Thursday, June 30, 2005

My Happy Place and a Tour of Hollywood

We just need a good therapist

I have been very busy with work and family things this week, but two of my good friends have started in on further discussions of why the church lets us down, and how we let each other down within the Body of Christ. I often let other people down, including my family, so I know how this feels.

Tod Bolsinger's comments on his "happy place" left me thinking of my favorite comic therapist (pictured above) while Rob Asghar has some of his most lengthy posts ever about all the pain, confusion, and faults of a once-great church, not to mention a newspaper column that is absolutely the most equal-time piece I have seen yet about the way we humans behave in conflict. Well done, Rob!

I might have more to add at some point in all this, but for now, you are left in good hands with these two very good men.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Keeping a Sense of Perspective

For the past couple of days I have been blogging on the rather narrow topic of what I think is wrong with the church I have attended for a number of years. Then today, I stopped by the blog of Keith Smith, and felt a strange chill - as my silly little life was put into sudden perspective.

We need to understand our place in the world, and the potential that we have to affect real change. Our lives can make a difference, in very tangible ways. This is what should really haunt us (play the video!), and make us think twice about what we think is important. Really.

Lord help me from my narrow little self.

Doing The Right Thing, Even if it Hurts....A Lot

Gosh, how could this church have any problems?

As I noted recently, the greatest tragedy in the sad church split that I have been discussing recently has been the inability of those in leadership to really focus on the things that are important, namely the unity of the church around the Lordship of Christ. The ordination vows in the Presbyterian church include the following question of those being ordained to pastoral ministry :

"Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church? "

As I have learned, "unity and purity" can mean different things to different people. By way of example, let me share with you a true story:

A pastor I have know of and have respected for many years was, a number of years ago, pastoring a solid and growing church when a faction that didn't like his leadership tried to force him out, by taking a vote of "no confidence". The pastor was stunned and heart broken. As he prayed about what was best for God's temple, he decided that it would really be best if he resigned. Though he felt sure that he could defeat his foes, and also had the support of the local Presbytery, he also believed that this would seriously damage the church over the long run. His career, his income, his reputation . . . none of these mattered as much as the church he loved so much. So he resigned.

Now this is upside-down logic if I have ever seen it. In corporate life, or secular culture, this pastor was what might technically be described as "whimping out". I mean really now, what a chicken, to cower in the face of detractors. Egads. Pathetic. I trust you sense my sarcasm.

What I have witnessed in the past several months at my church, has been the opposite of this story. "Spin" has been the order of the day. Excuses, and blaming, and conspiracy theories have taken the place of humility, repentance, dialog, and a pursuit of unity. It is all very, very sad. And I fear that to those looking in from the outside, this is just another example of the hollow claims that Christian folk can live in community that is any different from the rest of the world. I would hope going forward that we can all, including myself, do better than this. By the way, I have feet of clay that reach up to my neck.

For deeper thoughts than I am capable of on the topic of church/Christian conflict, go here and here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Too Much Stuff

This week, I came across a haunting article in the Wall Street Journal about the self storage industry. It seems that "whatever the strains and shortcomings of the U.S. economy, we Americans have a whole lot more stuff than we used to. How much? So much that there is enough space in rentable self-storage lockers in the U.S. for each man, woman and child to stand on a spot 2½ feet by 2½ feet, with room left over. The U.S. has 1.875 billion square feet of self-storage space, according to the Self Storage Association.:

I did some quick math, and found out that this is 43,044 acres of land, or 67 square miles. This is horrendous!

Now, to be clear, about 40% of self storage space is occupied by businesses, but this still leaves all of us a square of 1.875' x 1.875' to stand in, or 40 square miles of self storage space. Again, from the Journal:

"....most folks who rent storage space use it to store furniture, kitchenware, clothing, photos and paintings, holiday and seasonal items, books and magazines, towels and linens, the trade association's survey found. About 9% said they store food in them. (Maybe that's what happens when you buy too much at Costco or Sam's Club.) And it isn't just rich folks who have an abundance of belongings: A third of the units are rented by people with incomes under $30,000 a year."

Now really. Something about this is very bizzare to me; and makes me think about this. Now of course, I actually have a storage unit - because the attorney's are in charge of our lives, and I have to keep all my business records for five years. But we don't have a personal storage unit, as my wife and I have decided that if we ever need one, we simply have too much "stuff", and need to give it away to those less fortunate.

But this quote, was to me the scariest of the whole article:

"Forget about two- or three-car garages and finished basements -- today that's just not enough space for U.S. households overflowing with excess furniture, camping gear, sporting equipment," Joseph Quinlan, chief stock-market strategist for Bank of America Corp., said in a note to clients the other day. He even suggested that the ability to put all that stuff in storage units is a "critical prop to global growth" because consumers will keep spending only as long as they have a place to put their purchases. "If U.S. consumers run out of storage space," he quipped, "the global economy is doomed."

Can you hear the creepy science-fiction music in the background. What kind of a society have we created?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Response to Poor Reporting

The Eye of the Storm

For the last two posts I have been discussing errors in the media, and more specifically, errors found in this article, by one of America's most respected Christian periodicals, Christianity Today.

As I mentioned, I contacted the writer of the article, and then had the opportunity to correspond via email with the Editor of CT, Mark Galli. Although he started out by indicating that CT "stood by their story", a rather over-used cliche (I have found recently) in publishing, as we corresponded more, his stance softened, and I found a man with a kindred spirit for the health and vitality of the church. As it turns out, Mr. Galli is a former Presbyterian pastor, who has also served on committees in the church that have had to confront the same kind of dysfunction we had been struggling with at Hollywood for some time. So, in a way, the Editor of Christianity today, "gets" the struggle we are going through.

After encouragement from Mr. Galli, and some thought, prayer, and counsel on my part, I have submitted a letter to the Editor. I am reproducing it here in whole, as it will likely not be published until the later in the summer, due to some kind of odd publishing cycle at CT. In a way, this is my best effort to sum up the problems at our church, in as short, simple, and fair a manner as possible, in order to attempt to publicly set the record straight.

Dear Editors:

I am writing in response to your article concerning a “power struggle” at Hollywood Presbyterian church. As a member of this congregation for more than 20 years, and an elder, I was disappointed by your superficial reporting. I have spoken with the writer of this article, who relied upon highly biased input. His primary source was the church’s former director of communications, who was fired by the Session after he publicly renounced the church and its current leadership.

To be clear, the problems at Hollywood have never been about worship styles, or an evangelical congregation in a mainline denomination. Our painful struggle has long been focused on our Senior Pastor, who has alienated key members and leaders for some time. To be fair, the complaints against the Pastor have been from a minority of members, but this minority is comprised of solid evangelicals who worked closely with the Senior Pastor for many years (both elders and staff).

Supporters of the Senior Pastor have chosen to politicize these problems, by accusing the Presbytery of a “liberal plot” to overthrow the church leadership. This is a baseless charge which has distracted many from the real issues. Our local presbytery has known of our problems for some time, and acted to attempt to reconcile a church that was very sick well before the situation called for their involvement; last year’s $840,000 deficit was just one symptom of a deep dysfunction in the church leadership.

Sadly, the pastors in the eye of this storm have not had the dignity to stand up and call for the unity of the church around the person of Christ. Their silence, combined with their efforts to defend themselves, no matter what the cost to the church, have created a far greater divide in our church. This lack of focus on the person and mission of Christ in our church is the greatest tragedy in this long and painful episode.

Steven Norris

And so, there you have it. I was limited to about 300 words, and I used 325. As, I said, the inability of our pastors to stand up for church unity and for the centrality of Christ is the saddest part of all of this. I want to say a bit more about this point soon; stay tuned.

To me, the second saddest part of all this is the way even the Christian press has fouled up getting the story right. As a result, my perception of "journalistic professionalism" has forever been changed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Truth, or Hearsay

Laundry out to dry

As I noted below, the dirty laundry of our church is now out for everyone to see. The problem is that only a few pieces of the wash-load really belong to us. It seems that certain items in the load got very mixed up during the "spin" cycle of our church drama these past few months. I will try, over the next couple of posts, to outline where things have gone wrong in the press.

Christianity Today and Telling the Truth
The title of the article reads "Power Struggle Rocks Hollywood Presbyterian", on the Christianity Today website. As a member of this congregation for more than 20 years, and an elder, I was disappointed by the superficial reporting of this, the most respected Christian magazine. For many years I have relied upon the reporting of Christianity Today (CT henceforth) to keep me informed of developments in both the Christian and contemporary culture.

This was an article I took personally, and a topic about which I know a bit more than, well, the author. And so, I took it upon myself to locate the author, and express my dissatisfaction with his work. I spoke with James Jewell on his cell phone in Atlanta, where he works for a media company as a "stringer" or freelance writer for CT. As it turns out, Mr. Jewell was kind and thoughtful during our 10 minute chat, and listened well to my thoughts. I have been treated kindly by those at CT that I have come into contact with. More on that later.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jewell relied upon highly biased input. His primary source was the church's former director of communications, who was recently fired by the Session, after he publicly renounced the church and its current leadership.

At the end of our conversation, Mr. Jewell offered the thought that he may not have gotten a complete view of both sides of the story. Indeed, he did not. Over the past several months, as our laundry (much of it not really ours, as noted) has been shown to the public via the press, I have found myself remembering the case of Jayson Blair at the New York Times, and the recent case of Newsweek apologizing for a major reporting error. After some thought, it seems the American public might be right in their mistrust of the "fourth estate". I find myself now wondering whether just about anything I read in print is really 100% true.

What makes me the most frustrated in all of this? I feel very disappointed that the supposed apex in Christian news reporting cannot do the proper research and fact checking to tell the story of a complex and sad church split. I also wonder what happened to working toward excellence. Whether it was deadline pressures, poor fact-checking, or just relying on a bad source, the damage has been done. And in this case, it is damage to a situation in our church that already has all the markings of a major traffic accident.

Trying to Tell the Truth

In Journalism, sometimes it helps to have lots of erasers

As some of you may know, our family has spent nearly the last year struggling with a very painful church split. As our church has somewhat of a "storied past", this split has made it, in modest ways, into the press. Having this mess aired in public has been painful, to say the least.

But what has been even more painful yet has been the ways I have seen the press, in several different forms, completely flounder at nearly every attempt to tell the story of what has been going on. I have followed the misreporting and miss steps of these various reports quietly now for some time. Events of the last couple of weeks have brought me out of my quiet place. Its time to speak up, and to tell things as honestly as I know how.

And so, here begins an attempt to set the record straight, in at least a small way. This may take several posts to accomplish, but I think it is worth it. At the end of the day, what I hope results from all this is the beginnings of a movement to unity within the Body of Christ. The saddest part of all of this has been how press reports have served to spread completely erroneous information and further the divide in our congregation. The ugly result of all this has been my experience on this day.

The Last in a Series of Boo-Boos

The most recent article, and the one that will possibly have the widest effect on the way our church is perceived by many is this recent web article, which will soon be in the print edition of Christianity Today magazine. After having this article emailed to me by several friends, and a couple of business clients, and then discussing it with several friends, I decided to attempt to actually contact the writer, in order to clarify some errors and to express my sadness over this whole affair. It is so sad that our dirty laundry has been aired-out, and even sadder that some the laundry that is out on the line now, is not even our laundry.

More on errors, and my conversations with folks from Christianity Today soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Terrorism for Everyman

What should we do?...

Last Friday I read a piece in the Wall Street Journal that is worth a look by us all. Although the Journal requires a sign up (which has a free period, before charging you) I have found this to be a quality publication that always make me think beyond the static we often get on television and radio.

Daniel Henninger makes some very convincing points about the current state of affairs in Iraq,

Living in the U.S., one could make the cold-blooded calculation that 21,000 dead and 55,000 injured from all terrorist acts over 10 years (actual statistics) is a drop in the bucket and that the war in Iraq has mainly increased the rate of death. This may be true. But if as many suicide bombs went off in Manhattan as have gone off in Israel, Manhattanites would have demanded martial law and the summary execution of suspects on street corners. Their greatest goal in life would not be, as it is now, the closing of interrogation rooms on Guantanamo but instead the erasure of terrorists hiding across the East River.

And then, to finish:

No matter how fat the diet of stories about Iraq suicide bombings or Gitmo shoved down our throats and no matter how many distraught opinion-poll results come back up, no serious person can allow post-9/11 American security to be reduced to that. The death march of homicidal zombies in Iraq is trying to push us toward accepting the idea that acts of unrestrained violence against other human beings is now a normal part of politics. It is not normal. Any civilized person should want to resist the normalization of civilian killing as a political act -- whether in Iraq, Spain, Indonesia or Kashmir. These matters have been at the heart of John Bolton's marooned nomination to the U.N. Mr. Bolton's adversaries criticize his impatience with large bureaucracies tasked to the war on terror, such as the State Department, and worry he won't respect the U.N. "system." The U.N. itself has never been able to even agree on a definition of terror. A high-level U.N. panel bluntly concluded last year: "Lack of agreement on a clear and well-known definition undermines the normative and moral stance against terrorism and has stained the United Nations' image." Little wonder, then, that our own news coverage of these repeated slaughters of civilians in Iraq also lacks any normative or moral context unfavorable to the perpetrators. And little wonder that in such a world the only "side" many people in the U.S. feel comfortable with is heading for the exits.

This was striking to me. Why do we not hear that blowing up your own citizens is morally bankrupt, not to mention essentially insane? This is anarchy, and we cannot simply walk away from the table here. Where would we be as a nation now if, during World War II, we had ignored the moral implications of simply doing nothing or walking away from the serious problems of other nations and cultures?

Tonight, as I turn out the lights, I will pray for our troops in harms way, and for the leaders of the fledgling nation of Iraq, that peace might prevail and the insanity would stop.

Lord, hear my prayer.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Leaving Two Schools and Growing Up

Promotion time - life is moving on....

I could weep. But not from sadness, or tragedy, or loneliness, or sorrow. My life is full, and busy, and blessed, and overflowing. I could weep from a strange mix of feelings. Life is moving on, and I, of all people in my family, am not quite ready for it all. I haven't been for some time now.

Today was "promotion" day in South Pasadena; the time when we honor elementary and middle school students who are moving up to new schools. And, by Divine Plan in our family, this year is unique. We have two girls moving up - Heather our 11 year old is moving up from Marengo Elementary School to Middle School, and Kelly, our 14 year old, is moving on to South Pasadena High School. And so, today, we attended two different promotion events, one at the elementary school for our 5th grader, and one at the Middle School for our high-schooler to be.

In a couple of days I will turn 47. I am deep in the middle section of middle age. I am a bit soft around the middle and very exposed to the elements on top (note photo above). I am married to a wonderful woman who is a kind and passionate and caring and a very involved mom. She is a dear, forgiving, and loving wife. I don't deserve any of this.

For the past 9 years, we have been blessed to have one, then two, then back to one daughter in Marengo School, which is a wonderful, caring, nurturing, small town-feeling school. The principal is our friend and next door neighbor (no kidding) of 15 years. We could not be more blessed. Our Heather is ready to move on to Middle School. Marengo was great, but time to take a jump in the waters of Middle School.

For the past three years our older daughter has been navigating the waters of Middle School, and has come out at the end of the rapids. Head up, kayak afloat, smiling, and with great grades. But she is ready for bigger class rapids, deeper water, and perhaps a wilder ride. High school looms ahead, and she is ready. Time to move on.

And then there is Dad. I would be the guy standing at the edge of the river, holding a paddle, wearing a life vest, smiling, watching it all take place, and having many, many thoughts. Some of those thoughts are like foggy memories which came floating through my head today during Middle School promotion, while watching all those different sized and shaped Middle Schoolers get their certificates. Life at this stage is so awkward, so tentative, so, well, adolescent. I can vaguely, very vaguely remember that weird stage of my own life.

Some other thoughts occurred this morning, during Elementary promotion. Perhaps the most haunting thought, or really more of a feeling, is that of loss. It is indeed time for me to grow up, along with my daughters. There are lots of things I miss these days, and I think it has a lot to do with the ages of my girls (11 and 14). I miss little girls. Girls that come up to your knee, or your waist at most. I miss being gang tackled when I come home from work with screams of "Daddy!". I miss sitting at dinner and having someone tell me "the best part of school today was recess". I miss one particular daughter constantly falling out of her chair at dinner because she was laughing too hard. I miss reading together in bed. I miss watching completely ridiculous Disney movies together.

Now when I come home I am lucky if I get acknowledged at all, by my girls at least. My wife is still good at saying hello. One girl is on the phone, and the other is either on the computer or doing homework or at some sports practice. We don't read together anymore - No more Arthur's Teacher's Trouble. And if we watch movies together, its usually after a debate over the rating of the movie, the content, and whether it is "appropriate". The is a lot of eye-rolling and sighing that goes on at our house during this particular season of life.

And so, here I stand with my paddle, and the water rolls on. The current keeps moving. I can't stop it. My eyes are full of tears, and being male, I am not sure why. But I think I know. Its all about this remarkable journey we are on together as a family, and the remarkable God that makes it all possible. He gave us these girls to hold, wet and bright and wiggly and crying, 11 and 14 years ago. But He has always wanted us to hold them gently, because they really never belonged to us. I used to hold them so tight when they were little. But, these girls are His, just loaned to us for a while. And with each passing year, I can feel that my grip on them is lessening. I don't like that feeling, I want to hold on tight. But the grip is softer, and hands I reach out to hold, do not hang on as long or as tight as they used to.

So it should be. May the One who gave us these hands to hold remind me each day of His sure grip on all of our lives. All of us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tsunami Warning...Never Mind!

Whole lotta shaken goin' on Baby!

Check this out:


Ok, now I feel much better.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Mr. Evangelical Holiness Wesleyan

Thanks to my friend Tim Thompson in Canada, I have now found out that I am:

68% Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
64% Emergent Post Modern
54% Roman Catholic
54% Neo Orthodox
43% Reformed Evangelical
36% Modern Liberal
25% Fundamentalist (phew)
14% Classical Liberal
14% Charismatic

I find this interesting, as I grew up marginally Methodist, but accepted Christ as a part of involvement in an evangelical Presbyterian Church, and have been a Presbyterian for about 25 years. Reading this, I think I may have made just about everyone happy, except the Fundamentalists, Liberals, and Charismatics. Oh darn, and I wanted everyone to like me....

But really, its about Christ, not dogmas.

Gotta Love Howard

We love ya, Howard!

One must now ask what in the world the Democratic National Committee was thinking about when they named Howard Dean as Chairman. It makes no sense whatsoever to me.

This was pointed out further in a question asked during a press conference this past week in Washington, DC. Read more about it here.

My favorite part:

"The press chorus then devolved into a cacophony of competing screams. (And Dean knows screams!) After several seconds, a booming voice cut through the noise. It belonged to Brian Wilson, a Fox News correspondent who was standing in the middle of the crowd. He asked Dean "if people are focused on the other things that you've said about hating Republicans, about Republicans being dishonest and then this latest comment about the Republican Party is full of white Christians. You say you hate Republicans -- does that mean you also'' hate white Christians?

Dean didn't respond......."

I just love Howard Dean.

From All Over, Going All Over

Congrats Fuller Grads!

There are some moments in life that seem dry and painful, almost void of God's presence. Sometimes the days go by one after another without significant meaning; just plodding along. Being middle-aged, I often have days like this, in spite of the joys of raising two girls. And then, there are other moments. Moments that seem frozen in time, memories that can last us for years.

Last night was one of those times at our house. During the past year or so, we have developed friendships with four very different Fuller Seminary graduate students, and yesterday was graduation day. We threw a party at our house for our four friends:

Christiana - Masters of Divinity - now seeking her Doctorate, possibly at the University of Aberdeen
Ben - Masters of Divinity - seeking ordination in the Presbyterian Church, and service in the US military as a chaplain
Karen - Masters of Divinity - seeking ordination in the Presbyterian Church
Lindsay - Masters of Divinity - now pursuing her Masters in Family Therapy at Fuller

We are blessed to know these wonderful folks, and it is so energizing to know that they are moving forth into the world to pursue further education and begin careers in ministry, caring, and education. Do not loose heart, there are wonderful people entering service for the Kingdom. And hey, I just realized three of the four are women. Not bad.

Congratulations, Fuller graduates! Continue the journey....go forth!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Lets Hear It for Lack of Direction

Church Plant in Nothing!

Alright. This post really spins my beanie, especially after all the church poop we have experienced over the past year. I have experienced life in a church without a clearly defined strategy, (or a "Strategy of the Week") and to coin a phrase of KC's "it blows"!

Lack of direction, baby. Totally rocks! Let's do a church plant in Nothing, Arizona. Who is with me?

The One Campaign, Pros and Cons

Let's at least, do something.

Over the past several days, I have been reading and thinking about The One Campaign, as well as hearing about Tony Blair and George Bush meeting to discuss aid and debt relief for the poorest of Africa's nations.

At first, I must admit, the One Campaign sounds like a no-brainer. My blogging friend David Smith has had some comments here and on his blog which, as usual, take the contrarian view that perhaps "One" is too simple. Well, as it turns out, this is not a simple issue. For those of you who want to know a bit more about what is going on in Africa, I direct you here and here.

It seems that the One Campaign does not exactly have a list of loosers who have joined together to support it. Their web site states the following founders:
Bread for the World, CARE, DATA, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Plan USA, Save the Children US, World Concern, and World Vision, and works closely with the National Basketball Association, Rock the Vote, and the Millennium Campaign. Ok, except for the NBA (which deserves a separate post on the poor role models they produce and encourage for America's young men), this looks like a pretty good bunch.

I am still trying to figure this one out, and I encourage input from those smarter than I. However, there is a voice I hear ringing in my ear,"... whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

I have no expectation that all the designs of the One Campaign will be instantly implemented and be completely successful. I was an Economics major in college, and I understand the inefficiencies of markets and the corruption of foreign governments. It appears that Bush and Blair are starting down the right road, and they deserve our support. I am supporting the One Campaign not because I think it is perfect, but because it is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Men & Woman - Vastly Different Perspectives


I received this in an email today:

Remember the book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus"? Here's a prime example offered by an English professor:

"Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. As homework tonight, one of you will write the first paragraph of a short story. You will e-mail your partner that paragraph. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story and send it back. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back-and-forth.
Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. There is to be absolutely NO talking outside of the e-mails and anything you wish to say must be written in the e-mail. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached."

The following was actually turned in by two of my English students:

Rebecca (last name deleted), and Gary (last name deleted).


(first paragraph by Rebecca)
At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

(second paragraph by Gary)
Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargobay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel," Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth, when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her."Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.

Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace disarmament Treaty through the congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion, which vaporized poor, stupid, Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. "We can't allow this! I'm going to veto that treaty! Let' sblow 'em out of the sky!"

This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic semi-literate adolescent.

Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. "Oh, shall I have chamomile tea? Or shall I have some other sort of STUPID TASTELESS TEA??? Oh no, I'm stressing because I am such an air headed bimbo who reads too many Danielle Steele novels!"

Mindless Jerk!


Drop dead, - YOU NEANDERTHAL!!!


Go drink some tea - airhead!


Good job - A+!

Monday, June 06, 2005

For Thomas and Emma

In memory of Julie

Those of you who have been with me the last several months have followed the journey Home of Julie Silvestri, our dear friend. As a sign of Julie's lasting effect on those around her, a Trust Fund has been set up in her honor at the school she served at for many years. Julie was loved by all. The grinning little people you see above are Thomas and Emma, Julie and Tony's children.

If you would like to contribute to the education trust fund, please make your checks out to: James P. Higgins, Trustee of the Julia Lawrence Silvestri Children's Educational Trust u/t/a dated as of May 19, 2005. Note: 1) Julie's first name was actually Julia with an "a" and her name is not misspelled, and 2) all the aforementioned text needs to appear on the check.

Please mail your checks to: James P. Higgins, 4224 North Clybourn Avenue, Burbank, CA 91505-4001.

This is a wonderful investment.

Laptop Stupidity


In a move filled with the grace and charm of a pregnant wildebeest, last night I spilled a half glass of white wine into the keyboard of my laptop. My wife laughed at me, which is often the case when I do something stupid, or hurt myself. I find this a form of Divine Justice. My laptop is in intensive care, as I speak.

My reflection is that:

1) The Lord is punishing me for imbibing (modestly) in the Evil Demon Liquor.
2) I am an awkward klutz, who needs to spend less time on my laptop, and more time with real people.

The voting is open, what do you think God is saying?

Purpose and Our Old Skins (Cocoons)

Like a skin

Think of the things we use to describe motivation in our culture. Purpose. Type A. Motivated. Driven. A "real go-getter". Take charge, baby! We Americans, watch out.

My recent thoughts about "Purpose", vocation, and the recent journey of my life has had me thinking quite a bit about, well, the purposes that God may have for our lives that we don't pick up on so easily. Subtle purposes, more of the subcurrent of life. Are we quiet enough, or introspective enough to know what is really going on? Can we really see what God wants to do to and through us? One of my favorite song writers, Sara Groves, has some great thoughts about this in her song, "Like a Skin", which explores Pauls discussion of the New Man.

The butterfly can just look back
Flap those wings and say Oh, yeah
I never have to be a worm again
The snake gets tired of being him
He wriggles from that itchy skin
Leaves it lying where he's been and moves on

I've been longing for something tangible
Some kind of proof that there's been change in me
Feels like I have been waking up
Only to fight with the same old stuff
Change is slow and it fills me with such doubt
Come on New Man where have you been
Help me wriggle from this Self I'm in
And leave it like a skin upon the ground

I am often a poor listener. I get angry with my kids when I don't need to. I am often terribly selfish. I could be such a better person.

Oh, to be able to leave that skin upon the ground. Help me, Lord.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Speaking of Purpose

Sign me up too....

Speaking of having purpose in life, this seems like a no brainer. Hat tip to Tod Bolsinger.

While sometimes I don't agree with everything Bono says, how can I not agree with this?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Having Purpose in Life; Blue Plate Special

Nelson Acosta - Humble Hero

I just googled "What is the purpose of life?", and the first seven or so results all pointed to....Guess Where? Riiiiight, the Purpose Driven Life! Its June, so we have now the Purpose Driven Graduate; and don't forget also the Purpose Driven Relationships, Pathways to Purpose, and the ever popular Purpose for Women. Phew.

PURPOSE, people! The whole concept feels sort of daunting to me. Should I be an astronaut, a judge, a famous surgeon, perhaps the President of some Really Large International Important Corporation; now THERE is purpose?! Jesus would be really happy with that. Recognition. Fame. The winning team!

Recently I read a story in the LA Times (registration may be required, but well worth it for the dignity found in this story) of Nelson Acosta. Nelson spends his free time working as an umpire in the desert heat of Southern California. He is not the President of anything, but he is one darn good umpire. People yell at him a lot. But he keeps at his job, for the fun of the game, and as a way to care for kids. This is something pure, something good. And it comes from a man who struggles to umpire while battling Stage 4 cancer.

Thoreau once said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". Can our work be of worth, even if we carry out our jobs in seeming obscurity? Can something seemingly little in our culture be actually of large significance in God's perspective? Read about Nelson Acosta and decide for yourself.

I think so.
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