Happy New Year! Thanks for reading, you readers out there. May 2008 be blessed for you.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
My dad calls the local paper the "Daily Disappointment". Of course, he's been calling every newspaper in the places he's lived that for as long as I can remember. Anyway, the paper here works hard to live up to the name. Here's a trivial but representative recent example:
I don't read the paper (and this and this are as good of an explanation as any), and I am on a news sabbatical anyway. Les reads it mostly for the local gossip - weddings, engagements, birth announcements, obituaries (as a long-time long-term care nurse, she usually exclaims a sad, "Oh, I used to take care of him/her!" at least two times a week) and the police reports. But even those are done in a drab, matter of fact style.
Instead, I yearn for something like the Arcata police logs, h.t. Aaron (make sure to click through on the [more] links to get each week's full chewy goodness). This is reporting with humor and style. Prepare to waste many an hour reading through them if you've never been there before. I bought two sets of both of their books for my Dad and father-in-law for Christmas and can't wait for one of them to finish so I can borrow them. I go and read the logs online once every week or two and am usually belly laughing and reciting every other entry out loud to Les, much to her annoyance (the joys of a newly shared office). To get your appetite whetted and lead you to visiting the site, here's a sampling from this week's entries (but go read them all!):
• Friday, November 30 1:08 a.m. Perhaps emboldened by his “puffy” jacket, a male-type strode up G Street, hitting things. The puffed-up pummeler’s paltry pursuit promptly petered out.
7:54 a.m. A loose girl-beagle in a turquoise kerchief was captured near the library and taken to the animal shelter in McKinleyville for a date with a fate uncertain.
2:21 p.m. The popular grassy mini-mesa on the north side of Seventh Street east of the freeway attracted more than the usual one or two languid lingerers. About 15 socialites and their beverages were officially greeted.
• Saturday, December 1 12:52 a.m. The Zehndner Avenue neighborhood reverse-enjoyed a shrieky argument. The participants had glugged buzz-bevs, and pledged to inhabit separate rooms for the evening.
10:26 a.m. A dreadlocked man attacked a lamp post on the Plaza with his mighty fists, punching it while yelling and, in the memorable description of a witness, “fighting amongst himself.”
8:39 p.m. It was the perfect storm of stupid on Monterey Drive, where a man reputed to become aggressive when drinking was drinking, bleeding from the hand and even had “poofy hair.” While you can’t arrest someone for being a dick, the public drunkenness and probation violation charges are more or less the same thing, really.
Does your local paper live up to that? Or is it just another Daily Disappointment?
Saturday, December 29, 2007
On a whim I joined Goodreads yesterday, a social networking site centered around the books you have read, are reading or will be reading. It's pretty easy to populate your "bookshelf" - you just type in author names (this search seems quickest), book titles or even ISBNs and then simply by rating books in the resulting list it adds them to your "read" bookshelf. Or you can click the "add to my books" button and put it on a different shelf (like "to-read"). You can create any number of bookshelves you want, write reviews of books (I haven't yet, but I may use that feature in the future) and even note books you have for sale or trade.
When I was adding books I went by pretty strict criteria. For one, I only added books that I have read cover to cover - no counting any I picked up and dropped for lack of interest (maybe I should and rate them one star :-). I didn't put up reference books, textbooks or how-to texts, only those books that I've read for pleasure or personal learning. I still haven't put up every book that meets those standard yet with just an hour of searching I am well over 200 books with lots more I could add.
If you like books check it out - and if you join send me an invite on the site. It would be cool to see what books we have that overlap.
Friday, December 28, 2007
I am on the downhill side of a 12 day vacation - I will return to work on the 2nd. It's been notable because as a "stay at home" vacation I've actually cut myself some slack and set very few goals for myself in terms of things that "have to get done". I've had some projects, sure, and will probably have a few more before I go back to work, but for the most part I have just been hanging out, relaxing, resting, being lazy. It has felt good. And it helped me to finally get in the Christmas spirit in time. I had written about not feeling ready, but getting all the things that "had" to get done accomplished (as if Christmas wouldn't happen without me) and then being on vacation and having some days before the holidays to relax helped.
Every so often it helps to stop using the "doing" verbs and just accept the "being" ones.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
|Air Force - $2,250.00||Angels - $2,250.00|
|Army - $2,250.00||Coast Guard - $2,250.00|
|Fairway to Heaven - $2,250.00||Forgotten No More - $2,250.00|
|Going Home, Holy Cross - $2,250.00||Heart of America - $2,250.00|
|Last Supper - $2,250.00||Marine Corps - $2,250.00|
|Memories of the Hunt - $2,250.00||Monet Water Lillies - $2,250.00|
|Monet's Garden - $2,250.00||Mountain Lake - $2,250.00|
|Navy - $2,250.00||Our Lady of Guadalupe - $2,250.00|
|Spirit of Cuba, Virgen de la Caridad - $2,250.00||Texas A&M - $2,250.00|
|The Beach - $2,250.00||The Firefighter - $2,250.00|
|The Garden - $2,250.00||The Last Hole - $2,250.00|
|The Lighthouse - $2,250.00||The Race Is Over - $2,250.00|
|The Rosary - $2,250.00||Tulips - $2,250.00|
|University of Kentucky - $2,250.00||The Lord's Supper - $2,250.00|
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Today's best of series is from Greg Laughery. I have written about Greg before and how his posts often end up counting as a large part of my devotional reading (although so many of the blogs I read count as that). His posts are never easy. They are densely written and need to be parsed and probed and pondered. He asks hard questions. He gives tough answers. If he's not in your reader, put him there now.
The Exodus Church - Part 2
The Shroud of Secrecy
Spiritual Rhythms of Life for Today (part of an ongoing series)
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
The first round of Christmas present opening was today - not by choice, but because Les has to work tomorrow (the joys of being a nurse).
The second round will be tomorrow at Les's folks with the traditional big family gathering, albeit this is the second year in a row sans Les herself - sigh. The third round will be at my folks Wednesday morning, which is Boxing Day - not that that means anything to us folks in the States. My parents are nice and flexible and since I'm an only child there aren't any other scheduling conflicts.
So, how 'bout you? How many "Christmases" does your family celebrate? More than one to placate in-laws or work schedules? Are you a Christmas or Christmas Eve gift opening family? And more importantly, have you ever had Chinese food on Christmas?
It's almost here! In fact, as I type this, it is Christmas in Australia. Merry Christmas!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I've written before about my 21 (almost 22) year old daughter coming to live with us. My main goal is to get her to self-sufficient adulthood, which is going to be a long road because she was raised by her late mother in a way that pretty much arrested her emotional development at about age 14 (if that). So I am going slowly and for the last few months the only requirement for her living here has been that she either be employed or in school, and she's been employed, so all is well and good. There have been a few bumps along the way but nothing major, mostly of the packing a sixth rat into a five rat cage type with everyone having to adjust to each other.
But last night she exhibited some breathtaking selfish insensitivity. I won't go into the details, but from the point in late afternoon when it started I went from mild irritation to being really angry by the (late) end of the night. I have not said anything to her about it yet. For one, she won't be up for quite a while still. And in the mean time I am struggling on how to say what needs to be said with patience and love.
Here's the point of the prodigal story the Bible doesn't go into - you may be ecstatic when the lost child returns home and it's worth throwing a big party to celebrate that. But note this - there still comes the day after the party, and the week, and the month, and the year. And just because the wanderer came home doesn't mean that they came home changed. Oh, sure, in the parable the prodigal son has changed - he has seen the error of his ways and is prepared to accept a servant status in return for being allowed to come home. Yet his father welcomes him with open arms without question. This is grace. I understand that.
But in real life it usually isn't that clean. Even if the person has changed it's probably not complete yet. There are still ups and downs, backsliding and returns to old behaviors. I look back to my own wild years and see all that quite clearly - I did not suddenly become the perfect son overnight. While my direction was changed for the better there was still a lot of variation away from the mean including a couple of turns that were for a while completely in the opposite direction. It is rare to have something change your life overnight in such a way as to permanently change your behavior without relapse. Rarely do we walk our paths in a straight line.
All of the above will make it sound as if my daughter must be a junkie or a drunk or the town mattress, and she is not. Her issues are less outwardly dramatic and yet no less profound than those. And they have an affect on others, including the three children in this house. Because I want to help her I must make sure I don't repeat the same responses to her behaviors that her mother did since that just amplifies the problem. So I must be sure and speak from a place of loving patience. But I must speak because what happened last night cannot be repeated. So here I sit, searching for that place of loving patience. I know I left it around here somewhere. God, please help me find it soon.
Thanks for listening.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
While everyone is bemoaning the consumerist nature of Christmas let's remember that we all will be getting more gifts in just a few days. That means that some other things in the house may have to go just to make space. For example, in our house the garage is for parking first and storage second. It is a creedal statement in my personal belief system that cars get parked in the garage and if there's too much stuff getting stored there to park the cars, then the stuff has to go, not the cars. I know this is heretical to many Americans, but that's how I am. Or maybe it's the new gifts that will have to go. "A deer head that sings when it detects motion? Ah, you really shouldn't have."
Well, don't feel stressed about what to do with stuff you don't want to just throw away, don't think the Salvation Army or Goodwill would take, and aren't motivated to have a garage sale over, especially in the dead of winter. There's a fabulous resource I've been using to get rid of unwanted "junk" in our house for over a year now called Freecycle. Freecycle is a collection of mailing lists, each aimed at a specific town or city (and for large metropolitan areas even specific sections of a city). When you join one of the lists you get emails (which can be configured to come in once-a-day "digest" mode so they don't flood your inbox) from people offering stuff or wanting stuff. If you have something you want to get rid of, you simply email the list with something like "Offer - singing deer head" in the subject line and a description in the email and within hours you will have all kinds of people who collect such things asking when they can come pick it up. Make your arrangements with the respondents as necessary and then hallelujah!, your junk has become their treasure, both you and they are happy, and your garage has parking space again.
The one and only real rule on Freecycle is they really mean the word "free" - whatever is being offered must be for free, period. You can stipulate any other conditions you want. For example, if you're giving away a box of stuff, you can require whoever picks it up has to take the whole box - they can't pick and choose from the contents. If they don't want all of it, they can turn around and Freecycle what they won't keep.
I don't use Freecycle to get more junk - I use it to get rid of mine. In the last year, I have been freed from having to store and organize:
- Obsolete computer equipment
- A computer case with motherboard
- Obsolete computer books (just today, in fact)
- A non-working washing machine
- The springs from a day bed
- A trundle bed and mattress
- A non-working floor lamp
- Two old, blown speakers
- A quarter of a roll of chicken wire
- Pants that no longer fit me
- Some old camping gear I had replaced with better
- A screen door (this was for my parents, who replaced theirs)
If there's one downside it is that it can sometimes take a bit to get the pick up scheduled, and sometimes someone flakes out and doesn't show, but then you can always just pick the second respondent (or third or fourth - you will almost always get multiple responses) and have them come and get it. And depending on the item you don't have to be home - just leave it outside somewhere they can find it and tell them that.
Freecycle is active in all 50 states, D.C., Guam, and 43 other countries besides the U.S. If you want to help steward our planet, the good step is limiting the amount of stuff you throw away. Freecycle can help. Don't just recycle - Freecycle!
Friday, December 21, 2007
This year I participated on the charitable donations committee at work, determining where my employer was going to send money for the year. We unanimously decided on five regional food banks that cover most of the state of Missouri (and our area of operations), which was the choice for the last two years as well. The organizations are all high quality, running on 3% of donations for administrative overhead. We also got the CEO to agree that these would be the organizations of choice moving forward. They are:
- Central Missouri Food Bank
- Harvesters (Kansas City and surrounding counties)
- Ozarks Food Harvest
- St. Louis Area Foodbank
- Second Harvest of Greater St. Joseph
I have volunteered at a mobile food pantry run by the Central Missouri Food Bank and they do good work. As part of a thank you letter to our company they sent the following story about one of their programs:
An elementary school teacher was giving out the Buddy Packs (backpacks filled with food that children take home for weekends or holiday periods) to the poorest children in her class. She was meeting with each child privately trying to determine if the program was working. She asked one little boy if he was eating all the food in the backpack. "No," he replied. Alarmed, the teacher asked, "Why? Don't you like the food?" "Oh, yes," the student replied. The teacher tried to assure the boy that the food would continue and he would get more when he needed it. The little boy interrupted and said, "But Christmas is coming and there won't be any school for two weeks. I am saving food so I'll have something to eat during that time."
If you don't think hunger is real and present in the United States, you're not paying attention. Please pray for the hungry this Christmas season, and give what you can to your local food pantries and food banks. In a land of plenty, no one should go hungry.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tonight I will be out delivering Angel Tree gifts to two families. This is the second year I've volunteered to do this. Last year the person I was partnered with had done it before and did all the planning, scheduling and talking with the children and families once we were at the homes with the gifts. This year my Angel Tree delivery partner is new to the program and so while she's done all the scheduling she has said she'd feel more comfortable if I did the talking while in the homes. Hoo, boy. I am not very good at small talk, especially with children, especially with children I don't know. But I believe this is an important mission, so I pray I will do OK - great is out of the question, I am just hoping for OK. The focus isn't about me anyway - hopefully God gets done what He wants this evening using this broken vessel to do it.
If you feel like praying for us while we're out this evening, I'd appreciate it. Please pray most of all for the children, all children, who have a parent in prison. It is hard on the kids as they pay a price for something they didn't do.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I am not in a very Christmas-y mood this year. I've been doing all the usual things, going through the usual traditions, summoning all the Christmas's past, gaining all the holiday poundage, yet unlike Erin, I don't feel good. In the past 24 hours I've been harsh and judgmental and biting toward just about every single person who's crossed my path. I'm like a stranger in my own skin. I feel like there's some sort of impending...doom is too harsh a word. Something. Expectant. Like God is going to answer my prayers in one of those "Watch out what you ask for" ways. For a long time Advent was a time of solemnity, much like Lent. I can see why. Christ is coming, and I don't feel ready. I feel...convicted.
Monday, December 17, 2007
The next time you hear the Spirit speaking to you, you may want to make sure it is not an advertisement:
Turns out the Army is using similar technology to project voices into the heads of insurgents in Iraq:
Hear Voices? It May Be an Ad
An A&E Billboard 'Whispers' a Spooky Message Audible Only in Your Head in Push to Promote Its New 'Paranormal' Program
By Andrew Hampp
Published: December 10, 2007
NEW YORK - New Yorker Alison Wilson was walking down Prince Street in SoHo last week when she heard a woman's voice right in her ear asking, "Who's there? Who's there?" She looked around to find no one in her immediate surroundings. Then the voice said, "It's not your imagination."
Indeed it isn't. It's an ad for "Paranormal State," a ghost-themed series premiering on A&E this week. The billboard uses technology manufactured by Holosonic that transmits an "audio spotlight" from a rooftop speaker so that the sound is contained within your cranium. The technology, ideal for museums and libraries or environments that require a quiet atmosphere for isolated audio slideshows, has rarely been used on such a scale before. For random passersby and residents who have to walk unwittingly through the area where the voice will penetrate their inner peace, it's another story.
It appears that some of the troops in Iraq are using "spoken" (as opposed to "screeching") LRAD to mess with enemy fighters. Islamic terrorists tend to be superstitious and, of course, very religious. LRAD can put the "word of God" into their heads. If God, in the form of a voice that only you can hear, tells you to surrender, or run away, what are you gonna do?
Now the inside of your own head isn't safe from intrusion. Welcome to the 21st century.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I am terrible about keeping the Sabbath. When I went through confirmation classes we were taught that Sundays are to be a day of rest. But like most Americans, I am far from that on most Sundays. While we try to get most housecleaning chores done on Saturdays the laundry always spills over into Sundays. A house with three school-aged children generates a lot of laundry and neither Les nor I are the type of people who can come home from work during the week and dive into laundry while also cooking, making sure the kids do their homework and get showered (how do people who watch TV get anything done? I honestly don't know). And besides, there's often extracurricular stuff like Cub Scouts, Brownies, choir practice and church meetings on the weeknights anyway. So it all builds up for the weekend, and we end up finishing it and putting it all away on Sundays.
There are often other chores that end up getting done on Sundays as well. In the summer that may include mowing the yard or trimming bushes, because the household chores still have to happen, and they happen on Saturdays - see above. Or maybe it's when I'm working on a project like the recent office partition. The list goes on. And then there's things like blogging - one may say that counts as relaxation, but doesn't writing and editing a long, involved, researched blog post with lots of links and photos and the like seem like work? What about when I lived in Colorado and any given Sunday could easily find me in the mountains with a backpack on? How far does a hobby have to go before it no longer counts as "rest"?
I notice that while Christianity can be quite legalistic about a lot of things, it doesn't get very up in arms about the casual and constant breaking of the Sabbath, even though keeping it is one of the Ten Commandments. It seems that as long as "going to church" is in there somewhere, we are good. Except I would say even church turns into work most times. For example, anyone that's ever tried to wake up and shepherd four other late-rising, grumpy-in-the-morning people to church will wonder whether that qualifies as work or not. For the record, I think it does - that's why we go to a 5:00 p.m. service. And then I have to wonder about pastors themselves - if they don't think performing two (or in our senior pastor's case, three) services plus Sunday school plus all the attendant preparation and socializing is work, I would suggest just not showing up without warning one random Sunday and see how their employers take that. Sure, they may rest on Mondays, but is that "keeping the Sabbath"? I dunno.
I have tried off and on to make sure Sundays are more restful than any other day of the week, but I honestly can't figure out how to cram all that needs to be done in a week into just six days so I can have each and every Sunday off. Anyone else doing better at this than I am?
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Today was the last time for the mobile food pantry. I got there early and shoveled all the snow from the sidewalks (so we'd have smooth walkways for taking the grocery carts to the cars), then helped move pallets around, then helped take the carts out, each crammed to the gunwales with food (there was lots this time), and finally helped with loading the remaining food and sundries into various vehicles for the other local pantries. When I got home, I got to shovel more snow! Now I am sitting here very sore. I must be getting old to have that kind of day wear me out.
On the good news front, all Christmas cards are now addressed, signed, stuffed with the annual letter and ready to go. That was something I could do without moving around a lot. :-) Later it will be Garrison Keillor on the radio (a big tradition in this house - even the kids are into "A Prairie Home Companion", especially the sound effects guy), and then cooking dinner and falling into a deep, coma-like sleep afterward. The perfect end to a snowy day.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
We had a Christmas cookie and candy making contest at work today. I brought in these made at full strength:
Chili Chocolate Almond Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies
Time: 35 minutes
This sounds odder than it tastes. The cinnamon and the chili go together to make a most interesting flavour explosion. You might want to cut back on the chili a wee bit if you're not too keen on hot stuff. I make mine with half the chili called for, and I still get a walloping zing.
- 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons crushed dried red chilis, or other dried hot peppers (I used a rolling pin to crush mine. Don't get any of this near your eyes, nose, lips, or any other mucous membranes--trust me on this)
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- Place 1 cup of the chocolate chips in a 1-quart, microwave safe glass bow. Microwave, uncovered, on medium (50 percent) for 2-3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes, until chocolate is smooth and melted. Be careful not to burn. (Or, melt in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.) Let cool.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Slightly beat egg and add to butter mixture with vanilla extract. Stir in melted chocolate.
- Combine flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in a bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in chile pepper, almonds, and remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.
- Drop batter in clumps of about 1 tablespoon each onto a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
I made them full strength (3 tablespoons of cayenne and hot paprika), and they were good. Most people who were brave enough to try them thought they were too hot, but the few "hot heads" that came across them all thought them yummy. I posted the following on the container:
"I triple-dog dare ya!"
What was funny was I took the remainder of these cookies from work to the Samaritan Center tonight, and the teenaged boys that were volunteering tonight all thought they were great (of course, they also thought they were great practical jokes, and handed them out to the unsuspecting :-).
The Mexicans, and the Aztecs before them, knew that chiles and chocolate go together (chicken molé anyone?) Many would think the pairing bizarre, but it is actually quite good. And a warming alternative to the usual holiday sweets. Be brave - try it! I triple dog dare ya! :-)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Last night was another episode of a family tradition. Les and I sat down with Erin, Jon and Gloria (Morgann being a normal cynical 21 year old, declined) and watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" followed by "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Dr. Seuss with Chuck Jones animation - it doesn't get any better than that!). We have been doing this every year at Christmas time since the kids were very small. We don't allow them to watch the tapes any other time of year because then they'd just be two more overwatched and then ignored videos in their library. Instead, we always make it the special once-a-year event it was when Les and I were little, and if you missed those shows on broadcast TV (always brought to you by Coca Cola and Dolly Madison), then you were out of luck for an entire year. And of course all your friends watched them, too, and we all talked and laughed about them the next day at school - such was the social nature of only having three channels, but I digress.
So we all snuggled up on the couch together and watched the two shows. It was great. And every year I tear up in exactly the same places, guaranteed. I have since I was small myself. The first is during "Charlie Brown", and it is this scene:
The second is during "Grinch" at the end when "Christmas came, just the same" and then his heart grows, he saves the sleigh and hands out all the presents (couldn't find the clip on YouTube - sorry).
Afterwards I cooked dinner while the soundtrack playing in the background (another tradition). Vince Guaraldi put together such a wonderful jazz album for that show that I don't categorize it as Christmas music so much as I do jazz with a Christmas theme. Lovely.
Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
Snowflakes in the air
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share
Sleigh bells in the air
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...
- "Christmas Time is Here", Vince Guaraldi
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I am currently on a "news sabbatical". I take these periodically, typically when I get too depressed or angered over the state of the world. Election cycles tend to really bring these qualities out in me. So I've unsubscribed from any new feeds (I no longer surf the Web for anything - if it doesn't come via RSS, I'm not interested), I don't read the newspaper anyway and we don't watch network or cable TV in this house at all. I still listen to a bit of NPR news for five minutes during the drive to or from work (and because of timing, half the time it's simply local station announcements), but other than that I've just cut myself off. A friend of mine who also doesn't follow the news any more has stated if something's important a friend or co-worker will tell him about it. And that's good enough for me, too.
There's always bad news, and it never stops and it never gets any better. There will always be "wars and rumors of war". Long-time Dilbert readers will remember Dogbert's perpetual newspaper - expensive at $1,000 a copy, but you never need to buy another. One of the headlines Dilbert reads in it was something like "Pope denounces violence in the Middle East". You could add to that an article about the price of gas going up. Or some government incompetence. Or the latest business scandal. Or this year's gonna-be-a-pandemic-and-kill-us-all disease du jour (Remember ebola? mad cow? drug resistant TB? SARS? bird flu? I wonder what this year's will be? For a while it looked like MRSA was in the running, but it may get pushed out by the new "killer cold"). The list goes on and on. It's a fallen world, and will be until Christ's return. Before then it won't get better - ever.
So much of the news isn't even news. Election coverage isn't about the issues, it's about how the candidates are playing out as a horse race (see some excellent comments on that here, here and here). Half the news seems to be about entertainment in one form or another - what's the latest hot movie, TV show, reality show, sports team, doped player, star entering detox or book/cartoon/movie/song being protested by Fundamentalists/Catholics/Jews/Muslims (and thus ensuring its further popularity). At the end of the day, I find it all too tiring, too depressing and for the most part simply not worth worrying about.
Some may denounce me for not following the issues so I can be part of a well informed citizenry. For that, I prefer to rely on reading history (because nothing really changes) and deeper coverage that isn't caught up in the current flurry of press releases, spin and counter-spin on a subject. I reject the concept that any modern news media organization is "fair and unbiased" (or even could be). Because here's the deal - I don't consider "the news", as sold by Big Business and manipulated by them and the government, to be that good at keeping me well informed anyway - that is quite simply not the purpose of their product. They're in the business of selling entertainment and have been forever. I do not consider yellow journalism to be a thing of the past.
What about you? How much news do you watch/read/listen to on a daily basis? Does it make you happier? Is your life the better for it? Does it help you love your fellow man? Does it help you follow Christ? The answers to those last four questions for me are "No, no, no and no", and so I decided to just stop. You can, too.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Well, I am still not completely done yet (more bookshelves to put up), but I have successfully converted my 19.5' x 12' office into two sections, so that Les and I can each have half (exactly :o) and Morgann can have the room formerly known as Les's office to herself (and in our weird house, that is actually the master bedroom).
Following are some pics to show the progress so far. I built and stained the partitions over the last few weeks. Woulda been done sooner, but weather and other matters kept delaying it. I can park the Dakota in the garage again, which is good, given the ongoing ice storm. I could point out every single flaw in what I did, but I won't. It's good enough.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I have written multiple times about how I disdain denominationalism. I also keep my denomination anonymous here, both because I just don't think it matters that much, and because I don't have much "team spirit". To put a high-level gloss over it, all I need to ask is "Do you ascribe to the Apostles and Nicene creeds?" If you answer, "Yes", well then, good enough for me. I'll see you in heaven.
But as a lark I decided to take a well-known Web-based denominational test. Following are my results, which I find amusing. I will say the denomination I am in is in the top 10 of the following list. I will also say it is not in the top three (actually, #1 and #3 made me laugh - because I am a technologist with a hidden Luddite streak). So there's seven choices remaining. Do you think you know me well enough to be able to guess my "team", considering I myself don't agree with everything they proclaim, and don't consider myself a "team player"? [Hint: the three points I disagree with in that last link should give you some ammo in the guessing game.]
By the way, the test asks you what denomination you think you will end up scoring as and my answer, which was not my denomination, is also in those remaining seven choices. Extra points if you can guess both. :o)
|#1||Mennonite Brethren |
|#2||Evangelical Lutheran Church |
|#3||Orthodox Quakerism |
|#4||Free Will Baptist |
|#5||Methodist/Wesleyan Church |
|#6||Assemblies of God |
|#7||Church of Christ |
|#8||Southern Baptist |
|#9||Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod |
|#10||Seventh-Day Adventist |
|#11||Episcopal/Anglican Church |
|#12||Presbyterian Church USA |
|#13||International Church of Christ |
|#14||Reformed Baptist |
|#15||Presbyterian Church in America/Orthodox Presbyterian Church |
|#16||Reformed Churches |
|#17||United Pentecostal Church |
|#18||Roman Catholic Church |
|#19||Eastern Orthodox Church |
|#20||Liberal Quakerism |
|#21||Jehovah's Witness |
|#23||Unity Church |
|#24||Unitarian Universalism |
[I should save this post for tomorrow so I have some blog fodder, but hey, it's ready to go.]
While playing with Google Maps I came up with a map of all the locations I have lived (which I defined as "being there long enough to get mail"). In some of these places I lived at multiple addresses over the years but I am not going to go to that level of detail here. There's a pointer to each city, town or locale, and if you click on it it will show the years I was there and a snippet of commentary.
In the post I wrote about us getting to see Billy Joel last week, I mentioned meeting a really nice couple who sat in front of us. They responded so kindly to my request to make sure that Les could see the stage, and in talking afterwards even offered to send us all the pictures they took of the concert. Well, yesterday I received the first test email from Chris and Matt to make sure they had the email address right, and today Chris sent us 31 pictures! I asked her permission to put one up here, so here it is (click to see larger image).
I also wrote about Cass Dillon, a young singer-songwriter who Billy Joel has sing his new song, "Christmas in Fallujah". Well, Chris and Matt are obviously people with connections, because not only did they get to go backstage before the concert, they got to meet Cass the night before. Chris wants her "15 minutes of fame", so here it is, a picture of her with Cass.
In the end, all I can say is I am floored by how kind and friendly Chris and Matt are and how overjoyed we are at the generosity of their sharing their pictures of the concert. What a great Christmas gift! Nice people do exist, and you meet them in the most unexpected places!
Well, for the second year running we've gotten an ice storm. They're pretty to look at but dangerous to drive in and bad on the trees. I was out shoveling off the driveway and roof (more on that in a bit) and kept hearing tree branches going down, sounding like gunshots. A couple of neighbor's trees are losing a lot of branches - hopefully it won't kill the trees. Our oak in the front yard has only lost one branch about as big around as my arm (so far). The pines in the back are flexible and the branches seem to be bending without breaking (so far).
This storm isn't as bad as last year's, when we had over an inch of ice. That was bad (yet certainly not as bad as what they got in southwest Missouri in that storm, nor the Montreal ice storm I got to experience in 1988). Especially since my dad (who wouldn't wait for me, I was at work) got up on our flat sunroom roof and chipped and scraped all that ice off to get a leak to stop. And that was after walking up a hill to the shed to get the ladder on ice that was like glass (I know - both he and I fell at different times during the two days). So today I got up on the sunroom roof and got everything off, at least for now, in the hopes of forestalling another leak.
The problem with a flat roof and ice (or a lot of snow) is that some of the ice next to the roof melts but then has nowhere to go because the ice on top of the water is damming it up at the eaves so it backs up and widens and sooner or later it finds a path down one of the roof seams. A basic design flaw, if you ask me, which is a bummer because we bought this house in large part for that room (which is the kids' playroom/computer room). I have tried a few things to mitigate the leaks this year, but even so, I don't want to tempt fate and let ice build up on it again.
I may have to get up on it again tomorrow, then, because this weather is supposed to last at least through Monday. Fun, fun! I took Les to work today just in case (the Dakota has 4WD) but the roads were fine. Don't know if we'll continue to be that lucky.
[Click on pictures for bigger view.]
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I gave the site a new layout, basically a minimalist approach that doesn't cut off pictures. I know to most it is probably not that aesthetically pleasing, but (a) I am a textual kinda guy, and (b) most of you are reading this through RSS anyway so what does it matter? I may change the other blog to the same template just to make things simple.
Speaking of being textually oriented, I am. Really. A lot. It is why I don't usually post pictures here unless the post is about the picture - in other words I don't use stock photos to set the post's theme or feel (not that there's anything wrong with that :-). I find I would rather read about something than see a diagram of it, and certainly more than hear it. My audio input channels seem to be out of whack, and that's actually the worst way for me to pick up information, where I think for many it is their best way. In fact, a few years ago I had some hearing tests because I was having trouble hearing what people were saying, especially in places with background noise. Turns out I have better hearing than most men my age (and I do - I can hear children trying to be sneaky upstairs on the other side of the house). It is the parsing of audio information I am having an issue with. So they told me I have a "central processing problem", which means my brain messes up the interpretation of the sound after it has been received. Great.
How do you best learn and receive information?
Today's entry is Chuck Warnock, a pastor in Chatham, Virginia. I subscribe to two of his three blogs, Amicus Dei and Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor. If small churches around the country are being served this well by Chuck, Dan and Tom, I think the Spirit is moving more in them than in the mega-churches (this is a surprise?) But I want to ask all three, "So, is playing the guitar some sort of job requirement?" :o)
Why are we putting children in prison?
A Church Afraid
Corinth: Why Paul's worst church may be our best model
A Christmas story
Friday, December 7, 2007
Well, we made it up to KC, watched a great concert and made it back safely. Driving to Kansas City was not fun, because the last half of the drive was in snow and sleet with the road icing up fast. We passed about six cars in the ditch and saw evidence of more on the way back today, and I drove the last 40 miles into the city pretty slow with the Dakota in 4WD. I am getting much more cautious as I age, I guess (having a spin-out and almost going over the side of Vail Pass in the 1990s probably contributed to that).
We stayed in a corner room on the top (20th) floor of the Hotel Philips, originally built in the 1930s and now beautifully restored. Another plus is it was only four blocks to the Sprint Center, so it was nice to just avoid all the parking hassles and walk. Les did a great job of finding it and taking care of reservations. We also got to go to a downtown restaurant I had good memories of from when I lived in Kansas City (1986-1991). The Red Dragon House is not only still there, but the decor, menu and most importantly the food were all the same. It was great and we ate way too much, including some good "pot stickers" (pork dumplings) and moo shu pork. This was the first restaurant I ever had moo shu in, and I have loved those "Chinese burritos" ever since!
The new Sprint Center was nice, clean and spacious, and the sound was great. The best thing though was that our seats were in the 11th row, center, on the aisle. Since these were floor seats Les had some concern about seeing the stage, especially since she's 5' 4", and for a bit that looked like it was going to be an issue with the couple in front of us, because while she was short, he was very tall (taller than I am, and I am 6' 1"), and of course everyone on the floor were on their feet the whole show anyway. I finally tapped him and respectfully asked him if he would mind making sure my wife could see, and was half expecting some aggressive feedback (you never know, especially at concerts). He sorta shrugged and grimaced, but he did make sure there was a view for Les from then on, and even asked her at one point if she could see. To pass along the kindness I made sure and asked the couple behind me if they could see. After the show I shook the guy's hand and thanked him for his consideration, and they turned out to be the nicest people, even offering to email us pictures she had taken of the concert. Isn't that great?
Billy Joel put on a great show, as always. He plays to the crowd, cracks jokes (including thanking Garth Brooks for allowing them to borrow the room - Garth played at the Sprint Center nine times, and it's only been open since October) and knows exactly how to put a show together to not just cover his standards but build excitement around them to an exciting ending. As I said in a prior post, I am not a big fan (not like Les!) but I still enjoy his concerts. My one thing is that after seeing him on the Actor's Studio talking about how he really doesn't like to play "Piano Man" any more (he feels it is a bit simplistic, plus there was some bad business dealings around it), I would rather he didn't feel like he had to sing it, but of course he did as the third encore, and of course the entire crowd sang along for the entire song (including one full chorus where he just let the audience sing, and we were good :-).
He has released a new single about the war called "Christmas in Fallujah". As an intro he said he wasn't saying how to feel about the war, or how to vote. Instead, the lyrics are supposedly all lines from letters he's received from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because he feels like it should be sung by someone young, a soldier's age, he had Cass Dillon, a young singer-songwriter he is sponsoring, come out and perform it. The song was very powerful. You can read more about it here.
The band was very talented, although it appears most of his original band that played on all the early albums and were touring with him up through the last concert we saw (2001) have retired. There was a woman who could do everything - play percussion, saxophone, sing. A nice touch for those on the sides and behind the stage was that the piano was set up to rotate, and would every few songs, so there was no one in the place who was looking at the back of Billy Joel's head for the entire show. Also, they made a point of playing to the sides and the back as well as the front of the stage. The people who really missed out were the ones in the far end of the arena, since there were no big projection screens like at the first concert we saw him at (there were large TV screens up by the roof, but all they showed were his hands playing the piano). So if someone was in the third balcony at the far end, I hope they brought binoculars.
Of course, on the return to planet Earth we were called while we were still in KC this morning to be told that Erin was sick and needed to be picked up from school, so my mom went and got her and we came home to an 11 year old feeling very under the weather. Such is life. Anyway, it was a great time, and worth all the expense just to see my wife's excitement right from the start when got there last night and found exactly how close our seats were (I mean, we could see his sweat :-). So I know no matter what else happens this Christmas I am "off the hook" as far as making sure Les has a good one. I look forward to coasting on some "good hubby" karma for a bit. :o)
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Go over and watch this video on Kat's blog. Kat is the main reason Les and I came to sponsor two Compassion children (Nabila, 4, Indonesia; Bryan, 10, El Salvador), and I would say this just strengthened our resolve to be good sponsors to them. It's a wonderful way to spend seven minutes.
And I don't agree with Chris - I'm a guy, and I still cried. :o) Interestingly enough, I get teary much more than I used to before I returned to the faith. I read somewhere recently (can't remember where or I would cite it - if you know or it was you, comment with the link) that we need to pay attention when we spontaneously cry about something, because it may be the Spirit talking to our hearts. I was really caught by that one, and it's an odd thing - I think it's right, and I believe that once you start noticing and praying and doing something about the injustices and sorrows that bring you tears, you get presented with opportunities to get misty even more often. Sort of a "God, please soften my heart" thing. I think we should all pray for that, every single day.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
So, tomorrow we drive up to Kansas City to see Billy Joel at the brand spanking new Sprint Center. This is a combination anniversary and Christmas present for my wife, who has loved Billy Joel since the 1970s (not that that dates us or anything). We saw him and Elton John in KC when they toured together a few years back, but the seats were fairly nosebleed in nature (thank goodness for modern concerts with the big screens and rental binoculars). This time I decided to make it a once-in-a-lifetime thing and bought seats in the center section about 10 rows back from the stage. I won't bother telling you how much they cost, but like I said this is a one-time big deal from me to Les, so it is worth it.
We will drive up tomorrow morning after dropping the kids off at school and will stay overnight - my folks are staying with the kids. It promises to be a great show and a good time away. But I find myself gripped with worry - "Will we get there OK? Will it snow? Will the hotel be OK? Will it be walking distance to the concert? If not, will we be able to find parking near the Sprint Center? Will I remember to tell my folks to have the kids put out the trash? Will we remember the tickets? Will...What if...How...???" When I shared some of this with Les via email today, she replied, "That's one of the things I love about you, actually - that inability to unclench and enjoy an important occasion. :)"
I am usually not much of a worrier. I mean, I worry a bit about typical things - money, will the kids turn out OK, maybe when something big is happening at work. But usually I just sorta float along through life and let ""All my worries worry about me for a change." I'm a big believer that worry is a sin and to just let things happen as they should. Mostly. But there are times, especially when it involves me trying to do something special for someone I love, where I do "clench", a lot. Which of course has the downside of me being all uptight while trying to pull off the special event and then I don't enjoy it as much myself plus I'm then wound up and less than pleasant for the person (usually Les) for whom I am trying to make it all so special.
Another prime example was when I took her to Europe for two weeks in 2005 (thanks to a bunch of American Airlines and Hilton points I had accrued during my road warrior tenure). When we were actually there, I was relaxed and had a great time showing her places I had traveled to and worked at. But getting us there, and during each major transport leg while we were there I would go into "worried organizer mode". Of course, everything turned out OK, even though we were over during 7/7 bombings, the bus blowing up literally across the street from the hotel we had stayed at in London just the week before, when we had traveled on every single one of the Underground lines that were bombed. We had to impose on an English friend to get us to Heathrow from Stansted when we returned to England from Holland on 7/8 because the trains were all stopped. So even with that tragedy glancing up against our wonderful holiday it all worked out (for us, not unfortunately for the victims) and all my worries were for nothing. And luckily Les loves me and understands me and has come to recognize the symptoms and usually handles them with a combination of quiet understanding and gentle ribbing to get me back to center.
So, the first step in recovery is recognizing the problem, and I do recognize it. And for tomorrow I am taking steps to offload my worry so I will be pleasant and enjoy what I hope is a fantastic concert with my bride (I'm not a big Billy Joel fan, personally, but he does put on a good show). I have sent my mom an email detailing all the things I was fretting about in regards to the kids and what needs to be done while we're gone. I have a map printed of all the parking anywhere near the Sprint Center, and we'll take a cab from the hotel if we have to (I actually think it's in walking distance, though - need to eliminate that worry point tonight). We will drive up early to get settled into the hotel and have an early dinner at one of my favorite KC restaurants (I lived there from 1985 to 1991). It will be a great time and a fun night out with my bride. It will be good. I know it will. BECAUSE IT JUST HAS TO BE!!! (pant, pant, pant) :-)
What do you worry about? How do you control it?
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
BTW, regarding your budget. The way I look at it is, if the church wants individuals to tithe (10%), then the church ought to be doing so too. So we set aside at least 10% of the church budget for ministry and missions outside the church (which doesn't include outreach). Just a thought.
Oh, how I wish we were even close to that. Following is a breakdown of the budget by percentages. Following it will be some exegesis.
The "Mission" category counts both what I would consider to be real mission as well as pure outreach (like our weekly radio program). If I had broken mission out from outreach, both would be about half of the meager slice shown. The "Boards" category covers youth and fellowship programs. So we're still not close to Dan's "tithing", even at the point of starting to count programs that only benefit the church. Believe it or not, it was explicitly stated at the budget meeting that the portion going to the synod was also being counted as part of our church's "tithe". Which shows that the leadership feels somewhat differently about that concept than does Dan, or I. Even so, those three categories still don't add up to 10% when totaled.
About 60% of the "Property" category is for retiring debt on the (large) mortgage, the rest is for physical plant upkeep. Then there's "Salaries", which I won't begrudge - church workers have to earn a living, too, and in our denomination it is the norm to have full-time paid pastoral and admin staff. That leaves "Education". Our church is very generous there - for members they pay 80% of the tuition for the local denominational parochial school (elementary and middle), and are already contributing to the new denominational high school as well, even though we don't have any children from the membership attending there yet.
In the interest of full disclosure I will say that includes paying for our three youngest (who constitute about 5% of the total number of students from our congregation). Of course, there are conditions to that tuition support, although they're not tightly monitored or policed. Basically the elders want the families who are taking advantage of that generosity to tithe (we do) and to attend church regularly (we do). If they didn't provide that money we could still afford it but it would basically mean not tithing - the money amounts between the two are effectively equivalent. I am not so sure we could afford it and tithe as well (and of course that would present an interesting decision which can be fodder for another discussion). The benefit of doing it this way, of course, is tithing to the church is tax deductible, while paying for parochial school directly out of pocket is not.
But here's the deal - I would gladly take that tax hit and simply pay for our kids ourselves if that meant the church would be more mission oriented with that 28%. But I don't think they would be. They would simply find another "club-oriented" thing to spend the money on. Or for that matter, I am not so sure the congregation would even give as much in the first place if they knew it wasn't going to put their kids through the "right" school.
Now I know this sounds like griping, and I will be honest - it is. But here's the thing. I want our church to be more engaged in local mission. I want to try and push for it to be so. But I just don't think the vast majority of the members are interested. Sure, we have mission programs for this or that, and various food drives and blanket drives and clothing drives. But usually the contributions are not that much for a congregation our size.
For example, we are currently running both a blanket and a clothing drive for the local Salvation Army. That's good. Then I saw Dan's post on what his church is collecting and I was saddened, because they have collected as much or more than we have. Now of course this is not a horse race or a competition, but from what I can tell our church is somewhere between seven to ten times as large as Dan's in terms of membership and budget. So if we collect the same (or less) than his church, doesn't that show a problem? I think it does. And that's what saddens me. Because for all I want to help change it, I fear the overwhelming inertia. It is a "comfortable" church. The membership in general is comfortable they are doing enough, and that's pretty much that.
[h.t. to Alex for this.]
While a common blog thread this Christmas (and every Christmas, it seems) is that we all need to get away from the consumer emphasis, when push comes to shove we're probably all still buying Christmas gifts for our loved ones this year. And if you, like me, shop at Amazon more often than you do anywhere else, you may find the following useful.
If you find yourself needing to spend an extra $1.29 to get your purchase to $25 to hit Amazon's super-saver free shipping and save $6 or more, then go to filleritem.com and enter how much more you need to hit $25 and what categories you're interested in and they'll search for items that meet the criteria. Kewl. Now you can get your stocking stuffers at the same time you're buying the major gifts.
Monday, December 3, 2007
[The following should make it obvious why I continue to keep my church and even my denomination anonymous. It is so I can be honest here and air my feelings and ask for feedback without being accused of bringing shame on my church. Which, for all of the following, are still a good group of people.]
"People who enjoy sausages and respect the law should never watch either being made."
- Otto von Bismark (apocryphal)
Let's add to that church budgets and board elections.
I admit it, the following will probably be amusing to the pastors and ex-pastors who read this blog, but I am a neophyte when it comes to the working side of a church; how it actually runs, who cleans the floors, how the light bill gets paid, what the yearly cost for offering envelopes are, how much car allowance the associate pastor gets. Until last night I kept myself purposefully in the dark about such things because I was afraid of what I would find out. And I was right to be.
I've only been on the human care ministry board for two months, placed there because I periodically bug the senior pastor about what can we do to be more mission-oriented, and now all of a sudden I am the board chair (picture me here with a combination deer-in-headlights/trout-faced look). Which would be more impressive if they'd drudged up anyone else willing to run so it would've been a contest, but as I said to both nominating committee people who approached me (I get the feeling they were being paid a bounty for each head brought in), "I guess I was too slow to get out of the way," and was the only one who said "Yes" for that position. That'll teach me.
Out of something like 15 positions being voted on last night, there was only one that was "contested", and that was because they had four names for the three "at large" seats on the church council. All the other slots on the ballot were one-position-with-one-name-by-it, and there was one that wasn't filled at all. Now I know how those prophets felt when an angel would show up and say, "Tag! You're it!"
And I knew better than to say yes because my wife's parents are heavily involved in their church (same "brand" as ours), he as an elder, she having sat on and chaired many boards and committees over the years. My mom has also been suckered into a few committees in the past. The stories I've heard from all of them was part of my reason for keeping my head in the sand, wanting to be part of the community but not necessarily wanting to be part of making that community work. I know that sounds cowardly, but honestly I have very visceral, negative reactions to most politics and find such wheelings and dealings to be anathema to following Christ. And yet politics, as I define it, is what happens when you gather more than two people together. So I knew that the church election meeting last night would be full of politics, as will the upcoming church council and human care ministry board meetings I will sit on or "lead". And it didn't disappoint my expectations. Or rather, it did, because it was as I expected...Oh, well - you get what I am trying to say. It was...political.
Honestly, this is the part of church I find the most unsettling. Not just because I saw and heard people being pains in the behinds last night as they pored over and questioned the minutiae of the church budget for this past year and next, and not because I saw how those same people were maneuvered around or even in a few cases blatantly and publicly put off. Nor because I think our budget is hopelessly out of whack with being a mission-oriented church, not that we are that anyway. Most of our members would define mission as either a short-term excursion somewhere to do something for "those people" once in a great while, or a check you put in the plate for someone who does such things full time. I mean, the human care budget is two whole tenths of one whole percent of the entire church budget (really), or to put it another way, one half of the senior pastor's mileage allowance for the year (really). Whew! I get dizzy thinking of all the good we'll be able to spread with that heady amount of money. See? This kind of thing bothers me because it doesn't bring out the worst in others - it brings out the worst in me!
But even though all of that is problematic there is a bigger problem, I think. Since when does being in fellowship and loving and following Christ require Robert's Rules of Order? Exactly where in Acts does it mention the need to put forth motions and second them and have formal resolutions? Where in Scripture does it talk about committees and board chairs and minutes and A/V system upgrades worth more than most people make in a year? Sure, we're talking about a lot of money, but maybe that's part of the problem. By the time we're done paying for all the things modern church structures and denominations say we need to pay for to be a "real" church, there's a lot of room for disagreement over priorities, long-running low-scale sniping about various programs, pet projects and so on and so forth, whereas I look at the budget and see very little of it aimed at actually reaching people who aren't already "in the club".
Getting back to last night. People asked question after question to just be nit-picky. Ultimately this caused the outgoing president to maneuver around them using parliamentary procedure, and while that worked to the relief of most of us (it's late, we're tired), it still felt...slimy somehow. There were other points that were simply dismissed either because "That's a church council matter, not something to be discussed in the voters meeting" (or to put it another way - members get to vote once a year, and that's only up or down - all "real" church business is otherwise ran by committees), or else because it was considered too small to count.
For example, there was one suggestion by the new facilities board chair to take some of the capital improvements budget and apply it toward debt reduction. His reasoning is that we've basically just upgraded our entire physical plant (he should know - he was in charge of the building expansion and refurb) and everything is now new again, so he didn't anticipate needing as much money in that bucket as budgeted. Whereas that project then put us in to debt by a sizable amount, and many congregants (myself included) are worried about having to pay it off over the next 15-20 years. But the outgoing president simply dismissed his idea as not being enough money to matter.
To put this in perspective, the amount being discussed was only 1.25% of the outstanding mortgage, but that was still in the five digit range (since we have a seven digit mortgage), and at the end of the day, 1.25% of the mortgage paid off early represents more like 3% of the total debt if we let it go, by the time we get it all paid off with interest. I remember sitting there and thinking, "What would Dan be able to do with that amount of money that is 'too small to make a difference'? I think he'd be horrified to hear the numbers being bandied about and shown on the spreadsheets," and I am too ashamed to put them here, even though my church is anonymous in all this, and even though we're small potatoes compared to other churches in town, and especially to "megachurches". Also bothersome was the fact that we ended up approving (there was no question it was going to be approved) a budget that projected being in the hole by about 7% for 2008. This is stewardship?
I would appreciate comments, especially from those who read this post who are of the pastoral profession or are long-term church officers, elders and the like. Because to do a good job as a board chair about a subject I truly care about (under human care ministry falls helping the poor, elderly, sick, etc.), I need to have some healthy thoughts to hang my hat on, at least for the next year. I can be as cynical and political as anybody...at work (and yes, I know I should be a better Christian on the job - I'm working on it). I don't want to be that way at church. From what I've already seen in two months on the board and from last night it appears there's a small group (the elders?) that make things march the way they want them to go, and everyone else can agree or be silent. I remember wondering, "Where is Christ in all this?" I am not sure I could tell you the answer to that even now.
But seriously, I don't know if I will ever go to another church election meeting again. I can see why we struggled and even had to call someone else to come to reach a quorum. At the end of the day it was a maddening combination of boredom, politics and pre-made decisions that added up to not being a very inviting scenario except for those die hards who "feed" on such things. And I don't. Harrumph.