30 January 2006

World Famous Video Clip

I'm probably one of the last to discover this guy, but I'm still cracking up over Crying Pro Wrestling Fan. If you haven't seen this video clip, you just have to.

It's a testament to the well of emotion springing up inside your typical Southern White Male--particularly when it comes to Professional Wrestling.

Living Water

Tonight Owen, Jonah and I reviewed Owen's Bible lesson for the week: the Woman at the Well. I tried to focus on making friends with people who are racially, religiously, or socially different from us.

The lesson progressed in a typical disjointed fashion (sadly) for our worship. When I mentioned that Jesus had asked for a cup of water, Owen jumped up and raced to the kitchen. "I'm going to get a drink," he chirped.

"Sit back down," I told him. "You won't get up until worship is over."

"Awww!" he protested. "I haven't had a drink in minutes!" (Owen has little guile. Even when he's trying to manipulate me, he usually tells the truth in a precise, scientific manner.)

We finished the story, and I went to Plan B. What is living water? I asked. We talked about Jesus and how His friendship can make us happier than Sprite can.

We prayed, and I went into the kitchen and got a cup. "Who wants water?" I asked.

Jonah started toddling around the living room in his stagger-like jog. "I want living water!" he yelled, "I want living water!"

In one sentence he had taught a better worship lesson than I had in a whole story.

The Moral Majority

I haven't seen much opinion on this (I admit that I don't view too many blogs or opinion sites), but I think it's interesting to point out that--as of the Senate vote tomorrow--the Supreme Court of the United States will have a majority of Catholics on the bench: Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Kennedy.

This bugs me on a number of levels--so many so that I won't even dwell on typical Adventist end-time interpretations. First, it is interesting to note that a perverse religio-political movement of befuddled evangelical protestants made this development so. I don't know how many Catholic congregations joined in the "Justice Sundays" that were broadcast nationwide, but I have a hard time believing there were that many, considering the liberal bent of Catholic leadership in America. Even more offensive is that some of the most blinded right-wing evangelicals I know are Adventists--close friends of mine, even.

Secondly, I value diversity in every place. Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Alito will replace, was the second great "diversity nominee" after Thurgood Marshall. Her presence on the Court dramatically shifted the Court to relevance and full representation of the American polity. On the other hand, Alito merely becomes the second Italian-American, the eigth male, and, yes, the fifth Catholic to climb. Was it a brave pick? No. It was the choice of a weak president in thrall to the Religious Right.

Finally, with this kind of ideological goose-stepping on the Supreme Court, is it safe to say that a woman's right to an abortion isn't the only right that will be lost on a court with only TWO Democratic nominees as opposed to seven Republicans. Thanks to President Bush, our country's Constitution will soon be devastated on a par with New Orleans, the World Trade Center and the Islamic Republic of Iraq.

So far, I've been good at avoiding political posts on this blog. I'll get back to faith and family on a subsequent post, but this was important.

23 January 2006


I'm going to post this picture just to prove what an awesome family I have. (And because I can't figure out how to send it to my friend, Robyn, in Kenya!)

The picture was taken at Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville, Tennessee last September. The statue in the background depicts St. George--also the maiden name of my beautiful bride, Jenny.

20 January 2006

Book List

My cousin Norman had a great blog idea about identifying all the books we're reading at the moment. I think I'll chime in--as my bedside table is full of books!

1. Romeo & Juliet, by William Shakespeare. Sorry, but January is Shakespeare month for my classes. My advanced honors students are working their way through R&J, and they are watching different productions of the play and analyzing the differences. Every time I read it, I get something new like Romeo's line: "He jests at scars that never felt a wound." Everyone has a friend like Mercutio who can't help but make fun of us when our hearts are impassioned. If only we could dismiss them so eloquently.

2. 1 Timothy. I'm studying the qualities of a leader--and I find myself wanting in many respects. God has seen fit to give me some unique positions of church leadership at the moment, and I am struggling to find myself worthy.

3. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. Righteousness in the morning; wicked at night! It's about the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. Maguiare has created a fantastical world and really fleshed out this character. Is she "wicked" or just a misunderstood Animal rights activist? I'll have to let you know how it turns out, but it is a yellow brick road of adventurous fun and great characterization.

4. Homeric Moments, by Eva Brann. One letter removed from Hitler's mistress, Brann--a classics professor--has wonderful insights into The Odyssey and The Iliad, two of my favorite books. She exposes wrinkles in the Greek versions and insights into the characters I had never thought of--and that's something to say, considering I've read The Odyssey six times and The Iliad three! I am a Homerphile.

5. Six Questions of Socrates, by Christopher Phillips. I found this book at school. His chapters follow the six basic questions of the great Greek philosopher: What is virtue? What is courage? What is justice? What is piety? What is moderation? and What is good? Personally, I would rather focus on what is good than what is Wicked.

6. The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons. I have an exceptional student who has grown up in Tennessee's foster care system with whom I'm working on a book project. Gibbons's Ellen Foster is a wonderful character who takes you into her tragic life and somehow makes you feel whole. It's a story about survival and much, much more--a miracle considering the child's upbringing in an abusive home and, then, foster care.

That's it. I'm aching to get my hands on more books. I have yet to start Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, but as you can see, I have much to finish first.

17 January 2006

Word of the Day

My trips with the kids to the Portland library are always an event. Owen races to the collection of Magic School Bus videos to pick out two that he hasn't seen recently (he's checked out all of them four times, and the same can be said of most of the nature books).

Jo-Jo toddles everywhere after him, hoping to hold one of the videos--and giving the librarians dirty looks when they take them for check out.

Ellie searches for unread Nancy Drew mysteries. Today she checked out four. Between 5 p.m. and 10 she had read the first one. (Why is Ellie awake at 10 p.m? Snow day!)

When Jonah showed me his latest MSB find--a science video about volcanoes, I told him, "Jonah, I think you are a Magic School Bus expert!"

He grinned at this idea, twisted his lips together, and tried to copy me (with his adorable lisp, no less).

"Eppthert!" he said.

"Expert?" I asked. "Eppthert!" came the reply.

16 January 2006

Music Review: Derek Webb "Mockingbird"

There are a lot of words that come to mind when one considers "Contemporary Christian Music." I can say that it has brought about a revolution in worship music--akin to the other great eras currently enshrined in church hymnals. Much of this is forgetful, but some of these choruses will be sung for generations--and criticized by my great grandchildren for being "for old fogies."

Can you imagine? Just like people a century ago might have said, "There are churches that might sing 'Softly and Tenderly,' but ours isn't one of them!" People a century from now will say, "'We Fall Down?' what kind of a boring song is that?"

One word that is seldom used in connection with contemporary christian music is the word, "progressive." These artists are cris-crossing the country, singing in megachurches, signing albums at the Family Life Store for a white, Republican, SUV-driving public. The songs are upbeat, encouraging--in other words totally devoid of the social responsibility that got thrown out with the bathwater of Christ's gospel as evangelical churches guzzled the snake oil peddled by Right-Wing politicos.

Thankfully there is Derek Webb. I have to say that his last album, "I See Things Upside Down," gave me one of the most mind-blowing moments of 25 years of listening to music. His lyric, "I repent, I repent of America's dream," in the song was so abrasive--so revolutionary--I had to sit down before I could listen to the rest of the song (I Repent).

Now comes "Mockingbird," his latest release on Epic records. Clearly, Webb hasn't let up. Indeed, I saw him in concert last December, when he performed "Rich Young Ruler," a song that berates Christians for trying to ignore poverty while justifying our own excesses. The song begins: "Poverty is so hard to see when it's only on your TV 20 miles across town/ we're all living so good, we've all moved out of Jesus' neighborhood."

In "A King and a Kingdom" he pokes fun at people who try to imagine Jesus as "a white middle-class Republican" before they can begin to imitate Him. It is a pretty funny thought, isn't it?

The CD isn't all heavy-handed preaching. I have to hand it to Derek for writing a song glorifying his wife's kisses, "Please, Before I Go." His wife, Sandra McCracken, is also an acclaimed Christian singer-songwriter.

To be contrary, I could point out that the production on the album is sometimes unpolished, which detracts from some songs, but Webb is on target and on message. While not as mind-blowing and revolutionary as "I See Things Upside Down," "Mockingbird" is a solid and much-anticipated follow-up that I will have in my CD player for weeks.

09 January 2006

When I Was Young...

I'm old--halfway to my "threescore and ten" as of the 28th of this month, my 35th birthday.

I could wail about the usual signs: I can't play a game of softball without pain. I go to bed before 10:00 (so I can get up to grade papers at 4:30 a.m.). I talk about walking to school through the snow in bare feet, etc.

When we were returning from our Christmas vacation to Florida, I had a big episode of age shock. It took place at Taco Bell, where I ordered two bean burritos, only to be charged $2.25. What????? I went into a coma of sheer nostalgia.

It was my freshman year in college when the Taco Bell Value Menu first came out. Burritos that had cost $0.85 were slashed to $0.59 each and stayed that way for the next five or six years. They were so cheap, my friends and I could eat two meals at Taco Bell for the price of one meal at the cafeteria. For $2.85 I could get three bean burritos, a drink, and a chance to talk with my favorite Taco Bell employee, Johnathan George, whose sister, Jenny, I had the hots for.

"Have you heard from Jenny?" I asked him every time I was there. He usually smiled and stammered and said something about not having her address (she was serving in Africa as a volunteer my junior year). Of course I always recited her address from memory.

I remember how my roommate Calvin claimed he was "saving money for his wedding" by ordering water with his Taco Bell orders and then sneaking over to fill the cup with soda--a 75-cent savings every visit. Classic times, those.

So when I paid $1.05 per burrito two weeks ago in South Atlanta, I knew an era had come to an end.

Alas, there is no free lunch; and there are no 59-cent burritos. Life is a bitter, bitter thing, man.