Friday, July 31, 2009

One of the best times on the sports calendar (a surprise to me)

It's tough to beat October on the sports calendar, with big college football games, NFL games, pennant races and baseball playoffs. I also like the beginning of the NHL season and college basketball lurking in the background. The weather is perfect and the world is beautiful.

After the non-waiver trade deadline passed, I realized that one thing I truly enjoy about sports is anticipation. Quality anticipation is on par with actually sporting events themselves. Now that the Seattle Mariners have a wise and adept general manager, I approached the trade deadline with thrilling levels of anticipation. I think Jack Zduriencik did fabulous job in this trade season; I thought the Mariners needed to be buyers and sellers. Anticipation is in high gear for football as well, with the buzz about particular games in college and the eternal spring of parity that is the NFL. That anticipation makes the end of July a better time than I had once believed.

It's also good to be back in King County, Washington to anticipate unlimited hydroplane racing. Think: NASCAR on water. My dad and I used to go to the time trials when I was a kid--I looked forward to those races that scream Northwest tradition, culture and fun in the sun. A lot of the neighbor kids would tow carved wooden toy hydroplanes behind their banana seat bicycles for our own neighborhood hydroplane races. The legendary stories my dad used to tell of the SLO-MO V hydro and its awe inspiring flip/crash. I remember hydro drivers like they were baseball stars: Bill Muncey, Chip Hanauer, Dean Chenoweth, Steve Reynolds. They dodged death every race, something that scared the heck out of me, but I was also enticed by the whole spectacle. I also remember the boats of the day: Miss Circus Circus, Miss Atlas Van Lines, Miss Budweiser, the O Boy, Oberto!, the Miss Pay N Pak, the Miss Rock KISW (they knew their fan base). Seafair Sunday was always special. I had forgotten that time. Sports in July have just become better again.

Post Script: Hydroplane racing came to South Dakota (albeit a small boat class) a few years ago, much to my surprise. The Missouri River is actually a great venue for the sport. I even discovered what seems to be a driver on this circuit in the Muncey royal driver lineage (Wil Muncey). I missed the event the last couple of years (but was thrilled to learn of the new venue), but I could imagine I would have taken one or both of my girls out there if we still lived in South Dakota. I may have to try the Seafair time trials at another point in my life with the girls.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another reason why the subtitle reads "Alas, poor Theology"

I have been dabbling a little in the neo-atheist writings of the Hitchens and Harris, wondering what to do with their challenges toward religion. I'm not one who believes atheists are the problem that some Christians believe. But I haven't discerned how to address atheist thought.

People who know my vocational patterns and proclivities know that Walter Brueggemann is a theologian whom I consult on a regular basis, and not merely for Old Testament commentary, but for Christian life in general. I was sold when I embedded my inquiry into Brueggemann's implicit stewardship scholarship called The Liturgy of Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity. This was a transformative piece for me--having read it and heard it live at a conference, I connected my own personal history to the history of God's action in the world and the theological utterances of God's people.

I hope Brueggemann writes more regarding Biblical criticism. I don't think Brueggemann may be specifically addressing atheists in this writing, but I think he offers wisdom in a way that I cannot personally resource. I needed this writing today--I haven't hit a crisis of faith in my reading, but not knowing how to think about atheist thought was a little disconcerting. I'll be writing about Sam Harris in the coming days, and hopefully some worthwhile thought and writing will follow.

Our 2 days in triple digit heat

1. We took Mommy/my dear wife to the airport. Though I don't like to drive around for its own sake, the air conditioning in our vehicle is an alluring intoxicant.

2. On the way home we stopped at the mall to get some physical play for the girls on a mall playground. I also don't like going to the mall for its own sake; shopping as an avocation puzzles me on many levels, a new level created after watching TLC's Clean Sweep a few times.

3. We laid low for the afternoon, trying to move as little as possible. I set up a fan triangle of sort on the downstairs level of our townhouse as a marginal oasis. We don't have a thermostat in the house but I'm guessing the temperature inside was somewhere in the 90's. I didn't want to leave because I'm concerned about our geriatric chocolate lab of fragile health. He's never been in this kind of heat. I didn't want to leave for more that 2 hours or so.

4. I hit a wall in heat toleration around 6pm. Though I don't like to take the girls to our pool alone, I thought we needed to get in the pool to cool off. Getting a 6 and 2 year old ready for the pool is a project. My dear wife usually handles hair and general corralling. We finally walked up to the pool at 7pm, only to discover our pool was closed. This was absolute cruelty. I thought we still had some time to travel to a spray park about 30 minutes away before it shut down for the evening. The girls love this place, and we arrived just minutes after it shut down. The girls were crestfallen, and I was getting a bit crazy. All was made better with the promise of ice cream. Walking through the frozen food section at WinCo Foods provided nirvana.

5. We all took cool showers and baths and called it a night over the 1990 full length movie The Jetsons.

All over the world, people deal with high temperatures. For many people in this world, cultural patterns make adjustments for the heat reality. I remember an article about how air conditioning has developed into a middle-class boundary in India. If I was in the air conditioning business, forget the United States, I'd set up shop in India.

Extremes in unexpected places produce stories, as I have witness many local conversations about the "Blizzard Of (insert year)" or the "Drought of (insert year)." An old episode of the Vicar of Dibley satirizes this conversation well. In Cascadia, stories will be prefaced by the Summer of '09. Though Cascadia residents are given to hyperbole in weather extremes, there's some science behind this outlier. I recently found the blog of University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Science Cliff Mass. This triple digit weather is not merely a point of interest for us weather drama queens, but scientists as well. This map Mass posted of temps southern Thurston County and Lewis County yesterday show some truly crazy temperatures. He even wondered if 114 could have been a realistic reading.

Today we're going to my grandmother's and her air conditioning, but I'm still not going to leave the dog alone at home too long.

Stay cool, Cascadia, the slow descent into relief starts late tonight.

Still goobers

I was wondering if broadcast news talking heads were still goobers. I took a break from my recent infatuation with HGTV and TLC to find out.

They are still goobers.

I wonder if this bank will be getting a bailout

I worry about financial services companies, especially with the ORCA card making some transactions obsolete. Another fine financial institution in the toilet. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The Puget Sound region today hit an all-time temperature record today (at least since 1891).

A sport fan's resume

A good friend of mine recently shared our live sports attendance resumes. These games are sometimes accessories and sometimes central events to being. They represent honoring specific relationships with family and friends and observing achievements and physical gifts to humanity. They represents teamwork and individual hard work, the admiration of intelligence, strategy, raw human emotion, collective pride, and a liturgical gathering of crowds. Of course there is the laundry list of what is wrong with sports, but I don't focus too much on that. I do not make my wife a sports widow, and I have been blessed to be a part of some fun events with my loved ones and friends.


1983, December 24th. Playoff game--Seattle vs. Denver Wild Card game. Seattle's first playoff game. Crazy. Pandemonium, and insane noise levels. It must have looked cool on TV--we all had blue cards and used them to do "the wave."
4-5 NFL games in Seattle's Kingdome.
1999 Mike Holmgren's return to Lambeau w/Seahawks @ Lambeau Field. This game was a huge party, similar to Wisconsin game (see below) but a lot more quirks.

1993 Sky Dome in Toronto. Toronto Argonauts vs. Calgary Stampede.
2008 Edmonton--Where legend Warren Moon roamed and led to 5 Grey Cups. Edmonton Eskimos vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders.

1987 Washington vs. Arizona State for a baseball recruiting visit. What a cool way to watch a game.
1989 Tulsa vs. Arkansas @ Fayetteville.
1990 Tennessee vs. Notre Dame, Knoxville, TN. Todd Helton at QB. Both teams top 10. Tennessee almost pulls it out in a frantic comeback with a successful onside kick.
Lots of games at KU from 1988-1991 (when they were awful).
1994 Maryland vs. Virginia @ Charlottesville. Charlottesville is one of my favorite college towns for its history and beauty.
1999 Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin. A boring Big 10 game--but that was THE biggest college football party I have ever seen. Hands down, no competition.
2001 Nebraska vs. Texas Tech @ Lincoln. Insane game by Cliff Kingsbury (33-63, 363 yards) and Wes Welker with an 85 yd. punt return--I LOVED watching the Blackshirts get shredded and see the TTU fans throw tortillas. Too bad the Huskers won.
2002 Kansas St. @ Texas in Austin. Saw Vince Young's coming out party. KSU made a game of it with Sproles I believe, and Vince Young was sweet.
2003 Arkansas @ Auburn (97 degrees, a very forgettable game for Auburn fans. Cadillac had one of his worst games of his college career and Matt Jones shredded the defense by basically using the tight ends as wide receivers.
2004 Florida @ Mississippi State in 2004. Florida had all the talent and Miss. St. was given no chance, even by their own fans. Florida fans had some unrest, especially with its website, (not up these days, but if Illini fans have another bad season, watch out). Miss. St. gutted out a win. That was fun. It also marked the first time my friends and I tailgated with an RV--that is the way to do it.
2005 Oklahoma State-Texas A&M in 2005. A decent game, 1000 degrees out. Kyle Field was the important destination
Boston College @ Central Michigan 2006. CMU's first nationally televised game, first home game with lights (newly installed that week). Dan LeFevour's coming out party (he's going to put up insane #'s this year and get a few Heisman votes). Starting CMU QB gets crushed on the first play of the game. LeFevour comes in and almost takes down a ranked BC team (imagine Vince Young running style with someone who can actually throw.)

Minnesota State-Mankato
Augustana College (SD)

NAIA (at the time)
Pacific Lutheran University


1988 Oklahoma State @ Kansas' Phog Allen Field House. Danny Manning's last home game. This was a recruiting visit for me, and I was sold on Kansas after this visit, and this game was a clincher. Though I haven't been to games on Tobacco Road or Lexington, KY, I can't imagine college basketball venues better than Allen Field House.
1988-1992 So many great games @ Kansas, it's hard to count. One of my favorite regular season games was Kentucky coming to Allen Field house and DESTROYING Ricky Pitino and Kentucky 150-95--in 1991-92 season.
1990-91 KU vs. Arkansas in the regional final in Charlotte. Drove all night to see that one. KU down by 12 at half, came back to win. Sank free throws to clinch.
Final 4 in 1991 Indianapolis. KU beat UNC with Dean Smith. Duke with Grant Hill beats UNLV juggernaut--they were undefeated.
Duke (ugh) beats KU in the final in pretty solid fashion. Sad outcome, but AMAZING Final 4.
2005 Final 4 in St. Louis. I bought the tickets because I thought KU would be there. Not a thrilling Final 4, but I had a great time with a good friend.


2 Minnesota Timberwolves games
2 Seattle Sonics games, one in the Old Coliseum, 1 in the Tacoma Dome.


I have never been to a huge game in terms of playoff significance, but lots of parks over the years 1977-present.

Safeco Field
Kingdome (I saw the 1979 All-Star game there)
Oakland Coliseum
Dodgers Stadium
Old Padres Stadium before it was called Qualcomm (with a Beach Boys Concert after the game)
Metrodome in Minnesota
Wrigley Field as a guest of Ryne Sandberg
New Comiskey Park, Chicago
Old County Stadium, Milwaukee (saw Mark McGwire's 65th home run--seems weird now)
Old Busch Stadium, St. Louis
Kaufman Stadium, Kansas City
Old Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati
Great American, Cincinnati
Old Tiger Stadium, Detroit
Comerica Park, Detroit
Jacobs Field, Cleveland
Old Yankee Stadium (saw celebration of 50th anniversary of Joltin' Joe's 56 game streak, they gave him a Gold Rolls Royce, and every living Yankee great was there. I had the chills--and pink eye. I would have gone with a collapsed lung).
Shea Stadium, New York
Fenway Park, Boston
PNC Park, Pittsburgh (Outside of my Safeco biases, this is the best baseball park I have visited).
Olympic Stadium, Montreal (met Dick Vitale at this game--it was like an episode of the Surreal Life).
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia

My dear wife and I were on our way to a Rockies game right before we got married, but we got stuck in an insane traffic jam in Denver and ended up being 90 minutes late by the time we got to the exit. We were driving from Las Vegas to St. Paul. Good thing we didn't have tickets.

Minor Leagues
St. Paul Saints
Sioux Falls Canaries

College Baseball
1988-89 I saw lots of great games from the bench and press box at the University of Kansas.
1999 Saw my brother pitch twice at UNLV, that was pretty cool.
1999 U. Arizona game in Tucson.
Augustana College (SD)


1988-1994 I hit 3-4 St. Louis Blues games.
2002 Dallas Stars @ Edmonton Oilers. My dear wife helped me fulfill a longtime dream by going to this game with me.
2002 Buffalo Sabres @ Calgary Flames in the Saddledome.
2008 Columbus Blue Jackets @ Edmonton Oilers with my brother. Oilers win! Oilers win!

College Hockey
1978 Game at the University of British Columbia
1991-1993 Several games at Minnesota State University-Mankato

1970's Seattle Sounders home game in the Kingdome in the old NASL.
1996 Brondby, a popular team in Denmark, not quite elite in Europe, but has performed well in European competition.

1996 Dublin, Ireland

Visited two pro sports hall of fame--
Cooperstown, New York (baseball)
Newport, Rhode Island (tennis)

What I have learned reflecting on this resume:

The college football games are the best for the all around experience.
The college hoop games have the greatest thrills.
The NHL game experience is actually the best.
It's more fun to go with loved ones and friends, but if it ends up being a choice between going and not going at all to a new venue, going is better.
My wife is a really good sport--though not a sports fan, she will still enjoy a game with me.

When the Dave Niehaus era ends

I am huge Dave Niehaus fan--he's like an uncle in our family. Outside of her late husband, sons, grandsons, great grandsons and father, Niehaus is probably the most important man in my grandmother's life. I have a hard time imagining the Mariners without Niehaus.

There will come a day when Niehaus will no longer be calling Mariners games, and the thought of bringing on someone else brings fear to the summer joy and stability that is baseball. I like Rick Rizzs. I like Mike Blowers. I like Dave Sims (though I don't hear too much good about him). I'm glad that the team finally moved on from other broadcasting mediocrities like Dave Valle, Ron Fairly and Wes Stock. Even though the Mariners have decent guys in the booth, none of them are THE guy. They don't have the pipes. They don't have the storytelling ability. They don't inspire listening to the game with hope for a dramatic turn in the ballgame.

Though I'm not the first person to come up with an idea for Niehaus' replacement, I want to get out the word into web land that Kevin Calabro needs to be the guy that is placed in Niehaus' spot on the air. Even though the Mariners have not always put the best club on the field, outside of the Vin Scully's of the world, I can't think of many clubs who have a Niehaus-type storytellers ability or pipes (Bob Uecker in Milwaukee is almost in the same class, I enjoyed him for a few years). In broadcasting, Seattle now holds the high standards set by Niehaus. After suffering through the Twins and Royals game calling for several years, I love the free and easy access to Niehaus on my home radio. Calabro meets the high standards for baseball broadcasting in Seattle.

Calabro has all the attributes of a great baseball broadcaster and he loves Seattle sports. He is not a newer version of Niehaus, but he has the broadcasting skills to want to welcome him into the Mariner fan mindset for 162 regular season games a year. I hope the appropriate leaders are making plans for Calabro in the future. When I ask the question "who would I want to listen to for 162 games a year? Who might actually take the job?" Kevin Calabro is the only answer to this question I know. If there is another answer to these questions, I would like to know.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hot, hot, hot

I grew up without air conditioning, then I live with it for 8 years, and without it I turn into a bigger wimp than I ever imagined. Indeed, Cascadia residents don't know how to live with weather extremes. They can't stop talking about it. It only takes the mere hint of a snow storm or 90 degrees and the lead story on Seattle news is firmly established in weather pandemonium. The snow storm of late 2008 and record amount of consecutive 90 degree days and threat of all-time temperature high in Seattle (102) has caused its authors to get literary in their heat observations.

Truly, without air conditioning and sitting in uncharacteristic heat, it's difficult not to sit around and think about how hot it is. I played a little Wii this morning, did a very short workout, did some writing, --anything to forget about how hot it is. We may have to camp out at my grandmother's home tomorrow. The girls don't seem to notice--they just get lethargic and drink more lemonade. Off to the pool and to the movie later today.

Stay cool, Cascadia, it will soon be over (maybe).

Listening...(July 28, 2009 edition)

Right Here--Little Brother, Median & Symbolyc One & Illlmind
Audience of One--Rise Against
They Put Her In The Movies--Jason Falkner

I'm still stuck on this Whiskeytown song--I can't get enough of it. It's under 3 minutes, and I think the time serves the song well.

Some things sound/taste/smell/look better in their place of origin. Herring tastes fabulous in Denmark, can't say I've enjoyed it anywhere else. Red Hook tastes better here. Roasted pork loin tastes far better in Iowa and South Dakota than anywhere else. I've always liked Heart, but they're not a favorite. Now that I'm back in King County, Seattle-based Heart sounds amazing. The bass line from "Heartless" is funky, powerful, rocking. I love running to this song or playing it on my chores soundtrack. Great song to revisit, if only for the bass line.

I am no hip-hop authority (shocking, I know), but a good sampling can draw me into a hip-hop track. "Right Here" has a soulful, haunting, yet celebratory and meditative sampling. The sampling creates the foundation of the track, but it doesn't grate by being obnoxiously repetitive. I know nothing about the artists or the track, but I'm enjoying the poetry, musicianship and electronic artistry. A great find on the iTunes free download several months ago.

The Jason Falkner songs are usually well done, and I've moved on to a new Falkner track on which I can get pleasantly stuck.

Facebook and Tribes

Yesterday I received a good comment about another Seth Godin work Tribes. Not having read the book (hopefully I can find it at the library), and surmising yesterday's comment I thought about my own tribes: the only tribes I have are related to home. One is my dear wife and girls, the other is my parents and brothers. Outside of those tribes, I have friends, but those friendships aren't necessarily part of a tribe.

I am thankful for the tribes I have, I can't make a value judgment about not having other tribes--it's not something I can control at this point in my life. To what do I attribute few tribes? A series of transitions and moving.

1. We didn't move a lot when I was a child, but the times we did move and when I changed schools significantly altered my friendship communities. I attended one school from grades K-1, then another school when I was placed in a new school district program from grade 2-6. The program involved kids from all over the district, bussed in from many neighborhoods all over the district. I saw different kids in sports, in my neighborhood, at school, at church. In middle school I continued in the school district program, but later withdrew over conflicts with teachers. I also discovered my family was moving 60 miles away, and I wanted to spend more time with another tribe outside the district program.

2. After moving, my family stayed in the new town much longer than I did. I lived there 4 years. I think my parents were there 14 years or so, and my brothers went to elementary, middle and high school in that town--they are much more tribe-oriented to that town and their friends than I am.

3. My higher education from 1988 to 2003 involved several institutions:

University of Kansas
South Puget Sound Community College
Minnesota State University-Mankato
Luther Seminary
Catholic University of America
Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg
Wesley Seminary
South Dakota State University

I stayed the longest at Luther Seminary (a little over 3 years), but I began my program in the middle of the academic year, then switched classes after I was engaged to my dear wife. She started in the class after me--so I graduated with her class. I have friends from some of these institutions, but not a tribe.

4. During my ordained ministry, I have never served in a congregation or town more than approximately 2.5 years. While serving as an interim pastor, there's always been a distinct distance from groups that I encounter in congregational life. I think it's the nature of my vocational demographic, the moving around I do, and the nature of the interim pastor role. Though I have made some friends along the way, nothing has formed for me that resembles a tribe. My dear wife has tribes from our time in South Dakota--she benefited from staying in one congregation and the established connections from her time as an undergraduate student in South Dakota. My vocational path and location hasn't lent itself to tribal formation.

5. As I reflect on the Facebook invitations I have received, some appear to be about friend accumulation, some are about a fringe tribe welcoming, some I don't understand the motivation. In tribe speak, my response is: "not my tribe." In family system speak, the question is, "is this of self or is this not of self?" The answer is "not of self."

I don't need Facebook to communicate with my dear wife, my daughters, my diasporic friendships, my parents, or my brothers. It makes sense that effective communication among tribes can be enhanced by Facebook. I will probably read Godin's book to better understand tribal behavior in the congregations and communities I serve. Thanks to yesterday's responder for providing good reflection for me today.

Monday, July 27, 2009

On Tess of the D'Urbervilles

"How can I pray for you," [Tess] said, "when I am forbidden to believe that the great Power who moves the world would alter His plans on my account?"

--Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Barnes and Noble Edition, p. 374)

On a theological level, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is a worthy read. I like this question Hardy crafts in Tess' conversation in her troubled relationship with Alec D'Urberville because it makes so many statement about religious influence in human existence. Has Tess been poorly educated about doctrine? Does she merely have self-image issues? Has she been influenced somewhat by a deist way of thinking?

Some have written about Hardy's loss of religion in his lifetime; Hardy offers main characters who are clearly wrestling with their faith, if not lost it altogether. Yet it is evident that faith and religion have impacted each characters' lives. I'm not sure that after all of the tragic events in Tess that transpire whether Hardy is attempting to debunk Christian faith or religion in general, or critique the social structures that expose institutional Christianity as a deeply flawed social fabric contaminated with hypocrisy, further tainted when woven with the arbitrary cruelty of social class. Hardy exposes social class as a farce, while exposing how people buy into this construction without challenging it--to the point of their own destruction. I can relate to this--the contemporary financial philosopher Dave Ramsey says that we go broke and push our lives to the brink of destruction trying to impress people that we don't even know or like. In my other lost moments and days--I lived this way as well.

Tess' family lives in a world where they are slaves to social convention--but because these oppressive social boundaries appear rigid they don't really change their lives, even when it appears they have new opportunities when they learn they are part of the famous D'Urberville lineage and can shake their poor image as mere Durbeyfields. Tess ends up blaming herself for situations that she cannot control, yet she is fearful to act in situations that she could control out of fear of social structures. Unfortunately, the paralyzed Tess is felt in the pacing of the book--the only painful part of the book is the seemingly endless dance around social structures between Tess and Angel Clare in the middle 200 pages of the book. These pages can be summarized: In a dairy farm setting, Tess has a secret about her past that she is not sure she wants to reveal to her love Angel Clare. Clare loves Tess and can't imagine what is keeping them from getting married. I am no literature scholar, but this could easily be covered in 50 pages. The only explanation I can find for the length of this part of the drama is that originally was published in sections, and that extending this part of the story is a time-honored technique to keep readers holding on between issues. This type of story extension serves soap operas, and shows like Friends, Moonlighting, Grey's Anatomy, etc., well, but can be agonizing for followers. Some authors and screenwriters don't know when to move on (Hardy did it a little too late for my taste, but I was going to finish this book come hell or high water). Crafting stories in this way builds readership through word of mouth and public discourse. Though I can understand the technique, it doesn't work as much for a novel.

Some have written that Tess of the D'Urbervilles is one of the finest novels written in English of all time. Indeed, the language is precise, and the book revealed the gaping holes in my vocabulary that I hadn't seen since I took the Graduate Record Examination a few years ago. Just because the language was precise didn't mean Hardy was overstated in his prose. I only had to look up more words in the dictionary than I had to in many years.

I don't know if I experienced redemption reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I have always harbored doubts to learn well from reading classic literature. I gained a little more confidence reading this book, and I was reminded about what I did learn from my blown opportunity in 2nd year literature in college: pay attention to characters, details and language. Be persistent and take your time. At least I can enjoy literature at a deeper level, and use it to engage in public discourse and reflect on important themes in life. I'm looking forward to watching the Tess of the D'Urbervilles film and consider the themes at a deeper level.

Preaching for August 2, 2009

Exodus 16: 2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

Preaching in heat is absolutely draining, not just for the preacher, but for the congregation. Some contextual factors probably shouldn't matter to the proclamation of the Gospel, but I think it's an issue. I need to keep my message brief, lest the goodness of the message is lost on people wondering when they can get out of the sanctuary for something cool to drink. If I was a long-term pastor in a congregation, I would start a discussion about air conditioning, or at least provoking a discussion for serving smoothies or bringing in a giant water cooler.

I am thinking about focusing on Exodus this week, mostly because I am once again drawn toward the topic of complaining. Here the Israelites are in a wilderness setting with tenuous provisions. The complaining crescendos--and God produces. Why have I not noticed this before?

If I was God, I wouldn't let my followers benefit from complaining. I don't like to let my own children benefit from complaining. I am less likely to give them something if they whine; on my daughter's responsibility chart, she receives a gold star for days when whining/complaining is eliminated or minimized. After participating in many funerals over the years of ministry, on the list of compliments for the deceased, "he/she never complained" is probably in the top 10. Why is complaining seen as a character flaw outside of legitimate claims of injustice? Even in cases of complaining against injustice, complaining is still not embraced.

Should it be taken into account that the Israelites are complaining about basic provisions? Does God respond to complaints relative to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? The higher one moves up complaining related to Maslow's chart, does it make it more likely that God will smite people?

Complaining is a strong theme in Wellman's book comparing different ends of the Christian spectrum in the Pacific Northwest--the liberal Protestants are the ones doing the complaining about ministry in the Pacific Northwest, Wellman found in his research. I have assumed complaining is the bad posture--and I've preached 2 sermons this summer interpreting Bible passages toward the deterioration that comes from complaining in the life of the Church.

But here in Exodus is a passage that rewards complaining with abundance, but the abundance of the foundation of Maslow's Hierarchy is called "manna (translated: what is it?)" I think the response to complaining doesn't necessarily speak to a complete giving in by God to complaining--because there are boundaries to dealing with "what is it?" Gather only enough for the day, except for Friday, where you can gather double--which covers God's resting day.

I will be doing a word study on complaining this week, and hope to deliver a refined message on the meaning of complaining for the community of faith, because I think American Christians are particularly adept at complaining. I can complain with the best of them, especially about the heat. My character is severely flawed in the world of Christendom.

Something sane and intelligent about Facebook and blogging

Approximately 5 invitations to Facebook came to my inbox in the month of July--pushing my total in my life to around 12-15 (although in previous posts I made it appear that I get 12-15 invitations a day--pure hyperbole). I have not joined Facebook, and I rant about Facebook every so often. A summation of my theories on Facebook to this point:

1. Facebook is a time suck.
2. Facebook reminds me too much of a high school dance.
3. Facebook could be useful when I move back into the working-outside-the-home world.

I've been passively searching for some healthy analysis about Facebook usage that doesn't come from somebody who wants me to come to the high school dance.

A recent post by media and marketing guru Seth Godin helped me make a step toward clarity about Facebook. If you haven't read or listened to Godin, I recommend him as time well invested, especially these brief YouTube videos.

I am not a business-type person, but Godin's astute commentary on technology and public life offers me more wisdom than most theologians on these topics. I'm sure business types have been reading Godin for years. I found an audio book of Godin's about "The Idea Virus" on a closeout book scrap heap at an outlet mall while driving cross-country a few years ago. I troll for this kind of stuff when I have a long drive ahead of me. Sometimes it's a waste of 3-5 dollars, but Godin was a home run. Godin is refreshing because I grow weary of societal critique at times, especially in my line of work. Godin offers descriptive analyses that drives a reader toward deeper thought. Godin is no Luddite, but he essentially calls Facebook wasted time unless it becomes an avenue for deeper interaction--and his credibility behind his statements on Facebook have few rivals.

In one of the YouTube posts today from Godin's blog, Tom Peters also offers some good thoughts about blogs, which has led me to reflect on what I will do with blogging in the future. Peters calls it one of the most important thing he does in his professional life--something Godin affirms as a powerful opportunity to refine thought processes. I affirm those thoughts, something that I would have said when I started blogging regularly, though not as eloquently. Considering Godin's and Peters' statements, I have found several warnings about blogging that a blog could be held against people, especially in academics, a field in which I hope to find myself in the next few years. I have recently pondered that my blog needs a change, though I can't put my finger on it. Godin and Peters gave me worthwhile reflection points.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Half-marathon training

After running somewhere around 11 miles this morning, I learned that at this point in my life and fitness level that I will function better as a winter trainer for spring long races. It's only 70 degrees out right now, but I was seriously gassed the last mile or two.

I could say that my body works better in the cool weather (I've always struggled with heat, even in my more fit days)--I could also be real with myself and say that I'm carrying around 50 or so extra pounds. How much easier would that run be if I wasn't carrying that much extra weight? Today was an important day to get out--the weather in the next week would have caused me to tread dangerous ground to make a long run, and I don't have to do another long run for two weeks now. Next Saturday is interval training that won't take me 2 hours.

Regardless of my condition, I still enjoy getting outside for a little reflection time--time to give thanks, to think about my sermon, to think about my family and our hopes and goals. Running and training will not change as long as I am wise about training. I do wonder when I'm going to get really serious about how much extra weight I'm carrying around, or how long I'm going to make excuses. They have to stop.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Religious geography in 90 seconds

I'm not exactly sure about the accuracy of this sweeping piece of religious geography and history, but for those of us with short attention spans, it's fun and pretty viewing.

Preaching for July 26th, 2009

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

I preach on the Gospel of John with higher levels of trepidation than other texts. I remember the challenge of the Greek when I used that tool with any regularity. I also find this account presents some of the most challenging interpretive questions. This particular section in the Revised Common Lectionary also hits 5 straight weeks of John 6 and themes related to bread. I have come across several (poor) preacher jokes about how they avoid these texts through the use of vacation and other lectionary texts.

I'm leaning toward preaching on the Ephesians text because I resonate with the offering of encouragement to the people of God, whom in my experience are often feeling either insufficient as a child of God, discouraged, isolated, or a combination thereof. After reading Arland Hultrgren's piece from, I'm focusing on the riches of faith--which is the relationships and faith stories of others in the community of faith.

Some in the coming weeks will argue that the riches of faith come only from the articulation sound and pure doctrine. This doctrinal argument will inevitably arise when ELCA Lutherans from all over the country will get together in Minneapolis in less than a month to passionately debate the role of LGBT people in the live of the Church (though it won't be the only topic, this topic will receive the most coverage). Some will say that these faith stories are irrelevant or minimized because they do not come from a foundation of sound doctrine. I may read about these debates because sometimes I like to watch a good train wreck. I believe the ELCA may experience a significant split after the August gathering. At the very least there will be hemming and hawing. Whatever the ELCA discerns what to do with itself, I will continue to harvest the riches of faith stories in Christ from God's people, for it is texts like this in Ephesians that call me to what I am supposed to do. If a church isn't willing to have me as a preacher of the Gospel because of a certain trajectory of belief I hold, so be it.

These reflections may not all find their way into my sermon on Sunday--I have to have an intentional economy of words. The heat will preclude me from a long period of attention from the congregation on Sunday--and they do not have air conditioning. Ugh.

Here comes the heat wave

Surfacing reports indicate a heat wave is coming to the Pacific Northwest.

I am looking at this heat wife like a Midwest snow storm in some ways--preparation mode. The comparison to a Midwest snowstorm doesn't really work--the Midwest adjusts to weather extremes far better than any place west of the Cascade mountains. My preparation mode began earlier this morning--I have a cool overcast morning with which to work, and I am cooking on the stove now to avoid turning it on later during the unbearable temperatures. I've cooked some chicken breasts, pasta and macaroni and cheese; some will be used for the microwave, some will be mixed in a salad. I'm getting out my camping grill later (packed in a box somewhere) so I can cook something else in the next week. I want to be able to feed my family a decent meal while still following The Frugal Rule. It would be oh, so tempting to go out to a nice, air conditioned restaurant during the heat wave, but not really cost effective.

I remember big snow days in the Midwest--we had/have a good vehicle for getting around, but why take a chance going into a ditch when it isn't necessary? When I knew the storm was coming, I made sure we had hot meals ready to make, milk, and some food to easily prepare if the power went out because of an ice storm.

The heat wave is my least favorite weather extreme for which to prepare, but I also like testing my expanding home economist skills. My next big test will be if I can get going early enough in the morning to get in my long run before it gets too warm.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The excellent rain

While taking the dog out this morning for his morning constitutional, I felt a cool, light and wet feeling on my arms. The air has been so dry this summer in the Pacific Northwest that I looked around to see if I had unknowingly walked through a sprinkler. From an overcast sky, I received the refreshing blessing of a rain I had not felt in years--the rain mist that doesn't get you wet. I felt the rain, but there was no evidence of rain on my skin or clothing.

As Timothy Egan points out in his great book, The Good Rain, Seattle is not even close to being a top city in the U.S. for rain (though its neighbor on the coast, Quillayute, is #3). There is still a perception of rain culture in the PNW that cannot be shaken.

Maybe the rain perception has something to do with the overcast skies, the moderate climate, the method of dress for locals, even the way the locals name a huge festival after an English colloquialism for an umbrella (a festival that celebrates the region a few weeks before the rains come for another 8 months or so). Maybe it has something to do with feeling a rain that I have never felt anywhere else in my travels.

The rain this morning reminded me (quoting a friend): "my feet felt like they belonged." It rained, but my feet didn't get wet. It's almost like Moses with the burning bush (Exodus 3:2): "[Moses] looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed."

I stood under the rain, yet I was not wet: a Pacific Northwest odyssey.

Blogging and unemployment

I wonder about the relationship between blog posts nationally and unemployment numbers. My guess is--unemployment up, blog posts up. Unemployment down, blog posts down. At least that's how it works for me.

There's no way I can keep up this kind of blogging pace outside my home, fully employed, unless I use a blog as sermon preparation. I've rediscovered that I like the writing life--and my writing life is a bit like my running life. I like to make the decisions; when writing or running becomes work, they aren't as fun. Maybe that's why I'm less likely to make a living as a writer. I'm still pondering my Tess review--this book overflows with topics for consideration. At least I finally finished the book! It only took me nearly 6 months...

Today is going to be mostly a homebody day. I'll probably walk the kids to the park and read a little Tobias Wolff while the kids run around the soccer field. Then I'll come home and watch the Mariners play this morning while I fold laundry (what a game last night! Thanks Branyan and King Felix for the thrill!). The girls have become connoisseurs of jungle gyms, and this one close to our home is below average. Even though we go to that park at least once a week, they barely notice that play set any more. We all like the soccer field by our house. It actually has good sight lines, I think an architect must have been part of this plan. I can sit on a little perch a few hundred feet from the field and see everything they do. I think the girls like the freedom of running around where they want on their own time. I guess we're peas in a pod.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On the road again--running as a way of life (part 3)

Before my dear wife and I moved to South Dakota, I had taken up a regular regimen of pick up basketball 2-3 times per week. That was my favorite method of exercise--I always prided myself on being a gritty player. I took special pride in sprinting back on defense to take away what someone thought would be an easy lay up or running a 3 on 2 break and getting to the corner for a short jumper or layup--or even leading it after I anticipated a pass and made a steal. It was the sprint that produced an immediate gratification, and (bonus!) my conditioning skyrocketed.

I ran a little bit less in those basketball days--if I was playing with a good group of guys, I got in plenty of wind sprints. I used running more for getting away than conditioning; Lake Country Wisconsin provided great scenery for running getaways.

Upon moving to South Dakota I continued the same running pattern. Basketball 3 days per week and running 2 or more days per week. I played hoops while taking classes at South Dakota State (and lost about 5 pounds in sweat in that painfully hot gym), and then picked up playing at the Sioux Valley/Sanford/Mob Wellness Center. I can't say I was in the best shape of my life (I should have been), the big shift was the birth of our first child, and I could no longer work out when I pleased. I had never been a rigorously scheduled person, I ran whenever the Spirit moved me. When #1 was born into our 2 pastor household, we were pulled in all kinds of directions with a child making her own demands. I had a hard time adjusting to compromises to my running time.

Then about 6:10 am in January, 2004, while playing pick up basketball, executing one of my favorite plays, hustling back on defense to break up an easy bucket, someone with as much or more aggressiveness than me, collided with me mid-air at high speed on the way to the hoop. My lower left leg twisted in a way I didn't know it could. I have no recollection how I landed. I think the injury happened mid-air, which the doctor said was unlikely, but possible. I blew out my ACL, MCL and significantly damaged the meniscus. It was a long, slow and painful recovery.

I had to retire from basketball and learn the dynamic of personal limitation and compromise, from familial to physical. I still haven't learned all of these lessons. Though not an elite athlete, I performed at a good level for several years in almost any way I wanted. My own maturity level held me back, but I also had many joys through physical performance. Family really isn't a limitation--but dynamics of relationships accentuate the choices I make every day. What is important to me? How will I invest my time, my body, my resources?

Running became the obvious choice as a great investment in me, my family, my body and resources. Running fits my economy--I can work my heart, pray, think, plan, experience joy, work my muscles, achieve and keep my body working well. Running is also a habit practice--I've been doing it more or less twice per week for 25 years, with the only large gap being recovering from knee reconstruction (about 2 years). I may try other things like bicycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, hiking, or some other sport that doesn't put my ACL at an incredibly high risk. I always have an entry point with running.

I hit a low point in fitness last fall. It was an especially hot summer in South Dakota; the thought and experience of going outside to run made me physically ill. I had also made too many excuses about the schedules of my family as taking me away from any consistent physical activity. Carrying around the weight I was didn't help matters. Without too much thought, but with consideration of my knees, I dedicated myself to short, but consistent runs early each morning. It was the only way I could do it and not worry about anything in the lives of the 3 females in the house. It was my time. I rose between 4:45 and 5:15 am 5-7 days per week and went to the track. The track reduced the pounding effects of pavement running. I continued almost regardless of the conditions--I think I missed one day because of a lightning storm. I ran in several inches of snow this last winter. I ran in -20 degrees, which was a lot more comfortable for me than running in the heat. I was well equipped (I now own ice/snow running attachments for my shoes--I'm also amazed by the cold weather running gear), and I wasn't going to miss the prayer, thought and planning time. I was further motivated by a race for which I registered around St. Patrick's Day.

The move to Washington has created a new list of excuses for a reduced running pattern, but I've also bought in to Jeff Galloway's program of running less often and focusing more on the weekly long run as a means to prevent injury and actually boost achievement. I want to get out there every day, and I haven't figured out a cross-training regimen that works for me. I've also added shoe orthotics for injury prevention and to deal with an old injury. Like the rest of life, dealing with adversity and making adjustments is more of what life is about than looking to dwell in good times, all the time and not seeing the gift of each day. I'm working toward a half-marathon on Labor Day and hopefully a marathon around my 40th birthday. I'm looking to make another adjustment for cross-training tomorrow--something I have basically ignored.

I will make that adjustment in running--it's a way of life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Does place really make a difference for the Church (Part 2 of an ongoing series)?

The Seattle Times is not a pillar of religion coverage, let alone journalism pertaining to Christian issues. However, one of today's lead stories speaks to both national religious issues and those particular to the Pacific Northwest. Conservative Evangelicals are indeed lacking strong national leadership, yet have strong local and regional presence in different areas of the country. What does that mean for the open religious market in the Northwest? This article begins to take on the discussion about what appears to be a religious vortex in the Pacific Northwest--that is, no one type of religious presence will dominate that PNW religious landscape at least for the next decade.

However, I agree with James Wellman's assessment that Conservative Evangelicals will continue to make gains in religious participation in the PNW, but it remains to be seen whether Conservative Evangelicals will gain influence in the PNW. While a prominent wave of Evangelical influence has affected national public discourse in recent memory, nothing seems to keep a lasting hold. The comment section on the Times article is brisk and speaks to a certain level of religious illiteracy, though religiosity does illicit emotional responses.

Reading the responses to the Times article also remind me of Bill Maher's implicit call to atheists (in Religulous) to engage in public religious discourse. Merely speaking against religion is not an ethical response. Maher believes the world hangs in the balance with religion part of the fulcrum with dynamite sitting below it. Religious literacy is important for religious discourse for people to have a positive influence in the world. I'm not trying to create a Unitarian mass conversion, but the level of religious ignorance is dangerous (and I could do better myself with that literacy). To merely attempt to debunk religion is publicly irresponsible.

Monday, July 20, 2009

After 5 weeks with digital cable

I have surprised myself after watching about 5 weeks of cable television (not constantly, of course). If I predicted what I would be watching, I would have guessed sports and Comedy Central. It's not even close. I watch Mariner games, but not all of them. The Mariners probably rank 3rd, behind shows on TLC and HGTV.

I've found that these networks carry shows that inspire household discussion. Daughter #1 takes interest in people that are hurt, have a disease or some other genetic challenge. I think it has something to do with her growing understanding of the self-other dynamic and differences in general. She's starting to make sense of difference, and we end up having discussions about social dynamics, recognizing the innocence of her curiosity, yet recognizing necessity of kindness, personal space, compassion and social graces.

For my dear wife and I, we watch "What Not To Wear." At first, I think it was amusing, but lately I've been reflecting upon the meaning of clothing and personal appearance. A deeper reflection began after watching The Devil Wears Prada. For a few years I've taken into consideration what clothing means in the realm of social justice, and surprisingly, implicit references have been made to the amount of money spent on clothing on this show and its meaning. What I did not expect as a reflection from this show was the frequency of the discussion about what is "age appropriate clothing." I'm not prepared to address the question, but as in other instances, turning 40 is on my mind. To what degree does image matter? How does clothing fit in? What of social justice? My dear wife and I have hit a surprising amount of discussions related to this show.

HGTV has also presented many different discussions. The focus on housing and design are a bit outside of common household discussion, especially since we recently spent a goodly sum on house updates, and we are not prolific "do-it-yourself" folks. These housing topics and sub-topics are important for our family because space and land affect relationships. I think public discourse is currently directed toward the purity and/or critique of the state of relationships. But as biblical scholar Eugene Peterson reminds me that relationships are important, we also occupy time and space, therefore we must give adequate reflection to what time and space mean in our lives. HGTV provides space for some practical discussion about the meaning of space and land in our lives in relationship to our family. It's also fun. Fun is good.

Album Rock, Continued

The more I think about the topic of "album rock," and figure out if I had to take 10 CD's on a cross country road trip, which ones would I take? A few factors to consider:

1. I can only think of a few reasons that I would take CD's on a road trip: a) something in the mp3 circle of life is out of order, b)surveying the equipment available on the trip, CD's would be the way to go. Therefore, the CD discussion is nearly obsolete.

2. The concept of album craft appears nearly obsolete. This is not to say that vinyl is obsolete--vinyl can be a better sound than digital in some cases. In addition, the graphic art associated with CD releases is not dead because of the development of mp3 software. Putting together songs on an album/CD release in the album craft art is nearly obsolete.

3. What does the development of mp3 music culture say about music choice? Or choice in general? The amount of choice available occasionally boggles my mind when I ponder its magnitude. Though mp3 platforms like iTunes have been good in the past in separating me from my money by giving me song samples, reviews and free songs, I find that the magnitude of choice sometimes paralyzes me in spending money on music. Considering the Frugal Rule, this is a good development. I consider this paralysis of choice a bad development because I miss out on some hidden gems of music.

Back to the list of choice CD's--I only dealt with the scenario of a cross country trip with a little music once. I drove from Southern California to the Puget Sound region with a high school friend in 1989 in his olive green 1975(?) Dodge Charger. Our music choices were limited, but I remember we had 4 cassettes:

Boston-Third Stage
Alabama-Greatest Hits
Bobby Brown-Don't Be Cruel

I don't listen to any of these CD's with any frequency anymore, let alone any of the songs (except I had a little reunion with Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step," several months ago. After following a little bit of Brown's career and life path--this is really a song glorifying stalking. A bit creepy.), but we survived and enjoyed singing some of the songs repeatedly.

Because the legitimacy of the cross country CD question is just about dead in an era of choice and mp3's, I don't need to drag out this question any longer. My 10 cd's for the trip (in no particular order):

Great Big Sea--The Hard and the Easy
Whiskeytown--Strangers Almanac
Rush--Moving Pictures
Jason Falkner--Bliss Descending
Alison Krauss + Union Station--New Favorite
James Taylor--One Man Dog
Barenaked Ladies--Gordon
Lloyd Cole--Love Story
Bach--Brandenburg Concertos 1-6
R.E.M.--Life's Rich Pageant

I needed a little classic rock, a little power pop, a little rockin' country, a variety of singable songs at all volumes, music where I don't have to sing, some distinctly ethnic identity music, some songs to make me think and songs to lead to prayer. It may not be the best list, but it's one with which I can live for 1-7 days of driving. It's also a list where there's plenty of songs that my dear wife would enjoy, though we might put together a rule that we each get to choose 5 CD's.

Okay now, I think I'm done with this topic.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Love those county fairs

One of the best summer entertainment values for our family is a small town fair. Last summer we went to two; Saturday we took a beautiful drive on a pleasantly warm day and attended a fair with no gate fee. The girls love the animals--especially the pigs, goats, horses and cats. The pig pictured above is quite a prolific mother--gave birth to 14 litters, averaging a dozen piglets per litter. We watched a little bit of dogs performing at a show, jumping hurdles and climbing through tunnels. We looked at some of the 4-H artwork and imagined our oldest daughter might enjoy 4-H and encourage her to build some life skills. Our youngest took interest in the Elvis impersonator, as she vigorously applauded for "It's Now Or Never," a song dedicated to a couple who was engaged at that little concert.

There is not much about this fair that is particularly unique--animals, prize vegetables, rides, treats, music, etc--the usual fair fare. The crowds are manageable, the girls have a little freedom (we don't have to worry too much about one of them taking off in the crowd), they look forward to the rides, and they see things that we don't always see in our day to day life. Besides the agricultural and artistic displays, we saw an unofficial dog show. As we made our way to the fair entrance, two large (~75-100 pounds), well groomed stray dogs crossed our path. One mounted the other, like they were doing this on cue as a performance. Another family saw this as they sat in their car eating their lunch. I think each of the groups was trying to discern whether the dogs belonged to either party. Daughter #1 asked, "Are those dogs fighting?"

Dear wife: "Not really."

Daughter #1: "Are they playing?"

Dear wife: "You could say that."

Daughter #1: "Are they playing tag?" The family in the car laughed. We tried not to discourage the questions, but we had a hard time not laughing. It just didn't feel like the right time to explain dog mating, so we stuck with agreeing about the playing dogs. My dear wife and I got a lot of mileage out that scene as we made little jokes about what we saw. It's one of those cute innocent reactions from children that we can't really control and hope to convey as grace and the joys of childhood.

The girls smiled almost the entire trip--we had some great teaching moments and we come home tired after long walks and good sunshine. Thirty dollars well spent for parking, lunch, treats, a ride and some games. The girls also received stuffed animals from a generous man who won the animals playing games out of the goodness of his heart, and a free bear for visiting all of the animal displays at the fair. The clincher for me is the mountain back drop, the towering evergreens and the scones we don't get in South Dakota. We would go to a small town fair in the middle of the Mojave Desert or a rain forest, but this context was special. A good time was had by all.

Downtown Owl: my new sub-hobby as a Chuck Klosterman apologist (as if he needs one)

Regardless of book quality, rarely do I complete a book in less than a week. Granted, Chuck Klosterman is relatively easy to read--sometimes I find it easier to read Klosterman than the comics section.

Why do I find him so easy to read these days? Klosterman feels like a pseudo-friend as I read his work. I don't think I have the life, time or energy for many friends these days. I don't necessarily lament this, I live a blessed life. However, there's a distinct quality and added value to reading (hearing) something about a philosophical shared experience. Though I wasn't born in the Northern Great Plains (NGP), I recently lived there for 8 1/2 years, and those years left an indelible imprint on my life. Klosterman no longer lives in North Dakota, yet he writes in a way that attempts to extract meaning from his life in North Dakota that only distance provides. As I am neither a book critic or well-read, I wonder if Klosterman is unique in his depiction of the NGP, one who understands the cultural characteristics of NGP life and actually names them with a bit of critique and an abiding affection (Klosterman dedicates the novel to "Melissa" and "North Dakota." The only author I can recall who comes close is Garrison Keillor (is Klosterman a sort of Gen X Keillor? I'm waiting for Klosterman's new book in October). The major difference I would note is Keillor's distinct use of sarcasm is mostly absent in Klosterman. Where Keillor gave me humorous insights to cultural quirks in the NGP, Klosterman has helped me extract meaning from my experiences in the NGP over the past 8 years.

As a pastor in the NGP, I served in places like Owl, North Dakota, but I never lived there. I always went home to the big city to sleep in my bed with my dear wife. I attended basketball games, I ate at the local cafes, I observed teenage socialization, I observed particular family dynamics, I participated in senior citizen philosophical symposiums in church basements and local eateries. After all of those years in NGP ministry, I learned that though I had a passport into strange places in people's lives that few (if any) other people had, most people behave differently in the known proximity of their pastor. Therefore there was much I didn't see in people's basic lives. Klosterman provided plausible and interesting depictions of characters with whom I interacted in the congregations I served--but I also didn't get to know. Klosterman filled in some curious gaps for me. Even though Klosterman claims his work is not autobiographical, he is writing about what he knows. Though Klosterman creates an omniscient narrator for Downtown Owl, I feel like the novel represents getting together with a friend to compare and contrast life in particular towns of which Klosterman knows.

After reading reviews of Downtown Owl from Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times. Both reviewers critique Klosterman's level of omniscience, that Downtown Owl reads too much like a Klosterman essay, with nimble cultural commentary that is sometimes distracting from character development. This critique may or may not be valid; I suppose it may depend on why you're reading the book. Though I didn't necessarily care about all of Klosterman's cultural commentary from the narrator, I'm not sure Klosterman cares if a reader resonates with all of his references. I believe that is his style. He gives his readers too much to think about, but writes in a way that says, "enjoy what you can, gain insight from what you can, toss aside the rest. It doesn't bother me." Sure, some of Klosterman's social commentaries may have been superfluous to character development, but it didn't take away from my personal resonance with the characters and the general observations about Owl compared to the rest of America. I was still able to extract meaning in light of my own experiences that made me laugh and think on multiple levels. Few authors have that kind of cache with me, which is why I finished the book in a week.

If you want to learn more about Klosterman, check out his two-part podcast appearance with Bill Simmons from ESPN (look for June 28-29). My big learning from these podcasts was that the only way Klosterman was able to get his novel published was that Downtown Owl was part of a two book deal, the other being a book of essays (to be released October 2009). I'm glad Klosterman has the kind of leverage that he can write out of his own creative place and not merely what some believe the market will bear. I hope that Downtown Owl sold enough books that Klosterman will write another novel.

Post script on books: Klosterman was about the only reading distraction I had to finishing Tess of the D'Urbervilles this week. In the quest for something new, Christopher Hitchens "god is not Great" was available at my local library branch. Though somewhat interesting, Hitchens won't eclipse Tess on my priority list. But something else may come along...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On the road again--running as a way of life (part 2)

After I signed up for my first half-marathon for Labor Day, I realized that my original plan was to run a race at the end of September. I'm about 3 weeks behind schedule now--I'm adding a little bit to my long runs each Saturday or Sunday to catch up a bit. Nine miles this morning was a little tough, but I stuck with the walk-run combo, which should keep me fresh and healthy.

Back to the running story.

With my 7th grade 600 yard epiphany run, I discovered the benefits of running beyond the testosterone-fueled speed fix for my new teenage body. Though I knew nothing yet of endorphines, these endorphines helped me sort out the onslaught of thought and emotion pulsating through my brain every day. Running didn't solve my problems, but gave me space and balance in which I didn't have to worry about the consequences of my developing brain. The faster and farther I ran, the better I felt.

I needed to feel better because I was upset that my family was moving about 60 miles away--and I would no longer see my friends with whom I had grown up--a crushing development for a 13-year old. I remember one of my last days in my old neighborhood, a party with classmates on the shores of Lake Washington. It was a cool and drizzly June day. I don't remember feeling sad about moving, just frustrated. I felt like I had control of nothing anymore, like I had no choices. My friends had nothing to say to quell that frustration; I think the frustration continued to boil and rise. So I took off and started running along the lake. I don't know how far I ran--but it started to rain, and that only gave me more energy to run. I ran so far that I had thoughts of running all the way home (I just looked this up on Google Maps, it wouldn't have taken me that long. It would have been a 4-mile run. One thing I hadn't learned about running yet was pacing. I would have passed out sprinting 4 miles). I'd say about a mile into it, I gave up the home run thought and returned to the park. The run gave me the space to be frustrated, but on the run I realized that I didn't have to despair about the frustration, and I was more open to the move.

Running became my own space to sort things out, where I didn't have to answer anyone's questions but my own.

After the move, I found myself running a few times per week, working my way up to 3-4 mile runs. I thought it was a good practice to get me in shape for basketball and baseball. I liked the discipline, so I joined the cross country team. Here I discovered I wasn't really a competitive runner. However, I enjoyed the training runs so much, it didn't matter to me that I didn't make varsity, let alone finish very high in the junior varsity. I had a nasty kick, but I couldn't figure out the pacing thing. I usually finished in the bottom ten for the meet. I remember one guy who became a basketball nemesis in a neighboring town. He was 6'8" as a frosh and could barely put one foot in front of the other, so they had him run cross country so that he could build his coordination. At least I could beat him in a 3-mile race, and a few others. That was it. I ran cross country for about 2.2 seasons before I learned that my lack of cross country success resulted from not completing all the training runs. Running was about my own space, not running with a team or being told to run--how far, how fast, and when. After running for a few weeks with the team my junior year, I quit and went back to running on my own, which was much more enjoyable.

What I learned from cross country is how much I enjoyed the basic 3-mile run. It has been the foundation of my running schedule for years. I get my blood pumping, I can exert a little speed once in awhile, and I feel refreshed after I'm done. I continued this style of running schedule of 2.5-4 miles, 3-6 times per week, through high school, college and seminary and while my dear wife and I lived in Wisconsin. I ran regardless of the conditions, and found I really enjoyed running in the snow. I went through brief periods where I would run longer distances, but I stuck with the basic 3-mile average.

I took that simple running practice toward running several 5k races. I think I ran about 6-8 over the years. I ran a 5k in Grapeview, Washington for their local festival. I ran the Komen Race for the Cure, a sorority sponsored run at the University of Kansas, another for ovarian cancer, and one for mental illness support and another to support a college in Wisconsin. I loved the race day excitement to boost my beloved training run. I also enjoyed the opportunity to take a little day trip to the race, which gave me another incentive to run--running in different places. I developed the habit of packing my running clothes, so as I traveled more often for work and education, my running was refreshed by seeing a new place while I ran.

When I moved to South Dakota, life changed. And so did my running.

Friday, July 17, 2009

heat message?

It doesn't seem to matter where I live; I can't avoid the heat.

High in King County today: 87 or higher
High in Sioux Falls today: 73

Is God trying to tell me something (interpret as you will)?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Personal music economics and "Album Rock"

Through Starbucks free music offers and the iTunes free track of the week, I have become acquainted with some new music while living on the Frugal Rule. What I lament in this iPod and single track world is the purchase of an entire album/cassette/CD and the boom and bust musical excavation that came from investing 6-20 dollars in a musical collection. The boom is purchasing an album to listen to one or two great songs and finding at least 4 or 5 more. The bust is the same purchase, and having that one song minimized because I spent 20 dollars for one good song. Am I still able to find the "Album Rock Deep Track" in an single track mp3 world? What is better for the music collection in the long run--boom and bust collecting, or mp3 cherry-picking?

I recall a discussion in college that if you could only take 5 CD's on a cross country drive (without greatest hits collections or box sets) which ones would you take? I started with a list of 31. This list not only dates me a bit, but it also reveals times in my life where I either had no money, or began to make the shift toward mp3's. Looking at this list makes me wonder about great songs I have missed because I rarely buy entire CD's anymore. I'm going to see if I can get this list down to 5, making a few rounds of cuts along the way. This will be a fun way to delve into the concept music and meaning, and also the artistic ability of the artists involved. The initial list may even get a little bigger in the first few days as I consider the albums of my life--this list came from a quick review of my collection.

On the way to 5 CD's to take on a cross-country trip--The Early Qualifiers (in no particular order):

1. Ivy—Apartment Life
2. Southern Culture On The Skids—Plastic Seat Sweat
3. R.E.M.—Automatic For The People
4. R.E.M.—Life’s Rich Pageant
5. Lloyd Cole—Love Story
6. Jason Faulkner—Jason Faulkner Presents
7. The Starting Line—Based On A True Story
8. Great Big Sea—The Hard And The Easy
9. James Taylor—One Man Dog
10. James Taylor—Sweet Baby James
11. The Smiths—The Queen Is Dead
12. Whiskeytown—Strangers Almanac
13. Rush—Moving Pictures
14. Rush—Subdivisions
15. Barenaked Ladies—Gordon
16. The Primitves—Lovely
17. Alison Krauss + Union Station—New Favorite
18. The Lemonheads—It’s A Shame About Ray
19. The Posies—Failure
20. Sugar—Copper Blue
21. Judybats—Pain Makes You Beautiful
22. Bach—Brandenburg Concertos 1-6
23. Duran Duran—Rio
24. Lyle Lovett—I Love Everybody
25. Velocity Girl--Simpatico!
26. Bob Mould—Workbook
27. The Police—Zenyatta Mondatta
28. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions—Easy Pieces
29. Animal Logic—Animal Logic
30. B-52’s—Cosmic Thing
31. Jason Faulkner—Bliss Descending

These albums don't necessarily have the best individual songs--these albums are personally judged on the whole. Therefore, a lot of great artists and songs are passed over. Because the art is fading, I am pausing to say, who could make a great album during my days of albums? A few initial thoughts:

1. The Bach CD is a tough one. I'll have to do a little research on the Brandenburg Concertos. I'm not a classical music aficionado, but I love this CD. If I can learn more about this collection of Bach's work and make a reasonable rationalization, this CD could make a significant advancement.

2. The Album Rock radio station of my youth was KZOK. This station was a classic rock icon in Seattle, with a regular playlist of some of the greatest albums of the 60's, 70's and 80's. I don't include many on my first list. Back in those days I had little money to buy albums. There are probably some great albums that are supposed to be on a great albums list. But I'm not a professional music critic, I'm just having fun with a low culture philosophical question.

On the road again--running as a way of life (part 1)

After several weeks of personal speculation, I took the plunge and registered for my first half-marathon. I am working toward running a marathon in 2010 or 2011. We'll see how the 13.1 mile trek goes. This event is not a "bucket list" check off for me--I am training with purpose and wisdom using most of Jeff Galloway's training method. I plan on running for a long time. Recently I've been reflecting on how I arrived at my current relationship with running.

My running world began with a few factors:

1. My dad used to saunter up to the local junior high school track and run laps, donning knee high cotton-poly blend socks with a colorful athletic band, navy blue shorts with white piping, and one of his many penguin embroidered on the pocket golf shirts. Occasionally I walked with him to the track; he would run and I would kick my soccer ball on the infield. He ran anywhere from 3-6 miles. I liked the idea of running, but not necessarily running around a track.

2. Like any kid, I enjoyed a good running race--usually a sprint. These sprints help establish a playground pecking order of sorts. Winning races didn't necessarily make a kid Monarch of the Playground, but these races held currency for overall respect. If a bully was establishing a reign of terror, knowledge of speed provided a barrier to provocation. Though my body doesn't show it now, I once had speed currency. As a sprinter, I was in the top 3 in my grade throughout elementary school--I only knew this because in elementary school we had the Presidential Physical Fitness Test (PPFT) as a measurement of speed and other athleticism gauges--the school posted the best scores for the school to see. I was able to stay out of fights if only for the sheer fact that I could outrun almost any opponent.
In middle school, the Phys. Ed. teachers didn't make a point of posting the results of the PPFT, we had to go on our memories. One of my great memories of middle school (there were few, I loathed middle school for the most part) involved the 600-yard run for the PPFT. The 8th grade P.E. teacher was unpopular--old and cranky, but in amazing physical condition. He was also obsessed with showers after class, so much so that the male students often speculated on his sexual preference. He was military influenced--he had been teaching 8th grade P.E. for what seemed to be eons; he was my father's P.E. teacher. He was old school in that discipline was administered through physical activity. If you screwed around, you would have to go run a "Grand Tour" which was a lap around the campus athletic grounds, approximately 1/2 mile, give or take a few hundred yards. The 600-yard run for the PPFT was run on the "Grand Tour" track, though not a full lap. I had never run that distance before at a race pace, I didn't know what I was in for. I knew nothing of the pacing of track. I wasn't interested in running track--I was playing baseball while others competed in track and field. Besides, I wanted nothing to do with circle running.

We started the 600-yard run--most in the 7th grade seemed to look at this run like a marathon. My peers jogged out of the gate, though some of the track runners kept a strong early pace. I took off like a sprinter. I surprised myself that I could maintain the sprint pace. It was exhilarating, joyful with almost every step. I felt even more joy when I watched the surprise of my P.E. teacher, who wasn't expecting anyone to beat him to the finish line and had to sprint himself to meet me at the finish with his stop watch. I dusted the field and enjoyed that victory for weeks. If my memory serves me well, I ran that race in 1:32 (or was it 1:23?--doubtful). I felt like I was sticking it to that teacher and the track guys, but I also felt powerful that day, probably the only day I felt that way in middle school--and I attached it to running. It was probably my first runner's high.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My daughters, the theologians

Theological inquiry and its consequences abound in our household. My dear wife took great interest in Michael Jackson's death, partially as a remembrance of her youth, partially as a reflection on the meaning of music, image, celebrity and relationships. In the midst of this reflection in front of the television, our oldest daughter inquired, "is that Michael Jackson?"


"Is he cute?"

"I thought he was cute when I was a girl."

"Did he die on a cross?"

(Too bad there was not a camera present for the dumbfounded look of her parents.)

I knew this inquiry astutely represented the depictions of Jackson's images over the last several weeks, especially during his memorial service. I am reminded of how little control we have of the words and images we put out into the world. I am both proud and horrified by my daughter's observations. The depictions of Jackson are not lost on the among cultural critics or public theologians. How much intentionality was involved in the image of Jackson has a Christ-like figure? Regardless of intent, my daughter summarized modern ideas of image, theology, and relationships in a few questions. Though she has developmental challenges that inhibit the ability to articulate the question "why?" she has asked a deeper level of "why?" than I had considered with Michael Jackson up to that point and beyond.

Daughter number two is also her own theologian. What we learn and absorb in the mundane regularities of the day guide us in times of stress. Recently I have moved her away from a daily nap, mostly because her old practice of 2-3 hour daily naps keep her awake until around midnight. She may think this is one big party--I can't live in that manner. I have yet to maneuver the trial and error of sleep times to know what will work well, but I've noticed that without a nap, her world is filled with tragedy right before bed time. During those moments of tragedy and getting her ready for bed, she looks at me with tears in her eyes and calls out, "Daddy, I need Jesus Loves Me." I imagine that a two year old can have her world unsettled easily and finds comfort in the message I share with her on most nights at bed time. We also share the song at other times when we are at home, and on our way...she sang the song last evening as she sat on the swing with her mother at the park last night with a view of the Puget Sound.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My reading list mocks me

Finally, I have reached the final quarter of "Tess of the D'Urbervilles." A book I started in February with great hope and excitement. I will write more about it after I finish, but I am discouraged for my future study because Tess still has this air of a book that I am "supposed" to read, which ends up being a mocking sort of buzzkill when it comes to reading. I've read several other books since beginning Tess, not to mention distracted by big life events like Lent/Easter and moving across half the country. I'm still plugging through the novel.

My family has taken recent interest in the public library. I am proud and thankful for this development; I like how the library encourages reading (duh) for the children, but it also connects our family with a shared activity while also lifting up the Frugal Rule. I also find books that draw me in more easily than Tess--I found myself on a Klosterman kick. "Downtown Owl" was back on the shelves after a time away--joy! I also found a paperback "Featured Read" of short stories by Tobias Wolff. Back in my short story days of college and early adulthood, I read quite a bit of Wolff. After seminary and early days of ministry, I lost almost any connection to the fiction form outside of Raymond Carver. When I can borrow the book for free, Wolff should be an easy return to the short story fiction form.

I have also been scouting out books on the topic of geography and religion--but they're either rare or really expensive. But I'm eying these books with a great longing. I'm avoiding Tess, mostly because this book is work, much like weight training in my workout regimen. I know it produces results, but I don't always enjoy the effort it takes. I'm not afraid of work. I enjoy work. Klosterman, Wolff, and religious studies aren't exactly fluff--but this reading list mocks me as I consider having taken about 5 months to read Tess. I need to finish this book by the end of the month.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Listening...(July 13, 2009 edition)

Jai Ho--A.R. Rahman
Stay Where I Can See You--The Starting Line
Audience of One--Rise Against
Cocaine--Eric Clapton
Suzie--Boy Kill Boy
In The Lord--Taize Community
Any Way You Want It--Journey
Meet James Ensor--They Might Be Giants
Revival!--Me Phi Me

I've never really understood why Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" was such a "great" song. Is it because the lyrics seem vague about cocaine, and that kind of message coincides well with the blues of drug use? Is it cool in and of itself to sing about drug use? I remember some of the rumored drug users from middle school to college thought this song was great. Was it that they thought it was great because they recognized that highs felt good but that drug use was a dead-end habit? Or is any song mentioning drugs cool? Clapton claims the song is anti-drug. The riff isn't exactly inspiring, and its repetition calls to mind water torture. What got me listening to the song was watching a portion of the newer version of the film "The Bad News Bears (Billy Bob Thornton version)" He takes his youth baseball team to Hooters for a celebration--and at the peak of this celebration, the team chants this song as it blares in the background on the jukebox (I could see something like this happening in the 70's, but today???). That connection to "Cocaine" was humorous enough as I watched the film with my dear wife Sunday morning. In almost a Twilight Zone moment, I'm sitting in a "contemporary" worship service with my family about an hour later. After the sermon, the band goes into a sung interpretation of the Apostles' Creed. As I reflect on this creed, I see the language is a bit different, but acceptably similar (pastors think about this stuff). What piques my interest about this worship song is the guitar's..."Cocaine!" My eyes bugged out of my head. I don't want to say the word "cocaine" in a worship service, especially in the relatively small room we were in. But I point this out to my dear wife, who doesn't see this realization as the surreal moment that I do. This story is going to end up in one of my novels someday. I couldn't make up something like this.

I had only marginally heard of the band Rise Against, but Keith Law wrote about this band in a blog post. I've found I like looking for music reviews from non-music critics with writing skills. Of the songs he evaluated, this is the song I liked the most. The song has some arena rock drive, but it's a much more poetic reflection upon contrasting youth and adulthood than a typical rock anthem--something I appreciate as I approach 40 years old. I have a feeling I'm going to be listening to the song "Audience of One" often in the next year or so.

Journey can put together some of the most horrendous songs of my rock and roll memory: "Chain Reaction" and "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" come to mind. But for some reason, "Any Way You Want It" is a great rock anthem. Why? The first two Journey songs try too hard to be deep about love and relationships. The power ballad seems to be a better place to take the sentiment of those songs. "Any Way You Want It" is shallow in its statement, yet simply and pleasantly emotive. It rocks with a broad appeal, with appearances on Caddyshack and in a Toyota commercial in the past two years. It's also a rare song to which I enjoy both driving and running.

I personally find it hard for prayer life and Bible reading to come together well. Taize music helps me when I can't seem to meet words in a place for meaningful prayer. "In The Lord" is an excellent example of a simple, beautiful song that expresses the movement of God in the world and the thankfulness that comes when I reflect upon the Spirit's action.

The Starting Line is not a particularly gifted bunch of lyricists, but they have an uncanny way of matching little vocal shifts and words to music, beat and harmony. If anyone else put the cheesy lyrics, "When you go away, I get so low, like temperatures when they're at their coldest," I think the idea would fall flat. But it works in "Stay Where I Can See You." I love listening to this band.

Sometimes I forget to listen to Whiskeytown. I'm not exactly sure why. They write great songs that tell a unique story about common themes--a bit like Lyle Lovett's country songs with a vocal quality after having swallowed a few burning cigarettes and sounding a bit more melancholy and unpolished. "Avenues" is a well written song, delivered with appropriate sentiment. I've already listened to this song 10 times today. Polishing (producing) a song doesn't necessarily make it better.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The work of being a Mariner fan

Occasionally I chronicle the life of being a fan of the Seattle Mariners. A majority of these days are filled with (relative) pain, though some with hope. Last night's game produced some of the highest levels of elation since the 1995 improbable playoff run, and the glorious 2001 regular season. To watch and enjoy high quality players and interesting people as part of a plan and watching the fruits of their labor in dramatic fashion made the time invested in getting to know the players and the plan of Jack Zduriencik a good investment. It was also great that I could watch some of this game with my Dad.

Franklin Gutierrez, Felix Hernandez and Ichiro. My, oh my.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Distinguishing personal and professional use of Facebook: is it all the same? What are the implications for religious communities?

My resistance to personally using Facebook and Twitter remains resolute. A recent conversation with my brother confirmed my intuition when he said, "it's a big time suck." My lack of participation in the technology itself does not mean I am not paying attention to its affect on communication. I do not proclaim it's potential for usefulness, especially in the Church.

The New York Times recently ran a story about the big three world religions and social networking sites as did The Christian Century on a more limited scope. I intimately know that the Church by enlarge is coming to social networking sites more out of desperation for survival than out of place of building community, though it's quite possible that congregations may learn something in the process if they are willing to give this form of community building a try. As I continue pondering my return to the working outside the home world and moving into full-time ministry I wonder about using social networking sites in order to solidify some of the messages for ministry? With a semi-anonymous blog I know that a few people take a passing interest in what I write. If I am more intentional about presenting opportunities for Christian community through a congregation I serve, would I be foolish to maintain a resistance to Twitter and Facebook? On a personal level, I have no desire for "reunions" or collecting "friends," or fitting in to a particular group. I am also open to making new friendships, but I'm not going to dredge Facebook to do this on a personal level. The professional/vocational scope makes sense, however, and understanding Christian public leadership in light of these technologies will be important. I am glad the Christian Century took on this topic, and I hope this isn't the only time. I am curious about the commentary, especially to gawk at the Luddites.

Or maybe I'm a neo-Luddite being gawked at...

The Media Roster (July 9, 2009 edition)

Though I feel like Luddite on certain tech trends, and I am nowhere near being a true trend setter; I am probably a late early-adapter. I love my Google Reader (to many of you, this is no big deal). For a once aspiring journalist with journalism in his blood and currently living as a stay at home parent, it IS a big deal.

I used to spend too much time moving from website to website finding my favorite writing; now I can get my favorites and find others in minutes. I've created my own online newspaper--I don't have to deal with slow, expensive and poorly delivered subscriptions. I still like my newspaper, but I LOVE my Google Reader (I even get a few more free stats about my own blog through the Reader). I haven't quite figured out my threshold for subscriptions, but my new media reality with Google Reader is crafted a little bit like a baseball roster.

On the roster (blogs and podcasts I read/listen to regularly):

*Mariners Blog-Geoff Baker-Seattle Times
*Paul Krugman (Economist and NY Times Columnist)
*U.S.S. Mariner (The essence of Seattle Mariner Geekdom)
*Lookout Landing (See USS Mariner)
*Husky Football-Bob Candotta-Seattle Times
*Seth's Godin Blog (Marketing sage, but a lot more interesting than marketing itself--I would call this "ideas shared.")
*The Chronicle (Of Higher Education): Brainstorm (Scholars and educator commentary on education and the world at large)
*Church Marketing Sucks (A deeper reflection on the public Church)
*The dish--Keith Law (an ESPN baseball writer, but only partially baseball oriented--more books, music and food writing)
*Patchwork Nation (a deeper, more accessible look at American demographics on the county level from the Christian Science Monitor)
*Bleeding Blue and Teal (See U.S.S. Mariner)
*Bill Simmons-ESPN (Great sports and pop culture commentary, though a little too much professional basketball (with a league I will not name) for my taste)
*Matt Taibbi's blog | The Smirking Chimp (political commentary)
*TheoBilly (my good friend, and a good pastor)
*PTI "Pardon The Interruption" Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon (The only journalists that I'm willing to listen to scream about anything-I miss Tony's radio show)
*Real Time with Bill Maher (Though he can be too much of a screamer at times, the comedy and swearing help)

I have several others I read and try, but only these are on the 25 blog/podcast roster.

Recently dropped and sent to the minors:
Keith Olberman
Rachel Maddow
These two seem more like propagandists than journalists or commentators. They served a purpose while I lived in the Sioux Falls bubble and traversed isolated South Dakota. I can't stand listening to Olberman and Maddow anymore.

We shall see how this roster develops--I would appreciate hearing about your favorite items in your own online newspaper.

Work (outside the home)?!?!?!? I guess it's about time...

Though I have no concrete information, I have a hunch I will be working outside the home again fairly soon, and likely in a full-time role. I haven't worked full-time in 2 years. I'm not sure why this feels imminent, but my work history has something to do with it. Since graduating from seminary in 1998, the time between congregations I served was approximately 3 months, give or take a few weeks. I can't point exactly what God is up to with this time gap, but there also seems to be some wisdom in this time. The three months will pass this week. I think the stress of not yet selling our home and the expenses of moving and getting settled have weighed heavily on my life, and the need to establish an income acute. This is also one of the first times I did negotiate a severance/bonus in my last contract. I wouldn't have had a job if I requested one in my last assignment. I would also hypothesize that a lot of people would love to have the opportunity for work with a fairly flexible schedule and around three months at home every 12-30 months. I'm certainly not complaining, but merely wondering about my anxiety.

The realization that I will be working soon (I don't REALLY know this) hit me yesterday, and for the first time I felt a sense of loss at the thought of not having a child on my hip while I go through my daily routine. Every day has been take my daughter to work day. That routine has already shifted with summer break--I miss the one on one interaction with the youngest child. Though I am not rigid about stay at home parenting, I have to say I take special joy in the quantity of time I have spent with my children in the past two years. Though I feel significantly behind the curve professionally where I was once "ahead (and foolishly so to a certain extent)," this 2 years away from full-time work has been a living prayer and pure grace. Even grace is not easy--I remember the frustration and near rage I felt watching my girls sitting on a bed, breaking their crayons intentionally in half and throwing them across the room. Thank goodness they know how to clean up a mess, but I was alarmed (though not surprised) by their thoughtless destruction. I also lament that this was not a teaching moment, but became hot anger. Anger, but still grace. How is this possible? I am able to more deeply reflect upon the effect I have on my children and see who they are, while they also see more of who I am.

After the crayon episode of the other day, I was so ready to go back to work, but I am also thankful that rather than look at this as a mere episode, it becomes part of a quilted series of joys. Though I will not see them for 12-15 hours per day any longer--with God's grace I will get to do this again in a year or so for another 2-4 months.