Wednesday, January 30, 2008
How do people live with this?
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I think the highlight of the week for me, other than hanging out with all the friends I've made over the last ten years, is going to be the morning sessions brought by Miroslav Volf. His Exclusion and Embrace still haunts my thinking, after reading it 5 years ago for a seminary class.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
"How many do you want?" the guy asked.
"How many can we have?" we asked.
"10?" the guy suggested.
Turns out they've been finding it difficult to give these tickets away. Which probably says more about interest in the local NBA franchise than it does about interest in Kia automobiles. But, the Kia people realize it doesn't look good to have lots of empty seats where they had promised fans, so they were desperate to give these away to willing suckers. (Note to Kia - I have the feeling that nobody would really notice if your seats were empty. From what I hear, Key Arena is pretty empty these days, anyway.) So, we took 10 tickets to this Sunday's game against the Sacramento Kings.
If you've been paying attention, these are interesting times for the Sonics. Their Oklahoma-based ownership has been finagling to move them to Oklahoma-City. This is supposedly because the locals refuse to fund a $500 million dollar arena in which a bunch of rich guys can get richer. Many suspect, however, that said owners are using the arena as a ruse; that they bought the team to move them to Oklahoma City in the first place, thus taking Seattle's team in order to cement their status as heroes in Dustbowl Land.
In addition, the team is tanking this year. Just lost their franchise-record 12th game in a row last night. All reports are that they are just plain pathetic.
So there's this perfect storm brewing. Ownership wants to move, the locals refuse to pay for a new arena, the Seahawks have never been so popular, and the Mariners are a close #2. Interest in the Sonics is flagging quickly. And across the board, the NBA model appears to be broken. Most teams are losing money, viewership is down, even the ratings for the NBA Finals are plummeting year after year. Yet, many locals are angry that the NBA would allow this sort of thing to happen - new owner destroys team and city legacy in order to pad his own pockets. It's all this big, ugly mess.
But, we got free tickets, so why not? Olivia may never get to see professional basketball in Seattle again, so we'll go for it. Plus, it will be a good way to spend an evening with family and a few friends, and just maybe, perhaps, get to see some good basketball. They have to break that string sometime, right? And if Kevin Durant ever becomes a superstar, we can say we saw him his rookie year.
Oh, but this was the other thing. We went online to see what our tickets would cost. We're in the "end zone," behind the basket. About 21 rows back. Not the nosebleed, but certainly not prime seats (what do you expect for free?). And these tickets go for $90 a piece, plus a $9 service charge.
Are you kidding me? That's $1000 worth of tickets we got.
I'm not sure whether I should feel lucky that we got $1000 worth of tickets for free, or outraged that anybody would charge (or pay) that much for tickets to a Sonics' game. How does anybody afford these things on a regular basis? How does a working-class family scrape up enough to pay hundreds of dollars for a 2-hour game?
No wonder the NBA is broken.
I think, after this, we're switching to minor league baseball.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I find that questions like this are too broad to create much conversation on the subject. You can't find any verse or passage that speaks directly to the topic, so unless you define some issues, there's not much to discuss/debate. To that end, let me propose three smaller issues that might point us toward an answer to the bigger question.
1. Is there a justice issue involved? Is there an injustice being perpetrated that unions might be able to stand up against? In the 20s and 30s, this was the case. Sweat shops, virtual slave labor, paying a pittance for backbreaking work, fatcat corporate owners getting wealthy on the backs of the poor, uneducated, illiterate, immigrant population. Unions stood up for the rights of those who suffered greatly, and brought about great reforms for the working masses (sadly, many churches fought against the unions in the misguided belief that God had ordained capitalism, and unions seemed inherently socialist). So, are unions today seeking after justice and fair treatment? Or are they after vain power, liberal politics, or excessive monetary gain? wrt the hollywood strike, are the studios being unjust toward the writers (note: unfair and unjust are not the same thing)? Is the writer's union striving after justice for its constituents?
2. Is it even fair to talk about injustice toward writers, when so many others are truly suffering? How does the suffering of Hollywood writers compare to the suffering of the immigrant mother working as a hotel maid at the Travel-lodge? Is it right for somebody who's making a livable wage in Los Angeles to demand more, even strike for more, when a lot of people are struggling to survive on minimum wage or worse? How does God feel about writers demanding more, when the rest of the world is surviving on a couple cents per day at best? Does any American Middle-class worker have the right to complain, when all over the world people are still in slavery, in deathly conditions working in Chinese coal mines or African diamond mines, when families are selling their daughters into prostitution just so they can eat?
3. Considering the garbage that Hollywood continuously spews forth, are any of these the right questions to be asking? In other words, "do unions line up biblically" may be a non-issue, when the writers have proven that they have no intention of "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with their God." Considering the incessant glorification of violence, the normalization of aberrant sexuality, the objectification of women, the fame and glory given to every kind of sin, the commercialization of everything decent, the unhealthy attention paid to Paris and Jessica and all the American Idols, and considering the mockery of Christianity and God's ideals (love, justice, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, etc.), is the strike really an issue? Or is the entertainment system so broken, so diabolical, so ungodly, so anti-christian, that God couldn't care less about whether or not they have a union? Perhaps his only desire is that they learn what it means to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
We took the ferry over to Seattle yesterday morning, so Olivia and I could meet my dad and go together to the Model Railroad Show at the Pacific Science Center. The ferry ride would have been enough, with a view up toward Mt. Baker, and Mt. Rainier holding court to the south, the waves blowing liquid spray over the bow of the boat. The model railroad show was certainly a lot of fun - Olivia especially noticed the preponderance of Thomas the Tank Engine models - and the MLK Jr. festivities in the Center House, complete with Gospel Choir, all made for an exciting afternoon.
There's a park on Queen Anne Hill. If you've never been there, I'm certain you know about it anyway. Because 1/2 of all postcard shots of Seattle are taken from this location.
Recognize it? Go ahead, google "Seattle" and click on images. You'll find this picture, and many variations on it. It may be Seattle's most famous viewpoint.
Unbeknownst to a lot of people, though, they recently installed a marvelous children's play area at the park that lies directly below this park. Our kids were a little wired and needing to burn some energy off, so we took them to that play area, letting them slide and climb and swing to their heart's content.
Later we wandered back upup, and noticed that in addition to the news crew, there were many photographers setting up their tripods, staking out prime viewing locations. It was becoming quite a crowd.
It took me a bit to finally understand what was happening. They were all setting up to watch the sunset over Puget Sound, with the light of the setting sun reflecting off of downtown and Mt. Rainier.
So I went back down, collected the girls, and climbed back up again, so we could all enjoy this rare Seattle display of sunshine.
You know those scenes you see on tv, when a star is walking down the red carpet, or shows up at a night club - the oohing and aahing, the click-click-click of camera lenses?
It was like that. We all watched to the East until the last sliver of the sun disappeared behind the Olympics, and suddenly cameras came alive, people stirred in excitement and wonder, couples stood to have their pictures taken with the city as their background, a hundred professional and amateur photographers got off shot after shot, painters feverishly worked their brushes and water colors. . .the city lit up in gold flake - the sun glinting off the high-rise windows - while Mt. Rainier chortled in purple majesty.
All of this for nature, for beauty, for mountains and snow and setting sun. It was an instant community, gathered for the sole purpose of enjoying the most impressive lighting display you will ever see. "The Heavens Declare the Glory of God, the Skies proclaim the works of his fingers."
It was wonderful and magical and heart-warming to be a part of. I think Heaven may be just a little bit like that. And I was gladdened to see that people still care about this world in which we live.
It was, as I said, a day to make the rest of the world jealous. And a day to remember for many, many days to come.
Oh, and then - we stopped and ate El Salvadorian food for dinner on the way home. So make it simply the most perfect day ever.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Just when I've successfully spent most of my life avoiding doing what all the popular people are doing, the AKC had to go name Yorkshire Terriers the 2nd-most popular dog breed in America. Or, maybe I could just believe we're trend-setters. After all, it's only after we got Pepe that these dogs are now so popular, right? At least that's what I'll keep telling myself.
Sweet Land is really three stories in one. It tells the story of Inge, a mail-order bride, sent to marry Olaf, a young Norwegian farmer. She arrives in rural Minnesota at the same time that WW1 is coming to a close. It thus brings great consternation to the small community to discover that Inge is, in fact, not Norwegian, but German. And poor Inge discovers quickly that this is a community given to prejudice toward outsiders, especially Germans.
However, this tale is told through the lens of an older Inge, who is sharing her life story with her grandson Lars on the night that Olaf has passed away forty years after her arrival.
And that tale is told through the lens of Lars' own memory when he arrives on the family farm upon the death of Inge, 20 years after the death of Olaf. Thus you have all three stories weaving in and out of each other, creating a tapestry of memory and family heritage. And you see how the decisions and relationships of the past carry forward into the present day.
The essence of this tale is Inge's fierce determination to make her new life a success, while finding herself unable to communicate, unable to connect, shunned by the church, the government, and all but a few of the locals. We meet the most interesting, conniving, gentle and evil people along the way - moneygrubbing bank lenders, simple families who bathe together, anti-government activists, and simple folks who believe in simple faith whatever they are told (dancing is bad, coffee should be weak, Germans are all vicious spies).
And we see people who find the courage to stand up for what they believe in, we find pastors who recognize their faults, we find that grace, love, and mercy truly do overcome a multitude of sins. We find that family and community can overcome just about anything.
As to a recommendation, I would say that this is in my top-5 movies of the decade. It's the kind of movie that can change you. It is completely lacking in car chases, bomb explosions, gunfights, and overt sexuality, yet it's not an "innocent" film, as you see real people with all their real faults, all trying to make the best of this life. I told Karina that I wished we still had our movie-watching club together, as this is the kind of film we would use - it leaves plenty of room for discussions on faith, on religion, on prejudice, on the plight of the farmer against the international bank, on community, on family and friendship, on paranoia against the stranger, on hospitality. It's the kind of movie every thinking person ought to see, enjoy, and ingest.
Go rent it. You won't be disappointed.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
It's a TNIV translation of the Bible, with a number of features that make it different from most other Bibles:
- The chapter and verse numbers are removed from the text, so it reads with the original flow
- There are no notes, cross-references, or other features added to the pages - just the basic text
- Books that "should" go together actually do. For instance, Luke and Acts are placed next to each other, and John is placed at the end along with Revelation and the Epistles from John.
Plus it's only $8.99
Monday, January 14, 2008
So we get used to living without traffic lights, we get used to going where we are going without stopping too much.
And I never really realized the difference until today, when we had to get from Silverdale to Bremerton and we took surface streets rather than the highway. And we sat at light, after light, after light, after light (note to Bremertonian leadership: Is it all that difficult to synchronize your traffic lights?) after light, after light, after light.
But I'm wondering which way this goes. Is it that we've gotten too used to not having lights, and thus are just sourpusses for being bothered when we do have to wait at them, or is it that everybody else has gotten so used to them that they have forgotten to be irritated at sitting still all day, when they could be doing something so much better?
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
Former Washington Governor Booth Gardner has started the push to make physician-assisted suicide legal here in the state of Washington. The liberal bent of this state would seem to imply easy passage of such a bill. Yet this morning, the (usually) left-leaning Seattle P-I contained a good rebuttal, calling it a "last selfish act." I'm sure it's bringing out the shouters and ranters, but I found that Connelly got to the heart of it, hitting the proverbial nail on the head. It's as much about the community as it is the individual.
We have a new restaurant out our way. El Sombrero opened up a couple weeks ago in Key Center. As you may have guessed by the name, it features Mexican food, something about which the Whitmarsh family knows more than a little. I've been there twice this week - once, with Karina to do a photo shoot for the KP News, and for lunch yesterday with Joseph. And I recommend it highly. Glad to have another option for dining out, as it saves the trip into Gig Harbor or Tacoma.
Ron and Cathlee are suggesting I go to Austin in April for the Transforming Culture Conference. I must say I am tempted. The theme revolves around worship, art, culture, pastors, and ministry. Plus, they promise me I could get up close and personal with Luci Shaw.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
- seats 6 or more
- gets great gas mileage and (hence) is good for the environment
- is capable of towing a pop-up trailer
- costs less than a year of college
Personally, I didn't think such a vehicle existed. Somehow the first and third items always seem to negate the second and fourth. So I didn't really expect to get what I wanted.
Until, after hours of internet searching, we discovered this:
It's a Kia Rondo. Seats 7. Gets around 27 mpg. Costs much less than a Honda or Toyota or Nissan or Ford or Chrysler or just about anything else (unless you count the new $2500 car they just unveiled in India, but that one didn't quite fit our needs). And would tow a small pop-up, if need be. And the warranty can't be beat - 10 year, 10,000 miles.
So say hello to our new car (note: this picture is representative of the Kia Rondo, and does not show the actual car that we purchased, as we haven't taken it to the desert yet).
Fun Story related to the new car
We took one daughter and the niece and nephew when we went car shopping on Monday. After we bought the car, I drove the Kia home with the 3 kids. About 5 miles north of home (Key Center, for the locals), one of the three kids decided they were carsick and suddenly puked. The car had less than 50 miles on it, and I had a kid barfing all over the back.
Does it make me a horrible dad and uncle if I turned around and was relieved to find they had only thrown up on themselves and their car seat, and not on the new car?
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
(Editor's note: This article is intended as satire. The story is offered in jest only. For the most part, everything it conveys is a complete fabrication.)
Johann Johannsen, Special reporter to The Mouse
At first, it seemed like a typical worship service. The morning started with a warm greeting offered by an energetic young man, and then gave way to a rousing time of congregational singing. The offering was taken, somebody prayed.
But that’s where it became anything but typical. “Who wants to preach this morning?” asked Gene Graddon, Church Chairperson. Silence followed, with eyes shifting downward, feet nervously scuffling the floor. “Come on, it’s not that hard. Last week Robert Lee did an excellent job. Who wants a chance today?”
Finally, Shane Hostetler, long-time member of the church and father of five, stood up and announced that he’d have a go at it. Everyone applauded.
“Do you have anything by Moody?” Hostetler asked. “I’ve always enjoyed his style. Plus he didn’t use too many big words.”
And so began one more week of
It all began in December, 2007, after the church’s Christmas dinner. One of the highlights that night was Christmas Carol Karaoke. A few days later, as the Men’s Fellowship gathered for breakfast they talked about what they’d experienced
“Well, we were all talking about our favorite radio preachers,” said Harrold Forch, leader of the Men’s Fellowship. “And most of us agreed that Pastor Dan’s sermons just weren’t up to snuff. It seemed such a waste, all these good sermons being written and preached, and we never get to hear any of them.”
Dennis Wixon agreed. “I’m a big fan of Charles Finney. I’ve read all his sermons. And I thought, ‘why shouldn’t those sermons be heard again, rather than Pastor Dan having to keep coming up with new ones?’”
That’s when they hit upon the idea for Sermon Karaoke®. “It seemed like a natural,” said Forch. “Anybody who could read could preach the sermon. You wouldn’t need to prepare or anything. Plus this way we don’t have to pay a preacher. There’s a lot of good stuff out there for free – C.S. Lewis, Jonathon Edwards; even modern preachers, like Billy Graham.”
None of the men knew enough about technology to create a Sermon Karaoke machine, so they contacted church member Wes Lathan, who also happens to work for Microsoft. Lathan loved the idea. “It didn’t seem like that big a challenge,” remembers Lathan. He recruited Joseph Lindhartsen, another church member who works with computers, to help out. “With my programming expertise, and Joseph’s technical background, it only took a couple weeks to get a prototype up and running.”
The only piece left was creating a sermon database, but that wasn’t a problem for these electronic wizards. “We created a really user-friendly interface,” said Lindhartsen. “Basically, you find sermons online, copy them into a word processor, then enter that into the Karaoke program, and bingo! The sermon is in and ready to be preached.”
In order to fill out the sermon list, the men hired two students in the church, Kate McCourt and Sara Wilson, to download and enter as many sermons into the machine as they could find. Within three months, they had over 6,000 sermons installed, covering most of the popular sermon topics as well as every scripture in the Bible. “Except Leviticus 17,” quipped
Finally, the men had a working model ready to present to the Church Board. “It was a slam-dunk,” said Wixon. “Once we explained that we wouldn’t have to pay a preacher any more, they jumped at this opportunity. I mean, think of the financial savings every year.”
Three weeks later, Pastor Whitmarsh’s office was empty, and the Sermon Karoake® system debuted. “Our first sermon was a real doozy,” said Marci Fisher, Chair of the Worship Committee. “Elaine Forch chose Luther’s sermon on Romans 2. Wow, was that powerful. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And to think she had never preached before. It was an anointed moment.”
And Version 2.0 will be even better, promises Lathan. “We’re going to put up two different reading screens, so the preacher can move from one side of the stage to the other. And we’re working on a Powerpoint ™ module. Many of the more modern sermons – think Bill Hybells and Rick Warren – use Powerpoint ™ extensively. With Sermon Karoake ® 2.0, the Powerpoint™ slides will be presented right along with the sermon.”
It appears the only person opposed to this technological innovation was Pastor Whitmarsh. When tracked down at his new job at Dick’s Drive-In, Whitmarsh criticized the church’s decision. “It takes hard work to bring God’s Word to bear in any given situation. I really worry that people are taking preaching too lightly. Sure, church attendance has tripled since they began this, but numbers aren’t everything.”
Still, the Church thinks they have hit on something big. Plans are under way to market Sermon Karaoke® to other churches. “If this thing kicks off,” said Lathan, “I may be able to retire in a couple years. Plus the church could finally build that new building it’s been talking about. The potential revenue is mind-boggling.”
And beyond that? A few people are beginning to ask if the church still needs its worship team. “Why not do Worship Karaoke, as well?” asked Holly Lucas. “I would love to belt out some of my favorite Sandi Patti numbers for these people.”
Monday, January 07, 2008
Back in college, I penned a popular column with my friend Dave - we called it The Adventures of Dan and Dave. We had lots of fun - we basically made stuff up to comment on life around our school. We made up quotes. We fabricated adventuresome wanderings around Los Angeles. We lied about our friends. But everybody knew it was farce. Think Dave Barry. And we quickly became two of the more popular guys on campus. I actually experienced a couple of those moments when I'd be introduced as "the Dan of 'Dan and Dave,'" and the person I was meeting responded with "THE Dan and Dave! Wow! I love your stuff!" Call it my 15 minutes of fame.
So last month I put on my "humor" hat and penned the article for our newsletter, an article in which I find myself replaced at our church by a sermon karaoke machine. I'm gone, and every week the church folk preach famous sermons via the technology of Sermon Karaoke.
The reaction has been mostly positive. People have gotten a laugh. Even my own wife complimented me on the article.
Except for this.
A lady told me she's been called by a couple people, people who thought it was serious, people who are wondering "what's going on at that church?"
Another told me she's been approached by people who are concerned that they are "missing the deeper meaning" of the article.
And late last week, Doug received a phone call from a local man, wondering if we were looking for pulpit supply, now that our pastor has left.
Aaah, the biting edge of satire. Sometimes, if you're too good, people don't get what you're doing.
(as an aside, check the latest Christianity Today article about Lark News. It fits in well right about here)
So, if I haven't been clear by now: THE ARTICLE WAS A JOKE! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO MAKE YOU LAUGH! THAT IS ALL!
Sorry if you missed that in the original go-around.
And for all you non-Church Mouse-receivers, I just may post the original article tomorrow.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
End of 1st Quarter:
Methinks the Seahawks were pumped for this game.
8:58 2nd Quarter
Seattle O has slowed. Seattle D is completely dominating.
Still mostly about the Seattle Defense.
4:30 3rd Quarter.
Back to a One-Score game
14:53 4th Quarter
Just like that
12:38 4th Quarter
Winds, they are a changing
6:06 4th Quarter
Breathing easier after a huge pick return for TD
5:39 4th quarter
All but done?
Turn out the lights, the party's over. . .
0:27 4th Quarter
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Well, the fact that I was groggy and funky from this cold probably added to that affect.
At least I had From the Earth to the Moon (a present from sister Susan) to get me through the day.
But the NFL playoffs are here, and the Seahawks are playing this Saturday at 1:30, here in Seattle, against everybody's suddenly-favorite team, the Redskins. The Seahawks have become a beacon of excellence in the Seattle sports world - 4 straight division championships, 5 straight playoff appearances, the 2005 Super Bowl run.
And yet I've learned over the years what a fickle mistress sports can be. She pulls you in and entices you with words of passion and excitement, then dashes your hopes to the ground beneath a flurry of bad calls and stupid mistakes. Maybe it's true everywhere; it certainly seems true here in Seattle. Way back when, the Sonics became the first #1 seed to lose in the first round to an 8 seed. The M's in 2001 had the best record ever seen in baseball, only to choke and wither away in the ALCS. The UW Huskies are currently mired in the biggest mud pit they've ever found themselves in. And the Seahawks, for all their swagger and talent, still find ways to lose to teams of no account - think the Cardinals and the Saints. Not to mention that one game where they did show up with all the talent and desire to win, only to have it taken away from them by the *ahem* officiating crew.
So some time ago I forced myself to stop caring so much. To be interested, yes. Intrigued? Of course. To cheer for the hometown team? Absolutely. To stay glued to the radio this coming Saturday? You bet. And I expect Seattle to win. They have the talent, the home-field advantage, the recent playoff history, and should handle the Redskins quite comfortably.
But, after all, this is Seattle, and the gods of Sport do not shine favorably very often our way. So my hopes aren't exactly all that high. And should we lose? Don't come taunting me, because I'll just say "Yep. You're right. That's sports for ya."