Change can be Great!

Three years ago today we moved from the suburbs to our loft (pictured left) by the river in downtown KC. Major downsizing and change but a wonderful place withing walking distance of restaurants, the farmers market, library, movie theater, shopping and grocery store. And the area is so wheelchair accessible!

Who Speaks for You?

Had a great conversation with Ann's cousin today about a variety of religious and political topics. One of the comments was (something like) "the Pope speaks for the Catholic Church". My thinking is that he speaks for the church's government but not the church. Got me thinking about a wonderful post by my blogger friend Andy, a United Methodist pastor in Springfield, Missouri, who recently wrote a blog post titled: Who Do I "Speak For"? Following are a few excerpts from Andy's post (read it in full here). I would love to hear what you think about the idea of someone speaking for you.

The city of Springfield is making a rather awkward attempt to engage the question of whether to add sexual orientation to the city’s anti-discrimination language. A part of their process was a survey sent via email to pastors all around town; there was a link in the email that took me to the online survey.

One of the questions on the survey asked if I as the pastor “speak for the congregation.” I thought this was a no brainer - “Of course not. The congregation I serve speaks for themselves.” But apparently out of the 56 churches surveyed, there were only two who answered this way.
Faith rarely deals in either/or. Followers of Jesus are a diverse group, to say the least. And so how could I possibly speak for my congregation when my congregation reflects such an array of opinions? Surely our society has matured beyond the glorification of homogeneity.
I hope you understand my reasoning behind answering the way I did on the survey. It’s not that I do not feel I am a “leader” for Campbell UMC; it’s that I would never dream of “speaking for” a group of people who are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves, and doing so with grace, respect, and love.

Grassroots | ★★★★★★★

You might like this movie if you like quirky stories based on real life events. It showcases Phil Campbell's book and tells the story of Grant Cogswell's (Phil's friend) 2001 run for Seattle city council. I liked the story and really loved the way that the young men changed as they were faced with the reality of the political race and the kindness of their opponent.

I thought that Jason Biggs (as Phil) and David Joel Moore (as Grant) were good in the roles and really funny together. And Cedric the Entertainer did a credible job as the incumbent city councilman. The 99 minute running time seemed about right and was sufficient to tell the story without dragging it out. In the end I liked the way that local politics was portrayed.

I think Grassroots tells a positive story and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

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Nobody likes a Snitch

Gotta love this cartoon - one person's whistleblower is another's snitch. Our country's fascination with Edward Snowden and whether he is a whistle-blower, spy or traitor reminds me of the adage: "Don't shoot the messenger". Interesting how the news these days seems to be all about the Messenger and not the Message. Perhaps it is simply our fascination with celebrity and our inability to grasp the complexity of the message trying to be told? I think that Sophocles said it best when he said: "None love the messenger who brings bad news."

Book Stores, Libraries and Starbucks

The news that Barnes and Noble book stores are in trouble and may be closing some stores started a conversation on Facebook. The issue discussed is whether people really need paper books. Here are my comments on the issue:
There is a communal aspect to libraries and book stores in the same way that there is for coffee shops like Starbucks. I think that a little bit of Americana is lost when these institutions are closed. I like e-books for the reasons that Brian mentions but wonder if they further isolate and insulate us from each other. Our Wednesday night group is reads books together and it is interesting that I am the only one (out of 15) that likes the e-book version better. Perhaps this love of paper books will ebb with future generations? Maybe the clinical world of Star Trek is closer than we think? ... I think that it is interesting how many folks who work from home choose to sip on a latte while using the Starbucks wifi to work. Perhaps folks are a lot more social than we all want to admit to? Maybe the future will not be all that anti-social?
Are you an e-book fan? Would you mourn the closure of a book store or library as much as closing of a Starbucks?

Love at Second Sight

A re-posting (with a new photo) from three years ago as Ann and I celebrate #18 today!

Today I am remembering how God brought Ann into my life - we were married 15 years ago today. In many ways Ann was nothing like what I expected in a woman but in every way she was exactly the woman of my dreams. Our courtship was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I experienced levels of joy that had escaped me for so long.. Ann made me feel so young and alive. I had such little understanding of how much of a blessing she would be to me. Over the years I have seen her exhibit amazing perseverance.. it is humbling to witness how she deals with disability.

You know it was funny how Ann and I met all over again. We had been acquainted for almost 20 years but had not seen each other for about five years. One day we, by chance, ran into each other in front of The Dime Store in Kansas City where she was shopping and I was just happening by. I wrote this poem at the onset of our courtship.

Love at Second Sight

What drew me to her I do not know.
Spirit? Soul? Flesh? A mystery to me still.
On that day I saw her again ... for the very first time.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

That day was bright ... my heart was dark.
Her skin was fair ... my soul was heavy.
A spark ignited and my spirit soared.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

The summer passed and fall had come.
My mind wandered still to that that day in June,
When my heart was touched by her lovely smile.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

As grief passed and courage grew,
I saw her again and then I knew ...
That my heart longed to know her heart.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

Mourning exchanged for joy.
Loneliness turned into happiness.
Feelings I can neither explain nor express.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

Time goes on and passion grows.
Where we'll go ... who really knows.
My heart and my mind yet question still ...
Could this be love ... at second sight?

I echo the words of that poem today - Ann brings me such joy! God has blessed me with a wife that is a servant in the best sense of serving.. a woman who's inner beauty and integrity are matchless.. and a woman who loves God.

Just call me blessed!

Cloud Atlas | ★★★★★★★

The movie revolves around six stories with roles that are performed by a small set of stars acting in different roles. It is based on the novel and the concerto of the same name. It took a while for me to catch on to all six stories as they are being told in unison. At first the flipping around was confusing but then things became clearer.

I think that the common thread in all stories can be voiced in one word - courage. Whether the issue was 17th century slavery or post-apocalyptic future civil rights, I loved that the movie showcased people with courageous convictions.

I was surprised that my attention was held for the entire three hours. When I saw how long it was I thought it would suffer from a lack of editing - it did not. I thought that the story lines held together and felt that the acting was pretty good.

I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

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The Longest Day

The summer solstice occurs on the day that has the longest period of daylight. In my world that day is tomorrow. We have had the second coolest Spring in Kansas City history and now it appears that the we will head into Summer with 90+ degree weather - maybe I need to head north or to the mountains? Wonder how high up (as in altitude) or far north I would need to go to escape the heat?  ツ

How was Spring in your neck of the woods? Any plans for the Summer?

The Daily Show :: Satire not News

Anybody else find the message in this image to be closer to reality than any of us ever want to admit to? At one point I do not think that I would have ever thought that anyone would think this show to be news. Then a really intelligent person, who I respect, told me that they felt that "The Daily Show" was a pretty good news source. I had to remind that person that getting your news in 10 second sound bites may not be the best way to go. I watch it regularly and enjoy the political satire in it. But someone who does not understand satire, or the show's extreme left leaning bias, could really be misinformed. Guess that is it for my rant of the day. ツ

What RSS reader will you use in July?

My guess is that most of you know that Google's RSS reader is going away as of July 1st. I currently use it to keep up with many blogs and news feeds. I will really miss it and wish that Google was not killing it.

Guess I am not happy with the alternatives. Do not care for the "magazine" formats of Feedly and the like. Do not want to go back to Bloglines. I think that Blogger itself is pretty limited with regard to aggregating feeds.

So I am wondering what you plan to use. Please tell me what reader you are using and what you like about it. I am interested more in why (not just what) you like.

Derby Dreams

I remember dreaming about building a racer and competing in the Soap Box Derby when I was a kid. Did you ever want to be a part of a derby? Well today the carts are out in Kansas City with the All American Race (i.e. KC Finals) beginning at 9am. Next stop for the winners is the national competition in Akron, Ohio. Here is a blurb from the KC chapter site about the sport:
The Kansas City Soap Box Derby has been holding races since 1947. Soap Box Derby is a racing program for boys and girls ages 7-20. With the help of a parent or another adult, kids build their own gravity-powered race car which they drive themselves. Soap Box Derby builds close parent/child relationships and teaches building skills, perseverance and good sportsmanship.
My understanding is that the combined weight of the cart and the driver cannot exceed 200 pounds - wonder how many older kids fit into that category? Even so, it sounds like a fun place to be today in KC - good luck to the racers!

Honoring Old Glory

You're a grand old flag, You're a high flying flag and forever in peace may you wave. You're the emblem of the land I love. The home of the free and the brave. -George M. Cohan

It is the flag just as much of the man who was naturalized yesterday as of the men whose people have been here many generations.
-Senator Henry Cabot Lodge

Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. -Francis Scott Key

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Promised Land | ★★★★★★★

This movie sat on my Netflix queue for a while - I was really not excited about watching a movie about the evils of natural gas fracking and exploration. Wow, was I surprised to discover that the movie is mainly about a man's struggle of integrity and his desire to want to do the right thing. I thought Matt Damon did a great job showing that tension.

That said, I liked the somewhat even handed approach it took about fracking as two sales people from a natural gas company descended on a small town trying to buy rights to the gas. At times I felt the movie was going to go too far to the environmental left but then it centered a bit. But again the movie is really not about that issue.

I liked the writing and acting in this movie - thought Damon and John Krasinski were good in both the writing and acting roles. Also liked Rosemarie DeWitt in the role of a romantic interest and 88 year old Hal Holbrook as a voice of reason.

As you can tell, I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

The love of Bacon binds us All!

I have not tried one of these products. Even so, I think that the love of bacon is a force that binds and connects us all.

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon. -Doug Larson

I'm not sure how healthy bacon is in general, but I know it's incredibly delicious. -Gwyneth Paltrow

One day I'm going to come up with a room deodorizer that smells like bacon and onions. -Paula Deen

Target v. Walmart

I occasionally debate the merits and demerits of the worlds largest retailer. Always interesting to see how sometimes folks that hate 'evil' Walmart will shop at Target. Here are a clip from an old news article that gives us some food for thought.

After a decade of meteoric growth at both Target and Wal-Mart, labor groups say the two retailers are no longer very different in the way they treat their workers. Entry-level hourly workers in Target stores earn roughly the same pay and have more difficulty qualifying for health care coverage than their peers at Wal-Mart. Both retailers oppose unions and have taken steps to prevent organizing efforts in stores. And both have outsourced jobs overseas to save costs. But while Wal-Mart is perceived as a corporate giant that will do just about anything to maximize sales and profits, Target — thanks to its hip advertising campaigns and its longtime contributions to a variety of civic and cultural causes — is seen as a model corporate citizen and benevolent employer.

Einstein :: Optimist, Pessimist or Realist?

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.

Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.

The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.

The Impossible | ★★★★★★

I think that this image captures the heart of, and what I loved about, this movie. The love between a son and his mom transcended everything else in "The Impossible". I loved the touching way that twelve year old Lucas loved his mom and did everything he could do for her after she was wounded in the horrific events of a tsunami that hit southeast Asia.

That said, I did not really love this movie. For sure the frightening ten minutes of tsunami terror was amazing and troubling all at once. The survival scenes were touching and scary. Yet there was an emptiness that came because of a focus on a few people when so many thousands were devastated. In truth, I think that this story would have been a great segment for 60 Minutes. The story was worth telling but I am not sure that it needed over two hours of screen time. I thought that it was just okay and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Excruciatus, Walton, Wrists and Ankles

The word “excruciating” finds it’s origin in the Latin word excruciatus, which literally means “out of the cross!”
THE EXCRUCIATUS--Ex-crew-see-ah-tus: This is an ancient Latin word for "the pain from the crucified one" (excruciating). Literally, it says "out of the crucified," and thus calls to mind a similar Latin phrase construction: "ex cathedra," which means "the expression [words] coming from [or out of] the [papal] chair."
In 2008 a back injury sustained by NBA Superstar Bill Walton in 1973 became an excruciating and intensely painful condition. Here is what he said about it:
My life changed irrevocably four-and-a-half years ago when my spine failed and collapsed. I spent two years on the floor, in excruciating, debilitating and unrelenting pain. I can only describe the pain as being submerged into a vat of scalding acid that has an electric current running through it. And you can never get out, ever. ... When you are in unrelenting, excruciating and debilitating pain that never goes away for years on end, your life is over. ... “This type of experience, ordeal, odyssey, it wrecks everything and it changes everything. You face every issue imaginable. Every issue — family, social, friends, financial, health — everything in your life is up in the air. You turn your back on people, friends, because it’s awful.”
There were days when he could not get off the floor. He could not sleep. He ate lying down. The pain was so intense that he considered suicide — an admission that Walton made public. Yet it just took one day of back surgery and a boatload of physical therapy to get him back. Here is the way that he tells it:
“I’ve had two fused ankles, my knees, hands and wrists don’t work; and now I have a fused spine,” Walton said, adding with a smile: “But I’m doing great. And I am back in the game of life.”
On a very personal level, Walton's story encourages me. Doctors are telling me that I am a candidate to have both my (cartilage free, bone on bone) wrists and (bonespur riddled) ankles fused. I have been putting it off as my pain has not reached excruciatus levels. Celebrex and Tylenol Arthritis keep the pain manageable but unfortunately I am not pain free. Even so, I take heart from Walton's story and look forward to one day having pain free joints.  ツ

Is God mad at America?

What do you make of this sign? Did God once love America and now not so much? Here is a clip from a comment I left at a friend's blog:

Do you not find it odd how some always seem to be speaking of how God is mad at, and will judge, our country because of things like abortion and homosexuality. It is like God didn't care about the ways that we treated slaves for hundreds of years. It is like he gave people who hated a pass and somehow found a way to bless America. Yet now He has decided to be mad at America.

My point is how people fixated with wrath and judgment have warped the gospel message. It is like wrath and hate are on the same level as love and mercy. And as a sad result Christians have become known more for their strong advocacy of judgment rather than mercy. So my concern is not all that theological but more pragmatic. What if we only preached love and let God deal with the topics of wrath and judgment? What if Christians were known for our love?

Yes, I know that I am dreaming! How could we ever love those who seem to be (to some anyway) our enemies?