheelers sliding through the neighborhood.
On a related note. I saw some idiot kid trying to ride his motorcycle on the ten inches of snow on the main road.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
"No," I said, "But you can put your hand on my shoulder."
"So if I fall you'll know I'm falling?"
"And then you'll catch me?"
"No, then I'll know to look around for you on the ground."
Yes, I know. I'm a great Dad. You don't even have to tell me, I know already.
Please note that the tiny pink poodle was not in the movie. That is my children's addition.
If the storm continues I should be able to clear out all those pictures I've been meaning to blog about over the last several months.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
While I was at the post office/gas station (yes, it's both) today, a woman came in asking if anyone had a jack so she could get the chains off her car. I told her that I didn't have a jack, but that I couldn't imagine that she needed one and I would come out and take a look.
It turned out that some guy had tried to help her when one of her chains broke by telling her to drive back and forth. This had actually succeeded in causing her to drive on the wrong parts of the chains and had smashed one of the catches so it couldn't be opened correctly.
It was something I managed to fix after laying in the slush, pushing my head under the car, and working at it for a while. Then I worked on the other side, which eventually required that I borrow some pliers so I could break a clasp on the chain. When I was done the woman and her kids happily drove away.
One of the gas station workers looked at me in surprise when I brought the pliers back in and the woman drove away. "Weren't you with that lady?" she asked.
"No," I said. "I was just here and she needed some help."
Suddenly I was a hero. The gas station lady offered me free food or coffee or something to warm me up. But I told her that wasn't necessary, of course. I was just a little ways from home.
I thought about this as I drove home. If that had been my family with the broken chains I would have just been doing my duty. It's expected that you take care of your family. But if you treat some other member of the human race like family, suddenly you're a hero. That's a sad commentary on us as a people, I guess.
I started thinking about rewards... being thought of as a hero, free coffee, et cetera, and I realized I don't really need those, either. I have my own house, where I can warm up and take a hot shower after submerging myself in icy slush. I had a loving wife waiting for me, and kids on a special outing with their heavily involved and generous grandparents. I have a good relationship with the creator of the universe, too, let's not forget that. I have all the rewards I need right here in my little corner of the world. I think I can treat others with respect just so their world can be a little better, too.
Plus, it's snowing. It's beautiful outside. It's a beautiful, wonderful night. Merry Christmas, everybody.
This is a great book... an amazing example of how to explore serious issues (Do the ends justify the means? Do we become what we pretend to be? Can we commit unforgivable crimes against ourselves?) in an entertaining, often hilarious way. Let's be honest, it's hard to write a comedic novel about the Nazis. But here it is. It's a great read and worth your time if you've never read it.
Friday, December 19, 2008
We woke this morning to the excited scampering of children, who flew to the windows, looked outside and shouted, "OH NO! I HOPE SCHOOL ISN'T CANCELED!"
I woke this morning and trudged down the stairs to discover that yes, school had been canceled.
I walked back up and told the kids, "No school today."
"NO SCHOOL TODAY?"
"No school today."
"NO SCHOOL TODAY?"
"No... school... today."
Cue the incessant crying. No school means no end-of-the-year Christmas party.
Now Z is in the back yard playing in the snow and A is inside looking at the Christmas ads from the newspaper. And we're hoping that our friends' wedding tonight doesn't get canceled!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Here it is:
I am Mr. Paul Wolfenden, Manager of ABN AMRO BANK 250 Bishopsgate, London
EC2M 4AA . I have a business proposal valued at GBP£21,000,000.00 (Twenty-One
Million Pounds) from my Branch.
Please, get back to me to enable me furnish you with full information
concerning this letter by email.
I was curious. So I did a little checking and here is what I found:
1) Paul Wolfenden is real.
2) Despite the lack of vowels, ABN AMRO is real. Although it appears that Mr. Paul Wolfenden does not work for them.
3) I like how the author of this email puts the number of pounds in numerically followed by the paranthesis. I laughed about that for 30 seconds (thirty seconds).
4) Although the e-mailer tried to create a fake e-mail address, his real one came through. Mr. H McKinney of Austin Community College.... address = email@example.com. Uh oh. Don't think Austin CC is going to be happy about British "business" being done on the school server. I hope the spam crawlers don't find his address and send him a lot of junk mail. That would be just sad.
5) I suppose it could be Ms. H. McKinney. Or McKinne for that matter.
6) Anyone trying to get me involved in a twenty-one million pound business deal is insane. They cannot be trusted with what little money I have.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Today I had a server who spoke fluent English. I gave him my order, then noticed that I could try "Fried Jalapenos" for only one dollar. I told him that I wanted an order of them. He looked me up and down and then said, "You mean you want some jalapeno poppers, right?"
"No," I said. "I want to try the fried jalapenos."
He shrugged and rang me up.
The fried jalapenos, when they came, were sort of like french fries. The jalapenos has been dropped whole into the boiling fat and then put in a sack. I took a bite off the tip, and it wasn't spicy at all. I took a bite toward the middle and it burned, but not too bad. I know that the seeds are what make it hot, and there are more as you move toward the stem. But I theorized that the frying process had somehow mildified them.
So I popped the rest of it into my mouth.
And it burned like the devil on Judgment Day. It was an eternal fire that followed that pepper all the way down.
My digestive system started sending emergency messages to my brain.
Digestion System: Someone is trying to poison us!
Brain: Remain calm, it's just a jalapeno.
Digestion: It burns like hot oil!
Brain: I admit that the jalapeno is fried.
Digestion: We're going to expel it!
Gag Reflex: Preparing to disgorge in three... two..
Brain: ABORT! ABORT! Do not... REPEAT... do not disgorge. We are in a restaurant. Can you please try to be civilized for once?
Digestion: It burns! It burns!
Brain: Feet and hands, find us something to douse this fire!
We eventually found some sour cream, cheese and water. The burn wore off in about fifteen minutes. My taste returned in under three minutes, so that was a plus. I shoveled Mexican food into my digestive system to keep the peppers down.
All in all, an excellent meal.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The Tale of Desperaux is a computer animated adaptation of Kate DiCamillo's Newberry award winning novel of the same name.
It's the story of a young mouse who doesn't fit into mouse society because he wants to be a knight, not a cowardly rodent. He befriends and pledges allegiance to a human princess, and their fortunes are all mixed up with several rats, a castle maid, a chef, some sort of weird food genie, a dead queen and a mourning king.
As for the movie itself, I would say that (unlike many animated films) the best thing about it is probably the voice acting. Matthew Broderick, Sigourney Weaver and Dustin Hoffman all lend their voices, and all the performances of the actors are solid.
By far the worst thing about the movie to my mind was the ugly character designs. Even the characters that were supposed to be cute and charming were unattractive. And the ones meant to be ugly (like the leader of the rats) were so ugly as to be repulsive. Krista felt the same way, that the characters were a bit hard to look at. I think it may be that as CGI is advancing and characters look more lifelike, the exaggerations of certain cartoon styles begin to take on a sort of grotesque appearance. Maybe this is just us, though. The kids certainly didn't notice it.
I could have personaly done without the narrator, as well, who often distracted from the story by telling us the moral behind it by saying things about Forgiveness being the most powerful thing we can feel and so on. On the other hand, if you're going to have a didactic narrator, by all means, let's have Sigourney Weaver.
I actually liked a lot of the scene design... a lot of clever innovations in both the mouse and rat worlds (although my kids could have done without the skulls).
The movie was enjoyable, overall, and moved along nicely. It's not rip-snortingly funny or cute or adventurous. It watches a bit more like a fable... an entertaining story where every character seems to point us to a moral by the end.
At the end of it all, here's the most important thing. My kids loved it. Just adored it. They were thrilled to be there, loved watching it, and were bouncing around afterwards. So if you have kids and you're looking for a family movie, this is the one for you. And I can say without reservation that it was a million times better than that ridiculous trainwreck called WALL*E. Yes, feel free to send me your hate mail, but I was ready to send that little robot to the scrap heap. And my kids were bored in that movie. But they loved Desperaux.
Desperaux is rated G and releases this Friday, December 19th.
Here's the trailer:
Friday, December 12, 2008
Me: Yes, I did.
Z: Did you scan the picture in?
Z: Did anyone say anything about it?
Me: Dan Culbertson said that he thought that the moral should be, "Don't ever run."
Z (pause): Didn't anyone ever teach him about morals?
let the sun shine bright
let the moon show us your love
let the sun shine and show us your love
love is always here
if you feel like you don't have anybody to talk to
Jesus and God are always with you
just believe in them and go to heaven
they'll keep you safe
believe in the Lord
stones won't protect you
only Jesus can protect you
Come soon in the sky Jesus
if it's not today
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Looking at the chart above, you'll see that I'm 103% done with the first draft of my book. This is a good example of statistics being misleading. I'm still a few thousand words from the end, but I've hit the 60,000 word mark. So I overshot my goal on the word count. This is okay, actually, as I'm planning on removing an early chapter and several pages in a couple of other places.
What this means, of course, is that I'll have the rough draft done before the end of the month. Soon I'll be looking for some
Monday, December 08, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
This is why I'm afraid of sharks.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
I wanted to sit with Krista on the couch and watch whatever she watched. So I got to see The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, the story of four girls who discover some magic pants that fit all of them even though they are different sizes. It also has magic powers or something, which was a little unclear. It helps you get boyfriends or something. Anyway, at the end of the movie (allow me to weakly warn you that spoilers are coming) somebody loses the pants in Greece where the one girl's estranged boyfriend lives and so the girls all go to Greece and the girl and her Greek boyfriend fall in love again but they never find the magic pants. And I just want to say, I know where the magic pants were. That Greek boyfriend totally stole them off the clothesline so that the girl would come to Greece and fall in love with him. Because that' s the way we Greek men go about things. We trick our women into loving us. P.S. Don't tell Krista.
After that I was needing a different flavor of show and Krista somehow agreed to watch an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which is the story of a killer robot who looks like a high school girl that has been sent back in time to protect a young man who is destined to become a freedom fighter who will lead the human resistance against the machines who have taken over the world. In the last third of the show I noticed that the robot girl Cameron had some jeans that looked really familiar. They looked... magical. Then there was a scene where she loving spoke to a Soda Machine and it seemed to really be into her. She was embarassed and coy, but I think it just might work out between those two crazy kids. She called all her best friends and they downloaded the whole night and studied it carefully.
Now it is time for bed. Good night, sweet revolutionaries. Sleep well.
Old Habits Die Hard. Last night two police cruisers pulled over a couple of cars at North Creek Church.
Christmas Decorations Going Up. Christmas cheer is coming the neighborhood. My favorite Christmas moment so far is that our neighbor several doors down has put up "singing" lights at his house. They play electronic carols so long as the lights are on. He did this just for our benefit, I'm sure, because he is deaf. So that was a nice thought on his part.
Econobama. Our Ukranian neighbor couldn't make a living from laying tiles any more, so he's spending some time as a trucker (which is what he used to do). I saw him driving up in his big red cab today, and I had a pleasant moment, reflecting that he was back in the neighborhood. Welcome home, friend. I hope Pres-Elect Obama is going to figure out a way that you can get back to laying tiles and spending time with your family again.
Friday, December 05, 2008
"I can run faster than you can, Spot," Sparkles said.
Sparkles and Spot decided to run a race. Spot warmed up by doing excercises. Sparkles warmed up by running back and forth. When the race started Sparkles was too tired to run a race so Spot won.
MORAL: Don't brag and your life will be better.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
They will be playing in Portland on February 4th. I hope to see you there. I hope to see me there, as well.
Now, to counteract the creepy factor on BHR today, here's a Mexican Walking Fish:
Awww, isn't it cute? It's a kind of salamander. Looks like a Pokemon to me! I CHOOSE YOU MEXICAN WALKING FISH!
See more strange, creepy, disturbing and rare animals here. Via Boingboing.
Monday, December 01, 2008
"We lived a whole day without eating lunch!"
I thought that was a pretty good lesson.