Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Does this shock you? 

First the bad news.

The congregation of University Baptist Church in Waco continues to mourn the loss of Kyle Lake as a result of an accidental electrocution at services on Sunday, October 30, 2005. He received a shock while adjusting a microphone before baptizing a woman. He was pronounced dead at 11:30 a.m. after being taken to the hospital.

Kyle was the husband of Jen, the father of Avery (3 yrs old) and twin boys Sutton and Jude (1 yr old), the author of two books, Understanding God's Will and [Re]understanding Prayer, and a rising leader in new church movements such as Emergent. He pastored the church founded by Chris Seay and musician David Crowder in 1995.

Kyle was almost exactly my age (16 days older to be precise) and went to college with one of my ex-girlfriends (at Baylor University... a donut to the first person to post a comment with her name...) It has been widely reported that in his final prayer he petitioned, "Surprise Me, God" And his notes for his final sermon have been broadly published:

Live. And live well.
BREATHE. Breathe in and breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now.
On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.
If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE.
Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed.
If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year olds nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.
If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And grieve well.
At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke.
And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven.
And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life.
Because it is most definitely a Gift.

So what's the good news?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

To ebay, or not to ebay: 

that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to offer
For profit the spoils of childhood mirth,
Or to save them up for the next generation,
And by cherishing waste them? To sell: to hawk;
No more; and by an auction we end
The memories of a thousand youthful moments
That could be passed on, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To sell, to market;
To auction: perchance to win big: ay, there's the rub;
For in that auction what profits may come
When we have sluffed off our worldly goods,
To unsuspecting fools: there's the respect
Of playthings that have gathered dust so long;
For who will really appreciate after all this time,
The baseball cards, the stamp collection,
The Star Wars figures, the G.I. Joes,
The vintage Fisher Price Little People
That patient bidders will undoubtedly take,
When he himself might available make
With a mere keystroke? who would hesitate,
To post and sweat waiting the final call,
But that the dread they might not sell,
And he discover his treasures naught.
No surfer returns from Froogling
To make an offer, or worse one does
And our goods fly to others that we know not of?
Thus reminiscences make cowards of us all;
And thus the stockpile of latent fortune
Is passed o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great wealth and riches
With memories their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!
The fair Yoda! Jedi, in thy inverted grammar
Be all my things remember'd.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ineffably Sublime 

For starters, in our old hymnal it was titled "Praise Ye The Lord The Almighty" and now it's "Praise To The Lord..." I will grant that the original lyrics are in German and are seven verses strong, compared to our four in English. So even the Great Hymns of the Faith isn't entirely faithful in its rendering, and the translation is subjective. However, for centuries, the consensus on the final line of the closing verse was "Gladly for aye we adore Him." Yesterday we sang it "Gladly forever adore Him." OK, I hear you already. It's not a bad change. I'm just wondering is it an entirely necessary change?

Here's an example that really gets under my skin. The original lyrics of the second verse of "To God Be The Glory" as written by Fanny Crosby in the 19th century:
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Has been changed in some modern hymnals to read, "And every offender, who truly believes..." Why? Is it merely that we don't like to consider ourselves a vile offender? Is it the same reason that the last line in the opening verse of Isaac Watt's 18th century hymn "Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?" was changed from "For such a worm as I?" to "For sinners such as I?" It seems to me that these two renderings strip the power from the cross.

I will agree that there are some changes that are helpful. There are times when the theology of a song is a bit muddled and needs help, or the poetry is painfully forced and we can improve. But if all we are doing is getting rid of big or scary words, I think we do a disservice. I don't even mind updating some of the archaisms, particularly if it makes it easier to sing. However, if a word is merely obscure, I'd rather see a footnote explaining it than dumbing down the lyrics.

It will be a sad day when we lose these wonderful and powerful words:

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably(1) sublime(2).
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

- Crown Him With Many Crowns (Matthew Bridges, 1852)

(1) ineffable: defying expression or description, too sacred to be uttered
(2) sublime: worthy of adoration or reverence, the quality of transcendent greatness

Friday, November 18, 2005

Let me axe you... 

... does it bug you when supposedly well-educated and otherwise socially competent people butcher the English language in professional settings?

...does it bug you that the grammatical and pronunciation patterns of the vernacular used by people groups representing a significant sub-culture of Americans are classified as a legitimate dialect rather than mere slang and sheer laziness?

...does it bug you when the ATM (short for Automated Teller Machine) knows your name and how much money is in your bank account, but is somehow unable to identify you as a native English speaker and asks you every time which language you prefer?

I'm just axing.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Saving Grace and Private Ryan 

For starters, Ben Affleck is not in Saving Private Ryan. I probably should have known this, because the actor that played Private Reiben was actually quite inspiring. Anyway, my defense is that most of the film seems grainy and jumpy, making it difficult to focus. Plus, I saw it once in the theater when it came out back in 1998 and then I watched the end of it last night, picking up right before the point where Captain Miller's squad attacks the machine gun nest, loses Medic Wade to enemy fire, and releases a German prisoner before continuing on their mission to find Private Ryan (whose three older brothers had been killed in combat) and return him to the states. When they eventually track him down, he refuses to leave his post, and the squad sticks around to fight the fictional battle of Ramelle. After being gunned down by the same German whom he released earlier, Miller's dying words to Ryan are, "Earn this." The film closes with an older Ryan visiting his captain's grave at the Normandy Cemetery looking for some affirmation from his wife that he had been a good person and had lived up to the sacrifice made for him by Miller and his men.

What struck me most about this film (after I got over the extremely graphic opening scene depicting the June 6, 1944 assault on Omaha Beach) was the incredible sense of dissatisfaction and lostness in trying to pay back grace. It seems to me that the characters had no understanding of that idea. What Private Ryan was given he did not deserve. In fact, he even alludes to that fact in his refusal to abandon his unit. Captain Miller gave an impossible order, since there is no way to earn what he had already been granted. The viewer is left with the impression that Ryan lives the rest of his life in a vain attempt to somehow pay back the free gift of his "salvation," when in reality, it appears he is totally lost.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

you say "to-MAY-to" 

Question #1 - unless you're British or boorish, does anyone really say "to-mah-to"?

Question #2 - why do we pronounce the "p" in the word helicopter? It is actually made up of two Greek words, the first being heliko (meaning spiral) and the second being pteron (meaning feather or wing, as in "pterodactyl" - dactyl being the Greek root for a finger or toe). The "p" is traditionally silent in this Greek consonent cluster (consider "Ptolemy"), yet we consistently belie the etymology of this word by pronouncing it.

Question #2 (and the real reason for this post) - how the heck am I supposed to pronounce the word data? Consider this excerpt from a poem published in Science Editor:
Many of us say ta
Pronounce the word as DAY-tuh.
Others think it ought ta
Be pronounced as DAH-tuh.
To others, that don’t matta,
They pronounce it as DAT-uh.

Of course we all know that the word is actually the plural form of the Latin datum, which is literally a "given", and is used as points of information accepted as they stand. This classical connection might lead us to a short vowel sound. However, if we are to believe the writers of Star Trek, it is correctly pronounced with a long vowel sound, and rhymes with feta and beta (assuming I am saying those correctly).

I'm not sure if I really care which is the more correct version... I just really wish I could decide for myself how I'm going to say it and stick with it every time. It's annoying to me that I have to pause in a conversation and consider how to pronounce such a mundane little word. I'll say it two different ways in the same sentence: "Yeah, so um, I went ahead and entered that dat-uh into the day-tuh base." Don't even get me started on coupons and routes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

diagonally parked in a parallel universe 

Scott's blog is written from the perspective of a pastor who has abandoned the pulpit. In his multi-part post about why "i was wrong" (see October 2005 archives), he offers up some blistering commentary on vocational ministry. Being someone who has just recently moved from the world of earning a living in church ministry, I found the read quite challenging. Among the topics he covers are:

1. the alleged subconscious belief by pastors that:

2. the supposed reality that pastors:

I'd like to take some time to sit down with Scott over a Wawa latte and a Krispy Kreme hot glazed donut. I don't know if I can say I've been on both sides of the fence, having never shepherded an entire adult congregation, but I'd like to think I have a pretty balanced view. Over the coming days and weeks, I hope to take some time to think through each of the charges that Scott levels against himself in light of my own experience, and gather the insight of my friends in ministry. Hopefully I can craft a loving response to Scott.

Monday, November 14, 2005

for example, that is, and other things 

I think it's funny when people stand up in front of a group and use words that they really don't know what they mean. I think it's especially funny when they start to make up words that have no meaning and all and pretend they know what they're talking about. For example, I heard someone say that they were absolutely "mortalized" (I guess instead of "mortified?") to realize a mistake they had made.

At any rate, I thought I would take the opportunity to comment on some common errors that I see when people try to use Latin abbreviations in English writing. The first has to do with the distinction between i.e. and e.g. The most frequent mistake is thinking that i.e. means "for example," when it actually is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est, or "that is." The Latin equivalent to "for example" is exempli gratia. Here is the proper usage:

"I love donuts, i.e., deep-fried batter commonly found as a
torus-shaped ring or a flattened sphere, often covered with
confectionary or injected with a sweet filling."
"I love donuts, e.g., Krispy Kreme hot glazed
and Dunkin Donuts French crullers."

My second beef is about the redundant use of the word "and" before the Latin abbreviation etc. The prase et cetera is translated "and the rest," not to be confused with et al., which is an abbreviation of several forms of a Latin phrase meaning "and others," used to stand for a list of names or "and elsewhere," used to stand for a list of places. In all cases, the English word "and" is understood as part of the Latin abbreviation, and should not be added. It's worse than using your PIN number at the ATM machine (you know, the new kind with the LCD display) on your way to pick up some KFC chicken. People who do that probably scored poorly on their SAT test and might be more likely to get the HIV virus.

Please RSVP.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Indulge me with another? 

How about the top 10 albums that everyone should own but are not in my collection?

Def Leppard

Michael Jackson

Led Zeppelin
Physical Graffiti

The Replacements

Paul Simon

The Beatles
Abbey Road

Beastie Boys
Check Your Head


The Guess Who
American Woman

Peter Gabriel

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Preaching without Compromise 

I listened to a fantastic CD this week on the sermon that Jesus gave to the multitudes who had gathered in Luke 12-13 (this passage parallels the more familiar Matthew 5-8 "Sermon on the Mount"). The speaker asked the question, "if you had the opportunity to preach an evangelistic message to tens of thousands of people all at once, what would you tell them?" He then gave ten fine suggestions based on the teaching of Jesus:
  1. Get away from false and empty religion, which amounts to hypocrisy. (12:1-3)
  2. Fear the God who has the knowledge and power to judge you. (12:4-7)
  3. Confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. (12:8-9)
  4. Honor the regenerating and revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit. (12:10-12)
  5. Abandon the world and its material things. (12:13-21)
  6. Seek the Kingdom of God. (12:22-34)
  7. Expect the return of Christ in judgement. (12:35-48)
  8. Be willing to sacrifice human relationships. (12:49-53)
  9. Make an effort to settle with God while you can. (12:54-59)
  10. Realize that physical death is imminent and certain. (13:1-9)
This is a powerful and sobering message. I don't think it's what many would consider seeker sensitive. But it is the truth and it needs to be told.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

No blog is complete without... 

... at least one top ten list.

Here are ten CDs from my collection that if you don't own 'em you should:

Michael Hedges

The Unforgettable Fire

Toad the Wet Sprocket

The Dream of the Blue Turtles

They Might Be Giants

Matchbox 20
Yourself or Someone Like You

Fleetwood Mac

Barenaked Ladies

Billy Joel
The Stranger

No Name Face

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sonya Lee 

Little People have been around for nearly six decades. They started off primitive, as a rolled cardboard base wrapped in paper and a spherical wooden head. Fisher-Price introduced them in 1959 in the Safety School Bus playset. The original shape went through a number of body styles before coming up with the ubiquitous design that was prevalent through most of my childhood playing in the church nursery. The first Asian character was introduced the last year of regular production in 1990 with the Little People School. After that, a new line of "Chunkies" was introduced, mostly to allay people's worries about choking.

In 1997, the line was again redesigned to their current shape, with faces that resemble people more than beach balls and actual arms and legs. In this new era, there are five main characters that keep getting reproduced and repackaged in the various playsets. A red-headed and bespectacled girl named Maggie, two blondes named Eddie and Sarah Lynn, a boy of African descent named Michael, and this little cutie named Sonya Lee. There are other multi-ethnic characters that pop up now and again, such as a Latino bus driver (whom my daughter has named Mr. Noodles) and what looks to me like a girl of native American descent in the construction crew.

My kids love the Little People. Who wouldn't? They are absolutely adorable just to look at and offer hours of imaginative play. Among the dozen or so sets we've got are the Noah's Ark (with both expansion sets), the playground, the tea party, the musical circus train (no longer available), and of course, the farm. Someone needs to remind me to post about the Fisher Price farm with the door that goes "moo" on a plane bound for Manila. Anyway, I love the Little People, too. Let's hear some love for the Little People.

Monday, November 07, 2005

What did you bring this subject which I'm not interested in up for? 

For a long time, I have been one of those condescending people always correcting others for what I assumed to be bad grammar. I had some pet phrases like, "Now what do you want to go and end a sentence with a preposition for?" or "prepositions are not for ending sentences with."

Come to find out, not only was I dreadfully annoying, I was also dead wrong. The preponderance of evidence stands against me to say that this "rule" was spawned by an attempt by 18th century Church of England Bishop and Oxford University poetry professor Robert Lowth to critique the English language by applying Latin grammar to it. Misguided as he may have been, he stopped short of any dogmatic ruling on the issue, merely suggesting that the "...placing of the Preposition before the Relative is more graceful, as well as more perspicuous; and agrees much better with the solemn and elevated Style."

So now, I repent in dust and ashes. No longer will the (dubiously attributed) words of Winston Churchill ring in my head, "this is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put." Just please don't ask me, "where's the bathroom at?"

Friday, November 04, 2005

The art of the Wawa latte 

I really have to give the credit to my good friend Bob Henn. In the fall of 2003, I went on my first road trip with Bob to the National Youthworkers Convention in Arizona. He stopped at the Airport Starbucks and ordered two lattes... extra-hot, double-cupped, triple-shot, half-fat, no-foam, with two sugars. He asked me to carry one, which made me realize the importance of the double-cup. Now, mind you, I've never been a die-hard coffee drinker (I endulge in the occassional social cup now and again) but Bob invited me to taste of the fruit of his labors (remind me to post at some point about the art of ordering lunch with Bob Henn) and I have to say I was extremely impressed. Later in the trip, I was treated to my very own latte.

Still not necessarily a convert, I did branch out into the espresso drinks in the year that followed. I took my second road trip in the winter of 2004 with Bob to the Shepherd's Conference in California. They had a coffee trailer on campus that served up complementary lattes. I became skilled in the ways of ordering drinks through that experience.

Meanwhile, back at the local Starbucks, my budget was shrinking but my cravings for the Caramel Macchiato was rapidly expanding. This was unfortunate for both my wallet and my waistline. When my staff position at the church ended in January, I went on yet another road trip to the CBInternational conference and enjoyed this luscious concocation during a heart-to-heart with their president, Hans Finzel.

Enter the new job with Forthright Consulting, and I am again a mere minutes walk from the local Dunkin Donuts. Somehow I had staved off the temptation at Bethel often enough to keep from pushing to 300 pound mark, but then along comes the Turtle Nut Latte. At more than three bucks a pop, I feel very constrained on my consumption of this sinfully delicious beverage. That is, until the new Wawa opens up at the corner of Philadelphia Pike and Harvey Road. This is where I discover the self-serve latte machine.

Here's how it works (in ten easy steps):

  1. Acquire one 20 oz cup
  2. Apply a cardboard cozy (this drink comes out pretty hot)
  3. Insert into latte & steamer machine; position immediately below nozzle (duh)
  4. Press and hold the "caramel" button on the right (latte) side until 1/4 full
    *Beverage will continue to dispense for a second or two
  5. Press and hold the "mocha" button on the right (latte) side until 2/3 full
    *Beverage will continue to dispense for a second or two
  6. Remove from latte & steamer machine; proceed to coffee bar
  7. Top off cup from pot labeled "vanilla cream"; proceed to fixin's bar
  8. Add one packet of sugar and one of "pink" artificial sweetener
  9. Stir vigorously and add black dome lid
  10. Pay $1.19 at register

I will be anxious to hear if anyone comes up with a better recipe for bliss.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Footnote of Sorts 

If you are just joining the blog now, not to worry. With the new name comes a new format, and I will soon be deleting all the old posts, so you really haven't missed anything. Here is a brief history of the transformation and a summary of the direction we're going now...

That brings us to right now. I won't make any promises about how often or how well I will be posting, nor will I make any predictions about what the topics will be. Here are some hot things on my mind right now:

  1. Annoying grammatical and English usage mistakes
  2. Fisher-Price Little People
  3. Virginia Tech Hokies (though I can't imagine they will be #3 for long...)
  4. The theology of church government and church discipline (hmmm... wonder why?)
  5. Wawa lattes

We'll see what happens. Join the fun as it emerges.

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