Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas pictures

Here's a family pic from Christmas this year. Krista has more pictures up at her blog, and I'm sure there are more to come!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What Christmas Means to Me

Tonight, after all the gift-opening and several wonderful meals and after the sledding on Mt. Hood and the great time with family and the hot chocolate on the way home, I embarked on the elusive holiday ritual, "See if there's a grocery store open before dinner."

Checking out of the one open grocery store, I had a brief conversation with Phil, my checker. Working on Christmas didn't bother him. In fact, he had special plans tonight involving a party with an open bar and a designated driver taking him to and from the party. Which, Phil explained, meant he could get as drunk as he wanted. I realize that you may be picturing a college-aged guy getting ready for a big bash with his buddies, but Phil is a man in his mid-forties, bald, thin and with a voice full of false bravado and eyes bulging with pain. He was tired, and his fatigue didn't come from being a checker at Safeway, or from another lousy Christmas, but from the fact that he remains in this world, the burden that is breathing.

For Phil, Christmas means a night with a momentary respite from pain, a night when he can get hammered and feel nothing, or maybe even feel good for a few hours.

I think there are moments where I, too, see Christmas as one more day where I am free to pursue that elusive personal happiness. Free to pursue it, but no guarantee of catching it. It's like chasing after the wind.

But in the end what I really want is not more toys and gifts and not even, really, a break in work, or a birthday celebration for God.

I want the pain to go away.

Not that I have a pained life. I suppose in all of history it would be difficult to find a life as priveleged as mine. I have a great family, all our physical needs are met, I have enormous freedoms that people in previous centuries (or even in this century) would find inconceivable. And yet, the world is breaking all to pieces. I have peace. But the world does not.

And in that sense, I think I want the same thing from Christmas that Phil does. Phil, of course, does not understand the significance of his longings, or so it seems to me. He certainly doesn't have a solution with any long term chance of actually solving anything.

But the wonderful thing about Christmas is that we celebrate together this clear, dramatic motion from God to say, "I am putting everything right." The curse which we earned in the Garden--death, painful toil, complications in the relationship between men and women, terrifying pain in childbirth--He is taking that away, just as He promised. He would send Eve's offspring, he said, to bring us back home, to take us past the flaming sword and into his presence to eat from the tree of life again.

Throughout human history there had been shining moments to remind us of his promise, to assure us that he hadn't forgotten his word, that his nature had not changed, that he was working. But at Christmas he changed everything. Prophecies started making sense... and coming true. Angels appeared to commoners. A virgin conceived, carried the child and gave birth to God himself, come to show us that he cared, come to usher in his own kingdom.

Instead of a shining glimpse he gave us a burning star, and a story with such power and omens so amazing that people still discuss them thousands of years later. More was to come, miracles and teachings of clearly divine origin and, of course, the first fruit of the broken curse... a man who returned to life, never to die again.

Still, the promise is not fulfilled yet, not from our point of view. Christ must return as king on a great white horse and turn all the wrongs of this world right, he must bring justice and eliminate poverty, bring life to the dying and health to the sick.

Now those of us who follow him are spokespeople of the promise. We not only speak but live out his promises, or should. We feed the orphans, care for the widows, speak the words of life to the dying. Or at least that's what we should be doing.

Christmas is a celebration. It is the turning point of humanity, when God revealed himself in an unprecedented way, and walked among us for the first time since the Garden of Eden. This is what Christmas means to me: that for people like me and Phil, people like you, people like my family, my pastor, the homeless guy on the street, for war refugees and soldiers, for despots and kings and benevolent dictators, for shepherds and farmers and postal workers and machinists and grocery clerks, that for all of us, each and every one, there is a reason to hope and a promise of impending peace.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

He Is Legend

Who wouldn't like a movie about an apocalyptic destruction of human society where only one man is left to fight a horde of light-shunning zombie-vampire thingees? Um. Well. Okay, I can think of some potential pitfalls to making a movie like that. But it's either going to be great or unintentionally funny, right?

Tonight my Dad, Krista's Dad and I packed up into the van and went to see I Am Legend. Krista categorically assured me months ago that she wouldn't be joining me for a screening, which made me a little nervous. Reviews did not calm my fears. But I liked the original novel, I liked the strange but wonderful "Omega Man"... so I entered the theatre with trepidation.

And then... then... it was great. I really enjoyed it. For what it is, I mean, which is a thriller/horror film about the end of the world. The scenes of the destroyed NYC were great, the tension built nicely (in fact I won't need my nightly adrenaline shot tonight). Will Smith acted well, and the script neatly played out the effect of the main character being alone for the last three years.

As a pure popcorn movie I don't think there's anything in the theatre right now that can beat it. Others have said that they found parts of it boring, but I didn't experience that. As it progresses, the film explores themes of listening to God, redemption, transformation, becoming fully human, sacrifice, saviors and the viral power of love to "cure" human society, which gave it something to make it memorable once the lights came up.

I would happily give it a full recommendation if I didn't know that some of you would have nightmares for the rest of your life, wake up in the middle of the night screaming, "MIKALATOS! CURSE YOU AND YOUR MOVIE REVIEWS! AND A CURSE ALSO ON MUTATED ZOMBIE VAMPIRE THINGEES!" To be honest, I just can't abide to have any more curses on my head. So let me say this: if you can handle action films with some intense scenes, violence and blood, I think you'll like this film just fine. Otherwise STAY IN THE LIGHT! Don't enter dark buildings, especially movie theatres.

Rated PG-13
for "intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence," which is a silly way of saying it if you think about it. I mean, why all these descriptors of the violence? How many categories are we going to have? Fantasy violence? Mystery violence? Comic book violence? Why the genre categorization? Is it because most of the violence is perpetrated against barely human mutant critters? Remember, if there's one thing we've learned from the X-Men movies (and that's a big IF) it's that mutants are people, too.

Christmas With The Legend

Consider this an early Christmas gift from me to you. Merry Christmas!
Caution: this post contains sci-fi Christmas cheer.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

On The Fence

I sat enjoying a few moments alone at home today when an enormous Great Blue Heron flew in from Somewhere and perched itself on our back fence.

It stood there for a long time, regarding me through the window, its thin head turned sidewise. I ran for the camera and slid onto the floor of the living room to get a shot of it, but it flew away just as I prepared to press the button... the kids were ringing the doorbell and something about the sound sent it searching for a more peaceful perch.

The fact that only I had seen the heron made it seem almost magical, and intensely personal. I told the kids about it, and Z stood for a long time at our back door, willing it to return.

Medieval bestiaries were written in the belief that we can learn about God, Christ and morality from watching the natural world, and animals specifically (i.e. "Look to the ant, thou sluggard..."). The heron teaches us to wait patiently for understanding from the scriptures rather than running after false teachings and doctrines, just as the heron waits patiently in the water for sustenance to come to it rather than chasing here and there after its prey.

The heron also flies above the rain clouds to avoid storms, teaching us that we must not allow ourselves, in the midst of life's storms, to become wrapped up in concerns about thunder and lightning, rains and floods, but must remember that above the clouds there is a place of peace, a place of sunshine and cool skies and that this is our ultimate destination, and when the clouds dissipate we will see it more clearly.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our 800th Post: In Which Masterpiece Theatre Answers Your Questions

In honor of the 800th post here at BHR, we are proud to present "Masterpiece Theatre Answers Your Questions," our fourth video podcast, brought to you by the fine people at the GNW winter conference: Masterpiece.

My good friend Brad Pitt agreed to make a cameo in honor of this being our 800th post.

The sock puppoet, however, has gotten too big for his stitches, saying "I'm famous now and there's no reason for me to make an appearance on your tiny little blog, you tiny little man." I washed his mouth out with detergent.

We Three Kings of Orient Are... Minty Fresh!

Certainly this story comes from keeping our kids in Sunday School every week. Our daughter A reminded her big sister of the symbolism of candy canes this week:

“Remember that if you hold a candy cane upside down, that’s the letter ‘J’ to remind you of Jesus. And if you hold it the other way, it’s a staff for the wise men!”

Just another warm body

As we walked out of the store today, my daughter A huddled her skinny little frame up against me.

A: You're warm.

She paused for a moment, as if considering this fact.

A: I love you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Z's letter to Santa

"Dear Santa,

How are you? I have been good. The one thing I want is a toy reindeer. How are the reindeer? How is the cooking going? I hope it's going well. How is Rudolph? I hope he is doing good. How is Donner? I hope he is doing good.

Love, Z."

Me: That's a great letter. And you only asked Santa for one thing.

Z: Well, I didn't want to be greedy.

Z on watermelon cutting technique

I was cutting up a watermelon tonight (yes, I know I shouldn't be able to get watermelon right now... my parents miraculously appeared with it) and the children watched with rapt attention.

Z: Dad, you have to peel the sticker off that piece!

Me: Why? No one eats the rind, anyway.

Z: Bamboo does.

Me: Who's Bamboo?

Z: He's my pet zebra.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Free Music from Autumn Film

My buddies the Autumn Film are giving away a free electronic copy of their EP "So Loved."

You can download it here.

Obey me and go take care of this right now. Go on, move it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Praise Lyrics from My Daughter

My daughter "A" often bursts into spontaneous song. Today she sat with her feet in the windowsill singing made up Christmas songs. She had been doing this for about ten minutes when I tuned in and managed to catch these lyrics:

He didn’t marry
He didn’t marry, huh-uh!
He didn’t marry
He will marry when he’s old enough
He is Christ the Lord!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Make money fast: $200 in four minutes

Masterpiece Theatre Presents: MONEY!

How to make it.

No socks were harmed in the making of this film.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Kickball Theory of Election

Krista missed a theology class while we were in Lithuania, so we caught part of it on television when we got back (a friend recorded it). The professor explained various theories of election.

This is part of soteriology, the study of how exactly "salvation" works, and what that means. "Election" studies how exactly people become Christians (i.e. how does God choose them). The questions get a little nit-picky. When does grace enter in? Are all people given grace to respond to God or only the "elect"? Does God elect everyone? Certain people? Certain groups? If he elects you to go to Heaven can you say "no thanks"? Does God want everyone to be saved? Does God choose some people to go to Hell or does he just not choose them to go to Heaven? Do we have a choice in all this?

All of the theories have pretty fancy names and some of them have complicated arguments to explain their point of view. Some of them are named for Dead Guys who wouldn't necessarily agree with all the points of their own theories anymore now that they've been parsed, explained and debated.

That night I had a dream. A voice said, "This is the Kickball Theory of Election." That's weird, I thought. What does that mean?

Then about twenty kids lined up against a wall near a baseball diamond. God walked down the line and said, "Mike, Susie, Jan, Frank, Sam, you're all on my team." There didn't appear to be a captain for the other team. I wondered if Satan would get a chance to pick a team or something. I did notice that, unlike the playground, God didn't take turns while picking his teammates, he just called them all out at once.

Then the theologians came up. They were all wearing long white coats, like scientists. They looked carefully at "the opposing team" and then at the "elect team."

Theologian #1: Why did he choose Mike? He's a terrible kickball player.

Theologian #2: It just doesn't make any sense.

Theologian #1: Could they have refused to join his team?

Th #2: They appeared to be happy to be chosen.

Th #1: Of course. Recall your own youth. One is always happy to be chosen for a team.

Th #2: I wish I knew why he didn't choose, for instance, Jim over there.

Th #1: Will God choose to be first up to kick, or will he choose the field? Who is he playing
against? Why are the teams uneven? How did he choose? Does everyone have to play? Why weren't we up against the wall? We're on his team, right?

Th #2: This entire metaphor makes no sense.

Th #1: It's a theory, not a metaphor.

I never did get to watch the game, either.


During story time tonight, Z chose a book from the library about asteroids and comets. The section we read specifically addressed the likelihood of the earth being pummeled and destroyed by an earth-crushing blow from a several-mile wide space rock.

Me (reading): "...some of these asteroids can be several miles wide."

A: Is that real?

Me: Yes.

Me: "Some of them have come much closer to the earth than the moon."

A: That's not real.

Me: Yes, it is.

A: I don't think so. Closer than the moon? Not real.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

video of me and Brad Pitt hanging out

Behold! In this latest video podcast, watch in amazement as I visit several famous people and ask them questions. Watch as I chastise Brad Pitt! Marvel as I travel to the far flung future! You will laugh. You will cry. You will wish there was a way to send money, but there just isn't.

In the non-edited version I also talked to a talking cat. Ha ha ha!

In case you are wondering, this is all because I am one of two MCs at our upcoming winter conference here in Portland, Oregon.

The Cure for Pain

I downloaded Jon Foreman's "Fall" EP this morning, and listened to it while I cleaned the house. It's a tasty album, and I look forward to giving it a more thorough listening. On the first run, though, I particularly enjoyed the song called "The Cure for Pain".

The songs are softer and perhaps more personal than the regular Switchfoot songs. It reminded me, actually, of watching the "Switchfoot Unplugged" concert this summer in Colorado.

Here's a copy of the lyrics to "The Cure for Pain" from Jon's site:

You can buy your own copy here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Z's prayer list

The other week in Sunday School, Z made this list of things she would pray about and things which made her thankful:

1) My Prayer Reminders
no dreams
A Barbie for Christmas
a White Christmas
flowers in spring
my Grandpa to get better (his leg is hurt)
My sister to keep near by me

2) Lord, thank you for
the sun
my house
my dad
my mom
the earth
my grandpas and grandmas
my car
my toys
sunday school
my little sister

Tattoo of Death

The American fad of getting Chinese characters tattoos can be embarassing if you can read a few characters, like when someone thinks they have the character for "love" tattooed on their bicep, but they actually have the character for "water".

Tonight I saw a woman at the grocery store with two characters tattooed on her forearms. She was checking me out. By which I mean she was ringing up my groceries. Anyway, I was watching her arms and realized that on her left arm was the character for love and on the right the character for death.

I wondered if she knew what they meant. Here is the tricky part. I didn't want to say, "Hey, look, death is tattooed upon you!" What if she thought it was the character for happiness or contentment? That would be embarassing for her.

So I said, "Do you know what those characters mean?" And she did. Apparently she purposely tattooed death upon herself. "I can't read it," she said, "But the guy who tattooed me can." Sure he can, sweetheart, sure he can. Ai think she is being si-lly.

This got me to thinking, though, what a huge joke this must be to people who can actually read the characters. It's probably as funny as when I buy notebooks in China with little English slogans on them: "We and you bubble friends for always, hugs and love!"

Then I got to thinking: If I was a tattoo artist, whenever someone really drunk came in and wanted to get a tattoo of Chinese characters or kanji or things like that, I would tell them, "Oh, here is how you write 'love'" and then I would tattoo something else. I would tattoo on them the words "drunkard" or "Pity this poor child, she doesn't know what she's doing" or "foreigner." I would tattoo, "Made in God's Image." I would write "ma tai". I would label whatever body part they were tattooing with the appropriate Chinese word. I would write, "Made in China."

I guess I would probably have to move my shop every couple of years, though, because when people came in they might say that I had given them the wrong tattoo. I would have two retorts ready:

1) You were drunk! I know it says, "feng pi" but that's what you asked for.

2) Hey, who reads Chinese around here? You or me?

If that didn't work I could always run, or offer them a free tattoo of an eagle clutching some lightning and a flaming skull.

On an unrelated note, have you ever noticed how being jet-lagged makes you feel like your thoughts are more profound and worthwhile than usual? It makes you feel like you should write it all down, get it all out before the magic goes away. But then later you want to apologize to everyone for the strange and witless wanderings of your mind.

Also, if people asked for a tattoo of an alligator, I would secretly give them a crocodile.

Monday, December 03, 2007

How to make a video podcast

I made this video about how to make a video. It's the first one I've ever made, but I just felt like I was an expert right off the bat. Or else my hypocrisy knows no bounds, one or the other.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Frankfurt Airport Update

The Frankfurt airport is now smoke free! Now you can travel around the continent without smelling of smoke the whole time. Pass on the good news.

Krista adds: Now that there is no smoking in the airport, you can see across the hallways. There's no haze.


Here we are, safely at last in Rijeka, Croatia.

Our first impression is that the people are very friendly. Even the woman looking at our passports gave us a big smile and said, "WELCOME TO CROATIA!" Kristi and Allison met us at the airport and we had a fun ride home through the fog.

The traffic signs had "smiley" and "frowny" faces on them, which I enjoyed. Allison said they're a sort of vague threat... if you help us and do what we say as we do construction on the roads all will go well and everyone will be happy. But if not... well, there will be frowns.

We're enjoying ourselves, staying with the Kneeshaws.

Tonight we ate at Delfino's. I had a lasagna which reminded me of the lasagna in East Asia at the Blue Marlin. Krista had a pizza.

That's enough of an update for now, I think. Jet lag prevents clarity of thought! :)